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Throwing the brown envelope on the glass table, Louis lets out an exasperated sigh.

“A ratty kid from Manchester. Really?” he asks incredulously, staring at Clara like she’s about to reveal a whole camera crew and tell him he’s been punked.

“We think, that paired with the right clothes and attitude, you’d fit the part quite well,” she explains, stony eyes telling Louis it’s already been decided and won’t be changed.

“I’m twenty seven years old!” Louis resorts to pointing out.

“Yet you can pass as a university student, Mr.Tomlinson,” she retorts immediately.

Louis tries his best not to snap at the head of MI6, but his height and young looks are definitely a sore spot. He settles for a displeased grumble.

“Look, Louis,” Clara backtracks, possibly sensing Louis’ reluctance to cooperate. Sometimes he forgets how almost everyone he meets has been trained to perfection.

“This is a very small mission, and based on your previous work, it should be easy.”

Louis bites back the smile that threatens to pop up at the backhanded compliment.

“Just track the festival’s main supplier of drugs and shut him down. Then you can go home and start those vacations you’ve been asking for. Alright?”

Louis takes a deep breath and nods. He’s never been one to chicken out from a mission, and this one does look like a nice one to start his break after. One last small hit before the six months of normalcy he’s been desperately needing.

He can do it.

*

“Oh come on, man, you’re going to one of the biggest festivals in the UK,” Niall says, leading the way through the gadget lab. He’s apparently not going to be given much, the strict rules enforced at the festival’s entrance to be blamed, but he can’t wait to see what they’ll give him. A tupperware full of weed? Risky style Ray Bans? He’s a bit out of his depth here with the broke uni student cover.

“Yeah, to spy on drug smugglers, not to get pissed and listen to the artists,” Louis reminds him, trying not to ogle the hoverboard prototype he’s heard Niall talk about.

“Well, who says you can’t do both?”

Niall winks at the words, and Louis laughs, ever grateful for having actual friends inside an organization built on secrets and mistrust.

“Are these it?” Louis asks incredulously once they’ve stopped in front of  a small table with various random items splayed on it. Unless he’s meant to Axe spray someone to death, he’s going to need something more than the table’s worth from Niall.

“Yeah,” Niall says, rolling his eyes at Louis’s dumbfounded stare, “They’re modified to hide secret functions.”

Louis grins. Now he’s talking.

“So tell me, come on.”

Niall huffs at him again, and Louis knows he’s being impatient, but his life may depend on these items sometime in the next four days. The sooner he knows them, the better off he is. Plus, he’s always been the curious kind.

“This,” Niall starts, “is a camera and earphone equipped snapback. It’ll allow you to be in constant communication with Liam, who will supply you with the extra information you’ll need.”

“And babysit me, I know,” Louis says with a fond shake of the head.

“That too,” Niall agrees with a smile, grabbing an aerosol can next and continuing on with the explanations.

They go through the rest of the items in the same way. In the end he’s got a small, worn out backpack filled with a bulletproof hoodie, an Axe spray that’s actually an acid capable of breaking down walls, night vision sunglasses and a dart-throwing cigarette pack. All in all, it’s not half bad.

“You’ve truly outdone yourself, Niall,” Louis acknowledges as they walk back up to the ground floor, where a car is waiting to take him to the airport.

“Just don’t want you to get offed out there.”

“Aw, would you miss me,babe?” Louis taunts, revelling in the way Niall’s cheeks go red.

“Fuck off,” Niall swears as Louis pulls him in for a hug.

“Seriously though, be safe and have fun,” Niall says into Louis’ shoulder. “Remember, you may be an agent, but you still haven’t gotten laid in months, so use the opportunity.”

It’s Louis’ turn to swear then, and as they share one last squeeze, Louis tries not to notice how true Niall’s words are. Oh well. There’ll be plenty of time for that on his break.

For now, he heads off into his mission.

*

Leeds festival - a four day long rendezvous of high college kids, crowded stages, and thumping bass thrumming through veins. Or at least, that’s what Louis has gathered so far by standing in between stages for the past half hour after being admitted. Too bad his persona doesn’t have VIP rights, or he would be standing in that comfortable lounge by now.

That’s not what he’s here to do though, he reminds himself as he takes another look around. Begrudgingly, he has to agree that the agency had been spot on cover wise. As much as he hates to admit it, his skinny jeans and baggy jumper blend seamlessly into the crowds of people that surround him. So far, he’s caught no curious eyes, just a disturbingly vacant pair and a couple interested ones. Good. He’s meant to blend in, gather intel, take the dealers down and get out. Easy peasy.

Deciding to get going to one of the stages in order to maintain his cover (who would stand in the same spot for half an hour, really? He’s got to stay focused), Louis decides for the one with the electronic music, figuring that’s where he should start. TV and films have taught him something about drugs and festivals, after all.

As he approaches the dancing crowd, Louis makes out the blaring noise to be an actual beat, with an enthusiastic DJ shouting encouragement randomly through it. Pushing through the people to get to the middle of the crowd, Louis bops his head to the rhythm. He might be 27, but he’s not a grandpa - he’s young enough to still enjoy it, can jump around as the mass of people shifts. He’s ready to scope for the ones with too big smiles and hazy eyes when he feels a pair of arms around him.

Louis is about to launch into full attack mode, but a familiar, husky voice makes itself heard over the noise, stopping him in his tracks.

“Can’t say I prefer these to the Gucci suit, babe, but your ass still looks ace.”

Louis mildly relaxes into the position, fully aware of who’s enveloping him, of how small he must look under him, dwarfed by tattooed, toned arms. As much as he’d like to turn around and face the guy he hasn’t seen in months, he’s got a cover to maintain.

“Harry,” he says, tone showing more of his surprise than he’d like.

“Missed me, Lou?” Harry asks, mouth so close to Louis’s ear he can’t help but shiver, the soft touch of plump lips shooting tingles all over him.

“You wish,” Louis shoots back, “now get off me.”

Harry laughs, deep and wonderful in ways Louis should have forgotten by now.

“Oh come on, you know you love it,” Harry taunts, swaying them side to side.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Louis chooses to say instead. “This is my mission, and it’s supposed to be a small one.”

He’s careful to say the words low enough that only Harry can hear him.

“Just thought you could use some help, is all. The agency agreed because there was fuck all else to do for me if not, and besides-” Harry smiles, “-I love the bands playing here.”

Louis has to bite back the string of curses that threaten to bubble out of his mouth, bidding goodbye to his peaceful mission. Instead of doing that and causing a scene, he turns around, cheering internally when Harry only manages to blink at him. Sometimes training does come in handy.

Louis doesn’t expect to be faced with the sight of a long haired Harry wearing a flower crown and an unbuttoned patterned shirt.

“Is that a hemp necklace?” is the first thing he manages to get out, brain trying to reconcile the last image he’d had of Harry, suit pants unbuttoned for Louis to kneel before him, to this- a sort of new age hippie wannabe he struggles to understand.

“It is,” Harry says, rolling his eyes at Louis’s confused stare.

“This is my cover,” he leans in and tells Louis with a small smile. “Supposed to be a hipster on a juice cleanse, trying to reconnect with my roots or something.”

Well, you certainly don’t need that fruit cleanse, Louis doesn’t say, absolutely not feeling how firm Harry’s chest is from where his hands have landed. Seeing Harry is already so much that he doesn’t need to add how toned he still is on top of that.

“So, playing the part of your wet dreams, then?” Louis teases, unable to stop himself from saying it.

He knows it’s a bad idea as soon as Harry shoots him a devilish smile.

“‘M not dressed as you so no, I don’t think so.”

Louis fights the blush that threatens to rise at Harry’s words as he’s pulled in a bit tighter.

“Is it yours, though?” Harry asks, a smug tilt to his smile and goddamnit Louis should stop staring at his mouth. “It’s the flowers, isn’t it? Got a petal kink, Lou?”

Louis bursts out laughing, forgetting for a second about who they are, why they're here. For a moment they become Harry and Louis, a pair of guys whose relationship is simply way too complicated for the way they’re fitting together so well. But they’re not, so Louis sobers up and plans his escape.

“You’re so full of shit,” Louis tells him, leaning in so that his next words gain full effect.

“Now, I’ve gotta get to work though, so sorry for this,” he gets out, landing a knee to Harry’s bits hard enough for him to let go and crouch down.

It’s not the classiest of moves, but it leaves Louis smiling as he weaves through the crowds, getting far enough that he has enough space to pull his snapback out of the bag, plopping it on his head.

“Liam, are you there?” he tests, untangling his phone earbuds and putting them in to disguise the fact that he’s talking to no one. Now he just looks like a twat on his phone; lovely.

“Yes Louis, hear you loud and clear,” comes Liam’s professional tone, slightly staticky through the protected channel.

“You’ll never guess who’s here,” Louis rushes out, knowing very well that this is not how it’s supposed to go, but Liam and him go way back and what’s a friend if one can’t whine about boys to them?

“Louis, we should focus on the mission,” Liam chastises before he can continue, though Louis catches the hint of fondness underneath his exasperation.

“I know, but it’s Harry , Li.”

Liam falters for a second. “Training camp, sexual awakening Harry?”

Louis hates the way those adjectives ring true.

“Yeah, the agency sent him to back me up apparently.”

“Oh, I heard something about that, but I didn’t think it’d be him. He’s been on American soil for his last few missions,” Liam says.

“I won’t even ask how you know that, you stalker,” Louis tells him, feeling the tell tale signs of an oncoming migraine on the edges of his mind.

“I work in intel Louis, our job is literally to know these things,” Liam deadpans, voice tired from the countless times they’ve had this conversation.

“I thought it was supposed to be a small mission,” Louis sidetracks, actually curious as to whether Harry told him the truth or not.

“It is, hang on.”

Louis hears the faint clicking of a keyboard, can picture Liam sitting at his dimly lit desk he’s oddly proud of, going through irrelevant files to find why Harry has been assigned alongside Louis. It’s not like they work badly together- Louis prizes his reputation as a top agent too much to let Harry affect him that much- but it’s still odd that two agents of this calibre would be assigned to the same small mission.

“He requested to be put on this mission, it seems,” Liam tells him, his voice as puzzled as Louis feels right now.

“What? That makes no sense, there’s no way he came to actually see the bands,” Louis huffs.

“Who said anything about the bands?” Liam quickly asks.

Louis pauses, mentally kicking himself. “He did, we talked for a bit and he said he liked the people playing.”

“Did you guys discuss anything relevant to the mission?”

Louis closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before answering, “Not really.”

He doesn’t need to see Liam to know he’s debating whether or not to say it.

“You need to stay focused, Lou,” Liam reminds him as gently as possible for someone who truly knows how sore that subject is for Louis.

“I know, I know,” Louis says, trying to keep in the anger he feels towards himself for letting it get to him after one small encounter. Harry Styles should seriously not affect him so much after months without contact, it makes no sense.

“So, what do you have for me?” Louis asks, deciding enough is enough. He’s got an actual job to do.

Liam clears his throat and launches into explanation.

“Our sources have allowed us to narrow down the possible suspects to three people.”

Louis absolutely doesn’t cheer at the fact that this has all gotten so much easier. His holiday is looking closer and closer, and Harry Styles further and further away.

*

Louis spends the rest of his first day clearing the first suspect, who turns out to just be the bodyguard of a cocaine addicted performer. Louis doesn’t like to judge people, but seeing a genuinely talented artist around his age passed out, surrounded by a surprisingly large amount of cocaine, is just upsetting. Her team has no connection other than just being buyers, but as  Louis tries to flirt his way into a confession as to who they bought it from, he gets kicked out by a firmly straight security team.

"The lead is useless anyway," Liam consoles him when he's outside the VIP section, "The drugs most likely came off a random, and if they didn’t, they wouldn't be the ones to spill the beans."

Suddenly, Louis remembers why he's never liked drug related business. Too much loyalty and meaningless crap to get around before anything relevant can come up.

Defeated and deciding to save his energy for a midnight sneak-around, Louis allows himself to buy a beer off the vendor, glad that the overpriced drink is being charged to the agency. Taking the first sip, he heads towards the stage that’s closest to him, the band on stage performing music he actually likes this time. He’s in the middle of bopping along to a song when he sees it: Harry buying what looks like weed from a guy dressed in too much fluorescent clothing to be legal.

It’s not like he’s confusing Harry with someone else, even if there is a large number of people with flower crowns around him. He wouldn’t miss that boat tattoo anywhere.

Confused, and frankly angry in behalf of the agency at the blatant mission dismissal, Louis heads his way, watching the fluorescent guy with hawk eyes as he pockets the money and leaves. Harry follows the boy with his eyes until he disappears and slips the small bag into his pants, Louis getting angrier when he notices how blase he is about the whole deal. He could at least pretend to be discreet.

Upon reaching Harry, Louis doesn’t stop but bypasses him instead, heading towards the back of a refreshment tent that appears to be forgotten by the rest of the attendees. The clear shuffles of Harry’s shoes on the grass only confirm what Louis already knows: Harry will always follow when it comes to him, be it for the ass or because of something else, he doesn’t care to find out.

When he's confident that they’re out of sight, Louis waits for Harry to catch up and easily pins him to the backside of a truck, remembering the old academy days he’d spent teasing him about his slow reflexes. Some things stay the same even when all the rest changes.

“What the hell are you doing?” Louis demands, forcing himself to keep as much distance as he can with Harry pinned under him. If he gets too close they’ll go down the same useless path they’ve always gone and Louis is done with that, needs it to stay in the past. For his well-being as well as the mission’s.

“What do you think I’m doing?” Harry says, brows furrowing in a way that shouldn’t be appealing when Louis is trying to remain cross with him.

“I think you’re buying weed instead of doing your job,” Louis answers, frustration turning his words into accusations.

“You know,” he adds when Harry doesn’t speak, shoving Harry to prove his point,“The one you’re here to do?”

Harry clenches his defined jaw, getting his words out through gritted teeth. “I’m gathering intel, you pretentious twat!”

At Harry’s explanation, Louis is struck, not wanting to admit he’s jumped to conclusions in front of Harry. He’s got too much pride for that, so instead he simply stands, surprised that he’s committed a mistake he hasn’t since training camp, which allows Harry to set loose from the tight grip he had on his shirt. He steps away, but they’re still close, fuming into their shared air.

“You always do this! I know my methods may not be yours, but they work,” Harry says, gesturing aggressively, his hands only inches away from Louis’ body.

“I wouldn’t exactly call buying weed a method,” Louis remarks, feeling exactly how aggravating his words are for the already tense situation when Harry blows out a harsh breath.

“Don’t fucking question the way I work, Louis,” Harry spits out, rage wafting off him in waves, making Louis angrier, mad at they way they can rile each other up over the same things, hitting nerves until they’re both left in madness.

“I’m just saying you seem to be having a bit too much fun while I do all the work.” Louis is aware of how shitty of a person he sounds by saying so, but he can’t seem to be able to hold it in, harsh words needing to be said even if they’re not actually about what needs to be addressed

“Oh poor you,” Harry whines, sticking out his tongue and mocking Louis in a way that speeds up his heart, has his hands clenching to the sides to hold any physical outlash in. They’re still agents, and violence amongst them is grounds for suspension, even if it’s deserved. “Boo hoo, Louis has to do all the work because no one else does it as well as he does,” Harry says in the same enraging voice, fists mocking Louis in an exaggerated cry gesture.

“Grow up,” Louis growls, feeling way too affected by the immature taunts. It’s Harry though, and that’s always seemed to make things worse.

“No, you grow up,” Harry accuses, throwing his words back at him. “You need to realize we all went through the same training as you.”

Harry speaks as if Louis would forget it, would simply throw away memories of how they’d gone through it all side by side, how he’d watched Harry grow into a well built man through seething eyes, hoping he himself would shoot up, would grow endless legs and temping biceps.

“Don’t make me out to be this egocentric prick when I’ve never said anything about your training,” Louis stops him. If they’re gonna fight like they always do, that’s fine, but he won’t have Harry making things up just to keep it going; they’ve got enough material as it is, and he’s never liked being accused of things he didn’t do.

“Yet you question every move I make,” Harry says, lifting his eyebrows like he’s daring Louis to say otherwise. Louis, wisely, stays silent.

Harry then takes a deep breath and rolls his eyes. “Just let me do my work. I know you hate having me here, but please attempt being professional enough to keep it out of the mission.”

Louis scowls at him. “Oh, so now I’m the unprofessional one?”

“With that attitude you are,” Harry nods, taunting him by moving an inch closer, eyes fixed on Louis’s narrowed ones.

“Whatever, just let me do my work and I’ll let you do yours,” Louis finalizes, not wanting this to go on any longer, fearing onlookers reactions (and even his own) to Harry’s prolonged presence.

“Fine,” Harry says, giving Louis one last look before stepping away and into the crowded areas, leaving a fuming Louis to stare at his retreating figure, cursing every god responsible for this mess.

That holiday can’t come soon enough.

* August, one month into training*

Shaking the mud off his new boots, Louis stretches out his sore muscles, back coiled tight after one too many push ups. The group is still filtering into the hallways, separating into each room with tired, heavy stomps, and all he can think about is how good a hot shower sounds. Louis is about to turn and inform Niall that he’ll be off doing just that, when a now familiar set of curls pops into the room, his coat of filth equaling Louis’ own.

“Good practice, huh?” Harry asks, smiling as if the ache that must be plaguing his body is a gift from the agency.

“Yeah, delightful,” Louis says, sarcasm dripping from his tone as he gives his boots one last shake.

“It lacked a couple more sit ups, don’t you think?” he adds, noticing how Harry doesn’t miss a beat, pulls his body into the room casually and plonks down on Louis’s desk chair like they haven’t only met a fortnight ago.

“Man, fuck sit ups,” Niall chips in from where he’s thrown carelessly on his bed, arm slung over his eyes, “I just wanted to hack stuff.”

Louis sneaks a glance at Harry before he speaks, knowing full well (though he doesn’t know how) that he’s smirking in that awful, too attractive way of his. He wishes he could be mad at it, enraged by the way Harry’s so naturally good at the exercise part of their training, but it sadly hasn’t escaped Louis’ eye how hot he looks doing it. Believe him, everything would be a fuckton easier if his brain didn’t shut down at the mere thought of Harry’s abs.

“You’re the one who signed up though,” Louis reminds him, making Niall groan again and causing him and Harry to laugh.

“Lou’s right, Niall, you sort of did,” Harry supports him, his nickname rolling off his tongue so easily Louis sort of wants to die. His tummy is absolutely not bursting with butterflies at the mere use of a shortened version of his name, not at all.

Niall groans again, moving his arm so he can glare at the both of them.

“It’s not fair, don’t bring in your boyfriend to rally against me.”

Louis feels his face heat up at the words immediately, and he instinctively turns to Harry, catching the way his face reddens as well. No one is saying anything, and Louis hates the way the silence stretches out between them, the comment clearly striking a soft spot no one dares to address seriously.

“Anyways,” he swiftly cuts in, hoping no one will mention the nervous tilt in his words, “what did you want, Harry?”

Louis is very careful to use Harry’s full name, ignoring how wrong it sounds after days of using the nickname.

“Oh, yeah,” Harry says, as if shaken out of his thoughts, “some of the guys were planning to go out for some pints later and it would be cool if you guys came.”

“Absolutely,” Niall replies in an instant.

Nodding, Harry turns to Louis, his eyes looking so earnest and hopeful Louis is sure he’s just willing himself to see things this way now. Still, he can’t avoid his gaze, and even though he knows he shouldn’t, that getting drunk with Harry has never lead to anything good, he nods as well.

Nothing good can come out of it, but when Harry’s grinning at Louis like he’s just given him a billion pounds, he doesn’t really care.

**

If Louis had any remaining ideas of the spy life being glamorous, they’re completely crushed when he’s woken up at nine by a ringing hat stashed in the other corner of his too-small tent. Grumbling, he blindly reaches for it, cursing whoever’s responsible for his current situation. One would really think Britain’s top spy agency would have a big enough budget to at least send him into a decent sized tent.

“What?” Louis snaps into the hat, feeling utterly ridiculous as he pushes his floppy fringe back.

“Hey Louis,” greets Liam, way too chipper for the hour.

“What’s the matter?” he asks when Louis’s only response is a noncommittal sound. He knows it's rude, but with his back full of knots and the sun heating up his cage-like tent, it can’t be helped.

“They gave me the smallest tent here. I can barely fit in it, let alone my bag, Liam,” Louis says, kicking himself free of the sleeping bag.

“It’s only for three nights, Lou, and besides, what did you expect? It’s a festival,” Liam reasons, making too much sense for Louis to like it.

“I know,” Louis sighs, closing his eyes for a minute. Sometimes he wishes he had a normal job with consistent hours and stability, but the thought never lasts, the adrenaline and unpredictability becoming addictive over the years.

“So, what’s the matter?” he asks, knowing that though Liam may be a little shit sometimes, he wouldn’t call just to wake him up.

“Oh, yes,” Liam stumbles into gear, the repetitive clicking of his mouth loud enough to be heard through the com. “There’s been a status update on the second suspect.”

“That's the band manager guy, right?” Louis checks, remembering Liam’s first debrief. With the security guard cleared yesterday, the true dealer can’t be too far off, and so, neither can his holidays.

“Yes,” Liam confirms, “his performers are set to play today at noon on the main stage. You and Harry are to go sweep their buses and accommodations in the meantime.”

Louis, who had been nodding along to the well-thought-out plan, stops and fish mouths for a second.

“They’re sending Harry with me? I thought we were doing different suspects.” He frowns, remembering quite clearly how frustrating working with Harry got, how he had to be on alert not only for the mission but for him, too.

“The agency expects all its agents to cooperate for the wellbeing of the missions,” Liam recites, phrase clearly belonging to one of the manuals.

Louis rolls his eyes.

“Come off it, Liam, and tell me the actual reason why he’s going in with me.”

Liam laughs, clearly aware of how much Louis hates the agency’s protocols and automatic cookie cutter answers.

“That’s it, though,” Liam admits. “Based on your previous missions together, the agency thinks you’re both more useful together than apart.”

“Bullshit,” Louis says, rubbing his temples so as to not scream out in frustration. He really wasn’t counting on working with Harry quite that closely, and the mere thought of it makes him want to stay in his tent forever (and maybe squeal a little, but he firmly ignores that).

“Well,” Liam says uncertainly, voice lowering before continuing, “between you and me, I think they’re scared for their reputation if this thing goes wrong and their agents are discovered partying at a festival.”

“So that’s why they sent the two of us here?” Louis reasons, liking this motive over Harry’s confusing choice much more.

“In part, yes,” Liam concedes.

“That’s reassuring,” Louis comments, nose wrinkling at the thought of the agency sending someone else to back him up. This is a small thing, he can definitely handle it, and sending Harry has only proven to be more of a distraction than an actual help so far. He’s definitely got to wrap it up quickly and go back, proving himself and ending the possibility of a PR nightmare.

Oh, he’s definitely going to earn his holidays.

The conversation with Liam wraps up quickly, and Louis is left to clean himself up and go find Harry, an hour to go now until their window of opportunity opens. Unsurprisingly, he finds him chatting with a civilian. When it turns out to be a girl, and thus out of Harry’s flirting preferences, the relief he feels gets ignored.

He approaches them casually, Louis’ training in staying low stronger than his rush to go over. He at least has to have some pretense of professionalism around him. Fake it till you make it, they say.

“Ready to go, Harry?” Louis asks, close enough to clutch at his bicep, fingers digging in enough to convey the urgency. They must have briefed both of them on the situation, though by the way Harry turns to face him slowly, he doesn’t seem to care for the time limit much.

“Louis,” he greets instead, the smile he gives him showing no residual anger from yesterday’s little chat. “This is Madelaine,” he adds, gesturing to the girl he’s been talking to, who smiles and waves at him.

“Hello, how are you?” Louis greets, remaining polite even if greetings aren’t exactly on his schedule for today. Harry’s always had a way to fit making friends into missions, though, and Louis has stopped being annoyed at it a long time ago, instead trying to make it as short as possible. It might have to do with how he’s never been good at meeting new people (or with how every new guy who looks at Harry with hungry eyes brings another thing to pretend not to worry about).

“‘M good,” Madeline says, a glint in her eyes sparing Louis the need for suspicion.

“Harry here has been talking about you,” she reveals, almost conspiratorially, giggling when Harry shoots her a stern look.

“Really?” Louis asks, unable to keep the real surprise out of his voice. So much for a short interaction before the mission, Louis now needs to know exactly what Harry has told her. For mission and security purposes, obviously.

“Thanks, Maddie,” Harry hastily cuts off, taking Louis’ hand and starting to pull him away.

“We need to go now, but we’ll talk later, yeah?” Harry says as he drags a confused Louis away and towards where they were meant to be a while ago.

Louis doesn’t really catch what she says, too focused on getting out of Harry’s grasp and remembering what they’re supposed to do.

“You didn’t need to be so rude,” he comments, speeding up his pace so that Harry trails behind him, hating the lingering questions about what Harry had said about him.

“Says the one who interrupted.”

“To do my job,” Louis reminds him, There’s absolutely no other reason he acted the way he did, not even a dangerously pretty civilian.

Our job,” Harry corrects, his strides so much naturally longer that he’s caught up to him, smiling as he notices Louis’ attempts to regain the distance. Of course it doesn’t work, not with Harry’s endless legs and Louis’ preoccupied mind, but there’s no shame in trying.

They leave the crowds behind when they duck towards the back of the tents, carefully walking over jungles of wires and discarded solo cups. They also come across things Louis never thought he’d ever see on a mission, like a pair of stray panties, about twenty empty crisp wrappers and an amount of discarded condoms so big, he’s beginning to fear for society.

“This is disgusting,” he declares when they’re halfway around the festival and he’s seen enough. They’re flanked by barbed wire on one side and sporadic tents on the other, still inside the general public’s reach, but Louis hopes it won’t be for long.

Harry scoffs at him.

“It’s a festival, what did you expect? Rose petals?”

Louis rolls his eyes, regretting even bringing it up with Harry. His cheeks feel hot though, and he makes sure to stare only at the ground for now.

“No, but still, there’s no need to act like animals.”

“You’re just too used to your posh hotels and champagne, Lou, you need to live a little,” Harry tells him, calling him Lou like it’s no big deal, like it doesn’t cause Louis’ step to falter for a second.

“I think you’re getting a little bit too into character there, Harry,” Louis teases him, looking up for long enough to catch Harry’s quiet laugh. He tries, in vain, not to remember how Harry used to laugh before, loud and unapologetic in a way that made Louis feel proud to have caused it. The thought dims the corners of his smile. “One too many flower crowns squeezing your brain, eh?”

“Shut up,” Harry mumbles, tripping over a can and falling so quickly that Louis’ arm is only barely fast enough to reach him and hold him suspended a meter above the ground. His fingers circle around Harry’s hand securely, warmth seeping through them, and they stare at each other for a moment, the air suspended between them as Harry fully leans into the hand.  getting up like it’s no big deal, like it isn't slightly harder to breathe than before.

“We’re, uh, close,” Harry then affirms, Louis letting go of his hand quickly after that, both of them getting back into the walk, the space between them marginally bigger.

Neither of them speak as they approach the fence limits, a caravan made up of various vans, tents and buses clearly visible behind it. As per Liam’s intel, there are only two guards standing at the entrance to the restricted area, so, after making sure they bypass them and enter a more secluded part of the fence, Louis drops his bag down.

Harry watches over him as he takes out the can of Axe and shakes it, speaking as Louis’ about to spray it.

“You do know that’s a deodorant, right?”

Louis looks up from where he has crouched down to give Harry his most pointed look.

“Do you have to give your opinion on everything, Mr. Right?”

“‘M just pointing it out,” Harry defends himself, putting his hands up as a reflex.

Louis just shakes his head and gets back at it, spraying the can around in a half circle and unable to keep a grin off his face as Harry gasps when the metal falls away.

“You were saying?” he has to ask, smugly packing back up and going through the hole, leaving a frowning Harry behind, who closes it as best he can after they’ve gone through.

It´s not much fancier behind the fence either, the caravans beaten down from one tour after the other, the people milling about clearly aware of the fact that there are no attentive crowds here. Gone are the stage flairs, the flattering lights and the untouchable facade brought by the high stages. Instead, the place is filled with people dressed just like they are, comfortable but still trying just a bit, and not a soul is paying attention to the both of them.

Propping the torn fence over the hole to cover their tracks, they slink into the shadows behind the closest motorhome, Louis pulling up his phone and revisiting the picture Liam sent him of the one they’re supposed to visit. It’s one that’s thankfully not too far off, and even though they’ve still got half an hour until they’re supposed to leave, there seems to be a large group of people exiting the manager’s caravan.

As he’s turning around to tell Harry this, Louis catches him sprinting off towards it, curls flopping wildly as he ducks from one spot to the other on his way there.

“Harry!” Louis hisses, knowing full well that he’s out of hearing range, but it’s preferable to screaming out the string of curses going through his mind.

He watches, dumbfounded, and maybe slightly amused, as Harry makes it to the caravan and circles around it, blocking Louis’ sight of him. A few seconds go by while Louis analyzes the perimeter and follows through, a displeased tilt to his lips.

It’s not hard to get in, Louis easily finding an open window in the back and sneaking through, eyes intent on finding Harry. It shouldn’t be too hard, with it being a relatively small place. There’s a small kitchenette to Louis’ left, a couple of doors to his right and a queen sized bed taking up the whole rear area. Harry’s nowhere to be seen though, and trying not to remember how much this resembles their games back at training camp, Louis crouches down and opens a couple of cabinets, doing his job while he's at it.

While you’re at it? His brain supplies, and Louis wonders why or when he’s put finding Harry over the actual mission. He doesn’t recall a specific decision, meaning it just sort of came naturally, and that’s the scariest thing of it all. Realizing this, Louis actually puts some effort into looking for the drugs, taking out the pair of latex gloves he’s brought and snapping them on, tracing his fingers over the wooden panels and zeroing in on any corners.

He’s done with the kitchen a few minutes later, and Harry’s still nowhere to be found.

“Harry, come on, be professional,” Louis admonishes, shutting a cupboard and getting on with the next.

“You have to find me,” comes Harry’s voice from somewhere in the RV, the fact that Louis is busy with the trivial contents of the cupboard making it difficult to pinpoint from where exactly.

“Really?” Louis asks, halting his search and resting a hand on his hip, unable to understand how exactly he’s gotten to this point in his life.

When Harry doesn’t respond, Louis sighs and shakes out his fringe, resigning to the fact that yes, he is in fact doing this.

“Okay,” he says, starting his search with the underside of the couch, finding it empty and cursing as he gets up, knees stinging from the hard floor. Louis then proceeds to find every single storage cabinet empty, as well as the dressers.

“Bloody hell, Harry, come on,” he whines, hoping Harry will take pity on him before he gets any more exasperated. They do actually have a job to finish in a specific time frame, after all.

Harry does  reply this time, his “you’re not even playing well enough” distinctly coming from the bathroom. Louis grins as he realizes this, setting aside his annoyance for a moment in order to picture Harry’s face as he opens the bathroom door and scares him. He has to take small steps to test for creaks in the floor though, so he speaks in order to mask that. Spy training did teach him something, it seems.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” he sing-songs, playing into Harry’s gimmicks for a moment and feeling silly for it; silly for enjoying it too.

Louis is about to pull open the bathroom door when a noise comes from the front of the caravan. It’s a pair of voices, and Louis’ trained ear catches them loud and clear, hearing the way their feet stomp along the stairs leading up to the door, springing him into action. Without a second thought, he pushes the bathroom door open and closed behind him, stuffing himself into the space carelessly and cursing softly when the door to the caravan is pulled open.

With his heart beating at double speed, Louis intently listens to the voices that are still talking, one woman and a man, who thankfully seem to have sat down at the table next to the kitchen, towards the front. It’s only then, when his heart slows down and Harry clears his throat behind him, that Louis realizes how he’s positioned. He’s got his front towards the door, shoulders about twenty centimeters from each side of the room, and his bum is definitely, without a doubt, pressed up against Harry’s crotch. How fortunate.

Harry’s definitely aware of the fact too, his throat clearing too clear of a sign of that. Louis tries to detach their bodies, or at least their pelvises, but the bathroom is so small he’s got nowhere to go, pressed up against the door and Harry. He quickly looks back and around, taking in the rest of the toilet and finding out, with a heavy dose of despair, that there is literally nowhere to go.

“We’re stuck,” he whispers to Harry, knowing it’s stating the obvious but needing it to be said anyways, just to express how involuntary this all is.

Harry, who so far has kept quiet, be it for the people outside the constricting four walls or because of the situation, whispers back at him, his mouth too close to Louis’ neck, breath tickling:

“No shit.”

It’s so ridiculous, Harry’s response, the situation and how they’re handling it, that Louis just has to laugh, cupping his hands over his mouth in an attempt to stifle the noises. A couple do get out though, and in the silence of the room, they can clearly hear the other people moving, probably startled by the sound.

Tensing up just as quickly as he’d relaxed, Louis trains his ears towards the outside, hearing, along with the voices, his own accelerating heartbeat and breathing. It’s such a stressful position to be in, the knowledge that people could burst into the bathroom and discover them in a second, that the ridiculousness fades away into annoyance once again. Because really, this is all Harry’s fault, his own stupid, endearing games and fooling around having gotten them into this.

Louis feels the irritation so strongly, so present in his clenched hands and taut shoulders, that he has to say something, his whispers much harsher now.

“This is all your fault,” he says, tilting his head to the side so that he can look at Harry, who is still frustratingly still and silent.“You and your games that don’t do shit for the mission. They never do, but you just keep on, huh? So fun putting people at risk for no reason.”

Louis physically feels Harry gearing up for a response behind him.

“I don’t put people at risk, I never do, and you know that,” Harry breathes out behind him, his words coming out harsh, with strong puffs of air hitting Louis repeatedly.

“Yeah, right,” Louis scoffs, wishing he could step back, that he wouldn’t have to feel every shift of Harry’s muscles  while they’re doing this.

“You know what, Louis? Fuck you,” Harry spits at him, words whisper-shouted and too big for the claustrophobically small bathroom. “You clearly know that what you’re saying is a lie, but you don’t even care, you just want to justify the fact that you liked it and played along.”

“Played along? I’ve been practically babysitting you since we came here.”

“Oh, that’s rich,” Harry replies, his voice matching Louis’s level of annoyance, which only makes it worse.

He doesn’t get to feel irritated, can’t just go and tell Louis that he’s enjoyed his antics when they’ve clearly only been impediments this whole time. Harry’s borderline delusional, it seems, and Louis is wishing for his holidays with more ferocity than ever now, all the time of the world away from Harry Styles not being enough.

“Just cut it out, and we’ll be fine,” Louis snaps, stretching out his back and resigning himself to the fact that they’re stuck here until those two people leave, pushed together in too intimate ways.

Harry grunts in response, the slow exhale he lets out next letting Louis know exactly how worked up he is. It’s not like Louis cares, not when he’s trying to push his body into a more comfortable situation, shoulders rolling and legs shifting. He feels restless in a way anger always brings, the need to get away and simply move urging him to shift around.

Harry stays quiet for most of it, allowing Louis to stretch out almost all his muscles, to push into him and sort of move him around. It’s only when Louis reaches down and touches his tippy toes in an attempt to stretch his muscles that Harry makes a sound, gasping softly enough for it to be discreet but loud to Louis. Confused, but still too uncomfortable, Louis switches to moving his butt around subtly, which is when he feels it , Harry’s hard dick pressing against his arse, the whole length of it palpable through the fabric.

Louis can’t help himself when he shrieks.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

*

There’s nothing more ridiculous than walking around the festival with a microphone in a hat, Louis thinks. Liam’s voice comes through loud and clear, and no one is looking at him strangely, most likely due to the sheer amount of drugs in their systems, but still, he can’t get used to it, not even when he has been describing every detail of the mission into it for the past half an hour.

“Liam, for the last time, there was nothing there, I swear,” Louis snaps when Liam asks him the same question for the third time, tired of repeating himself and keeping his mind right there in that bathroom, stuck against Harry and his terribly hard, too tempting arousal.

“No need to get cross with me, mate, I’m just writing down this report,” Liam replies, a hint of hurt showing through his words.

In the background, the clatter of keys stops, and for a moment nothing comes through, Louis’ thoughts blaring in comparison.

He sighs, tiredly plopping himself down on the grass about a hundred meters from the main stage. His hat threatens to fall but he catches it, propping it so that it shields him from the sun and allows him a few seconds of quiet. With the music filtering in slowly, with his mind still clouded, Louis figures he should apologize, one too many beats of silence having passed.

“I’m sorry, Li, I just hate how this is going so far,” Louis admits, closing his eyes and letting all his frustration wash over him, the past few days, maybe months or even years of it weighing over him.

“It’s not even all the mission’s fault, though finding something would be nice, it’s Harry and the people and-,” Louis stops himself, figuring that  listing everything that bothers him might be overkill.

“- and your feelings for him, and your pent up sexual frustration,” Liam supplies, sounding so sure that Louis would absolutely punch him if he were here.

“I do not have any pent up sexual frustration, Liam Payne,” he quickly corrects, ignoring how in the back of his mind, next to that bit that noticed how lean Harry’s looking and how killer his legs seemed while he was running today, he knows he hasn’t gotten any in too long.“I hope you get told off for inappropriate language at work, you know, that’ll teach you not to speak foolishly.”

Louis doesn’t think Liam notices the subject change or the part of his remark that Louis is prohibiting himself from even thinking about.

“Yeah, I’m the one talking shit, okay,” Liam says sarcastically,, but even as he speaks, it’s obvious that Louis’ reminder that this is still technically an official line has sobered him up.

“So what’s next?” Louis asks, knowing well when Liam is getting wary, and getting them back on track.  actually needs the information anyways.

Liam clears his throat and speaks, his tone formal as ever. “Nothing, actually. We’re still gathering intel from outside sources and have no other active leads, so you’re basically free to do as you please.”

“Wait, really?”

Liam laughs at Louis’s incredulous tone, but he can’t be blamed, all his past missions have been high stakes, full time undercover missions. The thought of getting a few hours of pure free time while on a mission is pretty unheard of.

“Sure, just keep a low profile and don't get caught.”

Hating the way it reminds him of Harry and how much he’s been thinking about him, them, and this whole ordeal, Louis deadpans “no shit” , laughing loudly when the line goes dead with a soft click.

He’s left lying down on the field, back humid from the grass, and alone with a sort of newfound freedom. With it, he decides to get up and go for a beer, figuring that it should be fine, given that he’s become, apparently, just another festival goer for the next few hours.

The beer is expensive as hell, but it takes only another reminder of who he has to go back to, to justify it. If beer will take Harry off the permanent spot he’s been occupying in his mind so far, a billion euros wouldn’t be too much. With his newfound excuse, Louis downs a couple of them, heading towards the stages for a while and letting himself feel the music, enjoy it with his eyes closed and hips swinging.

Too good to be good to me,” the crowd chants along the skinny kid on stage, and Louis’ mind flickers through countless snapshots of Harry, of his smile, of his skin on Louis’, close and warm and maddening.

Too bad that that’s all I need ,” they continue, and Louis fights the grimace that wants to take over his face, the automatic reaction to a line that brings up everything that holds him back. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, the slide show of solitary mornings after, hushed words and snide comments when the sun comes up. It’s just that right now, it prompts shivers all over his body, skin prickly and cold when he’s surrounded by countless bodies that aren’t the one he longs for, the one he wants to fight and touch so bad he greedily gulps his beer to forget.

Louis doesn’t know how much time has passed since he’s submerged himself in the crowd, left all thoughts of Harry half formed, screamt lyrics he ignores the real words to. It’s just so free and fun, being just one more of a group and not one by himself, that before he realizes, the sun has gone down completely and the crowd has begun to disperse.

The last strum from the front man’s guitar lingers in the air, and as Louis blows out the smoke from the cigarette he’s nicked from a random girl, he feels the weight of the day settling in bone deep. His feet ache, arms tired from too many embarrassing fist bumps and brain exhausted by the constant pushing away of thoughts. Mindlessly, he sets out towards the camp, eyes fixed on the cluster of tents that hold the sweet promise of sleep and real rest from whatever today has been.

When he gets  closer, he straightens himself out, not drained enough to let Harry see him like this. He may be covered in beer and rocking the disheveled hair, but as he shuffles closer to the group of tents they’ve set up (Harry just had to place his next to Louis’ for logistical reasons) he shifts, needing and hating the persona he holds around him.

“Look who’s alive and kicking!” Harry semi yells from where he’s perched on a chair, face lit up from a small fire burning in the middle of the impromptu gathering that’s apparently formed. Louis doesn’t think he recognizes any of these people, but he can’t say he’s too surprised. Harry Styles could make a friend even if he were stranded in the Amazon forest with his tongue cut off. Louis is absolutely not envious of that.

“Unfortunately,” Louis grumbles, not wanting to get involved in the conversation but instead longing for the sweet relief of his paper thin nylon tent.

“Oh come on Lou, don’t be a party pooper,” Harry whines, his tone of voice forcing Louis to take a proper look at him, the one thing he’d been expressly avoiding. It’s clear Harry’s been drinking from the way his cheeks are flushed and his eyes are sparkling in the warm glow. Especially obvious is the fact he’s so jovial around Louis, any previous awkwardness washed out by the numbing effects of the empty vodka bottle he can spot a few steps away.

“I’m tired, Harry,” Louis sighs, feet nonetheless rooted to the spot.

The rest of the people aren’t paying them any mind, too wrapped up in each other to care about two embarrassing, uncommunicative idiots mumbling about.

“Just stay for a while,” Harry asks, mouth turning into a pout that should make him look silly but instead forces Louis’ body down onto the ground next to Harry’s chair. It’s not a good position for his bum, but it offers sweet relief for his aching legs, and with the smoldering fire right in front of him, Harry doesn’t feel as distracting.

The tiredness still makes itself known in the string of yawns that attacks Louis, forcing him to close his eyes and open them to an inquiring gaze from Harry.

“You really are tired,” he notes, his scrutinizing eyes revealed by the increasingly powerful flames.

“Of course,” Louis shrugs confusedly, “did you think I was lying?”

The response is automatic. “Yeah, pretty much.”

“Why?”

Harry takes a minute longer to answer, mulling over his words and shifting his gaze  over to the fire, limbs accommodating and burrowing him deeper into his seat.

“I figured you were just trying to avoid me, after today and all,” he admits, giving his sentence a degree of thought that makes Louis rethink his level of drunkenness.

“Can’t really blame me if I were, though, right?” Louis says, knowing full well how risky a line like that is, shoulders tensing preemptively at the possibility of Harry arguing back, tired insults and snarky remarks worryingly ready to be used yet again.

It proves to be in vain, however, as Harry huffs out a laugh and nods in agreement.

“I guess so, yeah,” he concedes.

“You guess?” Louis counters, urging his own lips to hold onto the laugh that threatens to escape. His words are light as he continues, his exhaustion (and possibly something else) urging him not to be hostile when he doesn’t need to be.

“You literally caged us in a bathroom and then proceeded to grind on me.”

“Oh come on!” Harry calls out, voice raising enough to gather the attention of the other people milling around the fire. They only spare them a glance before returning to their own little worlds.

“That wasn't grinding, and you know it.”

“Do I?”

Harry’s mouth quirks up teasingly.

“I hope you do, because if you think that was grinding, then I feel very sorry for you.”

Louis simply stares at him, searching Harry’s green eyes for a clue on how his mind works, on how he constantly finds the exact way to phrase things so that Louis feels unhinged, lost and intrigued all at once. They aren’t very helpful, though, not with how intense eye contact between them always has been, reminiscent of shared nights and never-ending arguments. So, Louis closes his eyes instead, tipping his head back and laying all his weight onto his outstretched hands, fingertips in direct contact with the earth.  It’s grounding.

Silence stretches between them, Louis not offering any replies and Harry not asking for one, an unspoken agreement that this isn’t the end of it hanging in the air.

“Do you want in?” cuts in a foreign voice and Louis’ eyes shoot open, finding one of the other members of the group offering him a joint. Its end burns bright in the blinding night, and Louis gladly takes it, thanking the guy before hastily bringing the joint up to his lips. Breathing in, he fills his lungs up with  smoke that feels like peace, like the first real rest in two days, like the days before he had to worry about any missions, any holidays, any co-workers or whatever the hell he and Harry are.

A gentle nudge pulls him out of his reverie too soon, and before he can snap at them, Louis realizes it’s Harry, forcing him to reluctantly give up the roll. As soon as he does, Harry mimicks his motions, holding the roll delicately between his fingers and taking a drag, smoke curling up into the air and disappearing in a series of captivating twists.

Tomorrow, he’ll blame the insignificant taste of weed for his next words, but for the moment, the way Harry’s lips hug the paper is enough to force them out.

“You’re maddening, you know that?”

Harry’s eyes slowly trail back to meet his, and his mouth hangs open, smoke billowing out slowly into the night.

“How so?”

Despite not having expected the question, it takes Louis a surprisingly short moment to come up with an answer.

“You just are. You fuck with me, but also help at times; people love you even though you’re terribly irritating. It’s a puzzle,” Louis says, voicing his thoughts and wondering just how stoned he got from barely three drags.“You’re a puzzle.”

Harry inhales and exhales once more before speaking, and, again blindsides Louis with his answer.

“Am I a good one?”

Louis breathes out evenly, imagines smoke flowing out from his lungs into the night in waves, letting off some of the tightness he feels in his chest when he looks at Harry.

“I don’t know yet,” he admits.

Harry doesn’t miss a beat. “Then you’ll just have to find out, won’t you?”

Louis smiles. “Not if you don’t return the joint you’re hogging, though.”

Harry pouts again, something  he seems to do a lot with his guard down.But I need it, I’m tense.”

Louis scoffs. “I’ll give you tense if you don’t pass it, you drama queen.”

Harry doesn’t, but he does turn to Louis, chair creaking dangerously.

“Let’s just shotgun it, yeah?” Harry proposes, quickly continuing before Louis can interrupt.

“We’ve done it before,” he reasons, “and besides, I’m cold, and it doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“Of course it doesn’t.” Louis repeats, the words sounding more like a stern reminder for himself than he’d like. He wonders at what point he accepted to go through with it, but he can also find no real opposition within himself to stop him from doing it.

“Allight, come on, or you’ll finish it off before I even get a taste, Styles.”

It should be worrying, how in sync they are, a reminder of the past bringing up the exact same memories to put them both on the same page, but Harry is sliding off his seat and onto the ground next to Louis, and the warmth radiating off him is much more important than anything else.

There’s no awkward fumbling for the fag or conversation about how they’re going to do it. Instead, Harry breathes in deeply and turns towards Louis with an ease that shouldn’t be there, lips meeting lips with a familiarity that makes Louis gasp. Smoke fills his own mouth then, and he continues sucking it in, letting it coax him into relaxing. Harry’s free hand comes up around Louis’ waist, and it only feels natural for him to tangle his own fingers in the hair at Harry’s nape, pulling him closer until there’s no smoke left between them. Even so, they don’t untangle immediately, both savoring the aftertaste almost as much as the proximity, warm limbs tangled together against the cold and the outside world.

Louis pulls them apart, voice gone quiet as he speaks.

“Another, come on,” he says, lips quirking up into a smile, cheeks heating up at the way Harry’s eyes are fixed on them.“Don’t go lazy on me, Harry.”

Harry huffs out a laugh and wastes no time in sucking the joint once more, its dying flame urging them to make the most of it, of the moment.

This time, Louis brings them together with a cold hand on Harry’s warm neck, mouth open and ready and yet wholly unprepared for the sense of calm that floods him. Harry must not be too far off from Harry’s state if the way he scoots closer is any indicator, fronts almost completely joined as the smoke shifts and their mouths move together.

It’s both a surprise and not when Harry slips in his tongue, Louis instinctively pulling him closer. His legs twinge from the uncomfortable position, but he just feels so at ease, lost in the way he meets Harry halfway, heart skipping a couple of beats with every move. There’s absolutely no tendril of smoke left, and neither of them seems to care, Harry’s other hand stubbing out what was left of the joint and coming up to Louis’ back. It simply rests there, warm and strong and amazing, and Louis gets this overwhelming urge to chain it to him permanently

There’s a vague idea that he’s going to regret this tomorrow, that the looseness of his limbs right now will translate into awkward gestures tomorrow, but then Harry bites his lip and he can’t seem to continue caring. Whimpering, Louis uses his hand to shift Harry so that the kiss deepens, both their bodies melting into each other even more until they can’t hold themselves up anymore and they fall backwards. Harry lands on top of Louis, the kiss breaking so that Louis can catch the way his mouth twists smugly at the realization that he’s on top, lips raw and tempting.

“You’re such an asshole,” Louis breathes out, not giving Harry a minute to respond before he’s kissing him again, legs tangling together and poorly veiled excuses of shotgunning all but forgotten.  

Rationally, Louis knows that the weed can’t be used as an excuse for more than the hazy aura his thoughts have, that it doesn’t justify the way he needs to pull Harry closer, to feel the way his muscles shift under his shirt. No, that’s all him, but in between kisses, he can feel Harry panting on top of him, eyes wild and hair as messed up as Louis’ own must be. It does something to him, perhaps because it feeds the ugly part of him that’s always wished to see Harry messed up, or, more likely, because he’s a possessive asshole, and even if Harry isn’t really his, he feels like it right now.

“Want to go back to my tent?” Harry asks, voice gone rough and too many decibels lower to not have Louis twitching in his pants.

Still, he can’t help but laugh at it. It feels so foolish, is all, and yet, his heart skips a beat when he fully considers the proposition.

“How classy of you, Haz,” he remarks with a smile taking over his lips.

“Only the best for you, Lou.”

Harry’s words make Louis pause, as they break through the fog of lust and weed clouding his thoughts and bring him more into the present. This is Harry he’s considering sleeping with tonight. Harry, who has warmed his bed so many nights to leave them cold in the morning, who has watched through half-lidded eyes as Louis headed out right after getting him off, who drives  him so incredibly mad. And yet, there’s nothing but lust when he looks at him right now, none of their shared history really mattering when they’re both tense and hot and veiled by the night and the perishing flames.

His hesitation must show, because  Harry lifts himself up on his hands and gives him some space that’s terribly counterproductive, what with his biceps bulging and taking up all of Louis’ attention.

“We don’t have to do anything, you know,” he reminds him with a soft voice, lust pushed aside in favour of making Louis’ heart flutter, apparently.

It’s too sweet for them, and even if there’s a (big) part of Louis that wants to hug Harry for saying that, the insistent pressure in his pants begs to differ.

“Afraid you’ll whiskey dick, babe?” Louis can’t help but joke, grinning at how taken aback Harry looks for a minute, only for his face to morph into indignation.

“I think we both know that’s not true,” Harry whispers harshly, voice husky as he grinds down, giving them both some much craved friction. It’s almost enough to make Louis forget where he is.

“Do we?” Louis counters, itching to get them both into a tent, away from the way the flickering flames that threaten to spill how into this he is, exactly how much his body craves Harry’s.“I seem to recall a little incident in Rio that proves otherwise.”

Louis can’t help but deliver the line with a grin, relishing the way Harry’s eyes narrow  and his forehead creases.

“We agreed not to mention that, you dick .”

There’s a slight chance Harry may actually be whining about it.

“Oh,” Louis replies, voice sarcastically deep and sexy, “does that mean you’ll have to punish me now, big boy?”

It’s so ridiculous he can’t believe Harry maintains a straight face when he pushes himself up further, the loss of heat sudden and terrible.

“Fuck you,” Harry says, words outweighed by the way the corners of his mouth are turned up, hand outstretched to help Louis off the ground.“Are you coming or not?”

Louis’ dick makes the decision for him.

“Yeah, yeah,” he says, hand closing around Harry’s and pulling himself up.

“‘M not actually cruel enough to leave you to your own hand, believe it or not.”

Harry pulls him closer by the hand, so that he can say the words directly into Louis’ ear, clearly anticipating the tremors it sends down Louis’ spine.“I didn’t hear any complaints about it last time.”

The memories the words bring up are enough to make Louis start the short walk to the tent, unzipping it with ease and shoving off his trainers unceremoniously. Thinking about it is complicated and stressful, but this, opening up Harry’s sleeping bag and watching as he climbs in after Louis, eyes hungry and lips raw, is familiar, comforting.

As soon as Harry pulls  the zipper all the way down, the mood shifts, any leftover remarks dying in Louis’ throat as Harry’s eyes fall on him. It’s as if they light Louis up as they travel over  his form, chest becoming flushed and cheeks pinking at the seemingly subconscious way Harry licks his lips.

“What do you want?” Louis asks quietly, attempting to regain some control, to shoo away the overwhelming wave of feelings

Harry doesn’t give him a spoken answer right away, instead shaking his head and getting onto all fours, crawling slowly over to where Louis is, his eyes so focused and feral it wracks a shiver through Louis’ body.

“You,” Harry murmurs, body close enough for Louis to reach out and tangle his fingers in his hair, bringing his head down and their lips together once again, body starving for more contact, for the right contact.

“Wanna blow you,” Harry says, words shooting a shiver down Louis’ spine, tent billowing slightly in symphony.

Louis wonders if people can hear, if the way their bodies are pressed together is obvious from the outside. It wouldn’t surprise him if it did, can almost imagine the tent setting on fire, every spark ignited by Harry’s touch feeding the flames. It’s all-consuming, is the thing, the way Harry’s eyes don’t stray from his as he waits for an answer, as if Louis can do anything but nod and steal a few breaths as he feels his jeans being undone.

Harry’s so eager, too, the way he always is. His hands are sure on Louis’ clothes, and in the moment it takes his foggy brain to process two of Harry’s eager touches, he’s naked, fabric pooling over his ankles. Louis can barely register the cold air hitting his skin, and even if he erupted in goosebumps, he would blame them them on the firm grasp Harry’s got of him, lips inches away.

Louis has always had a thing for Harry’s lips, can admit it to himself when he shudders just from the proximity. He’s not proud of it, since he can recount oh so many instances in which they’ve driven him mad in ways too different from the current one, spoiling his plans and mocking him with harsh words. They’re just so  plump and red, is the thing, is what has him shuffling needily and thrusting upwards in Harry’s grip, aching to get them on him.

“You’re so desperate,” Harry notes in awe, pumping Louis twice and making every word he tries to utter die in his throat.“Need my mouth more than anything, don’t you Lou?”

It grazes the downright cruel, Harry making him wait, and Louis huffs out an annoyed breath, releasing the tense grip he has on Harry’s hair and trying to grab himself. Harry pushes him off with a chastising hiss, and Louis narrows his eyes.

“You’re not allowed to touch yourself,” Harry declares, as if Louis will just let him boss around (as if his commanding tone didn’t shoot a thrill down his spine).

“What am I allowed to do then? Take it?” Louis says, voice tinted with annoyance and more than a hint of need.

Harry breathes over him, the rush of air thrilling yet so unsatisfactory.

“Yeah,” he simply answers, using Louis’s stunned silence to finally sink down on him, lips tightly wrapping around his dick. He isn’t shy, not with the amount of experience he has, and Louis has to keep himself from bucking up from the surprising wave of pleasure that takes over him.

Louis can’t say anything,, subdued by the sinful twirl of Harry’s tongue and tranquilized with each bob of his head, and that just won’t do. It makes him feel helpless, and even if he  feels like he’s on fire, like he can’t breathe with how good Harry’s making him feel, there’s a voice in the back of his mind that reminds him exactly who is giving him the blowjob of his life. It’s also the voice that points out how much of a visuals guy Harry is, going by  his creepy stare to the way he looks up every once in awhile and makes eye contact with Louis as he sinks down painfully slow.

An idea pops up, fighting the weed fog that’s been thickened by Harry’s mouth, and Louis smiles coyly, waiting for the moment Harry’s eyes meet his to let out a loud moan, high pitched and borderline too much. Harry’s reaction is immediate, though, eyes widening and rhythm faltering. He gets right back into it, but Louis is already smiling, one hand buried in his hair and the other over his nipples. It’s almost too easy to get Harry to react again this time, just a few rubs of his hardened nipple and he’s gasping, pulling off Louis’s dick with a series of coughs that make his eyes water but never cause them to stray from the spot.

Louis has never been one to touch himself much during sex, preferring to focus on the other person, but he finds himself liking it, arching his back not for show but because he can’t help it. His sensitive nipples love the attention, and Harry does too, Louis can tell from the way he’s begun to circle his hips over the sheet, chasing some friction.

It’s hotter than it has any right to be, putting a show for Harry, and Louis finds himself too close to the edge too soon, pushed further and further by the way Harry sucks on the tip enthusiastically.

“Harry, fuck, you’re gonna make me come if you keep doing  that,” Louis moans, meaning to encourage Harry but ending his words with a desperate tilt.

Harry either doesn’t hear him or doesn’t care, for he grips Louis tighter and angles his mouth so that his dick runs over the roof of his mouth, the texture heavenly. Louis bucks his hips again, unable to help it, but Harry’s grip is tight, and he feels his sanity slowly slipping away with each passing  minute.

He’s grasping his own hair, not for visuals but because he needs it, needs something to ground him as Harry continues his efforts. It turns Harry on too, Louis feeling himself, so he lets go in order to run a hand down his sides, grazing his nipples every once in a while, moaning like every touch is as good as Harry’s tongue. They’re both hurling towards orgasm, unable to help themselves, but Louis’ competitiveness demands he last longer than Harry, that he beat him at his own game.

It doesn’t seem such a hard goal, with how incessantly Harry’s circling his hips into the sleeping bags, and yet Louis can barely think besides need and want and Harry’s mouth. He isn't thinking when he chants Harry’s name over and over, isn’t overanalyzing the hand that flies down to grasp Harry’s hair, holding onto it tightly as the other works his nipple in rough tugs. He’s completely and utterly lost to the moment, and his mouth is just spilling out words, barely coherent.

“Babe, shit, your mouth,” he groans, fighting to keep his hips still and failing, “most sinful thing in the world, won’t ever top it.”

If he were thinking clearly, he would’ve never said that, but High Louis getting a blowjob can’t help himself, has no filter to stop the barrage of words that fill his mind. Harry seems to love it though, and as Louis delivers his line with a hard tug on his hair, Harry stills, moan vibrating around Louis’ cock and finally making him come.

The silence is deafening, no groans or moans or anything besides their laboured breaths, and for a moment Louis thinks he’s dead. It only lasts until Harry lets his dick go, popping off him with a wet sound that makes Louis painfully aware of what has just happened. All the weed in the world paired with a thousand orgasms wouldn’t distract him from how naked he is, and how exposed his body is in comparison to Harry. It’s too much for what they have, and Louis’ brain scrambles for words to make the world right again.

“I can’t believe you came just from sucking me off,” he says, forcing out a laugh that shakes his contact craving body. “Talk about a confidence booster.”

Harry doesn’t visibly react to it, but he begins to shuffle away from Louis’ spent cock, ending up next to him.

“I don’t know,” he responds after a few seconds, voice rough and grave in ways that shouldn’t make Louis tingle but do. “I think making you come in under ten minutes is quite an achievement, too.”

Louis hums, cheeks ablaze.

“Gonna put it up right next to your medals for hippiest agent ever?”

“I was thinking above the plaque for ‘biggest willie’, actually.”

Huffing out a laugh, Louis reaches for his boxers, tugging them on swiftly and pulling up  the tent zipper, needing some fresh air. Harry doesn’t cover himself, and that alone is motive enough to crave the cool breeze.

“You are so damn full of yourself,” Louis says, words slow and fingers itching for a fag.

Harry makes a wounded noise, but his response is flirty and paired with ridiculously waggling eyebrows.

“You would know about that, wouldn’t you?” He jokes, clearly expecting Louis to get it.

He doesn’t, silence stretching out between them.

“About being full of me, I mean,” Harry clarifies, shoulder nudging into Louis’ conspiratorially. It takes an ounce and a half of determination for Louis not to laugh out loud.

“You’re hilarious Harry,” he deadpans, keeping a smile away from his mouth, but not his eyes.

“I know, I have a plaque for that too.”

Needless to say, they don’t fall asleep easily that night.

 

*March, near the end of freshman training*

The first time Louis touches a dick that’s not his own, he’s standing in a cramped supply closet with his trousers down to his ankles and a tall body pressed against his. To say he isn’t sure about how he got here would be ignoring months and months of secretive smiles, flirty touches and stolen glances, but he is still shocked when he’s allowed to do it. Hand shifting inexpertly, he thinks back to every secretive porn video he’s ever watched, yet none of them seem to help with his specific situation.

“Lou, hey,” Harry says, voice low and hushed. His cheeks are reddened, and though he’s the younger one of the two, his voice is calmer, soothing and caring in ways Louis didn’t know he needed.“It’s fine, don’t worry about it if you don’t wanna.”

“What? No no, I want to do it,” Louis reassures him, hasty to ease the small flicker of hurt in Harry’s eyes.

“I just, I’ve never done this before.”

It’s easier to admit such a thing with the dimmed lights, with their bodies being so close together that Louis can hide his face in Harry’s shoulder, breathe in his comforting scent.

“I know that, love, you’ve told me.”

It’s a reminder of how much they’ve shared, of the many ways in which their lives have intertwined in such a short period of time. Harry knows Louis, knows he’s only ever dared to touch girls, explore them with truly disinterested hands and robotic movements. It’s as much of a reassurance of the situation as it is of their relationship, and Louis smiles, leaning up to kiss Harry with a mix of heat and appreciation he’s been penting up for months.

The kiss turns dirtier as Louis’ smile fades, and he springs into action when Harry’s hand comes to grip his ass, reassuring yet somewhat soft. As he moves his own hand up and down Harry’s shaft experimentally, revelling in Harry’s gasp swallowed by his own lips, he leans into the touch, silently urging for more.

It’s not that he doesn’t dare voice what he wants, or that he thinks Harry would make fun of him, he just doesn’t want Harry to think he’s doing it wrong, because he really isn’t. Louis does like having his ass grabbed, hell, his dick more than likes it, yet he wants more, wants it harder and more intense. He doesn’t know how to say that, though.

“Yeah, fuck, keep doing that,” Harry groans, voice rough yet still traced with teenager, with awkwardness and a pureness Louis loves.

“You like it?” Louis asks, equal parts genuine curiosity and encouragement for him to keep talking.

Harry nods, curls shaking everywhere messily and partially covering his glassy eyes. His whole face is red, Louis can tell, cheeks flushed and lips bitten raw. It’s the most beautiful and arousing view Louis has ever had, and his movements falter for a second, mind completely caught up in how much he loves this boy.

The need to kiss Harry again overwhelms him, so Louis does, uses his other hand to reach up and tug at his curls, needing something to hold onto. Almost as a reflex, Harry’s grip on his ass tightens, and Louis feels a new wave of need hit him, dick aching from the lack of attention. He’s still got Harry to focus on, though, so he ignores it, centers all his attention on making Harry moan, on twisting his hand and remembering every trick he uses on himself.

Harry’s responses are immediate, and when Louis grips the head a little tighter, he thrusts into his hand a couple of times, speechless be it not for the string of groans and curses. It doesn’t take anything else to make him come, just Louis’ hands and a cheeky side of ass grabbing, which floods Louis with pride as Harry comes down from his high, flushed and suddenly quiet.

“That was,” Harry pants, face splotchy but oh so pretty, “really good, Lou.”

Louis blushes, mind half focused on how hard he still is.

“You sure you haven’t been practicing?” Harry teases, smiling in a way that only ever seems to be directed at Louis.

“There’s no one else I’d rather do it to,” is what Louis answers, the significance of the moment tugging the words out of him. They are true, though, as true as the ever growing space Harry has taken up in his heart.

“Me neither,” Harry whispers, as if the lower volume will preserve the preciousness of the moment better, sealing his words with a sweet kiss. Louis’ limbs thrum with need to blurt out love declarations.

He doesn’t do it now, confesses it weeks later in a romantic date that ends well for both, but he never quite rids himself of the feeling.

*

Waking up in a tent for the second time in a week doesn’t suck nearly as much as it did the first time. Louis realizes this before he even opens his eyes, the brightness seeping through the thin nylon walls subdued by his eyelids and the overall sense of comfort enveloping  him. He isn’t stuffed into his sleeping bag, can tell the weight that’s settled over his back isn’t due to a bunch of stuffing, but he still isn’t sure exactly what it is. His sleep muddled brain isn’t offering much help. Still, he isn’t in any rush, is comfortable enough to burrow into whatever he is using as a pillow and try and chase a few extra hours of sleep.

It’s not until his pillow begins rumbling that he starts to worry. Hesitantly, Louis pops open one eye, looking around disoriented until it lands on a chest. A big chest. A big, firm, warm chest. A big, firm, warm chest that’s attached to a matching big face with big lips and big hair, all of which means big trouble. Terribly big, humongous trouble.

Now nervous, Louis re-shuts his eye, willing for it all to be a fantasy made up by his sleepy mind. He’d mixed alcohol and weed last night, hadn’t he? It’s all suddenly coming back, and it is surely the combination of those that is playing a trick on him right now. He absolutely couldn’t have thought sleeping with Harry would be a good idea, not even drunk.

‘You’ve done it countless times before, even sober’ his mind supplies, rightfully so. Those times had been different though. He’d either been young and in love, or what he thought was love at least, or lonely, or horny, or bored. They’d been special, desperate occasions, and last night hadn’t been one of them. He’s been doing fine lately, even went on one, albeit terrible, date. Louis’ friends or family wouldn’t exactly agree, but he is fine, he truly is. He didn’t (doesn’t) need defined biceps and big dicks right now, no matter how much his own dick jumps at the thought.

The reaction makes Louis realize he, on top of everything, is terribly hard. How lovely.

There’s been no attempt to move from his part since he became aware, though, so he shoos away his thoughts and instead focuses on how he’s being held. Because yeah, Harry’s arm is circling his shoulders and resting on his back, definitely holding them close together. It feels so terribly good, so right and comfortable that Louis hesitates. He might never get this again, he reminds himself, just like he did after their last night together and the one before that. It’s still (relatively) true.

“Did you already gear up or are you just happy to see me?”

It’s Harry and his stupidly deep voice, apparently awake enough to feel Louis shifting against him. If Louis didn’t already think the universe hates him, he would now.

“It’s actually a dynamite stick,” Louis tells him. “I’m trying to kill you.”

Neither of them is awake enough for the exchange to be anything more than sleepy, rough whispers that make it all sillier. Louis still can’t really find  the humour in the situation, though.

Harry laughs, the sound grave and rumbling in Louis’ ears. It’s terribly comforting, and he finds himself considering falling back asleep, positions and implications be damned.

“If you wanted me dead, all you’d have to do is get naked, Lou, it’s not that hard.”

Those are too many words with unknown implications for this hour of the morning, so Louis groans, using the hand that’s resting on Harry’s chest to slap it.

“Aren’t you used to it by now?” is what comes out of his own mouth, unfiltered thoughts spilling from his drowsy mind. “I mean, you’ve seen it a bunch,” he scrambles in an attempt to fix it, stating it as a mere fact and not a reminder of all the moments they’ve shared.

Harry hums, the vibrations travelling through Louis.

“Never will get used to this ass, though,” Harry says, the hand previously holding Louis coming to rest on his ass, fingers curling possessively. He doesn’t squeeze, but the gesture is enough to keep Louis’ hard on going strong.

“You’re just too much,” Louis admonishes, hiding his face and his blush in Harry’s warm skin.

“Seriously,” Harry continues, bringing his other hand to rest on Louis’ hip, completely enveloping him,“I need my daily dose of it, or I’ll go insane.”

Louis does laugh then, carried away by the ridiculousness of the situation.

“If you wanted to fuck you could’ve just asked.”

“Or,” Harry counters, “I could’ve woken you up by pressing my dick against you.”

He pauses, and Louis just knows something is coming.

“Oh wait, is that just your trick?”

Neither of them can hold back their laughter at that, and Louis finds himself wondering yet again how he got here, how being in this tent with Harry is the only position he wants to find himself in.

“We have stuff to do,” Louis counters when his chuckles have died down.

Harry’s exaggerated smirk erases any trace of seriousness the statement might’ve brought.

“You’re the only thing on my to-do list,” he says, dropping his voice comically low and pouting slightly. It doesn’t take much until they’re both hysterical again.

“Your jokes haven’t gotten any better, babe,” Louis tells him, reluctantly letting go of his chest so that they can talk more comfortably.

They’re still awfully close, though, enough so that when Harry speaks, Louis has to force himself to look him in the eye instead of staring at his pretty pink lips.

“And yet, you’re still laughing at them.”

Louis rolls his eyes, willing his cheeks not to pinken.

“I just have nothing else to do,” Louis replies, struggling not to let his eyes trace the way Harry licks his lips.

“Nothing?” Harry echoes, his eyes trained on Louis’ lips now.

“Hmm, nope,” Louis answers half mindedly letting himself inch as close as Harry just did, anticipation bubbling in him.

“Shame,” Harry whispers, a second before Louis gives up and kisses him, lips pressing together as if it’s been years since they have done this. It sure feels like it, as Louis holds Harry closer by the neck, hand comfortable and sure.

It’s freeing, allowing himself to give into the pit of constant want and longing that he so vehemently ignores, and kissing Harry feels almost like basking in the sun, oh so right. There’s no alcohol or weed to serve as excuses, only years of not-so-pent-up desire, and it all pours out again, as it does in every encounter, renewed by the fights and the distance.

Louis is about to shuffle onto Harry when they hear someone approach their tent. It’s not immediate, they are both too well-trained for that, but it ruins the moment, brings Louis back into reality and has both of them detaching, frozen and waiting.

“Harry?” comes a stranger’s voice, the silhouette on the tent indicating it’s probably a girl.  “We’re about to head out for the first concert, are you up for it?”

Harry shows no signs of surprise on his face, running a hand over it and sighing tiredly.

“Give me a minute, okay? I’ll meet you guys there,” he replies, voice loud enough to both be heard by the girl and startle Louis into action.

Footsteps announce they’re alone again, yet the mood is broken, both of them pursing their lips and wondering what’s next. It’s Louis who speaks first.

“I heard there are going to be some good bands today, we could just hang out.”

“Sure,” Harry reluctantly agrees, sitting up and beginning to look for his shirt. They both get dressed on their own, and after a bathroom break, they head out to the concert area.

The distance between them is not much, shoulders bumping every once in awhile, and yet the daylight makes it seem like something they should care about, like it means something. Louis really doesn’t want to think about it, wishing  he could just enjoy the day instead. If that means spending it next to Harry, then so be it. He’s already given in, a few hours more won’t change anything (even if in some ways, the past few have changed things quite a bit).

“So, how’s your family been?” Harry asks when he seemingly snaps out of his thoughts, tone curious but not demanding.

Louis hesitates slightly, wondering where he should draw the line, or if that even applies still.

“I remember Lottie wanted to be a makeup artist, did she start school or..?” The fact that Harry remembers those details does it for Louis,chest warm and lips tempted to smile.

“Yeah, she did actually,” Louis tells him, attempting not to melt when Harry’s face lights up. “She’s working with Selena Gomez now.”

Harry’s eyebrows shoot up.“Wow, that’s awesome.”

Louis grins, pride rushing through him. Times haven’t been easy for them, but he will always be the proud sibling, and seeing others recognize his family will never get old.

“I never doubted it, though. You Tomlinsons are an intense bunch,” Harry adds, directing his smile at Louis.

They’re approaching the concert area, but they are still far enough for Louis to hear him loud and clear.

“Oi, what do you mean, ‘intense’?” He complains, shoving Harry lightly.

“It’s just that..,” Harry begins, running a hand through his hair when he can’t seem to find the words.

“What?” Louis pushes, curious and also delighted by putting Harry on the spot.

Harry fumbles around for a second, choosing instead to shove Louis back, arm firm as it pushes into Louis.

“You always got your way during training, and there wasn’t a single instructor who didn’t love you,” he says, voice not leaving room for any doubt.

“Well, yeah,” Louis replies, warmth draining from him only to be replaced with annoyance he is all too used to.“I did work my ass off for that, you know. People didn’t just love me like they did you.”

Harry scoffs.“People didn’t love me,” he says.

‘I did, ’ Louis doesn’t say.“Oh shut up, they did,” he counters instead.

Harry furrows his brows, the corners of his mouth turning down.

“No, seriously,” he complains, annoyance twinging his own voice, “they didn’t.”

“I did work too, you know,” he adds, quieter.

Louis is stumped for words, not wanting to hurt Harry further and make things awkward. Still, he’s got his well formed opinions about bootcamp, and no matter how nice and capable Harry can prove himself to be, he still had it easier and had been an ass about that. Louis has known that much for a while now.

“I guess,” he settles on, words somewhat placating. “You can’t deny that you had it easier though, Harry. That’s just a fact, I’m not, like, blaming you.”

Even though he does blame him, did blame him, at least for a few years. Years in which he watched Harry breeze though the tests without so much as a single worry while he slaved away, spending hours and hours memorizing every type of gun out there. It’s not comparable, the effort he put in opposed to Harry’s, it just isn’t.

“Just because I didn’t struggle, doesn’t make my training worth any less,” Harry replies, words harsher, body now a whole meter or so away from Louis’. He’s farther away, and the distance isn’t just physical.

“It does, though,” Louis has to argue, memories of all-nighters pulled all by himself as Harry slept in his bed too fresh to let it pass.“I’m sorry, that’s just how I see it,” he adds carefully, reluctant to aggravate Harry even more. It’s something they’ve talked about, yet they’ve never really resolved it. It’s only one issue of the ever growing pile  they have between them.

Harry’s silent for a second, and it’s somehow worse than anything he could say.

“You’re wrong, though,” he murmurs, eyes downcast, unable to meet Louis’ searching ones.

“Plus, you’re forgetting you beat me at every physical test, which is funny, because you wouldn’t shut up about that for the longest of times.”

Resentment shines through Harry’s words, and Louis feels rage flare up in him, red hot and pressing.

“Are you calling me a show-off?”

“If the shoe fits,” is what Harry replies, shrugging like he isn’t actively pissing Louis off on purpose.

The way Harry is capable of slithering under his skin and turn on every nerve in him, with just a few well-placed words and a faked carelessness, bothers  Louis more than he can express.

“Takes one to know one, I guess,” Louis answers, keeping his voice even, unaffected. If Harry isn’t going to get upset, then he isn’t either. It seems they’re both past that. “‘M going to get some lunch, I’ll come find you guys later,” he adds, needing some space to assimilate the mess of emotions playing through his mind.

It’s confusing, the way his usual annoyance is mixed with sadness. He has nothing to be sad about, does he? He just upset Harry and kind of ruined the nice mood they had going on, but they’ve said worse to each other, done much worse too. He’s never actively cared, or allowed himself to, so he doesn’t know why he’s unable to shut it down now. It’s not the freshness of Harry’s touch, because he’s literally run out minutes after making him come, or the closeness, because they’ve shared rooms before. The only thing that’s changed is the time they’re spending together, which had never been longer than a single day. He would like to think he’s able to control himself for three days, and yet he’s already slipped up, slept with him and returned to their old habit of arguing over the same things. It's maddening and confusing, and his soul-searching gets thankfully interrupted by the salesman before it can get any further.

When he’s got a half a hot dog and a can of beer down, he heads back into the crowd, allowing each step he takes closer to the stage to be one thought he forgets.

He’s at a festival and he’s young, he can have some fun. He deserves it. Louis keeps repeating this to himself like a mantra with each meter he advances. That’s what he’d be doing if Harry wasn’t here, enjoying himself, so that’s what he’ll amend for now. There’s no stressing if he’s pumping along, no remembering old, hurtful things when people shimmy next to him, their grins as big as the weight Louis carries on his shoulders. It’s easy to decide not to fight Harry anymore when a kissing couple makes him yearn for a specific pair of lips, to forget their past. One extra day can’t hurt him more than previous encounters have, and even if it does, he can deal with it. He always does.

When Louis reunites with the group, they’re far enough into the crowd that people surround them without pressing into them, and the music’s good, some solo artist singing along to a poppy tune. It’s distracting enough that no one tries to speak for a while, letting themselves dance lazily to the beat. With the sun high up in the sky, Louis guesses it must be noon already, some part of his mind noticing he hasn’t slept in so late for quite a while but not caring to look deeper into it. No worrying and no stressing, he reminds himself.

Harry’s eyes haven’t left him since he’s come back, Louis can tell. He feels it, the heavy gaze of curious eyes noting the way his shoulders shake freely, torso moving carelessly along to the beat. They only matter if he gives them importance, so he tries not to, focuses all his will on letting the beat wash over him and have it distract him from looking up into the eyes he knows so well. It’s hard to shake off the feeling, though, even more so when a stolen glance reveals that Harry’s getting closer.

Louis doesn’t want to mind, rejects the way his limbs tingle with anticipation, and instead takes a step towards a girl in their group who’s dancing to the beat. She eyes Louis appreciatively, albeit maybe too much so, and turns her body so that she’s facing him. It’s as much of an invitation as Louis needs, so he moves her way , swinging his hips to the beat and enjoying the way his movements complement hers. It isn’t sexual, has no place or intention to, it’s just fun, and Louis allows himself to drift a bit, to close his eyes and feel the rhythm wash over him.

“Do you like him?” the girl asks, and Louis thinks for a second that she means Harry, denial hot on his tongue. She isn’t though, is holding up a hand that points toward the stage, and Louis’ body relaxes again as he shrugs.

“It’s music, that’s all I need right now,” he answers, taking a step closer so that his words don’t get lost in the music.

The crowd is getting thicker now, almost pushing him up against  his dance partner and forcing them to speak almost in each other’s ears.

“Deep,” she notes, laughter punctuating her words.  “What about him?”

Her eyes shift to Harry for a second, returning to Louis meaningfully.

“I-” Louis begins, stretching out the letter while he thinks of something to say. There’s nothing easy about their situation, though, nothing that can be condensed into a sufficient explanation for a n outsider.

“It’s complicated,” the girl completes for him, eyebrows raised as if to challenge him. If it weren't for what she’s asking, Louis would think she’s flirting, gestures and shimmying hips suggestive enough. He’s really thankful that’s not the case.

“I guess,” he concedes, shrugging as if that says it all.   The girl nods, face understanding.

“I get it,” she says, “love’s hard.”

Louis scoffs, trying to keep the panic out of his tone as he speaks.“Oh I’m not-”

“Wooo, I love this song!” he’s interrupted by her companion, her voice so loud it completely drowns out what he’d been trying to deny. The remark makes him notice the increased music volume, and neither of them try and pick up the conversation again after that. No use in chatting when one can lip sync to a stranger about how love sucks, he guesses. If he sings some songs with more intent than others, it’s lost in the crowd.

*

With sweat trickling down his spine, Louis plonks down to the ground, bum flaring up but legs thankful for the break.The sun has begun to set, rays casting a golden glow that makes everything seem beautiful, even the beer bottle Louis is fiddling with. The sound of people talking surrounds him, the same group having stuck together and deciding to chill in a quieter zone after dancing, and he’s grateful for it - he can finally close his eyes and just breathe for a second or two. That is, until his brain kicks in again.

Reluctantly, he fishes for his phone and opens his eyes long enough to text Liam.

Still no news?

With the sound of the text sending he relaxes again, shoulders lax and head hanging back. He feels at ease, muscles on the right side of sore from all the dancing, head clearer than it has been in a while. It may be due to the fact that Harry has kept his distance for the whole afternoon, or maybe Louis is simply too tired to be having any coherent thoughts. Either option sounds plausible.

His phone buzzes with Liam’s answer - Nothing yet, looks like a bust.

“Shit,” Louis swears, recognizing the language used for a mission that’s been labeled a fail. It has happened to him a few times, and yet he feels a wave of disappointment.

Are you sure? We can track more leads, he sends back desperately.

“Couldn’t stay away for more than a few hours, could you?” Harry says, voice startling Louis, who scoffs.

“Just trying to be responsible.”

Harry sits down next to Louis, reaching for his beer as Louis watches him with a raised brow.

“No developments, right?” Harry asks, infuriatingly blasé about invading Louis’ space and taking his drink.

Louis won’t be the one to ruin the mood, though.

No use, we’ve ran out of usable info. Not your fault, though, good work.

Louis reads the message instead of replying to Harry and proceeds to toss his phone away, hands balling up.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

Louis rolls his eyes, taking a swig of his reclaimed beer in an attempt to wash out the bitter taste in his mouth.

“It’s not funny,” he notes, annoyed at the way Harry’s taking it in his stride.

“Oh, I know,” Harry agrees, posture still loose, lips still in a smile.

“But it happens, every once in a while. We’ll ace our next one.”

“I’m going on holiday,” Louis tells him, stubbornly ignoring the plural way in which Harry  had spoken and wondering why he’s sharing  this.

“Really? Never thought I’d see the day,” Harry says, tone light enough that, paired with the way they bump shoulders, it sounds like a joke.

“Ha, ha,” Louis fake laughs, smile pushing through.“I do things besides work, you know?”

Harry gives him his best, most attractive grin, and Louis’ nails are probably going to be leaving dents in the center of his palm with how hard he’s pressing.

“Do you? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you mention anything like that.”

“Well,” Louis begins, searching his brain in hopes of finding something interesting. He doesn’t know why he feels this urge to seem appealing rather than an empty workaholic, but he does. It’s only Harry, but since they’ve never really discussed their recent personal lives, Louis isn’t about to paint himself a loner.

“I go out with friends, for one.”

“What, to clubs and such?” Harry asks, leaning into Louis’ side. Louis doesn’t move away.

“Yeah,” Louis confirms, laughing at the way Harry’s eyebrows shoot up.

“But do you dance and stuff? Pick people up?”

Harry can’t wrap his head around it, Louis can tell, which, for some reason, is hilarious to him.

“Wouldn’t you love to know,” he replies coyly, cracking up when Harry’s features morph into offence. His brows are slightly furrowed now, and he reaches for Louis’ bottle again, clicking his tongue disapprovingly when Louis doesn’t let go of it.

“I saw you dancing with Claire, were you practicing your moves?” Harry asks, and he sounds too distant, like he’s trying not to let the words mean anything, but his whole face and the way he’s leaning in completely give him away. Louis tries very hard not to feel pleased, and yet he can’t fight it, joy blooming deep in his chest.

“They got plenty of practice last night,” Louis replies before he can think better, cheeks heating up  at the memories and implications he’s brought up.

Harry doesn’t crack another joke. Instead, he goes quiet, eyes lingering on Louis.

“Don’t really need the practice, though,” he murmurs, gaze shifting to Louis’ lips.

“Are you really that easy?” Louis teases, finding Harry’s lips more attractive by the second.

“Not for everyone.”

Louis hums, intrigued. “Am I special, then?” he asks, delight seeping into his words.

“Maybe,” Harry replies, an attempt at being  mysterious that falls flat when they both know he may as well say yes.

“What an honor,” Louis deadpans, feeling entirely detached from his words.

It isn’t the beer, or the chill music, or the group that surrounds them. This time, it’s completely Louis who leans in, lips slotting against Harry’s like they haven’t done so a few hours ago. Neither of them tries to make it something more, instead kissing lazily, hands slow in the way they explore each other. It’s comfortable and calm, Louis’ hand cupping Harry’s cheeks, fingers drawing idle patterns across the soft skin. He’s completely enthralled with the tranquil rhythm of their movements. If it wasn’t the two of them, Louis would almost call it tender, the almost  reverent way in which Harry presses into him, enveloping everything in simmering heat.

There’s enough light around them to make their actions visible, and a few members of their group wolf-whistle, careless about the true nature of the action. Harry flips them off without hesitation, but Louis gets stuck on it, suddenly aware that they are out in the open, with hundreds of people around. Logically, he knows there’s no way the agency will know, and even if they did, they’ve come a long way in regards to agent/agent relationships lately. Still, it’s too out there, too characteristic of couples for Louis to fully sink into it again, so he slowly disengages.

Harry whines as they pull apart, the sound so intimate and hot that Louis clears his throat in efforts of hiding it. There’s a question in the green eyes that stare back at him, slightly dazed and terribly pretty, and it causes Louis to speak up, words hurried.

“I thought maybe we could walk around?” he suggests, his voice coming out squeaky.

Seriously, he has actual experience in matters such as bomb defusing, this insignificant moment should not be so nerve wracking.

Harry’s brow furrows, but he slowly nods , body still too close to Louis’.

“Do you have any specific destination in mind, or?” he asks, clearly still unsure as to why Louis has suddenly decided he will be rational about them. It’s a feeling they both share.

“Not really,” Louis muses, using Harry’s confusion to put some space between them and get up, Harry’s eyes shamelessly trailing the way he dusts off his ass. He has to consciously remind himself to check his earpiece, always on edge in case Liam feeds him new information on the case.

“Okay,” Harry drags out, word lifting at the end as if it’s a question.

He still follows Louis, though, sighing before getting up and trotting along so he can catch up to him .

To say Louis has no idea of where he’s going would be an understatement, but he walks unhurriedly, revelling in the peace and certainty he feels when he’s by himself. It all feels so fragile around Harry, so close to an abyss Louis has been eyeing for a long time, that he needs his moments of security, of knowing that no matter what, he still has himself, his job and his friends. That even if this ends badly, if the way he’s unable to hold himself and his impulses continues, he can rebuild himself the same way he’s done before, piece by piece.

“Is everything okay, Lou?” Harry asks, silencing the wild stream of thoughts flowing through  Louis’ head.

“Yeah, yeah, I just wanted some air.”

Now if only his words sounded more genuine, then maybe someone would believe them.

Harry snorts, turning towards Louis with a toothy smile.

“You wanted some air...at an outdoors festival? We’ve literally been outside all day.” He laughs, clearly unbothered by it all. Oh, if only Louis could be the same, maybe he wouldn’t be stuck in this mess.

“Oh, shut it,” Louis replies, the words lacking their usual hard edge and instead coming out teasingly. It’s not a conscious act.

People walk around them in constant waves, group after group passing them on their way to the last concert of the day, their tents or the food trucks. Louis gives each of them a cursory glance, tries to guess what they see when their eyes meet. Just a couple of friends walking too close, with smiles too big and cheeks impossibly pink from banter? Could they still even possibly pass as friends? There’s too many dumb questions occupying his mind, with no satisfying answers, as they continue walking, grass steadily crunching beneath their feet.

“Seriously though,” Harry speaks up again, voice careful now, “if you’re driving yourself mad about the mission or whatever, we can talk about it.”

He sounds incredibly genuine, possibly even caring, and it throws Louis off. Harry’s eyes are trained on Louis’ own, searching for something Louis himself doesn’t know how to accept.

“Really, I get that feeling too,” he says, driving the point home, and for a second, Louis isn’t entirely sure what Harry’s talking about, the mission, or that other, , much more hidden thing they don’t talk about.

“I’m fine,” Louis says, a reassurance for Harry as much as himself. Harry doesn’t look all that convinced, though.

“If you say so,” he concedes nonetheless. He spots the merch stand Louis has been eyeing for the past minute, and grins.

“I, for one, bet you would be much happier with a Slipknot poster.”

Louis can’t help the laugh that bubbles out of him.

“Slipknot, really?”

Harry nods, left hand stroking his chin in pretend pensiveness.

“Oh, for sure, your sweater paws just scream metalhead, darling,” he teases in  an American accent that has Louis in stitches, bracing  himself on Harry. When he’s done laughing, he leaves his hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“And you, of all people, would know about the topic, I’m sure,” Louis says, checking  Harry out in the most unabashed way.

“Hey!” Harry complains, popping out his hip exaggeratedly. “I’ll let you know that I am very hardcore.” He shifts so that they’re holding hands and tugs  Louis along to the stands. It happens so easily, Louis is blindsided for a moment.

“Sure, babe,” he comments distractedly, forcing his gaze to stay on Harry and not stray to their joined hands.

No one bats an eye at them, the action monumental only to Louis, which must mean he needs to calm way down. In an attempt to do so, he finally shifts his focus to the merchandise, eyes raking over the options he has no serious interest in.

“This is such a rip-off,” he notes, needing to fill the silence between them, to justify the way they’re still so close. Harry gives him a flat look.

“You are a rich, single guy.”

Louis scoffs.

“Yeah, and?” he asks, not taking kindly to the reminder of his relationship status. “I still like to be careful with my money.”

Harry studies him for a moment, and the way he raises a single eyebrow is somewhat offensive to Louis.

“Is that why you dress like this?”

Louis is taken aback for a moment, laughter punctuating his scolding.

“Excuse me? I happen to be undercover right now.”

“Oh come on, you dress exactly the same when we’re home.”

“I don’t!”

“You so do!” Harry counters, shaking his head at Louis.“I’ve seen you, don’t lie.”

Louis gives him his dirtiest, nastiest look he can manage, eyes reduced to slits as Harry laughs at him, tugging their hands so he can lean into Louis.

“You’re mean,” Louis says. Harry doesn’t even hesitate.

“And you’re cute when you’re angry.”

“Fuck you,” Louis says, but the smile he’s trying to hide completely ruins the sentiment.

They actually look at some of the merch after that, trying on a couple of items just for fun. They point out and mock the most ridiculous posters of airbrushed rockers, Harry miming the intense looks on their faces and cracking up Louis every time. Every stall offers a new opportunity, a new batch of items for them to laugh at and gossip about the ridiculousness, and by the time they reach the last one, Louis is feeling more relaxed  than he has in ages.

He also has one very unnecessary, horribly tacky sweatshirt with the festival’s name on it. He’d rather not talk about how Harry talked him into it, but it might’ve included his doe eyes and some sneaky kisses he’s not proud of.

There’s no reason for them to continue walking, other than the fact that the field looks pretty, washed in artificial light and punctuated by the burning butts of cigarettes. Their group is all but forgotten, and as Louis starts to suggest going back to the tents, his stomach rumbles dramatically.

“Subtle way of demanding a meal, Lou,” Harry laughs, steering them to the right, where a vendor holds out two hot dogs as they near.

It’s greasy and satisfying in the best way, Louis moaning into his first bite while Harry watches amusedly. They quickly find an empty spot to sit in, and silence settles over them as they focus on filling their stomachs with crappy food. There should be more tension, more glances and looks, but there just aren’t. Louis doesn’t need to watch Harry to know he’s there, can feel him in the way their knees bump together, in the contentment that floods his being. In this hour, with calm washing over him, Louis can’t bring himself to care about it all.

“Do you think we could’ve been them?” he asks  once he’s done, mind having wandered to the what if’s, to the hundreds of groups around them they could’ve been a part of. Lazily, he leans into Harry, head resting on his shoulder and back accommodating Harry’s arm.

“Who?”

“Anyone, any of these people around us with normal lives and relationships.”

He wishes he didn’t sound so wistful.

“‘M not sure we could’ve,” Harry replies, fingers dancing around Louis’ arm thoughtfully. “There’s just something about the thrill, about the uncertainty of it, that draws us in.”

Louis smiles.

“You make us sound like junkies.”
Harry looks at him curiously.“Maybe we are, I don’t know. I don’t think I could leave all of this now,” he says, eyes fixed on Louis..

“Not even for stability?” Louis asks, mind drifting to the many months he’d spent pondering how it would affect his family and friends, before signing up for training.

Harry purses his lips.“There’s no way to keep everyone safe, Lou, not even in regular jobs.”

It sounds like something he’s given much thought, and Louis wonders if they’ve worried about the same things all these years, if their heads have been plagued by the same anxieties and threats.

“A lawyer would’ve been a much more secure bet for you, though,” he notes, remembering the endless conversations they used to have about what they’d want to do if they didn’t get picked after training.

The corners of Harry’s mouth turn up, the crinkles by his eyes deepening.

“You remember that?”

“Yeah.” Louis shifts his gaze to the night sky, hoping it hides his blush. “You used to tell me all about it, the kinds of cases you’d want, what your office would look like... you had it all planned out.”

Harry laughs, rolling his eyes at his old self.“I used to talk so much shit,” he says, shaking his head.

Louis hums, as if he needs a second to recall anything Harry’s said to him.“You did.”

They both laugh quietly at that, memories so old and different they feel like another life.

“Still, you would’ve been a good lawyer, Haz. You’ve always been so caring,” Louis points out, trying his best to stop the memories that particular admission brings up, but obviously failing.

Harry makes a noncommittal sound that draws Louis’ eyes to his. He’s not all that surprised to see them clear and green and focused, focused on Louis like always.

“My life would’ve been so different, though,” Harry muses. “I wouldn’t have been here, right now. You wouldn’t either, if you’d been a teacher.”

Louis nods, remembering his old backup plans of going to university.“One small change and it all goes away,” he voices what they’ve both realized..

“Would you risk that for relative safety? I don’t think I would,” Harry says, leaning into Louis and resting his head atop his.

“I don’t know, we can’t do anything but wonder about it now, anyway,’,” Louis mumbles, revelling in the heat their bodies retain, in how deeply connected and cared for he feels right now.

“Do you? Wonder about it, I mean.” There isn’t much Harry could be referring to, and yet Louis still wonders if he should play dumb. Eventually, he decides he shouldn’t.

“I think it’s impossible not to.” With the sky and Harry as his only witnesses, the words coming from Louis’ mouth don’t stray from honesty.

“Yeah, I guess.” Harry’s words sound so final that they spur Louis on, turn the gears in his head one more time.

“It comes with having had something good, yes, but I don’t think it should keep you from the present.” He’s not entirely sure it makes sense, but Harry’s thoughtful silence makes the words hang heavy, ominous.

“I figure I’m good right now, no regrets,” Harry finally says, delivering the last words as he looks straight at Louis, the edge of his mouth quirking up in the loveliest way.

“None?” Louis questions, feeling his own mouth shifting into a smile the longer he looks at Harry’s.

Harry pretends to think about it.“Maybe just one,” he agrees as he leans into Louis, lips soft as they press against his, as red and fiery as the currents erupting in his stomach. It’s undeniably sweet, such a gentle show of affection, no trace of ulterior motives as they separate, both faces gone pink.

“There,” Harry says, smiling to himself as if he was anticipating Louis’ reaction. “Now I have none.”

Louis can’t believe this is what his life has come to.

“You sap,” he scolds playfully, rolling his eyes before embracing Harry for real and joining them in a deep kiss. It all seems a little less serious and a lot more romantic from there.

*

Louis prides himself on being a heavy sleeper. Be it anyplace, anytime, if he’s tired enough, he’ll be dozing off in minutes, and once he’s asleep, it takes an army to get him up and running. With that in mind, one could understand the startled way in which he wakes up, body being shifted around.

At first, he doesn’t quite react, mumbling for Harry to stop moving and burrowing into his chest to try and find sleep again. The movement doesn’t stop, though, and his eyes shoot up, trained instincts suddenly on high alert.

He’s moving.

After the first realization, a few follow in quick succession. He’s out of his tent, laying on his stomach and being carried by what looks like a burly man, the thick expanse of his back the only thing visible to Louis. There's a shoulder digging into his gut, and as much as Louis wants to fidget and reaccommodate, he knows the smarter thing is to stay quiet and absorb as much of his surroundings as he can.

A quick look around reveals almost nothing, his unaccustomed eyes incapable of  making out any shapes amidst the vacated field they’re going through, but he does note that Harry is nowhere to be found. Going by ear, he identifies a similar set of footsteps behind him, meaning that his guy is following another. Two to one if he tried to escape now, plus there’s nothing that could really provide cover for the next hundred meters.

Louis does a mental check of what he had on him before sleeping, but both his watch and his earpiece are missing. Additionally, there’s no comforting weight of his cellphone in his pocket, and he’s beginning to feel increasingly agitated. He knows that, logically, he shouldn’t panic and just keep his wits about him, but there’s a heavy feeling in his gut, and he wishes he could at least know if Harry’s okay.

Before he can think of the next step, he’s slowing down, the man carrying him easing to a stop. Louis can feel the exact place where he’s being gripped, the touch on his hips in sharp contrast with Harry’s gentle caresses and passionate grips. No, he’s being treated like a sack of potatoes, his body lifted by the man, only to be held in a bridal position.

Carefully, Louis squints his eyes and keeps his breathing even, every situation he’s ever needed to be quiet coming to memory. There are new voices, low gruff ones accompanied by the heavy thump of footsteps, and if Louis focuses enough, he can make out some parts of the conversation.

“Where do you want them?” someone asks somewhere to Louis’ right, and Louis’ heart races at the plural.

Harry being here with him increases his chances of escaping, and it eases the knot in his stomach, knowing they’re in it together. It may be selfish, Louis knows that, but having Harry close is better than not knowing where in the world he is. From experience, he knows the stress that causes, and it’s much worse.

“Just tie them up over there, I don’t care,” the response comes, and it puzzles Louis.

Usually, the people who kidnap him have plans that have been carefully thought out, yet this seems almost random and rushed. What’s supposed to be an easy, go away mission, has turned into an incomprehensible mess, and Louis is ready to wrap it up and go home.

First, though, he has to feign sleep as his body is carried a few more meters and through what he supposes feels like a door. It’s not a minute later that he’s being laid down, ass flat against the unforgiving ground. His cold hands tied with coarse rope, Louis stays still and limp, mentally going through the many ways this could go.

A grunt can be heard from the other side of the room, and his interest peaks but goes unattended, the need to be inconspicuous greater than the yearning for information. Patiently, Louis breathes shallowly for a couple more minutes, until a bang signals a door closing and he dares open his eyes.

His first instinct is to look for Harry, eyes wildly taking in everything before landing on his slumped body. It takes him a moment before it sinks in that it’s really Harry he’s seeing. His long hair falls over his resting face, sleep undisturbed by all the hustling they’ve been through. Louis greedily drinks in the untouched expanses of exposed skin, eyes raking over his arms where they poke through his shirt and his bare feet from where they extend, miles away from his torso.

He  notices his heartbeat slow down, though he’ll deny it if asked, and his nerves make way for determination. He’s got to wake up his unconscious partner first, though.

“Harry,” he hisses through clenched teeth, the possibility of discovery a little too real. “Harry.”

The room they’re in, the one he caught mere glances of in his frantic search for Harry, isn’t a very large one, though it’s completely empty. The concrete floor merges into peeling white walls of what one could assume is an unused deposit somewhere far off from the stages. Sealing it off is a corrugated, metal door that looks about an inch thick, offering some but not much, isolation for their plans.

For there to be a plan, though, Harry’s got to get up, and Louis’ whispers don’t seem to be doing much. He can’t go over there -, if someone came in they’d be absolutely screwed, so he keeps trying, volume increasing each time.

With what seems like the millionth time, Harry shifts, arms tensing against his restraints and head snapping up immediately after.

“Harry, come on,” Louis urges again, and their eyes meet, confusion facing determination.

“What happened?” Harry asks, voice groggy and dazed. Louis can’t help but smile at how cute Harry looks, how it contrasts with their situation.

“Well, while you were busy playing Aurora, we got taken and tied up.”

Harry rolls his eyes, but he’s visibly more awake, biceps showing as he twists and turns in an attempt to find a weak spot in his bindings.

“What for?”

“Gee, let me think,” Louis replies, patience wearing out. They don’t have time for this, for such ridiculousness. Each minute that passes could mean danger to them, even if there hasn’t been any indication of violence so far.

“Sorry, stupid question,” Harry apologizes, shaking his head and looking around, eyes zeroing in on the door and then Louis.“Did you see anyone? Get any additional information?” he asks, gazing expectantly at Louis, whose temper rises.

“Of course I didn’t, Harry! We’re in the same boat.”

It’s hard to keep his volume down when the reality of the situation is slowly sinking in. They’re cut off from all communication, tied up in God knows where, and being held for an undisclosed amount of time. Patience isn’t exactly at the forefront of Louis’ thoughts.

“Jesus, Lou, calm down,” Harry says, his tone of voice slightly stern. Louis rolls his eyes, tugging at his own ties with a frustration that’s only growing.

“Are you serious? Do you even recognise the danger we’re in right now?” he asks, urgency coming through with every word. Rationally, he knows he isn’t angry at Harry rather than the situation, and yet it’s hard to tell them apart, the strength of this emotions mixing it all together.

“I do, but I also know that panicking helps no one,” Harry notes, the aggression in his own voice escalating.

Louis wants to go and deal with the fight like they’ve always done in these situations: by escaping and ignoring it for months until it becomes unbearable. He can’t though, the physical impediments adding on to the ever growing parts of him that urge to cling onto Harry.

“Oh, I’m sorry, am I being unhelpful?”

Harry inhales really loudly, and even from the other side of the room, Louis can see his flaring nostrils.“You know you are, Louis, and it’s really unnecessary.”

Even as he says it, he keeps  his voice level, a fact that has never failed to irritate Louis. It’s hard to fight someone who sounds like they don’t care, hard to let yourself be honest when you’ve got no read on them. Louis, however, does know Harry well enough to catch the undercurrent of despair in his voice.

Shaking his head, Louis fixes his gaze on the ceiling, waiting for his blood to cool down.

“No one even asked you to come on this mission, Harry,” he comments, knowing his words only make it all worse and saying them anyways.

“So now this is my fault, that’s what you’re saying,” Harry clarifies, and Louis can’t even begin  to guess what he must be feeling right now.

“I’m not saying that,” Louis insists, emphasizing every word in an attempt to avoid digging his nails into his palms with how tight his fists are. “I’m just saying that I work better on my own, I always have.”

Harry huffs out a harsh breath, biting his lip like he always does when he’s frustrated.

“You don’t , you simply make everything about competition and superiority,” he says, listing it off as if ticking out a list of things he’s noticed over the years. “And it fucks it all up, that’s what happens.”

Louis feels his face go red, insecurities laid out so explicitly in a way only Harry manages. Every cell in his body is saying that this is what he gets from letting anyone in. There shouldn’t have been an opportunity for this, because Harry should never have gotten this deep under his skin.

“Oh, that’s rich, I’m the one with the superiority complex now? Mr-finished-training-early and got sent to fucking Timbuktu?”It’s uncontrollable, the words that come out of Louis’ mouth, past experiences pushing through the thick seal he’d laid over them and shooting out of his mouth like precise daggers.

“You’re pissed at me for being good at my job?” Harry demands, brows furrowed and disbelief painted all over his face.

Louis might burst into flames. Chest tight and breathing erratic, his body responds to the words, tasting every remark like a bitter pill.

“No, you idiot,” he answers, done with the misinterpretation of his words. “I’m angry about the way you did it, the-” Louis fumbles, looking for exactly the right term, then adds, “The way you fucked us all over when you left.”

Harry’s face immediately falls, eyes getting kinder and words softer.

“We talked about it, you said you were happy for me,” he says, possibly reliving the exact same memories Louis is, “and then when I left you stopped replying to my texts.”

Harry’s words don’t quite carry the fondness at the end, care turning into bitterness in the exact same way their relationship had.

“No calls, no texts, no nothing, Louis.”

Louis’s cheeks have never burnt this much from shame, pure shame at his past self. Harry’s eyes look glassy when he continues.

“Do you even know how hard that was?” Louis’ scoff dies in his throat when he hears how raw and sincere he sounds.“I was all alone, facing everything at once, and the only person I had-” Harry continues, voice breaking at the end. Louis’ heart matches it. “You were gone, all that I had of you, gone .”

Harry’s long neck is exposed, emphasized with the way he’s gazing at the ceiling. Louis admires his beauty, drinks in the exquisite lines of his body that, even in pain, demand to be seen.

Still, it’s unfair to pin it all on him when his own pain is fresh as ever.

“Well, it was hard for me when you didn’t give a damn, Harry,” he admits, mind reeling through everything he wished he could’ve said when Harry came to him with the news. The perfect picture of happiness, he’d told Louis he was being sent away on an undercover mission. Six months is nothing, they’d reasoned, ignoring how huge that would feel with broken hearts.

Before Harry can interrupt with a contradiction, Louis forces the last words out. Now or never. They might be killed right here, so it doesn’t even matter anyways.

“I’m sorry,” he says, wondering how many things he’s apologizing for.“I couldn’t do it,.  Louis swallows the terrible taste his own failures have left in his mouth.“Loving you was hard enough when you were there, and when you left I-I just,” he grasps yet again for the right words, heart breaking again and again with each word. “-broke down, I suppose.”

Harry looks shell-shocked for a minute, choking on words while Louis’ heart sinks lower and lower.

“You loved me?” he asks in the end, voice full of wonder and surprise. Louis can’t process it. He  sighs, resigned to lie in the bed they’ve made for themselves. “You knew I did, Harry, and you still left at the first opportunity.”

Harry’s shock doesn’t waver, evident in the way he doesn’t immediately try and defend himself. Anticipating the silence, Louis continues, words tumbling out of his mouth and spiraling down into the dark thoughts that cloud that particular period of time.

“It’s fine, I get it, I was clingy and stupid,” he voices, and it sounds like everything he used to repeat to himself while missing Harry. “It was more than you bargained for.”

That seems to do it for Harry, whose eyes snap back to meet Louis’. There’s a new intensity in them now.

“What? No , I loved you, too,” he says, stressing the thought as if Louis’ whole body hasn’t been shocked by it.

Unable to process this, Louis voices one of the thousands of thoughts that it brings up, deep rooted questions about them he never got an answer to.

“Then why didn’t you say something before leaving?” he urges, the despair he’d felt then rushing out like an untamed river. “You just accepted it and left, no fucks given.”

It’s a statement, or at least Louis says it as such. From his perspective, it’s exactly what Harry did.

Harry pauses for a minute, eyes travelling around the room before shrugging, words tired, worn by the years they’ve been held back.

“You’d already started pulling back,” he finally says, sharing his own experience, his personal take on the facts. “I didn’t know how to fix that on top of dealing with everything, it was too much.”

The words resonate deeply within both of them. No one could’ve expected them to deal with it maturely, not when it was so intense, too deep for the instance they were in. Silence stretches out between them, each filling in the blanks of their own experience with the other’s. It changes everything, and yet, it doesn’t. They’re still tied up, confused as ever, and everything that’s happened between them is still the same. It just carries a load of remorse on top of it now.

It’s Louis who speaks first.

“We really fucked it all up, didn’t we?” he says, a dry laugh closing off his words.

“Still do, apparently,” Harry responds, his own humorous tone matching Louis’.

It’s hard to say something when the remains of what went down between them still hang in the air. And yet, with all of it being said, Louis is still stuck on the fact that Harry loved him through all those months when he told himself he didn’t. It’s monumental, the hope that blooms in Louis’ chest, yet there’s not much he can do while tied up.

“Oh, by the way,” Harry interrupts his thinking, sounding apologetic even though he’s sporting one of his cheeky smiles again.“I didn’t wanna interrupt your monologues but...I’m free,” he says, showing both of his liberated wrists.

“Are you kidding?”

Harry lifts one eyebrow.“Being tied up is only good while consensual,” he lectures, solemn voice breaking into a self deprecating laugh.

“Well, come on, do me,” Louis urges, fighting his instinct to refuse help and do it alone. He’s always had to prove himself to Harry, to show he didn’t need him, but now, it feels silly and shallow.

“You don’t have to be so rude, Lou,” Harry comments, still delivering his lines like he’s trying to frustrate Louis.

“Oh, shut up, you’re the one who’s half hard from looking at me like this.”

Louis meant it as sort of a joke, half remembering some of the more intense encounters they’ve had, yet still Harry’s cheeks redden, pace quickening as he scrambles to get to his side.

It’s overwhelming, suddenly having him so close, Harry’s whole face mere inches from Louis’ as he squats down. All of the emotions they’ve stirred and awakened are buzzing under Louis’ skin, and for a minute, he forgets everything but how good Harry tastes.

“It’s been a long while since we’ve gone there,” Harry murmurs, his words almost confusing before Louis snaps back into reality.

“Not that long,” he points out, voice coming out high and affected. He wishes he wasn’t trained to notice his own pulse quickening, or Harry’s pupils dilating.

Harry smiles, small and private between them.“I could never resist you, really.”

Louis chuckles, looking down in embarrassment at the way this is heading, yet loving it anyways. Harry’s palm on his cheek snaps him right back up. It’s dead silent, between them and on the outside, their own bubble amidst the chaos they’ve surrounded themselves with.

“Didn’t have to,” Louis says, breathing out a shaky breath before Harry inevitably leans in, his lips chapped and soft, so soft.

It feels different than it ever has before, the kiss loaded with forgiveness and caring in ways neither of them allowed before. Louis has no choice but to be kissed, softly and thoroughly, to let himself feel every ounce of love pouring out of Harry and into him. Exhilarating as it is, his body yearns to touch Harry back, and he struggles against his restraints, pushing into Harry and then back into the rope.

Harry notices his struggle, free hand coming up to grasp the place Louis is struggling against and single-handedly freeing him. Louis should worry about how easily he managed it, but instead, he sighs happily and brings his hands up around Harry’s neck, putting in the enthusiasm for all the times he couldn’t.

Naturally, the kiss soars and then frizzles down, passion making way for the need to breathe.

They’ve both got stupidly wide grins when they separate, eyes glued to each other until Louis succumbs and rolls his.

“You are such a sap,” he admonishes, voice giving away his utter glee at the fact.

Harry doesn’t even try to deny it, grin as bright as ever.

“Guilty.”

Louis swats lightly at his chest, wanting to linger on the hard planes of it before thinking it over and realizing they’ve probably had enough of that.

“We should probably, you know, do our job,” he points out, tilting his head towards the ominous door and watching as Harry’s face goes from playful to calculating.

“Do we have to?” Harry still asks, reluctantly pulling both of them up and lingering on Louis’ body.

“Employees of the year, us two,” Louis remarks dryly, wondering how the hell he’ll explain all of this to Liam.

“Well, what’s a job without coworker drama, I always say.”

Louis rolls his eyes for what feels the thousand time of the mission. It’s accompanied by a smile.

“You do talk some shit, babe.”

After pausing for Harry’s offended ‘hey’, he claps his hands and puts on an official voice.

“Now, let’s get out of here and onto a proper bed, because I’m not fucking you in a tent ever again.”

“Hear hear.”

***

In the end, it all ends up being as ridiculously simple as straightening out their relationship, which is to say, a long and terribly stupid process.

Breaking out of the room they’re in takes but a single blow, and knocking out the pair of barely trained guards lasts a full three minutes. The long part comes when they have to walk all the way back to camp, hands itching to hold each other but needing to stay alert and on the task even while surrounded by tall grass and little else. No one follows them, seemingly not too preoccupied with them escaping. They both theorize it was more of a scary, dissuading tactic than a real attempt to harm them. Neither wishes to test how true that is, though.

Liam’s as panicked as ever when Louis contacts him, and the mission is closed down, the intel they gathered so far saved and stored for future missions.

They don’t get the ones responsible, but they do get each other.

***

“I’m pretty sure we’re gonna break the bed.”

Louis’s insightful remark is punctuated by the frame creaking, each thrust of his hips drawing out a whine from the metal. Outside the house, rain falls in repetitive flashes, the tranquil soundtrack to an unhurried morning.

“Don’t care,” Harry says on an  exhale, chest flushed and lips bitten raw in contrasting shades to the stark white of the sheets. Louis still can’t believe this is a sight only he gets to see.

“Are you gonna pay for it?” Louis teases him, slowing down the rhythm of his hips and simply gyrating in place, drinking in Harry’s frustrated whine.

“Everything, everything , just keep going,” he urges, pushing forward with the little strength he has in an attempt to get Louis deeper in him.

Louis tsks, hands gripping Harry’s hips with force and stilling him, enforcing his own terms.

“That’s quite needy, love,” he remarks, taking his time with every word, fixed on the way Harry shuts his eyes and whines again, desperate for the release Louis had promised him.

“You just think you can tag along on my holidays,” Louis goes on, punctuating his words with a sharp thrust that has Harry crying out and gripping the sheets.“Boss me around, demand for me to fuck you.”

Louis says it as if he’s not dying to come, as if fucking Harry is some sort of task for him when it is everything but. Having sex with Harry is release, is tension and explosions, fun and danger all in one tempting package that never fails to deliver. It’s like every interaction they have, but with orgasms.

“I don’t think so,” Louis says, shifting back to hard thrusts, every word he says followed by a sharp jab that brings them both closer to the edge.

“Please,” Harry groans, eyes shut and body surrendered to Louis’ whims and desires. He’s all on display, completely open to Louis, and it’s exactly that thought that brings Louis to the edge of orgasm.

“Please what?” he pushes anyways, both hating and loving the way it delays their releases.

Harry doesn’t immediately answer, body preoccupied with squirming and shifting on the sheets, the barrage of sensations overwhelming.

“Please, Lou,” he forces out in the end, words desperate, “make me come, please, please.”

He keeps repeating the words until it’s the only thing in Louis’ mind, Harry’s total need, cutting off his plans of extending it even more. They’ve been known to drag it out for hours, but today, it’s not what Harry needs.

“Okay baby, I’ve got you,” Louis reassures him, taking Harry’s ignored cock in his hand and stroking him in time to his thrusts, watching intently as Harry unravels before him. He’s seen it countless times, and yet, it’s always insanely rewarding.

His own orgasm follows soon after, triggered by the strong lines of Harry’s biceps as they hung on to anything he could find, sped up by the string of thank you’s coming out of his mouth.

In the moments after, as Harry’s eyes find Louis’ and Louis’ find Harry’s, rain is the only thing hanging in the air. Their chests rise and fall rapidly in unison, bodies cooling down and demanding to be taken care of, but for a minute, the whole universe quiets down for them.

Louis lowers himself down to his forearms, wincing at the uncomfortable feeling of pulling out and distracting himself with a soft kiss to Harry’s abused lips.

“I’m really glad you invited me along,” Harry whispers, nose grazing Louis’ tenderly. Louis smiles, pecking Harry on the lips again before responding.

“Did I really?” he asks playfully, shifting so that he’s laying sideways and giving his muscles a chance to recover.

Harry smiles, a blush on his cheeks but an unapologetic smile on his lips. “I’m pretty sure you begged me to come.”

Louis laughs, knowing full well that he did.“Lies and slander, all of it,” he denies with a smile.

Harry rolls his eyes, a habit that’s become exponentially more pronounced in the past few months.

“Okay,” he concedes, taking his time as if pondering something.“Guess I won’t bring you along to my Monaco mission, then.”

Louis cocks an eyebrow.“You’re gonna do Monaco without me?”

It sounds cocky and terrible, but they both know the meaning of the words have changed, from mean and egotistical to teasing and fun.

“Eh, I’ll find someone,” Harry replies, as quick as ever. It’s one of the things Louis loves the most about him.

“Someone who can fuck you like I do?” Louis challenges, revelling in the mutual admission they’d made of being each other’s bests (and lasts). Harry cracks.

“Now, that’s impossible.”

Louis cracks as well.

“And don’t you forget it.”

They end up extending the holiday two weeks more. Louis does end up going to Monaco - and almost every mission after that, until the dream team retires.

Life’s good.