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the lies we tell (they only serve to fool ourselves)

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“Thanks so much for calling Miss Canterbury’s, Louis Tomlinson speaking, how might I help you today?” Louis bites at the end of his pen, suddenly realizes what he’s doing and slams it down. “Yes, mhm. Right.” He lets his finger scroll against the white mouse rolling about. “Right, yes, Mrs. Durham. Yes. Okay,” he clicks it and then lets the phone rest between his cheek and his shoulder, his fingers spanning the keyboard and clicking away in a hurry.

Every day of Louis’ life seems boringly the same. He’s got this job where he’s Creative Director of an advertising firm. When he went to school for Public Relations this was almost exactly what he pictured—a sleek white office with a window for a fourth wall that overlooks a beautiful London, flowers on his desk from his beloved husband, a position as a supervisor with responsibilities and duties that are entirely his alone.

“Louis,” he looks up, a bit surprised to hear a soft female voice at his office door. He’s a bit more surprised to see that there are three women, girls on the team Louis heads. “Louis, thank God, you’re back from your honeymoon.”

One of the girls, Amberly, is a real treat. She has a bitter tone and a gorgeous smile at all times. “Thank goodness. While some of us were on leave,” she says this pointedly at Louis with a crisp smile, “others of us were busy collecting information on our next client.” Louis raises his eyebrows and just smiles back, prompting for her to continue, though part of him would rather gauge his eyebrows out. “Harry Styles, he’s inheriting his father’s industrial empire. You weren’t here,” Louis resists the urge to snap, “but he basically wants to make solvents and bleach sexy.”

“Fuck off,” another of the girls, who has found her seat, looks mortified.

“Well that’s interesting, isn’t it?” Louis says, raising a brow. “Fine, then, we’ll appeal to the client, as usual.”

Amberly sighs, “We’ll be meeting with him in an hour.”

“Yes,” Louis says. “Yes, I’m aware.”

“Louis!” Tiffany, the blonde to Louis’ far left, squeaks. “Well you have to tell us about your wedding!”

Louis doesn’t really want to get into too much detail. What’s he supposed to say? He loves Tom, he really does. Chocolate brown hair and golden skin, a smile that could kill.

He doesn’t necessarily want to get into the details of how Tom’s best mate gave a completely ludicrous speech at the reception which may or may not have referenced Louis getting fucked in the shower or back seat of Tom’s car.

He doesn’t feel it’s required that he mention how Tom was almost late to the altar, though that shouldn’t have been a shock or a trigger of Louis’ anxiety because Tom’s always late. Literally always.

He also doesn’t need to mention how Tom and his best mate had a bloody dance routine they performed during the reception and how he recited some cockeyed rap to Louis in front of everyone. Those details don’t need to make it to the conversation and so he just smiles, scrunching up his nose. “It was very... Weddingy...” And the girls all gawk.

“I’m sorry,” Amberly’s long and drawn out and wears a fake apologetic disguise. “Could we do this at lunch?”

“Right,” Louis says. “We’ll need to avoid speaking of personal matters on company time.” He wants to throw a fucking pitchfork at Amberly but he only smiles.

Louis startles as the phone in his office begins to ring. He clicks to answer it, “Louis Tomlinson,” he says. If it’s not a transfer call he doesn’t have to do that long drawn out ‘thank you for calling Miss Canterbury’s’ spiel.

“Is that my dirty little whore of a husband?” Tom manages before Louis practically crawls over the desk to grab the phone. His cheeks flush and he’s mortified.

“Not working today?” Louis asks, eyebrows cocked. “Oh? No? Well, what is it?” He seems uninterested, he realizes, but it’s only because Tom is asking him some stupid question about what they’ll have for dinner and Louis doesn’t have the time for this. “Right, okay, I’ll text you later. Mhm. Yeah. Okay, bye.” And he knows Tom always likes to say ‘love you’ when they hang up but he needs to hang onto his dignity and remain as professional as possible.

“Sorry,” Louis says dryly, stretching out his palms. The girls all just look down awkwardly at their folders and Louis finds himself wanting to crawl into a hole. “That was just my husband. He’s got a sprained ankle. He dives. Did I ever mention he’s training to be an Olympic diver?”

“You did, like, a thousand times!” Beth says with a grin.

“Yeah, you did,” Amberly says with her face practically glued to her iPad and she is quiet as she adds: “And I hadn’t ever heard of him..”

***

“Sorry, sorry,” Louis puffs as he does that little hop, walk/run thing where you don’t want people in public to think you’re some mad person sprinting through the streets but you’re in a bit of a hurry and so you’ve got no time to waste just padding along the walkway. He’s still got on the same light grey slim trousers and black oxfords, a light weight poplin shirt hidden beneath his coat.

Tom laughs, “You do know you’re not actually moving any faster that way.” Tom’s standing there in jeans and some old trainers, a checker shirt and that stupid plaid jacket with the Sherpa lining that Louis absolutely abhors. He most certainly did not think it a good idea when Tom found it on the sale rack and he still does not think it a good idea. Tom is just a bit taller than he is, a bit stockier, actually completely stockier. Louis is around 5’5” and weighs less than 130 while Tom, well Louis can’t remember exactly but it’s significantly different.

“I’m sorry?” Louis raises his brows as he gets closer to Tom and gives him a kiss.

“No, it’s just, you’re actually going just as slow as if you were to walk but you’re expending a lot of extra surface energy.” Tom shrugs. “Your choice really.”

Louis feels a bit taken aback. “Well, thank you for that analysis.” He pulls his phone out of his coat pocket, “how late are we?”

“You,” Tom says with a light chuckle, “are ten minutes early.”

“Early?” Louis wants to understand this, and then knowing Tom he realizes he might be better off not knowing.

Tom speaks anyway, “yeah, told you the wrong time because I knew you’d never be on schedule.” He laughs into a kiss and Louis sighs after they’ve separated.

“I don’t know whether I find that to be endearing or if I want to bludgeon you to death with a shovel or a sock filled with batteries...” He follows Tom up the steps to the lawyer’s office, where they will decide some things regarding their wills.

“Endearing,” Tom says lightly with his stupid smile.

“I think it’s the shovel,” Louis decides.

***

The girls and Louis have found their way down to the building’s cafe for lunch, salads sufficing usually but on this particular day Louis needs a cheeseburger more than anything and Amberly’s comments about fat and sodium can go sit on a cactus.

“Amberly you haven’t got any food.” Tiffany says meekly. Louis wonders why she bothers.

“Everything’s a bit cringey anyway, isn’t it?” She turns her nose up a little,  her heels clacking against the floor and she slowly peruses the options. “There’s a lot of mercury in that,” she says to Louis’ plate.

Beth rolls her eyes, “For God’s Sakes Amberly, just get the fucking turkey sandwich.”

“I am getting the fucking turkey sandwich, Beth, without the bread because I’m a celiac and you know that.” She raises a brow and turns to order. Louis and Beth exchange their usual exasperated looks.

Louis grabs a Dr. Pepper and nods, “Okay, well we need to try and appeal to this bloke. He’s probably a sickening womanizer, after all, who else could possibly find sex appeal in bleach? Probably the type to drive a Ferrari and he probably has a bloody lanyard of some top league university for his keys, just to show that he’s gone there. He probably does that stupid Austin Powers ‘yeah, baby’ thing when he deems it appropriate. We have to avoid his charm at all costs. Ignore his tasteless Brooks Brothers and unnecessary, non-prescription glasses and focus on the business deal at hand, right ladies?”

“Yeah, he’s probably going to try and bamboozle at least one of you, I’d suppose the weakest at the knees... Whichever of you hasn’t had a lay in a bit,” Amberly says with a smirk. God, Louis would love to physically assault her sometimes.

“We’ll use some big, flashy graphics for the logo and a nice bold font, italicized perhaps.” Louis snorts lightly, “We can grab his attention that way, I’m sure.”

***

“Louis, take off your wedding ring,” Beth is running in and she looks frantic.

“My ring?” Louis looks appalled. “I won’t take—”

Beth sighs, grabbing at Louis’ hand in a breathless fury. “No, I’ve just seen Harry Styles and he’s an absolute dreamboat and I didn’t necessarily get that whole womanizer vibe, in fact more of a man-izer. You can get us this deal if you just— Louis, take—” a struggle ensues as Louis tries to get her off of him. “Off—” Just in time, Amberly and Tiffany are bringing around an incredibly handsome young man with lots of dark, curly hair and a lovely dark grey suit on.

“Wassup!” Harry says, bringing forth his hand to shake Louis’. “Who do we have here?”

“Louis Tomlinson,” Louis says with a slight smile, he isn’t expecting Harry’s handshake to be so firm. “Lovely to meet you, Mr. Styles. Thank you so much for choosing us to help you rebrand Styles Industries.” He steps back to the iPad which displays the slideshow they’ve prepared.

Harry nods, “Awesome, awesome. I can’t wait to see it.” Louis just thinks of how right he was, Harry is a total playboy bachelor with little to no business style.

“It’s going to be perfect, a total appeal to a modern audience with contemporary resonance.” Louis flicks through the iPad and looks over to be sure it’s all projecting properly.

“Just as long as you don’t kill me with some big, bold and italicized font or some flashy logo graphic,” Harry says with a smirk and Louis stiffens.

“No,” he says, clicking the iPad locked and grabbing for an easel propped up against the wall. “No, of course not.” He scrambles to place the easel in front of the screen before Harry can see the graphic approach they’ve come up with.”

Louis plucks the cap off a marker and begins to think, quickly as he can. “We would like to take a more holistic approach. Minimalism is,  in fact, in. We’ll focus on the core values of your company, honing in on the integrity, responsibility and the quality of the product.” He tries to keep up, writing these things as they come to him.

“Well,” Harry says, standing up. “Honestly, at Oxford my Economics professor favored a fully integrated four quadrant strategy. Cohesive across all media presenting an easily accessible, aesthetic, philosophical, and commercial identity consistent with an ethical contemporary market leader, whilst embracing,” he looks to Louis and smiles at the easel which Louis has pretty much completely filled with large print, “its legacy of integrity.”

Louis feels mortified. So Harry might not be what he expected. And he realizes that Harry definitely overheard them in the cafe somehow because before Louis can speak, Harry raises his eyebrows and flashes a disgustingly charming grin, “yeah, baby!”.

After they’ve finished up a few details Louis is walking Harry out, “I’m so, so sorry Mr. Styles.”

“Call me Harry.” He insists.

“Right, Harry, I apologize.”

Harry shrugs, “it’s okay, I get it. People expect me to be some son of a millionaire with no business identity or intelligence. It’s not your fault at all. Standard.”

“How embarrassing of me,” Louis says with a sigh. “Well, anyway, I do have some other proposals if you’d care to read them. We can plan another meeting—”

This elicits a shrug from Harry, “that’s okay, Louis. I don’t need to see any more proposals.” This causes Louis’ heart to drop, how could he have so stupidly lost the deal with Styles Industries? But before he can truly feel the sting of a lost partnership, Harry smiles. “These things don’t happen in boardrooms. We should get to know each other, Mr. Tomlinson.”

“Louis,” Louis says, hiding his wedding finger and sucking in a sharp bit of air. He pulls at it, slowly and unnoticeably holding it in his left palm.

“A holistic approach as you say,” Harry says with a cheeky smile. Damn him and his constant smiles.

Louis nods, “Well, I should tell you, I’ve just got—” He sees Beth in the glass cubicle behind Harry, she’s gesturing for Louis to slit his throat? Oh, she’s telling him no. She’s doing it over and over again, vehemently, and Louis does think she might have a point. He can do this, he can get them the deal. And he must be staring at Beth for too long because Harry looks back and just in time she’s corrected herself, smiling at him like an idiot. “I’ve got another account that I’ve got to focus on for the next few days, is all.”

Harry grins again.  “It’s been a pleasure.” He holds out his hand for Louis.

“Oh, thanks,” Louis expects his handshake to be firm, again, but this time it’s more gentle as if Harry’s adjusted it for him. “I’m so sorry again,” he practically spits.

“No,” Harry says. “No, it’s perfectly all right.”

***

“Oh my goodness,” Beth is squealing as the girls follow Louis into his office a few days later. There are big red roses on Louis’ desk with a little slip of paper in them. “Your husband is so adorable.” Louis is a bit surprised, he admits, because Tom isn’t the type to do things like this, really.

Louis pulls the small card out and opens it.

Thanks for making business such a pleasure .x Harry

“Yes,” Louis says, holding it close and putting it back into the envelope. “Yes, he really is, isn’t he?”

And leave it to fucking Amberly, always something to say. “Soooo ostentatious,” and she’s still got that stupid smile plastered across her face right beneath that large beak of hers.

The next day Louis finds himself absolutely frustrated because he’ll be late for work and he’s got to find his phone! He asks Tom where it is, if he’d seen it, and Tom simply asks Louis where he last had it. And of course Louis nearly explodes. “If I knew that, it wouldn’t be lost, would it?” And he’s practically tearing up the living room, (neatly placing each item in its proper location once he’s finished looking, of course) until he’s blocked by Tom sitting on the couch with his feet propped up on the coffee table, a bag of crisps on his stomach.

“You’re always here,” Louis groans, stepping over Tom’s legs and looking behind the cushions. “Why are you always here?” And he doesn’t mean for it come out that way but he sort of does. Tom remains silent until Louis is in the bathroom, where he finally exclaims that he’s found it. And of course Tom’s left the toilet paper roll empty and hasn’t changed it and Louis could holler about it but he won’t.

“Come have a look at this video of a monkey fucking a bullfrog,” Louis hears Tom say. And Louis just sighs.

“I’ll see you tonight,” he says before closing the door and setting down the steps of their apartment.

***

Louis is excited for once because he’ll get to go on a factory tour of Styles Industrial Plant with Harry. He’s had to endure a costume party the night before and had to listen to Tom become irrationally upset about how whenever Louis sings along to a song, he gets the lyrics wrong. Who even cares about the lyrics to Bartender and if she gave him a week or a wink? Or if Louis traveled the world in generic jeans or traveled the world and the seven seas...?

Anyway, Louis gets to wear this little white lab coat and for some reason he’s forced to wear a hairnet while Harry doesn’t have to wear one. Ironic considering Harry is the one with all the locks.

“Welcome to the hub of the Styles empire,” Harry gushes as they start down the steps. “This is my second home, essentially, what do you think?”

Louis giggles a bit to himself, not that he has anything negative to say but he surely wouldn’t be able to say it after Harry’s prefaced the place like that. “I think it’s lovely so far, the security procedures and the main lobby.” He and Harry exchange a laugh.

“There’s much more to see, I promise. Hopefully, in all seriousness, you can see why I wanted you to check this place out. It’s state of the art and responsible for a turnover last year of $37 million.” Harry leads Louis down some steps and then proceeds to show him a barrel of small plastic pieces. “If you squirted air from a large space into a slightly smaller space any time last year chances are you used one of these.” He holds up the small siphon and hands it to Louis.

“Every time I squirt out a little bit of air I’ll think of you,” and Louis instantly regrets that. “That sounded weird but you know what I mean.” He’s got to be flushed red, no, maroon.

Harry chuckles and nods. “Yeah, sure. Come on, you can meet some of the staff.” He begins to walk down a long hallway and they’re let out onto the floor of the factory, workers scurry around in white coats and they’ve got on hairnets so Louis doesn’t feel quite so stupid anymore. “This one,” Harry wraps his arm around a small older woman. She smiles and kisses his cheek. “This is Marie, she’s been with us for about ninety years.”

“Oh, hush you. I’ve been with the company for fifty years, actually,” she holds out a fragile hand for Louis to shake. “He’s a good lad, he takes good care of us you know.” She looks around, “won’t find anyone here with a bad word to say about him. Except for Margaret,” she looks over to a woman with a sour looking face and a topknot, her mouth is twisted down into a frown and upon realizing she’s being watched she scrunches her face up like some sort of demonic horror movie antagonist and she sniffs as she looks away, clutching a clipboard to her chest. “She’s a proper shithouse.”

Louis laughs and Marie nods, “Harry here just needs to settle down, start a family or something, I think.”

“Well,” Harry says with a chuckle, “what about this one? Husband material, Marie?”

Marie purses her lips, “oh, yes, definitely. Much better than the last. Oh, you should see—”

Harry interjects, a loud roaring laugh catches Marie mid sentence, “oh okay, I could dock your wages for insubordination, yeah?” He winks at her and gestures for Louis to follow him as they make their way a bit father down the factory line. “Seems like you’ve gained Marie’s seal of approval already. Not an easy feat.”

“Dunno, not really the marrying type,” Louis says under his breath, just loud enough for Harry to hear and the gangly boy just smirks.

“You could be the heir to a solvent’s fortune,” he says. “That’s nothing to sniff at. Literally. Could result in tons of health issues, burns, itches, mental retardation...”

Louis snickers and looks about. “These people are remarkably happy. Is it the fumes, do you suspect?”

Harry turns solemn, “these people are my family. I grew up on this factory floor, spending my holidays here... If you’re good to people, they will be good to you. That’s what my dad taught me, it’s what I want to teach my children.” Louis looks endeared, he’s sure, and Harry quickly grins, “I want to end all wars and cure cancer, as well.”

“Oh, of course,” Louis agrees with a snort.

On the train ride back to London Louis sits alone and stares out the window at the beautiful gray sky and contemplates how ugly he feels inside. Reflects on how he’s lying to Harry about being married and just being an overall bad person in many respects.

***

“I always love your dinner parties,” Niall says. Niall is Louis’ best friend. He’s never been the best at keeping friends, truly, but Niall has always been there for him. Always has known him better than anyone else and never really judged him for any of his more questionable decisions.

Louis plucks some wine glasses from a cabinet and sets them down. “I do love to host them,” he says. “I’m so thankful we could all find time.” He begins to pour some Pinot Noir into the glasses and he wants to relish the smell of it for a bit but he greedily begins to sip at it. Tom and his best friend Nick are sitting in the living room, they’ve got loads of things they’re discussing that Louis could really care less about. After Nick’s speech as best man and his incredulous lack of social grace in all other meetings, Louis doesn’t have the patience to spend any time with him that isn’t absolutely necessary.

“Liam’s probably in there having the same stupid conversation about the Premier League stats for the year. That stupid cock,” Niall says as he sips his wine.

Louis chuckles, this is sort of just what Niall does. He’s very eloquent and colorful with language, especially when it comes to any sort of discussion with Liam. “They’re all quite into it. Sometimes I’d like to take the bloody FIFA disc and snap it in half. I’d quite like to dispose of the entire gaming console. If I have to listen to any more of those stupid gunshots or police sirens from those ludicrous, violent games...”

“Not sucking enough dick, then?” Niall says, laughing and spreading some cheese onto a cracker. “Sucking more dick gets you more leverage.”

Louis laughs. “Oh hush you.” The door is opening, Louis hears, and so he rushes out to see a handsome young man standing in the doorway with a bottle of red wine in his hand. Louis abhors red wine but he says nothing, instead he runs his hands under the sink quickly, patting them dry with a cloth and rushes over to shake hands with the lad. Tom introduces him as his old friend, Zayn. Zayn’s a bit bohemian, a bit eclectic and while that’s not Louis’ style, again he says nothing. He smells of herbs and essential oils. Louis wants to light a candle so he does, walking back into the kitchen after everyone’s met.

Zayn and Niall follow Louis into the kitchen. “Thanks for having me over, Louis. That’s so nice of you.”

“Yes, of course!” Louis smiles, pouring him a glass of the Pinot Noir. “We’ve got a bottle open but we’ll start on the bottle you’ve so kindly brought us with dinner, sound all right?”

This just brings about a nod from Zayn. “Oh, of course.”

They all start to eat and it’s lovely. “Look at that,” Liam says, gesturing with his fork to the item in Louis’ hand. “You’ve got an electric pepper dispenser.”

“Yeah,” Louis says, pleased. “It was on the registry, I’m quite happy with it so far.”

“It’s a useful gift, that is.” Nick says, which makes Louis sigh internally because it’s almost as if Nick can’t speak without making an ass out of himself. “Better than those stupid gifts where they donate to charity. Like, hey, no dick wad, don’t donate some fucking goats to a village in Africa. Give me a smoothie maker!”

Tom’s nudging Nick not-so-subtly and then he seems to realize something because he looks to Zayn. “Got them goats?”

“Four of them,” Zayn says, nodding. “Yeah.”

Nick gives an approving grin, “That’s great, though, I’m sure they do need them.”

 “How about you just tell us about the honeymoon?” Niall says, trying to deflect.

“Morocco was lovely. Felt a bit... Long...” Louis says, sipping his wine.

Tom disagrees: “Oh, I was sad when it was over.”

“Oh, well, things hit a low point when we found ourselves in a museum of leather manufacturing discussing what superpower we would want.” Louis chuckles and Niall even seems discerned.

“Yeah, aw, I thought that was fun!” Tom’s talking with his mouth full of steak, which drives Louis insane.

Nick opens his big fat mouth next, to Louis’ dismay. “If I could pick a superpower it’d be to speak Spanish. I’d say things like Hola and Como Estas.” The table responds by telling him that he’s saying those things already.

Liam frowns, “Dunno, technically speaking Spanish isn’t a superpower. Otherwise all the people in Brazil are superheroes.”

“They speak Portuguese in Brazil,” Niall says with an entirely straight face. “You cock.”

Louis bursts into laughter, as does Zayn. The former, more hippie option seems intrigued, “What power did you pick, Tom?”

“Super human strength,” he says.

“Wow, that’s what I’d pick, too.” Zayn doesn’t even second guess it. “That would be incredibly handy for, like, jam jars!”

“Jam jars!” Tom squeaks, “Lou, isn’t that exactly what I said?”

Louis’ eyes bulge and he nods dryly, “exactly what you said. Goodness, are we eight years old all of a sudden, this is like what children talk about.”

“Relax, Lou, just having a joke,” Tom says.

“Joke’s over.” Louis offers a fake smile.

Liam snorts, taking a bite of his asparagus. “Grounds for Divorce dot com.”

“Shut up, you bellend, dot co dot uk.” Niall narrows his eyes on his husband.

Nick howls in laughter. “’Sall right, really. Not even sure you two can get a divorce,” he looks to Louis. “These two never actually split up,” he points to Zayn and Tom.

Niall rolls his eyes, “What?”

“Well, they never broke up.”

“What are you talking about?” Louis demands, setting his glass on the coaster.

Zayn’s lips fall apart and then form a smile, “It’s nothing, really. It’s actually kinda funny. We just—when I left for Africa we never formally ended it, we sort of left it open and then I mean, I ended up being gone for four years, so—”

“I’ve told you this,” Tom says to Louis, who won’t look him in the eye. “I’ve told you this, Lou.”

A moment of silence passes and then Nick clears his throat, “Don’t worry, Louis. He was not happy at that time, we refer to 2008 as the dark times, he would just sit around playing video games, eating crisps, masturbating—”

Niall groans and shakes his head, as if he’s trying to unsee the mental image. “No, really,” Nick says. “It’s a feat innit? Some sort of multi-tasking there. Imagine that on Britain’s Got Talent!”

After the rest of dinner, which is considerably awkward, Louis is cleaning in the kitchen when Zayn brings the rest of the glasses up to him. “I’m so sorry about that back there. It’s nothing, Louis, I swear.”

“Thanks, don’t you worry about it. In 2008 I was probably still using ‘lol’ unironically in text messages and wearing Vans canvas authentics,” unfortunately he looks down to see Zayn’s own canvas shoes covered in holes and dirt. “Those are lovely,” he says awkwardly. “Really look good.”

“Yeah, I just want to make sure you know it’s all in the past. . Now Tom is married to the most awesome guy on the planet.”

As if knowing he was needed for rescue, Niall sits down at the island. “That’s what you think, you think marriage is a solve all. I thought, oh, good going, Horan, you married a doctor! Then you realize you have to wake up to the same snores every morning, same itchy leg hair against your thigh. Same morning breath.”

“And the same penis...” Louis says slowly. “I may never see another penis again. Unless it’s a small child.”

“Or if you’re sexually assaulted,” Zayn says and it’s awkward all of a sudden. He tries to add a nervous chuckle but Niall doesn’t seem particularly impressed as he furrows his brows.

Louis sighs, “I mean Tom’s penis is lovely, honestly, we have a great sex life but that isn’t the point. I love my Coldplay, OneRepublic, indie playlist but I don’t just want to listen to that playlist for the rest of my life.”

“Yeah,” Niall says with a low, throaty voice. “Been there. I mean you’ll listen to it a lot in the start. Listen to it in all sorts of places. The car, the movie theater, the handicap stall in Tesco’s, your unconscious and dying grandmother’s hospital room—”

“Granny Julia?!” Louis gasps.

“It’s what she would’ve wanted.” Niall decides. “But then you just get to the point where you’re not that bothered about listening to music at all. You just put it on for some special occasions like birthdays or Christmas or when you’re very, very drunk. Or when a girl in the office shows you one of those Austin Mahone videos and all you can think about is that.”

Zayn raises a brow, “Isn’t he like fifteen years old?”

“Oh, he’d know what to do,” Niall nearly growls. “I’d ruin that Mahone boy.”

Louis sneers, “You would! You would ruin him.”

***

“You’re sure you want to come?” Louis is dressed as nicely as he can be. “You don’t have to! I warn you, you’ll be bored. I’ll be networking all night.” This is his absolute best attempt at nicely asking Harry not to come.

“I have to be there for you,” Tom insists, checking himself out in the mirror in that ridiculous way that he does. Louis nods, albeit reluctantly and he throws his coat over his forearm.

It’s just a thing, that Louis drives. He likes to be in control of things, he supposes. The keys are slinging around his index finger and he’s got his eyebrows raised. “Come on, Tom, we’re going to be late!”

“Yeah, okay,” Tom runs his fingers through his hair one last time and they look distinctly untouched but Louis doesn’t say anything, just sighs in relief when his husband finally stops staring at himself in the mirror and making goofy gestures and starts toward the door. “Oh, do I need a coat?”

Louis groans, “why do you always ask me that? Why do you always ask me if you need a coat? I’ve been outside today. You’ve been outside today. I have precisely the same meteorological information as you do!” He just leaves the door ajar and begins down the steps, he can picture the unpleasantly surprised face Tom is making but he can’t bring himself to care. It only takes him yelling “Tom!” up the stairs once before he finally hears the door clicking shut and being locked.

At the club, Louis is immediately annoyed by Tom’s insistence upon sharing a ridiculous joke with some of the attendees. He decides to leave him to it and makes his way upstairs, martini in hand—he doesn’t have the sole ambition of getting plastered this evening but if it does happen to occur, so be it.

“Louis!” God, damn it. It’s that stupidly thick and heavy voice.

“Hi, Harry!” Louis nearly spills his drink as he turns around and smiles, giving into the whole cheek kiss greeting thing. “How are you tonight?”

Harry nods, “Lovely. You?”

“Lovely, thanks. I’ve got a few of the creative collaborators doing some of the touchups for the marketing campaign, reckon they’ll be finished by—”

“Can’t we just not talk about work for one night?” Harry asks in his daringly charming manner.

Louis shrugs, “Well this is a function put on by Miss Cantebury’s which is my work, so...”

Harry just raises a brow. “Okay, am I allowed to tell you that you look absolutely amazing tonight?”

At that Louis shakes his head, a barely visible smile playing out on his lips, “technically, no, that constitutes sexual harassment. But thank you!” He laughs with Harry.

“Wow, look at Beyonce,” Harry points over the railing at the dance floor and Louis wants to drink poison or dry swallow bullets: There, busting a godforsaken move is Tom, drunk as ever and embarrassing as always.

Louis chuckles nervously, “Oh, leave him alone,  he’s obviously plastered.”

“That’s just embarrassing!” Harry laughs, a hearty laugh like he really means it which Louis sort of admires because he actually feels the exact same way about his husband nearly every moment of every day. “It’s like watching an animal have a bad reaction after they’ve been tested by some cosmetic laboratory.”

“That’s one I haven’t heard before,” Louis admits, sipping at his drink. “I’ll be stealing that one.”

They share a few more laughs but before long Harry is grabbing Louis’ arm and warning him that Beyonce is on the prowl. Louis swallows and Tom is standing next to them. “Amazing club, huh?”

“Yes,” Louis says awkwardly. “Yes, it’s lovely.” It’s a bit problematic, of course, seeing as Harry has no idea that Tom is Louis’ husband or that Louis is even married at all. Louis actually wants to scold Tom for dancing on his recovering ankle, seeing as that could potentially stunt his career even more.

“Right, care to dance with me you sexy little thing, you?” Tom’s holding his hand out for Louis to take but Harry intervenes.

“We’re actually discussing some business right now, perhaps another time, though? Shouldn’t you be over there getting your groove thang on?” Harry asks, a serious expression not leaving his face. Tom, thankfully, is too drunk to really take the offense he normally would and so he just gives a slightly dirty look and turns on his heel, dancing along with the beat. “You’re welcome,” Harry says to Louis. “How about we head over to another spot and have some drinks, perhaps somewhere a tad quieter?”

Louis nods, smiling. “I actually, I think I—” He steps away, flicking at a stray hair. “I think I should go, I need a bit of fresh air.”

The night ends in a row with Tom over how embarrassing and childish he is and Louis might tell him to fuck himself but he doesn’t even think Tom will remember it in the morning.

***

Leave it to Harry Styles to stay in one of the most posh hotels in London. Leave it to Harry to invite Louis to lunch to discuss their business deal but most importantly, leave it to Louis to be completely ill-willed.

Louis is seated in the lobby which is, of course, marble and granite and twinkling lights on Christmas trees and wreaths. It smells like spruce, Louis’ absolute favorite for the time of the year, and some hint of sweet potato casserole. Somehow Louis has managed to beat Harry there, odd considering Harry is staying only stories above but not odd because contrary to what Tom seems to believe, Louis is very precise at planning and timing. Perfectionism in all of its best forms, Louis likes to say.

When Harry finally sits down across from him, Louis begins almost immediately once they’ve shaken hands and said their hello’s. “I’m thinking our developers for the site will be ready to give us a green light this coming—” He’s only just been seated and has given his coat to one of the staff but Harry is already interrupting him.

“You look nice!” Harry says like an idiot so Louis just sighs.

“Can I ask why it is we’re meeting in your hotel room? You do know I’m not going up to your room, don’t you?” Maybe it’s a bit frank but it’s true.

Harry shrugs, “Course not. All business. No sexual tension whatsoever, no erotic undercurrent between two attractive single people whatsoever, none.”

“Good,” Louis smiles, opening back up his portfolio. “Glad to hear that. Anyway, back to the developer’s timeline, I’ve been in touch with Elouise Flan—”

Harry’s interrupting again: “Although, I do have a few adorable little kittens and some Jolly Ranchers candies in my room, if you cared to come up and see.” He’s smiling devilishly and Louis shakes his head. “Come on, I’ve booked us a boarding room for our lunch. Shall we?” He stands and leads Louis down a hall to a lovely room that looks like a picture from a pamphlet for an Ivy League University. “Lovely, hm?”

Once they’re seating, Louis opens his portfolio. “I do think the best approach to a schematic grid, such as the one you were so fond of—” Before he can finish he’s interrupted by a man in a waistcoat with white gloves who seems quite skilled with a violin. He looks to Harry with a disagreeable vision and continues, though Harry seems thoroughly amused.

“A schematic approach like the one you were so interested in, with the grid navigation and hover accessible menu—” As if on cue one of the servers lifts one of the silver covers from a tray (there are two on the table) and Louis is revolted. He absolutely hates what he sees, the smell drives him insane but he has to stay polite.

“Oysters?” He does realize how expensive they are, though, and just sighs, “Really, Harry?” which gets a tooth-bearing grin in response. “Back to the design,” Louis instructs, handing Harry some papers from the folder. “There aren’t that many options as far as the navigation goes with this layout. And your social media widgets will be limited in appearance but—”

A server comes along and pulls the second tray’s lid off and Louis’ eyes go wide. Two doves fly out and flutter around the room. “Doves!” Louis shrieks.

“Louis, I think you are absolutely wonderful,” he stands as he presents this idea and Louis feels his heart stop, guilt consumes him and his anxieties get the best of him. “I know it isn’t professional, I understand that, and these cliche gestures can be taken literally or as a humorous attempt to woo you, but I—”

“I’m married,” Louis blurts out without discretion. His eyes go soft and so do Harry’s. The doves continue to flutter around the room. Harry allows a muffled ‘what?’ and Louis repeats: “I’m married.”

“You... You’re... Why didn’t you tell me?”

Louis barely avoids a dove to the face, “I thought we’d get the account.” Another flies at him and he flinches. “I thought if I flirted with you, we’d get the account but then I ended up liking flirting with you a lot. Too much for it all to stop, but it’s wrong, Harry, I’m sorry!”

Harry sighs, “But this all wouldn’t be happening if you were happy with your husband.”

“What do you—” Another dove threatens to take out one of Louis’ eye with its swift movements about the room and he squeaks. “What do you want me to say? I can’t leave him, it’d crush him!”

The doves are flying around and Louis notices one of them is flying in a dangerous relation to the blades of the fan above. “I’m sorry but that dove is getting awfully close to that ceiling fan!” He exclaims.

“Do you guys have kids? How long have you been together?”

Louis frowns, holding his hands up over his head as the doves circle the room some more. “Regardless, Harry. None of that matters. He’s safe and kind and reliable. I need stability right now. You’re charming and twinkly! You’re a Ferrari and he’s a Volvo and right at this moment—” Louis swats away a dove, “I need to be behind the wheel of a volvo!”

A dove smacks against the table and Louis looks up to see feathers falling from the ceiling fan. “Oh god! Dove down!” He cries. Harry stands up and the violinist stops playing.

“Louis,” Harry says weakly. “I’m not twinkly, I’m only twinkly with you. You make me twinkle!” Louis should find this ridiculous and he should laugh at this but he finds it awkwardly endearing. “Please, Louis.”

A nice amount of bird poo flicks onto Louis’ shoulder and he screeches as the dove remaining in flight practically attacks him. “That’s supposed to be good luck!” Harry points to the bird poo on Louis’ shirt. “Look, I know this didn’t go the way I planned. I’m not too great at this stuff. But I would hate myself every day if I didn’t know I tried my very best and did everything I could to be with you! Please, just... Lou, married or not, I have to be with you.”

Louis fights back tears, he thinks he must seem juvenile and horrible and after all that’s happened he can’t imagine why Harry would even want to be in the same room as him. “I’m sorry, I’ve got go, Harry, I’m sorry!” And he’s fleeing the room. He’s still fighting tears as he scrubs off the bird poo in the restroom and slips into his trench coat. He doesn’t know how far he’s walked but he hears Harry running behind him to catch up, apologizing.

“I’m sorry!” Harry cries. “I just wanted you to know how I feel about you. I don’t want to let you slip away!”

Louis frowns, “it’s very, very complicated, Harry!”

They’re walking down Romilly Street, though truly it’s more like Harry’s following Louis down Romilly Street and just as they reach the intersection Harry stops Louis, telling him he’s just seen Beyonce. Louis furrows his brow and looks on: there, walking toward them from Moor Street are Tom and Zayn. “Fuck!” Louis swears in a whisper just loud enough for Harry to hear. “Beyonce is my husband!”

“What?”

“Beyonce is my husband!”

“Louis!” Tom’s calling out and waving. “Louis, hey!”

Louis turns to face him, “Hello, darling!”

“How weird!”

“What a treat!” Louis flashes a smile and hurries over to kiss him on the cheek. Zayn smiles at him as well. “This is Harry Styles,” he says and Tom just brushes it off with a laugh.

“I remember, I remember!”

Louis grins, “and Harry, this is Zayn, he’s a lovely, uh.. Charity worker.”

Zayn smiles and shakes Harry’s hand.

“We were just Christmas shopping,” Tom tells them.

“We were just having a meeting around the corner!” Louis’ voice is unusually high pitched as he shares this information.

Harry nods slowly and so does Zayn. There’s a moment of undeniable awkward silence until, finally, (and to the horror of Louis) Tom breaks it. “So, did you have a good time last night?” He’s asking Harry, who nods. “Get it in with a lucky girl?”

“No, the guy I had my eye on actually blew me off, I ended up alone in my hotel with a bottle of wine and some Swedish Fish.” Louis avoids eye contact with anyone but just laughs, he laughs way too hard and for way too long.

Finally Tom interjects, “I find that hard to believe!”

“No, really.”

“Guy like you? Killer jaw line, nice hair, good posture, yeah, right, mate! Anyone ever told you that you have great skin? Well you do! It’s inspirational.” Louis hates how much of an ass Tom can make himself out to be.

Louis sighs, “Right, well—”

“Oh, Zayn’s single!” Tom says quickly, and he points to Harry. “Hmm? You two could grab some pints, get a little pissy!”

“There’s probably nothing poor Zayn could think of that would be worse,” Harry offers Zayn an apologetic smile and then shrugs, “Maybe if the four of us got together some time, though. I’m sure, Lou, you’d plan it, right?”

Louis is basically disgusted, “yes, I will... I will organize it!”

“After Christmas, then!” Harry smiles, and they’re saying their goodbyes. Louis, once again, wants to scream.

***

Christmas went by in a flurry of events that Louis found completely undesirable and unnecessary. His family and Niall’s family always were a combined unit for Christmas, of course. This year, since it was the first year he and Tom were together for Christmas (had he mentioned that they’d only known each other a few months when they were married...) things felt a bit off and Tom didn’t seem to fully comprehend that.

First it was the charades, that was awful even before Tom completely made a blunder: He points to Liam and Niall’s naming things off like “disappointment, effeminate, regret, sorrow, fuck-face, reject” and it’s glossed over by the whole family because it’s so normal but Louis just hates it, really. Then Tom’s pointing at Louis’ mother’s vagina and then his grandmother’s when he’s trying to get them to do a ‘sounds like’ and only Louis’ father says ‘minge’ to end it all and Louis’ grandmother is left there with her hands over her mouth and a terrible sadness and shock in her eyes. Good going, Tom!

Then there’s the presents. Louis’ parents get Tom two books, ‘How to Train for the Olympics Like a Pro’ and ‘Get Your Life Together: A Guide to Unemployment in Britain’ both of which Louis finds to be extremely useful and Tom seems a bit insulted. Louis’ parents hate Tom but they do seem to have plenty of reasons, don’t they?

The worst bit, Louis thinks, is when they were sitting around the living room and drinking wine, all participating in idle conversation and occasionally enjoying the photos that are displayed on the digital photo frame Louis’ parents got him for Christmas. Tom hops up, out of nowhere, shouting obscenities and blocking the screen. Louis is fuming, furious and demands Tom sit down. They watch a few lovely pictures of Louis in Morocco, some of he and Tom kissing in the pool and on the beach, and then it’s silent and Louis’ and his mothers’ jaws drop and Louis’ father gasps as a photo of Tom’s dick pops up on the screen. Then it’s Tom fucking Louis from the behind and then it’s Louis riding Tom. “That’s Louis’ favorite,” Tom had said and Louis did want to punch him.

Before a trip into town, Louis and Niall were standing by the car as Liam began to load his luggage in. He and Niall were having a bit of a row over who would drive and Louis just looked to Niall and raised a brow. “Why do you do it?”

“Do what?” Niall asked, genuinely confused.

“Why do you put up with it?”

“Because I love him.”

“You hate each other,” Louis said flatly.

Niall had lightened up and nodded, “of course we do. But that’s what being married is all about. You learn to embrace the hatred.” He grabbed Liam’s face and kissed him. “Look at that stupid puppy dog face and those beaty little eyes!”

“He’s right,” Liam said. “I just love that fluffy blonde hair and adorable smile, the way his eyes light up. Hasn’t aged a day since I met him. I’d miss that lovely heart and the kisses.”

When Liam had leaned up to kiss Niall he’d met his turned cheek, “don’t you try to kiss me!” Niall and Liam shared a laugh and Louis only wondered if he’d ever feel the way they felt about each other, he sadly was beginning to think maybe not.

And then Louis couldn’t even really handle Tom’s family. They were all so weird and uncomfortable. Tom’s mother was googling ‘can cat urine be used as fertilizer’ once. They spend a few days with them and it’s awful, they don’t even get to sleep as they listen to Tom’s mother and step-father pounding away at each other in the next room, crying out obscenities and moaning like animals. It was revolting.

But Christmas is over and Louis can let those memories be bygones. He’s getting ready for the night out with Harry, Zayn, and Tom. What is sure to be an absolute disaster, Louis just accepts that it’s happening and tries to look his best.

Tom’s gone to the bathroom and so he and Harry sit at the bar and wait for Zayn to arrive. “You’ll love Zayn.”

“Yeah?” Harry muses.

“Yes, he’s the best. The best!” Louis feels like he’s trying to convince himself more than Harry but part of him also wants Harry to move on from him, however painful that would be, because he’s married. “So kind and so intelligent, very opinionated.” He doesn’t include the bit about how his opinions differ almost completely from Zayn’s.

“And very cute.” Harry adds.

“So cute!” Louis agrees, though he does feel a stroke of bitterness at that.

They all play pool for a while and it’s sort of charged, Louis aiming little digs at Zayn and Harry aiming small digs at Tom and Tom giving them back to Harry and Zayn was rather quiet and polite throughout it all, actually. Maybe the drinks are flowing a bit too much but Louis seems to notice that Harry is giving Zayn far more attention than he’d actually planned for.

Tom quite obviously notices the many glances Harry gives Louis and he begins to give off a very irritated air himself. The night’s just a blur to Louis until they’re all four standing outside on Carnaby Street, saying their goodbyes.

“I’ll walk you to your car, then,” Harry says with a smile to Zayn.

Zayn just shakes his head, “I’m gonna catch a cab but you can definitely wait with me, if you want to.”

“Sounds lovely.” But Louis doesn’t really like this very much at all so he thinks quickly on his feet and derails the situation:

“Actually, Harry, could I grab you for a few moments to discuss the packaging for the meeting upcoming? Would that be all right? I know it’s not the ideal time for business but you know..” He sees that Harry looks a bit taken aback, probably not incredibly pleased with Louis in general.

Harry nods, “Sure, all right.”

“And I’ll help you to your cab. Or wait with you, I mean.” Tom’s blundering like an idiot but Zayn is more than happy to have Tom offer. Tom and Louis kiss each other and Louis tells Tom he’ll see him at the flat. Harry and Zayn give quick kisses on the cheek and promise to ‘do this again sometime’ which really just sounds idiotic.

As Louis and Harry walk down a sidewalk in silence, Harry finally begins to speak. “I guess we will have to settle on the domain restrictions before the meeting,” he looks to Louis and sighs. “And probably set up some of the smaller accounts for the vendors for—”

Lips are crashing: Louis has pushed Harry onto a stoop and is kissing him up against a door. He couldn’t resist anymore and there’s nothing he can think of that’s sweeter than Harry. Their lips almost seem to fit together in perfect harmony, as if they were absolutely designed to mold together. He takes it all in before Harry breaks from the kiss:

“Wait, I thought you said—”

Louis can’t take it, he closes the space between them again and they’re seriously doing this, they’re making out on someone’s doorstep in London. Harry’s hands travel all over Louis’ body and it feels so wonderful, it feels magical and it feels like an escape from the everyday reality Louis has to deal with. For once his anxieties are free of him and he just wants to lick all over Harry’s lips. When they pull away from the kiss, Harry’s lips are pink and swollen. He presses them to Louis’ neck and Louis just offers a soft moan.

But Louis fucks up the most when he gets back to his flat and sees Tom sitting down on the couch. “We need to talk,” he says solemnly.

Tom agrees, “Yeah, we do.”

Louis sits next to him. “I don’t know what’s going on... It’s... It’s been nine months... And I feel like something isn’t right. I don’t think we’re both happy.”

“I just never thought marriage would be this hard,” Tom admits. And Louis sighs.

“Well, if you want to walk away... I understand.”

“Is that what you want?” Tom seems hurt.

Louis frowns, “That’s not what I’m saying.”

“You’re saying you don’t think it can work?”

“Don’t put words into my mouth, Tom.” Louis looks down at the floor. “You’re the one who said marriage is hard.”

Tom nods slowly, “Yeah but I never said anything about walking away. Are you giving up..?”

“No, I’m not giving up.” Louis is broken, part of him does want to. Especially after what’s just happened with Harry. What sort of person is he?

“Neither am I.”

“So,” Louis says meekly. “What do we do?”

***

The marriage counselor suggests they make it to a year because once most couples make it to a year they can make it through much more. In the therapy it comes out that Tom and Zayn shared a kiss on the day when they were together ‘Christmas Shopping’. It comes out that Louis and Harry kissed as well. The counselor says it’s not uncommon for something of that nature to happen when a marriage is going through what theirs is. And since they were only kisses, they vow to work through it.

The last three months go by easily, Louis dresses up like an officer for Tom and Tom takes the garbage bin out to please Louis. He doesn’t mention when Louis sings the wrong words and he sends flowers to Louis’ office. The hardest part is that once Louis has coldly closed the deal with Harry, he avoids him entirely.

It’s the night of their one year anniversary when Louis hears Tom speaking out to him from the couch. They’ve exchanged gifts and cards, flowers and chocolates. They drank wine and discussed how happy they were.

“I can’t believe it!” Louis cries, walking into the living area in his robe and purposefully showing off a pair of Jack Wills briefs that Harry had bought for him in a set, they’re orange and pink and tight enough to where Louis is sure Tom’s getting bothered already. “We made it to a year!”

“Love you.” Tom says, standing up and going over to kiss Louis. When they touch, something doesn’t sizzle, it doesn’t spark, and so Louis just smiles as they break from the kiss and he heads back into their room and sits down on the bed. He wants to cry because this is the day that’s supposed to magically solve everything. He feels so stupid for putting so much stock into something a bloody marriage counselor told him, it’s not as if that’s really anything to go off anyway. He hears Tom getting up and hollering that he’s forgotten something and he’ll meet him at the restaurant. Louis agrees faintly, scared that he might begin to weep at any moment. He looks down at his phone and scrolls down his contacts until he sees Harry’s name. It’s enough to really get him close to tears but he locks the screen, standing up and walking over to the bathroom.

His skin is aged, he thinks, and it might not be true but he just thinks it’s all had such an irreversible negative effect on him. He puts some concealer over a few spots and rubs it in so nobody will ever notice his imperfections. The bags under his eyes are impossible to hide, the lack of sleep is just like a permanent scar that he can’t wipe away. He slips into a pair of jeans and throws on a white top. His wrist slides into a watch and he flicks all of the lights off, forcing himself out the door. The darkness looks so inviting and he just wants to crawl into bed and never get out.

Harry took the car so Louis just hails a cab to the restaurant and is surprised to walk in and see Niall, Liam, Nick, his parents, and a few other guests. “What on Earth?” He instantly feels a jolt of happiness at this, like maybe, just maybe it will be okay after all?

Niall takes in Louis for an embrace and laughs. “Well, thought I’d organize a little surprise for you. A year’s a big accomplishment. Where is your stupid husband?”

“He’s... I dunno, actually.” Louis sits down and it’s awkwardly silent. “I can’t believe he’s late for our first anniversary dinner.”

Liam laughs, “I can’t believe we even made it to your first... anniversary...” he sees all the eyes on him, especially Niall’s, and realizes how much of an ass he sounds like.

“What?” Louis demands.

“What?” Liam repeats.

Niall folds his hands together, “Well... A year is pretty remarkable. Considering you two are so ill-suited for each other. We never thought you’d make it a month, much less a year.”

“Really?!” Louis barks.

Nick nods, “Aye, I thought you wouldn’t make it past the Honeymoon. Thought you’d fuck a Moroccan. There are a lot of guys who are into the whole swarthy type.”

“Thanks,” Louis bites. “And no, I’m not really into that.”

“Oh, bit racist?” Nick laughs and the rest of the table is silent.

“Anyway, I just— Oh, well, I’m happy for you anyway. You made it to a year, yay!” Niall claps. “Go on, now, give your twat of a husband another ring.” He laughs.

Louis picks up his phone but Nick snatches it away, “don’t use your phone, use mine. Sometimes he ignores your calls if he sees your name on the caller ID.” This just infuriates Louis but he nods and gives him a call. To no avail. Louis chooses to listen to the automated voicemail message all the way through because he’d rather not put the phone down and deal with questions.

Within moments of setting down the phone, people are greeting Tom behind Louis’ back and so he stands and says hello. “Happy one year.”

Tom is soaking wet from the rain and he just smiles, “I have to tell you something.”

“Okay?”

“You’re amazing.” The table ‘awww’s and Tom just keeps his eyes on Louis. “You’re brilliant, and orderly. Successful, attractive, hilarious. You’re wonderful and the perfect husband.” Louis looks at him in confusion until he adds the final bit: “But not for me. I’ve been looking for the perfect guy for my whole life and I thought you were the one but you’re not! I don’t find the way you have to have your way to be cute, I don’t think the way you laugh is adorable. What I’m trying to ask you, is, Louis... Will you divorce me?”

Louis looks at him in awe for a moment before the corners of his mouth turn up into a smile: “Yes! Yes, yes, I’ve been waiting for this for months, I can’t believe you asked me!” He laughs, “You have made me the happiest man on Earth! I love you!”

“But you’re not in love with me, right?” Tom clarifies.

“No, absolutely not, the opposite of love: Misery!”

“Me too!” Tom declares, hugging Louis. “Okay, look, I need to, um—”

Louis is so elated he just nods, “yes, of course, go! Do you need money for a cab?”

“No, I’ve got the car,” he says.

“Right, okay, yes, bye, talk to you later!” And once Tom has left, Louis turns to the table and does a little dance of pure joy. He looks to Nick and turns up his nose, “I will never have to see you again.” He grabs his wallet from his coat and then pulls it over his shoulders. “Ever!” And then he’s running out of the restaurant and fetching another taxi cab. He tries the office first, but Amberly tells Louis to hurry to the train station. For once, Louis is thankful for Amberly. He knows it will probably be the last time as well.

As Louis runs up to the platform he sees Tom already speaking with Zayn and Harry. All eyes turn on him as he runs across the crowd and Tom is walking toward him. “Louis, look.” He takes his arm. “We talked about this, didn’t we? I thought we agreed—”

Louis shakes his head, “No, I’m not.. I’m not here to see you, I..”

Tom looks over to Harry and immediately nods: “Him!” He snorts. “Perfect, yes, I think he’s much more your type, remember I think I said that once jokingly!”

Louis agrees, “Oh, and you and Zayn! Yes, of course, much more your type as well!” The four of them all share an awkward moment of laughter.

“Is it just me...” Zayn says out of the blue. “Or is this incredibly awkward?”

“Look at that!” Louis points out. “He’s got that dry sense of humor that you love, see I just don’t have that.”

Tom nods, “And he,” gesturing towards Harry. “Well he’s just a grade A hunk, then, isn’t he?” Harry thanks him, with a bit of a confused look on his face. “And this lad right here,” he says with a hand on Louis’ back, “is incredible. And you make his eyes light up in a way that I never could.”

“Wow this is all so cliche in so many ways, then, isn’t it?” Louis cries. “The four of us here, a love triangle-thing, or a square, I suppose. Stopping you two from getting on a train, wait were you two together?”

Zayn shakes his head, “No, just friends! Harry and I were going to an anthropology exhibit in Paris.”

Louis mulls it over and then Zayn looks to Harry. “Would you mind if...”

“No,” Harry says. “Would you mind if I..?” And once Zayn assures him it’s all quite all right, they’re all awkwardly walking into each other until finally Zayn’s in Tom’s arms and Louis is in Harry’s and they’re kissing.

“This is a bit odd,” Zayn announces.

Louis agrees: “Yeah, it’s a bit... Bit weird.” So they move to opposite sides of the platform but Louis can hardly wait to feel Harry’s hands on his waist and his lips pulling against his own. For the first time in forever Louis feels the sparks again and the heat of the touch.

“Does this mean you’ll come up to my hotel room?” Harry says into their kiss.

Louis chuckles, “I’ve been told the best test of time is a year. Can you wait that long?”

“Don’t think I want to.” He tightens his grip around Louis’ waist. As he bites Louis’ bottom lip gently, Louis smiles and runs his fingers through the taller lad’s curly hair.

“No doves or violins?” Louis probes.

Harry shakes his head, all heart eyes and red lips. “No doves, no violins. Just you and me.”

“I think I quite like the sound of that.”