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I Would Take a Whisper (If That's All You Had To Give)

Chapter Text

Louis knows that he shouldn’t skate around on his board with his camera hanging from his neck. He could easily break his only means of income. He nearly does in the next second as he catches sight of two boys across the park. He’s watching them and not paying attention to where he’s going, running off the sidewalk and into a tree. Luckily, he catches himself before his camera smashes into the trunk.

Whew. He breathes a sigh of relief checking his camera anyway because he’s paranoid when it comes to his baby. His attention is soon brought back to the two lads though when he hears music coming from their direction. He walks a bit closer carrying his skateboard, trying not to bring too much attention to himself as he watches them.

One of them is sitting against a tree, nodding along to the music. He’s got light brown hair that’s cut close at the sides and longer on top, brushed back from his face. Looking through the zoom lens on his camera, Louis can see that he’s got warm brown eyes and a nice smile. The other boy is the one that caught Louis’ eye in the first place. His plain khakis and white t-shirt don’t make him stand out or anything. No, it’s the fact that he’s wearing a fucking flower crown on a head of curls, looking every bit like a fairy prince from the summer court. He’s lying on his back playing guitar as he and his friend (boyfriend?) sing a song which, from where Louis is standing, sounds a lot like Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”.

Louis knows he shouldn’t. It will most likely be a waste of film. Without having the boy sign a waiver giving him permission, Louis won’t be able to use it for anything. Still, he can’t stop himself from taking a picture.

Maybe he’ll just keep this one for himself, he thinks as he snaps the shot. Lowering the camera, Louis checks his watch.

“Shit.” He was supposed to be at Zayn’s five minutes ago to take his best friend’s headshots for him.

Later, when Louis is developing Zayn’s headshots in his darkroom, he’s already forgotten about the curly haired cutie at the park. Until he sees the picture he’d taken bleeding to life.

The boy is laying there playing his guitar, wreath of flowers settled on his hair looking even more beautiful than Louis remembers. And as stunning as Louis had thought the shot was when he took it, it’s made even more so by the way the sun seems to have come out of hiding to shine a spotlight on his fairy prince.

 Even as Louis hangs up the picture and gets to work on Zayn’s, his eyes keep drawing back to it. And he can’t help speculating about all the different majestic creatures that the boy could possibly be as he works because the boy is way too beautiful to not be a creature of fantasy.

When Louis sleeps that night, he dreams of fairy rings and woodland creatures that come at the behest of their prince to carry Louis away.

~~~

It’s another week before Louis sees the boy again. He’s back at the park, this time alone, still wearing a crown of flowers, still strumming that guitar as he sits under the tree his friend sat at last time.

Louis squares his shoulders, determined to talk to him this time. He’s supposed to meet Niall for lunch but he knows the carefree boy won’t be too bothered if Louis is a few minutes late. He clutches his camera nervously as he walks over. If it all goes to shit at least he can pretend like he was just planning to take some pictures of the scenery for a nature magazine or something.

“You know, busking works a lot better if you have a place for people to throw their money,” Louis says casually as he throws the boy his most charming smile.

The boy doesn’t look up from his guitar right away but Louis can see the smile that graces his lips. As the final chords of the song ring from the instrument, the boy finally lifts his head and Louis nearly falls to his knees. The boy is smiling at him and if Louis thought he knew anything about charming smiles, he could take a few lessons from this prince.  

Ha! Prince Charming. Louis has to fight to keep himself from giggling like an idiot. Shut up, he’s nervous.

“I provide my services free of charge,” the boy says still grinning innocently at Louis. “Any requests?”

And of course, Louis’ brain would have to take that to a dirty place. Louis only just keeps from making an equally dirty comment. Regrettably, his mouth still has to make a fool of him.

“Can I take your picture?” Louis asks before he can stop himself.

The boy’s eyes fall to the ground like he’s shy but his smile hasn’t lessened so Louis figures he hasn’t come off too weird or anything.

“What do you want it for?” The boy asks when he finally looks at Louis again.

“I just think you’re pretty,” he answers and almost slaps himself.  Fuck. Stupid mouth.

The boy tilts his head, looking at Louis like he’s trying to figure him out.

“Are you flirting with me?” He asks slowly after nearly a full minute has passed in silence.

“Are you open to being flirted with?” Louis asks, crossing his fingers behind his back as he wishes.

Harry smiles again but it’s tinged with something Louis thinks might be pity and he already knows that he’s lost this one.

“I have a boyfriend,” the boy confirms looking a tad bit apologetic.

Louis takes a deep breath and reaches into his pocket feeling the boy’s eyes watching his movement.

“Then, no. Absolutely no flirting going on here. I’m actually a photographer and I need a few sample shots to hang around my studio. You know, bring in the customers with examples of my brilliance,” Louis says pulling out one of his business cards and handing it to prince charming. “Louis Tomlinson, at your service.”

The prince of Louis’ dreams chuckles as he takes Louis’ card. “Aren’t you technically asking me to be at your service?”

“Well, if you want to get technical,” Louis concedes rolling his eyes playfully.

Moving the guitar off his lap to rest against the trunk of his tree, the boy stands holding out a hand for Louis to shake as he introduces himself.

“Harry Styles.”

Louis shakes Harry’s hand barely managing to make himself let go again.

Luckily, or unluckily depending on how you look at it, Louis’ phone chooses that moment to buzz in his pocket with a text. It’s Niall wondering where the hell Louis is and if he isn’t at the restaurant in two minutes, Niall is going to start eating without him.

“Shit. Sorry, I’ve gotta run,” Louis says tucking his phone back in his pocket.

“I have to meet someone anyway. Raincheck on the picture, then?” Harry asks with mirth glowing in his eyes.

“You’ll do it?” Louis asks a little dazed. He never actually expected Harry to say yes.

“Well, your pitch was so good, how could I refuse?” Harry says with a laugh.

“Alright. Just call me when you have a minute free and we’ll set something up,” Louis says gesturing to the card in Harry’s hand as a giddiness Louis hasn’t felt in ages suddenly floods his chest.

“I’ll do that,” Harry says directing his dimpled grin at Louis once more before bending to pick up his guitar. “It was nice to meet you, Louis.”

Harry starts to leave and Louis knows that he should too but he can’t seem to move from his spot as he watches Harry walking away. Finally, Louis comes to his senses and yells at the back of the retreating boy.

“It was nice to meet you, too, Harry!”

Harry turns, looking at Louis over his shoulder, laughing and shaking his head in amusement. He waves and continues on.

When Louis’ phone buzzes once more, he finally gets his ass in gear and rushes to the restaurant to meet Niall. Maybe he’ll at least have time for dessert.

Chapter Text

It’s been a day since Louis gave Harry his card and Louis can’t sit still. Every time his phone rings, he jumps. He takes a few job offers with barely concealed disappointment and glares at his phone like it’s the one at fault for Harry not calling yet.

Louis knows he has no right to get so hung up on a guy who already has a boyfriend but it’s not exactly like he can help the way he feels.

Zayn thinks it’s hilarious. He watches, his amusement clear in his eyes, as Louis flips out at every ring of the phone, even once when it’s Zayn’s phone that’s ringing. He knows Louis hasn’t had a boyfriend since…well, since him in their first year of uni. They both decided they were better as best mates and ended the relationship soon after it had begun.  The thing is it’s difficult for Louis to let people in, even harder for him to find someone he wants to try letting in which makes Zayn increasingly interested in who this Harry guy is with every twitch of Louis’ hand, every glance at the offending phone. When Louis jumps at a phone ringing on the television, Zayn sighs and pulls Louis to his feet.

“Come on, let’s go do something. Get your mind off flower boy for a bit,” Zayn says pulling Louis to the door.

“But he’s so pretty,” Louis whines. “I want my mind on him.”

“I’m sure that’s not all you want on him,” Zayn mutters as they make their way out of the building. “Or in him.”

“Oh, shut it.” Louis pouts following Zayn sluggishly. “You’re just jealous because I’m not putting it in you anymore.”

“Yeah, that’s it. Because this face…,” Zayn says pointing at his perfect cheekbones and giving Louis his best ‘duck face’, “…couldn’t possibly get it anywhere else.”

Louis rolls his eyes and reaches over to give Zayn an affectionate, hard slap to the face. Then, he's running, sprinting away as a grumbling Zayn trails behind him.

Louis comes to a sudden stop as his phone starts ringing again. Zayn, not expecting it, mows him down making Louis’ phone go flying.

“Fuck, Zayn!”

“Consider it payback,” Zayn smirks reaching down to help Louis up from his prone position and picking his friend’s still ringing phone up from the ground to answer it.

“Tomlinson Photography,” Zayn says into the speaker as Louis tries to reach for the phone. He easily blocks Louis’ every attempt to steal the phone as he speaks.

“Erm, is Louis there?” A low voice says from the other end of the line. Could this be Louis’ boy?

“May I ask who’s calling?” Zayn asks, still knocking Louis’ arms away every other second.

“Um, Harry Styles,” the boy says sounding unsure of himself.

Zayn smiles maniacally at Louis and Louis’ eyes widen.

“It’s him?” Louis whispers.

“Let me see if he’s available,” Zayn states before muting the phone and turning to Louis.

Louis reaches for the phone again but Zayn catches his arm.

“Zayn, I’m not kidding now. Give me the phone.” Louis orders, all jest gone from his features.

“Do you remember after we broke up when I was trying to pull that fit blonde at Niall’s pub and you told her I had crabs?” Zayn asks, eyes narrowed.

Louis’ eyes look like they are going to pop out of his head. He starts shaking his head, knowing what Zayn is thinking of doing. “Zayn. Don’t.”

“You’re lucky I love you,” Zayn says smirking and tossing the phone to Louis.

Louis scrambles to catch it making sure it doesn’t fall to the pavement. He clears his throat, straightening his shirt as though someone is there to see it, unmutes the phone, and places it up to his ear.

“Harry!” Louis greets with a smile. “Ready for your close-up already?”

Harry chuckles nervously down the line. “Er, well, my boyfriend, Liam, wants me to ask a few questions before he’ll let me do it.”

“Before he’ll let you? You have to ask for permission?” Louis asks incredulously.

“No! He’s not a controlling dick or anything,” Harry hurries to explain. “He’s just a worrier and I promised…”

Louis waits after Harry trails off thinking he’s not finished but after about 20 seconds of awkward silence Louis realizes that Harry apparently isn’t going to say anymore. He laughs to put the other boy at ease.

“Okay. Sure. Ask away,” Louis says with a shrug.

“Um, well. You weren’t asking to photograph me nude, right?” Harry asks sounding hesitant.

“I can assure you, it will be very tasteful, Harry,” Louis answers.

There’s silence on the other end of the line.

“Harry?” Louis fears he’s scared the boy off.

“Er…” Louis hears.

“I’m kidding, Harry. No nudes. I promise,” Louis assures, glad the boy didn’t hang up on him.

“Oh,” Harry sounds relieved. He chuckles again. “You really sounded serious.”

“It’s a gift,” Louis answers flippantly. “Other questions?”

“Um, well just…can he come?”

Louis’ heart sinks. He wants to spend time with Harry, not Harry and his boyfriend. Louis plays it off though which isn’t hard since Harry isn’t there to see him.

“Harry. I hardly think that’s something you should be asking me. That’s something best reserved for the privacy of your bedroom,” Louis jokes.

Harry laughs again and Louis’ a bit elated that he’s caused such a wonderful sound. “Louis, get your mind out of the gutter.”

“Well, to be fair, you started it,” Louis retorts before sighing. “Sure, bring the boyfriend. If he’s as pretty as you, maybe I’ll get another model out of it.”

He can practically hear Harry’s answering smile. “Thanks, Lou. When do you want us?”

I’ll take you anytime, love, Louis does not say.

Louis sets it up so that Harry and Liam will meet him at his studio the following day at two in the afternoon. He hangs up knowing he should feel delighted that he’ll be seeing Harry so soon but in reality he’s just crushed that he’ll also be seeing Harry’s boyfriend.

“Zayn?” Louis pouts leaning on his best friend.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be there,” Zayn reassures Louis as he puts an arm around Louis’ shoulders and Louis swears sometimes that the boy is psychic.

“Thanks, mate,” Louis offers sinking a miserably into his friend’s embrace.

Chapter Text

Zayn shows up at one the following day, sure that Louis will be throwing a fit about what to wear to meet Harry. He’s wrong. He walks into Louis’ flat to find his best friend slouched on the couch in a ratty t-shirt and joggers, a beanie pulled down over his wispy fringe.

“Oi, Lou. You look like hell,” Zayn says making a face at his friend.

“Thanks, mate. You too,” Louis says barely acknowledging Zayn in favor of keeping his eyes on the telly.

“Don’t you want to dress up for your flower boy?” Zayn asks plopping down next to Louis and throwing an arm around him.

Louis snuggles in.

“What’s the point? He’s got a boyfriend already.”

“Oh, Lou. He’s got a boyfriend, he’s not married. People break up all the time. Besides, don’t you think you should at least look professional?” Zayn asks pulling off Louis’ beanie so that he can run his fingers soothingly through Louis’ hair.

Louis only hums. Suddenly, he sits up straight, excited. “You think they’ll break up?”

Zayn groans. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen them together yet, have I? Speaking of, you’re running out of time to pretty up.”

Louis looks at his watch, squeals, and rushes to his room.

Zayn’s laughter is only compounded by the “What the hell am I gonna wear?” he hears Louis yell from the depths of his wardrobe seconds later.

~~~

They get to the studio at quarter ‘til two and Louis is a ball of nervous energy. He busies himself with putting his upcoming work obligations in his calendar. He’s got two weddings coming up in the next week and half a dozen of Zayn’s actor friends stopping by on Friday to get their headshots done.

At exactly 2pm Harry walks into the studio with the nice looking bloke Louis had seen him with the first time he’d laid eyes on the boy. Harry looks beautiful as always with flowers in his hair and a smile that makes Louis’ world grow brighter at the sight. It dims a little though when he spies Harry’s fingers entwined with his boyfriend's. Louis does his best to ignore the slight ache in his chest.

“Harry!” he beams. “You made it.”

“It’s good to see you again, Louis,” Harry says pulling his boyfriend over to Louis. “This is my boyfriend, Liam. Liam, this is Louis, the non-pervert photographer I told you about.”

Even as Liam shakes Louis’ hand he scowls at Harry a bit, scolding. “Harry.”

Harry shrugs, laughing.

“It’s nice to meet you, Louis. You’ll have to forgive Harry’s occasionally dodgy sense of humor,” Liam says with a laugh that seems a bit forced.

“Mate, if you call that dodgy, you’re in for a hell of a day,” Louis jokes back noticing the way Liam winces a little at his use of the word ‘hell’. Harry laughs though, so Louis considers it a win.

“What am I missing?” Zayn calls as he enters from the back office.

Louis doesn’t miss the way Liam’s eyes widen at the sight of his admittedly gorgeous best friend. He looks worriedly at Harry to see that he’s just smiling contentedly at their new addition. It’s weird. Louis figures that he should be happy that Liam seems to be attracted to Zayn, but he’s more worried about the state of Harry’s heart should Liam try anything. Louis knows he shouldn't have such conflicted feelings for someone he's only just met but his heart doesn't seem to be in line with his head lately.

“Hey, Lou,” Zayn’s voice breaks into his thoughts. “You gonna introduce me to your friends?”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry,” Louis smiles apologetically. “Zayn, this is Harry and his boyfriend Liam.”

Louis puts special emphasis on the word boyfriend, hoping it will bring Liam back to his senses. As much as he hates that Harry has a boyfriend, he’d hate it more if he had to see Harry heartbroken. It seems to work as Liam turns and smiles at Harry like he’s reminding himself that he is, in fact, Harry’s.

“Liam, Harry. This is my best mate, Zayn.”

Zayn shakes both of their hands, eyeing Liam a little longer than necessary. Harry doesn’t seem to notice.

“So, how do you want to do this?” Harry asks, his focus on Louis while the other two seem to still be eyeing each other.

“Right. Um. Just put your clothes over there…”Louis starts barely able to hide his grin.

“Here?” Harry asks reaching out to touch the stool Louis had indicated and for a second Louis’ heart stops. But then he catches Harry’s wink and knows that the boy is just playing along.

“Wait, what?” Liam asks pulled back to what’s happening with his boyfriend.

Harry starts laughing before Louis can take the joke any further.

“Relax, Li,” Harry says pulling his boyfriend to him to entwine their fingers again. “I wouldn’t take off my clothes unless you were invited, too.”

“I wouldn’t mind seeing that,” Louis hears Zayn say under his breath. Louis throws a warning glance at his friend, Zayn shrugs unapologetic. Luckily, the lovebirds don’t seem to hear him.

“Very funny,” Liam answers his boyfriend dryly but the smile he gives Harry screams fond.

“Alright!” Louis says clapping his hands together, hoping to end whatever moment is happening between them. “What do you say I get my camera and we’ll walk around? Look for some nice scenery for a backdrop, yeah?”

“Sounds good,” Liam says eyes still on Harry.

Of course, after going through the torture that is LiamandHarry, Louis ends up leading them back to the park.  He takes a few candids on the way, catching one of Harry smiling back at him in a parking lot and he thinks that will be one that he uses. Or keeps. And no. It is not creepy.

When they get to the park, they play around a little. Liam and Harry posing together for a few pictures, Zayn photo bombing them a time or two. And Louis remembers why he loves his best friend so much.

After a while, Liam and Zayn sit and watch, talking amongst themselves, as Louis takes pictures of Harry. Harry can’t seem to be serious, always dropping into some silly pose at the last second. He never fails to make Louis laugh and Louis takes every chance he can to pay it back saying cheesy clichéd photographer phrases like “make love to the camera”. Harry does laugh but otherwise ignores Louis’ orders. In all fairness, it’s probably a good thing. Louis doesn’t think his camera could handle it if Harry had listened.

 

~~~

 

“So, can I see them? The pictures. When they’re developed,” Harry asks when they get back to the studio. Liam and Harry didn’t have to come back with him and Zayn but when the good light had disappeared behind the London skyline and Louis had decided to call it quits, they had followed behind.

“Sure, sure. You can watch me develop them, if you want?” Louis offers.

“When?” Harry asks excited at the prospect of learning something new.

“Whenever. Now?” Louis answers.

“Actually, we have a dinner date that we are now running a tad bit late for,” Liam edges in.

And shit, Louis had almost forgotten he was there.

“Oh, right. I forgot.” Maybe it’s Louis’ imagination but he thinks Harry sounds the smallest bit disappointed at having to leave.

“We should all get together again sometime,” Zayn states.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Liam says shaking Zayn’s hand followed by Louis’.

Louis goes to shake Harry’s hand figuring it is the best he'll get (and he’ll take what he can get) but Harry surprises him pulling Louis into a hug.

“I had a lot of fun today,” Harry says squeezing Louis tight and, fuck, if it isn’t the best hug Louis has ever had.

“Yeah, like Zayn said, we should do it again,” Louis answers as Harry lets him go.

If Louis is a tad disappointed when Harry hugs Zayn as well, he doesn’t let it show.

“You have my number now, right?” Harry asks as Liam tries to pull him to the door. “From where I called earlier?”

“Oh, yeah,” Louis says realizing for the first time that it’s true. Harry’s number will be in his call log. He has Harry’s number.

“Call me when you develop the pictures, yeah?”

“Absolutely.”

Louis watches as Harry and Liam leave.

“Well, that was interesting,” Zayn says letting out a breath.

“Yeah,” Louis turns to his best friend. “I’m so fucked, Zayn.”

 

Chapter Text

Louis gives himself a day. He just needs some time to let the thought of seeing Harry again settle, to let the fluttering in his stomach fade, before he’ll develop the pictures. So, Louis decides to give himself a day to work out his feelings. He knows friendship is the best he can hope for from Harry right now and he’s going to work his hardest to let that be enough. So he’ll stay home and let himself wallow in his misery for a total of 24 hours. He’ll think about the things he’d do if he could have Harry. He’ll imagine them making flower crowns for each other and Harry still wearing his when it starts falling apart after only a few minutes. And he’ll imagine what it would feel like to have Harry’s fingers locked between his. And he’ll wonder what a kiss from Harry’s lips would taste like. And when his day is up, he’ll stop wondering, push all thoughts of a fairytale romance with his fairy prince to the back of his mind and lock them away for safe keeping. Just a day, Louis promises himself.

It takes three days. Three days of daydreams and Zayn cuddling in behind him as he lays on his bed or (when he has the presence of mind to actually get up) the couch. Zayn knows the drill. When Louis is working on letting go of something he can’t have he always gets quiet, contemplative for a day or two. Zayn tries to be there, to offer his friend comfort but not push or interfere. On the third day, he gets a little worried but Louis actually takes a shower that day and makes the two of them breakfast. He’s still silent, still lost in thought but he’s going through the motions so Zayn knows the worst is over.

Louis proves him right when he’s fully dressed and packing his camera in its bag when Zayn lets himself into Louis’ flat on Friday morning. Of course, Louis has a job or six to do so he doesn’t really have a choice this time.

“Alright?” Zayn asks as Louis pulls the strap of his bag over his shoulder to head out.

“Perfect, mate,” Louis answers with a tight smile as he brushes past Zayn to exit his flat. And as big a lie as they both know it is, it’s not as big a lie as it would have been three days ago.

~~~

Louis is trying really hard not to roll his eyes. You would think a freaking actor would be able to take a decent picture but Louis is on the last of Zayn’s friends that are willing to pay him to take their head shots and, after 45 minutes of trying, he’s not got even one usable shot. The man is incapable of standing still.

Louis breathes a sigh of relief when his phone buzzes in his pocket giving him an excuse to take a breather. Louis tells the guy he’ll be a minute and steps away to answer the phone.

“Tomlinson Photography,” Louis answers.

“Louis?” A familiar, velvety voice asks hesitantly.

“Harry, mate,” Louis closes his eyes in resignation and tries to ignore the way his heart has sped up against his will. He’d planned on putting off talking to Harry for at least another day. Oh well, now is as good a time as any to start trying to think of Harry as just a friend. “Thank goodness you called. I desperately needed an excuse to take a break from work.”

“Hard day?” Harry asks sympathetically.

“It’s been fine ‘til now. I just have a guy I’m supposed to take head shots for but I can’t for the life of me get a good shot. He’s like a hyperactive 3 year old,” Louis whispers into the phone.

Harry chuckles and Louis can’t help smiling at the sound.

“I’m sorry you’re having a tough time,” Harry says and though he’s laughing as he says it, Louis can tell that the sentiment is genuine.

“I’ll be alright,” Louis brushes it off. “Anyway, I’m sure you called for a reason. What can I do for you?”

“Oh, yeah. Liam and I are going out tomorrow. There’s this open mic night at the coffeehouse I work at. My friend Ed is going to play and I might sing with him. I was wondering if you and Zayn might want to come?” Harry asks apprehensively.

“Oh, what time?” Louis says ignoring the way his stomach flips at the thought.

“Um, it starts at eight but I don’t know when he’ll go on…”

“Ok, sure. I’ll ask Zayn. Can I bring another friend, too?” Louis asks. He knows he’ll feel better about the whole thing if it’s more of a group outing. And Niall has a way of always cheering Louis up when the need arises.

“Yeah, absolutely. The more, the merrier,” Harry answers happily.

“Great. So, where is it?”

“Oh! Sorry. It’s called Café Ccino. It’s…” When Harry says the name, it jars something in Louis’ memory.

“Oh, yeah! I’ve been there before. You work there?” Louis interrupts.

“Yeah.”

“Alright, well I have to work a wedding tomorrow so I may be a bit late but I’ll have Niall and Zayn meet you there at 7:30?” Louis asks warily watching the guy he is supposed to be taking head shots of try to balance his phone on his nose as he waits. He figures it’s probably bad that he already can’t remember the guy’s name.

“Oh. Yeah, alright,” Harry answers sounding a bit off to Louis.

“Great. See you tomorrow, Harry.”

“Hey, Lou?” Harry calls down the line, stopping Louis just before he hangs up.

“Yeah?”

“Have you taken a picture of a three year old before?” Harry asks.

“Yeah. A time or two,” Louis answers wondering where Harry is going with this.

“And you got a good shot?” Harry presses.

“Yeah.”

“So, if this guy is acting like a hyperactive three year old, treat him like a hyperactive three year old,” Harry concludes and Louis’ wonders how his heart is going to be able to take it if Harry reveals himself to be any more perfect than Louis already thinks he is.

“Thanks, Haz. You’re absolutely brilliant. I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?” Louis says suddenly knowing exactly how to get a good picture for this guy’s head shot.

“Yeah. See you, Lou.” Harry hangs up, happy that he could be of help.

Five minutes later, Louis has his shot.

 

And much to Louis' dismay, Harry has a firm grip on his heart.

Chapter Text

The minute Louis arrives he knows, he knows it’s a bad idea. The fluttering in his stomach when Harry notices him makes him a little unsteady on his feet as he shuffles his way over to where his friends are sitting with Harry, Liam, and a guy with ginger hair that Louis assumes is Harry’s performer friend.

Liam gives him a polite smile but Harry. Harry smiles like Louis is the fucking sun and Louis doesn’t know if his heart can take this boy who is stupidly beautiful smiling at him like that.

“Looking spiffy there, Lou,” Harry says pulling Louis into a hug that simultaneously warms him up even as it makes his heart thud against his bones like the damn thing is trying to escape.

And while Louis does look nice in the black blazer and slacks combo he wears to his wedding gigs, he knows he can’t hold a candle to Harry in a simple black t-shirt with ripped skinny jeans and his ever-present crown of flowers.

“Thanks mate,” Louis says flushing a bit at the compliment as he pulls away from the cage of Harry’s arms and takes his seat next to Zayn at the side of the stage to watch the performer already belting out a cover of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.

“How’d the wedding go?” Zayn asks leaning into Louis’ side to make sure he can hear.

“Great, right up until the bride and groom fed each other their first piece of cake. She playfully smeared his piece around his mouth. Not to be outdone, he smashed hers up her nose. Spent the next half-hour with the maid of honor trying to talk her out of the loo, she was crying so hard,” Louis answers trying to keep his voice down so they don’t bother other patrons who are there to listen as he shakes his head sympathetically at the memory. “Poor thing. Supposed to be the happiest day of her life and she ends up crying in the toilets.”

“You’re such a sap for all that wedding stuff,” Zayn says smiling fondly at his best mate and wrapping an arm around his shoulders. Louis can’t help leaning into the embrace.

“Weddings are magical, Zayn. They’re magical little love factories where wishes are granted and dreams come true and all that sentimental shit you don’t believe in, okay? And unicorns are real and rainbows have pots of gold at the end with little, leprechaun Nialls dancing around them and gorgeous boys with flower crowns don’t have boyfriends.” By the end of Louis’s little rant he’s playing sullenly with the strap of the camera still around his neck and Zayn is smirking at him knowingly and squeezing his shoulders tighter in understanding and Louis kind of wants to kiss him. Except he doesn’t because he really wants to kiss Harry.

“Hey,” Louis turns to find Harry standing behind him, looking down at him and he tenses because did Harry just hear him? But Harry just leans down to make sure Louis can hear him as the next performer takes the stage and there’s nothing in his eyes to suggest he’s heard so Louis relaxes again. “I’m going to get a Liam a coffee; can I get you something to drink? Maybe a snack?”

Louis’ idiotic heart warms at Harry’s offer and he finds himself answering with a soft “tea, please”.

Harry nods, still smiling like Louis’ just given him the best Christmas present ever and Louis wonders when it’s going to get through to his heart that that’s just Harry, that it doesn’t mean anything, so that his heart will stop doing cartwheels in his chest. Harry looks to Zayn and Niall next but Zayn shakes his head.

“Nothing for me, thanks.”

“I could use some chips,” Niall offers, obviously already comfortable enough with Harry to order him about at the mention of food.

“It’s a coffee house, Niall,” Harry laughs. “Not a diner.”

“Surprise me then,” the Irish boy answers with a shrug, turning back to the stage.

Harry takes it all in stride, still chuckling as he heads to the counter to order their snacks. He comes back with Liam’s coffee and Louis’ tea and a giant chocolate chip biscuit for Niall because chips.

Louis rolls his eyes fondly as Harry stands there looking proud of his clever little joke.  Niall just shrugs and eats his biscuit.

It isn’t long after that that Harry’s friend, Ed, is taking the stage and pulling Harry up to sing with him. Louis watches them get settled, listens as Ed starts strumming his guitar even as he explains that this is a song that he and Harry wrote together. And Louis hopes, he hopes so hard that Harry just has friends who are too nice to tell him that he can’t sing because if the boy has one more thing to add to the list of ways that Louis thinks he's perfect, then Louis knows he’ll be in a hole he can’t dig himself out of. There will be no turning back from the edge of the metaphorical cliff he’s standing on.

As soon as Harry opens his mouth and sings his first notes, Louis flinches. The ground under his feet has crumbled. He’s falling. And as he watches Harry sing, he realizes it's going to hurt like hell when he finally hits the ground.

It’s not just Harry’s voice, velvety smooth and brimming with emotion. It’s not the beautiful words that drip from his plush, pink lips. It’s the passion with which he delivers his performance that has Louis raising his camera and snapping a picture before he even realizes he’s done it.

 As he lowers the camera he catches sight of Liam looking his way. Harry’s boyfriend doesn’t scowl at him like Louis would have expected but he’s not smiling either. He’s just watching Louis, calculating.

Louis lowers his eyes, flushing at being caught taking a picture of someone else’s boyfriend. But Harry’s performing and he’s missing it so he raises his head again, eyes falling back on the stage and lets himself get lost in Harry’s song.

When it’s over, there isn’t a polite smattering of applause like most of the other performers have received. There are hoots and hollers and Harry and Ed both are being engulfed in hugs by all of their friends, which is a much larger number than Louis first realized. And suddenly, Harry is in front of Louis, their eyes catching as Harry fucking glows with pride and accomplishment and Louis almost forgets himself, the pull to kiss Harry is so strong. He leans forward as if pulled by an unseen force but at the last second pulls to the left and brings his arms up to wrap around the small of Harry’s back.

“That was incredible, Harry,” Louis says shakily into Harry’s neck.

“Thanks, Lou.” Harry’s smile is still all encompassing as he pulls away but it’s also contagious and Louis finds himself smiling back even though he’s sure his chest is about to shake apart from nerves. He almost kissed Harry. And then Harry is moving on, dragged away by Niall who’s chattering fiercely about how he wants in on the next performance as he wraps an arm around Harry’s shoulders and pulls him away to, no doubt, grab some more food.

Louis can’t sit still for the rest of the night. He’s itching to get home, or just leave the coffee house. He needs to be away from where Harry is because he knows that if it gets that close again, he won’t have the strength to stop himself from closing those last few inches.

When the performances are over and it’s finally time to leave, Louis is stuck waiting for Zayn who’s deep in conversation with Liam. Louis would go over and get him but he’s feeling a little nervous about being around Liam right now.

After a few minutes it gets to the point where Louis has decided to walk home alone and just call Zayn later. He huffs and turns to leave; he’ll text Zayn to let him know he gets home okay. But. Harry is there. Still beautiful, still smiling, still causing Louis’ heart to beat erratically.

“They started talking about comic book heroes a while ago,” he says peering over Louis’ shoulder. “Looks like it’s going to be while. Li, can get a bit longwinded when he gets on a topic he’s fond of.”

Louis twists to look at his best friend talking to Harry’s boyfriend animatedly. The way they are looking at each other, the small touches that pass between them as they discuss who the better hero is makes it look for the entire world like they are flirting with each other. Louis hopes Harry doesn’t see it. Louis hopes Harry sees everything. Louis can’t make up his mind.

“Yeah, Zayn’s the same,” Louis says turning back to Harry with a shrug. “It’s alright. I’ll just talk to him later. I have an early start tomorrow so I really should head out now.”

“Oh. Yeah, I’ll talk to you later then?” Harry replies sounding timid.

“Yeah,” Louis answers with a smile. And he can’t help it; he has to pull Harry into another hug. “You really were fantastic earlier.”

“Thank you,” Harry says holding Louis tightly before pulling back again.

“I’ll see you Harry,” Louis’ throat feels tight as he steps around Harry to leave. He’s at the door when it hits him that he doesn’t know when he’ll see Harry again and he’s suddenly extremely not okay with that.

“Hey, Harry,” he calls back to the other boy. Harry turns, curiosity in his eyes and that lovely smile still adorning his face. “I have another wedding to photograph tomorrow and afterwards I’m going to have quite a bit to develop. Do you want to come to the studio and watch? Or just keep me company?”

Harry’s smile grows and he nods enthusiastically as he answers, “yeah, I’d like that”.

“Alright, I’ll call you,” Louis says pushing the door open and stepping through. Harry’s “see you tomorrow, Lou” following him all the way home.

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Louis head shoots up as he hears the familiar voice from the other side of his studio. It has been another long and unsatisfying day. Louis had photographed a wedding that morning that once again fell short of his expectations of what the happiest day of a person’s life should look like. Yet another bride crying in yet another toilet when everything wasn’t perfect. Yet another groom not even pretending to care. Louis loves weddings but he’s quickly losing faith that happily ever after is a real concept. Serves him right, he supposes. Being a romantic has never gotten him anywhere but heartbroken. As is painfully obvious as he stares at the latest in a line of heartbreakers that only looks more beautiful every time Louis lays eyes on him.

“Hey, Harry,” Louis answers with a nervous grin. It’s just him and Harry tonight. No friends or boyfriends to act as buffers this time and Louis is slightly nervous that he’ll end up doing something stupid. He’s also insanely happy at getting to be alone with the boy that is slowly but surely stealing his heart one breathtaking grin, one adorably loud laugh, one handful of wilting flower petals at a time.

There are white jasmine and red tulips spilling from Harry’s curls tonight and Louis wants to touch them, he wants to compare the softness of the petals with the softness of Harry’s silky hair. Wants to ask Harry why he chooses each flower for each crown, if he makes them himself or if they are made for him, if the colors mean anything or if Harry just thinks they’re pretty. There are so many things Louis wants to know. He thinks maybe tonight he’ll have the time and the courage to ask. 

“Just let me finish writing this on my calendar and we’ll head back to the darkroom,” Louis says penciling in the date of his next wedding gig. Its two months away in his hometown of Doncaster and it’s his childhood friend Stan’s wedding to his longtime boyfriend Steven. Louis was supposed to be there anyway as a groomsman but Stan’s photographer was recently in a car accident and will be in a body cast for the next few months at least. It’s easy enough to replace a groomsman but finding someone with real talent behind a camera is sort of rare, so now Louis will be there in a different capacity entirely.  It’s fine. Louis’ thrilled to get to help add to the happy memories Stan will hold onto for the rest of his life. He’s not thrilled about the ribbing he’s going to get when he doesn’t show up with a date. Zayn will be home for his sister’s birthday so Louis can’t even drag him along and Louis is pretty sure that Niall will be unavailable too. Oh, well. Louis has other things to dwell on right now, like how he feels Harry’s warmth on his back as Harry spies over his shoulder, watching Louis write in his calendar.

“Another wedding? You must be pretty good to keep getting gigs,” Harry says and Louis catches a small smile on his lips when he looks back, almost like he’s proud of Louis’ success. But they barely know each other so Louis figures it wouldn’t really make sense for Harry to be proud of him. Not yet anyway. 

“Yeah, this one’s a personal favor though. A friend I grew up with is getting married. His photographer fell through at the last minute so I’m filling in,” Louis says as he throws the pen down and leads Harry back to the darkroom.

This is where the magic happens,” Louis gestures grandly into the darkened room.

“Very mysterious,” Harry observes with a grin, peering into the darkness but not stepping through the doorway.

Louis laughs flipping the light switch. “Not that mysterious really, if you turn on the light,” he scoffs playfully, walking into the room as he hears Harry gasp behind him.

“Can you do that?” Harry asks confused as he follows. “I thought it had to stay dark in here.”

“Only when we’re developing,” Louis explains closing the door behind Harry. “And it doesn’t have to be completely dark. C’mon, I’ll show you.”

Harry watches Louis set up, asking what everything is and what everything does. For once in his life, Louis feels smart, interesting even. Harry’s eyes follow his every move from switching on the red bulbs he uses to see by and switching off the overhead lights to the moment he pulls the newly developed pictures from the developing solution. Louis hangs each picture to dry and Harry has a smile and a comment for each one.

“You’re really amazing at this, Lou,” Harry compliments Louis for maybe the 50th time. “You’re so good at catching things from the perfect angle or just the right light.”

“Thank you, Harry,” Louis can feel the flush on his cheeks so he doesn’t look at Harry. Doesn’t want him to see the effect he has on Louis.

“Will you do my wedding?” Harry asks playfully but the words send a jolt of unpleasantness down Louis’ spine.

“Planning to get hitched soon, are you?” He retorts dryly hoping his words sound more playful to Harry than they sound to his own ears.

“Not really, no,” Harry answers with a laugh. “But we’ll still be friends ten or twenty years down the road, right?”

Fuck, Louis really hopes not. Having to force himself to just be friends with Harry Styles for a few days has been torture; ten or twenty years might kill him. Louis doesn’t dare try to think that far into the future when his now is so utterly uncertain but he smiles at Harry, nods, and pretends the thought doesn’t tear him apart inside.

“Of course we will, Harry.”

~~~

After the pictures for both weddings are developed and drying, Louis switches from using the red bulbs he usually uses to a dim lamp that sits at the furthest edge of the table as he starts in on the pictures from his day at the park with Harry, Liam, and Zayn. They’ll be able to see a little more clearly that way.

The pictures of Liam and Harry are so cute it’s sickening and Louis almost talks himself into ‘accidentally’ ruining them but then he feels Harry’s warmth seeping through the sleeve of his dress shirt, feels Harry watching next to him and he can’t go through with it. Louis sees the fond smile on Harry’s face and almost regrets his decision but then he hears a bark of laughter followed by the clap of Harry’s hand over his lips, notices that this is one of the pictures that Zayn photo bombed, and the tension leaves Louis’ body. He lets himself laugh with Harry, enjoying the rich sound of Harry’s deep, beautiful laughter and the way Harry leans on him for support.

They look at each picture, discovering things in them that Louis hadn’t noticed when he took them. A line of unsuspecting pedestrians in the back of one whose shirts make a perfect rainbow, a pair of butterflies in another that look like they are trying to settle on Harry’s flower crown. Honestly, it’s mostly luck that Louis pictures have come out so perfectly. He tries to tell Harry this, that he’s not as talented as Harry thinks he is but Harry refuses to believe it.

Harry helps Louis pick out the pictures that he should frame and use as samples in the front of the studio. None of them are of Liam so Harry is the only one that needs to sign a waiver, releasing the photos for Louis’ use.

“You know, it’s a shame,” Harry says as he signs his name with a flourish.

“What is?” Louis asks distracted as he puts the signed paper away.

“That you’re never in any photos. You’re always behind the camera, so you can never be part of the beauty it captures,” Harry answers and Louis gets caught in the intense stare that Harry is directing at him.

“It’s hardly any great loss,” Louis argues quietly.

“I disagree,” Harry retorts with a crooked grin taking a step closer. Louis should really know that look in Harry’s eyes. It’s one that frequently shines from within his own eyes just before he does some trouble-making. Before Louis can register the movement, Harry is grabbing at his camera and pointing it in Louis’ direction.

“No!” Louis yells throwing a hand up, covering his laughing face from the lens at the last second. “Put down the camera and step away, Styles.”

Harry laughs stepping around a stool and backing further away. “I don’t think so.”

Louis gives chase keeping his arms up to prevent Harry from getting a clear picture of his face. “You break my camera, I’ll break your fingers, Curly!”

Harry chuckles at the threat but stumbles in the same instance. He catches himself before he can fall but puts the camera down to keep himself from actually damaging it. It’s all fun and games until he ruins Louis’ career with his clumsiness. He pouts, sad to end the game and Louis thinks Harry is the most adorable thing ever with his bottom lip on full display, flower crown askew on his curls.

Louis plucks the camera up and puts it away, out of danger. He turns from the cabinet to see Harry stumble again. He reaches out as Harry clasps the edge of the table, regaining his balance. Just in time, Louis catches Harry’s flower crown before it can fall into the chemicals Louis uses to develop his pictures.

“Might want to be more careful with that,” Louis says handing the crown back to Harry.

“My hero,” Harry answers, dimples shining as he takes the flowers with a blinding grin.

Louis doesn’t get lost in it this time. Refuses to. He just smiles back in answer.

Harry gets a text right then that wipes the smile from his face.

“Shit. I didn’t mean to stay this late. Liam is going to kill me,” Harry whispers to himself loud enough that Louis hears every word.

“Is something wrong?” Louis asks, suddenly worried for the curly-haired boy.

“No… just.. I have to go. I was supposed to be home a while ago. I was supposed to go out with Liam tonight," Harry answers putting the phone back into his pocket.

"Oh, alright. Well, I had fun. We should hang out more often," Louis really isn't ready for the night to end.

"We should," Harry agrees and his grin is back, warming Louis up all over as they exit the dark room and head to the door at the front of the studio.

"Have a good night, Harry," Louis says when they reach the door.

"You too, Lou," Harry says leaning over and placing a quick, unbelievably soft kiss on Louis' cheek. "Later, Hero."

Louis watches Harry run out the door while he stands there frozen in place. Slowly, he raises a hand to his kissed cheek. He can still feel the ghost of Harry's kiss there. And he knows he isn't going to sleep tonight as he relives the moment in his memory over and over again.

Chapter Text

Louis was right. He didn’t get a wink of sleep after Harry kissed him. Even if it was just his cheek.

Zayn finds him sitting on his sofa the next morning in a near catatonic state, hand still stroking his cheek over the area where Harry’s lips touched down for the briefest of moments.

“Oh my god,” Zayn says staring at Louis from the doorway. “He kissed you?!?”

Louis turns to Zayn a mixture of agitation and resignation because Zayn always knows things before Louis has even told him and Louis hasn’t figured out how yet. He's not even concerned by Zayn's sudden appearance from nowhere. He's always moved with the quiet grace of a feline so Louis' not really surprised.

“Just on the cheek,” Louis says playing it off with a shrug as he forces himself to drop his hand from his cheek. “I saved his flower crown from a horrible chemical-related accident.”

Zayn simply hums in answer to Louis’ explanation as he slumps on the couch next to his friend but the look on his face belies deeper thoughts. Louis doesn’t like the look on Zayn’s face just now.

“What?” Louis asks when he can’t keep his thoughts to himself anymore.

“Hmm?” Zayn replies breaking out of his quiet contemplation at Louis’ voice. “Oh, nothing.”

“That’s not ‘nothing’ face, Zayn. Now tell me,” Louis pushes.

Zayn doesn’t want to. He feels like what he has to say might start a fight and a fight with Louis Tomlinson is never something that you want as part of your day. He also doesn’t want to keep things from his best friend so he opens his big mouth and does as Louis has asked.

“I just…he has a boyfriend, Lou. He shouldn’t really be kissing any part of you, should he?” Zayn answers bracing himself for the impact of Louis’ argument. His friend is still able to surprise him sometimes though.

“I think that’s just Harry, you know?” Louis reasons calmly. “He’s a bit quirky, isn’t he? I think that just how he is with everyone, all hugs and kisses and cuddles.”

Zayn can tell how gone Louis is for this boy and he’s torn between feeling happy for Louis that he’s maybe making some kind of progress and feeling guilty for Liam who he may or may not have been texting pretty much non-stop since Saturday. And he may be a little confused about what he should feel for himself.

Both boys are silent for a moment, lost in their own dilemmas. Louis breaks the silence first.

“Do you think they’ll break up?” He asks, fretful energy flooding his veins as he feels guilty for hoping but knowing that, when it comes to Harry, Louis can’t possibly help it. No one could.

“I dunno,” Zayn answers turning to his friend with a shrug. “I sort of hope so. And not just for you either. I just feel like, if this all keeps going on the way it is, someone’s bound to get hurt.”

Louis watches Zayn intently.

“What do you think is going on here, Zayn?” Louis asks brows narrowed in confusion. Sure, Louis has a pretty massive crush but Zayn sounds like he thinks something serious is going on.

Zayn can’t bring himself to look at Louis. He just sits there, trying to keep his breathing normal as he thinks about the last 48 hours. Finally, he let's out a heavy sigh that carries the last bits of his restraint with it. He's been trying to deny it, even from himself but he can't do it anymore.

"I think I'm falling for Liam."

"Oh. "

Chapter Text

Louis and Zayn spend the rest of the week wallowing. The two of them stay cuddled up together on Louis’ couch watching shit telly and eating shit take-out while Niall occasionally flits in and out of their little bubble of self-pity.

Finally, when Saturday rolls around again Zayn has decided that they will swap their pity party for something a little more lively.

“C’mon,” he says pulling a lazy and half-asleep Louis up from the couch. “We’re done with this. We’re going to go out tonight and pull some fit blokes that we actually can have. And we’re going to forget about our less than platonic feelings for the boyfriends, yeah?”

“That’s a good plan,” Louis nods at a smiling Zayn before dropping back to the couch. “Let’s do it tomorrow.”

“No, Lou,” Zayn says pulling Louis up again with exaggerated irritation. “Tonight. Now get your smelly self into a shower.”

Louis lets himself be pushed into his bathroom. The door is slammed in his face and he doesn’t bother trying to open the door again because he knows Zayn will be on the other side leaning against it, waiting for Louis to try something. Instead, he just chooses to insult Zayn in return as he undresses to take the shower that he knows he desperately needs.

“You don’t exactly smell like flowers yourself, Zayn. And I’m not sharing my soap with you, you bossy prick,” Louis yells through the door as he turns on his shower, getting the temperature just right before stepping in.

“Fine, I’ll go to mine for a shower. But I expect to find you dressed and ready when I get back in an hour,” Zayn answers before walking toward the door to Louis’ flat, shaking his head with a fond smile on his lips as he hears Louis start belting “Who Let the Dogs Out” as he showers.

 

~~~

 

He’s asleep.

Zayn, looking rather handsome with his facial hair neatly trimmed and his best pair of jeans hugging his ass quite nicely, stands over a snoring Louis that’s laying on his bed still clad in only his towel.

“Oi!” Zayn shouts kicking the bed. “Wake up, you lazy bastard.”

“There’s no need to bring my father into this,” Louis mumbles as he reluctantly rubs the sleep from his eyes.

“Get up, Lou,” Zayn orders moving to Louis’ closet to find the sleepy lad some clothes. "Go get your face sorted while I pick you out something to wear that will have all the lads drooling, mate."

"What's wrong with my face?!?" Louis asks in an offended tone as he moves to sit on the edge of the bed.

Zayn sighs throwing the shirt he's picked out on the bed next to Louis as he moves to stand between his legs. He runs his fingers over Louis rough cheeks.

"It's too pretty to be hidden behind this mess of a beard," Zayn tell Louis affectionately before quickly leaning in and laying a quick, smacking kiss to his lips before going back to the closet. "Go shave!"

Louis shakes his head at Zayn's actions, a smile playing on his lips because his best friend really does know how to cheer him up. He gets up and after having a nice stretch, heads to the bathroom to do as Zayn has ordered. When he comes out again he's still sporting a bit of scruff on his cheeks but the worst of it has been removed. Louis thinks (hopes) he looks sexy and the wolf whistle Zayn gives just solidifies the notion.

"You got the face to turn straight boys, mate," Zayn says, tossing Louis his clothes.

Louis laughs as he puts them on.

"I think we share that title, really," he replies buttoning his jeans. They are black and tight and even Zayn can't deny that Louis' ass looks absolutely delicious in them.

"Aww, you really think so, Lou?" Zayn asks, pulling his eyes from his best friend's ass and striking a model pose.

Louis shrugs as he buttons up his shirt.

"I'd do us," he replies nonchalantly.

Zayn chuckles in response. "We already tried doing us. Didn't work out."

Louis shoves Zayn playfully in the shoulder while he moves to put on his shoes.

"You know what I meant."

"Yeah," Zayn answers still smiling. "Let's just hope we find someone else willing to do us."

"Kinky," Louis answers with a waggle of his eyebrows.

"Not what I meant but hey, at this point I'll take what I can get," Zayn says, a peal of mischievous laughter falling from his lips as he heads to the door.

Louis follows behind, wondering loudly and teasingly how Zayn thinks he can still 'get' him.

~~~~

Louis is hot. Sweat drips down his neck as he dances against some blond guy that reminds him a little too much of Niall to even consider taking home. He's having fun though and the guy isn't clinging to Louis like most of the other guys he's danced with so maybe they're both just having a nice time that doesn't have to lead to anything more.

Honestly, Louis really isn't in the mood to take anyone home. He may be a tad miserable and a bit lonely (ok, so he's massively lonely) but he really can't think of anyone other than Harry as take-me-home material. He doesn't think Zayn will mind if Louis just goes home quietly by himself because Zayn disappeared about 20 minutes after they arrived at the club. But for now, Louis is all smiles and adrenaline as a cover of "Bad Romance" comes on and he and Blondie dance their hearts out.

Well, until hands appear on Blondie's hips and he turns to check out his new dance partner. Apparently, he likes what he sees because he turns to Louis with an apologetic smile. Louis shrugs it off and waves Blondie away with a genuine smile.

He's thirsty so he goes to move around the new couple to head to the bar but something catches his arm and suddenly Blondie is at his ear whisper-shouting a sincere "I hope you find what you're looking for," before Louis is set free again. He catches Blondie's eye and gives a nod of gratitude before returning to his quest for a drink.

When Louis gets to the bar he squeezes into the throng of waiting customers. Unfortunately, the bar tender seems to be taking his time flirting with all the female patrons. At this rate, Louis will never get a drink. And Zayn was obviously wrong about the power of Louis' face because this straight boy won't even turn in his direction, let alone turn his sexual preferences.

Louis is about to give up when there is a loud whistle on the other side of the bar that gets the bartender's attention (as well as everyone else's). Louis looks over to see a divine-looking Harry Styles pulling two fingers from his lips and smiling at his success as the bartender makes his way over. And Louis' heart starts beating overtime. Of course he would turn up here. Not that Louis is complaining. In fact, quite without his permission, Louis' feet have begun moving in Harry's direction until he's pushed his way right up next to the flower-clad boy.

"Fancy meeting you here," Louis shouts over the music.

Harry turns and a wide grin breaks out on his face when he sees who's standing next to him.

"Louis!" Harry greets engulfing Louis in a hug. Yep. It's just a Harry thing, the hugging and kissing the boy does so freely.

"I haven't heard from you all week," Harry says when he releases Louis from the hug.

"Sorry. Been busy," Louis lies with a shrug, only feeling the tiniest bit guilty for it.

The bartender sits two drinks in front of Harry and for the first time it occurs to Louis that Liam is probably here, too.

"Hey, can I get another one for my friend here?" Harry asks gesturing to the drinks in front of him and then to Louis.

"Oh, you don't have to..." Louis starts but Harry cuts him off.

"Nonsense," Harry assures him. "You look thirsty."

And Louis is pretty sure he didn't mean that in a sexual way but his mind can't help but take it there.

"Thanks," is all he can utter as a flush decorates his cheeks. Luckily, the lighting is poor so he doesn't think Harry will notice.

The bartender sits down another drink, taking Harry's money as he heads away again.

Louis grabs his drink while Harry carries his two and the two fight their way out of the mob at the bar.

Louis is about to carry on the conversation when he hears glass shatter behind him and turns to see Harry starring wide-eyed at the back wall, his hands empty, drinks now painting the floor. Louis follows his eyes and oh.

Liam is there. And Louis is pretty sure that's Zayn he has pushed up against the wall, attached to his lips.

Chapter Text

“Li?” Louis hears Harry whisper, disbelief evident in his tone.

Louis manages to tear his eyes away from the far wall to look at Harry. His beautiful Harry who now wears a frown on his lips and has tears spilling from his eyes.

“Harry?” Louis says, depositing his drink on a table without caring about the people occupying it before rushing to place a comforting hand on Harry’s shoulder. Harry closes his eyes at Louis’ touch, places a hand over Louis’ and takes a deep breath. It’s almost as though Harry is trying to borrow some strength, or maybe courage, because the next second he’s pulling Louis’ hand from his shoulder and giving the boy a look of gratitude before releasing him entirely and striding purposefully up to his cheating boyfriend.

“What the hell, Liam?” Harry sputters, his voice broken and tight.

Liam breaks away from the boy he’s kissing and relief floods through Louis because it isn’t Zayn that’s pressed against the wall there. Now that he can see him clearly, he’s not sure how he could have thought it was ever Zayn in the first place. Maybe if he was drunk which…Liam clearly is as he turns with a smile and throws his arms around Harry.

“Harry!” He bellows joyfully. “You’re here!”

Harry unwraps Liam’s arms from around him and pushes him against the wall firmly but also more gently than originally intended when he sees the state Liam is in.

“Yeah,” Harry answers Liam quietly, and Louis can hear the disappointment in his tone. “I got off work early and thought it’d be nice to surprise my boyfriend.”

“Great surprise, babe,” Liam says still unaware that anything is wrong. He swoops in faster than should be possible given how drunk he is and places a kiss to Harry’s lips before it occurs to Harry to stop him. Harry’s on the verge of pushing Liam away when the boy retreats on his own. “Hey, look. I found Zayn.”

Liam gestures to the bloke he’s been kissing who has been watching the scene with amusement written on his features. He waves in a way that Louis thinks is supposed to appear sheepish but it’s obvious to everyone that the homewrecker is enjoying himself. Louis wants to punch him. So he does.

Fuck!” Louis says trying to shake the pain from his fist once the douche-bag is laid out on the floor.

“Louis!” Liam and Harry cry at the same time. Liam with disbelief, Harry with concern.

“Why’d you punch Zayn?” Liam asks staring at the body on the floor as Harry tries to get Louis to let him look at his sore hand.

“Who’s punched me?” Zayn asks appearing out of nowhere, confusion clear on his features as he takes in the unconscious figure and then Louis cradling his hand to his chest. “What happened here?”

For a half a second, Harry looks like he wants to punch Zayn but it fades just as quickly as Louis catches a glimpse of it. He’s soon distracted though by a very confused Liam.

“Two Zayns?” Liam mutters loudly though Louis is pretty sure the boy is musing to himself as he looks between the Zayn who’s just walked up and the sorta-kinda-not-really-Zayn-look-a-like on the floor. Suddenly, Liam clutches his stomach and looks a little green in the face.

Before anyone can dwell on it though, a rather rotund bouncer stalks up to them with angry eyes and a red face.

“You four! Out!”

And just like that, the four of them are being escorted from the club. Liam is leaning on Harry who is too kind even when he’s hurt to let Liam deal with his skewed equilibrium on his own. Zayn is wearing a look that says what did I do but if Louis is getting kicked out, then Zayn is going with him regardless so he doesn’t voice his thoughts. And Louis’ insides are swimming with so many kinds of guilt he can’t even begin to sort it all out.

“I’ll call us all a cab?” Zayn asks, breaking the oppressive silence that surrounds them.

“It’s okay, we can get our own,” Harry says quietly, as Liam pulls away from him to go throw up in the bushes. He gestures to the sick boy as though that’s his excuse. “Don’t want to get caught in a tight space with that.”

“Harry, no,” Louis argues. “I’m not letting you deal with this on your own. I’ll help you get Liam home and then, how about you come stay at mine?”

Harry looks slowly from the boy vomiting in the bushes to Louis, eyes watering again and nods his consent. Louis takes Harry into his arms while Zayn turns away from their moment to call a cab. He knows something has happened but he isn’t going to butt his nose in. If Louis wants him to know, he’ll tell him. And if he doesn’t, well, it isn’t really Zayn’s business, is it? His ability to keep from interfering in things unless the situation is dire is one of the main reasons why Zayn is Louis’ best friend. It’s a title that he holds close to his heart so he’ll do what he has to do to keep it.

A few minutes later, their cab pulls up and Louis maneuvers them so that Liam is by the window, Zayn is up front with the driver, and Louis is squeezed between Liam and Harry. He wants to give Harry as much space as he needs from his drunken boyfriend but considering Liam had thought it was Zayn he’d been kissing, Louis figures it’s best to keep Zayn and Liam as far apart as possible. Opposite sides of the cab is as much space as he can manage for Harry, but the other boy still gives Louis a grateful, if sad, smile when he crawls in after Liam.

It’s quiet as they head to deposit Liam at home first. Liam’s head is leaning against the cool glass of the window and Louis is pretty sure he’s dozing off as Zayn speaks quietly with the driver up front. Harry is staring out his window, lost in his thoughts and Louis doesn’t want to give him too much time to dwell on what happened back at the club. He isn’t sure what to do though. Normally, in uncomfortable situations, Louis will make a joke but this doesn’t feel like the time for that. He stares at his hands in his lap for a minute before he needs to do something. Show some sign of support, letting Harry know that he’s there. That he’ll always be there for him. In the end, it’s just a small gesture. His hand is already right there next to Harry’s leg. He moves his fist over to rest knuckles down on Harry’s leg, thumb moving in a small caress.

Louis sees Harry look down at his hand, observes the smallest quirk of his lips as he recognizes the small signal of friendship and then Harry is taking his hand and twining their fingers, giving a light squeeze of thanks before turning back to his window.

Louis tries not to let the fact that Harry is holding his hand affect him, which isn’t hard to manage when Liam’s head rolls onto his shoulder. And then Liam is cuddling into Louis’ side and Louis lets out a heavy sigh, idly wishing that the universe would find someone else to laugh at.

~~~~

When they finally arrive at Harry and Liam’s flat, Louis helps Harry get Liam inside, dropping him unceremoniously on the couch. He doesn’t even flinch, letting out a loud snore a minute later.

“Fuck, what if he wakes up and gets sick? I can’t just leave him alone, Lou,” Harry says, worry shining in his eyes as he watches his sleeping boyfriend.

Louis isn’t about to let Harry stay in this apartment with a boy who has obviously hurt him though.

“Is there someone you can call to stay with him?” Louis asks, a steadying hand low on Harry’s back.

Harry starts to shake his head but Louis isn’t having it. He pulls Harry so that the boy is standing directly in front of him, a hand on either side of the other boy’s face. He wants to make sure Harry can see how serious he is.

“Haz, I’m not letting you stay in this flat. You shouldn’t have to take care of him when he’s the one who’s hurt you,” Louis tells him.

“Lou…,” Harry starts and Louis knows simply because it’s Harry that Harry is going to argue on Liam’s behalf because even when they don’t deserve it, Harry will think the best of anyone.

“Harry, don’t. Don’t tell me that he’s not a bad guy,” Louis says pushing one of Harry’s curls out of his face. “Right now, he’s the bad guy. You can argue his merits to me in the morning if you still feel the need. But not tonight, Harry. Tonight, you deserve to be taken care of.”

A tear escapes Harry’s eye just as the boy nods, taking in a shaky breath. “I can call Ed. Just…give me a minute.”

Harry pulls away from Louis but grasps his hand as he calls Ed and asks him to come and watch over Liam for the night. Ed, a friend obviously made from the same kind of mold as Zayn, agrees without question and says he’ll be there in five.

Louis texts Zayn that they’ll just be a few more minutes as Harry gets a bottle of water and painkillers for the undeniable hangover that Liam will have in the morning. He leaves them on the coffee table next to a note that simply says I’m staying at Louis’ tonight.

Louis watches with interest as Harry delicately takes off his flower crown and leaves it next to the note.

“It’s how he knows I’ll come back,” Harry explains when he catches Louis watching. “When we fight sometimes I need to leave to settle my thoughts, get some air. As long as I leave my flowers, Liam knows I’ll be back. That I’m not leaving for good. He sort of has abandonment issues.”

Louis keeps his thoughts to himself, simply nodding at Harry’s explanation because the last thing Harry needs right now is someone judging him, berating him for his decisions. Louis knows how good Harry’s heart is and though he doesn’t think Liam deserves it, especially after what he’s done, Louis is pretty sure he has no room to talk.

Ed arrives then with one loud, solid knock at the door. One look at Harry tells him that something is wrong and he wordlessly pulls Harry into a bruising hug. Harry accepts, melting into his friend’s affection without hesitation.

“I’m staying with Louis tonight,” Harry tells Ed from the confines of the hug.

“Ok,” Ed accepts simply, withdrawing from Harry with a loaded look.

Harry nods immediately understanding the meaning.

“I’ll fill you in later.”

Ed nods before turning to Louis.

“Louis,” he greets.

“Ed,” Louis answers with a nod.

A horn honks outside and Louis realizes that Zayn has been waiting for quite a while.

“Better go, Harry,” Louis informs him.

Harry gives Ed a little wave. “Thanks, mate.”

“Anytime.”

Harry exits the flat and Louis goes to follow but Ed pulls him back.

“You take care of him, alright?”

“I will,” Louis answers solemnly, going to leave again only to feel Ed stop him once more. He turns.

“And if I find out you took advantage of him, not even your closest relatives will be able to recognize the body. Got it?”

And ok. Ed is kind of intimidating. Louis thinks he likes that about him though. And the fact that he’s so protective of Harry.

“You really don’t have to worry about that, mate. I’d never hurt Harry,” Louis assures him and he’s pretty sure Ed can see how much he means it because his gaze softens.

“Good to know. Now, go take care of our boy.”

~~~

When they get to Zayn’s flat, Zayn pays more than his fair share of the cab fare, gives Louis and Harry a quick wave, and gets out of the cab without a word.

Louis really loves Zayn.

~~~

“So, this is my home sweet home,” Louis says as the door to his flat swings wide.

Harry steps inside. His eyes traveling from the pictures on Louis’ wall to the mess of films on the floor in front of the television to the couch that is covered with 6 or 7 mismatched cushions. “It’s really nice, Lou. I like it.”

“Yeah, well,” Louis says with a shrug, unsure what to do now that he’s got Harry here. “Can I get you anything? A drink, a snack?”

“No, thank you,” Harry answers with a smile at how awkward Louis seems suddenly. He can feel the weight of fatigue settling heavy in his limbs. “Honestly, I’d just like to sleep, if that’s okay.”

“Of course it’s okay,” Louis says pulling Harry by the sleeve down the hall to his room but Harry hesitates at the doorway.

“I’m not taking your bed, Lou.”

“Actually, I thought we could share it,” Louis says cautiously, watching for Harry’s reaction.

Harry flushes a bit and looks to the floor.

“I don’t think that would be the best idea, right now,” Harry replies.

Louis stands in front of Harry and takes both of his hands.

“Look. I can’t cuddle you if we’re in separate rooms and, correct me if I’m wrong, but you sort of seem like you need cuddles right now,” Louis says softly, thumbs brushing the backs of Harry’s hands. He can see that Harry isn’t completely sold though.

“I’ll be a complete gentleman, Harry. I swear.”

Harry looks up at that, catching Louis’ playful smile and he can’t help but to return it.

“I know you will,” he says. “Or Ed will kill you.”

Louis laughs in surprise and Harry follows quietly, shaking his head as he does.

“Do you want some sweats or something?” Louis offers.

“Yeah,” Harry bites his lip.

So Louis digs up some joggers that he thinks will fit the taller boy alright. Harry goes to the bathroom to change into them as Louis changes in his room. And when Louis' heart skips a beat at the sight of a shirtless Harry walking back in wearing Louis’ clothes, he ignores it.

They climb into Louis’ bed and Louis presses close to Harry, letting the other boy know he’s there. Harry wraps an arm around Louis’ torso and rests his head on Louis’ chest.

“Thank you, Lou. For everything.”

“Anytime, babe. “

Harry tries to hold it in. Louis can tell he does. But the tears come back again and he apologizes for leaking on Louis’ chest, tries to pull away so that he won’t but Louis holds him tightly.

“I’ve got you, Harry. Let it go. Just…let it all out,” Louis tells the tearful boy, running his fingers gently through Harry’s unkempt hair.

So Harry does. He holds Louis tight and cries until there aren’t any more tears left.

~~~

In the morning, Harry wakes up snuggled into a warm body that fits with his better than Liam’s ever has. He wakes up to arms wrapped around him tenderly, a feeling of safety residing in his bones.

And he knows he should go home, check on Liam, sit down and have a serious talk. But he simply can’t bring himself to leave.

Chapter Text

Louis wakes to find the boy of his dreams resting in his arms, face nuzzled softly into his neck. It works somehow, the position they’re in, despite the fact that Harry is taller than him. Louis basks in the feeling for a moment before he remembers: Harry is there because he needs a friend right now.

Louis sighs, a deep, heavy breath that seems to jostle Harry from his sleep. His lashes flutter against Louis’ neck before he pushes himself up, yawning and stretching as he moves.

“Sorry,” Louis whispers fearful of breaking the quiet magic of this morning. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“You didn’t,” Harry answers giving up on actually getting up and instead nestling back into Louis’ side. “I’ve been sort of drifting between awake and asleep for a while now.”

“M’sorry, love,” Louis apologizes playing gently with Harry’s curls. “You should have woken me.”

“’S okay,” Harry mumbles hugging Louis’ abdomen and just being generally cuddly. “M’ just not ready to go home yet.”

Louis tries to calm the overwhelming feeling that rushes to his chest as Harry snuggles against him. It’s not lust. It’s something much deeper that Louis won’t put a name to because that way lays a dangerous path. One that Louis isn’t sure he can travel yet. It’s far too soon and he isn’t sure of his footing just now.

“You can stay as long as you need to, Harry. I’m not about to kick you out,” Louis assures Harry wrapping his arm around the sleepy boy.

Harry snuggles even closer, a sad smile on his lips.

“Thanks, Lou.”

Harry closes his eyes and lets himself drift off again to the feel of loving fingers combing their way through his hair.

~~~

Louis won’t watch Harry sleep like some lovesick loser. Well, he doesn’t intend to. But every time Louis tries to wiggle out of Harry’s hold, the sleeping boy’s arm seems to tighten around his waist. So he waits a while, thinking that if he just lets Harry get to sleep deeply enough, he’ll be able to pull out of Harry’s grasp without the boy even realizing he’s gone. And if his eyes trail the contours of Harry’s face while he waits, taking in the softness that sleep brings to his features, the way Harry’s hair curls sweetly around his face, the plumpness of his full lips, it’s Louis’ eyes working entirely of their own free will and Louis is in no way to blame.

Once he thinks it’s safe to try again, Louis gently, carefully lifts Harry’s arm away and slips out of bed. He grabs some clean clothes from his wardrobe and heads to the bathroom for a shower. He tries to be fast but quiet as he dresses after and brushes his teeth. A quick peek when he exits tells him that Harry is still sleeping soundly so Louis heads to the kitchen contemplating breakfast. He has things that he could cook if, well, he could cook. Louis doesn’t really feel like waking Harry up by way of smoke detector though. Cereal will do. Louis pulls two bowls from the cupboard and two spoons from the drawer by the sink, setting a place for Harry even though he has no idea when the boy might wake. He pours his own cereal and heads to the living room to catch up on the episodes of Homeland he hasn’t been in the mood to watch until now.
Louis chews his cereal and watches his show while pretending he’s not waiting for the gorgeous boy in his bed that he can’t have to join him.

~~~

Louis is most of the way through his first missed episode, deeply engrossed in the twisting plot when Harry finally emerges.
“Morning,” he calls, voice still a bit coarse from sleep as he holds out Louis’ phone to him. “Someone called.”

“Oh,” Louis says feeling guilty that he didn’t think to bring his phone with him from his room. “Thanks. And sorry. I shouldn’t have left the phone in there. There’s cereal in the cupboard next to the fridge if you want. I’ve left a bowl out for you.”

“Thanks,” Harry answers with a smile before padding off to the kitchen as Louis checks his phone to see who’s called.

And of course, it’s Zayn. Louis sends off a quick text telling Zayn that Harry is still over and Louis’ll give him a call later.

Zayn sends back a message of his own. Short and to the point. 'You better.'

Louis rolls his eyes and takes his dirty dishes to the kitchen to place in the sink for washing later. Harry is sitting at the table in Louis’ kitchen eating Hula Hoops, Louis favorite cereal, and Louis sits across from him, kicking Harry’s foot lightly.

“It was Zayn. Told him I’d call later,” Louis explains. For a second, he sees Harry’s eyes cloud over at the name but it’s soon gone replaced by sadness that wasn’t there when Harry had walked out of his room this morning. It’s almost like Harry had forgotten what had happen last night and here Louis is bringing it up. He feels like the prickiest of pricks right now. And not in a way that comes with bragging rights.

“I don’t want to go back, Lou,” Harry confides over his cereal. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to him.”

There’s no question who him is. Louis reaches over the table, taking Harry’s hand and twisting their fingers together.

“I know, babe. Been there before myself. If you want, I can go with you. I mean, I’d wait outside obviously. But you know, be moral support,” Louis offers with a shrug. “And, if you need, when it’s all over you can stay here for a bit.”

“You think it’ll be over between us?” Harry asks, watery eyes finally looking up from his bowl of now-soggy cereal.

Louis quickly realizes that Harry took his words the wrong way but the fact that Harry doesn’t seem to want to end things with Liam hurts to no end. And Louis is sick of being hurt. He struggles a bit but musters up some strength from somewhere deep inside of himself and gives Harry the answer a friend would give because Louis’ stupid hopeful heart has finally, finally caught on to the fact that that is all he’ll ever be.

“I just meant the talk, Harry. When your talk is over, if you don’t want to stay with him, you can stay here. Ultimately, whether or not it’s over is up to you, love,” Louis says with a sigh, gently untangling his fingers from Harry’s.

“What if he doesn’t remember it at all?” Harry asks trying to hide how much he wants to reach for Louis’ hand again, to borrow his strength. It’s not fair of him to ask for that, so he doesn’t. Louis has already done so much for him. “He was so drunk.”

Louis stands from his seat and walks around so that he’s standing next to Harry. The boy turns to him curiously, waiting for whatever sage advice Louis is going to offer. It’s absurd how much Harry absolutely trusts the older boy at his side. He’s surprised when Louis grasps his chin between thumb and forefinger, looking into his eyes so that Harry can see the seriousness there.

“Then you tell him. You let him know exactly how he made you feel and if you plan to stay with him, you make damn sure that he’s never going to do it again,” Louis says before turning abruptly and storming from the room.

Louis thinks he’s quiet enough but Harry hears him when he adds “cuz if he does, I’ll kill him”.

~~~

Louis can feel Harry shaking next to him in the cab on the way to the apartment he shares with Liam. He almost takes the boy’s hand but then catches a glimpse of something out the window and gets a better idea. Harry looks at him, curious, when Louis orders the car to a sudden stop.

“I’ll be right back,” Louis promises with a smile as he climbs out of the car and jogs into the crowd of Sunday morning patrons. Harry watches him until he disappears from sight.

A few minutes later, Louis is back. Jumping into the car with his hands behind his back and an unsure but hopeful gleam to his eye.

“I don’t know how to make a crown,” he says drawing his hands from behind his back and holding a bouquet of flowers out to Harry. “But I thought maybe these might help with everything.”

Harry stares at the gorgeous flowers spilling from Louis hands and doesn’t know what to do. He takes the flowers with shaking hands and gathers Louis in a tight, lung-crushing hug. “Thank you, Louis.”

Louis’ a bit surprised to hear the tightness in Harry’s voice that Louis now understands means Harry is close to tears. He pulls back from the hug to catch the first drop slipping down Harry’s cheek.

“Oh, no, love. They were supposed to make you smile,” Louis says, capturing the tear with his thumb.

“They do,” Harry answers with a watery but genuine smile. “I just don’t know if you realize how much it means to me that you did this. That you knew exactly what I needed.”

And, shit, Louis really doesn’t know what to say to that. There are a million thoughts running through his head. None of which are platonic. So, he watches his hands as he plays with his fingers.

“I’m glad you like them,” he finally says.

“I love them,” Harry corrects and Louis can feel Harry’s eyes on him. He ignores it, not looking up from his hands because he knows if he does he’ll do something stupid. He’ll ruin everything. He waits to speak again until he knows he can say something that doesn’t even come close to sounding like can I kiss you. Perhaps his heart hasn't gotten the message after all.

“Do you make the flower crowns yourself?” He asks, finally lifting his eyes to look at Harry again.

Harry nods, still looking at Louis with an intensity that makes Louis squirm a bit.

“Will you show me?”

Harry nods again. “Sure,” he answers pulling two flowers from the bouquet and shows Louis how to start a flower crown.

And even as Harry is occupied by teaching Louis how to tie a crown together, he’s wondering if Louis knows what the flowers he’s chosen mean. Because Louis has given him a bouquet of Amaryllis and Peonies, flowers that speak of radiant beauty and offer a silent cry of “I love you”.

Chapter Text

Liam is a mess.

He’d woken up in the middle of the night, rushing to the bathroom to empty his stomach and found Harry’s best friend Ed standing in the doorway, staring at him with an expression that spoke volumes. Liam had obviously fucked up in some way.

Once his stomach had settled, he returned to the couch to find Harry’s flower crown and a note on the coffee table. The note told him that Harry was at Louis’ house, but the flowers told him that Harry would be back at some point. He’d tried to access his memories but they were fuzzy at best. Downing the medicine and water left out for him, he’d given up on remembering and drifted back to sleep where his memories had assaulted him with a clarity that was painful in what it had revealed.

He'd kissed someone. Someone that was not his boyfriend.

Since he woke up, he’s had this roiling guilt in his stomach because he knows that’s why Harry isn’t here now. And he knows that he’s going to have to explain himself when Harry comes home. He’s going to have to explain that, for the past week or so, he’s been developing feelings for someone else. And the guilt that accompanied that knowledge had led to him getting extremely drunk and kissing that person last night. Or well, someone that Liam had thought was that person.

It’s after 3pm on Sunday and Harry still isn’t home. Liam wonders if he’ll even come home today. He kind of hopes Harry doesn’t. He’s never relished the thought of hurting Harry. He’s so innocent and kindhearted and he doesn’t deserve what Liam has done to him. And, fuck Liam doesn’t know if he can do the right thing here. He doesn’t know if he can end things with Harry and possibly break his heart even more.

On the other hand, Liam sort of hopes Harry comes home soon so that he doesn’t have to keep feeling like this. He’s going to feel like shit for weeks because of what he’s done, he just doesn’t want to keep tensing up every time he hears footsteps in the hallway. Doesn’t want to keep thinking that maybe it’s almost over when it’s just a neighbor returning home from work or Ed coming back from a smoke break. He’s pretty sure Ed’s doing it on purpose though because Liam is fine now, Ed could have gone home a long time ago but he stays. Keeps going on smoke breaks when Liam is pretty sure the guy doesn’t even smoke, and always has this gleam in his eyes when he comes back in. Like he’s enjoying Liam’s discomfort. Not that Liam can blame him.

Checking his phone for the 87th time to see if Harry has left a message, he finds that he does have a message but it’s not from Harry. It’s from Zayn.

'How are you feeling?'

It makes Liam’s heart warm at the same time as it makes his stomach drop. He’s not sure if he should answer or not. In the end, he answers with the truth.

'Like an ass.'

He gets a reply but just as he’s about to check it, the front door opens and Harry walks in. He looks sad, unsure but not as heartbroken as Liam had imagined. And as always, he looks devastatingly beautiful with a new crown of flowers in his hair.

Liam is about to step forward. Apologize. Take responsibility for his actions. But Ed gets to Harry first. Wraps him in a hug, whispering in his ear. Harry gives him a rueful smile and a nod and Ed is out the door presumably returning home. Liam breathes a little easier once Ed’s gone. And a little less easy when he sees Louis behind Harry, still standing in the hallway.

“I’ll be out here if you need me,” Louis says quietly reaching out to give Harry’s hand a quick, encouraging squeeze before letting go and pulling the door closed between them.

It’s quiet then, as Harry turns to Liam, eyes searching.

“Do you remember what happened?” Harry asks, breaking the silence.

Liam nods slowly.

“I’m so sorry, Harry,” Liam apologizes but he can’t manage to speak above a whisper. He’s so ashamed of himself. “I can’t even begin…”

“Then don’t,” Harry cuts him off. “Just don’t start, Liam. I only have one question anyway.”

“Okay,” Liam says, waiting.

“How long have you had feelings for Zayn?”

Liam closes his eyes, breath releasing in a heavy sigh. Harry deserves the truth. So, Liam gives it to him.

“Honestly, there was an attraction there from the start. But it wasn’t until that night that he came to the coffeehouse that I actually started to really feel something,” Liam answers but he can’t look at Harry until he’s finished.

When he does, Harry is standing there with tears trailing down his cheeks. He nods once and walks past Liam into their bedroom.

Liam, unsure of what’s going on, follows to find Harry pulling a duffle out from under the bed.

“Harry, you don’t have to go,” Liam says from the doorway. This is not what he wanted.

“Yes, I do,” Harry says gathering his favorite clothes and all the things that really matter to him. The rest can stay.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you, Harry,” Liam whispers but he can’t bring himself to step into the room, to stop Harry from leaving. They both know it’s over.

Harry shoves the last of his things into his bag and turns to his ex-boyfriend. “I know you didn’t.”

And then Harry is brushing past Liam heading back to the front door. He pauses with his hand on the knob, casts a glance around the room just as Liam reenters in front of him. His eyes catch on something and he stops, walks back to Liam and lays a kiss on his cheek.

“It was nice. While it lasted,” Harry says against Liam’s skin before bending to pick up the flower crown from the coffee table and disappearing out the door.

He’s not coming back this time.

Chapter Text

Louis startles when the door to Harry and Liam’s apartment opens and Harry appears with a duffle full of his stuff. Louis is quick to gather Harry in his arms and Harry goes willingly, sniffling a bit and holding on tight until Louis pulls back.

“So, do you want to stay at my place then?” Louis offers, all earnest concern.

Harry looks at the floor and bites his lip, trying to find the right words to say because Louis is being so lovely and Harry doesn’t want to offend him.

“Actually, I think I’m going to stay with Ed for a while. He offered before, like, when we got here… and he has a spare room so… I won’t be infringing on anyone’s personal space…” Harry trails off.

“Harry,” Louis says, taking hold of the other boy’s wrist lightly. “I don’t care about the space…”

“I know, Lou.” Harry cuts him off, turning his wrist in Louis’ grip so that now they’re holding each other. Reassuring each other. “You’ve been nothing but kind and supportive through everything. And I’m really grateful, I am. It’s just… I think maybe I need some time to myself. To think through some things. And Ed has a spare room…”

“Yeah, you mentioned that,” Louis says, sparing a little smile for his hurting friend. “It’s fine, Harry. I’m not offended. You do what you need to do. I just want you to know that I’m here if you need me.”

“I do. I know that,” Harry answers giving Louis wrist a little squeeze before letting go.

“How are you getting there? To Ed’s.” Louis asks as they begin walking towards the exit of Harry’s building together.

“Pretty sure he’s waiting outside,” Harry says with a shrug of his shoulders. “I think he knew what was going to happen. He’d wait a little while, just in case. That’s the kind of friend he is.”

“Good man,” Louis approves with a pat on Harry’s shoulder. “The world needs more friends like him.”

“And you,” Harry adds with a fond look in Louis’ direction.

“Don’t know about that,” Louis jokes. “I can be a bit of a shit when I want to.”

“Nah,” Harry disagrees with a smile.

When they step outside, sure enough, Ed is there leaning against his car, waiting. He opens his arms and accepts Harry into them again.

“Call me, if you need anything,” Louis offers before turning to walk away.

“Do you need a ride, Louis?” Ed asks before he can get far.

“I’m okay, thanks. It’s a nice day for a walk,” he answers and takes off in the direction of Zayn’s place because he really doesn’t want to go home to an empty flat.

~~~

Louis is drenched when Zayn opens the door for him. His nice day stopped being so nice about halfway to his destination. He should have known better really.

“Shit, Lou. Get in here,” Zayn says barely keeping in his laughter as he pulls his soaking wet best mate into his flat. He rushes to get Louis a towel so that the boy can dry off before he leaves a puddle on Zayn’s nice clean floors and then grabs some dry clothes for him as an afterthought.

“Thanks,” Louis says as he accepts Zayn’s offerings.

He towels off and gets changed right inside the door. Zayn’s seen it all before. Neither of them have anything to be surprised by at this point.

Zayn takes Louis’ discarded clothes and throws them in his dryer before going to the kitchen to make some tea. It will go a long way to warming up his shivering friend.

Louis follows him silently and Zayn figures this is the perfect opportunity to get some answers.

“So, are you going to tell me what happened last night?” He asks as he readies the kettle.

“Which part?” Louis retorts being deliberately difficult.

Any part, Lou. I’m completely in the dark here,” Zayn answers with a roll of his eyes, frustration evident in his tone as he sets the kettle on the stove.

“Oh. You mean after you disappeared on me?” Two can play this game.

“Lou,” Zayn sighs. “We were there to pull, right? So, I didn’t want to drive away any potential candidates by letting them think I was there with you. Like, with you.”

“Gee, thanks mate. I feel so very loved,” Louis says.

“Babe,” Zayn says with exaggerated patience before melting into a playful grin. “Even if they didn’t think we were a couple, you’d drive them all away with your devilish good-looks. They’d know they can’t compete with those cheekbones.”

“Fuck you,” Louis answers with a laugh and a shake of his head. “You can’t blame my beauty for your inability to pull.”

“I’ll have you know, I met a very nice girl at the coat check. And then her very handsome, very bisexual flat mate. I’m pretty sure there was a three-some in the works before I had to use the loo and stumbled upon you lot on the way back.”

The kettle starts whistling and Louis reaches into the cupboard for two teacups as Zayn pulls the kettle from the heat and pulls out two teabags from a box on the counter. Louis sets down the cups and Zayn pours the water, dropping in the teabags and letting them steep as they talk.

“Okay,” Louis starts not waiting for Zayn to prompt him again. “So, after my dance partner found someone he liked better, I ran into none other than Harry Styles at the bar. He bought me a drink…”

This causes a questioning raise of Zayn’s eyebrows. Louis is quick to shut him down.

“Not so fast…it was a friendly drink. Obviously. Because then we went in search of Harry’s boyfriend, who he had also bought a drink for. Of course, that went to waste when they crashed to the floor upon finding said boyfriend in a compromising position with a lad who looked a lot like you from a distance. And, apparently, if you were extremely drunk from up close too.”`

“What?” Zayn mutters quietly, eyes on the counter as he replays what he walked into when he’d stumbled upon his friends last night. And suddenly, it makes more sense. Too much sense. Zayn’s stomach drops.

“Yeah, mate. Liam thought he was kissing you. And the little bastard that conned him into thinking that was having way too much fun when Harry found the two of them. I couldn’t take that look on Harry’s face. That look of utter betrayal. So, I clocked the guy. Not Harry, obviously. Other Zayn,” Louis explains removing the teabag and sipping at his tea.

“I don’t get it,” Zayn mumbles, tea completely forgotten. “Why would Liam even think of kissing someone else when he was there with Harry?”

“Mm,” Louis hums as he swallows his tea with a shake of his head. “He didn’t know Harry was there yet. Harry dropped by after work to surprise him and found a rather nasty surprise of his own.”

“Still, though,” Zayn says feeling worse by the second. “He had a boyfriend, why would he think it was okay to kiss someone else?”

“I dunno, mate. He was massively drunk. I mean, I know that’s no excuse but…” Louis trails off with a shrug when he catches the look on Zayn’s face. “It’s not your fault, Zayn.”

Zayn looks up from where he’s been intently studying the counter top.

“But what if it is, Lou? I’ve been texting and flirting with him. I mean, like, I knew nothing could happen so I stopped but I did make him aware that I liked him. Fuck, Lou. What if it is? He thought it was me,” Zayn rambles until Louis crowds into his space and pulls him into a hug.

“It’s not your fault,” Louis answers sternly. “You didn’t kiss him. He kissed somebody that he thought was you. The blame lies squarely on him and his alcohol. And the twat that took advantage. Okay? It’s not you, babe. You did nothing wrong.”

“I bet Harry doesn’t feel that way,” Zayn mumbles into Louis’ shoulder.

“Harry,” Louis sighs, remembering the look he’d seen the boy give Zayn last night. “He’s hurt. But I don’t think he’d blame you either. Not once he’s got his head on straight.”

“So, he does blame me now?” Zayn says, pulling back and the look of sheer misery on his face at the thought reminds Louis why he loves Zayn so much. His best mate has a really good heart.

“I don’t know, Zayn. He hasn’t said anything,” Louis answers placing a soft hand on Zayn’s cheek.

It may not be a lie, but it feels like one. Louis doesn’t know. Not for sure.

“Are they, Liam and Harry…are they okay?” Zayn asks, subconsciously leaning into Louis’ touch.

Louis sighs again, dropping his arm and grabbing Zayn’s wrist to pull him to the living room. Once they’re settled on the couch, he turns to Zayn again.

“I’m pretty sure it’s over between them. And before you even think it, it’s not your fault,” Louis says, taking Zayn’s hand and giving it a squeeze.

“Shit,” is Zayn’s quiet response.

Louis doesn’t say anything, just cuddles into Zayn’s side and gives his hand another squeeze knowing that Zayn needs a minute for himself to let the information sink in.

“I fucked up in so many ways,” Zayn says, pulling his hand from Louis’ grasp so that he can scrub his face with both hands.

“Zayn…,” Louis tries but Zayn can’t handle it anymore. He rises from the couch, grabbing his jacket from the hook on the wall.

“Stay as long as you want, Lou. I just…I need some air,” he says and breezes out the door.

Chapter Text

When Zayn headed out for a walk to clear his head, the last place he expected to end up was Niall’s pub. It sort of makes sense that he’d end up here though. Niall is the only person he can talk to who isn’t wrapped up in this whole Liam/Harry mess.

“Zayn!” Niall greets cheerfully from behind the bar of The Dancing Leprechaun. “What’s happenin', mate?”

Zayn shrugs gloomily as he takes a seat on the bar stool directly in front of his bar-tending friend.

“Come on, you can tell Nialler,” Niall coaxes as he pours Zayn a drink from the tap and sets it in front of him.

“I might, possibly be responsible for Harry and Liam breaking up,” Zayn says, wincing even as he speaks the words.

“What, did you shag one of them?” Niall laughs because he knows Zayn would never. Zayn is the best person Niall knows. But the look on Zayn’s face at Niall’s question gives the Irish lad pause. “Zayn. Tell me you didn’t shag one of them.”

“I didn’t shag one of them, Niall. Jesus,” Zayn takes a deep drink of his beer.

“Oh. Good,” Niall says, wiping down the counter for something to do. It’s still early, he won’t have a run of customers for a good two hours yet and by then his relief, Josh, will have shown up. “So, what then? A kiss?”

Zayn sighs deeply, trying to control his frustration. “Why is everyone so quick to believe I’m a homewrecker?!?”

“Zayn, I don’t think that. And you can’t tell me Louis thinks it. So, I mean, you said you had some responsibility in the breakup. I’m just trying to understand here,” Niall declares reaching over the bar to rest his fingertips on Zayn’s wrist, let him know that Niall is on his side.

“Liam apparently thinks it,” Zayn mutters into his glass.

“What? Does he blame you for the breakup?” Niall asks with a furrowed brow.

“I don’t... I mean, no, I don’t think so. Pretty sure Harry does but I guess he has a right,” Zayn says sullenly, only managing to confuse Niall more. Zayn can see that Niall doesn’t understand, and why should he when Zayn has only given him cryptic clues this whole time. So he clarifies, “At the club last night, Liam got massively drunk and kissed someone he thought was me while he was still with Harry. They broke up this morning.”

Niall’s confused expression doesn’t fade, if anything the way he's scrunching his nose and the lines on his forehead just get more pronounced. “How is that your fault?”

So Zayn takes a deep breath and tells him everything. He tells how he felt this current flow through him the minute he met Liam, how they’d talked for hours after the coffeehouse performances that Niall had gone to with him and Louis, and how they’d kept texting, flirting with each other for days afterward. How he still wants Liam even if he isn’t sure Liam is the type of boy he should want if he’s the type to cheat on his boyfriend.

“I see,” Niall says when Zayn is finished pouring his heart out. “I guess, I can see why you might feel a bit bad for the flirting but you didn’t actually cheat with him, you know that, right? He may have been drunk but that’s all on him.”

“That’s what Louis said,” Zayn tells him resting his head on the bar.

“So, what’s the real problem? Cuz I’ve got a feeling this goes a bit deeper than what you’ve told me, mate.” Niall is a really good bartender. He’s got that whole tell-me-all-your-problems-and-I’ll-solve-them-with-my-sage-advice-and-a-pint thing down.

Zayn shrugs, struggling to even admit the next part to himself. “I guess…I’m worried that eventually, that guy Liam was kissing, that might’ve been me. Like, I might not have stopped him if he’d tried it somewhere down the line. Even if he was with someone. I don’t want to be that kind of person but I want him so much, I might have let myself not care that it was cheating.”

Niall just looks at Zayn for a second when he’s finished but then he’s shaking his head. “Nah. You’re too good for that.”

Zayn can’t help the small smile that slips onto his face at his mate’s utter faith in him but it fades just as quickly as it arrived. “How can you be so sure?”

“Because I remember what you did for me back at Uni,” Niall answers with a smile as he looks down at the ring finger of his left hand, a gold band shining back at him in the dim light of the pub. “I know you liked Amy but instead of taking her for yourself, you set her up with me because you knew I liked her, too. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that one, mate.”

“That wasn’t such a sacrifice though,” Zayn says fondly remembering Niall’s late wife. She’d died early last year of an undiagnosed heart defect. “Sure, I liked her. But you. Mate, you worshiped her. There was never any doubt in my mind that she ended up with the right man.”

Niall reaches over and squeezes Zayn’s shoulder in thanks.

“Besides,” Zayn continues, “I was still recovering from whatever made me think Louis and me dating was a good idea.”

Niall laughs at that, loud and energetic. “I know, right? What drugs were you two on?”

“Weed,” Zayn answers with a smirk. “Quite a lot of it.”

“It’s a good thing you came to your senses because that, my friend, was a spectacularly bad idea,” Niall snorts.

Zayn shrugs. “The sex was good. Pretty remarkable, actually. That mouth…”

“OKAY!” Niall interrupts. “There are some things I will never need in my life and a mental picture of my best mates getting each other off is definitely on that list.”

“Pretty sure Lou has some actual pictures…”

“That’s it, I’m cutting you off. Get outta my pub!” Niall says playfully, pulling Zayn’s glass away while Zayn laughs, entertained by Niall’s embarrassment at the topic.

Zayn’s phone buzzes in his pocket and he pulls it out with a smile on his face. His smile drops though when he sees it’s a message from Liam.

'Can I call you? I need someone to talk to.'

Zayn squeezes his eyes shut and puts the phone down on the bar without bothering to answer. He’s not sure he’s strong enough for this.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Niall asks, pushing the drink back across the counter.

“It’s Liam,” Zayn answers with a sigh. “He wants to talk.”

“Maybe you should,” Niall says with a shrug. “He probably needs a friend right now.”

“That’s sort of the problem, innit?” Zayn grasps his drink tightly. “I don’t know if I can be his friend, Niall. I’m the last person he should be turning to.”

“Maybe you’re the only person he has to turn to.”

“You’re not helping,” Zayn grits out.

“Sorry. Your choice,” Niall raises his hands in surrender. “Just think about it.”

Zayn nods as his friend disappears into the stock room but when his phone buzzes again and he sees Liam’s name light up the screen, he ignores it.

Chapter Text

Louis waits restlessly for Zayn to come back home. He spends an hour and a half of watching Cake Boss and then randomly switching stations for who knows how long before he figures that maybe Zayn isn’t coming back. Finally, he pulls his lazy ass off of Zayn’s couch and pulls out his phone. He contemplates calling Harry but pushes the thought away pretty quickly. That way lies madness. Anyway, he only left Harry a few hours ago.

He calls Zayn on the off chance that his friend will pick up but, of course, he doesn’t.

Niall is next on the list and, bless him, he actually answers.

“’Lo?” Niall says in such a chipper way that it kind of makes Louis want to smack him. He has no right to be so happy all the time. But then, Louis figures, the world would wither away without a little sunshine and that’s what Niall is: Louis and Zayn’s own personal sun, there to brighten their moodiest of days in a pinch.

“Niall, my man,” Louis responds, locking Zayn’s door on his way out of the empty flat. “Please tell me that you aren’t working.”


“Left about 20 minutes ago,” Niall replies. “Just got home.”

Louis’ forehead crinkles in confusion. “Did you get takeaway or summat? You live, literally, 5 minutes from the pub.”

“Nah, mate. Zayn came by. Got smashed. He had a bit of trouble getting his legs to work properly,” Niall answers chuckling into the phone as Zayn falls off his couch and gives up on getting back up again.

“You need help with him?” Louis asks, relieved that he at least knows where Zayn is now.

“If you wanna come over, Lou, just come over,” Niall teases. Really, he knows Louis a little too well.

“I’ll grab us some food on the way,” Louis says as he walks out of Zayn’s building and turns in the direction of Niall’s place.

“What sounds good?”

“Do you not know me at all, Lou?” Niall scoffs pretending to be offended.

Louis stops in his tracks, turns and starts walking back the way he came.

“Nandos it is, then.”

~~~

Louis shows up at Niall’s flat with two giant bags of food which are taken from his possession the second he walks through the door. Niall makes his way to the kitchen to plate up the food while Louis watches his other best mate from just inside the threshold.

Zayn is sprawled on the floor still laughing at something Niall had said before running to the door to let Louis in. Louis smiles at the sight. Of course, Niall could get Zayn to stop sulking. Fucking sunshine, he is.

“Lou!” Zayn calls struggling to get to his feet. He bounds over and throws his arms around Louis, lingering a bit longer than normal but he's obviously still drunk so Louis lets him, squeezing Zayn tightly before finally breaking the embrace. He catches Zayn before he can stumble over his feet and helps him to the couch.

Instead of letting go and falling to his seat, Zayn keeps hold of Louis, pulling him down with him.

“Had a bit to drink, have you?” Louis jokes. A bit is quite the understatement.

“In my experience, there isn’t any problem that can’t be solved by getting really, really drunk,” Zayn slurs.

Which. Sounds about right to Louis and familiar. He’s pretty sure that Zayn has just quoted the television show Misfits. It still feels true though. It shouldn’t. It won’t in the morning when he has a hangover from hell and a date with a vindictive bitch called hindsight. But right now… He’s down for a bit of sorrow drowning. Never mind the fact that heavy drinking is what got them into this funk in the first place. They can worry about that later.

So the night goes like this:

Niall brings them their food and Louis runs to get them some drinks from Niall’s fridge, a beer each for him and Niall and a soda for Zayn who whines at the sight until Louis assures him that it’s just for now, just so that he can catch up. With that, Zayn throws an arm around Louis’ shoulders and gives in munching on his chicken and flipping through the channels on the television until Niall steals the remote away.

“Sod off,” Niall laughs at Zayn’s glare that is not nearly as intimidating as it would be if his eyes weren’t so glassy and he could walk without tripping over air. “It’s my t.v.”

They end up watching Game of Thrones which is a mistake from the start. Niall, finished eating and neither the type to encourage nor interfere with the downward spiral his friends seem determined to ride to completion, disappears into his room after assuring the two drinking boys that they are welcome to spend the night in his guest room. See, Niall is a firm believer that life is a learning experience. And Louis and Zayn are always learning…from the massive mistakes that they continually make.
Over and over again. But these mistakes have made Zayn and Louis who they are and who they are happens to be the two people Niall loves most in the world so, yeah, Niall isn’t going to interfere.

Louis is on his fifth beer, Zayn having stolen his last one because he was tired of drinking soda when he could be sharing the experience of drinking to the point of poor decision making with his best friend.

When there is a particularly hot couple of guys, naked and kissing on the screen, Louis feels Zayn’s hand land on his thigh, squeezing lightly. Louis laughs because Zayn always gets a bit horny when he’s had too much to drink so the couple on the screen must be driving him crazy. If he’s being honest, Louis gets a bit horny too but he’s always been better at keeping that fact to himself.

“Liam keeps trying to call me,” Zayn says out of nowhere.

“Yeah?” Louis asks because he’s not sure what else to say. The thought of Liam brings with it the memory of Harry’s face when he caught Liam kissing that other guy. Which in turn brings anger, hot and insistent to Louis’ gut. Anger at how Harry’s been hurt and anger that Zayn has been dragged into this whole mess, and anger at the hopelessness Louis feels about the whole situation.

“Here,” Louis pushes the rest of his beer at Zayn as he rises from his seat. “I need something a bit stronger.”

He rummages in Niall’s kitchen until he comes back with a bottle of Jose Cuervo. He tilts his head back for a long swallow as soon as he’s settled next to Zayn.

The hot, naked guys are gone from the screen by now which is a little disappointing but whatever. Louis has a feeling he’s going to need a nice slow wank before he goes to sleep if he sees much more of that anyway.

“Lou?” Zayn calls, eyes never leaving the show they’re watching.

“Yeah?”

“What do I do?” He does turn to look at Louis this time.

Louis gives him a sad smile because if Zayn really wants answers, he’s come to the wrong place. For lack of a better response, Louis passes over the bottle of Cuervo. “Drink, enjoy my amazing company, and let future Zayn deal with it.”

Zayn scoffs but takes the bottle. Future Zayn is going to hate past Louis in the morning.

Chapter Text

Louis wakes to a massive headache, a warm arm draped across his naked torso, and absolutely no memory of the previous night. He turns and finds a passed out Zayn in the bed beside him.

Oh no. Did they…?

Louis racks his brain but can’t recall if he’s done anything that he’s going to regret. There was a reason he and Zayn didn’t stay a couple. And with everything that’s happened with Harry and Liam, this is just horrible timing to have a Zouis relapse.

Louis flings Zayn’s arm off of him not caring if he wakes the other boy. Zayn sleeps like a rock anyway, so he’s not too worried about it as he climbs out of the bed. He’s not sure whether to be relieved that he’s still in his pants, or worried that he’s not wearing more. A trip to the bathroom to splash some water on his face doesn’t help. As soon as he looks in the mirror, he catches sight of a dark, purple lovebite on the left side of his neck.

“Fuck,” Louis whispers as he moves closer to get a better look at the mark.

Upon closer inspection, he finds two more bruises on the other side of his throat. Shit. This is not looking good.

On the other hand, Louis’ ass isn’t sore so either he topped or- and he hopes to god this is the correct explanation- they didn’t get that far.

It’s time to wake up Zayn and find out what happened. Louis takes a quick piss and several deep breaths to prepare himself. He’s about to poke a sleeping bear.

~~~

“Zayn,” Louis says stabbing his finger brutally into Zayn’s side.

“NHGGHGH!” Zayn grumbles pushing Louis’ hand away and rolling over.

“Zayn, wake up,” Louis repeats the motion.

“Fuck off, Lou!” Zayn growls into his nice, comfy pillow.

Louis feels like laughing, or crying maybe, he’s not sure.

“Zayn, this is serious,” Louis whines, poking the sleepy boy again.

“Fine!” Zayn succumbs, pulling himself up to a sitting position so he can glare at Louis. “What is it?!?”

“Did we…?” Louis says trailing off with a whistle and a wiggle of his eyebrows.

“What?” Zayn asks uncomprehendingly.

“You know,” Louis suggests looking pointedly at Zayn’s crotch with tilt of his head.

Zayn follows Louis’ gaze before giving Louis a withering look. “You don’t think I learned my lesson the last time?”

Louis’ shoulders sag with relief. “So, we didn’t?”

“No, we didn’t,” Zayn confirms. “We made out for a bit before I realized what a horrible mistake I was making.”

“Oh, thank God,” Louis cries before jumping on the other boy and smothering him in a gleeful hug, ignoring the throbbing in his head.

“Get off, you wanker!” Zayn says, pushing Louis away. “First of all, I am a terrific shag and you’d definitely remember it. And second, I have a massive hangover and I’m not equipped to deal with your shit this early in the morning, so kindly shove off, would you?”

“Oh, Zaynie. You’re such a sweet-talker, I don’t know how I’ve resisted your charms so long,” Louis swoons dramatically falling on the pillow next to Zayn.

“Get bent,” Zayn mumbles, snuggling back into his pillow for another few hours of sleep.

Louis sighs from his place on the bed, blowing his fringe out of his eyes with his breath before rising and pulling on a fresh pair of sweats that Niall keeps in the wardrobe.

“Sleep tight, Zaynie,” Louis calls smacking a kiss to Zayn’s cheek.

The sleeping boy doesn’t even stir.

~~~

Niall is cooking breakfast when Louis enters the kitchen.

“Morning,” Louis calls, announcing his presence.

“Mornin’, Lou,” Niall answers, throwing a smile in the direction of his hungover friend. “Fry up?”

“That would be wonderful,” Louis answers. “And I will love you eternally for it.”

“Oh, well, maybe I better let you make it yourself, then,” Niall jokes, laughing at the pout Louis responds with.

Before Louis can reply though, a phone rings distantly in the other room. Louis recognizes it as his own, he knows that ringtone.

♪ ♫ ♩ ♬ Ohh, I don’t want to be alone, I wanna find a home and I wanna share it with you. ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬

It’s Harry’s ringtone.

Louis searches for his phone a bit frantically, his heart thumping in anticipation all the while. He finds it just as it stops ringing, in the pocket of the jacket he’d discarded on a chair last night.

Quickly, he hits Harry’s speed dial.

“Louis?” The sweet, honey-slow voice answers on the other end.

“Yeah, did you just call me?” Louis asks, trying to hide his breathlessness from searching for the phone so anxiously.

“Um, yeah. I wanted to see if maybe you wanted to hang out later. If you’re not busy,” Harry asks.

“No,” Louis starts before he corrects himself. “I mean, yeah, I’d love to hang out and no, I’m not busy.”

“Great,” Harry answers. “I get off work at four. Do you just want to meet at the coffeehouse?”

“Sure,” Louis returns immediately. “I’ll see you when you get done and we’ll figure out what to do from there?”

“It’s a date,” Harry laughs happily. “I’ll see you later, Lou.”

“Yeah, see you,” Louis sighs as he hangs up. He knows it’s just a figure of speech. That it’s not actually a date. Harry only just broke up with his boyfriend. That doesn’t stop Louis from wishing the words were true.

“Hot date?” Niall asks, sitting a full plate down just as Louis returns to his seat. And there's that word again.

Louis just shakes his head before letting it fall to the table next to his plate. He bangs his head lightly on the table a few times until he’s stopped by Niall’s hand under his forehead.

“Why must the universe mock me, Niall?” Louis complains.

“Because you make it so easy?” Niall mocks playfully before wrapping an arm around Louis’ shoulders. “It was Harry, huh?”

“He wants to hang out later,” Louis confirms.

“Well, at least he wants to be around you, yeah? That’s a good sign,” Niall tries to reassure his sad mate.

“That’s true,” Louis brightens a little, suddenly looking forward to hanging out with Harry so much more before it dawns on him:

Shit. What’s he going to do about his neck?

Chapter Text

There’s nothing to be done for it now, Louis thinks as he pulls the scarf tighter around his throat. There’s no way that Harry isn’t going to ask about it. Largely because Louis isn’t really the decorative scarf wearing type. Also, it’s summer.

Louis takes a deep breath and opens the door to Café Ccino. Harry smiles at him from behind the counter and Louis’ stomach drops a bit. He’s so nervous about the marks on his neck that he’s certain he’s not going to be able to enjoy his time with Harry today. Maybe he should just cancel. He gives Harry a weak smile back and takes a seat. He’d be an idiot to cancel.

A minute later, Harry is placing a cuppa in front of Louis and smiling down at him. “Just a few more minutes and I can leave,” he assures the nervous boy.

Louis nods taking a sip of his tea before reaching for his wallet.

“It’s on the house,” Harry stops him, grinning as he turns to go back to the counter before he stops and looks back at Louis. “By the way, I like your scarf.”

Louis nearly chokes on his tea but manages to mumble out a ‘thank you’ to Harry's back as he walks away.

If feels like hours of Louis stewing in his nerves before Harry is officially off of work and they can leave.

“So, what are we doing today?” Harry asks pleasantly as he breathes in the fresh summer air.

“Well, you’ve just gotten off work, what would help you relax and wind down the best?” Louis returns glancing nervously at Harry every few seconds like he’s expecting Harry to look back at him with accusation in his eyes, or worse, indifference should he notice the reason for Louis’ sudden change in style.

Harry does glance at him but it’s with a smile and a bit of mischief in his gaze. “I like the way you think.”

“Well, I am a genius. I’m surprised you’re just noticing,” Louis answers, tone full of false self-interest.

“I’m not,” Harry tells him not looking his way again but Louis can see how the dimples have gotten more pronounced on his cheeks. “What do you say to a game of footy?”

“You want to play?” Louis asks, surprised. “I’m up for it.”

“Oh God no. I’m rubbish. I’d be tripping all over myself. I meant how do you feel about going to a game?” Harry answers producing two tickets to the Swansea City game. And it’s not Man U but it’s a rare mood you’ll find Louis in when he will turn down a game.

“Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” Louis asks, taking the tickets from Harry and studying them.

“Because they’re technically not mine?” Harry says with a sheepish shrug of his shoulders. He’s watching Louis as though he’s afraid Louis will judge him. He apparently doesn’t know Louis very well. Yet.

“Harold! Did you lift these off a stranger when I wasn’t looking? Oh my God, please tell me you’re a secret pickpocket,” Louis gushes overly excited at the prospect that someone who looks as innocent as Harry could have criminal tendencies. He’d be perfect for it, really. No one would ever question that face.

Harry laughs absurdly loud, covering his mouth with his hand in embarrassment and Louis thinks it might be the best thing to happen all day, unless Harry really is a pickpocket.

“Nothing quite so sinister I’m afraid,” Harry answers, still chuckling at Louis’ excitement.

“So, where’d they come from?” Louis asks, looking at the tickets again.

Harry coughs, a heavy feeling suddenly surrounding them and Louis gets the message a little too late that maybe he shouldn’t have asked.

“They’re Liam’s,” Harry answers. “He shoved them in my coat pocket last week to hold for him because he loses everything. He was supposed to go with his friend Andy.”

Louis watches Harry for any signs of hurt. And he sees some, the way Harry looks at the ground as he walks and his shoulders hunch in like he’s expecting to have to shield himself from something, but they aren’t quite as pronounced as Louis was expecting.

“You know what?” Louis asks, pulling Harry’s attention from the sidewalk and bumping Harry’s hip with his own as he speaks. “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to see a football match more than I want to see this one, right now. Let’s do it.”

And there it is, the grin he’s been hoping for. Louis would do just about anything to keep that grin in place.

“Okay,” Harry agrees and hails a cab for the two of them. And well, if Harry can’t be a pickpocket, Louis can at least help him steal a little light revenge.

~~~

The seats are excellent, the game slightly less so, and Louis is having an incredible time with Harry shouting at the refs and calling out offensive slurs to the Swansea team. It was decided before they even got there that they would definitely not be rooting for the team that Liam would have. Which gets them a lot of dirty looks because they are surrounded by Swansea fans. Louis doesn’t care. And though Harry’s cheeks go a bit pink every time someone glares at them, it doesn’t stop him joining in the fun.

The thing is though, the sun is shining, hot and high, overhead and they are surrounded by hundreds of warm bodies. And Louis is burning the fuck up. He desperately wants to take his coat off but then he’ll look stupid in the scarf and he can’t take the scarf off in front of Harry because then he’ll see the lovebites and Louis can’t let him see the lovebites because he doesn’t want Harry to get the wrong idea. Any wrong ideas. It’s a long list of problems that all lead to the same conclusion: Louis William Tomlinson is a fucking idiot.

Also, this is all Zayn’s fault.

Chapter Text

Louis barely makes it through the day without letting Harry see the bruises on his neck. It’s exhausting. If it were anyone else, he wouldn’t put in the effort. But it’s Harry. So, he’d do it a million times over if he had to.

When they part ways at the end of the day, it’s with a hug that Louis doesn’t want to end and plans to hang out again in a few days. Louis hopes his neck will be clear by then.

The next day, Louis is at his studio when he gets a surprise. Liam walks in looking sheepish and shuffling from one foot to the other. He waits, half-expecting Louis to throw him out.

“Harry’s not here,” Louis offers, hardly glancing up from his calendar. He has a job every day this week and he’s currently cataloging them and making lists of what equipment he’ll need for each.

“I’m not looking for Harry,” Liam answers nervously. “I’m looking for Zayn.”

Louis looks up sharply at that.

“You really move fast, don’t you?” He spits out. “I’m not helping you find another heart to break.”

Liam blushes, shame pouring off of him in waves as he ducks his head.

“I’m not… Look, I know that I hurt Harry. But I seriously doubt that I broke his heart. And I’m not even trying to…”

“He cried on my shoulder. And you were the cause of it. Also, you’ve made my best mate a mess as well. So thanks for that but you can kindly fuck off now,” Louis interrupts feeling a sort of righteous anger.

“Louis, please,” Liam pleads, standing his ground. “I’m not trying to…start something with Zayn, alright? I just… I feel like I owe him something. An explanation or an apology. And he won’t talk to me. I can’t get him on the phone and I don’t know, I just need to do this. Please, help me.”

Louis eyes Liam harshly, willing the boy to turn and leave his studio. When he doesn’t, Louis sighs deeply.

“What about Harry?”

Liam looks confused. “What about Harry?”

“Are you done? Are you going to try to get back with him? Because if you hurt him, either one of them, again…”

Louis stops when Liam shakes his head in answer.

“No. That ship has sailed. I don’t think he’d come back to me even if I tried. And, I mean, we were only together for about 3 months. It was beautiful. Harry’s beautiful. But… I think I knew pretty early on that we weren’t forever. And when I met Zayn…”Liam cut himself off looking lost in his memories.

Louis circles around his desk and takes a few menacing steps toward Liam, glaring. “You’re not helping your case, Liam.”

Liam’s gaze clears and he looks at Louis suddenly, clearing his throat nervously.

“Right. Sorry. I mean, I’m not trying anything with Zayn. I just don’t want him to hate me. I cheated on my boyfriend. How could I ever expect him to trust me even if I did try to be something to him?”

Liam looks at Louis with the saddest puppy eyes.

“I’m just trying to do the right thing here, Louis. Doesn’t Zayn deserve that?”

“Yeah, well. Harry deserved to not be cheated on, arsehole,” Louis answers sullenly but something must give him away because Liam stays, giving him hopeful puppy eyes now.

“I might be able to get Zayn to go to Niall’s pub tomorrow night,” Louis gives in, picking up a pen and a spare scrap of paper and writing down the name of the pub for Liam.

“Thank you,” Liam says sincerely as he accepts the paper.

“I make no promises,” Louis warns. “If he doesn’t want to go, I’m not going to force him or lie for you.”

“I understand,” Liam nods. “You’re a good friend, Louis.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Louis mutters.

“Thank you again,” Liam says, folding the scrap of paper and putting it in his pocket as Louis walks back around his desk to get back to work. Liam’s turning to go when he seems to think of something else. “And Louis?”

Louis looks up dubiously.

“I could pretty much tell how much you cared about Harry that first day. I saw how you looked at him. And it’s only gotten more obvious. I know he deserves better than me... I think maybe he deserves you. Maybe you can give him what I couldn’t.”

Louis doesn’t know what to say to that.

“Go on, get out of here before I change my mind,” Louis tells the other boy but there’s no bite to his words.

Liam gives him one last grateful look and exits the studio.

Louis breathes easier once he’s gone, letting his head fall into his hands. He’s definitely getting a headache.

“The Traiger wedding shots are done,” Zayn says as he comes out of the back room, placing a manila envelope in a metal basket on Louis’ desk.

Louis jumps at his friend’s sudden appearance, looking at the other boy uncertainly for a second.

“What? Do I have something on my face?” Zayn jokes.

“No,” Louis answers, relieved to find that Zayn seems unaware of Liam’s visit. “Thank you for taking care of the photos for me.”

“No problem, mate,” Zayn answers with a shrug. “S’what I’m here for.”

Louis lays his head down on his arms and closes his eyes. Definitely a headache.

“Hey,” Zayn rubs his back, full of concern. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Louis lies. “I just need to eat, I think.”

“Wanna grab some takeaway? Have a cuddle and watch one of those horrid chick flicks you love?” Zayn offers.

“Absolutely,” Louis answers as he stands and follows Zayn to the door, exiting the studio and locking it behind him. “And don’t pretend you don’t enjoy watching the messes J.Lo is constantly getting herself in.”

Zayn shakes his head as he fights off an endeared smile. “Should I call Niall? Ask him to join?”

“I love Niall but can it just be us tonight?” Louis responds.

“Sure,” Zayn answers.

“How about we go to the pub tomorrow to make up for it?”

Zayn nods.

“Sounds like a plan.”

Chapter Text

Louis’ stomach is churning when he and Zayn walk into Niall’s pub. He feels guilty. He’s lied to his best friend. And what’s worse, he’s dragged Niall into it. Because he knows the second Zayn sees Liam, he’s going to run. Louis worries that he may have good reason to.

Why did he agree to this?

Oh, yeah. Because he’s an idiot.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Lou?” Zayn asks for the 50th time. “You’ve been quiet for the past few hours. Is something wrong?”

“For the last time, I’m fine, Zayn,” Louis huffs in exasperation as he drags Zayn to the counter. “I’m just tired, okay. Work was seriously awful today and I just need a drink.”

Both boys sit and nod to Niall who’s working at the other end of the bar. It’s ok though, Josh is on it and their drinks are in front of them without them even needing to order.

“You’re a godsend, Josh,” Louis raises his glass in a toast to the non-Niall-shaped bartender.

“Tell him that,” Josh says with a wink as he points at Niall over his shoulder with a thumb.

Zayn chokes on his drink and Louis knows they are thinking the same thing. Neither of them is sure if Josh is angling for a raise or a raise from Niall.

Josh just chuckles and goes to work fixing drinks for the other patrons.

When Zayn has cleared his windpipe of alcohol, he takes a few deep breaths before he’s giggling helplessly at himself.

“You alright there, Zayner?” Louis asks with a grin and raised brow.

“Yeah, yeah,” Zayn waves off Louis’ concern (if you can call it concern) as he calms down. “Tell me about what happened at work.”

“Bridezilla,” Louis merely says with a shrug of his shoulders.

 “Aren’t all brides like that?” Zayn, the clueless little darling asks, daring to take another drink.

“No, Zayn, I’m not talking about the brides that nitpick everything because they want it all perfect for their wedding day. I have no problem with that. It’s their wedding. They should get to have everything be perfect. But this woman, Zayn, she was swatting planes out of the sky and eating people’s young.”

Zayn shakes his head with a laugh. “Really? That bad?”

Louis gives Zayn a look before pulling up the left leg of his trousers and revealing a large bandage. He’s going to be scarred for life after today. Literally.

“Shit, Lou. What happened?”

“Caught a piece of a downed plane,” Louis deadpans.

Zayn rolls his eyes. “What really happened?”

“She threw a vase. Not at me. I’m sure that part will come later when she sees something she doesn’t like in one of her pictures… I’m frightened, Zaynie. Hold me?” Louis pouts at Zayn who rolls his eyes again but throws an arm over Louis’ shoulder anyway.

Is it awful that Louis’ gleaning comfort out of the best friend he’s about to sort of betray? Is it awful that he knows it’s awful and he still does it? Well, Louis never claimed to be perfect.

Finally, Niall is free and makes his way over to his boys.

“Josh taking care of you lads?” Niall asks when he approaches.

Zayn simply nods but Louis has to do something to make himself feel better. So he throws Josh under the bus. Quietly. For Zayn’s ears only.

“I’m pretty sure I can think of someone he’d rather be taking care of,” he whispers.

Zayn snorts, failing at holding back his laughter.

“What’s funny?” Niall asks curiously, leaning on the counter. He loves a good joke.

“Oh, nothing,” Louis waves it off even as Zayn keeps laughing. “Just something that happened earlier.”

Niall looks like he’s about to protest but then he sees something over Louis’ shoulder and nudges Louis to look. When Louis looks over his shoulder he sees Liam. The boy is peering around and twisting something in his hands nervously as he searches for the person he’s come for. Louis scoots closer to Zayn, resting a hand on his shoulder to draw his attention.

“You feel pretty good right now, right, Zayn?” Louis asks.

Zayn gives Louis a look of suspicion. “Yeah. Why?”

“Because I want you to remember this feeling in about two seconds when you have the overwhelming urge to kick me in the bollocks.”

Zayn doesn’t even have time to question Louis’ state of mind when he’s confronted with an earnest Liam.

“Zayn, hi.”

The way he’s twisting his hat in his hands is so freaking endearing and Zayn can’t believe Louis. He’s responsible for this. He must be. Otherwise Zayn wouldn’t want to kick him in the nuts as he’d so accurately predicted. Zayn glares at Louis even as he answers Liam. “Hello, Liam.”

“Look, I’m really sorry to bother you like this but is there any way we can talk? Privately,” Liam asks giving Zayn his puppy-eyed look of sadness and all the resolve that Zayn had built up to stay away from the boy crumbles. How do you say no to that?

“Yeah, alright,” Zayn answers taking the fresh drink that Niall has made him while he was being ambushed. Little fucker must have been in on it, too. He rises from his seat and starts to lead Liam to a table a bit further away where they’ll have privacy. And if he punches Louis in the arm rather hard as he passes, who can blame him?

Louis watches Liam follow Zayn with a look of immense relief on his face and thinks that maybe he’s done the right thing.

Niall passes Louis a refill, squeezing his shoulder, and getting back to work.

Louis is left to watch Liam and Zayn with curiosity, wondering how his friend is taking whatever Liam is trying to tell him. He’s interrupted by a phone call. Louis’ not sure how to feel when he hears Harry’s ringtone. He doesn’t let himself think about it as he answers.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Lou! I know we have plans in a couple of days but I’m getting together with some friends tomorrow to go bowling,” Harry says.

“Was that an invitation, Harold?”

“I believe it was, Lewis.”

Louis laughs merrily. He loves when Harry turns the sass around on him.

“In that case, I’d love to go,” Louis replies.

“Excellent,” Harry answers. “We’re meeting at 8 at the Starlight Lanes.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow then, Harry.”

“See you, Lou.”

As Louis hangs up he realizes that he has an audience. Zayn has apparently come back for something and is watching with a raised brow, Liam standing next to him wearing a knowing smile.

“Oh, shut up,” Louis tells them and gets back to his drink.

Chapter Text

Louis thinks it’s great that Zayn and Liam have worked themselves out.  Liam had explained his side of things, about how he was attracted to Zayn and he felt guilty about it so he went a little overboard with the drinking. And that lead to the disastrous kissing incident because Liam obviously wasn’t thinking with his whole brain anymore. Or any of his brain as the case may be. He apologized if he made Zayn uncomfortable in any way and listened as Zayn explained why he didn’t think he could be the friend Liam had needed just then. But maybe now that they’ve set things right between them they can try again. So, the two of them have a tentative friendship blooming. Louis is glad that Zayn isn’t still carrying the sadness that’s been in his eyes the past couple of days. 

And Zayn seems to have forgiven Louis for his part in the ambush. He’s here at Louis’ place, laying on his bed and watching as Louis pulls every piece of clothing he has out of his closet trying to figure out what to wear to go bowling with Harry and his friends.

“Not the red one. It’s really not your color, mate. In fact, you should just give that to me,” Zayn offers with a nonchalant tone.

Louis lowers the shirt he’d been holding up and scowls. Zayn isn’t fooling anyone.

“You’re supposed to be helping me, not confiscating the clothes that you like for yourself.”

Zayn shrugs with a smirk. “You do kind of owe me after that stunt you pulled.”

Ok. So maybe Zayn hasn’t quite forgiven him yet.

Louis sighs and throws the shirt at him. “Have it. But that’s it. Now, help me!”

Zayn lays his new shirt to the side as he gets up from the bed and makes his way into the closet. Thirty seconds later, he’s holding Louis’ favorite black jeans and a blue shirt out for Louis to try on.

Once he’s dressed and staring into the mirror, Louis can’t help but be in awe of how good he looks. Why couldn’t he have put this together himself?

“How do you do that?” Louis asks in amazement.

“Well, I used to date you, so I have a good idea of what would make someone want to rip your clothes off,” Zayn answers with a wink over Louis’ shoulder into the mirror. “The jeans are loose enough for bowling but make your ass look great and the shirt brings out your eyes.”

“My ass is great,” Louis argues, still studying himself. His eyes do seem more vibrant.

“Truer words were never spoken.” Zayn smacks Louis’ bum before gathering his pretty, red shirt from the bed. “Aaaand my work here is done.”

“Thanks, Zaynie. Love you, too,” Louis calls out as his best mate leaves so that he can finish getting ready.

~~~

Louis is nervous. Like, an excessive amount. You’d think this was a date or something. But it’s not. Obviously. Because Harry’s other friends are going to be there.

Louis stands in the doorway, blocking the entrance as he looks at the crowd surrounding Ed. Harry is nowhere to be seen just now, but this must be the group.

Louis is about to move, to greet Ed if nothing else, when someone crashes into his back and sends him sprawling to the floor.

“Shit,” Harry mutters, reaching down to help him up with one hand while he straightens his flower crown with the other. “I’m sorry, Lou. I didn’t see you there.”

“It’s my fault really,” Louis assures him, wincing as he rises from the floor. “Shouldn’t have been blocking the door.”

“Well, I should have been watching where I was going,” Harry argues.

“Ok, compromise. We’re both at fault,” Louis gives the other boy a smile and then realizes that he hasn’t let go of Harry’s hand yet. He pulls his arm back, letting Harry’s hand drop from his.

Harry’s crown of peonies and forget-me-nots still sits a little crookedly on his head and, before he can think what he’s doing, Louis reaches up to fix it. He straightens the flowers and untangles a rogue curl, tucking it behind Harry’s ear.

“There,” he murmurs when he’s done, “perfect.”

Harry looks at him strangely and seems like he’s about to say something when someone calls his name.

“Harry, love! Nice of you to finally join us,” a tall bloke with a wicked grin says as he saunters over and drapes himself around Harry. Louis hates him already.

“Hi, Nick,” Harry answers with a sheepish smile.

Mmmm. Who’s the dish?” Nick asks, looking Louis over with a lustful gaze. “I’m feeling peckish.”

“I’m not into cannibals,” Louis says with as playful a tone as he can muster. He thinks Nick notices the hardness in his eyes and he sees a challenge reflected back when Nick grins at him.

“Sweetheart, sooner or later, everyone’s into me,” Nick tells him with a wink.

“Louis, this is Nick. Nick, Louis,” Harry introduces them. “You’ll have to excuse Nick, he’s a real man-eater.”

Harry looks so proud of himself for slipping in a cannibal joke that is absolutely fitting to the situation and Louis kind of wants to kiss him. Unfortunately, it kinda looks like Nick does, too.

“No arguments here,” Nick says before nipping at Harry’s ear. Harry doesn’t seem to mind, like this is something that happens all the time.

Louis really hates Nick.

“Are we bowling or what?” Ed calls over and Louis is relieved to have something else to focus on.

Louis meets a sea of faces and he’s not sure that he can remember all their names but he’ll do his best. He thinks Taylor is the blonde girl with the striking red lips, Alexa is the brunette that keeps chatting with Nick, and Ellie is the blond that keeps hanging off of Ed. There’s an Isaac, Sam, and Danny in there somewhere but, honestly, Louis can’t keep them straight.

After they’ve all paid for their ugly bowling shoes, they start arguing over teams. Louis stays quiet, watching with amusement as he ends up on a team with Harry, Nick, Taylor, and Danny? He thinks the short guy is Danny.

Harry enters their team name into the monitor as “We’re the Bestest” and Louis chuckles earning another proud grin from the pretty boy adorned in flowers.

~~~

They are losing by 8 pins but Harry is up now and Louis watches intently, silently cheering him on as Harry concentrates on his first shot. That’s when Nick approaches.

“We’re pretty close in score,” he says nonchalantly, taking the seat next to Louis.

“I know," Louis’ cheers are suddenly not so silent as he tries to ignore Nick’s presence. "COME ON, HARRY, LOVE. I BELIEVE IN YOU!”

“I meant us, individually. Not the teams. I was going to propose a wager,” Nick says trying to get Louis’ attention back on him.

Louis spares him a glance before turning back to watch as Harry manages to knock down six pins.

You can do it, Louis mouths at Harry as the boy looks at him while waiting at the ball return. Harry gives him a grin and a thumbs up before reaching for his ball as it comes back to him.

“And what does the winner get?” Louis asks Nick, who’s been watching Harry and Louis’ exchange rather carefully.

“How about a kiss from Harry?” Nick suggests.

Louis turns to glare at the other man in disgust. “He’s a human being. Not a trophy to be won.”

Nick raises a brow at that and hums to himself before rising to his feet and joining Alex back on the other side of their seating area.

Harry knocks down two more pins, tying up the game for them and Louis gives him a genuine smile and a high five when he returns to sit back down.

“Well done, Hazza.”

Louis feels eyes on him and turns to see Nick and Alexa both smirking at him but the challenge that was there earlier when Nick looked at him is gone. And, suddenly, Louis has a feeling that he’s just passed some sort of test that he hadn’t realized he was taking.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The next few days pass in a blur of HarryHarryHarry.  At least that’s how it feels. When they aren’t actually hanging out (which they have been doing a lot more), they’re talking on the phone. It’s both heaven and torture to Louis because he’s swiftly falling for the boy. And the landing will be a real killer if Harry’s not going to be there to catch him.

Sometimes he thinks he sees something in the other boy’s eyes. Like maybe he could be feeling the same things that Louis is. But other times, Louis is almost certain that he’s just filler for the space that Liam left in Harry’s life.

Louis can tell that Zayn is worried about him. About the possibility that he’s going to get his heart utterly destroyed in the long run. He can tell because Zayn has bluntly said it, several times. And Louis knows he should listen. But he can’t stop himself from spending time with Harry. He thinks he’s okay with getting his heart broken if it means he doesn’t have to give the boy up. He’s as good as addicted.

Harry’s on Louis’ couch, laid out comfortably across it, head in Louis’ lap as they watch a marathon of horrible sci-fi romances (Harry has a very strange movie collection). They are in the middle of Solaris when Louis gets a call from Zayn. Harry lifts his head to let Louis up so that he can go answer the phone in the kitchen.

“Hey, mate,” Louis answers as he pulls another soda from the fridge.

“Hey, Lou,” Zayn says before taking a deep breath. “How badly do you need an assistant for the Blake Wedding tomorrow?”

Louis sighs, knowing that he’s likely working the wedding on his own. “It's pretty important. This is our biggest paycheck yet, Zayn.”

“Shit. I know, Lou. I just… There’s something that’s come up.”

“Is this something Liam-related?” Louis asks, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Zayn doesn’t even try to hide it. He doesn’t lie to Louis.

“Yeah,” he answers hoping Louis will at least understand that it’s important or he wouldn’t be bailing.

Louis sighs again. “Alright, I’ll see if I can find someone else.”

“Thank you, mate. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Louis grumbles.

“Love you,” Zayn says, his usual sendoff when he hangs up with Louis.

“Yeah, you too,” Louis admits grudgingly.

Harry looks up from where he’s lying on the couch when Louis re-enters the living room but sits up fully when he catches the look on Louis’ face.

“Something wrong?”

“Not really,” Louis lies. “I just might be a few more minutes. Zayn’s bailed on being my assistant tomorrow and I need to call around and see if I can find someone to fill in.”

Harry studies him for a minute before shrugging. “I could do it.”

Louis raises a brow at the suggestion. “Don’t you have work?”

Harry shakes his head with a grin. “Day off.”

Louis considers it as he walks over and sits back down next to Harry on the couch.

“Come on, Lou,” Harry coaxes, leaning into Louis’ side. “You know I want to learn about all this stuff. And I think I could be a good assistant.”

Louis can’t stop himself from laughing at Harry when the boy pouts at him.

“You really want to work on your day off?”

“It’ll just be like hanging out with a mate, yeah?” Harry asks, cuddling his head back into Louis’ lap because he knows now that Louis’ going to let him go. He looks up with a grin. “I won’t let you down, Lou.”

“Fine,” Louis gives in as expected.  “But you have to dress nice.”

Harry scoffs, playfully offended. “I always dress nice!”

“Of course you do, babe,” Louis placates, also as expected. “But I mean, wedding nice.”

Harry’s quiet for a minute, eyes falling back to the television.

“Like, a suit?”

Louis runs his fingers through Harry’s hair- the boy’s usual flower crown was placed lovingly on the coffee table a while ago- as he tries to get back into the movie. “Just a dress shirt and slacks is fine. Maybe a blazer, if you want.”

Harry just hums his acceptance and watches the film then.

Louis is grateful that he doesn’t have to cut into his Harry time to call around for an assistant. He even gets more Harry time out of the whole thing, so that’s awesome.

Harry leaves after they finish Solaris and another movie (Louis thinks it was called PUSH but he wasn’t really paying attention) because they have to be at the church early in the morning so they need to get some sleep.

He hugs Louis goodbye like always and, like always, Louis has to force himself to let go.

Louis takes an Ambien before bed because he knows he won’t be able to sleep otherwise and passes out until morning.

And when he picks Harry up in a cab to go to the church together, he has to pinch himself because he’s not entirely sure that he’s not dreaming.

Louis himself is in a white t-shirt with a blazer thrown over it, to spruce it up. He looks nice he thinks but Harry looks amazing in a charcoal gray blazer with a deep red tie over a black shirt. He’s also wearing tight black jeans that shouldn’t work with the outfit but somehow do. And to top it all off, he’s wearing a crown of roses that match his tie, sprinkled with baby’s breath. He’s stunning. Louis wants to walk down the aisle with him. Or wait at the end of it for him. You get the idea.

“Hey, Lou,” Harry says with that beautiful shy smile of his. “You look really good.”

“Seriously, Harry?” Louis asks with a raised brow. “Are you trying to ruin my career? You can’t go to a wedding looking better than the bride!”

“Shut up,” Harry chuckles, pushing on Louis’ shoulder playfully. “You don’t even know what she looks like yet.”

“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter,” Louis says quietly as he opens the car door for Harry.

Harry mumbles a quiet thank you as he gets in the car and then Louis climbs in behind him and the cab is off and moving again. The ride to the church is quiet with Louis going over his checklist in his head again. He’s brought two cameras and several different lenses and filters. He thinks he has everything he needs.

The first thing they do when they arrive is seek out the bridal party and get some pictures with the bridesmaids and the mother of the bride, Harry handing Louis things when he asks for them. Best to get some of the photos out of the way beforehand so there is less waiting after the ceremony to get to the reception. They find an appropriate room and get some good pictures before sending the bride back to her preparations, keeping the room for the pictures with the groom and his groomsmen.

Everything seems to be going well and Louis thinks it might actually be an easy day for once. It would be nice if Harry’s first time working with him went well. But then, the song that’s to play before the wedding march starts and the bride throws up on Harry and he knows it’s all going to go downhill from there.

Fortunately, instead of Harry getting angry or upset about his clothes, he proves to be an even bigger angel than Louis feared, consoling the bride and talking her down from her nerves. She’s a bit of a wreck because she’s also thrown up on her veil and she’s afraid that she’s ruined everything but Harry has an answer for that too. Her bridesmaids have to stop fussing over her because the wedding march starts and she doesn’t want the groom to know that anything’s wrong, so they line up and begin their walk down the aisle while Harry and Louis help her get the veil off without messing up her hair. And then Harry takes the flower crown off his head and places it on hers.

“You look gorgeous,” he promises quietly.  “He’s not going to be able to take his eyes off of you.”

“You think?” She asks, nervous but hopeful.

Louis steps up behind Harry and smiles at her while squeezing Harry’s face between his thumb and fingers. “Does this look like the face of a liar? Rest assured, you’re breathtaking, love.”

She gives them a watery smile as her father offers his arm. Taking it, she takes a deep breath and starts down the path to the man ready to share forever with her.

“Well,” Harry says looking down at himself. “I guess I should…”

“Wait,” Louis cuts him off, pulling him to the doorway to watch. “You should see the product of your work.”

“What am I looking at?” Harry asks, eyes wandering, trying to see everything at once.

“The groom’s face,” Louis answers, pointing his camera in the same direction and getting a shot of the smile that rests on the man’s face; eyes watery with the promise of a lifetime with the beautiful woman that he gets the privilege of marrying.

After Louis takes his picture, he looks at Harry to see the boy watching him instead of the groom.

“Favorite part?” Harry guesses, a softness in his eyes as he watches for Louis’ answer.

“It’s what I do it for,” Louis agrees with what he hopes appears to be a casual shrug. He wants desperately for someone to look at him that way on his wedding day.

Harry smiles at him, easy and fond and Louis wants to pretend that it’s the way Harry would look at him from the end of the aisle. Preferably not covered in vomit, which, yeah. Louis quickly pulls an extra black button down shirt from one of his bags and hands it over.

“Always prepared?” Harry asks with a raised eyebrow.

“It’s a wedding,” is Louis’ only explanation before he pushes Harry toward the bathroom.

Louis gets back to work taking pictures of the ceremony, anything important that he missed they can recreate afterward.  Harry’s only gone for a few minutes before he’s back, looking exquisitely sinful in Louis’ shirt, the short sleeves rolled a bit so that they look less stiff. Louis almost forgets himself and aims his camera at the wrong target but stops in time to save himself the embarrassment.

Then, the ceremony is over and they are back to the hard stuff. Recreating scenes from the ceremony for close-ups that they couldn’t get before without possibly ruining the video that was being filmed of it. Then, there are the family group shots.  Unfortunately, some of the “family” seems determined to drive the bride to the brink of madness. The girl tends to lean towards the groom when the pictures are taken and two women from the groom’s side keep yelling at her to straighten up. Recognizing the look in her eyes, Louis calls for a break and makes to go talk to the girl, tell her that they are her pictures and she can do whatever she wants, but Harry stops him with a hand on his shoulder and a quiet “I’ll take care of it”. And well, Harry already bonded with the bride before the wedding so who is Louis to stop him?

He watches as Harry talks to the girl, comforting hands gripping hers as he speaks. Her face seems to be losing some of the flush that had been building as Harry makes assurances and promises that Louis knows he’d die before breaking. And then Harry kisses her on her cheek and hands her back over to her husband, telling him with honest sincerity that he’s a lucky man. He hurries back over to Louis but instead of informing him of what’s going on, he claps his hands to get everyone’s attention.

“We only have a few shots left so, if you’ve had your picture taken with the happy couple, would you please make your way to the reception hall and prepare everyone for the arrival of the bride and groom.”

“Trying to steal my job?” Louis teases, taking his camera in hand again as the majority of the bride and groom’s families leave the chapel.

Harry, for his part, actually looks concerned. “Of course not, Lou. I’m just trying to help.”

“Relax, Harry,” Louis says, placing a calming hand on the other boy’s shoulder. “You’ve been a godsend today. Seriously. Don’t know what I would have done without you.”

Harry smiles big and beautiful throughout the entire process of getting the few remaining family photos.

They take a few pictures at the reception, too. The bride and groom cutting the cake, feeding each other, the best man’s speech, and the tossing of the bouquet and garter. Louis gets a beautiful shot of the bride and groom laughing gleefully as birdseed is thrown at them on their way out to the recently redecorated Limo that will take them to the airport to begin their honeymoon.

When it’s all said and done, Louis gets a check for half his work (the rest will be paid upon acceptance of the actual photographs) and a professional handshake from the parents of the bride. Harry though, gets a grateful hug and a kiss on the cheek from the bride’s mother and Louis wonders how far he can possibly fall for this boy before he has to wonder if there’s no ground rising up to meet him.

~~~

“So,” Louis starts as they pack up, the cab that he called for should arrive at any minute. “Do you have plans for the afternoon?”

“Nothing set in stone,” Harry answers, glancing up from the camera bag he’s zipping up. “Did you have something in mind?”

“Oh, well, I have a few other rolls of film to develop, so I was going to go back to the studio. I just wondered if you might want to help.”

“Really?” Harry grins. “You’re not afraid to let me back in there after last time?”

“If you promise to keep your feet firmly planted on the floor, I might be persuaded to consider it,” Louis grins back as Harry flushes at the reminder of his klutziness.

“I’ll be careful,” Harry promises, making a motion to cross his heart with his index finger just as the cab pulls up to the curb outside.

“Let’s go then,” Louis commands, throwing the strap of his bag over his shoulder and dragging Harry out of the reception hall by the wrist to trail after him. 

Harry barely has time to get the other camera bag secured firmly over his shoulder before they are outside and Louis is pulling him into the cab.

The ride is quick and quiet and before Louis knows it, they are back at his studio. Harry follows him into his dark room, carefully placing his camera bag on a table far from the chemicals they’ll be working with.

Louis takes no time starting in on teasing Harry and quizzing him to see if he remembers what Louis told him last time about what goes where and when they use which chemicals. Harry remembers an impressive amount, helping Louis gather what he needs and watching everything with an intense focus that attests to his interest in the subject.

Louis gets so focused on what he’s doing as he watches a photograph come to life in the developing solution, pressing it down lightly with a pair of tongs, that he doesn’t realize that Harry isn’t next to him anymore. Until he hears the shutter click.

Looking up, he finds Harry lowering his camera back into the bag and biting his lip to hold back a cheeky grin.

“You didn’t,” Louis says with narrowed eyes.

“I told you someone should take a picture of you,” Harry says with a shrug. “You’d do just as good in front of the camera as you do behind it.”

Louis scoffs, taking the photo out of the solution and carefully hanging it to dry.

“You probably just cracked my lens,” he says with joking tilt to his lips as he works on another photo.

“If I did, I’ll buy you a new one,” Harry promises with a chuckle. “But I think your camera will live.”

“You’d better hope so, those things aren’t cheap,” Louis returns.

Harry just shakes his head, his playful smile still holding as he returns to watching Louis work.

Eventually Harry wonders off again. When Louis finds him, he’s looking through a stack of older photos, ones that Louis did for himself and not to get paid. And Louis really can’t help the grin that comes over his face as he sneaks over to his camera.

He still can’t believe that Harry had the balls to take a picture of him with his own camera but he quickly, gleefully returns the favor.

 

Harry looks up guiltily, like he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t. And maybe he thinks Louis wouldn’t want him going through his pictures but Louis doesn’t care. Harry can do pretty much anything he wants as far as Louis is concerned. He smiles sheepishly at Louis carefully lowering the photographs back into their neat little pile.

Louis chuckles and goes to take another picture now that Harry’s looking but then his phone is ringing and he’s automatically reaching to answer it.

Stan’s name appears on the screen and Louis motions to Harry that he’ll be a minute as he steps out to his desk in the studio to answer.

“Stan! How’s the wedding coming?” Louis asks enthusiastically.

Stan laughs happily over the line. 

“It’s coming along beautifully. That’s actually what I was calling about.”

“What’s up?”

“I just need to know if you’ll have a date for the evening. The caterer is requesting a headcount.”

“Oh,” Louis bites his lip. Zayn and Niall are both busy that weekend.

Louis’ eyes flick back to the dark room. He considers. But no, he couldn’t ask Harry.

On the other hand, maybe Harry wouldn’t mind going as his assistant.

Louis squeezes his eyes shut and tries to force himself to make a decision.

“Hang on just a second, Stan,” Louis says into the phone before sitting it down and walking toward the dark room, forcing every step.

When he looks inside, Harry is looking through the pile of photos again and he just watches the other boy for a second before telling himself to grow some balls and clearing his throat to get Harry’s attention.

Harry doesn’t startle this time, looking up smoothly with a questioning gaze.

“How do you feel about helping me out at a wedding in Doncaster the 29th of next month?” Louis asks, wording it like a work question so that Harry doesn’t get the wrong idea. Or the right one, as the case may be. “You get to go to the stag do as well.”

Might as well throw in some incentive.

Harry’s face blanks for a minute as his eyes roll toward the ceiling. Louis can only hope that he’s trying to remember if he has the time free. He must be because then he’s looking at Louis with a smile.

“Sounds like fun,” Harry answers finally. “Is this your friend’s wedding? The one you told me about.”

“Yeah,” Louis replies. “He’s trying to get a head count for the caterer.”

“Better go let him know to add a head, then,” Harry grins.

“Yeah,” Louis says, relieved that Harry didn’t turn him down as he turns to relay the news to Stan.

“Stan?” Louis asks when he picks up the phone, checking that his friend is still there.

“I’m here. Sooooo, are you bringing a plus one?”

“Yes,” Louis answers but before he can mention that it’s in a professional capacity, he hears Stan whoop with joy.

“You got a date? That’s wonderful. Wait, did you ask them just now? You totally did, didn’t you? Oh my goodness, when you get married you have to thank me in your vows!” Stan bull-rushes on. Ending with an excited shriek and an “oops! Gotta go, love you, bye!”

Louis stands there fish-mouthing for a few seconds even after the call has disconnected before he slowly pulls the phone from his ear.

Shit. He’s never going to hear the end of it when Stan finds out that it’s not actually a ‘date’.

Oh well, Louis will call him later. For the moment it’s just kinda nice to pretend.

He goes to walk back into the dark room just as Harry comes walking out.

“Hey, I was-”

“Sorry, I have to-”

They start speaking at the same time and cut themselves off just the same.

“You first,” Louis says before Harry can.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Louis, but I actually have to run. There’s something that I forgot I promised to do today,” Harry says with an apologetic grimace.

“Oh, well that’s okay. Thanks for your help today. It was nice having you there,” Louis tells him.

 “Yeah, it was fun,” Harry agrees with a smile before looking at his watch. “Look, I have to go but I’ll call you later, okay?”

“Sure, mate,” Louis answers. “Do what you’ve got to do.”

Harry rushes out without giving Louis his usual hug and it leaves Louis with a heavy feeling in his gut. He goes back to finish up in the darkroom and as he’s hanging up the last of the pictures he catches a glimpse of the pile that Harry had been looking through. Right on top is a picture of Harry, the first one he took that day at the park when Harry was just a beautiful boy playing guitar. Below that is the one that Louis took of Harry at the coffee house the night he performed with Ed. There are only a few pictures of Harry in the stack, nowhere near enough to enter stalker territory but they’ve all made their way to the top of the pile.

The heavy feeling in Louis’ gut is has become a stone, sitting there immovable as he realizes why Harry must have left when he did.

Louis sighs and thinks about calling Stan to cancel the plus one before he can inform the caterer. Because Louis is pretty sure that he just let Harry walk out of his life.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Ed sighs with relief when Harry walks into the apartment they are currently sharing.


“You’re late,” Ed says, glancing up from his guitar as he tunes it.


“I know,” Harry answers as he shuts the door behind himself. “Sorry.”


Ed doesn’t push or make Harry feel guilty for making him wait. Instead, he jumps right into what they were supposed to be doing: working on a song for Ed’s demo tape.


Both of them have been really busy lately. Ed with his music and his girlfriend, Harry with his work and his active social life so they have to schedule ‘friend time’. Harry’s growing friendship with Louis hasn’t cut into it until now, so Ed doesn’t mind that Harry’s late.


“How was it being the photographer’s assistant?” Ed asks keeping his eyes on his fingers as he works.


“The wedding was beautiful and it was fun working with Louis. It was a nice morning,” Harry answers as he grabs his own guitar and gets more comfortable but he sounds distracted to Ed. Like his mind is somewhere else entirely. Ed chooses not to push. If Harry needs to talk about something, he’ll do it in his own good time.


“You ready to work out this verse?” Ed asks.


“Let’s do it.”


They spend two hours figuring out Ed’s song, Ed tweaking the melody here and there. Harry doesn’t really influence the music much but he’s a brilliant lyricist and Ed loves working with him. They come up with the best songs when they write together.
“Ok, how does this sound?” Harry asks before strumming Ed’s tune on his guitar and singing out the lyrics he’s been scribbling for Ed’s approval.


There’s a hole left behind/ where my heart used to reside.


An empty space that you left in your wake.


There’s a darkness within/ hidden underneath my skin.


 Because everything you touch, you seem to break.


And even though I know/ it’s for the best, I can’t let go.


Of everything that you still mean to me.


How I wish that I was strong/ but although I know it’s wrong,


there’s still nowhere in the world I’d rather be.”


Seeing where Harry’s going, Ed joins in on the next verse. Their voices blending beautifully, painting a picture of regret and longing that Ed knows all too well.


Than here with you, in my arms/ Need you now, we’ve come too far.


Here with you. I’m on my knees/ Darlin’, please come back to me.


Together, they let the music trail off.


Yes,” is all Ed says but he can tell that Harry takes it like Ed’s given him the highest of compliments.


They are both quiet as Ed makes a few notes on his own paper and Harry packs his guitar away. Ed can feel something heavy hanging in the air now and he’s just waiting for Harry to broach whatever’s on his mind.


“Hey, Ed, can I ask you something?”


Ah. There it is.


“Of course,” Ed answers but keeps his eyes down so that his gaze doesn’t add to whatever this weight is on Harry’s shoulders.


“Suppose, hypothetically, that you had a friend that liked to take pictures,” Harry starts.


“So, I’m hypothetically friends with Louis,” Ed jokes. He might be careful with Harry but he also won’t take any bullshit.


Harry sighs. “Yeah.”


Ed looks up at Harry’s admission, expectant but patient. Willing to wait it out as Harry thinks over his words before speaking them.


“What if, like, you found pictures of yourself? In with his other pictures. Like, ones that you didn’t know he had taken?” Harry asks, nerves seeming to prompt him to bite his lip and sweep his hair back with a restless hand as he watches Ed’s face for his reaction.


Ed doesn’t offer much. He runs his watchful eyes over Harry’s features, the way he can’t stop fidgeting. He doesn’t seem afraid, so Ed figures he’s not worried that Louis is some psycho stalker or anything. But then, Ed can’t really imagine what else there is to worry about.


“Was it a crazy amount of pictures? Or, like, creepy pictures of you sleeping or something?” Ed probes, not joking in the slightest. He wants Harry to know that he’ll always take him seriously, that he’ll always have a safe space with Ed. He needn’t worry that Ed will judge or make fun of him for any of his thoughts. He won’t brush him off or call him paranoid.


“No!” Harry rushes to assure him before sighing and shaking his head at himself. “I’m making it sound worse than it is. It was only a few pictures. Maybe four or five. I just. I don’t know what to think about it.”


“Hey, if I need to kick his ass for being a creep, I’ll do it,” Ed promises. “Don’t ever downplay your feelings if you think something weird is going on.”


“No, it’s not like that,” Harry swears, sounding frustrated that he isn’t getting his feelings across right. “I just… I don’t know what it means.”


Ed thinks maybe he can see where Harry is going now.


“Is there something you want it to mean?”


Harry lays a look on him that is so grateful, Ed knows that he’s gotten it right. But then, Harry’s eyes fall to the floor and he hunches in on himself, unsure. “I don’t know.”


Ed waits again for Harry to say something more. To explain what’s scaring him so much. He can see his friend struggling but he doesn’t know how to help. As great as Harry is with words on paper, he can’t always get them to cooperate with his vocal cords.


“He invited me to a wedding, Ed. I think it’s in a friend-ish, work capacity but I just… I don’t know,” Harry repeats and Ed thinks that maybe he’s given up on trying to come up with the words to explain. He realizes that maybe Harry’s not searching for an answer. Maybe he just wants someone to know. To realize how confused he is and not try to offer a quick fix, just to understand and make him feel like it’s okay to not know precisely what it is that he wants.


“One day at a time, mate,” Ed offers and lets Harry cuddle into his side.


He curls an arm around Harry’s shoulder and puts aside his music for now. There are more important things. The music will wait. Right now, he’s got a friend to comfort. So, he reaches for his cell, orders in some take away, and turns on the telly. He’s got some “friend time” to provide.



Chapter Text

Louis is cuddled between Niall and Zayn, silently brooding and ignoring the conversation his best mates are having with nothing but their eyebrows, when he gets the call. He doesn’t know whether to be nervous or happy when he sees Harry’s name light up his phone. He decides on cautiously hopeful as he tears himself away from his friends and scurries to the bathroom to answer.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Lou,” Harry doesn’t sound as happy as he usually does and that gets the worry roiling in Louis’ belly.

“Harry. Hey,” is all Louis can offer. At least until he knows where this is going.

“Hey,” Harry repeats. Louis feels like Harry is hesitant to talk but he’s too impatient to find out what this call means, if it’s an end or, by some miracle, it’s a sign of their continuing friendship.

“What’s up, Haz?”

“Um, nothing. I promised to call, so. Here I am. Calling.”

Louis knows it’s not just him. Their conversations have never been this stilted and awkward. Louis isn’t quite ready to confront why that is yet but he’s not sure what to say either.

“Did you get to do whatever it was that had you rushing out on me?” He tries to sound playful but even he can hear how flat he falls.

“Oh, yeah. I promised to help Ed with something. He’s been spending most of his time with Ellie and I’ve been… out a lot lately, so we had to schedule some time together.”

He’s been out with Louis a lot lately is what he’s not saying and Louis wonders if he regrets it now. Now that he’s made the absolutely correct assumption that Louis is completely into him.

“Oh? That’s good. Was it fun?”

Aaaand the awkward just keeps coming.

“Yeah,” Harry answers. “We worked on a song for his demo tape. Oh! He’s got a show coming up next week, if you wanna come. You can invite Zayn and Niall, too.”

“Yeah, absolutely. Sounds good.”

The conversation doesn’t get better and they hang up after just a few more minutes with Harry promising to text the details later but the heaviness that had been pulling Louis down before is gone when he gets off the phone. Because Harry has made plans to see him again. And, yeah, sure, maybe it was in a group setting but Louis will take it.

He goes back to the comfort of his sofa, his telly, and good friends and he’s actually able to put on a real smile this time.

He sees the tension leave Zayn’s shoulders and the light brighten in Niall’s eyes when they see that he’ll be okay. They still stay offering cuddles and alcohol. The cuddles he’ll take but he still remembers the mess alcohol almost got him into last time so he refrains.

 Zayn, it seems, has learned no such lesson. Louis is going to laugh his head off if Niall ends up as Zayn’s next target. Heck, Niall will laugh his head off if he ends up as Zayn’s next target. And then together, they’ll make sure that Zayn never hears the end of it. Because that’s just what good friends do. Louis makes a stray comment on it to Niall when Zayn gets up to go to the loo and through some unspoken agreement, they just ply Zayn with alcohol the rest of the night. Niall drinks a few too so that Zayn is none the wiser. Plus, he’s Niall and this is alcohol they’re talking about.

Just when they think they have Zayn primed for some blackmail material, he starts talking. About Liam. And, really, neither of them are all that surprised that Zayn has feelings for the boy. Louis has known since day one but he thought they were just doing the friend thing. Until Zayn tries to pull out his phone and drunk dial the boy.

“Oh, no, no.” Louis scolds, pulling the phone from Zayn’s clumsy fingers. “Drunk dialing is for after you’ve broken up with someone, Zaynie. Not before you’ve even begun.”

“I wanna begun,” Zayn pouts, before shaking his head forcefully to straighten out his thoughts. “Begin. I wanna begin.”

“Does he know that?” Niall asks and Louis rolls his eyes. He recognizes that tone of voice. Niall is going into bartender/problem listener mode.

“No. I was gonna tell him before Louis took my phone away,” Zayn grumps but makes no move to try and recapture the device. Perhaps, deep down, he knows that Louis was right to take it away.

Oh. Nope. Apparently, he doesn’t because he’s suddenly lunging for Louis, his limbs too unsteady to actually grip it as Louis dances out of reach.

“I thought you were smarter than that, Z,” Louis laughs as he takes a seat on the other side of Niall. Let him fend off Zayn’s next attempt.

“Was luring you into a false sense of security,” Zayn mumbles from where he’s fallen face first into the arm of the sofa.

Niall pats Zayn consolingly on the head and chuckles at his boys.

“Should probably wait until you’re sober to make any big decisions,” he offers as he starts to slide his fingers through Zayn’s hair.

“Yeah, mate,” Louis agrees. “Future Zayn will probably be pissed if I let you call Liam like this.”

Zayn groans, face still buried in the fabric of the sofa. He hates thinking about future Zayn. Future Zayn is almost always pissed off. Mostly because Louis has talked past Zayn into something stupid. Both Zayns love Louis with the passion of a thousand suns but he does tend to cause quite a bit of trouble. Even with a flood of alcohol in his veins, this Zayn can’t deny that future him will probably thank Louis in this case.

He gives in with a groan and throws his head back on Niall’s shoulder, nuzzling into it to get comfortable. He’s suddenly too tired for much else.

“There’s a good boy,” Louis reaches over Niall to pat Zayn’s arm mockingly.

“’M not your dog,” Zayn mumbles into Niall’s shoulder.

“I’ve called you worse before,” Louis argues though it’s really no use trying to rile Zayn up when the boy is clearly already half asleep.

Louis studies his friends in the light from the television and thinks for a moment that, if he’s screwed up this thing with Harry, the two of them are more than enough for him. He’s so grateful for both of them.

Fortunately, it looks like he’s also got another shot at friendship with Harry (even if that’s all it can ever be). And he’s determined not to screw it up this time.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The week leading up to Ed’s show is hellish at best for Louis.

He and Harry text back and forth but don’t do much else. There aren’t their usual phone calls or any attempts to make plans before the night of the show. Louis is trying to give Harry the space that it seems like he needs, plus he’s too scared of rejection to try and initiate something.

On the night of the show, Louis fights his urge to dress up. He wants to look nice for his reunion with Harry but he also doesn’t want Harry to think he’s trying to start something. As much as he’d like to start something, Harry’s reaction to Louis’ pictures suggests that Harry wants no such thing and Louis doesn’t want to seem like he’s pushing. He still kind of wants to impress though, so he compromises by wearing something moderately nice. He puts on a black button-up and some dark jeans that cling in all the right ways, slips on his favorite Vans and runs his fingers through his hair until it looks artfully tousled. There, he looks nice but not as nice as when he’s going to one of his wedding gigs.

Louis is just gathering his keys when he gets a text from Niall.

We’re out front.

Perfect timing. Louis doesn’t want to give his nerves a chance to make him question himself. Just knowing that his mates are waiting for him is enough to settle the churning in his stomach a bit. He locks up and rushes out to meet them because as nervous as he is, he’s determined to not miss out on his second chance at a good impression with Harry.

 

~@~

 

It’s crowded at the coffeehouse and the first person Louis recognizes is Nick. The anxieties that were at bay just under the surface of Louis’ skin suddenly spike and he needs a drink. Unfortunately, drowning his apprehension in alcohol is not an option just now. Louis makes his way to the counter anyway, trusting Zayn and Niall to save him a seat as he gets himself a Yorkshire tea that he hopes will at least settle some of his nerves. He carries his drink, along with cups for Niall and Zayn, as he searches out his friends.

Louis sees Niall hugging Harry and freezes, unsure if he should head over or not. Should he give Harry space here, too? Or should he try to brush off the weirdness and act like he normally would?

He’s spared making a decision when someone bumps into him, nearly upending his tea.

“Oh, shit. I’m so sorry,” a vaguely familiar voice says as the man catches Louis before he can stumble.

When Louis looks at the culprit, a delighted smile takes over his face.

“George?” Louis asks, though he’s absolutely certain that he’s looking at his old friend from uni.

“Holy shit, Louis?” George’s eyes widen as he takes Louis in, eyes travelling his body appraisingly. “You look incredible.”

“Likewise mate,” Louis answers engulfing George in a hug, careful not to spill his drinks. “Where have you been? I’ve missed you!”

George is grinning his infectious smile when they break out of the embrace. “You know, here and there. Been trying to sort out what I want out of life and that. What about you? Are you a paparazzo yet?”

Louis snorts. “Not quite.”

George chuckles, he knows he’s riling Louis up. Louis has always said that the paps are the lowest of the low in the photography world. His grin grows though when Louis hands him a business card that advertises Louis’ business.

“I capture the good moments,” Louis states a tad defensively. “The ones people actually want to share.”

“Good on you, mate,” George smiles, placing a hand on Louis’ shoulder. “Always knew you had greatness in you. And look at you now, with your own business and everything.”

“Well,” Louis does not preen at the compliment. He also doesn’t notice how George’s hand lingers on his shoulder.

“George!” Niall breaks into their conversation, pushing in front of Louis to hug the other lad. “Hey, it’s great to see you!”

“Yeah, Niall. You too, mate.”

Is it Louis’ imagination or did George’s smile dim a little at the interruption?

No, it can’t be.

Can it? Has George been flirting with him?

George had always been really sweet and attentive in the classes they had shared back at uni. Always welcoming Louis’ attention. Always looking at him with those wide… hopeful… eyes.

Louis is broken out of his musings (see: realization that George had a total crush on him in uni) by Niall nudging him to get his attention.

“Are those for me and Zayn?” Of course, Niall had only showed up for the refreshments. Typical.

“Yeah, mate. Take them,” Louis answers handing them over. His hands, at least, are relieved to be mostly free again.

About the same time that Niall saunters off, someone else joins the conversation.

“Hi.”

Louis turns to find Harry standing there, looking between him and George uncertainly.

“Harry, hey,” Louis replies.

Before he can stop himself he gives into instinct, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck like nothing’s wrong. Breathing a sigh of relief when Harry melts into it, wrapping his arms around Louis’ waist with no hesitation.

“Missed you,” Harry tells him quietly, so only Louis will hear.

He closes his eyes and squeezes Harry a bit tighter, in response. And maybe it’s his imagination but Harry seems to hold him a bit longer than strictly necessary.

Louis really doesn’t mind.

“Um,” George says before clearing his throat, reminding Louis that he’s there when Louis and Harry break apart.

“Oh, where are my manners?” Louis wonders aloud. “George, this is Harry. Harry, this is George, my old mate from uni.”

“Nice to meet you,” George replies, offering his hand while looking between Harry and Louis with open curiosity.

“Likewise,” Harry answers politely, shaking his hand before turning back to Louis and touching his shoulder gently. “Can I talk to you?”

“Sure,” Louis answers immediately before turning to George with an apologetic smile. “I’ve got to go but don’t leave without making sure that I have your number, alright?”

“Yeah,” George nods along but Louis can already tell that he’s not going to, no doubt thinking that there’s something going on between him and Harry.

And, well, he’s not entirely wrong. At least on Louis’ side of it all.

George turns away, looking a bit dejected and Louis feels bad for a few seconds before Harry’s pulling him away and all thoughts of anyone else kind of vanish.

Shut up. Louis admits he has a problem.

“What’s up, Harry?” Louis asks when Harry finally stops and turns to face him in a less crowded corner of the shop.

“So,” Harry bites his lip nervously. “I need to ask you a favor.”

“Yeah, sure. Anything,” Louis promises.

Harry just stares at him for a moment looking a bit surprised at Louis’ lack of hesitancy, like he didn’t already know that Louis would do anything for him, no questions asked. And maybe he didn’t. After all, he’s only recently become aware that Louis is maybe, possibly, a little bit in love with him. God, Louis should have hesitated, shouldn’t he?

“Um,” Harry looks at his shoes when he finally carries on with what he’s saying. “Liam’s here.”

Louis is confused. “Okay? Do you want me to keep him away from you?”

Louis’ already looking through the crowd over Harry’s shoulder, trying to spy Harry’s ex.

“Actually,” Harry stops there, looking at Louis in a way that Louis cannot fathom the meaning behind.

“What is it, Harry? I’ll do whatever you need,” Louis promises, hands on Harry’s biceps like that will somehow make the boy believe him.

“Will you pretend to be my date?” Harry asks, eyeing Louis nervously.

Except that. Fuck. Louis can’t do that. That’s just a heartbreak waiting to happen. Louis’ heart, to be more specific.

Louis swallows hard and just as he’s about to say no, that he can’t, his head bobs forward nodding his assent. A quiet “sure” falling from his traitorous lips.

“Yeah?” Harry asks, quite possibly giving Louis a chance to back out. To save himself.

Instead of doing the smart thing and taking the out, he takes Harry’s hand in his, twining their fingers together and giving a light squeeze. “Yeah.”

So, he sits next to Harry for the next hour, holding his hand and listening to songs about love both won and lost while ignoring the questioning looks from Niall and Zayn.

When the show is over, he waves off Niall and Zayn, motioning that he’ll call them later, and turns to Harry.

“So, should I walk you home?” Louis asks not sure what answer he’s hoping for.

“I’d like that,” Harry tells him, fingers still tangled with Louis’. “If you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind,” Louis answers softly, tugging Harry out the door before the rush starts and it can become clogged with people pushing their way through.

“So,” he starts at they walk, swinging their hands playfully between them. “Nice night we’re having.”

Harry chuckles. Small talk is so not their thing and as awkward as things have been, it’s absurd that this is what Louis resorts to.

“Yep,” Harry agrees, smiling fondly at Louis.

“You know, I think that movie that you wanted to see with Channing Tatum and what’s-er-name is playing at the cinema.”

“Oh, really? You know, I think I do remember hearing that it was playing.”

“It’s still a bit early, do you wanna go?” Louis asks, the picture of careless nonchalance.

“Hmm,” Harry hums, tilting his head considering playfully. “I don’t know, does it count as a second date or part two of the first?”

Louis’ heart absolutely doesn’t twist at the word ‘date’ outside the coffeehouse. He plays it off, hope Harry doesn’t notice the flush he’s sure is covering his cheeks. “Can you have two dates in one day?”

“I suppose if one was my idea, and one was yours,” Harry answers, looking at Louis with that look again. That unfathomable look that Louis can’t interpret, or maybe is just too afraid that he’s interpreting wrong.

He’s saved from answering by a text coming through on his phone.

Don’t do anything stupid.

And fuck. Zayn is right. Louis is about to do something stupid. He’s starting to believe that this whole ‘date’ thing is real and he can’t keep doing this to himself.

“What is it?” Harry asks, trying to peer over Louis’ shoulder to see the text.

Louis swiftly darkens his screen with the push of a button and tucks the phone away in his.

“Just a reminder that I have a job early tomorrow,” Louis lies. “I should probably get you home and head home myself. Raincheck on the movie?”

Harry studies Louis for a moment like he’s not sure he believes him but ends up nodding. “Sure.”

They walk in a comfortable silence the rest of the way to the flat that Harry is sharing with Ed for the time being.

“Thanks for inviting me tonight, Harry. I had a good time,” Louis says as Harry unlocks the door.

“I’m glad. I’ll call you later to figure out when we can hang out again, yeah?” Harry asks reaching out and pulling Louis into a goodbye hug.

Louis breathes a sigh of relief as he hugs Harry back. This he can deal with. This is pretty much normal for them. He craves normal at this point.

“And thank you, Lou. For everything,” Harry says before he swiftly leans in to kiss Louis on the cheek and turns, disappearing into the flat.

Louis walks home in a quiet state of puzzlement. He’s so confused by Harry.

Entering his flat, Louis closes the door and rests against it. He doesn’t know how much more he can take of this. He’s pretty sure that he’s getting mixed signals. Doesn’t really matter though, he guesses. Louis is far gone that he’ll take whatever he gets from Harry. Even if the frustration makes him pull his hair out. Even if it leaves him sobbing at night. Even if it kills him. If Harry is the cause, Louis is pretty sure that he’ll still manage to die happy.

Chapter Text

As soon as Louis tells Niall what happened the next day at the bar, Niall’s first order of business is to reach over and cuff him upside the head.

“What— Niall! What was that for?!?” Louis asks, rubbing the sore spot on his head.

“For being an idiot,” Niall answers as he pours Louis a pint from the tap and passes it over in a silent apology. For the violence. He won’t apologize for his words. Louis is an idiot.

“What are you talking about?” Louis questions, offended. “Harry just spent a week basically ignoring me because he found out that I like him. And now, what? I’m supposed to act on my feelings just because he’s treating me normally again?”

“Does holding your hand all night sound like he’s treating you normally, Lou?” Niall argues, pulling the rag on his shoulder down and wiping off the bar. “I mean, I know that you two are abnormally tactile, but you don’t make it a habit to hold hands.”

“I told you. Liam was there, he wanted me to pretend to be his date.”

Niall pauses to glare at his stupid, stupid friend. “And after? When you left the coffeehouse and there was no one else around?”

Louis looks down at his drink. “He was probably just being cautious. In case we ran into Liam after or something.”

Even to Louis the argument sounds weak.

“Bullshit,” Niall makes it very clear that he isn’t buying it either. “And what the fuck are you thinking listening to Zayn? Don’t get me wrong, I love him like a brother, but you’re gonna take love advice from Zayn?”

Louis groans in frustration. He can’t deny Niall’s logic. Zayn has a pretty bad track record. But Louis knows that his heart was in the right place.

“He was thinking of me. Because unlike some of my friends, he doesn’t want to see me hurt. Again.”

Niall sighs, reaching over and putting his hand over Louis’ that isn’t gripping his drink.

“I don’t want you hurt either, Lou. But at this point, you’re the one doing it to yourself. Because it sounds to me like maybe Harry’s made up his mind and you are the only thing keeping you two apart now.”

“I just don’t want to screw this up, Niall.”

Niall pats Louis’ hand in a placating gesture. “I know that, Lou. But sometimes inaction can fuck things up just as bad as making the wrong move.”

Louis closes his eyes and rests his forehead against the cool glass of his drink.

Maybe Niall is right. Louis just has to build up the courage to give himself a chance.

 

~@~

 

Zayn can tell that Harry is surprised to see him when he shows up at Harry’s work the next day.

“Zayn, hi,” Harry grins at him but Zayn can see the wary set to his shoulders.

Harry could be putting his guard up for any number of reasons. Maybe he’s still upset about the whole thing where his boyfriend wanted to kiss Zayn. He can’t imagine what else it could be. Unless Harry has already guessed why he’s here.

“Hey, mate. Is there any way that I could steal a moment of your time?” Zayn asks.

“Uh, sure,” Harry answers hesitantly, reaching back to untie his apron as he leans over to holler into the back room. “Kira, I’m going on break.”

A cute, brunette girl comes bounding out of the back with a smile on her face. “Sure thing, Harry. I’ve got you covered.”

“Thanks,” Harry tells her, stuffing his apron under the counter and coming around to where Zayn is standing on the other side.

“Lead the way,” Harry offers Zayn, gesturing at the room in general.

Zayn leads Harry to a booth in the back corner of the shop and eyes the other boy as he sits across from him.

“What’s this about,” Harry asks, twining his hands together on top of the table.

“To be blunt,” Zayn starts sending Harry the most sinister look in his arsenal. “It’s the don’t-fuck-with-my-best-mate talk.”

Harry’s eyes scrunch and his mouth draws up in a face of indignation. “What—“

“Don’t even start, Harry,” Zayn orders, leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms. “I’m calling bullshit before you even open your mouth.”

“Zayn, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harry shrugs, flailing his hands and looking genuinely confused.

“Look, I know you’re a good guy, Harry. But you can’t play with Louis’ emotions like this. He’s not as impervious to being hurt as he seems,” Zayn continues.

Harry probably doesn’t realize it, but he radiates guilt at Zayn’s words as he finally catches on to the reason for Zayn’s visit.

“He thinks I’m playing with his feelings?” Harry asks, suddenly more subdued.

“No, he doesn’t even think you like him. I think you’re messing him about. Whether you mean to or not doesn’t matter, Harry. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had and I won’t stand for anyone screwing him over.”

“I care about him, too, Zayn. What makes you think I’d do anything to hurt him?” Harry enquires, looking wounded at the accusation.

“Maybe the fact that you practically cut off all communication with him for a week out of nowhere, leaving him to wonder why. Or the way you asked him pretend to be your boyfriend last night?” Zayn counters. “I know that Liam wasn’t there, Harry. So, what’s your excuse?”

Harry hangs his head at being called out on his lie. He rubs the back of his neck, feeling incredibly awkward all of a sudden. Taking a deep breath, he answers Zayn’s question.

“I saw that guy, George, flirting with him,” Harry says, needing to take a moment before he can continue. “And I may have gotten jealous. So, I lied about Liam and asked him to be my boyfriend for the night. But then, things were so good, Zayn, that I wanted it to be real. But, on the way home, he got a text and begged off early.”

Zayn’s eyes widen a bit. Because he’s pretty sure that was his text.

“What would you have done if he hadn’t gotten that text?” Zayn asks and prays that Harry doesn’t say what Zayn thinks he’s going to say.

“I was going to ask him out, Zayn. But, maybe it’s a sign. Maybe we’re better off the way we are,” Harry shakes his head at the thought like he’s subconsciously disagreeing with the statement.

Zayn groans at Harry’s pessimism. Because, with the possible exception of Niall, they’re all idiots. Including him.

Maybe especially him.

So, maybe it’s time they give all the idiocy a rest.

Chapter Text

The idiocy does not rest. The idiocy stays out in full force in the weeks leading up to Stan’s wedding.

Harry and Louis are pretty much the same as they’ve always been, overtly touchy-feely and completely clingy. But now it’s ratcheted up to an eleven. Touches are even more frequent and linger a bit longer. Wistful gazes find their mark when the other isn’t looking.

It’s driving Niall and Zayn mad. So, of course, they hatch a plan to get their stupid friends to do something about all the unresolved sexual tension they are drowning in.

And it starts with a simple phone call.

 

*

 

Harry puts his overnight bag in the boot of Niall’s car and hurries to sit in the passenger seat as Louis rushes him. Louis has borrowed the car for the weekend. Tonight, they will go to Stan’s stag do and tomorrow is the wedding.

Louis is feeling restless, a familiar itch under his skin as he tries to ignore the fact that he and Harry will be sharing a room for the night. Two nights, actually, because who wants to stay sober after a wedding? They’ll have separate beds but Harry will still be right there. Possibly shirtless.

Louis shakes the thoughts from his head when he realizes Harry is staring at him with an amused grin.

“Are we going?” Harry asks, smirking.

“Well, I am but with that attitude, I might just leave you behind, Harold,” Louis jokes.

“Alright, Harry says reaching slowly for the door handle. “That just means that you get to do all the work by yourself.”

“Shut up,” Louis mumbles, unable to think of a better comeback, and puts the car in gear.

A few minutes later has them stopping at the shops as Louis insists that they need snacks for the drive.

They are walking between aisles arguing playfully about what to get, Louis steering the trolley that they don’t actually need and Harry looking on fondly, when Harry runs into someone.

Backing away and preparing to apologize, Harry stills when he sees who it is.

Liam. And Zayn. Holding hands.

Both of their grinning faces melt into somber expressions when they recognize Harry.

“Sorry,” Harry says finally. “Wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“It’s okay,” Liam returns with a hopeful smile. “How are you, Harry?”

“I’m good,” Harry answers, running a hand through his hair and knocking off his flower crown.

Louis tries to catch it but misses, bends to pick it up and holds it while Harry’s eyes flit between him and Liam.

“Well,” Louis interjects loudly, trying to diffuse some tension while also getting Liam’s attention off of Harry who seems uncomfortable under his gaze. “Harold and I are on an important mission, lads. Must be off!”

Louis pulls Harry along, leaving the trolley abandoned in the aisle, and hurrying to get somewhere at least semi-private. He settles for dragging Harry down an aisle at the opposite end of the shop, stopping short and turning to the other boy to assess the damage.

“Are you okay?” Louis asks, one hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Harry says, a bit dazed sounding before really looking at Louis and repeating himself with more conviction. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Sure?” Louis questions doubtfully.

“Lou, I’m fine,” Harry answers, even managing to smile a bit.

“Okay,” Louis gives in, reaching up to replace Harry’s crown of flowers.

Rather than stepping away when he’s done, he steps closer, surprising Harry with a fierce hug.

“You know, if you’re not okay, I’m here,” Louis whispers into his ear.

Harry responds by tightening his hold on Louis. “I know.”

“Okay,” Louis says again as he releases Harry and steps away.

They speak no more of the awkward meeting, get their snacks, and hurry out to the car. Louis doesn’t ask questions but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a million of them floating through his head. Because even though Harry said he was fine, his reaction at seeing Liam with someone else seemed like that of someone who hadn’t gotten over their ex. Louis tries not to let it bother him. He has no right to be bothered.

But, fuck, he’s totally bothered.

He ignores it as best he can and starts some ridiculous travel game that Harry agrees to immediately. They play silly games and sing along to the radio and do everything but actually talk about things until they arrive in Doncaster.

Louis doesn’t want to admit it but he’s feeling a few nerves as they walk into the hotel that Stan has rented out for the weekend. Bags in hand, they head to the front desk to check in. He’ll look for Stan after they get settled.

“How may I help you?” The desk clerk, a cherub-faced brunette, asks, directing a friendly smile at Louis.

“We’re here for the Lucas wedding. Reservation for Tomlinson,” Louis tells her.

She looks him up in her computer, typing with the efficiency of someone with years of experience. When she finds his reservation in her computer she may or may not let out a little gasp before beaming her smile full-force at Louis and Harry, eyes flicking swiftly to the latter before training on Louis again.

“Of course, Mr. Tomlinson,” she says getting the electronic key cards ready for him before handing them over with a wink. “Your room is 343. And we took care of your special requests.”

Louis frowns in confusion. “What sp—”

“Tommo?!?” Louis is cut off from asking his questions by a squeal from behind him. Turning, he finds Stan with a man that Louis hasn’t met but recognizes from pictures as the groom.

“Stanny Boy!” Louis yells back, arms spread, ready to gather Stan into them for a bone-crushing embrace. It’s been far too long since he’s seen his old friend.

Stan holds tight for a solid minute, obviously having missed Louis as much as Louis’ missed him. When he pulls away, his eyes travel to Harry immediately.

“Oh my god, is this your boyfriend?” Stan asks with a suggestive wiggle of his eyebrows.

“Actually,” Louis starts, wondering when Stan made the jump from wedding date to boyfriend.

“He’s cute,” Stan stage whispers, getting a poke in the side from his fiancé that causes him to turn and assure the other man. “Well, obviously not cuter than you, sweetie.”

Harry chuckles at Louis’ side and, if Louis’ not mistaken, he’s preening a bit. The adorable bastard.

“Stan, this is Harry,” Louis introduces. “He’s my—”

But of course, Louis gets cut off again when Stan glances at his watch.

“Shit. We’ve got to run. Rehearsal dinner,” Stan says making an apologetic face. “But we’ll see you tonight, right?”

“Yeah, absolutely, but—”

“Great!” Stan enthuses before squeezing Louis into another quick hug and rushing off again.

Louis watches the two grooms leave with a feeling of dread sinking into his stomach.

Harry, for his part just seems amused. “Is he always this on-the-go? Or is that just a wedding thing.”

“Normally, I’d say wedding thing but, in this case, that’s actually just Stan,” Louis answers before sighing heavily. “I don’t remember it being this hard to have a conversation though. He’s never going to let me live it down when he finds out that you’re not actually my boyfriend.”

“I don’t mind playing your boyfriend for the weekend, if you want,” Harry offers, not looking at Louis when he says it. “You’ve done it for me. You could consider it me returning the favor.”

That is a very bad idea. That idea is nothing but trouble. Louis should turn him down.

Louis is going to turn him down.

Any minute now.

“Yeah, alright. I imagine I could do worse for myself,” Louis finds his lips saying and his arm makes its way onto Harry’s shoulder as they head toward the lifts.

The ride to their room is quiet, maybe slightly awkward if Louis were paying attention to that sort of thing, which he intensely is not.

When they reach their floor, Louis leads them calmly and casually to their room and keys the door open. Pushing through the entryway and flicking on the light, they both freeze at room’s décor.

“Are we in the right room?” Harry asks, looking at Louis intently before gazing back at the red, heart-shaped bed and the trail of flower petals on the floor (also making a heart shape before leading to the bed).

“I… have no idea,” Louis remarks, still having a bit of trouble taking it all in. It’s a beautiful room. It’s just… awfully romantic. And is that a bathtub in the bedroom? “Wait here, I’ll go check with the front desk.”

Louis drops his bag so that he doesn’t have to lug it with him and leaves Harry awkwardly standing in the room. His heart is doing weird things as he steps onto the lift back to the lobby. He closes his eyes and takes deep breaths as he waits out the ride.

Upon arriving at the lobby, Louis rushes to the reception desk but a young couple beats him there and he ends up waiting impatiently behind them.

“Mr. Tomlinson,” the receptionist greets happily once the couple finally flounces away.

“Good memory,” Louis remarks with a tight smile.

“Just part of the job,” She chirps at him proudly. “Is there something I can do for you?”

“Yeah, I was just wondering if maybe I could have gotten the wrong room,” Louis questions.

The receptionist makes a sour face, like the thought of her giving him the wrong room is inconceivable but she types his name into her computer anyway. “Louis Tomlinson, Lucas party. We originally had you in a double room until you called and switched to the Sweetheart Suite. Is something wrong with the room?”

I called?” Louis mutters under his breath.

“Mr. Tomlinson?” The receptionist asks again. “Is the room not to your liking? I’d offer you another but I’m afraid we’re all booked up.”

“No, no,” Louis answers still puzzling it out to himself. “It’s fine, thank you.”

He guesses he’s just going to have to keep the room. But he didn’t call to change it.

As he turns to head back and let Harry know that they’re stuck with the red room of looove, the receptionist calls out to him.

“Your champagne and strawberries are already on their way up!”

Louis freezes. Champagne and strawberries. The combination is an aphrodisiac for Louis. He doesn’t know why, whether it’s the mixture of flavors or just how romantic it’s always seemed to him. It’s a weakness that Louis doesn’t advertise. In fact, there are only two people on Earth who know about it.

He rushes to the lift and jabs the button for his floor, hoping to cut off room service before Harry can see the delivery and get the wrong idea.

Louis is going to kill Zayn and Niall.

~@~

Louis is too late.

Harry is standing by the room service cart that’s been left in their room, reading a card that’s accompanied their “snack” when Louis enters the room.

“What have you got there, Haz?” Louis asks as casually as he possibly can. Which he’s guessing is not all that casually by the smirk on Harry’s face.

Harry looks back at the card and then up at Louis again but his smirk has faded.

“Louis. The room, the champagne, and the card ‘you deserve to be happy’. Stan thinking I’m your boyfriend. Was this all a set-up to ask me out?”

“No! Haz, I swear, I had nothing to do with this,” Louis promises, trying to keep things from getting awkward this weekend.

 “Oh. Um,” Harry’s face falls and suddenly Louis’ racing heart is racing for entirely different reasons.

“Unless. Harry, do you want me to ask you out?” Louis asks stepping further into the room, nearer to Harry.

“No. Of course not,” Harry answers with no conviction as he drops the card back on the room service cart, sinking down to sit on the end of the bed. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed.”

Louis takes in Harry’s slumped figure and knows without a shadow of a doubt that he’s royally fucked this all up. Zayn and Niall were obviously trying to tell him something. Maybe it’s time he pulls his head out of his arse and listens.

“Harry,” Louis walks closer, pushing the cart out of the way and sitting next to Harry on the bed. “I lied that day we met at the park.”

Harry’s head snaps up from where he’s been studying his fingers, curling them together and apart and trying not to drown in his embarrassment. His eyes shine with confusion, trying to remember what Louis could possibly be talking about.

“When you asked me if I was flirting,” Louis reminds him, a small reminiscent smile on his face. “You said you had a boyfriend. But it didn’t matter. I was already hopelessly gone for the boy with the beautiful smile, so freely given. Seduced by your flowers and curls.”

Louis raises a hand and tugs at one of the curls in question while Harry offers him a bashful grin, sprinkled with a dash of hope.

“I would have stolen you from Liam right then if I thought I could have,” Louis assures, using the hand already in Harry’s hair to softly brush away his fringe. “But I knew you were too loyal for that, such a lovely person you’d only think less of me for trying. Or worse, you wouldn’t think of me at all.”

Harry reaches up to cradle Louis’ cheeks in his hands, what can only be tears glistening in his eyes. “I can’t stop thinking about you, Louis. Even then, I was drawn to you. I needed to be around you, it’s why I called you in the first place. I wouldn’t have cheated on Liam, but I… I think I was relieved when we broke up. And it took me so long to admit to myself that I wanted you because I didn’t want to diminish what I had with him.”

“And in the shops earlier?” Louis questions. “You looked upset when you saw him with Zayn.”

Harry shakes his head slowly, grinning at Louis like he’s something special. “I was surprised by how upset I wasn’t. I think you have something to do with that.”

“So, you want me?” Louis asks, licking his lips in anticipation as his wide eyes travel over Harry’s earnest face.

“More than I’ve ever wanted anything,” Harry breathes out, hands sliding from Louis’ cheeks to wrap around his neck as Louis scoots closer.

“Me too, Harry. More than anything,” Louis agrees, just before Harry’s lips crash into his own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Harry,” Louis gasps out between kisses as he crawls into Harry’ lap, “Edward. Styles. Will you, please. Please. Be my date to this wedding?”

Harry bites at Louis’ bottom lip, a punishing nibble that makes Louis’ breath catch in his throat. He immediately licks over the site in apology when he’s done, pressing a chaste kiss there too for good measure. “Only if you stop talking and keep kissing me.”

Louis giggles into Harry’s mouth, feeling for once like everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be.

Harry inhales his laughter, tongue dipping into Louis’ mouth to lick it from his lips and Louis suddenly doesn’t feel like laughing anymore. He grinds down onto Harry’s lap, relishing in the way Harry’s hands move to his hips and grasp them punishingly as he holds Louis' lips captive with his own.

Louis doesn’t know if Harry's grip means he wants him to move more or less but his question is answered pretty quickly when Harry pulls Louis back against the bed with him, rolling them so that he’s the one in control. He can have it. Louis will gladly hand over all the control to Harry whenever he wants it. He just doesn’t want this to stop.

“Is this too fast?” Harry wonders breathlessly as their erections press into each other, not even giving Louis a chance to answer before he’s ducking down to taste him again.

"I've waited forever for you, Curly," Louis exhales when Harry pulls back again to give him the chance. He stares up at Harry adoringly. "If you want to wait longer, I'll do it," he promises, pulling his fingers from where they've tangled in Harry's hair to graze softly against his cheek, "I'll wait as long as you need. I'm ready for whatever you want, love."

Harry groans and buries his face in the juncture between Louis' neck and shoulder.

Louis chuckles softly, trying not to feel disappointed. "It's alright, babe. We don't have to rush anything."

Harry shakes his head, face still hidden and mumbles something into Louis' skin.

"What?" Louis laughs again. "Sorry, I don't speak... whatever language that was."

Harry lifts his head, biting down on a grin as he tries to glare at Louis for making him come out of hiding. "It's not that," Harry repeats. "I'm not saying I don't want this."

"Then what are you saying?" Louis asks patiently, brushing Harry's hair out of his face.

"I just feel like an idiot," he says, eyes appearing to settle their gaze somewhere around Louis' mouth. “What if neither of us had said anything? We both would have spent the whole weekend suffering for it. God, it’s been weeks, Lou.” Harry trails a thumb over Louis’ bottom lip, staring at it hungrily. “I could have been kissing you for weeks.”

“It takes two to fuck up a tango, Haz,” Louis smiles at him. It’s easy to admit his stupidity now that he knows he wasn’t alone. “I just didn’t want to jump on you as soon as you were out of your relationship with Liam. I know you needed time,” his smile fades when he remembers the next part. “But then, when you found those pictures of you in my studio, I thought maybe I’d lost you. That you wouldn’t want this.”

“I did,” Harry interrupts, kissing Louis sweetly like he can’t stand that he might think Harry ever wouldn’t want to. “I just didn’t know if I was ready.”

“Well,” Louis moves his hands to the small of Harry’s back. It’s a nice, neutral place, neither completely sexual nor uninterested. “Like I said, babe. Whatever you want. Whenever you’re ready.”

Harry grins down at him, a gleam of desire in his eyes. “I want you,” he whispers as though no one else in the world deserves to hear the words but Louis, “and I want you now.”

“I’m yours. Always,” Louis answers just before Harry’s lips capture his again.

Harry’s hands drown themselves in Louis’ hair as Harry ruts down against him urgently, driving needy little whines from Louis’ throat that Harry swallows as soon as they’re set free.

Louis can feel the way Harry’s shirt has rucked up from his frantic movements and he puts his hands to the bare flesh of Harry’s back. His skin is hot to the touch and Louis wants more of it. He tugs at Harry’s shirt, a desperate plea of “please”, spilling from his lips in the space between one kiss and the next.

Harry breaks away to tear his shirt off, moving to get Louis’ off next with Louis scrambling to help. He’s probably only slowing them down but he needs something to occupy his mind while Harry’s not kissing him, otherwise he might go mad.

As soon as their shirts are tossed to the floor, Harry presses himself against Louis again, sucking at Louis’ throat and stealing the breath from his lungs. “Fuck,” Louis whines, gripping Harry by his hair and keeping him in place, encouraging him to leave his mark on Louis’ skin.

One of Harry’s hands wanders down to dip between Louis’ legs, cupping his bollocks through the fabric of his trousers and making Louis’ breath catch. He gives a light squeeze before moving up to feel the outline of Louis’ hard cock.

“Harry,” Louis gasps.

“I want— Can I suck you off?” Harry asks, pulling away from Louis’ neck to seek his gaze. Harry’s eyes are clouded with lust and his normally lush lips are pouty and kiss swollen.

“Yeah,” Louis nods frantically because that’s a thing that he wants yesterday. If Harry’s lips look sexy now, he’s not sure how he’ll last once he sees them wrapped around his dick.

Harry looks so serious as he concentrates on getting Louis’ trousers off, pulling his pants down with them. He stops when they’re just past Louis’ knees when his eyes finally trail over Louis’ dick, hard and already leaking pre-cum. He stares at it like he’s never seen anything so beautiful and Louis doesn’t know whether to preen or remind Harry that his trousers aren’t all the way off yet. He shifts a bit and Harry seems to shake himself from his stupor, pulling Louis’ trousers the rest of the way off.

“Move up on the bed,” Harry orders and Louis is quick to obey, laying his head down on the pillows as Harry settles between his legs. He glances up at Louis’ face, wrapping a hand around the base of his cock and stroking up and then down again agonizingly slowly as he lowers his mouth to lick at the pre-cum.

Louis fights to keep his eyes open as Harry’s mouth envelopes him in a wet heat that sets his heart racing immediately. And he was right, it’s almost too much, seeing Harry’s lips around him like that. His cheeks hollowed as he sucks Louis into his mouth over and over again, working his tongue against Louis’ dick each time he rises and tugging gently at his bollocks with the hand that isn’t wrapped around his cock.

Yes,” Louis exhales reverently. “Fuck, Harry.”

Harry hums against Louis’ dick, sending a wave of pleasure shooting to the growing knot of yesgoodplease forming just behind his navel.

Louis grips his fingers into the sheets at his sides so that he doesn’t grip Harry’s hair, afraid he might pull too hard and hurt him. The little sounds Harry’s making, like he’s never tasted anything as amazing as Louis’ dick aren’t help and Louis can soon feel his toes curling.

“I’m coming,” he warns on a moan but Harry doesn’t pull off. He just keeps sucking Louis, curling his tongue in just the right way to have Louis crying out as he comes, spilling over Harry’s tongue.

Harry swallows his seed and wipes at the corner of his mouth as he pulls off and Louis releases his grip on the sheets to pull Harry down into a kiss. Greedily licking the taste of himself from Harry’s mouth.

“I can return the favor, yeah?” Louis asks, barely giving Harry a chance to answer as he can’t seem to stop kissing him.

“Oh god, please,” Harry answers with a laugh and Louis rolls them over so that he can relieve Harry of his trousers as well.

It certainly looks like a relief when Harry’s dick bobs free, achingly hard and red from inattention. Louis is quick to remedy that wrapping his hand around it and licking from base to tip, causing something that sounds a bit like a purr to rumble up from Harry’s chest. He struggles not to think about how adorable that is as he goes down on Harry, devouring him in the best possible way.

Harry has no qualms about sinking his fingers into Louis’ hair, massaging his scalp encouragingly. Harry’s so considerate, not yanking or pushing, and Louis loves that.

“So good,” Harry murmurs through another purr and Louis wants to smile but instead he keeps worshiping Harry’s cock with lips and tongue and every now and then just the slightest scrape of his teeth. It makes Harry’ legs quiver and his fingertips press just a bit into Louis’ scalp. Louis doesn’t know if it gives Harry a shiver of fear or pleasure but either way, it has him coming seconds later with a warning cry and a gentle but definite tug of Louis’ hair.

Louis licks his lips and shimmies up the bed to lay at Harry’s side, wrapping an arm around the breathless boy’s torso.

“Was that alright?” Louis asks as Harry turns his head to look at him.

“More than,” Harry smiles, dimple indenting his cheek and he reaches down to tangle his fingers with Louis’ on his stomach.

“Good,” Louis murmurs, feeling something warm and tangible settle in his chest as he lays his head on Harry’s shoulder.

He thinks he might have to thank Zayn and Niall for meddling. Some day. Maybe.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Louis,” Harry’s voice calls to him softly, pulling Louis from the fuzzy remnants of sleep.

“What it is, babe?” Louis asks, snuggling closer to the warm body next to him and refusing to open his eyes yet.

He can hear Harry laugh just before there are fingers brushing his fringe off his forehead. “Don’t we have a stag do to get to tonight?”

“Mmm,” Louis grumbles noncommittally. He knows they have to go. Stan will kill him if they don’t. But for now, he doesn’t really feel up to worrying about it. “Don’t want to share you,” he grumbles, curling his arm more tightly around Harry’s waist.

He can feel Harry’s smile against his lips when the other boy kisses him, a chaste peck of his lips but it’s enough to have Louis chasing after him when he tries to pull back.

Harry relents with another laugh, letting Louis kiss him again.

“I need a shower,” Harry murmurs against his lips. “We could share, if you want.”

Louis hums interestedly, “I do want.”

Harry helps him pull himself up from the bed and leads him to the bathroom, sidestepping the flower crown Louis didn’t even realize Harry had lost a long time ago and the claw foot tub on the way. Maybe they’ll actually use the tub later but for now, practicality wins out over romance. They have things to do after all. All thoughts of those things go flying out the window though as they step into the shower together. Harry’s body, a contrast in hard edges and soft curves, has Louis’ dick taking a renewed interest as Harry soaps himself.

“Fuck, you’re beautiful,” Louis comments without really meaning to.

Harry’s smile appears bashful and Louis doesn’t know what the boy has to be shy about. He’s absolute perfection. But then, Louis may be a tiny bit biased.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Harry says, pulling Louis closer with soapy hands. His long fingers glide over Louis’ body and Louis thinks it’s probably not meant to be an erotic experience, getting soaped up. But then Harry’s hands slide over his bum and his stare has gone all intense and hungry again.

Their cocks, both half-hard, catch on each other as Louis closes the last bit of space between them, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck and kissing him fervently. He moans into Harry’s mouth when the other boy’s fingers slip between his arsecheeks and graze over his hole.

They rut against each other, soap-slick and eager, until they come again. But even as satisfied as Louis feels, he can’t stop his hands roaming over Harry’s body as they wash. Now that he gets to touch, it’s difficult to make himself stop. Harry doesn’t seem to mind, indulging Louis’ curiosity and desires with an easy patience. Maybe it helps that he’s having a hard time keeping his hands to himself too, but he’s better at restraining himself than Louis is. Eventually though, they have to get out, towel themselves off and get ready for a party.

~~~

Stan’s stag do is in full swing when they arrive. There are people laughing and drinking and dancing and Louis thrives on the energy in the room. He’d thought he wouldn’t want to go to the party but now that he’s here, he’s excited for it. A nervous kind of happiness thrumming through his veins.

Harry squeezes his hand at his side and Louis looks over, interprets his patient smile and the twitch of his brow as an “are you ready for this?” He is.

He grins back and Harry takes that for the answer it’s meant to be, taking a step further into the room but stopping when Louis doesn’t move with him.

He is ready. Mostly. But first, there’s one thing Louis wants to clear up before they get on with their night.

“Is something wrong?” Harry asks, brow furrowed with concern.

“No,” Louis assures him. “It’s just— Well, remember when you said I could introduce you to Stan as my boyfriend?” Louis asks, chest seizing with an irrational fear that this conversation isn’t going to go the way he wants it to.

“Of course,” Harry grins, squeezing his hand again.

And maybe that small gesture is the answer Louis is looking for. But he wants to be absolutely sure. He wants there to be no question that they’re on the same page this time.

“I just wanted to make sure— If I do that. If I introduce you as my boyfriend,” he breathes deep, trying not to sound too desperate when he asks, “will it be real? Or are we still pretending?”

Harry’s gaze narrows in confusion, and maybe a little pain. “Are you—? After everything we’ve said, everything we’ve done, you still aren’t sure how I feel about you?”

“No!” Louis rushes to argue, gripping Harry’s hand tightly in the hopes that he won’t pull away before Louis can fix the mess he’s made. “I know that you like me. I’m not asking how you feel about me Harry. I just want to make sure that you’re ready to actually be in relationship before I put all my hopes on it. I don’t want to assume anything or push you into something that you don’t want.”

Harry laughs ruefully, turning his sad smile on Louis but there’s still a glimmer of amusement in his eyes. “First of all, I don’t just sleep with any Tom, Dick, or Louis that walks into my life, you idiot. I only have sex with someone when I’m in a relationship with them. So, yes. Like it or not, I am your boyfriend. For real,” he says tugging Louis closer, voice going soft as he looks as Louis fondly. “For keeps.”

“I think I can live with that,” Louis smiles feeling every bit the idiot Harry called him out for being.

“And second,” Harry says, voice still carrying that soft, heart-melting tone. “I don’t think ‘like’ quite covers what I feel for you.”

“Yeah?”

Yep, Louis’ heart is a puddle of goo at Harry’s feet. Here’s hoping he doesn’t slip on it. Louis knows how clumsy he is. Though, he doesn’t at all mind the idea of Harry falling for him.

“Yeah,” Harry answers, kissing Louis right then and there.

“Oi! Lovebirds!” Stan calls from across the room, waving them over with a grin.

When Harry nearly trips with the first step they take, Louis has to bite his cheek not to giggle.

The party flies by in a whirlwind of games and drinks and stolen kisses in dark corners. When it’s all over, they get back to their room and collapse into bed, undressing while half-asleep before passing out in each other’s arms.

~~~

It seems fitting to Louis that Stan’s wedding would be the one that meets all of his expectations for what a fairytale wedding should look like. 

Louis snaps pictures as Stan’s fiancé walks down the aisle towards him. He captures Stan’s loving smile, eyes shining with happiness when he sees his soon-to-be spouse. Then, the grin that’s mirrored back at him, when they meet, hands clasped as they vow to spend the rest of their lives loving each other.

Harry is a calming presence at Louis’ side, carrying his equipment bag and sniffling a bit as he watches the happy couple, wiping discretely at his eyes every few seconds. Louis almost wishes he wasn’t working so that he could just watch his boyfriend but then he probably wouldn’t have gotten the courage to ask Harry to come with him and that is something he doesn’t want to think about.

The reception is possibly even more beautiful than the wedding itself. The sheer amount of love and laughter permeating the room colouring the night far more exquisitely than the soft lighting or pretty drapery. He gets photos of the speeches, the cake and the cutting of it. He gets Stan’s first dance with his husband. The joy of the guests. And the only tears in sight of those of profound happiness.

After a while, Stan insists that Louis put his camera down and just enjoy himself. He thinks about arguing that he already was but then Harry’s there, taking his camera from his hands and tucking it into the camera bag, hiding them away until later as he offers Louis his hand with a smile.

“May I have this dance?” He asks, eyes gleaming with happiness and desire and fondness.

“You can have all the dances, Curly,” Louis replies, taking his hand and allowing himself to be led to the dancefloor.

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Harry warns, spinning Louis in place and then catching him in the cage of his arms, holding him close.

“Hold me all you want,” Louis smirks. “I think we’ve already established that I’m quite alright with that idea.”

Harry laughs, bends to kiss him and this… this is what Louis’ been yearning for all his life. He wants this forever. Maybe, if he asks really nicely, Harry will agree to those terms.

 

~~~

 

Barely a year later, Louis asks very nicely, down on one knee, if Harry will agree to spend forever with him. Harry doesn’t even have to think about before agreeing.

Six months after their engagement, they seal their vows with a kiss, Harry looking at Louis exactly the way he'd always imagined his husband would.

During his wedding speech, Louis thanks Stan for pestering him about his wedding date a year earlier (as promised). He thanks Niall and Zayn for not knowing when to keep their nose out of other people’s business. And he thanks Liam for screwing up royally and giving him the chance to steal his husband’s heart. Harry groans and hides his face in his hands at that one, but considering Liam is smiling, Zayn beside him holding his hand, Louis doesn’t think Liam really minds all that much.

He spends the night dancing and laughing and kissing his husband when the urge strikes, which happens to be quite often. And then, near the end of the night he pulls out his camera, feeling nostalgic. He takes a picture of Niall wearing Harry’s stolen flower crown and Liam and Zayn swaying together on the dancefloor.  It strikes him that everything that led up to this moment, it all started with a photograph of a beautiful boy. So, Louis turns his camera toward Harry again and once more, snaps a picture of his future. Then, he puts the camera away and gathers his husband in his arms.

The future looks pretty terrific from where Louis is standing, but right now, his present is calling him home.

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