The local radio station Cropley FM Christmas party had, in the past, been an affair of the kind that required the girls to wear tinsel in their hair and the boys to wear some kind of raucous, Christmas themed tie, and maybe jazz it up with some kind of Father Christmas deely-boppers.
This was, of course, before they employed Louis Tomlinson as a junior junior production assistant's assistant, a role that mainly found him a) helping out on reception b) roving Cropley town centre of an afternoon with a microphone, asking skiving teenagers if they thought Miley Cyrus was relevant, and c) filing CD cases. Point b) had involved him being hit in the head with a McDonalds chicken nugget last week, point a) was the best because it involved ignoring the phone when it rang and meant he could participate in office chair Olympics down the corridor behind the front desk, and point c) he didn't pay all that much attention to. He just stuffed CDs back wherever there was a gap, because this was 2013 and the crap local radio DJs should be playing MP3s anyway. He was just helping Cropley FM limp slowly into the twenty-first century, that was all. At some point in the next five years they really did have to lose the FM and become good old Radio Cropley instead, but frankly, if Louis was still here in five years he'd have to beat himself to death with some Father Christmas deely-boppers anyway, so in the long run none of it mattered all that much.
Until they gave him the Christmas party to organise, that is.
Louis had carnage on the brain, proper carnage, proper go-down-in-the-history-books night-to-remember carnage. And if anyone could organise the best Christmas party in Cropley FM's history books, it was Louis fucking Tomlinson.
And if the one aim he had for the evening was to drive Nicholas fucking-fuckhead Grimshaw up the wall, then that was just a nice, pleasant side effect of a party well-organised, that was all. Just a nice, happy addendum to the best party ever.
"I hate you," Nicholas fucking-fuckhead Grimshaw said, approximately half way through the Cropley FM annual Christmas party, stumbling down onto the seat next to Louis at the top table and spilling half of his drink on the tablecloth. Nick was the host of the Cropley FM breakfast show, and as such was the bane of Louis' existence, demanding that he turn up at work before seven in the morning on days when he didn't even stumble into bed until after twelve. He did things like drag Louis into the studio to play are you smarter than a Cropley Primary School kid? and then laughed a lot when Louis lost to a seven year old. Whatever, that year three kid was a fucking genius, and anyway, Louis had been hungover that morning. "You are a total git."
At some point in the evening, someone had drawn a moustache on Nick's upper lip with what Louis could only hope was permanent marker pen. "You've got something—" Louis pointed a little drunkenly at Nick's face. "Oh, ignore me, it's just your face. I thought it was a thing."
Nick did his best impression of a glower. It wasn't very scary. "You're really annoying," Nick said, pointing right back at him. "I didn't agree to any of that back there."
Back there was the charity corner Louis had set up especially to drive Nick mad, although it had also had the side effect of appeasing the station head, who'd handed Louis a budget for this party that had included funds to pay for a pub function room and a few complimentary nibbles and a free glass of wine. Louis had promptly spent all the money on crisps and booze from Costco, had borrowed his friend Harry's karaoke machine, and bunged a few quid in the direction of the sound engineers to get them to set up a DJ booth in the back room of the radio station, and hosted the whole thing on-site. His mate Zayn was a junior reporter on the Cropley Gazette, and—fully aware of how annoying Louis found Nick—had turned up with his notebook to interview Nick about his sponsored silence in aid of the local children's hospice.
Nick had subsequently spent the first two and a half hours of the party sitting in the corner under a sign that said DON'T TALK TO ME, I CAN'T TALK BACK (beautifully made and coloured in by Louis in the pub the previous night, with glitter assistance from his friends, Liam and Niall), holding a donation box shaped like a penguin, and playing an odd kind of charades-cum-pictionary for Zayn, for what had to be the world's oddest newspaper interview. He'd spent the last twenty-seven minutes, post-silence, at the bar knocking back vodka, and the last three minutes making faces at Louis across the room whilst all around them, very drunk DJs and sound engineers and production staff attempted to make themselves heard over the free-for-all that was going on round the karaoke machine.
"Think of all the money you've made for charity," Louis told him, trying not to stare at Nick's mouth.
That was a curious side effect of disliking him, this obsession with Nick's mouth.
"You're awful," Nick said.
"You've probably made loads," Louis mused. "Bet you that no one in this room thought you could shut your trap for two and a half hours."
"I'm going to have to kill you," Nick said. "Do you think if I did it now, anyone would miss you?"
"Not until the morning," Louis said. Nick's mouth was all pink. "Your face is terrible."
"Jesus," Nick said. "You're terrible."
"Do you want a sausage roll?" Louis asked, to steal attention away from the fact he couldn't stop staring at Nick's mouth. He produced a plastic tub from under the table. "Or a cocktail sausage?"
Nick narrowed his eyes. "Are you magic?" he asked. "What else have you got under there?"
"Vodka," Louis said, lifting up the table cloth. "Multipack of Skips. Some Smarties."
"Give us some Skips and a tube of Smarties and I won't murder you in your sleep," Nick said.
Louis made a face. "Not much of a deal, Grim. What do I get in return?"
He didn't imagine the way Nick looked him up and down. "What do you want?"
He was being flirted with by Nicholas fucking-fuckhead Grimshaw. It was all right, Nick looked as bewildered by the experience as Louis felt, so at least they were on the same page. He knocked back at least a shot and a half of vodka straight out of the bottle, and handed it over to Nick. "Want some?"
"Definitely," Nick said, taking a gulp. "Fuck, that's strong."
"It's straight vodka, knobhead," Louis said, stealing it back. He made a face as he knocked another shot or so back. "Fuck."
"Told you," Nick said, and he reached for the bottle, wrapping his hand around Louis'.
So, that was new.
Although how that translated from them being inside—in the warm—to being outside in the alley behind the radio station, with Nick pinning him up against the wall and kissing him, hand sneaking under his shirt to stroke at his hip, Louis had no idea.
"This is weird," Louis said, cupping Nick's face in his hands. He was quite spectacularly drunk. They both were; they'd stumbled out the fire door and into each other's arms with barely any planning or preparation at all, unless they counted the vodka.
"I didn't think I liked you very much," Nick said, sliding his knee in between Louis' thighs.
"Maybe it's the vodka," Louis suggested, leaning up to kiss him again. "Hey, look, it's snowing."
"We're going to die of cold," Nick said, bracketing Louis up against the wall. "Do I look like I'm built for snow? Central heating, I'm built for."
"Oh, shut up, dickhead," Louis said, fisting his hands in Nick's shirt. "And if you can stop complaining for two seconds, you could fucking kiss me again, if you wanted."
"Last of the old romantics," Nick said, a trifle dryly, but snow was settling in his hair and on his shoulders and even on his fucking eyelashes, so Louis let him off, and not just because Nick was leaning in to kiss him again.
And if he woke up in Nick's bed the following morning wearing nothing but a tinsel bow around his dick and a pair of Father Christmas deely-boppers, then at least his wrists weren't tied to the headboard with a reindeer-themed tie, like some breakfast DJs he could mention.
"Um," Nick said. "Nice bow."
"Thanks," Louis said, as his hangover crept over him like a malevolent drum-banging demon. "Nice, um—" He waggled his hand in Nick's direction. "Nice everything. I suppose."
Nick laughed at that. "Untie me and I'll blow you before work, if you'd like. Does wonders for the old hangover, a good blowie."
"If you insist," Louis said, and as hangover-beating strategies went, it really sort of worked.