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Play Me Like One of Your French Girls

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Play Me Like One of Your French Girls

--

Over the course of his entire career, Louis has sat next to some of the oddest people on planes. Well, all right, that’s stretching it. Over the course of his entire career, Louis has sat next to his share of the rich and famous. Of course, he’s rich and famous, so it’s not like it’s ridiculous. He stopped being starstruck sometime after his first time at the Golden Globes, which also happened to coincide with his first award show with alcohol, but Louis is absolutely certain that has nothing to do with it. Also, he flies enough at this point that he’s pretty much used to being seated next to someone noteworthy.

He’s made something of a game out of it, and the lads always get a kick out of his latest story. Although he’s relatively certain Liam’s still not forgiven him for not recognizing Drake--in Louis’ defense, it was late, he was hungover, and the guy was completely knocked out, so it wasn’t like Louis could have talked to him, anyway, let alone had a sing-a-long or orgy or whatever Liam would have done in his place. The point being it’s been several years and more than two dozen celebrities since Louis’ been even remotely surprised by his seatmate. Certainly he’s never cursed at them. However, seeing as tonight’s companion appears to be a cello, Louis feels like he’s entirely justified in the startled exclamation that comes out of his mouth.

“What the everloving fuck?”

Seeing as his seatmate is, as above stated, a cello, it has no response. The curly-haired boy of a man currently in the process of settling the thing into the seat, however, jumps a few feet in the air and nearly brains himself on the overhead compartments.

There is a very pregnant pause.

Louis blinks.

“Um,” says the curly-haired boy of a man. “Hello?”

Louis blinks again.

“You’re, um,” says the man. Boy. Man-boy. “Louis Tomlinson. I’ve got your photo on my wall. Several photos. Posters--um.” He swallows, and looks an odd mix of panicked and relieved, for some reason.

“Yes,” Louis says. “And that’s my seat.” He points at the seat next to the cello.

“Right,” says the guy. “I’m Harry.”

Louis nods.

“And this is my cello.”

Louis closes his mouth on a witty remark, and very neatly steps around Harry to put his carry on into the overhead compartment. Never mind Liam’s ridiculous puppy dog eyes, this is the last time Louis’ flying business.

“No, I mean.” Harry pauses, sounding horrified, and Louis risks a glance at him. He’s worrying his bottom lip with his teeth, making them all the more red, and is actually wringing his hands.

Louis should not find that as endearing as it is. He manages to raise one eyebrow.

“Yes, it is my cello, but I can explain,” says Harry.

Louis doesn’t pause in lifting his duffle bag, which Harry seems to take as a cue to continue speaking.

“See, my seat’s back in economy,” he says, voice low and rough. He speaks slowly, to the point where if he were anyone else, Louis would be bothered, but something about the rounded vowels of his accent makes him miss home, and he’s not even left yet. Stupid American award shows, interrupting his much needed breaks.

The tiny Liam Payne in the back of head is shaking its head and crossing its arms. I can’t believe you’re actually angry that you got nominated for a People’s Choice Award, Lou, Louis imagines it saying. Liam saying. Louis decides he probably should have slept more than three hours the night before.

“--but it turns out they upgraded it to business class,” Harry is in the middle of saying when Louis tunes back in. It sounds like he’s finished, and it takes all of Louis’ self control to not flush.

“Sorry?” he says.

“My cello,” Harry clarifies. “Got upgraded to business class. Without...me.”

Louis blinks for the third time this conversation. “That’s--” he says. “Really?”

Harry looks sheepish, reaching up with a massive hand to tug at his curls. They’re very lovely curls, and Harry is also very lovely. Tall. Long legs. Attractive. Plays the cello. Decidedly not a famous person and probably likely to be far better company than any of them. Also male. Likely to make the original press of his coming out pale in comparison should they ever be spotted together. That’s not even taking into consideration whether or not Harry’s even interested in men. Louis’ not sure why he’s thinking in static fragments, but he’s perfectly happy blaming the lack of sleep. Or his dry spell.

“Yeah,” Harry says. “It’s, um, I mean what can you do--”

“Why don’t you just leave the cello in economy?” Louis interrupts before he can help himself. He swallows, the flush from earlier splashing across his cheeks, and manages a grin. “Sorry.”

Harry gives his curls a shake. “I mean, I don’t really mind,” he says. “And I don’t really fancy leaving it with, um--” He stops, seemingly at a loss for words, and Louis smirks.

“The common folk?” he says, snapping the overhead compartment closed with both hands and blinking up at Harry through his lashes.

Harry grins right back at him, and Louis takes the moment to better take him in. He’s wearing skinny jeans that look like they were painted on, a headscarf, a plaid flannel shirt that he apparently does not know how to button, and Louis can see the beginnings of a few homemade tattoo on his right arm where the sleeves are rolled up. He has ‘Things I Can’t’ on that arm as well, and Louis get a little lost wondering just what those words mean.

“I was going to say strangers,” Harry is saying, “but that works too.”

He’s probably trying for cool or something, but mostly he ends up with endearing, only made more so by how he stumbles when a woman moves past them in the aisle with a kindly, “excuse me.”

Louis snorts, and Harry giggles. “Anyway,” he continues. “I thought it’d probably be safer up here. In business class.”

Louis nods. “Right,” he says, slowly. “It’ll make a good story, at least?”

Harry’s answering smile is blinding. “Mm,” he says. “One to tell the kids for sure.”

“You should sleep with someone,” Louis says. “Like--meet your future children’s mother on the plane. Best meet-cute ever.”

Harry laughs, cheek dimpling, and Louis has a sudden urge to poke it. Or kiss it. Kiss him. He shakes his head, and checks back into the conversation.

“Husband,” Harry corrects, giving that information away with all the ease of someone who’s never had to stare down the feeding frenzy that is the media. Louis feels like the air’s been punched out of his chest, and for a terribly long second he just blinks at Harry, awkwardly, until he’s forced closer to him when a pair of men in suits pass them in the aisle, discussing business.

“Oh,” Louis says, quietly, into the space between them. “Right, okay, well. It’s still the best meet-cute ever.”

“Yeah,” says Harry, just as quietly.

Louis manages something of a smile. “Maybe I’ll use it for my next film,” he says, with some semblance of cheer. He’s close enough to Harry that he can feel the warmth of his chest, which is bare all the way down to the top of his sternum. Louis swallows, hard, and flicks his eyes back up to meet Harry’s. They’re an odd mix of grey and green.

“Yeah,” Harry agrees, meeting Louis’ gaze fully. He sounds a little breathless. “I should be getting to my own seat, though.”

“Right,” says Louis, stepping backwards, quicker than intended. “Right, yes, of course, um.” He looks down at his feet, hand on the back of his neck, and then back up at Harry. “I’ll see you later, then?”

Harry’s smiling again. “Of course,” he says. “I’ve got something to come back for.” His eyes go a little dark, he pats the cello case where the neck would be--do cellos even have necks, Louis wonders--and then walks away.

Louis is left watching him weave his way towards the economy seating, mouth dry, at a bit of a loss, before he gives himself a shake, and sits down next to the cello.

Okay, then.

So maybe not a complete dry spell.

--

“A cello,” says Zayn. Louis’d called him as soon as he’d been okayed to turn his phone back on. Zayn isn’t at all impressed, but he’s also not amused. Or seeing the bright side, which is Harry.

“No, see, you’re focusing on the wrong things,” says Louis.

“What should I be focusing on?” says Zayn, still not sounding all that impressed.

“Harry,” Louis tells him, grinning at a passing flight attendant. The woman eyes the cello in the seat next to him curiously, but seems perfectly willing to chalk it up to the eccentricities of the rich and famous when Louis very subtly puts a hand on its seat. Or the eccentricities of business men? Louis casts an eye around the cabin, but no one else seems bothered by the cello. He catches a few stares, and sighs. So much for arriving incognito.

“Harry,” Zayn repeats.

“Harry,” agrees Louis.

“Sorry, who’s Harry?” says Zayn, and Louis groans.

“Zayn,” he whines. “You’re not listening to me!”

Zayn sighs, muttering something about how now Louis knows what it feels like.

Louis frowns. “Oi,” he says. “I listened to your latest record plenty, Malik.” One of the businessmen from before makes a choking noise and his fingers go skittering across his iPhone. Louis smirks, imagining the latest gossip rags about how R&B Bad Boy Zayn Malik is cheating on Pop’s Darling Perrie Edwards with Hollywood’s Bad Boy And Also Sometimes Darling Louis Tomlinson.

“You did not,” Zayn starts to say, affronted, but Louis interrupts him.

“It’s not my fault that your best friend and my ex-flatmate decided to learn your biggest hit on the guitar,” he says, loudly. “The song’s great, Zayn, but even I have my limits.”

Zayn sighs again, but doesn’t argue the point. Louis’ not even surprised -- Zayn was there when Niall decided to pick up the guitar and refused to play anything but Zayn’s entire discography, including the more experimental stuff from when the three of them were living in a shitty two bedroom flat and Louis actually fancied himself a singer.

“I’m telling Niall you said that,” says Zayn.

Louis smirks. “Pezza!” he says, loudly, and he can just imagine the look on Zayn’s face as he pulls the phone away from his precious eardrums. “Do you still have that CD Niall and I gave Zayn? I think Zayn would like to hear it again!”

“No, Zayn would not,” says Zayn, grumbling, and then cursing. Louis can hear Perrie laughing over the phone, the muffled chords of Niall’s guitar sounding good despite the fact that Louis’ heard the song more times than he can count. He once set his alarm to be the radio, heard the song, and then spent the next few hours awkwardly on the phone playing apologetic superstar when he ended up flinging the thing across the room to get it to stop. Louis loves Zayn’s voice; Midnight Memories? not so much.

“No but, cellos,” Louis interrupts Zayn’s cursing. “And hot guys named Harry who, apparently, play said cellos.”

Zayn pauses. “Right, yes,” he says. “Tell me more about this cellist.”

“Well he’s tall,” Louis says, playing with the frayed ends of his jumper. He’s not sure if it’s actually his jumper--possibly it’s Liam’s? “And curly. And, um, we didn’t really talk beyond the whole ‘you’re Louis Bloody Tomlinson’--Speaking of--”

“For the last time, you cannot legally change your middle name to Bloody, Bleeding, or any other variants that you think of at four in the morning while completely smashed,” says Zayn, before Louis can even ask.

“Spoilsport,” Louis complains, hiding a grin. It’s a pointless endeavor as Zayn cannot see him, but he does it anyway. Pretences. Classy Businessman Number One might be taking sneaky photos of him, and Louis has a reputation to uphold. “But no, I don’t really know much beyond he’s cute, and hot, and tall, and plays cello--”

“And probably straight, knowing you,” interjects Zayn, because he’s known Louis since his awkward teenage years, and moonlights as an arsehole when he’s not playing at best mate.

“And definitely not straight,” Louis says over him, pointedly, probably louder than he should have. Classy Businessman Number One shoots him another probing look, and Louis most definitely does not giggle to himself about his choice of adjectives. “Or at least, he’s not looking to meet the mother of his children on an airplane after his cello got upgraded to business class,” he says. “Like, he said husband. So future father of his children?” He pauses, pursing his lips. “That doesn’t have nearly the same ring to it.”

“Why are we friends again?” asks Zayn.

Louis rolls his eyes. “Anyway, the cello’s still next to me, Harry’s back in economy, and that’s what you missed on Glee!”

Zayn is worryingly quiet for a few seconds. Louis wonders if he’s not forgiven him for forcing him to watch the first season of Glee with him on the flights to and from last year’s MTV Music Awards. Louis buggered off on a five month movie shoot after, so he wasn’t around for the apparently traumatic aftermath when Zayn realized that the next three seasons of the show decreased considerably in quality, but he does have the Whatsapp conversations from Niall and Liam to show as battle scars.

“Right,” Zayn says, incredibly slowly. “And you called me because...?”

“Because he’s attractive and plays the cello and there was flirting,” Louis says, quickly, in hopes that Zayn will get with the program and start to sound even a tiny bit concerned. Preferably concerned enough to warrant not hanging up on him and calling Liam. (Why didn’t Louis call Liam, anyway?)

“Flirting,” Zayn repeats. “That’s--are you sure--”

“He told me he had something to come back for and proceeded to make the way Niall looks at food seem tame by comparison,” Louis snaps.

Zayn pauses. “Ah,” he says. “Okay, but, still not seeing why that’s a bad thing, Lou? Like, you said he’s not straight, and you’re decidedly not straight--”

Louis snorts into his phone and crosses and uncrosses his ankles, before shooting Harry’s cello a considering look. He should give it a name, for the duration of the trip at least. He can’t keep thinking of it as Harry’s Cello, because that leads to thinking about Harry, and Louis would rather not spend the next six hours with an unfortunate erection.

“And Harry seems like a nice enough guy,” Zayn is saying, “so no worries, yeah?”

Louis sighs. “What do you think of Lucille?” he says.

Zayn doesn’t respond.

“For a name, I mean,” Louis continues, as if he has. “I’m not sure what the precedent is for naming instruments, like, I know ships and cars are girls, usually, but the only girls names I know are my sisters, and Sophia--” He pauses, remembering suddenly that the reason he didn’t call Liam is because Liam is busy taking a break from being a big-shot Olympic Gold Medalist to be loved up in a hotel with his very lovely girlfriend, before adding, “also Perrie.”

It only takes Zayn a few seconds to gather his wits about him. “You’re not naming the cello after my fiancée, Tomlinson,” he says.

“Okay,” Louis concedes. “But what about Jesy or Jade--”

“And not any of her bandmates, either,” Zayn adds. “In fact, why are you naming it anyway? Can’t you just take a nap like a normal person? Or, God forbid, have a conversation with a real person?”

Louis considers that. “Lucille it is, then,” he says. “And I have to name it--I can’t keep calling it Harry’s Cello.”

“Why not?” Zayn sounds like he’s not sure if he wants to know the answer, like it’s only years of friendship that’s keeping him on the line. “That’s. I mean, it is Harry’s cello?”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Yeah, but I’m not thinking of about how it’s Harry’s cello, because then I start thinking about how Harry uses his hands to play said cello, and then I start thinking about Harry’s hands, and fingers, which are very long, did you know, Zayn? And then I’m thirty thousand feet off the ground, horny, and reckless,” he adds. “And we all know what happens when I get reckless, Malik.”

There’s a pause, then a dial tone.

“Zayn?” Louis tries, and then lowers his phone to glare at the flashing screen. “That wanker,” he mutters.

--

Louis actually manages to fall asleep for the rest of the flight. He’s counting that a blessing, seeing as he’s only got a few hours at the hotel before he’s got to pile into the limo and smile pretty for the cameras and present an award for Best Comedy. The change in altitude is what wakes him, making his ears pop and his head swim, and when he opens his eyes it’s to find Harry standing awkwardly to his left unbuckling his cello. He’s got a knapsack over one shoulder and the headscarf is nowhere to be seen. His curls are drooping, almost sadly, and his lips are pursed as he works on the clasp on the cello’s seatbelt. Lucille’s seatbelt.

Louis manages a smile. “Hi,” he says.

Harry fumbles with the clasp, cheeks pinking. “Oops,” he mutters. “Um, hi?”

“That a question, Harold?” Louis unbuckles his own seatbelt, opening and closing his mouth a few times until his ears crackle painfully and his hearing returns to normal.

“Yes?” says Harry. “I mean--no--can I--” He breaks off, sheepish, getting Lucille free from the seat and finally turning his dimples on Louis. “So this is going to be kind of awkward, but my sister would never forgive me if I didn’t ask--”

Louis stretches his arms up above his head till his spine cracks pleasantly, and Harry very abruptly cuts off. When he turns his head to look at him, he finds him ducking his head, eyes caught guiltily on the stretch of bare skin at Louis’ waist. Louis would put him out of his misery, but he’s so very lovely when he blushes. “Yes?”

“Autograph,” says Harry, with absolutely no tact. “Fucking. Damnit.”

Louis goes to grin his usual autograph smile, but ends up with something that feels far more real than he’s used to be it that he’s just met Harry. “Why, Harold,” he says, slapping a hand to his chest. “I’m honored.”

Harry doesn’t blush harder, but it’s a near thing. He doesn’t backtrack, though, holding out a hand with one of the in-flight napkins and a pen.

Louis takes them in his own hands, trying not to be too obvious about how his heart rate increases when their hands touch. “What’s your sister’s name?”

“Harry Styles,” says Harry, point-blank. He looks like he regrets saying that, but manages to add, “she’s two years older.”

Louis nods, and schools his own features, before writing out, Dear Harry Styles the First. “Mmm,” he says. “Creative lot, your parents.”

Harry seems a bit surprised, but he watches as Louis scrawls out a note about the woes and perils of booking flight tickets, as well as a few well wishes about future performances with Lucille. “Oh, I know,” he says, looking slightly deer-in the headlights. “Made growing up hell.”

Louis finishes the ‘n’ in ‘Tomlinson’ with a flourish. “Tell your sister that I’m sure she’s a lovely girl.” He hands the napkin back to Harry, who takes it with a grin.

“Will do.” He pockets the autograph and reaches down to hoist Lucille up onto his back.

Louis watches him for a bit, before heading to grab his own carry on luggage, and starting for the front of the plane. He pauses and waits for Harry to fall into step with him. “You’ll have to forgive me for not being very good company for Lucille,” Louis tells Harry, as they make their way off of the airplane and into the LAX. It’s eight hours earlier; Louis has yet to get used to that.

“Lucille?” Harry doesn’t even have to work to match Louis’ pace, what with his legs that go on for miles.

Louis reaches out to tap the cello, and then tilts his sunglasses down. “Lucille,” he says. “Keep up, Harold.”

“Yeah, that’s not my name,” Harry says, but he just sounds amused. “Or hers?”

Louis shoots a quick glance over at the terminal to see where his luggage would be, if he’d brought any. “Do you need to..” He trails off, pointing.

Harry shakes his head, and then his curls, before brushing them back off his forehead. “Nah,” he says. “I’m not really here for all that long, just, you know, recital and then, um, a work thing, and then home. You?”

Louis stares at him. “The People’s Choice Awards are tonight,” he says slowly, in lieu of an explanation.

Harry stares back at him. “Right,” he says, also slow. “Right, yes, you’re Louis Tomlinson.”

Louis flips his sunglasses back down. “Yes,” he says. “And you’re Harry Styles the Second.”

Harry looks like he’d smack him, if not for the cello in his arms. Lucille.

“And also, of course her name is Lucille.”

“I’m pretty sure I’d know the name of my own cello, Louis,” says Harry, dryly. It’s the first time he’s said Louis’ name in a way that wasn’t reverent or taken aback, and it makes something pleasant and warm curl into Louis’ stomach.

“Well, obviously you do not,” he says. “Lucille and I have something special.”

“Her name’s definitely not Lucille--”

“What we have transcends all earthly pursuits.”

“--In fact, how do you know it’s even a her--don’t you think you’re being a bit presumptuous--”

Harry sounds like he’s actually getting rather passionate about their conversation, to the point where Louis comes to the conclusion that he needs to stop the conversation as to avoid the aforementioned awkward erections. So he gets down on one knee and says, loudly, “Nothing you can say can keep us apart!”

“Oh my God, what are you doing--” Harry tries to say.

“In fact!” Louis cries. “Lucille, will you marry me?” He doesn’t have a ring, but he goes through the motions anyway.

They’re in the middle of LAX. At least three different people are probably tweeting about this or, God forbid, videoing it.

Louis is so glad he didn’t turn his phone on when they got off the plane, because probably Zayn would be calling him. Or Eleanor. Or his mum.

“Oh my God,” says Harry. “Listen, I’m so sorry you got stuck sitting next to my cello-- Louis please stand up, people are staring--God, are all actors this crazy what is wrong with you?”

Definitely his mum.

Louis gives Harry a serene grin. “Only once Lucille’s accepted my proposal,” he says, sweetly.

Harry’s eyes narrow. “Okay, she’s definitely not a her or a Lucille, now,” he says.

“Luke, then,” Louis amends. “And I’m not sure if you were living under a rock for the past year or two, but that actually works better for me.”

Harry looks torn between laughing hysterically about it, and more than a little overwhelmed by the staring. He reaches out to grab Louis by the arm and haul him into an upright position, pasting a smile onto his face. “I’ll have to ask him, it. But later,” he says, under his breath, wide-eyed at the crowd surrounding them.

Louis feels a bit bad, and starts walking, pulling Harry along with him and trying to give off an air of being very busy so as to avoid autographs or actually having to be a famous person. He also turns his phone on. “Sorry.”

Harry manages a smile. “Don’t be,” he says, as they make their way towards the doors.

Louis tries to remember if Zayn’d arranged a car for him, or if he and Perrie were going to be picking him up. Probably the latter; nothing quells the affair rumors like a few high quality papshots of Louis and Perrie laughing at LAX.

“I’d hate to have to tell Marcel that his husband to be had cold feet.”

Louis blinks up at Harry, noting abruptly their height difference, and frowns.

“What?” Harry’s lips twitch.

“Marcel?”

Harry grins. “It has a ring to it, don’t you think?” he says. “Much better than Lucille, anyway.”

“Hey, it was either that or Perrie Edwards,” Louis interjects, spotting the woman in question leaning against a limo on her phone. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”

Harry looks startled. “From Little Mix?” he says, following after Louis at a slower, more wobbly pace. “And, um, I was going to get a cab, you know?”

“Nonsense,” says Louis. “We’re related by marriage now, Harold. I can’t let you take public transport. What kind of relative would I be, if I did?”

“What’s wrong with public transport?” says Harry, as they reach the doors to the airport and step out onto the curb. “And it’s still not my name.”

It’s warm, sunny, and bustling. Bloody west coast climate. Louis almost longs for New York, or England. He turns to give Harry a smile. “So where are you staying?”

Zayn hops out of the car when they reach them with his mouth open to start lecturing Louis about getting onto his knees in the middle of busy airports to propose to cellos, but stops when his eyes take in Harry. “Oh,” he says.

“Zayn,” says Louis. “This is Harry. Harry, this is Zayn.”

“And Perrie,” puts in Perrie, looking up from her phone to wave at them. “Oh.” She looks startled. “You’re um--” She cuts, off, abruptly, when Zayn nudges her with his foot. “Harry, was it?”

Louis shoots the two of them a curious look, but gets distracted by Harry’s dimples as he smiles at the two of them.

“Hello,” Harry tells them, politely, before turning back to Louis. “I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“Where are you staying?” Louis repeats, gesturing at Zayn to put Marcel the cello into the backseat.

Zayn does so, but not before narrowing his eyes over Harry’s shoulder at Louis and gesturing at him that they’ll be talking later. Louis humors him, because they most definitely will not.

“Oh, um,” says Harry. “My mate has a flat here. Um, he’s quite...famous, I guess, if you like cooking?”

Louis blinks.

“Niall Horan?” says Harry.

Louis….keeps blinking. What?

“Niall Horan,” says Zayn, because at least one of them seems to be able to speak. “Like, blond-haired, Irish, food junkie, and Master Chef Niall Horan?”

Harry nods. “Yeah, I guess?” he says. “I took a cooking class a few summers ago and he was there.”

Louis is still stuck blinking.

“Huh,” says Zayn. He slams the door shut on Marcel. “Small world, yeah, Lou?”

That snaps Louis back into himself, and he closes his mouth. “Yeah, weird,” he says, briskly, before gesturing at the car. “Shall we?”

Harry purses his lips, before managing a grin, and gets into the car. He trips on the way, and the paps nearly get a shot of him faceplanting onto the sidewalk, but luckily Louis has reflexes, so they only get a shot of Louis holding him by the arms and him flushing. Which is probably worse, actually. Although maybe it’ll overshadow the stuff where he proposed to a cello.

“Sorry,” Louis mutters, and opens the car door. “You don’t--” He breaks off, uncertain. “You don’t have to come with us if you don’t want.” He gestures at the paparazzi. “Kind of a package deal, this lot.”

Harry seems to steel himself. “Don’t be silly, Lou,” he says.

Zayn leans around the car to meet Louis’ eye and mouth ‘Lou?’ at him. Louis ignores him.

“I still haven’t decided if you’re fit to marry Marcel, yet.” He grins. “What kind of man would I be if I let possibly the love of his life drive away in his fancy car with Zayn Malik and Perrie Edwards?”

Perrie looks up from her phone and Zayn narrows his eyes even more. “Marriage?” he says.

“I like him,” says Perrie. She pushes off from the car to drape a delicate arm across Harry’s shoulders. “Definitely marry him.”

“Get in the car,” says Louis, and pulls his phone out to snap a quick photo of Harry, which he snapchats to Niall with the caption, you better watch your back.

Niall is quick to text him back. louuuuuuuuu, he whines. why’re you sending me photos of hazza?

Louis lets the name sink in. Hazza, he repeats, angling the phone away from Harry as they get into the limo. Zayn and Perrie take the seats across from them, ankles tangling, and stare at them. Zayn is giving Louis a look that says that as soon as they’re alone, there will be a lot of explaining. Louis is incredibly glad that their entire evening is completely booked with award shows and after parties and alcohol.

yea? says Niall. we took a cooking class together.

Louis looks between the phone, and Harry. Huh, he types. That so?

yep, Niall replies. but why’re you sending me photos.

Met him on a plane, Louis tells him. Got engaged to his cello. You owe me so much for not killing you for keeping him from me.

marcel? says Niall, and Louis has to ask Harry, “Hang on. You’re telling me you’ve actually named your cello Marcel?”

Harry looks back at him serenely. “Yeah, of course,” he says. “Good name, Marcel. Strong. French.” He enunciates that last bit, and Louis has never found something so hot before.

“Huh,” he says, and turns back to his phone.

what do you mean keeping him from you? Niall has said. i wasn’t keeping him from you! i don’t. what does that even mean???????

Louis sighs. Niall, he types. Rule one of being my friend is that if you happen to take cooking classes with attractive, leggy, brunets with dimples you FUCKING TELL ME THIS IS A BETRAYAL OF THE WORST KIND OUR FRIENDSHIP WILL NEVER--

Before he can finish, Niall adds, wait is harry your type? He sends about ten too many exclamation points after that, grouping them together in separate texts so that Louis’ phone ends up buzzing repeatedly in his lap.

Zayn and Perrie, bless them, appear to have started up a conversation with Harry, asking him about Marcel.

Louis very quietly clicks the hold button on the top of his phone, and rejoins the conversation. “So, who wants to help me hide a body?” he says.

There’s a pause.

“Depends,” says Harry, after only a moment. “Where are we?”

Louis considers it. Niall’s probably at home in Ireland now that his show’s on hiatus, but seeing as Louis’ not going to have enough free time to fake a visit, it’d probably have to be a quick thing. “Mullingar,” he says, as he mulls it over.

“Ah,” says Harry. “I’m going to have to bow out, then. Don’t really fancy killing Niall.”

Louis shakes his head at him. “We could have had it all, H,” he says, still shaking his head.

“Wait, hang on,” interrupts Zayn, before Louis can really dig into the vocals. Louis’ not too bothered about it--Zayn’ll get his. Louis is totally up for blasting Adele on their way to the People’s Choice Awards. Zayn can grumble about it all he likes, but Louis’ been friends with him for years, and is thus intimately familiar with his tendency to belt Set Fire to The Rain in the shower. “Your only issue with this is the killing Niall bit?” finishes Zayn.

Harry shoots him an amused look. “He’s Louis Bloody Tomlinson,” he says. “I’m not about to let a little thing like first degree murder get in the way of our blossoming friendship.”

Louis looks over at Zayn and nods.

Zayn looks back at Louis and sighs. “Have you finished yelling at Niall, then?”

Louis pulls his phone out. Niall’s stopped sending him exclamation points, but he’s moved on to being sorry for himself, and is sending increasingly emotional emoticons, and now, selfies. Louis sighs, clicks on one where he’s not entirely sure if Niall’s dressed, and shows them the phone. “Are you sure you don’t want to help me kill him?” he asks Harry, who grins, and shakes his head. He turns back to Zayn. “Yeah.”

“I can see why he kept him from you,” says Zayn. He looks between Harry and Louis pointedly. “Both of you are awful.”

Louis grins, Harry grins, Perrie looks like the only thing keeping her from grinning is her impending nuptials, and Zayn looks like the alcohol-filled after parties could not come sooner.

In short, the night is shaping up to be lovely.

--

Louis gets spectacularly pissed after the People’s Choice Awards. It’s only fair--there’s only so much schmoozing and camera-ready smiling that a person can do before their only solution is to take a cab to the nearest party and dance the night away. Louis is aware of the fact that he’s got to be on a plane back to England in a few hours, though, so the first thing he does when Zayn’s finished dumping him into his hotel room, is demand that his friend get him a glass of water and a paracetamol.

“You’re okay, Tommo, yeah?” Zayn slurs.

Louis makes a noncommittal noise in response and nudges the water and medicine towards him. “Zayn,” he says, drawing the ‘a’ out for at least ten seconds. “Zaynie….pie.”

Zayn takes the water and downs the rest of the glass with the pills. “Louis,” he says. “Lewis. Tommo. Tomlin--Tom Hiddleston.”

Louis blinks. “He’sa,” he says. “Hisa? Hazza. I like Harry.”

“Mmm,” says Zayn. He puts the glass down on the bedside table and falls onto the bed next to Louis. “You said.”

“No, but,” Louis pushes. “He’s following me on Twitter.”

Zayn’s closed his eyes and is using his arms as a pillow and is silent for long enough that Louis worries that he’s fallen asleep. “Harry is?” he says.

Louis thinks about that for a bit. Harry certainly seems the type to have a Twitter account. Probably he posts incredibly charming, incredibly hipster type things like quotes and deep thoughts and pictures of what he had for breakfast or flower crowns or even his own feet. He probably has an Instagram.

When he turns his head, Zayn is staring back at him, brown eyes hazy but honestly curious.

“No, Tom Hiddleston,” Louis says, butchering the name. He wonders how the fuck Zayn had trouble with ‘Tomlinson’ and not ‘Tom Hiddleston’ but then has trouble with it as well, and decides to pretend no such thing ever happened.

Zayn fumbles around for the glass of water, picking it up and thrusting it at Louis’ chest. Some of the liquid sloshes over the sides and onto Louis’ expensive Topman button down. So they didn’t down the glass, then. “‘s wonderful, Tommo,” says Zayn. “You’re proper famous, now.”

Louis isn’t quite sure what he’s agreeing to, but he nods anyway and clinks his own imaginary glass against Zayn’s real one. More water ends up on the shirt; Caroline is going to murder him. “Yay,” he says. “To fame.”

“To Tom Hiddleston,” adds Zayn, taking a big swig of the water. This time Louis watches carefully, eyes narrowed, to make sure that’s he’s most definitely downed the stuff.

“To--him,” he says. “And to Loki. Like, Tom Hiddleston’s character Loki, not Liam’s dog.”

Zayn takes another sip even though there’s no more water to sip.

“And to Liam’s dog Loki too,” Louis adds, not wanting the thing to feel left out. Or, dog. Louis promised Liam he’d stop referring to his dog as ‘the thing’, and he’s going to stick to it. Never mind that Marvel’s The Thing is awesome, and Liam’s dog should be so lucky to be named after a member of The Fantastic Four. Also, they were both suffering from extreme sleep deprivation at the time, and thus it wasn’t so much that Liam made Louis promise, as it was that he ended up with his faced pressed into a pillow whining, “Lou, don’t call my baby a thing!”

“To Liam’s Loki,” says Zayn. He puts the glass down and curls into his side, eyelashes fluttering against his cheekbones.

“And to Payno as well,” Louis tries to say, but Zayn reaches over and slaps a hand over his face.

“Shh,” he says. “Go to sleep, Lou.” He pats Louis once on the cheek and then twice for good measure, before draping his hand across Louis’ neck and leaving it there.

The light from the en suite bathroom is still on and not helping the beginnings of his headache, but Louis is sleepy and Zayn is warm and it’s not at all hard to close his eyes and drift off to sleep.

--

He wakes up at three in the morning to shuffle out of his jeans and ends up wandering into the bathroom both to take a piss, and to turn off the light. When he gets back to the bed, Zayn’s still out-like-a-light and Louis’ phone is buzzing.

He glares at it with the one eye he’s blearily opened. soooo, his lock screen says, little green icon hovering to its left, and Louis flicks a thumb to the right and keys in his passcode. a little birdy gave me your number. xx

Louis opens the other eye. Is the bird blond?, he types. Does it think it can cook? As he continues, he can feel his headache coming back. Did it once spend an entire weekend refusing to play anything other than Justin Bieber and Irish folksongs?

um.

I’m gonna kill him. Tell him he’s dead.

i haven’t actually seen him.

Harold. Louis pauses for a moment, waiting for confirmation that he’s actually texting Harry (who was lovely, and had waved from the curb outside Niall’s flat with Marcel on his back and his dimples on full display.) and opens his contacts. He has vague memories of his conversation with Zayn, mostly about Twitter, Liam’s dog Loki, and Tom Hiddleston, for some reason, and so he makes a spur of the moment decision to change Liam’s name from ‘Liam the Goddamn Olympic Gold Medalist Payne’ to ‘Tom Hiddleston’. That’ll come back to bite him in the ass, but whatever. It’s three in the morning.

Harry’s texted him back.

still not my name.

Louis rolls his eyes. Whatever Harry Styles the Second, he writes. I know your secrets. He adds Harry to his contacts as ‘Harry Styles the Second’.

haha.

Louis screencaps his contacts, and sends Harry it. He gets a picture of his own profile in return; his middle name’s been written in as ‘fucking’, this time.

That’s not my middle name, he tells Harry. It’s William. Autocorrect automatically capitalizes that, and Louis sticks his tongue out at it.

He gets another picture. better? Harry’s changed it to ‘Louis’ willy’. Louis has no idea why he likes him.

Why are we friends again?

There’s a slightly longer pause.

are we?

Louis waits.

friends, i mean. like. should i call my mum?

Louis frowns. Why would you call your mum? he asks. And yessss, Hazza, don’t be daft.

oh. Louis can almost imagine the look on Harry’s face. no see, my mum’s your biggest fan. like, even bigger than gemma. Another pause. my, uh, sister.

Louis picks up that new piece of information and rolls it around his brain. Harry Styles the First, yes.

yeah. but anyway, pretty sure she’d disown me if i didn’t tell her we were friends.

Louis nods. Makes sense, he concedes. I wouldn’t want to be a homewrecker.

haha, Harry texts. He probably said it, too. Louis can picture it. so…what does being your friend entail, exactly?

Why, H, Louis replies. What exactly are you suggesting? I’ll have you know my friendship cannot be bought.

oh no i, writes Harry. um.

Louis takes pity on him. Chill, Hazza, he types. It’s three in the morning, innit? I’m just teasing you.

definitely telling me mum that, Harry replies. louis tomlinson himself. teasing me.

Cheeky. Louis darts his tongue out to wet his lips. Will your mum be wanting an autograph as well? he asks. What’s she--Harry Styles the Original?

howd you know? Harry answers. dont tell me youre psychic.

No, of course not, Louis texts, I’ve got to keep some things secret. We wouldn’t want to ruin the magic.

absolutely, Harry writes back, and Louis can imagine him grinning. He also realizes he’s spent the past ten minutes standing in the middle of the hotel room wearing just his boxers, while a very much not out-like-a-light Zayn Malik smirks at him from the bed.

“Say nothing,” Louis says. Already he can feel the tips of his ears blushing. Fucking alcohol.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” says Zayn. “Now, are you coming back to bed?”

Louis very quickly sends Harry a text saying, Ttyl, H, bed now, before putting the phone down. “I never thought I’d see the day when you’d say those words to me,” he tells Zayn.

Zayn rolls over to get the covers up and over his legs. “Haha,” he says. “Like you haven’t heard them before.”

Louis gets in next to him, curling into his side of the bed and sighing. “Yeah, but,” he mumbles, “you weren’t a multi-million dollar megastar then.”

“You’re a multi-million dollar megastar,” points out Zayn, but Louis’ already back on his way to dreamland.

--

He wakes up in time for his plane to his phone blasting Beyoncé and telling him Tom Hiddleston is calling. He nearly has a heart attack, Zayn nearly dies laughing, and Louis hangs up the phone with a reminder to get on a plane to England, and plans to watch Loki while Sophia and Liam spend a weekend in Paris.

Also, Harry’s sent him a photo of whom Louis assumes is Harry Styles the First and Harry Styles the Original giving the camera thumbs up and proving that good teeth and winning smiles run in the family.

Right, then. Louis is never drinking again.

--

Louis’ seatmate for the plane back is not Marcel the cello. Instead, it’s a very cranky Zayn, who’s never quite gotten over his initial fear of flying, and is sitting next to him jiggling his legs. Louis puts his carry on in the overhead compartments and sits down, pulling out his phone to take a quick photo and send to Harry.

Tell my love I miss him, he adds, before a flight attendant passes by with instructions to turn off his phone. Louis manages a smile for the man, who looks more than a little starstruck when he realizes just who’s seated in front of him, and nudges Zayn.

His friend’s got his headphones in and is looking more than a little green. Despite that, he still manages to look two seconds away from a photoshoot--Louis thinks it’s something in the air Zayn happens to breathe, and after meeting Perrie, hopefully contagious. He’d lean a little closer in hopes that some of Zayn’s gloriousness would rub off, but right now Zayn isn’t so much as rocking his usual refined scent as reminding Louis of the hour he spent vomiting into the toilet this morning.

“Sir,” says the flight attendant, gesturing at Zayn’s headphones, apologetically.

Zayn looks between the man and Louis, taking in the recognition in his eyes. He looks to be seriously considering using that recognition to his advantage in order to keep listening to--Louis leans in to listen--Salute for takeoff.

Louis takes advantage of the distraction to pull out his own phone, which he has yet to turn off either. How much respect do you have for Zayn?

ummmm, says Harry. He’d been in the middle of a dramatic best man’s speech for Louis and Marcel’s wedding, which Louis finds entirely too endearing. why?

He’s currently pulling the celebrity card to be able to listen to Salute for takeoff. Louis glances up at casts a winning smile in the flight attendants direction. And failing but I digress…

whats wrong with salute? Harry wants to know. i thought you liked perrie?

I have nothing against Perrie nor the wonderful music she and her bandmates make, Louis replies, with complete sincerity. Honestly--it’d be pretty hypocritical of him, since he has their entire album on his workout playlist and has been known to drunkenly call members of Little Mix singing. When her ridiculously brooding husband-to-be decides to listen to her greatest hits while flirting with a nice flight attendant, however, I am morally obligated to tease him about it. Publically. On Twitter.

right, yeah, obviously, says Harry. you have twitter?

Louis blinks. Yes…Harold, I am a celebrity. I am duty bound to express my opinions in 140 characters or less.

He doesn’t wait for Harry’s response before pulling up twitter, ignoring his multiple notifications in favor of tweeting the Little Mix account. While he’s at it, he takes a look at his recent follows, and ends up grinning down at the phone screen. ‘H. S. II’ one of them reads, and Louis gives them a quick follow back without blinking. He very quickly adds him to his private group of friends, rather spur of the moment, he’ll grant, but Harry has Niall’s approval so he’s not just thinking with his dick, before turning back to Zayn and his flight attendant.

“Sorry,” he says, smiling another brilliant smile, before making a show of turning off his phone.

--

And then suddenly Louis’ back in the UK and before he knows it, he and Harry are talking almost every day. It starts out as a necessity, as Louis’ back at work on a film where he’s not the biggest name attached, and so he has a lot more downtime and is, as such, considerably more bored. Zayn’s off God knows where doing promo for the album he’s just dropped, Liam’s training, Niall’s cooking, and Harry’s twitter, as it turns out, is hilarious. He fills with it all kinds of little comments--about his life, about his cello, about his work (Louis’ still not sure what cameras have to do with cellos, though.), and even makes a point of telling terrible jokes each day. Louis has a duty to stop him, not only to the people of Holmes Chapel whose great name Harry is ruining with each and every knock-knock-who’s-there, but to the world in general because they’re awful. Each and every one of them. Just, awful.

So they keep talking, and before Louis knows it he’s thinking of Harry before Liam when he happens upon a pair of interns engaging in a rather intense conversation about the importance of bananas. They’re in France doing some promo for the movie, and Louis’ co-star has fucked off to use the loo, leaving Louis and the interviewer to awkwardly smile at each other before Louis himself begged off to stare broodingly down at his phone.

“Lou!” Harry says, when he picks up. He’d stopped sounding a mixture of confused and pleasantly surprised somewhere in the first week, and has since taken to greeting Louis with the jokes in person, so Louis supposes he’s lucky it’s just a nickname and not his usual, ‘knock knock’. It still makes something flutter around in his stomach, though. “How are you?”

“Did you know bananas are a good source of potassium?” Louis says, because he didn’t actually bother to listen to the intense conversation and he and Liam had marathoned season one of Doctor Who the other night.

“Yes,” says Harry, slowly. “Did you?”

Louis scoffs. “I do not like the tone you’ve taken to taking with me, Harry Styles the Second,” he says.

“Gem still doesn’t believe that you call me that,” says Harry. He sounds amused.

Louis finds himself grinning in response. “Do you need me to show up unannounced at your family home, H?” he says. “Because I can do that--just say the word and I’m there.”

Harry laughs at that. “She’s still not talking to me because of that snapchat, Louis,” he says. “I’d like to actually be invited back home next Christmas.”

“Setting your sights a little low, aren’t we?” Louis says. He catches Hannah’s eye when she comes out of the loo and waves. She flips him off. Louis is so glad he agreed to work with her.

“Well, by my count that gives me most of this year to get back in her good graces,” Harry is saying, “multiple times, if necessary.”

“All right, fair,” Louis says. “But then, you do know my birthday’s Christmas Eve, yeah? I think I get a free pass for charming the pants off your mum and sister.”

He can practically hear Harry narrow his eyes. “You will be doing no such thing,” he says, a bit stiffly.

Louis rolls his eyes. “Mhmm,” he says. “Listen, I’ve got to go, now--interview--but I’ll talk to you later, yeah?”

“Um, I’m actually at a work thing?” says Harry. “In, erm, Paris?”

Hannah mimes tapping her non-existent watch and raises an eyebrow, so Louis starts walking back towards her. “Really?” he says. “Coincidentally, I’m in the City of Love, too, so we should definitely hang out sometime.” He pauses. “In fact, there’s a thing, tonight, and I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that I am not to go alone, so…”

“You mean the French premiere for your movie,” says Harry.

“Yeah.” Louis manages a grin. He realizes Harry cannot see him, but he does it anyway. “That a deal breaker?”

“No,” Harry says. “You sure you don’t want to take Zayn or someone?” He sounds hesitant. “Niall?”

“The last time I took Niall to anything I ended up in the papers,” Louis tells him. “And Zayn’s off being a popstar.”

Harry is silent for a moment. “You really don’t know who I am, do you,” he says.

“Harry not Harold Styles?” Louis tries.

Harry laughs, but doesn’t answer his question, and Louis doesn’t have time to pursue it because he’s being ushered back into the green room with Hannah at his side.

--

Louis calls Niall in the limo. “Niall!” he says into the phone. “Where’s Harry staying?”

Niall doesn’t say anything for a moment, until, “He totally is your type!”

Louis ignores that. “No, seriously, what do you want?” he says.

“Aren’t you supposed to be at a movie premiere?” Niall wants to know.

“Ditched,” Louis tells him. “I’ve seen the thing enough times, anyway. Now, Harry?” He’d done the initial bit of press, anyway, so Eleanor really shouldn’t be sending him passive aggressive texts. She’s probably still in the theater, so her phone really should be off. Louis grins.

“You know, the day after the PCAs I got a call from a rather gleeful Perrie Edwards,” says Niall, ignoring Louis’ question. “Telling me all about your little run in with Mr. Styles, your marriage to Marcel...She seemed very distraught.”

Louis sighs. “Does this story have a point, Ni?”

“Not really, no,” says Niall. “I just want you to say it.”

Louis waits. “Say what?” he says, finally.

“Thank you,” says Niall.

“You’re welcome,” says Louis.

“Fuck you, Tommo,” says Niall. He hangs up.

Louis considers calling Zayn next, but thinks better of it. Instead, he scrolls through his contacts until he finds the now familiar Tom Hiddleston (and hadn’t that made meeting the man only hours earlier awkward) and tapping the phone icon.

It only takes Liam two rings to answer.“Louis?” he says. “Aren’t you supposed to be at your French thing?”

“Payno, you know Harry Styles?” Louis says, cheerfully.

There’s a pause. “Yes?” says Liam, sounding confused. “I do read, you know.”

Louis isn’t sure what that has to do with it, but he nods anyway. “Right, do you happen to know where he’s staying in Paris?”

“Um,” says Liam, but he rattles off the name of a hotel anyway. “Like, isn’t that where everyone’s staying?”

Louis shakes his head. “You’re not making sense, Liam, dear,” he says. “But thanks. Don’t tell Ni you told me.”

“Why would I tell Niall?” Liam is in the middle of saying, when Louis hangs up on him.

He repeats the hotel to Paul, who has the gall to say, “Harry Styles, huh?” but also the decency to not do more than smirk when Louis flips him off.

When they arrive, it looks a bit busier than Louis’d been expecting, but he waves Paul’s concern off anyway. He’d sort of left most of his security and Eleanor at the premiere, but it’s a hotel, and it’s Paris, and Harry. Louis’ more likely to die of delicious food and pillow fights, if anything.

It’s only once he’s entered the hotel and headed for the lift that he realizes he doesn’t know which room Harry’s in.

Okay, fine, Louis texts Niall. Thank you for inadvertently introducing me to Harry.

Niall’s reply is rather instantaneous. you are very welcome, tommo.

We cool?

iceeeeeeeeee cooooooold, writes Niall.

All right all right all right all right all right, Louis replies. But really. Do you know which room Harry’s in?

Niall doesn’t respond for a moment. no, he types eventually. maybe ask h himself?

But, Niallllll, Louis complains. I’m surprising him!

Niall doesn’t respond, but Louis ends up narrowing his eyes at the double checkmark in the app for a few more seconds. “Wanker,” he mutters, and then manages a smile for the woman standing next to him. She smiles back, nonplussed, before pressing the up button. The lift dings its arrival, and Louis nearly has an aneurysm as the woman gets in.

Hazza which room are you in quick I’m about to get into the lift and there are people don’t make me accidentally hit all the buttons.

are you, Harry sends. really? um. 201?

Louis heaves a sigh of relief and reaches out to press the two, calmly. Crisis averted, he texts Harry.

yay!

The lift dings again and Louis exits onto the second floor with all his dignity intact. Harry’s still typing, so Louis busies himself in finding the right room. He makes a sharp left to avoid a group of unfairly attractive people, two of whom meet his own eyes with something close to shock, and frowns. Something about them is familiar--the clothes, maybe? Louis might have seen something like that in a magazine a few days ago, but he’s not sure. Either way, there’s no way he’s getting away without a dressing down from Eleanor now, so he sighs and figures he might as well make the most of it. He waves, before turning to finds himself facing Harry’s door. Damn.

He knocks.

A couple seconds later, Harry answers the door somewhat breathlessly, dressed in his usual skinny jeans and an open buttoned shirt. There is a butterfly on his chest. Louis needs his dick to be inside him now. He settles for smiling.

“Hiii,” Harry says, pulling the door open wider so that Louis can come in. He catches a quick glance of a suitcase filled with even more jeans, flannel shirts, and some surprisingly couture coats. When he looks back, Harry’s finishing buttoning the shirt. He stops somewhere around his sternum again, and Louis sighs.

“Harry,” he says. “Don’t tell me I need to teach you how to button a shirt, as well?” He’s referring, of course, to their fifth day back in the UK. Harry’d flown back a few days after Louis, and the first thing he did was send him a charmingly hesitant text asking if he actually meant the thing about them being friends. Louis then proceeded to send him the most attractive picture of his face as possible in Snapchat, thus worming his way into Anne Cox’s good graces. Afterwards, he’d demanded that Harry come around for a game of football, at which point he realized that Harry Styles was the least graceful creature to ever walk this earth. (He’d told Zayn this, drunkenly, and his friend hadn’t been able to stop laughing, for some odd reason.)

Harry just colors, slightly, but seems perfectly content to let Louis button his shirt up. “I did tell you I was awful at football,” he says, quietly, watching as Louis fumbles on the top button and ends up dragging a palm across the smooth expanse of his pectorals.

So, Harry’s still as blindingly gorgeous as he was when Louis met him on that plane, then.

“That you did,” he manages to say, throat dry, as he gets the final button into the hole. “Much better.” He smoothes his hands down the front of Harry’s shirt, because Louis’ self preservation skills are sitting in a theater with Eleanor.

“Thank you,” Harry says, ever polite. His voice sounds a bit rougher around the edges. Something tiny in Louis is pleased about that.

He smiles at Harry.

“So, did you have plans beyond crashing my movie night?”

Louis turns his attention to the TV, where he can see Harry’s been watching Grease. “Marry me,” he says.

There’s a beat.

“I didn’t know you were into polygamy.” Harry looks amused. “What would Marcel say?”

Louis looks around the hotel room. “Oh, yeah,” he says. “Where is my husband-to-be? I have a question about floral arrangements.”

Harry laughs. “At home,” he says. “I’m not about to bring a cello to work, Louis.”

Louis frowns. “That seems a bit counterproductive,” he says, but lets it go in favor of claiming a seat on Harry’s bed. “Do you have popcorn?”

Harry startles, seemingly distracted, and then shakes his head. “We’re in a hotel,” he says, slowly. When that only gets him an eyebrow raise from Louis, he adds, “No…”

Louis sighs. “Shame,” he says. “Slumming it, I am.” He pats the bed next to him. “Come, Harold.”

Harry walks forward, amused, but sits down next to Louis. “How was your premiere?” he says.

Louis reaches forward to press play. “Shh,” he says. “Not as good as this.”

Harry waits a moment and Louis busies himself watching Olivia Newton John rock a red lip. “It’s not over, is it,” says Harry.

Louis looks over at him out of the corner of his eye. “Why would you say that?” he asks.

Harry grins. “Nothing,” he says, leaning back to rest both of his arms on the back of the headboard. Louis watches the ripple of muscle under the shirt and swallows. “You like Grease, then?”

Louis leans back against the wall and tries not to think about how easy it would be for Harry to have an arm around him. “I was in a production of Grease in school,” he says, instead. “Played Danny.” He tilts his head. “Did not do the pants justice.”

Harry snorts. “I doubt that.” He shoots Louis a look and nudges him with his toe.

Louis nudges him right back, grinning, even as he tells him to, “Be quiet, Harry Styles the Second.”

--

Prior to this moment, Louis had not thought Harry Styles could physically become more attractive. Of course, prior to this moment, Louis had not been blessed with the knowledge that Harry Styles could quote Grease backwards, had a wonderful singing voice, and was decidedly not opposed to reenacting You’re The One That I Want as the Sandy to Louis’ Danny. Having learned all of these things, Louis figured he was perfectly justified in the minor breakdown he was having as he was waiting for Harry to locate the chocolate he’d promised him. In fact, he was about three seconds from pulling out his phone and mass texting Liam, Zayn, and Niall, and it was only the threat of Harry turning to find him weeping into his phone that stopped him.

“You like dark chocolate, right?” says Harry, tumbling back onto the bed in a rush of limbs and possibly cologne.

Louis sniffs. “Are you wearing perfume?” he says, because he is an idiot.

Harry stares right back at him, nonplussed. He brandishes the chocolate. “Dark chocolate?”

“Yeah, sure,” Louis says, still a bit caught on his non-answer. Does that mean Harry is wearing perfume? Or does that mean Harry is as unimpressed as Louis is about his decision to say perfume as opposed to cologne. Louis’ not sure which option he likes more, to be honest.

Harry hands him a piece of chocolate, smiling.

Louis takes a bite. It’s interesting. “So, not entirely sold on that,” he says, slowly, after he’s made himself finish swallowing. He inches forward to nudge Harry in the shoulder. “Sorry.”

“Mmm,” says Harry around his own piece. He swallows. “More for me.”

Louis very pointedly does not watch the way his Adam’s apple bobs. Nor does he note the obscene curve of Harry’s mouth when he takes another bite. “Yay,” he manages, hoarsely. “Um, so.”

“So did you have plans beyond Grease?” Harry asks, before he can reveal how out of his depth he is.

Louis figures it’s best to be as evasive as possible. “Maybe,” he says.

“Mmm,” Harry says again. He licks his lips clean of chocolate. Louis tries very hard not to imagine him licking his lips clean of other things. “I really like you, Louis.”

“Yeah,” Louis agrees, before his brain catches up. Wait--what? Louis doesn’t gape at Harry, but it’s a near thing. He’s not sure why he’s surprised, because Harry would say that. Harry had said that, several texting conversations and one awkward facetime session into their friendship, while trying on sun hats. Louis’d laughed at him, mostly because of the atrocity he put on his head, but also because he wasn’t sure what the proper response is. He’s still not sure.

“I mean.” Harry actually looks a bit embarrassed, eyes wild. “I’m tired.”

Louis goes over that sentence and then the one that came before it. “I like you too,” he says finally.

Harry freezes. “Really?” he says. “Like, you--really?”

Louis grins at him. “Hazza,” he coos, stepping forward to nestle his hands into Harry’s hair. “Of course I like you.”

Harry grins back down at him, leaning into Louis’ hands. “Oh,” he says. “That’s good.”

His eyes are very big, Louis notices. Green. Long lashes. Pink lips. Louis wants to kiss him. “Did you really think I wasn’t going to say it back to you?” he says instead.

Harry blinks, dazed. “Well, I didn’t want to presume--” he starts to say.

“Harry,” Louis interrupts. He gets a hand around the back of Harry’s neck and strokes, once, at the finer hairs there. “Fucking presume.” And then he’s leaning up on his knees and at the same time dragging Harry’s mouth down to meet his.

It’s not a brilliant kiss. In fact, Louis wouldn’t put it up in the top ten, but mostly that’s because Harry still has a bit of chocolate hidden under his tongue and Louis misjudges their height difference so their noses end up knocking together.

“Oops,” he says.

“Hi,” Harry says, and swallows the chocolate before leaning back in. “Hi.”

This kiss is one for the record books. Louis ends up balanced in Harry’s lap, hands resting on the tops of his thighs, with both of Harry’s hands buried in his hair and Harry’s tongue in his mouth. It’s glorious, the type of kiss that leaves Louis aching in all the right places, and Harry’s hands are massive. Harry’s hands are massive and now grabbing Louis by the arse.

They break apart. “Harry Styles the Second,” Louis gasps out.

Harry growls, “You told me to presume,” before hauling him back in. He overcompensates a little, and they nearly go off the bed, but Louis has the foresight to cradle the back of Harry’s head and pray.

For a moment, neither of them move, Harry with his head off the side of the bed and Louis feeling every inch of where their bodies are pressed tightly together. Harry’s hands are still in his hair. Louis can feel his breath on his neck. “Woops,” says Harry. He shifts, and their hips slot together.

Louis groans.

Harry sighs.

Time stops again.

Louis has become a cliché.

“I vote bed,” Harry finally whispers. “Please.”

Louis whines again, high in his throat, and shifts his hips more solidly against Harry’s, working a thigh between Harry’s and grinding down. The friction is heavenly on his cock, just the side of painful to make him shut his eyes and pant against Harry’s mouth. “Yes,” he agrees. “Bed, please, yes.”

Harry gets them into an upward position somehow, even as Louis is twisting in his grip and trying to ride his thigh and can’t stop nipping at his pulse point, and they end up with their positions reversed; Louis with his head on the pillow and Harry’s arms caging him in, Harry’s hips against his.

For a moment they just look at each other, only that feels a little too raw for Louis, so he gets a hand free of their shirts and reaches for Harry’s cock, pressing his palm against it in his jeans and grinning wickedly. “Bet you’re regretting wearing these, aren’t you?” he croons, grinding up against whatever part of Harry he can find.

“Usually worse,” says Harry. “Usually I’ve got something on underneath.”

Louis pauses where he’d been working on the zip to find that he’s not lying, easing a hand inside to find bare skin. He’s feeling more than a little lightheaded. “Someone was feeling opportunistic,” he says, giving Harry’s cock one long stroke, thumbing at the head. He’s bigger than Louis’ expected, for a blinding second Louis isn’t sure what he wants to do first.

And then Harry groans, forehead coming to rest against Louis’ collarbones, and Louis makes up his mind. “You planning to fuck me, Styles?” he asks.

Harry’s hips snap forward, eyes rolling, and he mouths helplessly at the skin of Louis’ collarbones. “Hopeful,” he manages to say. “God, Lou, your hands--please.” He shifts on the bed, thigh rubbing just so along Louis’ own aching cock, and Louis decides they need to be naked ten minutes ago.

“Off,” he tells Harry, releasing his cock to shove at his jeans. “Fuck me, Hazza, come on.” He can feel sweat pooling at his temples.

Harry whines, but goes to, getting the ridiculous things down and off before reaching to help Louis with his. Louis blinks up at him, halfway out of his boxers, to watch him unbutton the shirt with slow, clumsy fingers. Harry’s curls are in disarray, falling out of his makeshift quiff to fall this way and that across his forehead. His cheeks are flushed, eyes blown wide, and he keeps making little abortive thrusts with his hips even though there’s nothing but air. His cock looks painful, red and curving to rub against the hem of his shirt, and Louis’ mouth waters.

But, no, he reminds himself. Later. He can suck Harry off later. Now, he needs him to fuck him.

“God, you’re gorgeous.” Harry tosses his shirt to join his jeans, hands coming to help Louis with his own t-shirt. How Louis got away with wearing one to his own movie premiere, he doesn’t know. But what he does know, is that the shirt is in the fucking way. “So fucking--” Harry breaks off running a hand along Louis’ chest, tracing the lines of his tattoo. Louis would comment, but Harry’s got his own set of words spelled out across his body. He has ‘Might as well...’ across his left hip spelling and it is doing nothing to convince Louis to save the blowjobs for later.

“If you do not fuck me now,” he tells Harry, breath hitching when Harry presses down on a nipple with the edge of a nail, “I am going to put you on your back and suck your brains out.”

Harry groans and falls forward so that he has Louis pressed flat against the bed. “That’s not--” His hips rock forward and his cock catches on Louis’. “Are you trying to convince me?”

Louis peels open an eye and lets his legs fall open. “Shut up and fuck me,” he tells him. “Now, come on, please?” He gets a hand free to fist his own cock, pumping twice and moaning.

Harry grabs him by the wrists and pins them down above his head, leaning down to kiss him. “Nghh,” he groans out. “Louis, I can’t--” He breaks off to kiss him again, nipping at Louis’ lips until they’re red and raw. “Can’t--”

Louis bites him right back, twisting his hand free and rakes his nails down Harry’s back.

“Don’t, Lou--” Harry catches his hands again and pins them down, rubbing his thumbs along the tendons in his wrists. “Work--stuff.”

Louis isn’t sure what Harry’s back has to do with playing the cello, but he’s not about to question it. He’s got more important things to worry about. Like how much longer he has to wait for Harry to fuck him. “Harry.” He’s whining, he knows it, he doesn’t care.

“Don’t have stuff,” Harry gets out. “Louis, stop--moving.”

“What?” Louis twists his hips a little. “What do you mean you don’t have stuff?”

“Didn’t bring any,” Harry mutters, releasing Louis’ wrists and grinding just so, smearing precome across Louis’ stomach.

“You didn’t--” Louis says. “Harold! We’re in Paris?”

Harry opens one eye and stops moving. “So?” he says.

Louis growls at him and starts wiggling in earnest, trying to get more friction. “It’s the City of Love!” he continues, finally getting a wrist free and grabbing hold of his own cock. “Why don’t you have stuff in the City of Love!”

“Why don’t you?”

“I--ngh--do!” Louis gets out, fucking up into the circle of his hand. “Didn’t take it to the movie premiere, though.”

Harry grumbles something, and reaches down to take hold of Louis’ cock. “Stop yelling at me, I didn’t want to be, you know, hopeful,” he says, pressing his own cock against Louis and tightening his fingers.

Louis’s breath hisses between his teeth and he pushes up on his shoulders to get the angle just right. It lets him look down, be able to watch the slide of their cocks between their bellies, and makes his legs shake. “What is it with you and hope?” he grits out, leaning up to start kissing along whatever part of Harry’s face he can find, as some sort of distraction. Where’s Harry’s other massive hand when he needs it? “What good is it if it doesn’t get you in me--”

“Louis,” Harry whines. “Don’t be mean.”

“‘m not being mean--” Louis starts to protest, and then Harry’s other hand makes its presence known when he shoves two fingers past Louis’ teeth to press against his tongue.

“Mean,” he says, voice gone deep and low and guttural. “Stop it.”

Louis moans, licking out with his tongue to taste the salt of Harry’s skin. He tries to remember if Harry’d touched himself with this hand--had touched Louis with this hand--and his brain goes fuzzy when he realizes that yes, that’s Harry’s come on his taste buds.

“Not mean,” he says again, around the fingers in his mouth. He abandons his grip on his cock, instead reaching behind him to try to get some sort of purchase as he thrusts up into the circle of Harry’s hand.

“Are too,” Harry tells him, voice absolutely wrecked, and then he’s dragging a nail just barely along the vein of Louis’ cock and pulling his hand back just in time to avoid losing a finger.

Louis feels his back arch, toes curling against the bed sheets as he comes, panting brokenly as Harry works him through the aftershocks, eyes pressed shut as he chases his own orgasm.

“Hazza,” he manages. “Lemme--lemme kiss you--” He catches Harry’s lips with his own, reaches down a hand to half-heartedly tug at Harry’s cock, and then Harry’s gone, mouth open in a silent scream as he comes in a stripe across Louis’ chest.

“Nghh,” Harry manages, after a moment. “Mmm.” He rolls, taking Louis with him, until he finds a satisfactory position on the bed to go to sleep.

Louis sighs, already feeling his muscles start to relax and his head go foggy. “Harry,” he mumbles.

Harry grumbles out a question, pressing a warm kiss to the hair of Louis’ forehead and better pulling him against his chest.

Harry,” Louis whines, trying to twist free of his grip. He’s like a giant cuddly octopus. A giant cuddly octopus that just gave him a mind blowing orgasm, but a giant cuddly octopus. Louis is sticky, and he does not have time for tentacles. “Harry, get off!”

“Already did,” Harry says, lips barely parting. “Sleep, now.”

“Harry,” Louis groans, finally getting free and heading for the bathroom in search of a flannel. He pauses once to look in the mirror, taking in the fucked out glaze of his eyes, horrible state of his hair, and the purpling bruises lining his collar--when the fuck did that happen and is Harry actually a vampire?--and grins. Eleanor is going to kill him.

“Louis!” Harry’s not asleep, then. “Come back!”

Louis gives his reflection one last look, and heads back for the bed, where he finds Harry grinning at him, looking a little uncertain. Louis throws the flannel at him and watches him wipe off his stomach and cock. “Well?” he says.

Harry blinks.

“What’re you waiting for?” Louis gets into the bed and pulls the covers up. “Budge over.” Harry’s answering smile is blinding and so Louis is perfectly justified in burying his face in his chest. “Go to sleep, H,” he says.

Harry just snakes an arm around Louis, presses a kiss to the back of his neck, and does.

--

Louis wakes up to a mouthful of curls and Shania Twain singing about how ‘You’re still the one I run to’. For a moment, everything is still. Louis takes a moment to spit Harry’s hair out and do a basic count of all his limbs, before Harry’s groaning into the back of his neck and pulling his hand free of Louis’ thighs to search for his phone.

Louis waits. “Really, Hazza?” he says. His voice isn’t nearly as put together as he’d like, rough from a night of sleep and sex, but it works.

“What’s wrong with Shania Twain?” Harry brings the phone up so that he can blink at the screen and Louis gets a glance of a name--Grim...something--before Harry’s clicking the hold button and ignoring the call. He sets the phone down somewhere on the bed, before slinking an arm back down to pull Louis snug to him. Louis can feel his erection poking into the crease of his thighs, and he sighs.

“Nothing.” He yawns. “What time is it?”

Harry’s lips brush his neck. “Seven, I think,” he says. “Early.”

Louis hums. “I wonder why my phone’s not gone off, yet.”

“Oh, right,” Harry says, sounding like he’s about to go back to sleep. “Your French thing.”

Louis grinds his hips back against Harry’s cock and curls an arm around Harry’s. “Yeah,” he says. “Eleanor is going to kill me.”

Harry sighs, but seems to give up on sleep, shifting away so that he can loom over Louis. He looks down with his eyes half lidded and his lips perked up in a lazy grin. “Eleanor?”

“Agent,” Louis explains. “Though, probably you know that?”

“Mmm.” Harry doesn’t seem to be much for speaking this morning. “She the one you kissed a while back?”

Louis yawns again and rests his hands on his stomach. He nods. “That was a dark time for me,” he says. “Filled with angst and shitty beer.”

Harry presses his lips together and nods as well, coming to settle next to Louis on his side.

“Zayn has an entire collection of still photographs dedicated to that time in my life,” he says. “This was, of course, after the Sun published something about my cheekbones and suggested male modeling instead of acting--since I was in the middle of the film that shall not be mentioned. And I was already having a crisis of sexuality, why not have one about my career choices, so I called Zayn and he knew a guy and we spent three days getting high and taking black and white photos of me.” He shrugs. “I was a terrible model.”

For some reason, Harry finds this entire anecdote to be hilarious.

“Anyway, enough about me,” he tells Harry. “Have you ever had a crisis?”

“A sexuality crisis specifically?” Harry clarifies. “Um, not really, no.”

Louis hits him gently on the arm and then smoothes his hand against the skin there. He traces the tattoo he finds, dragging a nail along the slightly raised skin. “Things I can,” he reads.

Harry pulls his other arm out. “And things I can’t,” he says, tracing the corresponding lines of text.

Louis follows the path of his fingers. “You’ve got a lot more on that arm,” he says. There’s a ship in particular that Louis remembers seeing on his twitter account a while back and bookmarking it. It’s beautiful in a rustic sort of way, and Louis doesn’t quite not why, but already his own skin is itching for something similar.

Harry shrugs, and presses a finger to the stag on Louis’ own bicep. “What about yours?” he says. It’s as good a deflection as any, if not slightly see-through, but Louis lets him get away with it, anyway.

“It’s a deer,” he says, slowly. “Have I fucked the eyesight out of you, then?”

Harry throws his head back and laughs. His shoulders shake and he takes Louis’ breath away. “Hey,” he says, dragging it out. “You know as well as I do that there was no fucking last night.”

Louis nods. “True,” he agrees. “Shame, that was.” He reaches out and smacks Harry on the hip, gently. “Do better, next time.”

Harry’s eyebrows raise. “Oh, next time?” he says. “Is there going to be a next time, then?”

Louis flicks his eyes up and down the expanse of Harry’s chest a few times, dropping them to his cock and keeping them there. “If you play your cards right,” he says, pushing Harry back down onto the bed and licking his lips. He meets Harry’s eyes and slides down the bed to breathe on his cock. “But I really should go before Eleanor puts a hit out on me.”

Harry’s head goes thumping back against the bed and he groans. “You’re such a tease,” he says. “Tommo the Tease.”

Louis throws him a look in search of his trousers and therefore his phone. “You think you’re so funny.” He locates the phone and winces when he sees the lock screen. It’s still a photo of Liam and his gold medal, but Louis doesn’t have time to remember watching the great Liam Payne sob on national TV because he has dozens of missed calls and texts.

A few from Niall, two from Liam, a few from Zayn.

You didn’t tell me you’d met Harry on the plane, says the one from Liam. A few minutes later, he’d added, Talked to Zayn, never mind. Louis stares down at it curiously before swiping to the left and pulling up the texts from Eleanor.

She’s angry, to say the least. Once she’d gotten over the initial soreness of being left at the theater to watch the film, she’d very quickly moved on to chewing him out for ditching to go hang in a hotel in the middle of Paris. During Fashion Week.

Louis rolls his eyes, and watches as his phone notifies Eleanor that he’s read the texts. She starts typing immediately; has probably been checking her phone since he’d vanished last night.

Good you’re awake, she tells him. Are you still in the hotel? I’m going to kill you.

But Eleanor. Louis is not above whining. I was visiting Harry.

He risks a glance back at the man in question and immediately regrets it. Harry has thrown the blankets off completely and is unashamedly stroking his cock, eyes half lidded. “What?” he says. “Your fault.”

Louis looks back down at his phone.

Harry. Eleanor does not sound impressed. Harry who.

Wow. You’re not even doing question marks today, huh.

Who.

Louis looks between his phone and Harry on the bed. Um, what?

His phone rings. Louis answers it on autopilot, mouth falling open as he watches the slick slide of Harry’s hand as it moves up and down.

“Harry who?” says Eleanor, right in his ear.

“Cellist Harry?” Louis notices that his voice sounds very far away. “From the plane?”

On the bed, Harry pauses. “You do know I’m not actually a cellist, Lou,” he asks, but his voice is high and thin, eyelashes fluttering against his cheekbones. “It was just a--gods--one time thing.” He pauses, reconsidering. “Several time thing,” he corrects. “Like--maybe three things.”

Louis swallows. “But you named him Marcel?”

“This is true.” Harry shifts his hips on the bed a little and ends up slipping, cracking his voice in two and making his moan echo around the room.

Louis is suddenly incredibly aware of the fact that his agent is on the other line. “Um,” he says. “I--um.” He’s not really sure where his brain went at all, but it took his vocabulary with it. Also his tact. (Though, to be fair, Louis’ not sure if he even had tact to begin with.)

Thankfully, Eleanor does not seem to have the same problem. “We have a flight in two hours,” she says. “If I do not see you back in this hotel room packing your sorry excuse for a suitcase, Hollywood will have to settle for the next best thing because I will kill--

“Yes, thank you, Eleanor, mood’s officially ruined,” Louis rushes to say. “Cheers.”

“Mood?” Eleanor asks. “What mood--Louis--”

“Heeeeeeey!” says Harry. He flings a foot out and glowers at Louis, a move that is somewhat ruined by the way his hand never once stops its movement. “There’s nothing ruined about it.”

Louis doesn’t blink. “Two hours?” he says, interrupting Eleanor’s flustered ranting. “See you then.” He hits the end call harder than needed and sets the phone and his trousers down. “I’ll show you ruined,” he mutters, and then gets on the bed to do just that.

--

After that, Louis finds it incredibly hard to stay away from Harry. Not that he’d been doing so before, but he’d been busy and Harry’d been busy and he wasn’t about to take a transcontinental flight for the possibility of a booty call. Not that Harry’s a booty call--God forbid; the papers had made Louis’ random jaunt to London mid-shoot in LA the other week into some big, dramatic thing, and Harry’d spent most of the night laughing hysterically about it. Louis would have been concerned, if not for the fact that the rest of that night was spent with Harry in his lap twisting his hips just so. So his air miles are getting quite the workout. Big deal. It’s still not a relationship, though, and he’s about to inform Niall of that fact, when Harry interrupts him.

“What?” says Harry, blinking curiously up at Louis. They’re in Louis’ flat this time, since for once it’s Harry ditching work for a late night visit, and Louis has been playing online scrabble with Niall for the past hour. He’s got the blond on Skype as well, which gives Harry and him front row seats to their friend’s continued distress over Louis’ made up words.

“Ha,” he says, once he’s done with his turn. “Beat that.”

“That’s not a real word,” says Niall, for the millionth time this round. “Harry, tell him that’s not a real word.”

Harry comes to look over Louis’ shoulder. “That’s not a real word,” he says, but he reaches to drag a finger along the mousepad anyway. “This is, though.”

The game informs Louis that he now has 100 more points.

Niall lets out an outraged squeal. “Unfair, Tommo!” He points a finger at his webcam. “That’s cheating--Harry, stop helping your boyfriend and stir the damn pot. The pasta’s sticking.”

Harry sticks his tongue out at him. “It is not--” he says, but goes to do so anyway. “Oh. Sorry.”

Niall looks smug, but Harry just rolls his eyes and makes a point of turning the heat up so the water boils more. “Told you,” says Niall. “My turn.” He purses his lips a bit, before managing a total of thirteen points. “Tommo?”

Louis’ stuck on the whole ‘boyfriend’ part of that sentence. “Harry’s not my boyfriend,” he says, again, instead of ribbing Niall for his piss poor attempt.

The flat goes silent except for the quite bubbling of Harry’s pasta. “What?” Harry says, also again. “What do you mean I’m not?”

Louis blinks. “Well,” he says, uncertain.

“Do you not want me to be your boyfriend?” Harry’s jaw line is unusually hard and the way he’s looking at Louis is piercing.

Louis doesn’t know what to say. “Of course I do?” he says, but it comes out more of a question, and Harry frowns.

“You sound uncertain,” he says. “Why are you uncertain?”

“Well, I mean.” Louis tries to get his bearings. “I’m not exactly relationship material.”

Niall makes a sound like he’s choking in the background and Louis goes to close the laptop, but Harry reaches a hand out to push it away from him on the counter. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” he says.

Louis backtracks a little. “I mean I’m famous, yeah?” he says. “Like, dating me kind of includes dating the press?”

Harry opens and closes his mouth for a moment, before flipping the stove off and dumping the pasta into the strainer, half cooked as it is. “Niall?” he says. “We’re going have to cut the game short.”

“No problem, totally cool, I’m very far away and have a cooking show to be filming,” says Niall, in a rush, with both of his hands in the air. “You’re not going to fuck, though, are you?” he adds, wrinkling his nose.

Harry shakes his head. “I’m taking Lou out,” he says. “On a date.”

Louis looks up from where he’s been watching the water seep through the hole into his sink. “Did you miss the entire point of this conversation--”

“We are going to go ice skating,” Harry continues, over him, “and then we are going to hold hands and walk romantically about London talking about our lives and only after that--” He breaks off to glare at Louis, who’d tried to mutter something about how Harry and the rest of the world already knows mostly everything about his life. “--we will be fucking.” His voice gets just a bit lower on that last bit, and Louis ends up caught in his gaze, heart galloping in his chest.

“Okay!” Niall raises his voice. “That’s my cue to leave--Lou?”

Louis doesn’t look away, but he manages to make a noise. “Mm?”

“It was nice having my arse kicked by you,” Niall says. “Again.” He pauses. “Also, you’re so very welcome!”

That’s enough to snap Louis out of it, and he flips Niall off. “Piss off, Hazza’s and my meet-cute was entirely spontaneous and therefore far better than any bind date scenario you could come up with.”

There’s a beat.

“Hazza, huh,” says Niall, smirking.

“One to tell the kids, yeah?” says Harry, beaming.

“I hate both of you,” says Louis, bemoaning his life choices but also going to get a warm coat as per Harry’s instructions.

--

Harry is awful at ice skating. From the moment they set foot on the rink, he’s flat on his back like a giant, clumsy starfish, gazing glumly at the ceiling with his too-big green eyes.

Louis himself is not much better, but he at least manages to stay upright as he skates over toward Harry’s head to loom over him. “You’re awful at this,” he tells him.

Harry raises a hand and waves it nonchalantly in the air. “That’s all in the perspective,” he says. “I’m sure there are people in the world who are in fact awfuller at this than I am.”

Louis debates giving him a hand. “I mean sure, maybe,” he says. “There probably are people who didn’t last more than three seconds on the ice.” He watches as Harry gets to his feet, legs wobbling worryingly. “As opposed to your record breaking five.”

Harry turns to face him with a grin and goes skidding forward again. Only Louis’ quick reflexes and incredibly balance saves them.

“Four,” Louis amends, but he’s smiling as well. It’s all over his face, how very much enamored he is with this wonderful, silly boy. Man. Man-boy.

“Maybe I should have taken the skating aid,” Harry says, sadly. “I’m wrecking my knees--Lou is going to kill me.”

“You mean the walker,” Louis clarifies, grinning at him. A girl goes by them on one foot with remarkable ease.

“Skating aid, yes,” says Harry, noticing her and frowning.

“Nah.” Louis reaches up to pet his curls out of his eyes. “You’d have been like an old lady hobbling around like that.”

Harry grins, and makes his voice ailing and creaky. “Get off my lawn.”

Louis giggles--just fucking giggles, he cannot help himself, it’s ridiculous--and says, “On second thought you most definitely should have.” He starts to skate, dragging Harry along with him back towards the entrance of the ice rink. “Excuse me, Miss?”

The woman who’d given them their skates looks like she’s about three seconds from a heart attack, but Louis can’t even be bothered to feel bad about it when he has five feet and eleven inches of giggling boy in his arms. “Um, yes?”

“We’ve changed our mind about the skating aids, if you still have some?”

“Both of us!” adds Harry, between giggles. When Louis blinks down at him, he adds, “Wouldn’t want you to feel left out, Lou Bear.”

Louis frowns at him, repeating ‘Lou Bear’ under his breath a few times and making a note to never introduce Harry to his mother.

Harry pulls his hands free and manages to skate the rest of the way to solid ground without falling, where he meets the charmed woman with the two metal contraptions. “Lou!” he shouts.

Louis goes to join him with considerably more grace. “I’m right here, you don’t need to shout,” he says, but Harry ignores him in favor of pushing the skating aid onto the ice.

“What?” he says, back in his old lady voice. “Lou, darling, you know I can’t hear without me hearing aids.”

Louis watches as he skates closer. “Am I meant to be your friend or your husband?” he says dryly.

Harry just skates closer. “Still can’t hear you.”

Louis shakes his head at him and goes to apologize to the poor woman standing at the entrance to the ice rink. “Sorry about him,” he says, watching as Harry nearly runs into a group of small children also using skating aids. “Would you like a photo?”

The woman startles, eyes going very wide, and looks away from where Harry’s bent down to have a very serious conversation with the children. “Oh, I, thank you,” she says, flushing crimson and handing over her phone.

“You’re very welcome,” Louis tells her. He leans in to drape an arm around her, smiling beatifically down at the iPhone.

Out on the ice, Harry and his new found gaggle of children are slowly making their way across the ice. One of the girls is humming, and Louis finishes taking the photo so that he can get back in time to hear Harry say, “Flight of the Valkyrie, huh? Very nice choice.”

“I like Wagner,” says the little girl.

Louis meets Harry’s eyes over her head and has to fight back giggles. “Do you?” he asks the girl.

She nods an affirmative, before thrusting her own skating aid at Louis and skating off to join who are probably her parents. “Harry said you might needs this,” she tells him.

Louis is left startled but gripping the metal anyway. “Oh, did he?” he says.

“Sorry?” Harry’s voice goes waif thin again. “I can’t hear you?” He ruins the effect slightly by wobbling when he attempts to skate away, but there’s an almost ethereal grace to how he’s holding himself.

“No, but in all seriousness how are you still alive?” Louis asks him, narrowing his eyes.

Harry straightens. “What do you mean?”

“I mean you’re lucky you’re not being paid to walk,” Louis says, darting in to press a quick, gutsy kiss to the bridge of Harry’s nose. He gets him right on the little confused wrinkle, cackling, before abandoning the aid in favor of booking it back to the edge of the rink.

As he gets there, he hears the woman from before muttering something into her phone that sounds almost like Harry’s name, but he’s very quickly distracted by the man himself slamming into him in a misguided attempt to catch him. He’s left his skating aid in the center of the rink as well. Louis would be proud of him for making it as far as he did without falling, however seeing as Louis is currently sporting bruised knees, he can’t do much more than groan.

“Ugh, Harold,” he grunts out.

Harry is laughing somewhat hysterically into the back of Louis’ neck and clutching him about the shoulders so that he remains standing as well. This means that most of his weight is pressing Louis into the side of the ice rink--that their bodies are completely aligned and the heat of Harry’s ridiculously long torso is making Louis forget entirely about the numbness of his fingers.

But more importantly, the pain. “Is romance dead?”

Harry manages to stop laughing. “Aw, Lou, come on.” His breath is like a bloom of fire against the shell of Louis’ ear. “This is the most romantic thing you’ve ever done.”

Louis shivers, but not because of the cold. “True.” His voice is hoarser than he’d intended so he breaks off to clear his throat. “But that’s because I’m in the public eye and don’t have time for dating.”

Harry snorts into his neck. “Excuses,” he says. “You’re just jealous that you couldn’t think of something as romantic as this.”

“No,” Louis says, dryly. “I really could not--it’s not every day I get pinned in an ice rink.”

“Hmmm, pinned,” Harry repeats, snickering around the word. Louis’ not sure how, but he manages to get it so that there is not an inch of them not touching. Louis has never been so thankful for the wall of hard concrete and the bruises forming on his knees.

Harry is still laughing.

“You’re a child,” Louis tells him, but hides a smile in the glass.

“You love it,” Harry says.

“True,” Louis says, on reflex, and nearly bites off his tongue.

Harry doesn’t comment, but Louis can feel the way his breath catches.

He swallows and tries to change the subject. “So, not that I’m objecting, but is there any reason you haven’t moved yet?”

Harry is silent for long enough that Louis worries he’s not going to let it go. But then he says, “Don’t laugh at me, but I’m not sure I’m going to be be able to stand if I move.”

It is by some sick stroke of luck that all that does is make Louis want to get him out of the ice rink and back to his flat as soon as possible. “I wouldn’t dare,” he tells Harry, trying for unaffected.

He must fail, since Harry’s breath stutters to another little stop and he very slowly starts to pry himself away.

They’ve attracted quite the crowd during their little moment, but Louis doesn’t even care. He’s too caught up gazing at Harry’s eyelashes and counting the little hairs of his eyebrows. His eyebrows. Louis is so completely screwed.

From the looks of things, Harry’s is just as distracted, if the way he keeps pulling at his bottom lip with his teeth is any indication. “We should, um,” he manages. “Keep moving.”

“Yeah,” Louis replies. “Didn’t you say something about romantically strolling around London?”

“Yeah.” Harry is equally breathless. “I did.”

--

Louis draws the line at holding hands. They ditch the ice skates and the crowd of chattering girls in favor of the icy London air and sightseeing, but there will be no hand holding. No matter how cold Louis’ hands are, or how warm Harry’s gloves are.

“No, okay,” Harry says. Now that they’re out of the loud, children filled ice rink, Louis can better take in the twin blushes staining high on his cheekbones and the rosiness of his lips. “Let me do another.”

They’d very quickly decided that talking about their lives wasn’t exactly fair, as Louis had been asked most of the usual small-talk questions in numerous interviews and Harry didn’t think it was fair if only he talked. Louis would have argued, since there was nothing he’d actually like more, but he’d settled for their odd little take on Two Truths And a Lie.

Louis shrugs. “‘Kay,” he says. “I’m a cat person, my mum’s pregnant again, and Payno and I once spent a match drunkenly defacing the toilets at the Olympics.”

Harry bites his lip. “Cat person?” he decides eventually. “I’m pretty sure that I heard something about your mum from Niall--” He breaks off to shoot Louis a pointed look, which fair game to him because Louis’d literally spent the last five minutes publically ribbing him about reading his old Sugarscape articles. “And the toilet thing is too specific.”

“Mmm,” Louis says. “Well, you won that one fair and square, I guess.”

Harry looks smug

“What do you want?”

“A kiss.”

Harry is a terrible person. Louis doesn’t know why he likes him, or why he’s currently leaning up to kiss him, but he does it anyway, quickly pulling back to catch his breath. “Right.” His heart is pounding. “Okay, um, another one?”

Harry nods.

Louis thinks. “I’ve never dyed my hair, I never forget to put the seat up--”

“Oi, how am I supposed to even guess at that one!”

“--And I’m one sixteenth Belgian.”

Harry doesn’t even pause. “I’m so happy I don’t live with you,” he says. “Bathroom etiquette 101, Lou.”

Louis would like to say that nothing about that sentence makes his chest tight. “Hey, it’s late, and I really can’t be bothered all the time--”

“Only in your own house, though, right?”

Louis considers this. “...Yes,” he says, finally. “Yes?”

Harry looks at him for a moment, before throwing his head back and laughing. The noise he makes is one Louis was not expecting at all, and it makes heads turn to look at them. “Oh my God,” Harry says. “I’m so sorry--I have literally never made that noise before.”

“Oh yeah?” They’re well on their way back to Louis’ flat at this point, having decided to ditch the cab they took to the ice rink, so Louis feels fully justified in giving in and finally grabbing him by the hand. “Just you wait till we get back to the flat--we’ll see how many new noises I can coax out of you.”

Harry doesn’t answer him, throat bobbing as he swallows, but his pace quickens, long legs pumping, until they’re practically running down Louis’ street like idiots. Louis can see the headlines now--Actor Louis Tomlinson was spotted running wild through the streets of London with an unknown, but incredibly attractive accomplice; more details forthcoming.

“What--” Louis stutters out. “Harold, what--”

“First one there tops,” says Harry, not releasing Louis’ hand.

Louis only stumbles once before he gets a hold of himself and manages to take off after him, pulling ahead so that he’s the one leading. “H, come on, I don’t think this is how it works!” He’s laughing even as he says it.

“Shh, running!” Harry says back. Louis is pretty sure he’s using Louis’ own momentum to help him gain speed.

“You’re a cheater!” Louis tells him, but he tugs Harry right back, hitting the pavement outside the flat and giving the doorman a breathless one handed salute. The movement’s ruined, though, when Harry comes hurtling past and practically drags him into the building and towards the open door of the lift. To his credit, Marco just sighs and goes back to reading his newspaper without batting an eye.

Louis waits until the lift’s gone up one floor to speak. “So that was fun,” he says finally.

Harry grins over at him between deep breaths.

“I mean, I’ve never gone ice skating before,” Louis continues. He reaches out a hand to nudge Harry in the shoulder. “And obviously you haven’t either.”

“Hey!”

“But it was a good date,” Louis finishes. “Thanks.”

Harry smiles back at him serenely. “You’re very welcome,” he tells him.

There’s a slightly awkward silence.

“Anyway,” Louis continues, at the same time Harry says, “So about what I told Niall--”

They both break off.

“You first.” Harry crosses his arms behind his back and smiles another one of those megawatt smiles.

Louis feels his throat go dry. “So about that thing you said?” he tries. “About fucking?”

Harry’s grin turns a touch filthy. “I did say that, didn’t I?” he says, turning so that they’re facing each other in what Louis was relatively certain was a decently sized lift. “Hey, Lou.”

Louis blinks. “Yeah?”

“I won.”

And then they’re proper snogging in the lift and Louis doesn’t even care that his life has become a cliché. He ends up pressed against the far wall, thinking offhandedly that it’s lucky that they didn’t hit any of the buttons, with Harry pressed up against him. Not that he’s at all passive; Louis’ been waiting the entire date to get his hands in Harry’s perfect hair to muss it up, and he does just that, tangling one in the denser curls at the back and yanking.

He’s not at all gentle, but Harry doesn’t so much as flinch, groaning out his approval and nipping at Louis’ bottom lip. “Gonna fuck you,” he purrs.

Louis nods into the next kiss. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, you did win that race, didn’t you?”

Harry grins down at him, before leaning in to begin sucking marks into Louis’ neck. “I did,” he says against the skin there, blowing gently and coaxing a whine out of Louis’ throat. “Yay.”

“Yay indeed,” Louis says, a little broken. “Now--go to.”

“Lou,” Harry whines. “Not in the lift.”

“Better hurry up then,” Louis says, getting a hand between them to palm at Harry’s zip. He can feel the hard line of Harry’s cock under his fingers and it’s just as big as he remembers. He can’t wait to get it inside of him. Although-- “Please tell me that you have stuff this time,” he says, pulling his hand away and petting at Harry’s hips.

Harry laughs, breathless against Louis’ neck, and nudges a leg between his legs and grinds. “Well, you told me to be presumptuous,” he says, slowly, voice like syrup. “And as much fun as I had last time…” He trails off, eyes glinting, before dropping to his knees.

Louis’ head goes slamming back against the lift wall. “Fuck,” he mutters. He’d say he can’t remember the last time he was this turned on, but then, he can. The way Harry can consistently get under his skin should be illegal. “What the hell are you?”

“Just Harry,” says Harry.

“Not Harold,” says Louis. He thinks the lift dings open, but he’s not sure. Also, Harry’s got both of his hands gripping his hips and he’s just looking. Louis whines.

“Patience,” Harry says. “Not here.” He gets to his feet again but doesn’t move away.

“Oh, fuck you,” Louis mutters. The lift doors start to slide shut, and he groans. “Haz, the door--”

Harry reaches out with one foot and manages to hit the button to open the door.

For a moment, none of them move.

“Oh my God,” Louis says finally, before he’s laughing, near hysterical even as Harry hoists him up in his arms and carries him out into the hallway.

“Shut up, it wasn’t that funny.” As if to prove his point further, he shifts Louis in his grip so that their hips shift together just so.

Louis wraps his legs around Harry’s waist and holds on tight. “No,” he agrees. “I mean, yes, it really was.”

Harry growls and starts maneuvering them down the hallway. “God, you’re heavy,” he mumbles. “Where’s your key?”

Louis would take offense to that, but he’s too busy clutching to Harry and trying not to fall. “Harry--Harold--Hazza--H--Put me down,” he gets out.

Harry does so, lips twitching with each corrected nickname, and spins him around so that they’re pressed back to front. Louis can feel his dick hard against his arse, which does nothing to help him in his quest to find his key.

“Hurry,” Harry says into the skin behind his ear. He presses his lips there and sucks. “Wouldn’t want your neighbors to catch us.”

“Ha, no.” Louis locates the damned thing and thrusts it into the lock. He tries very hard not to think about what else will be thrusting in the next few moments. “Knowing my luck, they’d film it and sell it for money.” He pushes the door open. “And that would be the end of my career.”

Harry shrugs. “I wouldn’t say that. You could always build a media empire out of it.”

Louis shoots him a sly look, before lifting a finger and curling it towards him. “Now about that thing you promised me...”

Harry snorts. “Look at you, all in charge,” he says, but he’s got his coat off and shirt nearly unbuttoned before the door’s finished closing.

Louis debates going for his own, but doesn’t get to, as Harry finishes with his own and pressing him back against the door. “You like it,” he breathes.

“You have no idea,” Harry tells him, reaching down with both hands to cup at Louis’ arse and lift him up again.

Louis starts out laughing and ends up groaning when Harry forgoes pleasantries in favor of unbuttoning his jeans. “Forward,” he says.

“Presumptuous,” Harry corrects, and follows that up by slipping a hand into Louis’ boxers and stroking.

For the second time, Louis’ head goes slamming back against a wall. “You’re gonna break me, Styles,” he says, between pants, whining. He’d say it’s been long, but it really hasn’t--just the other day Harry had him facedown on the bed with his two fingers and his tongue in his arse, the memory of which is doing nothing to help with Louis’ little problem. Well, not so little problem. Steadily becoming larger problem. Not quite as big as Harry’s problem, though. Louis is so funny. Also losing brain cells.

He bangs his head back against his door a few times in the hopes that doing so will knock some sense back into him.

“Hey, stop that.” Harry’s hand stops moving and Louis whines. “Stop.” Harry tightens his fingers around the base of Louis’ cock and just holds. “Lou.”

“God, you have no idea what you do to me when you get like that,” Louis mutters, but he lets Harry reach out and cradle his head with his free hand.

“Get like what, Lou?” Harry says. His voice is deep with arousal.

“All, bossy like,” Louis explains. He presses forward into Harry’s hand and sighs. “In charge.”

Harry hums.

“I like it,” Louis decides. “Now, fuck me.”

“Louis.” Harry is whining, actually whining. He’s awful and Louis is awful because it only makes him want him more. People shouldn’t be allowed to be this endearing. “We were having a moment.”

Louis snorts. “Your hand is on my dick,” he says.

“Your dick is in my hand,” Harry says. He starts stroking as he says this.

Louis thinks that there’s a quote he could use for this moment, but then Harry is letting go of his head and pulling his jeans down. He gets with the program quickly, uncurling his legs from around Harry’s waist and reaching for his own sinfully tight pair.

“Wait.” Harry stops him, reaching into his pocket and pulling out lube and a condom.

“Why, Harold,” Louis says, shoving the offending jeans down and watching Harry step out of them.

“I keep my promises,” Harry tells him.

“And what a wonderful thing that you do,” Louis says.“This doesn’t make up for the first time, though.”

Harry groans and uncaps the lube. “Lewis.

“In case you were wondering.” He meets Harry’s eyes and watches as he squirts a dollop of lube out onto two fingers.

“However will I sleep at night,” Harry says, dry as a bone.

“Shut up.” Louis leaps up into Harry’s arms and grins. “Now, where were we?”

“God, I love you,” says Harry, and then he’s got Louis balanced against the door and a wet hand around his cock.

Louis nearly swallows his own tongue. “Wrong side,” he manages to get out, somewhere in the ensuing moments when Harry starts grumbling about weight distribution and proper leverage. “Also, don’t think you’re getting away with your little declaration--nghhh!” Louis’ voice breaks on an embarrassingly high note as Harry presses a finger past his balls so that just the tip is inside him. That bastard.

“Why, Louis,” he says. “There is nothing little--” The accompanying press of his finger is both apt and obnoxious, and Louis is so turned on his head is swimming-- “--about it.”

“I hate you,” Louis tells his flat’s ceiling.

Harry gets this adorable little wrinkle in his brow as he’s opening Louis up, alternating between twisting and curling and then adding another lube coated finger. Louis focuses on that little patch of skin, chest heaving, and also the ceiling.

“You’re quiet.” Harry curls his fingers just so and Louis gasps, heart stuttering, shifting a little so that his legs are better supported by Harry’s shoulders. “Never mind.” Harry’s got three fingers in now, and now that he’s found his prostate he’s relentless, stroking and rubbing and making Louis see fucking spots.

“Harold,” he moans out. “Stop it--gonna come.” That wasn’t quite what he wanted to say, seeing as his thighs are shaking and it’s getting increasingly harder to do his part in keeping them upright and against his door, but Louis’ filter is off. He’s also never going to look at his door the same again.

“What, so soon?” Harry is straight faced, but the shake of his arms gives him away.

“Shut up, I’m not the one who dry humped me in an ice rink.”

Harry barks out a startled laugh at that, fingers crooking perfectly, and stops. “You still up for talking about declarations?” he says.

Louis has no idea what he’s talking about. “Like of war?” he stutters out, putting both of his hands in Harry’s hair and staring up at the ceiling. “God, Harry, fuck me.”

“No like--”

“Harry!” Louis tightens his calves around Harry’s neck and growls. “I swear to God--”

“All right, all right,” Harry mutters, shifting Louis’ legs off of his shoulders so that he can get at his own cock. “Now who’s bossy.”

Louis barely even notices in his quest to get the condom open and into Harry’s hands. “Now, now now,” he says under his breath, well aware that he’s being shameless but, again, ice rink. Dry humping. ‘Nough said.

Harry finishes with the condom and goes for the lube again, squirting more than enough out onto his palm and then slicking his cock with shaking hands. Louis blinks down at him.

“I really want to suck you off,” he tells him.

“Fuck, Louis.” Harry sounds pained. “You’re going to be the death of me.”

“That seems a bit drastic,” Louis tells him, very seriously, letting Harry shift him around so that he can press into him in one quick slide. Louis hisses through his teeth, head falling back again as he gets used to the stretch, relishes in being oh so very full. His vision’s gone fuzzy; Harry’s fucking huge. “God, I take it back,” he mumbles, breathless. “I’ll go with you just--”

He doesn’t even have to finish his sentence because Harry is hoisting him up and fucking into him with clean, quick strokes.

“Yeah, that,” Louis gasps out. “Nghh, Haz.”

Louis can feel his thigh muscles give out, and Harry falters a little in the added weight, the angle changing just that little bit and his thrusts getting that much more shallow.

Louis is not ashamed of the noise he makes, and of how he practically wrenches his legs down and away from Harry in his rush to get them horizontal. He moans a little at the loss when Harry slips free, pressing two fingers back against his hole to feel something, before shoving Harry towards the kitchen.

“Louis, what--” Harry tries to ask, but Louis doesn’t give him time to speak, catching his lips in a furious kiss as he makes for the counter.

He’s pretty sure he agreed to let Niall stay and borrow his kitchen for an episode next week, but all thoughts of keeping the place clean and untarnished by his and Harry’s libidos (an actual conversation that they had the other day) are replaced by thoughts of ‘Harry’ and ‘Harry’s cock’ and ‘Harry’s cock in me.’

“I thought you said--” says Harry, even as Louis is pressing him down onto said counter and climbing on top of him.

“Styles, shut up and fuck me,” Louis tells him, before reaching back with a hand and sinking down. That does it; as soon as Harry bottoms out Louis’ moving his hips, tiny circles as he throw his head back and puts on a goddamned show. Because it’s been a while since he’s done this, but he’s fucking good at it.

From the stuttering move of Harry’s hips and the way his mouth falls open, he agrees.

“You were saying?” Louis asks him, smugly.

“Absolutely nothing.” Harry sounds wrecked, but pleasantly so. “This is the best idea you’ve ever had.” He reaches out with both hands to grab and Louis hips, holding him steady as he pistons his hips up in quick succession, hitting Louis’ prostate and making sparks go off behind his eyes.

“Really?” So, Louis’ own voice is getting a little wrecked as well. Good to know. He tries to remember if he has any interviews or public appearances to deal with, anything that might require sitting and having an actual conversation. He thinks he has one with Ellen--oh the irony--but really he has much better things to be thinking of. “I don’t know,” he bites out. “I’m pretty sure the movie thing was the best one.”

“You sure about that?” Harry pulls himself up by strength of his abdominal muscles alone so that he can kiss Louis, tongue and all. It’s so hot. He’s so hot. Everything is so hot. Louis is burning.

“Well, I mean.” Why is he still trying to speak? Louis’ not sure. He’s pretty sure he was in charge of the situation at some point, but then Harry got his hands on him and Harry got his lips on him and--fucking hell, Harry’s let go of his hip so that he can curl his fingers around Louis’ dick and that’s it.

Louis has the foresight to chase after Harry’s mouth as he comes, toes curling and thighs gripping vice-like to Harry’s own hips. A few moments later, Harry joins him, hurtling over the edge with a deep sigh. He doesn’t stop kissing him for a second.

In the minutes it takes for Louis to come down from the post-orgasmic haze and for his brain to turn back on, Harry gets them more comfortably settled on the counter and disposes of the condom in Louis’ conveniently located kitchen bin. If he tilts his head, Louis can see the pasta from before in the sink. Also the laptop.

“So, which one of us is going to tell Niall that we fucked on the countertops when he’s here filming the show?”

Harry snickers.

“I vote you, since you’re younger.”

“How about none of us,” Harry decides, before getting up to find a flannel. Louis leans up on his elbows to watch him go, lips quirked in what he hopes is not a permanent smile.

“Sounds like a plan.”

“I’m glad you agree.” Harry flings a dish towel at him, winking, before padding off towards the bedroom. “You should probably wash them, though.”

“Hey, come on,” Louis protests, wiping the towel across the tabletop briefly and following Harry at a quicker pace. “Ouch, Styles, you’ve wounded me.” He winces and waits. “And you said you loved me.”

Harry doesn’t give him time to worry about whether or not they were going to be mentioning that, appearing in the doorway to pick Louis up and carry him into the bed, laughing and protesting and generally wiping the frown off of Louis’ face by pressing kisses to every part of him. He tosses him down on the bed, before joining him, curling around him like an over-aggressive puppy.

Louis snuggles into his pillows and Harry’s chest. “Ugh, no, I am not the little spoon,” he tries to protest, but his eyes are already falling shut. “‘m Louis Bloody Tomlinson.”

Harry presses another quick kiss to his forehead, and that’s the last thing Louis is aware of before he’s asleep.

--

Louis gets up, pisses, winces, puts on some trackie bottoms, and goes to get the post.

He regrets that.

The headline reads Louis’ Tomlinson’ Secret Boytoy!?!? complete with accompanying exclamation points and question marks. Attached are photos from his and Harry’s day out. They’re the tamer ones without kissing or anything incriminating, but the look on their faces says it all. Louis isn’t sure if he should be embarrassed, or just plain horrified--both at his face, and at the fact that he’s just effectively ruined Harry’s life.

He goes back inside the flat.

Harry is in the kitchen, humming and cooking eggs while actually attempting to clean the counters. “Good morning,” he says. “Eggs Benedict?”

Louis doesn’t have the heart to answer, just sets the post down, their story front and center. “I’m sorry,” he says.

Harry looks down at it and starts to read, eyebrows climbing occasionally.

Louis has no idea what to do with his hands. “On the bright side, I’m sure Eleanor’s gotten in touch with people to take care of the more incriminating ones,” he says, trying to fill the silence somehow. “And it’s slightly less of a shitstorm since I’m already out, but your picture’s gonna be blasted all over the news for a while.” He winces. “Sorry.”

Harry doesn’t say anything. He looks to be finished reading, but he doesn’t look up at Louis. Instead he just keeps staring down at the photos of them smiling at each other.

“Harry?”

“Why didn’t you think I was your boyfriend?”

That wasn’t what Louis was expecting at all. “Um,” he says. “Because of this?”

“We were dating,” Harry says. “Or flirting, I guess.”

Louis has no idea where this conversation is going. “I mean we’re dating now?” he says, very quickly adding on, “unless, of course, this is a deal breaker.” He swallows, has to force, “which I completely understand,” out through his teeth.

Harry finally looks up. “Louis, you don’t--” He breaks off. “I thought you were joking?”

Louis blinks. “About us dating?” He’s aware his voice has gotten somewhat high, but he can’t seem to get it to stop shaking. They’re in his kitchen, he’s not wearing a shirt, and Harry hasn’t put the magazines down. The eggs are burning.

“No, I--” Harry puts a hand in his hair. “Lou.”

Louis looks at him, confused. “Listen, I get if the paparazzi thing bothers you--”

“You honestly think I care about bad press?” says Harry, tightly. “Over you?

Louis feels like he should deny that, because he honestly doesn’t think Harry would be that type of person. “Well, no, but--” he tries to say instead.

“You think I care more about what the media says about me than you,” Harry continues. “Right, of course, you movie stars are all the same.”

Louis started the conversation confused, but immediately part of his bristles. “What the fuck do you mean by that?” he snaps. “Since when do you talk to movie stars--”

Harry laughs. “Since when do you care, Lewis,” he says, the nickname biting where it once was sweet. “Certainly not enough to fucking ask after me.”

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” Louis demands, as Harry moves to turn off the stove. “Harold--”

“Not my name, Lou.” Harry’s tone is biting, cold, a little condescending. “Which you’d have known if you’d bothered to google me--”

“Why the hell would I have googled you?” Louis cries, absolutely confused. “What would I have googled--”

“My name, maybe?” Harry whirls to face him, looking hurt. “Or, I dunno, maybe asked Niall?”

“Asked Niall what?”

“About me?”

“I--”

“You know what, fuck you,” Harry says.  “Just--fuck you.”

Louis swallows. “You already did,” he says, as coldly as he can manage as his entire world starts crashing down. “And not very well.” It’s a lie; he regrets it instantly; he can’t take it back

Harry’s jaw tightens. “Fine,” he says. “I guess there’s no reason for me to be staying, then.”

“No, wait, Harry--” Louis tries to say, but Harry’s already moving, handing the paper back to Louis without another word and stomping off towards the bedroom.

“You should try reading, Tomlinson,” Harry tells him. He doesn’t sound like he’s joking. Louis has no idea what’s going on. The anger he’d summoned at Harry’s tone is gone, very quickly being replaced by fear. Where is Harry going? Why is Harry going--stupid question, never mind. Is he coming back? What is going on?

He looks down at the article, skimming over the more obvious stuff in search of something eye-opening. Louis’ name, Eleanor’s name, his latest film, Hannah’s name, a quick namedrop of the director. Louis is not less confused--

He stops. “Golden Globe Winner Louis Tomlinson was spotted out and about with Model Harry Styles,” he reads, heart in his throat. He looks up. “You’re--”

“Leaving,” Harry tells him, still stiff. He emerges from the bedroom fully dressed with his curls pushed back under a scarf.

“No, you--” Louis breaks off to collect himself. “You lied to me.”

Harry’s mouth falls open. “How?” he says. “When?”

“You let me believe you were a cellist!” Louis shouts.

“I didn’t think you were serious!” Harry shouts back. “You--you’re the one who believed I was a cellist!”

“What was I supposed to think?”

“I was in Paris for Fashion Week!” says Harry. “I’ve been on the cover of GQ three times!” He sounds a mixture of amazed and angry. “Niall knows! Zayn knows! Liam--Liam Payne called me in defense of your virtue!”

“What, so everyone knows?” Louis snaps. The floor is moving under his feet and in his fingers the newspaper is shaking.

“Everyone knows but you!” Harry says, finally, voice echoing around the flat like the crack of a whip. “The one person I fucking--I thought you were joking.” He’s whispering by the end, looking less angry and more upset. “Goodbye, Louis.”

The door opens.

“Wait, Harry.” Louis can’t bring himself to turn. “I think.” He swallows. “I love you, too.”

For a moment, nothing happens; Louis lets himself hope.

The door slams.

Louis goes back to bed.

--

He doesn’t get out of bed for the next three hours, at which point he calls Eleanor and tells her to cancel his entire schedule for the week--“You’re on Ellen in five days, Tomlinson, I am not canceling on Ellen Fucking DeGeneres”--minus the Ellen thing, and then puts his phone on silent.

And then he goes home.

“Oh, baby,” says his mum, when she answers the door.

Louis just shuffles into the house and looks at his feet. “Hi, mum,” he says, voice a little watery. “Can I have a hug?”

For a second Louis thinks that his mother is actually going to argue with him, but then she’s clutching him to her chest and petting his hair and he’s basically been crying inside nonstop since Harry went out that door, so why stop at mentally.

He spends the next three days in various states of disarray, lying starfished in his childhood bed and googling Harry’s name like an addict. On the first day, he mostly sleeps and eats and dreams. By the second day, he’s feeling slightly better, to the point where gets his laptop out and sets up a Google Alert for both of their names. He then goes on to tracks their tag on Tumblr as well as spend a few hours reading through both their mentions on Twitter. Harry hasn’t tweeted since the fight, but somehow that doesn’t make it any better; when Louis opens his profile, the first thing he’s greeted by is a tweet that Harry sent to him, complete with too many x’s and bad jokes.

He spends the third day staring at his far wall for so long that he can still see the pattern when he closes his eyes. It’s there plastered to the back of his lids like an awful neon sign whenever Louis closes his eyes, and that would bother him, but then at least it’s not the shape of Harry’s lips, or the music of his laugh, so Louis lets it be. The most he does that day is turn his phone on and send Harry a message in Whatsapp--a tiny I miss you--and he doesn’t stick around long enough to see if the timestamp for when Harry was last seen changes.

On the fourth day, he breaks his self imposed vow of silence in favor of wandering down to the kitchen, where he finds his mum on the phone talking in whispers. “No, I--” She spots him. “Sorry, I’ve got to go, dear, but I’ll talk to you later, yeah?” She pauses. “Yes, of course. I wouldn’t miss it for the world--it’s not every day you get married. Bye.”

“Was that Zayn?” he asks.

She nods.

“Did he call you?”

Another nod.

“How much do you know?”

“All of it.”

“Ah.” Louis takes a seat. “Um, hi.”

His mum is frozen for a moment, before she starts bustling about. “Let me put the kettle on,” she says, going for the kettle. “Sit.”

Louis sits, staring down at the kitchen counter with its Barbie stickers and Pokémon stickers and the Tony Stark sticker set he remembers giving the twins a few years back. “I, um,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

His mum waits a beat. “I don’t think I’m the one you should be saying that to,” she says, kindly.

Louis sighs. “Yeah.”

His mum finishes the tea and sets the steaming cup in front of him. “So, what’s stopping you?” she asks.

Louis refuses to meet her eyes, staring down at the shiny surface of the countertop, and all of a sudden all he can think about is the last time he’d been staring at a table that color. “Harry fucked me on my kitchen counter,” he says, and there’s a choking noise from the stairs.

His mum’s eyes narrow, and she goes to stick her head out into the hallway and shout at his sisters.

Louis’ beyond caring at this point, well aware that Lottie and Fizzy are no longer the innocent little things they were when he left home for a slice of Hollywood, but he hides his smile into his tea when his mum returns muttering under her breath about nosy children.

“Mum.” Louis looks down and realizes that his hands are shaking. He puts down the tea. “You’re the nosiest person I know.”

His mum waves her hand. “Semantics,” she says, undeterred. “You were saying?”

Louis’ gaze finds the table again, but he knows better than to stay quiet. “Harry walked out on me,” he says, picking up the cup to have something to do.

“True,” says his mum.

Louis takes a sip. “I don’t know what he wants me to say.”

“Well, what did you say?”

“I just wanted to give him a way out, you know?” Louis tells her, not meeting her eyes. “It wasn’t supposed to be--he didn’t have to call me a liar--”

“Louis,” his mum cuts him off.

He stares down at the cup in his hands. “Harry was in at least seven different tabloids,” he starts. “People were talking. People were--” He winces, thinking about all of his googling. “--a bit awful…to both of us, but…” He shakes his head. “I just wanted him to know that he shouldn’t feel obligated to, like, stick around or something.” His voice breaks a little. “I didn’t think he’d leave.”

His mum crosses around so that she can pull him into a hug, and Louis makes a small noise in the back of his throat. “Oh, boo,” she tells him, “I love you. But think about how that last sentence sounds.”

Louis furrows his brow. “What, that Harry wouldn’t want to deal with the press?”

“That Harry wouldn’t want to deal with the bad press even for you,” corrects his mum, gently.

Louis hadn’t thought about it like that. Hadn’t--hadn’t really thought twice about assuming, actually, and oh, God, Louis is an idiot. His stomach drops. “Oh, God,” he says out loud.

“There you are,” says his mum, gently. “All right?”

Louis nods, throat dry. “Yeah, um.” He doesn’t know what to say, really. “I--”

His mum takes pity on him. “Tell me more about this boy,” she says, which isn’t all that helpful, really.

“What do you want to know?” Louis manages, voice cracking, because there really isn’t a limit on what Louis could tell her about Harry. They’ve only known each other for a month or so now, but already he’s starting to think of his life in terms of before Harry and after Harry. Started shifting around the boxes of what he likes to incorporate what Harry likes, until it’s just one big mess of ‘things that HarryandLouis like’.

“Anything,” says his mum. “Everything.”

“He’s--” Louis tries to stay. “He’s Harry, mum, I’m not sure--”

“Do you love him?” says his mum.

Louis doesn’t even have to think. “Yes,” he says, staring down at his hands. “God, yeah--that was the last thing I said to him, actually.” He looks up at her. “And then he walked out.”

His mum sighs. “I’m sure he was very happy to hear you say that, dear,” she says. “It was probably everything else that did it.”

Louis puts his head in his hands. “Yeah.”

His mum picks up the now empty cup and goes to put it in the sink. “You’re welcome to stay for as long as you like,” she tells him as she turns on the tap to rinse it out. “But it sounds to me like you’ve got your mind made up, love.” The sink goes off. “And we all know what happens when you make up your mind.”

“I’ve got to go to California,” he says, ignoring the way she sighs at him. “I’ve got a talk show thing.”

“Louis--” she’s frowning at him even as she lets him leave the kitchen, lets him head for his bedroom and the curious faces of his sisters.

“And then after that,” he tells her. “I’ll talk to Harry.”

--

Louis gets up and calls Paul to arrange for him to grab him at LAX and takes the next flight back to the States. On the way, he turns his phone back on and listens to his voicemails, ignoring the ones from Eleanor in favor of texting her a quick, Sorry! and Ellen tomorrow, right?, and playing the ones from Niall, Liam, and Zayn over and over until his head hurts. All of them are angry at him, all of them love him, and all of them want to knee him in the balls a few times and knock him into next week.

He ends up opening Whatsapp before he can help himself, only to see that Harry’s status has changed, telling Louis he’s seen the message, but hasn’t said anything. Louis swallows and texts him again, anyway, a little I’m sorry to accompany his other unanswered plea, before leaning back against the seat and trying to sleep.

Eleanor replies to him sometime when they’re over the Atlantic Ocean with a hotel room number and a, you owe me.

Harry’s been online, but he hasn’t said anything.

When Louis gets to the hotel, he takes the lift in stunned silence, stumbles into the room, and makes for the bed, not even bothering with his clothes and socks, before falling face first into the pillows and passing out.

--

He wakes up, and there is an Irishman sitting on his bed, staring him down, and eating crisps loudly. Louis isn’t sure if he wants to laugh or cry. Sometime in the night he must have kicked of his jeans and gotten under the covers, so at least he has some form of coverage from the crumbs Niall is getting all over the bed.

“Oh good.” Niall swallows a mouthful. “You’re awake.”

Louis tries to find his voice. “Niall,” he says. Rasps. “How kind for you visit me.”

Niall throws a crisp at him. “Shut up,” he says. “I’m angry at you.”

That wakes Louis up. “What, why?” he protests, reflexively.

Niall puts down the packet of crisps. “Pillow,” he says, holding out a hand.

Liam appears on his left and hands him a pillow.

“What--” Before Louis can finish his sentence, Niall has taken hold of the pillow and is whacking Louis with it. He’s not being gentle about it at all, so Louis falls back onto the bed and tries to drag the duvet up over his head. “Stop, Ni--Niall--”

Niall pauses. He eats a crisp. “Strike one,” he says. He eats another.

“For what?” Louis peeks out from behind the duvet.

Niall chews and swallows. “Fly swatter,” he says.

“Hold on--wait--” Louis tries to say, but Zayn is stepping to Niall’s right with the aforementioned item.

Niall doesn’t even give Louis a chance to drag the duvet up over his head this time before he’s slapping at him with it. “Strike two.”

“Why are you doing this?” Louis sputters out, eyes shut tight against the onslaught.

“Tennis racket,” says Niall.

“Why would there be a tennis racket in the hotel--wait no!” Louis cries. “Okay, all right, I get it, you’re all mad about Harry!”

He squeezes his eyes closed again and waits.

Nothing happens.

Louis manages to open an eye.

Zayn and Liam have joined Niall on the bed and are staring at him, as Niall reaches into the packet and finishes the crisps.

No one says anything.

“So, is that all it takes--”Louis tries to ask.

“I think you’re the only one who’s mad about Harry, Lou,” says Zayn, wryly.

Louis groans and flops back down on the bed. “You guys,” he groans. “Leave me alone.”

“Liam,” says Niall. “You brought your tennis racket, yes?”

“All right, okay, yes, I’m in love with Harry,” Louis snaps. “Happy?” He tries to smile at them.

Niall doesn’t smile back and Louis’ stomach drops.

He stares up at the ceiling again. “I’m a right git,” he says.

“This is true,” says Niall. “But just to be clear--why?”

Louis flips him off. “Niall,” he whines.

“Hey, come on,” says Niall. “I’m just doing my duty as a friend to both you and the lovely Hazza--”

“Because I may have implied that Harry would break up with me over the paparazzi,” Louis rushes to say. “Can you cuddle me, now?”

Niall shoots him a look, but he dumps the empty packet into Louis’ bedside rubbish bin and shifts around in the bed. “Budge up,” he says.

Louis shifts his legs to the side so that the three of them can settle around him like the world’s most wonderful blanket. He curls into a ball, arms going around his waist, as Niall huffs out a warm breath against his ear. Zayn is somewhere behind Niall, and Louis assumes they must be spooning because the arm settled across his stomach is tattooed.

Liam cuddles into his other side, petting a hand through his hair and sighing. “Lou,” he says. “You fucked up.”

Louis just nods miserably. “Yeah, I know,” he says. “Also, swear jar.”

Niall and Zayn snicker.

Louis frowns. “What?”

“Just be glad you weren’t there when the papers hit the shelves, mate,” Zayn tells him. “I think Payno nearly blew a gasket.”

“Hey!”

“Nearly gave me a heart attack, too,” Niall puts in. “He called me about it--was proper shouting and yelling. My eardrums will never be the same.”

Louis is confused. “Why were you yelling at Niall, Li?” he says.

Liam hugs him a little harder. “Harry’s his friend,” he says.

“It was mostly excited shouting,” Niall adds. “We’re happy for you.”

“Or we were.” Zayn’s arm shifts a little so that he can find Louis’ hand. He gives it a squeeze. “Until you went and cocked it up.” He pulls Louis’ hand up so that he can use it to smack him in the cheek.

“You’ve seen Harry,” Louis gleans.

“Yep.” Niall pops the damn ‘p’ right in Louis’ ear like he’s chewing gum

Louis winces. “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” says Liam. “Why didn’t you ask me what he did?”

Louis blinks. “When?” he says, but then it occurs to him. The hotel. Liam’s hesitance on the phone. Bloody Paul sassing him. “Oh, God, I just thought you knew him because he was Niall’s friend!”

Liam is silent for a moment. Then he says, “Zayn?” and Zayn repeats the hand to cheek action.

Louis takes the opportunity to slip his own thumb into his mouth and bite at his nails. “I’m such an idiot,” he says.

“Yes,” all three of them chorus. “But we love you anyway.”

It occurs to Louis that he does not deserve the friends he has. By all means, he should have lost them along the way, what with how he’s never home and always working and money isn’t exactly something he’ll ever have to worry about. But then, Liam’s got a gold medal and Niall an Emmy winning show and Five Star Restaurant and Zayn’s gearing up for another world tour as well as a wedding. Louis’ three Golden Globes, People’s Choice Awards, and one Oscar Nomination feel small, in comparison. Especially when he takes into account how Niall’s dating a model and Liam’s spent the holidays with Sophia’s family and Zayn is getting fucking married. Louis’d always pictured himself acting in some way shape or form, but part of him had also dreamed of being married by the time he was in his late twenties with children.

“Hey.” Niall’s voice interrupts the rather maudlin turn of his thoughts. “Snap out of it. This is not a pity party.”

Louis sighs. “But, Ni,” he whines. “What are friends for if not cuddling and unconditional pity--” He stops. It occurs to him that Niall is Harry’s friend too, that they were close enough for Niall to let Harry stay in his flat and that they have nicknames for each other. If all of them are here, who’s with Harry?

Something of that must show on his face, because Niall sighs and hugs him a little tighter. “H is working,” he says. “He’s doing a commercial-type thing with Ben Winston.”

Louis nearly swallows his tongue. “Like, Ben Winston, Ben Winston?” he gets out.

Zayn snorts. “Pretty sure it’s just Ben Winston, Tommo.”

“Yes,” says Liam, because Liam is a good friend.

“He’s equally wrecked about you, though, don’t worry,” puts in Niall. 

Louis frowns. “I wasn’t worrying,” he says. He kind of was. Not that he wished despair on Harry--the opposite, actually--but it was still somewhat nice to hear that his effect on Harry’s life hadn’t been fleeting.

“You most definitely were,” says Zayn. “I can see it in your eyes.”

Louis frowns. “Hang on--”

I can see it in your smile,” adds Liam.

“I swear to God, the two of you--” says Louis.

Harry’s all you ever wanted,” sings Niall, “and his arms are open wide!”

The three of them are harmonizing now, and Louis buries his face in the nearest thing he can find. Liam’s bicep. It’s a nice bicep. It’s also not serenading him with Lionel Ritchie so it gets points.

And you know just what to say!” Liam croons.

And you know just what to do!” belts Niall.

You’ve just got to tell him so much…” the three of them sing.

I love you,” Louis finishes, quietly, but in tune. The three of them grin at him like happy parents and Louis tries not to smile back. “But after Ellen.”

Niall groans. “Lou, you don’t have time to spare!” he complains

Louis rolls his eyes and shoves an elbow back to nudge him in the stomach playfully. “Harry and I have the rest of our lives to spare,” he says. “A few hours on American telly won’t kill me.”

The three of them go silent and let him get out of the bed.

“What?” Louis grabs the dress pants and the shirt he’d brought with him from London out of his bag and a clean pair of boxers before heading for the bathroom. He definitely needs a shower.

“You want to spend the rest of your life with Harry?” says Niall.

Louis pauses. That is what he said. “I mean, maybe,” he ends up saying, but it falls flat. He gives himself a shake. “Stop distracting me--I need to go do--”

“Ellen, yes, we know,” Zayn says airily. “Forgive us for being happy that you’ve finally found someone.”

Louis takes issue with most of that statement. “At no point in my life will I be ‘doing Ellen’,” he says, adding air quotes. “That ship has sailed.” He frowns down at his right arm, bare save a doodle of a stickman on a skateboard and has to bite his lip when all he can think about is Harry’s ship tattoo. He supposes it’s better than thinking about Harry himself. “Hey, um, Zayn?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you know any good tat shops?”

“Uh, yeah, but so do you so--”

“Text me the address, yeah?” Louis finishes finding the pair of socks he knows his mum gave him and goes for the bathroom. “Anyway, I’m not going to be able to do anything about Harry until I’m back in London.” He shuts the door behind him and starts undressing. “Right?”

Niall is the first to respond. “Um,” he says. “See, about that commercial--”

Louis pokes his head out of the bathroom and glares at him.

“It’s being filmed here, isn’t it?” he says.

Niall shoots him an apologetic smile. Liam and Zayn appear to be engaging in an intense game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, from the sounds of it, to determine who gets to accompany Louis to Ellen’s studio.

“He sort of freaked out when he saw that you’d texted,” Niall says. “Also Eleanor might have called him.”

“That evil woman,” Louis hisses, not sure whether he should arrange for her murder or give her a raise. “Ni’s coming with.”

Zayn and Liam break away from their rather intense game, aghast. “But, Lou,” Liam protests.

“Not up for discussion,” Louis tells them, and then retreats into the bathroom for a moment. Then, rethinking it, he sticks his head back out. “On second thought fight amongst yourselves, I’ll be out in five minutes.”

He gets into the shower to the sounds of his friends failing to play Rock-Paper-Scissors and tries very hard not to think about Harry being in the same city as him. On the same continent. It’s going to be a long shower.

In the ten minutes it takes, Louis barely manages to make himself focus on the interview he has to give today, reviewing the flashcards of movie promo and trivia that Eleanor has forced him to learn until he feels comfortable and confident enough to go off script. He can’t remember the last time he had to do this, was even slightly anxious enough to warrant this kind of mental exercise. The last few seconds he spares for a quick mental pep-talk, before he’s stepping out of the shower and grabbing one of the fluffy, white towels.

As he dries himself, and dresses, and then spends a few more minutes playing with his hair a bit, he thinks he can hear the sounds of fighting outside the door, but he ignores it. He’s pretty sure he knows the outcome, anyway--Liam has a gold medal, Niall a bad knee, and Zayn isn’t above fighting dirty.

However, when he emerges from the bathroom  it is to find Niall seated on top of Liam and Zayn with a lollipop in his mouth looking no worse for wear. Louis doesn’t know what to say.

“Um,” he manages. “What?”

Zayn and Liam both angle their heads to better face him. “Hullo,” says Liam.

“How’re things?” says Zayn.

Louis blinks. “I thought you were playing Rock-Papers-Scissors?” he says. “Like, why are you on the floor?”

“You told us to fight amongst ourselves,” says Zayn. He sounds like he’s having an out of body experience, voice dull and disinterested; like he’s given up hope. Seeing as Louis himself has more often than not been on the receiving end of Niall’s tackling, he is rather sympathetic.

“So we did,” Liam finishes for Zayn. “I went for what I thought was Niall’s bad knee, Zayn went for what was actually Niall’s bad knee--”

Louis shoots Liam an unimpressed look.

“--and then Niall went for my legs and Zayn’s hair and here we are,” finishes Liam. “Face down. On the carpet. Wounded. We will never be the same again.”

“Hey, I was careful,” says Niall, around the lollipop. “I know how much money rides on you being able to walk.”

“You fought dirty,” argues Liam. “You know perfectly well that I’m supposed to be staying healthy--”

“Yeah, yeah.” Niall reaches down with his free hand and covers Liam’s mouth. “We know.

“All of us,” adds Zayn. “We’re intimately aware.”

Liam makes a disgruntled noise but doesn’t argue the point.

“Anyway, I won,” says Niall. “When are we leaving?”

“Right, okay,” Louis says. “Let me just--” He gestures towards the bedside table and goes to collect his phone and wallet. 

--

Eleanor meets them at the studio, hands him a mic pack, and generally looks foreboding and terrifying at anyone who so much as glances in their direction. “Niall,” she says, coolly.

“Eleanor,” Niall replies, pleasantly. He doesn’t seem all the fazed by the positively icy glare that Eleanor is leveling at him. “How are things.”

“Lovely,” says Eleanor, a bit sharply. “And you?”

“Oh, you know,” says Niall. “Ratings are as good as ever.”

“Good,” says Eleanor. “You ready?” She turns to Louis.

Louis looks between them curiously, uncertain about the underlying hostility in the air. “Um,” he says. “I guess--”

“You better get going, though, if you don’t want to be late,” Eleanor interrupts, before shooing him off in the direction of makeup and wardrobe. Louis spares her and Niall one last, hesitant glance before he’s off to let the professionals make him look pretty and stylish. By the time he’s getting ready to go out on the show, he’s mostly forgotten the odd atmosphere.

Ellen is funny. Like, Louis knew this, objectively, because he’s been on the show before, and also because one of her running gags is how she and Niall are long lost twins. Louis probably would have brought Niall along regardless for this reason alone, because Ellen loves him and his presence makes the filming infinitely better. Of course, not even Niall’s smile and booming laughter can make up for the way Louis’ stomach drops when Ellen asks him about his relationship status.

“So, Louis,” she says, after their audience has finished laughing at the latest joke. “I hear you’ve finally been dating.”

Louis shoots a quick look in the direction of where Eleanor is standing behind the camera on reflex. “Oh?” he says. “And where did you hear that?” He hopes his voice sounds normal for everyone watching, because it sure as hell doesn’t to his own ears.

“A little birdy told me,” says Ellen.

Louis nearly bites off his tongue remembering the last time he heard those words. Harry still hasn’t texted him back.

“Oh?” he manages, because Ellen (and America) is waiting. “Do you happen to know what type of bird?”

This is, of course, the perfect segway into talking about the guest segment Louis did for Sesame Street that finally aired a few days ago, in which he helps children expand their vocabulary to include the word ‘charming’, which Louis had found rather ironic, at the time. It’s also a deflection, which most definitely does not go unnoticed by Ellen or Eleanor or Niall, but Louis can’t help it anyway. He can’t talk about Harry yet. He’s not ready.

Ellen doesn’t miss a beat. “Well, actually, I’m not really sure what type of bird,” she says. “It was very large, though.”

Louis risks a grin. “How large?” he says. “Like, are we talking normal sized bird or…”

“Big,” Ellen says, amused.

“I like big,” Louis replies, deadpan. He can hear the audience laughing, as well as see Eleanor put her head in her hands.

“Good thing this isn’t live,” says Ellen. “That pretty publicist of yours might have your head.”

Louis throws his head back and laughs. “Oh, Eleanor’s lovely,” he says. “Great kisser, too,” he adds, slyly, from under his eyelashes,

“Right, yes,” says Ellen. “I remember that.”

The screen behind them shows a picture of the infamous kiss, and Louis looks sheepishly over at Eleanor. “I don’t think there’s anyone around who doesn’t remember that,” he says, dryly. “Although, maybe that’s presumptuous of me.” He starts to smile, but then remembers the last time he used the word ‘presumptuous’, and it falls flat around the edges of his mouth. So much for not thinking about Harry.

“True, it’s not every day that a big-name star goes off the market,” says Ellen. “Which brings us full circle.”

Louis throws his head back dramatically and groans. “Darn,” he says, hands in the air. “I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.”

“Cause we have a another picture,” Ellen continues, pausing to allow the screens to show pictures of his date with Harry. “And I have to say, Tomlinson, they really don’t compare.”

Louis covers his face with his hands. “I don’t suppose I can say no comment?” he says, voice a bit hoarser than he wants.

“You can.” Ellen almost looks sincere. “But Harry Styles.”

Louis groans and drags his hands down his face. His heart is racing in his chest, and even though he knew this was coming, he’s not nearly ready enough for it. “Yes?” he says.

“Are you dating?” says Ellen.

And Louis doesn’t know. Louis has no idea. He has Harry’s number programmed into his phone and Harry’s presence scattered around his flat and his phone is set to tell him anytime Google so much as mentions him but he doesn’t know if they’re dating. If they’re over, if Harry meant it when he told him goodbye, or even if that’s the reason that Harry didn’t respond to any of his Whatsapp messages even though Louis knows he saw them, but what he does know, and what he can answer, is that he wants them to be. Harry--Louis’ pretty sure that Harry is it for him.

When he comes back to himself, Ellen and her studio audience are quiet.

Louis swallows. “Can I get back to you on that?” he says, and that’s Ellen’s cue to push, but she doesn’t. Instead she moves the conversation back to his latest movie, shows a clip, before returning to the subject of Sesame Street (“Speaking of Big Birds...“) so that she can blindfold Louis and have guests charm the pants off of him.

It all passes in a bit of a blur, and before he knows it the show is over and he’s left standing off to the side of filming with his phone in one hand and cup of coffee in the other. He doesn’t remember asking for the cup, or the phone, but as soon as Niall steps forward and puts a hand on his shoulder, he snaps into action.

“Tommo, you okay?” says Niall.

“Niall,” Louis tells him, more than a little desperately. He pockets his phone so he has a free hand to grip at his friend’s t-shirt. “Niall, help.”

“Um, okay, but I--”

“Where’s Harry, Niall?” Louis continues, undeterred. “I need to talk to him.”

“Er, well, I think he’s in the middle of that commercial--”

“Right!” Louis releases him and goes for his phone, sliding it unlocked and going for his contacts, scrolling and scrolling until he hits ‘W’. He doesn’t have Ben Winston’s number. “Niall.” He hands the coffee to Niall and grabs him by the arms. “I don’t have Ben Winston’s number.”

“Um, well--”

“I don’t have Ben Winston’s number--help me, Niall!”

Niall winces and Louis loosens the grip he has on his arms. “Lou, I don’t--”

“I’m in love with Harry,” Louis blurts. “I need to--I need to see him.”

Niall goes silent for a moment. And then he nods to himself, brow furrowing, before grabbing Louis by the arm and manhandling him through the studio.

“Where are we going--”

“Give me your phone,” says Niall.

Louis give him his phone, which Niall unlocks, and brings to his ear.

“Hello?” Niall says, not even bothering with pleasantries. “We’re a go.”

He hands Louis his phone back.

“What do you mean we’re a go?” Louis tries to say, at which point Niall drags him to the left and then to the right, and into a lift. After a few moments, the doors come open and Liam and Zayn enter.

Louis blinks, but before he can say anything Niall stops him. “You said you wanted to see Harry?” he says, as the doors come open one last time. “Now, shut up and go see Harry.”

Louis has only a second to catch a glimpse of people hurrying past with outfits and makeup bags, before he’s running. Past the clothes, past the people with the clothes, and past a pair of women, one of them with a headset and a clipboard. “--and is there something we can do about the bags under his eyes?” one of them is saying, before Louis comes rushing by.

“Sorry, sorry,” he says. “Is this the way to the shoot?”

The women blink at him. “Yes?” one of them says finally, and the other one elbows her.

Is that Louis Tomlinson?” she hisses, but Louis’ already gone. He has no idea what he’s going to say when he sees Harry.

A few moments later he rounds a corner and nearly runs into a group of people, apologizing profusely and going to pick up the things they’ve dropped. One of them is a woman holding a little girl, who upon seeing Louis seems to do double take.

“Oi, are you Louis Tomlinson?”

Louis finishes handing her the bottles of hairspray. “Yes?” he says. “You, um, know me?”

The woman nods. “I’m Lou,” she says, sticking out the hand not holding the girl. “And this is Lux.”

Louis take her hand, and then Lux’s. “Pleasure?” he says. He’s aware that every word out of his mouth sounds like a question, but he’s still trying to catch his breath. Maybe he should get Liam to take him training for a day. Or Harry, if Harry wants anything to do with him after this.

He gives Lou and Lux another smile, before turning and continuing on his way, making it about a few feet before Lou calls after him.

“You’re going the wrong way!” she shouts.

Louis very quickly corrects his path to take that into account. “How’d you know where I’m going?” he says.

She rolls her eyes. “Just go kiss him senseless,” she says, pushing her hair back over her shoulder. “He’s driving me--and everyone else--insane.” She pauses. “If you break his heart again I’ll kill you, though,” she adds.

Louis nods, heart thumping hard in his chest, and doesn’t really have much time to try to figure out who this woman must be to Harry if she knows that much, before he’s rounding a corner and Harry himself is standing in front of him.

Or rather, Harry is standing in front of a camera with black lining his eyes and a long, elegant, trench coat falling to his thighs. He’s got the collar popped up around his ears, and Louis isn’t sure, but possibly his lips are painted red. Or they might just be that color, at this point, since it sounds like Ben is getting tired, and Harry worries them when he’s anxious. He’s also got bags under his eyes, his shoulders are slumping a bit, and his fingers are twitching almost imperceptibly at his sides.

He’s the most breathtaking thing Louis has ever seen.

“Louis?” Ben’s noticed him, brow furrowing, and Louis only has time to give him a quick smile before he’s striding across the room to stand in front of Harry.

Harry just stares at him, like he’s not quite certain that Louis’ really there. He doesn’t say anything.

“Erm,” Louis says. “Hi.”

Still nothing.

“I, um.” Louis breaks off. “Louis William Tomlinson, Actor.” He sticks out his hand. “Four sisters, two fathers, one wonderful mother, very recently twenty two, so very, very sorry, and very much--” He breaks off to take a deep breath, lets his eyes map out every inch of Harry’s face. “--very much in love with you.” He swallows. “And you are?”

Harry stares back at him, eyes all the more green due to the kohl surrounding them.

“Come on, please?” Louis says, refusing to break eye contact. “I want to do it properly this time.”

For a long moment, he’s pretty sure that Harry’s just not going to say anything, and that Louis will have barged onto a photoshoot, interrupted the lead model, and probably have ruined his relationship with Ben Winston forever. Worse, he doesn’t think he’d mind--he’d meant it when he’d said that he thought Harry was it for him, and he sure as hell isn’t about to let him be the one that got away. The silence gets thicker and thicker as it stretches on, and Louis has the good graces to accept defeat when it slaps him in the face. Or in this case, stares him in the eye and refuses to speak.

“Right, okay, then,” he says, finally glancing around at the other people in the room. “Sorry to bother you.”

He gets about two steps away when Harry’s voice stops him, and every single hair on his body stands on edge.

“Harry Edward Styles, Model,” says Harry. “One sister, two dads, a mum to give yours a run for her money, and one cat.” He breaks off awkwardly and Louis can hear footsteps across the hardwood floor as he comes to him, putting two warm hands on Louis’ shoulders and spinning him to face him. “Nineteen, but soon to be twenty, and very, very much in love with you too.”

And then there might be clapping from the people surrounding them, and Louis is pretty sure he can see Liam weeping from where he, Zayn, and Niall are loitering at the door, but all of that pales in comparison to the look in Harry’s eyes when he smiles down at him and says, completely straight faced, “I never thought I’d live to see the day when I’d be jealous of my own cello,” before breaking out into a sunshine bright smile, complete with dimples, twinkling eyes, and laugh lines.

And Louis just stares back at him, smiling so hard his cheeks hurt and clutching helplessly at the front of Harry’s probably expensive shirt. “I’m sure Marcel and you can work something out,” he says, breathlessly, before Harry’s answering bray of laughter makes him press up on his tip toes to kiss him.

“Yeah,” Harry says into the kiss. “Joint custody or something--we can alternate weekends!” He sounds so very happy with his idea, right cheek dimpling as he talks with his hands.

Louis is so very in love with him. “Mmm,” he says. “Or you could just spirit me away in secret.”

“True.” Harry resettles his arms so that Louis is more firmly in his arms. “I like that plan.”

“Good.” Louis kisses him on the nose. “Now kiss me, you fool.”

And Harry does.

--

End.