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In All Its Imperfections

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It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time.

Six shots in that was.

Harry Styles wasn’t the drinking type, was the thing. He was the watching Jeopardy and doing puzzles and wearing comfy cardigans type. He had a cat named Dusty Rose and he was far too attached to her. Maybe that made him a cat lady type. Maybe he didn’t mind.

But, Niall had come home with a bottle of tequila he’d nabbed, or nicked as it were, on the way out of the restaurant after having just been given the boot, and Harry couldn’t let him drink alone. What kind of roommate would that make him?

“So I flipped em all the bird, Harry,” Niall slurred a little now, recounting his (as he called it) magnificent departure from the detested place he’d been working for the past year.

Harry pet at Niall’s hand where it rested on their beat up plastic kitchen table in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. Everything was a little blurry at the edges so he wasn’t sure he was actually making contact with his roommate’s limbs, but he probably deserved a point for trying.

“I flipped em alllll the bird,” Niall mumbled again as he tipped the golden liquid into their sticky glasses until it slipped over the edges and down the sides.

Two were unceremoniously pushed in front of Harry, and what was he to do?

“To freedom,” Niall cried out, tapping his glass to Harry’s then downing it in one go.

Harry decided now was not a good time to bring up the idea of rent and bills and little things like food. “To freedom,” he yelled back, and they both winced as Mrs. Stodge from upstairs banged on the floor with her broom.

“To freedom,” they both whispered doing the second shot Niall had poured them each. That was … Harry looked at one of his hands and tried to count, but there weren’t enough fingers.

“Six,” he finally shouted triumphantly once he found his other hand.

“Six what now?” Niall said, measuring out the liquor again with the concentration of a physicist.

“What’s six?” Harry asked, running his tongue, which was fuzzy from the tequila, over his numb bottom lip. He should probably be able to feel it.

Niall ignored him and clinked the two glasses he held together. Then he downed one after the other, not even bothering with Harry any more.

“Heyy,” Harry pouted, though the thought of another shot did something funny to his stomach.

“Freedom, mate,” Niall leaned against the tabletop, his fingers gripping Harry’s forearms. “That’s what it’s all about.”

“You should do something with it,” Harry said, pulling away. He had to find something for Niall. Had to. It was somewhere, somewhere in the kitchen … that’s right. Now, if only his traitorous legs would actually work. He leaned down to give them a talking to. “Get it together lads,” he whispered and they seemed to take him seriously. Or at least they let him stand up without too much of a struggle. Maybe he stumbled twice while making his way to his stationery drawer. He made it, though, didn’t he? That’s what counted.

The occasion called for the perfect paper. Harry was a bit of a connoisseur if he did say so himself. He preened when he opened the drawer, even though there was no one there to shower him with compliments for his neatly ordered stacks of blue and purple and ivory stationery. Being a collector meant he didn’t do it for the glory, though. He did it for moments like this where life screamed into the void for just the exact right piece of paper and Harry Styles was there to answer the call.  

He dug around until he found what he was looking for and then -- super, very gracefully -- made it back to the table. Niall was eyeing another shot and Harry pushed it slightly out of the way. Harry was certainly not in the right frame of mind to be getting anyone to the hospital tonight.

“Here we go.” Harry slapped the pad of paper and a pen in front of Niall. “Now do something with it.”

Niall blinked down at the little design on the stationary. Harry smiled at it fondly. It was one of his favorites -- a big lug of a moose squished into a little canoe, his knobby knees bent up to try to fit. Harry thought maybe he was kind of a smart ass because the knowing smirk he wore, and perhaps that’s why Harry liked him so much.

But it was the words underneath the little sketch that truly placed Harry into another league when it came to picking out the perfect stationery. Not that he was one to brag or anything.

In swooping letters, the words challenged the reader: “Make The Moose Out Of Life.”

Harry giggled. Moose out of life. And it was a picture of a moose. He giggled again and didn’t really appreciate the way Niall was staring at him as if he were a lunatic. His roommate clearly didn’t understand his genius.

Harry reached over and tapped at the paper. “Write what you’re going to do with your freedom. Putting it down will help you concep… contrep… conceptualize it.” He grinned, proud of himself for coming up with the word.

“Fucking brilliant, mate,” Niall finally caught on. He was a good lad. “But you’ve gotta do it too.”

And, what? No. This was Niall’s freedom. Harry had his job he liked and his quiet life he liked and his cat he liked. He was thinking about getting a goldfish, but he didn’t want to go too crazy. Maybe he should do a pros and cons list for that instead.

“Gold fish?” Niall was stunned, and so was Harry because he hadn’t realized he’d said that part out loud. God. Now he really wasn’t going to get out of this.

He groaned burying his head in his hands. “You’re the one with the freedom.”

“What? You have all the freedom in the world,” Niall countered, and ripped off a page from the pad. The edges broke a bit so one of the moose’s antlers was jagged and Harry was definitely not going to cry about it. “You know what you should put at the top of that?”

Harry reached for the extra pen on the table, avoiding Niall’s eyes. “If you’re going to say sex …”

“Sex!” Niall shouted. “You need to get laid Harry. Write. It. The. Fuck. Down.”

It was so not true. Except it was true. Totally true. The sad fact was that Harry had somehow made it through 23 years of life and had never, not once, had sex. There had been a few awkward fumbles at university, and some sloppy kisses in school, but real actual full on sex just wasn’t in the cards for him. It was okay, he’d come to terms with it. He had.

He expected to have to argue against the idea to Niall, but the boy was already bent over, scribbling away madly. “What are you writing?” Harry asked, more to delay the inevitable than out of actual curiosity.

“Mmm, talk to that bartender at Mitty’s,” Niall stuck the end of the pen in his mouth, then looked up as if struck with a brilliant idea. “Ohhhh, mate. Louis.”

Fuck. Harry should have seen it coming. He dropped his forehead to the table. “Nooooo.”

“Sex. With. Louis.” Niall chanted, and reached over as if he was going to write it down himself. Harry used his sharp elbows to block him. He landed a few jabs, enough to get Niall to go back to his own list. He had a short attention span whilst drunk.

Harry straightened and then tried to avoid the moose’s watchful eyes. So maybe he’d had a hopeless crush on Louis Tomlinson for the entire year he’d worked at the Good Feelings Greeting Card Company. Maybe he should try to do something about it instead of pining over him. Maybe if he stopped being a freaking coward he’d be able to say something mildly interesting instead of just babbling nonsensically every time Louis tried to talk to him.

His pen hovered over the paper. Maybe it was time to start actually living instead of pretending he was.

Decision made, he jotted down a number one. Next to it he wrote: Sex with Louis Tomlinson.

***

Harry’s obsession with Louis Tomlinson had been almost instantaneous.

It had been his second day at Good Feelings, and he’d been basking in the relative emptiness of the breakroom. There were so many people to meet, and so many questions to answer, and it was only lunch time and he was drained.

So he’d passed on Liam’s invite to go to a restaurant around the corner, because he really didn’t think he could take a full hour straight of small talk after a morning of it.

He was happily zoning out when the microwave beeped. Humming in anticipation, he grasped the bowl by the edges and then turned only to run smack into a solid body right behind him.

The soup -- thank God -- spilled on him and not the person, but that was the only thing he could be thankful for because by some cruel twist of fate the liquid fell right onto his stomach and crotch. Or well, he was also probably thankful the microwave had been particularly weak because his flesh didn’t immediately start to boil.

“Fucking shit bloody hell,” the boy said, gaping at Harry.

And Harry had no other choice but to gape back. Because -- what was the phrase the boy had just used? -- fucking shit bloody hell this person was gorgeous. Like gorgeous in a way Harry had never seen in real life before.

He must work there, but he certainly wasn’t dressed for it. He kind of looked like a punk college student actually, with skinny black jeans and a plain white t-shirt that showed off bronzed toned arms that had just the perfect amount of definition, and a purple beanie that hid most of his hair.

Harry wanted the boy to run his red-tinted scruff over the insides of Harry’s thighs; wanted to stare into those impossibly blue eyes as Harry swallowed his cock; wanted to bite marks into the valleys of his sharp collarbones.

“Fuckin ‘ell,” the boy said again, his accent stronger now as the distress in his voice ramped up. Harry loved the way his lips curled over the consonants. He wanted those lips on him.

The boy was reaching around him, close enough so that their bare arms brushed. Harry nearly swallowed his tongue, but he was still paralyzed. So. No swallowing.

“I’m sorry mate, sorry.” The stranger then began patting at Harry’s crotch with the napkins he’d just grabbed and Harry wanted to die. He was about three milliseconds away from sporting a semi when Louis’ knuckles grazed his cock and his brain short-circuited.

“Um,” he managed to get out, jerking his hips away from the boy’s perfect, wandering hands, hopefully saving himself from an early grave.

The boy froze, pressing the damp napkin into Harry’s upper thigh. Then he reeled back slapping his own forehead. “Oh my fucking god, I’m feeling you up aren’t I?” His face was absolutely lit with laughter, and Harry really couldn’t process all this. The boy was human perfection, his smile wide, his eyes crinkly at the corners. He was still laughing as he stepped away from Harry, out of his personal space. It was as if the air had lost some of its crackle, its spark. He wanted it back.

“Um,” is all he could get his tangled tongue to come up with when it seemed like the boy was waiting for an answer.

Some of the sunshine faded from the boy’s expression and it tugged at Harry’s heart. If only he was smooth enough, he could soothe the little wrinkle that was forming in the space between the boy’s eyebrows.

“I’m really sorry, mate,” the insanely beautiful person was stepping even further away from Harry, his hands held up as if to show he wasn’t about to start groping at him again. Harry wished he would, though. God he wished he would. “Terrible first impression.” His lips quirked at that, seemingly trying to ease the tension in the air.

If only he knew how hopelessly awkward Harry could be in the best situations he wouldn’t even be trying. And this was not the best of situations, what with the graphic fantasies that were running through his head just itching to slip out. God. Now that would just be his life. He’d open his mouth to introduce himself and come out with something like, “Please fuck my face.”

So he pressed his lips together and tried for a smile. It must have looked more like a grimace, though because the boy lost the last remnants of his humor. His mouth caught at the silver barbell that was in his tongue as he considered Harry. And really. Harry was only human.

With a monumental effort, he tore his eyes from that flash of silver and tried not to think about how it would feel against his own tongue, against his nipples, against his cock, and pushed away from the counter knocking into the boy’s shoulder as he went. “‘S okay,” he called back, hearing the crack in his own voice and hating himself. There was nothing else for it, though. If he didn’t want to literally self-combust on the spot, he had to get out of there.

Harry would like to say he got a hold of himself from there on out, when he wasn’t put at a disadvantage with a wet crotch and the boy’s -- who he later learned was The Louis Tomlinson -- hands dangerously close to his dick.

But sometimes it felt like that first meeting was the high point. Louis Tomlinson was the Good Feelings’ resident bad boy. Well he and Zayn Malik were. They were the graphic artists behind all the sappy love notes Harry, Liam and the rest of the staff penned. Somehow they managed to make the trite one-liners cool and edgy with bold graffiti-inspired designs that had earned GF a respected place in the industry. As such, they kind of had free rein. They dressed how they wanted, acted how they wanted, and sometimes -- word on the street at least was -- they even snuck in beer and pot for slow Friday afternoons.

What it all added up to was that Louis Tomlinson was way too cool for Harry Styles, 23-year-old, Scrabble loving, poetry reading, scrap-booking virgin Harry Styles.

He probably would have been okay with that fact. Most people in his life were way too cool for him. He didn’t even particularly hate it.

So, yeah, he’d definitely be okay with it except for how freaking nice Louis Tomlinson was. Sure he liked to banter with anyone who could take it, but he knew instantly when he needed to tone it down with more sensitive co-workers. He led charity efforts, and was always the one organizing the kids into some kind of activity at company picnics so they didn’t feel bored, and made an effort to talk to the new people during their first week to make them feel welcome.  

It was just the absolute worst. Because it ramped Harry’s blind lust from a stupid, hormone driven attraction to something in the territory of a full-blown crush. And that’s when hearts got broken.

Or, okay, maybe that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that Louis Tomlinson one hundred percent sure thought Harry was a weirdo. He had to. Everytime Louis tried to say hi in the hallways, Harry turned fourteen shades of red. One time he’d been so thrown by Louis -- the boy was wearing this obscene maroon t-shirt that dipped just right to reveal a swooping tattoo that spanned the length of this collarbones, what was Harry expected to do? -- that he’d ducked into a meeting between the president of the company and the rest of the board. He’d had to stammer out an apology and face Louis’ curious expression for the split second before he started flat-out -- seriously, flat-out--running away down the hallway.

It was hopeless and horrifying. Sometimes, when Harry was laying in bed about to go to sleep he’d imagine himself as someone who could actually talk to Louis. Even in his fantasies he couldn’t believe Louis would be attracted to him, but when he pictured it, he saw himself volleying those quick witticisms Louis was known for, maybe teasing him a bit to get him to smile.

That’s all he wanted, really. To be the one to make Louis Tomlinson smile.

***

Harry had all but forgotten about the stupid list Niall had made him write the next morning.

The day so far had actually been a pretty good one. He’d managed to drink about seven glasses of water before going to bed, so he’d avoided the worst of a hangover, the woman in front of him paid for his coffee, and the traffic on the way to work had been surprisingly not terrible.

All in all it had shaped up into a lovely morning.

And then the email arrived.

From: Louis Tomlinson

To: Undisclosed Recipients

Hello!

I’ve asked the front desk and you lovely folks are the ones who are on the same level as me in the car park. I found a to-do list today that looked somewhat important because it had some lines of poetry scribbled at the bottom that seemed like they might be for a card project. The stationary has a moose in a canoe at the top of it (and he is quite adorable). Let me know if it’s yours!

Cheers,

Louis

“Oh. My. Fucking. God,” Harry whispered, his eyes darting over the sentences again willing them not to make sense. They did, they did make sense. “Oh. My. Bloody. Fucking. God.”

Harry’s entire body melted, the bones in his limbs dissolving until he was a puddle of goo. And because he was a puddle of goo, he could no longer hold himself upright in his chair. The next thing he knew he was on the floor, staring at the ceiling, with a very concerned Liam hovering over his head.

“Harry?”

“Oh. My. Fucking. God.” Harry was going to die. He was actually going to burst into flames, endlessly fueled by mortification. “Tell my mum I love her,” he muttered to Liam, closing his eyes.

“Mate, are you okay?” Liam squatted down so that his crotch was in Harry’s face. Under different circumstances, Harry may have been amused. That’s when Liam slapped him. Hard. “Harry!”

“Fuck, Leeyum,” Harry rolled away, holding his smarting cheek.

“What? You were scaring me,” Liam defended himself.

Harry just pointed to his computer, not able to form any more words. This was not happening. This was not happening.

Liam bent over Harry’s desk to read the email. “What? This isn’t bad. Is that your to-do list? Did you finally come up with the inside text for those cards?”

He didn’t even remember, to be honest. There was definitely an hour in there where he’d been blacked out. It came right after he’d written on that fucking piece of paper that he wanted to fuck Louis Tomlinson.

“Leeyum,” he groaned again, his hands over his face. His cheeks were hot. Actually his whole body was hot. He was on fire. This was how he was going to go. Ironic that his quest to not die a virgin was what was actually going to send him over the edge. “It’s what’s on the list.”

“Oh,” Liam paused for a beat. “Is it dirty stuff?”

Harry nodded.

There was more silence. And then, “Dirty stuff with Louis?”

So everyone knew. That answered that question.

Harry groaned and curled his legs up to his chest. This time the silence sounded like Liam trying not to laugh. He kicked out a foot hoping to connect with Liam’s vulnerable shin. He missed.

“Well.” Liam finally said, amusement causing his voice to shake. “There goes having to gather up the courage to finally tell him.”

“Did you know this whole time?” Harry hadn’t exactly thought he’d been cool about it, but he’d hoped.

“Um, yeah.”

“Did Louis know?”

“Nah,” Liam said with far too much confidence to be believed. Harry buried his face in the nook of his elbow. “And technically…”

Harry peeped at him. “Technically what?”

“Well, technically he doesn’t even know now,” Liam pointed out. “He wrote it to a bunch of people.”

“Oh god, do you think I can just pretend it isn’t mine?” A quick flare of hope sparked in Harry’s chest.

“Do you think the poetry thing at the bottom was … well you’ve been trying to crack this project for a while now.”

And fuck. He didn’t really remember what he’d written, though there was a vague feeling that he’d been inspired. Probably by thinking about all the things he wanted to do to Louis’ body.

“I don’t know,” he finally said, honestly.

“Hmmm.”

“Tell me what to do,” Harry begged, because the major part of his brain was stuck on the idea of disappearing into the carpet. Yeah, that seemed like a good plan.

“I think,” Liam started slowly. “You should fess up. Maybe you can laugh about it.”

Harry thought about what he’d written. The specifics weren’t all there in his foggy memory, but the phrase “have him sit that gorgeous peach of an ass on my face,” was definitely blaring in all neon. Fuck. This was so beyond inappropriate.

“Have you met me, Liam?” Harry asked, finally sitting up. “Does this seem like something I could laugh about?”

“When you put it that way,” Liam patted him on the shoulder. “But Louis definitely can. Rip the Band-Aid off my friend. You’ll survive.”

“Will I though?” Harry asked, pushing to his feet. His legs were still shaky as he bent over his computer to read the email one more time. It was still there. This wasn’t some kind of horrible fever dream. Fuck. He rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes until he saw stars.

“I can’t do it, Liam,” Harry said.

“You can and you will,” Liam placed his strong hands on Harry’s shoulders and gave him a push. “I have faith in you, my child. Go.”

The walk to Louis and Zayn’s office was an actual blur. His eyes were damp with unshed tears and his heart was a staccato in his chest he couldn't control. How could this have happened?’

Niall.

Goddamn fucking Niall and his goddamn fucking list.

Oh. Anger helped. Anger felt good. Anger let him channel his breathing into something that wasn’t bordering on hyperventilating.

The door was open, so he didn’t even have a minute to gather his thoughts. They both looked up when he rapped his knuckles lightly on the wood. He’d been kind of hoping they wouldn’t hear.

“Um,” he said, because really, that’s all he seemed to be able to utter in Louis Tomlinson’s presence. 

“Harry,” Louis’ smile was wide and bright. “What brings you …” and then a light bulb went off. Harry could actually see it happen. Louis paused, tilted his head, then looked from his computer screen to Harry’s horribly embarrassed face. “Oh. Oh! Oh.”

Zayn was hunched over his desk, his eyes darting from Louis to Harry. He raised his dark brows on the Louis’ second “oh” and then he seemed to get it to, if the smirk he had to bite back was any indication.

Oh my god, Harry was going to die.

“I uh…” Harry cleared his throat. He wasn’t even sure what he’d been planning to say. Whatever it was he didn’t get the chance, because Zayn was pushing to his feet. 

“I’m going to grab some coffee, yeah,” the boy mumbled and Harry thought maybe Louis flipped him off, but really the room was spinning at this point so he wasn’t quite sure.

And then there was nothing but horrible, aching silence and the tightness in Harry’s chest.

Suddenly there was no air. Harry’s lungs clawed out in panic but he couldn’t get any oxygen to them. Darkness crept in on the side of his eyes, like the curtains were about to fall, and somehow he was on the ground. The floor was nice and solid beneath him and he hung onto that as he tried to drag in even a shallow breath.

Gentle hands were on his back, on his arms, rubbing soothing circles there. “It’s okay, sweetheart, it’s okay,” Louis’ soft voice filled Harry’s head. Sweetheart, sweetheart. The endearment rattled around there until it became a touchstone. Harry wrapped metaphorical hands around it, letting his fingers trace over it, bringing it to his lips, his cheeks, then to rest against his heart. “Breathe with me, yeah? Feel it here.” 

Louis brought Harry’s palm to rest against his chest and it should have sent Harry spiralling even further -- to be able to touch Louis -- but it didn’t. Something close to calmness spread like a warm brandy in his veins as he tried to match Louis’ slow, even intakes of air.

“There we go, sweetheart,” Louis murmured, recognizing that Harry was no longer teetering on the brink. It was such a contrast, that kind voice with his hard, sharp style. It was intoxicating really. Well it would be if Harry wasn’t coming down off a panic attack, crouched in Louis’ office in the most embarrassing situation of his entire life. He wanted to cry.

“None of that, okay,” Louis said, rubbing his thumb along Harry’s cheekbone as he blinked back tears. 

Harry nodded, helplessly, because there was nothing else to do when Louis was so close, his eyes so bright and blue and lovely, his smile lingering at the corners of his lips. Harry wished he’d close the distance between them.

Which brought him back to why he was there in the first place. He shifted his gaze to the dull carpet by Louis’ foot.  

“Hey, are you hungry?” Louis asked out of nowhere, his fingers trailing along Harry’s jaw before dropping off entirely.

Harry gnawed on his lip. He wasn’t really. But he wasn’t about to say that. “Yeah.”

“Me too, I’m starving.” Louis looked back toward his desk as if considering something. “Let’s go.”

“Um,” Harry said, but Louis ignored him, which was really for the best. Instead he stood up and then held a hand out for Harry, who, despite being a bit larger than the boy, let Louis pull him to his feet. 

“Oops,” he stumbled, bumping into Louis, as he found his footing.

“Hi,” Louis smiled. It was like he hadn’t stopped smiling since Harry came in. And now he was taking him to get food. So. Maybe Harry didn’t have to die after all.

Louis was unbelievably kind, but even Harry realized that if he’d been totally creeped out by knowing Harry was the one who made the list he wouldn’t have invited him out. Not that it was a date or anything. Just. It wasn’t maybe the actual worst way this could have turned out (minus the panic attack).

“Chips,” Louis said, grabbing the back of Harry’s arm, just above his elbow. He directed him out of the office and toward the lift. “I know a great place, just around the corner.”

“In the morning?” Harry asked and wanted to give himself a hug. It was probably the longest sentence he’d ever strung together around Louis.

Even the other boy looked a bit surprised. But he covered it quickly with a mischievous grin. “Come on, Styles, live a little. 

But, see, that’s what got him into this mess in the first place. Not that he was going to bring that up. Nope. Not when his tongue actually seemed to be behaving somewhat.

“I don’t know, it’s a slippery slope,” Harry said, wondering where he was getting the daring to … flirt? Was this flirting? Jesus. It wasn’t that he was out of practice, because that required having skills in the first place. Something about Louis in this moment, though, put him at ease. Maybe it was the memory of his hands on Harry’s back when everything had been spinning out of control. “Now it’s chips in the morning. But the next thing you know it’ll be ice cream for breakfast and cake for dinner and really where will it end? Nowhere good, that’s for sure.”

Louis stopped walking and all but bounced in place. There was a glow to him, as if he were lit from within by some sort of beautiful magic. “Harry Styles, you made a joke!”

“Um.”

It’s not like he could agree, right? That made it not funny.

“Nope, none of that again. You’ve used up all your ‘ums’” Louis said, grinning. “You made a joke. You can’t take it back. It’s in the universe, and I heard it. 

Harry ducked his head, pleased and a little embarrassed -- because that was his natural state to be honest -- but mostly ridiculously endeared by this boy. 

“Alright, let’s get some lovely, fattening grease in us,” Louis said, taking Harry’s arm again. It was nice. The way the pads of his finger dug ever so slightly into the soft flesh. Like he was possessive.

They walked mostly in silence, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Harry was relieved, because he spent most of his life aware of just how the people around him were reacting to his tragic lack of small talk. Louis didn’t seem to mind, though. He hummed a little to himself every once in awhile, as if he were having an interesting conversation in his head, but other than that seemed to be content to let them just be. Let them walk next to each other, let them process the way their bodies fit together as they shifted to avoid other pedestrians, let them brush knuckles without actually acknowledging it.

Harry was caught in quite a state of heightened awareness -- braced for any potential pitfalls, but also at ease in a way that was rare for him to be with someone he’d just started talking to. 

When they got to the chips shop, Louis high-fived the guy behind the counter before ordering. He got the biggest size, shooting a sly grin Harry’s way as he ordered, as if to dare him to protest. Harry just smiled and ducked his head again, and Louis laughed, sounding delighted.

They settled into a back corner of the shop, on chairs with stuffing that was trying to escape through the cracks in the plastic coverings. The table was clean though and the chips were delicious, effectively ridding him of the last remnants of his hangover.  

“So?” Louis asked and Harry’s heart stopped.

Was this it? Was this when Louis would ask about the ridiculous list and this lovely, bright, happy bubble of a fantasy would burst? Being around Louis was like a high Harry didn’t want to give up, but he knew the end was inevitable.  

Just, did it have to be so soon?

Louis must have read something in Harry’s expression, because he reached out a hand, tapping his finger against the pointy bone in Harry’s wrist. It was comforting, the touch. “Are you going to admit that I’m right? 

Harry realized he’d been holding his breath, and let it out in a mortifying puff. “I don’t know, Tomlinson. That seems like a slippery slope, too.” It was kind of a lame joke, but Harry was getting a rush now from making Louis beam like that.

“Two for two, Styles,” Louis laughed. “And it most definitely is a slippery slope. However. Once you admit I’m right about most everything, you’ll lead a happier, more fulfilled life.” 

Harry pursed his lips to keep from smiling too big. He would gladly admit Louis was right when it came to anything if this is what that fate looked like.

He bit into a chip, the salt exploding against his taste buds. His moan was a bit on the obscene side, if he was being honest. Which he tried to be. Louis smile dropped a bit, and his eyes flicked to Harry’s mouth, which in turn did things to Harry’s cock.  

“Most everything?” Harry managed to croak out. He had to be imagining the way Louis’ tongue darted out to wet his own lips when he looked at Harry’s. As if he wanted to bite them, kiss them, nibble along the edges of them. But Harry did see that flash of silver from his barbell. “So you’ve been wrong about something?”

“Oh, touche, Styles,” Louis blinked twice and the spell that held them taut, both staring at each other’s mouths seemed to break. Harry wasn’t disappointed. He wasn’t. (Because he’d probably been making it up to begin with.) “It’s been known to happen. Like once every ten years or so.”

“And here I was expecting perfection,” Harry joked, going for funny. He must have missed the mark, though, because Louis’ face dropped for a heartbeat before his friendly mask slid back in place.

Shit. Fuck, shit, fuck. It had been so nice, and now Harry had to go and ruin it. He blinked hard, willing the tears not to form behind his eyes. God he was a fucking disaster.

“Far from, sweetheart,” Louis murmured, his gaze on the table. But, just as Harry was about to sink to the floor in mortification, Louis shook his head, and the brightness was back. “Hey. So, what do you think about playing hooky for the day?”

“Wha... What?” Everything became white noise in Harry’s head. Louis wanted to hang out with him? Even after he’d just fucked it up?

“Come on, the boss is out to that conference,” Louis said, wiping his greasy fingers on one of the napkins. “Do you have any meetings?”

Harry thought. He actually didn’t. “No,” he said slowly. Was he considering this?

“Can Liam cover for you?” Louis’ asked easily as if this wasn’t monumental. Harry had never skipped work before. Not even when he’d had the flu last year.

“I guess…” Harry trailed off. Oh my god. He definitely was considering this. 

“Then it’s settled,” Louis grinned.

God. He was beautiful. Even just sitting here in this crappy chips shop, underneath shitty fluorescent lighting that would have washed anyone else out, after just having consumed both their weights in fried potatoes, he was gorgeous. It was warm out, so he was dressed simply in a white tee with a black graphic printed on the front. His favorite -- or Harry assumed they were his favorite because of the way Louis swayed his ass just a little bit more when he was wearing them -- jeans sat low on his hips. A beanie covered most of his soft, brown hair and Harry was torn between wanting to pull it from his head so he could run his fingers through the silky strands and leaving it in place because it highlighted the sharpness of his jaw, and the slash of his cheekbones.

Louis was such a contradiction. He had edges. Not just to his bone structure, but to his personality. Cross someone Louis cared about and pray for mercy. Harry had seen him annihilate a person with just a glance of those icy eyes. God forbid you provoked that tongue. It was cutting for those who deserved it. But only for those who deserved it. 

Because Louis was also soft. He was soft curves, and lovely hips and a swell of an ass that just didn’t quit. But he was also soft in the gentleness in which he’d eased Harry off the ledge. He was soft in the way he brought tea to Marissa, who was, if it was possible, even more painfully awkward than Harry. He was soft in the way he’d wrapped his arms around his little sister after she’d missed a goal at the big footie game during the last company picnic.

He was soft now. Almost… fond. If Harry wanted to be whimsical about it.

(Which he absolutely did. Let him have this, okay?)

Swallowing hard, he threw years of cautious behavior to the wind. “What are we going to do?”

Louis’ eyebrows shot up in obvious delight. “You’ll skip?”

Harry nodded, afraid if he opened his mouth he’d take it all back.

“Excellent,” Louis rubbed his hands together in a pantomime of an evil movie villain. “So what should we try to do today? The same thing we do everyday, Pinky.”

Harry barked out a laugh at the reference, then slapped his hand over his mouth at the sound. “Try to take over the world,” Harry mumbled through his fingers, finishing the quote.

“I knew I liked you for a reason, Pinky,” Louis said, and Harry’s heart fluttered. Like it actually fucking fluttered and Harry was so screwed.

Louis lifted his eyebrows at Harry, and he must have seen Harry’s immediate blush. He didn't comment on it though, simply got to his feet to grab Harry’s hand. Their fingers intertwined and Harry couldn't breathe again.

It’s not in that bad way, though. It’s in a really, really nice way.

He lets himself be tugged out of the shop onto the quiet London street.

“The world is our oyster, young Harold,” Louis said. “What shall we do with it?”

Anything. As long as I’m with you.

Harry had to press his lips together to keep the words from escaping. He floundered for something innocuous to say.

“It’s quite decadent, isn’t it?” Harry finally settled on. 

“Ohh, swallowed a thesaurus, did we?” Louis teased, poking at the softness of Harry’s stomach until he blushed.

“Comes with the job,” Harry muttered.

“I have a confession,” Louis said, pulling Harry into step beside him as he started toward the end of the block, their fingers still tangled. 

There were a million ways he could tease him at that, but if he did Harry opened the door to his own confessions, and no one wanted that. 

So he simply hummed instead. 

Louis’ lips tipped up. “Your cards are my favorite to design.”

A flush crept up his neck, Harry knew because it’s what happened when he was overwhelmed.

Louis, because he was Louis, seemed to know Harry couldn’t exactly articulate his reaction. So he just continued. “Like Liam is cute as a puppy dog,” he said, squeezing Harry’s hand, just a bit. Just enough to make him know this wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t an afterthought. They were doing this. They were walking down the street, hand-in-hand. “Zayn is half in love with him to be honest. 

That got Harry’s attention. “Get out.”

“He eats that shit up,” Louis giggled. Actually giggled. The sound ran along Harry’s nerve endings. “But you. Babe. It’s magic. What you do with words.”

Harry blinked. Then he swiped his thumb over the corner of his eye, knowing there was no way to play this cool. “Um. Thank you. I just… I feel... honored when you design one of my cards.”

Louis stopped at that. It was cute, how his reactions were reflected in the way he moved. Harry shouldn’t be surprised. He’d spent a year of watching Louis laugh with his shoulders, commensurate with the tilt of a head, tell stories with his hands alone. He was pure poetry in motion.  

“That?” Louis asked, and the underlying doubt in his voice broke Harry’s heart. “It’s nothing. What I do. You tell love stories in two sentences. I just…” 

“Um,” Harry started, because he wanted to stop Louis from bad-mouthing himself, but he also needed to gather his thoughts. “That’s… well that’s bullshit, Louis.”

He’d shocked him. Louis’ eyes widened, and his lips parted and he seemed to be bereft of words, which Harry could definitely say was a first.

“I mean it’s bullshit whatever you were about to say,” Harry rushed to clarify. “You’re so talented, Louis. Like, I know it’s a greeting card and it’s probably going to get thrown away…”

Ugg, he was not doing this right. But Louis wasn’t rushing him. At all. He was just watching Harry carefully, his eyes guarded but somewhat hopeful.

“But your art, Louis. It’s anything but disposable,” Harry said. Because this was so important. God it was so important. He ran a hand through his messy curls, knowing he wasn’t doing this justice. He had to try, though. This was the most vulnerable he’d ever seen Louis. “See. I might have the words, but you see the story. In raging color.” He huffed out an annoyed breath. Annoyed with himself that is. Why could he write everything so easily and when it came to speaking … “Okay, so like. Remember that card. I mean I don’t know if you remember, you probably don’t because it was just… 

“Harry,” Louis cut him off. Not in a harsh way, though.

“Right,” Harry laughed. “Sorry, I ramble.”

“It’s okay sweetheart,” Louis said, rubbing his thumb over one of Harry’s knuckles without even looking down at their hands. “But...”

“Right. Yeah. So, the outside said, ‘When you’re gone and I’m alone…”

“You live in my imagination,” Louis finished for him and Harry had to ignore the rush of heat at the fact that Louis remembered his words. Ones he’d written while thinking of the blue-eyed, caramel-skinned boy. 

“And, like, it could have been so soft and sappy and ridiculous,” Harry said. “But you made it into graffiti on this, like, busted up stone wall. There were two hands underneath the words and their fingertips were barely touching and you couldn’t tell if they were letting it all slip away or if they were trying to gain traction in a world that wanted to separate them. And it just.” 

Harry sucked in a deep breath because Louis was just staring at him. They were tucked a little out of the way of pedestrians, just against the brick wall of an abandoned coffee shop

“You understood,” Harry finished, realizing how lame that sounded. But Louis wasn’t looking at him as if he were lame. He was looking at him as if he couldn’t believe how lucky he was.

“Harry,” Louis sighed. Then he pushed up onto his tiptoes and pressed his lips against the corner of Harry’s mouth. It was a kiss and it wasn’t a kiss. Harry’s fingers itched to dig into the softness of Louis’ hips, to hold him there until he did it properly, tongue and heat and slickness and all.

But Louis dropped down to the pavement, and Harry wondered if he’d just imagined it completely. There was a light blush along Louis’ cheeks, though, and maybe Harry was the cause. Which was. Well, it was a thing. A rush of some heady emotion coursed through his blood, settling in the vicinity of his racing heart.

Then Louis was tugging him along again.

“Where are we going?” Harry finally asked after realizing Louis clearly had a destination in mind. 

Louis bounced a bit in excitement, pulling down on Harry’s hand. “We’re going to find the noses! 

“Erm.”

“Please tell me you know about the noses, Harold,” Louis shot him a patronizing look from beneath impossibly long lashes.

“Erm.”

“And you call yourself a Londoner,” Louis shook his head. But then he didn’t explain the noses and Harry’s skin was itching with how much he wanted to know what the fuck they were.

Louis simply pulled out his iPhone, though, and stated: “We need a soundtrack for this.”

He popped one bud into his own ear and then the other into Harry’s. 

And then they wandered around the streets of SoHo in search of plaster noses on buildings -- which were apparently an artist’s push back against cameras going up all around the city -- and listening to a surprising mix of pop and country and punk and old school rock.  

“God, Freddie was iconic,” Louis murmured when the opening notes of “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” came on. They were standing on Dean Street, staring blankly at the metallic blue nose protruding from the black tile building.

Louis turned to him. “Have you ever thought about writing music?”

“What?” It was all Harry could come up with. How could Louis already see into his soul like this? How was that possible?

Louis lifted one shoulder, in a casual shrug that belied the intensity of the moment. They were both taut, concentrated on each other. “Your cards. They sound like music. Like lyrics.”

The world kind of tilted a bit at that. Like, here they were standing in the middle of London with Queen blasting in their ears and Louis reaching into Harry’s chest and pulling out his heart.

“I fell in love with the morning sun, while the hours slipped away,” Louis recited the words Harry had written. And it hurt. Harry didn’t know why, but it did. It hurt. 

He swallowed hard. “Just a bit a fluff,” he said.  

Louis reached up, cupping Harry’s jaw. “I don’t believe you.”

And he shouldn’t. Because it wasn’t. It was everything. Everything he’d always wanted to say, but couldn’t because his tongue never worked as well as his pen. So instead of fighting, he just dropped his forehead to Louis’ and they stood there. In the heat of mid-day as bodies jostled in around them and the world turned and the clocks ticked and the cars beeped and the birds sang and they stood there.

“I’ve always wanted to play sometime,” Harry finally confessed.  

“Why don’t you?” Louis whispered, and it was silly that he did. But Harry understood. They were in their own little bubble. Nothing else could get in.  

Would he actually admit it? Something about the way Louis was looking at him made him want to. He took a breath, and blurted it out on the exhale. “I’m scared.”

Louis slowly, ever so slowly, closed the distance between their mouths so that they were breathing the same air. It was the most intimate thing Harry had ever experienced and he tried not to fall apart beneath the gentle touch of Louis’ hand on his shoulder.

Then the space between them disappeared, and Louis’ mouth was on Harry’s. It was everything he’d ever wanted. Everything he’d dreamed of. But it was better. It wasn’t just the feeling of Louis’ soft lips, or the press of his belly button against Harry’s, or his thick thigh slipping in between his legs. It was how it felt absolutely right. Absolutely perfect. Even when Louis’ teeth bumped his own or when their noses brushed just a bit too hard or when Harry’s fingers caught in a snag in Louis’ hair. It was still perfect. In all of its imperfections. 

Louis pulled back first, something Harry was thankful for. He’d been about one second from rutting against Louis' thick thighs until he came in his pants. And really. That wouldn’t have been a good look.

But Louis was panting as he let his head fall back against the bricks. That was probably a good sign right?

“Do you have a song written?” Louis asked and it felt like a non sequitur.  

He blinked. “Yeah…” he said slowly, wondering what he was signing himself up for. Louis watched him for a moment longer beneath eyes shaded by long lashes before he straightened and grinned.

Gone was the lustful lover of seconds ago, and in its place was the mischief maker Harry had fallen… no. Gotten to know. A little. No one was falling anywhere. That was for damn sure.

Louis’ eyes locked on something just beyond Harry’s shoulder. “Oh pizza!” he said and they were off.

They shared a large with jalapenos and Louis told Harry about his family and Harry talked -- briefly he swears -- about his love of trivia and board games. Then they swapped favorites. They had surprisingly little in common on that front. Or, maybe not surprising. Louis was a bad ass after all. And Harry was… well… not.

But. It wasn’t awkward. One time Harry had tried to date this footie player. He’d loved macho movies whereas Harry had a soft spot for Nicholas Sparks and instead of just accepting it, the guy had aggressively tried to convert Harry. All they’d ever watched were dumb flicks that were high on action and low on dialogue and Harry had tried. He really had. But the guy hadn’t.

Louis, however, was game. When Harry had been appalled that Louis hadn’t seen the Notebook yet, the boy had patted Harry’s hand.

“Alright calm down, Harold, we’ll do a movie marathon,” he’d said, while swiping at the glob of sauce that was clinging to his lips. “We can do his whole collection.”

Harry had gaped. And then blinked hard. “You’d sit through all of them? With me?” He’d asked, knowing he wouldn’t make Louis do that. Maybe just three or four.

“Gotta see what the fuss is about don’t I?” Louis’d quipped back. He’d tilted his head in that way of his. “What?” 

There hadn’t been an answer he could give, so Harry just shook his head. It was a lot. Louis was a lot. “I’ll make really good popcorn.”

Louis giggled and Harry lived for it. He tried to tell himself he wasn’t keeping count of the times he could make it happen, but really, he was. “You think you can win me over with popcorn, Styles?”

Harry leaned in. He really was shit at this flirting thing, but Louis made him want to try. “It’s not just my popcorn that’s really good.”

And, okay. It was lame. Totally lame. Probably he was blushing for how ridiculous he sounded. But the thing was. Well. Louis’ eyes went dark, and he slid his tongue out so that he mouthed at the silver stud and Jesus Christ this boy was going to be the death of him.

Their eyes caught then, and both their breathing went ragged, and Harry tried to remember just what he’d written on that stupid list because even though they were pretending it wasn’t a thing, it was totally a thing.

Finally, Louis cleared his throat, looking away to break the moment. Harry was both disappointed and relieved.

“If this was a Nicholas Sparks movie I’d have something really elaborate planned for you,” Louis said, and Harry could tell he was trying to lighten the mood. But the fact that he was referencing their day in terms of a romantic movie was....

“I don’t need plans,” Harry shrugged. Louis made him reckless. “I just need you. 

Louis’ Adam’s Apple bobbed as he swallowed. Hard. “Well.”

“Yeah.” Harry prayed he hadn’t ruined it. But just when he began to spiral into some good old-fashioned self-loathing, Louis reached over, and ran his thumb over Harry’s knuckles. 

“Yeah,” Louis said, and they met each other’s eyes again.

So they didn’t have plans and they didn’t care. Louis kept their soundtrack playing as they wandered through the streets of London. Fleetwood Mac faded into Jay-Z faded into Bowie faded into Steve Aoki (who Harry didn’t know, but for whom Louis felt very passionate about). They ducked into antique stores, and vintage shops, and the grocery for a bottle of water. Louis bought Harry a ring that he couldn’t take his eyes off (a sterling silver rose with the most delicate petals) in a little basement place that sold bell-bottom flares from the ‘70s right next to mesh-tops that were all the rage in the ‘90s. Harry bought Louis a print photograph of a Banksy from a seller who displayed his wares on the sidewalk. 

“Oh fuck,” Louis said over Kacey Musgrave singing about minding your own business. “Where are we?”

He dipped his fingers into Harry’s pocket, because his own phone was about to die. He tapped his foot as Harry unlocked it for him, then pulled up the maps app. “Okay, yeah.”

While sliding the phone back into Harry’s jeans, Louis let his fingers linger over the swell of Harry’s bum. Harry blushed, and there was really no denying the heat in his cheeks. Louis chuckled beneath his breath, his teeth nipping at Harry’s jaw. “Oh sweetheart, what I’m going to do to you …”

Harry choked on air and Louis just laughed harder, as he recaptured Harry’s hand in his. If Harry’s palm was a bit sweaty, Louis didn’t mention it.

Instead, they made their way through the mid-afternoon crowds until they turned onto a street, and Harry gasped. Like some sort of Disney princess. He wasn’t even ashamed.

He looked over at Louis who was watching him, unable to contain his smile. “Oh, Lou,” Harry murmured taking in the scene.

The entire block was crowded with booths all selling every kind of flower you could think of. Roses spilled out of vases, tulips preened happily in the sunlight, wildflowers struggled against the confines of their containers. Their perfume saturated the air, so that it smelled like a warm summer night at home. Memories of fireflies and lilacs and damp grass on bare feet flooded Harry’s senses.

His fingers tightened in Louis’s grasp, and the boy simply turned into him. Giving himself so easily into Harry’s embrace. Harry wrapped his arms around Louis and held him and buried his face in his beanie and felt their breaths sync up where their bellies pushed together and thought this was probably the most perfect moment of his life.

The tears came then, because that’s who he was. He didn’t even try to stop them. It had been a really overwhelming day and the fact that he’d lasted this long was quite impressive, if he did say so himself.

Louis didn’t say anything, because he was Louis. He simply nestled further into Harry’s shoulder, his hands coming to rest in the space between Harry’s shoulder blades.

They stood there for God knows how long. People pushed around them, music blared from speakers down the street, chatter buzzed like the bees going flower to flower, and yet nothing permeated their little bubble.

“Lou,” Harry whispered, not sure what he really wanted to say. It didn’t seem to matter though, because Louis tightened his hold on Harry and nodded. As if he understood every emotion that Harry couldn’t put into words.

“Okay, let’s get you some flowers, sweetheart,” Louis finally said, pulling away from Harry. Grinning at the idea, Harry let himself be tugged along from booth to booth. They hemmed and hawed over the bouquets, but nothing was quite right.

That was until they got to the final set of booths. They both stopped dead when they saw it, and Louis’ fingers tightened in Harry’s.

It was a crown of daisies interspersed with tiny pink rosebuds. Everything about it was soft and delicate and beautiful.

“Like you,” Louis whispered when Harry told him that.

Harry’s blush matched the flowers, and he ducked his chin into Louis’ shoulder.

“Can we?” Louis asked to the proprietor, his brows raised, his hands already reaching for the crown.

“Of course,” the little old lady smiled at them and watched as Louis tipped Harry’s face up so that he could properly arrange the flowers.

He tucked them into Harry’s curls, so the peeked out from the deep, chocolate strands. Harry’s eyes slipped closed at the sensation of Louis’ fingers carding through his hair. It was divine and Harry didn’t want it to end.    

It did, though, of course. And then Louis was turning him so that he could look at himself in the turquoise rimmed mirror.  

“Gorgeous,” Louis murmured, his lips against Harry’s shoulder blades. And for once, Harry maybe believed the compliment.

The thing was, there was something different about him today that had nothing to do with daisies or roses and everything to do with the man pressed against his back. There was a glow that he couldn't deny, a happiness that was radiating off of him. Could Louis pick up on it? If he could, he didn’t seem to mind. Which was … okay, it was too much. Or just enough. Or just the right side of excruciatingly amazing.

If today was all he would have, it would be enough.  

He nodded to himself in the mirror. It would have to be enough.

Louis slipped the owner a few bills and Harry didn’t even try to protest. The crown was beautiful and he loved it because it made him feel pretty instead of awkward and ridiculous. And Louis thought he looked gorgeous. So.

Before he realized it, the sun was starting to slip toward the horizon and the air was turning a bit chilly. Louis’ phone had died an hour ago, so he reached into Harry’s pocket once more to check the time.

“You hungry, love?” he asked, holding up Harry’s locked screen of a stuffed rainbow bear. Harry decided not to fill him in on that particular long story.

“Yeah,” Harry nodded instead to the original question. Louis made a face that Harry was coming to recognize as, you’re not getting out of this, mister, but let the subject drop.

“Okay, um. Yeah,” Louis nodded more to himself than to Harry. He scanned the street, his eyes landing on a grocery. “So, just, wait out here.”

It’s not like Harry was going to protest. He simply smiled and rested against the brick wall, waiting for Louis to come back out. Which he did. Loaded down with a heavy bag. 

“Come on,” he said, reaching for Harry’s hand again. It was becoming a thing, for sure. Sometimes they let go. Sometimes they just brushed knuckles against each other as they walked. Sometimes Louis loosened his grip as if he were allowing Harry second thoughts. In those instances, Harry just held on tighter.

But for the most part, this was the norm. And Harry loved it. So. Fucking. Much.

It wasn’t until Louis stopped in front of a little park that Harry realized just how much he trusted the boy. He’d followed him without question. Not just to this place, but for the entire day. He’d skipped fucking work. He never skipped work. He hadn’t, not once, questioned anything. He’d just… he’d just been. In a way that he hadn’t in a very long time.

They found a picnic table out of the way of the snogging teenagers and families enjoying the last bit of the day. They climbed right on top of it and sat cross-legged, facing eachother.

Louis’ skin had turned to soft caramel in the fading light and Harry wanted to lick at it. Wanted to devour him inch by inch. The shadows in the valleys of his cheeks, in the dip of his collarbones, in the ridges of his hips as his shirt rode up, they all turned mysterious and sinful. Everything in Harry wanted. Wanted so badly to touch his lips to every secret place on Louis’ body. Wanted to sink into his light and his darkness and his softness and his edges. Harry wanted so much of him. All of him.

Instead of saying any of that, and completely embarrassing himself, he simply watched as Louis spread their dinner out in front of them. It was the basics: cheese and hunks of bread and cheap grocery wine and it was perfection.

“This is…” Harry started but stopped because there was a lump in his throat. It only grew when Louis looked up, a brief flash of insecurity on his face. 

“It’s not much…” Louis started and Harry had to stop him. 

“It’s exactly what I wanted,” Harry rushed to say. He was rewarded with one of those brilliant smiles. The ones that crinkled up into the corners of Louis’ eyes.

“Me too,” Louis said softly.

So they ate and passed the bottle of wine between them. Louis talked about his vacations to the south of France, and Harry talked about wanting to visit the states and Portugal and Argentina and Amsterdam and pretty much everywhere.

“When you’re touring you’ll see it all,” Louis murmured and Harry tried not to blush at the idea.

They finished up the bread and cheese as the sun slipped lower in the sky. Everything was magical and soft and Harry wanted to live here. In this moment. In this day. Forever.

And then Louis looked at him, really looked at him. His eyes were squinted just a bit and he ran his silver barbell along his bottom lip. Harry tensed because he saw what was coming.  

“Sooo,” Louis dragged out the word and if Harry hadn’t been about to die before, now he certainly was. “I like your stationary.”

A weak, startled laugh escaped Harry’s lips. “Thanks. I’m pretty good at picking the right paper for an occasion.”

Louis nodded as if it wasn’t an absurd thing to say and Harry. Well. No one was falling anywhere, but maybe if he were it wouldn’t be so bad. To fall over Louis.

“Make the moose out of life,” Louis said quietly and they locked eyes. Then they were both giggling and the tension slipped from the moment.

“I’m sorry, Lou,” Harry finally said when they were quiet again.

Louis looked up quickly from where he’d been playing the inseam of his jeans. “No! No. No, Harry. Nothing to apologize for, ya know?”

“I mean…” Harry wasn’t going to spell it out. His cheeks were hot and he was sure he was flushed all over. Despite how comfortable he’d become with Louis, this was still mortifying beyond belief.  

“I...um…” Louis started, trailed off and then blinked. “I guess I’m just a little confused? I thought you hated me to be honest, mate.”

Harry was vigorously shaking his head before Louis could even finish. “Never. Never, Louis. I … I... you’re just so pretty? Like I can’t talk around you at all you’re so pretty.”

And, God. Was his mouth actually connected to his brain? He groaned burying his face in his hands. End it now.

But Louis wouldn’t let him hide. He tugged, ever so gently, at Harry’s wrists until Harry was forced to drop his palms to his thighs and actually look at Louis.

Who. Who was looking at Harry like he was precious. “Yeah?”

Harry nodded, and Louis rubbed his thumb over the soft spot above Harry’s skittering pulse.

“I just really liked you. Like your face and your eyes and your smile and your…” 

“Arse?”

“Yeah,” Harry sighed. “But also how nice you are. And funny. And talented. And amazing. And I’m just… me.”

“Oh sweetheart,” Louis pushed to his knees and shuffled across the small distance separating them.

Then Harry had a lapful of warm and lovely boy in his arms. Louis straddled him, and cupped Harry’s face between his hands.

Harry’s fingers settled into the softness of Louis’ hips, so afraid of this moment and how much he wanted it.

Louis traced his thumb along Harry’s cheekbone. “You, my dear, you will never be ‘just me.’ You are sunshine and poetry and delicate flowers and I’ve wanted nothing but to ask you out ever since I felt you up in the breakroom by accident.”

Harry was crying now because of course he was. Louis Tomlinson had just said he was poetry. Was he really supposed to be able to control his emotions at this point?

So he did the only thing he could think of, the only thing he’d been wanting to do for a year. He kissed Louis Tomlinson.

It was a little wet and he’d clearly taken Louis by surprise, but once their lips touched nothing else mattered. Louis shifted closer so that their tummies and groins were pressed together and he deepened the chaste peck.

There was heat and slick tongues and teeth nipping at lips. Harry’s hands cupped Louis’ bum, bringing him closer still, ever closer, and Louis dug his fingers into Harry’s curls. It was far too dirty of a kiss for a picnic table in the middle of a park, but the shadows from the setting sun wrapped around them, once again creating a little space in the world that was just theirs.

Harry was panting by the time Louis pulled back to rest his forehead against Harry’s. “Oh my god,” Louis muttered and then kissed Harry quick and light one more time before scrambling off his lap. 

“Sweetheart, if we don’t stop now I’m going to end up fucking you in the middle of London,” Louis said, when he noticed Harry’s face had fallen, with his arms still clutching at empty air where a soft boy should be.

He dropped his palms and raked his hands up and down his thighs trying to squelch the disappointment and frustration, because Louis was right. If he wasn’t lying to Harry. Maybe he was just being nice? Maybe that was a pity kiss? God, Harry had just attacked his lips, maybe Louis had just been comforting…

“Nope,” Louis cut into his downward spiraling thoughts. Harry blinked back the tears that were threatening to fall, and met his eyes. “I really, really want to be with you Harry. I want to do all the things on your list, if you actually want to do those things too and it wasn’t just some joke."

Harry’s voice was watery when he laughed. “Not a joke. No.”

Louis beamed. “Wonderful. But let’s wait til we get back to my place maybe? I can't promise we'll be able to check all of them off tonight, but I’m in no rush." 

Harry breathed in deep and just. Almost started crying again? He couldn’t believe this was happening to him. That Louis not only liked him, but that he created this ridiculously safe space for Harry. He seemed to know that Harry needed positive affirmations and he offered them so easily without any strings attached. He didn’t use them as negotiating tools or bargaining chips. All he was doing was making sure Harry felt liked and wanted and special

“I really, really like you Louis,” Harry managed to mumble. Because he wasn’t as brave as Louis but at least he could try.

Seeing Louis smile that big was worth any potential embarrassment he had to overcome though.

*** 

It didn’t take long to get back to Louis’ place. His flat was small, but clean. The walls were covered in Louis’ artwork, blown up to poster size and framed. They were gorgeous and Harry wondered if this was what the inside of Louis’ brain looked like.

“You’re so talented, Lou,” Harry said, wandering to each picture. Louis had poured him a generous glass of red wine and he sipped it now as he basked in the colors and textures and beauty Louis created. They were so much like the boy himself that Harry smiled and glanced over his shoulder to find him.

Louis was watching Harry, his eyes wide and vulnerable. It was so unlike the Louis Harry knew, the confident, sarcastic, mischievous man, that Harry’s breath caught. The look was gone in an instant, but it had been there.

“Nah,” Louis said, shrugging it off. “I mean, I like doing them. But.”

“You could sell these, Lou,” Harry turned back to the one he had been studying. It was of a street dancer in action. There was so much movement in the kid’s body, conveyed with the slight blurring of a brush, a fast stroke here and a slow one there, flowing clothing and wild hair. It was powerful and intense and Harry thought he had witnessed the scene before even though he never had. The best art made you feel that way.

“You see, Louis,” Harry said. And it was as simple as that.

Louis was on him in the next moment and Harry’s wine sloshed dangerously in his glass until he was able to put it down. Then his hands were full of Louis, his mind, his mouth, his everything.

Louis jumped up and wrapped his legs around Harry’s waist--which Harry thought was ambitious because he was Harry and he tended to trip over air--but somehow he managed to grip the back of Louis’ thighs and remain upright. 

“Bedroom,” Louis whispered and then caught Harry’s earlobe between his teeth. He tugged and Harry felt it in his cock.

Whimpering and trying to ignore the way Louis’ lips were tracing his jaw, Harry stumbled in the direction of an open door that looked like it had potential. His guess turned out to be accurate and he was able to make it to the bed without dropping Louis and completely embarrassing himself. 

They tumbled onto the soft, white comforter and then Louis was over him again, straddling his waist, cupping his jaw.

“You’re so gorgeous, sweetheart,” he murmured and the kiss was slower this time, less urgent.

Harry still bucked up under Louis’ weight, more than half hard. And, like, he wasn’t even embarrassed by it? Because if someone could kiss Louis Tomlinson and not be half hard, well he wasn’t that person.

“Louuu,” he whined as the boy pulled away. Harry looked up at him and lost his breath. Louis was so beautiful, always, but right now? The light caught his hair, bringing out the red and caramel strands, his cheekbones stood out in sharp relief, his lips were pink and plump from their kissing, his blue eyes glittered. Stunning, he was stunning.

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, the boy decided it was time to shuck off his shirt and then there was Louis, half-naked and sitting on Harry’s groin, their cocks brushing each other through the fabric of their jeans.

“Fuck,” Harry said, reaching out ever so slowly to touch. Not really believing he was going to be able to get his fingers on that soft, gorgeous skin. “Fuck, Lou.” 

His thumb pressed into the space just above Louis’ -- weirdly incredible -- belly button. He wanted to dip his tongue into it and he thought maybe that was strange, but also Louis seemed okay with Harry’s strangeness. A concept, that.

Louis let him explore. The softness at his waist, the dusty pink of his nipple, the slope of his collarbone. Harry thought he might have stars in his eyes, and Louis’ indulgent smile probably confirmed it. 

“What do you want to do first, baby?” Louis asked and then rolled off Harry. Harry protested, but Louis just laughed and swatted at his groping hands. “Hold on! I have the list.”

“Oh my god,” Harry shifted, burying his face into the comforter. “Nooooooo.”

“Baby, we’re both hard in my bed. You should not be embarrassed about this. If anything, we’re going to add to it, okay?”

Harry nodded but didn’t look up.

“Hey, seriously,” Louis’ fingers nudged at his chin until Harry finally peeked at him with one eye. “I love knowing what you want. It feels like I’m ahead of the curve, yeah? And I love knowing that you want me. I want you, too. Most everything on here is something I’ve wanted to do to you, too, sweetheart. Alright?”

“Really?” Despite the fact that they'd just been making out, it seemed like a crazy fantasy that Louis even thought of Harry and sex in the same sentence.

“God, yes,” Louis moaned. “You are a frequent flier in my wank bank.”

Harry giggled, and most of the mortification faded. Again, Louis seemed to know just what Harry needed. It was scary and lovely in a way that Harry had never realized he could have.

“Hey, Lou,” Harry ventured as the boy dug around in the pocket of his jeans, presumably for the dreaded list. With anyone else he probably would have been to embarrassed to bring it up. But, this was Louis. “Um. I’ve never...reallyhadsex.” The last was in a rushed jumble, but he could tell by the way Louis stilled that he’d heard and understood.

“Alright,” Louis said slowly. “What do you mean by that?”

“Um.”

“I mean, how far have you gone, love? If you feel comfortable telling me,” Louis sat up and was watching his face carefully. “It doesn’t matter to me at all.”

“Um,” Harry squinted. “A couple handjobs. Both ways. But nothing more. 

Louis nodded. “Ok. Is there a particular reason you’ve waited? I don’t want you to feel rushed or pressured or anything. I love kissing you, baby. I’d be ecstatic if we did that all night long.”

God he was so fucking wonderful. “No. I mean, same. But. You make me feel really safe. And I haven’t felt that before. So that’s probably why.”

“Oh, love,” Louis bent down and pressed a quick kiss to Harry’s lips. “I’m so glad I make you feel safe. That makes me really, really happy.”

Harry nibbled on his lips. “Did I ruin the moment?”

Louis smiled so big it hurt to look at. “Not even a little bit, baby. But, maybe we save the list for another day, yeah? Or, you know, several days,” he winked. “There was a lot on there.”

That Louis was even talking about hanging out again made something warm and glowly erupt in his chest. “Plenty of time,” Harry said and his voice only wobbled a little. With the way Louis looked at him though he thought he probably heard it. 

“Just so we’re on the same page,” Louis said. “I want to date you Harry. I don’t want to rush you into anything. But I had the best fucking day today. I want more of that.”

Harry nodded, fast and insistent. “Me too,” he gasped out as if he didn’t get the words out the promise would disappear. “Yes. Want. That and you and everything.”

Louis beamed. “Okay good. Now,” he glanced at Harry’s cock which had lost some of its urgency with the discussion. He tilted his head, considering, then looked back at Harry’s face. “Blow jobs?”

“Yes. Yes. Please, that, yes,” Harry said, not even caring if he sounded eager for it. Louis liked him. He wanted to date him. He wasn’t playing any games. Why should Harry?

Louis stood and quickly rid himself of his jeans and pants while Harry just gaped at him. His stunned wonderment at the revelation of Louis’ curves and half-hard cock and thick beautiful thighs and the hint of his arse must have amused Louis. Because he popped his hip, resting his hand there. “Like what you see?”

Harry thought he answered, but when the words came out they were a mish-mash of happy sounds and desperation and Louis just laughed.  

Then he came back to the bed, straddling Harry once more, but a little lower so that he could work the button of Harry’s jeans. Harry just watched, his eyes unable to stop flittering over Louis’ naked body, his ribs, his jaw, his shoulders, the downy line of hair that led down to his cock, which was reacting so prettily to Harry’s hungry gaze.

Louis rolled his hips a bit, seeking some friction from Harry’s thighs as he pulled the jeans off Harry’s legs. Then he crawled up between them, making space for himself. Harry’s cock twitched when Louis looked up from where he’d settled and ran the metal stud over his lower lip.

“Fuck, Louis, I’m not gonna…” Harry tried to get the warning out without sounding like an idiot. “I’m not gonna last long.” 

“It’s okay, sweetheart, no one’s asking you to,” Louis said as he just breathed over Harry’s cock. “Just let it happen, okay.”

Harry murmured an assent and then Louis was mouthing up along the line of his cock, which was back to being painfully hard. The fabric went damp beneath his ministrations and Harry’s pre-cum and Louis pulled back a little to blow on it. Harry’s hips snapped up at the sensation, but then Louis was there, his fingers digging into Harry’s waist to keep him still.

Then he slowly, so fucking slowly, pulled the pants down until just the tip of Harry’s cock peeped from under the waistband. It was flushed and red and strainging.

“Fucking gorgeous,” Louis whispered, and then--holy, fucking shit--his mouth captured Harry’s tip. It was hot and wet and Harry nearly came on the spot. But he didn’t. He didn’t. Despite the warmth pooling his belly, in his balls, he wanted this moment to last.

He was feeling proud of his restraint, and then it happened. 

Louis ran the metal stud along his slit and Harry came. Just like that and without any real warning. His vision whited out as his orgasm was ripped from him. Endless waves of pleasure rolled over his body and he was vaguely aware of Louis working his cock with his free hand while he swallowed everything Harry had to offer.

“Beautiful, beautiful. God, so perfect for me,” Louis was murmuring to him, as he moved up Harry’s body, kissing bare skin where he could. He got to Harry’s face and peppered it with kisses and praise and encouragement. Harry preened under the attention as he savored the aftershocks pulsing through him, so ridiculously happy and blissed out and sated. He could sleep for days, wrapped in Louis’ warmth, his arms, his bed.

But. Louis hadn’t come yet.

Harry pried his eyes open to find Louis looking down at him. “Wanna.” His tongue was thick in his mouth and he scrunched his nose up in frustration.

Louis giggled a little. “Wanna what, sweetheart?”

“You,” Harry nodded toward the vicinity of Louis’ groin. The blood was starting to flow again to his brain and he thought he might even start making sense soon.

“Don’t worry about it, love,” Louis smiled and settled down against the pillows next to Harry.

Harry pouted. “Want to.” He hoped Louis would understand. Whatever this was… and there was definitely a this… it wasn’t just going to be all on Louis. Just because Harry was inexperienced didn't mean they weren't equals.

Louis cleared his throat and studied his face. “Okay,” he finally said, slowly, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief, so thankful that Louis got it. “If you’re sure. You don’t have to, though, baby. Sex isn’t quid pro quo.”

Harry shook his head, amazed Louis was so coherent. “I know. Want to.”

Louis’ eyes were searching and then he relaxed. “Want you to, sweetheart,” he finally said and Harry beamed.

“I don’t know what to do, though,” Harry mumbled as he pushed himself up and over Louis. Before today, Harry would have died admitting that, but with Louis he knew it was fine. He wouldn’t make fun of Harry for anything.

So, he slid down the length of Louis’ body, stopping to press a quick kiss into his belly. His gorgeous, soft swell of a belly. Harry promised it -- in a very quiet whisper -- that he’d be back, before he moved lower.

And then Louis was just there. His beautiful cock, which was just as pretty as the rest of him. It was hard and flushed and laid heavy against his hip.

“Lou?” Harry asked, because he’d rather embarrass himself now then try and fail spectacularly.

“You’re perfect, sweetheart,” Louis said, his fingers in Harry’s curls. “Whatever you do, it will be perfect, because it’s you.”

Harry nodded but continued to look at up at Louis, waiting for instructions. Louis was quiet for a moment and then he seemed to realize.

“Just, okay, lick your lips, baby.”

Harry did. Because he would do anything Louis told him in this moment. The amount of trust should scare him, but instead it was freeing. It was as if he couldn’t do anything wrong because Louis would be there to make sure it was all okay. For once in his life he didn’t have to worry about fucking up, or making a mistake, or being ridiculous.

So Harry licked his lips, and that’s when Louis thrust forward, just a little. Enough for Harry to get a taste of his pre-come where it was leaking from the tip of his cock. It was salty and bitter and Harry wanted more. He dug his fingers into Louis’ sweet, sweet hips. One of these days, if Louis let him, he’d worship those curves. He’d spend hours with his tongue sweeping over every crest and valley.

Now was not that time, though. So he kept licking his lips and Louis kept teasing him, brushing the head of his cock along Harry’s mouth.

“Okay,” Louis murmured, one hand buried in Harry’s hair, the other gripping his own cock. “Here baby,” he said, finally, god finally, pressing past Harry’s lips so just the tip of him rested against Harry’s tongue. “You can have it.”

God it was everything. The weight of Louis’ cock, the warmth of him in Harry’s mouth, the intimacy of him directing every movement. Jesus fucking Christ. Harry was getting hard again. He rutted down against the mattress, and Louis let out a ragged chuckle.

“So eager for my cock, sweetheart,” Louis said, keeping still with just the head of his dick nestled in Harry’s mouth.  

Harry hummed in agreement -- he was very eager for Louis’ cock, there was clearly no denying that -- and Louis groaned at the vibrations. Harry took note, but still didn’t move. He was waiting.

It didn’t take long.

“Alright, love, now just suck a little bit,” Louis said, and Harry glanced up at him. God, he was beautiful. His eyes were closed, tight, his head was thrown back to show off the gorgeous length of his neck, his fists were clenched in the sheets. He was so obviously controlling his desire to wreck Harry’s mouth and, god, he was amazing. It was why Harry trusted him.  

Louis said to suck, so Harry sucked. He didn’t try to go much further down on Louis’ cock, sure he would embarrass himself by choking or something equally as horrifying, so he concentrated on laving his tongue all over the head of it. He didn’t have a stud like Louis, but he was pretty sure he could make him feel good.

“Oh sweetheart, your lips,” Louis breathed out, arching his hips ever so slightly up into Harry’s damp, hot mouth. “You were made for swallowing my cock.”

Harry hummed again in agreement. He was. God, he was.

Louis’ thumb pressed at the corner of Harry’s mouth, and he opened wider, inviting it in. Louis slipped a finger next to his cock and rubbed the pad of it along Harry’s tongue as it worked along the underside of his dick. Harry pressed into the slit at the top, because he himself had loved that and Louis bucked into his mouth just a little too deep 

Harry coughed pulling away.

“Sorry, love, sorry,” Louis said, his eyelids heavy. Harry wished he could take him down, deep into his throat. “No, none of that,” Louis could read him like a fucking book. He pressed the edge of Harry’s lips into a smile. “You’re so perfect, sweetheart. Don’t be sad.” 

Harry nodded once, determined to do better. Then he licked his lips again, looking up at Louis beneath his lashes.

“Minx,” Louis laughed but nudged the tip of his cock against Harry’s mouth, catching Harry’s tongue every couple passes. They teased each other for a moment, just like that, and then Louis pushed back in. It was funny how quickly he’d gotten used to the feeling of Louis on his tongue. He never wanted to give it up.

“Okay, suck baby,” Louis said, arching again, but not letting his hips press forward. Harry closed his lips securely around Louis’ cock and did what he was told.

“Oh, my gorgeous love,” Louis murmured, again running his thumb along the edges of Harry’s lips. He met Louis’ eyes and pulled him as deep as he could without sputtering.  

“That’s it….perfect...look at you…” Louis was beyond the point of coherency, but he kept his hips under control, and didn’t try to force Harry’s head down on his cock.  

“Sweetheart, I’m going to come. I need you to try to keep it on your tongue okay?” Louis finally said. Harry just nodded and sucked harder. God, he wanted Louis to feel good. He pressed a hand to his own raging hard on, begging himself not to come just from sucking Louis’ cock. “Harry,” Louis cried out, his thighs tensing beneath Harry’s fingers. Then he was shooting off into Harry’s mouth, the warm pulses hitting his palette as he tried to milk Louis through the orgasm with his inexperienced hand. All the while, making sure not to swallow.

He coughed, doing his best to keep it all in, as Louis’ cock gave its final twitch and then came to rest against Harry’s come-slicked tongue.

“Oh sweetheart, come here,” Louis tugged under Harry’s armpits to get him up, lying over Lou’s body. “Show me.”

Harry opened his mouth as best he could without letting any of Louis’ come slip out.

Louis groaned at the sight, touching his finger just inside of Harry’s lip. “Fucking Christ Harry,” he whispered, and then pulled Harry’s mouth to his. He pushed inside, the metal of his stud sliding against Harry’s tongue, sucking his own come into his mouth. And everything was too much.

Harry rutted down twice against Louis’ thigh and came for the second time that night. He was crying and kissing Louis and maybe he couldn’t catch his breath and maybe he didn’t care, because all he wanted to do was feel Louis against him always, feel him on his tongue, feel him against his heart, feel him against his softening cock. Louis. Louis. Louis.  

He didn’t realize he was whimpering his name out loud until Louis pulled back, shushing him.

“It’s okay sweetheart. That was so beautiful. You are so gorgeous,” Louis praised, his lips against Harry’s temple. “You’re absolutely perfect.”

*** 

They passed the bottle of wine between them, not bothering with glasses, as the night slipped into the early hours of the day. They swapped secrets and stories with the same amount of ease.

“And the girl was in a fucking bin” Louis gesticulated as he finished one anecdote about a crazy night out with Zayn.

Harry collapsed to the mattress, giggling. “Why was she in a bin?”

“Fuck if I know,” Louis took a swig from the bottle. He was grinning as he watched Harry.

Harry was in a tiny pair of briefs borrowed from Louis. His ass cheeks hung out of them, but Louis just insisted, all innocent looking, that it was the only pair he had. He sat up wiping at his eyes and gestured for the wine.

Louis handed it over, then leaned back on his hands, his eyes hot and hooded. He looked like he was going to pounce in an instant. Harry, feeling some strange and new power, lifted the bottle to his lips, tipping his head back so that his long, pale neck was on display as he swallowed.

“Tease,” Louis accused but he didn’t sound annoyed by it.

Harry grinned back at him. “I had so much fun today, Lou.”

 The words came easy and free and randomly. If Louis was surprised, though, he didn’t show it. “What are you doing Saturday?”

“Nothing,” Harry said quickly, blushing a little bit. 

Louis smiled. “There’s an open mic night at the pub down the street. Maybe we could go?”

And that? That was terrifying. Before he could get worked up about it, though, Louis held a hand out.

“You don’t have to play,” he said, reading Harry like someone who knew him far better than he actually could from just one day. “This time.”

Alright, so that was less terrifying. If Louis wanted to, Harry thought he might be able to do it. He nodded.

Louis beamed, and it was an expression Harry was becoming familiar with. He was so happy he got to be the source of it.

“Hey, Harry,” Louis said after setting the wine aside on the bedside table. He gathered Harry into his arms and laid back onto the pillows. Harry burrowed his face into Louis shoulder and breathed deep. “I’m really glad you made that list.”

Harry smiled, his lips warm against Louis’ skin. “Me too.”

“I’m looking forward to crossing off number eight, especially,” Louis said just as Harry was about to drift off. That woke him up, though.  

“What was number eight?”

Louis slapped a hand over his own chest, looking wounded. “You don’t remember?”

Harry eyed the piece of paper Louis had set beside the pillow hours ago. It was the first time Harry had let himself look at it, and he actually didn’t self-combust on the spot, so that was a positive. He lunged for it.

When he saw number eight he gasped turning fourteen shades of pink and red. Louis was laughing his ass off.

Harry growled and crawled toward Louis, who was giggling and faux-holding him off with upraised palms.

“No Harry, not in front of the moose,” Louis gasp-laughed, sleep gone from both their bodies.  

Harry crumpled the paper and tossed it to the floor, silently promising the moose he’d rescue it later, and grabbed his boy.

Next time. Next time they’d use the list.  

***

Make The Moose Out Of Life

  1. Have Sex With Louis Tomlinson (the following is in no particular order of importance)
  2. Kiss his pretty cheekbones
  3. French Kiss (TONGUE PIERCING!!!!!!)
  4. Suck his nipples
    1. Have him suck my nipples
    2. Clamps?
  5. Kiss his pretty belly
    1. Later: come on said belly
    2. Have him come on my belly
  6. BLOW JOB
    1. Deep throat? (Don’t die)
    2. Swallow???
  7. Suck on his balls
  8. Have him sit that gorgeous peach of an ass on my face
  9. Make him come from my tongue
  10. Spanking?
  11. MUTUAL MASTURBATION
  12. Ride his cock
  13. 69-ing
    1. Research: coordination
    2. Seems tricky
  14. Butt plugs
    1. Buy sparkly one in that shop - you know the one
  15. Shower sex!!
    1. Though this seems dangerous
    2. Don’t slip and die
  16. Toys?
  17. Role play
    1. PIRATES???
    2. Catwoman + Batman (SPANDEX!)
  18. Love him the rest of my life shut up Niall god