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No Place Without You

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for all the places i have been, i’m no place without you


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Zayn sits him down on a Tuesday night and slowly slides him a mug of freshly made tea. 

“What did you do?” Louis frowns, narrowing his eyes and searching Zayn’s face. When he finds no answers there, he goes on to scan their immediate vicinity, searching for anything Zayn might’ve broken in their shared apartment.

“Hey, Louis,” Zayn begins, calling his wandering attention back to him immediately. His words are hesitant, “Remember how we’ve talked about me moving in with Gigi?”

Louis cautiously takes a sip of his tea. It’s just the way he likes it— bless, Zayn, though it’s awfully hot. He winces, but nods. “Yeah, in three months when the lease is up.”

Zayn taps his fingers against the table top and nods in agreement. “Well, yeah. But..”

The tea sloshes over the mug’s rim and onto the table when Louis sets it down abruptly. “You’re moving out,” Louis accuses, eyebrows drawing in. Obviously he knew this day was coming, but he didn’t think it’d come so soon. “What the fu-,”

“Hey!” Zayn cuts him off. “I’m gonna sublet my room. I wouldn’t leave you high and dry, bro.” He pauses for a moment to rub the side of his jaw. “Gigi and I already have a place, though. It’ll be ready in a week.”

Louis’ frown deepens. “How are you going to find someone to sublet in a week?” he asks incredulously. And this is not at all what he wants to be talking about— sublets and leases and rent payments. Zayn just told him he’s leaving. He’s a bit overwhelmed at the moment and he grabs onto his tea just to have something to do with his hands.

“I already found someone,” Zayn tells him. “Remember the guy I met while I was abroad last year?”

The words vaguely tug at a far-away memory. Louis shakes his head, “No.”

“He’s called Harry,” Zayn continues, with a look in his eyes that says I’ve definitely told you about him a hundred times. “It’s perfect, see, because he mentioned he was looking to visit the city. He’s been traveling for a couple of years now, doesn’t ever stay in one place for that long.”

“Wow,” Louis muses dryly. “Kismet.”

“He’s not sure if he’s going to stay for the full three months, but he said he’d pay rent upfront for them all anyway.”  

“Lucky me.”

Zayn sighs and leans back in his seat.

That’s all it takes for Louis to feel bad. “I’m happy for you,” he forces himself to say. It’s not really true, not yet. Right now he’s hurt that Zayn wants to leave three months before they’d agreed on. But once he has time to lick his wounds and get over it, he’ll be honestly, genuinely happy for his friend.

“Thanks, Lou,” Zayn says. By the way he says it, Louis figures he already knows it’s not all the way truthful. “You know it’s nothing against you, right? Gigi just found the perfect place and they would’ve rented to someone else if we didn’t sign now. I wanted to stay.”

Louis waves his hand out at Zayn and rolls his eyes. “C’mon now. I don’t need that,” he says, but he’s secretly glad it’s been clarified. “We need to celebrate. It’s the end of an era!”

Zayn smiles then and Louis raises his cup of tea.

They’ve been living together for three years now, in this tiny shoebox New York City apartment and it really does feel like the end of an era. A long, wild, tiring era. It’s seen hundreds of drunken nights, countless breakdowns as Louis switched his major four times and Zayn ultimately dropped out of school, and an endless amount of cheap takeout. He laughs at the thought and smiles back at Zayn. “I don’t blame you for wanting to get out of here. This place is a shit hole.”

Zayn laughs, shaking his head. “No way, bro. This place is fucking great. I'm going to miss it.”

Later that night, Louis lays in bed and pulls up Zayn’s instagram. If he’s going to live with someone for possibly the next three months, he at least wants to know what type of person he is. Of course Zayn’s feed gives nothing away— this mysterious Harry has not yet had the honor of a picture with Zayn. That gives Louis a petty-type of pleasure. Zayn’s posted pictures of Louis loads of times.

He clicks through to the users Zayn’s following next and types in ‘harry’, smiling when there’s only one result. Harry Styles. 

The instagram is public and has a couple hundred thousand followers— initially shocking, but Louis can see why. If traveling the world is good for one thing, it’s an artsy instagram page. He wrinkles his nose in annoyance when he has to scroll for a bit before he finds a picture of the actual guy. But when he does, well.  

So his new roommate is attractive. Maybe having something nice to look at and appreciate will help heal his broken heart that Zayn abandoning him will most definitely cause.  

It only takes a bit more snooping to see that Zayn’s right. Harry doesn’t stay in one place for more than a couple weeks at a time, it looks like. Louis’ never even been out of the country so he can’t even begin to imagine what that life must be like. He’s always been tied to the idea of having a home and a place to belong. That’s probably why he goes a bit mad if he doesn’t visit his family often and why Zayn moving out feels like such a monumental occasion.

Louis scrolls through his pictures for another moment before closing the app and plugging his phone in. He’ll just have to wait to learn more about Harry Styles.

  

—————

 

Zayn tries handing him his key before he finally leaves, but Louis shakes his head.

“No, keep it,” Louis tells him, balling his hands into fists and crossing his arms so their hidden against his chest. “You’re gonna be over, aren’t you? You’ll still need it,” he reasons.

When Zayn persists, Louis’ smile dims. “No, bro. Harry’s gonna need this. You have to take it.”

“I’ll just make a copy of mine,” Louis tries.

Zayn fixes him with a look. “We both know you’re not going to do that.”

Louis shrugs and sniffs haughtily. “Then I’ll make Harry do it. It’s his key, anyway.”

Zayn sighs and grabs Louis’ arm, pulling it loose so he can get to his fist. Louis doesn’t fight back. He just watches forlornly as Zayn uncurls his hand and presses the key into his palm with some sage advice, “Don’t be a brat, Louis.”

“You can’t tell me what to do anymore,” Louis snaps weakly, but otherwise takes the key.

Zayn holds his hand for a moment. “I can still come over without a key. You’ll just have to get up and let me in.” He lets Louis’ hand go, rolling his eyes when Louis lets his arm drop dramatically and swing back to his chest. “Harry should be here in a couple hours, Lou. Be nice to him.”

Be nice to him,” Louis mocks, pulling an exaggerated face. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

And with a hug and another goodbye, Zayn leaves without his key.

There’s only a couple hours in between departures and arrivals in which Louis is the sole tenant of the apartment. He spends it laying on the couch, not paying attention to the TV, and eating the food Zayn left in his cabinet.

It’s all very underwhelming. Louis figures it’s a sad bit of foreshadowing for how his new life will go.

  

—————

 

Harry shows up with an overstuffed duffle bag, a backpack, and a smile.

“Hello,” he holds up one hand in a motionless wave. “I’m Harry. It’s nice to meet you.”

Louis steps back from the front door to let him in and offers a smile in return. The pictures did not do him justice. “I’m Louis,” he introduces himself, following him down the tiny hallway into the tiny living room. “Uh, let me show you which one is your room so you can put your stuff down.”

Harry nods gratefully. “Thanks so much,” he says and Louis’ struck for a moment. He has a British accent.

Louis opens the door to Zayn’s empty room for Harry and crosses his arms against his chest, standing in the doorway to watch Harry shrug his bags onto the floor. “So where are you from?” he asks, too curious to wait for his new roommate to get settled before he starts interrogating him.

Thankfully, Harry doesn’t seem to mind Louis’ attempt at small talk. “Originally? I’m from Cheshire. That’s in England. More recently? I just flew in from Montreal.”

Louis hums in acknowledgement. “How long was the flight?”

Harry shrugs. “An hour and a half. Definitely one of the better ones I’ve had,” he says and closes his eyes like he’s remembering a particularly terrible experience.

When Louis moved to the city for school, he drove the six hours it took and that’s the farthest he’s ever traveled in his life. He’s never been on a plane so instead of chiming in with a mutual hatred for airlines or long flights or whatever Harry is talking about, Louis points to the window in the room. “That window used to not open, but Zayn jammed it open so he could smoke in his room and now it won’t close. Thankfully it’s spring so you won’t freeze to death,” he explains.

“Sounds like something Zayn would do,” Harry laughs, walking over to said window to inspect it.

“Yeah,” Louis shrugs, taking a few steps inside the room. The only piece of furniture left in the room is the bed Zayn left in favor of using Gigi’s in the new apartment. “I think Zayn washed all the sheets and stuff before he left. I don’t know if I’d trust them, though. Up to you.”

Harry turns, stretching his long arms above his head and leaning back until his back cracks loudly. He’s tall, Louis notices. And broad. And when the sweater sleeves slip down his arms as he stretches, they reveal a multitude of tattoos. The pictures didn’t do him justice at all.

“I’ll take my chances for the night, thanks,” Harry says, releasing from the stretch to roll his shoulders a few times. “I’ve slept in places with much less.”

“I bet,” Louis says, realizing almost immediately how disinterested it sounded. “Uh, I mean. Zayn said you traveled a lot?”

Harry nods. “For the past couple of years I have been, yeah.”

Louis blows out a puff of air, brows raised. “I can’t imagine. Sort of a homebody, myself. I don’t like moving around too much,” he admits.

Harry shrugs and bends down to grab his backpack off the ground to set it down on his new bed instead. “I love it,” he says, keeping his gaze on Louis. “I always said, when I found the perfect place, I’d stay there.”

“And you haven’t found it yet. Obviously.”

“Not yet,” Harry shakes his head. “I haven’t seen the whole world yet, though. I still have hope.” 

“Hmm, an optimist,” Louis hums. “Interesting.”

Harry laughs, pulling his laptop from his backpack and laying it on the covers. He pulls out a couple of other things as well and then drops the bag back on the floor. “Is that a bad thing?”

Louis purses his lips like he’s deep in thought and then shakes his head with a small laugh. “No, I didn’t say that. It’s just interesting.”

“Are you a pessimist, Louis?” Harry asks.

“No,” he answers automatically and then tilts his head. “Maybe. I don’t know.”

Harry looks intrigued. “Interesting,” he repeats with a smile.

Louis does nothing but smile at him for a moment before he remembers himself and stands up straighter. “Uh, okay. Well. I’ll let you… settle in,” he says, though he’s not sure how much ‘settling in’ Harry can do with two small bags and no furniture to put anything away in. He must be used to it by now if he’s spent years traveling.

“Okay,” Harry says and grabs his duffel, hauling it up onto the bed.

“Okay,” Louis repeats, backing up a few steps before turning and rushing to his room.

  

—————

 

Louis doesn’t see Harry again until he’s searching for something to have for dinner later that night. It’s already past nine o’clock since Louis was too busy doing his readings for school to eat dinner at a reasonable time, which means he definitely does not feel like cooking or making anything that takes more than two minutes to prepare.

It’s a cereal cabinet night. To be fair though, most nights are cereal cabinet nights in Louis’ life.

He’s grabbing his almost empty box of coco pops when he hears Zayn’s bedroom door open— Harry’s bedroom door open. As he fills his bowl and pours the milk, he tracks Harry’s steps from his room all the way into the kitchen where he now arrives. “Hello,” he smiles. “That’s an interesting dinner.”

“The best dinner, you mean,” Louis corrects him, grabbing a spoon from a drawer and closing it with his hip. He leans back against the counter and holds his bowl in one hand with his spoon in the other as he watches Harry open the fridge. 

“Is this your juice?” Harry asks, pulling out the juice and holding it up over the fridge door so Louis can see it.

“Hmm-mm,” Louis shakes his head, mouth full. When he finishes chewing and swallows, “s’Zayn’s.”

Louis is about to tell Harry to go ahead and drink it because Zayn won’t ever be back for it and Louis doesn’t like orange juice, but Harry’s already closing the door and unscrewing the cap. He leans against the counter opposite of Louis and takes a swig straight from the bottle, staring at Louis.

Mouth full with a bit of chocolatey milk dribbling from his lips, Louis’ positive he looks attractive. Harry, on the other hand, looks model-esque. With his hair pulled up, his strong jaw is put on full display. He’s changed out of his sweater and into an old t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, showing off his biceps that are just as tattooed as the rest of his arms.

“What do your tattoos mean?” Louis asks.

Harry holds out the arm without the juice and looks down at it, like he has to be reminded what all is there inked permanently on his skin. “Lots of things,” he says vaguely, punctuating it with another long sip.

Louis raises his eyebrows, unimpressed. “Wow,” he quips blandly and takes another bite, teeth clinking against the spoon.

Harry laughs and gives Louis a half-shrug. “Some of them don’t really mean anything. I get one in every place I go.”

“People usually just put push pins in a map on a bulletin board to show-off where they’ve been. That wasn’t your style?”

“Where would I keep the bulletin board?” Harry hedges.

“Fair point,” Louis concedes. “So what was the last one you got, then? From Canada, was it?”

Harry nods and then laughs sheepishly. “Uh, well. I got the word ‘big’ on my big toe,” he confesses, drawing Louis’ attention to the floor by wiggling his toes.

Louis laughs loudly when he sees it. “What the fuck,” he says incredulously. He’s surprised to find himself more amused than judgmental.

Harry screws the cap back on the juice and puts the bottle back in the fridge. “I met a girl who had her own tattoo gun,” he says in way of explanation, like that in someway explains any of the thought behind it.

“You weren’t kidding when you said they didn’t have meaning.”

“I told you,” Harry shrugs. He’s smiling wider now like he’s absolutely ultimately unashamed of any of the silly tattoos he may have gotten. From there, he lets Louis point out the ones he’s curious about and tries to offer some background for each.

“What about that one?” Louis asks, pointing to the tiny lock on his wrist with his spoon.

Harry holds up his wrist proudly. “That’s from Paris. I left straight from the love lock bridge to a parlor.”

Louis raises his brows, putting his empty bowl in the sink. “Is it for anybody special?” he asks, rinsing his dishes.

“Mm, no. I think it’s just for love in general.” So he’s a romantic, Louis notes. They’ve got that in common.

“That’s sweet,” Louis smiles and then points to the letter ‘A’ on Harry’s shoulder. “Let me guess. ‘A’ for Australia?”

Harry shakes his head. “That one’s for home back in Cheshire,” he tells Louis. “‘A’ for Anne and ‘G’ for Gemma,” he points to each letter on either of his shoulders. “My mum and sister.”

Louis ‘awws’ appropriately for that answer and grabs a dish towel to dry his hands. “Do I even want to know about this one?” he cringes, pointing to the ‘you booze, you lose’ tattoo.

Harry winces. “LA. So much tequila.”

Louis laughs loudly. At least that one’s relatable. “Do you have a favorite?”

Harry takes a moment to look over each of his limbs. Then he lifts up his shirt so Louis can see a pair of laurels sitting just above his waistband, framing a dark happy trail. Louis swallows. It’s his favorite tattoo of Harry’s now, too.

“I got this one in Greece,” Harry says. “I loved it there.”

Louis tears his eyes away from the newly exposed skin and nods. “Those are pretty cool.”

“Thanks,” Harry beams, his white, perfect teeth presented in a dazzling smile.

Louis nods in lieu of a verbal you’re welcome and starts slowly backing out of the tiny kitchen. “I’m gonna— bed,” he says, pointing behind his shoulder. “Good night.”

“Sweet dreams, Louis,” Harry wishes towards his back when Louis turns around and leaves.

 

—————

 

 Finals are approaching faster than Louis can get his head around. He probably wouldn’t have even thought of it if it wasn’t for Niall who greets him in class everyday with some variation of “Louis! Only ten more classes left of the semester!” or “Morning, Lou. Three more weeks until finals.

He’s grateful for it, actually. His organizational system consists of sticking post-its with due dates and reminders to his laptop screen, but those always end up crumpled in the bottom of his backpack, so. Niall helps.

“Hi, Niall,” Louis greets when he slides into the seat beside him.

“How’d the move go?” Niall asks, looking up from his phone. “I saw Zayn’s posts about his new place. I thought I was going to get a call this weekend saying you burnt the place down now that you had it to yourself.”

“I’m not alone,” Louis tells him, sipping his thermos of tea in between sentences. “Zayn’s subletting to some guy he met in Germany.” 

“What’s the German guy doing here in the city?” Niall sets down his phone, fully invested in the conversation now that his interest has been sufficiently piqued.

“He’s British. And he just travels, I don’t know.”

Niall pulls a face in confusion. “Doing what?” 

“I don’t know,” Louis says again, playing it off like he doesn’t really care to know either, even though he’s so curious.

“Ah,” Niall nods like he understands it all suddenly. “He’s rich. You can’t just travel around without a job without being rich.”

Louis’ not going to lie and say the thought hasn’t crossed his mind as well. He paid three months of rent upfront. “Maybe. He’s kind of instagram famous. That’s all I really know so far.”

Niall picks up his phone again at that. “What’s his handle?” he asks and hands the phone over to Louis to type in.

As Louis sips his tea, Niall scrolls through his photos ooh’ing and aww’ing as he goes. A sudden, loud laugh bursts when he finds one of Harry himself and shoves it in Louis’ face. “That’s why you’re being so weird, Tommo. He’s hot!”

Louis bristles at that. He’s not being weird. “I’m not being weird.”

“He looks like your type,” Niall observes, ignoring him. He taps on another photo of Harry and laughs again. “This is great. You have a crush on your new roommate.”

Louis chokes on his latest sip of tea and snatches the phone from Niall’s hands, coughing. He closes out of the instagram app and keeps the phone for himself. “All I said was I didn’t know anything about him. You’re making up stories in your head, Niall.”

Niall seems unfazed. “You think he’s hot. It’s cool, I get it.”

Louis cuts his eyes at Niall. “Sounds like you’re the one with the crush.”

Again, Niall laughs easily and grabs his phone back from Louis’ hands. “Nah, I’ll leave that one to you, Lou.”

Their professor calls attention to the front of the room before Louis can say anything else. Niall leans in and whispers, “You should bring him out on Friday with us. He should meet everyone.” Louis doesn’t respond.

He spends the trip back home from class thinking about how wrong Niall was.

Sure, Louis can objectively appreciate how attractive Harry is and how yeah, he’s exactly Louis’ type. But Louis has boundaries and those boundaries include not trying to sleep with the person you have to live with for the next couple of months.

Honestly? Louis’ got a little bit of a crush just because Harry’s gorgeous and interesting. It’d really be weird if he didn’t have a crush on him. That doesn’t mean anything though, it’s a crush. And he’s an adult.

Louis’ pulling out his phone to text Niall these exact thoughts, only a few blocks away from home, when he hears his name being called from across the street. He looks up to find none other than Harry, shirtless and in the middle of a run from the looks of it.

“Louis! Hey!” Harry waves and jogs across the street to where he’s stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. Thankfully it’s not a busy block and he’s not holding up any foot traffic. “Where are you coming from?”

Louis very pointedly keeps his eyes on Harry’s face, ignoring the sweaty chest in front of him. “Class,” he answers. “You run?”

“Yeah, do you?” he asks, looking excited and Louis almost feels bad when he has to shake his head.

“Absolutely not,” Louis cringes. “I’m tired enough between work and class.”

Harry opens his mouth to say something, but Louis cuts in before anything gets out. “If you tell me I’ll actually have more energy once I start exercising, you can sleep on the street tonight.”

Harry closes his mouth around a laugh. Thankfully he looks more amused than offended, which is good. Louis generally doesn’t get on with easily offended people. They don’t really get his brand of humor. “Uhh,” Harry starts again. “What are you studying then?”

Louis smiles. “Theatre education,” he tells Harry proudly— he really does love his major.

“So you’re going to be a drama teacher?” Harry asks.

“Yep, that’s the plan,” and even though Louis loves talking about what he’s studying, his curiosity is too large and the opportunity is too good to pass. “What about you? Did you go to school?”

“Not uni, no,” Harry shakes his head and points in the direction of their apartment, silently asking Louis if he wants to continue walking with him. When Louis nods, they walk together slowly. “I graduated and then left home to see the world.”

That just makes Louis even more curious. He turns his head to look up at Harry, narrowing his eyes a bit. He’s trying to figure out how to ask how Harry is able to afford all the traveling without being too forward or rude. “What is it you want to do when you finally settle down somewhere?” Louis finally asks. There, totally polite.

Harry turns to meet his gaze, their arms bumping together accidentally as they move out of the way of other walkers. “Well, I take pictures,” he starts and Louis nods, encouraging him to go on. “Like, it just started as something fun. I would just send them to my family and friends. To keep them updated, y’know. But then I got the idea to start a travel blog, and it sort of took off. Staying in one place would sort of render the blog obsolete, but I think I’d still at least like to take pictures.”

“Wow, that’s really cool actually,” Louis tells him appreciatively and then bumps their arms together on purpose. “Didn’t know I was in the presence of someone so cool and popular and cultured. ‘Scuse me.”

Harry shakes his head with a laugh and tries to bump Louis back playfully. Louis stumbles, though, right into the wall they’re walking by. “Hey,” he crows in mock-outrage, rubbing his arm tenderly like it actually hurts. (It doesn’t).

Harry looks shocked and guilty and he grabs Louis’ other arm and pulls him away from the wall, frowning. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. I swear.” 

Louis pouts at him and takes a few dramatic steps. The smile he was swallowing emerges once Harry bursts out into loud laughter, “Why are you limping?”

Louis ignores him and continues on, happy that Harry can’t see his ridiculous smile from where he’s a couple of feet behind him. “A drama teacher with a dramatic flair.. It makes sense,” Harry says, catching up to him and slinging an arm around Louis’ shoulders. “Seriously, though. Is your arm alright? I really do feel bad.” 

“I’ll live,” Louis sniffs, relishing in the weight of Harry’s arm over him, the text to Niall long forgotten.

  

—————

 

 The week progresses on. Slowly but surely, Louis collects little bits of information about Harry that help him to form a complete picture in his mind. He learns about Harry’s family and how often they FaceTime each other. It’s not as much as Louis FaceTimes his own mom and sisters, but it’s still a lot.

He learns that as effortlessly cool and collected Harry seems at all times, he’s got a goofy streak just as big. Louis’ watched him on three separate occasions laugh quietly at absolutely nothing and then type something into his phone notes. Louis can only assume Harry’s laughing at inside jokes with himself and recording them so he can laugh again at a later date. Unfortunately, and Louis hates this about himself, it only makes him like Harry more.

Also, Louis discovers that Harry wears the same pair of jeans almost everyday of his life. When Louis questions him about it, Harry shows him that his duffel is mostly filled with his camera equipment and there’s simply no room for other clothes. That’s how they end up in the thrift shop a couple blocks away while Harry picks out one ridiculous patterned shirt after another and forces Louis to watch him have a small fashion show in the dressing room.

And, when Harry tells Louis that it was only a year ago that his blog got really popular after one of his posts went viral, Louis learns that yes, Harry is well off. “I was fortunate enough not to need the money from the blog, but it’s really cool to see it grow from something only my mom read to something people share with their friends and look forward to reading,” he’d said.

The dynamic in the apartment is a lot different than what it was with Zayn, but it’s not a bad different. Sure, there are some cons to it all. Like, Louis hasn’t been able to barge into Zayn’s room unannounced and burrow under the covers when he’s in need of a cuddle and he hasn’t spent the whole night playing video games since he moved out either.

But Harry makes up for it in a lot of other ways. He’s already learned how Louis takes his tea and has it ready when Louis has 8am classes. Plus, Louis doesn’t really miss his on-demand cuddles since Harry’s naturally so tactile. They get on so well, it’s honestly surprising. 

Thus, when Friday arrives and Niall texts him asking if he asked Harry to come along or not, Louis doesn’t know what to say. No, is the honest answer, he hasn’t mentioned it to Harry at all. There’s no cruel intentions behind the decision either. Louis just isn’t sure it’s a good idea.

See, it’s only been a week and Louis’ crush is already solidifying into something more real. Harry’s infiltrated his home thoroughly enough. Inviting him out is an open invitation for him to infiltrate his life outside his home and that could be dangerous.

On the other hand, Louis really enjoys spending time with him. Harry makes him belly laugh until tears are streaming down his cheeks. He makes Louis’ stomach feel all wibbly-wobbly with butterflies in the best way. It’s been a while since a boy’s made him feel so out of control.

Needless to say, he doesn’t know what to do.

Before he makes any final decisions on the matter, Louis gets ready.

He spends twenty minutes picking out an outfit and then fussing over his hair, distracted the whole time over whether he should invite Harry or not. When he’s finally on his way out, Louis pauses outside of Harry’s closed door and is still for a moment before he knocks lightly.

Harry opens the door quick enough and Louis notices for the first time the soft music playing in the background. It’s only when Harry raises an eyebrow with a “Hi, Louis,” that Louis realizes he’s staring rather than speaking.

Louis’ cheeks turn pink, which is turning out to be a norm around his new roomie. “Uh, hey. I was actually on my way out. I’m going to go meet my friends at a bar. Did you maybe want to come?” he asks, hoping his purposefully light tone is as convincing as he thinks it is.

Harry’s smile widens at the offer. “I’d love to, thanks. Let me just,” he says, turning around to presumably get ready, though all he does is shove his wallet into his back pocket and close his laptop to shut off the music.

Even in his plain white t-shirt and jeans, Harry looks drop dead gorgeous. It makes Louis walk down the hallway a bit to check his hair in the mirror once more, nudging a few strands back into place. “You look great,” Harry tells him, walking up behind him.

Just like that, his blush is back. Louis averts his gaze so it’s not meeting Harry’s in the mirror anymore and pulls out his phone. “Oh, they’re probably already there, so. We should get going.”

Harry follows him out and they walk the short walk to the bar side by side, chatting easily the whole way. “Tell me their names? I want to be prepared,” Harry rubs his hands together.

“You know Zayn,” Louis says, counting off on his fingers. Harry nods and copies Louis, holding up a finger for each friend Louis mentions. “I think he might be bringing Gigi. I’m not sure, though. If he brings Gigi then Niall will probably bring Barbara.” 

“Whoa, whoa,” Harry abandons his counting to waves his hands. “You’re going too fast. Who’s Niall and Barbara?”

“Niall’s one of my best friends. I met him my freshman year. He’s actually an international student from Ireland. You’ll have that in common,” Louis explains.

“Ireland is amazing,” Harry nods. 

“Save it for Niall. Barbara’s his on-again-off-again girlfriend. They’re complicated.” Louis looks down at his four fingers and puts up the fifth. “Oh, and there’s Liam. He was my roommate freshman year before I moved in with Zayn.”

“Okay, I think I got it all,” Harry says and clasps his hands together again.

Louis raises a brow at his behavior. “You’re taking this very seriously. Do you want me to quiz you?” he teases.

Harry shakes his head and leans to the side enough that he’s kind of looming over Louis’ shoulder. “I have a feeling you’re mocking me.”

“Ooh,” Louis stops walking before they can go inside to turn and condescendingly pat Harry’s cheek once. “Trust your feelings, love. I am mocking you.”

With that, he spins and goes inside, leaving Harry no choice but to follow him.

Everyone is already there, squeezed together in a half-circle booth with their drinks on the table in front of them. Harry shakes everybody’s hands before sliding in next to Zayn, leaving Louis to sit next to him on the end of the booth with Niall across from him. 

Introductions are traded pleasantly as Harry and Louis wait for their drinks to arrive. Thankfully, not that Louis actually had any worry about it, Harry gets on with all his friends swimmingly.

Niall is probably the most easy-going person Louis’ ever met in his life, so he’ll easily be friends with most anybody. But when Harry takes Louis’ advice and mentions his travels to Ireland, Niall’s face lights up and he even goes so far to put down his drink to focus on the conversation more.

“How do you make friends if you’re always leaving?” Niall asks, nearly shouting so he’s heard across the table over the noise of the bar. Louis’ turns to Harry to listen to his answer, expecting something sad, but he’s smiling back at Niall.

“What do you mean?” he asks. “I have friends all around the world now.”

“Doesn’t that suck, though? I have these lads and I still miss my mates from back home all the time,” Niall says and Louis frowns at that. He’s never actually thought of Niall being homesick as he’s so cheerful and high-spirited all the time. Louis slides out of his side of the booth and makes Niall push in so he can sit beside him and hug him as he and Harry keep talking.

He can also see Harry better from this angle, who is still smiling. “I don’t think so, no,” he answers honestly, shaking his head. “I miss them sometimes but they’re only a phone call away and I can go back to see them whenever I want. I love meeting new people.”

“Damn extrovert,” Louis tells Niall right in his ear. “I’ve lived in our building for years and have never even seen the mailman. Harry’s been here for a week and he’s already friends with him. He’s a people person,” Louis spits the words like they’re akin to being a mass murderer. 

Harry laughs with a shrug, not disputing any of Louis’ claims.

“How’s living with Louis?” Liam chimes in from a few seats away.

Louis sits up at that, separating from Niall so he can lean across the table and hear everything Harry has to say about the wonderful experience that is being Louis Tomlinson’s roommate. Harry does not disappoint, “It’s great,” he tells Liam. “Very lively. I’m never bored.”

The table laughs at that.

Barbara reaches around Niall to pat Louis’ shoulder in support. “I bet living with Lou is great,” she announces and Louis holds her hand for a moment in thanks. He loves Barbara.

“That’s cause you’ve never lived with him,” Liam tells her, winking at Louis.

“Louis said you two roomed together at school,” Harry prompts.

Louis rolls his eyes as Liam talks about how terribly they got along when they first moved to school. “He’s lying. It was love at first sight for Liam and he just didn’t know how to handle his feelings.” That has the table laughing again.

“Really, It’s been perfect,” Harry adds when the laughter dies down, glancing at Louis as he continues, “I couldn’t ask for a better roommate.”

Louis smiles warmly at him over the rim of his glass. From there, the drinks and conversation flow freely. The seating plan is shuffled about a hundred different times as they all get up for the bathroom or more drinks at one point or another. Louis takes the opportunity to get a snuggle in with everybody there before finally ending up back beside Harry.

And it’s solely because of the alcohol in his system that he lifts Harry’s arm and drapes it over his shoulders. Harry lets him do it willingly, even squeezes him into his side a little while he catches up with Zayn. Louis’ normally either an emotional or happy drunk so he’s not surprised when he feels a little choked up looking around at all his friends talking and laughing together around the table.

Hours later, when they all stumble out onto the street, Louis demands, very loudly, to be carried home. “Liam,” he slurs, grabbing onto his shoulders from behind. “C’mon, bend down. Let me get on your back.” Liam slips from his grasp and pats Louis on the head placatingly.

“My Uber is here,” he says and then goes about hugging everybody goodbye, even Harry. Niall announces that he’s going to grab a dollar slice with Barbara and the invitation is open, but nobody takes him up on it. Zayn and Gigi are already walking home in the opposite direction from Louis and Harry’s place.

When Louis finishes kissing Barbara’s cheek in a prolonged goodbye, he finds Harry squatting slightly and holding his hands out behind him. “I’ll bring you home,” he declares and is surprisingly steady on his feet as Louis jumps on. 

Louis’ laughing obnoxiously in his ear the whole walk home, alternating between either holding so tight that Harry almost chokes or so loose that he almost falls off his back. Harry’s able to keep him up until they fall through their front door by nothing short of a miracle. Once the door closes, Louis’ sliding down his back and leaning against the hallway wall, watching Harry struggle to kick his boots off while staying upright.

It’s really a sight to behold and Louis continues laughing when Harry nearly brains himself against the opposite wall. “Hey,” Harry laughs himself. “Hey, don’t laugh at me.”

Louis mimes zipping his lips shut and then presses his palms flat against the wall by his sides, blinking lazily at Harry as he stands up and shuffles closer to Louis. He holds himself up with hands on either side of Louis’ face, leaning in close enough so Louis can feel his breath across his jaw. “Hey,” Harry says again, a lot quieter this time. 

Everything suddenly feels a lot more serious and Louis arches his back, pressing into Harry’s body. “Hi,” Louis breathes, tipping his chin up so he can look at Harry better.

Harry’s eyes track a path over his face, leaving his neck and ears feeling hot like he’s been suddenly put on display. But Louis loves it and tilts his head to the side a few inches, exposing his neck and knocking his forehead into one of Harry’s arms. Harry leans in even closer and Louis’ breath turns quicker when he realizes he’s going to kiss him.

Louis turns his head back, pushing his nose into Harry’s cheek. Harry moves one hand from the wall to run down Louis’ waist for one brief, glorious moment and then with a deep sigh, pushes away. Louis’ eyes lurch open, confused and searching, to find Harry standing against the opposite wall. His eyes are bright and trained on Louis.

Then he breaks their gaze, looking down the hallway and letting out a long breath. He laughs shortly and runs a hand through his messy hair before looking back at Louis who feels like he’s stuck in place, completely under Harry’s control.

“We should get to bed,” Harry says.

Louis quirks an eyebrow, but Harry shakes his head at that and rubs his jaw. “No, that’s not what I meant. We should get to sleep.”

He can’t lie, he’s pretty disappointed. Louis was absolutely convinced Harry wanted to kiss him, but now he’s sending him to bed. “Okay,” is all he says, making no move. He stays pressed to the wall as Harry walks to the kitchen and comes back with a glass of water.

“Here,” he hands it to Louis. “Drink this, okay?”

Louis accepts the glass and takes a few gulps before speaking. “Thanks,” he says and then offers the half empty cup to Harry. “You need water too.”

Harry smiles at Louis and leans in to press a soft kiss against his hairline. “Thank you sweet boy,” he murmurs into his soft skin there and swiftly finishes off the water. Once more, Louis watches as he heads back into the kitchen and comes out with the cup full.

Again, Louis drinks half of it and then passes it to Harry who finishes it off.  “Alright. Bed now?”

Louis agrees, but waits for Harry to come back from putting the cup in the sink to start moving towards said bed. “You have to walk me home,” he demands. He’s ignoring the fact that his bedroom door is only about fifteen feet away. He just wants to spend a little bit of extra time with Harry. Also, he’s still drunk.

Harry goes along with the silliness without a moment of hesitation. He just offers his arm for Louis to take and walks him the short distance to his door. “Here you are,” he announces, opening the door for Louis.

“Such a gentleman,” Louis commends happily, slipping his hand from the crook of Harry’s elbow.  Now that his bed is in sight, he’s feeling much more tired than he was a minute ago. “Night, Harry.”

“Sweet dreams, Lou.”

After that night, Harry’s added to their group chat and seamlessly fits into their little pack. If it’s anything at all, it’s convenient. Now Louis can text Harry and demand he bring home milk and make fun of Liam’s latest instagram post without so much as having to switch text chains. It does make Louis pause, though, thinking about what Harry said in the bar about having friends all over the world.

Soon they’ll just be another group of friends added to the long list of those he leaves in another country and texts every so often. That leaves him with a hollow feeling in his rib cage. Thankfully, that feeling only lasts as long as it takes him to remember the moment they had in the hallway. Louis isn’t clueless, he knows what it looks like, what it feels like, when a boy is about to kiss him. And Harry was definitely going to kiss him.

Whether or not it was just because he was drunk or if he pulled away because he remembered he actually wasn’t interested, Louis isn’t sure. At least it’s not weird between them. They go about their daily lives exactly like normal, except everything feels more charged. Harry’s touches feel like flirting now and Louis isn’t ashamed to admit he flirts back.

When he’s not in class or at work, Louis’ accompanying Harry on one of his adventures around the city with his camera. Usually he makes it a point to avoid tourist hot-spots at all costs, but it’s nice to walk the Brooklyn Bridge with Harry or visit the Met. It’s like he’s discovering New York City all over again through Harry’s excitement.

Plus, it’s not so bad when Harry starts doing things like holding his hand on their walks or buying him ice-cream cones whenever they pass an ice-cream truck.

 

 

May

 

 

“Hey,” Harry greets, holding onto the doorjamb and leaning his torso into Louis’ room. “Are you free right now? I wanted to check out Governors Island.”

Louis peels his eyes from his computer screen and turns to Harry. In the movement, a pen he’d tucked behind his ear earlier falls into his lap. His right pointer finger is covered in pink highlighter. “I’m suffocating under the crushing weight of my academic responsibilities, actually.”

Harry moves past the doorway into the room to peer over Louis’ shoulder at the pile of books and papers on his desk. “Is it finals time already?”

Reaching past Louis, he grabs the empty mug of tea and frowns when a piece of paper comes with it, stuck to the bottom with previously spilt and now dried tea. “Yep,” Louis says simply as he watches Harry unstick the paper and set it back on the desk.

“I’ll make you a fresh cup.”

Nothing sounds better in that moment, but Louis shakes his head and spins further in his chair so he can take his mug back. “I’ll do it,” he smiles at Harry. “You go explore.” His back pops loudly when he stands up, providing a nice punctuation to his order. 

Harry grabs the mug again. “No, Lou. You have enough to worry about,” he says, eyeing the mess on his desk wearily before marching from the room. Louis follows him, taking the time to stretch his legs and roll his shoulders and neck. He’s unbelievably stiff and the movement feels amazing.

Louis trails him all the way into the kitchen and quietly watches as Harry fills the kettle and turns on the stove top. “I like your sweater,” he mentions offhandedly, glancing at Louis out of the corner of his eyes.

Louis looks down at the sweater he’s wearing and then back to Harry unashamedly. It’s the sweater Harry was wearing the first day they met. Three weeks ago, Louis probably would’ve blushed if Harry found him in it. Now, he meets Harry’s gaze challengingly. “I do too,” he agrees.

Harry looks amused and, much to Louis’ pleasure, fond. “While I love seeing you in my clothes,” he admits appreciatively, eyes lingering over where the collar is loose enough to expose Louis’ collar bones. “That’s honestly the only sweater I have to my name and I can’t let you take it hostage.”

Louis, all while keeping Harry’s gaze, burrows his chin down and pulls his shoulders up. Cuddling further into the oversized sweater, he lifts the collar over his mouth. “Good thing it’s not cold, then,” he says from underneath the fabric.

“Then why are you wearing it?” Harry asks, looking all too pleased with himself. He thinks he’s caught Louis.

“My room was cold,” Louis tells him, but Harry doesn’t look like he buys it. So Louis changes the subject before he can question him on the matter further. “Governors Island, huh? It’s a nice day for it.”

Harry shrugs and turns back to the kettle. “I think I’ll go another day instead. I’ve a meeting I have to prepare for anyway. It’s best if I just stay in tonight.”

“A meeting?” Louis echoes.

“It’s about the blog. Just standard stuff.”

Louis isn’t sure who he has to meet with about his own, independently run travel blog, but he also isn’t particularly interested in the inner business workings of said blogs so he accepts it for what it is and doesn’t ask anymore questions. “Sounds exciting,” he grins, because even though he’s bored just thinking about business meetings, he still wants to be supportive. “I’m sure you’ll do great.”

The kettle starts whistling loudly in that moment and Louis resumes his position of the silent observer. When Harry hands the steaming mug of tea to Louis, he smiles down at him, “Thank you, Lou.”

  

—————

 

There’s a plastic bag on his bed when Louis comes home from a study session with Niall the next day. He looks at it curiously for a couple of seconds before calling out, “Harry?”

There’s no answer, which makes sense when Louis finally remembers that Harry has his meeting. He’d gotten dressed in one of his patterned thrift store finds that morning and sought out Louis to ask if he looked fine. Of course he looked gorgeous and Louis told him just that before giving him a big kiss on the cheek and sending him off with some wished luck.

Louis lets his backpack fall to the ground with a thud, wincing when he realizes a moment too late that his laptop’s in there. Oh, well. He’s too intrigued by this mysterious bag to check and see if his old, reliable computer survived the fall.

(It probably did, he’s done much worse to it. He’s not worried.)

There’s two sweaters inside: one being a cliche ‘I ♡ NY!’, straight off the street crew-neck, the other a more eccentric, purple, orange, and green horrendously ugly thing from their favorite thrift shop. There’s also a post it, definitely stolen from Louis’ stash, that’s covered in Harry’s neat, all-capital letters font— NOW YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME MY SWEATER BACK. LOVE, H.

Louis laughs at that. If only Harry knew how wrong he was about that. He has no desire to wear these two sweaters anytime soon and it’s not because they’re both terrible. He stole Harry’s sweater because it was Harry’s, not because he just wanted a sweater. It smelt like Harry and just knowing that it was his made it a million more times desirable. 

He puts the note off to the side, careful not to wrinkle it as he plans to save it forever. Then he grabs his phone to text Harry the unfortunate news that he won’t be able to wear the hideous sweaters any time soon, not until Harry wears them first at least. But the front door opens.

The first thing Harry does when he gets inside is call for him. “Louis?”

Ignoring how much faster that makes his heart beat, Louis pushes up from his bed and rushes to meet him in the living room. “Hey,” he greets, automatically noticing how ecstatic Harry looks. “How’d the meeting go?” He’s pretty sure he knows exactly how the meeting went just from how deep Harry’s dimples are.

Harry throws his keys and bag onto the couch and spreads his arms wide, going straight for Louis. Louis doesn’t even have a moment to think before there’s arms around his waist and he’s being lifted off the ground and spun around. “Oh my god,” he yelps, holding onto Harry’s shoulders tightly until he’s set on his feet again. 

“I think it went quite well,” Harry grins, hands still resting on Louis’ hips.

“Only quiet well?” Louis raises an eyebrow, still holding onto Harry’s shoulders.

Harry’s eyes look like they’re twinkling. Louis still has no idea why he’s so happy, but it doesn’t stop him from letting himself be taken over by the infectious energy rolling off of him in waves.

“It went fantastically,” Harry amends.

“What happened?”

“Nothing’s set in stone yet. I don’t want to jinx it,” he tells Louis. Louis thinks it’s a little late to worry about jinxing anything since Harry’s already started celebrating. He doesn’t say that, of course. He just nods and pulls Harry down into a congratulatory hug.

“We should celebrate,” Louis tells him, hooking his chin over Harry’s shoulder when he crouches far enough.

Harry rubs his back, but doesn’t agree. “You need to study. We can wait.”

Louis pulls back enough so he knows Harry can see his stern face. “No way. I can take the night off studying.” Honestly, he probably shouldn’t, but he loses all ability to judge how bad an idea is when Harry’s holding him so softly. “Anything you want to do, we’ll do it.”

That makes Harry pause. “Anything?” he repeats. Louis can see his resolve crumbling, wheels turning in his head.

“Anything,” Louis says and yelps again when Harry’s fingers tighten on his hips, pulling him flush into his chest once more.

“I want to go to the Museum of Natural History,” Harry announces, voice getting louder and louder to speak over Louis’ abrupt groaning and whining. “You said anything! And I want to go! We’re celebrating!” 

Louis lets out one final groan, hiding his smile against Harry’s shirt. “Fine,” he gives in and wiggles around until Harry lets him go. “On one condition.”

“You’re putting stipulations on my celebration?” Harry throws his hands up, laughing in disbelief. 

“Yes,” Louis answers simply, holding up one finger to tell Harry to wait there. He runs back into his bedroom to grab one of the new sweaters, but he doesn’t put it on. Instead, he throws on the one of Harry’s that’s been hanging over his desk chair. When he runs back into the living room, he presents the new ‘I ♡ NY!’ sweater to Harry. “You have to wear this.”

Harry takes one look at the sweater and laughs even louder. “I got that for you!” he exclaims, taking it only so he can hold it up against Louis’ chest. It’s ginormous. It hangs to mid-thigh and Louis bats it away viciously.

“Yes, thank you so much for my lovely new sweaters, Harry,” Louis nods politely. “But I still want you to wear this one tonight.”

For another moment, Harry looks like he still wants to fight Louis on the matter. He must come to terms with the conditions internally because he pulls the sweater over his head in one go. It actually fits him, Louis notices and he says as much to Harry.

“I got it big for you ‘cause I thought that’s what you liked about my sweater in the first place,” Harry explains, pulling his hair out from the collar and tucking his long curls back behind his ears.

And, well, Louis doesn’t know what to say to that. He ends up just nodding and running back to his room to grab his phone and his keys so they can get going.

The subway is crowded with the after-work commute so Harry holds onto a bar on the ceiling and Louis holds onto Harry. It’s a short ride, too, less than twenty minutes and Louis finds himself  little bit sad when they arrive at their stop and he has to detach himself from Harry’s side.

Harry holding his hand when he’s not taking pictures makes up for it, though. The night worth of studying Louis loses isn’t a loss after all.

  

—————

 

Over the course of the next couple of days, Louis works on his two final papers. It mostly happens with him sitting on the couch next to Harry, laptops balanced on both their knees as they both type together in silence. Harry ends up getting a couple of blog posts written and edited and Louis is able to finish both papers, although he forgoes editing. There’s just simply not enough motivation in the world to get him to proof read something after he’s spent hours and hours working on it.

Submitting both papers to his professors means he’s officially halfway through his finals which once again, calls for them to celebrate. Louis demands Harry make him breakfast and Harry is, thankfully, more than happy to oblige.

“Hey, if you burn my french toast, you can’t live here anymore,” Louis tells him, pointing to the stove that Harry’s ignoring. “I’m being very serious, Harry.”

Harry rolls his eyes fondly at him and turns down the flame under the frying pan. “You use that threat too liberally for it to mean anything.”

Louis huffs at that and digs his toes into the side of Harry’s thighs until Harry wraps a hand completely around his ankle and yanks. Louis yelps as his ass slides a couple inches towards the edge of the counter he’s perched on. Harry just laughs and makes a move like he’s going to yank again and pull Louis right off the counter.

“Stop,” Louis shrieks, absolutely not caring about the volume or that their neighbors love to send in noise complaints. “I swear to god, Harry!”

Harry laughs louder and lets Louis pull himself as far back as he can, the back of his head pressed into the cabinets. Keeping one hand wrapped around the ankle, Harry flips the french toast easily.

“Let go,” Louis whines, shaking his leg in an attempt to loosen Harry’s grip. He’s not successful at all, not that he really thought he would be. “I just wanted french toast. If I’d have known I’d be harassed, I would’ve never asked you,” he simpers and sticks his nose up in the air.

Harry turns off the stove top and steps in front of Louis, resting his palms flat against the counter top on either side of Louis’ legs. “Is that so?” he asks, far too amused at Louis’ displeasure.

Yes.” Louis shakes his newly freed ankle and waits approximately two seconds before digging his heel uncomfortably into the back of Harry’s thigh.

Harry wastes no time in grabbing Louis by each thigh and pulling them up and over his hips so he can’t get to the back of his thigh anymore. If he wasn’t in such shock from the move, Louis would’ve been able to realize that he still could’ve just as easily now dug his heel into Harry’s ass.

Alas, he is too preoccupied with adjusting to the new position of his legs wrapped around Harry’s waist, Louis holding onto Harry’s shoulders as he’d grabbed them instinctually for balance during the movement.

Harry doesn’t say anything and Louis doesn’t know what to say so they sit there in silence, listening to each other’s breathing.

And then Harry leans in and kisses him on the mouth for the first time, fingers tightening around Louis’ thighs. Louis, to his credit, catches up fairly quickly, letting his hands move from Harry’s shoulders to his neck and then back again.

Just like that, everything changes once again.

There’s a moment where they both break apart, working to catch their breath and calm the rapid beating of their hearts, where they just look at each other. Louis can only imagine what’s playing over his own face in that moment: happiness, shock, lust, unadulterated affection. Louis might be projecting, but he thinks his emotions are mirrored there on Harry’s face as well.

His eyelids droop when Harry lets go of a thigh so he can hold Louis’ neck, pads of his long fingers pressing on the hinge of his jaw. “Look at you,” he murmurs, voice deeper than Louis’ ever heard.

Louis wets his bottom lip and lets his eyelids slide all the way closed, focusing just on the feeling of Harry’s hands on him, holding him in place. “Your eyelashes are very long,” Harry observes. “I think I’d very much like to take a picture of them.”  

Louis hums. It’s a nice sentiment, but he’s waiting for Harry to kiss him again, not talk about photography. “Maybe later,” he offers.

Harry, thankfully, takes the hint and leans back in to kiss him again, softer this time.

Their french toast is cold when they finally get around to eating it. Louis, notably, doesn’t mind.

 

—————

 

Suddenly, everything Louis’ spent the past month wanting to do isn’t off limits. Like, when they’re just sitting on the couch together watching Netflix, Louis is allowed to force himself into Harry’s lap and demand all the cuddles and kisses he wants. He takes full advantage of that fact, trust him.

Also, when he stays up late looking at all the pictures Harry wants to show him from his time in Peru or Brazil, it’s not weird when he falls asleep right there in Harry’s bed. He wakes up the next morning with his nose buried in the back of Harry’s neck, which is amazing. 

Waking up in the same bed, Louis finds, is very conducive to not only pre-brushed teeth, lazy morning kisses, but also some mutual morning blowjobs.  

Louis didn’t think it was possible, but Harry’s voice is even deeper in the morning when he wakes Louis up with kisses and a raspy, “G’morning.” Despite Louis’ eye crusties, bad breath, and messy hair, Harry looks at him like he’s something precious.

He wakes up smiling, so so happy. His hands smooth over Harry’s sleep warm, bare skin, trailing down his stomach to scratch lightly at the curly hair of his happy trail. Harry’s already hard, most definitely woke up that way, and he’s only in a small pair of briefs so it’s easy to get him completely naked.

He watches in silent awe as Louis scoots down until he’s between Harry’s thighs. It makes Louis feel powerful. It makes him feel safe. Louis can feel the muscles in Harry’s thigh twitch when he rests one hand over his leg and holds the other around the base of his cock, getting his mouth over the head after wetting it with his tongue.

“Fuck,” Harry shudders above him, dark eyes staring holes into Louis as he bobs his head slowly.

“Brazil?” Louis asks, slightly out of breath as he pulls off for a moment.

Harry bless him, looks like he can’t comprehend the question, not with Louis’ fist still tugging languidly at his cock. “W-what?”

Louis laughs shortly and traces a nail over the small tattoo on his thigh. “I found your tattoo for Brazil. It’s very straight forward,” he comments, admiring the small Brasil! 

“Yeah,” Harry nods. That’s apparently all he cares to say on the matter as he doesn’t explain any further.

Louis takes pity on him then, taking him back into his mouth and pushing his head down further this time, tip of his nose brushing against Harry’s heated skin. Harry moans loudly.

It’s not long before Harry’s fingers are threading in Louis’ hair and trying to pull him off, stuttering a warning. Louis, for the most part, ignores it and seals his mouth just around the head, jerking the rest of his length through the duration of his orgasm.

“Baby,” Harry coos, sufficiently sated once it’s all over. He hooks his hands under Louis’ arms and pulls him back up the bed to lay over his chest. “You’re so wonderful. So, so wonderful.” 

Louis preens under the praise, flushed a pretty pink from his neck to his shoulders. Harry looks incredibly enamored as he maneuvers Louis until he’s laying comfortably against the pillows. Louis happily accepts the kisses Harry gives him and turns a deeper red when Harry goes and returns the favor.

 

—————

 

There’s only one exam left of the semester now, bright and early tomorrow morning, for the class he has with Niall. It’s a general-education course, a science class he could have and should have taken Freshman year to get the requirement out of the way, but Louis put it off until now.

Needless to say, Louis’ suffering a bit (see: a lot), studying definitions of genomes and cell parts and other things he will literally never ever need to know in his daily life. His only saving grace is Niall who keeps him motivated just by simply being there.

Niall kicks the leg of his chair when Louis gets too distracted by his phone, answering Harry’s texts about where he is. Louis kicks back, but he goes for Niall’s shin instead, not looking up at Niall’s small, pained ‘oof'. 

“C’mon, Tommo,” he scolds. “Get your head in the game.”

Louis’ not sure if Niall knows he’s quoting a Disney Channel Original Movie or not, but he doesn’t bring it up, knowing that that would only lead them off on a very unhelpful tangent. He clicks his pen a couple of times, liking the way it echoes in the otherwise quiet library, and sighs. “Do you want me to test you on the vocabulary again, Niall?”

For the next ten minutes, they trade off definitions that they both mostly know already until a to-go cup is placed in front of Louis.

Harry’s already bending down for a kiss when Louis looks up and he’s more than happy to indulge him. “You brought me tea?” he asks dumbly. 

“Mmhmm,” Harry hums against his lips.

“Thanks, mate,” Niall grabs the other cup.

Harry rights himself again and nods to Niall. “I wasn’t sure what you liked so I just got another tea, hope that’s alright.” He’s in his running gear— headband keeping sweaty, errant curls out of his eyes and bright sneakers. 

“If he doesn’t want it, I’ll take it,” Louis says, reaching for the cup already.

Niall bats his hand away. “Lay off, Louis,” he warns and turns to Harry. “How’d you get in here, anyway? You need a student ID.” 

Harry looks around first to see if anybody’s heard what Niall’s said before telling him in a low voice, “I asked a girl to tap me in and she did.”

“Wow,” Louis sips his tea. “Very sneaky.”

Harry responds with a weird, half bow that has Louis laughing delightedly while Niall shakes his head. It’s a testament to how far gone Louis is for this boy that he finds it more endearing than dorky. “I can’t stay,” Harry tells them. “I just came to make sure you guys were well caffeinated.” 

Louis fists a hand in his t-shirt to pull him down for a chaste goodbye kiss before he goes, thanking him for his fresh tea. “I won’t be home too late,” he says.

“I’ll be waiting,” Harry replies. “Bye Niall. Happy studying!”

Niall clears his throat when Harry’s finally out of earshot. “That’s new,” he states matter-of-factly. “Since when has that all been going on?”

Louis shrugs halfheartedly, playing with the cardboard sleeve on his cup of tea. “I don’t know. A little over a week maybe?” he says, suddenly shy. “Feels longer.”

“I can’t believe you got all weepy over Zayn moving in with his girlfriend and then you did the same thing and moved in with your boyfriend,” Niall says amusedly, but no. That’s not what happened at all.

Louis shakes his hand, face all scrunched up in bafflement. “That’s not- It’s completely different. Harry’s not my boyfriend, for one.”

Niall scoffs, nodding his head in a way that makes it very obvious to Louis that he’s not believed. “I called you having a crush on him and I’m calling it now, too. He’s your boyfriend.”

Louis throws a pencil at him to shut him up. “Can we get back to studying?” he snaps, very pointedly shuffling the massive pile of index cards on the table between them.

He agrees and Louis throws all of his focus back into the textbook and studying, all too happy to push Niall’s words far from his mind in the name of freshman level Life Sciences.

  

—————

 

It’s raining outside the first time Louis sinks down onto Harry, thighs spread and heavy over Harry’s waist. It’s slow and nothing like Louis had imagined their first time to be like— something like a heated, sweaty fit of sparks and passion. Instead, it’s slower and it’s so much more.

Harry’s hands can’t make their mind up on a place to hold Louis. They wander from his hips to his thighs to his back to his ass all the way up to his neck and his jaw. It’s like he wants to touch all of Louis at the same time and it has Louis feeling wanted and grounded in that moment.

“Harry,” Louis moans softly, rocking up and down his length.

“Yeah, baby,” Harry answers, reaching up to rest a hand over the side of his throat, his thumb pulling at Louis’ bottom lip. “So good, so perfect.”

Louis leans into the hand, eyes fluttering closed. Eventually his thighs begin to burn and he slows his pace considerably. Thankfully, Harry gets the memo to take over and rolls Louis over onto his back. “You’re beautiful,” he whispers to Louis as he pushes back in, pulling Louis’ thigh up over his hip. “You’re so fucking gorgeous.” 

Louis moans at that, blinking his eyes open just in time to watch Harry drag his heated gaze over his face, down his body, and to where they’re connected. “Kiss me,” Louis demands, reaching up to grab hold of the necklace hanging from Harry’s neck and using it to pull him down onto his lips. Of course, Harry goes willingly and they kiss for a while until it becomes sloppy as they each get closer.

He lets his head roll back when their mouths part, allowing himself to get lost in the pleasure radiating through his body. It’s where Harry’s fingers press harshly into his skin that he’s anchored.

After he takes himself into his hand, it only takes another minute for Louis to come, Harry following him not long later.

Louis stays in bed while Harry gets up, getting rid of his condom and washing his hands. It’s only a minute later that he comes back in the room, still proudly naked and holding a washcloth that he uses to wipe off the drying come on Louis’ belly. Louis smiles at him sweetly, murmuring his thanks and pulling Harry’s sheets up around his shoulders.

The rain outside is coupled with a chilly wind and he wasn’t lying when he said that window doesn’t actually close. Harry gets back into bed beside him, this time under the covers, and lays on his side so he can do nothing but stare at Louis. 

“Do you need something?” Louis slurs. He’s still recovering from finals and now he’s sated and sleepy after a terrific orgasm. He’d very much like to sleep.

Harry laughs quietly and props his head up on his hand, using the other to softly trace the line of Louis’ eyebrow, his cheekbone, his nose. “Mm, no. You’re just gorgeous.”

And, well, Louis’ not tired enough to ignore that. His skin is probably still pink and flushed, but he feels like his cheeks turn even hotter. Louis turns his head into the pillow further, leaving only one eye able to see Harry and his intense stare.

“We should take a trip,” Harry says. “To celebrate you acing all your exams.”

Louis yawns. “I don’t know if I passed yet,” he corrects, letting his eyes close again.

“You did. And we should go somewhere for a couple of days.”

“Like where?”

Harry’s silent as he thinks. Louis shivers when a gust of wind blows into the room and over his warm skin. “The beach,” he says as he pulls the comforter up from their feet and tucks it up to Louis’ ears. “I was doing some research the other day. The Cape looks nice.” 

Louis scrunches his nose and opens his one eye. “That’s north of here and it’s only May. It’ll be cold.”

“It’ll be fine,” Harry insists and Louis closes his eye again. He’s quickly losing the energy to even fight him on it. “Lets go to the beach, baby.”

Even with his face half-smushed into a pillow, Harry can tell he’s smiling. Louis can’t say no to that. He just hums noncommittally and lets himself drift closer and closer to sleep.

 

—————

 

They leave for the beach a couple of days later on the train heading up to Boston, sitting pressed tightly together. Harry sits next to the window while Louis cuddles up into his side, under his arm. He takes a couple of short videos and snapshots of trees and cities zooming by outside the train, showing them to Louis to help decide on a filter before putting it on his instagram story for his followers to see.

It’s all very lovely and Louis feels warm like he’s falling in love.

They have to switch trains once they get to Boston, but Louis just holds Harry’s hand and lets him pull them where they need to go. Louis’ mastered the subway system back in the city, but that’s only because he’s had nearly three years to do so. Traveling is unequivocally Harry’s area of expertise and he gets them to their new train effortlessly, pushing Louis to take the window seat this time.

Now when he takes a photo of the scenery outside the window, it includes the back of Louis’ head and his messy hair.

Louis orders the Uber to get them from the train to the Airbnb they rented for the weekend. It’s the least he can do after Harry insisted on booking the train tickets and house himself, claiming it was a present for Louis finishing another school year and passing all his exams.

It’s nearly five by them time they finally drop their bags on the bedroom floor and they’re both tired after a day of traveling. But the beach is practically in their backyard so it doesn’t take much energy to walk down to the shore and peel their socks off so they can stick their toes into the sand. 

They end up both being right. It is cold like Louis said it would be, but it’s fine just as Harry said. If Louis’ being honest, it’s better than fine. The salty air, the sand, and the boy next to him puts him in a mood that he wants to stay in forever.

That night, Harry fucks him in the shower— or at least, he tries to. Except, Louis took out the shower mat earlier as he swore it was weird to shower on someone else’s shower mat where all their filth washed off onto. So, even though Harry was very adamant that he’d be able to support Louis’ weight for the duration, his feet kept slipping against the floor. It proved to be too distracting when they’d break out into laughter every time they slid and finally fell.

From there, Louis demands to be carried from the shower to the bed where Harry then proceeds to finish where they left off.

When they fall asleep, they do it tangled together with the windows cracked open so they can listen to the waves crashing outside.

  

—————

  

It’s odd for Louis to wake up the next morning to silence. Usually there’s some obnoxious honking or car alarms or screaming outside on the streets. Today, however, there’s only the sound of the ceiling fan rattling quietly as it spins overhead. It’s nice.

He finds Harry sitting out on the small back porch, the one that leads right down onto the sand. He’s got an empty mug beside him and his camera in his hands. Louis watches him for a few moments from behind the sliding glass door, smiling at the way he watches the waves lap at the shore peacefully, long hair tied up on top of his head.

Louis takes a picture himself, though the overwhelming feeling of contentment and serenity bleeding through his chest doesn’t translate well enough into the shot. He still smiles, zooming in on the line of Harry’s broad shoulders over the back of the chair and the wisps of hair on the back of his neck that didn’t make it into his bun.

After he sends it to the group chat he has with Liam, Niall, and Zayn, Louis puts his phone away and goes to join Harry out on the porch. It’s chillier outside than he thought it’d be so he pulls his shoulders in and wishes he’d put on a shirt first. “Morning,” Louis greets.

Harry sits up straighter, putting his camera down on the table beside him so he can grab Louis’ hand and pull him around the chair and down sideways onto his lap. “Good morning,” he smiles, kissing Louis’ jaw chastely. “I was wondering when you’d be up.”

Louis wraps an arm around Harry’s shoulders and lets his head fall forward a bit to rest against Harry’s. “How long have you been up?”

“Not long. Maybe an hour or two,” he answers, rubbing a big hand down the line of Louis’ bare spine. They don’t speak after that for a while. They listen to the waves and the cries of the seagulls and exchange slow kisses. It’s so peaceful and beautiful that Louis can sort of understand why Harry lives the way he does, without a permanent place to call home.

When they finally get up from their chair, it’s to walk hand in hand to a cute little breakfast place they spotted in the car the other day. There’s a small vase of freshly cut flowers on each table and Harry pulls one from the bunch on their table to present to Louis with a toothy smile. Louis accepts it without his usual put-on show of annoyance or distaste, holding it close so he can smell it.

They eat with their ankles crossed together under the table, laughter exchanged between their bites. Louis sort of feels like when he left New York, he traveled to a whole other world rather than just another state. It’s like he’s existing solely in this bubble of happiness and tranquility, constantly overwhelmed by how much he adores Harry.

 

—————

 

“C’mon,” Harry says. “Lets go swimming. Don’t look at me like that, I’m serious!”

Louis turns his bewildered expression to the sliding doors to look out at the water. “It’s dark outside,” he points out.

Harry shrugs. “So?”

“It’s creepy not being able to see your feet under the water,” Louis reasons, crossing his arms over his chest. He’s very comfortable and warm where he’s lounging on the couch, watching Harry go through his photos from the day more than he’s watching the movie on the television. Getting pinched by crabs he can’t even see in black, ice water is not his idea of a good night.

“I’ve gone night swimming a bunch of times and I’ve never had anything happen,” Harry tells him. His camera is off now, put back on the table, and he’s standing up.

Ooh, I’m Harry and I’ve gone night swimming so many times before because I’m cultured and cool.”

“Hey!”

Louis still isn’t budging. “It’s dangerous. I could drown.”

“I won’t let you drown.”

Louis ignores him. “I need to digest my food before we go swimming.”

“We had dinner two hours ago.”

Louis frowns. It’s time to pull out the big guns. He meets Harry’s eyes. “I’m horny.”

That has Harry pausing, eyes narrowing. “You’re trying to distract me,” he says after a moment.

“Is it working?” 

Harry looks conflicted, but he ultimately shakes his head and grabs Louis’ hand to pull him up from the couch. “No,” he declares. “We’re going swimming. You can’t go to the beach and not go swimming.”

Somehow Louis finds himself in his swim trunks standing with Harry on the shore, screaming when the first wave washes over the tips of his toes. “No! No no no no no way,” he shouts, already turning around to run back to safety.

Harry’s quicker, though, and he grabs Louis around the waist, running a few feet into the water before he sets him down again. “You just have to get used to it!” he yells back, laughing freely.

“It’s r-really fuckin’ freezing,” Louis chokes out, shoulders up to his ears from how tightly he’s hunching in on himself. “This is not fun at all.” 

Harry wades through the water until its up to his chest before turning back to Louis and holding an arm out. Louis shakes his head, there’s no way he’s going in as deep as Harry is. There’s no way. 

“Baby,” Harry pouts, moon reflecting off of the water’s surface and onto his skin. Despite his eagerness, Louis can see the goosebumps covering his skin too. “Come here,” he coaxes.

Once again, Louis gives in. This is what his life has come to, he supposes. Following Harry wherever he wants just because he’s so in love with him and can’t deny him of anything. The thought does scare him, but it’s much more exhilarating than all else. He closes the gap between their bodies as fast as he can, looping his arms around Harry’s neck as soon as he’s close enough to do so.

“Yay,” Harry cheers quietly, arms finding their place around Louis’ waist.

Louis presses a kiss into Harry’s chest and thinks I’m very much in love with you.

“See, isn’t this fun?” Harry asks, laughing again when Louis shakes his head.

They only stay in for a couple more minutes, because it is really cold and they don’t want to lose any toes to hypothermia on their mini vacation. It’s just enough time for Harry to actually dunk himself a few times, bellowing loudly every time he stands back up and shaking his long hair out like a wet dog. 

Louis figures he’d appreciate seeing Harry so carefree a lot more if he wasn’t so fucking cold.

Harry mercifully carries Louis out of the water against his chest with one arm under his bum. Louis rests his head on top of Harry’s as they make their way up the beach and back to the house, both sighing in relief when they get inside.

 

—————

  

Unfortunately, their shared paradise has to come to an end the next day.

Louis has work on Monday— he’s going full time for the summer at the playhouse he works at and Harry has another one of his mysterious meetings about his blog. Their real life and all their responsibilities are impatiently awaiting their return. 

So, they spend their last day wound up together and soaking up every bit of fresh air they can before they get back on the train and return to their smog-filled city.

Life progresses from there, the passing weeks bringing warmer weather and small changes with it.

Harry and Louis sleep in the same bed more often than not, now, for example. They have great sex on the regular everywhere in their tiny little apartment. And Harry finally surrenders his sweater over to Louis for good.

Other than that, life is normal. Louis works, he hangs out with his friends, and he falls deeper and deeper in love with Harry. It’s all pretty standard stuff.

  

—————

 

Louis sits on the floor in front of the couch and watches as Harry concentrates on what he’s typing on his laptop. He’d spent the past hour uploading his new photos to his computer to edit and now is typing up a storm, glancing up to look at Louis every couple of minutes when he lets out a dramatic huff.

On the fourth long sigh of Louis’, Harry stops typing and gives him his sole attention. Finally. “Yes?” he prompts.

Now that he has his attention, though, Louis ignores him and turns around. Really, he should have been paying him attention the whole time. He needs to learn a lesson.

Harry laughs and moves his laptop from his lap so he can crawl onto the floor and sit behind Louis, bracketing him with his long legs. “Don’t be difficult,” Harry tells him, looping one arm around his waist.

He rests his other hand against Louis’ jaw, pulling his face to the side so he can nuzzle into the warm skin of his cheek. Louis rests his hands on Harry’s knees and leans into the body behind him. This is much more like it. “Hi, baby,” Harry murmurs into his skin.

Louis twists around and sits on his knees so he can face Harry instead. “Hello.” They meet in a kiss. It’s short lived, unfortunately. Harry pulls back after a minute, still holding Louis’ waist.

“I have to finish my post,” he announces. “And you’re making that very difficult.”

Louis leans back at that, putting a hand over Harry’s lips when he tries to lean in for another kiss. “Um, excuse you. Difficult?” he repeats, eyebrows raising and then pulling in towards each other. “Shouldn’t I be your fucking muse or something?” 

Harry lets go of Louis’ waist to grab his wrist and pull it away from his mouth. “You are my muse,” he agrees, switching gears quickly. Though, Louis is already much too offended to be charmed by him.

“I’m going to Liam’s.”

“No, don’t go,” Harry frowns, almost whining, trying to pull Louis back down as he gets up and shuffles his socked feet to his bedroom. He laughs when Louis responds to his pleas by flipping him off and begrudgingly goes back to his laptop. “When will you be back?” he resigns himself to ask instead.

“Never,” is Louis’ first answer, followed by, “In a couple hours probably.”

“Have fun,” Harry calls, getting the closing of the front door as his only response.

 

—————

 

Louis brings a pizza with him to Liam’s because one, he’s hungry and two, Liam’s is much less likely to refuse him at the door if he has food.

Liam still lives in university housing as an RA year-round and although it’s been years, Louis still remembers how terrible the dining hall food was. So, bringing Liam good food is always a surefire way to get on his good side.

The cinderblock walls and tiled floors always bring back both a slew of equally amazing and terrible memories, leaving Louis in a weird state between jealousy that Liam still lives on campus and gratefulness that he doesn’t. It only takes a few seconds of shuffling in the tiny room for Louis to decide it’s mostly the latter, though.

Liam ends up sitting on his bed while Louis sits in his desk chair facing him, socked feet propped on the covers next to Liam’s legs.

“How’s Harry?” Liam asks eventually after they’re both done devouring their pizza.

Louis wipes his mouth and drops the crumpled napkin onto his empty paper plate. “He’s great. His blog’s doing great too and he says he loves the city, so. He’s really good.”

Liam’s smile is warm in a way that showcases how genuinely happy he is for him. “And how are you two? The photo you posted on instagram of you two in the park was really cute. You looked all cozied up.”

Louis smiles, remembering that day briefly. It’d been unseasonably warm and they’d rushed to Central Park to lay out on a blanket in the grass and soak the sunshine in. “Yeah, we’re really good,” he says, eyes dropping down from Liam to where his fingers are now fidgeting together.

“Aw, look at you blush!” Liam points, eyes crinkling with mirth. “It’s getting serious then?”
“It’s still casual,” Louis lies. Or at least, he lies on behalf of himself and his own feelings. It is casual for Harry— a thought he doesn’t like to dwell on.

Liam doesn’t look like he entirely believes him, but he doesn’t challenge Louis on the topic. “When is he leaving anyway?”

Louis looks back up at that, mouth opening around words that he hasn’t found yet. “Uh,” he starts, but lets his voice die again quickly. Louis is so painfully aware at the seconds full of silence ticking by, moving past the point of an acceptable pause and settling into the realm of uncomfortableness.

It’s been in the back of his mind the whole time, the fact that Harry’s stay isn’t permanent. But he hasn’t let himself actually think about it. It’s always been a future prospect— something months out that he’d rather forget about until the last possible second.

Except it’s been over a month and a half since Harry moved in.

He’s due to leave soon.

“Uh,” Louis tries to start again, his voice considerably weaker. He remembers what Zayn had said, all those weeks ago before Harry had moved in: that Harry might not even be staying for the three whole months he had the apartment for, that Harry was known to pick up everything at a moments notice and be on a plane to another country the same day. 

Liam looks terribly uneasy, but Louis can’t even spare a thought for him right now because all of his breath feels like it’s suddenly evacuated his lungs. “I don’t know,” he manages, not caring how strained his voice sounds.

“Soon, I guess,” he continues a moment later and then pastes on the biggest smile he can muster, meeting Liam’s kind eyes again. “I have to go.”

“Louis,” Liam begins carefully. His words are so tender that Louis’ shoulders tense painfully. His pity is just making everything worse. He has to leave right now.

“It’s been fun, Liam,” Louis’ fake smile maintains. “I really do have to go. I’ll text you later?”

“Wait. Do you want to-?”

Louis exits the dorm room before Liam even has a proper chance to finish his question. It’s probably rude to be rushing out like this, but Louis doesn’t think he can be blamed right now. 

He’s in love with Harry and Harry’s leaving.

 

 

 

June

 

 

 

The camera mocks him from where it sits on the coffee table. Once a familiar presence, it now stands for everything Louis can’t stop his mind from obsessing over.

The worst part is— well no, the worst part is that Harry is leaving at all. The second worst part is that Louis has nobody to blame for his turmoil but himself. He’s the one who fell in love with Harry even though he knew well enough their relationship would be fleeting at best.

Louis feels so incredibly stupid about it all. He had all the facts since day one. None of this is a surprise to him. And yet, here he is, wallowing in his own heartbreak.

He’s sure he’s been noticeably withdrawn for the past couple of days. Harry’s taken to bringing him a fresh cup of tea every other hour and lingering around him, looking like he’s waiting for Louis to say something. His kisses are a lot gentler too, like he’s afraid Louis is going to break under the pressure or something.

In some ways, he’s not wrong about that. 

All of Harry’s long, curious looks and attempts to get Louis to open up just makes him feel worse. Objectively, he realizes he should be savoring every little bit of time he gets to spend with Harry. But the sight of him just makes Louis want to cry.

  

—————

  

Louis’ munching on some cereal late at night, finding some comfort in his coco pops. It’s getting late and he’s probably going to retire to his own bedroom once he’s done. Harry’s on the phone with his mom right now or else he’d curl up in there with him.

He takes another bite and grabs the remote off the couch, shutting off the episode of The Great British Bakeoff playing. In the newly found silence, it’s a lot easier to hear Harry’s voice through the thin door of his room.

“No, I don’t think so,” he says, voice deep and muffled. “I still haven’t been to Nepal yet.”

That’s all he hears before he’s dropping his bowl into the sink and grabbing his phone and keys. It’s the first sign he’s heard of Harry thinking about what’s next on his travel agenda. Which means the possibility of him leaving at any moment is suddenly that much more real.

Twenty minutes later, Louis knocks on Zayn’s door and takes a step back as he prays that he’ll answer.

It takes another thirty seconds, but eventually the door does swing open and Zayn’s there, staring confusedly at Louis. “Hey, bro,” he greets, opening the door wider so Louis can come inside if he wants.

Louis doesn’t make the move to do so yet.

“What are you doing here?” It’s after eleven and Louis hadn’t texted to say he was on his way so he has every right to be perplexed. But Zayn promised that just because he was moving out didn’t mean Louis wouldn’t be able to see him whenever he wanted to. Or needed to.

Which is why he’s there, so abruptly in the middle of the night. 

“Uh,” Louis starts, but it only takes that one small sound for his throat to nearly close up. He’s freaking out, see, and he held it together as best he could on the subway over, but now that he’s at Zayn’s, he’s crumbling. “Are you free right now?” he asks, pushing through even though his voice cracks.

Zayn nods his head towards the inside of the apartment and Louis follows his wordless orders. He walks past Zayn into the living room, waving weakly to Gigi who waves first, but then points apologetically to the cell phone she’s holding against her ear. She makes her way into hers and Zayn’s bedroom to finish the call.

“She’s talking to her sister,” Zayn explains as he ushers Louis to sit on the couch. “What’s going on?”

Zayn’s seen him like this countless times before. Louis’ a pretty liberal crier once you get to know him and Zayn lived with him for years. So he lived through drunk cries, stressed out and frustrated cries, homesick cries, and cries over boys that broke his heart. Even so, it still takes some probing for Louis to open up. “Nothing really,” Louis tries, rubbing the heels of his palms into his eyes.

“That’s some bullshit,” Zayn says. “Something’s up. You wouldn’t have come over if nothing was the matter.”

“Maybe I just wanted a cuddle,” Louis points out, crossing his arms defensively across his chest.

“That’s not why you’re here,” Zayn tells him and then, probably because he can sense Louis’ not going to budge, “Is this about Harry?”

Louis presses his lips together in a thin line at that. He could deny it, but they’d both know he’d be lying. After another moment of silence, Louis nods. “It’s been almost two months since he moved in,” he tells Zayn.

Zayn just nods, encouraging him to continue on.

“I’m in love with him,” is what he says next. Saying it aloud feels like he’s done something monumental, admitting it in a space somewhere other than the inside of his mind. Zayn doesn’t look surprised, though. He looks like he’s waiting for Louis to keep going and get to what the issue is.

Obviously he doesn’t understand. “Zayn, I love him,” he repeats himself.

“Okay, bro. I saw that one coming. What’s wrong with that?”

Louis lets out a long breath. “He’s leaving. It’s already been two months. I love him so much and he’s going to leave the country.”

Finally, Louis gets the reaction he was looking for. Zayn looks upset. Seeing Zayn feeling bad for him just makes Louis feel worse, though, and he worries he might start crying. 

“Did he say that?” Zayn asks. “Have you talked to him about it?”

Louis scoffs. “What am I supposed to say to him? Hey, I knew full well that you weren’t staying permanently since the beginning but I still went ahead and fell in love with you and now I want you to quit seeing the world and stay with me in New York?” 

“Yeah, that would do it,” Zayn nods. 

Louis throws the closest throw pillow straight at Zayn’s face. “Can you be serious?” he snaps.

Zayn throws the pillow right back at Louis. “Louis, I am. You need to talk to him.”

“We’re not,” Louis starts, but doesn’t know how to articulate the rest of his argument. “We’re not.. anything. We’re just hooking up,” he finishes, the words burning his throat on the way out.

“Louis,” Zayn tries.

“He’s so charming, Zayn, you know him. He loves meeting new people. He’s probably met a million boys just like me in every country he’s stopped in. They’ve probably all fallen in love with him too because how could you not?” Louis rushes and ignores the tears finally dripping down his cheeks. “Harry’s in love with life and he’s in love with the world. It doesn’t matter that I’m in love with him, how could I possibly compete with that?”

Zayn doesn’t try to fight him anymore. He just scoots close enough to pull Louis into his chest and hold him as he cries.

 

—————

 

Louis leaves Zayn’s apartment the next day, feeling cried out and embarrassed. His phone’s been dead for a while now, but he can’t find it in him to actually care about that. He rides the subway back home in silence without his phone’s music to keep him company and tries to be quiet when he unlocks and opens the front door. 

It’s to no avail. Harry’s in the living room and immediately gets up when Louis steps inside. “Louis, hey,” he smiles. “You haven’t been answering my calls.” It’s not accusatory at all, the way he says it. Still, Louis feels the need to defend himself.

“My phone died and I fell asleep at Zayn’s,” he explains, hovering in the hallway.

Harry nods and walks the rest of the way to Louis when he realizes he’s not going to move any farther into the apartment. “I know. Zayn texted me last night,” he says, his smile slowly fading when he realizes the mood Louis’ in.

Louis nods, dropping his gaze to the floor and his sneakers.

“Are you okay?” Harry asks quietly.

Louis nods again, not trusting himself to say any actual words.

“Baby,” Harry hums, big hands sliding down Louis’ shoulders, down his arms, and then up under his armpits in one, smooth motion. He lifts him easily, leaning him back against the wall as Louis instinctually wraps his thighs around Harry’s hips. “Baby, tell me what’s wrong,” he says, voice quiet.

Louis keeps his eyes trained on the wall behind Harry’s shoulder. “Nothing,” he replies, just as soft. “There’s nothing wrong.”

Harry’s fingers thread through Louis’ hair, pulling his head back gently until he’s forced to make eye contact. They both know Louis’ lying. Something is obviously the matter. Harry’s eyes search Louis’ face and for a moment, there’s a hint of desperation seeping over his features. He looks at a loss for what to do for the first time since Louis’ met him.

Louis traces two fingers softly over Harry’s frown and then leans in to kiss him. God, he loves him so much. Suddenly, there’s nothing more he wants than to be as close as possible to him and he turns the kiss to something deeper as quickly as he can.

“Harry harry harry,” Louis breathes in between messy kisses.

“Yeah, I’m right here,” Harry answers his call, pulling away to search Louis’ face again.

Louis must look wild— tired and sad and desperate with full eyes and swollen lips. He cranes his neck forward, trying to connect their mouths again, but Harry turns his face. “You can fuck me,” he tells him. “Fuck me.” 

Harry doesn’t answer and he doesn’t let Louis kiss him again either. He just looks even more concerned, which is, quite frankly, irritating.

“Harry,” Louis tries again, but Harry doesn’t give in.

“You’re upset,” he says, sounding upset himself. “And I don’t know why. So we’re not going to have sex.”

Louis’ face hardens and he squirms until Harry gets the hint and sets him back on his feet. “You’re punishing me because I won’t tell you why I’m upset?” he scoffs. 

Harry’s shocked and he wastes no time in following Louis as he storms to his room. “What? No,” he states firmly. “You’re sad, Louis. You’ve been sad for a while now. Did you think I didn’t notice? Something’s wrong and of course I want to know what it is, but I’m not punishing you. I just don’t want to fuck you when I’m not even sure you actually want it.”

Louis whirls around, pointing a finger into Harry’s chest. “You have no fucking idea what I want.” What he wants is for Harry to stay.

Harry makes a grab for Louis’ finger, but Louis snatches it from his grasp and grabs his bedroom door to slam it in Harry’s face. Harry stops it with his hand and pushes inside Louis’ room behind him. Louis sits heavily on his unmade bed and hides his face in his hands, ignoring Harry’s presence for a minute or two.

When he looks up again, he feels loads more tired. All the fights drained out of him and Harry’s knitted brows pull on his heartstrings instead of rile him up. “I’m sorry,” he apologizes. “I’m just… stressed about work.”

There’s no way Harry buys it, judging by the way his mouth twitches with words he wants to say. Nonetheless, he moves closer, though his steps are hesitant. “Will you lay with me?” Louis pleads. “No sex. I just want to lay with you.”

Harry releases a wet-sounding puff of breath at that, rushing to lay out on the bed with Louis and get him in his arms as quick as he can. “Yes, baby, of course,” he promises. “You don’t ever have to ask.”

At that, Louis pulls his shirt over his head and kicks off his shoes and jeans, burrowing under his covers even though his room is kind of hot. Harry follows suit and immediately pulls Louis into his chest. His arms are tighter than normal when they hold him, but it feels nice. It’s just what Louis needs.

To Louis’ complete embarrassment, Harry’s whispered sweet-nothings intended to comfort him only make him cry and he turns his nose into his collarbone to hide all evidence. Eventually, Harry feels the dampening of his skin, though, and he tries to pull Louis out of his hiding place so he can see his face. 

“Louis,” Harry says, voice quicker than his normal lackadaisical pace. “You’re breaking my heart, darling. Please tell me what’s wrong.”

“I’m really tired,” Louis sniffs, pushing his face harder against Harry’s skin. “I’m going to take a nap, okay?”

He doesn’t really give Harry any other choice than to agree. Harry’s reluctant in his, “Okay,” and holds him with one hand spread wide over the small of his back and the other on the back of his head.

 

—————

 

Louis closes the front door behind him and walks a couple of feet so he can drop his keys onto the coffee table. He actually had a good day at work so he’s in a pretty good mood if you don’t count his constant state of dejection and despair, really.

Harry sounds elated, though, Louis registers belatedly. He’s only a few feet away in the kitchen, speaking excitedly into the phone, one hand held over his forehead. “I know, I know. I can’t believe it, Gem.” He’s talking fast, voice higher than normal. “Thank you.”

Louis’ curious and not above blatantly eavesdropping so he stays where he is, watching Harry chatter on to his sister over the phone. However, the call doesn’t last much longer because when Harry whirls around and spots Louis, he all but pushes Gemma off the phone. “I have to go. Louis just got home…. I know, thank you again. I’ll call you later, okay? Love you, bye.”

He says it all while keeping his eyes on Louis as if he’s afraid Louis’ going to try and get away. Which, honestly, with how he’s been acting for the past week? That’s fair.

“What happened?” Louis asks as Harry puts his phone down on the counter.

His excitement is palpable in the air between them. “You know how I’ve been going to those meetings?”

Louis nods.

“And you know how I said there was something really cool I was working on, but didn’t want to tell you because nothing was set in stone yet and I didn’t want to jinx it?”

Once more, Louis nods.

Harry stops then, letting the anticipation build. And he says Louis is dramatic. Please.

“Spit it out!” Louis demands, throwing his hands up. Just because he’s been in a bad mood lately, doesn’t mean he’s not wholly happy for whatever it is that has Harry radiating such enthusiasm. He loves him dearly and he’s going to support anything it is, even if it’s something that’ll put thousands of miles between them. 

“I’ve been meeting with a publisher,” Harry finally says. “I’m going to write a book!”

Louis’ eyes widen and his jaw drops open in a gaping smile. “Oh my god! That’s amazing, Harry!” He holds out his arms and crushes Harry in the tightest hug he can muster. 

“That’s so amazing,” he repeats again, smacking a big kiss onto his cheek. “I’m so proud of you, love. I didn’t even know that was something you wanted to do, but I’m so happy for you.”

Harry buries his face in Louis’ hair for a short moment before saying, “I didn’t either, honestly— know that it was something I wanted to do. Not until I got here.” 

Louis pulls away from the hug so he’s arms length. “Did New York City inspire some creativity in you? God, I can see you using a type writer un-ironically and everything.”

“Is there an ironic way to use a type writer?” Harry laughs.

“Not for you there isn’t, dearie,” Louis tells him sweetly and pats his cheek.

Harry grabs that hand and holds it in two of his, dwarfing Louis’ hand easily. “No, but really though. It’s all thanks to you.” The way he’s speaking, so earnestly and soundly— it has Louis forgetting himself and what’s been wracking his mind these past few days.

A tiny glimmer of hope sparks within him.

“Harry Styles,” Louis says coyly, tilting his head and looking up at Harry through his eyelashes. “Are you saying I’m your muse?”

He says it half as a joke, but Harry nods seriously. “More than any beautiful place I’ve ever been.”

Louis says nothing then. He just thinks about how much he wants to tell Harry he loves him. The urge is so overwhelming that if he so much as opens his mouth, Louis’ positive the words will spill out.

And then Harry says, “I’m staying in New York to write the book.”

It turns out Louis was right, because when he opens his mouth to respond to that, all that comes out is, “I love you.”

Harry drops his hand and grabs either side of his face, pulling him into a kiss all so quickly that Louis is left standing there motionless for a few seconds, hands hanging limply by his sides. “I love you too,” Harry tells him between kisses and that’s all the motivation Louis’ brain needs to catch up.

He scrambles up onto the tips of his toes, fisting his hands in the back of Harry’s shirt (one of his thrift shop finds) and kissing him desperately. “You’re staying in New York,” Louis repeats, mostly to himself, in sheer, awe-struck disbelief.

“Yes,” Harry confirms against his lips.

Louis starts pulling at his shirt in another way now— in a way that means he wants it off of him. But when Harry drops his hands from Louis’ face to grab the hem of his shirt and pull it over his head, Louis doesn’t allow it. He pulls the shirt halfway up Harry’s back, but refuses to separate their mouths enough for Harry to pull it any farther. 

“You love me,” Louis repeats. 

“I love you,” Harry confirms and manages to pull away enough to rid himself of the shirt. 

“Cool,” Louis nods, chest heaving as he tries to catch his breath.

Harry’s shirt hits the floor and he makes a face at Louis. “Cool?”

“Yeah, it’s cool,” Louis says. “We should probably— bed. Now?”

He doesn’t have to say anything other than that because Harry’s already grabbing him around the waist and carrying him into his room.

Louis tries to rush him through the prep, but much to both his annoyance and pleasure, Harry’s insistently careful about it and takes his sweet time scissoring his fingers and adding more lube when he needs it. It doesn’t matter how many times Louis rolls his hips down and begs Harry to get on with it. Harry just kisses Louis quiet until he’s mewling prettily into his mouth.

“I love you so much,” Harry reminds him as if it’d be possible to forget in the five minutes since he said it last. Louis isn’t complaining, though. It’s all that he’s been dreaming about hearing for the last month and none of those dreams even come close to the reality of it. 

“I love you too,” Louis answers, breathing unsteadily as Harry hits a certain spot inside of him. “Please.”

Harry finally seems to think he’s sufficiently prepped and sits up on his knees to roll the condom over his dick and wipe the excess lube off of his hand over the rubber. Louis bends his knee, foot flat on the bed, exposing himself to Harry’s heated gaze and feeling a thrill shoot through his spine at the way Harry’s eyes get all hazy with desire.

Harry positions his thighs so they’re spread even more and holds his body over Louis with one hand beside his head. The other holds his dick as he starts to push it into Louis’ body. Louis clings to Harry through the pressure, fingers digging into the muscles of his back probably uncomfortably though Harry doesn’t comment. “You’re so good,” is all he says. “So amazing.” 

“Feels good,” Louis says, voice starting to slur once Harry starts slowly rocking in and out of him.

Harry’s breathing harshly, trying to keep his pace leisurely until Louis urges him on, encouraging him to go faster, harder. “Harry, please,” he moans, fingers sliding from their place on his back when a sheen of sweat starts to build up.

Harry is more than happy to give him what he wants, picking up his rhythm until he’s jolting Louis up the bed with every thrust. It punches out little wrecked sounds from Louis which only serve to drive Harry crazier, burying his head in the pillow next to Louis’ head as he fucks him silly.

“You’re so fucking hot,” Harry rumbles into Louis’ ear. “Feel so good. I love you so much.”

Louis comes with Harry’s hand on his ass, cheek squeezed and kneaded by his long fingers as he rattles on about how much he loves his bum. He feels so warm and happy that Louis just lays there and lets Harry hold him and fuck him however he wants until he comes too. 

Harry doesn’t pull out immediately after. Instead, he holds himself over a spacey Louis and lavishes him in kisses and praise. “I love you,” he repeats for probably the tenth time that hour.

Though Louis’ smile is small, it feels like it’s going to last forever. “I thought you were leaving,” he whispers, voice shaking as Harry shifts and his dick moves inside of Louis. “I was so upset.”

Harry frowns at that and he presses a soft kiss over Louis’ left eyebrow. “I’m right here, baby. I’m not going anywhere.”

“I love you,” Louis tells him, too sleepy now to dwell on his mood over the last week. It seems so silly and inconsequential now that Harry’s quite literally inside of him and has confessed his love.

The only thing that does nudge at his current state of euphoria is the inevitability of Niall’s ‘I told you so’ once he finds out, but that’s to be dealt with at a later date.

 

—————

 

Harry shows him his new tattoo, acting shyer than Louis has ever seen him.

He’s so quiet and blushing so much that Louis half expects Harry to pull away the gauze and reveal the worst tattoo anybody has ever gotten in the history of the universe. But it ends up just being a book. A simple, nondescript book on his forearm. “It’s really cool,” Louis tells him, rubbing his thumb along the skin around it, careful not to actually touch where he’s red and healing.

“Thanks,” Harry says quietly and continues with his bashful act.

“What’s going on?” Louis asks.

“I got another tattoo.”

“Another one for New York?” Louis clarifies. “Ooh, wow. Special treatment, eh? You usually only get one, don’t you?” 

Harry shakes his head, pulling his sleeve up so that another bandage is revealed. “The book isn’t for New York. I got the book just because I wanted it. ‘Cause, y’know, the book.”

“Obviously,” Louis agrees monotonously. “Didn’t need an explanation for that, love.”

Harry laughs and Louis’ glad to see his shoulders finally drop a little, the tension easing out of him slowly. “This one is for New York,” he points to the other bandage.

“I got it,” Louis nods rapidly. “C’mon, I want to see it.”

He’s not sure if it’s just because he’s so eager to see it or because Harry is actually moving at the pace of a snail, but it takes forever. Louis’ about to rip the damn thing off himself when it finally comes all the way off. 

In it’s place is a fat, solid, black heart. 

“You really love the city that much,” Louis says, leaning in a couple inches closer to stare at it.

“I love you that much,” Harry corrects, his stare heavy and intense where it bores into Louis. 

“What?” he asks, sitting back up so he can better meet Harry’s gaze.

“I got it for New York City,” Harry says slowly, careful to enunciate every word. “Because New York City is where I found my heart.”

And, well. What do you say to that?

Louis’ heart feels like it’s going to burst in his chest, expanding in his ribcage and bleeding throughout his entire body with such love. “Harry,” he says quietly. There’s not much else he can think to say, not when he’s forgotten how to breathe. “Oh my god.” 

“Before you think I’m crazy for getting this,” Harry rushes now, though no, Louis wasn’t thinking that at all. “I know this is all still pretty new and who knows what’s going to happen in the future, right? But even if this all ends terribly-”

Louis frowns at that and leans back. “This is really romantic,” he interjects. “Keep going.” 

Harry grabs his hand and pulls him back closer, shaking his head exasperatedly. “Even if this ends terribly,” he repeats pointedly. “It doesn’t matter. Because this is how I want to remember New York. Where I really fell in love for the first time. Where I found someone who made me want to stay more than I wanted to see the world.”

Louis lets out a tiny little, choked breath. “You really saved that one. Thought it was going south for a second,” he says.

“You’re such a brat,” Harry scoffs, somehow making it sound so fond. “I’m trying to do this big romantic gesture and you’re—” 

Louis interrupts him again, this time with a kiss.  

 

—————

  

Harry’s book is published a year later.

The dedication is as follows:

To Louis.

Finding a home in you has been the greatest adventure of my life.

I love you.

“Through all the things my eyes have seen, the best by far is you.”