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Sounds of you sounds like love

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There’s one spot in particular in Hackney Marshes that Louis always seems to find himself in; a little nook by the river, surrounded by bushes growing on the muddy bank - a spot that pulls him in as if it were magnetic. He finds himself sitting on the ground there quite often after having a walk around the area. His private nook is on the northern part of the marsh, so it’s a bit of a trek, but Louis reckons it’s worth it. It’s rare to find waterside in London that’s not full of houseboats nowadays, that actually has riverbanks at natural state and not with fences and paved walkways. The peacefulness and tranquillity Louis feels when staring at the river - knowing he’s in the middle of a metropole of millions of people and million different lives happening around him, yet he’s here alone, just him and his thoughts, it calms Louis.

There’s something about the way the nature surrounding him smells – not always pleasant, but rooting in the way it smells real. Being here, it almost feels as if he’s travelled back in time, back to being a young kid and then an older kid, still living on the outskirts of Warrington (not on the posh areas) and having had a similar waterside haven there, a place he escaped to for years to have some quiet from his loud home, loud friends, loud self. He needs the silence - it makes his own thoughts louder, as if he can listen to them more clearly. He can feel his breaths getting deeper, and the air he inhales travels through his veins and lungs – making him feel revived.

There’s something purifying about being there, in Louis’ very own private place. Every time he comes here, there’s a momentary fear of finding someone else here, someone else having invaded something very much his, tainting his sanctuary with their thoughts and voices and smells. And every time when the spot comes into vision empty of any other people, Louis feels relieved, knowing he’s still able to have time alone.

Louis breathes in the early evening air as he finds himself sitting in his spot once more, happy to have finished work early. He likes his work, even as hectic and busy and underappreciated being a runner is. Or well, maybe a few months internship isn’t actually proper work, but at least they pay him. It’s for a pretty big name production company though, which will hopefully result in Louis being able to network (he shivers even thinking about the word) and create contacts, benefitting him in the future. He’s not really up for the glitz and glamour, he just wants to tell stories and make amazing movies – creating stories that look good and sound good, and most of all, hopefully make someone feel good.

Louis watches a couple of ducks swim aimlessly in the river. He thinks about the bodies that surely have been both found and forever lost in the deep, murky waters. It could be a great premise for a dark thriller – maybe even set around the time Jack the Ripper was raving around. Or perhaps, it could provide an excellent backdrop to an angsty indie drama, something that would allow Louis to actually have a message in the movie. He’s not sure he really has a message worth telling, though, at least not one that he’s aware of.  

His phone beeps. It’s a text from his mum, wishing him a happy almost-weekend, asking if he has plans. Apparently his mum is having a ladies’ night right now with his two little sisters – which, based on Lottie’s Instagram video Louis checked a few hours earlier, involves a lot of boozy baking. He loves his women, as he jokingly refers to his mum and two little sisters (not that 18 and 17 are that little any more) and wishes he’d see them more, get to know them as people now, instead of the younger siblings he had to look after when their mum was working long hours to support the four of them. He still feels responsible for trying to protect them all from afar, but they’ve got their own issues. Louis sometimes feels a bit ashamed, guilty, at the idea that despite how much he truly loves his family, it sometimes seems like the physical distance might’ve added some emotional distance. He makes a mental note to travel north before uni starts again, hoping it’ll still be home to him, even though he sometimes feels like an outsider that’d be invading the three ladies’ house.

He watches the ducks some more, and briefly thinks that maybe the angsty indie drama could start from sisters trying to make it in the world, and failing.

---

They have one sauce pan, one single sauce pan in their most-of-the-time rank kitchen. And now the only sauce pan they’ve got, has something resembling beans on tomato sauce stuck to it, probably burnt on it at least three days ago.

Louis lets out a deep sigh and counts to ten.

“Niall,” he starts, too pissed to even use one of the various nicknames he has for his flatmate.

Niall makes a questioning grunt from where he’s sitting, currently shovelling cereal to his mouth, watching football on his laptop, with the volume unnecessarily loud.

“This might come as a shock, but it’s commonly considered a bit decent to wash up after you’ve cooked, or especially burned, something in a kitchen. Especially a shared kitchen.” Louis shows Niall the nasty looking sauce pan.

“Oh, sorry mate,” Niall starts with his mouth full, “totally forgot.” He gives Louis an apologetic smile and goes back to staring at the screen.

“Well could you do something about this? I need this.”

“What, now?”

“Yeah, it’s tea time.”

“Can’t you just pop some chips to the oven?”

“No, I wanted to make pasta.”

“Make pasta tomorrow? I’ll wash it tomorrow, promise.”

“Niall!” Louis snaps, exasperated. “Can you wash it now?” Without even realising it, Louis already opens the tap and squirts some Fairy on the sauce pan – he’s lived with Niall long enough to know that despite his best efforts (when he actually makes one), the result is better and happens quicker if he just does it himself.

“But I’m watching footie!”

“But this is literally so fucking annoying! We have agreed we’ll all tidy up after ourselves,” Louis points at the cleaning rota on the fridge door, held up by boob-shaped magnets.

Niall pauses the footie stream, gets up from the squeaky chair (they should really buy a new one or add more glue to keep the chair together) and walks to Louis, making puppy eyes. “Louis, mate. I’m sorry. I suck. Here, I’ll put it to soak and order us pizza. My treat.”

Louis considers the offer, looking at his best friend yet at times infuriating flatmate, and sighs, giving in. “I’ll want some dip with it, you know.”

“I know,” Niall winks as he taps his phone and raises it to his ear, “garlic. And I’ll get Liam his usual too, don’t want him bitching and moaning about feeling left out.”

“And for being hungry. Angry hungry.”

“God, especially that,” Niall rolls his eyes and then starts talking to the phone as the pizza place picks up.  

Liam, their third flatmate, makes it home just before the pizza arrives. He’s eyeing Niall and Louis suspiciously.

“Aw, geez guys, thanks for asking, yes I def wanted a pizza as well.”

“Shush, Payno, we learned from your bitch fit the last time.”

“Salami and olives, right?”

“Yes,” Liam practically drools at the words.

Louis raises one pizza box’s cover. “This must be yours then.”

Liam’s upset visibly melts away. “Aww, man, you didn’t have to.”

Louis and Niall share a knowing look.

“Someone must be well off again,” Liam looks at Niall. “Can’t believe you get paid so much for just playing online poker.”

“Luck of the Irish, innit?” Niall winks and taps his nose.

They slob on the couch, pizza boxes thrown around. Everyone’s feeling too tired to carry on with watching Black Mirror – sci-fi existentialism too much to brain with – so they put on Bojack Horseman for some mindless entertainment.

“Do you ever feel like… you’re Bojack?” Louis wonders out loud.

“What, a horse?”

“I do feel quite the stallion occasionally.”

Louis laughs. “I’m sure you do, Liam. No, I meant like… A bit… Like you’re lost. Not really liking yourself.”

Niall furrows his brows. “No?”

“You okay, Tommo?”

Niall whines. “I thought we agreed to stop referring to our last names as something that ends with an o!”

“Nope, it was just you, Horo. Not my fault it’s apparently what they call loose women in Iceland.”

“Finland.” 

“Right, that land. Anyway, Louis, you alright?”

Louis shrugs. “Yeah, just… Last year of uni coming up and I don’t…”

“Is this about your script?”

“Which one of them,” Louis lets out a dry chuckle that doesn’t sound quite amused.

“Another one that you’ve abandoned then, I guess.”

“No, or not exclusively. I just… You guys have it all sorted. What happens this time next year? I’ve got no idea. Aside from hopefully owning two sauce pans.”

“No one has it together, mate. We just pretend we do.”

“No, but… Like, you’ve got your DJing. You’ll probably be well connected in a year’s time and working in some event company or production or something. And Nialler, he’ll just be playing online poker still half naked by the kitchen table and rolling joints out of tenners.”

“Twenty quid notes,” Niall says quietly and chuckles.

“Right? And I’ll just be… I dunno. Existing.”

Liam puts his arm around Louis’ shoulders and gives him a brotherly pat. “You’ll figure it out. Everyone does.”

“Or maybe no one does,” Niall suggests. “You just get better at pretending.”

“Geez, thanks lads, very uplifting.” Louis rolls his eyes and nibbles on another slice of his pizza. “I’m just… unsure of like, everything.”

It’s not a surprise, really, that neither of his best friends really have any words to comfort him with, when Louis doesn’t really have words to explain how he’s been feeling, what he’s been growing increasingly restless about lately. They carry on eating their pizza. Louis ponders if he should write a lowbrow comedy about three lads sharing a flat in East London.

Louis wakes up the next morning, happy to see the bathroom free so he actually doesn’t have to run to work for once today. He takes a quick shower, spending a few slow moments to direct the running water stream to his forehead, just between his eyes to destress. Downstairs, he puts the kettle on, gets a mug of tea ready and can’t help but feel some sort of brotherly affection when he sees the sauce pan squeaky clean on the drying rack. His phone beeps; it’s an email notification from his university course leader. The subject field mentions ‘project’. Louis pockets his phone without reading the email.

---

Louis was 11 when it first happened.

His mother had been brushing his little sister’s long, golden blonde hair and Louis had been mesmerised by the slow, long strokes of the brush in his mother’s hand, whilst the other hand had been holding the hair up. Louis remembers how of all his surroundings had somehow dimmed, how the strokes of the brush and the shiny wisps running through the spikes of the brush had been the only thing he could see; how the strokes of the brush had been the only thing he could hear, could concentrate on. Nothing existed but the accentuated visuals and sounds of the hair brushing. His skin was suddenly full of goose bumps; something tingling in the back of his head, spreading from there down his neck and his spine. It made his upper arms feel chilly, but he wasn’t cold – he was just… stunned. Almost as if he were floating around, enjoying the pleasantly prickly sensations spreading all over his body. Louis remembers desperately hoping the feeling would never end. But it did. Lottie’s hair was still tangled in places, when the brushing stopped making Louis tingle; he had almost dozed off right there, though, from the feeling of heavy bones and a serene mind.

The feeling, luckily, made occasional comebacks. Louis remembers a history teacher from secondary school who used to draw historical turning points on the blackboard (that teacher was amazing). He remembers nights spent in, watching Nigella’s cooking show with his mum and sisters, feeling prickling in his neck when Nigella would be chopping an onion, maybe some red peppers. Louis remembers waiting, annoyed and huffing, for Lottie to get ready already and him leaning against her door as he watched her put make-up on - suddenly not caring if they were late from school as Lottie was putting powder on. The brushing sounds and the movement of her hand just made Louis… not care about anything but relish in feeling the familiar electricity spread on his upper arms.

Louis has never mentioned it to anyone. He’s pretty sure no one else feels it, that maybe it’s a fault in him somehow – and he doesn’t want to admit to being faulty, he’s had enough of feeling like that in his 21 years of life. Most of all, he’s afraid that maybe it’s a sign of a condition or a sickness – scared that if they’d have a cure for it someone would take feeling the tingles away from him. He wishes, more than anything really, that he could experience it more, to know what causes it so he could never stop feeling it.

Then, one awful night of restless tossing and turning in his squeaky bed, trying to find a position where maybe his back would hurt a little bit less, he’d gone onto searching videos of hair brushing, remembering the serene feeling from years ago. That awful night had eventually turned glorious. Apart from several hair brushing videos, he’d also come across the abbreviation ASMR. After a bit of googling, he’d finally found a name for the sensation that was a part of his being, something he’d thought no one else felt, something he feared made him feel wrong somehow yet made him feel so thoroughly good. He’d learned it was called ASMR and that many other people experienced it too; and instead of relying on random happenstances in real life to give him the exquisite tingly feelings, YouTube was full of relaxation videos made for the sole purpose of triggering the tingles. He’d found a place he felt he was welcomed into with open arms; a place that would provide him with non-stop tingles if he so wished, and no one could ever take that away from him.

Lately, Louis can’t seem to fall asleep without hours of lying in bed and getting lost in loud thoughts and worries overwhelming him. He probably wouldn’t sleep at all, if he hadn’t taken a habit of listening to ASMR videos in order to relax and feel pleasantly heavy and sated before giving in to dreamland. He stretches his legs and enjoys the fact that his squeaky bed at least has decent bedding, soft pillows and a warm duvet, that the sheets are wide enough so they don’t get all annoyingly piled up under him, everything feeling chilled after he’d kept the window open all day. It’s nights like these when Louis firmly decides he’ll just do a feature length movie about how much he loves his bed. He’s scrolling through his favourite videos on YouTube, miffed at seeing nothing new pop up. But on the front page, there’s a suggested video by a channel he hasn’t seen before. It doesn’t have too many views, but the thumbnail looks like decent enough quality.

The channel is called loveASMR and Louis’ cynical mind reckons it’s a bit cliché. It’s only got four videos so far, all from the last two weeks. The channel has an impressive 300 odd subscribers already, though. The suggested video is non-descriptively called ‘On the traces of the bestest’, but the video description says it’ll have tracing on the makers’ five favourite vinyl albums. The description ends in All the tingles, H. Not expecting much, and with nothing to lose but sleep, Louis clicks play.

He notices and feels several things at once. First; this is a guy. Louis prefers listening to woman artists, but something about this guy’s voice lulls him into a pleasant sort of drifting immediately. His voice is, to be cliché, like honey. He speaks slowly, his voice low and a little bit raspy, but not in a way that he’d had too many whiskies – more like an extremely soothing way, as if Louis is being wrapped in a warm blanket. His hands, drawing circles on the table, are very nice looking hands. Louis is normally picky about hands - feels weirdly put off by long fingernails on guys, but this person’s hands look soft, not hairy, nails neat but not long, fingers long and slender. They move in a deliberately slow way, both index fingers drawing circles on a black table cloth as the guy talks, his voice resonating in Louis’ headphones, causing the back of his head to spark up in a satisfyingly electric way as tingles spike down his neck.

Hello, lovers,” the guy speaks in a non-hurried voice, as if he has all the time in the world to focus on just doing this video and being here for Louis. Louis checks the duration of it – a brilliant 31 minutes. He shuffles around to make himself even more comfortable in his pleasantly cool bed, before focusing back on the video.

“First, I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has watched and commented my videos. I’m really chuffed with the warm welcome I’ve had, and you have no idea how…” The guy seems to lick his lips by the wet sounds, weighing his thoughts. “How incredibly happy it makes me feel to know that I can make someone else happy. So thank you, so much. Today, I wanted to do a bit of a show and tell, with my favourite albums. I love music, it means the world to me, and I especially love listening to music on vinyl. I’ve got five of my all time faves here, and some of them have stuck with me since I was a kid. My parents would always have music on, and I just… Well, guess you could say these albums literally stuck with me as I might’ve taken them as a departure gift when I left home.” The guy lets out a small chuckle, and it roams in Louis’ ears, up and down his spine, and suddenly he feels like knowing what this guy’s favourite music is might just be the most important thing he’ll ever know.

The guy grabs something off-screen. “So, this is probably the first piece of music I ever heard.” He is slowly tracing the outlines of an obnoxiously colourful and very 80’s looking album. “My dad absolutely loves Queen, and coincidentally, so do I. I know some of you might think it’s a bit old school and, well the cover is a bit hideous isn’t it?, but I think this album, A Kind of Magic, is still incredible. It has my most favourite Queen songs, but I can’t really listen to them too often, they always make me feel…” He goes quiet, tapping the corners of the album with his fingertips quickly, the rain-like sounds sending shivers through Louis’ arms. “Emotional. Or teary and sobbing, as some people might call it.” H chuckles again, sounding a little embarrassed, and the low rumble of his laughter turns Louis’ skin full of goose bumps.

As Louis listens to H ramble away about the next album – Lungs by Florence and The Machine, he realises there’s something very familiar, reminiscent of home, and it takes a few moments to pinpoint it to his accent. He sounds Mancunian, very similar to Louis and his family, and it makes Louis feel even more relaxed, hearing the familiar drawl in the way he pronounces certain words. H is tracing the swirly name of the band on the vinyl, his long finger following the swirly letters, and Louis can feel his eyes drooping close, fighting to keep them open. He's feeling hazy, very close to crossing the border between awake and asleep, only to be startled as his phone suddenly drops on his forehead, the hand holding it having gone lax. He opens his eyes, making them as wide as possible, hoping that the additional air hitting his vision will help him stay more awake.

“Now with this one, I get it’s a bit like cheating as it’s a compilation one,” H is showing a cover with a colourful tongue taking up almost half of the cover, text ‘Rolling Stones – Forty licks’ covering the rest. “But like, with the Stones, they’ve made the best songs in the world and also the shittiest ones so, I just… Well, felt like cheating. Not that I ever would, you know, in other things.” His voice sounds rushed, panicked suddenly, as if he hurriedly wants to ensure no one would ever think he’d hurt a fly. Louis is convinced this guy would never hurt any living creature, and probably no un-living ones either. “God, I’m sorry I ramble so much, I seriously can’t believe anyone would watch this, I’m ridiculous. Anyway, Angie, best song in the world of universes and existences that have ever existed in all of infinity…”

Louis wakes up the next morning, feeling choky as he finds the chord of his headphones wrapped around his neck. His phone, still with headphones plugged in, is right next to him, showing that the video he’d been watching last night has played in full. The last thing he can remember though, was the guy with the low voice like rugged honey talking about ‘Angie’. Louis grew up more to the soundtrack of The Smiths and the likes, with his mum occasionally blasting out Blondie when having her cackling pack of hens around and getting ready for a night out, the smell of hairspray lingering in the air. Louis does vaguely remember hearing ‘Angie’ though, thinks he probably likes it, and ends up listening to it the whole day. The song sounds like a movie, the title like a movie’s name. A movie about a doomed relationship, probably; a story about loss, the kind of movie that requires a whole lot of tissues.

At night, he makes himself comfortable in his bed once more, finding loveASMR’s channel and starts the same video again. He wakes up the following morning in the exact same position - with the headphones all over his face. He’s pretty sure he didn’t even make it to Florence this time.

On his most self-aware moment, Louis knows one of his biggest flaws of character is the utter imbalance between thinking too much about what he does or should do, and then again having moments when he really doesn’t think at all, just goes for it. He doesn’t even realise he’s made a comment before he sees it published under the video.

LTommo: Alright, I’ve tried to watch this for two nights in a row but you’ve put me to sleep before I reach the end. Please spoil me, I’ll never know what the last two records are otherwise.

It’s a good enough comment, to be fair, and Louis actually does want to know what this guy, H, loves to listen to. It doesn’t take much further consideration for him to hit the subscribe button. The bloke seems rather sincere, a bit funny – maybe unintentionally – and both the way he talks and the way he sounds make Louis feel all tingly. It’s a win, as far as watching relaxing videos whilst trying to fall asleep in the middle of this inexplicable restlessness can go.

Despite it being Saturday, time for having a lie-in, Louis fights the temptation of checking out the other three videos on loveASMR’s channel – he wants to keep the video watching solely as a bedtime activity, hoping his mind becomes accustomed and conditioned to relating bedtime always into feeling sated and relaxed and floaty. The weather outside looks lovely, like it’s going to be a very sunny and warm day, perfect for the BBQ he and the lads have planned for tonight. With the end of summer looming a mere few weeks away, they’d decided to take the most advantage they could of what was still left of sunny weather (and Tesco selling disposable BBQ’s with a two for one offer).

As soon as he makes his way downstairs from his room to the open kitchen/dining room/hallway/dancefloor area, Louis stops still and blinks.

“Am I hallucinating?”

Niall’s just pulling a cord off the hoover and is trying to locate a plug, whilst Liam is putting on music, a duster in his hand. The music starts playing - some garage rap with bouncy beats, but rhymes that leave a bit to desire.

“Funny, Louis, sounds like you’re suggesting you’ve never seen us clean before.”

“Not suggesting, stating.”

“You poor soul! Did you think we’d leave it all to you?”

“Again? Yeh, yeh I kinda did. What gives?” Louis puts the kettle on, raising his eyebrows in a question to Liam who nods and smiles, before shaking his head at Niall who seems to have finally found a plug. Louis stops himself from telling Niall that his unfamiliarity of the plugs in a place he’s lived for two years could be considered evidence of how little he’s ever touched the hoover. He takes two mugs out of the cupboard, checking the insides and deeming them clean enough to have tea out of.

“Just doing our bit, bro! This is our house and our party and of course we’ll all pitch in to clean,” Liam smiles as he bobs his head to the music. “How sick is this? It’s a friend from uni, I think he’s going to be the next next big thing.” He tries to rap to the lyrics, mumbling along with a focused look.

Louis scratches his stomach and squints his eyes. “What’s really going on?”

Niall sighs and Liam looks apologetic.

“It’s about girls, isn’t it?” Louis guesses.

Niall smiles and Liam looks embarrassed. 

“Alright, spill. You can just tell me stuff, you know. It’s not like I’m a house dictator, trying to stop anyone from ever having any fun, like.”

“It’s not really about girls in that sense…” Liam starts.

“Well, one part of it is,” Niall admits.

“Just that… Well, firstly, Lou said she’s not baking shit or doing fuck all to help out, if the kitchen is as rank as it was the last time…”

All the last times…”

“Yeh, and she also said Tom would not bring any green if we don’t get our shit together, her literal words…”

“Plus like, I may have expanded the guest list slightly with some really cute honeys, blonde and all…”

 “Expanded how much, exactly?” Louis bites his tongue, trying not to laugh. He literally feels like a mother who caught his sons doing something awful, even though it’s not that serious honestly. He’s all up for both a clean house and meeting new people - and especially eating whatever Lou bakes and getting comfortably high.

Niall looks sheepish. “You know, just like one or two, who may have friends, so maybe like six in total.”

“And then there’s one last girl thing…” Liam starts but is interrupted by a loud knock on the door. “Well, that might be the last thing. Maybe you should open the door, Tommo.”

Puzzled, Louis starts taking steps towards the front door, as another, louder and more demanding knock, happens. “I hope it’s not an actual girl for me, lads. You know I’m not going to just stop being gay if…” He stops as he opens the front door and is met by a high-pitched screech.

“Brother!” Lottie yells as she jumps on Louis, hugging him tight.

Louis is lost for words, lost for any thoughts really. Lottie smells like sweet perfume and hair products and a little bit like cigarettes. He immediately notices some changes, reminding him that his little sister isn’t that little anymore. Her braided hair with pastel pink highlights is probably not all her own, and her equally colourful nails definitely aren’t. Louis makes a mental note to not piss her off, to avoid a rerun of scratching matches they had when they were younger.

“Surprise!” Niall and Liam yell together, coming over to hug Lottie too.

“What… What is this? What’s going on?” Louis looks from one face to another, beaming but confused. He hasn’t seen Lottie in months.

“You’ve been so bummed lately, we thought a dive to the same gene pool might cheer you up!”

“That sounds… Not right,” Louis laughs and picks up Lottie’s duffel bag from outside, closing the door behind him.

“How is this place so tidy? I don’t remember it being like this the last time,” Lottie looks around the room.

“We’ve improved,” Liam says and straightens up his posture. “Your words of disgust were quite the motivation, really.”

Louis hangs an arm around Lottie’s neck and kisses the top of her head, then turning to look at Niall and Liam. “Lads, this is… This is honestly so nice, fucking brilliant. Thanks for sneaking behind my back. This is the kind of setting me up with girls I’m totally okay with.”

Louis takes out more tea mugs as Lottie brings out a box of cookies – home-made by their mum, much loved by both Niall and Liam – and sets it on the table.

“How long are you here for?”

“Just leaving tomorrow evening, or maybe Monday morning. It’s a bit of a quick one, soz.”

“Quality over quantity, eh?” Niall munches on a cookie. “Your mum’s the best,” he sighs happily.

They start making a list of shopping they need to do for the party, deciding to save everyone’s nerves and just go with disposable tableware for everything (Louis makes a mental note to put more than just copper coins in the charity collection box by the Tesco tills to quiet his conscience about being so unecological about tableware today).

Niall carries on hoovering whilst Lottie and Liam finish the dusting and tidying up, getting into a heated conversation about Liam’s music of choice and Lottie’s total dislike of it – it lacks sick, apparently. Louis is about to do the dishes, when his phone beeps. It’s from YouTube, a reply to his comment.

loveASMR: Haha sorry or maybe I should say you’re welcome! You missed [SPOILER ALERT] Adele’s 19 (could list all of hers but that’d be a tad boring) and, only the best album ever, Arctic Monkey’s first one.

Louis makes a subconscious nod, and taps out a comment.

LTommo: If you thought I’d disagree, you’d think wrong. It totally is the best album ever. Not too sold on Adele though, sure she’s great but top 5? Isn’t it a bit… sad? Appreciate the spoiler alert btw, totally didn’t see it coming after asking for spoilers.

He reads through the comment quickly, thinking he comes across bantery but realising it might come off as a tad cocky at least for someone who can’t hear his tone and also doesn’t know him, and amends it.

LTommo: Mate, if you thought I’d disagree, you’d think wrong. It definitely is the best album by the best band ever. Not sold on Adele, tho. Isn’t it a bit… sad? Thanks for both spoilers and alerting of them ;-)

---

The party is amazing. Louis finds himself looking around his home, seeing faces of friends, truly amazing people he adores, in every corner. He’s been making his way from the garden to the kitchen to get a refill of a drink for close to half an hour now, always seeing a new friend to chat with and hug and talk bullshit with. Liam’s course mate, Steve, another aspiring DJ has fully taken over the playlist and is raising the roof and the atmosphere in the kitchen, with people dancing on the floor. Niall had sadly only been rewarded with one blonde honey, but it looks like she’s well impressed with Niall’s show of all the accents he can do. It’s all a bit loud but it’s not even ten o’clock yet, so Louis isn’t worried about complaints. He compliments himself on having eaten just the right amount of delicious burgers and salads, and that amazing trifle Lou had done. He’s shared a few spliffs with Tom, who just might be the coolest person he knows. Louis is considering making a mockumentary of a rock band, possibly. The highs and the lows and the absolutely killing music. And tattoos, he’s got to cast a lot of tattooed people.

He loves moments like these, feeling like he’s surrounded by the best people; that his friends are truly brilliant and despite feeling a bit blue lately, he’s going to be fine. Just tonight he’s shared belly laughs that lasted until it hurt, weird conversations about subjects that are so out-there, and it’s just… He feels perfectly happy with himself and his life, right now. There’s a nagging sound in the back of his mind reminding him about that one unread email, but he shuts the voice by drowning it in alcohol. He takes a shot when Bleta, the always loud and laughing Bleta, challenges him to do – it’s Jägermeister; it’s amazing, it’s awful.

He’s raiding through the fridge, full of drinks everyone brought for themselves, finally digging out a can of Carling, as the feels his phone vibrate. Upon checking it, he sees it’s a reply to his comment on YouTube. He has to squint his eyes to make sense of the small text, but in true Louis style, he doesn’t consider for a moment that it might mean he’s a little too drunk for it to be a good idea to reply.

loveASMR: Is that sad as in it’s sad listening to Adele in which case, nice job at being a dickhead music snob, or sad as in Adele’s music is sad, in which case, true, but that’s why the first album which is less sad, is in this top 5 instead of the breakup song ones that make me want to move to Iceland and hug goats?

LTommo: GOats are grwat. Meant good dad as   in all the tears. You’re not sad. Sounfa like honey.

He sends the comment and goes back to the party, and has an absolutely legendary night. And when he sees Liam and Lottie who have admittedly acted rather flirty for a while now, snogging in a corner, he just thinks it makes sense and smiles.

--

A pounding head. A dry mouth. Throat feeling like sandpaper. Confused if he might actually be on a boat, as every minimal movement makes the whole world sway. Concerned, Louis opens one eye so he can take a peek at his surroundings – luckily finding himself in his own room, with no one lying next to him. He closes his eyes again, rubbing his fingers over his forehead in the hopes that it’ll be relaxing or relieving. When it doesn’t quite work, he blindly fumbles his hand next to his bed and sends his own self last night a heartfelt thank you, having had the common sense to stock up a water bottle when going to bed. Louis drinks almost the entire half a litre in one go, spilling water on his chin as he’s too scared to actually lift his head in case the boat he’s rocking in will turn fully upside down. Thankfully, he’s not one to feel sick when hungover, on the contrary; after satisfying his thirst, his mind wanders on to images of pizza, of candy, of a proper Sunday roast served to him right here in his bed.

He reaches to his phone, not bothering to check the few notifications, and calls Lottie. There’s no ringing in the house.

“So you’re alive?” A perky sound answers.

“Barely,” Louis croaks and coughs. “Where are you?”

“Just across the street, in the corner shop.”

Louis lets out a happy sound. “Could you maybe get stuff for your only brother?”

“Sure. Something sweet and salty and greasy, yeah?”

“Preferably separate, but yeah. Cheers Lotts, you’re an angel.”

“I know,” Lottie singsongs and hangs up.

Louis closes his eyes, feeling an imaginary clock ticking excruciatingly slow somewhere as he waits for Lottie to come bring him desperately needed hangover meds. He dozes off, not for long, until Lottie barges into his room and whacks his feet with a bag of Doritos, throwing the bag and two bags of jelly beans onto his stomach, then plopping down to lay next to him.

“Your pizza is on the fridge, sir. And you owe me a fiver.”

“You angel. I’ll give you a tenner.”

Lottie nods approvingly, trying to open the bag of jellybeans but struggling with her long nails.

“Give it here,” Louis takes the bag and opens it, pouring half of it on his chest and starting to separate them into pairs by colours.

“You still do that?” Lottie sounds amused as she takes a random scoop of all different ones from the bag and throws them into her mouth. That sort of rebelliousness makes Louis’ stomach turn.

“Old dog and all.”

“Come on, you’re like three years older than me.”

“Must make you an old dog then, too.”

He deserves the soft swat Lottie slaps on his forearm. They eat candy in a companionable silence, and Louis decides his idea of a script with a sibling murder is definitely not happening.

“How’s home?” Louis asks after a while.

Lottie makes a nonchalant sound. “You know. Same old.”

“Everyone good?”

“Yeah. Fizzy’s being a bit of a tit, though.”

“Why, what’s she done?”

“Nothing, that’s the thing, she just… I don’t know. Reads. Sulks.”

Louis turns to look at Lottie, serious. “You don’t think… Is she like, depressed or something?”

“Nah,” Lottie waves her hand, “she’s just… Quiet. It’s just, weird, with how loud you and me and mum are, and she’s…not. She’s boring.”

“Fizzy’s lovely,” Louis chuckles. “You’re just different. Just, let me know if she gets more…” Louis makes a mental note to call her today, as tedious as it usually is with having to drag out every word from her and drive the conversation.

“Yeah yeah,” Lottie sighs, bored. She reaches out to the bag of Doritos and hands it over to Louis to open it. Once opened, she takes a few crisps and nibbles them. “How are you, though?”

“Fine.”

Lottie groans. “God I hate it when people say that. No one ever says they’re fine if they’re fine. You don’t… Like, when Liam called me, talking about this weekend, it seemed… I don’t know, like you’re not doing that well?”

Louis feels like maybe he should get pissed off at his friends calling his sister behind his back, gossiping and telling lies and making her worry, but somehow it feels… nice. Warm, that someone noticed he hasn’t been feeling great lately and was concerned about him. That they did something, plotted to cheer him up.

“I don’t know, really. It’s just, last year of uni, and it’s like… Like it’s the make or break now, you know? I’ve got a year to figure out a future and I’m, just… It’s just a bit stressful.”

“But you’ve always been so good at uni, no? Like with your grades and stuff. You’ve written little movies since you were a kid, remember? Making me and Fiz act out whatever it was every time.”

“Yeah, I’m not like, stressed-stressed about uni, just the… Big black looming after it.”

Lottie nods and offers a sympathetic smile. “So life.”

“Yeah,” Louis sighs, “life.”

They’re quiet for a while again, until Louis notices something. He cracks up.

“For fuck’s sake, Lotts, is that a hickey?”

Lottie blushes and immediately covers her neck with her hand. “No!”

“It is,” Louis gloats and takes her hand and uncovers the purple spot, poking it with his finger. “So. You and Payno, then.”

Lottie blushes some more. “Oh please.”

“You were eating each other’s tongues last night, amongst other things apparently. Don’t oh please me.”

“I… It was just a bit of a snog. He’s cool. He thinks I’m cool. It’s cool.” Lottie looks at Louis from under her eyelashes. “Is it cool?”

“It’s cool,” Louis says earnestly. “A bit awkward, but I’ll get over that. Just like… Be nice to each other.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be like, anything serious. He’s here and I’m up in Warrington still. It’s just… some light fun.”

“Alright,” Louis says slowly, not quite convinced. “Enjoy your light fun then, sis.”

Lottie licks her lips, checking out her phone. “Speaking of… I need to get going. Liam’s taking me out to eat before my train leaves. I mean, if that’s okay? Think you’ll survive on your death bed if I leave your side?”

Louis clutches his heart dramatically. “Hoes over bros, I get it. Go. Have fun.” He carefully tries to move up, managing without the world toppling over, and gives Lottie a brotherly bear hug. “Say hi to mum.”

“Will do,” Lottie kisses his cheek and takes a few more jellybeans, waving goodbye and leaving Louis to die.

Of embarrassment, it turns out, as Louis finally checks his phone notifications and feels mortified. Apparently he’d sent another token typo Tommo message to the YouTube guy. He bites the bullet and checks the comment.

loveASMR: Are you sure you didn’t make another typo creating your account? LTohno would sound more suitable :D

Cringing, Louis checks his last comments from last night. It’s not that he doesn’t think the guy’s voice is honey, but he probably could’ve been a little less… intoxicated about it. The channel doesn’t have too many comments, most videos are just big in likes compared to the amount of comments. Louis takes a quick glance around as if worried that someone is about to see his stalking ways, before he goes to check the ‘about’ section on the channel.

It doesn’t give out much, stating that this H has been making videos since three weeks ago and hopes everyone enjoys them and wishing them ‘all the tingles’. Luckily, he seems to have an Instagram account as well. Louis clicks on it, and lands on loveASMR’s Instagram profile. It’s very… artistic, to think of a better word. There are a few black and white photos from somewhere exotic looking, one of an elephant a few months ago, close-ups of water droplets and an artsy picture of a cat’s outline of a shadow on concrete. The most recent pictures are all drawings, very good ones at that – some surreal swirly ones, mandalas Louis thinks they’re called; one of yet another cat, and the most recent one is a drawn collage of the five album covers. The whole profile is black and white, and it looks rather beautiful and a little bit edgy. The profile description has nothing but a link to his YouTube channel. Louis considers for a moment if he should follow the profile, then decides against it – he doesn’t want to explain to everyone why he’s following this strange account and what on earth is ASMR. Instead, Louis makes a quick check of his own profile – full of pictures of nice sunsets and a few rainbows, some drunken selfies, pictures of movie posters and some scribbled mindmaps of numerous script ideas.

He considers making a new profile for the sole purpose of messaging loveASMR a lot less time than he spent considering subscribing to his channel. Chuckling to himself, Louis names the account ohnotommo and takes a picture of a sad face that he quickly makes out of jelly beans on the duvet. He posts it to the new Instagram, and sends it to loveASMR as a direct message. There’s a brief thought in his mind wondering if he’s being too stalkery, but he figures the Instagram was public and they’ve exchanged a few comments now, plus he was a bit of a drunken arse so maybe a nice apology and laughing at himself is due.

ohnotommo: Hey mate, sorry about my ridiculous comment last night. Wasn’t trying to be weird or anything.

Louis sends the comment, and looks at it, suddenly feeling horrified.

ohnotommo: I mean I hope this isn’t weird right now. Just felt like apologizing.

ohnotommo: And this is LTommo from YT, in case you didn’t realize.

ohnotommo: Also I’m really not stalking you. This was on your about-page so I hope this isn’t weird.

Louis watches, horrified, as his fingers seem to move on their own accord, sending weird message after another, and great, now there’s four weird messages in a row. He groans, burying his phone under one of the spare pillows, simultaneously hoping he’ll get a reply and fretting over what that reply might be.

It’s weird, really, how he is intellectually aware that the guy is watched by hundreds of people and he knows literally nothing about him. Somehow, having watched him on his own, feeling comforted by his voice in the middle of a quiet night, just makes him almost consider him as a personal acquaintance. Which isn’t real, of course. Groaning again, Louis reaches out for his phone, set on deleting his new Instagram account and probably his YouTube as well, when he notices a message pop up from loveASMR.

loveASMR: Appreciate the dedication in ensuring you’re not weird. No harm done, it was funny. Hope the head isn’t too sore!

It’s… nice, friendly, but sort of sounds like a resolute end to the discussion, which Louis can totally understand and respect. Then, there’s another notification.

loveASMR: I noticed your sad face has no green jelly beans. Is that because you binned them all or are they your favourite?

Louis makes a happy hum.

ohnotommo: Def my fave. Long gone, all of them!

loveASMR: Good answer. Correct, even.

ohnotommo: Correct for what? What do I win?  

loveASMR: My approval of your taste in candy, I guess. Very important to have.

ohnotommo: Well done me, then.

Louis smiles, feeling relieved that the chat continued for a bit, making him feel less like a stalking weirdo. This H person seems fun and nice, and he wouldn’t want to make anyone who puts themselves out there to give something good to other people feel weirded out.

Louis gets up from his bed, leaving the phone behind as he goes downstairs to make himself a cup of coffee (with plenty of milk) and have a plate of whatever leftover trifle he can find. He goes to the garden, lights a cigarette and takes in the breezy air. He loves Sundays like these, where it’s quite cloudy; as if giving  permission to stay snuggled up in bed all day. It doesn’t demand people to go outside and do active stuff because the weather is so nice for once. Louis finishes his cigarette, makes another cup of coffee and goes back upstairs, digging through his shoulder bag to locate his headphones.

He finds himself scrolling through loveASMR’s channel again. The three videos he hasn’t watched yet – or tried to watch –seem to be right up his alley, with his favourite triggers. He’s found that the ASMR community is quite sparse and varied in what triggers their tingles, and he doesn’t personally like many popular ones. H seems to cater to his favourite ones, though. There’s a video of where he’s scratching and tapping a Scrabble board, and then one where he draws – Louis recognises the cat graphic from his Instagram account. It seems like it has just started raining outside, and Louis has a brief thought that hopefully Liam is being a gent and covering Lottie with his coat or something if they’re outside. He opts for the Scrabble board video, and snuggles in tight, sipping his coffee.

“Hello lovers,” H’s low whisper greets Louis’ ears as he starts the video. H is running his hands on a familiar black table cloth, the gentle swooshing sounds making the hair in Louis’ neck prickle. H’s fingers are moving deliberately slow, making wide half circles on both ends of the screen. The sound reminds Louis of waves a bit.

“Today, I’m going to show you my all-time favourite game. I’m not much for playing games in reality, not with other people, but I do enjoy board games a lot – apparently too much, especially if I win I’ve been told.” H chuckles lowly and Louis realises he’s chuckling too; there’s something so… captivating about H’s low rumble, how he apparently has a habit of rambling whatever comes to his mind on his videos, based on the few Louis has seen. H seems to start talking and then catch himself, laughing embarrassedly at realising he’s either sharing too much or just making himself sound a bit… Louis isn’t sure what word to use, but he knows ‘endearing’ is probably the word he feels. “Not that I always do,” H continues on the video. “Sadly. Am a bit of a sore loser. Or like, the sorest, if we’re being honest here.”

His hands vanish from the view, and his voice suddenly comes closer, a little louder, as he’s whispering scrabblescrabblescrabble to the microphone softly, the double b-sound sounding incredibly floaty. His hands reappear on the screen, now tracing the outlines of a Scrabble board, with the bag of letters on top of it. H is running his index fingers around the board’s outlines, then moving on to tap the board. It sounds a little like raindrops, falling gently – the sound intensified by the current actual raindrops hitting Louis’ window – and it sounds a little scratchy, manly and musky somehow. Louis realises his eyelids are drooping, and he takes another sip of his now lukewarm coffee.

“Scrabble is a family tradition, for us,” H is meandering as he’s tapping the board, the tapping going from fast sounds to slowing down, and then picking up pace again. “We play it on all family gatherings, especially on Christmas. This one here is my board, not very old, and I think it lacks a bit of… character. Memories.” H has now moved to smoothing the bag with the letters, playing with the loose ends of ribbon that the bag is tied with. “The one at my mum’s is an ancient one, probably older than me, and it’s a very strict rule to never play with any board other than that when we’re all together. It’s been taped together and we’ve had to buy more letters, and the colours are all faded, but it just… Doesn’t feel the same otherwise.” H is gently pulling at the ribbon ends now, opening the bag, and taking it into his hands to move it around, making the little plates inside clink and clank against each other. Softly and quietly, he turns the bag upside down on the table cloth, spreading the letters around. He then smooths the bag into a square, again tracing the outlines and almost petting the fabric, folding it into as little of a square as he can and putting it aside. He scratches the board before opening it, smoothing it over as if it were wrinkly.

“Scrabble is my absolute favourite game. You need to be a bit smart, a bit conniving, and I guess my favourite part is just… Not making up words, of course, but… Reinventing ways to call things.” Louis chuckles. That’s literally making up words. Or flat out lying. It’s also what Louis loves about Scrabble. “We got a cat when I was like five, and I wanted to call it Scrabble. Obviously I wasn’t a great player then, only recognising a few letters and stuff, but I would just make different images or like, forms, on the playing board then already.” H is concentrating clearly, though Louis can’t see his face, but the way his fingers seem to turn around different letter buttons and the way he wiggles his index finger before picking up a few buttons is telling. He starts placing them on the board, letters facing the camera. “My big sister said Scrabble sounds like something itchy, not a great name for a cat, and then they called it Fifi. Which is so daft, like, Fifi is a dog’s name. Everyone knows that.” H has now organised five buttons on the board, spelling out h-e-l-l-o. “Plus the cat was a boy.”

Louis lets out a laugh, imagining a white poodle with a pink bow, which is what a Fifi sounds like to him. He’s unsure how to un-see the cat actually being a spitting image of a dog.

H is picking out more letters, whilst his other hand is tapping the board again -  his hand is turned upwards so his fingers make a sharper clicking sound against the board. He has picked his letters and starts organising them below the hello-word. “I remember once, think I was ten or something, I got so angry at losing one game that I stuffed my mouth with maybe like ten letters, and then, because I couldn’t speak obviously, so I wouldn’t spill them and totally lose my dramatics, I wrote a letter saying I’d swallow them all if we didn’t play again and if I didn’t win. My mum told me to spit out half and we’d play again, but she wasn’t going to lose on purpose. I won though, and I’m honestly still not sure if she did or didn’t lose on purpose.”

Louis wonders if this is still a part of H’s playing tactics.

“And no, I haven’t done that since. Now I just mope and leave and maybe cry and curse. I’m joking, obviously. I don’t leave, I stay put and mope there.” He’s now done with spelling out the other word too, forming the word l-o-v-e-r-s. H goes quiet, seemingly contemplating, and then going back to the letters, picking up a few more buttons. He pulls the ‘hello’ up one line, and adds the new buttons between the two words, forming the word t-i-n-g-l-e. “Hello tingle lovers,” H then whispers to both mics on both ears, sending an intense wave of tingles down Louis spine. H taps the board a little bit more, making Louis drift away, almost falling asleep with the slow movements and the soft sounds. “And bye for now. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my dramatic me and traumatising childhood. Remember to love your cats.”

The video ends and Louis is feeling bone deep relaxation and drowsiness, like his bones weigh a ton. The rain outside continues, drops hitting his window like a continuum of H’s tapping. Louis, feeling too floaty to think much, starts typing out a comment to the video.

LTommo: I was so worried you’d write HELP ME as a secret message.

He reaches out to the last jellybeans, and cringes at realising he has two left and they’re different colours. Louis is nothing if not brave and adventurous, so he eats them both at the same time, only to see a notification pop up on his phone.

loveASMR: I wanted to but they would’ve seen that :(

Louis blinks once, and then shakes himself out of it, telling himself there’s no need to actually contemplate on calling the police. His phone beeps with an Instagram notification.

loveASMR: And I wasn’t held at gunpoint and forced to say that, you know.

ohnotommo: See that’s exactly what they’d tell you to say…

loveASMR: True. You need to ask me a secret question, I think. That always seems like what they do on crime series and stuff.

ohnotommo: Secret question?

loveASMR: Like something only I’d know.

ohnotommo: So what did Fifi look like?

It takes a while for his phone to light up again. Louis taps the screen impatiently as that obviously is a token way of speeding the process up.

loveASMR: He was a very ruggedly handsome black ball of a cat.

ohnotommo: How do I know you’re telling the truth? Fifi to me sounds like a white poodle. With a pink bow. A bit stuck-up.

Again, it takes a while for H to reply. When he does, it’s with a picture of a very majestic looking cat, in a grandad-type of way, a picture taken of an actual printed photo.

ohnotommo: Alright. I’ll cancel the police.

ohnotommo: That’s an excellent cat. Def looks like a Scrabble.

loveASMR: THANK YOU! I can’t believe it took all these years to finally get some kind of recognition for my cat naming skills.

ohnotommo: You approve of my taste in candy. I approve of your taste in cat names. We could take over the world, really.

loveASMR: Let’s.

---

It gets a bit relentless, after that.

It didn’t take longer than two nights for Louis to watch all videos loveASMR had up on his channel (truthfully Louis had to watch them all multiple times, as the videos seemed to knock him right off within the first five minutes). Louis comments on all of them; he goes with whatever comes to his mind first, albeit filtered a bit more so his humour doesn’t make him come off as bratty to someone who can’t hear his banter-y tone. And anyway, H seems to ramble without a filter on his videos too, so Louis is comfortable being on the same level. H comments on his comments and they usually exchange a few messages on Instagram privately. Somehow it has become a daily occurrence, hearing from H as he sends Louis a picture of something funny that he’s seen, or a picture of whatever candy he’s eating (he seems to be a bit of a candy mouse) and checking what Louis’ verdict on said candy is, or a totally random thought about how they can take over the world. Louis, of course, does the same.  

It’s… nice. Just honestly nice, Louis feels, not the kind of ‘nice enough’ or ‘nice’ when you don’t really know how to describe something that leaves you feeling unmoved or uncaring. Talking to H, the whole existence of this stranger Louis knows nothing about, except that his sense of humour is dry, his voice is like rough honey, he’s got nice hands and he’s good at drawing and his music taste isn’t awful, plus he seems to adore cats - it’s all just blatantly nice. Nice in a way that makes Louis feel like he’s talking to a good friend, no conditions or pretences, he’s just being him without having to think about what the other person thinks about him; what their preconceived thoughts of him might be. It sort of feels like… Like Louis felt as a kid, sitting alone on the banks of River Mersey, feeling like he was by himself but not alone. Talking with H feels easy and effortless, like watching water go wherever it needs to go, doing its own thing, or maybe feeling a gentle breeze of wind. Or a random meeting with a cuddly animal somewhere, just a few moments of thinking about nothing but enjoying something, feeling good about living in the moment without any stress or worry.

Louis isn’t an idiot. He may be in denial and escaping reality, but he’s not an idiot – he knows damn well what he’s doing. Finding a bit of respite in a stressful period in his life, putting more interest and energy into this new… friendship, he thinks he could call it, or at least something resembling as much. He’s escaping from actually sitting down and thinking about his future or getting down to the nitty gritty of why he’s feeling so detached of wanting to really even spend time on thinking about his life right now.

Amusing himself and letting his mind wander around his environment and surroundings looking for funny things to maybe send H, wondering what might amuse him, is a lot more pleasing than starting to make a list of what he needs to do in his final year of uni, or start looking for potential jobs and companies he’d like to work with after graduation. He doesn’t even know what he truly would want to do after graduation, unsure if he really has any talent to make his passion into a profession. Or if film really is his passion, anymore.

He plays around with a fleeting new script idea of a romantic comedy of two strangers meeting online, but refutes it rather quickly. It’s not really a crush that he has on H, how could it be – he has never met him, doesn’t know much about him. Their talks are just joking around, light stuff, nothing meaningful really and it’s not necessarily what could even be considered as flirty – Louis might have a bit of flirt in his messages, and the feeling he gets from H’s messages is the same, but it’s nothing too explicit. Plus, that’s just the way Louis is, in general, full of banter.  Based on his accent, H lives somewhere around Manchester and is probably around the same age as Louis, and… Shit. Louis suddenly realises he can’t really be sure how old H even is, he’s just assumed they’re around the same age but he doesn’t know, does he? H might be in his 40s or worse, he might actually be like, a minor. Shitshitshit. Come to think of it, Louis’ online name or profile pictures don’t even clearly disclose that he’s a bloke. More shitshitshitshit.

Louis’ frantic train of thought is interrupted by his phone beeping. Louis checks it immediately, out of habit, feeling the familiar instant joy seeing it’s a message from H, but then feels guilt flush over him and he puts his phone back to his pocket without reading the message. And just like that, something that brought him joy has become a nagging voice in the back of his mind, telling him to sort this out and clear his conscience, make sure he’s not potentially leading H on with whatever he might be imagining Louis to be.

“Alright, Tomlinson?”

Louis stirs, noticing another bloke enter the smoker’s corner. It’s one of the actual producers, James, way higher up from Louis meagre runner intern level. It’s a bit shocking that he even knows Louis’ name.

“Alright,” Louis nods and takes a drag of his cigarette, forgetting about his H issue. “And you?”

James shrugs. “Thought it was Thursday today. Shocking to realise it’s actually Tuesday.”

Louis laughs. “Yeah, if only every day were like Friday.”

James’ eyes lit up. “Not a Sunday?”

“I love the song, I mean, but after Sunday it’s always a Monday. Seems a bit deflating, to have that looming over every day.”

James lets out a big belly laugh and nods approvingly, patting Louis’ shoulder. “Hard working and has a great taste in music. I predict good things for you, Tomlinson. Keep it up.”

“I’ll try my best,” Louis smiles confused at such sudden praise from someone who is actually someone within the company. He stubs his cigarette, waves James goodbye and carries on with the last few hours of his work day.

He doesn’t check his phone until he gets home in the evening, feeling tired of another hectic day at work. The house is empty, luckily, Louis isn’t feeling like socialising at all tonight – he just wants to get his dinner ready and have an early night in. He is painfully aware that he needs to check in with H and make sure he’s aware of Louis being both a bloke and over 18; it’s been on his mind the whole day since he realised he hadn’t made it clear, but he just doesn’t know how to go on about it. All their conversations have been very light-hearted so far, and Louis feels a bit... unsure, about crossing the line and having an actual serious talk, or making their banter seem a bit more real, nodding towards them being real people on the other ends of the conversation thread. He empties his shopping bag on the counter, curses at seeing their one sauce pan dirty again, and puts the oven on, congratulating himself at also having bought a frozen pizza. He’d seen Niall cook something last night, and he knows his people.  

Sighing, he finally checks H’s message. It’s a picture of Bassett’s Allsorts liquorice; one round with with blue sprinkles covering it, another round one with yellow fruit filling around the black centre, and one three-layered one, with a black middle layer and a pink top and bottom.  

loveASMR: What do you see?

Louis bites his lip and starts typing.

ohnotommo: Something vile, something neutral, and something that if anyone eats it on one go instead of layer by layer, is no pal of mine.

He sends it, quickly typing in another message – he’s not really sure why, it’s not like he’s required to be at H’s beck and call and answer immediately, but that’s what he’s been doing thus far. He has manners.

ohnotommo: Sorry about the candy verdict delay – work was mental today.

Sure, Louis’ got manners, which occasionally includes dropping white lies whilst he tries to figure out how to go on about facing the more difficult truth. He’s not sure why it feels so big to him; it’s just smart to ensure he’s not engaging with a minor, or leading someone on falsely. Subconsciously, he is aware his biggest worry is H answering him by saying he doesn’t really want to keep chatting anymore – or worse, not even replying. Louis fucking hates ghosting. He’s a firm believer in closure with everything in life.

His phone beeps.

loveASMR: My take would be the good, the bad and the ugly. Also agree wholeheartedly, no treats are meant to be just munched on. They need to be broken apart and had in pieces.

Louis blinks at the message, trying very hard to not have his mind instantly filled with filthy double meanings about munching – sometimes he truly feels like his brain is just a gutter and he’s trash that floats in it. This is definitely flirty to him, suggestive even, and though he’s aware his mind is maybe a bit more filthy than H meant it, it’s the final straw in making him face the uncomfortable check-up.

ohnotommo: Right. Right?

ohnotommo:   So I need to clear up something and I’m not sure how to go about it so I’m just going to say it.

loveASMR: All sorts of alright.

Louis licks his lips, imagining how this might be the last message he sends H, the last one he sees from him. But he’s not going to be alright with the possibility of being predatory online of a minor who might think he’s a 16-year old girl or something. He feels a bit sad as he types and sends his message.

ohnotommo: Just want to make it clear that I’m a bloke too. And I’m over 18. So in case you’re not, I don’t think we should really be talking. Not that I’m trying to chat you up or anything.

Louis turns his phone on silent, puts it on the counter facing downwards, making sure he can’t see any lights lit up and puts his pizza into the oven. Immediately after, he checks up on his phone – no new notifications – and turns it around again, now putting the tea towel over the phone as well. He goes to the living room, putting the telly on, channel surfing mindlessly and finding nothing worth watching. He tries sorting through their pile of post on the kitchen table, full of ads and menus from their local chippy. He pins the menu to their fridge door with a magnet and stuffs the spam ads to the overflowing recycling bin. Louis even decides to take the recycling out.

He nearly has a heart attack as someone jumps on his back just as he’s closing the lid of the huge bin.

“Fucking hell, Liam, scared the bloody shit out of me!”

Liam laughs loudly, ruffling Louis’ hair. “Sorry mate, couldn’t resist.”

“You’re lucky I didn’t just blind punch you,” Louis says and tries to sound thuggish, as they walk to their door.

“You wouldn’t hit a face this pretty,” Liam pats his cheek with a few days’ beard on it. “Your sister would be so pissed.”

“Too much information,” Louis groans and checks on his pizza as he gets to the kitchen. “You’re both adults, you can do adult stuff together, I just don’t want to know about it.” He takes the tea towel off of his phone again and takes the pizza out of the oven, leaving it to cool for a bit. He resolutely refuses to look at his phone.

“Fair enough,” Liam says as he unwraps a ready meal and pops it into the microwave. He turns to look at Louis, a strange expression on his face. “How are you doing, mate?”

Louis frowns. “Alright. How are you doing? Or is this like a Joey from Friends type of ‘how are you doing’?”

Liam laughs. “No, this is a genuine friendly question. I don’t bend that way, man, and I’ve already got one Tomlinson so…”

Louis exaggeratedly puts his fingers in his ears and raises his brow at Liam.

“Alright, point taken.” The microwave beeps and Liam turns to take his food. “You got any plans for this weekend?”

“Nah, nothing that can’t be replaced with better plans,” Louis shrugs as he dishes up his pizza slices. “Was going to procrastinate but I’d rather have an actual reason to do it, so.”

“Excellent,” Liam dumps his meal onto a plate and blows on it to cool it down. “I’m thinking picnic. It’s supposed to be sunny. Saturday, early afternoon, the whole gang. Sun and fun. Boozy brunch.”

“Perfect,” Louis nods smiling as they sit down by the kitchen table to have their tea and plan the picnic and who to invite. Louis actually forgets to fret about what H might’ve answered, or not answered, for a bit, chatting to Liam and getting excited of having their group of friends together for a fun Saturday.

After they’re done with their dinner, Louis bids Liam good evening, still refusing to check his phone until he’s in the peace of his own room. He lets out a relieved sigh at seeing H has actually replied, a few messages apparently. At least he’ll get closure, if H is about to call it quits with his budding new friend. He guesses he’s lucky that H doesn’t seem the type to get mean about it.

loveASMR: That’s a bit decent of you. That’s nice, to make sure. I’m actually 19 and I did figure you’re a guy since the start, so not an issue. And as for the chatting up, I wasn’t really thinking you were and I’m not doing that either.

loveASMR: I don’t have many friends here so just been enjoying talking with someone who seems cool. And I’d like to continue that if it’s okay with you :)

Louis lets out a deep sigh of relief at hearing H is two years younger than him and aware he wasn’t talking to a girl. He’s feeling almost giddy, feeling the anxiety and stiffness he’d been withholding in his body all day, vanish. He has a fleeting thought of whether to tell H he himself is gay, but decides against it. It’s all on a friends-basis anyway and they’re clearly not seekingr a partner, emotional or sexual, so it’s not really worth mentioning, at least for now.

ohnotommo: Brill. We can keep on plotting for world domination then!

Louis sends the message and reads back the messages H sent him, feeling like he’d missed something. It takes him a moment to realise what it was – he considers for a second if they’re close enough so he can ask, but figures H mentioned it maybe for a reason and regardless, it strangely feels now that they’ve stepped over some boundary of being real people and maybe the conversation has become a bit wider, more open, a bit less just joking around.

ohnotommo: What do you mean you don’t have many friends here? Where’s here?

He sends the message before he can change his mind.

loveASMR : Everywhere, I guess. I’m not really a very social person.

ohnotommo: That’s a bit rich from someone who shares their life on YouTube!

loveASMR: Haha I know, such a fraud. That’s different, though. It’s very one-sided and controlled and no one knows who I am.

ohnotommo: I get that. No judgement here! I’ve got great mates but I need me-time a lot, too.

loveASMR: :)

It makes Louis a little sad, thinking about the witty H who seems like such a brilliant person, feeling lonely. He likes alone time, but he somehow can’t shake off the feeling that where he likes to be alone, H is more so feeling lonely and that’s a huge difference. Louis has so much appreciation and adoration for his friends, and for having a family so great that he can refer to them as friends as well. He knows they’ll always have his back, just as he has theirs. Louis goes through times when he’s shit at keeping in touch, withdraws himself to have a bit of quiet time, needing to reload his batteries away from the loudness of his social world, but he knows his friends know him and how much he sometimes needs to be alone.

And yet Louis knows, for absolute certain, that they’ll be there for him when he re-emerges from his solitude. That they’d support him no matter what and where he’d want to go with his life. Which, honestly, is the biggest hurdle he’s ever had in his life – trying to figure out what that might be. It feels like such a humongous challenge to overcome that right now, Louis feels like he doesn’t even have the energy to try to figure it out. He realises that he’d be interested in hearing what H thinks about life and future in general, but decides ‘future’ is a subject he’d still rather put onto the backburner until further notice.

---

ohnotommor: Please please tell me you’re a bit of a miracle maker in the kitchen?

loveASMR: Should I tell you the truth or what you want to hear?

ohnotommo: Yes.

loveASMR: Your lucky day. I’m a lot of a kitchen miracle. If your expectations are small, that is. If you’re expecting to see stars, Michelin ones, I’m just a little miraculous.

Louis laughs and thinks H probably is quite a bit miraculous.

ohnotommo: Got a picnic on Sat. Promised to do something. I don’t know what to do. Or how. HELP PLS. Especially as I now realise Sat is tomorrow.

loveASMR: Is it a date?

Louis raises his eyebrows.

ohnotommo:  Jealous?

He kicks himself immediately after sending the message. Of course H isn’t jealous. That’s not… in the scope of their friendship.

loveASMR: Practical! Who are you trying to impress? Sweet or savoury? Give me the outset.

loveASMR: And any special diets? Vegans?

ohnotommo: Group of friends. Boozy brunch. Park shenanigans. No one to really impress, just trying to not give everyone food poisoning or be a total let-down. I want to be invited to future picnics, you know.

ohnotommo: And probably something savoury. I think we’ll all have a sweetness OD from all the Pimm’s we’ll be glugging down. We’ll be about 8. And no vegans or allergies. I’m not keen on like butchering anything or touching anything gross, though.

loveASMR: Cool beans. And thanks for the inspiration.

ohnotommo: ?!????

loveASMR: You’ll see. Cooking lesson this evening.

“Finally, an actual Thursday!” James’ voice again interrupts Louis’ thoughts.

“And were you on Thursday yourself this time?” Louis smiles.

James considers as he lights up his cigarette. “You know, I think I was, actually.”

“Winning already. Especially as I’m now going to reveal today is, in fact, a Friday.”

James replies with a loud woop, his fist pumping the air. “This pregnancy thing is doing my head in, I swear. Lost in days, lost in life, lost with all the hormones.”

Louis stares at him, questioningly, before gesturing somewhere around James’ middle – and his rather well-developing beer belly. “You look glowing, at least.”

James bursts out laughing and throws a ridiculous pose, fondling his stomach. “Radiant, some say.”

They chuckle and then Louis talks. “Congrats for real, though. Is it your first?”

“Yeah, first. Due in late September. Not sure if me or the missus is more eager to fast forward and have him here already. It’s excruciating, the wait.”

“I can imagine,” Louis nods sympathetically. “Worth the wait, though, I’m sure.”

James beams. “Oh absolutely! And that’s why I’m here all the time, mind, can’t smoke at home anymore so getting my fix at work.”

“Understandable.”

“And you?”

“Oh, I’m not pregnant.”

James laughs loudly again, taking a final drag and stubbing his cigarette simultaneously with Louis. “I meant if you’ve got any… rulers at home?”

“No, oh no, free as a bird. No responsibilities or ties. Except, obviously, last year of uni.”

James looks at him intensely for a moment, and then nods. “UAL, wasn’t it?”

Louis nods. University of Arts London is a highly renowned uni, and he still can’t believe his luck at even being accepted in, that he’s actually going to have a degree in this field. He should be proud, hell he is proud, but even the thought of uni and especially the thought of life after uni is just…

“Me too. Such fond memories,” James interrupts. He looks at Louis again, as if weighing something. “But I get the fear. Believe me, I was a mess during my final year. But then, life happened and took me by the balls. Things will work out. I promise.” He pats Louis’ shoulder again in an almost fatherly way, as they go back inside and wave each other goodbye.

Louis is on his way to Tesco later that evening, wondering at the radio silence from H since this morning, when – speak of the devil – his phone beeps.

loveASMR: Alright. Get two rolls of puff pastry, six eggs, rice, and maybe some good melty cheese.

loveASMR: Also not trying to be condescending but I’m not sure how hopeless you really are – mozzarella would be a good contender as some good melty cheese.

ohnotommo: No one is that hopeless, H.

loveASMR: Someone might be! Imagine if you’d come home with like, I don’t know, a bad non-melty cheese.

Louis grins at his phone as he’s going around the small Tesco, finding all the ingredients easily. He’s a fan of all things wrapped in pastry and especially involving cheese, so whatever H has planned, already sounds good. It feels strangely… domestic, to think of a better word, shopping for groceries and having someone he likes cook with him, in some format Louis isn’t sure of yet. Their messages have, at least in Louis’ opinion, started to develop this strangely close or maybe caring tone that wasn’t necessary there before.

loveASMR: You’ll also need baking paper if you don’t have any at home :)  Non-stick, not greaseproof. Not sure why they can’t be the same thing. I don’t know why anyone would want something that stuff gets stuck on.

ohnotommo: People who are more worried about grease?

loveASMR: You should be able to have both in one.

ohnotommo:  Maybe that’s what you’ll take the world over with eventually?

loveASMR: Maybe. Let me know when you’re home. And make sure you wash your hands.

Louis messages H to let him know he’s home as soon as he is, popping to the loo and washing his hands and then unloading his shopping. He rolls his sleeves up, and is so damn ready to do this, when his phone lights up.

loveASMR has uploaded a new video. The title is ‘Lovegella ASMR’ and Louis can’t help but laugh as he presses play.

“Hello lovers,” H’s voice murmurs smoothly in Louis’ ears. “Something a little bit different today, as you can see from the lack of that wonderfully scratchy black table cloth – but hopefully this is not an unpleasant change,” he says as he taps what looks like a kitchen counter. The video angle is from the side this time, camera probably raised on top of something on the counter as Louis can see H’s forearms now. He’s wearing what looks like a navy sweater, sleeves rolled up a little but not revealing any skin above his wrists. The background is mainly what Louis suspects is H’s actual stomach and chest, just a navy plop covering the background.

“This video is to hopefully relax you all, but especially so that my good friend Tommo can impress his friends and have further invitations to any and all gatherings.” Louis can hear the smile in H’s voice as he takes one roll of puff pastry, tapping on its packaging. “We’re making some delicious savoury pasties today, filled with egg and rice and cheese. As with any proper cooking show, this too starts with the instruction to wash your hands.” H is now going through the ingredients, smoothing the eggs and tapping on the box, poking the bag of rice to create crinkly sounds, and showing the mozzarella. He has a cutting board set up in view. “I think, too, that if you don’t get the Lovegella title, obviously a nod to the gorgeous Nigella, you probably don’t deserve to watch this video. I’m joking, everyone can watch of course, but you should still google her. I adore her,” H rambles as he shows a cup of boiled rice. “I think watching her when I was younger, was one of the first ASMR experiences I had. Her voice is amazing and I love watching people cook. It’s so… soothing. To tell you the truth, I’d been a little bit lost with what video to do next, and luckily my friend at the same time needed some kitchen aid.”

It’s so weird to hear H talk about him, mentioning his name. Well, his nickname, but it’s all the same. He’s actually talking about Louis on his channel, acknowledging that he exists and that he’s a friend. They’re friends. It makes Louis feel… warm. Cosy. It makes his cheeks feel a bit heated. He doesn’t want to think about it anymore though, and instead focuses on filling the for-once-clean saucepan with water and puts it to boil as per H’s instructions.

“So, as with any proper cooking show, I’ve obviously done half of the things ahead. What you need to do is boil a few cups of rice, and then a few eggs, depending on how eggy you want the filling to be. For I don’t know, eight people, randomly chosen, do two cups of rice and four eggs. The filling’s good, you can have it for tea if there’s any leftovers.”

Louis pauses the video, sending H a message.

ohnotommo: This is your best work yet.  

loveASMR: You can’t know that yet. I might throw in a gross surprise ingredient.

ohnotommo: True, you could. But you won’t.

loveASMR: You sound awfully sure. Did you watch the ending first?

ohnotommo: Nah, I just know you. You’re nice. You don’t do gross stuff.

loveASMR: I’m picking my nose as we speak.

ohnotommo: As long as you don’t eat it.

Louis turns his attention back to the video, preparing what he needs to do next. Turns out he’s a bit stuck with only one sauce pan, so he has to wait for the rice to boil first before he can wash it and boil the eggs. H is now chopping mozzarella on the video, so Louis follows suit. It seems that the mozzarella, rice and eggs, together with spices of choice, all get mixed together. The puff pastry is rolled and then cut into smaller squares, with filling on half of the pieces. Finally, H closes them by pressing the seams with a fork, poking a few holes on top of the pastries and then brushing them with an egg wash.

The whole process is a lot messier when Louis does it compared to H, with filling all over the counter. The pastries don’t look quite as neat as they come out of the oven, but they smell heavenly, look rustic as if nan had made them, so Louis considers the last few hours to have been an absolute success. Niall, always on the look-out for any leftovers that he doesn’t have to cook, makes rather sexual sounds at having a bit of the leftover filling for dinner.

Louis takes a picture of the pasties and sends it to H.

ohnotommo:  And here is my invitation to all the picnics. Pretty well done, I reckon!

loveASMR: Really well! They look great. Did you taste one?

ohnotommo: Blissfully delish. Thanks so much H, I owe you one!

loveASMR: Hope your friends like them.

ohnotommo: They’ll probably like you more than me after these. You doing anything fun this w/e?

loveASMR: Yeah, it’s my nan’s birthday so going to see her with my sis and mum. Just a quick visit, got work on Sunday.  

ohnotommo: And that’s fun? Nan fun?

loveASMR: My nan’s hilarious. She’s so old she gives no fucks, but lives like a man with a midlife crisis. Love her to bits.

ohnotommo: Yeah that does sound like actual fun. Am off to bed, thanks so much again – I’ll have a toast of Pimm’s in your honour!

---

It’s a perfect day for a picnic, sun shining from an open sky, temperature warm but not too hot. They’re holding camp nearby a big oak tree, spread out with colourful blankets and music blasting (reasonable volume, of course) from small speakers. Niall, Liam and Tom are throwing a frisbee around, and laughing at a random Boston terrier that keeps trying to catch it. Bleta and Steve are having a rap battle along the lyrics of some old school Public Enemy song whilst Louis and Lou are laying down, stuffed after a plentiful brunch. Louis is enjoying the start of feeling nicely tipsy; Lou had surprised them with not only dragging out proper Pimm’s gear but also a bag of ice and a bottle of gin, with both lime and cucumber slices neatly packed in little freezer bags.

Louis brightens the screen on his phone so he can see through his aviator sunglasses.

ohnotommo: Pardon for interrupting the nan celebrations. I just have to report the happy result of zero food poisonings and much yum’s of the pasties.

loveASMR: Report received and greeted with joy. Nan has thus far had three whiskey coffees and told me, my sis and my mum all to dress sexier. Apparently we’re prudes and she’s embarrassed.

ohnotommo: What is she wearing then?

ohnotommo: …And I mean that in the least creepy way ever.

loveASMR: A dashing short skirt. Very sparkly. And a black t-shirt. Let me send a pic.

It’s not long until Louis receives a picture of a black t-shirt, with a big white text of block letters saying ’69 is not just a number’. Louis belts out a loud lough and tells H he loves his nan.

“Who is he?”

Louis turns to look at Lou, who’s popped her sunglasses down her nose and is looking at Louis knowingly.

“Who is who?” Louis sounds flat and pockets his phone.

“Oh love, don’t give me that. Your phone keeps beeping. You keep smiling. Laughing, even. I mean, it’s great to see, but it’s very… Unlike you.”

Louis huffs, feigning offense. “What do you mean? I’m always smiling and laughing!”

Lou turns a tad more serious. “Come on, Louis. Clearly it’s a guy you’re talking to. You’re like a blushing little girl.”

“I’m not a little girl,” Louis huffs again. He realises arguing about not blushing might currently be a lost cause, as he can feel his cheeks redden.

“I’ve seen you with a mouse in the flat. I’d beg to differ.”

“Totally different. And it was a rat. A huge, gigantic rat, with gleaming eyes.”

“Yeah yeah.”

“Demon rat, I’m telling you.”

Lou rolls her eyes and gets up to sit, pouring more Pimm’s into their plastic cups. “So you’re not going to spill, then?” She asks as she offers Louis his cup.

“What, the drink? Possibly.”

“About your boy, you tart!” Lou slaps his arm and laughs.

“Not a tart,” Louis quips. “Nothing to tart about. I’m just… talking to someone. As friends. Nothing sexual or romantic, just… he just seems really nice. Funny.”

“Alright. Where did you two mates meet then? Craigslist?”

“Fuck off,” Louis laughs. “YouTube, actually.”

Lou frowns.

“And no, before you ask, you can’t watch porn on YouTube. He… makes these sort of, I don’t know, relaxation videos? And I watch them when I’m feeling… like I need to relax. When I’m feeling a bit, stressed, or like, I can’t sleep. So, he makes them, I watch them, and then we got to talking, and well. Now we talk.”

“What’s his name? Where’s he from? How old is he? Is he lush?”

“He calls himself H. And I think he’s from around Manchester. And his voice, yeah, definitely pleasant, but I don’t know what he looks like. And he’s 19.”

Lou still looks suspicious.

“Listen, Lou, I know it sounds a bit dodgy, maybe, but it’s not like… He’s not like asking for money and I’m not preying on a kid, we’re literally just talking.”

“About what?”

“Candy.”

“Candy?”

Louis chuckles. “Yeah, and he showed me how to make the pasties.”

Lou nods, seemingly happier. “I like him a bit more already. They were excellent. Eggcellent, really.”

She reaches out to take another pasty from the container, breaking it in half with crumbles flying everywhere, and gives the other half to Louis. They eat in silence for a bit, until Lou starts again.

“Do you think maybe… Like, are you good enough friends that you could, like, talk to him?”

“I literally just said we’re talking.”

“About candy, yeah. But like, about, whatever is bothering you? Making you unable to sleep?” Lou looks at Louis carefully, cautiously.

Louis hesitates. He’s not sure, really, which is a change to how he would have flat out disregarded even the mere thought a while back. But now, it’s not a totally impossible idea anymore.

He doesn’t get a chance to reply before Niall throws himself over the blanket, spilling Louis’ cup.

“Oi!”

“Soz, Tommo. Right, guys and gals, gather up. Important secrets here.” Niall is holding out his arms to gesture them all to lean in closer. “Payno’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks. He’s planning on just having us all in the usual bar, the one he DJs at, but I thought we need to figure out a proper gift? You only turn 22 once.”

Steve starts coughing loudly and Lou makes a show of looking at the sky as if she’s not hearing this.

“Well, Liam is going to turn 22 only once,” Niall corrects himself.

“I’m totally up for it. Any thoughts on the gift?” Louis asks, lighting up. “Gotta be something music, eh?”

“I was thinking of just, like, a pile of vinyls?”

“They’re shit expensive though.”

“Not really, not if you know where to go,” Niall taps his nose. “Or, like, buy used ones.”

“Much good that’ll do him, scratching stuff already full of scratches!” Bleta huffs.

Louis turns to look at her. “Have you seen people as crazy about music as Payno, though? The care they put into their stuff is out of this world. I bet you even the used stuff is more pristine than those straight out of factory.”

“Music is dumb,” Bleta rolls her eyes and runs her fingers through her hair. “Music only exists…”

“To be a soundtrack to fashion,” everyone else finishes in a choir. “Yeah, we know.”

“Good!” Bleta gives them a stare and sounds stern, then bursts out giggling. “I’m kidding. Music’s alright. Not as alright as fashion, of course. We’ll get him his scratched scratchy stuff to keep on scratching scratches on.”

“Brill. Does anyone actually know what to, like, get him? I can go buy it, you can transfer money to my account, I just don’t know what to get,” Louis says.

Everyone’s at a loss. Liam’s taste, being a pedantic soul/funk/jazz DJ and all, is a bit out of their usual realm.

“If only he liked the stuff I do…” Steve sighs and rubs his eyes. “Right. I’ll figure it out.” He taps his pocket to make sure he’s got his phone, stands up and jogs to Liam and Tom. They’re too far to hear anything, but it looks like Steve taps his phone and asks Liam something. Even from a far, it’s clear how Liam’s eyes start positively sparkling as he seems to lose himself into a trance, hands waving around.

“Reckon that’s sorted then,” Louis nods and lays back down, closing his eyes. “Tenner each sound good? Used ones are like a tenner.”

Louis can hear a choir of affirmations. It’s not long until his phone beeps, sadly not being H (despite Lou’s immediately knowing look) but a sound file from Steve, with Liam rambling on about his top ten records he’d love to have. Bless clueless Liam.

The picnic turns into a beergarden, then to an indie club, and it’s closer to 4AM when Louis, Niall and Liam are happily swaying back home, with Louis stopping to talk to a city fox rummaging a bin bag on the street and Liam throwing a few chips towards it. Niall sounds even more Irish than usual, mumbling away unclearly on the phone, then finishing his call and telling Louis and Liam he's got a very early morning date and starts to run to the bus stop, telling them not to wait up. Louis throws his hand around Liam and thinks he’s really fucking lucky, as he steals a chip from Liam’s chippy box.

---

The first thought in Louis’ mind when he wakes up in the morning is a cup of coffee, soon followed by an epic toastie. Probably with some tuna and lots of good melty cheese (thank heavens Tesco had a bogof-offer on mozzarella so he still has one whole mozzarella in the fridge). The weather looks half cloudy, his room isn’t spinning and no one is pounding hammers in his head. Louis is relieved to deem this a very light hangover, if even that. It’ll be easy to get rid of with a few cups of coffee, cold juice, greasy toastie and some fresh air.

Liam, based on the groaning coming from the sofa as Louis heads to the kitchen, clearly isn’t feeling the same.

“Tommo,” comes a pitiful call.

“Yes, Payno? You alright there?”

“Am dying,” Liam whines. “Can you bring me something?”

“Anything?”

“Something that helps would be good.”

Louis nods before taking a paracetamol and a tall glass of water to Liam, who grabs them as if they were his lifeline (maybe in this instance they are). Louis makes him a coffee and, feeling chirpy himself and thus a bit guilty, makes a toastie for Liam as well. They sit on the sofa, watching a rerun of an old Top  Gear.

“Right, I’m heading off then.”

Liam turns to look at Louis. “To where?”

“To…” Louis stops, realising he can’t really tell Liam. “To, you know, do Tommo things.”

“You’re gonna leave me here? Alone? To die?” Liam looks like a kicked puppy. “I’m coming with you,” he then decides and tries to sit up, but clearly feels dizzy and falls back down. “Alright, I’ll let you go, but can you make me another coffee? And bring me some treats?”

“We have no treats.”

“I’ve got some coco pops, I think.”

“You want me to make you a bowl of cereal?”

“Nah, don’t bother, just the box will do.”

Louis shakes his head and caters to Liam, then heads out.

ohnotommo: I’m unsure how this is possible but is it true I have sent a whopping zero drunken messages to you yesterday?

He remembers H said he’s working today, so he’s not surprised not to get an answer immediately. He checks Google maps and is happy to realise it’s not too long of a walk to Love Vinyl. He’s never been there before, but according to Steve it’s the absolute best place to go for the type of vinyls Liam wants.

Louis loves London, he realises again as he heads towards Hoxton. He especially loves the streets of London, at any time of day, but especially on Sunday afternoons. It feels like once a week, the bristling East London turns into a quaint village, with families dressed up to the nines for church, happy couples walking their dogs, and pretty people carrying huge flower bouquets from Columbia Road Flower Market. Everything seems sunny, relaxed – like no one is in a rush to go anywhere, everyone is just strolling around and enjoying living in this magnificent city. It was something that surprised Louis when he first moved to London two years ago; how such a legendary city that everyone in the world knows from telly and movies, one of the most famous cities in the world, can feel so much like a home, too. He isn’t sure of anything in his life right now; not his future, not himself, but he does know that his friends, family, and London are solid.

Love Vinyl is located on an unimpressive side street, and Louis misses the turn first. The shop looks a bit unceremonious from the outside as Louis steps in through the invitingly open door. Inside, there are rows and shelves full of vinyls, and it smells like… old music, sort of. There’s a few props of merchandise, and crooked looking stairs leading downstairs in the back of the space. Louis has never heard of the music playing from the speakers, but he decides he likes it. There’s no singing, just instruments, and it sort of sounds like he feels today. Light. Happy. Like the sun shines and he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be. He looks around, suddenly feeling like he has forgotten absolutely everything from the audio Steve sent. He knows that at least he can’t remember any artist names or how they were written. He’s starting to feel a bit lost and the shop suddenly seems smaller, more suffocating.

“Hey!”

Louis turns around to see where the sound came from; it had seemed like he was alone in the shop. He sees someone lift his head from behind the counter.

“I dropped something and it’s really dusty under the counter. Swear I wasn’t sleeping on the job,” the guy says, smiling apologetically as he gets up to stand and ruffles his hair a bit, coughing lightly. “Really dusty.”  

“Okay, okay,” Louis smiles. “I won’t rat you out, if you can help me.”

“How may I help you then?” The guy quickly continues, looking a bit worried. “I mean, I’d obviously help you anyway, not just to buy your silence. I’m here to help.”

Louis nods, smiling. “Of course. Right, so, gotta be honest here. I’m buying a gift for someone who knows exactly what he wants, and I’ve been told I can get it here, but I am a bit out of my depth here. I don’t know what any of the albums he wants are.”

The guy absentmindedly licks his lips, frowning a little as if his whole being right now is concentrated on helping Louis and ensuring his friend has the best birthday gift ever. “Alright. Sounds like something I can actually, hopefully, help you with. Do you have a list or something?”

Louis digs out his phone, scrolls a little and then presses play as he finds the audio message. The sales guy reaches out to get a pen and paper, and listens intently, scribbling down what Louis assumes are artists.

As Louis watches the guy listen and write, he feels very happy at wearing a street cred old band shirt today – for some reason, he doesn’t want this bloke to take him for a dickhead music snob. The guy is wearing a white tee with little holes here and there, the text having faded into something that’s almost impossible to decipher, but Louis thinks it’s probably Rolling Stones.

Louis hasn’t really spared much thought to romance lately, feeling like it would just be added stress to his life that is already too much for him; as if it’d be adding one more ball to all the too many balls he’s already trying to juggle. But he’s not made of stone; this guy is definitely quite charming. Worth fancying, with his brown messy hair, a bit longer than Louis’ as it reaches his shoulders almost, wearing a colourful headscarf. He’s got big eyes and big lips, and his voice sounds a bit sexy. Louis has realised during his years of being old enough to fancy people that someone’s voice is definitely important to him. He has to like it and want to listen to it. This person in front of him has a rather low voice, but occasionally it pipes up, almost as if his voice hasn’t quite broken through yet even though it definitely has – he’s clearly older than a teenager. It’s quirky. Louis likes quirky.

Louis notices the guy has a black cross tattooed on his hand, close to his thumb. Louis isn’t a fan of religious signs and symbols really, at least not on himself; it feels like a too public or blatant of a declaration of something very private. It seems to suit this bloke though. Considering his stance, Louis can’t say whether the cross is more of a rockstar prop tattoo or if this guy might actually be a dedicated follower of Jesus.

“Okay,” the guy then nods as the audio stops. He taps the end of the pen to the little note he’d made, and then lets out a sigh as if gearing up for a task. “Right. No wonder you’d felt lost,” he nods towards Louis’ The Smiths shirt.

The guy walks around the counter, smiling hesitantly at Louis again and motions for him to follow him. Louis follows happily, mentally telling himself off for having taken a once-over of the guy’s legs, dressed in blue skinny jeans. His legs are lean, and long, and Louis is probably saving the image to his wank bank. Especially as the guy turns around and smiles again, and it’s now revealed that he has an actual fucking dimple. A dimple.

“Uhm. The list had like, eleven albums, and I think we’ve got eight of them? Would you like them all?”

“Depends on the price,” Louis says, feeling a bit embarrassed. “We’ve all chipped in, so I don’t know if…”

The guy nods. “Okay. What’s your budget? If we just, uhm, start going down the list, I think he probably wants the ones he mentions first the most, and then just. Stop once the money’s all spent?”

Louis agrees, and he happily follows the guy around the shop, piling albums on his hands. The covers look… extravagant, colourful and like someone was told to paint a migraine.

“I think this is it, now.”

“Hmm?” The guy asks, busy reaching to the furthest wall and leaning over some dusty albums.

“Money. It’s gone.”

The guy looks at Louis, eyes big. “Did you lose your money? Do you think you might’ve dropped…” He’s looking around, nervous.

“No, sorry,” Louis laughs apologetically. “I meant the budget. I think it’s all spent now, so, we’ll just go with this pile here.”

“Okay,” the guy looks a little disappointed. “Is that… Like, do you think your friend will be happy with those?”

“Oh, for sure,” Louis eyes the pile he’s holding. “We got like, six from the top of the list, so that’s really good.”

The guy looks pleased. “Good. I’m glad.”

They walk back to the counter and the guy digs out a plastic bag, starting to carefully pack the vinyls  whilst keying the prices into the machine. Louis looks around, feeling almost intrusive if he were to keep intensely looking at what the guy was doing. There’s something odd, in a good way, about him. He’s really good at his job, immediately making Louis and surely other customers, feel comfortable, almost as if they were old friends – like there’s this sense of familiarity, feeling at ease around this guy. Louis has been told before that he has the aura too, making people feel comfortable and relaxed in his company.

Louis pays and takes the bag, feeling a bit sad at having to leave this place, briefly wondering if he should really start collecting vinyls too.

“I hope your friend really likes them all,” the sales guy says earnestly.

“I’m sure. You were such a great help, thanks again.”

The guy smiles again brightly. “My pleasure. And like, it’s not really my type of music either, so I’m pretty impressed with myself honestly.”

Louis laughs, and the guy seems to blush a little, looking down. “Well, I reckon you should be. See ya!” Louis waves and leaves before he, maybe, kisses the guy.

“Bye!” The guy actually waves through the big shop window as Louis walks away.

He feels like his steps are even lighter when he walks home, stopping to get a coffee to go. The shop guy was so cute and really sweet, and Louis isn’t sure he actually hasn’t seen him before, as there was this almost eerie sense of familiarity about him. As much as Louis doesn’t have time or interest for any funny business, he isn’t feeling gutted about having volunteered to get Liam’s gift. Sweet Liam. Maybe Liam should actually get a few more presents…

His thoughts are interrupted by a beep on his phone.  

loveASMR: I hereby confirm this to be true. No drunken messages sent. Very impressive of you but a bit boring for me.

ohnotommo: I’m sorry H, I can’t always be the joke. You need to become one yourself and then nothing will ever be boring.

loveASMR: I could do with less boring. Any tips, joke master?

ohnotommo: I’m sure you’re plenty ridiculous. You make me laugh loads.

loveASMR: At me, not with me right?

ohnotommo: Definitely with you.

ohnotommo: Do you save all the bloopers stuff from filming? Maybe you could do one of those. And send it to me if you don’t want to publish it. Promise I’ll pay back in hilarious drunken messages.

loveASMR: Bloop bloop.

---

It’s been a bad week, and it’s only Tuesday. Not only a Tuesday, it’s also the 1st of August, which means summer is coming to an end, which means that Louis has exactly one month left of his internship, which evidently means the doom of last year of uni is also drawing nearer and with that, the soon-to-be-unescapable time to actually figure the fuck out of his life.

His work day was also a bit of a mess, just faffing around in haste without feeling like he actually knew what he was doing – contradictory instructions from a few different people, one of them a bit full of himself and telling Louis in a condescending tone that obviously his errand was the most important one. Louis hates feeling like he’s not doing his job well, especially when it isn’t really his fault, but due to feeling out of control, at the mercy of others who don’t really give him the information for him to execute his job as well as he wants to and knows he can.

So, unsurprisingly, Louis finds himself sitting in the familiar spot by the riverbank at a hidden nook deep in Hackney Marshes again. He hadn’t even realised his feet had wandered here, had passed his usual bus stop and stayed off at a stop a few stops further. It’s as if his body knew better than his mind did what he needed right now today. He looks at the water without seeing much, rubbing his hands together as his fingers feel cold for some reason. even though the weather is still very warm, only a little cloudy.

There’s a wistful feeling of wanting to be a kid again, sitting by the River Mersey. Louis lets out a dry laugh, remembering how he’d thought life back then had been such a chore, with homework and looking after his little sisters and having to do actual chores. What wouldn’t he give to have only those things to worry about now, instead of trying to figure out actual adult stuff, things that will pretty much set the direction of his future life. He takes a few deep breaths, trying to empty his mind and fill his lungs with the air, the smell of nature. He focuses on looking at the water, listening to the birds chirping away.

He vaguely remembers the idea of a script he had once when he was here - maybe it was about sisters and one of them drowning? It doesn’t seem very appealing anymore, and drowning seems to hit a bit too close to home right now, with the way Louis feels his own emotions are whooshing over him and pushing him deeper, to such depths that it’s hard to see the light anymore.

Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, Louis back pedals in his mind. He has a flare for that, after all, which is probably a good thing considering his passion is making movies, telling stories. Or at least he thinks it is.

ohnotommo: Tell me a story you’ve always wanted to hear but it hasn’t been told yet.

Louis feels a bit daft, asking H for something like that, but it also feels weirdly natural – just telling him what’s on his mind, H having suddenly become the first person Louis really wants to tell about the stuff going on in his head. It feels unassuming, H not knowing anything about him or knowing the actual life things of the actual Louis; he has no role to fill or certain behaviour to stick to.

loveASMR: I’d like to hear a story about you.

ohnotommo: Not helpful, H.

loveASMR: Was I supposed to help somehow? Solve a problem? Silly me thinking it was an actual honest question.

ohnotommo: It was that too.

ohnotommo: Here’s a story. I study film. Am about to start my last year and feeling a bit lost, to be honest. I’ve got a million script ideas that come and go and none of them stay, none are good enough. So I’m rudely picking your brain for inspiration.

loveASMR: I’ll stick to my original reply, in that case. I’d like to hear a story about you :)

loveASMR: I think, when creating art, be it music or film or whatever, the best source of inspiration is yourself. It doesn’t need to be like, another Boyhood, but think of what you feel and what you have to say.

ohnotommo: I’ve got nothing to say. That’s the thing.

loveASMR: Nah, I think you’ve got plenty to say. Maybe you’re not listening carefully enough?

ohnotommo: But what if I like, want to make a gigantic Hollywood action blockbuster? It’s not very biographical.

loveASMR: :D Feelings and goals are universal though. Even Stallone is driven by the very same needs and wants we all are, I’m sure.

ohnotommo: Like what? Being the strongest biggest badass around?

loveASMR: Exactly. Being the biggest and strongest as in feeling accepted and respected and having self-worth. That’s what it always comes down to, me thinks.

ohnotommo: That simple eh?

loveASMR: God no! That’s like the hardest thing to achieve in the world.

loveASMR: But the most important.

ohnotommo: Yeah. I’m just pretty stressed out about it all. Sorry to dump it all on you.

loveASMR: Dump away. I’m not even in uni yet so happy to help with anything I can.

loveASMR: Makes me increase my own self-worth and all :)

ohnotommo: Thanks mate. I think I’m just feeling a bit lost in what I want to do in life in general. Which probably links to me being so unable to figure out what kinda movie I’d love to do or anything.

loveASMR: I think you just need to give yourself some mercy. Not force it. You’ll know when you’ll know. It’ll be a Eureka moment! one day when you wake up and it’ll be fine.

Louis reads the words a few times, trying to let them sink in. Yeah, he can sort of see that; maybe he’s been trying to force all the answers immediately. Doing so has only resulted in more stress, to the point where he feels numb and unable to even acknowledge his issues. In turn, it only makes him feel more stressed at how incapable he is being on making any decisions or even entertaining realistic thoughts about what he’d want to do, what he even could do.

Maybe he doesn’t need to have it all figured out yet, by a certain timeline. He’s just worried about falling into a rabbit hole where he thinks he’ll have all the time in the world, only to one day realise the time ran out and he’s still absolutely utterly fucking lost.

loveASMR: Or that’s what I keep telling myself, at least.

ohnotommo: I’ll take your word for it. And come hunt you down in 50 years’ time if it turns out you were just mocking about and nothing’s good still.

loveASMR: I’ll hunt you down first to apologize. Trust life, that’s what I think.

Louis doesn’t reply anymore, thinking the last sentence is probably a very excellent piece of advice that he just wants to let sink in. The River Lea keeps moving on, but Louis sort of wishes he’d see a bit more Mersey right now.

He stays there for a little while longer, trying to tell himself that everything is really going to be ok. He’ll get there. He is going to focus on being the best damn runner intern for the last month, actually going to log onto his uni email and see what he needs to sort out, what modules he still has coming up. He’ll keep his mind sharp and observational about his surroundings, in case there’s just the right story to tell looming somewhere. He’ll be fine, he tells himself, and it sounds somewhat convincing.

Feeling a bit more positive about life, Louis texts Niall and Liam suggesting a pub dinner. One of their locals has fairly priced pub grub, delicious and big portions, and for once it seems like the lads all have some spare money and an evening off, so they meet up in the pub.

“Excited for your big bash, Payno?” Niall queries as he’s blowing into his steaming Shepherd’s pie.

“So much! I talked to the lads in the bar and they’re totally happy to have me do a private party for the start of the evening, general entry starting only at midnight. You fellas just need to drink enough.”

“As if that’s ever been a problem,” Louis muses, popping a chip into his mouth. The pub does amazing chunky chips, and Louis forgets every time how bloody hot they are inside, burning his tongue as a tradition. “How many people are you inviting?”

“Oh, loads. You lot, people from uni. And your sister, if that’s alright?” Liam looks at Louis a bit hesitantly.

Louis nods, smiling widely. “Absolutely. I’ll even let you guys smooch without rolling my eyes too much. A special birthday treat and all.”

Liam actually blushes a bit, and Niall chuckles through his mouthful.

“Speaking of, and like, I know money is tight and all, except for Mr Poker Billionaire here, like I don’t want to ask for a huge birthday gift or anything, you don’t need to get me stuff.”

“But?” Niall raises his eye brow and glances quickly at Louis, knowing very well they’ve already got a pretty ace gift bought and wrapped and all.

Liam looks hesitant for a bit, wringing his arms on the table. “There’s this one vinyl, a proper classic like, house thing, and it’s so hard to get by, but I’m following this one record store and they’ve just got a second hand one arrive, and I was wondering…” He stops for a moment, looking at Louis and Niall. “If, uhm, maybe… It’s not too expensive or anything, I don’t think, like 20 quid, but…”

“Say no more, Paynster,” Louis smiles. “Just tell us the name. Or maybe text it, I don’t know how to pronounce the weird house stuff anyway.”

Liam beams and buys them a round of pints.

Trust life indeed, Louis muses. He now actually has a legit reason to revisit Love Vinyl. Not that he’s, like, eager to see the guy with the dimples and the legs again – hell, he might not even work there from aside like once a month – but he can’t really look a gifted horse in the mouth, can he? Suddenly an opportunity to go back there seems like some kind of fate.

Life seems to be handing him a lot of treats, he muses, as later that night when he’s getting ready for bed his phone beeps. H has sent him a link to a video.  

loveASMR: Bloop bloop. This is a bit ridiculous but I thought maybe it might cheer you up a bit. It’s not a public video so you need a password.

ohnotommo: Ooh exciting! I’m trying this ‘trust life’ thing and so far, so good. What’s the password then?

loveASMR: Tingles, of course.

ohnotommo: Of course.

loveASMR: It’s not really tingly though, just silly, entertaining I hope. Quite daft really.

ohnotommo: Ah so very you then.

loveASMR: Piss off.

Louis clicks the video link and types in the password. The video is titled ‘ohnobloopers’. Louis feels a wide smile forming on his face, and leans back on the pile of pillows propped against the headboard of his bed before pressing play.

It doesn’t take too many seconds of watching to find out that H swears. A lot. It starts out as a sort of  collage from the drawing video, filmed from above and showing an A4 and H’s hands, a pile of different pens on the side. Louis feels light shivers watching the sharp tip of the pen scratch the paper’s surface as H draws a long line, slightly round, moving to draw what Louis assumes will be the cat’s tail, only to then start cursing at a mistake Louis can’t even spot, and crumbling the piece of paper and starting a new one.

Louis can hear a deep sigh, then a new blank paper is placed into view as H starts whispering softly again. “Hello, lovers, and welcome to my drawing video,” he says in a dreamlike soft tone as he smooths out the paper, leaving Louis’ neck tingling. “I think one of the biggest tragedies in being me is the absolute inability to hold a tone, or a note, which is awful considering how much I love music, but at least I can hold a pen.” He starts drawing a line again, a bit quicker and lighter than on the first clip, getting all the way to the tail again and groaning as he makes another invisible mistake. “Well, sometimes at least. This is absolute shit,” he grumbles and wrinkles this paper too and throws it away. On the third go, he manages to get further but then, on making the outline back up to draw the first ear, “Shit fuck hell this is shit,” making Louis chuckle. For the fourth time, H just draws a sad face and writes I CAN’T DRAW in capital letters over the paper. “I see the drawing isn’t happening today,” he muses as he traces the smiley face with his pen. “Think I’m just gonna go have a wine and a whine with my sister.”

The next clip is from the actual cooking video, Louis immediately recognises. “Hello lovers, and welcome to H-gellas cooking class. H-gella? Nah mate, that doesn’t work. I’ll edit it out. Right.” He seems to tap the counter, not to create tingles but just to get himself ready again. “Hello lovers, and welcome to… Uhm. Just a sec. I seem to have lost my mozzarella.” H disappears on the video, and Louis can hear what he assumes is a fridge door opening, and H rummaging through the fridge in search of the cheese. He soon comes back to the view. “Right. I’m excited to report the mozzarella has been found. So, today, on the request of a good friend, Tommo we’ll call him, or I guess that’s what he should be called as he calls himself that? So yeah, Tommo, uhm, we’ll be helping him woo his friends and ensure he gets to many picnics always. Oh for fucks’s sake,” H then sighs exasperatedly. “This literally sounds like I’m saying picnic but mean pussy. Ok, cut.” Another few seconds of tapping the counter, and then Louis can see the clip is edited – he presumes it was the actual good intro that H used for the video.

Next, he sees H tapping on a sauce pan, crinkling the bag of rice and running his index finger around the edge of the sauce pan. “First off, we’ll be boiling rice. So, you boil the water, add a bit of salt, just a pinch, and then wait for, like, twenty minutes until it boils.” He goes silent and it sounds stunned. “So yeah, I guess we’ll now watch rice boil for twenty minutes. Good stuff. Entertainment value sky high. I honestly hope Nigella never sees this,” he mumbles to himself. “So, I’ll boil the rice, and the eggs too actually, now there’s a spoiler for you, so I can be a proper cook and show all the stuff I did before I started filming. Isn’t that what they always do? Yeah, I’ll just… Do that.” Louis laughs again, even more amazed now at how good the cooking video turned out – and how helpful. This is more like watching himself mess around in the kitchen.

ohnotommo: How the hell did you actually manage to create something so delicious out of this mess?

loveASMR: Heey! I put a lot of trust in you, showing you that. It’s supposed to be encouraging for you and not a reason to mock me!

ohnotommo: Aw, cheers for that then. What a pal!

The last scene (Louis reckons based on the video only having a minute or so left) is from the vinyl video. Louis feels his heart clench; this was his first contact to H, first thing he ever saw of him. H is just showing Adele’s album, tracing her hair as if he’s brushing it, when suddenly the camera seems to tip over and H lets out a loud groan, startling Louis. “Oh come on you little… You cat. You bloody damn cat, I’m filming, you can’t just…” And then the view goes blurry for a second, only a little meow sound on the background audible. The camera seems to be knocked on the table, still recording but now the image is sideways. “I’m sorry love, I didn’t mean it, you’re the best cat ever, best animal ever.” There’s some muffled cooing and a smack of lips, probably a kiss that H has given to the, now in-focus ball of fur.

It’s a cat. A ginger cat, very fluffy, bits of white on its paws and under its chin. It’s butting its head against H’s hands, then plopping on top of the Adele vinyl on its side, and Louis lets out an embarrassing sound at watching H’s hand pet the cat with long strokes on its back, fingers tickling its stomach. The cat seems to start purring. “You’re the best thing in this whole world, you know that, hmm?” More scratching and tickling, and the purring gets louder. H seems to have completely forgotten about the camera and anything that isn’t his cat. After a few more cuddly movements and sounds (from both H and the cat), H starts talking again, humming a bit. “Ladies and gents, may I introduce you to the best cat ever? This is my best friend in the whole world. Say hello!” H is holding one of the cat’s front paws between his index and middle fingers, pretending the cat is waving to the camera. “This is Old Catford. A bit of a mouthful, I know. But I figured it sounded quite, I don’t know, grand? And I guess this is also me coming out as a Mancunian, as if you can’t hear it, so Old Catford is obviously after Old Trafford. I got him as a rescue cat, he’s around five years I think, he was so grumpy when I went to visit the shelter, but he looked at me, from his corner, and I… Well, I was sold. Clearly. As he’s here now. And this is probably the most embarrassing bit of footage no one will ever see. Anyway, Old Catford, which I realised quite soon was too long to be used for cooing or cursing at. So we tried OC at first, but the telly series is shit and no thanks. Then I tried Harrison, after Harrison Ford you know? But it’s a bit long too, and shortening it to…” H stops for a bit. “Well, the short form of that wasn’t going to work, so now he’s just… Uhm. Oldie, sometimes. Or just cat. Or, ehm, my precious little baby, to be honest.” The cat has closed its eyes now and at hearing the pet names, puts its paw on H’s hand and Louis can hear a very soft whimper, probably human-made. It’s fucking adorable. “I’m actually, uhm, just going to stop filming now. My cat clearly needs me. All the tingles and that!” H waves to the camera, and makes Old Catford wave as well. And that’s the end of that video.

ohnotommo: PRECIOUS LITTLE BABY

loveASMR: Thou shall not offend my cat. Or me. Unsure which one this was aimed at.

ohnotommo: Neither, I’m actually a pile of goo. That’s one amazing cat.

loveASMR: Aww thanks man! I’ll tell him. God forbid his head would get any smaller about his own excellence.

ohnotommo: He never should feel anything but royal. Amazing. As was everything about this, it did make me feel a lot better. Thank you, as always. Feel like I’m always thanking you.

loveASMR: No problem. It never is, honestly :)

loveASMR: I was going to name the video gag reel at first, but thought it might be flagged as adult content.

ohnotommo:   It made me, though. Gag, that is.

ohnotommo: Original meaning, obvs.

loveASMR: Obvs.

ohnotommo: I’m also now contemplating on making a movie about an animal shelter.

loveASMR: Too sad!

ohnotommo: It’ll have a happy ending ofc!

loveASMR: Unrealistic. Not everyone finds a home or a place in this world.

ohnotommo: Contradicting yourself there. You literally just said a few days ago that everything will work out.

loveASMR: Oh, yeah, for you. You’re not an animal in a shelter though.

ohnotommo: Less hairy.

loveASMR: And not saved by me.

ohnotommo: We’ll see.