Sometimes Nick has dreams that he's living another life.
He dreams about technicolor lights and bodies writhing in dark clubs and being on a stage in front of millions. He dreams of men sprawled across his bed, smiling brilliant and inviting smiles. He dreams in pulses of happiness that fade before he can really get used to the feeling.
And then he wakes up, and he's back in his reality. Back in his tiny London flat with the steps that squeak and the mouse that he's just accepted now as a roommate and three bookshelves overstuffed with CDs and books and memories.
There's a drunk famous guy napping in the back of his car.
Nick's not bothering to be subtle about stealing looks. This guy doesn't seem like he's going to wake up any time soon. He's snoring, that loud blaring kind of snoring that only comes from the very drunk.
He's that guy. He's definitely that guy. As soon as he makes the drop off, Nick's gonna google that band he's in and figure out which of them it is he's playing chauffeur to. Then he's going to text Daisy and make her absolutely livid. Daisy's great aspiration is to be a starfucker. He tells her if anyone's got the goods to make a solid go of it, it’s her. He's the encouraging sort when it comes to wanting friends to chase their dreams.
It helps that he doesn't have any of his own.
Driving for Uber is not his main job, which is good because he's actually pretty shit at it. He's written off four different cars and pissed off four different friends but somehow they hired him, despite his accident record, and it's good enough for a bit of money in his pocket. It funds his music obsession, and his porn habit, and drinks when he goes out every few weeks, and sometimes a nice whimsical top that costs more than he should ever spend on an item of clothing, but that goes perfect with those trousers that make his ass look amazing.
Anyway. That's life. Doing what he has to do to get by.
"I'm in a band," the drunk famous guy tells him, as Nick hauls him up the stairs.
At this point, Nick wishes he'd pass out again, even though it was Nick who woke him up to begin with. He'd been too wary to slap him about the face so he'd just pulled out his phone and blasted vintage Spice Girls in his ear until he started to stir.
"I know you are, mate," Nick says. "I know you are."
Back in the car, Nick's aim had been to coax a final destination out of the guy, because the address he'd been given originally took him to an alleyway of the seedy looking sort and Nick, driven by that inane and pesky moral compass, had opted not to leave him there dumped in a drooling pile on the standing water of the curb.
"I was," drunk famous guy corrects. "In a band. Not in a band anymore."
"That so," Nick says.
"You ever been in a band?"
"Can't say that I have."
"Sometimes I don't think I have either."
"You're so fucking drunk." This is not the dream scenario when it comes to bringing fit rich men home. This is so far from the dream scenario. This is the ultimate in ironic misery.
"Fuck 'ff," drunken famous guy slurs, and then his head drops forward and he's out again.
He situates drunk famous guy on his sofa, shoving a pillow under his head and draping a blanket over him. He leaves him as he is otherwise, still with his shoes and jacket on. Far be it from Nick to impede a quick getaway, should one be considered come morning and sobriety.
Drunk famous guy's name is Louis, and he's exactly who Nick thought he was even if the name on his Uber account was something else.
He's also currently in Nick's bathroom, hopefully executing good aim.
Nick's in the kitchen, because it's far enough away that he can't hear the disgusting sounds. He's got coffee going and he thinks whether it's worth it to make two cups, before deciding it is.
Drunk Famous Louis stumbles into his kitchen, squinting. His hair is a riot and his stubble is halfway to a proper beard.
"Coffee?" Nick asks.
"Tea," Louis says. "I want tea."
"Are you still drunk?" Nick bristles. “Or did your dear mum just never teach you any manners?”
His voice is not as cutting as the words he’s speaking. He's half playing it cool, and half actually doesn't give a shit. He's already struck down the concept of taking pictures to sell to the tabloids. He doesn't think he'd get enough money for them, anyway. He's a man of the modern age, he's done his googling. The market for drunken snapshots on this particular specimen is saturated and then some.
"I'm not drunk," the apparently-not-drunk-anymore famous guy says, with a touch of defensiveness. "I wasn't that drunk last night, even. I was just tired. Fucking knackered."
"Right," Nick says. "You snore, you know. Could hear you all the way in my bedroom.”
He doesn’t say that that he’d gotten up three times to make sure Louis was still breathing, because every time he closed his eyes he had nightmares of a famous guy stumbling drunk and accidentally falling on a butcher knife or letting himself out and breaking his neck on the stairs. Nick might want excitement in his life, but not that sort of excitement.
"I don't snore," he mutters, and he balls up a first and rubs his eyes like a cranky toddler. There's a pink line from the pillow's crease on his cheek. He rubs at it, and then yawns. "I need something to eat. Need something in my stomach. You got food around here?"
Nick lifts an eyebrow. "I do understand how you might have got the wrong impression considering the stellar service you’ve received, but this isn’t a fucking restaurant, beautiful.”
Louis stares at him.
Nick stares right back. He’s never had a good self-preservation instinct.
“Right,” Louis says, deflated. “I’m too hungover for this. Can you just call me a car?”
“Call it yourself,” Nick says. “You’ve got a mobile.”
“It’s dead,” Louis says.
Nick sighs dramatically and tosses Louis his phone.
Nick’s just dropped off his third fare of the night when his phone rings, rudely interrupting Britney as she sings her modern classic about seeking Amy.
“You drive a car, right?”
Nick recognizes that voice. He won’t say he’s spent a few hours watching performances and interviews on Youtube. He needed to beef the story up, since it was certain to become one of his stories - one of those weird anecdotes that get traded at parties and group nights out.
“Yeah, that’d be me,” Nick says.
“I left my jacket in your car.”
Nick cranes around to look behind him. Balled up in the corner is indeed a jacket. “Yeah, I’ve got it.”
“Can you bring it me?” Louis asks. “Or I can come and pick it up.”
“You?” Nick asks. “Come and pick it up yourself?”
Maybe he scoffs a bit.
“What?” Louis says.
“I just mean, you could just send someone,” Nick says.
“You can’t bring it?” Louis sounds annoyed.
Nick glances at the clock. “I’m not your actual servant. Is that a thing, do you have, like, servants? What’s it pay?”
“I don’t - I have people,” Louis says. “A team.”
“Team sounds a lot like glorified servants.”
“You’re a twat, aren’t you?” Louis sounds like this is some kind of revelation.
It is not a revelation to Nick.
“That’s me,” he says, cheerfully.
“I’ll come and get it,” Louis snarls and hangs up before Nick can even say he’s not actually home.
Nick’s not lonely.
Don’t listen to what his mum says. Don’t listen to what Daisy says.
He lives a perfectly fulfilled life. He reads a lot of books. He travels some with his friends. He knows how to have fun.
Maybe he’s not got a perfect boyfriend with ten pack abs or a glitzy job that keeps him in designer wear or a flat that looks like it ought to be in a magazine.
Maybe his life isn’t quite where he thought it would be by the time he wandered into his thirties. But he’s not unhappy.
Louis is waiting on the doorstep when Nick pulls up.
“You must have been close,” Nick says.
He tosses Louis the jacket.
Louis unfolds it and looks down at it, then puts it on. “Thanks.”
He stands up and looks at Nick.
Nick looks back.
It starts to get awkward. “So…” Nick says.
Louis shakes his head slightly. “Nothing. Just, thanks.”
The word sounds uncomfortable coming out of Louis’s mouth. “No worries, mate.”
“I mean, for not like - taking my picture. Posting it all over the internet. Robbing me blind.” Louis sounds so nervous that it defuses Nick’s growing irritation.
He’d only considered doing one of those things.
“You need to pick better places to pass out if you’re constantly in danger of that,” Nick says.
“I don’t usually pass out places at all,” Louis says. “But I was supposed to be on a plane this morning. Got the hairdryer treatment.”
“From your servants?” Nick grins slightly.
Louis rolls his eyes. “From my team.”
“Servants,” Nick counters.
“Fuck off,” Louis says. “But thanks.”
Nick laughs. “You’re welcome.”
One of life’s predictabilities for Nick:
Being awake an hour before his alarm clock, laying in bed with sleep muddling his brain and his body ten steps ahead and two lanes over.
He has time to sort himself out, time to slip a hand under his duvet and grip. Time to draw it out and make it last, time to let his mind wander through fantasies before he has to face the real world.
Those fantasies usually take a lot of different shapes. His last boyfriend, one night stands. People he fancies off of television, people completely made up who are nameless and faceless but do just the right things with their bodies.
He’s not the sort of guy who carries much shame about anything like this.
Except - when that one face appears in his mental wank movie, the sharpness of blue eyes and a voice too husky. He shivers and imagines that body underneath him and pushing in. His hand moves faster against himself and he’s breaking a sweat now, moving against his sheets and fucking into his closed grip.
He wonders what Louis would look like when he came, and that does him in.
Oh well, he thinks, wiping his hand off. He’ll probably never see Louis again anyway.
The next day, the texts begin. The first one just says: This is Louis, from the car.
Nick stares at it for thirty seconds before he types back, hello.
And then they start: random little complaints about Louis’ life, questions that Louis could just as easily google the answer to but decides to ask Nick instead, pictures of the oddest things.
Nick responds, because it’s polite to respond, and he’s not sure where this is leading but he’s curious to find out.
“Can I come over?”
Nick recognizes the number. He’s not sure why he hasn’t saved it in his phone. It feels like crossing a line, like something he’s not been invited to do.
Maybe he’s wrong, though. Since Louis seems to think they’re chums enough to invite himself around anytime he pleases.
Nick thinks about saying no, just out of principle. He could have plans. He could have someone over, for all Louis knows.
But he doesn’t. He’s been quite bored lately. He’s had that itch under his skin to go somewhere new and do something wild. He’s just been pondering a second tattoo, scrolling through designs on his phone.
Louis’s got a lot of tattoos. Maybe he’s got some advice.
“Sure,” Nick says. “Bring me something to eat, though.”
Louis's got circles under his eyes and a gauntness to his cheeks that tugs at some weird place in Nick, something almost nurturing.
And that's new, that's certainly new. But he's one to go with his instincts more often than not, no matter what sort of wretched places they tend to take him.
(Like in bed with his hand around his cock thinking about making Louis’ already filthy mouth even filthier.)
"Come in," Nick says. "Have a cuppa."
“Thanks,” Louis says quietly, and slinks inside. “I didn’t bring any food. Didn’t know what you like. But we can order something.”
Nick doesn’t really give a shit anymore. “Sit down.”
It's raining outside.
Nick's put on some music, something from the nineties that probably predates the scrap of boy currently napping on his sofa.
Louis blinks his eyes open when Nick walks in with the tea. Their fingers touch when Louis takes the mug.
"What do you even come here for?" Nick asks.
Louis shrugs. "Dunno. It's quiet, it's nice.”
Nick snorts and looks around. “This? Nice?”
It’s not the worst flat for the price and the area, but nice would be a stretch.
“Nice,” Louis repeats. “And you’re - you remind me of my mates back home, sort of. That makes it nice."
"You miss your mates back home?” Nick asks. He’s not sure where exactly ‘back home’ is for Louis, but with the accent he’s got a fair idea.
"Yeah," Louis says.
“Why come here instead of going to see them, then?” Nick asks. He’s just full of questions right now. Simple curiosity. Definitely not that he wants to keep asking until he stumbles on something that makes Louis look a little less sad.
"Because even my mates back home aren't how they used to be, you know."
"Sure," Nick says, even though he doesn't actually know at all.
"They look at me differently now. Look at me like I'm made of something they want. Or like they can’t be the same around me. It's weird. Makes me feel weird. Not normal. Being here makes me feel normal, though. You look at me like I'm something you scraped off your shoe, but you still make me a cup of tea and let me sleep on your sofa. That's normal. That's what mates do."
"Mates," Nick says, and some spark in him he hadn't even realized was there flickers sharp and bright just once and then goes dark.
Well, he thinks to himself. He'll have to sort that out later. Or he won't. Repression, yeah? That's the trick. Tucked up back in the depths of his brain with all those other things he won't think about.
"We are, right?" Louis asks, and it's unfair how there's that little tremble in his voice. "Mates?"
"Yeah," Nick says. "Sure."
He gets a call at half four, so far before daybreak that his first thought is that someone’s died. Calls at this hour only come when someone’s dead or in jail.
“‘Lo?” He answers, the grogginess clear in his voice.
“Oh, fuck,” Louis says. “Forgot about the time.”
“Are you drunk?” Nick asks. “Are you in jail?”
Louis laughs. “Drunk, no. Fucking knackered, yeah. Jail, not yet.”
“Oh.” Nick yawns massively. “Where are you, then?”
“Australia,” Louis says.
Nick realizes he can hear some background noise. Cars, maybe a train?
“What time is it there?” Nick asks.
“Half two,” Louis says. “Just finished an interview. It was bullshit, they just wanted to know who I’m fucking.”
“Did you tell them?”
Louis barks out a laugh. “Yeah, just ran ‘em right through my mobile contacts, pointed out all the ones I’ve had a go with.”
“Now that’s how you do it,” Nick admires. “It’s early here.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Louis says. “Just wanted to see if you’d pick me up from the airport.”
“What?” Nick asks. “When?”
“Heading there now,” Louis says. “So in about twenty four hours from now.”
“My tomorrow will be your yesterday,” Nick says.
“Don’t.” Louis sounds pained. “Time differences fuck with my head already. But you can pick me up?”
“Sure,” Nick says. “Just send me the details.”
“I’ll take you out for drinks after,” Louis promises. “Now get back to sleep.”
Nick hangs up and rolls over, falling back asleep almost immediately.
"Shurrup, you'll wake Pig," Nick says, laughing drunkenly.
Why'd he let himself get so drunk? And how? He swears he only had a few glasses, but whatever Louis's been feeding him is potent stuff. None of the bottom shelf there.
"Pig?" Louis's eyes brighten. He starts looking around. "Do you have a pet? Is it a puppy-cat or a doggy- puppy dog, or a kitty- what is it, then?"
Nick giggles. (He doesn't giggle. It's a lie. Everything is a lie. There's no proof, it never happened). "Pig's m'mouse. Call him that because he's a fucking pig, I can't leave one bit of food out that he doesn't get it. Little piggy mouse."
"You're so stupid," Louis says, absolutely delighted. "I've never heard such a thing."
"You're stupider," Nick informs him.
Louis just beams back. "Can I sleep on your sofa if I promise not to chuck up on it?"
"Please don't," Nick says. "I mean, yeah, you can, but also please don't."
Nick wakes up with a definite awareness that he's no longer in his early twenties.
He feels like he's been hit by a train, or maybe that being hit by a train might be a welcome distraction from the hangover consuming every molecule of his body.
Awareness creeps in through the haze of discomfort. He realizes the rhythmic chugging he hears is his washing machine.
“Are you doing the washing?” He calls out.
Louis appears in his bedroom doorway. He looks fresh and showered. “Yeah. Haven’t been back to mine since I flew in, and I needed something to wear.”
“Did you clean my kitchen up too?” Nick asks hopefully.
Louis flips him off and cheerfully says, “Not your fucking servant.”
And just like that, Louis goes from weird anomaly to someone in Nick’s life.
"You're queer, right?" Louis asks.
He's shown up with beer and a bag of frozen chips to make in the oven and some really grotesquely fancy dessert wrapped up so that even the paper box looks expensive. ("It's good," he promised. "It's the best.")
"Yep," Nick says. "Gay, you could say."
"Oh," Louis says. "Gay. Yeah."
"Why?" Nick shoves two chips into his mouth. "Fancy some dick?"
Louis almost drops his beer. "What - oh, shut it, stop laughing at me."
"Can't help it," Nick says, still laughing. His eyes feel damp. "Really, though. What's it to you?"
"Nothing to me," Louis says.
But he's got that look on his face that means it's maybe something and Nick isn't sure quite whether it's good or bad.
He picks up Louis outside a business office.
"You're sober," he says, feigning shock when Louis slides into the passenger seat.
"Your music’s shit," Louis says, reaching out to turn the radio off.
"Oi," Nick says, slapping at his hand. "I'll make you sit in the back like normals do."
Louis ignores him. "You know, sometimes I don't even know if I like music anymore. When I'm home alone I just sit and enjoy it being quiet."
"Well," Nick says. "Isn't that a fucking depressing tale you've got there. Shed me a little tear."
"Fuck off." Louis says, and he laughs - turns his head and looks at Nick and laughs and his eyes are clear and blue and his smile is wide and-
Ah, no, no, Nick can't, Nick won't go down that road.
Weeks scatter into months, and many of them go by without seeing Louis.
But it starts to become a predictable thing; Nick starts to be someone who knows where Louis is, and when.
They text, they call. They talk about nothing in a way that feels like talking about everything.
Nick ignores the obvious. He ignores the place Louis is carving out, because he understands a lot more about how fucked up the life Louis leads actually is, about how much it fucks Louis up.
And he looks around his tiny apartment and he listens to his little Pig friend nosing around in the crumbs on the counter, and he thinks of his dreams of a better life, and decides that maybe loneliness is just as bad no matter how much stuff you’ve got. But at least his friends still look at Nick like Nick’s the same old person he’s always been.
Louis’s in a good mood. He’s got a song out now. Nick’s heard it on the radio a few times. It’s a banger, a poppy number with some girl that Louis tells him funny stories about.
Nick would be jealous if the stories didn’t all seem to lead down a road of dismissal.
But still, he has to ask: “Not your type, then?”
Louis looks at him, then shrugs. “A year ago she might have been.”
“Your type’s changed in a year?” Nick raises an eyebrow.
“I think maybe my type’s always been something different than what I thought it was,” Louis says.
He’s in such a good mood today. None of that shifty eyed evasion. He’s looking Nick straight on.
“Well.” The question hangs on the tip of his tongue.
“Well?” Louis wants him to ask. Nick can see it, clear as day.
“What’s your type, then?” Nick hates how his voice doesn’t sound quite so light and conversational anymore. He’s giving up the whole game right here. It’s not how the evening was supposed to go.
“I like…” Louis says carefully, “People who make me feel real.”
It’s not what Nick had expected. His stomach squirms impatiently.
“Like me,” Nick says softly.
Louis leans in. Nick’s sofa isn’t that small, but somehow they’ve… gravitated.
Is he seducing a famous straight boy?
No, he thinks, seeing the look in Louis’s eyes. That hunger doesn’t seem new at all.
“You’ve done this before,” Nick says, reaching out and pushing a strand of hair back from Louis’s face.
“Sat on a sofa?” Louis smirks. What a smug little shit. “Have done a few times, yeah.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Nick says. “Really, though.”
Because he’s not above this, but he needs to know that they’re on the same page.
“Yeah,” Louis says. “I have.”
Nick needs a moment, just a moment, to process.
And then he kisses Louis.
Louis kisses like he talks, bossy and bratty. He goes in hard like he’s got something to prove and finishes off wet with a bit too much tongue, but it’s good.
It’s so fucking good.
There’s a world in love with this man but Nick’s the one kissing him right now. Nick’s the one that makes him feel real, and Nick’s almost as in love with that as he is in love with Louis.
Louis has sex like someone who knows what he’s doing and is terrified of it at the same time. He laughs too loud and his hands shake a couple of times and he calls out Nick’s name in a needy sort of way. He wants to be petted, touched, wants to be taken care of but he wants to give back just as good.
“Wanted this,” he says, panting with his mouth against Nick’s neck and his naked body pressed just right against Nick’s body. “Wasn’t sure.”
“I’d have fucked you,” Nick says. “Just had to ask.”
“No,” Louis says, leaning back with his eyes shining in the low light. “Don’t want to just fuck you. Want-”
“More?” Nick asks. He’s never had a relationship talk in the middle of sex before. “Yeah, yeah, okay.”
He’s not sure that what he’s saying makes sense. He’s not sure if Louis will mean it once he’s come. But Nick’s got a bad habit of being willing to put himself on the line right when he should be the most cautious.
Louis kisses him again and again and again, smiling against Nick’s mouth. “More,” he says, and reaches for the condom.
Louis is still there when Nick wakes up.
It feels like a first hurdle cleared.
“Thought this wasn’t a fucking restaurant,” Louis says. “Beautiful.”
Nick laughs. The kitchen smells like nice crispy bacon and toast. “You earned it this time.”
He hears Louis walking, then feels Louis’s arms around his waist.
“So you want to do this. Like, proper?” Nick asks. His belly is full and he’s sipping his coffee while Louis has tea and they’re both still in their underwear, Homes Under the Hammer on the television in front of them.
Louis looks down at his tea. There must be something fascinating in that cup that Nick doesn’t remember putting there, because Louis doesn’t look up for a while. “I’m bad at being lonely, you know?”
Nick hums in agreement, even though he doesn’t know.
“I’m just - bad at it. And my life’s been kind of shit lately. I’m on my own for the first time, aren’t I? It’s got things all stirred up in my brain. I spent the past year being pulled in a hundred different directions, and I met you and I woke up here and it felt like the first time I was standing in a room with someone who didn’t want anything from me.”
Nick doesn’t want to discourage Louis, but he also doesn’t like the unsettling thought working it’s way into his mind. “So it was just me not kissing your arse, then?”
“No,” Louis says, shaking his head. “I mean, the first day, maybe. But I thought it was just - being with someone who didn’t know who I was.”
“I did,” Nick says. “I knew who you were.”
Louis shrugs. “Doesn’t matter anyway. Because I tried it again, you know? A few times. Tried just chatting to people who didn’t seem to know or didn’t give a shit who I was. And it didn’t work. I slept with one of them, he was gone the next morning.”
“Ouch,” Nick says, and it probably sounds like he’s sympathizing with Louis, but really he’s just not keen on hearing about other boys Louis’s fucked around with.
“Turns out it was you, you know? It wasn’t anonymity or some shit like that. It was just you, I just liked you.” Louis reaches out half-heartedly then lets his hand settle on the sofa cushion.
Nick takes it and slides their fingers together. His are longer and thicker, Louis’s looking almost delicate against them. “I like hearing that.”
Louis gives him a little smile. “I’m gonna fuck up your life, though, you know that, right? Because either we’re gonna do this quietly, and no one’s gonna know, or I’ll make it public and everyone’s gonna know. Don’t really get to - what’s the word, don’t get to set the boundaries just where you want them, it doesn’t work like that.”
“Okay,” Nick says. “Sounds like a bit of excitement. I could go for that.”
The first person he tells is Daisy.
It’s way more satisfying than a drunken passed out sofa picture would have been.