Actions

Work Header

Strength in Softness

Chapter Text

“C’mon, Tommo. Just last week you were saying how we don’t go out near enough.”

“I meant like to grab drinks, go out to eat, go to a club; not,” Louis bristled as he said, “Kickboxing classes.”

“It’s fun!” Niall insisted and Louis rolled his eyes just before smashing a few keys on the controller and obliterating Niall’s character on screen.

“No fair!” Niall pouted, throwing himself back against the couch, “I wasn’t prepared!”

“That’s what you get for suggesting fucking kickboxing classes, Nialler,” Louis laughed, hopping up from the couch and setting his controller down on the coffee table before heading to the kitchen to grab them more beers, “What spurred this anyway? You don’t even like working out around other people, much less taking a class with them,” Louis handed Niall a bottle of Stella.

“That was before I went last week! I’m telling you,” Niall cracked open his beer, “if you’d just give it a try you’d see what I mean. It’s fucking awesome. There’s loud music pumping and the trainer is fit as fuck.”

“Did you seriously just wiggle your eyebrows at me, Horan? Gross.”

“I’m just saying!”

“You’re just being a pain is what you’re just being,” Louis huffed, sitting down on the couch next to him, “If you think for a second that you can convince me to go to a kickboxing class, you’re dead wrong. I’d sooner happily go in for a root canal.”

“Is this about Andrew?”

Louis bristled again, “Not every damn thing is about Andrew.”

“Because it’d be okay if it was,” Niall reached over and put a hand on Louis’ shoulder that he had to struggle not to shake off, “But just because Andrew was a gym rat and a personal trainer and all doesn’t mean you can’t go to a gym, Louis. Besides, the kickboxing trainer is nothing like Andrew.”

“I said it wasn’t about Andrew,” Louis finally shook Niall’s hand off his shoulder. He felt a little bad about it, especially since Niall had a tendency to look like a rejected puppy - which he currently did in that moment. Louis sighed and ran a hand through his hair, “I know you mean well, Niall. But I just can’t deal with that right now.”

“Alright,” Niall nodded understandingly, and Louis felt his heart tug a little, “I get it, I do. I just thought maybe it’d be something fun we could do together. I really did enjoy the class, Lou. And I am going back on Wednesday night. If you change your mind and want to come, you’re more than welcome to join me. But if not, I won’t push it again.”

“Thank you,” Louis nodded, and then because he still felt a little guilty for snapping at his best mate, he leaned over and pressed a kiss to Niall’s temple, “I think I’m going to go to bed.”

“You don’t want to go another round?” Niall held up the controller.

“Not tonight, love. Tomorrow I’ll let you try to kick my arse again.”

“Hey! I told you I was distracted!”

“Then concentrate better!” Louis retorted with a wink, “See you in the morning.”

“Sweet dreams!” Niall called, reaching for the remote to switch over to Netflix.

Louis headed to his room in the small two-bedroom apartment he shared with Niall. It wasn’t much, but it had been home ever since they’d moved in after uni. Louis tugged off his black Iron Maiden t-shirt before grabbing for a Metallica one from his hamper. He sniffed the armpit of the shirt before shrugging and tugging it over his head. As he crawled into bed, he still felt the twinges of guilt for snapping at Niall. It wasn’t his fault, he just wanted Louis to come along with him to something he’d enjoyed. There wasn’t any harm in that.

Louis had said it wasn’t about Andrew, but they both knew that was a lie. Louis had dated Andrew for two years. The first year had been amazing, until Andrew had discovered CORE, a gym not far from their campus. It was intense to say the least. It had all the latest equipment and machines and Andrew fell into whatever trap it was they were pushing. Louis no longer had been able to recognize the boy he once thought he was in love with. Instead, Andrew was meal prepping and chugging protein shakes and supplements like crazy. Louis couldn’t even remember the last time they’d had a meal together prior to the breakup, or the last time he’d even been able to eat around Andrew without some hurtful comment about his weight or his size.

As Andrew’s muscles bulked up, so did his ego and so did his cruelty. Louis assumed he’d meant well at first, inviting him along to workouts. And at first Louis appreciated it. He’d always wanted to bulk up a little more here and there. But with Andrew, nothing was good enough. Louis wasn’t good enough. If he burned six hundred calories, it should have been eight hundred. If he ran two miles, it should have been four. If he lost a pound, he should have been gaining muscle. And when they had had a pool party last summer and Louis had taken off his shirt, and Andrew had pinched his stomach and told him, “You’d look so much more manly if we could get some abs on you” it was the last straw.

Niall had been there with him for the whole thing and when Louis had gone inside saying he was going to get some water, it was Niall who’d found him in the kitchen wiping angrily at the tears on his cheeks, and it was Niall who stood by him after he’d told Andrew it was over. Louis knew he probably sounded ridiculous, not wanting to go to a gym because of his gym rat of an ex, but the thought of having to step inside a gym after seeing what CORE was like and what it did to people, caused a massive wave of anxiety to swell inside of him.

But Niall had said it was different, he’d said the class was fun and the instructor was nice. And fit. Louis sighed and grabbed for his phone, trying to distract himself with Candy Crush instead of thinking about what all Niall had said. He wasn’t going to any gym and he sure as hell wasn’t going to a kickboxing class. Not a chance in hell.

---------------

When Wednesday evening came, Louis was lacing up his sneakers, grumbling curse words.

“I didn’t ask you to come,” Niall reminded him.

“I know that.”

“You can just stay home. Or run and get us some takeaway for us to eat when I get home.”

“Nope.”

“Louis.”

“I’m doing this.”

“But I told you that you didn’t have to….”

Louis finished lacing his sneakers and pushed himself up from the couch, “I know, Niall. And I appreciate you being so understanding, I really do.”

“Then why are you coming?”

Louis shrugged, “I guess I just figured that if I don’t at least come with you once, it’s Andrew in control all over again. I dunno. Maybe it’s stupid but I just think I should at least come inside with you. Just to see what it’s like. I’m not even going to join in the class, I’ll just watch and get a feel for it.”

“That’s….that’s good Lou. And you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

“I know. But I feel like making myself go tonight is a step in some kind of right direction. Is that stupid?”

“Not at all. Positive Changes isn’t like CORE, not at all. You don’t have to worry about that. The owner, Liam, started the gym as a place where people can come to work out and achieve whatever goals they have without judgement or an unhealthy environment. It’s all about encouragement. You’ll see when we get there. But Lou, I’m really happy you’ve decided to come with me.”

Louis wrapped an arm around Niall and pulled him into a hug before shoving him away, “Just don’t make me regret it, Horan.”

Positive Changes was just a few blocks away from their flat, and to Louis’ surprise, it was located in a little shopping center. It wasn’t some massive complex with multiple stories. On the front entrance was a sign that read, “Positivity. Kindness. Encouragement. Health from within.” Louis eyed the sign as Niall swung open the door before following him inside. Niall had been right in saying that it was nothing like CORE. Instead of machines and equipment everywhere, as well as multiple juice bars and it’s own vitamin shop inside, Positive Changes was small, with a few workout machines here and there, and a few private classrooms in the back. Up at the front was a sign-in desk with a basket of what appeared to be homemade protein bars. A little cursive note next to the basket read, “Gluten-Free Power Bars: Almond butter, chocolate chips, and oats. Free for your post-workout enjoyment.”

Louis was still eying the protein pbars suspiciously when Niall laughed and nudged him with his elbow, “Nothing like CORE, huh?”

A man came through one of the doors over to the desk wearing typical workout clothes and with a towel around his shoulders, “Hiya, Niall! Good to see you again.”

“Hey Liam! Louis, this is Liam, the owner of Positive Changes.”

“Nice to meet you, Louis,” Liam stuck out his hand for Louis to shake.

“Nice to meet you too,” Louis said, trying to keep the suspicion out of his voice.

“Louis’ tagging along for kickboxing today but I think he may just want to watch this evening if that’s okay.”

“That’s more than okay,” Liam assured, pulling out a clipboard from behind the desk and handing it over to Niall, “Just mark him down as your guest and you’re good to go. And Louis, if you want to wander around a bit or try a machine or two, you’re more than welcome to. Or you’re more than welcome to just sit in on kickboxing and get a feel for everything. That’s perfectly fine too.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“No problem. Harry’s holding kickboxing tonight in Room C. Just go through those doors into the main area and right to the back where the private rooms are.”

“Thanks, Liam!” Niall handed back the clipboard.

“So, what do you think so far?” He asked as he and Louis made their way towards the private rooms, “Not so bad, is it?”

“I’ve yet to make a decision. Besides, he’s not the instructor for kickboxing.”

Niall started laughing, “You’re right about that. The instructor for kickboxing is even nicer.”

Louis found that hard to believe, but still followed Niall over to Room C. There was still about ten minutes left before class and five people were already there stretching. Niall set his gym bag over to the side of the room with the others before taking his spot on the floor and beginning his own stretches. Louis stood off to the side, glancing around and feeling proper awkward. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe he shouldn’t have come at all. Should he at least join in the stretching? Just as he was having his internal crisis, the door opened and a guy walked in wearing black basketball shorts and a pastel pink cotton t-shirt. He had on neon pink Nike workout shoes and his soft brown curls were pulled back into a bun and held into place by a pastel lavender headband.

“Hi everyone!” He greeted with a wave, “It’s good to see everyone back today. There’s still a few minutes to go before classes so if we could all just do some stretches together, that’d be great,” he walked over to a CD player set up on a stool and began to set up the music for the class, “I hope everyone had a great week! Did anyone do anything fun?”

“I took my girls to the beach for the weekend,” a woman towards the front said.

“Oh how fun, Susan! I bet they loved that. Anyone else? No? Boring week? Same. Very quiet, but sometimes that can be nice too.” Apparently he’d finally gotten the music all sorted because he finally backed away from the CD player and was now headed straight towards Louis. Louis blanched. The closer he got the better Louis could see the bright green eyes and friendly smile and oh fucking hell, was that a dimple?

“I notice we have a new face with us tonight. Hiya!” He stuck his hand out towards Louis, “ ‘m Harry.”

Louis’ brain seemed to have to work a little harder than normal to remind him how to hold out his hand for a handshake and how to smile. Also how to speak apparently too, because the instructor was looking at him oddly and Louis was quickly realizing he’d yet to say anything. He released the instructor’s hand and cleared his throat.

“Hi, I’m Louis. Um, I’m Niall’s guest for the evening.”

“It’s very nice to meet you Louis! I’m Harry, and I’m so happy you’re with us tonight.”

“Niall said I could just watch tonight,” Louis blurted out, apparently still not exactly remembering how to properly speak.

“Of course you can! You can have a seat over there against the side wall and just kind of take everything all in. And if you find that it’s not the class for you, we do offer many others. I do a Jazzercise class just after this.”

“Jazzercise.”

“Mmhmm. It’s lots of fun!”

“Uh-huh,” Louis squinted, suspicion still souring his stomach, “Well, I’ll just be over there then.”

“Okkie dokkie.”

Louis tried not to visibly roll his eyes, at least not until he had his back turned and was heading towards the wall where Harry had told him he could go sit. Harry was nice, just like Niall had said. Too nice though. No one who was a trainer could possibly be that nice. Not unless he wanted something. This was all part of the ploy, Louis knew. Be nice to prospective members, treat them nicely, suck them into your little spell, and when you get them to sign a contract with a membership, bam! be cruel and demeaning and call it ‘motivation.’ Louis knew exactly all too well how this worked.

At CORE, the person who was kind and sweet was named Melissa. She was the Members Liaison, and her job was to sweet talk anyone into signing up for a year-long membership. She’d be kind and sweet and have a nice smile and be warm and welcoming and then give you an ‘evaluation’ on all the parts of your body that needed work.

Because he had been Andrew’s boyfriend, Louis was given one for free - lucky him! - to be told that he needed work on his bum, his stomach, his thighs, and his arms. And then, with a saccharine smile, Melissa had ensured him, “You know first-hand how good Andrew is, I am sure in no time at all with a little commitment and hard work, you’ll be on your way to looking fantastic. You just need a little work put in you.”

Louis felt the bile in his stomach churn at the memory. He hated CORE, he hated gyms, and he hated trainers. Harry could be as kind and as sweet and as welcoming as he wanted to be, but it wasn’t going to fool Louis.

Harry returned to the CD played and pressed PLAY, starting up the music. It wasn’t quite what Louis was expecting, to say the least. 2000s hiphop filled the air as Harry began to lead his class. Louis sat cross-legged on the floor as Harry unzipped his gray hoodie and revealed not only his arms, but an entire littering of ink spread across them. Louis felt his cheeks flush as he took in Harry’s massive arms. They were nowhere near as big as Andrew’s but they looked farm more real and far safer. Louis tried to shake that last bit from his mind. The tattoos also fascinated him. Andrew hated tattoos, saying that “your body is your temple and getting tattoos is like putting graffiti on a cathedral.” Louis had never really considered tattoos for himself, but he marveled at his how many Harry seemed to have. And those were just the one’s Louis could see. Did he have any more hidden away? Suddenly, in spite of the ceiling fans, the room began to feel very hot.

As Louis observed the class, he saw just how Harry was as an instructor. He was very attentive, patient, and constantly upbeat, and Louis felt himself grow curious and endeared. He had to bite his lip to keep from smiling as Harry helped reposition Niall’s stance with soft and patient touches and and some good natured teasing. He wasn’t at all like Andrew, Andrew whose teaching tactics involved belittlement and embarrassment. It wasn’t uncommon for Andrew to just grab at the fleshier bits of a person in front of the entire class and point out what parts needed the most work. Louis seethed at the memories.

Maybe he’d misjudged Harry, though he wasn’t entirely sold. He’d trusted Andrew too, and the rest of Andrew’s little friends at CORE who would giggle at Louis’ stature and who would call him “Pixie.” Who was to say this wasn’t just an act to get Louis convinced to join a membership or something? He felt paranoid, but he also knew that not being paranoid in the past had come back to bite him in the arse hard enough to leave a still-painful scar.

“Nice job, everyone! Susan, you’re gonna knock someone out someday with that right hook! And Mark, your form is improving, I must say. Very nice work. Not bad physical form either,” Harry said with a wink, making a middle-aged man with gray hair blush and turn away with a smile. Louis didn’t want to be endeared, he really didn’t.

“And Niall, you’re catching on so quickly! I’m impressed! You could take over for me in no time!”

Niall chuckled and rolled his eyes, “Please! I barely know what I’m doing.”

Harry shifted his eyes and then held up a hand to faux-whisper to the class, “Neither do I half the time!” The class all laughed and Harry turned to take the CD from the player, “Alright everyone! I hope you all have safe travels home and a wonderful week ahead! I look forward to seeing everyone next Wednesday night. Oh! And if you want to stay for Jazzercise, we’ll be in Room B. Be safe everyone!”

Niall headed over towards Louis and lifted his bag from the floor, “So what did you think?”

“It was alright. I enjoyed watching you almost fall over onto your arse. Best part of my night for sure!”

“Hey!” Niall frowned, still holding a hand out to help Louis up off the floor, but swatting at him nonetheless for his remark, “Rude!”

“I’m kidding! I’m kidding! I better watch my mouth around you though, eh tough guy? You’ll be a proper fighter in no time; a lad’s gonna have to watch his back, eh?”

“Stop it,” Niall laughed, shoving at Louis as they headed over to Harry. Louis quieted his teasing as they approached, focusing his eyes on his sneakers more so than the curl that had fallen loose from Harry’s bun and was now hanging out over the lavender headband, grazing his brow.

“Thanks for another awesome class, H.”

“No problem, Niall. It’s always a pleasure. Thank you for coming, and thank you for bringing Louis with you. What did you think, Louis? Do you want to give us a try next week?”

Louis bristled, “I don’t know if it’s really my thing.”

“Oh,” Harry blinked and Louis told himself he was only imagining the shadow of disappointment that crossed Harry’s face, “Well, that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. Maybe something else here would be a bitter fit for you. You could stay for the Jazzercise class, if you want. I mean, you don’t have to but it’s a lot of fun. Between us, it’s one of my favorites to teach. You’re welcome to sit in. Though, I must warn you….it’s so much fun that I really can’t picture you being able to just sit off to the side without joining in. Unless you’re just extraordinarily stubborn and don’t like to have any fun at all.”

He was teasing him. They’d barely just met and he was already teasing him. Louis could feel a hundred retorts rising as the desperate need to banter nipped frustratingly at him. Instead of retorting with a playful remark, Louis simply cleared his throat and shrugged.

“Awful confident, aren’t you?”

“Stay for the class and see what I mean.”

“Niall doesn’t want to stay and….”

“I don’t mind,” Niall butted in and Louis turned to glare at him, “I-I mean, it’s not a big deal. I don’t have any place else to be. Besides, Jazzercise sounds fun.”

Louis turned back to Harry who was looking rather smug.

“Oh wipe that look off your face like you’ve won something,” Louis scoffed, “I haven’t even agreed to anything yet. Besides, if I stay for Jazzercise - and that is a major if - I am definitely not joining in anything. Just to spite you.”

Harry chuckled, that damn dimple digging into his cheek. It took Louis a lot more strength than he’d ever care to admit not to reach out and poke it. “Whatever you say, Louis.”

Louis rolled his eyes, “C’mon, Nialler. Let’s go get takeaway.”

“Actually….”

Louis paused in his tracks. This could not be happening.

“....I think I want to stay for Jazzercise.”

“Great!” Harry beamed, dimple digging in even deeper, bright green eyes sparkling even brighter. Louis didn’t even think eyes could sparkle like that, outside of Disney movies that is. It was unsettling and made him want Harry’s eyes to always be sparkling. Which only unsettled him even more.

“I’m going to kill you,” Louis grumbled, following after Niall and Harry to Room B.

“I’d be careful if I were you,” Harry said, and Louis could hear the shit-eating smile in his voice, “Niall’s going to be able to kick your arse any day now.”

“Hush, you,” Louis folded his arms over his chest, absolutely not pouting; not in the slightest.

Room B looked identical to Room C, except this time the CD player was a fancier, standing model, like something you’d see out of one of those catalogues on airplanes. Louis eyed it, trying not to look too impressed with CD player or any of anything that night.

“Class is in fifteen minutes, so if you want to grab a water bottle from the machine or something, you’re more than welcome to.”

“I have some in my bag, but thank you,” Niall set his bag against the side wall and dug out two bottles of water, handing one over to Louis as Harry dug his own from his bag.

“You’ll want to stay hydrated, especially for Jazzercise.”

Louis was getting close to his wit’s end with pretending to know what Jazzercise was.

“What the hell is Jazzercise anyway?” He blurted out, a little too forcefully.

Harry just laughed, “It’s amazing is what it is! It’s like aerobics but you’re dancing,” he frowned and a little crease formed in the center of his forehead, “Sort of. I’m bad at explaining it, but you’ll just have to wait and see!”

“Did they have Jazzercise over at CORE?” Niall asked, in that good-naturedly way he had of asking things that weren’t exactly appropriate topics of conversation. Louis tried not to be too prickly in his answer.

“No, I’m pretty sure if it didn’t involve lifting 500lbs, they weren’t interested.”

Harry wrinkled his nose, “Do you go to CORE?”

“No. No, no, no, no,” Louis said adamantly, “I’d never step foot in there again.”

“Good. I hate gyms like that,” Harry frowned, playing with a string on the hem of his t-shirt, “They’re all about breaking you down instead of building you up. I’m pretty sure Dwayne Johnson could walk in there and even he’d leave with a bad self image.”

Niall snorted and Louis couldn’t even try to hold back the giggle that escaped. Harry glanced up from the hem of his shirt, his eyes meeting Louis’ as a soft smile spread across his face. He looked rather pleased with himself at having made Louis laugh. Louis quickly schooled his features and turned back to Niall. Whatever spell Harry was casting, Louis wasn’t going to fall under it. Not if he could help it at least.

“Are you going to partake in this Jazzercise nonsense?”

“Of course! I’m always up for trying something new. And it sounds fun! You should try it.”

“Nah,” Harry took a sip from his water bottle again before tacking on, “It’d go against his image.”

“And what, may I ask, image is that, Harold?” Louis turned on him.

Harry crossed his arms and blinked at Louis thoughtfully, “Guarded,” he said, simply.

“Guarded,” Louis snorted. No way was he going to allow himself to be read by a perfect stranger, a perfect stranger he already distrusted anyway, “You don’t know me. You don’t know anything.”

“I mean, I did go to uni so I must know some things.”

Louis’ blood boiled and fizzled within his veins, “Fuck off.”

“Hey,” Niall held up a hand, “Let’s not do that, okay?”

“Do what?” Louis scowled, “Let him try to read me? Try to get inside my head? He doesn’t know me at all, Niall!”

“I know that, I do. But….”

“Louis….” the crease between his brow was back and he was biting at his bottom lip, making it even plumper and pinker than it already was to begin with, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply….that last comment was a dick thing to say. I’m sorry.” He went right back to chewing and Louis felt the urge bubbling inside of him to stop him, to scold him, to tell him he was going to make himself bleed if he kept it up so quit it.

He shook his head and headed back over to the wall with Niall’s bag to sit and wait for this all to be over, to finally leave and never have to see Harry with his dimples and his pink lips and his muscular arms or litter of tattoos or sparkly eyes ever again. Good fucking riddance.

He expected Harry to leave him alone after that, to maybe go mess with the CD player again or try to make small talk with Niall; maybe do some stretches or something to busy himself. What he didn’t expect was for Harry to come over and sit down beside him, pulling his knees up to chest and resting his chin on top of them, looking at Louis with a look of such softness in his eyes. It made Louis squirm. He looked up to try to signal to Niall, but Niall was already making his way towards the water fountains with his water bottle. Louis was trapped. Trapped with this….this being sitting there staring at him with too much softness.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said, hugging his knees tighter against him, “I say the wrong things sometimes. I shouldn’t have said you were guarded and I shouldn’t have made a joke when it was clear what I said had upset you. I’m sorry tonight hasn’t been fun for you. I wish I could change that, if you’d let me. You don’t have to stay for Jazzercise. Niall’s a good friend, I can tell. He’d understand if you just wanted to go.”

Louis didn’t know where the words that he said next came from; all he knew was that they were spilling out before he could stop them and shove them back in. “Do you want me to go?”

Harry blinked for a moment before shaking his head.

“Why not?”

Harry shrugged, “I guess I just want you to give it a chance. You come in acting like you already have your mind made up about everything. About Positive Changes. About Jazzercise. About me. I guess I just want you to give everything a chance.”

“And that includes giving you a chance, doesn’t it?”

“I’d hope so,” Harry frowned again and Louis didn’t like that one bit. He wanted the dimples back, the bright eyes and smiles back, “I’m a good instructor, or at least I try to be. I’ve been told I am, at least. I’m positive and patient and I try to be kind. I’m not some scary monster person, Louis. I don’t know where that notion comes from. But you can enjoy yourself here. You can enjoy yourself around me.”

Louis felt a soft smile tease the corner of his lips, “Not a scary monster, eh?”

“Nope,” Harry grinned, the dimple popping back in it’s rightful place, “Promise.”

“I don’t know about that. You do seem pretty intimidating, what with these and all,” Louis poked Harry on the bicep with a ship tattoo.

“When I got her, I was a lot smaller and she practically took up my whole arm. Looks tiny now, don’t it?” Louis nodded and Harry traced the tattoo for a moment before saying, “If I tell you a secret about me, that no one else knows right now, would that help?”

Louis shrugged, “Depends on the secret, Harold. If you tell me you’ve strangled a man to death with your bare hands, that’s not exactly going to help the trust factor here.”

Harry snorted, “No, it’s nothing like that. Besides, I served my time for that. The past is in the past.”

Louis blinked and Harry held up his hands, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”

“We’ve got to work on your jokes, Harold,” Louis t’sked, shaking his head, “But continue.”

“Alright. If I told you I have pink nail varnish on my toes right now, would you see me as being less scary?”

“I never said you were scary, I just don’t know if I can trust you. Besides, what if you’re lying?”

“Why would I lie about that?”

“I don’t know.”

“After class then, I’ll show you. I have pink nail varnish on my toes right now in the shade Coming Together that my sister did for me when we last had one of our monthly spa nights and slumber parties.”

Endearment was an understatement.

“I don’t even know what to say to that,” Louis said honestly.

“Nothing mean, I’d hope,” Harry bit his lip self-consciously.

“Would you stop doing that,” Louis huffed, leaning his head back on the wall and looking up so as to avoid meeting Harry’s gaze, “You’re gonna give yourself a bloody lip if you keep that up.”

Harry didn’t say anything, but Louis could hear in the silence of the private classroom, the soft stuttering of his breath.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. And don’t for a second think I’d ever say something mean about you having nail varnish on your toes or your fingers or any place else. If it makes you happy then you should just go for it. No one else’s opinion matters, and not that mine does, but I think it’s kind of sweet.”

“Really?” Harry asked.

Louis was about to say something else when the door opened and Niall and three other students boisterously entered the room. Harry sighed with a pout that Louis couldn’t help but chuckle at.

“Why Harold! Don’t tell me you’re disappointed your students are here for your class? Mr. I’m-a-good-instructor!”

“Hush,” Harry giggled helplessly, hiding his face against his knees, the tips of his ears turning the prettiest shade of pink.

“Get up there and teach your class and show me how good you are at this Jazzercise thing, Harold,” Louis nudged him gently, “You’re telling me how good you are? How much fun Jazzercise is? How it’s your favorite class to teach?” And then, just because Harry was giggling even more and turning even pinker, Louis tacked on a firm, “Then prove it to me.”

Harry quieted down, peeling his face from his knees and nodding. His eyes were a bit darker than before and something coiled in Louis’ stomach. Harry pushed himself up off the floor and made his way towards the front of the room. If Louis’ eyes wandered down from his broad back, to the dip of his waist, to the swell of his bum, to the fullness of his thighs, no one had to know.

Louis shifted on the floor, trying to find a comfortable position. It hadn’t even been five minutes, and Harry had him all hot and bothered. Louis had been so firm, so sure that he wasn’t going to enjoy himself tonight or let his guard down around any of the instructors; and here he was, a ball of mush simply because a pretty instructor had giggled and turned pink around him. Louis felt weak, and wondered for a moment if he had a type. He’d told himself not to get involved with another gym rat, another trainer or instructor, and yet here he was wanting desperately to just blurt out to Harry in front of God and everybody, “I want to you to always be giggling and pink, and I want you to always be giggling and pink because of me.”

But Louis knew that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t that he had some type, it was because Harry was Harry, and so uniquely unlike any type Louis might have or ever have had in the past. Harry was sweet and silly and ridiculous and precious and Louis had told himself it was all just an act, but even though everyone at CORE had been so trained to be kind and sweet as a ploy, a marketing tool, no one at CORE would ever had taken the time to come sit beside him and talk with him. And no one at CORE would ever be caught dead with pink nail varnish on their toes. Pink nail varnish Louis was going to be allowed to see after class. Something coiled again in the stomach, and he quickly reached for the water bottle Niall had given him, swallowing half in a single pull.

A familiar pulled him from his thoughts as “Jump On It” began to blast from the speakers and Harry was jumping up and down in the air as the rest of the class jumped with him to the beat of the music and Louis had to fight to keep his face from splitting in half. He couldn’t help but laugh at Harry as he shouted along to the lyrics, “What’s up Austin, what’s up?!”

For the rest of the song, Harry had the class just jumping up and down and bouncing sillily along to SIr Mix A Lot. Louis felt his head bop to the music and it took all his strength not to stand up and jump along with the rest of them.

Once the song ended, the class was pink-faced and laughing.

“Welcome to class, everyone! We have a new face with us tonight! Louis is just going to watch for a bit, and maybe later on we can convince him to come join us if he’d like. He’s a bit stubborn, but we’ll see if we can wear him down,” Harry said with a wink, looking right at Louis. Louis shifted on his spot on the floor. “As many of you know, Liam likes to call this class a Jazzercise class, but basically we all just jump around and dance and be silly and have fun. I don’t know if it technically is Jazzercise, but it’s fun and it’s get the blood pumping and between us, Liam let’s me kind of do whatever I want. But don’t tell him that! So I want us all to just jump around and feel the music. Grab some of the 5lb weights if you want, do leg lifts, wave your arms, scream the lyrics. Do whatever you want in this room tonight! Just be kind and have fun! Now let’s do this poo!”

Louis watched with absolute endearment as Harry went over to the CD player and pressed another couple of buttons. A few people grabbed the smaller weights from the other side of the room, some people were stretching. When the next song started up, Louis’ eyes lit up. Harry had tastes, he’d give him that. The class began to dance around, giggling and jumping around to the music as Harry jumped around, prancing and flinging his arms in the air with a massive smile upon his face, the very epitome of ‘the duality of man.’ To go from kickboxing and to have arms like that and tattoos like that, to being a ridiculous and silly little precious was almost too much for Louis to handle.

“It’s tricky! It’s tricky!” Harry sang along as Louis watched from his spot on the floor, his face splitting with fondness.

When the next song started up, Louis’ jaw almost dropped to the ground. He couldn’t believe one of his favorite songs was on Harry’s playlists. The class slowed down, dancing and moving and gyrating to the familiar lyrics of Shaggy.

Louis could no longer just sit in his spot on the floor. Harry was moving so infuriatingly sexily, while singing along exaggeratedly and ridiculous to the lyrics; again, the epitome of ‘duality of man.’ Louis couldn’t help but dance along as he made his way across the floor. When he came to Niall, Niall did a doubletake before laughing and reaching out to grab Louis’ hands and dance around with him.

And, just because Harry was staring, and because he could, Louis grinded up against Niall, making Niall burst out giggling and shove him away weakly as Louis continued to grind against him and sway his hips to the song, making sure to cast a look or two in Harry’s direction every few moments.

Thankfully, for Harry, and probably Niall, the song ended and Eiffel 65’s Blue came on next. After a few more songs and dancing around and jumping, the class ended with a final song as a “cooldown,” Usher’s Yeah! By the time the class was over, Louis was sweating and panting, grabbing for his water bottle and collapsing against Niall, giggling.

After downing the rest of his water, Louis headed back over to Harry who was taking the CD from the player.

“So, let me get this straight: you call this Jazzercise because Harold’s Free-for-all Dance Party doesn’t sound quite as professional, eh?”

Harry exaggeratedly widened his eyes and let out a scandalized gasp, “You caught me! Also, were my eyes deceiving me or were you having fun out there tonight?”

“Don’t you go getting an ego, it was all the music.”

“The music I picked,” Harry preened.

“Hush you.”

“Do you think you’ll come back next week?”

“I haven’t decided just yet.”

“So, so stubborn,” Harry shook his head, smiling nonetheless, “C’mon, you and Niall can come back with me to the changing area. I know he likes to change after kickboxing and I need to freshen up a little bit. Don’t want to go out on the town feeling a bit ripe.”

“Out on the town?” Louis followed Harry and Niall towards the main area of the gym and then over towards the changing room, “You got a hot date or something?”

“Or something,” Harry smiled, holding the door open for the two of them to walk in first, “What did you think of Jazzercise, Niall?”

“I’m with Lou,” Niall set his bag on one of the benches and dug around for a clean shirt, “I’m pretty sure that’s just you having a dance party, but it’s fun as fuck and I want to come back next week!”

“Well maybe you can whack some sense into this one and convince him to come with you,” Harry sunk down on the bench and unlaced his Nike’s and tugging off one of his white cotton socks before holding his foot out to Louis, who was leaning against one of the lockers in front of the bench, “See, Come Together Pink, just like I said,” Harry wiggled his toes. Sure enough, they prettily painted the softest shade of pastel pink. Louis didn’t even know toes could look precious, and yet here he was.

“Cute,” Louis said, and not knowing what else to do, he reached out and pinched at one of Harry’s toes. Harry let out a shriek of a giggle and tugged his foot back away from Louis, blushing as he slipped his sock back on.

“Though I must say, Harold, we just met a few hours ago and you’re already talking mutual masturbation.”

He had no idea where that came from, other than the fact that he desperately wanted to tease the pretty boy before him. Harry pinkened and looked up at Louis with an absolute look of confusion as Niall started choking and hacking on his own spit.

Louis rolled his eyes and gently kicked the toe of his sneaker against Harry’s shin, “The name, silly. Coming Together.”

“Ooh!” Harry’s eyes widened as a smile spread across his face, “I don’t think that’s what Essie meant when they named it that though.”

“They could make bank off a whole line of nail varnishes names after sexual innuendo.”

Harry slid his foot back into his sneaker, “Like what?”

“Hmm….” Louis thought it over, “Love Bitten, that’d be a deep shade of red, of course.”

“Of-of course,” Harry nodded, looking up at Louis with too-dark eyes.

Lip Bite, which would be perfect for you because that’s all you ever seem to do,” Louis teased, rolling his eyes good naturedly as Harry huffed in front of him.

“What else?”

Spanked, also a pretty shade of pink.”

Harry squirmed on the bench and Louis made a mental note to hold on to that bit of information.

Untouched, again, another shade of pink. Also Edged, though I think that may be more red than pink,” beside him, Niall choked again. Louis ignored him, “And lastly, Orgasm; again, soft pink maybe with some glitter for some pizazz.”

“All shades of pink,” Harry noted, his voice sounding slightly wrecked.

Louis nodded, reaching out to tug at the hem of the sleeve of Harry’s pink t-shirt, “You look good pink.”

“How about a color called Best Mate Standing Right Here and Wants No Part in This God Damn Conversation!” Niall shook his head, “To be followed up by the shade Get a Fucking Room.”

Harry made a noise that was something between a cough and a giggle and Louis turned to Niall, “Oh, are we making you uncomfortable, Nialler? I’m not the one who started talking about mutual masturbation here. I’m afraid that was all this one,” he nodded towards Harry.

“Noo,” Harry buried his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking as he giggled.

“What’s wrong, Harold? You started this conversation,” Louis teased, tapping his shin with the toe of his sneaker again, “So innapropriate for work, H,” Louis t’sked as Harry whimpered from behind his hands.

“Leave him alone, Lou,” Niall zipped up his gym bag, “He said he wants to freshen up for his night and you’re over here teasing the poor boy.”

“Well it’s his fault he’s so fun to tease,” Louis tapped him again with his sneaker and Harry let out another soft whimper, “But I suppose I’ll lay off. He does have a hot date tonight after all,” Louis didn’t know why, but the thought of Harry out on a date with anyone other than him made his stomach churn. Just a few hours of knowing the boy and he was already so, so pathetically gone for him. Louis scolded himself to pull it together as he headed towards the sinks to splash some water on his face and cool himself off.

“ ‘s not a date,” Harry peeled his hands away from his face, his cheeks were splotty and pink and his eyes were sparkling and wet from giggling so hard, “I’m going out for drinks with my sister.”

“Ah,” Louis nodded, feeling a sudden wash of relief, “Well we’ll leave you to getting ready for that. Niall and I have to be off to pick up our own dinner. But we’ll see you around, H.”

“Will you be here next week?” Harry asked, his eyes wide and hopeful.

“I guess you’ll find that out next week, won’t you?” Louis said with a wink, “By the way, tell your sister that her pedicure skills didn't go unnoticed.”

Niall at least had the common decency to wait until they were outside of Positive Changes to smack Louis on the chest and shout, “What the fuck was that?”

“If I knew, I could tell you,” Louis admitted, “But I don’t. I told myself going in that I wasn’t going to get caught up with another trainer or instructor and then Harry happened.”

“Told you he was fit, didn’t I?”

“Didn’t tell me he was that fit, or that fucking cute. God, Niall. I feel like an absolute mess! It wasn’t even a few hours and I already wanted to take him back to mine and make love to him and make him breakfast in the morning and ask him to move in and how many kids he wants and oh my god. What is wrong with me?”

“Nothing is wrong with you, Lou. You just like him is all.”

Louis winced, turning to Niall, “It’s not too soon, is it? Like, I don’t want this to be some sort of rebound or something.”

“If you don’t want it to be a rebound, then don’t let it be. Besides, it’s been almost a year since Andrew, it’s not too soon, Louis. I saw the way you were looking at him, saw the way he was looking at you too. There’s something there. Now the question is are you willing to pursue it, and what exactly you want from it. And also are you coming to class next Wednesday or not because….”

“Niall,” Louis laughed, wrapping an arm around Niall’s shoulders and pulling him against him, “Of course I’m fucking going next Wednesday.

 

Chapter Text

Louis wasn’t going next Wednesday.

Sunday night was when he felt the sore throat coming on. Monday afternoon was the sneezing. Tuesday evening was the fever. A bug had been going around the school, and Louis supposed it was karama finally getting him for bragging to all the other teachers about how he hadn’t caught it yet because of his ‘kick-arse immune system.’

Louis blew his nose into a tissue and tossed it towards the overflowing trash bin. So much for ‘kick-arse immune system.’ Niall came out from his room dressed to head to Positive Changes and Louis felt the twinge of sadness in his stomach more so than the wave of nausea he’d been feeling for the last couple of hours.

“Tell him I’m sorry,” Louis said, wrapping the blanket tighter around his shoulders as he snuggled back against the cushions of the couch, “And that if I could have been there, I would be. Tell him I wanted to be there.”

“I will bub,” Niall brushed Louis’ fringe back from his forehead, “Should I pick something up while I’m out? What sounds good to you, love?”

“Nothing,” Louis sighed, reaching for his bottle of Gatorade that Niall quickly handed to him, “Nothing sounds good at all.”

“Well you think on it and text me if anything comes to mind. I’ll tell Harry you’re sick and that you wished you could have come tonight.”

“He’s going to think it’s a lie,” Louis whimpered as he grabbed another tissue, “He’s going to think I didn’t want to come and am using this as an excuse. And it does sound like an excuse, doesn’t it?”

“No babe, it doesn’t. I’ll let him know, okay? And I’ll talk to him. It’s fine, Lou. You can come with me next week. Just rest and try to feel better, okay?”

Louis nodded and watched Niall head out the door of the flat. He grabbed for his laptop off the coffee table and opened it up to the tab he had opened on the Positive Changes website. He knew he was probably reaching all new levels of creeper-status, but if he couldn’t see Harry in person, he at least wanted to see a picture, something. Anything. Louis pulled up the list of trainers as well as what classes were offered. As soon as he saw Harry’s picture, he froze. It was a picture of Harry practicing his boxing, heavy black gloves covering his fists as he punched at a bag hanging from the ceiling. His face was focused and he looked like an absolute beast. Louis reached out and touched the picture with his finger, consistently amazed by the duality of Harry. As he started at the picture, he wondered if Harry had pink nail varnish on his toes when it was taken, and what other tattoos and secrets he had buried underneath his workout gear and hard expression.

Louis clicked on the photo to read Harry’s short bio and to see what other classes he taught at Positive Changes.

Hiiiiiii.

I’m Harry Styles and I’m twenty-four years old. If you’d asked me a few years ago if I would ever be an instructor/trainer at a gym, I would have probably fallen out of my chair laughing. I was always a scrawny little kid, got picked on a bunch in school and I would have rather played video games than worked out. But a few years ago that all changed. After realizing I needed to desperately make some changes in my life, I reached out to Liam. We’d gone to school together and I knew he’d started up his own gym. I originally wanted to be a receptionist or something but I got roped into a few classes they offered and here I am today!

One of my favorites was the boxing and kickboxing classes. That’s my specialty, though I do teach a few other things such as Jazzercise and Self Defense, as well as a Free Play class for kids ages 6-12. I love all my classes but boxing has always been my favorite. I teach very intermediate boxing and kickboxing but I am in some higher level training myself. It’s something i’m passionate about pursuing and something I’ve never thought I’d ever be into. I’ve always been pretty anti-violence, etc. but I know now that sometimes that isn’t always an option, and just what a good mental and physical release it can be.

Oh! And I also work at a bakery part-time and I live with my two cats, Polka and Dot. So that’s a little about me! Come say hi to me at Positive Changes. I look forward to seeing you!

Be kind and love everyone always! <3

As if Louis wasn’t already completely endeared by the boy…..

But now he found himself having more questions than answers. What was it in Harry’s life that made him need to make these changes and that got him into boxing in the first place? The bio only served to make Louis want to sit down with him and talk to him all night, getting to know who this boy really was. He could be getting to know him better tonight, instead of being stuck on a couch sick and sneezing everywhere.

Louis closed his laptop and reached for the TV remote to turn on Netflix, anything to try to take his mind off the fact that he was missing out on being around Harry. Sweet, silly Harry with pink nail varnish on his toes who could probably knock a person out with a single punch but never would.

He pulled up Season 5 of It’s Always Sunny, and snuggled against the couch to settle in for the evening. But not even Charlie and Mac and Dennis and Dee could take his thoughts off Harry. He felt like he was going crazy. It had just been a few hours one night a week ago. But Louis was so, so terribly gone for this boy already. He wanted to take him out, to court him, to get to know him, to make love with him, to fuck him, to have a house together, a family together.

Louis eyed the Beecham’s flu capsules on the coffee table suspiciously.

Suddenly, his phone pinged beside him and Louis reached to dig it out from the couch cushions, expecting something from Niall, or his stepdad checking in on him to see if he was feeling better. Instead, it wasn’t one of his contacts, but a number Louis didn’t know. He opened up the message, biting his lip to keep from smiling too hard.

Hiiiii. It’s Harry. I hope this isn’t weird but Niall told me you were so sick tonight and I’m so sorry to hear that. I asked him for your number so I could text you and tell you to feel better. I also have something that’s guaranteed to make you feel better, but I can’t text it to you until after class. Try to survive until then. Feel better Louis! Xx

Louis read the message five or twelve times, his face practically splitting in half from how big he was smiling. All week he’d been telling himself that he was just being crazy, that it was just a few hours one night, that Harry probably didn’t feel the same. But he’d gone out of his way to get his number and text him and not only that, but he was going to text him something later that night that was ‘guaranteed’ to make him feel better. Louis’ cheeks flushed at the thought. Harry wasn’t nearly as shy as innocent as he liked to pretend he was, clearly.

Louis bit his lip, trying to think up a response to the message that was clouded in cold meds. He finally settled on:

Hiiiiii yourself :) this is quite the surprise, but a welcome surprise at that! To say I can’t wait for what you have up your sleeve for later is an understatement. Don’t keep me on the edge of my seat too long, H. Have good classes tonight! And put your phone away! Classes to teach and you’re over here texting, Harold! Be good.

Louis had no idea where the last bit came from, but he was going to blame the cold meds again. What even was in those anyway? Louis set his phone down and re-tucked himself onto the couch, watching Charlie Kelly shout about kitten mittens, wondering if Polka and Dot had kitten mittens.

He must have fallen asleep, because suddenly he felt himself be jarred awake by the ringing of his phone. It was Nialler, and Louis grumbled, answering it.

“I was asleep, dickhead. First good moment of sleep in like three days.”

“Sorry love,” Niall laughed, not sounding too sorry at all, “Class was good. But I may or may not have given Harry your number. Hope that’s okay!”

“Seeing as how he’s already texted me, I’m going to go with that you did give him my number.”

“Is that okay?”

“No. You’re disowned as my best mate. Go away and let me sleep.”

Niall laughed again, “So did you think up what you want me to pick up for dinner?”

“A new best mate who doesn’t call me when I’m sleeping.”

“Too bad, you’re stuck with me for life, Lou. Thai basil soup?”

Louis’ mouth watered, “Alright, you can stay.”

“I’ll be home in about an hour. With soup in hand!”

“Love you.”

“Love you too, arsehole.”

Louis rolled his eyes and ended the call, only to see another message had come through. Damn Niall, keeping him on the line when Harry was texting him.

Louis opened up the message and read:

I didn’t text when I had classes, silly!! I hope you got some good rest, and if I’m bothering you then just tell me to go away but I think I have the perfect thing that can help you feel better, if you’re up for it.

Curiosity piqued, Louis quickly texted back:

Go for it :)

A few moments later, a new message flashed on the screen:

Knock, Knock.

Louis wanted to smack him. Instead he replied:

Who’s there?

A broken pencil.

A broken pencil who?

Nevermind, it’s pointless :)

Louis really wanted to smack him, and he absolutely was not staring at his phone with a face-splitting smile as butterflies swirled in his tummy.

I hate you so much right now.

Laughter is the best medicine, Lou. Knock, knock.

No.

:(

Who’s there?

Europe.

Europe who?

No, YOU’RE a poo!

Jesus Christ, H. What have you done? Just googled ‘terrible knock knock jokes?’

Maaaaaaaybe. Maybe Buzzfeed has a whole article dedicated to them. Or maybe I’m just a knock-knock joke servant. You’ll never know.

You’re a nut.

I have just one more. You’re gonna like this one, promise :) Or at least I hope you do…..

Debatable, but try me.

Alright. Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Al.

Al who?

Al’ll give you a kiss if you open this door xx

Louis absolutely wasn’t blushing. He wasn’t.

Cute :)

I thought so :) are you feeling better?

I am now. Niall’s coming home with soup soon; I should have just told him ‘don’t bring anything, just text me lame knock-knock jokes.’

But would it have had the same effect if they came from Niall?

Louis didn’t text back right away to that one; let the sly little shit stew a little bit first.

I suppose not.

Missed you in class tonight. It just wasn’t the same not having a brooding stubborn little mule sitting off in the corner watching.

Oi! I was not brooding! And I was sitting against a wall, not in a corner, and you told me I could! Besides, I hadn’t made my mind up about you yet. I had to observe you a bit first.

And what did you find? Have you made your mind up about met yet?

Eh, getting there. Think I need to know you a little better first.

Ah. Understandable. And your observations?

That somehow a silly noodle of a boy has been allowed to instruct exercise classes.

Knock-knock.

Who’s there.

Etch.

Etch who?

Bless you! Get it? Because you’re sick!

I really hate you right now, Harold. Thank you for using my suffering as a source for your jokes. I’m just gonna go keel over and die now, thank you very much.

Stop it! That was a good one and you know it!

Oh hon, if you think any of these are ‘good’ you’re the one who might be a bit ‘ill.’

The door swung open and Louis set the phone aside as Niall stumbled in with his gym back and a plastic bag of takeaway. Louis pushed himself up off the couch to help him get everything in through the door.

“You didn’t have to get up, you’re sick.”

“Yeah, but you need help carrying stuff. And you gave a cute boy my number. Consider this my appreciation.”

“So are you two texting then?” Niall asked, setting the plastic bag down on the kitchen counter as Louis excitedly tore into it, his mouth watering at the smell of basil soup, “You’re looking like you feel better. You’re all like….glowy. You haven’t been sexting have you? Not on our couch, Lou.”

“Stop it!” Louis tossed a bundle of plastic-wrapped utensils at Niall’s head, “We have not! He’s been telling me knock-knock jokes, if you must know.”

“You two are both weird as fuck, it’s a perfect fit! But you should have seen him tonight, Lou. Lad was proper disappointed you weren’t there. I literally watched him deflate before my eyes when I told him you were sick. But I told him he could text you if he wanted, and that it might make you feel better if he did.”

“Well, I appreciate that,” Louis peeled back a plastic lid to one of the cups of soup and inhaled the steam and smells of spices coming off the soup, “This looks delicious, love. Thank you.”

“No problem. Let’s go eat in the living room. I see you’ve got It’s Always Sunny pulled up.”

“Of course. It’s comfort TV Nialler. Just like this is comfort soup!”

“And apparently just like knock-knock jokes are comfort jokes,” Niall teased.

Louis rolled his eyes, sitting down on the couch with his soup on his lap. He reached for his phone to see if he’d heard anything back from Harry. There was one new message that read:

Tell me the truth. Have any of these made you smile?

Love, you could have texted me nothing but incomprehensible emojis and I still would have smiled. But if we’re being honest here, and maybe this is the cold meds talking, but your jokes were cute. But maybe that has more to do with who was telling them more so than the jokes themselves, eh?

Louis set the phone upside down on the table and dug into his soup as Niall started up a new episode. He’d check it later, but for now he wanted to leave Harry with that.

“You’re doing it again,” Niall said just as Louis was lifting a forkful of noodles to his mouth.

“Doing what?”

“Glowing.”

“Oh bugger off.”

Louis held off on checking his phone until after he was snuggled in his bed. One new message lit up the screen: a wall of nothing but emojis. Louis giggled himself silly.

 

 

Chapter Text

It was Friday morning by the time Louis actually woke up feeling normal once again. He wasn’t congested, he wasn’t coughing or sneezing, and he wasn’t shivering and sweating. He sent a text to his stepdad, Dan just so he wouldn’t worry before opening up Harry’s messages. They’d talked on and off since Wednesday night, and each time Louis felt butterflies in his tummy. He felt more and more like he’d known Harry for longer than he had, like Harry just fit so seamlessly into his life. Like he was meant to be there.

The last text message was from Harry, it was a picture of a cupcake he had made last night. Louis hadn’t seen it before bed and felt bad for not replying sooner. He quickly typed out a message.

Sorry love! Fell asleep early last night! But good news!! The cold’s gone! I feel so much better today, best I’ve felt in days! Also, that cupcake looks fucking delicious. So let me get this straight: you can kick arse and take names, you’re cute as fuck, fit as fuck, and you bake? How are you real? I don’t think you’re real.

It didn’t take long for Harry to reply:

That’s great, Lou!!! I’m so happy you feel better! Maybe this means I can see you on Wednesday night? Also, hmmm….you raise an interesting question. How is one supposed to check if one is real? Should I pinch myself and see?

I think the one who questions your realness is the one that does the pinching. Guess I’ll just have to give you a good pinch when I see you.

And that will be……?

Louis took a breath before texting:

What are you doing today?

He felt his heart pound against his chest as he waited for a response. What if Harry didn’t want to see him outside of Positive Changes? What if he’d misread everything? What if it really was just the cold meds…..

I have Self Defense at from 10-11, but after that I’m free. What do you have in mind?

I don’t think I’m 100% yet, but maybe you could come over? Watch movies or something, just hang out. Niall’s at work for the day. I may still be a bit germy, just warning you. I feel better, but the bug might be hanging in there. If you don’t want to risk it, I can just see you on Wednesday.

Text me your address, I’ll be there around 12 with movies and food xx

Louis felt his heart rush again. He checked the clock on his phone; he had three hours until Harry would be here and he needed to do a thousand things before he’d be ready for that. He started with a shower and brushing his teeth before pulling on a fresh t-shirt and basketball shorts before working on the living room next. He picked up the tissues and stored the cold medicine back in the cabinets in the bathroom. He lit a vanilla candle to cover the smell of menthol and snot, and hoped everything looked presentable - that he looked presentable. Though they’d been texting comfortably, Louis felt a wave of anxiety wash over him. He would be alone with Harry for the first time. What if he said the wrong thing? What if he did the wrong thing?

He told himself to breathe, and to keep breathing, as he headed to the bathroom to fix his fringe and put on a splash of cologne just before there was a knock on his door. Harry was here! Louis gave his reflection one last glance-over, hoping he looked at least somewhat presentable. The shower had helped, but he still had a bit of baggage under his eyes, and his nose was still slightly pink. But at least his eyes weren’t crusted shut like the other day. Louis winced at the thought and shook it from his head before heading over to answer the door. He pulled the door open and saw Harry standing there with several movies tucked against him in his arm, and some grocery bags of food.

“Hiya!” Harry dimpled, though his cheeks were pink and he looked shy standing there alone.

“Hi yourself,” Louis opened the door wider, “C’mon in, H. It’s good to see you.”

“Good to see you too! I didn’t know what movies to bring, so I just grabbed some of my favorites. Christ. That sounds selfish. I just mean….”

“Hey.”

“Yeah?”

“I know what you mean, love. It’s okay. I’m sure what you picked will be wonderful, and if they aren’t, then I’ll still have a hell of a time teasing the shit out of you for having horrible movie tastes, Harold.”

Harry smiled, pinkening under Louis’ words, “I also brought junk food! Probably not the best thing to do when you’re recovering from being sick. Maybe I should have brought over steamed kale and a ginger shooter, but I just figured comfort food would be the better route. Don’t tell Liam!”

“Show me what you brought then, let’s see if you’re taste in junk food is any good.”

Harry rolled his eyes, setting the bags on the kitchen counter, “Alright. So we’ve got crisps: Salt and Vinegar Pringles and some Cool Ranch Doritos.”

“Alright. Not bad, Harold. Not bad at all. But let’s see what else you’ve got.”

“Haribo candy! You can’t go wrong with Haribo candy.”

“That depends though….is it Starmix?

Harry tossed a bag of Starmix towards Louis, “Would it be anything but?”

“There’s really no telling with you, to be honest.”

“Hush. I also got us some pizza bagels and soda. Oh and some peach rings! They are kind of my go-to comfort candy. What do you think? Does it pass your inspection?”

“I suppose it does, but don’t get too cocky there, Harold. Show me what movies you’ve brought.”

Harry spread out the stack of DVDs onto the counter, “We’ve got Breakfast Club, Love Actually, Titanic, and Lion King.”

“Alright,” Louis nodded, admittedly impressed, “Definitely not a bad selection, H. And Love Actually? You are a man after my heart!”

Harry preened, “Do you want to watch that one first?”

“Sure! I’ll pop the pizza bagels in the oven if you can go set up Love Actually? The DVD player is pretty basic, and then we can set up out there and eat and watch.”

“Sure thing!” Harry took his DVDs into the living room and Louis had to pull his eyes away to focus on preheating the oven. He’d changed from his workout clothes, but was still dressed comfortably in faded, loose blue jeans with a faded Britney Spears t-shirt and black Vans. He looked cute as hell, and it was definitely a struggle to peel his eyes away to focus on getting their lunch ready.

“It’s all set up!” Harry called from the living room as Louis popped the pizza bagels into the oven, “You should be proud of me, I suck at technology!”

Louis laughed, grabbing the junk food and sodas and heading into the living room, “Proud of you, babe. C’mon, get comfortable. Kick off your shoes and tuck up on the couch. I promise the blanket has been washed since my bout with the plague.”

Harry toed off the Vans as Louis curled up on the couch before tucking himself into the opposite corner.

“Well that’s not going to work,” Louis t’sked. When Harry blinked, Louis explained, “How am I supposed to cuddle you if you’re all the way over there, silly.”

Harry let out a happy noise before scurrying over to Louis’ side of the couch and curling up against his side as Louis wrapped his arm around his shoulder. Louis could almost hear the small “click” of the two of them fitting together like puzzle pieces. As the movie began, Louis smirked and gave Harry a hard pinch to the arm.

“Ouch! What was that for?”

“Checking to see if you’re real, remember?”

“Oh yeah. So, what do you conclude?”

“I still think you’re too good to be real if we’re being honest here.”

“But here I am.”

“Here you are.”

Harry snuggled back closer against Louis’ side, resting his cheek on Louis’ shoulder as Louis reached a hand up softly rake his fingers at the curls, “I’m glad I am.”

“I’m glad you are too, silly. Now watch the movie! We can’t watch if you’re gonna talk the whole way through it.”

They didn’t watch the movie. Instead, the movie played in the background as they sat cross-legged on the couch facing each other and nibbling pizza bagels and crisps as they asked each other all the questions they could think of, both desperate to get to know the other better. Louis found out that Harry had been on the track for Law School before dropping out his final year to go work at the bakery, and that working at Positive Changes was what he felt he was meant to do. He learned that he had just the one older sister, Gemma, and that they were best friends. Louis mentioned his own siblings, telling Harry all about each one of them and about Dan and how wonderful he’s always been to them all, but how it’s all the more powerful since Louis’ mum had passed a few years ago.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Harry shook his head.

Louis smiled softly, “She’d have loved you just so you know.”

“I’d have met her?”

“I’d have liked for you to, yeah.”

“My mum’s gonna like you too, when she meets you.”

Louis’ heart swelled.

“Can I ask you a question?” Louis asked.

“You’ve been asking me questions, silly. But sure. Shoot!”

Louis good-naturedly rolled his eyes, “Smart-arse. I was wondering why you’re so into boxing. If it’s a personal question or you don’t want to answer or something, then that’s fine. But I was just wondering. You’re….you’re kind of an enigma, Harry Styles. You’re so soft and sweet and silly and you like to polish your toes and wear pastel colors, but you have the arms the size of tires and I’m pretty sure you can pull 500lbs with sheer upper body strength alone. You’re very multi-dimensional, love. And it’s so cool, like really fucking cool. But I was just wondering….how that all works. If that’s an okay thing for me to ask.”

Harry nodded thoughtfully, thinking over his answer a bit before saying, “I get that. I mean, it can be a bit confusing. Some people look at me and just see me as some ‘beefcake’ type and I hate that stereotype because that’s not me at all. But I suppose it all goes back to what got me into boxing in the first place. I didn’t use to be athletic, not at all. I was a scrawny little kid who got picked on more often than not during school. You look surprised.”

Louis frowned, “Just surprised that someone could ever pick on you.”

Harry smiled softly, “It’s okay, I mean it’s not but I’m okay now. It’s just one of those things, I guess. When I got into uni, I met a guy. That’s how all the stories start, isn’t it? ‘I met a guy.’ And it sounds stupid looking back on it, but I thought he was my whole world. I was ready to throw everything away for him and just be with him. I was so young, I still am. But I was so sure he was it for me. And he was good, up until he wasn’t. It would start off with him being impatient with me. I’ve always been me. I’ve always been silly and weird and unapologetically so. But he didn’t like those things about me. Not at all. It started off with him yelling, scolding me for every little thing. Then it turned to him slamming things, doors, the remote, dishes. And then it turned to him slamming me.”

“Harry….”

Harry was tugging at a fingernail as he spoke, but looked up to meet Louis’ eyes. Louis felt his heart breaking into a thousand pieces as Harry continued with his story, continued picking at that fingernail.

“It didn’t happen often, not at first. And I just kept telling myself it was okay. It was okay because it only happened once in awhile, that it was okay because it was only when I’d made him super angry with me. But then it happened more and more, and I started seeing not only was it not okay, but that it never was okay. All it takes is that one time, and it’s never okay. And then one night he’d come home….and he was drunk.”

“Oh Harry….”

“And he was angry, not even at me. Something had happened while he was out with his friends, but when he came home, I was the one who was there. I was the one who was the punching bag. He um….he broke my jaw that night. And I told myself never again. I called my family and they got me out of that situation and I’m so grateful to them. But I told myself that night that I was never, ever going to be a punching bag again. I reached out to Liam and told him I needed a fresh start, and he set me up with a job at Positive Changes. At first it was supposed to be clerical work, but I started taking interest in some of the classes. Boxing particular. Sometimes I want to do more with it. Like maybe competitions or something. But I don't know.”

“It’s therapeutic for you, isn’t it?”

Harry nodded, “It is. At first when I started, I’d see his face as the punching bag; but in time I realized I didn’t want to get to that point where I was envisioning punching him like he’d punched me in the past. People ask me that, is it his face. And it’s really not. It’s just a bag, and it feels so, so damn good to punch just a bag. So I worked hard and I got better and better. I’ve trained with some amazing people, and I’ve been asked to come train under some other amazing people. But Positive Changes is where I need to be. I teach self defense for anyone who wants to take it, and I get to work with the kids and teach them a few things too. And then I get to teach my beginner classes which are just so fun for me. It’s where I need to be, Louis. It’s where I belong.”

“I am so sorry you had to go through all of that with your ex, love,” Louis reached out and took Harry’s hand in one of his own, rubbing his thumb along his scarred knuckles, “But I am so proud of how far you’ve come. God, I hate the thought of someone treating you so badly, of hurting you. It….it makes me feel sick to my stomach. You only deserve soft things, love. Only softness and love.”

Harry ducked his head, a shy smile teasing his lips as he said, “That’s why I let myself surround myself with soft things. He tried so, so hard to break me, but he never did. There’s strength in softness, Louis. It’s why I wear pink as much as I do, it’s why I take bubble baths with pink bubbles every night, it’s why I paint my nails and let myself just embrace these things that he tried so hard to take away from me. It’s like….it’s like an act of revolt. I’m going to wear my pink nail varnish with pride because he called me a slur and scrubbed it off me until my cuticles bled the first time he saw me with it. So now I wear nail varnish as often as I can, with absolute pride. It’s why I wear as much pink as I do. I’ve always loved it, but he wanted to ‘harden’ me. He wanted to trample out the parts of me that like the softness, the gentleness, the pinkness of things. But he wasn’t able to, and now I embrace that part of me all the more. It’s why I encourage my classes to treat people with kindness and love at all times.”

Louis felt the breath leave his lungs. All he could was hold this wonderful, amazing boy’s hand in the palm of his own, and marvel in his strength and bravery. “You have no idea how proud of you I am, Harry. I mean that. You are….you are an incredible, wonderful person. The could use more people with even just a fraction of the goodness you have in you. You’re….you’re incredible.”

Harry blushed, “Thank you for thinking that, for saying that. But I’m really just me.”

Louis lifted Harry’s scarred knuckles to his lips and pressed a kiss against them, “I am so, so lucky to have met you, Harry.”

“And I’m lucky to have met you, Louis. I haven’t stopped thinking about you since I saw you that Wednesday. And you were….god. You were such a brat about things. And I’m not talking about the times when you were guarded. I’m talking about you just trying to be difficult towards me. God, you wrecked me that night, Louis. I had butterflies in my stomach all night. I have them every time I text you. You make me feel everything so much more than I ever thought i could.”

“I was guarded that night,” Louis admitted, “You were right when you said that. Your ex and mine could get together and go bowling with the stuff they have in common. Andrew never hit me, but he tore me apart every chance he got. He was a trainer at CORE, and he was constantly belittling me for every little thing - my body, my weight, my style. Nothing was good enough for him. It’s why I was so wary of coming to Positive Changes, and of you. I told myself that you all were the same, and that was unfair of me to make that kind of judgment. You aren’t like Andrew. Not even a little bit.”

“I’m glad you gave us the chance,” Harry squeezed Louis’ hand, “And me. I’m glad you gave me a chance.”

“Lots of deep conversations,” Louis sighed, “Whew. There’s a lot we still have to talk about, conversations that need to be had, but at another time. How about we put on another movie and just….be.”

“I think I would like that very much,” Harry nodded happily.

Louis pushed himself up off the couch and switched the DVDs over to Breakfast Club before settling back on the couch. He pulled Harry back against him and pressed PLAY, cuddling Harry close and gently stroking his fingers through the chocolate curls at the base of Harry’s neck, gently scraping the skin to watch the goosebumps that would appear, to watch Harry shiver at the touches.

He couldn’t help but press a soft kiss to Harry’s temple as the movie began. A happy noise escaped the back of Harry’s throat and Louis smiled, grabbing for Harry’s hand and holding it as he aimlessly swirled the pad of his finger across his palm, over each line and crease.

Harry had known so much harshness, Louis wanted to just engulf him in nothing but softness and sweetness and smiles. He thought back to one of the first thoughts he’d had when he’d met Harry. “He should be giggling and pink all the time.” Louis lifted Harry’s wrist to his lips and pressed a kiss at the pulse, making Harry blush at the touch.

“Lou….”

“Shh….watch the movie little love,” Louis said before kissing the pulse point once again before pressing soft, gentle kisses along his knuckles, across his palm, over his fingers. Harry was giggling softly, cheeks turning the prettiest shade of pink.

“What are you doing?” Harry giggled.

“Nothing, just doing what you deserve to be done. You deserve nothing but softness and sweetness, angel. And I want to give that to you. If you’ll let me.”

Harry nodded, “I’ll let you.”

Louis’ heart swelled again, “Can I kiss you?”

Harry’s smile grew as he said, “Thank you for asking, Lou. But you don’t have to ask. You can kiss me whenever, wherever you want. I’m yours to kiss, whenever you want.”

Louis let out a soft growl, rolling his head back slightly before saying, “Don’t you tell me that, then I’m going to want to kiss you all day everyday.”

Harry lowered his gaze, the pinkness returning to his cheeks as he quietly said, “And what would be so bad about that?”

Louis growled again, “Get over here, you,” he pulled Harry into his lap before catching his lips in his own for a kiss. Louis had always heard first kisses describe as if there were fireworks, but for Louis, this kiss didn’t feel like fireworks, it felt like coming home. Harry let Louis press inside him, smiling against him as Louis’ tongue traced his. And when they broke apart, Louis caught Harry’s bottom lip between his teeth and gave the sharpest tug, making him keen the most beautiful sound Louis had ever heard.

“You like that, baby?” Louis asked as Harry ducked his head. Louis caught his chin under his finger, lifting his head to make him meet his eyes, “Hey now, none of that. Do you like that precious? When I bite you?”

Harry nodded, blushing deeply, “I….I like a little bit of pain with my softness. If….if you want to give me softness, you’re going to have to give me a bit of pain too; if you can.”

“You like it when it hurts you a little bit?”

Harry took a breath before nodding, “I-I want you to be a bit rough with me. I like it when someone takes control, when someone makes me.”

Louis nodded, understanding completely what Harry was asking for, what Harry was needing.

“You like someone taking control because giving them the control is an act of control,” Louis ran his finger along Harry’s sharp jawline, “You’ll always be in control, Harry. Even when I take the reigns, even when I hurt you, it’s all up to you at the end of the day. You say the word and I’ll stop. I’ll give you whatever you want, love. I’ll give you the moon on a string if I could. If you need me to hurt you a bit, if you need me to make you feel, then I will give you that too.”

The bright green eyes were wet with tears as Harry nodded, unable to form the words. Louis traced his finger along Harry’s jaw line down his neck until he grabbed the base of his neck against the palm of his hand and said, “You have thirty seconds to get into my room - second door on the right - and lie on that bed. I’ll be counting,” Louis released Harry and said, “twenty-nine, twenty-eight…”

Harry jumped from his lap and scurried towards the hallway. Louis stood from the couch and felt the butterflies swell in his tummy for a moment. By the time he’d reached five, they were gone completely, and he made his way into his room to find Harry laying on his back on the bed, feet dangling off the edge and looking so flushed and beautiful and breathtaking.

“Hello, beautiful,” Louis smiled.

“Hiya,” Harry smiled back.

“Let’s get you out of these clothes, shall we?”

Harry nodded happily as Louis knelt down at the foot of the bed to gently take the pink sock off Harry’s foot. He gently tugged the sock off and tossed it to the side before pinching a toe between his fingers, making Harry giggle and attempt to tug his foot away.

“Pastel blue today?” Louis asked, quirking a brow.

“You’ve got blue eyes,” Harry said simply.

Louis lifted his eyes towards the ceiling to keep the tears that had swelled from falling, “God, Harry.”

“But if you don’t like it then I guess I could go for like….a puke green or summat?”

Louis caught Harry’s foot in his hand, with a “Don’t you dare,” before giving it a quick tickle, making Harry squeal and fight against him, giggling helplessly. Louis couldn’t help but smile, marveling at the precious boy under his hands. When he finally decided to show him some mercy, he pressed a soft kiss to the top of Harry’s foot before peeling the sock off the second.

“Do you even know how precious you are?” Louis asked, moving upwards to hem of Harry’s t-shirt, “Can I take this off of you, princess?”

Harry nodded, tossing his head back and holding his arms up for Louis to pull the shirt over his head, “God, how did you….how did you know….”

“Shhh, I’ve got you princess,” Louis tossed the shirt to the floor, marveling at Harry underneath him. He’d been right about even more tattoos hidden away, and Louis wanted to trace each and every single one with his tongue. “Jesus, H. You’re fucking gorgeous.”

Harry blushed under the compliment, “Thank you.”

Louis traced a finger along some of the ink, marveling in the way Harry’s muscles danced under the touches, the soft giggles that escaped his lips when Louis’ touches were a bit too ticklish for him to take. Louis’ fingertips traced up his chest, and Harry gasped as Louis dragged a thumb across his nipple.

“You’re so sensitive everywhere aren’t you, precious?” Louis cooed, making Harry squirm.

“Lou….”

“I’ve got you. I’ve got you, precious. God, you’re going to be so much fun, aren’t you?”

Harry whined helplessly as Louis’ fingertips wandered down to his abs, the softness of his hips, “Can I take these off?” Louis asked, fingertips dancing at the bottom of Harry’s faded jeans. Harry let out a little cry and nodded and Louis was soon tossing them to the floor as well. He marveled at Harry’s body; the doughy hips that spilled a little from his boxers, the swollen thighs that he could already picture marked in love bites, the muscles of his calves.

“You are so, so gorgeous, Harry. Do you even know how gorgeous you are?” Louis asked, and when Harry merely blushed, Louis gave a nipple a pinch, “I asked you a question, princess. It’s rude not to answer. Now then, do you even know how gorgeous you are? What you even do to me? What I even want to do to you?”

Harry struggled to find the words, mouthing before finally saying, “Then show me.”

“Believe me, princess, I’m going to,” Louis said, before doing just that.

Louis explored every inch of the boy laid out before him, mapping out his body and discovering every little spot that made him gasp, that made him giggle, that made him cry out. He abused each and every spot to the fullest, tickling every ticklish spot until Harry was crying from giggling so hard, kissing and biting each and every sensitive spot until Harry was gasping and pleading beneath him. And after a discussion of color systems and safe words, and a good spanking to Harry’s pert little bum for sassing Louis back, and two shared orgasms and one extra one for Harry, they both collapsed into each other against Louis’ pillows.

“I’m not going to say I am, because it’s way too early and too fast for that, but I am on my way to falling in love with you,” Louis admitted, carding his fingers gently through Harry’s curls, across his shoulders, down his back, as Harry shuddered against him, overwhelmed and overly sensitive.

“Well that’s good to know,” he said, cheekiness lacing his voice as he said, “because I’m quite well on my way to falling in love with you too.”

Louis pinched him right on the pink handprint, making him squeal and bury his face against Louis’ neck.

“Get some rest, little love,” Louis soothed.

“Don’t let me go,” Harry plead, his voice heavy with sleep.

Louis tugged him closer against his chest, circling his belly button with his thumb, “If you think for one second that I’m ever going to let you go….”

Harry giggled, “Good. Hey, Lou.”

“Yeah, princess?”

“Knock-knock.”

Louis smiled, feeling as though his face could absolutely split in two at any moment, “Who’s there, my love?”

“Olive.”

“Olive who?”

“Olive you.”

Chapter Text

“Alright, class! We’ve got some new music to dance to tonight,” Harry said, holding up the CD case with the mix Louis had put together the night before, “And this is very special because someone very special made it for us. So let’s pop this in and cut loose!”

Louis watched as Harry put the CD into the player, Niall nuding him.

“Is it you? Are you the someone special?” NIall hissed.

“I’ve made him mixes for the last six classes, and you’re still asking me this?” Louis swatted at him.

Niall laughed, swatting back, “Because it’s cute to see how proud you look about it. Proper ridiculous.”

“God, I can’t wait for you to find love,” Louis shook his head, “Then I can get you back for all the hell you’ve put me through. We’re not even until I walk in on you two with a silver tray of condoms and chocolate strawberries and call myself ‘the butler, just checking in.’”

“That was comedy gold.”

“Sure.”

“H thought it was funny.”

“H thinks everything is funny. You’re just a creep.”

“Louis!” Harry clapped his hands from the front of the class, “Niall! If you two are finally ready, I’d like to begin class now, or should we wait a bit longer for you to finish your conversation?”

Niall pressed his lips shut to keep from bursting out laughing. Louis tensed beside him, biting his bottom lip in a half-smirk before mouthing, “I’ll get you for that later.” Harry pinkened, turning back to the CD player and pressing PLAY.

As the song started, Harry let out an excited squeal. The class was already jumping and bouncing, fist-pumping to the beat.

“Can’t you feel my heart beat fast? I want this to last! Need you by my side!” Louis sang, looking into the eyes of his boy as he did so. Harry blushed, making his way from the front of the class to Louis, taking his hands in his, jumping up and down with him to the beat of Cascada.

“Your first concert,” Louis grinned.

“My first concert was Nickelback, you wanker,” Harry rolled his eyes, still jumping, hand in hand, with Louis.

“He just says that because he thinks it’s ‘cooler’ than admitting it was Cascada,” Louis explained to Niall, who cut in so the three of them could hold hands and all jump together.

“Mate, you think Nickelback is any better?” Niall cackled over the music.

“Oi, lay off,” Louis scolded gently, “Stop with your tings at my boy. If he thinks Nickelback is good music, that’s his opinion and he’s entitled to have it.”

“Thank you, Lou.”

“Wrong as it may be,” Louis giggled, jumping out of the way from Harry trying to kick at him. “Oh, that reminds me, the next song on here might not be the most appropriate.”

“What is it? Louis. What did you put on my playlist?”

Louis just grinned, “Oh, you’ll see.”

The next song started up and a middle-aged man named Keith pumped his fist in the air.

“Louis!” Harry looked horrified.

“What?” Louis blinked innocently, “It’s your favorite band, after all. And they aren’t wrong, you do look cute with something in your mouth.”

“I’m going to kill you.”

“Uh-huh,” Louis grabbed Harry’s hands and swung him around to the beat of Something in Your Mouth, “You just keep telling yourself that, lovebug.” Niall cackled, watching Harry huff and give in to dancing and jumping along to the beat of the music, letting Louis jump with him and swing him around.

At the end of class, Louis stalled, packing up his bag and sipping his water, waiting for the rest of the class to clear out before going up to Harry. As he was watching him from the side of his eye, Keith was making his way over to Harry. Louis sipped his water, turning to pay a bit more attention.

“You tell that someone special of yours that he’s got excellent tastes in throwback songs.”

Harry laughed, “I will, thank you, Keith. See you next week!”

Louis waited until Keith was gone to saunter over to Harry, “"Tell that someone special of yours that he’s got excellent tastes in throwback songs.' Did you hear that?”

“I did.”

“And are you going to tell him?” Louis preened, waiting for the compliment.

“And cause him to get even bigger of an ego?” Harry batted his eyelashes innocently, “Why ever would I do a thing like that?”

Louis shook his head, grabbing the hem of Harry’s t-shirt between his fingers, and asking calmly, “Do you want another spanking today?”

“You know what I want!” A bright, Irish voice chimed in as both Harry and Louis turned to Niall, who was putting his gym bag over his shoulder, “I want to be able to bleach my brain of this conversation! But we can’t always get what we want now, can we? Not that anyone ever asks what I want,” Niall continued, “It’s all ‘Harry, do you want a spanking?’ and ‘Harry do you want a love bite?’ and ‘Harry, how about a blow job later.’ Do you want to know what I want? I want to not be a part of these narratives is what I want!”

“Hey Nialler,” Louis grinned, calling over his shoulder to him as he tugged Harry against him, “Want to go wait for me outside?”

“Fucking glady!” Niall hollered, heading towards the door.

Harry buried his face in Louis’ shoulder, giggling, “I love you two. You’re both coming tomorrow right? To my match.”

“Front row seats,” Louis reminded him, “I can’t wait to watch you tomorrow, babe. You’ve worked so hard for this. You’re going to be incredible.”

“Thanks, I’m just proud of myself for taking the plunge and am actually signing up for competitions and matches now. Still nervous as fuck though, but I’m glad you and Niall will be there. And Liam too.”

“Of course we will be! Niall’s already got us all matching shirts with your face on it!”

“He does not!”

“Wanna bet?”

“Wait, are you serious….”

“Guess you’ll just have to find out tomorrow, won’t you?”

“Mean.”

Louis kissed Harry goodbye and good luck, telling him he couldn’t wait to see him after the match and to jump into his arms and give him a thousand congratulatory kisses. Harry simply laughed and kissed Louis again.

“I mean it,” Louis said sternly, “A thousand kisses.”

Win or lose, Harry was getting a thousand kisses regardless. He was also going to get the ring Louis had been carrying around for the last week in his coat pocket.

“I love you Lou,” Harry held him close, giving him another kiss goodnight, “See you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow, little love.”