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Ain't That A Kick In The Head!

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Like most things that have ever gone wrong in Harry’s life, it started with Niall. Specifically, Niall’s recent case of FOMO as their last year of college quickly approached mixed with his inability to make rational plans that involved, maybe, asking other people’s opinions.

“I bought front row tickets to a Revs game.”

“You what?” Liam asks, jolting in his chair and dropping his phone.

“The fuck is a Rev?” Harry asks, not even bothering to look up from the game he’s playing on his phone.

Niall has the balls to look affronted. “You’ve lived in Boston for three years and don’t know who the Revs are?”

Harry blinks. “Isn’t that...what I just said?”

“Niall, how much were the tickets?” Liam wants to know, ever the practical one. “You still owe me for this month’s gas bill, you know.”

“And electricity,” Harry continues.

“And internet.”

“I paid the electricity bill!”

“No, you got the Venmo notification and said you’d pay me after you finished your fries.”

“And did I finish my fries? No. Harry spilled an ungodly amount of pepper on them.”

“That was last week !”

Niall shrugs, completely nonplussed. “Check your Venmo.”

“Niall!”

“I still don’t know what a Rev is,” Harry mutters to himself, letting Liam yell for a bit while he opens the app. To his surprise, there’s a request from Niall for the grand amount of—

“Wait, thirty-two bucks?”

“Yup,” Niall replies, popping the “p” like the smug asshole he is. “And it even includes online ticket fees. So there.”

“For front row?

“Well, America doesn’t appreciate soccer like the rest of the world does, so tickets are pretty affordable.”

“Hang on a goddamn second. The Revs are a soccer team?” Harry sputters. “Boston has a soccer team? A professional one?”

“Yes, they do,” Niall says patiently. “Plus, Liam , you know that guy on the Dunkin Donuts sign holding the blue raspberry Coolatta?”

“Zayn Malik?” Liam answers too quickly.

“I thought he was a porn star you followed,” Harry says.

“Hey, just because he did that one topless ad for Under Armor—”

“Liam, you’re going to be 40 yards away from Zayn Malik. In person,” Niall adds.

Liam jumps up and grabs his keys. “We’re going. Get your coats.”

“Li, it’s two weeks away.” Niall calls, but he’s too late. Liam’s already left the apartment.

“He’s probably going to Dunks to look at the poster again,” Harry says, opening Whatsapp to text Liam his coffee order and a donut for good measure.

Niall shakes his head. “They’re pretty smart to use Malik’s face on their billboards, though. Do you know how many blue raspberry Coolattas Liam’s brought home since they put those posters up?”

“No.”

“Well, he brought one home that day he got off work early because of the blizzard back in January, so.”

Harry nods as Niall walks over to the window to watch Liam enter the Dunkin Donuts across the street. Zayn Malik stares back at them from the poster in the window.

“Does he even know,” Niall continues, “that the Coolatta machine isn’t working today? Well, at least it wasn’t working when I stopped two hours ago. They told me it was broken.”

“Should we tell him?”

“Nah. Let’s not deprive him of his daily pilgrimage.”

Eventually they hear thumping in the stairwell, and Liam swings open the door with a coffee tray balanced on one hand. He looks mildly panicked.

“How do we even get to Gillette?!”

-

They get to Gillette after discovering that taking a ridiculously long Lyft wouldn’t be as expensive as they thought.

Niall, who knows his role in their friend group all too well, sits in the front and makes charming small talk with the now less agitated driver. It turns out they have a mutual friend of a friend of a cousin that literally only Niall would be able to figure out. He even gets him to change the radio to an actual music station from the buzzing AM traffic broadcast that was honestly driving Harry crazy.

It helps calm down Liam, who not only is suffering from ‘oh my god I’m going to see my breakfast crush in person’ freakout, but also his traditional insufferable car sickness. He rolls the window down halfway to get some fresh air, then ten minutes later decides the wind will mess up his hair so he closes it again. Of course, soon after he starts feeling carsick again. By the time they’re halfway to the stadium, Harry is ready to break the little window control knob.

He doesn’t have to. Apparently, Liam’s antics are distracting the driver too, who puts the child safety lock on the windows so they can’t be controlled from the backseat. Good. 

The traffic gets thicker the closer they get, slowing the car to a crawl. 

“I’ve never seen the traffic this bad for a Revs game,” Niall observes. “I wonder if it’s ‘cause the Galaxy are in town.”

“That was a sentence full of words that have no meaning to me,” Harry mumbles.

“When have you been to Revs games without us?” Liam asks, shooting Niall a very betrayed look.

Niall shrugs. “Before we were friends.”

“When weren’t we friends?”

“When I grew up across the fucking ocean, maybe.”

“Then how’d you see a Revs game?”

“Remember that first week of our first year, when you both stayed in your room to play Monopoly? I was making friends.”

“Hey! We played Office Clue, too,” Harry corrects, a little too defensively.

“We’re here!” the driver announces, sounding glad to leave the bickering group on the side of the road. “This is as far as I can take you without having to pay for parking.”

Harry peers through the windshield. “Is that the stadium, all the way over there?”

“Yup! Let’s start walking!” Niall yanks Liam’s door open. “Hey, if we get there early, there’s a chance we could meet some of the players.”

“We can?” Liam hops out and yanks Harry out with him. “Come on!”

Harry, only slightly alarmed that they’re still in traffic, hurries to follow Niall.

It’s not a terrible walk. The sun’s out and Harry’s happy to stretch his legs after being cramped in the backseat for nearly an hour. He’s also not stupid. He knows this walk is going to be the only peaceful part of this day, so he keeps quiet while Niall and Liam chat about football or something.

It’s when they finally reach Patriot Place that he tunes back into the real world.

“So when can we meet Zayn?”

“Who said we could meet Zayn?”

“You did.”

“No I didn’t.”

“What happened to meeting the players if Liam dislocated my shoulder to get out of the Lyft?” Harry whines.

“I said there was a chance we could meet some of the players. That wasn’t a guarantee of anything,” Niall points out. He’s right, technically, but that doesn’t mean any of them have to like it.

“Wow. Want to throw some air quotes around players, too?” Harry deadpans, resisting the urge to call the Lyft to go home before Liam starts crying.

Liam is taking it pretty well, all things considered. “It’s fine, it’s fine. I mean, shit, I don’t even know what I’d say, you know?” He gives a nervous, slightly hysterical laugh. “I mean, I could compliment his, uh, form? Or, his, uh…”

“Dick?” Niall offers.

Liam puts his head in his hands and screams.

“You know Zayn won’t be able to hear us from our seats, right?” Harry asks, mildly concerned for the long-term implications of this event. “Like, you won’t have to stress out about him hearing you thirst over him.”

“But what if he somehow walks over to our area because there’s, like, a group huddle and they decide to keep it away from the other players so they go to our corner and he looks up and sees someone who’s like, I don’t know, mildly charming looking and that person doesn’t know what to say and this would be his only time to talk to him?”

“That’s ridiculous. I’d know exactly what to say.” Niall pipes up. “I, for one, would tell him how well that Dunkin campaign is doing.”

“That’s not a charming thing to say!”

“But I’m right . And you’re not charming anyway, you anxious pancake.”

Liam screams into his hands again.

“So,” Niall goes on, ignoring Liam’s sounds of angst, “we have about three hours to kill before we have to be in our seats. I know Liam wants to get a jersey with raspberry’s number on it.”

“We don’t have to do that right away,” Liam insists, trying to sound calm and collected but true to Liam nature, failing.

“Can we go to Ulta?” Harry asks.

“Harry, we just passed Ulta. It was across, like, two parking lots.”

“We have three hours.”

“We need to eat, though!”

“We have three hours.”

It’s a damn good thing they have three hours, because the trek across both parking lots takes twenty minutes. Harry thinks Liam does an admirable job of not complaining the entire time. He does an even better job at helping Harry decide on a hair treatment for his curls. It’s summer and his hair has decided to give up on resembling anything semi-presentable. It doesn’t help that his cat has taken to playing in his hair while he’s sleeping.

Niall splurges on some avocado face masks for the apartment so they can ‘stick it to the man and be true millenials.’ After chatting with the cashier, who happens to be a childhood neighbor’s niece because that’s how Niall lives his life, they get some free fragrance samples thrown in.

Liam doesn’t buy anything but takes pictures of some moisturizers, because apparently he has a coupon at home that he really wants to use.

On the way back, they run into four guys tailgating out of the trunk of a Rav4.

“Luke!” Niall yells, dropping his Ulta bag and running over to them. “You didn’t tell me you boys were coming!”

Great. More people Harry has to pretend to know. Liam shrugs and jogs after Niall.

The one Niall’s talking to must be Luke. The others are sitting on the ground; one’s struggling to open a giant bag of Doritos. Harry can tell they all must be taller than him. He doesn’t like that.

“Hi!” Liam chirps brightly, in a valiant effort to make new friends. “How do you know Niall?”

“He was in our meteorology class,” Dorito Kid says, while Luke says, “He was in our dorm a lot.”

That’s not an answer. Niall just starts cackling for some obscure Niall reason, Harry supposes.

Dorito Kid looks between the others frantically. “He was in our meteorology class!” he says again.

“Yeah, we gathered,” Liam says. “You guys tailgating before the match?”

“No, we’re just sitting on the ground for fun,” says some guy who’s cracking open a can of beer that Harry doesn’t recognize.

“Hey! Can we join you guys? I mean, we have nothing else to do,” Niall says.

The tall weirdos stare at Niall as if he asked where the next orgy was taking place. They look at each other quickly, not saying anything.

“Uh…” Beer Kid glances at the cooler. “We kind of…”

“Only brought enough for us?” Dorito Kid finishes. “I mean. We only have one bag of Doritos.”

“And exactly four hot dogs,” Luke adds.

The last kid, who’s got bright red hair, quickly shoves his entire hot dog into his mouth to emphasize their lack of food.

“Right, I think we should probably get going then!” Liam says quickly, taking Niall by the arm and guiding him away. Harry awkwardly realizes he wasn’t included in the arm pulling and is left standing there, like an idiot.

“Uh, I’m Harry. Bye.” He gives a weird little wave and runs away, but not before he hears Beer Kid make a comment.

“What a tall weirdo.”

Once they’ve established a several hundred yard distance from the awkwardness, Liam decides to ask the important question.

“So where do we want to eat?”

The only two options nearby are a Red Robin and a CBS themed restaurant, and if Niall thinks they’re going to sit through a full meal with a laugh track in the background he can get fucked.

“Red Robin."

“Yum!” Niall hums, dragging the two to the entrance.

Of course, the line is out the door and when they get to the podium to put their names in, the hostess tells them it’ll be at least a 20-minute wait and hands them a buzzer.

“Once when I was little and my parents took me to New York City, we waited two and a half hours for a restaurant,” Niall pipes up as they trudge away to find a bench to wait on. “So 20 minutes isn’t too bad.”

Harry plops down on the end of the bench and pulls out his phone to go back to his game, but Liam keeps fidgeting and looking down toward the stadium. “Um, I wanted to get a jersey.”

“Then go get one,” Niall says.

“There’s not enough time!”

“20 minutes is plenty of time. The pro shop is just down the stairs.” Niall stands up and starts pointing. “Down the stairs, don’t go in the stadium yet, just go around the side there and...you’ll see the doors.”

Liam is off before Niall’s finished giving the directions.

“There he goes. Think he’ll be back before they call us for the table?” Niall muses, sitting down next to Harry and craning his neck to stare at the screen of his phone. “You’ve been stuck on this level for days.”

“I know, Niall,” Harry grumbles, angrily swiping at the screen. “It’s hard and I’m out of powerups and I don’t want to buy any.”

“Can I?” Niall doesn’t wait for an answer before reaching over and tapping at the screen a few times. “There you go.”

Harry gawks. “Niall, how the fuck?”

“Magic.”

When Liam eventually dashes up to them, he’s huffing and puffing like he’s just run up six flights of stairs.

“I didn’t realize,” he pants, bending over to rest his hands on his knees, “there were six flights of stairs.”

“Stand up and show us the jersey,” Niall demands.

Liam holds up a hand. “In a minute.”

They don’t have a minute. The buzzer goes mad, red lights flashing as it vibrates in Niall’s hand. Harry has to drag Liam to the door like he’s injured a foot, not slightly winded. He does manage to stand up straight, at least.

“Nice jersey.” The hostess nods at Liam as they sit in their booth. “Malik’s been doing pretty well this season.”

“Hasn’t he?!” Liam gushes.

Harry guesses his frantic tone and heart eyes are what scare the hostess away after she drops the menus. Liam doesn’t seem too bothered. He’s fixated on smoothing out his jersey and beaming down at the Revolution logo emblazoned on his chest. It’s the happiest Harry’s seen him today.

“Don’t get ketchup on that, Li,” Niall tosses out as he flips through the menu.

And that’s enough to send Liam spiraling back into anxiety.
“Shit! Should I take it off?” Liam pulls at the hem. “I have my other shirt in the bag.”

Niall grabs handful of napkins. “Here.”

When their waitress comes around a minute later, she’s met with Liam arranging a napkin bib while Niall cackles. Harry resorts to banging his head on the table in a single, satisfying-sounding thump .

“...Welcome to Red Robin?”

“Thanks. Sorry about him.” Niall jabs a thumb in Liam’s direction. “He’s in love with the goalie.”

“Aren’t we all?” She laughs, clicking her pen.

The waitress, whose name Harry learns is Felicia, takes pity on them and doesn’t judge Liam too much.

“You’d be surprised how many lovesick guys come in fawning over Malik,” she tells them as she scribbles down Niall’s order for an Oreo shake. “Not even the straightest men can resist those eyes.”

“I’m not straight though!” Liam pipes up.

“Of course you’re not,” Felicia assures him. “None of you are.”

“I am,” Niall chimes in, then frowns. “Wait. Nope, never mind.”

Liam waits until Felicia’s left the table to turn to Niall. “Wait, when you did have a boyfriend?”

“I’ve never had a boyfriend. I fucked Shawn a few times,” Niall says a little too loudly, right as a family with six young children pass by their table. Their mother glares at them, shaking her head.

“When did you have time to fuck Shawn?” Harry asks.

“What days did your a capella group meet again?”

“You fucked Shawn in our apartment?!” Liam squawks, scandalized.

“Don’t fucking judge me, I don’t know what you do with those Coolattas.”

“I do not fuck blue raspberry Coolattas!” Liam snaps as Felicia comes back with the drinks.

Felicia blinks slowly. “Please don’t do anything with this milkshake. This is a family restaurant.”

“You’ll have to excuse our friend. He doesn’t think before he speaks ,” Harry hisses at Niall, who seems way too calm for the situation.

“Can we have the bottomless fries before the burgers instead of with them?” Niall asks.

“Sure, I can bring them out as soon as they’re done,” Felicia tells them. “Please refrain from using them in any sexual context. Be right back!”

Before Liam can squawk in his defense, she’s gone.

“She’s getting a hell of a tip.” Niall laughs, reaching for his shake and taking a loud sip.

“Hey, did you hear about that World War II movie that’s coming out in a few weeks? The Christopher Nolan one?” Liam asks after a few minutes of all of them suffering through Niall’s awful slurping sounds.

“Yeah, isn’t Harry in it?”

“Shut up!” Harry groans. “Don’t bring up my nemesis.”

“How can he be your nemesis? You’ve never met the guy.”

“The fact that Marcel Steels and I have the same goddamn face and he can pull off glasses while I can’t is a hate crime. It’s homophobia.”

“Maybe he’s had work done.”

“That’s even worse! Then that means he not only stole my face, he wore it better!”

“You make him sound like Hannibal Lecter.”

Liam throws his hands in the air. “What the fuck have I told you about spoilers, for fuck’s sake!”

“Dude, that movie came out twenty-six years ago. If you haven’t seen it by now, that’s your own fault,” Niall says, flicking his straw at Liam and sending whipped cream particles flying. “Not to mention we go to a film school. Honestly, how haven’t you seen it?”

“Who even knows if Marcel can act.” Harry grumbles, playing with the straw in his water. “People think some fucking pop star can walk right into a Christopher Nolan movie and act like he’s fucking Leonardo DiCaprio or whatever.”

“Reviews have been really good,” Niall points out. “They’re saying Nolan didn’t make it into, like, some Marcel Steels show. He held his own.”

“And his music isn’t even that special!” Harry continues. “He just distracts people with his dancing and perfect teeth! And if he has my face why doesn’t he get weird breakouts on his forehead? He’s not a child anymore!”

He feels a hand on his shoulder. Felicia is giving him a pitiful look as she puts down the fries. “That’s it,” she says soothingly. “Get it all out. It’s healthy to talk about your feelings.”

“My Coolattas don’t seem all that weird anymore, do they,” Liam says as smugly as someone like Liam can sound.

“Oh no, you’re still a fucking freak. But your orders will be out soon. We had a small problem with the cheese.” Felicia leaves before Harry can ask what the hell possibly could go wrong with the cheese.

When their burgers do arrive, the first thing Harry does is peel the top half of the bun off to look at the cheese. It looks normal. Niall has already started to dig in.

Liam, meanwhile, has grabbed more napkins and is carefully arranging them on his lap. Oh, God, Harry has the weirdest friends. He reaches for a fry, only to find they’re all gone.

“Niall, did you eat all the fucking fries?”

“They’re bottomless,” Niall replies through a mouthful of burger. “Just ask Felicia for more.”

“Ask me for what?” Felicia asks, suddenly appearing next to their table.

“Can we have more fries?” Harry pipes up before Niall can say something else to embarrass their group.

“No.”

Harry immediately panics. Maybe he misunderstood the bottomless fries campaign? Did it just mean the bottom of the basket isn’t there? Oh god, why did he have to ask? He still hasn’t said anything.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” Felicia says, sighing when she sees Harry’s frantic expression. “Just give it a few minutes.”

“Why do people have to be witty and clever?” Harry groans after she leaves.

“That wasn’t even that clever. It was just sarcasm.”

“That’s even worse!”

“Your burger is going to get cold,” Liam interrupts, always the mom friend despite not having taken a single bite of his own burger yet.

“What do you guys think went wrong with the cheese?” Harry asks, still not trusting it.

“It tastes fine,” Niall says.

“Or maybe you’re just about to die.” Harry still scrapes his cheese off. He’s not risking food poisoning on top of an already questionable day.

Niall scoops the cheese up and plops it on top of his own burger. “There are people starving in the world, Harold.”

“And that cheese could potentially be the cause of my death.”

“Fine. If I die, you can sue Red Robin and probably get a free milkshake or something. Happy?”

“A free milkshake for Liam to fuck. Great.”

Liam chooses this moment to finally start eating, surrounded by a sea of napkins.

Harry smacks his head against the table again, but even that’s no relief because there’s a commotion at the bar.

“Oh, they’re singing!” Niall crows, dropping the fry in his hand before starting to yell-sing right in Harry’s ear.

“Niall,” Harry groans. “What is this?”

“Team chants! To get in the spirit!” Niall shakes Harry’s shoulder. “It’s fun!”

“Nothing about this is fun.”

Liam gestures carefully in Harry’s direction so he doesn’t disturb his napkins. “You have ketchup in your hair.”

“See? No fun.”

Felicia, because she always decides to come visit when he’s at his worst, swipes it from his hair with a dishrag.

“Anything else I can get you guys? Besides a Life Alert button, because this one keeps looking like he’s about to die.”

“Question,” Niall says, “if someone dies at a Red Robin, what happens?”

“A really sad rendition of the birthday song called the deathday song.”

“And a free dessert?”

“No. They’re dead. Why would we give desserts to dead people?” Felicia flips open her notepad. “Is this your convoluted, macabre way of saying you want to see a dessert menu?”

“No, this is my convoluted way of asking you to kill me,” Harry corrects, handing her his fork.

“Oh please, we have steak knives for that. But now I know not to give you any.”

“Wait, I do want to see a dessert menu,” Niall buts in.

“I’m not done with my lunch yet!” Liam protests.

“And whose fucking fault is that, Liam?”

“It was yours, Niall.”

“Can we please have the check?” Harry yells after Felicia, who’s started inching away. He jams his credit card into the folder while Liam and Niall continue to bicker and has never been so glad to leave a restaurant.

Needless to say, the six flights of stairs are a lot less intimidating than Liam made them out to be.

“It’s because we’re going down!” Liam yells a little too loudly when Niall brings it up.

“You didn’t have to be Rocky and run all the way up.”

“I didn’t want to miss our table being called!”

“Niall, where are the tickets?” Harry cuts in, just now realizing he has no idea where they are.

“Oh, they’re on my phone. Don’t worry.”

“You saying not to worry almost always means we should worry,” Liam frets, pulling a stray napkin out of his shirt. He’ll be finding those for the rest of the day, Harry thinks.

“Have I steered you wrong today?”

“Yes. Most of today, actually.”

Niall rolls his eyes and shows the ticket handler his phone. They’re let in without production, which relieves Harry a great deal. It’s one of maybe three things today that hasn’t caused him any anxiety in the slightest.

“Wait, you! The curly-haired one!”

Fuck.

“Uh, yeah?” Harry turns, looking at the man. He’s muscular, and could easily kill him.

“Like the shirt!” He gives Harry a thumb up.

Harry glances down at his admittedly gaudy looking Hawaiian shirt . It’s bright pink with sunsets, and completely inappropriate for the occasion.

“Thanks!” he mumbles, tripping over his feet to catch up with Niall and Liam. He doesn’t deserve this mockery today, not after the three hours he’s had.

The game doesn’t even start for another hour.

Niall, trying to be the mom friend he’ll never be, purchases a slew of things in an attempt to keep Harry occupied and not cranky.  Harry does appreciate the beer, and the one that follows it. He doesn’t appreciate the special game program Niall buys, though.

“Did you really just pay ten dollars for that booklet?” Harry says as they wander toward their seats.

“Yeah, look, it’ll help you understand what’s going on so you won’t be bored.”

Too late, but Harry will give it a shot. He leafs through the booklet, skipping pages of ads irrelevant to his life. “How are full-page spreads of fancy watches going to help me understand what’s going on?”

“Not that part, you cornflake.” Niall snatches the book out of his hands and flips to a page somewhere in the middle. “Look. There’s some information about the players.”

Harry squints. “Those pictures are so small.”

“Cotton candy! Cotton candy!” cries one of the snack hawkers.

“Over here!” Niall jumps up, waving a ten-dollar bill in the air like a nut. He buys them two bags of the blue stuff and hands one to Liam, who regards it quizzically.

“Is it blue raspberry?”

“Hang on.” Niall rips a piece off and pops it into his mouth. “Yup.”

“Okay,” Harry says. “So what...actually happens in this game?”

“They have ninety minutes and they try and kick the ball into the net. That’s pretty much it,” Niall says. “It’s not that complicated. And we’ll have a really good view from here, too.” Their seats are in the corner in the front row, giving them a perfect view of the entire field.

“So do they stop every thirty seconds like in football?”

“Nah, they run the whole time.”

Excuse me?” Harry drops the booklet into Liam’s lap, who’s been making grabby hands at it.

“What?"
“I’m sorry.” Harry sits up. “They run for ninety minutes?”

“Well, they do have halftime. But generally yes.”

“And the clock just...keeps going?”

“They add extra time at the end of each half depending on how much time is spent dealing with injuries or other stuff.”

“They have extra time ?” Harry gawks. “This game makes no sense.”

“It makes more sense than your country’s stupid version of football, where a sixty-minute game takes three hours.”

“I don’t like this,” Harry mutters as a two groups of men jog out onto the field and a cannon booms. Liam screams. “Oh, is it starting?”

“Just warm-ups first.”

“Holy shit! HOLY SHIT!” Liam leaps out of his chair as a dark-haired man jogs towards the goal. “It’s him! It’s Zayn Malik! He’s right there .”

He starts yelling as he jumps up and down, not even noticing he’s the only one in their entire section on his feet. Harry sinks into his seat, regretting the choice of the Hawaiian shirt.

Niall starts whooping with Liam. “Fuck yeah raspberry!”

Liam covers Niall’s mouth. “Shut up! What if he hears you?”

Zayn hangs around the goal for a moment, looking around. Another player makes a beeline in his direction, and...

“Um.” Harry sits up. “Whom in the hell is that?”

“Harry, we’ve been over this a thousand times. Saying whom incorrectly does not make you sound any smarter. Actually, it makes you sound kind of dumb.”

“Shut up! Who is that ?” Harry frantically points to #28, who’s currently doing lunges and stretches while chatting with Malik.
There’s no other word for it. Niall cackles . “I knew it. Tommo is so your type."

“Weird name, but I can deal.”

“Louis Tomlinson, age twenty-five, right wing-back from Yorkshire.”

“Yorkshire?” Harry asks, trying to wrack his brain for some obscure Western Massachusetts town Niall may be mispronouncing.

“Don’t give yourself an aneurysm, but he’s from the UK.”

“He’s British ?” Harry nearly gags. “He has an accent?!”

“Harry, you also have an accent. A trashy Boston one.”

“No I don’t."

“Are you serious? Say Target. Just once.”

“You can get fucked in the Hahvahd Yahd.”

The cannons go off again and Liam, once again, screeches.

“So you’re telling me that there was some hot British player I could have been Liaming over this entire time? You realize I would have complained a lot less if I had known this information, right?”

“I wanted at least one of you to actually enjoy the game!”

“Well, now I’m enjoying it!”

“You’re enjoying his ass is what you’re doing.”

“What do you mean his... oh my god .” Harry’s jaw drops as Tomlinson turns around and bends over, his palms pressed flat to the grass. In white shorts. Kill him now.

“What are you talking about?” Liam’s finally found his voice again.

“British imports.” Harry sighs, dragging his hands down his face.

“He’s just stretching,” Niall says.

“Does that mean something else in London?” Harry asks. “Because that is not stretching. No human should be allowed to stretch like that.”

“Says you. You don’t know anything about stretching! You fell over in yoga class!”

“He can fall over in my yoga class any day.”

Niall shakes his head, confused. “The fuck does that even mean? Liam, help me out here,” he pleads, turning to Liam, but he’s gone back to screaming. Between Malik running around and the cannons going off, Liam is basically a useless pile of stimulation.

“You two are too gay to appreciate the beauty of this sport,” Niall huffs.

“Says you ! You fucked Shawn and didn’t tell any of us.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? Human sexuality is a spectrum, Harold. People can love sports and fuck guys on the down low all they want. You, on the other hand, don’t even appreciate the sport! That’s the difference."

“I sure as shit appreciate it now, thank you very much.”

“Niall, how much longer until it starts?” Liam wants to know.

Niall checks his watch. “About twenty minutes, if they start on time.”

Harry grabs at Niall’s wrist. “Since when do you wear watches? I’ve never seen you wear a watch.”

“I’m a cultured man, Harold,” Niall says haughtily. “Unlike some of you youths, I don’t have to rely on my phone for everything.”

“Oh, yes, so cultured.” Harry puts on a fake pretentious voice. “I’m Niall Horan, I wear watches and appreciate sports and don’t tell my friends anything, I’m so worldly and—”

Liam screams for a third time, but this time it’s not because of the cannons. “Did you see that?” he yells, shaking Niall’s shoulder.

“What? Did Malik take his shorts off or something?”

“No! Look!”

Harry stares. If he’s being honest, Tomlinson is the only reason he has to look at the field, so scanning the field for whatever antics Malik is pulling is not high on his list of priorities. “He’s just lying down.”

“I know!” Liam sighs. “Wow.”

“Just print out a poster and draw a heart around him already. And put it in your locker while you’re at it.” Harry has already gone back to watching Tomlinson warm up.

“You’re no better,” Niall points out. “We all know Liam’s a disaster, but I also saw your jaw hit the floor when Tomlinson bent over.”

“Well, it can’t get any worse, right?” Harry mutters. He’s a grown man. He can handle looking at a handsome athlete for two hours. Totally.

It gets worse. Tomlinson starts doing squats, of all things, and Harry wonders when he died, because surely this is some kind of afterlife. Regular life has never been this kind to him.

Niall hasn’t stopped laughing for the last two minutes. “You two fuckers are hopeless,” he wheezes. “I’m never taking you to one of these again.”

“Fuck you, we’ll go on our own,” Liam snaps, which is a testament to how genuinely besot he is over Malik. Harry’s pretty sure the last time he heard Liam say “fuck” in a slightly rude manner was after failing a genetics quiz sophomore year.

Tomlinson does his thirtieth squat—no, Harry is not counting, thanks—before gathering the team up in a circle on the field for a team huddle.

“What are they saying?” Liam is sitting at the very edge of his seat and leaning so far forward it would be comical if Harry weren’t doing this exact same thing.

“I don’t know, but I have a feeling a cannon is about to go off again,” Harry says. He mostly means it just to fuck with Liam, but the moment he finishes the sentence there’s another stadium-shaking explosion and another yelp from Liam.

“Welcome, fans, to Gillette Stadium!” An announcer’s voice booms through the stadium speakers so loudly Harry can feel his seat vibrating. “Presenting, the Los Angeles Galaxy!”

One guy sitting a few rows behind him starts yelling and cheering, but he’s the only one. The announcer reads out the names and numbers of the opposing team, but only #30 looks familiar. Harry thinks he might have been in a Subway commercial. At least he’s pretty sure it was a Subway commercial. Maybe it was for Lysol. Who knows. He’ll ask Niall later.

“And now, give it up for your home team, the New England Revolution!”

Now the stadium comes alive, the cannons blasting and air horns sounding and the rest of the crowd on their feet.

“Yeah!” Niall jumps out of his seat, hooting and hollering as the announcer reads out the roster.

“Number four, Zayn Malik!”

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry is pretty sure Liam’s about to faint. He has a hand clutched over his heart and everything, and has sunk back into his seat, clinging to the armrest for dear life. Harry wonders if they’ll need to call the paramedics.

“And finally, number twenty-eight, your team captain, Louis Tomlinson!”

The stadium loses their shit. It seems he’s well-loved by the fans, if the raucous response his name gets is any indication. A section somewhere to Harry’s left starts chanting Tomlinson’s name. Tomlinson acknowledges them with a double thumbs-up.

“They really like him!” Harry exclaims to Niall.

“Yeah, they do! He’s the reason they’re any good these days. They used to be shit till they signed him. Now they’re one of the top teams in the states.”

“How’d they get him all the way from England?”

Niall opens his mouth to respond, but they’ve missed the announcer telling them to stand for the national anthem so they both have to shut up. It’s a mediocre rendition by a mediocre vocal quintet, but it’s over soon enough and they can sit back down. And more importantly, Harry can get back to asking Niall about Tomlinson.

“Anyway,” Niall says, grabbing the booklet out of Liam’s hands, “there’s a whole two-page spread in here about him. But basically, he came up through the ranks of the Leeds United academy team and played with them for a while before getting transferred here. They paid a small fucking fortune to get him, but obviously he was worth it.”

“Sounds like he should star in L’Oréal commercials if he’s worth it.”

“Very funny. We should check on Liam, though.”

They both turn to Liam, who has seemingly melted into a limp mess in his seat, heart eyes fixed on Malik as he jogs toward the goal.

“Well, he’s out for the count. You think another beer will help or make it worse?” Harry muses.

“Nah, let’s not give him more alcohol. It makes him brave, remember?”

Unfortunately, Harry does remember. He doesn’t like to think about that lacrosse party. “Yeah, we’ll just throw some water on his face if he looks like he’s not breathing.”

“Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get smashed.” Niall says, jumping up and looking around. He spots his victim a few sections over.

“Oi!” he bellows. Nearly every person in the immediate area jumps, including the poor kid that’s walking around serving beers. Niall gestures for him to come to them. “Can we get two?”

“Can I see an ID?” the kid asks, despite barely looking old enough to even sell them pints.

“The other guy didn’t ask for ID,” Niall grumbles, digging through his pockets for his wallet anyway. “Here.”

The kid squints at it long enough for Harry to start fidgeting. Has Niall been using a fake this entire time? How old is Niall?

“Cool, thanks. Eighteen dollars.”

“Eighteen dollars?” Harry gawks while Niall forks over a twenty and tells the kid to keep the change. “Beer is fucking expensive.”

“Yeah. It’s because we’re in a closed environment and they know they can raise their prices, ‘cause we can’t go anywhere else so it’s not like they have competition. And most people just accept it as part of going to a sporting event, anyway.”

“Isn’t there, like, a term for that?”

“Fuck if I know what it is.”

“You majored in this.”

“And you think I remembered every single thing I learned in Intro to Marketing?”

“They’re talking to each other!” Liam interrupts, clinging to Harry’s arm and digging his nails in. By accident, probably, but Harry is still ticked off about the marks Liam is leaving in his skin.

“Who?”

“Zayn and—your British man!”

He’s not wrong. Tomlinson has made his way over to the goal, where he and Malik look absorbed in deep, serious conversation. Harry wonders if they’re talking about soccer or other, more important things. Like cute spectators who may or may not be making a scene and may or may not have curly brown hair and the name Harry.

“What do you think they’re talking about?” Liam asks like he’s read Harry’s mind.

“I bet Zayn’s wondering if he can change to strawberry Coolattas or if he’s contractually obligated to only be seen with blue raspberry,” Niall interjects.

“But I just started liking blue raspberry!” Liam complains.

Harry can’t respond to that because he’s just seen Zayn slap Tomlinson on the ass. On the field. In front of thousands of people. Why is Harry the only one who seems to care about this?

Guess Zayn has to die. Liam can speak at the funeral and leave his DD Perks card at the grave.

Before Harry has time to collect his gay self, the match begins.

Tomlinson is fast . Harry can barely keep his eyes on his unfairly gorgeous bum with how quickly he’s weaving through players to get to the ball. He supposes it’s a good start because Niall starts to take on his role of yelling Irishman. Harry’s pretty sure it’s an entirely different language but he’s not about to open that can of worms.

On the other side of the stadium, the standing section has started another chant. Niall joins in, waving his arms wildly and screaming along with them. Harry still can’t make out a single word anyone around him is saying.

“Look at him go!” Niall says as the crowd gets louder. Tomlinson and a few of his teammates are near the opposing goal, passing the ball with rapid kicks. “I think he’s about to score! There’s an opening right there!”

Like most times Niall opens his dumb mouth, that’s precisely when shit hits the fan.

A tall lanky Galaxy player with too-styled hair—oh, ew, it’s #30 Subway/Lysol guy—throws his foot out just enough for Tomlinson to catch it. Harry can do nothing but let out an undignified screech as he watches his future husband trip and fall to the ground.

But wait!

Harry’s apparently marrying a superhero, because Tomlinson continues tumbling into a standing position and takes off, barely losing any ground. The crowd goes nuts, and Harry’s now a little horny.

More shit happens that doesn’t involve points or scoring, but Harry can’t even bring himself to dramatically complain like he planned to. Honestly he doesn’t have time to, not with all the stupid running around. It takes a lot of focus to keep up with Tomlinson’s perfect thighs, okay?

Harry may also be a little tipsy.

“Isn’t Zayn doing amazing?” Liam swoons.

Zayn hasn’t moved the entire match. If he wasn’t standing, Harry would think he was dead.

“Don’t joke about Zayn dying!” Liam hits Harry’s shoulder.

Oh, guess he said that out loud. Shit, he’s really tipsy.

Niall jumps out of his seat and starts yelling about something Harry wasn’t paying attention to.

“A fucking yellow card? For that ?” he’s screeching

“Yellow is a nice color,” Harry mutters. “I like yellow.”

“Not today, you don’t. Well, not if it’s shown to us.”

“I bet Zayn looks good in yellow,” Liam muses.

“Sadly for you, yellow Coolattas don’t exist.”

“They should.”

“Would you really drink something that looks like yellow snow?”

“I’ve always wanted to try that,” Harry says.

Niall puts a hand on his forehead and makes him lean back into his seat. “Shhh, think before you speak. Just give it a try. Also, you should probably drink some water soon.”

Harry takes a pointed drink of something that is definitely not water.

Suddenly, Niall grabs Harry’s arm and squeezes. “Oh, shit.”

“What? Is Tomlinson okay?”

Niall turns to face him fully as the players start clustering on the field. “Harry. I’m going to need you to remain calm, but Tomlinson’s about to be standing right in front of you.”

“In front of me? Right in front of my salad?”

“Directly in front of your salad, yes, and I need you to be as normal as you possibly can.”

Harry can’t possibly do that, because Tomlinson’s walking his beautiful body over to them and shit he has a beautiful face too and Harry’s life just isn’t fair.

“Niall, his cheekbones ,” Harry whines.

“Harry, shut up, he can hear you from here!”

Well, he’ll just have to use that to his advantage then.

Harry leans over the guardrail. “Excuse me! Tomlinson!”

“Harry!"

“Shut up, Niall. Tomlinson, do you know how unfair it is to watch you run around in those white shorts? They make your ass look delicious!”

Harry may be a little more drunk than he thought, because he thinks he sees Tomlinson’s posture stiffen a bit.

“Yeah, I’m talking to you Mister twenty-eight with the very white shorts.”

Tomlinson kicks the ball and the action starts again, but Harry doesn’t miss the weird look he throws over his shoulder.

“Niall!” Harry launches out of his seat, nearly spilling Niall’s beer. “He looked at me!”

“Yeah, like the fucking freak you are. Jesus Christ, I can’t believe you did that,” Niall says. “I feel like this borders on some weird version of catcalling. Oh, no, I’m going to be banned from the stadium for life.”

“Niall, you yelled at one of the Galaxy players to eat shit and choke on his mom.”

“That’s different. One, he wasn’t right in front of me. Two, he’s from Los Angeles. I’ll never live in Los Angeles so I don’t give a fuck if they ban me from Galaxy games.”

“They’ll deport you before that happens,” Liam chimes in, probably thinking he’s being helpful.

“I have dual fucking citizenship, you weeb.”

“I don’t watch anime!”

“Your history says otherwise.”

“Why were you on my computer?!”

“You let me borrow it last month.”

“...No, I didn’t.”

Niall shrugs. “Well, I used it at some point. You’re definitely a weeb and I can’t be deported, so. Let’s move on.”

Harry can’t even remember what anime is at this point. He’s using all of his brain power to watch Tomlinson without getting dizzy. Oh, he may have had another beer at some point. He can’t really remember.

“Why’s my beer empty?” Niall asks.

Oh, that’s why.

God must be not be straight, because everything stops again when Tomlinson comes back to their corner. He’s purposefully looking down, and Harry is just not going to deal with that.

“Fancy seeing you here, beautiful. I missed you.”

Tomlinson doesn’t say anything as he stands there, waiting. There’s some commotion with the refs that’s keeping him from doing whatever he needs to do, so Harry decides to use that to his advantage.

He gets out of his seat to lean over the railing is far as his drunk brain can deem safe.

“How do you keep your uniforms so white? I mean, grass must be a fucking bitch to get out. But really, does detergent even matter if the washing machine is shitty? Is the power of clothes-washing in the detergent or the machine? In the end, which one is more important? I can afford to buy nicer detergent but I can’t really change my washing machine situation. Also, does your team need a laundry guy? I’m graduating next year so I’m in the market for a job. Any job. I mean, I’m studying writing and literature, so unless I write the next Great American Novel I’ll probably end up teaching high schoolers how to write essays on books that have been out for a hundred years and are actually just mediocre, so at this point I’ll probably take anything that pays and I feel like the need for laundry people just won’t go away, even in this economy—”

Before Harry can tell him his LinkedIn, he’s met with big blue, angry eyes.

“It’s two Tide pods!” Tomlinson yells at him. “For fuck’s sake, just put two Tide pods in your laundry and it’ll get everything out. Jesus Christ, will you shut up already?”

Harry is drunk and making eye contact with his future husband, so he says the only thing he can.

“My favorite snack.”

“Your what?”

“Tide pods.”

Tomlinson blinks twice, very slowly. “I swear to fucking god, I will eat one if I fuck up this corner kick because of you. I’ll probably eat an entire box.”

“That’s hot.”

Niall has apparently given up on trying to stop Harry. He’s four sections over bothering the kid selling the beer. Liam, however, is ready to die.

Tomlinson shakes his head and turns his attention back to the game.

“I hate to see you leave, but love to watch you walk away,” Harry sings off-key.

Tomlinson flips him off behind his back. Harry doesn’t even care. The view is fantastic.

“I miss him already,” Harry whines.

“Harry, he wants to kill you.”

“He can if he wants to.”

Niall jumps out of his seat as the ball goes flying, one of Tomlinson’s teammates jumping up to head it into the goal. “Fuck yes! Harry, you might actually be a good luck charm!”

Liam squeaks. “Does that mean—” He’s cut off with the cannon firing, and screams again.

“I’m never taking you two to a game again,” Niall says with a shake of his head, as the first half comes to an end. “I’m gonna get up for a while. Liam? Harry?”

“Can we meet Zayn now?” Liam asks.

Niall just stares at him for a second before nodding very slowly. “Sure. Let’s go look for him. Harry? Are you gonna be okay here?”

“I like it right here.”

“Good. Don’t. Move.” Niall drags Liam out of his seat and up the stairs, Liam babbling about how he’s brought a Sharpie just in case they happen to run into Zayn.

That leaves Harry to his own devices for an unknown amount of time. He takes out his phone to resume his game, but since the last time he played they changed the letters to hieroglyphics and didn’t consult him. Fuck, now he has to start all over. Grumbling to himself, he scrunches down in his seat and tries to focus, ignoring the little kid who’s now standing at the railing just a foot away from him.

“Excuse me, sir,” a woman’s voice pipes up. “Could you please move over a few seats?”

“Why?” Harry asks, because Harry is a lot more confrontational when he’s drunk and not constantly riddled with anxiety. “This is my seat.”

The woman looks a little annoyed. Good. “I’m trying to take a picture of my son and your shirt is a little distracting.”

“A little?” The kid snorts. He looks maybe ten and like a brat. Harry doesn’t like him.

“What’s wrong with my shirt?” Harry stands up, mostly to use his height since it’s probably the most intimidating physical characteristic he has. Although it makes him look more noodleish than anything but he’s still on the taller side.

The mother doesn’t look too intimidated though. “Oh come on, you know it’s a bit loud for this kind of thing.”

“Why?” Harry challenges. “So it’s acceptable for people to use loud voices but not loud shirts here, is that it? Am I just supposed to conform to this sea of blue and white and red? Is this the kind of sheep-like sense of obedience we want to be teaching the youth of America?”

He turns to the kid, who now looks a little afraid of him. “Pink is the color of rock and roll! Don’t let anyone tell you not to wear what you want. Be a nonconformist! Stand out! Be your own ballerina!”

Harry must sound a little more unhinged than he thinks because the woman is pulling her son away and up the stairs. She runs into Niall and Liam, the latter of whom immediately starts apologizing. How rude of him to just assume it was Harry’s fault.

“I am so sorry about him. He gets a little...well, like that,” Liam tells her.

“Yeah, well tell him to keep that kind of stuff down in public. There are impressionable children around.”

“Excuse me?” Niall straightens up, and he looks incredibly intimidating. “The hell does that mean?”

Harry puts a hand over his heart. Niall is actually defending him! They can stay friends after all.

“If you’re going to stand there and spout off like that then we’re going to have a problem. So I recommend you take your ignorance back to your own section, yeah?” It helps that he’s letting his Irish accent out in full.

The woman goes beet red, grips her son’s hand, and rushes them back up the stairs.

Harry throws his arms around Niall’s neck when he gets back to their seats. “My hero!”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re lucky you’re drunk and incoherent.”

“Liam, you suck but I still love you.” Harry hugs him too.

“You know I didn’t mean it like that!” Liam whines. “What if her husband was like a bodybuilder and kicked your ass?”

They’re annoying and weird and awkward but Harry does love his friends.

“Well, I didn’t see a husband around, so.” Niall shrugs.

There’s no time for him to get in any more trouble, though, before the game starts up again. The three of them find their seats again, Niall picking off bits of cotton candy from the bag he’d opened before. At least now Harry has Tomlinson to watch for.

To his disappointment, there’s not much action on their side of the field for a while. It does mean there’s no cannon and no screams from Liam. It’s quiet. Too quiet. Bored, Harry picks up his phone and starts playing again. He tries to Google Tomlinson, but his name is hard to spell and his keyboard has also somehow switched to hieroglyphics. Rude.

“Looks like another corner kick,” Niall muses, and Harry perks up at that. His husband is back! Maybe they can continue the Tide pod conversation. Harry wonders if Tomlinson prefers a classic fresh laundry scent or if he’s an Ocean Breeze or Fresh Coral Blast kind of guy.

He’s confused when someone who is definitely not his husband approaches their corner. Oh, shit, it’s #30 Subway/Lysol guy. The amount of product in his hair is really bothering Harry.

“You’re not Tomlinson,” Harry states.

“Uh, last time I checked, no.” The guy with the hair says, and wait, Harry knows that hair.

“Hey!” Harry points at him. “You’re the guy that tripped him in the first half! I saw that! You can pretend you didn’t do it but I saw it with my three gay eyes.”

Hair purposefully ignores him to listen to the ref. His jersey says Grimshaw. That’s a dumb name.

“That’s a dumb name.”

“Tomlinson? Yeah, it’s a bit awkward to say.”

“I meant Grimshaw.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t talk shit about Tomlinson. You have dumb hair.”

“So do you.”

Harry lets out an undignified squeak as Niall cackles next to him. It was an admittedly gay gasp
“Can you at least be useful and tell Tomlinson I’m waiting for him?”

Grimshaw has the audacity to laugh at him before kicking the ball and getting back into the game. Harry does see him run past Tomlinson, jerking his thumb back in Harry’s direction. He can’t see his reaction from where he’s sitting, but he hopes Tomlinson is interested.

He smacks Niall’s shoulder. “Hey. Hey. Hey. Where’d Tomlinson go?”

“Doing his job like we pay him to.”

We don’t pay him for this,” Liam says through a mouthful of pretzel.

“Why did we get stuck with Stupid Hair Grimshaw while Tomlinson’s all the way over there now?” Harry points to the opposite corner of where he sits, which might as well be the west coast with how drunk he is right now.

“Oh, the teams switch sides after the first half.”

“Are you kidding me?!” Harry exclaims, flopping about in his seat. “You mean I have to walk all the way over there?’

“No, they switch sides, not us, dumbass. There’s only one seat printed on your ticket.”

Harry whines. “But my husband.”

“Not your husband.”

“When will he return from war?”

“He didn’t go to war. He’s literally right over there.”

Harry gets a little misty-eyed, but Niall either refuses to acknowledge it or is planning on using it for blackmail. He doesn’t really care since the only thing keeping him from passing out in his seat is going to be across the stadium.

“Where are the rooms with toilets?” Harry asks.

“You need a changing table?”

“Yes, mom. Care to come with me?”

“Hell no. They’re up the stairs and say bathroom. You need someone to go with you?”

“Nope!” Harry bounces to his feet.

Near the top of the stairs he passes the woman and her son. She’s texting, not paying attention to the match at all, while the kid is looking dreadfully bored. He looks up at Harry and, instead of alerting his mother of her arch nemesis’ presence, he waves.

Huh. Rock and roll, kid.

Harry meanders a bit as he makes his way over to the other side. There’s a surprising amount of people out of their seats, waiting in line at the concession stands for hot dogs and beer and nachos and other overpriced snacks. Maybe it’s a good thing Harry doesn’t carry much cash, or he’d definitely be buying another pint.

Humming to himself as he wanders through the stadium, he looks up at the signs bearing the section numbers. Wait. Did he pass this section already? He pokes his head into the stadium and spots Niall and Liam in their seats. Fuck. He’s just gone in a complete circle.

He turns around and goes back the other way, and this time he remembers to actually keep track of where in the stadium he is.

Fortunately for his gay ass there’s no one sitting in the aisle seat in the front row, so he just plops himself down. The group next to him is drunker than he is, so they don’t seem to notice the random Hawaiian kid that’s joined them. Maybe he’ll ditch Niall and Liam and be their friend instead. They seem cool.

He sits there awkwardly, suddenly wishing Niall were there to explain what’s going on. All he has to do is wait for Tomlinson to do a corner kick.

God must be taking pity on him because that’s when he’s blessed with a vision of an angel in blue and white. That is, Tomlinson walking over toward him.

Oh, finally. Harry leans over the railing. “Why’d you leave?” he whines.

Tomlinson jumps and turns around. “Are you kidding me? You again?”

“You left.”

“Why are you here?! Isn’t your seat over there?”

“I missed you.” Harry whines. “Honestly, you’re incredible to watch. I don’t really know anything about soccer or running or sports but I’m not an idiot. You have a gift, Tomlinson.”

Harry knows he’s drunk, so he may be imagining Tomlinson blushing a bit.

“Uh, thanks, mate.” He smiles a bit, eyes crinkling in the corners.

“Fuck, you’re so hot, too. That’s not fair.”

Tomlinson rolls his eyes and turns away, but he’s still smiling.

“I yelled at that guy for tripping you by the way,” Harry yells at him.

“You yelled at Grimshaw?” Tomlinson’s actually laughing now. “What’d he say?”

“Told me to fuck off or something. I can’t really remember.”

“That sounds about right. Thanks for defending my honor.”

“He made fun of my hair.” Harry pouts.

Tomlinson looks back at him over his shoulder. Like really looks at him. Harry’s suddenly very nervous.

“Your hair’s cute. Don’t listen to him.”

And with that, he kicks the ball and runs off. Harry lets out a high pitched squeal and takes off up the stairs.

That’s when he eats shit.

Correction. He makes it up six steps, trips on his own feet, knocks into some teenager selling beer, and sends him flying as well.

He doesn’t remember the semantics, but he’s suddenly lying on the stairs soaked in a hundred dollars’ worth of gross beer and sticky cotton candy with about twenty people crowded around him. Two of which are Niall and Liam. Niall is openly laughing and recording him while Liam looks like he wants to die, which is his normal look, honestly.

“You can leave me here to die, thanks,” Harry mumbles.

Niall hauls him up instead. “Come on, I think it’s time to pack it up.”

“I didn’t get to meet Zayn!” Liam complains as they help Harry up the stairs.

“Better luck next time, sport.” Niall lets go to pat Liam on the back and almost drops Harry in the process.

“Can we get a snack before we go?” Harry asks as they emerge from the stadium.

Liam just stares at him. “You want us to carry you up all those steps?”

“I can walk up them myself.”

“No, you can’t,” Niall corrects him. “There’s got to be a ramp somewhere, right? Accessibility laws and shit?”

Even better, they find an elevator. Harry wants to push all the buttons just to be a little shit, but sadly there’s only one. They find a frozen yogurt place that won’t let Harry in, telling him he’s too wet and too smelly.

Harry watches from the bench as Niall and Liam, dry and not sticky, order their frozen yogurt. He realizes abruptly that he never got to say goodbye to Tomlinson. He won’t watch him score again and probably win since he’s so goddamn talented. He’ll never see him again.

By the time Niall and Liam bring him a cup of yogurt he’s full on ugly sobbing.

“Oh, it’s okay.” Niall sits next to him and pats his back. His palm sticks to his shirt.

“It is not okay! I’m never going to see him again,” Harry blubs.

“You can always thirst follow him like Liam does."

“He said my hair was cute. We were in love.” Harry sniffles grossly.

“Just eat your fucking yogurt.”

Harry brings a spoon up to his mouth only to miss and hit his cheek. The yogurt dribbles onto his shirt. It’s dark chocolate and will definitely stain, not matter how many Tide pods he throws in the washing machine.

“You should have tucked some napkins into your shirt,” Liam suggests, though the lateness of his comment renders it extremely unhelpful. Harry knows he tries. He sniffles one more time and digs into his frozen yogurt, trying not to spill any more.

Before they call an Uber, Liam does something actually helpful and offers to give Harry his spare shirt. Harry peels his own off, cringing at the smell. He really needs to take a shower when he gets home. Luckily they’ll be back soon.

They’re not back soon. Not one, but two Uber drivers reject them—Harry knows it’s because of him, no matter how much Niall and Liam try to convince him it’s not—so by the time they actually get a ride, people have started to stream out the stadium gates.

Harry’s assuming they won based on how many drunk people seem happy. Except him. He still wants to cry.

He does a little, but Niall and Liam give him a break and don’t mention it. Niall sits in the front again, doing his best to keep the driver as calm as possible given there’s a blubbering five foot eleven drunk toddler in the back without a booster seat.

It’s almost eleven o’clock when they finally get back to the apartment. Harry thinks he might pass out any second but Niall gently shoves him toward the shower and tells him, in a very kind tone, that he stinks.

His exact phrasing is ‘smells like shit’ but, you know. Harry comes out smelling like a kiwi and apple tropical cloud and promptly collapses into bed, almost crushing his calico cat as he faceplants into the mattress. The last thing he remembers is her clawing through his wet hair.

-

“Harold.” Someone’s singing in his ear. “Sweet, calm, peaceful Harooooold.”

Harry rolls over and nearly suffocates in his own hair. He thrashes a bit, sending his cat flying off the bed and out the door. Niall is sitting on the edge of his bed, gently patting his knee. 

“The fuck?” Harry checks the clock on his nightstand. It’s nine and he doesn’t work. “Why am I awake?"
Harry’s about to chew him out, but the unthinkable happens. Niall’s looking back at him.

Nervously.

“I think I fucked up,” Niall admits quietly.

“What did you do?” Harry asks, pulling at the tangles in his curls as he sits up.

“So, remember that Snapchat video I took at the game?”

“When did you take a video at the game?”

Niall blinks back at him. “Harry, I was recording you the whole time.”

What.

“The whole time. The whole. Entire. Time.”

“...Yeah.”

“You recorded me not only at my drunkest, but also at my gayest?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

Fair. Kind of.

 “Okay.” Harry rubs his eyes. “What’s the good news?”

 “Well.” Niall unlocks his phone. “It wasn’t getting the traction I wanted on Snapchat. So….I tweeted it.”

What.

“You tweeted it,” Harry states, nearing a state of brain dead. “To your ten thousand followers.”

Niall nods, handing Harry the phone. “You’re a meme, Harry.”

“I’m a what ?”

“A meme. It’s like an internet—”

“I know what a fucking meme is, Niall! Why did you make me into one ?” 

“It’s your fault!”

Harry doesn’t respond to that, because he’s finally looked at Twitter and shit .

Louis Tomlinson is trending. The Revolution is also trending.

‘Drunk Hawaiian Guy’ is trending above both of them.

“Please don’t tell me Drunk Hawaiian Guy is me.”

“Drunk Hawaiian Guy is definitely not you,” Niall says in the most unconvincing tone Harry’s ever heard.

“They couldn’t have made it Drunk Hawaiian Gay ? That’s just a missed opportunity." 

Niall has the fucking balls to cackle at that while Harry looks at the mess his former friend created. Videos of him screaming at Tomlinson about Tide Pods and his ass are being quoted and combined with memes to a create a level of memeception Harry has never seen before. That isn’t even including the thousands of tweets of him falling up the stairs remixed with random Top 40 songs. 

“Clumsy by Fergie? Really?” Harry rolls his eyes. “Where’s Timber by Kesha?”

“Oh, keep scrolling, it’s probably there somewhere.”

“Wait...so if I’m the top trend on Twitter, then…”

Oh, god. He’s a viral meme. He’s famous. He’ll have to call Daniel from the “damn, Daniel!” Vine and ask how he coped with the sudden fame. Is there a support group for accidental memes? He’ll have to find out. On that note, is there a support group for killing the person who made you an accidental meme? He’ll have to find that out too.

 Harry takes a deep breath and turns on his phone.

Two notifications, both from his Drag Race blog.

... what?

He makes sure he’s logged on to all his public social media just to make sure.

 “Niall, why aren’t I famous?”

 “Because you’re a loser.”

 “Already knew that, thanks. Why does no one know I’m the guy in your video?”

“Why would they? There are plenty of long haired idiots that wear Hawaiian shirts to harass athletes.”

 “Niall,” Harry whines.

“What? I don’t use my real name on Twitter! I save that shit for Tumblr.”

“Your handle is ‘OhNooooooNiall.’”

“Niall’s a common name.” 

“Not here.”

 “Ireland has Twitter, you Ameri-centric fuck.”

“So no one knows it was me.” Harry confirms. This seems too good to be true, all things considered. It’s one less thing he has to explain if any future employer searches his name. He’s had enough trouble explaining the one time he misspoke Italian on his school’s morning show.

“Aren’t you relieved?”

Harry sighs, slumping into his blankets. “I guess…”

“Wait.” Niall holds a hand up in Harry’s face, smile growing. “You self-absorbed, curly-haired whore. You want the attention!”

“No!” Harry snaps a little too quickly. “Don’t be stupid, why would I want that?”

“So your senpai can finally notice you and sweep you off your debt-ridden feet and ride off into the sunset so he can kill you in private!”

“Look who’s the weeb now!” is all Harry can think of as a comeback for now. He doesn’t help his case by shoving Niall out of his room, slamming the door so hard his coat falls off the hanger on the back of the door, and burying himself under three blankets even though it’s seventy degrees out.

Okay, maybe Niall is right. There is this deep, hidden, stupid part of Harry that thought maybe Tomlinson would have noticed. And then Harry would have been invited to be on Ellen and get free tickets for the next season, which of course he would donate, and then she’d say she had a surprise for him and it would be Tomlinson, with his cheekbones and great ass, ready to invite him to hang out since he’s cool and didn’t mind the harassment since he defended his honor. Dinner would be a success and they’d spend more and more time together after his games and in off seasons. Harry would show him his poetry and of course Tomlinson would love it and tweet vague lines from the more romantic pieces. And a few years down the line he’d use those same lines in his wedding vows—

Yeah. Deep, hidden, and stupid.

Well, at least he can still follow Tomlinson on Twitter. Casually. He meanders over to Tomlinson’s Twitter account, follows him, and, since he’s in the privacy of his own blankets, turns on Tweet notifications.

His stomach growls all of a sudden, and oh. That’s right. He didn’t have much to eat yesterday other than blue cotton candy. Pouting, he wraps one of his blankets around himself and tries to sneak into the kitchen without drawing attention to himself. 

“Harry, you’re awake!” Liam’s voice exclaims from the kitchen, making Harry jump.

“Where were you ten minutes ago?” 

“In the shower. Want a waffle?”

He trusts Liam more than he trusts Niall, so Harry accepts.

He looks at the whiteboard on the wall and notices Niall has changed the counter on “days since Harry’s been dramatic” to zero. He draws a line down the middle and writes his own header: “days since Niall’s ruined someone’s life” and writes a giant zero under it.

“Why weren’t you an acting major again?” 

“I’m not acting. I’m coping.” 

“Acting.”

“Shut up.” 

Liam pours the batter into the waffle maker and flips it over. Harry knew he kept Liam around for a reason.

Harry’s phone pings with a notification. He peers at the screen.

Louis Tomlinson just tweeted.

All he can see from the little notification preview is “For fuck’s sake, DO NOT.” Harry thinks he does an admirable job of keeping his cool as he opens Twitter to see the full Tweet.

 

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : For fuck’s sake DO NOT EAT TIDE PODS. Just because some drunk asshole is dumb enough to doesn’t mean you should!

 

Harry wants to die.

He turns off notifications for Louis and runs out of the kitchen and into his room. He throws himself back on his bed, groaning as loudly as he can. Great. He’s getting divorced.

“I thought he wanted waffles?” he hears Niall ask.

“I don’t know, I thought so. He just ran out of the room.”

“Well, I’ll eat his then.” 

“You will not,” Harry yells, voice muffled from where his face is pressed into his sheets.

He doesn’t. Instead, Liam brings Harry his two favorite things about ten minutes later. He hands Harry a plate of waffles with an ungodly and, yes, perfect amount of syrup while balancing the cat in his other arm. She’s nuzzling his neck and purring.

“Niall told me Tomlinson mentioned you on Twitter.” 

“Don’t bring it up,” Harry says through a mouthful of waffle. A bit of syrup gets on his chin and he’s a little more pissed about it than he usually is. He thinks Liam can tell.

Liam readjusts the cat and holds her in Harry’s face.

“Don’t worry Harry!” Liam bounces her around as he talks in a high pitched voice. “He doesn’t hate you! He doesn’t even know you!" 

“Except he does. He said I have cute hair. We made direct eye contact.” 

Liam cradles the cat in his arms again. “Hey, she said it, not me.”

“I think you got syrup on her,” Harry complains just to be contrarian as he licks some syrup from his wrist. “I’m going to reply to him.”

“I don’t know if that’s the best idea,” Niall says.

“You thought posting my drunken gayness on Twitter was a good idea, so excuse me if I don’t take your advice on good ideas.” Harry jams the rest of his waffle into his mouth because the cat’s sniffing at it like she might steal it any second and grabs his phone, staring at Tomlinson’s tweet.

He drafts about thirteen different tweets in response, but none of them seem to strike that balance of apologetic and not pathetic that he’s hoping will help Tomlinson forgive him. Niall points out he doesn’t really need to, since Tomlinson doesn’t know him from any other lanky hipster in Boston. Thanks, Niall.

He abandons Twitter in hope of getting some of his creative writing assignment done. He’s mindlessly petting his cat as he reads through his workshop notes on his laptop, but the last thing he wants to do right now is think about third-person stream of consciousness narration. Not when Google Chrome is still open and there are memes about himself to look up. What can he say? He’s an Aquarius.

His cat places a paw on his thigh, as if to say, “I know exactly what you’re thinking, you hoe ass bitch, don’t do it.”

He ignores her and goes on Buzzfeed anyway. She yowls at him and leaves the room. Great, now no one’s allowed to judge him.

Right in the middle of Buzzfeed’s front page is one of those listicles that Niall rants about every time he catches Harry with twelve tabs of them opened. Something about the degradation of journalism and the written word or whatever. Harry honestly tunes him out because sometimes he just needs to know twenty famous rock songs with gay undertones and what the number of vegetables he’s tried says about his clothing preferences. 

TWENTY PEOPLE LOUIS TOMLINSON COULD HAVE BEEN YELLING AT

Matty Healy, that English singer with the voice no one can understand, is the first on the list. Harry supposes that’s not the worst thing. Keanu Reeves, is next, followed by Fionn Whitehead and Cillian Murphy, and then the ghost of Billy Mays, which gets a chuckle out of him.

The next one has him wanting to hack into Buzzfeed’s servers and delete the entire hellsite.

He should have seen it coming. There was no way He Who Shall Not Be Named wouldn’t have been on the list, but it still feels like a kick in the dick.

 

Marcel Steels

Why London’s up and coming heartthrob would be at a Revolution game we can’t quite figure out. But there’s no denying these two Brits would make one hot couple.

 

No. 

No no no no no no.

Harry’s been told his life would be unfair. He’s faced his fair share of hardships and obstacles and came out pretty strong on the other side okay.

But to have his doppleganger shipped with his future husband?

Fuck that. And fuck you, Buzzfeed Staff Writer Dan Wootton.

He pulls out his phone and types without thinking, and before he can even stop to listen to the Liam in his head, he tweets.

 

@harrynotharold : @Louis_Tomlinson28 i’m not Marcel Steels but pretty close haha. Sorry for all the memes, but in my defense I don’t REALLY eat tide pods

 

“Why would you tweet that?”

Both Niall and Liam are standing in his doorway, phones in hands, staring at him like he just publicly declared his intentions to steal the Declaration of Independence.

“Because it’s my twitter? And my identity? And my life?”

“You literally did this because of Steelinson, didn’t you?”

“No! I did it to clear my conscience, thank you very much. Wait. Steelinson? They have a ship name already?!” Harry adds, hysterical now. “It’s literally one vowel sound away from Louis’ and my ship name!” 

“What would that name be?”

“Stylinson!”

Niall makes a face. “Nah, that doesn’t sound right to me.”

“Doesn’t really have the same flow,” Liam adds.

“Are you all kidding me?” Harry shrieks, grabbing his phone again. “And why aren’t I trending yet?!”

“You tweeted three minutes ago.”

“I don’t care! Marcel tweets about Doritos and that trends in minutes!”

“When has he ever tweeted about Doritos?” Liam unlocks his phone and begins scrolling. Harry throws a pastel pillow at him. 

“Harry, come on, this really isn’t gonna help,” Niall tells him. “If you wanna delete it we could come up with a better tweet. One that he’ll actually respond to.”

“And what is wrong with the one I already tweeted?” 

“Literally everything.”

Harry gestures to Liam. “Can I have my pillow back?”

Liam tosses it onto his bed, and Harry clutches it to his chest, groaning and flopping over.

“Are you going to be like this for the rest of the day?”

“I’m viral. I can do whatever I want,” Harry mumbles. 

“Well, Liam and I were going to get ice cream at the corner store later.” 

“I don’t care about ice cream. I care about getting the recognition I deserve.” 

“Well, Zayn didn’t even look at me,” Liam mutters sulkily. “I want a Coolatta.”

“No.”

“I hate Niall, too,” Harry tells his sheets. Nobody answers him.

-

Before he goes to bed, he checks Tumblr only to see his own stupid face falling in slow motion to “Free Falling” by Tom Petty. At least he can appreciate a legend. 

-

Harry wakes up to his bed vibrating, which he can easily say isn’t a common occurrence. Maybe he’s still dreaming? If so, he’s not complaining.

He closes his eyes again only to be whacked in the face with his cat’s tail. She’s staring at him grumpily, the vibrations still going off.

It’s his phone, he realizes. Shit, did he forget to text his mom last night?

He checks it, and every organ in his gay body falls out of his ass.

16,428 notifications, all from Twitter. 

He’s pretty sure he doesn’t even breathe for twenty minutes as he watches the number climb steadily. It’s only when his cat headbutts him in the cheek that he snaps out of it. 

“FUCK!” he screams. 

He unlocks his phone to see what the fuck happened in the seven hours he was asleep, but new notifications keep preventing him from doing shit. He finally has a break in activity and turns them off in his settings. 

That’s when he notices the Tweet.  

 

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : It’s this one. @harrynotharold

 

 

And under those three little words is the most unflattering Instagram post Harry’s ever made.

Harry doesn’t realize he’s started yelling until Niall bursts into his room.

“Are you getting murdered or do you have a real reason for being this loud at seven forty-five on a Monday morning in the middle of the summer?”

“Look at this!” Harry shrieks, thrusting his phone in front of Niall’s face. “Look! At! This!”

Niall blinks twice and pushes Harry’s screen away. “Oh. He noticed you. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Yes! But no!”

“Stop complaining, you brat. You are such an Aquarius.”

“Well, you’re a Virgo!”

“And you take astrology way too seriously.”

“Back to me and my problem!” Harry waves his phone around. “ What do I do about this ?”

“Hey, I took that!” Niall laughs, pointing at the picture. “You look really dumb.”

“Thanks, I know. The world knows. Louis knows! Louis just told the world!”

“I thought you wanted people to know it was you.” 

“Not like this!”

“Then how?”

“Why couldn’t he have tweeted my headshot that I paid that guy in our photography class eighty dollars for?!”

“You only use that on LinkedIn. Why would Louis be on your LinkedIn?”

“Why’s he on my Instagram?”

“I don’t know, maybe because you link to it on your Twitter profile?" 

Oh. Niall’s right, but Harry isn’t going to say that. He just swipes his phone away and wanders into the kitchen to look for Pop-Tarts. Of course, on top of everything, they’re out of Pop-Tarts.

“Niall!”

“Liam’s getting a Coolatta.”

“That’s not—well, I’m not surprised. Can he get me a donut? Two donuts? I’m gonna need at least two donuts to deal with this.”

“Text him yourself.”

Harry pulls out his phone to do just that when he realizes something else. Something that changes the game.

Louis not only tweeted at him, Louis fucking followed him.

Fuck Liam and his Coolattas. Harry opens a DM.

 

@harrynotharold: WHAT THE FUCK??!

@Louis_Tomlinson28: Who is this?

@Louis_Tomlinson28: Oh wait.

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : :)

@harrynotharold: FUCKJFLKGDL WHY DID YOU

@harrynotharold: WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

 

Liam chooses that moment to walk in, bearing a blue raspberry Coolatta with a comically long straw. “Morning, Harry! It’s beautiful out, isn’t it?” 

“It’s a terrible day, Liam, and all I see before me are more terrible days. Death, Liam!”

“...Death?”

“Death is here! She’s here for me, it’s my time, and I’ve already accepted it.”

“Dramatic Aquarius,” Niall shouts from his corner of the kitchen.

“Shut up Virgo, I need to sass Louis so he’ll delete the tweet.”

“If Niall’s a Virgo, what am I?” Liam wonders aloud. Harry ignores him and goes back to his furious typing.

 

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : You really shouldn’t have a public instagram. Actually, you really shouldn’t post unflattering pictures on your public instagram. Isn’t that computer safety 101 in primary school?  

@harrynotharold : fuckingfdkjnjk you shouldn’t be stalking mine public insta don’t you have a J O B ?

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : I do. You yelled at me while I was at work.

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Also. “Mine public insta”? I thought you said you were studying writing and literature, Harold.

@harrynotharold : excuse me i paid to be there im allowed to yell like all the other straight men saying you should eat shit.

@harrynotharold : at least i was trying to flatter you smh

@harrynotharold : ALSO DON’T COME FOR MY TYPOS ITS SUMMER  

@harrynotharold: AND MY NAEM IS NOT NOT HAROLD

@harrynotharold : wait you remember my major?!?!?!?!?  

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : naem

@harrynotharold : dont mcfucking change the subject!

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : don’t*

@harrynotharold : wow why don’t you pay for my fucking degree then instead of CYBERBULLYING ME

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : You know what? Of all the things you screamed at me you didn’t say where you’re going to school. So who let you in, Harold?

@harrynotharold : ……

@harrynotharold : i hate you

@harrynotharold : scratch that

@harrynotharold : i h8 u

@Louis_Tomlinson28

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : I can do memes too

@harrynotharold : I.HATE.YOU//SO.MUCH 

@harrynotharold : YOU.CAN.WASH//YOUR.OWN.SHORTS//GOOD.LUCK

@harrynotharold : GO.PLAY.FOR//THE.GALAXY 

@harrynotharold : IM.DUMPING//ALL.MY.TEA//IN.THE.HARBOR//SUCK.THAT.TOMLINSON

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Okay. I’m going to have to block you.  

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Bye Harold.

@harrynotharold : WAIT IM SORRY

@harrynotharold : AND ITS HARRY NOT HAROLD

@harrynotharold : AS DESCRIBED IN MY HANDLE 

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : I know.

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : :)

 

Harry sits back in the futon, emotionally exhausted and a little winded if he’s being honest.

“What the fuck are you doing?" 

He looks up to realize Niall and Liam have been watching him the entire time. Fuck, he was probably making the frog face.

“Was I making the frog face?”

“Yeah,” Niall and Liam say at the same time. Liam takes a loud sip of his Coolatta.

“Are you on Grindr?” Liam asks mid slurp.

“No! I’m talking to Louis.”

Niall cackles. “You are not.”

“I am!”

“Yeah, and Liam’s sexting Malik.”

 

@harrynotharold : my dumb friends don’t believe im talking to you how do i prove them wrong?

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Hi Harold’s friends! Has anyone told your roommate he looks like a frog?

@harrynotharold : ………i get that a lot

 

“Look!” Harry throws his phone at Niall. “I am!” 

“Could be faked,” Liam mutters, looking over Niall’s shoulder.

Niall, however, looks like he actually believes Harry. Finally, someone in this apartment supports him. “They don’t look fake. I mean, messages are popping up in real time.” 

“He said more things? Give it back!” Harry makes a grab for his phone, but Niall holds it away and starts laughing again.

“He thinks you look like a frog,” he wheezes out. “I like him.”

 

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Not like. Ugly frog. But funny rainforest colourful frog.

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Like

@Louis_Tomlinson28

 

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : This frog

@harrynotharold : that’s a cute frog

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : I mean if you’re into that.

 

Damn it, Harry, step up your game.

 

@harrynotharold : hey now that we’re best friends how about taking that tweet down like a real pal?

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Absolutely not.

@harrynotharold: D:

@harrynotharold: Whym!?!?!

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Because now we’re even.

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : And whym isn’t a word.

@harrynotharold: It’s a gay thing ffskasdjfksdf

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : So then why don’t I know about it?

 

What the fuck!?!?!

 

@harrynotharold: WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Fuck. Please don’t tweet that.

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : For real, please don’t.

@harrynotharold: why would i fucking do that jesus christ

@harrynotharold: a cute frog wouldn’t do that

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Okay. Thanks.

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : I can delete the tweet if it matters that much.

 

Shit. Harry, for the first time in a long time, has the upper hand. Or better, deck? Fuck, he doesn’t know, he just has some power right now and he doesn’t really know how he feels about it.

 

@harrynotharold: i’m not going to out you on twitter i swear

@harrynotharold: that’s like thr shittiest thing to do we memed gays gotta stick together

@harrynotharold: but yes we’re even

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : I don’t want to be a meme!

@harrynotharold: neither did i but look where we are

@harrynotharold: i’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a support group for accidental meme victims

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : There is. This weekend. At Gillette. We’re playing the Chicago Fire.

@harrynotharold: they’d let me back in the stadium???

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Did you give them a reason not to?

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : You were drunk, yeah, but lots of people get drunk.

@harrynotharold: do lots of people also knock over teenagerss carrying beer?

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : You might be surprised.

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : You should see the American football games.

@harrynotharold: american football is dumb ew

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : It’s rugby for the weak.

@harrynotharold: yeah! totally! words! sports! rugs!

@harrynotharold: hey so in case i drop my phone in the toilet and lose my twitter, can i have your number?

 

Harry puts his phone face down on the table and holds his breath. 

“What the fuck did you just say to him?” Niall and Liam are still standing there staring at him.

“I just asked for Louis Tomlinson’s phone number,” Harry squeaks out.

“You did what?!” Niall nearly screeches.

“Can you ask him for Zayn’s next?” Liam’s poking at the last slushy bits of his Coolatta with the straw.

 

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Dropping your phone doesn’t mean your whole Twitter account gets deleted.

@harrynotharold: what if i get banned though? im a meme on the edge

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : On the edge of what? 

@harrynotharold: ...what kind of homosexual are you

@harrynotharold: ON THE EDGE OF GLORY, LOUIS, COME ON

@harrynotharold: lady gaga said so

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : You are still on the edge of getting blocked.

@harrynotharold: yeah that’s why i need your number

 

Nailed it. 

“Well?” Niall demands. “Did it work?”

 

@Louis_Tomlinson28 : Give me yours first and I’ll text you.

 

“Fuck yeah it worked!” Harry punches his number into a separate DM and sends it off. Two minutes later, his phone vibrates again with a text from a string of numbers.

 

(617) 555-0178: Ribbit.

 

Followed by several frog emojis. Harry kicks his feet out and pumps his fists in the air, squealing. Niall pops open champagne as Liam pats his head.

-

The days leading up to Harry Takes On Gillette: The Sequel are startlingly normal, with the small exception of getting texts from Louis. Louis still teases him for his typos and Harry teases him for not being on top of the gay memes. When Louis goes radio silent for practices, Harry spams his phone with as many memes and obscure gay references he can find during his breaks at work. It basically translates to forwarding his entire Drag Race blogroll via text.

When he tells Niall they’ve been invited back for Saturday’s game, Niall is mostly just relieved they haven’t been banned from the stadium.

“Why’s he inviting you back anyway?” Niall asks over dinner one night. “Is he trying to kill you in person?”

Harry laughs, his mind going back to when Louis was forcefully stuck in a bathroom stall after he spotted a moth in the locker room and livetexted Harry the whole time.

“I don’t think murder is his thing.

“Are Liam and I invited too?”

“Probably not. I’m special,” Harry says as his phone buzzes.

Louis: Oh, by the way! You can bring your friends on Saturday! A corporate group cancelled so there’ll be room in one of the boxes. 

“Damn it.” Harry grumbles. “Why is he putting us in a box? Wouldn’t that be uncomfortable?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Niall slams his palms on the table. “The boxes are where they have food and drinks! Real food! They have champagne and onion rings and entire pizzas up there.”

“Oh, wait, so this is nice?”

“If you don’t text him right now and tell him he’s the best husband in the world I’ll do it for you.”

“Please don’t text him that!” Harry clutches his phone. “I want him to fall in love with me and that is moving ahead of schedule.”

“Ahead of schedule—Jesus Christ.”

Harry’s phone vibrates again, for a long time actually. He checks it and holy shit Louis is actually calling him. 

“What do I do?!” He jumps up, bouncing the phone in his hands 

Niall catches it and fumbles before tossing it back. It lands on the cat, who hisses and runs away. Harry knocks over a glass to grab it before it stops ringing.

“Is the moth back?”

Louis makes a weird sound that’s half-laugh, half-groan.

“Is everything okay?”

“I just…” Harry hears him take a deep breath. “This is stupid, I’m sorry.”

“No! Don’t be sorry! What happened?”

Louis doesn’t say anything, but Harry hears shuffling and people in the background. He must be trying to find a quieter place to talk. Harry has no idea why but then he hears it.

“Love to watch you walk away, Tommo!” someone crows, followed by obnoxious laughter.

Oh.

“Have they been saying that a lot?” Harry asks when the background noise calms down. 

“It just sucks!” Louis groans. “Like, I worked so goddamn hard for so goddamn long, and I wanted more than anything to play for a team back home but I’m over here instead, and then I finally got close to being on the brink of something —”

“And then I ruined everything.”

Shit. Harry single-handedly ended a professional athlete’s career. This wasn’t supposed to happen and he can’t even find a way to blame Niall for it.

“No, no, Harry. You didn’t ruin anything,” Louis rushes to assure him.

“It really sounds like I did.”

“Do you think I’d be calling you in this exact moment if I thought you ruined my life?”

“Yes,” Harry answers. “You could be calling to threaten to kill me.”

“You watch too many movies.”

“I go to film school.”

“But you study Writing and Literature.”

Harry can’t help but smile. “You remembered.”

“Yeah, well, would I remember that if I thought you ruined everything?”

“Yes. An obituary has to be written if I’m dead.”

“Shut up.” Harry can hear him smile. “I keep forgetting you’re half of this. How has it been for you?" 

Harry put his Twitter on private a few days ago. It honestly wasn’t worth the hassle anymore. It doesn’t come close to what Louis’ probably been dealing with, though, so he can’t complain.

“Not nearly as bad as when I accidentally told my school ‘I anus you’ in Italian on live television.”

Louis bursts out laughing. “No you didn’t!” 

“I did!” Harry’s laughing now, too. “I’ll send you the link. I promise it’ll cheer you up.”

“I’m feeling better, don’t worry.”

“Are you sure?" 

“Yeah, I’m sure. You’re still coming on Saturday, right?”

“Yeah, of course.

“Worm.”

Harry scream cackles. “You’re learning!" 

-

Friday night, Louis texts Harry with the details of Saturday’s game. He tells them to get there early so he can meet them and bring them inside via a “private entrance.” Niall gets a good snicker out of that. Harry ignores him and texts Louis a row of smiley emojis, punctuated with a soccer ball.

“Are you really not seeing what’s happening here?” Niall asks on the drive over as Harry folds up the small sign he’d made at home and shoves it in his hoodie pocket.

“What are you talking about?”

“The texts? The phone calls? The private entrance?" 

Yeah, Harry’s drawing a blank. “So?”

“So!” If Niall weren’t currently wearing a seat belt, he’d be bouncing around the car. “An actual, famous, professional athlete is hitting on you." 

“What? No! No?”

“He is,” Liam agrees, leaning on the window and sulkily sucking on a Coolatta. He’s just bitter because none of this has resulted in any attention from Zayn Malik, even though Liam’s tried multiple times to tweet at him. He’s wearing Zayn’s jersey again today, but it’s not like it’ll bring him any luck. “I don’t know how you’re alive, to be honest. I’d be dead if Zayn said a word to me.”

“We are friends,” Harry insists. “Friends who call and text.”

“And provide emotional support in times of memedom,” Niall adds

“Didn’t he text you to remind you to bring a coat?” Liam asks. “What kind of friend does that?”

“You would—wait, nevermind. You wouldn’t. Neither of you would.”

“Exactly!” Niall exclaims. 

“Then maybe you’re just bad friends.”

“Excuse you, I’m the reason you’re even talking to Tomlinson,” Niall points out. “Who bought those front-row tickets? Who made you a viral meme?” 

“Yeah, but you also told me not to start talking to him and if I had listened, none of this would have happened.”

“Hang on a moment,” their Uber driver interrupts. “Not that I’ve been eavesdropping, but are you saying one of the Revolution players is hitting on you?”

“No,” Harry says at the same time Niall shouts, “Yes!”

“It’s a...concessions guy!” Harry corrects. “Yeah, some guy selling beer at the Revolutions game got us in to meet some players. Like Tomlinson!” 

“So the concessions guy is hitting on you? Actually, wait,” the driver says. “I just remembered I don’t know any of the Revolution players, so I don’t really care. Never mind. Also, you, in the back, please be careful with your drink. These seats are cloth and the blue will stain.” 

Harry glares at Niall, making slashing motions across his throat and frantically mouthing, “He’s not out!”

“OH!” Niall yells out loud. “Shit! Well, yeah concession stand guy is hitting on you. Like in a totally concession-y way. Cotton candy. The food of romance.”

Harry thinks he’s doing a good job of keeping his cool because he’s been internally freaking the ever living SHIT out ever since Niall suggested that this may not be platonic. He’s been doing a pretty decent job this week of burying his fantasies of romance and marriage six feet under with all of his other dreams, so he can add this to the list of things Niall has made a mess of.

The driver can’t leave faster once they’ve all piled out of the car like a herd of puppies. Harry looks around. Louis’ text said to meet him at the little patch of grass by the entrance, but he sees no grass and no Louis.

“Harry!” someone yells from across the parking lot.

Oh, right. They haven’t been dropped off right at the entrance. At least the parking lot is empty, so they don’t run into any tall weirdos tailgating out of the back of a Rav4 on the way over.

Harry’s startlingly aware that this is the first time he’s seeing Louis in person while completely, totally sober. He’s seeing Louis up close , without a wall between them, and without pesky little things like soccer games to draw Louis’ attention away from him. His jaw drops and he kind of wants to fall, except this is concrete and that would hurt and there’s no teenage beer-seller to catch him. Louis is just so damn pretty up close, all artfully windswept hair and crinkles by the corners of his eyes and sharp smiles and eyes like the harbor, and—

“I am so, so, so sorry about this fool,” Liam announces, running up to Louis and shaking his hand.

“Liam!” Harry screeches, shoving him enough so he can get Louis’ attention. “Don’t make me bring up the lacrosse party!”

Liam shuts up.

“What happened at the lacrosse party?” Louis asks, looking like he’s trying not to laugh.

“We don’t talk about that!” Liam shouts at the same time Niall answers, “We don’t really know.”

“Anyway,” Harry says, before he has the spotlight stolen from him yet again, “hi, I’m Harry.”

“I could have guessed.”

Right, Louis’ seen him before.   

“You’re the froggiest one here.”

Oh. Harry makes a frowny face at that, which only makes him look froggier.

“Yeah, just like that!”

Niall cackles. “I knew I liked you, Tommo. Speaking of, your goals this season have been fuckin’ off the charts! We’ll definitely win the league at this rate.”

“Shit, thanks, mate. I mean, we’re still a few places behind Orlando City, but I think if we can pull off a couple wins, especially in the next few weeks when we’re on the road…”

They start to chat about sports or whatever, so Harry takes the opportunity to do some low key investigating. Harry’s a psychology minor, and that means he took one course that mentioned some body language or something like that. He can’t help but notice how Louis’ entire body is positioned towards him, hands on his hips with his sleeves rolled up to show off his tattoos, an obvious display of dominance and interest. He keeps catching his eye while Niall blathers on about his stats, giving him small smiles.

Fuck, he forgot to move the litter box out of his room. And restock on lube. But Louis probably has the expensive kind that does weird shit like tingle or taste like a five course dinner all at once.

“Isn’t that right, Harry?”

“Yes!” Harry answers a little too quickly. “Wait, what?”

“Yeah, he does that a lot,” Niall says. “You’ll have to excuse him.”

“I can excuse myself, thanks, Niall.”

“What I was saying was, we’re really excited to be here. I’ve never watched a game from a box before.”

“Oh, speaking of.” Louis pulls two lanyards from his hoodie pocket and hands them to Niall. “These are for you two. They’ll get you everywhere on the VIP level.”

Wait. Two? “Do I get something fancy?” Harry asks.

“Oh, you will.” Louis winks. “I have something special just for you.”

Shit. Harry glances at Niall in a panic, but Niall’s too busy holding the holographic card on the end of the lanyard up to the sun to pay attention.

“Special?” Harry repeats.

“Special.” Louis steps closer into Harry’s space and reaches out. He tugs a curl, bouncing it. “Your hair is cute.”

Holy shit he’s going to fuck a professional athlete. Or blow him. He’d be perfectly fine with that too, he really isn’t picky.

Niall and Liam are finally noticing what’s going on and are completely gagged. Good. This will show them not to underestimate Harry Edward Styles’...whatever he has that got him in this position. He really has no concept of his redeeming or endearing qualities. Maybe Louis thinks he has a big dick. He does have gargantuan hands.

“Speaking of special, uh, any chance Zayn Malik would come up to the box?”

For fuck’s sake, Liam.

Louis just laughs at that and shakes his head. “No, we usually don’t go up to the boxes. It’s mostly corporate groups up there, anyway. And Zayn doesn’t speak to anybody before games. I don’t even know where he is until about fifteen minutes before we have to go onto the field.”

“Oh. That’s chill. Just curious, no big deal,” Liam says way too quickly to truly sound chill.

Two burly security guards walk up to their strange quartet. “Oh, hey, lads!” Louis grins, punching each of them in the bicep. “These are the lads heading up to 28.”

Harry pulls his hood up and goes to follow Niall and Liam, when Louis yanks him back by the cloth of his hoodie. “Not you.

Harry can’t breathe. “Not me?” 

“Got something special, remember? Come on, I’ll take you down some of the private hallways.”

Louis turns to walk away and Harry turns to freak the absolute FUCK out at Niall and Liam. He flails his hands around, mouth open but making no sensible noises. Liam is in a similar state, hands in his hair and bouncing from foot to foot. Niall is punching Harry in the chest.

Niall frantically mouths, “Did you douche?”

Harry shakes his head frantically, hands still flapping around his head. Niall’s eyes widen cartoonishly as he throws his hands in the air. The guards aren’t saying anything.

“Uh, Harry?”

Louis is watching them from a few yards away. He beckons him with his finger, one side of his mouth quirked in a grin. “Come on, don’t be shy.”

Harry rushes to follow, ignoring Liam’s poorly-concealed falsetto gasps. “Where are we going?”

“Shh.” Louis slides his hand down Harry’s arm and takes him by the wrist. “No more questions.”

Harry’s pretty sure he’s seen porn that starts something like this. There are children everywhere. Well, there will be in an hour. He clamps his mouth shut, willing himself not to say anything stupid or stereotypically Harry as Louis pushes a door open and leads him down a sparse, dimly-lit hallway. It’s deathly silent and Harry can hear his own stupid breathing. Why does he breathe so loudly? He tries to breathe more quietly but ends up coughing instead.

Louis gives him a weird look. “You alright there, Harold?”

“Fine!” he answers too quickly. “Just peachy!”

Louis squeezes his wrist. “Don’t get yourself too worked up just yet.”

Naturally, that only makes Harry work himself up more. Louis brings him to the end of the hallway and tugs him through another doorway.

It’s pitch-black. Oh, god. Okay. It’s happening. Harry’s either about to die in a good way or die for real.

“Are you afraid of the dark, Harold?” Louis asks with a laugh in his voice. Fuck, he sounds so close.

“Are we really doing this right now?” Harry manages to squeak out.

“Yeah?” Louis sounds confused, but he’s also not touching Harry anywhere else.

“Okay. We have, like, an hour. I perform well under pressure.” He reaches out, trying to find Louis in the dark. His hand brushes against something that’s probably Louis’ face.

“Ow!”

“Fuck. I forgot to bring condoms,” Harry hisses, patting his pockets and turning in circles, like that’ll help. “I mean, I didn’t think I’d have to. It’s been a while. Not like, a long while, I’ve just been too busy with work. Please tell me you have one? I mean, I’m clean, but it never hurts to be prepared, and now’s not the best time to be messy. Wait, I can always use my mouth, duh Harry, okay so let me just—”

Stark fluorescent light suddenly floods the room, and the first thing Harry sees is not Louis. Instead, he’s staring at a tall, bulky man whose security badge reads “Higgins, Paul.”

“Harry, this is Paul. He’ll be taking you to your seat,” Louis informs him with a smirk. That bastard.

Harry puts his face in his hands and makes an aborted whale noise. Paul continues staring at him blankly.

“See you after the match, Harold.” Louis pats his shoulder and brushes by him.

The walk to his seat is silent and awkward. Harry can’t bring himself to look at Paul, too mortified after his mistaken attempt to hook up with a closeted English soccer star, and Paul is perfectly content to pretend it didn’t happen, apparently. So Harry just twiddles his thumbs and follows Paul through the labyrinth of hallways until they emerge, as if by magic, into the stadium. Several rows of seats are blocked off with tape, which Paul unsticks and motions for Harry to enter. 

“Where am I?”

“Louis requested to have you in the friends and family section,” Paul says. “That’s your seat, right there, and he also told me to tell you not to move from this seat.”

Harry’s guessing he’s referring to the only one in the row with a wrapped present on it, and he’s vaguely terrified of what could possibly be in it. Niall would probably tell him this is a good seat: it’s right on the midfield line so he can see everything, but he doesn’t like how far from the field it is.

“Do the concession people come by? Wait, is the rest of Louis’ family coming?”

“Yes, and no. Louis’ family lives across the ocean, so these seats actually haven’t been filled in about two months.”

Well just break Harry’s heart, why don’t you, Paul?

“Do you need anything else?”

“Nope,” Harry chirps, heading straight for the box. A gold bow sits on top of it, the paper navy with little silver anchors on it. He tears it off and takes the lid off the box, only to find another wrapped box nested inside.

This continues for a good ten minutes, and Harry admits it keeps him occupied better than Niall’s boring lectures did last week. He finally gets to a box that clearly has something in it based on the noise it makes when he shakes it.

It’s a single Tide Pod. A note flutters out from under the lid that reads, in messy handwriting:

 

Enjoy your snack! :) – LT.

 

Okay, that was a good one. He can admit that.

He sits down, pulling his hoodie off and putting it on the seat next to him as his phone buzzes with a text.

 

Niall : Harry dunno where u are but theres some loser in a row all by himself u gotta see this once ur done getting FUUUUUUCKED !!!

 

Followed by a low quality photo, presumably taken from the fancy corporate box, of his lonely, non-fucked speck of a self.

Harry chooses not to respond and thus allows Niall to think he’s getting fucked, instead focusing on putting all the boxes back inside each other and kicking all the wrapping paper away. The bow falls under the seat in front of him, but he leaves it. There’s people in the seats there, but they won’t notice. They don’t even know who he is.

One woman turns to him, holding up the gold bow. “Did you drop this?”

He’s been caught. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” he says, trying his best to act apologetic as he takes it back. “I must have dropped it. Thank you.”

The woman studies him. “Oh, you’re the boy with the Hawaiian shirt.”

“Mom, he’s called Drunk Hawaiian Guy,” the teenage girl next to her says, before turning to Harry. “I think you might be in the wrong section. This is for the Revolution players’ friends and family.”

“Oh, um, I was invited.” He holds up the note from his gift box like that’s proof. “Louis invited me.”

She squints at it, then shrugs and pulls out her phone. “Don’t spill beer on me.”

“No beer,” Harry promises.

 

Niall : Liam says that loser is talking to zayns family and he’s moping

Niall : how he can pick zayns family out of a crowd is beyond me but its really funny to watch him mope

 

Harry keeps ignoring Niall. Around him, the seats have started filling up and the screens have come to life. A few dozen people mill about on the field, lugging cameras and microphones and wires. Harry wonders what Louis’ doing right now.

A familiar cry of “Ice cold beer!” comes from somewhere to his left, and he turns to see that same kid he ran into last week. Oh no. He sinks down in his seat and hopes he’s not seen.

But he’s Harry Styles and luck hasn’t been on his side since 2004.

The kid spots him and dashes up to him. “Hey, you’re Drunk Hawaiian Guy!” the kid says.

“It’s Drunk Hawaiian Gay, thank you very much,” Harry grumbles, crossing his arms and sinking even further into his seat.

“Who the fuck let you back in here?”

“Louis Tomlinson.”

The kid goes a little bug-eyed. “Oh, shit. Okay. Would you like a beer?”

“I’d love one. Just one, though.”

“That’ll be thirty-eight dollars.”

“I said one beer! I’m sober right now!”

“Yeah, um—my boss told me that Louis told him he had a special guest coming in today and to charge him extra for beer. Nothing else. Just beer.”

Harry sighs. He really wants to flop around in his seat but that wouldn’t help prove he’s sober. “Okay. No beer for me.”

“Bye!” the kid says cheerily, moving on down the steps.

The cannons go off, and the announcer reads off the names and number of the opposing team. The Chicago Fire. Harry gets a good chuckle out of their name. He doesn’t recognize any of their players from commercials, so they can’t be that interesting.

When the Revolution run onto the field, Harry takes up the chant with the rest of the crowd screaming Louis’ name. He could swear Louis looks right at him as he sprints out.

Harry decides to be on his best behavior in an effort to get Louis to actually like him and not troll him like he seems to be doing. He stays in his seat for the first ten minutes, glittery sign still in his lap, and taking cues from actual sports fans on when to clap and yell and when to groan. The people in front of him—Zayn’s family, if Liam knows what he’s talking about—seem to be as attentive as Zayn himself.

No one is scoring, so Harry’s having a little more difficulty focusing, especially when he’s so damn far from the field. He’s tempted to go back to his phone game, but at the same time, there’s a Louis running around in white shorts and that’s entertaining enough.

And if Harry’s not imagining things, Louis keeps on looking at him. Every time he runs from one side of the field to the other, he turns to Harry’s direction. Harry doesn’t want to brag, but he’s pretty sure Louis’ started smiling at him, too.

He thinks about what Paul had said, about how Louis’ family section has been empty for two months, and realizes this is the first time in weeks Louis’ had someone there for him. So he makes up his mind to not be on his best behavior. Fuck it, he’s going to make Louis smile and if he has to be dumb to do it, so be it.

The next time Louis runs by, Harry launches out of his seat, holding his sign above his head. “FUCK YES TOMLINSON!” he screams, scaring the ever living shit out of Zayn’s family. “YOU RUN DOWN THAT FIELD! KICK THE BALL!”

People are staring at him. Fuck it, he’s already survived round one of memedom. He waves his sign around, stray glitter raining down.  

The teenager turns around and reads his sign.

“The fuck does ‘Swat that Moth’ mean?” she asks.

Harry waves it higher, bouncing on his tiptoes. “It’s an inside joke. We have those. ‘Cause we’re friends.”

She rolls her eyes and goes back to her phone as his own pocket vibrates.

 

Niall : that idiot’s got a sign now oh good jesus look

 

And Niall sends him another grainy photo of him. Like the good friend and loyal Louis supporter that he is, Harry ignores Niall yet again.

He runs up and down the row, holding up his sign and hollering nonsense. “Yeah! Soccer! Let’s go Revolution!” A few people half-heartedly cheer along with him, but most of them just give him strange looks.

“Will you sit your ass down?” one man drunkenly yells.

“I’m a meme, I can do whatever the fuck I want!” Harry retorts, waving his sign around with even more vigor. That gets some cheers.

Harry ignores what the guys yells next, because Louis is running by again, and he’s grinning up at him.

In the end he figures since his pride is already buried six feet under a seedy Dunkin Donuts, he has nothing to left lose, so he might as well try to make Louis smile.

The game is scoreless through the first half, which must be stressing Louis out because he’s looking over at Harry less often. The same restless anticipation seeps through the crowd; even the standing section on the far end seems less than excited.

When halftime comes, Harry isn’t sure whether Louis’ order to stay in the seat still applies, before he decides it probably doesn’t and runs down to the front row and leans over the barricade to yell at Louis.

“Louis! Louis!”

A teenager in the front row does a double take in Harry’s direction. “Holy shit, he’s back! It’s Drunk Hawaiian Guy!”

Harry ignores him to keep shouting.

“Louis!”

Louis drops his water bottle. “Are you serious?"

“Did you see my sign?” Harry holds it up.

“I do now. I thought I told Paul to tell you to stay in your seat!”

Harry pouts. “Well, you were sad.”

Louis gives him a small smile. “M’not sad, Harold. Just getting ready to yell at my team.”

“Well, talking to you cheered you up the other day, so why the fuck not?”

Louis’ eyes dart to the people sitting near Harry, who are starting to realize this idiot actually knows Louis Tomlinson. “Go back to your seat before we both get in trouble.”

“Why would you get in trouble?”

“I have a team to yell at, remember?”

“Can I sit in the front row?”

“No.”

“I’ll behave!”

“No, you won’t.”

“I didn’t have anything to drink!”

“Good, you weren’t supposed to.”

“This is unfair price inflation! Or something! Niall knows the name for it!”

“It was a preventative measure.” Louis flashes him a thumbs up as he runs away. “Bye, Harold.”

Harry trudges back to his seat, ignoring the kid peppering him with questions, and checks his phone for the time only to see another text from Niall.

 

Niall: I think that idiot is trying to steal your mans. where the fuck are you????

 

A giant raindrop falls right on his screen. He looks up to see stormclouds gathering overhead, and realizes belatedly that looking up when it’s raining is never a good idea. He wipes the drops from his face while, all around him, people start pulling on red and blue rain ponchos. Fuck, they really should have checked the forecast.

Or he could have remembered to bring a coat, as Louis so kindly texted him to do.

It starts out light, but within minutes, the light drizzles has turned into a full-on downpour. His own sign is a runny, glittery mess—all that’s legible is “Sw-- that M---.” He sees the cotton candy hawker run for cover, and some poncho-less people have started to leave the stadium altogether. A group of about five people down in the front row packs up their bags and exits, jogging past Harry as they hold their jackets above their heads.

This is his chonce, as Niall said for about two months before people called him out on it.

As casually as he can, he stands up and makes his way out of the row. He glances around for anyone Louis may have sent to babysit him, but all he sees are pissed off teenagers selling wet pretzels.

Perfect.

He folds up his sign, trying to preserve some of the glitter, and heads down the stairs.

Louis’ on the other side of the field, so by the time he comes back this way Harry will be there cheering him on. And he’ll look up and see him holding his now blurry messed up sign and realize that hey, maybe this dorky kid is someone he’d like to keep around. Then he’ll bring Harry out to the field after the game and they’ll confess their feelings under the flood lights.

And the night will end with Harry finally getting fucked in Gillette Stadium.

He’s grinning like an idiot, confidence growing as he takes the stairs two at a time.

That’s when he trips. No big deal, he trips all the time.

But he trips on the second to last step and crashes into the railing.

“HOLY SHIT!” the kid sitting in the front row screams as Harry goes flying over the railing.

His world flips upside down for a second, he sees grass, and then everything goes black.

-

When he opens his eyes, Louis is right in his face, shaking his shoulders.

“Harry?! Harry?! Are you dead?!” he’s yelling frantically.

“Hmm?” Harry mumbles. “No? I’m not dead. I think?”

“Hey, good news, he’s not dead!” Zayn’s voice announces to the crowd gathered around him. Shit, Zayn’s here, too? Is Liam seeing this?

“Oh, thank fuck,” Louis sighs, before starting to shout again. “I almost broke my fucking ankle running across the field! You stupid fucking frog, I told you to stay in your seat!”

“Did you win?” Harry croaks out.

“Did we—the game has been stopped for the last twenty minutes! We called the paramedics!”

“Oops.” Harry’s just now realizing he’s still on the field. That’s right, he tripped and fell onto the field. He blames his brain for distracting him with romantic fantasies when it’s meant to be coordinating his noodle limbs. Stupid brain.

“What were you thinking?! You know what—I am not done yelling at you. In fact, I have an entire list. But that’s later. Paul’s here.”

“Oh, good.” Harry pauses. “Why’s Paul here?”

“To get you off the field, you fucking baby deer.” Louis stands up. “I’ll tell him to find me after the game.”

“Where are you going?”

“...Back to the game. Which has now been stopped for twenty- five minutes.”

“Come on, you.” Paul materializes next to him, helping Harry to his feet.

The stadium applauds as Harry does his weird version of a walk of shame off the field.

“Am I going back to my seat?” Harry asks.

“Well, technically you’re going to be banned from the stadium.”

“I’m what?”

“But,” Paul adds, “the ban won’t officially take place until you leave, and Louis requested you stay until after the game.”

“He’s going to kill me, isn’t he?”

“Nah, that man couldn’t hurt a moth. Or a frog in this case.” Paul opens a door and ushers Harry inside. “You should have seen his face this whole week while he was texting you. It was kind of gross.”

Harry pretends not to be pleased at that as he takes in what appears to be a lounge. An empty lounge. Well, it’s better than sitting on the floor in the hallway. He points to the flatscreen TV mountain on the wall. “Can I?”

“It’ll only show the game, but sure, go ahead.”

Harry flips it on, eager to watch Louis back in action, but the first thing he sees is Louis leaving the field, slapping the palm of some other Revolution player.

“And we have number 13, Matt Cardle, subbing in for number 28, team captain Louis Tomlinson,” the announcer is saying. “Now, Dermot, we usually don’t see Tomlinson subbing out this early in the game, so this is a rare occasion, wouldn’t you say?”

“It may have something to do with that poor kid that fell onto the field. He did seem extremely stressed,” Dermot says. “Anyway, Olly, the clock has finally started again after nearly thirty minutes, and we’re seeing Aoki with the ball…”

Paul is cackling as Harry sinks into one of the leather couches. “Extremely stressed,” he’s wheezing. “Hey, honest question. Were you really planning on blowing Tomlinson in one of the hallways back here? There are cameras everywhere.”

Harry slips right off the couch. This is why he hates leather couches. Too slippery. “No,” he mutters, pulling out his phone to see a flood of texts from Niall.

 

Niall: HOLY SHIT THAT IDIOT JUST WENT FLYING ONTO THE FIELD ARE YOU SEEING THIS SHIT?!!! 

Niall : Harry??

Niall: ….

Niall : Are u fuckin kidding me?

Niall : Goodbye gillette it was nice knowin u

Niall : Only good thing is no 1 knows were with u they’re still givin us pizza

Niall: Also ur on Liam’s shit list he saw how close u got to zayn

Niall : Did zayn actually talk to u or just around u?? Either way Liam’s mad

 

Harry finally decides to dignify Niall with a response.

 

Harry : that me

 

And then he puts his phone away and ignores it.

Harry spends the rest of the game curled up on the floor, listening to Paul heckle and harass him. The Revolution win, not that it matters since Louis isn’t playing. After the game ends, Paul hauls him to his feet and tells him they’re going to see Louis.

“Are you sure he’s not going to kill me?”

“No. That would be frowned upon and he’d probably get deported.”

They end up waiting in another corridor that Paul tells him is near the home team’s locker room. Louis emerges, hair still damp and smelling of some vaguely expensive cologne, looking cozy in an oversized hoodie and Adidas sweatpants. “You survived!”

“I did!”

“Should I leave him with you, then?” Paul asks.

Louis waves him away. “We’re all good. Thanks for everything. Even though he fucked it all up.”

“Have fun, you two,” Paul says with a wave.

Harry turns back to Louis. “You said you had a list of things to yell at me about.”

“Yeah, I do,” Louis says.

And then he doesn’t say anything, just looks at him for a good long while.

“Where….are they?”

Louis throws his hands in the air. “I don’t remember them! You made me so fucking worried, you asshole!” He shoves at Harry’s chest. “Do you know how fucking scary it was to see you fall off that goddamn railing all the way across an actual football field? What the fuck were you thinking?!”

“Well someone seems to have found their list.” Harry mumbles.

Louis smacks him again. “And then you just decide not to wake up for twenty minutes and leave me fucking standing there in front of fifty thousand people thinking you snapped your neck because you wanted to make me happy ? You could have just stood there with your fucking frog face and I would have been perfectly fine! But NO! You had to give me a fucking heart attack, you twat! Don’t do that again!"

Harry clutches his chest. “You do care.”

Louis stares at him, still breathing heavily. “Of course I do! Did I not make that abundantly clear this entire time? Literally why the fuck else would I put you in my family seats instead of way up in the box?”

“I thought I was reading it all wrong,” Harry admits, feeling lightheaded at the fact that, despite him being Harry Edward Styles, he managed to come off as even slightly endearing in all this mess.

“Well, yeah, I wasn’t about to fuck you at my literal place of employment, dumbass. There are cameras everywhere .”

“Right, Paul mentioned that.” Harry hears himself say. His brain has not processed anything past that fact that Louis had/has/is concocting plans to fuck him.

God truly is a beautiful gay woman.

“Yeah, you probably scarred Paul for life. Do me a favor, Harry?”

“Anything.”

“Don’t scare the living shit out of me like that ever again.”

“Are you implying there will be more opportunities for me to scare the shit out of you or am I misreading this again? I don’t want to try to take your pants off in the hallway again if that’s not the case.”

“I mean, you are banned from the stadium, but just in general don’t scare me.”

“In general meaning outside of the stadium I am banned from, meaning we’ll see each other outside of here?” Harry’s giving Louis his hammiest, cheekiest grin.

Louis scrunches up his nose like he’s trying really hard not to smile. “Well, yeah. This isn’t some Rapunzel’s tower thing. I’m allowed to leave the stadium.”

“Excuse me, I’m the one with the cute hair.”

“I guess you are.” Louis pulls one of his curls again, and Harry is painfully aware that it’s gross and almost definitely has dried up grass and dirt sticking in it. Louis doesn’t seem to mind, though.

“Anyway, I’m starving and you should probably eat something. Do you like Red Robin?”

“I might also be banned from there, but we can give it a try.”

“Great! Tell your friends, too. Hey, you wanna come, too?” Louis asks Zayn, who has popped out of thin fucking air right next to them.

“Sure, sounds cool,” Zayn says with a nod.

“Yeah, awesome. Text your friends to grab a table for five, they’ll get there quicker than we will.”

 

Harry : red robin table for 5

Niall : u got it!!

 

Niall doesn’t ask about who the fifth person will be. That’s why Harry keeps him around.

“Wait. Before we go,” Louis hands him a hoodie that Harry hadn’t noticed before, too caught up in being yelled at. “thought you’d appreciate something dry.”

It’s a Revolution sweatshirt, with TOMLINSON etched across the back and some fancy patches on the sleeves. Hold up, they don’t sell this in the shop. Harry may have checked at three in the morning one time this week.

“Is this yours?” Harry asks, clutching the fabric.

Louis suddenly looks very shy, hands buried in his pockets and looking around. “They got mine a size too big so I figured, hey, I know some tall idiot that might like it.”

Oh, Harry is definitely going to blow him in the Red Robins bathroom. But for now he pulls Louis in for a crushing hug, which is probably more appropriate given the cameras anyway.

“Can we eat now?” Zayn asks, staring at them with a completely unaffected expression.

When Louis escorts him through the stadium Harry doesn’t hesitate to grab his hand. If this is his last time being in Gillette Stadium, he’s going to go out flaming. Louis doesn’t seem to mind, tugging him along till they emerge out a back door Harry doesn’t recognize. “Where are we?”

“Taking the back way. Less crowded, since this was an afternoon game.” Louis grips his hand tighter, taking him into an elevator. Harry feels a bit like he’s stepped backstage at Disney World, minus the ubiquitous mouse.

“Who else is going?” Zayn pipes up. Fuck, he’s been so quiet Harry almost forgot he was here, too.

“Two of Harry’s friends, Niall and—what’s the other one?”

“Liam,” Harry supplies. “He’s a really big fan.”

“Really?” Zayn actually looks interested at that. “That’s cool.”

“Oh, like you don’t get that all the time,” Louis says. “You’re on billboards, you model.”

“For Dunkin Donuts!” Zayn whines as the elevator doors open and they walk out. Harry realizes that at some point, they’d left the secretive employees/players-only tunnels and been walking through the crowd. And Louis is still holding his hand . Harry tries his best not to make any embarrassing noises. That of course means the next time Louis squeezes his fingers he lets out a series of high pitched giggles, attracting more than a few stares from passersby.

“Sorry.” Harry says, trying be an adult for once and drop Louis’ hand. “Probably shouldn’t be holding your hand in public, right?”

Louis, though, refuses to let go. “You’d be surprised how little I get recognized by drunk people and screaming babies. Especially when I don’t have my name and number on my back.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to—”

“Ruin my life? Well, too late for that, I guess.” Louis is doing that crinkly eyed smile though, so Harry smiles back and when did his life suddenly decide to turn into a fanfiction?

“Ew,” Zayn says.

Just like last week, the line at Red Robin is out the door. Harry pulls his phone out to ask Niall if they have a table yet, but Niall’s already sent him messages.

 

Niall : we’re in a booth in the back!

Niall : also Liam wants to know why 5

Niall : I mean Im assuming Louis is comin but whose the 5th???

 

The three of them trail through the restaurant, narrowly dodging baby carriages and waitresses with full trays, till Harry spots Niall’s shock of blond hair.

“Niall! Liam!” he calls, waving.

Liam spots them first, already covered in napkins, and his jaw drops. For a few seconds, he just keeps opening and closing his mouth like a fish, Harry is convinced he’s dead until he hides behind his menu. And by hide behind his menu, he means snatches the menu up from the table to cover his face, unopened, so quickly he smacks himself with it.

Louis frowns. “Does he not like me?” he whispers to Harry. “Was it something I said?”

Zayn half-assedly raises a hand in greeting. “Hello.”

“Zayn! You decided to join us!” Niall jumps up from his seat. “Why don’t you sit next to Liam? I think you two have a lot in common.”

“Sure.” Zayn looks marginally more alive as he slides into the booth. Niall takes the seat on the end, squishing the three of them together and disturbing Liam’s carefully arranged sea of napkins yet again.

“Are you sure you don’t want a chair?” Louis asks as Zayn scoots closer to a beet-faced Liam.

“Nope,” is the only thing he says before opening a menu. Liam peeks over the top of his menu to look at Zayn before hiding again.

“Well, that leaves us two, doesn’t it.” Louis plops himself right in Harry’s bubble.

This doesn’t escape Niall, of course. A devious grin spreads across his face.

Oh no, Niall.

“You guys are awfully cozy over there.”

Fuck no, Niall.

“Why, are you jealous?” Louis says with a coy smile.

Niall’s expression is one of pure disgust. “Ew. Harry? Never. God.”

“Good to know your standard for men is Shawn and only Shawn.” Harry takes a sip of water to break the tension, but that’s when Louis decides to slide a hand onto his thigh under the table.

Harry thinks it’s quite poetic when he sprays water all over Niall’s dumb face.

“Wow. Thanks. I really appreciate that.” Niall grabs a napkin out of Liam’s shirt and uses it to wipe his face off.

“I guess we’re even now.”

Louis still has his goddamn hand on his goddamn thigh, but he’s laughing at him so that kind of helps even it out.

“You really are a mess, aren’t you?” Louis asks, shaking his head.

“Well...yeah. Is that a dealbreaker?”

“Unfortunately not.”

“Ew,” Niall and Zayn say at the same time. The latter has finally picked up a menu and disappeared behind it just like Liam. Maybe they can finally get their shit together and start making out behind them, or something. They might even talk. And while they’re distracted, Harry and Louis can run away and elope somewhere in Maine, and then spend a month honeymooning in Fiji and living in one of those little huts on the water and having romantic sex on the beach as the sun sets.

And Niall can just fuck back off to Ireland and watch anime on Liam’s laptop, or something.

A shadow falls over their table, and Harry looks up to see Felicia standing there. Of course, that’s just their luck.

“Welcome to Red Ro—” She stops dead in her tracks as she takes in the booth. “Did you guys get kidnapped?”

“No,” Harry tells her.

She rolls her eyes. “Not you, milkshake-fucker. I mean Tomlinson and Malik.”

Louis snorts. “Milkshake-fucker?” he asks Harry, amusement in his eyes. “I have got to hear this one.”

“Not right now!” Harry yells. “Um, drink orders, anyone?”

“Can I get a mint brownie milkshake?” Zayn pipes up, finally lowering his menu.

“Me, too,” Liam says quickly, still hiding behind his own menu.

“Make it three,” Niall adds.

Louis leans over to whisper to Harry. “Want to share one?”

Oh, my god, Harry’s about to swap spit with Louis Tomlinson. Well, via a straw, but it’s still swapping spit. They’re basically making out at this point.

“Stop being gross and just tell Felicia what you want,” Niall interrupts. “Jesus Christ, this is going to be the longest meal of my life.”

“You’re telling me,” Felicia mutters as she scribbles down Louis’ request for an Oreo milkshake. “Bottomless fries again, too?”

“Well…” Niall glances around the table. “I wouldn’t really call this group bottomless.”

“Shut up!” Harry hisses.

“Bottomless fries?” Louis sounds interested. “I like fries.”

“Great, bottomless fries for a table full of bottoms,” Niall tells her.

“I’m really uncomfortable with how much you tell me about your lives, you know,” Felicia says, flipping her notepad closed. “I’ll be back with the milkshakes and the fries.”

Across the table, Liam nudges Zayn shyly with his elbow. “Hey, hey Zayn. Have you ever tried dipping fries in a milkshake before? It’s really good. We should try it. I mean, you should try it. I’ve already tried it.”

Zayn angles his body toward Liam as much as he can in the tiny space, effectively shutting Niall out of the conversation. “Really? I’ve never done that, actually.”

Niall, for what it’s worth, will not be shut out of the conversation. “With the mint, though, Liam? That’s kind of weird. It works with chocolate and vanilla, definitely, but mint?”

“The saltiness of the fry will balance out the taste of the mint, Niall!” Liam retorts, as Felicia arrives with the shakes and fries. “Or something else that they say on Chopped !”

Harry takes a moment to sit back and take in the scene in front of him. His two loser friends are bickering with a model goalie about dunking fries in milkshakes while a British soccer star is tracing weird shapes onto his leg as he sips a shake. Harry has half a mind to think he actually did snap his neck on impact and is in the Good Place.

But then Louis pokes his cheek with the straw, smearing milkshake on his face. “Earth to Harry. Our milkshake is here and I’m going to drink all of it.”

Harry puts a hand on his cheek. There’s an innuendo here somewhere. “You got milkshake on me.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. Want me to lick it off?”

“We’re in public,” Niall mutters from across the table, though whether it’s directed at Harry or at Liam, who’s attempting to feed Zayn a milkshake-covered fry, is unclear.

“It’s not terrible,” Zayn decides after 30 seconds of completely silent chewing.

“It can’t be any less gross than those Coolattas Liam keeps drinking,” Harry says, finally taking a sip and trying not to dwell on the fact that the very same straw was just in Louis’ mouth.

Zayn looks vaguely affronted. “You actually drink those?”

“Every day! I really like the blue raspberry ones,” Liam says. “I mean, I like all of them. But blue raspberry is my favorite. Which one’s your favorite?”

Zayn looks him dead in the eye. “I hate Coolattas.”