The day Nick releases his latest novel, Velvet Abyss - the very same day - Louis Tomlinson drops an unannounced online novella. It’s called The Pearl of the Pirate’s Booty, and it’s about nudist pirates living on a space station on one of Saturn’s moons. That’s according to reviews he finds on Louis’ website, obviously, because Nick would never lower himself to actually read it. It’s absolute rubbish.
“This is absolute rubbish,” Nick whines into his phone. He woke up to about twenty new texts from his assistant, Zayn, and he’s still lying in bed not fully convinced this isn’t a dream. He hasn’t even had a cup of coffee yet.
“People are calling it a tour de force. Apparently they sixty-nine on top of a Kraken’s head,” Zayn says, not even trying to keep the awe out of his voice.
“He’s single-handedly destroying the art of the erotic novel. Whatever happened to subtlety, the slow burn? His last proper book featured the word “butthole” no less than ninety-two times.”
“Yeah. Holy shit, the first mate can suck his own dick,” Zayn says, sounding more gleeful than he really should be, professionally speaking.
“You aren’t actually reading it, are you?”
“No,” Zayn says, which is a blatant lie, “Go back to sleep, mate. The book’s gonna do fine, I’ll wake you up in an hour or so and come get you ready for the launch.”
Nick types out a quick memo to himself - fire the traitor - before flinging his phone to the foot of the bed. He’s earned a little drama, and besides, he doesn’t want to give in to temptation and actually read Louis’ monstrosity.
He’s quite impressed with himself when he lasts a full ten minutes.
He checks his twitter first. His mentions are blowing up, which does wonders for his bruised ego until he notices the ninth trend on the list: #PlunderMyBooty. It’s rubbish. Nick’s gearing up to throw his phone again - maybe out the window this time - when an email pops up from the tiny terror of erotica himself.
to N. Grimshaw
Sent you a free copy of my book ! Might take a look at yours later !! Does velvet abyss mean arsehole ha ! xxxXXxx
Nick quite genuinely thinks he’s in danger of ripping his own fingernails off.
He waits until he’s had a nice, scaldingly hot shower and fixed himself a cup of coffee before he calls Louis’ assistant.
“Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii,” Harry answers, sounding exactly like he’s just woken up from a deep sleep, which is essentially how he always sounds. “Congratulations on your new book, Mr Grimshaw!”
“Cheers. You know, that might mean a little more to me if your evil overlord hadn’t released his new so-called novella today too.”
“Right, ah. Louis, um, Louis regrets this coincidence but was not aware that your book was coming out today,” Harry says.
“Was not aware? How could he possibly not be fucking aware? The blogs were all talking about it! I did interviews,” Nick says, and even he can admit he’s getting a little screechy.
“Louis says he doesn’t read blogs,” Harry says slowly, and Nick can hear Louis fucking cackling in the background. He hangs the phone up for the sake of his own health.
The first time they met, Nick was extending an offer of friendship. Louis was the bright new thing on the scene, having just published his first book at the age of 19. It was called The Dick Wizard’s Apprentice, and was inexplicably popular despite being a certifiable load of shit. He was hosting an event at a writer’s bar in London, signing autographs and meeting fans, so Nick thought he might show up and introduce himself. He didn’t like to brag, but he was one of the biggest names in the romance genre, after all. Also, he loved to brag.
Louis wasn’t quite what Nick had expected. He was a little thing, for starters, with a lovely sharp face and very bright eyes. There aren’t all that many gorgeous people in the erotic fiction business. Louis was right in the middle of signing someone’s happy trail when Nick approached a boy he could only assume was some type of assistant, although he looked even younger than Louis himself.
“Evening. I’m Nick Grimshaw, I’m here to offer Louis a little professional support,” Nick had said, shaking the boy’s hand.
“Right. Right, that’s so brilliant,” the boy - Harry, Nick had found out later - said, leading him over to the signing table.
“Louis, was it?” Nick asked, offering a hand out, “I’m Nick Grimshaw.”
Louis blinked, slipping his little hand into Nick’s for a surprisingly firm shake, and this was sort of where Nick had expected some type of recognition, maybe a bit of gushing.
“Hiya. Did you want me to sign a copy of the book?”
Nick almost laughed, he was so taken aback. “Erm, no. I’m an author. I thought I’d introduce myself.”
“Oh, right. Did you want tips on how to get a book published or something? Google a list of metaphors for cocks, that helped me loads.”
“No. I am published. I have ten published books,” Nick said, flustered. Somehow, he’d come out looking like the floundering newbie. It wasn’t right. “I’m sort of a big name in the industry.”
Louis either couldn’t hide the expression on his face, or made no effort to. Nick couldn’t really blame him.
“Wow. I’m honoured to be in your presence,” Louis drawled, flicking his fringe with practiced disdain, “What was that big name again?”
“Nick Grimshaw,” he gritted out, his cheeks going hot and red. Louis took a shockingly judgemental sip of his cocktail before turning to an awaiting fan, and that was as much of a dismissal as Nick was willing to bear.
Nick had bought a very large bottle of merlot on his way home that night and, at some point in his wine haze, he had sent every single person in his contacts a text message saying I WILL DESTROY HIM.
It was all downhill from there, really.
Nick is kept very, very busy for a few days, between his book launch, interviews, making appearances at a few bookstores, and answering a respectable amount of fan mail. It couldn’t have come at a better time (of course, it’s not as if the timing was a bloody accident), because it means Nick doesn’t have a spare minute to give in to temptation and read Louis’ abomination of a novella.
It all comes to an end painfully quickly. Less than a week since the launch, Nick finds himself pacing around his flat at midnight. It’s too late to go visit a friend, and he can’t go out to a club because he has to be up at the crack of dawn for a breakfast radio interview. He’s nowhere near tired enough to fall asleep yet.
He wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but he’s actually read all of Louis’ books. He’s written five since his debut, plus a whole series of short stories, and he sometimes writes dirty little scenes to put up on his website. Those ones are rarely even spellchecked, but Nick has read every single one. Know Thy Enemy - his mother had told him that once, in the height of her feud with their neighbour Cheryl, and it’s a saying he lives by. Or at least, that’s what he tells himself as he downloads his copy of The Pearl of the Pirate’s Booty.
The story centres around a young cabin boy taken aboard the pirate ship of a famous Captain, genuinely called Captain Cock. The Captain takes the cabin boy under his wing, but mocks him when he announces his dream of being crowned the Royal Cock-Sucking Corsair, a title handed down by the King of Saturn. There’s also something about a prophecy to do with a pearlescent arsehole. Or something. It’s all very confusing and honestly poorly written, which is why Nick is unimpressed when he finds himself furiously jerking off to a particularly explicit rimming scene.
Nick finishes the book at two in the morning, and promptly realises he only has two hours to sleep before he has to get up for the radio.
Nick starts work on his next novel straight away and, within a month, he’s already ten chapters deep. In that time, The Pearl of the Pirate’s Booty receives a deal for a feature-length porn film adaption.
It’s possible his writing muse is fueled by rage.
There’s a little tea shop in West London Nick likes to write at when he’s feeling too stifled at his flat. He’s been cooped up there for weeks with his laptop and a steady supply of frozen pizzas - he needs the fresh air, and the inspiration that idle people-watching provides. Of course, it backfires when Louis shuffles in to order a tea with a little milk, no sugar. He’s rugged up under layers of jumpers and scarves, and in the space between his scruffy Vans and his rolled up jeans, Nick can see some bright fluffy socks. It isn’t endearing in the slightest.
He sinks a little further into his armchair, drawing his laptop closer and keeping his eyes down in the hopes that some kind of higher power is watching over him and will guide Louis straight out the door without looking back.
“Hiya,” Louis’ voice pipes up from somewhere behind Nick’s laptop screen, “How’re the quivering clutches going?”
“Swimmingly,” Nick replies, shutting his laptop before Louis can try to get his grubby little hands on it. “I trust the throbbing shafts are treating you well.”
“They always do,” Louis says with a grin, slipping into the armchair opposite Nick. He wraps his hands around the mug, blowing on the tea so a puff of steam warms his face. “Already started on your new novel, then? Nice to see such dedication to the craft.”
Nick snorts, caught a little off-guard. He didn’t expect to be seeing anyone today, let alone his sworn enemy. He resists the urge to try and fix his hair. “I do try.”
“What’s it about, then? Your books are always so posh.”
“The word is refined,” Nick drawls, setting his laptop down under the table, “It’s set in the 18th century, and it’s about two Classical-era composers. They’re rivals. That’s all you’re getting from me.”
“So it’s Mozart fanfiction, then.”
Nick bristles, which is presumably exactly what Louis wanted. He’s smirking over his tea like a kitten with a bowl of cream, only he stole it directly out from under Nick’s nose. And the cream was his mother. Or something.
“It’s entirely original historical fiction, thank you,” Nick says, refusing to rise to the bait, “How’s the porn business treating you?”
“Fucking brilliant, actually. We’re in talks with James Deen to play Rick Stiffness.”
“Christ, you’re the absolute worst at those ridiculous names. Rick Stiffness,” he scoffs.
Louis sets his tea down on the table, already finished. He’s just drunk an entire mug of boiling water in under a minute. It’s actually a little intimidating.
“Oh, please. It’s not even my best. How’s Max Longstaff. Ben Dover,” Louis lists off with his fingers, a little grin showing off his pointy teeth, “Nah, I’ve got it. Phil Myanus.”
Nick lets out an extremely unflattering cross between a hoot and a snort, and Louis is laughing too, an infectious little braying sound. They’re cut off by Louis’ phone ringing, and he struggles to fish it out of his ridiculously tight jeans.
“It’s Harry. He’s probably calling about my amazing porn film,” Louis says, nodding towards his empty mug, “Take care of the bill, yeah? Have fun with your fanfiction.”
He’s grinning as he scuttles off, answering his phone with a too-loud Harold!, and Nick has never been so disgruntled to pay three quid in his life.
Nick is slapped in the face by inspiration when he’s only halfway home. He starts typing out the scene on his phone as he walks - he’s got a memory like a sieve for these things - and very nearly has a serious collision with a grandmother. He doesn’t even make it to his office before he’s pulling out his laptop and setting up right there in the living room.
The scene is as frantic as he feels writing it. Heath has Frederick transfixed after playing his new concerto; it’s beautiful, and genius, and Frederick is burning with jealousy. They fuck then and there, their kisses almost painful as Frederick hauls Heath up onto the piano and sinks into him, each thrust spitting out ugly music from the ivory keys.
Nick’s a little (alright, a lot) ashamed to admit it, but he has Louis’ tweets on text alert. Honestly, it just saves him the embarrassment of regularly checking Louis’ twitter. It’s mostly inane little updates on football or a song he likes, but on a Tuesday night Louis announces he’s going to do a twitcam in a few minutes.
Nick shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t, because it’s sad, and he has far better things to do, like finish the current chapter of his book. He’s just gotten up to his first blowjob scene - it’s crucial.
Because he doesn’t love himself enough, Nick finds himself settled in bed with a block of chocolate and the twitcam set up on his screen. Louis is lounging on his side on top of a bright green duvet. Nick realises belatedly that it’s a football field. It’s possible he’s a little distracted, because Louis is wearing a loose sleep shirt and some shorts, and there’s a sliver of his belly showing, and his hair is tousled like he’s just woken up, and it really is a lot of visual stimulation.
He’s very sweet with his fans. A solid half of the questions they’re asking are filthy and far too personal, but he laughs them off with a few coy jokes. The rest he answers earnestly, trying to please all of them with as much detail as he can. He’s humble, and he deflects each compliment he’s given instead of smugly soaking them up. He gets into a passionate discussion with one fan about space pirates, and why he went with swords instead of laser pistols. It makes Nick’s stomach hurt a little.
He closes his laptop while Louis is in the middle of thanking his fans, because he’d be nowhere without them. Nick should really be working on his book.
When Nick is well on his way to on a final draft, Zayn shows up at his place mid-morning with an artist to show him a few concepts for the cover of The Silent Sonata. Nick doesn’t often consider himself a perfectionist, but this novel has to be a masterpiece. It’s richly detailed - Nick stayed up researching till his morning alarm went off far too often - and, even better, it has some of the most scorching porn Nick has ever written. If he does say so himself.
The artist’s name is Liam, and he’s a friendly sort of boy. Zayn insists he’s one of the best in the business, although Nick is pretty sure they’re secretly roommates.
“I read your summary, it sounds brilliant,” Liam beams, spreading a few sketches out on the table. “What do you think of these? I thought I’d go for a kind of Classical painting look, since it’s historical. Zayn sent me your character descriptions and I just went from there.”
They’re quite lovely, actually. Their clothing is showing a little more skin than is technically accurate, but that’s the business.
“I like this one here, with the sheet music,” Nick says, picking out one from the edges of the pile. Their clothes are in disarray, and they’re spread out on the floor surrounded by their own compositions. They look like they’re midway through a fist fight and just about to tear each other’s clothes off. It’s perfect.
“Can you have their shirts open a little more? Maybe a bit of nipple?” Zayn asks, inspecting the sketch, “You can never go wrong with some nipple.”
Liam nods, as if that’s the kind of request he gets for most of his work. “What d’you think, Mr Grimshaw? Any changes?”
“Yeah, actually. Could you make Heath a bit shorter? And, er,” Nick pauses, not quite sure how to phrase it politely, “And a bigger arse?”
Zayn very artlessly covers up a snort with a yawn, and Liam very professionally ignores it.
“You know, if you’ve got someone in mind, you could just give Liam a photo for reference,” Zayn says, properly grinning now. Liam stares out the window and appears to be pretending he can’t hear what they’re saying.
“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Nick says, placing the drawing down with a flourish, “Anyone for coffee?”
Nick can hear Zayn and Liam murmuring together as he’s puttering around the kitchen. It’s nowhere near loud enough to actually pick up what they’re saying, but Nick strains his ears all the same. Zayn appears to be miming a blow job while Liam points at one of the drawings of Heath. It’s like a really frustrating game of charades. He’s letting the coffee percolate when his phone lights up with a text from an unknown number.
Hi Salieri ! I was just thinking about you plunging your staff into my molten core ! xoxo Mozart
Nick very nearly burns himself.
That was from my first novel, you twat. Nick types back, And it’s pretty rich coming from someone who used the phrase “trembling johnson”.
Louis sends him back a stream of eggplants, peaches and tongue emojis, and Nick saves his number.
Nick manages to convince himself for a full minute that he’s experiencing a real life hallucination. That Louis Tomlinson is not, in fact, sitting in front of him at his favourite tea shop for the second time.
“Hiya,” Louis says, shattering the illusion.
“This is my tea shop, you know,” Nick says, tucking his laptop under the table with a resigned sigh. He feels a little on edge after seeing Louis’ twitcam, like he’s somehow invaded Louis’ privacy or seen something he was never meant to see. Which is ridiculous, of course, because it was a public stream. Still.
“It’s not,” Louis huffs, tucking his legs up into the armchair like he’s trying to claim it. “I’ve been coming here for years.”
That’s definitely a lie, because there’s no way Nick wouldn’t have seen him here, but before he can respond Louis is screwing up his face in disgust.
“Is that coffee?” he screeches, drawing the attention of a nearby family and completely ignoring Nick’s shushing, “You’re drinking fucking coffee in a tea shop?”
“Coffee is the nectar of the Gods,” Nick sniffs, taking a deep, pointed sip from his mug, “Tea is just watery leaves.”
Louis looks so utterly affronted Nick is tempted to take a picture. “You’re wrong. There is something so wrong with you.”
He’s absolutely adorable when he’s furious. Nick would tell him, but he’d probably launch himself across the table and rip out Nick’s jugular with those sharp teeth. “Tea always reminds me of my primary school teacher’s breath whenever she’d reprimand me. Can’t touch the stuff now, I regress into childhood.”
Louis is watching him appraisingly, tapping one of his little fingers on his chin. He seems to come to some kind of conclusion, because his face brightens up and he says, “I’ll show you. All the best teas, not that scum your teacher was probably drinking. I’m an expert, I’ve tried hundreds of teas and I don’t dilute the taste with any sugar either.”
He’s smiling broadly, looking oddly shy for someone who’s talking about their knowledge of tea.
“No thanks,” Nick says, curling his lip at the suggestion, “The thought of being forced to try a whole load of tea is a bloody nightmare.”
Louis’ face changes so fast it actually sends a chill down Nick’s spine. His face floods with colour, and he slams his empty tea mug down on the table, yanking his coat off the back of his armchair.
“Fine. Enjoy your coffee, arsehole,” Louis says, sweeping out of the tea shop leaving Nick to wonder what the fuck that was all about.
“He’s bloody serious about his tea,” Nick says to no one in particular.
Nick’s in the middle of re-heating last night’s curry when his phone chimes with an email from Simon Cowell.
You are hereby cordially invited to the Annual RNA Mixer to celebrate another year of literary success.
The event will be held at the Cowell Estate next Friday the 7th of February. Drinks and a selection of canapés will be provided. Please arrive no later than 8 p.m. and adhere to a cocktail dress code.
London Regional Chapter Head
Romantic Novelists Association
He doesn’t have to wait long for the call. He’s only just made it to the couch before Zayn’s stupidly perfect face is flashing up on his screen.
“We’re going,” Zayn says, before Nick even has a chance to say hello.
“That wasn’t very democratic of you.”
“Grimmy. It’s at a mansion. The drinks are free and they always have those miniature meat pies,” Zayn wheedles. It’s his favourite night of the year, although Nick isn’t exactly sure why. He could get a normal sized pie any time he likes.
Really, Nick loves parties. If there’s a party going, he’s usually the life of it. He’s just not much for getting dressed up in suits and making uncomfortable small talk about 50 Shades of Grey with his middle aged peers. Nick can never take full advantage of the free drinks, either, because he’s an embarrassing drunk and he very much doubts his career would survive after shaming himself in front of Simon Cowell. Nick would much prefer to nip down to the pub with a few friends.
“Alright, alright. We’re going,” Nick concedes, jerking the phone away from his ear in anticipation of Zayn’s whoop, “But you’re not allowed to dress better than me this time. I can’t be outshone by my own assistant.”
“Nature will take its course, Grimmy. I can’t help that,” Zayn says, like he’s soothing a confused child, “Talk later, bye!”
It’s a fair point.
Simon Cowell’s mansion is enormous, gaudy, and actually the perfect setting for a romance novel. The Billionaire Businessman and his Busty Bride, maybe - he should suggest that one to Louis. Nick allows himself to indulge in a little ego-stroking as he makes his way to Simon’s gigantic courtyard; there’s more than a little fawning over Velvet Abyss, and anticipation of his upcoming release. He spends so much time huddled up in his office writing alone, it feels good to be out amongst his peers. Mostly for the validation, but still.
The courtyard is set up with white marquees and strings of fairy lights, with bright bouquets of flowers generously dotted along the pathways. The trees are so thick overhead, it’s almost a canopy. Simon never does things by halves.
He spots Louis almost immediately, huddled behind a cherub fountain with Harry like a pair of school children. They’re both giggling, and Nick is fairly certain Louis is imitating some of the guests. His James Arthur impression is actually pretty spot on.
“Why don’t you just go talk to him,” Zayn suggests, entirely too loud. Nick considers shoving a stuffed olive in his mouth.
“I don’t see why I’d do that,” Nick sniffs, plucking an entirely unidentifiable hors d'œuvre off a passing platter. The last time they saw each other, Louis had stormed out in a tea-related fury. Nick has no clue whether Louis is still angry or not, but he’d rather not face Louis’ wrath. He mingles, instead, making small talk with anyone whose name he’s at least ninety percent certain he actually knows. He considers approaching Simon Cowell, but he seems to be spending most of his time perched at the edges of the party, staring unblinkingly at each individual guest for several minutes before making quiet comments to the date hovering by his arm.
Nick very consciously avoids the cherub fountain.
He’s just reaching for another glass of champagne when little fingers dig into his side.
“Hey, Grimshaw,” Louis says, easily snatching the wine glass off him in Nick’s weakened state, “I kind of wanna ask why Simon has a statue with a tiny baby’s dick.”
“I probably wouldn’t recommend it,” Nick says drily, narrowing his eyes as Louis finishes off the champagne in one long gulp.
“I’d have a statue of a gigantic man’s dick. You know, like if you’re going there, why not go full cock? What a waste,” Louis says, and Nick tries his level best not to grin.
Nick feels eyes on him before he even spots Simon Cowell across the courtyard, watching the two of them. It’s deeply unsettling. Nick stands up a little straighter, trying to look as dapper as possible, but Simon’s eyes have already shifted to another target.
“I’ve been hearing all about your book tonight. Pez seems pretty convinced you’ll get a nomination for an RNA this year,” Louis says, fishing a second glass of champagne off a passing tray, “Not sure if I’ll be so lucky.”
“Shame. That pearlescent arsehole deserves better,” Nick says, feigning sadness, as if he hasn’t read the book at least seven fucking times.
“The arsehole isn’t pearly. The pearl is inside the arse,” Louis says, screwing his face up, “It’s called symbolism. Google it.”
Nick stops himself before he launches into a full-scale rant on the actual meaning of symbolism. He’s got a feeling it’d fall on deaf ears.
“Anyway,” Louis says, sounding extremely put-upon, “I came over to say I think yours should get a nomination. Even though the title is a plate of cold bollocks. Seriously, I can help you out with those if you’d like.”
Nick’s tongue feels like it’s swollen up a little in his mouth, as if the next thing out of it will be complete gibberish. A platter of hors d'œuvres buys him a little time, distracting Louis with a salmon mousse. Nick will be shocked if he doesn’t instantly spit them back out, but he’s not really in a state to warn him.
“You’ve read my book?”
“Yeah,” Louis shrugs, balancing three salmon mousse cucumber slices, “I’ve read all your books. Best porn in the business.”
Louis shoves one of the slices in his mouth and it almost instantly backfires. He makes a sad little gurgling noise in the back of his throat and opens his mouth like a baby bird, signalling to Nick for help.
“Erm. I’m not really sure what to do here. Should I fetch Harry?” Nick asks, and Louis gives a frantic thumbs up, “I’ll fetch Harry.”
Harry is hovering nearby, not that he’s difficult to miss in a crowd. Nick sends him over to Louis, where he dutifully sticks his hand out and, before Nick can properly parse the situation, Louis spits the pink goop into Harry’s awaiting palm.
It’s easily one of the most horrifying, fascinating things he’s ever seen a pair of humans do.
He slinks over to Zayn, who’s making the best of the buffet.
“Are those two dating?” he asks, nodding over to where Harry is now hugging Louis, gently patting his back with his salmon-free hand.
“Why?” Zayn asks, a sly grin spreading across his face.
“No reason, you little fucking gossip,” Nick snipes, ignoring Zayn’s delighted laughter.
The rest of the night seems incredibly dull in comparison.
The very next week, Louis releases a short story entitled Charles Dick-Ins: A Historical Extravaganza.
It's shockingly inaccurate - for one thing, it features Dickens fisting Shakespeare, and it’s set in 1920’s New York for no discernible reason. It’s also wildly popular. He dedicates the story to Nick on his blog, along with three winky faces. Simon Cowell himself describes it as “breathing new, refreshing life into historical romantic fiction”.
It’s one of the darkest days in Nick’s recent memory.
Nick uses the anxiety from his looming deadline as fuel to turn The Silent Sonata into a romantic masterpiece. He puts his phone on vibrate for days at a time, despite the increasingly abusive texts Zayn sends him, followed by passive aggressive tweets.
Liam sends him the finalised cover art, and it’s perfect, right down to Heath’s plump bottom. Their hair has broken free of their ties, flowing back in a nonexistent wind. Their trousers are straining at their lace-up ties. Nick absolutely does not take a wank break.
He starts spending more and more time at his favourite tea shop, and ends up running into Louis again on a bright, uncharacteristically sunny Thursday morning. He’s in an absolutely foul mood, and seeing Louis pink-cheeked and grinning doesn’t help matters much.
“Hiya, Nicholas,” Louis says, curling up in the armchair opposite him like he’s settling down for a nap.
“Not really in the mood for you today, love,” Nick says through his teeth, jaw already tightening. He’d had a meeting with his editor the night before, and to say it was an affront to his creative vision would be an understatement. “My editor’s changed just about every bloody fucking part of the book, so now I have to fuck about with her edits and still somehow come up with a decent piece of writing. If that’s even possible.”
Louis is looking at him strangely, possibly due to the fact that Nick hasn’t slept properly in days and probably has international luggage-sized bags under his eyes. Nick tries to remember the last time he brushed his hair.
“Fight it, then. They always give in if you throw enough of a tantrum. It works for me.”
Nick screws up his face, because he’s too tired to have full control over his muscles, “I don’t think our situations are really the same.”
“You don’t think people have tried to change the way my books are written? If my editor had his way, I’d be ghostwritten,” Louis snaps, his face flushing with colour. He rests his hands on the edge of the table so he can lean closer, “If I write turgid tower of manhood, then that’s what I want in the book. It has to be your writing.”
He looks quite fierce like this, his eyes sharp and his hair going every which way from the wind outside, kind of like a little baby hawk. Nick has a sudden and confronting flashback to Louis regurgitating salmon mousse. Even worse, he has a sick, sweet feeling in his stomach that he’s written about enough times to identify. It’s honestly completely unfair that the feeling can coexist with the memory of public regurgitation.
“You’re right, you know. Thanks. And, erm,” Nick pauses, weighing up whether or not he’s exhausted enough to actually say this, “I like your books. Even the turgid towers.”
Louis forces his smile down, but not before Nick sees it.
“You know what your book is really missing? Steam-powered dildos.”
“No. It absolutely is not,” Nick scoffs, “This is a serious historical novel. Besides, they weren’t invented till 1869.”
“So you have researched them, then,” Louis crows, bouncing a little in his seat, “I knew it, you gross pervert.”
“I’m a thorough researcher, thanks very much.”
“No. You're a Victorian porn-loving freak,” Louis says, carefully extending his leg and pointing to his exposed ankle in what Nick assumes is meant to be a seductive manner, “Does this arouse you, Mr Grimshaw?”
“I’m not gross. You’re gross.”
Louis cackles at that, still balanced on the armchair with his leg pointed in the air.
He stays for a little while after that, making idle chit chat while he finishes off his tea. He leaves Nick with the bill - again - and darts out the door, quick as he came.
At 10am on a Tuesday, Nick makes a terrible mistake.
He knows it the second the words leave his mouth. It’s all a little unfair; the interviewer lulls him into a false sense of security, butters him up with praise and then asks a purposefully leading question. It’s really not Nick’s fault that he’s so easily buttered.
Puppy is curled up in his lap, but she sits up attentively when he disconnects the call. “Am I going to regret that?”
Puppy winks, which - to be fair - she does all the time, but Nick can’t help taking it as a bad omen.
He tries to shake off the feeling of impending doom with a bit of impromptu spring cleaning. He vacuums the entire house, does three loads of laundry, and even scrubs the grout in the shower. He’s feeling exceptionally proud of himself until around three in the afternoon, when he gets a text from Zayn consisting only of five suspicious moon emojis. It can only mean one thing. Nick pours himself a glass of wine before opening up his laptop and typing in www.thebeatingheartblog.com.
Nick Grimshaw slams Pearl as “cheap”
“I didn’t say that,” Nick groans, loud enough to startle Puppy out of her nap. He skims down to the relevant paragraph.
I: Pearl of the Pirate’s Booty has gotten a lot of buzz this year. What are your thoughts on that particular brand of romantic fiction?
N.G: It’s a bit like a one night stand, isn’t it? Cheap, easy, and you feel a little ashamed the morning after.
I: So you don’t consider it on a par with the rest of the genre, then?
N.G: I think it’s fairly obvious that it’s not.
Alright, he sort of did say that.
“It’s not as if it isn’t a valid bloody comment,” he says to Puppy, who’s sat at his feet and glaring up at him, “Captain Cock, for fuck’s sake.”
Things devolve fairly quickly from there.
It starts with two tweets from Louis.
@Louis_Tomlinson: Sorry if I’m not “classy” enough to say GLISTENING PUCKER instead of WET FUCKHOLE ! Means the same thing mate !!
@Louis_Tomlinson: @grimmers Don’t know if you’ve noticed but you’re head is stuck up your VELVET ABYSS ! Might be wrong but I’m pretty sure my book sold more than yours ! :)
And that hits a nerve. Nick doesn’t like to admit it, but Louis’ ridiculous pirate novella outsold Nick’s actual, proper fucking novel by a truly depressing margin. At the time, he’d been surprised that Louis hadn’t contacted him in some way to gloat, or possibly hired a skywriter to celebrate the occasion. He should have fucking known that Louis would be saving it up as ammunition. He ignores the six texts he’s gotten from Zayn screaming DO NOT FUCKING TWEET HIM BACK and opens up his twitter app before he has time to change his mind.
@grimmers: @Louis_Tomlinson It’s *your. You can see why I may have trouble recognising you as a legitimate author.
@Louis_Tomlinson: @grimmers Actually it’s *go fuck yourself you pretentious twat ! Goodbye xx
His phone lights up with a call from Zayn, which Nick answers with a curt, “I know, I know. I’m deleting the fucking app now, alright?” before hanging up. He’s categorically not in the mood for a dressing-down from Zayn Malik.
“This is not my fault,” Nick says to Puppy, who quietly farts and leaves the room.
When Nick wakes up the next morning, it’s to four separate tweets from Louis trying to get #BlowMeGrimshaw trending. It’s perhaps not the most creative hashtag ever, but it gets Nick’s back up nonetheless. Louis has destroyed the peaceful zen of his morning, not for the first time.
Against his better judgement, he calls Louis.
“You don’t think you’re a little old for this behaviour?”
Louis blows a massive raspberry directly in Nick’s ear.
“I’m 22, Nicholas. You’re 29,” Louis says, pausing for dramatic effect, “In dog years that’s dead.”
Nick hangs up the phone with such force he spends the next half hour Googling how to tell if you’ve fractured your thumb (he hasn’t, but it still fucking hurts, so it at least counts as a sprain).
Nick stays up till three in the morning writing out a lengthy opinion piece on the devolvement of the once proud romantic fiction genre, fueled by day-old curry and possibly too much wine. He quotes Louis’ books no less than five times, and probably includes more subtle (or rather, “subtle”) personal digs to be strictly considered academic.
It still feels incredibly satisfying to post, though.
He’s expecting the call from Zayn when it eventually comes. “Am I in trouble, then?”
“No. This is incredible,” Zayn says. It sounds like he might be eating popcorn. “It’s probably the most entertaining thing I’ve seen a grown man do.”
“It’s not entertaining. It’s a professional feud,” Nick gripes, and is distinctly unimpressed to find Zayn laughing his fucking head off.
Louis gets a cake delivered directly to Nick’s front door. It looks to Nick like it might be a re-purposed children’s birthday cake, a pretty blue with thick, heart-shaped swirls of cream decorating the edge. “I Hope You Die” is written across the top in lurid pink icing.
Nick mostly wants to know how the fuck Louis got his hands on his home address.
Next, Louis destroys Nick’s website. Utterly, completely, astonishingly destroys it. The homepage plays an endless loop of an enormous nude pirate dancing to Seal’s Kiss From A Rose (even Nick will admit that part is oddly hypnotic). The Biography section has been replaced with an uncomfortably high definition photograph of a scrotum. Novels & Other Works is now the entire script of the movie “Troll 2”.
There’s a text from Louis waiting on his phone, too.
My mate Niall is quite good with computers :) x
Nick calls Harry, because he knows he’ll never get a straight answer out of Louis.
“Hiiiiiiii, Harry speaking.”
“Where is he?” Nick snaps, already shrugging his coat on and scrambling for his keys.
“He’s at my place,” Harry says, “Did you want to speak with him? He’s in the shower at the moment.”
“No, just give me your address and I’ll come round,” Nick tries, because you never know. Harry rattles off the address without a second thought like the horrifyingly trusting creature he is.
Harry answers the door, too, when Nick arrives. He’s beaming as if he invited Nick over himself for tea and crumpets. “Hullo, Mr Grimshaw!”
“Alright, Harry?” Nick asks, because his manners haven’t totally escaped him. Harry makes pleasant small talk about the weather (“I can always smell when it’s going to rain, you know!”) as he leads Nick through the hall and into the living room where Louis is reclining on the couch, stubbornly ignoring Nick’s entrance in favour of Masterchef. He looks gorgeous in threadbare tracksuit bottoms and an old Star Wars t-shirt, which only serves to enrage Nick further.
“Tomlinson,” Nick says through gritted teeth, moving to block Louis’ view of the television so he’s forced to actually acknowledge his presence. “We need to discuss a few things.”
“Do we?” Louis asks breezily, popping a single grape into his mouth. Nick can’t even tell where the grape came from.
“How the fuck did you get into my website?”
“Zayn gave us the password,” Louis says, a little smirk playing at his lips. He’s clearly pleased with himself. Nick makes a mental note to fire Zayn - not for the first time.
“Right, well, this has got to stop. You’re a fucking menace. I don’t deserve any of this, you know,” Nick gripes, and Louis is still lounging on his side like a bloody French prince, “I must have been a fucking baby murderer in a past life.”
“You’ve got that look about you. If you don’t mind, I’m trying to watch my show,” Louis says, making a shooing motion with his hands. He’s actually fucking shooing Nick.
“I’m not going anywhere until you agree to stop systematically destroying my career.”
“You’re the one who gave an interview about how fucking awful my books are, so don’t pin this on me,” Louis says, scrambling off the couch and pushing himself up on his toes. It’s not as intimidating as he probably means it to be.
“I said cheap, not awful, and can you blame me? They’re not exactly high brow literature, love,” Nick replies, resisting the urge to flick Louis on the nose. He’d probably headbutt Nick in the cock, the little gremlin. “And don’t flatter yourself that my interview was the beginning. You released your ridiculous moon pirates book the same day I released mine, and you knew it. You haven’t left well enough alone since the day we met, and I want to know why.”
“Because I want you to fuck me, you stupid fucking twat!”
Louis’ gone red in the face, and all Nick can focus on are his sharp teeth bared beneath his curled lip. The room is utterly, utterly silent.
“Should I go?” Harry pipes up from the corner, where he’s apparently been standing this entire time, “I should go.”
Neither of them speak as Harry shuffles out of the house - not even when he has to awkwardly creep past them to fetch his keys off the coffee table, or when he forgets his jumper and has to come jogging back in. Louis’ jaw is set tight and his eyes are hard in a way that probably means he’s embarrassed, but refusing to admit it.
“You want me to fuck you,” Nick repeats slowly, taking a deep, calming breath through his nose, “So you tried to ruin my life.”
“Yes,” Louis says, not even blinking. His legs are starting to shake from the effort of keeping himself up on his toes.
“Right,” Nick says, and gives Louis just enough time to brace himself before tackling him backwards onto the couch.
Louis’ kiss has teeth - quite literally, he bites down hard on Nick’s bottom lip, soothing it with three little kisses before opening up for something deeper. He wraps his thighs around Nick’s hips like a little boa, drawing him in closer and making sweet noises when Nick sucks a kiss into his jaw.
“Wanted you for so fucking long,” Nick gasps against his throat, Louis’ fingers digging into his back, “Reading your books was fucking torture.”
“If I put my dick in your mouth, will that shut you up?” Louis asks, but his voice is low and raspy already, his hips canting up to meet Nick’s. Louis kisses him instead, drawing him back up to his lips with his fingers threaded into Nick’s hair. He hisses when he finds a good angle for his cock, pushing his hips up against Nick’s thigh with selfish little thrusts.
“Want me to suck you?” Nick asks, already fumbling with Louis’ tracksuit pants, because Louis is exactly the kind of lunatic that would actually tie the drawstrings on his trousers.
“No,” Louis says, biting his lip as Nick gets his hand in and pulls his cock out, pink and pretty and fat, “I want you to fuck me. I already said that.”
Nick hums, sitting back on his heels and sliding his hands under Louis’ arse to pull his trousers down his thighs, soaking in the view. Louis’ tan gives way to soft, pale skin just past his hips, the head of his cock already smearing wetly across his belly. His thighs are thick and smooth and Nick can’t resist sucking a mark into one, then the other, right where they’re at their roundest. Louis sneaks his hand down to guide his cock into Nick’s mouth, tugging at his lower lip with an insistent thumb. He shivers a little when Nick takes him in, sinking back into the couch and letting his legs fall open wider. His cock has a nice curve to it, and it tastes just as good as he smells, sweet and heavy and thick. Nick rolls his tongue over Louis’ foreskin, feels his leg twitch with it, and he trails his thumb down past Louis’ balls, just a gentle pressure against his hole.
Louis is wonderfully responsive, his back arching up off the cushions when Nick finds a sweet spot just under the head of his cock, flickering his tongue enough to wring a gasp out of him. He rubs his thumb in feather-light circles over Louis’ hole, just enough to be a tease, till Louis is tapping impatiently at his temple.
“Stop stalling,” he demands, tugging his own cock out of Nick’s mouth, “There’s massage oil on the coffee table.”
Nick pauses, Louis’ cock bobbing just by his chin. “Why would you already have oil on the table?”
“I had a foot cramp earlier,” Louis says slowly, as if Nick is incredibly daft for even asking the question, “Harry gives great massages.”
“Christ, alright,” Nick says, choosing to ignore that information for the time being, “What about condoms? Does Harry make great balloon animals for entertaining guests?”
“No, you freak. Go check in the bathroom,” Louis says, pressing his foot against Nick’s face and pushing till he stands up. He points imperiously at the hallway.
If Nick’s erection flags a little while he’s rummaging around a stranger’s bathroom with his cock out, it’s back in full force when he returns to find Louis already three fingers deep in himself, one knee hooked over the back of the couch.
It’s a fucking sight.
Louis’ gone ahead and stripped off his shirt, his pants kicked off the edge of the couch, so Nick follows suit as gracefully as he possibly can when his cock is harder than it’s ever been in his life.
“Christ,” Nick rasps, sliding his hand up Louis’ other thigh and hooking behind his knee to push it back towards his chest, Louis’ hips tilting up with it. His hole is pink and slick and stretched tight already around three small fingers, soaked up to the knuckle in oil.
“What took you so long?”
Nick doesn’t have a single clever thing to say, so instead he brings both hands down to cup Louis’ arse, spreading his cheeks just enough to hear Louis gasp with the stretch.
“Can you take me yet?” Nick asks, not taking his eyes off where Louis is pumping his fingers in and out.
“Obviously. The ones in your books are bigger than that,” Louis shrugs, grinning, but he’s licking his lips as he watches Nick roll the condom over his cock. Nick can take a lot of cheek during sex - mostly because of the distraction a warm body provides - but he draws the line at insulting his dick. He takes hold of Louis’ wrist and tugs his fingers out, grabbing Louis’ hips and easily flipping him over onto his belly.
“You’ll get it for that one,” Nick grunts, tugging Louis up onto his knees and pushing his face down into the cushions with a hand on the back of his neck. He lets his cock slap down between Louis’ cheeks and pours the oil over it like that, rocking his hips back and forth to coat his cock and Louis’ arse.
It’s a tight fucking fit. It takes him three tries to pop the head of his cock past Louis’ rim, and Louis turns his face to gasp for air as Nick works his cock in with short, steady thrusts. Nick’s written more than his fair share of porn in his lifetime, but none of it even comes close to the sight of Louis spread out on his cock, biting down on his lip so hard Nick is afraid he might draw blood.
“You alright, love?” Nick asks, soothing his palm down Louis’ back to rest on his hip.
“Is it in yet?” Louis asks, breathless and pink and grinning like a miniature fucking Satan.
Nick rolls his hips to wedge his cock in deep, wringing a satisfying full-body shiver out of Louis, who flings his arms up to grip the edge of the couch. Nick starts fucking in faster when Louis starts squirming on his dick, digging his fingers into Louis’ gorgeous, thick arse for a better grip. If Louis wants to take it, Nick can give it.
Nick’s working these little gasps out of him with every thrust, Louis’ eyes squeezed shut and his mouth dropped open, a pink flush all the way from his cheeks down to his throat. Nick wants him out of his mind with how good it feels, wants him to feel it for days. He screws in harder, snapping his hips with a vicious twist and shoving Louis further up the cushions with it. Louis kicks his feet up to drum at Nick’s thighs, arching his back and moaning for it like a proper fantasy. Nick reaches a hand down to work over Louis’ cock, and the angle is a little awkward, but it’s worth it for the way Louis shoves his arse back against Nick’s hips. His breath is going jagged, little hands twisting at the fabric of the couch, and Nick doesn’t actually have that much impromptu, passionate sex. He won’t be able to control himself for too long, not when Louis is so perfect beneath him. He lets go and strokes his knuckles up Louis’ cock before cupping his hand over his belly, pressing down so Louis really feels it, and that’s all it takes. Louis yelps, his cock jerking against the back of Nick’s hand and coating his own belly with come. Louis’ whole body goes taut, his back arching deep, and he clenches up so fucking tight Nick doesn’t stand a chance of lasting any longer.
He keeps his hips rolling through the aftershocks, sucking in deep breaths as his cock twitches inside. Louis’ face is tucked into the couch and he’s making these little helpless noises, gone limp and heavy against Nick’s grip on his hips. They ride it out like that, until their hips stop moving and their breathing evens out, and Nick can’t seem to bring himself to let go of Louis, to slip out.
Nick rests back on his heels, lowering Louis until he’s tucked up in the cradle of Nick’s hips. He smoothes a hand up Louis’ back to squeeze at his neck - he hadn’t realised until now just how large his hands are compared to Louis’ narrow chest - and back down again. Louis sighs, wriggling till Nick’s cock slips out of him and flopping over onto his side, almost nuzzling into the couch cushions. He’s got a sweet little smile on his face, all flushed pink and sleepy. Nick’s heart absolutely does not clench.
“Come down here, idiot,” Louis says, making crab-like pincers with his hands, which Nick suspects he’d be using to pinch Nick’s skin red if he weren’t so fucked out. Nick lies down, letting Louis fuss and shuffle till he’s got Nick where he wants him, with Louis tucked up into his chest. Louis yawns into Nick’s skin, pushing Nick’s chest hair up the wrong way with idle, lethargic hands.
“That was,” Nick starts, surprised by the gravel in his own voice, “Christ, that was perfect, wasn’t it?”
Louis hums, nipping at Nick’s ribs, and seems to hesitate before clearing his throat and mumbling, “You’re Captain Cock.”
Louis is voice is muffled, and Nick isn’t even sure he’s heard him right.
“I said, you were Captain Cock. From my book,” Louis says, enunciating each syllable and sounding distinctly unimpressed that he’s been made to repeat himself. Nick feels as if his chest is swelling up like a balloon.
“You’re Heath,” Nick offers, because it’s true, even if he hasn’t admitted it until now, “The brilliant composer.”
“I knew it,” Louis says, and Nick can feel his smile.
They’re lulled into a satisfied silence in which Nick debates the pros and cons of hauling Louis up for a kiss.
“Wait on. Captain Cock gets eaten by a shark at the end,” Nick says, indignant, but Louis fakes a snore and continues to pretend to be asleep when Nick pokes at his cheek.
Nick figures it’s about as blissful as they’ll ever get.
By the time The Silent Sonata is published, Nick and Louis are engaged in a brutal debate about the superiority of tea versus coffee. The disagreement is on its fifth day, and Louis has taken to leaving wet tea bags around Nick’s house. It’s dire.
Nick’s out all day, between book signings and phone interviews (even one television interview for a cable network), followed by two (alright, five) celebratory drinks at the pub with Zayn. It’s already late by the time Nick gets home and Louis is in bed, which means Nick is forced to conduct his customary tea bag sweep in relative darkness. For the first time since Wednesday, every single room comes up clean.
Nick creeps into his bedroom to find Louis in the dead centre of the bed, curled up in a nest of all Nick’s blankets. He seems to be asleep, but he’s left the lamp lit on Nick’s bedside table. There’s a mug there - coffee, Nick realises, still lukewarm - and a copy of The Silent Sonata, flipped open to the dedications page.
To my Mozart.