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In less than a month, Louis’ gonna be twenty-seven.

It’s not that old, he knows that, but ever since he reached twenty-five he’s been feeling more and more out of it, rambling on toward thirty and he still doesn’t even feel like a proper adult.

But he also knows that he’s done quite a bit in his twenty-seven years; nearly won a talent competition show, got put in a band that’s one of the most popular boy bands ever at this point, put out five albums in five years with that same band, had some chart toppers that he not only sung on, but also helped write and compose.

Had a kid, which to him is an accomplishment, thank you very much. He loves Freddie even if he’s not in his life as much as he wishes he were, and he’s proud of that.

And also, then became a judge on that same talent competition show and won his first year as a mentor.

But two days later after that finale, after near a full day of celebration and making plans with Dalton and figuring everything else out, rapidly heading toward his twenty-seventh birthday, well.

Sometimes, Louis has some issues. He’s not been honest with many people about them, because it’s hard to complain when you’re life is actually as good as Louis’ has almost been nonstop since he was eighteen, minus some pretty bad parts that, well, it’s still hard to think too much about.

The thing is, though, that he’s led a pretty charmed life, but it also seems a little bit like every year it gets harder to hide what he’s feeling inside and more like his goals, which once were literally shooting for the stars and the moon, has levelled off some; these days, he’s happy to just be in the studio, prefers it to being out in front of a crowd.

He wonders how much of it is getting older, and how much of it is something particular to him and his moods.

“They’re not moods,” Niall often says, whenever they’re together which is these days stretched out. Somehow, though he’d only seen Niall a few weeks before during rehearsals (but he’d fucked off before the show, popping into LA for a couple of weeks) he’d come back to London not long after, and decided to show up to the finale and Louis’ grateful for that, when he headed backstage after it all and saw Niall there, bright smile on his face, congratulatory, because it had been a big moment.

The adrenaline’s faded a bit, by now as they’re sitting in Niall’s house, watching some morning talk show Louis’ not really familiar with and eating breakfast sandwiches Niall’d made, and Louis’ been talking again. Sometimes, when he’s around Niall, it all just sort of spills out, because he’s the only one he’s ever really talked to about all of this besides his mum.

Louis tries not to roll his eyes, because Niall always feels the need to point this out; that they aren’t moods, but instead some real mental health issues people all around the world deal with, but as he’s said – he’s had a relatively charmed life in comparison to a lot of people, and it feels a bit off to admit that he’s feeling these ways. Niall’s super supportive, though, so that’s always nice, and he’s certainly not going to stop talking to him about it because he needs to talk about it all with someone, and at least Niall understands.

“It’s just,” Louis starts, picking at the bacon on his sandwich and staring at it, “I’m a bit of a loser, aren’t I?”

Niall looks at him, doesn’t say anything but gives him a look that says he’s both concerned and confused.

How normal an expression that’s become in the last few years.

“Three years ago I was part of a band that sold out arenas, one of the top selling artists of the year, all that. And now…I mean, I like doing what I’ve been doing, but it’s also. Sometimes I feel like a burnout, now.”

“Jus’ because you’re not selling out arenas or have a platinum album doesn’ mean you’re a loser,” Niall replies, and Louis laughs.

“That’s coming from the lad who’s literally sold out arenas and has a platinum album,” he points out.

“Not like you don’ have accomplishments,” Niall glances to the shelving unit on the opposite side of his living room, where all the awards he’s ever won sit, a good chunk of them from One Direction. Louis follows his gaze.

“Years ago,” he agrees.

“Two days ago,” Niall disagrees, which – yeah. He supposes it’s pretty damn cool that he won his first year as a mentor, he’ll never forget that.

“Aren’t ya workin’ in the studio now, anyway? Might have somethin’ in a few months.”

“Maybe.” Louis sighs, shrugging. “Maybe not. Dunno what’s gonna happen, to be honest.”

Niall’s quiet for a moment.

“’S this ‘cause you’re gettin’ older?”

Louis shrugs again, looking back down at his plate, half eaten breakfast laying pathetically there, but his appetite’d gone out the window as he’d started thinking all this.

“Just that I dunno I’ve ever been long lasting. I’ve been the funny guy, the prankster, the rebel – whatever. But everyone tires of me eventually, and maybe that’s what’s happening with the fans, too.”

Niall reaches over, hands a little greasy from the sandwich but Louis doesn’t really care as Niall tangles his fingers with his.

“I still haven’t tired of you,” he says, and Louis sends him a soft smile – that’s true, and he’s eternally happy to have Niall by his side, and he continues with, “An’ I don’ think tha fans have, either. Jus’ wait ‘til your next single comes out.”

“Or maybe my days as an artist are behind me,” he tells Niall, “Maybe I’m meant to just be a producer, writer, from now on out.”

“Would ya be happy with that?” Niall asks, searching Louis’ face.

Louis looks toward the ceiling, considering.

“Could be, if I’ve got the right artists to work with.” He meets Niall’s eyes. “I do miss it, though.”

“It?” Niall asks, though Louis can see in his eyes he’s already sure what Louis means.

“Us,” he confirms. Niall slides his eyes away, back to his own empty plate, and swallows.

“Me too.”

Louis squeezes his fingers, and they stay like that, quiet as the talk show continues on the TV in front of them, both lost in their own thoughts for a few minutes.

“Maybe one day, yeah?” Niall eventually asks, meeting Louis’ eyes again, and he nods, because though it seems unlikely right now, maybe, maybe one day.

“Do still feel like a bit of a loser, without you all, though,” Louis admits, and Niall smiles.

“We all are, together or apart.”

Another moment of quiet before Louis turns back to his original thinkings, about –

“I’m gonna be twenty-seven.”

Niall considers.

“You’re still fit, if tha’s what you’re worried about.”

Louis laughs, full and unrelenting, completely not expecting that and by the time he’s calmed down Niall’s much closer on the couch, and Louis leans over, laying his head on Niall’s shoulder.

“Thanks for that.”

Niall kisses the top of his head.

“Love you.”

Louis takes a moment, but –

“You, too.”

Maybe he’s a loser, a burn out, a problem. Right now, in this very second, he’s okay.