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When The Lights Go On

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When The Lights Go On

Chapter 1 - Is it my imagination? (Miss You)

“Cheers!” The harsh clack of pint glasses being smashed together shouldn’t be heard so clearly over the loud music playing at this club but it echoed in Louis’ ears anyway. As well as the laughter of his friends.

He hadn’t been hitting any bars or pubs with them lately, being too caught up in filming the X Factor live shows. Though since 2018’s winner had been announced last Sunday, he used his newly gained freedom to hang out with his friends for once. It was also good to be out and about again.

The music playing was quite catchy and its beat resonated in Louis’ chest, filling him up and talking his somewhat tired body into moving to the rhythm until he emptied his first pint and moved towards the dance floor. They were here to have fun after all, so that’s what he would do. Having fun with his friends going club hopping.

He moved to one up-beat song after the other, not even noticing the people around him, getting lost in the music and the heat of all the moving bodies. His shirt was already soaked in sweat but he couldn’t care less about it. More than once, some of the girls - and even one or two guys - tried to dance with him, but he ignored every single attempt of strangers flirting with him.

He went out with his friends to have a few drinks not to pull some bird.

Well, as if he would do that under any circumstances. But it was the one thing that was expected of him to do. Even though that couldn’t be further from his mind. None of his relationships with a woman had been a real relationship if he was honest. Not even during his high-school time. Back then, he initiated the fake relationship himself, trying to convince himself that he could date a girl. Well, he failed miserable, but what was new?

When the music changed to a somewhat slower song, Louis immediately left the dance floor, getting back to his lads who had bought the next round of pints already. Just what he needed right now.

“There you are. We were about to head out and look for you, man. Any pretty chicks out there?” Connor grinned widely and Louis assumed his friend already had more than one pint.

“Were you doing shots without me?” Louis therefore asked, pouting like a petulant child.

“‘s your own fault when you saunter off to grind on some random girls on the dance floor,” Nathan laughed loudly in response, so he could be easily heard over the slower music.

“Where’s my shot then?” Louis demanded to know while he gripped his pint glass and downed almost half of the beer in one go.

“Connor sacrificed himself to take care of your abandoned shot,” Reece snickered, nipping at his own pint.

“Such a generous thing to do, Connor,” Louis snapped without any real bite to his voice, chugging down the rest of his beer and bringing the glass back down on the table with a rattle. Then, without hesitating at all, Louis grabbed Connor’s pint and finished that one without putting it down as well.

“Your pint looked a bit lonely just sitting there in front of you,” he explained with a shit eating grin afterwards.

“Get the man a few shots, before he decides to kill our pints as well,” Tate smirked while holding on to his own glass with a tight grip.

“I’ll get ‘em,” Reece offered with a small shake of his head before moving over to the bar to order another round of shots and returning soon after with a tray stuffed with shot glasses, “Here ya go!”

“That’s what I call a good mate,” Louis almost beamed at his friend - at least his mouth did it, though it didn’t reach his eyes, didn’t turn them all crinkly like the fans had pointed out on several occasions. Sometimes it was really scary how much the fans could tell from just looking at him. There had to be at least some Psychology majors around them.

To distract himself from the train of thoughts his mind had entered again, Louis grabbed a shot and gulped down the clear liquid going for a second one right afterwards because … why not? He didn’t have anywhere to be the next morning anyway. And there was definitely no one waiting for him at home. There hadn’t been anyone waiting for him to return home for several years after all. He should be used to that by now.

He felt his phone buzzing in his jeans’ pocket. He tried to ignore it and succeeded for like three minutes until it buzzed a second time. Hesitantly, Louis pulled out his phone and looked at the screen, only realising how hopeful he’d been when he felt the disappointment flooding his body at reading his sister’s name on the screen. And he knew, he shouldn’t be disappointed about his sisters keeping in touch with him. He should be grateful for that. And he really was. But he also couldn’t stop feeling alone every time he came home to an empty house.

Reading the message on his lock screen so it would still be marked as unread the next time he looked at it, Louis decided he could always reply tomorrow since it wasn’t an emergency call and shoved his phone back into his pocket. Then he went for another shot. He’d just finished that one, when the music changed to an up-beat song again drawing Louis back to the dance floor.

Closing his eyes, he concentrated on the rhythm swaying along and trying to forget everything around him again. He only came back to his senses, when some girl had put her hand on his sweat-soaked shirt, feeling his muscles moving beneath the thin fabric. Louis gave her short figure a once-over for just a second, but due to the clubs black lights he couldn’t tell much about her looks, though he did notice the dark curls adorning her head. Immediately, he grabbed her hand and peeled it off his body, before heading back to his friends.

Damnit. He was supposed to enjoy himself and not to freak out over a girl with dark curls. That was downright pathetic. So he tried to forget about that incident by grabbing the only full pint standing on their table and downing that as well. His friends probably had done a few more while he was dancing anyway. He had to catch up to them somehow. Maybe that’s the reason why he also went for the last shot sitting on the tray.

“Woah, man, wasn’t there any booze at the after parties of your fancy tv show or why are you so desperate to drink your face off?” Nathan already slurred his words slightly so he didn’t have any right to scold Louis for his drinking habit. He had everything under control. Thank you very much.

“Just having a good time,” Louis replied, before heading over to the bar to get the next round of pints. He didn’t even realise that Reece had followed him until he had ordered five pints.

“You okay?” Reece asked leaning himself against the counter of the bar and looking Louis straight in the eye.

“Sure,” Louis answered immediately, paying for the beer as soon as the five glasses were placed in front of him.

“I’ve seen your face when you’ve checked your phone, mate,” Reece grabbed three of the glasses easily, before looking at Louis again, “You can talk to me, ya know that, right?”

“There’s nothing to talk about though. Everything’s just fine.” Louis was well aware that he was just stubborn in that moment, but he really wasn’t in the mood to talk right now. He was more in the mood to get pissed with his friends.

“If you say so. You don’t look it though, pal,” was the last thing Reece said before they returned to their friends, leaving Louis no opportunity to reply in order to save his reputation somehow.

Maybe he should have bought some more shots as well. It wouldn’t matter anyway, right? He would be the only one suffering from the massive hangover tomorrow. There would be no one around to rub his back while he would be hanging over the toilet. Or to cook the best breakfast to cure a hangover, the best Eggs Benedict existing in this universe. He had literally lived off of take away most of the times during the last three years.

“Should we head over to the next one after this round?” Connor wanted to know after taking one of the two pints Louis was holding.

“Sure,” Nathan slurred his affirmation, already nipping at the glass that Reece handed him after Tate had received one as well.

Louis wasn’t paying attention to them, just holding his pint in front of his mouth not even remembering how to drink a beer. His gaze was fixed on the back of a head at the other end of the room.

One of his friends must have made a joke just then, because loud laughter erupted around him, but Louis’ eyes were captured by that mop of dark curls in the corner. The person attached to the hair was tall enough to be spotted quite easily over the mass of people between them.

At first Louis told himself that the waves were too short to belong to a certain someone but then he reminded himself about the haircut that happened before said someone decided to become a movie star in an Oscar winning franchise - which he hadn’t watched until now, because it definitely hurt too fucking much.

Louis tried to manipulate the stranger across the room to turn around with just his gaze burning a hole into the back of his head. He had to see the face belonging to those dark curls. Like right now. Otherwise he would definitely go insane. For sure.

“You gonna drink that or not?” Tate’s voice turned Louis’ attention back to his friends who were all staring at his still untouched pint, making Louis look down at his glass as well. Oh right. He was supposed to drink this.

“Sure,” he told his friends chugging down the whole pint in one go. When the glass hit the tabletop his eyes looked over to the far corner of the room but the curly-haired stranger was gone. Of course he was gone. Could it be that he had just imagined it? That his kinda dizzy and intoxicated mind had played a cruel trick on him?

When he couldn’t find the mop of messy curls anywhere around them, Louis was almost sure that he’d imagined it. The curly-haired one resided in L.A. most of the times now. How high were the chances that he was hitting a random London club anyway? Somewhere around none existent for sure.

Tate just made another bad joke in that moment and Louis tried to laugh along, though he was quite sure it had to be obviously fake even for his shit-faced friends. At least it seemed obvious to Reece who looked at Louis with that knowing expression on his face and Louis wondered how he managed that. They should all be way too drunk by now to still have such a keen perception, really. Though compared to Reece everyone else would be considered a lightweight anyway.

Shortly after they headed over to the next club, though Louis couldn’t keep his eyes from wandering around the room one last time, trying to find those dark curls. Deep down he was kinda sure that he hadn’t imagined that person on the other side of the room. But they were gone so he had no chance to know for sure. But somehow he really liked the thought of being in the same room with him. Even though it definitely hurt, being in the same space but not being able to talk or touch or just lock his eyes with those green emeralds.

So to stop the hurting in his chest for now, he drowned his sorrows in another pint or maybe five in the next club and stumbled to the next cab afterwards to get home to his dark and empty house, where nothing was waiting for him. Well except for his lovely dog who kept him company since he had to live on his own for like the first time after spending twenty-four years surrounded by his loved ones - family and the fucking love of his life alike.

Waking up the next morning was just as horrible as he’d predicted but he’d brought this on himself, so he wouldn’t complain about it - a lot. After all, complaining was way more fun when you had someone by your side to complain to. His head was pounding so much there could have walked a marching band by his bed and he wouldn’t have noticed it. There was also the feeling of underlying nausea, so Louis tried not to move too much around in bed afraid to lose the meager contents of his stomach right away.

The bliss of lying in bed all day unmoving lasted for about five minutes though since Clifford decided to join his owner in bed nudging his nose repeatedly against Louis’ arm until he groaned in defeat.

“‘m up, ‘m up,” he mumbled rubbing his right hand over his face while the left one stroked through Cliffords black fur.

Opening his eyes so very slowly, he looked down at his new best friend, a smile spreading over his face effortlessly reaching his eyes and turning them into crinkled slits of blue. Clifford started to lick his hand and Louis couldn’t keep in a small giggle. This dog really helped him through the tough times.

Watching his dog, Louis’ gaze settled on the two digits inked into his knuckles for eternity and his smile faltered a bit. It was a spur of the moment thing really, getting a tattoo of this number on his fingers where everyone could see it. It kinda felt like flipping of all the haters out there. He also hoped that maybe the news of his new tattoo traveled as far as L.A. telling the story of how much he really missed him.

Louis somehow made it through that day and through the hangover as well. When he finally thought about recharging his phone he also remembered to answer his sister who was asking to meet during the week after an appointment she had in London. He was always up for seeing the family.

Keeping himself busy with family and getting back to the studio to work on the finishing touches of his solo album, Louis handled the week without thinking too much about the blurred memories of dark curls across the room in that club on Saturday night. It had to be a figment of his mind. After five evenings of lying awake in bed and thinking about that encounter that never happened in the first place, Louis was sure it had to be his imagination. Kinda.

When he met up with the lads again come Friday, he tried to be all fun and zero paranoia - which didn’t work at all. His gaze never stopped flicking around the room after they had entered the same club where he had seen that mop of curls last week. He really needed some booze to stop these silly antics. Like now.

Fortunately, none of his friends seemed to notice his off behaviour. Well, at least no one except for Reece but since he was the only one of his friends who knew about Louis’ last real relationship that was to be expected. Reece always had a sixth sense for Louis’ moods. Though tonight he didn’t try to talk about it which was a massive relief. Just like the unhealthy amount of pints and shots they were doing.

Louis kept himself off the dance floor this night because he didn’t want to miss the chance of seeing the curly-haired stranger again. That paranoia was real. Though he didn’t show up again and after too many pints and even more shots Louis convinced himself that he did imagine that mess of unruly curls last week.

That was also the last thing he remembered when he woke up in his bed the next morning, feeling even more hungover and slightly disoriented.

How did he even end up in his bed anyway? He couldn’t remember for the life of him. He should definitely cut back on the drinking. With almost being twenty seven years, he was finally too old for this blackout shit.

As soon as he felt like a human being again, he would text Reece or Tate and ask them how he had found his way home last night. And if he had done anything ridiculously stupid he needed to know of that could end up in the media.

Though for now, he would just remain in his bed, thinking about how he missed Harry so fucking much that his mind had made up a hallucination of dark curls in an even darker corner of some high-class London club.

Chapter Text

When The Lights Go On

Chapter 2 - We’re only getting older baby (Night Changes)

Reece couldn’t tell Louis how he had managed to get home and Connor and Nathan had been just as shit-faced as Louis himself, so these two idiots couldn’t remember anything either. Though Tate was almost sure, he’d seen Louis climb into a cab around midnight. There hadn’t been any articles or posts on social media so far, so Louis was sure he’d gotten away quite easily.

During the following week, he spent every day at the studio again finally able to fully concentrate on completing his solo album. It could be a real pain in the ass sometimes, being such a perfectionist regarding his music. But it was the first time that a whole album was just him, speaking for him and only him, representing him - and he wanted nothing more than to give the right point of view there.

When the next weekend approached, Connor contacted Louis to ask about Sunday evening. The lads apparently planned another get together to celebrate twenty-seven years of Louis Tomlinson. Or rather the last day of being twenty-six.

Louis didn’t plan on letting his friends down, though he told himself multiple times to keep the number of pints reasonable and stay away from the shots completely. He was supposed to drive up to Doncaster on his birthday to celebrate with his family after all. So he had to be kinda sober on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Arriving at the first pub at around eight o’clock, his four best friends outside of One Direction were already waiting in front of the entrance. After a quick greeting for every one of his lads, they entered the pub and Nathan went straight to the counter to order the first round of pints.

“I really have to cut back on the booze tonight, guys,” Louis told them while sitting down in one of the booths, “Have to drive to Donny t’morrow morning.”

“Gonna remind you of that, when we hit the first club and take the first round of shots,” Connor laughed heartily, helping Nathan to carry their pints to the table.

“I mean it. I still can’t remember what happened the other night and I’m not interested in repeating this particular incident,” Louis replied firmly, nipping on his glass instead of downing it in one go.

“I’ll keep an eye on you then,” Reece grinned at him widely taking a first sip of his beer as well.

Louis just shook his head no in resignation, “Thanks, mate.”

“You’re welcome!” Reece laughed loudly and raised his pint in cheers, animating his friends to do the same.

“And who’s gonna watch out for you?” Tate teased their bleached-blond friend after bumping his own glass against Reece’s.

“You’d love to do that, just admit it,” Reece countered without hesitating and Louis had to keep himself from grinning like an idiot. On a night like this, he asked himself if he was the only one seeing their connection. He wondered if they would ever act on the attraction they held for each other or if idiots like Connor and Nathan would always hold them back with their dumb jokes on anything that was remotely … gay.

“Get a room,” Connor joked like on cue, nudging his elbow into Louis’ ribs and repeating the movement on his other side with Nathan, when Louis just wouldn’t laugh at his words.

“Whatever,” Reece just muttered while Tate tried not to blush too furiously.

Louis made a mental note then to talk to Reece about that thing that wasn’t a thing - for now. Someone had to tell his friend that he shouldn’t keep his feelings to himself. It was obvious that Tate felt the same. Well, it was obvious to Louis at least. Connor and Nathan never had the eye for such a thing.

They were working through their pints slowly this evening and Louis was really glad about it. He would hold his liquor a lot better this way. And he definitely didn’t want to repeat that fucking blackout from last weekend.

When Connor got up to order a second round of pints some time after nine o’clock, Louis excused himself to have a quick cig just outside the pub. His friends never got addicted to the calming feeling of smoke filling your lungs like he did. They did the occasional drag but they never craved it like Louis felt it more often than not.

He lit his cigarette and took a deep pull, calming himself down by concentrating on the feeling of the smoke engulfing his lungs like a warm hug from a friend. He knew very well that it wasn’t a healthy thing to do but it had helped him coping with all the stress that came along with being part of the world’s biggest boy band all those years. The stress had been reduced since they went on their hiatus, but the cigarettes had kinda stuck with him.

The cold December air hit his heated skin, since he hadn’t bothered with taking his jacket with him, leaving him in nothing but one of his white t-shirts. So Louis wrapped his left arm around himself, while he held the cigarette with the right hand, taking drags in quick succession.

Upon hearing the door behind him open, Louis looked over his shoulder to see Reece leaving the pub as well, holding his jacket out to him: “Thought you might need it. It’s freezing out here.”

Reece underlined his words by shoving his hands deeper into his pockets, after Louis had grabbed his jacket with a quick “thanks, mate”. The blond man just watched on while Louis held the cig between his lips to slip both arms into the soft fabric of his sweater. He felt warmer in an instant.

“So,” Reece started speaking, while Louis took another pull from his cigarette. Both of them staring up into the clear night sky.

“So,” Louis repeated when Reece didn’t say another word.

“You’ve spoken to Harry lately?” Reece voice was soft and calm, making Louis feel like he was talking about the chances for snow on Christmas Morning instead of the most sensible topic for Louis to think of.

He couldn’t stop himself from laughing dryly and taking another deep drag from his cigarette. If his friend wanted to talk about this, he definitely needed a second cigarette right after the first one. That was for sure.

“Do I look like I’ve talked to him?” He finally replied with a question of his own.

“Maybe you should,” Reece answered immediately, shifting his gaze to look right at Louis.

“Maybe you should speak with Tate,” Louis snapped back, taking a last pull and grinding the butt of the cigarette on the ground afterwards. He avoided Reece’s stare and fumbled around with his pack of smokes instead, trying to get another one out.

When he didn’t get a response right away, Louis looked up from his hands and over to his mate, who was fixing his gaze on his shoes now, making Louis sigh softly. He stuffed the cigarettes back into his jeans’ pocket - not the one that was already occupied by his phone obviously - and took the few steps remaining between them, to sling an arm around Reece’s shoulders.

“’m sorry, Reece,” he whispered next to his friends ear, “I didn’t mean for it to come out like that. It’s just … I’m sure you two are on the same page. You just need to speak up, talk about it. I bet it’ll work out then.”

For a moment, Louis was convinced that Reece would just ignore him, but then he noticed the blush creeping up the blond’s cheeks. A small smile pulled at the corners of his mouth.

“Well,” Reece started to splutter, “we ehm, we kinda like fooled around last weekend.”

The small smile on Louis’ face turned into a bright grin instantly: “It’s about time, pal.”

The resigned sigh falling from Reece’s lips told Louis that there was more to come and he was right about it: “But since then Tate hasn’t acknowledged it once. It’s like it has never happened at all for him and I have no idea how to behave around him now. It’s really frustrating to be honest.”

Louis just looked at his friend for a while, before he tightened his grip around Reece’s back: “Sounds like you haven’t said anything either so far. I bet Tate feels just as unsure as you do. Just make the first step - and talk to him.”

He really wanted to help his friends sort this out. They were way too cute together for this relationship not to happen. Maybe he had to tell them just that.

“What about Connor and Nathan?” Reece asked sounding more than a bit unsure.

“What about them? They can be dickheads from time to time, but deep down they're good guys. D’you think I’d be friends with some homophobic arseholes?” Louis raised a single curved eyebrow at him, making Reece giggle lightly.

“Yeah, you’re right,” he finally managed to agree between giggles.

“’m always right,” Louis mused nonchalantly, receiving even more giggles from Reece.

“I’ll talk to Tate,” Reece announced eventually after he had calmed down from his Louis-induced laugh attack, “under one condition.”

Louis already had a feeling what kind of condition that would be. Said feeling was confirmed when Reece resumed speaking: “You have to pull out that phone of yours and call Harry. Or maybe just write him a message that you wanna talk. I don’t care how you contact him but you gonna do it. And don’t tell me it’s okay how it is, ‘cause I can see how miserable you’re without him.”

Another sigh left Louis’s thin lips while he worked his right hand through his hair: “It’s complicated between us, Reece.”

“Then un-complicate it,” his friend’s words had a finality to them that kinda shocked Louis, leaving him speechless for just a moment.

“I’ll try, okay?” He managed to get out after a few seconds which felt more like an eternity to him.

Reece looked him in the eye before hugging him to his chest, mumbling “okay” right next to Louis’s ear. When they let go of each other again, Reece started grinning: “Let’s go back in, I’m freezing.”

Louis followed the blond into the pub, where his second pint was waiting for him. Sitting back down in the booth, he noticed Tate’s gaze switching back and forth between him and Reece and Louis decided to give him just the slightest of nods to indicate him that he would have their backs no matter what.

Connor and Nathan were laughing about some joke one of them had just made before Louis and Reece had joined them again and they just laughed along to keep the conversation flowing. It took them another half hour to finish the second round of pints and Tate suggested to change location.

The next pub was mostly the same and they spent another hour as well as another round of pints at this bar, before Reece announced that they couldn’t spent midnight in a boring pub. Upon that, Tate pulled out his phone and ordered an Addison Lee to drive them to their favourite club, which happened to be the one where the curly haired stranger hallucination had taken place. But since Louis had been persuading himself last weekend that it was just that - his imagination - there hopefully wouldn’t be the same paranoia he’d felt last time.

It was actually kinda fun, hanging with his friends at the club when he wasn’t too pissed to remember anything afterwards. They had ordered another round of pints and Louis slowly felt comfortably tipsy without being already drunk off his face.

He couldn’t tell what it was that shifted his attention over to the other side of the room. But when his gaze landed on another mop of dark curly hair, his breath got caught in his throat and his friends’ laughter faded into background noises just like the music playing around them did.

For just a millisecond, Louis was sure to imagine things again - then the curls moved around, revealing the most kissable lips and stunning green eyes Louis had ever seen in his entire life.

Harry’s gaze locked with Louis’ immediately and Louis still couldn’t breathe properly, his heart running a mile a minute, almost pounding out of his chest. It felt like the world stopped spinning around them. Like nothing else existed besides the two of them.

Louis was still caught in some kind of trance when Harry finally moved, lifting his hands and signing a short message to Louis: Are you alright?

Everything in Louis screamed at him to tell Harry the truth, that he was far from being alright. That he missed him so damn much. But instead his hands lifted of their own volition, signing back an even shorter message: I’m good.

Then, after another moment or two, he lifted his hands again, this time more conscious of the words he was signing to the other end of the room: How are you?

Louis thought to see a small flicker of something in Harry’s eyes but due to the dim lightning of the club he couldn’t tell what kind of emotion it had been. Then he was distracted by Harry’s lovely, big hands signing their answer: I’m doing fine.

Harry looked like he wanted to say more than that but their eye contact was interrupted by Connor and Nathan who were pulling Louis into a bone-crushing hug, shouting “Congrats on being old now!” into his ear. Tate and Reece were hugging him right afterwards with congratulations of their own.

Even while hugging his friends, Louis’ gaze searched the room, trying to find Harry again - until he did. He was still standing at the other end of the room, smiling that heavily dimpled grin Louis loved so much. The younger man moved his hands again in front of him: Happy Birthday, Lou!

Without thinking, Louis replied while still being embraced by Reece and Tate, drawing their attention across the room as well: You can come over, you know. And on a second thought, adding Thank you to his message.

It’s okay, Harry signed back, enjoy your birthday with your friends.

I want you to though, Louis told him through his hands.

Do you? Harry asked right back and Louis could see the hurt on his face even in the black and neon lights of the club. Or do you just feel obligated to ask me over?

Louis didn’t know how to respond to that question. In this moment, he wanted nothing more than to pull Harry into his arms, bury his face in his shoulder, breathe in his unique musk and never let go again. But he also knew, as soon as Harry would stand right in front of him, he would be somehow paralysed, unable to move or speak to him.

Thought so, Harry signed when Louis took too long to reply to him.

I’m glad to see you though, Louis finally managed to move his hands again, even though there was so much he wanted to say that he just couldn’t put into proper words.

That small, honest smile returned to Harry’s plush lips. “Me too”, he mouthed at Louis and it somehow felt like he wanted to put an end to their conversation with these two syllables.

Louis couldn’t move his gaze away though, not even when Harry already turned around to talk to whomever he was with at the moment. So after a moment of longingly staring at the back of Harry’s head, he eventually turned back to his mates, who were looking at him expectantly.

Great. Now he had to explain that conversation in sign language in a totally platonic way - which felt quite impossible if Louis was completely honest.

He didn’t have to though, because Reece nudged his arm and waved his hand towards Louis’ pocket afterwards. The one confining his phone. His blond friend then mouthed “do something” at him.

So Louis pulled out his phone and opened his messenger, staring at Harry’s name for another few seconds, thinking about what he wanted to write. His eyes moved back to Harry who still stood at the other end of the room, laughing about something someone had just said to him.

And without thinking it over too much, Louis typed away on his phone: You going to Holmes Chapel for the holidays?

He pressed send before he could change his mind. He couldn’t act like Harry wasn’t in the same room or even the same city as him. And he didn’t want to as well.

Just when he wanted to slip his phone back into his pocket, he felt it buzzing in his hand. He tried to recall the last time he’d felt this nervous. Which had to be his audition for the X Factor in 2010. Almost a lifetime ago.

Looking at Harry’s message, Louis let out a slightly relieved breath he didn’t know he had been holding in: Yeah, why?

He had to act fast, before that small sliver of bravery left him again, so he typed out his response and hit send right after: ’m driving to Donny later today. You need a ride up there?

Louis felt like a complete idiot now. What had he been thinking just now? Why should Harry even consider being trapped with Louis in such a small space like a car for over three hours? This was ridiculous. He should write an apology for making that suggestion.

Though when he looked back down at his phone, Louis’ heart just skipped a beat upon seeing Harry’s reply: You don’t have to go a long way round over Holmes Chapel just for me. That’s an additional two hour ride for you to finally get to Donny.

At least he wasn’t declining his offer. It was also a very Harry-esque thing to say, which made Louis smile nonetheless.

And so Louis answered with the only thing, he knew would convince Harry - the truth: I wouldn’t have offered if I’d mind the detour, Haz.

It felt strange and right at the same time, using Harry’s nickname again.

Louis couldn’t stop himself from looking in Harry’s direction one more time, meeting his green eyes when he turned around to look at him as well, Louis’ phone buzzing with another message at the same time. He didn’t want to break the connection between their eyes, but he also had to know Harry’s answer so he looked down after another few seconds. An honest smile was spreading on his face, crinkling up his eyes at last.

Okay, let’s do this then.

Chapter Text

When The Lights Go On

Chapter 3 - Comfortable silence is so overrated (From The Dining Table)

Louis held the steering wheel tight with sweating hands, adjusting his grip every few seconds. He was literally inching up the driveway to Harry’s house, the anticipation eating away on his nerves. There were another ten minutes left until he had to pick up Harry at his London house, though he might be a bit early on purpose. Especially since he was usually always late.

If he was honest with himself, Louis kinda hoped Harry would ask him in while he had to get ready for their drive up to North England. He also wondered if Harry had packed them a few sandwiches for the road. At least he used to do so back when they … hadn’t been on a break.

Though before Louis could even turn off the engine, Harry opened the front door to his house, duffle bag thrown over his shoulder and a small basket in his right hand. It almost seemed like he’d already been waiting for Louis to arrive. A grey beanie was covering his brown curls, similar to the one Louis was wearing himself. Their entire dress attire for the day seemed particularly similar. Comfortable joggers and a soft-looking hoodie over a simple t-shirt. Even after three years apart, they somehow still mirrored each other.

Louis’ heart dropped into his stomach. How was he supposed to get through this day without losing his mind completely?

Still gripping so hard onto the steering wheel that his knuckles turned white, Louis observed Harry moving to the left side of the car, putting his bag as well as the basket down in the backseat where Clifford was taking a nap right now, before he climbed into the passenger’s seat. And it felt like an eternity, before either of them found the words to break the silence between them.

“Hey, Lou,” Harry spoke up first, “Thanks again for the ride.”

Hearing Harry’s voice after so long - apart from appearances on the radio or on tv - really helped Louis finding his own words now: “Stop thanking me for this, Harry. ‘s not like it’s an inconvenience for me. I’ve-”

Louis interrupted himself. He was about to say that he’d missed Harry, but he wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to say. It was his fault after all. The whole ‘we’re on a break’ thing. It felt like he didn’t have the right to miss Harry. But he really, really did miss him.

“You?” Harry asked slowly sounding almost hopeful, when Louis didn’t make an attempt to speak again.

Instead of answering right away, Louis slowly turned the car to get them on the road. He waited with his response until he left Harry’s driveway: “I’ve just been kinda relieved that you’ve agreed to this little road trip. It’s really good to see you.”

Keeping his eyes on the road the whole time, Louis had just his peripheral vision to gauge Harry’s reaction, but he was almost sure he noticed how the younger man sucked his lower lip between his teeth for a moment. And Louis really tried not to grin. He really, really tried. The pull on the corners of his mouth was too strong though. He still loved Harry with all of his heart and nothing could change that. Not even three years apart.

Especially not these years he had to spend without him. It had only gotten worse since then actually.

“It’s good to see you, too, Louis,” Harry finally replied to his words, “And I’m glad that you’ve asked me to come with you on this trip.”

Louis detached his eyes from the road for just a moment, to look straight into Harry’s beautiful green eyes, and he was literally at the verge of pulling over, halting the car right here in the middle of a random street in London and dragging Harry into his arms to finally kiss those plump lips again. But that would leave them in a quite awkward situation now, wouldn’t it? So Louis turned his gaze back on the road, distracting himself from the beautiful man sitting casually next to him by concentrating on the street and the other cars around them.

Harry had returned his look for the moment it had lasted, but afterwards they both had fallen silent, agreeing not to mention it again during the ride just by looking at each other. That had been a thing between them. Knowing what the other one was thinking without putting it in actual words.

They had just left Greater London, when Louis couldn’t stand the heavy silence hanging between them, so he reached over to turn on the radio - just to be greeted with Harry’s sulky voice singing Sign of the Times. Great. Someone in this universe really had to hate him, obviously.

“You could change the channel,” the real Harry next to him started talking again, his slow drawl sounding just as sulky. Louis really tried not to show how his body and muscle memory reacted to that voice. Again, he really did try. And he just hoped Harry hadn’t noticed the shiver running down his spine and pooling somewhere near his crotch.

At first, Louis just wanted to do as Harry had said - because, let’s be honest, more than five minutes of Harry singing on the radio in that rough voice would be the end of Louis - but then he noticed the blush creeping up on the younger man’s cheeks from the corner of his eyes. Could it be that Harry was embarrassed about hearing his own song on the radio? Or was this more about Louis hearing his song on the radio?

That was probably wishful thinking. Louis had already come to accept the fact, that Harry had most likely moved on during the past three years. He wouldn’t dare to dream that Harry was pining as much after him as he was. One pathetic loser in this car was enough after all.

“What? You don’t wanna listen to your own bedroom voice, Harold?” Louis just couldn’t keep the sass in, but he really wished he hadn’t used the term bedroom voice. He really needed to get himself under control again. Though that had never been easy with Harry by his side, which wasn’t even a secret really. He had told the whole fucking world about that. Kinda.

“It is kinda weird though, isn’t it?” Harry fumbled with the rings adorning his long fingers and Louis had to remind himself to concentrate on the street in front of him. It wouldn’t help anyone if he would crash the car into the next tree or wall or whatever.

“Only if we make it weird,” Louis replied slowly, his accent showing more than usual due to his unreasonable nervousness around Harry.

Their eyes met again, this time over the rear view mirror, matching smiles spreading over their faces. Harry’s dimples started to show instantly and Louis’ smile just grew wider on that, crinkling up his eyes like they’d always used to do around Harry.

“Would it be less weird if we sang along?” Harry suggested, just the smallest of giggles echoing in his voice.

“That’d probably just make it worse,” Louis responded with a grin of his own, feeling relieved that they’d somehow resolved the tension in the car.

“Probably, yeah,” Harry mused and Louis could feel those green eyes burning into the side of his face. Though for safety reasons he restrained himself from looking back at Harry.

Instead he changed the channel to another station, just to realise this one was playing Perfect. Therefore he decided to screw all radio stations in England and just switch over to his iTunes. That would be safer anyway. He wasn’t someone who put his own songs on his iTunes. And fortunately, Harry’s music wasn’t part of it either. It was called self-preservation.

They spend another few miles in silence though Louis couldn’t quite tell if it was a comfortable one. He’d rather use the time they were trapped in his car by talking about something, anything to be honest, than being left alone with his slightly depressing thoughts. So he really tried to find a topic that wasn’t too delicate.

Finally, he decided to ask about family, guessing this wouldn’t go all downhill like some other possible topics: “How’s Gemma doing?”

Another small smile appeared on Harry’s lips, at least it looked like that from Louis’ peripheral vision and after five years of being in a serious relationship he’d become quite good at telling Harry’s expression without even looking properly.

“I actually do like the current boyfriend and I have a feeling it’s working out quite well for the two of them,” Harry told him, the smile audible in his voice as well, “What about the girls? Do Phoebe and Daisy still think that boys are dumb or have they changed their minds already?”

Louis couldn’t keep himself from laughing at that question. It also helped to further loosen his tight grip on the steering wheel, easing the tension from his body.

“As far as I’m informed they’re still dumb in the twin’s eyes. I have to say I’m kinda glad about that. Having to deal with two boyfriends is already too exhausting. But who knows. They probably just don’t tell their big brother that they’re already into boys. Or maybe they just like girls.”

Harry joined in on Louis’ laughing, the car being filled with the rich sound of Harry’s beautiful laughter. The whole area around Louis’ heart warmed up immediately, his pulse beating loud and fast in his ears. Though talking about their siblings reminded Louis of the darker parts of their family history.

His laughter slowly died down and he turned completely serious with his next question: “What about Anne? She doing alright?”

A long sigh left Harry’s full lips, his large right hand combing through his short curls acting on an old habit and shoving the beanie from his head in the process. He was clearly searching for the right words and Louis was about to say he didn’t have to answer him, when Harry spoke up slowly: “She’s, well, she’s not fine obviously. It’s … it is what it is. She’s coping.”

At first, Louis just nodded his head in understanding another heavy silence falling over the car, only disturbed by The Script playing on Louis’ iTunes. Then Louis pulled over the car and halted it for a moment at the side of the street, rolling down his window, before fishing his cigarettes from his hoodie. He really needed a smoke right now.

“Yeah, life just moves on. There’s no means to stop living ya own life all of a sudden,” he finally replied between two drags.

Harry didn’t say anything while Louis was smoking his cig with slightly trembling hands, blowing the smoke out of the opened window. Louis suggested it was somehow on instinct when Harry suddenly grabbed his free hand.

“You promised to cut it down,” the younger man beside him eventually broke the silence when they were back on the road. His hand was still lingering on Louis’ and he knew that he should pull his hand out of Harry’s but he couldn’t bring himself to do so.

“Yeah, whatever …” Louis wasn’t able to look at Harry but at least he had an excuse by concentrating on the cars in front of his own. He really had promised Harry to smoke less but that happened before they decided to go on a break. So what was Harry’s point anyway? It wasn’t like it was still his job to be concerned about him.

“Lou, we’ve already had this discussion. And just because we’re … like … not living with one another … I still care about you and your health.” Harry’s voice got louder on this, his concern obviously lacing his tone and his hand grabbing Louis’ even tighter.

This time, it was Louis who dragged his hand through his hair under his beanie ruining his non-existing hairstyle. A reluctant sigh left his lips afterwards: “I know. ‘m sorry. ‘m already down to one or two on a slow day.”

“Good,” Harry muttered while putting his beanie back in place, letting go of Louis’ hand in the process, “That’s good. I’ve always known that you can do it. I’m proud of you, Lou.”

Louis didn’t know what he was supposed to say to this. He just managed a tight-lipped smile followed by a curt nod of his head. His heart was beating so much faster than when he took part in a footie match, he almost feared that Harry could hear it. Also, this wasn’t going anywhere as smoothly as he’d hoped for this trip to go.

They spent another few miles like that just listening to the music, until it was Harry’s turn to try and lighten the mood a little bit: “So, you’ve already got some specific plans for 2019 then?”

Louis looked at Harry through the rear view mirror, before he replied dryly: “Yeah, actually, I’m finally doing that brand new broadway production of Cats. Been dying to do that for a long ass time now.”

As if on cue, Harry bursted into laughter before he shook his head no, an exasperated breathe leaving his lungs in a sigh: “Geez, that interview was awful.”

“I like to think back on that particular interview. One of me favourites to be honest. Also, every interview with James used to be hilarious,” Louis countered instantly, feeling relieved that they’d reached calmer waters again in their conversation.

“Really now? Maybe you should have texted him then instead of me to join you on this ride.”

Fortunately, Louis had just stopped the car at a red light so it wasn’t too bad that his head whipped around to look at the curly-haired man sitting right next to him. He knew that expression all too well. The knitted line of his straight eyebrows, his green eyes turning just the slightest bit darker, especially when he transfixed his gaze on the person who’d dared to touch Louis in any way possible. Louis had always loved to see Harry’s jealousy being clear as day, when it was captured by a camera in particular.

When the traffic light turned green, Louis finally started to respond: “Harry, …”

“‘m sorry. Didn’t mean for it to come out like this. I don’t wanna make things awkward, Lou. Just forget I’ve said that,” Harry interrupted him, before Louis could even think of the words, he wanted to say in reply.

Though he was sure that he definitely didn’t want to forget what Harry had just said, he didn’t know how to handle it either. So he settled for the only thing that came to his mind - telling Harry the truth: “‘s okay. No offence taken. But I want you to know, that I’m always gonna pick you over James for sure.” Over anyone to be honest, but he kept that part to himself. “And I’m glad that I’ve finally got the chance to talk to you again.”

Another short pause made room for a somewhat awkward silence and - to Louis at least - it felt like an eternity before Harry confirmed that he was feeling the same: “Yeah, me too, Lou. Me too.”

Afterwards, they went back to that slightly uncomfortable silence, where they were just listening to the music serving as background noises. Though this time it lasted almost an hour and Louis was this close to losing his mind but he couldn’t think of anything he could have said that wouldn’t lead to them having to talk about their relationship. Or recent lack thereof.

Some time during that hour, Clifford had woken up from his nap and demanded a bit of attention which he’d received from Harry immediately. Seeing the two of them interact had done funny things to Louis’s stomach. Or maybe it had been his heart pounding way too fast in his chest.

As soon as Clifford went back to napping, Harry raised his voice to address Louis softly: “Are you hungry? I’ve made us some sandwiches, just in case.”

Even now, when they hadn’t had real contact in about three years, Harry still provided Louis with food and he wasn’t sure if his heart could handle it. He wondered for just a moment, how he was supposed to finally move on, when his stupid heart was still in love with that beautiful, dorky man beside him. Then he realised that he really didn’t want to move on, that he still hoped to work this out somehow. Though he wasn’t sure if there was a way to make it right again, what had happened between them.

“’m actually starving over here,” Louis confessed, noticing a sign for an upcoming service station at the same time. “How about we make a short break and eat up your famous sandwiches? I’d bet Clifford would be up for a quick stroll as well.”

“Sounds good to me,” Harry agreed with a small smile stretching over his lips, just far enough to give a hint at his dimples.

Louis had to smile as well upon seeing it in the rear view mirror and it stayed right in place until they left the motorway to park the car right next to a picnic table. Snow had started to fall again, so they decided to eat inside the car. The sandwiches were as delicious as Louis remembered them to be - and, of course, Harry had happened to make Louis’ favourites.

“You wanna go for a quick walk, buddy?” After finishing their meal Louis turned around to the backseat to look at Clifford expectantly, getting a short bark in response. “Then let’s go.”

Harry followed them, leaving the car on the passenger’s side while Louis hooked on the leash to Clifford’s collar: “It’s freezing out here. You can be glad to have such a beautiful, cozy fur, Clifford.”

The giggle left Louis’ lips without his permission. He’d really tried to keep it in, but Harry was way too adorable for his own good. It also made Louis to wanna jump his bones and snog him breathless. That would also be a good way to keep you warm, his brain told him but Louis decided to ignore it. He was a grown man, he could control himself around the sexiest man alive, thank you very much.

Damnit, who was he even kidding anyway?

“Then get your fucking hoodie outta the car, Harold,” Louis reminded him, rolling his eyes. Though by the way his cheeks started to hurt, he could tell that he’d got that look on his face again. The one the fans had described as his fonding over Harry look.

Harry went back to his side of the car to retrieve the hoodie he had discarded during the ride, before he caught up with Louis and Clifford again. And as it was common for them on this day, they remained silent during their walk. The silence seemed almost deep enough for Louis to imagine that he could hear the sound of snow falling onto the pavement.

After ten minutes of strolling through the snow they both resembled walking ice cubes more than actual human beings, so they returned to the car. Back inside neither Louis nor Harry seemed to find the right words to start a conversation again, letting the silence between them grow even heavier with every crawling minute.

Back on the road, Louis really tried to only concentrate on the street in front of him, but he couldn’t help it. Every now and then, his eyes moved just enough so he could see Harry from his peripheral vision. And every single time he had to check the rear view mirror, his gaze would also linger on the curly haired angel beside him. He was so close to ripping his hair out, that was how frustrated he already was.

From time to time, Harry would catch him staring holding his gaze for a few seconds afterwards, before he would avert his green eyes. Those beautiful, green eyes. They’d always been Louis’ downfall.

Louis wanted to hit himself for not finding the right words to say, for making this more awkward than it had to be. And for the second time in the twenty-seven years of his life he wished for the ability to turn back time, to go back three years and never make the mistake of agreeing to take a break.

When he finally pulled up in front of Anne’s House in Holmes Chapel, Louis wasn’t sure if he was glad that they had reached their destination or if he regretted that he couldn’t spend more time with Harry. His heart definitely rooted for the second opinion.

“Well,” Louis eventually broke the silence. “Here we are. Tell Anne and Gemma I said hi.”

He watched how Harry bit down on his lower lip looking somehow unsure, like he considered if his response would be appropriate. Though all Louis could think about when presented with that view was definitely more on the terms of inappropriate at the given time. That look on Harry’s face was way too close to what the fans called Harry thirsting after Louis.

“Will do,” Harry finally replied in his slow drawl. “And thanks again for the ride, Lou.”

“Sure thing. I’d do anything for you, Haz.” The words had left Louis’ lips without his permission, receiving a wide-eyed look in return.

Though before Harry could form any kind of a verbal reply, a knock on the window of the passengers’ side door startled them both before the door was opened by a grinning Anne: “You two gonna come in any time soon? Gemma’s just arrived as well.”

They both looked at Harry’s mum surprised, at a loss of words, though Louis was the first to regain his composure: “I’d love to, Anne, but me siblings are waiting for me over in Donny. Next time though.”

Louis felt horrible for turning her down, preventing his smile from reaching his eyes. She was family to him after all. But his heart wouldn’t be able to handle this right now.

“That’s too bad,” Anne managed to respond, her smile slightly faltering. “Well, drive safe then, hun. And happy birthday.”

Louis quietly thanked her and assured her, that he would be driving safely, while Harry got out of the car. He ruffled Clifford’s fur a last time after getting his duffle bag from the backseat.

Anne already walked back to the front door, waving to him when he looked in her direction. Louis waved back while Harry walked up to the driver’s side to say his goodbye: “I’ll see you around, I guess.”

A nod was all Louis managed in that moment. Every possible word he could say to make Harry stay with him was stuck in his throat. He couldn’t even breathe properly.

The younger man tugged at his lower lip with his teeth, before he turned towards his childhood home: “Merry Christmas, Lou.”

And then he walked away, while Louis couldn’t do anything but watch him go.

“Merry Christmas to you too, Hazza.”

Chapter Text

When The Lights Go On

Chapter 4 - And the good champagne (History)

Celebrating Christmas with his siblings always warmed his heart. Especially seeing the twins’ bright eyes and happy smiles did it for him every time, though he'd really had no interest in talking about his love life with Lottie and Fizzy. His currently very non-existent love life. That had left him even more frustrated than saying goodbye to Harry in Holmes Chapel.

He'd gone back to London a few days after New Year’s Eve and since Lottie hadn’t stopped harassing him to call Harry again - some of her words had been quite hurting and also very rude - he’d at least convinced himself to write him another message, asking if he needed a ride back.

Louis still wasn’t sure if he’d been relieved or disappointed when Harry had told him that he was already back in London. It had probably been both emotions mixed together like a gin tonic - and the concoction was just as deadly.

Since he was back at his own London house, the days started to get busy again for Louis. The release of his first solo album was planned for January 18th and there was still quite a lot to do beforehand, like the cover shoot for example.

It felt strange to do this on his own but so did recording the whole album, so … what else was new? Definitely the part, where he’d got a say in choosing the pictures that would be used for the cd booklet. That was a nice change of things.

A week prior to the release, his manager told him about the kinda big album release party he’d planned for Louis. The guest list was finished so far, though Louis could fill in some names himself if he’d wanted to do so. And he really did want to invite his most special people. While Lottie and Fizzy had already been on the guest list, Louis added not only Reece, Tate, Nathan and Connor but obviously his boys as well (though Liam had already been on the list as well since they had the same manager).

Being busy as he was, the last few days flew by and Louis almost couldn’t keep up with it. He had contacted his friends personally to invite them all to the party which would be held at a rented club. Everyone answered him immediately that they would join him for his big night - even Zayn, who he was occasionally texting again, replied after a few minutes. Just one person hadn’t reacted at all until Thursday evening and Louis couldn’t refrain from feeling kinda pissed.

When he eventually received Harry’s message on Friday morning his initial reaction was to tell him that he could fucking stay at home now. Though upon reading the actual message, his anger was replaced by fond exasperation: Hey, Lou. I’m sorry for making you wait. I’ve kinda lost my phone at Gemma’s. It obviously died down by the time she’d finally found it. I’d love to come tonight. If you’re still letting me in that is.

Louis stared at Harry’s words, wondering if he’d made that innuendo on purpose or if he hadn’t noticed at all how these words came along. With Harry it could be both, honestly.

Don’t know yet. Maybe I’ll make you beg first.

He sent the message before he could think too much about possible consequences. Harry had started this after all. Well, maybe. He couldn't be sure that Harry had made that innuendo on purpose. It could have been just Louis' imagination. He shouldn’t have written this. What had he been thinking to write such a thing? Oh yeah, right, he had been thinking about pinning Harry down on the bed, teasing him relentlessly until he was begging him to please just sit on his dick already.

For five very long minutes, Louis just kept looking at his screen, waiting for Harry to reply with a similarly witty comeback. So when he hadn’t received a response in almost ten minutes, he started to panic and typed out a quick message to keep the collateral damage as small as possible: ‘m just kidding, Haz

Then he set down his phone on his nightstand and went into the en suite to take a quick - and cold - shower to hopefully calm his nerves as well as his way too responsive cock. He wouldn’t be able to look Harry in the eye if he’d have a wank thinking about him right now. So he wouldn’t.

Back in his bedroom, he instantly grabbed his phone to check his messages but Harry still owned him a reply. It was freaking him out and he wasn’t sure if he could make it through the day if Harry decided to just not reply at all.

Louis threw his phone on his bed to get dressed in a pair of track pants and an old sweater - one of those that had originally belonged to Harry and therefore was at least one size too big on him, but he didn’t care, to be honest. He had just slipped his head through the collar when he saw the screen lighting up with a new notification. Fortunately, Clifford was the only one seeing him running to his phone in a mad dash, his heart beating out of his chest when he read Harry’s name on the screen along with his message.

I’ll see you tonight.

A groan left his throat. How was he supposed to read any kind of emotion out of these four words? That was literally impossible. What had Harry been thinking when typing the message? And why had it taken him this long to reply with such a simple answer? So many questions and no answers at all.

He spent most time of his day playing Fifa and trying not to think about Harry, which he failed at miserably but no one had to know that. Around five o’clock, Lottie and Fizzy showed up to make sure he would be dressed to the nines. So while Fizzy went through his wardrobe to look for the perfect outfit to ‘totally woo curly back into his arms’, Lottie was looking at his hair like a disappointed mother.

“Really though, Louis. Your hair’s definitely seen better days,” she scolded him with a tutting sound leaving her lips afterwards.

He didn’t reply and just let her do her thing - and he had to admit that his two sisters definitely knew what they were doing. When he looked into the mirror, he was really impressed by his own appearance. He kinda hoped that Harry would also be just as impressed. He really, really hoped so. Even though he knew that he didn’t even deserve a second chance.

They still managed to arrive a bit early as he was expected since it was his party. Matt congratulated him on the album release which was apparently going really well so far. That piece of information eased at least part of his nervousness, though his nerves were mostly on edge because of Harry and that stupid message.

People started arriving shortly after Louis and his sisters did and every single person came over to congratulate him on his first solo album. Nathan and Connor were the first of his closest friends to arrive, immediately dragging him to the bar to get some celebratory shots because champagne wouldn't do it for them. These two had a really unhealthy relationship with tequila shots.

They were just ordering the third round of shots, when Reece and Tate also joined them. While Reece pulled Louis into a bone crushing hug, Tate just clapped his shoulder in acknowledgement.

Connor ordered two more shots for his friends and they all downed them immediately, leaving a burning sensation in Louis’ throat. Three shots were definitely enough though, so he told his friends he had to greet some more people.

Making his way through the crowd, Liam came into view and Louis headed right over to his friend. When he was just a few feet away, he also recognised the person talking to Liam.

“Hey, glad you could make it. Both of you,” Louis almost shouted over the loud music.

Liam who had already seen Louis approach just smiled at his friend and pulled him into a one-armed hug. Zayn looked a bit more startled upon Louis’ greeting since he had faced Liam and therefore hadn’t seen him coming over.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Liam replied in a similar volume.

“Same,” Zayn grinned in his typical monosyllabic way.

“How’s the little one doing?” Louis wanted to know, grabbing Liam’s shoulder in a reassuring gesture.

“He’s good. Growing too fast for my liking,” Liam told him, a shy smile appearing on his lips. “He’s with Cheryl most of the time, but I get to have him every other weekend. It’s nice to have him over.”

“He’s not even two and can be a little shit sometimes.”

One of Louis’ elegantly curved eyebrows wandered up towards his fringe at Zayn’s comment on Liam’s son. He wanted to ask him on what occasion he’d met the little Bear because Louis hadn’t seen the kid in ages and he really missed him. He’d always liked them best at this age.

Before he could voice his irritation though, the air was knocked out of his lungs by a sudden weight on his back: “You know, it’s considered rude to not introduce your guests to each other? Hi, I’m Reece, that’s Tate. Nice to meet you.”

Reece remained on Louis’ back one arm slung around his chest, grabbing his shoulder for support, while he extended the other hand for Liam to shake: “I like your glasses. I’ve always told Tate it’s okay to put on his glasses from time to time but he can be sooo vain sometimes.”

“Oi, that’s not true,” Tate interrupted him, “I just don’t like my glasses. His are cool. Mine are nerdy.”

“Then get new glasses. You look good in glasses,” Reece shot back not showing any sign of leaving Louis’ back.

“You gonna get back on your own two feet any time soon, mate?” Louis wanted to know but was completely ignored by his friends.

“Stop it,” Tate blushed so hard that it was easy to see, even in the bad lighting of the club.

Louis noticed the look both Liam and Zayn gave his two friends and he wondered if Reece had talked to Tate after their short conversation on his birthday. At least it seemed like he’d done so.

“It’s true though,” Reece countered while still clinging to Louis’ back.

“It’s not!” Tate blushed even harder, looking back and forth between the men standing around him.

“So everyone still wants a piece of Tommo,” another voice interrupted the banter between Reece and Tate, making everyone expect for Louis laugh. He just rolled his eyes at Niall’s choice of words.

Though finally, Reece decided to climb off of Louis’ back to stand right next to Tate, their arms touching obviously. Louis moved his head from left to right to get out the tension in his back muscles.

“I’m gonna pass up that one. No offence, Tommo, but you’re not my type,” Zayn grinned with a certain glint in his eyes that Louis couldn’t quite place.

“No offence taken,” Louis replied with a similar grin on his lips which instantly fell off his face when he heard Niall’s next comment: “I guess you’re lucky someone isn’t around to see. We all know how jealous he gets like always.”

An awkward silence fell upon the group since everyone knew who Niall was talking about, though no one wanted to mention it really. The first one to flee from the tension was Reece, grabbing Tate’s hand, pulling him onto the dance floor and leaving behind four fifth of One Direction.

“Well done, Nialler,” Louis mumbled while he watched his other friends dance in a rather obvious way. Reece’s hands were wrapped around Tate’s neck and he was almost grinding against his boyfriend. Louis was ninety-nine percent sure that this was the right term to use for these two by now.

“I like your friends,” Liam tried to stir their conversation into safer waters, “they also kinda remind me of us.” He added this bit with a grin directed towards Niall.

“Huh?” Niall looked at Liam with confusion written all over his face, before he turned his gaze back to the couple on the dance floor. “Oh, yeah, I see what you mean.”

“What does he mean?”

Louis had literally never seen Niall move as fast as he did in that moment, spinning around to face the slightly teasing voice behind them. His face, usually adorned by a big smile, was showing nothing but what Louis would call pure horror.

“What are you doing here?” Niall managed to get out when he finally found his voice again.

“It’s nice to see you too, Niall, and I was invited just like you were I suppose.”

Louis watched the banter evolving between Niall and non other than Shawn Mendes and he really tried not to feel intrigued by the guy’s height. The boy was ridiculously tall.

His attention was only shortly averted when he saw Zayn giving Liam an almost unnoticeable nod and Louis thought that his former partner in crime was trying to be subtle about it. Well, maybe it would’ve been subtle to anyone else, though as someone who had to be subtle about literally everything for over four years he noticed it nonetheless. Therefore, he was only mildly vexed when Liam excused himself just a few minutes after Zayn had done the same. Interesting.

“Of course it’s good to see you, Shawnie. You just caught me off guard,” Niall replied, nervous laughter accompanying his words.

“That’s good to know, but it’s not an answer to my initial question now, is it?” Shawn’s sassy counter made Louis grin. He didn’t know the Canadian very well but he took an instant liking to him from that comment alone. He also had to thank Matt for inviting him, because he wouldn't want to miss a second of this conversation.

“Damnit. You really gonna make me say it, huh?” Niall slightly shook his head in resignation. “He was talking about the time when we used to fool around for a bit. You happy now that you’ve made me admit it?”

The blush creeping into Shawn’s cheeks stood in stark contrast to his irritated look, brows furrowed clearly unamused: “I don’t think happy quite cuts it.”

Niall belted out a loud laugh while putting his hand on Shawn’s biceps: “Let’s get you a drink, Shawnie.”

Before the Irishman could guide the young Canadian towards the bar, Louis held back his friend with a slightly puzzled look on his face: “What’s going on between the two of you?”

Niall looked back just as confused while Shawn just headed over to the bar without noticing that Niall wasn’t following right after him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Don’t give me that shit, Niall. I know this look,” Louis interrupted his friend.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Lou. What kinda look?” Niall furrowed his brow and Louis realised that his friend honestly didn’t know what he had been implying.

“I’m talking about you fonding over your ridiculously tall Canadian boytoy,” Louis teased him.

“Hey, he’s not a boytoy! And I’m not fonding!” Niall protested loudly.

“Huh,” Louis tried to hold in a laugh, “protective aren’t we?”

“Shut up, Tommo. You’d better go over there and work on your own relationship,” Niall nodded his head in the direction behind Louis, before he turned around to follow Shawn to the bar.

Louis was about to turn around when he heard the nice low timbre of Harry’s slow drawl behind him: “Congratulations on the new album. It’s great.”

Chapter Text

When The Lights Go On

Chapter 5 - Baby, here we go again (Back To You)

“Congratulations on the new album. It’s great.”

Louis waited another second before he turned around to face Harry. He needed that moment to brace himself, to control his facial expression, to remind himself that it was just Harry. No big deal. He knew he would show up. They’d also known each other for over eight years now. So why was he so fucking nervous all of a sudden? Oh right, he’d written that damn text message about making Harry beg earlier today.

“Thanks. It means a lot to me. Every single song speaks for me in one way or another, so …” His words trailed off, swallowed by the music surrounding them. He meant every word on that album. He’d never been more honest in his life.

As soon as the words had left his mouth, Louis could literally see the wheels turning in Harry’s head and he knew what he was about to say before he even opened his mouth: “I’m gonna find ya-”

“Don’t, Harry. Just don’t,” Louis tried to stop him at the same time, failing miserably as usual in stopping Harry’s bad jokes. He loved every single one of them though.

A grin spread over Harry’s lips then, hinting at his dimples, and finally they both started laughing lightheartedly. In that moment Louis had at least a sliver of hope left that they could find their way back to each other. They still seemed to have the same connection. He’d already thought as much a few times during their little road trip up north on his birthday. And it was still one of his favourite things, making Harry laugh.

“I’m glad I wasn’t turned down at the door,” Harry said after he’d stopped laughing.

The words reminded Louis of the messages he had sent this morning. The innuendo, that had been ignored by Harry all day. The images his mind had provided to him thanks to that message, which were now playing again while he was standing right in front of Harry. He had to regain his self control like now. Or more like yesterday. He couldn’t risk sporting an erection in Harry’s presence. He had written No Control for a reason after all.

“As if anyone could turn you down, Haz.” The words had left Louis’ mouth before he could stop himself, realising what he’d said in that exact moment he heard the words himself. He could really use another shot right now.

He wanted the ground to swallow him in that moment but he couldn’t even manage to look away, his gaze fixed on Harry’s own. He did mean those words so maybe he shouldn’t take them back at all, show Harry that he still felt the same. Even after three years with almost no communication. If it was possible, he loved him even more now than he did before they’d decided to go on a break.

“You’ve done it before though,” Harry replied, his voice almost too quiet to be noticeable over the music but Louis heard him anyway - and his heart clamped down knowing very well that Harry was right. It was his fault that they were in this situation right now. And he wouldn’t be surprised if Harry didn’t wanna take him back at all.

“I did, didn’t I? Right fool I am, letting go of the best thing that has ever happened to me.” That was what Louis wanted to tell him but before he could mumble more than the first word they were interrupted by Connor and Nathan slinging their arms around Louis’ shoulders.

“Here, have some more shots, mate. We have to get you wasted on your big night, no? Couldn’t forgive ourselves if you could remember one thing tomorrow.” Connor held the small glass filled to the brim with clear liquor up to Louis’ lips and he opened his mouth to down the vodka by muscle memory only.

Nathan followed by bringing a shot of tequila to Louis’ face directly afterwards and Louis knew in that moment that these two friends of his would be his downfall sooner rather than later. He also knew that it was never a good idea to mix different types of liquor but it was already too late for that anyway.

Still feeling the tequila burning in his throat, Louis looked back up to Harry - or he would have done so but the curly haired man was gone. Damn it. Or more like damn Connor and Nathan and their obsession with taking shots.

Louis looked around the crowded space, but he couldn’t spot him for the life of him. Maybe he needed some new friends who wouldn’t distract him from the love of his life, for fuck’s sake. But life just didn’t work that way, huh. And they were really good friends most of the time.

Since he couldn’t find Harry straight away, Louis let his friends drag him back to the bar for another round of shots as well as more champagne. There couldn’t be too much champagne as it seemed.

Niall was still standing at the bar as well, right next to that Canadian giant Shawn Mendes, but Louis had to admit that he was just the right size for Niall. Even though they might not know it yet. Louis could already imagine Niall resting his head on Shawn’s shoulder. It would be just the perfect height to have a comfortable angle.

He wanted to rest his head at a nice shoulder as well, wanted to spend a whole day lounging on his couch while snuggling up to the warm body beside him, his head on Harry’s shoulder.

Thinking about the small things he missed about being with Harry, he started to zoom out, gaze still fixed on Niall and Shawn, one laughing obnoxiously while the other grinned rather smugly, though he didn’t really notice them any longer. Therefore, he was pretty startled when Connor nudged his arm and shouted right into his ear: “What you staring at, mate?”

Louis had to literally shake himself from his thoughts and focus on his friends again before he replied: “Nothing really. Just thinking.”

“You’re not here to think, you’re here to drink, Lewis. We’re celebrating!” Nathan already slurred his words slightly while he pulled Louis back to face the bar again.

He knew it would be better to stop with the shots this instance but he couldn’t turn down his friends like that. Even though they had distracted him from talking to Harry. They were his friends after all.

Three more shots and two glasses of champagne later, Louis felt almost dizzy and more than slightly buzzed. It was really time to stop drinking now and the perfect opportunity to escape Connor and Nathan presented itself before him in the shape of his sister Fizzy who dragged him onto the dance floor. Lottie was already dancing between dozens of sweaty bodies where Louis and Fizzy joined her.

The alcohol was running through his veins, making him feel lightheaded and forget about his earlier need to find Harry. At least for now. The loud music was buzzing inside his head and contributing to the fogginess of his mind. He tried to ignore that for the time being by closing his eyes and concentrating on moving his muscles in the music’s rhythm.

He couldn’t tell how much time had passed when he stumbled back over to the bar to order some much needed water. It was probably already past midnight but he didn’t really care. This was his album release party and he was most likely expected to party till dawn. Considering that, past midnight was rather early in the night.

The barkeeper placed a glass of water in front of him, which he downed in three quick gulps. Feeling slightly better now, Louis turned his back towards the bar letting his gaze linger on the room full of people he all knew more or less and remembered his conversation with Harry.

Maybe he should try and find him again, tell him all the things he couldn’t say thanks to Connor and Nathan interrupting them. Though on the other side, he was really, really drunk and maybe it wasn’t the best idea to talk to Harry while he was shitfaced. Things could slip out of his mouth that were meant to stay inside. It was probably best to resume dancing. Dancing was a safe thing to do.

His mind settled on it, Louis stumbled towards the dance floor again, his blue eyes searching for his sisters. When he finally located Lottie’s bleached blonde hair among the crowd, Louis tried to make his way through the mop of people without bumping into too many dancers.

Since his movements were anything but graceful in his current drunken state, he managed to stumble into more than one person, but the people surrounding him didn’t seem to take notice. One of them did though, grabbing Louis’ arm and halting him in his stride.

Louis opened his mouth to either apologise or have a whinge - he couldn’t be sure until the words finally left his mouth considering the amount of alcohol he had consumed throughout the night. The words got stuck in his throat though when his gaze met the startling green of Harry’s eyes. His curls were messier than a few hours ago possibly due to his dorky attempts at dancing, his lips slightly parted and oh so pink.

The air around them, smelling of sweat and alcohol just moments ago, was heavy with Harry’s cologne and that special scent that was just uniquely him, which made Louis’ mind even foggier than before. All he could think about was Harry and the faint memory of feeling those plump lips against his own, all over his heated skin, driving him mad with lust. If he didn’t look away in the next two seconds he would probably jump Harry’s bones.

Harry’s hand was still wrapped around his arm and his skin started to tingle under the touch. Oh, how he longed to feel his skin against his own again, to be engulfed by his warmth and his scent.

“I miss you so fucking much,” The words had left his mouth without his permission, slightly slurred because of the alcohol running through his veins. He really hoped that the loud music swallowed his confession completely - or at least enough of it that Harry couldn’t tell what he’d said.

“I miss you too.” Had he just imagined things or had Harry really admitted to missing him as well? His eyes searched Harry’s face for any kind of hint that he’d really said those words.

There was nothing he wanted to do more than grab his dimpled face and smash their lips together - but the excessive drinking he’d done with Nathan and Connor was catching up to him in that very moment: “‘m gonna be sick.”

Louis turned around and somehow managed to find the loo just in time to empty his stomach into the toilet. While he was heaving he felt a soothing hand rubbing over his back and he didn’t have to look up to know that Harry had followed him.

“You feeling better now, Lou?” Harry asked him in his slow drawl when he sat back on his haunches.

“Not really, no. But thanks … for, you know,” Louis made a vague gesture indicating the room around them.

“It’s okay,” Harry mumbled under his breath, “anytime.”

“You’re too good to be true.” Louis rubbed his face before he tried to get up. He was struggling to keep his balance when he felt Harry’s big hands wrapping around his arm to prevent him from falling over - though that resulted in Louis ending up in Harry’s personal space, only a few inches separating them.

Their eyes met in an intense stare and Louis was almost sure to see the same longing in Harry’s green orbs he felt himself. He also really wanted to kiss the beautiful man in front of him but then he remembered the taste of puke still lingering on his tongue. So he took a step back from Harry, very reluctantly though: “Really need some water.”

The words were almost inaudible but Harry seemed to hear them anyway since a look of understanding replaced the longing on his handsome face. “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” he replied just as quietly while he watched Louis turning on one of the faucets on the opposite wall.

When Louis looked back up into the mirror above the washbasin, he noticed that Harry stood right behind him, watching him with a slightly worried look. He wanted to ask him if everything was alright, but Harry beat him: “You sure you’re okay now? I can get you home if you want to.”

Oh damn, Harry couldn’t possibly imagine how much Louis wanted to take him home, but for very different reasons. He just wanted to do him a favour and all Louis could think about was taking advantage of that offer, asking Harry to please take me home indeed just to open up an opportunity to keep Harry with him as soon as they stepped into his house and drag him to his bed preferably.

That wasn’t really an option though, so Louis decided on denying that offer: “I’m definitely feeling better than five minutes ago. And I should probably get back to my own party.”

Harry’s eyebrows knitted together looking very much not amused. A look very similar to what Louis remembered to be significant for Harry’s jealousy. He’d loved that look on Harry, still did to be honest. It usually meant a little bit of punishment as soon as they’d been alone - and sometimes even a bit of begging on Louis’ end.

Remembering how possessive Harry could be did some funny things to Louis’ stomach. Well, it also made his blood rushing to his cock but what was new?

That flash of arousal probably showed on his face as well because Harry raised one of his brows in curiosity before he lowered his gaze. His green eyes fixed themselves on his crotch and Louis knew without looking himself that the bulge of his erection had to be obvious - though he wasn’t expecting to be pressed against the basin with Harry’s hands next to his hips so he couldn’t escape.

Louis silently begged him to bend down and kiss him but instead he heard Harry’s slow drawl right next to his ear: “Do you really wanna go back to the party?”

The Queen herself could show up at the party right now and Louis wouldn’t care one bit. “I could think of a thing or two that I’d rather do,” Louis tried to be his sassy self but Harry’s proximity, his slightly musky scent as well as the intensity of his green eyes made him forget anything but Harry.

“Yeah, me too.” Even in his still drunken state Louis could tell that Harry had had a few drinks himself and he knew sex with his ex under the influence was a rather bad idea - but he really couldn’t say no in this moment. And he didn’t want to as well. Also, a public loo wasn’t probably the best place for this to finally happen after three years but he really didn’t care. All he wanted was to feel Harry’s lips against his own for the first time in three years.

His fingers were already buried in Harry’s soft curls and their lips were literally hovering over each other’s when the door crashed into the bathroom wall. Harry instinctively took a step back from Louis while both their heads turned towards the loud noise where Reece was now pressed against the open door by Tate who was sucking a love bite into the blond’s neck.

For a long moment, Louis and Harry just stood by the washbasin and stared at Louis’ friends doing the exact same thing they were about to do. Both of them didn’t really know how to react in this situation though they didn’t have to think about it when Reece opened his eyes and noticed them. Tate was still kissing his neck while Reece slowly waved to them: “Hey Lou. There you are. One of your - oh fuck, Tate right there!”

Louis decided then to ignore his friends and drag Harry out of the club to hit a cab, so he grabbed his hand and started to leave the room when Reece remembered that he had been talking to him: “One of your band mates was looking for you. The one with the Canadian boyfriend.”

He just nodded his head at Reece before he literally fled the toilets. They were almost back in the main room when he realised that he was holding Harry’s hand. It felt so good, so natural to entwine his fingers with Harry’s. He didn’t want to let him go ever again.

“Canadian boyfriend?” Harry asked confused though he didn’t make a move to let go of Louis’ hand. That was a good sign, wasn’t it?

“Long story. We should probably use the back door. There are bound to be several paparazzi at the front,” Louis mused with a look towards the main entrance of the club.

He only turned around towards Harry when the other man finally dropped his hand. Louis was about to ask what was wrong when Harry already shook his head in resignation: “So you’re still afraid to be seen with me. Should have known as much.”

Louis didn’t even get a chance to reply before Harry walked away and disappeared between the dancing mop of people.

Chapter Text

When The Lights Go On

Chapter 6 - Waking up beside you (No Control)

Louis woke up to a sudden weight on his chest restricting his breathing. He needed a moment to realise that Clifford was now resting on his upper body and trying to lick his face excitedly.

“Stop it,” he grumbled, his voice heavily laced with sleep. “Too early.”

Somehow he managed to convince his dog to leave him alone for another few minutes, while he thought about the amount of alcohol he had consumed last night - which had been way too much. Again. He decided to blame it on Connor, Nathan and their obsessive love for shots. Yeah, that would probably do it. Though, for now, he would just try to go back to sleep only mildly hopeful to wake up again without a massive hangover.

He had just closed his eyes when he felt a warm, big hand sneak around his waist. That was definitely not his own hand. Slowly, Louis opened his eyes again and turned his head even slower only to be met with a mess of dark brown curls resting on the pillow next to him. What the …?

One question was filling his head in that moment and one question only: What had happened last night?

“Go back to sleep, Lou,” Harry mumbled to his left.

The slow drawl of his voice reminded Louis of the previous night and he finally started to remember what had happened after Harry had stormed off …

~*~

Louis still stared into the sea of people in front of him even though Harry had already vanished from his view. He should follow him and try to explain himself, try to make it right. He should definitely do that. He couldn’t just let him go. Again.

He was looking for Harry frantically and finally spotted him on his way out of the club. Out the front, where a pack of paparazzi was waiting for its prey to leave the safety of the club. Damn it.

“Oh fuck it,” Louis cursed under his breath and started to fight his way through the mob of people dancing to his music.

Harry had already vanished through the main entrance when Louis reached the door. He hesitated for only a second before he stepped outside as well - and just like he’d guessed there were at least twenty men waiting with their cameras, ready to capture all the drunken teen idols at their worst.

Some of them were shouting Harry’s name, trying to get his attention. They wanted to get an interesting shot, something that would earn them a lot of money. Well, in a second they would probably get exactly what they hoped for.

Louis reached out to grab Harry’s hand, holding him back efficiently - and the first flashes were illuminating Harry’s surprised expression.

“Lou, what …?” Harry started to ask but the words got stuck in his throat when Louis decided to fuck it all and pull the other man into a bone crushing hug.

“Thank you for coming. It was good seeing you again, Hazza,” Louis whispered next to his ear while the cameras were flashing and the paparazzi were shouting like they were witnessing the coronation of the Queen herself.

Before Harry got a chance to reply, Louis went back into the club. He was way too nervous to wait for Harry‘s reaction, which could be anything from over the moon to devastated. Nope, he was definitely not ready to see if it was more leaning towards the second option.

The music inside the club felt even louder now and Louis wasn’t feeling like celebrating at all right now. He also shouldn’t help his mood by drinking even more booze than he already did. No more getting wasted for him. Maybe he should try to find Liam or Zayn. That would be the safest option for not getting drunk. Well, Reece and Tate wouldn’t get wasted too much either but he did know where these two were in that moment and he wouldn’t interrupt them. He would stay away as far from Connor and Nathan as he could since these two only knew how to get shitfaced at a party which left Niall and his Canadian boytoy but Niall was Irish so that wasn’t an option either. Which meant he had to find Liam or Zayn. (His sisters would just ask questions about Harry and he wasn’t prepared to give any answers, so he wouldn’t try to find them either.)

When he was about to head into the crowd in search for two of his friends, he felt his phone vibrate in his jeans‘ pocket. He was opting for ignoring it when he felt another message coming in making him pull out his phone. Reading Harry‘s name on the lock screen, Louis felt his heart skip a beat.

Meet me at your place in 20, read the first message and Louis was sure that he was now either dead or dreaming.

It‘s okay if you wanna use the back door, was the second message that Harry had sent his way and Louis wasn’t quite sure if he was only talking about leaving the club. Probably not.

Louis didn’t hesitate for a second, didn’t say goodbye to any of his friends or his sisters. He just headed for the back entrance of the club to leave without any of the paparazzi noticing him. When he passed the loos on his way out, he heard the very obvious moans of what had to be Reece and Tate making out in one of the stalls. At least he hoped they’d made it to one of the stalls.

When he finally left the club he had to find a cab to take him home, since his sisters had insisted earlier tonight that no one of them should shoulder the burden of being their designated driver. And even if they would have taken his car - he wouldn’t be able to drive in his current state anyway.

After several minutes of frantically walking along the main street, always aware of the paparazzi lingering in front of the club, he finally saw a cab driving towards him that wasn’t already occupied. He hailed the cab, told the driver his address and started to nervously tap his fingers against his leg since he couldn’t do anything to speed up their journey to his house.

It took the cabbie another twenty-five minutes to arrive at Louis’ home - a fact Louis knew for sure because he checked his mobile every other minute to see how much time he had left until he had to be there. Somehow he was filled with an irrational fear that Harry wouldn’t wait a few minutes longer when Louis didn’t make it on time.

Before he left the car, Louis handed a few notes to the cabbie making sure to tip him generously. Heading up the driveway of his house then, he had to restrain himself so he wouldn’t run to the front door looking like a madman. That wouldn’t do anyone any good.

When the entrance of his home came into view, he was relieved and bloody nervous at the same time. Casually and without a care in the world, Harry was leaning against the wall and waiting for Louis’ arrival. The outdoor light next to his front door illuminated him, making him look like an otherworldly being. An angel maybe. The most stunning man Louis had ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on.

“You came,” Harry’s slow drawl pulled Louis out of his distracting thoughts, though apparently not enough to get his brain-to-mouth filter working again - as proved by the words falling from his lips just seconds later: “Not yet.”

For just a second, neither of them moved a muscle. The silence surrounding them felt heavy, though not like a warm blanket but more like a weight pushing onto his chest and restraining his lungs. The weight finally lifted from his chest when a smile pulled at Harry‘s lips. A smile that was just as cocky as it was beautiful.

“Guess, we have to change that then,” he grinned at Louis and shrugged his head towards the front door to indicate that Louis should unlock the door. “You’re the one with the key,” he added after a moment.

“I’ve told you to keep your key,” Louis replied without thinking only to regret it the next second. Why couldn’t he keep his mouth shout just once? Why did he have to ruin it time and again?

“I still have it. Just not on me right now.” Harry’s words seemed too good to be true but a quick look into his green eyes told him that he hadn’t misheard it.

Before he could say anything just as stupid as his last sentence, Louis pulled out his keys and opened the front door to let Harry into the home they once had shared. It felt strange, seeing Harry back in their house, like he’d never left in the first place - but at the same time it was like he brought him home for the first time. He couldn’t find the right words to describe the feeling. But there were more important things to do anyway.

Grabbing Harry’s hand, pulling him into his arms and pressing their lips together in a searing kiss for example. That was definitely more important right now. Fortunately, Harry seemed to agree, since he pulled him into an even tighter embrace, kissing him back almost desperately.

Bloody hell, he’d really missed that idiot. Not even the making out part necessarily, but simply being near him, holding his hand in his own, just knowing he’d be there next to him. He was so tired of waking up alone. If this turned out to be a dream, then he definitely didn’t want to wake up ever again.

Louis couldn’t remember how they managed to get up the stairs and reach the bed, but they somehow did before they had pulled off all their clothes. What he did remember was Harry’s touch, the feeling of his lips on his skin and the amount of love he still held for the curly haired dork.

~*~

Hiding his face in his elbow, Louis tried to figure out what that night meant for their relationship. Would they try to start over? Would it just be a ‘having drunk sex with the ex one last time’ thingy? Would they try to pick up the pieces where they’d left them after their break-up? And even if Harry was willing to take him back, he definitely didn’t deserve it. Though it was the only thing that would make his life almost perfect again.

There was definitely no way he could get back to sleep now. His head was filled with too many questions and thoughts, circling each other with rapid speed and making him feel dizzy. Or maybe the dizziness was due to his hangover. That was certainly a possibility. He was getting too old for that shit. Getting drunk every weekend. He wasn’t 18 anymore.

Harry had went back to sleep right after his mumbled words and was out cold again - and Louis had to clear his head before he woke up again. So he rolled out of bed, grabbed some of the clothes that were strewn onto his bedroom floor … not caring that the shirt was definitely not his own. He put on his jeans and Harry’s shirt and almost fled the room.

Downstairs, he grabbed his wallet, his keys and Clifford’s leash. His dog had already followed him all the way from the master bedroom, wiggling his tail excitedly. Louis needed fresh air and taking his dog for a walk seemed like a reasonable excuse if Harry woke up without him by his side. Or so he hoped.

Clifford walked beside him, always a step behind like the well-trained dog he was, looking around as if he saw this neighbourhood for the first time. Louis couldn’t stop his lips from turning up into an adoring smile, he loved this dog so much. Almost as deeply as he loved that idiot lying in his bed, snoring lightly. He still had no idea how to handle this situation. The best thing to do would be talking to Harry but he really didn’t know what to say to him. What was it that other people said in such a situation?

He hadn’t found an answer to that question when he returned home almost an hour later - where he was welcomed by a barely dressed Harold standing in his kitchen, making some scrambled eggs since Louis’ fridge was mostly empty more often than not. It really seemed to be a miracle that these eggs were still edible.

“Morning, Lou. So there’s my shirt. I already wondered where that ended up last night,” Harry looked a bit amused, standing in front of the stove in nothing but his tight little briefs and his old pink apron that Louis just couldn’t throw away after Harry had moved out.

“Morning…” Louis mumbled while unleashing Clifford again who instantly traipsed up to Harry to sniff him with interest. His dog seemed to be just as intrigued with the curly-haired idiot as Louis was. “Yeah, just grabbed something in the dark to take Clifford for a walk his morning.”

Harry smiled and Louis wanted to fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness, ask him to take him back - but he couldn’t move a single muscle.

“Don’t worry about it. You’re hungry?”

Louis had to literally shake himself from that stupor to give Harry a simple nod for an answer. For a moment, he asked himself if he was probably dreaming of a time when they had still been a couple. Or maybe their breakup had been the dream - a nightmare more likely - and he had finally woken up to Harry making him breakfast like usual.

“Am I getting that shirt back or do I have to borrow something from you to get home after breakfast?” The nonchalance in Harry’s voice told Louis that all of it - the breakup, the years of almost no contact, the sex last night - had been real.

“Yeah, sorry,” Louis mumbled again, starting to pull the shirt over his head.

“I didn’t mean right now, Lou. You could’ve waited until we’re done with breakfast,” Harry laughed lightheartedly and Louis wanted to know how he did it. How could he handle that situation so easily when Louis didn’t even know what to say?

“Just wanted to be a bit more even here.” He wasn’t sure how he had been able to form these words but he somehow came up with a witty comeback.

Harry snorted a laugh that made Louis fall in love with him even more. He really had to find a way to make up for all he’d done wrong. He needed Harry to be part of his life … and he would do anything and everything to make that happen. He just didn’t know how yet, but even though that was a problem it definitely wasn’t a reason not to try it.

Chapter Text

When the lights go out

Chapter 7 - While I’m waiting for your reaction (Kill my Mind)

Harry had left their old home shortly after breakfast and in doing so he’d left Louis wanting to sort things out so fucking badly. Though since he hadn’t really acknowledged the happenings of the previous night, Louis couldn’t tell how Harry felt about all of it. Well, he wasn’t even sure what he himself thought about it, so he couldn’t blame Harry for taking off so quickly. He probably would’ve done the same thing if they had been at Harry’s place instead of his. But now Louis was alone with his thoughts and nothing to distract himself with.

He tried watching Netflix to catch up on the shows he’d neglected, which only helped distract him semi-efficiently. He was half way through the latest season of Orange is the new Black, patting Clifford’s head absentmindedly, when his phone buzzed.

He had a text. One he wasn’t going to read, opting to ignore anyone and everyone. But then his phone buzzed again. And again. And again. It seemed like someone really wanted to reach him.

Heaving a sigh, Louis paused his show and grabbed his phone, the screen showing four different text messages sent by Niall.

Now what was that all about?

Glad you guys finally talked it through.

The internet is a war zone now though.

Was that even planned? If so, smooth move.

There are so many girls having a serious heart attack right now. It’s kinda hilarious.

Okay. What was Niall even talking about? The first message indicated that he was talking about him and Harry’s, but what was that about the internet and girls freaking out? He kinda had a feeling that he didn’t want to know the answer but he pulled over his laptop anyway. He slowly browsed through twitter first before gathering enough courage to open tumblr.

On twitter, he was immediately met with the worldwide trends of #Larryisreal, #boyfriendssharingclothesagain and #Larryaf2k19.

What the actual fuck was happening?

Louis wasn’t sure if he wanted to find out but he clicked on the first hashtag anyway. The chance that Matt would call him at any moment to talk about it was at 99.9% already, he may as well be prepared for it.

The tweets mostly consisted of rants on how ‘they had always known it was real’ and things about ‘true love’. Those were the tweets hitting home and hitting home hard. True love. Yeah, he’d thought so himself - until he ruined everything. Now he wasn’t so sure if Harry still considered what they had to be true love.

Trying to ignore the bitter thoughts, Louis opened a new tab to log into his very secret tumblr account. Even Harry didn’t know about it. No one knew about Louis Tomlinson following the most active and most popular Larry blogs on tumblr. He wasn’t very proud about it, though it was pretty helpful in moments like these.

Immediately after logging in, Louis was met with his dash being flooded by post after post of him and Harry wearing the same fucking shirt. One post caught his eye especially. It started with pap shots of them arriving at the party separately last night, followed by the hug when Harry was leaving the club - the author had put a lot of emphasis on that part, it almost rivalled the hug from One Direction’s last concert - and ended with Louis wearing Harry’s shirt while he took Clifford for a walk. The post even mentioned that Louis had not been seen at the party once Harry had left through the front door. There really seemed to be only one explanation for it all, didn’t there?

Of course, there were also several comments on how they could both own the same bloody shirt, and that all the Larries were overreacting again. Louis could see why Niall called it a war zone. It really was a matter of minutes before his manager would call about this.

They couldn’t ignore it now, could they?

Louis had just finished reading another post emphasising how the shirt was just a little bit tight on Harry while it was surely oversized for Louis. Someone else had commented on it that he, Louis, was always wearing his clothes loosely while Harry’s wardrobe was more of a form-fitting style. The comment kinda nagged at Louis, fingers poised to reply that, maybe, those different styles came with a habit of sharing clothes on a daily basis. It was just more convenient to own clothes that would fit both of them. But then his phone started to buzz again - this time announcing a call from his manager Matt.

A sigh left Louis’ lips before he swept his thumb over the screen to accept the call.

“Hey, Matt…” His voice was laced with resignation and he was sure that his manager noticed the second of hesitation before he offered his greetings.

“Hello to you too, Louis. I’m guessing by the sound of your voice that you’ve already seen it.”

It was a statement rather than a question.

“Yeah … Niall told me like ten minutes ago,” Louis explained in an unnaturally slow drawl. He sounded a lot like a certain curly-haired someone in that moment.

“Care to elaborate what exactly happened last night? I mean, I really don’t care who you hook up with but a bit of a heads up would’ve been nice before we’re hit by a fandom war between Larries and anti-Larries. Do we have to put up an official statement for your coming out after all?” Matt’s voice was calm and soothing and definitely not going through the roof because they hadn’t been careful enough.

Louis wasn’t sure how he was supposed to reply. If he had been talking to someone from Modest it would have been easy. After so many years of dealing with the homophobic arses they had come up with a routine for such situations. But that didn’t apply any longer with Matt being his new manager.

Another sigh left his lips before he replied, “I really don’t know what to do right now, to be honest, Matt. It definitely wasn’t planned what happened last night. I’m not even sure what it meant. We haven’t talked about it this morning and I only noticed I was wearing Harry’s shirt when I’d already left the house. I don’t know what Harry thinks about it, and I really don’t know how to talk to him anymore because every time I open my mouth all I do is hurt him even more. At least… at least it feels like I do.”

For a few moments no one said a word and Louis was sure that Matt was thinking of a way to help him solve his problem. He wasn’t surprised by his next words.

“Listen, Louis, I’m gonna talk to Harry’s manager to ask how Harry wants to handle it, yeah? And then, we’ll work out a strategy together. So, for now, I would like you to keep off the social media. No tweets, retweets, likes or anything else. You okay with that?”

The fact that Matt asked the last question was enough for Louis to be okay with it. His old management would have barked a simple “Got it?” at the end of such a monologue.

“Will do that,” Louis mumbled into the phone before he hung up with a quick goodbye, letting his phone drop onto the sofa next to him. This really was a fucked up situation.

His gaze went back to his TV screen, taking in the paused show without really recognising it. Considering the last fifteen minutes of his life he wasn’t in the mood to keep watching it. He logged out of Netflix before turning off the TV entirely.

He had just started wracking his brain for a solution to the mess his life had become when his phone started buzzing again with another call. He doubted that Matt had already spoken to Harry’s management and a look at his lock screen confirmed it. It wasn’t Matt but Liam calling him this time.

“Hey mate, what’s up?” Louis tried to sound cheerful and failed miserably, which he was sure Liam noticed.

“I’m good but I’m not calling to talk about me, really … I’ve seen the pics on the internet, Lou,” Liam replied without beating around the bush.

“I guess so did approximately half of the population. I’ve already talked to Matt.” Louis rubbed his free hand over his face, somehow hoping it would relieve the stress he was feeling.

“The real question would be ‘have you already talked to Harry,’ though?” Liam pressed, his tone kind but unrelenting like the Dad he’d always been.

“Not about the pictures, no. And before you ask, no, we haven’t talked about last night either,” Louis sighed.

“Why’s that?”

“Because we obviously aren’t able to hold a normal conversation any longer, least of all a serious one concerning our relationship status.” Louis’ frustration was unmistakable, probably even over the phone.

“I’m sure that’s not true, Louis. The two of you just need to sit down and talk for real. Just be honest with each other. It can’t be that hard, can it?“ Liam was trying his best to cheer him up and Louis really was thankful for it - even if it wasn’t working.

“Whatever, mate, ‘s what it is,” Louis mumbled under his breath.

“It could be bloody easy, if you wouldn’t be so damn stubborn. Both of you,” Liam immediately replied. Louis wanted to argue that Harry was definitely more stubborn than he was but Liam cut him off first, “Hey, Cheryl’s calling on the home line, we’ll discuss this another time. Get your shit together, Lou. See ya.”

The line went dead and suddenly Louis was alone again with his thoughts. He stared at his mobile and debated the idea of calling Harry. It was probably the smartest move, but on the other hand, he really didn’t know what to say at all and calling your ex, breathing down the line and staying silent didn’t sound like the best of ideas.

He ended up scrolling through his twitter feed again instead, going back to tumblr after and reading several master posts - that’s how pathetic he’d become.

Drowning himself in pictures of him and Harry he lost his sense of time completely, startling as the doorbell rang. For a second, he looked down at the sweats and ratty shirt he’d changed into when Harry had left, then he just shrugged. Whoever was at his door had probably already seen him in a worse state. Well, maybe not, considering his state of mind.

To say he was surprised when he opened the door was an understatement. He couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he was greeted by grabby hands and a heartwarming, “Loulou.”

“Hey there, little guy. You’ve missed your uncle Lou as much as I missed you? I bet you did. I’m much cooler than your Daddy,” Louis immediately cooed at the child.

“When are you gonna stop calling me that? It always sounds so… wrong coming from you.”

“I think the word you were looking for is dirty, Li. And now let me hold the little Bear,” Louis replied, an almost smug look overtaking his face when Liam handed over his son to Louis before they went inside.

“Now tell me, what are you and little Bear doing here, Li?” Louis asked, sitting down on the sofa and placing Bear sideways on his leg so he was able to see his cute little face.

“Well, like I said on the phone, Cheryl called. Turned out she had some kind of emergency so she asked if I could take Bear for the rest of the weekend, which I gladly agreed to. After I picked him up from Cheryl’s I thought it’d be a good idea to come and distract you for a while, especially since I knew you wouldn’t call Harry. Even if it is the smartest move.”

Louis decided to ignore the part about his ex even though - or maybe because - Liam was right.

He couldn’t bring himself to call Harry.

“Well, I appreciate your visit. Especially since I haven’t seen you in ages. Look how much you’ve grown!” The second part of his answer was directed at Bear who giggled in response - making Louis wanting nothing more than to keep the little boy forever.

Being around Liam’s son really did help keep his mind off of Harry and the pictures, and Louis enjoyed every single second he spent with the boy. So, after Bear had fallen asleep and Liam had taken him off home, Louis’ mind didn’t immediately go back to the mess his life had become.

It felt good to be distracted, even though it meant he wasn’t as prepared as he could’ve been when his manager called again.

“Hey, Louis. I’ve spoken to Harry’s management and we’ve come to an agreement,” Matt greeted him as soon as he’d accepted the call.

“‘s that so?” Louis mumbled his reply.

“Yeah, we’re thinking it’d be best for now to just lay low. They won’t be talking about it anymore in a few days,” Matt explained their strategy.

For a few seconds, there was just static on the line, before Louis found his words again, “Okay… if you think so… I can do that.”

“Great. I will get back to you in a few days when we have some numbers on the album release. Don’t think too much about it, Louis. It’ll all work out,” and with that statement Matt ended their call, leaving Louis victim of his thoughts again.

It’ll all work out. Then why did it feel like such a big deal? Why did it feel like a monumental change in his life, just like three years ago, when Harry had told him they probably needed a break. All of this could only end in tears.