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What I've Been Waiting For

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All throughout Louis’ childhood his mom had a book in her hand. If she didn’t have her hands full while cooking a meal, washing dishes, changing a diaper, dressing a child or throwing dirty t-shirts into the wash, then she likely had a book in her hands. It wasn’t until he was around eight or nine that he realized what kind of books she was reading. He’d always assumed she was reading the same kinds of books that he was, which was a silly conclusion to come to. Of course she wasn’t reading about talking animals, superheros, and adventures starring little boys just like him. She was reading romance novels, and it took him even longer after making this discovery to realize how cheesy and kind of awful they were.

Now, he has nothing against romance—he grew up watching romance movies with her too. Even though she’d make comments throughout about how much better the book was. It’s just most of the books she read were too dramatized and cheesy to be realistic. He would argue that they could be read for comedic purposes but his mom didn’t like that much.

He remembers when he was fourteen he read about two chapters of one of her books while doing dramatic readings over the phone to his friend Bebe. The book caught his attention because of the shirtless man on the front, he won’t lie about that, but when he started reading it he just couldn’t help but crack up. So, of course, he wanted to share it with his friend.

It became a thing they would do when they spent their afternoons at the public library. When they’d get tired of reading a book for English, or too frustrated with math problems, they would compete to see who could find the cheesiest romance novel. How did they know who the winner was? Well, whichever made them laugh the loudest was the winner of the day. A couple of times the old librarian would slowly hobble over to their corner and tell them to be quiet or she’d kick them out. That’s when they knew they had found a real winner. Louis was better at it because sometimes Bebe would find one she actually liked and start reading it. Which Louis found lame. Until one day when they were taking a break from studying for the last finals of junior year and Louis stumbled upon a romance book he hadn’t thought even existed.

It must have been in the wrong section, either that or it was the only one of it’s kind there. Because as he read about the main character’s crush he quickly found out it was… another guy. He had quickly shut the book and looked around, hoping nobody was there to see him reading it. Not even Bebe.

It wasn’t that he had been ashamed to be reading it; well, maybe a little due to his age at the time, but it didn’t have anything to do with the two characters being guys. Of course, he wasn’t out… he had only really been sure of his sexuality for about a year at that point, but he didn’t come out until he had moved out for college.

That moment stuck with him because his love for reading really bloomed in high school. He finally started picking out books to spend his part-time income from the local coffee shop on, rather than spending it on a movie ticket. His mom was thrilled, even offered to share some of her extensive collection with him if he found something he liked. He turned red, remembering all the snooping he did in her collection before, but took her up on the offer because he would occasionally see her reading a crime novel or a murder mystery.

Louis’ love for reading continued into college, and because he had decided to move from his small town in North Carolina to NYC, he basically had to make a totally new group of friends. A lot of the guys he hung out with while playing soccer in high school had stuck around and settled down, but he had always wanted more for himself. From the first time he and Bebe drove into the city for a karaoke night, he had known he wanted to sing and make music for a living. He was going to make sure of it.

And he did, eventually. After dropping out of college after three semesters and playing in dingy bars and trying to make connections the best he could. He made friends with a business student named Liam while in school, and apparently, his dad owned a recording studio in the city. He somehow got lucky and was allowed to record for about half the price when nobody else was using the studio. After he was happy with the eight songs, he played it for this guy he met from the studio named Zayn. He was a producer and did a lot of writing for other artists, and he said Louis had put together a really good album. He asked for a copy of it and the next day, while Louis was debating on going small and just getting his album out there himself, he got a text from Zayn asking him to meet him at the Capitol Records office. Nothing more, nothing less. He sent him a thread of question marks but all he got back was a time and an order to dress nicely.

So, he had. He met Zayn in the lobby wearing a pair of rolled up slacks and a button down shirt. Zayn said nothing, but gave him a smile and walked towards the elevators. Louis had followed him and by the next hour he was exiting the building with a meeting for the following morning to talk about his contract.

That’s how it all started for him, and he knows he got lucky with meeting who he did but he’ll never forget it because it gave him everything he has today. And he still works with Zayn. He writes a bit with him, and he does the producing on all of his albums. That’s why he’s currently on a plane back to LA; he’s been in NYC working with Zayn for the last two weeks on finishing up writing for his latest album. Louis always likes to work with Zayn, especially when he’s writing the melodies. It was good to see Bebe while in NYC as well, even if they were both too busy to get into a writing session together, it was nice to have lunch together and catch up. It was always better to hear about the success of her EP and how she was doing with recording her first album from her rather than from the media.

Louis loved the city, but after a year and a half it was almost an unsaid rule that he would move out to LA. Thankfully, Liam moved with him, so, he wasn’t all alone out there. It was about the time his career really started picking up, and while there are a lot of people in New York that could help him along his journey, he knew Los Angeles was the best place for that. He didn’t mind, really. By then he and Liam could both afford a place together and it was easier setting up meetings with other writers and producers there. Not to mention within the first week he met his other best friend Niall who is one of the nicest people he’s met in the industry. He was in the same boat as Louis, trying to get his career off the ground. Luckily, it worked out for the both of them.

He doesn’t mind flying, other than the odd stares he sometimes gets from people likely trying to figure out where they know him from. He gets a lot of reading done because he still can’t put a book down. Liam sometimes gets mad at him because he could be using the time to answer emails and stuff but he just rolls his eyes. He’s lucky to have stayed close with Liam as well throughout all these years, and when Liam decided he wanted to do artist management Louis hired him on the spot. He didn’t even bother to talk it over with the label and Zayn to see if it was a good idea but it all turned out well. Having his best friend as his manager has made the boring parts of the job all the more enjoyable.

Liam kind of gave up on asking Louis to look through the emails that have been piling up while he had been so busy trying to finish the album. There are a few brands who wanted to work with him and pay him too much money to wear their clothes, which he’s still kind of confused by. It’s not like he wasn’t wearing Adidas anyway, so, why would they want to give him money for it? He knows why, he has a large following and apparently that means a large influence, but the number these brands keep throwing his way is just too bizarre to be real.

He just told Liam to fuck off and let him have a break from work on the flight home, which he agreed to (with an eyeroll). So, he’s spending the entire flight home reading the newest Harry Styles novel. He’s three chapters in, and it may already be a favorite of his, with Harry’s one other book a close second. There’s just something about the way he writes, it just draws Louis in so quickly and so completely, and he can finish his books so much quicker than any others because he just can’t put it down.

Louis found Harry’s books through his mom, actually. They text quite often and she’s always got a book recommendation for him. Most of the time he just adds the titles to a list on his phone that he slowly makes his way through when he has the time to read, but this one he had to get immediately when she described it. It was a weird dystopian novel that reminds him of the couple of episodes of Black Mirror he’s seen. It was about a society where discrimination based on things like sexuality and gender was flipped which had prevented a lot of crime, up until the start of the novel. That is likely why his mom had enjoyed it so much, she liked crime novels a lot, and it was a unique one.

Though that one was great, he’s really enjoying this new one. Though it’s hardly new, Louis has been so busy over the last few months that he hasn’t been able to get around to it before. Harry had a couple of romance novels out, but this is the first one he’s seen get so much attention. There are even talks of turning it into a movie. All of his romance novels have one thing in common—they’re all LGBT. Which isn’t revolutionary, really. A lot of gay romance novels have come out over the years, especially over the last ten years since Louis found that lone gay novel in his small town’s library.

But there’s just something about the way that Harry writes; it’s not necessarily geared toward young adults specifically, but that’s definitely seems to be the majority of who reads them. Which was needed. Sure, racy adult novels were great, but the books Harry writes have a lot more plot and themes like self discovery and acceptance which can be so beneficial to younger people. He wishes there had been books like this when he was in high school. Rather than being embarrassed by finding one explicit novel about a relationship between two men, he could have been excited to read about guys his age falling in love. He feels like that would have helped a lot at the time.

Louis spent most of the flight reading, though he did take a break to answer some emails and jot down a few things he wanted to get done when he arrived home after being away for two weeks. He was nearing the last chapter when they landed, which was a bit frustrating because he was at the best part and he didn’t want to wait to finish.

“Hey, Lou you remember about the paps, right?” Liam asks as they’re exiting the plane and walking towards a couple of security guys that will help them get through the airport and to the car without incident.

Louis sighs, “Yes, Liam. I remember.”

He tries to keep the annoyance out of his voice. Out of all the pap walks he’s done, this is nothing, and even he has to admit that they are beneficial to him.

“Okay, good. Just didn’t want them to catch you off guard or anything. And. you know, it’s-”

“Yeah, I know. An article about finishing up the album with Zayn. I know.”

Liam just nods and gives him a tight lipped smile.

They’re at the exit before Louis realizes it, and he’s taking a deep breath before the doors open and they’re gently ushered out. Immediately, there is screaming and flashes. Lots of flashes.

“Hey, Louis. I got you, let’s go.” He hears a familiar voice say, and then his bodyguard Alberto has a grip on his arm and is shoving his way through the crowd.

“Hey,” Louis says with a laugh. “Forgot you’d be here.”

“Can’t just let America’s favorite popstar get trampled now, can I?” Alberto says, with a hint of a smile.

Before he knows it, he’s being herded into a black SUV with Liam. The door shuts abruptly and ,suddenly, he can breathe again. The noises and flashing muffled thanks to being inside the car.

“You alright, Lou?” Liam asks from beside him.

“Great, yeah. Wasn’t bad. More fans than I realized, wasn’t prepared for that part. Kind of feel shitty for ignoring ‘em.”

“Yeah, sorry. You know how some paps are, leaking info and whatnot.” Liam says, a sheepish look on his face.

Louis just nods and settles back in the seat, waiting for the crowd to be cleared enough for Alberto to begin the drive back to Louis’ house. He realizes he still has the book in his hands, which makes him let out a quiet chuckle. He opens it up and picks up where he left off.

*

“Louis?”

He looks up from his bowl of coco puffs to Liam who is sitting across from him at the bar on his phone. He makes a noise of acknowledgement, mouth otherwise occupied.

“Who is Harry Styles?”

“Um,” Louis says before swallowing his bite of cereal. “He’s an author, he wrote that book I was reading on the plane the other day.” He says, watching as Liam just nods. “Why?”

“Have you checked your twitter mentions lately?” Liam asks, almost hesitantly.

“‘Course not, I’ve been busy relaxing.” Louis gives Liam a smile, “Besides, isn’t that your job?”

“Well, I mean... Kind of, but you should check them.”

Louis sighs, “Fine.”

He picks his phone up from the table and takes a scroll through twitter, finding that apparently the book he was carrying on the way out of the airport was visible enough to see in the pap shots, and now his fans are excited. From about three minutes of scrolling and reading tweets he gathers the following: he and Harry share an overlap in fans, a lot of people are thankful for the book recommendation, some people say they ship him and Harry, whatever that means, oh and Harry Styles has seen the photos.

Louis clicks on Harry’s tweet, a simple “ Can’t believe my favorite artist @LouisTomlinson has read my book! ” and it takes him to his profile. He immediately chokes on an intake of air; since when are authors attractive? Wasn’t that a thing , for a lot of authors to be kind of average looking? But Harry… Harry is the polar opposite of average, and he’s young too. That’s another thing, he had a sort of image in his head of what authors look like and they were all about early forties and not near as beautiful as Harry.

His header is a promo banner of his new book, the one that Louis has just read. But his profile photo is of him, and even just a look at the tiny circle photo shows him the most gorgeous man he’s probably ever seen. He’s got chocolate brown curls, nearing his shoulders and he’s holding a puppy. Which should be against the rules really, guys should only be allowed to hold tiny adorable puppies if they aren’t already gorgeous .

“Fucking hell, man,” Louis says, dropping his phone on the marble countertop and rolling his eyes up to the ceiling. “Why do you hate me?”

“Um, I don’t,” Liam says, causing Louis to sigh.

“Not you Liam. God . If he’s even real. He definitely hates me,” He says, meeting his eyes. “Why is he so attractive?”

“Who? God?” Liam furrows his brow and cocks his head to the side.

“No, Liam! Not God!” He says loudly, dropping his head into his hands. “Harry Styles! Why is an author prettier than most models? Authors are supposed to be ugly!”

“Well that’s a bit rude, I’m sure there are some lovely authors out there and-”

“Not the point, Liam. Harry is attractive and he’s holding a puppy and he writes amazing gay books.”

Liam looks at him for a moment, “Right…”

Just then his phone buzzes and he looks down to see a text from his mom asking what he thought of the book, because apparently everyone has seen the pictures at this point.

He thumbs out a quick reply to let her know that he loved it and he can’t believe she didn’t tell him what Harry Styles looks like. To which she replies “Thought you knew he was a cutie!” He rolls his eyes at that, ignoring the heat rising to his cheeks.

“So… What are we going to do about this?”

“Do about what? There’s nothing to do,” Louis insists.

“Well you’ve complained about how hot this guy is, wouldn’t shut up about his book before, and now you’re turning red so it’s obvious you like him.”

Louis despises the mischievous smile on Liam’s face.

“Yeah well I can’t exactly-”

“You can, though. Remember?” Liam interrupts.

He’s right. Louis forgets sometimes he’s not under a strict image clause anymore since signing with Columbia and re-negotiating his contract. After coming out a year and a half ago while still with Syco, he had to maintain his single status up until the very end when they had a new artist they wanted to promote. So he was seen with him off and on for about four months up until the guy’s album came out and they could break it off. Which was all much better than before coming out, when he had to have a model on his arm at all times.

This time around he made sure he had as much freedom as possible when it came to his relationships and how he is and isn’t allowed to express his sexuality. If it wasn’t for Zayn’s help on that part, he’s not sure he would have cut a deal as good as the one he did. The rules are simple really: don’t publicly be with a dickhead who could ruin his image. Which Louis thought was fair enough because he wouldn’t really want to be with the type of person they described anyway.

“I remember,” Louis says, rather quietly compared to his tone a few seconds ago. “Doesn’t even mean anything, really. He’s just a guy who writes books. Sure he’s hot but that doesn’t mean anything.”

“Even if he’s in your Twitter DM’s right now?” Liam looks from his phone screen, back to Louis with a growing smirk.

“Sorry, what?”

“Check your direct messages on Twitter.”

“Get out of my business Liam,” Louis huffs as he picks his phone back up and makes his way to Twitter.

“Hate to break it to you, man, but your business is my business,” Liam laughs as he walks the short distance to the refrigerator and grabs a bottle of water.

“Yeah, yeah,” he says, absentmindedly, as he scrolls through to his direct messages.

Sure enough, there’s a message there from Harry Styles. He gasps quietly and locks his phone, deciding he can’t do this right now. He can’t open and read a message from a guy who is unbearably hot, incredibly smart, and somehow knows who he is and is a fan . Louis has to leave for the studio in the next five minutes if he doesn’t want to be late, anyway. It would be irresponsible to get distracted by talking to him right now.

“Alright, I need to get going, I have about fifteen minutes to get to the studio,” Louis tells him as he stand up and dumps his nearly empty bowl of, now chocolatey, milk in the sink before sliding on his Vans and stuffing his laptop into his bag.

“Already called us a car, I need to go into the office for a bit today too so we can just ride together.”

“Sounds great. Oh, and I’ll let you know about that song I was telling you about. I think getting a girl’s voice in there would be good, I’ve even got a few ideas for who, but I’ll run through it again today and let you know for sure.”

Liam just nods, typing away on his phone as they make their way to the door.

*

Louis doesn’t end up leaving the studio until late that night, having wanted to get as much recorded as he could and plan for the collab he definitely wants to record soon. So, when he gets home, he goes straight for a shower then to bed, having already had dinner many hours ago at the studio when Liam stopped by to see the progress being made.

It isn’t until he’s half asleep watching Mindhunter on Netflix that he remembers the message from Harry Styles. He runs his hands across the bed sheets, refusing to sit up to find his phone. It’s been a long day, he doesn’t know how he’s still awake. When he finally retrieves his phone and brings up the message, the little nervous feelings begins to bloom in his stomach again. Ignoring it, he clicks on the message and begins to read.

Hiiiiii, Louis! I was so happy to see you holding my book in those pictures! I’ve been a long time fan of yours and love all your work, so I hope you love mine! Have you finished it yet? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts! It means a lot to me that you support other, less popular, LGBT creators! I’ve noticed we have a pretty big overlapping fanbase, which is awesome to see too! Thank you so much for buying and (hopefully) reading/enjoying my book!

He reads it over once more, a slow smile subconsciously spreading across his face. Harry Styles was sweet, and cute too. Ugh. Just what Louis needs. But of course he’s nice, nobody that talented, that beautiful, and that involved in LGBT activism could be a jerk.

His fingers start typing out a reply before his brain can catch up.

Hey, Harry! I did finish it, and I loved it! Definitely a fav of yours (yes, I’ve read the other two). I love supporting people in the community, yeah. It’s a really great feeling! We do seem to have a lot of the same fans, haha! Lots of twitter names related to me with pictures and tweets about your books and the other way around, so that’s really cool! Heard rumors about the movie deal as well, and congrats if it’s true! That’s a massive deal for a book with a gay relationship at the center of the plot! You’re doing great things, Harry!

Louis decides that’s fine, and he’s honestly too tired to overthink it, really. He dozes off a couple of minutes after hitting send.

*

It isn’t until a couple of days later that Louis even has the time to think about Harry Styles. Liam and everyone else he’s been working with agreed that a girl’s voice would make this one song he has for the album so much better, so he’s been talking to Bebe about doing it. She was excited about it, of course, but there were a few other people that needed to agree with it. Which has taken the last two days.

They could just let her record the parts in a studio in NYC, but they both decide she should come to LA for it, Louis’ here more himself than he is in NYC. And maybe just stay for the rest of the week because it’s been a while since they’ve seen each other for more than a couple of hours at a time, and she can even do some more writing while she’s here.

When it is all planned out, Liam lets him know she’ll be flying in on Wednesday morning and they’ll try and get into the studio that night and the next morning if it ends up taking longer than planned. Bebe is then scheduled for a writing session with some friends of Louis’ Thursday night and then after that they’re set to both have free time until she flys back to NYC on Sunday.

Liam is finally about to put his laptop away so they can end the work stuff and finally start the newest season of Black Mirror. Louis had put his away half an hour ago and just started eating the pizza, that was going to get cold if they didn’t start eating it He keeps raising his hand with the remote control, pointing it toward the TV while eyeing Liam, which has yet to get his attention.

He clears his throat, which gets Liam to move only his eyes from the screen.

“Just a second, Lou. I’m sending one last email.”

Louis sighs, dropping his hand back to his lap and nearly toppling over the grease soaked paper plate that’s resting on his thigh.

“Hurry, Li. This is Black Mirror we’re talking about.”

“I know, I know,” Liam says, his typing picking up pace before ceasing, and after another minute Liam is closing his laptop and siding it into his bag.

“Alright, let’s go.”

“Thank fuck,” Louis mumbles and immediately presses play.

“Oh, before I forget-”

“Liam-”

“No, no. Listen. Just sometime tonight remember to reply to Harry’s tweet.”

Louis looks at him, drawing his eyebrows together. “But we’ve sent messages back and-”

“No, I know. That’s fine. Just publically reply something short and sweet. Looks a bit rude of you to just leave him hanging, especially when you share so many fans. Don’t want anyone thinking you’re like, a dick, or something.”

“Fine, I will. Can we watch now?”

“Yes, let’s watch,” Liam says, leaning forward and grabbing a slice of the pizza and grabbing a beer off the coffee table.

It makes sense, what Liam said. So, he digs in the pocket of his hoodie for his phone and quickly writes out a reply to the tweet Harry sent to him a few days ago, mimicking the wording of Harry’s tweet.

@HarryStyles Can’t believe my favorite author likes my music!

*

“Um, babe?” Louis can hear Bebe say from the other end of the couch, but he doesn’t look up from his screen, doesn’t slow his fingers as he’s typing away.

“Louis, I can’t believe you’re already checking out, it hasn’t even been two hours.”

“What?” Louis asks, not looking up from his laptop. “I am listening.”

“Really? So you think we should slow the song down, throw in some piano and turn it into a ballad?”

His head shoots up at that.

“Sorry, what? No. Sorry, but no. We aren’t doing that. It already sounds really-”

“Louis,” Bebe says through her giggles. “I’m kidding, it was a joke.”

Louis gives her an unimpressed look.

“It sounds great as it is, I wouldn’t mess with any of it. I just knew you weren’t listening.”

“Okay, I wasn’t. But only for the last bit of what you were saying. I just had an email to reply to, but I’m done now,” he says, closing his laptop and sitting it down on the table in front of them. “Want to run through the notes again before you get back in the recording booth?”

“Sure, yeah,” she gives him a smile and a nod.e presses the play button on his phone where the demo is recorded.

They’ve been in the studio for most of the afternoon, they got here later than planned because Bebe’s flight was delayed and when she finally arrived all she wanted was brunch, a shower, and a nap. But they’re making quick progress, and it’s coming together even better than Louis had thought it would. Their voices mix well together and it’s definitely what the song needed.

When Bebe is finally back in the recording booth Louis pulls out his phone, remembering what Liam said about using social media more during the writing and recording process. He takes a short video of Bebe for his Instagram story and makes sure to tag her and mute it before posting it.

He then switches over to his text messages, and finds a text from Harry. Because, that’s a thing that they’re doing now. Texting. It was just too much to go into his twitter messages every time he wanted to read a message or reply. Yeah that’s definitely why, and he definitely didn’t blush like an idiot when Harry asked for his number.

I have a party I have to go to tonight that one of the producers for the movie is having. My agent said it’d be polite and good to show my face but I’m dreadingggggg it. I won’t really know anybody besides the few people I’ve met once or twice. :/

Louis can sympathize with that—he’s had to do his fair share of ass kissing in this industry. More so at the beginning, but it never stops being horrible.

Oh that’s no fun, maybe you can drown yourself in all the expensive alcohol and excuse yourself early because you “aren’t feeling well” haha! Where abouts in LA is it?

“Hey, give it a listen now, see how it sounds. Ran through it twice!” Bebe says as she sticks her head out of the booth.

Louis pockets his phone and decides to focus on the rest of recording, so they can hopefully get out of here soon. His stomach growls are increasing in volume and Louis knows that Bebe plans to go and visit a friend tonight.

“Alright, let’s have a listen then.”

He presses play and puts the set of headphones on for the full effect and sits back and listens to Bebe’s voice against the almost finished track.

*

They don’t leave the studio until an hour and a half later when the track is nearly done. Bebe jumps in an Uber right outside the studio and Louis debates on if he should go home or call his sister to see what she’s up to tonigh,t and if she wants to have dinner. Liam has already let him know he has plans and he doesn’t really want to go out and have a drink with his other group of friends—which are sure to be pregaming for the club right now, even though it’s Wednesday. And texting Niall is useless because he’s on tour.

Hey Lotts what are you up to tonight? Wanna grab dinner? Leaving the studio now.

She replies instantly, her phone always in her hand.

Can’t, sorry Lou. :( Have to be in Sherman Oaks in half an hour to do makeup and then attend a party with a client to see about a big potential job! I would stop by your place after but it could be pretty late.

What about brunch tomorrow? Isn’t Bebe in town? Tell her she’s invited, if so!

Louis huffs a laugh as he opens the door to his car and gets in. He tosses his bag into the passenger seat and begins typing out a reply to Lottie.

Yeah, brunch sounds good! She is in town, got here this morning. I’ll let her know she’s invited.

Good luck tonight!

He locks his phone and starts his car, he’ll just order Thai food once he gets home. Deciding he’ll just have a chill night and maybe get home in time to FaceTime his mom for a bit before she goes to bed. He hasn’t had the time the last two weeks and he tries to FaceTime her at least once a week—hopefully at a time he can also talk to the rest of his siblings back home too.

*

Louis is slowly being pulled from his sleep, it takes a moment or two, but he doesn’t hear the insistent annoying tone of his phone, nor the banging on his door Liam likes to do.

He scrunches his nose up, and it’s then he notices the wetness on his ear. He turns his head over on the pillow and that’s exactly the moment he realizes’ who’s waking him.

“Cliff,” He grumbles into his pillow, as he feels his hot breath on his face and hears his loud panting in his ear. “Can I have ten more minutes, bud?”

“Nope.”

That send him bolting upright in bed, hand to his bare chest and eyes wide.

“Jesus fuck, Bee. You scared me.”

That makes her laugh, causing Clifford to tumble out of his bed and toward where she’s standing in his doorway.

“Should I just go meet Lottie without you, then? You told her we’d be there by eleven.”

Louis sighs and falls back down on his bed, “And what time is it now?”

“Five ‘til.”

“Fuckin’ hell, alright I’ll be ready in like ten minutes. I showered last night let me just throw on some clothes.”

Bebe turns and leaves his room, large clumsy dog at her heels.

He feels around in his bed for his phone, unlocking it without looking so he can text Lottie that they’ll be a little later than planned. It’s after he sends off the text that he notices the three missed texts from Harry.

Sherman Oaks, I think?

Definitely too many margaritas deep, should probably cut myself off and go home!

The last one is a photo—a photo of Harry looking hotter than anyone has any right to be right next to… his sister. Lottie. Lottie met Harry at the party last night. The photo is accompanied by a text with a seemingly never ending string of emojis.

Met your sister!!!!!

Louis stares at the picture for way too long before making himself type out a reply so he can get out of bed to get ready.

I see! The better Tomlinson, really, consider yourself lucky. Looks like you had a great night!

He quickly brushes his teeth and applies deodorant, before throwing on a shirt and some jeans with his Gucci sneakers. He doesn’t even bother spending time on his hair, just runs his hands through it with some product and hopes for the best.

*

“Lotts, you wanna slow down?” Louis asks, wearily eying her glass as she refills it.

“Not really, no,” she says before taking a sip of her drink. “Last night sucked, I can have a few mimosas to make myself feel better about it.”

Louis furrows his brow at her, not realizing she’s serious for a moment.

“What happened, babe? You went to a party didn’t you?” Bebe asks, subtly placing the pitcher on the opposite side of the table to Lottie.

“Yeah, and apparently the upcoming job isn’t as upcoming as I was lead to believe,” she rolls her eyes and takes a sip of her drink before continuing. “I got a sort of heads up about it a week ago, so, I turned down a three month job that would start next week for nothing, essentially.”

“What’s the job?” He asks, leaning forward in his seat. He’s already kind of mad for her, if someone is out there giving her bad career advice he wants to know who.

“A movie, based on some book. It’s gay, so you probably know it.”

Before Lottie could finish her sentence Bebe had mimosa spraying out of her mouth as she tried to hold in her cackle.

Louis side eyes her, and tries to hold in his laugh but he can’t after seeing her trying to wipe the liquid off of her face without ruining her makeup.

“It was that funny?” Lottie subtly smirks as she reaches over and snatches the pitcher while Bebe is distracted. “Always knew I was the funny one in the family.”

“Fuck off,” Louis says immediately. “You know that’s me. You just caught me off guard with that one.”

Lottie gives him another roll of her eyes as she sips her, now full, glass.

“Well, what gay book is it based off of? There’s a lot and I can guarantee your brother has read them all.”

“Um,” Lottie pauses to think, drawing her bottom lip between her teeth and squinting her eyes a bit. “I honestly don’t remember. The author was there, though. I met him, he’s really nice and he’s hot, too, but he’s definitely gay. All the hot ones around here are,” she sighs.

It’s just then that Louis’ phone that is sat on the table buzzes with a text, he looks down quickly to see it’s from Harry. That’s when he puts the pieces together.

“Wait, Harry Styles? You got a gig doing makeup for the movie based on Harry’s newest novel?” Louis asks incredulously.

“Who’s Harry?” Bebe butts in. “Oh, is he that guy you were flirting with on twitter?”

He was not flirting with Harry on twitter. Off twitter? Most definitely. On twitter? Not a chance. “I wasn’t flirting with-”

“Styles! Harry Styles, yeah that’s it! I made fun of his name, said he should be a hairstylist and that’s when he told me he wrote the book!” Lottie says excitedly.

“Yeah I’m sure that’s the first time he’s ever heard that joke,” Louis comments.

“He thought it was funny, actually. Or maybe he was just wasted. I mean, we both were. really. That’s why… oh my god!” She raises her voice, causing Louis to look around the outside patio to make sure nobody is getting annoyed, but there’s only two other tables on the other end and they seem unbothered. “We took a picture to send you! Did he send it to you?”

“Yeah, yeah. I got it.”

“Oh good, I think that was before we drank even more and he told me how—um,” she pauses for a moment, eyes widening ever so slightly. “How excited he is for the movie,” she finishes through a stutter.

Louis narrows his eyes at her, “Why are you being weird?”

“I’m not being weird.”

“Bebe,” Louis’ eyes don’t leave Lottie’s face, “Wasn’t that weird?”

Bebe finishes chewing her bite of pancake before speaking, “It was a little weird, Lotts.”

“You’re both weird. I’m fine,” she says before picking up her phone off the table. “Oh, shit. It’s almost one. I have a meeting in half an hour on the other side of town,” Lottie says as she scoots her chair back and stands.

“I’m sure you do,” Louis says with an eye roll, tossing enough cash on the table to cover their meal and a generous tip.

“I really do, call Britts and ask her if you don’t believe me, I had to cancel our plans today because of it.”

They all begin walking to the back parking lot, Bebe ignoring them in favor of typing away on her phone.

“I am not calling Britts.”

Louis would rather die than get sucked into a conversation with her ever, but especially when she apparently had all the free time in the world to talk.

“Exactly,” Lottie says with a smirk. “You’ll just have to take my word for it.” She doesn’t say anything more when she stops at her car and turns to hug him.

“Bye, love you. Drive safe,” Louis says, ignoring her fond eye roll.

“Always do. See you tomorrow night!” She turns and crushes Bebe in a hug, not minding at all that she almost causes her phone to go tumbling to the ground. “We need to hang out again before you go back, text me!”

“I will,” Bebe laughs and they both walk further down the lot to where Louis’ car is parked.

“She’s so weird today,” Louis comments.

“She’s always weird, she’s Lottie,” Bebe rounds the car and they both get in, Bebe immediately going for the radio.

Louis shrugs, and assumes she’s right. “So, got any plans for the rest of the day?” He asks as he unlocks his phone to read Harry’s text.

She was lovely, but I doubt she’s the better Tomlinson! It did end up being better than I thought, she was fun to hang out with!! But now I’m stuck in meetings all day :/

A small smile appears on his face as he reads. He understands how awful being in meetings all day is, so he mentally says ‘fuck it’ and starts typing.

That sucks! Any plans after the meetings? I know a great place for drinks, if not!

He tosses his phone into the empty cup holder and pretends it didn’t happen as quickly as he can.

“Um, I’m grabbing dinner with a friend later but not until then. Why? Have any suggestions?”

“Should we brainstorm for the music video then? Got a few ideas written down but nothing much so far,” Louis suggests as he pulls out of the parking lot and heads home.

“Sounds good, I have a few directors in mind already.”

*

It is about an hour after Bebe left that Louis gets a reply from Harry. He’s sitting on his couch texting Niall when he sees the notification on the top of his screen. He’s been begging Niall to tell his dad not to say anything weird when and if he shows up at his bar with Harry later. Not that he would; Greg has always been like a second father to him since he moved to New York and met Niall years ago. They would both go to the bar and order drinks when they were both still writing shitty songs with even shittier people and performing them in venues so small they could remember everyone in the audience’s name if they tried.

After Niall has promised he’s told his dad not to question or comment on him and Harry while they’re there, and after Niall has sufficiently chewed him out for not telling him about this whole Harry thing yet (in Louis’ defense, Niall is on tour and it’s more than difficult to get him on a FaceTime call or even a regular phone call), Louis finally reads Harry’s reply. All the nerves from before when he sent the message and when he was waiting for a reply comes flooding back as he clicks on his messages with Harry.

Nope, no plans! I just got home actually, give me the address and an hour to shower and change and I can meet you there? We’ll say half 8?

Louis lets out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding and thumbs out a reply with a small smile on his face.

Sounds good! It’s called Shaken on Burbank Blvd. There’s a doorway at the back of the bar near the bathrooms, should have a guy standing at it, give him your name and follow the stairs up to the roof and I’ll be there.

He looks at his phone for a few more seconds before locking it and tossing it on the couch, then he heads upstairs to get a shower himself.

*

Louis’ half a beer in when his phone rings, it makes him jump. He looks around the barely lit rooftop to see if any of the few people there saw him. They didn’t. He blames his jumpiness on the nerves. Why is he so nervous . He answers quickly when he sees it’s Niall.

“Niall, bro I really can’t-”

“Tommo!” Niall yells on the other end, making Louis cringe at the volume.

“Niall, I’m about to-”

“I know, I know, I just wanted to make sure dad hasn’t said anything. Is he there yet? Are you with him now ? Tell me you didn’t answer a call from me when you’re on a date, dude.”

“I didn’t, he isn’t here. He will be soon though, so make this quick. I said hi to your dad on the way in, and he said he already had me a table upstairs and that he’s been warned to not be such a dad,” Louis says with a laugh.

He hears Niall cackle loudly, so loud Louis even pulls his phone away from his ear for a moment.

“Yeah, I did tell him. But listen, my break’s coming up next week and I wanna hear all about this Harry thing. Everyone on twitter is talking about the two of you and I wanna know everything. But I gotta go, gonna catch some sleep on this flight.”

“Alright, you know I would’ve told you everything if you weren’t flying around the world. I’m surprised Liam hasn’t said anything,” he says, taking another sip of his beer and taking another glance at the doorway.

“Believe me, I’ve tried to get him to tell, but you know him. ‘That’s not my business to tell Ni!’” Liam mocks in Liam’s lower register.

“Good friend, he is. Well you go get some sleep and I’m gonna continue this anxiety attack until Harry gets here,” Louis jokes. Well, is it a joke if it’s basically true?

It gets a laugh out of him anyway.

“Alright, Tommo, talk to you later.”

“Bye Niall,” Louis says before ending the call.

He looks at the time on his phone and sees that it’s getting really close to nine o’clock. For a moment he thinks maybe Harry isn’t coming. Was he too forward with this whole thing? Did  Harry take the time to think and realize that it’s actually weird for Louis to invite him to drinks?

All the thoughts stop when he hears a stumbling noise near the entrance to the rooftop. He looks up from his phone, it immediatly hits the table with a thump when he sees Harry.

Harry’s dressed in a colorfully striped cardigan over a plain black shirt and skin tight black skinny jeans to match. Louis finds that endearing, sure it’s february but it’s LA, it’s never that cold. Louis supposes being out here might get chilly, but even he’s just in a thin t-shirt, and he gets cold easier than anyone he knows. Harry’s also wearing black boots that look a bit chunky from here, could definitely be the reason for the stumble. That combined with the uneven shift from the wood in the hallway to the rocky floor of the rooftop. He thinks he can even make out a light blush on Harry’s cheeks, but he can’t be sure.

Harry gives him a lopsided smile and walks towards the table, prompting Louis to stand from his seat and try and be as subtle as he can as he takes another deep breath before greeting him.

“Hi Harry,” Louis says, feeling like his heart is beating out of his chest. He tries to go for a handshake but before he can even extend his arm Harry is holding his arms out and bringing him in for a hug.

It takes Louis a second before he’s wrapping his arms around Harry’s back and trying not to inhale the smell of Harry’s cologne too audibly.

“Hey, Louis,” Harry says, letting him go and stepping back. “Thought this was never going to happen, if I’m honest.”

The blush is back, or maybe it never left. But Harry is running a hand through his hair as steps to the side and sits down in the chair opposite Louis’.

“What?” Louis asks, sitting back down. “Going on a date with me?”

It's out of his mouth before he can stop himself, and Harry definitely sees how wide his eyes go because he giggles. Fucking giggles, dimples out and everything.

“Well, I meant meeting you, actually,” Harry laughs again. “So this is a date then?”

Louis can physically feel his face heat up. Not knowing what to say he goes with, “I mean I was hoping so, but if you don’t see it that way, that’s uh, that’s fine with me too. I’d love to be friends.”

He cringes at his stutter.

He watches as Harry’s eyes widen ever so slightly, “No, no. I definitely thought it was a date, just wanted to make sure I didn’t read this wrong and wanted to make sure Lottie was right.”

What? Louis looks at him, confused.,

“Lottie? What does my sister have to do with this?”

Louis can see a blush take over Harry’s face in an instant.

“Oh, um. We met at that party, you know. And um, we talked a bunch that night and exchanged numbers and everything because she suggested we hang out sometime, so I just texted her when you asked me on this date, to just make sure I wasn’t going into this thinking it was something that it wasn’t,” he finishes sheepishly.

“Yeah? And what did she tell you?” Louis asks nervously, bringing a hand up to rub the back of his neck trying to think about any and all incriminating stuff he’s said about Harry around Lottie.

“Oh, nothing really besides that she thinks the way you worded things sounded like it was a date rather than—I don’t know, drinks with a friend?” Harry pauses, a laugh escaping his pink lips. “She also said you normally don’t have the nerve to ask hot guys out, and that she was surprised you actually made the first move.”

Louis shakes his head. That does sound like something Lottie would say, and she’s not wrong. But Harry doesn’t need to know that.

He must have paused for too long because Harry looks a bit worried when he doesn’t get a response.

“Those were her words—not mine. Obviously.”

Louis huffs a laugh, “No, yeah. Sounds like her. I had plenty of nerves, just not the right kind.”

“Well,” Harry says, smiling so big his cheeks dimple. “It worked out, didn’t it?”

Louis matches his smile, “Yeah, I suppose it did.”

They talk and order more drinks over the next two hours. Louis asks about the movie deal and they talk a bit about books they both love, agreeing that a novel without at least four lgbt characters is unrealistic and not worth the read. They also talk a bit about music when Harry asks how his album is coming along. Again, both agreeing that music by lgbt artists is just better. Even if there’s just one gay writer in the room it makes all the difference, and Louis can attest to that.

As they part ways outside the bar, Louis tries his hardest to think up a way to invite Harry over to his place without it sounding weird. Sounding too much for where they’re at in whatever this thing between them is. He waits too long though, because, before he knows it, he’s closing Harry’s Uber door for him with a kiss to his cheek and a promise to call him soon.

He tries not to overthink their last interaction too much as he’s tossing and turning in an attempt  to fall asleep later that night.

He fails.

*

It’s been two days since Louis has spoken to Harry. Well, almost two days; one and a half technically. Not wanting to sound too eager after their date but not being too experienced with this whole thing to know the appropriate time frame to call or text someone after a date. Sure, he’s dated before. But it’s all been very different, meeting most of the guys at a club and ending up either in the dirty bathroom or in the back of a car. Never taking them home, not on the first night anyway. He’s had two real relationships, one only lasting a few months and the other only a month before he found out that the guy was just using him. Those relationships never happened in the typical meet then first date then second date then fuck like normal people do, though.

So, he’s a bit confused over what to do. And Bebe left yesterday afternoon to perform at a festival so it’s kind of pointless to shoot her a text. He could text Niall, though.

Louis reaches forward, nearly knocking over a glass vase on countertop in the process. He unlocks his phone, watching the screen as it opens to Instagram. It’s his favorite way to waste time when he’s supposed to be working. His thumb nearly presses down as it sits on his home button, but something catches his eye.

Harry’s currently live on Instagram.

He hesitates, thumb moving towards the top of his screen where the circle icon of Harry’s is, pausing halfway. Would it be weird of him to show up in his livestream? Especially considering he hasn’t reached out since their date. And even if Harry didn’t notice him, someone was bound to. But he just can’t pass it up, so he switches to his other Instagram account, one of his three. There is his public, his private, and then a random account, the username made up of random letters and numbers. He uses it for things like this. Is it creepy? Maybe. But sometimes he just likes to browse the internet without literally millions of eyes on him. So he thinks it’s justified.

Once he’s switched over to his other account, username G3yuf3w4f4, he quickly types in “Harry Styles” and clicks on his icon, which immediately pulls up the livestream.

Louis instantly smiles—Harry’s wearing just a black shirt, plain except for the small rainbow on the pocket. He doesn’t know why he finds that so endearing. He realizes that the volume is off, so he turns it on and can hear Harry humming, and he notices he’s likely reading the chat portion of his screen, thumb and pointer fingering playing with his bottom lip, something Louis notices he did a few times the other night. Again, endearing.

“Will you ever write a book about straight people? I love your stories but they are all gay, will you please write a love story about a guy and a girl?” He watches Harry read, can hear the laugh in his voice.

“No, I won’t ever write a book about straight people. That’s not my personal experience to write about and, quite frankly, there’s enough books starring straight people, so. Go read one of the millions of those. However, I do have a book out about a boy and a girl that I wrote alongside a good friend of mine who is trans and wanted their story out there. Not my experience in that one of course, but definitely his.”

Louis smiles, it was a good answer, and he’s read the book Harry’s referring to, it’s a good one. He glances at the chat, and every comment is in support of the answer as well, which is good. Dealing with rude people is one thing Louis isn’t good at, which is why he rarely does Instagram lives. But he thinks Harry is someone who probably can do them frequently, he’s probably the most polite person Louis has met in this city who has any kind of fame or following.

“Alright guys, that’s all for today. Going to get some writing done. Or try to anyway. It was nice chatting with you all.”

Harry gives the camera a smile, all dimples and teeth showing and even gives a little wave before the stream ends.

He stares at his phone, a lingering smile on his face. He should call Harry. Or text him at least. But should he text Niall first? Maybe get some advice? Now that he’s thinking about it, Lottie might be of help here too.

He doesn’t have long to think because his phone buzzes in his hand. Switching over to his Messages he sees it’s from Harry and can’t help but smile even wider.

Hi, just wanted to say I had a lot of fun with you the other night. Would love to see you again soon!

Louis doesn’t even think before he’s already typing out a reply.

Oh, you want to go on another date with me, Curly? I’m free for lunch tomorrow before a studio session, actually.

Curly? Where did that come from? Why does he have to be so weird?

I do, very much. I really like you, Louis. Meet me at South Beverly Grill at 1?

It seems like there’s an ever present smile on his face when it comes to Harry.

See you then!

He presses send and switches over to his contacts, he has a lot of questions for Niall.

*

“Niall, I just don’t think-”

“Louis shut up and get out of the car,” Niall’s voice interrupts rather loudly over the speaker.

“He makes me nervous, Ni. I don’t know why. No other guy has made me have sweaty hands and a constantly tapping foot before,” Louis is playing with his fringe in the rearview mirror as he speaks, he should have used more product.

Niall laughs, shit friend he is.

“It’s because you like him, now quit being weird and go. He’s probably waiting, you’re seven minutes late.”

“Fuck,” he whispers. “He’s gonna think I’m rude for that isn’t he? I just… hope nobody recognizes me here. Don’t want it to be weird, you know?”

“It is a rather popular place, don’t know why he would suggest it, considering. But just politely turn down a photo, it will be fine. But it won’t be anything if you just sit in your car the entire time.”

“I know,” Louis sighs, collecting his keys, wallet and phone and taking one last look in the mirror. “I’ll see you later, right? Still on for the studio?”

“Yep, see you then. Good luck, Lou.”

“Thanks Ni, bye,” he says before ending the call and getting out of the car.

He crosses the street and tries to breathe as he walks in. He spots Harry immediately. He’s in a booth towards the back and he’s facing away from the door, but he can tell it’s him because he’s wearing a pale rainbow striped shirt and he can hear his loud laugh. As he gets closer he realizes he’s on the phone, and he doesn’t want to interrupt so he just stops a few steps behind him.

“Yeah, yeah that’s why I picked the place,” he hears him say. “Yeah and if nobody sees then I can work in something on social media soon. No worries, I know how to play this,” Harry pauses, and Louis feels like his heart is in his throat. “Alright, see you later. Bye Jeff.”

Louis feels like he can’t breathe, he’s just looking at the back of Harry’s head and he can’t move. He hears Harry’s phone as he places it back on the table and just as he sees Harry about to turn his head, presumably to look at the door, he puts one foot in front of the other and tries to smile in a way that doesn't look forced.

“Hi, Louis,” Harry stands up and gathers him into a hug before he knows what’s happening. He hugs him back, and steps away, moving to the other side of the booth to sit down.

“Hope you like this place,” Harry said with a smile. “Oh, and I went ahead and got you a water.”

“Thanks,” Louis takes a sip and tries to forget everything he just heard. He doesn't want to be rude and just leave, he can sit here for an hour and have lunch and then just never talk to him again. “And yeah, this place is great. I’ve been here a few times.”

“It’s always a go to for me, it’s my mom’s favorite when she comes to LA.”

Louis just gives him a smile and kind of drowns him out a bit as he talks about two other restaurants he loves in the area. He’s thankful when the waiter comes over and he quickly orders a burger before Harry can speak up, then excuses himself to the restroom.

Once he gets inside, he’s thankful to find it empty. He just takes a minute to calm himself down. It could be nothing. He could have been talking about anything. He did say this was one of his favorite places, and maybe he was talking about something else entirely.

Louis looks at himself in the mirror, adjusts his fringe, and promises himself to not think about what he overheard, and definitely not about the possibility that Harry could be just like his ex, Thomas. He’s just going to enjoy lunch and then go to the studio later with Niall and he can talk about it there.

He takes a deep breath and turns to exit the bathroom, nearly knocking into someone on his way out. He apologizes and makes his way back to the table and tries to ignore the blush rising on his cheeks when he watches Harry’s face light up to see him back.

Turns out it’s easy to forget something when Harry’s around, Louis finds himself laughing more than ever in the next hour. They joke and talk about a lot. Favorites seems to have emerged as a topic so they talk about their favorite everything . They find out they have a lot more in common than they both originally thought.

Louis finds that he forgot about the phone conversation entirely as they both exit the restaurant and Harry walks Louis to his car. It’s there that he remembers.  

“Would you like to go somewhere else? There’s this awesome bookstore near by that I love, I think you’d really like it,” Harry gives him a crooked sort of smile, eyes squinting against the sun even though he has a pair of sunglasses holding his hair back.

“I, um,” Louis pauses for a minute, remembering how quickly he wanted to leave earlier and why. “I have studio time scheduled right after this actually.”

Not a total lie, it’s in an hour but it’s still scheduled.

“Ah, okay. Maybe another time then.”

“I’d love that,” That is a lie, if he’s right about Harry then he doesn’t want to spend another moment in his presence.

“Okay, I’ll text you later then,” Harry says, then he leans in for another hug. Louis tries not to breathe in his cologne, he remembers how dizzy it left him feeling last time and how much he never wanted to let him go.

Harry is the first to pull away, but not before pecking Louis on the lips once. Louis is too shocked to do anything, so he just gives a forced smile and opens his car door. He waits for Harry to turn and walk in the other direction before he slings it all the way open and jumps in, slamming it behind him.

“Fuck.”

*

The three of them are downstairs in Louis’ basement, turned movie theater and game room, which gets more use out of being a game room, really. It’s what he and Liam and Niall are doing now, trying out some new game Niall found out about while he was on tour. It startles him when it happens, knowing nobody else is in the house and one of the two people who has a key is sitting right next to him.

The double doors that are at the end of the stairs, the only entrance into the basement fly open, one bangs loudly against the wall and when he looks over, all he can make out is a silhouette.

“What the fuck is going on?” Niall shouts over the game.

The silhouette moves, walks forward enough so that the bright light from the TV casts a glow over their face. It’s Lottie. Of course it is. She’s the only other one with a key and she’s always had a flair for the dramatic.

“What is wrong with you?” She’s come to stand right in front of him, blocking the TV and preventing him from focusing back on the game. He’s kind of got a feeling of what this is going to be about and he really doesn’t want to hear about it.

“Nothing is wrong with me, what’s wrong with you?” He tries to scoot over a bit on the couch to continue playing the game that Niall and Liam easily resumed after they figured out it was Lottie and not some masked murderer in the doorway.

“Oh I can tell you the problem I have if you want to do this right here in front of your friends.”

“Uh, you know what? Niall let’s go upstairs and order some pizza,” Liam pauses the game, so Louis stops trying to play even though Lottie is blocking more than half of his view.

“What? We can just order it from-”

Liam stands up and grabs Niall by the arm, causing him to drop his controller on the floor. “Lets go Ni.”

Louis watches them cross the room and head up the stairs, he huffs a sigh and leans back on the couch, refusing to meet what he knows must be an intense gaze from his sister.

It takes a minute or two before either of them say anything. Lottie drops her bag on the couch, takes the time to remove her coat and place it on the back of the couch and sits down beside him. She takes a moment before she shuffles around, bringing a leg up on the couch and facing him directly, arm propped on the back of the couch and head resting against her hand.

“What happened?” She asks softly, all bite and sass gone from her  voice.

“It just didn’t work out,” he says, still not meeting her eyes.

“But why? You liked him, I know you did. And I know he likes you. A lot. For a long time, actually, he told me he’s had a crush on you for forever. Why’d you just drop him? He hasn’t heard from you in over a week, Louis.”

Louis sighs, rubbing his hands over his face before adjusting himself. so he’s sitting up rather than almost laying down.

“He’s just like Thomas, you know that right?”

“I’m sorry what?” Her voice rises a bit, understandably. Thomas is a touchy subject for anyone that knows the whole story. “Harry is not like Thomas. He can’t be. He likes you, he cares about you and wants to get to know you. He isn’t like that asshole, he’s too nice to be.”

“Yeah, well I know you two are friends and all now but I overheard him talking to someone before we had lunch last week. He’s just like him,” he looks over at Lottie then, and she’s looking at him with squinted eyes.

“Well, what did you overhear?”

“So, I had just gotten there, and Niall and I had just been talking about how weird it was of him to pick a place so popular, but I just shrugged it off. So I walk in and see him, but his back was to me and I heard him say that he picked the place for a reason and then that he would have something up on social media soon if nobody saw it,” Louis explains, expecting her to understand and connect the dots. “And I know it was his manager because he said his name before hanging up.”

“Sorry, what? What does any of that mean?”

“Basically, that he picked the place because he knew it was popular and that if nobody saw us and, like, took pictures or anything that he would put something on social media about it himself. He was obviously talking about the date and it being PR with his manager. And I know that because even Liam was trying to get me to talk to him and stuff early on because it was good PR.”

Louis gets even more upset while talking about it, he told Niall and Liam what happened and just never wanted to think about it again. Niall agreed with him that it sounded weird and that he should be careful, but Liam said he could have been talking with his manager about anything. Doesn’t hurt to be overly cautious though, Niall told him.

“So basically you’re saying that you heard some random part of a conversation, filled in the blanks of what you’re worried will happen with guys, and taken that as fact and just ghosted him?” Lottie asks, and he can detect the attitude creeping back into her voice.

Louis pauses before he says anything. He supposes she isn’t wrong about it, that is what he’s done here. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? Harry could very well be just like Thomas and want him for attention and fame and followers and then drop him when he’s climbed far enough up and expose personal stuff to fans. Louis can’t risk that happening again. But then again, what if he’s wrong? What if Harry is nothing like that and this is all just a big misunderstanding and he was talking about something else? He and Harry had sort of clicked in a way he’s never had with other guys, and he’s by far the most attractive guy he’s ever seen and he’s so talented and passionate and he seemed so good at the beginning.

“You should at least have a talk with him, ask him what that was and maybe tell him why you got so paranoid when he confirms that conversation wasn’t about you in the first place.”

Louis sighs, she’s right. “It’s going to be so embarrassing.”

“It won’t,” Lottie places her hand on his arm and gives a squeeze. “Just explain what happened before and that you have to be really careful with guys now. He’ll understand. He’s a nice guy, and was really torn up about you not texting him back or answering his calls.”

“I hope you’re right,” Louis tells her.

“I’m always right.”

They both laugh at that, and Louis leans over and gives her a hug.

“Thanks Lotts, don’t know what I would do without you.”

“You’d ruin your life, obviously,” she says and stands from the couch and gathers her things. “Now let’s go eat some pizza, and I’ll help you draft a text to Harry inviting him over to dinner tomorrow. I hope you have some beer in the fridge.”

*

Louis’ pillow is vibrating. It takes him a second to realize it, but after a few moments it happens again. He was lingering in the place between being asleep and awake thanks to the sun shining through his window and landing directly on his face. He must have forgotten to close his blackout curtains last night.

That’s right, last night... It’s coming back to him now. Lottie stayed after their talk and they all ate pizza and drank beer until well after midnight when her boyfriend came to pick her up because she’d accidently texted him instead of getting herself an Uber.

He remembers then why she was there in the first place, and sits straight up in his bed and starts feeling around under his pillow for his phone. That must have been Harry texting back. When he and Lottie had decided on a good enough message to send him it must have been midnight when he sent it, so, of course he hadn’t responded last night.

He reads over what he sent first, not even remembering thanks to the alcohol.

Hi Harry, are you free for dinner tomorrow? Would love to see you.

Lottie definitely wrote that, or at least told him what to type. He remembers being at a loss for what to say after ignoring Harry’s texts and calls for a week and a half.

Hey Louis, I have a pretty busy day actually. Have some meetings and a business dinner then a late flight to NYC for a few days for some more meetings and press. If you’re free before lunch today we could grab coffee?

He quickly looks at the time, it’s half past nine. He could make coffee work. There’s no time to mentally prepare but he doesn’t want to wait days for this.

Yeah, coffee sounds great! Does an hour from now work for you? Any spots you like?

Louis hops out of bed and goes straight to the bathroom after letting Clifford out of his room. Deciding to forego a shower since he had one right before the guys came over last night, he walks to his closet and just stares at the racks of clothes.

His phone vibrates against his leg and he digs into his pocket to find a response from Harry.

Meet me at B&C in Beverly Hills in an hour?

Sounds good.

Louis locks his phone and sighs, looking back at his closet. He would just throw on a hoodie for coffee, but he wants to put a bit more effort in. He chooses a plain black long sleeve tee and a pair of khaki plaid pants.

Then he spends longer than he’d have liked to in his bathroom brushing his teeth, putting on deodorant and mainly fussing over his hair. But twenty minutes later after taking Clifford out he’s already en route to the coffee shop. It’ll do him good to be a little early.

Two minutes into the ride and he can feel the nerves coming on, so he decides to put on a new mix to a song he was sent yesterday and listen to it on the way to the coffee shop so he has something to focus on rather than have his mind overthink everything that’s about to happen when he talks to Harry.

When he pulls into the parking lot, he cuts the engine and checks the time, he’s about twenty minutes early. Instead of just sitting in his car he decides to head in and order himself a coffee.

The shop is small from the outside, a brick building squeezed between a hair salon and what looks to be a home decor shop. Once he enters, he sees that it has two floors. The coffee shop portion is upstairs, where a counter and a few tables are, but the main floor is a bookstore. There are isles of books and an area in the back full of mismatched couches and chairs and a few tables.

He doesn’t realize until he’s ordered his coffee and heading back down the staircase that this is the place Harry must have been talking about taking him to after they had lunch that day. It makes him feel bad about being adamant on not coming.

On his way to the back to find a table he walks past a display of up and coming authors. What stops him is Harry’s face in a picture of four other people—all seemingly authors as well. Each of his books are on the display, a few copies of each. Louis doesn’t hesitate before grabbing one of the ones he hasn’t read yet and heading to the back corner where there’s a free table. He doesn’t even think about how weird it might be for Harry to just show up and see him reading one of his books, he just sits down and begins reading.

The story immediately sucks him in, all his attention on the words he’s reading and not on his coffee or the people roaming around the shop. That’s the thing about Harry’s writing, it’s always so immersive from beginning to end. Louis’ so caught up in reading that he doesn’t even hear his phone buzz on the table, nor does he see Harry as he’s approaching the table. He could have probably just quietly sat down and Louis wouldn’t have noticed, but he jumps in surprise when Harry accidentally hits the table leg with his foot and causes the entire thing to shake.

Louis looks up at him and his look of shock turns to a soft smile.

“Oops,” Harry says, sitting his coffee down and pulling out the other chair.

“Hi,” Louis watches as he sits down and scoots his chair in, all while a dimple is carved into his right cheek. Harry looks so different today, his hair looks curlier, if that’s even possible, and he’s wearing a plain white shirt with loose beige trousers and a blue bandana tied around his neck. Different from his comfy rainbow wardrobe Louis has seen but, of course, he looks gorgeous. Louis tries to hide his smile behind his mug as he takes a sip of coffee.

“Hi,” Harry parrots back. “That book any good?”

He’s really glad he swallowed his coffee because it would definitely have come out of his nose with how hard he laughs at that. It was a loud, ugly cackle and it even causes Harry to giggle.

“Yeah it is, actually. I’m a big fan of the author.”

Louis watches Harry’s cheeks take on a rosy hue as he shakes his head. “Are you now?”

“Very much so.”

“Good,” Harry takes a sip of his iced coffee, glancing out the window for a moment before his eyes find Louis again. “So, how have you been?”

It feels like a dig. It probably isn’t, but he still thinks it is. Maybe he just feels guilty.

“I’ve been good. Working a lot on finishing up the album. How’ve you been?” Louis gives him a small smile.

“Uh okay, yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of writing actually,” Harry doesn’t really meet his eyes, playing with his straw and intently looking down.

“I’m sorry,” Louis blurts out, and he guesses he might as well go for it at this point. “I’m sorry about just kind of ghosting you the past almost two weeks. I just-” Louis pauses, looking up to the ceiling and sighs. “It’s going to sound stupid and immature and silly but please just let me explain, okay?”

Harry just gives him a nod, placing his coffee down and folding his hands on the table in front of him.

“I had a really bad experience with a guy once. His name is Thomas and we dated, very briefly, before he broke it off. I wasn’t really sure why until one night he was on twitter posting all of this really private stuff about me and when he was confronted about it he said he was only with me so that he would get noticed, I guess,” Louis shrugs. “He was trying to be a model, I think, and when people saw us together I guess he gained followers and was contacted and signed to an agency. He ended things because he didn’t really need me anymore. His followers doubled and he got signed and started booking jobs, so, I guess his plan worked.”

Harry reaches forward and grabs Louis’ hand and gives it a squeeze. “Louis, I am so sorry that happened to you.”

“Anyway,” he continues after giving Harry a small smile. “I’ve had to be really cautious since then because unfortunately there’s a lot of people around here just like Thomas. And it sounds stupid, but when we met for lunch I kind of overheard the end of your phone conversation and I just immediately started overthinking it and somehow came to the conclusion that you were sort of um.. using me? For PR?”

Harry’s eyes grow wide at that, mouth dropping open ever so slightly. “I would never-”

“I know, I know that. I just, I don’t know. Thought this all seemed a bit too good to be true and maybe I just let myself think up the worst possible scenario.”

“Maybe, because I think I remember that I was talking with my manager about a brand deal with a clothing company. They wanted me to wear a shirt of theirs or something and I said I could post about it or something.”

Louis completely deflates upon hearing that, he lets his head drop into his hands. He was wrong. Of course he was wrong. He’s so glad he was wrong.

“I am so sorry Harry.” Louis says, not moving from his hiding place. He feels so embarrassed.

“Hey, no it’s fine,” Harry tries to pry Louis’ hands from his face. “I totally get it that you have to be more cautious than a normal celebrity after what you had to go through. It’s okay, I’m just glad I still get a chance.”

Louis spots a dimple again. God how is Harry not too good to be true?

“I’m glad you do too, Curly.”

“Actually I,” He pauses, clearing his throat and suddenly looking nervous. “I should tell you that I’ve had a pretty big, um, crush on you for a while. Like, long before you knew who I was, since before I even finished my first book really. And I just hope that isn’t too weird for you or anything.”

It makes Louis laugh, really. Harry says it like it’s some big flaw—something that would maybe change how Louis feels.

“Well I’m flattered but no, I don’t think it’s weird. I think it’s nice that we were both fans of each other’s work before we met.”

“Oh, I was more than just a fan of your work ,” Harry almost whispers. It makes Louis giggle.

“What was that, Curly?”

“I mean, you’re rather attractive and it sort of became a running joke with my friends and family that I had a huge crush on you. There may have been a jokingly gifted poster than I actually put up, but who’s to say really.”

Louis is nearly in tears by the end of his spiel, trying hard not to laugh too loudly in the quiet bookstore.

“That’s rather cute of you, Harry.”

“You know I’m glad you think so because my sister was planning on saving that as blackmail. I’m relieved, honestly,” Harry says with a laugh.

They both look at each other for a moment, smiles on their faces and Louis is happy that he listened to his sister about this one.

Harry looks down, clicking his home button once and letting out a quiet curse.

“I really need to get going if I’m not going to be late to this meeting.”

“Oh, yeah of course, go,” Louis says as he’s standing up. “I think I’ll stay for a bit and read actually.”

It makes Harry smile, even if he does shake his head.

“I’ll be texting you and I hope I’ll get a text back,” Harry says with laughter in his voice as he steps forward to hug him.

Louis wraps both arms around him tightly, probably holding on for too long but he’s too happy to let go.

“You’ll get a text back, no worries,” Louis tells him before he bravely leans forward and kisses him once, then again, and one final time and he can feel Harry’s lips quirking into a smile.

“I’ll see you in a few days, then.”

“Have a nice time, I’ll see you soon, Curly,” Louis gives him one last kiss before he watches Harry walk out of the bookstore

Louis gives him a little wave when he sees him turn around at the door, then he sits down to finish his now cold coffee and the next chapter of Harry’s book.

Five minutes later when his phone lights up with a text from Harry, he can’t grab it quick enough.