“Taylor Swift, found dead backstage at Wembley Stadium, reports claim that it was suicide,” Louis read aloud, leaning on Liam’s desk. He scrolled through his Ipad, expression impassive as he further skimmed through the article. “So, it was suicide? Why are we still investigating this, then?”
Liam sighed, endlessly typing on the computer as he did. Typing was what he did best, computers and technology. It was why he was the handler and Louis was the one out in the field. The thing that worked about them was that Louis could do what Liam did, Liam could do what Louis did, but they chose not to. They chose to work together as a team, but without the other, they wouldn’t be lost. They made each other better, not dependent.
“I pulled up some footage from the dressing room she was in, where she was discovered by her manager—”
“Why was there a camera there?” Louis said, aghast, “Shouldn’t it be more private?” Though this wasn’t the first time they’d given a look at CCTV footage, there had never been a time where it was from private areas such as dressing rooms.
“It’s for safety precautions in order for us to conduct investigations as such.” Liam opened a folder on the computer, the file that held the footage. He motioned towards the screen. “The attacker wanted the public to believe it was suicide, but they knew we wouldn’t.”
“The police, you mean,” Louis corrected, setting his own device on the desk, “They don’t know the M15 is involved. They didn’t think it would get to us, did they?”
He positioned himself behind Liam’s chair to get a better view, glancing behind him once as though he was expecting someone to burst through the door any minute. Although, he knew no one could enter while the handler and field agent were inside the small room.
Liam dragged his mouse over the screen, putting the video on fast-forward and stopping it at 1345.
“Perhaps not, though I’m certain it would’ve crossed their minds at some point.” Louis focused on the screen as Liam spoke, trying to memorize the entire scene. His near-photographic memory had proven to come in handy on several missions.
Liam continued to explain the investigation. “At 1345, the screen goes black for a split second, then returns to normal, except unlike what witnesses say, the CCTV never catches Swift go back in the room. And look at the clock,” He pointed a finger at the clock that hung on the wall, “It stops moving.”
“So, you think it’s a hack?”
“It is. At 1400, the screen reverts to this all of a sudden.” Liam skipped to 1400 and it showed Swift hanging from the ceiling, a rope around her neck to make it seem like she had choked. Clearly, she didn’t die from being hanged. What Louis was able to infer from the shocked expression on her face, she had been shot or stabbed.
“There was a wound,” Louis stated.
“The police showed us this.” Liam flipped through the folder that was between him and the keyboard. He pulled out a photograph of Swift’s dead body. “It seems to be a stab to her chest—very accurate, too. The attacker stabbed her straight through the main artery. Either the attacker is a doctor, or they have numerous experiences in murder. I wouldn’t bet on the former.”
Louis pursed his lips. The attacker knew what they were doing, but the whole set-up was too complex to have been orchestrated by a single person. There was a purpose to Swift’s death, it wasn’t a random act to terrorize the police, and a whole group was in on it.
“Did any of the witnesses see anyone else enter the room?”
Liam shook his head. “Even the cameras don’t show anyone going inside, and the cameras outside the dressing room aren’t hacked.”
“So, there’s no lead, then? We’re running after a brick wall,” Louis grumbled.
“No need to get sassy, I have a small lead,” Liam muttered, opening another file—an audio recording, “This is an interrogation with one of the witnesses.”
“Who is it?”
“Edward Sheeran, one of the other performers of the Summertime Ball.”
The audio clip started with static, a few chairs could be heard screeching around and being moved. And then a voice began to talk.
“I’m Officer Murs, thank you for agreeing to this, Mr. Sheeran,” Officer Murs started. Louis knew Murs well. They were tight, the M15 and M16 have occasionally worked with him. He was one of the few police officers that Louis found tolerable.
“It’s no problem,” A higher voice replied. Ed Sheeran. Louis had heard him in the radio several times, even when he was out buying groceries, or perhaps lounging at home, he’d hear Sheeran’s voice would be singing the endless ‘I’m in love with your body’ rhythm coming from his neighbor. This boy was everywhere. He was good, Louis can admit, but hearing the same five notes playing over and over again no matter where he went had become a tiring task.
Officer Murs cleared his throat. “Where were you around 1:30 to 2:00, Mr. Sheeran?”
“Backstage, in Harry’s dressing room,” Sheeran told him, the reply coming with a sense of blankness. He acted as though he could care less if another one of his best friends endure the same fate as Swift. He acted like he didn’t care, and maybe he didn’t. “I’d say we’re close mates, or we used to be, at least. He hasn’t said a word to anyone since he found out. I think he assumes it was my fault Tay killed herself. As if.”
Louis blinked. Right. Everyone thought this is a matter of suicide—he wondered how no one has questioned the fact that the police were doing such a thorough investigation for a suicide case.
“So Styles is close affiliated with Swift, yes?”
“They used to date. They were quite the couple, if I’m being honest, I thought they’d get married one day. But one day, something happened while Taylor was over at his place, because the next day, she went to my flat bawling her eyes out and—sorry, I’m rambling, this doesn’t really help much, does it?” Sheeran chuckled, confusing Louis even more. Sheeran was too unfazed by the incident.
“Any information you give might be beneficial to the case. At the time you were with Styles, was there anything weird going on? Something that could be regarded out of the ordinary?”
“It was suicide, right? Why would it ma—” Sheeran stopped and Louis felt his breath hitch in anticipation, “Now that you mention it, there was something off about one of Harry’s bandmates. Their drummer, Sarah Jones, came into the dressing room looking for Clare. She looked like she was panicking a lot. Harry seemed confused and told her he didn’t know where Clare was. They never found Sarah since. I think she’s missing at this point.”
“Nope, that’s all. If you think it’s more than suicide…” Ed paused for a few seconds. Probably for dramatic effect, a thought that made Louis roll his eyes. “Then I think Harry’s band and tour will be a start for the investigation.”
Liam paused the audio, turning to Louis. “That’s the only helpful information I’ve retrieved from that, you can view the entire thing later, but we’re short on time and I’ve got a meeting with the chief, so I’ll just show you a different clip, the interview with Styles himself.”
“Are you taking Sheeran’s word for it?” Louis asked, “He hasn’t much evidence to back anything up.”
“No, of course not. Especially once you listen to Styles’ side of things. Which is why I’ve requested the chief to have another pair assigned to go undercover and investigate Sheeran.”
“I’m going undercover for Styles?” Louis couldn’t be more grateful. If he had to spend an entire mission with Sheeran singing ‘I’m in love with the shape of you’ everyday on-stage, he’d go mad.
“That’s the plan,” Liam confirmed, quitting the file with Sheeran’s interrogation and opening the one labeled Styles. “I’ll brief you after my meeting with the chief. Listen to this first.” He skipped to somewhere in the middle of the clip.
“The last time I saw Sarah was during our rehearsals, way before Taylor was murdered. Since then, the rest of the band, including me, hasn’t seen her. We’ll be looking for a new drummer soon.
Louis frowned, drumming his fingers on the desk. “How’d he know it was a murder?”
Liam gestured for him to continue listening.
Officer Murs then asked, “What makes you say she was murdered?”
To which Harry responded not-so-smoothly, “Wh—what? Killed? I didn’t say that. I though she hanged herself. You must’ve misunderstood what I said.”
Louis took it upon himself to pause the video, since he already heard what he needed to, and glances at Liam. “Something is definitely up with Styles, but Sheeran’s acting weird too.”
“Exactly. They both know something that we don’t,” Liam said, “Which is mainly why I called you down here. Despite the news only circulation today, Summertime Ball happened two days ago, and by now, most of the industry is aware that Styles in on the hunt for a new drummer. And since you’re one of the few people in the agency that knows how to play drums on a professional level, you’re going to audition to be Harry’s drummer throughout the rest of his tour.”
“What makes you think I’ll make the cut?” Louis scoffed. Though he had to admit, he was flattered. He hadn’t played drums in a while due to all the missions, but he was sure he could pick up from where he left off.
“The agency has connections that can put in a good word or two for you. We’ll falsify your resume, you know, typical things we do before sending an agent undercover.”
That was a big risk.
Louis ran a hand through his hair, messing up the way it was styled. “I’ll become famous, you know that, right? After this, I won’t be able to go undercover anymore.”
“28, you’re being ridiculous.” Liam stood up, cracking his fingers. “Meet me in the makeover room in an hour, you’ll look completely different, trust me. This isn’t a simple mission, so along with you there’ll be another agent who will be your stylist—and Styles’—throughout the tour. She’ll be giving you a makeover everyday so whatever identity of yours becomes famous, you can always disappear and go undercover for other missions.”
“What about Styles’ last stylist?”
Liam shrugged. “Missing too. At this point, I’ve found five people associated with Styles that have gone off the grid. However, Styles claims that they’re ‘on leave’ or summat, that’s why he’s looking for temporary replacements. Though after this, I beg to differ.”
Louis sighed and grabbed his Ipad. “This Styles kid better play nice.”
Hello! How is the story? x.
QOTC (question of the chapter): Who do you think tells the truth? Ed or Harry?
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Hale,” Liam grinned, watching Louis adjust his clothed, “You look quite promising.”
“That’s my name?” Louis asked, disgusted, and looked at his reflection in the mirror before groaning, “I look like a twink, 12.”
“I think it suits you.” Liam handed Louis a pair of glasses to add to the look. “It suits the role.” Louis opened his mouth to protest how he couldn’t see how a twink would look like a promising drummer, but Liam beat him to it. “You’re going to go into the audition with people thinking you’ve got no potential, but you’ll blow their minds away because you’re actually really good.”
“I’m no prodigy, I’m not even that good,” Louis huffed, adjusting the collar of his polo.
“Think that, if you must, but with that look, their expectations are already going to be down in the dust, so if you play decent, they’ll think you play good. If you play good, they’ll think you play like a professional, if you play like a professional, they’ll think you’re a prodigy. A matter of psychology, agent.”
“They brushed out my tattoos, made my hair so soft it feels like water, added make-up to my highly prominent jawline and cheekbones—mind you, they were beautiful—and made it…” Louis ran a hand over his face, “I look like I haven’t hit puberty yet, this is literally how I looked like back when I was 10. On top of that, I’m still recognizable!”
“You’re not, your eyes are brown, your nose is a bit different, everything about you is different, you’ll be fine.”
Liam rolled his eyes. He leaned beside the humongous tapestry on the wall, pretending to be interested with the way his shoes were made, as though they were new. “When I signed up to be a handler, I didn’t know I’d be a handler to a diva, 28.” Louis thought Liam is the worst.
“Calm your knickers, fill me in on the role, will you?”
“Andrew Hale, 23, born on the fifth of October, 1994,” recites Liam, having memorized the entire character crafted by the agency off the top of his head, “Born and raised in New York. Been playing drums since you were 11, professionally played for London Philharmonic Orchestra for two years, studio drummer for several artists—if they ask you why you never performed live, tell them it’s because you’re not fond of crowds, but you saw the opportunity so you might as well try. As much as possible, come off as innocent, so that they’ll see you as no harm, and most likely open up more.”
“How am I supposed to talk to them if I’m all shy?” Louis scoffed.
“I said innocent, not shy. You can still be loud, a bit like yourself—I just meant innocent about the topic and the industry, I didn’t mean act like a princess.” Liam frowned, pausing his movements as he made eye contact with Louis through the mirror. “This isn’t your first time playing a character like this, what’s the big deal?”
“It’s just,” Louis tugged on his vest, “If I slip up once, it will cost me my career. I’ll never be able to be back on the field.”
Liam pushed himself off the wall and stood beside Louis, both facing the mirror. “The agent I handle is never scared of costs. He did everything he had to to get the job done.”
Louis’ face visibly paled despite the prosthetics. “Right.”
“I know you’re barely past it—”
“I’m past it, Liam.” Louis shook his head firmly, nudging his glasses. “It’s been months, I’m past it. I just haven’t had something that got my head back into the game.”
“You never played hesitantly, 28, and that was what made you good—one of the best in a long time. Don’t start doubting things now. Doubt has always been man’s greatest enemy.”
“Of course. I know that.” Louis inhaled deeply, clenching and unclenching his fist twice until he got his composure back. “When are the auditions?”
Liam looked like he wanted to say something else, but he stopped himself. Typical Liam.
“I scheduled yours for next week, so you have ample of time to practice, do research, get to know your employer a bit.”
Louis nodded and shoved his hands in his pocket, smiling. “So you say I’m from New York, huh?” He coughed for added dramatic effect. “Guess I’ll have to start talking like this, then,” He said in a perfect American accent.
Liam wasn’t surprised by the slightest. Louis was one of the best agents when it came to accents, second best to agent 21—Niall Horan—also known as the agent assigned to Ed Sheeran’s case.
“There’s a drum set in the music room, sixth floor,” Liam told him, giving Louis one last look before heading for the door, “You might want to get rid of that disguise first, though.”
“I’m aware. I’ll see you around, 12.”
--- --- ---
The thing with Louis was that Styles’ songs were far too simple and boring for him, so he was finished practicing within a two hours. He’d gone over the album thrice. He’d listen to the song once and copy exactly what Jones did and add a few fills here and there to add more texture to the song.
He got sick of Harry screaming ‘I’m having your baby’ in a matter of minutes, so he decided to abandon the drum set, leaving the sticks on top of the snare.
Louis debated on whether he should go home, since he wouldn’t be needed for anything the entire week. Agents assigned to a mission were always given one week prior to the mission to prepare—in other words, they could rest.
But Louis decided to do further research on his mission instead, wanting to be thorough with everything.
The building had a floor filled with computer rooms, each room had two computers, one for the handler and the other for the agent. A table was on the center of each room to lay out physical evidence if needed, though rarely the case.
“Agent 28, case 5629, no handler,” Louis spoke clearly to the AI. The robot scanned his face, a green light flashing across his features twice before shutting off.
His voice registered and the door slid open.
“Welcome, agent 28.” Louis never understood the need for a ‘welcome’ every time he entered the room. Agents shouldn’t feel welcome, because that meant they could let their guard down and feel safe.
In Louis’ life, he believed everyone who followed the same path as he did never had the right to feel safe. There was always a threat somewhere, no matter how secure the area may seem.
He walked inside, sitting in front of a computer. It’s already opened to his account.
Because both Liam and Louis are assigned to the case, both of their accounts had the evidences for the case uploaded. So, Louis clicked on Styles’ interrogation to hear the entire thing.
Louis sat there for a good two minutes, listening to Styles constantly stumble over his words, clearly nervous. Styles’ answers did not help, Louis was getting bored of the conversation until Murs asked him about his relationship with Swift.
“Oh, we dated for a bit but we fought one night so I decided it was best for us to break it off,” Harry explained, voice soft, “And that was that.”
“What did you two fight about?”
“She thought I was cheating on her with Clare because I hung out with her too much.” Louis couldn’t tell if it was a lie. He was an expert in many things, romance wasn’t one to belong.
“Could this have been the reason she—”
“First off, that’s harsh,” Harry said. This is the first time throughout the whole clip that Louis heard him speak on a normal volume. He continued, “And I wouldn’t bet on it, really.”
Then the next question asked was about Jones’ whereabouts.
“I’m afraid that’s classified information, sir.”
Louis groaned when Murs didn’t further press on the subject when it came to Styles’ slipping up about the ‘murder’ and ‘suicide’. An amateur would probably believe it was an honest mistake. Louis did not spend ten years of his life being a spy to be considered an amateur.
How do you guys feel about the story so far?
I also have an account on Wattpad under the same username!
Styles had a charity event to attend on Tuesday. A day before the auditions. People had thought that he would cancel his attendance to grieve or such, but he hadn’t. Whether it was because he truly cared about the event or because he didn’t care about the death of a past lover, Louis hadn’t quite figured it out yet.
It was a football match, and Louis bought tickets to watch. He dragged Liam alongside him.
Liam thought it was unnecessary since Louis would be meeting Styles the next day, but Louis argued that he wanted to observe how Styles acted in person before meeting him.
Styles was on the opposite side of Louis and Liam, he was warming up. Louis watched as he tied he clipped his long curls to keep it away from his face. When Styles stepped onto the field to talk to his teammate, Zayn—another pop star, the entire stadium erupted into girlish shrieks. Louis heard two girls behind him squeal ‘zarry is so cute!’
Styles finished talking with Zayn and waved to the crowd. This caused more hysteria.
“Christ,” Louis grumbled as he felt his eardrums shattering. The screams didn’t die down because Styles ran to the middle of the field to start playing.
The game barely started and Louis wanted to cry. Styles was absolutely hopeless.
“It’s his appeal,” Liam mumbled as they watch Styles stumble across the field even if he didn’t have the ball. He was simply running. Liam sighed, “His clumsiness is part of the appeal to the public.”
“The son of a bitch can’t even run,” Louis hissed back, making sure he couldn’t be overheard by any of the crazy girls that surrounded him. He supposed it was good that Styles wasn’t exactly physically capable, so if he were to be found guilty of something, it would be easier to hold him down.
The girls continued to scream for absolutely no reason at all. And Louis was glad he had a bit of patience in him.
“Did you find anything about Harry that could be of help?” Liam asked once they left the stadium and got in the car.
“No, but I found out his fans would pose a bigger obstacle than we think,” Louis huffed, leaning his head on the headrest, “Is Zayn a close friend of his?”
“His fans will come for you like a bunch of wolves if you mess with him, you’ll be their quarry.” Liam started the engine and watched a few girls walk in front of their car, giggling to each other. Perhaps about Styles. “Zayn and Styles banter a lot, I saw a conspiracy about some kind of secret romance going on between them. Off-camera, though, I’m not so sure.”
Louis closed his eyes, letting himself rest. “We’ll find out tomorrow, anyway.”
--- --- ---
“Hi, I’m Andrew,” Louis grinned and sat down behind the drum set, snare drum between his legs as he adjusted his footing on the pedals. It felt natural, at the same time it didn’t because this he was playing someone else. But then again, being someone else other than Louis was what was natural for him.
“Andrew, hello, what will you be playing for us?” Styles’ manager, Jeffrey Azoff, asked from where he sat in front of Louis. They had chairs aligned in front of Louis, Styles himself was seated at the furthest chair on the right. Then beside him was one of his bandmates, Mitch Rowland, and then Azoff then the two other band members, Clare Uchima and Adam Pendergast.
Louis had done his research. He knew enough about these people to be considered a ‘fan’. Probably knew even more than the average fangirl. Nothing new for Louis to do a background check on the people he was meant to be associating with. But he was more meticulous this time.
“Caravan,” Louis answered confidently, but he kept his the cockiness away from his tone.
“Best of luck,” Azoff said. Louis noticed Styles had not said a word since he entered the room. Styles didn’t even look like he was paying attention, he was staring straight ahead, head raised up high, lost in his own world, as though he was too good to even watch Louis. Louis supposed famous pop stars were like that. So full of themselves.
Louis started off the piece with a loud crash, noticeably jolting Styles out of his thoughts. He smiled to himself as he caught Styles’ attention, though it wasn’t a big achievement.
Louis had played many roles before, he knew how to get lost in a part, he knew how to deliver something with so much conviction that it spoke on levels words cannot dare express. Perhaps, had Louis not been so keen on joining the agency, he’d have pursued a career in music. But music had always been secondary, a distraction. Louis had a passion for it, nevertheless.
He was playing drums. And he was lost in it. Because to him, drums was never a technical thing. Music was never a technical thing. He never had to stop and think, he never had to contemplate his next move, which drum he was going to hit next.
Music definitely had technical sides to it, it was necessary to know them too, but Louis never bothered to dwell on them too much. It was not like he ever imagined himself to be sat down in a studio, recording something that would be heard on the radios. All that mattered to Louis was that he enjoyed what he played, in turn, he never gave it much thought, so everything ran smoothly.
When the piece ended, they were all impressed. Except, Styles looked mortified but he quickly covered it up.
“You did a great job, Andrew,” Azoff commended, writing something down on his clipboard, “Your performance was good. It’s no question that you have potential.”
“Thank you,” Louis smiled at him, twirling one of the drumsticks in his hand.
“Can you try playing along with the band? To see if you blend well?” Styles spoke up from his seat, leaning forward. It caught Louis by surprise, he didn’t expect to hear a word from Styles today.
“Sure,” Louis said and watched the rest of the band stand up and get ready with their instruments.
Styles didn’t stand, Louis guessed he would be singing from his seat. “Are you familiar with ‘Kiwi’?” He asked.
That was the ‘I’m having your baby’ song Louis was so tired off. He smiled and nodded anyway. “Yeah, I do.”
Styles’ expression did not change. It was blank, indifferent and maybe even bored, in a sense. He started to sing, not waiting for any cues from Louis. The first line caught Louis off-guard but he managed to catch up with the crash cymbal and bass.
Louis hit the crash and bass twice, just as he’d seen Jones play live.
“Hard liquor mixed with a bit of intellect,” Harry sang. Bass, snare, crash, crash, “And all the boys, they were saying they were into it.”
Louis grinned as his favorite part of the song came up (the only part he tolerated). He played the sixtuplet fill smoothly before he did the same thing again on the next verse.
When the chorus approached, Louis finally went off on the drums, hitting the crash and ride with such playfulness that it had him smiling. Playing music always made him smile.
“Impressive,” Azoff said after the song finished. Styles glanced at his manager with an unsure look before nodding along.
“You’ll get a call-back tomorrow if you were chosen,” Azoff added, “Thank you for coming in today.”
“Thank you,” Louis said as he stood up and left for the door.
Before leaving the building, Louis decided to go to the loo for a little break. It took him a while to find it since there were no signs whatsoever that gave any hint as to where the comfort room may be.
“Right. Can we discuss this later?” Louis heard a voice say out the hall. Styles.
The agent zipped up his pants as he finished taking a wee and slowed down his movements as he hoped for Styles to enter. If Styles entered, Louis would have a wonderful reason to talk to him.
Styles came through, opening the door and walking inside, his boots clicking on the floor. Louis allowed himself to smile shyly as Styles stopped beside him to take a wee too.
“Hi,” Louis greeted.
To say Styles was startled would be an understatement. He had a bad habit of getting cooped up in his own world, Louis noticed. Styles, in all his glory, flinched when Louis acknowledged him, and some of his wee landed on Louis’ shoe.
“Oops,” Styles said and readjusted his position, cheeks flushing, “I’m so sorry.”
“Uh,” Louis stared at his shoe. It wasn’t a lot of wee but it was still there. At least it was his cheap sneakers. “It’s… okay.”
Styles finished weeing in a few moments and moved towards the tissue dispenser. “I’ll clean it off, I’m sorry. This is rather embarrassing.”
“You don’t really have to—” but Louis didn’t stop him when he dropped to his knees and wiped off the wee from Louis’ shoe. Louis assumed Styles would be disgusted, even if it was his wee after all.
“Andrew, right?” Styles asked once he stood.
Louis nodded, “Yeah.”
Styles rinsed his hands in the sink and wiped them on his pants. He stretched out his hand. “I’m Harry.”
Harry. Harry Styles. To Louis, he would always be Styles. Thinking of him as Harry felt too personal, in a way.
“I know,” Louis chuckled and shook the popstar’s hand.
“So, are you heading home soon, or…?”
Odd question. Louis shrugged. “I might grab a drink on the walk back.” Louis would be walking back to his flat that was located five blocks away. He could always choose to take a car, but he liked walking in the streets unbothered. It reminded him of normalcy.
“Oh, good for you,” Harry gave him a small smile, “I should let you get going then. Do you want anything from me or…?”
“I’m not sure if I completely understand what you mean, Styles.” Louis shifted his weight. A ring began to echo in the bathroom and Styles’ hand flew to his pocket.
“Call me Harry, really, Styles makes me feel like I’m a super star or summat,” Styles had a hand around his phone, but he made no move to answer it.
“You are a super star, though,” Louis pointed out, “Don’t you want to answer that?”
“No need to remind me,” Styles grimaced, “I’ll call them back later, it’s not that important.”
“Is it not something you enjoy?” Louis asked curiously. He knew the answer was most likely no and Styles would not elaborate since they have only met, after all.
“I enjoy it,” Styles told him, almost monotonous, fumbling with his coat. Louis expected him to say more but he’s silent after that. The phone had stopped its insistent ringing. Louis wondered who could’ve been calling.
Louis realized this was not the right time to be asking Styles personal questions.
“Okay,” is all Louis could say to such an empty, half-hearted answer. “Perhaps you could put in a good word for me, I really do want the job, you know?”
Styles stared at him, perplexed. “Even after the rumors?”
“Rumors?” Louis asked, faking stupidity. He was a spy, he did his research, but Styles didn’t know that. However, there were several rumors and he wasn’t sure which one Styles was talking about.
“The rumors of my… vices.”
Ah. The rumors of Styles harassing Jones, which resulted in her leave. In all truthfulness, Louis found the rumor shallow, too pathetic, as though people had made it up just to put the blame on Styles. Louis was in no way defending Styles, but he knew how to play fair.
Louis furrowed his eyebrows, “Pardon?”
“Ah, never mind. They were never true anyway,” Styles exhaled, “I’ll be seeing you tomorrow?”
Something felt different about the exchange. The way Styles acted differed greatly from the interrogation. Right now, Styles was more composed and… blank.
“If you manage to get me the job, why not?” Louis joked, teasing.
“I think the decision’s been made,” Styles smiled.
QOTC: Why does it matter to Louis so much if he thinks of Harry as Harry instead of Styles? What's the significance of this?
Chapter 4: Four.
“It’s great to have you.” Azoff had an arm slung around Louis’ shoulder as though they were best mates. Louis would have mentioned how it made him uncomfortable, but his face said it all. Styles had a teasing smile on him when he entered the studio. He was dressed in a casual black shirt and baggy pants, different from the loud clothes he wore on-stage.
“Harry! You’re just in time, I was just showing Andrew around,” Azoff grinned at him. Styles gave Azoff a forced smile, unlike the one he had given Louis. Louis stored that information away, to be discussed with Liam later.
Styles made his way to the microphone and Louis allowed himself to wiggle out of Azoff’s grip.
“We’ll be rehearsing for the tour, get Andrew to fit right in,” Styles told his band, giving Rowland—the lead guitarist—a pat on the back, then whispered something in his ear. Louis tried his best to pick up the words, but Styles had a hand covering his mouth to make it impossible to lip read.
Rowland nodded, after a roll of his eyes, and proceeded to tune his guitar. The guitar was tuned, Rowland had been tuning it earlier, but he chose to tune it again anyway, despite the act being unnecessary.
“Azoff, I’ll see you later.” Styles waved Azoff towards the door. Louis noted his eagerness to get rid of his manager. Perhaps it could be a shallow, measly disagreement between them, but Louis wasn’t dumb enough to ignore it.
The moment Azoff walked out of the room, door slamming shut behind him, Styles’ shoulders relaxed.
Louis walked over to the drum set, sitting behind it and hitting the snare and toms, making sure everything was tuned to its finest. His tuning skills were not very good, but the sound seemed just right to him, so he trusted that.
“Andrew, are you familiar with the usual set list?” Styles asked.
Louis gave him a thumbs up and sat up straight, planting his feet on the pedals. “Only Angel, Ever Since New York, Two Ghosts, Woman…” He trailed off with a small smile, “I think I got it.”
“You must’ve expected to get a call-back, then,” Styles teased.
Yes. Louis shrugged, “I’ve watched a couple of your shows, I’m quite a fan.”
“I don’t usually have cute, talented boys admit to being a fan, I’m flattered,” Styles smirked at him, eyes crinkling in amusement. Louis soaked in his words for a few moments, he got what Styles was hinting at and his best option was to play along. He could get closer to Styles, if he did.
“Harry,” the pianist, Uchima, called out to Styles, shaking her head in disapproval, “You’ll scare him off.”
“It’s fine, really,” Louis played along. He felt bad, in a way. But he drilled into his head that he’d do anything for the mission. Styles was only joking around, anyway, it wasn’t anything serious for either of them. Only a bit of a banter.
Styles scoffed. “Sorry, mom. He said it was fine, anyway.”
Uchima stared at the both of them then sighed. “You’re impossible.” Louis wasn’t sure if it was directed towards him or Styles.
Styles beamed at Louis, still, and Louis made a show of fanning himself. He prayed Styles got the hint that he was joking around because Louis wanted to be close friends with him to get the information he needed, but he didn’t want to hurt him along the way (unless he had done wrong, then). Louis would only go to that extent when absolutely necessary.
“How about we rehearse?” Rowland gritted out, strumming his guitar once.
Styles chuckled. “Relax. Andrew’s got the set memorized, we can run through the entire show.” He turned to face Louis, “Can you sing and harmonize?”
“Not very good, but I manage,” Louis assured.
Harry clapped his hands. “Perfect.”
He nodded towards the sound technician that had been watching them the entire time through the glass window.
Louis and the rest of the band tugged at their assigned earpieces and inserted them in their ears. After Louis’ count, Uchima began the intro for the song ‘Only Angel’. Styles was facing away from the band, as though there was an audience right in front of him.
“He—hey!” Styles yelled into the mic, cueing Louis in. He has a good voice, Louis thought to himself as he played along, almost tuning the lyrics out as he listened to the sound of Styles’ voice.
“She’s an angel,” Styles sang, bouncing around. He didn’t have much space to move around but he still did anyway.
During the bridge, Styles began to clap his hands, facing the band and locking eyes with Louis as he danced. Louis didn’t know what to make of his dancing. It was awkward but it wasn’t forced. It was his appeal, once again. Though this time, he wasn’t doing it for the crowd. He did it just because.
--- --- ---
After they had run through the set twice, Louis could feel the sweat on his back despite the air-conditioned circumstance.
He walked over to Uchima while they were packing up. Styles, Rowland and Pendergast—the bassist who did not utter a single word throughout their entire rehearsal—were bickering around. The sound technician had disappeared, probably went to the loo.
“Hey,” Louis started, “So, bassists never really talk much, huh?” He joked, earning a chuckle from Uchima.
“He’s got a girlfriend, don’t underestimate him,” Uchima pointed out. She got the joke. Louis was thankful.
“That’s a first,” Louis ran his hands through his soft hair, reminding him of his twink-like appearance, “What about you?”
“Used to.” Uchima’s tone left no room for any follow up questions. Louis respected her want for privacy, it wasn’t like he needed to know. He wouldn’t want to tell a stranger about his love life either, he understood where she was coming from.
Louis hummed. “So, how’d you become a part of this band?”
“Auditions. After Harry garnered his fame from the X-Factor, his label needed an official band for him, so they sent out auditions.”
“He won back in 2014, right?” Louis asked, though he was sure. Uchima nodded, so he continued. “You’ve been a band for four years, then? Why’d Sarah suddenly take a break?”
Uchima’s expression was blank, it didn’t change at all. “I don’t really know, she talked to Harry about it, didn’t tell the rest of us, then she just left.”
Certainly not the truth, because as far as Louis was concerned, Jones disappeared.
“Don’t try to ask Harry about it, though,” Uchima piped up even if Louis made no indication he had any plans to, “Trust me, I tried, he gets into quite a fit after.”
Louis would have to get closer to Styles than he thought he would. He let his eyes drift to the singer who was leaning on the mic stand, playfully smacking Rowland.
“I won’t.” He will. But not soon.
Uchima muttered something Louis didn’t catch and bid him goodbye. “I’ll see you tomorrow. You’re a good addition to the band.” Louis is glad she thinks so.
She walked over to the rest of the band and told the band she was heading home. She murmured something in Styles’ ear before waving goodbye to the rest of them, including Louis.
Louis awkwardly stood by the drum set, playing with his sticks and looking around. He wanted to talk to Styles, but the trio seemed to be having an intimate moment. He had to wait.
Styles caught Louis’ gaze and started to make his way over, leaving Rowland and Pendergast to continue talking about whatever had gotten them into an eager conversation. Styles truly made this job so much easier for Louis.
“Hi,” Styles flashed him a grin, sleeves rolled up to his shoulders. He had a great amount of tattoos, the ship being the one that stood out most.
“Hi,” Louis echoed, “I was thinking…”
Styles scrunched his nose, holding back a smile. “That can’t be good.”
“Cliché reply,” Louis laughed, tousling his hair, “I was thinking, do you want to grab some coffee with me today?”
“Don’t you have something better to do?” Louis wanted to scoff. Styles was the most important thing in his life right now, so important it was a matter of life or death and national security.
“Tour gets back on track in two days, I’ll be spending most of my time with you. Is it a sin to want to get to know my new bandmate?”
Styles furrowed his eyebrows, the playful smile never leaving his features. “You’re onto something, I swear. You’ll get mobbed by teenage girls, I’ll have you know.”
“It’s fine, really,” Louis pressed on. He felt himself becoming too pushy so he added, “But if you don’t want to, then…”
“No, no,” Styles amended quickly, “I’d love to. It’s just… do you have anxiety or claustrophobia? It can get pretty intense out there, and I’ve seen a few of my mates get panic attacks because of all the shoving and screaming. Myself, included.”
Styles could have claustrophobia or anxiety, Louis noted. He could always be lying. Anyone could. Louis never gave anyone the benefit of the doubt, that would be the worst thing he could do.
“I’ll tell you if I feel uncomfortable,” Louis assured him, remembering that Andrew had stage fright, so that was somehow related to having anxiety sometimes, “So, are you down?”
“Harold! Adam and I are going!” Rowland called to them, hefting his guitar on his shoulder. The sudden voice startled both Styles and Louis but Louis concealed his surprise better.
“Right. See you tomorrow,” Styles replied, waving his hand. Louis awkwardly told them ‘bye’ as well.
Styles turned back to Louis. “We should probably go too, where do you want to eat?”
“Doesn’t matter to me, wherever you want.” Louis stroked his thumb over his wrist where the tattoo of a skull was supposed to be. However, it was concealed by a spray the makeup artist made him use.
“I’ve never heard of that restaurant.”
It took Louis a moment and he shoved Styles’ chest. “Oh my god, that was awful.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Styles huffed, almost pouting.
“Tell me again why you still have fans when this is the kind of entertainment they get.”
Louis expected Styles to laugh, maybe crack a smile, come up with a sassy reply of sorts. He didn’t, however, expect Styles to shrug, look at his feet and murmur, “I don’t know why I still have fans either.” It was too cryptic, Louis didn’t know what to make of it.
“What makes you say that?” Louis asked, voice soft.
Styles lifted his head, a solemn look dancing across his features. He shook his head and turned around, facing the door to exit. “Let’s go. There’s a café a few blocks away that I usually go to.”
Louis didn’t push it. Styles must be going through a lot, or he was an amazing actor. He certainly had Louis feeling sympathetic. So he followed Styles out the door, glancing up at the CCTV camera that was blinking on the corner of the wall.
Liam was watching. Louis pinched his arm as he walked out, reminding himself that he had a mission to accomplish, sympathy would get in the way.
--- --- ---
“This’ll be on the news tomorrow,” Styles sighed as he sat in front of Louis after they ordered from the barista.
“You don’t seem too happy about that.”
“I’m not,” Styles grumbled, fiddling with the receipt in his hand, “It gets exhausting sometimes. The rumors. They never get a break.”
Louis tilted his head. “Yeah? What do you think the rumor will be this time?”
“Most likely, articles will say we’re dating. Fans will think that too.” Styles ran his hands through his hair, distressed. “I honestly don’t mind if they don’t take it too far. You’ll probably get hate online, if they find your social media accounts or summat, I’m sorry. It comes with… me.”
Louis was confused by Styles. The agent had expected Styles would be closed off, like how he seemed in interviews and such. But Styles was more open than Louis had ever expected. Though the information Styles gave out was barely of any help, he was still talking about the distress he constantly found himself in. He let himself be vulnerable to someone he’s known for a day.
Louis had never quite opened up to someone, especially not to someone he hardly knew. Styles was odd in several ways.
“It isn’t your fault.”
Styles bit back a retort. He shrugged. “Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about you, you seem like a very interesting person.”
“There isn’t much to tell,” Louis said.
“I’m sure you’ve got plenty of stories.”
Louis mused. Louis certainly had numerous stories to tell. Stories that would seem for fiction to anyone who wasn’t a member of the SIS. Andrew, on the other hand, was a clean slate. Zero stories. Andrew hadn’t existed until a week ago. There was truly not much to tell.
“I’m not interesting, haven’t done much in life. I play the drums, this is my first time on tour, that’s it.”
“Well, what made you pick up drums?” Styles asked as though he was genuinely interested in Andrew’s life.
Louis thought about it for a while. He remembered the first time he picked up the drum set, wanting to impress his school mates because no one in his year knew how to play drums. It was always guitar or piano. Louis knew how to play guitar, but that wasn’t impressive enough.
“I wanted to be in a band,” Louis smiled lazily, memories of his first and only drum set came to him. He was just getting really good at it before he was whisked off to the SIS. “I wanted to join as the guitarist, but I wasn’t good enough, there were better guitar players. What they needed was a drummer so…”
“That’s nice, I’m sure you’re an amazing guitarist too,” Styles told him.
“I haven’t held a guitar in a while, don’t think I can tell the difference between a major and a minor anymore.”
Styles busted out laughing. Louis wasn’t sure if he meant the a major chord or a major chord. Styles found that in itself funny to laugh loud enough for several heads to turn towards their table.
“It’s the accent,” Styles giggled, “Your accent makes the letter a and the word a sound the same.”
“I hardly find it funny.” But Louis was smiling.
The barista called out his and Styles’ name so he stood up to take both of their orders. He came back to their table with two lattes in hand.
“What about you?” Louis asked when he sat back down.
“What about me?”
“What made you want to get into the music scene?”
Styles’ face turned more serious and he pursed his lips. “I wanted to leave a name, make a difference, get my music out there. Being a musician was always my dream. I thought it would be all fun and parties, you know? Go on tour, perform, go to award shows, perform, got to interviews, perform. I always liked performing.”
Louis quirked an eyebrow. “You sound like you don’t like it anymore.”
“I still like performing,” Styles mumbled, head down, “But certain parts of the music industry is something I regret ever meddling with.”
Again with the cryptic statements.
“It couldn’t have been that bad.”
“You don’t know.”
Styles did not elaborate, much to Louis’ dismay. Then again, the café was too public of a place if Louis was going to get Styles to talk about anything that could be in relation to Taylor Swift’s death.
“So, what about your family? Do you still live with them?” Styles asked, letting the subject completely drop before Louis can even debate on asking any more questions.
“No, I don’t,” Louis said, “But I do visit them from time to time. They’re still in New York.”
They continued to talk. A few times, Styles’ more vulnerable side peeped through, but most of the time, they were laughing anyway. And Louis could see a glimpse of the person behind the pop star figure and sometimes he caught himself thinking of Styles as Harry.
And it wasn’t too bad, really. He just had to keep himself from getting too emotionally attached.
Chapter 5: Five.
Louis finished washing his face, making sure every inch of makeup had disappeared. He had just finish a makeup tutorial lesson with Lou, one of the makeup artists. Lou was supposed to go with Louis on tour, and she was, however, they figured that it would be too much of a hassle for both of them if she had to sneak into Louis’ hotel room every morning to put on his makeup.
It had been a struggle for Louis, no doubt. He got the hang of it after a few hours, he wasn’t good, but he was good enough.
The phone he used for ‘Andrew’ started to ring in his pocket so he fished it out and brought it to his ear.
“Hello?” He mumbled, putting on an accent as he drowsily rubbing his eyes. He had to get home soon, it was almost 11.
“Hey, uh, this is Andrew, right?” Styles’ voice rumbled through the line.
Louis dabbed his face with his shirt, not giving a single fuck about drenching it. He checked his face again to make sure there was no makeup left before leaning on the sink, back turned to the mirror.
“The one and only.”
“Right. I figured, since it was in your resume and all, uh, so,” Styles cleared his throat, “Have you been on twitter?”
Louis picked at his nails. He barely had time to scroll through his phone, much less social media. “No, why?”
“Well… there’s an article by the Sun… again.” Styles sounded upset. He always had a sad tone masked by his fake-happy, but this time it was visible. “I just thought I’d warn you in case you see it.”
“What does it say?”
Styles inhaled deeply. “That I’m dating you to get over Taylor’s death… it’s stupid. I told you you’d get caught up in this mess.”
Louis grabbed a paper towel and began drying off his hands as he held the phone between his ear and shoulder. He wanted to confidently tell Styles it didn’t matter because at the end of the day, people always had their opinions. But that response did not fit Andrew’s character. So he stuttered.
“I… it’s not like there’s, uh, anything we can do about the rumors, right? Not your fault.”
“I should’ve taken you somewhere more discreet…,” Styles whispered.
“Haters gonna hate, right?”
“That was a horrible time to quote a dead singer’s song.”
Louis winced. “Sorry.”
“So… you and Taylor had something, huh?” The bathroom door opened and another agent walked in, dressed in a blue polo and black jeans. Niall. Agent 21. Louis brought a finger to his lips signaling the agent to keep quiet. Niall gave him a thumbs up.
Styles’ voice echoed through the phone as Niall made his way to one of the urinals. “Kind of. Courted her for a few weeks before she answered me. Things got messy straight after, though, so…”
“Messy, how?” Louis was pushing it. He had to.
“Pressure from the media, fans, typical stuff…”
Styles didn’t trust Louis that much, his answer was to be expected. “Oh.”
“Yeah…,” Styles trailed off awkwardly. By then, Niall was stood beside Louis, washing his hands as he listened in on the conversation. Louis would normally tell him to fuck off, but Niall was somehow related to the case, so he had a right to know. “Listen, there’s this meeting I have to go to so… I should… go.”
It’s 11:30. Louis checked the clock on his phone for good measure, he wasn’t wrong. “It’s almost midnight, why would you still have a meeting?”
“My thoughts exactly,” Styles bit back darkly.
Louis swallowed. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”
Styles’ tone was more clipped. “Yeah.”
Louis waited for the line to drop before he shut his phone and shoved it in his back pocket, looking at Niall. He was on a mission with Niall once, they had to infiltrate a suspicious factory in China after several boys from UK and Ireland were reported to have gone missing. It turned out, the factory had been kidnapping teenagers to work for them to cut their expenses, to them, it was a better financial alternative than having to give out salaries.
It was disgusting. The mission lasted a month and the group was arrested, put to jail for a lifetime.
Niall and Louis had gone undercover as government inspectors. The factory did a good job in concealing their dirty business, but a boy slipped up, and soon, the truth unfolded from there.
Louis would consider Niall a good and trusted partner.
Niall poked his waist. “What’s the tea?”
Louis frowned. “What?”
“It’s like,” Niall groaned, pointing at his hair—it was dyed blonde, “My cover. I’m practicing. Joshua is supposed to be Ed’s social media manager, so I’m trying to get into all those… terms.”
“Social media manager is the closest you could get?”
“The son of a bitch has no bandmates, no spots open for a stylist, no nothing. We had to force his former social media person to leave,” Niall grunted, miffed.
Louis ruffled the newly-blonde’s hair. “The hair color suits you. You still haven’t told me what tea means.”
“Tea is basically… gossip, kind of. It’s a stan twitter thing.”
Louis cocked his head and clicked his tongue. “Not even going to ask what that means. Styles was just making sure I’m fine because apparently there’s a lot of hate going around twitter about me, so.”
Niall nodded. “Yeah, I saw that. You’re trending on twitter.”
“I don’t care.” Louis pushed off the sink. “I’ll see you on tour, 21.”
“You too. Good luck.”
Louis left the bathroom after he returned the farewell. He walked to the parking lot and took his car, an average Chevrolet. The car didn’t attract too much attention but it did the job, it got Louis to places and had a few tweaks Liam had added to it for protection.
He arrived home after a twenty minute drive. Andrew’s house was two blocks away from Louis’ own, a small flat that no one lived in. It had a bed and a few furniture, even an electronic drum set in case someone like Styles would decide to pay a visit. Unlikely, but it was a safety precaution.
Louis’ apartment was much bigger, though he had no use for it. He was hardly home, always out on missions or lounging in the HQ.
The sheer curiosity that Niall had brought led Louis to sit on his bed, phone in hand, and make a Twitter account. He hated social media, he felt like it was a waste of time, the amount of unnecessary hate was maddening.
Nevertheless, he made an account with the username boo56 because it wasn’t like he would be using the account to interact with anyone.
The first thing he did was search ‘harry styles’ and a picture of him and Styles loaded on his screen. It was blurry, his face was barely recognizable, he didn’t even recognize himself. But it was there.
The comments were both negative and positive. A few people tweeted that they’re just friends, a few others said they’re lovers, those that said they were lovers either loved it or hated it. Some saying they ‘ship’ it, though Louis didn’t know to where.
Louis went to Styles’ account and read through his tweets.
Harry Styles. @Harry_Styles · 1h
Going back on tour in two days. Thank you to everyone who came and is coming to see us. Your support is amazing, I’ll be seeing you, Love you. H
Everything else below that tweet were simply the location of where Styles performed at a certain date with a picture attached. Either he didn’t control the account or he didn’t spend too much time on it.
Coming to the conclusion that he wouldn’t benefit much on this whole twitter thing, he shut off his phone and put it on his bedside table before tucking himself into the covers.