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Twist a Little Closer, Now

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"Louis, someone's asking for you!"

Louis falters, hands held high above his head as the music thuds against the polished hardwood floors and vibrates the mirrors around him. The door is swinging closed by the time Louis flicks the damp fringe from his face to see. He drops his pose and cuts the music, leaving his steps to echo loudly against the floor until he steps out into the carpeted hall.

It's not very uncommon to be interrupted when you teach a class full of first graders with very concerned parents who want to know every detail Louis has planned for the upcoming recital. Which would be great- Louis loves attention, but the next recital isn't for months and he really needs to nail down this choreography for his next class.

Harry Styles standing tall in the lobby, looking all too out of place against the bright blue walls and studio posters however, is very uncommon.

And suddenly Louis is very, very aware of the sweatband (it's bedazzled and probably belongs to his sisters, but he hasn't had the time to work in a haircut this week), he'd put on to hold his hair back an hour ago and the fact that he hasn't got any shoes on. "Uh," he starts, cautiously looking around the room to see if any more footballers are going to pop up unexpectedly. "Can I help you?"

Harry Styles smiles happily and nods. "I've got to sign up for some dance classes and I've been told you're the man I should talk to."

Louis gapes a bit unattractively and looks around again. "Is this.. a joke?"

Harry frowns at that. "No, see, coach said I've got to work on my coordination or something. He said I had to take a class or he'd bench me until further notice."

"That sounds like crap," Louis admits, pulling the headband from his hair and wrapping it around his wrist.

"Maybe, but I almost twisted my ankle last practice tripping over my own feet. And the week before that I tackled the wrong guy because I tripped again," Harry shrugs sheepishly. "It's either this or killing my mates, so I'd like to start as soon as possible."

Louis shakes his head. "How'd you even make the team, then?" It comes out a little harsher than intended, but Louis is still in a state of shock and he's not even certain that this isn't a dream yet. Actually, it's ten times more likely that he's screwed up one of his turns and brained himself against the barre. He's probably in a coma or something right now.

Harry blushes and shrugs again, ducking his head a little so that his curls fall over his face. "I don't know, but if I want to keep playing I have to learn the art of dance," he says and nods to himself. "You teach a class, right?"

Louis nods, stepping behind the front counter reluctantly. "Yeah, for five to seven year olds. Don't think that's the right fit, mate." Harry leans on his elbows across the counter to see what Louis' busy doing which is just rifling through papers in different folders.

He knows where everything is, but he's not very fond of the idea of just standing idly in front of Harry Styles. Plus, sitting in the receptionist's chair makes him feel important.

"I heard you teach two?" Harry tries again and where is he hearing all these things, Louis would love to know.

Louis spares him a glance and purses his lips. He'd probably be laughing if he weren't so confused by this whole situation. "For toddlers, yeah. Four's the age limit on that one."

"No, that sounds good. I'd like to join that first one," Harry announces, tapping his fingers against the counter between them. Louis stops rustling the papers to stare up at him over the folder he's holding.

"Are you seven?" Louis asks, raising an eyebrow. He's definitely in a coma or something like it because this cannot really be happening right now.

Harry tilts his head and shakes it, like it's a serious question to be considered. "Well, no. But that's probably my, uh. My talent level? My- I don't know the word for it, but I'd very much like to sign up for that one, thank you."

Louis closes the folder and drops it back on the desk. "You can't just sign up for a class for six year olds, Harry. If you fell you'd probably take out the rest of the class. There'd be so many angry parents."

Harry laughs and stands up again, "That's why I'm here, though! Me falling on people is the problem! And you're my only hope." His eyes are wide and sincere and suddenly Harry's grabbing Louis' hands and holding them in his, pleading. "Louis, I've got to be in your class. Do you want me to get kicked off the team?"

"I thought you were only going to get benched," Louis says dazedly.

Harry Styles, arguably the most popular boy in school, is holding Louis' hands and begging him to teach him to dance. Nothing is making sense.

"Please?"

"You can't be in any recitals," Louis tells him. His resolve started crumbling the moment Harry turned his big green eyes on him. He sort of wishes the classes were separated by gender and he'd have another excuse as to why he couldn't help Harry, but there aren't nearly enough boys at the studio for that. Louis is one of six, he thinks. "Unless we're doing a piece that needs a building or a tree or something."

"Done," Harry swears and smiles so big that Louis' afraid his face might split in two.

"Really, you'll be there to learn some steps and 'coordination'," he says wearily, flashing a set of air quotes. "And that's all, okay? No shows, recitals, or costumes."

"No costumes?"

"No," Louis shakes his head and then pauses for a moment, leaning closer. "Listen, if this is a joke or something, I advise you to stop while you're ahead. I can't have anybody messing with my classes, alright? You can't come and goof off or whatever you're planning on doing. If the parents get one whiff of something funny going on, they'll be at my throat and I'll have no problem setting them on you."

Harry holds a hand over his heart and gives Louis a long, hard stare. "I promise no funny business."

Louis' nose twitches as he stares back, waiting for something, anything to happen. But Harry stays in the same position no matter how many times he blinks and sighs. "Fine. The class you want to sign up for is every Wednesday at six." His words more or less get drowned out by Harry's cheering and what Louis thinks is supposed to be a victory dance. He can see why Harry thinks he'd fit in with the younglings.

And when Harry is finally leaving after another half hour of conversation and questions that Louis still isn't positive really happened, he winks. "I like your headband."

Louis just groans and falls back against his chair.

-*-*-*-*-

"Okay, one more time," Zayn says slowly, squinting his eyes at Louis incredulously. It's quite frustrating, yes, but Louis doesn't blame him. He's not sure he'd believe Zayn either if he tried to tell him Harry Styles signed up for his dance class today because his football coach forced him to.

"Harry Styles," Zayn starts and Louis nods. "Jock, Harry Styles. The same Harry Styles that you've had a crush on since Sophomore year-"

"I have not," Louis cuts in indignantly.

Zayn smiles, but it comes across more condescending than reassuring and Louis huffs. "Lou, you were convinced the two of you were going to the Winter Formal together."

Louis scowls. Sophomore year was a rough year for Louis. He was merely an assistant at the studio and had too much free time on his hands that he spent at too many football games. That was also the year Harry Styles sat beside him in English class and asked him everyday if he had a date to the formal yet.

"Where's Niall? I hate telling you things, you always ruin it. Niall loves my stories," Louis pouts.

To be fair, Harry was very adamant about making sure Louis didn't have a date. What else was Louis supposed to think? Needless to say, the formal came and went and Louis spent the night checking his Facebook feed to make sure Harry hadn't been hit by a car or something.

He hadn't, Louis thinks back to that night sourly and frowns deeper.

Junior year was better partly because he started teaching and owned a Harry-free schedule. They weren't friends in the first place, just class room acquaintances who partnered up whenever group work was required, so it wasn't like Louis was overly heartbroken at the lack of contact between them.

It wasn't until this year that they had a class together again, but they sit at opposite sides of the room and Louis' not actually sure Harry remembered his name until today.

"Look, Louis, I'm happy for you. Now you can wear your tights and make him fall in love with you," Zayn sticks his tongue out between his teeth and wiggles his eyebrows. "This is good."

"I don't wear tights," Louis rolls his eyes. "And I don't even think he's going to show up."

Zayn shrugs and settles deeper in the bed of pillows he's set up against the side of Louis's bed. His fingers twist a cigarette back and forth, sucking his teeth loudly. "But you said he had to dance to keep playing?"

Louis scoffs and throws one of his sister's stuffed animal at the wall. "Which is complete shit, right?! That sounds like a load of crap. Dance to stay on the football team? It's preposterous."

"I don't know, babes, maybe wait and see, yeah?" Zayn reasons all calm and gentle which only ever riles Louis up that much more. Harry Styles joining his dance class does not warrant soothing tones and disinterested shrugs from Zayn. It warrants loud reactions and things that Louis can shout I know! at and feel satisfied with himself.

So Louis texts Niall in between mocking Zayn and dodging the pillows that come hurtling for his face. Niall will agree with Louis. Niall always agrees with Louis.

-*-*-*-*-

Come Monday, Louis' life has settled down enough that he only obsesses over Harry dancing forty percent of the time rather than sixty. That's an accomplishment in his book.

He doesn't even run to Physics early to have three extra minutes to observe Harry and foil his devious plan. Instead, Louis rushes into Physics just as the bell rings and wiggles his shoulders until his bag falls onto his arm. He can see Harry in the corner of his eye, talking to some footballer or another just like every other day in class. So he's all set to keep on making his way to his desk and pretend like Harry's not glaringly always in his peripheral vision, but then Harry looks up and waves.

"Hey, Louis! Lookin' forward to Wednesday," he smiles and Louis has no choice but to nod dumbly walk a little faster to the seat since Mrs. Montez has started writing something on the board.

Niall breathes loudly from his seat in front of where Louis is supposed to be sitting. "Louis," he whisper yells, waving his hands around until Louis finally looks at him. Niall's wiggling his eyebrows and jerking his eyes over to where Harry's sitting just in case Louis didn't catch that interaction himself.

It's exactly the reaction he's been waiting three whole days for and that's why Louis loves Niall so much.

"I know!" Louis whispers to Niall as he drops in his seat. "What do you think he meant by that?"

"He's excited to tango you around," Niall mumbles back, eyes never leaving the chalkboard. They've pretty much mastered the art of secret conversations in class by now, an achievement that Louis is pretty proud of.

Louis clucks his tongue quietly as he opens his notebook, shaking his head even though he knows Niall won't turn around to witness it. "Don't think that's quite it, mate. I think he's planning something."

"Like a declaration of love?" Niall whispers excitedly.

"I was thinking more along the lines of a prank or something." Louis chances a glance up from the notes to where Harry's seat is and startles to find Harry staring back. He offers a little smile once he realizes he's caught Louis' eye and Louis just nods in return, leaning closer to the back of Niall's head.

"Definitely planning something."

-*-*-*-*-

Louis loves October dearly.

It's not time for any recitals at the studio so he has time to work with the kids without any deadlines or pressure. The leaves start changing and he can start wearing his thicker sweaters that his nan knits him every Christmas. October means Halloween which means there's only two more months until his birthday. It's football season at school so there are always pep rallies and different activities to get out of class for, not to mention the view of the football team in their jerseys most days.

There are just a lot of reasons to love October for Louis. October means Louis' life is good.

Louis cherishes his October classes with all his heart, but he's absolutely dreading this one.

Well, maybe dreading is too strong of a word. Louis is more like very anxious for this class. Zayn said he was just nervous to dance around in front of Harry in his tights, but Zayn was just being dumb and Louis doesn't even wear tights.

Tuesday passes by terribly slow and Wednesday does just the same until it's finally six o'clock and Louis feels like most of the hair on his head has turned gray. He's made certain to stay away from any sweatbands and anything else bedazzled for this class, turning in his normal leggings for a pair of capris sweatpants and and loose t-shirt.

He's also made Niall and Zayn both pinky promise to have their phones on and near them for the rest of the night, ready to swoop in and save Louis if Harry does destroy his studio or does something else just as bad. Zayn's probably shut his phone off by now, but Niall's probably got his phone strapped to the middle of his chest so Louis doesn't worry too much when he finally steps into his room, waving to the little ones who've arrived early.

"Hey guys, how's it going?" Louis asks as he makes his way to the corner of the room to hook up his phone and get the warm up playlist ready for the night. It's mostly a mixture of anything catchy on the radio and randoms that the kids ask Louis to add.

The kids all voice their excitement at once and proceed to tell Louis how much they've been practicing and what they got on their latest spelling test and anything else new and exciting that's happened in the past week. With all of the high pitched voices and a heavy beat bumping through his studio intermingling into one specific, lovely chaos, Louis feels at home.

"Oh, yeah?" Louis asks to none of the kids in particular, but smiles when they all keep chattering away to him. He almost forgets that this class is going to be anything but ordinary until Harry walks in, clad in his running shoes, loose white shorts, and a t-shirt that's had the sleeves ripped off. He looks hot, is what Louis would think if he weren't surrounded by first and second graders.

The kids all look at him funny as Harry waves and holds out his hand to shake with the nearest child who turns out to be Shayla, a seven year old who almost refused to go out on stage last year because she didn't like the pink of her tutu. Honestly, Louis wants to watch him flounder around desperately and try to shake the hands of more elementary school children, but he's simply not got the time. This class is, sadly, only an hour long.

"Alright," Louis claps his hands, gaining the attention of the whole class. "This is Harry. He's going to be joining our class for a couple weeks just to learn some moves. But don't worry, he won't steal your spotlight, kiddies. He's not allowed in the recital. Can we all say hello?"

"Hi Harry," the class choruses and that's that.

Harry doesn't do anything crazy or set fire to his class. He doesn't trip any kids or humiliate Louis. He just stands in the back and tries to follow along as best he can. Harry keeps up with the stretches just fine even though when the rest of the class bends to touch their toes, Harry's hands hang mid-calf. It's when they start doing exercises that it becomes painful to watch.

As far as Louis can tell, there's no secret motive, no sneaky plan. Yet.

Surprisingly, the class goes off without a hitch.

Afterwards, Harry marches straight up to Louis with a smile and holds out his arms. "So?" he asks, eyebrows raised high. "How'd I do? Improving already, am I right?" He's a teacher, he has to remind himself, teacher's don't laugh at their students.

Louis raises his own eyebrows at that and steps over to pull his phone from the speakers, cutting off all the music and plummeting the room into shocking silence. "You didn't kill anyone," he amends. "That's something to be proud of. Give yourself a pat on the back." When Harry actually reaches around to slap himself on the back a couple of times, Louis laughs and shakes his head.

There's an awkward silence, neither of them saying anything for a few moments, until Harry breaks it with a random "Hey, I was just wondering.. why aren't you on the dance team?"

Louis cringes. "Aw, Harry. Frankly, I'm insulted you even asked me that." There was a time during his first year of high school that Louis considered joining the team. Then he had realized he'd rather not be the token guy of the group and also there was the fact that they were shit. "Dance team is shit."

Harry looks startled for a moment with his big green eyes and open mouth, but it doesn't take long for him to dissolve into laughter. "Wow, alright. I was curious 'cause you know," he trails off, pointedly looking around the studio and then back to Louis who still has a look of offense about him.

"I get it," Louis nods and picks up his bag from the corner of the room, slinging it over his shoulder and Harry walks slowly towards the door.

He stops once to turn around and ask, "So why don't you just join and wow them all with your talent? That way they'd make you captain. You could whip them into shape."

"You think I want to tack my name to that disaster?" Louis questions haughtily. Being captain of the dance team would have been cool maybe, but with the way his schedule panned out this year, he wouldn't have any time.

Harry nods, seemingly satisfied with Louis' answer. "See you tomorrow at school," he waves and finally leaves Louis by his lonesome.

Louis lets out a low breath. He briefly looks over himself in the mirror, huffing when he realizes his hair had looked like that the entire class and then follows Harry's path out the door. He needs to get home and text Niall.

-*-*-*-*-

Three weeks later Louis is still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

His classes have been amazing and it's starting to put him on edge. Harry's fit in seamlessly with the other six and seven year olds which really says something about his maturity level. The kids all love his jokes, all the same jokes that he tells to the kids at school and doesn't get even a smile, and he genuinely laughs at all of the ones the kids have as well. Kaitlynn even invited Harry to her birthday party last week. Louis thinks they're all actually friends.

Harry's said nothing more on the football or coach matter so Louis has no idea how long this little arrangement could go on for. Which is why he's absolutely certain that Harry's about to say hasta la vista, baby and scoot when he hangs around until the studio's clear of little ones so he can talk to Louis alone.

"I've got bad news," Harry tells him. His hair is pulled up to the top of his head in a miniature pony-tail today and Louis' been having a really hard time taking him seriously.

"Alright," Louis says cautiously.

"I don't think I'm improving."

Louis almost laughs, but swallows it down at the last second because while this is Harry Styles, he is still his student and Louis doesn't laugh at his students. He's a good teacher like that despite the fact that he's had to remind himself constantly over the past weeks. "Mhmm, well. The magic doesn't happen overnight."

"It's been three weeks," Harry laughs. "And I don't think I'm going to get much better going on like this."

"So.. what? Are you quitting?" Louis piques an unimpressed eyebrow at him.

Harry all but falls over himself in his haste to assure Louis that quitting is the very farthest thing from his mind. "What? No, of course not! I'm not a quitter, I want to get better-"

"And you'll get benched," Louis reminds him.

Harry falters for a moment before nodding in agreement, "That too!" he exclaims, throwing his hands in the air. "I was just trying to suggest that maybe I need more practice."

"I tell all the kids to practice at home, have you been ignoring the teacher's instructions?"

"No, no, not like that. Like, I'm talking about, one on one practice. Like a private tutoring session," he says, his voice lilting up at the end of his sentences so they're more question than statement. "When I practice at home, I think it makes me worse."

Louis squints up at Harry and lets out a long breath through his nose. The room is always scarily silent without his music throbbing through the walls and his exhale almost echoes. "Are you asking me to give you private dance sessions?" Louis asks, and then adds "That doesn't sound right at all."

Harry giggles and Louis can't help but to crack a smile at that and relax the shoulders he didn't know he was keeping so tensed.

"Yeah, exactly. Maybe if there's a time when I don't have practice and you're not teaching, we could meet up? I think it could really help- really, I'm willing to try anything."

And honestly, Louis knows he should apologize and politely and regretfully decline Harry's offer. He's got a Christmas recital to choreograph for his two classes, his own Senior classes that he's still taking, homework, and a grueling Calculus class that he is already falling behind in. Not to mention his unspoken baby sitting duties and a social life to attend to. His plate is incredibly full already.

"Uhh," Louis hums, chewing on his lip in thought.

Harry slides closer and grasps his shoulders through his thin t-shirt. "I'm begging you, Louis! Please, I'll do anything!" And Louis can't think of anything other than the wide green eyes fluttering in front of his face and the way the pads of Harry's fingers are pressing hotly into his skin through the fabric.

"Okay, sure," Louis concedes. "Fine! Whatever!"

It's probably going to result in many sleepless nights, but for some reason, Louis feels like he did the right thing when Harry crushes Louis into an unexpected hug. "Get it! Oh, awesome!"

"But!" Louis waves his hands into the air between them when Harry finally lets him go, hushing the celebration. "If you're not improving then I'll have no choice but to quit it. I can't really waste my time if you're going to goof off, okay? So take it seriously."

Harry schools his face into something super serious and salutes him before hugging him again.

-*-*-*-*-

"Louis do you want to study with me tonight?" Niall asks, pulling down the bill of his snapback after a full day of being scolded for wearing a hat in school. The final bell rang approximately forty seconds ago though, so he should be safe now.

Louis peers into his open locker and tries to remember what he needs to bring home and what he can put off for another day so his bag isn't that heavy. "Since when do you study?" he questions Niall incredulously, pulling out his Chemistry textbook.

"I failed the last exam so I was thinking it's time to get my butt in gear. That's why I need you. To help me study. I can't fail tomorrow, my mom will kill me."

Louis jolts when he hears that and snaps his locker door closed so he can focus fully on Niall. "Fail what tomorrow? What do we have to fail tomorrow? We don't have anything scheduled for tomorrow, Ni, tell me we don't have a test."

Niall pushes himself up from the locker beside Louis' and frowns. "We don't have a test," he replies back dutifully, but his frown tells Louis everything he needs to know.

Louis bangs his forehead against the cool metal of his locker door and groans. "No, no, this can not be happening." The only class Niall and Louis have together is Calculus and therefore, Louis has a Calculus test tomorrow and he's going to absolutely, without a doubt, bomb it.

Niall pats his shoulder soothingly. "I know, man. Screw Zayn and his Honors Art classes, right?" he laughs shortly. "So I'll take that as a yes to our study date?"

Louis squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head. "I can't. I've got to go pick up the twins from school, drop them at their friends house, and then get to the studio to start working on recitals." Tuesdays are busy for the studio and Louis has to rush to get an empty room for an hour. He hopes that everyone knows well enough to leave the room empty as Louis' been using it forever, but he doesn't exactly want to test the theory and show up late.

"What about after?"

"Pick the girls back up and drop them at home. And I promised Harry I'd help him practice tonight," Louis sighs. He's already accepted his fate, there's no way he's ever going to make it. "God knows how long that could go on. Maybe I could take the day out tomorrow? And just study?"

When Louis finally picks his head up from his locker, Niall looks horrified. "No way, you can't leave me! If we fail, we fail together!"

Louis half laughs, half groans. "Whatever you say, buddy."

-*-*-*-*-

Louis' yawning repeatedly by the time he pulls up to the address Harry had texted him. He grabs his bag from his backseat, hoping that maybe he can memorize formulas while Harry dances, and gets out of his car.

It's nearly November now, the air around him turning to a wintry chill, but the bite does nothing to wake him up. It just reminds him that he could be in his warm bed right now. He texts Harry that he's here and marches up to the door, wondering if he should knock or ring the bell. Or be obnoxious and do both.

The door opens before Louis has time to make his decision and Harry smiles cheerily, an older woman peeking over his shoulder with a similar smile. "Hello," Louis smiles the same exact smile he gives to all the parents at the studio- it's been molded and perfected over the years into this massively charming grin that oozes responsibility and a wealth of knowledge. Or at least that's the impression he hopes he's giving. "How are you?"

"Good," Harry nods, shooing his mother away and pulling Louis out of the cold and into his surprisingly warm and cozy home. "How are you?"

"Tired," Louis says and promptly yawns, laughing a bit afterwards. "Sorry, 's been a long day, y'know?"

Harry nods again. From the next room over his mother shouts for him to "Be a good host and offer your guest a drink!"

"Do you want a beverage?" Harry asks, cheeks a shade of pink, pulling Louis' bag from his shoulder despite his protests. "Why is your bag so heavy?"

"No thank you," Louis shakes his head and shrugs. "Homework, I guess. Chemistry, Calculus, other life ruiners, the usual." Harry nods for the third time (he's starting to look like a bobble head) and slings his bag over his shoulder.

"C'mon, lets go to the basement." Louis has no choice but to follow him there and does so without comment, instead rubbing his eyes and trying to stifle another yawn. He follows him down a set of stairs and smiles longingly when he eyes the finished basement around him- carpeted and decorated with the comfiest looking sofas facing a TV and what looks to be a few gaming consoles. Louis would probably cut off a toe to be able to sink into the cushions and play a few video games.

Harry drops his bag onto a sofa and claps his hands together, rubbing them together and wiggling his eyebrows in Louis' direction. "I've been preparing for this all night," he tells him.

"Oh, yeah? How's that?"

"I've been watching Dance Moms since I got home from practice. Is that what you were like when you were little? I haven't decided whether I'm team Madi or team Chloe yet. You watch that show right?" he babbles on.

Louis laughs and shakes his head, collapsing onto a sofa. "No, I don't watch that show, Harry. Are we here to practice or to have a chat?" He looks around the room and frowns. While the basement is in fact large, it's got furniture spaced throughout it and has got two poles breaking up the free spaces. "Where do you even plan on doing this?"

Harry shrugs and looks around as well. "Umm, here? Is that not okay?" he asks worriedly.

"There's not exactly enough room. Especially for someone who has a high chance of tripping over their own feet and braining themselves on the coffee table."

"I could push some things out of the way?" Harry steps closer to the sofa that Louis is sitting on and Louis just shakes his head.

"No, don't worry about it. This is my fault. I just-" he breaks off into a yawn and shakes his head. "Ugh, sorry. My mind's been in a million different places this week and I didn't even think to ask if you had a proper place. We can go to the studio a different night when a room is empty, if you'd like?" Louis tries in vain to keep himself sitting upright and to not sink further into the cushions. If he does, he's not going to be able to get back up.

"What's up? What's got you so crazy," Harry asks, walking around the side of the couch to fall into place beside him.

Recitals. Classes. A pile of baby sisters. Homework. "Nothing really, I'm just tired," Louis tells him and rolls his eyes when Harry sighs exasperatedly. "I've got a Calculus test tomorrow that I just learned of after school and if I don't remember the test being announced, how am I supposed to remember what I learned a week ago?"

Harry's face lights up and Louis' about to scold him for taking pleasure in other people's pain, but Harry beats him to it. "I'm taking Calculus! I could totally help you! I've got an A in that class."

"You're lying," Louis shakes his head.

Harry's face scrunches up and he stands up to grab Louis' bag. "Well, I had an A when I got my progress report a week ago, so. Unless I've spontaneously failed, then no."

"Really?" On top of being charming, ridiculously attractive, funny, and athletic, Harry Styles is also a secret genius. Louis' torn between immense love and hate.

"Mhmm. And I can try to teach you, if you want. It's the least I can do after you came here for nothing."

Louis smiles. "Yeah, suppose you're right. You do owe me."

An hour later they've made significant progress. Harry's a great teacher, but Louis sometimes gets lost in the sound and rumble of his voice and misses out on portions. Louis understands the first couple of sections of the chapter though and that's accomplishment enough. He almost feels bad that he's leaving Niall out of this and contemplates whether or not to invite him over a few times. Except every time he does that, Louis imagines having Harry's attention not all on him anymore and decides against it.

He's probably a bad friend.

It's another two hours before Louis blinks and doesn't open his eyes for a couple seconds after and Harry decides it's time to call it a night.

"If you stay any longer you'll surely fall asleep behind the wheel," Harry says matter-of-factly and pointedly looks at the clock across the room. "And plus, you need a full night of rest and a good breakfast to ensure you kick this test in the butt tomorrow. So get up!"

"Are you kicking me out?" Louis yawns disbelievingly. "After everything I've done for you?"

Harry laughs and shakes his head. He holds out his hands to pull Louis up from the couch and does so gently when Louis grabs hold. "I'd never kick you out, silly. You can stay if you really want to. I'm just trying to do what's in your best interest."

"Alright, mom, I'm leaving." Louis grabs his bag and starts on his way back up the stairs, extra quiet this time so as to not wake anybody up if they went to bed.

"I'll walk you to your car," Harry tells him quietly and Louis' heart jumps a little bit in his chest. If this were a date, Harry'd kiss him right about now. A suddenly he feels more awake than he has all night.

"You don't have to do that," Louis whispers at the top of the stairs, adjusting his bag over his shoulder. "I've got enough energy in me to make it out alive, promise. Don't worry."

Harry shrugs and opens the door for him, following him out anyway. "It's cold," he whines as his bare feet meet the chilly pavement of his walkway. Louis watches in interest as his long toes curl against the ground. "Why is it so cold?"

Louis laughs, a burst of over-tired energy surging through his veins now that he's up and walking around in the fresh air. "It's November, you nut. Go back inside before you catch your death."

"Now who's the mom?" Harry teases, guiding Louis across his lawn with a barely there hand on the small of his back.

"Still you," Louis shoots back and laughs again when Harry sputters indignantly.

Harry's lawn is only so long no matter how slow Louis tries to walk and sooner than later, they arrive in front of his car. They both pause uncertainly, Harry tugging at the hem of his hoodie and Louis pulling at the straps of his backpack.

"I-uh, I really appreciate your help tonight, Harry. I was going to fail terribly," Louis breaks the silence and smiles what feels like too fond of a smile up at Harry.

"Hey, no problem at all. You're really helping me out with all this dance stuff too, so... don't worry about it." Harry returns the smile and Louis sincerely hopes it's too dark to see the blush spreading high up his neck.

"We didn't even practice tonight," Louis points out.

"I had a lot of fun though."

Before Louis realizes it, he's asking "You did?" and blushing circa Sophomore year again. He's entirely too tired to be functioning right now and he needs to get in his car before he embarrasses himself further.

"Of course I did," Harry says and ducks his head closer to Louis'. For a split second Louis is positive he's about to be kissed. Then the second passes and Harry pulls him into a hug instead. "Get home safe okay? Play your radio really loud to keep you awake and text me when you get home."

"Yeah, okay," Louis agrees dumbly. Adding a "Mom," at the last moment to save himself a shred of dignity before getting into his car. "See ya!" he calls.

Harry waves once and stands on his lawn until Louis' car turns the corner.

-*-*-*-*-

"How was your date last night?" Zayn asks when he gets into the passenger seat the next morning.

"I already regret giving you a ride to school and you've not been in my car seven seconds," Louis grumbles into the thermos of tea he's sipping from. He woke up a tad late this morning and didn't have time to grab breakfast so he's a wee bit crabby.

Zayn hums sympathetically and clucks his tongue. "Was it that bad?"

"It wasn't a date. We studied all night," Louis tells him, barely paying attention. He's busy trying to drive and hold a thermos at the same time. He needs to turn on his blinker soon which is probably going to result in either a lapful of scalding tea or a totaled car. Louis doesn't know which would be worse.

"Niall told me you guys were dancing," Zayn says and huffs exaggeratedly, snatching the thermos from Louis' hands. "You're going to kill us both," he scolds.

Louis flicks on his blinker and rolls his eyes. "It sounds so weird when you say it like that. Harry and I don't dance together. He attends my class and sometimes I give him pointers when there isn't a class."

Zayn sniffs the thermos in his hands and then takes a sip, nodding along with Louis' words. Louis has half a mind to stop short and hope the tea scalds Zayn's lap. "I don't get it. This whole thing doesn't add up."

Louis' shoulders hunch up near his ears as he leans towards the steering wheel and tries not to let his irritation show. Of course he knows that Harry Styles taking dance lessons from him doesn't make sense. That doesn't mean he wants other people pointing it out, though. Which is sort of weird since a month ago that's all he wanted to talk about, but whatever. He's matured as a person.

"Yeah," Louis says shortly.

"Liam says Harry talks about you," Zayn mentions casually.

Louis grips the steering wheel tighter and glances to the side. "Yeah? When do you talk to Liam?"

"We've got English together. And now that our best friends are friends, we're friends by extension so we speak sometimes." Zayn sips his tea again and shrugs.

"Oh."

Neither Louis or Zayn say anything else for the rest of the drive to school- Louis too deep in thought and Zayn always perceptive enough to know when Louis wants to be quiet.

They make it to school with a couple minutes to spare, loitering around Louis' locker since Zayn seemingly never carries around books or supplies. Louis twists his combination into his lock carefully and scowls when he opens the door. Inside, on top of his messy pile of books falling from their binding, is a paper bag printed over with the logo of a local bakery.

"Zayn," Louis whispers, never taking his eyes off the bag. "Look quick before it disappears." It's an illusion- the same mirage of water a dehydrated man sees in a desert. His stomach growls all the same.

"Someone left you a bagel or something?"

"You see it too?"

Slowly, he reaches out and grabs the bag. Peeking inside, Louis finds a massive chocolate chip muffin and what looks to be a napkin covered in dark writing. Before even pulling it out, Louis knows who it's from.

"How does Harry Styles know my locker combination?" Louis asks, more to the universe than to Zayn, pulling out a note that looks identical to the ones he received from his mom in his lunches when he was a tot.

"Liam's an office intern. They have all that stuff down there."

The bell rings and although Zayn and Louis make no move to get to class, the rest of hallway scrambles to first period. Louis looks up from the bag briefly and very sternly tells Zayn to "Go to class."

Zayn misses enough class as it is doing only God knows what and Louis' not going to be held responsible again when his mom gets ahold of his report card this month. When Zayn finally backs away and strolls lackadaisically down the hall, Louis pulls the napkin from the bag.

Just in case you didn't eat a nutritious breakfast. Good luck with Calculus!

Louis presses his lips together to quell the smile that's trying to split his face in half and carefully pins the note to his locker door with a spare magnet.

-*-*-*-*-

Somehow Louis gets through the test and the next two days without issue.

He teaches his classes, tries not to flirt with Harry, and manages to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. It's really a great two days.

Which is why it's totally unexpected when Louis gets in his car after school Friday, about to make his way to the studio for his own Senior class and maybe practice the solo that he's just been given for the recital, and his car doesn't start.

Louis freezes for a moment, listening to the engine chug repeatedly but not turn over. He holds his breath and pulls the key from the slot. Louis tries it once more. Then once more and then one final time and slowly exhales when his car still doesn't start.

"No," he breathes quietly. His fingers are starting to freeze without his car heater to heat them and Louis tries to keep the blood circulating by squeezing and un-squeezing them around the steering wheel.

He's trying really hard to keep his cool and not start screaming, but with one glance at his phone screen, the chance for calm flies out the window. He's got twenty minutes to be at the studio and no car to get there. No big deal.

Louis lets his head drop against the wheel in defeat, not even cracking a smile when the horn blares and scares a couple of kids standing in the next parking spot over. He bangs his head a few more times and can't bring himself to care that his car is honking along with him. "Fuck my life."

A sharp knock against his window startles Louis out of his pity party. Of course it's none other than Harry squinting through his window and waving because that's just how his life works lately. "Are you okay?" he asks through the glass and Louis can't even roll down the window and have a proper conversation with him. He has to get out of his car and freeze in the chilly wind.

Louis cracks the door open, automatically nodding and telling Harry that "Yeah, I'm okay." It's habit now.

Harry's brows pull down close to his eyes and he tilts his head. "Is your car starting?"

"No," Louis shakes his head. A laugh bubbles up and Louis can't help but chuckle at his misfortune. "No," he repeats through his laughter. "My car isn't starting and I have to be at the studio in twenty minutes. How about you? What's up?"

"Nothing. There's no game tonight so I'm all free." Harry gestures to his car a few spots down. "Let me give you a ride."

Louis looks at Harry's car and then back to Harry and smiles. "Yeah?"

"Yeah, of course. We should leave now if you don't want to be late." Harry pulls the car door open all the way and waits for Louis to get out before closing it. "You should call your mom and have her call for a tow."

Harry's backseat is a mess of gym bags and worn sneakers and beaten school books and old, cracked CD cases. There's a cross hanging from his mirror and an old, discoloring lei that Louis tugs at. "I like your car. It's very you."

There's an adapter in the cassette player that Harry plugs into his phone while he smiles and low music fills the car seconds later. "Thank you," he says, flashing his teeth so Louis can see the piece of gum he's chewing, and pulls out of the parking lot. "I don't know how long your car is going to take to get fixed and I know our schedules are both pretty busy, but I can totally help as much as I can. Like, um, I can take you to school in the morning?"

Louis hadn't even given a thought as to how he was going to get to school so he nods without hesitation. "That would be so amazing, Harry, thank you so much. And I can give you gas money for whatever."

Harry rolls to a stop at a red light and glances at Louis incredulously. "You don't need to give me gas money. It'd be my pleasure to help."

"Yes, as much as I'm sure you'd love to be my chauffeur, driving me places is going to waste gas that would not be otherwise wasted had my car not died."

"I drive Liam places all the time and he never gives me money," Harry counters, looking back to the road as the light turns green

"Liam is your best friend, Harry. It's different. Zayn and Niall don't give me gas money either," Louis says and grabs his phone to text his mom.

Part of him is hoping his car is an easy fix and he can be back on the road within the week. Another part of him, a part that's very secret and very stupid, is hoping his car is dead forever and he'll have to ride with Harry in his charming little car everywhere and possibly into the sunset.

Harry gasps, mock hurt showing in all his features. "Are you saying you don't consider us best friends?"

Louis doesn't really know what the proper way to respond is so he just laughs and focuses his attention on the text he's typing out. He's got enough saved up from teaching to not have to worry too much about the cost of repairs so his mom shouldn't be too frazzled to get the news. Louis is just hoping that she's able to leave work early a couple of days and pick up the girls when he can't.

"We're here!" Harry announces a few minutes later.

Louis grabs his bag and unbuckles his seatbelt, getting ready to run inside. Class started two minutes ago and he still has to change out of the pair of jeans he's got on. "You can just stop here. I'll run inside."

But Harry doesn't listen. He pulls into a parking spot and turns his car off, opening his door as Louis does the same.

"You don't have to walk me to the door Harry. I promise I'll be fine," Louis huffs exasperatedly. "Thank you so very much for the ride! I'll text you my address later, alright?" He speed walks towards the front doors, but slows when he realizes Harry is still walking beside him.

"I'm not going to just leave you here. How will you get home?" Harry opens the front door for him and continues to follow him into the front lobby. "I'll just wait here."

"That's ridiculous, Harry," Louis sighs, stopping to turn around and face him. "I'll call my mom or Zayn or something, I don't know. You can't just wait here for a couple of hours."

"Nonsense, I'm already here. Plus, I like the studio. Maybe I'll absorb some talent by just being here, who knows? Like osmosis." Harry extends his arms on either side of him, palms up, and closes his eyes, humming a little.

Louis stares a moment and then takes a quick peek around to see if there's anybody else who has noticed this anomaly in the lobby yet. When he spots a couple of girls from his class eyeing Harry both amusedly and confusedly, Louis mentally calculates how fast he would have to be to sneak away before Harry opens his eyes again. He's half way down the hall when he hear's Harry call behind him, "I'll be here when you get out! Have a good class!"

Dance is his passion and as much as Louis complains about how much of his life it takes up, he loves it to death and would probably have to be seriously injured or six feet under before he considered stopping. It's very rare to have a class that he's anything but entirely focused. And today would have been just like the rest had it not been for the window in the studio for parents to stand in the lobby and watch their little one's progress.

About half way through the class, when Louis is taking a short water break, a flurry of movement catches his eye. In the corner of the window, with all the exuberance that someone can have, Harry Styles is waving and giving him a thumbs up. So for the rest of the class Louis can't leap or turn without wondering if Harry's watching or what Harry's thinking.

"You did so good," Harry gushes as soon as Louis pushes through the door into the hallway. He's damp and sticky with sweat, but he feels good and proud like he always does after a productive class. "You're amazing."

"Thank you," Louis smiles tinily and combs the fringe back from his forehead. "Were you watching the whole time?" As his hair flops back down, Louis gives a frustrated sigh and curses the day Harry decided to walk into his life. He misses his headbands terribly.

"No, I spoke with the woman at the counter for a while. She was very lovely."

"Oh, Angie? Yeah, she's a doll. I'm glad you made a friend."

"I looked at all the pictures up in the studio, Lou. I didn't know you danced when you were little! Angie pointed you out in some of the toddler groups, that's so cool." Harry's tone is so genuine and amazingly enough, excited that Louis can't help but chuckle sheepishly, shrugging a bit.

"Mhmm, been dancing since I was a wee little thing that only knew how to shake my bum. When did you start playing football?" Louis' got clothes in his bag to change into that aren't a pair of tight sweat pants and t-shirt and would probably feel amazing right now, but Harry's looking at him with wide eyes and so interested about everything and Louis doesn't want to be the one to end that. So he just walks slowly alongside his friend and resigns to wearing his practice clothes all the way home.

"I started playing when I was in middle school. Liam's the one that's been playing since he was old enough to hold a ball in his hands. I mean, I love it and all, but.." Harry trails off, shaking out his curls and then looking at Louis. "Not like you do. To me, football is a hobby- it's something fun that I play with my friends and probably won't play seriously ever again after high school. To you, dance is, like, your life, right? Besides the fact that you won't join the dance team-"

It's instinctual, the way Louis automatically interrupts with a "Dance team is-"

"Shit, I know," Harry finishes, laughing. "But that's what you're doing after graduation? Something with dance?"

Louis scratches at his nose and licks his lips. "I think so," he says, but his voice lilts upwards at the end and erases any confidence the statement had. "Even if I don't go to school for it or don't join a company, I'd still like to teach here. That is, if I go to school close by." Unless he's whisked away by an amazing dance troupe, there's a ninety percent chance Louis' going to the local university.

"Oh, good. I know everybody wants you to stay. They're all very curious about what you're going to do next year."

"You were talking about me?" Louis asks, waving at the different people they pass on their way out the front door. The night time air chills any remaining sweat sticking to his skin and Louis shivers.

Harry scoffs. "Of course! Everyone loves you, it was hard not to talk about you," he tells him and Louis can't resist the urge to roll his eyes.

"You're so full of shit," Louis laughs, speed walking to the car. "C'mon, unlock your car and crank the heat. I'm freezing."

-*-*-*-*-

The next week and a half are weird- a good weird, but weird nonetheless.

Louis spends most of his time with Harry between school, the studio, and even a few times at one of their homes.

Harry's always there in the morning to pick Louis up for school bright and early. After a few days of Louis waking up too late to make his thermos of tea, Harry shows up with a tea from home. It takes a few tries, but eventually Harry gets it perfect and Louis has to physically stop himself from kissing him right then and there when he takes the first sip.

Zayn usually has to bring him to the studio after school since Harry goes straight to practice. It's after football that Harry shows up, homework in tow to do while Louis dances. They've taken to doing homework together in the breaks between Louis' own practices and classes. Needless to say, his grades improve as he's doing more homework and more studying than ever before.

More than once, Louis' glanced out the window of his room to find Harry spying on him, giving him a thumbs up when he realizes he's caught. The feel of eyes on him are almost commonplace now.

Harry still shows up to Louis' class and dances as badly as ever and Louis still finds random snacks in his locker from time to time and despite not having a car, life is going swimmingly. Louis actually finds that he's disappointed when his mom brings him to the shop to pick up his car.

The next morning, Harry is there in Louis' driveway with a thermos of perfect tea waiting for him and Louis is sulking. No doubt Harry realizes he pulled up in the driveway next to Louis' car and it's going to be their last morning together.

Louis holds out his hand expectantly as soon as he gets in the passenger seat, looking straight forward at his garage door and refusing to acknowledge the car in the spot beside them. "Morning," he chirps as cheerily as ever. "How are you?"

Harry presses the warm cup into his open palm, not letting go until Louis' grabbed it with both hands. They've had too many close calls for Harry to trust Louis with only one hand. Now he's always worried about Louis spilling it on himself and in his car. "Good, thank you. I see you've got your baby back."

The tea smells as welcoming and wonderful as always. Louis' really torn up that he's not going to get another cup. "Yeah, forgot to tell you about that. Sorry." He's carefully casual about it. Like it's a perfectly normal thing to forget to tell someone who has been acting as his personal driver for the past week that he has his car back now.

"Why're you sorry?" Harry asks and Louis' can't see his face, what with steadfastly looking forward and all, but it sounds like he's smiling.

The thermos is hot under his fingertips yet Louis takes a sip anyway, wincing when he burns his tongue. "Ow," he mutters scornfully. "Uhh, I don't know. Because I forgot to tell you that you didn't need to give me a ride? You're free," Louis teases, forcing a laugh. It sounds too phony and he's pretty sure Harry can tell.

"I don't mind," Harry shrugs, fiddling with the volume of the soft music blindly. "I can still give you rides to school when you don't need your car immediately after school if you want."

Louis takes another sip of tea, this time swishing it around in his mouth to prevent him from blurting out words without thinking. Words like marry me and you're so perfect what the hell and please please please kiss me.

By the time he swallows, Harry's side eyeing him and Louis feels like he's blushing. "Yeah, that's cool. Sounds good to me," he tries for casual.

Harry just nods and finally turns the music up and Louis hides his smile in the lid of the thermos.

-*-*-*-*-

Louis' sitting in the courtyard, clicking around on his laptop and refusing to zip up his jacket all the way because November doesn't mean winter just yet when Harry approaches him, smiling about something most definitely stupid.

"Lou," Harry greets, holding his hands together behind his back and very pointedly waiting for Louis to look up and notice him.

It takes about six seconds before Louis gives in, looking up from his screen to properly greet Harry back. And when he does it takes about a half a second for his eyes to widen comically. "My god, Harry."

Harry preens under the attention, stretching out his arms and twisting from side to side to give Louis a proper look at him. "Do you like it? I just bought them over the weekend, figured I'd try them out." Harry's decked out in this year's studio sweatshirt and sweatpants- the same ones that have DANCE boldly printed across the ass. "I've got the fleece in my car."

Louis startles a laugh at that, covering his gaping mouth with a cold hand. "Why?" is all he can manage at the moment. Louis is almost positive that Harry's never been to the studio when he's not there- not that there is much time the studio is open that Louis' not there. And he's sure he'd remember Harry buying all of this, but it seems that Harry is a sorcerer and has managed to procure all of his dance studio's merchandise from under his nose.

"I thought it would only be fair," Harry admits and shrugs his back pack from his shoulders. Louis watches on as Harry unzips the bag as slowly as humanly possible only to pull out a jersey and hold it to Louis.

"What's this for?" Louis asks, tentatively reaching out and taking hold of the soft material. He has an idea about the whole giving your jersey away thing, but he's not really sure if that's what is happening at the moment.

Harry's got this intense stare thing going that is making Louis' skin crawl and Louis shakes out the jersey to look at the big, red 22. That's Harry's number alright, kind of impossible to forget after spending a couple hours every week following the number back and forth across the field.

"I thought that it's only fair that I should wear your clothes since you'll be wearing my jersey to the game on Friday." When Louis drops the jersey to meet Harry's eyes, he's got a smug smile on his face as if he knows exactly how slick he's being.

"Oh, yeah? Is that it?"

"It's the most you can do since you refuse to join the dance team and cheer for me," Harry teases with a blush on his cheeks that has Louis wanting to change into the jersey right now and run around the hallways so everyone can see that this cutie gave Louis his jersey.

"Dance team is shit," Louis tells Harry for the millionth time.

Harry leans closer for a moment, like he's about to tell Louis a super serious secret and Louis' throat closes up. He can smell the cologne Harry used this morning before school and the shampoo he washed his hair with last night; Louis feels lightheaded. "Yeah, only cause you're not on it."

Louis waits for Harry to lean back before saying anything else, doesn't trust himself to do much other than keep his body absolutely still when Harry's so close. "You flatter me, Harry Styles."

Harry bows his head a little and bites his lip, he's really being far too alluring for a conversation in the courtyard. "I like it when you say my full name. It makes me feel important," he says and then frowns at himself like he realizes how weird what he just said was. Louis laughs loudly and folds the jersey carefully in his lap.

"Alrighty, Harry Styles. Maybe you'll see me in the stands come Friday, maybe not," he teases, but his smile completely gives him away. They both know he'll be there with a thermos of hot chocolate, dressed in a jersey that's approximately seven sizes too big.

-*-*-*-*-

The grass is damp where it tickles Louis' ankles as he walks along the sides of the bleachers, trying to determine the best way to get Harry's attention without distracting the rest of the team.

The jersey looks absolutely ridiculous on him, hanging down to his thighs and leaving room for three more arms in the sleeves. It would have been big had it just been Harry's size, but with the room for the shoulder pads and everything else, the jersey is monstrous.

Objectively, Louis knows he looks silly. Subjectively, Louis feels like a million bucks.

Truth be told, Louis' been in the jersey since he got home from his classes and has done nothing but admire the way the 22 sits proudly across his chest. He'd sent just about a million selfies to Zayn and Niall in it, earning back lots of exclamations points and a thumbs up emoji respectively.

"Harry," Louis whisper yells and frowns deeply when Liam turns around instead. Harry sounds nothing like Liam and Louis'd tell him to mind his business if he didn't start nudging Harry and nodding to Louis. Louis sort of loves the fact that Harry's got a matching black 22 emblazoned over his own jersey.

Harry's entire face lifts up when he spots Louis kicking his toes through the grass and he wastes not a minute more in hurrying over to him, all hulking shoulders and tight pants. "Louis!" he exclaims. His eyes are bright and happy, his whole body relaxed, Harry looks completely in his element.

"Are you nervous?" Louis asks and occupies his fingers with fiddling with the hem of his jersey so they won't loop into the one Harry's wearing.

Harry shakes his head and tugs at the side of Louis' jacket until he can properly see what's underneath. "You wore it!" And it's ridiculous how surprised he sounds because really, in what reality would Louis show up to the game without it.

"Only fair, right?" Louis shrugs, inwardly proud of the nonchalance he's managing.

"We match now," Harry points out. "It looks great on you."

Louis' sort of glad that the coach chooses then to blow his whistle and start yelling for his team to reassemble in front of him. Now he doesn't have to flounder his way through another response.

"Pay attention to the game, alright? I have a surprise," Harry tells him quickly, eyes sincere and earnest.

Louis nods immediately. "A surprise? Ooh, Harry Styles, you've got me all intrigued now. Can I have a hint?"

Harry shakes his head again and glances forlornly between his coach and Louis. "I have to go, but no hints and pay attention!"

Louis barely has time to shout good luck before Harry's running back to his team and joining their huddle. It's not hard to remember why Louis spent so much time in the bleachers his Sophomore year, not with Harry's long legs wrapped in the tightest pants in existence other than his leggings.

Zayn's on his phone and Niall's drinking all of the hot chocolate Louis brought in his special thermos when he gets back. "Look alive, boys. It's game time!" he shouts and rips the blanket from their laps to settle it over the three of them.

"What did you and Harry talk about?" Zayn asks after the third pointedly heavy sigh from Louis.

"Nothing," Louis answers simply, eyes on the field.

"Okay, then," Zayn nods and turns back to his phone.

"Except he said he had a surprise for me and I had to pay attention to the game," Louis declares, smiling to himself when Zayn looks back up from the phone screen.

"A surprise?" Niall asks around a mouthful of hot cocoa. "Like what?"

Louis sighs exasperatedly and claps his hands over his knees. "I don't know, Niall, that's why it's called a surprise."

It's a good game, one that has Niall, Louis, and Zayn on their feet at one point or another. Unsurprisingly, Harry starts and proceeds to play for a majority of the time which is nothing that anybody seems to be complaining about, especially not Louis.

Harry sends Louis a text during half time, a simple how's the dance team? as said team takes their positions in the middle of the field.

You'd fit right in Louis texts back as he watches the girls miss their cues and execute turns that his six year olds can do better. He feels a little mean, though, so Louis sends a couple of smiley faces as well and hopes Harry will know what he's saying.

meet me by the bleachers when the game is done?

Louis contemplates sending back more emojis, but the cheerleaders are screaming again and the team is running back on the field and there's no point anymore. So Louis locks his phone and starts clapping again, waving to Harry whenever it looks like the boy is so much as angled towards the crowd.

Harry has the whole crowd on their feet in less than two minutes, ball in hand and charging down the field towards what is going to be a touchdown and Louis is screaming before he even registers what's going on. When Harry actually does make it past the spray painted white line he points towards Louis before doing the worst pirouette he's ever seen.

"Oh my god," Louis mutters into his hands in second-hand embarrassment, but Harry is smiling like he's just won a gold medal, seemingly over the moon with himself at his victory dance.

Niall's nudging him harshly with an elbow to the ribs and Zayn's muttering something else in his ear, but Louis can't take his eyes off Harry and the way he's pointing to Louis.

"Louis, he made the touchdown for you," Zayn croons into his ear. Niall's still laughing about Harry's pirouette in the other and Louis can feel the stares from the rest of the bleachers as they crane to see who Harry Styles just pointed to.

"After two months of class, that's the best he can come up with?" Niall guffaws and Louis shakes his head sullenly.

"I take no responsibility for that," Louis says into his hands.

-*-*-*-*-

By the time Harry makes it out of the locker room and over to where Louis' leaning against the bleachers, the stands have emptied out. There are a few stragglers here and there, but other than that they're left alone.

"I wasn't sure if you were going to come," Harry says quietly. "You didn't answer my text."

Louis pulls his beanie down over his ears and drops his jaw in mock offense. "Oh, but how could I not? You did a pirouette on the field after scoring a touchdown, you big hot-shot jock."

"Did you like it? I actually practiced that one at home." Harry looks completely honest and Louis won't be the one to crush that spirit so he nods through a laugh.

"It was the best damn victory dance I've ever seen," Louis swears and crosses and 'X' over his heart. "But why'd you want to meet me here? Do you need your jersey back or something?" He very much hopes not, Louis' planning on wearing this to bed and for as long as he can get away with not showering.

Thankfully, Harry shakes his head. Louis' breath hitches quietly when he reaches out to smooth down the strip of jersey visible between the sides of his jacket, large hand patting down over his chest and then coming to a stop on the side of his hip. He waits a moment to see if Harry will move it and feels a little thrill shoot through his spine when it stays there. "No, you keep that one. You'll have to wear it to the rest of the season."

"Won't you need it for away games?" Louis questions, raising an eyebrow. He's not about to cough the jersey up, but he's pretty sure they switch jerseys for each type of game.

Judging by the way Harry's smile deflates, Louis' right. "Oh. Yeah," he murmurs. "We'll have to switch, then."

"Guess so," Louis smiles, subtly pressing his hip against the hand resting on it. He's grown fond of the red jersey, but if Harry lets him Louis' sure he'll come to love the black one too. Really, as long as it's got his number on it. "Hey, congrats on the win, by the way! You guys were great, we all thought so." Zayn and Niall were very impressed as well, Louis is sure.

Harry's face lights up under the praise and he tips his chin down to his chest shyly. "Thank you. Where'd your friends go? Did you ditch them to come meet me by the bleachers?" Truth be told, Zayn and Niall left as soon as the game ended, talking about getting pizza and leaving Louis behind in the dust.

"Yep, they begged me to hang out with them. I told them that I positively could not as I already was tied up in a prior engagement. You know me and my busy schedule," Louis laughs and shuffles a little closer. The field lights are still on, but the bleachers cast a shadow over them and keep them in the dark. Louis likes the dark though, it feels more personal this way.

"Well, lucky me. Let's get this show on the road, eh?" Harry steps back then, Louis almost jumping to follow him and keep their close proximity.

Louis watches Harry keep walking towards the field with a heavy pout and resists the urge to pull a Daisy and Phoebe and start stomping. "What are we doing?" he calls, almost petulantly.

Harry swivels around to face Louis and continues to walk backwards onto the field. "I thought it was only fair that I teach you some things. You're always teaching me, so we're going to play some football."

"You teach me things all the time!" Louis watches warily as Harry bends to grab a lonely football from the grass and grasps it expertly between his hands. "Calculus, remember? And it's cold outside!" He pulls down his beanie in emphasis and shivers exaggeratedly. "Niall drank all my hot chocolate."

"I'll buy you more, but first you've got to play." Harry nods at Louis and then tosses the football softly to him. Louis fumbles to catch it, holding it against his chest clumsily and then looking back at Harry.

"What am I supposed to do now?" Louis makes to toss it back to Harry, but the other boy shakes his head.

"Now you run." Harry's face is serious.

Louis wants to ask what he means or complain or do anything else that would stall this from happening, but Harry starts for Louis and oh, he's got to run now. Even though his shoes keep slipping on the damp grass, Louis is fast, the yellow goal post getting closer and closer with every second. Except Harry's just as fast and he's got those mile long legs that can catch up to Louis easily and in no time. All Louis can hear is the pounding of his feet falling seconds behind his own.

There's suddenly the slightest pressure of finger tips tickling at his waist and Louis screams. His voice doesn't echo or bounce around on the empty field as it would in his studio. It's exhilarating.

Louis tries to push his legs faster, but the pressure grows stronger and Harry's hands make it all the way around his waist. "No tackling!" he shouts futilely, his voice breathy and happy, taking all the heat out of his protests. "Stop!"

All his cries turn out to be useless as Harry pulls and Louis tumbles back into his body with an indignant "Hey!" With arms around his waist, Harry hefts Louis up against his chest and continues on running. "Harry Styles! Put me down!" Louis screams, voice shrill and piercing against the otherwise quiet night, kicking his feet back against his legs.

He can hear Harry's puffs of breath in his ear, feel them against his neck. Louis only persists in putting up a fight because it'd be weird if he didn't- if he just relaxed back against Harry and let him carry him into the end zone.

Harry cheers triumphantly when he runs past the final white line, twirling in an unsteady circle that Louis has to grip his arms so as to not fall. "Goal!" he cries in his ear. Louis kicks backwards once more and yelps when his foot gets caught between Harry's legs, effectively twisting and tripping Harry.

Louis watches the ground come hurtling towards them in defeat- he's brought this upon himself.

The sound Harry's making sounds like a cross between a giggle and a groan, Louis' not sure which one it is, but he's hoping it's a groan. "Look what you've done! Couldn't stay upright for more than two minutes, could you?" Harry's gone and landed on top of Louis, but Louis does nothing to push him off. He just holds the football between their chests and watches as Harry tries to catch his breath.

"Why'd you trip me?" Harry gets out when his laughter finally dies down. Louis barely registers the question. In the position they're in Harry's curls hang down around his face and almost brush against Louis' cheekbones.

"Why'd you pick me up?" Louis counters, his reply noticeably late and breathy.

Harry smiles and Louis can almost count every eyelash he's so close. "I though it'd be easier than stealing the football from you. I made it to the end zone with the ball, didn't I?"

"Yes, but I was the one holding the ball so I think the goal is mine," Louis argues.

"But I was holding you so by extension I was holding the ball."

Louis pushes Harry off of him with an exaggerated sigh. "You're impossible."

Harry rolls off of Louis, landing with a soft thud in the grass beside him. He lets the football roll somewhere between their bodies and tries not to think of how weird it would be if he moved his hand a couple of inches over and knotted his fingers with Harry.

They stay like that for a couple more minutes- Harry's breathing slowing down into something soft and Louis ripping chunks of grass out of the pristine field, and then all of a sudden the stadium lights go out and they're left with only the moon and the stars for light. It's almost romantic.

"What time is it?" Louis wonders out loud, pushing himself up on his elbows and looking over to where Harry's relaxing with his eyes closed. He may be mistaken, but the spot where Harry's hand rests in the grass is only a mere centimeter from where Louis' was a moment ago. If this were a movie, Louis would swear Harry was reaching out for him.

Harry opens his eyes slowly. "I don't know. Late, probably," he says just as slowly, voice thick and content. His eyes find Louis' in the dark, watching as he pulls his knees up to his chest and rests his chin on top.

"Are you tired?" Louis asks. It looks as if a few minutes of rest had allowed the exhaustion and stress of the day to finally catch up with Harry and take ahold of his body. He'd bet any money that Harry's limbs are feeling like a million pounds each as he tries to move into a sitting position.

"No," Harry swears, but Louis can tell he's lying.

Louis smacks his lips together obnoxiously and reaches out to poke Harry's knobby knee. "C'mon, hotshot. You just played a hell of a game, you should get some sleep."

Getting Harry up on his feet takes some more prodding and a few kicks on Louis' part, but they both make it to their cars eventually. "I left your football on the field," Louis suddenly remembers, standing in front of Harry's car.

Harry shrugs and spins his keys from his key ring around his finger. "It wasn't mine."

"Oh."

They stand there for a few more seconds in silence. Louis crosses his arms over his chest, the cold air once and for all getting to him through his clothes. It'd help to zipper up his jacket, but he doesn't want to cover up more of the jersey he's wearing so Louis braves the shivers.

"Thanks for coming tonight," Harry says finally.

"Where else would I be, Harry, don't be silly," Louis waves it off and accepts the hug Harry spreads his arms out for.

He's warm and solid and he smells really good even though he just played a game of high school football and Louis really doesn't want to let go. But they do pull away eventually and Louis watches as Harry gets in his car and then gestures for Louis to get in his own instead of watching him drive away.

-*-*-*-*-

Louis talks to Liam for the first time in the library.

He's standing on a stool he found, one that he's pretty sure only the librarians get to use, but it was sitting out in the open and Louis was too tempted to stand on it. So now he's browsing only the top shelves for books to help him with his History paper.

Somebody clears their throat below him and when Louis looks away from the dusty monstrosity wedged between two other equally thick books, he finds Liam. "Hello," Louis nods. He doesn't hop down from the stool because he likes the feeling of looking down at Liam. He also feels powerful.

"Hello," Liam smiles politely. "How are you?"

"Peachy. And you?" Louis asks, looking back to the book he's still got his hand on and trying to carefully wiggle it from it's place. Liam says something back about being fine or good or whatever and Louis nods, freeing the book and holding it between his two hands.

Louis blows a large gust of air at the cover and smiles victoriously when a cloud of dust puffs up and has Liam coughing. "Sorry, mate. What can I do for you? Are you here to give me the over protective best friend talk about Harry?"

Liam waves a hand around in front of his face to try and clear the air of any dust filtering down around him, shaking his head. "No, why? Do you need it?" His eyes are entirely too trusting for his own good. Louis kind of wants to blow more dust into his face to see if he'd get mad.

"No," Louis says and cracks open the cover. "Those talks are for people who are dating. Harry and I aren't dating." He lowers his head a bit and sniffs the pages, making a terrible, screwed up face when he does.

"That's horrible! I thought people liked the smell of old books!" Louis cries in a voice much too loud for a library.

Liam laughs at that. "I think it's the smell of new books that people like."

"And you couldn't have told me that before I went and stuck my nose in it!" Louis shoves the book back in it's place and scowls down at Liam. "Thanks a lot."

Liam looks largely offended by that, holding his hands out in surrender and furrowing his brows. "How was I supposed to know you were going to go and sniff the thing!"

Louis ignores Liam in favor of picking out another book from the shelf.

"Are you going to the game on Friday?" Liam asks after he realizes Louis' not going to say anything more on the subject.

"Harry asked me to, yes." Louis' had the red jersey laid out in his bedroom all week. The closer it gets to recital, the busier Louis gets, but he's cleared out a huge chunk of time just to go to Harry's game and hang out with him afterwards. They've not got any plans for after yet, Louis just wanted to have the time off in case Harry asked him. It's supposed to be a big game or something so Harry could be doing something with his team afterwards, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

"That's good. I know he'll want you there. He said you were his good luck charm," Liam says and smiles up at Louis like he told him a big secret and should be rewarded. He almost resembles a dog wanting a treat.

Louis' fingers still in their place on the shelf and he huffs. "That doesn't make any sense, Harry was good before I came to any games this year. He's stupid."

He's still got his eyes on the books, but he imagines Liam's facial expression is something of shock and offense. "You went to all of his games Sophomore year, too," Liam points out.

Louis feels his mouth get significantly drier and he resists the urge to hop down from his stool so he can squint at Liam and crowd into his space uncomfortably. "Have you been talking to Zayn?" his voice is surprisingly calm compared to how he's actually feeling right now.

"We talk in class everyday," Liam replies cluelessly.

Louis wants to ask if Harry knows and if he does what he thinks about it. He doesn't, of course, because that would be embarrassing and Louis is already a little embarrassed to begin with. "I don't like that you two are friends," is all he says instead, eyes trained solely on the golden lettering curling over the spine of a fairly new looking book.

"Nice talking with you, Liam," Louis finally says, all polite and smiles, before he steps down from his stool and leaves the school library without a single book for his History paper and without giving Liam a chance to say goodbye.

-*-*-*-*-

"Did you tell Liam that I had a crush on Harry?!" Louis demands as soon as he barges into Niall's room where he and Zayn are sitting on the floor, facing the TV. Both of them jump and stare wide-eyed at Louis who assumes he looks something akin to a mad man. It's cold outside so his cheeks are flushed and he can feel his hair sticking up in different directions due to the wind.

Zayn shakes his head slowly like he's confused. "No, why?"

"How does he know about all those games I went to Sophomore year?" Louis throws his arms out in exasperation. Niall's eyeing between the two of them slowly, looking like he wants to silently sneak away.

Zayn sits up at that and gives Louis a look. "Liam already knew about that. He was the one who mentioned it to me."

Louis rolls his eyes. "Bullshit," he claims, shooting Zayn a deadly look. "How would he have known that?"

Zayn shrugs. "I don't know, Liam said Harry was the one who mentioned it to him."

That is not good at all. Louis thought Liam knowing was bad, but Harry knowing is humiliating. "But," Louis says and then trails off in a groan. He takes two steps forward so that when he collapses face first into something it'll be Niall's bed. "He definitely knows."

"Louis, you're acting crazy, man," Niall finally pipes up. "Knows what exactly? That you went to all of his games Sophomore year? So what? That just means you've got school spirit."

"Yeah," Zayn agrees, patting a hand over the back of Louis' calf. "And even if he did think you had a crush on him, that was Sophomore year, two years ago."

Niall crawls over to rest his chin on the bed near Louis' buried face. "You're all mature and responsible now. You're a different person," he promises and then promptly adds. "Except you guys dance together and hang out all the time and you wear his jersey and he breaks into your locker. So.. there's that."

Louis blindly bats at Niall's face until he comes in contact with what he's sure is someone's hair and gives it a sharp tug. When Niall whines Louis smiles triumphantly into a blanket. "We're just friends.

"Sure you are," Zayn soothes, still rubbing Louis' legs in a way that's supposed to be comforting.

"You never dance with me," Niall points out almost petulantly.

"Harry doesn't dance voluntarily, you know that," Louis tells him and frowns. The season is ending soon which means no more Harry Styles in his dance class, much less the studio. No more Harry Styles giving Louis his jersey and no more Harry Styles bringing him tea and breaking into his locker. "Anyway, student-teacher relationships are frowned upon in this day and age."

"I think as long as you steer clear of kids under sixteen, you're fine," Zayn says and Louis can't see him, but he knows him well enough to tell he's rolling his eyes.

"Gross, Zayn," Louis mumbles. "You're the worst friend ever, I swear."

 

-*-*-*-*-

Wednesday night comes once again, same as always, but this time it's picture day.

Louis feels a little frazzled already and he's not even been at the studio a full fifteen minutes. The little ones are flouncing around in their recital costumes, giggling and pulling at each other's skirts and suspenders while the older dancers flit around trying to comb their hair down. Louis falls right in the middle of the chaos- both needing to get his dancers in line and make time to get in his own costumes and class pictures.

Every year picture day means a whole lot of crazy to Louis. This year picture day means Harry Styles helping Louis wrangle his kids and get them in line to take their photos.

When Louis first had arrived and spotted Harry looking lost amidst the tornado of sequins and leotards, he had groaned loudly and apologized profusely.

"Oh my god, I totally forgot to tell you," Louis had told Harry, rubbing his neck guiltily. "It's picture day so we're not actually going to be dancing. You can go home if you'd like."

Harry, bless him, had been as easy going about it as he is with everything else in life and had shrugged it off without a problem. So now, here he was, acting as Louis' helper and personal savior.

"Have I ever told you that you're the best?" Louis asks as Harry ushers the last of his children in line just as the other class finishes up with the photographer. Harry smiles so beautifully that Louis wishes he could have a picture of that instead.

Together they get the kids in position and to stop giggling long enough to take one fairly decent photograph. Louis sends them to change into their next costume and pleads with them to hurry back once the photographer lets them go.

"How come you're not in the pictures?" Harry asks when all the kids run off. He's in his practice attire and Louis still feels badly about not texting him. He probably has about a thousand different things he'd rather be doing and he's stuck here.

"I'm not in their dance, Harry. I've not got a costume so I can't be in the picture," Louis says, watching as a group of pre-teens from a different class get ready to take their picture. They're covered in stripes and tacky sequins. "Jesus, I hate dance costumes."

"They're not that bad," Harry tries, tilting his head a little to the left as if a new angle will make them look better. "What about for the classes you take? You have costumes like these, right?" Which, God no. Louis' days of terrible of terrible costumes ended the second he gained a bit of control around here and had the power to choose them himself. He likes to think that his kids aren't only the best dancers come recital day, but also the best dressed.

Louis narrows his eyes at some feathers. "No. Our costumes are much simpler than these. My solo outfit consists of black pants and a t-shirt. Very normal." Albeit a very tight t-shirt, but a t-shirt nonetheless.

"You've got a solo?" Harry asks excitedly, turning away from the pre-teen group to fully face Louis. "You didn't tell me that!"

"It's no big deal," Louis plays it off. "Most senior dance members get solos." But none of them have had a solo slot as many years in a row as he has, he wants to mention.

"Yeah, but none of them are as important as you," Harry says like it's some glaringly obvious fact. Louis tries his hardest not to swallow his tongue as his heart skips a beat.

"It's sweet that you think so."

His kids start trickling back to them in new costumes and before they know it, they're back in wrangling mode. Louis doesn't get to take his picture until the very end of the night, but a few other seniors teach classes as well and are in the same boat as Louis so at least he hasn't held anybody up.

They always get all the younger kids done first so they can send them on their way when they're done so the studio is nearly empty by the time Louis' done with his pictures. Harry's still there though, sitting on a stool and smiling a small little smile in his direction. It makes Louis's ears hot and he looks away, pretending to talk to a girl in his class about their routine.

Louis does make his way over to Harry eventually, who doesn't look nearly as frustrated as he should be after having spent a night helping little kids take pictures when he didn't need to. "I can't believe you're still here. Go home!" He bats his hands at Harry who reaches out and grabs them in his.

"I like your costume," Harry smiles, rubbing his thumb over Louis' knuckles before letting them go. "I'm upset that I didn't get one, actually. I feel excluded."

"Hey, that was part of the deal. No recitals, no costumes, remember?" Louis teases, clenching his hands into fists by his side. "This is only to help you with your stupid football issues. Which shouldn't even be a problem anymore seeing as the season's got two more games in it," he points out.

"One more game," Harry corrects, closing his hands over his knees. His smile slips from his lips and Louis digs his toes into the polished hardwood floor. That explains why Harry had been so adamant about Louis being at the next game, then. He had refused to start the car and drive them to school until Louis agreed that he would be there.

"I guess that means you're free, huh? No more chance at getting benched now."

Harry's eyes meet Louis'. "Yeah," he says simply.

"Yeah," Louis echoes. He clears his throat after a moment, "Are you planning on coming to the recital? I know the kids would love it if you could come see them." He says the kids, but he means himself. Louis would love if Harry came and saw him.

"Are you kidding?" Harry exclaims, hopping down from his seat on the stool. "Of course I am. I wouldn't miss it for the world. I consider myself an honorary member. I might not be there on stage, but I'm there in spirit." And then after a moment, "And also in the audience."

It's easier for Louis' to breathe after that. After the game they hadn't had any reason to see each other again other than Physics, but now Harry's coming to the recital. It's a little bit of the reassurance Louis needed that they're still going to stay friends.

-*-*-*-*-

Game night comes in the form of packed bleachers and more noisemakers than Louis' ever seen in one place in his life. Zayn's probably having a heart attack.

When Niall bombarded him before the game and swiped thick red lines of face paint across his cheekbones, he had felt a little silly. Now, he feels under dressed. Sitting in the top row, there's someone sitting in a full body, red morph suit and to Louis' left, there's a group of guys with their entire faces painted.

This time when he sneaks to the side of the bleachers to talk to Harry before the clock starts, there's a million times more excited energy between them. The very air feels alive and even though his breath is materializing in front of his face, Louis is too anxious to let the December cold get to him.

Harry looks very much in his element, brows perpetually furrowed in a concentratedly determined way. But his eyes are also a little too wide and Louis can tell he's nervous. He pulls him into a hug before Harry can get a word out, crushing his face into bulky shoulder pads and smiling when Harry's arms wrap tight around his back.

"You're going to do amazing and you know it," Louis murmurs into Harry's matching jersey. "And now you've been trained not to tackle your own teammates. There's nothing standing in your way now."

"What?" Harry asks through a confused chuckle.

Louis pulls away enough to look up at Harry and laughs. "Wow, you really are nervous. Have you forgotten the reason why you started taking a six year old dance class in the first place?"

The confusion glazing Harry's eyes clear up after that and he smiles sheepishly, letting his arms fall the rest of the way from their place around Louis. "Will you wait for me after the game?" he asks, tugging at the collar of his jersey with two fingers.

Louis smiles and mentally pats himself on the back for clearing his schedule out a week ahead of time. "Only if you score me another goal. Pirouette or bust."

The volume suddenly increases and they both turn when they hear the coach's whistle calling the team into a huddle. Harry smiles at Louis and nods, taking one step backwards and goes to take another one, but Louis grabs ahold of his wrist.

There's really no time to think about what he's doing, no tea to swish around between his teeth and stall, and the coach's whistle sounds like it's getting louder with every second that passes. All Louis' thinking about is the way Harry's eyes look when he smiles and all the muffins he's bought him and the way his hand felt on his hip last time they were standing in this spot.

In a split second, Louis pushes himself up onto his toes and presses his lips into the smooth skin of Harry's cheek under his own painted marks, already blushing violently by the time his feet are fully back on the ground.

Harry looks stunned, touches his cheek, and stares at Louis. "Loui-" the whistle blows again and Louis all but pushes Harry towards his team.

"Break a leg, Harry Styles," Louis shouts with the last shred of confidence he has and then promptly breaks down into hysterics once Harry joins his team huddle.

Louis sits primly in the empty spot for him between Zayn and Niall, stares straight ahead, and presses his lips so tightly together that they turn white.

It takes all of eight seconds before Niall is leaning in an inch away from his face and Zayn is asking, "What happened now?" in that exasperated, but loving tone of his.

Louis shakes his head, still staring at the field where the players are getting into position now. He doesn't know how he'd explain himself at this point without just making a bunch of whining, frustrated, annoyed sounds. He's become a mess of the Louis he once was, it's a shame.

"Alright then," Zayn shrugs and turns away.

"I kissed Harry Styles," Louis blurts out. Niall breathes heavily in shock, a rush of hot air right against his cheek and Zayn's eyebrows shoot up in shock.

"What happened to being over Harry? Aren't you a 'different person' now?" Zayn questions. "What was it? More mature and responsible?"

Louis pinches the bridge of his nose and looks up to the sky for a moment. "Come off it, Zayn. We all knew I was lying. Didn't we, Niall?"

"I knew he was lying," Niall chimes in like the good friend he is. Louis can always count on him, that Niall. "What did he say?"

Louis pulls at the sleeves of his hoodie until they pull over his hands. This time he was smart enough to wear a thermal and a hoodie with the jersey pulled over so nothing was covered. "Uh, well..." he trails off, eyes on the game again.

"Well what? The suspense is killin' me!" Niall all but yells in his ear. Louis would probably smack him for talking so loud if the crowd wasn't drowning everything they were saying out.

"He didn't say anything," Louis admits, trying to play it cool.

"What do you mean he didn't say anything?" Zayn asks, scooting closer to Louis. He's probably preparing for the worst and getting ready to comfort Louis. As much as he acts like he's above Louis' love life issues, he still cares deeply and is always there to jump in with a hug. Louis loves him for it.

"The game started so he didn't have time. He had to go play." Louis looks down at his cuticles, picking at the hang nail on his left pinky.

"Oh," Niall says lowly, looking out to the field where Harry's standing. "So he chose football over you."

Louis makes an outraged sounds, looks up and spikes an elbow in Niall's direction. "No, he did not choose football over me. I pushed him to the field," he says, smiling thinly while Niall whines in pain.

"So now you have to wait two hours until you know whether or not he liked it or he's totally grossed out? That's rough," Niall groans. Zayn drops an arm over his shoulders and Louis' stomach turns over.

Niall is absolutely right: it is rough. It's the longest two and a half hours of Louis' life.

Because what if Harry is totally grossed out? That would be humiliating and Louis doesn't think he can survive that awkward talk Harry would give him- the one about how he's so amazing and he'll find someone perfect for him, it's just not Harry. Louis knows Harry would be the nice guy about it and try to let him down easy, but he's not sure there is an easy way.

Louis can barely focus on the game, only cheering and clapping when Zayn and Niall nudge him or the entire crowd gets on their feet and leaves Louis sitting down by himself. He's torn between watching Harry like a hawk for the first half and watching everybody but Harry.

When half time comes around, Louis constantly presses the home button on his phone, watching the screen light up and pressing it again when it goes dark. He watches his blank screen stay free from any text messages that Harry has the ability to send and reassure Louis that hey, he's not totally repulsed or anything.

His stomach only drops a little more when the second half starts and his phone goes dark for the last time without a notification.

The second half begins much like the first had, with Louis pacing in his head and the crowd lively as ever around him. It doesn't take long before everybody around him is on their feet again and Niall and Zayn are hauling him up to see Harry running across the field with the ball in his arms, a hoard of teenage boys hot on his feet.

All Louis can think of is Harry running across the field with Louis in his arms and he feels pathetic.

He screams despite himself when Harry makes the goal and then drops his jaw in shock when Harry, for the second time, searches the crowd, locks eyes with Louis, points to him, and does a pirouette.

"Oh my god," Louis mutters to himself, his chest feeling tight again, but for a different reason this time. He doesn't know whether to smile or to hide his face. Niall pats him roughly on the back and Louis can hear Zayn chuckling faintly to his side.

It sort of lessens the knot that his stomach's tied itself into because at least Harry doesn't completely hate him. His fingers are still tingly in that nervous way though.

Just because Louis' in the middle of a serious crisis about Harry doesn't for one second mean he's not proud or happy for him. So when the clock runs out and the numbers under the home category are higher, he's up on his feet and screaming.

The bleachers are emptying out onto the field which is something Louis thought only happened in TV shows, but is apparently a real life thing as well. Zayn seems content to sit back and watch everybody make a fool of themselves, but Niall is already up on his feet with Louis, pulling him down the steps.

Louis hops down the last step onto the grass and cranes his neck around. There are so many people in red and wearing jerseys, he's not sure how he'll ever find Harry. That is until he hears "Louis!" in that distinct deep voice he's come to adore.

"Louis!" Harry calls again and Louis spins around in a circle, trying his best to pinpoint where the voice is coming from amidst the crowd. He spins around again, only stopping when a group ahead of him parts and Harry rushes through.

Seeing him again so close and realizing it's too late to run the other way causes Louis' stomach to roll in anticipation. This is it, he thinks, totally grossed out or not.

Harry's taking big strides towards him and Louis takes his own step forward. He's going to face this head on. "Harry," is as far as Louis gets before Harry closes the distance between them, both hands gripping Louis' cheeks and hauling him into a kiss.

The words die on his lips immediately, hands flying up in shock around Harry's shoulders and then settling around his neck when he accepts that the kiss is reality and not a figment of his imagination. With the crowd still screaming around him, Louis can imagine they're cheering for him.

Harry's hands are big and warm against his cheeks, probably smearing any paint that was there a minute ago. But that's okay because when they lean apart, the black paint previously drawn under Harry's eyes are smeared as well, from the game or the kiss Louis doesn't know. It's even better because Louis knows now that his lips are just as soft as he'd first imagined Sophomore year.

"Not grossed out then?" Louis asks dazedly, arms still around Harry's neck.

Harry laughs incredulously, leaning in so that his nose presses into Louis' cheek. "What are you talking about?" he asks, his words resonating against Louis' skin and raising a few goose bumps.

"Nothing," Louis breathes. "I liked your pirouette. You've definitely improved."

"All thanks to you," Harry says and then purses his lips so they're kissing his cheek. "I can't believe you kissed me and then shoved me away. Typical."

Louis laughs and again, shoves him away. Harry just fists his hands into the extra fabric of his jersey that Louis' wearing and keeps him close. "Congrats on the win, by the way. You made all your goals without picking anyone up. I'm impressed," he teases and rests his hands over the bulk of his shoulder pads.

Harry ducks his head down to get another kiss, this time with hands around his waist. The crowd's volume is decreasing, but Louis' ears are still ringing a long time after.

-*-*-*-*-

Recital week is always insane with the amount of rehearsals and melt downs he has to deal with from his tiny dancers. Louis can't decide if Harry Styles bringing him tea and offering his help makes it more insane or less.

The universe has started to work in Louis' favor lately. For every toddler that starts crying, there's a kiss from Harry so the good and the bad is at least balancing itself out.

Louis barely has enough time for homework let alone enough to spend time with his shiny, new boyfriend. It's been tough, but they've somehow gotten through the week and made it to recitals with all limbs intact.

He's backstage at the moment, pulling a little girls hair back into a pony tail because she started complaining that the one her mom had done for her was too tight to dance with. There's another group on stage already and Louis' toddler class is next. He has to go out on stage with them for that one and direct them in case they forget what they're doing so he's decked out in all black.

"How's that?" Louis asks, looking at the girl through the mirror and thanking his gaggle of sisters back home for forcing him to learn some basic hairdressing skills. His braids are mediocre, but his pony tails are always on point.

The little girl smiles sweetly. "Thank you, Mr.Louis," she says, flashing a mouth with two missing teeth before wiggling off the chair and running off, shiny skirt flapping behind her.

The toddler dance goes off without a hitch- there's only two incidents of a kid spinning a different way or missing a cue, but Louis didn't expect anything less. He's had a lot worse so he pats himself on the back, stands in the middle of a giant toddler group hug, and goes off to rally up his other kids.

These ones are at least competent enough to dance by themselves on stage so all Louis has to do is stand behind the curtain, cross his fingers and pray that they've listened these past few months, and smile proudly. They also don't need to rely on any shiny costumes to shine.

With all that's been going on lately, Louis hasn't had that much time to get himself excited for performing on stage again. It's only after all of his teacher obligations have been filled and he's congratulated all of his students that he can focus on his solo and his group routines.

No matter how many times he's danced in front of a crowd- which have been a lot, he's been dancing since he was four years old and the neighbor who was babysitting for his mom took him to a dance studio to drop off her own daughter, he still gets those familiar pre-show jitters. His heart is beating heavily when he changes, smoothing down the hair that the collar of his shirt knocks out of place when he pulls it over his head.

He's been practicing for a month. He's picked up a dance in much less time and can do the dance in his sleep at this point, but the anxiousness isn't going to go away until he gets in position on stage. Once he's in first position he'll be completely calm, like the eye of the storm.

His phone lights up with good luck texts from his mom, Zayn, and Harry, all of whom are in the crowd right now and ready to watch every move he makes. Louis' too jittery to respond to any of them, but he smiles at least and then locks his phone and leaves it on the table. He needs to get to the curtain before he misses his cue and ruins his solo before he even starts.

From his spot on the side of the stage Louis can almost see the crowd. The lights are too bright to make out anything for sure, but he can see the first couple of rows and recognizes some parents. Louis can't see his family or friends and reckons they arrived too late to get an upfront seat. It's like a madhouse when the door opens and anybody who isn't at least a half hour early is doomed to the middle or the back.

He's glad though, that he can't spot Harry. Knowing that he's somewhere in the crowd is already adding to his anxiety. Louis' sure if he could see him he'd be too unfocused and probably miss a turn or something equally embarrassing.

The audience clapping snaps Louis back to the present and his throat dries up when the duo pass Louis on their way off stage. He can barely get out a "Good job," before he's steeling himself and setting his shoulders back, neck high.

Under the spotlight, Louis' mind goes carefully blank. The only things going through his head are the music and the next move he has to make. When he had first started dancing, his teachers would always yell at Louis not to "Forget his face." He'd always get so caught up in his mind that his face would fall into a dull, concentrated look.

Now he knows to smile and to use his face as an accessory to the dance, but he's still as much in his head as he's ever been.

The time always passes too fast on stage and before Louis knows it, he's falling into his ending pose and the lights are dimming out, applause starting up. There are whistles and cheers and his for-show-smile turns into something more sincere as he walks from the stage. Louis completely deflates behind the curtain, sagging his shoulders and letting out a long, shaky breath.

A few people around him pat his back and tell him that he did amazing and Louis nods his thanks. He's so incredibly glad that recitals last a weekend and that Louis' going to have another chance for his solo tomorrow afternoon because he's already aching to get back out there under the lights.

Louis' solo was sort of the peak of his recital experience so the rest of his group dances pass by without event. Don't get him wrong, he loves his class' routines, but nothing really compares to the feeling of having the stage all to yourself.

By the end of it all, Louis' hugged more excited children than he can count. He's also running off of a million different bursts of adrenaline so his skin feels likes it's buzzing right off his bones. Louis' just ready to brave the crowd and go see his friends and family.

He runs into Liam first which is surprising to say the least.

"Louis! You were fantastic, great job!" Liam exclaims, folding Louis into a hug.

"Thank you so much," Louis smiles when he pulls back. "I'm so glad you could make it." He's also very curious as to why Liam is even here, but Louis' not going to be rude. Especially not when Liam looks so happy to be here.

"Harry's been talking about it non stop so I figured I'd go with him. To be honest, I'm actually surprised he wasn't up there with you with how much he's at your studio," Liam jokes.

Louis laughs and shakes his head. "Oh, no. I told him he wasn't allowed on stage from the beginning- he was only there under coach's orders and nothing else."

He laughs again, but frowns when Liam scrunches up his nose in confusion. "Coach's orders?"

Louis' laugh falters and fades out. "Yeah, that's why Harry had to take the class' in the first place? He said your coach made him?" He feels a little silly explaining it to Liam who obviously doesn't understand a word Louis is saying. Saying it out loud only reminds him how crazy the explanation was in the first place.

"Coach made Harry take dance classes?" Liam asks again and Louis presses his lips together.

"Would you excuse me for a moment? I've got to go talk to Harry," Louis says, looking over Liam's shoulder and spotting Harry talking to Zayn and Niall. He pats Liam on the shoulder once before stepping around him and venturing through the crowd.

A couple of parents stop him to shake his hand and compliment him which Louis always has time for so he pauses to speak to each for a few minutes respectively. Zayn, Niall, and Harry have all spotted him by the time he's nodding at something the dad in front of him is saying and they all watch on with smiles.

"Louis, you did so good, babe," Zayn says as soon as Louis breaks away and takes his last steps towards them. His smile's so big that it's making his eyes squinty and Louis loves it when Zayn gets that happy. He also loves it that that smile is there because of them.

Louis smiles graciously and wraps his arms around Zayn's shoulders. "Thanks, it was all for you."

He hugs Niall, who is bouncing around and talking a mile a minute to tell Louis how much he loved his routines, next. "Thank you, Ni," Louis pats his cheek with a fond smile.

Louis turns to Harry then, smiling tightly and wondering how he should go about calling his new boyfriend out on a four month long lie. He can't say he's ever been in this situation before so it's bound to be a bit tricky.

Harry looks so happy and for the first time, Louis notices the colorful bouquet of flowers in his arms. "For you," he says sweetly, sounding as bashful as he looks. Louis accepts the flowers and does his best not to melt into little puddles in his shoes when Harry kisses right over his cheek bone as well. "You were the star of the show," Harry tells him, sincerity laced through every word and dripping from every syllable.

He's got his curls swept back neatly today rather than the way they get wind-swept after practice that Louis' used to. His pressed button down shirt and nice jeans are a far cry from Niall's baggy hoodie and snap back. Louis' heart picks up at the thought of Harry dressing up for his recital, at the idea of Harry thinking this is important enough, that he's important enough.

Louis would much rather kiss him silly than confront him about his stupid football thing. But Louis' too curious for his own good and almost weary for the answer in store. He brings the bouquet up to his nose to inhale and stares at Harry through the flowers. "You lied to me," he says casually.

"About being the star?" Harry looks almost offended. "I swear, you were amazing. You're so talented, Lou."

"No, not about that. Why'd you tell me that your coach made you take dance classes?" Louis questions, lowering the flowers so Harry can see the purse of his lips. His mock-confused face doesn't have the same effect if Harry is witness to only half of it.

"What?" Harry asks, a nervous edge to his tone. His eyebrows furrow and he smiles like Louis is being silly. Niall is looking anxiously between the both of them, content to stay and watch the conversation unfold, but Zayn, lovely Zayn, grabs him by the shoulder and pulls him away.

"Because I just talked to Liam and he has no idea about your coach ordering you to take classes. He even thinks it's crazy," Louis tilts his head. "Why would he think that?"

He's not mad, not really. Louis' a little worried as to why Harry lied, but as of right now he's trying not to suspect the worst. It could either turn out to be Harry having a secret passion for dance or it could turn out to be a huge ploy to humiliate Louis. If it's the former then fine, but if it's the latter or something like it? Louis doesn't know what he'll do.

Harry's silent for a couple of moments before his resolve breaks and he frowns so deeply that Louis' stomach rolls over on itself. "Liam's right, coach never made me do anything. I joined on my own," he admits, looking torn up and guilty.

"Why?"

Harry blushes at the question, looking down and shuffling his boots against the floor. "Do you remember when we had English together Sophomore year?" he asks and Louis voices his agreement because how could he possibly forget? Sophomore English was his favorite class for a reason.

"Well," Harry laughs shortly, shaking his head. "Like, I had this massive crush on you," he says and shrugs like it's not a big fucking deal. "And I still did this year so I thought, hey I should do something about it."

He's not sure, but he can almost swear he hears Niall gasping and cheering a few feet away.

Louis blinks a couple of times. "So instead of, I don't know, asking me for a pencil in Physics you forced your way into a dance class for six year olds." His fingers fidget involuntarily, crinkling the plastic the bouquet is wrapped in.

"I always say go big or go home," Harry says even though Louis' never heard him say that once. "Are you mad?"

Truth be told, Louis doesn't know what he's feeling. Infatuated, of course. Flustered, maybe. But mad? He's too caught up in the thought of Sophomore Harry having a crush on Sophomore Louis to care much about dance class. "You're asking if I'm mad that our entire relationship is founded on a bed of lies?"

Harry's face falls at that and he rushes to stutter out a thousand apologies to Louis. "No, no it's not, I promise! I mean, technically I did lie, yes. But not about anything else, I swear," he gushes.

Louis watches on with thinly veiled amusement and only stops him after he starts drawing X's over his heart. "No, I'm not mad."

Harry's rambles stumble to a stop and he looks at Louis, wide green eyes eager to please. "You're not?"

"Of course not," Louis laughs, shifting his flowers to one arm so he can sling the other around Harry's neck. "You wanted to spend time with me, I get it. I'm pretty great."

He's teasing, but Harry just nods in agreement. "Yeah," he breathes, arms sliding into place around Louis' waist. "Pretty great." Harry nods his head so that his nose bumps into Louis'. Louis tips his chin up and over so that their lips bump together this time.

The happy sound that Harry makes against his lips in one that Louis wants to remember forever.

"But no more lying," Louis demands with slightly pinker lips when they pull away, smacking Harry's shoulder.

"Never again," Harry promises. "Does this mean I get to join dance for real this time?"

"Not a chance in hell," Louis says sweetly, kissing the side of his chin softly. "Maybe you can try out for the dance team."

"Dance team is shit," Harry whines and Louis' heart flutters in his chest.

He thinks he's probably in love.