“Thank you for calling Sony Music UK, your call is important to us, please hold while we wait for an assistant to become available.”
The automated message repeated itself for at least the tenth time, followed by yet another tinny and slightly crackly version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, causing Louis to move the phone to one side while he thumped his head repeatedly against the table he was leaning on.
“Hello, you’re through to Sony Music UK, my name is Melanie, how can I help you today?” a cheerful voice suddenly carried through the speaker, even as Louis continued to hit his head. “Um, hello? Is everything okay there? Hello?”
Louis jumped slightly when he realised that he wasn’t dreaming the person speaking to him - he had actually managed to get hold of a real person - and nearly dropped the phone in his practical excitement.
“Hi! Yes! Hello! Sorry about that!” he said quickly.
“Is everything okay, sir?” Melanie repeated, sounding a little uncertain.
“It’s brilliant, now that I’ve got an actual person to talk to,” Louis assured her. “I have a ridiculously stupid query, and I’m hoping you’ll be the perfect person to help me out.”
“I’ll do my best, sir…?” Melanie replied doubtfully.
“My best friends are getting married in two weeks, and I was wondering if I could book Harry Styles to sing at their reception,” Louis declared confidently.
“Um, would this be a paid gig, sir?” Melanie asked politely, already checking the box for ‘unfulfillable requests’ on the registration screen in front of her.
“Well, I mean, we could pay him in food and drink,” Louis fumbled with his words, having expected to just be laughed at. “And maybe fifty quid?”
“You wish for Harry Styles to perform at your friends’ wedding for fifty pounds?” Melanie clarified.
“Well, yeah, I guess I do,” Louis agreed. “They’re both huge fans of his - he’s part of the reason they actually got their heads out of their asses and got their shit together - so I just… hoped there’d be a possibility, y’know?”
Melanie paused for a moment, considering her options as she looked at her computer screen.
“May I take a few details from you?” She asked after a few beats of silence.
“Err, like what?” Louis asked uncertainly.
“Date of the wedding?”
“Oh, two weeks Saturday - the 16th of December,” Louis stated. “I told them they couldn’t have it the following weekend, cos that’s my birthday.”
“Thank you, sir,” Melanie clicked through on the diary. “And at what location?”
“Cain Manor, it’s in Surrey,” Louis dutifully replied. “It’s a small venue, we’ve got the whole thing booked out, and there’s only 75 people on the guest list.”
The line went quiet as Melanie worked through the logistics of getting Harry and his band back from a gig in Milan on the 13th, to Surrey, without costing the company too much money, and without annoying Harry himself for adding another commitment to his list.
“Okay, sir,” she eventually said.
“Louis, please,” he interjected, feeling uncomfortable with the formality.
“Louis,” Melanie corrected. “I’ve managed to pencil the event in for now. I’ll take a contact telephone number, and you’ll receive a call in the next few days to confirm the booking and discuss any specifics. Is that okay?”
“I… what?” Louis asked, completely stunned at how simple it had seemingly been, even as he gave his full name and number.
“They’re obviously very good friends of yours,” Melanie smiled. “And Harry’s a sucker for a good romance story, so if them being together is in some part because of him, I know he’ll love to be there. I’ve technically flexed the rules a little - this should go through a few dozen more people first, but Harry owes me one anyway. I’ll happily call it in for this.”
“Wow, thank you so, so much,” Louis spluttered. “I can’t tell you how awesome this is going to be. They’re gonna be so shocked!”
“I hope they have an amazing day, and a wonderful life together,” Melanie told him. “Have a brilliant time with Harry, too.” She glanced around to make sure no one was listening, before she added quietly, “he drinks anything sparkly, fruity, and pink, no matter what his people tell you. Get him a cocktail ready for afterwards, and he’ll be ridiculously happy.”
“I’ll make a note,” Louis chuckled. “Thank you so much, Melanie - I’ll make sure you get impeccable feedback and a bonus for this!”
“Not at all, Louis,” she grinned. “Best of luck!”
Louis hung up the phone, and sat staring at it in silence for a few minutes, before he let out a loud yell and punched the air excitedly.
“Fuck, yes!” He shouted, dancing around the table. “Get the fuck in!”
This wedding was gonna be perfect .
Harry instinctively ducked as a familiar-looking green and purple toy llama flew over his head, missing him by scant millimetres and instead hitting Adam in the side of the face with a soft thump.
“Hey!” Adam protested, glaring accusingly at a giggling Clare and Sarah. “Stop throwing Doris around. She’s a protected species.”
“Are llamas protected?” Harry asked with a concerned frown.
“Does it matter?” Mitch sighed, not even bothering to look up from where he was tuning his guitar.
Adam was quick to assure Harry “Our Doris is. She’s all unique and shit.”
“So eloquent,” Sarah rolled her eyes. “‘Unique and shit’. She’s more than that!”
“Well, she’s far more unique than Garfield,” Adam pointed out. “There’s loads of them in the world.”
Clare shrugged, “Dude’s got a point.”
Harry flopped onto the large sofa, then wriggled around to pull his phone out of his pocket. Opening his messages, he huffed to himself as he spotted a notification from his label rep, Rob.
Melanie’s booked you in to do some wedding or other on 16/12. Says you owe her. Promise this is your last gig pre-Xmas/NY. Can you get Antonia to give a Louis Tomlinson a call to confirm the details?
A string of numbers followed the text - Louis Tomlinson’s phone number, Harry presumed - which he guessed he was expected to hand over to his PA for her to deal with. He reread the message again, unable to stop a slight eye roll at the reference to the favour for Melanie (all she’d done was let him sneak out the back way to avoid the big bosses after a day of meetings!) before he impulsively tapped at the phone number, pressing the call option when it came up.
“Ello?” A cheery voice answered after a couple of rings.
“Erm, hi,” Harry murmured, a little uncertain of what to say now that he’d made the connection.
“Can I help you, mate?” The voice enquired.
“Yeah, sorry, is that Louis Tomlinson?”
“Tis indeed, for me sins,” Louis chuckled. “What can I do for you?”
“My name’s Harry, I’m calling about the wedding gig?”
Harry waited for a response, raising an eyebrow when the line remained silent.
“Erm, hello?” he asked hesitantly.
“H-Harry?” Louis stammered. “As in… Harry Styles? I’m talking to Harry Styles?”
“Um, yeah, hi, that’s me,” Harry replied quietly. “Sorry… do you want me to get my PA to call you instead?”
“No, no!” Louis said quickly. “It’s fine! I just wasn’t expecting to hear from you. I actually thought my request would get denied as soon as it went any further.”
“Melanie’s a sly one at times,” Harry told him. “She’s been working at Sony for longer than I’ve been signed with them - I swear she’s the reason the building’s still standing half the time.”
“Well, I should probably explain a few more things about the big day, right?” asked Louis, as he fetched his copy of the day’s itinerary.
“It might be an idea?” Harry chuckled. “Let me just grab a pen and some paper.”
“Tut, tut, Harold - not even prepared!” Louis teased. “Are you sure you’re a professional?”
“Haha, you think you’re quite the joker, don’t you?” Harry retorted as he pulled his notebook and a pen from his bag, not noticing the looks his band were exchanging around him.
“What can I say, mate? It’s a gift.”
“Have you got a receipt? You might wanna take it back?” Harry suggested, settling down at the table and opening his notebook to a clean page.
“You’re a bit cheeky, Styles,” Louis told him. “I think I like it.”
“Easy there, Tomlinson, I’m not that kind of girl.” He paused, his eyes widening as he realised what he’d just said, staring at his notebook for a second before he coughed awkwardly. “Sorry, erm, I mean. I have a pen and paper?”
“Right…” Louis drew out the word a little, sensing a little uncertainty and discomfort around what just happened. “So, the ceremony starts at 12:30pm, in the barn. I’m Zayn’s best man, so I’ll be there a bit before that, cos I’ve been threatened with actual bodily harm if I’m late.” He grinned at hearing a low chuckle over the line. “So everyone in place by 12:25, the doors open at 12:30, Zayn and Liam are walking down the aisle together, with their mums on either side.”
“Wait a sec,” Harry interrupted. “Zayn and Liam?”
“Yeah, my best mates, who are getting married?” Louis said slowly, slightly baffled at the question.
“This is a gay wedding?”
“Is that going to be a problem?” Louis asked, his voice losing its friendly edge and taking on a decidedly icy tone.
“No, no, no!” Harry replied quickly. “It’s just —”
“Please, do tell,” Louis kept his voice low and even; almost threatening.
“I’ve never been to an LGBT wedding,” he admitted. “This’ll be my first.” He cleared his throat slightly. “I’m a little overwhelmed at the thought, to be honest.”
Louis was quiet for a moment, before he decided to leave it alone and move on with the discussion about the day.
“The ceremony should be done by 1:15pm. We have a fifteen minute break, while they giggle at each other stupidly, and eventually get themselves together, before we have the receiving line. Speeches are to start by 2:30pm, over by 3 - Payno’s having a laugh if he thinks that’s gonna work out, bless him - and food will be served at 3:15pm.”
“Wow,” Harry muttered. “This is very… organised.”
“Liam’s a control freak, and Zayn’s the exact opposite. They usually balance each other out, but even Zayn’s struggled with this.”
“They sound pretty cool,” Harry said, his voice soft and Louis thought he detected a slight bit of wistfulness.
“They are,” Louis agreed. “I’ll tell you a bit more about them if you want? Once I’ve finished the rest of the itinerary?”
“You mean there’s more?” Harry sounded a little horrified.
“Oh, my friend, you’re only getting the bare bones of it. I have a fully regimented 48 hour period, in which everything, right down to my toilet breaks, is scheduled to the precise minute.” He let out a heavy sigh. “Liam’s just lucky he is who he is. Anyone else, I’d have told them to go fuck themselves as soon as I saw the top hat and tails part of the sodding formal wear.”
“Woah, that’s… very formal.”
“It’s excessively and obscenely formal, but he’s got it into his head that this is the way it should be, and by letting this go, Zayn’s managed to get full control of the honeymoon,” chuckled Louis.
“Compromise - the strongest relationships are based around it,” Harry stated. “Or so I’ve been told.”
After a few more minutes of going over the rest of the day’s itinerary, Harry suddenly realised that his band were trying to get his attention.
“Oh, shit, um,” he stammered slightly. “I’m really sorry, Louis, I have to go. I’m apparently late for soundcheck.”
“Oh! No problem, mate,” Louis assured him. “Give me a call if you want or need any other information - I’ll try and get hold of the Manor to find out all the technical stuff, or find a contact there who should be able to help you, and let you know ASAP. Is it okay to use this number?”
“Yeah, yes, of course,” Harry said quickly, kicking himself because he’s supposed to withhold his number when he calls anyone outside of his trusted friends and family. “Drop me a text or whatever. I’ll give you a ring when I’m next free.”
“That’s brill, mate, thanks,” Louis grinned. “And thanks again for agreeing to this. It’s the last thing they’re gonna expect.”
“It’ll be like Love Actually,” Harry chuckled.
“Hadn’t actually considered that, I’ll be honest, but yes.”
“Should get some instruments placed in the congregation,” suggested Harry. “Make it a bit more special.”
“That… is an amazing idea, Styles,” Louis considered. “I’ll have a think and a ring around and see what I can make happen.”
“Excellent,” Harry smiled. “I’ll talk to you soon, Louis.”
“You too, Harold,” Louis hung up with a snicker, as he grabbed the guest list from his folder and ran his finger down it, the wheels already turning on how best to run with this new plan.
Forgot to ask - what song do you want me to sing?
This is Harry by the way.
Styles. Harry Styles. Sorry.
Is that like ‘Bond, James Bond’? And I don’t mind.
You never told me the reason for me doing this either.
OH! Oops. Yes. They met at one of your gigs.
They met at the O2 Apollo in Manchester.
Your Up All Night Tour.
Zayn dragged me along to keep him company.
But Liam ended up stood beside us, on his tod.
I kept going to the bar for drinks while they fanboyed over you.
I got very very drunk that night.
They met at one of my gigs? My first gigs?
And you were there too?
I’ve been third wheeling with these two since the very beginning.
Easy for you to say, buster.
They’ve been disgustingly sappy ever since.
You love it. :)
I Want To Write You A Song.
That’s a bit forward, mate. We barely know each other.
And yes, I do.
What? No! No. I mean. That’s what I’ll sing.
And I think it’s awesome.
I don’t get many blokes at my gigs.
I’m glad that such a strong relationship started there.
Have they been again recently?
They’ve been caught up with wedding stuff.
Unfortunately, when it came to a toss up between gig tickets and a honeymoon -- the honeymoon won out… and gig tickets fell by the wayside.
That’s pretty shit.
I’ll see if I can throw some tickets in as well.
Aren’t they getting a gig for free already?
You want me to stick around for more than one song??
Are you sure??
Only if you want to? Are able to?
I was actually joking.
Not gonna take the piss.
No no! I’ll sing as much as you want me to!
I’ll bring the band along. Do it properly like.
Are you sure?
This sounds like I’m seriously taking advantage of your kind nature.
Consider it a wedding present.
I don’t often get the opportunity to give something back to the people who’ve supported me for so long.
This seems like the perfect thing.
They are gonna be so amazed.
I’m finding it really hard to keep my mouth shut.
Liam actually left entertainment to me.
And he’s been bugging the shit out of me wanting to know who and what and - more importantly - how much.
I’m sure it’ll be worth the stress - both yours and his!!
“Louis, just a small hint of an inkling of the rough area of where the band are coming from, please!” Liam begged him.
“Sorry, Lima Bean,” Louis shrugged. “I’m on total radio silence about it. Need to know only.”
“I’m one of the damn grooms!” Liam exclaimed. “I need to know!”
Louis rested his hands on his friend’s shoulders, and looked him straight in the eye.
“Normally, that would hold a lot of weight,” he said seriously. “But in this particular instance, you handed over all responsibility to me. So, while I appreciate the input, Payno, in future, I’d rather you just fuck off,” he finished, giving Liam a quick wink to soften his words.
“You are ridiculously frustrating, Tommo,” Liam sighed heavily.
“I have no idea why you’re even trying, babe,” Zayn said lazily from the sofa. “You know Lou won’t let us down.”
“But, what if something goes wrong? What if we get let down? Do you have a backup in place? And another, just in case?”
“You’re gonna have a heart attack before you’re thirty,” Louis told him. He rolled his eyes at Liam’s frustrated look. “Yes! There are backups in place! It is completely under control, Liam. I assure you, this is going to work out, and you are going to love it. Please, please, just trust me?”
Liam gazed at Louis for a few beats, before his shoulders relaxed as he sighed deeply.
“Okay, Lou,” he mumbled. “I trust you.”
“There’s a lad!” Louis grinned and squeezed Liam’s arm. “Now, you relax with Zaynie. I have to go sort some shit out.”
Before Liam could make another sound, Zayn grabbed his hand and tugged him down onto the sofa beside him.
“Stop stressing, babe,” he said softly. “It’s all gonna be awesome.”
“Easy for you to say,” Liam sighed. “I just want it to be right. I don’t want—” He cut himself off, biting his bottom lip hard and looking at his hands.
“You don’t want what?” Zayn asked gently, flicking Louis’ inquisitive gaze away with a couple of fingers.
“I don’t want to let you down,” Liam said hesitantly. “And… I mean. I just want it to be perfect. I want people to know I’m not just playing at this. This is serious, and I’m all in. Completely.”
“Which of your bitchy exes have been running their mouths?” Zayn asked with a huff, squeezing Liam reassuringly.
“And which of them do I need to set Lotts and Fizz on?” Louis added.
“It’s not that… exactly…” Liam looked up to find that his fiancé and his friend, were giving him identical disbelieving looks. “Fine, fine, Sophia and Danielle have apparently banded together to be BFFs.”
“Oh for fuck sake,” Louis threw his hands in the air. “Those two need to seriously get their heads out of their respective asses, realise that you’ve been gay for fucking years, and move the fuck on with their lives, instead of constantly trying to make you feel like utter shit, just for being true to yourself.”
“And they’re jealous,” Zayn shrugged. “They both treated you like shit when they had you, so it’s no wonder they’re sour about you being happy.”
“Yeah, but…” Liam trailed off as he struggled to find words to say.
“No buts, Payno,” Louis squeezed his shoulder.
Liam let out a heavy sigh, before he nodded once and leaned in closer to Zayn.
“Okay, I’ll ignore them,” he conceded. “And I’ll try and relax a bit on the planning.”
“I just don’t like you so stressed, love,” Zayn told him softly. “I want this to be a positive time, from start to finish, not full of you rushing around, worrying over every tiny detail.” He gave Liam a gentle smile. “As long as you’re there, and I’m there, and we say the vows, and we exchange rings, and we sign the certificate… that’s all that matters.”
“Okay,” Liam repeated, giving Zayn a tender smile. “I love you, and I want us to be happy. So.” He shrugged a little. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do, babe.”
Louis watched them both with a fond smile for a few beats, then pushed himself to his feet again.
“Now that we’ve sorted that out, can I leave to continue with the amazing planning I’m undertaking?” he asked cheekily.
“Fine,” Liam smiled. “Just make sure you get our first dance right, please?”
“Of course, of course, it’s all in hand,” Louis replied breezily, flapping a hand at the couple as he left the room, only to stick his head back through the doorway a second later. “What song was it you wanted again?”
“You & I,” Zayn and Liam chorused, both looking over the back of the sofa at him.
“Gotcha, thought so,” Louis gave them a thumbs up and disappeared again, leaving the fiances alone.
“You sure we did the right thing?” Liam asked warily. “Leaving this to Lou?”
“He’s never let us down when it’s come down to the important stuff, babe,” Zayn assured him. “And we can definitely guarantee to be entertained.”
“That’s kind of what I’m worried about,” Liam muttered as he cuddled back into Zayn’s side.
Okay. So. I may have fucked up a bit?
Hi btw. It’s Louis.
Uh oh. What’ve you done?
Turns out Zayn and Liam have a song. That I was apparently completely unaware of.
Okay? What is it?
It shouldn’t be a problem?
Unless it’s not one of mine…
No, no. It’s definitely one of yours. You & I.
Like I said: sappy fuckers.
Oooh. I love that song.
I wish I’d written it.
It’s a lovely song.
‘Lovely’?? Who the fuck under the age of 50 uses ‘lovely’ as an adjective??
JFC Styles. You’re just as sappy as them two.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of romance.
Would never suggest otherwise.
But I was thinking.
This sounds dangerous.
Watch it Curly…!
But I wondered. ZL want Y&I as their first dance.
So how about IWTWYAS for the processional? After they’ve been announced as Mr & Mr?
If that’s not taking the piss, I mean.
Keep telling you, Louis - you’re not taking the piss.
I want to do this. It’s gonna be a great day. :)
Okay. This is awesome. Thank you so so much.
So. I Want To Write for once they’ve been announced, then Y&I for their first dance.
Or should you be a surprise for the first dance?
Arghh. I don’t know any more!!
Calm down. Stressing isn’t going to help.
How about we meet up to discuss it?
You can come to one of my rehearsals?
Yeah, you can come meet the rest of the band.
They’re an awesome bunch.
They might be able to help work it out?
I’m not sure. Is that allowed?
My band, my rehearsals, my tour. I can do what I want. :)
(Tight restricted reason)
(Please forget I said that)
You’re definitely a strange one, Mr Styles.
… is that a yes?
Sure thing. Where and when?
Yay! Can you get to London?
[attaches photo of Eros in Piccadilly Circus] I’m currently walking home…
Oh! Awesome! You’re literally like… three roads away?
We’re at the ICA.
I’m on my way. Be there in 5.
I’ll meet you in reception. :)
Louis ducked quickly into the nearest Pret, slipping into the toilets and checking his reflection. He huffed out a sigh, splashing his face with a bit of water and then running his fingers through the ends of his fringe, trying to tidy it a little. He’d actually been up in time to have a shave that morning, so his scruff was tidy at least. The rest would just have to do. He let out another sigh and shrugged at himself, settling his bag on his shoulder again and left the bathroom, making his way back out onto the street.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, Louis made his way down towards the Institute of Contemporary Arts, his mind racing as he tried to work out how this was his life right now; casually going to meet Harry Styles at his tour rehearsals, when he’d literally just been hanging out with his very normal friends, and would be returning to work at his very normal school as a very normal drama teacher the following day.
He took a deep breath as the distinctive Duke of York Column came into view, with the grand pillars of the 19th Century building where the ICA was located, and which was currently housing a certain pop star and his band. A slightly unsettling feeling of apprehension was rising inside of him, making his stomach feel as though it was tying itself in knots - like the string from when Lottie used to try and get him to play Cat’s Cradle with her when they were small, he considered absently. His breath caught slightly in his throat when he glimpsed a distinctive shadow moving behind the glass of the doors, his steps faltering a little as he crossed the road, causing a car to brake suddenly and the driver to lean on the horn firmly.
“Sorry, sorry!” He held his hands up apologetically, rushing out of the way. “Shit,” he muttered into his scarf. “Get it together, Tommo. S’just a bloke. A famous bloke who’s hella fucking talented, and ridiculously fit as fuck, but still… just a bloke. You can do this.” Louis kept mumbling to himself, pacing to and fro a little as he psyched himself up.
“Ahem,” a voice came from behind him, making him freeze mid-step for a second, before slowly turning around to find a smirking man, leaning against the doorframe with his arms folded. “Hi,” he said. “Are you Louis?”
“Depends who’s asking,” Louis immediately retorted, before flushing hard and closing his eyes in embarrassment.
“I’m Harry,” came the reply, accompanied by a large outstretched hand and a wide grin, showing off deep dimples in each cheek.
“Hi,” Louis said slowly, swallowing hard as his hand was engulfed. “M’Louis Tomlinson. It’s, uh, it’s great to finally meet you…?” He finished uncertainly.
“Are you sure about that?” Harry checked, chuckling quietly.
“Yeah, yeah, of course,” Louis stammered. “Sorry. Just a bit overwhelmed, right now.”
“No need to be, I’m just a normal guy.” Harry turned and gestured to the door behind him. “Let’s go meet the rest of the band, and then we’ll work out a plan of action for the big day.”
Louis murmured an agreement, and followed Harry inside. He tried valiantly to keep his eyes on a neutral place, forcibly looking at the pictures that lined the walls of the corridors, but couldn’t help it as his gaze kept returning to the tight ass, encased in tight blue denim, that led the way. After a few metres, the sway of Harry’s hips seemed to slow, become more exaggerated and seductive in their movements. Louis cleared his throat nervously, tearing his eyes back up to Harry’s head, and huffed as he spotted a smug smirk.
“Enjoying the view back there?” Harry asked cheekily, looking over his shoulder.
“Not in the slightest,” Louis tried to shrug off.
“Your face says otherwise.”
He stopped at a door, turning to look at Louis.
“My band are in here, and they’re pretty cool, but… protective?” he tried. “They, I mean… not all of them, just… uh. I’m apologising in advance for anything that they may say or do that may cause any kind of offence…”
“Am I meeting a band or a firing squad?” Louis joked weakly.
“I’m not sure there’s that much of a difference,” Harry muttered as he tugged open the door, slipping through it first. “Hey guys!” he called, gesturing for Louis to follow. “This is Louis, he’s the guy organising our first wedding gig.”
“It might be your first wedding gig, Styles, but don’t talk for the rest of us,” Adam chuckled. “Hey man, I’m Adam, bassist, BVs, and musical director.” He held out a hand for Louis to shake.
“I’ve definitely done more than my fair share of weddings,” agreed Clare, shoving Harry gently. “Clare Uchima, keys and BVs.”
“I’m Sarah, drums and BVs,” waved the drummer from behind her instrument.
“You’re all freaking awesome,” Louis told them with a grin. “And it’s an honour to meet you.”
“The moody quiet shit in the corner is Mitch,” Harry added. “He does lead guitar and BVs, and he has a serious attitude problem.”
“Fuck you, Styles.”
“Case in point,” shrugged Harry.
Louis blinked in confusion, but decided to leave the disgruntled guitarist to it, instead focussing his attention on the friendlier members of the band.
“So you’re all okay with performing for my friends?” He checked. “Like, no one has an issue with them being two blokes?”
“If you do, there’s the door,” Harry said immediately, pointing at the exit.
“We’re all good, H,” Clare reassured him. “You know that.”
“Okay,” Harry nodded. “Just checking.”
Louis looked around at them all, very aware that there was something else, something deeper than just Zayn and Liam’s wedding, happening around him, but not having a single clue about how to query anything.
“Um, anyway,” he cleared his throat awkwardly. “As I said to you earlier, Harry, they would like their first song to be You and I - that’s their song.” He pulled a face. “They have this awful habit of singing it to each other at any given moment, especially when they’ve had a few to drink, and if I’m not careful, it leads to me seeing far more of either of them than I ever want to.”
“That’s adorable though,” Harry grinned. “I can literally feel my heart grow in my chest whenever I hear about how people love through my music.” He rested a hand on his chest. “Thank you for asking me to be a part of this. It’s truly an honour.”
“I’m just hoping that I don’t get thrown off the top of the Shard at some point before the big day,” Louis muttered. At Harry’s concerned look, he elaborated; “Liam’s been getting ridiculously frustrated about not knowing what’s happening.”
“This is a complete surprise then?” Clare asked.
“Yep. I’m hoping I get some kind of award for being the most awesome best friend in the world.”
“Oh, I’m sure you will,” Adam nodded. “We’re the ultimate gift, specially Styles over there. He’s been fussing over his outfit for two days. Trying to decide the right level of ‘acceptable wedding tit’ or something.”
Louis burst out laughing, letting out a snort and choking on it as he caught sight of Harry’s attempt at looking insulted.
“Did… did you decide on an appropriate level of wedding tit?” Louis eventually managed to ask.
“Not yet,” Harry replied primly. “I’m working with Harry to find a suitable ensemble for the event.”
“Is he talking about himself in the third person?” Louis looked at the band in confusion.
“Nope, Harry Lambert, stylist,” Sarah provided. “We’re all fairly subject to his whimsical flights of fancy. Makes every night on tour a little more interesting.”
“He’s threatening us with kilts when we go back to Scotland next year,” Mitch muttered as he stomped past with a guitar. “Fucking skirts.”
“Get a grip, Rowland,” Adam rolled his eyes. “It’ll be fine, and you’ll love it.” He looked at Louis. “He’s in a shit mood cos he got dumped. He’s not normally this moody.”
A few seconds later, an amp screeched with feedback as Mitch glared at them all. With another eye roll, Adam reached a foot out, tapping the amp off again.
“Don’t take it out on the instruments,” Sarah chastised. “They’re innocent bystanders in all of this.”
“Yeah, and if you break anything just cos you’re irritable, it’s coming out of your pay,” Adam added.
Without another word, Mitch put the guitar down in its stand and folded his arms across his chest, letting out a loud huff.
“Anywayyy,” Harry said loudly, focussing everyone’s attention back on him. “We need to work out an actual setlist, as well as how long you want us for,” he told Louis.
“That’s all entirely up to you, mate,” Louis assured him. “I mean, the fact that you’re actually going to be there is literally the best present I could ever organise for them, so…” he shrugged. “Just do whatever you fancy doing. As long as you get You & I in there somewhere - that’s the important one. So, either first dance, or processional.” He paused for a moment. “How about an instrumental version for the processional - you guys can play,” he gestured to the band, “but then you actually appear to sing it for the first dance?”
“Does that mean I won’t be able to watch the actual wedding?” asked Harry, looking a little put out.
“We’ll find you somewhere you can hide,” Louis chuckled. “I need to work out somewhere for a whole band to set up so you’re not going to take up half of the ceremony space…!”
Within ten minutes, Harry had got the floor plans from Cain Manor, including how the areas were going to be set up for the wedding, and was busy working out with Sarah and Clare how little space they could comfortably squash a drum kit and set of keyboards into, while Louis and Adam chatted quietly between themselves as they watched.
“They’re not gonna do it, are they?” Louis muttered after a while, chuckling as Harry waved a high hat on a stand at Sarah, asking loudly if it was really necessary.
“Nah, I have faith,” Adam assured him, snickering at his bandmates’ antics. “Harry will make a few more suggestions, then go off to get a drink, and the girls will get it sorted. Then H’ll come back and take full credit for it.” He snorted softly. “It’s happened many times.” Adam shot a quick look at Louis. “Not that I’m saying he’s a dick. He’s really not. He’s one of those ridiculously enthusiastic people, but he’s got a sarcastic, snarky streak a mile wide. And he’s insufferably endearing. It literally makes me sick at times. He’s a nice guy, with the capital letters, trademark sign, and everything.”
“That’s always been the impression I’ve got,” Louis smiled. “God knows I’ve spent enough time hearing my mate Liam waxing lyrical about the wonder of Mr Harry Styles.” He snorted as the man in question haphazardly flailed a drum stand around, causing Clare to lurch backwards in order to avoid it. “I’ve heard all about the various theories and speculation too.” Louis shot a look at Adam. “I’m sure most of them are utter bollocks though.”
“Hmm,” Adam replied noncommittally. “Not all of them are,” he slowly revealed. “There are a few that are pretty spot on, to be honest.”
“Should you be telling me that?” Louis raised an eyebrow.
“Probably not,” shrugged Adam. “But Harry seems to trust you - he doesn’t let just anyone into his rehearsal space. And I’m sure that if he’d been that against you, he’d have got out of singing at your mates’ wedding too. He’s a fairly good judge of character.”
“Well, I’m probably biased, but I think I’m a fairly top bloke,” Louis sniffed haughtily. “But in all seriousness… I get the feeling that there’s a lot about Harry that hasn’t been portrayed to the public with the greatest amount of truthfulness.”
“That, on the other hand, is a completely accurate statement,” Adam murmured. He sighed heavily. “He’s had a pretty hefty struggle, getting this far in his career. Me and Sarah, and Clare, and Mitch… we’ve only been with him for this last album.” Adam aimed a wry smile at Louis. “Which I’m sure you already know, considering you’re in the fandom.”
“I think that’s a bit of a stretch,” Louis chuckled. “But yeah. He had a different band before. They were with him from the beginning, right? But then he changed management? Or something?”
“Yeah,” Adam nodded. “He managed to ditch Modest, did exactly nothing for three months, got cast in a Christopher Nolan film, then found a new management team who on the surface seemed like they were a whole ton better than Dick and Magoo, but in reality, were only marginally better, but by the time he realised, he was already tangled up in contracts, and had an album out, with a whole tour’s worth of tickets sold.” He huffed. “Sorry. It just frustrates me. It frustrates all of us. We help him as much as we can, shield him from what we’re able to.”
Louis shifted a little uncomfortably.
“It’s okay, lad,” he replied. “But, like I said, I’m just not sure you should be telling me this? Like, without me signing something saying I won’t go to the papers or whatever?”
“No,” a voice cut in. Louis blinked up at Harry. “No signatures, no non-disclosures. I’m choosing to trust you. And I don’t think that trust is misplaced.” Harry took a deep breath. “I’m fed up with everything being controlled by lawyers and contracts. I’m doing this gig because I think it’ll be fun, and because I want to do something for my fans. Something that’s not controlled down to every single tiny second by people who don’t give a single flying fuck about anything but money.” He looked at Louis intently. “I’m doing this because it’s going to be good. I’m doing this because I want to. Because I want to do something that has meaning.”
Both Louis and Adam gazed at him for a few beats, before they nodded together.
“When you put it like that, how can I say anything different?” Louis asked, giving Harry a small but reassuring smile.
Harry beamed in response, then turned dramatically on the spot.
“So!” he exclaimed. “This is how we’ve got it worked out. Sarah’s going to be working with two less drums, very reluctantly,” he added over his shoulder. “While Clare is buying a stacker rack, so her keys can go on top of each other instead of being perpendicular.” Harry made a flapping gesture with one hand to the small space in front of the drums that had been marked out with tape on the floor. “Adam, you fit there, with Mitch in front of Clare, and I should be able to squidge in at the front.” He paused, a slight frown marring his features. “In theory, anyway.”
“It’s gonna be tight,” Adam commented.
“Yeah, I know,” Harry sighed. “But this,” he pointed at the lines by his feet, “is all that we have to work with. But we have marked it down as slightly smaller than the measurements I was given, so that we will definitely fit. Or rather, we’ll be more used to less room.”
“So that when you actually get there, it’ll seem easier, because it’ll be a bigger space than you’ve practiced in,” chuckled Louis. “That’s an amazing idea.”
“I do have them occasionally,” Harry preened.
“It was my idea!” Clare shouted, her head popping up over the edge of one of the keyboards as she fiddled with a wire. “Stop taking credit, Styles.” She pointed at him with a pair of pliers, scowling hard.
“Clare’s brain conjured this plan in its entirety,” Harry quickly backtracked.
Styles, forget about the show.
I killed a groom.
JFC. You scared the shit out of me.
How are you at hiding bodies?
Please don’t drag me into your crimes.
I’m a pacifist.
I can’t go along with your violent acts.
Plus I’m out with my stylist.
We’re shopping for wedding outfits.
Ditched for a stylist.
Did you work out appropriate wedding tit then?
It’s a work in progress.
Harry’s trying to go for a more demure look, isn’t he?
Wants you to keep the titties tucked away?
I never said that.
You didn’t have to.
I think I know you well enough by now.
You don’t know me.
You just wish you did.
Was that supposed to be a snarky reply?
Cos it was just an accurate statement, love.
I mean, mate.
Now you’ve got me blushing…
This is Harry Lambert. Please stop distracting Sue. He keeps giggling and it’s annoying. Plus he can’t seem to make a decision about which Gucci suit to go with.
Any input on the colour scheme by the way?
It’s red and yellow.
Red and gold.
Think Gryffindor common room. That’s fairly accurate.
Thank you. That rules out the green and purple suits.
Now seriously. Stop texting. I’m working to a deadline here, and I need Sue’s full attention. He’ll talk to you later.
I’ll go back to fucking up calligraphied place cards then.
Sorry about earlier. Harry was in a snit cos of the short notice.
How did the calligraphy go?
I’m currently trying to wash my hands with oven cleaner.
That doesn’t sound very sensible…
THE FUCKING INK WON’T COME OFF.
MY PEN FUCKING LEAKED.
MY FAVOURITE JEANS ARE FUCKED.
This wedding is the worst thing to happen in the history of ever.
I’ll get your jeans dry cleaned.
They’ll be fine.
And try nail varnish remover.
With acetone if possible.
That shit removes everything.
Who the fuck is Sue??
Look up the conversation thread. Your stylist person kept saying that ‘Sue’ needed to focus.
Who the fuck is Sue?
Oh. Um. Me. It’s a nickname.
Singers are fucking weird.
But apparently knowledgeable about ink.
My hands are pink! And no longer streaked with black!
But seriously, next time I mention anything about calligraphy, remind me of this moment.
And we’re not weird.
There’s a difference.
Yeah, three c’s and an extra vowel.
Now who’s the weird one?
I can’t believe we’re down to less than a week to the wedding.
It feels like it’s been coming for forever.
Yeah, I came into this a bit late.
I didn’t get all the build-up like you did.
No, you got the nice bits.
Plus, you don’t have Liam whining at you every five seconds.
‘But Loooouuu! What if the band you chose suck?!’
Fucker wouldn’t know a good band if it teabagged him.
Thank you for that vivid imagery.
He’s been stressing me out.
I’ll be glad when this shit’s over.
You’re loving this.
You’re a softy.
Hush up on that, Styles.
Not everyone needs to be aware.
I’ve got a reputation to maintain, don’t you know.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You’re at Cain Manor on Thursday, right?
Before we get there on Friday?
Yeah, I spoke to Siobhan.
She confirmed your arrival date.
And was happy for me and the band to go set up before.
Sarah’s practically having kittens at the thought of being away from her drums for 48 hours.
I told her she can sneak in at night to go check them over.
Tell her we can get a webcam set up for her to watch over them.
Like that Hive thing for your pets at home.
We’ll even get a two-way audio going.
So she can talk to them.
… are you taking the piss out of my drummer?
I’m telling her that by the way.
She gave me a dead arm.
My band is violent.
Especially Sarah and Clare.
You shouldn’t have gone there.
Never insult the girls.
They run the world.
Driver, roll up the partition, please.
Are we not quoting Beyoncé lyrics?
You’re a cheeky one Styles.
I like it.
“So, you’re all ready for this wedding then?” Niall asked, as he dropped onto the sofa next to Harry.
“Hmm?” Harry looked up distractedly from his notebook. “Oh, yeah. I think so. Just finalising the setlist so I can let the guys know.”
“Uh huh,” Niall nodded. “Y’know, they say that a wedding’s one of the best places to meet a partner.” He paused, giving Harry a significant look. “You could meet your very own spouse there, Haz.”
Harry sighed and leaned back against the sofa as he looked at Niall.
“I wish, Ni,” he admitted. “But I am there literally as the entertainment. I’m fairly certain I’m going to have to be Harry Styles, trademark logo, rather than just Harry, for the whole time I’m there.”
“But not with that Louis chap, am I right?” Niall smirked. “You’ve been talking about him quite a lot.” He nudged Harry with his elbow. “You’ve got your eye on him, haven’t you?”
“Niall James Horan, will you calm your tits already?” Harry glared lightheartedly. “Louis is a good person, and he’s doing a fantastic thing for his friends.”
“Yeah, he’s awesome and all that shit. But you’ve also got the hots for him, cos you can’t shut the fuck up about how wonderful and amazing he is. Plus, Adam told me you couldn’t take your eyes off of his ass when he dropped by your rehearsals the other day.”
“Adam needs to stop running his mouth off,” huffed Harry. “But… Louis does have an amazing ass.” He sighed, then groaned and covered his face with his hands. “This is too hard, Niall! I’m supposed to be a professional! Not be distracted by the hot Best Man to the extent that I can’t find the brain capacity to sort out this fucking setlist.” He shot Niall a desperate look. “I’ve never been like this, and I don’t know how to handle it.”
“Well, by all accounts, you seem to be handling it fine,” Niall reassured him. “Your band seem confident enough in your abilities to flirt properly or whatever. Clare assured me that your attraction was returned too. Said Louis practically had hearts popping out of his eyes or something else just as fucking twee.”
Harry got to his feet and started to pace to and fro in front of the television, causing Niall to dodge left and right to see past him each time. Every now and then he would stop, look at Niall with a finger raised and his mouth open as though about to say something, before he’d drop his hand and shut his mouth and return to his pacing. Niall, quite accustomed to his eccentric behaviours, left him to get on with it while he continued to watch the television, munching his way through a bag of crisps.
"Okay, so," Harry took a deep breath. "I may be ready to admit that I like Louis. Maybe."
"Is this a maybe like that guy from a few years back?"
"It's a maybe like a maybe, Niall. But I think I need to concentrate, and get this very important gig out of the way, and then I can take another look at my feelings and the situation, and take it from there."
"That sounds like a sensible plan, pet." Niall gave him a bright grin. "I knew you'd work it out. Just needed a bit of a shove to get there, aye?"
Harry flopped back down on the sofa, letting out a loud groan.
"Why is life so complicated, Niall?"
"Because human beings are a complex species, and our societal expectations are ever-changing and evolving, which adds to the aforementioned complexity, whereby our lives are required to meet those expectations, and therefore become ever more tangled in the ideals and ideas that our immediate social circle places upon us."
Harry stared at Niall for a few seconds.
"I literally have no idea what you just said."
"You and me both."
So it seems like this place is even smaller than the measurements they gave me?
How is that possible?
That sounds like a pain in the ass...?
Just a bit.
But it's okay.
We're working it out.
Sarah's told me to tell you that she DID NOT have a meltdown.
So that means she did.
Did her drums get hurt?
She caught one on the banister.
Nearly dropped it from the top of the stairs.
But it was only nearly right?
All is well and safe?
All is well and safe.
Everything's set up.
I just literally have zero movement room.
I will be a statue.
This is a strange thing for me.
Yeah, I can imagine.
You're not one to stay still for long, Styles.
I hope you can handle it?
Adam says I need to stop my fucking pouting and get the fuck on with sound check.
Might be an idea to listen to your MD then, babe.
You don't want him to make you sound like a chipmunk.
Or a frog.
Although at least you can pull that look off…
Are you saying I look like a frog?
I never explicitly said that.
You just took it that way from what I said.
But I never specifically said those exact words.
Implication is just as bad in this case, Tomlinson.
You make a cute frog though?
Don't even try backpedalling now.
It's not going to work.
You're lucky we're already set up.
Or I'd totally be backing out right now.
You wouldn't leave me in the lurch like that.
Plus, you're looking forward to this far too much.
Said it before.
You're a romantic sap, Styles.
I hate that you can use my personality against me like this.
I feel so attacked right now.
I'm packing for the weekend.
Do I need five pairs of trackies?
That is between you and your god.
I don't know what that means.
I just heard it in a TV programme once and thought it sounded funny.
That would be Buffy.
They were asking about shrubs.
I can't believe you got that obscure reference.
I can't believe you're that knowledgeable about cult 90s TV programmes.
I think I wanna marry you.
That's.. rather sudden?
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuuuuuck," Harry flounced down the narrow staircase, resisting the urge to throw his phone across the function room, and instead choosing to bash his forehead repeatedly against the wooden pillar supporting the stage area.
"What've you done this time, Haz?" Adam asked, peering over the balcony at him.
"I have ruined everything," Harry declared dramatically. "There is no point in my existence any more. My life is over."
"Okay, now that you've got that out of your system," Clare rolled her eyes. "How about you tell us what really happened?"
"I was joking around with Louis by text, and maybe said I wanted to marry him."
"So... tell him it was a joke?" Sarah suggested. "Surely he'll get that?"
"But it's going to be really awkward when he gets here tomorrow, and I'm freaking out, and I don't want this to be weird, because he's lovely and nice and everything I could ever want in a spouse."
"Haz, we get it," Mitch muttered. "But you gotta get your shit together. No matter how much you want in the guy's pants, we still have a job to do first. So like. Calm the fuck down."
With a glare at the guitarist, Harry spun on his heel and stomped back up the stairs.
"Okay, let's go with
You and I
again, from the top," Adam instructed.
Sorry about that.
I think I got carried away with the moment..?
It's okay mate.
I think we both kinda freaked.
I hope things won't be awkward tomorrow?
Nah. We're good. [smile emoji]
I hope rehearsals went okay?
Adam is a slave driver.
Why did I employ him?
Cos he's shit hot at his job?
And cos he was the only one who applied? [smirk emoji]
You, Mr Tomlinson, are so far from the truth, it's painful.
But he is good.
Don't ever tell him I said that.
Remind me to greet him with 'hey mr good musical director slash bassist' tomorrow.
Wash your mouth out with soap.
You went quiet.
Everything okay over there?
Heaven save me from highly strung drummers.
Sarah's having a meltdown cos one of the big ones got a little scuff on the metal bit.
I swear it was already there.
But she reckons not.
Uh oh. Are you being blamed for it?
Of course I am.
I'm the scapegoat for everything that goes wrong...!
I'm really sure that's not the case, Styles.
Your band loves you?
You're only saying that cos you've only met them once.
They were on their best behaviour when you saw them.
They're not like that on a day to day basis.
I'm fairly certain you're a bit of a drama queen at times.
Who's a bit prone to a bit of exaggeration.
But only when you're feeling a bit flouncy.
Or when you need a bit of attention.
Are you feeling underappreciated today?
Maybe. A little.
[attaches photos of a shelf of CDs and a stack of tour programmes]
From the grooms' house.
They have more merch too.
Oh yeah. And this.
[attaches photo of an arm with 'I figured it out' tattooed]
That's Liam's arm. [smile emoji]
That's actually got me a bit emotional.
He got that inked?
Zayn told him he was a sap when he got it done.
Then they disappeared into their bedroom and I went home.
I don't want to think about what happened then.
But I'm sure we can all guess.
I can't wait to meet them.
I should probably warn you about their potential responses.
Liam will talk. Non-stop. He will literally ramble like fuck at you.
Zayn will be the exact opposite - he'll go non-verbal and just stare.
When I suggested going to one of your book signings, he scowled and refused to talk to me for two hours.
By the way, how many books about yourself do you need, dude??
Old management. I was a cash cow, I think.
It got old very very fast.
I don't blame Zayn for not wanting to go to a signing though.
Chaos is an understatement.
Are you suggesting that your fans aren't respectful and quiet and unassuming?
I love my fans.
But they're a bit much at times.
Some of them have never learned the meaning of the word 'respect'.
And if you EVER repeat that, I will sue the shit out of you.
Would never dream of it, babe.
Besides. It's not like I disagree.
You got some scary-ass stalkers in there.
I'm trying to get rid of them.
It's a work in progress.
I'm hoping to get shot of a lot of things soon.
If you ever need anyone to rant at about that, you know where I am.
I'll sign whatever you need me to if it'll make you feel safer, too.
I'll be honest. I don't think I'd ever want you to sign anything like that.
Some may think I'm being naive, but there's something about you.
I just trust you. And I think you're pretty damn awesome.
You know how to make a boy blush.
But I'm glad you trust me.
That means a whole lot.
And I have to say - that trust is reciprocated.
Even though it really makes no sense...?
Tell me about it.
Thank you though.
Any time, Styles.
Louis slammed the car door, looking up at the building in front of him.
"Looks nicer than the website," he observed.
"Mmhmm," Liam agreed. "We thought that when we came to see it."
"They said they get that a lot," Zayn added.
"Surely that suggests they should get better photographs?" Louis looked quizzically at the couple.
"They're always busy though, so..." shrugged Zayn.
The three friends made their way inside, luggage in tow. After being greeted by the manager, Louis left Zayn and Liam to be shown to their room, while he headed outside and around the back of the manor to find the large tour bus that was currently home to Harry and the band.
"Hey," Louis smiled as Harry appeared at the top of the steps leading inside.
"Hiii," Harry grinned.
"Nice bus," Louis looked it over. "Bit big?"
"Not for six people," Harry looked a little disgruntled. "You didn't warn me that there would be no accommodation."
"Didn't I? Oops. Sorry."
"I'll forgive you. Just this once. But we're gonna need somewhere to get ready tomorrow."
"You can use my room then. I'll get you in while they're getting ready for the ceremony. But we'll have to be really sneaky. Liam's gonna be twitchy as hell." Louis pulled a face. "I don't trust him at all."
"Isn't he your best friend?" Harry snickered.
"That is far from the point, Harold."
"My name is not Harold, Lewis."
"Blah, blah. You gonna show me around this beast slash small hotel on wheels?"
"C'mon in. It's not exactly the lap of luxury, but it's home for a couple nights."
Harry led the way onto the bus, pointing out the various amenities and the cramped space that they were sharing. They found Adam and MItch playing a heated game of FIFA on the XBox in the back lounge, while Sarah and Clare were chatting quietly. The sound of rumbling snores came from one of the bunks, which Harry quickly explained was Gareth, their driver.
"Well, it's definitely the poshest bus I've ever been on," Louis told Harry as he stepped off the coach a short while later.
"This is one of the smaller ones we've used, to be honest," Harry admitted. "You should see the ones they give us in the US. They're ridiculous."
"Typical Americans - gotta be bigger and better than everyone else, but I'm sorry to duck out so quickly. I just can't let the grooms get suspicious. They've only got a bit longer to wait, and they have far more to be worried about right now than a missing best man."
"Definitely, you should go. I don't want the surprise spoiled." Harry leaned against the side of the door. "But you know where I am if you need anything. If I don't see you before, I'll see you in the morning?"
"You sure will. Wedding time!"
Dawn hadn't even broken, when Louis was rudely awoken by his best friend's fiance shaking him roughly.
"Louis! Wake up!" Liam demanded.
"Fuck off, Payno, it's still fucking dark," Louis muttered, rolling over and away from the less-than-gentle treatment.
"He's gone! Zayn's gone! You have to help me!" Liam sounded on the verge of tears.
"He's not gone, he's probably in with his mum," Louis sighed. "He was muttering yesterday something about tradition, and his dad not liking that you would be waking up together."
"Why didn't he tell me that, then?"
"He left you a note. Look on the bedside table. And leave me to sleep for another five hours, please."
"You've got an hour and a half, Tommo. Maybe an hour. Maybe less, if I need you to go check on Zaynie for me."
"So fucking over-protective," Louis groaned, hiding his head under his pillow.
Louis was allowed the luxury of a whole forty minutes extra sleep, before he was awoken once more by a nervous Liam.
"You are so damn lucky it's your wedding day," grunted Louis, reluctantly getting out of bed. "You ever do this to me again, and I won't be even half so easy-going." He stopped and squinted sleepily at the other man. "Have you been to the gym already?"
"Yeah? I was trying to get rid of some of the anxiety." Liam bit his lip. "It didn't really work. Why did you let me agree to an afternoon wedding, Lou?"
"Because you needed to leave enough time for people to get here, remember?"
"It really wasn't the best idea for my nerves."
"I know, love. But you're gonna be fine. Today is going to be the best day of your life. And you and Zayn are gonna be so fucking happy together, you'll make me wanna puke daily."
"I swear it."
Louis squeezed Liam's shoulder, then slipped into the bathroom for a quick shower. Less than fifteen minutes later, he was wrapped up in tracksuit pants and an oversized hoody.
"I'm gonna go get some breakfast, lad. Are you coming down, or do you want me to bring something back for you?"
"I can't eat," Liam said quickly. "Too nervous. I'll get something later."
"Are you sure?" Louis checked worriedly. "I don't want you to be ill - you know Zayn would throttle me."
"I promise I'll be okay," Liam assured him. "I'm gonna go back to my room, but I'll make sure I eat something before the ceremony. I don't want to pass out mid-vow. I'd never hear the end of it from Roo and Nic for a start!"
"Alright, bro, I'll see you in a bit then."
Hope you're ready for the chaos..!
I can't believe you're already awake.
It's stupid o'clock.
Go back to sleep.
It's up and at 'em time.
I'm in the breakfast hall.
On my tod.
Cos Leemo woke me up in a panic at 5am cos Z wasn't in their room.
Have you actually properly lost a groom this time?
He's with his mum and dad.
Baba Yaser was a bit uncomfortable with his boy waking up with his hubby-to-be.
So they're going a bit traditional then?
They're romantic saps.
I keep telling you this.
I promise I'm normally good at paying attention.
I think the fact that it's STILL DARK OUTSIDE is affecting my mental functionality.
Have a shower.
Worked for me.
Plus there's a lot of coffee in the manor.
Neither groom is coming down for breakfast if you wanted to come in.
I'm sure you can make an attempt at incognito?
I'm not sure.
I think Adam wanted to eat.
The manager said we were welcome to come eat.
My bed is warm and snuggly though.
And it's December out there.
It's snowed, by the way.
I caught sight of it out the window on my way down.
HOLY SHIT IT'S LIKE SIX INCHES DEEP AROUND THE FUCKING BUS!!!!!
I didn't realise it was that bad.
I hope the fucking officiant can get here.
If ANYTHING goes wrong today, Liam's gonna have a meltdown.
Don't suppose any of you lot are qualified to officiate at weddings?
I think I missed that part of pop star school.
Well you're fucking useless.
You're not really.
I just want things to be right today.
Come eat with me.
I look like a weirdo sat in the middle of a sodding great dining hall on my own with my phone.
[attaches photo of the snow up to the bottom step of the bus]
Is that a no on the breakfast invite?
I'm on my way.
It's fucking cold.
Try not to get lost though.
Are you okay??
Louis looked at his phone worriedly as the minutes ticked by without a response. He got to his feet, intending to go and look for the errant pop star, but was stopped by a loud and clumsy arrival, as Harry stumbled over a chair leg.
"Elegant," Louis snorted. "You okay?"
"I'm fine," Harry huffed. "My phone died when I was half way across the car park. I think it was protesting the temperature."
"Jeez, I knew it was cold, but I don't think I've ever known an iPhone turn itself off."
"It's only happened to me once or twice. But never here in the UK. It's been when I'm somewhere random on tour." He pulled the offending item from the pocket of his oversized hoody. "I'm hoping it'll perk up again while we're in here - my mum's supposed to be calling in an hour or so."
Louis smiled softly, then gestured to the table he was occupying.
"Come sit, have a nice warm cuppa, and get some brekkie in you. It's nice and comfy in here, so your phone should wake up soon enough. Your mum won't have to worry about not being able to contact you."
"Thanks, Lou," Harry smiled, as he took a seat. "Everything looks so scarily different out there. It's eerie. Don't get me wrong - I love the snow, and I'm sort of used to it, cos we get it in Cheshire semi-regularly. But when you're somewhere different, and only on a freaking bus ... it's not the best thing to wake up to, let's put it that way."
"I can understand that. Hopefully we should be able to find you somewhere inside the manor tonight for you all to bed down. I don't like the thought of you in that thing in the freezing cold. What if the heating breaks down?"
"Oh god, Mitch will be unbearable if that happens," groaned Harry. "He's the biggest diva of us all, I swear it. He has to have everything a certain way, and he has to have his blankets and his special ergonomic pillow, cos heaven forbid his head is in ever so slightly the wrong position..." he rolled his eyes. "I reckon living and working with Beyonce would be less stressful."
"Have you met her?" Louis asked, tilting his head curiously.
"Beyoncé?" Harry checked. "Yeah, a couple times, I think? Not properly, to talk or whatever. Just been at various award shows and stuff." He shrugged. "They're never the best places to form any kind of a rapport, so it doesn't really mean anything."
The two sat and chatted quietly over their breakfast, as they watched the sun rise out of the window. The light was dazzling on the crisp whiteness of the freshly fallen snow, and the peace that surrounded them was soothing - the calm before the storm that was inevitably going to erupt when the rest of the manor awoke.
"I reckon I can get you and the gang up to my room now, if you like?" Louis said, once their plates had been cleared away and their mugs emptied.
"It's up to you? You know if they're gonna barge in on you more than I do," Harry snickered.
"If I get dressed, then go to Trisha and Yaser's room, while letting Liam know where I am, there will be no interruptions," Louis stated confidently. "I'm the only one with a key to my room anyway. I took Liam's off of him before I left."
"In that case, I'll call Adam and get him to bring the rest of them over. I wonder if Sarah will bring my suit if I ask nicely...?"
"How could any of them ever resist you?"
"You would be surprised," Harry muttered, deadpan.
Louis quickly sent a text to both Liam and Zayn, letting them both know that he would be getting ready and joining Zayn within the next hour, but not to enter his room at all because their present was inside, and he wasn't having either of them ruin it for anything - that includes you and your obsessive need for control, Payno. By the time he'd received acknowledgement from both, the rest of the band had arrived in the restaurant, bathing products and clothing for all in hand. Louis led the way up to his room, gesturing to the rooms where Liam and Zayn were currently locked away, and signalling the musicians to remain quiet around those particular doors.
A few seconds of arguing with the lock, and the door was open, allowing all of them entry.
"Wow," whistled Clare. "This is nice!"
"Definitely better than a cramped tour bus," Sarah agreed enthusiastically.
"Well, make yourselves at home," Louis reiterated. "But let me get ready first. I'll literally be ten minutes or so."
"Don't rush on our account," Harry assured him. "We can be ready in twenty minutes if we need to. It's been done before."
"But a shower would be appreciated before we're needed," Mitch muttered. "That bus needs fumigating."
"It's not the freshest of places to sleep, it's true," Adam said, a little more diplomatically. "But it was sufficient for our needs last night."
"Yeah, I was saying to Harry earlier," Louis started talking as he grabbed the hanger with his suit out of the wardrobe. "We should be able to find you somewhere indoors to sleep tonight. Even if it's just on the sofas around the fire in the lounge. It's better than being on a chilly bus with dodgy heating and a cranky bus driver."
"Hey, Graham's lovely," Harry protested.
"He is lovely, but he's also a grumpy shit when his bus is slept on by folk other than him," Sarah pointed out. "He got right mardy when I took a nap in the lounge when we were in Hanover."
"You were stretched out across the table, drooling," Adam reminded her.
"That is so not the point."
Louis snickered quietly at the gentle bickering, before he slipped into the bathroom, changing quickly into the soft charcoal trousers with crisp white shirt that fit with the wedding party perfectly. He left his tie loose around his neck and threw his joggers and hoody over his arm with his jacket, as he exited again.
Harry stared at him, unable to believe the sight before him - Louis in a figure-hugging pair of suit trousers, barefoot, and his hair falling over one eye as he shook his head in a laugh at something one of the guys said. He was rendered virtually mute as Louis tugged on socks and smart shoes, before he handed his keycard over to Adam and swept out of the door in a gust of cologne. Harry dropped backwards onto the bed with a low groan.
"I am so fucked."
"The girls want to go play in the snow," Zayn greeted Louis as Trisha opened the door.
"Um... okay?" Louis looked confused. "I'm guessing they've already been told no?"
"Yeah, I'm just telling you as a warning," Zayn turned back to the television on the wall, which was playing Deadpool. "Don't let them try and convince you otherwise. They're not allowed out."
"Bro, when have I ever dared go against the wishes of your wonderful mum?"
"Do you want me to write a list?" Trisha asked, raising a daring eyebrow. "Or just provide the highlights?"
"Sorry, Trisha," Louis smiled sweetly. "You know I love you a whole lot."
"Aye, and you're lucky I love you too, you monster," Trisha winked. "How's your mum?"
"She's not bad, she's hoping to be here later," Louis nodded. "All the fam in tow, no doubt. Weather permitting, obviously. I haven't heard that there's any problems though - they were already on the road when I last heard from Mum, so I guess it's clear further north?"
"Yaser's sisters are coming down, and they haven't hit any issues either. Hopefully, they'll have the road to here cleared before the ceremony starts."
"I'll have a word with reception in a bit," Louis smiled. "They should be able to tell us if it's cleared quickly when there's snow, right?"
"In theory, love," Trisha agreed.
Louis took a seat next to Zayn, watching the Malik family bustling around them, before they settled down and grabbed Zayn's hands.
"Mum, what are you doing now?" Zayn looked confused.
"Need to get your hands painted up, sunshine," she told him with a smile. "Doni and Wali have been practicing for weeks."
Zayn blinked and peered at the items in his sisters' hands, before his eyes widened.
"Mehndii? Really?" He looked at Trisha hopefully. "You said you weren't sure if I could have it!"
"Your Baba decided it wouldn't be proper if you didn't," Trisha smiled, reaching out to touch his cheek.
"Do you need me to go wait with Liam?" Louis blurted out, feeling a little like he was intruding.
"Of course not," Trisha fussed. "You're family, Lou. Or as good as."
With a soft smile, he settled back on the chair and watched in fascination as Doniya and Waliyha carefully painted the traditional intricate designs over the skin of Zayn's hands. The girls quietly took it in turns to explain what they were doing and why they were using that particular swirl or swoop or line, which was enlightening for Zayn as well as Louis.
By the time they had finished, Louis' phone was ringing.
"Hiya Mum!" he greeted cheerfully.
"Hiya love! We're here!" Jay replied. "Which room are you in? I need to get the kids ready - none of them were having any of it before we left this morning, and as both Ernie and Doris are currently covered in the bar of chocolate Phoebe decided to give them about half an hour ago, it's probably a good thing they weren't."
"Oh... oh shit," Louis cursed.
"Language, Boo, you're on speaker!"
"Sorry Mum, sorry everyone," Louis said quickly. "Uh, give me like... ten minutes?"
"Well, we're outside, and it's damn cold, but okay, Lou."
Louis made his excuses and left Zayn's room quickly, slipping into his and staring at the chaos that had exploded inside in the short time that he'd been gone.
"Uh, what happened?" he asked, dumbfounded.
"Harry," the band chorused, barely looking up.
"Heyyyy," the man in question protested, sticking his head out of the bathroom. "I heard that. Hiii Louis. Aren't you supposed to be doing Best Man-type stuff?"
"I was," Louis agreed, trying not to get distracted by all of the bare skin that was currently visible. "But my family have just arrived, and they need somewhere to get ready. The littlest twins are apparently covered in chocolate."
"Twins?" Harry looked at Louis with wide eyes. "Wait, 'littlest' twins? As in, there are more than one set? How big are they?"
"The littlest are Ernie and Doris, and they're nearly 2," Louis chuckled. "The next ones are Phoebe and Daisy, and they're 11. Then Fizzy is 15, and Lottie's 17. They're all here. And all needing somewhere to change. And expecting to use my room. So some help would be nice?"
"We can go back to the bus for a bit," Sarah said, already moving around to fetch her stuff together. "We've all showered, so it's just a case of getting dressed, made up, and our voices warmed up."
"What about the snow?"
"It'll be okay, we brought wellies," Clare assured him, then rolled her eyes. "Don't ask."
"H had big ideas about going to Glastonbury last year," Adam confided. "Bought us tents, wellies, the whole shebang, then realised that we were in the US for the whole weekend."
"And then realised further that Glasto's on a fallow year, so it's not even on," Mitch shook his head.
"It's not my fault I lost track of days," Harry pouted. "And I've got us tickets for next year, so quit bitching about me."
"We're not bitching, Haz," Adam assured him.
"We're incredibly grateful for everything, you know that, Styles," Clare nudged his arm, collecting her things up. "But let's get our asses moved before Louis' family just appear."
"My sisters are gonna freak about you lot," Louis snickered.
"We'll make sure to have photos and sign shit," Adam grinned, as he grabbed his bag.
"You're all brilliant, and I'm so thankful you're doing this for my stupid friends. It means so so much, and they're gonna be so stoked about it."
"You're welcome, Lou, as I keep telling you," Harry winked. "Now, do you wanna go check that it's safe for us to head out?"
"Yes, of course!"
Louis opened the door and stuck his head out, then gestured for them to follow him down the corridor and stairs, out to the back door.
"I'll text Harry when it's safe to come back," he told them as they filed past him. "Try to stay warm!" Louis shut the door behind Mitch, and pulled his phone out to call Jay. "Hey Mum, I'll meet you all in reception. My room's tidy now."
"There's a first time for everything, love," Jay joked. "We're already here."
Louis grinned as he turned the corner and his loud, busy, bustling family came into view.
"Oi, oi!" he called out. starting to laugh as Daisy let out a shriek and ran across the lobby, throwing herself at her big brother, shortly followed by Phoebe and Fizzy. "Hello, loves! How are you all? I've missed you!"
"We missed you too, pumpkin," Jay told him as she crossed the space between them, the smaller twins in her arms. "We all did."
"Achoo!" Doris yelled, leaning towards him with her arms outstretched.
"Hello monster!" Louis took her from his mum, cuddling the small girl and waving to his little brother, who was snuggled into Jay's hold. "You all ready to head upstairs?"
"Lead the way, dickhead," Lottie muttered, ducking slightly as Jay glared at her. "Sorry - idiot."
"Good to see you too," Louis rolled his eyes. "C'mon then. We're all the way upstairs."
He started towards the staircase, letting the younger kids chatter over each other excitedly, as they all attempted to tell Louis everything about all the things they'd done since they last saw him. He dropped Doris on the bed when they got into the room, making her giggle hysterically, while Jay corralled her offspring to some kind of sensible order.
Once she had sent the older girls into the bathroom with the younger twins to clean up, and the older twins to get changed, she turned to look at her eldest son.
"So, who did you have to get rid of before we could come in here?" she asked bluntly.
"I, uh, what?" Louis stammered, his cheeks flushing hard. "I don't know what you're talking about?"
"Of course you don't," Jay rolled her eyes. "I know you, Lou. I know when you've got your eye on someone. You've been extra happy for the past few weeks, and then you stutter and stammer over a simple request for a room? A room that should've been easily available? And we have to wait? For what exactly? It's not like it's particularly tidy in here, love." She paused for a moment. "So you may as well just get it over with and tell me."
"Oh Mum," Louis let out a low groan. "It's not actually like that at all. It's all to do with the entertainment surprise I've arranged for Zayn and Liam. They were in here to shower and get ready for later. Because at the moment, they're on a crappy tour bus, with a sardine tin for a shower. And there's six inches of snow on the ground, which has made it all cold. So I was attempting to be nice."
Jay eyed him suspiciously.
"You going to share who it is you've managed to get, that needs to be kept under such tight wraps?"
"You'll have to wait and see with the others, Mum. I want it to be a proper surprise for everyone. I've managed to keep schtum whenever Liam's asked over the past couple weeks, so it's literally a couple hours left."
"You know I'm perfectly capable of keeping a secret."
"I know, but please? This is the most amazing thing, and I'm so chuffed that it's worked out. So please, leave it be."
"Fine, fine, Boo," Jay conceded. "I'm proud of you too though, darling. You've worked so hard on this wedding. I know Trisha and Yaser are pleased with all that you've done."
"Zayn's my best friend, Mum, you know that. I can't remember not knowing him, y'know? So," he shrugged, "of course I'm gonna put a lot of work into this. He's worth it. And Liam makes him ridiculously happy. So, of course I want to do as much as I can for him too."
Jay smiled and leaned over to press a kiss to Louis' cheek.
"Love you, Boo."
"Love you too, Mum."
The remaining time before the ceremony seemed to speed by. Before Louis was even aware of it, he found himself downstairs in the lobby directing the various guests who had managed to get there, through to the music room, where the ceremony was to take place.
Louis had already spoken with Harry and Adam, and arranged for the two of them to slip in just after the nuptials began, to hide up in the Minstrels' Gallery ready for the processional at the end.
Liam appeared just before the time the event was due to start, flanked by his parents and both sisters, who were all in various states of tear-stained pride. Louis grinned when he saw them, pulling Liam into a tight hug.
"You ready for this, lad?" he asked, squeezing gently, before pulling back and shaking Geoff's hand, then getting hugs from Karen, Nicola, and Ruth.
"More than ready," Liam assured him, smiling calmly. "I just can't wait to get in there now."
"That's what I like to hear."
"I'm so proud of you," Karen whispered, dabbing her cheeks with a tissue.
"Thanks, Mum," Liam hugged her gently. "Let's get inside and get seated."
"I'll see you in a few," Louis grinned.
He watched the Payne family make their way through the hotel, before his attention was drawn back to the staircase, where the Maliks were making their descent. Zayn was in the centre, with Trisha and Yaser either side of him, both holding his hands tightly, while all three of his sisters followed behind.
"Bro, you look sick," Louis told him. "And hot as hell. I reckon Li's gonna struggle to keep his hands to himself," he added with a smirk.
"Shut up, Tommo," Zayn blushed.
"He looks pretty damn good too," Louis said quickly. "You know, if you like that sort of thing..."
"I suggest you stop digging, before you get yourself into trouble, lad," Yaser advised with a wink.
"Excellent plan, Mr Malik." Louis clapped his hands. "Let's get this show on the road! Are we all ready to head inside?"
"I've been ready for hours," Zayn smiled serenely. "Lead the way, Lou."
Louis gazed at his best friend for a few moments, then pulled him into a tight hug.
"Love you a ton, Zaynie," he said quietly.
"Love you too, Lou-bear," Zayn replied, squeezing gently. "Let's go get me married."
Louis pulled back and grinned brightly, before he turned and started walking through the manor towards the music room. He listened as Trisha and the girls chattered softly about the decorations that were spread throughout the whole building - both for Christmas and the wedding; complementing each other perfectly.
As he approached the door, he took a deep breath, before he pulled it open and stepped back, letting the family go on in front of him. With a glance down the side corridor, he winked at Harry who was peeping from around the corner of a wall, giving him an enthusiastic thumbs up. Louis snickered softly, then followed the Maliks into the room, making his way down the aisle to stand alongside Zayn at the front.
The officiant, who had made it with only ten minutes to spare, opened the ceremony with a greeting to those assembled. Zayn and Liam only had eyes for each other, and were completely unaware of everything else that was going on around them, the words of the officiant and their speakers - Waliyha and Ruth - flowing over them like water.
Louis cast a glance back at the door, spotting Harry and Adam as they silently slipped inside and around behind the seats to ascend the stairs of the Minstrel's Gallery. Louis had to hold back a snort as he spotted that they both had their shoes in their hands, so as not to make any noise on the wooden staircase. Forcing his face into a more neutral expression, he returned his attention to the ceremony, just as he was asked to provide the rings.
"Rings?" he said uncertainly. "Did.. you ask me to look after them?"
"Yes, Lou," Liam said patiently. "I gave them to you this morning. Before you went to breakfast?"
"Right! You did! And I put them..." Louis paused, as he fumbled around his suit, searching his pockets quickly.
"Louis," Zayn muttered, starting to look a little anxious.
"I put them in my inner pocket cos that's the safest place for them to be," Louis sassed, pulling out the ring box and flipping up the lid.
"I swear to Allah..." Zayn huffed and took the rings out of the box.
"Thank you, Lou," Liam put in quickly, regaining Zayn's focus.
Louis grinned brightly and stepped backwards slightly, continuing to watch the proceedings, until he was needed again to sign the register as a witness.
He squeezed Zayn's shoulder gently, whispering against his ear; "So proud of you, Zee. He's the best person you could ever have found. He's perfect for you." He paused. "And if you tell him I said that, I'll... probably just hug you to be honest."
Zayn burst out into a fit of giggles, turning to hug Louis properly. "Thank you so much, Lou, for everything."
Louis just grinned and posed for the photographer, before they had to return to their positions in front of the officiant.
"It is with great pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, that I present to you, Mr and Mr Liam and Zayn Malik-Payne!"
The congregation stood and began to clap as the newlyweds turned to face each other to share a tender kiss. Louis let out a loud whistle, before he caught Harry's eye on the small balcony and nodded. Harry nodded back, and waited a few seconds for the new husbands to turn to face their guests, before he gestured to Adam to start playing. Zayn and Liam froze slightly at the sound of the familiar opening chords, both looking quickly at Louis, who put on an innocent expression and shrugged theatrically.
I wanna write you a song
One as beautiful as you are sweet
With just a hint of pain for the feeling that I get when you are gone
I wanna write you a song
They both looked up sharply as they immediately realised that it was not the recording playing. It was almost comical how their jaws dropped entirely in sync at the sight of Harry standing there with a microphone in hand, and a huge grin on his face as he saluted them calmly.
I wanna lend you my coat
One that's as soft as your cheek
So when the world is cold, you will have a hiding place you can go
I wanna lend you my coat
Everything I need I get from you
Giving back is all I wanna do
Both Liam and Zayn looked overcome with emotion as they slowly began to walk down the aisle, clutching onto each other tightly.
I wanna build you a boat
One as strong as you are free
So anytime you think that your heart is gonna sink, you know it won't
I wanna build you a boat
Everything I need I get from you
And giving back is all I wanna do
Liam stopped Zayn before they reached the end of the aisle, instead pulling his new husband close and starting to sway them both slowly, and singing along quietly against Zayn's ear.
Everything I need I get from you
Giving back is all I wanna do
I wanna write you a song
One to make your heart remember me
So anytime I'm gone, you can listen to my voice and sing along
I wanna write you a song
I wanna write you a song
As Adam let the music drift off slowly, everyone present burst into rapturous applause, cheering and whistling excitedly. Harry blushed hard and pressed his hands together, bowing and murmuring his thanks, before he looked at Zayn and Liam.
"Congratulations, guys, I hope you're going to be very happy together," he beamed at them.
"C'mon, lads," Louis murmured, as the couple seemed to have been stunned into inaction. "Let's get out of the room so the Manor folk can get it set up for the reception. I'm sure Harry will be around for you to have a chat with in a bit."
"A... a chat?" Liam asked, his eyes wide as he slowly followed Louis' gentle encouragement towards the door. "A ch-chat with Harry Styles?"
"Yes, lad, a chat with Harry Styles. Maybe you should have a couple of those glasses of Prosecco before you go anywhere near him though. Relax you a little bit?"
"I, uh, yeah, yes, that seems like a good idea," Liam stammered, quickly taking the glass he was offered and draining it in a single gulp, before taking another.
"Zee?" Louis asked, looking a little worriedly at his mute friend. "You okay there?"
"Did.. did that really happen?" Zayn whispered. "Did Harry fucking Styles really sing at our wedding? Or am I asleep again?"
Louis pinched the inside of Zayn's bicep, making him yelp and squirm away in pain.
"You're not asleep, now get a grip, both of you," Louis said impatiently. "He's just a normal guy. Calm the fuck down and don't show me up. I've been singing your praises about how awesome you both are for the past couple of weeks, and you're gonna embarrass me if you're gonna be like this. Now stop it."
"Past.. couple of weeks?" Liam said faintly, before grabbing another glass of bubbly, making a protesting sound as Louis took it off of him.
"Yes, how else do you think he's here?" Louis rolled his eyes. "And that's enough alcohol, Payno. I want you calmer, not passed out under the bloody table."
"How did you manage it?" Zayn eventually asked. "I mean, it's not like you've got his number just lying around, is it?"
"Well, I do now," Louis smirked, then chuckled. "But no. I just... took a chance on phoning Sony. Spoke to a nice woman called Melanie and explained the situation, and she... passed on my number. Harry gave me a call a couple of days later, and the rest, as they say, is history. He's been really excited about it." He paused for a moment, then widened his eyes slightly. "Shit, and the rest of the band are still out on the coach in the cold. I'd better let him know they can all come in."
"Wait, the rest of the band?" Liam sounded slightly faint. "Why are the rest of the band here?"
"Well, I told you that I'd sorted out the entertainment, Leemo."
"Harry Styles is our wedding singer?" Zayn literally swayed slightly in disbelief and shock.
"Well, I hope I'm more than that," the man in question said calmly. "Hiii, I'm Harry, it's great to meet you both."
Louis waited a few beats, before he rolled his eyes when neither said anything.
"I had no idea they'd be so starstruck," he told Harry. "Else I'd have never arranged this. Cos it seems like you've overloaded their circuits and their brains are shorting out. I swear they're normally more polite than this."
"I'm so sorry," Zayn blurted out, before he physically shook himself. "Sorry, sorry. I'm Zayn. Thank you, so so much, for being here, and for singing for us. I don't think I can put into words how much this means to both of us." He swiftly elbowed Liam in the side, who choked and blinked quickly.
"Y-yeah, mate," he stammered. "It's sick that you're here. Thank you."
"It's an absolute pleasure," Harry assured them both, smiling warmly.
"I'm not sure if Lou told you, but we actually met at one of your gigs," Zayn grinned, his cheeks pinking slightly.
"He did," Harry nodded. "Back on my Up All Night tour, apparently?"
"Yeah, in Manchester," Liam managed, turning his attention back to his new husband, his face softening noticeably. "I saw him in the seat next to mine, on his own - Louis'd gone to get them drinks, but I didn't know that at the time - and I couldn't believe that luck was actually on my side like that."
"He loves telling that story," Zayn rolled his eyes slightly, but leaned against Liam happily. "I didn't even notice Louis come back at first - I was too busy talking to Liam."
"Told you," Louis nodded knowingly. "Third wheel since the beginning."
Harry chuckled softly, as he grinned.
"It's really brilliant to hear though," he told them. "I often see stuff mentioned on twitter or tumblr or wherever, but I've never actually spoken to the people that these things happen to, so there's a bit of a disconnect, almost? So like, I know it happens, but there's no context, or realism, to it. It's a bit of an abstract idea."
"They're very abstract, these two," Louis muttered.
"Shut the fuck up, Tommo," Zayn growled, and looked at Harry. "Yeah, I guess it must be a bit overwhelming for you on your social media stuff. All the mentions and tags and that."
"It can get a bit wild at times, yeah," Harry agreed.
"Well, there's no signal here, and we got the reception team to turn the wifi off, so no fucker outside of this manor is gonna know that you're here," Louis assured Harry. "I think I've got first speech at the reception, so I'll explain that there's an embargo on photographs and stuff, because we don't want it to impact on anything here or us leaving or anything."
"You've thought of everything," Zayn stared at Louis. "I'm actually properly shocked, and a little bit in awe."
"I'm just glad you didn't get some shitty DJ, or your mate with a Spotify Premium account," Liam mumbled.
"You actually thought --" Louis cut himself off, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. "We'll have that discussion when it's not your wedding day. Right now, you need to go say hello to all your family and friends who are here."
"Oh shit, I forgot about them," Zayn snorted. "Whoops." He looked at Liam and grabbed his hand. "C'mon, hubby. Let's go do the rounds. Our mums are probably both crying."
"Karen definitely is," Louis put in. "I saw her."
"I think everyone saw her," Liam sighed. "I love her to bits, but jeez, the woman can't half cry."
"I'm sure my mum's looking after her," Zayn reassured him, patting his chest gently. "C'mon. We'll go check on them both. Hugs all round will make it a bit better." He looked at Louis. "We'll see you for the reception?"
"Ehh, maybe," Louis shrugged. "Depends if I can be bothered to show up." He rolled his eyes at the looks on their faces. "Of course I'll be there. I'm going in there in a sec, to help them with setting up. And to see if we can wiggle a little bit of extra space for the band."
"I'm not sure how you're gonna manage that," Harry chuckled softly. "It's very tight up there. I think we're using every available inch, to be honest. But Sarah will be happy to be reunited with her drums. She hates being separated from them for too long."
“We’ll see you in a while then,” Liam smiled.
With a small wave, he and Zayn headed off to see to their friends and families, leaving Louis and Harry looking at each other.
“I need to go help put the favours and decorations out,” Louis said, gesturing to the door.
“Lead the way,” Harry smiled.
Louis rolled his eyes slightly with a smile and stepped past him, walking back into the main room, where the staff had already managed to get the tables set out, with the chairs positioned around them.
“Wow, this looks brilliant already,” Louis told the staff who were there bustling around. “What can I do to help?"
“Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention?” Louis asked, standing up and tapping his glass with his knife. “I won’t keep you from your food and drink for long, I just have a few words and thanks to hand out.” He cleared his throat and pulled a sheaf of notecards from his inside pocket. “Firstly, a huge thank you to all of the staff here at Cain Manor, for the exceptional work they’ve done today - the place is absolutely beautiful, and you’ve been so efficient and helpful with everything, especially with the surprise I contacted you about a few weeks ago.” He grinned over at the manager in the corner. “Which leads me to the next thank you; Mr Harry Styles, and his fantastic band. Thank you for coming and performing, for taking a chance on a random dude who phoned up your record label and asked a ridiculously cheeky question. Especially considering how the weather has turned out. Thank you for being so willing and enthusiastic about the day and how to make it better for my friends. It means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to them too.”
Harry pressed his hands together and bowed slightly, then blew a kiss to the couple.
“Also, a thank you to both sets of parents - Trisha, Yaser, Karen, and Geoff - who have been so supportive and amazing throughout this whole experience, especially the Paynes, who have been subject to Liam's seemingly never-ending paranoia and obsessive compulsive need for control over every single element of this wedding." He looked at Liam with a grin. "Including having to be talked out of booking a backup band three times, because he thought I couldn't handle it." Louis smirked. "I hope the one I actually provided was sufficient, Payno?"
"Eh, they'll do in a pinch," Liam shrugged, then snickered loudly. "Thank you, Tommo. Seriously."
Louis just grinned and glanced down at his cards again.
"Finally, a thank you to everyone for being here, for making the trip down from Yorkshire and the Midlands to be here. I know the weather's been somewhat interesting, and it made some of your journeys far more difficult than they needed to be, but you made it, and that's greatly appreciated." He smiled at the guests, and then looked back at Liam and Zayn. "I was going to go down the traditional route of telling all the embarrassing stories from when Zayn and I were kids, and all about how he lost his virginity in the back of a Vauxhall Estate when he was 16 but then came crying to me about it when the guy dumped him two days later cos he couldn't get over the fact that Zayn farted at him. I could also tell everyone about how it wasn't long after that shocking incident that he got obsessed with this curly-haired kid on a TV show, spending all the credit on his mobile phone voting for the lad, forcing me to watch all of the extra YouTube videos about him, until a year after that, when he dragged me along to his damn concert, where he inevitably met the love of his life."
Zayn was hiding his bright red face in Liam's shoulder, groaning loudly in protest at every word that came out of Louis' mouth.
"When you've quite finished, Lewis!" he eventually exclaimed.
"Don't be stealing my phrases either," Louis pointed a finger at him. "I'm done, I promise. Oh! Apart from one last thing." He picked up his glass of Prosecco. "If you would all like to raise your glasses, to a couple that I'm honoured to know and call my best friends, even if I have been third-wheeling for the past seven years, to Zayn and Liam."
"To Zayn and Liam," the toast echoed around the room.
Louis took a seat as he drained his glass, then smiled at Zayn, nudging him gently with an elbow.
"You got off lightly, mate," he snickered. "There were far worse I could've come out with."
"Don't I know it," Zayn muttered.
After the meal was done, and the tables were cleared by the efficient Manor staff, the guests were again asked to vacate the room while they shifted the tables to one side. Harry approached Louis, ducking under a light prop that was being manoeuvred into position.
"So, you want me to start with You & I?" he asked, jumping straight into it.
"Hello, Harold, I'm fine, thank you for asking," Louis said pointedly.
"Sorry, sorry, I just didn't want to hold you up from anything," Harry apologised quickly. "And my name's not Harold."
Louis looked at him then rolled his eyes.
"I will always make time to speak to you, Mr Styles," he said with a sniff, then chuckled. "Yeah, You & I, please. I'm gonna have a mic to introduce them as they come back in, so... that'll be your cue?"
"Sounds good," Harry smiled. "It's been a gorgeous day."
"It has. I'm pretty impressed with how it's all gone, to be honest. All of Liam's fussing and faffing about was all worth it in the end." He paused, tilting his head slightly in thought. "I still think I managed to be the most successful though. I mean, look. No one knew a damned thing. I'm freaking amazing."
"And you're so damn modest with it too," Harry nodded.
"I know!" Louis exclaimed, then grinned at him. "It's like you've known me for years, Styles."
They both chuckled and made their way over to where the band were fine-tuning their instruments, playing a few little riffs of random songs to warm up.
"Hey gang," Louis greeted them. "Had a good day?"
"We've been hanging out in your room," Sarah told him. "Shoved some porn on your bill. Got a ton of room service. You're good for it, right?"
"Sure, no problem," Louis shrugged. "I'll just claim it back off your expenses." He looked at Harry. "I can claim back your expenses, right?"
"Mmm, probably not," Harry shook his head. "This isn't a charity gig. I'm just doing this cos I'm nice. Nice doesn't cover expenses. Only the gig itself."
"Dammit. How the hell am I gonna explain porn to my mum?"
"I'm fairly certain I don't need it explaining, Boobear - I do have seven kids, after all," Jay stated calmly from behind them.
Louis froze, his eyes widening in mild horror as he stared at Harry, who was on the verge of asphyxiation from trying to prevent his giggles exploding all over.
"Mum," he squeaked, turning slowly.
"Hello, love," she smiled serenely at him. "I thought I'd come and meet your new friends." She gave him a pointed look. "Especially as this was such a big secret that you managed to keep. Without even telling me, your mother."
"Yes, Mum," Louis sighed, closing his eyes in resignation, before he gestured to Harry. "Mum, allow me to introduce Mr Harry Styles. Harry, this is my Mum, Mrs Johannah Deakin."
"You can call me Jay, love," Jay immediately said with a bright smile, holding her hand out to shake Harry's.
"It's an absolute honour to meet you, Jay," Harry replied sincerely, taking her hand gently and leaning in to kiss her cheek. "Your son is an absolute credit to you. And I can totally see where he gets his good looks from," he added with a cheeky smirk at Louis.
"Aren't you the charmer?"
"Alright, Styles, tone it down," Louis muttered. "These folk are Harry's band. Clare, on keys, Adam, on bass, Mitch, on lead guitar, and Sarah on drums. They're pretty okay too."
"Thanks for that shining introduction," Sarah rolled her eyes. "But it's lovely to meet you, Mrs Deakin."
Jay chatted with the band for a few minutes, but was very aware of how her son had managed to separate Harry away from her, so that she couldn't speak with him. She shot Louis a suspicious look, yet allowed it to happen, not wanting to cause a scene at the wedding. Jay did, however, make a note to herself to have a private word with Louis as soon as possible, in order to try and uncover the reason for his particular attention to secrecy about this pop star.
Suddenly a scream rent the air, followed by a loud sob, and then tears.
"That's my cue to leave," Jay sighed. "Seems like Doris has reached her limit on being sociable."
"I know that feeling," Harry nodded seriously. "I often feel like screaming and crying when I get fed up with people. Unfortunately, it's somewhat frowned upon when I do. Plus I usually end up with a kick up the backside from one of these," he added with a gesture to the band.
"That's cos you're worse than a two year old when you're sulky," Clare told him. "A two year old can generally be bribed with chocolate, you just get moodier."
"You normally only have dark chocolate on board," Harry pointed out. "I'm easier to bribe with milk chocolate. Or white. Dark's too dark. Darker than my soul."
"Anywayyy," Louis interjected, before they could get any more distracted. "I'll talk to you later, Mum. Harry and the band have to get ready for the first dance."
Jay pressed a kiss to Louis' cheek, then bustled off to deal with her children, leaving Louis shaking his head, feeling a little shell-shocked.
"So, that was my mum," he said weakly. "She's a bit of a force of nature."
"A bit? She's awesome!" Clare said enthusiastically.
"She's definitely a friendly woman," Mitch added, seemingly happy for the first time since they'd arrived in Surrey. "She makes you feel very comfortable around her."
"That's just my mum," Louis shrugged. "She's a brilliant woman."
"Thank you for introducing us," Harry said, before he grabbed his microphone from the stand. "But Liam's now glaring at your back, Louis. So I think it's time for us to get on with it."
"Of course, of course," Louis stepped out of the way. "I'll talk to you all later. Let me know if you need any drinks and I'll get them brought over."
Harry stepped up onto the staircase to the Minstrel's Gallery, and nodded at Sarah, who gave a drum roll which got the attention of everyone in the room.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to clear the dance floor area, it is now time for Zayn and Liam to take the floor for their first dance."
Adam counted them in quietly, before Mitch started to strum quietly. Harry nodded along to the beat, and then he started to sing.
I figured it out
I figured it out from black and white
Seconds and hours
Maybe they had to take some time
I know how it goes
I know it goes for wrong and right
Silence and sound
Did they ever hold each other tight, like us?
Did they ever fight, like us?
Liam led Zayn to the middle of the dance floor, and began to sway to the music, both of them gazing intently into the others' eyes.
You and I
We don't wanna be like them
We can make it til the end
Nothing can come between
You and I
Not even the gods above
Could separate the two of us
No, nothing can come between
You and I
Oh, you and I
Their friends and family watched from the sides, as the couple moved slowly around the room, singing quietly along to the song.
I figured it out
Saw the mistakes of up and down
Meet in the middle
There's always room for common ground
I see what it's like
I see what it's like for day and night
Cos they see things in a different light
Cos they never tried
You and I
We don't wanna be like them
We can make it til the end
Nothing can come between
You and I
Not even the gods above
Can separate the two of us
Cos you and I...
We don't wanna be like them
We can make it til the end
Nothing can come between
You and I
Not even the gods above
Can separate the two of us
No, nothing can come between
You and I
Oh you and I
You and I
We can make it if we try
You and I
Oh you and I
Louis' attention was on Harry, not his friends, as he leaned against a wooden post near the back of the room. He knew it was stupid and more than a little reckless to even consider being anything more than friendly with Harry - he was Harry Styles for fuck sake - but, as he'd learned more than once over the years, when it came to his emotions, he seldom had little if any control over what they did and how they responded to people and events that happened around him.
What didn't seem to help of course, was the way Harry himself was behaving. Louis knew what a flirt was, and he knew that Harry was notorious for flirting; it was a well-documented thing that had followed Harry for a long time. But Louis hadn't realised quite how overwhelming it could be, having the full focus of that flirtation aimed directly at you, ramped up to eleven. Despite having attended each and every tour that Harry had put on over the years, nothing had quite prepared him for the one to one conversations that the two of them had been sharing. While he'd heard through Zayn and Liam of reports from fans saying about how intense Harry could be, he hadn't really imagined what it would be like to experience himself.
Louis realised that his thoughts were spiralling into nonsense as he watched Harry and the band ease seamlessly into Night Changes. He huffed out a sigh and rubbed a hand over his face in mild frustration, muttering to himself to get a grip.
"Y'know, talking to yourself is one of the first signs of senility," a cocksure voice told him from his left.
"And sneaking up on your big brother is another," he replied drily. "What do you want, Lotts?"
"Can't a girl just check on her bro without having an ulterior motive?" she asked innocently, leaning against the other side of the post.
"A girl probably can, but you're not just any girl."
"Ahh, you flatter me."
"Again I ask, what do you want?"
"Idle and curious minds are merely wondering how it is that you came to know a certain Harry Styles, that's all."
"Idle and curious minds, huh? That certainly seems accurate enough."
Louis sighed heavily and then looked at his sister.
"I literally called Sony Music and managed to get a lucky break," he stated. "I was helped by a lovely person, Melanie, who said that Harry owed her one. She said she'd give him my number, and he'd get back to me. A few days later, I got a call from him, and the rest is history, as they say."
"So you literally have his number in your phone?" Lottie asked in disbelief. "And you never told us?"
"Nope," Louis replied smugly. "I'm perfectly capable of keeping secrets when I need to, Charlotte. You should know this by now. Remember when you started going out with Tommy? And I kept it quiet from Mum for you?"
"That... is beside the point, Louis William Tomlinson," Lottie huffed out. "And please don't mention him. You know that's still a sore point."
"I remember, I'm sorry. I was just trying to make a point. I can keep my mouth shut when I need to."
"Fine, fine," Lottie relented. "But I just want it noted that I'm majorly impressed at this particular secret. Plus, y'know, Harry freaking Styles, bro? That's fucking sick!"
"Language! But also, yes. I agree. And I admit to being slightly starstruck when I met him first. Remind me to tell you later."
"Don't you worry, I won't let that go."
Louis grinned at her, then pulled her into a tight hug, ignoring her protests about her hair.
"Love you, Lotts. Thanks for being an awesome little sister."
"I love you too, you dickhead. You're an okay big brother."
The end of the night soon rolled around, and guests left to pile into cars and taxis and a minibus to the nearest hotel. Louis sent the happy couple off to their room, reassuring them that he would take care of helping the staff tidy up the room. The lights were on full, and the manager was guiding the wait staff to clear the tables of glasses and cutlery. Louis moved around each table with a box, collecting the decorations and remaining favours, stacking them into the box for Liam and Zayn to deal with at a later time.
Harry and the band were clearing up their equipment, wrapping up wires and slipping their instruments into cases. Louis glanced over now and then, smiling softly as he watched the other man move around easily, joking with the others and looking even more at ease than he had done all day.
Louis made his way over to the gift table, kneeling down on the floor and slowly packing each wrapped present into another box, forcibly resisting the temptation to shake each one to try and work out what was inside. He became completely engrossed in his task, and the self-restraint that went along with it, so didn't notice when Harry approached him quietly.
Louis jumped and fumbled a box, nearly dropping it and letting out a yelp.
"Sorry!" Harry immediately apologised, steadying the box in Louis' hands. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"You didn't, not really," Louis said quickly. "I just wasn't paying attention."
"Well, I was just coming to let you know that we're done packing up. The guys are heading on back to the bus."
"I thought we were gonna get you set up in the lounge?" Louis asked, frowning slightly.
"They'll be back," Harry reassured him. "They're just changing into more comfortable clothes. I didn't fancy going out there, so Sarah reluctantly agreed to bring my joggers and hoody in with her."
"That was kind of her," Louis smirked. "I'll talk to the manager in a sec, see if we can get you extra blankets and pillows." He paused for a moment, looking a little uncertain. "Is there gonna be enough room for you all? Cos if not, I mean, you can always come share with me. I have plenty of space in my room?"
"I couldn't impose on you like that," Harry murmured.
"You wouldn't be imposing, Styles," Louis told him seriously. "I'm offering."
"I'm... I mean... I..." Harry stammered, his cheeks pinking up as he realised that Louis wasn't messing with him. "Th-that would be great. As long as you're sure."
"Uh huh. I'm nearly done here, so I'll head on up and get myself sorted out. I'll see you in a bit?"
Harry smiled softly and nodded, heading back over to the rest of the band to let them know what was happening. Meanwhile, Louis was trying to get control over his hormones, which had seemingly gone a little wild over the sound of Harry's extra-husky post-gig voice. He rubbed a hand over his face, and placed the last gift in the box, picking it up and setting it with the other things for Liam and Zayn to collect the next day, before he slipped out of the hall and headed for his room. He took a small diversion to the reception, quietly requesting pillows and blankets be made available to the band for them to sleep around the fire in the lobby, and asked for extra pillows to be delivered to his room as soon as possible.
Louis let out a yawn as soon as he saw his bed, rubbing a hand tiredly over his face. He moved sluggishly to his case, tugging out a pair of joggers and a tee to wear to bed. He changed in the bathroom, hanging his suit back up - the repeated nagging from Liam had apparently sunk in enough to be effective - and then returned to attempt to tidy up the effects of the whirlwinds that were his siblings. He'd just straightened the quilt on top of the bed when a light knock came at the door. He flushed hard as he realised who it was, and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself, before he answered it, giving Harry a shy smile and letting him in.
"Hey again," Harry murmured.
"Hey yourself." Louis shut the door quietly. "You know where everything is. I'm just gonna finish tidying up a bit."
"Not on my account, I hope?"
"No, I just don't wanna wake up in the morning and accidentally stand on a half-eaten Freddo frog," Louis replied, picking up the offending chocolate bar.
"How lovely," Harry snickered. "Kids are one hell of a mess, huh?"
"Oh, they definitely can be," Louis agreed. "Especially my lot. They're chaos in human form. I literally have no idea how Mum handles all of us."
"You're including yourself in the chaos?"
"Oh definitely," Louis nodded quickly. "You should've seen my room when I lived at home. It always looked like a clothes factory had exploded in there. Mum eventually gave up nagging at me when she had too many other kids to get on at."
Harry snickered and crossed to the bathroom.
"I'll be out in a sec," he winked.
"Take as long as you need," Louis smiled.
As soon as the door shut behind Harry, Louis huffed out a sigh and leaned against the nearest wall, his eyes wide as the reality of the impending situation truly dawned on him. He gave himself a mental pep talk, trying to get his head straightened out a little, knowing that he was going to have to be sensible and not freak out when it came to sharing the only bed in the room.
The bathroom door opened after only a few minutes, causing Louis to spin around to face the doorway in surprise. Harry gave him a sheepish wave as he stepped back into the bedroom, wearing a tee from his own merchandise line, and a pair of tour-branded joggers he'd had made for the crew.
"Treat People With Kindness, huh?" Louis smiled.
"It's a nice motto to live by," Harry shrugged. "And I try to live by it myself, so I should have the guts to wear it, right?"
"Very true, very true. I like it. It suits you."
"Thank you." He looked Louis over and raised an eyebrow. "Seems like you got the old merch, anyway."
Louis frowned in confusion, then looked down at the tee he'd tugged on, flushing a deep red when he realised he was wearing a tee he'd bought at one of Harry's gigs - the front of it emblazoned with 'Take Me Home 2013'.
"I... completely forgot that I brought this one with me," he stammered. "Zayn made it a bit of a tradition - he bought me a tee from every tour."
"So you have a Kindness tee?" Harry asked, genuinely interested.
"I didn't feel right going to the tour without the lads, and they couldn't go this year, so... unfortunately, no."
"I'm sure I can arrange something for you. It's not like I don't have access to them, after all."
"I couldn't ask that of you, Harry," Louis protested, his voice soft. "You've already done so much for us today."
"Well, luckily for you, you're not asking - I'm offering." Harry gave him a soft smile. "I like to do nice things for my friends."
"I -- friends? We're friends?" Louis stared at him, completely gobsmacked.
"I'd like to think so, especially as we're about to share a bed." Harry smirked a little. "Unless you often go around hopping into bed with random strangers?"
Louis spluttered a little, flushing bright red as he ducked his head.
"Sorry, sorry, that was uncalled for," Harry apologised. "But in all seriousness, yes. I do consider you a friend. We've spoken a lot over the past couple of weeks - both on the phone and by text - and I like to think that I know you a little?"
"Y-yeah, yeah you do," Louis agreed. "I think you probably know me better than some people that have been in my life for years, to be honest. Which sounds... really weird when I say it out loud."
"Not really," Harry shrugged. "I think people enter each others' lives when they're supposed to, for a reason. Like... Mel was supposed to agree to me doing this, because I was supposed to come here, because we were supposed to be friends. Y'know?"
"Kinda like fate?"
"Exactly like fate. I fully believe that we are destined to have certain people in our lives, and that every person that touches us does do for a reason - to teach us something about ourselves or the world around us."
"That's pretty deep for nearly three in the morning, Styles," Louis teased gently.
"Yeah it is," Harry chuckled. "But I guess you brought it out of me."
Louis grinned and then let out a loud yawn, quickly covering his mouth with a hand.
"Shit, sorry," he apologised quickly. "I guess today's just caught up with me."
"Not a problem, I'm surprised you've lasted this long to be honest," Harry smiled. "What time are we out in the morning?"
"Liam managed to get check out extended to two in the afternoon, so we've got loads of time to finish clearing up and get out. Thankfully. I don't think anyone's going to be awake before midday, let alone up and about by ten." He paused for a moment, then rolled his eyes. "Except Liam himself. He'll probably be in the gym at six."
"The night after his wedding?" Harry asked in disbelief.
"Well, unless Zayn's well and truly knackered him out, which I do not want to think about in any capacity whatsoever, then yeah, he'll still be there."
"That's just weird, I have to say."
"Preaching to the choir, babe. I completely agree."
"But anyway. Sleep?"
"Sounds perfect." Louis stretched his arms up over his head and grunted quietly as his back clicked a couple of times. "Do you have a preference for sides?"
"Um..." Harry, a little distracted by the display in front of him, struggled for the words he needed. "Uh, no. No preference. I'm good wherever."
"Okay, well I sleep better on the left. So get comfy on the right."
With a slightly shaky nod, Harry agreed and tugged the duvet back. He took a deep breath and slowly got into bed alongside Louis, both of them wriggling around to get comfortable, but neither really relaxing. They settled on their sides, facing away from each other, tense and unsure of what to do or how to act.
After a few ridiculously long minutes, Louis let out a loud huff.
"This is daft," he declared, turning over to face Harry. "We're a pair of grown adults, for fuck sake. We can share a bed and it not be awkward, surely."
"I feel like a kid at his first sleepover," Harry admitted, turning over as well.
"Me too," Louis rolled his eyes. "But we can get past the weird stuff and be comfy, right? Without the need for excessive amounts of sugar and crappy internet porn?"
"What the fuck did you get up to at your sleepovers?" Harry asked in disbelief.
"You didn't watch porn with your mates?"
"Oh. Well. I think it was like, the number one point of entertainment in Donny." Louis shuddered slightly. "Not that I had much interest in what my mates wanted to watch. Girl parts, ew."
Harry let out a loud honking laugh, one hand quickly covering his face as he curled up in a fit of giggles. Louis grinned as he watched, relaxing as the awkwardness between them slowly dissipated.
"I think that's probably why we didn't watch porn," Harry eventually choked out. "I'm not sure I could get through even ten minutes of het porn. I find it demeaning as hell, and so uncomfortable. Not in the least arousing."
"Tell me about it," Louis agreed. "But there were a few camboys I liked to watch back in the day."
"I think I checked out one or two," admitted Harry, blushing a little. "They helped with some stuff about me and how I felt."
"Join the club. I had my big gay revelation when I spent an evening wanking off to an amateur twink with a dildo up his ass."
"That's an interesting way to work out you're gay...?"
"It was an interesting time," Louis agreed, nodding sagely a couple of times, before he burst into giggles. "It was a weird time! There's all me mates bleating on about how awesome this girl's tits are, or that girl's rack, and I was cowering away inside cos all I could think about was that bloke's arms, or this other guy's ass."
"I remember that part," Harry sighed, then froze slightly. "I mean..." He rolled his eyes at himself then huffed. "I mean, obviously I'm not straight. I'm sure you've managed to work that out."
"I did have a bit of an idea, love, yeah," Louis said softly.
"Yeah, well, I'm very gay, not just not straight. But apparently that's not marketable, or it wasn't when I was on the X Factor." He frowned hard. "And in spite of how much the world has progressed - equal marriage rights in so many countries, decriminalisation of homosexuality in many others - and the increasing number of queer musicians who are so successful - Sam Smith, Olly Alexander, Demi, Bebe, Gaga - it's still 'not quite right' for me to be myself in public yet." Harry rubbed a hand over his face. "I'm so tired of pretending."
"Oh love," Louis reached out, gently rubbing Harry's arm. "I'm really sorry. I can't imagine how difficult it's been for you. I think whoever it is that's keeping you closeted is seriously out of touch with the world. And has obviously never been to a single one of your gigs. Like I said earlier, I haven't been to any of this tour, but I've seen the stuff online - you've been prancing about with rainbows every night." He shot Harry a chastising look. "Even where you could be arrested for doing so. That is not the actions of a straight person. No straight ally is going to risk themselves for us queer folk."
"Part of me keeps hoping that someone will find out, someone who isn't tied into an NDA, and just... tell it to the world. I literally have reached the point where I would rather be outed as a scandal than stay in the closet, hiding who I am from everyone, from my fans." He looked up at Louis, his expression verging on helpless. "I get so many messages from people telling me that they found the courage to tell their families that they're gay, or they're trans, or they're non-binary, or they're somewhere else on the LGBTQ spectrum, because they listened to my music, or they came to one of my shows. I've had people come out actually at my shows. And every time, it kills me a little more inside, because I feel like I'm being dishonest with them, because even though I wave those rainbows, and I make the supportive comments onstage, and I try and spread love and acceptance - I'm still not being truthful. I'm not sharing my truth the way that they all deserve me to."
"Sweetheart, I think your queer fans will understand more than anyone else that you're unable to give them that truth right now," Louis kept his voice soft, in much the same way he spoke with his youngest siblings. "We have all been in situations where it's difficult, or dangerous, or impossible for us to be completely ourselves." He tucked a strand of Harry's hair carefully behind his ear. "I've hidden my sexuality before, for my safety, for my sisters' safety." Louis took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "When I came back home from uni after my first year, I went to meet Lottie and Fizzy from school, and found a couple of the older lads shoving them both around, telling them that their big brother was a poofter and a nancy boy. The girls had no idea what they were on about, so they were just crying and confused. I got a bit aggressive with the lads, made some comment about if I were a poof, I wouldn’t be able to kick their asses, but I was fairly sure that I was about to do just that. They backed off the girls, and I decided to stick with it for a bit. Just until the girls were older, and more able to handle themselves, and whatever the older kids tried to throw at them."
"Why are kids so fucking horrible?"
"Cos their parents teach them horrible shit," Louis sighed. "Mum knew some of the parents - they were far from the most accepting people you could meet. Hate breeds hate."
"Fear breeds hate," Harry corrected. "Ignorance breeds hate. But this is what Sony are still basing their business models on. Prejudice, and ignorance, and fear. This is why they still say I can't come out. Oh, wait, no -- they 'strongly advise' that I 'reconsider my standing' on the idea." He growled out a huff. "I know my standing. I'm gay. It's not going to change, no matter how many skinny blonde models they shove at me. And why do they always manage to find the most unintelligent ones? They never seem to be able to string a sentence together that isn't about themselves or how big their breasts are. It's demeaning to both of us."
"That or they've got some twisted ideas," Louis commented. "I had to hear about how that last girl had a thing about Charles Manson from Zayn. He was proper ranting about how you shouldn't have to do shit like it. Quite the defender of you, he is."
"Oh, yeah, her," Harry pulled a face. "I wasn't happy with that. I tried to be as uncooperative with that as I could get away with." He sighed heavily. "I'm hoping to wriggle out of everything next year, so I can just be me for a bit. I've got the next leg of the tour, so that's going to be awesome. I always love being on the road and seeing my fans. Plus I can get a load of Make A Wish stuff in, which is literally one of the best parts."
Louis smiled at the look of happiness on Harry's face, a stark contrast to how upset he'd been before.
"You were amazing with the kids this evening," he said reassuringly. "I think Doris and Ernie are gonna be chittering about Harry for weeks, if not months, on end." He paused, thinking quickly. "I may never hear the end of it from my mum."
"I would say sorry, but that would be a lie," Harry giggled. "Your siblings are all brilliant. I love the way the little ones' minds work. It's fascinating. And I love how they get so enthusiastic about every little thing. That's why I love doing the charity stuff, and why I got rid of the meet and greets for sale part of my tour. Plus I got fed up with seeing the same faces every tour - because they weren't really accessible to all of the fans, only those with money."
"I remember Zayn being desperate to get one for your second tour," Louis started.
"Take Me Home," Harry put in, pointing at Louis' tee.
"Yeah, that one. So he was looking at Ticketmaster, and I shit you not, he literally started crying when he saw the prices. Because they were just so far out of his range, it was either rent for three months, or a meet and greet. And despite how much he wanted it, he couldn't justify that amount of cash."
"I feel bad now," Harry sighed. "I never wanted anyone to think that they had to choose between me and like... their homes. That's ridiculous." He looked at Louis. "It was the management company's idea - they got the money from those. So that's why I've been able to ditch it. And I'm glad now that I have."
"You're a pretty good man, Harry Styles," Louis said softly.
"I'm not sure what brought that on, but thank you?"
"You're very welcome." Louis smiled, then let out another yawn. "Okay, sleep is definitely a necessity now."
"Good plan. Goodnight, Lou."
Louis' alarm rang out at eleven o'clock, stirring them both slowly. Harry tensed up slightly, realising he was wrapped up in Louis' arms, in the position of the little spoon, his favourite place to be. He bit his lip slightly, but then relaxed when he felt Louis squeeze him slightly in reassurance.
"You okay, Styles?" he rasped sleepily.
"Yeah, m'good," Harry sighed. "Good sleep. You?"
"Mmhmm, best in a long time." Louis tightened his grip again gently. "You're a cuddler. I like it."
"You're cuddling too, so you must be one as well. Which is also good."
"We should probably get up though. Brunch is being served until midday. We only have an hour."
"Whenever you're ready - it won't take me long to dress."
They moved slowly, but together, getting dressed in sweats and hoodies, before heading downstairs for food. Harry greeted Liam and Zayn in a familiar fashion, as though they were old friends, rather than musician and fans. Luckily, the level of star struckness had lowered, thanks in part to the lethargy and hangovers from the previous night.
The meal was quiet, but comfortable, with gentle chatter filling the restaurant room.
Soon enough, checkout time arrived, and the families were first to dissipate, leaving the grooms and Louis behind to check over everything one last time, while Harry and the band loaded everything onto the bus. They all met up in the lobby, the band quickly passing on their congratulations again and hugging the couple and Louis in farewell. Zayn and Liam excused themselves after thanking Harry again, before they went up to grab their luggage from their room to take home, leaving Harry with Louis.
"So..." Louis started.
"I --" Harry said at the same time, making them both laugh.
"You go first," Louis said quickly.
"I was just going to say, thank you again," he stammered. "It's been amazing, and far more than I could have ever expected. I'm so immensely grateful for it all."
"It has been a complete honour," Harry assured him. "I'm so glad that you called and that I was able to do this. It's been a fantastic experience. Not just the wedding, but meeting the guys, and spending time with you. It's been... so much."
"I've been so happy to have you as, like, a friend, these past couple weeks," Louis smiled softly.
"Well, I hope it doesn't end today. I would like for us to keep in contact, you know?"
"Th-that... that's... wow, okay. I wasn't expecting that."
"You should have," Harry winked. "But I really have to go, before the bus leaves without me."
"Go safe, Styles. And I'll talk to you soon, I guess."
"That you will."
Louis hugged him quickly, smiling as Harry held him tightly, drawing out the embrace for longer than he had initially anticipated. Pulling back slowly, Louis saw him out of the hotel and waited to wave as the bus trundled down the driveway a few minutes later, sighing as he shut the door slowly.
"Sooo, how was that?" Zayn said from the stairs. "Cos the look on your face is all kinds of starry-eyed."
"Shut up, Zayn," Louis huffed. "It was nothing."
"Don't give me that," Zayn crossed over to him. "You've been virtually hanging on his every word for the past 36 hours. I don't think I've ever seen you like this."
"He's a nice guy, that's all. He's friendly. And he's sweet. Nothing at all like the press make him out to be."
"I've been telling you that for years, Tommo."
Louis nudged at his best friend, then rested his head on Zayn's shoulder.
"Harry's a lot more than I was expecting. Y'know?"
"A lot more?"
"Yeah. Like. He's a bigger personality. But he can also be small. He's a walking contradiction. And it's so damn endearing."
"You know that you're allowed to like him, right?"
"I know, and I know that I do. I just... I don't know how to be a friend to him, when I feel the way I feel."
"You'll manage it. Especially as it's not like you're going to be seeing him every single day."
Louis huffed slightly and stood up straight, rubbing a hand over his face.
"I know, and annoyingly, that's the worst part." He pouted. "It's not even like I'd gotten used to that as a thing. But I'm gonna keep texting him."
"That sounds like a positive thing."
"Yeah, he wants to remain friends."
"That's definitely a good thing then."
"I'm still bloody overwhelmed."
"Well, we're leaving now. You can sit quiet in the car and think about it all, while we go back to London."
Louis nodded and grabbed his case, tugging it towards the door with a sigh. Despite everything that Harry had said, there was a large part of Louis that was expecting that their contact would now cease. Or at the very least, drift off into an eventual nothingness. Although Harry had said all the right things about wanting him as a friend, when it came down to it, they lived very different lives, and Louis knew that there was no way he would be able to fit in with the lifestyle that Harry was so used to.
In the car, making their return journey to London, Louis rested his head against the window, gazing blankly out at the scenery as it passed, while his thoughts cycled around the same thing, over and over again.
On a bus, on the same road, but a few minutes ahead, Harry was in much the same position, but with a large set of headphones covering his ears, and a blanket wrapped around his body, as he pretended to sleep, to avoid questions from the band.
I had no idea that the journey to London was so long.
Even though it really isn't.
And this is the most pointless text conversation I have ever started.
What the fuck, Styles?
Your brain is a weird place.
For you, I mean?
Nah, you're good.
I can handle weird.
I blame all those curls though.
I think they're proof of your brain patterns.
You could be right, to be fair.
Mum always reckons I think in circles.
And my hair's always been curly.
Except for that time Gemma straightened it.
Oh. My. God.
Are there pictures??
PLEASE tell me there's pictures!!!
There may be one or two.
I'm not sure that I want you to see them though.
It's not my most flattering moment.
Haz, I saw you fall over and split your trousers.
And fall down a flight of steps on your own stage.
And trip over a wire.
And fall over NOTHING.
Straightened hair is tame in comparison.
When you put it like that....
[attaches photo of Gemma straightening his hair]
I was 16.
No comments please.
Oh you want me to comment.
You would not have sent it otherwise.
I forgot how adorable you were at 16.
Look at those cheeks!
The hair is awful though.
I hope you never let your sister near it again.
No, but I stupidly let her friend near it.
It was cut too short for a while.
That sounds like it was a bad idea.
My sisters keep threatening to attack mine.
I've had to bring Mum in as a backup on many an occasion.
Somehow I ended up with her as my hairdresser for the first few years of my career.
It wasn't in very good condition by the time I got shot of her.
But she's why I grew it out.
Cos I figured if it was longer she'd not be able to fuck it up as much.
Boy, was I wrong…
I liked the long locks.
It suited you.
But the early days were definitely weird.
And it's definitely looked better since Dunkirk.
Ahh Dunkirk. A scary time.
I nearly drowned.
I saw that interview.
Such an over-exaggeration.
The ultimate drama queen, you are.
How dare you.
I'm not sure I like you anymore, Tomlinson.
I am not a drama queen.
Doesn't sound like it.
The newlyweds are being sickening.
You been caught in the roadworks?
Yeah. It's taking forever to get through.
Doesn't help when twats decide to change lanes without signalling.
Yeah, well, it's stop and go back here.
And every time we stop, these sappy fuckers get all smoochy.
I knew I should've insisted on driving.
I swear it's taking longer than it needs to.
Awww, but it's sweet!
They definitely seemed very happy yesterday.
And this morning.
You don't have to put up with it on a regular basis.
It gets a bit much.
And they're not away until after Christmas.
They bugger off on their honeymoon just before New Year’s until the end of January.
Where are they going?
Somewhere nice, I hope.
They're doing a bit of a tour or something, I think.
I know they're out in Pakistan for a week, to see Zayn's fam who still live there.
But other than that - I think - they're doing Barbados, Australia, and LA.
That sounds a bit random in comparison.
They are shallow and 2-dimensional.
I am ashamed to know them.
I mean, it's a nice enough place, I guess?
I have a house there.
Your sanctuary away from London.
Zayn's on about doing one of those celebrity tour bus things.
He's been trying to get Liam to find one that goes past your house.
I dunno if that'll change after yesterday though…
I'm in LA next month anyway.
So they could just come over for dinner or something.
Don't encourage them.
They totally would.
I'll let you know when I'm there, and you can let them have my number.
Dude, are you sure??
They're likely to tell you embarrassing shit about me.
So I should probably get ahead of them and tell you everything first…
I'm sure it won't be *that* bad.
I love that you have so much faith in my friends.
Cos I sure as fuck don't.
They would completely sell my ass out.
They're my best friends. But they're still dicks.
I love them a lot.
The best kind of friends, then?
I think you've listened to me waxing lyrical about them enough.
They're okay.... ish. ;)
I think everyone has friends like that, don't they?
Or if they don't, they should.
Ooh, we're out of the roadworks. Hooray.
We're stopping at Reading services.
Clare needs a wee and Graham broke the loo on the bus.
I'll think we're stopping there too.
I don't think we're all that far behind you.
And Zayn's getting antsy being in the car.
He hates long journeys. And being stuck in traffic makes it worse.
See you in a bit then?
Yep, we're pulling off now.
I'm loitering near the Krispy Kreme counter in WHSmiths.
Trying to talk myself out of buying a mixed dozen.
"I'm sorry, mate. I can't help you with that, cos I'd totally be on the side of buying the donuts," Louis said as he approached Harry.
"You're literally no help at all," Harry huffed. "I shouldn't get them, cos my trainer will totally kick my ass if I do. But. I could get them and try and get most of them home, and then my best friend slash roommate will love me cos he loves Krispy Kremes."
"That the Irish lad?" Louis asked.
"Yeah, Niall. He never seems to stop eating. And he's still thin as a rail. Whereas I, having stood here for five minutes merely looking at the display counter, will have put on at least three pounds."
"Eh, it's not like it'll hurt you," shrugged Louis. "Your love handles are missed by many on tumblr."
"You go on tumblr?" Harry looked at him incredulously.
"I may have inadvertently ended up there when Lottie sent me a link to a post about your tour."
"Completely accidentally, I assure you."
"So anyway, donuts. I'd definitely go for the mixed dozen."
"You want some too? Make me feel a bit better about myself?" Harry looked at Louis with puppy-like eyes.
"Well, if it'll make you feel better..." Louis rolled his eyes. "Go on then. I can stuff myself with baked dough in the back of the car while those two continue to be sappy fuckers in the front."
"Tommo! Where've you gone, dude?" Zayn called across the food court.
"Hold your freaking horses, Malik, I'll be there in a sec!"
"It's Malik-Payne, don't be a dick," Liam chastised, following the sound of Louis' voice.
"I'm not being a dick, Payno." Louis sighed as his friends appeared around the end of the aisle.
"Hey Harry, fancy seeing you here," Zayn smiled, looking amused.
"Hey guys," Harry waved. "We were just debating the merits of Krispy Kreme."
"Always go with the donuts," Liam assured him. "Always. We'll pick some up for the rest of the journey home."
"Like you'll have time to eat donuts while you're making googly eyes at your new husband," Louis rolled his eyes.
"Don't be getting mardy, Lewis," Zayn chastised. "Or we'll leave you here."
"Firstly, have you quite finished," Louis huffed. "Secondly, you wouldn't dare. But also, thirdly, I'm sure I could get a lift from Styles here if you did dare to."
"Can you imagine the grief that would cause, babe?" Liam murmured to Zayn. "Let's not even go there. We'll just shove him back in the back of the car with his own box of donuts. He'll be fine."
"You notice how they talk about me like I'm a child, Harry? After everything I've done for them, this is the treatment I get."
"It's shocking, Louis," Harry agreed, smirking a little. "I don't know how you manage to put up with it."
"Oh great, these two are a right pair of jokers," Zayn grumbled. "I'm not sure it was such a good idea you two getting in contact, y'know. Especially if you're gonna team up like it."
"Dream team, us," Louis nodded. "We're bloody awesome. You're just jealous."
"Yeah, you wish you had our awesomeness," Harry added.
"When you lot are done with your weird back and forth, we need to get back to the coach, Harry," Sarah's voice came from behind them. "Graham wants to be back on the road and home before 6pm. Considering it's just after five now, I'm not too certain he's going to have much luck, but I'm not gonna argue with him."
"Ooh, good job I don't need to join you," Louis observed. "I'm guessing an extra passenger would add to Graham's stress."
"Most definitely," Sarah nodded. "Not that the rest of us would object. But yeah. Let's not piss the driver off."
"Let me just pay for these donuts, and then I'll be there," Harry said quickly.
He grabbed four of the mixed dozen boxes and made his way over to the till, chatting happily with the assistant as he paid, then came back to the group.
"Here we go," he said, handing two boxes over to Louis. "Two for your car, and two for our bus. We're sorted for the rest of the journey."
"Harry, you didn't have to do that," Louis protested weakly. "We could've bought two boxes of donuts."
"I think I can stretch to some extra donuts," Harry replied drily. "Just go and enjoy them. I'll talk to you soon. Merry Christmas, all."
With a wink and a wave, he followed Sarah and Clare back out to the bus, boarding it quickly and presenting one of the boxes he carried to Graham, giving him a winning smile, preempting the driver's ire and stifling it with baked goods.
Louis followed Zayn and Liam out to the car, giving the coach a salute with a donut as it pulled away. He clambered in the back of the car again, and sighed, hoping that the rest of the journey home would go a lot smoother than it had so far.
A week later.
So. An important question. What is your official stance on Christmas trees?
In what way?
I mean. Who doesn't love a Christmas tree?
They're pretty. And they smell nice.
(If you get a real one, obvs.)
(And if you don't, what the fuck kind of person are you?)
(A Scrooge, that's what.)
Well, obviously a real one.
And I'm glad you're very pro-tree.
But I was meaning more - size, bushiness, style of decor?
Are you a modern man?
White lights, silver decorations, sleek and cool?
Or do you take a more traditional position?
Red, gold, baubles, tinsel, multicoloured fairy lights.
I'm definitely more of a traditionalist.
My birthday is on Christmas Eve.
So we always had multicoloured lights, cos it made it extra special.
I used to think that everyone put lights and decorations up for my birthday, not for Christmas.
My mum is a big enough sap that she let me think that too.
Omg. That is probably the cutest thing I have heard today.
And definitely in the top ten of cutest things ever.
AND YOU'RE A CHRISTMAS BABY.
Please tell me there are pictures of you in little Santa hats and wearing bows.
Well. Probably. But I'm not 100% sure.
Wait. Here's one.
[sends selfie of him wearing a Santa hat, with a flashing novelty bow around his neck]
That is far more adorable than I could ever have imagined.
Thank you. So much.
Haha. Calm down.
How about you?
What were your Christmases like?
Normal. Traditional. Quiet.
We didn't have a lot of money growing up.
So it was kind of a make do situation.
Mum always made it fun though.
She did her best all the time.
And I am so grateful to her.
My Mum was the same.
It was just her and me for a long time.
Lottie's like... 7 years younger than me.
My biological father is a waste of space and ditched Mum when I was 2 weeks old.
Mum was 17. She told everyone who told her to just put me up for adoption to get fucked, and brought me up herself.
My strong, amazing Mum.
And wow. This is a lot.
No, you're good.
Your Mum sounds amazing.
I would imagine there was a lot of stigma for her to deal with. Being a teenage Mum in the 90s.
My grandparents were so so supportive of her though.
We never really wanted for anything.
And they were never on board with the adoption idea.
'He's our grandson, Johannah. He's coming home, where he belongs.'
The best attitude ever.
My mum and dad split up when I was about seven I think?
Mum kept me and Gems.
She took a job as landlady of a pub. Well. More like live-in manager.
She didn't have her name over the door. But we lived upstairs.
Money was stupidly tight. And dad wasn't exactly good at paying maintenance at first.
But that's where Mum met Robin.
And they lived happily ever after?
Exactly. He's her other half, in every way.
Dad's been better since I went on X Factor.
It's not cos of that. I don't think. I hope not.
But he's got a better job. And he paid Mum a load of the money he owed.
Plus he paid for Gems to go to uni. So. I guess that's good.
Strong independent Mums all round then?
Given me a deep sense of respect for women, I can definitely tell you that.
Preaching to the choir.
Women are amazing and beautiful.
But I do not want to be intimate with them in any way shape or form.
Right there with you, buddy.
But anyway. Back to the point.
As real as you can get.
A nice thick evenly bushy one.
With plenty of twinkly lights and traditional decorations.
Check, check, and check.
Wanna come help me choose one?
Sorry kid. Would love to, but. Lunch hour is nearly up, and I have two more classes to teach.
Give me strength to handle it.
They're all hyped up on chocolate and sweets and the last day of school before Christmas.
I'd send them all home now, if I had my way.
And there's the bell. Yay.
Once more unto the breach I go.
Yuck yuck and yuck.
Have fun in the breach.
Try not to kill any kids.
And text me when you're able to.
As soon as he received Louis' 'I'm freeeee!' text, just after three in the afternoon, Harry pressed the call symbol on his phone, and raised it to his ear.
"Well, if it isn't Mr Styles himself," Louis greeted him cheerfully. "How can I help you, love?"
"No, no, no help required, Mr Tomlinson," Harry chuckled. "I just wondered if you wanted to come find a tree with me now. When you said you were still at work earlier, I couldn't be bothered to move. So I just watched an afternoon's worth of bad TV, and then thought I'd call when you got out of work."
"That's awfully kind of you. Would there be any form of refreshment on this mission to locate the perfect Christmas tree?"
"I'm sure I can find you a glass of mulled wine, or possibly eggnog if you prefer."
"Definitely the wine, please. And a mince pie or two, perhaps?"
"I'll see what I can do. Want me to pick you up?" Harry grabbed his keys off the rack, swinging them around his finger as he left through the front door.
"That would be awesome also," Louis grinned. "I'm just going to get changed, because at the moment, I look like a stuffy librarian. And I really don't want you to see me in this - it's the absolute worst."
"I'm sure you look absolutely adorable," Harry assured him. "All authoritative and stuff."
"Not in the slightest. Like I said, nerdy and stuffy librarian. Not the stuff of wet dreams, unfortunately." He paused for a moment. "Although, actually no. I'm glad. I work with hormonal teenagers. I deliberately wear stuff that makes me look unattractive, so that no unhealthy attachments can be forged. In theory anyway."
"Oh, I bet you've broken hearts a-plenty, Tommo."
"There is the occasional weirdo who finds this sort of look attractive, but thankfully, they are few and far between. They're more interested in rockstars and celebrities. I have to hear at least once a day about how gorgeous your hair is, or how dreamy your eyes are. That's definitely sickening. Especially since we've been friends."
"Yeah, people often tell me it's weird knowing me," Harry sighed. "So you haven't shared with your classes that we know each other then?"
"Fuck no!" Louis said promptly. "Do you think I have a death wish or something? No, no way at all. If I let that bit of information slip, I would be hounded, constantly, to give you numbers, get tickets, merch, meet and greets. There would be no end to all the requests."
"Do you think it would be that bad? Really?" Harry sounded worried.
"Have you seen your fans before? Not that they're not lovely, because they totally are, but they're definitely incredibly passionate about being your fan."
"It's nice. It's great to have that energy to bounce off when I'm onstage."
"At a gig would be an acceptable location for that," Louis conceded. "But my classroom is not."
"Yeah, I can understand that."
"I've just got home, I'm just changing, then I'll be ready. Christmas trees - here we come!"
"I'm about five minutes from your place. I'll see you in a bit."
They hung up, and Louis slipped into his bedroom. Picking out a suitable outfit to go Christmas tree shopping was surprisingly more difficult than he would've normally expected, but he put that down to the prospect of his companion, rather than the activity itself. With a low huff of annoyance at himself, he tugged a pair of black skinnies up over his thighs, jumping up and down slightly to encourage them up over his bum, and paired it with a burgundy scoop neck tee, showing off his clavicle tattoo, that he always had to make sure was completely covered up at work.
Slipping his feet into a pair of Vans, and shrugging a sheepskin-lined denim jacket on over his shoulders, he grabbed his keys, phone, and wallet, before heading back outside. He jogged down the short path to the pavement, where Harry was just pulling up in his Range Rover.
"Hello there!" Louis greeted him with a wave, before he tugged the door open and slipped into the passenger's seat.
"Hello yourself," Harry replied. "You're looking good. I love the tee."
"Thank you, one of my favourites. I have to keep all of my ink covered when I'm at work, so I kind of prefer to show them off when I'm not on the school property."
"Have any of your kids seen them? As I'm guessing they're who you're supposedly 'hiding' them from."
"Yeah, I've seen a couple when I've been out with friends or the girls, but apart from the occasional 'oh wow, that's siiick, Mr Tommo', they're seldom if ever mentioned."
"Well, I like it when you're showing them off," Harry reaffirmed.
"Me too, love, me too," Louis grinned.
They drove for just under an hour, eventually pulling in through the gate of a tree farm on the outskirts of London. Harry drove carefully along the driveway and into an empty field that was being used as a car park.
"This place has all the different varieties," Harry said to Louis. "It's where I've gotten my tree from for the past couple of years. They're gorgeous, and they last ages."
"Lead on," Louis gestured. "I'll follow wherever you lead."
"You shouldn't say things like that, Louis," Harry chastised gently. "You'll give a boy ideas."
"Maybe I wanna give the boy ideas," Louis shrugged.
"I wanna find a tree," said Harry firmly. "And that's not gonna happen if we're at each other's throats already."
"We're not at each other's throats, Styles. We're just having somewhat of a difference of opinion. It's completely different."
"If you say so."
"Trees, Harold," Louis reminded him. "Let's get on track here. We have a job to do."
"Yes, yes, of course. So. I like myself a Blue Spruce, to be honest. They're silvery, and strong. And they definitely smell nice. But I've been considering a Noble Fir this year. They're the dark green variety, but still smell nice."
"What theme are you going for in the rest of the decoration?" Louis asked thoughtfully.
"I'll stick with the traditional," Harry nodded. "Which is why I think the darker would be better. The Blue has clashed a little the past couple of years, so I figure a more neutral base is a better idea."
"I have to agree. So now we just need to select an actual tree."
They walked over to the section with the Noble Firs, and slowly began browsing the trees, walking up and down the aisles. Occasionally, one or the other would stop to examine a tree more closely, asking the other's opinion or perspective on it, but ultimately continuing to wander, and chat quietly. Eventually they both stopped, staring at a full and bushy tree at the end of the row, before they looked at each other with a bright grin.
"Perfect," they chorused, and burst into laughter.
"I'll go get one of the attendants, see if they can help us out and take my money," Harry chuckled.
Within half an hour, the tree was cut down, netted, and on the roof of Harry's car, and they were on their way back into London.
"So, are you gonna come help me decorate it too?" Harry asked, as he turned onto his road.
"That depends," Louis shrugged.
"On if there's food provided. I finished work over two hours ago, I've normally stuffed my face with at least half a pizza by now."
"I think I can arrange something suitable," Harry chuckled. "I used to be a baker."
"Don't start that shit, Styles," Louis muttered. "I've heard that line so many times. You worked the fucking till and swept the bloody floor. You weren't exactly on the road to being the next Paul Hollywood."
"Heyyy. That's a little uncalled for. I occasionally took stuff out of ovens, too."
"Oh wow. The creative genius of that task. I'm in awe."
Harry let out a loud snort as he turned onto a drive, pressing a button above his visor to open the gate and pulling up alongside the front of the house.
"Wait, is this your place?" Louis asked quickly, his eyes wide.
"Yes? Where else did you think we were taking the damn tree?" Harry raised an eyebrow.
"I don't know!"
"You're a little bit strange, Louis Tomlinson," Harry told him, his voice full of amusement.
"Well thank you very much," Louis huffed. "Are we getting this tree inside, or what?"
"Of course, of course."
They unloaded the tree and managed to juggle it between them to get it inside, despite Harry dropping his keys before he could get the right one in the door to unlock it. There were a few yelps of concern and protest as Louis nearly wiped out the small table Harry had in the hallway for his keys with a couple of photo frames on it, but the pair of them eventually got it into the living room, stood up between them.
"Do you have a tree stand, then?" Louis asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Ooh, I do," Harry nodded.
"Did you get it out ready?"
"Oh. Uhh. No. It's in the loft." Harry frowned. "I think."
"It might be an idea to go find it?" Louis suggested carefully.
"Right, right! I'll go now." Harry turned to the doorway, and then looked back. "Are you okay here?"
"Yep, I'm fine, I'll look after the tree," chuckled Louis. "Go find the thing."
With a grin, Harry shot upstairs. Louis raised an eyebrow, hearing a few bangs and crashes coming from above, but figured that if Harry needed him, he'd yell. A few minutes later, Harry returned, looking a little flustered, and carrying a large plastic tub, with a tree stand balanced on top.
"I thought I'd bring down the decorations while I was up there," he explained. "I'll just grab a bucket of water for it to stand in, then we can get this party started."
"There's a party?"
"Well, I'm gonna put the oven on as well, cos there'll be food, and I have drink, so.. does that make a party?"
"When you put it that way, then yeah, it sounds like a party," Louis agreed, grinning at Harry. "But my arms are starting to ache holding your damn tree upright, so could we possibly move it along?"
"Yep, I'm on it!"
By ten o'clock, the tree was up in the window, and had its lights on. Harry had cooked a large chilli with rice and garlic bread, that had been mostly devoured between the pair of them. Now they were both sat on the sofa in the living room, the only light coming from the tree, talking quietly over drinks - a bottle of beer for Louis, and a Jack Daniels and coke for Harry.
The time was passing unnoticed by either of them as they talked about everything and anything that came to mind. It was only when Louis' phoned pinged to let him know he had a low battery that either of them looked up from their conversation, realising that it was nearly three in the morning.
"Oh shit," Louis cursed. "I had no idea it was that late."
"Me neither. Time flies when you're having fun. Or having a decent conversation with an interesting person, at least." Harry smiled softly. "I'll be honest, Louis. I don't care that it's so late."
Louis looked at him affectionately.
"Me neither," he replied. "Tonight's been the best evening I've had in a long time."
"Louis?" Harry said, slightly hesitant as he fiddled with his glass.
"I think - no, I know - I really like you," he admitted. "There's something about you that just makes me feel so comfortable and safe around you."
"Wow, comfortable and safe, that's a turn-on right there," Louis commented drily, his mouth responding before he could bite his tongue.
"Heyyy," Harry protested carefully. "It is for me. There aren't many people I can be myself around, let alone those of the single, attractive variety. And you are, right? Single, I mean?"
"Um, yeah, yeah, I am," Louis stammered, his heart racing as his brain finally caught up to the conversation.
"So, if I kissed you right now, would that be okay?"
"I, uh, I think that would, uh, yeah, that would be okay." Louis swallowed hard. "I mean. Yes. Please." He reached out to place his hand on Harry's thigh. "I would like that very much."
Harry smiled softly, not saying anything further. Instead, he put his arm up along the back of the sofa, behind Louis' head, and slowly leaned forward, giving Louis every opportunity to change his mind and pull away. But Louis wanted this just as much as Harry did, watching as Harry moved closer to him. His eyes drifted shut as he felt the warmth of Harry's breath over his lips, a brief warning before a tender kiss was lightly pressed upon them. Louis sighed softly, and then shifted closer, returning the kiss just as slowly and carefully, but with a little more pressure. Harry let out a soft groan, moving his free arm to slide around Louis' waist, pulling him closer still and deepening the kiss further. Louis whimpered quietly, but matched the intensity easily, sliding one hand up into Harry's hair, tangling his fingers through the curls and tugging gently. Harry moaned louder, tugging Louis up onto his lap, gripping his waist firmly, then sliding his hands down over onto Louis' ass, squeezing firmly.
"Oh fuck, Harry," Louis pulled back with a gasp.
"What?" Harry asked breathlessly, his lips slightly swollen from the kiss and his hair a mess where Louis' hands had been buried in it. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, nothing's wrong." Louis stroked the back of his neck reassuringly. "I just... this is going a little fast."
"Sorry, I'm sorry. You're amazing, and I lost my head a little. I'm sorry." Harry took a deep breath, visibly pulling himself together. "I would never push you further than you were comfortable with."
"Hey, hey, I know that, Curly," Louis said quickly. "It's only that we've not really spent that much time together, even though I think we've learned a lot about each other over the past few weeks. I just don't really want it to be a flash in the pan kinda thing." He bit his lip gently, gazing into Harry's eyes nervously. "I would like us to be something serious. Long term. I mean. If that's not too much?"
Harry stared up at him, his eyes wide as his thoughts seemed to both race along at excessive speeds and be stuck fast in tar. All he could really understand was that Louis wanted more than just a one off from him, and that was far more than he could ever have expected.
"Haz?" Louis asked, starting to get a little concerned. "Harry, are you okay?"
"You... you wanna be with me?" Harry asked, sounding awed. "Like, for real?"
"Yeah, I do," Louis nodded. "If it's something that you'd be open to, then I'd like that. I think we could have something good. Like I said, only if you want to. I can understand if you don't feel able to right now, or if you're not interested. I wouldn't be offended."
"I'd love to be your boyfriend."
"B-boy -- o-okay, yeah," Louis stammered, then started to grin. "Yeah, boyfriend. Boyfriend is good."
Harry beamed up at him.
"Now, it's very late, so would my boyfriend like to stay over tonight?" Harry caught sight of the rabbit in headlights expression on Louis' face and nearly fell over himself to continue. "I mean that I have an exceptionally comfortable guest room that you are more than welcome to make use of, and I will happily provide breakfast in the morning." Louis visibly relaxed. "Breakfast, tea, and snuggles, if you're so inclined. Plus I can give you a lift home when you need to get back."
"That all sounds amazing," Louis smiled softly. "I would love all of that, please and thank you."
"Certainly," Harry nodded. "And I'm sure you'll like something more comfortable to wear to sleep in, too?"
"That sounds incredibly helpful, Mr Styles, thank you again."
Harry snickered softly as he stood, tugging at Louis' hand and leading the way across the room and up the stairs. He stopped outside one door, pointing at it.
"This is my room."
"Do I get to see inside?" Louis raised an eyebrow. "Y'know, if this is gonna be a tour, like you seem to be giving."
"Um, I think it's a bit messy," Harry blushed a little.
"Babe, it can't be anywhere near as bad as mine. Just open the door, or don't. I'm happy to respect your privacy."
Harry looked at him for a little longer, then pressed a kiss to Louis' forehead, before he pushed the door open.
"Wasn't so difficult, huh?" Louis teased gently.
"Shut up and have a look," Harry nudged.
Louis slipped inside and smiled as he immediately relaxed. The room had that instant effect on him, the colours muted and neutral, the decor simple but welcoming.
"It feels like you," he murmured. "Which sounds absolutely ridiculous, now that I've said it."
"No, it doesn't," Harry reassured him softly. "I understand what you mean. And it's a nice thing to hear."
Louis leaned against him slightly.
"I like your room, babe," he sighed. "I like it a lot."
"My room likes you back," Harry murmured, squeezing Louis' waist gently. "And you're more than welcome to stay here if you'd like to. I mean, I have a guest room, but... it's a big bed. Plenty of room for both of us." He looked at Louis quickly. "One condition though."
"What's that?" Louis asked, his tone coloured in amusement.
"I'm the little spoon."
Louis burst out laughing, holding onto Harry as he cackled.
"Heyyy, it's not that funny," Harry protested.
"Sorry, sorry babe, I just," he snickered, "it's fine. I'm more than happy to be the big spoon to your little spoon." He stretched up to press a kiss to Harry's cheek. "You're adorable."
Harry blushed hard, nudging at Louis.
"Stoppp," Harry grumbled. "You're being mean."
"How is calling you adorable being mean, babe?" Louis pouted. "Also, I would never be mean. I like you too much." He blushed hard at the unintended admission.
"Aww, you like me?" Harry teased, immediately switching gears and squeezing Louis' hip as he grinned.
"Get over it, Styles," Louis rolled his eyes. "You couldn't seriously have thought that I make out with every young popstar that falls in my lap, right?"
"Well, technically, you were in my lap."
"Shut it." Louis glared. "Now you said something about pyjamas, snuggles, and sleep."
"I did. And I aim to please." Harry moved further into the room, tugging open a drawer and pulling out a pair of joggers and a large tee. "Here, you can wear this. The bathroom's through there. Spare toothbrush in the cupboard on the wall next to the mirror. Help yourself to anything you need."
"I'll be out in a sec," Louis smiled, taking the clothes and slipping through the door.
Within fifteen minutes, the two were washed, changed, and in bed, after a mildly awkward discussion about which side each were going to take. They laid on their sides, facing each other, as they picked up their conversation from downstairs, their voices getting slower and deeper as sleep began to take over.
"Mm, babe, c'mere," Louis mumbled after a while. "Little spoon time."
"Uh huh, okay," Harry sighed, turning over sluggishly and wriggling back against Louis. "S'this alright?"
"Mmhmm, it's perfect," Louis dropped a kiss to his shoulder. "Night, love."
The next morning could have been awkward. Part of Louis had expected it to be awkward. Instead, it was the most comfortable and most rested he had ever been when he woke up. He couldn't help but smile as he realised that the man in his arms, whose curly brown hair was tickling his nose and getting in his mouth, was still there.
He sighed contentedly, tightening his grip ever so slightly, and relaxing again, shifting around and pressing closer to Harry. Harry, who was starting to stir beside him, if the low hums, grunts, and snuffly sounds were anything to go by. Louis smiled, watching as the other man slowly awoke, lifting his head and peering at Louis through squinted eyes, before letting out a groan and flopping his head back down onto the pillow.
"S'too early," Harry grumbled.
"You can go back to sleep, love," Louis murmured, his voice husky from sleep.
"Mm, but you're awake."
"I know, but I don't mind you being asleep. You're adorable when you're snoozing."
Harry let out a protesting groan, hiding his face in the pillow as he mumbled something.
"What was that, love?" Louis chuckled, running his fingers through Harry's hair.
"I said," Harry turned to face him again, "I'm not adorable, I'm a messy sleeper. I snore, and I talk, and I definitely drool."
"Nah, you don't," Louis insisted. "Well, you mumbled a little bit. But there was no snoring, and no drooling. Promise."
"I think you're lying to protect my feelings, but I'm gonna leave it cos you're gorgeous first thing in the morning." Harry stretched up slightly, pressing a kiss to Louis' cheek. "I'm very happy that you stayed."
"You think I wouldn't have?" Louis asked incredulously.
"I dunno," Harry shrugged. "I've never done this before. But I've heard horror stories from my friends about their, um, paramours or whatever, not being there when they woke up."
"Paramours? That's a new one. Or rather, an old one."
"I like the old terms," Harry hummed. "Like the word 'spouse'. No one uses that enough."
"It's like a mixture of spider and mouse."
Harry gazed at Louis for a few seconds, before he burst into a loud fit of laughter. Louis watched him with an affectionate smile, enjoying the fact that he was able to pull this kind of response from Harry with such ease.
"I'm not sure it was that funny," he commented. "But whatever floats your boat, love."
"I love boats," Harry managed to choke out, before he fell into another peal of giggles.
"Oh jeez, I think you're verging on hysteria here," Louis sighed. "Am I gonna have to slap you?" Harry stopped immediately, his eyes wide as he stared at Louis for a few moments.
"You'd do that?" he asked, his voice a few octaves lower.
"Um, okay, this is going in a whole different direction than necessary for..." he stretched to see the time on his phone, "9:48 on a Saturday morning. Let's rein it in a bit, babe."
"Well, if we must," Harry sighed, sounding a little disappointed.
"I need the loo, so yes, we must."
Louis spent the rest of the day with Harry, lounging around in a borrowed pair of sweats and a hoody, while Harry pottered around adding more Christmas decorations to the place, making it more festive.
"Dude, I think if you put up any more lights, they'll be able to see your place from space," Louis eventually chuckled, as Harry flicked the power on for yet another set of fairy lights. "You'll be brighter than the Great Wall of China, or summat."
"Oh, do you think I've gone overboard?" Harry looked at him, crestfallen.
"No, babe, no!" Louis said quickly, holding out a hand to him. "No, I think it's all gorgeous. Apart from my tree, all I've normally got is a crappy Merry Christmas banner, and a string to peg my cards onto." He shrugged. "I normally go home for Christmas, so I don't really bother too much with my flat." He thought for a moment. "Although Zayn and Liam like to dress their place up a bit, and I spend a lot of time there. If I time it right, they let me help with the garland placement."
"Just the garlands?" Harry raised an eyebrow.
"You've met Liam, you know what a perfectionist he is," Louis snorted. "No one else is allowed to touch his tree. Besides, he always likes to try and be a bit more respectful of Zayn's Muslim faith. They do the place up for Eid too."
"That must be really interesting. Having the different religious celebrations in the one household."
"It means there's always a lot of food. Except for day times in Ramadan, obviously."
"But still," Harry smiled, sitting down on the sofa next to Louis. "The amalgamation of their different backgrounds is a beautiful thing. I love that it's a thing. That at the heart of it, is just a couple of boys who fell in love." He smirked. "Fell in love to my music, when you think really about it."
"Yeah, yeah, you're Cupid in human form," Louis rolled his eyes and nudged at him. "We get it. Casanova of the soundwaves or whatever."
"Well, I'm just saying."
"I can think of other things you could be doing, rather than talking shit about my friends," Louis looked at him suggestively.
"Oh?" Harry raised an eyebrow. "And what might they be?"
Louis didn't vocalise an answer, instead he grabbed the front of Harry's shirt and tugged him closer, pressing a firm kiss to his lips. Harry groaned softly in response and shifted, instinctively climbing up over the other man and kissing him back enthusiastically. Hands roamed over clothing and gripped at hips and thighs, pulling each other into them.
"Fuck," Harry pulled back breathlessly. "What are you doing to me, Tomlinson?"
"I could say the same thing about you, Styles."
"So, how's it going?"
Louis raised an eyebrow at Zayn's question.
"How's what going?" he asked coolly.
"Y'know, life, the holidays, preparation for next term, dates with the pop star, the usual stuff," Zayn elaborated.
"I haven't been going on dates with the pop star. We've been spending time together, but no dates." He thought for a moment. "Yet."
"I love that 'yet' is a quantifier now," Liam pointed out from the kitchen.
"When you've quite finished, Liam," Louis huffed.
"I'm just saying," Liam shrugged as he carried a tray of drinks through. "I think it's good that you're spending time with Harry. You seem a lot happier since it started happening. I like seeing one of my best friends happy - is that so wrong?"
"Well, when you put it like that..."
"I've found it so much easier to just agree with what he says," Zayn commented. "Especially as he's almost always right." He gave Liam a loving look. "It's sickening to be honest. It's a good job I love him."
"Yeah, yeah, and it's a good job I love you too," Liam glared playfully. "For both of us really, considering we're all married and shit."
"Married and shit," Louis rolled his eyes. "That sounds so romantic."
"Oh it is," Zayn agreed. "We had a very romantic discussion earlier about who was going to clean the toilet. It was beautiful."
"There were singing cupids fluttering around, rose petals falling delicately from the sky, a chorus of angels singing," Liam continued, looking very serious. "Of course, they all promptly disappeared when it came to actually cleaning the toilet basin. Apparently that's too much like real life. But the discussion? Perfect."
"You are both such dicks, you know that?"
"You love us, Tommo."
Louis rolled his eyes again and grabbed his mug of tea off of the tray, sitting back with a heavy sigh.
"I mean, I'm enjoying getting to know Harry. He's an amazing person to be around, he's so positive and uplifting about everything. Even the fact that he's been dealt a pretty shitty hand by his management and label doesn't seem to get him down too much."
"Not now, no," Zayn observed. "But we saw the videos of him before the tour. He was looking awful. Especially whenever he was around that model chick with the serial killer obsession. You can't tell me that the tour - where he was allowed to be himself and dance with rainbow flags every night, as well as sing the songs he knows his fans love - didn't go a long way in mending a lot of the hurt and stress that he'd been suffering with before that."
"I guess you could be right," Louis acknowledged. "It's just. I think I'm finding it difficult to reconcile Harry Styles, trademarked name with model looks, designer clothes, camera flashes and all, with Harry, the adorable dork who loves to cook, has filled his house with Christmas decorations, and spends an hour a day FaceTiming his mum."
"They're one and the same person," Liam assured him. "We've been saying for years that he's nothing like the womanising man whore that the press keep pushing on us. You know that, Lou."
"Yeah, I do." Louis sighed heavily. "He told me that all of that stuff came from Simon Cowell. Because he was scared of marketing a queer artist, scared that it would reveal his own sexuality."
"Wait, Cowell's queer?" Liam gasped.
"I never said that, and you never heard it from me," Louis said seriously, pointing a finger at Liam. "But yes."
"That actually explains a lot," Zayn commented. "Especially with regards to Harry's treatment, promotion, and public persona. Even more so when you compare it to how he is when you actually meet him. It's always been completely at odds with the way people actually experience him."
"Exactly," Louis nodded. "He's the most amazing person, and when he's allowed to be himself, properly, in a space where he feels safe..." he drifted off, a small private smile on his face. "He's just beautiful. And I feel so fortunate to have been able to have that experience."
"You've had more than just that," Liam muttered.
"Alright, Payno, let's not get uncouth," Louis huffed. "He's a damn good person. And I love spending time with him."
"So you're gonna try and spend more with him?"
"Yeah, I am. And I think it's gonna be amazing."
"Niall! Niallllll! Where are you?!" Harry yelled through the house as he let himself in.
"Shut up, dickhead, some of us are trying to sleep," came the grumpy reply.
"Sleep when you're dead, Horan, this is important."
Niall groaned deeply, rubbing a hand over his eyes as he sat up on the sofa and levelled a glare at his best friend.
"It better had be," he muttered. "I was just about to get some decent sleep, for the first time in days."
"What? How come?" Harry immediately looked worried. "Are you okay? Can I help with anything?"
"Shut up, Styles," Niall sighed. "I've just been busy in the studio with one of the lads. The label's being a dick about how they want the record, and nothing we come up with is good enough."
"Eugh, great," Harry squeezed Niall's knee gently in sympathy. "You'll get it though. I have every faith in you. You're an amazing producer, Ni."
"Thanks Haz," Niall nudged at him gently. "So what's up with you?"
"I think I've found him, Ni," Harry grinned at him, his eyes sparkling brightly with excitement.
"The One," Harry sighed happily.
"The best man?"
"Louis. He's beautiful. And he's amazing. And he just gets me, y'know? We can sit and talk about nothing in particular, and it's the best feeling in the world, and I'm just so in awe."
"Well, you definitely sound like you're falling head over heels," Niall chuckled softly.
"I definitely am," Harry sighed happily. "And he kisses like a dream."
"I don't need those kind of details. Just as long as he makes you happy."
"Definitely. He helped me with picking out a tree. And he let me cook for him. Oh, and you should see him in my clothes. He's smaller than me, so he just looks adorable in my hoodies."
"I think I'm getting a toothache," Niall shook his head slowly. "You're disgustingly sweet." Harry gave him a hurt look. "I don't mean it in a bad way! Don't look at me like that. I just meant that... it's sweet that you're like this. I like this Harry. It's far preferable to sad Harry. And definitely better than depressed Harry."
"I've been writing," Harry admitted. "And I have to admit that Louis is a bit of a muse right now."
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, Haz. He makes you happy, and I like it." He saluted Harry with his drink, then took a large swig. "So, when do you think you'll get back in the studio?"
"I have some time booked for January, but mostly I'm gonna be preparing for the big tour." Harry shifted around on the sofa to face Niall properly. "We're changing it up a bit - we want to move some songs around, maybe add in some of the old stuff." He paused, pulling a face at Niall. "The few that I have the rights to sing, anyway."
"That sounds like it could be fun," Niall enthused. "Which songs have you got access to?"
"Well, there's still some negotiation going on, but I don't think I'll be able to get more than What Makes You Beautiful, and Stockholm Syndrome," Harry sighed. "But at least with the former, I can prove to the fans that I actually like the song. I've seen far too much discussion lately about how I hate it, and I need to say otherwise. So what better way, than sing the shit out of it?"
"Solid plan, Styles," Niall agreed. "I like the way you think. I like your fans though. They're hardcore, but they're pretty awesome. I don't think I've ever known of a fanbase like it. Is there anything voted for by the public in the past eight years that you haven't won?"
"They're enthusiastic and incredibly supportive," Harry said defensively. "They get behind me and it's amazing to see."
"Hey, hey, I wasn't disputing that," Niall said quickly, holding his hands up in surrender. "I was just asking if you knew of anything that you hadn't come out on top in. Because I think you've literally won everything going."
"It's a pretty awesome feeling to know that, though," Harry smiled.
"They're definitely in your corner with regards to your label and stuff as well. I'm impressed at how much they've worked out." Niall ducked his head slightly. "I may have a secret tumblr, but I will deny that to my dying day if you ever mention it again."
"Yeah, some of them work in the industry, or on the periphery," Harry nodded. "I'm fairly certain I've met a couple, but they've not admitted it, and I don't want to embarrass them at all." He shrugged a little. "It's hard being a fan of music while you're involved in it."
"Y'mean like when you met Stevie Nicks and nearly wet yourself?"
"Shut up, you promised to never mention that again!"
"Oh, I so need to tell Louis about that."
"You are never meeting him. Ever."
So Niall wants to meet you.
Niall? Best friend Niall?
He's full of embarrassing lies to tell you.
When you say lies, you really mean stories you'd rather I not hear, right?
Yes. But also no.
He's likely to embellish.
I know what he's like.
A bit of a twat.
You love him a load.
We've been friends since we were kids.
He moved to Holmes Chapel with his dad when he was 10.
I was the weirdo outcast who wanted to sing, dance, and wear pink.
He was the new kid who played guitar for me to sing and dance to.
We were an awesome team.
Zayn's like that for me.
His fam moved in next door to ours when he was 8 and I was 9.
Even though he's got a big sister, he still understood the hardship of being an older brother.
And the pain of little sisters.
Especially the pain of little sisters.
I was the baby, so I'd have empathised more with your sisters than either of you.
But I'm sure you're both brilliant big brothers.
Not that I want you for mine.
Yeah, that went to a weird place.
But going back to Zayn.
Yeah, Wali's the same age as Fizz, and Safaa is the same age as the older twins.
Well, near enough anyway.
But really it was like we both had six little sisters.
And they all had two big brothers.
Cos we ended up sharing them.
Both Mum and Trisha reckon they each gained a son when we became friends.
That's why you were with Zayn before the wedding.
That's absolutely adorable.
Niall is nowhere near getting married.
He hasn't found the right person yet.
But I'm hoping that he'll pick me for his best man when he does.
Although he has a brother.
Just because he's got a brother doesn't mean they're that close.
One of my other friends doesn't speak to their siblings at all.
They don't have the greatest of relationships.
Okay, this is horrible.
I should not be wishing for my friend to dislike his brother.
Just so that I can be best man.
At his hypothetical wedding.
I completely blame you for this.
I swear I was never like it before I met you.
Well, I'm not sure I can accept that.
I think it must've been buried inside you.
My presence in your life just brought it out.
Now you're a bit more honest with yourself.
But that's still not always a good thing.
Well. Okay I just reread what you said.
Maybe being honest with myself is good.
As long as I'm not hurtful to others.
I don't like that.
Babe, I'm not suggesting you start going around telling everyone to go fuck themselves.
Although I'm fairly certain that there are some people in your life that you could say that to.
From what I can tell, you have a fair old number of 'hangers on'.
But being honest with yourself is a good thing.
It's a healthy way road to self-acceptance.
I do feel a lot more comfortable in myself lately.
I was after this tour.
But even more so since I've known you.
You seem to have the knack of making me feel like everything is going to be okay.
And that no matter what, my life, my thoughts, my emotions - they're all valid.
That's because they are.
You're a human.
All humans are valid.
They can hang for all I care.
That took a dark twist.
But I agree.
Do you want kids?
Woah, that's a big question, Styles!
And for so early in the relationship!
(But yes. Lots. I love kids.)
It is a big question, but it's an important one.
I want lots too.
Kids are amazing and beautiful and I am completely in awe of them at all times.
Their minds are fascinating.
I love how different they all are.
And I love how they see the world.
So much positivity, and such awareness, and so much hope.
I definitely need to get you around the baby twins a bit.
Once you've had Nutella shoved up your nose, and Lego thrown at your head, they won't seem so beautiful.
(Both of these have happened.)
Nutella up your *nose* ????
The 'how' can be answered - Ernie had just taken his finger out of the pot.
The 'why'? You'd have to ask Ernie.
That is safely and securely in his tiny little mind.
And I have no idea what the answer is.
I bet he's amazing though.
How can he be anything else, with you as his big brother?
I can practically see the heart eyes in that message Styles.
Rein it in, babe.
(Don't really. I love it.)
You're sending me a lot in brackets today.
I'm guessing I should be paying attention to those.
But not drawing attention to them. Which is exactly what I'm doing by asking.
You are the most entertaining person in the world to text though.
I can practically hear you reading each text to me.
Do you have a question?
You fancy lunch? Or afternoon tea? Or whatever?
Afternoon tea sounds incredibly posh.
Fancy sandwiches, cakes, and scones - I think we could do that.
It would be a rather nice date.
If you're up for it.
I'm definitely up for it, love.
I invited you, remember?
We'll go for the posh scones and sandwiches.
I think the last time I had that was when Mum came to see me.
To tell me she was marrying Dan.
That was quite the scandal.
Your mum and Dan??
She's older than him.
And they'd had the twins before there was ever any mention of marriage.
Even though Donny's quite big.
Our little community is quite small.
So it was the talk of the town for weeks.
First when she got pregnant.
Then when the babies were born.
Then again when they got married.
It was a bit ridiculous, really.
Isn't gossip always ridiculous?
I ignore so much of it.
Especially if it comes from 'someone who knows someone', or a newspaper.
Never believe newspapers.
They're all trash. And not worth the paper they're printed on.
I hate hate hate gossip rags.
For the same reason.
You have no fear that I will ever believe gossip about you, babe.
Especially when they reckon you're dating the latest top model.
Cos I am definitely not a model.
And I'm fairly certain you're dating me.
Louis answered the phone as soon as it rang in his hand.
"We're dating?" Harry asked quickly.
"Um, well, I thought so?" Louis said uncertainly. "I mean. We've been talking a lot. And we've met up a load of times. And there's been food. And drinks. And kisses. So. I figured. If we're not like, boyfriends yet, then, we're at the very least dating."
"It would be nice?"
"I would definitely like that," Harry blurted out. "Definitely, definitely. I would love to be your boyfriend. To have you as my boyfriend. Please. And thank you."
"You don't have to thank me, love," Louis chuckled softly.
"Oh, but I do. I don't think I've ever had anyone who wanted to be my boyfriend. I mean. I had a girlfriend in school. But that awful attempt at heterosexuality really does not count. And I'm not even going to dignify the bullshit attempts by my management to prove my straightness with consideration as relationships. Cos they were more like promotion for the girls I was supposedly dating, than anything resembling intimacy."
"So I would be your first?" Louis sounded a little nervous.
"First boyfriend, for definite," Harry assured him. "But don't worry. I'm not a virgin. There will be no bizarre expectations of rose petals and candles and soft music and perfect synchronicity, like most who haven't got down and dirty with someone has. I'm practically counting on our first time having sex to be awkward and full of giggles. Because you make me laugh, and I love having a good time when I'm having sex."
"Wow, we're discussing sex now? How did that happen?"
"You're not comfortable with this conversation any more? Cos I can definitely shut up."
"No, no, love. It was just unexpected, that's all. I’m sure you called to confirm the boyfriend thing, not start a discussion about our limits and kinks."
"Woah, woah, woah, when did we get onto kinks?" Harry asked quickly. "Cos I'm fairly certain I didn't mention anything at all about that."
"Will you stop distracting me and stop changing the subject?" Louis huffed a little. "Now that we've finished the sex talk, can we go back to the relationship stuff?"
"Sorry, yes, of course. I'm just nervous. And when I'm nervous I ramble. And I can ramble quite a lot."
"So I noticed," Louis replied drily. "But yes. I would like us to be boyfriends. And I would like us to be exclusive, if possible."
"Yes, definitely. Definitely exclusive," Harry agreed. "I don't want anyone else but you."
"Harry... I... wow. Uh. Be right back."
With that, he hung up, leaving Harry to stare at his phone, feeling slightly confused, and more than a little hurt. Which didn't last for too long, as it started to vibrate in his hand, with an incoming request for a FaceTime call from Louis, one that he accepted with a bright smile.
"I wondered what was wrong," he grinned, as the call connected.
"Nothing at all," Louis assured him. "I just felt like this should be a conversation that we have face to face. And I can't get to you right now, because of all this marking I still have to do." He held up a pile of essays with his other hand. "So, FaceTime will have to suffice." He looked slightly uncertain. "Is that okay?"
"I wouldn't have answered if it wasn't, babe," Harry smiled. "I don't know why I didn't think of that in the first place."
"Well, you've got the looks and the talent, love, means the brains are left for me."
"You've definitely got a decent share of the looks, Lou. You're gorgeous."
"And now you're gonna make me blush, Styles. So please stop. Red does not suit my complexion in the slightest."
"I can't help it," Harry huffed. "Besides, surely it's a good thing that I find my boyfriend attractive?"
"I'm not saying that you shouldn't find me attractive, love, you just don't need to tell me so seriously." He squirmed slightly. "I'm not good with compliments."
"I'm gonna make sure that changes," Harry promised, giving Louis an earnest look. "I'm gonna compliment the shit out of you, so you better get used to it."
"Harryyyy," Louis protested.
"You're gonna get the full Harry Styles Boyfriend experience, like no other has ever had, and you're gonna love it."
"I'm not sure if that's a promise or a threat," Louis snickered.
"Oh, it's both. You can be assured of that."
Louis burst into a fit of giggles, covering his face with a hand.
"You are so ridiculous," he managed to get out. "And it's even more ridiculous how fucking endearing you are with it."
"So it's a good ridiculous?" Harry checked.
"Definitely. Definitely a good ridiculous. You utter sap."
Harry beamed at the phone, then stood up, making his way through the house to his music room.
"Are you okay with me working on a song or two with you on the phone?" he asked, taking a seat at his piano, and slipping his phone into the charging mount he had on top of the instrument.
"Sure, as long as you don't mind me getting annoyed at these essays," Louis replied. "I'd rather get them out of the way at the beginning of the holidays, so I don't have to worry about it once I'm all relaxed and lazy after Christmas and New Year."
"Fine by me, darling," Harry smiled.
They spent the rest of the afternoon like that, occasionally making the odd comment to each other, but generally in their own individual worlds as they worked on their own projects. They kept the connection up as they both found dinner that evening - Harry ordered them both takeout to be delivered to their separate addresses - and right on until they climbed into their beds.
"So," Louis said around a yawn. "I guess we should probably hang up now, right? Get some sleep?"
"Hmm," Harry mumbled sleepily. "I guess so. But it's been nice. Having you right there. I think we're gonna have to work out spending some physical time together soon though. Boyfriends do that."
"I had heard," Louis nodded sagely. "I should finish up marking tomorrow morning, then I've got lesson planning to get through - that will only take about a day. So I'll be free by lunchtime the day after tomorrow. Unless I work late tomorrow. Get it all done then."
"Don't overwork yourself, babe," Harry was quick to reassure him. "I can wait until you're ready. I'm easy." He rolled his eyes at Louis' raised eyebrow. "Not like that. Perve."
"I'm kidding, but I'm also not. I'm kinda hoping you're easy for me, babe."
"Of course I am. You're like.. my kryptonite, or something."
"I make you weak?" Louis asked.
"Mmhmm," Harry nodded. "I'm not even gonna apologise if this is too quick. It's how I feel and that's all there is to it."
"You're lucky I like you, Styles," Louis smiled, then let out another wide yawn. "But I really need my bed. Well, I'm in it. But I need to shut my eyes and have a load of sheep jump over some fences or something."
"Get some kip, babe, and I'll talk to you tomorrow," Harry said softly. "Night, love."
"Mm, night," Louis sighed.
Harry ended the call, realising that Louis was nearly unconscious already, and closed his eyes, drifting off easily.
Six months later
"Good evening, London!" Harry called into the microphone as he stood in the centre of the stage at the O2 Arena. "Thank you all so very much for being here. My name is Harry Styles, this is my band, and we will be performing for you tonight. If you know the words, please feel free to sing along. If you don't know the words, then just dance and have some fun. Tonight, in this room, you can be whoever and whatever you want to be. I love each and every single one of you, and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for every single second of support you've given me over the past eight years." He slipped his guitar strap over his head and handed it off to Alex, his guitar tech. "There is one other person in this room tonight, who I owe a great deal to, even though he will deny it until he's blue in the face." Harry grinned, peering into the darkness at the side of the stage and winking at Louis, who was standing there with mortification written all over his face. "Don't worry, darling, I'm not gonna bring you out onstage. I'm not that mean. But this song is for you," he finished with a smirk.
The opening bars boomed through the arena, and Louis' eyes widened in recognition.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," he muttered, rubbing a hand over his face before he looked at Zayn and Liam, who were struggling to hold in their amusement. "Seriously? He's dedicating Medicine to me? Did that really just happen?"
"It really, really did," Liam snickered. "You just had a song about come play dedicated to you in front of about twenty thousand people."
"Jesus fucking Christ, what is wrong with the man?!"
"Babe, think though," Zayn said quickly. "Think about what he's just done. He gave you your correct pronouns when referring to you. And then he outright said that this song is for you. And he's got a bloody great rainbow flag on his mic stand. Put that together."
"Oh shit," Louis stared at his best friend for a moment, then quickly turned back to face the stage. "He just came out."
"He really, really did," Liam nodded.
"That beautiful stupid amazing man," Louis sighed in awe.
"Do you think this one will stick?" Zayn asked.
"Well, he's never been quite this blatant," Liam shrugged.
"Not that important was pretty obvious," Zayn disagreed. "The press, or rather the public, just didn't really want to acknowledge it as such."
"Okay, shut up, both of you, I'm listening," Louis half-snapped.
Harry was giving it his all onstage, belting out the words and waving the rainbow flag enthusiastically and proudly, nearly tripping on his mic lead more than once. Despite the song not having been on his album, the dedication of his fans ensured that practically everyone in the audience had listened to the song on YouTube, and learned the words before they'd arrived at the show. Which meant that as well as Harry, most of the twenty thousand strong audience were singing the lyrics at the tops of their voices, making the sound an almost physical entity in the room.
Louis peered carefully out around the edge of the stage, looking out into the audience and smiling softly as he realised that many of the fans - girls, women, boys, men, and those who didn't meet any of those labels - had tears on their cheeks as they watched their idol leap about the stage in front of them.
Tears, streaked makeup, and huge proud smiles.
Zayn leaned against Louis, wrapping an arm around his waist in a cuddle, resting his head against Louis' temple as he chuckled.
"And to think, this all happened cos you wanted him to sing at our wedding."