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thereyouare

Louis

“Niall, have you seen my blue thong?”

Louis sighed in frustration, rifling through his bag, wondering where the hell he’d put it. He knew he’d packed it at home, placing it on the top of his washbag before he’d zipped up the bag and left it by the door. Now, though, it seemed to have disappeared. He turned around but shrieked as something hit his face, falling to the floor in front of him.

Niall’s loud, brash cackle filled the room then, and Louis huffed, bending down to pick up his thong, shoving it back on the top of his bag as he sent daggers across the room to Niall, who was sweaty and very naked, still giggling to himself.

“A thong catapult? What are you, five years old?!”

“No, mate, but fuck, that was funny. Your face!” Niall rested a hand on his belly again, still finding it hilarious as Louis pulled his own t-shirt off over his head, folding it into a neat pile on the bench next to him. “Good crowd out there tonight. Nearly made a hundred and fifty.”

Louis watched with impressed eyes as Niall folded up the wodge of notes in his hand, tucking them inside a money clip before he put it carefully into the zipped pocket inside his bag. There was an implicit trust between the pair of them over things like this, and Louis gave Niall a thumbs up when he stood up again, scratching absentmindedly over his stomach.

“Are you going to put some clothes on? As nice as your dick is, I’m not sure I need my own personal show.”

“Oh come off it, Tommo, you love me and my body,” Niall joked, shimmying towards Louis who just rolled his eyes again, flicking open the button of his own jeans. He glanced up to see a glimpse of Niall’s bare arse retreating, thanking all the Gods as he watched his friend grab some boxers from his bag, pulling them up and over his hips, giving him a little modesty. “So how did it go? The interview, I mean?”

Louis shrugged, grateful that Niall had remembered about his interview for the job as a dance teacher for a local dance school, but in a way, he wanted to push away the memory of the horrible afternoon. He’d run in late thanks to the fact his bus route was held up due to an accident, and while the panel interviewing him seemed to understand, it had thrown Louis and made him feel flustered, which didn't bode well for the interview he then had to partake in. His performance also hadn’t been as flawless as it had been when he’d rehearsed it at home, so overall, it wasn’t the best interview he’d ever had.

“Not great, pretty sure I didn't get it,” he lamented as he peeled his too-tight jeans down his legs, folding those and placing them on top of his t-shirt. He quickly removed his socks as well, leaving him in just his boring blue boxers. If any of the patrons outside could see him now, they’d probably just laugh, thinking he was nothing special. “Oh well, there’ll be more opportunities I ‘spose.”

“Hey, don’t be such a negative nelly,” Niall called, tucking his shirt into his jeans before he pulled a jumper on over the top. “You never know. Keep your chin up ‘til you hear back, yeah?”

“Will do. Cheers, Ni, for remembering and stuff.” He gave Niall a shy smile across the room as he pondered over what to wear for tonight. The plan was to wear the blue thong that Niall had thrown across the room at him, but something about today made Louis want to be a little reckless, to do something a bit out of the box, even for him. “Hey, you got a few minutes to hang around?”

“Yeah, I reckon so. Nothing to rush home for anyway. Why, what’s up?”

“Just… what do you reckon about this?”

Louis dipped his hand inside and pulled out the plastic bag before handing it to Niall. He felt oddly nervous, and took in every bit of Niall’s reaction, from the way his eyebrows raised, then the small smirk that crept across his face before he handed the bag back with a nod of his head. Louis bit his lip, feeling a bit nervous, unusually for him, but he took the bag back, slipping the underwear out of the bag.

“Different, Lou. But I think if anyone can pull it off, it’s you.”

“Yeah? Not too much? You know how some of them out there can get…”

“If they don’t like it, they know where the door is,” Niall said firmly, hands on his hips. “Now, I hope you know I’m not gonna leave before I get to see those on you.”

Louis laughed and, without a shred of embarrassment, he pushed his boxers down, letting them pool on the floor around his ankles before he stepped out of them, kicking them off to the side as he held out the underwear, working out which way around they went before he stepped into them, pulling the delicate fabric up and over his thighs. He snorted when he realised it was just barely containing his flaccid dick, so he just had to hope there’d be no reason to get hard on stage tonight. He looked over to the mirror, tugging at the lace and rearranging himself before he held out his arms, spinning around to face Niall.

“Well? I’m really not sure how I feel about you just staring at me like that, Horan…”

“Just… wow. Louis, that’s. Wow.”

“Good wow? Bad wow?”

“Good. Definitely good. Fuck, wish my arse filled out a pair of knickers like that. Turn around?” He whirled around his index finger in the air, and Louis obliged, twirling slowly, hands down at his sides as he completed a full circle, coming to a stop again. “Yeah. You have to wear those. Nice colour too.”

“Thanks! Not usually in me to wear knickers and shit, I prefer the thongs, but I was shopping a few weeks ago and they were on sale, so I figured why not? Nice to change it up every now and then…”

Niall nodded in agreement, picking up his bag and slinging it over his shoulder. Louis, on the other hand, turned and grabbed his bag, pulling out his washbag. He rummaged in it for a moment before he emerged with the body glitter he felt would look good, and walked over to the mirror, brushing it over his chest and stomach, applying a slightly thicker layer over his lower belly, leading into the top of the knickers. He turned around, dusting it lightly over his exposed arse cheeks before he stood back up, looking over his shoulder to check he’d got the glitter everywhere he wanted it.

“Sparkling like the little star you are,” Niall quipped, heading for the door. “I’d better make a move, but have fun tonight. Bet you’ll rake it in with that lot on.”

“Ha! We’ll see. Cheers, though, mate. Appreciate the feedback! When you in next?”

“Uh…” Niall looked thoughtful for a moment, pulling his phone out of his pocket, swiping through until he found the answer. “Next Friday. Dunno if you’re in-”

“I am.”

“Ah, good. I’ll see you then?”

“You certainly will. See ya.”

Niall raised a hand in lieu of speaking a goodbye, and the door shut with a clunk behind him, leaving Louis alone again. He grabbed his leather jacket from where it was hung behind the door and slipped it on, cringing when he realised the glitter would be coating the inside of it. He’d have to take it home after his performance and clean it somehow, but the aesthetic of tonight was worth it. He went back to his bag and grabbed his small black shorts, pulling them up his legs. They were fairly clingy, highlighting his thighs and his arse, his two best assets according to both Niall and Zayn, and he pinged the elastic waistband into place, pleased to see the sit-ups he’d been doing religiously every morning seemed to be having an effect on his stomach. He patted it, ignoring the hunger pangs for a while, knowing he’d be able to stuff himself after the show, sure he’d persuade Zayn into stopping at the McDonald’s on the way home for a treat.

He stepped back over to the mirror, fixing his quiff quickly, the wax he’d put in earlier before he’d left home holding it steady much to his relief. He ran his hand over the stubble on his cheeks and jawline, wondering whether he should shave but decided against it, thinking the more roguish look contrasted well with the underwear choice he’d made that night. Satisfied with his appearance, Louis slipped on his lace up boots, leaving the laces undone so he’d be able to rid himself of them easily on stage.

He left the room, feeling a chill as he opened the door but he carried on walking, heading for the staff bar area. It was empty, but Louis could hear the hum of chatter from the main bar, some men louder than others, and Louis rolled his eyes as a loud cheer rang out, probably from someone doing something stupid with alcohol.

“Hey mate,” Liam said as he came around the corner, a tea towel flung over his shoulder. “Usual?”

“Yes please,” Louis nodded, slipping onto a bar stool, glancing at the clock. He had about five minutes before he was due on stage, and as always, a little liquid luck never did any harm. He watched as Liam poured him a measure of neat vodka, putting it onto the mat in front of Louis with a nod, not asking for payment. Louis grinned back and took the small shot glass in his hand, holding it to his lips and throwing it backwards, the sting of the alcohol burning his mouth for a second. “Shit. God.”

“Every damn time,” Liam teased, and Louis just gave him the middle finger, licking his lips. He wasn’t a fan of vodka, but he couldn’t deny it loosened him up when he was on stage, lowering his already rather low inhibitions just enough that he could stand up on a stage in front of thirty or forty men and take his clothes off, being paid handsomely for the privilege. It wasn’t the ideal, that much he knew, but Louis had to take the money where he could get it, and he sometimes earned more here in a night than he did a week of shifts at his day job. “Like the glitter…”

“Trying something new,” Louis shrugged, knowing Liam’s eyes would probably bug out of his head when he removed his shorts during the striptease. “Go big or go home, right?”

“You’re going nowhere but on stage,” Liam chastised, pointing up at the clock on the wall, hanging precariously from a nail. “Come on, or you’ll be late. Good luck, Lou.”

“Don’t need luck when I’ve got an arse like this,” Louis called, slapping his own bum as he walked off, navigating the corridors until he stood behind the shiny silver curtain, adrenaline flowing through his veins. It didn't matter how long he’d been doing this. The nerves always took hold as he waited for the curtain to open, to expose him to the audience. It was a rush like nothing else Louis had ever felt, and he wiped his sweaty palms on his shorts for a moment, taking a final glance down at his outfit. The tight underwear did nothing to hide his bulge, neither did the shorts, but Louis shrugged, sure it might earn him a few more tips.

Someone stepped into Louis’ eyeline at the side of the stage, and Louis nodded to the man, Zach, who would be the one to open the curtains. The song Louis had picked for tonight started playing in the bar, and a hush fell over the audience as the singer began to croon. Louis glanced to Zach and nodded again, hands on his hips, eyes wide as he looked straight ahead as the curtain was pulled open and Louis stepped through, ready to dance the night away.

* * * * *

Harry

“Fucking… lock, dammit,” Harry cursed, jabbing at the button on his keyfob, pleased when the Ferrari finally locked. He rammed the keys into his pocket, running his other hand through his hand, pleased to be finally be home. It was later than he’d promised his husband Adam, but he was sure he’d understand, that his work was important and there were things that Harry couldn’t just walk away from, as much as he often wanted to.

He walked up the path and unlocked the front door, kicking off his black boots as he closed the door behind him, wriggling his toes for a moment, sinking into the plush carpet they’d paid an absolute fortune for. To Harry, there was nothing nicer than getting home at the end of a stressful day and just relaxing, stripping down into some comfy clothes and lounging on the sofa, his husband by his side, something inane playing in the background on the television.

The house was oddly quiet though, but Harry didn't think too much of it. He hung up his jacket and undid the top half of his shirt, exposing his tattooed chest, the air in their home warm. On the kitchen side was a pot of takeaway Adam must have left for him, and Harry smiled at it for a moment, pleased his husband was so thoughtful. He left it for a moment, wanting to get changed before he could even contemplate eating. He walked over to the staircase and began climbing slowly, his body weary and his mind still whirring after a hellish day.

“Ad? You here, love?” he called out, frowning slightly when he didn't get a response. He walked up and turned left at the top of the stairs, headed for Adam’s home office, although Harry couldn’t ever fathom why a call centre manager needed a home office. He was sure Adam just went in there to watch porn, or listen to the music that Harry wasn’t so keen on. He rapped his knuckles gently on the door before he walked in. The room was dark, and there was no sign of Adam so Harry retreated, closing the door quietly behind him.

He stilled as he heard a moan, and smirked to himself. He reached down and palmed himself, his body responding to the familiar noise of his husband. It felt like it had been too long since he’d been intimate with Adam. Either Harry was too tired after long days at work, or Adam shrugged Harry off, just not in the mood. Harry couldn’t deny he was a little concerned at the decline in their sex life, but he figured three years of being together would have that effect. He pushed his erection down as he stalked down the corridor, pausing outside their bedroom. His body was thrumming with desire for his husband but -

“Oh fuck, just there… yeah!”

Harry was sure the next few moments would be ingrained in his memory, as much as he wanted to forget every second of it. He twisted the knob of their bedroom and pushed it open roughly, just catching the door before it could slam against the wall. Harry just stared, taking in the scene before him, dumbstruck.

He could only watch in shock as he watched his husband riding the man underneath him, moaning obscenely as he bounced himself, hands behind him and planted on the man’s thighs. To add to that, his husband was having his cock sucked by some naked blonde woman who was happily perched over the face of the man Adam was riding, and she was humming around Adam’s cock, her long locks curled in Adam’s fist, his wedding band catching the light.

Harry felt all the breath leave his body as he took everything in, his heart racing, sickness whirling in his stomach. His entire world was imploding around him but he couldn’t move. His feet were stuck to the floor, watching the debauched scene in front of him. He locked eyes with the woman as she sat up, licking her lips obscenely as Adam untangled his hand from her hair, moaning again as the man underneath him started snapping his hips, fucking him faster. Harry locked eyes with her for a second before she realised what was happening.

“Fuck! Who are you?!”

She hurried to fold her arms across her chest, trying to hide her breasts which Harry felt was a bit futile given he’d just witnessed her enthusiastically giving his husband head. Her words seemed to have shocked the other two men out of their sex haze, and Adam turned around, looking over his shoulder, face dropping when he saw Harry.

“Shit. Oh my god… Harry, I…” He scrambled to get off the man beneath him, and Harry couldn’t bear to see anything more. He whirled around and slammed the bedroom door behind him, ignoring the raised voices he was leaving behind. He rushed down the stairs, praying he wouldn’t trip and brain himself on the bannister as he tried to process what the hell was going on. He’d just found his husband in bed with not just another man, but a woman too, and they all seemed far too comfortable with each other for that to have been the first time that had happened.

“Harry, wait, I-”

He’d reached the bottom of the stairs by now, and Harry rammed his feet into his boots, scraping his ankle on the sharp zip at the side, but somehow, it was a welcome pain, a distraction from his heart splitting in two as Adam stumbled downstairs behind him, wearing what looked like Harry’s boxers. He was still hard, and it just made Harry angrier. He grabbed his phone and keys from the side, and before Adam could get any closer, Harry opened the front door and practically ran out into the dark, ignoring how cold it was.

He was a little surprised to see Adam follow him out into the street in his underwear, but Harry just unlocked his car, in no way ready to engage in a conversation with his husband about this. He was seething, he was embarrassed, he was heartbroken. It was too many emotions, and Harry’s head was a cacophony of noise. He pressed a button on the centre console to lock the car, ignoring Adam banging on the passenger side window, and roared the engine obnoxiously before he pulled away from the kerb,

The lights of the town flashed around him, illuminating the interior of the car as Harry drove past other drunken revellers, couples holding hands, young girls with their arms linked, stumbling around together. Harry bit back tears as he realised he was now alone, that he didn't have a clue where he was going. He was driving aimlessly, completely lost. The traffic thinned out as he headed onto a road he didn't use much, heading out of town but he didn't care. All Harry knew was that he couldn’t go home.

He pulled up at a red traffic light, screaming for a second and slamming the steering wheel with his hands, cursing as a pain shot up each forearm at the rough strike of the wheel. He could see a woman in the car next to him eyeing him, the car definitely one for attracting attention but Harry couldn’t be less in the mood. He roared away the moment the light turned green, and when he saw a building in the distance, lit up with a colourful sign, he made a split decision and indicated, pulling into the car park. He’d never seen this place before, but the car park was relatively full, so it couldn’t be too bad.

Before he could change his mind, Harry cut off the engine, and got out, stretching his long legs from the cramped position he’d been in. he stood to his full height and walked across the gravel surface, boots crunching over the tiny stones. Harry glanced up at the name of the club, The Night Watch, and his eyes widened when he realised it was more than likely a gay bar given the image on the sign above the double doors. With a shrug, he grabbed the handle of the entrance and walked inside.

It wasn’t exactly what Harry had expected. There was a big sign on the walls proclaiming it was a ‘NO TOUCH’ establishment, and Harry was confused by that, wondering what kind of bar needed to implement a rule like that. He looked around, not recognising anyone. There were people of all ages there, a group of what looked like men around Harry’s age sitting around a small table, a bevy of pints in front of them, a few older gentlemen sat on their own, tapping away at their phones, and then there were those stood at the bar, making small talk.

Harry walked over and slid onto a free bar stool, waiting patiently to get the attention of the barman. While he waited, he could feel his phone vibrating madly in his pocket and he pulled it out, anger flooding his veins again when he saw it was text after text from Adam, pleading with Harry to come home, to pick up his call, to reply to his message. Harry just turned the device off and shoved it back in his pocket, not wanting to deal with his cheating, lying husband right now.

“What can I get you, mate?”

Harry looked up and smiled at the barman. He was young, probably Harry’s age and he had a kind face.

“Uh, I’ll have a whiskey on the rocks, please. Actually, make that a double.”

“Alrighty, coming right up,” the man said, turning and preparing the drink Harry had asked for before he slid it across the bar.

“That’s six fifty, mate.”

Harry pulled out his wallet and handed over a ten pound note, nodding as the man gave him the change.

“First time here?”

“How did you know?” Harry asked, smiling ruefully at the question. “Yeah. I just… shit night, and I needed to get away for a bit. Seems a decent enough place?”

“Yeah, I like it,” the man answered as Harry tried to place his accent. It sounded a bit like the Wolverhampton accent his mate Josh at Uni had had, and Harry basked in its familiarity for a moment. “You picked a good night actually, got one of our best guys on stage in a minute.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Louis, he’s, uh, he’s our best performer, for sure. Yep, I’m coming. Sorry, mate, I’d better go, but enjoy the show, yeah?”

“Okay…” Harry answered, wondering exactly what he’d gotten himself into. He spun around on his stool when a song started playing, and the lights in the bar dimmed, a spotlight resting on the stage now. Harry held his breath, suddenly realising what was going on, and he waited, gripping his tumbler with a tight grip as the music got louder, the anticipation obvious in the room as men gathered near the stage shouldered each other out of the way to sit closer to the front. Harry stayed where he was, keen to observe from afar, to see what all the fuss about this Louis was for, whether he was worth the hype.

But once the curtain swung open and revealed the man stood behind it, Harry realised he was most definitely worth it.

Chapter Text

The music was pounding in the room, but Harry couldn’t hear anything except for the thud of his own heartbeat, and the blood whooshing through his ears. His gaze was utterly transfixed on the man in front of him on the stage. He was doing nothing except for swaying his hips sultrily to the beat of the music, head dipped down to the floor but it was utterly mesmerising. Harry broke his trance for a moment, looking around the room to see that everyone else was in the same boat, just staring at the stage, captivated by this Louis and the way he moved his body.

Harry sensed movement out of the corner of his eye, and nodded to the barman who indicated the empty glass by Harry’s hand. He turned back to the stage where the man finally looked up, the glitter highlight on his cheekbones catching in the light, and Harry bit back a gasp, stunned by how piercing the man’s eyes were, how they slowly moved around the room, clearly very aware of the effect he was having on the room of men around him. They were all completely silent, the thumping bass of the track sounding like it was getting louder as he slowly walked to the front of the staging area, giving Harry a better look at his body hidden by the costume.

The black leather jacket he was wearing clung to his torso perfectly, and Harry loved the sheen of glitter on his pecs as well. As the man twisted himself gently, the jacket fell open, baring his entire chest, and Harry was shocked by his body’s reaction to what he was watching. Harry’s husband was physically the opposite of everything this man was; he was taller and broader than Harry, well built and took great pride in maintaining a very ripped six pack. This Louis had none of that. He was slender and toned, but there was something about his petite, curvy frame that Harry couldn’t drag his away from, and the soft belly Harry could see peeking over the top of the tight shorts was ridiculously gorgeous on him. It suited this man, somehow, to be soft and curvy, and Harry liked it.

Harry let his eyes drop down the man’s lower half. He had on the tightest black shorts Harry had ever seen, and they did nothing to conceal his thick thighs, and god, when he turned around, Harry just wanted to touch his arse, to see if it was as real and perfect as it looked. The fabric stretched over it, and Harry watched as the man turned around, letting the leather jacket fall down his forearms until it reached the base of his spine. Harry licked his lips as he took in the expanse of tanned back exposed to him, not usually a part of a man’s body he looked twice at but he liked what he could see.

Louis let the jacket drop to the floor and bent ever so slowly to pick it up. A loud whoop rang out, and Louis teased, slapping his own arse for a moment. Harry watched the skin jiggle under his touch, and his palm twitched with the need to do that himself. He took a quick sip of the whiskey now in his hand, but didn't remove his eyes from Louis. The smaller man stood up again and circled his hips slowly, trailing his fingers down from his chest to the waistband of his shorts before he removed them, winking cheekily at the audience again.

Harry could see a few of them throwing a few notes onto the stage near Louis’ feet, and in his haze, he wondered if that was to do with the no touch rule he’d seen when he’d arrived. Louis blew the men a kiss before he started dancing, moving his limbs effortlessly in time to the music, and Harry was sure he could see Louis mouthing the words along with his moves. Harry watched every ripple of his muscles as Louis lithely moved around the stage, bending and twisting and stretching so elegantly, yet it was such a tease. Harry could make out every inch of Louis’ body from where he was sat.

What happened next, though, took his breath away. Louis turned away again, facing the back of the stage, and he slowly pushed his thumbs into the waistband of his shorts, pulling down one side ever so slightly, exposing what was underneath. Harry was pleased he’d finished his drink by now because he was sure if he was drinking, he’d have choked. He almost wanted to get up and barge his way to the front of the crowd to see if he was right, that he was actually seeing what he thought he was. He leaned forward, his lips dry and his hands shaking as he clasped them tightly in his lap, watching as Louis slowly started to pull the shorts down, baring the entirety of his arse to the room. But it was so much more than his arse. It was what he was wearing that was doing things to Harry he hadn’t expected. His cock twitched as Louis’ lace-clad behind was finally fully exposed, and he slid a hand into his lap, cupping himself, not wanting the whole room to see how affected he was.

Louis let the shorts fall to his feet before he kicked them off, sliding his hands over himself, clutching his cheeks for a moment before he slowly turned around, beginning to dance again. Harry couldn’t help but look at where the lace was stretched over Louis’ cock, how it hid everything yet at the same time hid nothing. The glitter was drawing Harry’s attention lower, over the slight trail of hair that led down into the knickers, and Harry’s mind ran away with him, completely overwhelmed by now. Lingerie on men wasn’t something he’d thought about before, but now his mind was consumed by it.

The song was drawing to a close now, and Louis teased the audience further, touching his whole body, biting his lip, looking up coquettishly at the audience, eyes darting around. Harry held his breath as his eyes locked with Louis’ for a moment, not even noticing the movement Louis’ hand was making, down in the front of his knickers, cupping himself. Louis winked at him, and Harry swallowed as Louis threw his head back just as the music ended, plunging the stage into darkness.

A huge cheer erupted in the room, and the lights went back up again for Louis to bow, blowing kisses at the audience before he turned and ran off stage, men hollering his name at him as he left. Harry watched as an employee went onto the stage, picking up the notes littered around before he disappeared and Harry turned back to the bar, letting out a long, slow exhale, trying to get his thoughts in some sort of order.

“He’s really something, isn’t he?” the barman said, coming back. “Louis, I mean.”

“Yeah, that was… yeah. Uh, can I get another double, please?”

He looked up, about to pull his wallet out of his pocket again when he saw the man hesitate.

“Sorry but I have to ask, it’s my job… are you driving home tonight?”

“Fuck.” Harry felt a bit startled with the fact that driving home tonight hadn’t even crossed his mind. Usually, he was the responsible one when they went out, staying teetotal so he could drive Adam home safely, but clearly that had gone out of the window tonight. “Shit, you’re right. Uh, a lemonade then, please.”

The barman nodded, and quickly set about getting the drink together. As he did, Harry’s mind drifted off to the fact he’d just spent over five minutes watching a man who wasn’t his husband dancing on stage, stripping down to the tiniest pair of lacy knickers, and worst of all, he’d liked it. Harry hadn’t had thoughts of another man like that since he’d met Adam four years ago, but now, Louis was stuck in his mind. He felt a bit sick at that realisation, and took a gulp of the lemonade that had been banged down on the wooden surface.

His hands shook as he held the glass tightly, catching sight of his wedding ring. Shit. He was married. He’d made vows that he’d meant every word of, that he’d said to the love of his life just two years ago in Scotland, words he’d thought Adam had meant as well. He was married, and he’d been having inappropriate thoughts about another man. Adam had cheated on him, but Harry wasn’t one to break his vows, to cast them aside like they meant nothing when in reality, they’d meant everything to him. Harry hated himself just a little bit more then, realising he was almost as bad as Adam was in having these thoughts, in ogling a stripper when he’d found his husband in bed with other people just an hour ago.

“That’s two fifty please, uh…”

“Harry,” Harry supplied with a smile, reaching out to shake the barman’s hand.

“Liam, nice to meet you,” the barman, Liam, said, accepting the few coins Harry held out to him. “So, you come far tonight then?”

“Nah, a few miles out. Not seen this place before, though. Not usually my scene if I’m honest, but I just… I needed to get out of my head tonight.” He felt a dull ache inside as the memory of what he’d witnessed just a short while ago with his husband filled his head, and he frantically tried to push the images away, replacing them with ones of Louis dancing on stage. “Louis’ really good. At dancing, I mean. I can see why he’s popular. I mean- shit-” Harry raked his hand through his hair, not wanting to sound like a creep, but Liam’s laugh told him he understood.

“Don’t worry, I get it. If he wasn’t one of my best mates, I’d totally be up for some fun with him. But yeah, he brings the punters in from far and wide. The best we have, but don’t let any of the others hear me say that or they’ll skin me. Our resident Irish one is a bit vicious when he wants to be.”

Harry chuckled, sipping on the fizzy lemonade slowly, wanting it to clear his head a bit. He made small talk with Liam for a while, finding out that Liam manned the bar most nights in the week to make up some extra money while he studied during the day at college. Harry admired that, but held back from admitting everything about who he was in case Liam recognised him in some way. He fobbed him off, saying he was just an office manager, a slight twist of the truth, but still, Harry felt bad. They were laughing about something when Harry saw someone walk over to the other end of the bar and he stilled, realising it was Louis.

He was totally different now, though. Where there had been glitter and naked flesh and lace, there was now complete softness. Louis’ legs were hidden, encased in tight dark blue denim, which Harry had to admit didn't make him look any less enticing than when he’d been half naked on stage. He had on a soft cream cable knit jumper, and a dark grey beanie was on his head, his fringe swooping across his forehead softly. Harry so badly wanted to touch, and went so far as to sit on his hands to keep them still as he watched Liam wander over, pouring Louis a drink.

Harry knew he was staring, and when Louis looked up, he quickly looked back down at the bar, praying he hadn’t been noticed. After a few minutes had passed, he decided to chance another look and moved his eyes over to Louis, startled when he saw blue eyes looking back at his own. Louis gave him a shy half smile, but before Harry could return it, he was looking down into his own glass, swirling the ice cubes around it.

With that, Harry realised it was probably time to get going. Reluctantly, he pulled his phone from his pocket and turned it on, bombarded with lots of pings of received messages as he fumbled to turn it to silent, aware of Liam giving him a puzzled gaze. He just laughed it off and read the first few notifications, scorn filling his face as he read the pleading messages from his husband, telling him it wasn’t what it looked like, that Adam could explain, that he just wanted Harry to come home. Harry scoffed and didn't bother to reply, quickly googling to see if there was a hotel he could stay at. The prices were extortionate given it was a late booking, not that mattered but Harry sighed, looking over as the door to the bar opened again.

A man strutted in, dark eyed and handsome looking, and Harry thought for a passing moment that the man was definitely attractive. The man’s face lit up with a smile when he waved at someone, and Harry turned, keen to see who he was looking at. His heart fell slightly when he saw it was Louis, who was hopping down from his stool, practically running into the man’s arms. The taller man kissed Louis on the head and grabbed his bag, the two of them waving at Liam as they headed for the door.

“Thanks, Li, see you Sunday?” Louis called, and Harry’s heart skipped a beat, amazed by the sound of Louis’ soft voice. It was much higher than his own deep timbre, all raspy and light, but utterly beautiful. “Come on, Zaynie.”

The other man held the door open for Louis as he passed him, and Harry shook his head, realising that even Louis, a stripper, could find love with someone as beautiful as his boyfriend clearly was. Harry was fairly sure neither of them would ever cheat on each other either. Why would they when they were both so gorgeous and looked so good together?  Harry stood up, sliding his keys out of his pocket as he prepared himself to leave. As much as he didn't want to go home, he knew things wouldn’t fix themselves.

“Uh, I’m off now, bye Liam,” Harry called, and the barman waved quickly before he turned back to the customers who were crowding the bar, ready for their next drink. Harry slipped out into the night unnoticed, heading for his car. He looked around at the other normal cars parked nearby, and in that moment, he really hated his own, how it was just a status symbol, a “look-at-me” car Adam had begged Harry to buy until he’d relented, paying an extortionate amount of money for the supercar that he drove about five miles each day.

He got into the car and drove the few miles in silence, dread filling the pit of his stomach as he inched ever closer to the home he shared with his husband. Harry parked in the space that was still empty, and he looked up at the house. It was dark, and Harry hoped that Adam had gone to bed so they wouldn’t have to have that confrontation right now. Harry wasn’t in any sort of mood to talk about what he’d seen, and quietly let himself in, closing the door as silently as he could behind him.

Everything was still in the house, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief, hoping Adam was asleep upstairs, or better yet, that he’d left for the night. Harry didn't even bother to go upstairs and find out, he didn't want know. He walked through to the living room and settled on the sofa, kicking off his shoes. Usually, he was quite anal about removing them in the hallway, not wanting to stain the carpets with mud but in that moment, he couldn’t care less. The carpets were the least of his concern, nothing compared to his failed marriage. Harry could smell the bar on him, but he realised he didn't want to remove the clothes he’d worn there, the smell somewhat comforting.

He got up, his mouth dry and his head a little foggy from the whiskey he’d drunk. He wasn’t usually a whiskey man, but it had been the first thing in his head when Liam had asked. He knew whiskey would make him forget, but now he was home, everything was coming back. He walked to the kitchen in his socks and flicked on the lights under the cabinets, bathing the room in a soft glow, saving his eyes. He turned and stilled when he looked to the other side of the room, seeing a beautiful bunch of flowers sat in a vase, a folded note beside them.

Harry scoffed and shook his head as he walked over to them, his hand shaking as he picked up the piece of paper, unfolding it slowly. His eyes flicked up to the flowers again, heart aching as he realised they were all his favourites, but still, he knew what they meant and immediately they were tainted. Harry looked down to the note, reading it, unwanted tears filling his eyes as he took in the words on the page.

Harry

I have no words to make up for what happened tonight. I understand you leaving, but I want us to talk. Please don’t push me away. I don’t know if you’re coming back tonight, but if you do, please wake me up.

I love you, Harry.

Adam. x

In a fit of anger, Harry balled up the piece of paper in his fist and threw it across the room, watching as it bounced off the window pane and fell into the sink, onto a few dirty plates sat in there. Rage was filling his body now at the fact Adam actually expected Harry to want to have anything to do with him tonight, and he grabbed the flowers, dripping water over the floor and the worktops as he stalked to the back door, using the key in the lock to undo it. In just his socks, he walked over to the black wheelie bin and lifted the lid, dumping the flowers in there and slamming it shut.

He came back inside, locking the door as he did so and downed a glass of water, wanting to not wake up with a hangover the next morning. He flicked the lights off and headed back into the living room, grabbing a blanket from the back of the sofa, and a few extra cushions from the other large sofa under the window. He quickly set about making himself up a bed, having no intention at all of going upstairs or anywhere near his husband. While the sofa was comfortable and more than large enough for Harry’s lanky frame, it definitely wasn’t as suitable for Harry’s back as his mattress upstairs. He tossed and turned before he stood up, stripping himself out of his jeans before he got back onto the sofa, pulling the blanket over his bare legs.

His mind drifted away as he lay there in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, trying to piece things together. He thought back, wondering if he’d missed any signs of Adam cheating on him before, but as naive as he was, Harry came up with nothing. Sure, they hadn’t had sex in a little while, but other than that, Adam was the same with him as he always was, listening to Harry talk about his job, going for walks at the weekend, going shopping together. It was a bit of a domestically mundane life but Harry liked it, liked the stability of everything it represented.

Now, though, that stability was shattered into a million pieces, and Harry wasn’t sure where to even start putting them back together. He felt a tear trickle down his cheek as images of Adam riding the stranger consumed his mind, how Adam looked doing that. It hurt, mainly because Adam had never allowed Harry to top him before, despite Harry’s asking several times from when they’d started dating. Adam just told Harry he preferred to do the fucking, so Harry had just accepted it, happy enough to bottom that he wasn’t going to rock his relationship for it. But Adam had let that man inside him, and that stung. It felt like the worst betrayal of all.

Harry pulled a dark yellow cushion over his body as a sob erupted from his chest, and he lay there in the dark, crying into one of the ridiculously expensive pillows, his chest aching more and more as he cried his pain away until he fell into a fitful sleep, tears drying on his cheeks.

******

“Harry? Wake up, babe.”

Harry stirred, stretching his sore back out as he sat up wearily, blinking as he looked into the face of his husband. He looked like a stranger, and Harry flinched away as Adam tried to cup his cheek. Harry pushed back against the sofa, scrabbling away from the touch, not wanting it.

“Don’t.”

He pushed the blankets off his lap and reached for his jeans, tugging them on, not wanting his body to be exposed to the man who’d seen every single of inch of him before. Now, it felt wrong, and Harry pulled them up over his hips, fastening the button as he smoothed down his wrinkled shirt. He pushed past Adam and headed upstairs to their room, not looking at the bed as he grabbed a clean shirt from his wardrobe along with his deodorant, clean underwear and phone charger. He locked himself in their ensuite bathroom, and started to get ready for the day, sighing as Adam banged on the door.

“Harry, come on. This is ridiculous, we need to talk.” There was silence for a moment as Harry sprayed his underarms with deodorant, wishing he had time to shower when all he wanted was to get out of there, away from his husband and the house where he’d had his heart broken. “Harry, grow up and come out here and talk to me. Now.”

Harry scoffed, fumbling with the small buttons of his shirt, pulling them across his torso. His mind flickered with memories of Louis’ body last night, how his skin had shone in the bright stage lights, how soft his body had been. He brushed the thoughts away as Adam thumped on the door again, making him jump as he tucked himself into his jeans.

“Harry, fucking come out. We need to talk this out.”

Harry gathered his things together and unlocked the door, storming out and down the corridor past his stunned husband, who quickly followed. The words coming out of his mouth were just nonsense to Harry, he couldn’t focus on any of them and Harry picked up what he needed before he left, not looking back as he ran down the stairs, eager to get to work for the first time in days. It wasn’t fun at work, a hell of sorts but it was better than the personal hell he was going through right now.

“Are you seriously going to be this childish and ignore me?”

His heart racing in his chest, Harry walked back to the hallway and reached his blazer down from the hook on the wall. He pulled it on and picked up his keys, heading for the door, stoically ignoring his husband. He knew if he spoke to him now it would end in a screaming match, and that wasn’t what Harry needed or wanted. He needed to think about what he wanted to say, how he wanted to go about whatever was going to happen next.

He could feel Adam’s eyes bore into him as he opened the front door, stepping out into the cool but sunny morning air. He’d left his work bag in the car the night before, so he hurried along, unlocking the car and throwing his things onto the passenger seat, willing himself not to turn around and look at Adam, sure if he did, he would break. He walked around the car and got in, pulling on his seatbelt as he started the car, letting out a shaky breath, willing himself to hold it altogether until he could get away from Adam.

He drove off down the street, turning into a small side road just around the corner from his own house, his breaths coming in shaky gasps now. He pulled on the handbrake, his hands sweating, heart racing in his chest. He unclipped his belt and pushed his chair back as far as it could go, giving himself room to breathe as he finally let the tears fall again.

It was too much, seeing Adam again after everything that had happened the night before, and he couldn’t reconcile the man he’d seen that morning with the one he’d fallen in love with years ago, promised to be with forever, saw his future with. His body wracked with noisy sobs, tears tumbling down his cheeks, falling from his chin and wetting his shirt. Harry gripped the steering wheel, trying to ground himself, to form his thoughts into something would make sense, that made it hurt less.

He counted out loud slowly, trying to calm himself down. It took a few attempts before he could breathe steadily, but he couldn’t quell the nausea in his tummy. His phone pinged, and Harry wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt in case it was work, checking in on him. He cried again when he saw it was Adam, begging him to come home, to talk, and he threw it into the footwell of the passenger seat, not wanting to think about that, talking to his husband about how he’d been having sex with two other people in their marital bed.

Harry pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes until it almost hurt, not wanting that horrible image to invade his mind any longer. But he couldn’t make it disappear, no matter how hard he tried. It was there, vivid, raw, haunting him. The curve of Adam’s back as he rode the stranger’s cock, his loud moans of pleasure as the naked woman sucked his dick down, and Harry wondered for a moment if she was better at it than he was, if Adam enjoyed her pleasuring him more than he did Harry.

Harry scrambled for the door catch, barely throwing it open before he tumbled out of the car, getting to a grass verge before he threw up noisily, everything inside of him coming back up. Harry coughed and spluttered, feeling utterly disgusting as he wiped over his mouth, humiliated and embarrassed. He was a mess. His marriage was in dire straits, he was struggling at work, and he’d lusted after another man last night in his drunken state. Everything was falling apart, and Harry felt powerless to stop it.

Chapter Text

“Cheers mate, see you later?”

“Yeah, course, I’ll be here. Same time as always?”

“Yep. You’re the best Zaynie, love you!” Louis blew Zayn a kiss as he got out of the car, watching as Zayn drove away, once again grateful for his friend being able to bring him to work. Louis lived a good few miles from The Night Watch, and he hated walking all the way in to work before he had to perform. He liked to dance fresh and with a rested body, and a few miles trekking to work wasn’t conducive to either of those things.

He walked along the street towards the club, keeping his head down as he passed a few familiar patrons, not wanting to converse with any of them. He tugged the baseball cap on his head a little further down, masking his face for a moment as he set his bag down near a stool, dragging it closer to sit up at the bar. He knew dressed down like he was, he wasn’t going to attract a huge amount of attention, and he was early enough he had time for a drink.

Liam wasn’t on shift yet, wasn’t due to start until just before Louis got on stage, and he quickly requested a half pint of coke from the other barman, Quentin, who he hadn’t worked with much before. He sat nursing the cold glass between his hands as he angled his body enough to be able to see the rest of the bar. It wasn’t busy, not yet, but Louis recognised a few of the faces, ones who were often at his shows.

He sat quietly for a while, texting his Mum about work while he waited for the time to tick away, tapping his feet on the bar where they were resting to the beat of the song playing lowly in the background. His fingers flew across the screen and after a few minutes, he looked up, startled to see a familiar face at the end of the bar. Louis was sure he was the man who had sat at the bar the other night, just watching him dance, his face stoic and giving nothing away.

Louis just watched quietly for a moment. He took in the man’s outfit, how smart he looked, slightly overdressed for a night at the The Night Watch, drinking and watching a stripper. Louis took in his hair, scraped back into a messy bun at the back of his head, the blue and white stripes of his tailored shirt that looked like it had been made for his body, and the tight trousers clinging to his long legs, ending in an expensive looking pair of boots. He was beautiful, Louis couldn’t deny that. His features were perfect, from his plump lips to his dark eyes, although Louis wished he could see what colour they were, if they were dark brown or bright blue or something more unusual. What he could see, though, was that he looked sad. His mouth was turned down at the sides, disappearing occasionally when the man bit down on his full bottom lip, pulling it into his mouth before he released it again, nibbling on the edge of his thumbnail. His shoulders were hunched, and Louis just watched, trying to work out what was going on.

The man picked up the frosty pint glass, sipping on it and licking his lips before he sat it down again, not releasing it from his big hand. Louis noticed the man was wearing a wedding ring, but if he was honest, the man didn't look the picture of marital bliss. He was staring forlornly at his phone, clicking it on and off over and over, running his finger through the condensation on his glass. Louis forced himself to look away, wondering what the man’s story was, why he looked so miserable, and why he was here alone on a Tuesday night instead of at home with his husband or wife.

With a glance at the clock, Louis downed the rest of his drink and stood up from his stool, aware of eyes on him as his stool scraped across the floor, making a noise. The smartly dressed man at the end of the bar looked up, eyes widening as he took in Louis’ appearance before he ducked his head again, cheeks going a soft pink as he stared at his phone again. Louis just picked up his bag from the floor and hurried backstage, needing to get ready.

Louis was the only performer on that night, so he was alone when he made it into the changing room. In a way, Louis missed making easy conversation with the other dancers - they weren’t close, but they were friends, and there wasn’t a lot they didn't know about each other. He didn't like the silence as he pulled off his jumper and joggers, folding them as always and leaving them ready to get back into afterwards.

He pulled out his performance outfit for that night, a fitted black silky shirt along with some dark leggings, and a black thong. It wasn’t necessarily what people would have expected from a stripper’s stage outfit but Louis enjoyed bucking the trends, thinking about outfits that would go with the dance he was doing that night, and wearing something a little different.

He stripped naked and then put on the outfit bit by bit, adjusting his junk in the thong to get comfortable before he slid the leggings on, liking how they felt against his skin, clinging to his body in all the right places. The leggings were fairly expensive, more than Louis would normally pay for something like this but the way they felt and looked on him made them worth every penny. The shirt slid on easily, and it felt cool against his skin, showing off the curve of his waist Louis knew drove the men in his audience crazy.

He left his hair fairly soft, looking like a ‘just rolled out of bed’ look that worked with the cosy looking outfit Louis was wearing. He sprayed a bit of cologne in the air in front of him and walked through it, coating himself in the scent he loved, and with a final look in the mirror, headed for the door. He was running a little late so he skipped the usual pre-show shot, walking towards the curtain, greeting Zach who was ready and waiting, the curtain pulley in his hand.

“Have a good one,” he said, and Louis grinned in reply, listening out as the music started to play. The song was a little faster than what he was used to, but Louis had practised this routine enough to be comfortable with it. The curtain flew open and Louis strutted out, not holding back like he had the previous performance. He watched as the men sat around the stage grinned, clapping as he began his routine, teasing by undoing a couple of buttons of his shirt, hooking it off his shoulders before he went into a small series of moves he was confident with.

Louis could feel all the eyes in the room boring on him, and when he went into the breakdown of the song, he stilled, teasing by lifting the hem of the shirt, exposing his toned stomach as he took a moment to look around. If he was honest, he was looking for one person in particular, wondering if he’d stayed to see the show. Louis made eye contact with a few of the men sat stage side, a few of them throwing coins and notes onto the stage at his feet, and he smiled, thanking them wordlessly as he let the shirt trail off, falling to the floor like a silky puddle. He stepped over it and turned his body, looking across the other side of the room. He stilled as he caught sight of the man who had been at the bar, and how he’d dared to come closer this time. His face still betrayed no emotion, but Louis was determined to change that.

Now dressed in just his leggings with the top of his thong peeking out over the top of the waistband, he rotated his hips slowly, brushing his fingertips across his nipples before he danced again, well aware of how the clingy leggings accentuated every move he made. He concentrated for a moment on making sure he was being as technically correct as he could be, despite the fact none of these men would know if he was fully extending his legs and arms properly, or landing his spins at the right point. He knew, and to him, that was enough.

As he landed another perfect spin, Louis slowly wiggled his hips, removing the leggings from himself, and he peered up, locking eyes with the handsome stranger, not breaking it as he stepped out of them, leaving him in just the thong. Louis felt exposed, but he saw the bob of the stranger’s Adams apple as his eyes quickly raked down Louis’ body, back up to lock eyes with him. A spotlight swirled over the audience and Louis swallowed a gasp as the stranger’s eyes lit up, green and gold, as the light passed over them and he grinned, winking and blowing the sad looking stranger a kiss. He blushed and Louis broke character, laughing quickly before he went back to it. He caught the tail end of the stranger’s smile, how his cheek caved into a small dimple, and he had a sudden urge to try and put that smile there again and again.

The song moved into its final chorus and Louis threw himself into it enthusiastically, turning around often enough to give the audience a view of his arse, crouching down and coming back up, teasing his bare sides and his thighs as he went, loving the wolf-whistles and things he could hear being called at him from the audience, and he turned, getting into his final pose just as the song finished. As always, there was thunderous applause, men getting to their feet as he bowed, blowing kisses before he turned, winking at the green eyed stranger again before he jogged off stage, adrenaline making him run on a natural high he loved.

He was panting by the time he got back to the dressing room, and he stripped off everything he was wearing before he stepped into the shower, wanting to wash away the sweat from his skin. He let the spray wash over him for a while, rinsing his hair and body with the travel sized toiletries he kept in his washbag, always preferring to get home with the job washed off his skin, leaving it at the bar. He towel dried off and got back into the cosy joggers and jumper he was wearing beforehand, leaving his beanie off as his hair was still damp.

As he walked back out into the bar, he couldn’t help but run his eyes around the room, looking for the man he’d seen earlier, the one who had bravely come closer to the stage tonight to watch, blushing beautifully when Louis had blown him a kiss. His heart fell slightly when he saw no sign of the man, so he headed over to the bar, taking a seat and raising a hand at Liam who was serving at the other end, making conversation with a couple of older gentlemen. Louis waited patiently, in no hurry since Zayn wasn’t due to pick him up for another half an hour or so.

“What can I get you, Lou?” Liam asked, finally coming over, a grin on his face. “Good show tonight. Liked the outfit choice as well.”

“Why thank you, kind sir,” Louis said, smiling back at his friend. “And I’ll have a half, please. Got a couple of things for work to look through before tomorrow so I don’t want to get too pissed.”

“Righty oh, Tommo,” Liam said, efficiently pouring the drink. He set it down, and Louis handed over his card, letting Liam deal with the contactless payment at the till before he accepted the card back, sliding it back into his pocket. “What’s up? You look like you have something on your mind.”

Louis bit his lip, wondering whether to divulge his curiosity about the handsome stranger to Liam before he decided he had nothing to lose. Perhaps Liam had made conversation with him, knew more than Louis did that could shed a light on his state.

“Kinda…” he began, running his fingers up and down the edge of the glass. “That guy that was in here tonight…”

“There’s a lot of guys in here, Lou,” Liam replied, wiping down the bar as Louis poked his tongue out childishly. “Any particular one catch your eye?”

“Not like that,” Louis hurried to say, not sure whether that was totally true or not. “The one who was dressed really nicely tonight, bun, smart shirt…”

“Oh yeah, Harry,” Liam said, and Louis’ eyebrows raised, slightly surprised Liam knew his name. “Why’d you ask about him?”

“Just… noticed him, that’s all,” Louis said, praying his cheeks weren’t as hot as they felt. “Saw him at the bar before the show, then he was in the stage area when I danced. He, uh, he didn't look too happy, I have to say. Didn't chat to anyone, apart from you, obviously-”

“Not really, not tonight,” Liam said, flinging the damp cloth into a bucket on the floor. “We chatted a little the other night, but he was a bit of a closed book. Didn't give much away apart from the fact he’d had a shit night. I didn't really get to chat tonight, he’d gone to sit by the stage by the time I got onto my shift.”

“Oh right,” Louis replied, a little disappointed at the lack of knowledge Liam had on the situation. “Shame. I’d have had a chat to him if he was still here.”

“He left just after you finished. Threw something on the stage then got his coat and left. Didn't look too happy, I have to say.” Liam folded his arms and rested on the bar for a moment. “He might come back, Lou, you never know. That was his second time, no need to think he won’t come again.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Liam was called away by another patron, leaving Louis alone with his thoughts. Usually after a performance, Louis analysed everything about it, wondering where he went wrong, what he could change last time. Tonight, though, his mind was filled with one thing only. Green eyes, and a sad face that Louis wanted to make smile more than anything.

*

“That’s awesome, Dais, I’m really proud of you,” Louis said, grinning at the camera as his sister held up the medal she’d won at a dance competition just the other day. Louis’ heart panged for a moment with how much he missed the girls. He’d always loved taking them to their dance classes and watching their group performances when he lived at home, pleased that they loved dance as much as he did, but now he lived so far away, it was impossible for him to be at everything, especially since he didn't drive and couldn’t afford the extortionate train fares all the time.

“Pheebs, how did you do?”

“Fourth,” the girl pouted, but Louis still clapped for her. “I didn't get a medal, Lou, don’t know why you’re clapping.”

“Because you came fourth, love. And how many dancers were in that category?”

“Uh, 50?”

“So I think fourth out of fifty kids is pretty bloody amazing. Medal or not, you did great and I’m just as proud of you as I am Daisy. I never used to win all the medals, did I? Only got myself up on the podium a few times, but it didn't matter because I was proud of what I did, and so was Mum and Dad. Are you proud of what you did? Your routine?”

“Yeah, I guess,” the teenager admitted, a blush appearing high on her cheeks. “I know, Lou. You’re right.”

“Always am,” Louis grinned. “Hey, is Mum about? I need to get to bed soon and I wanted to say hi before I have to go.”

“MUM!” Daisy hollered from where she was sat, and Louis winced at the horrible screech coming through the speakers of his old iPhone. The screen was cracked, and the touch ID feature didn't work anymore, but for Louis, it was good enough. He really should replace it but his money went towards more important things like food and bills. “Lou wants you!”

There was a bit of a tussle with the family iPad until finally his mum appeared, smiling softly at her oldest son. Louis missed her so much, missed her hugs and the late night chats they used to have, talking about everything and anything into the small hours of the morning.

“Hello, sweetheart. You look tired, Lou.”

“Well, it’s late, been a busy day at work. I’ve got an early shift actually, Nate couldn’t make it in so I offered to cover. Bit more money, though, so I can’t moan too much.”

“Working yourself into the ground isn’t good, darling. I do worry about you down there on your own, you know.”

“I know you do. But you don’t need to. It’s all good.”

Louis and Jay continued to chat for a little while, Louis filling her in on some of the applications he’d made lately, how he felt his interview had gone the other day. She listened as always, and gave advice which Louis took gratefully, wishing he could snuggle up to her in the corner of the sofa like they always used to. He glanced over to his windowsill where a picture of the two of them sat, taken at Louis’ graduation. They were both smiling widely, and looked so happy. Louis missed those easier days.

“Right, baby, I can see you’re tired, I’m going to let you go to bed. Don’t be a stranger, okay? Call your old Mum a bit more.”

Louis nodded, slightly ashamed of himself for leaving it so long before calling her. Trouble was, the stripping job took up most of his evenings, and he couldn’t really call her from the changing room given she didn't know about his little extra job, the one that kept food on the table and a roof over his head. There was no way Louis could tell he’d been reduced to that to make ends meet.

“I will, I promise. I’m saving up for another train ticket so I can come home soon. I miss you, all of you, so much. Love you, Mum.”

“I love you too, Louis. Take care sweetheart.”

“Night Mum.” Louis ended the call before he could let the tears in his eyes fall, and he quickly brushed them away, chucking his phone on the sofa cushion beside him. He turned up the volume of the telly, not liking his flat to be in complete silence and stood up, stretching out his back before he grabbed the pile of post from earlier on, flicking through it. As usual, there was a letter from the Student Loans company, a few bank statements and another envelope he didn't recognise.

Louis frowned, pulling it out of the pile, and he stilled when he saw the postmark at the top next to the stamp in the corner. He dumped the rest on the table by the door and hurried to the living room, perching on the edge of the sofa as he peeled the envelope open. His heart was thudding in his chest as he slid out the letter inside from the prestigious dance college, and with a deep breath in, he unfolded it, eyes eagerly scanning the words on the page.

“... We’d like to offer you the opportunity of an audition with our company. We were most impressed with your credentials, and feel that…”

“FUCK YES!” Louis shouted, fist pumping the air as he held the paper tightly in his hands, creasing it in his excitement. He nervously read the rest, seeing that his interview was in three months time, meaning he didn't have that long to create and practise a new routine to improve the panel he’d be performing in front of. Once he’d read it through a few times, ensuring that he hadn’t misread it and he really had got the audition, he carefully refolded the letter and put it back in the envelope to keep. He grabbed his phone and shot off a text to Jay and Zayn telling them, receiving almost immediate replies from both of them congratulating him, saying how proud they both were.

Despite the late hour, Louis wanted to get started already. He pulled the coffee table over to the side of the room and rolled up the fluffy rug that was on the floor, laying it to the side. It was at times like these he was glad he lived in a ground floor flat so that no-one would be bothered by the bangs he made on the floor as he danced the night away. The rug was stowed away on the sofa, and Louis went over to his laptop, pulling up Spotify, one of the luxuries he paid for every month. There were times he debated cancelling it, sure he could make a better use of the ten pounds a month it cost him, but he always reasoned with himself that he needed the music for dance, so he never did cancel it.

He flicked on a song he knew well and started limbering up, stretching his body up so he wouldn’t hurt himself. He launched into a familiar routine, moving his body easily to the beat, his exhaustion already long forgotten. He just focused on the song, the deep beat of the music, and lost himself into it, escaping to his happy place, already excitedly anticipating his audition. For the first time that night, green eyes and dark brown curls weren’t the only thing on his mind.

Chapter Text

Two weeks later

Harry looked up from where he was sat at the kitchen table, paperwork scattered around in untidy piles. He’d not gone into the office, choosing to work from home, needing a bit of a break. He was grateful that as the boss, he had the opportunity to do that whenever he wanted, but he didn't do so often, not wanting his employees to see him as someone who took advantage of his position in the company.

“Hello, sweetheart,” Adam said as he walked into the kitchen, undoing his tie. He pressed a quick kiss to the top of Harry’s head. Harry gave him a quick smile and turned back to the papers, cringing when Adam started collecting them up, piling them messily on top of each other.

“No, Adam, don’t-”

“What? I’m just trying to tidy up a bit, make some room for myself…”

“Well, that’s my work Ad, can’t you have a little respect?! Just… just leave it. It’s fine.” Harry sighed and let Adam set the now messed-up pile to the side of the table, watching as he pulled out a chair and sank into it, sighing heavily as he tilted his head back. “Rough day?”

“Just a bit. Fucking hate that place, I really do. From the minute I get there, I’m counting down the minutes until I can leave and come home to you.”

Harry tried not to cringe as he felt Adam’s hand snake up his thigh as he spoke, trying to focus on the numbers on the page in front of him, trying to stop them swimming around. This was a dance they’d been doing for the past few weeks. Harry had returned home properly after he’d caught Adam cheating on him in their bed, but he hadn’t spoken a word about it. Not a word. Adam took the lead from that and had tried to act as if nothing had happened, being affectionate with Harry and chatting with him like he hadn’t been fucked by another man just two weeks ago.

It was killing Harry inside to put on a brave facade and act like nothing wrong when all he wanted to do was scream at Adam and ask him why he’d done it, why he’d thought it was fine to fuck another man, and a woman, in their home. Ask how long it had been going for. Ask if Adam loved either of them like he supposedly loved Harry. But he couldn’t ask, because that would mean they would have to talk about it. Harry knew ignoring it wasn’t healthy, but at the moment, he didn't know what else to do.

Instead, his escape had been going to The Night Watch a few nights a week, watching Louis’ mesmerising performances. He still felt ridiculously guilty for finding the stripper on stage attractive, but he couldn’t stop himself from going back again and again, edging closer to the stage each night. He also couldn’t help but notice that Louis always sought him out in the crowd, blowing him kisses or winking at him, doing anything he could to make Harry smile, which he often did out of embarrassment at being singled out, or just from how Louis made him feel inside.

“I’m going to get changed and have a shower. Wanna join me?”

“Erm, no thanks, I’d better finish up here and make a start on dinner.”

“Alright then. See you in a bit?”

Harry nodded as Adam bent down and brushed his lips against Harry’s. Harry barely puckered his lips in reply, still struggling with the idea of being intimate with his husband. All he saw whenever he closed his eyes was the image of his husband riding the other man, how pleasured Adam had looked by the man and woman surrounding him. The thought of him and Adam having sex now was completely out of the equation, and Harry couldn’t even bring himself to get changed in front of his husband, sneaking into the bathroom to do so and slipping between the covers before Adam got in beside him.

With a sigh, Harry gathered up his work, realising he was in no frame of mind to be doing it now. He carefully filed away the pieces of paper into his bag for tomorrow, where he’d be working at the office without a doubt. After the table was cleared, Harry stepped over to the fridge and opened it, trying to work out what he could make from the meagre selection. He should have gone shopping earlier on, but he’d lost track of time. He picked out a packet of mince and decided on spaghetti bolognese, something simple but tasty. He went through the motions with a foggy head, preparing the ingredients and stirring the sauce in a bit of daze.

“Smells delicious,” Adam rumbled against Harry’s ear as he came up behind him, arms snaking around his waist, holding their bodies close. Harry tried not to react but when Adam started kissing down the side of his neck, he slipped out of Adam’s grasp and made to grab the salt grinder, something he didn't really need but he had to get away. “Almost as good as you, Harry…”

“Just… not now, Adam.”

“You don’t want me?”

Harry whirled around, slightly stunned by Adam’s words.

“Are you kidding? Are you actually asking me that, Adam, after what you did? You think I can contemplate letting you touch me right now?”

“Harry, I thought… fuck, that we were okay?”

Harry scoffed and shook his head, raking his fingers through his slightly greasy hair.

“That’s the problem, Adam, that you think we’re okay. You fucked another man, oh and a woman, in our bed. And we’re just pretending it didn't happen? That makes us okay, does it?”

“No, babe, I-”

“Don’t. Don’t call me that. I hate that.” Harry paused, looking up to see nothing but confusion in his husband’s eyes. It was then Harry realised he needed to know the truth, no matter how much it was going to hurt him. He took a breath, turning around and gripping the edge of the worktop with both hands, staring over at the man he thought he knew better than anyone else in the world. Right now, though, he was a stranger. “Who are they, Adam?”

Adam blinked and looked down to his toes before he pulled his head back up, nervously chewing his lip before he released it, clearing his throat before he answered. “They’re, um, a couple from work.”

“Their names?”

Adam sighed, rubbing the back of his neck, clearly uncomfortable by this whole thing. “Chris and Kate.”

Harry nodded, swallowing, trying to look unaffected. “I didn't know you liked women… you never said anything before…”

“I’ve always been bi,” Adam confessed, his cheeks red by now. “I dated girls in high school. But when I met you, it didn't come up, and you just assumed I was gay, so I didn't bother to correct you…”

A scoff erupted from Harry then. He’d never been anything but honest with Adam about his past with boys, how he’d come out tearfully at twelve years old to his parents, scared of their reaction before they’d of course been as wonderful as they always were. Harry felt his husband hiding he was bi was a much bigger deal than Adam clearly felt it was, and he crossed his arms across his chest, blocking himself off from any contact.

“Right. It wouldn’t have bothered me if you’d have said. It wouldn’t have changed how I felt about you, Adam.”

“No, I know. I just… it never came up, I suppose.” Adam shrugged, and Harry decided to press on, needing answers more desperately than never. “Harry, I-”

“Is it me? Was I not enough for you? You… you never let me fuck you-” Harry winced at his choice of words. He’d always considered what he and Adam did together making love, but there was no way what Adam was doing with Chris was love making. “-I never got to be inside my own husband, but you let him fuck you?”

Adam didn't seem to have a reply for that. His eyes raked around the floor, hands now shoved deep into the pockets of the shorts he had on, a blank expression on his face.

“Well?”

“I don’t know, Harry, okay? I just… it never came up between us-”

“Is that going to be your excuse for everything? Seriously? Because that’s bullshit, Adam. I’ve asked to fuck you before and you’ve brushed me off, telling me you don’t like to bottom, and that was fine. I didn't mind if you didn't like it. But it was a lie wasn’t it? You were definitely enjoying Chris’ dick the other day.”

“Please don’t-”

“No, I will. You don’t get to take charge here, Adam. I want fucking answers, and god, you’re going to give them to me.” Harry was standing at his full height now, and his fists were clenched at his sides. He’d never hit anyone in his life and he was sure he wasn’t going to start now, but anger was surging through his veins, and he felt close to losing control. “How many times, Adam?”

“How many times what?”

“DON’T PLAY DUMB!” Harry roared, slamming his fist into the worktop, making Adam jump. “How many times have you been with them?”

“Too many,” Adam mumbled, tears filling his eyes. “Harry, you have to understand… I didn't… I felt like as long as you didn't know, then we were okay. I love you so much, and it just… it was just a sexual thing. They could give me something that we just didn't have. I wanted to be married to you, and this was separate-”

“Bullshit. Complete bullshit. I haven’t touched another guy since we got together, Adam. Don’t spout that bullshit about it being something I couldn’t give you. You-” his voice cracked then, and Harry took a breath, calming himself down for a moment. “You never even gave me a chance to be what you needed.”

Adam looked up then, fiercely wiping at the tears tumbling down his cheeks but Harry couldn’t bring himself to comfort his husband, not now. His heart was racing as he geared up to answer the final question, knowing this was the one he didn't want to hear the answer to, not matter how much he knew he had to.

“How long?”

There was silence, and Adam took a step back, all of the fight going out of him as he slumped back against their large farmhouse table, the one Adam had taken Harry over on the first night in their new home a few years ago. Now, Harry just wanted to burn it all to ash.

“I said… how long.”

It wasn’t a question anymore. Harry locked his eyes on Adam’s as he licked his lips, readying himself to speak.

“Just before we got married. Over two years.”

Harry’s hands were shaking as he let the words settle in his ears. His whole marriage was a lie. Adam had been unfaithful even before they’d made their vows to each other. Each word Adam had said to him on what had been the happiest of his life had been a lie. Harry’s head was swimming, and he stumbled towards the door, needing to escape.

“Harry, don’t go, let’s talk about this-”

“I can’t do this. Not now. I’m going out. Get the fuck out of my way, Adam.”

Adam did so, and Harry grabbed the saucepan off the burner, shoving it to the side before he stormed out of the room, grabbing his phone and keys. He ignored Adam shouting after him, begging him to come back and quickly ran upstairs, pulling on a clean polo top before he thundered downstairs, ramming his feet into his YSL boots he’d treated himself to last time the company had made another successful merger.

“Babe, let’s talk about this-”

“I told you not to fucking call me that. Leave me the fuck alone.”

And with that, he yanked open the front door and stalked down the path, quickly getting in his Ferrari before he could change his mind, roaring away to the one place he actually wanted to be at at the moment. The Night Watch.

*

Harry could hear the music pulsating from the building as he climbed out of the car, shutting the door with a loud thud. He’d calmed down now since he’d left home, but he didn't want to return to Adam, that much he knew. He couldn’t bear the thought of going home and having to finally talk it out, to find out the truth about his husband’s infidelity. He shuddered and pulled his coat tighter around him as he walked across the gravelly surface, pushing the door open as he finally got to the building.

The room was dark, and Harry’s eyes struggled to adjust as he looked towards the stage. Louis was already mid-performance by the look of it, half naked as he writhed around on the stage, captive audience watching his every move. Harry glanced to the bar and nodded to Liam as he took a seat, a little frustrated that being late meant there was no room in his usual space for him.

“Usual?” Liam asked quietly, and Harry just nodded, unable to drag his eyes away from Louis’ dancing. It was probably the most sexual performance Harry had seen so far, and it looked like Louis had some sort of oil all over his body, his tanned arms and chest glistening in the pink tinted lights that were aimed at the stage. Harry tapped his foot on the floor to the bassy beat of the song, accepting the glass from Liam as he passed him his credit card to pay for it. “You alright?”

“Yeah, will be,” Harry replied quickly, smiling briefly at Liam before he looked back to the stage just in time to see Louis shimmying his hips as he pushed the jeans on his lower half down, exposing the tightest black boxers Harry had ever seen on a man. He gulped down a swig of his pint, watching Louis’ fingers tease across his crotch, grasping himself for a moment, and Harry’s body let out an involuntary shudder. He quickly dipped his gaze, feeling a little awkward about watching and feeling the way that he did about a man that wasn’t his husband.

There was a wolf whistle then, and Harry looked back up to see Louis grabbing his own arse cheeks, peeking cheekily back over his shoulder before he slapped himself quickly, biting his bottom lip. Harry took another drink of his beer, and felt grateful as Louis danced for just a few seconds more before ending it with a hip thrust and a wink at the audience. Everyone cheered as Louis bowed, and Harry swivelled on his stool, facing Liam again who was raising his eyebrows at Harry.

“Enjoyed that?”

“He’s a really good dancer,” was all Harry could bring himself to say, hoping Liam wasn’t going to probe any deeper, certain he might give himself away thanks to his emotional state. “How’s work been this week?”

“Yeah, good. Busy as always, but I like it. Don’t like sitting around and doing nothing,” Liam answered, wiping the bar with a cloth. He talked to Harry for a while, Harry nodding along and listening, pleased he had someone like Liam to talk to that didn't know anything about him, about the truth of his failing marriage. After a while, Liam nodded at his empty glass. “You want another?”

“Uh… better not, I have to drive home in a bit. I’ll have a coke, though, please.”

“Coming right up, Harry.”

Harry grinned and watched Liam sort out his drink, adding it to the open tab Harry had now started to have when he arrived at the bar.

“Just gonna use the loo, keep an eye on that for me?” Harry asked Liam, nodding to the glass he’d just set down. Liam sent him a thumbs up, and Harry navigated through the dark corridors, using the facilities and washing his hands before he walked back out. He saw someone sat next to his drink, and he stopped where he was when he realised it was Louis. They’d never had a chance to be this close before, and Harry wiped his damp hands on his trousers, ruffling his curls before he walked over, sinking down onto the stool.

He took his drink and had a sip, not able to work up the nerve to look at Louis as he chatted easily to Liam about his show that night, how he’d bruised his knee or something at home rehearsing it, which made Liam laugh too hard. Harry wasn’t sure the idea of Louis injuring himself was funny, but he tried to ignore it. Silence fell as Liam was called away to serve more customers, and Harry plucked up the courage to look to the man next to him.

“Harry, isn’t it?” Louis asked, and Harry nodded, a little shocked Louis knew his name. “Don’t worry, I’m not a creep. Li said this was your drink when I sat down, that’s all.”

“It’s okay. Yeah, I’m Harry, and you’re Louis?”

“That’s me.” Louis grinned quickly, and turned back to the bar, fiddling with the corner of a beer mat.

“Can I, uh, can I buy you a drink?”

“No, thanks. I can afford to buy my own drink.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, slamming a tenner onto the bar as if to prove a point. There was nothing worse than the punters coming up to him after a show, trying to butter him up and hit on him. Louis hated it, and while he wasn’t completely sure of this man’s intentions, he needed to draw the line in the sand now so there was no expectation between them. “Don’t need you or anyone else paying my way.”

“No, I know, I wasn’t trying to insinuate anything... I was just, um,  just trying to be nice. Don’t worry about it.” Harry pulled his phone out of his pocket and flicked through the numerous messages from Adam he’d received since he’d left, but he turned it off before he could reply, not sure what to say to his husband. He got up and picked up his glass, settling at the other end of the bar, wanting to give Louis some space. He didn't want to come across as a creep who was only there to hit on him,  and he emptied his glass again in lieu of anything else to do. He didn't really like the music playing, and he just sat playing with his wedding band for a moment, startling when someone sat next to him despite the copious empty seats along the bar.

“Sorry. For being an arsehole, I mean. So this is to say sorry.”

Louis pushed along another coke to Harry who took it with a smile and a quick nod of his head. Harry’s curls fell into his face as he looked down at the bar, and he pushed them behind his ear, wishing he had a hairband with him to hold it back with.

“Thank you, that’s really nice. I wasn’t trying to be a creep or anything, I just… it was just a drink, yeah?” Harry mumbled, aware his voice was almost too deep to be heard over the music, but Louis nodded, clearly having heard him. “I expect you’re used to being hit on. In a good way, I mean. Oh god, shut up Harry…”

Louis’ light giggle set Harry’s heart on fire, and he noted the crinkles at the side of Louis’ eyes when he smiled, how it lit up his whole face, how beautiful his smile was.

“You’re alright, mate. So tell me why you’re here in the middle of the week on your own.”

“I, uh…” Harry fumbled over his words, not sure whether he wanted to confess his marital woes to Louis or not. He was still a stranger, and if he was honest, Harry hadn’t spoken to anyone else about himself and Adam, and to admit it out loud for the first time felt like a lot.

“Come on, you can trust me to keep it to myself. I know people think bartenders like Li are the ones to talk to, but us strippers have a lot to offer as well. I mean, god, I get naked to please a room full of men, least I can do is listen to you talk about your problems for a bit.”

“How do you know I’ve got problems?” Harry asked, cocking his eyebrows at the man next to him, suddenly full of a deep desire to confess everything if it kept Louis’ eyes on him for the rest of eternity.

“Your eyes,” Louis said with a shrug. “They look a bit sad. I don’t like that. So go on, unburden yourself to your friendly neighbourhood stripper.”

“You’re not just a stripper,” Harry mumbled as he took another sip of his drink, mentally debating with himself over how to word what he was about to say before he figured he’d just say it in the simplest way possible. “I found my husband in bed fucking another man.”

“Shit, I-”

“And there was a woman there sucking his cock while he got fucked.”

With that, Harry grabbed his drink, wishing it was something much stronger than coke as he downed the rest of it, wiping off his mouth of the back of his hand before he looked back up to Louis, seeing nothing but shock on his face.

“Fuck. No wonder you look so miserable, mate. I, uh, I really have no idea what to say. What a fucking bastard.”

Harry chuckled ruefully, nodding as he realised Louis was right. Adam was a fucking bastard. A fucking cheating bastard at that.

“Yeah, he kind of is,” Harry agreed, turning his body slightly to face Louis, their knees brushing for a moment. “Really sucks ‘cause I kind of love him, you know?”

“Well, someone who does that to you doesn’t deserve your love, Harry,” Louis said quite vehemently, surprising Harry with his tone. “Seriously, fucking someone else when you’re married is the lowest of the low. Did his vows not mean anything to him?”

Harry just shrugged, his drunken mind agreeing with everything Louis was saying despite the fact he’d never voice those words himself.

“You haven’t, like, forgiven him or something, have you?”

Louis’ eyes were laced with concern, and Harry shook his head, knowing that deep down even if he and Adam somehow worked through this, he’d never forgive what Adam had done.

“No. No way. Like… he’s trying to act like nothing’s wrong, touching me and stuff and I just… I can’t. The thought of having sex with him now is just so wrong. It’s why I’m here, actually. He was kissing me, holding me, and I just couldn’t do it. I keep thinking of him letting that guy fuck him-” Harry’s eyes welled up then, and he balled his hand into a fist, slamming it down on the bar in front of him. Liam looked over and Harry caught Louis shake his head slightly out of the corner of his eye, something Harry was grateful for. He wasn’t sure he could bear another person knowing his most embarrassing secret.

“I get it. Like I said, he sounds like a fucking twat. He’s got a gorgeous husband and he still has to go somewhere else for a fuck? What, has he got a really small cock and he needs to make himself feel good about it or something?”

Harry laughed despite himself, and Louis kindly looking away as Harry briskly wiped away the tears threatening to fall.

“You’re worth more than that, though. I hope you know that, Harry. No-one deserves to be cheated on, let alone actually seeing it happen. I’m sorry that this happened to you, but I’m glad you found this place. I take it your husband doesn’t know you’re here?”

“No. I just left. I’m not sure he really cares where I am.”

“More fool him, then.” Louis sipped delicately at his drink, and Harry watched the curve of his wrist, the dark blonde hairs on his forearm that were exposed thanks to the pulled back sleeve of his cosy jumper. Harry gripped his glass harder, resisting the urge to touch and see if Louis’ skin was as soft as it looked. “Li, have you heard from Zayn? He’s not here yet, and I didn't want to get in late, gonna be a rough day tomorrow so I wanted an early night.”

“Nah, I haven’t. He’ll be here in a minute, Lou, he won’t forget about you.”

Louis nodded and turned back to Harry.

“You’ve got another job?” Harry asked before silently berating himself for such a patronising question.

“I do. I keep my clothes on for this one, though,” Louis said with a wink, and Harry blushed. “Stripping pays well, tops up my other wages. But I do love my other job a lot. It’s… it’s probably not what people expect of a stripper, they probably think I’m thick and showing off my body is the only thing I can do, but that’s not true, Harry.”

“No, I know that, Louis, I didn't mean-”

He was cut off by the door banging open, and he watched as Louis’ eyes lit up, hopping down from his stool and running into the arms of the man who had come inside. Harry watched with a heavy heart as the man hugged Louis back, an arm around his shoulders as he pressed a kiss to his temple, the two sharing some quiet words for a moment. He realised for a moment that that was what he and Adam had been like once upon a time, feeling like the only two people in the room when they were, in reality, surrounded by people. He looked down to his glass, swirling it around, trying to ignore Louis and his boyfriend.

“Sorry to dash, but I meant it earlier when I said to Liam I’ve got a long day ahead of me tomorrow. I hope you’ll be back, though? I’d like to chat to you more.”

Louis looked shyly at Harry then, and Harry couldn’t say no. He nodded, and picked up his glass, tilting it towards Louis.

“I’m sure I will be. Not like there’s a lot to be at home for at the moment, anyway. And, uh, thank you for the drink. I appreciate it.”

“S’okay, you’re welcome,” Louis grinned, slipping on his coat. “You can buy the round next time, yeah?”

Harry grinned at the fact Louis had just said there’d definitely be a next time, and he nodded, tucking his hair behind his ears again.

“Yeah, definitely. Have a good night. And thanks. For listening, I mean.”

“Anytime. I’m a good listener. Take care, yeah?”

Louis rested his hand on Harry’s forearm, and Harry glanced down at it for a moment before he looked to Louis’ boyfriend, who thankfully wasn’t paying the two of them much attention. Louis squeezed gently, and Harry smiled, locking eyes with Louis for a moment. It felt like time stood still, and it was only when Louis removed his hand that Harry came back to earth with a bump. He watched Louis sling his arm around his boyfriend’s waist, calling bye to Liam as they left, leaving Harry alone once more.

“Any more, or are you going to hit the road?” Liam asked, wiping up a few spills from other customers as he chatted.

“Nah, I’d better get home. It’s a bit later than I thought.”

“Alright, then. Probably see you soon, then?”

“For sure,” Harry agreed, passing Liam his dirty glass, watching him stack it in one of the crates for washing. “Uh… Louis’ a good guy, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, he is. He’s not what most people expect, that’s for sure. He must’ve seen something nice in you, though. He never buys drinks for the punters. Ever.”

“Well, then I really appreciate it,” Harry said, shrugging on his own coat now, aware it was very chilly outside. It felt nice to know Louis had made an exception for him. “I’d better make a move. See you later, Liam.”

“Bye, Harry,” Liam called as Harry pulled the door open, heading for his car. The wind whipped around him, and Harry pulled his coat tighter to his body, trying to fight off the cold. He unlocked his car and slid in behind the wheel, shivering as he started the car, whacking up the heating to full blast.

His headlights lit up the car park, and Harry put the car in drive, but he realised that for the first time, he didn't want to go home… that it didn't really feel like home anymore. Either way, though, he was married. There was no turning his back on the fact he’d made vows to Adam, and they had to work it out. Louis had someone special in his life, someone who looked like he treated Louis well, treated him like the treasure he was. Harry realised he’d never had that, never been made to feel like something special from Adam before, that maybe he’d been taken for granted.

Still, he had no choice. Adam was his husband, and Harry couldn’t just walk out on his two year marriage. He had to fight, to try and make it work. There wasn’t any other option.

Chapter Text

“Do you need a hand there, Mrs Walters?”

The older lady on the other side of the counter smiled and shook her head, gently lifting each book down and into her shopping trolley.

“Ooh no thank you, Louis, dear. You are lovely for offering, though.”

“All part of the service,” he grinned, straightening up the name badge pinned to his shirt proclaiming ‘Louis, Shift Manager’. He waited until the lady had taken all of her books and stowed away her library card in her purse before he waved her off, turning to the stack of recently returned books and sorting them by fiction or non-fiction onto the trolley for the assistants to shelve later on. The library was quiet for a moment, and Louis took a second to just stand and observe the few patrons that were inside, quietly walking down the aisles, perusing the available books.

He knew that being the shift manager at a library would be the last thing anyone expected from a stripper. He’d be judged, called names, ridiculed at The Night Watch, although the men who had done so had been swiftly ejected from the building by either security or an irate Liam. Still, though, it cut deep for Louis. He was intelligent, always top in the class at school, and he adored his job. He loved nothing more than talking to the customers who came in about their latest read, sitting with a group of children and showing them how to use the library index to find what they wanted, or even coaching the group of OAPs who came in to learn how to use the internet.

Then there was the fact he could just sit and read when it was quiet and all the jobs had been done. Louis’ flat had a huge floor to ceiling bookshelf crammed full of books, but he could never get enough. He was forever lugging home a bag of books on the bus, making his shoulder ache from the sheer weight of them, and then he’d get home, stacking them neatly on his bedside table, ready to devour at any given opportunity. He knew it surprised some people, that an intelligent man like himself had turned to stripping, effectively using his body for money, but it didn't bother him. He knew the truth, and so did the people who meant something to him. Nobody else mattered.

He looked up as the automatic doors whooshed open from where he sat absorbed in a book about Ancient Egypt, eagerly hoovering up the facts into his brain. He grinned as Liam strutted in and set down a takeaway coffee cup in front of him, Louis’ name scrawled on the side in scruffy handwriting.

“Oh cheers Li, I needed this to get me through to the end of the shift.” He lifted the plastic lid, blowing over the surface of the liquid to try and cool it down. “You finished at work?”

“Yeah, all done. Thought I’d give you a ride home, save you getting the bus.”

“You’re a star, my little Liam,” Louis grinned, sipping the drink. “I’m glad you’re here actually, I’ve got quite a few books to take home with me.”

“Of course you have,” Liam replied with a roll of his eyes, only teasing Louis, knowing his friend could take the banter. “How’s Zayn?”

Louis arched an eyebrow, looking at Liam over the cup of coffee, trying not to smirk. As much as they tried to hide it, Louis knew that Liam and Zayn were gone for each other, but neither seemed to have the balls to do anything about it. They constantly talked to Louis about one another, showing their interest, but to Louis’ frustration, he couldn’t persuade either of them to just admit how they felt. One way or another, though, he was going to get them together. He was sure they were perfect for each other in so many ways, and while he might not have found the man of his dreams just yet, he was pretty sure Liam and Zayn were most definitely that for each other.

“He’s good, Liam. Why don’t you text him and ask him yourself? You’ve got his number, I know you have because I gave it to you...”

“No! I can’t do that. No.”

“Why not?”

“Because… I just can’t. I was just being polite, anyway.”

“Sure you were,” Louis mumbled, setting his coffee down as a mother and her toddler came over. “Hiya, are you taking those ones home?”

The little boy nodded, and Louis rounded the desk to take the pile off him, his little arms struggling to hold onto his selection of picture books.

“Did you want to help me scan them out? Mum, is that okay?”

The mother nodded, and Louis lifted the little boy up, sitting his bum onto the counter as he passed him the scanner. He talked the boy through what he had to do, and watched as his little face lit up as the scanner beeped, allocating each book to his card. Louis picked up the top book, The Gruffalo, and grinned, pointing at it.

“Oh, I love this one! Have you read it before?”

The boy shook his head, watching as Louis opened it, smiling at the pictures.

“I used to read it to my little sisters all the time. I bet you’re going to love it. Now, I’m sure I have a sticker in here somewhere for my super helpers…” He turned and rummaged in the drawer off to the side, emerging with a roll of fun stickers he’d kept from a publishers visit. “Here you go, champ.”

He stuck one onto the boy’s t-shirt and lifted him down, passing him the book before he handed the rest of the pile back to his mum, who stowed them under the pushchair.

“Thank you so much, Lucas loved that. Have a good evening.”

“Will do, thanks a lot. Bye, Lucas!”

Louis waved and the little boy returned it with a shy smile, holding the side of the pushchair as he and his mum left the library, and Liam leaned back over, obscuring Louis’ view of the departing family.

“You’re so good with kids,” he said quietly, and Louis just looked up from where he was starting to shut the other computers down, closing time edging nearer. “Seriously, Lou, you’re wasted here and at the bar.”

“It pays the bills, Liam,” Louis chided, watching a customer leave without any books. “You know I love working here. And at the bar. I know you don’t get it, but I don’t mind stripping as well. I’ve got a good body, and I make other people feel good doing it. It’s not so bad. I don’t get the big deal.”

“There isn’t one,” Liam replied with a shrug, following Louis back to the staff room. “I didn't mean anything by it, Louis, I promise. I’m sorry.”

“Nah, you’re alright.” Louis turned and unpinned his name badge, leaving it on the top shelf of his locker so he wouldn’t lose it. “Actually, uh, do you have any shifts on the bar coming up you need a hand with?”

“Why?” Liam asked, staring intently at Louis as he pulled on a hoodie to keep warm. “Nothing to do with a certain curly haired man who keeps coming in?”

“Who?”

Louis prayed he wasn’t blushing, knowing exactly who Liam meant. There was something about Harry that Louis just couldn’t get out of his head. He’d fallen asleep the other day with green eyes in his mind, especially once Harry had confessed his story. Louis had felt a rage like no other when Harry had revealed his husband had cheated on him, and while he wasn’t usually a violent person, Louis felt an urge to hammer this idiot’s head in for breaking the heart of someone as beautiful and kind as Harry.

Louis didn't know Harry well, he’d admit that, but that didn't mean he didn't want to. He wanted to comfort him, find out his little secrets, find out what made him tick. He wanted to talk to Harry until the small hours of the morning, to understand his mind, to find out what he was going to do about his marriage. Louis knew if it was him, he’d walk away. He couldn’t stay with someone who had broken the trust like that, but Louis had a feeling it wasn’t so clean cut with Harry. He just wanted to protect him, and the thought of seeing him at the bar again filled him with a small beacon of hope.

“You know I’m talking about Harry. Don’t pretend you don’t know exactly who I mean.”

“Nothing to do with him. Rent’s going up next month and I need all the money I can get, Payno. He’s a nice guy, but I’m hardly going to work my arse off on the off-chance I might see a stranger, am I?”

Liam just shrugged and grabbed Louis’ heavy rucksack, hoisting it onto his shoulder with ease. “Who knows with you, mate. You just… it was nice to see you talking to someone, opening up to them the other night, that’s all.”

“Wasn’t me doing the opening up. Harry was talking to me. He surprised me, actually. It was nice to hear him talk. I just… I hope he comes back, Li.” Louis turned and exited the library, setting the alarm and locking the doors behind him before he followed Liam to his old but treasured Audi A3. They got in and Liam started the car, heading in the direction of Louis’ flat. “You think we’ll see him again?”

Liam shrugged again, indicating and pulling out onto the main road. “Dunno. When are you in next, anyway?”

“Uh…” Louis grabbed his phone from his pocket and opened the calendar, flicking to the work tab. “Looks like it’s Wednesday night, so two days.  Got a few ideas, actually.”

He smirked and Liam glanced across.

“Well, tell me!”

“Nope. You’ll just have to wait and see like everyone else…”

*****

Louis hurried through the bar, aware he was late thanks to Zayn cancelling his ride at the last minute, and Louis having to take the bus. He hated having a licence and not owning a car. It made life infinitely more difficult, and now he only had ten minutes before he had to get on stage. He waved to Liam as he pushed his way through the crowds, elbowing someone sat at the bar accidentally when he was jostled around a little bit.

“Shit, sorry, I- oh. Hiya, Harry. Good to see you.”

Harry nodded, swallowing the mouthful of alcohol he had before he smiled at Louis. Louis, though, noticed the smile didn't get anywhere near meeting his eyes, and his heart broke a little at the thought it must have been a fight with his cheating husband that had made Harry’s beautiful eyes so sad again. “Hiya, Louis. Have a good show.”

“Yeah, will do. Sorry, don’t mean to be rude but I’m late…”

Harry waved him off and Louis grinned, jogging backstage to the thankfully empty dressing room. There was something that he’d been considering for a while in terms of his show, and seeing Harry so sad had pushed him into it. He quickly left the room, finding Rob who was in charge of setting up the two stages, and he saw him, calling his name down the corridor, making the older man pause.

“Rob, do me a favour? Is the pole still set up on the smaller stage?”

“Yeah, Lou. You want to be on there tonight?”

“Please,” Louis asked, a cheeky grin on his face, knowing Rob could never resist his flirting. “It’ll be worth it, I promise.”

“Always is with you, Tommo. Go on then, I’ll kill the lights to the main stage so your boys know where to sit for the best view.”

Louis laughed and pushed up onto his toes, kissing Rob on the cheek, thanking him profusely before he took off towards the dressing room. He pulled off his clothes off as quickly as he could, leaving them in a crumpled heap for a change. He stepped over to his locker and pulled out the costume he’d bought on a whim in a sale, and bit his lip, hoping it would cheer Harry up.

He slipped on the sequin laden waistcoat, leaving his chest and stomach bare underneath while he exchanged his boring blue boxers for a black thong and some silky black trousers that would allow him to move around the pole with ease. Louis stepped over to the mirror and grabbed the pot of wax from the side, not caring whose it was as he swooped his hair up into a quiff, sure it wouldn’t stay there long once he started swinging around.

When he felt ready, he spritzed his body with some cologne and rummaged again in his locker, removing the final two props from it. He carefully nestled the glittery top hat on his head, perching it on his carefully coiffed quiff, the sparkly cane in his free hand. It was a bit of a showstopper look, and Louis was fairly pleased with what he saw in the mirror. Just before he left, he frowned, running his hand down the stubble on his jaw but shrugged, figuring it was too late to worry about that now.

He walked briskly towards the smaller stage, not wanting to get too hot and bothered before he actually started performing. He waited nervously as another backstage person, Hugh, waited, looking for Louis to give the cue. Louis thought for a moment about the song he’d already requested to perform to that night, and felt relieved when he realised what it was, and that it would work well with the pole routine he had in mind. He could hear a low hum of conversation just beyond the deep purple curtain, and he gave Hugh a quick nod, the curtain sliding open with a whoosh.

Louis was in his first pose, head tilted down, grabbing the edge of his top hat with the fingers of his right hand, his left hand curled around the crystal ball on the top of the cane. His head was dipped to the side, and his right knee was turned out slightly. He knew his silhouette looked good like this, and he started to tap his foot to the beat, peeking up and at the audience before he dipped into a sultry sway, loving the feel of the silk trousers around his thighs as he moved. He could feel goosebumps prickle over his chest and he slowly crept to the front of the stage, keeping his movements deliberate yet careful.

He tipped the top hat back, exposing his face fully, and he walked around the cane for a moment, taking the chance to look out at the audience. Louis knew he was only really looking for one person, and he smirked when he saw Harry sat in a comfy chair, legs splayed, nursing what looked like a glass of whiskey balanced on his thigh. Louis dipped low though, watching Harry’s eyes follow the movement of his body, and he threw him a wink as he turned away, knowing he needed to give all of the audience his attention to make good tips that night.

He stepped over to the pole then, wrapping his leg around it before he leaned back, arching his back as much as possible. He smiled as he held onto his hat with the other hand, hearing the loud cheers and calls from the audience who were lapping up everything Louis was doing. He stood back up and pressed himself against the pole, trying not to react as his cock pressed against the cool metal. He never got hard on stage, but somehow, looking at Harry had stirred up something in him Louis had kept repressed for too long.

He mouthed along to the song as he swung himself around the pole, dropping the cane to the floor with a dramatic clatter as he thrust slowly towards the pole, beads of sweat prickling his chest now. Louis ran the pad of his thumb down his lip, catching the bottom one as he looked out over the audience. He winked at a few familiar faces, standing up and turning to face the back of the stage as he pushed his trousers down, wiggling his arse a bit as he kicked the trousers off towards the backstage area.

He cupped himself before he turned around, giving himself a gentle squeeze before he began to work himself around the pole again. After a particularly dirty grind, Louis looked out, and he stilled for a moment, missing a beat of the music as he stared at Harry. One thing Louis knew was that Harry’s eyes weren’t sad anymore. They were now dark and heavy as they looked at Louis, his pupils blown wide, clutching the glass in his big hand tightly.

Louis let his gaze drop where Harry’s other hand was resting in his lap, trying to discreetly adjust himself. Louis looked back up and bit his lip, making it obvious he’d seen what Harry was doing, how affected he was by Louis’ performance on stage. Louis focused again, using the pole to the best of his ability, using his core strength to support himself, aware of how he was getting hard in the thong now, and that the flimsy fabric wasn’t going to do a lot to hide his aroused state.

The song moved into its final piece, and Louis grabbed the top hat again, using it to shield his erection as he leaned his body around the pole once more, throwing his head back for the final note. As always, the room exploded in cheers and calls, banknotes landing around Louis’ feet. Instead of his usual lengthy goodbye, Louis looked straight at Harry, blinking at him before he turned and stalked off the stage, feeling green eyes burn into him as he hurried back to the changing room, needing to get a hand on himself.

He crashed through the door and fumbled with the flimsy lock, cursing as he threw the hat to the floor, grabbing his erection in his hand, groaning at finally getting some friction on himself. He stumbled clumsily over to the small bathroom and flicked on the shower, letting the steam fill the room as he stepped out of his boots and thong, ducking under the water, taking no time at all in taking his cock in his hand, moaning lowly as the spray ran down his sweaty body.

Louis wasn’t soft in his strokes. He was rough and hard with his hand, making sure he could feel it as he lost himself in the sensations, squeezing and twisting his wrist when he reached the tip, brushing his thumb over the leaking slit. He let his eyes shut and he allowed his mind to fill with the green eyes that had watched him so hungrily on the stage, dark and eager for Louis to perform, watching every move his body made. Knowing Harry had been just as affected by his performance turned Louis on more, and he cupped his balls with his other hand, knowing he was close to orgasm.

He teased himself for a while, slowing down his strokes when he felt too close, and he bit on his lip, thinking it had definitely been too long since he’d last touched himself like this. His whole body was tingling with anticipation, and Louis groaned, a throaty sound that filled the small room, echoing off the tiled walls.

“Oh, fuck,” he cursed as his back hit the cool tiles behind him, stroking harder and faster now. He could feel a familiar bubble low in his belly, something he hadn’t felt in too long, and for a moment, he imagined it was Harry’s hand around him, guiding him to his orgasm, his deep voice whispering in his ear. “Oh- shit, oh god, Harry-”

Louis mumbled the name over and over and he came hard in the shower, strings of come landing at his feet, his whole body trembling with the aftershocks. He was feeling sensitive now, and he reluctantly released his cock, letting it rest against his thigh as he placed his palms on the wall in front of him, trying to catch his breath.

Never before had Louis had to come off stage and into the shower to wank, let alone to the thought of one of the people watching him perform. He knew Harry had liked his show, but still, Harry was a married man. Whether or not his marriage was in trouble, Harry was taken, and not by Louis. Guilt flooded Louis’ veins, and he decided he wasn’t going back out there tonight. He couldn’t look Harry in the eye again knowing he’d just come to the thought of him and his name on his lips. What he’d done was wrong, there was no doubt about that. Louis grabbed the body wash from the side and scrubbed roughly at his skin, wishing he could wash away what he’d done, regret replacing the desire that had burned so brightly only moments before.

Chapter Text

Three Weeks Later

Harry winced as he sat up in the cheap hotel bed. The mattress was thin and the springs within were digging into his back, meaning he’d had a constant back ache for the past week or so, since he’d moved into the small room. He blinked and sat up, flicking on the too-bright bulb in the bedside lamp, and stretched his back slightly, the sounds of his bones cracking filling the room. He knew if his Mum had heard that, she’d tell him off and send him straight to the chiropractor, but she wasn’t here. Harry sniffed back his tears then, realising in that moment just how much he missed her, how there was too much distance between them. It felt like too long since he’d felt her embrace.

He swung his legs out of bed, feet landing on the rough carpet. He was used to the plush pile of his own bedroom carpet, one of the luxuries he’d splashed out on in his and Adam’s home, and the stark difference between that carpet and this one was something that jolted Harry back to reality with a bump. He’d been at the hotel just over a week now, and he’d made sure to pick one of the cheapest in town, sure he didn't deserve anything better. In a way, it was a punishment for what had happened at The Night Watch just a few weeks ago, how his body had reacted to watching Louis on stage, how he’d got hard to the sight of a man that wasn’t his husband. The guilt had nearly eaten Harry alive, and just a few days later, he’d had a big argument with Adam that had resulted in him moving out. He’d left with just the clothes on his back, checking in to the hotel for an indefinite stay, the receptionist arching her carefully shaped eyebrows at him, eyes flitting down to see the wedding band on his finger. Harry had felt humiliated, but somehow, it felt right to feel bad, to be in this dive instead of comfortable in the home he shared with his husband.

He’d also not been back to the bar since that night. The thought of seeing Louis again was just too much. Harry was too aware that Louis had seen him touching himself that night, trying to conceal his erection from the sight of Louis dancing around a pole wearing very little. The fact Louis looked like he’d enjoyed the performance more than usual had affected Harry too, and so he’d decided not to go back, reasoning with himself that putting some distance between himself and Louis was a good idea. They weren’t close by any means, but still, it felt like Harry was betraying his husband for just having the thoughts about another man.

He wasn’t meant to be in the office today, but the thought of sitting in this poky little hotel room all day made Harry’s head spin. He ignored his morning wood in his boxers and walked over to the small television set in the corner of the room, flicking it on to watch the local news as he browsed his phone, heart fluttering when he saw a text from Adam sent an hour ago. His husband had always been an early riser, even more so than Harry, and Harry closed his eyes, imagining Adam texting him before he’d gone on an early morning run, thinking of him. He quickly tapped out a reply, and then shut his phone off, stumbling towards the small bathroom.

Harry had a quick shower, and decided to head home to pick up some clean clothes while Adam was at work before heading into town. He needed a few things, and the fresh air would do him good. He slipped on a t-shirt with a dark blue blazer on top, dark blue skinny jeans on his lower half. When he wasn’t at work, he preferred his jeans to his smarter work trousers, and he pulled his long hair back into a bun, smoothing it out before he used the elastic on his wrist to hold it back. He pushed his phone into his pocket and walked out, making a stop at the coffee shop next door to the hotel to buy a drink and a banana in lieu of having anything decent to make breakfast with in the hotel room.

The drive back to his house went quickly, and Harry arrived, slightly relieved to see Adam’s car wasn’t parked outside. Harry slipped inside the house and quickly gathered some clean clothes into a bag, along with his electric razor, the lube from his bedside table (just in case) and another bottle of aftershave, a bit sick of wearing the same one. He set them down in an expensive black leather holdall he’d had since he’d first come into money, and he zipped it shut, clutching the handles as he walked down the stairs. He set the bag down by the front door before he wandered around, taking a glance around at his home. Nothing much had changed, not that he’d expected it to in just a week, but there were definitely signs he hadn’t been around for a while. The living room was a bit of a mess, Adam’s breakfast things still sat on the coffee table instead of in the dishwasher, the remote controls left on the sofa cushion instead of on the TV stand. Harry cringed but left everything as it was, not sure if he wanted Adam to know he’d been there.

He left the house as he found it and drove into town, parking out in a little side street to avoid getting his car dinked in the tiny car parks around. He walked into town with his earbuds in, avoiding making eye contact with anyone as he slipped in and out of shops, buying unnecessary things. Harry’s bank account might well be big enough to support his shopping, but that didn't mean he didn't feel a twinge of guilt every time he bought something just because he could. He looked at his watch and was pleased to see it was almost lunchtime.

He hovered in Boots, looking at the selection of sandwiches there before picking up a Chicken Salad wrap for himself, along with a bag of crisps he wasn’t actually sure he wanted to eat. He glanced across at the shelf and saw a BLT pack that he knew Adam would like, and without stopping to consider what it meant, he grabbed one of those as well and headed to the till, paying for all of it. Adam worked at the other end of town in a large office block, and Harry’s heart was thudding as he walked towards it, to the man he loved and hadn’t seen for what felt like too long. He checked his reflection in a nearby shop window as he got closer, pleased to see he didn't look too shabby, and he walked into the building.

Adam’s office was on the third floor, and Harry stepped into the lift, pressing the button. He was grateful he had it to himself, and he took a few deep breaths until the doors opened and he stepped out. The corridor was alight with the sound of phones ringing and people having conversations all around, and Harry nodded as a few faces he recognised smiled at him. He’d popped by Adam’s office enough that they all knew who he was, and, with Adam’s lunch clutched tightly in his fist, he walked along the corridor, heading for his husband’s office. When he arrived, he paused outside, hesitating before he knocked. The door was shut, which meant Adam was in there with someone, but he was sure he wouldn’t mind being interrupted, especially by Harry.

But before Harry could raise his hand and knock on the wooden door, it swung open, and a smiling woman nodded to Harry and stepped out, clacking away on her heels. Harry fish-mouthed for a moment as he realised who she was, and he turned around, sending a stunned expression to his husband. Adam swallowed and shook his head, taking a step towards Harry, who automatically backed away. His mind flooded with images of that woman just a few weeks ago, sucking his husband off, and Harry felt like he was going to be sick.

“Are you kidding me?” he asked, his voice low, hands shaking at his sides. “You and her… at work, Adam?”

“No, Harry. Grow up. This was work. She works for me, we had a client to discuss. I can have professional discussions with her-”

“When your cock isn’t down her throat, you mean?”

“That’s enough, Harry,” Adam hissed, trying to pull him into the room so he could close the door, but Harry wasn’t having it. He put his foot out, stopping the door from closing and he gripped his shopping bags harder, all thought of sharing lunch his husband leaving his mind. “Stop it, Harry, this is my workplace.”

“I don’t care,” Harry said with a shrug, cheeks flaming now, knowing this was heading in the wrong direction. “I thought I’d do something nice, bring my husband lunch, perhaps have a chat but no. You have to have her in your office, with the fucking door closed. How stupid do you think I am?”

“I don’t think - fuck’s sake, Harry, she works for me! Let it go.”

“Let it go? I’m the one trying to make this marriage work, Adam! You fucking cheated on me, or did you forget that?”

Adam shook his head, anger clear in his face now. “No, I didn't fucking forget it, but this isn’t the time or the place for this-”

“Well, tough shit-”

“No, that’s enough. Stop it, not here. You want to talk, you come home, Harry. Stop running away and come back and talk to me.”

“I can’t.”

“No, that’s right. You’d rather just pretend this isn’t happening, wouldn’t you? We’re never going to get past this if you won’t talk. You won’t let me touch you, you won’t talk to me. Hell, you wouldn’t even get changed in front of me before you left. I feel like you’re not actually sure you want to save anything about us, Harry.”

“How dare you?” Harry asked, raising his voice again, not caring if people were looking. “If I’d have done what you did, you’d have thrown me out, and don’t even bother saying you wouldn’t. But I meant my vows, Adam. I loved you, and I would never have broken them, not like that.”

“Look…” Adam stepped across and took one of Harry’s hand in his own, deep brown eyes looking into Harry’s. For a moment, Harry’s eyes fluttered shut and he pictured piercing blue eyes instead, and he shuddered, forcing himself to open his eyes, looking into Adam’s again. “Baby, you need to come home. We need to talk properly, just us. Me and Kate… we were just talking about work, I promise.”

“You promised to be faithful to me, too. But you broke that. Why should I believe you now?”

Harry could feel hot tears rolling down his cheeks, and he didn't even bother to mask them.

“Because I’m your husband, Harry! Because I’m telling you how it is, and you’re not fucking listening to me!”

“You don’t give me a reason to believe a damn word that comes out of your lying, cheating mouth! Just… fuck you, Adam.”

With that, Harry whirled around and stalked off down the corridor, ignoring the numerous pairs of eyes burning into his back, having clearly heard every word of their fight. Harry felt humiliated, and his cheeks burned knowing that everyone in Adam’s office knew his husband had been unfaithful. He didn't bother to wait for the lift, hurrying down the stairs, tripping down the last few steps and barely catching himself before he landed on the floor. He swiped angrily at his eyes, annoyed at himself for being pushed to tears yet again and he slammed the doors open, throwing Adam’s lunch in a bin as he walked past with more force than was strictly necessary. Harry wasn’t sure how there was any coming back from this.

*

Hours later, Harry found himself drowning his sorrows at The Night Watch. He’d had a few shots when he’d arrived but had switched to soft drinks afterwards, knowing he still had to drive back to the hotel later on. There weren’t many people in the bar given it was still relatively early, and Harry enjoyed the anonymity of it all for a while, keeping himself to himself. His phone had lit up with dozens of notifications from Adam, but Harry had studiously ignored them all, not wanting to deal with the reality of everything again.

“Hiya, Harry. Nice to see you again, it’s been a while since you’ve been back.”

Harry looked up into Liam’s kind face, smiling quickly at him before he turned back to the glass in his hand.

“Everything okay?”

“Just peachy,” Harry said, sarcasm clear in his tone. He lifted his eyes again and saw a slight bit of hurt evident in Liam’s face, and he shook his head, ashamed at himself for being rude to someone who had only ever shown him kindness. “Shit, I’m sorry. I just… I’ve had a crappy day. I didn't mean to take it out on you.”

“Hey, it’s alright, I’ve had worse,” Liam grinned, reaching across the bar to pat Harry on the shoulder. “If you wanna talk, though, you know where I am.”

Harry nodded. “Cheers, mate. I appreciate that.”

Liam left him to it for a while until Harry had drained his drink and fancied another. As always, Liam was paying attention and came over, refilling his glass.

“Um… is Louis in today?”

Liam shook his head, using Harry’s credit card to pay for the drink. “Nah, he’s not rostered tonight. We’ve got a couple of other performers, but Lou isn’t in for a few days, I don’t think. I’m glad, though. He’s been stretching himself a bit thin lately, he really needs to take a few days for himself. Not that he listens to me…”

Harry felt more worried than he had a right to be at that news, and frowned slightly, needing to know more.

“Oh? Is he alright?”

“Yeah, he’s fine. He just has a lot on his shoulders, and he doesn’t talk about it enough. Puts on a brave face but me and Zayn can see through it. It’s like he sees asking for help as a failure or something. I don’t get him sometimes.” Liam just shrugged and started stacking glasses on the side from a crate, and Harry just watched, wishing he knew more about what Louis was really like, that he knew him as more than just the stripper at the bar he frequented.

“Doesn’t, uh, Zayn, is it? Doesn’t he help Louis out?”

Liam looked up then, an unreadable expression on his face. “Well, he does, but Lou’s not his responsibility. Lou wouldn’t let him anyway. He’s too proud to even turn to his best mate for help.”

Liam’s words rang loudly in Harry’s ears, and he tried to make sense of them, wondering if he’d understood properly. From what Liam had said, it appeared that Zayn was Louis’ best friend, not his boyfriend. Maybe then, he was single after all. Harry pondered how to ask without seeming too obvious, and he sipped on his drink, his mind a bit foggy still.

“Hasn’t he got, like, family or a boyfriend or girlfriend around?”

“Boyfriend,” Liam grinned back, “not girlfriends, not Lou. But no. He’s on his own.” His eyes widened then as he realised he’d said too much, and he bit his lips, nervous eyes locking with Harry’s. “Shit, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have… this is none of my business. Can you just pretend you didn't hear any of that? That I didn't open my big mouth?”

“Sure,” Harry replied, nodding. He couldn’t deny that the news Louis was apparently both gay and single made his heart feel lighter than it had in days, but then the guilt took back over, pushing away any thoughts of hope.

“Look,” Liam said, coming back to where Harry was, and he folded his arms, leaning on the bar, ducking closer so he could talk quietly so they weren’t overheard. “If you want to know more about Louis, then just ask him. He talked to you the other day, no reason he wouldn’t again. He’s open when he wants to be, and he’ll tell you if he doesn’t want to tell you something. I just… it doesn’t feel right talking about him without him knowing, you know what I mean? Sorry, Harry, I know you mean no harm, but-”

“Hey, it’s cool. I get it. He’s your best mate. I’ll keep quiet.”

“Appreciate it,” Liam nodded, and Harry looked up at the big clock on the wall, sighing when he saw the time. “You off?”

“Yeah, I better do. And yes, Liam, I’m alright to drive.” He grinned at the barman who just laughed gently. “See you soon, yeah?”

Liam nodded and waved as Harry got down from his stool, heading out. He was rummaging in his pocket for his keys and saw a figure heading towards him, so caught the door with his foot, holding it open while he patted his pockets, wondering where he’d stowed them away.

“Harry?”

Harry looked up, recognising the voice, and he couldn’t stop the big smile that crossed his face at the sight of Louis.

“Hey, Louis. Uh, Liam said you weren’t working today?” Harry virtually cringed as he said the words, knowing Louis would know he’d asked whether he was working, and he wished for a moment that the ground would open up and swallow him down. Luckily, though, Louis didn't seem perturbed by the comment.

“Nah, I’m not, just here to pick up my paycheck. I moved banks, and there was a cock up so they’re giving me cheques for now…”

“Ah, I see.” Harry scuffed the toe of his boot on the pavement, wishing he could say something to keep the conversation with Louis going, not liking the thought of saying goodbye already. “So, how have you-”

“You been okay-”

They both spoke at the same time, and Harry laughed, smiling softly at Louis as they shook their heads at the mistake. Harry pointed to Louis and he nodded, talking first.

“Sorry. I was just… I wondered if you were okay?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. Why?”

“Just…” Louis rubbed the back of his neck for a moment, and he looked anxious about something. Harry’s stomach did a flip as Louis’ eyes met his again, and he spoke so softly, Harry had to strain to hear him. “Shit. My mate, Niall, he works here with me but he also has another job. He, uh, he said there was something at work the other day with his boss, Adam. Said there was a bit of a domestic, the whole office was watching.”

Harry looked at the floor, unable to look at Louis, knowing that Louis knew full well it was his Adam that Louis’ friend had been talking about. Although Louis knew about Adam and his cheating, the fact he knew about Harry’s public humiliation was almost worse. Part of him wanted to run away, to get as far away from Louis as possible so he wouldn’t have to talk about it, but Louis must have sensed that, taking a step closer and resting a hand on Harry’s arm. The touch burned even through the sleeve of Harry’s blazer, and his tear glazed eyes looked down into Louis’ again.

“Harry… you can talk to me, you know? I won’t judge you, I just… I don’t like seeing you sad. Are you okay? Really okay, I mean?”

Harry nodded, pressing his lips together, praying he wouldn’t cry. He didn't want to seem weak in front of Louis, and he cleared his throat.

“Yeah, I’m fine. It was just an argument, you know how it is. Can’t be married to someone for years without the odd barney.”

“Harry…”

“Louis, I’m fine. I really am. Adam and I… we’re going to work it out. It’s gonna take time, but we’ll be okay. I know we will.”

He wasn’t sure he actually believed the words coming out of his mouth, but Harry hoped that if he sounded like he meant them, then they might actually be true. He didn't want to be just twenty three with an already failed marriage behind him. It would devastate him, and he didn't much fancy running back home and telling them the whole sordid story. No. It was better that he try and forget what had happened, put it behind him and look forward to the future he and Adam had always planned together; a long and happy marriage, children at some point, growing old together. It was the only way.

“Harry, come on, surely you can’t-”

“Louis, please.” Harry knew his eyes were pleading with Louis. He wasn’t sure how strong he felt at that moment, and if Louis were too kind to him for much longer, he just might crack and throw it all away. “It’s going to be okay. I love Adam, and he loves me.”

Louis scoffed, but Harry chose to ignore it, knowing he’d only inflame the situation if he did. He understood why Louis was skeptical, why he couldn’t understand Harry’s commitment to his marriage. Hell, if you’d have asked Harry a few years ago if he’d stay with a cheating husband, he’d probably have said no. But he was sure he loved Adam, and that they could work through their issues. They just had to talk about it, but that meant he had to go home. He couldn’t keep ignoring it any more. He had to be an adult and talk it through with his husband.

“Do you, uh, do you need a place to stay?” Louis asked, suddenly looking nervous at his question. “I mean, I don’t mean to presume anything, but I’ve got a pretty decent sofa if you need it. Just ‘til things blow over a bit. And… yeah.”

“That’s really kind of you, Louis,” Harry began, ridiculously endeared by a near stranger offering him a place to stay, even though he knew he didn't agree with his decision to go back to his husband. “I’ve actually been in a hotel, but I think it might be time to go home, you know? Talk it through, see what’s going on. I don’t think he’d like it, to be honest. I can’t do that to him, what he did to me. I know you probably don’t understand, I’m not sure I do really, but … yeah. I’m sorry, but thank you.”

“Alright, then. Well, you know where I am if you need me, yeah? Take care, Harry.”

Louis gave him a tight smile and a pat on the shoulder before he turned and disappeared into The Night Watch .

“Um, Harry?”

Harry looked up and saw Louis walking back towards him, a piece of paper between his fingers.

“In case you change your mind, yeah?”

He pressed it into Harry’s palm and wrapped his fingers around it before he disappeared again, leaving Harry alone. His hand was hot where Louis’ small hand had touched his, and when he came to his senses, he unfolded it, seeing eleven digits scrawled messily on there, which he assumed was Louis’ mobile number. He tucked it in the inside pocket of his blazer and stood for a moment, his mind a myriad of thoughts before he turned on his heel, stalking across the car park and getting into his car before he could do something ridiculous like go back and accept Louis’ offer. That would help no-one, and he knew Adam would be livid if he found out Harry had been shacked up with another man. Harry was angry with himself for even having these thoughts given Adam had been fucking another couple for two years, but he couldn’t help his misguided sense of loyalty.

He started the car and drove to the hotel he’d been staying at, cringing at what a dump it looked like as he parked at the small car park at the rear of the building. He pulled his keycard for his pocket, and stood at the desk before he could change his mind, fiddling with the corner of it as he waited for his turn.

“Hello, how may I help you?”

“Hi, I’d like to check out please? I’ve paid for tonight, but it doesn’t matter.”

The casually dressed woman nodded and tapped away at her computer for a moment before she looked up, and Harry noticed her lipstick was smudged on her front teeth.

“All done. If you could vacate the room by seven, that’d be good.”

“No worries, I’ll go and collect my things now.”

“Just pop the key in the box there when you leave,” she said, already chewing her gum and reading her magazine. Harry nodded despite himself, and headed for the stairs, only on the first floor. He let himself into the room and began to gather up his meagre possessions, pleased he hadn’t had a chance to unpack the things he’d only gone to grab from home that morning. When he was sure everything was packed, and that he’d left nothing behind, he pulled the door shut without a backwards glance.

He slotted the key in the box as he left the hotel, bag grasped his hand but there was only one thing on his mind as he set it down on the empty passenger seat of his car, rounding the car quickly to get in and drive away before he could change his mind about this whole thing. Before he drove off, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the piece of paper Louis had given him. He grabbed his phone from his other pocket and added the number to his contacts, listing it as just L, just in case. He then opened up one of the CD cases in his door pocket and tucked the note in there, not wanting Adam to find it and lose his temper because of it.

Harry smiled down at his phone. Just the knowledge that he had Louis’ number, that he had someone in his corner willing to help him out meant the world, and he was tempted to text Louis and thank him again for his kind offer, but he chose not to, knowing he’d only use the number if he really needed it. With a little weight off his shoulders thanks to the fact he knew he wasn’t alone, Harry began the drive home, back to his husband and his marriage, wondering what lay at the other end of his journey.

Chapter Text

“Oi, you want to share a muffin?”

“Please,” Louis called back, carrying on ripping up the napkin in his hands into tiny pieces, a neat pile formed in front of him. He’d been pleased when Zayn had text him earlier asking him if he wanted to hang out since he knew the both of them finally had a day off that coincided with each other, and if he was honest, he’d been itching to get out of the house.

He was so engrossed in his little game he jumped when Zayn set down a mug in front of him, almost brimmed with tea. A plate with what looked like a double chocolate muffin swiftly followed, and Louis wasted no time shoving his pile of shredded napkin to the side, peeling off a particularly chocolatey bit of cake and putting it in his mouth while Zayn just sat down and shook his head, probably having expected nothing less

“My treat next time,” Louis mumbled around his mouthful. It felt good to be out and about, and it felt like too long since he’d had a proper catch up with Zayn. Sure, they chatted in the car after Louis’ shows at The Night Watch but it wasn’t the same as this. He was always tired, or too keen to recount his routine and tell Zayn what had gone well or badly to talk about anything that meant something. He already had a topic on his mind and barely waited for Zayn to take a bite of the cake before he was speaking. “So, Zaynie…”

Zayn looked up, wide eyed, sensing Louis had something he wanted to talk about. He chewed and swallowed slowly. “Oh, god, you’re not going to bang on about Liam again, are you?”

“Only you could get the words bang and Liam into the same sentence,” Louis smirked over, receiving a middle finger for his trouble. “No, it isn’t that. But you do need to get the fuck on with it and ask him out. Anyway, enough of my sage words of advice.” He peeled off another piece of muffin and chewed it quickly, deciding to just blurt it out before he lost the courage. “You know, uh, Harry? From the bar?”

“The tall curly one that Liam mentioned?”

Louis nodded, sipping on his tea, pleased that Zayn had remembered not to spoil it by adding sugar to it.

“Yeah, that one. So he’s married, right? But his husband is a complete wanker who cheated on him. Harry walked on him with another couple. He left, but apparently they want to make it up. Like… Harry actually went back to him after he did that, Z. He wants to make his marriage work, even after he caught his husband with another guy and a bird. I just… I don’t get it. Why would he do that?”

“People do funny things when they’re in love, Lou,” Zayn said, giving Louis a look across the table. Louis shuffled in his chair, feeling, as always, like Zayn was seeing much deeper. “I’m sure he’s old enough to know what he’s doing…”

“Well, yeah, I know that, Zayn. But… I just think it’s stupid, you know? How can he ever trust him again after that? Like… for me, there’d be no going back. You fuck around behind my back, you’re gone, I don’t care how in love we were. If he loved him, Z, he wouldn’t have fucked around behind Harry’s back, would he?”

Zayn just shrugged, and Louis felt a little annoyed at Zayn’s indifference to the whole thing.

“Is that all you’re gonna give me? A fucking shrug and a few shitty words?”

“I don’t know the guy,” Zayn began softly, sensing Louis was getting angry. “And nor do you. Not really.”

“That’s hardly the point, mate. He looks fucking sad, alright? Everytime he comes to the bar, I see him and he looks miserable. I don’t like that. People like him shouldn’t be sad.”

“People like him?”

Louis stilled, realising he’d perhaps said too much. He looked up at Zayn, lifting his mug to his lips to buy him a few seconds time to think about how to dig himself out of the hole he was in.

“Nice people. Decent people,” Louis mumbled, hoping Zayn would drop it. “Anyway, you know about my Mum and Dad. She was broken after he did the dirty on her. I saw it, Zayn. I cuddled her while she cried herself to sleep, blaming herself when he was the prick who broke her heart. So no, I don’t get why Harry would take his lying, cheating scumbag husband back.”

“And why do you care?”

“What?”

“Why do you care? You don’t know Harry. It doesn’t affect your life if he goes back to his husband or not. So, I’ll ask again. Why do you care?”

“Just think it’s stupid, that’s all.”

“No, Louis. I don’t think that’s it. Not at all.” He chuckled ruefully, pushing the rest of the muffin towards Louis. “Open your eyes, yeah? You say I’m ridiculous over not admitting my feelings or whatever about Liam? Pot, kettle, black, mate. That’s all I’m saying.”

“Oh fuck off,” Louis cursed, ripping apart the muffin and eating it before Zayn could snatch any more of it back. “He’s an idiot for taking his husband back, and I don’t want any part of it, Zayn. I won’t be part of him destroying himself in the process of trying to fix something that can’t be fixed.”

Zayn looked a little stunned at Louis’ tone and nodded, realising there probably wasn’t going to be a response to that that would satisfy Louis. Louis ignored the tug at his heart at the realisation it had been days since he’d given Harry his mobile number in the hope he might be in contact, that despite his protestations to Zayn he wouldn’t part of anything, he’d offered his sofa to the other man. Harry clearly didn't want anything to do with Louis outside of watching him strip, so that’s what Louis would stick to.

“Right, change the subject, I’m bored. How are your lovely sisters?”

*****

“Coming right up, mate!” Louis said with a grin to the punter holding out a twenty to him. He quickly prepared the order of drinks, glancing down at the notepad he’d scrawled his notes on, not quite as versed at remembering long orders as Liam or the other team members behind the bar. He wasn’t as comfortable here as he was on stage taking off his clothes, that was his forte and he was confident in his work there, and this was out of his comfort zone. However, Louis knew he needed all the money he could get at the moment, so when Liam had text asking if he’d cover a late shift, he’d easily agreed, hopping on a bus to get there on time.

Niall was performing on stage, and although it wasn’t one of their busiest nights, Louis still felt worn out. He didn't notice the door opening, but he did see when a familiar figure sat down at the other end of the bar to where he was working, and Louis focused on not looking over, not wanting to engage. He was still angry at the thought of Harry taking his husband back. The thing was, Louis knew it was completely irrational, that he had no right to have an opinion on whether Harry should make his marriage work or not, but the man had gotten under his skin somehow.

He saw Liam head over that way, greeting Harry with a smile before coming to stand near Louis, pouring him a generous measure of whiskey.

“Harry’s here,” Liam muttered, not wanting to be overheard. “Are you going to talk to him?”

“Dunno,” Louis shrugged, trying to seem indifferent. He hadn’t told Liam everything like he’d done Zayn, and he felt a bit glad about that. After he’d spilt Harry’s personal story to Zayn, Louis had been overcome with guilt and had sent several frantic messages to his friend when he got home begging him not to tell anyone, that he shouldn’t have said anything. Zayn promised to keep quiet, but it didn't do much to alleviate Louis’ guilt of telling someone else’s story to a stranger. He was in the wrong, and he knew it. “Maybe later, Liam. I’m busy. S’not like he’s my mate or anything, jeez.”

Louis knew his response was a little extreme from Liam’s reaction but his friend just nodded, stepping back over to Harry and taking some money, going to the till before returning to hand over his change. There was a rush then, and Louis was rushed off his feet pouring pints, shots and mixing vodka and cokes for an increasingly drunken cohort of men, but he didn't mind. There was a lot of laughter and banter, Louis actually enjoying getting to talk to the people who usually watched him on stage for a change.

When there was a lull, Louis grabbed the bar cloth and set about wiping up some of the spills seeing that Liam had disappeared, probably to put some of the empties in the dishwashers out the back. He was nothing if not responsible. Louis worked his way along the bar, not really realising what he was doing until-

“Louis? Can I buy you a drink?”

He looked up and tried not to show he was reacting to Harry’s deep voice, the tentative tone lacing his voice that wasn’t usually there. He quickly took in the smart outfit on Harry’s body, clearly expensive clothes judging by the fit, and it was then that Louis realised there was no way a man like Harry would ever want to be anything more than friends with a stripper. They were from different worlds, and Louis clenched his jaw for a moment, steeling himself for what he knew he had to do.

“I don’t want a drink, Harry. I don’t want anything from you. If you want someone to fool around with, you can go back to your husband. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got a job to do.”

He looked up quickly enough to see the hurt in Harry’s eyes at his words, but he couldn’t help it. Everytime he looked at Harry, saw how sad his eyes were, he felt more angry inside, especially knowing Harry was taking back the man who had put the sadness there. It made no sense to Louis, and he couldn’t comprehend why Harry was putting himself through that pain when he could just walk away.

“I’m sorry if I’ve upset you, Louis,” Harry said softly then, and Louis kept wiping the bar near enough to encourage Harry to keep talking. “It wasn’t my intention. I really did appreciate your kindness the other day but… I couldn’t accept. I hope you understand why I had to say no.”

Louis scoffed, coming over and slamming his palms on the bartop, making Harry jump and shrink backwards. Louis regretted his actions for a moment before anger took hold again, words tumbling out before he could consider censoring himself.

“Understand? Why the fuck would I understand why you’d take back your cheating husband, Harry? I just… I don’t know how you can’t see it. He’s done it once. He’ll do it again. You’ll never have your perfect marriage back again, don’t you see? He’s not worth your tears, Harry, and by taking him back, you’re just giving him permission to break you all over again, as much as he likes because you’re stupid enough to go running back for more. You can’t fix something so broken, Harry-”

“I can fix it!”

Louis was startled as Harry hollered at him, but he stayed firm, fingertips pressing into the wood, verging on painful now.

“I have to fix it, Louis, it’s my fucking marriage. It’s not something you just throw away and give up on. I just… I can’t give up on it.”

“Harry-”

There was a loud bang as Harry pushed himself off his stool, the wooden seat falling to the floor with a loud clatter. Louis just watched with shocked eyes as Harry snatched up his phone and coat and left the building, slamming the door against the wall as he left. Louis turned around, too aware of eyes in the room on him, waiting for a reaction, and he swallowed down the lump in his throat, feeling a bit helpless. He’d gone too far, he knew it, but he was at a loss over what to do.

“What the fuck was that?”

Louis looked up into Liam’s eyes, surprised to see his friend looking at him with an angry expression.

“It was personal-”

“Not when it’s behind my fucking bar it isn’t.”

Louis swallowed, realising very quickly he’d overstepped the line. Liam didn't get angry very often, but when he did, it made Louis nervous. He took a step away, wiping at a non-existent spill.

“You were bang out of order, Louis. He didn't deserve that, let alone in the middle of a bar. I seriously hope you’re going to apologise to him, because you just crossed a line, mate. It wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t bother coming back after that little performance.”

Louis shook his head, hating that Liam was talking down to him like this, even if he was right. Still, Louis wasn’t about to admit that, and he stood up to his full height, glaring at his friend.

“Oh fuck off, Liam. He needed someone to be honest with him, and I was right, whether you agree with how I said it or not. And why would I care if he doesn’t come back? He’s just a punter like the rest of the blokes in here. Fuck this. I’m taking a break.”

“Stop kidding yourself, Louis…” Liam called as Louis threw the cloth down, stalking out from behind the bar, kicking open the door to the staff room a little vigorously. He clenched his hands into fists for a moment before he yelled, grabbing a stack of plastic cups that were for some reason sat on the table, and he launched them as hard as he could at the wall. They fell to the floor with a very unsatisfying bump, and Louis went to his jacket, grabbing his lighter and cigarettes, heading outside to the designated smoking area.

There were a few men already there so Louis stood to the side, out of the light as he lit his cigarette. He smoked it far quicker than he usually would, despite the fact he’d cut back to just one smoke every few days now. He’d noticed a marked improvement in his stamina and breathing since he’d stopped but right now, calming himself down was paramount, and he knew the nicotine hit would be just what he needed. Once he was done, he crushed the butt under his Converse before he picked it up and threw it in the special bin mounted to the wall, and went back inside.

He stepped back behind the bar and steadfastly ignored Liam for a moment as they both worked, serving people until there was a bit of respite. He walked over, and leaned on the bar, not able to bring himself to look at Liam.

“I was wrong, okay? But I can’t apologise. I haven’t got his number, and I don’t know where he lives. Don’t give me a hard time, okay?”

“Alright, mate. Sorry I yelled at you, but… this isn’t like you, Lou. Do you-”

“No, Liam, I don’t want to talk about it. But thanks. You’re a good mate.”

Liam clapped him on the shoulder, and Louis turned back to another customer who was stood in front of him, eyes glazed over as he focused on Louis.

“What can I get you, mate?”

*****

It was gone one by the time Louis tumbled into bed. His feet were burning from running around for six hours straight, and he had more appreciation for Liam and the other bartenders than he’d had before. He’d worked shifts on the bar before, of course, but this one had been hectic, and they’d barely stopped. Still, that meant the profits would be up and Louis would be keeping his job for the time being, so he tried to look on the bright side.

Louis plugged his phone into the wire trailing out of the wall, slightly disappointed to see he had no new texts. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew part of that was because there was a small part of him that had been hoping Harry would be in contact somehow, so that Louis could apologise. It annoyed him he hadn’t thought to ask for Harry’s number when he’d so freely handed his own over, and he knew now that any more interactions between the pair of them were entirely on Harry’s terms. That didn't sit too well with Louis.

He flicked off the light and shuffled under the covers. The sheets were cool on his bare body, and Louis let out a long sigh, tucking his hands under the back of his head, blinking up at the dark ceiling. The window was ajar despite the chill outside, and Louis could hear a low hum of traffic in the background. Sometimes, he wished he lived on a quiet residential street that wasn’t on a main road so he could have some absolute silence, but he knew something like that was well out of reach, at least until he had a good job.

He couldn’t help it as his thoughts once more went back to Harry, wondering if he’d returned home to his husband after their argument, how things had gone down when he’d gone back. He knew he’d been too harsh earlier to Harry, he did. But his mum always said he was passionate, and that he sometimes spoke before really considering, and tonight was definitely one of those times. The words had fallen from his lips before he’d fully had a chance to think them through. Everytime he closed his eyes, his mind was filled with green eyes full of hurt. Hurt he’d put there.

Louis rolled onto his side, biting down on his lip until he drew blood, the metallic tang coating his tongue. The more he ran the conversation through his mind, the sicker he felt. Harry had clearly been deeply hurt by Louis’ words, and the way he’d told Louis that he had to fix his marriage, that he couldn’t just give up on it didn't sit right with Louis. There was an inherent sadness there that Louis couldn’t help but feel went beyond a cheating husband. His body ached, his mind was restless, but sleep wouldn’t come. He felt awful, and knowing there wasn’t a damn thing he could to make this up to Harry weighed heavily on his mind. Louis, not for the first time, was at a complete loss. He didn't know what to do.

Chapter Text

It had been a week since Harry had seen Louis. They’d not had any contact whatsoever since Louis had yelled at him at The Night Watch, and Harry hadn’t been able to bring himself to go back and face him again. He was still hurting from the things that Louis said, the words cutting deep, but the worst thing was that part of him believed that Louis was right. His marriage was over, Adam would probably keep cheating on him, if he wasn’t already, and that maybe, Adam wasn’t worth his tears. There was also another part of him that wished he hadn’t walked out as he did, but in that moment, it was better to do that than stay and let Louis see him cry.

He’d avoided Adam as well, staying at the hotel every night, only popping home to grab some more clothes when he knew his husband wasn’t around. There had been radio silence between the two of them since the blow out at Adam’s office, and Harry was determined he wasn’t going to be the one to cave this time. He had sent a few texts in the small hours of the morning that had gone unanswered, and Harry was at a loss at what to do. Adam was in the wrong, yes, but the fact he hadn’t come crawling back to try and speak to Harry spoke volumes, as much as Harry hated to admit it. This meant, though, that Harry had never felt so alone, and each night he sat in his crappy hotel room, he felt like the walls were caving in. It was too much, and after staying awake until gone three in the morning, Harry made a decision.

The following lunchtime saw him on the motorway, heading for home. Since he’d moved to Oxford to be with Adam, Harry’s visits back home to Holmes Chapel had been too few and far between for his liking. Adam always found a reason not to tag along when Harry did make the trip up North, and Harry pushed away the hurt over that, choosing to go there himself, ignoring his Mum’s disappointed look when he arrived solo once more.

The relationship between Anne and Adam had always been a bit strained. His mum had never taken to the new boyfriend Harry had met during his first year of University, and things had only got worse when they’d eloped on holiday in Scotland, tying the knot in Gretna Green on a whim. Harry had never been happier, but his Mum had cried, unable to believe she’d been robbed of the chance of giving her only son away. Harry was sure Anne blamed Adam, even though it had been Harry who had pushed to get married, enamoured and completely in love with his handsome older boyfriend. It had affected things between Harry and Anne as well, no matter how much neither of them wanted to admit it. Harry found it hard to bear the fact his mother disliked his husband, and Anne had only ever seen Adam as a money grabber, keen to get his hands on Harry’s fortune.

The journey was an easy one, traffic thin in the middle of the day, and before Harry knew it, he was pulling up outside the modest house he’d grown up in. When he’d sold his app for a seven figure sum at the age of sixteen, he’d wanted to buy his Mum a bigger, better house but she’d asked to stay where she was, unable to accept money from her young son. Harry hadn’t understood, but when he looked up at the house filled with such wonderful memories, he was glad she’d made the decision she had. He got out, leaving his bag on the back seat and hurried up the path, keen to get inside. Instead of just barging in, he held out a nervous hand and rang the bell, taking a step back as he waited for the door to open.

“Oh my god- Harry!”

Harry didn't hesitate. He rushed forwards into Anne’s arms, sinking into the familiar embrace. He inhaled the scent of her perfume, the pair of them just standing there for what felt like hours until finally Anne released him, ushering him into the house.

“Not that it’s not wonderful to see you, darling, but what are you doing here?”

“Do I need an excuse to come home and see my Mum?” Harry asked, settling down on the sofa opposite his Mum, curling up his feet underneath him. He immediately felt like he was a young boy again, and grabbed a cushion, holding it against his tummy. “Feels like too long since I’ve been here, that’s all. Had a few days off from work so I thought I’d come up here, see you and Robin and Gemma. They both at work?”

Anne nodded, fiddling with the wedding band on her finger. Harry had been thrilled when his Mum had remarried a few years ago, and had proudly given her away to a wonderful man, Robin, who had been nothing but a great step-dad to himself and his sister. He looked over a few photos dotted around the room, and his heart panged with how much he’d missed them. “Yeah, love, they are. No Adam, then?”

“No.”

Anne arched an eyebrow before she stood up, bustling into the kitchen and soon returning with two cups of tea, handing one to her son. She sat back down and looked to Harry, concern evident on her face.

“Harry, I love you being here. I do. I miss you every day, darling. But there’s something wrong. I can see it in your face. Talk to me, love.”

Harry bit down on his bottom lip, dreading admitting anything aloud. The only person he’d told the truth to was Louis, and that was easier because Louis didn't know him all that well, it felt like off-loading to a stranger, and it had felt cathartic. His Mum, though, was completely different. She’d react emotionally, and Harry wasn’t sure he was completely ready for it.

“Harry Edward Styles…”

“Alright, alright,” Harry murmured, leaning forward to set his cup of tea on the coffee table next to a pile of interior decorating magazines Anne seemed to collect. “Um… we’ve been having a few problems.”

“I gathered that much.”

Harry cleared his throat and pushed himself back into the sofa, wishing he could disappear inside it, stop this conversation from ever having to happen.

“Adam… Adam cheated on me.” Harry watched as his Mum’s eyes widened before they narrowed to slits again, anger taking over her face. “Well, that doesn’t make it sound as bad as it is.” He laughed ruefully, shaking his head. “He’s been sleeping with someone since before we got married. I walked in on them. In our bed.”

“Oh my….” Anne mumbled, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. “Darling, I’m so sorry. Have you left him?”

“Sort of?” Harry shrugged, cheeks flaming from the admission that his own husband had been unfaithful for the duration of their marriage. “I moved out for a while, then I went back. But I’ve left again, I’m staying in a hotel while I work out what to do. A friend offered me his sofa, but I couldn’t do that to Adam-”

“Harry, don’t be so bloody ridiculous,” Anne snapped, slamming her hand on the arm of the sofa. “You owe him nothing! He’s the one who fucked arund-”

“Mum!” Harry gasped, scandalised by his mum’s choice of words.

“Oh please, we’re both adults. He fucked around behind your back, he gets no say in where you go. What did this friend say?”

Harry shut his eyes, Louis’ words repeating around his head, not escaping no matter how much Harry tried to make them disappear. “Uh… he was a bit harsh, actually. Said I was stupid to think I could get my marriage back after this, that if Adam’s cheated once, he’ll do it again.”

“Sounds like he’s got his head screwed on straight, this friend of yours,” Anne muttered, and Harry realised then it was the first time he’d really thought of Louis as his friend. The thought warmed his heart slightly. “He’s right, though, you get that, love?”

Harry nodded and pressed his lips together, willing himself not to cry. It was a motion that didn't go unnoticed by Anne, and she silently stood up, coming and sitting next to her son before she pulled him into a hug. Harry finally let the tears start to flow, the reality of the situation hitting him. Admitting it to his Mum made it all feel very real, and he suddenly felt scared this was it, that his marriage was at crisis point. Where they went from here determined the future for both of them, and Harry didn't like the uncertainty of the unknown.

They sat there and held each other for a long time, Anne changing the subject when she realised Harry didn't have the energy to talk about it anymore, but once Gemma came home from work, things took a turn again. She’d excitedly hugged her brother, slapping his arm for being a stranger for too long, but Harry knew she’d missed him too much to be truly angry. They’d eaten dinner together, Robin calling off as he’d had to work late, and Anne and Gemma had washed the dishes together, leaving Harry slumped in front of the television, mindlessly scrolling through his phone.

Harry jumped as the sound of a saucepan banging on the side rang from the kitchen, and soon, his sister was stood in front of him, her hands on her hips and a thunderous expression on her face.

“What did that fucktard do? Seriously, Harry, I will drive down there and kick his arse-”

“Gemma, calm down,” Anne said, hurrying through, wiping her hands off on a tea towel. “I told you not to say anything to Harry…”

“It’s alright, Mum,” Harry said with a sigh, reaching out and tugging Gemma down to sit next to him. “Mum’s right, Gem. He cheated on me. That’s why I’m here, I- I needed to get away. Just for a bit. I couldn’t be around him.”

“I’m gonna fucking kill him,” Gemma threatened, and in that moment, Harry didn't doubt a word coming out of her mouth. “How the fuck could he do this to you?”

“Don’t ask me, Harry replied, eyes welling with tears again. I don’t understand any of it, to be honest. I thought he loved me, Gems.”

“He doesn’t fucking deserve you,” Gemma growled, and Anne tutted again at her daughter’s language. “Please tell me you’re not going to take him back, Harry.”

Harry stayed silent, and Gemma threw her hands up into the air for a moment, a look of exasperation on her face.

“You can’t be serious, Haz. How can you forgive him for that, for cheating on you, and not just once from what Mum said? Is your marriage that important you’re willing to put that behind you and forget about it?”

“I don’t know,” Harry mumbled, feeling like his answer was letting down the two most important people in his life. “I never got married to ever think about getting divorced. For me, it was a forever thing.”

“Clearly not for him.” Gemma shook her head, and Harry had had enough.

“Gemma, that’s enough,” Anne snapped as Harry got his feet, wiping at his eyes. “Darling, as much as it kills me, you have to follow your heart. Only you know how you really feel about Adam and what he’s done. If it was up to me, I’d have you back up here and away from him in a heartbeat, but I know you’ve got your job, and your friend…”

“What friend?” Gemma quizzed, and Harry just shook his head, not willing to go there just yet. “Hazza… I love you, you know I do but I think you’re mad if you’re even considering trusting him again. Sorry, but I want what’s best for you, and it’s not him.”

“I’m gonna go to bed,” Harry whispered, letting Anne and then Gemma hug him. “Sorry, just been a long day, and I need to sleep. We’ll talk more tomorrow?”

Both women nodded, and Harry could hear furious whispers as he left the room, returning to his childhood bed. The room had barely changed since he’d left five or so years ago, the blue paint on the wall still there with the marks from where blobs of blu-tack had held precious posters up, his bookshelves still displayed some of his school achievement trophies, and his childhood teddy was perched on his pillow, gathering dust. Harry swallowed down a sob and stripped down to his boxers, getting into the fresh sheets and pulling them over himself.

As much as he loved being home, hearing the harsh truths from his Mum and sister had hit home, and it was making Harry really think for the first time about whether he truly wanted his marriage to work. Perhaps Louis had been right. He’d gone about it in a clumsy way, for sure, but he’d meant well. Unable to shake Louis from his mind, Harry stretched out a long, tattooed arm and grabbed his phone from the side, scrolling to find the contact he hadn’t yet used.

His heart was racing as he opened a new message, Louis’ name at the top of the screen, and Harry bit his lip, wondering what to say. They hadn’t exactly left things on a good note, but Harry couldn’t bear the bad blood between them now. Without overthinking it, his fingers flew over the screen as he typed out a message, checking it for mistakes before he hit send. He tucked the phone under his pillow as soon as he did, almost unwilling to see if it had been delivered or worse, read.

Hi Louis, it’s Harry. From the club. I’m sorry for what happened before, how I just left. I’ve gone to visit family at the moment, but when I’m home, can we meet? I’d like us to talk face to face. Hope you’re well. Harry. X

He laid on his back, hands clasped against his bare chest, the cool metal of his wedding ring a stark and ever present reminder of the turmoil going on his life. His eyes were just fluttering shut when he felt the vibration of his phone against the mattress, and with shaking hands, he reached for it, pulling it out and he almost stopped breathing when he saw it was Louis. He’d replied. Harry fumbled with his pin code for a moment until finally, the phone unlocked, revealing Louis’ message.

Hi Harry, I’m glad you text me. I’ve been worried cos you have’t been back to the club. I’d like us to chat. Let me know when you’re home. Take care. Lou.

Harry bit back a grin at Louis’ concern over his lack of appearance at the club, and it touched him to realise that Louis knew he’d been missing. He’d actually noticed Harry hadn’t been around and was worried about him. Harry reread the message several times until his eyes burned from the brightness of the screen and he turned off his alarm before he switched the phone off, not even thinking about texting Adam. There was only one man on Harry’s mind as he fell asleep that night, and for the first time in many years, it wasn’t his husband.

*****

“Yes, Gemma, I’m nearly home.” Harry rolled his eyes as he spoke to his sister on his car’s bluetooth system. They’d been chatting for the past hour or so, and Harry had appreciated the company. While the drive back to Holmes Chapel a few days ago had been filled with excitement and anticipation of seeing his family, this trip back home to Oxford was filled with dread. He knew what he was going to do now, and it weighed heavily on him. A few days away had given Harry the time and space he’d needed to make sense of everything, and after a few late nights sat up with his family, he knew what it was he had to do. “Not home home, but the hotel. You know what I mean.”

“Call me later, okay? Whether you go and see him today or not, I want you to call me. Please.”

“I will, I promise. I’d better go but I love you, Gems. Thank you for being there for me through this shit.”

“Don’t thank me, you twat. You’re my baby brother. And if you want me to come up there and beat the shit out of him, say the word and I will.”

Harry chuckled, shaking his head as he pulled into the street where he lived with Adam. His car was outside, and Harry parked neatly next to him, feeling sweat already gathering on his brow at the mere idea of confronting Adam again. “Will do, bye Gemma.”

“Bye, Hazza.”

Harry pressed a button on the console to end the call, and killed the engine, staring up at the house he’d once been so proud to call a home. Now, it felt like somewhere he didn't want to be, and that made him sad inside. He got out of the car and shut the door as quietly as he could, not wanting to alert Adam to his presence until he absolutely had to. He fumbled with his keys for a moment, slotting the silver one into the lock, and the door swung open, creaking gently.

He kept his jacket on as he walked through the house, not bothering to remove his shoes. He could hear the tapping of a computer keyboard coming from the lounge, and he hovered in the doorway, realising this was it. This was the turning point, and after he’d done it, there’d be no going back. Slowly, he walked inside, and Adam looked up, clearly shocked to see his husband stood there.

“Shit, Harry, you scared the crap out of me-”

“I live here, too,” Harry mumbled, feeling less and less like he belonged there. He still hadn’t met Adam’s eyes, and he walked across the room, leaning against the exposed brick wall that held their fireplace. He folded his arms across his chest, hoping he came across as more confident than he actually felt inside.

Adam closed the computer and shifted it under the sofa, out of harm’s way.

“Where have you been?”

Harry finally looked up and stared his husband down, ignoring the look on his face. He knew he didn't owe Adam an explanation, but he didn't see the harm in revealing where he’d been.

“I went back home for a few days. I needed to clear my head.”

“Right, and poison their minds against me, I suppose?”

Harry scoffed and shook his head, unable to believe that already Adam was playing the victim. Somehow, though, he wasn’t at all surprised. He crossed his legs at the ankles, taking a moment before he answered.

“I told them, yes. I needed to talk to someone, to work out what I’m going to do.”

Silence fell heavily between the pair, and Harry watched as Adam stood up to his full height, ramming his hands in the pocket of his joggers. Harry’s mouth felt dry, his stomach was full of butterflies, and part of him just wanted to leave, to get as far away from his husband and this situation as he could. He stood firm, though, knowing this had to happen. He was an adult, and he had to do this, for himself, if no-one else.

“Adam, I want us to separate. I’ve thought this through, trust me, I’ve done nothing but think about it. But all I know is that you’ve broken my trust, and I’m not sure I can ever forgive you or forget what you did. I think our marriage is over.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Adam spat out, his eyes dark as he stepped over to Harry. “A few days away with those witches that you call a family, and you’re throwing our marriage away-”

“Do not talk about them like that,” Harry growled back, more than angry now. He knew Adam didn't hold his family in the highest of regards, but hearing him speak of them like that made him angrier than anything else. “This is nothing to do with them, this is between me and you. You started all this, remember? Not me. You’re the one who fucked someone else behind my back.”

“Harry, I said I was sorry! I’m not going to see them again, if that’s what you want. You can’t throw our marriage away like this, not now-”

“Why can’t I? You did. The minute you slept with someone else, our marriage was done, Adam. I’m not sure why it took me so long to see it-”

“You’re a fucking idiot, Harry.” Adam turned and kicked out at the sofa, jarring it from its usual position. “I cannot believe you want this, this is all your bloody mother’s doing-”

“It’s my choice, Adam. You’re the one who caused this, not me, not my mother or my sister.”

“She’s filled your head with shit. Probably said I can’t be trusted, that I don’t love you, that it won’t work-”

“It’s not just her, and honestly, she’s right. You can’t be trusted. Gemma thinks I’m mad if I take you back, and Louis said you’ll never change-”

“Louis? Who the fuck is Louis?”

Harry paused for a moment, realising what he’d said. Louis’ name had just slipped past his lips without thinking, and Adam was looking beyond angry now. Still, Harry didn't cower, knowing it was an innocent friendship, and he clenched his hands, ready to tell Adam so.

“He’s my friend. And for what it’s worth, Adam, I agree with him. He said I can’t put my marriage back together, not after what you did, and he’s right. What you did was unforgivable, and I want us to separate.”

“I won’t allow it.”

“You don’t have a choice,” Harry said back, feeling like a weight had been lifted now he’d actually told Adam how he felt. “I’m not staying here tonight. I’m leaving.”

Adam took a step closer, and Harry moved back, his back pushed against the wall now but he kept his gaze firm, determined not to be intimidated by the man he once knew better than anyone else on Earth.

“Are you cheating on me? Are you and this Louis fucking around behind my back?” Adam was seething now, and that made Harry angrier than anything, knowing that was exactly what Adam had done to him for the past two years.

“No, I’m not. I’m not you.”

With that, he shouldered past Adam, making his husband stumble as he stalked to the stairs, ready to pack more belongings and leave his home and his husband behind. Harry felt scared and nervous, like Adam might come after him, force him to stay but deep down, Harry had a feeling that he wouldn’t. Adam had given up on them and their marriage long ago, and it had taken Harry too long to get to that conclusion as well. It was done. They were over. Only now, Harry didn't know what the hell he was going to do.

****

Are you free? I’m home, and I’d kinda like someone to talk to? If you’re not busy or working, of course. Harry. X

He waited, and luckily, within just a few minutes, a reply came, making Harry smile where he was sat in his car, pulled up in a lay-by on the side of the road.

Just finishing up dinner with a mate. He’s leaving soon, so come and join me? We could have a drink and a chat. I’m at Ask in town. Louis.

Yeah, okay, I can be there in about twenty minutes. Thank you, Louis. See you soon. x

Harry sent the message and then swore when he read it back, realising he may have come across a little too eager. The message ticked over to read, and Harry groaned, banging his forehead on the steering wheel, wishing there was a way to turn back time and change his message before Louis could see it. No further messages came through from Louis, so Harry started the car again, checking his mirrors before he pulled out onto the dual carriageway, joining the late night traffic. Thanks to the time, Harry easily found a parking space in town, just a few restaurants away where Louis was probably sat waiting for him. Harry looked down at his outfit as he waited for a bit more time to pass, wishing he’d put on something a bit nicer than the pink shirt and tatty jeans he had on.

After a while, he got out of the car and headed off down the street, the wind cutting sharply through his clothes. Harry’s hands were shoved in his pockets, and as he neared the restaurant, he could feel the butterflies in his stomach at the thought of seeing Louis again. He walked in, the hum of conversation filling his ears and Harry looked around, eyes raking across the room as he looked for Louis. One of the staff members approached, but Harry peered over her shoulder, seeing Louis stand up, waving him over.

“Oh, uh, I’m meeting my friend?”

“Sure, go on through,” the waitress said with a smile, and Harry nodded his head, moving carefully around the tables. Louis was on his feet when Harry arrived, and they smiled shyly at each other as Louis pointed at the free seat opposite him, which Harry sank gratefully into. He rubbed his palms together, still chilly from the short walk in, and he looked up, meeting Louis’ eyes for a moment. Louis was still nursing a bottle of beer, and Harry was grateful when Louis broke the silence.

“You want a beer or something?”

“Uh, yeah, that’d be nice, thank you.”

Louis caught the attention of a passing waitress and quickly ordered Harry one of what he was drinking before turning his body back to look at Harry.

“Can I… can I talk first?” he asked, and Harry nodded, clasping his hands together on top of the table. “I just need to get this out before we say anything else, Harry. I just… I’m so sorry, for what happened at the bar. The way I spoke to you was completely out of order, and you didn't deserve to be shouted at, let alone in public. So I’m really sorry for that.”

“I know, Louis. I wish I hadn’t left like I did…”

“Hey, no, I understand. I’d have probably left if it was me. I just need you to know that it wasn’t just me being a twat for no reason, Harry. It just… your whole situation has brought back a lot of memories for me, with my Mum and stuff, so I think I took it more personally than I should have done. Not that that excuses the things I said, but…”

“Louis, it’s okay. I forgive you, I don’t hold it against you. I also didn't just come here for an apology.”

“No?” Louis asked, resting his elbows on the table, and his chin on his hands. Harry’s heart swooped with how beautiful Louis looked in the soft light, how his hair was much softer than when he performed on stage at The Night Watch . His eyes shone in the light of the room, and the deep blue jumper he had on clung to every curve.

“No, definitely not. I, uh… I said I’ve been to see my Mum, in my text?”

Louis nodded, giving Harry his full attention, eyes watching Harry’s every move.

“Well, I told my family what had happened… what Adam had done. Adam’s my husband, by the way.” Harry jumped as the waitress set down a beer in front of him, and he had a few sips to calm his nerves before he carried on, ready to tell Louis everything. “They had a few harsh words for me, not unlike what you said, actually. My sister was particularly vicious… I think the word fucktard was used.”

Louis laughed at that, shaking his head slightly.

“Sounds like my kind of woman! If women were my thing, I mean.”

Harry blushed at those words, but carried on.

“Anyway. So yeah, being away gave me a chance to really think about things. Whether my marriage could work after everything he’s done, if I could trust him again. My mum told me I just had to follow my heart. And I came to a decision.”

“Yeah? One you’re happy with?”

“It wasn’t easy, but yeah. I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve just come from there, actually, seeing him. I told Adam-” Harry’s voice cracked and he felt his bottom lip trembled, but what happened next steadied his nerves. His hand was enveloped with warmth as Louis laid his hand on to top of Harry’s on the table, comforting him. Harry liked how it felt to touch Louis’ skin for the first time, and he let out a slow breath, gathering himself for a moment. “I told Adam I wanted us to separate. That our marriage was over because of what he did.”

“How did he take it?” Louis asked, his voice soft, fingers stroking gently over the back of Harry’s hand.

“Not well,” Harry shrugged, sipping on his beer again. “He was horrible about my family… blamed them for me making the decision, like it wasn’t because he fucked around behind my back for our entire marriage. He was just nasty, like, nothing like the man I fell in love with and married. I packed my stuff and left. I just… shit.” He was shaking again now. Saying it out loud made it seem all the more real, and it was daunting, realising his marriage was over, that he’d walked out of his home, away from his husband for good. “I’ve walked out on my marriage, Louis.”

“You did what was right for you,” Louis said, squeezing Harry’s hand again before he finally let go. Harry immediately missed the touch, and longed to reach out and snatch Louis’ hand back, to hold it in his own. “No one who knows you and what happened will blame you for that. For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you. No matter what, it wasn’t easy for you to be that brave and walk out on your husband, I get that. I saw my Mum go through that, and she blamed herself for so long, for us having a broken home. But her happiness was everything to us, and I’m so glad she did what was right for her. One day, you’ll be okay with what you’ve done too.”

“Thank you,” Harry whispered, using his sleeve to swipe away the few tears that were falling at Louis’ emotional words. “I feel like I’ve just given up on it…”

“He’s the one who gave up when he slept with someone else, Harry.”

Harry nodded, knowing Louis was right. It didn't make his decision any easier to bear, but knowing someone other than his family were on his side helped somewhat.

“Forgive me if I’m over-stepping here, but… I offered before and I meant it. Did you need somewhere to stay, now you’ve left?”

“I’m going to go to a hotel, but thank you so much. It’s so lovely of you to offer, but to be honest, I think I need some time on my own, to think about things, you know? To work out what I want next, where to go from here.”

“I understand.” Louis drained the rest of his beer, settling back in his chair. “But you’ve got my number. If you need a chat, or a sofa, or someone to have a beer with, you can call me. Anytime, okay? I work shitty hours but I’ll always call back if I miss your call. I don’t know if you’ve got any other friends you can go to-”

“I don’t,” Harry said softly, a little embarrassed at that revelation. “My friends were Adam’s friends, and… well. I can’t imagine them not taking his side.”

“Then they’re not your friends, and you shouldn’t worry about what they think,” Louis said quite emphatically. “You’ve got me. I’m your friend, and I‘m on your side. I’m always at the end of the phone, and you know where I work if you need me. Promise me you’ll call if you need me?”

“I promise. And thank you, Lou, for being here.”

Harry flushed at the easy use of Louis’ nickname, but the small smile on Louis’ lips told him he didn't mind. Conversation with Louis flowed so easily, and there was an ease about them that belied the short amount of time they’d actually known each other. Their friendship was new, tentative even, but it was one of the most important things in Harry’s life, something outside of his marriage that was just his.

“Anytime, Haz.”

Harry finished his drink too, and yawned, covering his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Of course," Harry nodded, smiling across at Louis, glad that they'd cleared the air between them. "You can ask me anything."

"Before... you said you couldn't give up on your marriage, like it was important to you that you didn't. Why were you so adamant about that? He cheated on you, but you still wanted it to work... it felt like you wanted it to work for more than just love?"

"I, uh..." Harry stuttered, clearing his throat before he spoke again. "I didn't want to be a failure. Everyone said when I married Adam that it was a mistake, that I was too young. I didn't want to prove them right, it was... it was embarrassing, Louis. I just... I hated them being right, and me being made to look like a fool because of love."

"You're not a fool. He is, for letting you go. For not seeing what he had."

Harry blushed at Louis' kind words, and fiddled with the edge of the tablecloth. He yawned loudly, covering his mouth when he did so, Louis' smile reaching his eyes now.

“Sorry, so rude of me. Just been a long day…” Harry mumbled.

“No, it’s fine. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow anyway, should probably make a move.”

“Do you need a lift?”

“Nah, you’re alright, but thanks. My best mate is coming by when he’s done seeing his sister, should be here in about fifteen minutes. You can go though, I won’t hold it against you.”

“Sure?” Harry asked, pulling his wallet from his back pocket, but Louis frowned at the action. “What?”

“I’m paying for that beer. It’s the least I can do. You take care, okay? And don’t be a stranger, mate.”

“I won’t,” Harry said with a smile, getting to his feet and smoothing down his shirt. “Thanks, for meeting me, I mean. It was nice to have a proper chat, to see you outside of work.”

“Yeah, it really was.”

Louis’ smile lit up his whole face, and Harry hovered nervously, unsure what to do. Louis took away the worry when he stood up too and walked over to Harry, pulling him into a quick hug. Harry felt like his breath was taken away as his body collided with Louis', and he felt Louis’ arms hold him close. He sank into it, inhaling his smell, hands coming to rest on Louis’ back. The hug was everything, and Harry didn't break it, waiting until Louis did so.

“Goodnight, Harold.”

“S’just Harry,” Harry murmured back, blushing from the proximity to Louis.

“I know,” Louis replied with a wink, squeezing Harry’s shoulder and stepping right back. “Take care, love.”

“You too, Lou,” Harry said, smiling before he walked away, turning and holding up his hand to wave bye across the room.  He felt lighter than he did when he walked into the restaurant just a short while ago. A huge weight had been lifted now he’d cleared the air with Louis, and admitting to someone else his marriage was over, while scary, was somewhat relieving. The cold wind hit Harry as he stepped out onto the street, but Harry just grinned, feeling better than he had in weeks. It was almost enough to make him forget what had happened with Adam. Almost.

Chapter Text

Louis sighed as he unlocked the doors to the library. It had been a whole week since he’d been here thanks to an out of town book fair he’d had to go to, but he was pleased to be back in his familiar surroundings. The only thing that had made being away from home slightly more tolerable was the fact he’d been texting Harry pretty much non-stop from his poky hotel room each night, the pair exchanging messages back and forth on everything from the TV shows they were watching to Louis’ latest read and Harry’s days at work.

Harry had been surprisingly eager to hear all about Louis’ job at the library, sending him lots of questions about the book fair he’d been to, and Louis had been equally as keen to reply, pleased that Harry didn't seem to be judging him for being a bit of a book nerd. In fact, Harry had been one of the few people in Louis’ life who knew about both jobs he had that didn't bother asking him why he chose to strip instead of using the brain he’d been blessed with. Louis felt like he liked Harry even more for that.

It was early in the morning, around an hour before the customers started to arrive, and Louis loved it. The world outside was tranquil, most people peacefully heading to their jobs, ready to start the day, just like Louis. He walked through to the staff room and flicked on the kettle, pleased to see there was a fresh packet of biscuits sat on top of the biscuit tin. He wasted no time in opening them up, popping a bourbon between his lips and munching eagerly as he made himself a cup of tea to his exact standards. To Louis, tea was an art form that had to be adhered to correctly, and woe betide anyone who did it wrongly.

He rifled through some of the paperwork that had been left on the main desk for him to attend to, things the other library assistants didn't deal with, and Louis left them in order of importance, determined to work his way through the list one way or another today. Louis hated having things hanging over his head, which was why he preferred not to go away unless he absolutely had to. It also meant he'd had to cancel the week’s stripping obligations, which was more lost income Louis couldn’t really afford to lose if he was honest. Not at the moment, anyway.

He beavered away at some of his paperwork until the library opened an hour later, a few of the assistants drifting it just before opening hours and greeting Louis with smiles and quiet waves. Many of the staff were old enough to be his parents, some even his grandparents, but Louis didn't mind. He enjoyed the breadth of their knowledge, and found them fascinating to talk to, especially during the quieter library hours.

His shift passed quickly and quietly. It wasn’t a hugely busy day, so Louis stayed out the back for a while, finishing up the tasks that had been neglected while he’d been away, and he sent off a few emails to new contacts he’d made at the book fair as well, promising to set up the meetings with his boss as he’d suggested when he’d met the new reps last week. Before he knew it, the other staff were walking in to the staff room, chatting eagerly about their plans for the upcoming weekend. Louis nodded and smiled along, telling them he was planning on having a quiet few days at home, although he neglected to mention he had a stripping gig coming up, and a very important dance rehearsal to practise until his feet were aching.

Louis’ phone pinged but he ignored it where it lit up on his desk as he was finishing up a conversation with one of his favourite colleagues, Mavis. Louis had always been fond of her, the pair sharing a love of strong Yorkshire Tea and Dan Brown novels which they’d bonded over many a lunchtime. He helped her out to her car with her bags before he came back in, only sparing his phone a glance when it pinged again. There was a message from his mum, and one from Harry. Louis smiled and read the one from his mum first, promising to Facetime her again soon, and then opened the text from Harry. His eyes widened as he took in Harry’s words, and reread them to be sure he’d understood properly.

Harry: Hi Louis, hope the book fair went well! I assume you’re home now so I needed a little favour… I was wondering if the offer of your sofa still stands?

Louis smiled as he quickly tapped out a reply, and confirmed to Harry that indeed his sofa was free if he needed it. Louis shoved his belongings into his rucksack and pulled on his coat, waiting eagerly for Harry to reply. The idea of having Harry in his home, around him constantly was a lot, but at the same time, the anticipation of getting to know Harry a bit more was one Louis couldn’t turn down.

Harry: Adam’s away with work, any chance you’d want to come and help me pack up my things while he’s gone? It’ll be quicker with two of us, but I understand if you don’t want to.

Louis: Don’t be so daft, course I’ll help. I’ve just finished work at the library in town if you can swing by and pick me up? Be easier than me having to walk home then you meet me there.

Harry: Amazing, thanks so much, Lou. Just heading out, be there in 5.

Louis grinned and headed out, locking the library up behind him, all the interior lights dimming as it ticked over to the energy saving settings Louis had convinced the council to put in place just a few weeks after starting his job. He hopped up onto a small wall at the side of the building where the staff car park was, and played a quick few games of Candy Crush on his iPhone to pass the time, willing Harry to hurry up because he was freezing, and his decision to not wear socks again that day wasn’t his best. His fabric Vans didn't do a lot to fend off the wind and general damp feeling in the air.

A loud roar made Louis startle, and he quickly looked up, rolling his eyes as a rather obnoxious red Ferrari pulled into the car park, turning around until it came to a stop alongside Louis. With a surprised look in his eyes, he stared as the automatic window slid down, revealing a face he didn't expect to see in such a car.

“Holy shit…”

“Get in then, it’s freezing. Come on!”

Louis clambered down fairly ungracefully from the wall and nodded, grabbing his rucksack and opening the door. He gulped before he sat gingerly down on the soft leather seats, placing his bag between his feet on the floor, hoping it wouldn’t make any marks on the carpet. He knew he couldn’t afford to get the car valeted if it did. He reached for the seat belt and pulled it across his body, risking a glance around the interior of the car as he did so, watching Harry begin to drive in the direction of his house. There was something ridiculously attractive about Harry behind the wheel, and Louis forced his gaze back on the road, the silence hanging heavily between them now.

“You can ask me, you know.”

“Ask you what?”

“Don’t play dumb, Lou,” Harry said, looking across and giving Louis a quick smile. “We’re nearly at my- Adam’s house. We don’t have to rush because he’s away but I don’t want to hang around-”

Harry’s voice cracked at those words, and Louis didn't think before he reached across, resting a hand on Harry’s thigh, the only part of him available to touch at the moment given his hands were occupied by the wheel and gearstick. Harry’s eyes flitted across again and Louis smiled encouragingly.

“It’s alright, we won’t hang about. I’ll help with whatever you need, then we’ll go to my flat and get you settled. Alright?”

Harry nodded, and indicated, pulling into a road full of houses that looked far too well-to-do for Louis’ liking. He gaped as Harry drove the car onto the driveway of a particularly large detached house, and he swallowed, following Harry out of the car and up to the large wooden front door.

“Now I really do have questions,” he began as Harry reached for a silver key on the bunch hanging from his car key. Harry nodded as he slid it into the lock, and the door swung slowly open, revealing a palatial hallway that Louis felt was bigger than his entire flat. “There’s no way Niall could afford this on his salary, and I know Adam’s a manager but… fuck, Haz. What the hell aren’t you telling me?”

Harry surprised Louis by taking his hand and pulling him down the hall, the pair eventually walking into the sitting room. Louis tried not to react too embarrassingly to the sight of the huge sofas along two of the walls, the enormous television in one corner with every possible console sat on shelves underneath it, and the pictures mounted on every inch of wall space. He let Harry sit him down on the edge of the sofa, the pair facing each other now. Louis suddenly felt nervous, and he took his hand back, setting them in his lap as Harry began to talk.

“I… it’s not like I’ve kept this from you, Lou, because we haven’t really gotten close yet. But… there’s something I should probably tell you. And I really hope you won’t judge me or hate me, or-”

“Harry, love, calm down. Just… tell me, yeah?”

Harry nodded and took a deep breath before he spoke again, his voice soft and quite, words slow and deliberate as they tumbled unfiltered from his mouth.

“I’ve... I'm quite successful, Lou, and financially... I'm comfortable. Very comfortable.”

Louis paused, and then grinned over at his friend.

“No shit, Harold. We just rolled up in a fucking Ferrari to your mansion.”

Harry actually giggled at that, and Louis just chuckled lowly, shaking his head.

“Shit… I didn't mean for it to come out like that. I’m nervous, Lou. But, yeah, I’m… pretty well off. I hate that term, though. It sounds so obnoxious.”

“Okay. That’s cool. I mean, I wouldn’t have guessed from all the times we’ve met before, you’re not like the usual wankers we get coming in and splashing the cash-”

“No, I’m not that sort of person,” Harry hurried to interrupt, and Louis nodded, knowing deep down Harry definitely wasn’t like that. “I only… I only tell people that I trust about everything, Louis. And I want to tell you. Everything, that is, if you want to know.”

“I do,” Louis nodded, settling back on the sofa and pulling one of the plump decorative cushions over his tummy to cuddle while Harry began to speak. “Take your time, Haz.”

“I will. Okay. When I was fifteen, I had this idea for an app. I was a bit of a computer nerd so instead of going out with my non-existent friends, I used to get in from school and sit in my bedroom coding and playing about with any sort of technology I could get my hands on. Anyway, I had this idea so I went with it, spending weeks and months trying to make it work when all of a sudden it just… it did. So I put it out there in the world, and within a few months, it had gone crazy. It was everywhere, on all the tech blogs and everything. I was a kid, Lou, I didn't know what the hell I was doing.”

“Shit. Well, it’s amazing that there’s a great brain in there, Haz, I’m really proud of you for doing something like that. But what happened once it went mad?”

“My mum had to step in,” Harry admitted, cheeks flushing a soft pink that Louis thought suited him beautifully. “I went to her one night panicking because of the barrage of emails I was getting from everyone, and she ended up hiring me a solicitor and someone else to help me. I ended up selling it, and all my coding and stuff. It was mental, Lou. It was a six figure sum, I just… I never dreamt of having money like this. Mum made me invest a lot of it until I was eighteen, but I was never interested in splashing the cash, not really. I bought Mum a car, and paid for Gemma's uni and this place-”

“And a Ferrari,” Louis teased, but he stopped when he saw the downcast expression on Harry’s face. “Or not?”

“Yeah, I bought it. But it wasn’t what I wanted. It was Adam’s dream car, so when he said he wanted one, we got it. I hate it, and everything it stands for. In fact, I’m gonna sell it.”

“Not before I get to bloody drive it, you’re not,” Louis joked, making Harry laugh at last, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Seriously though, Haz. This doesn’t change anything between us, okay? I mean, I’m a little confused as to why you want to crash on my sofa when you could easily afford a luxury hotel room bigger than my whole shitty flat, but if that’s what you want, it’s okay with me. You’re still just Harry from the bar to me.”

Harry grinned at that before his expression dropped again, and he bit his bottom lip between his teeth, hesitantly looking up to meet Louis’ eyes again.

“I want to stay with you because-” his voice wavered again, and he let out a little breath before he began again. “I’m lonely, Louis. I’ve never really been alone, I went from Mum’s to living with Adam. I just… I don’t like being alone.”

“Then you can definitely come home with me,” Louis asserted again, reaching out and taking Harry’s hand for a moment, squeezing gently. “But I do warn you that I snore, I’m quite messy and I have a tendency to only do the washing when I’m on my last pair of clean pants.”

Harry cackled loudly at that, and Louis felt proud he’d made such a guffaw come out of his newest friend. Harry stood up then, and Louis copied the action, letting Harry pull him into a quick hug. Over Harry’s shoulder, Louis spotted what appeared to be a wedding photo, and when Harry released him, he wandered over, wishing he had pins to stick in the eyes of someone who would betray someone as pure as Harry.

“This him?”

Harry just nodded, kneeling beside the coffee table now where he was sorting through a pile of magazines, taking a few out and making his own pile on the floor.

“Fucking knobhead.”

With that, Harry stood and collected up a few family photos from the walls before he disappeared, returning with a large plastic box that he started putting things into. Louis followed him around the ground floor, watching Harry pick up various kitchen utensils and gadgets, adding them to the box, as well as other knick knacks, and things that obviously meant something to Harry.

“Is there anything I can do to be useful?” Louis asked, feeling a bit like a spare part as he wandered around just following Harry, unable to offer much more than his company.

“Uh… you can make a start on my clothes? My room is up the stairs, second door on the right. There’s a suitcase just under the bed, if you can grab everything from the wardrobe and drawers against the back wall, those are my things.”

Louis nodded and smiled before he headed off, taking his time to peruse Harry’s home, to try and work out which parts of it were Harry, and which were Adam. He was surprised by the blandness of Harry’s bedroom. There was barely any colour aside from a few blue cushions on the hastily made bed, and Louis decided to make quick work of it. He crouched down and saw the large black suitcase Harry had been talking about, sliding it out and dumping it on the bed before he unzipped it, ready to fill it.

He smiled as he opened the wardrobe, seeing an array of brightly coloured and patterned shirts that could only belong to Harry. He carefully slid them off the hangars, and with more care than he’d ever shown any of his own clothes, he folded them and put them in the case, trying not to crease things as he went. Numerous pairs of skinny jeans and wide leg trousers soon followed, and then came his drawers. The first few were full of t-shirts and shorts, things already folded so Louis just grabbed piles, putting them into the suitcase, trying to make use of every available inch of space.

He pulled open the top drawer and stilled when he realised it was Harry’s underwear drawer. He quickly picked up a few pairs of balled up socks, chucking them behind him into the case, and reached in for more, pausing when his hand bashed something that was decidedly not a pair of socks or boxers. He couldn’t resist pulling the drawer open and pushing the things inside around until he could see, and bit his lip when he realised it was a dildo. Harry’s dildo, quite clearly.

“Louis, don’t worry about the top drawer, I’ll sort that- oh.”

Louis looked up to where Harry was stood in the doorway, red faced and just staring at Louis, the drawer hanging open so it was obvious he’d already had a rummage. Louis just smiled and turned back to the drawer, picking up a pile of boxers and transferring them to the case, needing more than anything to put Harry at ease.

“Ah, once you’ve seen one pair of boxers, love, you’ve seen ‘em all,” he said, hearing Harry step closer, feeling when his body came up against Louis’, glancing over at the open drawer.

“Louis, I-”

“Hey. It’s alright, yeah? Nothing I haven’t seen before.”

Harry’s cheeks were flaming now, and Louis was sure that if he touched them, they’d be burning hot as well.

“Oh right, well… Adam, he, uh, he hated that. That I had a, uh, one of those, hated me using it, so it stayed in there.”

Louis scoffed at that, shaking his head. He’d had a few boyfriends with whom he’d had a lot of fun with sex toys, and Louis liked to think of himself as an open minded guy, willing to try most things. The idea of Adam making Harry feel ashamed for what Louis felt were natural wants and desires made him angry, and he focused hard on keeping his cool, not wanting to upset Harry any further.

“Well, that’s shitty of him, Haz. He wouldn’t like it if he saw my collection, then.”

Louis sent Harry a devilish grin at that, and Harry stared at him for a moment, clearly stunned by Louis’ forthright revelation about his own sex toys.

“Yeah?” Harry asked, nervous but Louis just grinned and nodded, grabbing some more underwear from the drawer, deciding to leave the dildo for Harry to deal with in case that was a step too far for them just now.

“Yeah,” Louis replied, and slid the drawer shut. “Now, let’s finish up here and get you home.”

“Home,” Harry nodded in reply, and Louis patted his shoulder, pushing down exactly how much he liked the idea of taking Harry home with him.

*****

“I’ll just warn you, it’s not much,” Louis muttered as he pushed the key into his front door, unlocking it quickly given he was quite chilly now, and his left arm was aching under the weight of the bag he was holding. Harry had insisted on bringing his collection of expensive candles with him, and Louis had no idea wax could weigh so much. “Definitely nothing like your home.”

“S’not my home anymore,” Harry said softly, and Louis turned, smiling gently at him, hoping Harry wouldn’t judge his small flat. “I don’t care how big it is, Lou, I love it already.”

“You’re still talking about my flat, right?” Louis joked, breaking the tension a little as Harry laughed loudly. “Right, come in. Dump those there, and we’ll get them in a bit. Let me show you around.”

Louis kicked off his shoes, watching as Harry did the same, revealing his bright pink socks. Louis led the way to his living room, eyes raking around nervously to check there was nothing too embarrassing around, which there luckily wasn’t. He gestured to his sofa, which is where Harry would be sleeping for now, and did a little wave of his hands, hoping Harry wouldn’t be too put off.

“Ta daaaaa,” he said, jazz hands still wafting around. “Like I said, it’s not much but-”

Harry cut him off, stepping over to a large picture in a frame of Louis, his Mum and his siblings.

“Is this your family?” Harry asked, picking it up and grinning down at it. “God, you’re all gorgeous! This seems a bit unfair on the rest of us.”

“Oh, shove off,” Louis joked, coming to stand next to Harry, his body radiating heat next to Louis’ much colder one. “But yeah, that’s my lot.”

“Are you close to them?”

“Yeah, I love them to bits. I don’t see enough of them, but it is what it is, living away and all that. We’re always on Facetime and stuff though, so it’s all good.” Louis stood and explained his multiple siblings to Harry, who it seemed was trying his hardest to memorise their names, wandering around after and nosing at the other photos Louis had around the room. “Right, bathroom is through here-”

Louis walked off and Harry followed, peering into the small but functional space.

“You can put your toiletries on the shelf with mine, I promise not to use any of it, or if I do, I’ll replace it so you’ll never know.”

The giggle Harry let out at Louis’ jokes was enough to make Louis’ heart sing, and he quickly turned around, walking away from Harry before he did something silly like hug him.

“This is the kitchen. I cook, but not that well, I usually cook the same few things actually.”

“Well, I love cooking, so if you’d let me, I’d love to cook for you?”

“I would never turn down a home cooked meal, Haz, so knock yourself out. I think that’s it. My room’s that door over there,” he said, pointing to a closed wooden door. “I’ll grab you some blankets and pillows in a while for tonight. Feel free to put your stuff around, make yourself at home.”

“You don’t mind the candles and stuff?” Harry asked as they both headed through to the hall, grabbing Harry’s bags and taking them to the sitting room. “Adam always hated them.”

“Nah, I don’t mind,” Louis said with a shrug, although inside he was seething, wanting to punch Adam for hating something that his husband so clearly loved. He crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame as he watched Harry dart around the room, putting several candles on different surfaces, nodding when he was happy. “Put your pictures up too if it makes you feel at home. I’m gonna cook some pasta tonight, is that alright with you?”

“Sounds perfect,” Harry replied where he was stood with his suitcase. “Uh, do you have somewhere I can store this?”

“I’ve got spare drawers in my room, Mum made me buy two chests of drawers when I moved in. You can put your stuff in there.”

Louis led the way through to his bedroom, cringing at the unmade bed. He quickly hurried over and straightened out the sheets, plumping the pillows before he turned around again, nudging his box of toys back under the bed with his foot.

“Okay, so… these ones are empty so feel free to use them for your clothes. And there’s room in the wardrobe for your shirts and stuff too, so help yourself.”

“Louis, this is- god, this is so, so kind of you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. I couldn’t bear those horrible hotel rooms anymore, it just made me feel even worse.”

“I know, love. But you can stay here as long as you like, alright?”

Harry nodded and Louis watched him hoist his heavy suitcase up onto the bed, his biceps bulging as he did so. Louis swallowed heavily and left Harry to it, heading to the kitchen and pulling out everything he needed to make meatballs and pesto for tea. A quick and easy meal, and one even someone with the skill level of cooking that Louis had could pull off. He turned on some music on his bluetooth speaker and sang quietly as he began cooking.

A short while later, he and Harry were sat on the sofa, bowls of pasta on their laps as they watched a rerun of Top Gear on the TV, Harry blushing as he confessed he could afford to buy all of the cars on the show that night and still have enough money left over to live on. Louis had just shook his head, wishing he could afford just a Vauxhall Corsa or a VW Golf, let alone a Lamborghini or an Aston Martin. He knew their lives were very different, but even though he knew Harry was more than comfortable financially, it didn't seem to matter, not right there on Louis’ sofa with meatballs in their laps, trashy telly on and a blanket covering their knees.

“I really like it here,” Harry said quietly as he settled back on the sofa after clearing away their dishes, forcing Louis to sit on the sofa while he did so. “It’s really homely.”

“Thank you,” Louis grinned, turning to Harry and frowning when he saw a bit of a sad expression on his face. “What’s up?”

Harry sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, shaking his head slightly. It made Louis worry and he reached out, resting a hand on Harry’s thigh without even thinking, not flinching when the other man looked up at him, tears brimming in his bright green eyes. Louis realised then he’d give anything to not see them sad ever again.

“Haz, you’re scaring me… has Adam said something to you?”

Harry shook his head, wiping his eyes on his sleeve before he spoke, his voice deep with emotion.

“No, not him. I mean… it’s to do with him, but he hasn’t done anything.” Harry let out a shaky breath then before finally looking up at Louis. “I… I saw a solicitor this week. About filing for divorce. I’ve started filing the divorce petition. It just… fuck, it’s so real…”

“Oh, Haz…” Louis said, shuffling closer on the sofa, wrapping an arm around his shoulders, keeping him close. “It must be hard…”

“It is. I didn't get married for it to end in divorce. I… I stupidly thought we were forever.”

“Not stupid. No one gets married thinking it won’t work, love. But you’re doing the right thing for you, I’m sure of it. Are you petitioning him for adultery?”

Harry nodded, and Louis felt pleased Harry was being honest rather than just citing unreasonable behaviour, which he felt would be a cop-out for Adam. Harry sniffed and Louis relaxed back as Harry rested his head on his shoulder, breaths still coming out shakily.

“If you want to talk about it, I’m here, yeah?”

“I know. Thank you, Lou.”

“Anytime, Haz.”

They sat there in silence for a while until Louis noticed the time on his phone, and he reluctantly told Harry he needed to get to bed. Harry nodded, and Louis went off, grabbing some spare blankets and pillows from the linen closet in his room, helping Harry make up a little bed for himself. They did their teeth beside each other in the bathroom, and then hovered awkwardly in the hallway when it was time to say goodnight.

“I’ll try and be quiet tomorrow when I get up,” Louis said, knowing he had an early start at the library. “Hope you sleep well. It’s a decent enough sofa, but-”

“Louis, it’ll be fine. I already like it more here than the hotel, so don’t worry. Please.”

Louis smiled and nodded, the sight of Harry in just his t-shirt and boxers rather a lot to look at. It didn't seem to matter than Harry had seen him in far less, it felt intimate to be this close and undressed like this without the professional aura of the bar surrounding them.

“Okay. Well, goodnight Haz, sleep tight. See you tomorrow for dinner?”

“Definitely. Can I… uh, can I hug you?”

Louis nodded and before he knew it, he was being swept up into Harry’s arms, pressed against his body in a tight hug. Louis relaxed into it, his arms wrapping around Harry’s slim waist, his hands linking behind his back. The front of his thighs were pressed against Harry’s, and Louis willed himself not to get hard, not to react to their proximity. He felt slightly relieved when Harry broke it, stepping backwards slightly.

“G’night, Lou. Sweet dreams.”

Louis just stood where he was as he watched Harry wander away, barefoot and beautiful, disappearing into the sitting room, no doubt sliding between the covers they’d put out together. Shaking the thoughts of Harry in bed out of his mind, Louis hurried into his own bedroom, closing the bedroom door a little loudly, and he got into bed, replying quickly to a text from Zayn before he plugged his phone in, shutting his eyes and willing sleep to come, trying desperately to ignore the fact Harry was asleep just down the hall.

*****

“See you later, Lou! I’ll grab something for dinner on the way home, so don’t cook!”

“Alright, love, cheers! Have a good day.”

“Will do!”

Harry blew Louis a jokey kiss before he disappeared off down the hallway, his remaining piece of toast between his teeth, bag in his hand as he left for work. Louis somehow had wangled a day off from the library, and was looking forward to just chilling on the sofa for a while before he got to doing anything else. He was still in his pyjamas, so Louis decided to treat himself to a second bowl of coco pops, heading through to watch the rest of Lorraine while he ate. Harry had woken him up early, and despite it being his day off, somehow he didn't mind, throwing a few things into a box for Harry’s lunch, which he presented with a flourish, and he hadn’t missed the way Harry’s cheeks had lit up at the small gesture.

He spent a while texting Zayn before he decided it was time to shower, so he did so, sneaking a little (a lot) of Harry’s expensive Molton Brown shower gel, loving the smell of it. He was pretty sure Harry had worked out he was using it by now after a week of living together, but it didn’t seem the other man minded very much. Louis decided to shave off his beard, and carefully did so in the mirror, stroking over the smooth skin left behind once he was done.

The rest of the day was spent watching more TV, answering a few work emails, and booking in another few stripping shifts at The Night Watch , adding them to his work calendar on his phone, although Louis never forgot his work schedule. Being at work and on time was one of the things he prided himself on, and Louis knew being reliable was on of the reasons he was constantly given more shifts.

As the afternoon went on, Louis decided that since he had a few more hours free until Harry got home with dinner, he’d practise the routine he’d put together for his upcoming audition. It was coming much quicker than he’d like, and he was determined to make it the best he could be. He prepared the living room as he usually did before he went to his room, getting changed into the leggings and tank top he wore to dance in, staying barefoot. He hooked his phone to the sound system in the room and selected the track he’d chosen to perform to, cranking up the volume. Everyone else in the building was at work so he was sure he wouldn’t bother anyone with the volume of his music. He warmed up a bit first, stretching out his muscles so he wouldn’t injure himself and then eagerly launched into the routine, moving swiftly around the room, losing himself in the music.

At times, he paused and went over to his notes, jotting down a few ideas that he’d had, rehearsing the steps over and over, adding things or amending them as he went, feeling more confident with each run-through of the song. He was in the middle of a series of twists and turns when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye, and he stumbled, barely catching himself before he stood up, cheeks flaming as he looked at Harry, who was looking on from the doorway of the sitting room, still in his work outfit and coat, a carrier bag dangling from his fingertips.

“Shit, I didn't… fuck.”

Louis looked down at his sweaty body before he hurried over, turning down the volume on the song. He blushed as he looked up at Harry, who was grinning.

“I didn't know you danced… I mean, I know you did because of the club but… Louis, that was amazing. Is it just a hobby, or…?”

Louis shrugged, still feeling embarrassed at being caught by Harry unawares. Harry shrugged off his coat and walked into the room, perching on the edge of the sofa for a moment, eyes still watching Louis’ every movement. Louis was too aware of how skintight his dance leggings were, how they hugged every curve, clung to his butt and his crotch, hiding nothing. It didn't matter that Harry had seen him in less at the club, this felt far more intimate, and he sat down, using a cushion to cover himself.

“Not a hobby. Dancing is all I ever wanted to do when I was little. Mum paid a fortune to get me lessons, and I was, I don’t know, good at it? But it’s a hard industry to get into, and for whatever reason, it didn't work out for me.”

“I don’t get how, not when you can move your body like that,” Harry said before he flushed, eyes widening when he realised what he’d said. “I didn't mean to sound so sleazy. Shit. You just… you dance beautifully, Lou, like you’re telling a story with your dancing.”

“Thank you,” Louis said softly, his cheeks flushing with Harry’s compliments. It had been too long since anyone had seen him dance, and having Harry see him at his most vulnerable wasn’t something Louis was used to. “But, uh, this wasn’t just for fun.”

“No?”

“No. I finally got an audition. It’s in a month or so. Here is the only place I can rehearse, so I took advantage of a day off and you being out. Been practising for ages now. I need it to be right, Haz, so badly.”

Harry nodded, sitting quietly as if pondering something.

“This is all I’ve ever wanted. To be part of a production, to be a dancer. I don’t know what to do if this doesn’t work out. As much as I love my job at the library, and working at The Night Watch , it isn’t my dream, you know? This is. Dancing.”

“If you dance like I just saw, then you’ll get it, Lou. I mean, I’m not a professional or anything but I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You were so… mesmerising, Louis.”

“God, stop-”

“I won’t. You need to hear people to tell you how good you are, Lou. You need to walk into that audition like you already know you’ve got it in the bag. And anytime you need an audience, let me know. I’d love to see the whole thing when you’re ready.”

“We’ll see,” Louis said, finally looking up to glance at Harry, smiling at his new friend. “What is that I smell?”

Harry frowned before he raised his eyebrows, laughing softly.

“Oh, I bought Chinese. I, uh, I think I bought too much but I figured we could eat whatever is left over tomorrow-”

“Left over? Oh dear, dear, dear, Harold. You have much to learn,” Louis mused, getting to his feet and hurrying over to grab the bag, already salivating at the thought of what might be inside the plastic containers. “I’ve been dancing all afternoon and I’ve worked up quite an appetite…”

Chapter Text

Harry tapped his fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of the music coming out of the small speakers. Rain was thundering down on the roof, and Harry had decided to stay put, knowing if he went inside he and Louis would end up having too much to drink, and if he was honest, he’d much rather go back home and drink with Louis there. It had been another stressful day at the office, and Harry wanted nothing more than to go home, get changed into his comfy clothes and not move from the sofa for a few hours.

Things had been great with Louis since he’d moved in a week ago. For some strange reason, Harry already felt more than at home at Louis' place, he and Louis striking up easy conversation whenever they were around each other. Louis happily shared every aspect of his flat with Harry, and Harry loved how easy things between them were. It was like they’d known each other a lot longer than the six weeks or so it had been since they’d met.

Harry jumped as the door to his Ferrari flew open and a rather wet Louis slid into the passenger seat, grumbling under his breath about the stupid British weather, and his soggy feet. Harry fiddled with a few buttons on the dashboard, starting the in-car heating so that Louis wouldn’t get too cold.”

“Fucking stupid fucking rain, I hate it,” Louis grumbled as he put his seat belt on before finally turning to Harry and smiling slightly. “Hiya, love. Good day?”

“Not really,” Harry mused, starting the engine and roaring out of the car park. Since he’d moved in, Harry had made it his job to pick Louis up from work whenever he had to go, and he enjoyed the small journeys with Louis by his side. Louis told him about his night at the club, his routine that had gone well, and Harry repressed the mental images flying through his mind at the way Louis described what had happened on stage. “Feels like ages since I’ve seen you up there.”

“Well, you’d better get your arse down there next time then, hadn’t you?” Louis teased, and Harry just nodded, gripping the wheel a little harder as he turned into their road. “Are you working tomorrow?”

Harry thought for a moment before shaking his head, pulling carefully into a space outside the block of flats.

“Oh, good. I need to go to town and get a few things, wondered if you wanted to tag along?”

“Yeah, sounds like fun,” Harry agreed, the pair hurrying out of the car and into the building, the rain having relented slightly at last. Louis let them into the flat, and he immediately peeled off his wet clothes and shoes, standing in the hallway in just his boxers and a flimsy t-shirt that had been hiding under his jumper. Harry startled when he realised it was one of his t-shirts, but he didn't pass a comment, instead watching Louis as he went off to his bedroom, returning a few minutes later in soft joggers and a hoody, a beanie perched on his head. “You look cosy.”

“Thanks. I’m gonna make us some tea, you going to get changed?”

Harry nodded and went to Louis’ room, kicking the door closed with his foot so he could get changed. He smiled as he realised his drawer was slightly open, and Louis had shoved the t-shirt back inside. Harry couldn’t resist picking it up and sniffing it, Louis’ familiar scent filling his nose. Harry realised that was possibly a bit creepy so he got changed, adding his clothes to the washing basket in the corner of the room. Harry had been putting his stuff into a carrier bag until Louis had seen, rolled his eyes and added it to his own laundry basket, merrily telling Harry he lived there now and they could just wash their things together. Harry didn't have the heart to tell him a lot of his things were dry clean only, and he’d snuck them out of the basket the next day when Louis had gone to work.

He wandered back out, fuzzy blue socks on his feet, but he paused when he saw Louis curled on the sofa, Harry’s iPad in his hand, chatting away to the screen. Harry hovered, unsure what to do, but Louis must have sensed his presence.

“Oh, that’s him… come here, love, Mum wants to say hi. Hope you don’t mind me using the iPad.”

“Course not,” Harry said as he walked over to the sofa, his heart beating quickly now at the thought of meeting Louis’ mum. He knew how much Jay meant to Louis, and he so badly wanted to make a good impression on her, even if he and Louis were just friends and flatmates. “Hi Mrs Deakin, it’s lovely to meet you.”

The woman on the screen smiled at him, her eyes crinkling just like Louis’ did when he was smiling, and Harry felt more endeared.

“It’s Jay, darling, and lovely to meet you, too. Not sure why it’s taken Louis so long to get you on here! Is my son a good flatmate? I apologise for his messiness…”

Louis poked his tongue out at that, and Harry didn't think as he slung his arm around Louis’ shoulders, holding him close. They often ended up cuddled on the sofa under a blanket together watching a movie at night, and it seemed neither of them minded being so tactile with each other. Harry didn't miss Jay’s raised eyebrows at the easy affection, though.

“Oh no, he’s a wonderful flatmate. He even does my washing for me.”

“Who are you and what have you done with my son?” Jay asked the screen, and both men laughed, Harry loving being a part of Louis’ conversation with his family. They talked for a little while longer until Jay had to go to bed, and Harry picked up his rapidly cooling tea, sipping on it.

“She’s lovely, Louis,” he said over the rim of his cup, meeting Louis’ eyes for a moment.

“She is. She’s the best person in the world,” Louis agreed with a smile,  turning and leaning against the arm of the sofa, his feet ending in Harry’s lap as they often did. Harry loved it, resting his hand on Louis’ slim ankle, realising that he and Louis were more tactile than he and Adam had been in a long time, aside from when they’d had sex. Adam didn't voluntarily cosy up to him like Louis did, didn't touch him as he walked by like Louis did. Harry hadn’t realised how much he’d missed that until Louis came into his life, and sometimes his feelings for his new friend overwhelmed him a bit, too scared to even contemplate what they meant.

“Does she, uh, does she know why I’m here?”

Relief flooded Harry’s veins when Louis shook his head, frowning over the cup perched by his pink lips.

“No, love. That’s not my story to tell. I just said you needed a place to stay, and I offered you my sofa.”

“Thank you,” Harry whispered, his hand tightening its grip on Louis’ ankle for a moment. “You’re a great friend, Louis.”

“Right back atcha,” Louis grinned, nudging Harry’s belly with his toes, making him giggle. Harry stroked back and forth over Louis’ bare feet as he realised that right then, there was nowhere else he wanted to be.

*****

“Where first?” Harry asked, following Louis out of the lift. He held the door open for his friend to pass through, Louis nodding in thanks as he frowned, glancing at the big shopping centre in front of him. “Did you want anything in particular today?”

“Yep,” Louis replied, giving Harry no more information, heading off through the crowds. Harry hurried to keep up with him, surprised at how quickly Louis moved on his little legs, smirking to himself at his thoughts, knowing Louis would hit him if he dared to voice as much. “I need some stuff for work.”

Harry gulped, praying silently that Louis meant something for his library job, unsure he’d be able to cope if Louis was shopping for something to wear at the club.

“Oh. The library?”

“Nope,” Louis replied, stopping outside a shop, smirking at Harry before he grabbed his hand, pulling him inside along with him. “And you’re going to help me.”

“Louis, I don’t think-”

“Oh, stop it. Let’s not pretend you haven’t seen it all before.”

Harry just bowed his head as he followed Louis into Victoria’s Secret, cheeks flaming, feeling like the eyes of the room were on him. Louis clearly knew where he was going as he headed to the back of the store where some of the more risqué items of underwear were laid out. Harry was surprised at some of the prices considering how little material was in some of these things, but he followed Louis, nonetheless, watching him touch some of the knickers with his fingertips.

Louis moved quickly, picking up some of the things, along with other things Harry had never had the pleasure of seeing Louis in on stage… a black lace-up corset among other things. Harry swallowed, chancing a glance down, pleased that his body wasn’t showing an obvious outward reaction to what was happening right in front of his eyes.

“Hold this for me, would you?” Louis said, thrusting a basket at Harry, who just took it, nodding along. Louis threw in a few pairs of lacy knickers and a few thongs before he paused, taking two things out. “Haz, blue or pink?”

“Uh, I, uh,” Harry stuttered, losing the ability to speak. He quickly cleared his throat before answering. “Blue. I like the blue.”

“Hm. Me too,” Louis agreed, putting the pink back on the shelf. “I need to try a few things on. Gonna come and give me your opinion?”

Harry just fish mouthed until Louis burst out laughing, shaking his head as he grabbed two sizes of the corset, heading for the changing room.

“Your face! God… I wouldn’t put you through that love. Come through, though, there’s some seats outside.”

Harry nodded and didn't meet the shop assistants eye as he followed Louis into the changing rooms, taking a seat on a plush pink seat as Louis disappeared behind a curtain. He checked up on his work emails as he sat there, trying to ignore the huffing and puffing coming from behind the curtain where Louis was undoubtedly half naked. All of a sudden, the curtain moved to the side, and Louis’ head emerged, cheeks red, and  frustrated expression on his face.

“Uh… I need some help, if you don’t mind?”

Harry gulped but stood up, determined to help Louis with whatever he needed. He walked over and Louis pushed back the curtain to let Harry inside. Harry took in the sight of Louis in the tight black corset and his boxers, ignoring the curve of his arse as much as he could.

“I just can’t get it to lace up at the back properly, will you do it for me? Sorry…”

“No, it’s fine,” Harry said, taking the thick black ribbons in his shaking hands, threading them through the eyelets, tugging on them until the fabric was snuggly around Louis’ body, tying it in a bow and stepping back to take a look. “It, uh, it looks really good, Lou.”

“You sure?” Louis asked, turning around and looking at himself in the mirror over his shoulder. The way he was stood was causing his backside to push out, emphasising his curves, and it took all of Harry’s self-control to not come right there and then in his pants. “Not too tight?”

Harry cleared his throat quickly, shaking his head emphatically. “No. Definitely not. No.”

“I think this will go well with those knickers I picked, the black ones.”

“Mmm,” Harry hummed in agreement, his cock twitching at the simple thought of Louis in the get--up. “I’ll wait outside-”

“No, hang on! Need you to untie me, please…”

“Fuck, okay,” Harry mumbled, fingers fumbling with the ribbon, pulling it apart enough for Louis to slip out of it. “I’ll be outside.”

He hurried outside, pressing the heel of his hand against his erection, praying it would go away. Being near Louis like this was almost too much, but Louis was being completely at ease with him, so Harry knew he had to keep himself under control, not wanting to make Louis feel awkward about any of this. A few minutes later, the curtain opened with a flourish and Louis stepped out, putting the corset into the basket by Harry’s feet, handing the other to the shop assistant without batting an eyelid.

“I just need a few more thongs, won’t keep you a tick,” Louis said loudly enough a couple of teenage girls just gaped at the pair of them, and Harry couldn’t resist grinning at them, shrugging his shoulders as he walked after him. “Oh god, Haz, feel this! It’s so soft-”

He thrust a cream thong into Harry’s hand, and he had no choice but to touch the fabric, marvelling over the texture of it under his fingertips.

“Wow…”

“Right? I’m definitely getting. Cream or white? Oh sod it, I’ll get both.”

Harry nodded and Louis added the things to the basket before glancing inside, nodding with satisfaction.

“Okay, I think that’s it in here. Oh, no it’s not, I need some boyshorts…”

Harry just exhaled and followed Louis again, standing in front of a selection of patterned shorts, puzzling over them.

“You pick.”

“What?”

“I like them all. You choose. I need two pairs so go crazy.”

Harry’s eyes widened, and Louis snatched the basket from his hand, shoving him forward, hand in the middle of Harry’s back. Harry felt hot where Louis’ hand made contact with him but he stepped forward nonetheless, eyes raking over the selection in front of him.

“I’m a small, by the way… only in knicker sizes though,” Louis teased, smirking at Harry who just shook his head, laughing at Louis’ poor attempt at a joke. “Any catch your eye?”

“I like these…” Harry mumbled, picking up a pair of black and pink striped ones, a line of hot pink lace at the waistband.

“Ooh yes, me too. Let’s have those.” Louis flung them into the basket, and Harry turned back to the display, walking slowly up and down, wanting to make the right choice. He picked up a pair of soft lilac ones with silver stars all over them, and he picked them up gently, looking down at them, imagining how Louis would look in them. “Haz? You like those?”

“Yeah… but I’m not sure they’re right for the stage-”

Louis shrugged, putting them in the basket as well. “Oh well. I like them too, can always keep them for home.”

Harry tried not to pass out at that revelation and trailed after Louis towards the counter, watching the eyebrows of the older woman behind the till raise at the pair of them.

“Lucky girlfriends,” she said as she picked up the items one by one, wrapping them in soft pink tissue paper.

“Lucky boyfriend,” Harry corrected, surprising Louis with his declaration. “He deserves the best, so I’m spoiling him.” He slid his arm around Louis’ waist, tugging him closer, pleased Louis just went along with it. When she read out the total, Harry quickly pulled out his wallet, handing over his credit card, giving Louis a quick shake of the head when she turned to the till.

“Pop your pin in please, sir.”

Harry did and lifted down the infamous pink and black striped bag, handing it to Louis, who kissed his cheek quickly. Harry accepted his card and receipt back, thanking the woman who didn't meet his eye before they left.

“Oh my god… her face!” Louis chuckled as they walked away, bag swinging proudly from his hand. “I didn't expect you to say that, Haz, I’ll be honest.”

“Well, just because we’re two men in a lingerie shop, we have to be shopping for our girlfriends? That’s so old-fashioned and sexist. I had to put her right. You, um, you don’t mind that I did that?”

“No way,” Louis laughed, bumping Harry’s arm with his shoulder. “But I’ll sort out paying you back-”

“No, you won’t. My treat for letting me stay. I know I’m paying you rent but it’s not enough so let me get those, okay?”

Louis stopped, and Harry realised a few paces afterward that he had done, stopping and turning to see Louis smiling fondly at him.

“I… thank you, Haz. Work does pay a bit for my uniform,” he said the last one with air quotes, making Harry laugh. “But it doesn’t cover all of it. Thank you. It’s a lovely gift.” He pushed onto his tiptoes, kissing Harry’s cheek again, quickly. “Lunch? My treat though, okay?”

“If you insist,” Harry nodded in agreement, taking the bag from Louis’ hand, entirely unbothered about anyone seeing him with it. “What are we having then?”

“Must you ask?” Louis grinned, pointing over in the distance. “It’s Nando’s time!”

*****

“See you later, Haz!” Louis called as he sashayed his way off around the bar, all too aware of the eyes in the room on him. Harry just stood and watched as well, not bothering to hide how he felt now. Since the shopping trip they’d shared yesterday, it felt like he and Louis had been closer than ever, and they’d even fallen asleep together last night on the sofa watching an old episode of Gogglebox they’d both seen before. Harry had woken with Louis in his arms, and a happy feeling in his heart.

“Pint, Haz?” Liam called from behind the bar, and Harry nodded, walking over to sit on one of the stools. He adjusted the pale blue shirt he’d worn to work that day, loosening his tie before he sighed, resting his elbows on the bar. “You alright?”

“Yeah. Long day. I’m only here because Louis told me to be tonight.”

Liam smirked at that and Harry frowned, wondering exactly it was Louis was planning. He’d been absolutely adamant Harry be there tonight near the stage, and Harry had reluctantly agreed, initially having hoped he’d just run Louis to the club and then head home to watch some telly before going back to pick his flatmate up. It seemed Louis had other plans, though.

“What’s going on?” Harry asked, keen to get to the bottom of it.

“S’more than my life’s worth if I tell you,” Liam replied, sliding Harry’s pint across the bar and accepting the cash Harry handed him in return. “Did Lou say anything to you?”

“Only to sit near the stage,” Harry said before he took a big chug of his beer, relishing the cool liquid slipping down his throat.

“Yep. Best you do that,” Liam said cryptically before he sloped away to serve some other customers. Harry sat on his own for a while, texting his sister, promising her he was doing well and that he’d call soon, the minutes ticking by without him even realising. He only realised it was nearly time for Louis’ set when Liam nodded towards the stage, and Harry stood up, draining the rest of his pint before heading over and taking a seat as close to the stage as he could, foot nervously tapping on the floor.

Harry looked around at the other men sat around, feeling a little smug that he knew Louis better than any of these other people ever would, and he pulled out his phone, texting Louis quickly, hoping he’d get it before he hit the stage.

Harry: Good luck tonight, you’ll be great. I’m sat by the stage. Looking forward to it. Xx

His phone buzzed with a reply a few minutes later, and Harry grinned as he read it, shuddering at Louis’ words.

Louis: Good boy. See you very soon. Xxxx

The lights dimmed and spotlights lit up the stage, Billie Eilish's Bad Guy pumping lowly into the room. Harry rubbed his sweaty palms on his trousers, eyes transfixed on the curtain he knew Louis was hidden behind. Harry could hear the hum of conversation around him but he blocked it out, heart jumping when the curtain pulled to one side, revealing Louis’ silhouette. Whatever he was wearing was skintight, highlighting every curve of Louis’ amazing body. Harry slowly let his eyes roam from Louis’ shoulders down the slender curve of his waist to where his hands were perched on his hips, down to his arse and thighs. Thick, broad thighs that Harry had imagined doing dirty things too many times whenever Louis left him alone in the flat.

Louis started to dip and sway side to side to the beat of the music, and Harry gasped at the sight of him. He was topless already, wearing just a loose pair of black trousers. What was catching Harry’s eye, though, was the sheer amount of glitter applied liberally over Louis’ chest, shoulders and stomach, catching the light with each movement he made. He sparkled like the sun, and Harry couldn’t believe he was witnessing this with his own eyes. He let out a long slow breath as Louis approached a chair in the middle of the stage,  dancing sultrily around it for a few minutes.

Louis strutted to the edge of the stage, contorting his body into some sexy moves as the audience watched on, enraptured by what they were seeing. Harry tore his gaze away from Louis for a moment, looking at the faces of the men all around, how transfixed they were on everything Louis was doing. There was a loud bit of commotion and Harry looked back to the stage, surprised to see Louis was no longer there.

He was now on the floor, gliding through the audience members, touching various men on their shoulders or necks as he walked past them. People were trying to touch, and security guards hovered near, warning people off with a death stare if they got too keen. Harry just sat and gritted his teeth, trying not to react to the sight of Louis openly riling these men up, physically making contact with them.

Louis ran his hands through one young man’s hair, and Harry sat up straighter, ready to pounce if Louis needed him, which of course he didn't. Louis was slowly making his way towards Harry’s part of the audience, music still blasting through the club, Louis glittering his way around the room, a big smile on his face. It seemed like he made a wide berth around where Harry was sitting and Harry tried not to look too disappointed, watching his friend move further away before he looped back towards Harry.

Harry just held his breath as Louis neared him, and he looked around quickly, seeing many of the other customers staring at him, sending him daggers as Louis approached. He grabbed Harry by the tie, pulling him out of his chair, and Harry stumbled, catching himself on Louis’ shoulders for a moment. A security guard stepped forward but Louis shook his head, the man slinking back into place by the steps.

“Come with me,” Louis purred, tugging Harry onto the stage, tie still in his hand. Harry was sure his cheeks were flaming now, legs feeling wobbly as Louis pulled him slowly up the few steps onto the stage before guiding him over to the chair. He indicated that Harry should sit and he did so, placing his hands on his thighs, looking nervously around the room. The stage lights felt hot on Harry and he could already feel sweat on his forehead and beading at the neckline of his shirt, but one glance at Louis stilled his nerves slightly.

“Go with it, okay?” Louis asked, and Harry nodded again, unable to speak. Louis’ skin was glistening from where he was sat, and he longed to touch, to see how Louis’ body felt, especially in front of all the men in the audience watching them. Harry had never been one for exhibitionism but right then, he was quite willing to let Louis do whatever he wanted to him.

He watched as Louis turned around in front of him, facing the audience now, and Harry gulped, Louis’ backside in close proximity to him. He watched as Louis danced in front of him, the track changing in the room to a song Harry recognised, Britney Spears’ track Gimme More. Louis took a few steps backwards until the back of his thighs touched Harry’s knees and he pushed against them, swaying his hips again.

Louis whirled around as the first chorus approached, spinning quickly as he moved to stand behind Harry, his hands roaming Harry’s shoulders and neck, fingers then wrapping in his hair, pulling Harry’s face to the side. Louis’ hands came down, sliding over Harry’s chest as Louis moved against him, and Harry could already see glitter falling from Louis’ skin to his own and onto his clothes. It was hot and steamy, something that shouldn’t be happening in public but it was and Harry was loving it.

As soon as he appeared behind Harry, Louis left again, dancing in front of him. As the first chorus ended, Louis pulled roughly at the waistband of his trousers, yanking them off his body with a flourish. Harry just blinked at the sight of a nearly naked Louis in front of him, now only wearing the tightest, tiniest shiny silver boxer briefs he’d ever seen. They were doing nothing to hide Louis’ bulge, and Harry couldn’t help but stir, knowing his own body was reacting. Louis glanced down and smirked where Harry’s erection was tenting his trousers, but carried on dancing.

What happened felt like it was part of Harry’s dreams, something he never thought he’d ever get to experience in reality. Louis walked forwards, straddling Harry’s thighs, arms coming up and around Harry’s neck, pulling their bodies close. Louis ground his arse down, making Harry whimper before he pushed his chest forward, licking up the side of Harry’s neck quickly. It was so much for Harry, a complete sensory overload, and when Louis got up, turning to wiggle his shiny silver arse against Harry’s thighs again, he couldn’t help sneaking a hand to press against his cock, needing some sort of release.

“Louis, I…” Harry began but Louis turned and shook his head, pressing a finger to Harry’s lip. He continued the lapdance, his body moving easily to song and Harry just watched, unable to move a muscle. At some point, Louis untied his tie and pulled it from the collar of his shirt, tying it onto himself, letting it hang down his naked torso, and Harry just groaned, watching more notes hit the stage floor around his feet for Louis’ amazing performance.

The end of the song was rapidly approaching, and Louis danced more around Harry and his body, Harry unable to move his gaze away from him. As the song began to end, Louis straddled Harry again, bouncing up and down slowly, before a small confetti went off over the audience, Louis’ arms around Harry’s neck as he arched his body backwards, stomach pressed to Harry’s, head tilted back so he could see the audience.

A roar filled the room as the men watching got to their feet. Harry’s hands came up to rest on Louis’ hips atop the tiny boxer briefs, holding him in place for a moment, all too aware of how Louis’ cock was pressed against his own through the fabric covering them both. It was the most arousing moment of Harry’s life to date. Louis sat back up, not removing his arms from Harry’s neck, and he pressed their foreheads together for a moment. Harry just held him still, but eventually Louis moved to get off, winking at Harry before he pulled Harry to his feet, hugging him and Harry reciprocated before fleeing the stage, back to his seat.

He watched as Louis bowed a few times before he ran off backstage, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts, a few audience members leaving and patting him on the shoulders, claiming he was “the luckiest bastard in the room”. Harry silently agreed, wondering what the men would think if they knew Harry was the one taking Louis home at the end of the night, even if it was only to share some leftover lasagne in the fridge and watch Graham Norton on telly together under a blanket.

When he’d calmed down the situation in his trousers, Harry wandered over to the bar, sitting on a stool, still feeling a little dazed.

“You survived then?” Liam smirked over, and Harry shook his head, accepting the tall glass of water Liam handed over. He took a few sips, aware his hands were still shaking and he jumped as hands clapped down on his shoulders. He’d dribbled a bit of water down his shirt and chin, and a familiar cackle behind him made him roll his eyes.

“You twat, what a mess,” Louis chortled, hitching his bag up his shoulder. He was still damp from his shower, and Harry just smiled, hoping he could keep his voice steady to talk to Louis. “You ready to go home, Haz?”

“Not hanging around tonight, Tommo?” Liam asked, and Louis just shook his head, resting against Harry’s side by now.

“Nope. I’m tired and I wanna go home, if that’s alright, Haz?”

“Course it is,” Harry said, getting to his feet and shrugging his jacket back on. “I don’t mind, you know that. See you later, Liam.”

“Bye, you two,” Liam waved after them, Harry holding the door open for Louis again.

The drive home was quiet, Louis shutting his eyes as Harry drove, clearly wiped out by his performance and shift at the library earlier on. Harry appreciated the peace and quiet, needing a while to get his thoughts together, to work out what Louis’ lapdance meant for the pair of them. He pulled into the parking space he always did, and smiled fondly at the sight of Louis sound asleep in the passenger seat. He crept out of the car as quietly as he could, and lifted Louis into his arms, holding him close as he walked them both in, laying Louis on the sofa after he managed to get the door open.

He looked down at himself, smiling ruefully at the glitter all over his expensive shirt, but he couldn’t bring himself to mind knowing it was Louis’ lap dance that had put it there all over him. He walked over to the bathroom, starting up the shower before he pulled all his clothes off, stepping under the hot spray. He was still half hard from the memories of what had happened just a few short hours ago, and he couldn’t stop his hand snaking down, wrapping his fingers around himself.

Harry groaned lowly before he realised he was being too loud, muffling his sounds by biting on his lip, his hand flying over himself. He let his mind drift back a few hours, to the feel of Louis’ curvy backside grinding against him, how amazing he loved in those tight boxers, hiding not a thing from his audience. Harry knew there was a simple explanation for why Louis had picked on him, probably preferring to dance on someone familiar than a stranger but still, Harry could dream it meant Louis wanted him too.

“Oh, fuck-” he mumbled under his breath, the familiar bubble of orgasm already present in his belly. Harry thumbed over the head, groaning at the sensations zipping through his body and he panted, water pounding down on his body, wishing Louis was in there with him, his body pressed closed. “Ah- shit, Lou… ah… Louis!”

Harry came hard, his come splattering against the tiles, body thrumming with the strength of his orgasm. Harry’s breaths came out shakily as he came down, the aftershocks still ripping through his body. He felt slightly guilty at getting off to the thought of his new friend, but he almost felt too good after his orgasm to care. He quickly washed himself off, using the shower gel he knew Louis had been using too given how quickly the bottle had gone down, but Harry couldn’t bring himself to be bothered by it.

He stepped out, fluffy white towel around his hips and he headed to Louis’ bedroom. He opened the door and was about to drop his towel when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. It was Louis, awake and walking towards him. He held the knot of the towel tighter and just stared at Louis, suddenly afraid he’d been heard in the shower.

“Sorry I dozed off,” Louis said with a grin, turning his back and allowing Harry to drop his towel, pulling boxers up and over his hips before Louis turned around again. “I’m a bit hungry, you fancy some food?”

“Yeah, we could finish that lasagne,” Harry mused, yanking on a jumper over his head. “Did, uh, did you just wake up?”

“Yeah… I’m gonna go and stick it in the microwave, come through when you’re dressed.”

“Will do,” Harry called after his retreating back, and sighed in relief that he hadn’t been caught out wanking to the thought of his friend. That would be too humiliating for words.

*****

Harry smiled as he came through the main doors of their building, music already coming through their closed front door. It was a song that he knew Louis had been rehearsing to, and he didn't want to spy on Louis again, knowing how shy it made him the last time. Harry went inside as loudly as he could, almost slamming the front door.

“I’m nearly done, come in!” Louis called, and Harry walked through, staying out of the way as Louis finished up his routine. Harry just watched in awe at the way Louis moved is body so fluidly with the music, almost becoming one with it. Every move he made was certain and exact, landing each jump and spin with precision Harry wished he possessed. Louis was the most graceful human Harry had ever seen, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away. Louis’ form was stunning, and Harry just stared, admiring Louis’ beauty.

“Stop staring,” Louis mumbled as he stopped dancing as the track ended, cheeks red and face covered in a sheen of sweat. “I can feel when you’re looking at me, you know.”

“Sorry,” Harry shrugged, helping Louis drag the sofa back into its rightful place before they both sat down on it. Harry admired Louis’ legs in his leggings out of the corner of his eye, wishing he could tell Louis how good he looked. “Lou… you were amazing. No, don’t cover your face, please? I just… you are so graceful. Watching you dance… I think you’re amazing, Louis. There’s no way you won’t ace this audition, not if you dance like that.”

“Ah, I’m not so sure,” Louis said, crossing his legs in front of him. “This space isn’t ideal for rehearsing in. I bumped my shin earlier, it’ll probably bruise.”

“Let me see?” Harry asked, pleased when Louis lifted his leg, placing it on Harry’s lap. Harry gently rolled back the soft fabric of Louis’ leggings, exposing his slender, tanned shin. He ran his fingers over the red lump there, catching Louis’ wince as he touched. “Sorry. I’ll get you an ice pack, hold on.”

He got up and went to the kitchen, retrieving the ice pack from the freezer. He wrapped a clean tea towel around it before returning to Louis and lifting his shin on his lap again, pressing the ice against it. Louis shrieked at the chill but soon settled back, looking more comfortable.

“Dancing’s in my soul, you know,” he said softly, Harry having to strain to hear his words. “It’s everything to me. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, and I’m so scared I’m going to fail this audition, and my dream is going to slip further out of my reach.”

“Louis…”

“You don’t know how I feel when I dance. It’s like… all the weight on my shoulders… it disappears when I dance, Harry. I feel like I become one with the music, my body just instinctively knows what to do, how to move. I don’t have to think, I just do it and it works. I feel free, and I feel so happy when I dance. I want that feeling every single day of my life. It’s just me and the music, and that’s all I want.”

Harry nodded, wishing he had something he could be as passionate about. He stayed quiet for a minute, still holding the ice pack in place over Louis’ bruise.

“Um, I could help you, if you let me?” Harry said suddenly, Louis’ head snapping up to look at him. “I… I can rent you a dance space, a studio or something where you can rehearse without tripping over the sofa or bashing your leg on the TV stand. I’d like to help, Lou…”

“That’s a lot, Harry-”

“I know, but I want to help. I can afford it, and I know it’ll help you, Lou. You can have a whole space to yourself-”

“I want you to come.”

“What?”

“Would you come with me? If you want to of course, I mean, I-”

“I’d love to, Lou. I can make a call tomorrow, see if we can get in somewhere?”

“You’re amazing, you know that?” Louis said with a big smile on his face, reaching out and taking Harry’s hand in his. “I can’t tell you how much this means to me. God, I’m so excited!”

The smile on Louis’ face was worth everything, and it was with that that Harry knew he was screwed. He was completely gone for this boy, and there was nothing he could do about it.

*****

“Oh my god, look at this place!”

Louis wandered around, awe evident on his face as he took in the huge rehearsal space Harry had managed to secure for him through a friend of a friend. It was a brightly lit, spacious studio, a wall of mirrors lining one wall, natural sunlight pouring in through the skylights. Speakers were dotted around the room, and there was a bank of seats Harry knew he’d be sitting in soon enough, watching Louis dance for him.

“Well, go on, Lou. Get started. I can see you want to.”

“I do. So much. I miss this, being in a studio, dancing like this. Thank you, for making this happen.”

Louis grinned and stripped off his joggers and hoodie, revealing his leggings and tank top he’d borrowed from Harry that morning. Harry tried not to stare as Louis walked over to the sound system, plugging in his phone and loading up the track he’d chosen. He stretched over at the mirrors, using the barre to stretch out his muscles, elongating each of his limbs.

As Louis began to move with the music, Harry lifted his phone, snapping some photos of him. He admired them on his phone as Louis continued to dance around the floor, landing each jump easily, Harry’s feet tapping to the beat on the floor. He startled when Louis plopped down next to him, and he couldn’t hide the photos he’d taken quickly enough.

“Are those of me?” Louis asked, peering over Harry’s shoulder before he snatched the device from him. “Harry-”

“I’m sorry, I should’ve asked-”

“No. No, it’s fine, it’s just you. But… wow, love. These are amazing. I mean… god, look at this one. How did you take this shot?”

Harry shrugged, feeling a little embarrassed at being singled out like this by Louis.

“Seriously. These are amazing. Can I have some of these? For my portfolio, I mean?”

“You want my photos?”

“Yeah! Definitely… these are so good. Maybe you should think about taking up photography or something, you’re more than good enough.”

“Maybe,” Harry mused, loving the sheer delight obvious on Louis’ face at something as simple as the photos he took of him. “I’m glad you like them.”

“I love them,” Louis said, handing back Harry’s phone again. “Now, dance with me.”

“What?”

“Dance. With me, please. I want to dance with you.”

“Oh no,” Harry said, shaking his head, ignoring Louis’ outstretched hand. “I don’t dance, Lou.”

“Everyone says that but I want you to try. For me?”

Harry couldn’t resist Louis’ jokey pout and he sighed, getting to his feet and taking Louis’ hand. Louis stood him in the middle of the floor, and practically skipped off to the music system, selecting a slow song, letting the rich music fill the room.

“I feel you’ll be comfortable in hold with me, so I think we’ll start with something a bit easy. Okay… come closer to me, I don’t bite-”

Harry let Louis manoeuvre him into position, realising quite quickly he was going to be in the traditional woman’s position of the hold.

“I know you’re bigger, but you haven’t got a clue so I need to lead. Is that alright?”

Harry just nodded, letting Louis rest his hand on Harry’s waist, letting his hand come to rest on Louis’ shoulder. He swallowed, the closeness of their bodies a lot for Harry to deal with but he focused, listening intently to Louis’ directions, trying to follow what he was saying about where to put his feet. In the end, he gave up, just deciding to follow Louis rather than working out a set pattern for what was going on.

“Okay, let’s go. And 1, 2, 3…”

Louis stepped backwards, pulling Harry with him, and they moved fluidly for a whole two steps before Harry misjudged the gap between himself and Louis, and trod on his toe.

“Ouch!” Louis cried, gripping Harry’s hand tighter for a moment. “Careful, love, big old clown feet…”

“See, I can’t do this,” Harry murmured, trying to pull away but Louis refused to let him, yanking him tighter against him.

“You can, and you will. For me. Let’s go again.” Louis pulled them away again, directing them around the dance floor. Harry kept missing the beat, unable to make his legs move as he wanted them to but Louis was undeterred. He kept his grip on Harry, turning them slowly at points, laughing when Harry attempted to dip him, the pair giggling too much to make it successful. “See? You can dance!” Louis said gleefully as they came to a halt, not releasing each other from their close hold.

“Having the time of my life…” Harry muttered, an Louis groaned, slapping his chest gently.

“Did you just quote Dancing Queen, you twit?”

“Might have,” Harry laughed back, letting Louis spin out and then back against him. He hadn’t felt so free in a long time, and they continued to sing loudly, voices reverberating from the studio walls as they jokingly swung each other around the room, lost in each other and their own little world.

Chapter Text

Two weeks later

“I can ask them, I’m sure they’ll be happy to help,” Louis called from his bedroom through to the living room where Harry was splayed out on the sofa, enjoying his final night in Louis’ flat. Louis felt ridiculously sad at the realisation Harry was finally going to be moving out into his own flat tomorrow, but at the same time, he was happy for him, knowing Harry loved the penthouse he’d chosen, that he’d dragged Louis along to when he’d gone to view it for the first time.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course,” Louis said as he walked back into the living room, lifting Harry’s feet and sitting down, letting his feet on his lap now. “You don’t have anyone you can ask to help you?”

Harry just shrugged, gaze back down on his lap.

“Not really. I mean… all of my friends were Adam’s friends first. I imagine they’ll believe whatever story he’s spun for them… they won’t want to help me.”

“Well, then, you can definitely have my friends,” Louis agreed easily, taking Harry’s hand for a moment. “Liam’s got the brawn and Zayn’s got the brains. Actually, that might be a bit generous, but hey. We’ll be good with the four of us. You haven’t got that much stuff, anyway. Did you buy those sofas?”

“Yeah, they’re coming next weekend, so it’s a few days without things, but I’ll survive. At least I’ve got a bed.”

“Yep, that’s the most important thing,” Louis said with a nod. There was silence for a moment, and Louis decided he had to be honest. “I’m really going to miss you. I’ve loved having you here.”

Harry turned, curling his long legs up under himself, looking into Louis’ eyes.

“I’ve loved staying here, so much, Lou. You were there for me when no-one else was, and I know we’ll be friends for life. You’re always welcome at my new home, you know that.”

“And my door’s always open for you. Keep the key you’ve got,” Louis said, not really understanding what he meant by these words. “Anytime you want to hang out, just say the word. And I still want you to come to the club.”

“I still want to keep coming,” Harry smiled back, resting his head back on a cushion. “So… final movie night for old times sake?”

“Alright then, what do you fancy?”

Harry thought about it for a moment before he hopped up, walking over to Louis’ DVD shelf, pulling out a case and grinning as he turned to face Louis. Louis just groaned, slapping his forehead with his hand at Harry’s choice.

“Really?”

“It’s a classic, Lou,” Harry deadpanned, crouching down to slide the disk into the player. “Come on, you know you want to.”

“Fine.” Louis folded his arms against his chest, huffing for a moment, knowing Harry could see through his facade. “Get your arse over here then, I want my cuddles while we watch.”

*****

Louis hoisted a box into his arms, heading downstairs to Zayn’s car, where he pushed it into the backseat next to the others he’d already taken down stairs that morning. He’d tried to shake off the sadness he felt at Harry finally moving out, and kept his smile plastered on his face, not wanting to upset Harry, the younger man so excited when he’d sprung out of bed that morning, running gleefully into Louis’ room to wake him up, jumping like an over-excited child on Christmas morning on the end of his bed. Louis had been far too endeared considering it was arse o’clock in the morning.

“You’re going to miss him, aren’t you?” Zayn asked as Louis straightened up, rubbing the base of his spine which was protesting at the amount of lifting he’d already done.

“What?”

“Harry. You’re really going to miss him being at your place, aren’t you?”

“Well, yeah, but he’s my mate, Z. I’d miss you or Li if you moved out.”

“That’s not the same and you know it,” Zayn said, Louis wishing his friend would stop talking now. He knew his feelings for Harry were much more than platonic, but admitting to that would be threatening their friendship, and that wasn’t something Louis was prepared to do. “You know it’s okay to want to be more than friends with him, right?”

“Zayn, he’s still legally married. I can’t do that, not when he needs a friend right now. I’d rather be his friend than nothing at all.”

“Fair enough. I get that. But it doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have feelings for him, Lou,” Zayn said as he continued shoving a few bags into the back of the truck. “Don’t think Liam hasn’t told me how many times he comes to see you at work. And that even when he doesn’t, he’s there to pick you up.”

“Right, and that’s exactly what you did for over a year,” Louis replied, folding his arms across his chest defensively. He wasn’t sure why Zayn’s line of conversation was bothering him so much, but it was. “Look, we’re just mates. Harry needed someone to talk to, and somewhere to crash, and I could give him both of those things. There’s nothing wrong with us being mates.”

“I never said there was. But Louis… you deserve to be happy as well. And even emotionally stunted old me can see he makes you happy. And judging by how touchy-feely he is with you, I think you’re pretty good for him, too.”

Louis blushed but quickly snapped his lips shut as Liam and Harry barrelled out of the door to the building, laden down with yet more more bags. Zayn nodded in understanding and quickly pulled Louis into a hug as Liam and Harry stood up straight, Harry cracking his back as he finally met Louis’ gaze. Louis noticed Harry frown slightly at the sight of Louis in Zayn’s arms, and he quite liked the flare of jealousy evident in his friend's eyes. He slipped his hand into Zayn’s back pocket, smiling at the other pair.

“You two ready then?”

“Yep,” Harry nodded, heading to his car. “You riding with me, Lou?”

“If you want me to,” Louis agreed, finally stepping away from Zayn and towards Harry’s car. “How much stuff have we got left?”

“Uh…” Harry rounded the car and got in while Louis did the same on the passenger side. “I have more clothes in your room, there’s my books and magazines and stuff, and a few of my kitchen bits I think.”

“Alright, well, we can do that next round,” Louis said, cursing as they caught a red light, Liam and Zayn zooming ahead. Harry had given them his spare key in case this happened, so Louis knew they’d be fine when they arrived but it was annoying. “You excited?”

“Yeah,” Harry grinned, driving again as the light changed to green. “It’s such a great place-”

“It really is,” Louis agreed, pushing his jealousy down slightly. “You’re going to love living there, babe.”

Louis flushed as the term slipped from his lips, but kept his eyes focused on the road ahead. He could feel Harry looking at him but he didn't return the look, not sure how Harry would feel about Louis calling him ‘babe’ so easily. It didn't feel wrong, was the thing, and Louis stayed silent until Harry parked his car up outside his new place, behind where Liam and Zayn’s truck was. It looked half empty, so Louis was pleased his friends were doing their job properly.

They hopped out of Harry’s car together, and Louis reached in, grabbing a couple of bags. He waited as Harry emerged, arm muscles bulging as he stood up, two heavy bags in each hand. Louis swallowed heavily and looked away, determined not to let on to Harry how he was being affected by the sight in front of him. They stayed silent as they walked inside, Harry’s new front door propped open with a box, and Louis sighed in relief as he put his bags down on the wooden floor, flexing his hands as he did so, hands tingling as the blood began to rush back to them.

“You okay, Lou?” Harry asked, setting down a box on his new sofa. “Can I get you a drink of water or something?”

“You’re alright, love, I can get it.”

Louis rested his hand on Harry’s shoulder as he walked past him, watching Harry rifle in one of his bags as he walked over to where he remembered the kitchen to be. He and Harry had visited a few times since Harry had paid the deposit on the flat, and he’d helped Harry pick out new rugs, sofas, even a bed that Louis hadn’t at all imagined himself waking up in. Not at all.

“Oh fuck- MY EYES!”

Louis clapped his hand over his eyes at the sight in front of him and whirled around, praying he wouldn’t stumble into a door frame or something as he took a few steps away. He listened as footsteps hurried closer, hands resting on his shoulders as a voice spoke.

“Louis, are you okay? What happened?”

“My eyes, Harold. They’ll never be the same again.”

“Oh, don’t be so sodding dramatic-” Zayn chastised as Louis finally released his eyes, giggling as he looked up at Harry. “You literally work in a club where guys get practically naked every night, and me kissing Liam bothered you?”

“Yes, it bothered me,” Louis huffed, turning around and leaning back against Harry, not thinking through how intimate the action was. “It was like seeing… I dunno, my brothers kiss or something. Eww.”

“They kissed?!” Harry squeaked, looking a bit shocked by this development. “In my kitchen?”

“Yes but we didn't sully your worktops, don’t worry,” Zayn snapped back with a roll of his eyes, his cheeks pink now with embarrassment. “Don’t give us shit for this Louis, I thought this is what you wanted to happen…”

“It is,” Louis said, hurrying forward and pulling Zayn into a quick hug, grinning at Liam over Zayn’s shoulder. “I’m really happy for the pair of you. But I just didn't expect to walk in on that. Tongues and everything… my god.

Liam stuck his middle finger up at that, quickly turning around and rearranging a few of Harry’s smaller kitchen appliances he and Zayn had evidently been putting in place before they’d decided to start kissing.

“So does this mean you two are…” Harry pointed his index finger between the two of them, clearly wanting to ask but not sure if he was over-stepping. “Uh, I mean, are you-”

“Are you fucking?” Louis asked, hands planted on his hips now. “Or are you gonna fuck? Like, soon?”

Harry gasped at Louis’ forthright words, and hurried forward to clap a hand over Louis' mouth, shaking his head as Liam muffled a giggle in his shoulder, Zayn just sighing in exasperation, entirely used to Louis by now.

“Louis, you cannot ask that.”

Louis tugged Harry's hand away and kept staring at their friends.

“Oh yes, I can, and they’re gonna ask me. Are you gonna do the do?”

“Do the do? Are you literally fourteen years old?” Zayn called from where he was bent over, standing up with a Magimix in his arms. “You actually use this shit, Harry?”

“He makes magical cakes with that,” Louis said, mind falling back as he remembered the stunning vanilla sponge Harry had made him last week. They’d eaten too much, and Louis had had tummy ache for hours until the food had gone down, leaving him with a food baby he’d taken too much pleasure in rubbing for a few hours. “Magic, I tell you. You’re just jealous ‘cos you didn't get any.”

“Fuck off. And I'm not answering your other question so bugger off.”

The four men continued to empty the boxes sat on Harry’s kitchen floor, Louis taking his time in arranging what he knew to be Harry’s favourite mugs on the wooden mug tree Harry produced from a box before Harry began to make tea for all of them, clearly decided they needed a break before heading back to Louis’ to collect more things. Harry cracked open a special box of biscuits he’d bought for the day and they all ate and chatted at his kitchen table before they headed off to finish up, everyone wanting to be done.

A few hours later, Liam and Zayn had dropped off the final boxes, and Louis had waved them off, telling them he was going to help Harry unpack a few boxes before he left, not keen on leaving the man alone in his new home just yet. He had confidence that if Harry wanted him gone, he’d say so.

“There’s no way that’s the first time they’ve kissed. It looked way too comfortable for that,” Louis mused, settled now on Harry’s huge new sofa. Louis’ feet were resting comfortably in Harry’s lap, a hand resting on the top of his bare foot. Usually, Louis hated people touching his dancers feet, calloused and misshapen from years of dancing but somehow, he didn't mind when it was Harry touching him.

“You don’t think so?”

“Nah. They’ve been getting up to something behind our backs, definitely.” Louis sipped on the glass of wine in his hand, feeling far too relaxed. “I mean, I don’t care but I wish they’d have told me. I’ve been Zayn’s best mate for years.”

Harry was silent for a moment, staring off into the distance before he blinked and spoke again.

“Well, maybe they wanted to be sure before they told you. They know how excitable you get, and maybe they wanted it to be just for them for a while?”

“Excitable? I am not a two week old puppy, Harold.”

“You are. My little puppy.” Harry leaned forward and ruffled Louis’ hair, making Louis squeak and slap his hand away, hurrying to fix his quiff. It was pretty much ruined after a day of sweating and lifting heavy boxes, but that was by the by. “Thank you for today, Lou. I’m really glad you’re here, actually. Going to feel a bit strange falling asleep knowing you’re not down the hall anymore.”

Louis’ heart skipped a beat at the fact Harry was going to miss having him around, but he couldn’t resist teasing the other man just a bit more. “I know. My company is that outstanding you’re gonna feel bereft when it’s gone.”

Harry laughed but he tapped Louis’ feet, holding out his arm for a cuddle. Louis went easily, slotting against Harry’s side like it was where he belonged.

“I’m serious, Lou. I’m really going to miss you. I’ve had so much fun these past few weeks I’ve been living with you. You’ve given me back a sense of freedom and, uh… happiness? You’ve helped me forget a lot of shit going on, so thank you for that.”

Louis smiled to himself, his cheek still resting on Harry’s chest. “Bloody sap. But you’re welcome. You can still come around whenever you want, you know. And I still expect you to come and watch me rehearse, I’m getting a bit too used to you being there, actually.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Harry mumbled, leaning down to kiss Louis’ temple quickly. Louis was feeling just a bit too comfortable, so he pushed away, ignoring the way Harry’s face fell as them being parted again. “Oh, are you off?”

“Yep. It’s late, and I have a shift tomorrow behind the bar with Li. He’s short on people so I offered. What can I say, I have a wonderful heart.”

He stretched out his back before he walked through Harry’s flat, shoving his feet into his tatty Converse. They looked battered and like he couldn’t afford a new pair of shoes, but they were comfy, and Louis couldn’t bear to throw them away.

“I’ll see you soon, though?”

“Course you will. Come by the bar after work tomorrow, I’ll buy you a drink.”

“Okay. Yeah, I will,” Harry grinned, nodding his head eagerly. “You want a lift home?”

“I think I’ll walk, actually. Fresh air will do me good, and it’s not far. You enjoy your first night here, yeah?”

Harry put his hands in his back pockets, nodding again. Louis wanted to kick his shoes off and stay, but he couldn’t. Louis just smiled and reached up to the catch on the front door, pulling it open and stepping outside.

“Louis, wait!”

Louis turned around quickly, a frown on his face as he watched Harry rifle around in a small chest of drawers they’d left in the hallway, unsure where else to put it. He emerged with a smile and came over to Louis, grabbing his hand. Louis opened his fingers, watching as Harry dropped something silver into it, closing his fingers around it again.

Louis slowly unfurled his fingers, looking down a small key before he looked up again, meeting Harry’s eyes.

“A key. To this place. I mean, I’ve still got yours so it seems only fair. Use it whenever you want. Please?”

“I, uh… thank you, Haz.” Louis walked over and pulled Harry down into a quick hug before he broke it off, shoving the key into the back pocket of his jeans. “I will. Goodnight, love.”

“Night, Lou,” Harry called as Louis smiled and finally walked away into the cool night, leaving Harry behind for the first time in a long time. It didn't feel right somehow, and Louis suppressed the urge to turn around and go back. Harry needed to learn to be alone, and Louis was going to give him that chance.

*****

“Loulou, I want more drinkies,” Harry slurred, where he was draped across the table, his head laying on his folded arms. He grinned up at an endeared Louis, who was still nursing his first pint of the evening. “A pretty pink one again.”

Harry hadn’t actually drunk all that much considering the state he was in, but Louis had decided to stick to soft drinks himself now. He wanted to make sure Harry got home safely, and he couldn’t do that if he was in a similarly inebriated state. Harry seemed to be a real lightweight, and whatever was in those potent cocktails Liam was making for him was going straight to his head. Louis had forced him to munch down a bag of crisps to try and soak up the alcohol but it seemed to be in vain at the moment.

“What about a nice glass of lemonade?” Louis offered, hoping Harry would take him up on it. “I’ll get you another drink in a while?”

“Okay, thank you!” Harry sing-songed, and Louis just chuckled, leaving Harry at the table while he went over to the bar, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket.

“Tommo, what can I get you two?” Liam asked, tea towel typically thrown over his shoulder. He looked red cheeked, obviously harassed due to how busy the bar was tonight, and Louis decided not to make small talk, knowing Liam got too stressed when it was packed.

“Uh, I’ll have a half of lemonade and… no, make that two halves. Cheers, mate.”

Louis handed over a ten pound note as Liam put the full glasses on the bar, letting him fetch his change before they nodded at each other, Liam already heading over to the next customer. Louis carefully manoeuvered his way through the gathered men around the bar and arrived back at the table, pleased to see Harry was still alone. He looked up as Louis set the glasses down with a dull thud, grabbing one eagerly.

“Thank you,” Harry said before he took a few big gulps, shuddering as the cold liquid moved down his throat. “Ooh, fizzy.”

“You’re welcome, babe,” Louis replied, stilling as he watched Harry’s face contort into a frown. “Did I say something wrong?”

Harry just shrugged, running his finger up and down the condensation of the glass for a moment, his eyes downcast for the first time that night.

“Adam used to call me that. I hated it.”

“Babe?”

Harry just nodded, now pulling at the corner of a beer mat. “Yeah. I told him so many times I hated it, but he never stopped.”

“I’m sorry, I won’t use that again-”

“No, you can do what you want. I don’t… I don’t hate it so much, when you say it.”

Louis felt his cheeks burn at that admittance, looking down at the table, pushing his glass back and forth a little as a means of distraction.

“I did something stupid,” Harry admitted, his voice low and quiet, and Louis shuffled slightly closer, leaning over the table so he could hear better. “I’m such a fucking idiot.”

“You aren’t an idiot,” Louis chastised, wishing he could reach across and take Harry’s hand, offer comfort in some way but judging by Harry’s closed off body language, he wasn’t sure that would be welcomed right now. “You don’t have to tell me-”

“I tried to have sex with Adam.”

“Oh. Recently?”

Harry shook his head, and Louis could see Harry’s hand start to shake where it was resting on the table, and he stayed quiet, wondering if Harry would say anymore. It made him feel a little sick to think of Harry initiating intimacy with the man who had broken him, but he knew that he had no right to feel that way. Harry was still legally married to Adam, they were entitled to have sex whenever they wanted. He just couldn’t understand why Harry wanted that after everything his husband had done.

“No. It was before I finally made the decision I needed to separate from him. Before I went to Holmes Chapel to see my Mum, do you remember?”

Louis did, and nodded quickly, still not able to look up at Harry.

“I kissed him, and ended up in his lap. I don’t know what i was thinking, looking back. Things got more… heated, I suppose, and I tried to have sex with him. But every time I closed my eyes, all I could see was him. Him and that man together. How much Adam was enjoying it.”

“Harry, I-”

“I couldn’t do it. He had his hands on me, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t stand it. I- fuck, I remember stumbling out of there half naked, embarrassed, feeling more stupid than I had in a long time. I made a fool out of myself because I had this stupid idea sex could heal my marriage when it was sex that had broken it.”

Louis didn't know what to say. He lifted his glass, sipping on his lemonade slowly, enjoying the sensation of the bubbles on his tongue for a moment. He wondered for a moment if that had happened before one of the times Harry had ended up at The Night Watch looking sad, drowning his sorrows while Louis danced the night away.

“Why wasn’t I enough for him, Lou? I mean, I don’t think I’m bad in bed, I let him have it however he wanted, I was always happy with our sex life. But he wasn’t, clearly. Not from what I saw. Maybe he hated my body or something, my tattoos, or my cock, or-”

“Hey, no. Come on, that’s enough,” Louis said, mind going blank at the mention of Harry’s cock. He got up and rounded the table, sliding into the booth next to Harry, tugging him around so they were facing each other. “What Adam did… that was on him. Not you. He’s a fucking shitbag for shagging around behind your back, Harry.”

“But what if I’m horrible at sex, or-”

“Stop. Please. I hate hearing you talk about yourself like that. Even if you were bad at sex, which I’m really sure you’re not, he should have talked to you about it, not just gone off and fucked whichever man came along first. That’s what marriage is meant to be about, Harry. Talking, working through things together. I’m sorry you didn't get that, but it doesn’t by any means make it your fault.”

“You, uh, you really think so?”

“Yeah, I do. He’s the dickhead here. And if he couldn’t see what he had, then more fool-”

Louis was cut off by Harry’s lips pressing roughly against his, Harry’s hand gripping at Louis’ thigh where he was leaning forward, angling them together. Louis just sat for a second, letting it happen. It was everything he’d been hoping for for the past few weeks. Harry’s beautiful lips felt wonderful against his own, encompassing Louis’ entirely, and he could feel Harry’s stubbly chin brushing against his own, making Louis’ freshly shaven jaw burn for a moment.

Harry’s hand came up, cupping around the back of Louis’ neck before he began to deepen the kiss, his tongue barely brushing Louis’ before he came back to earth, realising what was happening and that now wasn’t the time.

“Mmm, Harry, we shouldn’t-” Louis said regretfully, pulling away from the kiss, resting his forehead against Harry’s for a moment. “You’re drunk, and-”

“I know what I want. You. You’re what I want. And kisses. I want kisses. Your kisses, please.”

Harry leaned in for another kiss, but Louis gripped his shoulders, holding him back as Harry’s hurt eyes met his again.

“I- fuck.”

Harry stumbled off his stool and before Louis could stop him, he’d disappeared into the crowds around the bar.

“Fuck!”

Louis slammed his fist on the table, making their glasses wobble for a moment, finally coming to a stop as Louis replayed the past few minutes in his head. He’d dreamt of kissing Harry. Of course he had. Harry was probably the most attractive man he’d ever met, and Louis knew he was definitely attracted to him. He had hoped Harry had felt the same as him. He’d seen how affected Harry had been by his stripteases on stage, how sometimes he’d gotten hard when they’d been huddled together under a blanket watching movies, both of them steadfastly ignoring the presence of said erection.

But now, Louis had a deep-rooted fear that Harry had only kissed him because he was drunk. He’d liked Louis saying nice things about him, and it had made him act on impulse, kissing Louis in lieu of using his words to thank him. Louis felt sick at the thought that Harry hadn’t really intended to kiss him, and he dropped his head into his hands, shaking it slightly. Everything had gone wrong in a split second, and Louis was damned if he knew what to do.

After a few minutes of just sitting down and letting his mind run away with him, Louis stood up, smoothing his t-shirt down his torso. He realised with a start that it was actually Harry’s, one he’d kept when Harry had moved out, finding it too comfortable to part with. His eyes raked around the busy room, panicking slightly when he saw no sign of Harry anywhere. He abandoned their table, hoping people would see the drinks and wouldn’t bother sitting down at it. Finding Harry was the priority. Louis only hoped he hadn’t left and had stumbled off drunk into the night. He didn't have his coat.

“Oi, Li!”

Liam turned around and gave Louis a slight smile, pointing in the direction of the staff room with his thumb, and Louis nodded in thanks, knowing Liam knew exactly who he was looking for. He walked down the familiar corridor, and put his hand on the door handle, taking a deep breath before he pushed it down, the door swinging open quietly in front of him. What he saw melted his heart.

Harry was curled up on his side, sound asleep. His hands were tucked under his head, and his mouth was dropped open, letting out little breaths. Louis turned and pushed the door to behind him, picking up Harry’s car keys where they’d fallen on the floor beside the tatty old sofa. He shoved them in his own pocket, and tucked Harry’s hair behind his ear, admiring him for a moment. He looked so innocent and unburdened like this, and Louis wished he could always look like this, not worrying about his failed marriage, or what his ex-husband was going to do next.

Louis stood up and tucked an arm under Harry’s legs, sliding the other between Harry’s back and the sofa, gently lifting him into his arms. Harry was tall but he didn't weigh a lot, not once Louis had got him settled against his body. He slowly walked out, toeing open the door with his shoe, and headed out. Liam quickly stepped out from behind the bar, dashing ahead to hold open the door for Louis as he carefully carried Harry out, watching out not to bump his head as they stepped into the night.

“Keys?” Liam asked in a whisper, shivering from the chilly breeze whipping around them.

Louis turned around, talking to Liam over his shoulder. “In my pocket. Thanks, Li.”

Liam opened the passenger side door to Harry’s Ferrari, and Louis set him down carefully, pulling the seat belt over him and fastening it. He closed the door as quietly as he could, and stood back up, shaking out his arms.

“Is he going to be okay? I saw him looking upset, so I told him he could go and take five in the staff room,” Liam said, rubbing his arms to keep warm, concern lacing his features. “Where are you taking him?”

Louis shrugged, cursing when he realised he’d left their things inside. “Back to mine, and he’ll be okay. He just had a few too many and said a few things. But uh, yeah, I’ll take care of him. I left our jackets inside, would you grab them and keep them til I’m at work on Tuesday?”

“Course,” Liam nodded, hugging Louis quickly. “Go on, get him home. Let me know you’re both okay, yeah?”

“Will do,” Louis called as he rounded the car, a little excited at the thought of finally getting behind the wheel of Harry’s supercar. He started the engine and grinned to himself as the engine roared loudly, holding the wheel tightly for a moment. He knew he had a licence, but it felt like a big responsibility to be driving Harry’s car, especially when he was asleep next to him.

The drive home was too quick for Louis’ liking, but he couldn’t deny he felt relieved when he managed to reverse park the car in a space outside the block of flats he lived at, hoping nobody would hit the car while they slept. He picked Harry up again and walked them both inside, his biceps straining as he saw his sofa covered in piles of magazines, photographs he was sorting through for his portfolio, and the plates he’d eaten his lunch from.

He changed tack, heading down the corridor to his bedroom. Luckily, he’d made his bed earlier, and he practically dropped Harry onto it as he knees hit the bedframe, legs almost giving out from under him. He barely stirred, slapping his lips a few times before he slept again. Louis tugged off Harry’s shoes, leaving them on the floor, and he unbuckled Harry’s belt, knowing the large metal buckle would hurt if Harry rolled on it. He pulled it out of the belt loops on his jeans, and rested it on the bedside table to the side. He left Harry’s clothes on before he draped a soft blanket over him, bending down enough to press a soft kiss to Harry’s forehead.

Louis left the room then, quickly texting Liam to say they were both home safe and sound before he brushed his teeth, using the loo and cleaning his face before he went back to the bedroom, flicking on a lamp and turning off the main light. Harry was on his side now, one arm flung over the bed. Louis gently moved it back as he needed room to sleep himself, and when he was done, quickly changed into a t shirt and baggy shorts to sleep in, certain Harry wouldn’t want to wake up next to him in just his boxers. He slipped into the duvet, pulling it up over him, glancing across to Harry again, his arm still across his belly where Louis had let it fall earlier.

With a start, Louis realised Harry wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. It was the first time he’d seen him without it, and Louis wondered what it was that had pushed Harry to finally remove it. He could see a pale band of skin around his finger where the metal ring, one that Louis assumed to be platinum, had sat for a few years now. Harry’s hand looked strange without it, but in a way, Louis felt more pleased than he had a right to be at Harry finally taking it off. Harry stirred, and Louis laid still as Harry sat up, rubbing at his eyes wearily.

“Need a wee,” Harry mumbled, and Louis nodded as Harry swung his legs off the bed, stumbling down the corridor to use the loo as Louis could only listen on. He returned, shoving his jeans down his long legs before he got back into bed next to Louis, cuddling up to him. “Sorry, just… need a hug.”

“S’okay,” Louis replied in a quiet whisper, wrapping an arm around Harry’s shoulders. “Uh… your ring, did you take it off?”

Harry nodded, his head still tucked onto Louis’ arms, yawning loudly before he spoke again.

“I’m single, right? Can’t wear a ring that means nothing but failure.”

Louis sighed, wishing he could take away Harry’s pain.

“Missed being here,” Harry whispered again, breaking the silence. Louis was just about to smile and reply when Harry spoke again, filling his heart with a warmth Louis hadn’t realised he’d been missing. “I missed you, Lou.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Harry took in a deep breath, finally emerging from his slumber. He stretched his arms out, whacking his hand on the metal bedframe for a moment, frowning as he realised he had a wooden bed, not a metal one. He opened his eyes, blinking as he looked around the room, it dawning on him that he was in Louis’ bedroom, curled up in Louis’ bed, apparently.

He reached a tentative hand down below the covers, relieved to see he still had his boxers and a t-shirt on. He sat up, reaching out a hand and touching the cold bare sheets next to him. On the pillow was a post it note, and Harry peeled it off the cotton cover, holding it far enough away from his face he could make sense of Louis’ messy scrawl.

Morning Haz,

Hope you slept well. Sorry to leave you alone but I had a shift at the library I couldn’t get out of. I’m at the club later, so I’ll be home to get changed before that. Feel free to chill at mine all day.

Have fun! Xxx

Harry smiled to himself at Louis so easily letting him stay, and Harry decided he would do just that, liking the idea of being somewhere familiar and homely for the remainder of the day. As much as he enjoyed living in his new flat, the ten days or so he’d been there hadn’t made him any fonder of the space. He didn't like the long, lonely evenings he spent there, and whenever Louis invited him over, he jumped at the chance. He felt more at home in Louis’ small flat than he ever did at his own place, or indeed the house he’d shared with Adam. Louis was possibly the best flatmate Harry had ever had.

As he stood up, Harry’s head span and he winced, grabbing his head with both hands, hoping the blinding pain would stop soon. He quickly sat back down, nausea bubbling in his tummy now. Flickers of the night before were slowly coming back to him, and Harry groaned, pushing away the memories. He remembered drinking sickly pink things Liam kept plying him with, he remembered confessing something to Louis, although he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was he’d admitted to. All of a sudden, though, he recalled kissing Louis. He’d kissed Louis. On the mouth. Fuck.

“Shit!” Harry cussed, thumping the mattress with his first, wishing he could turn back time and make it so the past twelve or so hours hadn’t happened. He closed his eyes, desperately to think about what had happened… how it felt to finally kiss Louis. All he remembered was Louis stopping it and himself running away, ashamed for whatever reason. Harry’s cheeks burned with shame, and he was glad in that moment Louis wasn’t there to see his breakdown, his obvious show of embarrassment. It was pretty clear then that Louis didn't reciprocate his feelings, and Harry sighed, wishing he could pick a man that would actually love him back. First his cheating, lying husband, and now Louis, his new best friend. That was evidently all Louis would ever be to him.

With a decisive nod, Harry stood up and pulled all of his clothes off, leaving them in a heap on the floor. He stalked down the corridor towards the bathroom, knowing wallowing in his own misery wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He flicked on the shower and quickly stepped under the too-hot spray, letting it wash away the horrible memories of the night before, wondering exactly how he could possibly make it up to Louis. He was grateful that he didn't have to go into the office today, and that meant he could do something nice for Louis before he got home. He stole a dollop of Louis’ shampoo and rubbed it vigorously into his scalp, his mind a whirl of thoughts. He had to make it up to Louis, without a doubt.

*****

It was seven hours later that Louis finally arrived home from work. Harry was stood in the kitchen, sprinkling some Parmesan cheese over the pasta bake he’d made from scratch, forgoing the jars of sauces in Louis’ cupboards to make his own. He’d had to pop to the Tesco near Louis’ house, grabbing a load of fresh ingredients along with a nice bottle of wine to share after Louis’ performance at the club, as well as a bar of Louis’ favourite chocolate, sure he’d have the munchies after a busy day at work.

Harry had also spent the day contemplating things, particularly how things were with Louis. He was quite sure by now he was falling in love with his best friend, and while that should make things awkward, it didn't. Harry felt secure in his feelings, that even though Louis didn't feel the same, he could love him and take care of him from afar, to be the best friend he could be. Harry knew he fell hard and fast for people, but it felt different with Louis. It had been a slow developing love as he’d gotten to know the man, and Harry could easily envision himself being by Louis’ side for a long time to come, if he’d let him.

“Honey, I’m home!” Louis called out in a mock-American accent, making Harry chuckle to himself where he was sliding the dish back under the grill, wanting the cheese to melt a little before he served it up. He quickly lit the candle he’d put on the table as Louis arrived in the doorway, his glasses perched on his nose where he’d obviously forgotten he had them on. “You cooked? You bloody angel.”

Harry practically jumped as Louis came up behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist in a quick cuddle. Harry relaxed into it, feeling the pressure from Louis’ cheek as he rested against him for a moment before he broke away, grabbing a couple of plates from the cupboard next to them.

“Yeah, I made pasta bake. And there’s some french bread over there, if you wanna put that on the table.”

“I could get used to this,” Louis said with a smile as if in warning, and slid into his seat as Harry donned the blue oven gloves hanging from the door of the oven, taking the dish out with care before he walked over and put it in the middle of the table. The cheese was bubbling on the top, and it looked delicious and gooey. Louis dished them up generous portions while Harry put the gloves away, finally sitting down next to Louis, their knees bumping under the table. “Thank you for this, babe- sorry, love.”

“I don’t mind you saying it, Lou,” Harry reminded him, sipping from his glass of water. “How was work?”

Harry listened and ate as Louis chatted between mouthfuls, telling Harry about the diversity of the customers who came into the library that day, the group of silver surfers he’d spent half an hour coaxing into signing up for their own email accounts, Harry nearly choking as he laughed so hard at one of Louis’ stories. Louis’ face practically glowed with joy at making Harry smile so widely, and all of Harry’s awkwardness was quickly forgotten, neither of them mentioning the events of the night before.

“No, you go and get ready, I’ll clear up,” Harry said, setting a hand on Louis’ wrist as he tried to gather their used plates up, bellies full and plates empty. Louis sighed but sat back, rubbing at the slight swell of his belly, protruding thanks to the food he’d eaten. “Go on, we should get going soon.”

“Alright then. Thanks, Haz.”

“No worries,” Harry said, watching as Louis got to his feet, leaving the room. His bum looked curvy in the clingy work trousers he still had on, and Harry forced himself to tear his eyes away, knowing that wasn’t for him. At least at the club he could ogle away and not feel quite so guilty about it. He made quick work of cleaning up the kitchen, having washed most of the things as he’d prepared the meal earlier, so there was only their plates, glasses and the dish, which he left on the draining board.

Louis called out from the hallway that he was ready, and Harry followed, calling out he was just going to change his shirt before he joined Louis by the door, collecting his keys from the hook on the wall. He drove the pair of them to the club, parking towards the back of the car park, both men chatting easily as they crunched their way across the gravel together, arms brushing as they swung at their sides. Harry held open the door for Louis, who blushed and thanked him, slipping into the warm building.

“Fuck, it’s cold out there,” Louis moaned as Harry led them around the bar, settling himself on a stool, Louis just stood next to him. “Not exactly the ideal temperatures to be getting nearly naked in, huh?”

“Crank up the heating, Li, Lou’s getting chilly,” Harry teased as Liam walked by, laughing at the pair of them, causing Louis to stick his middle finger up. “Go on, you best go get ready. Don’t want to keep your adoring public waiting, do you?”

Louis’ laugh tinkled in Harry’s ears as he walked away, bag slung over his shoulder as he made his way backstage to get ready. As always, Harry had no idea what he was wearing for his performance, but he caught the eyes of one of the other barmen, ordering a half pint of beer for himself, settling down on his chair and getting comfortable.

As he sat waiting for Louis’ show to start, Harry wondered if he’d ever get a chance to kiss Louis again. He might have avoided the conversation with Louis about what they’d done the night before, but it didn't mean the thought of it had left Harry’s mind at any point. He hated that their first kiss was a bit of a fuzzy memory, just a blur of wet lips and warm hands. He wasn’t entirely sure if Louis had kissed him back, and that missing bit of information was killing Harry. He needed to know, and part of him wanted to find out what would happen if he dared to be so bold again.

“How’s the flat?” Liam called from where he was stacking some glasses at the back of a bar, a lull in the usual rush as men made their way towards the floor nearer the stage, aware Louis’ performance was impending. Harry wasn’t bothered, knowing he’d find a seat somewhere, and he turned his attention back to Liam, grinning at his friend.

“Yeah, it’s good, thanks, mate. Getting there, anyway. Feel like I’m making it a home bit by bit, you know?”

“I do, takes a while but you’ll get there. Nothing like that feeling of making a house a home.”

Harry nodded, sipping on his cold beer for a moment. He pondered over the fact he now kind of believed a home wasn’t just a collection of rooms and bricks, but more a person. Someone who makes you feel happy just by being around, someone you need so viscerally it hurts when they’re not near you. He shook off the feeling as the lights started to dim, warning the customers a performance was imminent.

“Chat to you later, Li,” Harry called as he got down from his stool, picking up his beer and walking towards the seating area, sliding into an empty chair just a row or so back from the front. As always, Louis hadn’t revealed anything about his upcoming performance, and Harry was buzzing with anticipation. Something caught his eye and Harry stilled, sure it can’t have been who he thought he saw. He craned his neck around, trying to see, but there was no one. He sighed, realising his mind was playing tricks on him, and he was startled from his thoughts as all the lights went out, leaving just a spotlight on the stage curtain. Men began to cheer until the music started, making the place go silent.

Harry felt a little surprised as Flo Rida’s Right Round began blasting out, but as he crooned the first few notes, everything made sense. The curtain swooshed to the side, revealing Louis’ almost bare back, swirling his hips round in circles. He was wearing only the dance leggings that Harry loved so much on him, that he’d seen up close too many times to count but somehow on stage like this, they felt more illicit than they ever had. Louis’ hands were on his hips, sliding to grab the globes of his cheeks, gripping them tightly, teasing the audience.

As the song moved into the first verse, Louis whirled around and strutted confidently to the front of the stage, and Harry thought he might just die. As well as the black leggings, Louis was wearing some sort of studded harness around his bare chest. Harry hadn’t been able to work out what it was when Louis had been at the back of the stage, and being confronted by it now was a lot. His golden skin was slick with body oil, his nipples stiff peaks next to the black leather wrapped around him, and Harry willed himself not to get hard, not now.

Louis moved around the stage with such rhythm, Harry felt a bit jealous. He made his moves look easy, lithe and quick on his petite feet, feet that Harry had had resting in his lap so many times. Louis twirled and contorted his body with ease, biting his lip as he winked at men in the audience, dipping to his knees as the song moved into another chorus, Louis mouthing the words obscenely as he arched his back, pushing his arse into the air. It was then that Harry noticed them.

In a way, he was sure he couldn’t be right. There was no way Louis was wearing the boyshorts Harry had picked out for him that day they’d gone shopping together. But Harry was sure he recognised the thin black and pink stripes that were visible through the leggings, the hot pink lace waistband nestled against Louis’ slim hips. Harry clutched the arms of his chair a little tighter as Louis stood up, running his thumb down the centre of his abs, letting it rest just inside the waistband of his leggings.

Slowly, so slowly Harry felt like he was going to explode, his hard dick pressing against the zipper of his jeans now, Louis began to wriggle them down, swaying his hips to the beat of the music to a loud roar from the crowd. And god, they were the ones Harry had chosen. They hugged his bum cheeks perfectly, the stripes emphasising not only the curves of his butt but of his bulge as well. Harry swallowed as Louis’ eyes found his, Louis winking at him before he moved again.

There was a sudden burst of commotion as someone on the opposite side of the stage reached, apparently touching Louis. Harry looked over, trying to see who it was, and he frowned as he thought he recognised the man begin hauled away by security, objecting loudly to being removed. He saw the disgust evident on Louis’ face as he moved away, getting back to the middle of the stage. Harry just looked up at him in concern until Louis’ eyes found his, Louis nodding quickly to assure Harry he was okay. There was a slight red mark on Louis’ thigh where Harry assumed the customer had attempted to grab Louis and he curled his hands into fists, more than angry someone had deemed it okay to put their hands on his best friend.

Thankfully, the song soon ended, Louis having lost his rhythm thanks to the interruption. Still, the audience cheered for him and threw money onto the stage, Louis bowing and grinning out at them, mouthing his thanks. Harry could only watch as Louis strutted off, his bum cheeks jiggling with each step, covered only by the scanty fabric of the boyshorts Harry had bought him, sending shivers through his spine.

Making his way out of the stage area, Harry looked around for any sign of the man who had put his hands on Louis, keen to have a word himself, but he couldn’t see him. Instead, Harry headed back for the bar, leaning against it rather than sitting down, just keen on getting Louis home and making sure he was okay. Harry was aware his feelings weren’t probably entirely rational considering he and Louis were just friends, but something didn't sit right with another man touching Louis, and Harry knew exactly what that was about, as much as he couldn’t admit it aloud.

“Hey, you alright?”

Harry jumped as hands rested on his shoulders, and he looked back into the eyes of his best friend, body still clad in his stage attire. Harry could feel the eyes of other customers burning into him, probably wondering why he’d been singled out by the stripper they’d been watching, and he kind of wanted to put on a bit of a show, to make it clear he and Louis had something none of them did. He turned carefully in Louis’ hold, resting his hands gingerly on Louis’ hips, pleased he’d at least put his leggings back on. His skin was slick with the body oil, and Harry pressed his fingertips in slightly, electricity passing between them.

“I’m fine, it’s you I’m worried about,” Harry began, remembering how it felt to see Louis disgusted on stage because of unwelcome hands on his body. “What happened?”

“Some twat in the audience thought it’d be okay to reach up and grab my leg, shouting things at me,” Louis said, shrugging it off. “It’s fine, I’m okay-”

“It’s not okay, not when there’s rules here, Lou.”

Louis frowned slightly, as if trying to make sense of why Harry was reacting so angrily, more angry than Louis was himself.

“Harry, I promise I’m-”

“Didn't take you long to get back on the dating scene, did it?” came a low voice to Harry’s side and he froze, knowing that voice. With trepidation, he looked across, staring into the dark and angry eyes of his husband- ex-husband , Harry reminded himself, not releasing Louis from his hold. “Fucking hell, what an embarrassment.”

“Who’s this, love?” Louis asked, standing up a little straighter, pushing back his sweaty quiff with one hand, manoeuvring the pair of them so he could loop an arm around Harry’s waist. Harry liked that Louis was keeping him close, and he was sure Louis knew exactly who it was.

“I’m his fucking husband, mate, and you’re just the fucking stripper,” Adam spat out, making Harry seethe where he was stood. “You were probably doing this our whole marriage, weren’t you? Fucking around behind my back in seedy joints like this-”

“I didn't, actually. I loved you, Adam, believe it or not. I made my vows and I stuck to them. I had faith in us, in our marriage. It was you who ruined everything by shagging two other people behind my back.”

Harry was proud with how steady he’d kept his voice, and he felt Louis’ fingertips press against his side, a reassuring touch he really needed in that moment.

“Adam, let’s just go,” spoke up the man who had been hidden behind Adam the entire time. Harry looked around and into the eyes of Chris, the man whose cock his husband had been riding those fateful few months ago. Harry’s jaw dropped realising it was Chris who had groped Louis on stage as well. “Please, love-”

“You. You keep your fucking hands off Louis, you hear me?” Harry raged, stepping forward, practically shoving Adam aside in his haste to get in Chris’ face, to warn him off. “How fucking dare you touch him-”

“Oh, he probably loved it,” Adam replied, openly sneering at Louis, eyes running up and down his body, over the stage costume he still had on. “Look at him, all dressed up like some fucking tart for men to ogle at-”

Louis scoffed loudly then, shaking his head as he stood up straight, disgust clear on his face.

“I don’t have to listen to this. Meet you by the car-”

Adam slammed his pint glass down on the bar, wiping his mouth off with the back of his hand, a smirk on his features now. “Yeah, bye bye. About time you gave me some alone time with my husband, anyway.”

Louis steadfastly ignored as Harry stood, scared and not knowing what to do. He had always hated how Adam got when he was drunk, and it seemed like nothing had changed from the way he was leering at Harry right now. Harry stepped back, his foot bumping against Louis’, the pair staying close.

“Come on, baby. We can fix things, yeah?” Adam reached out, tucking a curl of Harry’s hair behind his ear, making Harry shudder with revulsion. “Let me take you home, take you to bed. Wanna kiss every inch of your skin, fuck you all night long, make it all better-”

“Adam, don’t do this,” Chris begged, looking red cheeked and slightly annoyed stood to the side, Kate with her arms folded just behind him.

“No, Chris, it’s okay. Harry loves it when I talk dirty to him, don’t you, babe? Always loved my filthy words in your ear…”

Harry felt humiliated. It was bad enough his husband was practically begging him to come back, telling him he could fix their broken marriage but revealing their bedroom secrets was a step too far. Harry’s cheeks burned with shame and his gaze fell to the floor, tears stinging in his eyes now.

Harry felt sick as he felt Adam look at him again, drunken eyes wandering all over his body, lingering on his crotch again for a moment. Harry felt exposed, and he hated how Adam was making him feel, especially in public. He wasn’t with it enough to react quickly when Adam reached out, looping his hand around Harry’s wrist, tugging him closer. Harry stumbled, barely catching himself before he came to a stop in front of Adam, heart pounding in his chest.

“You fucker-”

There was a scuffle for a moment as Harry was shoved aside by Louis, only able to watch in horror as Louis hooked back his arm, throwing it forward with as much force as he could until his fist collided with Adam’s jaw with a loud and horrible crack.

“Oh my god, you bastard!”

Adam lunged at Louis then, and Harry felt frozen, stuck to the floor as Louis and Adam grappled with each other, shouts and curse words flying around as bar stools were knocked over, people stopping to watch the action. Adam was trying to drag Louis down to the floor, but Louis kept himself upright, kicking out at Adam’s legs, not giving in. It was a blur as Liam ran around the bar, diving between the fighting men, holding out his arms, struggling to keep them apart.

Harry hated violence, and he could only watch in horror as Louis and Adam flailed, landing punches on each other, feet colliding with shin bones. The rest of the bar had stilled, watching the action with rapt eyes, and Harry didn't know what to do. He could see Liam get hit as well, both men swiping madly at each other, not caring where else they connected. Liam winced as an elbow connected heavily with his ribcage, shouting out in pain.

“That’s enough! Both of you, stop it!”

It was then that Harry came back to his senses, stepping behind Louis and wrapping his arms around his waist, practically picking him up off the floor as he dragged him away, Louis still yelling at Adam.

“He’s not your husband anymore, you fucking cock! You lost the best thing because you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants, you stupid fucking TWAT!”

“Louis, please-” Harry begged, struggling to hold a viciously flailing Louis in his arms, his legs still kicking out, trying to hit Adam. Adam’s eyes were dark, watching as Harry didn't release his hold on Louis, staring at where his hands were pressed into Louis’ flat stomach, holding on for dear life. “Just stop, love-”

“No, Harry, he’s a FUCKING COCK!”

Louis continued to wriggle in Harry’s arms as Liam shoved his hands on Adam’s chest, hollering at him to leave, that he was banned from returning to The Night Watch .

“Last chance, Harry! You’d be better off with me rather than that twink fuckboy of yours!”

“Oh, come and say it to my face, BITCH!” Louis yelled as the door slammed open, Liam practically throwing Adam through it now.

Harry watched as Chris scuttled along behind him, and he caught sight of Kate for the first time as well, strutting out, shaking her head, looking a little shaken up. Still, Harry couldn’t muster up any sympathy and pushed Louis into the staff room, relieved he’d calmed down somewhat now Adam had gone. He led him over to the sofa. “Oh god , look at you.”

For the first proper time, Harry took in the sight of Louis, suddenly looking very vulnerable sat on the couch, body half-naked and exposed. His hair was destroyed where Adam had been grabbing at it, and his bottom lip was slightly swollen where Adam had evidently tried to get a swing in as well. There were a few scratches across Louis’ bare chest, and there was a tear in the leg of his leggings as well. Somehow, that made Harry sad, knowing how much Louis treasured his belongings. He vowed to replace them as soon as he could.

He walked over to the small sink over to one side, and ran the hot tap for a moment while he reached up in the cupboard for the small first aid kit kept there. He put some antiseptic into a bowl and topped it up with water, making his way over to Louis, sitting down gingerly next to him, opening the box and pulling out the things he needed. Louis sat quietly as Harry dunked a bit of cotton wool into the warm liquid, squeezing it out before he rubbed it as gently as he could over Louis’ bottom lip, mopping up a couple of beads of blood. Louis hissed at the touch.

“Sorry, just stay still a minute.”

Louis did, and Harry swiped the cotton wool over Louis’ other marks, hating that it was his ex-husband that had left marks on Louis’ body and not himself. They weren’t marks given through love, and that was all that Louis deserved.

“You shouldn’t have done that, Lou. Shouldn’t have hit him. He was trying to wind me up, get me to say something to make him feel like he was right…”

“I wasn’t going to sit there and let him talk shit about you,” Louis said as Harry tenderly mopped up the wetness he’d left behind with a dry piece of cotton wool, wincing at the scratches on Louis’ chest.

“It’s just words, Louis.”

Louis shook his head, and Harry startled as Louis tucked two fingers under his chin, tilting it up so he could look into his eyes. Harry mentally noted how piercing and blue Louis’ eyes were right now as they stared into his own.

“I’ll always protect you, Harry. Always.”

Harry’s cheeks flamed at Louis’ words but he couldn’t deny they made him feel good inside. He loved Louis’ protective instincts, particularly directed at him like this, and he settled on his knees, dropping the used cotton wool into the bowl.

“You punched my ex-husband in the face, Lou.”

“He deserved it, Harry. Now, I hate to be a needy bitch, but I’d really like it if you could take me home?”

Harry nodded, and stood up, walking over to where he saw Louis’ bag propped up against the wall. He opened it and rummaged around until his hand found a jumper, pulling it out and raising an eyebrow as he turned to face Louis, the clothing still in his hand.

“Isn’t this mine?”

A blush spread all over Louis’ face then, even the tips of his ears turning pink as he nodded quickly, unbuckling the harness from his body, leaving him topless.

“Uh, yeah… it’s warm and cosy, okay? Give it.” He made grabby hands for it and Harry relented, throwing it in his direction. He could only watch as Louis slid it on, getting fond as the sleeves slid past his fingertips, giving him the most adorable sweater paws. Louis rolled them back and just sighed when he caught Harry watching him, shaking his head as he grabbed his own bag, wincing as he attempted to sling it over his shoulder.

“Here, let me,” Harry muttered, taking the bag and holding the door open for his friend, checking they’d left nothing behind. Louis stayed very close to Harry as they left, both of them waving to Liam before they pushed out of the main doors and into the night, crossing the car park to Harry’s Ferrari. “In you get, Lou.”

Louis did so, and Harry rounded the car, getting in behind the wheel.

“Uh, Haz?”

“Hmm?” Harry asked, checking his mirrors as he reversed the car, readying to drive Louis home.

“Will you- will you come home? With me, I mean? Stay for a bit, maybe?”

“Course,” Harry replied, praying Louis couldn’t read in his face how pleased he was. He navigated them home quietly, Louis curled up on the passenger seat, his Vans kicked off in the footwell, bare toes poking out from the edge of the seat. They crept inside together, and Louis went off to get changed while Harry made them both tea in Louis’ kitchen, bringing the mugs back to the sitting room, flicking on the lamps dotted around before Louis joined him.

“Can I say something?” Harry asked as Louis pulled a blanket over his legs, now snuggly in a pair of soft pyjamas. Louis nodded and wrapped his hands around his mug, blowing gently on the hot liquid inside. Harry felt nervous for a moment, “The way you stood up for me… that meant so much to me, Lou. Nobody’s ever done that for me before…”

Louis just continued to look at Harry for a moment, and Harry had a horrible moment of doubt, wondering if he’d gone too far. Maybe Louis had just done it without thinking, maybe he hadn’t meant as Harry had hoped he would. He sat with his hands tucked under his thighs, watching with trepidation as Louis leaned forward to place his cup back on the coffee table, sitting up straight and facing Harry now. Harry held his breath as Louis leaned in slowly, and it felt like time was standing still. Louis’ hand came up and rested gently on Harry’s cheek, his palm hot against Harry’s skin, and his heart was racing in his chest, the anticipation of what was about to happen invading every part of him.

Louis’ eyes fluttered shut and he leaned in, pressing their lips together. Harry stayed still for a moment, slightly unable to believe this was finally happening. Louis was kissing him. Louis initiated a kiss with him. They were kissing, right now. Harry couldn’t help it as his hand came up, circling around the back of Louis’ neck, holding him in place, sinking into it before Louis pulled away, smiling softly at him.

“Oh my god,” Harry breathed out, trembling slightly, still feeling the ghost of Louis’ lips on his own. “Kiss me again. Please.”

Louis grinned and did so, his stubbly chin rubbing against Harry’s as they began to kiss again, keeping it slow and steady for a moment. Louis scooted a little closer, practically knelt between Harry’s thighs now and Harry reacted accordingly, not hesitating in grasping Louis by his hips, tugging him into his lap. It seemed a lot, but at the same time, it was everything Harry had ever wanted, and he wasn’t about to hold back. He parted his lips, encouraging Louis to lick inside, and he moaned with pleasure as he did, Louis’ tongue gliding quickly over his own.

Harry tilted his head, hands sliding round to Louis’ back, trailing up and down his spine. Despite the fact he knew exactly what laid under Louis’ top, it felt different to finally be touching him, and he couldn’t resist as he slipped his hands down a little further, cupping Louis’ bum gently. He felt Louis gasp into it, how he pressed back into Harry’s touch, and they both moaned, Harry’s wet lips moving in rhythm with Louis’, the room only filled with the sound of their kisses and deep breaths.

“Fuck, Lou-” Harry muttered as their kiss came to a natural close again, Louis still surging in to peck his lips again and again, putting a small smile on Harry’s lips. “I just- wow. You’re an amazing kisser.”

Louis blushed at that, resting his head on Harry’s shoulder for a second before he sat up, a hand snaking down to adjust himself before he sat up, still perched on Harry’s thighs, his weight welcome on Harry’s lap.

“We need to slow down, love,” he said, regret lacing his tone. “I want this, I promise. But I don’t want us to rush. We have a lot to talk about, and I don’t want us to move too quickly or regret anything.”

“Could never regret you,” Harry mumbled, ducking his head for another kiss which Louis gave. “Wanted to kiss you for so long.”

“Me too. Trust me when I say I don’t want to stop, but I think we need to. It’s been a rough night, and I just want to cuddle you, if I’m honest.”

“Can I stay?” Harry suddenly blurted out, before Louis could even suggest him leaving. “I don’t want to go back to my flat, Lou, not tonight.”

“Course you can, I’ll get the blankets-”

“With you. I want to stay with you. In your bed. I don’t want sex or anything, I just want to hold you, maybe kiss you a little?”

Louis laughed gently, a sound that nestled perfectly in Harry’s ears, and his heart soared as he nodded, carefully clambering off Harry’s lap and standing on the floor, holding out a hand to Harry. Harry slid his big hand inside Louis’ and let him lead him down the corridor and into his bedroom.

They both undressed quickly and quietly, watching each other, not bothering to hide the fact they were blatantly staring. They brushed their teeth side by side as they’d done countless times when Harry had been living with Louis, but it was when they got back into the bedroom that Harry felt slightly awkward.

“Come on, get in,” Louis said, his voice soft as he got into the bed himself. Harry nodded and lifted the opposite corner of the covers, sliding in next to Louis, kicking him accidentally.

“Oops, sorry,” Harry said, wriggling until he was laid down, flat on his back, staring at the ceiling. He didn't know what else to do with his limbs, so laid ramrod straight, feeling Louis’ presence next to him. “I-”

“Fucks sake, I thought I said I needed a cuddle?”

Harry grinned in the dark and opened his arm, sighing in relief as Louis rolled over, tucking his body up against Harry’s. They were both in just their boxers, and having so much naked flesh up against his own was a lot for Harry to deal with. He kept his palm flat on Louis’ back until he found the courage to start stroking up and down the knobs of his spine, his skin so soft beneath his fingertips.

“Thank you again, for tonight,” Harry whispered, finding it easier to talk under the cover of darkness. “I don’t normally like fights, but he deserved it. I hated what he said about me, everyone heard…”

“So? He was a drunk twat, love. Nobody believed a word he said, I promise you. I’m just glad you’re divorcing him. You’re so much better off without him.”

“Feel happier with you,” Harry mumbled, as quietly as he could, words from the heart and true. His eyes felt heavy and Harry allowed them to close, warm and safe in Louis’ bed, in his arms. “G’night, Lou.”

“Night, sweetheart,” Louis whispered in reply, lifting up slightly to press a quick kiss to Harry’s lips, leaving a small smile on Harry’s face as he finally fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Louis groaned as he stretched out, pointing his toes to the end of the bed, taking in a deep breath. He blinked blearily until his sight cleared, staring up at the ceiling for a moment. Slowly, he let his head fall to the side and took in the vision that was in bed next to him. Harry was splayed out on his back, his hair a mess of curls around his head like a halo, one leg kicked out of the covers.

Louis smiled to himself with the memory of what had happened the night before. As much as he’d hated coming face to face with Harry’s ex-husband for the first time and hearing the horrible things he’d said to Harry, he’d finally had a chance to punch the fucker, and he’d enjoyed every second. It was totally worth the pain in his bottom lip, and the few scratches the other man had left on his chest.

Louis rolled carefully onto his side, keen to not wake Harry up just yet. He knew Harry didn't have any office hours that day, and Louis made the decision to call into the library, sure his colleagues wouldn’t want to see him in this state. He didn't particularly want to explain everything to everyone, anyway. It was Harry’s issue, not his to broadcast. He stared across at Harry, how beautiful he looked as he slept. His lips were dry but pink and plump, and Louis smirked remembering how they finally felt against his own last night, how perfect his tongue felt swiping over his own.

Louis let his gaze dip down, pausing for a moment on Harry’s bare chest since the sheet was pooled around his thighs. His skin was pale, much paler than Louis’ own, and Louis loved the smattering of dark hair all over his skin, and he reached out, running just the very tip of his fingers over it lightly, watching them move under his touch. Harry’s stomach was flat, laurel tattoos bracketing his hips, and Louis bit his lip, wondering how they’d looked with love bites sucked into them.

Finally, Louis let his eyes rest on Harry’s crotch. Harry was already half-hard, his erection tenting the tight boxers surrounding his body, and Louis sighed. He hadn’t sex in too long if he was honest. The last time he’d slept with someone was almost five months ago, a one night stand he’d hooked up with after a night out with Zayn, slipping out of the stranger’s bed at about four am, leaving him with only memories. It had been good, but Louis missed the intimacy of sex with someone he cared about, helping someone he liked to orgasm, watching them feel pleasure at his own hands. With those thoughts, his own cock twitched in his boxers, and he let his hand cup his own cock for a moment, applying just enough pressure to take the edge off. Usually, he’d treat himself to a morning wank, but with Harry next to him, Louis had some high hopes for their morning together.

In a fit of bravery, Louis pushed himself up, leaning on one elbow, his palm against Harry's cheek as he leaned in, kissing Harry softly. Harry stayed asleep for a moment until Louis began to be a little more forceful, kissing with a bit more vigour until he felt Harry start to respond. He smiled into the kiss as Harry’s hands finally snaked up, rolling himself on his side until they were facing each other, kissing lazily.

“Mmm, best way to wake up,” Harry murmured, his voice lower and more husky than Louis had ever heard it. Hearing it that way did things to him, and Louis almost purred, pulling Harry in for another deep kiss, not caring about morning breath. He hummed as Harry’s tongue dipped into mouth, a low moan erupting at the back of Harry’s throat. “Fuck, Lou…”

“Want you,” Louis whimpered in reply, letting Harry’s hand drape over his side, resting on his bum before he tugged their bodies closer, pressed against one another now. He could feel the length of Harry’s erection pressed against his thigh, and it was everything Louis had ever wanted. Louis shuddered as Harry’s lips met his again, and he let out a low moan as Harry pushed his hips forward, his cock sliding up towards Louis’ hip. They kept kissing deeply and dirtily, tongues not holding back, hands tangled in each others hair as their bodies bucked against the other, seeking out whatever touch they could get. Grinding had always been a favourite of Louis’, and doing this with Harry, their bodies pressed together from head to toe, mouths and hands eager for each other, was everything. He felt on fire, and he couldn’t even contemplate stopping.

“Oh god, touch me, Harry, please-”

“Louis,” Harry breathed out before he reached out, cupping the length of Louis’ cock with his hand, eyes growing dark at the way Louis twitched under his touch. Louis nudged against Harry’s hand, groaning when Harry pressed against the head, the wetness of his precome seeping through his boxers and against Harry’s skin, hoping Harry would continue. “Can I…” his words fell away as his fingers slipped just inside the waistband, resting against Louis’ stomach for a moment as he nodded frantically, needing Harry’s hands all over him.

“Jesus, oh wow, fucking, Harry,” Louis whimpered as Harry quickly pushed down his boxers, taking his cock in his hand, holding it firmly for a moment as they stared at each other. “Do something, please -”

With careful hands, Harry began to stroke Louis, his hand much bigger than Louis’ own. Louis let his eyes flutter shut as he focused entirely on how Harry felt around him for a moment, how good his hand felt touching him. He mewled as Harry leaned in, kissing down the side of Louis’ neck for a moment, sucking gently on his skin before he released it, moving across his neck to the centre of his throat, pressing a kiss to the bump of his Adam’s apple.

Louis could feel the head of Harry's erection bumping his thigh through the cotton of his boxers, and Louis had an overwhelming urge to touch Harry as well, to make him feel as good as Harry was making him feel. With his heart thudding in his chest, Louis slowly hooked his fingers into Harry’s underwear, sliding them down and cupping his bum cheek for a moment, before he let his hand drift around, barely brushing the back of his fingers against Harry’s rock hard length, trying to hold back a smirk at how it was him who affecting Harry like this.

Their lips met again as finally, Louis’ small fingers wrapped around Harry’s cock, teasing the head for a moment, swallowing down the moan Harry let out at being touched. Their hands were almost tentative at first, slow but sure strokes, thumbs collecting precome from their wet tips, trying to kiss as their hands bumped, clumsily trying to get each other off. It wasn’t skillful or practised but to Louis, it was perfect. He hadn’t craved someone’s touch like he had Harry’s in too long, and the fact it was finally happening was pushing him to the edge far too quickly.

Harry gently pushed at Louis until he was on his back, and with a whimper, Louis released Harry’s cock, realising what the other man wanted to do. Harry’s eyes darkened as propped himself up enough to look down between their bodies, both of them watching and panting as Harry wrapped his hand around the pair of them, Louis gasping as his cock pressed against Harry’s. He was slightly shorter than Harry, but he was thick, and he couldn’t help but wonder how it would feel to have Harry pushing inside him, filling him up.

“Please,” Louis begged and Harry finally dragged his gaze up, kissing Louis as he started to move his hand in slow, steady strokes. The friction of their cocks together was a lot for both men, and their sweaty chests slid against the other as they kissed desperately, both careering all too quickly to their orgasms. Harry’s hand felt so good encompassing his cock, and Louis moaned, letting his hips roll forward, breathing deeply as the head of his cock brushed against Harry’s shaft as their position adjusted for a moment. “Harry-”

“I’ve got you,” Harry murmured, picking up the pace of his hand, his own breath shaky. Louis wrapped his fingers around Harry’s curls and pulled him down into another kiss as his tummy burned with his imminent orgasm, needing to come. Harry gave them both a few more firm and fast strokes, and it was Louis who came first, spilling hotly over Harry’s hand and cock, body trembling with the force of his first shared orgasm in too long. Louis whimpered with sensitivity as Harry kept wanking them both, and his tongue pressed into Louis’ mouth again, kissing him deeply as he finally pulled himself over the edge too, his come joining Louis’ on his fist, splattering slightly against both of their stomachs.

Harry released their cocks with a sigh, and they both collapsed back onto their pillows, chests heaving, bodies slick with sweat and come. Louis chanced a glance across at Harry, and they smiled almost shyly at each other before Louis rolled over, pecking Harry’s lips quickly before he sat up, feeling more relaxed than he had in a long time. Solo wanks just weren’t the same as someone else touching him, and Louis blushed, Harry’s eyes roaming over his now naked body, underwear laying forgotten at the foot of the bed.

“Are you okay?” Harry asked tentatively, reaching across the expanse of bed between them, his fingertips dancing over Louis’ bare back, making him shiver for a moment.

“Yeah… yeah, definitely. That was so good, love.”

Harry grinned and nodded, sitting up himself now, pulling the sheet over him, his bare chest still on display. They shared another quick kiss before Louis got up, walking over unashamed to his drawers, pulling out some clear underwear and heading for the bathroom. He heard Harry flop back against the mattress, and hurried into the shower, washing himself and his hair quickly before he came back out, a fluffy towel wrapped around his hips. He could smell something and followed the scent, stomach rumbling in hunger.

He stepped into the kitchen, body still damp, beads of water trailing down his spine from his wet hair and he grinned at the sight of Harry stood over his stove, stirring what Louis thought were scrambled eggs, another pan of bacon cooking beside it. He walked over, wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist, pressing a kiss between his shoulder blades. It all felt very domestic, and Louis rested his palms against Harry’s flat stomach, privately loving the fact he could touch Harry like that.

“It’s nearly ready, do you wanna get ready for work while I serve it up?”

Louis nodded and released Harry from his hug, kissing his lips quickly before he went back to his room, dropping the towel and getting dressed for his shift at the library. As much as he didn't want to leave Harry, he was looking forward to a day of work. He had RhymeTime with the youngest residents of the town, and he put on his comfiest trousers, knowing the toddlers liked him to join them on the floor when he read aloud from the picture books. He disappeared into the bathroom to sort out his quiff, putting a splash of after shave on his neck before he sat on the edge of the bed, pulling on some socks.

The sheets behind him were still messed up from his and Harry’s earlier amorous activities, and he smirked to himself, hoping it wouldn’t be the last time Harry would be sharing his bed. He stood and walked back to the kitchen just as Harry set down two plates onto his small kitchen table, a knife and fork sat at the side of each.

“This looks lovely,” Louis complimented as he sat down opposite Harry, one of Harry’s feet immediately wrapping around his ankle. They ate quietly, Louis enjoying every mouthful of the delicious breakfast that had been prepared for him, a nice change from the usual Coco Pops he prepared himself every morning. There was only the noise of their cutlery clinking against the plates in the room, but somehow, it felt like a comfortable silence. Harry finished his food first, just looking fondly across the table at Louis while he finished up, using his last piece of bread to mop up the last vestiges of egg left. “God, that was delicious. Thank you so much, babe. Sorry, er…”

“Louis, I told you it’s fine. You can call me that if you want. And you’re welcome, glad you enjoyed it. You wanna borrow the car?”

Louis’ jaw dropped at Harry’s suggestion, having expected Harry to have offered him a lift, not to drive the car again.

“I know you drove me home last night, so I trust you. You don’t have to, but-”

“Yes!” Louis leapt up from his seat and plonked himself on Harry’s thigh, kissing him roughly as Harry giggled into it. “Fuck, I’m not exactly going to turn down the opportunity to drive a fucking Ferrari, am I?”

With that, he hurried to grab his bag, ramming his feet into the only smart pair of shoes he owned, and held out his hand eagerly for the key that Harry now had dangling from his index finger. Louis pouted and Harry raised it just out of his reach, puckering his lips.

“Making me work for it, are you?” Louis murmured, pushing up onto his tiptoes to kiss Harry quickly, the taller man deepening it for a moment, leaving Louis a little flustered in the hallway. “Will you, um…”

“Will I what?” Harry asked, finally relinquishing the key to Louis’ excited hand.

“Uh… be here. When I get back.”

“Do you want me to be?” Harry asked, hesitance evident in his eyes, so Louis quickly nodded, not wanting Harry to doubt anything. “Thank god for that. I’ll see you later, then?”

“Yep. Have fun. And thank you for this,” he sang out, waving the key excitedly in the air as he opened the front door, hit by a blast of chill air. “Do I get a kiss goodbye?”

Harry blushed but stepped forward, Louis shielding his body from sight since he was still only in just his boxers. They kissed chastely and Louis pulled his bag back up onto his shoulder, leaving before he did something stupid like close the door and take Harry back to bed. They waved to each other one final time before Harry shut the door, leaving Louis to head to work. He laughed in incredulity as he unlocked the Ferrari using the key fob, the lights glowing. Louis opened the door and carefully put his bag on the passenger seat, not wanting to cause any damage he knew he couldn’t afford to fix.

He started the engine, jumping slightly as the car roared, attracting the attention of a few passers by, making Louis smirk to himself. He slid the car into first gear and eased it out of the space he’d left it in last night, a snoozing Harry in the seat next to him. It all felt very different in the cold light of day, and Louis whooped as he pulled away, wondering exactly how it was he got this lucky.

*****

It was a few days after their shared orgasms, and things had gotten a little awkward between the pair. Harry hadn’t left Louis’ place since, but they hadn’t shared any more kisses, or orgasms for that matter, since that first time. They both danced around their feelings for each other, neither wanting to be honest and admit what they felt, and it was killing Louis inside to sit in his living room every night, curled up at the end of the sofa, Harry just out of reach.

They went to bed together, Louis curling up against Harry’s back only when the lights were out and they’d said their final goodnights, Harry lacing their fingers together when Louis’ hand came over and rested against his belly. Louis hated the ball of tension that sat between them whenever they shared a meal, watched a movie or just hung out, Harry watching Louis rehearse for his audition which was coming far too quickly for his own liking. It was only a week away now, and Louis’ anxiety was back in full force. Harry seemed to sense that as he did his best to keep Louis distracted, giving him space when he needed it, offering to hire Louis another dance studio for his final rehearsal, which Louis had accepted gratefully.

It was now the weekend, and neither of them were at work. Harry was sat at the kitchen table poring over some paperwork that Louis couldn’t make head or tail of, and Louis had retreated to the living room, quietly sat texting his sisters, who were sat waiting for their turn to perform at yet another competition. Louis wished them luck, regretful that he couldn’t be there, cheering them on, being the proud big brother that he was. When they told him they had to go, and his final text went unanswered, he threw the phone to the end of the sofa, twiddling his thumbs, staring up at the ceiling, wondering if he should go out and get some fresh air.

“Haz? I’m gonna go out and get something for lunch, do you want anything?”

“You pick, I’m not fussy. Thanks, Lou,” Harry called, evidently not getting up to say goodbye. Louis sighed and hauled himself up off the sofa, shrugging on a hoodie and grabbing his keys before he made his way out of the flat, feet pounding heavily on the pavement as he made his way down the road to the little deli. He ordered both of them baguettes, picking up a couple of bags of crisps as well, handing over the cash to pay before he strolled back, the plastic bag swinging from his fingertips.

He let himself into the flat, but as he walked into the sitting room, he stilled, seeing Harry stood in the middle of the floor, arms wrapped around his waist, a nervous expression on his face. Louis frowned as he set the bag down on the floor, debating for a moment whether or not he should close the gap behind them. Somehow, Harry’s body language felt closed off, and Louis wondered what he could have done to upset Harry since he left the house, certain everything was okay before he’d popped to the shop.

“I, uh, I want us to talk,” Harry began, his voice shaky, still staring across the room at Louis who just nodded, staying standing himself.

“Okay? Have I done something, or…” Louis asked, keen to find out what the hell was going on. “Harry, if I have, then just-”

“No. No, Lou, it’s not you. Or me. Not really, anyway. I don’t think so? Uh-”

“Love, take a breath,” Louis interrupted, sensing Harry was getting a little overwhelmed, his cheeks turning pink as his fingers gripped at the fabric of his t-shirt, pulling it out of shape somewhat. “Right, come and sit down with me, then you can tell me what’s on your mind, okay?”

Harry nodded, his teeth worrying over his bottom lip for a moment before he followed Louis, perching on the edge of a sofa cushion, his socked feet turned in, one resting on top of the other. Louis smiled at how young Harry looked like this and he reached over, taking his hand, holding tightly onto it, hoping it offered Harry some sort of comfort.

“Okay, so what’s up?”

“I want to know, uh-” Harry cleared his throat again, eyes finally coming to meet Louis’. “I want to know where we stand, Lou. You and me, us. I mean, we kissed and got each other off, then it just, it stopped? So I’m a bit confused…” He blushed a little darker then, and Louis swallowed, praying that his words would come out right.

“And what is it that you want?”

“You?” Harry answered with a shrug. He went to remove his hand but Louis didn't let him, determined to keep a bit of touch between them. “I want to be with you, Lou. You make me happy, and I’d really like us to be together. But there’s part of me thinks that you don’t want that, that you don’t want to date someone who’s going through a divorce. It’s not easy, and-”

“Woah, wait a second,” Louis cut in, trying to make sense of everything. “You think I’ve got an issue with the fact you’re divorcing your husband?”

“Well, yeah,” Harry admitted, eyes darting around nervously again. “I mean, legally I’m still married, Louis.”

“And if I hadn’t known that from almost the first moment we met, it might be an issue, love. But it isn’t. I’m well aware of what’s going on, and I’m fine with it. If anything, I thought it would have been you who had the issue with dating a stripper.”

“Lou, how many times do I have to tell you that I don’t define you by your job? I want to be with you for your heart, for how you look after me, for how I care about you, and you care about me. You take your clothes off in front of people, but so what? As long as I’m the one you come home to, the only one that can touch… then it’s fine by me.”

“Yeah?” Louis asked, needing to be sure, but his heart was singing, he felt so happy.

“Yeah, definitely,” Harry grinned back, finally scooting closer. Louis’ breath hitched as Harry reached up, cupping his cheek gently with his big hand, stroking the pad of his thumb back and forth over Louis’ cheekbone for a moment, their knees pressed together. “So, we’re doing this?”

“And what are we calling this ?” Louis teased, cocking an eyebrow at Harry who waggled his own in reply, making Louis giggle. Louis loved how easily Harry could make him laugh, and he turned his head for a second, kissing Harry’s thumb briefly.

“It’d be nice if I could say you were my boyfriend,” Harry whispered between them, Louis’ tummy flapping with butterflies as he nodded. “I’d really like that, Lou.”

“Then I get to call you my boyfriend, too,” Louis replied, loving how a wide grin spread across Harry’s face, his dimple popping deeply in his cheek. “Boyfriends sounds pretty good, actually.”

“So that means I get to kiss you whenever I want right?”

“I reckon so,” Louis smirked back as Harry’s tongue darted out, wetting his lips quickly. “How about now then?”

“Hmmm,” Harry pondered before he cackled loudly before pressing his lips together like he was trying to trap the sound back inside. “Well, I suppose we could….”

Louis didn't bother to wait for anymore teasing. He rushed forwards, diving into Harry’s lips, crashing their lips together eagerly, trying to repress his smile enough that he could kiss his new boyfriend. Harry tasted sweet, like the strawberries he’d brought home the other day when he’d been shopping, and Louis licked into his mouth enthusiastically, moaning when Harry’s hand cupped the back of his head, pulling them together. Their kisses were deep and urgent, and Louis was already losing himself in it.

It came to a natural end too quickly, but Louis got up, plopping himself down in Harry’s lap, smiling up fondly at his boyfriend.

“You happy then?” Louis ventured as Harry’s arms came easily around his waist, holding him tightly against his body. Louis snuggled against him, feeling more than at home. Harry leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to Louis’ temple before he replied.

“I really am,” he confirmed, slipping his hands up and under the edge of Louis’ shirt, his hand resting hotly against Louis’ tummy. Louis grabbed one of Harry’s hands, bringing it up to his lips, kissing it gently. “I, uh, I feel safe with you. I know you won’t hurt me, Lou.”

“I won’t, I promise,” Louis vowed, his heart full at the trust Harry was giving him. He’d been hurt, broken by his own husband, the man he’d promised himself to, and Louis knew he wasn’t giving his heart easily this time. Yet he’d chosen to take a chance on Louis, and Louis was determined to treat it as the precious gift it was. “I’ll never, ever hurt you, love. Never.”

*****

Three weeks later

“Okay, wow,” Louis stuttered as Harry walked into the bedroom that had become theirs over the past three weeks, his eyes raking up and down Harry’s body as he took in the outfit had chosen for tonight’s outing to The Night Watch.

“You like?” Harry asked as he gave a little twirl, ending with his hands on his hips, a smirk on his face telling Louis that he knew just how good he looked. He reached up, tugging his hair back into a bun that just made Louis groan, pressing a hand against his crotch, too aroused by the sight in front of him.

Harry was wearing a sheer black shirt, flowers embroidered down the sides, but doing absolutely nothing to hide his body below it. Louis could clearly make out the shadows of his tattoos, and that was already enough to get Louis half hard, if he was honest. Then there were the tightest black denim jeans on his legs, so tight Louis was convinced he could make out the outline of Harry’s cock if he looked hard enough. He did look hard enough, and smirked when he realised he was also right about what he could see. He also had on his expensive leather boots, and the messy bun at the back of his head just added to the whole thing, fingers dripping with rings that Harry didn't usually wear altogether.

“Fuck. How do you expect me to dance out there for people when you’re going to be sat there looking like that?” Louis moaned, stepping closer, resting his hands on Harry’s slim hips.  “And more to the point, why have I not seen this outfit before tonight, hmm?”

Harry looked down for a moment, his shoulders slumping like he’d just lost all of the confidence he’d been sporting only a few seconds ago.

“Adam didn't like it when I dressed like this.”

His voice was small, like the words were hurting him to say, and Louis’ hands curled into fists at his sides, white hot anger burning through him at Adam making him feel anything less than perfect.

“How you didn't realise he was a cock earlier than you did, I’ll never know,” Louis muttered, taking a deep breath, desperately trying to keep his cool. “You look fucking gorgeous, and don’t you dare think otherwise, okay?”

“I like dressing like this,” Harry admitted with a blush. “I’ve always liked clothes that make me feel good, things that are a bit different. I don’t think he liked the way it made other men look at me when we were out, he got possessive-”

“Fucking ironic,” Louis scoffed, threading a belt through the loops of his jeans.

“I know. But hey, I’m rid of him now. And I’ve got you, and you let me be myself, and I love that you do that.”

“Wouldn’t have you any other way,” Louis said, his voice soft again as Harry came up behind him, hooking his chin over Louis’ shoulder, looking back at their reflection in the mirror. Louis knew they were a good looking couple together, but with Harry dressed like this, he was certain they’d turn a lot of heads, and that was before he’d even hit the stage. “You ready to go, then?”

“Yep. But do I seriously not get a peek of your outfit?”

“Nope,” Louis laughed, picking up his bag and hauling it over his shoulder.  He’d been hit by a moment of inspiration the other night and was determined that the first time Harry saw his outfit would be when he was on stage, along with everyone else.

“But I’m your boyfriend. Surely I get privileges that no one else gets?”

Louis just raised an eyebrow at him, making Harry shrug helplessly. “You get to sleep next to me each night, is that not enough?”

“Not even close,” Harry quipped and Louis just poked out his tongue, heading for the front door. “You are mean, Louis Tomlinson.”

“And you love it,” Louis called after him, swaying his hips as he walked out, knowing Harry’s eyes were watching his every move. “If we’re late, I won’t even make it onstage and then no-one’s going to know what I’ve got planned.”

There was a bang which Louis assumed was falling over himself in a haste to get out to the car, followed by a loud and hurried sounding-

“Coming, Lou!”

*****

Louis climbed out of the Audi Harry had really bought himself, smiling to a couple of men who walked past, clearly recognising him. Harry came round and slipped his hand into Louis’ back pocket, claiming him and Louis smirked at Harry’s possessive side. Louis had been surprised when Harry had come home from work one day last week, no longer in possession of his bright red Ferrari, but instead behind the wheel of a sleek black Audi RS7. Louis’ jaw had dropped, but Harry had just shrugged, telling Louis he’d never really wanted the Ferrari, and this was much more him. They’d gone for a spin, and it had been one of the most fun evenings they’d spent together so far.

With Harry’s hand clearly remaining in his pocket, the pair of them walked together towards the club, Louis just nodding in thanks as Harry held the door open for him, both of them entering the warmth of the building, low music playing in the background.

“Tommo, haven’t seen you in fucking forever!”

Louis was nearly knocked flying as an over-excited Niall barrelled into him, wrapping him in a tight hug. Louis returned the hug eagerly, pleased to see his friend again. It felt like too long since they’d been on the same shift, and he was excited to finally introduce Niall to Harry.

“Heya Ni, try not to knock me onto my arse next time, hey?”

“Sorry, mate,” Niall grinned, holding his hands up in surrender. “Can’t help that I’ve missed this arse, can I?”

Louis was surprised as Niall reached around him and grabbed his bum before he slapped it, and he couldn’t help but let his eyes go up to meet Harry’s, unsurprised by how dark and unamused they were.

“Uh, Ni…” Louis said, slipping out of Niall’s hold, curling an arm around Harry’s waist, clenching the sheer fabric of his shirt tightly. “This is Harry. My boyfriend.”

Harry stuck out a hand, and Louis had a feeling he was probably grasping Niall’s hand slightly tighter than was strictly necessary, a strained smile on his face.

“Nice to meet you… I take it you know my Lou then?”

“Pretty well,” Niall replied, clearly not sensing the mood. “Not an inch of him I don’t think I’ve seen or smeared body glitter over-”

“And that’s enough from you,” Louis quickly cut in, willing Niall to just stop talking. “I need to get ready. I’ll see you soon, babe?”

Harry just nodded and then turned Louis around, hands pressing hard on his hips as he crashed their lips together, trying to make it clear Louis was with him, and no one else. It was Niall clearing his throat less than subtly that caused them to pull apart, Louis blushing at how he’d lost himself in a bit of PDA in the middle of his workplace. He pressed another quick kiss to Harry’s lips before he twisted out of his boyfriend’s hug and followed Niall down the corridor, only turning around at the last minute to see Harry leaned against the bar, his eyes still following Louis.

“You’re an arsehole,” Louis joked, shoulder barging Niall as they arrived in the dressing room. Louis dumped his bag on one of the benches, starting to get his things out. “Do you have no filter?”

“Never,” Niall chuckled, sitting down opposite where Louis was now stripping off his t-shirt, folding it as always. “You know me, mate. Can’t help myself.”

“Yeah, I do. Gonna need your help with this,” he said, brandishing a pot of new body glitter he’d bought especially for tonight. The woman in the shop had assured him he’d sparkle just like Edward Cullen, and Louis was looking forward to seeing if that claim was actually true. “How’s life, mate?”

“Good! Really good, actually. Got a new job, working as a guitar tutor. Means I finally get to get out of that fucking office and do something I really want to do. Your audition is soon, isn’t it?”

“Next week,” Louis nodded in reply, shucking off his joggers. “Shitting myself, if I’m honest. I know the routine inside out, but I can’t help feeling like I’m gonna fuck it up somehow.”

“Ah, you’ll be great. I wish you had a bit of self-belief, Tommo. Has Harry seen it?”

Louis just nodded again, quickly switching out his boxers for the underwear he’d picked out for that nights performance. It had been a few days since he’d performed at the Night Watch, and for some reason, he had an urge to make it special, which is why he’d chosen the outfit he had done.

“No way.”

“What? Does it look stupid?”

“No, Harry’s just gonna bust a nut when he sees you on stage in… well, that,” Niall said, indicating the new leather jockstrap Louis had bought specially for tonight. “What’s going over it?”

“This,” Louis smirked, holding up the item from his bag.

“Is that-”

“Yes, Niall, it’s Harry’s shirt,” Louis said, stroking the soft and expensive cotton between his fingertips. He knew Harry had a bit of a thing for seeing Louis in his clothes, loving how baggy and big they looked on his slender frame, so he was sure Harry would be appreciative of him wearing something of his on-stage, only the pair of them, and now Niall, knowing who it belonged to.

“He’s a lucky fucker.”

“I know.”

Niall’s resulting cackle filled the room, and Louis handed over the pot of body glitter along with a big brush, standing almost bare in front of his mate as he prepared to get covered in glitter. He shivered as the soft bristles passed over his back first, Niall ensuring to cover every inch of skin as he talked inanely about his families impending visit, the entire clan apparently arriving from Ireland in just a few days. Louis loved how excited Niall seemed about the whole thing, barely flinching as Niall knelt down, dusting over the bit of his bum cheeks that could be seen.

“Legs as well?”

“Please. Everywhere,” Louis replied, and smirked as he looked down at his legs which were now being doused in glitter. The lady in the shop had been right… he was rather Edward Cullen-esque right now. It was now silent as Niall began to brush over Louis’ chest, resulting in a giggle erupting from Louis when the brush tickled across his nipples, still sensitive from the attention Harry had paid to them in bed that morning.

“Okay, I think that’s it,” Niall said, circling around Louis, appraising the work he’d just done. “Looks good. Super sparkly. You do realise you’re gonna sparkle for days, right? This stuff isn’t coming off anytime soon, might wanna warn Harold.”

Louis just shrugged, reaching for the shirt he’d chosen. It was one of his favourites that Harry owned, a soft blush pink button down, from Gucci. Despite his wealth, Harry didn't splash his cash on designer items too often, preferring to buy things that would last, more classic pieces, and this was one of the ones Harry wore often, so much so that the fabric almost smelt of his boyfriend, his scent woven deep into the fibres.

“Are you trying to kill him out there?”

“What?” Louis asked, wrinkling his brow as he slipped it onto his body, relishing the feel of the cotton against his skin. “Harry?”

“Yeah. He’s not gonna survive seeing you on stage in that, you know that.”

“Ah well, then he’ll die a happy man.”

They both exploded with laughter at that, and Louis left the final few buttons undone, allowing the fabric to move around his body, already billowing thanks to the size of the shirt compared to his small frame. Niall nodded in approval and stepped over to the door, holding it open as Louis passed by.

“What song are you dancing to? Picked a good one?”

“Yeah, uh, Hold Me Down. That Halsey track, couldn’t stop listening to it a while back and it got in my head. Felt it went well with what I wanted to do tonight.”

Niall just scoffed and shook his head, standing to the side as Louis made his way behind the curtain, taking a few deep breaths. “You kinky fuck.”

In the distance, Louis could hear the hum of chatter from the bar, the scraping of seats as people got their positions by the stage, wanting an ample view of the action. His palms were sweating, beads of sweat prickling along his hairline, feeling nervous. Usually, he was full of confidence prior to a performance, but somehow, he had a feeling this one meant something more, and he was determined to make it the best it could be.

A low cheer went up as the lights in the main bar dimmed, a spotlight coming on the curtain in front of Louis. He winked over to Niall as he stood in position, aware the men the other side could see his shadow and he trailed his hands up his thighs, knowing they’d be able to see the subtle move as the track began and the curtain slowly parted.

Halsey began singing the first verse and Louis took steps across the stage as the spotlight followed him, bare feet silent on the glossy wood of the floor. He loved this song, the thrumming bass through the big speakers of the club, the dirty beat, the lyrics. The tension in the room was clear, and Louis purposely avoided looking out at the audience for now, focusing on himself, the lights, anything that meant he didn't meet the eyes of anyone just yet.

His moves were slow and deliberate, a routine created to show as much of his body as he could; his flexibility, his strong dancer’s legs, slight waist and delicate hands. Each move had been picked to highlight his poise and strength, Louis executing each turn, stretch and bend with precision, focusing entirely on being one with the music.

He shivered as his own hands trailed over his body as the song moved into the chorus, Louis dipping as low as he could while he turned around, exposing his bum to the audience to a cacophony of cheers and he smiled to himself, letting the fabric of Harry’s shirt drift back down over his hips.

With a surge of confidence, Louis strutted back to the front of the stage, eyes widening as for the first time, he saw Harry sat front and centre, feet planted on the floor, hands resting on his thighs. He wasn’t bothering to hide his arousal, his half-hard cock pressing against the fabric of his trousers. The sight simply spurred Louis on and he threw himself energetically into the next part of his routine, fingers deftly opening the buttons of Harry’s shirt, biting his lip as he locked eyes with Harry, aware of Harry’s gaze on each bared inch of skin. It was the most erotic dance Louis had ever done, and in that moment, it felt like they were the only two in the room, that Louis was putting on a private show for his boyfriend.

Slowly, he let the shirt fall down his arms, grabbing the fabric in his hands before it fell to the floor. He turned around again, exposing the glittery planes of his back as he swayed his hips to the song, singing the lyrics softly under his breath. The shirt eventually slipped off and fell around Louis’ feet, caressing the tops of his bare feet, and Louis’ mind drifted away to peeling that shirt from Harry’s body, watching it fall to the bedroom floor before he took Harry apart, bit by bit until Harry allowed him to put him back together again.

Hold me down, hold me down, saying that I want more, this is what I live for, ” Louis sang, eyes on Harry as he did so. Harry’s hand was cupping his cock now, and Louis took a chance, snaking his own hand down, grabbing his own length over the soft leather restraining him. He let out a throaty moan he knew no one else would be able to hear, but he felt Harry’s eyes on him, sure he’d know how he was feeling just from the expression on his face. It was an expression Harry had put there one too many times with his talented mouth and hands, and Louis’ heart started to race with the memories.

Louis knew the song was ending so he stepped away from in front of Harry, knowing it would tease him more if Louis ignored him, chose to dance for someone else. He winked at a couple of other men in the audience, dancing and moving his body with confidence flooding his veins, the bright lights of the club burning down on him. Louis pushed onto his tiptoes, arching his back, aware of how good his body looked like this, how his cock was thrust out and he reached down, grabbing himself, looking up at the ceiling.

Louis stood up for a moment before he dipped his hips again, twirling perfectly, eyes returning to his boyfriend once more. Harry’s eyes were dark as they followed the ark of Louis’ body during the final chorus, his bottom lip bitten between his teeth. Louis trailed the tip of his tongue along his own lips, and watched as Harry pushed onto his feet, palming himself once more before he turned and briskly walked and headed for what Louis assumed was his dressing room.

His heart was racing as Louis finished the dance in his final pose, body shining with sweat and glitter as he held the position, soaking up the hollers and cheers now exploding around him. He was panting hard, his chest heaving and Louis couldn’t stop the smile crossing his face as he finally released it, turning to wink and thank his audience, bending down quickly to scoop up Harry’s shirt, slipping it onto his body as he gave a few quick waves before he disappeared behind the curtain, feet slapping on the cold concrete.

The corridors were chilly over Louis’ sweaty and warm body, but he was a man on a mission, ignoring someone who called his name before he barrelled into his dressing room, eyes darkening as he slammed the door behind him before stalking across the floor and crashing his body against Harry, their lips colliding hungrily. Hands roamed everywhere as Louis pushed his tongue insistently into Harry’s mouth, moaning as Harry’s hand pressed on his lower back until their bodies were pushed together, Harry’s arousal evident against Louis’ hip.

“Fuck…  you were obscene out there,” Harry mumbled against Louis’ lips, hand now lifting up the edge of his shirt, burning hotly against Louis’ skin. “And in my fucking shirt… feel what you do to me, hmm?”

He nudged his crotch forward and Louis let out a long, slow breath as he pushed back against it, making Harry groan too with sensitivity.

“Harry, can we…”

“What do you want?” Harry asked quietly, breathing into Louis’ ear before he licked down the edge of it, making Louis shiver. “Tell me, baby, it’s yours…”

“You,” Louis said, his voice deep and husky, cock straining now against the leather of the jockstrap, needing to be touched. “Take me home, please?”

They kissed deeply again as Harry nodded, only pulling away when the door banged open, the two of them not even bothering to break apart. Liam’s guilty face peeked in, cheeks red as he stared at the scene in front of him.

“Shit, sorry-”

“S’ok, Li. You wanted something?”

“Uh…” he flushed again, his eyes looking anywhere but at Louis and Harry’s bodies pressed together. “Just… Zayn said he’d be waiting back here for me and I thought he might be in here?”

“He’s not,” Harry shrugged, tugging down Louis’ shirt so it covered his backside again.

“Okay. Sorry. Uh… get a room?”

“I’m trying,” Louis smirked as Liam squeaked and slammed the door shut, leaving Harry and Louis alone again. “Let me get changed and we’ll-”

“Don’t you dare,” Harry growled, his hands pressing insistently into Louis’ hips as he crowded behind him now, Louis’ hands stilling on his pile of folded clothes. “You can put your jeans back on and that’s it. I want you in that when I take you to bed.”

Louis practically whimpered at Harry’s demanding tone and he just did as he was asked, letting Harry’s hands do up the buttons of his shirt, kissing along his collarbones as he did so. When he was done, Harry picked up Louis’ bag before he snatched Louis’ hand, holding it tightly in his own, heading for the door. They headed out to the main bar area, and Louis could feel the eyes of everyone on the pair of them. He bumped into Harry’s back when his boyfriend suddenly stopped, turning around to pull Louis into a dirty kiss, right there where everyone could see.

“Mine,” Harry muttered, biting gently on Louis’ lower lip.

“Take me home then,” Louis replied, and Harry just nodded. It was going to be a good night.

Chapter Text

“Fuck, Louis-” Harry muttered as Louis pushed his back against the front door, tugging Harry’s face down into another kiss. It had been torture to keep his hands to himself on the drive home from the club, and Louis’ hands had been teasing up and down Harry’s thighs, pressing against the inseam of his tight jeans, brushing over Harry’s hard cock, made worse by the fact Louis knew Harry couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Now, though, they were  home and all bets were off. Harry was going to finally show Louis how much he wanted him, and he kissed him deeply, his tongue pressing inside Louis’ mouth, swallowing down Louis’ moan of pleasure.

“Please-” Louis begged, rutting against Harry's thigh, which was positioned between Louis’ legs, the pair of them pressed against the door. It was hot, it was dirty, and it was everything Harry needed. Visuals of Louis stripped on stage in just his shirt were running quickly through Harry’s mind, and Harry tried not to smirk at how he was the one who was in this position with Louis, kissing him, touching him everywhere. He knew he would be the envy of everyone at the club if they could see them now. Louis sucked on Harry’s tongue for a moment before he pulled back, his head banging against the front door. “Harry, I-”

“What do you want? Tell me, Lou…”

“You… want you to fuck me-” Louis panted out, cheeks flushing beautifully pink as he did so, pushed back against the door by Harry’s larger frame. “You… please, Harry, I need you…”

“Fuck yes,” Harry breathed out, body tingling with the anticipation of finally having sex with Louis. For some reason, they’d held back from doing this with each other so far but now, Harry couldn’t wait anymore. Seeing Louis like that tonight on stage, wearing his clothes, flirting with other men as well as Harry had riled him up, and Harry had a primal need to claim Louis and make him his. “Jump up.”

Louis did, legs going easily around Harry’s waist, kissing him deeply and without hesitation. Even in his haze, Harry was lucid enough to take care of Louis, making sure to get him to the bedroom without incident, pressing his back to the wall, grinding them together again before he finally pulled away, letting Louis’ feet down to the floor just in front of the bed. He watched as Louis slowly undid the buttons of his shirt, letting it hang from one tanned shoulder, a teasing expression on his boyfriend’s face.

Harry dropped to his knees where he was, fingers coming up to work open the button of Louis’ jeans, tugging them down, careful not to take his boxers off just yet. He leaned in, nuzzling the bulge of Louis’ cock for a moment behind the jockstrap, lips brushing against it. Louis moaned, his hands grabbing onto his own shirt, clenching into fists for a moment. Louis’ body was still doused with the body glitter which was already transferring to Harry but he couldn’t bring himself to care. He licked a stripe up the inside of Louis’ thigh, sucking a bite mark there before finally, he hooked his fingers into the jockstrap, pulling it down and off Louis’ body, leaving him bare on his bottom half, top half barely concealed by the shirt now hanging off him.

“Shall I…” Louis asked, going to take the shirt off but Harry shook his head, his hand coming up to wrap around Louis’ cock, stroking softly for a moment. “God, Harry…”

“You look so fucking gorgeous, Lou,” Harry murmured, letting his head get closer to Louis’ cock, the head shiny and dripping with precome already. “So fucking good up there tonight. Nobody could take their eyes off you…”

“You didn't,” Louis mumbled, moaning loudly as Harry finally took the head of his cock between his lips. “I saw you… fucking touching yourself.”

Harry pulled off for a moment, his lips slick with spit, looking up at Louis from beneath his eyelashes.

“Couldn’t help it. Never been so turned on in public before, watching my boyfriend up there like that, wearing my clothes.”

He took Louis between his lips again, letting his eyes close for a moment. The weight of Louis against his tongue was perfect, and Harry ran his tongue under the sensitive head, knowing how much Louis loved it when he did so. His hands were cupping Louis’ bum cheeks, encouraging him to rock back and forth slightly, Harry’s lips stretching obscenely around Louis’ length. Only Louis’ deep breaths and Harry’s slick mouth working over Louis’ cock could be heard, and Harry could feel himself getting harder in the confines of his trousers, needing to touch but resisting, knowing it would be so much better when Louis finally got his hands on him if he didn't just yet.

“Harry, I’m close- need to pull off-” Louis rasped out, voice husky already. Harry chanced a look up at him, trying not to smirk at how much of a wreck Louis looked already just from a blow job. It was mesmerising how his body sparkled in the light of the room, the way even his nipples were covered in the glitter, how it was woven through his happy trail, something Louis refused to shave off, despite being told by his bosses several times some of his audience would prefer him without it. Harry let one hand trail around Louis’ hip, fingers brushing across the soft hair over Louis’ body, sucking him in deeper, trying to tell Louis what he wanted. “Fuck-”

Harry was relentless then, sucking and running his tongue around Louis’ cock, letting it press into his cheek as Louis cursed and mumbled words under his breath, his orgasm rapidly approaching judging by how his cock was getting even harder in Harry’s mouth, almost stretching Harry to his limit.

“Harry, shit, oh god-”

Harry let Louis do a few rough thrusts as he started to come, swallowing down Louis’ come that was coating his tongue. It was a little bitter but at the same time, so perfectly Louis that Harry didn't want to waste a drop. He kept sucking before finally, he pulled off, licking his lips and pressing a kiss to the top, hand still wrapped around the base. Louis’ cock was so warm and fitted perfectly in Harry’s hand, and part of Harry never wanted to let go.

“Get on the bed,” he mumbled, clumsily getting to his feet, feeling slightly light-headed from what he’d just done. “Leave my shirt on though, please.”

Louis nodded and Harry watched him kick the jockstrap off the bed, leaving it on the floor as he crawled onto the mattress, affording Harry a perfect view of his backside. Harry couldn’t resist putting a hand on Louis’ ankle, stopping him from moving for a second before his hands cupped the globes of Louis’ bum, fingertips sinking into the ample flesh there for a moment.

“Such a perfect arse,” Harry muttered, leaning down to press a kiss to one cheek then the other. Eventually, he released Louis and he let him roll onto his back, soft cock against his thigh. Harry slowly stripped himself out of his clothes until he was naked and joined Louis on the bed, fumbling in the bedside drawer for lube and a condom which he set on the mattress just under one of the pillows. “You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to do this...”

“Me too,” Louis replied, rolling onto his side, hands roaming around Harry’s chest, down over his chest to his stomach. “Now stop talking and get me ready so you can fuck me.”

Harry grinned and Louis leaned in, kissing him gently, a leg coming up and over Harry’s hip as they rolled towards each other. Harry’s cock was hard, and the friction of Louis’ thigh against it was driving him mad, needing more and more as Louis’ tongue worked against his own, bodies getting sweaty already. One of Harry’s hands slid around, cupping Louis’ bum before he allowed his finger to dip between his cheeks, brushing against his hole, where he hadn’t had a chance to venture before.

“Gonna get you all glittery,” Louis muttered against Harry’s lips, kissing over Harry’s cheekbones and jaws, looking down between their bodies.

“Don’t care.”

They kissed again, and Harry fumbled for the lube, coating his fingers behind Louis’ back, body almost shaking with the anticipation of finally being inside Louis, albeit just his fingers at first. Louis let out the most beautiful moan as Harry finally breached him with his index finger, barely letting it in past the first knuckle at first, just teasing, feeling Louis’ muscle flutter around him.

“Feel so warm and tight, baby…”

“S’been a while,” Louis admitted, shifting his body so his leg was propped up further on Harry’s hip, opening himself up a little more, welcoming the stretch and burn of Harry’s digit. “Give me more, Harry…”

Harry did so, letting Louis’ fingers tangle in his hair as they kissed, his finger pressing all the way inside now. Louis kept moaning, rocking against it slightly, and it was all Harry could do not to come already, turned on so much by how Louis’ body felt around just his slim finger. He couldn’t even think about how good he was going to feel around his cock. Slowly, he worked himself to two fingers, letting Louis guide his pace, kissing him through the slight sting of pain as the width of two of his fingers stretched Louis open, wanting to treat his boyfriend as well as he deserved.

“Lou,” he muttered, suddenly feeling nervous as he kept moving his fingers gently in and out of Louis’ entrance, relishing the warmth around his digits. “I, uh…”

Louis kissed his lips quickly before he pulled back enough to look at his boyfriend, concern evident in his eyes at the way Harry’s voice had changed, nerves setting in.

“What’s wrong? We don’t have to do this, love, I don’t mind-”

“No. NO. I want this, Louis. More than anything. Just…” he swallowed heavily for a moment, meeting Louis’ eyes again as he readied himself to confess his fears. “I haven’t, uh, you know… topped before. Adam never wanted me to, and he was my first serious boyfriend…”

“Oh. Well, that’s okay, darling. I mean… I’m sure you know where to stick it, right?”

Harry laughed at that, loving Louis for breaking the tension between them. Louis was giggling too, shifting his body back onto Harry’s fingers again for a moment as his own fingers traced up Harry’s side.

“Yeah, I think I can work that bit out, Lou. I just… I don’t want this to be crap for you.”

“Enough of that. It won’t be. It’s you and me, and you’re what I want. Let’s just go with it, okay? We’ll have fun, no pressure.”

“Sure?”

“Without a doubt,” Louis said, pressing the words into Harry’s lips with his own. Harry let Louis kiss him for a moment before he withdrew his fingers, wiping them down on the sheet before he let Louis roll back down onto his back, legs spread, looking up at Harry with complete adoration in his eyes. “I want you. Now. Please.”

Harry just nodded and reached for the foil packet of the condom, ripping it open with trembling fingers. Louis stilled Harry with a hand on his wrist, giving a small and soft smile, calming Harry down slightly. He reached down, rolling the condom over his own length, surprised at how tight the latex felt around his cock. Louis drizzled some lube on his palm, taking Harry’s length and rubbing it up and down for a few strokes, biting his lips as their eyes locked. Harry let out a shaky breath as he arranged himself on his knees, Louis’ legs bracketing his hips, parted and allowing Harry to see every intimate part of him.

With a shaky hand supporting himself, Harry lined up the head of his cock with Louis’ hole, heart jack-rabbiting at the fact they were finally about to do this. He was going to have sex with Louis, and he was going to be inside his boyfriend. Slowly, he pushed forward, gasping as the head popped inside Louis’ body, Louis letting out a moan. Harry looked down, stunned at the sight of himself tucked just inside Louis, marvelling over how his body was taking him in. He pushed his hips forward, his cock sliding in thanks to his prep and the lube they’d use, and he kept going until his hips were against Louis’ bum, intimately connected now.

“Fuck… you’re so tight. So warm.”

“Then come here and kiss me,” Louis asked huskily, bringing his legs up and around Harry’s back as he leaned over, supporting himself on his elbows, chest to chest with his boyfriend. Their lips met as Harry pulled back slightly, pushing in once more, a soft but firm movement that made Louis groan again. “Feels so good, babe…”

Harry smiled and kissed Louis again, letting the nerves disappear as they started to move as one. It felt good to be inside Louis, so different to bottoming, but Harry loved it. He was glad that Louis was the first man he’d been inside, and he reached for his hand, holding it on the pillow beside Louis’ head.

“You can go a bit harder, it’s okay,” Louis reassured Harry, and he did so, pulling back until just the tip was inside him before driving his hips forward, slamming into Louis with more force than he’d done before. Louis’ body slid up the bed slightly with the movement, and Harry peered down at his boyfriend, wanting to make sure he was okay before they continued. “Fuck, don’t stop. Again-”

“So good, Lou,” Harry agreed, picking up his pace, thrusting a little faster and harder now. He could feel Louis’ heels bumping against his lower back as their bodies rocked together, and it was quite overwhelming. All the weeks of teasing, touching and kissing had led to this, and it was worth every second of the wait. Louis felt amazing, and Harry couldn’t quite believe he was so lucky as to be the one Louis allowed inside him, to make love to him. “Fuck, Louis…”

“Make me come,” Louis mumbled, eyes dark as he tugged Harry’s head down into another passionate kiss. It was hot to feel Louis’ body around him, Louis’ tongue in his mouth, and Harry was already too close to coming, although he felt unashamed of the fact. He’d been on edge since he’d watched Louis on stage earlier, stripping from just his own shirt, and Harry clutched Louis’ hand tighter, pecking him quickly before he propped himself up.

“Not gonna last-”

“S’okay, I’m close too-”

Harry got a little rougher then, Louis’ legs like a vice around his middle as they shared hot breaths, Harry fucking Louis to his orgasm. His eyes were screwed shut as Louis reached a hand down to his own cock, wanking himself quickly, fist bumping against Harry’s stomach on each upstroke. Louis came with Harry’s name on his lips, spurting over his own stomach, some of it covering Harry as well, and Louis flopped back onto the bed, breathing heavily, his chest heaving as he came down from his high.

“Fuck, look so beautiful when you come,” Harry uttered,  still thrusting into Louis, on the precipice of his own orgasm now. “Wanna come, Lou.”

“You can, inside me. Want it.”

Harry nodded and drove his hips forward a few more times before he spilled hotly inside the condom, words about to spill from his lips as well but he bit them back, biting down hard on his bottom lip as his orgasm wracked through his body, leaving him shaking.

Before he could collapse on top of Louis, he pulled out gently, removing the condom and tying it off before he left it on the floor, rolling over and pulling Louis against his body. Their legs tangled together on top of the sheets, both red-cheeked and panting, satisfied and happy.

“You were amazing,” Louis whispered, peppering kisses on Harry’s chest. Harry tilted his head down and kissed Louis’ hair, pushing his fringe out of his eyes when he looked back up at him, their lips meeting again. “I loved that, so much. Waited so long to have you inside me.”

“It was worth the wait,” Harry replied, holding Louis’ hand, using his foot to hook the sheet up and over their bodies. The light was still blaring but he couldn’t bring himself to get up and turn it off, too exhausted, body aching now. Topping was definitely more exerting than when Harry had bottomed for Adam, but he loved it, loved how he felt like he’d done all the work in making Louis feel good. “I’m so glad I have you, Lou. That was… it was amazing.”

Louis suddenly sat up and pulled back the sheet, exposing Harry’s body, his soft cock resting against his hip now. He giggled, and Harry frowned, looking down at himself, laughing when he saw what was amusing Louis.

“Now you’re as shiny as me,” Louis laughed, running a fingertip down Harry’s glitter covered chest. There was glitter everywhere over both of their bodies - covering their thighs, chests, even on their faces now. They probably looked ridiculous, covered in come, sweat and glitter but Harry couldn’t bring himself to care. It had been the most perfect evening, and Harry didn't want it to end.

“Come here and cuddle,” Harry muttered, and Louis quickly got up, flicking off the light before getting back onto the bed and covering them again with the sheet.  They kissed softly, Louis’ leg thrown over Harry’s, body pressed tightly together. “Sleep well, love.”

“Night, Haz,” Louis mumbled, his voice heavy and laden with sleep. It was quiet as their breaths slowed, both men falling easily into sleep, wrapped up each other, where they belonged. Harry had found his home.

*****

Harry had enjoyed not hearing from Adam for the month or so since the incident at The Night Watch. The texts and emails had stopped altogether, and Harry was hopeful that meant things were moving in the right direction, that Adam had realised their marriage was truly over and that there was no going back. Unfortunately, Harry’s bubble of bliss with Louis was shattered when he arrived home from work to his flat to collect some more clothes, spotting a thick looking cream envelope on the door mat. Harry recognised the postmark and with a sigh, sat down on the edge of the bed, peeling the envelope open and removing the contents.

His eyes read the letter quickly, and before he could react, he shoved it back into the envelope and stalked out of the house with it in his hand. He threw it onto the passenger seat and drove off to Louis’, the only place that truly felt like home. There was a free parking space just down the road, and Harry expertly parked his car, stomping up to Louis’ flat, letting himself in with the key Louis had given him.

“Oh, hiya, love. Wasn’t expecting you so early,” Louis said, bent over and touching his toes, his leggings-clad backside wiggling in Harry’s direction. Somehow, that sight made all the stress he’d been feeling just moments ago start to disappear, and Harry walked over, sitting himself down on the sofa. “I’m just stretching out, won’t keep you a tick.”

“Take your time,” Harry mumbled, the letter burning a hole in his pocket where he’d shoved it as he’d gotten out of the car. He watched as Louis proceeded to sit himself on the floor, legs spread as he leaned over the length of one leg, holding the end of his foot without even flinching. It wasn’t something Harry could do if he tried, and he admired Louis’ flexibility. He’d just started to calm down when Louis came over and sat down in his lap, a sweaty mess that Harry welcomed readily.

“Talk to me. I can tell something’s up.”

“How?”

“You’re all tense.” Louis’ arm worked its way round Harry’s neck, tugging him into a gentle kiss for a minute, Louis’ other hand cupping Harry’s cheek softly. “What’s happened?

“I got a letter,” Harry admitted, shifting his position slightly to slide the letter out of his pocket, handing it wordlessly to Louis, who just held it, looking a little unsure. “You can read it, it’s fine.”

“Sure?”

Harry just nodded and sat back as Louis pulled out the piece of paper, blue eyes avidly reading every word. His brow started to frown as the content of the letter started to sink in, and finally, he folded it, throwing it onto the end of the sofa, looking at Harry with complete concern.

“Well, that’s shit. He’s a fucking shit.”

“I know,” Harry replied, agreeing wholeheartedly.

“Can you, like, contest it or something? Surely he can’t do this to you, Harry?”

Harry shrugged, feeling unsure. The letter was from Adam’s solicitors, providing Harry of his intention to go after half of Harry’s earnings since they were married, and an even division of all the property they owned together. Harry wasn’t a materialistic person, not compared to Adam, but the fact he’d done this just to spite Harry made him boil with rage inside.

“Harry? What is it?”

“We didn't have a prenup,” Harry admitted, sighing and running his hand over his face, wishing this nightmare could just be over, and he could be rid of his husband once and for all. “I was so in love when we got married, Lou. He was my first real boyfriend, and I felt like I was going to spend the rest of my life with him, that we’d grow old together. I didn't think ahead to the what if’s. We just got married, and that was that. I didn't think anything of it.”

“Shit. Well, he cheated, so surely that gives you a leg to stand on when you contest it, right? I wish I knew more about this stuff… we could google it, find out what we can do?”

Harry smiled softly at Louis’ use of the term ‘we’, telling Harry easily that he wasn’t going to be going through this alone, that Louis would be by his side and in his corner no matter what. He’d already made a decision, though, and he wasn’t sure if Louis was going to like what he had to say.

“I’m going to let him have it.”

There was silence for a moment as Louis let the words sink in, and Harry couldn’t bring himself to look up at his boyfriend, certain Louis would be disappointed in him in some way because of his decision.

“I’m sorry, Haz, I must have misheard because I thought you just said that you were going to let your ex-husband have whatever he wanted.”

“I am,” Harry replied, fiddling with one of the rings on his fingers. He sensed Louis pull away from him slightly, and he dared to look up, meeting Louis’ vivid blue eyes for a moment. “I don’t want to fight him for it, Louis. It’s not worth it.”

“But… that’s your money, Harry. Not his. He’s the one who threw his marriage away, why should he get to walk away with a damn thing from you?”

As much as Harry could understand Louis’ point of view, he was keen to make him understand where he was coming from as well.

“I don’t want anything of him left, Lou. It’s why I sold the car, moved out of the house. If him taking it, if the holiday home in Spain makes him feel better and gets him out of my life, he’s welcome to it. It’s all just stuff, and if I’m honest, it’s tainted now.”

Louis nodded slowly, letting Harry’s words sink in.

“Are you sure?”

“I really am. I want to start fresh… with you. I want us to buy a home together, a home that’s ours, that we can make our own memories in. I want us to buy things that we’ve chosen together, that are ours. I just want to be happy, Lou, and that means removing him completely from my life, and making a new one with you. He’s my past, and you’re my future.”

Louis’ bottom lip trembled for a moment when Harry stopped speaking, and Harry couldn’t stop himself reaching out and taking Louis’ hand, kissing the back of it quickly, realising he was finally about to say the words that had been hovering on the tip of his tongue for too long.

“Louis, I love you. Everything was… my life was a mess until I met you. You’ve made me feel happy again, and I know it’s soon, I do. But I want to be with you, and I love you, so much, actually.”

Louis’ smile was worth every ounce of Harry’s nerves, and he slid forward on the sofa, kissing Harry’s lips gently, one hand cupping Harry’s cheek.

“I love you, too,” he whispered against Harry’s lips, kissing him again, just because he could. “Have done for a while, actually. And you know what?”

“What?” Harry kissed him again.

“I don’t do relationships. Like, ever. You’re the first one to change that. The only man I’ve ever wanted to settle with. So you should think yourself pretty luck, Harold.”

“Oh, I do. Believe me, I do…” Harry murmured, leaning back against the sofa, pulling Louis into his lap. They kissed hungrily for a little while, Louis wiggling around, his leggings doing nothing to conceal his arousal, much to Harry’s glee until realisation dawned on him. “Shit, I’m sitting here moaning about my useless twat of an ex-husband when it’s your bloody audition tomorrow. God, I’m the worst boyfriend ever-”

“No, you’re not. You have your own shit going on, love, and that’s okay-”

“It’s not. I know how important this is for you. What can I do? Shall I cook for us?”

“In a while. I thought maybe we could share a bath first? Always helps me loosen up, and I’ve been dancing so I needed a wash anyway. Might relax you too since you’re all stressed out now.”

Harry nodded, leaning to kiss Louis before he pushed him back on the sofa, leaving him there while he got to his feet. Louis pouted up at Harry for a moment before he laughed, eyes twinkling in the bright lights of the room, looking angelic how he was laid out staring up at Harry with what could only be described as adoration in his eyes.

“Wait there ‘til I call you. I’ll run a bath, then I’ll cook you some healthy and light. I know you don’t like to eat much before you dance.”

“Best boyfriend ever,” Louis called as Harry walked through to the bathroom, flicking on both taps as he selected which of Louis’ bubble baths to use. He poured in his choice, letting the scent permeate the room, bubbles coating the surface of the water. Louis soon came wandering in before Harry had even called him, only wearing his leggings, his tank discarded elsewhere. Harry reached out, palms pressed against Louis’ bare chest as he crowded him up against the sink, the porcelain digging into Harry’s lower back for a moment. “Getting in with me, hmm?”

“Well, duh,” Harry laughed, letting Louis pull him down into a passionate kiss. They slowly divested each other of their clothes, leaving them in a heap on the floor of Louis’ small bathroom before they slipped into the tub together, Harry sat behind Louis, his hands resting on his tummy, just sitting quietly together. “You feeling okay about tomorrow?”

Louis was pensive for a moment, rubbing his hands over Harry’s as if he was pondering his answer.

“Honestly? Yeah, I am. It’s like… I want this so badly. This is everything I’ve ever wanted, Haz. Being able to dance full time, performing in a dance show. I know it’s only a short run in terms of a career, but it’s something, you know? It’s not getting up at six to get the bus down to open up the library, or taking my clothes off to make ends meet. It’s dancing.”

Harry could feel the passion radiating from Louis as he talked about dancing, his career. He wished that there was something he could do to ensure Louis got the job, that he would be able to see the biggest of smiles on Louis’ face tomorrow, but in a way, he knew that if he could, he wouldn’t. He wanted Louis to get this on his own merit, because he was good enough. He wasn’t sure Louis actually believed he was at times, and he pulled Louis closer to his body, kissing the side of his neck gently.

“You’re going to be amazing, you know that? I know in my heart you’re going to do great, and whether you get this or not, you’re destined for amazing things, sweetheart. But just so you know…”

Louis hummed as Harry bit down gently on his shoulder for a moment, licking over the damp skin before he spoke again.

“As proud as I’ll be if you get this audition tomorrow, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. I mean… I don’t care if you strip, or dance, or clean toilets for a living, Lou. I just… I want to be with you because I love you, and you make me happy. I’ll support you however I can, financially if you’ll let me as well. But that being said… you’re going to smash it. I’ve seen your routine, you’re more than ready.

“You really think so?”

“I do,” Harry nodded, letting Louis thread his fingers in the spaces between his own. “You’re amazing, Lou. It’s about time someone saw that, and gave you the chance you deserve.”

Louis kissed Harry again, and they washed each other, Harry taking the time to wash Louis’ hair, treating him like the prince Harry felt that he was. When Louis was clean, Harry got himself out of the bath, drying off in front of Louis, nothing to hide now. He left him in the bath while he walked into the kitchen, preparing them a light dinner from the things Louis had left in his fridge, and finally, Louis wandered in, one of Harry’s large t-shirts hanging from his frame. Harry almost melted at the sight, and let Louis walk up, his arms coming around Harry’s waist as he prepared salads for each of them.

“You’re too good to me,” Louis muttered, pressing kisses between Harry’s shoulder blades.

“No, I’m not. Just want you good and rested for tomorrow. Now go and sit down and let me take care of you.”

Louis released his hold on Harry’s waist, but pulled his boyfriend around, looking up at him. Louis was softer than normal, stood there in Harry’s clothes, barefoot, hair soft and fluffy from where he’d clearly used the dryer to dry it off. Harry reached out, tucking a bit of Louis’ fringe away from where it was falling in his eyes.

“I love you, Harry.”

It was like everything Harry had wanted to hear, and he grinned, taking Louis’ hand in his own.

“I love you, too.”

*****

Harry glanced over at the clock in his car, sighing at the lateness of the hour. Louis had text an hour ago asking Harry to come and pick him up from his audition, but he’d heard nothing more from his boyfriend since then. He’d dropped Louis at the theatre where the interviews were being held at nine o’clock that morning, kissing him and hugging him until Louis wriggled away, telling Harry he couldn’t afford to be late. Harry had watched with nervous eyes as Louis had traipsed in, sports bag full of his dance things hanging from his shoulder, holding himself impeccably as always.

There was a loud bang of a door and Harry looked up, watching a rush of people emerge. Some had big grins, others looked more despondent, and Harry got out of the car, standing to one side, looking for any sign of Louis. He wasn’t in the main crowd, and Harry starting biting on his thumbnail, nerves setting in.

The groups of people started to wander off, all in their own directions of home and finally, the door opened again and Louis appeared. Harry couldn’t read the neutral expression on his face, and pushed off from where he was leant against his car, hands shoved deep in the back pockets of his jeans, his heart pounding in his chest.

Louis got a little closer, and Harry stared at him, watching as the tiniest of smiles crept across Louis’ lips, finally spreading into an enormous grin, breaking into a run. Harry held his arms open just as Louis jumped into them, bag falling to the floor as his legs wrapped tightly around Harry’s waist, arms around his neck as Louis buried his face in Harry’s neck.

“I fucking did it… I got a fucking spot, Haz, I did it. Oh my god, I can’t believe it.”

Harry just grinned, fingers digging into Louis’ sides before his boyfriend pulled away, eyes sparkling with excitement, cheeks pink and utterly beautiful.

“Never doubted it, not even for a second. You’re amazing, you know that?”

Louis just bit his bottom lip before finally, he pushed his lips against Harry’s, kissing him eagerly and with utter excitement. Harry supported his petite body easily, hands now shifting under Louis’ bum, not caring that anyone could be watching them kiss like this.

“So proud of you,” Harry mumbled against Louis’ lips, letting him back down to his feet, noticing Louis’ slight wince as he stood upright. “You okay?”

“Just worn out. Take me home?”

“Definitely,” Harry grinned, pulling his car keys out of his pocket, unlocking the vehicle just behind them. “Get in, my love. Let me take you home, take care of you.”

He watched Louis get into the passenger seat and stood next to him, leaning over to belt Louis in. Before he stood back up, he kissed him gently, a hand cupping Louis’ clean shaven cheek.

“I love you so much.”

“I love you, too.”

They kissed softly once more before Harry rounded the car, getting in behind the wheel, Louis’ hand coming across to lay on Harry’s thigh.

“Get me home, Styles. I’m hungry and I’m in need of a good round of celebration sex.”

“Yes, sir,” Harry laughed, starting the car, feeling Louis’ hand dig into his leg. “Let’s go!”

Chapter Text

Three months later

Louis paced back and forth, trying to still his nerves. It seemed unfathomable to him that after three months, opening night was finally here. It had been the busiest few months of rehearsals, and there had been nights when Louis had got back to his flat only to sink into the hottest bath he could tolerate to soothe his aching muscles. Harry had been a godsend as well, staying with Louis more often than not to make sure he was eating healthy meals that would be good for him, and he was pretty good at motivating Louis as well, making him realise he was good enough, even on those nights when Louis felt it was all a mistake.

Now months of hard practise had come down to this. It was their opening night, and all of Louis’ best friends and his family were in the audience to watch. He’d introduced Harry as his boyfriend to his mother, and the twins had since stuck to Harry’s side like glue, chatting away like they’d known him all of their lives. It made Louis happy to see both sides of his life come together so easily, but it didn't settle the nerves that had been present all day.

He was broken out of his rhythmic pacing by a knock at the door, which he chose to ignore. There was still just over half an hour until he had to be backstage and ready to perform, so he was sure it couldn’t be urgent. The person on the other side of the door seemed to disagree though, and knocked again, a little louder and more insistently. Louis sighed and, with a glance in the mirror, headed over, yanking the door open, an irritated expression on his face.

“What is- oh my god.”

The enormous bouquet of flowers that was in front of his face slowly lowered to reveal the smiling face of his boyfriend behind it, his gorgeous green eyes shining, dimple popping deeply in his cheek. Louis just bit his lip, willing himself not to cry as he shuffled back into his dressing room, grateful the other five men who shared the space had all gone off for now.

“These are for you, my dancing superstar,” Harry said with a grin, thrusting the bouquet at a stunned Louis, who took them with shaking hands. “I just wanted you to know how proud of you I am, and that I cannot wait to see you out there doing what you do best.”

Louis couldn’t say anything. There was a big lump in his throat that he was frantically trying to swallow down but he couldn’t get rid of it. Instead, he just burst into noisy sobs, and watched Harry’s face crumple. His hands flew up to cover his face, and Harry placed the flowers on the side before he swept Louis up into his arms, strong arms holding him against his body, keeping him safe and comforting him.

“I’m so scared I’m gonna fuck it up, that I’m not good enough,” Louis sobbed into Harry’s chest, his body shaking. He knew it was just nerves, that he so badly wanted to do well it was making him feel sick, but he couldn’t snap himself out of it. “I don’t want to disappoint everyone-”

“You couldn’t, not ever,” Harry reassured him, running his gigantic hand up and down Louis’ back, calming him down. “You’re going to be amazing up there. I know how hard you’ve worked, Lou, and you deserve this. They wouldn’t have hired you if they didn't think you were good enough, okay? You need to believe in yourself like I believe in you. I love you so much, Louis.”

“I love you too,” Louis mumbled, tilting his head back for a kiss. “I… I’m sorry I’m like this.”

“Don’t apologise, baby, you’re just nervous. Now, come and accept these flowers properly please, I took way too long in the florists choosing them.”

Louis giggled at that and pulled back, wiping his eyes. He was already in his stage costume, but he felt grateful he hadn’t got his stage make-up done just yet. Harry kissed him softly before he stepped away, picking up the bouquet again. Louis knew it was an expensive selection of flowers, and they were wrapped so beautifully. He took them from Harry, surprised at the weight of them and leaned in, sniffing softly. The perfume from the flowers was so beautiful, and Louis couldn’t stop himself from smiling.

“They’re gorgeous, Haz, thank you so much.”

“No more than you deserve, sweetheart. You can bring them home afterwards, yeah? Thought they’d look nice in the sitting room.”

Louis nodded and turned to set them down on the side again, smiling to himself at the fact Harry had referred to his flat as home again, and not for the first time either. He knew things were moving so fast between them, but there was something about Harry that made Louis not care. He was happy, Harry was happy, and that was all that mattered.

There was a bang at the door then, and one of Louis’ fellow dancers stuck her head in the door, a grin on her face.

“Louis, Katie’s looking for you, time for you to get your stage face on!”

“Alright, thanks Fi, I’ll head down there now.”

“Cool, hi Harry…” she called as she left them alone. She knew Harry as most days he picked Louis up after their rehearsals, and he’d been invited in a few times, getting to know everyone slowly but surely. 

“Okay, I’m going to go. But I just wanted to say good luck, I’m proud of you, and I love you,” Harry gushed, pulling Louis into another tight hug. “What is that I’m meant to say… break a leg?”

“Yeah,” Louis laughed, letting Harry kiss him once more. “You’ll come back here afterwards, right? On your own, I mean?”

“Course I will,” Harry smiled at him, opening the door. “Good luck, my love.”

“Thanks, babe,” Louis called, waving goodbye to Harry before he disappeared. He took in a big breath which he exhaled slowly. Harry had done it again. He’d calmed him down when Louis had worked himself into a tizzy, and Louis had never been more grateful for his boyfriend. He finally stepped out into the hallway and headed for the make up room, aware time was ticking away. The show must go on…

*****

Louis’ heart raced as he lined up at the front of the stage, hand in hand with his fellow dancers as they lowered themselves into a bow, grinning out at the audience. Everyone was on their feet, the show having finished after over an hour of performing, and Louis was just running on pure adrenaline now. He knew his feet would be sore later, and that his legs would be screaming at him by tomorrow morning but right now, none of that mattered.

The applause was almost deafening, and as they stood up again, Louis’ eyes raked around frantically, trying to locate Harry and his family. Soon, his eyes found Niall, who was hollering and clapping his hands above his head, next to him were Liam and Zayn, smiling proudly. But what moved Louis was seeing Harry with his arm around Jay’s shoulders, whispering something in her ear as Jay nodded along before she wiped away some tears. It was that small action that made something settle deeply in Louis’ heart. Harry was it for him, that much he knew.

With a final bow, the cast shuffled offstage as they were plunged into darkness, applause still drifting through from the audience. Louis was swept up into a group hug, grinning as he was passed around from person to person, all of them so happy with how flawlessly the performance had gone. He praised his fellow dancers, accepting cheek kisses as well as returning them, hugging people tightly, murmuring words of congratulations into dozens of ears, all of them beyond proud of themselves.

A door towards the end of the corridor swung open, and the cast all stood back as people from the audience started to filter in, looking for their loved ones. Louis pushed himself up onto his tiptoes as he desperately sought out Harry, but it was too busy for him to make head or tail of what was happening. The noise around him was getting louder, and Louis’ head was starting to swim and he leaned back against the wall, catching his breath.

“Louis! Oh god, Lou!”

Harry shoved someone out of the way, and then there he was, in front of Louis with the proudest smile on his face. Louis didn't hesitate before he jumped into Harry’s arms, his legs wrapped around his boyfriend’s waist as they kissed in lieu of using words. Somehow, Louis could feel all of Harry’s love being poured into that kiss, and he ignored the wolf whistles and catcalls coming from his friends at their PDA. It meant even more to Louis because Harry had recently admitted that Adam had hated it when Harry had been affectionate in public with him, but Louis just lapped it up, loving when Harry lavished him with attention in whatever form he could.

“I love you so fucking much, you were amazing!” Harry mumbled against Louis’ lips, barely an inch between their torsos now as Louis kept his arms around Harry’s neck. “God, Lou, I just sat there and I stared at you up there, you just… you amaze me, you really do. And everyone was watching you and I just kept thinking that you’re mine and I’m so fucking lucky-”

Louis cut him off with another kiss, moaning slightly when Harry pressed his back against the wall, supporting some of his weight. Louis could feel Harry’s growing arousal against him, and when Harry released him, letting his feet hit the floor, he pouted, looking up at Harry.

“I know we’re going out to dinner with your family and the boys, but fuck me, I want to take you home so badly right now,” Harry murmured hotly into Louis’ ear, making him shudder. “Wanna take you apart, show you how fucking proud of you I am… wanna worship you, Lou.”

“Please,” Louis whined, his stomach fluttering in anticipation. “You better do this later…”

“Oh I will, I promise,” Harry purred, being jostled against Louis’ body as a rowdy crowd walked past them. “Go get changed, we’ve got a dinner to get to.”

Louis nodded and Harry stood away, straightening his clothes out, trying to look inconspicuous as he sorted himself out in his underwear. Louis smirked, but pecked Harry’s lips quickly before he took off down the corridor, eager to get out of his sweaty dance clothes and into something more comfortable. 

“Oh, and Lou?”

Louis whirled around, looking over at his boyfriend.

“I love you!”

Louis blushed at Harry’s loud words, and just rolled his eyes at a few of the female dancers he worked with letting out a loud “awwww!” at Harry’s declaration of love. He blew him a kiss before he slipped inside, ready to get changed for the rest of the evening, the promise of so much to come burning brightly inside him.

*****

“Got everything?” Louis asked, watching as Harry packed his cameras into his bags. Harry nodded, and picked up the specialised black bag, slinging it across his body as he smiled to Louis. “You’re gonna do a great job, you know.”

“Hope so,” Harry mused, reaching down to the coffee table to pick up his keys, shoving them in his pockets. “I’m nervous, Lou. What if I fuck it up?”

“You won’t. You couldn’t, actually. I saw those photos you took of our show and my rehearsals, Haz. You have a real talent, baby.”

Harry blushed as he always did when Louis unleashed compliments on him. Things had taken a turn for Harry recently when Louis had borrowed his laptop for a while to do some online banking. He’d seen a folder on the desktop called Lou, and hadn’t been able to stop himself from snooping. Inside were hundreds of photographs Harry had taken of Louis dancing, at rehearsals, during his show, or just practising things at home. They were exceptional, and Louis had spent a good hour just sat there admiring every image in front of him until Harry had come home, stumbling in on him.

“Lou- oh shit.”

“Fuck, I wasn’t snooping- well, I was, but oh god, Haz, these are amazing-”

“No, they’re just me mucking about, close them down, please love-”

Louis shook his head, reaching out for Harry to took a seat next to him on the sofa. Louis wordlessly started to scroll through the images, settling on one of his favourites. It was taken at the opening night of his show, a shot of Louis lifting one of the female dancers above his head. Their expressions were perfectly captured, the image centred perfectly, and it conveyed so much in just one image.

“Harry, you have a talent, love. I know I’ve seen some of your stuff before, but this is on another level. Seriously, you need to do something with this. I can’t just let you sit there and take pictures of just me when there’s so much you could do.”

Harry sighed, watching as Louis continued to flick through the images on the laptop. 

“These ones of Helena… they’re just so good. Look at the lines of her that you’ve captured, Harry. Even I know that taking photos of dancers is hard work, but you’ve just made this look easy. Promise me you’ll think about doing something with your photography?”

“I might do,” Harry admitted, smiling to his supportive boyfriend. “I’ve always wondered if I had it in me to do it properly. I’ve got the money to buy the right equipment, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ve still got the company behind me.”

“Exactly. You’ve got nothing to lose. Promise me you’ll put yourself out there, see if anyone’s interested?”

“I promise.”

Harry had sealed the promise with a kiss, and within a week, he’d secured a young girl who wanted to model to shoot her portfolio. He’d offered her a ridiculously low rate, telling Louis he didn't need to charge her the earth, and that he wasn’t experienced enough to command much more money anyway. Harry had then forced Louis into posing for him for the next few days so he could hone his skills, working both in and out of the flat so he could see what worked best. Now though, Louis felt he was set, and he felt proud of his boyfriend.

“Well, good luck. Are you meeting her there, or…”

“Yeah, we’re meeting in the park since the weather’s nice. Thought we’d try a few shots like we did the other day…”

Louis waggled his eyebrows at that, making Harry laugh.

“Not those sort of photos, dirty boy,” Harry mumbled as Louis walked over, running his hands up and down Harry’s arms below the sleeves of his smart shirt. “Those sort of shoots are just for me and you.”

“Good, better be,” Louis whispered. “Right, you’d better go. Don’t be late, not very professional.”

“Alright. Well, I’ll be back in a few hours, okay?”

“Yep, sounds good. I’ll make us some dinner before we have to go out for your show.”

“Oh, you’re coming tonight?”

Louis felt a little surprised, given that Harry hadn’t come to one of his shows over the past week. It wasn’t for lack of supporting Louis, just that Harry had preferred to sit at home and research things for this upcoming job, which Louis understood entirely.

“Yeah, if that’s okay with you?”

“Course it is, you know I love it when you’re in the audience.”

Louis smiled softly to Harry then as he made his way to the front door, nerves clearly setting in.

“You’re going to do a great job, you know. I’ll help you look through the photos later if you want me to?”

“I’d love that. I’d quite like a good luck kiss, please.”

Louis smiled and obliged, pushing Harry against the front door as he kissed him deeply for a moment. Louis whispered good luck once more against Harry’s lips before Harry finally left, getting into his car and roaring away, leaving Louis alone. He walked back into the living room, flicking on the TV so he wasn’t sat in complete silence and loaded up Harry’s laptop, opening the document he’d drafted up the other day. He’d given it a generic name hoping that Harry wouldn’t bother to look at it, and it didn't appear that he had.

He read over it again, wondering if he’d ever have the courage to send it, especially now that his job with the dance company seemed to be going from strength to strength. The show was sold out for the next few months, and Louis was growing in confidence with each performance. The thought of finally being able to leave stripping behind had always been a pipe dream, but now that it was a real possibility, Louis felt nervous, and he decided that tonight was the night that he was going to talk to Harry about it, get his opinion. His was the only one who truly mattered to Louis, anyway.

He spent the rest of his afternoon doing some much needed housework and laundry until Harry had returned home, eyes shining and beaming after a successful afternoon with the model, Madison. Louis flicked through the photos Harry had taken on his fancy camera, slightly in awe of how well they’d turned out, praising every single one, telling Harry what he liked about them, and how talented he was, which made Harry blush a gorgeous shade of pink that Louis wanted to kiss off his cheeks. Harry talked excitedly about the shoot the whole duration of the drive to The Night Watch , and had only stopped when Louis had had to go backstage to get ready, pouting when Louis interrupted him with a kiss, promising to talk more later. Louis had just laughed when he’d heard Harry strike up a conversation about it with Liam the moment he stepped away.

Louis’ performance passed in a bit of a blur. It was a striptease to one of his favourite songs, a routine that he was familiar with and felt comfortable performing, but there was something that wasn’t quite right. All that was running through his mind was the fact that this could be one of the last few shows he ever performed in, and Louis knew part of him was holding back a bit. Harry was sat front and centre but even that wasn’t enough to spur Louis into putting a little more into his performance. He was well aware it was more lacklustre than usual, but Harry didn't say a word about it, only kissing Louis afterwards and walking him to the car before driving him home.

“Just going to shower then I’m heading to bed. You can stay up if you want,” Louis offered, disappearing into the bathroom before Harry could even muster up a reply. He had a shower that was so hot it was almost uncomfortable, but for the first real time, Louis felt like he wanted to wash the night from his skin. He wanted to wash away the reminder of his performance, to forget what he’d done up there on stage. It didn't feel right anymore, and he knew that this was the final nail in the coffin of his stripping career. 

He stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around his waist before he pulled the door open, a blast of cool air hitting his still damp skin.

“Harry, I-”

He stilled, gasping when he saw what Harry had done for him.  Instead of the usual ceiling light blaring out, the room was bathed in candlelight from where Harry had placed several of his favourite candles around the room, one on each bedside table as well. The room smelt fragrant, and he’d pulled back the bedcovers as well, the pillows all plumped up and ready to be laid on.

“I just wanted to do something nice for you,” Harry said softly, walking over to Louis with a cup of tea in his hands that Louis accepted easily. Louis couldn’t help but notice it was his favourite mug, and he smiled up at his boyfriend, feeling himself already getting a little emotional. He let Harry lead him over to the bed, perching on the edge while Harry busied himself gathering Louis some underwear and pyjamas. “Stand up, Lou.”

Louis did as he was told, unbothered as Harry removed the towel from his waist, towel drying his body before he helped him into his boxers, every touch soft and gentle, made with love. Louis laid down on the bed, and Harry tucked him in before he joined him, cuddling up to Louis’ side. Harry smelt familiar, like home, and Louis shut his eyes, feeling relaxed for the first time that night.

“Can I tell you something? It’s… it’s been on my mind for a few weeks now and it’s kind of eating me up.”

“Course, Lou.”

Louis shifted their bodies so they were facing each other, Louis’ legs between Harry’s under the covers. It was close and intimate, and in that moment, Louis trusted Harry implicitly with his innermost thoughts and feelings.

“I think… no. I know I want to give up stripping. I used to enjoy it but now I’ve had a chance to do what I really want to do with my life… it’s not so much fun anymore.”

“This doesn’t have anything to do with me not coming to your shows, does it? Because I love watching you up there, Lou, I don’t want you to give it up for me-”

“I’m not, I promise. But if I’m being honest, there is a part of this that’s about you as well, but in a good way. I’ve always been single while I’ve stripped, so I’ve been happy sharing my body. I’m proud of my figure, of my curves. But now, there’s you. And I sort of feel that my body is just for you now. I love you, and I think that it’s something I only want to share with you. I know that sounds sappy, but-”

“No. No way, it’s perfect. I love that you feel like that. I mean, I’m dead proud of you when you’re up there, Lou, I really am. But there is a jealous part of me that wants to storm the stage and cover you up with my jacket.”

Louis sniggered at that, and Harry’s brow furrowed, wondering what he had said that was so funny.

“What?”

“Sorry, just… the idea of you storming the stage. You’re too polite for that-” Louis laughed loudly again, and Harry chuckled too, pushing Louis back against the mattress and looming over him for a moment.  “But seriously. What if this is just a stupid idea, a mistake? It’s a big chunk of my income, Haz. I know I’ve got a regular wage with the dance company, but that’s only for a few months. Stripping is guaranteed work.”

“But it’s not making you happy, love. Surely that’s the most important thing?”

“A roof over my head and food on the table is pretty important too,” Louis mused. Harry just nodded, a serious expression on his face. “What? You’re thinking, I can see it. What is it?”

“Well, I’m not sure you’re going to like this…”

“Oh god.”

“No, not like that. Just… I know how independent you are, but just know this is coming from a place of love, okay?”

“Right,” Louis nodded as Harry rolled away from him, looking serious as his eyes scanned Louis’ face for a moment before he spoke.

“You should do what makes you happy, Lou. If that means giving up stripping, then do it. And I know you’re worried about money, but… well, you don’t have to be. I have enough to support the pair of us, if it ever came to that. I can provide for you, love, if that’s what you need me to do. If it’s your happiness or making ends meet, then you have to take your happiness every single time. Let me do this for you if you need me to. Not that I think you will, because you’re an amazing dancer, and you’ll be snapped up the minute this show finished but because I love you, and I want to take care of you.”

Louis sighed, shifting himself up in bed until he was sat against the headboard. Harry did the same next to him, and Louis could already feel that the atmosphere between them had changed because of Harry’s offer.

“Look, it’s a wonderful thing you’re offering, Harry, it really is. But I can’t accept that, and you know that. I’m too independent to be someone’s kept man, and however much I know you don’t mean it like that, it feels that way to me.”

“It’s okay, I understand-”

“This has nothing to do with you or our relationship, okay? I want to be your boyfriend, and I want you to be mine. This is just something I have to do for me, okay? I love you, Harry, please don’t doubt that.”

“I don’t. I really don’t, Lou.”

Harry leaned in and kissed Louis softly then, but Louis could feel a hesitance that wasn’t there before. He hated that he might have upset Harry by refusing his offer, but it was just how he felt. Louis had always provided for himself, and stripping had got him through many months where he thought he wasn’t going to be able to pay rent. He knew he could only give it up if he had the means to support himself, even if that meant being unhappy with it for just a few more months. It was worth it for the security it provided.

“I’m just gonna pop out for a walk, okay? I need to clear my head. I won’t be long.

“Haz, please don’t go-”

“I’ll be back, I promise,” Harry reassured him with a small kiss before he got out of bed, pulling on his jeans again. “Just got a bit of a headache, think the fresh air will clear it up.”

“It’s cold out there…”

“I’ll be fine. You wait here and keep the bed warm for me, yeah?”

“Promise me you’ll come home and sleep next to me?”

“I promise.” Harry sealed his promise with a small kiss before he picked his phone up from the bedside table, pushing it into his back pocket. “If you want to go sleep, then do. I’ll be quiet when I come in just in case.”

“I won’t. I’m going to wait for you. I love you, babe.”

“Love you too,” Harry said with a smile before he slipped from the room. Louis sat silently until he heard the sound of the front door closing, when he sighed, getting out of bed. The room still had a romantic ambience thanks to Harry, and it didn't feel right to be in there without his boyfriend. He walked through to the sitting room in just his boxers and curled up on the end of the sofa, pulling a blanket over his legs.

His phone pinged and Louis picked it up, smiling when he saw it was his mum. They sat and exchanged some messages back and forth for a while, Jay telling Louis about the escapades of his sisters that put a smile back on his face, and he made a promise to visit soon, even going so far as to allude to Harry coming with him, which had made Jay clap happily. They’d really clicked at Louis’ opening night, and he knew Harry would jump at the chance to visit the place that Louis had called home for his formative years. 

It was the opening of his front door that made Louis end his conversation, telling his mum that he and Harry were heading to bed, something he hoped wasn’t a lie. He was a bit stunned to turn around and see Harry stood there with another bunch of flowers in his hands. They weren’t as fancy as the bouquet he’d bought for his opening night, more like something he’d picked up at a garage or corner shop, but the fact he’d bought anything at all made the lump in Louis’ throat make its presence known again. 

“I was the one who upset you, but you brought me flowers?”

Harry just nodded, and pressed his cool lips to Louis’ as he handed over the flowers. He stepped away to pull his coat off, draping it over the back of one of the chairs. He sat down and patted his lap, making Louis scurry over, keen to cuddle up to Harry. He squeaked when Harry pressed his chilly palms against Louis’ warm tummy, but they stayed in that position, curled around each other, happy to be together again.

“Thank you for coming home,” Louis whispered, kissing along Harry’s jaw for a moment, kisses feather-light but causing Harry to shiver. 

“I told you I would,” Harry replied, pulling Louis ever closer as if he was trying to make them one person. “But I’ve been thinking, Lou, while I was out.”

Louis felt his heart sink almost to his feet at those words, and he nodded, unable to speak. He had a bad feeling about whatever it was Harry was about to say, and part of him wanted to jump out of his boyfriend’s lap and run away so he didn't have to hear Harry break his heart. 

“Okay. Just… do it gently, please?”

“Do what gently?”

Harry looked genuinely confused, so Louis pulled away slightly, looking into Harry’s beautiful green eyes.

“Break up with me.”

“Break- what? Louis, no! That’s literally the last thing I ever want, I promise you. Oh baby, you’ve got it so, so wrong.”

Harry’s arms held him tighter again, and Louis let out a breath, relieved that Harry wasn’t going to leave him.

“I love you too much to let you go, Lou. It’s actually the opposite of that. You’re my future, Louis, you really are. I thought I’d found the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with in Adam, but then I met you and… god. You made me realise what real love is, how a real relationship should be. And I don’t want to take over your life, or make you feel like a kept man, Lou, but..”

“But what?” Louis asked, eager to hear how Harry was going to finish this speech. His heart was already fluttering with the anticipation, and Louis was fighting back the urge to kiss him silly.

“I just want to be with you all the time. Like, every minute of every day. I miss you when I have to go home, even if it's just to grab some more of my things. I miss you when you’re performing, I miss you when I’m sat here and you’re at the library. I know that sounds mad, but I do.”

“Harry, I-”

“No, please let me finish. I hate being on my own, Louis, and now that I’ve got you, I just don’t want to be anymore. I want to live with you, babe, we pretty much do anyway, don’t we? I want to take care of you, of both of us… if you’ll let me?”

Louis felt a little stunned. He wasn’t exactly prepared for Harry to suggest living together, but at the same time, Louis knew there was nothing he wanted more. They’d barely spent a night apart since they’d got together, and even less since they’d become intimate. It didn't feel wrong, and for the first proper time in Louis’ life, he felt like he knew exactly what he wanted, and that was the curly haired, dimple-cheeked man in front of him, loving him for exactly who he was.

“Fuck, yes please,” Louis grinned, launching himself into Harry’s lap and kissing him, smattering kisses all over his cheeks, lips, eyelids and anywhere else he could reach, making Harry laugh beneath him. “I want to live with you, too. And I want to stop stripping and just dance. And Harry… I want you to take care of me. I’m not afraid to ask for help, not from you. I want it all, Haz, with you.”

“I fucking love you, Louis Tomlinson,” Harry muttered with a grin, letting Louis kiss him again. 

“Well, good, because I’m just a bit in love with you,” Louis murmured back against Harry’s lips, their kisses deepening. “Not getting rid of me now, Styles.”

Louis felt a bit surprised when Harry pulled back, his hands holding Louis’ hips in place where he was straddling his thighs now.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Just wondered when I’m moving in. Officially, I mean.”

“As soon as possible. Don’t see the point in wasting any time, not now I’ve got you.”

Louis’ fingers played with the hair at the back of Harry’s neck, stroking him softly.

“You make me so happy, you know,” Harry said softly, looking deeply into Louis’ eyes. “I know my marriage ending was shit, I really thought I wouldn’t want to trust anyone again. Then this brown haired, curvy, blue-eyed stripper came into my life and turned it upside down-”

“In the best way, of course,” Louis chuckled, loving how happy Harry looked in that moment. 

“Of course. The very best way. I wouldn’t change a thing, you know. Love you, boo.”

“I love you more, Hazza. Now take me to bed please, I wanna have sex for the first time as live-in boyfriends.”

“Rude,” Harry admonished, getting to his feet, Louis clinging to him like a koala. “But who am I to turn this ass down, hmm?”

With that, he slapped Louis’ bum, making his boyfriend squeak as a sting spread across his cheek.

“Don’t think I’m not getting you back for that,” Louis whispered, tugging lightly on Harry’s hair just as he kicked the bedroom door closed behind him, leaving them alone.

Chapter Text

EPILOGUE

Ten months later

“Louis, mind the fucking wall,” Harry hummed from where his face was buried between Louis’ thighs, kissing down the soft skin of his body, tongue teasing where he knew Louis wanted him. “We’ve just decorated in here, I don’t want you damaging the wall already.”

“Then get your bloody mouth around my cock and suck me off,” Louis demanded, still writhing around on the bed, sweating from where Harry had been teasing him for a good hour by now. “Please, Haz…”

“Patience, my love,” Harry hummed, licking with just the tip of his tongue up Louis’ cock from base to tip, flicking it over the shiny head for a moment. “Told you I wanted to make it good for you, so let me, okay?”

“Fuckkkkkkk,” Louis moaned as Harry finally took him into his mouth, sucking him down almost painfully slowly. Harry tried not to smirk as he sank down as low as he could, enjoying how it felt to have his lips stretched wide around Louis’ length, how good he tasted on his tongue. “So fucking good…”

Harry let his hands come up from where they’d been holding Louis’ legs apart, giving him room to touch, and kiss, and lick and tease. He wrapped his fingers around the base of Louis’ cock, pumping slowly what he couldn’t fit in his mouth. It felt like it had been too long since Harry had gone down on Louis like this; work and their other commitments meant that sex had been hurried late at night when they were both a little too tired to fully enjoy it, or just sloppy hand jobs in the morning. Today, though, was a free day, and they’d made the most of it, barely leaving the bed. They’d enjoyed every inch of each other, and Harry was determined to drive Louis mad just one more time that day.

“Mmm,” Harry moaned deeply around Louis’ cock, knowing how much his boyfriend loved the rumble of it around him when he was being sucked off. He ran his tongue around the tip, making Louis fist the sheets below his body, already creased and crumpled from their activities all day long. Harry couldn’t bring himself to care too much about the state of them when he was enjoying himself so much.

His own cock was hard and heavy between his legs, and as much as Harry wanted to touch himself, he didn't, knowing how much better it would be when he buried himself inside Louis once more that night. They’d been pretty versatile that day, Louis taking Harry from behind in the shower they’d forced themselves into earlier that afternoon, and then again in bed just a few hours later, Harry’s legs on Louis’ shoulders as he’d fucked Harry until he screamed himself hoarse.

Right now, Harry was desperate to be inside his boyfriend, and he reached a hand down, letting his finger circle Louis’ already open hole. Louis almost whimpered, already oversensitive and slightly sore from having had sex several times that day. Harry was careful with Louis, sliding in a finger as he sucked him down deeper, opening him up with the love and care Louis deserved. He slowly pulled off Louis’ cock, sucking the tip for a second before he released his boyfriend, looking down at the beautiful body in front of him.

He was pleased that now, no-one got to see this body except for him. Louis had given up stripping almost eight months now, and Harry was sure he didn't regret a thing. His final performance had been a complete sell-out, The Night Watch more packed with customers than it had ever been, and Louis had performed a thirty minute set for the crowd, much to their delight. Harry had proudly sat at the bar with Liam and Niall, watching Louis do what he did best, and when Louis had locked eyes with him across the room on his final bow, Harry hadn’t been able to stop himself from finally storming the stage and dipping Louis into a dramatic but passionate kiss that had drawn loud hollers and cheers from everyone in the building. It had been a moment never to be forgotten.

Harry leaned down and pressed a kiss to the H tattoo Louis had got on his upper thigh just a few days after his final strip show, murmuring to Harry that he’d be the only one who got to see this now, which had of course led to some pretty explosive sex when they’d got back home. Louis shivered, and tugged on Harry’s curls, making him look up at his boyfriend, loving what a mess Louis liked.

“Fuck me, Haz. Right fucking now, I need you-”

Harry just nodded and got up onto his knees between Louis’ thighs. He took his cock in his hand, stroking himself a few times before he shuffled forward, about to line up when Louis shook his head and sat up, pushing Harry back.

“Louis, what-”

“I’m riding you. Lay down.”

Harry scrambled to do what Louis told him, laying himself flat back on the mattress before Louis sat on top of Harry’s thighs, his whole body on display. Harry’s hands reached up, running all over Louis’ chest until they settled on his waist, smiling up at him.

“I love you.”

“Yeah, yeah, get inside me,” Louis muttered, moving his body until he was on his knees, hovering over Harry’s cock. He reached behind him and grasped Harry’s length, lining himself up. Harry moaned as Louis teased the pair of them, rubbing the head over his entrance before he slowly sank down, his body slowly stretching around it.

“Oh- oh my god…” Harry stuttered, willing himself not to come as Louis finally became seated, his palms splayed out on Harry’s bare chest. “You feel so good, so hot-”

“Yeah? You like it when I ride you, Haz?”

“Love it. Best fucking thing in the world. Show me how good you can ride me then, Lou…”

“Fuck yes.”

Louis wasted no time in doing exactly what Harry had asked him, riding him with sheer abandon, both men not holding back on their noises at all. Harry felt grateful that they lived in their own home now, not a flat where they could be heard by their neighbours, and he let out a low, guttural moan as Louis ground his pelvis down, his body like a vice around Harry’s cock now.

“Just…”

Louis rearranged his hands, bringing them behind him to rest on Harry’s thighs as he used his own powerful legs to start lifting himself up and down, bouncing beautifully in front of Harry’s eyes. He was a vision, all tanned and toned skin, skin now littered with a few tattoos that he and Harry shared, and Harry felt he could die a happy man right now. 

“Shit… yes, bounce on my cock, baby…”

“Fuck, love it. So fucking big, love you inside me-”

Harry loved when Louis’ dirty side came out during sex, and he smirked as Louis’ eyes fluttered shut, losing himself in the rhythm of what he was doing, focused entirely on riding Harry. With a shaking hand, Harry reached out and wrapped his fingers around Louis’ length, stroking him in soft, slow movements that he knew drove Louis wild when they were having sex. He loved how well he knew Louis’ body, how often they were intimate, and how open Louis was when it came to sex.

It was the complete antithesis of how he’d been with his ex-husband. Adam had never withheld sex from Harry, but it had definitely not been the hours of pleasure that he and Louis now shared. Adam had always topped, refusing to try anything else, whereas Louis was happy to do whatever Harry wanted, both men keen to meet the others needs. Louis also embraced Harry’s love of nudity, and they both loved nothing more than snuggling up on the weekends in bed together, naked skin pressed against the other, kissing the hours away. It was everything Harry had always craved in a relationship, and with every day they spent together, Harry fell more in love with his Louis.

“I’m close-” Harry panted out, knowing his self-restraint was at its limit. Seeing Louis like this as well as feeling his body around Harry’s cock was a complete overload of the senses, and he knew it wouldn’t be too long before he released into Louis’ body. They’d stopped using condoms a few months ago, and Harry still wasn’t over how good it felt to come into Louis, and knowing that feeling was just around the corner was driving Harry mad with desire. 

“Gonna come in me? Make me feel it, hmm?” Louis murmured, his voice husky as he struggled to keep his breaths steady, his own cock dripping by now. Harry just nodded, and licked his lips, watching Louis rode him. He felt like the luckiest man in the world in that moment, and their eyes remained locked as Louis rode him harder and faster, sending them both spiralling towards their orgasms.

Harry released first with a loud moan of Louis’ name, hands digging into Louis’ waist as he spilled hotly inside him, forcing himself to keep his eyes open, fixed on his boyfriend. His body shook as he came down from his high, but he was lucid enough to know Louis hadn’t come yet, and he let his hand start touching Louis again, Louis’ hips still as they stared at each other, lost in the moment until Louis came, screaming out Harry’s name, coating his toned stomach in strings of come. Harry loved how it felt when Louis came all over him, and he hummed his approval until Louis collapsed on top of him, both of them entirely spent.

“Shit. That was… fuck.”

“Yeah,” Harry chuckled back, his hand resting lightly on Louis’ back. “You gonna be able to dance tomorrow?”

“Don’t fucking care,” Louis whispered back, his breaths slowly steadying back to normal. “Worth it if I can’t.”

Harry chuckled, knowing he’d be receiving a barrage of abusive texts from his boyfriend blaming Harry and his big cock for him not being able to dance without pain at work the next day. Louis now performed in a new dance production three nights a week, and the rest of his week was spent teaching dance to both adults and children. He was happier than he’d ever been in his work, and Harry was a proud boyfriend at as many of Louis’ shows as he could get to. He used his attendance as an excuse to take more photos of his boyfriend as well as the rest of his company, and many of his photos had been snapped up the local papers, especially since Harry had started making a name for himself in his own right.

“What time do you have that family coming to your studio?”

“Ten. Thank fuck I didn't book them in any earlier,” Harry said, cringing as Louis separated their bodies, Louis’ come over both of them by now. “Think we need to get in the shower and change the sheets, love.”

“Yeah, yeah. You love it when we’re messy,” Louis teased, and Harry just shrugged, knowing he agreed entirely. “You know what you’re doing with their shoot, though?”

“Yeah, the parents said they just wanted some natural family pictures, so I’ve got a few ideas. Should be fun.”

“Well, I know you’ll do a great job, you always do. There’s a reason you’re fully booked until next year, babe.”

Harry kissed him for that, reluctantly pushing Louis off so he could sit, his back screaming in protest. There was a reason Louis seldom rode him, but Harry always reasoned that his pleasure far outweighed any pain he later suffered for it. 

“Let’s shower, and I’ll change the bed while you go and sort out Snowball.”

Snowball was the bunny rabbit Harry and Louis bought together two months after they moved into their house together. They’d wanted a pet but not a cat or a dog, and a visit to a local pet shop ended up in them coming home with a white bunny Louis had insisted be called Snowball after the psycho bunny in The Secret Life of Pets , Louis, Daisy and Phoebe’s favourite film of the moment. Harry hadn’t had the heart to disagree, and so Snowball Tomlinson-Styles was the third resident of their little family home, as Harry liked to call it.

“Alright then. You drive a hard bargain, Styles,” Louis said, both of them holding hands as they sloped off to the bathroom. Harry flicked on the fancy shower he’d paid a small fortune for, but he was sure it had already paid for itself. Steam soon filled the room and he slid open the glass door, letting Louis get in before he followed, shutting the door behind him. “No funny business, Haz. Think we’ve done enough for the day.”

“If you say so,” Harry murmured, dipping his head so he could kiss Louis’ neck, loving how easily Louis responded by tipping his head to the side, giving Harry more room to work. “Let’s see how long you can hold out…”

*****

“No, you choose, this is your night,” Louis insisted, and Harry smiled to himself, loving how generous Louis was. He’d just signed on five new customers, two weddings and three newborn baby shoots, which meant more income, and more people to help him spread his reputation. Louis always celebrated every job that Harry booked, but this amount of work in one day felt unprecedented and they wanted to celebrate in a suitable fashion.

“Alright, let’s go to The Rosebud,” Harry replied, naming a small but expensive he and Louis liked to go to for special occasions. “About time we had another excuse to go back there.”

“Harold, you don’t need an excuse,” Louis laughed. “Oh, it’s Monday. Oh, I brushed my teeth today. Oh, Louis’ students all passed their exams. See? Any old reason and we’re off to Rosebud.”

“Don’t see you moaning,” Harry said as he tugged Louis closer, his arm wrapping around Louis’ shoulders as Louis’ arm slipped under his jacket, his hand resting at his waist. Harry loved how tactile Louis was in public with him, and they stopped at the crossing, waiting for the green man before they walked across with the crowd, silent as they walked together now. “Oh my god.”

“What? You okay?”

Harry just stared at the man who was once as familiar to him as his own reflection. Now, though, he was a stranger, and Harry couldn’t believe how different his ex-husband had looked. They’d not laid eyes on each other for months now, and Harry felt stunned. Adam looked haggered, his hair was a greasy mess, and his baggy tracksuit did nothing to suit his frame.

“Shit. Is that…”

“Yeah. It is. Fuck, he’s seen us, keep walking…”

Harry and Louis weren’t quick enough, though. Adam jogged to catch up with them and grabbed Harry’s arm, stopping them on the pavement. Harry frowned and whipped his arm out of Adam’s hold, keeping Louis against his side as he stared his ex-husband down, not recognising the man looking back at him.

“I knew it was you.”

Harry didn't know what to say so he stayed quiet, hating that he and Louis were in this situation after their elated moods just moments ago.

“I made such a fucking mistake, Haz. Shit, I fucked up.”

“Yeah, you did,” Harry muttered, tempted to walk away when Adam started talking again. He noticed his eyes were bloodshot, and he felt Louis’ hand press harder against his waist, keeping him there.

“I just… come back to me, yeah? We had some fucking good times, Haz, you and me. Things were good with us, weren’t they? If I hadn’t have… well, we’d still be together, having fun. I think we can get it back, what we had.”

Louis’ arms dropped from Harry’s waist then, and Harry almost panicked before he felt Louis’ hand slip into his at their sides, squeezing gently, comforting Harry in his own way. It hadn’t slipped Harry’s attention that Adam had completely ignored Louis’ presence as well, his eyes not going anywhere near him, entirely locked on Harry.

“Adam, give it a rest. Our marriage was over the moment you slept with someone else, whether you like it or not. Yes, I loved you but you threw that away. It was you who couldn’t see that, not me.”

“Harry, come on babe, we-”

“No, Adam. I’m with Louis now, and I’m happy. Really happy, actually.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? The stripper?”

Louis just scoffed and shook his head. Harry knew how much it would be killing Louis not to bite back, and he loved him more for holding back.

“He’s not a stripper. And even if he was, I don’t care. I love him, Adam, for who he is. He’s good for me… he’s good to me. He takes care of me, and he’d never hurt me, not like you did.”

“What a fucking joke.”

“Think what you like. We’re over, have been for a long time. We’re divorced, Adam. You got what you wanted out of me. I gave you everything you wanted so I could get you out of my life. I’ve moved on. You need to as well. We’re done. Completely and utterly done.”

“Harry-”

“No, we’re over. I want you to stay away from me. Our marriage is over, Adam. I’m free, and I’m happy, and I’m in love with Louis. He’s my future now.”

“Fucking hell, you’re marrying him?”

Adam’s scornful look at Harry made him reply in a way he wouldn’t usually.

“I haven’t asked him yet, but yeah, I want to marry him. I want everything with him, Adam, everything you never wanted to give me. A loving and trusting marriage, children, a home where I feel safe and loved every single day.”

Adam opened his mouth to speak, but it was Louis who spoke up this time.

“What’s that old saying, huh? You don’t know what you’ve got 'til it’s gone? Well, tough shit, mate. Your loss is very much my gain. He’s mine now, and I intend to keep it that way for the rest of my life. Move on. Come on, Haz, we’ve got some celebrating to do, babe.”

Harry didn't bother to say a final goodbye to the man he’d once loved. He didn't even look back as he and Louis walked away hand in hand, leaving Adam staring at their retreating figures.

“You meant that, then?” Louis asked, his voice soft as they approached the restaurant, still hand in hand.

“What?”

“About marrying me. One day, I mean.”

“Yeah. If you don’t mind marrying a divorcée…”

“Haz… I don’t care about that stuff, you know that. I’m just surprised that you still want to get married again, after everything you went through with Adam.”

“We’re not like Adam and I were. Marrying you wouldn’t be a whim. It would be a conscious decision that I choose to make because I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I know who I am now, and I know who you are, and I know who we are together. You’re there, Louis, whenever I need someone, to celebrate with, to hold me when I’m having a shit day. What we have… this is a life I want to have. This is the life I choose, and every single day of my life, I will choose you. I’ll choose us.”

“You bloody sap,” Louis mumbled through his tears, pushing onto his tiptoes to kiss Harry softly, fingers still linked between their bodies. “I love you, you daft git.”

“I love you too. So much Louis, you have no idea. But this time…”

“This time what?” Louis asked as he led them into the restaurant, smiling at the girl who was stood waiting to show them to a table.

“This time, it’s forever.”