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Louis knew he was gay since he was about twelve years old, and it wasn’t ever really that big of a deal. It’s not like he suddenly changed, it was just a part of who he was; as pervasive and simultaneously unremarkable as the fact that he loved music.

What did make it a big deal was when the band he was put into reached global success and his PR team caught wind of it. He was strong-armed into a very awkward sit down with his PR team, listening to them outline in excruciating detail about how his sexuality was some looming, career-ending scandal in the making so he could not, under any circumstances (barring an impressively catastrophic plummet from fame), have a public relationship for at least a few years. That ordeal was quickly followed up with him having to sign a legally binding contract saying he wouldn’t reveal his secret to anyone that wasn’t family or closely involved in the band.

It didn’t suck so much at first because nothing really happened that made him want to tell all the fans all the sordid details of his love life – or lack thereof. He didn’t really find anyone he desperately wanted to be with and it just wasn’t a huge deal, except to his PR team. It wasn’t a major concern at all until they freaked out, thinking that every fan had just kind of magically caught onto it by now and they couldn’t risk a scandal so early.

So, long story short, they brought in one of their higher-up’s daughters so Louis could gallivant around with her every now and then, pretending they were Beautiful Romantic Couple™, even though she had some boyfriend off to the side that she could never be seen with in public and Louis wasn’t even remotely into her gender.

It wasn’t too bad until after those first few “dates” where they had basically hung out like friends and discussed everything in their lives. They realized, though, that they were vastly different people with vastly different interests and after that, their “dates” became awkward and quiet, with the odd fake laugh thrown in there for the camera’s sake.

It sucked a lot, mostly because Louis felt like he was lying to everyone who cared so dearly about him despite the fact that they’d never even met. He internalized all of his unease and one evening he was suddenly overwhelmed with this huge desire to post it all up in Twitter’s 140 characters, tell everyone who would stop and listen to him that he was gay.

Suddenly, that contract his team had him sign made a lot more sense.

Louis was finally allowed to “break up” with Eleanor after a few articles about how they weren’t happy with one another, making the whole fake girlfriend thing impractical when it was obvious both of them were miserable. It got a bit better, but he still felt like he was lying.

He was still closeted, even more heavily since now there were so many people who were at least a little validated in their thoughts that Louis and Harry were in a relationship now that he was single. His team promised him that he can come out once the fame dies down a little, once their fan base is made of dedicated people who would stick around even if they learned that one of them had committed murder who outnumber fickle fans, not the other way around.

His team also promised that he would be allowed to come out if he were in a relationship, a serious relationship that he knew wouldn’t end within a few years. Something serious, they said. Something truly meaningful, that he’d fight tooth and nail to keep, they said. Something that’ll last with someone he truly loved and even then only if they were both aware of the consequences.

Their third tour ended and Louis caught up on sleep, visited family and spent a few weeks getting his life back on track. He might not have a fake girlfriend anymore but he still didn’t have all the relief he could be getting, something that would make him feel like he was being honest with the world and with himself.

Louis shows up at Harry’s, holding a bottle of wine as a consolation for not calling or texting in advance and he knocks on the door, feeling what Niall would describe as “post-tour depression” and what a medical professional might deem “actual real life depression”. Harry pulls open the door, smiling all wide and goofy, and he sweeps Louis inside.

“Pinot Noir?” Harry asks happily. “Awesome.”

Louis chuckles, kicking off his shoes near the door of the closet because he knows he won’t be staying here all night and Harry likes shoes stored in the closet on the little rack. “I know, I’m your favourite because I bring you booze.”

Harry laughs, leading Louis upstairs to the kitchen. “You could’ve showed up bearing two flavoured waters and you’d still be my favourite.”

Louis beams, already feeling comforted and forgetting how awful he feels about lying in Harry’s presence. “Damn right,” he says as Harry uncorks the wine and pours some into both glasses.

They both stand there, sipping wine for a few minutes and Louis still doesn’t quite like wine as much as his dad does but the alcohol is still a rather nice payoff. Louis nearly downs his entire glass while Harry has only taken a few small, elegant sips, perennially playing the part of someone perfectly suited to a life of fame and cameras snapping candid shots that would be unflattering for anyone else.

“So, what’s wrong?” Harry asks, grabbing the wine and herding Louis into the living room, sitting on the big overstuffed couch.

Louis folds himself into the corner, pouring himself more wine and knowing that he’ll probably end up drinking half the bottle himself even when he bought it with the intention of sharing it with his best friend. He takes a breath, knowing it’s also futile to lie to Harry, that his big green doe eyes will eventually wheedle the truth out of him, and so he explains everything that’s been bothering him, successfully keeping his eyes dry as well.

Harry nods understandingly, rubbing Louis’ thigh. “That really does suck. But they’ll let you come out if you’re in a serious relationship?”

Louis nods, looking at him hopefully. “Yeah, do you wanna offer yourself up? Pretend we’re something we’re not so I don’t have to feel like this anymore?”

He frowns sympathetically. “I’m sorry, Lou, you know I’m with Georgia.”

“Right,” Louis sighs, taking another long sip of wine.

“I’ll take you a bar sometime, though. You can meet someone, maybe fall in love.”

He scoffs, folding his arms over his chest and shrugging. “I doubt it would work. I probably reek of desperation.”

“Don’t you have any friends back home that would be willing to help you out?” Harry prods, trying to keep his voice gentle as he senses Louis’ mood darkening by the minute.

“Maybe, if I offer to pay them.”

Silence falls over them and Louis knows that the cogs in Harry’s brain are working, trying to find a cohesive solution. Louis is sitting there, sipping his wine and knowing he should be more open-minded, he should try to find a friend before he just shuts down and refuses everything. He’s a beggar, he shouldn’t try to be a chooser. He should just pay one of his friends to be his fake boyfriend.

“Nick is gay and he’s single,” Harry says, his voice a little sheepish and quiet, like he worries Louis will react by raging.

“Grimshaw?”

Harry nods. “Yeah, Grimshaw. I mean, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind, he’s been saying he’s bored for the last while and he wouldn’t really ask for like, compensation, I’m sure.”

Louis shakes his head. “No way. No fucking way. No one would buy that.”

“Sure they would. You’re a good actor and he’s got lots of free time, and so do you since tour rehearsals don’t start until the New Year.”

“I… no way.”

“Why not?” Harry asks, lifting the wine glass to his lips.

“We don’t… I’ve never… we just have very different tastes. He’s all hipster and shit and he seems like he hates the shit I’m into and I don’t think I’d be able to even pretend to be his boyfriend.”

Harry is silent for a moment. “Lou, he’s your best bet.”

“But, how can I pretend to be in a serious relationship with someone I’ve never spoken with? That was part of it, it needs to be serious.”

“So make it serious. Get fake married or something, divorce a while after you come out.”

Louis sighs, hating that this is his best option.

“I’ll call him. He can come over and you two can get to know each other better, maybe. I mean, you should probably tolerate each other if you’re gunna act married.”

He nods, finishing his wine in one drink and setting the glass down, his appetite for wine completely gone. Now all he wants is something a little harder, and maybe a smoke to go with it because he’s gunna have to pretend to be head over heels for Nick Grimshaw.

Harry paces and considers, almost talking himself out of it after all, but he calls Nick while Louis goes out on the porch and smokes, and when he gets back, Nick knocks on the door. He comes in and sits down and Louis stands between the kitchen and living room, watching them talk. If this weren’t all about him, he thinks he’d like to see them together. They’re so similar and both of them are always laughing around each other. It’s obvious they’d be so much better at faking a relationship, and it would probably turn real at some point.

Louis makes his way in and curls up in one of the armchairs, listening to Harry explain the situation and watching Nick’s face fall into confusion.

“A fake relationship?” He asks incredulously. “No, absolutely not, no way. It’s nothing personal, I just.. I doubt it’ll work. I don’t think anyone would ever fall for that.”

“That’s what I said,” Louis mumbles.

“I mean, I’d be willing to give it a shot but I doubt it would go very far. Doesn’t half your fan base think you’re fucking Harry and we hate each other and I’m all jealous?”

“I guess, yeah,” Harry shrugs. “You’re willing to go for it?”

Nick nods. “Yeah. Being closeted sounds like the worst thing ever.”

Louis looks up at him, sitting up a bit and tucking his feet underneath himself instead of holding them up against his chest. “I’ll go for it if he will.”

“No one’s gunna believe it, but we can try, right?” Nick shrugs.

Harry beams at the both of them, raising his wine glass in a mock toast. “To sham relationships!”

 

Nick and Louis text each other for a few days, planning how the relationship will work out. They decide that the only person who should know it’s fake is their parents and the other lads, to avoid any risk of someone having a big mouth. They decide that they’ve been “dating” for six months now but they weren’t quite sure where it was going to go so they avoided telling anyone in case it fell apart. They decide that they’re madly in love, that just being boyfriends doesn’t cut it for them anymore and they’re engaged.

Louis has a hard time wrapping his head around what’s going to happen once he speaks to his PR team. He’s on the precipice of coming out, inches away from what he’s been grasping at for almost a year now and now he’s here, on the edge of what he’s always wanted. He can’t tell if he’s terrified or if he’s relieved that it’s all coming together for him, but he’s a mixture of both and he almost vibrates with it whenever he dwells on it for too long.

He and Nick meet up at Nick’s to discuss everything and Louis guesses it’s also for Nick to check on Louis. When he arrives, the first thing he notices are the dogs, two of them that Louis has heard all about from Harry and seen their hair all over his pants, and they yap at him, which is nothing he’s not used to. Nick serves him (box) wine and offers him some crackers and it’s kind of really relaxing and friendly.

“So, are you ready for this?” Nick asks, sipping his tumbler of wine.

“Yeah, I think I am,” Louis nods, giving him a smile to prove he’s brave.

“You sure? Coming out can be really scary, even if you’re pretty sure everyone knows anyway.”

He nods again. “I think my biggest worry is all those people who think me and Harry are together getting all scandalised.”

Nick chuckles. “So, are we gunna see your PR team soon?”

“Yeah, I told them we’d be coming by to discuss some things. They said that Thursday was good.”

“We’re gunna have to act all couple-y, you know.”

Louis sticks his tongue out, faking a gag.

Nick pokes his side. “Please. You’re lucky you’re in a fake relationship with me.”

He nods, growing serious quickly. “And thank you so much for it.”

Nick shrugs. “Not anything big.”

They have a conversation, a polite, civil conversation in which Louis finds that he doesn’t think Nick is a hipster shit who eats quinoa and listens to strictly indie artists. He’s a genuinely nice person, making sure that Louis is okay with everything and they’ll be doing and they have a conversation, get to know each other a little bit better. Nick is funny; he makes Louis laugh until wine nearly comes out his nose and his stomach feels like he’s just done a couple sets of crunches.

By the time he’s driving home, he’s got a bit of hope in his chest that he prays isn’t alcohol induced. He and Nick have things in common, they get along and they can have a good time together, so maybe they can do this after all and be convincing about it. Maybe this isn’t something that’s won’t even get past the PR team, who could see right through their fabricated romance.

But honestly? If they thought that Louis and Eleanor were a convincing couple, they’d believe just about anything, Louis is sure.

 

Thursday comes faster than Louis expected it to and he wasn’t nervous until he was brushing his teeth this morning, and that’s when his heart started pounding in his chest like a caged animal. He fixed his clothes and he met Nick at his, the older man confirming for the millionth time that Louis was ready for this, telling him that they could always wait a while longer and he’d still be willing to do it in a year or so. Louis shakes his head, telling Nick the only thing he’s worried about is his team saying no. They both confirm that they’ve told the people they need to tell about the sham relationship, just in case something happens today that gets out into the hands of the media, something that might make their parents call them and angrily demand to know why they didn’t know of this sooner.

They’re mostly silent on their way there, until Nick flicks on the radio and Louis immediately tries to shut it off.

Nick clicks it back on. “Driver chooses the music, and I’m driving so I choose the music. And I happen to like this song, asshat.”

“Well, I don’t,” Louis says, reaching to shut it off again when Nick slaps his hand away.

“Then you can politely ask to change it.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “You’re not my parent.”

“But I am your fake fiancé,” Nick smirks, glancing down quickly and Louis knows that it’s to the ring (they borrowed from Harry that looks nice enough to be an engagement ring).

He sighs deeply, like this is more than an extremely minor inconvenience and the song he doesn’t like has changed to something a little more manageable. “Please will you change the station? Or let me play my music?”

Nick clicks over to another radio station, ignoring the second part of Louis’ question. “You’re welcome.”

“Thanks,” he mumbles, folding his arms over his chest like a petulant child.

Nick grins a little, parking not long later and shutting off the radio anyway. They both pile out and on their way inside, Nick takes Louis’ hand, lacing their fingers together and after what happened in the car, Louis’ first instinct is to tug his hand away and tell him he’s insane if he thinks that’ll ever happen. But he remembers the circumstances and the weight of the ring on his finger, and he takes a deep breath, folding his fingers against Nick’s hand, which is kind of huge and long like Harry’s hands are. Nick’s hand feels nice. Warm. Better than Eleanor’s ever did.

“Last chance to back out,” Nick warns as the elevator ascends.

“I’m not gunna back out. Are you?” He asks, looking up at him.

“Nope,” he says, popping the ‘p’ at the end.

They walk into the office together, both of them putting on smiles like there’s nothing they’d rather be doing than holding each other’s hands and being here in this guy’s office on a Thursday afternoon. They take their seats, keeping their hands together, and Nick kisses Louis’ knuckles, which he thinks is overkill but it does make his cheeks burn a little bit. The exec looks terrified already, and his face blanches even more when Louis goes into a lengthy and completely improvised speech about how much he loves Nick and how much he would love to get to be known as his boyfriend, his fiancé, publically.

The exec, Dave, gives them both an equally long speech about how the world still has a long way to come in terms of the acceptance of queer people, especially those which market so heavily towards young people and that by doing this they may be jeopardizing One Direction’s worldwide popularity. Louis can feel the nerves gather in his stomach but Nick squeezes his hand gently, like he can sense his emotions based on the rigidness of his fingers. They’re both made to sign contracts that they’re willing to take that risk and be a part in One Direction’s downfall, though judging by how many of them get excited when he and Harry so much as smile at one another, Louis somehow doubts he’ll kill the band by coming out.

Dave promises to set up an interview in the near future for Louis to make the public announcement but for now he authorizes that they can be seen in public together and they can let the general public slowly get used to the idea that Louis could be anything other than straight. Once they’re out of his office, Louis is bursting because this is going to happen, it’s confirmed, and he jumps into Nick’s arms, hugging him tight and not even caring that it’ll be the first time they’ve ever hugged. Nick chuckles, rubbing his back gently and waiting for him to pull away a little.

Nick kisses his forehead gently, to keep up appearances for the receptionist and pulls away, wrapping an arm around his waist and leading him back to the elevator. “Want to get coffee or something?” He asks.

“You asking me on a date, Grimshaw?” Louis teases, pulling out of his side-embrace.

“Are you kidding? I was just wondering if you wanted to begin instilling speculation in your army of twelve year old fangirls.”

“Rude. But yeah, sure.”

The coffee shop they go to is almost dead, perhaps due to the fact it’s two in the afternoon on a Thursday, and it’s kind of nice in that there’s no one asking for Louis’ autograph or a photo with him but it’s also sort of disappointing because he wants to show himself off with Nick, wants as many people as possible to see him so people have a sense of it. They both get coffees to go and clamber back in the car.

“Thank you again,” Louis says genuinely, sliding the ring off his finger since it wasn’t likely he’d be spotted with it again today. “Honestly. You’ve been a huge help and I really don’t know how to thank you.”

“Don’t,” Nick shrugs. “It’s really not a big deal.”

Louis doesn’t know how to react to something so blunt so he sips his coffee, scorching his tongue on it. Nick drives him home and they part ways for the day, Louis going into his house and celebrating on his own because it’s confirmed that he gets to stop lying to the world. He thinks he might burst from how elated he is.

 

The tabloids go insane over pictures of Louis and Nick out together that surface, showing blurry photos of them holding hands and a few pixelated close-ups of Louis’ ring. Louis and Nick’s Twitters explode with rumours and questions and demands from fans and Louis won’t even let himself look at it out of fear of seeing criticism and losing his exultant momentum. He’s about as insane as the tabloids are right now; a mess of excitement who stays at Harry’s every night because he’s just too jubilant to be on his own.

The band films an interview which doubles as album promotion and Louis’ coming out, which kind of overshadows whatever they say about their album and whatever Zayn says about Perrie that makes Liam tense up a little. But the interviewer asks about it at the end and Louis calmly confirms the rumours, that he is in a relationship with Nick Grimshaw and they recently got engaged and yes, he’s gay. And when they’re done, the cameraman calls cut and the interviewer thanks them for such a good exclusive, Louis is sitting there quivering in shock.

He’s out now.

It’s such a ground-breaking thing that he hardly registers when Harry squeezes his shoulder and Zayn ruffles his hair, effectively wrecking Lou’s careful styling, just breathing and thinking about how good this feels. He doesn’t have to lie anymore, to his fans or to himself, and that disgusting feeling of deceit and misrepresentation is gone and it’s like he’s jumped into a pool of cool water after standing in a hot summer sun all day. He’s out now and he’s free of all of it.

“Hey, darling,” a familiar and deep voice says.

Louis looks up and it’s Nick standing there, holding two cups of coffee.

“I brought you coffee.”

Louis takes it into his hands and the little cardboard sleeve keeps the burning edge of the warmth. It’s calming. “Thank you.”

Nick just grins, soft as he pulls Louis up, which is probably a good idea since there’s still bright lights shining on them. “You out then?” He asks, leading him into the cooler parts of the studio.

“Yeah,” he says breathlessly. “Yeah, the interview goes up next Monday.”

“I’m proud of you,” Nick murmurs, his hand still on Louis’ shoulder and he takes a second to wonder why before he remembers that most of the people in this studio think that Nick and Louis are an item. And the words make Louis’ chest feel warm, make him grin because it’s the first time someone has told him that. “It takes a lot of guts to come out, especially in your position. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you,” Louis says softly, letting Nick pull him a little closer by his waist.

Nick leans down just slightly so their foreheads are touching. “Now might be a good time to kiss me,” he whispers.

He fights the desire to roll his eyes, to turn this affection into sarcasm and tease until this little bubble where he can’t hear the other lads chatting is gone. But of course, he’s still playing the part of Nick’s fiancé and he knew they would have to kiss at some point or another, so he closes the distance between their lips.

It’s not at all what he expected, really. He thought that Nick would be rough, trying to convey to Louis that this is something he wouldn’t usually do, or perhaps too light to be a real kiss, a product of their lack of an intimate relationship. Maybe Nick is just a good actor, but the kiss is sweet, something that Louis would judge to be shared between two people who were actually in a relationship with each other. He finds himself moving a little closer, wrapping his free hand around the back of Nick’s neck and feeling his arm against his back, the lid of the coffee cup very gently pushing against his back. The kiss gets a little heated, their lips moving together slowly, but Nick darts his tongue out, trying to dart it into Louis’ mouth.

He pulls away quickly, stepping away out of Nick’s arms, leaving the places he was held slightly chilly. He chuckles to blow it off, hyperaware of the cameras all around them and the potential photos, videos. He knows his face is burning crimson, but he can blame that on the fact that he hasn’t been kissed so nicely in about three years.

“You kiss like a dog,” Louis provokes, the biting edge of tease weak because maybe he’s a little breathless.

“What, you’re afraid of a little tongue?” Nick needles.

“No, but I’d rather yours stayed out of my mouth.”

“You do grasp that according to a lot of the people in this studio, we’ve probably gone a lot farther than first base.”

Louis lets himself roll his eyes this time, trying to put as much apathy into it as he possibly can. “Doesn’t mean we have to go to first base at all. Doubt you’ve gone past it at all, actually.”

“You’re a twat, you know that?” Nick hisses.

“You’re equally unpleasant.” Louis turns and storms to the other lads, who he now knows are there somewhere, waiting for him.

He knows he shouldn’t push things further than that, no matter how much he wants to, because Nick is doing him a huge favour and he needs him for another few months or his PR team will have his head. As much as he hates it, he needs Nick.

Harry gives him a goofy grin, handing him the beanie he wore here. “We got a picture of it, Lou,” he says happily, totally unaware as to what just happened between them. Harry taps at his phone and turns the screen towards him.

To someone who doesn’t know, it definitely looks like they’re in love, with Louis’ body so open to Nick’s. It looks like they’re celebrating the fact they just came out.

“Lovely,” Louis mumbles, thanking Zayn when he hands him his phone back.

“We’re gunna Instagram it once the interview airs. Is that okay?” Harry asks.

“Perfect.”

“You okay?” There’s genuine concern in his voice and Louis would answer straight away if they weren’t already outside the studio, where they have to smile and wave and look like they’re always rays of sunshine until they get into their cars and drive home.

Harry gets in with Louis, without even asking, which doesn’t really piss him off so much so much as irritate him because he knows how it looks, how all the fans crowded around somewhere will see it. They’ll hear “interview” and see Louis driving with Harry and immediately use it as more evidence to support their theory that they’re dating in private. Louis slides the beanie onto his head, checking his phone quickly before he even thinks of answering Harry’s question.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I just… we’re too similar, you know?” Louis says. “We’re both so stubborn and sarcastic that we just butt heads all the time.”

Harry nods. “Yeah, but you two are really great at acting. We saw you two talking before you kissed and you both looked really genuinely happy. It was cute.”

Louis shrugs. “I was just like, high off the fact that I’m finally out. It won’t be like that ever again. If we’re ever papped together, it’ll be a fucking nightmare.”

“I don’t think so. You guys only have to keep this up until the tour comes up.”

“That’s like, two months.”

“Yeah? All you have to really do is Tweet each other and he can come to rehearsals sometime. Then he comes to a few shows on tour and disappears and then you say that you just couldn’t do a relationship like that while on tour and you’re heartbroken.”

Louis sighs, starting to pull out of the studio parking lot. “No one’s gunna buy it. They’re all gunna think it’s me and you.”

“Nah, they’ll buy it. I almost bought it earlier, actually.”

He bites his tongue to stop from teasing Harry, knowing he’s angered far too many people today and the last person he needs mad at him is Harry, even though he’d take the joke without so much as a whine.

“Well, at least I’m out.”

That ends that conversation and it turns into something lighter, easier to talk about until Louis drops Harry off at his house and drives back to his. He calls his mum, tells her about the interview and she says she’s proud too, tells him she’ll be sure to watch it and tells him she loves him. He spends the next couple hours alone, watching TV and ordering himself pizza for dinner and no, he doesn’t think at all about Nick’s lips.

He doesn’t think about how warm he was when Nick held him, without being too warm and sitting on the edge of getting hot and sweating but it felt nice. It felt really, really nice to be kissed like that, sort of like Aiden kissed when they hooked up during X-Factor. It felt like someone cared about him and with his coming out, it felt like it could be the beginning of something that didn’t stop after a one night stand with a deep pocket of shame once he got around to clearing his trash bins.

He nearly chokes on his pizza at that. Nick Grimshaw was nothing to him but a friend who was doing him a good favour, and he was barely a friend. They weren’t friends. They were colleagues of sorts, a radio host and a celebrity, which is of course the perfect symbiosis, and now Nick is doing Louis a huge favour and not demanding any compensation for it. He’s not going to go and fall in love with Nick, he’s just going to act like he already has for some amount of time and then he’ll act heartbroken for a while and then everything can go back to normal. He can find a real relationship.

Louis sighs, shaking his head and deciding that it would be a good idea to have a beer with his pizza. He’s been alone and single for far too long, surviving on hook ups and his craving for something more serious seems to have grown. He shouldn’t think that things with Nick could be anything more than fake.

 

For some reason, Louis is awake before eight o’clock the next morning, which is probably mostly due to the fact he went straight to bed after putting the rest of the pizza in the fridge and he did that at nine. He curses himself for being awake so damn early, especially when winter is in full swing and it’s still mostly dark out and there’s no birds singing and he’s completely sated for sleep but he wants to be asleep for another few hours, at least. So he gets up and makes himself a cup of tea before curling back in bed with it, pulling the duvet up so it covers his body.

Trouble is, it’s silent and the only thing he’s thinking about is how much he hates being up early. There’s the sound of the wind and the rain but it’s not much to listen to and his phone is across the room still in the pants he wore yesterday. He looks over at his clock radio and sighs quietly, remembering that Nick is a radio host and his show is on until like, ten, he’s pretty sure. Nervous for no reason, he reaches over and flicks it on, tuning it to his show.

“- Beyoncé,” Nick says, his voice clear enough that if Louis shuts his eyes he could imagine Nick is there beside him.

Louis has never really listened to The Breakfast Show but with Nick’s voice on the other end of the radio, he’s soon chuckling a little to himself. The music they play is good and Nick is genuinely funny and the dynamic is good. Louis is calm as he listens to it, sipping his tea and huddling down into the blankets, his annoyance by being awake so early fading away.

He finishes his tea and he’s starting to doze, whatever song they played too slow for him and he isn’t necessarily tired but it makes him comfortable. He’s just dozing when they come back.

“Ooh, who are you texting?” one of the voices Louis can’t stick a name to asks, his voice all teasing.

“No one,” Nick says, sounding nonchalant as Louis’ phone buzzes.

There’s some teasing that Louis doesn’t pay attention to as he picks up his phone and reads it.

I’m sorry about what I said yesterday. Can I come to yours after the show? Nick sent.

Sure but you’d better bring coffee or food or sth. What time? Louis sends back, apathetic to the fact Nick is on air right now.

He hears Nick’s phone buzz on the radio and he smirks a little.

“Oh, is it that boy you’ve been tweeting about?” the woman’s voice asks.

“No, God,” Nick sighs.

‘Will do nd like 11 or 12’ lights up Louis’ screen and he smirks, listening to the other people teasing Nick and trying to work out who it is. He can’t just sit here and listen to that, so he does what any mature and responsible adult would do.

He calls Nick when he’s on air, making his ringtone start after a moment’s lag over the radio and everyone goes silent. Nick fumbles, silencing the Katy Perry song.

“That’s always fun, forgetting you’ve got your ringer on,” Nick says, trying to play it off so obviously it makes Louis giggle.

He listens to the rest of the show, smiling to himself and lying there happily for a few minutes before he remembers Nick will be here soon and he’s still very naked. He showers and pulls a pair of boxers and sweats on, peering into the mirror and trying to make his hair look manageable when there’s a knock on the door. He doesn’t even grab a shirt, concerned only with getting Nick off his front porch before some annoying paparazzo snaps a photo of him waiting there. Nearly dying on his way down the stairs, he turns the lock and opens the door, retreating back onto the stairs and hoping that Nick comes in promptly.

He does and he shuts the door behind him, handing Louis a bag and a drink tray with two coffee cups in it before he begins unwrapping his scarf, his eyes looking over Louis’ bare chest. “I, uh, brought you a panini. And a mocha.”

“Sounds good. Thanks,” he says, going upstairs as Nick starts shedding his coat.

He puts the coffee and the sandwiches down in the kitchen and goes to his room, pulling on a plain shirt and sighing. It’s not like Nick seeing his chest was a big deal, but it wasn’t something he planned on happening today. He doesn’t have all that much trouble with his body, he’s just cautious about Nick seeing it, especially when he’s made fun of his voice on his show too many times. He fixes his hair again, telling himself Nick will be nice about it and going to the kitchen.

“Which one is mine?” He calls to Nick, who he can hear coming up the stairs.

Nick comes up beside him, gently touching his back as he walks behind him and looks into the bag. He pulls a small box out, peers inside and hands it to him. “That one, and whichever one is a mocha. I got a latte.”

Louis nods, putting his sandwich on a plate and taking one of the cups at random, taking a sip. “That’s yours,” he says, handing it to Nick. “Thanks for this.”

He shrugs, taking a sip of his coffee and moving towards the table. Louis follows and they sit and eat, Louis nearly devouring the panini since he’s had nothing else to eat this morning, which was probably a poor idea but he isn’t used to being up so early.

“Did you listen to the show today?” Nick asks.

“Yeah, I did. It was good,” Louis says.

“And you’re the one that called?”

Louis nods. “Yeah, sorry if that’s like, not allowed or something. I just wanted to mess with you since your coworkers were.”

“No, no, I’m not mad or anything. They just pestered the hell out of me during the next break and I told them they’d figure out why I have your name in my phone on Monday.”

“I like your ringtone,” he teases. “But it should really be one of our tunes.”

Nick rolls his eyes. “Your songs are targeted towards thirteen year old girls.”

“Pft, the new album’s a bit better.”

He shrugs. “I’ll give it that, yeah.”

Louis beams, standing and taking their plates and putting them in the sink so he can deal with them later.

“So when do you want to get married?” Nick asks.

He nearly drops his mocha. “Uh, I don’t know.”

“Before you go on tour?”

“No, no. Then I’d want it to end too quickly.”

Nick nods. “While you’re on tour?”

Louis nods slowly. “Yeah, I think that’ll work. I mean, we’re supposed to be in Australia a few days before the tour starts anyway, so we could just go even earlier and tie the fake knot.”

“Okay, that sounds good. What about after tour?”

“Divorce over the summer?” Louis suggests, filling the kettle with water and setting it on to boil out of nerves.

“Sure, that works. This is about you, babe.”

He laughs at that, pausing in his movements to grab a mug. “I’m your babe now, then?”

Nick shrugs. “I mean, if we’re posing as a fake couple, we might as well get used to using pet names around each other so we at least sound genuine when we’re talking to each other.”

“All right, love.”

Nick sighs. “You know how slim the chances of anyone believing us are, Louis. Anything that helps is good.”

“I know, sweetums.”

“God, stop it,” he groans.

The kettle is hardly even starting to warm the water so Louis goes over to him, pressing sloppy kisses to his face. “Why, darling sweet dove?”

Nick groans, pushing Louis away. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry I said it.”

Louis straightens, smiling in his triumph and going back to fix himself tea.

Nick sighs and Louis can feel his eyes on him as he grabs a teabag and the sugar. “You’re an absolute menace.”

He beams at him, feeling like all is right in the world.

 

On Monday, Louis is a ball of nerves, sitting in front of his TV all day and looking at the listings and seeing their interview is slotted in for after dinner, even though he’s sure he won’t eat out of pure nerves. He monitors Twitter, refreshing every few minutes just so he’s sure the interview hasn’t been prematurely leaked, and he texts the other lads, confirming their plans for them all to come over tonight before the interview airs.

And at five, they show up, Liam carrying a few bottles of celebratory champagne and Niall bringing takeout and Harry giving Louis a big hug and Zayn clapping him on the back before curling up on the couch with Liam. Louis manages through a few bites of noodles and teriyaki chicken before his stomach twists up in knots and he busies himself with setting up the champagne glasses, not sure why he’s so worried about this when he’s been fantasizing about it for years now.

It hits him when Zayn comes in, carrying the empty containers to the trash, and he gives him a warm smile. He’s nervous because this could potentially break their streak of being one of the biggest names in the celebrity world and he could ruin the entire band not only for himself, but for the rest of the boys, who he cares so much about. He nearly drops one of the champagne flutes as he feebly attempts to return Zayn’s smile.

“I’ll be back – bathroom,” he explains, rushing down the hall to the bathroom and nearly collapsing against the door when he shuts it. He could ruin it all, everything, and he doesn’t know what to do.

The only logical thing that he seems able to do is pick up his phone and dial Nick’s number, holding it to his ear and breathing as it rings.

“Hmm?” Nick hums, audibly fatigued.

“I’m about to come out and I’m terrified,” Louis rambles.

“Hey,” Nick murmurs, his voice soft and soothing. “What are you worried about?”

“What if the band like, falls apart because of this? I’m already the least liked member and fuck, what if I ruin everything for the other lads? They love this so much and if I fuck it up, they’ll hate me and I’ll hate me and all our fans are gunna hate me.”

“Take a breath, love.”

Louis takes a shaky breath

“Another one.”

He relaxes a little more.

“Now listen,” Nick says softly. “You’re gunna be just fine. There are going to be assholes but you know that already. You’ve known it for a long time, ever since you realized you were gay, right?”

He shuts his eyes tight, sliding down to the floor and nodding.

“There are going to be assholes but there always is and they aren’t gunna change your fame. After this, you’ll get all sorts of attention from all these queer-friendly and queer-positive organizations and you’ll get a new fan for every one that you lose to being a huge dickwad. And even if, by some small chance, your band does fall apart because of this, the others will never, ever blame you for it. They care about your wellbeing more than they care about this, I promise you. If being out is what makes you happy and the band falls apart because of it, they won’t blame you for it.”

Louis hates the stinging in his eyes. “I don’t want you getting death threats,” he whispers, his attempt at a deep breath making his lungs tremble a little.

“I already get them, sweetheart,” Nick murmurs. “For being friends with Harry, for associating with you guys. They’re nothing new and they’re not that bad, really.”

He exhales, wiping at his eyes.

“The interview airs in a few minutes, darling,” he coaxes. “Get back out there. You’ll be just fine, okay?”

“Okay. Sorry for, like, interrupting.”

“No, no, of course. Call me if you need me but I think your boys will do just fine.”

“Thank you.”

“Of course. Tell me what everyone thinks, yeah? I’ll probably be in bed.”

“Okay, old man.”

“Goodnight, Lou,” Nick sighs, hanging up.

Louis takes a few minutes to collect himself before he goes to the living room, curling up between Niall and Harry and feeling the both of them cuddle into him like warm puppies.

He holds his breath through their little viewing of the interview, teasing Liam and Zayn at how obviously in love they are. When his bit comes up, he really does hold his breath, trying to pick apart his every action and see if there’s anything that doesn’t hold up, that shows evidence to the contrary of his “relationship” with Nick. But he seems genuinely happy and he lets his breath out, hardly even listening to the interviewer as she thanks him as his face breaks into a wide grin and relief floods through him.

He’s done it and Liam pours the champagne, handing him a glass and toasting him and they’re all gently shoving him and patting his back and his head. Elation purer than anything he’s ever felt before is coursing in his veins and he feels like he might cry but he’s just laughing and drinking champagne, feeling like he could float up past the clouds and into the galaxies.

They break to check social media and Harry posts that photo of Nick and Louis kissing and everything is shockingly good. Louis has an influx of mentions and tweets that are all so supportive they bring tears to his eyes again and, most surprisingly of all, there’s so many people that are posting they knew this would happen.

“Knew that Nick and Louis’d happen?” Niall asks. “Bullshit.”

Louis laughs. “I didn’t even see it happening!”

Shockingly, there are so many other people agreeing, saying that they saw past the banter and totally knew that Harry was setting them up all along. They all have a laugh about it and they congratulate Louis, setting away the laptop.

Louis calls his mum before they finish off the bottles of champagne and he drunk texts Nick that everything went well, it all went perfectly, before he passes out on his bed, curled up with Niall.

The last thing he feels before he drifts off to sleep is this overwhelming sense of pride that might as well be leeching out of his every pore. His boys are proud of him, his mum is proud of him and he knows that Nick is proud of him, and now that he’s out, there’s no higher compliment he could ever receive. His fans, too, are proud of him and he didn’t see an overwhelming repugnancy towards the fact it was Nick and Louis that were together instead of Louis and Harry. Everything is sunshine and he doesn’t think he could ever be happier.

It’s a bit of a different story when he wakes up, though, his mouth tasting of rancid champagne and his head aching around the edges. There’s still pride that’s energizing him to the point where he’s too animated for his own good, ending up making his head hurt even more as Liam and Harry make breakfast. Zayn takes care of him, though, fixing him tea and painkillers and Louis thinks this is one of the best hangovers he’s ever had with his boys cooking for him and making sure he’s feeling well.

In all, the next couple of months of tour rehearsals are some of the nicest he’s had in a while. Things with Nick aren’t as crazy as they were with Eleanor, mostly because they get to pick when and where they go on dates and their relationship isn’t to keep on good terms with sponsors or for PR and closeting. Louis gets asked about him a lot and it isn’t all that hard to grin when he is before rattling off some nonsense about how they’re very happy together. He and Nick manage to develop a friendship that, wrought with bickering and teasing and sarcasm, is very fulfilling and he doesn’t find himself turning up his nose at (most) of the music Nick enjoys.

They plan the wedding for three days before tour starts, making it a happy medium and giving them a small break that they’ll disappear for and call a honeymoon. Louis kind of likes the planning part and he just really likes weddings and the aesthetics and the idea of them, of a union being created between two people. He likes the photo that Nick puts on Instagram of their wedding invitations and he really liked sitting beside him as they picked them out and he liked picking them up, his hand wrapped up in Nick’s.

The plane to Australia is an exhausting, whole day ordeal that leaves Louis completely unable to stay awake by the time they’re piling into cabs in pairs, Nick leading Louis and carrying both their luggage without a word. Louis is pretty sure he watches Niall laugh and tease Harry as he struggles getting into a cab, but he’s not quite sure since he falls asleep with his head on Nick’s shoulder. And since he wakes up on a plush bed, his shoes off his feet and a blanket tucked around him, he assumes Nick carried him up to his room.

He shoves the blanket aside and thanks any higher power for the fact air conditioning is a thing and he nearly trips over his bags as he goes towards the door. He texts Harry asking what number his room is and leans against the door as he waits for a reply, not wanting to be a knob and knock on various doors. As he waits, he cruises over his various social media accounts just to check up on things and finds there’s a photo of him in Nick’s arms, Nick looking all proud and frustrated at the same time as he holds the sleeping Louis aloft.

It would be cute if he weren’t one of the people photographed, without his permission. It’s not like his face is visible at all since it’s mostly tucked into Nick’s chest, which is probably why he can smell his cologne, but it’s still the fact that it was posted before Louis could consent to it going on the internet. He glances at his phone vibrating, just to see that it’s Harry telling him what his room number is and, very conveniently, Nick’s as well.

He passes right by Harry’s and goes to Nick’s, banging on the door until it opens and storming inside past Nick’s stupid, tall body.

“What the fuck is your post on Instagram?” He demands, illogically wishing that Nick would just read his mind and stop looking so confused with his hair flat and falling in chunks across his eyes.

“What?” Nick asks.

“I’m asleep and you’re carrying me? That one?”

“Yeah, it’s just a photo of us, babe, that’s-“

“I’m not your fucking ‘babe’!”

Nick falters a little, standing up a little taller and looking down at Louis.

“You should’ve waited until I was awake to post it, you inconsiderate fucking twat.”

“That’s not how Instagram works,” he says slowly, speaking like Louis is a child.

“I don’t fucking care, you could’ve just taken a photo and then used that.”

Nick rolls his eyes. “Okay, fine, I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care, I’d rather you take it down.”

“We’re supposed to be keeping up appearances that you and I are wildly in love and we’re getting married in two days.”

“Take it down! We can take something better later.”

“It’s a perfectly good photo, no.”

“Just take it the fuck down.”

“Stop being a child.”

Louis rolls his eyes, fuming out of the room and down to Harry’s, knocking on the door and his angry energy collapsing into guilt when he’s met with a bleary-eyed Harry. He sighs, pushing past him and sitting on his bed, watching Harry shut the door and crawl back onto the bed, giving him the time and the space he needs to organize his thoughts before he speaks.

“I hate him,” is all he can say.

“Sorry, mate,” Harry offers, pulling the blankets up around himself. “You’re stuck with him for the next little while.”

Louis huffs, lying back. “He’s just so annoying.”

“You’re an old married couple,” Harry mumbles. “Accept it and move on.”

Louis pokes his back. “You’re awful, too.”

“Sorry.”

Louis stays quiet for a while, just inspecting the duvet and feeling the guilt in his stomach from interrupting Harry’s sleep, and a little bit from overreacting to Nick’s photo. It was something that screamed they’re a couple and Nick’s face was perfect in it, the right amount of amused and proud and a little irked.

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs, shutting his eyes.

“Not my problem, tell him,” Harry says, sounding like he’s on the precipice of falling asleep.

Louis stands and kisses Harry’s messy curls to tell him he’s thankful and he leaves his room, going back to the hall and standing there, staring at the plain, beige-coloured wall. His feet carry him back towards his room, even though his mind is screaming that he has to apologize to Nick. He doesn’t, though. He chickens out and goes back to his own hotel room and cuddles back into his bed, sighing as he buries his face into the pillows.

 

Two days later, on the day of the wedding, Louis doesn’t think he’s ever been so inexplicably nervous in his life. It’s not like he’s marrying someone he’s been dating for years now, like he’s always expected his first wedding to follow, but he’s only been friends with Nick for about two months now and they’ve only kissed a small handful of times. He realizes that he’s never even seen his soon-to-be husband naked, which he then realizes is a strange thing for him to think about and he’d rather it stay the way it is now.

He divulges his nerves to his mum on their way to the church, holding her hand and feeling like kind of a goof for being all dressed up and making his family get all dressed up as well.

“Of course you’re nervous, love,” his mum soothes, squeezing his hand. “Weddings are scary, especially when you’re the one getting married.”

“I’m not, though, not really. Well, yes, legally, we’re gunna be husbands, but I don’t love him. We aren’t like, a thing,” Louis explains.

“That’s what’s scaring you, love, the fact that you’re going to be someone’s husband without loving them.”

Louis nods, sighing, and he nearly runs his hand through his hair until he remembers how hard Lou worked on it this morning.

He gets out with his mum when they get there, going into the church and seeing the other lads all dressed up as well, Niall fiddling with his tie while Zayn and Liam are curled together just a few feet away from the rest of them. Nick and Harry are chatting and Louis’ mum kisses his cheek, telling him to break a leg before she goes into the church, leaving him alone until Harry beckons him over with a big grin, in true Harry fashion.

“Hey,” he says brightly. “You look good.”

Louis smiles, even though he feels an uncomfortable cold radiating from Nick, who he hasn’t spoken to since he yelled and screamed about that Instagram photo, which ended up getting deleted. “Thanks, so do you.”

Harry beams, wishing him good luck before checking the time and going over to the other boys.

“Hey,” Louis says softly, turning to face him. “I’m sorry about the other night. I overreacted and I was a bitch and I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Nick murmurs, reaching down and picking some lint off Louis’ jacket. “I’m sorry about posting it in the first place. I should’ve waited until you were awake or I should’ve woken you up.”

“Oh, God, no, you’re glad you didn’t. I probably would’ve killed you,” he jokes.

Nick smiles, but he doesn’t chuckle and that’s when Louis is soothed, knowing that they’re both nervous. “Harry’s right,” he says quietly.

“About what?”

“You look good.”

Louis smiles, taking one of his hands. “Thank you. So do you. You look good all dressed up.”

Nick smiles, his posture shifting a little, leaning over a little bit, before he pauses and stands back up straight. “Uh, how long do we have before this starts?”

“Couple minutes, I think,” Louis says, reaching up and fixing Nick’s bowtie.

Nick smiles a little, taking his hands again when they’re near his throat. “It’s weird but I’m really nervous,” he admits quietly.

“Me too,” he whispers.

Nick squeezes his hand, that little smile still stretching his lips and Louis feels a little dizzy until Liam clears his throat and they jump apart like they’re teenagers that were just caught making out by their mums.

“We’re starting in two minutes,” Liam says, glancing at his watch.

“Ready?” Niall asks, grinning at the both of them like this is a regular wedding.

Louis nods, even though his hand has started to tremble in Nick’s ever since Liam mentioned how little time they have until Louis will, legally, be married.

Nick pulls him a little further away from the rest of them and Louis tries to ignore the way his knees shake as he moves. “You’re gunna be just fine, love,” he whispers.

“It’s just stage fright,” Louis breathes back, choosing to ignore the comforting hand on his shoulder and how he’s gripping onto Nick’s hand. “And like, I’m about to be married for the first time in my life and this isn’t how I really expected it to be.”

Nick chuckles. “Because I’m so good looking, right?”

Louis curls into him, laying his head on his chest as he chuckles. Nick’s hand finds his back, rubbing gentle circles. His lips are beside his ear and Louis can feel his breath as he whispers that they’ll be fine, that Louis will be amazing and the fans and the media will eat up this sort of thing. It’s warm and it’s comforting and Louis really, really likes Nick in that moment, simply because he’s the only person that Louis can talk to about this.

“Hey lovebirds,” Niall says, breaking them apart again. “It’s show time.”

Louis nods, taking a deep breath and taking Nick’s arm.

In all, it’s a beautiful wedding. Louis meets Nick’s parents for the first time and he very quickly warms up to Peter, the two of them bonding over football while Nick rolls his eyes. The photographer snaps shots of them and Louis and Nick make sure to steal kisses at every available opportunity, to the point where Eileen is scolding them about table manners and they both giggle like teenagers, in actual amusement that Louis finds isn’t really all that forced.

Once they’re done dinner, Nick stands and offers his hand to Louis and he leads him to the floor, and as they get ready to dance the music is continued with a song that didn’t make Louis want to gag but something Nick still really liked.

“Our first dance,” Nick whispers, touching his forehead to Louis’.

Louis places his hand on Nick’s shoulder. “Got to keep up appearances, you know.”

Nick grins, leading them to move together slowly like they’ve danced wildly and vigorously together enough times that now all that energy is depleted and all that remains is the bare intimacy that magnetizes them. Their foreheads are touching and Nick’s hands are steady on Louis’ hips and there’s something thick between them, something Louis can’t quite put a word to. He has to admit, the song is beautiful, even if it is hipster and weird and he’s never heard it all the way through until right now. It’s a good first-dance song, Louis thinks, laughing as Nick twirls him and their new, heavy rings clink together.

Nick pulls Louis back into his arms, the both of them still chuckling from the twirl and there’s other people dancing now, not all of them as close and intimate as Nick and Louis.

Nick leans down, pressing their lips together and Louis doesn’t mind, simply kisses him back because they should and it feels nice.

They share more kisses after that, all the way back to the car they take back to the hotel, even inside the car, despite the fact that there’s no cameras around. By the time they get up to the hall their rooms are in, their tongues are sliding together and they’re kissing in earnest now, not just a show they’re putting up for the cameras. Louis follows Nick into his room, trying to keep their lips attached as much as possible as Nick fumbles with Louis’ room key and they stumble into the room together.

They tumble together on the bed and even though Louis paid for this suit, he doesn’t care if it gets creased as Nick lies on top of him, their lips sliding together again. He forgets how much work Lou put into his hair, and into Nick’s, as he slides his hands through it, the sticky feeling of hairspray making his fingers tacky as he starts to pull at Nick’s jacket.

Nick pushes Louis’ jacket off as well, pulling away from the kiss and Louis is glad to know he’s not the only one panting. The older man leans down, pressing open-mouthed kisses to Louis’ jaw and he complies immediately, his head tipping back to give him more skin to work with. Nick tugs at Louis’ tie, undoing it and tossing it aside as he works at the buttons, his teeth scraping over his skin and making him gasp softly.

Once his shirt is opened, revealing the tattoos on his chest, Nick’s lips work at his neck, his tongue sliding against it and he sucks gently, nearly definitely creating a bruise.

“Always wanted to do that,” Nick murmurs against his skin as he kisses down to his chest.

“Christ, Nick,” Louis whines. “Touch me.”

“What do you want?”

“Anything.”

Nick nods, reaching down and expertly undoing Louis’ belt and tugging his pants down around his thighs, palming him through his boxers and Louis pushes up against it. “Wanna watch you come,” he mumbles.

When Nick’s hand, warm and big, closes around his cock, Louis can hardly help the whine that he makes. It’s even worse when he starts moving it, his thumb swiping over the head and Louis is making all sorts of desperate noises, keening up into Nick’s touch. Nick pulls away after a few seconds and Louis huffs, his cock hard against his belly and he doesn’t want to touch himself and he doesn’t want to beg.

“Have you got lube?” Nick asks, pressing a kiss to his hips.

“Suitcase,” Louis breathes.

“Were you planning on this?” Nick teases as he stands to grab it and Louis is satisfied when he sees his pants are bulging.

“No, I was obviously planning on hiring male prostitutes.”

Nick kneels on the bed, squirting some lube into his hand. “Shh,” he says softly as he takes Louis’ cock into his hand again and starts stroking him, moving faster with less friction.

It doesn’t take long before Louis is moaning, his eyes shutting as he comes over his stomach and as Nick coaxes him along, working his hand quickly. He grabs a tissue, wiping off his hand and wiping off Louis’ stomach, kissing his chest gently.

Louis sits up, adjusting his pants and ignoring the way he’s panting as he tugs Nick into a kiss. He switches their positions, pressing Nick into the bed and undoing his shirt and pants, tugging them away until Nick’s cock is exposed. He leans down, licking across the head and making Nick hiss, his hand fisting into his hair. Louis blows him, messy and sloppy, holding his thighs down and trying to fit all of Nick into his mouth without gagging. The lingering taste of champagne and Nick’s mouth is completely lost when he comes, hot and kind of bitter, but he pulls off his cock, swallowing anyway and smirking when he sees the look on Nick’s face, his eyes dark and mouth agape.

He fixes Nick’s pants almost smugly, since he seems completely immobilised, and presses a gentle kiss to his lips before lying down next to him. A part of him is telling him he should send Nick back to his room, but his arms are around him and they’re both exhausted after a hard day of getting married and posing for cameras.

They curl together, even though it’s probably a really awful idea, and they fall asleep like that.

It turns out only slightly awkward in the morning, when Louis wakes up to find the bed empty and he lies there for a minute before rubbing his eyes and standing up, knowing this would be a perfect opportunity to leave. He’s groggy from jetlag and from last night’s events, but he doesn’t think he’s ever been this sated for a pair of arms to hold him and for sex, for that matter.

Louis picks his shirt and jacket up off the floor but he’s not sure where Nick tossed his tie and all he really does know is that he wants to flee somewhere and wait for Nick to take the hint and leave so he can shower in peace because his hair feels disgusting from the remaining product. He has no clue what to do in this kind of situation – at this point his life is basically a bad rom-com -  and before he can decide on anything he hears the shower turn off, prompting him to swear forcefully under his breath. He was hoping to sneak out before Nick got out of the shower, just to avoid an uncomfortable situation for the both of them.

He doesn’t manage to find his tie before Nick is coming out of the bathroom, his hair dripping and only a towel wrapped around his waist.

“Good morning,” he says softly, grabbing another towel to scrub at his hair.

“Hey,” Louis says. “Uh, where’s my tie?”

Nick shrugs. “I dunno, I was more focussed on getting to your skin.”

“Helpful.”

“Sorry. I’m sure it’ll turn up somewhere.”

Louis nods, setting down his shirt and jacket and he searches for his tie again, finding it under the top of his open suitcase.

“Do you want to get breakfast?” Nick asks. “Or I can bring something up while you shower.”

He shakes his head. “No, thanks, I uh, I’d rather be alone?”

Nick nods. “Sure, yeah, of course.”

“Let’s do lunch later or something.”

“Yeah, sounds great. Text me.”

“I’m gunna shower,” Louis says, dumping his acquired pieces of clothing on his suitcase before fleeing to the bathroom and shutting the door.

He hears Nick collect his things and leave, clad in only a towel, and Louis leans back against the door, letting out his breath. The skin over his abdomen feels tight from where Nick didn’t clean up well enough, and it’s crusted and pretty nasty.

He tips his head back, shutting his eyes and trying not to think about how intense last night was and how much fun he had stuffing Nick’s cock into his mouth. Feeling vaguely nauseated at the thought of enjoying the consummation of his fake marriage, he strips out of his remaining clothes and turns on the shower, the stall still steamy from Nick and he hates the smell of his shampoo and his soap.

He scrubs himself down and once he’s out of the shower, he makes sure to brush his teeth more thoroughly than he’s done in years, and after that, he feels better, if only marginally.

Louis throws on some sweats and he goes down the hall to Harry’s room, knocking on the door and praying he’ll answer promptly, just in case Nick ventures out of his room. Thankfully, Harry opens the door and lets him in with a big grin and a cheery inquiry as to how the rest of Louis’ night was, throwing in a cheeky little wink. Louis opens his mouth to tell Harry, to admit to him that what he and Nick did last night was mild sex but instead, he smiles and shrugs, playing coy and telling Harry he won’t kiss and tell.

As soon as he says it, however, he wants to retract his statement and sit down with him and have a serious chat, knowing Harry would listen and give him advice. They’re best friends after all, and they tell each other everything but for some reason, this is just too heavy for Louis to admit. Even though they themselves have hooked up when they were both teenagers, Louis has trouble talking about this accidental hook-up.

“You and Nick were getting pretty close, though,” Harry wheedles, definitely trying to get more out of Louis.

He shrugs, his fingers picking at some dead skin on his hand.

Harry waits a polite amount of time for Louis to reply before he frowns. “Are you okay? You’re all fidgety.”

He sighs. He fucking hates how well Harry knows him, which is probably even better than his own mum (and that’s not all that surprising, considering he’s spent more time in the last five years with Harry instead of with his family). “I just don’t want to talk about Nick.”

“What happened?”

“We got back and he jerked me off and I blew him,” Louis admits. This is new territory for him, speaking of his sexual exploits, since they’re so far and few in between whereas Harry is always casually talking of the person he hooked up with.

Harry nods slowly, taking his hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t worry about it, okay? I’m pretty sure that getting married is a pretty big thing, even if you don’t really love him. It was probably just all the excess energy needing a release and you were both there. You two did look really close when you were dancing. Your mum cried, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. I saw her on the way out.”

“So, you were freaked out by everything with Nick?”

Louis shrugs. “I guess. I mean, I kind of kicked him out this morning and promised we’d get lunch and then I tried not to think about last night and I failed.”

“Have you eaten anything?”

He shakes his head, watching Harry hand him a muffin with a smile.

“You always do better with food in your stomach,” he assures.

Louis tears off a piece of the muffin and pops it into his mouth, tasting chocolate chips and loving Harry a little bit more.

“Are you going to get lunch with Nick?”

“I guess I’ve got to.”

“You should. And you should talk to him, make sure you’re on the same page, because you two have to suffer being around each other for a while longer and if it all goes to shit and you two can’t be civil around each other, then the media will pick up on it.”

Louis nods, eating the muffin silently.

“Just talk it out with him. Communicate.”

“You sound like one of those adverts that’s trying to tell kids how to have healthy relationships,” he teases, his mouth full of chocolate chip muffin.

Harry rolls his eyes.

“But thank you. I needed this.”

He smiles, kissing Louis’ forehead. “And if you need anything more, you know where to find me.”

Louis finishes his muffin and leaves after a bit more thanking Harry and he goes back to his hotel room, changing into jeans and a t-shirt before he texts Nick, making plans to meet by his room closer to noon.

He lies around for a while, fixing his hair and playing on his phone before he meets Nick at his hotel, trusting him and following him for a little walk (a perfect photo opportunity) down to a café Nick saw on their way up. They spend the first half of their meal chatting pleasantly, Louis refusing to think of it as awkward because it’s completely normal.

“So, last night,” Louis starts, completely smooth and not at all the worst segue he’s ever used.

Some of the tension in Nick’s shoulders relaxes. “Last night, yeah.”

“It was a one-time thing, right? Like, we were getting fake married and obviously that’s a pretty emotional ordeal and it was just a release, right?”

“Yeah, sure. We’re not, weird after it?”

Louis shakes his head, stealing a chip off Nick’s plate.

“Oi!”

He grins, feeling much better now that everything’s been sorted out. So he had Nick’s dick in his mouth? That doesn’t mean their friendship can’t go on; he’s had sex with Harry before and they’re great friends with no tension between them. Then again, he’s never had to pose as Harry’s boyfriend, fiancé, and husband, for the media, in order to come out. Maybe that changes things a little bit, but maybe it doesn’t.

 

Tour starts a few days after the magazines publish the few pictures from Nick and Louis’ wedding that made it online, publishing them with bright headlines about how adorable they are and how they’re sure the wedding was a blast. The corresponding articles are cute enough, but most of them go on to talk about some totally bullshit insider telling the magazine that Nick and Louis were already discussing adopting children once One Direction’s tour was over. Needless to say, both Nick and Louis pissed themselves laughing as they read it before the concert.

Louis mentions Nick in his thank-you speech at the concert, which makes the crowd go absolutely nuts and he finds that it isn’t all that hard to keep his stupid, idiot grin on his face as they rush off stage. Much to his dismay, though, Liam and Zayn are all over each other in the car back and he knows they’re blowing off steam after the concert but he knows they will be for the next few hours, while Louis is kept awake because he was the unfortunate one to get a room next to theirs.

He gets back to the hotel and takes a shower, just trying to calm down after an absolutely incredible first show. Once he’s out, Zayn is already moaning, so he doesn’t even bother lying down and he just grabs his sweats and a t-shirt before he goes down the hall to Nick’s room, getting let in after two short knocks.

“Great show tonight,” Nick says softly, going back to his bed and sitting down.

“Thanks,” Louis says, sitting next to him. This soon after the concert, he can still feel the adrenaline from it in his veins.

“What brings you to my room so late at night?”

“Zayn and Liam are fucking,” he says, flopping onto his back. “Well, I’m not really supposed to tell you that but I trust you can keep a secret.”

“Shocking, I had no clue,” Nick deadpans.

Louis chuckles.

“You okay after the show?”

“Doubt I can sleep.”

Nick nods. “Figures. I remember that feeling when I was in a school play and I could just never sleep after performing.”

“What play?” Louis asks, turning to look at him.

“I can’t even remember the name, but I was like, fourteen, I think?”

“Too old to remember, Grimshaw?” He laughs.

Nick rolls his eyes. “And you were in Grease, yeah?”

Louis nods. “Danny Zuko.”

Nick nods. “Is that really what inspired you to audition for X-Factor?”

“I mean, sort of. It wasn’t like some big, all-at-once decision by the end of the run of the show but it definitely did sort of give me a push.”

He nods again. “What was it like being put in the band? I feel like an interviewer but I’ve just always wondered if it was like, kind of humiliating.”

Louis shakes his head. “No, it wasn’t really humiliating at all. It was great because me and Harry had eyes for each other. But what was humiliating was Liam bossing me around. And I guess it was kind of scary at first, especially after I hurt my foot right before judge’s houses because we couldn’t practice and I basically lip-synched the entire thing.”

“You and Harry had eyes for each other?”

“That’s all you got out of that?”

He shrugs. “I just thought you two never had anything going on.”

“Oh, no, we had a fling during and just after X-Factor. Harry was questioning his sexuality and we hooked up a couple times and then he found some girl and we just stayed best friends.”

Nick chuckles, a soft sound. “It’s not some big convoluted love story?”

“Nope.”

He leans over, kissing Louis’ head gently and he curls a little closer to him until Nick’s fingers start carding through his hair and he’s immediately relaxed.

“Get some rest, popstar,” Nick murmurs, his arm now curled around Louis’ shoulders as his fingers brush gently at his scalp.

Louis rests his head on Nick’s chest, fatigue finally taking over. “Goodnight, love.”

“Sleep tight.”

Louis falls asleep like that, cuddled into Nick and in the morning, he forces any inconvenient awkwardness away, rationalizing it to himself that he’s slept all curled up like that with the rest of the band, so why should Nick be any different?

(Except, a small part of him whispers, Nick is completely different because he hasn’t pretended to be in a relationship with the rest of his band, he hasn’t at one point sucked each of them off, he hasn’t had a fake wedding with any of them. Nick is insurmountably antithetic to the others because Louis has never had this big fond hole carved out in his heart for any of them in any way other than brotherly.)

They have another show that night, which Nick attends from backstage, and once they’re off stage, Louis is buzzing with energy from an even better concert than last night. His hands are shaking from it and this is one of the nights where he would normally go out and get smashed, but all he wants to do as soon as he sees Nick is wrap his arms around his throat and kiss him until they’re both breathless. He thinks it’s maybe the worry of what will happen after Nick leaves tomorrow evening, maybe it’s just from listening to Zayn and Liam last night that made him want this so bad or maybe he’s just been deprived for too long. He doesn’t know but he can’t indulge himself in Nick’s lips until they’re back at the hotel, lest Harry ask questions.

Louis follows Nick back to his room and Nick sits on the bed, looking at him with a pleasant little smile on his lips.

“Last night was really relaxing, yeah?” He says.

“Yeah, it was nice,” Louis says, pushing his sweaty hair off his forehead and nodding.

“What’ll the topic be tonight?” Nick asks.

Louis shrugs, sitting next to him.

“How’d you like the show tonight?”

“It was good. Fun.”

“Yeah, I thought that you guys had a lot more energy than last night. You all smashed your harmonies and you, in particular, your vocals were absolutely-“

Louis surges up like the sea and crushes their lips together, already exhausted with conversation and he knows that he won’t be able to get rid of his remaining energy this way. “God, shut up,” he murmurs against Nick’s lips, too energized to be shocked that they were kissing him back.

He slides into Nick’s lap, their lips moving together quickly, hard, like this is the last time they’re ever going to kiss someone and they’re trying to savour it, taste all of it within a limited timeframe. Nick’s hands span over his hips, pinning him there on top of him and his warm fingers slide underneath his shirt, pressing into the supple skin on his hips. Their tongues slide together and it’s the hottest kiss Louis has ever shared, leaving no room for questioning where this is going. It’s rather obvious, especially as Nick’s fingers curl up at the bottom hem of his shirt, bunching up the fabric and tugging at it.

They’re shirtless and breathless within the next few minutes, the both of them panting as Louis straddles Nick’s hips and presses kisses down his chest. Nick reaches down, his big hands easily cupping Louis’ ass and he squeezes, making Louis bite down on his chest and whine.

“Christ, Nick, wanna ride you,” he manages, his jeans already tented at the front.

“Mmm, yeah?” Nick breathes. “That sounds perfect. There’s lube in my suitcase.”

Louis nods quickly, standing up and using the chance to shed his jeans. “Were you expecting this to happen?” He teases, echoing from the first time they hooked up.

“No, I expected to be alone a lot more.”

He finds the bottle of lube, looking over at Nick and pushing the image of him wanking out of his mind. He tosses it back to him, going back to the bed.

“I know you want to ride me, but can I finger you while you lie down?”

Louis nods, lying down and watching Nick, his lips tingling from their kiss.

Nick reaches down, tugging his boxers away and biting at his lip as he starts slicking up his fingers. “You’re so hard already, darling.”

“I don’t care, just touch me,” Louis whines, spreading his legs.

Nick nods, pressing a kiss to his hip as he runs the tip of his finger around Louis’ rim, making him whimper and rut down, trying to find some purchase. He slides his finger in gently, pumping it slowly and pushing deeper each time while Louis shuts his eyes. Nick’s fingers are longer than Harry’s were when they were together, longer than the last guy he was with, and they’re exactly the feeling he’s been craving since he exited off the stage earlier.

Nick pushes a second finger into him, eliciting a low moan from him and Louis can feel his cock dribbling precome onto his stomach already, so, so hard and absolutely aching to be touched. Nick massages his hip with his free hand, squeezing every now and then as he works his fingers inside Louis, stretching him open with those perfect, long fingers.

It’s when he curls them and Louis cries out, now only focussed on not coming and trying not to think about how big Nick’s cock was inside his mouth, that Nick pauses. “You okay?”

“I’m really close,” Louis admits in a trembling voice, gritting his teeth together because he wants Nick to keep going.

“Do you think you can come twice?”

Louis nods, anything to get Nick to continue, to let him come.

Nick moves his fingers inside him again and he groans, clutching at the sheets and shutting his eyes tight. As he pushes a third finger past his rim, he leans up and presses their lips together in an open-mouthed kiss while Louis whines into his mouth. Nick curls his fingers, pushing them into him harder, deliberately trying to make him come.

Louis sees stars when he comes, letting out a moan as he streaks his stomach with it and Nick kisses him through it and pushes his fingers deeper yet. The edge is taken off his energy now but it’s still curled up in his stomach, waiting for that release.

Nick pecks his lips as he pulls his fingers out, wiping them on the sheets and kissing down his chest to his stomach, licking up the come while Louis watches with half-lidded eyes. He licks his lips when he’s done, smiling at Louis. “You still want to ride me? I’d be fine with calling it quits there if you’re too tired.”

“No, yeah, I’m still gunna ride you,” Louis says, sitting up. “I’m not an old man like you, Grimshaw.”

He laughs as he tugs off his pants and boxers, revealing his cock. “Sure, right.”

Nick lies down on his back, handing Louis the lube as he strokes at his cock, getting himself fully hard again. He squirts some lube into his palm, straddling over Nick’s thighs and this is something he hasn’t done in a long time and even though he quipped at Nick about it, his energy is starting to wane. Louis spreads the lube over his cock, watching Nick’s lips open a little and his eyes flutter shut and he can’t help but smile to himself. That’s him making Nick react like that.

Louis’ hand is still all slick with lube by the time he’s done with Nick so he does the totally mature thing and spreads it over Nick’s chest hair as he slides further up his legs so he just needs to sink down for Nick to be inside him. The older man rolls his eyes but it’s half-assed, and Louis understands why. His feeble attempt to shatter this heavy atmosphere were lost, especially as Nick holds his cock in place and Louis sinks down slowly, his mouth open in a not-so-silent moan.

He stays motionless on top of Nick, his cock buried deep inside him and he doesn’t know if he’ll get over that until a long time after they’ve both come. Nick encourages him to move by pushing his hips up, his expression showing nothing but desperation and Louis decides to indulge him, his thighs straining to push him up before he relaxes them and slams back onto his cock, making them both whine.

Nick’s fingers dig into his hips, one of his hands sliding down his thighs and just touching him like he’s trying to memorize the way his body moves as he rides him. The muscles in his thighs grow increasingly painful, a combination of his hopping around on stage for a good two hours and his being so out of practice with everything intimate. Nick tries to help him along, thrusting up into him whenever he has to take a pause, until Louis just falls onto his chest, panting and sweaty.

Without a word, but with some inelegance that Louis doesn’t mind, Nick flips them over and presses his lips to Louis’, holding onto his thighs.

“Gunna fuck you, yeah?” He whispers, kissing over one of Louis’ tattoos as he snaps his hips.

Louis moans, reaching up and tangling his fingers into Nick’s hair as he keeps up that pace, pushing into him hard and fast. Within the minute, Louis is falling apart again, gasping out Nick’s name like a prayer as he fucks him hard and fast.

He doesn’t think he’s ever come at the same time as someone, but he manages it with Nick, the both of them moaning simultaneously and Louis can feel Nick coming inside him as he comes again. It’s even more gratifying as before because Nick is buried deep inside him and he feels completely sated when Nick pulls out of him and lies next to him, still panting softly as he presses a kiss to his head.

“This doesn’t change anything, does it?” Louis asks once he’s finally caught his breath and drowsiness is creeping up on him.

“Unless you want it to,” Nick hums, wrapping his arms around Louis and pulling him close.

“Nah, better not.”

“Good choice.”

Louis kisses Nick’s chest, shutting his eyes. “Sleep tight.”

Nick only hums, reverberating against Louis’ head as he falls asleep, very naked and very satisfied.

He sleeps like a rock that night, and when he wakes up, it’s not so bad because what wakes him Nick coming into the room carrying two plates of breakfast. In fact, Louis decides, his eyelids still heavy, this might be the best way to wake up, sticky and drowsy and with a very attractive man that he has the pleasure to call his husband walking through the door with food. Nick apologizes for not knowing what Louis likes and telling him he got a bit of everything for them to share. They sit there on the fancy, expensive sheets, eating with their fingers which proves very difficult with the fried eggs.

Louis showers in Nick’s bathroom and watches him start to pack, fully aware that he has to be packed as well so he can go to the airport to be photographed saying goodbye to Nick for now. He has no will to go pack, more content sitting here wrapped up in one of Nick’s hoodies and a pair of his sweatpants and watching him pack, flitting around the little hotel room and picking up boxers and shirts. Louis spins his wedding ring as he watches him, coming to the realization that he’ll soon have to part ways with it and that realization makes his heart sink a little lower.

Nick sits next to him just as Louis is thinking about all the sleepovers he used to have when he was younger, before he was famous, and how it was amazing at night because he felt so close to the people there and so comfortable with them that he’d be able to talk about anything with them. And then the morning would come and he would be tired and the magic of the previous night would be lingering until his mum came to collect him far too early and he’d have this strange melancholy in his chest as he left, like he was going to miss the people at the sleepover even though he would see them at school the following week. He thinks this is quite the same sort of thing and they both know that Nick’s parent is on their way to collect him and they’ll both be alone soon, tired and grumpy from how little sleep they got.

“You okay?” Nick asks, stilling his hand by tucking his fingers into Louis’.

He nods. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just gunna miss having you around.”

Nick laughs softly. “Never thought I’d hear you say that, popstar.”

Louis shrugs, looking at him with a small smile on his lips. “Me neither.”

“You’ll do just fine without me, though, I know you will. Keep mentioning me in your little speeches and tweet me and everything will be just fine. And I’m just a phone call or text or Skype call away.”

Louis nods. “I know.” He bites his tongue on the complaint that Nick won’t be there next to him because that’s… yeah.

“C’mon, you’d better start packing because you’re off to somewhere new tonight after I leave.”

“Brisbane,” Louis says, standing up. “Is it okay if I keep the hoodie?”

Nick nods. “For the remainder of the tour, sure.”

Louis grins. “And will you visit again?”

“If you pay for the plane ticket,” Nick teases. “And like, I’ll try, but it depends if work will give me the time off. You don’t have a European leg, do you?”

“No, it’s all like, places we don’t usually tour.”

“Do you have any breaks in the tour?”

He shrugs. “I think the longest is in the middle of the Asian leg.”

“Come visit me, then.”

Louis nods, smiling and finally standing up, starting to part from the magic. “I’m gunna go and pack.”

Nick reaches for him like he’s going to pull him in but his hand drops. “Have fun and I’ll see you later.”

Louis leans over, hoping that Nick would pull him in to kiss him and he kisses him gently, softly, like this is something they do all the time and Nick kisses back. He pulls away, smiling, and heads out the door before he can think too much about it, because if he thinks about it then he’ll just start to think of the feeling in his chest that magnetizes him to Nick, that makes him think about how he’ll miss being fake-married to his best friend’s other best friend.

Within a few hours, his suitcase is packed for the transition from this fancy hotel to their tour bus, which is lovely and serves as a place to make wonderful memories, but Louis might miss this hotel. He might come back here on a future tour or maybe his future actual honeymoon and he might come back to this hotel and he might request room thirty-seven, just because he and Nick fucked in it. He probably won’t and he’s probably just readjusting to life on the road, which has got to be fucking with his head.

Louis, Nick and a few of the others go to the airport to see Nick off, but the main focus is on Louis and Nick and their interactions. Nick thanks the bodyguards for keeping them all safe and hugs the other lads in the band before he gets to Louis and he wraps his arms around him, somehow a hundredfold more intimate than his embraces with any of the others.

“Break a leg, darling,” Nick murmurs, his grip on Louis firm. “Don’t actually hurt yourself but I’ve heard it’s bad luck to wish you good luck.”

“Sort of is, I think,” Louis mumbles into his chest, acutely aware of the others making conversation amongst themselves.

“I’m gunna miss you so much.”

For some reason, maybe it’s just the lowness of his voice, but Louis doesn’t think that one was meant for the cameras or the paparazzi standing around them.

“I’ll miss you too, but I’m like, a click away, aren’t I?” Louis tips his head back to look up at Nick, giving him a brave and fond smile.

“Yeah, and I am too if you ever need me.”

Louis smiles as Nick’s fingers gently push his head back onto his chest and his lips find his hair.

“I love you,” he whispers, his big hand rubbing his back.

That’s… a whole new story in and of itself, Louis thinks to himself. They’ve said ‘I do’, which is definitely related to ‘I love you’ and they’ve made vows to each other, even though they were lying through their teeth but never have they spoken those three words to each other.

“I love you too,” Louis whispers back, the words flowing naturally from his mouth without a forced hiccup beforehand.

“I’ve got to go now, darling,” Nick says softly, pulling away from the hug and keeping them a few inches apart with his hands holding onto Louis’ hips.

Louis nods, leaning up and kissing him sweetly as a proper send off. They share a few more peppered kisses that they giggle through before Harry politely steps in and tells Nick he should really be going through security. Nick pulls away and he grabs his carryon, kissing Louis one last time before he gives him a smile and walks to the security line. Louis stays a minute longer, just watching him sort out his passport and ticket before he turns, letting himself be led away by Harry’s hand.

 

He misses Nick fiercely for the first couple of nights and the time difference isn’t helping at all. They do manage to work out a rhythm and Louis wonders why that’s important, why having a rhythm with Nick is important to him. The first time he speaks to Nick on the phone is before he goes to bed and the signal is kind of weak so Nick’s voice is scratchy, but they chat about nothing and it’s wonderful.

The following afternoon, as Lou starts to do his hair, Louis finds a live link of the Breakfast Show and he plugs his headphones in, shutting his eyes and relaxing to the sound of Nick’s voice over the radio. He can’t help but smile when he hears himself mentioned, especially when Nick mentions how upset he is that Louis will be away for their first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, and of course, Lou notices. She doesn’t say anything until Louis is pulling his headphones out to thank her for being the best stylist in the world.

“You know, I totally saw you and Nick coming,” she says. “What with the both of you being such good friends with Harry.”

Guilt strikes in his stomach. Lou is one of the few people close to them that they couldn’t tell. They both know she would never say a word but there was harm in numbers and if more people knew, there was more chance that it would get out to the public.

Louis chuckles. “Well, you could’ve told me that.”

Lou smiles at him, all fond and maternal. “I’m glad you found someone who makes you happy.”

“Thanks.”

Louis scuttles away as Liam comes out of the bathroom, still steaming from his shower. He wanders around the venue until he finds a quiet room, where he starts playing the live stream of the show, mindful to keep an eye on the time so he doesn’t miss their call for sound check and everything else. He listens to Nick’s voice and everyone else’s and he plays with his ring, his chest warm. He sends Nick a text when there’s a break, telling him it’s nice to hear his voice, and it is.

wish i could hear yours. skype tonight? Nick sends and Louis’ chest burns.

Dunno can you stay up late enough? Louis sends back.

where are you tonight??? brisbane?

Nick takes a minute to reply and Louis worries for a moment that he’s back on air but Katy Perry is still playing.

yeah, i can definitely stay up late enough. if you’re out at 11, ill be off work.

Perfect. I’ll call you when I get to the bus.

Louis emerges from his quiet area after a while, shrugging in response to Harry asking where he was and telling him he was just clearing his head for a while.

While the concert that night is absolutely amazing, Louis can’t help but hope it’ll be over sooner than it really is. He wants to deliver an incredible show but he also wants to see Nick’s face and hear his voice, to close the thousands of kilometres between them with a little bit of technology. And he thinks the show he performed was pretty good, but as he gets offstage, sweaty and lively and drained, his heart is set on climbing onto one of the comfy couches on the bus and wasting a few hours talking to Nick.

He parts ways with Liam, Zayn and Niall, who are planning on getting drunk together tonight, and boards the other bus with Harry, who’s content with curling up in his bunk and burning a few scented candles that make him feel at home. He gets to the back of the bus and grabs a blanket, draping it over his shoulder and grabbing his phone, texting Nick to make sure he’s alert before he calls him on Skype.

There’s this strange feeling Louis gets in his stomach every time he calls Nick, some odd nervous feeling. He’s not sure why but he knows his brain is trying to categorize it as butterflies. He won’t let it, though, because he’s not twelve years old and he most certainly does not have a crush on Nick Grimshaw. He rationalizes it to himself, reminding himself that he gets nervous every time he calls someone on Skype and it’s just some strange worry that they won’t pick up or that the conversation won’t be as satisfying as he hopes it is.

Nick answers, looking very much like he’s lying down on his couch and sounding like it too, because Louis can hear Puppy somewhere off-camera, her collar jangling. They talk for nearly four hours, the both of them losing track of time as they discuss the show that night and plan Valentine’s Day together, because if they’re a “couple” they should do something cute so they can tweet about it. They decide to go out and buy themselves boxes of chocolate and make like the other sent it to them.

Somehow, the conversation closer to the end of their call, steers to their childhoods and how they grew up. Louis learns that Nick is the youngest in his family by a stretch and he teases him about it, until Nick turns it right back around and teases him for being the oldest by a stretch. Louis also learns that their times growing up couldn’t be more vastly different. Nick was the youngest while Louis was the oldest; Nick’s parents are still together while Louis’ are divorced; Nick had a pretty easy time at school and got good grades while Louis slacked off more often than not.

They sign off when Nick checks the time and asks Louis to do the same and they find that it’s nearing three in the morning for Louis. His chest hurts a little as they say goodnight to each other, like the other day when Nick was leaving back for England. It’s the sleepover scenario all over again and Louis doesn’t want the magic to go away, doesn’t want to end this personal bubble they’ve created where Louis trusts Nick fiercely. He does and it’s silent when he’s shut off his phone and set it aside and is cuddled into his bunk, which is all too crowded and too small.

When they have some free time the next day in their travel to Melbourne, Louis goes to a shop and picks out a heart-shaped box of chocolates. He also looks for a card, but they don’t have any funny cards for husbands or boyfriends that don’t talk about how happy the sender is to be the receiver’s wife or girlfriend. So, instead of a mushy Valentine’s card, Louis picks up a get well soon card with the intent of scribbling out all the right words and dressing it up to be a perfectly homemade Valentine’s card.

Louis manages to get his hands on a red Sharpie and for his downtime in the next few days, he colours in the white petals of the tulips on the front of the card. He lets Lux at the front of the card as well, telling her to not cover the flowers, as he and Harry help her cut out hearts and messily paste them over the rest of the card. Inside, he crosses out parts of the message so it reads “Your Health huge cock is precious to us me; get well in my ass soon” and he signs it with a bunch of poorly scribbled hearts. All in all, it’s kind of a perfect card.

When they Skype again on Valentine’s Day after their show in Melbourne, he finally gets to open the box of chocolates he bought for himself and he’s already munching on them when Nick answers.

“I can’t believe you’re eating them already,” Nick says, rolling his eyes.

“They’re good,” Louis manages around a mouthful of something with a pocket of caramel inside.

Nick rustles around, presumably opening his box as well. “So, husband, did you get me anything?”

“Mhm! I got you a card.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ… Let me see this beast.”

Louis grins, reaching over and grabbing it. “I was gunna send it to your work, but I was afraid it wouldn’t make it there for Valentine’s Day.” He turns his phone around so it faces the front of the card.

Nick chuckles. “What kind of card was it before you Frankensteined it into that?”

“A get well card. Wanna see the inside?”

“Of course.” Louis flips it open and Nick is silent for a minute. “I can’t read it.”

“Here, okay, I’ll read it for you,” he clears his throat like he’s about to read Shakespeare. Or the script to a Monty Python skit. “’To my very dear and very fake husband, Nicholas Grimshaw’.”

“Oh my god,” Nick chuckles, exasperated.

“’Your huge cock is precious to me. Get in my ass soon. Much love, from your very fake husband, Louis Tomlinson’.”

Nick covers his face, his laughter still audible from behind his hand and Louis beams.

“Get in my ass soon?” Nick asks once he’s recovered, still cracking up.

“Yeah. What’d you get me, other than those chocolates you’re eating?”

“I can’t believe you’re just moving on like this is a normal conversation,” Nick chuckles. “Get in my ass soon, that’s priceless.”

“I know, I’m a genius.”

“Oh, fuck, no, shit, I’m letting it all go to your head. That was the worst joke I’ve ever heard, okay? Forget I said anything.”

“Sorry, Nicholas, doesn’t work like that. Now tell me what you got me.”

“I have it here with me somewhere, actually. It’s, uh, a bag?”

“You got me a bag?”

“Okay, I saw it and I thought of you and I just had to get it for you. I know it sounds really lame but I thought it’d be good for when you’re on the road and stuff.”

Louis pauses. “What kind of bag?”

“It’s a red sports bag from this website and it’s been recycled from old players’ jerseys and I thought it sounded really cool. They wouldn’t tell you like, if it was for a specific team, but I got a red one because that’s Manchester’s colour, isn’t it? I dunno, that’s what my dad said.”

The pause is longer this time, Louis’ mouth open a little. When Nick starts to fumble, grasping for words to apologize, Louis guesses, he cuts him off.

“Nick, that’s… So sweet of you. Thank you so much.”

Nick shuts his mouth, blinking a couple times. “Yeah… You’re welcome. It’ll be at your house when you get back. I didn’t want to send it in case that was too many things for you to just have on tour but yeah, I thought I could give it to you when you come up to visit in March.”

Louis smiles. “Shit, Nick, that’s so much better than my shitty homemade card about sex.”

Nick chuckles. “Don’t worry, we can do that when you’re here too.”

Louis laughs and the conversation carries on for a few hours. When they hang up, he doesn’t worry about losing the magic they’ve managed to keep alive somehow, even though there’s tens of thousands of kilometres between them. He knows, as he curls up in his hotel bed, that he’s absolutely fucked but he also knows he’s going to be just fine.

 

The remainder of the Australian leg is wonderful and Louis thoroughly enjoys it, especially the day he got to spend with Liam surfing, like they always do when they come to Australia. Japan is incredible, the city’s gorgeous and the crowds absolutely perfect. Louis’ favourite part of their final show in Tokyo is the knowledge that he’ll be on a plane home in less than twelve hours when the show starts, on a plane that will take him to Nick’s.

The plane trip is long and lonely and boring, but Louis chose a good enough time that no one recognizes him and he can curl up in his seat and sleep. When he lands, he doesn’t expect Nick to be at the airport, mostly expecting to get a car straight to Nick’s but Nick is there just outside the international arrivals area, holding a little sign for Louis and it makes him grin. Nick wraps him up in his arms and it’s warm, it smells like Nick’s cologne and it feels like home. Louis thinks it’s probably just because he’s in England, which is home for him.

(It has nothing to do with the fondness he feels for Nick, the fluttery feeling that goes so much further than gratitude for being his fake husband so he could come out. It has absolutely nothing to do with how Louis doesn’t think pretending has gotten very hard.)

Nick’s house is just how Louis remembers it, clean and with Puppy barking around his feet the moment he comes in. Louis makes a point to haphazardly kick his shoes off and dump his jacket on the floor while Nick toes his off carefully and hangs up his coat and it wins him a look from Nick. Nick makes them tea and they sit and talk for a while, catching up on each other’s lives until their tea is done.

“So, do you want to nap or something?” Nick asks. “You look tired and I’m betting that was a pretty long flight.”

“Nah,” Louis says, shaking his head and his eyes won’t stop flickering to look at Nick’s lips.

Nick chuckles, obviously noticing Louis’ shifts. He pulls Louis closer, which isn’t very hard since he’s eager to be chest to chest with him, and he kisses him, not for cameras and not because Louis is high off a performance. The kiss isn’t rough and it isn’t like the kisses they shared when they were in Sydney. It’s slower and it’s soft and it’s absolutely perfect.

Soon, their tongues are sliding together, the kiss not technically heated but not as gentle as it was before. Louis’ arms are thrown around Nick’s neck, their chests pressed together and Louis swears he can feel Nick’s heart beating against his own. He can definitely feel his stubble scratching along Nick’s lips as the kiss grows messier and he definitely feels it when Nick’s hands squeeze his bum. He feels Nick’s hands push under his shirt, pull it off, and he feels Nick’s lips travel along his chest.

They have sex in Nick’s bed and it’s not a simple fuck like last time with Louis already sweating and panting before Nick’s lips even touched his. It’s sex and while it’s not romantic and intimate and sensual, it’s some half-assed version of those, with clasped hands and slow touches and lingering kisses and drawn-out moans. There’s no din from them, no pleads for more of that, just quiet whispers and whines as they come, Louis’ hands squeezing onto Nick’s as he clenches around the older man and he feels his wedding band press into his hand.

When they’re done, lying beside each other panting softly, their hands still loosely gripping the other’s, it’s peaceful and it’s wonderful and Louis doesn’t know if he could ask for anything more. Nick catches his breath before kissing Louis’ head, getting up and Louis worries that Nick is getting up, getting dressed and leaving him there to be naked and covered in his own come with it all drying into his skin.

“I’ve got something for you,” Nick says, handing him the box of Kleenex to clean up.

“Is it that bag?” Louis asks, taking a tissue and wiping at the mess on his stomach.

“Yeah, stay here.”

Louis lies back, his fingers brushing at the sheets over Nick’s bed. He likes Nick’s bedroom and he likes his bed and he likes that there’s a little dog bed in the room, and a few assorted toys, though from the amount of dog hairs on Nick’s sheets Louis wouldn’t assume that the bed gets used very often.

Nick comes back, holding a folded up red thing that’s got these handles sprouting from the top of it and Louis sits up, taking it when Nick hands it to him. He unfolds it and it resembles a very squashed-up bag, with a white number on it and Louis grins at Nick.

“Twenty-eight?” He asks, smiling as Nick sits down.

“Yeah, that’s the number it came with. I asked my dad who was number twenty-eight on Manchester but he couldn’t think off the top of his head.”

“Nick, you idiot,” Louis laughs. “My number for the Doncaster Rovers is twenty-eight.”

“Oh, right, that’s right, you play for them,” Nick says, looking astonished. “I completely forgot. What a happy coincidence.”

Louis smiles, leaning over and kissing him. “It’s a wonderful bag, thank you. I can use it for the rest of the tour.”

“You’re welcome, darling.”

They lie together, the bag sitting to the side as they lie under the blankets and talk and steal kisses. Nick orders Chinese food for dinner and they share it in bed, eating right out of the containers and Nick uses the chopsticks that come with their meal while Louis opts for a fork. Nick teases him to no end about it until Louis calmly reminds him that forks are much more efficient stabbers than chopsticks are, what with their sharpened ends whereas Nick’s pretentious chopsticks end in a dull point, and then he just chuckles an octave too high.

Their few days together come to a close much too fast and Louis clings to Nick all afternoon on their last day together until the tour ends. He knows that they only have ten more shows, that they’re more than halfway through the tour, but that’s still more time he has to be away from Nick and he doesn’t think he wants that. The tour ending will bring about their fake divorce and Louis has enjoyed being around Nick more than he expected and he really, really doesn’t want it to end.

They have sex again on Louis’ last night in England and it’s slow again but it’s got a desperate edge to it this time, the kisses hard and deep and Louis thinks that Nick might literally touch every inch of him. Louis cries out Nick’s name when he comes and Nick bites out Louis’, muttering it into his neck. They stay more or less like that throughout the entire night, their bodies pressed close together with the knowledge that Louis is leaving tomorrow and when he comes back, it’ll be the end.

When he does leave in the morning, of course not without kisses on the doorstep and at the airport and hugs, he finds that his little utterance of love isn’t just for the cameras that are surrounding them but also just for Nick, something he can give him in the crowd of people that reflects their private life. And when Nick murmurs it back, it makes a fire start deep in his chest, a fire he remembers from being seventeen and meeting a boy.

He doesn’t let himself think too much about it until he’s on the plane and he tries to bring the feeling back, which isn’t really that hard because all he’s got to do is think about Nick. It’s a feeling very unlike how he felt for Aiden during their little fling, because that was more a feeling of friendship and a healthy appreciation of his cock and his mouth and the things he could do with both of them. It’s more like how he felt for his first boyfriend, a burning warmth in his chest that all collapsed in on itself after a while and made him writhe for days.

No matter what, he doesn’t want to let the fire collapse. He wants to tend to it and let it grow exponentially until it overtakes him and he is completely composed of flames and red-hot coals. That fire he first felt when he was just a boy has grown into an inferno just as he’s grown into a man. As soon as the thought crosses Louis’ mind he chortles to himself, shaking his head as he flips through his music library for a new song. He’s got to stop skimming tabloid titles.

When Louis lands and gets collected back to the bus by one of his bodyguards, the first thing he does is go to Harry, who he finds watching a movie and munching on crackers. He sits next to him, curling into Harry’s side and the younger boy wraps his arm around him, pulling him closer without even looking to see who it was. Louis cuddles closer, lays his head on his chest and loves Harry to death.

“I’m falling in love with Nick,” Louis mumbles.

“Uh-huh?” Harry asks, munching on a cracker.

Louis reaches over, grabbing a cracker just for something to do. “That’s all you have? Uh-huh?”

Harry smirks. “Uh-huh.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Wanker.”

“Do you not know what to do?” Harry asks.

“I have like, no clue what to do at all. Do I just talk to him? Bring it up in casual conversation? Oh hey, Nick, thanks for the bag and for being my fake husband for a while now, I really appreciate – oh and by the way I’m falling for you and I’d like to take the fake out of fake relationship.”

Harry shrugs. “Maybe not that blunt, but you should talk to him about it. Try when we get off tour.”

“That’s it?”

“I can’t give you a sermon on how to seduce Nick. Just talk to him, be honest with him. I’m sure he wants the same thing.”

Louis pauses. “You’re sure?”

Harry nods, kissing his head gently. “A hundred percent.”

Louis takes that hundred percent and sighs happily, cuddling into Harry and finishing the movie with him.

 

Louis thoroughly enjoys the rest of the tour, the late nights on Skype with Nick and seeing countries he’s never even thought of going to before. He likes the times he gets smashed with the rest of the lads and he laughs at the drunken texts he sends Nick. The shows are phenomenal and Louis really loves seeing all these countries and he thinks that’s his favourite part of being an international pop star, apart from being able to give back to his mum.

He curls up with Harry for the plane ride back, chilly and feeling like he might start shaking from anticipation if he isn’t held. The other lads quickly fall asleep, exhausted and crashing from the twenty-two nights they performed and the late nights they had writing together. Harry and Louis stay up, watching a few episodes of FRIENDS together with a thin airplane blanket strewn across their laps and their fingers laced together. Louis bets the steward thinks they’re dating.

As one episode ends, Louis looks at Harry. “You know, you didn’t seem shocked when I told you I’m falling for Nick.”

Harry shrugs. “I could tell you were. When you two were saying goodbye in Sydney I knew it wasn’t just pretend to you anymore.”

“Will you kill him if he breaks my heart?”

“Of course,” Harry promises, kissing Louis’ temple.

Louis smiles, comforted for the rest of the plane ride with his absolute best friend in the world proving that he’s just that.

Nick is once again at the airport to collect Louis, convincing his bodyguard to let him take him home, which Louis appreciates quite a bit as they make their way past the crowd of fans, most of them clapping politely while also reaching for them. All the way home, Nick’s hand sits on Louis’ thigh, squeezing gently as he acts like it doesn’t mean a damn thing and his hand just accidently ended up there. Nick is composed all the way through getting his coat and shoes off, and after that he scoops Louis up, holding him aloft with his thighs.

Louis squeals a little, his hands holding on tight to Nick’s shoulders, feeling his bones and muscle under his fingers. He wraps his legs around Nick’s waist to steady himself so he won’t fall off as they go up the stairs and because Nick looks like he’s straining himself. When they get to the top of the stairs, Nick presses Louis against the wall and lets his legs fall, his hands still spanning over his thighs, so close to touching him through the fabric of his sweatpants.

“Not really used to carrying pretty boys up the stairs,” Nick whispers, panting softly, his lips so close to Louis’ that he can feel his warm breath on his lips.

“Are you out of shape, Grimshaw?” Louis quips quietly, his hands already fisting in the fabric of Nick’s shirt in a half-assed attempt to take it off. “At your age that can be pretty dangerous. Heart disease and all.”

“You’re so annoying,” Nick breathes as he crushes their lips together, still pinning Louis against the wall.

They kiss all the way down the hallway, their feet stumbling over each other’s in their attempt to effectively move down the hallway and be as close as possible. They tumble on the bed, their teeth gnashing together as they kiss and their hands clawing at each other’s shirts, fed up with the fabric barrier between them. Within a few minutes, their shirts are thrown over Nick’s otherwise immaculate room and their lips are still moving together.

Louis is overtop of Nick, straddling over him and pressing him into the headboard while they kiss and Nick’s hands greedily push Louis’ sweatpants down his legs. His giant hands squeeze his arse, eliciting an eager keen from him and making him buck forward to try and get some friction on his already hard cock. Nick just chuckles and Louis realizes that that fucking prick knows exactly what he does to him, especially as he reaches for the lube, their eyes locked together with Nick raising his eyebrows in an unspoken question. As a reply, Louis leans over to kiss Nick’s neck, sucking and biting at it until the skin is a livid red that will soon be purple. Nick’s hand stills on the lube container and his head falls back, gasping softly.

“Wanna see my fingers in you,” Nick mumbles, letting go of the lube altogether to grasp Louis’ half-bare thighs.

Louis nods, letting Nick turn him over on his back and take off his sweatpants and boxers all the way. He whines when Nick kisses at his inner thighs, giving them the same treatment Louis gave his neck, which of course makes him whimper because Nick’s stubble is scratchy and he leaves dark marks on his skin.

He moans when Nick presses a finger into him, his lips kissing at the junction of his hips and thighs and they’re so, so close to his cock that he feels he could cry. He doesn’t, though, just  rocks his hips down on Nick’s fingers when he pushes more in, taking them and listening to Nick praise him softly and kiss all over his body again. He nips at tattoos and squeezes his hips, shaping this up to be something intimate and hot.

Maybe it’s what Louis moans out when Nick pushes a third finger in or maybe Nick was planning it all along. “I love you,” just falls right out of Louis’ mouth as Nick pumps his fingers inside of him and Nick simply chuckles, pushing his fingers deeper.

“You too, popstar,” he murmurs, kissing his hip and pulling his fingers out. “Now get on your hands and knees.”

Louis obeys, keeping his hips up and his legs spread and feeling utterly ridiculous for telling Nick he loves him without any cameras or fans around to hear it. The last time they said it was for cameras, fans. But then, isn’t Louis here because he wants to tell Nick he really loves him?

Nick grabs Louis’ hips, pushing into him slowly and Louis’ arms give out and his thighs shiver, his face now pressed into Nick’s pillow, which smells like his shampoo. Nick pushes in and out of him slowly at first and it’s exactly what Louis wants, something slower; now all he needs is Nick curling his body over Louis’ like a shell, but that isn’t what he gets. It doesn’t end up being slow, either, as Nick picks up a faster rhythm and Louis muffles the obscene noises he’s making in Nick’s pillows.

It isn’t really what Louis wants because it’s more like a quick fuck, like something they might do if they were hooking up for the first time and knew it would never go past this. But they both come and it’s one of the best orgasms Louis’ ever had, just like all the other times he’s had sex with Nick. When they’re done, Nick lies next to him for a moment and Louis considers making it clear that he meant it when he told Nick he loved him.

By the time he’s made up his mind and is opening his mouth to speak, Nick is sitting up and pulling on his boxers, abandoning what Louis thought was the best part of their sex: basking in their afterglow and cuddling. Nick kisses his forehead, brushing at his hair gently and it seems like a shitty consolation prize in comparison to the strong arms he usually gets.

“Sorry, babe, I haven’t eaten yet today,” Nick says softly and Louis understands, doesn’t want Nick to go hungry, but it still stings.

“Come back?” Louis murmurs, grasping Nick’s hand loosely.

“Maybe,” he says softly. “I have to shower, too. I’m meeting my parents for dinner tonight.”

Louis nods.

“Want anything? I’ll bring it to you.”

He shakes his head.

“Kay. Do what you please, then,” Nick says, not a hint of derision in his voice as he pulls on his own sweats and goes to the kitchen, to away from Louis.

Louis sighs, shutting his eyes and feeling like an absolute idiot. Perhaps he built himself up and now he’s being dropped down and it’s all his fault, but he expected a lovely afternoon full of stolen kisses and a transition that would render their relationship real. He didn’t expect Nick to fuck him like he was any boy from a club or bar and he didn’t expect him to have the power to make him feel so tainted, like he was just some boy from a club or bar.

He thought, when he landed, when they started kissing, that he would get to lie here with Nick for a while and they would pant and feel good. He didn’t expect his afterglow to get spoiled. He didn’t expect his entire afternoon to get turned on its head.

He can hear Nick in the kitchen fixing himself something to eat and his chest aches and he isn’t sure why. He knows, deep down, that Nick is simply a busy person who makes plans but he didn’t think he would make them for the night Louis was coming home from tour. He wonders if he did it on purpose, if Louis doesn’t mean as much to him as he thought, or if he’s making it all up and trying to avoid Louis after that accidental confession of love.

Whichever it is, he decides, he doesn’t have to put up with it on his first day off after a tiring tour. He calls a cab and gets dressed back into his own sweatpants and old t-shirt before he goes downstairs and rifles through his luggage until he finds Nick’s hoodie and he takes it up to him. Nick, looking completely content, is leaned against the counter, eating some kind of homemade sandwich that looks a lot better than the airport food Louis ate earlier.

“I should give this back,” Louis says, putting it on the counter.

“Oh, yeah, thanks,” Nick says. “Are you leaving?”

“Yeah,” Louis nods.

“I’ll see you soon, yeah? We should call some paps and get ourselves photographed doing something soon. Are you on break now?”

It feels like such a fucking consolation prize and Louis wonders why Nick isn’t calling it hanging out like he used to. “For a while, yeah. I was gunna visit my mum for a bit.”

“Hmm, yeah. Well, we can work something out, can’t we?”

Louis nods silently, biting hard on his tongue so he doesn’t ask Nick why.

“You okay?” Nick asks, taking another bite of his sandwich.

“Yeah, just tired,” Louis says. “I’ll see you later.”

“Bye.”

Louis takes his time going down the hallway, and down the stairs. He unties his shoes and reties them, just to see if Nick will come down and see him off properly, with a kiss and a little smile as he calls him popstar or darling or love. Louis feels like crying as he pulls on his jacket and leaves Nick’s house without a kiss or a hug or even a sweet little pet name. He hauls his luggage out the door on his own and he takes a fucking cab home. Usually, or when Louis had that lovely ten day break from tour, Nick helped him take his things to the car and drove him back to the airport. Louis, mistakenly it appears, thought that he would get the same treatment once the tour was over.

Apparently not, Louis tells himself, because he ruined it.

He gets back to his flat, which hasn’t even been used since a few days before the tour started. He’s spent literally so much time at Nick’s that his house has been neglected and there’s dust on almost everything. For the first time since before tour, he showers in his own bathroom and he uses his own brand of shampoo and soap, which smells too little like the stuff Nick uses and more like himself. It’s probably a good thing, he tells himself as he shaves, because if it smelled like Nick he’d never want to get out of the shower.

To get his mind off things, Louis unpacks, which he usually procrastinates until he really absolutely has to do laundry. When he’s done, he lies down for a while, twisting the wedding band on his finger which is still signifying a fake relationship, and a friendship that’s crumbling thanks to it.

Louis doesn’t know if friendship is the right word. Romance, maybe? Fling? None of them fit because he expected so much more from today, so much more from Nick. He expected Nick to say it back properly, expected them to have sex all slow and steamy and looking into each other’s eyes and finally knowing how it feels to be properly in love. He thought that, for once, his long streak of being single, the longest out of anyone in the band, would end. That angels, that God and whoever else might pity him, would give him something pure and real and perfect.

He thought he would get what he wants this one time, without being told that his romantic interest just wasn’t really that into guys. He thought that the blaze in his heart would be doused by now and that something or someone would’ve told him how bad a decision it was to go and fall for Nicholas Grimshaw.

He thought it would go somewhere. He thought they’d both take their time really falling in love and then they’d have a second wedding, where their vows would have weight and they would actually think about children, a future. For once, the word husband didn’t make him freeze up and wonder about commitment and how he could be “the one” for someone.

He thought that angels would pity him, give him something and make him feel special. But apparently, this isn’t about angels or Gods or pity or love. It’s about Louis fucking things up, about making mountains out of molehills, and going and falling for someone. He buries his face in his pillow, ashamed that he’s crying, and tells himself that he was too lonely for far too long, that being closeted affected him more than he knew at first.

If he wasn’t closeted, he could’ve gone out to clubs and grinded with hot guys and not cared if it made headlines the next day with rumours surrounding him and his PR team yelling at him. He could’ve found someone better than Nick Grimshaw to be the first one he really falls for, properly, when he isn’t seventeen and wondering if this is actually love or it he’s just a delusional teenager. He wouldn’t have to recover from this heartbreak, which really shouldn’t hurt as much as it does but he’s so pissed at himself and he’s so pissed at Nick.

Louis waits until his puerile tears have ended to pick up his phone, hope already blossoming in the pit of his stomach that this might work. His fingers tap out a text and he pauses to revise it (more than once) before he sends it.

Hey I’m really sorry if I made things weird when I told you I love you earlier. He thinks it’s a pretty good message, though he isn’t sure why he’s apologizing at all.

Louis spends the next half hour fretting over his phone, checking every minute to see if his phone buzzed and he just didn’t hear it. Once that half hour is up, he goes to the living room and curls up on the couch, watching TV and still checking his phone every minute, just in case. He doesn’t get a reply until after he’s watched a good hour of crappy television shows that he’s only watching because he thinks Nick would like it.

sorry. it’s fine don’t worry about it. And that’s all his reply says.

You sure? Louis types, deciding brutal honesty is the only way to do this. Coz I feel like I messed things up and I don’t want it to be like that.

In five minutes, the next reply buzzes through.

what things?

Louis feels like he was punched in the chest. Things between us.

yeah, what things?

Louis wants to type the way I feel about you and how I’m actually in love with you. Instead, he sends The way things were going and I guess just like our relationship. He hates that he’s called it a relationship because if that was anything, then it was the kind of relationship that friends with benefits share, or if he’s even more honest, colleagues with benefits. Fuck buddies, maybe.

oh you mean the sex? yeah, things are fine. don’t worry about it.

Louis sighs because things don’t feel okay and because he’s in love with Nick but he’s a coward and he won’t say it. Thanks for understanding he sends back, tossing his phone away and trying not to feel some sort of bone-crushing disappointment because Nick doesn’t love him back, obviously.

He shuts his eyes and leans his head against the sofa, trying not to think of how alive he felt the other day and how he feels like that fire inside is crumbling.

 

To combat the inevitable writhing Louis knows he’ll feel, especially when Nick tweets about having a crappy dinner at home, breaking through his alibi that he was having dinner with his parents, he goes out and gets drunk. He drinks with Niall, enduring the teasing about what a wimpy Brit he is, and while Niall is under the illusion that they’re just curing their post-tour depression, Louis is drinking to forget Nick. He thinks that if alcohol in its purest forms can disinfect and make things clean it should be able to easily extricate Nick’s touch from Louis’ body and maybe he’ll stop feeling Nick’s fingerprints on his body.

Louis doesn’t visit his mum, but he makes plans to after they attend some awards show in LA, and he doesn’t tell Nick that he’s actually free and yeah, they should get coffee together or something. If Nick is lying to him, he can lie right back.

He convinces himself one night when he stumbles into his house, completely wasted, that he didn’t really love Nick in the first place. It was their proximity, it was the fact that Nick knew how he felt in regards to the fake relationship set up. It was like when he swore he was in love with Harry when he was eighteen, when really it was just that they’d fucked a few times and they were in the exact same situation. He almost manages to convince himself that Nick didn’t even matter to him before he passes out, but of course that isn’t possible because Nick matters a great deal.

When he wakes up late the next morning, the bright spring sunlight absolutely punishing his eyes and his head and the hangover he’ll nurse all day, he’s got a few unread texts from various people. He promises his mum that he’ll visit soon, tells Liam he got home fine, thank you, and then opens Nick’s messages, his heart already going under because he could be over him in another week but apparently that isn’t allowed to happen.

hey do you want to get coffee?

Kinda hungover Louis taps back, in no mood to deal with Nick and to see his stupid face and have to hold his hand for whatever cameras were around. And if he has to kiss him, he thinks that might just exacerbate his nausea.

ok let’s do it tomorrow? or we could go out and get greasy food make you feel better

Louis sighs. Okay. Give me an hour to be human and then pick me up

sounds good

He showers away the scent of the alcohol, though the heat from the shower does make him lightheaded and his stomach churn. He doesn’t even bother with his hair and he just shoves it underneath a beanie and tries not to dress like he feels apart from the hat. He drinks some water when he’s presentable, waiting for Nick to pick him up and trying not to feel anxious about the whole thing.

Nick shows up and he comes in for a bit, while Louis gets his shoes and coat together, and Louis thinks it’s the first time Nick’s been in his house. He thinks his house and Nick make a good match since his house is quite posh and so is Nick but he shoves that thought out of his mind and follows Nick wordlessly to the car. Nick tells him about the place they’re going, about how they have some of the best hangover food he’s ever eaten and he waves his left hand around and lays it out like he might grab Louis’ and hold it but Louis’ hands stay firmly planted in his lap, his fingers twiddling together.

There are cameras, a mixture of fans and tabloids, when they get to the restaurant and Louis is forced to let his hand be wrapped up with Nick’s huge one, though he pulls it away the moment they step through the door. They’re seated, at their request, in a corner far away from the door where the lighting is a little dimmer. Nick suggests what Louis should eat and Louis follows his advice mostly because he has a beast of a hangover.

“Are we okay?” Nick asks once their waiter has disappeared with their orders.

Louis looks at him and he wants to spit back that apparently they’re fine, he tried checking weeks ago but all he got was an apathetic ‘don’t worry about it’. “Yeah.”

“Usually you hold my hand longer,” he says.

Louis shrugs. He doesn’t feel like discussing this when he feels so poorly.

“Should this end?” Nick asks. “I mean, according to everyone, we’ve only been married two and a half months. Is that long enough?”

He shrugs again. “Kim Kardashian was only married for seventy-two days.”

“We’ve been married seventy-nine.”

“Cool. I beat Kim Kardashian.”

Nick sighs. “So you want to end this?”

Louis hesitates before nodding, his eyes fixed on the table in front of him.

“Sure that’s not that hangover talking?”

He nods again.

“Okay. You have that awards show soon, don’t you?”

“Yeah, in the States.”

“Don’t wear your ring.”

Louis nods, wondering what he’s supposed to do with it if it’s not sitting snugly on his finger. He supposes he could sell it but it might be tacky, selling his wedding ring when he’s an international popstar and half the world would kill for a strand of his hair, let alone his wedding ring from a supposedly failed marriage.

“Hey, you remember those headlines about us adopting kids?” Nick asks, waiting for Louis’ bob of the head to go on. “Would you ever do that? Like, if this were some huge thing and we kept it up for a few years, would you bring a kid into something like this?”

“Depends,” Louis says softly. “If the relationship became real, then yeah, I’d probably consider it. And if everything with the band died down, I would. But not like, with us, I wouldn’t do that.”

“If the relationship became real?” Nick asks, his fingers on his chin and he looks so pretentious that Louis wouldn’t mind vomiting on his lap.

“Yeah.”

“Do you think it’s possible to fake a relationship for that long without it becoming real?”

“I doubt it. I mean, there’s so much passion in a relationship and to fake it for so long… It would definitely give two people a very strong friendship, if not a relationship.”

Nick nods, quieting down as their food arrives and Louis hates to admit it but the dish he recommended is perfect for his hangover. He feels better after eating and the conversation while they eat is light, not treading into the precarious waters of fake relationships. Nick orders coffee when their empty plates are taken away and Louis orders tea, not wanting to sit here fiddling with his napkin while Nick sips coffee.

“So, do you think our relationship ever bordered on real?” Nick asks about halfway through his coffee, interrupting the wonderful silence Louis was enjoying.

He nearly drops his fucking tea. He nearly throws it in Nick’s face. But instead of reacting emotionally or childishly, he decides to humour Nick. “I don’t know, do you think it was?”

Nick shrugs, looking so unaffected by the conversation that Louis’ urge to throw tea at him increases. “I think a little? It was probably just the sex.”

Louis scoffs, waving their waiter over and asking for him to bring the bill, quickly.

“What?” Nick asks, sounding genuinely concerned and shocked at Louis’ reaction.

Louis sits back, not answering him and checking his phone for the time, for the distraction.

“What? What did I do wrong?” Nick asks.

He doesn’t want to have this conversation in public, is the thing, because he knows his voice will get shrill and some fan will walk in and catch it all on tape. He knows that he’ll end up causing a scene and he doesn’t want that; he gets enough attention already.

“Fine, be a child,” Nick sighs, sitting back and folding his arms over his chest as well.

Louis reaches for the bill when it gets there, determined to pay it just so he can get the fuck out of here, but Nick’s hand gets there first. He tucks in enough cash to cover the meal and tip and puts it down, standing up and heading out. Louis follows after him, leaving two mouthfuls of cold tea in the bottom of his mug, because Nick drove him here and he doesn’t want to stay outside and wait for Harry to pick him up or spend time in the bathroom waiting for Harry to show up.

The car ride home is immensely tense. Neither of them look at the other as Nick drives back to Louis’ and when they get there, Louis expects Nick to stay in the car. He doesn’t expect him to follow him inside and into the kitchen, where he decides to flee just because it’s farthest from the front door other than the bedroom.

“Why are you being such a bitch?” Nick asks as Louis leans against the counter, his hands holding onto the marble.

“Because you’re a dick,” Louis says. His head hurts and he doesn’t want to do this.

Nick rolls his eyes. “Why?”

“It was only a little real. The sex was nice,” Louis hisses, the pain in his heart fuelling his hostility.

“And? It wasn’t really a relationship and the sex was nice. You have a fabulous body.”

“No, yeah, you’re right. It wasn’t a relationship to anyone but the media. It was just fucking a few times and pretending we were married. You’re totally fucking right,” Louis sneers.

“I don’t understand why you’re so upset about it.”

Louis shakes his head, clenching his jaw so he doesn’t outright sob. “I fell in love with you,” he grinds out between his teeth.

Nick freezes, just staring at Louis.

“Get out,” Louis mumbles, looking away from him and focussing on the silver metal of the sink.

“Lou-“ Nick starts, stepping forward towards him.

“Get out.”

He pauses.

“Leave!”

Nick turns and walks out. Louis waits until he hears the front door shut and a few seconds after. He lowers himself to the cold tile of his kitchen floor, stuck between his dishwasher and a cupboard as he buries his face into his arms.

He was – is – in love with Nick and it sucks because Nick never felt and doesn’t feel and never will feel the same way about him. Nick never thought they were real, just that the sex was nice and Louis hates it. He wants his secrets back and he wants all the stories he told Nick about his childhood back. He wants his heart back. He wants the words, the breaths and the hours he spent on Nick back because Nick doesn’t fucking deserve any of it if he doesn’t love him back.

Louis spends a good hour wallowing on the floor before he picks himself up and wipes his eyes. He pulls his stupid wedding ring off and lobs it across the room, listening as it collides with the wall and plink down to the floor. He feels only marginally better after that, watching the gold band roll to stillness on the tile as he remembers something Nick told him when they were discussing their fake marriage.

“I don’t believe in marriage,” Nick shrugged.

And Louis thinks it’s so fucking ironic, bloody hilarious, that Nick’s parents remained married and he doesn’t believe in marriage while Louis’ mum has been with three men and Louis has seen the messiest parts of marriage and he still wants that with all his damn heart. He always hated irony most when he was in school and he hates it now and he hates Nick.

 

The space where his ring used to be is vacated and Louis very much feels that emptiness; his fingers run over the spot multiple times in an hour just for the chance that maybe it’s still there and he’s still tethered to Nick in some way other than by a piece of legal paper. Nick sends annulment papers, texting him that he was sorry and he wanted to talk to him and he also thought that Louis wouldn’t want a previous marriage on his record when he actually settles down. Louis chooses not to reply and lets the papers sit and collect dust on his coffee table, vowing to deal with them when they get back from the awards show in America.

The plane there is incredibly long and Louis spends most of it assuring Harry he’s fine, that even though Nick drunk called Harry and told him that he’d fucked it all up but refused to tell him what ‘it’ was, he’s fine. They talked it out and decided it would be best if they weren’t together anymore. Harry looks at him like he doesn’t believe him, which he probably doesn’t because they’ve known each other for so long now that their tics when they lie are obvious, but Louis just grins back at him, pinches his cheek, and tells him he’s A-okay.

And the awards show is lovely. They win all the awards they’re nominated for and their performance goes wonderfully. The only shitty part is on the red carpet when an interviewer asks Louis why he’s not wearing his ring and he wasn’t really prepared for that question. He’s known for a while he wouldn’t wear his ring to the awards show but he thought it was something they would pick up afterwards instead of right there. So Louis acts like he didn’t even notice he wasn’t wearing it, laughs, telling the lady that he must’ve forgotten to put it on after he showered earlier.

Through the next few days they spend in the States, doing band things and promotions, Louis feels exhausted. Every night when they get back to the hotel and he falls onto the bed, Niall’s snoring doubling as his makeshift lullaby, all he can feel is his heart thudding in his chest like a hunk of decaying flesh, rotted out from false love and destroyed hope. Honestly, he wants Nick back and he doesn’t want to deal with those annulment papers when he gets home. Even if it’s fake, he wants Nick back and he wants to put his ring back on.

Louis gets up on their last day there and packs up his suitcase, looking over at Niall’s bed and seeing he was still fast asleep, the sheets looking like they were tied around his legs. Their morning is quick and they have to sit around waiting in the airport because their flight is delayed, which means that Louis has more time next to Harry with him, wanting to pry further into his obvious lie. He fusses with his phone as long as he can with Harry staring right at him before he gives in.

He’s so sick of lying.

“He broke my heart,” he mumbles, glad that Niall is listening to music across from him and Liam and Zayn are cuddled together, trying to sleep.

“I’ll kick his ass,” Harry says immediately.

Louis shakes his head. “It’s my own fault. I could’ve brought it up in a better way.”

“How did you bring it up?”

“During sex,” he sighs, before explaining everything from how Nick was acting like he was avoiding Louis to their fight in Louis’ kitchen and how he’s felt pretty awful ever since.

Harry just looks at him when he’s done, quiet for the longest time. “I can’t say anything except you two need to have a serious conversation. Like adults.”

Louis nods, watching the passengers come through the gates they’ll be walking through soon enough. “Thanks,” he says softly, picking his phone up off his bag and sending Nick a text, telling him to be at his house by the time he got there and giving him his flight number to track.

The flight is incredibly long and Louis occupies himself by watching a couple movies, trying to quell the nervousness in his stomach and the way his fingers keep playing together. He knows why he’s nervous and it’s because he’s about to have a conversation that could permanently snap his heart or fix the fissure opened up in it by recent events. Despite his nervousness, he tries his hardest to sleep (and fails) but it’s a long flight and he gets really bored of watching movies.

When their flight lands, he gets a car home and checks his phone for any funny or cute text from Nick, which is usually what he’d get while he was on his way home. It strikes him how adult the conversation will be, and already is. As he walks up to the door, he feels like he should adjust his tie before going in, just to feel more mature.

The first thing he’s greeted with when he walks into the living room is Nick curled up on his couch, half-asleep and a big, fancy bouquet of flowers sitting on his coffee table, less than a metre away from the annulment papers. Louis pauses, dropping his suitcase gently on the carpet in an attempt to keep Nick asleep and his eyes fixate on the flowers. All red roses and he nearly rolls his eyes because Nick is a sap deep down behind that apathetic front.

He sits next to him, tucking one of his legs under himself so he was more or less facing him. “Nick,” he says softly. When he doesn’t react, he tries again, adding a gentle poke to his shin. “Nicholas.”

Nick opens his eyes, his stupid brown eyes and raises a hand to rub at them. “Sorry… I came here early. I wanted to get the flowers in a vase before you showed up.”

“It’s fine.”

He sits up, scrubbing over his face. “I had some huge speech planned out to tell you that’d fix all of this and it was all very poetic but I fell asleep and forgot it all.”

Louis doesn’t quite know what to say. “Do you want a drink?”

“That might make this easier, won’t it?”

He shrugs, standing up and going to the kitchen, extremely grateful that Nick doesn’t follow. He pours two glasses of white wine from a bottle Nick bought him a few months ago that he insisted was the best white wine he’d ever tasted. He’s not sure why he wants to please Nick but he thinks it has more to do with how he wants this to go than how Nick feels.

When Louis curls back up on the sofa, holding his tumbler of white wine, it’s still mostly quiet. Nick sips his wine and so does Louis and that’s about the extent of their noise until Nick clears his throat, turning so he’s facing Louis by draping one of his long legs across the middle cushion of the sofa.

“I’m going to be saying a lot and I just want to get it all out, okay? Please don’t interrupt. Just listen,” Nick requests.

Louis nods, taking a bigger gulp of wine in preparation for his speech.

“I’m sorry,” Nick says softly. “I’m sorry for being an ass and I’m sorry I broke your heart and I’m sorry for avoiding you. I never wanted to be like this but as I think you already know, I’m a really huge coward.”

Louis bites his tongue to keep from jumping in.

“And when you told me you loved me, without there being cameras or anyone else around to hear it like the first time we said it, I got really, really scared. That’s why I was such a prick to you and I’m so sorry about that.

“The truth is, I love you too and I love you a lot and it really scares me because I’ve never been in love before and I’m not very good at making big decisions. I’ve never been in a serious relationship before and I’ve never really wanted to be because I just saw all my friends getting messed up by them and I didn’t want that for myself. And what I said at the restaurant was wrong; I never thought that it was just some fun sex. It wasn’t just sex.”

Louis watches him and he’s just waiting for the word that negates all of it, the big ‘but’.

“I don’t expect you to forgive me at all because you seemed really hurt and from the belligerent texts Harry’s been sending me all week, I guess you really were. I just want you to know that I’m sorry and I didn’t mean what I said.”

Silence falls over them and Nick looks at Louis expectantly but he needs more time to process a coherent reaction apart from leaning over and kissing Nick stupid.

“I, uh, I got you eleven roses exactly,” Nick mumbles sheepishly. “Red roses mean love and apparently eleven roses means that the receiver is assured they’re deeply loved, or something like that. Originally I was gunna get you a big bouquet of every colour rose I thought fit us but that would’ve been twenty pounds more than this and I’m cheap.”

Louis chuckles a little despite himself, finishing off his wine before setting the tumbler down on top of the annulment papers.

“You can have time to think on it,” Nick murmurs. “Or you can never tell me. But I’m wondering if you forgive me?”

Louis doesn’t really trust himself to speak at this point, feeling like if he opened his mouth for words there’d just be static. Maybe kissing him is a coherent enough answer, Louis thinks as he leans over and presses their lips together. Nick’s lips taste like that wine, tart and velvety, and he immediately kisses back, his big hands finding their way to their favourite resting spot on Louis’ hips. He nearly melts when it sinks in that they’re kissing again, but that realization sorts his thoughts into a place where they sit on his tongue, finally ready to be articulated.

Louis ends the kiss, pulling away slowly and Nick chases his lips, his eyes still shut like he wants to catch Louis’ lips in his own and have make-up sex. Louis presses a finger to his lips, watching his dumb brown eyes open, and he grins a little.

“I’m still really, really mad at you,” he whispers, Nick’s face still so close to his. “Because you broke my heart and you were an ass.”

Nick nods, sitting back. Louis places his hand on his calf for assurance that he won’t kick him out.

“But I’m in love with you and I don’t want to give you up just yet,” he affirms. “I’ll learn to forgive you and you can learn to be in a serious relationship – if you want that.”

He deflates a little, grinning and reaching over to take Louis’ hands. “Can we talk about what we want later?”

Louis smirks. “Oh, if you think I’m gunna have sex with you you’re wrong,” he teases.

“Louis,” Nick whines, pouting at him.

“Nicholas,” Louis whines right back.

Nick kisses him, not the sweet kind of kiss they shared a few minutes ago, but something a little more passionate. Nick’s hand cradles Louis’ face as they kiss, shifting back to where Nick was sitting with Louis stretching out over top of Nick. Louis pulls away coquettishly, pressing a big smooch to Nick’s cheek and the older man sighs heavily, his hands moving fluently down Louis’ back to squeeze his arse and he giggles in response.

“I was on a seven hour flight earlier,” Louis teases. “I woke up early and I’m jet-lagged.”

Nick groans. “Fine,” he whispers, brushing some of his hair off his face. “Okay. We can talk now, if you want.”

Louis chuckles and kisses him quickly. “I’m teasing. I really want you.”

Nick grins and they get up, going down the hall to the bedroom with Louis teasing Nick about how he never finished his wine but Nick silences him with a kiss so hard he stumbles back. They fall back onto the bed, their mouths working together as their hands clasp together, Nick’s pinning Louis’ to the pillow above their heads.

It doesn’t take them long before they’re both hard and naked, with Nick slicking up his fingers and pushing one into Louis slowly. He keens and pushes down against it and this might be what Louis missed most, the way Nick knew exactly how to drive him crazy with just one finger. Nick slides a second one in and then a third, biting and sucking at his hip and making him whine. It’s hot, Nick squeezing his hand with his free hand and leaving marks on his hips and stretching him out while he looks completely focussed on making him feel good.

Nick pulls his fingers out and lines himself up, holding onto Louis’ hips until he’s buried deep before he clasps their hands together again. “Miss that ring,” he mumbles as Louis pants underneath him.

Louis moans as Nick moves his hips. “Missed you.”

Nick crushes their lips together, capturing Louis’ next groan and leaving his lips to scatter bites and kisses around his throat and mouth and collarbones. Louis keeps his eyes shut most of the time, focussed on just feeling Nick and being assured he was still there by the way he could touch him. He gasps when he comes and Nick bites down on his collarbone, his hips stuttering as he came as well, at nearly the same time as Louis. They stay like that for a minute when they’re done, connected, their hands laced together and their bodies pressed together.

They catch their breath in each other’s arms, their skin satiny from their perspiration and they kiss lazily, putting off the conversation about what each of them wants. Louis isn’t afraid that Nick wants something vastly different from what he wants but he doesn’t want to pop this little bubble where they’re both soft with each other and lazy and cuddly. Nick pulls away from the kiss, their foreheads touching as he winds his fingers through his hair even though Louis hasn’t washed it since early yesterday morning and it’s got sweat dampening it.

“So, what do you want to do?” Nick asks quietly.

“I don’t want to get an annulment,” Louis replies. “But I don’t want to start this off as your husband.”

“I’d rather have a fresh start because there’s so much that went on with this marriage, fake as it may be, and I want to have a fresh start. And, with an annulment, it would be like none of this ever happened.”

“I want to know it happened,” Louis says softly, one of his fingers tracing over a small shaving nick on Nick’s neck. “But a fresh start sounds good. What about the media, though?”

“They don’t have to know and neither does your PR team. We can just keep it really quiet and they’ll think everything is normal and then…” He shrugs, the hand on Louis’ hip that was rubbing circles stilling.

“Maybe one day we might get married for real,” Louis whispers, his fingers finding their way to the centre of Nick’s chest and feeling the slightly quickened beat of his heart.

Nick nods, squeezing his hip. “So is that what you want, then? To be boyfriends?”

His fingers curl into a loose fist. “Yeah.” He holds back the ‘more than absolutely anything’.

Nick leans over and kisses him, soft and sweet and it’s a perfect seal to a perfect deal.

They fall asleep after that, Nick exhausted after waking up hellishly early for work and he somehow manages to wake up for work without an alarm in the morning. It rouses Louis enough to ask for a goodbye kiss and enough for Nick to make him a cup of tea and leave it on his bedside table, even though he knows he’s going to be sleeping for another few hours. When he wakes up, it’s cold and not very fresh; however, a quick minute in the microwave warms it back up.

His tea warm, he curls up on the couch to drink it and decides that calling his mum would be a good idea. He promised her he’d tell her when he got into a relationship and he should tell her, even though he can hardly wrap his head around it himself.

“Louis?” She asks. “Hi, love, how was America?”

“It was good,” Louis smiles, sipping his tea.

“Is everything okay with you and Nick? You seemed off and you weren’t wearing your ring when you were there and I’m just worried about you because I know it wasn’t real and if something happened, what will that mean for you?”

“Mum,” he chuckles, interrupting her ramble. “Everything is fine. We just had a disagreement but things are a lot better now.”

“What does that mean?” She asks as Louis sips his tea again.

“We, uh, we’re trying things out for real now. We’re dating.”

She clucks her tongue before descending into a drawn-out ‘aw’ that makes Louis roll his eyes. The only reason she’s this excited, Louis reminds himself, is because Lottie’s had more boyfriends than him at this point. “Louis, that’s amazing. You’ll have to bring him around sometime so we can properly meet him.”

Louis chuckles, promising that even though Nick has a schedule just as busy as his own, they’ll find time to come up. When he hangs up, he feels warm, fuelled by the glowing fire that was happily burning within his chest, emboldened by the knowledge that Nick loves him back.

 

They learn each other anew over the next few months and it’s almost like nothing changed at all, because nothing really has. Louis knows when their anniversary is but he doesn’t think that it encompasses their entire relationship, from that first kiss in that television studio where they ended up getting frustrated with each other to now, where they’re actually mad for each other. He likes to tease Nick about how their anniversary was actually the day they got married, which is kind of wild to think about now that they’re dating. Between each other and to their family and friends, they’re boyfriends but to the rest of the world, they’re husbands.

For their three month anniversary, which falls just days before they’re set to go back on the road, Louis enlists the help of Harry, since he’s utterly useless in the kitchen. They bake a cake for Nick, which they have to do ridiculously early so it can be a surprise for when he comes by after work. Louis must drink his way through three ridiculously large mugs of tea before he even feels remotely human. And really, he doesn’t help bake at all; he just fixes his tea and whines about how he’s up before ten.

“I’m not obligated to buy him a gift, am I?” Louis asks, his head resting in his palm because it’s an awful lot of work to keep his head upright himself.

“I dunno,” Harry shrugs. “This isn’t my relationship.”

“We’ve been dating for three months so the cake is enough, right?”

Harry shrugs again.

Louis chuckles at his sudden thought. “He’s gunna have to eat most of it by himself ‘cause I’ll be touring. He’ll hate me.”

“Well, your plan is to write ‘I tolerate you’ on the front of the cake that you’re giving to your boyfriend slash husband.”

“It’s better than my original plan.”

“Oh my God.”

“That one was to wank on the cake, but then I was worried about timing and whether or not he had any meetings today and if you would want a piece.”

Harry’s got a look of utter disgust on his face and he shakes his head, looking back down at the bowl of icing he’s mixing together. “No, not after that.”

Louis laughs and he gets up not long after, helping Harry by icing the words on the cake with the red icing tube Harry picked up. It’s messy and it completely overshadows the perfect icing job that Harry did but it still looks flawless to Louis, a distraction from the premature pining, the knowledge that in less than a week he’ll be thousands of kilometres away from Nick. He covers it and hides it away on top of the fridge, which really isn’t all that out of sight and Nick will definitely see it.

Harry leaves when Nick gets home from work, and he joins Louis on the couch, wrapping him up in his long arms. Louis buries himself in the fabric of Nick’s sweater, pressing intermittent kisses to the spot above his heart. It’s been like this for a little while, the two of them cuddling together until Louis thinks an outsider might be have trouble discerning whose limbs are whose. Nick pets Louis’ hair and hums softly, which spreads a smile over Louis’ lips because Nick is constantly singing and getting embarrassed when he’s caught, admitting to having an awful voice but Louis likes hearing it.

“Happy anniversary, darling,” Nick whispers, kissing his head.

“Mmm,” Louis hums. “Happy three months.”

“I love you.”

It’s a common occurrence these days to hear that Nick loves him and yet it still makes his heart warm. He pinches Nick’s hip gently, not enough to cause any actual pain. “Sap.”

Nick chuckles, carding a hand through Louis’ hair. He thinks he could fall asleep like this. “It’s true, though.”

“Come see the cake me and Harry made,” he says, sitting up and pulling out of Nick’s arms. “It’s perfect.”

Nick rolls his eyes. “Shouldn’t it be for dessert?” He groans. “I don’t want cake for lunch.”

Louis leans down and kisses Nick’s stomach gently, the place where he knows there’s a little pocket of fat like there is on his own stomach, that won’t disappear no matter how many sit-ups he does. “You’re gorgeous, okay?”

“Lou, that’s not the point,” Nick huffs. “But I’ll see the cake.”

Louis grins and grabs his hand, tugging him up and to the kitchen. It’s true that the cake should be for dessert, for tonight after they (Nick) cooks something gorgeous but Louis is worried that it might be a let-down after whatever Nick makes and he doesn’t want it to be. He wants them to have a laugh about it instead of Nick pouting up at him, even though he knows Nick would laugh even if Louis presented him with the cake during a proposal.

He gets it down from the fridge before looking at Nick. “Tell me again.”

“I’ll see it?” Nick asks, confused.

“The other thing,” Louis prompts.

“I love you?”

Louis uncovers the cake, presenting it to him and beaming at him.

“I tolerate you?”

“I tolerate you,” he chirps happily.

Nick laughs. “I tolerate you too.”

Louis sets the cake onto the counter, accepting and reciprocating the warm kiss Nick gives him. As Nick’s hands latch behind his back, over the small of his back, Louis thinks he could write an entire anthology of poems on Nick’s lips alone and the way their lips move together. He could write hundreds of thousands of words about Nick’s face and his body and the way he moves, the way his muscles tense and stretch and the way his skin feels.

Nick pulls away, his grip on Louis tightening. “I’m gunna miss you.”

Louis groans. “Why’d you remind me?”

“Because I want you to feel the same pain I do, sweetheart.”

Louis huffs, trying to perfectly memorize the way Nick’s arms feel around him, secure and tight and warm.

“You should move in with me when you get back,” Nick whispers, kissing his temple.

“Mhm,” Louis nods. “Okay.”

They both have A Drawer at the other’s house, stuffed with some of their things that have blended into the other’s things and it’s nice but Louis thinks it would be nicer to have their personalities collide in an external manner as well. On days they’re not in the same house, Nick will occasionally, in his fatigued stupor, put on one of Louis’ shirts and realize his mistake in time to send Louis a snapchat of it with most of his happy trail on display. Louis doesn’t think he would mind more of those snapchats, or waking up to more whiny texts about how Nick’s pants don’t fit before he realizes, with dozens of ellipses, that the pants he put on are Louis’.

“Not very enthusiastic, popstar,” Nick teases, though there is a hint of nervousness beneath his breath.

“Didn’t ask me very enthusiastically, you duck,” Louis quips. “Say something romantic and maybe I will.”

Nick begins swaying them together, an attempt at dancing, and he takes one of his hands in his larger one. He spins him carefully and presses a kiss to his nose. “I love you, you pain in the arse. Move in with me.”

“Hmm, closer,” Louis shrugs. “I love you too. And yes, I’ll move in with you.”

Nick grins, pressing them hip-to-hip against the counter and kissing him again, harder and hotter than last time and Louis chuckles against his lips. He knows exactly what Nick wants and he was planning on withholding it until after dinner, unlike the cake.

Plans change, though, and Louis spends the rest of the afternoon walking around in a pair of sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, trying not to think about the way Nick’s thumb spread around come over his chest, expanding it up so it covered his tattoos while they lay there panting with their heartbeats echoing in their ears. The change of plans works in Louis’ favour, because Nick is hungry after sex and they share a piece of cake. It’s delicious, because Harry made it, and Louis makes a mental note to remind Harry that he loves him for things like this.

They spend the rest of the afternoon watching a movie and cooking together, which really consists of Nick standing at the stove and making food while Louis sits on the counter, whining for samples for whatever Nick is making. Louis makes himself useful by setting the table and that just means setting a fork and knife down for both of them and uncorking the wine. (He takes a sip straight from the bottle before he pours it, just to make sure it’s worth pouring into the glasses.)

Dinner is delicious and Louis doesn’t think he could ask for a better three month anniversary doubling as a formal farewell dinner. Nick showers after dinner, leaving Louis to finish the movie on his own while thinking about what living with Nick will actually be like. He’ll have constant company whenever he isn’t working and whenever Nick isn’t home because Nick has Puppy and he thinks he’ll like that, having another something in the house with him. He’ll have to endure Nick’s early as shit alarm every morning he’s home, though, which might suck, but he doesn’t think he’ll mind if it means he gets a goodbye kiss every morning he’s roused and he gets a cup of cold tea waiting for him when he wakes up.

It’s been strange taking things so slow between the two of them, seeing as they’re posing as husbands for the media and Louis’ PR team. But it’s been nice, lovely, to get to tumble further in love with Nick as their relationship progresses. He keeps wondering, hesitantly, what the future will bring for them as fake husbands and real boyfriends. He wonders if it enters them into some kind of situation where marriage is the inevitable outcome, which worries him because he doesn’t want to force Nick to get married for real when he’s said he doesn’t believe in it. Though, it does feel natural at this point since his mind has some trouble distinguishing between which noun he should be using.

The gold band that has lived on his finger for the last while is set upon his dresser, an accessory for going out that’s now as commonplace as remembering his phone and his keys. Louis wonders, idly, staring down at his left hand, if they would replace the rings if they were to get married. Their current pair is cheap, had a lot of work put into it to make it look like it was much more expensive even though it was just a plain gold ring since Nick and Louis both insisted they were simplistic when it came to their wedding.

He wonders if, this time, he would end up taking Nick’s surname. Louis Grimshaw. He had a few interviewers and fans ask if his name was legally Louis Grimshaw now and he explained that he felt it would be better for him to remain Louis Tomlinson because of his job and whatnot. He would definitely change to Tomlinson-Grimshaw if it weren’t such a mouthful. Screw both their dads for having polysyllable surnames and passing them on to their sons.

“Love?”

Louis looks up from his hands at Nick, wearing only plaid pajama pants low on his hips with his wet hair hanging in clumps in his face.

“Come to bed,” Nick says.

Louis turns off the TV and stands up to follow Nick down the hall to the bedroom without his usual taunt of how Nick has the same bedtime as his granddad, because Nick looks cuddly and Louis knows they don’t have many more nights together before there’s a pregnant interlude of Louis being in America. He takes off his shirt, revealing the marks Nick bit into his skin earlier and leaving him in just sweatpants. Normally he just sleeps completely naked, especially when he sleeps with another person, but Nick always leaves the bed frigid when he leaves.

They curl together, the dim lamplight illuminating them and casting long shadows across the room with the mug Louis left on the bedside table. Their fingers tangle together and Nick presses his shower-warmed cheek to Louis’ chest, which of course leads to his hair dripping down onto his chest as well. Louis doesn’t mind, though he will in a few minutes and he’ll wipe up the droplets with a tissue.

“We’ll Skype, right?” Nick asks quietly.

“Of course. And I’ll text you all the time and I’ll try my very hardest to listen to the show,” Louis murmurs, his fingers carding gently through Nick’s hair.

“My hand’s going to get a lot of love while you’re gone.”

Louis chuckles. “Yeah, at least you’ll be all alone in your house instead of sharing a tour bus with four other lads who know every noise you make when you masturbate.”

“What about the nights you get hotels?”

“Those are the good nights. And I usually make the most of my time in the shower.”

Nick grins up at him, pecking his lips gently. “And you’ll think of me every time?”

“Dunno, Beckham’s pretty hot.”

“We should use Skype for sex sometime. I mean, it’s like phone sex except we’ll both be able to see each other. And my laptop’s pretty used to stuff like that, at this point.”

Louis wrinkles his nose, tugging gently at Nick’s hair. “Gross.”

Nick laughs and Louis tries not to think about how he’ll miss that noise when he’s on tour and it’s replaced by the lads’ laughs, which are lovely. But Nick’s is even better and Louis thinks it probably has quite a bit to do with the fact that he’s in love with Nick and not the lads.

He doesn’t think about how everything has changed dramatically in one year’s time, he really doesn’t. (Though one year ago there were rumours he was engaged to Eleanor, he wasn’t out yet and Nick was simply Harry’s friend, that annoying hipster who does that show where they talk shit about him sometimes. One year ago Louis felt trapped and small and like he was lying to everyone and now he’s out and he’s in a relationship and the world is spinning on its axis.)

“Will you play songs for me?” Louis asks as he wipes up the water from Nick’s hair.

“What kind?” Nick asks, looking up at him.

“My favourite kinds. Some of our songs. I dunno. All I want to hear you say is ‘this next one’s for my husband’,” Louis says, doing his best impersonation of Nick by strapping on a much more posh accent.

Nick rolls his eyes. “I sound absolutely nothing like that,” he pouts.

Louis pouts right back, knowing that he could out-pout his boyfriend any day. “Will you at least say that? And make sure it’s recorded so I hear if I can’t listen to it live?”

“Fine,” Nick promises, pressing their lips together for a lazy kiss.

Louis smiles. “I’ve got the best boyfriend in the entire world.”

Nick smiles as well. “Damn right.”

Louis brushes his fingers over Nick’s cheek, feeling the clean-shave that he always sports and the warmth of his cheek and he thinks he might be the luckiest man on earth to fall asleep and wake up every day with Nick Grimshaw at his side. And even though they’re interrupted by Louis’ career and by Nick’s career, it’s never for longer than a few months and they both get breaks every now and then.

“I can come visit you on tour, right?” Nick asks, his words slurring together a little as he starts to drift off with his head on Louis’ chest.

“Of course,” Louis smiles. “Make sure to do it when we’re in a hotel. I’ll keep you posted on that kind of stuff, though.”

Nick grins, opening his eyes to look up at Louis. “Perfect. I won’t have to fuck you in your tiny hobbit-hole of a bed.”

Louis chuckles, opting not to defend his bunk on the bus because they’re winding down and the teases are being whittled away to sentiments and affection.

“These past three months have been really good, Lou,” Nick confesses softly.

He feels warm right down to his toes, not just his skin from having his freshly-showered boyfriend draped over his chest and the big duvet. He feels warm inside too and he knows it’s because Nick is expressing all this love tonight which isn’t so rare that Louis is basking in it, but it’s just a lot of emotion for the usually sarcastic man.

“Yeah?” He asks quietly.

Nick nods. “You’re the best guy I’ve ever been with and it’s really great because you’re fantastic in bed and nice and charming and funny and… yeah. I’m really, really into you, Lou. And the really great part is that you feel the same way and you don’t have to hide and stuff.”

Louis chuckles quietly, caressing over his hair. “Nicholas, you’re tired. Sleep.”

“Mmm, want to spend more time with you,” Nick mumbles. “Gunna miss you and I love you and you’re leaving soon.”

“I love you too and I’ll be here when you wake up in the morning and when you get home from work,” Louis promises.

Nick nods, three parts unconscious as the one conscious part whispers out, “sleep tight.” Louis smiles and kisses his forehead, wishing him the same as he drifts off completely, his breaths evening out and his brown eyes staying shut. Louis can still feel the small puddle on his chest from where Nick’s hair dripped and accumulated again even after he wiped it up for the first time and he would grab another Kleenex to finish the job but then he might wake Nick. He doesn’t want that, especially when Nick has already wasted more than enough time being sappy tonight instead of sleeping like he’s supposed to.

And Louis burrows down, flicking off the bedside lamp so that his only view of Nick is his silhouette but he can still feel the weight of his big, fat head on his chest and he can feel his damp hair between his fingers. He can feel Nick’s little breaths against his skin and he knows that if Nick were awake to process it, he would feel Louis’ heartbeat against his skull. And Louis knows as he begins to fall asleep himself that there’s nothing he’d rather feel than Nick sleeping against his chest.