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“So, Niall Horan,” Nick starts in an official tone. “Are you ready to play some Call or Delete?”

Niall laughs happily and Nick can’t help but wonder if that man is ever unhappy. It seems as if Niall is bursting through life with an unshakable smile on his face, always up for it, always enjoy it.

“‘Course!” Niall replies enthusiastically and how does he do it? Nick considers himself to be quite a joyous person, for someone who works at an ungodly hour, but he hasn’t quite reached that level yet. “It's on Grimmy!”

“Alright, now I’m assuming everybody at home knows the rules, but let’s refresh our memories just in case. One of us is going to go through their contacts until the other tells them to stop and whoever it stops on, we have to call them to prank them or delete their numbers from our phones forever,” Nick finishes the explanation in a dramatic voice.

“Big decisions,” Niall admits.

“Very big decisions Niall Horan. Now, are you ready to start playing Call or Delete?”

“I am,” Niall replies. “Do I start?” he adds.

“If you feel ready to,” Nick teases. Some guests feel a bit nervous before playing, but Niall seems confident enough. He’s never played himself before, but has been on the receiving end and therefore is at least familiar enough with the way it works.

“I am so ready Grimmy,” Niall says as he gets his phone out of his pocket and opens his contacts. “Go on then, tell me when to stop.” He starts scrolling, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

“Stop!” Nick says after a few seconds and Niall just grins as he reads the name.

“This could be… interesting,” he says. “It’s Louis Tomlinson.”

“Oh,” Nick says and he feels his heart skip a beat like he’s some sort of lovesick idiot. It’s pathetic, he thinks to himself, how he has to remind himself every time that Louis Tomlinson and him hate each other, that they’re in a feud of epic proportions and even though they haven’t been face to face in a really long time, the fight is very much still on. At least on Louis’ side it is.

“So,” Niall says, still grinning. “How can we piss the Tommo off?”

He sounds ridiculously excited at the prospect and even Nick has to admit that the opportunity is too good to pass up. It’ll make for good radio at the very least.

“I know!” Niall says excitingly. “ We should tell him management set up a one on one interview with you for him. He’s gonna be soooooooo annoyed. It’ll be hilarious.” Niall laughs, delighted, and Nick feels a bit lightheaded.

It’s been years. Literally. He shouldn’t still feel like he’s going to be sick all over the studio at the mere mention of Tomlinson’s dislike of him. It’s hardly newsworthy or interesting. Louis Tomlinson hates him, whatever. He’s over it. Sure, it was painful at first, back when he had met One Direction for the first time, all starry-eyed and a bit too endeared by the loud, brash eldest member of the band. It’s not something Nick usually tell people but back then, Louis was his favourite member of One Direction. (Well, Louis is still his favourite member of One Direction, if Nick is completely honest with himself, but he tries not to think about it too often. He just can’t help himself when it comes to rude blue-eyed singer.) They met and Nick was excited like a schoolgirl with a crush. He mentally cringes at the thought of it. Things didn’t exactly go according to plan though and suddenly Nick found himself with quite an amazing new friend in one Harold Styles and with a nemesis in Louis Tomlinson. He’s not quite sure how they got there, but they did and it hurt. It hurt a lot at first because no matter what he said or did, no matter how hard he tried, Louis had already decided they wouldn’t, couldn’t, get on. But he got over it. It might have taken a couple of months - years! a small voice in the back of his head whispers - but he got over it. He’s not quite sure why Niall’s most likely correct assumption is fucking him up so badly.

“That’s actually a really good idea,” Nick agrees, voice bright and loud. He doesn’t particularly fancy hearing Louis’ rude comments about him, but it’ll make for good radio that’s for sure. If there is one thing people are irrevocably noisy about it’s a good old dispute. And it certainly won’t be the first time Nick uses his misery to entertain the nation. The only difference now is that nobody but him will know he’s miserable.

“Okay,” Niall says looking focused. He clears his throat. “Alright,” he finally adds after a few seconds. “Let’s do this!”

The phone rings and rings and rings. Nick’s heart is pounding in his chest and he hopes, for a fleeting moment, that Louis’ not there, that is phone is off or forgotten somewhere… Anything that might mean they won’t have to do this. It only lasts a second though because another, much bigger, part of him hopes he’ll answer and Nick will get a true, unfiltered opinion from Louis. For once.

“Yes?” Louis finally answers, sounding a bit out of breath. He sounds lovely; soft and tired, voice high, syrupy. It makes Nick feels a bit mushy inside, like he wants to wrap himself in it for a little while.

“Hey Tommo, how’s it going?” Niall asks casually.

“Alright, you?” Louis replies, clearly unsuspecting. It’s going well so far, but Nick still feels incredibly nervous.

“I’m great!” Niall says quickly, offering Nick a sneaky wink. “ Listen, I’m not sure how to tell you this,” he continues, faking nerves and hesitation. “But-”

“Niall,” Louis interrupts. “If you killed someone, I would help you hide the body, you know that. Whatever you’ve got to say can’t be worse than murder so chill.”

Niall just laughs, delighted. “Yeah, well I might be that body if you decide to shoot the messenger,” he teases and Nick thinks he might be trying too hard with the build up. Surely Louis won’t be that furious at the thought of an interview with him.

“What is it?” Louis asks, sounding suddenly slightly worried. It’s not necessarily obvious but Nick has watched too many videos of him by now to easily be able to recognize his various moods. It’s embarrassing, but it’s a fact. He always gets a bit stalkery when Louis Tomlinson is concerned.

“Don’t be mad -”

“Niall, what is it?” Louis interrupts. “What’s happened?”

“Nothing!” Niall says, giving Nick an uncomfortable look, probably feeling bad for worrying his friend. “Nothing like you’re thinking. Nothing bad’s happened, just… A bit unfortunate and you might not be super happy about it is all.”

There’s a small pause. “Okay,” Louis finally says softly.

“Management set up an interview.”

“They literally do that everyday, I’m supposed to be unhappy because…?”

“It’s with Grimmy.” Louis doesn’t say anything. Niall waits a few more seconds. “And it’s just you.”

Louis still doesn’t say anything and the only thing Nick can hear is the beat of his own heart. Louis will say something mean any seconds now.

He doesn’t though. He just clears his throat. “A solo interview?” he asks in a neutral tone, probably trying his hardest to be polite because he knows Niall doesn’t hate him too.

“Yeah,” Niall agrees awkwardly, sounding proper sorry about the whole thing. Nick is quite surprised at how sincere he actually sounds. He never would have thought Niall to be a particularly skilled actor yet here they are and he’s doing a fantastic job.

“I…” Louis fumbles for a second. “We’re all gonna do solo interviews then?” he asks, confused and small. It’s everything Nick didn’t expect and he doesn’t understand at all where this call is going. He doesn’t understand where’s Louis’ head is at.

Niall hesitates for a second. “Humm, no.” he quickly says. “Just you.”

“Really?” Louis asks and he sounds astonished. “How long? When? During the breakfast show or...?” he starts asking question after question quickly.

Niall turns a slightly panicked gaze towards Nick. This is really not going according to plan.

“Yeah for the breakfast show,” Niall finally agrees with a shrug towards Nick. “They want you to do the whole show in a few weeks.”

“Really?” Louis asks and Nick knows, rationally, that he’s probably having the world’s most elaborate hallucination in the world but he actually sounds excited about it. That or Nick is being pranked for once and this is one of Finchy’s ideas to get back at him.

“Yeah,” Niall replies, looking really confused and surely he’d be in on it too if this was a joke? He wouldn’t be as astonished by Louis’ reaction as Nick is. “You’re okay with this?” he continues, probably hoping for an explanation as to why the entire world suddenly stopped making sense.

“Yes!” Louis replies quickly, enthusiastically, and what the actual fuck? “I mean, I don’t mind,” Louis adds in a more neutral tone, like he’s trying to control himself.

“You’re not angry?” Niall continues to push, grimacing towards Nick. There’s only silence for a long time before Louis replies.

“Do you think he’s the one who asked for it?” Louis finally says in a tiny voice, sounding vulnerable and awkward, like he didn’t want to ask yet couldn’t help himself.

“Who? Grimmy?” Niall says.

“Yeah…”

“Hummm,” Niall hesitates, staring straight into Nick’s eyes.

“You think Nick asked for it?” Louis says again, more urgently now. “Or… Did it come from us?”

“I don’t know mate,” Niall finally says awkwardly. “Listen, I gotta go, but I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

“Okay,” Louis agrees in a small voice.

“Love you, bye!” Niall says quickly before hanging up.

“What the hell?” Nick says.

Niall just shrugs. “Who fucking knows. It’s Tommo mate. Not bound to make sense, is it?” he says wisely and he’d know of course, they’re quite close after all.

Still.

 

*

 

“Well that was weird,” is the first thing Finchy says after Niall leaves the studio. Nick isn’t quite sure how to reply to that. He was actually secretly hoping that Matt’s giant boner for Niall would make him blind and deaf to anything else that’s happened, leaving Nick to process in peace. No such luck unfortunately.

“Right?” Nick simply says.

“He actually seemed up for it,” Matt continues.

“You thought so too?” Nick asks, praying he doesn’t sound too hopeful but he needs to hear it. He needs to know he didn’t make it up. He has to know it wasn’t just wishful thinking making him hear enthusiasm rather than what was actually there.

Matt nods slowly. “Really weird,” he repeats in a mumble. He sighs. “Well, I’m gonna call him to get permission to use the clip, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to air that, it was pretty…”

“Weird?” Fiona offers teasingly, finally chiming in.

“Well, yes,” Finchy agrees dramatically. “It really was.”

Nick bites his lips before speaking up. “I’ll do it,” he offers casually.

“Do what?” Fiona says.

“Call him for permission. I’ll do it.”

“You will?” Matt says, astonished.

“Sure,” Nick says smoothly. He’s casually being casual. He’s just offering to help his dear colleague, no hidden agenda here no Sir.

“Why?” Matt asks, suspicious.

“Why not?” Nick protests, trying to avoid answering the question for as long as possible. He’s pretty sure if he’s not collaborative and annoying long enough, Finchy will eventually drop it, too exasperated by Nick’s behaviour.

“Today is officially too weird,” Matt finally exclaims. “Do whatever you want, but don’t fuck it up and don’t fight with him please. We don’t another twitter incident… Got enough of those.”

“I never fight on twitter!” Nick protests which is more or less true.

“Only with Louis Tomlinson,” Fiona says wisely.

“It’s gonna be fine,” Nick says and he hopes he’s right. He hopes this can be the end of their… whatever it is they’ve been doing the past four years or so.

 

*

 

His confidence is starting to waver once he gets to the part where he actually has to call Louis and talk to him. It was definitely a bad idea from the start. He can hardly believe he requested to make the phone call himself. What was he even thinking? He’s never done this part before! What does Finchy say usually? He should have just let it go, like the song from that stupid disney movie Fiona is trying to force him to watch. He should have just gone home and watch some reality telly and forget about the entire thing.

He couldn’t have though and he knows it. He needs to settle this once and for all. He needs to understand.

“Come on Grimmy,” he encourages himself softly, playing with his quiff and staring at his phone. He sighs loudly and picks it up, quickly clicking on Louis’ number.

He stole it off Harry’s phone one night when he was disgustingly drunk and thought calling to declare his feelings was a perfectly reasonable and well-thought plan. He passed out before managing to make the call, mercifully, but never gathered the strength to delete the number.

Thee phone rings and Nick doesn’t have the time to hope for an answering machine before Louis picks up with a confused and suspicious “Hello?” He wouldn’t have Nick’s number of course and he’s probably scared some crazy fan has gotten hold of his personal number somehow. Nick knows he should probably say something reassuring to disprove the theory but he can’t. First because he’s not entirely sure he wouldn’t be categorized as a crazy fan, if he’s completely honest with himself. And secondly because he’s frozen in place and unable to talk which is rather unfortunate considering the circumstances.

“Hello?” Louis asks again, this time much more irritated.

Nick manages to clear his throat. “Hi,” he whispers.

“Who’s this? How did you get this number?”

“It’s Nick,” he finally manages to get out. “Grimshaw,” he adds after the silence stretches beyond slightly awkward into really uncomfortable.

“Oh,” Louis croaks out.

“Hi,” Nick says again. “Harry gave me your number…” he lies, hoping Louis won’t ask and that if he does Harry will have the decency to back him up.

Louis doesn’t say anything and Nick almost thinks that he’s hung up already except for the soft sound of his breathing into the phone.

“So, I was actually calling about-”

“The interview!,” Louis interrupts. “I know, Niall told me about it. It’s fine, I’ll do it,” he continues quickly, not sounding as enthusiastic as he did earlier, but still not as angry as Nick, and the entire world, expected.

“Yeah,” Nick starts awkwardly. “About that. Hum. There’s no interview.”

“Oh,” Louis says softly. He sounds disappointed and Nick feels like horrible person.

“Yeah, Niall was in the studio for Call or Delete.”

“Oh,” Louis repeats and he sounds embarrassed for a second. “Right.”

This is wrong. This is so wrong. Louis is supposed to hate him. He’s supposed to be angry that Nick tried to trick him, not sound embarrassed and shy.

“Anyway, sorry about the prank,” Nick says good-naturedly, hoping to improve the conversation.

Louis doesn’t say anything again. This is even worse than Nick’s worst case scenario.

“I was calling because we need your permission to use the clip. Legal boring stuff, you know what I mean?”

Louis simply hums in response.

“Can we?” Nick asks awkwardly, feeling more confused than ever and Louis Tomlinson is someone who has brought a lot of confusion into his life.

“Sure,” Louis finally replies, colder than before. “Was that all Grimshaw?”

Nick gulps and nods before remembering he’s on the phone and promptly feels like an idiot for it. He works in radio for christ’s sake. “Yeah,” he mutters quietly.

“Okay,” Louis says and then hangs up before Nick gets the chance to thank him.

Well, Nick thinks, this could have gone better.

 

*

 

Embarrassingly, he can’t get the call out of his head even hours after going back home. Something about the tone of Louis’ voice, his vulnerability… It makes him feel like a complete wanker even though he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to have done wrong this time. Nick keeps hearing it all over again, the way Louis’ tone shifted, how harsh and cold he became as soon as he realized the interview was a lie. To think he was hoping…

Nick shakes his head, trying to get rid of the thoughts. What’s the point? He was wrong and naive, there’s no need to get all worked up about it.

And yet.

It haunts him as he does a bit of washing up, it plagues him as he microwaves some left-overs. He’s about to get into bed when he finally decides that he simply can’t go on like this. He sends a quick text to Harry requesting Louis’ address and puts his jeans back on before he can change his mind. He’s already seated in his car when Harry finally replies.

Why?? the texts simply reads.

Nick sighs loudly. He needs to get to Louis’ before any determination he has left finally abandons him.

‘Cause I want to rob him, Nick sends back hoping the sarcasm isn’t lost without the appropriate tone to accompany it.

H a h a h a. Seriously, if you’re planning his murder, I’d rather not be involved pls.

Nick groans and rolls his eyes. Why does it have to be this hard to get a popstar's address late at night?

I need to talk to him asap.

???

omg Harold just give me his address pls!

He waits and waits and waits, starting to feel like he’s never going to get an answer when his phone finally chimes and Louis’ address appears on his screen.

“Finally!” He groans as he enters said address into his GPS.

He's at Louis' door in less than fifteen minutes, trying to work up the courage to knock. His phone chimes again, probably Harry requesting explanations and Nick ignores it and rings the bell instead, feeling nauseous and awkward. What is he even going to say?

It takes a little while, long enough that Nick starts to think Louis isn't home, before the door finally opens to reveal Louis Tomlinson in all of his glory.

Soft and sleepy in his trackies and jumper combination, he looks absolutely charming, like all of Nick's stupidest fantasies come to life. He looks shocked for a second, his malleable face painted in pure surprise before he quickly hides any emotions away.

"What are you doing here?" he asks brusquely.

"Hi," Nick says. "Can we talk?" 

Louis rolls his eyes but still steps out of the doorway to let Nick in and walks him to the living room. Once they get there, he crosses his arms defensively over his chest and stare blankly at Nick.

"What do you want?"

It's pretty valid question, one that Nick would also like to know the answer to. The thing is he wants many things, too many things, things Louis probably doesn't want at all.

"I..."

"Look, if you're here to gloat," Louis starts saying angrily and he looks really upset. 

"What?" Nick asks, more confused than ever. "No, what would I be gloating about?"

Louis simply raises an eyebrow, all sass and judgement. "Of course you're here to gloat! Why else would you show up after today Grimshaw?"

Nick just shakes his head, feeling like he's never not going to be confused about the events of the day.

"You heard!" Louis yells and he sounds panicked. "You heard what I said to Niall about having an interview with you! You know how excited I was about it," he adds, disgusted with himself. "Now you're here to be an arse!" 

Nick gulps. "Why were you?"

Louis refuses to meet his eyes, staring at a wine stain on his sofa. 

"You hate me," Nick says with a shaky laugh. "I never understood it, I never liked it, but you do."

It's one of those facts of life; the Earth is round and Louis hates him. 

"I came here because I wanted to understand why you sounded happy about having to spend some time with me... Because I was hoping..." Nick takes a deep breath, knowing there's no turning back from this. "Because I like you," he admits and Louis finally looks at him as soon as he says it. He looks shocked, scared. "I've liked you for a really long time." Nick laughs, embarrassed. "Really, really long time. X-factor bootcamp long time."

Louis' mouth opens in shock. Nick laughs self-deprecatingly. What else is there to do at this point?

"I know," he says. "Shocking isn't it. All those time you said I was a creepy pervert for crushing on Harry? It was all you Louis. So no, I'm not gonna gloat or be mean to you. Not anymore. I like you too much for that and this whole thing is just... too painful and I don't want to do it anymore. I don't expect my feelings to be shared, but can we please drop the sworn enemies thing? It's exhausting and I'm too old for this shit."

Louis blushes furiously and nods. He passes a nervous hand through his hair, probably looking for a way to let Nick down easily. 

"I was jealous," he finally says quickly, so quickly Nick almost misses it. "All those times, about you and Harry... I was jealous. I just... I've had a crush on you since T4 and suddenly we met you and it was all Harry and Nick everywhere and I hated it."

He says their two names like they're poison in his mouth; bitter, wrong, unwelcome. Nick's heart is beating so fast he feels like he could fly, feels like the world makes sense again. Louis is still rambling, something about cool famous friends and tall annoying hipsters and not fitting in that crew and Nick knows it's important because it's Louis and Louis' feelings but he can't hear a thing beyond the fireworks exploding in his brain. Louis is babbling on and on and Nick feels too big for his skin, feels like a giant, like a king. He feels like the world is his for the taking so he starts with Louis' hands and kisses him, moaning when their lips finally touch. Louis gasps in response, untangling their hands after a few seconds and putting his to work, starting to destroy Nick's carefully crafted quiff, pulling at his hair as they keep on kissing. 

"I'm sure whatever you're saying is really interesting and important but I literally didn't hear anything beyond I've had a crush on you since T4, sorry," Nick says when they come up for air. 

"Fuck it," Louis says before kissing him again and yes, that sounds pretty reasonable if Nick is being totally honest.

 

*

 

Forgotten in Nick’s trousers, Harry’s latest text reads; I hope you’re going to declare your love and eternal devotion. It’s about time you two get it together.