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The Bare Naked Truth

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Harry Styles keeps his hands nervously tucked behind his back as he watches people stop in front of his painting to discuss its merits.  He isn’t close enough to eavesdrop, not sure he wants to hear what they might be saying but he’s hovering near the far wall, keeping his eye on it and trying to read the expressions on the faces of everyone who stops to study it. He’s so intent on this that he doesn’t even notice the handsome man that steps up beside him, turning to stare at the painting, too.

"You know, it's not a Seurat," the playful, lilting voice that interrupts Harry’s thoughts also has him flinching in surprise. Harry turns to the man and barely has the time to think ‘wow’ before the man is smirking at Harry, eyes brimming with amusement. “You can look at it up close.”

He's lucky Harry gets the reference, not everyone would. Though he guesses —being at an art gallery—that the odds are in his favor. Probably most of these people would know of Seurat and the Pointillism technique from the Neo-Impressionism movement. Harry still remembers his first Seurat, wondering at how a collection of beautiful colored dots could seem like a bit of a jumbled mess up close but form such incredible scenes from a distance.

Harry smiles at the man's statement but doesn't reply, not ready to admit that he already knows this particular painting, knows it intimately. Can still feel the brush strokes, like muscle memory, as he'd painted it. Luckily, he doesn't need to say anything as the handsome stranger speaks again.

"I'd especially recommend getting closer for that painting in particular. It's rather breathtaking if you ask me."

“The model is really gorgeous,” Harry admits. He’s still so thankful Zayn agreed to sit for him. His body is made to be painted, his face is meant to be seen . Though, the man next to Harry could give Zayn a run for his money.

“Well,” the man says, tilting his head as he considers the painting. “That’s definitely true but that’s not what I meant.”

“Well then, please,” Harry looks at his exquisite companion, a thrill of excitement in his smile, flirtation clear in his voice, “tell me what you meant.”

The man smiles at him, eyebrow quirked at his tone.  “I meant that the artist obviously knew what they were doing. Had a passion for it. They placed each paint stroke lovingly on that canvas as though they were caressing a lover.”

“Maybe it is a painting of their lover,” Harry suggests, just to see what the man next to him will say.

He hums in consideration, tilting his head as he considers the painting. “Perhaps,” he says thoughtfully, “but I don’t think so.”

That makes Harry even more curious. He turns his full body to face the man, giving him the entirety of his attention. “What makes you think that?”

Well ,” the man smiles sadly at the painting, never taking his eyes off of it. “It’s been my experience that people who paint like that, where every stroke of their paintbrush is more breathtaking than the last… they’re much more in love with their art than they ever are with their models.”

Harry’s heart clenches. It’s not the first time he’s heard that. He’s been dumped more than once for being too intense about his painting. It stings to hear it again but, honestly, he’s sadder for his companion than for himself. The man sounds like he’s no stranger to heartbreak either, though he seems to be on the other side of the situation. The one who never feels good enough, rather than the one who can’t seem to give enough. 

“I sort of know what you mean. I’m sorry that’s been your experience,” Harry says softly, looking back at his painting instead of his companion. Harry has always been quick to love, though apparently poor at showing it, and it’s far too easy to imagine taking his companion home with him and falling into something that’s beautiful but far too brief when Harry spends too much time giving in to the urgings of his muse instead of the whims of his lover.  His heart is already hurting just thinking about the inevitable fallout. 

From the corner of his eye, Harry can see the man shrug, looking at the painting too. “It’s not all bad. I mean, at least we get incredible art out of it. Can’t say I’m sad to see more beauty in the world.”

That makes Harry smile, heart lifting with a small surge of hope at those words. Even in the face of heartbreak, this man can still find something to be thankful for. That makes Harry feel optimistic for both of them and he turns back to the man with an undeniable fondness in his grin. “That’s a really lovely way to think of it. I mean, I know it doesn’t necessarily make anything hurt less and I’m still sorry you had to go through that, but I love your outlook.” Harry offers his hand to the man, “I’m Harry, by the way.”

The man shakes his hand, grinning coyly. “Louis.”

“Do you want to get some champagne?”

“I’d love that.” 

 

*

 

Harry and Louis spend the evening walking around the gallery and discussing each and every painting. Louis loves art just as much as Harry does, maybe more so and his knowledge of the subject impresses Harry so much.

“How do you know so much?” Harry eventually asks in awe after a third glass of champagne. “Are you an artist?”

“Not even,” Louis laughs like the idea is preposterous. Harry doesn’t think so. He’s been studying Louis all night while they’ve been talking. Louis has such beautiful hands and delicate wrists. Harry thinks his hands look like they were made to create things. “I teach Art History.”

“That’s incredible,” Harry says sincerely. That makes sense too. Louis’ mind is just as beautiful as the rest of him. “How long have you been a teacher?”

Louis looks proud as he answers, “This is my eighth year teaching.”

Harry blinks, not expecting that answer. Harry himself has only been out of uni for three years now. It makes him wonder just how big an age gap there might be between him and Louis. He looks so young.

“You look surprised,” Louis laughs at him. 

“I just… I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude but you look too young to have been teaching for eight years already,” Harry stumbles over his words but Louis laughs graciously, waving away Harry’s fears of offending him.

“Please, never apologize for thinking I look young,” he says with little crinkles by his eyes from smiling that Harry loves seeing. “I’m only 31 though, so I’m not quite old enough to be yelling at kids to get off my lawn yet.”

“I’m 25,” Harry says because he wants it out there. He likes Louis and as much as he thinks they could start something wonderful, he’s increasingly unsure if they should . They’re probably at different places in their lives. They probably want different things. He can’t deny that he wants Louis though. Very much. 

“Oh.” Louis’ smile fades a little and Harry’s heart does that mournful clenching thing again. “You look older.”

Harry snorts at that and Louis’ rolls his eyes, smile brightening again. 

“I mean, you carry yourself like someone older,” Louis explains chuckling lightly. “It was a compliment.”

“Well,” Harry says, straightening his posture and looking at Louis with his chin raised. “I do love a compliment.”

Louis shakes his head at Harry, biting down on a grin. “I take it back.”

“Hey! No backsies!” Harry says, affronted by the mere idea.

Louis can’t fight the smile that’s been threatening to break through anymore when he sees Harry’s face. 

Eventually, as they chat and tease each other, they end up circling back to Harry’s painting, this time stopping directly in front of it.  

“God, I love this one so much,” Louis sighs, eyes trailing over the image of Zayn and the gauzy sheet draped over him as he poses languidly on a luxury loveseat and stares wistfully out an open window. “I love how you can see the yearning in every part of it. Not just in the model’s eyes or the lines of his face. It’s in the drape of the fabric that covers him and the dreamlike quality of the world outside his window. I just… it sort of takes my breath away.”

Harry’s gaze shoots from his painting to Louis’ face as the other man stares in fascination at his art. Louis isn’t the only one feeling breathless right now. “You see all that?”

Louis turns to Harry, eyes sparkling with enthusiasm, lips parted in wonderment. “What do you see?”

“I-- I see someone I very much want to kiss,” Harry blurts out.

“I meant the painting,” Louis laughs, shaking his head at him and smacking Harry’s arm like he’s made a joke. 

“I know,” Harry says softly, watching Louis closely. He swallows, fear rising up in his throat and stomach a jumble of nerves as he confesses something he knows Louis likely won’t want to hear. He won’t lie to Louis about who he is, what he is, and he can’t keep it in any longer. Not after what Louis’ just said. Not when it could hurt him in the long run. “It’s mine. I’m the artist.”

Louis’ eyes widen at the admission, his cheeks turning the slightest shade of pink. “Oh,” he says softly as his eyes fall to the floor. 

“Yeah,” Harry ducks his head, a little ashamed he didn’t say something sooner. He probably should have. But he’d been so attracted to Louis initially and, as the night’s gone on, he’s realized how much he genuinely likes him too. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. I guess I was afraid of being dismissed as another arsehole, which,” Harry chuckles ruefully as he runs a hand through his hair, “I guess I’ve just proven for you. So, yeah I am sorry for wasting your time if that’s what I’ve done but also, thank you . For loving my painting. It’s really lovely to hear.”

“Might not have said it if I knew who you were,” Louis admits, looking up at him finally. There’s something shy in him now, like he’s not as sure of Harry as he was before and Harry hates that he’s done that. “At least, not so zealously.”

“Why not?” Harry wonders stepping closer, wondering if Louis will back away now that Harry’s ruined everything. 

He does, but as he does, he bites down on a smile, something dangerous and inviting in his eyes. “Don’t want too look easy, do I?”

Harry raises an eyebrow, lips tilting into a grin as he teases, “People are complex beings, Louis. I’d never assume anyone was easy.”

Louis snorts at the comment, rolling his eyes at Harry. Harry probably shouldn’t find that so attractive. 

“You do talk some shit, don’t you?” 

It’s Harry’s turn to scoff. “We’ve been talking all night and you’re just now figuring this out?”

Louis sighs but Harry thinks that’s a look of endearment in his eyes. “What am I gonna do with you?”

Harry steps into Louis’ side and leans in to whisper, “ Whatever you want .” When Harry pulls back, Louis’ face is one of shock, pupils dilated, lips parted. When Louis licks his lips a second later while staring at Harry’s mouth, he smiles at the reaction he’s caused, shrugging when Louis seems to be studying him to see if he really means what he’s said. “I never said I wasn’t easy.”

Perhaps that’s how he ends up tied to his own bedposts, wearing a blindfold while Louis drives him absolutely crazy with feather-soft touches and teasing kisses all over his body. 

“Louis, please,” he begs. He thinks Louis likes it when he begs. 

“You said whatever I wanted, Harold,” Louis scolds him playfully. “Are you a man of your word or not?”

Harry gasps as Louis’ warm breath ghosts over his cock, followed by a swift lick at the head. “Yes,” he promises.”Whatever you want. I promise. Just don’t stop.”

“Don’t stop… touching you?” Louis wonders, running his fingers slowly, over Harry’s nipples. He’s already sucked on them and bitten them and pinched them just enough to hurt a little, the way Harry likes it. 

“Yes, that,” Harry confirms. “Don’t stop that.”

“Don’t stop… kissing you?” He continues, moving his hands into Harry’s hair, holding him in place so that he can suck a lovebite onto his neck. 

“And that. Never stop that,” Harry agrees breathlessly, arching to give him more skin to mark.  Louis takes the invitation, moving to kiss at Harry’s jaw and then his lips, licking into his mouth like he’s starving for the taste of him. 

Louis moves away for a moment, just long enough to make Harry whine at the loss of him but then he’s back and that’s all that Harry cares about. He feels Louis squirming above him as they kiss, grinding down against him in the best way and as long as Louis is kissing him, he’s content with just this. He can definitely come from just this. But that’s apparently not all that Louis had in mind. He breaks away again and Harry feels Louis grab his cock with a wet hand, sliding a condom onto him with the other. 

“Oh god,” He whispers reverently as Louis sinks down onto him slowly, encompassing him in a heat that makes his toes curl and his hands grip tighter to the scarves imprisoning him. “ Please .”

Louis fucks himself on Harry’s cock slowly, taking his pleasure how he wants it, teasing Harry the entire time and only making him want more of the exquisite torture. He relishes the way that Louis uses his body, treating Harry to little glimpses of his own pleasure, building one on top of the other until they’re both sent careening over the edge of ecstasy. 

Louis stays after they clean up, kissing Harry’s reddened wrists in apology and stroking his fingers through Harry’s hair, lulling him into a peaceful sleep. 

He knows that Louis could have given up on him earlier, could have turned him away and never looked back after the stunt that Harry pulled, but whatever it was that made him decide to give Harry a chance, Harry is grateful for it. Even if it’s not meant to last beyond the night.

 

*

 

It’s been a few weeks since Harry’s night with Louis and he can’t seem to stop thinking about it. They hadn’t exchanged numbers in the morning, some unspoken understanding between them that they wouldn’t try to make their night together more than it was. They’d been attracted to each other and they’d both had a good time, but there was something keeping them from seeking more. For Harry it was the fear of being yet another disappointment in Louis’ life, another crack in a heart that sounded like it had already been broken too many times. It would kill Harry to fall for Louis only to find that his version of love could never be enough. He tries to put it out of his mind, to think of it as a wonderful experience that he’s lucky to have had and nothing more. He tries . But he ultimately fails.

Standing on the pavement outside the art gallery where they met is certainly doing him no favors so Harry takes a deep breath and forces himself to walk inside. There’s a new art exhibition tonight and Harry is determined to enjoy it.

He’s studying a painting of a starry sky when he feels someone step up beside him.

“Fancy meeting you here,” his companion says, also studying the painting, a glass of champagne in hand.

Harry fights a smile at the sound of that voice, keeping his eyes straight ahead. “Small world, I guess.” He already knows he’s failed at keeping his fondness from coloring his words.

“So,” Louis says, craning his neck as he looks at the paintings all around them. “Which one is yours?”

Now Harry turns to him, a smirk on his face. “After the way you talked about my work last time, I’m surprised you have to ask.”

Louis’ cheeks flush at the reminder of how he practically fangirled over Harry’s painting last time but he acts unbothered, instead raising an eyebrow in challenge. “Aren’t people supposed to want to see your work? Why so mysterious, Mr. Artist?”

Harry’s smile grows as he stares into Louis’ eyes. There’s already a slow burn of arousal building in his veins. “Guess.”

“Guess why you’re so mysterious?”

Harry laughs, shaking his head. “Guess which painting is mine.”

“A game? I accept your challenge!” Louis grins, throwing back the last of his champagne and placing the flute on the nearest serving tray as he starts towards the painting that’s farthest away. “Come along, Harold. Maybe you’ll learn something.”

Harry trails behind Louis wearing a dangerously besotted smile the entire time.

Louis stops in front of painting after painting, tilting his head to consider it before ultimately deciding that it can’t possibly be one of Harry’s. Occasionally Harry will ask why Louis has dismissed one, like when Louis walks straight past a dark, mournful-looking abstract without even pausing to study it.

Louis turns and walks back to the painting, biting his lip as he looks at it. “It’s lovely,” Louis tells him, eyeing the dull blues splashed over a galaxy of blacks and greys. “But it’s not you.”

“Know me so well, do you?” Harry prods, taking a step to close the distance between them and pressing a hand to the small of Louis’ back as he leans in closer. “After one night?”

Louis returns the flirtatious look Harry knows he’s giving him, lips tilted slyly. “I know enough.”

Do you?” Harry asks shamelessly, licking his lips and watching Louis’ eyes trace the movement before meeting Harry’s gaze.

“I know enough about your art,” Louis corrects himself.

Harry grins victoriously, still teasing, “You’ve only seen my work once though.”

Louis shrugs nonchalantly, “Sometimes once is enough.” He moves to step around Harry, to get back to their game but stops at Harry’s side adding quietly, “sometimes it’s not,” and Harry gets the distinct impression Louis’ not talking about his art anymore.

After they’ve been through every painting in the gallery, Louis turns to Harry with a sigh. “Alright, you win,” he says wearing a frown, obviously unhappy with this outcome. “Which one’s yours? Apparently, I’m not as good as I thought I was at this.”

“Actually, I’d say you’re pretty amazing,” Harry replies with a laugh. “You didn’t find it because there’s not one.”

“What?” Louis asks in a near-squawk, only holding back his playfully offended cry because of where they are. “You dirty little liar.”

Harry’s already shaking his head, voice full of laughter. “I never lied. You assumed I was here for my own art. I never said I was.”

Louis watches him shrewdly, no doubt thinking back to the start of the night. “Alright, I can’t argue with that, I guess. But I still think you’re a menace.”

“Oh, that I won’t deny,” Harry answers with a mischievous wink.

Louis doesn’t seem to mind him being a menace when Harry takes him home and fucks him slow and hard, drawing it out for over an hour until Louis is begging Harry to make him come.  Being on edge for so long exhausts them both and Harry finds himself lazily wiping them both clean and then curling around Louis’ body to fall asleep together.

In the morning, Louis crawls back across the bed and wakes Harry once he’s dressed and lets him know that he’s leaving.

“I had a good time last night,” Louis tells him, pressing a goodbye kiss to Harry’s lips. “Thank you.”

“Wait,” Harry says, sleepy-eyed and still cocooned in his duvet, as he catches Louis’ wrist before he can push off of Harry’s bed to leave.

“I’m waiting,” Louis chuckles when Harry doesn’t add anything else. His eyes crinkle at the edges from his smile and Harry’s sleep-addled brain is mesmerized by how pretty he is. “Harry?”

“What? Oh. Right,” Harry blinks to wake himself up a bit more. “I, uh, I just wanted to say that I like doing this with you.”

“What? Saying goodbye?” Louis jokes.

“Being with you,” Harry says maybe a little too honestly for this early in the morning.

Louis’ smile fades a little, dulling to something sweet but more somber than before. “Yeah. Me too, Harry… but—“

“I’m not suggesting that we date or anything,” Harry cuts in in a rush before Louis can reject him completely. “I’m pretty sure that you’re not interested in that, right?”

Louis bites his lip, taking a deep breath while staring down at the print on Harry’s duvet. “Right.”

“And, honestly, I’m not sure that I’m ready for a relationship right now either,” Harry continues, watching Louis nod in understanding as he finally meets Harry’s eyes again. “But I do think that when we’re together it’s…”

“Amazing,” Louis finishes, smile coming back full force. There’s a wistful edge to it that leaves Harry’s fingers itching for his paintbrush.

“Yes.”

“Are you proposing we have some sort of casual sex arrangement, Harry?” Louis asks, a teasing quality to his words.

“I’m in if you are,” Harry answers, thumb soothing over the bone of Louis’ wrist that he’s still holding onto. “No promises, no expectations. No broken hearts.” He hopes. God , does he hope. There’s something in him that knows he maybe shouldn’t have asked this but the part of him that wants it is so much stronger.

 “Friends with benefits,” Louis muses as his eyes trail over Harry’s face. Harry wonders if he’s telegraphing all his thoughts on his face. He’s not sure it would be a bad thing if he was. 

“Incredible benefits,” Harry urges, wiggling his eyebrows.

“You’re ridiculous,” Louis chuckles with a shake of his head as he pushes himself up off the bed. Harry releases his wrist even though he kind of doesn’t want to. Louis looks down at him with a sigh before rolling his eyes. “Where’s your phone? I’ll put my number in.”

Harry whoops in elation as he gets Louis his phone.

 

*

 

‘Having trouble painting. Want to come over and motivate me?’ Harry sends Louis three days later. He’s been trying to paint all day with no success. He’s just not in love with anything he’s coming up with. 

‘Am I motivating you with my mouth or my dick?’ Louis sends back.

‘I wouldn’t say no to either. But your arse is possibly the greatest motivator of all.’ 

‘I meant vocal motivation or sexual. But I think you knew that.’

Harry grins, typing out. ‘I did. And I will take both as stated. I love it when you’re vocal as I fuck you. ;)’

Louis takes a minute to answer him back and Harry can almost see his face, the way he’d roll his eyes even as he tried not to smile. 

‘...I have half a mind to leave you to suffer.’

‘Noooooooooo.’

Louis doesn’t reply again, but he does show up at Harry’s door ten minutes later. 

When Harry tries to kiss him hello and drag him to the bedroom, Louis pulls away, leaving Harry confused and pouting. “What’s wrong?” He asks.

“You called me over for motivation, not instant gratification. You have to paint first and then I’ll give you what you want,” Louis says kicking off his shoes in the middle of the floor before circling around Harry, keeping him an arms-length away the whole time, a wicked sparkle in his eyes as he settles on Harry’s couch. 

“What?!? I’m pretty sure I said instant gratification,” Harry argues, sitting next to him and leaning in to kiss him again. “That must have been autocorrect.”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Louis tuts, pushing Harry back again. “ Paint first .”

“Sigh,” Harry says as he reluctantly rises from his couch, trudging over to the easel set up in the corner. He was looking out the window behind his couch for inspiration when he started but it wasn’t inspirational enough . There’s nothing to see out there that he hasn’t already seen a million times before. “Next time I’m not mentioning the painting.”

“You’ll thank me later, when you’ve finished another masterpiece,” Louis laughs, getting comfortable and pulling one of Harry’s magazines from his coffee table to read as he waits. But then he stops, turning back to Harry with squinty eyes. “Also, did you just say ‘sigh’?”

“Yes, because you’re being mean,” Harry says with another pout as he picks up his paintbrush and palette. Honestly, he doesn’t even really know what he’s painting, he just knows that the urge is there. His muse seems to have taken a vacation though. 

“Aww,” Louis pouts back at him. “Does the big bad artist need a little incentive?” He sprawls out on Harry’s couch, the black band t-shirt he’s wearing rising up and showing an enticing stripe of tanned skin between the hem and the top of the grey joggers on his legs. Harry hadn’t even noticed what he was wearing until now but likes what he sees. 

“Are you… wearing anything under those joggers?” Harry asks, mesmerized by the outline of Louis’ dick that he thinks he sees. 

Louis flutters his eyelashes at him. “Nope.”

“Fuck,” Harry whispers, licking his lips. “Can I--”

“Nope,” Louis answers before the question is even out, raising the magazine in front of his face and letting himself get absorbed in the articles. “Paint.”

Harry blows air out of puffed cheeks and resigns himself to actually having to do what he was trying to procrastinate. He stares at Louis on his couch looking cozy and comfortable, like he belongs there, and it fills Harry’s chest with something warm and light. When he puts his brush to canvas, he tries to capture that feeling. An hour later, he thinks he’s finished. 

Standing back, Harry stares at his painting. Threads of evening sunlight are woven into browns and auburns on the head of a tanned profile that’s turned away so that you can’t quite see their face, body reclined on a well-loved couch like some kind of late-night fantasy. It definitely captures that feeling Harry was trying for, but he’s not sure if it’s something everyone would see or if it’s just him. He fears it may be just him, because he definitely hadn’t set out to paint Louis but here he is, looking like everything Harry wants. 

Trying to swallow the too-many-too-much-too-fast emotions that are welling up within him, Harry tosses his palette and brush aside, quickly covering the painting before stalking over to the couch.

Louis looks up at him slowly, sleepy-eyed, and offers him a warm smile. “Finished?”

Harry offers him a hand and pulls him up when it’s taken, tugging Louis close immediately. “Finished,” he confirms, hands already curled around the back of Louis’ neck to pull him into a kiss. 

“Mmmmm,” Louis hums in pleasure, relaxing into the kiss and wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck without further comment. 

Moving swiftly, Harry tucks his hands under Louis’ thighs, taking him by surprise when he lifts him up. Louis’ legs automatically wrap around Harry’s waist as Louis laughs into his neck, holding on tight while Harry carries him to the bedroom. 

“Eager,” Louis teases him but he has no idea how much Harry needs him right now. 

Harry tosses him gently onto the bed, following before Louis has time to finish a single bounce on the mattress. He reaches for Louis’ joggers, tugging them off and tossing them away, getting his mouth on Louis as soon as he possibly can. 

“Holy shit,” Louis murmurs, tangling his fingers in Harry’s hair as Harry hollows his cheeks around him and hums in satisfaction. 

 

*

 

Harry is halfway through doing his weekly grocery shopping when he gets a text from Louis. 

‘Come to mine?’

‘As long as we both come, I don’t care where we are,’ Harry texts back, thinking he’s funny. 

‘Another reply like that and you’ll only get to watch me come.’

“Fuck,” Harry says to his phone. He looks up immediately to check that there are no children around. Luckily, he’s in the clear. ‘Sorry. Send me the address.’

As soon as he sees Louis’ address, Harry leaves the shop, his trolley still sitting abandoned in the aisle.

“Hey,” Louis says when Harry arrives, pulling him inside and leading him straight to the bedroom despite this being Harry’s first visit to his home.

“What? Don’t I get the grand tour?” Harry asks playfully as Louis tugs him along. 

“Do you want a tour of the flat or do you want your dick in my arse?” Louis asks. 

“Shutting up,” Harry says with a chuckle. But the thing is, Harry kind of does want the tour too. He wants to look at Louis’ movie collection and the photos on his walls, and the trinkets that he keeps. Harry wants to see all the little glimpses into the parts of Louis’ life that he’s not a part of. He kind of wants to be a part of them. The more he’s with Louis --the more they talk and cling to each other after they have sex, the more he challenges Harry to be the best artist he can be--, the more Harry longs for more than sex. But he knows that’s not what Louis is looking for, so he keeps his mouth shut and hopes his heart can take the silence.

 

*

 

‘I have another painting going up in the gallery. Be my date?’ 

Just seeing the word ‘date’ makes Harry’s heart speed up. He didn’t actually mean to use it, he meant to say something ambiguous like ‘go with me’ or ‘meet me there’ but his heart must have been running things in that moment because he’s come to realize that he does want to date Louis. He wants to see him dressed up in nice clothes, and woo him with flowers and gifts, and hold his hand and kiss him outside of a darkened bedroom. He wants to love him. But he’s not sure if Louis will even let him try. Sometimes, after they have sex, when they’re sweaty and too tired to go to their own place to sleep, Louis curls up in Harry’s arms and it feels like maybe he wants all that too. Sometimes, when he kisses Harry before they go their separate ways, it feels like he clings to Harry’s arms just a little too tight for it not to be a silent request for him to stay. But Harry is younger than Louis and on the verge of falling deeper than he ever has before so he can’t be sure that he’s not reading into things, seeing what he wants to see. 

‘Can’t tonight. Sorry, love.’

Harry’s heart drops into his stomach. 

‘Already have a date?’ Harry sends back with some emoji that’s meant to make his question sound less serious. He is serious though. They never had a talk about what would happen if they found someone they liked while they were merely using each other for casual sex. Harry realizes now that in the back of his mind, he’d always thought that he and Louis would end up falling for each other. The spark between them feels so strong, he never imagined it could be one-sided but… what if it is?

‘Only if you count dinner with my parents and siblings as a date. XD. Sorry, I’ll miss your big reveal. Wish I could be there. xx’

Harry’s heart finds its way back to its rightful spot in his chest but doesn’t stop its frantic beating. He doesn’t really blame it. Louis Tomlinson brings with him a whirlwind of beautiful chaos to Harry’s life, no truly faithful heart worthy of him could react otherwise.

 

*

 

“Oh my god,” Harry gasps, throwing himself onto his back on his bed. “That was--”

“Incredible,” Louis finishes with a grin, laying his head on Harry’s sweaty chest. He doesn’t seem to mind at all how gross Harry is right now. He’s not exactly morning fresh himself but Harry kind of loves Louis sweaty and disheveled. Of course, Harry has given up on any chance he may have had of not falling desperately in love with him so, he’s hopeless really.

“How did you learn that thing with your tongue?” Harry asks, eyes squinted as he tries to build a mental picture of what exactly Louis had been doing.

Louis shrugs, not moving from his spot laying on Harry. “Just figured I’d try something new.”

“Well, I definitely approve,” Harry says, wrapping his arm around Louis to pull him closer. He cranes his neck to press a kiss to Louis’ forehead. “Maybe I’ll give it a try next time.”

Louis laughs softly, puffs of his breath breezing over Harry’s skin and giving him goosebumps. “Somehow I don’t think we’re doing this right.”

Harry tenses up at those words but doesn’t move otherwise. “Doing what right?” He feels cold all over, worrying that Louis is about to end everything. And yes, he remembers what he said about no expectations and no broken hearts but he was obviously lying to himself when he said that and now here he is about to get his heart broken. Maybe. Probably. 

“This casual sex thing,” Louis says peering up at Harry from his Harry-chest pillow. He’s smiling. He’s going to break Harry’s heart with a smile on his face. “I don’t think people usually have quite as many sleepovers as we do, or plan for next time .” He laughs again, watching Harry. 

“Oh,” Harry laughs along nervously. “Do you… not like that? The sleepovers and stuff?”

Louis snuggles back down into Harry’s side before answering, “No, I like them. It’s nice waking up next to someone sometimes, you know?”

“Yeah,” Harry replies quietly, tightening his hold on Louis. “Yeah, I know.”

His heart, it seems, is safe this time. 

 

*

 

Louis has fallen asleep on Harry’s couch, taking a break from his duties keeping Harry motivated, it seems. He looks so peaceful and sweet curled up on the cushions that Harry can’t help stopping to stare every now and again. God, he makes Harry so happy.

With a smile on his face, Harry goes back to painting the angel he’s been working on for the last two hours. Louis has been both his motivator and his muse for the past several months. Even if he’s sleeping on the job of motivator, he’s still doing just fine at giving Harry inspiration.

Harry wakes Louis a while later, paint streaked on his hands and a bit in his hair. Louis rolls over blinking his eyes open and sits up taking in the sight of him.

“You’re a mess,” Louis tells him with a smile that makes Harry’s heart clench in longing as he reached up to touch the paint in Harry’s hair. Harry wants to kiss him. And he wants to never have to stop.

“I am a mess,” he agrees, capturing Louis’ hands in his own, clutching them tightly. “I have something to tell you and I hope it’s okay.”

Louis’ smile wavers, eyes clouding with worry as he gives Harry’s hands an encouraging squeeze. “What is it, love? You can tell me anything.”

“I know. I know I can,” Harry breathes, words coming out undeniably fond. “Louis, I know what I said before, when we started all this. I know that I was the one who suggested that we be casual, but I don’t want that anymore.”

“Harry,” Louis starts, looking down at their held hands.  He doesn’t pull away though so Harry is taking that as a good sign.

“I am a terrible mess, Louis,” Harry continues, saying what he needs to say before Louis can shut him down. “But I wanna be your mess. Every day, every second, every part of me wants to belong to every part of you.”

 “You can’t--,” Louis cuts himself off, staring at Harry like he’s in pain.

“I know,” Harry jumps in when Louis doesn’t continue, guilt flooding his bones. “I shouldn’t have dumped all that on you. I’m sorry. You made it really clear what you wanted and I—“

“No,” Louis disagrees sharply, dropping Harry’s hands and instead cradling both sides of his face so gently. “ You decided what I was looking for. You’re the one who said I didn’t want a relationship. I just went along with it so that I could keep you a little while longer.”

“You--?”

“Apparently, I have a type,” Louis jokes, stroking his thumbs over Harry’s cheeks. “I’m destined to fall for artists that are too talented for my own good.”

“I’m not like those others, Louis,” Harry rushes to assure him, hands calmly pulling Louis’ away from his face. “They were idiots not to see what was right in front of them. But I see you. And I love you more than anything .”

Louis’ eyes are swimming with unshed tears as he grasps at Harry’s shirt desperately. “Don’t you dare say that if you don’t mean it.”

“I do,” Harry promises, pulling him into his arms. “I mean every fucking word, Louis.”

“You’re sure about this?” Louis checks, pulling away enough that he can look into Harry’s eyes. “Because I need you to be sure about this Harry. I can’t get my heart broken again. Not by you.”

You are the only thing I am sure of, Louis.”

Louis closes the distance between them and Harry finally gets that kiss he’s been hungering for. 

 

*

 

At some point in their making out, Louis tugs at Harry’s clothes until he obliges and finally just tears them off, Louis’ following close behind. They roll from the couch onto the floor, laughing as they kiss and knock into things, lighthearted and so fucking happy that they can’t be bothered with the mess they’re making.

They knock Harry’s paints down and just continue to get themselves covered in streaks of rainbow colors and the newspaper that Harry always lays down for just such an occasion. (Okay, he never expected to have sex in his paints, but you get the idea.)

“I love you,” Louis says when they’re laying breathless on the floor afterward. “I just realized that I never said it back.”

Harry kisses him and smears some paint on his cheek, pulling back to admire his work. “It’s official,” he says, voice soft and so, so caring. “ You are my greatest work of art.”

And to a man with a weakness for artists, always falling for the ones whose work is their entire life, that’s the greatest declaration of love that Louis’ ever heard.