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Stuck In The Middle With You

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Finally.

Harry got out of the car, looking at the building in front of him. He leaned against the car door, taking in every detail around him, and couldn't help the smile spreading over his face.

A group of people came out of the big, wooden entrance door, while another car parked to his left, a couple kissing briefly before they got out. On the patch of grass in front of the building, several people sat in small groups, chatting away and drinking from paper cups.

"Happy?"

Harry turned around to look at Louis, who was getting their bags out of the boot. He handed Harry his rucksack, smiling fondly. Harry slung it over one shoulder before taking his suitcase.

"Very," he answered. "I'm so happy to finally be here."

Rolling his eyes, Louis shut the boot. "Haz, you've been here more times than I can count."

"But only as a visitor. Now I'm here as a student. I'll be living here." Grinning, Harry turned to Louis, feeling happier than ever. He had waited for his uni life to start since Louis had left school. Their age gap was a shame, really. Those last two years of school had been nothing but boring.

They were the epitome of best friends. Ever since they had been toddlers, they had been inseparable. Louis had protected Harry from the older kids in kindergarten, and in primary school, Harry had always shared his lunch box with Louis.

There had always been babies at Louis' house. He had four little sisters, and Harry had loved being over and playing with them. That hadn't been the only reason for their friendship, obviously, but it had been a nice bonus. Even now that Louis was at uni, Harry had gone over several days a week to check on Louis’ youngest siblings, a set of twins, Ernest and Doris.

Doris was his secret favourite -- she was the cutest baby on earth.

Having so many younger sisters, Louis had mostly been over at Harry's, though. Harry had been the brother Louis had never had but always wanted. Harry had only one sister, and though he’d never longed for a brother quite like Louis had, he felt just as connected to him.

Brothers or not, Louis was family.

Harry couldn't wait to spend every day with Louis again. They were the dream team. Together, they were nothing short of amazing.

"Come on," Louis said, nudging Harry's arm with his shoulder. "Let's go in and see where our rooms are."

There was a system for each dorm, Harry knew as much. Room assignments switched every year, aiming to have a first year student live with a year two or three student. It was the idea of integrating the new ones and helping them get used to the campus sooner.

Harry hoped that by some miracle he would be assigned to Louis.

Of course that wasn't the case. When they stood in front of the huge board with the lists of names and assigned rooms, Harry found the number 205 behind his name. Louis was in room 217.

"That's the same floor, at least," Louis pointed out when they tried to get out of the mob of people that was permanently gathered in front of the board. "That makes it easier to sneak around."

Harry snorted, and he knew he didn't have to voice his thoughts. Louis very well know how ambiguous that comment was.

Yet, the thought of them "sneaking around" in that way was simply hilarious.

"That's my room," Louis cut into Harry's thoughts, stopping in front of a white door. He opened it and Harry peeked over Louis' shoulder to get a good view of the room.

What he saw first was a huge window covering almost all of the opposite wall. It showed a nice view of the campus, green meadows and big trees, the brick building that was the university in the distance.

Then, Harry noticed the boy. He was blond, his skin pale, but his cheeks rosy and his grin wide, which made him look excited. He dropped a guitar onto one of the beds and came over with one hand extended.

"Hello!" he greeted in a kind voice. "So cool to meet you. I'm Niall!"

Louis took his hand, shaking it. "Hi, mate. I'm Louis."

"It's my first year, so I have no idea how all this is supposed to work." Niall gestured into the room, and Harry noticed that he had a very distinctive dialect. He was most definitely Irish. "I kinda unpacked, but I didn't claim anything yet? Like, you can choose, if you want."

Laughing gently, Louis walked in, dropping his bags in the middle of the room. Now Harry could see two desks, and two wardrobes. "No worries. Just throw your stuff wherever. It'll all get mixed up soon, anyway. I'm not that much of a tidy person, 'm afraid."

"Great." Niall let out a relieved breath. Then he glanced at Harry standing in the doorframe. "Um? Are we gonna be three in this room?"

"Hm?" Louis looked up from his rucksack. "Oh no. Of course not. That's Harry, my best friend. It's his first year, too."

"Hi," Harry got out sheepishly. "I didn't mean to-- disturb."

"Not at all, mate," Niall reassured him with a genuine smile. "Come in, if you'd like to?"

"I guess I gotta find my room first, but thanks." Harry shrugged, gesturing down the corridor. "I'll see you later, Lou?"

Louis nodded, smiling at him. "I'll come check on you in a bit. Good luck with your roommate."

"Hopefully, you're as lucky as Louis here," Niall commented with a cheeky grin.

Louis snorted. "Hopefully, you're not as unfortunate as Niall here."

Harry laughed when he turned around, hearing Niall stutter, "Why? What do you mean?"

He walked down the corridor, dragging his suitcase behind him and greeting every other student who passed him with a kind and open smile. When he reached 205, the door stood open, revealing a room that was a mirror image of Louis and Niall's one. Since the rooms Louis had been in the past years had looked just the same, Harry suspected that every room in the dorm had the same layout.

There was a boy, too, standing with his back to Harry and apparently typing on his phone. He had dark hair, curling slightly at the tips over his ears, and broad shoulders, a slim waist and long legs.

Harry went in, carefully putting down his luggage. "Um. Hi."

The boy turned and Harry's heart flipped in his stomach.

"Oh, hi! I'm Chris." The boy crossed the room, holding out a hand. "You must be Harry."

Chris. Harry knew the boy's name was Chris. Ever since he had visited Louis for the very first time, Harry had known exactly who he was. Louis had had a crush on this boy for two years now, whining to Harry that he just couldn't make Chris notice him.

Harry remembered that he had to answer. "Yes, right. How---"

"I checked the board," Chris confessed. He had a very nice smile and blue eyes. Not as blue as Louis’, a little more on the grey side, but nonetheless blue. "I'm a bit impatient and curious, I guess."

"I would have done the same," Harry admitted, shrugging. "If there hadn't been such a crowd in front of the board."

"Good to know." Chris pointed at the left bed. "I already arrived yesterday, so I had to pick a bed. I hope that's okay?"

Harry nodded, still a bit struck by that turn of destiny that had chosen his roommate to be his best friend's crush. "No problem."

"So, I guess you're a first year?" Chris asked, getting back to his bed to put his phone on the bedside table.

"Yes," Harry confirmed. "I'm really excited."

"Where did you come from then?" Chris wanted to know. "Anywhere far?"

"Not really. I'm from a small town in Cheshire."

"Oh, that's really not too far. I'm from Norfolk," Chris told him. He sat down on his bed and crossed his legs. Harry wondered if Chris was doing Yoga, because he seemed to automatically straighten his back, hands coming to rest on his knees. "It's an annoying, long ride with the National Express."

Harry nodded, looking for his phone in his rucksack. "Which year are you in, then?" he asked out of politeness, because, actually Harry knew every single bit about that. Louis had told him several times.

"In year three," Chris answered. "So if you need anything, or help with registering for seminars and classes, let me know."

"Thanks," Harry said with a smile. "I know my way around here a bit, actually. My best friend is in year three, too."

Casual, Harry thought. This was such a great opportunity. Fate had arranged for him to share a room with Louis' crush, and Harry wouldn't let it go to waste.

"Is he?" Chris frowned. "Who is it?"

"Louis Tomlinson," Harry answered, glancing at Chris' face to see his reaction.

He looked genuinely clueless. "Don't know him, I guess?"

Ouch. Harry turned back to his rucksack, opening another pocket and finally finding his mobile. "Maybe you study completely different things," he said calmly, pretending it didn't matter.

"Most likely," Chris agreed. "Which reminds me. What are you studying?"

"Media studies," Harry told him. Again, just to keep up the pretence, he added, "How about you?"

He knew that Chris was studying Law, just like Louis. They had had several classes together in the past year. Three, to be exact. And Louis had spent those classes pining over Chris and plotting how to make him notice Louis.

That had all been in vain, apparently.

"Law," Chris said.

Harry's mobile started ringing at that moment, a cover of Walking on Sunshine he and Louis had recorded after a few drinks too many. He quickly picked up, excusing himself and leaving the room.

Outside, he talked to his mum for a few minutes, reassuring her that everything was fine. She asked about the room and Chris, about Louis and if Harry's bed was okay. Harry just rolled his eyes, patiently answering every question.

After he had hung up, he dashed down the corridor and knocked on Louis and Niall's door once before rushing in.

"Lou!" he exclaimed, slightly out of breath from his excitement. He noticed that Louis was alone, crouching in front of his wardrobe and stuffing in clothes.

Louis looked up, quirking a brow. "What?"

Harry shut the door. "My roommate. It's Chris."

Halting his movements, Louis blinked at him. "Chris Lyall?"

"The one and only," Harry confirmed, crossing his heart.

Louis swayed a little and then just fell back, slumping onto his bum. "Oh God."

"Lou!" Harry crouched down next to him, gripping Louis' hands. "That's the best thing to ever happen."

"Well, the best thing would be for me to share a room with him," Louis argued.

"But having your best friend share a room with him is just as good." Harry flipped a finger against Louis' forehead. "Think about it. I'm gonna talk about you all day. He has no choice but to fall in love with the perfect guy I can't shut up about."

"And we can hang out in your room," Louis added, talking slowly. "He will have to get to know me."

"Exactly!" Harry grinned, holding up a hand.

Louis grinned back, meeting Harry's hand in a high five.

+++

Louis swallowed thickly before knocking on the door to Chris and Harry's room.

Harry had warned him that Chris had no idea who Louis was, so the matter was most urgent. This was finally it. This was the moment, Chris would notice Louis, would get to know Louis for the first time. He had to leave a good impression.

This was crucial to Louis' future.

Harry opened with a smile, giving Louis a short nod to imply that all was going according to plan. Not that they had much of a plan. Natural, the plan was to act all natural and have Chris fall for Louis' natural charm.

"Oh. Hi Louis," Harry chirped, obviously failing the natural act. "What are you doing here?"

Louis stepped in, ruffling Harry's hair. "Thought I'd check up on you."

Harry seemingly relaxed, grinning a bit when he closed the door. "Have you met Chris?"

"I don't think I have." Louis turned, extending his hand with what he hoped was a smooth move. "Nice to meet you."

Chris took his hand, his skin warm and soft against Louis'. He eyed Louis a little suspiciously. "Have we met before?"

Yes! Louis had known his efforts hadn't been in vain. He smiled. "I think we had a few classes together. International Law, Professor O'Murrey?"

Chris' face lit up. "Oh, you're studying Law too!"

"I am," Louis confirmed.

"That's cool," Chris commented, blushing a little. "Sorry I didn't recognise you."

"Oh, no worries," Louis reassured him, internally fonding over how adorable Chris was. "We're a lot of students, you can't possibly know all of them."

"I know you now." Chris winked, burying his hands in the pockets of his jeans. Tight jeans, emphasising every curve of his long, slender legs, Louis noticed.

"Hey, I wanted to take Harry to the coffee shop, show him the essentials, you know?" Louis glanced at Harry, who was looking at them with a fond expression. "Wanna join us?"

"That sounds great, actually," Chris said. "I'd love to."

When Harry and Chris both had collected their wallets and mobiles, Louis stayed close to Harry, let Chris walk ahead for a moment.

"This is going well," he whispered.

Harry beamed. "You'll be his boyfriend before you can even blink."

+++

Unfortunately, that didn't come true.

Harry frowned at his book, glancing at Chris. They were both reading, having the habit of reading books before going to sleep. Harry read a book for a seminar, Chris' book was a love story. He had told Harry what it was about and Harry would read it after him.

Actually, they got along really well. Chris liked the same bands as Harry, and in the morning, they did yoga together. They both liked to cook, liked the same movies and books, and even had a similar taste in clothes. Living with Chris was very easy, because it was just like Harry had found -- well, a soulmate, probably.

It was simple like that.

Different from how Louis was his soulmate -- and Harry was convinced that they were soulmates. A deep bond connected them, had always connected them, and Louis understood Harry like no one else. Chris was a different kind of soulmate, probably. He was Harry's lost twin, or something like that.

There was one thing Chris was that Harry wasn't, though. He was unbelievably thick. How could he not see that Louis was the right guy for him? If he was so similar to Harry, why wasn't he clever enough to realise that?

Perhaps Harry was a bit biased, but if he had a boy as lovely as Louis crushing on him, he wouldn't waste a single second to make him his.

Chris, however, was completely blind to every one of Louis' attempts.

"So," Harry said into the silence. "Louis said he met you at the football field today?"

Chris turned to him, his hair held back with a simple, blue headband. "Yes, we briefly talked."

"Did you see him play?" Harry inquired.

"For a bit."

Harry tried to come across as casual and calm, like this conversation wasn't of national importance. "He's such a good player, isn't he?"

Chris shrugged. "I guess. He looked quite skilled. But I wouldn't know."

"Why?" Tilting his head, Harry put his book away.

"I'm not really interested in football," Chris answered, looking back at his pages.

Maybe he was just Harry’s long lost brother, not twin. They did have their similarities, but this one was essential, and Chris had just proven that he lacked the essentials.

He's not into footie. Plan K: failed, he texted Louis.

What am I supposed to do next to make him fall in love?, Louis texted back a few minutes later.

Harry nuzzled into his pillow, mumbling "Good night" to Chris, before he typed out his answer.

I got an idea. Talk tomorrow.

+++

"What?"

Louis didn't think he heard that right.

"Just think about it, Lou," Harry continued with his argumentation. "People always want what they can't have."

"You think he doesn't want me because he could have me, if he wanted?" Louis raised a brow.

"Well," Harry mumbled, looking insecure for a moment. Then he leaned across the table, grabbing one of Louis' hands. "I think he just hasn’t thought about the possibility."

"And if he sees me with someone else, he will?"

Harry nodded, keeping his voice low. They were at the coffee shop, all tables around them occupied, loud chatter from all sides keeping their conversation somewhat private. "Absolutely. The setup is perfect. You come over and we do what we always do, Lou. It won't be a problem to act affectionate around me, will it?"

"Of course not," Louis immediately responded. "But will he believe it? I mean, he's seen us together."

"We'll say we kept it low-key. Because there are homophobic arseholes everywhere and you can never know."

Harry apparently had an explanation for everything. He had thought that plan through in detail. Louis didn't know what to make of that.

"Okay," he said slowly. "If we do this. How do you imagine it will go?"

"He'll see us together, realise that he's actually in love with you, and he'll try to make us break up," Harry elaborated, beaming as if he had given the answer to an extraordinary tough maths question. "And then you'll break up with me--” He indicated inverted commas with his fingers, “when you realise --” and again, “that you actually want him, too."

Louis frowned. "He doesn't seem like the kind of person who breaks up couples."

"Lou," Harry insisted, staring him in the eye dead-on. "He's the kind of guy who would fight for his love."

Rolling his eyes, Louis held back a snort. "You're a hopeless sap, Haz."

"We could always find you someone else to play your pretend boyfriend," Harry pointed out dryly.

"No," Louis quickly protested. "If I could pick any fake boyfriend in the world, it would be you."

"We've got nothing to lose, Lou." Harry smiled, and Louis once again thought that their friendship was special. They were a dream team, and amazing together. "And I'm sure this will work out."

Louis nodded, squeezing Harry's hands in his. "Let's give it a shot."

+++

They had to be clever about it.

Of course they couldn't just come out to Chris, saying "We're together now" and hope it would solve everything. Chris had to figure it, had to find out and realise what it really meant. He had to see them together and admit to himself that the nagging feeling inside himself meant that he wanted Louis for himself.

Harry hoped it would work out. He just wanted to see Louis happy.

It didn't really feel foreign or weird when he nuzzled into Louis' embrace, his back pressed against Louis' chest. They had both always been cuddly, and they had never been shy to show affection. It wasn't unusual for them to sit all cuddled up when watching a film. They used to sleep in one bed when they had sleepovers at home.

Harry loved Louis, of course he did. Being close was just natural for them.

"This okay?" Louis asked, obviously a little more wary of the situation.

Harry nodded, patting Louis' hands over his stomach. "Lou, it's not like we’ve never cuddled before."

"But we never did it to convince someone else that we're a couple." Louis took a deep breath, his chest expanding with it.

"Just act natural," Harry reminded him, adjusting the laptop on his legs. "People have confused us for a couple plenty times before."

Louis snorted. "Don't know why, really. I can't stand you."

Harry bumped his knee against Louis'. "That's a filthy lie."

"Nothing but the truth." Louis tickled Harry's stomach, slim fingers pinching his skin through the fabric of his t-shirt.

Chuckling, Harry squirmed in Louis' arms, almost dropping the laptop off the bed. He clasped Louis' hands between his, tangling their fingers to hold Louis' still.

Truth was, people thought of them as a couple more often than not. At home, they had been inseparable, doing everything together. The rumour that they were a couple had made the rounds in school for more than a year. Until Harry had started dating Luke Parker, a really cute boy from year eight who had kept sending Harry the most adorable love letters.

Even here, people had thought Harry was Louis' boyfriend when he had come to visit the first few times. Liam, one of Louis' best friends who studied law with him, was very persistent about it. He refused to believe that they had never even kissed.

It was amusing, really. Just because they were really close didn't mean they had romantic feelings for each other. For some people, that concept was hard to grasp, apparently.

Louis nuzzled his nose against Harry's temple, and his fingers had long since stilled their tickling. "Start the film, Harold."

Harry squeezed Louis' hands before letting go. "As you wish, Lewis."

The film had only been running for ten minutes when the door opened and Chris came in. They had expected that, of course, knowing that Chris came back from his hockey training at around seven every Tuesday. Harry noticed Louis going tense for a moment, then his arms tightened around Harry's waist.

Chris stopped in the doorframe, giving them a once-over. He looked a little surprised, but other than that, didn't give away any sign of discomfort.

"Sorry," he said, not moving from his spot. "Didn't mean to disturb."

Harry shook his head, gesturing for him to come in. "Mate, it's your room, too. We're just watching a film."

"Oh," Chris answered, coming in.

"It only just started," Louis told him, pressing pause. He had to stretch his arm a little to reach the laptop, and Harry could feel his muscles flex against his own arm. "You can join us, if you want?"

Chris glanced over his shoulder with a smirk. "Think the bed is big enough for three?"

Louis tensed again, and Harry briefly patted his leg. "I'm not letting just anyone in my bed," he said casually. "But we can place the laptop on the table."

Chris shrugged, putting on a jumper over his sweatshirt. "I didn't plan anything for tonight. And watching a film sounds much better than working on my paper."

"Great," Harry answered, scooting out of Louis' hold. He put the laptop on the desk at the foot of his bed and turned it slightly, so all three of them could see the screen. "I hope you like Romantic Comedies."

"I like nothing more," Chris answered with a grin while he got comfortable on his own bed. "Two Weeks Notice is my favourite."

"A man after my own taste," Louis commented, and in his head, Harry gave him a hundred points for that one.

Chris laughed and Harry didn't have to glance over his shoulder to know that Louis was smirking. That could be considered flirting, right? Time for Harry to interfere a little, so Chris would finally come to his senses.

"That's good to know," he pointed out after pressing play and crawling back into Louis' space.

Louis' legs fell open to accommodate Harry between them. He pulled Harry close, hand reassuringly resting over Harry's thigh. Really good, Harry thought for a second; Louis was really good at this.

"Better take notes," Louis joked.

Harry noticed Chris' eyes on them, a slight frown grazing his forehead.

+++

"Lou," Harry hissed.

Louis looked over his shoulder, waiting for his plate.

They were at the cafeteria to grab lunch with Niall, Liam, and Zayn between seminars. Whenever they could, the five of them met up. Since only Liam and Louis studied the same, they only had lunchtimes and evenings to do something all five of them.

"Don't look," Harry warned, trying to come off as casual. "Chris sits at one of the tables on the left. He's watching us."

"He is?" Excitement coloured Louis' voice.

By now, Louis was more than sure that their plan actually worked. Chris hadn't changed his behaviour around them, but he obviously suspected that they were more than friends. And apparently, that seemed to bug him in some way.

He took his plate and placed it on Harry's tray. "Try not to trip," he said and slung an arm around Harry's waist as they walked to the table.

Harry did trip, of course, but didn't spill anything. They reached the table Liam and Zayn already sat at, and Harry carefully put down the tray while Louis sat down across from Liam.

"What's that about?" Zayn asked.

Louis glanced at Harry briefly, making sure they were on the same page. "What are you on about?"

"You walking around like a couple," Liam promptly answered. "I knew you were lying when you said nothing was going on between you."

Harry snorted into his food and Louis rolled his eyes, handing him a napkin. "Harry’s pretending to be my boyfriend for a bit to make Chris jealous."

"So Harry couldn't talk him into falling in love with you?" Zayn inquired dryly.

"That didn't really work, no," Harry admitted sheepishly. He actually did look a little guilty, so Louis put his hand over Harry's, squeezing reassuringly. "But this is actually working really well."

"It is?" Liam raised a brow, as if he couldn't believe it.

"He's looking over right now," Zayn contributed, sounding surprised himself. "He's watching you two closely."

"Told you." Louis smirked happily. "Harry here is a genius!"

"I'm glad I didn't need to resort to such antics to get Zayn's attention," Liam commented, glancing at his boyfriend briefly.

Zayn grinned, winking before he resumed eating.

Those two. Louis huffed, ignoring them shifting closer to each other on the bench they sat on. They had been a couple since year two -- and it had all gone rather smoothly. One day, Liam had told Louis about how there was this really hot guy coming to the coffee shop at the same time as Liam every Tuesday, and a week later, they had been on their first date.

This year, they had been lucky enough to get a room together. Louis didn't even want to imagine what went down in there each time they closed the door.

Liam had been incredibly lucky. Zayn really was cool. Louis had taken to him in an instant, and they had become friends rather easily. Yet, he was happy their little clique had grown to include Harry and Niall. It was nice not to be the third wheel all the time anymore.

"Guys, I'm sorry I'm late!" Niall plopped down on the chair next to Harry, a bit out of breath. "I overslept."

"Didn't you have any classes yet?" Zayn asked.

Niall shook his head. "I guess, but I didn't go."

They fell into easy banter from there, throwing some food at each other occasionally. Liam and Zayn filled Niall in on Harry and Louis' master plan, making him tear up with laughter. Louis loved how easily they all fit together. He watched Harry bent over in laughter, happy that finally they were back to spending every day in each other's presence.

He hadn't realised it so much in the past two years, but now that Harry was here, sitting next to Louis, fitting so easily into the life Louis had built here -- he realised just how much he had really missed having Harry beside him.

A smile tugged up his lips, and he reached out to ruffle Harry's hair affectionately.

At that moment, Chris came up to their table, stopping next to Zayn. "Um, hi."

Louis blinked, his fingers still tangled in Harry's curls. "Hi," he said back.

Liam and Zayn turned their heads to look at him, Niall was the only one still eating, munching away on his chips, and Harry shifted closer to Louis, very subtly so.

"Just wanted to ask if it's okay for you if a friend comes over later?" Chris asked, eyes on Harry.

Harry nodded quickly. "Of course, Chris. No problem!"

"Cool, great," Chris answered. "See you later, then."

They all gazed after him when he left, then Harry nudged Louis' side. "He never ask when he brings friends to our room."

Louis blinked at him, not quite sure what Harry was hinting at.

"He just needed an excuse to come over and get your attention," Harry clarified, grinning from one ear to another.

"I can't believe it's really working," Liam deadpanned.

"Jealousy is the key to awareness," Harry pointed out, raising a finger.

"Maybe he's actually into Harry," Niall joked.

That made all of them break into uncontrollable laughter.

+++

They had stopped looking for excuses why Louis was always over at Harry's room. At some point, Louis had said that real couples didn't need excuses like films, homework or anything else when they spent time together. Harry couldn't really argue against that, and if he was honest with himself, he was happy whenever Louis was over.

He couldn't exactly say when, but as some point, Chris had stopped talking to him when they were alone. He talked a lot when Louis was over, and those two got along really well. They always had something to talk about (although Louis was highly disappointed in Chris' lack of interest in football), and when Louis was around, Chris acted completely normal around Harry, too. It wasn't that he and Harry didn't get along -- everything had been going well the first few months. Yet, lately, Chris turned cold, and didn't really talk to him anymore when they were alone in the room.

Harry hoped it was just down to his jealousy.

Then again, it had sparked a chain of thoughts Harry hadn't considered when he and Louis had come up with the plan. If Louis and Chris would end up together eventually, how would things go between them? Harry had always thought that Louis' boyfriend would become one of his best friends, too. But if Chris believed Harry was Louis' ex, was there even a basis for a sincere friendship? Everything was built on lies, after all.

What scared Harry even more was that it could have an impact on him and Louis. He didn't want his friendship with Louis to fade just because of the lies they had made up for Chris. Louis would have to choose who he wanted to spend his time with -- and why wouldn't he choose his boyfriend?

Swallowing thickly, Harry glanced over at Chris. He sat at his desk, typing something on his laptop. Harry was on his bed, stripped down to boxer shorts and a t-shirt, his hair tied up in a bun. He had just made himself comfortable an hour ago when Louis had knocked on their door. Louis was revising for his last exam before Christmas break, and Harry had grabbed a book to do research for a paper.

That's how they had ended up in Harry's bed, Harry's pillow shoved between the wall and Louis' back, both doing their reading in silence, the only noise coming from Chris' typing. Harry was sitting next to Louis, his upper body turned into his side, their legs tangled beneath the duvet.

He was just about to say something when he noticed that Louis had fallen asleep. The book rested on top of the duvet, Louis’ hand pliant next to it. His head was tilted back slightly, exposing his neck. Harry smiled and put his book away, gently reaching out to brush Louis' fringe from his face.

When he noticed that Chris had stopped typing, he turned and saw him watching them.

"He fell asleep," Harry said, slapping himself mentally for stating the obvious.

"Looks like it." Chris' gaze briefly ran down on Louis' body.

Harry dragged the duvet higher over Louis' chest. "Would you, like-- I can wake him up, but he's been studying every night, and lost so much sleep, and I just really--"

"I don't mind," Chris said, and his smile looked a little crooked. "Just don't get up to anything funny while I'm in the room."

Shaking his head quickly, Harry put Louis' book on his bedside table, too. As carefully as possible, he made Louis lie down, having trouble moving the pillow. Louis briefly woke up, just confusedly mumbling something, then he pulled Harry into his arms and was out again.

Harry smiled slightly, nuzzling close before he closed his eyes and followed Louis into sleep.

+++

Waking up alone felt weirdly dissatisfying.

Louis had slept every single night of the nearly three weeks before Christmas break in Harry's bed. When Harry had told him about Chris' reaction the first night, they had decided it was a good way to finally get things moving.

Unfortunately, Chris had not acted on it. He was still the same, painfully nice, and sweet, and lovely around Louis, but he didn't act on winning Louis for himself.

Maybe Harry had been wrong, and Chris really wasn't the type to break up a couple. If things wouldn't change after New Year's, they should probably break things off and see if Chris would approach Louis when he was officially single again.

Sighing, Louis sat up in his bed, frowning over that decision. Something about it felt wrong, made his chest ache a little, but he couldn't put his finger on what exactly it was. He looked through his childhood bedroom, trying to get rid of that feeling.

He had only come back home yesterday night, dropping Harry off first. The car ride had been a little weird, the mood a bit down. Harry had been oddly quiet through it all, and Louis hadn't really found the right words to say, either.

It wasn't like they had put on the couple act all the time at uni, had mostly just needed to do that when they had been in Chris and Harry's room. Yet, somehow it had been hard for Louis not to reach over and touch Harry's thigh or hair. He had felt that urge during all of the drive back home.

Sighing, he got out of bed, picking up a pair of joggers before he went downstairs. The house smelt of bacon and eggs, and Louis knew that it was just for him. His mother always prepared a big breakfast when one of them had their birthday.

Fizzy caught up on him when he was on his way downstairs. She threw his arms around his waist from behind and almost sent them both flying down the stairs. Louis caught himself just barely, clinging to the stair rail.

With Fizzy clinging to his waist, he made it into the kitchen, surprised to see Lottie and Harry helping his mother.

"There you are," his mother greeted him, dropping everything to go over and kiss his face. "Happy birthday, sweetheart."

Louis hugged her, breathing in her scent and closing his eyes. "Thanks, Mum."

Lottie was next, and the twins were rushing into the kitchen, both wanting to hug their brother at the same time. When he got up from his knees again, he caught Harry standing a few metres away, fidgeting with the apron he was wearing and waiting for his turn.

Louis smiled at him, opening his arms. Harry was there in an instant, hugging him close. "Happy birthday, Lou."

"What are you doing here so early?" Louis asked when he drew back.

"It's your birthday," Harry said as if it would explain everything.

Louis dropped the topic, deciding that it didn't matter anyway. He was glad to see Harry, to have him around for his birthday, and as it seemed Harry had no intention of being anywhere else, either. He stayed for lunch, and he stayed for dinner too.

Throughout the day, he helped Louis' mum with the cooking, offered to wash the dishes and sat with Louis doing nothing but watch stupid shows on the telly. They napped for an hour in the afternoon, bundled up on the sofa, Louis' cheek resting on Harry's chest. When they woke up, they talked in hushed voices for a while, Harry idly playing with Louis' hair.

It was nice.

With all the boyfriend pretending going on during the past months, Louis had grown used to having Harry that tiny bit closer than before. When they had just been sitting next to each other on the sofa first, something had felt off. That feeling had only eased when Louis had pulled Harry closer, and Harry had curled into Louis' side.

The change apparently didn't go unnoticed in his family, either. His mother was the first to comment on it. She pulled Louis aside when he came into the kitchen to get him and Harry something to drink.

"Lou, baby, you could have told me," she said, and Louis had no idea what she was on about.

"Told you what exactly?"

She swatted at his arm, rolling her eyes. "I was always hoping you'd finally come to terms with your feelings for Harry. He's so lovely."

For a moment, Louis could only stare at her. "What?!"

"Ever since you came out to me," Jay added, sighing a little as she pressed a hand over her chest, "I hoped that it would be Harry. You two are made for each other. He loves you so much, Lou."

"Mum, what are you on about?" Louis closed the door, panic crawling up his throat.

Now his mother's dreamy expression faded and she looked a little confused. "You and Harry. The way you two look at each other? He came over extra early to be here when you wake up. You cuddle, and---"

"It's just Harry, Mum," Louis interrupted her. "We're not, like-- together."

She blinked. "You're not?"

"But good to know you want us to be," Louis added dryly.

"No, no," she quickly amended. "I just thought-- something seemed different, and why would I not approve of Harry? Should you-- I mean. If you were."

Louis eyed her for a moment, but she didn't even have the decency to blush. Instead she turned back to what she had been reading, smiling mysteriously to herself.

"Okay, I'm gonna grab the water now and pretend this never happened," Louis announced as he opened the fridge.

"Okay, love," Jay answered absently.

When Louis got back into the living room and Harry immediately pulled him back under the blanket and into his arms, Louis didn't have it in him to protest. He sank against Harry's body instead and let him cuddle Louis.

He ignored his mother when she came in later, a knowing smile on her face.

Lottie, unfortunately, wasn't as subtle about it as his mother had been. She sat with them in the living room for about an hour, not really paying attention to the telly. She typed away on her phone, probably checking Twitter and Instagram, texting her friends.

Harry was laughing at something that had happened on the show, and Louis was giving him shit for how it hadn't even been funny -- that's when she decided to look at them and speak up.

"Since when are you two finally dating?"

Harry went silent immediately, going tense in Louis' hold. His gaze flickered to Louis' face, shock clearly written all over his features.

Louis squeezed Harry’s wrist and rolled his eyes at his sister. "Shut up, Lots."

"You guys could have told us," she argued. "I mean, we've all been waiting for it for years now."

"In that case," Louis announced, "we're getting married tomorrow, and no one of you guys is invited."

Harry gasped, pinching Louis' arm. "Lou!"

"What?" Louis grinned at him. "She's being ridiculous."

"We're not getting married without our families present," Harry clarified and grinned back.

Lottie seemed to get that she was being made fun of, and turned her attention back to her phone. Louis eyed her for a little longer, but she didn't give him the satisfaction of blushing either.

When Harry went home in the evening, Louis stayed by the door for a moment, gazing after him.

Something had changed -- and apparently, Louis hadn't even noticed it himself. It wasn't much, really. He and Harry had always been close, had always loved each other.

Maybe their boyfriend charade had changed things. Maybe that oppressive feeling of not wanting to wake up alone wasn't actually about waking up alone.

Maybe it was about waking up without Harry.

Louis frowned, seeing Harry disappear in the distance. Nothing happened. Harry had vanished from his vision, but the feeling Louis had felt this morning didn't come back.

It was still on his mind when he went to bed later. He thought of Chris, and it did nothing to him. No pining, no longing, no butterflies in his stomach.Yet, the feeling that was making his chest feel so tight and hollow came back, making Louis toss and turn. He stared at the ceiling, closed his eyes, and opened them again.

It only went away when he thought of Harry being curled up next to him, slowly breathing against Louis' skin.

+++

On their way back to uni, Harry tried to act normal. He didn't want Louis to catch on and realise that Harry was still thinking about what Lottie had said.

Apparently, their acting as boyfriends had become so second nature for them that they didn't even realise they even acted when they didn't have to. Harry had no idea what to make of that, nor did he know how it would make him feel should Chris finally get around to wanting Louis too.

There was that tiny, nagging voice in the back of Harry's head that told him he didn't want this to stop.

"So," he said when Spice Girls' Wannabe finished and a moment of silence ensued before the next song came on. "What about Chris?"

Louis didn't answer immediately. Boyzone came on next, and before Harry could make out which song it was, Louis skipped to the next one. Westlife. It didn't make much of a difference.

"He seemed to take the bait," Louis pointed out. "Maybe we should keep going for a little longer?"

Harry nodded. "Okay."

Silence settled between them, the song suddenly becoming very loud in Harry's ears.

I am by your side where love will find you.

Harry frowned slightly.

"He could make a move for New Year's. You know," Louis continued suddenly. "Be brave for the start of the new year."

"Let's hope so," Harry answered.

What about now? What about today? What if you're making me all that I was meant to be?

"Yeah," Louis replied quietly, not sounding too hopeful.

Baby, before it's too late.

Harry wasn't sure what to think. Was Louis even still into Chris? He hadn't talked about him in weeks, when usually he couldn't shut up about the guy. And why did that bother Harry, anyway? It wasn't any of his business, really, was it?

What if Louis and Chris weren't even meant to be?

Now that we're here, now that we've come this far, just hold on. There is nothing to fear---

This time it was Harry who skipped to the next song.

+++

Chris wasn't back that night, would only arrive sometime on New Year's Eve.

Louis still showed up that night, and neither of them commented on it. He was glad that Harry didn't ask questions; Louis wasn't sure he'd be able to answer them at the moment.

They fell asleep tangled with each other.

+++

Harry didn't see much of Louis on the day of New Year's Eve. He, Liam and Niall were all in the huge dorm kitchen after helping with the grocery shopping, preparing food and stocking alcohol. Zayn and Louis were in the common room, helping with the decorations.

Chris had arrived in the morning, and as far as Harry knew, he was helping with decorations, too. His fingertips were tickling with the urge to check the common room every few minutes.

The few times Harry saw Louis throughout the day, it wasn't enough time to do or say anything that would help Harry understand any of what was going on between them right now. Louis smiled at him, and acted like he always did.

Then again, their little boyfriend act had never meant to be public. It was only for Chris, after all.

Niall hadn't said anything yet about Louis not sleeping in his bed last night. Then again, Niall had probably not been in the room himself. He'd been seeing a girl from one of his classes -- Barbara -- for a while and often slept in her room lately.

She was helping in the kitchen, too, and the way they acted with each other was sickeningly sweet. Harry hadn't seen Niall like that before -- very attentive and protective.

"We're done in the common room," Zayn said when he came into the kitchen. He slung an arm around Liam's waist and Liam went easily, leaning against his side while he kept on cutting carrots.

"We're as good as done here, too," Liam pointed out. "Guess we can start the party then."

"Where's Lou?" Harry asked, glancing at the door.

"He's helping with the rubbish," Zayn answered, stealing a bit of carrot. "Should be back in a minute."

At that moment, Chris came into the kitchen with a couple of friends, and Harry ignored the relieved feeling expanding in his chest. If Louis and Chris had a moment to themselves, and if Chris used it to confess his feelings to Louis, that was a good thing. It was what they had aimed for all along.

Why did the thought of it make Harry's blood run cold?

+++

The party was definitely better than the one last year. It was probably due to the fact that last year, Harry had known no one except for Louis, Liam and Zayn. That had been nice, too, being by Louis' side all the time and having him introduce Harry to everyone as Louis' best friend.

This year, however, they were all scattered across the room. Harry spotted Louis at the bar with a couple of guys from the football team, laughing loudly. Liam and Zayn sat on one of the couches, Liam's arm comfortably resting on the backrest, Zayn's body slightly tilted towards Liam's while they were talking to a friend from Zayn's Arts class. Niall was outside on the terrace, firing off the first bangers with some of his mates.

Harry took another swig from his beer, concentrating on his conversation with Abbey again. She was in one of his classes and really nice and easy to get along with. Right now, however, he couldn't find it in himself to laugh with her when she joked about their professor.

"Excuse me for a moment, yeah?" he said apologetically and left the room. Glancing back, he found that Louis was watching him, a small frown on his face. He went out the front door, deciding to ignore Louis' expression.

No one was there -- everyone had gathered inside or on the terrace at the back of the building. Muffled noises came from inside, the low beat of the music hammering in Harry's veins as he sat down on the stone stairs. He sighed and looked up to the sky, finding it clouded and dark.

The door opened behind him, and he didn't turn around. He wasn't sure he'd be able to face Louis right now. The chances that he'd fuck it all up and say all the wrong things were really high.

"Mind me joining you?"

Harry's head snapped around and he stared at Chris for a moment. He stood behind Harry, watching him carefully. Harry found himself shaking his head slowly, and Chris sat down next to him.

They were silent for a moment, Harry's heart beating loudly now, because he had no idea what was coming. If Chris told him now that he was in love with Louis, Harry wouldn't be able to take it.

Oh God, he wouldn't be able to take it. He didn't want to stop being Louis' boyfriend.

Harry was so, so fucked.

"So," Chris said slowly, drawing the word out.

Harry swallowed thickly. "Hm?"

"How long have you and Louis been together?" Chris asked eventually.

How long? They had never talked about that, had never made up a backup story. What was he supposed to answer? "I don't know," he replied truthfully. "We've known each other forever. It just-- Well, it just kinda happened."

Chris hummed. He looked around a bit, anywhere but at Harry. "You guys are not really a public couple, are you?"

Frowning, Harry tilted his head. "What do you mean?"

"I mean. It's just." Chris shrugged. "He's always around, and you spend a lot of time together. I see you cuddle sometimes, and he sleeps in your bed, but--" He stopped, falling silent.

Harry bit his lip. "But?"

"I never saw you holding hands once, or even kiss." Chris fidgeted his jacket. "You're not really the PDA couple, I think."

Harry was all for PDA, actually. If Louis were his boyfriend -- his real boyfriend -- Harry'd never let go of his hand and kiss him whenever---

He had never before thought of kissing Louis. Now that the thought was there, Harry couldn't stop imagining it, though. What would Louis' lips feel like? What would he taste like? Was he rough or gentle? A mix of both?

"Well, I guess," he choked out, remembering that he still had to answer Chris.

At that moment, the door opened again, and this time, Harry turned around, seeing Louis stepping out. He seemed a little confused, looking from Harry to Chris and back.

"You okay?" he asked gently.

Harry got up, nodding quickly. "Yeah. Just needed some air."

"It's just five minutes until midnight," Louis said, reaching out a hand to take Harry's. "Wouldn't want you to miss it."

"We should find the others," Harry mumbled, tangling his fingers with Louis'. Then he turned to Chris, trying to look unfazed about their conversation. "Are you coming, too?"

Chris got up and followed them back inside, but Harry didn't dare look at him again. He was afraid of what he would see, of what Chris' expression might show.

"Lou! Haz!" Niall waved them over, handing each of them a sparkler. Liam and Zayn both held one too, and grinned happily at them.

Harry noticed that Louis hadn't let go of his hand yet. His fingers were still intertwined with Harry's, firmly holding on. Harry swayed closer to him, gently running his thumb over Louis' skin. Louis turned to him, eyes clear and so, so blue. A smile was shining in them, Harry could see it light up even more when the first fireworks went off.

People counted down from ten, but Harry couldn't get out a single tone. He kept staring at Louis and when everything around them broke loose, loud cheers and bangers going off, fireworks lightening up the sky, Harry just leaned in and pressed his lips against Louis'.

Louis made a small noise, but then his eyes fluttered closed and he pulled Harry in, opening his lips for him. He was warm, and he was soft, yet firm, and tasting of beer and salt. Harry dropped his sparkler and brought his hand up to cup Louis' jaw, cradling his cheek.

A little out of breath, they both pulled back a moment later, and the noise kicked in again. Harry noticed Niall kissing Barbara, Liam and Zayn were talking into each other's ears. Louis was still staring at Harry, so much wonder in his eyes, lips deliciously pink and glistening.

Harry wanted to duck under again and kiss Louis for the rest of forever.

"Happy New Year!" Niall screamed in his ear before tackling them. Harry lost hold of Louis' hand, saw that Liam drew him into a hug, while Niall clung to Harry. He hugged Niall back, closing his eyes for a moment. Then he hugged Liam and Zayn.

"Okay, time to get really drunk!" Niall announced. He got a tray of shots from a table, letting everyone around them take a glass.

Harry glanced at Louis and found him looking somewhere behind Harry, a frown etched into his forehead. Turning, Harry tried to find what it was that put Louis off, and saw Chris staring right back at Louis. When he noticed Harry watching, he quickly turned and walked back inside.

Louis was already taking shots with Niall and Zayn when Harry turned back. Maybe he saw them kissing as only a part of their act too? Maybe it didn't mean anything to him at all? When Niall handed Harry a glass as well, Louis had Liam's arm thrown around his shoulders and they were talking in hushed voices, heads bent close together.

It was like the kiss had never even happened.

+++

Louis woke up to a loud crack from somewhere outside. The window was open and the room bloody freezing. He curled up closer to Harry, absorbing his heat.

For a moment, Louis just wanted to go back to sleep, hold Harry in his arms and forget about everything else. He couldn't, though. Now that he was awake, awake and sober -- mildly hungover but definitely sober -- he couldn't pretend any longer like nothing had happened.

Harry had kissed him. Lovely, sweet, beautiful Harry had just leaned in and kissed him. He had no idea if it had been for Chris, though. He didn't know what they had been talking about when they had been alone outside.

He moved a finger over Harry's bottom lip, felt Harry's breath lightly ghost over Louis' skin. Louis wondered what would happen if he did it now; if he just kissed Harry and woke him up that way. If Harry would kiss back, if Harry would just let Louis do it, draw him in and-- -

Maybe that kiss had only been for Chris.

Then again, Louis knew Harry. He knew him so well, and Harry wouldn’t take a kiss lightly. Maybe, just maybe there was more behind it. Maybe that bit of hope inside of Louis wasn’t all in vain.

Louis sighed quietly, brushing a stray curl from Harry's face. Then he carefully got out of bed and closed the window. He grabbed a jumper and joggers, leaving the room without making a sound.

At least Harry was in his bed, he thought when he dragged himself down the corridor to the bathrooms. They had avoided each other for the rest of the night, mostly because Louis had no idea how to handle the fact that Harry had kissed him. They had both been too tired and too drunk, and Louis had been relieved that Harry hadn't put up a fight when Louis had just dragged him along to his room.

Liam had been so disgustingly smug. Louis would have to find a way to pay him back for all the "I knew it" and "you can't fool me, Tommo" comments.

Now that he thought about it, Liam had been right all along. From the moment he had seen Chris for the first time, Liam had been right.

"He kinda looks like Harry," had been the first thing he had chosen to say about Chris.

It was true. Chris was a lot like Harry in so many aspects. Louis had never realised that when he went to uni, when he had to be separated from Harry, he had apparently looked for a replacement. That was so pathetic, because for one, there was no one like Harry, and secondly, it wasn't fair to Chris.

Louis had never liked him for him, but for everything in him that reminded Louis of Harry.

He was such a fool.

When he was about to open the door to the bathroom, it suddenly swung open itself. Louis jumped a little, then found Chris standing across from him. His hair was wet, a lot more curly than when it was dry and he wore a black jumper and skinny jeans.

"Louis," he said quietly.

"Um. Hi." Louis cleared his throat, looking at the wall next to the door. "Happy New Year."

"And to you," Chris replied. He didn't move, though, still standing in Louis' way to get to the bathroom.

"I kinda," Louis started, gesturing past Chris. "I wanted to shower."

"Listen, Louis," Chris said, suddenly sounding very firm. "I'm sorry about last night."

Louis' heart was suddenly beating louder. God, please, no. If Chris was to confess now, Louis would go drown himself in there. He really couldn't take any of it right now.

"I didn't mean to make it look like I was sneaking behind your back with your boyfriend," Chris continued. "I mean. I want to be honest with you."

More panic flooded Louis' chest. He didn't get a single word out.

"I like Harry," Chris admitted, looking down at his feet.

The bubble of panic inside Louis burst and left behind another feeling, something that completely rushed through him, took over every cell. Louis felt frozen in his spot.

Harry. Chris had fallen in love with Harry. It just made Louis even more of a fool.

"But I know he's taken, and I'd never do anything to break you guys up." Chris looked up now, looking sincere. It crossed Louis' mind that Harry had been wrong about that. "I didn't go after him yesterday to, like, steal your boy, or anything."

Louis blinked. Once, twice, then he remembered to breathe. "Harry can't be stolen," was the first thing he managed to say. "He can decide to leave, if that's what he wants."

Chris stared at him for a moment, then he stuttered, "Of course, yes. Yes."

"Are you gonna tell him?" Louis asked. He felt pretty calm suddenly. The feeling that was drumming in every vein of his body was jealousy, he knew it was. Yet, he wasn't fazed about it. He knew exactly what it meant.

Jealousy is the key to awareness, he remembered Harry's words. Louis was very aware now, in the face of someone confessing that they wanted Harry in a way that Louis had never had Harry for himself.

He loved Harry. Not just like a best friend, or a brother. He was in love with Harry.

Chris shrugged. "I don't think it would make that much of a difference," he pointed out. "He's so in love with you."

Please, yes. Let that be true. Louis took a deep breath, nodding. "Thanks for telling me."

"Please don't tell him," Chris added then, looking at Louis again, voice and expression pleading.

"Of course not," Louis replied, shaking his head. "It's not my place to tell him."

"And, maybe..." Chris bit his lip, lacing his fingers together in front of his chest. He looked more than nervous. "Maybe you could change your sleeping arrangement?"

Louis didn't get what Chris was on about at first, but then realised that he meant Louis sleeping in Harry's bed every night. He really hoped that would change. Louis just wanted Harry to sleep in Louis' bed -- not to put on an act for someone, but because they needed each other to fall asleep.

Harry was in Louis’ bed right now.

Fuck. He had to tell Harry. Here he stood, talking to Chris as if Harry was Louis' boyfriend, when he really wasn't. Louis had to fix that, had to make sure that Harry was on the same page, that Harry wanted this too.

"I need to go," he murmured slowly, already thinking over what he wanted to say. Without another glance, he dashed back to his room.

+++

Harry hummed quietly when he felt a finger trace the skin of his bare back. It moved over his neck to his cheek, gently brushing the hair from his forehead. Harry sighed in content, nuzzling into the pillow.

"Haz," Louis murmured quietly, and next, his lips gently pressed against Harry's temple.

Harry came awake, blinking his eyes open and finding Louis close. His hand was resting on Harry's upper arm, his face close, eyes grey in the pale morning light. Harry frowned, not sure if he was still dreaming.

"Hey," Louis whispered -- and why was he whispering? "Sorry to wake you up."

Harry moved slightly, sitting up to rub his eyes. "It's fine. What's wrong?"

"Everything," Louis replied, voice still soft and that strange expression still plastered on his face.

That unsettled something in Harry, a million possibilities flooding his mind. Louis' sisters, Louis' mum, maybe it was Harry's family? What if it was about Zayn and Liam? They wouldn't break up, would they? Did something happen to Niall?

Then the memories of last night came back -- the memory of Louis' lips pressing against his, his tongue moving against Harry's. Their fingers intertwined, their breath mingling between them, Louis’ chest flush against Harry’s.

It was the kiss. Everything was wrong for Louis because Harry had kissed him.

"I'm sorry," he choked out, pulling the duvet closer to his chest. "I shouldn't have done that."

Louis looked confused. "What?"

"Kissing you," Harry answered, and it was barely a breath. He was surprised Louis could even hear it.

For a moment, Louis was quiet before he reached out and took one of Harry's hands, intertwining their fingers. Harry watched it with a pounding ache in his chest. Holding Louis' hand like this was all he wanted, all he needed.

He didn't think he could take it if Louis let go again.

"I'm not in love with Chris," was what Louis finally said.

Okay, so this was about Chris. Of course it was. It had been about Chris from the very beginning. Harry nodded stiffly. "That's a bit sudden."

"I don't think I've ever been in love with him," Louis went on, musing more than actually telling Harry. "I was in love with the idea of what I had made of him in my head."

Harry snorted tiredly, kicking Louis slightly with his foot. "So we put on act for nothing? Just because you're an idiot?"

"I guess," Louis admitted, laughing a little. He sounded nervous.  

"So," Harry continued, not sure he could actually form the words. He had to, though. This couldn't go on forever. "So we don't have to act as boyfriends anymore."

"Yeah," Louis murmured, nodding slightly. "Game over."

Game over, Harry thought. It felt like that. He had wasted all of his chances, had nothing left. He had to start all over again. Yet, Harry didn't know how, or if he could. Not after he knew what it was like to hold Louis' hand, or to kiss his lips, or to sleep in his arms. How was he supposed to go back to just being his friend?

"Game over," Louis repeated, sounding a little distracted. "Let's get serious."

Before Harry could react to that, or make up his mind what Louis meant, he added, "You know how you always say we're the dream team, Harry?" Patiently watching Harry's face, he started to play with Harry's fingers, tangling and entangling them from his own. "That we're amazing?"

Harry nodded and didn't dare to look up. Of course he knew. It was the truth -- yet, he had never understood just how true it really was.

"We could be more than that," Louis said quietly, shifting closer to Harry.

Harry's breath got caught in his throat. He looked at Louis' face and found him smiling, looking so very hopeful. It hit Harry with a pang, almost throwing him back into the sheets.

Louis wasn't in love with Chris. Louis was here right now, telling Harry that he wanted to be serious. If this was going where Harry thought it was…

Louis brought up his other hand, gently stroking Harry's cheek. "I think we could be more than just amazing."

"More," Harry repeated, and he had to sound so bloody dumb. "What's better than amazing?"

"We are," Louis answered promptly, smiling at Harry. His skin was pale, and his eyes looked so tired, his hair a complete mess, and they were both mildly hungover. "We're much more than amazing."

How could he be so wonderful? Harry stared at him, having no words for what he was feeling right now. His mind was completely blank, so he went with his heart.

"I love you."

Louis tightened his hold on Harry's hand at that, his smile growing wider and brighter. "I know, Haz," he said softly. "I’ve always loved you. But I'm in love with you too. I want to kiss you again. I want to always hold your hand. I want Liam to tell me he was right all along, and that I was just too blind to see it."

Harry laughed at that last part. "Wow, it must have hit you pretty hard."

"The worst," Louis admitted, biting his lip to stifle his grin. "I'll never recover."

Harry leaned forwards, using his free hand to draw Louis closer. "I'm in love with you, too."

"That's convenient," Louis commented. "I was afraid you were into Chris, maybe."

Pulling back, Harry frowned at him. "Why would I be into him when I've been trying to set you up with him?"

“Why would you even do that?” Louis asked, frowning. ”When you’re in love with me?”

“I couldn’t have known that acting as your boyfriend would make me want to actually be your boyfriend,” Harry defended himself.

Louis looked a little shell-shocked, then he repeated, “boyfriend” quietly, as if in awe.

“I mean,” Harry quickly added, not sure he was taking it too far, “we don’t have to put a label on it, or we can just--”

He squealed a little when Louis shut him up with a kiss. And, no, it wasn’t too much to ask for, since Louis pulled Harry close, heatedly kissing him. Harry sank into it, trying to get even closer.

“Boyfriend is perfectly all right,” Louis mumbled against his lips, smiling. “And thanks for not falling in love with Chris.”

Harry frowned, but didn’t pull back. “What’s that about, Lou?”

“It could have happened,” Louis simply pointed out with a shrug.

“I just wanted you to be happy,” Harry admitted, quietly into the small space between them. “You were the one who was in love with the wrong guy.”

Thought I was in love,” Louis corrected with a mysterious, little glint in his eyes. "I'm just glad that it didn't work out, and that I ended up right here instead."

"Yeah," Harry murmured, letting relief wash over him. He pulled Louis down with him, snuggling into the sheets again. "Let's stay here for a little longer."

Humming, Louis nuzzled closer, his arms winding around Harry's chest, his lips pressing against Harry's neck. Harry felt his lashes flatter against his jaw when Louis closed his eyes.

“Happy?” Louis asked quietly.

Harry grinned to himself, closing his eyes and taking in all of the feelings at once. He felt like he was going to explode with it. Every fibre of his body tingled with excitement.

“Very,” he answered, pressing a kiss to Louis’ temple. “I’m really happy to finally be here.”

Louis laughed a little, his breath warm against Harry’s collarbone. “Haz, you’ve been here more times than I can count.”

“But only as a visitor,” Harry argued. “Now I’m here as your boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend,” Louis repeated, still sounding in awe about it and taking Harry’s hand in his.

About time, Harry thought. It had taken them long enough to get here.

Finally.

---