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nobody shines the way you do

Chapter Text

 

2 Years Ago

The trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan was a short, half hour subway ride. During that time Louis contemplated what the perfect housewarming gift was. He never had to worry about stuff like this when he was younger, but then again, he never attended housewarming parties back then--or ever, really. That was real grown up stuff and it was jarring that he’d probably be attending more of these as time went on. So figuring out what to get for parties like this would be helpful.

He tried googling and Buzzfeed suggested kitchen supplies, art decor, or food. He wondered if he had time to stop by a Pottery Barn or Home Goods somewhere. What kind of art decor or kitchen supplies would Niall and Barbara need? Louis should have started shopping weeks ago when he’d gotten the invitation after they moved into their new Midtown apartment. But he’d only moved back into the city three weeks ago himself and hadn’t even unpacked yet. He should have probably done that sooner, but he’d been busy trying to get a job and even that was a failure.

In the end when the train stopped at Rockefeller Center, Louis got off and wandered until he was close to their apartment, running out of options since he was getting late. He looked around their block and eventually entered a liquor store, buying a bottle of wine before heading over. Niall would appreciate wine. If there was anything Louis’d learned about Niall in their seven years of being friends, it was that he loved any kind of alcohol.

On the way there he window shopped in hopes a better gift might pop up, but then ended up stopping in front of a small, second-hand clothing boutique where a mannequin was wearing a dark green parka. A nostalgic smile formed on his lips as he remembered his old one that he wore while trekking around all of Italy. He’d lost it somewhere on the journey to Switzerland. He’d been so upset then, but now he was smiling at the all memories he had made while wearing it. He bit his lip, contemplating going in and buying the jacket, but decided against it after making a mental note to come back another day.  

Louis made his way over to Niall and Barbara’s apartment and widened his eyes when he entered the lobby, which was made entirely of marble and complete with a doorman. It was definitely an upgrade from their previous apartment in Astoria, Queens. That place was a tiny studio and always smelled like Chinese Food because of the restaurant directly below their floor.

Louis took the elevator up to the sixth floor and rang their doorbell once he found the right one. Niall opened the door, already half tipsy and flushed. “Louis!” he cried, grinning as he pulled him inside. Louis laughed, falling into the hug and patting Niall’s back.

“Hey Ni. Thanks for inviting me over,” he replied, pulling back.

“Of course, man. Great to see you again. We have so much to catch up on. Haven’t seen you in fucking ages.”

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“A while? Fuck you, man. You leave for Europe for, what? Six months and you say it’s been a while?” Niall laughed. “Come on. Let me go take you inside and introduce you to everyone. After that we’re taking drinks and having a long chat.”

“Anything you want, Ni,” Louis grinned, handing Niall the bottle of wine. He had missed Niall so much. He was probably one of his oldest friends, and the two of them never lost touch or drifted like most of his others friends did. Distance or time just never seemed to be an issue, even if they did end up going in different directions after high school.

When he walked further inside, he inspected the place and his eyebrows shot up when he saw how nicely decorated it was. He knew most of this was Barbara’s doing since Niall’d been whipped by her since he was a freshman in college. He would live anywhere with her just as long as she was there and happy. It was sweet and made Louis want to gag.

“Niall, who came?” He heard a female voice call out from one of the rooms.

“It’s Louis,” Niall called back. He grinned at Louis, putting a hand on his back and leading him towards the living room where several people were sitting and talking over drinks and what looked like quiche and mini hot dogs on platters.

“Louis!” Barbara giggled, running over to give him a hug. “I missed you. Shit. How are you?”

“I’m good, B,” he grinned. “Really good to see you. You look lovely as ever.”

“Thanks,” she blushed. “What took you so long? Everyone’s been here for a while.”

“I couldn’t figure out what to get you guys, so I got you wine,” he explained. “I hope that’s good enough?”

“You didn’t have to get us anything,” Barbara frowned.

“I wanted to,” Louis insisted. “I gave it to Niall.” The two of them turned to see Niall holding the bottle up to show Barbara.

“Well, thank you,” Barbara said, pulling at his hand so he’d look back at her. “Do you want anything to drink? Everything’s in the kitchen and we have appetizers out here.”

“I noticed,” Louis said. “I’ll, uh, show myself around. Don’t worry.”

“Okay,” she nodded. “Let me introduce you to everyone.” She went around the room and introduced him to some of her family members and her old sorority sisters. Louis politely said hello and then smiled at them. Barbara then tugged him to turn him towards the balcony doors, through which a guy walked in. When Louis looked, he tried not to let his jaw hang too low.

“And this is Zayn,” Barbara introduced him. “He’s a friend of Niall’s and is actually new to the city.”

“Hey,” Zayn grinned, smelling of cigarettes. “Nice to meet you.”

Louis smiled and hoped his hair wasn’t too mussed from the wind outside. “I’m Louis.” Before he could say anything more, Niall pulled on his arm. Louis turned to glare at him, but Niall rolled his eyes.

“You can flirt with him later,” he mumbled lowly. “Come on. Come to the kitchen. Let me make you a drink and we can catch up.” Louis reluctantly looked at Zayn one more time before following Niall.

“What can I make you?” Niall asked, standing over his kitchen counter where the cups and bottles were all lined up.

Louis raised his eyebrows, contemplating before shrugging and leaning against the opposite counter. “Surprise me, Horan. I know whatever you’ll make will keep me tipsy all night.”

Niall cackled like it was the funniest thing he’d heard. He picked out a cup and got to work, mixing in several different things at once. “So, tell me. How was Europe? I got a few postcards from you, but you’ve never had good penmanship. I didn’t understand jack shit of what you wrote.”

He laughed, playing with his fringe. “It was good. I really liked it. It’s really different than America. Feels weird being back. I have to get used to things around here again, you know?”

“Well, I’d think so,” Niall replied. “You stopped by the UK, right?”

“Yeah, I also stopped by Ireland.”

Niall grinned, turning around and handing him a cup. Louis swirled the contents of the cup around, knowing he should go slow because Niall’s idea of a drink was a lot stronger than his. He took a tentative sip and smiled, approvingly. He did know how to make a great drink. “Granny hasn’t stopped gushing about you. She sends her love every time she calls even though it’s been weeks.”

“Your family was the loveliest I’d encountered on my trip,” Louis said to him with a sincere smile.

“Yeah, they loved you, too. I saw the pictures you posted on Facebook last week. Took you a while to get to those, didn’t it?”

“Wasn’t really concerned about that at first. The wifi back there sucked because the hotel always charged and I couldn’t blow my spare money on that, so I did as much as I could. And hostels never had any wifi at all, so that was that. When I got back, I was just concerned with finding a flat and only got internet at home last week.”

“Oh, right. You’re in Williamsburg right now, right?”

Louis nodded. “Mom helped me find the place. It’s decent. And she called before I came over here. Sends her love as well.”

“I’ll Facebook message her later.” Louis rolled his eyes because Niall was, like, his mom’s favorite. He had a feeling she liked him more than Louis. Niall sipped his own drink and looked at Louis with a playful smirk. “So.”

“What?” Louis asked, amused.

“I saw a lot of different boys in your pictures.”

Louis laughed, scrunching up his nose from embarrassment and turning away before looking back. “You would notice that.”

“Got anything to tell me, Lou?” Niall asked, looking at him pointedly.

“Just that you’re a nosy fuck.”

“I know you were busy backpacking across Europe, but I didn’t know you were that busy.”

Before Louis could respond with a classy fuck you, someone else walked into the kitchen, interrupting them while holding up an empty platter.

“Niall,” the guy said, voice deep and croaky. “You’re out of quiche and B sent me here to ask you for more.”

“Ah, fuck,” Niall muttered before taking the platter from the guy. “Thanks Harry. I’ll do it right now. It’ll take a few minutes to warm up, though.”

“Okay,” he responded, standing there awkwardly. Louis, who had been looking down at his cup, looked back up to observe him. He had an attractive voice and so Louis was intrigued. When Louis got a good look at his face, he was a bit more interested. He was cute. Like, really cute.

The guy looked like a mix between a boy and a man. His face was cherubic and innocent, but his strong jawline and broad structure seemed to tell otherwise. It was confusing and a bit breathtaking at the same time. The most ridiculous thing were his lips. Louis had never seen plump, pink lips like those. They were shaped like a bow or a heart or some shit. His hair was a mess of brown curls, all pulled back with a dark blue headband that matched his knit sweater. When Louis shamelessly allowed his eyes to travel down his torso, he noticed how tight his black jeans were.

How did he get in those? Where did he tuck it in? Maybe if they all got crazy drunk, he could ask. But from the looks of it, this party was very low-key and very grown-up, not some high school or college rager. Perhaps he shouldn’t.

“Um,” the guy mumbled awkwardly. Louis’ eyes shot up and he realized how obvious he’d been, just staring at this stranger who Barbara didn’t introduce him to. (Why the fuck did she not? And where was that Zayn? Why were there so many hot guys at this party? He was not complaining, that’s for sure. He was just wondering why he wasn’t prepared for this.)

And now this one totally caught Louis checking him out. How embarrassing.

Niall turned around from the oven to look at what Harry was mumbling about and he widened his eyes when he noticed the two of them standing there stiffly. “Shit, did you two not get introduced?”

Louis shook his head and sipped his drink again, looking over the rim of his cup.

“Oh, well, Louis, this is Harry. He’s a friend of Barbara’s. Harry, this is my best friend from school, Louis.”

“Hi,” Harry smiled. He had dimples.

Who the fuck has dimples these days? It was so rare to find. And so fucking unbelievably hot.

“Hey,” Louis smiled back. “Nice to, uh, meet you.”

“Same,” Harry said.

“Louis just got back from a six month backpacking trip to Europe and UK,” Niall told Harry. “He was just telling me about it.”

“Europe?” Harry’s eyes widened.

Louis nodded with a smile and a small laugh. Mostly because Harry looked like a frog when he had that expression on his face.

“That’s amazing. How was it? What did you see?”

“Um,” Louis thought, figuring out to answer that loaded question all at once. “A lot of local stuff in whatever city I was in. I strayed from the usual tourist spots, but I did stop by the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. Mostly because my mom said she’d be upset if I didn’t go there and send her a picture.”

Harry laughed, obviously amused by the story. “That’s great. Have you got pictures? I’d love to see.”

“Yeah,” Louis nodded. He started to pull his phone, but then the oven timer dinged and the two of them looked at Niall. He was bent over, pulling out the new baked quiches and placing them on the platter on the counter. Harry looked conflicted between wanting to talk to Louis and doing what Barbara asked him to. Once Niall handed him the platter back, Harry looked back at Louis.

“I’m going to be right back. I really want to see those pictures. Just going to go give these to Barbara.”

Louis nodded in response and Harry walked out, all long limbed and sexy.

“He’s hot,” Louis said as soon as he was out of earshot.

Niall laughed, throwing his head back. “I guess those Europeans didn’t quench the thirst. You need more dick.”

“Honestly, Niall,” Louis rolled his eyes. “Why have you never introduced us? Is he straight or...?”

“He’s gay,” Niall replied. “And before you do a victory dance and make your way over there to get him to sleep with you, I think you should know that he has a boyfriend.”

Louis knew it was too good to be true. Harry seemed like the type of guy where even if he was straight or gay, someone would always be in love with him. He was just that pretty.

“Well,” Louis said. “That just put a damper on absolutely everything.”

“Yeah,” Niall chuckled. “His boyfriend’s so fucking weird, too.”

Louis looked up with furrowed eyebrows, intrigued by that comment. Niall was usually very easy to please. If he found someone weird, then there must be something super wrong with them. “Weird how?”

“Super possessive and weird type. Like, he doesn’t hit him or anything, but Barbara told him that he’s constantly fighting with Harry about everything. He breaks up with the kid and then pulls him right back in. It’s like some game to him.”

Louis frowned, finger running over the rim of his cup. “And Harry takes it?”

Niall nodded. “No idea why. I never asked, but he talks to Barbara about it a lot. He’s always tensed up whenever his boyfriend comes around, too. Can’t be free with all of us or anything. Always has to watch what he says and shit because his boyfriend’s so uptight. He’s not here tonight, though.”

“What does he look like?” Louis asked curiously.

“He’s good looking,” Niall shrugged. “But he dresses like a dweeb. He wears a lot of dress pants and button ups. He also has a fucking comb over like some douche bag.”

Louis snorted, putting his empty cup down. “Nice.”

Niall laughed along with him and then stopped when Harry walked back in. “What did I miss?” he asked, smiling.

“Nothing, man,” Niall replied, making a subtle face at Louis. “I’ll leave you two alone to talk about Europe or whatever and go head out to see the others. Dinner will be out in a few.”

“Thanks, Niall,” Louis replied. Niall winked at him like an asshole before walking out of the kitchen and towards the living room. Harry turned to look at him and gestured over to the kitchen table.

“So, pictures,” he said.

“Oh, right,” Louis said. He walked over to the table with Harry and sat down, taking his phone out and opening Facebook. He went through his own page and found the album before handing it to Harry. Harry looked through the album with a bright smile, asking questions about places and even laughing at the pictures he took with Niall’s family in Ireland. When done, he looked back up at Louis with a curious expression.

“Did you go alone?” he asked.

Louis nodded. “It was sort of a last minute decision and nobody else really wanted to drop everything and go.”

“I would go,” Harry said. “Sounds like an adventure.”

“Where were you when I needed a companion?” Louis teased him.

Harry laughed, thumbing through Louis’ phone and doing something. Louis was curious to see, but didn’t ask. “What made you want to go so suddenly?” he asked then.

“I don’t know,” Louis said honestly. “It was a bit of a weird night. I was in my last term in Hunter College and I just got so tired and bored of everything. You could call it the biggest existential crisis any twenty year old could go through. And I don’t know, I just took all my savings, bought a ticket and dropped out without telling my mom. Only called to let her know at the airport.”

Harry’s eyes widened at that piece of information. “You did that?”

Louis nodded. “I know it sounds bad and probably stupid, but I had to do it. I was just so miserable here.”

“It’s not stupid,” Harry shook his head. “Maybe it could have waited till after graduation since you were almost done, but definitely not stupid.”

“Yeah, that’s what my mom said. She eventually got over it when she came to know how unhappy I was at school.”

“So, you never got your diploma?” Harry asked.

Louis shook his head. “No. Dropped out early on in my last semester. It’s quite hard trying to find a job without a degree. At least one where I’m not waiting tables or serving coffee.”

“I feel you,” Harry replied. “I’m a sophomore and I had to move out of dorms and get my own apartment with a friend. It’s expensive out in the city even with all the student loans and part time jobs.”

“I agree. Where do you go?”

“NYU. Studying Business. I’ve got a place with my friend Liam in Soho. He’s actually here somewhere. But yeah, it’s close to school and my boyfriend, Peter, doesn’t live too far. But it’s super expensive.”

Oh. The boyfriend. Louis almost forgot. He smiled, nonchalantly. “Oh, nice. You like it, though, right?”

Harry nodded with a smile. “I’m from Port Washington up in Nassau County, so the city is kind of like freedom. Very exciting all the time.”

“Oh, you’re from Nassau,” Louis said thoughtfully. “My grandparents live in Massapequa.”

“That’s nearby,” Harry said. “I know all of Long Island by heart. It’s sort of sad and primitive compared to the city life. Where did you grow up?”

“In Queens,” Louis replied. “Niall and I were neighbours in Astoria.”

“Right,” Harry nodded. “He mentioned he grew up there. So, what now? You’re back from your big trip. What are you doing now?”

Louis clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and shrugged. “I just got back to the city three weeks ago. I’d been living with my mom until last week because I found a decent place in Williamsburg.”

“That’s good,” Harry smiled, encouragingly. “It’s a nice place.”

“Yeah, can’t complain.”

Just then, Niall and Barbara walked in, giving them both quick smiles before turning back to each other and talking about dinner preparations. Louis turned back to Harry, who looked sheepish. He slid over Louis’ phone back to him. “We should probably head back out there. I also sent myself a friend request from your phone.”

He grinned and Louis eyed him with a smirk. “Smooth,” he said, making Harry laugh.

The two of them made their way back to the living room and Harry introduced Louis to his roommate and friend Liam. Liam was a year older than Harry and the two of them had known each other since they were in diapers, apparently. He went to Baruch College for sports management and was going to graduate in another year. They ended up including Zayn into their conversation and Louis found out that he also was in the same boat as Liam, graduating in a year and studying art in Parsons New School of Art in Union Square, where he lived.

The four of them, joined by Niall, ended up hitting it off great. They talked all night through dinner and then after with drinks. It didn’t become real until the five of them sang and rapped the entire Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song without any preparation or warning. When they finished, they all looked at each other in amazement and burst out laughing. Louis went home that night feeling better than he had since his plane landed at JFK three weeks ago. Before he went to bed, he hit accept on Harry’s friend request and went to sleep with a smile on his face.

Present Day

Shit, shit, shit.

Louis was running so late.

He was running around his flat with only one of his shoes on while searching underneath his couches for the other. This was one of the rare and only occasions he wished that he was better at keeping his flat clean, but it came and went when he would remember how lazy and unorganized he had always been.

Harry was going to kill him. Louis somehow managed to always be late for their lunch dates and it wasn’t his fault. It really wasn’t. He just always got caught up in something, whether it be losing one shoe or trying to get rid of whoever he’d slept with the night before. It was just expected now that he’d evidently be late as always.

“Zayn,” he called out. “Zayn, have you seen my other blue Vans?”

Zayn popped out from the bathroom, clad in a pair of plaid pajama bottoms, his toothbrush hanging from his mouth. Louis tilted his head to the side wondering if Zayn got another tattoo because something looked different. Maybe it was his hair. Zayn always managed to look like he’d gotten a new haircut or something just by trying out a new hairstyle, all of which looked amazing on him.

“I saw it there last night when I was watching TV,” he replied, pointing to the the space underneath their small TV set.

Louis bent down and pulled his other shoe out, pulling it on as he tried to simultaneously run out the door. “Thanks, Z,” he called out. “See you later.”

Becoming roommates with Zayn was probably one of the best decisions he’d ever made. A few months after they’d all met and started becoming friends, Zayn’s lease for his apartment went up and he needed a place to stay, but out of the city. That was when he moved in with Louis in Brooklyn and helped him with the rent.

Louis ran down the usual subway steps and thanked God that the train had arrived as soon as he made it onto the platform. Twenty minutes later, he got off at Broadway and Lafayette, running up the stairs and on to the street. When he walked up in front of Spice Soho, he saw Harry smirking at him from the restaurant window.

Louis rolled his eyes but smiled as he walked in and sat down in front of Harry. “Sorry,” he said genuinely. “Didn’t mean to be that late.” He looked up and their eyes locked for a second and Harry was still smirking, which quickly turned into a pout when he saw Louis sit down.

“Give me a hug, you dick.”

“Sorry,” Louis said, getting up and meeting Harry halfway in a bone crushing hug. Louis felt himself breathe out a sigh of relief and felt completely at ease from Harry’s familiar smell, which felt like home. He felt Harry kiss the top of his head and pulled away from the hug.  

“That’s better,” Harry said, sitting back down. “But honestly, Lou. Why were you late again? You promised me last time that you’d be better at this.”

“I couldn’t find my other shoe,” he replied, kicking his toes up and wiggling it in front of Harry. “Otherwise I would have been here long before you.”

Harry laughed. “We’ve been best friends for two years and you’ve still got me waiting like a loser every time we plan to go out. Remember that first time?”

Louis nodded, a smile on his lips. It was a few days after he’d met Harry at Niall and Barbara’s party and the two of them kept in touch via Facebook message. It was Harry who suggested they met up and they decided on lunch. Louis was late that day, too, thanks to the train delay and traffic.

He was snapped out of his thoughts when the waitress approached them. She took their orders and then left them with ice cold waters.

When Louis locked eyes with him again, Harry winked. Louis rolled his eyes, feeling stupid and flushed. Harry was so stupid and cute, thinking he was so slick. “What’s up?” he asked in means of distracting Harry. He really didn’t want Harry to make seductive faces at him. It was distracting and he was starting to think Harry did it on purpose just to watch him squirm.

“Nothing,” Harry shrugged, with an overly enthusiastic voice. “Everything’s jolly and very good.”

Louis rolled his eyes, because of course. “Are you and Peter fighting again?”

Harry raised his eyebrows at Louis and when Louis wouldn’t let up, he slumped back in his seat. “How’d you know?”

“Because I know you and I know how you get when things get bad. What did he do now?”

Harry shrugged. “We had a fight.”

“Did you break up again?” Louis asked in an almost mocking manner.

“Like I’d ever break up with him,” Harry mumbled. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Louis tried not to let Harry’s words feel like a dull ache in his stomach; he tried to shake it off and instead rolled his eyes. Things hadn’t changed since they met in regards to Harry’s relationship. As their friendship progressed, he’d learned more about Peter. The two of them had met in middle school and started dating a few years later in high school after Harry came out. They had history and a lot of memories together, which Harry seemed to be holding on to despite their current issues that had been going on for a while. He just never wanted to see the bad in Peter, even though he could easily get out of this toxic relationship.

Peter wasn’t physically abusive, but he managed to always make Harry feel smaller than he was. He spoke in judgemental tones and he said things that really hurt him, always undermining the younger boy and everything he did, making him insecure. For example, he had an issue with the way Harry dressed. He didn't like Harry's head scarves or the way he kept he a few of his shirts halfway unbuttoned. Harry always overlooked it as Peter having a bad day at work since he had to do long hours and over time, but it was inexcusable to Louis. He thought he was some big shot just because he was a part of some stupid firm in the city. Emotional abuse was just as bad and he was waiting for the day Harry would realize that and finally leave Peter.  

“Well sorry, Harry. I just can’t understand why you always let him do this,” he ended up saying. “I’m so frustrated hearing about this happen all the time.”

Harry searched his face and his eyes softened up a bit as he signed. “I know. And you always say this, but I just can’t seem to do it. I’m sorry.”

“No,” Louis shook his head because that’s bullshit. Harry was always apologizing. Harry, who was nothing but good to everyone and anyone around him, should not always be apologizing. “You shouldn’t be apologizing for his misdoings. Please, don’t do that.”

“I don’t know,” Harry shrugged. “Maybe he’s right. Maybe I am asking for too much at times. I should be apologizing.”

“Is that what he said?” Louis asked, anger flaring up inside of him. “For fucks sake. He’s such a dick.”

Harry placed hisp palms on the table and leaned a bit closer so that Louis would quiet down. “It was my fault this time, okay? I started it.”

“Harry,” Louis said angrily. “It’s always your fault. In his eyes, it is. And you want him to be happy, so you see everything the way he sees it. And you just believe it’s your fault, just like every other time. He wears the bigger pants in this relationship. How is that fair?”

“Can we stop talking about this? I don’t want it to ruin our day, please.”

And that got to Louis. He realized that his remarks were coming across extremely rude, cutting and aggressive. He just couldn’t help it. He was protective over Harry and it just bothered him that in the two years he’d known him, Harry’s relationship just kept getting worse and worse. But he didn’t want to upset Harry furthermore than he already was. He wanted to comfort him and make him understand how wrong this all was.

“Look,” Louis said softly, putting his hand over Harry’s. “All I’m saying is that I don’t understand him at all. I’m your best fucking friend and he can’t even stand me. You need to sneak around to see me. How does that make sense?”

That made Louis remember the first time he and Peter met. It was probably the most awkward encounter Louis ever had with a person. Peter was hostile towards him from the moment they laid eyes on each other, not even shaking his hand when Louis offered. The meeting took place a few months after he and Harry started talking and they all decided to meet for dinner since it was standard. Peter was curt and extremely rude to Louis, making his dislike apparent towards him. The entire time he just made passive aggressive comments towards him and kept undermining everything he said about himself. Even though Louis was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was somewhat of a decent person, after that meeting, he was resolute to behave the same way towards Peter.

Just as Harry was about to respond to Louis, their food came and the waiter placed their plates in front of them. “Enjoy,” she said before leaving them alone again. Louis looked up to see Harry staring at him, his eyes bugging out like a frog. It was so fucking endearing.

“I really am sorry,” Harry said softly.

Louis wanted to grab Harry’s face and kiss him till they couldn’t breathe. He really did because Harry was so sweet. Too sweet, really. “It’s fine, H,” Louis said with a smile. “Let’s just drop it like you asked.”

“I love you,” Harry smiled.

Louis tried not to blush, instead rolled his eyes because that was so like Harry. He was a natural flirt and so fucking affectionate towards everyone, especially Louis. Like he wasn’t already driving him crazy just by existing. “I love you, too. Now eat and stop flirting with me.” Harry laughed and picked up his fork before digging into his food.

“Work going okay?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, I suppose. Still boring as fuck. Remind me why I thought it’d be fun to work as a receptionist for a tattoo artist? I do nothing but answer phones all day.”

“You were desperate for money and wanted free tattoos.”

“True, but I got all the tattoos I wanted and if I have to be intimidated by another big biker guy, I’m going to lose my mind.” Harry laughed, slurping his drunken noodles. “What about you? How’s work?”

“Good,” Harry nodded, albeit bitterly. “Still a temp.”

Last year, Harry had gotten a temp job at a paper company called Dundas & Co. of all places. He said the people there were very nice, but it was boring and he wasn’t getting promoted nor paid. It also didn’t help that a colleague of his, this little old lady, kept pinching his ass whenever he wasn’t looking.

“Don’t worry, maybe they’re waiting for you to graduate to promote you,” Louis said optimistically.

“And that’s not for another ten months,” Harry groaned.

Louis stroked his arm softly. “Sorry, babes.”

“It’s alright,” Harry said before eyeing him curiously. “So, I know we only just discussed this a few days ago, but I’m bringing it up again.”

“Oh, boy.”

“When will you start dating? And I mean real dating. Not what you usually do. Like, the meaningless sex with random guys.”

“You know, one of these days I’m just going to stop coming out with you so you’ll stop asking me this,” Louis replied.

“Hear me out, Lou. Like...you’re really fucking hot. There’s no way that guys don’t wanna be with you in more ways than just a one night stand. I know you get plenty of offers all the time. You just turn them down. So, that’s starting to make me think that you’re holding off for someone specific. You tell me who this someone is and I’ll hook you up with them.”

Louis actually wanted to laugh at his life. Harry Styles has got to be the thickest yet most endearing boy he had ever met.

“I really can’t believe we’re talking about this again.”

“I’m serious, Lou,” Harry frowned, crossing his arms and flexing them. Fuck, they looked bigger than the last time Louis saw him. What the fuck? It was all Liam’s fault. Since he’d graduated, he’d taken up a job as a personal trainer over at Soul Cycle and he made Harry work out religiously. “Why are you avoiding the question and not answering?”

Louis blinked and looked up at Harry instead of his beautiful, bulging biceps. “I have nothing to say.”

Louis!”

Harry,” Louis laughed. “Listen, I’ll date when I want to. Right now, I genuinely don’t want to. Stop worrying about me. I don’t need anyone right now. I’m getting by just fine with my one night stands or whatever. Plus, you know how I feel about all that stuff.”

“I know, but do you like someone specific?” Harry asked.

Was he not going to let it go? For Christ’s sake. “If you were meant to know, you’d know.”

“What?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Why not?”

“You’re just as blind as him.”

“So, you do like someone!” Harry accused, like he’d finally gotten the truth out of him.

Louis leveled him with a look. “How do you know I’m not talking shit just to make you shut up?”

Harry sat there pondering over what Louis said, eventually giving up and changing the topic to the new James Franco and Seth Rogen film. Once done with lunch, they paid the bill and hugged each other goodbye outside the restaurant.

“So, I’ll see you tonight?” Harry asked.

“Yes, you will,” Louis smiled. It was Niall’s birthday and there was a massive celebration waiting to happen.

“Can’t wait,” Harry said, smiling at him before walking the other way towards his apartment. Louis only looked at him for a few more seconds than usual before turning the other way towards the subway.

Louis should have known two years ago when he’d met Harry that he wasn’t going to be just some face at a party. He’d become so much more. It was almost ridiculous how the two of them kept in touch, talking every day and meeting up for drinks or a bite to eat. It wasn’t always just the two of them. Niall, Liam and Zayn and the two of them were a fucking squad. The coolest one there could be.

While it was always tense between Peter and Louis, Harry continued to hang out with him, and Louis had no idea how to make sense of it. Mostly because he’d sort of grown a little crush on Harry; it didn’t occur to him until a year ago. He always thought Harry was good looking, but he was a good fucking person, too, and Louis would be stupid to not like him even if it was just a little, itty-bitty crush. It was probably his smile that did it. Louis didn’t think he could ever get over Harry’s smile and quite frankly, he didn’t want to. Harry, of course, didn’t know.

Louis wasn’t planning on telling him either because he was sure Harry didn’t feel the same way. Even though he did flirt with Louis a lot, he was with someone else, after all. Louis played along and flirted with him, too, but it was definitely dangerous waters he was treading.

Louis arrived with Zayn later that night to Marquee, the nightclub, where Niall’s birthday party was being held. It was going to be a closed off section on the top floor with a bunch of his closest friends. When they made their way over to the their area, Niall bounded over to them, already drunk and happily flushed.

“Whazzaap?” he yelled, throwing his arms around the two amused boys. Zayn and Louis snickered, hugging the birthday boy back.

“Happy birthday, Niall,” they chorused as they pulled back.

“Thanks, guys,” he grinned. “I’m glad you could come.”

“Of course we would. Are you having fun?” Zayn asked, placing a birthday hat they picked up on the way on top of Niall’s head.

“I’m having a blast. The absolute best party ever,” Niall gushed.

Barbara popped over to them then and cuddled up against Niall. “You said that last year when I had that rodeo themed birthday party for you, babe. You can only pick one as the best party ever.”

“That was amazing, too. I can’t pick,” Niall said to her, kissing her on the lips sweetly. “I love you so much. You do the best things for me.”

Barbara blushed, cupping his cheek and kissing him again. Louis and Zayn stood there awkwardly even though they were used to Niall and Barbara acting like a married couple, despite still being boyfriend and girlfriend. It wasn’t horrible because Louis loved them together. Sometimes they gave him a small flicker of hope of some sort, which he didn’t usually like to touch upon unless it was in the quiet moments when he’d just observed them. They just made being in love look so easy, but he wasn’t sure if that was the case.

Liam walked over then, bypassing the couple making out in front of them and hugged Louis and Zayn. “Hey guys,” he grinned. “When did you get here?”

“Just now,” Zayn replied. “You?”

“Got here a while ago with Harry, actually. This place is fucking amazing. It’s my first time here.”

“Yeah, it’s great, man,” Zayn agreed, looking at the floor below where hundreds of people were drinking, dancing and chatting amongst themselves covered in purple and red lights while the DJ played some sped-up version of a Weeknd song.

Louis looked over Liam’s shoulder to see if he could spot a head of chocolate curls, but it was to no avail because Liam was taller and also very broad. Louis looked at Liam instead, and casually asked, “Where’s Harry?”

“I lost him when I got here,” Liam replied, nonchalantly. “You guys want to get a drink? I haven’t had one yet.”

Zayn nodded and the three of them walked over to the bar on the top floor. They passed their orders to bartender and Louis tried to keep up with the conversation between Zayn and Liam, but occasionally his eyes eyes kept darting around, still searching.

“Looking for someone?” someone asked behind him, voice deep and breath hot.

Louis smirked, turning around to see Harry, grinning down at him. “No, not really,” he shrugged, playing it cool.

“You so were looking for me,” Harry teased, his eyes giving Louis a once over. “You look so good tonight.”

And this was typical Harry, always complimenting Louis and being so fucking flirty and charming, but Louis always fell for it. Louis rolled his eyes, blushing and Harry poked his side, laughing.

“I love making you blush,” he said softly, into his ear.

“Shut up,” Louis whined, pushing him away. “Did you get a drink yet?”

Harry nodded. “I got here a bit ago and I, uh, didn’t have a chance to tell you, but Peter’s here tonight.”

Louis frowned, tilting his head to the side. He tried not to let that bit of information ruin the prospect of this entire night, but the more he denied himself, the more he knew it was going to. It was never a good time when Peter was around, not just because he was a fucker, but also because Harry became a completely different person with him. It was upsetting not just for Louis, but for the other boys and Barbara, too.

“So, you made up,” Louis said, rather than asked.

Harry nodded with a small smile. “A little while before we got here, actually.”

“Great,” Louis said, trying to muster up a genuine smile. “I knew you would because you always do. You guys just love each other too much to stay apart.”

“He’s, uh, over there actually,” Harry said, turning to point out the booth where Peter was sitting in with a few other guys. He had on a stupid black button down and his hair was once again in a combover. Did he actually think he looked good like that?

“Aren’t you going to go sit with him?” Louis asked, realizing after he said it just how bitter he sounded. He was pathetic.

Harry didn’t catch on much. He just shrugged. “Yeah. I just wanted to pop by and say hello. But you’re here, so we’ll talk in a bit?”

“Yeah, totally,” Louis replied, nodding his head. He knew the sarcasm must have been dripping off his tongue and he probably looked angry, but Harry didn’t say anything or notice because he smiled and turned around, walking back to his booth.

Louis looked back at his friends and noticed that their drinks had arrived. He grabbed his, gulping it down bitterly.

“Whoa,” Liam commented, watching him. “What’s up?”

“Just tired,” Louis lied.

“Where did Harry run off to?” Zayn asked, looking at Louis like he knew exactly what was going on. Zayn was way too perceptive for his own good because he saw right through Louis, like he was made of glass.

“He brought his boyfriend here,” Louis replied.

“Oh, right,” Liam scoffed. “Peter and him were very handsy on the way over. I think they had a fight earlier or something and had just made up.”

“When are they not fighting and making up?” Louis asked, putting his finished drink down. “You start to wonder when the relationship stuff happens because it seems to just be a bunch of the same shit over and over.”

Liam eyed Louis suspiciously and Louis started to panic until Zayn put his hand on Louis’ back. “Want to go and join Niall?” he asked. “He’s dancing to Rihanna all alone.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Louis agreed, following the other two over to Niall.

After that, Louis’ mood started to get a bit better. The drink he had was really good and the music playing was extremely catchy. He danced with three of his best friends, laughing with tears in his eyes when Niall started to twerk, and felt himself forgetting about Harry and Peter for a bit. Mostly because he didn’t see them step out of their booth, making out and talking to whoever bothered to sit with them.

When they all got tired, they sat down in their own booth and drank more fruity drinks while discussing what in each of their opinion is Niall’s most embarrassing moment. It was hard to choose from because Niall did a lot of really stupid shit.

“What about the time,” Zayn said, laughing before he could even get to the story. “When Niall had to pee so bad when we went to that club in Jersey Shore, he decided to not walk all the way to the bathroom and instead did it behind the empty bar. He was so drunk and all he kept saying was please don’t tell Barbs, even though she was standing right next to us.”

“Okay,” Niall said shrilly, looking at Zayn with a horrified expression for bringing up that story.  “Enough embarrassing stories. Can we have cake yet?”

“Yeah, sure,” Barbara smiled. “I’ll go get it out.” Barbara went over to the bar where she’d kept the cake and called everyone over to tell them it was time to cut it. Louis made his way out of the booth and walked over to where everyone was standing, watching as Barbara chided Niall for trying to poke his finger through the frosting. It was all so domestic.

For the second time that night, Louis was startled when Harry decided to come over and pop up behind him. This time he wrapped his arms around Louis’ waist, resting his head on his shoulder

“Haven’t seen you in awhile,” he said.

Louis couldn’t help but roll his eyes and get annoyed. “You were too busy making out with your boyfriend,” he shrugged in response.

“Um, okay,” Harry mumbled with a frown. “That’s nice.”

“Am I wrong?”

Harry squeezed his hips and turned Louis around to face him. “Louis.”

“Harry,” Louis warned. “Don’t hold me too close. He could be watching us.” He knew it was mostly the alcohol talking, but he didn’t care. Harry acted like he didn’t even know his friends tonight and that never boded well with Louis. Maybe he was jealous and completely out of line, but this always happened.

Everyone started to sing "Happy Birthday" to Niall and Louis turned in Harry’s arms to watch him cut the cake. Harry, however, didn’t waver his eyes from Louis’ face. He looked torn and guilty, as usual.

“I’m sorry,” he said, leaning closer. “I just lost track of time and you know how it is. Besides, he left just now. He has work tomorrow. Anyway, you’re the one who told me to go to him. You acted like it was fine.”

He was guilty there, but Louis wished Harry wouldn’t point it out. “Yeah, it’s fine,” he said curtly.

“I know you’re still mad at me.”

“I’m not,” Louis insisted. It got a bit distracting after that because Harry was tightening his hold on Louis and Louis wanted him to hold him even tighter. He also wanted some cake. In the end, he got a slice and when he turned around to go back to his seat, Harry swiped his finger on the frosting and wiped it on Louis’ nose.

Louis gasped, glaring at him and Harry cackled, letting him go and running towards the back of the club. But Louis’ always been faster and he put his plate down before running after Harry. “You little shit,” he yelled. “Why’d you do that for?”

Harry laughed hysterically, pointing to his nose as he leaned back against the railing by the fire exit door. “You’re fucking dead,” Louis told him, approaching him slowly because Harry looked way too much at ease, smirking down at him. “Like, I will not hesitate to fucking strangle you.”

“Can you even reach my neck?” Harry asked, smugly.

Louis scoffed, punching him lightly on the arm. “Don’t be a dick,” Louis glared. When he went for another punch, Harry grabbed his wrists and stopped him, bringing him closer. Louis instantly shut up and every muscle in his body fell pliant. Harry continued to look at ease as he brought Louis close to his face and leaned down as if he was going to kiss him. And this couldn’t be happening. Louis could literally hear his heartbeat in this loud club, which was insane, and Harry couldn’t be kissing him.

He didn’t.

His tongue came out and swiped over Louis’ nose, licking up the frosting. “Yum,” Harry smiled. Louis felt his cheeks heat up and he parted his lips in surprise. Harry wrapped one of his arms around Louis’ waist. “Aw, you’re blushing again.”

“Get off of me,” Louis said, trying to push him off even though he was smiling. Harry eventually did loosen his grip and Louis backed away, still facing him. “Do that again and I’ll tell everyone about your weird obsession with Gilmore Girls.”

“I told you that in confidence,” Harry sputtered, cocky facade and smug smirk wiped off completely.

Louis winked, turning around and walking back to the others. Harry followed him, of course. He always did.

Several hours later when the party wound down, Harry and Louis drunkenly exited the club together, giggling on the streets and falling over. Harry held him up and they slumped against one of the walls of the club, looking at each other. He looked beautiful under all the bright city lights. It stunned Louis how pretty he was.

“Come over to my place,” Harry said. “It’s closer.”

“Alright,” Louis agreed, taking the hand he was extending towards him. They managed to find a cab and Harry told the driver his address before snuggling up with Louis in the back seat. Louis played with his hair and felt him relax under his hands. “Did you have fun tonight?”

“Yeah,” Harry slurred, sleepily. “Always have fun with you.”

Louis smiled secretly, happy that Harry didn’t mention having fun with Peter, but with him instead. When they got to Harry’s apartment, they stumbled up the elevator and through his doors. Liam was yet to be home, but they figured he was okay because he was seen leaving with Zayn.

Harry immediately ran to the bathroom, muttering about how he had had to pee and poop for hours. Louis shrugged, walking into Harry’s room, taking out a t-shirt and boxers before changing into them. He looked around Harry’s bedroom, noticing the pile of textbooks on his desk and the ironed dress shirts hanging in the closer. He was super picky about how neat everything had to be and Louis found it hot. When Harry walked out, Louis took his turn in the bathroom and walked back to find Harry splayed out on the bed like a starfish.

“So, should I take the couch or, like, Liam’s bed or something?” Louis asked, standing against the door frame.

Harry grinned at him and Louis knew the answer to that. He always asked just because Harry’s boyfriend would kill him if he knew Harry sometimes had sleepovers with another guy and they spooned. He would probably break up with him a few times over that, even though nothing happened beyond that. Louis was expected to ask, or he thought he was. Harry never let him, though.

“Shut up and come here,” Harry said, extending his hand out.

Louis smiled, walking over and settling down beside Harry, who moved to make room for him. Once he was under the covers, Harry wrapped an arm around him. “You’re so stupid,” Harry said, words still slurring. “I just want you to stay here with me.”

“Okay,” Louis replied softly.

“I’m so sleepy,” he mumbled in his ear. He pressed a kiss to Louis’ cheek and closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep. Louis smiled softly, happy with the way the night turned out.

Louis woke up the next morning thanks to Harry’s stupid hand hitting him right on the nose. “What the fuck,” he muttered, rolling over and rubbing his eyes. He looked over at Harry, finding the younger boy yawning and stretching his arms.

“Morning sunshine,” Harry said with a smile. His face was puffy and bleary. So Goddamn cute. How did he look so cute when Louis knew he was hungover just like him? Louis probably looked homeless. “Did you sleep well?”

“I did until you woke me up by hitting me on the nose,” Louis replied. Harry hummed, laying back down and snuggling up against him again, closing his eyes and mindlessly rubbing Louis’ nose as though he was mending it. Louis still wanted to be difficult so he said, “You should get another bed for me so when I sleep over I can sleep in peace.”

“Nah,” Harry shrugged off, smiling with his eyes still closed. He took his hand away and wrapped it around Louis’ waist to pull him closer. Louis laughed and tried to move his hand away because it was tickling him. “You’re sleeping right here with me.”

And Louis wanted to revel in that. Harry saying cute, adorable things to him, but he also knew the harsh reality of them and couldn’t help but vocalize it. “Until you get married to Peter. The three of us in one bed might be a bit awkward.”

Harry stilled and groaned, rolling over. Louis looked at him and noticed him rubbing his eyes again. “You just reminded me, I have to go see him.” He turned to the bedside table and picked up his phone, unlocking it for his new messages and notifications.  

“Oh,” Louis replied. “Alright. I guess I’ll see you later, then?”

Harry nodded. “You’ll be alright, right?”

Louis laughed. “Yeah. Don’t worry. I’ll just see if I can bully Liam into making me food before I leave because I know for a fact Zayn and I have nothing at home.”

“Sounds good.”

Louis decided to stop being lazy and rolling around on a comfortable bed with Harry in favor of food. He got up and picked up his clothes from the night before, feeling a bit dizzy from the sudden movement. There seemed to be some sort of stain on his shirt and he wrinkled his nose at the thought of wearing it again. It had to be done so Louis pulled off Harry’s shirt and started wearing his own. It was when he was pulling on his pants that Harry started to laugh.

“What?” Louis asked, looking up at him.

“Do you want my shirt?” he asked. “You’ve got some yellow shit all over yours.”

Louis sighed, looking up at him desperately. “Please.”

Harry laughed again, getting out of bed himself to go to the bathroom. “Wear it. I’ll put yours in the wash with mine.”

“You’re an angel,” Louis called out to him as he closed the door behind him.

“I know,” Harry yelled back. Louis smiled, pulling on his jeans and then checking to see if he’d gotten everything from Harry’s room before walking out. He found Liam in the kitchen, drinking coffee and reading the paper.

He looked up when Louis entered and smiled warmly. “Hey Lou. Didn’t know you stayed last night.”

“I did,” he replied, sitting down across from him and pouring himself some coffee. “When did you get back?”

“Probably after four,” Liam replied. “Zayn and I walked out and went to Central Park for a bit, just to get some fresh air and sober up. It worked for the most part, but I still feel a bit queasy.”

“Nice idea. Wish I’d thought of that,” Louis replied. “Zayn get home okay? I should probably text him.”

“Yeah, he texted me last night when he reached your place. Want anything for breakfast?” Liam asked.

Louis smiled sheepishly and nodded. “Yes, please. That would be amazing. I thought I’d have to beg.”

“You’re lucky I’m feeling generous right now. Is Harry going to be joining us?”

“Nah,” Louis shook his head. “He’s meeting Peter.” Liam didn’t respond, going about and taking supplies out from the fridge before getting to work. Harry walked out a few moments later, his hair wet and curly. He nodded over at Liam as a greeting and then looked at Louis. The two of them were so attuned with each other that they could easily communicate with each other through their eyes. When Louis looked back at Harry, he gave him a concerned once over.

“You’ll be okay?” he asked tentatively.  

Louis wished he wasn’t so fond of this stupid, adorable boy in front of him, but he was and he wanted to be pull him into a blanket cocoon and pet his hair for days. That was probably not normal thoughts to be having about one’s best friend so Louis settled for kissing his cheek and smiling at him.

“Go. You’ll be late. And don’t worry about me. Liam’s making me food and I didn’t even have to beg.”

Harry grinned. “Sounds good. I’ll text you later.” He walked out to the front door, waving at the two of them and heading out.

Liam was still making eggs for breakfast when he spoke up. “I don’t understand what Harry sees in him,” he said at last. “He’s okay looking and all, but such a dick.”

“Trust me, Li,” Louis chuckled. “I know. Can you imagine how many nights we had to take care of Harry because Peter broke up with him and he was crying his eyes out? He would only pull himself together after they got back together.”

“Harry’s still a bit naive. He falls for Peter’s stupid promises and his love declarations, but can’t see that he’s just using him. You know that if the tables turned, Peter would be devastated. Harry would never be that mean to him, though.”

Liam walked over, bringing over two plates of scrambled eggs and toast, placing one in front of Louis.

Louis thanked him, grabbing a fork and digging in. “He tells me Peter used to be different and they’re just going through a rough patch,” Louis said, laughing. “But this rough patch has been going on for two years now. I mean, if that’s what he wants to believe, then I guess it’s for him to realize and fix. Nothing we can really do.”

Liam nodded before drinking some of his coffee. “You’re right. It is his life and his decisions, but I hope he realizes sooner than later that his boyfriend is a piece of shit and he could do so much better. Until then, not much we can do.”

Ever since Niall got his job at Atlantic Records, he always got VIP for every concert their artists had in the city. Along with great seats and celebrity style treatment, he also got his friends hooked up with tickets as well. Louis wasn’t an avid concert goer to begin with, but if it was free and more money for beer, he wasn’t going to say no. Niall rounded everyone up on group chat and told them all that Ed Sheeran was in town for a gig at MSG, no less, and if they wanted to go.

Louis said yes, of course. He was a huge fan of Ed’s and Niall knew him from the few times he popped by the office, so he’d heard that he was a good guy as well. It was highly likely that as an after party, their group and Ed might go to Niall and Barbara’s for pizza and beer, so Louis wasn’t about to pass that up. The only person who didn’t go was Harry. He declined Niall’s offer to hang out with Peter. It surprised Louis because Harry was a really big Ed Sheeran fan. In fact, he was the one who introduced Louis to his music.

Nevertheless, Louis went with his other friends and had a great night, drinking beer and swaying to Ed’s music. After the show, they all took a cab to Niall and Barbara’s with the man of the night, himself. When they arrived, Niall set up a game of beer pong while they all ordered pizza and tried to figure out teams. Luckily since there was an even number for them, they settled on Liam, Zayn and Ed on one team while Niall, Barbara and Louis were on the other team.

It fared well for the most part except for that one time Louis hit Niall on the face with the ball so hard that it bruised. Halfway through the game, the doorbell rang and Barbara skipped over to get it. Louis was so into the game, that he didn’t look over to see who it was until someone grabbed him around the waist and picked him up off the ground.

He let out a groan, but then burst out laughing because only one person could manage to do that. “Put me down, H,” Louis cried, swinging his legs back and forth, almost nailing Niall on the face again.

“Alright, alright,” Harry agreed, putting Louis back down on the ground. Louis turned to look at him and felt his resolve crumbling. He was supposed to be mad at him for not coming to the concert. During the show, he was so upset that Harry couldn’t be there to share it with him. It was not like Peter never got to see Harry because they were always hanging out so why couldn’t Harry just come? But Harry just looked too cute to be mad at. He had on this snapback worn backwards so that his curls were away from his eyes and Louis wanted to hold him and not let go for the next few hours.

When he smiled at Louis, Louis decided to let it slide this one time and hugged Harry as tight as he possibly could. Harry hugged him back, lifting him half off the ground again before setting him down.

“We’re playing beer pong,” Louis told him, with a hand wave gesturing to the table. “And that’s Ed Sheeran.”

Ed waved over at Harry and Harry waved back. “It’s nice to meet you. Heard the show was great. So upset I couldn’t make it.”

“It’s alright, mate. Next time,” Ed replied. “A few thousand other people went, so it wasn’t that bad.”

Louis laughed at that, almost giggling since he was a bit tipsy. “Do you wanna join?” he asked Harry.

“Sure,” Harry nodded. He walked over to the table and stretched as though he was going for a physical sport and not just a drinking game, making his shirt inch up. Louis’ eyes traveled down to his lower abdomen, which trailed down to his v line. He gulped and looked away before walking over to the couch and plopping down next to Zayn, who was on his phone.  

After Harry’s turn he walked over and sat down next to Louis. “Hey” he said, smiling.

“Hi,” Louis smiled.

“I just wanted to tell you, I totally saw you checking me out earlier.”

Louis frowned with a scoff. “No, I wasn’t.”

“Yes, you were. I saw you,” Harry laughed.

“Whatever, Harry.”

“Yeah, whatever, Louis,” Harry mimicked him.

“You’re honestly such a pain in the ass, how do I tolerate you?”

“Says the guy who was eyeing me like a piece of meat.”

“You feeding your ego by making up lies is very amusing. I applaud your imagination.”

Harry cackled beside Louis. “‘M not lying!”

“Will you both shut the fuck up and stop flirting for five minutes?” Zayn asked, not looking up from his phone.

Louis rolled his eyes and got up, pulling Harry up with him. “Let’s go. We got pizza a little while ago and I’m hungry again.” Harry followed him and stood by as Louis helped himself to another slice.

“You had a good night?”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Louis shrugged, taking a bite.

Harry pursed his lips and looked a bit amused as he sat down at the table, pulling Louis down to his lap. “What do you mean you suppose? You love Ed Sheeran.”

“I do,” Louis agreed. “But you love him so much more.”

“You’re upset I didn’t go,” Harry conceded.

“What do you know, folks?” Louis remarked sarcastically. “We’ve got ourselves a genius.”

“Shut up,” Harry muttered, laughing. “I’m sorry I couldn’t go. Next time, though, I’m so there.”

“Sure you won’t have a date to hold you back?”

“I’ll cancel the date.”

“Highly unlikely,” Louis rolled his eyes.

“Is that the kind of trust you have in me?”

“I don’t trust you at all.”

Louis,” Harry affronted.

Louis laughed, taking another bite of his pizza. Harry gestured to him to get a bite and Louis held it up to his mouth to help him get a bite. “Good pizza,” Harry chewed.

“Isn’t it? Ed ordered it,” Louis said. Harry nodded, going in for another bite and Louis hated how comfortable this felt. It shouldn’t be this easy and good, but it always was for them. Louis had never met another person who was as compatible with him as Harry was. They worked well with each other, knowing what made the other happy or sad and knowing exactly what to say.

And Louis probably never had a crush like this on someone. He wanted to make Harry breakfast every morning even though all he knew how to make was toast. He wanted to get his shower ready, just the way Harry liked it- with warm water. He wanted to watch lame movies with him that were so bad they were funny. He also really wanted to fuck the life out of him. It was thoughts like these that scared the shit out of Louis. He was in way deeper than he’d like to admit.

Ed decided to stay another day for some promo, but invited them all out to a Irish pub in Chelsea called the The Half King later on. Niall accepted on all their behalf and that was how they all found themselves there the following night, surrounded by several drunken Irishmen dancing and singing along to some folk music playing. It was rather interesting to watch Ed and Niall bond over their--Irishness. Louis sulked for the most part because Harry wasn’t there again, but then Ed dragged him towards the bar before he could start whining to Barbara.

“Can we get three shots of the red-headed slut?” Ed asked the bartender. Niall and Louis burst out laughing, practically falling over as Ed smirked at them.

“You’re our red-headed slut, Ed,” Niall said, taking Ed’s head in a headlock before messing his hair up. Louis laughed at the two of them before he hopped on the stool to sit down. The bartender came back with their drinks and the three of them raised their glasses.

“To good times with the red headed slut next to us,” Niall said pointing at Ed. The three of them grinned and downed the shots. “That was really good. I want another.”

“If you want more, you’ve got some right next to you,” Louis quipped, laughing at Ed who popped his middle finger up at him. Louis grinned before turning to the bartender and ordering himself a beer. He quickly got them their drinks and left to go help some other customers. Niall and Ed grabbed their drinks and sat on the stools on either side of him. Louis sighed contently as he looked around the pub. It was small, but the vibe was great, people happy and chilled out, dancing to whatever Irish music was playing off on the speakers.

“Oh, before I forget, I’ve got a friend coming over to meet us,” Ed told them.

“A friend?” Louis asked. “Who?”

“Greg James,” he replied. “I met him today for a radio promo. He’s a RJ at Hot 97. Really cool lad. Has the sickest taste in music.”

“That’s really cool,” Niall replied. “Can’t wait to meet him.”

Louis took another sip of his drink and sighed again, but this time more sadly, causing the other two to turn to him. “I wish Harry was here. He’s always with his boyfriend.”

“He’s right over there,” Niall said, looking over his shoulder. Ed and Louis turned around and sure enough, Harry was at the booth with the others. He must have just gotten there and he wasn’t alone. Peter was by his side and holding his hand. It made Louis want to go over there and just separate them. He hated seeing them together because it made him ten times more jealous than he usually was at just the thought.

“When did he get here?” Louis asked. “And why is Peter here?”

“Now play nice, Louis,” Niall said smirking. It was no secret to the others that he despised Peter and they didn’t get along. Louis rolled his eyes at Niall and turned to face the bar again.  

“I’d like another please,” he said, passing his empty glass towards the bartender. He nodded, taking the empty glass and started to pour him a new one.

“They’re coming over,” Niall said. He was watching them like a hawk and Louis smacked him to turn him back around. Niall started laughing with Ed, who was about to spit up his drink. Ed didn’t even know the whole story, but Louis figured he was too drunk to care or ask.

“Hey guys,” Louis heard Harry say from behind. The three of them slowly turned around to face them. Peter smiled politely, but grimaced when he noticed Louis. “What’s up?”

“We’re just drinking and taking shots, man,” Niall answered before turning to Peter. “How are you, Peter? Never got to thank you for coming to my birthday. Was so drunk then.”

“I’m great,” Peter replied. “And that’s fine. It was a great party. You doing alright?”

“I’m good,” he responded with a big smile.

Harry smiled happily at the exchange and it made Louis’ skin itch that Peter was so blatantly rude to him, but Harry didn’t even care. Instead, he put his hand on the small of Peter’s back to introduce him to Ed.

“I’m Ed,” Ed said, shaking Peter’s hand.

Peter smiled. “Harry’s a big fan, so I’m familiar. Nice to meet you.”

“Why didn’t you two come to the show?” Ed asked. “Didn’t see you guys around there.”

Peter and Harry looked at each other awkwardly and chuckled nervously. “We were a bit busy,” Peter replied, holding Harry’s hand. The implication behind what he said was enough to make everything Louis drank feel like it was going to come out. He turned away and tried not to pout like a child, although it was what ended up happening. He heard them make more small talk before Harry and Peter excused themselves.

Niall put a hand on Louis’ back, rubbing it in a comforting way until Louis looked at him. He’d never really talked to Niall about how he felt about Harry, but he knew very well that Louis despised Peter and he always put him in a bad mood.

“How about I buy you a drink?” Niall asked, instead.

Louis tried smiling and nodded. “Alright, Horan. Spoil me.”

Niall grinned excitedly. “That’s my boy.”

The three of them had a one more drink before settling back to their booth. They found Liam chatting up some brunette while Zayn and Barbara were discussing some hair ritual that promised no split ends. The only ones not there were Peter and Harry. Quite frankly, Louis did not mind one bit. It was good. He didn’t want to see them anyway. A while later, Ed waved at some tall, lanky looking guy.

“Greg,” he greeted, standing up and giving him a hug. Louis looked up and eyed Greg. He was pretty cute in a goofy sort of way. He had soft, light brown hair styled up and a really nice smile.

Zayn shot Louis a look and smirked. “Try not to drool, Lou.”

“Shut up, Malik,” Louis hissed. “I was only observing.”

“Why don’t you talk to him?” Zayn encouraged with a smile.

Louis shrugged. “He seems older, doesn’t he?”

“Like that’s ever stopped you. What’s up? Not feeling it tonight?”

“I’m feeling fine, Zayn. I don’t know. I’ll see.”

It might have been just seeing Peter and Harry together that was turning his mood off, but he didn’t feel like making much of an effort with anything. No matter how hot Greg was. Ed was going around the table, introducing everyone individually and Greg was greeting them with enthusiasm and big smiles. When he got to Louis, Ed grinned.

“Louis, this is my friend Greg,” he said. “Greg, this is Louis.”

“Hi,” Louis smiled shyly, his eyelashes fluttering. Even when he wasn’t trying to flirt, it just happened and he couldn’t help himself.

“Hey,” Greg smiled. “Nice to meet you. Nice to meet all you guys, actually. Happy to be here. Sorry that I’m a bit late.”

“That’s no problem. Plenty of time to catch up, so sit,” Ed gestured to the booth. “I have to make a quick call to my manager and I’ll be right back.”

Greg nodded, sitting down in the spot Ed was and turned to everyone, but then zeroed in on Louis. Louis didn’t want to assume, but he seemed interested. He tried not to stare back and make it weird, so he looked over his shoulders and saw Peter and Harry, standing by the bar and kissing. He tried not to gag. PDA was disgusting as it was; theirs was on a different level. He rolled his eyes, turning away to see Greg look over at him again.

“So, your drink looks just about done, can I buy you another?” Greg asked. Louis turned to look at him and then down at his glass, realizing he was right. He nodded with a small smile and followed him to the bar where they both sat down on two empty stools, far from Harry and Peter. “What would you like to drink?”

“Surprise me,” Louis replied, smiling.  

Greg smiled at him and turned to the bar tender. “I’ll take a negroni please and for him, a lemon drop martini.”

Louis scoffed and Greg turned to look at him. “That’s the brightest and fruitiest drink here. What do you take me for?”

He laughed brightly. “Nothing, I swear. It’s delicious, though. I promise.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Louis laughed.

“So, what do you do?” he asked.

“Nothing at the moment. Just a lousy receptionist at a tattoo shop. People aren’t kidding when they say a degree helps because it’s brutal out there.”

Greg laughed softly at that. “So, you didn’t graduate college or didn’t go at all?”

Louis shook his head. “I studied Economics for three and a half years and just hated it. Decided to drop out and see the world. Or at least, a small fraction of it.”

“That’s great. Where did you go?” he asked, looking fascinated.

“Europe and the UK,” Louis replied just as the bartender placed their drinks in front of them. Louis picked up his drink and sipped it warily. He hummed in approval when the lemony zest hit his taste buds. “This is really good.”

“Told you,” Greg grinned. “So, tell me more about you. I’m interested.”

Louis giggled. “I mean, I traveled and came back. I’m kind of just floating these days from one job to another. Not much to say. What about you, though? You’re a RJ, right?”

He nodded, sipping his drink. “It’s really great. I love it. I did it in college and now I get to do it as a career.”

“I think it’s really nice. Like, the fact that you get to do something that you’re so passionate about. I don’t even know what I’m passionate about yet. Isn’t that so weird?”

“No,” Greg shook his head. “That’s totally fine. It can take some people years to figure out what they wanna do.”

“That’s what Harry always says,” Louis said excitedly, happy that he was talking about Harry. He always seemed to connect him with some part of any conversation he had with anyone. It was so weird.

“Harry?” Greg asked, frowning.

“My best friend. He’s over there with his stupid boyfriend. Anyway,” Louis crossed his ankles and dangled his feet. “The radio thing sounds really fun. Can I come visit you sometime at work to see?”

“Yeah,” Greg nodded, blushing a little. “I kind of actually wanted to ask if you’d want to hang out sometime. Get something to eat?”

Louis looked at him in surprise, not expecting Greg to say that. Despite his usual rendezvous with strangers here and there, he occasionally did get the one guy who asked him on a date. Louis automatically said no. He didn’t do dates. However, Greg seemed genuinely nice. Louis felt conflicted as he turned to look over at Harry. He was smiling and talking about something with Peter and it just looked so intimate that Louis felt like he was almost intruding.

He gulped when he felt that familiar ache he got whenever he wanted to be in place of Peter. When he wanted to be the one holding Harry and making him laugh. Louis never wanted to be with anyone like he wanted to be with Harry. It amazed him how he was capable of feeling things like this because it was unusual for him. He didn’t do feelings at all. It made him wonder how the human body did this. How did biology explain the physical pain you felt in your chest when all you ever wanted was to be with someone, but watch them be with someone else?

Louis didn’t want to do that anymore, though. He didn’t want to ache for Harry anymore. Not when Harry had someone already. He turned back to Greg and slowly nodded.

“Yeah, sure. It’s a date.”

Louis was lying on his couch, his favorite soft blanket draped over him, watching some Jersey Shore reruns. Zayn was with him for a little while, but headed to bed a few minutes ago, leaving the older boy alone. He was just drifting off to sleep himself while Ron and Sam got into their fifth fight of the episode, when a sudden rapping on the door woke him up.

Grumbling and rubbing his eye, Louis walked over to the door, looking through the peephole before opening it. Harry stood on the other side, leaning against the wall on the side of the door. Louis tipped his head to the side and raised his eyebrows. Harry had ignored him all night at the bar. He didn’t even get a hello except for the generic group greeting. Who did Harry think he was just showing up at Louis’ doorstep?

“What are you doing here so late?” Louis asked, yawning.

Harry shrugged while walking inside and Louis followed him after closing the door. He watched as Harry plopped down on the couch, getting cozy under the blankets and frowned. What the hell was he doing? It was almost five in the morning.

“Harry,” Louis said, walking over. “Seriously.”

“Someone’s crabby,” Harry commented, still not answering him.

“For good reason,” he replied. “I just spent all night watching you ignore me while you hung out with your boyfriend.”

Harry groaned, tipping his head back. “I don’t understand you,” he said. “You’re mad if I don’t come out because I’m with Peter and then you get mad when I do come out.”

“You act like you barely know me,” Louis said, his voice rising. “Like I mean nothing to you.”

“Do you blame me?” Harry asked. “You two hate each other. Do you know how awkward it is? What am I supposed to do?” When Louis didn’t respond, Harry sighed. “Listen, I’m sorry I did that. I know I shouldn’t, but I genuinely don’t know how to act with you two being in the same room. But I’m trying to make you both happy. I’m really fucking trying to make it work. I’ll come out with you guys more and I won’t bring him with me, okay? I’ll divide my time.”

And fuck that, because now Louis felt guilty. He sat down beside Harry, his eyes trained on the screen, watching two of the roommates hook up with each other. “You don’t have to do that,” he said to Harry. “I wish it wasn’t like this. I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Harry replied softly. “Can you cuddle with me now and put a smile on that face?” Louis tried hard to fight the smile, but his face broke out into a grin. He curled up under the covers, practically sitting on top of Harry’s lap. Harry kissed his cheek and Louis practically preened, having been deprived of this adorable boy’s attention for so long.

“Glad you’re here,” Louis said to him.

“Yeah?” Harry asked, grinning. Louis nodded with a shy smile. “I, uh, heard something.”

“What?” Louis asked.

“You have a new boyfriend.”

Louis frowned at him and Harry laughed. “Liam told me that some guy asked you out at the bar. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were ignoring me,” Louis said pointedly. “Besides, not much to tell. It’s Ed’s friend. He’s an RJ and we’re just going to hang out.”

“This is kind of huge, Lou,” Harry said with earnest eyes as he held Louis tighter. “You don’t really do dates, but you’re going out with this guy with no promise of sex. That’s a fucking big deal.”

“How do you know sex wasn’t promised? Honestly speaking, I really don’t want to make a big deal out of this.”

Harry’s face softened and he rubbed Louis’ back soothingly. “Louis, do you want to do this? If you don’t, it’s fine.”

“No,” Louis shook his head. “I want to hang out with him. He’s a very nice boy. I just feel weird, you know?” Harry nodded, still rubbing soothing circles on his back. “I haven’t done this since I was in high school.”

The last time Louis had a proper relationship was when he was sixteen and it was the only one that counted because the ones before that were girls and they never did anything except for chaste kisses goodbye. Sam was his first real everything, but they only lasted a few months and Louis broke up with him via text. He wasn’t proud, but he was well past it now.

“Is this about the guy you like, but won’t tell me about?”

Louis stared at him, feeling the weight of the night crashing into him. He was just so tired of never being able to just tell Harry when all he wanted was to scream it on rooftops. When Louis didn’t respond, Harry kissed his nose. “You can tell me. You can tell me anything, Lou. I promise.”

“I can’t,” Louis’ voice broke. “I can’t tell you this one thing.”

“Why not? I thought we shared everything with each other.”

“It doesn’t matter if I like him or not, he’s with someone else.”

It was as if time stood still for a few minutes and Harry was looking at Louis, neither of them saying a word. Louis suddenly felt his throat closing up because what if Harry knew? Did Louis just out himself? His heart and mind were in a constant battled with each other wanting Harry to know and being scared if he does.

“I don’t want you to be hurt,” Harry said after a while. “No one knows more than me how fucked up you’ve been because of your parents’ split and the whole ordeal with your mom. I know you have trust issues and you can’t commit because it scares the living shit out of you. It’s not a good thing, Lou. I want you to be happy and I want to give you everything, but I never want you to take the risk and get hurt, either”

Louis nodded, taking Harry’s hand into his. He remembered the night clearly when he’d gotten drunk with Harry almost two years ago and spilled his heart out. He told him about how his biological dad fucked off and left him and his mom all alone when he was barely a week old. He told him about his horrible step father who married his mom and was with her for years, making this big, happy family, only to get up one day and leave all of them including his little sisters. He told him how he was so tired and scared of seeing such heartbreak in his own home, that he couldn’t bear to go through all that, too.

It was really why he’d broken up with his ex-boyfriend. He was scared that he’d do the same to Louis and Louis didn’t let him close enough to even try. Louis did it to him before it was too late. It was a real cowardly way of living, but at least his heart wasn’t breaking.

“It’s kind of surprising,” Louis said to Harry, snapping out of his thoughts.

“What is?”

“You’re always saying how you want me to go out on a proper date and let boys treat me well, but when it happens, you’re all protective.”

Harry laughed, throwing his head back. “I know, I know. I’m sorry. I care about you a lot. He needs my approval, you know. Even though, I want you to date and all, I don’t want you being with some dick head.”

“Of course,” Louis said with an amused smile. “He’s alright. I think you’d like him.”

“If you say so. I didn’t get a chance to meet him, tonight. But maybe I will now that you’re hanging out.”

“Maybe. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. He could hate me for all we know.”

“How could anyone in their right mind hate you? You’re fucking gorgeous from head to toe. And you look like you’d be amazing in bed.”

Louis groaned, hiding his face in Harry’s neck. “Shut up. You’re the weirdest. Honestly, who says that?”

“I do,” Harry argued, laughing at him.

“Whatever,” Louis rolled his eyes and trying not to smile. “Let’s watch TV.”

Harry hummed in approval, holding him tighter, the two of them transfixed on the reality drama on the TV.

Zayn and Louis decided to meet up with Niall for his lunch hour in the city since there was nothing at home to eat. The three of them settled on Chipotle after much begging on Niall’s end and sat down on the wooden chairs with their burritos and burrito bowls in front of them. Niall took one of each explaining to them that he hadn’t gotten a chance to have dinner the night before.

“Barbara not giving you food, Niall?” Zayn asked, smiling around his burrito.

“Of course she does,” Niall waved off. “She was just super busy and I was too tired to cook. But Barbs cooks the best dishes. I lick the plate clean sometimes because she’s that good.”

“That’s hot,” Louis said sarcastically, making a face at the mental image. “Anyways, what’s up? How was work?”

“Work’s work. Bruno Mars stopped by the office today,” Niall replied.

“That’s...interesting,” Louis said, feeling rather jealous that while he was sitting at home in his dirty clothes that he was too lazy to wash, Niall got to meet Bruno Mars on an hourly salary. Shit. He turned to Zayn. “What about you?”

“Same old,” Zayn replied. He worked as a curator at Ward Nasse Gallery in Soho. He got to help with a lot of behind the scenes aspects of the place as well and he loved it. He was given a lot of free time to work on his own art, too, which he appreciated so much. “Any call backs from the places you applied to?”

“Nope,” Louis shook his head, picking at the burrito bowl in front of him.

Niall looked up at him then and furrowed his brows. “Don’t you have a date with that guy tonight?”

“Greg?” Louis asked. “Yeah. That’s tonight. I was so close to cancelling last night. I just don’t feel like going.”

“Why not?” Zayn asked. “He’s a good guy.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know. Being a good guy doesn’t make me want to go on a date with him.”

“Louis,” Niall sighed, putting his food down. “You have to go.”

Louis frowned at him and put his food down as well. “And why do I have to go? Why are you saying it like that?”

“Don’t you think it’s time that you...let go of some people and moved on? Like, things aren’t changing, Lou and it’s only getting worse for you.”

Louis stared at Niall, dumbfounded for a second until it hit him. Niall knew how he felt about Harry. And if he was so openly saying that in front of Zayn, it meant Zayn knew as well. He never told any of his friends in fear that one of them would slip up one day in front of Harry, leading to an inevitable downfall, but here they were. Giving him clues about their knowledge of his secret feelings. How the fuck did they know without him telling them?

Niall gave him a knowing smirk. “Oh, come on,” he said. “I’ve known you since you were prepubescent. You really don’t think I’d know if you had a crush on Harry or not?”

“Niall,” Louis cried, looking at Zayn and feeling rather attacked. “What the fuck? How long have you known?”

“Since that night, like, a year ago when you got really drunk at Liam’s birthday and kept staring at Harry while he was talking as though he was the greatest gift on Earth.”

Louis turned to Zayn then, not even wanting to think about that night. It was intense. Harry had worn this lavender jumper with this floral headband and Louis wanted to climb him like a Goddamn tree. “And what about you, Zayn?” Louis asked.

Zayn shrugged, looking as calm as ever. “For a while, too. No specific moment. Just figured, really.”

“Fine,” Louis said, realizing there was no way out of this. “So you all know. Does that mean Liam does, too?”

“Oh, yeah,” Niall nodded. “He’s known for ages just like us.”

“That’s fantastic,” Louis fake smiled. “Next you’re going to tell me Harry knows, too?”

“Harry doesn’t know,” Niall shook his head as he took a giant bite out of his burrito. “He’s a fucking moron, but you are blatantly obvious at times that even I’m surprised he hasn’t clued in yet.”

“And he won’t,” Louis cut in.

“Plus, it’s not a big deal if we know,” Niall continued. “We won’t tell him. You can trust us.”

“How can I trust you when you hid the fact that you knew from me for all this time?” Louis asked.

“You can,” Zayn assured Louis. “Honestly, we don’t sit around and discuss this...often.”

“Oh my God,” Louis groaned, putting his face in his hands and moaning. “Fucking hell. So, you’re all saying I should go on this date just to forget about Harry?”

“Precisely, yeah,” Niall nodded. “He’s with somebody and you can’t keep doing this. It’s only hurting you.”

“I’m aware,” Louis told him. “I’m fine, though. Like, I said yes to this date for that exact reason, I’m just feeling a bit apprehensive about it.”

“That’s fine,” Niall conceded. “As long as you don’t back out. This will be good for you.”

Louis nodded, really hoping Niall was right.

Louis had completely forgotten what people did on dates. He was meeting Greg at this restaurant in Midtown that he promised was delicious and daring because Louis told him he liked a bit of everything. After the initial bouts of unease had dripped away, Louis found that he was excited, but just confused as to how to act.

After his talk with Niall and Zayn, he felt he owed not just to them, but to himself as well to go out and have fun instead of pining over someone who was already taken. It wasn’t something that was going to go away overnight. He still wanted Harry, but it didn’t seem likely that he and Peter would ever end, really. Things were going really good for them--at least for now.

He started to think about Greg on the way to the restaurant to hype himself up. How he had a cute little smile where he did this adorable thing with his nose. He also really liked how tall he was. It was a plus point and his hair was really nice, too. All these thoughts were making Louis feel better and better as he got closer to the meeting point. Hopefully things just happened naturally and he didn’t have to keep worrying about what he should be doing.

Louis found Greg standing at the corner of the sidewalk and walked over to him. “Hey,” he smiled, tapping him on the arm gently.

Greg turned to look at him and grinned. “Hey,” he said. “So good to see you again.”

“You too,” Louis agreed. “How are you?”

“I’m good, thanks,” Greg smiled. “And you? You look amazing, by the way.”

“Thank you,” Louis said. “I’m alright. A bit hungry, to be honest.”

“Well, that’s perfect because we’re actually going here,” he said pointing to the restaurant behind him. Louis turned to see it was a Indian Bistro named Desi Shack, bustling with people going in and out with bags of food or content smiles.

“Great,” Louis grinned, following him inside. “Haven’t had Indian in a while.”

“This place is great,” Greg commended. “They have amazing dishes and they’re all extremely tasty and not too heavy on the spice. Just the perfect amount.”

The two of them waited on the rather long line and ordered their food at the counter before carrying it over to a high stool seating by the window. Louis dug in right away and moaned obscenely as the spices and taste melted in his mouth.

“This is so fucking good,” he said. “Why have I never come here before?”

Greg laughed, tearing off a piece of his naan. “Well, now you know about it. You can come as often as you like.”

“True,” Louis agreed.

“So, I’ve got to say this because it’s been on my mind since I’ve met you. Your name. Louis.”

Louis laughed nervously. “What about it?”

“I love it,” Greg exclaimed. “Much more fun to say than Lewis.”

“It’s even more fun to scream,” Louis quipped without much thought. He widened his eyes and looked at Greg, bewildered, who looked the same. “Oh my God. Please ignore the fact that I said that. My sense of humor is really weird sometimes.”

Greg laughed, throwing his head back. “It’s fine. I’m sure you’re right.”

Louis let out another defeated laugh because he was honestly so crude at times, it amazed him. The rest of the conversation flowed much better after. Their conversation drifted to music, such as the evolution of Fall Out Boy’s music and whether or not Iggy Azalea was a good rapper. It quickly turned into a conversation about pets and Greg told him all about the time his cat, Pugsy, vomited all over his apartment after sneaking into some peanut butter and how he couldn’t get the smell out for a month no matter what he used.  

After eating, the two of them trashed their empty plates and headed out, walking aimlessly. “That was really delicious,” Louis said. “Thanks for taking me.”

“No problem, I’m glad you liked it,” he said. “I’m really glad you said yes to this date, by the way. I was almost sure you were going to say no.”

Louis gave a short laugh. “I’m not really into dating. Usually it’s much more casual than all this, but I figured why not?”

“I understand. When I broke up with my ex, I couldn’t even look at another guy for the longest time. But eventually you realize that moving on is the best thing to do.”

Louis would understand very well, considering that was what he was trying to accomplish with Harry. He didn’t press further with his own details, though, only asked about him. “How long ago was this?” he asked Greg.

Greg thought for a minute. “I think about a year since we broke up. You’re actually the first person since then. I didn’t want to say this because then it sounds super cheesy, but it’s true.”

Louis smiled and looked down at his feet. He was glad he wasn’t the only one nervous, going into something new after so long. It made him feel a lot better about this date; more than he already was because Greg was really cool. He could see the two of them becoming friends, if not anything more. They shared several similar interests, like their love of Showtime shows and hatred of onions. That was always rare to find for Louis.

He nudged Louis as they approached a few bars. “Want to get a drink and play some pool?”

Louis nodded, thinking why not.

The two of them walked into the bar, grabbing drinks before heading over to an empty pool table. Louis took a sip of his drink, putting it down on the edge of the table. “I’ll be honest, Greg. I’ve never played before.”

"You’re serious?” Greg asked, laughing. “Well, shit. Alright. I'll go easy on you, but, not too easy because I like to win.”

Louis smirked at him as they started the game. They both got very much into it, but Louis’ score compared to Greg’s was horrible. He had more balls up on the table than Greg did. The thought made him giggle as he finished up his drink.

"That's not fair," he said after he missed another shot. "You should let me win."

"And why's that?" Greg asked me placing both his palms on the table. Louis smiled at him, sweetly.

"Because I'm cute."

Greg laughed and put his stick down by the wall. Louis walked around his side and over to Greg’s. He sat up on the game pool table, facing him so that they were eye to eye. Greg smiled at him mischievously and walked closer until he was between Louis’ legs.

"You really are cute," he said, placing both of his hands on either side of him.

"I'm just cute?" Louis asked him, with a raise of his eyebrow.

"You're gorgeous," Greg replied with a smile.

It was enough for Louis. He had fun all night and after a drink or two, he felt good. Really good. Good enough to clutch on to Greg’s chest, scrunching up his t-shirt and pulling him closer. Louis pressed his lips to Greg’s, kissing him like he knew how. It was soft as first. There was no aggression but then Louis slipped his hands around Greg’s neck to hold him tighter and it spurred him on to deepen the kiss.

Louis was breathing heavily once they pulled away. "You want to take this over to somewhere easier and more private?" he asked Greg. He nodded in response and took Louis’ hand before pulling him out of the bar and towards his apartment.

The night ended great. After having sex, Greg and Louis sat up with ice cream and talked for hours about each other’s lives. Louis learned about how Greg was originally from Pennsylvania and had graduated from Penn State before moving out to the city. The coolest thing Louis learned about him was probably that he got pizza with Jay Z and Beyonce once. Louis was very jealous about that.

Eventually, Greg drifted off to sleep and Louis checked his phone real quick to see if he had any messages. He jolted up in bed when he saw he had fourteen missed calls from Harry. He noticed Greg shift a bit and quietly got out of bed to call Harry back outside in the living room. Harry answered at the third ring, his voice deep and gravelly.

“Hello?”

“Are you okay? What happened? Who died?” Louis quietly yelled into the phone.

Harry laughed on the other end. “What? No one died.”

Louis narrowed his eyes, then. "Then why did you call me fourteen times?"

"Oh," he said. "I just wanted to talk."

Louis was going to kill him. He really was. "You knew I wouldn't answer. I was on a date.”

"I knew that. I--guess, I just missed you. I mean, it felt a bit weird; you not being there to answer my calls so I kept calling back. We very rarely ever miss each other’s calls, Lou."

That much was true. They were so codependent at times, it was sort of unhealthy. “Well,” Louis drawled out. “What would you do if I wasn’t here?” It was a rather morbid thing to say, but he really liked hearing about Harry missing him. He was such a sicko for egging him on.

"Don't say that," Harry chastised. "I don't know what I'd do without you, Lou."

His sudden expressiveness in needing Louis and wanting him kind of took him by shock. And it hurt too because it wasn't the way Louis wanted him to need or want him. Harry liked Louis as a friend. That was it; it was always too much, but never enough.

"What are you doing?" he asked instead, just to get out of replying to that.

"I was watching TV. What about you? How was your date?”

Louis bit his lip. "I can't tell you everything, but it was nice. We had dinner. We chatted a bit. And then we played pool for a bit. After that--we hung out."

"I'm getting the gist," Harry said quietly. "I'm glad you had fun. When are you going out with him again?"

"I don't know. It’s only been the first date, Harry."

"Well, I hope you do. I want you to find a nice boy, Lou, and from what you’re saying it seems that he’s nice.”

That really irritated Louis for reasons he didn’t want to admit. He felt so fucking stupid, sitting there in the apartment of the guy he just let dine and fuck him, only to be on the phone with the guy he wanted more than anything in the entire fucking world. It was humiliating to have the very same guy he wanted, tell him that he wants to see Louis go out with other guys because Louis wanted the opposite reaction. He wanted Harry to pine for him and tell him not to go off with Greg or whoever. And it also irritated Louis to hear that Harry thought he needed a nice boy. Louis didn’t need anyone. He was fine how he was.

"So you're saying I'm not happy as you are because I don’t have a guy?" Louis narrowed his eyes again as he scoffed.

"I didn't say that. I meant that I want you to find love and see that it's not some big joke,” he responded. “Don’t misunderstand me. We’ve been through this before.”

"Harry, just shut up right now," Louis replied. "I'm going to go. I'm tired."

"Louis, why are you getting angry?" Harry asked him. "I didn't say anything bad. I'm just trying to say that I'm happy for you. I’m sorry."

"I'm not mad,” Louis gritted out. “I'll call you tomorrow. Bye."

He hung up and slammed my phone on the couch beside him, willing himself to calm down. He’d been having a great night until this phone call. For the first time in more than a fucking year, he was letting  another man into his life that wasn’t his best fucking friend. But no, Harry didn’t feel like he was losing Louis. What would he lose? Everything would remain the same for him because his feelings never extended beyond that. His feelings were never there to change. He’d always seen Louis as just a friend and nothing more.

It made him feel pathetic because even his own friends saw how much he was sitting around just pining over some guy who would never feel the same even if he was a stupid flirt for no good reason. If he was going to move on, he’d have to stop being so dependent on Harry, even as a friend. What he needed was space.

Louis never called Harry back the next day. Harry called the day after and Louis cut the conversation short and hung up. Instead, he focused on Greg. The two of them hung out almost every day for the next week, getting to know each other and making it official after two weeks of dates.

After a few visits to the radio station, Greg managed to somehow get Louis a small slot in another radio station that his company was affiliated with. He’d liked Louis’ personality over the radio whenever he’d let Louis talk and he also enjoyed the mixes he helped Greg make before every show to play on the radio. So, he went ahead and spoke to a few guys and gave in a good word, which eventually led to a job offer. Louis accepted without a second thought and after a few short days, he was working and actually enjoying it.

The other boys took him out for celebratory drinks, but after much insisting on his end, they didn’t invite Harry. He’d avoided every call Harry sent his way until the younger boy simply stopped trying except for the few stray texts he’d send. They mostly just said something like i miss you or can i call you? i miss hearing your voice. Louis felt like shit, but for the first time in a long time, his life didn’t revolve around Harry. It was unfamiliar and strange, but also rather refreshing, even if at night it did feel like his heart was caving in from how much he missed him.

...

Louis walked out of Greg’s bedroom to the living room, spreading his arms. “I’m ready. How do I look?”

Greg looked up from his seat on the couch and smiled slowly. “Amazing. Literally, the best Peter Pan costume I have ever seen.”

Louis laughed softly, twirling around to give him a good look. When he turned back to Greg, he saw him stand up and quickly grab his hat off his head. He held it far above his head and smiled. “Try and get it,” he said, teasingly as he backed away from Louis.

“Greg, stop it,” Louis said, walking towards him. “Don’t use my height against me, you dick. Give it back.” Louis laughed before lunging forward towards him to grab the hat, but he only moved further back. Louis shot him a glare and tried again, this time losing his balance.

“Careful now,” Greg said, catching him by his waist.

Louis scowled and pushed him off. “I want my hat,” he said, crossing his arms.

“Give me a kiss then.”

Louis smiled at him before leaning in and pressing his lips against Greg’s. It had taken a while to get used to this whole domestic relationship thing that they had going on. The sex was good, commendable for the most part, but Louis was trying to get used to everything else besides it. It was more work than it looked like. While they got on as friends, it was still hard for Louis to think of him as a boyfriend. Someone that he was getting serious with.

He pulled back quickly and smirked at him, reaching his hand out. “You got your kiss, Greg, now give me back my hat. I’m going to be late for my party which you aren’t going to because you suck.”

“I’ve had plans with my friends for months now,” he said to Louis before giving him back his green, pointed hat. Louis adjusted it on top of his head in front of a mirror, making sure his fringe looked good before turning to Greg.

“But it’s at Niall and Barbara’s. They throw the best parties,” Louis said. Greg was back on the couch, browsing on his phone distractedly. “Whatever, I’m going to go now. You dropping me off or what?”

“Yeah,” Greg said, still texting. Louis grabbed his coat and slipped on his shoes. By the time he was done, Greg was at the door and off his phone. He gave Louis a small smile before slipping out the door and Louis could feel that something was off. He’d felt it for a few days, but never bothered asking because he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know if it was his lack of concern over the issue or if he hated confrontation, but a part of him didn't want to deal with it unless Greg brought it up.

It was a quiet car ride for the most part until they reached Niall and Barbara’s apartment. Greg parked the car and looked at Louis with a small smile. Louis awkwardly smiled back, about to get off when Greg stopped him by grabbing his hand. Louis stilled and turned to look at him. “Is everything alright?”

“Am I doing something wrong?” he asked Louis.

“No,” Louis replied with a frown, sitting back down on the passenger seat. “Why are you asking that?”

“Because Louis--because I keep trying and I keep on trying harder and harder but you never seem to be into it. You freeze up and you look scared. It’s like we’re stuck in one place and I don’t know if it’s something I’m doing, but at times I feel like I really make you feel uncomfortable.”

Louis shrugged, starting to feel something crawl up his throat. He shrugged again, not really sure how to respond.

Greg looked frustrated and confused, looking down at his lap. “Why do I feel like I’m not doing any good and that this will never work?”

Louis sighed and looked outside watching people walk by, completely unaware of the conversation being held in that car. He knew something was off, but Greg didn’t have to put this on him the moment he was stepping out to see his friends. Maybe even Harry after weeks, as if that wasn’t stress enough. He didn’t want to have this conversation right now. He didn't know what to say to Greg without snapping at him because what else did he want? Louis was his boyfriend and now he supposedly wasn’t doing a good enough job at it.

“Can we talk about this later?” Louis asked him, instead.

“Yeah,” Greg said, looking at him again. “Sorry I brought this up out of nowhere.” He gave Louis a soft kiss on his cheek, apologetically, but it still looked like he was upset. “Have fun.”

“Thanks,” Louis said, rolling his eyes as he stepped out of the car. He didn’t bother turning to say goodbye and instead walked right inside the lobby, taking the elevator up.  

The first person he saw was Liam, who was dressed up as the Joker from Batman. He pulled Louis into a hug as soon as he stepped inside, rubbing his back. “Hey, bro,” Liam said, grinning. “You alright? Why the long face?”

“Nothing,” Louis responded, smiling at him. “I’m just ready to fucking party. You look great, by the way.”

“Thanks,” he said, looking down at his costume, proudly. “I like yours, too. Suits you!”

“Thank you,” Louis replied. “I’m going to go and say hi to everyone else. Maybe grab a beer.”

“Sure, man. I’ll see you around,” Liam said, letting Louis through. The place was buzzing with people, everyone holding drinks and mingling. Louis smiled as he looked at everyone’s costumes.

“Lou!”

Louis turned around to see Niall standing there in a Kiss member costume. He was holding a blow up guitar on one hand and eating chicken fingers with the other. Louis laughed as he walked over and gave him a hug.

“You look great, Ni.”

“You like?” Niall asked. “Barbara helped me. She’s matching you, actually. She’s dressed as Tinkerbell.” Niall pointed her out and Louis looked over to see that he was right. Barbara looked over then and waved excitedly at Louis, pointing to both their costumes. Louis shot her a thumbs up, before turning back to Niall and letting her return to her friends.

“Perfect. Figured I would bump into at least one Tinkerbell tonight,” Louis said.

Niall laughed, finishing up his chicken. “Did you come with Zayn?”

“No,” Louis shook his head. “I stayed at Greg’s last night and he dropped me off.”

“Oo,” Niall cooed. “The boyfriend that you’ve been ditching us all for. I see.”

“Niall, shut up,” Louis rolled his eyes because he didn’t want to even discuss Greg being his boyfriend right now. “I saw you two days ago. Is Zayn not here yet?”

“I haven’t seen him,” Niall answered, noticing the topic change. He waved to someone over Louis’ shoulder before looking back at him a bit more somber. “So, Greg didn’t come with you?”

Louis shook his head, clicking his tongue. “He’s being weird as fuck. I’ll tell you about it later, though, when the party’s over.”

“Sure. Noticed you looked a bit down. And have you, um, talked to Harry?”

Louis shook his head, looking down at the floor. The others were aware of the whole situation, but were trying not to meddle. They did try. Liam and Zayn tried devising a plan to trap the two of them in a room, but Louis saw right through it. “Not really. Is he coming?”

Niall nodded his head. “He’s somewhere around here. Wait till you see his costume. Your boxers will drop.” Louis frowned at Niall and he laughed. “I’m serious. You’ll be drooling.”

“Why would my boxers drop?” Louis asked him. Obviously this meant that Harry was wearing a really sexy costume. Louis was curious and wanted Niall to just give him a heads up so he could prepared. Niall looked over his shoulder and grinned, instead.

“Turn around and look for yourself,” he said with a quiet laugh.

Louis closed his eyes real quick before turning around slowly to look at Harry.

Fuck.

Niall was more than right.  

His boxers mentally did drop.

Harry was standing there, talking to some guest, in a pair of black dress pants which hung low on his waist so his v-line was dangerously and obscenely visible. He was shirtless with a simple bow tie wrapped around his neck and he looked delicious. Good to eat, really. This was so fucking unfair. Why did God have to make Harry Styles and make them meet when Louis was so unbelievably, undeniably attracted to him, but couldn’t have him? How the fuck was that fair? Why was this done?

“What is he?” Louis asked, his voice barely working, and hands itching to run down Harry’s torso and feel his abs.

“He’s a stripper from, like, Magic Mike,” Niall cackled. “You look like you’re going to eat him alive. Like he’s a piece of meat. This is so fucking funny.”

Louis smacked Niall on the arm, scowling. Did Niall not know how dangerously close he was to having a raging boner at his party? It was frustrating and Louis hadn’t been this turned on since ever. Niall only laughed harder as Louis hit him, so much so, that it caught the attention of Harry. He looked over at the two and Louis could see him from the corner of his eye, making his way over to them.

He cleared his throat when he stood between the two and Niall let out a loud, annoying exhale. “Well this is awkward.”

Louis shot him a glare and braved a look at Harry, who was fixated on him. He looked unreadable and that was worse than him looking angry or upset. What was he thinking? What was going through his mind right now? Louis hadn’t seen or talked to him in weeks and seeing him in flesh, standing before him, only made Louis’ heart feel hollower. He was literally fighting the urge to take Harry into his arms and apologize a million times for who knew what reason. Seeing Harry made him completely forget why he ever even wanted to do this in the first place. “I’m going to go check on the...something,” Niall said not so subtly before leaving the two of them alone.

Louis widened his eyes in panic, not sure of what to do next. How fucking dare Niall just leave them alone? What was Louis supposed to do?

Before he could make some lame comment to lighten the mood, Harry said, “Do you want to talk? Inside?”

Louis stared at him, wide eyed for a moment before nodding and following him inside. He was nervous as they made their way inside. Harry was mad. Louis could tell from how tense his back was and how clenched his fists were. He knew that he was ready to unleash the kraken or something. When they walked inside of Barbara and Niall’s bedroom, Harry closed the door and turned to look at Louis with a frown on his face and something so close to breaking down.

“What is wrong with you?” Harry asked, anger practically radiating off of him.

“I don’t know,” Louis replied, feeling himself breaking down, too. “Nothing.”

“Really? Nothing at all?”

Louis looked at him with pleading eyes, crossing his arms and shrugging. “I’m sorry,” he said, not sure what else to say.

“Sorry for what? Because you know what, Louis? You have a lot of things to be sorry about.”

I know. I know I’ve been a dick for ignoring you, Harry. But it’s not like I did it for no reason.”

“What was your reason?” Harry asked, throwing his hands up and walking closer to him. “Why are you doing this?”

“I can’t say,” Louis shrugged again, helplessly, his eyes feeling watery.

“Why not?” Harry asked. “Since when did we start keeping things from each other? We’re supposed to be best friends! Do you not want to be friends with me anymore? What did I do that was so terrible that you can’t even look me in the face and give me a straight answer? What made you want to push me out of your life?”

Louis only shook his head, wishing he could just hug Harry until he believed that he did nothing terrible. It was because he was everything Louis wanted and Louis felt lost without him. He wasn’t himself anymore, not without Harry, and coming to terms with that was fucking scary. Harry looked so confused and angry, but mostly upset. His eyes zeroed in on Louis’ neck and Louis self consciously rubbed his hand over it.

“What’s that on your neck?” he asked.

“Nothing.”

“Greg did that?” Harry asked coming closer and putting his palm on Louis’ neck. He pressed his thumb against the sensitive skin and Louis pushed his hand away.

“Don’t,” he whined.

“Why?” Harry asked, mockingly. “Oh, right, we’re not friends anymore. Guess I can’t touch you anymore, either. Figured as much.”

“Harry, please. You have to understand that this wasn’t easy on me, either. I needed space. Not just from you, but everyone else, too.”

“That’s bullshit,” Harry shook his head. “You’ve been seeing everyone else. I know you have been because Liam can’t hide things for shit and you saw him plenty. It’s just me that you’re avoiding and I don’t know if it’s because you’ve got a boyfriend, who obviously loves marking you up like you’re his property or something, or if I did something.”

Louis glared at him because he was crossing a line. “What Greg does is not any of your business, first of all. Second of all, I just need you to understand that I had to do this. While it was necessary, I need you to know that I’m sorry and that it wasn’t fucking easy. I’m sorry for ignoring you and not calling you back. I thought about you all the time and it sucked and I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Harry’s eyes softened at that and he just looked so small, despite his height advantage over Louis. He looked helpless. “Can I just hug you?” Harry asked, voice breaking. “Please. I just--.”

Louis didn’t let him continue, instead, pulling him close and wrapping his arms around the younger boy. Harry hugged him tightly and breathed a sigh of relief.

“I fucking miss you,” he said. “I miss you all the fucking time. Every second of every hour of every day. I feel crazy, sometimes. It was so bad because I’d find myself sometimes taking the train to yours or picking up the phone to call and tell you about something I’d seen or even just to see you and hear your voice. And then I’d realize I couldn’t because you weren’t there anymore and it fucking sucks every single time. I felt like the wind was being knocked out of me.”

Harry,” Louis said, pulling away to look at his face. Harry looked about ready to cry and Louis kissed him on both cheeks. “I’m right here. I’m not going anymore. I’m here, right now.”

“Please stop doing this,” Harry said. “Please don’t avoid me anymore. I’m sorry if I did something. I promise I won’t do it anymore.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Harry,” Louis breathed, hugging him again. “You need to know that. I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

When they eventually pulled away, Harry rubbed at his eyes, looking at Louis. “Am I ever going to know why this happened?” Louis fish mouthed, only to look down at the ground at his feet. He really didn’t know how to explain it to Harry without outing himself. Harry sighed, wrapping an arm around him to lead him outside. “It’s fine. As long as you’re back, it’s fine. Just stay with me, okay?”

Louis smiled at him, putting his arm around him, too. They both walked out of the bedroom and back to the party, feeling lighter than they had when they first came in.

A week later, Louis was at Greg’s flat again. They were about to have sex, but for some reason, Greg stopped midway and said he couldn’t. Louis sat on the bed, completely dumbfounded, watching Greg get up and leave in his boxers. He’d never been turned away for sex. He huffed and got out of the bed as well, pulling on his jeans, glaring at the door. This was some new form of insulting someone and it was really offensive. Greg literally just walked out. What the fuck?

Once he got his clothes back on, he walked back out and found Greg sitting on his couch. Louis hovered by the door, unsure of what to do. He bit his lip and ran a hand through his hair, uncomfortably. “Should I just leave then?” he asked.

“Oh, for fucks sake,” Greg groaned, looking at Louis like he was the one who was just rejected during sex. “What? We can’t do anything but have sex? You can’t even sit down?”

“Shit, Greg,” Louis scowled, not really in the mood to sit down and have a nice chat with him after what just happened. “You’re the one that just fucking got up in the middle of it. What the fuck was that?”

“We need to talk, Louis,” Greg said, somberly, his anger fading more into exhaustion.

“Okay,” Louis replied, leaning against the wall next to where Greg was stood, not trusting him enough to sit down. He knew it was going to be bad whatever it was. He just needed Greg to get on with it so he could leave with some bit of dignity.

“You’re not going to sit?” Greg asked, noticing him.

Louis shook his head curtly. “Not really, no. Can you just say what you have to say?”

Greg looked frustrated, turning away from him. “I’ve been thinking a lot and I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

“So, you’re breaking up with me?” Louis asked, rather simply with a scoff. He couldn’t say he was surprised, but he was hurt. He didn’t even know for what, but it stung with the way everything was playing out. After everything, this was how it was going to end.

“Am I, though?” Greg asked him.

“What the fuck does that mean?” Louis practically yelled. What sort of mind game or reverse psychology was he trying to pull?

“It means are we really together in any other sense other than the fact that we fuck? Think back to our relationship and tell me how many times you’ve opened up about yourself and told me anything. Or tried to initiate a hangout that didn’t end up in our clothes coming off. And even then, half the time, I think it’s me more into the sex than you are because you just look so bored. Do you know how that feels?”

“I can’t believe you’re fucking saying this to me. You just stopped me in the middle of sex and walked out,” Louis cried. “I told you that this is how I am. None of this should be a surprise to you because I told you I’m trying and it’s a process.”

“How long are you going to keep saying that and try to string me along? You’re not even happy with me. You can’t deny that. Everything I do feels like it’s never good enough. I don’t do well with mixed signals, so that’s why I’m suggesting this.”

“Fine,” Louis easily agreed with a glare because he was done with this conversation five minutes ago. “If that’s what you want then I won’t try to defy you. Sorry that I wasn’t all that you wanted. Goodbye.”

He scoffed, pulling on his Vans and walking out the door, slamming it behind him. Greg didn’t come after him at all and he was happy about that.

hey. can you come over?

what’s up??? i’m a little busy atm. got a doc appt

greg broke up with me

shit. i’m coming right now. give me a few minutes

...

Louis felt horrible. Something ugly curled up in his stomach, filling it with dread and self loathe. The things Greg said were ringing in his ears, echoing through his mind. He knew Greg was right by some standards. Louis just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t be a boyfriend to Greg and he wondered if this was how it was always going to be. If he was always going to either be stuck with one night stands, or if he was going to keep going through guys, giving them only a little bit of him before they realized they couldn’t do it anymore.

Greg was a good guy. He treated Louis right, tried to shower him with affection, which Louis always pushed away because it made him uncomfortable or caught off guard. It just never felt right. His mind was always elsewhere, moreover on Harry, who he was trying to not think about. It only had the opposite effect, which was so stupid . Now, he was lying on his apartment floor, staring up at the ceiling wondering why he wasn’t like everyone else. Why he couldn’t allow himself to simply move the fuck on and give himself to someone else. He didn’t know if he could keep going like this.

It wasn’t just the fact that he had trust and commitment issues, no. He knew deep down it had a lot to do with Harry, too, and Louis’ feelings for him. For the first time, Louis allowed himself to admit that this was not just any crush. He was falling for Harry deeply and it was absolutely terrifying. He had no idea how to even wrap his mind around that, given that it took him this long to just admit it. It was such a loaded and heavy thought that he didn’t know if he could properly accept it.

When the doorbell rang, Louis slowly got up and walked over, opening it. Harry had him in his arms right away, holding him tightly and rubbing soothing circles in his back. “Babe,” Harry mumbled into his neck. “You alright?”

Louis shrugged as they pulled away. “I guess,” he said.

“Come on,” Harry said, taking his hand and pulling him to Louis’ bedroom. They sat down on the bed and Harry pulled out a bag of M&M's from his bag, handing it to Louis. Louis almost cried because Harry always brought these over when Louis was having a bad day because he liked to eat them. “Got these for you.”

“You’re the best,” Louis whined, giving him a hug and kissing the side of his head. “Thank you. Didn’t you say you had a doctor’s appointment?”

“Yeah,” Harry shrugged. “I went to get a check up, but then got your text so I left. It’s not a big deal. I’ll call and reschedule.”

“You dropped everything to see me,” Louis mumbled, opening up his bag of Skittles, feeling like he was going to drown from how much he felt for this boy.

“Forget that,” Harry shrugged off like it was nothing when it was something. “What happened with Greg?”

Louis wished Harry wouldn’t ask that because he didn’t want to talk about it, even though that was what Harry came for. It’s just that Louis didn’t want to talk about anything but Harry. He was interested in nothing but Harry. When would Harry get that? That was literally what happened with Greg.

“He just broke up with me,” Louis replied eventually, popping in a green Skittle in his mouth. “Said that I wasn’t into the relationship as much as him. I wasn’t putting enough effort, but I tried. It’s just--you know how it is.”

Harry nodded understandingly. “Of course, Lou. You needed to go slow.”

“Yeah, I did. And he was complaining that all I wanted to do was have sex and never just hang out or hold hands and do couple type of things, which I just never felt comfortable doing.”

“He’s a fucker,” Harry said angrily. “He’s a mother fucker. How dare he try to pressure you into doing something that you’re not comfortable doing? I can’t believe you went out with him.”

Louis almost laughed, but contained himself. “He wasn’t all that bad. He got me a job and that’s massive. And it’s not his fault that he doesn’t know how I am; I never opened up and told him. It was a bit unfair.”

Harry shook his head angrily, clearly disagreeing with everything Louis said. “I didn’t like him from the start. Something seemed off.”

Louis frowned at him, not really sure about that, but ignored it because he would rather stop talking about Greg and just hang out with Harry. Since they made up, they’d been insufferable, spending every second they could with each other. The more Louis agreed with Harry, the faster they were done with this conversation.

“Well, whatever,” Harry continued. “It’s all his fault, so don’t blame yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re too good for him anyway.”

“Then who is good enough for me?” Louis asked.

“Someone who understands you and knows how to treat you. You’re too special for most people to handle,” Harry said, stealing some Skittles and popping them into his mouth.

“I think you’re the only one who thinks that,” Louis laughed, looking up at him with what he would assume was complete fondness. “You want to sleep over tonight? We could cook something together.”

“Do you want that?” Harry asked. “Would that make you happy?” Louis nodded meekly and Harry smiled. “Then I’m staying. Going to make your favorite for dinner and completely spoil you.”

“Who needs a boyfriend when I’ve got the best friend ever?”

Harry smiled at him happily, pulling him into a hug.

...

When Louis woke up the next morning, he found the space beside him empty. He wondered where Harry went since Louis spent the night plastered to his back like a koala. Louis slowly got up and yawned before running his hand through his oily hair. He slowly climbed out of bed and walked into the living room, his eyes raising in surprise.

Harry was lying down on the couch and watching TV. He turned and looked at him, grinning cheekily. “Morning, sunshine. Had a nice sleep?”

“Yeah,” Louis responded. “When did you wake up?”

“An hour ago. Come join me.” He scooted over on the sofa and Louis crawled in and fit beside him. They were watching 21 Jump Street and Louis could feel Harry chuckle every now and then. He wondered if Peter had any idea where his boyfriend was all night. Whether he knew where he was at that moment. It brought some sick pleasure to Louis to be this close to Harry. “Does Peter know you’re here?” Louis asked, trying keep his voice as neutral as possible.

It took a while before Harry answered. “No.”

Louis sighed, feeling agitated because it wasn’t all that fun if Peter didn’t know. “When is he going to let you come over here or hang out with me without making an issue? I’m just your best friend. Will he ever come to terms with that?”

“You know,” Harry said slowly, not taking his eyes off the movie. “He’s probably threatened by you. Besides, why does it matter? You hate him, too.”

“You know I have reasons to hate him though, Harry. He isn’t nice to you at all.”

“I know how he is and I know how to deal with it,” he said, eyes still glued to the screen. “I love him, Lou. Nobody said this was all going to be easy. You have to accept the good and the bad with the person you’re with.”

His words stung Louis for some reason. How could he not feel it when all Louis did was think about it? How could he not feel what Louis felt all the time? He knew that nothing was ever perfect, but when the two of them were lying on his ratty old couch and Harry fit his body so easily, Louis was allowed to say that they were pretty damn close. And if Harry couldn’t see that and was settling for less, then the world is the cruelest place ever.

They let the topic drop, but after a while Harry’s phone started to buzz on the coffee table. Louis could clearly see Peter’s picture and name pop up a few times, while Harry tried to ignore it. Eventually, he got irritated himself and handed it over to Harry. Harry slowly took it and typed something back to him before clearing his throat.

“You have to go?” Louis asked, knowing it was inevitable.

Harry sighed sadly. “I’m really sorry. You know I want to stay.”

“It’s fine,” Louis said. “Just go. I’ll be fine.”

Harry shuffled around, grabbing his coat and things before waving to Louis on the couch and letting himself out. Louis groaned loudly when he was alone and put a pillow over his face to let out a not so quiet scream. This sucked. Everything sucked. Peter sucked.

He always wondered if Peter really did dislike him as much as he let on because it was all so cliche when Louis really thought about it. Harry told him that Peter didn’t like how quickly they got close and how touchy they were. It bothered him and Harry never really listened to him when he told him to stop hanging out with Louis and chose to sneak around, instead. A part of Louis thought that Peter probably suspected Louis had feelings for Harry, too. That was why he wanted him far away from his boyfriend.

Harry always tried remaining neutral to the situation. Despite all of his friends not getting along with his boyfriend, he tried to find the good. Peter was apparently not always such a dick. Louis found that hard to believe, but gave Harry the benefit of the doubt.

While Louis dramatically groaned and moaned, thinking about Harry and wondering where the fuck Zayn was, he heard his phone ringing from his  bedroom. Louis groaned again, but much quieter, getting up and walking over. Harry’s picture and name flashed on the screen and he pursed his lips moodily before pressing answer.

"Hello," Louis said, trying to sound cool.

"Hey,” Harry said, a little out of breath because he was probably speed walking. “Listen, I'm sorry about walking out like that today. I wanna make it up to you. You want to meet for dinner tonight? Maybe drinks, too? I’ll treat you."

"Ha-ha,” Louis laughed, sarcastically. “You want to get drunk after you see Peter. Wonder why."

"Louis," he said sternly.

"Harry."

"Louis."

"Okay, I'm sorry. But yeah, sure. I'll see you tonight."

“That’s a good boy,” Harry cooed. “I’ll see you tonight, babe. Bye!”

“Bye.”

Louis felt evil and wanted to look extra hot tonight just because he wanted Harry to trip over himself when he got a look. It was no secret between the two that Harry found Louis attractive with all the flirting he did, but Louis reveled in it a lot more than he should. It satisfied him in some sick way and he thrived off of it on most nights when he was reminded of how unavailable Harry really was, by dressing in his best clothes and making Harry drool.

He pulled on his tightest jeans that made his ass look good and grabbable, as well as this thin maroon shirt paired with his dark jean jacket. He perfected his fringe and stood in front of his mirror for a long time, pouting and making Zayn like faces to see if he’d look any hotter by doing so. It didn’t work, but it did make Zayn (who walked in an hour ago saying he ended up crashing at some friend’s place) laugh at him.

Harry and Louis met up at Applebee’s in Times Square of all cliche places. Louis didn’t mind, though because they used to come here all the time. He figured they could go for a walk after dinner as well. He found Harry standing outside the restaurant, watching as Harry’s eyes raked over Louis. Louis smirked as he approached him, noticing his pupils were blown wide.

“You okay?” Louis asked with a tip of his head.

“I’m fine,” Harry gulped. “Uh--let’s uh…let’s go er--let’s go in.”

Louis shrugged casually, leading the way inside. They greeted the hostess at the front, who grabbed two menus, and seated them in a small booth next to the bar so that they could get drinks. They both sat down and gave in their orders for drinks before looking at each other.

Harry smiled. “Hi,” he said sweetly. “You alright?”

Louis nodded with a small smile. “Just peachy.”

“Are you still mad that I left this morning?”

“I wasn’t mad to begin with,” Louis lied, keeping his expression neutral. “Honestly, like. I get it. It’s fine. I wasn’t going to say no to this apology dinner, though.”

Harry chuckled, looking down at the menu, flipping mindlessly through the pages. “So,” he said. “This is fun. It’s like we’re on a date.”

Louis laughed, thinking if only. Harry looked at him and he straightened up, staring at him all dreamy and loved up. "Is that face supposed to charm me?" Louis asked him.

Harry laughed, running a hand through his long hair before pushing it to the side. “Are you saying I’m not charming?”

“I’m saying you look like a cupcake.”

“That’s a pastry,” Harry said, sound offended.

Just as Louis was about to respond, the waiter came back and gave them their drinks. The two of them gave in their orders then and sat back again. "We haven't been here in a while," Harry commented, running his palms down on the edge of the table. “Remember that time you and I came here and that bald guy walked in?”

“You mean the one who was wearing nothing but leather pants and a lime green vest?” Harry nodded his head and Louis burst out laughing. “Yes, I remember. He totally had a crush on you!”

“He did not!” Harry yelled back. “He had a crush on you. He kept asking you to dance with him to Elton John music even though this isn’t that type of facility.”

“But he bought you like five shots and asked you to show him where the restroom was!” Louis argued with a laugh, feeling nostalgic as he remembered that night so clearly. “He wanted to take you back there and give you a blowie, for sure.”

“You’re gross.” Harry wrinkled his nose and sipped his drink.

“Oh, you’re such a baby, Harry. Can’t take a sexual joke.”

“Not when it has something to do with old guys in lime green vests wanting to blow me.”

Louis burst out laughing again, but noticed the smile on Harry’s face slowly disappearing. “What’s wrong?” he asked him.

“Nothing,” Harry shrugged. “Just missed you, is all. We weren’t talking for so long, I thought we could never make memories like that again. Like, you know, just you and me. I was scared.”

Louis couldn’t have felt more guilty than he did then. “I’m really sorry, Harry,” he said, sincerely. “I know that I keep saying that, but I really am. It wasn’t like that, you know. I wasn’t trying to cut you out from my life completely. I just had a lot on my mind. I guess I over thought things, you know? If it helps, I really missed you, too.”

Harry smiled, looking a bit more satisfied. “So will you ever tell me why you did it?”

Louis gulped, feeling his throat get dry. “That’s not important. What’s important is that I just want to have a good time with you right now and forget that time. Can we please do that?”

Harry smiled albeit it wasn’t reaching his eyes. “Alright, agreed. How’s work going?”

“It’s really fun,” Louis said, grinning because he loved talking about it. “I love making mixes and talking to people on air. It’s so fun. Zayn sometimes comes by.”

Harry laughed. “Really?”

Louis nodded his head. “He likes to help me make the mixes, but mostly he’ll add in a lot of Drake and Chris Brown, which no one complains about, but it’s so like Zayn.”

“I want to call in and request a song one day,” Harry said, grinning and leaning back on his seat. “Maybe I could help you make mixes, too.”

“Sure,” Louis shrugged. “My mixes could use some weird songs no one has ever heard of.”

Harry tried to look offended, but he knew Louis was only teasing. Their appetizers arrived then; boneless wings and a platter of mozzarella sticks.

As they ate, Louis said, “You know, now that I’m thinking about it, Greg and I work in the same building. What if I bump into him?”

Harry widened his eyes at the thought. “Shit. You’re going to have be so stealthy when you go in. Do your times coincide?”

“Not really,” Louis replied, shrugging.

“Then you’re good. Also, can I ask you something?”

“Sure, what?”

“What were you and Greg like in a relationship? I never got to observe you with him. I want to know what you’re like when you’re with a guy long term, instead of just the usual.”

“Why?” Louis laughed, sipping his drink.

“I don’t know,” Harry shrugged, biting into his wing. “It’s different and I wanna know how.”

Louis thought for a while, a bit taken aback by the question. "We were very physical, but we did have moments where we just talked and got to know each other. I’m upset I lost him as a friend more than anything. The sex was alright, but I think a part of me was just scared that I had someone who was interested in me for more than the physical aspect, you know? He wanted something more.”

"Why were you so scared?” Harry asked, his brows furrowed as he concentrated on Louis. “So what if he wanted something more?"

"I didn’t know if I was ready or if he was the one I should want that with."

“Oh, I see,” Harry said. “Well, it’s fine. You’re better off without someone who doesn’t get it.”

Louis nodded, wishing that what Harry said was enough to keep his worrisome thoughts at bay. It didn’t mean he wasn’t wondering during the entire dinner why he felt better with Harry than he ever did with Greg.

Louis and Harry left Applebees once they finished their dinner and headed out to walk a bit in Times Square. Harry bought them two packets of nuts from a nuts4nuts vendor and they strolled, talking about how cliche they were being for walking around Times Square as tourists pushed past them to take pictures and take in all the lights.

They sat down on the red steps for a while, taking stupid selfies and laughing over them before heading back to Louis’ flat. It wasn’t agreed upon. Harry just never got off at his stop at the Subway and they huddled together, giggling as they walked the two short blocks from the train station to Louis’ apartment.

“I’m so tired,” Louis yawned as they stepped through the apartment door and inside. Zayn was once again out since his bedroom door was open with the light off.

Harry didn’t say anything for a moment and Louis was just about to turn around and ask when Harry’s fingers dug into his sides, tickling him. Louis let out a loud, high pitched shriek as he tried to push him off.

“Stop,” Louis cried, laughing as he let out a loud snort, which made Harry start laughing even harder. He collapsed over Louis’ body, the two of them moving back and tumbling on to the couch. Once he calmed down, Harry started tickling him again, leaving Louis gasping for air. “Harry, please stop.”

“Nope,” he responded, tickling Louis’ belly between their bodies. “I haven’t tickled you in a while. It’s so fun hearing you scream.”

Louis almost got hard at Harry saying that; wondered if he knew how sexual that sounded. It was weirdly exciting to Louis given the position they were in, too. Louis was stretched out on the couch with his legs dangling off of it while Harry was leaning on top of him, his hands skittering around Louis’ body.

Louis giggled and screeched unattractively, tears springing to his eyes. "Harry, you really need to stop or else I'm going to punch you."

"Nah, I’m good."

"You asked for it," Louis said as he flipped the two of them over and held Harry down. Harry winced at the movement, curling into his side.

"Ow,” he said, moving his hand over his groin.

Louis frowned at him. He definitely did not hit Harry’s dick. "Oh, stop being such a baby."

"No, it hurts,” he whimpered, covering his face with his hands. Louis softened up and straddled his hips, trying to remove his hands from his face to look at him.

“Are you crying?” Louis asked, prying Harry’s hands off his face. Harry wouldn’t budge and Louis felt really guilty. He didn’t mean to hurt him so bad. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to hurt you there.”

Harry peeked through his fingers at Louis, smirking like the little bastard he was. “I was just kidding. I didn’t get hurt.”

Louis scowled and shoved Harry before getting up and walking over to his room.

“Hey! It was a joke! I’m sorry.”

“You scared me,” Louis said. “I thought I hurt you and I felt so bad.”

Harry ran over to his room with a big, goofy grin on his face, wrapping his arms around Louis and  hugging him tightly.

“I’m sorry,” he cooed. “Lou, I’m sorry. I was only kidding.” He jetted out his lower lip and Louis smiled, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck.

“I can’t say no to you when you say it like that, dork,” Louis smiled. Harry chuckled softly, leaving a kiss on his head.

"I love you, Lou. I love you a lot. I'm glad you're my best friend," he heard him say.

"Yeah," Louis said quietly. "Best friends."

Liam somehow coerced Zayn and Louis to take these free passes for his gym to get them to try and become members. He was a trainer after all, the reason for Louis’ demise because he was the one making Harry hotter than he needed to be. Harry’s arms were getting so big and his abs were so hard, it almost made Louis hard at the thought.

He personally wasn’t really into the gym and neither was Zayn, but they agreed since it was free and nobody ever passed up something that was free. When they arrived, all dressed up and ready to go, Liam had them do a few stretches and then took them to help them lift some weights. Zayn was faring a lot better than Louis, who just wanted to go home and sit on his couch with a bag of chips.

“Did I tell you guys that I’ve been seeing someone?” Liam asked casually, as though Louis wasn’t dying to catch his breath from this amount of strenuous exercise.

“Oh, yeah?” Zayn asked. “Who is it?”

“Sophia. She’s a student at FIT, in her last year. So gorgeous, man. She’s actually a member here, it’s how I met her.”

“Nice, Liam,” Louis said. “Why haven’t you introduced us to her?”

“We’ve only done coffee after her gym time,” Liam explained. “I’m thinking of asking her to dinner soon and then things could be a bit more serious.”

“Good luck,” Zayn told him. “I’ve been actually seeing someone, too.”

“What?” Louis cried, abandoning his dumbbell. “I live with you. How have I not been aware of this?”

Zayn shrugged. “You’ve been busy. Like, Harry comes over every day and you two are up each others asses the entire time, but yeah. It’s where I’ve been going these past few days.”

“This is why you’ve been MIA at the flat?” Louis asked.

Zayn nodded.

Well, shit.

All his friends were coupling off. It was a lot to take in with Niall being in a committed relationship when Louis used to know him when people still called him Braceface Horan, but now Liam and Zayn, too? It only heightened his anxiety about being that one friend in the group who never found anyone because they were always too afraid to commit or open up.

Niall and Harry came by to visit Louis at work one day, making him feel so proud as he showed them around his workplace since he was used to seeing theirs. They helped him make mixes and talked on the radio, boosting up the listener’s rate. Niall talked to everyone about how much he loved Ireland and told them stories of when he was there, while Harry took callers and told them terrible knock knock jokes. Louis loved it so much.

It was all fun until Harry sat back on one of the couches in the room when they were playing a string of songs. Louis noticed his eyes weren’t as lit up as usual and looked over at him with concern. “Why the long face, H?” he asked.

“He’s been having a bad day,” Niall explained for Harry. “Brought him here to take his mind off of things, actually.”

“What happened?” Louis asked them, eyes flitting between the two.

“Peter and I’ve broken up again,” Harry replied, laughing humorlessly. “Isn’t that just great? It’s so...like him. I just. Ha.” Harry looked distraught and Louis could only look at him sadly. This happened again and again. He didn’t know what he’d do if this went on for a few more years.

“I’m really sorry,” Louis said at last.

“No, no,” Harry shook his head with a frown. “It’s fine. Whatever. Can I um--can I use your bathroom for a second?”

“Sure,” Louis nodded, directing Harry towards the bathroom out in the hall. Harry left, leaving Niall and Louis alone. Louis looked at Niall who had the same concerned expression on his face. “I feel so bad for him, Ni. Just can’t take him getting hurt so much.”

“You don’t have to,” Niall said resolutely.

“Um, what?” Louis asked, confused.

“Do you really not see this for what it is?”

“And what is it?” Louis asked, quirking an eyebrow as if he was supposed to know what Niall was talking about.

“An opportunity. Don’t let Harry be sad. Don’t let him go running back to Peter again. Show him how great you are for him, Lou. Take the time that they’re apart to woo Harry away.”

“Niall,” Louis laughed, like he was out of his mind. That was crazy. Peter and Harry always got back together. It would be a shock if they didn’t even after all these problems.

“I’m serious, Louis. You have feelings for him and Harry would do anything for you. You need to at least try,” Niall persisted. “You can’t have anything unless you fight for it so you have to fight for Harry.”

Louis gulped, turning away, but not letting what Niall said stray too far from his mind. He wasn’t wrong. Maybe this was his opportunity to finally end Harry getting hurt. Maybe he could show Harry that he could be with someone who wouldn’t constantly play with his head. Louis could convince him and he had to do it fast. For once, that little string of hope that always came with Harry for Louis, seemed to be burning brighter than usual.

When Liam suggested everyone go to the pub for dinner and drinks to meet his new girlfriend, Sophia, they all agreed. They were all excited, mostly because this was the first time in a while that Liam was serious about someone and he seemed to really like her. Mostly Louis was excited because this was the perfect, most casual surrounding to put his moves on Harry. He never got a chance to after talking to Niall because Harry got busy with tests and school and Louis had work. Then, whenever they did meet, Louis either couldn’t strike up the courage to tell him or the opportunity never came about. But now, they were all going out and he could totally do this. He was a little nervous, but knew it would go away once he saw Harry’s face.

As Louis and Zayn walked over from their Subway stop, Louis nudged Zayn with his shoulder. “When are we going to meet this girl you’re seeing then?” he asked him.

Zayn chuckled. “Soon. I haven’t really made things official with her yet. I don’t even know if she wants to make things official, so I’m treading at this slowly. ”

“How come?” Louis asked.

“She’s not the serious relationship type,” Zayn replied. “She reminds me of you in that sense.”

“Should have just dated me, then, Malik. I’d have settled down if it was with you.”

“You’re funny,” Zayn said, nudging him back with a laugh. “So, what’s up with you and Harry? He’s been staying over an awful lot. You two make spooning look sexual. Anything I should know?”

“Shut up,” Louis laughed. “We do not. And nothing is up...yet. Peter and him broke up so I think I might tell him tonight?”

“Seriously?” Zayn asked, his eyes wide with excitement and happiness. “Like, really? Don’t fuck with me.”

“I’m not!” Louis laughed. “I need to or else I’ll go mad knowing that I’d gone all my life without trying at least once.”

“This is the best fucking thing I’ve heard in a long time,” Zayn said pulling Louis close to press a kiss on his head. “Honestly. It’s about fucking time.”

Louis laughed giddily. “That’s what Niall said when I told him I’d do it. He was the one who told me to and then I figured why not? You know?”

“Completely,” Zayn agreed. “Good luck, man.”

“Thanks,” Louis smiled, knowing he was going to need it.

They both approached the pub and saw that everyone was already there, drinking and talking. Liam had a pretty brunette on his arm and Louis raised his eyebrows as they made their way over.

“Is this the pretty lady you’ve fooled into being with you, Li?” Louis asked. Liam shot him a frown and everyone laughed. “I’m Louis, nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too. I’m Sophia,” she said with a smile. While Liam introduced Zayn, Louis greeted Niall, Barbara and Harry, all of whom were at the bar.

“How long have you guys been here?” Louis asked, trying to speak through Harry’s tight hold. He had Louis plastered to his chest and was nuzzled his nose on his hair, not willing to let go.

Barbara, who was sitting on the stool with Niall beside her, answered, “A few minutes ago. We found Liam and Sophia kissing outside. We were teasing them this entire time. It’s too cute.”

“So sweet,” Niall added. “He’s really into her.”

“I’m happy for him. Did you hear Zayn’s got someone, too? He’s been staying at her house and everything,” Louis told them.

“We didn’t know,” Niall frowned. He looked extremely offended as he looked at the rest of them. “What the hell? I’m going to go have a word with him.”

They laughed as they watched him go. Harry still hadn’t let go of Louis, but something started to vibrate against Louis’ upper thigh and he wriggled, squirming in Harry’s arms. “I really hope that’s your phone.”

“Shut up,” Harry laughed, reluctantly letting go as he fished out his phone from his pocket. “Excuse me.” He pressed answer on his phone and walked away, talking to whoever called. Louis turned back to Barbara and smiled.

“And then there were two.”

Barbara giggled, twirling her small straw in her glass. “How are you? Everything okay since the break up?”

Louis shrugged, nodding. “It’s fine. I’m not really thinking about it, as bad as that sounds.”

“It doesn’t sound bad. I think you knew that your heart wasn’t really into it in the first place.”

“Yeah, I kind of knew. I don’t know why I even tried. Lost a friend out of it because Greg was great.”

“I’m sure,” Barbara nodded. “You know, you can be honest with me about your feelings. I know you didn’t like Greg like that, but you can talk to me about your other feelings.”

Louis stared at her for a long moment. “Niall told you, didn’t he?”

Barbara made a squealing noise. “So, maybe he did, but you’re not that subtle, Louis.”

“Fuck this,” Louis groaned, hopping up on an empty stool. “Here I thought I was being inconspicuous and I was the most obvious bastard because everyone but Harry knows.”

“Relax,” Barbara waved off. “It’s not like we’re going to tell him. That would be disastrous.”

Louis shrugged. “Did Niall also tell you that I’m thinking about telling him tonight?”

“Shut up,” Barbara cried. “Are you really?” Louis nodded with a giddy smile and she squealed in her seat. “Ugh, it was about time. This is perfect. It will end perfect because it’s you two. Sometimes I think he feels the same way because he’s always so touchy and flirty with you. Haven’t you ever gotten that feeling?”

“I mean, at times yeah,” Louis said honestly. “It’s just that he’d always have Peter so I wouldn’t let myself get carried away, you know?”

“Yeah, but still, you never know. He could have been with Peter this entire time and not known that you liked him just like you think he might not like you back. And you’re both going around in these similar circles when you both feel the same way, but just can’t say it to each other.”

“That’s highly unlikely, but I applaud your imagination of romcom theories.”

Just then Harry walked up. “What romcom theories?” he asked. “What were you two talking about?”

“Just girl talk,” Louis panicked and said. Barbara cocked her head to the side and gave him an amused smile.

“Girl talk?” Liam asked, coming over with Sophia, Niall and Zayn.

“Like about periods and bras and stuff?” Niall asked, smiling stupidly.

Louis wrinkled his nose and Barbara laughed out loud. “No, idiot. We were just talking about guys,” she said.

Immediately Niall, Zayn and Liam turned to Louis, smirking like they knew something that they shouldn’t. Harry thought they were smirking at him and he shot them a look. “What are you all smiling at me for? What’s up?”

“We aren’t smiling at you,” Liam said. He turned to Louis and grinned. Honestly, if this were his friends ways of keeping his secrets, he wanted new ones, who were much more stealthier because they were all complete jokes. They were going to ruin this entire thing by ratting Louis out.

“Wait, hold on,” Harry said, turning to Louis. “They know about your crush?”

“What?” Niall asked. “Harry knows about your crush, too? Does that mean he knows? Did you tell him?”

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Barbara and Zayn looked at Louis with wide eyes and Louis covered his face, groaning.

“Everyone stop talking. Harry doesn’t know--so drop it,” he mumbled. “Please.”

Wait,” Harry yelled, putting his palms up with an exasperated expression. Louis peeked up to look at him and saw he was frowning while the rest of the boys were grinning like idiots. They were so dumb, Jesus Christ. “How come they get to know about who your crush is, but I don’t? I’m your best friend!”

“Hey, man, Louis’ my best friend,” Niall said, putting his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “I’ve known him longer. Fight me.”

“I live with him,” Zayn quipped. “I’m pretty high up there, too.”

“I make him go to the gym,” Liam tacked. “Who the fuck can make Louis go to the gym? No one.”

“Oh ok, just leave Harry out of the loop,” Harry said bitterly, looking at everyone with hurt all over his face. “That’s cool. Not like I have feelings.”

“Why are we talking about this?” Louis cried, desperately, looking at everyone with panic in his eyes.

“This is fucking hilarious. So he doesn’t know, but we just said all that?” Niall laughed like an asshole with Zayn, who was turning red on face from laughing so hard. Barbara sat there completely helpless and Liam was still trying to catch up with what was going on. Sophia was just standing there, probably wondering what kind of group she just entered into.

“I’m so disappointed,” Harry mumbled beside Louis. He was leaning back against his the bar, slumped down with his arms across his chest. “I can’t believe you. This is betrayal. I feel betrayed.” He looked so serious and angry, but was being so dramatic, it was almost funny.

“Stop being such a baby,” Louis said. “It’s not a big deal.”

“They’re all laughing at me,” he yelled pointing to Zayn and Niall. Louis shot them a look and glared angrily, but they continued to laugh. Louis pouted and leaned against Harry with a pout to match his.

“I’m your best friend,” Harry muttered.

Just as Louis was about to answer, Harry’s phone started to ring again and he looked down at with a sigh. “I have to take this, but we’re not done, you and I.”

Louis thanked God that Harry’s phone rang to end this discussion for now and then got up off his stools to beat up his friends for being so fucking obvious and rude.

The night had improved a lot better since the unfortunate conversation about Louis’ crush. Everyone was hanging out at their booth, ordering dinner and taking it with drinks. Louis kept close to Harry all night and they were flirting so hard, acting like a couple already, that Louis was planning on dropping the bomb on the way home. He was jittery with the thought of saying the words to Harry and couldn’t sit still for even a second.

That was until Peter arrived and Louis’ mood turned south. He didn’t even know Peter was invited, since Harry didn’t mention, but his phone had been going off every few minutes. Louis didn’t have to take more than one guess as to why he was here.

He watched sullenly as Harry introduced Peter to Sophia before leading him over to the bar. Barbara, who was next to Louis, whispered, “What is he doing here?”

“I have no idea,” Louis said, trying not to feel like his heart was literally dropping. He was so excited for tonight. He wanted to do it and he was going to, but now he couldn’t. He felt frustrated and so fucking disheartened.

Louis excused himself to the restroom and sighed loudly when he walked in, unzipping his pants in front of a urinal. Just then the door opened and Louis turned to see Peter walk in and take the urinal two down from his. Louis’ piss almost stopped, but he quickly managed and zipped up, walking over to the sinks to wash his hands.

“So, you’re not going to say anything to me?” Peter asked. “Not even hello?”

“Didn’t know you wanted to have a chat,” Louis said to him. Peter scoffed as he zipped his pants up and walked to the sinks as well.

“It’s just polite, is all,” he replied. “But then again, you don’t know anything about manners or class.”

“You’re the last person I want to hear anything about having class from, Dobbs,” Louis spat, cooly. “You have the social skills of a lizard.”

“That’s very original and offensive,” Peter rolled his eyes, looking at Louis from the mirror. “I am plenty friendly with my boyfriend’s friends. Just don’t deem you that important.”

“Funny,” Louis commented with a scoff because didn’t he just break up with the guy a few days ago? “Can’t seem to keep up when you keep ending things and then trying to get back with him. Do you have the relationship skills of a fourteen year old? Because it’s extremely immature and annoying.”

Peter laughed. “You can say whatever you want, but at the end of the day, Harry’s mine. and I know that you hate that, but you can’t do a damned thing, can you? Have a nice night.” Peter smiled at him before slipping past Louis through the doors. Louis waited about thirty seconds before letting out an angry scream. He stomped his feet down a few times and slammed the door back open before walking out, trying to school his expression neutral. He was so fucking done with Peter and his stupid, demeaning attitude.

How did Harry stand him? Why did Harry let this leech be in his life?

When Louis walked back to the bar, he found Niall there, ordering drinks. He turned to see Louis and concern etched his face. “Is everything alright? What’s wrong?”

“I bumped into Peter in the restrooms,” Louis replied. “What is his problem? I can’t fucking stand him and his stupid snide remarks. What does Harry even see in him? The fucking nerve of him to even speak to me.”

“What did he say?” Niall asked, putting all the drinks he was holding down, ready to punch Peter if necessary.

“Never mind that,” Louis groaned. “Order me the strongest fucking drink here and keep them coming.”

And Niall never refused Louis an opportunity to get drunk as fuck. Louis sat down on a stool and winced as he gulped down the first glass of whatever it was. And that was how the night progressed. Louis continued to drink like it was all he could do as he watched Harry and Peter happily talk and mingle with the rest of them. And Louis drank so much alcohol to forget where he was in comparison to Peter, but he didn’t forget where he wanted to be, which was to be in the same exact spot next to Harry. Just like Peter said. Harry was Peter's and Louis couldn’t do anything about it.

He realized he needed to be drunker. When the bartender wasn’t looking, Louis bent over the bar and pulled a bottle of Jack from behind the counter and uncapped it, taking a not so classy sip. Niall and Barbara looked over at him and Louis watched as Niall got scolded about something. Whatever they were fighting over, Louis didn’t care. He felt like a masochist and let his eyes trail over to Harry and how low Peter’s hands were resting over his waist.

“Lou, are you okay?” Barbara, asked walking over and reaching her hand out to put it over Louis’.

Louis laughed humorlessly. “I’m feeling like shit right now. I can’t believe it. I’m so stupid to like someone who’s with someone else. It would happen to me, right? I’d be stupid enough to do something like that. And then I thought that I could actually try and change his mind tonight, but I was too fucking late. Always too late.”

He didn’t realize he started to cry until Barbara reached out to wipe his cheek. “Oh, Lou,” she said, her eyes filled with what Louis assumed was pity. Niall had walked over then, putting an arm around Louis to hold him. Louis curled into him, trying so hard not to cry in a crowded pub, but it was fruitless.

“Harry loves you,” Niall said to him quietly. “I know it’s not in the way you want him to, but he does love you in some form. I’m really sorry if that’s not enough, Lou.”

“Me too,” Louis said, putting the bottle of Jack on the counter. He felt his chest caving in. His thoughts and feelings were meshing together and it was all too much at once. He felt like crap. How long was he going to sit there and just wait, staring at the one person who was capable of turning him into the one thing he swore he never would when he clearly didn’t want him back? Why was he torturing himself?

“I need to go,” he mumbled, standing up, staggering on his feet. Niall grabbed him before he could fall and held him up.

“Let me take you home,” Niall said. “You’re not going to be able to make it.”

“I will,” Louis assured him. “Please, Niall. I’m begging you, please let me go. I don’t want anyone to see me.”

Louis looked desperate and wild, his eyes close to tears and Niall finally let him go, looking unconvinced and upset. Louis quickly walked out of there, past his group of friends and into the cold, night air of the city. By the time he was half a block down, tears started streaming down his cheeks, as he tried to control himself and make it to home before having a nervous breakdown on the street.

But then someone grabbed his shoulder, turning him around and Louis sucked in a breath at the sudden movement. It was Harry, looking confused and panicked as he took in Louis’ face. “Louis,” he cried, cradling his face in his hands. “What’s wrong? Why’d you leave?” He wiped Louis’ cheeks and pulled him off to the corner of the sidewalk. “Why are you crying? What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing,” Louis shook his hand away. “I have to go, Harry. I had too much to drink.”

“Louis, I’m not letting you leave like this. What’s wrong? Did someone say something to you?” Louis shook his head, even though he knew he could have told him about Peter, but that would require explaining why what he said bothered him. "Then what’s the matter? Why are you upset like this?”

"Nothing," Louis said, looking up at Harry’s concerned, green eyes. Louis knew Harry cared about him and he cared so much, always understood him so well. It was amazing to Louis that someone could care that much. He never thought he’d connect with someone on this level and he wanted that forever, even though something about tonight made it feel impermanent. The thought of that only made Louis cry harder, trying to push away Harry’s hand so he could leave because he couldn’t let Harry see. “I need to go, Harry. Please.”

“No,” Harry insisted, holding on to him tighter, looking like he was ready to cry himself. “I’m not letting you go.”

And that was the problem, wasn’t it? Louis couldn’t fucking let him go, either. He just had seven shots of whatever Niall ordered him, just trying to forget Harry’s name because he had to, but he only managed to forget everything else, but Harry. Sober or drunk, Harry was the only thing on Louis’ mind. He couldn’t forget him if he tried.

Louis couldn't handle the fact that Harry wasn’t his. He couldn't handle all these feelings considering he never felt them before for anyone. He couldn't handle not being able to get a grasp on reality and shake it off. He’d waited so long with these feelings for Harry and to just not be able to finally tell him, killed Louis. He felt so much for him sometimes, he felt like he was going to burst at the seams. He couldn't take anything anymore. He lowered his head and started sobbing, feeling Harry’s arms wrap around his shoulder to pull him into his chest.  

"What's wrong?" Harry asked him again, quietly.

"If I could Harry, I'd tell you everything--but it's--I can't tell you.”

"Why? You can tell me anything, Lou. I promise."

"No--this, I can't tell you. I can't tell you, Harry. I'm sorry,” Louis choked out. He wanted to. He wanted to so badly.

"Louis," he whispered, placing a kiss to his head. "I wish I could help. Please, Lou--.”

"Harry!"

The two boys jumped up, startled and caught off guard. Peter was charging over to them, glaring daggers at Louis, face turning red. Harry froze, his body paralyzed, while his face turned pale.  

"Peter, I just--," said Harry, his throat dry. “Louis ran out.”

"That means you kiss him?” Peter asked. “Cuddling out here on the street and leaving me inside?”

"That’s not what this is about,” Harry tried to explain.

"What are you doing, Harry? I saw the way you were hugging him and kissing him. What the fuck is this?"

"He's my friend," he insisted. “We’re just friends, Peter.”

"You want me to believe that you two are just friends?” Peter asked him. “It sure did not seem that way. We’ve only been apart for a few days, Harry. You jumped right back in, then? You didn’t even wait. And with him of all people? I knew there was something going on between you. You thought you had me fooled by saying you were just friends. Bullshit. You’re obviously more than that."

“Peter, stop,” Harry begged, desperately. “You know it’s not like that. So why are you making this an issue? You know how I feel about you.”

“Oh, please,” Peter snapped with an eye roll. “We’ve been together for years and you’ve fucked it up now. You’ve fucked up an even longer friendship all for this moron.”

“Don’t talk about him like that,” Harry said to him, glaring. “I didn’t break up with you, you broke up with me. So don’t tell me that I ruined this.”

Louis looked up at Harry in surprise, his eyes widening at the fact that he was standing up for him and talking back to Peter. This didn’t really ever happen.

“I was trying to work things out with you tonight,” Peter said. “That’s why I came here. For you and you run off with this trash.”

“He’s not trash, Peter,” Harry snarled. “Stop talking down to him. This isn’t about him at all. It’s between me and you.”

“How would you feel if I told you I was seeing someone behind your back?” Peter asked instead. “Like that guy that works in my office who you don’t like because you think he’s into me.”

Harry clenched his jaw, looking angry and frustrated. “That’s beside the point.”

“Is it? Did you know he kissed me?” Peter asked in an almost mocking manner.

Louis couldn’t hold it back any longer. He couldn’t watch Peter stand there and tear down Harry like he was nothing. He deserved more than that after everything he did for him. “Peter, you’re such a terrible, horrible person ,” Louis said. “Did you know that? Like, you’re actually bringing that up to throw it in his face in some jealous fit. You’re so mean . Why would you do that?”

Peter rolled his eyes at his remark. “I don’t remember addressing you at all.”

“Well, then don’t talk about me like I’m not here,” Louis snapped.

“You’re the root of our issues right now. Do you realize that?”

“No, the reason you’re fighting right now is because you’ve got your head so far up your ass you can’t see anything but yourself. Harry’s trying to explain and you won’t even listen to him.”

“So you’re telling me that there’s nothing going on between you two?” Peter asked. “Don’t try to deny it because I’m not a fucking idiot. Just tell me the truth.”

“You’re so paranoid,” Louis said. “Harry’s the best boyfriend and you fucked it up because he’s not yours anymore.”

That stupid smirk finally disappeared off Peter’s face as Louis’ words sunk in. He looked over at Harry. “That’s all the confirmation I needed,” he said. Peter turned and walked away, leaving behind a complete storm that he’d created himself, but now Louis had to deal with.

Louis slowly turned to see that their friends were all outside, having witnessed this shit show, and Harry was completely paralyzed on the spot. Louis put his hand on Harry’s arm cautiously. “Harry,” he said, softly.

“Why--,” Harry started to say, but then stopped. “Fuck.”

He looked at Louis one last time before storming the opposite way that Peter had and Louis could only watch him in complete and utter panic. What had he done?

Chapter Text

 

Louis was paralyzed, watching Harry’s retreating form walking away from him, blending in with all the other pedestrians in the busy streets of the city. He turned to the others, his face probably blotchy and red from tears from before, and felt like crumbling to the floor from the enormity of what had just happened. They all walked over to him, pulling him close, but not really saying anything. What could they possibly say?

Louis fucked up. End of.

“I’ve fucked up,” Louis told them, his voice desperate and shaky. “Shit, what did I just do? Why did I say that?”

“It’s fine,” Zayn tried to reassure him, albeit his expression said differently. “Harry’s not mad, Lou. He just needs some time to cool off.”

“Yeah,” Louis said nearly hysterical. “He needs some time to cool off because he’s mad at me. I’m a fucking idiot. I shouldn’t have stayed. None of this would have happened if I had just left.”

“Louis, calm down,” Niall said, looking at him with an alarmed expression. It had then dawned on Louis that Barbara was holding on to him tightly because he was visibly shaking and it wasn’t from the cold. He was a fucking mess and it was all his fault. “You need to relax and think rationally. You can’t have a nervous breakdown right now.”

“Niall, he couldn’t even look at me! He just left.” Louis tore his arms away from Barbara and covered his face, feeling his composure break more and more by the second. Harry probably hated him now. He was standing up for Louis in front of Peter, trying to be a good friend, and now Louis made Harry hate him. Why did he think it would be a good idea to say anything ? He should have just let them figure it out and kept quiet. He should have never interfered. He probably made things ten times worse.

When he looked back up at everyone, he noticed the three boys talking amongst themselves privately while Barbara and Sophia stood close by him. He had no idea what they were saying and he didn’t really want to know. All Louis wanted to know was whether or not Harry was okay. He couldn’t get Harry’s face out of his mind. He could still see his hurt expression so vividly; it was driving him more mad every second that passed.

The other boys eventually looked back at him, like he was some delicate piece of glass that they had to make sure wouldn’t fall and break. Louis hated being looked at like that. It was so unlike him to just break in front of his friends. In front of anyone, really. He was better than this, but as of late, he was starting to doubt it considering all the times he was falling apart. He hadn’t been this bad since the time before he left for Europe and even then he thought it couldn’t get worse than this, but he was wrong. This was worse than anything.

“Let’s go home, Lou,” Zayn said to him, walking back over. “We can go home, get a good night of sleep and tomorrow maybe you could talk to Harry.”

“I want to see him right now,” Louis said, his chin quivering as he felt another bout of tears threatening to come out. He couldn’t wait an entire night before he knew they were okay. He wanted to go to Harry and cry to him and let him comfort him again because no one else could make him feel better. He wanted to erase everything he said to Peter so that Harry wouldn’t be mad at him any longer. He wanted a do-over for this entire night.

Fuck.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Liam said softly. “We should let him cool off. That was intense what happened back there. You don’t want to go over now because you’re both in a bad state of mind; it could get worse if you do.”

Louis had to admit that Liam had a point. He couldn’t just jump into this all in one night after so much had already happened. Maybe a few hours away could do them good even if Louis’ skin was itching to see Harry. It was just enough time to clear both their heads and talk about it the following day like mature adults who clearly said and did really stupid things after having too much to drink. Fucking hell.

He nodded slowly and they all sighed with relief, thankful that Louis didn’t try to fight them too much on it. The group somberly walked to the train station in silence, mostly because they didn’t know what else to say. On the way there, Louis threw up on the sidewalk in the garbage can, heaving and feeling his throat burn. While it was disgusting and not something he was ever proud of doing, especially outside, he was glad it happened because it helped clear his stomach a bit. He was also glad that he had good friends who actually helped him clean up before walking again.

Niall and Barbara said goodbye to them at the subway, heading uptown while the others headed downtown. When Liam and Sophia got up to say goodbye at their stop, Louis looked up at them apologetically.

“I’m really sorry for tonight,” he said to Liam, before turning to Sophia. “And I’m sorry that you had to see that.”

“It’s fine,” she assured him with a kind smile. “I hope you feel better.”

“Thank you,” Louis smiled back, albeit meekly. The two of them waved before getting off the train and leaving Zayn and Louis alone.

When they got off at their stop and walked up the steps of the station, Zayn pulled out a cigarette and lit it up, blowing out smoke as they walked.

“Hey,” Zayn said, turning to look at Louis after a while. He put his hand on Louis’ shoulder and gave him a firm squeeze. “It’ll be alright. He just needs to cool down, you know that. Whatever you did back there, I don’t know why you did it but listen, what’s done is done. Peter needed to hear that and you said something that we all had been dying to say for ages. You’re not a bad person. You just...got a bit carried away.”

“Then why do I feel like a bad person?” Louis asked him sadly. Zayn leaned in closer and pulled him in by his shoulders as they walked.

“You’re not,” Zayn insisted then. “Just get some sleep and we’ll all talk about this later. Right now, it’s getting really late and we’re all super tired, so we can’t sit up and think about what we can’t change, right? I’m just pissed this night came to such a bad end, especially for Liam since it was his first time out with Sophia and us.”

“Yeah, we were having such a great time until Peter showed up,” Louis agreed. “Honestly, Z, I wasn’t thinking at all when I said that last bit. I don’t even know why I said anything. God knows what Harry is thinking right now.”

“It was a bit melodramatic.”

“Am I stupid or what?” Louis asked, groaning.

Zayn chuckled, giving him another squeeze. “Not stupid. Drunk, maybe. What are you planning on doing tomorrow, though? Are you going to wait for him to call you or are you going to call him?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Louis replied, running a hand through his hair. “I guess I can wait a while and see if he calls or not. If he doesn’t, I’ll do it.”

“He will,” Zayn assured him again. “I know Harry and he’s incapable of staying mad for too long. He’ll understand.” Louis gave him a small smile and hoped he was right.

They reached their apartment and took the stairs upstairs, unlocking the door and walking in. Zayn and Louis went into their respective bedrooms and started getting ready for bed when suddenly someone started banging on the front door and ringing the doorbell obnoxiously. The two of them looked at each other warily and had a silent conversation where they debated whether or not they should even open it. When the ringing and banging didn’t stop, Zayn stepped forward.

“What the fuck,” he muttered, walking past Louis and out to the door. Louis quickly followed him, just in case it was a murderer or something.

Zayn looked through the peephole and unlocked the door, letting in a terrifying, angry, sexy Harry Styles. Louis stared at him, jaw dropped and eyes wide. “Harry,” he said, surprised and a bit turned on. “What are you--.”

“What the fuck was that back there?” Harry asked Louis, cutting him off.

Louis only stared at him, staggered and at loss for words. He wasn’t expecting this so soon. His friends all told him to just let it go and deal with it tomorrow. He was about to go to bed. He did not expect Harry to come charging in here, so mad and so fucking hot. Louis was close to being hard and that would be so inappropriate given the situation. He just didn’t know how to answer Harry right now.

Zayn looked at the two of them carefully and closed the door. “I’m, uh, going to go for another smoke out in the fire escape. Knock if you need anything.” Zayn walked past the two of them and slipped out through the living room window to the fire escape where he often took most of his smoke breaks when he was home.

Harry was still fuming, his chest heaving as he stared at Louis with a hard, angry expression. “Well,” he prompted. “Are you going to answer me or no? Because I just spent the last hour walking around fucking Central Park trying to figure out what possessed you to go and say that of all things.”

“I’m sorry,” Louis said at last. “I’m really sorry. I honestly wasn’t even thinking when I said all that to Peter.”

“Clearly,” Harry said with a hint of sarcasm on his voice, while throwing his hands up in the air in a frustrated manner. He turned around, pacing the run while occasionally running a hand through his curls like he was ready to rip them out. “What am I going to do now? How am I supposed to make him understand? You know how he gets and I don’t know if he’ll believe me.”

“I’m sorry,” Louis said again, not knowing what else to say to make it better. “You didn’t even tell me you were getting back with him.” He tried to say the last bit it in a way that didn’t seem bitter or upset, but he was. Harry should have warned him because he was thrown off completely.

When Harry heard the quiver in his voice, he stopped pacing to turn to him. Louis watched as Harry internally battled himself before his frown smoothed out into a soft expression. “You don’t have to apologize,” he said to Louis, his voice soothing and deep.“I know you didn’t mean to do that. I’m just upset, you know? I don’t know, like, what to do. And you were so upset tonight, Lou. Are you okay now?”

“I’m fine,” Louis nodded, even though it was far from the truth. It didn’t matter. Not when Harry was talking to him again and not angry like he was earlier. “I guess I was just so upset and angry that Peter was saying all that to you, that I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want you to hear all that when you don’t deserve to, H. You’re so fucking amazing and he had no right to bring you down like that in front of me and everyone else.”

“I know. He shouldn’t have brought up our personal issues in front of you when you were clearly upset,” Harry added. “He misunderstood the situation and just jumped to conclusions.”

“Exactly,” Louis said. “He jumped to conclusions and thought the worst of you. I really couldn’t take it anymore. He wouldn’t believe you, so I just told him what he needed to hear and he misunderstood that, too. Can you believe our luck?”

That made Harry chuckle lowly under his breath and Louis smiled at him softly before walking up to him for a hug. Harry held him tight, pressing warm kisses on his head, probably because he was still reeling from Louis' earlier breakdown. Louis was, too. When he thought about it, he was pretty sure he would have ended up confessing everything to Harry at that point if Peter hadn’t come along. When Louis pulled away, he led Harry to the couch where they sat down, curling up together.

“Harry, can I say something?” Louis asked. Harry mumbled in response and put his head on Louis’ shoulder, trying to make himself smaller so he could be the little spoon being coddled. Louis allowed him to do so before soothingly running his fingers through Harry’s hair, just like he liked it. “Peter needed a reason tonight to do all that. You know that, right? He always does. He needs reasons to blame you for something to make what he did justifiable to himself because he wants to be the good guy.”

“Lou, I know your intentions are good when you say this stuff and stand up for me,” Harry said quietly. “You’d never want me to be hurt, but things with Peter are just complicated. I’m a big boy, I can take care of myself and I know what he does. I can see it.”

“So why don’t you ever do anything about it? He was deliberately bringing up that guy who kissed him to make you feel bad. It’s why I said anything to him at all because that was fucked up,” Louis said, starting to get fiercely protective again. “I’m sorry, again, for what I did, but shit, Harry.”

“Yeah, that was so fucked up that he wanted to make me jealous like that. I didn’t even know about that before tonight. I really do fucking hate that guy. He looks like such a dweeb.”

Louis bit his lip and felt his heart sink a little. He couldn’t believe that he was really about to tell Harry about his feelings for him that had been haunting him for more than a year tonight. Louis was going to open up and tell him how he pined for Harry when Harry was in a relationship with someone else, who he clearly loved, given that he was so jealous someone else kissed him.

Thinking about it now after hearing Harry say all that, Louis realized it would have been a disaster because he clearly loved the guy enough to still want him even after all the fucked up shit he did, like cheat on him. Harry was willing to overlook everything just to make it work and Peter took advantage of that over and over because he knew that Harry would always come back. He did it again and again and he will continue to.

And now, Louis was the reason that Harry might not get him back at all anymore because he had to go and open his mouth against true love and fuck it all up. He was internally groaning at his stupidity. Fuck getting drunk and doing dumb shit because Harry was heartbroken and it was all Louis’ fault. He had to do damage control, but what could he do? He thought for a while and he could feel the cogs turning in his head as the perfect solution popped up.

“We might as well just date.”

Harry froze in his arms, his body stilled as he slowly lifted his head up at Louis to give him the most confused expression he’d ever worn. Louis literally wanted to fuck him into the next century.

“What?” Harry asked. “Are you--.”

“No,” Louis said, shaking his head before Harry could go far with that idea and trap Louis into confessing his own feelings. “I mean...like, I think I have a plan?”

“A plan?” Harry said slowly. “A plan other than me going to Peter’s tomorrow and groveling for hours; maybe even days ?”

The thought of Harry doing that made Louis’ skin burn, but he schooled his expression well and nodded swiftly. “There will be no groveling. Well, there will be, but not on your end.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Harry said.

“I’ll make it easier for you. You and I will pretend to be a couple in front of Peter and he’ll take you back in a heartbeat.”

Harry frowned at him and shook his head, like Louis had just said the craziest thing, which yeah he pretty much did. But only because this was the only way to get out of this since Peter was a fucking moron, who wouldn’t take Harry’s word for it unless he begged. What kind of a person was he? And to be honest, Louis refused to let Harry get down on his knees for Peter fucking Dobbs just because Louis said something stupid while drunk, angry and emotional.

“Are you kidding?” Harry asked incredulously. “I could never ask you to do that. That would be like using you as some sort of catalyst or something and I’m not going to do that to you. Are you crazy? Plus, it would be such a mess because everyone would get roped in and people will get hurt. So, no.”

“It won’t. Hear me out,” Louis insisted. “Sometimes we need to hurt the people we care about for them to realize what’s right in front of them. You know that saying that goes, like, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone? You’ve let Peter break up and then get back with you so many times that he actually thinks it’s in his right to keep doing so. He thinks he can do it as many times as he wants because you’ll always come back.

“However, if you’re pretending to be with me, he might see that you’re not as permanent as he thought. He’s going to get scared about the fact that there is a chance to lose you. And that will not only make him take you back, but he’ll stop playing his stupid games. Remind him of what he’s losing out on because he’s clearly forgetting and getting comfortable with the whole thing.”

Harry stared at him, completely taken aback by his explanation because it made sense. He let out a startled laugh then. “You’re actually serious about this?”

Louis shrugged nonchalantly. “Peter is clearly the jealous type. If he’s jealous of me just being your friend then imagine how he’d feel if saw us being a couple.”

The more Louis talked, the more he himself realized that he did have a really good point and plan. This could actually work. But he was also realizing that he would inevitably be helping the guy he had a huge crush on get back with the guy he hated. That was so counterproductive. Still, he was the reason that they were in this mess right now and he clearly had no chance with Harry. Might as well let Harry be happy.

“So, you really think this could work?” Harry asked again after much thinking. Louis nodded his head and Harry broke out in a grin. “Let’s do this then...boyfriend.” He said the last part with an exaggerated wink and Louis started to laugh in his face.

Zayn must have heard and he peeked back in through the window. “Can I come back in? It’s freezing out here.”

“Yeah,” Harry nodded to him. “You didn’t have to stay out so long.”

Zayn chuckled as he climbed back inside and closed the window. “Thought I’d give you some space. Everything’s good now?”

“Yeah,” Harry nodded again. “Lou thought up a plan.”

“A plan?” Zayn asked.

“I’ll tell you later,” Louis told him. Zayn took his word for it and shrugged before saying goodnight to them both and heading into his room.

Harry got comfortable on the couch again, toeing out of his shoes and taking off his socks before placing his feet on Louis’ lap and sitting on the opposite side to face him. “How are we going to do this?”

“Um,” Louis mumbled while playing with Harry’s toes. He hadn’t really thought this far. “Well, whenever he’s around we’ll act like a couple. Do couple stuff.”

“Wait,” Harry said putting a hand up. “He hates both of us right now. I don’t think he’ll want to be anywhere near for us to even put up that act.”

“That’s not an issue,” Louis waved off. “Peter has been in your life for so long. He’s not about to just leave without anymore contact after he found out that you’re dating me of all people right after he broke up with you. He hates me. Do you know how much this is bruising his ego? He’ll contact you.”

“You sure?”

“Positive,” Louis said. “He’ll probably keep it cool at first, just so he could maintain some dignity.”

Harry bit his lip, still unsure as he looked back at Louis. “You sure you want to do this? Like, I could just try and tell him the truth.”

“You’re not going to beg him for me, Harry,” Louis said, taking his hand and squeezing it. “He doesn’t deserve that. Besides, if you do that, he’ll just break up with you again. Fucking idiot. You need to let him know that you’re not some doormat.”

Harry took in Louis’ words, realizing he was right, but then looked at him again with a curious expression. “How are you so good at this stuff, but not in a relationships yourself?”

“I wish I knew,” Louis shrugged because that much was true. “Can you make me something to eat? I feel like I’m going to be sick again.”

Harry got up to his feet right away. “Getting right on it, boyfriend.” He said boyfriend with an exaggerated wink again and Louis groaned.

“Okay, first things first. You gotta stop doing that.”

So, Peter just called me, right? And he’s apologizing for the way things went down the other night and for not telling me that that guy from his office kissed him. Said he was just angry and he’s cooled down a lot. And he was saying how he’s not happy about us, but he accepted it and wants to remain friends with me and make amends with you!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like, he ACTUALLY believes that we’re dating. THIS IS SO WILD.

Louis stared at the text from Harry for a few minutes, letting some overplayed Katy Perry song play on the radio while trying to figure out what to play next. It had been a few days since the whole debacle outside of the pub and this was the first time Harry and him were even speaking of their plan since everyone was busy with work and Harry had classes. And the more Louis stared at the text, the more he wondered what the fuck he got himself into. At first this seemed like a great idea, but now he realized that it was actually happening.

He knew that it would take Peter a few days before he reached back out to Harry, most probably because he was hoping Harry would say something, but Louis told him not to. It would work better this way, but what Peter said was a bit wild. He wanted to remain friends with Harry and make amends with Louis, as in be friends with him, too. That was so awkward.

Once again, Louis asked himself what the fuck he just got himself into.

Louis saw his family once or twice a month, but it was mostly them coming down to Brooklyn to see him since they had a car and it was a hassle to travel one hour to go over to theirs. On Thanksgiving, however, he took the trip and had a big dinner with his family.

He caught up with his sisters; Lottie telling him about her new job at the mall, Fizzy gushing about her new boyfriend, and the twins were going through a phase where they wanted to be treated as individuals so they did the exact opposite of the other. His mom and her new boyfriend, Dan, were faring well, too. He’d recently just moved in with them and Louis was happy that his mom always found it within herself to be so optimistic about love. She always was and it astounded him.

He only stayed one night and the next day, the girls and his mom drove him back to Brooklyn, but not before a quick stop at Union Square. Since Louis was making good money, he wanted to treat them to a nice lunch, which they really enjoyed when he took them to L’Express, a French Bistro.

After lunch, while the girls giggled off to Forever 21 to shop with some money Louis gave to them as a gift, Louis and his mom went to Whole Foods to do some grocery shopping since he was shit at it and always had his mom come by and help him stock up for him and Zayn. When they got to the fruits aisle, his mom was about to completely skip over because she knew it would only rot and never get eaten since Zayn and Louis hated any kind of fruit.

“Wait,” Louis said to her, stopping by the bananas, eyeing them curiously. “We should get some of these, don’t you think?”

She looked at him completely bewildered. “You want to get bananas? Since when do you eat fruits, let alone bananas? You always hated it growing up no matter how much I tried to trick you into eating them.”

“It’s for Harry, Mom. God,” Louis whined. “Can you just help me pick some out, please?”

“Harry doesn’t live with you,” she pointed out with a knowing smile as she picked out some good ones from the batch. “Is he over so often that you’re starting to shop for him?”

Louis decidedly ignored her, knowing where this was going. His mom was always on him to start dating Harry because in her eyes, he was the perfect boy for Louis. Louis couldn’t say he disagreed with her, but life just wasn’t fucking fair, was it?  

The two of them continued to shop, going through all the aisles they needed things from and building up their cart to last the two boys a good month.

“What kind of pasta do you want?” she asked him when they were in the pasta aisle.

“I like the curly ones,” he told her, smirking at his own pun. She nodded her head, completely missing the point, and grabbed the box with the curly pasta.

“Louis?” he heard a male voice say from behind him.

Louis turned around and was sad to see it was Peter, of all people, standing at the other end of the pasta aisle. He tried not to sneer at him and gave him an awkward wave, instead. They always ignored each other when they all met up, but Louis was taken aback by Peter’s smile and enthusiasm as he walked over to him then. Was this the same guy that he’d been hating all this time? He looked way too happy to see Louis, so he was starting to doubt it. It was a little alarming.

“How are you?” he said once he reached Louis while his mom walked over to get some sauces for the pasta.

“Fine?” Louis responded, more as a question than as an answer.

“That’s good,” Peter responded enthusiastically. “It’s crazy bumping into you here. But good because I just--I wanted to apologize for the other night. Harry must have told you.”

This was so weird, but Louis was going to roll with it since it meant that Peter was going to apologize to him. “He did.”

“I’ve obviously got a lot to apologize to you for,” he continued and Louis tried not to grin at him obnoxiously. “I understand I haven’t been the nicest to you and I just--I want to start over with both of you. I realize things got a bit heated the other night and it took me by shock, but I’m slowly starting to accept it.”

Louis stared at him, feeling both dumbfounded that they were even having this conversation and wanting to laugh in his face. “Well, that’s nice. Thanks for your support, Peter.”

He smiled at Louis warmly, albeit fakely. “We should try and be friends, don’t you think? I know it’s a bit after the fact, but Harry and I have been in each others lives for years, and we will continue to be. So, I think we should get to know each other since you two are together now.”

This was such a joke, Louis couldn’t believe it. Now Peter wanted to be friends? He couldn’t possibly think Louis was an idiot, could he? He obviously wanted to be friends with them so he could be close and steal Harry back. Louis almost laughed at how pathetic Peter was, but he tried to control himself. “Sounds good,” he said, instead.

“I’m so glad we’re taking this step,” he said, the fakeness dripping from his tongue. He was so fake .  

Louis’ mom walked back then and put the sauce she got in the cart before looking up at the two boys. That was when Louis realized that he hadn’t told his mom about this whole thing and if she didn’t play along then Peter would know the truth. So, Louis had to lie to her, too. Oh, shit. This was all going to burst into flames if anyone said anything out of place. Louis felt like he was stepping over glass and trying to watch over so that he didn’t end up cutting himself, while he was staring at the two of them.

“Hi, I’m Peter,” Peter said introducing himself to Jay. “I’m a friend of Louis’.”

What a fucking liar.

“Oh, nice to meet you, dear,” his mom responded whilst shaking Peter’s hand. “I’m his mom, Jay. I don’t believe Louis has told me about you yet. Did you recently meet?”

“I’m actually Harry’s ex,” Peter said, much too brightly given what he’d just said.

Jay’s eyes perked up at the mention of Harry. “Oh, yes Harry. He’s such a precious boy. He and Louis are very close.”

Peter smiled politely and Louis knew it was going to happen, but he was too fucking optimistic. He hoped that neither of them would mention Harry and the conversation be led where he feared most. “I’m sure they would be, given that the two of them are dating now.”

He said it.

The dickhead said it.

He just fucking announced it, didn’t he?

Louis tried so hard not to tackle him to the ground and mess up his stupid comb over. His mom looked between the two of them, confused and taken aback. “You’re dating Harry?” she asked him.

Peter cocked his head to the side, surprised and confused, too. “Hasn’t Louis told you? He and Harry are dating now. I mean...I suppose it was recent so maybe they were planning on telling you later.” He then turned to look at Louis apologetically. “I’m so sorry if I said something that I shouldn’t have. I had no idea. This was not my place, but I figured she’d already know since she’s your mom.”

“Lou,” his mom prompted, giving him a questioning look. Louis felt trapped and so irritated at the fact that Peter was such a fucking nuisance to everyone and anyone. Why did he have to be at this Whole Foods of all the ones in the city? Why? Louis was a good person, he didn’t deserve this.

He cleared his throat and looked at his mom with what he hoped was a believing expression. “Harry and I are dating, Mom. I was going to tell you later, but since Peter’s already brought it up I guess I’ll just tell you now.”

His mom grinned at that and clapped her hands, giddily. “This is such good news. You know how much I love Harry. I always knew you two would end up together. You’re absolutely perfect. That’s why you got the bananas for him.” Louis smiled hearing that and the look on Peter’s face made up for everything because he looked just about ready to kill.

“Well, I’m glad to have met you and your mom,” he said, faking another smile. “I’ll catch you later.”

“See you,” Louis replied with an unenthusiastic wave.

“Nice meeting you, Jay,” Peter said, moving his cart to the next aisle and walking away.

When Louis turned to look at his mom, he face palmed. “Mom, please,” he groaned because she was embarrassingly glowing and smiling, still not over the fact that he was dating Harry. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal?” she asked, following him as they went to another aisle. “Louis Tomlinson, it so is a big deal. I’ve been on to you since the start. I know how you feel about Harry. And it’s no secret how he feels about you. I’m just happy you two got your things together and finally decided to do this.”

Louis sputtered, trying to wrap his mind around the fact that his mom not only thought (and knew) that he liked Harry, but she thought the feelings were mutual? She gave him one more knowing smile before asking if he needed any cereal.

The answer was always yes.

“Louis,” Harry yelled, barging through Louis’ front door, making the older boy startle from his cocoon of blankets on the couch. He scowled at Harry as he made his over and plopped down on top of Louis’ groin, making him groan out loud.

“Fuck, what are you doing?” Louis said, as Harry shifted over to make himself more comfortable and not sit right over Louis’ dick.

“What am I doing?” Harry asked, incredulously. “What are you doing? We have somewhere to be. A place to go. People to see. Things to do. Let’s go!”

Louis had almost forgot. Zayn had somehow gotten these amazingly cheap passes to the nightclub Pacha and they were all planning to go there tonight, including Peter. Harry and Peter had been texting and talking a lot, moving forward with their friendship and Harry said it was a little weird, but he thought their plan could really work with the way things had been going. And then when Harry suggested he come to Pacha with them since there was an extra pass, Peter agreed, much to Louis’ chagrin.

While he had been the one to suggest this whole charade and he knew that he was a fantastic actor, he still didn’t feel like interacting with Peter at all.

“But I’m so comfortable,” Louis whined, pulling the blanket up to his face and curling into himself to prove the point to Harry.

“C’mon,” Harry whined back, trying to pull off his blanket. “You can’t back away. You have to come. He’s bringing that guy from his work...that asshole that kissed him and I cannot be alone with them. Don’t you love me? I’m your boyfriend, you’re supposed to do this with me, Lou.”

Louis rolled his eyes because Harry loved calling Louis his boyfriend. It was almost a little weird how much he did it, especially when he wanted Louis to listen to him. It was obviously played up, but Harry found it hilarious. He was always making this ridiculous puppy face at Louis and it was annoying how much Louis was falling for it because Harry was a grown man. He was a grown man boy and puppy dog faces should not be working for him. Then again, Harry had always been a weirdo.

“Emotionally blackmailing me like that won’t make me want to get up any faster,” Louis said. “And you’re not my boyfriend. You’re a dick.”

Harry laughed out loud and started to tickle him over the blanket. Louis squealed loudly and somehow ended up rolling off the couch and onto the ground to try and get away from Harry, which he realized was the point of why he did it. “Okay,” he screamed dramatically once he was up on his feet. “I’m going. I’m going. You little deviant.”

“Yay,” Harry grinned, getting up off the couch and walking to the kitchen. “I’m going to go see if you guys have anything in the kitchen because I’m hungry as fuck.”

“I can bet you that the only thing we have is leftover Chinese food, but be my guest,” Louis said, waving him off and walking to the bathroom. When he opened the door, he jolted back, startling Zayn who was taking a dump.

“Shit,” Zayn muttered, looking away from his phone.

“Are you browsing your phone while taking a shit?” Louis asked, walking in anyway to wash his face and brush his teeth.

“Don’t act like you don’t do it as well,” Zayn rolled his eyes. “And what was that in the living room just now?”

“What was what?” Louis asked, spreading toothpaste onto his brush.

“You being Harry’s boyfriend. Since when? What’s going on?”

Oh...right. Louis hadn’t actually told the others exactly what he and Harry had settled on that night when everything went down. He’d been avoiding it, really, because he himself couldn’t believe they were actually going through with it. He also knew that their reactions wouldn’t be good since it wasn’t a smart decision. Louis stuffed his toothbrush in his mouth and shrugged in response, trying to appear cool.

“We’re, uh, we’re kind of pretending to be a couple in front of Peter,” he eventually slurred out, dribbling toothpaste down his chin.

“What?” Zayn practically yelled until Louis shot him a look and he quieted down. “You’re doing what?”

“Pretending to be a couple in front of Peter so he takes Harry back,” Louis repeated. “Peter wouldn’t have believed him otherwise. He would have made Harry, like, beg him or some shit. Grovel. That fucker is not going to make Harry do that for anything that’s obviously my fault, so we’re doing this pretending thing, instead, since he believes it so much. This way he’ll even learn his lesson and not do it again when he realizes that Harry can easily move on. It’s a good idea that will help him, Z.”

“That doesn’t mean you pretend to be his boyfriend, Lou,” Zayn hissed. “Listen, I love you both so much, but this is the dumbest idea you’ve had since that night when you thought it’d be a great idea to make a music video to “Clique” over in Prospect Park at night so we looked hood. We almost got mugged that day and Niall lost one of his sneakers while running and almost cried because it was his favorite pair.”

“Hey, fuck you,” Louis said once he spit out his toothpaste. “That was legendary.”

“Don’t try to change the topic,” Zayn warned. “Like, how old are you two? This is going to end badly and you know it.”

Louis didn’t bother responding to him after that because he knew to some extent that Zayn was right. He just didn’t want to acknowledge or admit it. He quickly freshened up and walked out to see Harry eating leftover fried rice and garlic chicken. He grinned at Louis as Louis walked into his room and it made him feel a bit better after Zayn called him out because Harry’s smile could cure anything. A bad mood, world hunger, wars in North Korea and even global warming.

When Louis got to his room, he picked out his nicest jeans and his blue henley to top it off with his jean jacket. After doing his hair and styling it exactly as he wanted it, he walked out into the living room where Harry was waiting for him. Harry’s eyes lit up when he eyed Louis up and down a few times.

“What?” Louis asked, sitting opposite him on the coffee table.

“You look so good , Lou,” he said, his eyes shamelessly raking over him, like he was a piece of meat.

Louis felt a hot tinge on his cheeks at that and turned away as he tried looking for his socks, which he was sure he shoved somewhere under the table. When he found them, he pulled them on and avoided eye contact with Harry, who was still fixated on him. Harry did that sometimes. He just stared so intently at Louis that he couldn’t handle it and it made him lose his chill. He became so flushed and his heart would start beating too fast. It was too much all at once, being under Harry’s attention like that.

When he was done pulling on his socks, Louis stood up to try and eye him down. “Are you practicing looking like you’re in love with me for when we pretend for Peter?”

Harry let out a short, breathless laugh as he stood up as well. “No, it’s not like that. I already love you, Lou. I’m not going to pretend.

Louis’ stomach felt light and fluttering as he smiled stupidly at him. He knew Harry wouldn’t just drop a love declaration for him so carelessly. He meant as a friend, but the way he said it could have fooled anyone. Even Louis, for a second.

“Yeah, alright you sap,” Louis said, pushing at his shoulders and moving him towards the door. “Let’s go. We’re going to be so late.”

Harry laughed, moving easily, but smirked as he turned to look at Louis. “Don’t you want to--you know...say something back?”

“Like what?” Louis said with a neutral expression even though he had a clue what Harry was talking about.

“You know,” Harry prodded, smiling at him.

Louis shrugged, pretending he didn’t know and turned to walk towards the door alone since Harry had stopped, but then Harry laughed loudly and pulled him back by his arm. Louis gasped as he was slammed back against Harry’s chest. “Shit,” he muttered, letting out a small laugh as Harry wound his arms around Louis’ waist.

Harry’s laugh vibrated against him and he looked down at him with his big, bambi eyes. “It’s not that hard, Lou.”

“I just don’t know what you’re talking about,” Louis said, teasingly, wanting to rile him up.

“Is that so?” Harry asked, narrowing his eyes. Louis nodded his head, nonchalant and cool. Harry gave him a knowing smirk. “Alright, then. Guess I’ll just have you locked up here in my arms until you say what I want you to.”

“Oh, by all means, do that,” Louis insisted. “It’s your boyfriend we have to go meet. Why does it matter to me if we go late or if we even go at all?”

That was when Zayn walked out and looked at the two boys warily. He frowned and started slowly walking backwards towards his room. “Am I--did I just interrupt something?” he asked, looking at them like a deer caught in headlights.

“No,” Louis said, pushing Harry off him. “We’re good. You ready?”

Zayn nodded slowly, giving Harry a weird look before following Louis out the door. Harry and Louis laughed together when they locked eyes, following Zayn as they walked down the stairs and towards the subway.

When the three of them arrived at Pacha, they found the others waiting outside of the door. Louis spotted Peter standing with Liam, Sophia and the guy he brought. He could feel Harry stiffen behind him so he extended his hand and entwined their fingers, giving it a encouraging squeeze. It seemed to help, but not as much as he hoped.

Everyone greeted each other, exchanging hugs and hellos, including Harry and Peter, much to Louis’ dismay. It was a big, long lasting hug and Louis tried not to sneer at Peter when they pulled away. Peter didn’t deserve that hug since he brought the other guy just to make Harry jealous because he himself was jealous of Louis. He deserved a high five because hugs were overrated, just FYI. (Louis was pretty sure that was a Jonas Brother’s lyric, but he didn’t care.)

Zayn passed out everyone’s passes at the door and they all walked inside. The lights were dimmed in green and yellow colors, lighting everyone up in those colors. There was a DJ playing a dubstep remix of a Beyonce song and Louis could honestly say the place was poppin’.

Niall led them all towards the bar and Louis felt Harry wrap an arm around his waist. “Game time,” Harry whispered in his ear.

Louis smiled, hoping it passed off as enthusiastic because that was far from what he was feeling. All he could think about was Zayn and his warning when he’d told him about the plan. As they approached the bar, the others started noticing how close Harry and Louis were walking, arms winded together. Zayn was the only one who was trying to not stare at them because it was rather obvious. Louis could see Barbara whispering something into Niall’s ear while he frowned at the new couple.

Harry was oblivious for the most part, his eyes trained on Peter and that guy whose name Louis never even bothered to learn. When they got to the bar, Niall turned to them right away. “What’s going on?” he asked, raising his eyebrows in a questioning manner.

“What?” Harry asked, looking confused for a moment, but then Louis nudged him and it hit him that he was asking about them. “Oh, you mean us?” Harry looked around to see if Peter and his date was nearby, but they were on the opposite end ordering something, so Harry leaned in close to everyone. “We’re pretending.”

“Pretending to what?” Liam asked, holding Sophia’s hand and looking just as confused as her.

“Pretending to date each other so that Peter takes me back,” Harry replied, still whispering, while making sure Peter was a good distance away.

Niall started laughing with Liam like they were joking or something. Barbara, on the other hand, had a similar expression to that of Zayn; horrified and disappointed. She didn’t get to say anything since Harry was trying to make Niall and Liam shut up by scolding them, but she looked at Louis and he knew her well enough to know exactly what she was thinking.

“Are you serious?” Niall asked, looking at the two of them like they were crazy. “You’re pretending?”

“I know it’s childish,” Louis said, turning to glare at them all. “But it’s effective, okay?”

“Why are you doing this?” Liam asked then. “Wouldn’t it be easier if you talked to him?”

“He was really pissed,” Harry explained, running a hand through his hair, still holding onto Louis with the other. “He wouldn’t have believed me after what Louis said that night, so this was the next option.”

“Trust me,” Zayn said, speaking up for the first time. “There are a ton of other options besides this one, but you two are just too stupid to figure it out.”

“And how does Louis feel about this?” Barbara asked before either of them could say something back to Zayn. She eyed Louis, making him turn away from her scrutinizing gaze. He knew their friends were all just looking out for them, but it was a bit too late for that. They were too far in the plan to back out now without looking stupid. And Louis could not look stupid in front of Peter anymore. He also wasn’t about to just let Harry fly blind here. He had to help him.

“It was his idea,” Harry replied to Barbara. “He thought of it.”

Just then Peter and his date walked back to the group, making them all quiet down and drop the topic for now. Peter placed a hand on Harry’s bicep, turning Harry to face him so that they could talk and Louis figured he really needed a drink if that was how the night was going to go; him and Peter trying to play tug a war with Harry and his attention. He quickly ordered himself a PBR and waited beside Niall who had stopped laughing finally.

“I’m sorry,” he said when Louis shot him a look. “I just couldn’t believe it. You two are the dumbest idiots in the world.”

“It honestly seemed like a good idea at the time,” Louis argued.

“Meaning you don’t want to do it anymore?” Niall asked as the bartender placed Louis’ drink in front of him.

“Meaning I’m just suddenly not sure anymore since you all started freaking out.”

“We aren’t freaking out,” Niall said. “If you think this is a good idea, then do it. We obviously can’t stop you, can we?”

Louis shrugged and sipped his drink. The group headed over to find a booth and Louis turned to Harry. The younger boy smiled at him and slipped an arm around his waist. Louis tried to tune into the conversation, but he got bored of Peter droning on about some case he was working on and instead focused on how wonderful it felt to have Harry hold him. How well they fit and how good it could be if they weren’t just pretending.

He was smiling happily, sipping his drink and didn’t even realize he was being addressed until Harry nudged him. He looked at them, wide eyed and confused. “Sorry, what?” he asked.

Peter smiled at him like he was on drugs. “I asked what you’re doing these days,” he said.

“Oh,” Louis said. “I’m working. I got a job as an RJ on this small radio station.”

“RJ,” Peter exclaimed. “Wow, that must be...something.”

“It’s fun,” Louis shrugged. “I like it.”

“And is that what you want to do for the rest of your life?” Peter asked.

Louis frowned at him because that was not only not his business, but something that Louis hated being asked. College, the future and jobs were always a touchy subject for Louis. He hated talking about it with someone he wasn’t comfortable with. To have Peter constantly undermine him for that was super annoying.

He gave Peter a look in response. “Excuse me,” he said to them, moving away from Harry’s grip and walking over to where his friends were sitting. He felt a bit guilty leaving Harry, but he didn’t feel like talking to Peter. When he sat down, he noticed Harry trailing after him, looking concerned.

“Hey,” he said walking up to him. “Are you alright?”

Louis nodded, shrugging at him. “It’s fine. I just, don’t want to really talk to him. Let’s just sit with everyone and enjoy, okay?”

Harry nodded in response and they sat down. Much to Louis’ dismay, Peter and his date joined them as well, and for the most part only engaged with Harry. His date didn’t say much, so it was mostly just Harry and Peter. Louis tried to ignore it. He tried to ignore how Peter would grip onto Harry’s biceps and put his hand on his knees. It irked Louis to no ends that he still thought he could do it.

At least the others were having fun. They were drinking, talking and even standing up on their seats and dancing to the catchy music. The DJ was great that night and Louis practically choked on his drink when Niall got on top of table to do a Rihanna number. Barbara slipped dollar bills on his butt pocket and Zayn nearly spit his drink out from laughing. All in all, everyone was having fun.

When Louis turned to check on Harry, he found him looking distressed and he prodded him with his hand on his thigh. “What's wrong?” he asked.

“He just went to the dance floor with that guy,” Harry said, gesturing towards the empty seats where Peter and his date were sitting.

“Don’t let that upset you,” Louis said to him. “You’re the one that’s supposed to be making him jealous. Not the other way around. Don’t let him play your game better than you.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Harry asked him.

Louis thought hard as he watched the crease between Harry’s eyebrows and the despair in his eyes. He was so done with Peter fucking with his boy. He needed to do something. If Peter wanted to play dirty, then Louis could play it better. He took Harry’s hand and pulled him out onto the dance floor, looking around for Peter and his date. When he found them, he stopped a few feet away so they’d have a good look. He pressed himself back up against Harry’s chest and wrapped his arms around Louis’ waist. Harry caught on and held him in place and they swayed to the music, side to side, not really dancing and just moving.

That was until the DJ turned on a really nice remix of a Weeknd song that went great with what Louis was planning. His eyes sought out Peter and when they made eye contact, Louis ground his ass to Harry’s front in a filthy move. Harry caught on quickly and moved with him without question.

Louis smiled when he caught sight of Peter’s scowl, watching the two of them grind against each other. It felt nice because he and Harry always fit. Their bodies meshed together well and Louis allowed himself to get lost in it, tilting his head back to look at Harry. Harry’s eyes met his and he was surprised to see how dark they were. And for the first time since they got there, Louis forgot about Peter and how they should be looking, and thought more about how Harry was looking at him.

Harry’s eyes were full of what Louis thought to be desire. He looked at Louis in a way he never had before, his lips parting when Louis moved his hips expertly against him. It almost made him want to keep going, not just for show, but just to see how far they’d go. It was different territory. One that they’d never trod before, but Louis was willing to now that he got a little glimpse.

When Louis felt Harry’s grip on his waist tighten, he let out a short, inaudible moan. That was when Harry turned Louis to face him so that his thigh was between Louis’ and they were moving filthily against each other. Louis thought he was going to die from how turned on he was. Harry had to know, he had to feel it because Louis knew he was hard.

“Harry,” Louis whimpered out, wondering if he could even hear him through all the noise.

Louis got his response when Harry placed a hand on the back of Louis’ neck and slammed his lips onto Louis’, making the older boy groan in response. Harry’s other hand cupped his cheek, pulling him closer and all Louis could think as he kissed back was that holy fuck, he had wanted this forever . HIs hand moved up to Harry’s shoulder, gripping onto him, while the other rested on his waist.

Kissing Harry was unlike anything he’d ever imagined because it was one of those things that was better than what Louis made up in his head when he was in his room late at night with nothing but his thoughts. And Harry kissed him like he’d been doing it for years and that was what got to Louis. His lips moved slowly against Louis’ with a soft, aggressive pressure that was driving him mad and he had to know that. Harry removed his hand from Louis’ arm and placed it on his back, closing the space between them by pulling him flush against him. Louis opened his mouth to breath, only to find Harry’s tongue sliding in.

Louis had never felt this much while kissing anyone in his life, desperate to keep it going. Harry lifted his lips off just to put them back on him again, over and over again. His tongue grazed Louis’ lower lip and Louis softly moaned as he once again gave him entrance.

And if this is what pretending to date entailed, Louis was on board.

But then it hit him. Pretending. Harry was pretending in front of Peter and was not doing this because he wanted to. He was just doing this to show off. It didn’t matter if Harry pressed his lips against Louis’ in a bruising, possessive manner, eliciting another moan out of him. It also didn't matter that he wasn’t stopping and every spot where he touched Louis seemed to burn him in an addicting way.

Louis pried his lips off Harry’s and let out a breath as he pushed him off. He looked at him to see his smoldering, green eyes looking back at Louis’ blue ones before he brought Louis closer again.

“No,” he growled, lowly, as his lips neared Louis’ again.

“Harry,” Louis whispered. Harry’s lips pressed on his again in a chaste kiss before he lifted them off again. “I think he saw us. You can stop--everyone’s watching and--.”

“I don’t want to,” he breathed as he kissed Louis again. And that was all it took. All it took was his raspy, deep voice to just say he didn’t want to let go of Louis and stop kissing that Louis succumbed and kissed him back even harder. Harry’s hands felt like they were everywhere and couldn’t be on him enough.

His lips placed sweet kisses on Louis’ own pair and it felt hungry and desperate as they clung on to each other, forgetting where they were. And Harry would sometimes miss and place them next to his lips or on his chin, but it felt just as sweet to Louis. And just as he swooped into give him another breath taking kiss, Peter pulled Harry so hard by the shoulder that he let go of Louis and turned to face Peter, instead.

“Can we talk?” Peter asked folding his arms and glaring.

Harry looked at Louis and then Peter and then back and forth again. “I--uh,” he looked at Louis again. His eyes were so transfixed on him it almost scared Louis because he’d never seen him look at him like that.

“Harry,” Peter yelled. He pulled his arm, practically dragging him away.

Louis could only stare at him as he walked away, completely frozen on the spot. His lips tingled from Harry’s touch and he wondered if the feeling would ever go away. Whether he wanted it to go ever go away. And it only dawned on him then that since he locked eyes with Harry while dancing, he didn’t even realize where they were or who was there to witness the kiss.

It only came to him when Niall walked over, looking at him with a concerned expression. “Are you alright?” he asked. Louis looked at him and then over at his shoulder at the rest of his friends. Half of them looked amused while the other half looked shocked and concerned.

“Yes,” Louis said to him, stifling out a rough, raspy laugh. “It’s not that big of a deal. It was a stupid kiss.” Niall laughed with him, but didn’t look convinced. “Whatever, I’m going to go get another drink.”

Niall looked like he wanted to say more, but Louis turned around and walked towards the bar, not giving him a chance. He sat down on a stool and asked for a beer, hoping none of his friends followed him over because he felt buzzed from head to toe. Harry only kissed him on his mouth, but left him feeling something all over his body. He put his head down on the counter and let out a heavy sigh.

Louis lied to Niall and he knew Niall noticed. Of course it wasn’t just a kiss. Of course it was a big deal. He couldn’t tell if he was happy or if he was upset that it happened. On one hand, it was everything he wanted, while on the other hand, it was fake. For a while, though, it just truly felt like Harry liked him, too, and he was kissing Louis because he wanted to. It gave Louis a sort of hope he never thought he’d have. Naturally, it all went to shit when Peter literally pulled them apart.

He felt stuffy and claustrophobic being in there and needed to get some fresh hair. Louis got off his stool, forgetting his beer, and noticed an exit door towards the back, walking towards it. He pushed the door open and walked out, breathing heavily and taking in the cold, night air.

“Lou?” he heard from behind him. Louis startled so fast, he clutched his heart and turned to see it was only Zayn.

“Fuck, Zayn,” he replied, hoarsely. “What are you doing? You scared me half to death.”

“Sorry,” he laughed, walking closer. “What are you doing out here?”

“I needed to get some fresh air. What are you doing here?”

“Same actually,” he said. He looked at him, smiling and Louis rolled his eyes because he knew he was smirking about the kiss. He felt restless just thinking about it.

Louis swore he could still feel Harry’s lips on his. He could feel his hands on his body and he didn’t want to. Not when he knew it wasn’t for real. Louis turned to look at Zayn, who was sitting on the steps by the door, and walked over to sit beside him.

“Can I have a smoke?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Zayn replied, fishing his pack out of his shirt pocket. He pulled one out and handed it to Louis.

Louis popped it in his mouth, between his lips, while Zayn took his lighter out and lit it up for him. Louis inhaled the smoke and once he exhaled, he felt himself relaxing right away. He felt much better, his breaths steady.

“Have you had a tough night making out with Harry?” Zayn asked him sarcastically, blowing out his smoke.

Louis chuckled, shaking his head, before looking down at the stick between his fingers. “What have I got myself into, Zayn? That was insane.”

“You have a choice, Lou. You chose to help Harry, but you don’t have to do this if you think it’ll hurt you even more.”

“I can’t back out and leave Harry alone.”

“Maybe you won’t need to,” Zayn suggested. “Maybe Peter is taking Harry back as we speak.” That brought a new wave of unease in Louis as he thought about Harry and Peter reconciling and making up moments after Harry kissed Louis. That would sting harder than having to be used by Harry to get Peter back and all of this made him want to rip his hair out. He was so conflicted and upset.

He needed a distraction, anything to stop talking about this. “So, how’s that girl you’re seeing?” he asked Zayn, wanting to talk about something else.

Zayn laughed softly. “She’s good. I’m seeing her again tomorrow.”

“And why didn’t you bring her tonight?” Louis smirked.

“I would have,” Zayn replied. “I’m just scared she might not see me as more than a friend.”

“Zayn, shut up,” Louis groaned. “Have you seen yourself? Who wouldn’t want you? And besides, you’ll never know unless you try.”

“Well, what about you?” Zayn barked a laugh at Louis’ outburst. “You could tell Harry that you like him, but you don’t.”

“He’s in love with someone else. I know he doesn’t see me as more than a friend.”

“It didn’t seem that way when he was sucking your face off in there,” Zayn said. “That was intense. I saw tongue from fifty feet away.”

Louis felt his cheeks heat up and let out a sarcastic, breathless laugh before punching Zayn on the arm, playfully. “You’re an asshole, okay?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, laughing and trying to fend himself from Louis. “Are you done smoking?” Louis shook his head in response, putting the cigarette in his mouth again. “Well hurry up then. We should get back.”

“I think I’m going to go home,” Louis told him. “I’m tired and I have no idea how to face Harry after that. It might be best.” He exhaled the last bit of smoke before throwing the butt of the cigarette on the ground and stepping on it. Zayn helped him up on his feet and nodded his head.

“If you go, then I’m out, too,” he said.

“You don’t have to leave because of me. I know you were enjoying yourself in there.”

“Nah,” Zayn shook his head as they walked towards the front. “I’m not letting you go home alone. In fact, I say we drop by for a bit of late night pizza before heading home.”

Louis grinned at him, slinging an arm around his shoulders. “You say some good things, Z. I’m in.”

...

When Louis opened his eyes the next day, he found himself cuddled up beside Harry. He frowned slightly wondering if he was still dreaming? Harry had his arm wrapped around Louis and Louis could feel his finger tracing figure eights on his back, even though his eyes were closed.

“Harry,” Louis whispered, his voice raspy from sleep. Harry lifted his eyelids open immediately and then smiled at Louis warmly.

“You’re awake,” he said. “I’ve been waiting since this morning for you to get up, but I didn’t want to bother you.”

“What are you doing here?” Louis asked him, confused and bleary, still a bit sleepy. Zayn and him had returned very late because of how slow the trains ran at night. And they ended up getting two large pies from the pizza store a few blocks from their apartment, which took them a while to finish, but sent them into a food coma right after.

“You left yesterday,” Harry said, instead of answering the question.

“So did you,” Louis reminded him, somewhat bitter and almost clingy. After just having woken up and Harry being so close to him, he couldn’t help it. His brain to mouth filter wasn’t working and all he could do was stare down at Harry’s pink lips. Now that he’d gotten a taste, he had no idea if he’d ever be able to get over it or stop thinking about it.

“I’m sorry,” he said to Louis. He paused for moment, calculating what to say next while his hand was still running against Louis’ back, making him feel even more sleepy. “Are you mad at me because of what I did?”

Louis frowned because he wasn’t really sure if he was mad or not. He knew the context behind the kiss upset him, but he didn’t hate the kiss. “I don’t know--I guess it just took me by surprise,” he replied.

“I think it worked,” Harry said. “Peter was pretty jealous yesterday, but he didn’t do anything about it.”

“Oh,” Louis shrugged, not really in the mood to talk or think about Peter so early in the morning.

Louis was also incapable of saying anything more now that his mind was wandering back to the kiss and how it had lit up a fire in him. He’d never felt that way about any kiss in his life and it astounded him that someone could ever make him feel so much. That this boy he’d met at a party two years ago could just stumble into his life and make him want to change everything he ever believed in. However, the saddest part about that was that he knew they could never be and that feeling all this was useless anyway. It didn’t stop him from wanting it that much more, though.

“What are you thinking about?” Harry asked, his hand moving down to brush up against the skin under Louis’ t-shirt.

Louis lifted his eyes to look at him. “What you did last night.”

Harry’s expression changed immediately and he was looking at Louis the way he did last night when they kissed. His mouth parted and eyes almost frantic with want. His hand slowly moved up under Louis’ t-shirt to the center of his back to pull his body closer, keeping his eyes locked on Louis’. Louis wondered if Harry could hear how fast his heart was beating or if he knew that no one could ever have the effect Harry had on him. They both closed their eyes at the same time, leaning in when Harry’s phone started ringing.

Really loudly.

The two of them jumped back and Louis sat up on his bed, trying to compose himself. They’d just almost kissed again. What the fuck? Harry was going to kiss Louis without showing off to anyone and it was going to happen. Louis wanted to die and throw Harry’s phone out the window into the Hudson River. He watched as Harry got out of bed and cupped the phone to his ear before disappearing out the room, leaving him with a longing expression. Louis had no idea what to do.

Zayn popped his head in moments later. “Were you two fucking?”

“No,” Louis groaned. He wished. “I just woke up. Did you let him in or something?”

“Yeah,” Zayn grumbled. “He woke me up. That dick. He made me waffles, though, so it’s kind of okay.”

“He’s a good boy,” Louis gushed. He was always on board to compliment Harry.

“Yeah, yeah,” Zayn rolled his eyes at Louis. “He was so stressed out when he came in. He apparently couldn’t sleep because he thought you were mad at him. The entire time he kept talking about you and asking about you and thinking about you. It was so tiring, Lou.”

Enough,” Louis yelled, falling back on his bed with a dramatic thud. “My heart will burst for him. Don’t tell me any more cute things about him.”

“You’re so fucking dramatic,” Zayn mumbled as he walked towards his own room.

“Oh, alright,” Louis called after him without much thought. “Leave me here to wither away from the effects of one Harry Styles.”

“What?” Harry asked, walking back into the room, with a confused smirk on his face.

“Nothing,” Louis said shrilly, sitting up again and acting nonchalant. “Who called?”

“That was Peter,” Harry replied, crawling back on the bed. “To remind me that he invited all of us over for a Sunday hangover brunch at his apartment. He can cook really well, so I said yes.”

Louis tried not to look as uninterested as he felt. He didn’t want to eat anything Peter cooked. He looked the type to specifically give Louis the plate with the poison. “Who’s going?” Louis asked, tentatively.

“Niall and Barbara are coming since Peter called them. Zayn told me he’ll come, too, if you go and Liam and Sophia are going to her parent’s house.”

“Liam’s meeting the parents?” Louis asked, his eyes widening.

Harry nodded with a happy smile. “My son’s growing up so fast. Just yesterday, he was peeing himself on my childhood bed and trying to cover it up by saying he spilled apple juice on it. And now he’s meeting his girlfriend’s parents and what not.” Harry wiped a fake tear from his eye and Louis watched him in awe because how does one person act so fucking cute, but was actually a complete idiot? He had no idea.

“So, will you come?” Harry asked, turning to look back at him. “Please.”

Louis grumbled a bit, looking down at his hands before nodding. “Yeah, alright. I’ll come.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, hugging him so hard that he fell back back on his bed again except this time with Harry on him. Louis let out a muffled laugh as Harry spooned him from behind, wrapping a leg around his waist and trapping him. “I love you.”

“Cool,” Louis responded, laughing.

“I know you don’t want to really be my pretend boyfriend anymore, but I really appreciate this,” he whispered, leaving a soft, wet kiss on Louis’ cheek.

Louis looked up at him curiously. “What makes you think I don’t want to be your pretend boyfriend anymore?”

“Well, I know it must be a drag,” he shrugged.

“It’s not,” Louis said to him firmly. “I just don't like Peter, but I’d do anything for you. You’re the best fake boyfriend ever, Harry. A better real boyfriend, too.”

Harry smiled at him shyly and cuddled him. “Just so you know, I’d do anything for you, too.”

“Good,” Louis said, smiling contently. “So, let me sleep a bit more and don’t leave until I’m up.” Harry held him tighter in response, giving him one more kiss on his head.

...

When Louis stepped out of his bedroom, dressed in a pair of his jeans and Harry’s sweater, Harry smiled at him sheepishly. “You look nice.”

“You’re honestly such a loser,” Louis said, trying to hide his smile.

Harry cackled out a laugh as they headed towards the door with Zayn, who was eyeing them like he’d rather be anywhere, but with them. The poor guy probably felt like he was always intruding in on a private moment with the two. They rode the subway towards Noho where Peter’s apartment was. Harry walked beside Louis, his hand on his waist the entire time. When they walked inside the building, Harry led them up to the rooftop instead of his apartment.

“Peter’s doing the brunch outside since the weather is nice today,” Harry explained as they made their way to the top. Peter greeted them by the door and gave Harry a big hug as soon as he saw him, making Louis side eye him so hard he thought he’d go blind for a second.

“Hi, you guys,” Peter said to Louis and Zayn as they followed in. It turned it was a full fledged party because the rooftop was crowded with people. There were benches, tables, and chairs set up with tons of food dishes all lined up in a buffet. “Thanks so much for coming. Niall and Barbara are actually already here. They’re having drinks with some of my friends over there by the corner.”

Louis looked around the place and at the amount of people that were there. He was honestly a tad bit surprised that Peter had any friends because sometimes he forgot that Peter was human and not just the devil in disguise.

“Thanks for inviting us,” Zayn replied, politely. “Everything looks great.”

“Of course,” Peter replied, smiling. “Let me show you where all the food and drinks are so you can help yourselves. I’ve opened up a mini bar as well.”

Louis, who was holding Harry’s hand, followed them and grabbed his own plate. He was very hesitant while taking anything from the array of dishes and just settled on what looked like a store bought muffin on his plate. And instead of juice or water, he grabbed himself a beer from the stock. Harry gave him a curious look, which Louis pointedly tried to ignore.

Peter watched him as well and smiled. “How are you feeling, Louis? You left without saying goodbye yesterday.”

“Yeah,” Louis said slowly, looking up at him. “I wasn’t feeling so well, so I just went home.”

“I hope you’re feeling better now. I’m so sorry for stealing Harry away last night. You must hate me.” He gave him a faux pout and Louis started laughing at his face. Harry looked at Louis bewildered, but also had an amused expression on his face.

“I’m sorry,” Louis said, trying to calm himself down. “Don’t worry. I could never hate you. Besides, it’s alright. Harry spent the entire night with me and made up for it.” He smirked at Peter, loving how his smile wiped off right away.

“Anyway,” Peter said, quick to change the topic, and turning to Harry. “I’ve got a few friends who really want to see you. Come and meet them.”

He took Harry’s hand and started to tug him away, but Harry turned to look at Louis and Louis quickly grabbed his other hand. He pulled Harry towards him until Peter let go of his hand. Harry looked at him confused, but didn’t stop him, as Louis put his hand on the back of his neck, bringing Harry’s lips down to his. Harry was on board right away, wrapping an arm around Louis’ waist and kissing him back. Louis could feel him smiling into the kiss as they held on a little longer than they intended to. It felt good, like they’d been waiting for hours just to do it again and they knew exactly how.

It was almost really hard to let go, but they managed to with a few quick kisses that followed right after. “Be back soon,” Louis said to him, finally pulling himself away completely. Harry nodded his head, looking rather dazed, and walked away with Peter, who was trying hard not to scowl.

Louis tried not to laugh in his face again and turned back to Zayn, who was already sitting down and eating. He looked at Louis’ empty plate and frowned.

“Is that all you’re eating?” he asked, looking over at the beer as well.

“I don’t fucking trust him,” was Louis’ response as he uncapped his beer and sipped it.

Zayn laughed, going back to his eggs and French toast. Niall and Barbara found the two of them after a while and walked over with their drinks and plates of food. “About time you fuckers came,” Niall said. “I was getting so bored of Peter’s lawyer friends. But, I’m digging the food. I’m on my second plate right now.”

“He made all this by himself?” Louis asked, his eyes flitting over to Peter who was still hovering over Harry.

Barbara nodded her head. “Harry told me that Sunday Brunches are a thing at his place amongst him and his friends and a few coworkers. They go all out with everything.”

That was rather impressive. Maybe Harry really liked the fact that Peter could cook and that he had things like Sunday Brunches for his friends where he made it a weekly affair of sorts. It was very grown up and domestic of him and Louis knew that showed promise to Harry. Louis wasn’t that skilled in the kitchen, but he always knew how to be the life of the party when it came down to it, which may not be enough in the grand scheme of things. It made him feel insecure and somewhat inadequate now that he was thinking about it. Maybe this was one of the reasons why it wasn’t him that Harry chose.

“How’s the pretending going?” Barbara asked Louis, snapping him out of his thoughts. “You guys gave us quite an eyeful last night.”

“Oh, yeah,” Niall said, like he was remembering the scene. “That was intense. I’m pretty sure I saw tongue from, like, fifty feet away.”

“That’s exactly what I said,” Zayn said, laughing and high fiving Niall.

“It was just for show,” Louis told them, trying not to break his composure. “Not a big deal.”

“It’s all just for show,” Barbara reminded him, eyeing him like she knew how upset he was. Her womanly instincts that made her know everything was making him nervous. “This, too.”

“Whatever,” Louis shrugged, like he didn’t care, and chugged down his beer.

The thing was, Louis did care; he cared deeply.

He watched Harry spend the entire time at the brunch with Peter, whilst ignoring Louis as if he hadn’t come at all. Peter made it a deal to make sure Louis noticed the two of them by looking over at him and making eye contact before putting an arm around Harry while introducing him to another one of his friends or coworkers. Harry seemed clueless for the most part. Probably too happy being close to Peter again to even realize.

It was as if Peter wanted Louis to know that even though he was Louis’ boyfriend now, Harry was still head over heels in love with him, instead.

They’d been attached at the hip, walking and mingling, while Louis drank beer after beer on an empty stomach. The muffin he’d gotten tasted like shit, so he threw it out, and he was pretty sure he was, as Niall liked to so often call it: sloppy. He could have been smarter about this, but lately all Louis wanted to do was get drunk. It was as if his mind was set on thinking that if he were drunk then Harry would pay attention to him because he’d get worried and he’d want to make sure Louis was okay.

It was a desperate cry for attention and just the thought of it made Louis feel pathetic. Louis never did this for anyone and Harry was driving him insane. It didn’t matter to him even then because all Louis wanted was to get drunk and kiss Harry until they forgot everyone’s names, including their own.

After finishing another bottle, Louis went to grab more, but Zayn stopped him. He’d been watching Louis, but hadn’t made a move to stop him or comment thus far till then. “C’mon, Lou,” he said softly, taking his hand. “Let’s go home before Peter and Harry see you. You’re a mess, babe.”

Louis looked up at Zayn’s sad expression, watching him with pity and it made him feel even worse. He couldn’t believe that this was what it was coming down to. Nevertheless, he followed Zayn out, not even bothering to check if Harry noticed or not. He was so angry with him, at the fact that he completely ignored Louis, that he didn’t want to see. He’d rather walk out with the bit of dignity he had left.

Waking up with a pounding headache was starting to get a little old for Louis as he opened his eyes and looked around his dimly lit bedroom, trying not to cry from how sick he felt. He winced and rubbed his eyes before rolling over and curling up into a ball. He’d returned back home with Zayn the day before and threw up in their toilet a few times before Zayn made him some stir fry and made him rest after eating. He wasn’t sure if Harry called because Louis’ phone died and he never bothered to charge it again, but Harry didn’t show up at his apartment, so bets were that he was with Peter.

Louis was so upset with him that he didn’t even want to lie there and imagine what they must have done or what they were doing. He didn’t want to think about whether or not Harry realized that Louis even left and if he cared or not. Louis wanted to do anything but torture himself like that, so he quickly brushed those thoughts away.

It was Zayn’s work day, so Louis was pretty sure he was alone and he was going to take full advantage of it by walking around naked and ordering in tons of food, whilst not thinking about traitor Harry. He lazily lifted the comforter off his body and stumbled out of bed, walking out of his bedroom only to see Harry standing in the kitchen. He was humming while doing dishes and the entire kitchen smelled of fresh pancakes, strawberries and chocolate.

Harry abruptly stopped once he caught sight of Louis.

“Hey,” Harry squeaked, which almost made Louis laugh because he knew that Harry knew he was mad.

“What are you doing here?” Louis asked him.

“I was in the neighborhood and just decided to drop by,” he said, trying to seem nonchalant and cool. Was he actually serious? That was the lamest excuse in the book. Louis almost laughed again at how Harry was behaving like nothing happened.

“Oh, really?” Louis asked, faking a smile.

Harry loosened up then, thinking that Louis was warming up to him and wasn’t really angry. But he was wrong.

Louis grinned, grinding his teeth together, and crossed his arms before walking forward. “Get out,” he said, his voice even and levelled.

“Wha--what?” Harry stuttered, wiping his hands on his pants.

“I said get out, Harry!” Louis screamed this time.

“Louis, I’m sorry!” Harry said, desperately.

“Sorry isn’t going to cut it so get the fuck out of my apartment before I kick you out!”

“You can’t kick me out; I’m your best friend.”

“You wanna bet?” Louis asked, laughing hysterically, feeling like he was going crazy. He ran towards Harry, who bolted out of the kitchen and through the passageway towards Louis’ bedroom. Louis followed him just as he jumped on top of his bed. “Get off my bed! Are you joking? I will fuck you up.”

“Okay, sorry,” he squeaked, flopping off Louis’ bed and running past him into the bathroom, locking it behind him. Shit. Louis was too slow. He groaned and pounded on the door.

“Harry,” Louis told him, voice much quieter. “I’m feeling so sick right now. I have a headache so, just listen to me and get out of the bathroom because I can’t deal with this right now.” He stood there quietly, waiting for Harry to open because he knew he eventually would.

After some time, Harry slowly opened the door and peeked his wide, green eyes out. “Lou,” he whispered. Louis took the chance and tried to hold the door open, but Harry closed it and Louis’ hand jammed through the crevice.

Ow!” he cried, clutching his hand back. Pain shot up his arm and he let out a loud groan, staring at his pink, throbbing hand. Harry immediately walked out of the bathroom and took Louis’ hand in his, holding it delicately to see the damage.

“Fuck, Lou,” he said, dragging him to the kitchen with him. “I’m so sorry.”

“Let me go!” Louis whined, trying to pull his hand back. He didn’t need Harry’s help. It was because of Harry that he got hurt in the first place. What he needed was for Harry to fuck off.

“No,” Harry protested, holding on to him tightly and grabbing some ice from the freezer. Louis watched as he wrapped it in a napkin before taking him to the couch. Louis reluctantly sat down and Harry knelt down in front of him on his knees, pressing the ice against his fist to keep the swelling down. It started going down eventually, but the redness was still apparent. “How hard were you trying to hit me?”

“I wasn’t trying to hit you,” Louis said. “I wanted to keep the door open, but you closed it on my hand..”

Harry sighed beside him and looked up at Louis with the ice still pressed against his fist. “I’m sorry I was such a dick yesterday. I’m sorry you just got hurt because of me, too. I know I’m being a horrible friend, but you know I didn’t mean to.” Louis didn’t bother responding because he did know, so Harry continued. “Do you want Advil? Should I get you coffee or anything? Anything at all?”

No, Harry. Just go back to Peter and hang out with all his friends during their stupid Sunday Brunches and leave me alone.”

Harry winced at Louis’ harsh tone. “Don’t say it like that, Lou.”

“Don’t say it like what, Harry? He made me feel like fucking shit. He always does. Do you have any idea how rude he can be? No, you don’t, because you only look at him and you only listen to him. I realize you’re hurting right now and I’m sorry, but it just upsets me how easily he can break your heart and you just let him.

“You need to realize that he’s not nice; he’s hurting you for no reason and you continue to let him get his way. He never once gave you a chance to explain yourself and I’m so tired of picking up the pieces. Like, news flash, Harry, he broke up with you and for the past year, he’s been nothing but a dick to you yet here you are trying to win him back. Did you even try to look for me after I left yesterday? This wasn’t the plan. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go down; with you ignoring me while you go galavant off with him. Did you ever even think of me?”

Louis didn’t realize when his voice started getting higher and by the end of his speech, he was shouting. Harry didn’t seem far off. His anger and frustration showed with his furrowed eyebrows and lips that were formed in a thin line.  

"You know this isn’t easy for me, Lou,” he said. “I don’t feel good about using you for this, but we agreed on it and I have no idea what I’m doing. I have no idea how to go about this without hurting either of you. And every time I look away for even a second, you’re getting wasted, Louis. I’m always worried sick about you, did you know that? For all I know, at this rate you could go into alcoholic shock or something from how much you’ve been drinking. I’m doing everything I can to make things work and sometimes I forget to balance, so forgive me for that. But, God Louis, I do think of you. I think of you all the time ."

Louis was a bit taken aback by his response, unsure of what to say because if Harry was anything, it was genuine. He wouldn’t say these things just to make him happy. He genuinely meant it. Louis didn’t expect him to say it, though. He didn’t know what to do either.

Harry went back to icing his hand, like it was the only thing he could do at that point. And Louis knew it’d be stupid to try and be mad at Harry because for him, just the thought of it sounded ridiculous. He could never stay mad at Harry for too long because he knew Harry’s heart was too pure and his intentions were all gold.

“I’m sorry for screaming at you,” Louis said eventually. “You’re my best friend and I just hate seeing you so upset over someone who needs to treat you better and isn’t nice to you.”

“I know,” he said, looking at him with a sad smile. “You want what’s best for me. I know that, Lou. And I’m sorry for getting so distracted yesterday. It’s just--this whole thing is weird, you know?”

“Yeah,” Louis replied. “It’s fine, don’t worry.”

Harry smiled, icing his hand again until the ice melted off and they were left with a soggy napkin. He looked up at Louis then. “I made some pancakes for you. Strawberry and chocolate chips; your favorite”

“I thought I smelled it earlier,” Louis said with a laugh. “Got too distracted being mad at you to do anything about it.”

“Well, now that you’ve gotten it out of your system, let’s go,” Harry said, pulling on Louis’ uninjured hand. Louis followed him into the kitchen and sat down while Harry piled a plate high with pancakes before setting it down in front of Louis. He even poured the syrup over just how Louis liked it since he was resting his injured hand.

“You might as well feed me,” Louis whimpered, staring up at Harry with sad eyes. He was being dramatic and overplaying it a bit, but that never hurt nobody.  

Harry debated it for a quick ten seconds before sitting down in front of him and cutting the pancake up into pieces. Louis tried not to preen at Harry while he fed him bites because it was ridiculous. He had one good, working hand, but Harry didn’t even question it. How did Louis ever get mad at him? Harry would do anything Louis asked him to and he was so lovely.

“So, any plans today?” Louis asked Harry, chewing on his bite.

He looked up from the plate and nodded. “I’m meeting Peter later for dinner. He’s also bringing Rob.”

“Who is Rob?” Louis asked, frowning.

“That guy from his work,” Harry scoffed.

“Why did you even agree?” Louis asked him, trying to store that name away in his head since he never bothered to learn it before. Now that he thought about it, he did look like a Rob. “He’s just trying to make you jealous with this Rob.”

“I just--I want to show him that I’m above all this. That I’m better than Rob. You think I’m better than Rob right?”

Louis nodded his head vigorously. Rob didn’t even compare because Louis didn’t even know the bastard’s name till two minutes ago. “Harry, you’re better than any guy out there…I swear. Peter’s an idiot.”

Harry groaned in frustration and leaned back against his chair. “He doesn’t think that. He thinks I can be replaced by Rob. I honestly wish all this would end and he would stop being like this. I’m tired of it, you know? It makes me feel shitty for dragging you around to these things when you don’t want to go.”

“You’re not dragging me,” Louis said to him. “I told you I’d be your pretend boyfriend, didn’t I? These past two dates have been rather disastrous, but we could do better. It’s just a bit new for the both of us.”

Harry laughed, but shook his head. “You’re not going. I’m definitely not going to make you do this after last night.”

“It won’t be like last night or the other night,” Louis shook his head. “Not unless we do this right.”

“And how do you suppose we could do this right?” Harry asked.

“The problem is that you follow him around like a puppy. Tonight stay with me and show him what he’s missing rather than giving him what he wants. It’ll work, I promise.”

“But you’re not feeling well,” he said. “Shouldn’t you be resting? Before Zayn let me in this morning he almost knocked me out because you’ve been throwing up and warned me not to fuck up.”

“I’m fine,” Louis argued. “I just won’t drink anything except water of course.” When Harry didn’t say anything after, Louis continued, trying to keep his expression neutral. “You were going to see him again and you weren’t even going to tell me.”

Harry looked at him laughed at his semi pout. “I was going to tell you, just not right away when you were about to kill me. And besides, why does it matter? You jealous?”

Louis scoffed at the insinuation like it wasn’t true. “Now, why in the world would I be jealous?”

“You’re obviously the possessive type,” Harry said matter of factly. “It’s cool, though. I’m still your boyfriend and I’m not going anywhere.”

He stole a bit of Louis’ pancakes and grinned as he chewed.

“Ha! You’re funny.” Louis said sarcastically albeit a bit delayed.

“Yes, I am and you’re jealous.”

Harry and Louis stood outside of Peter’s door, waiting for him to open it once they knocked. Harry looked at Louis, his arms locked tight around his waist, with a concerned expression. “You feeling alright? You okay?”

“A bit queasy, to tell you the truth, but I’ll just drink lots of water. Don’t worry,” Louis told him, honestly with a shrug.

His stomach had been turning since breakfast that morning and he blamed it all on his stupid idea to drink all that beer yesterday on an empty stomach. It could also be the fact that he hadn’t been eating properly as of late because of work and his lack of balancing his time. Louis failed at adulthood and he was not too big to admit it.

“Do you want to leave?” Harry asked, looking at Louis with furrowed brows. Louis shook his head and smiled at him. He curled into Harry’s arms and nosed at his t-shirt, making him laugh. Harry’s fingers curled and started tickling Louis’ waist, making him giggle and squirm, trying to push him away.

“Stop, oh my God,” Louis said, laughing and heaving as he tried to breathe. The door flew open then and Peter stood there, watching them with a not so amused expression.

“Hi Peter,” Louis said with a grin, happy to see the tables turning.

“Hello,” he greeted politely, letting them inside. He smiled at Harry in a much more genuine way before pulling him into a hug, separating the two. Louis tried hard not to scowl because this was what Peter did and Louis just had to somehow one up him by the end of the evening. “So glad you could make it. Wasn’t aware that Louis was coming, though. You mentioned he wasn’t feeling well?”

“Last minute decision,” Louis replied when Peter finally let go of Harry and smiled warmly at the pair. Louis gave Harry a look and Harry sidled up beside the older boy, taking his hand and smiling at him before leading him into the living room behind Peter. Peter’s apartment was quite spacious with a lot of room and modern furniture, but Louis figured with a salary of a lawyer, he couldn’t expect anything less. It was also very neat and organized from what Louis could tell, noticing his DVD collection all stacked up in spot and at least two bookshelves that looked to be color coordinated by the binds.

“I’m so glad you’re here, though. I’ve made a lot of food, so no need to worry,” Peter said, stopping in the living room.

“Thanks for inviting us,” Louis replied. “It was very nice of you.”

“Of course,” Peter said, putting his hand in his pocket. “Well, I’m going to get dinner out. Rob should be here soon. Harry, do you want to help me?”

“No, I’m fine,” Harry replied. “I’ll think I’ll keep Louis company out here.”

Louis tried not to look as shocked as he felt, but the look on Peter’s face was worth everything that had happened these past few days. A smiled formed on Louis’ lips and he instinctively leaned up and kissed Harry’s cheek.

“Oh…okay,” Peter said stiffly before walking to the kitchen and leaving the two of them alone. Harry turned to look at Louis and smiled.

“I did well,” he said proudly. “Like, that was very cold, right? I was super cold.”

“It was. Is it killing you inside?” Louis asked him dramatically.

“Nope.” He put his other arm around Louis and he snuggled up beside him.

Harry stuck by Louis like glue throughout the rest of the evening. Louis was very impressed and he was waiting for him to crack at some point and leave him all alone just to hang out with Peter, but that didn’t happen. It was a nice change and Louis felt like he was on cloud nine. He liked holding Harry’s hand obnoxiously under the table even though they didn’t really need to. He liked Harry taking care of him and looking after him to see if he was okay every few minutes, asking him if he needed another glass of water or more chicken. It made him feel so special and he felt he could burst with how much affection he was being given.

The only downside of the night was that Louis had to eat Peter’s cooking and it wasn’t that great. It could have been just him, though, because everyone including Rob, who showed up not too long after they did, was enjoying it. Not only did Louis have a pounding headache all day, but his stomach was killing him as well. Maybe this was it. Maybe Peter really did poison his plate and this was the way he was going to go. Or maybe he was a moron who made stupid drinking decisions.

Fuck.

After Louis managed to eat as much as he could, which was hardly anything; he got up and helped Peter take some of the dishes to the sink. Harry helped as well while Peter led the way. “You guys can leave it here on the counter,” he said. Louis set his and Harry’s plates down where Peter instructed and stood back.

When he turned to look back at Peter, he was suddenly lightheaded and woozy. Louis clutched his stomach and before he could warn anyone, he felt himself convulsing forward as yellow vomit oozed out of his mouth. “Oh my God,” he cried, covering his mouth. “I’m so sorry.” He looked at Peter, who was covered in his vom feeling sort of bad because it was disgusting. Harry panicked beside Louis and grabbed some napkins to wipe his mouth. “Are you okay? Fuck, what happened?” he asked, holding on to him.

“I don’t feel good,” Louis said to him. Harry quickly grabbed a glass and poured some water into it before handing it to Louis, his eyebrows furrowed and his expression tense. Louis took it from his hand and gulped it down, feeling slightly better. He was led out of the kitchen while Harry rubbed his back, soothingly and Rob watched on with an alarmed expression.

“Hey Pete, I think we’re going to go,” Harry said.

“Harry,” Peter yelled, loudly when he heard that. “I’m covered in your boyfriend’s vom. Aren’t you going to help me?”

“Ask Rob,” Harry said mindlessly. He led Louis out of the apartment and helped into the first cab he found, not once letting go of him. Louis curled up into a ball, clutching onto Harry the entire ride. He ended up falling asleep thinking about the fact that Harry literally dropped everything and left Peter just for Louis.

When they arrived at Harry’s apartment, Harry didn’t bother trying to wake Louis up and carried him in his arms, instead. Louis wrapped his legs around Harry’s waist and clung to his neck, desperate for any sort of contact.

“I look like a baby being taken home,” he whispered in his ears, in his sleepy haze as he was carried into the elevator.

Harry laughed softly. “What the hell happened?” he asked, putting Louis down on the ground.

“I haven’t been eating properly and I drank a lot yesterday,” he replied with a shrug. “I feel gross.”

“How about you take a shower and I get you some medicine and something light to eat since your stomach is pretty much empty right now and that can’t be good?” Harry asked.

Louis nodded, moving to hug him and hold on to him again. Harry hugged him back, even though Louis probably smelled gross. Louis only let him go once they walked inside and he grabbed some of Harry’s clothes into the bathroom to change after his shower. Once done, he walked out and Harry brought over food into his bedroom.

“I made you a turkey sandwich and some tea,” he said. Louis smiled slowly and sat down beside him as Harry placed the tray in front of him. Once done eating, Harry gave Louis some Advil and water, which he dutifully took.

Afterwards, Louis looked at Harry fondly and said, “Thank you.”

“No problem,” he said. “I want you to take proper care of yourself. I hate seeing you get sick like that.” Louis nodded his head obediently. “Need anything else?”

Louis thought for a second and decided, yeah, he needed one more thing. He sat up straighter so that he was facing Harry and cupped his cheek to bring him closer. Harry leaned in without question and kissed Louis on the lips. Their lips moved tenderly against each other, chaste and dry, but still enough to make Louis feel complete. When he pulled away, he gave him a small, shy smile before slipping under the covers and going to sleep.

“Guess what?” Harry said as soon as Louis opened his front door, walking inside in quick, long strides towards the living room where Louis had made a blanket fort to huddle under while watching Harry Potter weekend on ABC Family. It was his tradition every time they had that special event on TV and he never missed it.

“What?” Louis asked warily as he shut the door and followed Harry.

Harry turned to grin at Louis and said, “My mom invited me to come home. It’s her wedding anniversary this weekend and she’s having a bit of a party at home. And by bit, I mean it’ll be big and all our family members are coming.”

“That sounds great,” Louis said, going back under his blanket fort and reveling in the warmth. “I hope you have fun.”

“I will,” Harry said. “Because you’ll be coming with me!”

Louis turned his head so quick from the TV screen to Harry, he got a crick in his neck. “What?” he asked, rubbing over the spot that was hurting now.  

“Come with me,” Harry said, sitting beside him. “I asked mom and she said it’d be totally cool. Besides, you’ve never been to my place before and I want to show you around and I don’t know, it could be nice. Don’t you think?”

It wasn’t a bad offer. To get away from the city and the web they’d somehow managed to get tangled in sounded really nice. It’d been a few days since they started the whole pretending thing and it wasn’t as bad as it was those first few days. It came a lot more naturally to them and Louis actually was enjoying it so far, even if it was a bit daunting that Peter kept an eye on them so much. It mostly consisted of them showing up to a few lunches or dinners with Peter and Rob. Sometimes Harry uploaded couple pics with Louis on his Instagram. They did kiss quite often, but never like that first night where it got intense right away. Just chaste kisses whenever they could.

The only bad part about this offer was that Louis would be missing Harry Potter weekend. He wondered if he was ready to give it up for his own Harry.

“So, are you in or not?” Harry asked, snapping Louis out of his thoughts. “You have to say yes because I already told my mom you were coming and to add you to the guest list.”

“Harry,” Louis said, laughing. “Why’d you do that? I don’t want to intrude. It sounds kind of like a family affair.”

“And you’re family so I want you there,” Harry said, taking Louis’ hands into his. “Please. C’mon. I want to treat you to a nice weekend after everything you did for me. No pretending. Just us.”

Louis bit his lip and thought for a moment. It became harder to say no to Harry when he batted his big bambi eyes at Louis. Fuck Harry Potter. He could do one weekend without him. “Fine,” he said after a while to which Harry grinned happily. “But I have to pack. And let Zayn know.”

“Okay,” Harry said standing up and walking to Louis’ bedroom. “You do that while I go pack your bags.”

“How would you know what I want to wear?” Louis called after him.

“I’ll just know,” Harry replied back from his room.  “Now call Zayn. We leave tomorrow morning!”

Harry and Louis took the LIRR to Long Island from Penn Station and took cat naps during the two hour ride. The two of them occasionally snacked on M&M’s and other candy, while cuddled up in their two-seater. When they arrived, Anne greeted them from the station and Harry dramatically dropped his bags and ran into her arms, making Louis laugh. He took both of their bags and walked over to the pair, watching as Anne kissed Harry’s cheek and then smiled over at Louis.

“Hi,” Louis said with a smile. “Nice to see you again, Anne.”

“Hi, sweetie. Nice to see you, too,” she said, walking over to pop a kiss on his cheek. “So glad you came.”

“I’m happy to be here,” Louis replied.

Harry walked around to take the bags from him and put them in the trunk of the car. “Shall we get going? I’m starving, Mom. We only had candy.”

Anne laughed as she walked around to the driver’s seat. “I’ve made some of your favorites at home, so don’t worry. You guys can dig in once we get there.”

Harry threw his fist up in the air, ‘80s movies style, and sat down in the back seat with Louis. “Got everything ready for the party, Mom?” he asked as Anne pulled out of the parking spot.

“Pretty much. I’ve got your aunt and uncle helping me. Robin’s been helping as well, of course.”

“That’s good,” Harry replied. “Did Gemma get here from Boston yet?”

“Yes, she arrived yesterday night. Had a long journey and slept in, so I didn’t wake her up when I came to get you. By the way…guess what’s this weekend?”

“What?”

“The holiday festival,” Anne replied with a cheeky grin.

No!” Harry screamed, startling Louis beside him. “No. Mom?!”

“It started two days ago and is spanning for the rest of the week.”

“We have to go today!” Harry said excitedly. Louis stared at Harry like he grew two heads and Harry groaned at him. “Louis, you don’t get it. The holiday festival is so much fun. They’ve been doing it for years and I used to go every year, but haven’t been able to since I moved to the city. They basically have a bonfire in the snow, there’s hot chocolate and a live band and good food.”

Louis laughed, ruffling Harry’s hair. “Sounds like fun.”

“It is,” Anne added. “We’ll go tonight.”

Louis listened to Harry and Anne catch up with each other for the rest of the ride, while quietly observing the roads they passed. He noted how Harry avoided talking about Peter, meaning he hadn’t mentioned to his family that they were having issues. It was something Harry hated having to tell his mom because she tended to worry a lot. She was also close to Peter’s parents since they only lived a few houses down, apparently. However, Louis wondered if he was going to bring it up at all and tell them what was going on. Harry didn’t usually like to hide things from them.

Soon after, she pulled up in front of a big white house in a secluded neighborhood. All the houses were widely spread apart, with tons of space for each property. It was really nice in a quiet sort of way, contrasting where Louis grew up by a lot. He was used to lights flashing by his windows all day and people talking out on the streets late at night. Harry lived by woods and lakes, with only the noise of crickets at night.

The front door opened and Gemma ran out to greet them when Anne parked the car and they got out. She gave Louis and Harry big hugs before leading them inside where Robin greeted them as well. Louis had met them a few times, but had never visited their home, so he was given a personal tour from Harry himself. He even met their cat, Dusty, who took a liking to Louis right away and followed him everywhere he went. It was nice to see this side of Harry’s life since he was so used to being with him in the big city.

After they ate, Harry insisted that they had to get to the holiday festival right away before it got too cold. So, they all bundled up and headed towards the town square. Louis couldn’t stop shivering the entire way and curled up into himself.

Harry smiled and slung his arm around Louis’ shoulder. “You cold, babe?” he asked. Louis nodded his head with an exaggerated pout. Harry pulled him closer and Louis could feel his body heat radiating against him, which made him smile in a content way.

When they arrived, the place was buzzing with tons of families who were chatting and drinking hot cocoa from one of the many food trucks lined up. Some of them were selling winter styled cupcakes, cookies, and other sweets. There was a stage off to the side where a band was playing an Elvis cover and right beside the stage was a small ice skating area where couples, little kids with parents, and teenagers skated around. Louis even spotted a few kids having snowball fights and building snowmen while others chose to sit around a giant bonfire.

“This is amazing,” Louis said, turning to Harry. “So festive and adorable.”

Harry grinned. “I’ve missed this so much. Haven’t gotten a chance to come in so long.”

“It’s the same thing every year,” Gemma rolled her eyes. “Not that big of a deal.”

“You come every year,” Harry reminded her. “I don’t always get to.”

Gemma laughed. “Well, who told you to skip out, Mr. Big Shot City Guy?”

Harry flicked her on the arm, even though she couldn’t feel it because of her layers. “I have school stuff to do and work, Gemma.”

“Boo hoo,” Gemma mocked.

Harry flicked her again, scowling before tugging Louis towards the bonfire where his mom and stepdad were walked towards. Gemma laughed at him before following them, and Louis saw a few people dancing to the Beach Boys cover the band started playing. Harry, Louis and Gemma sang along, obnoxiously loud while sitting around by the bonfire. It was all going great until they heard someone call Harry’s name.

“Harry?”

Harry and Louis turned to see Peter walking over, all bundled up in a big coat and hat. What was he doing here? What the hell was he doing here? Why couldn’t Louis escape him for five minutes? Louis kept opening and closing his eyes, hoping that he would wake up from this nightmare and Peter would disappear, but it didn’t work and Peter kept walking closer and closer to them.

“Peter,” Harry said slowly, standing up. “What are you doing here?” He turned to look at Louis, seeming just as confused as he was.

“I’m in town to spend time with my family for the weekend. I didn’t know you were coming,” he said with a small, happy smile. He turned to Louis, noticing him for the first time, and his smile disappeared. “And you brought Louis--how sweet.”

“You didn’t tell me you’d be in town,” Harry said, still confused.

“It was last minute; my mom insisted I come for the weekend since it’s been a while.”

“Oh,” Harry replied with a long pause. “It’s my mom’s wedding anniversary this weekend. Decided to come celebrate.”

“With your boyfriend,” Peter said quiet and almost sad.

“Peter,” Anne said, turning around, just noticing him and walking over. “How are you sweetie? Harry didn’t mention that you’d be in town.”

“I’m good and yeah, it was a bit last minute,” he responded, smiling at her. Gemma and Robin turned around as well and greeted Peter. Louis pulled on Harry’s arm in the meantime, lowering him down so he could whisper in his ear.

“He’s going to say something about us to your parents and Gemma.”

Peter turned to them just then and smiled, catching them whispering. “What are you two whispering about?” he asked. He faked one of his laughs and turned to Harry’s family. “These two are something together, right? Ever since they’ve gotten together, it’s been like that the entire time whenever you’re with them.

Gemma, Anne, and Robin turned their heads so fast Louis thought it would snap off. They looked confused and amused at the same time. “Gotten together--as in, you’re a couple now?” Gemma asked, cocking her head to the side.

Louis was speechless as he looked at them. He didn’t know what to say and he still couldn’t believe that Peter was there, let alone outing them on their lie. If Harry’s family got to know about the two, which they had at this point, it meant their lie was spreading and that wasn’t good. It would make ending the lie that much harder since they’d have to break it to more people. Louis’ mom still kept calling in to ask how they were doing, giving Louis the safe sex talk every time. And what was it with Peter outing the two of them to both their parents? What kind of personal vendetta did he have against their moms and dad?

“Harry?” Anne said, looking at him with a pointed expression.

Harry looked at his mom who was waiting for an explanation and Louis could tell they wouldn’t be able to get out of not answering it without giving a direct answer. They were fucked.

“Yeah Mom,” Harry said, laughing nervously after a while. “Louis and I are dating now. It hasn’t been long, but Peter and I broke up a few weeks ago, and yeah.”

Louis tried not to visibly wince at the explanation because it seemed so awkward to just say in front of Peter himself. And Harry looked nervous. He was sweating in this cold weather and that said a lot.

Robin chuckled at that moment, lightening up the mood. “Kids these days, huh? Go from one person to the next.” Gemma and Anne, on the other hand, didn’t look all that amused as they turned to look at each other and then back at Harry, who pursed his lips and nodded, confirming what he said.

“I meant to tell you later on this evening,” Harry said. “That’s why I brought Louis here. To tell you.”

Anne gave him a shaky, confused smile. “As long as you’re happy, H,” she said. “Louis is a lovely boy, of course.”

Louis looked over at Peter then, who looked a bit suspicious, so Louis grabbed Harry’s hand and entwined their fingers. Peter’s eyes narrowed in on him and Louis smiled, hoping that he’d stop thinking whatever he was about to. “Sorry you two,” he said to them then. “Didn’t mean to spill your little secret.”

“Of course you didn’t,” Louis said, sarcastically. Gemma snickered beside him and Louis wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. She didn’t seem the gullible type and Louis knew how close she and Harry were. If anything, she’d be suspicious over the fact that Harry never mentioned this to her and catch them on their lie.

“Well, I should get back to my parents,” Peter said before turning to Anne and Robin. “Happy anniversary, you two. Wish you many more years together.”

“Thank you so much, Peter,” Anne said. “Your parents did RSVP to the party. You’re welcome to come. We can always make room.”

Louis loved Anne and all, but right now she was literally inviting the devil over to her party. Louis also did not want to see Peter any more than he already did.

“Really?” Peter asked, smiling widely. “I’d love to come.”

“I’ll add you to the list,” Anne replied with a smile.

“Alright, see you guys then,” he said with a smile, waving and walking away.

Anne then turned to look at Louis and Harry, who were trying to keep cool even though they felt like deers caught in headlights. “Well, I’ll have you know that I’m rather happy about this.”

“Really?” Harry asked, almost surprised.

She nodded her head. “Louis is one of your best friends and I know you and Peter were very serious, but sometimes when you’re young you’re just never sure of who the right one is. Just a bit surprised we had to hear the news from him is all.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, quietly, clearly surprised by his mom’s words. “It’s a long story, Mom. Honestly, I didn’t expect to see Peter here, let alone have him break the news to you. These past few weeks have a been a bit crazy.”

“This all happened within the past few weeks?” Gemma asked, eyeing them curiously.

Harry nodded his head and Gemma laughed then, looking at Louis. “What?” Louis asked her.

“I thought you told me you don’t do relationships? That’s what you’ve always told me when I’ve come to visit you guys,” she said.

Fuck Gemma and her impeccable memory of details. Louis felt like he’d committed some crime and Harry and he were trying to hide the evidence and act like they knew what they were doing when they actually didn’t. This was the worst plan.

“I asked him to be my boyfriend,” Harry said to her, getting defensive. Louis looked up at him in surprise and also kind of felt turned on by that whole sentence itself. Weird. “I’ve liked him for a while now, so I asked him out. Louis was a bit iffy at first, but I brought him around.”

“That’s very cute,” Anne gushed, tipping her head to the side and clapping her hands together. She walked over, grinning and gave them both a big hug. “I’m so happy for you two, honestly.”

“Alright, alright,” Harry said, smiling sheepishly. “Stop being so sappy, Mom.”

“Okay, I’m sorry,” she said, letting them go with a chuckle. “How about we get some hot chocolate? We can watch the band play.”

“Sounds good to me. I could use a hot chocolate. I’m freezing through my mittens,” Robin said.

Harry took Louis’ hand and said, “Louis and I’ll go get them. It’s on me.” They agreed and went to sit down again. Harry and Louis walked towards the food trucks, hand in hand, to the long line. Louis turned to Harry as soon as they stopped

“You didn’t tell them it was an act,” he said to him.

“I’m aware,” Harry replied.

“Why didn’t you? I don’t want to lie to your family all weekend,” Louis said. “That’s wrong. I’m already lying to my mother and it’s hard. Do you see how this lie is spreading? By tomorrow, it’ll reach your extended family, too, and then probably the President.”

“Will you calm down?” Harry said, laughing at Louis’ dramaticness. “It’s alright. You heard Robin...us kids change our minds all the time. And I don’t know how long we’ll be pretending, but once everything is resolved, we’ll just tell them that things weren’t working out between you and me and I got back with Peter.”

It sounded fishy, was the thing. Did Harry not realize how fishy that really sounded? Everyone was going to catch on and they’ll think Louis and Peter were playing catch with Harry, taking turns to have him, which wasn’t the case. However, it was Harry’s decision and his family, so Louis let him decide what he thought was for the best. As they waited on the long line, Louis shivered, rubbing his arms and looking up at Harry.

“I can’t feel my nose,” Louis said to him. “I’m freezing to death. I’ll probably become Olaf from Frozen, soon.”

Harry laughed and put his mittens up to Louis’ cheeks and cupping them.“Your nose and cheeks are so pink.” He rubbed Louis’ cheeks, warming them up and Louis laughed.

“This is actually helping,” he said, puffs of cold air coming out of his mouth.

Harry grinned, squishing his cheeks together. “You’re fucking cute, you know that?”

“Shut up,” Louis rolled his eyes, laughing. Harry grinned and wrapped his arm around his shoulder, bringing him close to his body to share the heat.

When they finally got up to the front of the hot chocolate stand, they ordered and Harry made sure to tell them to put extra whipped cream and marshmallows on his. They brought back five cups and handed them to Gemma, Robin and Anne before taking their seats.

“You still cold?” Harry asked, turning to Louis.

He shook his head. “This hot chocolate is really helping. It’s so good and sweet.”

Harry smiled and sipped his drink. When he put it down, Louis noticed a dollop of whipped cream on his nose and started laughing. He looked at him confused and Louis pointed to his nose. Harry crossed his eyes and looked at his nose, covered in whipped cream before letting out a laugh. Louis covered his mouth from laughing out loud. “You should stop laughing,” Harry said.

“Why’s that?” Louis asked him. “You look like a dweeb.”

Harry lifted his cup up to Louis’ nose and dabbed some whipped cream on top his nose, too. He grinned at Louis, “Told you.”

“Harry,” he groaned, grabbing a napkin from his pocket. When he was about to wipe it off, Harry took his hand and held it away. Louis looked at him with a frown and Harry leaned down close to his face, staying there for a moment. “What are you doing?”

Harry smiled at him in response before putting his lips on the top of Louis’ nose and licking the whipped cream off. Louis stifled a giggle as he held himself in place, close as ever. Harry smiled at him and said, “Your eyes look really blue right now. Baby blue eyes.” He grinned before pressing his lips against Louis’ lightly and then pulling back.

Louis bit his lip, trying to hide his smile. He looked up at Peter, who was glaring as usual, ignoring his parents, who were trying to talk to him and then Louis looked at Harry’s family. Anne was gushing, so he assumed she saw. He wasn’t sure whether Harry had staged it or not but either way, he wasn’t complaining.

“Mom! Where do you keep the pots and pans?” Harry yelled, searching through several cabinets and closing them when he couldn’t find what he was looking for.

“Under the sink,” Anne replied, walking into the kitchen moments later. Harry bent down and opened the cabinet under the sink and grinned, taking out the biggest pot. “Are you sure you don’t want me to help?”

“No, Mom!” Harry said. “I’ve already got help!” Anne and Harry turned to look at Louis, who was sitting on the counter, eating chips and texting on his phone. He flashed them a big smile and they snorted, looking back at each other.

“Well, what are you making?” Anne asked.

“Spaghetti and meatballs!” Harry answered excitedly. When they got home from the festival, Harry insisted that he make them dinner tonight as a treat and Louis was forced to be his assistant even though he couldn’t cook for shit. He thought this was a vacation and now Harry wanted him to be slaving away in the kitchen. Ridiculous, really.

“If you need any help,” Anne continued. “I’m in the living room. So, just call me.”

“Got it,” Harry said. “Now get out of my kitchen so I can cook in peace.” Louis watched in amusement as Harry literally pushed his mother out of the kitchen even though she was telling him that technically it was her kitchen. He turned back to Louis and pointed his finger at him. “You! Start helping!”

“Why?” Louis asked, groaning as he was pulled off the counter. “I don’t like cooking. This is forced labor.”

“Too bad, you’re doing it,” he said to him. “Boil the pasta and I’ll get the meatballs ready.” Louis would much rather be sitting there and watching Harry cook in his mom’s apron full of hearts rather than do actual work. Harry looked sexy in aprons. Not many people could manage to do that. It was insane how Harry could make the most unattractive things attractive.

Louis sighed when he realized he couldn’t get out of this and filled up a pot with water before setting it on the stove. He waited while it boiled and looked over at Harry as he rolled the ground beef with his hands. He smiled at Louis cheekily and Louis smiled back.

“What?” he asked him.

“Do you think I can get away with shaping the meatballs like penises?” Harry asked. Louis burst out laughing as Harry picked up a piece to show him. It had a long head and then two little balls on either side.

“You’re disgusting!” Louis squeaked, laughing.

“I wanna see you eat this,” he said, shoving it towards Louis’ face. Louis swatted his hand and the meatball fell out of his hand and onto the floor.

Harry groaned and picked it up. “Thanks for ruining my penis meatball.”

“Make more,” Louis said then. “I dare you.”

Harry gave him his best challenge accepted face and started rolling the meatballs vigorously into penises. They both got back to their respective jobs and after a while, the spaghetti was boiled and the meatballs were in the oven.

“Get the sauce out,” Harry told Louis in a strict, no play and all business voice.

“You get it out,” Louis said to him, sitting down on the floor. Cooking was really hard work and all he did was boil water and put pasta in it, but he was ready for a nap.

“I’m busy,” Harry said, leaning against the counter and biting his fingernail, looking anything but busy.

“With what?” Louis scoffed.

“I don’t know,” Harry said. “Get the sauce out.”

Louis rolled his eyes and stood up, walking over to the fridge and opening it up. He found the oregano sauce and took it out before placing it on the counter. They waited in comfortable silence for the oven timer to go off. Once it did, Harry took the platter out and they giggled while putting the penis meatballs on the counter to cool a bit.

“Let’s work together and mix the pasta with the sauce,” he said to Louis.

“How?” Louis asked.

“You slowly put the sauce in and I’ll mix.”

Easy enough. Louis opened the jar and walked over to the stove where Harry got the spoon to mix. He slowly poured the sauce in the pot and watched it drop down in big dollops. “More,” Harry ordered.

“Okay,” Louis said, pouring more.

“More!”

Louis scowled then, dumping a large amount of sauce on Harry’s hand over the pot before setting the jar down.

“Why did you do that?” Harry yelled, staring down at his hand.

“Because you’re being annoying,” Louis replied, crossing his arms.

“You’ve made a mess,” Harry said, picking his hand out of the pot and smearing the sauce on Louis’ cheeks. Louis screamed and quickly grabbed the jar, throwing the sauce onto Harry’s face. Harry stood there in shock as it dripped down to his body and then the floor in loud drips.

Louis laughed until Harry suddenly grabbed him and started rubbing his face all over him. “Harry, stop! You’re so gross,” Louis screamed, trying to push him off.

“You’re the one who covered me in oregano sauce!” he yelled, grabbing onto Louis as he tried wiping the sauce off with his hair and clothes until Louis was equally a mess. Before they knew it, the two of them slipped on the sauce from all their fighting, landing on the floor with a thud.

Louis winced, leaning against the cabinet. He smell like garlic and tomato now. Great. He looked over at Harry, who was sitting beside him, looking very red. Louis laughed and Harry turned to look at him. “Do I look funny?” he asked

“Yeah,” Louis said, giggling. “What about me?”

He leaned forward, examining his face closely and nodded. “Yeah…you look funny alright.” Louis laughed again loudly until he saw Harry continue to lean in. His eyes were fixated on Louis in a way that made him tingle all the way down to his toes because friends didn’t look at each other like that.

Harry slowly parted his lips and kissed Louis, sliding his tongue in once and then twice before pulling back. “You taste good, too.”

Louis stared at him shell shocked because this was the second time that day that Harry kissed him without making it seem like some show to pretend around everyone. Except this time, it was just them in the room.

Louis felt restless for the entire night since Harry kissed him in the kitchen. He was fidgety through dinner thinking about Harry’s lips, while watching Harry’s mom scold him for making penis shaped meatballs, but eating it nonetheless. It tasted great and no one even knew they made a giant mess in the kitchen since they cleaned it afterwards. Hands and knees for over an hour. Louis found Harry’s ass up in the air extremely distracting and more often stared at it rather than cleaned, but no one had to know that.

After dinner and a rousing game of Scrabble, which Robin won, Anne showed Louis his guest room earlier and helped him settle in. Louis got comfortable under his covers, only to crawl out and go to Harry’s room down the hall. He peeked in and saw that Harry was shirtless with his tight jeans still on while lying on his bed with his phone. It was a tragic sight. Almost made Louis hard and whimper out loud.

“Hi,” he whispered, inviting himself in and sitting down on the bed next to Harry.

“Hey, you,” Harry smiled, putting the phone away. “Alright?”

“Can’t sleep,” Louis said. “Feel antsy for some reason.”

“Why’s that?” Harry asked.

Louis wished he could say it was because Harry kept kissing Louis without warning and it was causing turmoil inside of him. Instead, Louis shrugged and lied down beside Harry.

“Sleep here then,” Harry suggested.

“Really?” Louis asked, grinning.

“Yes,” Harry said, pulling the covers over Louis. He got out of bed and went into the walk in closet to change into his pajamas. Louis looked around Harry’s childhood bedroom in the meantime. It wasn’t much, since most of his things moved with him to the city. There were a few band posters and for some reason, an E.T. one, too. Harry was so weird .

When he walked back out, still shirtless and in pajama bottoms that hung low, Louis groaned. It was obscene and made Louis want to take his pillow and suffocate himself. “What?” Harry asked, amused.

“It’s winter and you’re, like, naked.”

“Mom’s turned up the heater,” Harry said, huffing and getting under the covers after turning down the lights. He pulled Louis closer and snuggled up beside him, placing a kiss on his shoulder.

“Are you really going to sleep?” Louis asked when it got super quiet.

“Mmm.”

“I can’t sleep, Harry. I feel like running a marathon right now. Stay awake with me.”

“Just close your eyes,” he grunted, half asleep. Louis sighed, listening to Harry’s soft breathing and the wind blowing outside with the snow. Everything had suddenly turned so quiet, Louis could hear his own heartbeat. He counted them slowly, keeping his eyes closed like Harry told him to.

...

Louis was walking in a park and it was weirdly deserted for how good the weather was. The sun was shining and the breeze was perfect. It looked like Astoria Park, the one he’d go to every day every summer while growing up. He missed this place a lot. He remembered kissing Clara Randall on the swings that summer after seventh grade. He remembered chasing Niall around the perimeters on his bike in eighth grade, giggling over absolutely nothing. He remembered coming back the summer after with their first bag of weed to smoke and laugh for an hour straight into the sand box over the fact that Niall got a blow job from Holly Fawkes.

He continued walking through the park and looked up to see his old best friends from grade school, including the only boyfriend he ever had, all standing in a line off on the side. He hadn’t seen them in so long and it brought another bout of nostalgia in him. He waved to them and they gave him a sad smile before turning around and walking away. Louis frowned and turned away only to see some of his old friends from college, standing there and watching him with a solemn stares. They too looked at him for a bit before walking away, too.

What the hell was going on? He started to walk faster only to see several of the guys he had slept with once or twice before walk up and stand there, staring at him before walking away like everyone else did. It seemed to form a pattern. The people from his childhood came first and it transgressed with his age. He saw Zayn, Niall, Barbara, Liam and even Sophia, too, trying so hard to get their attention only to have them walk away. When he noticed his mom and little sisters standing towards the end, he knew that they too would do the same. And they did.

It was starting to freak him out a little and he looked on both sides to watch everyone's retreating forms. The last person to do so was Greg. Louis turned away to walk out of there, only to find Harry behind him.

“Harry!” Louis breathed in relief. “What’s going on? Why’s everyone walking away? They’re all walking away from me. I don’t know why.”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” Harry reminded him with a sweet smile. He pulled Louis into a hug and Louis felt himself relaxing a bit, hugging Harry back.

Who cared if they all walked away, he thought to himself. Harry was here and that was all that mattered. Harry slowly pulled away and Louis looked into his green eyes, which reminded him of the grass on the ground. Harry cupped Louis’ cheek and kissed him softly, putting his other hand on his waist to pull him close. Louis felt those familiar butterflies in his stomach that he felt every time Harry kissed him, but then it started to go away and he opened his eyes to see Harry slowly disappearing in front of him.

“Harry,” Louis screamed, staring at the space in front of him. Before he could do anything more, Harry was gone and there was no one there anymore. It brought tears to Louis’ eyes as he started screaming Harry’s name over and over again, crying for him to come back. When he started hearing his own name being called back at him, he ran around, trying to call Harry back, only to watch everything around him disappear.

“Louis…Louis, wake up!”

Louis jerked forward and his eyes opened as he breathed heavily. He was sweating and shaking as he looked around the dark room. He could feel his heart thundering against his chest and he willed it to calm down. The only light coming through was through the window and he turned around in the bed, feeling around for Harry. He needed to know he was still there.

When his hand found Harry’s, Louis gripped it and looked at the younger boy yawning and looking at him with bleary eyes. “Are you alright, Lou?”

Louis felt his lower lip tremble at hearing his voice before he jumped towards him, throwing his arms around Harry’s neck and hugging him tightly. He found himself start to cry as he held on, not wanting to let go. He wanted to feel him solid and real, holding him back, and not disappearing like he had in the dream. He wanted to memorize that feeling and have it embedded into his body because it was something he never wanted to forget.

“Louis, what’s wrong?” Harry asked, cautiously hugging him back. “You’re scaring me.”

Louis slowly pulled back, not willing to let go yet, while Harry wiped his eyes. “I had a bad dream,” Louis told him. “All these people I know were standing there in this park I used to go when I was younger. Then they all started walking away from me and then you came, but then--.” He could barely say it because he couldn’t imagine the reality of Harry disappearing from his life. He didn’t want to have a life where he didn’t have Harry.

“Then I what?” Harry asked, seeming a little amused and curious. “Did I turn into a zombie or something? Because you were crying in your sleep.”

“You disappeared,” Louis replied quietly, wiping at the new tears that spilled out. “You were hugging me and you just disappeared into thin air.”

“You’re crying because you had a dream that I disappeared?” he asked, smiling at Louis, like he was more endeared than anything else.

“It was more like a nightmare.”

Harry laughed before taking his hand and pulling him closer. “C’mon and lie down with me. Let’s get you back to sleep.” He scooted over and laid down, making Louis lie down beside him. Harry put his arm around Louis’ waist, rubbing smooth circles on it, his chin resting on the top of his head. “I won’t disappear. I promise. I’m right here, Lou.”

“You said that in my nightmare, too,” he said, his voice barely a whisper.

“It’s just a nightmare, doesn’t mean it’ll come true. Now close your eyes,” he instructed, stroking Louis’ arm and trying to soothe him. It took a long time for Louis to fall asleep after. He waited for his heartbeat to go down even though it took a while, thinking about why he could possibly have had a dream like that.

The following evening was Anne and Robin’s Anniversary part. They did it in their spacious basement, renting out a few dozen chairs and tables to set around the place with fairy lights and white daisies draped everywhere. There was even a small stage set up where this DJ that they hired was playing both new songs as well as songs that older generation got down to back in the day. All of Harry’s extended family and their family friends came. Even Peter, who arrived with his parents, looking as stupid as ever with his comb over.

Louis mostly stayed back, still quite shaken from his weird dream, and not quite knowing what to do or say as Harry’s boyfriend in a family event. He was holding a flute of champagne and standing in a corner when Harry walked over.

“Hey, you okay?” he asked, with a smile while brushing something off Louis’ cheek.

“Yeah, fine,” Louis smiled.

“I’m sorry if you’re a bit bored. I just had to go greet everyone by the door with Robin.”

“I’m not bored, Harry,” Louis laughed. “It’s fine. Are you having fun?”

Harry nodded. “Good to see everyone, you know?” Louis nodded in response and Harry looked around the room, checking to make sure everyone was okay before leading Louis over to their table. He stayed with him for the rest of the night and it was nice because they weren’t putting on some big show for Peter and they didn’t have to do that for his family. Being just how they were was good enough for everyone to believe in them because they got a lot of compliments on how good they looked together.

Louis tried not to let that make him feel too good, but he was gushing inside because it was nice to be told that even when they weren’t pretending, they still looked like they were together.  

After dinner, the DJ turned on his mic and gathered the guests attention. “Now, I thought it’d be a great idea to recreate this lovely couple’s wedding day by playing the wedding song that they had their first dance to. How about it? Can we get the beautiful couple out on the dance floor, please.”

Everyone started cheering as Anne and Robin walked out to the makeshift dance floor. The opening notes to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” started to play and the couple giggled together as they slow danced, making the crowd gush and coo at them. Harry watched with a big smile and it warmed Louis’ heart. He was so fucking taken by Harry and everything he did. Just seeing him be so fascinated and happy about something made him happy, too.

“If anyone else would like to join the couple on the dance floor, now’s your chance,” the DJ said into the mic. Several people stood up to go and dance and Louis watched them with a small smile on his lips. It wasn’t till he turned to look at Harry again that he noticed him looking back at Louis.

“May I have this dance?” he asked, smiling at him sheepishly because he knew he was being cheesy. Louis laughed and took his hand, standing up and walking to the dance floor with him. He put his hands on Louis’ hips and Louis placed his hands around Harry’s shoulders. The two of them instinctively moved closer as they swayed to the music slowly. Louis looked around the room, his eyes landing on Peter, who was trying very hard not to look their way.

It made him laugh and he turned to look at Harry. “What’s funny?” he asked Louis.

“Nothing,” Louis shrugged. “We’re slow dancing. I have never slow danced in my life.”

“That’s because you don’t have a romantic bone in your body,” Harry replied with a laugh.

“For good reason,” Louis retorted. “This stuff is sappy.”

“Can you try and be romantic for a second,” Harry asked him pretending to be so annoyed by him. “I need to teach you about this stuff, Lou. You need to know.”

“Oh, alright. What are you going to teach me? How to slow dance with a loser and say cheesy things to each other in hushed whispers?” Louis rolled his eyes sarcastically and Harry shook his head, bringing him closer.

“No,” he said, a smile on his lips. “Hush.” He was looking intently into Louis’ eyes, his brows furrowed. “You look into my eyes, okay. Just look.”

Louis did as he was told and it was almost a bit unnerving. By now, he was used to Harry being big on making intense eye contact, but never this close.

“Then what?” he asked, his voice raspy from how dry his throat was suddenly.

Harry didn’t say anything, just held Louis in his arms. His hand moved up to Louis’ neck, holding him there softly, his eyes dropping down to Louis’ lips several times before looking back into his blue eyes. Louis felt him leaning down closer and closer, so he closed his eyes because he knew what was coming. He could feel his heart thudding against his chest and just like that, Harry kissed him.

Louis woke up the next morning to find Harry gone even though they’d crawled into the same bed together after the party, too tired to even do anything other than take their pants off and get under the covers. He must have woken up early and went out to his family. Louis stretched in bed and yawned, covering his mouth. The party had been great. After Harry kissed him, it was weird how they couldn’t stop doing it. They’d find the stupidest excuses to steal a kiss from the other, smiling at each other goofily when doing so. Gemma told them they were disgusting.

Eventually, Louis rolled out of bed because they were heading back into the city that day and Louis had to pack and see what Harry was up to. He walked out of his room towards the bathroom when he heard Harry talking. Louis looked into the adjacent room and saw Harry and Gemma sitting on her bed.

He didn’t want to eavesdrop and was just going to let them talk about whatever it was they were heatedly discussing, but then he heard his name.

“You know I’ll support you through anything, even if it’s a fake relationship to make your ex jealous as childish as that is,” Gemma said. “But that was until I saw Louis.”

“What about Louis?” Harry asked.

“His face, Harry. Let’s face it, you’ve always been a little oblivious to things that are right in front of you, but the rest of us are not. I don’t want to assume or accuse anyone of anything, but if you keep this up, someone will get hurt. Things like this don’t always end great and they especially won’t if you’re going at it that way.”

“And how are we going about it?” Harry asked. He sounded angry and defensive and Louis wanted to know what spurred this conversation on in the first place.

He heard Gemma sigh. “Your act for Peter was continued even when he wasn’t around. I saw those stolen kisses and glances. Not only from you, but from him, too. He’s going to get hurt, H.”

“I won’t let Louis get hurt. I’d never do anything to hurt him. You know that.”

“Of course, but there’s a chance you could hurt him unintentionally.”

“Everyone’s always telling me to be careful with Louis, meanwhile, they’re forgetting to realize that he’s the one that wanted to do this in the first place. It was his idea and I’m not forcing him to do anything that he isn’t comfortable with.”

“And why do you think they’re telling you to be careful with him?” Gemma asked him. “Why would he be the one to get hurt do you think?”

“Are you trying to imply that Louis--.”

Louis leaned in even closer next to the door. He could feel his heart beating loudly against my chest and his whole face was warming up as a blush crept in. He could hear Gemma start to say something, but then someone tapped his shoulder, startling him.

Louis jumped back and clutched on to his chest as he looked at Anne. “Louis, are you alright?” she asked, clutching her own chest, too.

He must have startled her as well. Louis couldn’t even speak in fear, but he heard the voices from Gemma’s room quiet down right away.

“Uh,” he mumbled. “Yeah, uh---I was just--I was uh.”

Anne looked at him, slightly worried and trying to make sense of the gibberish coming out of his mouth. That was when Gemma’s door flew open and she walked out. “Hey,” she said. Anne and Louis turned to look at her and Louis wasn’t sure if she suspected anything was up, but his face was still hot.

“Hi,” he managed to croak out.

“Is everything alright?” Anne asked them.

“Yeah,” Louis quickly said. “Yeah, I was just looking for Harry and Gemma.”

“We were in my room,” she said, expression neutral. How was she so calm? Did that mean she didn’t suspect he heard anything? “He was helping me mend my hangover from last night. Had too much wine.”

They all laughed quietly as Harry appeared at the door. He looked at Louis and gave him a small smile.

“Morning,” he said.

“Morning,” Louis said to him. “You, uh--ready to go? Train leaves around noon.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, looking a bit lost and disoriented, himself. “You packed?”

“Not yet,” Louis told him. “I will be, though.” Harry nodded his head before the four of them stood there in silence. It was making him feel insanely uncomfortable because he knew what they were talking about inside. Him . They were discussing his potential feelings for Harry and Louis wanted to die. He smiled at them politely then and said, “Excuse me.”

They all nodded as he walked into his room and closed the door behind him, sighing deeply. He walked to the bed and slumped down on it. He suddenly felt like he was intruding and unwelcome there. It was not a good feeling and he wanted to get out as soon as he could. Suddenly, Louis’ door opened and Harry peeked in.

“Hi,” he said softly, walking in.

“Hey,” Louis said back.

“You alright?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Were you looking for me? Mom mentioned,” Harry scratched his arm, awkwardly.

“Uh, yeah. I was just about to go look for you when Anne found me. No big deal. Just wanted to see where you all were,” Louis shrugged.

“Oh, I was with Gemma,” he told him.

“She mentioned that,” Louis said. “It’s cool.”

“Okay,” he said. The tension in the room was awkward and they both knew it was there, which made it that much worse. “Well, we’ll leave around the afternoon, ok?”

“Sounds good to me,” Louis said with a bit more enthusiasm to make up for the awkwardness. It only made it worse and Harry gave him an amused look before walking back out. He got up off the bed after and started picking up his clothes. The sooner they could leave, the better.

Once Louis was done packing up and getting ready, he took his things out to the front door before walking to the kitchen. He felt a lot better after his shower and knowing that they’d be leaving soon. “I’m all set to go,” he said to Anne and Gemma, both of whom were setting up brunch. “It was a great weekend. Thanks so much for having me.”

“It was a pleasure,” Anne said with a smile. “Come back any time with Harry. We’d love to have you guys again.”

“Of course,” Louis grinned. “I feel like whenever you guys go to the city, you always rush out and we never really get a chance to sit down and chat. This time we did get to do it and I really enjoyed it.”

“We did, too. It was really nice. And, yes, it does get a bit hectic when we go to the city,” Anne agreed. The three of them made small talk after; Louis asking Gemma about her job at the Boston Herald Newspaper company and Anne about this new charity she was getting behind on. When he noticed it had been a while since Harry had showed up, he looked to the two of them.

“Is Harry ready?” he asked. “I haven’t seen him since before I packed.”

“Peter dropped by soon after,” Anne explained. “They went for a quick walk. Should be back soon. Are you getting hungry? Should I set your plate now?”

Louis couldn’t hear anything past Harry and Peter went for a walk. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal because they spent a ton of time together before during this whole pretending thing and it didn’t have mean anything, but it filled Louis’ stomach with dread and anxiety. Hearing Harry and Gemma’s conversation from this morning only to hear this made Louis feel like he couldn’t keep anything down in his stomach without it coming right back out.  

He shook his head at Anne and gave her a weak smile. It wasn’t for another half hour that Harry returned from his walk and they all sat down to eat before they’d leave. Louis managed to nibble a bit on his waffles before he quit. Harry noticed, but didn’t say anything about it because it would draw unwanted attention on him and he knew he’d hate that. Afterwards when they packed up the car trunk and said goodbye to everyone, Anne dropped them off at the station.

It was on the ride back that Harry softly mentioned to him. “Peter and I talked. He asked me to get back together.”

Louis didn’t respond.

...

It was barely five minutes that Louis dragged his bags up to his apartment and settled in, noticing Zayn wasn’t in, that Harry came back and knocked on his door.

“What are you doing here?” Louis asked him, staring at him at the doorway.

“I know you’re mad,” Harry said in a low voice, walking inside.

“Mad?” Louis asked, closing the door behind him as he followed Harry. “What would I be mad about?”

“Stop asking me, Louis, when you know exactly what I’m talking about,” Harry said, throwing his hands up in the air in a frustrated gesture.

Louis gave him a tired look and shook his head. “What are you even--Harry, why are you even here?” Harry gave him a complete look of desperation at that as though he was trying to get something out of his mouth, but he couldn’t, so Louis continued. “No, seriously. Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be screwing your boyfriend? Got him back, didn’t you? It’s all you wanted.” It sounded a lot more bitter than Louis intended it to, but he couldn’t help it.

“Why aren’t you yelling at me?” Harry asked him, instead.

“What kind of a twisted question is that?” Louis asked, looking at Harry with an incredulous expression.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged helplessly. “I just--I know you’re angry, so why aren’t you yelling at me?”

“I’m not angry,” Louis said quickly with a solemn expression. “I’m just trying to figure out what the fuck you’re doing. Why are you here?”

“I’m here because I needed to see you,” he said quietly.

Louis’ lips parted and he turned away from him, trying so hard not to lose his control because fuck him. Fuck him for saying stupid things like that and pulling at Louis’ heartstrings, trying to turn him around and not make him mad. It wouldn’t work because he was right. Louis was furious, but he didn’t want to admit that.

“We just saw each other less than ten minutes ago, so I don’t know why you needed to see me after spent all weekend together,” Louis reminded him before pausing for a moment. “You should go, Harry. You’re obviously tired and we travelled a lot. So, go home and rest, ok? Besides, now that you’re back with Peter, you shouldn’t be around here too much. We don’t want what happened to happen again.”

Louis turned to go to his room because he was done. He needed to go to bed and never get out or something. He couldn’t stick around with Harry in his apartment much longer.

“Will you stop this?” Harry asked, following him. “Please. Just fucking look at me. I know you’re mad, so just yell at me.”

And that was the last Louis could handle as he turned back around and glared at Harry. It was like he wanted to pick a fight with him just to get a fucking reaction out of him since he wasn’t satisfied with what he got.

“Talk to me, Goddamit,” Harry started to yell. “I’m your fucking best friend, not some doormat.”

“You want me to yell at you?” Louis asked him. “Fine, I’ll fucking yell at you. I’m so fucking done playing your stupid little pretending game, okay? I don’t want to be your stupid boyfriend anymore just so you can get back with a complete fucking jackass who treats you like utter shit. He’s been nothing but horrible to you, but you can’t fucking see that and it’s the most infuriating thing ever! There, I yelled at you. Are you happy?”

“Oh,” Harry scoffed with faux amusement, raising his eyebrows. “So, you’re saying that it’s my fault that you’re my pretend boyfriend?”

“I never said that. You’re just really fucking indecisive and confusing and I’m fucking sick of it.”

“You don’t think I realize that? You don’t think it’s driving me crazy?”

“Shut up, Harry,” Louis said. “All you did was fucking use me! It didn’t take you a second to go running back to Peter.”

It was your fucking idea, Louis!” he glared, shutting Louis up. “I was never the one who told Peter that you and I were together. It was you! You’re the one that started this whole shit. You thought up the idea, you convinced me. So fuck off with your blame game, okay?”

Louis stared at him, quiet as his words sunk in. He was right. Louis did do everything he just said. He realized that he was the reason for their downfall right now, but he was so angry at Harry for saying it in such an ugly way, that he didn’t care how right he was. He could feel his throat getting choked up, making it harder for him to breath. He knew there were tears that were going to erupt soon so he frowned at Harry. “Get out of my apartment,” Louis said to firmly.

“Gladly,” Harry spat at him before walking out and slamming the door behind him.

“And then he started throwing it right back at me,” Louis said angrily as he paced his radio station office. “Saying how it was my idea and my fault we were in this mess. He was blaming me for everything. Like, probably his breakup with Peter, too.”

Niall, who was lying down on the small couch that was placed in the room, bit his lip and took in what Louis was telling him. He and Zayn had came by his work the following day and they were there to take him to lunch, but Louis decided to order in and rant to them about how stupid Harry Styles was. Except, it continued beyond lunch and now Louis had stopped working and Zayn was playing music for him. He wasn’t complaining because Zayn loved Louis’ job and Louis was too pent up with anger to do it.

“What did you say then?” Niall asked.

“I kicked him out, of course,” Louis said like it was obvious.

Niall let out a low whistle and raised his eyebrows in response. “That’s shit, man,” he said. “You guys have fights, but never like this.”

“I know, Niall,” Louis grunted. “It was horrible. I hated it, but right now I really hate him.”

“Do you hate him because he’s back with Peter or because of what he said to you?” Zayn asked, while he played that dumb “Versace” song.

Louis knew he couldn’t be cavalier about this and say it was because of what Harry said to him because him getting back with Peter was what made him angry in the first place. So, he just shrugged in response to which Zayn laughed.

“You’re mad because he got back with Peter even though that was the plan in the first place,” he said. “And that’s why I told you not to do this with him because I knew something like this would happen.”

“Fuck you, too, Zayn,” Louis scowled, sitting beside Niall on the couch. “I was trying to do a good deed. Be a good samaritan and all.”

“Then go recycle or something,” Niall suggested with a wave of his hand. “And don’t throw your straw wrappers on the streets like I know you do. Give a homeless guy a buck or your extra slice of pizza. Don’t fucking pretend to be Harry’s boyfriend when you have feelings for him.”

“I hate it when you guys are so right and I’m so angry, but you can’t be on my side,” Louis said, slumping in his seat.

“We are on your side,” Zayn insisted. “But Harry’s our friend, too, and I know that if we were shit talking him right now you’d beat us up because you are weirdly defensive about him when other people say anything remotely bad about him. That’s beside the point, though. I heard from Liam that he came home yesterday and was full on raging.”

“He was?” Louis asked, his curiosity getting the best of him.

Zayn nodded. “He was like screaming and slamming his door repeatedly a few times while letting out loud grunts and huffs. Liam said it was really weird.”

It sounded pretty hot to Louis, but nobody had to know that. “Well, good that he was mad,” he said instead. “I want him to realize what an asshole he was. And now he’s back with that other asshole. Maybe they are a perfect match, after all.”

Louis knew he was only saying that to be bitter and that he really didn’t mean it. He hadn’t been able to sleep all night or do anything but scream and throw things around his apartment while taking eating breaks in between. He didn’t throw anything that would break, either, mostly just pillows that he would eventually pick up and put back. He just couldn’t get the image of Harry going over to Peter’s late at night and the two of them having makeup sex and that hurt Louis more than he’d like to admit. Here he was, ready to scream Harry’s name on rooftops, but Harry was probably too busy screaming Peter’s name in bed with him. And Louis was so tired of that.

“I’m sure you two will work things out,” Niall said eventually. “You always do.”

Louis shrugged at that. “I don’t know. It was bad.”

“Yeah, I know,” Niall said. “But, it’s you two. You’ll figure it out.”

...

The next morning, Louis woke up to find Harry’s big, green eyes staring at him. He frowned for a moment before his expressions softened up and he yawned, covering his mouth. He had a late night since the boys came over to have a couple of beers and a movie marathon, but Louis’ mood was off the entire time because Harry wasn’t there.

Louis narrowed his eyes at Harry. “What are you doing here?” he asked, trying not to stare too hard at how pink Harry’s lips looked, like he’d bitten them raw, probably wondering what Louis was going to do when he woke up.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled in response. He wrapped his arms around Louis, pulling him close against him and nuzzled his nose against his hair. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Louis actually started to laugh even though this was what he wanted, but mostly because Harry’s hair was tickling him. He couldn’t believe this big old oaf was so endearing and so infuriating at the same time. Nonetheless, he wasn’t mad anymore. “It’s okay,” he said to Harry. “It’s alright.” He looked at Louis and smiled, his dimple sinking in.

“I really am so fucking sorry. I was complete dick. After I left your apartment, I was absolutely fucked up. Like, I couldn’t focus on anything at all. I stayed home the entire day and wanted to come see you so bad.”

That made Louis feel slightly better because he knew his imagination that tended to run amuck at times was wrong. “I’m sorry, too,” he said to Harry. “I hate fighting with you. You know how much I hate it.”

“I hate fighting with you, too,” he mumbled. He was still holding Louis as tightly as he could, resting his head against his neck. He could feel Harry’s hot breath hitting his skin and it slightly turned him on, which didn’t help with his morning wood.

“So, you came to apologize?” Louis asked him.

Harry nodded. “I knew whatever I tried to do today wouldn’t work until I knew I was okay with you. And I’ve decided to fuck it all and spend all day with you, instead. We can watch your favorite TV shows and I’ll make you whatever you want to eat.”

Louis looked at him with a big smile on his face because that sounded like the best day ever. “Really?” Harry nodded his head with a smile and cuddled up to him a bit more.

Louis could tell that a pattern was forming. Harry would mess up with Louis because of Peter and then come crawling back to him a day later, promising that things would change and he’d be better. It made Louis wonder whether it was always like this, but the only thing difference was that Louis’ feelings for him only got stronger to the point where he was craving Harry in every possible way and couldn’t ignore it like he did before. Back then, he didn’t physically know what he was missing out on. He imagined it, but didn’t get to experience it first hand like he did these past few weeks, which only made him want it more.

Three hours later, Harry and Louis were lying on the couch with season three of Shameless playing on the TV. The two of them had binge watched the first two seasons over summer and figured now was as good as time as any to catch up with the rest of the episodes. The only problem was that Louis never got to take care of his morning wood since Harry hadn’t left his side once. It also didn’t help that he was pressed up close against Louis and every few minutes they’d show a sex scene on the screen, spurring him on.

It had been a while since Louis had sex and to say he was frustrated was an understatement.

When he shifted during a rather heated scene, Harry noticed and pulled him closer instinctively, and Louis let out a soft, low moan when his hand brushed over Louis’ groin. Once he did, Louis’ eyes widened and he prayed to God that Harry didn’t hear. It was eerily quiet, despite the TV playing, and he couldn’t even hear Harry breathing, so that wasn’t good.

Before he could brave a peek at the younger boy, Harry flipped him over swiftly and Louis was on his lap, gripping Harry’s shoulders to keep steady.

Louis looked at him, shell shocked and frozen, but couldn’t help but think about the fact that Harry could feel how hard he was now.

“I--,” he started to say, but then got cut off by Harry’s lips crushing his. He licked into Louis’ mouth hungrily right away and Louis opened his mouth as he was pulled forward to grind down on Harry.

Louis let out a low guttural moan, pulling away to look at Harry. Harry only looked at him for a moment before surging forward and kissing him again, his hands roaming all over Louis’ before settling over his butt, giving it a squeeze. Louis kissed him back for a few moments, his hands gripping on to his arms, before pulling away.

“Harry, what are we doing?” he asked, breathlessly.

Harry shook his head like he didn’t know, his pupils blown out. “I don’t know,” he said. “Just wanted to.”

Louis didn’t know what to make of that, so he laughed, almost humorlessly. “Harry,” he said quietly.

“Hmm,” Harry hummed, leaning forward to press three more chaste, hard kisses on his lips.

“I need to go take care of this. I’ve had it all morning.”

Harry’s hands slid from his butt to Louis’ thighs, gripping it before smiling as well. “Alright, alright.” Louis awkwardly got off of Harry’s lap and scampered over to the bathroom where he got himself off to the memory of Harry gripping on to him and kissing his lips, coming harder than he ever did with Greg or any other guy before.

...

Louis quickly rushed through the stairs and halls of his office building, trying to get into his room as fast as possible. Harry ended up staying the night, albeit it was weird how the kissing and grinding didn’t make it any less awkward than it should have, and he kept hitting the snooze button on Louis’ phone when the alarm started ringing. When he finally managed to get up, Harry insisted Louis ate because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Louis, please sit down.

Louis couldn’t say no and he got to have the best pancakes ever.

Which was why he was late to work and his shift would be starting without anyone being on the air. He was moving so quickly that he didn’t even notice when he ran straight into Greg. The two of them jolted back by the force and Louis’ tongue got stuck to his mouth when he realized it was him.

“Oh, shit,” Greg said, looking at him warily. “Sorry about that. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, sorry. Just didn’t see where I was going,” Louis managed to reply.

Greg nodded his head and looked down at the ground before looking back up at him. “How’ve--uh--how’ve you been?”

“Good,” Louis responded, too quick and frantic. “You?”

“Good,” he replied, nodding his head fast and vigorously. He seemed nervous, too, which made Louis feel a bit better, but not entirely.

“Oh. That’s good.”

“Yeah,” he said slowly.

They stood there quietly for a few moments and Louis cleared his throat when he realized he still had to go to his office, ex boyfriends be damned. “I’m getting late,” he said. “So, I’ve got to go.”

“Yeah, sure,” Greg nodded, moving away from his path. Louis gave him a meek smile before walking away, until Greg ran up to him and caught his arm. “Hey, Lou.”

Louis turned to look at him expectantly.

“You want to talk sometime? Get lunch maybe?”

Louis smiled at him and nodded. “Yeah, sure. Text me, okay?”

...

Would you like to meet for lunch at the new cafe down the street today?

sure, sounds good! see you in an hour?

Alright :)

Louis and Greg met at the cafe down the street from their office building three days after bumping into each other. They both got sandwiches; pastrami for Greg and turkey and cheddar for Louis and sat down at the small seating area. And it wasn’t horrible like Louis imagined it would be. He was actually extremely glad he bumped into Greg even though he was scared about it at first. He wasn’t sure what to expect, was the thing. Would Greg still be mad after all these days or would he be happy to see Louis? When it was the second of the two, it made Louis feel a lot better. More than he had been for the past few days. Especially when Greg asked him to lunch, which meant the two of them could start over as friends.

“I’ve been meaning to see you,” Greg said to him.

Louis looked up at him, a bit surprised. “Really? Why’s that?”

“I wanted to talk to you,” he said. “I’m not really one to beat around the bush. I’ve never been good at it so I’ll go straight to the point. I really hated the way we left things off, Louis.”

“Me too,” Louis agreed. “I didn’t expect it to be that bad.”

“My intention was never to hurt you. And after weeks of thinking about it, I realized that I could have handled it better. I’m sorry is what I want to start out by saying.”

“No, Greg,” Louis shook his head. “I should be sorry, too, more so. Like, I didn’t handle a lot of things well either. I was like a closed book and it wasn’t fair to you at all. I get it now. I get why you ended things off and I’m not mad anymore.”

“I never meant to hurt you,” he repeated. “I could see I did and that was what was killing me the entire time.”

“I know,” Louis said. “I’d just like to start over if that’s okay. Chalk over all the bad things and just begin again.”

“I’d like that, too,” Greg smiled.

The conversation started to flow more easily after that, Louis learning about Greg’s new promotion at work and Louis telling him how he was liking it there. He felt much better than he had when the lunch started, which was all he had hoped for. He knew that Greg was a great guy and if his heart wasn’t with Harry, he’d have probably committed to Greg a long time ago. Unfortunately, that wasn’t how things were and Louis was still fucked because of his feelings for Harry.

After lunch, the two of them walked out of the café together with big smiles on their faces. “So, are you free after work?” Greg asked Louis.

Louis nodded his head. “Yeah, I am. Are you doing anything?”

“I’m actually going out to see this band I interviewed recently on the radio. They gave me an extra pass, if you’re interested?”

It sounded really fun and Louis smiled at him nodding. “I’d love that, actually. What time do you want to meet?”

“How’s 6 sound? We can grab dinner and then head out to hear some good music.”

“Sounds perfect,” Louis said to him, smiling. “Text me who we’re seeing so I can look them up.”

“Will do,” Greg laughed as they headed back to work.

Hanging out with Greg again was fun and it almost felt like a date. Louis tried not to think too much about it being a date while he was out, though, and focused more on having fun with him. However, there were a few things that made it seem that way. For example, Greg paid for dinner and at some point they even held hands. And a lot of people spoke to them at the concert as if they were a couple, which Louis didn’t completely hate. It almost felt okay.

Maybe he was changing his mind about the whole thing, but he didn’t want to jinx it and get ahead of himself so he didn’t do anything other than hug Greg goodnight at the end of night.

By the time he got home, it was past midnight, he was exhausted from his day. Louis fished his keys out of his pocket and unlocked his front door before walking in and closing it behind him. As he was slipping his shoes off, he noticed Harry’s boots on the floor and looked around curiously. He didn’t remember hearing from Harry that day and wondered if he was okay. When he pulled his phone out of his pocket and walked towards the living room, he saw that he had several missed calls from him.

Shit. He never even noticed.

Once he entered the living room, he saw Harry comfortably lying down on the couch and using his phone. He immediately got up and walked over when saw Louis walk in, looking almost frantic. “Where have you been?” he asked.

“I was out,” Louis said warily. “I’m sorry, I didn’t check my phone. Is everything alright?”

“Why didn’t you answer your phone? Who were you with?” Harry asked, ignoring his question. “Zayn let me in hours ago and I waited all this time. Figured you’d be home right after work.”

“Geez, Haz,” Louis said, laughing nervously. “What’s with the third degree?”

Harry frowned and then sighed heavily. Louis watched him, feeling a little confused and a lot endeared because Harry just looked so cute, standing there with his hair all curly and in his face and his plump, pink lips in a pout. How could a pair of lips look so much like a perfect, little heart? Louis wanted to know. “I just wanted to hang out,” Harry said. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Louis said to him. “If I would have known then I’d have come back, but I got busy after work, too.”

“Then you should have checked your phone,” Harry said, voice coming out a lot more  frustrated than Louis expected.

He turned to look at the younger boy and touched his arm softly. “Harry, are you alright? What’s wrong?”

Harry shrugged before wrapping his arms around Louis in a bone crushing hug. He almost fell backwards a little, but kept his feet steady on the ground. Harry nuzzled his nose against his hair and Louis felt him sigh. “I just missed you. Things--have been feeling weird all day.”

“Weird, how?”

Harry slowly pulled away and looked at him with his big, green eyes, which looked slightly dilated. “Peter and I had a fight.”

“Jesus Christ,” Louis groaned upon hearing that, walking away from him with a frown. Was this what Harry came over for? Shit.

“Louis,” Harry called, following him.

“You just got back together, didn’t you?” Louis asked him, turning to look at him again. “I thought I’d have a few days of peace before he’d send you crying out his front door to mine to pick up the pieces.”

Harry looked pained, but he couldn’t say anything because it was the truth. “You don’t have to say it like that. If I’m a bother then tell me.”

“You’re not, Harry! It’s just that I’m so tired of him constantly doing this to you. You’d think he’d have learned his lesson by now. After everything that’s happened, but obviously not.”

Harry looked down at the ground in a defeated manner, which was not what Louis wanted. He didn’t want to make Harry upset. Louis groaned out loud before walking to his bedroom. He needed to freshen up and change and get the fuck to bed. He was way too tired for all this. He should have known from the moment he saw Harry that something was wrong and it was all Peter’s doing. Fucking Peter. When was he going to fucking grow up?

Louis grabbed his clothes and was about to head to the bathroom when Harry blocked his way. “You’re really dressed up,” he said, narrowing his eyes in on Louis. “Those are your good jeans and your favorite shirt.”

“Well spotted,” Louis said sarcastically, moving past him towards the bathroom.

“Were--where did you say you were?” he asked, following Louis.

“I went out, Harry,” Louis said, his patience running thin.

Harry’s eyes widened expectantly as he raised his eyebrows. “With who?”

“Greg.”

Harry looked right about ready to break the entire building if he could. “Greg?” he asked. Louis nodded his head. “Greg?”

“Yes, Greg,” Louis said to him. “Name’s not gonna change no matter how many times you repeat it. It’ll sound the same.”

Harry was fuming, Louis could tell. His face was turning pink and his fists were clenched on either side of him. “Greg is a fucking dick, Louis. What are you doing going out with him?”

“I bumped into him at work. We just talked and decided to hang out. Not a big deal.”

“It is a big deal. Did you forget everything he did? He was a complete ass to you and I hate him. He doesn’t fucking deserve you.”

“Will you calm down?” Louis asked him with a frown.

“No, I will not calm down,” he yelled, walking towards Louis till he was towering over him. “I hate him and I don’t want you to go on anymore dates with him. Don’t talk to him and don’t meet him! That fucking asshole.”

“You can’t tell me who I can and cannot see, Harry. I don’t do that with you,” Louis yelled back, trying to reason with him. Harry was never like this. Everything about Harry seemed crazy and on edge tonight and Louis had no idea what was going on with him.

“This is different. You’re not going to see him anymore. He’s a no good, fucking jackass who had the nerve to hurt and break up with you!”

“Peter breaks up with you like every other day, but I never forbid you to see him,” Louis said to him. “Greg and I had a misunderstanding once and I’m giving him a second chance so what’s the wrong in that? Double standards are never fair nor right.”

“No,” Harry shook his head, stubbornly. “I don’t care. I don’t care about anyone; you can’t see him.”

“Stop being so annoying,” Louis muttered through gritted teeth, wishing Harry would stop acting like a parent or worse, a possessive boyfriend.

“Shut up, Louis,” Harry said, glaring at him. “Greg is not a good guy. He broke up with you for no reason. Can’t you see what an ass he is?”

Was he fucking serious? Louis scoffed at him, leveling him with a look. “You’re saying that, Harry? Your boyfriend dumped you after seeing you hug me. An innocent hug and a kiss and he thought I was a homewrecker. He never gives you a chance to explain. Ever. And he showed off another guy in front of you just to get a rise out of you. Tell me all about how you know good guys.

“Peter was only using him to make me jealous,” Harry pointed out.

“Just like you used me to make him jealous?” Louis raised his eyebrows at Harry, daring him to argue with that.

“Are you really going to bring that up?” Harry asked, scoffing at him.

“You’re the one who started it, Harry. You came here because your boyfriend had another fight with you. What is this, the five thousandth time he’s done that? And then you interrogate me as if you can tell me what to do and who to see and now you’re shitting on Greg because of something that you don’t even understand.”

“I do have a reason for shitting on him,” Harry retorted. “Besides, my fight with Peter was not just another fight.”

“What do you mean?” Louis asked him, crossing his arms.

“I didn’t come here to cry to you about it,” he said. “That’s not why I’m here.”

“Then?”

Harry sighed, running a hand through his hair. “The reason Peter and I fought or have been fighting is because ever since we’ve gotten back from home, all I’ve talked about is you. I’ve called no one, but you. I’ve tried looking for no one, but you. I just want to be with you and…you’re going out with Greg.”

Louis stared at him, dumbfounded. He couldn’t be for real. Harry wasn’t that dumb. “You’re choosing to blame me for your break up…again?” he asked, making sure he heard that right.

“I never blamed you,” Harry said, his voice rising again. “For any of our fights or break ups, I never blamed you. So don’t say that!”

“Oh, right. I mean, I must be deaf then because it sure sounded like you were.”

“Don’t be like that,” Harry said, frowning at him with a shake of his head. “Don’t put fucking words in my mouth.”

“No, shut up, Harry. Don’t blame me, ok? I refuse to be blamed.”

“All I said was why we fought,” he yelled. “I never said it’s your fault, Louis! Why do you keep saying that?”

“Because you’re insinuating it, you asshole,” Louis said. His chest was heaving and he could feel the blood rushing to his head. So, he shoved at Harry and he shoved him again for good measure. And he kept pushing him even though there was no real intent there to hurt him or try to start a real brawl because he knew Harry wasn’t going to do that, but just to let out pent up frustration from this fight.

“Louis,” Harry said quietly in a husky voice, which Louis refused to acknowledge turned him on.

“No,” Louis said, shoving him again, but then Harry grabbed his wrist and with a quick jerk pulled him flush against him. His grip on Louis didn’t soften as his other arm found the small of his back and pulled him even closer, as if that were possible.

He was staring down at Louis, a look in his eyes that Louis couldn’t define immediately. Anger swirled with lust, need with defiance, pure carnality, he would later come to figure out.

“Seriously, I’m so fucking mad at you,” Louis said, even though his eyes kept dropping down to Harry’s lips.

Harry only looked at him for a moment more before his lips were on Louis’.

Louis willed his lips to stay still and not kiss back no matter how good it felt. How well they fit. “Stop kissing me. I’m mad at you,” Louis murmured, against Harry’s lips, even though his lips started moving, too.

Harry laughed. “Kiss me, please.” He pleaded in the voice he always used to get everything he wanted. He started to kiss him again and Louis’ body betrayed him as his back arched against Harry’s, longing to be closer even though he was already so close he could feel his racing heartbeat through his shirt.

“You’re so stupid,” Louis whimpered, even though the context of what he said wasn’t exactly sexy while Harry’s lips moved to his neck. Harry ignored his insults and instead worked methodically, with a goal in mind, sucking diligently at Louis’ skin. “Harry,” Louis sighed, partly because it felt so good, and partly because he was still unconvincingly trying to tell himself that he didn’t want this, too.

Louis was lying, to himself, to Harry, to everyone. He was a complete and total liar who wanted nothing more than for Harry to keep kissing him like he was.

His hands moved up under Louis’ shirt, pressing into his flesh and grabbing at his hips with a pressure that he thought might leave bruises. Louis literally felt how much Harry wanted him, like months of pent up frustration was finally being released. However, he also knew that no one ever wanted Harry more than Louis wanted him.

Harry’s hands roamed up Louis’ midsection as his lips trailed from his neck, along his jaw and back to his lips. Then he stopped, but only long enough to yank Louis’ shirt above his head and drop it onto the floor. Louis watched as it pooled beside his feet and realized exactly what they were doing.

Harry’s eyes sparkled, the way they did when he laughed or when he’d just done something mischievous. He closed the distance between them again, his hands wrapped around Louis’ waist, this time softer, like they were slow dancing, and lowered his mouth to his ear. Louis could feel his hot breath against the back of his neck and he was suddenly very aware of their proximity to his bed. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard, willing himself to breathe at a normal pace.

“Louis…,” he paused, just long enough that Louis knew he was smirking again, totally amused with how Harry was affecting him, how bad Louis was failing at fighting it. “I want you and I know you want me, too.”

Goosebumps sprouted up along Louis’ arms as Harry’s lips attached to his neck again just below his ear and Louis hated him because he was right. Louis hated him because Harry saw right through him and he hated him because he’d never hated him once even though no one had ever infuriated him as much as Harry did. He knew Louis through to his soul and Louis wondered if he had ever really not known that he was completely incapable of pretending to be his boyfriend without feelings surfacing.

Louis’ hands snaked around Harry’s neck and he moaned lowly as Harry licked the length of his collarbone and blew on the wetness he left there. Goosebumps exploded on his skin again and Harry chuckled hoarsely at the uncontrollable reaction Louis’ body had to him. It was probably doing so much to his ego to know he could do so much to a person that Louis laughed, too, not being able to help himself or believe that this was happening.

Then Harry’s lips were on Louis’ again, but instead of hard, bruising kisses, these were tender, sweet and slow, like he was gently pouring how he felt into his mouth, all those words he could read in Louis’ eyes when he looked at him that he couldn’t quite say out loud. Louis felt them wrap themselves around his heart every time Harry’s mouth opened and closed around his lower lip, sucking and kissing. He felt Harry’s thumb trace the line of his jaw as his hand cupped his face. He felt how tenderly his other hand supported the back of his neck, holding him in place, almost possessively.

Louis felt dizzy. He’d never felt like this before, like Harry somehow touched parts of him that he didn’t even know existed.

Then his hands moved from Louis’ face and neck, down to his sides, and then to his thighs before picking him up. Louis squealed into his mouth from how cold his hands felt against thighs and tightened his grip around his neck, wrapping his legs around Harry’s torso before he was lowered on to his bed, gingerly. Harry crawled on right away, hovering on top of Louis.

Harry looked into Louis’ eyes and he felt so self-conscious suddenly, even though he still had his pants on. He felt his cheeks burn as he turned his head to avoid Harry’s direct gaze, looking at his dimly lit room, instead, with off white colored walls and navy colored sheets. Harry in turn leaned down and placed short, chaste, cold kisses along his jaw before reaching for his chin and turning his eyes back to him. It wasn’t like Louis to be nervous or scared. He was always confident in bed, no matter who he was with, and to suddenly be like this was so strange to him.

“Are you scared?” Harry asked him without an ounce of condescension, instead with genuine curiosity for how Louis was feeling.

And if Louis was honest, a part of did have an urge to get up and run out of the room. He wasn’t used to ever feeling this way before sex. He never had butterflies in his stomach as though it was his first time nor did he ever feel like he was going to be consumed by how Harry was making him feel simply by touching, caressing and kissing him. It was a lot and he had no idea how to feel or what to expect as they continued.

Instead, he smiled the way he did when he was trying to cover up how he really felt about Harry, which he’d gotten pretty fucking good at, if he did say so himself. “Why would I be scared? I’m not nervous at all. I’ve done this before a time or two.”

Louis reached up and touched Harry’s face, running his thumb along his bottom lip. Harry’s lips were always so cherry red and Louis never understood how someone could always look that kissable. It was like he was constantly demanding to be kissed without saying or doing anything. Harry smirked and opened up his mouth, lightly biting down on Louis’ thumb while grinning like he was five years old.

He released Louis’ thumb and nudged it with his nose like an adorable cat before looking back at him with those piercing eyes. “This is special for you.”

And once again, he knew Louis was lying. He’d seen straight through his best attempt at disguising how he felt and called him out on it. It was like Harry knew this felt like the pinnacle of everything Louis had waited for between Harry and him for months and maybe years. He knew that being this close to him meant Louis felt like he couldn’t breathe.

“You don’t know,” Louis still tried. “This could mean nothing to me. You’re just assuming.” But his little speech was unconvincing as Harry nodded and looked at him as if he didn’t believe a word he said. Louis felt himself blushing again. Heat blossomed across his cheeks and he felt embarrassed that Harry knew how weak he was for him.

“You sure? Because if that was the case then you would be totally unaffected by this…” Harry said. And his hands stroked up Louis’ abdomen making his stomach muscles clench at Harry’s touch while he looked at Louis with a raised eyebrow.

“I feel nothing,” Louis stated, feeling like this was now a game that he would not let Harry win. His ego did not need to get any bigger tonight.

Harry feigned confusion. “Okay. So you won’t tremble when I kiss you here?” He lightly traced his fingertips down the side of Louis’ neck.

“Nope. Not at all.” Louis gave him a smirk that said he was willing to accept his challenge.

His eyes lit up with the promise of competition. “We’ll see about that.”

Harry started kissing Louis’ neck softly at first, his lips barely meeting skin in a tease that made him want to squirm, but he wouldn’t let himself. Then, as if frustrated by his lack of reaction, Harry increased his pressure and pace, lapping at his neck, kissing, sucking, and nipping in a way that Louis knew would leave him purple and blue the next day.

Louis’ eyes instinctively closed and hands moved up to Harry’s hair before he could stop himself, tangling in his curls and pulling him closer, to which Harry smirked before moving back.

“Knew it,” he said as he unbuttoned Louis’ pants and slid them down his legs.

“Oh, fuck off,” Louis groaned.

“Would rather you did it to me,” Harry said, so casually like it wasn’t lighting up a fire inside of Louis. He sat back on his knees for a moment just examining Louis’ body, his eyes slowly moving from his feet up to his neck. Louis couldn’t stand to watch Harry study him that closely so he fumbled with his fingers over his stomach. Harry looked back up at his face. “You’re so fucking hot, Louis. How did I ever get so lucky?”

Louis looked up at him and smiled. “Um, you’re not going to be getting lucky at all if this unequal showing of skin does not right itself immediately.” He motioned back and forth between the two of them.

“Okay,” Harry agreed. “I will take off my shirt if you admit this is special to you and it’s not something you can compare to one of your one night stands.”

“Fine,” Louis nodded. “I will admit that if you come back over here and kiss me right this second. You are entirely too far away over at that end of the bed.” Harry wasted no time closing the distance between their mouths after, kissing Louis so passionately that he felt dizzy afterward.

“Say it,” he whispered against Louis’ lips as he kept his eyes shut, trying to catch his breath.

Louis placed a hand on his chest, feeling Harry’s heartbeat as he opened his eyes. He stared at the sparrows peeking out of the wide neckline of his shirt, knowing that he needed to be brave and honest about how he felt about Harry for once in his life. “This--whatever it is, is different for me. You know it’s different.”

His eyes shifted up to Harry’s and the look on his face changed as he pulled back and started to beam. Louis felt his heartbeat pick up speed and Harry kissed him quickly once before sitting up, reaching behind his neck and pulling his shirt over his head. “Good. It is for me, too.”

Louis watched him unbutton his pants and struggle to get the constricting material over his legs. When he finally succeeded in removing his pants after huffing in frustration, he crawled back up to him, clad only in black boxer-briefs. Louis studied his tattoos, tracing the heart on his bicep and wondering exactly what this was going to do to his emotional stability or lack thereof afterwards.

Harry placed a soft kiss to his lips and then placed a finger where his lips were, dragging it downward over the hollow of his throat and across a collarbone. “No more games, please. I want you to fuck me so bad, I think I’m going blind from it.”

And then his lips crashed into Louis’ so hard, he didn’t have a chance to reel in what Harry had said. His hands grabbed at Louis’ like he was starving for his skin. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think, not about anything except how heavy Harry felt on top of him and how badly he wanted to fuck him, too.

He flipped them over so Louis was sitting upright on his lap. “Holy fuck, Louis,” he murmured with amazement as his hands magnetically caressed his skin. “You are absolutely perfect. Fuck.”

Louis’ stomach swarmed with butterflies and he was so turned on by the absolute wonder in Harry’s voice while ogling his body. He kissed him again, deep, passionate kisses that made Louis lose his mind to the point where he didn’t even notice when Harry rolled him over so he was beneath him.

“I want you, Louis. I’ve wanted you for so fucking long. Do you know how crazy you make me?” Harry continued to ramble on about how wonderful Louis was in between kisses, how much he wanted him and Louis fell deeper and deeper into the hole he’d dug for himself.

Then Harry started kissing his neck again, making his way down until he took one of his nipples into his mouth, sucking and lapping his tongue against it while Louis moaned quietly. His other hand snaked down his body and slid between his legs, grabbing onto his shaft, immediately eliciting a louder moan from Louis.

“Do you want me, too? Have you always wanted me?” Harry asked as his fingers expertly stroked his cock in a way that made Louis’ brain cloud.

“Yes,” Louis managed to sigh after a few moments struggling to figure out how speaking worked. Then Harry’s hand stopped, moving up to slide between his hot skin and the black underwear previously separating him from Louis. Louis ran a hand through his hair, unable to believe that this was happening. He was in bed with his best friend. Harry wanted him. This was something he’d been dreaming and fantasizing about for months on end and it was happening.

When was that going to ever register in Louis’ brain?

Harry began to smirk in amusement after a while, “You’re so hard for me, babe.”

He was speaking, but Louis wasn’t listening because all he could think about were his hands and his mouth and how he was all over him in every sense.

Harry stopped and chuckled as Louis whined for him to keep going. Instead he hooked his thumbs around Louis’ boxer-briefs at his hips and slid them down his legs at an agonizingly slow pace. He was purposely trying to tease Louis and it was possibly the most annoying thing he’d ever experienced.

“You are such a fucking tease, Harry.”

“You like it,” he said as he ripped the fabric from around Louis’ ankles.

Harry immediately bowed his head and placed kisses on the inside of Louis’ knees, anchoring himself by grabbing the back of his thighs, his thumb massaging his inner thighs with alternating pressure. Then he was kissing his way down the inside of Louis’ thighs, smirking up at him as his stomach knotted the further south Harry moved.

Then Harry’s mouth was on Louis’ cock, wasting little time as his tongue moved in ways he didn’t know someone’s tongue could move. Louis whimpered and whined as Harry lapped over his slit with his tongue and moved down to suck, making Louis go crazy. He pulled one hand up and tangled it in Harry’s hair, pulling at it in soft tugs.

“Oh my God, Harry. Where did you learn to do that?” Louis whimpered.

It was a question that went unanswered because he was too focused on the task at hand and Louis couldn’t be bothered to muster enough brain power to demand an answer. Mostly because he didn’t want him to stop…like ever. He could have gladly lived like that forever if food or water weren’t, like, necessary in the grand scheme of life.

Louis stared at his back muscles flexing as he sat bent in front of him and he felt himself losing his grip on everything besides the mental focus required to continue breathing and the awareness of the feelings emanating from his dick. He was inching closer and closer to coming and Louis was so fucked.

Louis’ hands instinctively shifted to the sheets on either side of him, bunching them into his fists as every muscle in his body simultaneously tensed and shook. Then he exploded into a hazy moment of pure bliss and Harry sucked him through it, as an unintelligible moan that was the only verbalization he was capable of escaped from his mouth before he could tell himself to keep quiet for the fear of his neighbours hearing.

Louis laid back, staring at ceiling as he tried to measure his breathing, which was coming in rapid, heaving lungfuls. He ran his hands through his hair as Harry came back into his line of vision and crawled on top of him, kissing Louis. Louis tasted himself on Harry’s tongue and he was so insanely turned on that he felt like he needed to be inside him right in that moment.

They continued kissing as Harry flipped them so that Louis was once again on top of him and Louis felt exactly how much he wanted him pressing against his thigh. “Want you now, Lou, please,” Harry begged, his voice hoarse and raspy from Louis’ dick. Fuck. Louis was going to die.

“Gonna prep you, babe,” Louis said, quickly moving over to grab the lube and condom from his bedside table drawer. Louis settled on his knees in the space between Harry’s legs, watching as he lazily stroked himself, staring at Louis with hooded eyes and parted lips.

Louis pulled Harry’s boxer briefs off of him and just as he was about to throw them to the floor, he became distracted by the pure glory that was Harry Styles naked in his bed and wanting him. He immediately dropped the underwear and instead allowed his fingers to trace the deep, wonderful v that hours in the gym had blessed him with.

God bless Liam Payne and his hard ass gym routine.

“Why didn’t we do this sooner?” Louis muttered to him in amazement as he took Harry’s impressive length into his hands, stroking the hard shaft, watching Harry let out a happy sigh.

“We should have,” Harry said, shaking Louis from his wonder. Louis then realized he needed to be inside of Harry like yesterday, so he let go of Harry’s dick, much to his dismay, and uncapped the bottle of lube. He coated three of his fingers before dropping the bottle beside him on the bed. Harry shifted so that his hole was more exposed to Louis. Louis bit his lip as he rubbed one finger over it, just teasing Harry and watching as the younger boy breathed heavily below him.

When he slipped his finger in, he worked it in and out until he knew what sort of pressure and pace made Harry say Louis’ name in the sexiest way he’d ever heard it uttered. After some time, he slipped in his second finger, too, slowly but surely, wanting to drive Harry crazy like he was doing to him. Louis knew it was working when he starting whimpering the first syllable of his name, over and over again.

“Lou,” Harry whined, lifting his hips up to meet Louis’ fingers and fucking down on them. “Lou, please.”

“What? You want me to go faster or you want one more?” Louis asked, keeping one hand on Harry’s thigh to keep him steady.

“Both, Lou. Please.”

“I don’t believe I’ve ever heard you this polite, H,” Louis laughed. Harry gave him a look in response like he was absolutely killing him, which made him want to take a little bit of pity on the boy.

Louis laughed again as he went back to opening Harry up, except this time at a non-teasing pace. He slipped in the third finger as promised, letting Harry adjust to it before fucking him hard and fast. Harry responded by groaning and muttering various forms of, “Yes, yes, yes, like that!” while moving along with Louis’ fingers.

Then Louis felt him sit up and pull him up to his face, kissing him as they rolled over so that Louis was under him and Harry was between his legs.

“I need you right now, Louis. I’m ready. I can’t wait another minute. Want to ride you,” he told him, his eyes staring so deeply into Louis’, he could only nod in agreement before Harry kissed him hard and so full of need that he thought he might pass out.

Louis laid on his back and Harry helped roll the condom down his already fattened cock before covering it with the lube. Once Harry straddled him and was satisfied with his position, Louis watched as Harry slid down onto his cock in one quick motion that made both of them groan deeply from how quick and desperate they were. Louis thrust his hips up to meet Harry’s, changing their pace from shallow to deep and quick. Harry kissed Louis’ jaw as Louis tried to focus on not screaming so loud that every person that lived in this apartment and the next one knew that he was fucking Harry Styles.

“You are so fucking beautiful, Louis,” Harry murmured, fucking himself down in deep thrusts while staring at the boy below him. Louis was already so, so close to coming again that all he could do was move his hips up to meet Harry’s, jolting their bodies so hard that his head almost hit the headboard.

They fucked so hard and fast that Louis couldn’t remember his name or his birthday or what day it was. Louis only knew Harry’s name and soon his will to not moan as loud as what he was feeling flew out the window.

Louis moaned, loudly, almost screaming Harry’s name like a mantra. He just kept sighing over and over, repeating Harry’s name. How did Louis not do this with him from the start? It was cruel and unusual and unfair that he was this good in bed. It didn’t make any sense. Harry never made any fucking sense .

Louis had no real concept of time at that point. Only that Harry was making him feel so good that he couldn’t move. He felt himself inching closer and closer to orgasm as his words went even further downhill from monosyllabic to incoherent sounds.

Harry’s hands were snaking up and down every inch of Louis’ body. His lips were constantly attached to some part of him and the complete sensory overload of feeling so good all over was too much and just enough at the same time. They were both sweating and, at one point, the only thing they could hear was the sound of their skin pounding against each other as Harry bit lightly on Louis’ shoulder.

In that moment, somehow, everything just felt so right with Harry, like they fit together perfectly and knew exactly how to work one another without ever even having to teach one another. It felt fast and like a rush of dopamine went straight into Louis’ brain and flushed into his bloodstream, pumping into his heart at a pace that felt like it might just give out at any second.

Louis had never been happier than that moment with this sweaty, beautiful boy on top of him wanting him to feel amazing, but even more, wanting him to be happy.

Thinking about how happy Harry made Louis was enough to cause him to come harder than he had previously. As though he shot into the sky and exploded into light like a firework before falling back to Earth and landing back in his bed where Harry looked at him like he might need him forever. Louis’ biggest concern was that he might need him forever, too, and that was something he’d never thought about before.

And with a few more thrusts as Louis came down off of the best high he’d ever felt, Harry followed suit, covering Louis’ chest with white stripes. His heavy, lean, muscular body collapsed on top of Louis’, feeling like they were melting into one another until they were both one big puddle of just friends and attraction that confused them both.

The two of them didn’t say anything after nor did they bother to clean up. Instead Harry held Louis close to his chest, while Louis listened to his breaths even out to the point when he knew he’d fallen asleep. He fell asleep almost immediately thereafter, feeling safe and happy and like maybe everything was going to finally start making sense.

Chapter Text

 

Louis woke up to Zayn screaming and his eyes flew wide open in shock. Zayn was standing in front of his bedroom door with one hand covering his eyes as he stood there, trying to figure out if he should run out of the room or jump out the window. That was when Louis realized that he’d just walked in on Louis and Harry, naked and plastered together from spooning all night.

Shit.

“Oh my God,” Zayn kept groaning, muttering something unintelligible as he backed away from the room. “Sorry, guys. I thought Louis was alone.”

Louis frowned at him, almost amused by how embarrassed Zayn was. He felt Harry stir behind him, raising his head to look up at Zayn before quickly covering their bodies with the blanket that they’d kicked off in the middle of their sleep.

“It’s okay, Z,” Louis replied, his voice raspy from sleep. “I’ll be out in a few.”

“Shit,” Zayn muttered as he turned around quickly and walked out of the room. Louis let out another yawn, before turning to look at Harry and found the younger boy smiling down at him.  

“Morning,” Louis said, shy smile on his face.

“Good morning,” Harry replied, stretching out on the bed and cracking his bones. “Sleep well?”

Louis nodded, almost giddily because there was nothing like a good night of sleep after a good round of sex. “It was good, yeah.”

“Yeah,” Harry laughed. “It was really good.”

Louis looked at him for a moment, wondering if they were going to do anything other than stare at each other and laugh. Last night was something that Louis thought would only happen in his wildest dreams and it happened in real life. He had sex with Harry and it wasn’t boring or typical. He’d never had sex like that where he felt so connected with someone that it was insane. There was passion and feelings he never touched upon that surfaced when he was inside of Harry.

And it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that had something changed. Not just between Louis and Harry, but within himself, too. Louis knew he was completely and totally ruined for anyone because no one was ever going to compare to what Harry made him feel. Sex had never felt the way it did with Harry and Louis knew that well by that point.

Harry broke his gaze after a while, turning away from Louis and slowly getting out of bed. “I have class in like an hour,” he said. “I’ve got to get going since finals are coming up and I can’t miss it.”

“Yeah, sure,” Louis said, trying to mask his disappointment. He’d be lying if he didn’t want to go for another round, but school came first, as they always said. He watched as Harry pulled on his jeans and t-shirt back before standing awkwardly in front of the bed.

“So, I’ll see you around?” he asked.

Louis nodded, giving him a small smile. He almost thought Harry was about to just leave like that, but then he walked around to Louis' side and leaned down to press a soft kiss on his lips. “Bye,” he smiled.

“Bye,” Louis replied, smiling back, feeling his heart soar up. Once Harry walked out of his room, Louis heard him say something to Zayn before leaving the apartment. Louis then got out of bed and pulled on his boxer briefs before slowly walking out his bedroom.

Zayn was on the couch eating a bowl of cereal and looked up at Louis, smirking now. “What happened?” he asked.

Louis breathed heavily and plopped down on the couch beside him. “I had the best sex of my life last night.”

More than a week passed and Louis didn’t hear from Harry since he left the morning after they had sex.

At first, Louis was trying to brush it off saying that it was finals week before the fall term ended for him, so Harry was obviously extra busy. On top of that, he did have to go to work and that always tired him out by the end of the day. And it wasn’t like Louis wasn’t busy either because he did have to go to work as well and do Christmas shopping for his family and friends. Walking through crowded Manhattan streets during holiday season was extremely exhausting. So, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

But then Louis realized that they weren’t even texting. And it made him panic for a good hour, while he paced his living room and ate a whole box of cookies, before deciding to stop being silly and text Harry first, just to see if he really was avoiding Louis or not. Louis gathered up the courage and typed out a hey before sending it over. He tried not to be neurotic and only checked his phone every hour or so, while trying to keep busy and wrap his presents, but when a whole day had passed with no reply, Louis knew that Harry was avoiding him.

It surprised Louis because the morning after wasn’t as awkward as he thought it would be. They weren’t fighting and they weren’t tiptoeing around each other like he’d expected. Neither of them were drunk, so it wasn’t a mistake, either. They had both been in good moods and Harry even kissed him goodbye, so why was he suddenly ignoring Louis without an explanation?

It really hurt because it ruined whatever they shared that night. After all, it was Harry who initiated everything and it was he who was ignoring Louis. That wasn’t fucking done. He didn’t have any right to make Louis feel like the bad guy and shun him out when he made Louis feel that much, only to leave him and make him feel empty, instead.  

Zayn had noticed this because Zayn noticed everything. He cornered Louis while he was packing a small suitcase to take home for Christmas.

“Got everything?” he asked, standing in Louis’ doorway with a snack wrap from McDonald’s in his hand.

Louis nodded, putting the last of his sister’s presents in the bag and zipping it up. “Yeah, it’s just a few sets of clothes and Barbie’s and shit for the girls. I mostly just shopped from Toys R Us, but I goot Fizzy a Forever 21 gift card and Lottie this Sephora gift card. Hope they like it.”

“You went into Sephora?” Zayn snickered with food in his mouth.

Louis rolled his eyes. “They have mens fragrances in there, did you know? And guys do work there, too. Same goes for Forever 21, if you have anything to say about that, too.”

“I don’t, alright, I believe you,” Zayn nodded, laughing subsided. “So, you’re leaving when?”

“In about an hour. Mom’s coming to get me so I don’t have to take the train. You’re going home, too, right?”

Zayn nodded. “Taking the train from the city to the middle of nowhere in New Jersey.”

Louis laughed, putting his bags upright in the corner of his room. “New Jersey isn’t so bad, Z.”

“It’s not bad,” Zayn agreed. “I just can’t stand half the people from my small town. Happy to be seeing my family, though.”

“Yeah and at least we’re still doing New Year's together.”

“Right,” Zayn said. “And having a late celebration for your birthday. Have you talked to the others about the plan?”

“Just Niall. Said we should just have the party at his place and they’re getting me cake and a lot of chocolate vodka.”

“That’s good,” Zayn commended. “I love cake and chocolate vodka. Um, so what about Harry?”

Louis momentarily froze at hearing Harry’s name so suddenly in the conversation and tried to compose himself. There was no need to panic over just hearing his name. It was literally just a name. Louis sat back on his bed and looked at Zayn. His bed where he and Harry fucked till he almost passed out. And then he had to change his sheets when he realized that Harry was avoiding him and he didn’t want to smell him on them anymore.

“I don’t know,” Louis shrugged. “What about him?”

“Did you talk to him?” Zayn asked.

“Not really,” Louis replied honestly because he didn’t see a reason to lie. “He’s, like, busy.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Zayn agreed. “Do you want to talk about it, though?”

Louis scrunched his nose and shook his head, trying to seem cool, as though he didn’t care. He didn’t want to be pitied by anyone, not even Zayn, who was one of his closest friends. He was tired of them seeing him so vulnerable for Harry because it wasn’t like him. He didn’t let anyone hurt him, ever. So, he wanted to appear braver and stronger than he had been as of late.

“Not really,” Louis replied at last. “I don’t really see a point because it’s not a big deal. You know what I mean? Like shit happened and it doesn’t really change anything, right? We’re just friends. It was just a slip up. Like, it happens and I’m not really all that bothered by it. Just sex, I guess.”

Zayn stared at Louis for a long moment before nodding his head. “Yeah, sure, if that’s what you think.”

“I do,” Louis assured him.

“Alright. I believe you.” Zayn paused for a moment, biting his lip and contemplating how to fill the silence. He settled on, “Listen, I’ve got like a ton of McDonalds still left. Do you want to come eat it with me?”

Louis nodded, happy about the topic change. “Did you get extra fries?” he asked as they made their way over to the kitchen.

happy birthday, louis!!!!!! missing you a lot. see you soon. :* - H

merry christmasssss!!!!!!! - H

When Louis got back to the city early on New Year’s Eve day, he found his apartment empty and rather chilly. Zayn was arriving later on in time for the party at Niall’s and he’d promised to finally introduce them to and bring the girl he’d been seeing. So, Louis was alone and in order to pass time, he busied himself by tidying up his room and unpacking his things. Once done, he realized they had nothing to eat at home and there was nothing to watch on TV. With nothing else to do, Louis went down to the pizza store a few blocks down and chatted with Paul, their usual delivery guy.

In short, he was doing anything and everything to avoid calling Harry up to see if he was back in the city yet or not, even if it meant he had to clean. The two of them didn’t talk while they were away. Harry sent him a birthday text and a christmas text, but Louis didn’t know what to say, so he just settled on thanks :) and you too.

It didn’t venture out into anything else. However, there was this one time when Harry creeped Louis’ snapchat story of his family’s Christmas tree and snapped him back a selfie with a big thumbs up and dimpled grin. Louis didn’t respond back, but he did get slightly giddy over seeing Harry’s face because he was fucking cute.

When he was done with his pizza, Louis sat in the small shop and wondered what to do next because all he could think about doing was showing up at Harry’s apartment and he literally could not do that. Not after Harry ignored him after that night. Instead, Louis decided to call up Niall and ask him what he was up to. The two of them didn’t get a chance to hang out when Louis went home because Niall spent Christmas with Barbara and her parents in Philly.

Niall picked up on the second ring. “Lou, what’s up, bro?” he asked as soon as he picked up.

“Hey,” Louis smiled. “Not much. Got back to the city a little while ago. Are you back, yet?”

“Got back last night, yeah,” Niall replied. “What are you up to?”

“Nothing at all, actually. Called to ask if you wanted to do anything?”

“B and I are actually setting up for the party tonight. I’m going to head out in a few to pick up some last minute things. Do you want to come and help out?”

“Yeah, that sounds great,” Louis said. “I’ll be over in a bit.”

“Alright, man. See you.”

Forty minutes later, Louis and Niall were browsing through Party City for last minute party favors like Happy 2015 glasses, hats, streamers, and confetti. Being as immature as they were, they were mostly playing around with everything in the store rather than getting what they were meant to.

“So, how was Christmas?” Niall asked him, finally taking the New Year glasses in different colors and putting it into their basket.  

“Good,” Louis replied with a nod. “Mom made a great dinner and I bonded a bit, I guess, with Dan. He’s a cool guy and a good boyfriend to my mom. He got me a Rolex for my birthday.”

Niall let out a low whistle. “Nice. Is he loaded or something?”

“He does marketing,” Louis told him with a shrug. “But I’m not sure if he’s got a lot of money. It was nice of him, though. I mostly think he did that to kiss up a little, but I’m not stopping him”

Niall laughed as they went to the next aisle. “You had a good birthday then I suppose?” Niall asked.

“It was good being with the family,” Louis responded, looking through the different party hats they had. He picked out a colorful bunch with 2015’s springing out from the sides and handed it to Niall, who put it in the basket. “I feel like the older you get, the more low key your birthday becomes and I’ve yet to decide how that makes me feel.”

“Stop talking like you’re some fifty year old,” Niall snorted. “We’ll have a proper celebration for your birthday tonight. Remember your seventeenth birthday?”

Louis grinned, remembering that wild night where they ended up in the middle of Bronx for some random reason that they couldn’t remember. “I do, yeah. I think you lost your virginity that night. Funny because it should have been me.”

Niall laughed as they moved to the next aisle. “It wasn’t all that great. I can’t even remember where we did it.”

“As long as you remember who you did it with.”

“True. Maria Goldstein was a pretty great first.” Louis snickered as they moved on to the next aisle towards the streamers and confetti. Niall nudged Louis with his shoulder. “Have you spoken to Harry yet?”

Louis snorted, turning to him. “What makes you think I’m not talking to him?”

“Don’t try to hide anything from me,” Niall reasoned, with a wave of his hand. “I know everything that goes on and there’s no point. Just answer me, have you spoken to Harry?”

“Not really. A little bit, but it was just a text and snapchat. Is he coming tonight?”

Niall nodded. “I invited him, obviously, and I texted him this morning, too. He should be back to the city soon.”

“Alright,” Louis said casually. “If I see him, then I’ll talk to him.”

“Please do,” Niall begged as they started moving towards the cash registers. “I have no idea what happened--”

“Thought you just said you know everything that’s going on,” Louis reminded him with a smirk.

“I knew you guys weren’t talking,” Niall pointed out. “I even asked and he just said he was being stupid and doesn’t know what to do. So, whatever it is, you guys really need to get your shit fucking together.”

“Alright, Niall,” Louis said, laughing. “I get it. We’ll see what happens. Besides, who told you we weren’t talking?”

“I was in a three way call with Liam and Zayn over break and they’d mentioned that you two weren’t talking or seeing each other as of late.”

“You guys had a three way call and didn’t include me and Harry?” Louis asked, sounding affronted. “What kind of a fucking squad are you guys?”

“Well, you guys weren’t talking,” Niall argued, trying to justify himself. “It would have been awkward.”

“Right,” Louis rolled his eyes. “You guys are fake as fuck and I plan to call you out on it.”

You would,” Niall said, finally placing all their items on the checkout counter.

Niall and Barbara’s party was the place to be on New Year's night because it seemed half the city was there in attendance. The apartment was crawling with people and there was hardly any space to move or do anything. Nevertheless, everyone was having fun and enjoying themselves. Louis, on the other hand, kept losing his friends and would end up having a conversation with some random person he’d never met while nursing the same beer he’d had since the party started. He was kind of in an off mood and he wasn’t going to admit to anyone it was because a certain curly haired boy was still not there.

Because that wasn’t the reason.

It totally wasn’t.

When Louis managed to find his way back to the living room from the kitchen, he noticed Zayn greeting a girl with lavender hair by the door. Louis smirked as he walked over and hip checked Zayn, who looked over at him and grinned.

“Louis,” he said.

“Zayn,” Louis replied, smiling at the girl, who was very pretty and looking rather shy. “Care to introduce me to your friend, finally?”

Zayn laughed, shaking his head and muttering asshole under his breath in an affectionate way. “Louis, this is Perrie, my friend. Perrie, this is Louis. He’s my roommate.”

“Nice to meet you,” Louis said, grinning and extending his hand for her to shake.

Perrie shook his hand, giving him a big smile. She had big, bright blue eyes and an eccentric way of dressing, which was probably why Zayn was so into her. Louis had always known Zayn to be very picky because he had a type. He didn’t easily fall for people easily or make an effort if he didn’t see a future with them because he really hated games. So, for him to be making such an effort with Perrie even though they were a bit complicated, Louis knew he must really like her. Love her, even, because Zayn looked at her with something Louis had never seen before.

He wondered if they were together together, but Louis didn’t want to make it awkward by asking if they were making it official because Zayn did say friend.

Louis was really starting to hate that word because suddenly it had a more complex meaning than it used to.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Perrie replied to Louis, snapping him out of his thoughts. “I’ve been meaning to finally come meet Zayn’s friends because he talks about you guys quite a lot.”

“I’m glad you did,” Louis laughed. “We’ve been badgering him to bring you around as well. Hopefully after tonight, you could join us more frequently.”

“I’d love that,” Perrie nodded.

Louis led the two of them back to the kitchen to get drinks and he got to know more about Perrie. She was a student at the New School and in her last year, studying graphic designing. Currently, she was working at Forever 21 and loved it because she got half off of anything in the store, which basically amounted to barely anything, Louis, it’s practically free . She was also really funny and witty with some of her comments, which Louis loved because that was how he could be, too.

The three of them were bonding so much that he didn’t even realize that it was nearing 11 PM and Harry still wasn’t there yet. Louis only remembered once he saw Liam and Sophia walk in, hand in hand. It irked him for a reasons. One being that it was a New Year’s Eve Party, you couldn’t show up past midnight because then there was no point. Two was the fact that Harry had avoided Louis, but Louis was still so eager to see him. Where was Louis’ pride and dignity? Completely lost, it seemed, when it came to frog boy.

He smiled, nonetheless, at Liam and Sophia, waving them over. He stood off on the side and watched as Zayn introduced Perrie to them.

“Did you guys come alone?” he asked Liam, once the initial greetings were done.

Liam nodded. “I picked up Sophia and we took a cab over.”

“Oh, so it was just you two?” Louis asked again.

Liam nodded with an amused smile before nudging Louis. “Just ask me whether or not Harry’s here or if he came with us.”

Louis sighed with a groan because he was so obvious all the time. What the fuck? “Fine, Liam. Is Harry here?”

“No,” Liam laughed, shaking his head. “He’s not home, either.”

“Then where is he?” Louis asked, looking at him with a confused expression. Did Harry have other plans? Was he with Peter?

“He’s waiting outside your apartment,” Liam replied, making Louis widen his eyes. “He wants to see you--he’s been dying to see you. And, he texted me earlier saying he’s going to wait for you at yours.”

Louis frowned, his lips pouting before punching Liam on the arm. “Why didn’t you tell him not to? I’m here, Liam. I’m not in Brooklyn.”

Liam was wincing as he rubbed his arm. “I told him that, but he still didn’t want to take chances or something.”

“He didn’t even text me,” Louis groaned. “Do you know how cold it is outside? What if he freezes to death?”

“I highly doubt he would freeze to death, Lou,” Liam reasoned.

“Shut up,” Louis said quickly. “I’m going to go.”

Louis quickly said goodbye to everyone, even though Niall and Barbara yelled at him saying they got him cake, which he said would just have to wait. He had a boy waiting for him at home. He ran out the door and towards the subway. The train ride itself felt like hours instead of a half hour. Louis started wondering if Harry would even still be there and whether or not he was okay. It kind of annoyed him that even though Harry ignored him all this time, the minute he made a grand gesture to make for it, Louis was going running back to him. It was as if he could never escape Harry or his feelings for him.

When he reached his stop, Louis sprinted out of the subway and towards his apartment, running past people and trying to ignore how his face was numbing from the cold. He slowed to a stop when he saw Harry sitting on the front steps of his apartment, staring down at his feet.

Louis walked up to the steps and stood in front of him, clearing his throat. Harry looked up right away and his eyes brightened, grinning wide before he visibly tried to tone it down. “Hey,” he said.

“Hi,” Louis replied, trying to drink in Harry’s face. He hadn’t seen him in so long, even though it was barely a month. He wanted to stare at him forever. He wanted to look into those green eyes and touch his rosy cheeks and lips. Louis wanted to remember the feel of Harry’s hair under his fingers. Shit, he missed him so much.

“What are you doing here?” Harry asked, puffs of cold air coming out of his mouth.

“Could be asking you the same thing,” Louis chuckled, stepping back on his heels and fumbling with his jacket pockets.

Harry shrugged, scratching the back of his head. “I didn’t expect you to be back so early.”

Louis bit his lip, deciding to just say it, instead of hiding. “I wanted to be with you,” he said, soft and sincere. A quiet, sort of comforting silence took over between them as Harry stared at Louis. Louis felt a draw towards Harry that he’d felt a million times before, but never this strong so he took a step closer. “Why are you here, Harry? Why weren’t you at the party?”

“I wanted to wait here for you,” he answered. “It’s been awhile since we’d last seen each other and I thought a party should be the last place you and I should be meeting after what had happened.”

“Yeah?” Louis asked. Harry nodded in response stepping down off the steps until he was standing in front of Louis.

“I don’t wanna fight anymore,” Harry said. “I know that we aren’t exactly fighting, but we did fight before what happened and I really fucking miss you. I’m so sorry. I don’t know why--I just needed a moment to breathe, so I didn’t try to contact you. I was also busy, so it made it slightly easier, but it didn’t make me feel better.”

“You could have told me, though, instead of leaving me cold turkey,” Louis said quietly. “And for the record, I’m sorry, too. For the fighting before.”

“I know, I should have explained. I still don’t know what I want, to be honest with you. It’s kind of a mess.”

Louis swallowed, nodding in an understanding way and trying not to look disappointed. “It’s fine. I get it.”

“But I know what I want right now,” Harry said, biting his lip and grinning shyly at Louis. Louis looked up at him in surprise by the sudden turn of the conversation.

“What’s that?” he asked him, a small smile forming on his lips.

Harry shrugged, blushing as he walked a little closer. “You know what I want right now. Everyone knows,” he laughed. “It’s hard to like...ignore it.”

Louis nodded his head as he moved closer till Harry was breathing into his space.

“I don’t wanna ignore it, anymore,” Harry said.

“Me either,” Louis shook his head, feeling breathless and he wasn’t even being kissed yet.

Harry stared at Louis in a longing way before saying,“Will you get mad if I kiss you?” Louis shook his head slowly and Harry smiled, cupping Louis' jaw in his hands and leaning down to press his cold lips against his. At first, it was soft feather kisses, laced with hesitancy and nervousness. It wasn’t until Harry’s back hit the brick rail of the steps, that Harry surged forward to deepen the kiss, wrapping an arm around Louis and keeping him close.

He pulled away after a while, pressing his forward head against Louis’. They were both breathless and smiling stupidly at each other. “I don’t think I can ever get over how it feels to kiss you,” Harry said. “Never felt like that in my life.”

“Keep kissing me then,” Louis prompted, nudging his lips up to Harry’s in an inviting, surprised at how brave he was being for once. Harry gave him a lazy grin before lowering his hands down to Louis’ waist and gripping them. Louis tilted himself up by standing on his tippy toes and bared his weight on Harry.  

“Fully intend to,” he promised, capturing Louis’ lips in another breathtaking kiss, again.

“Louis,” Barbara said, swinging her and Niall’s hands entwined together, back and forth as they walked. “Would you rather wake up naked and sore without any memory of the night before next to Burger King telling you you had it your way or wake up naked next to Ronald McDonald telling you that you were loving it?”

Everyone burst out laughing, throwing their heads back as Louis stared at Barbara with a disgusted expression. Their whole group was hanging out in Central Park that day and taking a walk since it was the first good weather of the year. They’d gotten waffles from the Waffles and Dinges truck, thrown bread at the pigeons and played with at least seventeen dogs while on their walk. It was Niall who had suggested they start playing would you rather and as time went on, it got more and more disgusting and weird.

“Well?” she asked, looking at him pointedly.

Harry, who was walking beside Louis and purposely brushing their hands together rather than outright holding it, whispered, “I’d pick neither. Like, death.”

“I don’t think I can do that,” Louis said, wondering if Harry was honestly jealous of Louis fucking Burger King or Ronald McDonald. “There is no death option.”

“Yeah, you can’t pick death. You have to pick one of them,” Barbara informed them.

“Alright,” Louis mulled over his options, putting a hand on his chin. “I think Burger King because waking up naked next to that clown would probably come with nightmares for years and I’d rather not.”

Everyone laughed, probably imaging Louis with both of those fast food icons in bed together. The game continued similarly and Harry would occasionally smile and hold Louis’ hand instead of just brushing it together, rubbing his thumb on the inside of his wrist. It gave Louis butterflies in his stomach and he wondered when he started actually liking the simplest parts of a relationship when he used to hate them so much. Especially because he and Harry weren’t in a relationship.

They all stopped in front of the fountain and sat down on the ledge of it because Zayn was complaining that he needed a break from the walk. It was weird after that because they all coupled off, leaving Harry and Louis feeling awkward standing there. Niall and Barbara were being domestic, talking about whether or not they needed groceries and if they paid their bills on time or not. Perrie and Zayn were blushing and standing off on the side, throwing pennies into the fountain and making wishes (apparently they were thinking of making it official since the NYE party). Sophia was sitting on Liam’s lap and they were whispering things into each other’s ears.

When Louis was about to pull his phone out to try and busy himself, Harry tugged on his hand and led him away under the bridge where it was secluded and a bit deserted, too.

“What?” Louis giggled to him, even though he knew what.

Harry smiled, leaning back against the wall where they were hidden from everyone elses view and pulled Louis closer to him. “Hi,” he said. “I missed you.”

“We’ve been together this entire time,” Louis reminded him, smiling regardless.

“Yeah, but,” Harry agreed with a roll of his eyes. “I missed holding you. And kissing you.” He leaned in, pressing a hard kiss on Louis’ lips to emphasize the point.

“You know we could get caught, right?” Louis reminded him, stealing a kiss himself. “Everyone is sitting literally right there. What if they follow us in here and see us?”

“That’s the fun of it,” Harry replied to him, pressing a open mouthed kiss to Louis’ cold, chapped lips, warming them up.

“In that case,” Louis said with an edge to his voice. “You can do better than that, yeah?”

Harry grinned and kissed Louis again, mouth parted and tongue sliding in right away. Louis wrapped his arms around Harry’s neck, his fingers playing with his curly hair, something he realized Harry really liked him to do when they kissed. Harry’s hands slid down Louis’ past waist and onto his butt, pulling him further in by grabbing two handfuls until he was tucked into Harry’s unbuttoned coat, radiating warmth between them.

“This is nice,” Louis mumbled against Harry’s lips.

“It’s always nice kissing you, Lou,” he whispered in Louis’ mouth.

“Yeah?”

Harry moaned into the kiss in response and Louis wished they weren’t outside and in close proximity of their friends because he literally wanted to rip Harry’s clothes off right there. They weren’t really telling anyone about them, yet. And it should concern Louis a tad bit that this was the first time they’d all hung out together since before Christmas and he was ready to leave and fuck Harry into his mattress, but it didn’t. He wanted Harry all the time and the two of them had been insatiable since New Years. They couldn’t stop touching or kissing each other, only controlling themselves when they were around other people.

It was a bit shady and secretive, but Louis wasn’t going to start questioning it. He needed to revel in it a bit more until he did realize it wasn’t the most ideal way to go about things.

“Everybody,” Barbara said, from where she was sitting on the couch. “I have an announcement, so listen up.”

Everyone turned to look at her expectantly, including Louis, who shouldn’t really have all of his friends sitting around at his workplace while he was still on air for his show on the radio. He had a stream of songs playing, though, thanks to Zayn, who had decidedly plopped himself down next to the older boy and insisted on what songs he should play. Louis felt like Zayn liked his job more than Louis himself did. He was always so eager to make the mixes and play the songs.

“So, you all know how I’ve been trying to get my own line of clothing out, right?” Barbara asked.

“You mean your lingerie line?” Louis snickered, immaturely.

Barbara rolled her eyes at him and nodded. “Yes, my lingerie line. I’ve been working on it for months now while also working at the boutique downtown and a few weeks ago, I spoke to someone who could help me get the line out and she offered me a small slot in an upcoming fashion show for new designers.”

“That’s great, B,” Sophia exclaimed, smiling wide while everyone started speaking up all at once about the good news. “Has this been going on for a while? You didn’t tell any of us anything till now.”

“I know,” Barbara said, looking a bit apologetic. “I just didn’t want to jinx it, but I’ve been working on it for a while and all the pieces are done, so when the I spoke to the lady with the connections, it just seemed too good to be true. I only got the confirmation yesterday and the fashion show is in two weeks, so I wanted to invite you all to come.”

Everyone started cheering for Barbara even more, congratulating her and assuring her that they’d all go. Niall looked so proud, holding her around the waist and smirking as everyone praised her and asked her about the details of the show; where it was held, how it was going to run, etc. A few minutes later, Harry strolled in and grinned at everyone. “Hiii,” he drawled out. “Sorry, I’m late. My professor held us up later than usual. What did I miss?”

“My girlfriend’s a fashion designer,” Niall beamed.

Harry’s eyes widened and he turned to Barbara, with a questioning look. “Can’t wait to hear what this is about,” he said, while looking around the room for a seat. There was hardly any room left. Liam, Sophia, Barbara and Niall were on the small couch. Louis was sitting in his work chair and Zayn was on his knees on the floor beside him, working the switchboard and acting like he was some hip RJ.

He then eyed Louis with a glint in his eye. “Hey, Lou,” he smiled. “Mind getting up for a second?”

“Why?” Louis asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Come on,” Harry insisted with a stupid pout.

Louis dramatically groaned, standing up and before he could process what Harry was about to do, Harry quickly sat down on his chair and then pulled Louis down on to his lap. Louis let out a squawk as his butt placed comfortably over Harry’s groin. It felt too nice and Louis was so upset about that. How did they fit so well? He would never know. Louis turned to look at Harry with a suspicious expression, wondering what his intentions were when Harry smiled at him sheepishly and squeezed his hip in response.

And who was Louis to complain, really? Not like they didn’t do something of the similar sort that morning on Harry’s couch but naked, instead. Thank God Liam stayed over at Sophia’s because they did it in the kitchen, too, shortly after.

“This feels like déjà vu,” Harry whispered in Louis' ear, hot breath hitting Louis' neck.

“Oh yeah?” Louis whispered back with a smirk.

“Yeah, it’s really nice, but there are too many people here and too many clothes on you.”

“I can hear you guys,” Zayn whispered from behind them with a sarcastic expression.

Louis’ eyes widened and he almost died from how badly he wanted to laugh. Harry gave Zayn an apologetic smile before turning to Barbara. “So, you’re a fashion designer now?”

She nodded, giddily. “I’ve been working on this lingerie line and I’m going to get a slot in this upcoming fashion show for new designers where I can have the pieces modelled. It might actually get picked up to be in a store or something if I do this right.”

“You totally will, B,” Niall encouraged her. “I will be front row and I will make sure everyone there knows how amazing you are.”

Barbara cooed at him, placing a kiss on his cheek before turning back to Harry. “I was just inviting everyone to come. You, too, of course.”

“I’d love to,” Harry grinned. “What’s your lingerie line like?”

“It’s a lot of lace and colors and pretty bows,” Barbara told him matter of factly. “Niall saw all the designs and he loved every single one of them.”

“Did he make you test run them as well?” Louis asked, causing everyone in the room to laugh.

Barbara glared at Louis, but was smiling, too. Niall was the only one who didn’t find it funny as he glared at Louis. “So, what if I did?” he said defensively. “Lingerie is sexy. It’s, like, my kink, or whatever.”

“I don’t think girls wearing lingerie is considered a kink,” Zayn reasoned, his brows furrowing. “Like, they wear underwear and bras all the time so it’s not out of the ordinary.”

“Yeah, but this is lace and bows and shit,” Niall said. “It really gets me going.”

“At least it’s not the strangest kink,” Liam piped up. “I’ve heard of people having so many different fetishes. I once had an ex who liked me to swear during sex. She insisted I said bad words every few seconds otherwise it wasn’t good for her.”

“Swearing during sex isn’t that uncommon either,” Zayn added. “Everyone swears during sex.”

“Then what in your opinion is the weirdest kink, Zayn?” Niall asked, looking at him expectantly. Zayn turned to Louis, who knew exactly what he was thinking of, and burst out laughing. The two of them were practically falling over and none of the others knew what it was about, which was rather frustrating for something.

“Can someone clue us in already?” Barbara asked impatiently.

“Okay, okay,” Zayn wheezed. “But Louis has to help me because I technically heard it from him.”

“You have a weird kink?” Harry asked him, eyeing him much too curiously.

Louis shook his head quickly. “Not me. This guy I once slept with.”

Harry’s face fell at that, clearly jealous and not wanting to hear about it, but Louis knew that Harry knew that he had nothing to worry about so he continued anyway. “I’m not judging the guy or anything because everyone’s entitled to like what they want in bed, but this was something I personally was not into or something that I’d ever had asked of me.”

“What was it?” Liam asked, his interest piqued.

“It was someone I’d hooked up with once or twice and before we were about to do it again, he asked if I’d do a bit of manscaping for him. He had a shaving kink and liked his boys completely clean. Once again, not judging because his choice, but Zayn had never heard of that and it was a bit of a shock for him when I’d told him.”

Niall and Liam snickered, clearly on the same boat as Zayn, while the girls nodded their heads as though they were trying to understand the guy’s point of view. After that, the others continued to discuss more kinks and fetishes, Zayn moving over to sit with the boys, and Louis noticed Harry was rather quiet. He turned to look at him and found the younger boy looking a bit upset and still jealous.

“Oh, come on,” Louis said to him. “You’re not actually jealous, are you?”

“No,” Harry pouted, even though it was obvious he was.

“Babe,” Louis whispered into his ear. “He’s so irrelevant. You know I’m going to be with you tonight and no one else, right? That is, if you want me to.”

“I don’t know,” Harry snuffed haughtily. “I’ve got a lot of homework to do. Tons of reading for class.”

“Won’t you miss me?” Louis pouted, exaggeratedly.

“You’re a dick, so no, I won’t miss you,” Harry said, trying to act like he actually meant it, even though Louis could tell he was speaking with his lying voice.

“You’ll miss my dick then,” Louis pointed out, laughing. “Besides, you promised me you’d cook me dinner tonight, too. Why don’t you bring your homework to my place? Zayn’s not going to be home.”

A small smile broke out on Harry’s face and he shrugged. “We’ll see.”

Louis laughed, curling into Harry and playing with his dimples and hair to cheer him up some more, which seemed to be working because he was soon smiling back wholeheartedly and joking back with Louis.

When Louis noticed a red light blinking on his switchboard in midst of a laugh because Harry’d just told him another stupid knock knock joke, he bolted out of Harry’s lap and picked up his headset before pressing the button below the light. “Hello,” he said, frantically.

“Louis,” Kenny, his boss, said. “Are you at your desk because no one has been talking for like twenty minutes and we’re getting callers? It’s been a stream of hip hop songs for the longest time. What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry,” Louis said, looking at the others with wide eyes. “I had--uh.” He racked his brain for an excuse, unable to find a good one at such short notice. “I just. I was taking a huge shit, Kenny. I’m sorry. I had some really bad macaroni salad yesterday. It didn’t settle in properly.”

There was a pause on the line as Louis let his boss take in the excuse. He could hear everyone’s conversation die down as they all sat with bated breaths except for Harry’s audible snickering beside him. That fucking imbecile. Louis would spank him, but Harry would probably love it too much, so it wouldn’t really be a punishment.

“It’s, uh, it’s alright,” Kenny said after a while, coughing. “Just let me know beforehand. Get back on air. The song is about to end.”

“Okay,” Louis mumbled. He quickly said goodbye and pressed on the live button. “Hey, guys. Been enjoying the mix of hip hop songs, I hope. Next up is “We Found Love” by our very own bad girl, RiRi. After that, I’ll be taking callers requests so call in now and request your favorite song and I will play it.”

Louis hit play for the song and pressed on the off air button on his mic before setting his headset down. He turned to look at his friends, who were staring at him, amused expressions on all of them.

“How’d your shit go, Louis?” Zayn asked, breaking the silence.

“Shut the fuck up,” Louis yelled as everyone burst out laughing. Liam was practically shaking, falling over on to Sophia’s lap.

“We’ll leave,” Barbara said, after she’d calmed down. She got up and gathered the rest of them, too. “You’ve got to work and we’re obviously being distracting. Let’s hang out again soon, though.”

Everyone murmured their agreement, standing up and gathering themselves before walking out of the office. Harry stayed back and Louis turned to him to find him smiling at Louis cheekily as the door shut behind the others.

“What are you waiting for, then?” Louis asked him with a smirk.

“C’mere,” he mumbled, taking Louis’ hand and pulling him close. Louis couldn’t help the blush or smile, creeping up on his face, as he let Harry pull him back into his lap and kiss him. Louis’ hands ran up Harry’s torso and to his neck, holding him tight around there so he wouldn’t fall off. At first it was uncomfortable because he was sitting sideways on Harry’s lap, but somehow Harry managed to pick Louis up and have him straddle one of his thighs, instead. The kiss grew heated as Harry’s tongue licked against Louis’ with Rihanna singing about love and yellow diamonds in the sky in the background. Louis could feel one of Harry’s hands moving up under his shirt while the other cupped his butt and kept pulling him as close as possible.

But then Louis heard the beeping behind him, signaling a call and he tried to pull off Harry, but Harry groaned. “Harry,” Louis mumbled against his mouth. “I have to pick up.”

“Quit this job,” he moaned out when Louis’ knee pushed against his half hard dick.

“Oh my God,” Louis laughed, finally moving his face away from Harry’s. Louis pulled away from his grasp and pressed on the live button to talk to the caller. He made small talk and took her request during which Harry scooted closer and pulled him down to sit again, but made no attempts at trying to distract him.

He was content on just holding Louis close while he worked.

...

Louis sipped his coffee and crossed his legs while looking at all the people walking past him. Liam, who was sat beside him, had just pocketed his phone after a quick phone call from Sophia and picked up his own cup of coffee that was sitting on the bench beside him. The two of them had just walked Harry to his class that morning since Louis stayed over the night before. When they realized they had more time before their shifts at work, they decided to grab a cup of coffee and sit at Washington Square Park for a while.

“Sorry I knocked out so soon during the movie,” Liam said, looking at him after setting his cup down again. “I didn’t mean to. I was so tired from work and everything that I couldn’t help it.”

Louis shrugged with a small smile. “No biggie. I could tell you what happens if you like.” Truth was, Louis probably couldn’t. Last night, they’d all sat down in the living room and decided to pop in World War Z since Harry got the DVD. And then Liam fell asleep twenty minutes in and while the movie was really interesting, Harry decided he’d much rather liked to crawl into Louis’ lap and make out with him, instead.

“Nah, it’s alright,” Liam said. “I think I’ll give it another shot. Brad Pitt movies are always worth it.”

“True that,” Louis agreed with a nod.

“Hey, Barbara’s fashion show is soon,” Liam smiled, reminding him. “I’m a bit nervous to go because I realized a few days ago that the girls will all be modeling half naked. And Sophia will be with me so where am I meant to look, you know?”

Louis laughed and patted him on the back. “Just assure her that she is still the most beautiful girl in the room to you.”

“Good idea! I’ll do that,” Liam exclaimed. “Should be fun that we’re all going. Niall wants to do an early celebratory dinner before the event because there will be a small after party at the venue with drinks and stuff.”

“Sound fancy,” Louis commented, mentally thinking up what he could wear to a fashion show. “Is Perrie coming, too? She’s great.”

“Yeah, she’s really funny. And I’m pretty sure Zayn’s bringing her. Harry’s bringing Peter, too,” Liam said, casually, like he didn’t just drop the biggest bomb on Louis. Louis paused and blanked out for a second, just staring at Liam, who looked a bit wary. “Did I say something wrong?”

“Harry’s bringing Peter?” Louis asked, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

Liam nodded slowly. “Didn’t he tell you? Peter came over a few days ago and Sophia was there, too. And she mentioned something about the fashion show to me, but then Peter overheard and then Harry invited him to come with. They seem to be a lot better, lately. No fights or breakups, which is great.”

Yeah, because Harry was too busy getting fucked by Louis.

He really shouldn’t be this bitter because the thing was, Louis knew that Harry hadn’t completely broken things off with Peter. He never told him that they broke up, just that they were fighting over Louis and that was before they started having sex. Since then, it seemed Harry spent all his free time with Louis. And if Louis really thought about it, he had no idea when Harry had the chance to even date Peter with all the sex the two of them were having.

If Harry and Peter were in fact together, would that mean Harry was cheating and Louis was essentially the mistress of some sort? The whole thought of it brought a bout of nausea into Louis. It wasn’t much different to what Louis was doing with Greg, though. The two of them had lunch dates quite frequently in between their work shifts and Greg kissed him once or twice, even though it never went beyond that.

Did that mean Louis was a cheater, too, if neither Harry nor Greg knew about the other?

“What are you thinking about?” Liam asked Louis, snapping him out of his thoughts. Louis turned to look at him and gave a small smile.

“Nothing,” he said. “Just that everyone will be coupled off except me.”

“Oh, don’t think like that. Never too late to bring a date. Why don’t you ask Greg?” Liam asked. “You mentioned to us once that you guys were on better terms, right? You even hung out with him?”

Louis nodded his slowly. “Yeah, we hang out a lot, actually.”

“Then bring him,” Liam smiled, encouragingly. “He was a great guy. You seemed to really like him.”

Louis smiled back at Liam and realized that he had quite the point. If Harry was going to bring Peter to this fashion show then what was stopping Louis from bringing Greg?

Greg easily agreed to accompany Louis to Barbara’s fashion show. It almost made Louis feel really guilty because he could tell that Greg was really happy about the invitation, and still had some sort of feelings for him. It must have given him the impression that they were moving in a direction even though it was a group hangout because until then, they’d mostly kept their meetings strictly platonic except for that time or two when Greg braved a kiss on Louis. In short, it gave Greg a false sense of hope that Louis only felt guilty about after he asked.

The two of them arrived to Outback Steakhouse on the day of for the early celebratory dinner slightly late because Greg’s radio slot didn’t finish till a bit later. So, when they walked in, everyone was already seated. And if looks could kill, Greg would have been dead when Harry spotted him walking in behind Louis. Louis didn’t really care because he could see Peter beside him at the table and it made his blood boil just as well.

“Hey guys,” Louis said, greeting them all with an overenthusiastic smile as he took his seat at the opposite end of the table, away from Harry and Peter. “Sorry, we’re late.”

“My fault,” Greg said with a raise of his hand and an apologetic smile. Everyone chuckled, making room and saying hi to him. It got a bit quiet after that, everyone looking over their menus, and Louis wondered if he was the only one that thought that the tension at the table could be cut with with a knife. Harry wasn’t subtle with his dirty looks that he not so nicely threw across the table. Louis was half embarrassed and half indulgent because he wanted a reaction out of Harry, after all, and it was what he was being given.

The only thing he didn’t want was for Greg to feel uncomfortable even though he was being used as a weird catalyst. He was glad, though, that once the waiter came around, asking for their drink orders, Niall engaged Greg into a conversation about new bands, originality, and the economic for music. It made Louis feel a little less bad about bringing him here tonight. He could always count on Niall to make anyone and everyone feel welcome.

Besides, it gave Louis time to steal a look at Harry over his menu to find the younger boy attempting to do the same as him while Peter was on his phone next to him.

Zayn, who was sitting on Louis’ opposite side, nudged him. Louis turned to look at him, a bit startled because he and Harry were having an intense staring contest, and Zayn whispered, “Didn’t know you were dating Greg again.”

“I’m not,” Louis quickly said, defensively. “We’re hanging out, kind of.”

“Hanging out,” Zayn said slowly, like he was mulling over that phrase. “Was this before or after you heard Harry was bringing Peter tonight?”

“What are you trying to say?” Louis asked him, feeling rather attacked.

“Whatever it is that you two are doing is fucked up,” Zayn said bluntly. “You’re both stuck in some weird relationship limbo with two different people who deserve more than this. I just think you should stop playing games and sort your shit out before people get really hurt, but it’s a bit too late for that, isn’t it?”

Louis glared at him, feeling more emotional than angry. “Fuck you, Zayn. You have no idea, okay? You have no idea. I know that as a person and an adult, I should know better, but right now I feel like shit, okay? You know that he’s all I ever wanted and now that I’ve managed to get just a little bit of him, I don’t know if I can--.”

Louis couldn’t even say it, his voice getting stuck in his throat. Zayn looked at him sympathetically before putting his menu down. Louis was so thankful that everyone else around them was too busy in their own conversations to hear what they were saying. “Listen, Lou,” Zayn started, his voice a lot softer than before. “I shouldn’t have said it like that. I’m sorry, but you know what I mean, right? I want the best for not just you, but for Harry and everyone else, too.”

“I know,” Louis nodded. “I should have thought this through, but it’s a bit too late for that, like you said.”

“It’s alright,” he said. “Enjoy the night and make better decisions tomorrow.” He smiled at Louis and Louis felt a bit better after that. The night had just started and he didn’t want any drama for Barbara when it was her day. So, he had to try and make do with what the situation was. He’d just have to make sure nothing went wrong with Greg and everything ran smoothly.

Hopefully.

The venue for the fashion show was massive. It was showing a few new designers and everyone was given an itinerary of whose designs would be coming out and when. The whole group got seated a few rows back, but Niall was up in the front, looking really smart in his dress pants and white and navy striped shirt with a tie. Louis still couldn’t believe to this day that Braceface Horan had a hot, fashion designer girlfriend with a lingerie line.

The kids in their old school would eat their hearts out if they knew.

He was proud, though, and really excited to see what Barbara had designed. The only thing that was off about the night was how hard Harry was pouting the entire time. Peter seemed to have accepted that Harry was in no mood to interact with him, so he was sulking too, phone out and looking rather bored. This was hardly a place for a lawyer and all that. Louis rolled his eyes at the thought.

“That’s Harry’s boyfriend, am I correct?” Greg asked, looking over Louis’ shoulder where he had an arm resting.

Louis nodded. “Yep. He’s a character.”

Greg laughed. “What? You guys don’t like him or something?”

Louis wrinkled his nose and shook his head. “Not really. He’s kind of had a history of being a major douche bag.”

“Poor Harry,” Greg said, a bit sadly. “Why’s he with him then?”

Louis laughed a bit harder than necessary. “I’ve honestly been trying to figure it out for two years. Let me know if you figure it out.” Greg smiled in response, obviously happy to have made Louis laugh, even though it wasn’t for what he thought it was.

When the fashion show started up, the lights dimmed and they all sat through two designers before Barbara’s line was announced. It was called Wink and the song "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift started to play as her models all came out one by one to show her designs. It was all really pretty with nice pastel colors and lots of lace trims and bows, just like she’d described. Once done, Barbara came out to give a bow and their entire group stood up to give her a standing ovation. Niall was whistling with two fingers in his mouth and all about ready to jump on stage to kiss the life out of her.

Afterwards, other designers started coming out and Louis got a bit restless with Harry staring at him so much and Greg being right there, so he quietly excused himself to the restrooms. When he walked in, it was empty and rather cold. Louis stood in front of the mirror and examined his hair, fixing a few strays and was just about to pull his phone out when the door opened and Harry walked in.

The two of them stared at each other for a quiet moment before gravitating towards each other. Harry’s hands immediately wrapped around Louis’ waist and he moved him back until he was against the opposite wall. “Hey,” he said softly, his breath hitting against Louis’ cheek as he nosed against it. Louis felt him press a kiss on the corner of his mouth, leaving the spot damp and cool.

“What are you doing?” Louis asked, almost amused and stupidly turned on.

Harry didn’t answer, his lips grazing Louis’ and moving across his cheek and then towards his ear, down to his neck. “Harry,” Louis whimpered softly, the sensation feeling a bit too much to handle. Louis felt Harry grind his hips against Louis’ and his eyes fluttered close, head tilting back against the wall.

Harry took the chance and left a trail of wet, open mouth kisses down the hollow of his neck. Louis groaned, realizing where this headed and where exactly they were. They couldn’t do this out here when everyone else was right outside. When Peter or Greg could easily walk in and see them and all hell could break loose.

“We can’t,” Louis said, looking back at Harry.

“Why?” Harry pouted, rubbing circles on Louis’ back. “No one’s here and you’ve been driving me crazy all night. You look so good, babe.”

“It wouldn’t be right,” Louis reminded Harry even though his words sent a tingle down his spine. “Peter’s right outside. Greg is, too.”

Harry bitterly removed himself from Louis and went back to sulking. Louis gave him one last look, longing and sad, before walking out and back to his seat. Harry came out soon after, taking his spot as well. Louis didn’t miss the way Peter eyed the two of them before going back to his phone.

After the show ended, everyone went to the after party for drinks and a bit of celebration. The group all gave Barbara hugs and kisses, congratulating her on her debut. The response to her line was really good and positive. Barbara and Niall chatted up several store managers in talks of getting them to sell her designs during the after party over champagne.

Louis stayed back with their friends and Greg the entire time, relaxing with drinks of their own and occasionally throwing some crazy shapes on the dance floor to the songs they were playing. Harry had settled himself at the open bar and wasn’t really budging from there, no matter how hard anyone tried. Louis knew if he were to go over and try to console him, it would have worked, but he had been staying away from Harry since the bathroom incident. He just didn’t want any trouble.

Then later on after Niall had pulled Louis in for a dance, Louis looked back at Greg to see if he was okay, only to see Peter standing with him. His eyes widened and he quickly walked over. If Peter said anything to Greg about Harry and him, then that would be a problem on its own. Louis felt so fucking stupid for ever thinking that bringing Greg would be a good idea when it was causing so much stress no matter how much he was trying to keep the situation cool.

“Hey,” he said, putting an arm around Greg and looking between the two of them warily. “What’s going on?”

Greg looked rather confused while Peter was smiling at them. “Oh, I was just introducing myself to Greg. I didn’t know you had a boyfriend, Louis,” Peter said, his voice saccharine and fake as fuck.

“He’s not,” Louis said quickly, noticing the wince on Greg’s face at how quick he was to deny that.

“Oh, sorry for assuming,” Peter laughed. “Anyway, Greg and I were just getting to know each other and he’s really cool. I told him about you and Harry. Weirdly enough, he had no idea. Isn’t that funny?” He chuckled to himself and Louis felt his face grow hotter. He could feel Greg’s eyes on him, and he felt so stupid. How could he have thought that this was going to end well when Peter was here?

He hadn’t thought about this at all. The fact that Peter could expose everything to Greg because he was a spiteful ass who wanted to ruin Louis’ life. Who knew what Greg could possibly be thinking about Louis at this point? This was a pretty big thing to hide and Louis had no excuse as to why he didn’t tell him before. It would require a lengthy explanation and conversation and it seemed that Peter was just intent on telling every God damn person about Louis and Harry’s relationship. He’d outed them to three very important, different people and Louis wanted to scream.

“What did you say?” Louis managed to ask, completely aware that Greg was listening.

“Just that you two dated in between. Nothing big.” He shrugged, taking a sip of his drink. Louis turned to Greg and smiled sweetly, hoping it conveyed as genuine.

“Can you give us a minute, Greg? I promise that we’ll talk later,” Louis said.

Greg warily nodded and walked over to where Liam and Zayn were with their girlfriends. Louis swiftly turned back to Peter, glaring at him. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“I was only having a chat, Louis. I don’t see what the problem is,” Peter scoffed.

“The problem is that you’re an uptight fuckwad who can’t fucking stop inviting himself to places and ruining everyone’s mood because you've got some stick up your ass. You’re honestly so unhappy with your life that you choose to interfere with mine for God knows what reason and I’m so sick of you.”

“I’m unhappy with my life?” Peter asked, his forefinger pointed against his chest. “What about you, huh? You’re so desperate for Harry. When will you leave the picture because he doesn’t want you, Louis. He didn’t want you even after you played that charade of a game with him to pretend to date and he still doesn’t want you now. He came back to me and that’s where he’ll stay.”

“Really, now?” Louis asked him, a smug smile on his lips. “You say all this now as if he’ll always continue to go back to you. One of these days he’s going to realize what a little shit you are and he won’t come back.”

“Is that what you keep telling yourself to feel better about the fact that he doesn’t want you at all?” Peter laughed, like it was the best joke.

“No, I’m actually just telling you how it’s going to play out in the end when he’ll leave you and you’ll be a lonely old asshole with fifty cats,” Louis retorted.

“That’s so funny coming from you because truth of the matter is that he used you to get me back and yet you still won’t walk away. You’re so desperate and sad and pathetic. He’s my boyfriend. Mine. So kindly fuck off.”

If only he knew, Louis thought to himself. If only he fucking knew where Harry was going at nights when he left Peter and whose name he was moaning while he came so hard he couldn’t see right or who he was kissing till he fell asleep. He had no fucking idea that Louis was the one Harry was completely fucked over tonight, drinking and eyeing him like all he wanted was Louis. But what Peter said didn’t sting any less. There was some truth to it and in the end, Harry still wasn’t Louis’.

“This is my friend’s party,” Louis said to him, grabbing Peter’s drink from his hand. “You can leave now because no one here likes you nor do they want you here.” Louis grabbed his shoulder and pointed him towards the exit door, rather aggressively, hoping he’d get the hint. Peter startled at that and turned around, only to shove at Louis’ chest, making him stumble back. Louis gripped onto a chair, balancing himself on time and glared up at Peter before charging over to him. He shoved him right back and watched as he fell onto the ground, knocking down a few other chairs.

Everyone around them suddenly got quiet and Louis saw Niall, Harry and the others look over in confusion. They ran over once they realized what happened and Harry got down on his knees when he saw Peter lying there pathetically. “Shit, are you okay?” Harry asked, trying to help Peter up. “How’d you fall?”

“Ask him,” Peter groaned, sitting up as he pointed to Louis in a dramatic fashion.

Louis’ jaw dropped as everyone turned to look at him. How did he just pin this all on Louis when he started it? “He shoved me first,” Louis said petulantly.

Harry looked incredulous as he helped Peter up to his feet while staring at Louis. “Lou, what’s wrong with you?”

“Harry--.”

“Stop,” he said, putting a hand up to stop him. “Just drop it. You know that hitting him won’t do or solve anything.”

Louis looked at Harry in disbelief as he led Peter out of there, feeling his face flush from embarrassment while everyone stared at him like he was some sort of violent person that needed to be caged down. Greg walked over then and looked at him, even more confused. “Louis, what the fuck is going on?”

“Nothing,” Louis insisted, even though he knew he sounded weak. He figured it couldn’t get worse than this and picked up his coat and things. “I’ve got to go.”

“I’ll come with you,” Greg offered quickly.

Louis nodded reluctantly even though he didn’t want Greg to come with. He was his date after all and that was the protocol. Despite that, Louis wanted to walk out of there alone and try to come down from how embarrassing this whole night was in general. Nevertheless, he waited for Greg and the two of them departed after apologizing to Barbara, who was more interested in the hot goss than the fact that Louis almost got into a fist fight at her fashion show. As long as she wasn’t mad at him.

Greg and Louis walked the few short blocks towards the subway and when Greg asked if he wanted to hang out, Louis politely declined, not missing the way his face fell. It was better this way because at least he was being honest. He said goodbye to Greg and took the train home alone and with nothing but his thoughts. The entire time, he couldn’t get Harry’s expression out of his head. He’d looked so disappointed and upset.

When Louis arrived at his stop, he walked the few short blocks home and wondered if they had anything sweet to eat at home. Zayn had been really into this new gelato phase and brought over a lot of it and it was absolutely amazing. Maybe Louis could steal some. When he got home, he slowly toed off his shoes and walked into the kitchen.

He figured that if he had something sweet, and then took a shower and went to bed, he could attempt to turn this whole day and night around. It was a weak and futile attempt because he still felt shitty no matter how hard he tried to stop thinking about it. Not just because of Harry walking out on him, completely angry, with Peter, but also because what was Peter thinking, dragging Greg into this? It was a childish and completely immature move. He not only got Greg’s hopes up, but none of this would have happened if he’d just sucked it up and let Harry bring Peter.

As Louis pulled out the double chocolate tub of gelato from the fridge, he heard someone knocking at the door. It was probably Zayn, who forgot his key, so Louis put the gelato down and walked over to open, only to see it was Harry.

“Lou,” he said slowly and deeply. “What you did tonight was not cool.”

“I told you that he shoved me first, Harry,” Louis almost yelled, feeling annoyed at the fact that this was the first thing he’d said upon him opening the door. “It wasn’t just me. Do you know what he did?”

“That doesn’t matter, Lou,” Harry replied, walking inside and closing the door behind him. “You’re better than him. You’re not like that.”

If Louis was better than Peter, then why wouldn't Harry choose him? Why was Peter still in the picture? Louis wished he was brave enough to ask.

Louis dropped his hands to his sides in a defeated manner, knowing that whatever he said would still not make up for how stupid he was tonight. Harry noticed and looked at him softly. “I’m sorry for tonight.”

“Me, too,” Louis said, voice breaking. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“It’s fine,” Harry said with a short laugh before admitting, “I’m so bad when I get jealous and I was really jealous tonight.”

Louis looked up at him, surprised he was even saying that before leading Harry to the kitchen where the gelato was close to melting.  

He scoffed, laughing a little. “Don’t act so surprised, Lou. I was basically killing the guy in my head. And it was hypocritical of me. Can we just--can we forget all that?”

Louis turned to stare at him, Harry’s eyes boring into his, knowing that if they did just forget it all happened then it would be like ignoring truths for temporary happiness. That was never a smart move because that meant it wouldn’t stay.

Harry didn’t seem to care as he closed the distance between them, his hands gripping Louis’ waist before sliding down to his thighs. Harry smiled softly as he lifted Louis up and placed him on the kitchen counter then stood between his legs. He leaned forward, resting his forehead to Louis’, gazing at him longingly with a hint of something else Louis couldn’t place in his green eyes.

“I know that everything’s shit right now,” he said. “We’re both, like, fucking up, but being with you like this, I like forgetting all that. It’s easier and it feels safe. It feels like this right here is like a safe place and whatever we have here won’t be fucked up by whatever’s out there because it’s perfect, right? Don’t you feel it too?”

Louis could only nod his head, shivering as Harry’s fingers skittered down his arms and sides. “I feel it a lot,” Harry continued. “I feel you all over me sometimes. I’ve never met anyone like you and I think since the day I did, you’ve changed me completely, Lou.”

And that was the closest Harry had come to telling Louis how he truly felt about him other than being his best friend or someone he liked to fuck on a daily basis. It made Louis’ heart beat loud and he didn’t want it stop.

Harry smiled before kissing Louis’ lips, softly at first, but growing in force and depth as they continued. His hands wound around to Louis’ front where he unbuttoned his shirt slowly and took it off. He grinned at Louis and Louis wished nothing more than for Harry to see his face right now because Louis had never seen him like that. He looked genuinely happy, which was why Louis didn’t say anything more to him regarding what had happened. He wanted Harry to be happy.

It was easier when it was just the two of them hiding away from the world in their own little bubble. It was easier than facing Peter and Greg, hurting them and jumping into this thing together when they knew it could be ripped to shreds if they weren’t careful. That maybe the ending they’re both hoping for won’t happen and they’d all be left with nothing.

This really was their safe place where the two of them escaped their busy lives and indulged in each other. They never stood a chance out there with others relying on them and people who would talk and try to convince them that it wouldn’t work or that it was simply wrong no matter how right it felt. It was easier for them to just stay there and let themselves go.

Louis wasn’t sure if that was how Harry felt. Maybe he was assuming, but he knew it was partially how he himself felt. He’d much rather keep Harry and him in this safe place rather than lose him even though it felt like their time was ticking. And no matter how guilty Louis felt, right now could last forever and he’d be alright just as long as he with Harry.

Harry pulled away from the kiss. “I thought about kissing you all night.” He placed another chaste kiss on Louis’ lips to emphasize the point. “Thought about marking you up and hearing you scream my name, too.”

Harry,” Louis groaned, moving further up on the counter to wrap his legs around Harry’s waist. He kissed Harry for a few moments before pulling away again. “You mean that?”

Harry nodded, smiling. “I want to kiss you all the time. Even, like, a second after we pull away from kissing, I just want to kiss you all over again. And again.”

Louis preened, tangling his fingers in Harry’s curls and pulling him down for three, chaste kisses, the last one deeper than the others. When they pulled away, Louis bit his lip, looking into Harry’s green eyes that reminded him of fresh cut grass. “I want you to fuck me,” he said.

Harry froze for a moment, a slow smile forming on his lips. “You do?” he asked.

Louis nodded. “We’ve never done that,” he said. “But I want you to today, please.”

“You don’t have to ask twice,” Harry giggled, kissing him quickly. “I’ve only ever topped once.”

“Really?” Louis asked, an eyebrow raised in surprise. Harry was really impressive in size, so he found that quite weird. However, Peter did seem like the kind of asshole who wouldn’t let anyone else top unless it was him. “Well,” Louis said, slowly. “You can top me anytime, babe. I want you inside me all the time.”

Harry laughed, a filthy smirk on his lips as he pressed his palms under Louis’ butt before picking him up off the counter. “That’s great because even though you look so good on top of me that I can never take my eyes off of you, I’d love to see you under me, too. Bet you’d be just as gorgeous.”

Louis surged forward, taking Harry’s bottom lip between his, kissing him until he was placed on top of the bed with Harry hovering over him. The two of them crawled to the center of the bed, removing each other’s clothing on the way. While Harry searched for the lube and condoms, Louis stroked himself until he was fully hard and leaking a bit of precome. Harry leaned back on the bed once he got everything and smiled at Louis before situating himself between his legs.

He expected Harry to uncap the bottle of lube and start to open him up right away, but then he ended up lifting Louis’ legs and slinging them over his shoulders. Louis’ eyes widened as he stared at Harry, who smiled at him mischievously, before spreading his butt cheeks apart and tracing his hole with his tongue.

Louis squirmed under him, half because it was so hot and also because it tickled. Harry laughed again, flattening his tongue and licking a stripe over his hole a few times. Louis tried to keep still and be a bit quiet, but he knew he was panting loudly, his hand tangled in Harry’s hair while trying to push his face down even more than it already was. It was short and teasing at first, but then Harry slipped his tongue past Louis’ rim and Louis let out a loud moan, pushing his hips up.

Harry’s tongue fucked in and out of his hole and Louis almost thought that he was going to make him come just from this because it felt that good, but then he pulled away and uncapped the bottle of lube, keeping Louis’ legs how they were. He coated three of his fingers, rubbing over his hole for a second before slipping one in easily. Louis adjusted to the feeling soon enough and Harry slipped another in while placing his tongue next to his rim, causing Louis to make whimpering noises.

His senses were on overload and it felt like Harry was using him up to the point where he knew by the end of it, he’d be boneless and wrung out. Pretty soon, Harry’s third finger slipped past his rim as well, opening him up further while Harry licked long stripes and sucked on the skin of his balls. Louis was near tears by the time Harry found his prostate, slowly rubbing over it and turning Louis into a heaving mess. He knew that if Harry didn’t stop then he’d probably come too soon.

“Now, now,” he prompted, breathlessly to Harry, trying to pull him up. Harry gave one last lick against his hole, reluctant to stop and pulled Louis’ legs down from his shoulders and on either side of his waist, instead. He pulled on the condom and covered it with lube before hovering over Louis and kissing him, their tongues meeting before their lips in a filthy way.

Louis was so distracted by the kiss, he only realized that Harry was pushing past his rim with his cock only when it slipped past the first ring. He gasped softly into Harry’s mouth, not willing to stop kissing him as Harry continued to move forward. When he was buried deep inside Louis, Harry froze, searching Louis’ face until Louis nodded and moved his hips up to meet Harry’s soft thrusts.

“You feel amazing,” Harry murmured, kissing down Louis’ neck and sucking a mark there. Louis tipped his head to the side to give him better access and wrapped his legs around Harry’s waist to allow the thrusts to go in at a better angle. Harry pulled away once he was satisfied with the three marks he made. He moved in and out, panting over Louis, while his palms were planted flat on either side of Louis’ face.

Louis placed a hand on the crook of his neck, tracing Harry’s sparrow with the other. He suddenly remembered a conversation between Harry and him when Harry told him that Peter didn’t like his tattoos. Louis remembered getting so angry about that because he thought Harry’s tattoos were so beautiful. He looked up into Harry’s eyes, watching as he concentrated on thrusting in and out of Louis, wanting to make it so good for him. It was perfect and Louis wanted Harry to know how perfect Louis thought he was.

He leaned forward, latching his mouth over Harry’s sparrow tattoo and sucking on the skin. He felt Harry lean into the touch, gasping a little when Louis bit and nibbled over the area before kissing it. When he was sure he left a mark, he leaned back, noticing how dark Harry’s eyes were while searching his.

“I’m so close,” Louis mumbled to him, lifting himself up again to kiss down Harry’s neck and over his sparrow once more.

“Yeah, babe?” Harry breathed. “Will you come for me?” He moved one of his hands down to Louis’ dick, stroking it while rubbing his thumb over the head. Louis moaned softly and that’s when they both heard the front door open. Harry’s eyes widened almost comically because they’d never done anything when their roommates were awake or in the flat. He leaned down close to Louis’ ear, whispering, “Zayn’s here now. He could walk in at any moment and see you like this. So fucked out and open because of me. We don’t want that, do we? Don’t want anyone but me to see you like this, right? No one but me.”

Louis shook his head quickly, whimpering from Harry being all over in every sense. His words were possessive and fucking hot and Louis wanted him to keep talking. It was bringing him closer to his edge and he didn’t want him to stop. Not ever.

“Then come for me, babe,” he whispered, thrusting in harder and faster. Just as he heard Zayn call his name from outside, Louis came hard and fast in Harry’s hand. Harry’s thrusts grew shallower as Louis’ walls clenched around him and he came soon thereafter, almost collapsing on top of Louis.

Louis tried to even his breaths as he heard Zayn shuffling around the flat behind his closed door, probably thinking Louis was alone and asleep. Harry seemed boneless and too tired to move, so he helped roll him over and left him with a soft kiss before running over to his door and locking it so Zayn wouldn’t come in. He then grabbed some tissues and cleaned off the come from both their bodies so it wouldn’t dry uncomfortably and trashed them. Louis crawled back into bed, kissing Harry’s spine as he moved up. When he got to his neck, Harry whimpered, rolling over to hold him before closing his eyes.

Louis found Greg at a Starbucks nearby their workplace. He was sipping a cup of coffee and engrossed in his phone when he’d walked in. Louis quickly breathed in and breathed out to relax himself before making his way over to his table, smiling when Greg looked up at him. “Hi,” Louis said, bending down to give him a hug.

Greg gave him a small, tentative smile as he hugged Louis back. “How are you?” he asked.

“I’m good,” Louis replied, letting go. “You alright?”

He nodded his head, leaning back in his seat. Louis sat down in front of him and rubbed his hands together, trying to warm himself up. Greg looked at him and gave him another small smile when he noticed Louis looking back. “You feeling any better than last night?”

“Yeah,” Louis nodded. “I wasn’t like drunk or anything. Maybe a little bit tipsy, if anything. You?”

“Wasn’t drunk either,” he said.

Louis nodded, noticing how tense the air was and realized he couldn’t stall it any longer. He had to be honest with Greg because Greg wasn’t an idiot. He could put two and two together to understand why everything happened the way it did last night night. Albeit he would need an explanation. Regardless, Louis knew he owed him that much at the very least.

“So, last night was a bit of a mess,” Louis started.

Greg nodded, biting his lip and looking at him expectantly. “It was, but I’m sure you can tell me how it got to be that way.”

Louis nodded. “It’s just--I shouldn’t have ever left you alone with Peter. I knew he would have done something to mess up our night. The thing is, remember how I said he’s not that great of a person?”

Greg nodded in response.

“Well,” Louis continued. “He’s not a big fan of me, especially, because he doesn’t like my friendship with Harry. Harry said he feels threatened by it and we’d never gotten along, Peter and I. And it’s always been an issue for the past few years. So, soon after you and I’d broken up, we all went out and Peter had seen me and Harry a bit too close for his liking and blew up on him.”

“Yikes,” Greg remarked, raising his eyebrows.

“I know. It was so dramatic and unnecessary. Anyway, I was drunk and I said some stupid things, which led Peter to believe Harry and I were dating. And for some reason, I thought it’d be a great idea to pretend to date to make Peter jealous and help Harry win him back.”

“Let me guess. It wasn’t a great idea.”

“I mean it worked,” Louis shrugged. “He got him back, but their problems didn't stop.”

“So, that’s it?” Greg asked.

Well, a part of it, Louis thought to himself. He gave a tentative nod and Greg let out a low whistle. “And that’s why Peter was trying to create problems between us last night?”

“He’s mad, really, because Harry wasn’t paying attention to him. Harry was a bit upset and just wanted to keep to himself the entire night, is all.”

“I saw you two come back from the bathroom at the same time,” Greg said. “Did Harry tell you why he was upset then?” He gave Louis a look, which told him that Greg knew. He knew that Louis may have feelings for Harry and that there was something there. There was no point in hiding that either.

“Yeah,” Louis said, shortly. “He did.”

Greg nodded, pausing for a moment and looking at the other people in the Starbucks with them before turning back to Louis. “Listen,” he started. “I don’t want to accuse you of anything, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but did you invite me last night because you wanted to prove something to Harry and not because you actually wanted me there?”

Louis’ jaw dropped slightly at the bluntness of the question. “N--no, not like that. Like, obviously I want to hang out with you.”

“But did you do it to prove a point to Harry?”

Louis knew there was no point in lying. He chose to be honest and that’s what he had to do. “Yes and I’m sorry. I only realized once we got there that it wasn’t the brightest idea, but my intentions were never to start anything with Peter. I just wanted to have fun and we were having fun, weren’t we?”

“Yes,” Greg nodded, but still looked disappointed. “But you essentially used me and I don’t know how to feel about that, Louis.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m really sorry. I don’t know why I’m so stupid or thought it was okay to do that.”

“Listen, Louis,” Greg said, leaning in closer so that his quiet voice could reach over. “I still have feelings for you and I wanted to try again with you, but the question is, whether you have feelings for me. Whether you ever had feelings for me at all.”

Louis looked down at the table and shook his head with a gulp. “I’m sorry,” he said, unable to think of anything else to say.

Greg took it bravely, though, simply nodding his head in understanding. “One more question and I’ll leave you alone.” Louis looked to him expectantly and he folded his arms together before continuing. “Do you have feelings for Harry?”

Louis knew it was coming. He’d been expecting it since last night from Greg, but he wasn’t thinking about what he’d say in response. In the end, since all he’d been doing was lying these past few weeks and he was finally telling some truths, he decided to keep up the streak and nodded his head. “I do, yeah,” he said.

“Have you always had feelings for him?” Greg asked, despite his one question rule.

“Since I met him,” Louis replied, his voice thick with emotion.

Greg sipped his coffee quietly while Louis sat there, people walking around beside them and getting their drinks and sweets, and going about their day. It was enough for Louis to say that because now Greg knew why he and Louis didn’t work, that it wasn’t anything personal or anything that he did wrong. It was Louis and where his heart really lied. It all made sense to him and that was all Louis could do to make up for everything.

Barbara got not one, but two offers from companies to sell her designs and lingerie line at their stores. To celebrate not just that, but also Harry’s belated birthday, she invited their small group of friends over for dinner at their place. On the day of his actual birthday, Harry instead spent it with his family during the day and then later on at night with Louis. Louis got him three presents: a book of knock knock jokes, a gift card to Topman and he also fucked Harry into the mattress--twice. All in all, it was a great way to celebrate the birthday on their own, but it was mandatory that they celebrated with their friends even if it wasn’t on the day of.

Louis got a sense of deja vu as he took the elevator up to their apartment with a bottle of wine. When he knocked on their door and Niall let him through, he was one of the first to arrive. Harry, who was in the balcony with Zayn, looked over to see him walk in and his face lit up ten shades brighter.

They’d both gotten busy and hadn’t seen each other in three days, but the way Harry walked over and hugged him made it seem like they’d been separated for months. Louis hugged Harry back, smiling as Harry rubbed his back, just the way he liked it. “Missed you,” Harry said, pressing a hard kiss on his forehead before letting go.

“Missed you, too,” Louis responded with a laugh. “When did you get here?”

“A few minutes ago,” he replied, sitting down on the armrest on the couch.

Barbara came out then from the kitchen with a bowl of nachos and popcorn. Louis walked over to hug and congratulate her. She was beaming and so excited about her new opportunities, same as Niall when Louis gave him the bottle of wine. A while after, Perrie arrived after her shift at work and Liam and Sophia joined them last.

Before starting dinner, they all sat around and talked about the upcoming fashion line and all the things that Barbara would have to do, like plan photoshoots to add to catalogues and make a website. Then the whole topic of who would model her lingerie came about and there was a massive discussion over whether it should just be Barbara herself or some handpicked model. Niall was so torn apart because on one hand he wanted Barbara to model it because she looked so good in them and on the other hand, he didn’t want everyone seeing his girlfriend half naked.

He looked very distraught.

When the discussion dissipated, Sophia turned on the TV to catch the new Pretty Little Liars episode, much to all the guys chagrin, and Barbara went to go check on dinner. Harry nudged Louis with his hip, smiling at him. The two of them were pressed together and sitting close on a single love seat, trying to appear nonchalant while everyone around them talked. He gestured over to the bathroom with a shake of his head and Louis wondered if Harry was asking to go at it right before dinner.

That was so dirty and immature.

He wasn’t going to say no, though, so he watched as Harry stood up and walked towards the hallway. Louis looked at his other friends and noticed them all engrossed in trying to figure out who ‘A’ was before counting to twenty and following Harry. He peeked into the bathroom, but then Niall and Barbara’s bedroom door opened and Harry pulled him in before closing the door.

Louis let out a surprised squeak and turned to look at Harry with wide eyes. “Hi,” Harry grinned, smiling at him and taking both of Louis’ hands before entwining it with his. He leaned down and kissed Louis’ nose and then his lips, soft and gentle.

“Hi,” Louis said back, smiling at him shyly.

They stood there for a moment, just smiling at each before Louis surged forward, wrapping a hand around Harry’s neck and tugging his lips down to his. The kiss was bruising and hard, tongues brushing against each other, while Harry’s hands pulled Louis as close to him as possible. Louis let out a soft whimper when he felt one Harry’s hands palm over his butt before giving it a possessive squeeze.

“Love hearing you like this,” Harry mumbled against Louis’ mouth, his voice raspy. And that was it, really. Louis was getting fucking hard, so he unclasped his hands from where they were wrapped around Harry’s shoulders and neck and trailed down to the buttons of his shirt. He started to unbutton it, (even though Harry only ever buttoned, like, three of his buttons, leaving his tits exposed) while they kissed like their life depended on it. Harry was letting out soft pants and surging his hips up to grind against Louis’ palm, that was stroking it over his jeans.

Louis was just about to finish unbuttoning and ripping Harry’s shirt off of him when the door flew open and Niall walked in followed by Liam, laughing about something or another. The two of them noticed Harry and Louis just as they pulled away, their lips making a popping noise at the loss of contact.

“Jesus Christ,” Niall muttered, his hands running through his hair as he turned around to look away. Liam looked completely shell shocked, eyes bugging out of his face as he took the scene in. Harry’s hair was a mess and his shirt was unbuttoned. Louis didn’t even want to know how he looked, lips probably red and bruised. Their bodies were also completely attached with Harry half naked and one of his hands squeezing Louis’ ass.

It was then that Louis decided they should slowly extract themselves from each other and they did so, albeit awkwardly.

“Is dinner ready?” Harry asked, after clearing his throat and slowly buttoning up his shirt again. It was quite funny, the situation itself; if only Louis wasn’t feeling so embarrassed.

“Yeah,” Niall said, still turned away from them. “Um, Liam and I were just looking for you guys. Everyone’s at the table...waiting.”

“Oh,” Louis responded, stepping back on his heels, awkwardly, and pursing his lips. “Um, so should we go?”

Liam nodded slowly and turned around, taking Niall by the elbow and leading him out. They looked traumatized and when Louis turned to look at Harry, he was practically falling over from laughing. Louis gave him a look, trying to keep his own laughter under the wraps. They were going to get shit for this for sure. They might as well laugh while they still had time.

Zayn and Louis were walking to their apartment from the subway, having left the dinner party together. Zayn had a cigarette between his lips and it was quiet for the most part, but it was obvious that they had to talk. Louis knew that either Liam or Niall had gone to Zayn to tell them what they’d seen. It was kind of childish, but Louis could understand their shock given the circumstances. Dinner itself was fine, but the lingering tension could be felt for hours on afterwards. He was expecting the talk from any one of them, but it hadn’t come yet and it was making him feel antsy.

Louis turned to Zayn and raised his eyebrow at him, expectant and impatient. Zayn smiled at him, laughing. “You knew this was coming, then?”

“Yes, I knew,” Louis admitted. “So, lay it on me.”

“Why don’t you tell me instead of me asking you?” Zayn asked, tapping his cigarette down once to let the burnt ashes fall.

“I wouldn’t know where to begin, Zayn,” Louis laughed, humorlessly.

“Look,” Zayn said. “I know you’re aware that you two are making a mess of a situation, but Harry is essentially cheating on Peter right now. You do realize that, right? He didn’t just do it once that time I walked in on you two, but after tonight, I’m going to assume it was a few times”

“Yeah,” Louis mumbled, not sure in response to what.  

Zayn continued after the confirmation. “Peter is a dick. We’ve always thought that and never liked him; only tolerated him because of Harry. And we don’t really care for him even to this day. But what about Greg?”

“I told Greg everything the day after the fashion show,” Louis told him quickly in means of showing that he was doing at least something right. “We met for coffee the other day and he knows everything now. He wasn’t happy, but it was expected, I suppose.”

“Well, then that’s good,” Zayn commended. “You were honest even though it was hard, but what about Harry? He’s not being honest with Peter and I don’t know if you’ve told him how you feel.”

“I haven’t,” Louis said, thinking back to all their encounters, wondering if he’d ever slipped during sex or something. “Not in so many at words, at least.”

“You’re sleeping together a lot? Like, it’s a thing?” Zayn asked.

Louis nodded meekly, biting his lip. “A lot. We’re hardly ever apart unless we get really busy. And it’s intense, Z. I’ve never felt this way before and it’s so crazy to me that I could feel this way or that it could be that good. I’ve also never seen Harry this way, either.”

“Then why haven’t you told him how you feel?” Zayn inquired. They’d reached their apartment and instead of going up, the two of them sat down on the steps. Zayn lit up another cigarette and looked at Louis, who couldn’t even answer him. “I’ll tell you why, Lou. You’re afraid that Harry might reject you. Whatever he ends up doing, you’re afraid he won’t choose to be with you and that was why you weren’t honest with Greg before because he was convenient.”

When Louis realized that Zayn was right, he got even more quiet. Of course he was scared that he wasn’t enough for Harry. He knew that in the end, he was good at sex and maybe that would be enough to keep Harry around for as long as he could. He was scared to tell him that Louis’ feelings lied deeper than what they shared in the bedroom and that Louis would do anything to have him because what if Harry didn’t want the same?

“Lou,” Zayn said, softly, nudging him on the knee until he looked up. “I’m not trying to upset you, I swear.”

“I know,” Louis quietly said.

“Am I wrong?”

Louis shook his head. “You’re not. It’s just, Harry doesn’t ever talk about what we’re doing either. He never mentions Peter anymore even though I know he’s still seeing him and he’s always so eager and responsive about everything we do. He’s always with me, and when he’s not, then he wants to be. Tell me what I’m supposed to say if he’s doing all this, but still can’t let Peter go? Don’t you think I’m right in being scared?”

“Have you ever wondered if he already knows?” Zayn asked. “Because I have. A person can only be so oblivious, you know what I mean?”

“I don’t fucking know,” Louis groaned in frustration. “It sucks, it really fucking sucks because all my life I’ve never felt this sort of emotional attachment to anyone. And the one person who I felt like I could ever--,” Louis paused.

He didn’t know the right word to phrase here because Harry meant a lot to him and he felt so much for him sometimes that it drove Louis close to insane. Louis had no word to describe it, none that he could think of. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone,” he continued. “I’ve never wanted anyone this bad. Whenever I tried to get close to anyone before, I’d psych myself out and distance myself by saying that they had too many flaws that wouldn’t work with me. With Harry, I feel like I’ve seen both his good side and his bad side and I choose both.”

“I know how you two feel about each other,” Zayn nodded. “I knew from the day we all met. I could tell from the way you looked at each other. Fuck, it shows when you look at each other even now, maybe even moreso.”

“He doesn’t look at me any different,” Louis shrugged, stubbornly.

“Are you blind?” Zayn asked him. “His whole face lights up and he smiles. He always smiles when he’s with you, something he hardly ever does with Peter, except if Harry’s lucky and Peters in a good mood, which let’s face it, is never. You bring him happiness, Lou.”

“But that’s just it, isn’t it?” Louis said, throwing his hands up in the air. “You say he looks a certain way when he sees me and I make him happy so why won’t he choose me? Why’s he playing this game and keeping Peter on the side? Why am I the second choice?”

“If I knew what was going on in Harry’s mind right now, I would’ve fixed you two a long time ago. But I do know that you’re always the one he thinks of.”

Louis shrugged, noncommittally and Zayn laughed. “Do you remember that night we were all hanging out at Niall’s place a few days ago and you knocked out?”

Louis nodded briefly. They were all having a movie marathon and Louis had had a long day so he’d fallen asleep beside Harry. He didn’t even realize what he’d missed or where he was. He was just so tired and Harry was rubbing his back so nicely, he couldn’t help it.

“Harry held you the entire time,” Zayn told him. “He didn’t engage in any of the conversations much because he didn’t want to wake you up. Kept saying that you were really tired and needed to sleep. He was content on sitting there and watching you, making sure you were okay and comfortable. I’d look over every so often and find him stroking your hair or back, but mostly kissing your cheek or your forehead or your nose or your eyes.” Zayn smiled fondly. “It was by far the cutest, sappiest thing I’d ever seen in my life.”

Louis blushed, his cheeks warming up as he tried to picture it in his head. He hadn’t known Harry had done that. Due to his exhaustion, he was out cold, his upper body draped over Harry’s lap with a pillow under his head.

“I know that laying your heart out on the line is hard,” Zayn continued. “It’s terrifying and you’re vulnerable and the person you’re in front of could singlehandedly either make your day or ruin it. But right now, I think if you want to do the right thing, this is the only way to go about it. And this is not just to you, it’s for Harry, too. You both need to open up and be honest to not only each other, but also to Peter. It’s going to be hard, but c’mon. What you’ve done or should I say, the way you’ve done things, hasn’t been noble.”

“You think I should initiate the conversation?” Louis asked him, accepting defeat. Zayn was right. In every possible way, he was right and Louis needed to accept that. He had to talk to Harry and figure out what they were doing.

“At this rate, someone has to,” Zayn said. “Chances are he’s probably just so confused; he wants to hold it off as long as he can. And I hate to say this, but you probably have to give him an ultimatum.”

Louis sulked, thinking of all the different ways this was going to play out. None of them seemed like it would end well, which only made him that much more nervous.

“Honestly, Lou. I know how you two work, I’ve been seeing it for ages and the others aren’t dumb either. You’re weak for each other, always there to make the other smile. But right now, you need to do something before it becomes too much, whether it means that you two end up hurt by the end of it.”

“That’s what I’m scared of,” Louis confessed, quietly. “I’m scared that it’s getting to the point where I don’t think we’d be the same anymore. It’s never going to be how it was before this all happened, is it?”

Zayn shook his head sadly, throwing his cigarette on the bottom step and stepping over it. “Sex can do stuff like that. Changes relationships. Like, friends with benefits? Honestly? Which genius told you two that that would be a good idea?”

Louis shrugged with a small, sad smile on my lips. “It almost felt like we couldn’t stop. Like, for me, it feels so right, you know? I’ve wanted him for as long as I’ve known him and now that I’ve finally got him--even in the most messed up way, it’s almost scary having to let that go.”

Zayn nodded, rubbing Louis’ shoulder. “Don’t be so down. I mean, this could turn out for the better. Don’t you think?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. I guess we’ll have to see.”

There was a knock at Louis’ office door and he warily looked over, slowly taking off his headset before walking over to open it. He was finished with his shift at work and was working on the next playlist for the day after, but wasn’t expecting any visitors to come by. When he opened the door, he found Harry on the other side, looking tired with his hair all mussed and his eyes sunken.

Louis’ stomach dropped and he visibly shrank into himself. He’d been avoiding Harry for the past few days since the incident at Niall’s place. It wasn’t fair, but after his conversation with Zayn, he’d needed time for himself to figure out what he was going to do, when he was going to do it, and how he was going to go about it. It’d been a rough time because he was genuinely not sure and shit scared that his fears would come true. That Harry would truly choose Peter over him.

Louis would not only then lose Harry in the romantic sense, but also completely as a friend because he knew that they could never go back to how they were. Not after everything they’d done and been through together. That would be horrible because he never wanted to lose Harry in any sense. And Louis wasn’t planning on avoiding Harry, it just happened and he felt guilty about it everyday until he realized it was what he needed to clear his mind, even though he missed him all the time.

Harry stepped inside his office slowly and Louis walked in behind him after closing the door. “Wasn’t expecting to have you here,” Louis said, the tension in the room making him feel awkward and small.

“You’re ignoring me, Lou,” Harry said, turning to face him and getting right to the point. “You are, right? Like, I haven’t gotten any calls returned or texts back. I go over to your place and you’re not even there.”

“I’ve been working a lot,” Louis explained, trying to justify his ignoring for something simpler than what it was. “And I went to see my family one weekend, so.”

“So, you’re not purposely ignoring me for any other reason, but that? Because I thought we were fine.”

Louis sighed, looking down at the floor, shrugging. “I don’t know, Harry. I’ve been thinking a lot and I feel like we should talk, but I haven’t been finding the courage to.”

“What do you want to talk about?” Harry asked, moving closer, looking a bit concerned. “Is everything okay?”

“Not really,” Louis shook his head. “Like, what are we doing, Harry? You have a boyfriend.”

Harry stilled, gulping as he furrowed his brows and shrugged. It was sudden and he probably felt off guard and Louis hated doing that to him, but he had to. “I know. I--I’m not sure, things have been a bit complicated.”

“Alright, but you can’t sleep with me when you have a boyfriend. That’s wrong,” Louis said.

“Yeah, but you didn’t have a problem with that for the past few weeks that we’ve been doing it,” Harry reminded him with a frown. “Why is it suddenly such an issue?”

“It should have always been an issue,” Louis said. “It’s wrong and I didn’t realize it was happening until the fashion show. You never talk about him anymore, Harry.”

“Why would I?” Harry asked, like that was a stupid thing to say. “That’s like asking to kill your mood. I didn’t want to upset you, ever.”

“Doesn’t make it any less okay,” Louis told him.

Harry groaned, turning away from Louis to run a hand through his hair before turning back. “Alright, so now you have a problem? You’re pissed right now because Peter is still in the picture and that’s why you’ve been avoiding me?”

“Don’t you get it?” Louis asked him, his voice rising from sudden anger. “I’m pissed at you because I’m so done being your backseat fuck while you have a boyfriend.” He walked closer to Harry, glaring with every ounce of energy he had left from these past few tiring days, while crossing his arms across his chest.

“Don’t say it like that,” Harry said, bitterly. “Don’t make it seem like I’m using either of you because you know I’m not. You know I’m not like that and know me better than this. I didn’t expect you of all people to accuse me of being so horrible, especially to you because you know what you mean to me.”

“Do you blame me? Everything’s fucked up, especially between you and I. Explain to me why we’re like this now. We never used to fight, Harry,” Louis said, his voice breaking. “We never fucking fought before and it’s all we do now. But we’re doing a lot of things we never used to do, aren’t we?”

Harry’s eyes softened and Louis felt him come closer to him, but he backed away, shaking his head no.

“It’s funny,” he started to say. “We used to be best friends. We did everything together and we understood each other so well. That’s all it was, right? Just friends? But, we flirted with each other. We can’t deny that. There was always an attraction between us, but I never knew if it meant anything, especially from your end. And it’s so frustrating because everyone knew how I felt so I probably looked stupid, but I just let you do it because I needed something to tell me that how I felt was okay, even if it was just a few silly comments from you that probably meant nothing. How sad is that?”

Louis realized he’d never said such things to Harry before and it felt like his heart and mind were being cut open for Harry to see. Things he’d hid for years were coming out and he didn’t think he could stop himself anymore.

“It all changed, didn’t it? We started to kiss and touch and have sex,” Louis said to him, looking at Harry to see that he was facing the ground and looking to his right, a frown etched into his face. “Why are we like this now--reduced to friends with benefits? Part of me thinks now that we were never just friends, to be honest. There was always something more.”

Louis collected himself, trying to not let his emotions get in the way of what was really important. “But forget that,” he said. “Tell me this. Why are you cheating on Peter?”

When Harry didn’t answer again, Louis shook his head, bitterly smiling down at the ground. “Can’t say it, can you? Why won’t you answer me? What does this all mean to you? When I went home with you every time, what did that mean to you? Why do you always tell me that you and I feel right to you but continue to see him? You say you love him, right? But you’re cheating on him with me. Like, why can’t you just fucking let Peter go?”

Harry wouldn’t answer; not one single question and Louis literally couldn’t stand there in front of him anymore. He packed his things away and grabbed his wallet and phone from his desk before starting to walk away. He wasn’t going to stand there and lay his heart out on the line only to have Harry stand there like a fucking mute.

Just as he was about to walk out the door, Harry grabbed his hand and stopped him. “No, stop,” he said. “That’s not fair.”

“Not fair?” Louis glared at him.

“Why am I the only one being questioned like I’m the bad guy or something? I didn’t force you to do any of this, okay? You were in on it just as much as I was. You knew my situation well and that things between Peter and I are complicated. I can’t fucking drop it and just move on so easily. It’s not that simple. And all you do is get mad at me. You’re mad at me about everything. You’ve never liked him so you clearly don’t get it.”

Louis looked at Harry in disbelief, his eyes narrowed and jaw dropped.

“How the fuck can I like him?” he asked. “Has he ever given me the chance or a reason to? No.” Louis started to leave again, but stopped when he realized he had more to say and walked back to Harry. “That was a weak argument, by the way, and I’m so sick and tired of hearing about your complicated relationship. I hate hearing what he means to you and how much you love him. What about me and how I feel? Like, do I mean absolutely nothing to you?”

“Of course you do--.”

“No,” Louis shook his head, interrupting him. “I don’t.”

“How can you say that?” Harry asked. “How can you possibly think that you mean nothing to me when you’re one of the most important people in my life? Do you understand just how much you mean to me? All that happened, all the sex and hanging out, it meant something to me. I wasn’t doing it because I was horny or something. I wasn’t fucking everything up and putting it all on the line for some dicking, Lou.”

“But you love him,” Louis said, angrily. “If you love him so much then why are you cheating on him? I’ll tell you why -- it’s because you realized that he’s not good for you. That he’s at fault.”

“Louis,” Harry pleaded, looking at him with a stricken expression.

“Admit it. It’s his fault.”

“He never told us to pretend to date or do anything that we did. It was us.”

“No,” Louis shook his head. “You can’t act like I offered to pretend to be your boyfriend for some sick pleasure. I did it to help you.”

“I know that,” Harry said. “But you need to stop playing this blame game. You can’t act like you didn’t want any of that to happen between us.”

“And why the fuck would I have wanted any of that to happen and fuck everything up?”

Because you’re in love with me!

Louis’ face crumbled at his words. He could have sworn he felt the ground beneath his two feet disappear. His body suddenly felt limp and completely boneless.

What an ass. What an assuming, presumptuous ass.

“I know you can’t say it, but stop denying it to yourself and me,” Harry said, his voice lowering down. “You said it yourself...that it’s so obvious. Well, here’s the truth.”

Louis stared at him, like he couldn’t actually believe him.

Love.

Louis was completely and utterly scared of that word. He’d never used it, especially in that context, towards anyone, let alone Harry. And for Harry to just throw it at Louis’ face. Louis felt like a fool. He felt like everyone had been laughing at him behind my back all this time because they thought exactly what Harry thought.

Tears threatened to spill out of his eyes and Louis couldn’t stand there and cry in front of Harry. Not when he’d just said the worst thing he possibly could have. He quickly pushed past him, running out of the office.

“Louis, wait!” Harry called, running after him.

Louis ignored him continued to walk as fast as he could.

Anything to get away from the truth.

Somewhere on the way home, Louis started to cry. He’d never thought he’d be one of those people having a breakdown while on the train. He’d seen people cry quietly to themselves and it was always so upsetting and sad to see that. People who were so heartbroken that it didn’t matter if they were on public transportation or in front of people they don’t know because their emotions still overpowered everything else and they broke down and cried.

Harry said Louis was in love with him.

That was just not done. He couldn’t just say that to him and expect Louis to be okay with it. It was not something that you could just say and be done with. It was just not fucking done.

Once Louis got home, he walked into his empty apartment and tore his jacket off and threw it carelessly on the ground. Zayn was staying with Perrie that night so he was all alone. Louis could call him. He could call any of his friends and they’d be there in a heartbeat, but he felt so stupid and fucked up. Louis let out a quiet sob and slid down on the floor with his back against the door, not trusting himself to even get to his room.

He needed to get rid of this sick feeling in his gut. He needed to stop thinking about Harry.

Louis couldn’t even tell if he was upset or angry. There was a lump in his throat, as though it wanted to come out, but was holding itself down and suffocating him, instead.

He didn’t want to cry. Why should he? He didn’t love Harry. Harry was wrong. He was so fucking wrong. This was never more than a crush. In fact, that was all it ever was because Louis didn't fall in love. He didn’t do shit like that because it was not something he was capable of.

God knew how long Louis sat there, playing Harry’s words back over and over again in his head, when he heard someone knocking on the door.

“Louis,” Harry said. “You in there?”

Louis willed himself to stop crying or breathing as heavy as he was, but it only worsened when he heard Harry’s voice. How concerned he sounded because that wasn’t fair.

“I can hear you, you know,” Harry said softly. “Please open the door.” When Louis didn’t respond and instead let out another choked sob, Harry tried again, this time his own voice wrecked and desperate. “Lou, please. Please open the door. Please don’t cry.”

His voice broke on the last sentence and a part of Louis wanted to open the door to see if he was okay because that was what he was used to. A bigger part of him didn’t want to see Harry ever again. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to look him in the face after this because he felt so stupid and embarrassed.

Harry just threw it in Louis’ face that he thought Louis was in love with him. And he didn’t even say it in a nice way. It felt so accusatory and his tone made it so obvious that he didn’t feel the same way. Louis wasn’t going to let him in and he wasn’t going to talk to him again. Louis couldn’t let himself feel worse than he already was.

“Louis, I’m sorry.” Harry paused, his voice sounding closer as if he was sitting directly behind Louis. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please talk to me.” Louis didn’t say anything and Harry paused for a moment before saying, “I shouldn’t have said that. But, I just--”

“Do you really think that?” Louis cut him off, unable to keep quiet anymore.

“Lou,” Harry said, surprised he was finally saying something. “Lou, I’m so--.”

“Tell me,” Louis prompted.

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” he firmly said. “Not tonight. Not when you’re upset like this.”

Louis quietly wiped his eyes, letting out a humorless scoff. It didn’t matter if they talked tonight or later. It didn’t matter anymore because everything was different. Yeah, sex changed them, too, but this made it worse. And Louis didn’t think they could ever be like before. That thought hurt him more than anything. It was never going to be the same again, he could feel it in his heart.

And that just sucked, didn’t it?

They were really good together, whether or not if they were just friends or more. He’d never met anyone like Harry and he just brightened up Louis’ life so much since he came into it. What was Louis going to do now? It was over. The friendship, the memories, and everything else were all over. Harry couldn’t come over and Louis couldn’t see him. The mere thought of it hurt him so much.

Louis just wanted to stay there, stuck to that spot, because he didn’t think if he got up and continued on, he’d be able to accept any of that.

As he sat there, his mind wandered to the whispered secrets shared whenever they were together at night. Was Louis crazy to think that he’d had a chance? Was he crazy to think that Harry was his? Harry made it seem like he was, but right now it didn’t feel like it. It felt like something cheaper, like it was just sex and nothing else. No emotional attachment even though they’d kiss long after finishing and would whisper sweet nothings into each others eats. Louis was always the second choice. Why would Harry go for him when he had his first?

Thinking of all that, he felt crazy and completely delirious with frustration.

Most of all, Louis also felt vulnerable, which was something he’d always hated.

After a while Louis wondered if Harry was still there because it was really quiet sans for his sniffling. He wanted to get up and check through the peephole, but in the end, he slowly unlocked his door and twisted the knob, peeking out just to see Harry staring back at him from where he was sitting.

Harry moved closer to him when he saw Louis’ tear stained face. Before Louis could stop him, Harry had opened the door completely and crawled in, pulling Louis into his arms. “I’m so sorry,” he kept repeating, while helping Louis onto Harry’s lap while he sat with his back to the door.

Louis refused to look at him, trying to keep as strong of a front as he could even though his body felt limp and moved wherever Harry pulled. All he could hear from Harry’s lips were, “It’s okay, Lou. Lou, it’s okay. It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

Louis’ felt his heart sink at Harry’s comforting words, his lips trembling as he let out another sob. Harry pulled him against his chest like a baby, pushing the hair out of his face and wiping his tears. “I’m so fucking sorry,” he whispered. “Please believe me.”

He cried until Harry tried to tilt Louis’ chin to look up at him. Louis wouldn’t and he resisted. Harry stopped trying and ran his thumb over Louis’ cheek, wiping his tears. “Look at me,” he tried, instead.

Louis shook his head once.

“Why not?” Harry asked, his voice near hysterical, sounding like he was close to crying, too. “I’m sorry. Please look at me.”

“I can’t,” Louis cried, shaking his head.

“Louis, you’re scaring me. Please don’t do this.”

“It’s over, okay?” Louis said to him. “It’s over--everything. We can’t see each other anymore. I can’t do it. I can’t look at you. I feel so, so stupid.”

Why? You have no reason to feel stupid. Don’t say things like that. I can’t not see you, Lou. What are you saying?” Harry asked, sounding bewildered.

“We have to stop. I’m an idiot, Harry. Don’t you get it? This was doomed from the start. This couldn’t have worked. Not with how I felt for you.”

How he felt for him went without saying and that said a lot to Louis. Harry quietly stroked his back while Louis cried harder at the fact that he’d never get to feel Harry do that again. “We can figure this out,” Harry tried.

“We can’t,” Louis said, adamantly. “I want to go to bed, please.”

“How you feel for me means something to me, Louis,” Harry said. “I can’t say that enough. You mean so much to me.”

“It doesn’t mean enough, though. I don’t mean enough.”

Harry’s hands stilled at that and Louis took the chance to slowly climb out of his lap, walking to his own bedroom, where he collapsed on the bed. He pulled his feet to his chest and closed his eyes, wiping the tears from his face. Louis heard Harry walk in shortly after and move around his bed to the other side.

“Harry…you have to go,” Louis said to him.

“I’m not going to go,” he said, sitting down next to Louis and running his hands through Louis’ hair to try and calm him down. Instead, it only made Louis cry harder. Only Harry would know that even when Louis told him to go, what he really meant was don’t go because he needed him here. Louis needed Harry to be with him. Of course only Harry would know that.

“You remember years ago when you asked me why I hated the concept of love?” Louis asked, his voice raspy.

Harry moved closer. “Yeah.”

This is why. I don’t love you,” Louis said before taking a deep breath and continuing. “I don’t love you because I refuse to let this happen, but I think it already did, didn’t it? Love tears you down. It breaks your heart and causes the worst pain possible. It destroys the relationships you had and it ruins you completely. I don’t want to love you. I don’t want to love you at all...”

“You think that you’re the only one who’s hurt right now?” Harry asked. “Do you understand how badly it’s breaking my heart that I’m making you feel this way?”

“Don’t compare,” Louis said. “You have the satisfaction of knowing that you love someone and they love you back. I can never say that.”

“Are you telling me that you do?”

“Do what?”

“That you do love me?”

“No,” Louis shook his head. “I just told you that I don’t love you.”

“But you said that--.”

“Stop it.”

“Louis--.”

“Harry, please. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I don’t feel good.”

“I’m sorry,” he said again for what must have been like the millionth time tonight. “How can I make you feel better?”

“I don’t know.”

“You have to tell me. I can’t just--.”

Louis sat up and looked him in the eye for the first time since he’d come over, stopping Harry from finishing his sentence. Louis moved onto his knees and wrapped his arms around Harry. Harry quickly grabbed his waist and pulled Louis on top of him so he was straddling his waist. “I don’t want to talk anymore.”

“Okay.”

“Just hold me, okay? Please don’t let go. I just need you here tonight to hold me.”

“Okay.”

Louis tightened his arms around Harry’s shoulders and cried softly while Harry rubbed his back. He was done talking. All he wanted was for Harry to hold him so that he could push off the inevitable for a few more moments. Louis didn’t want him to leave. He couldn’t go on without him, he really couldn’t. He didn't know what he’d do. The way they were clinging to each other, they couldn’t be any closer and it just came to show how much they truly needed each other. Harry’s grip on Louis was hard and protective and that was really all Louis needed to feel a little better. All he needed was Harry, but soon he wouldn’t have that either.

It was in the quiet room, lying in Harry’s arms and trying to calm himself down that Louis started thinking of all the things he didn’t love about Harry. He didn’t love his deep voice that always sent chills down his spine. He didn’t love his quirky personality or his perfect face. He didn’t love his smile that brought out his pretty dimples, his cherry red lips, his adorable nose, his green, green eyes, or his little freckles. He didn’t love his cheeks or his teeth or his tongue. Not his eyebrows or eyelashes or his curls that Louis would tangle his hands in to get that moan out of Harry’s lips or his cute little birthmark on his back. He wasn’t in love with his body, especially not his long, lean legs, his feet, or his thighs, which still had all the marks Louis left on them. He didn’t love his waist, his broad back that Louis didn’t love scratching, or his spine or his ribs or his chest or even the veins in his neck.

Louis wasn’t in love with the way Harry sang to him when he cooked for him or the way he bit his lip right before kissing him. He didn’t love his cute butt or the way he’d make him laugh with his stupid knock knock jokes or all of his other dorky quirks or his loud, high pitched laugh that made Harry have to cover his mouth. He wasn’t in love with his skin, his bones or the way he smelled. He definitely wasn’t in love with the fact that he was in love with every single one of those things.

“I don’t care what you say,” Harry whispered into his ear. “I don’t care if everything changes…I don’t care who’s left to stay or who’s gone. All I know is that I’m never going to let you go.”

And Louis wished he could tell Harry that it didn’t work like that. He didn’t get it. He didn’t get the fact that Louis lived by rules and Louis broke those rules for Harry and Harry did the one thing Louis was always afraid of.

Harry broke his heart.

No one liked losing people, whether they’d mistreated you or you were the one who had made the decision that you didn’t want them in your life anymore. No matter what had happened, you still end up missing them. You missed how you were with them and their presence in your life. And it was terrible how bad Louis missed Harry. Nothing else compared to the way Harry made him feel and couldn’t make up for the void he left behind. Nobody shined the way Harry did and everything and everybody else seemed so flat and stupid.

A part of Louis felt like it was his own fault.

It had to be, right?

He was the one that let feelings get in the way of a friendship that meant more to him than anything else. They just had such an instant connection, it was hard to ignore, and not just for them, but for those around them, too. They got on from the word go and it just kind of happened. There was constant banter back and forth and even silences weren’t awkward or uncomfortable. They told each other everything and turned to the other when they needed someone the most. That was the biggest thing. Harry came to Louis when he needed someone and Louis went to him when he needed someone.

It was just such a drastic change in his day to day life that it took Louis by complete surprise that it even happened. For the past two years, Harry was such a significant presence that Louis never thought he’d end up losing him. Despite his feelings and Harry’s relationship with Peter, he knew that whatever happened, they’d still be friends. In fact, they promised each other that that part would never change, no matter what. Now after their fight, all Louis could think was how was he supposed to feel without Harry in his life?

He wasn’t sure of what to be without Harry around. Night and day seemed to mesh together and he was no longer sure of time. Every moment just seemed dreary and empty, like a part of Louis was no longer there. Harry was the only thing that he knew like the back of his hand and that was gone. The worst was when he would be doing something mundane like walk to get his mail or pass by a store that he had to walk by everyday only to be reminded of something to do with Harry. He’d be flooded with memories everywhere he went or turned and they were all overpowering. He could swear he was drowning when he thought about them for too long.

Louis always used to think that it was love that tore people apart, not friendship, especially after witnessing his mom’s failed relationships in the past. He thought that friendship couldn’t possibly hurt anybody, especially when he had such a great set of friends in his life. But he was wrong.

Because you’re in love with me.

Even though it’d been almost a month since Harry and Louis had talked or seen each other, Louis could still hear him in his head saying those words to him. They’d tried to cut off communication, but there were drunken voice mails and texts from both ends for a while. The only few phrases apart from the incoherent mess of words were ‘I miss you’, ‘fuck you’, ‘come back’.

Of course, there was always a part of Louis that wanted to just forget all that was said that night and pretend like it didn’t matter because all it did was just split the two of them apart. While the thought of calling Harry up to just meet and talk seemed tempting, Louis couldn’t do it. It just wouldn’t be the same. Nothing they said was going to save them from what had happened. And that was just the thing, though. None of them thought it was going to end or turn out the way they did. It killed him when he told Harry that they couldn’t be friends anymore because the look on his face was always going to be embedded into Louis’ mind; hurt and confused and so torn apart.

With all these thoughts weighing on his shoulders, Louis couldn’t stay home and in bed all day, no matter how much he wanted to. He worked more often or just walked around the city, trying to find places that he and Harry hadn’t been to or things that they hadn’t done together so that he wasn’t constantly reminded of him everywhere he went.

“How long do you plan on being a recluse?” Niall had asked Louis one day as they strolled through Central Park together.

“As long as it takes to just get him off my mind,” Louis answered, dully.

Niall sighed. “Louis, we both know that’s not going to be easy or happen overnight. This will take time. You can’t shut everyone out because of what you’re going through. You can talk to me about it, you know that. Shutting yourself out won’t do anything. I know how you felt about Harry.”

“Yeah and apparently so did he and everyone else and nobody really took me aside and said ‘hey, listen, Harry’s aware of how you feel for him, but guess what? He doesn’t like you like that, so it’s best to move on.’ Like, no one even warned me and it sucks, Niall.”

“Harry never told anyone that he knew,” he said, quietly.

Louis shrugged it off. “Not the point, because he still knew. How am I meant to talk to him again? He humiliated me and made me feel horrible.”

“Maybe he didn’t mean to say it the way he did. Maybe it just came out like that. You did say the fight was very heated and usually during fights people say things they don’t mean. Everyone does it and from what I gathered, you’ve done it before, too.”

“Yeah,” Louis said, quietly. “It was a heated fight.”

Louis thought a lot about that night. He thought about how it began and the way it ended and all the things said in between. Harry didn’t let go of him all night and kept promising that he’d always be there. He kept apologizing to Louis over and over again, while rubbing circles on his back until he fell asleep because he knew that always comforted Louis and made him drowsy. But then the next morning, when they woke up, the two of them knew that no matter what Harry had promised him, it just wasn’t going to be the same.

So, Harry left. He said goodbye to Louis and although he’d tried to reach out afterwards, Louis had never responded. He was fucked up the next day and the day after that. He couldn’t get out of bed and had cried to Zayn all over again. He didn’t think he’d ever been a mess over another person like he was with Harry. Since then, though, he’d just been trying to move past the situation as best as he could.

“It’s whatever,” Louis shrugged again. “Honestly speaking, I was being rather reckless and stupid about the whole thing. I think i just always had this fantasy for the two of us and it’s embarrassing, but I’d wondered what would have happened if Peter was never in the picture when Harry and I’d first met. Would we have gotten together? And I’d let myself get away with imagining that. The past few months, I got a taste of it and I got ahead of myself.

“Like, I don’t think Harry ever knew what I’d do for him. I don’t think anyone knew just how fucking gone I’ve always been for him. I’d go so far for him just to, like, fuck I don’t know, kiss me? No one ever knew how much I pined for him or I guess they did, but I didn’t know. Fuck, I wouldn’t even admit it to myself, so how was I going to know if anyone else knew? I just continued to go on and let it fester inside of me. Now, all I feel is this giant hole where Harry used to be. It always feels so heavy, Ni.”

Niall looked at Louis with what he could only describe as sadness and the last time he remembered his best friend looking at him like that was when he told him that Mark was leaving his mom, too, after his biological father did a few years back. The two of them were in Astoria Park, it was four AM and Louis cried all night to him and Niall was his rock. Niall had always been his rock.

“Anyway,” Louis continued, his voice breaking. “It doesn’t matter. No matter how much I try, I can’t get him out of my head. I’m always seeing his face in my mind and it’s, like, stuck on him. I still try, you know, holding on to silly things and I guess I’ll never fucking learn or something. He changed my life for the better and now he’s gone. I don’t know what to do anymore. And that’s so stupid. Everything is so fucking stupid.”

“It’s not stupid,” Niall insisted. “Everything happens for a reason, right? That’s what they always say. I’m sure it’ll get better, I promise you. You guys just need some time. You’re best friends--this isn’t it. It’s not going to end like this.”

“But it has,” Louis replied. “It has. It can’t be like how it was before.”

“This isn’t what Harry wanted,” Niall said. “You told me yourself. He promised you he’d always be there. And he’s texted and called you, out of his mind, saying that he wants you and he needs you. What’s the problem there?”

“He’ll say those things, but it’s never the way I want or need him. He doesn’t see me like I see him nor can I ever have him like he can have me. I would have given up everything to be his, I really would have. I do want him in my life, but it’s too late. I can’t keep doing this. Peter will always be in the picture and I can’t do anything about that.”

“So, what if he comes to you now and tells you how he feels?”

“We both know that won’t happen,” Louis said, giving Niall a look.

“But what if it does?”

“He’s not in love with me, Niall,” Louis reminded him. “He just loved the way I made him feel, like he was the center of my world because he was. I would have done anything for him, but I’m not Peter. Honestly, that’s what I get for listening to my heart for once. Got fucked over in the end, didn’t I?”

Niall stopped walking, turning Louis towards him and giving him the biggest hug he could muster. Louis let himself melt into it, needing it so bad that he wouldn’t let go. Niall kissed the top of his head and gave him an extra squeeze for good measure. “You’re going to be fine. I fucking love you and you’re going to be fine, okay?”

Louis nodded, slowly, hoping he was right.

...

A week later, Louis found himself up at three AM in front of his TV. He wasn’t really watching the screen while some random episode of Full House played. Really, he just needed some sound to fill the room. Lately it felt so eerily quiet everywhere he went. Even at work where he played music. The thoughts in his mind just drowned everything out, making him feel cold and empty.

And Louis just couldn’t sleep. He was exhausted and completely worn out, but he couldn’t sleep no matter how much he wanted or tried. This wasn’t out of the ordinary as of late. After getting so used to having Harry beside him, even if it was for a little while, it just felt weird now not having him there. Louis was lucky if he got four hours in every night before he left the apartment to do something or another.

It was then that his phone started to ring with Harry’s name and picture on the screen. Louis usually rejected Harry’s calls, but for some reason he answered this time and held the phone to my ear, not saying anything, just quietly listening.

“Lou,” Harry slurred. Louis closed his eyes slowly when he realized Harry was completely pissed drunk. It had happened a few times and he hated it because it worried him. “Lou, you there? You picked up. I can hear you breathing.”

Louis didn’t answer him.

“Louis, I miss you,” he said, his voice breaking. “I miss you a lot and I don’t feel good at all. I always feel like shit. I can’t stop thinking about you--you’re my best friend, right? I just--I don’t know what to do. You don’t think you’re important to me, but you are. No one is like you--and I see you everywhere I go. Like, a few minutes ago, I was at the bar and this guy was there. I thought it was you and I felt so bad when it wasn’t. I almost wanted to cry.”

He took a deep breath before speaking again. “I know that, like, it’s me that did this and I’m sorry. I just wish I could be with you right now. I miss you. I miss you completely. I miss not touching you and I miss breathing you in. I want you all the time and no one else.”

And Louis wanted to hear all this and believe it, he did, but Harry was drunk. He was drunk and he called. He didn’t show up at Louis’ doorstep like Louis would have wanted. 

“Do you remember, like--when we first met?” he asked Louis.

All the time, Louis thought.

“It was so good. We clicked right away and it just kind of happened. And you were always mine from the start, righ-.”

Harry’s voice got cut off and Louis could hear a sharp cry come from him. He clutched on to his phone as if it was Harry himself, holding his breath and waiting to see if he was okay.

“Fuck, I fell,” Harry muttered into the phone with a laugh. “Fuck, Louis, it hurts, can’t believe I fell.” He started to laugh, but Louis knew he was too drunk to realize if he was actually hurt or not.

Panic spread through his mind as he started to picture Harry down on some random street in New York City. He could get seriously hurt. God knew how much he’d had to drink. It seemed he was alone, too, and Louis wanted to run out of his flat and go look for him. Of course, he couldn’t, so he tried to breathe and figure something out.  

“Harry, where are you?” Louis asked him as calmly as he could.

“Louis,” he cried into the phone. “You’re talking. Shit, shit. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I never fucking wanted this. I never wanted to see you hurt. You believe me, right? Please believe me.”

“Where are you? Tell me, please,” Louis prompted, trying not to break composure.

“But can’t we talk?” Harry pleased.

“Just tell me where you are or else I’ll hang up on you,” Louis threatened.

“Soho,” he replied. “Near Broome and Mercer.”

“Stay there, please don’t move,” Louis asked him.

“I promise,” he said, softly.

Louis hung up the phone and quickly dialed Liam’s number. He picked up on the third ring, sounding groggy from sleep.

“Liam, its Louis.”

He could hear Liam’s sheets rustling as he moved around his bed. “Louis, what the fuck?” he groaned into the phone. “It’s three AM.”

“I know,” Louis said. “Harry’s in Soho. He’s drunk on the streets near Broome and Mercer. He just called me completely wasted and he fell, I think. You have to go. You have to go get him right now, Liam.”

“I’ll go now,” he said calmly, even though his voice had a trace of worry in them, too. “I was staying at Sophia’s. It’s not too far from here. I’ll go get him. Don’t worry.”

“When you do, please just let me know that he’s okay.”

“Yeah, I will,” Liam replied. “Thanks for letting me know.”

“Yeah, it’s fine. Just go. Hurry up, please.”

Liam hung up and Louis waited as patiently as he could. After a while, he felt suffocated just sitting down so he started to pace the apartment, checking to see if Zayn was sleeping, which he was, and so Louis sat out in the fire escape. When his phone vibrated, Louis opened up Liam’s text.

got him hme and safe in bed. he was really fucked up on the rode mumbling a bunch of shit about you. but he’s home now and passed out, safe and sound :))

The next day, Liam paid a visit to Louis and Zayn’s apartment. The two of them were in the middle of debating whether or not they should go out to eat again or if they should attempt to get some groceries when Liam knocked and Zayn let him in.

Louis smiled at him, still not over what had happened the night before with Harry. He might have slept less than three hours, not able to get Harry’s voice or the things he’d said out of his head, but at least Louis knew that Harry was safe. God knew what would have happened if Liam hadn’t gone in time and fetched him.

“How are you guys?” Liam asked, plopping down on a chair in the kitchen across from them.

“Good,” Louis replied. “A bit hungry so we were trying to decide what to do for food.”

Liam laughed at that as Zayn brought him over a water bottle from the fridge before sitting down with them. “I’m actually on my lunch break right now, but I decided to come see you guys, instead.”

“What’s up?” Zayn asked, knowing there was more to it.

When Liam looked at Louis, in means of asking him whether or not Zayn knew, Louis slowly shook his head. Liam turned back to Zayn then to answer him. “Harry got really drunk last night and was a mess. He hurt his leg pretty badly...it’s all cut up and bruised. And he called Louis.”

Zayn looked at Louis for confirmation and Louis nodded. “Shit,” Zayn muttered. “Is he okay?”

“He’s okay now,” Liam said. “I bandaged up his cut and bruise, but he’s at home nursing his hangover right now. Found him throwing up in the toilet this morning.”

Louis was stressed to say the least. He wanted nothing more than to go to Harry, to take care of him and give him everything he needed. He always felt at unease if Harry was sick.

“Well, have you spoken to him? Asked him why he’s been doing this because I know this wasn’t the first time,” Zayn said. “Niall said he’s been drinking a lot.”  

“I tried, but he’s been so hard to get through to these days,” Liam replied. “When he’s sober, he’s always quiet and stays to himself, so it’s useless. I tried talking to him when he was drunk, but I hardly understood what he’s saying because he doesn’t explain anything, he just rants.”

“Yeah, I know he’s been drinking a lot. I got a few drunk calls and texts from him before,” Louis mumbled. “Not as bad as last night, though.”

“Did you hear about him and Peter?” Liam asked him next.

Louis looked up at him in confusion and shook his head. “What happened with him and Peter?”

“The day before yesterday Peter came to see him and it got ugly,” Liam started to say. “I think Harry, like, admitted how he was hooking up with you and that he cheated. So, evidently Peter dumped him and it was literally so scary.”

“What do you mean by scary?” Louis asked, cautiously. Something stirred inside of him because Harry and Peter weren’t together anymore. He called Louis last night the night after Peter dumped him.

“Scary like the whole building could hear him,” Liam continued. “He was shouting and being horrible. I don’t think he’s taking Harry back…like ever again.”

“They always break up and get back together,” Louis said, shrugging.

“They’ve never broken up like this, Louis,” Liam insisted. “It was shit. I tried talking to him afterwards, but he locked himself in his room and then I left to sleep over at Sophia’s. And then I had no idea what was up with him until you called me.”

Just then, something came to Louis’ mind. Was Harry only calling him because he got dumped? The breakup decision wasn’t on his end and he probably thought he’d call Louis because that was what he’d always done. He didn’t call Louis because he missed him, like Louis had momentarily thought. He called Louis because he needed Louis to make him feel better about it just like every other time. What made it worse this time wasn’t that Louis had feelings for the guy, who kept coming to him when his boyfriend kept dumping him, it was that Harry knew how Louis felt about him and kept doing it, anyway.

That selfish, insufferable piece of shit.

Louis frowned and felt himself shaking from anger.

How could Louis possibly let himself think that Harry actually missed him? He didn’t miss Louis, he missed Peter. Harry needed Louis to tell him it would be okay and that Peter would take his sorry ass back again. He needed Louis’ reassurance that they’d be okay like he’d always done.

Wow.

It would have made a difference if Harry had done the dumping, but he hadn’t. Instead, Harry only admitted everything wrong that he did, probably because he felt like shit for hiding it, and it blew up in his face.

That was it. Louis was not going to ever speak to him again. Forget the drunk texts and phone calls. He could go to hell for all Louis cared. How dare he accuse Louis of loving him and then use him for his own personal benefit in such a selfish manner knowing how it was hurting Louis in the process? This changed everything.

He looked up at Zayn and Liam and shrugged. “Well, sucks for him. Hope he feels better.”

They frowned at him, clearly confused by his lack of reaction. “That’s it?” Zayn asked.

“You’re not happy that he’s single again?” Liam added.

Louis shook his head. “I couldn’t care less. He’s out of my life. I want nothing to do with him anymore. Honestly, he’s a piece of shit.”

“Stop acting like you don’t miss him,” Liam countered. “For fucks sake, I know it bothers you. You’re wearing his sweater for Christ’s sake.”

Louis frowned at Liam and decidedly ignored his jab. Yes, he was wearing a sweater of Harry’s that he left behind. That was hardly the point of the matter.

“He’s right, Louis. Why are you saying this?” Zayn asked him. “Isn’t this what you wanted? Peter was the only thing in your way.”

Louis rolled his at Zayn and shook his head. “No, Z. It wasn’t Peter. I realize now that it was never him. It was always Harry. If he really wanted me, he could have dumped Peter at any given time, but he never did. Do you think just because Peter broke up with Harry for the zillionth time, I’d go running after him, just to have them get back right together again? No. I wouldn’t. Truth of the matter is he never liked me like that. He never felt the same way.”

“You don’t know that,” Zayn argued. “He’s been a complete mess and I’m talking about long before he got dumped by Peter. After your fight a month ago, he shut himself down. When I asked him, the only thing he’d tell me was it wasn’t your fault, it was his.”

Great, at least he could admit it.

“He’s not himself anymore,” Zayn continued. “Do you know how weird it is being around him now? Almost like you took a part of him away that night.”

Louis was trying so hard not break under Zayn’s words. He couldn’t do that anymore. Zayn wasn’t sure of anything he was saying. He was just going off his instinct with the situation. If Harry wanted Louis, he’d have come by now because everyone knew he could have had him if he really wanted. He wouldn’t be calling Louis drunk. He’d be at his doorstep saying everything in person. This was worth more than a cheap phone call when Harry was pissed out of his mind.

“Louis, I know that he said things that he shouldn’t have, but don’t you think you should talk about it?” Liam asked. “Just for once? Be honest with each other and talk about it.”

“No,” Louis shook his head. “I’m not going to do that. You guys know I hate this stuff as it is. I hate being vulnerable. Not just to guys, but with anyone. I hate having my feelings put up on the line and so open just to be crushed. I don’t like having my heart broken and stupidly enough, that’s what he did. The one thing I never let myself go through actually happened no matter how hard I tried to resist. He told me I’m in love with him.

Louis looked at the table in front of him, grimacing as he’d said it out loud in front of his friends.

Liam and Zayn only looked at him softly, unable to say anything.

“I can’t let him do that again. I’ve never let a boy get close enough to me to hurt me, but I did with him. I was careless for once, but I won’t be anymore. I don’t know what it was about him that made me this way.

“And what’s wrong with that?” Liam asked. “There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you might be in love with him. There’s nothing wrong with feeling something for once. I know how you are, Louis. But you have to understand sometimes life entails getting hurt and taking risks.”

“Spare me the lecture, Li,” Louis snapped. “Just because you got your fairy tale ending doesn’t mean it’ll work out for everyone. And I tried the whole relationship thing with Greg and look how bad at that I was. Ended up hurting a completely innocent guy who didn’t even deserve it.”

“That’s because you wanted Harry the entire time,” Zayn said to him. “Don’t lie to me and say a part of you didn’t do it just so you could spite him. You wanted a reaction out of Harry. It wasn’t going to work out from the start. However, it could work with Harry.”

“Fine,” Louis said, a bit louder than necessary. “You’re right. Okay, I did date Greg to try to spite Harry, but I also tried to like him as well. And it never worked. Do you know how frustrating it is? I don’t even know what the fuck to do with myself half the time because it hurts so fucking much. It hurts everywhere because I feel for Harry in every possible way and that’s scary, alright? It’s scary because what if he’s right?

“What if I do love him? And--and now what if I can’t stop? What will I do then because he doesn’t love me? I know he doesn’t because he would have told me and he hasn’t. This is why I avoid stuff like this. Hooking up with random guys never had me questioning things nor did it ever hurt. It’s simple and it’s easy.”

They were both stunned by Louis’ sudden outburst. Louis gulped, wiping his face with his hands. “I-I know that he’s upset,” Louis said. “But, it’s not been easy on me either. I realized the night it all happened that there are certain things that you just can’t wipe away or start over from. Life just keeps going forward, no matter what you do, they can’t go back to the way things once were. If one thing goes wrong, then it’s like that forever. That’s just the sad truth about life.”

Zayn put a hand on Louis’ shoulder, giving it a encouraging squeeze. “It’s alright, man. We’re here for you and we just want the best for you two.”

“I understand,” Louis replied, exhausted from all the feelings he’d just spilled out. It was a lot of work.

Liam took Louis’ hand and gave it an encouraging squeeze as well. “I’m really sorry if I stepped out of line,” he said. “I just see my best friend hurting and over time, you’ve become one of my best friends, too. So, I just wanted the best for you guys as well.”

Louis knew all his friends were only trying to help. He knew that they cared about both Harry and him deeply. It was just the negative side of getting involved with someone in your friend group because Louis knew that no matter how much he wanted to escape Harry, he still wouldn’t be able to completely cut himself off.

Louis had been standing in front of Niall’s front door with his fist raised up to knock for the past five minutes. He was mentally giving himself about fifty pep talks to try and get over the fact that Harry was on the other side and they would be seeing each other after over a month. Practically two months. That was the longest they’d ever gone without seeing each other and it was nerve wracking for Louis because he had no idea what to do once he did see him.

So much so, he put his fist down and was just about to leave when the door flew open.

Niall looked at him and his brows creased together. “Louis,” he said, a slow grin forming on his lips. “Finally. We were wondering where you were.”

“I uh--I don’t know. Niall,” Louis looked at him with panic flooding through his body and making him want to bold out of there. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Hey,” Niall said to him softly. “You’re strong, okay? You can do this. Don’t be scared. What have you got to fear?”

“I don’t know,” Louis muttered. “Fuck, I don’t know.”

“We’re your best friends, Lou. We love you more than anyone, you don’t have to be scared to hang out with us.”

Louis sighed, realizing he was right. This was why he’d told them he’d come to hang out with them all when they called and asked. He just didn’t realize that he’d have a nervous breakdown and almost chicken out. Before Louis could convince himself to leave again, Niall pushed him inside towards Barbara, who was in the kitchen.

“Lou,” she smiled, happily once she saw him. “Good to see you.”

“Don’t let him out of your sight,” Niall warned her. “He almost tried to run just now. I’m on my way out to get more drinks, so keep an eye on him for me.”

Barbara gave Louis a look before laughing as she took some melted cheese out from the microwave. Louis sidled up beside her as he watched her make nachos and asked her about her new lingerie line, which was going going great and selling off the shelves like crazy. It was easier to stand there and make small talk with Barbara and ignore the fact that his ex-best friend was in the other room and they had a major falling out after having a ton of amazing sex.

He’d much rather do that anyway because it was daunting to know that he’d soon have to walk out to the living room and see Harry. Before everything happened, the first thing he’d do was run to Harry, but now all he could think about was how to avoid him in every possible way, which was annoying since all he could really think about was him. And it astounded Louis to sometimes think about the fact that he used to once have a normal, leading life without knowing of Harry’s existence, without ever sparing him a thought. And now he could never get him out.

Sometimes Louis felt like his mind was a broken record player, stuck on one word. Or in this case, one person. One very stupid boy. One very stupid, pretty boy.

Eventually, Barbara was done with the nachos and ready to head to the living room. Louis gulped and said a quick prayer before walking in behind her to see that everyone was there. Zayn brought Perrie, Liam brought Sophia and Harry was just there.

He was right in front of Louis.

Louis’ heart felt like it was going to fall out or something.

Harry looked tired, was the thing. His hair was a mess, looking stringy and oily. His eyes were sunken and his face was paler than usual. Wearing a pair of ripped, black jeans and a ratty old flannel shirt, he looked just about ready to fall asleep. Louis wasn’t even sure whether he would have noticed that Louis had walked into the room had it not been for Perrie.

“Oh, hi, Louis,” she greeted with a smile.

Harry’s eyes shot up and he looked at Louis, wide eyed and jaw slack. Liam paused the game to come hug Louis along with the others. He gave them all meek smiles, eyes still glancing over at Harry, who was still frozen in his spot.

After greeting everyone, Louis sat down. It was weird, really. Harry and he were on opposite ends of a couch with a ton of people between them. Louis thought back to a time when they would be sitting close together, practically on each other’s laps, trying so hard not to kiss the other.

And it shouldn’t irk Louis, the fact that as time went on and everyone had snacks, drank beer and talked about different reality shows while watching them, Harry didn’t say a single word to Louis. Louis didn’t say anything to him, either, in fear of making himself look stupid.

When Niall sat down beside Louis, he nudged him. “You guys talk yet?” Niall asked.

Louis shook his head. “Nope.”

“Well, you will have to eventually. You two will work things out,” Niall said, sipping his beer.

“No,” Louis quickly said.  “It doesn’t work like that. It’s over, Ni. He’s made his decision. I mean, look at him. He’s sat there this entire time and not even made one move towards me. I’m not looking for anything big. I just need him to do something other than stare at me across a room full of people. He’s called me several times, drunk out of his mind before, telling me he missed me, but he can’t approach me in person. That’s just shit.”

“So you want him to talk to you?” Niall asked, smiling at me.

“Not like that,” Louis replied, shaking his head. “You know what I meant.”

Niall laughed and Louis frowned at him. “Honestly, you two are so similar. Both stubborn and stupid. It’ll become clear to you soon enough.”

Louis didn’t bother correcting Niall again because he was so done talking about this. He, instead, focused on the movie the others had just put on. It was a good thing it was a superhero movie because Louis’ attention was mostly on that and not on Harry. After the movie ended, Louis started fidgeting again, getting antsy to leave already.

He got up as the end credits started to roll. “I think I’m going to head out guys,” he said as coolly as he could to try to appear nonchalant and not like he was uncomfortable and upset. He was met with a few sad faces, but not sure if one of those was Harry’s since he refused to look over. They stole a few glances at each other during the movie, but that was hardly anything compared to how much Louis wanted to look at Harry.  

“So soon?” Niall asked.

“Had a long day at work and then I had some other things to do, but we’ll do this again,” he said.

“Alright, man,” Niall replied, standing up to give him a hug. Louis hugged him back and then said goodbye to the others. Zayn told him he’d go home with him, but he and Perrie were going to hang out that night, so Louis smiled and told him to be safe and that he’ll see him tomorrow.

Louis headed towards the door and was just about to open when Harry rushed forward, pushing his hand against it so Louis couldn’t pull it open. Louis looked up at him, surprised and confused.

“That’s it, then?” Harry asked.

Louis frowned, his brows creasing together. “What?”

“You’re just going to leave?” Louis stared at him, even more confused. What did he even mean? “You come here and we haven’t seen each other in over a month and you don’t even say a word to me,” Harry pointed out.

“Has it maybe occurred to you that I don’t need to be the one to make the first move?” Louis asked him when he finally figured out what Harry was mad about. “Maybe it should be you? Because this is on you. You’re the one that should have said something.”

Louis was scowling, wanting to scream at how they were back to just blaming each other and waiting for the other to make a move. Isn’t that what got them in this position in the first place?

“How was I supposed to know that it’d be okay?” he asked him. “I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to talk to you.”

“You didn’t fucking need permission when you called me up at three AM to tell me how you missed me the day after you got dumped.”

Harry’s mouth dropped as he stared at Louis in shock. He took that as Harry didn’t know that Louis had found out about him and Peter. Louis could hear complete silence from the other room and was pretty sure everyone was listening in, but at this point, he didn’t care. His blood was boiling with anger. He was so beyond pissed that he thought he was going to lose his mind.

“Didn’t think I’d know about that, right?” Louis asked him. He scoffed, getting closer to Harry’s face. “You’re honestly disgusting.”

“My breakup with Peter had nothing to do with my phone call,” Harry interjected

“Stop lying!” Louis said. “Stop fucking lying to me. I know it did. It’s what you always do and always have done. So fucking done with you treating me like shit.”

“Louis, stop,” he yelled back. “No. I don’t do that. It’s not what you think.”

“It’s not? You’re trying to tell me that every time he dumped you and you came running to me, you weren’t looking for someone to boost your fucking ego and give you hope that he’d take your sorry ass back?”

“No, I came to you because I needed a friend--or have you completely forgotten what that was like?” he asked.

“Well, excuse me, but I’m not believing you or falling for your shit. I didn’t enjoy any of that pretend bullshit, but I did it anyway just to make you happy, because yeah, you were my best friend. And all you did was throw it back to my face.”

“Were? Using past tense now? Do I mean nothing to you anymore, then?”

“Cut the bullshit, Harry. You’re not as innocent and helpless as you’re trying to appear.”

Harry shook his head, breaking their eye contact, and turning away from him. “It sucks that you’re being this way. It sucks so fucking much that you’re misunderstanding everything.”

“Well how am I supposed to understand this? What is there to understand other than you’ve fucking played me? If you so clearly knew how I felt all this time then why did you lead me on?”

Louis’ lips started to tremble and he knew he was close to tears because of how angry and frustrated and pent up he was. He glared at Harry and his lack of response to his question. He was always quick to respond to everything else, but as soon as it came to opening up about himself, he shut down.

The absolute, fucking nerve of him.

“Can’t fucking answer me again, now can you?” Louis asked, wiping at his eyes and shoving at him weakly. “I hate you. I absolutely fucking hate you.”

His eyes shot back to Louis’, looking pained, red, and glassy. “No,” he shook his head, speaking quietly. “You don’t. No.”

“I do,” Louis repeated, loudly. “I fucking hate you, Harry. You’re the fucking worst. I don’t want you anymore. Ever. Not in my life, not with me, not in any way.” Louis realized my words only kept getting louder because by then he was crying. He shoved him again, a little harder this time, even though Harry was hardly budging from where he was stood. Louis was so upset and all he could think about was how much he wanted Harry to hold him and how much he wanted to push him away.

“Stop saying that!” Harry screamed. “Stop fucking saying that. You know you don’t mean it.”

Louis weakly punched at Harry’s arms, crying more than putting any exertion on his hands. “I do. I hate you. I have never hated anyone more in my life. Fuck you.” Just then, the others walked out to see if they were alright. Liam immediately rushed to Harry’s side and Louis looked over at him and saw tears rolling down his face, his eyes red rimmed.

“Come on, man,” Liam coaxed Harry, trying to pull him away, but he kept resisting.

“No,” he said, his whole body shaking. “I can’t.”

Louis wiped his own tears, catching Harry’s eyes again. “You were wrong,” Louis said to him. “You were fucking wrong. I don’t love you. Alright? You were fucking wrong. I fucking hate you.”

“Keep telling yourself that, Louis,” he said through his tears. “Keep lying and blaming it all on me. Don’t listen to a single thing I’ve got to say and just keep assuming everything.”

“When have you ever explained anything to me? All you did was fuck me over. You never gave me a reason to listen. So, fuck you, you broke my heart and I hate you.”

Harry let out a loud sob and tried pushing past Liam to walk out the door, but Zayn quickly ran over to stop him. “Let me go,” he said to them. “I need to fucking go. Let me go!” They ignored his pleas and he slumped back against Zayn, only to kick the door with all the strength he had left. He covered his face, trying to hide his tears, and cowered down till he slid down to the floor.

Louis watched as he wiped his tears and looked up at him, face red and so worn out. At this point, he wasn’t sure if Louis was crying for himself or for Harry. There was a part of him, still angry and wanting to scream till his voice let out. But there was also another part of him that wanted to run over and hold him. Instead, he did neither and just let himself go limp in Niall’s arms, who had rushed over to his side.

The only sounds that could be heard at this point were Harry and Louis crying.

Louis realized then that this was probably why neither of them had plucked up the courage to talk to each other since everything had happened. They couldn’t be friends anymore, of course, because they had gone too deep and fucked up way too much. They couldn’t even talk without getting into a fight. Not having the other in each other’s lives was probably easier, but for Louis, it wasn’t better. They complicated each other’s lives too much and despite that, he loved Harry.

And he wished he could say or think that he wanted Harry to be happy and to move on from all this, which he did, but he wanted to be the reason for his happiness even to this day. He always made Harry happy before and now he was crying because of Louis.

The thing with heartbreak was that there wasn’t a single word in the whole world that could describe just how much it hurt, especially when it was your first. And the thing with love was, it happened to everyone. Even to the people who refused to believe in it. And while most waited and expected their movie scripted endings, all they ever got were two broken hearts and things said that they’d never forget.

Zayn took Louis home, while Louis wiped the last of his tears and tried to compose himself. Once they’d gotten home, Louis promised he was fine and to please go to Perrie’s that night like he’d planned. In reality, Louis just wanted to be alone after everything that had happened.

Zayn eventually left and Louis made himself a hot cup of tea before changing into his favorite sweats and heading to bed. He wanted that night to be over. The entire train ride, he couldn’t get Harry’s crying face out of his head and it was hurting more than he’d like to admit.

After they’d managed to gather Harry up, Liam took him home, as well. Everyone just looked so shell shocked and afraid that either of them were going to do something crazy and Louis felt bad. He felt bad that they were being dragged out into this. Either way, they were all understanding when he’d apologized. But now, he wanted to sleep it off, knowing that he should get a head start despite it being rather early because it always took forever for him to go to sleep.

Just as he’d finished his tea and set it on the bedside table, someone rang the doorbell. He wondered if Zayn forgot something or one of the others were over. Louis slowly crept out of bed and looked through the peephole to see it was Harry, his heart practically stopping.

He unlocked the door slowly and looked at Harry with a surprised expression. Harry looked at him and breathed a sigh of relief, perhaps at the fact that he’d maybe thought Louis wasn’t going to come out and open the door for him.

“Harry,” Louis looked at him questioningly. He wasn’t saying anything, just staring at him. Louis wished he would say something. Louis continued to look at Harry pointedly. Harry fish mouthed for a few moments, but he was struggling, his eyes still red and face pale. “Why are you here?” Louis asked, trying to get something out of him.

Harry ran a hand through his hair and looked at him desperately. “Can we talk, please?”

“About what?”

“Louis, please.”

Louis slowly nodded his head, opening the door for him. Harry walked in and stopped in the living room. “I know that it’s unfair of me to come--and I wasn’t going to, but I had to. I couldn’t keep doing this to you or me.”

“Do what?”

“Not be honest,” he said with a sad expression. “Louis, you have to know that tonight killed me. I couldn’t watch you walk away from me again, that’s why I stopped you.”

Louis’ eyes shot up to look at him. “And why can’t I walk away from all this?”

“Because no matter what you say, we’re still best friends. And I know we’ve fought and things have happened, but I still think you’re my best friend.”

“Real shit way that you treat your friends,” Louis retorted.

Harry looked hurt, but didn’t push it. “I just -- I don’t know what to do without you.”

“You don’t need me, Harry. You really don’t. You’ll be fine.”

“But I do.”

“Why?” Louis. “Give me one reason why you need me…actually, fuck that. Give me ten reasons other than the fact that we’re best friends. That’s not good enough anymore because I can’t be just your friend. I don’t want to be just friends or your fucking second choice.”

Harry shook his head and looked like he was ready to have another breakdown like the other night. “No,” he kept repeating. “You can’t -- like, just say that, okay? Louis, it hurts me so much that you think that you’re my second choice because that’s not true. You’ve never been my second choice.”

“Don’t lie,” Louis said, sadly. “Peter’s always been first. And he’ll take you back, alright? I know he broke up with you, but he’ll take you back. I’ll back off and you won’t have to deal with any of this anymore. You two can be happy.”

Harry walked closer to Louis, cautiously, scared that he was overstepping boundaries, but Louis didn’t stop him.  

“Don’t you get it?” he asked. “You’re the first person I tell when something great happens, when something bad happens or when anything happens at all because I trust you completely. I call you first.” Louis blinked up at him as he continued. “I only ever want to be with you, spend as much time as I can with you, and only want to be around you. It’s you, Lou. It’s been you for the past few months, fuck from the moment we meet. It’s you at three AM and it’s you at six PM. It’s you when I eat, it’s you when I sleep, it’s when I’m doing every other God damn thing in my life. You’re everywhere and you are everything to me. It’s you. It’s always been you.”

“Oh.” Louis’ voice was barely audible. He couldn’t hear it over the beating of his heart, which was racing.

Harry smiled softly. “Yeah,” he said. “And I’m sorry that it took me so long to actually come to terms and accept this enough to tell you. But you need to know that you were never my second choice. If I were to choose between you and anyone else in the entire world, I’d choose you every God damn time.”

His hand stroked Louis’ cheek cheek and Louis bit his lip, unable to meet Harry’s eyes without the blush growing on his cheeks, so instead he looked away. “But--you’ve always been with Peter. You told me that it was always him and you love him.” Louis finally looked up at him, trying not shy away.

“I know I said that,” he admitted.

“Then do you blame me for thinking otherwise?”

“I was scared,” he said. Louis frowned, looking into his green eyes, taken aback by his confession. “I’ve always been scared. I’ve never had a boyfriend other than Peter. I grew up with him. He was one of my best friends growing up and my first boyfriend. He was all I knew until you came and suddenly, he wasn’t it anymore. He was never going to be it, even though I thought he was for a long time. That was something that I had to come to terms with and it took me a while.”

While Louis had a lot of questions, he didn’t want to interrupt him, not when he was finally opening up.

“I’ve liked you since the moment I laid eyes on you, Lou. You’re beautiful and you’re so interesting. We’re alike and I always like being with you.”

Louis wanted to fall into Harry's words and he felt myself giving in as well, but he knew that he couldn’t make this easy for Harry. Louis needed more if Harry wanted more. He was scared, too, just like him, and this wasn’t going to cut it.

“That’s not good enough,” Louis said, shaking his head. “If you want me to believe all that, then you need something better.”

He stepped away from Louis, looking at him in disbelief. “I don’t know why you don’t believe me.”

“You’ve been giving me mixed signals for years so sorry that I’m trying to be a little more cautious before I fall for your shit again.”

Harry's lips drew in a thin line as he frowned down at Louis. “Do you want to know why I wouldn’t leave you alone the night after we fought? Why would I have followed you all the way home at all if I don’t mean all that?”

Louis stared at him, his lip parted in confusion, trying to make sense of where he was going with this.

“All I wanted that night was to hold you because I couldn’t accept--I didn’t want to accept the fact that we could no longer be anything to each other anymore. I was so scared I that I had fucked it up and I couldn’t have you.”

“You did fuck it up,” Louis said to him. And at that Harry’s lips pouted. He was actually pouting at Louis like a little boy. It was so endearing, but Louis needed to stand his ground. He shook his head and frowned at Harry. “No, you don’t get to pout and just think it’s going to be okay.”

“Louis,” he insisted. “I feel the same way, okay?”

“Since when?” Louis couldn’t help but ask.

“I told you. Since I’ve met you.” He looked at Louis with a trace of hope in his eyes.

“If you felt the same way and you knew how I felt, then why didn’t you ever do anything? Don’t give me half-assed explanations, Harry.”

“It was never--like, this bad. I’ve always been attracted to you,” he explained. “And you were right when you said that there was always something there, like chemistry and sexual attraction. When you used to talk to other guys or sleep with them, I hated it but I never let myself admit it. It became worse with Greg, but I tried controlling myself. I think one of the first times I realized I like you was when I almost lost you to him. I realized not having you in my life fucked me up in a way I never thought possible. It wasn’t until we started pretending that I really got the gist of it. Like, a taste of what it’s like being with you and how good it feels to kiss you. The more we did it, the more I wanted it.”

Louis immediately started to think about their first kiss, how Harry didn’t want to stop, and it started to make sense a little. He thought back to the kisses that followed and the times they had sex, where Harry didn’t want to stop and he’d look so overwhelmed being with Louis, like he could never get enough.

“I think that’s where I started to mess up. I should have been honest, but like I said, I was scared. I was scared that if I started to date you, it’d end up how it was with Peter. He was never, like, so rude and horrible to me before. I think we both just grew up and became different people. We didn’t work well as a couple anymore. And I think we both knew that, but we were just scared to let go of each other. Thing was, at some point I had started to realize that I’d end up losing Peter, but I couldn’t ever risk losing you.” He laughed bitterly at that. “Maybe I might have, I don’t know.”

“Then why did you keep going back to him?” Louis asked him. “Even after we stopped pretending, you kept going back and dragging it on.”

“I think that I was trying to make sense of it, even though it was staring me in the face, I still wanted to make sure. Like, I didn’t want to break up with Peter and jump into you, then realize it was going to end the same way it ended with him. I’ve spent so many years with Peter, but I got one taste of you and then I was looking for you in him and that’s when I realized it was never him.”

Louis felt paralyzed and stuck. His heart felt like it was going to jump out because it was beating so hard. He had no idea what to do at that point, because it almost seemed unreal. Was this actually happening or was he misreading it again? Harry was here in person and opening up and this was what Louis had wanted for ages. And now he could hardly believe it.

“What does this mean?” he asked Harry, looking into his eyes. “Like, what are you trying to say to me?”

“I’m trying to say that Peter’s gone. He’s been gone for the longest time, and even if he was here then I was always more yours than I ever was his.”

Louis tried to process all that, without throwing up. “You knew how I felt--you threw it in my face like you were disgusted by it.”

“That’s my fault,” he shook his head sadly. “And I am so sorry, Louis. I should have never said that. I was angry and let it get the best of me. I always wanted you to say it to me. I wanted you to admit it yourself and I ruined that.”

“How long have you known?” Louis’ skin was itching and he felt rubbed raw. He was opening himself up to Harry again, letting him in, and he knew how risky it was, but couldn’t help it. He needed this more than anything after everything they’d been through.

“It was never, like, a confirmed thing,” he answered. “I just always had an idea, I guess.” He looked at Louis, taking a deep breath. “I think what it is, is that some people bring out the worst in you and others bring out the best. And then there are some people who bring out both. They’re rare and the feeling is addictive. That’s you for me, Louis. We bring out the best in each other, but we also bring out the worst. That night was my worst and I am so sorry.”

“You mean that?” Louis asked him. “I bring out the best and worst in you?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, quickly. He walked closer to Louis again, closing the distance between them, and placing his hands on Louis’ elbows to uncross them from across his chest. “You make me feel so alive that I’d literally follow you anywhere just to have you whether it be to hell and back, I’d do it. And I hope that after seeing all these sides to me, you’d still choose me, too, because I will always choose you.”

“Those are some big words,” Louis said to him, looking into his green eyes. “So was what you said to me that night. That I’m in love with you. Did you mean it?”

He slowly smiled at Louis, almost smug and a little confident. “Would you be mad if I said yes?”

Louis scowled at him and Harry actually had the audacity to laugh. “Not funny,” Louis scolded.

“It is,” he said. “Admit it, Louis.”

“Admit what?”

“We were never friends,” he shook his head, smiling down at him, his face so close. “Not for a second because I love you, I have always loved you.”

“You’re so dumb,” Louis said, trying so hard to control the smile threatening to burst onto my face. “You knew that you could always have me.”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “But I also didn’t want to mess it up.”

“And now?”

“Now, I’m not scared. I’ve figured it out after all that time and all those fights. I’m standing here right now and I’m telling you the complete truth, which I should have done ages ago. You are one of the most amazing people I have ever met, you had me completely head over heels and I never even realized how gone I was for you. I love you more than anything in the world, I do. There is absolutely nothing throughout my twenty-two years that compares to how I fucking feel about you.” He grinned at me, seeing the smile on my face finally break out. “No one will ever able to understand just what you mean to me.”

“Do you mean that?” Louis asked him again, completely in disbelief.

“Of course, I do,” Harry said. “I’m in love with you. You’re so beautiful to me, just looking at or thinking about your face wrecks me, Lou. Sometimes I can’t believe you’re real because even though you make fun of me and shit all over me, you also treat me so well. Sometimes I feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to think about you as much as I want to.”

“Harry,” Louis breathed, his voice shaking from how much he was feeling.

“No, stop,” Harry shook his head. “I want to tell you because it’s true. I might have to live, like, a hundred years because that’s how long it would take me to have one single thought about you. I’m completely crazy for you. And I want you to know that I don’t want to be with anybody else because there is nobody else for me. I’m so sick in love with you, Lou.”

Louis stared at him, still unable to find words.

Harry took one of his hands and brought it up to kiss his palm. “I know I’ve hurt you a lot and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I broke your heart and didn’t say this soon enough. I’ll never be able to forgive myself, even if it isn’t too late. It hurt me so much to see you cry like the way you did. I never wanted that, I wanted to kiss away the pain and make it stop or go away.”

Louis used his free hand to bring it up to Harry’s shoulder, gripping tight, because he felt imbalanced. Like, Harry was slowly tugging him forward over a thin rope towards him, headfirst and reckless.

“You love me?”

“Yeah,” he breathed. “I love you more than anything.”

“Okay,” Louis smiled, cupping his jaw and trying to feel him as much as he could, like I’d been deprived all this time. His soft skin under Louis’ fingerprints felt like fire and Louis could honestly start one with how he felt for Harry.

“Okay?” Harry asked, leaning into his hand.

“Yeah,” Louis nodded.

He narrowed his eyes and looked at Louis with a confused expression. “That’s it?”

“Yeah.”

“Well,” he smiled. “Don’t you want to, like, I don’t know…say something back?”

“Like what?” Suddenly, Harry was smiling, probably catching on because a few short months ago they’d had a similar conversation where Louis was supposed to say this exact thing back to him, but didn’t.

He groaned, pressing his forehead against Louis’, a smile on his lips. “Louis. I’m not kidding around. This is it. You know how I feel--I want it to be real, you and me. No more pretending or hiding. The ball’s in your court now.”

Louis laughed and shook his head. “You act like you’re so sure of everything, yet you need me to tell you?”

“I’ve been completely honest with you tonight. I need you to tell me now what you want.”

“Harry,” Louis said, moving away so Harry could look at him properly. “I decided on you, don’t you get that? I don’t want to fuck other guys and be that person anymore because the thrill wears off, you know? I used to feel empty and fucked up and sad, but with you it’s different. It’s always been different with you. I like waking up next to you. I like the smell of your hair and the sound of your voice and I just, I fucking decided on you from the start.”

Harry’s eyes were shining bright and as soon as Louis said the last word, he pressed his lips against Louis’, kissing him. Louis’ hands moved around his shoulders and up to his hair, running through it with his fingers and trying to get as close as he possibly could. Harry kissed him with fervency, like he was putting all he had into it, like he wanted to prove to Louis everything he’d just confessed was true.

When Harry pulled away, he looked at Louis carefully, almost like he was waiting for him to reject or push Harry away.

Louis didn’t. Instead, he looked him right in the eyes and said, “I love you.”

Harry’s smile was blinding as he pulled Louis close again, kissing him on the lips once, twice, before saying, “I love you.” Louis leaned up to kiss him again, but he pulled away after a few seconds. “I want it to be you forever because no one understands me like you can. You know me completely.”

“Yeah, yeah, I thought that was established already,” Louis said. “Can we go back to kissing now?” Louis leaned forward to kiss him again and Harry stayed because he had all the time now to tell Louis just how much he loved him. In fact, they both did. After everything they’d overcome and gone through, it was highly unlikely either of them were willing to let go of the other. It was funny how amidst being just friends to be pretending to be boyfriends to being not just friends, they’d somehow fallen in love with each other.

Sometimes these things just kind of happen.

Chapter Text

april (harry)

Something was vibrating underneath Harry’s ass and it woke him up, jarringly, making him wince at the sunlight seeping in through the curtains. Harry groaned sleepily, rolling over to his side, and onto Louis’ body. Louis was lying on his stomach, curled up like a baby hedgehog, and snoring softly with his legs and arms splayed out. Harry decided to ignore the vibrating and let himself fall back asleep, but once it had stopped, it started right back up again.

Harry groaned again, a bit loudly, hoping that whoever was trying to contact him would somehow hear him and just stop trying. He was so fucking tired. It literally felt like every muscle in his body was completely numbed out and sore or something. It hurt to simply turn in bed, let alone try to move around and pull his phone out from wherever it was buried. No, Harry was not going to do that. He was too fucking tired. Surely, the people trying to reach him this early would understand that he’d been busy and needed a lie in.

Louis and him had had a big night, what with the whole confessing their love and the getting back together and the stumbling into the bedroom to make up for two and-a-half months worth of missing each other. Harry had literally lost count of what they were doing, how many times they did it, and how long it went on for. It was fucking insane and he’d never felt so passionately about someone else in his life. In between the confessions and the solidifying their relationship, something else that made it that much more real was that they did it without a condom.

It wasn’t planned. Neither of them had even realized it until they were about to do it and had forgotten in the heat of the moment. However, despite having realized it, neither did anything stop it because they knew they were safe and clean. That alone felt huge for Harry. It felt more real, more permanent, more like a promise. They’d talked about it sometime during their night and had decided that it was okay and all that mattered was that they were together.

The vibrating stopped after third buzz, but then started going off again and this time, Harry sat up, letting the duvet fall off his body and reached around the bed for his phone, grabbing it when he found it near his upper thigh. When he looked at the screen, he swore under his breath with a shake of his head. It was all the boys in a fucking group chat, spamming him with texts.

Niall: What’s happening?? Did you do it?

Liam: Quit leaving us in suspence harry

Zayn: Louis isn’t responding either, aha. Bet they’re fucking. :)

Niall: GET INNNNNN

Liam: This is quite exciting i hope its good news for the two of them

Niall: yes pLZ get your SHIT TOGETHER we r all very tired !

Zayn: Do you guys wanna go do lunch? I’m bored. And Pez went to work.

Niall: Sure i think i wanna go get chinese

Liam: me too

The conversation after that was them discussing which Chinese food place they wanted to go to and what they wanted to order because Liam couldn’t decide on noodles or rice and Zayn wanted some place Halal. Harry put the phone down after shutting it off and lied back down in bed, pulling the duvet up to his chest again. Louis was still asleep, his pupils moving behind his eyelids and Harry wondered what he was dreaming about and whether or not it was a good dream. He smiled fondly at his boy in front of him, stroking his back and scratching at his skin softly until he felt Louis stirring beside him.

“Harry,” he murmured sleepily.

“G’morning,” Harry smiled softly. Louis peered up at him through sleepy lashes and smiled, scooting over until they were pressed together. Harry giggled, placing kisses on Louis’ shoulder and cuddling into him while their legs entangled underneath the blanket.

Louis preened at the contact, closing his eyes again with a blissful smile. “I’m so tired.”

“Me too, babe. Feel sore all over.”

“Maybe we went a little too hard,” Louis said.

“Maybe,” Harry replied, letting his voice trail off before turning over and locking Louis under him with both of his hands on either side of the pillow, while hovering over him. “Could go again, though.” Giggles exploded from Louis’ mouth as he looked up at Harry. And he looked absolutely breathtaking. His features were soft and sleepy and bright. He looked amazing and Harry couldn’t help but lean down to pepper his face with kisses, loving the way Louis was laughing under him.

“Of course -- the best way to get rid of this pain is to do it again.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry replied, trying not to sound as desperate and needy as he was. “I just can’t help it. You look amazing right now. So fucking hot. And I can’t be held accountable for my actions when you’re looking like this.”

Louis burst out in giggles again, while Harry kissed him some more; on his soft cheeks, strong jaw, adorable nose, little chin, and golden neck, wherever he could reach. When Harry’s lips trailed up to Louis' lips, tongue dipping into his mouth without hesitation and running in perfect sync with Louis’, Louis stopped giggling. He kissed Harry back, languid and slow and deep. His hands came up to hold on to Harry, stroking his arms and his torso with his fingertips.

“Do you want to?" Harry whispered into the kiss when they drew back for a moment. Louis nodded slowly, eyes glazed and darkened as Harry lowered his body onto his. Louis’ arms wrapped around Harry’s back as he gripped his bare muscles, not wanting to let go even for a second. Screw the fact that neither were capable of literally making it out of bed. Harry wanted Louis all the time and he finally got him --  for real -- and he wasn’t going to stop. Not when it felt this good and real.

While their lips pulled, sucked and bit into each other, Harry slowly disentangled Louis’ hands off of him before lacing their fingers together and pressing it into the pillows on either side of Louis’ head. “You don’t have anywhere to be right?” Harry asked, breathing heavily while mouthing along Louis’ jaw.

“Even if I did, I don’t think I’d care,” Louis replied, causing the two boys to giggle into each others mouths.

Harry rocked his hips into Louis, making the other boy stop laughing and arch off the bed, with his eyes fluttering close. “Maybe after this we could have breakfast,” Harry suggested while his lips kissed down Louis’ neck again, making him whimper softly when Harry started to nibble with his teeth a little.

“Are you just going to keep teasing me like this then?” Louis moaned out eventually, his voice raspy and high. “I woke up with morning wood. I’m not going to last much longer.”

“You don’t like it?” Harry smirked.

“Harry,” Louis whined, feeling breathless with the way Harry was grinding into him. That only made Harry feel more smug, so he pressed down a little harder and Louis grunted in response, chests pressing together.

“Tell me how much you want me.” Harry’s fingers slowly made their way down Louis’ torso, tracing over his chest tattoo, lining up the letters.

“So much,” Louis responded, freeing his hands to run his fingers through Harry’s hair. Lips met with Louis’ chest as Harry ran his tongue there, trailing it down his body.

"Want you more, baby," he breathed out, voice husky and deeply while tracing circles with his tongue. Louis bucked his hips up desperately only to feel how much Harry wanted him; his long hard cock was throbbing against Louis’ thigh. Louis reached down between them and his fingertips brushed Harry’s cock, rubbing over the head and slit softly and teasingly. Harry let out a guttural moan and Louis smirked in satisfaction watching Louis' eyelids flutter while Harry ran his hand along his dick. This was definitely payback.

Harry moaned Louis’ name, low and quiet, before continuing to move down and keep going, planting kisses as he went. At first, Harry kissed right above where Louis’ happy trail started before moving down and mouthing along towards his dick. He gave it a quick taste, tongue darting out to lick the precome that had dribbled out, before moving well past it and mouthing on his balls. Louis let out a choked out moan.

"Harry, please" he begged, voice already wrecked. “Fuck. Please.”

"You want more?" Harry asked, repeating the action.

Louis nodded slowly, not able to form words anymore. Harry lifted Louis' hips up before he Louis could properly realize what he was about to and spread Louis’ cheeks apart, letting his tongue slide along his hole. A moan escaped Louis’ mouth, his head falling back on his pillow, as Harry pressed his lips even harder onto him, sucking over his hole. Harry wrapped one of his arms around Louis’ leg, while placing his other hand on Louis’ hips to make him stop squirming as much. Louis was all but thrashing underneath him, bucking his hips up and pushing into Harry’s mouth. It encouraged Harry to keep going, sucking even harder, before pushing in a finger inside Louis.  

Louis threw his head back, hands gripping Harry’s brown curls. "Fuck, Harry," he practically screamed out, his breathing becoming uneven and his chest rising up and down. Harry pushed his finger in deeper, making Louis squirm even more. Since they’d already done this all last night, Louis was already opened up, so he didn’t quite need to be prepped. Nonetheless, that didn’t mean Harry didn’t like eating Louis out and watching Louis fuck himself on Harry’s fingers. Harry continued to lick the seam between his cheeks and circled the hole, occasionally letting it slip past the rim with his finger.

"Fuck, babe, I want you. I'm gonna -- fuck," Louis breathed out through heavy pants.

Harry removed his tongue off of Louis because he didn’t want him to come just yet and let his leg down. He moved up Louis’ body, kissing his neck when he reached him.

"I'm gonna make you feel so good," he said, his voice wrecked while lining his hips up with Louis’.

“You always do.”

Harry smiled at him fondly and nosed against Louis’ cheek. "You okay? You good?"

Louis nodded in response, already ready for Harry to fill him up and take him. Harry helped Louis lift his hips and slowly pressed himself into him, a grunt escaping his lips at the contact. The two of them were shaking and to calm them down, Harry dipped down to suck on the skin of Louis’ neck while rocking into his boyfriend, slowly filling him up entirely. Louis’ hands gripped Harry’s back as his body pressed flush against his.

Soft moans escaped Louis’ rips as he tried to meet Harry’s thrusts. It was slow and it was good and Harry hoped that every morning of theirs started like this.

"A little faster," Louis begged after several slow, lazy thrusts. Harry smirked down at him, taking note of Louis’ flushed skin and blown out pupils. He was so close and Harry knew so without a second thought, he increased his speed, pressing harder.

"Feel so good, Lou," he moaned out, hands cupping Louis’ ass cheeks as he mouthed at his neck. He could feel Louis’ legs start to tremble, the more he rocked into him, which meant he was close. "Almost there, baby."

Harry wrapped one arm around Louis as he picked him up, pulling him onto his lap. Fuck the pain that was shooting up every inch of his body. They were stuck in euphoric state of mind and felt fucking insatiable. His hands guided Louis’ hips and Louis rocked into him, placing his own hands on Harry’s shoulders to steady himself. Harry threw his head back, sweat drops trailing down to his chest as they picked up pace and got increasingly closer to coming. He thrusted his hips upwards, adding more pressure, making the older boy bounce down on his lap.

Harry stilled his thrusts, his moans getting shallower as he felt himself start to come inside Louis. Louis continued to ride him, moving down once, twice, three times until he came between their bodies, hot, white streams spraying all over them.

“Shit,” Harry said, chuckling, tracing over the come between them. They definitely needed to shower and change the sheets.

Louis smiled at him, giving him a kiss and wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck. “Could go for round two, but I need to take a break.”

“Okay, baby,” Harry cooed, helping him get off. “I’ll clean you up and we could nap some more.”

Louis nodded happily and Harry slipped out of bed, cringing and wincing in pain as he walked towards the bathroom to clean himself up and grab something to clean Louis up with as well. When he got back, Louis was sat up on bed with an odd expression on his face. “Lou,” Harry said quietly. “You okay?”

When he didn’t respond right away, Harry eyed him warily, making his way back to the bed and sitting down next to Louis, slowly wiping come off him. It was an odd change of tone to what Harry had left two minutes ago, and Louis was still seemingly dazed by the time Harry was done. Harry quietly placed the wet cloth on the bedside table and turned to Louis, about to ask him what was wrong when Louis turned to him.

“We have to talk,” he said, voice calm and a note too serious.

Dread filled Harry’s stomach instantly and all the worst possible scenarios popped into mind when he thought about what it could be. They’d just had sex. They’d just had sex for probably the seventh time since last night and they reconciled after months of back and forth and said I love you to each other. What could Louis possibly want to say after that other than let’s take another nap and go again? Was he going to change his mind? Did he snap out of whatever bubble they’d formed between themselves within last night and now and realize that Harry didn’t deserve him after all?

Because God knew that Harry didn't. Harry was perfectly well aware that he had fucked up again and again. Even if Louis did say he loved Harry back and they’d gotten together, he knew he was going to live with his guilt for the rest of life. He was always going to regret how he had handled everything that had happened between them because it was stupid and selfish and horrible. And he knew coming over to see Louis last night that he had no fucking right to even do that. He couldn’t just ask Louis to take him back, could he? Not after everything he put Louis through. But something inside him kept him going because he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t. If he didn’t tell Louis how he truly felt or how much Louis meant to him, which was probably something he should have been doing for years. And, yeah, Harry knew he fucked up, but he was willing to do one right thing even if he had been doing all the wrong things before.

Growing up, everyone was taught that you made mistakes and they were always something that you’d learn from to make sure you didn’t do them anymore. There wasn’t a person in this world who didn’t fuck it up at least once in their life, but did that mean that they didn’t deserve happiness or that they didn’t deserve to be with the love of their life? The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that the consequences didn’t matter as much as the intentions did. A person could accidentally or mistakenly do something and fuck up, like Harry had done, but that didn’t mean they were a horrible and morally unethical person because the intentions were never to be bad.

Harry’s intentions were never to hurt Louis because he loved him with every inch of his body and mind and soul. He knew Louis was going to be someone special to him as soon as he walked into his life and no one knew more than Harry how much he wanted Louis to know that; how much he wished he never gave him a reason to doubt that. However, with the way Louis was looking at him then, Harry wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to do that if Louis were to turn him away now.

Nonetheless, Harry nodded at Louis, encouraging him to talk about whatever it was that he needed to, even if his heart was already dropping to his stomach. Louis sat up a little more, pulling the duvet closer around him.

“I just -- I sort of got to thinking and we have to talk about us, Harry,” Louis said, watching Harry bob his head up and down nervously. “We -- we can’t mess up. Not again.”

“We won’t,” Harry replied quickly. “This is real for me, Lou. I want you to know that. You need to know that.”

“I know,” Louis said softly, his hands reaching out for Harry’s, which he only then realized were shaking. “But it can’t be like before. We have to communicate more -- fuck, we have to be honest all the time. Like, you broke my heart, Harry. So many times and I’m not going to just forget that. We can’t keep things from each other or play games.”

Harry was sure he was close to tears -- or pathetically already tearing up, but not realizing it yet -- and that dread that was in his stomach was intensifying. “Lou, I know -- I know I fucked up. I know. Believe me, I do. I just -- I don’t know, like --.”

“Harry take a deep breath, babe, it’s okay. You’re freaking out on me.”

Louis started to rub his back soothingly, scooting closer and Harry only then noticed that his breathing had become shallow. He was on the verge of a panic attack and this had never happened to him before. Louis continued to comfort him, though, holding him tight and Harry soon felt himself calm down, bit by bit.

He finally braved a look over to Louis when he felt ready. “Breaking your heart was never something I intended to do, Lou. I love you so much and I’m so unbelievably sorry that I put you through everything I did. I can’t take it back -- though, I wish I could. I wish I could turn around and go back in time and make it alright. You have no idea how much I wish I could have realized everything soon enough, but I didn’t. I didn’t and no one will regret that as much as I do. These past two months have been absolute hell. I didn’t know if I could make it.”

“Harry, don’t say that,” Louis said, sitting up on his knees and cupping Harry’s face in his hands. “I’m here, okay? And I love you, too.”

“I love you,” Harry repeated desperately. “I love you. And I know that’s not enough right now, but give me a little time. I’ll prove it to you. One more chance, Lou.”

Louis looked at him for a long time, searching Harry’s face like it held all the answers he needed. When he eventually nodded, a definite weight lifted off of not only Harry’s shoulders, but his heart, too.

“Just be honest with me,” Louis said. “That’s all I need, babe.”

“I will,” Harry said. “I promise.”

may (harry)

Sunday nights were dinner nights reserved for the Horan/Palvin household.

They all took time out of their schedule to meet up on that night every week to catch up around the dinner table and get together for laughs over drinks. It had started to become a thing starting sometime last month and it was hands down one of Harry’s favorite things to do. It was easy to get busy and not constantly keep up with all your friends. The city was always moving with no intention of anybody stopping, so this made it easier for them; to have steady contact each other no matter how occupied everyone was with their own lives. Also, Niall and Barbara were without a doubt the mom and dad of the group. They loved having everyone over and taking care of them.

The windows and balcony doors were wide open and it was a warm May night, but there was a nice breeze coming in. Currently, the boys were all squished onto one sofa in the living room watching an old episode of Friends. Liam was all the way at one end with Niall beside him, following by Zayn, and then Louis and lastly Harry, who had his arm snug around Louis, letting the older boy rest his head against his shoulder. There was plenty of room, an entire other sofa right there, but they were fine on this one. Comfortable, really. And the girls were in the kitchen, mixing margaritas and gossiping about whatever it was that girls gossiped about. Harry would probably go over soon and ask them to fill him in on the hot goss, but for now he was okay. Meanwhile on TV, Danny DeVito was playing a stripper at Phoebe’s bachelorette party.

Casual.

“Honestly,” Zayn said after a while. “I can’t decide if this is my favorite episode or the one where no one’s ready for Ross’ benefit thing at the museum.”

“That is a classic,” Louis agreed. “I don’t know. I think my favorite episode was the one with Ross’ teeth. The one where he made them super white.”

“No,” Harry piped up. “What about the one where Ross gets a tan? Easily the funniest.”

Niall cackled, throwing his head back as he remembered the one Harry was talking about. “I think my favorites probably the one where Ross is yelling pivot on the staircase when he got the new sofa.”

“Another classic,” Liam said. “My favorite is when Rachel goes to give birth, but it takes forever and they’re at the hospital and Janis comes back.”

The boys nodded, snickering at the memory of that one. The show continued to progress, the boys too immersed in the jokes and the laughs to notice the girls walk back in. They all sat down around them and Barbara looked over at Niall, giving him a look and he quickly stood up to follow her. The two of them walked over to the loveseat that was in the center of the room and beamed at everyone proudly.

“What’s up?” Louis asked as Perrie turned the volume down and everyone focused their attention on the couple in front of them.

“We’ve got news,” Barbara said with a big, bright smile. “Good news.”

It could have been a few things. Job promotion, them finally deciding to tie the knot, maybe getting a puppy like Niall had been begging Barbara to do. However, a deep, baby loving part of Harry, hoped it had something to do with a little person coming into all of their lives. He’d always teased Niall and Barbara about it saying it was time and they should have ten of them, but as of late, they hadn’t been laughing along with his jokes. Something seemed different -- like they were agreeing with him.

“Guys,” Niall began to say, clearing his throat while everyone looked at him quietly. “Barbara and I have been thinking of taking our relationship to the next level for a while as you all probably knew. And while at first that was just going to be me proposing, something else ended up happening.”

“Oh my God,” Harry said out loud before he could stop himself despite everyone around him being silent.

Louis snickered beside Harry, patting his thigh and keeping his hand there.

“We’re having a baby,” Barbara said throwing her hands up in the air.

“I knew it,” Harry screamed, jumping up onto his feet while everyone else grinned and congratulated the couple. “Fuck, oh my God. Congratulations!” He ran over to Barbara and Niall, hugging them both before pulling away and watching his friends look at him with amused expression.

“Had a feeling you’d be the one to be most excited, you sap,” Niall said teasingly, ruffling Harry’s curly hair while Harry smiled sheepishly over at Louis, who was watching him with the most fond expression. “But yeah, B’s about a few weeks in and we saw the doctor this past week. Got a sonogram picture and everything. Who wants to see the little nugget?”

It was no surprise when Harry’s hand shot up quicker than anybody else’s. 

june (harry)

“Harry, bro, dude, you missed it last night,” Niall said, eyes wide and ecstatic. “The 1975 were so good. Even Zayn was enjoying it and it’s not even the kind of music he listens to.”

“I did enjoy it,” Zayn confirmed with a nod. “The vibe was sick and so was their sound. So rad.”

Harry shrugged, trying not to let himself feel any worse than he already did for not going to the concert last night. It was just a no brainer. Niall had asked Harry yesterday whether he’d be down or not because Niall had managed to snag tickets through his job, but Louis was really tired and didn’t want to go, so Harry, naturally, opted out as well. Louis had told him over and over again that he really didn’t need to do that because he knew Harry loved the 1975, but Harry wasn’t going to go without him. The idea of it alone seemed so ridiculous that Harry didn’t give it much thought after. And he didn’t regret not going last night because he and Louis had a great time staying in. Now, though, with Niall reminding him and taunting him, Harry felt a little bad.

“I couldn’t come,” Harry said finally. “Louis wasn’t feeling up to it.”

“Yeah, but you were fine,” Niall reminded him before pointing to Liam. “Ask Liam how good it was.”

Liam, who had been lying down on the couch in front of them playing some video game, looked up. “Hmm?”

“Tell Harry how he’s a moron for missing the show last night,” Niall told him.

Liam hummed. “It was a good show.”

“See! I got them specifically with you in mind and you bailed,” Niall said, throwing his hands up. “And Matty was hanging around backstage and he talked to us. Fuck, Harry, you would have shat yourself.”

“Well, whatever, Ni,” Harry shrugged, not wanting to pout even though he was close to it. “I didn’t go. I had fun, too. I cooked Louis his favorite dish and we marathoned Shameless. And I rode him on the couch.”

Niall still looked so incredibly confused, like he wasn’t quite getting it. “You can do that literally any time, H.”

“I’m aware,” he said. “What’s your point? My boyfriend couldn’t go. I wasn’t going to leave him alone for the night and go have fun somewhere else while he was home all tired.”

Niall looked at him for a moment before bursting out laughing, while the other boys simply smiled at him knowingly. Harry was really confused as to what was funny or what was going through their heads and he wished Louis was beside him then to tell him because he always knew what these shitheads were up to. But Louis had excused himself to the kitchen to talk to Barbara about some pregnancy tips that Louis picked up on while growing up with his mom, who was a nurse, so Harry was alone with these idiots.

“What’s funny?” he asked finally.

“Something,” Zayn replied, teasingly. “Don’t worry about it, H.”

“That’s not fair,” Harry said, frustrated. “What is it?”

“It’s okay, Haz,” Niall replied, having calmed down a bit. “You won’t get it.”

Harry let it go, not wanting to argue any further, but also because Louis was back and he wanted to snuggle.

A few nights later, Harry got his answer. It had been a seemingly similar situation. All the boys, minus Louis were sitting out on Niall’s balcony because the breeze was great and even though it was eight at night, the sun was still up and the sky had a light tint of orange in it.  Louis had just gone down to the shops to grab something for Barbara since she was cooking them all dinner and was missing an ingredient, so Harry kept texting him several different emojis because he was missing him already. Niall looked over from where he was sitting.

“Who are you texting, H? All your friends are right here,” he said, laughing.

“Louis,” Harry replied. “I miss him.”

The boys shared a look and then turned to Harry. “Have you and Louis been okay lately?” Liam asked, eyeing him tentatively.

Harry nodded happily. “Yeah, we’re great.”

Niall looked at Harry a bit sadly after that, his expression changing from how teasing it was before. “I was talking to him the other day and it didn’t sound good.”

Harry blanched, wondering what Niall was on about because he and Louis were great. Better than great. They spent a lot of time together and never fought and Harry took him out every other night. And then on the nights he wasn’t taking Louis out, he was cooking all of Louis’ favorite dishes for him and pampering him in every way possible. He even brought him his favorite flowers to work every week along with his favorite pack of M&M’s to snack on while he did the radio. Everything was perfect in Harry’s mind, but maybe there was something he wasn’t doing that Louis wasn’t telling him about. Louis did say they should communicate more, but was Harry making it so unbearable for Louis that he couldn’t even say it to him?

“What did he say?” Harry breathed out, looking at the three of them.  

“Not much, but enough,” Niall shrugged, looking over at Zayn and turning red in the face. “What did he say again Zayn?”

“He told us he wanted to -- to, like, take a break, I think. Not break up permanently, but you know…,” Zayn trailed off, tapping his cigarette on the railing and looking away from him.

It was like all Harry’s walls were suddenly closing in on him. His ears started to ring from how hard his heart was beating. Everything that he was doing for Louis -- to prove himself that he was going to make it work -- was it not enough? They talked about doing better this time the morning after they got together and Harry had promised that he was going to do everything in his power to make it worthwhile for Louis. To show him that Louis meant the world and more for Harry. He thought he’d been giving his all, but maybe he could do more. Maybe Louis needed more.

Or maybe Louis simply stopped loving him and Harry had been too late. May these past two months Louis had just been with him because he didn’t know how to reject Harry once and for all. Maybe he was only being nice. Maybe Harry was too fucking late. Maybe he fucked up beyond repair.

That thought alone started bringing tears to his eyes and he knew his nose was turning red and his cheeks were probably stained pink, but he didn’t care. His heart was literally shattering inside and there was nothing he could do. He tried so much and it still wasn’t good enough, so much so, that it ripped a choked up sob out of him. That was when the boys around him turned to him and all rushed to his side when they realized he was crying.

“Holy shit, Harry, are you crying?” Zayn asked, bending down in front of him. Liam was next to him rubbing soothing circles on his back, trying to not look as alarmed as he was while Niall looked outright terrified.

“Harry, why are you crying? Is it because of what we just said?” he asked.

“Lou--Lou said he’d break up with me?” Harry asked them, ignoring all their questions.

“Fuck,” Zayn groaned, standing up and smacking Niall on the back of his head. “You see what you did.”

“You were in on it, too,” Niall replied, running a hand through his hair.

Liam was still trying to comfort Harry, but Harry only started to cry harder because no one was denying the story, which meant Louis really did want to break up. Harry knew ever since he and Louis had gotten together officially he was constantly worried about fucking things up and losing Louis because Harry only had one chance, no room for any more mistakes because he fucked it up enough times before, but he didn’t realize he was this strung out about it. Didn’t realize that all it would take was for them to confirm it to him one time and he’d break so easily.

Despite the boys trying to calm him down, none of them were really able to say anything. They were all just looking at him with horrified expressions and Harry just kept crying because when was Louis going to break up with him? When did Harry have to start preparing for that? Did he have any room to have Louis consider -- to rethink it? Harry needed another chance if that was the case because he really was trying so hard. He gave Louis everything he could. He went out of his way to make sure Louis was always smiling and that he was always taken care of. Surely Louis would understand and tell him where he messed up.

And then Louis’ voice could be heard, walking through the front door. They all waited with bated breath as he walked to the kitchen to give Barbara what she needed for dinner and then walked back over to the balcony. Harry couldn’t even bear to meet Louis’, but he could hear the gasp that came out of his mouth.

“What happened?” he asked, rushing over to Harry’s side, pushing the other boys away. “What happened? Why are you crying, Harry?” When Harry didn’t respond, only let another teardrop roll down his cheeks, Louis turned to the other boys. “What happened?”

They all stammered for a bit, not sure about what to say and talking over each other when Harry whispered to Louis, “They told me about you.”

Louis immediately turned to look back at Harry and all the boys quieted down. “What did they tell you about me?” Louis asked, his voice laced with confusion.

“You don’t have to hide it, Lou. They told me you’re going to break up with me,” Harry said, his voice cracking at the end of that sentence finally meeting Louis’ eyes, only to notice how confused they were.

“What? Break up with you? Why would I do that?”

“Technically, I said you wanted a break from the relationship, not that you wanted to break up forever,” Zayn said, clarifying like it made any difference.

“What the fuck?” Louis cried, angry and confused. “What the fuck did you say to him, you dick wads?”

Just then, Niall let out a really loud sigh, causing all of them to turn to him. “We were joking, okay?” Niall said, sounding guilty and ashamed. “The boys and I are always making fun of Harry because he is so whipped on you, Lou. And we thought it’d be funny to joke with him and say that you were gonna break up with him. We really didn’t mean it, H. Louis didn’t say anything to us. We’re so sorry. We didn’t know what to say when you started to cry because that wasn’t the reaction we were expecting.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Louis snapped before any of the others could apologize or say anything, standing up and shoving at Niall, but not that hard. “Look at what you did.”

As Louis continued to yell at Niall and the other boys, Harry was still stuck on the fact that Louis wasn’t going to break up with him, that they were still okay and he was still making it work. Now, he’d just have to try even harder to never give Louis a moment to doubt it. Maybe he could get him flowers every day instead of once a week. Maybe give him that massage he’d been promising him, but hadn’t gotten around to it because of work. He just knew he had to try harder. He couldn’t lose Louis otherwise he didn’t know what he’d do.

When Louis sat down beside him again, Harry blinked only to realize that they were now alone on the balcony. The boys must have left to go inside. Louis looked at Harry tentatively, wiping the last of his tears away while pressing soft kisses where they were. “Are you alright?” he asked Harry.

Harry shrugged in response. He’d been better. Louis looked out at the city in front of them over the balcony and let the silence hang over them for a moment before speaking up again. “Harry, we need to talk and before you freak out and think the worst -- no, this isn’t a break up talk.”

“Uh -- okay,” Harry stammered.

“You know that this wasn’t the reaction the boys were expecting,” he said. “They thought you’d either not believe them or at least question it. And you didn’t, H. You immediately took their word for it, but I don’t understand why. I told you I love you -- that you’re it for me -- so why would you think I’d break up with you? Do you not believe me?”

“Of course I do,” Harry said quickly and desperately.

“Then?”

Harry wrinkled his nose and sniffled a little, the sensation of his tears burning his nose. “I don’t know. I just -- I want you to never regret being with me, Lou. I promised you I’d prove myself to you and I want to keep that promise. I made mistakes and I’m trying to make up for them as best as I can and I’m scared it might not ever be enough.”

His voice shook a little in the end and he realized he was crying again. Louis looked at him so sadly and Harry wondered when this night took this turn. Everything was going so smoothly for them that this was jarring almost. Louis wiped his tears again, hugging him as tight as he could.

“I know you do, Harry. You don’t think I’ve noticed how you’ve been going out of your way to do things for me. Sometimes, even when I tell you it’s not necessary. Like that day we went shopping and I was looking at that shirt in H&M. You went and bought that for me and you didn’t even ask if I really liked it or not.”

“You were looking at it for quite some time, Lou,” Harry said matter of factly. “And I know your size so.”

“Baby,” Louis cooed, pulling Harry on to his lap. Harry went easily, tucking his head in the crook of Louis’ neck and breathing in his familiar smell. “I need you to promise me something else tonight, okay?”

Harry nodded, playing with the buttons on Louis’ shirt.

“I need you to promise me that you’re going to stop over compensating for mistakes you made months ago that I’ve long forgiven you for. You’re an amazing boyfriend and I know that, but I need you to stop being so scared and on edge and just be with me. Can you do that?”

“If that’s what you want,” Harry said softly. “Still wanna do nice things for you.”

“You can,” Louis said with a laugh. “Won’t object to that, but please don’t beat yourself up about it anymore. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.”

“Yeah, okay,” Harry breathed out before pressing his lips against Louis’ in a sweet kiss. When they pulled away and Harry felt himself returning to his normal state, he got up off of Louis’ lap. “Let’s go inside. I’m going to go beat those guys up.”

Louis followed him cheerily. “That’s m’boy,” he said proudly.

july (harry)

They say that on the wedding day all eyes were on the bride. And while Louis’ mom looked as beautiful as ever, happily standing next to and newly wedded to Dan, Harry couldn’t keep his eyes off of someone else.

Louis was stood a few feet away, talking to his little twin sisters and making them giggle, and Harry’s eyes kept flickering over to him. He couldn’t stop looking at the older boy throughout the entire ceremony or manage to get rid of this longing feeling in his gut to just hold him in his arms for as long as eternity allowed him to. It wasn’t just that Louis looked beautiful, which he did stunningly so in his navy blue suit that brought out the color in his eyes, nor was it that Harry was being possessive and was keeping an eye on him so no guy would get the wrong idea.

It was that something clicked for Harry today. The day was big on its own, what with Louis’ mom getting remarried and all, but something else felt different within Harry as well.

It had started out seemingly normal, though. Harry and Louis slept in since they’d come in late the night before from the city after work and then had brunch with the whole family. After brunch, the men and the women went their separate ways to get ready for the wedding in their own designated areas at the church. It wasn’t until the ceremony had started and Harry had heard Louis’ mom’s speech for Dan that he figured it out.

Jay started off speaking about her prior husband, Mark, and vaguely mentioned Louis’ biological dad. She said that they were both great men and with them she had five beautiful children, who she loved and cherished every day of her life. They were once her best friends and she had genuinely loved them at one point in her life, but it just wasn’t meant to be because fate had other plans for her. Jay continued on to talk about meeting Dan after having given up hope for a while. She told them how it changed everything for her and while she didn’t think it was quite possible, she had fallen in love again, realizing that this was where she was meant to be all along -- with Dan.

At times first loves could seem like the only love you could have. They were different and not easily forgotten by most people. Some ended up being with their first love forever, but not all. It started to seem a little juvenile and jaded after a while. This was why many people fell in love many times throughout their life. Harry used to think that he’d be with his first love forever, but that was until he met someone else and nothing was the same anymore.

Not only did Harry’s love change, but who he was also did. For so long he felt like he was stuck at a dead end in his life, but being with Louis, he felt like he was growing up and evolving every single day. Nothing ever felt juvenile or jaded; every day seemed new and exciting, a little more passionate than the day before. That was how you knew when you had found the one; when they allowed you to be yourself and you weren’t feeling trapped all the time.

Louis turned to look at Harry from where he was stood, giving him a smile, before turning back around. Not being able to hold himself back any longer, Harry turned to Jay and a few of her friends that he was sat with. “Excuse me,” he said with a polite smile, taking a step back and walking over to Louis.

He didn’t notice Harry at first, not until Harry wrapped an arm around Louis’ waist. Louis turned to face Harry and smiled. “Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” Harry smiled back. “Come dance with me.”

“No one is really dancing…,” he trailed off, looking out at the empty dance floor. While Louis was right because more than half the guests were tired and drinking rather than dancing like they had been earlier, Harry didn’t really care.

“Please,” he said, kissing the spot next to Louis’ ear.

“Won’t we look stupid?”

“I don’t think so,” Harry shrugged. Before Louis could protest again, Harry slowly started to lead him away from the giggling twins, and onto the dance floor. The DJ then started to play "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri, and oh, wow, Harry thought. How fitting. Louis stood in front of him and tentatively put his hands on Harry’s shoulder, looking around to see if anyone was staring at them.

Harry laughed, breathily, and pulled Louis’ body flush against his while saying to the music. “Today was fun,” Harry said to him.

“Yeah,” Louis grinned, focusing more on his boy than on who was looking at them. “Thanks for coming. It means a lot to me and my family.”

“Of course, Lou,” Harry said, feeling like his heart could burst from love. “Of course, I’d come. I love weddings and I love you.”

Louis’ cheeks were flushed and he shook his head, turning away and hiding his face from Harry shyly. “Wanna know what I was thinking?” he asked.

“Always.”

“I think that instead of going back to the city tomorrow, you should stay back with me for a few days. Only if you want, though, because I know you might be busy because work and all, but it’d be nice to have you here.”

An immense amount of fondness spread through Harry for Louis. He wasn’t used to this -- having a choice in where he spent his time without having to lie or feeling pressured. With Peter, things had always been rocky and he was always so hard to please, especially towards the end. Louis, on the other hand, always pushed Harry to go out with his other friends, see his family, and do his thing because he knew how important all that was to him. Louis also never suspected Harry with anyone either -- and why would he? If they were sure of anything, it was how much they loved each other.

“If you can’t, it’s fine,” Louis continued to say and turning to look at him, assuming the worst from Harry’s stunned silence.

Harry smiled, leaning down to press a kiss to his lips. “Yeah, alright.”

“You’ll stay?” Louis asked, a happy smile on his face. Harry nodded, pulling him closer by the waist. “Good,” Louis smiled, looking around to see a few eyes their way. “So, why are we doing this?”

“I wanted to dance with you, that’s why,” Harry replied casually. “And I wanted to tell you something.”

“What’s that?” Louis asked.

“I realized something today,” Harry started, already feeling a bit choked up from the enormity of what he was about to say. “When your mom was saying her speech, she said some things that kind of struck out to me.”

“It was a lovely speech,” Louis agreed, but still not quite catching Harry’s drift.

“Yeah. I don’t know -- I just kind of realized everything she said about the way she feels for Dan is the way I feel about you. I feel like you’re the one, Lou.”

Louis looked at loss for words, but not in a bad way. It was more stunned and surprised, eyes wide and searching.

Harry squeezed Louis’ waist, prodding at him through his shirt fabric. “I mean it. I can actually, like, see that for us. A wedding and you wearing a lovely suit like this, the two of us walking down the aisle. I love you so much. I don’t think I ever want that to change and I’ll do everything in my power to keep it that way. My mom married my dad and she thought that was it. Your mom married Mark and thought he was the one, too. I can relate to both of them, Lou. It’s just a part of life and a part of growing up. And then you meet other people and they change everything for you. You realize that there’s something else entirely different planned for you.”

“Harry,” Louis cooed, leaning up to kiss him on the lips. One of Harry’s hands moved up and settled on the back of Louis’ neck, deepening the kiss and swiping his tongue along Louis’ bottom lip. Louis pulled away before it could get heated, considering most of his family was there, but still looked at Harry in a way Harry knew he’d never get used to. “I love you, too.”

“Do you want that?” Harry asked carefully. “Not now--but maybe someday? With me?”

“There’s no one else I’d want that with,” he replied. Harry smiled and started to blush a little, feeling warmth spread his cheeks out of happiness, and hugged the boy in front of him. He hid his face in the crook of Louis’ neck and nosed against his skin, tickling him. Louis giggled and kissed the side of his head, continuing to sway their bodies to the music.

august (harry)

Harry was perusing the aisles of Whole Foods, trying to get everything on Louis’ grocery list, ticking each item off as he went to make sure. He’d come over to Louis’ apartment earlier and saw that he was napping on the couch. Harry thought he looked too cute to be woken up so he began tidying up some things when he saw the list of groceries that Zayn had written out for them. Louis was supposed to have been doing it, but must have fallen asleep before he got to it.

Thirty minutes later, Harry found himself at the market. It wasn’t unlike him to still go out of his way and do nice things for Louis, but he’d been cutting it down to a minimal amount because Louis just gave him this sad look like he knew Harry was still afraid of losing him and that upset him. Harry was trying not to do that anymore. He wasn’t. He just wanted to do something nice for Louis from time to time. He’d realized that this was all something that would just take time for them to move on from. He wasn’t going to wake up one day and not be scared about losing Louis even though Louis had said that he won’t. It was a process and things were delicate between them still and while it had been going great, couples had fights and problems. They were going to have all of that and Harry just needed to make sure he was still trying his best.

Harry left Whole Foods another twenty minutes later with several bags of groceries in hand including an extra box of Louis’ favorite cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and walked back to his apartment. He found Louis up and thumbing through his phone when he walked through the door.

“Where’ve you been? I’ve been texting you,” Louis said when he saw him.

“I came over and you were napping,” Harry explained. “So, I went and did your groceries. Got you an extra box of cereal!”

“Thanks babe. I’ll give you the money for that,” Louis smiled appreciatively. “But listen, I want to talk about something with you.”

“What’s up?” Harry asked from the kitchen where he was putting away everything he’d gotten.

“I think I want to go back to college,” Louis said, following Harry into the kitchen.

Harry looked at Louis, turning away from groceries, a confused frown on his face. “What?” he asked. “Really?” Louis nodded his head. Harry gave him a small smile, brows still creased. “Where is this coming from?”

“What do you mean?” Louis asked.

“Well, I don’t know,” Harry shrugged. “You’ve got a job that you really enjoy. I mean, I know you’d only have to do like that one semester to get a degree, but still. Why the sudden change?”

“That’s just it,” Louis said. “I had one semester left. I don’t regret, like, leaving because I had a great time abroad, but it seems like a waste, don’t you think?”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Harry agreed. “I think it’s a great idea, then, Lou. This is awesome.”

“I think so, too,” Louis beamed. “If I can get my degree it could open up several more opportunities and doors for me, so I thought if the radio thing doesn’t work out, why not? Besides, not sure if I want to work there all my life, you know?”

“So, you’d be working there part time?”

“Yeah,” Louis said. “I was already technically working part time because I only have some slots a week. I talked with my boss. We discussed it, like, different shifts I could work and my options. He seemed really cool with it.”

“Then that’s great,” Harry said, grinning. “You’re going back to college.”

Louis let out a shaky, almost disbelieving laugh. “I’m going back to college,” he repeated.  

Harry walked over to him, closing the distance between them and gave Louis a hug. “And you’re going to fucking ace it.”

september (louis)

Hunter College was smaller than Louis remembered it.

On his first day back then, he’d managed to get lost at least five times and was late to all his classes. It was a bit embarrassing when kids younger than him turned to stare at him as he tried to casually walk into all the classes, having their shit together way more than he did despite their age difference. Nonetheless, he had an alright time. Louis’ classes were all interesting and he could see himself walking out of there feeling like he’d made a good decision to come back and do this. And essentially, it was just exciting to be starting something new, like a new chapter in his life. On top of that, they renovated quite a bit since he used to go there and it was a big improvement. Everything looked up to date, so, all in all, not bad.

It also helped that Harry texted him all day to make sure he was okay.

how are classes? having fun? :)

they’re alright. i keep getting lost, tho :( they renovated it lol so i have no idea where anything is anymore

haha! you’ll get used to it by next week, babe. made any new friends?

not rlly. there was this one guy in my management class who seemed friendly i guess

was he hot?

excuse me?

;)                         

shut the fuck up

Louis let a few minutes pass before picking up his phone again and shooting Harry another text.

idk about how hot he is, but the boy sitting next to me in this class rn is extremely hot. i think I’ll fuck him

what?

;)

no lou wait

After Louis’ last class, he took a cab to Harry’s flat and walked in on him singing along to "Love Me Like You Do," which was playing loudly on the radio, while washing dishes in the kitchen. It was a bit endearing (not because Harry was only in his hot pink boxer briefs), but because Harry was making his voice super high pitched to sound like Ellie and it was hilarious.

“’Ello, ‘Arree’,” Louis greeted him with a faux French accent, walking towards Harry and hugging him from behind. Harry giggled, putting down the dishes and turning around to wrap his arm around Louis to give him a proper hug.

“How was your day?” he asked, rubbing Louis’ back.

“Good,” Louis mumbled, his mouth muffled against Harry’s thin t-shirt. “I missed you.” He peered up at him and gave him a shy smile. Harry grinned, dipping down to kiss him. When they both pulled away, Louis still held on to him. “What were you doing?”

“Cleaning up and listening to the radio.”

Singing along to the radio, you mean.”

“That, too.”

Louis smiled, before hugging Harry again. He was just about to ask if he wanted to go out for dinner when Harry spoke up again. “So, that hot guy that sat next to you in class…,” he trailed off.

Louis smirked up at him and nodded. This was fun. They both knew that neither of them had anything to worry about, but they still liked teasing each other just to get a rise out of the other. For a long time, it wasn’t like that. Harry would walk around eggshells when he was with Louis, but over time it got better and things were finally starting to feel a lot more natural.

“He was very nice. Helpful too -- told me he’d show me around and hang out with me during our breaks.”

“No,” Harry shook his head.

“What?”

“No.”

“No, what? He’s just being nice. And, I really need someone to show me around so I don’t get lost.”

“No. Go find yourself a map. He doesn’t have to show you anything.”

“Harry.”

No.”

Louis couldn’t help but laugh and Harry glared at him. Louis poked his dimple until he smiled and it sunk in. “You’re so cute,” he said, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck and kissing the line under his jaw.

“Cuter than that guy, right?”

Louis laughed again, nodding his head and kissing him on the lips. It started off slow, but heated up moments later. Harry firmly gripped Louis’ waist, picking him up off the floor and Louis wrapped his legs around Harry’s bare waist. When Harry started walking, Louis lifted his lips off of him. “Where are we going?”

“We’re going to have your first day back at college celebratory sex,” he told Louis. “Also, I want you to forget all about that dick in your class.”

Louis burst out laughing as Harry walked them to his bedroom and placed him on his bed. “Works for me.” Harry gave him a hard look, pulling Louis’ shirt off of him.

“Better work for you.”

Harry jumped on the bed and Louis let out a squeal as he landed square above him. He was holding himself up with his palms flat on either side of Louis so he didn’t crash right down. Harry smiled at Louis, leaving sporadic kisses on his exposed. “Fading in, fading out, on the edge of paradise,” he sang quietly. “Every inch of your skin is the holy grail I got to find.”

Louis started to giggle again and pulled Harry’s head down claiming his lips in a deep kiss.

october (harry)

When the weather got chillier and the leaves started turning bright shades of orange, red, and yellow, Liam had come to Harry one afternoon to tell him that he was going to move out of their shared apartment. Sophia had asked him to move in with her since she wanted to get a new place near her job and Harry’d been nothing but happy for them. It was a step up and it was exciting. The other boys came over on the day of and helped him move his things out before heading to the bar for a few drinks as a reward for working hard all day.

It was nice; all five of them crowded around in booth drinking beer and laughing about everything and then absolutely nothing. As the night progressed and the bar was becoming less and less crowded, and they were all feeling lazy drunk, the conversation took a more nostalgic route.

“Do you guys remember how we all met?” Liam asked, eyes crinkling in a soft smile.  

“Yeah,” Harry nodded with a mumbled, syrupy voice, his whole body tucked into Louis. “I remember that night. T’was a good night.”

“At mine and B’s housewarming party, right?” Niall asked.

“Yeah,” Louis nodded, stroking Harry’s hair, making the younger boy hum in approval. “I’d just gotten back from my trip and you had the housewarming party and invited all of us.”

“Imagine if one of us hadn’t come that night,” Liam said, laughing at the thought. “It wouldn’t be the same as right now, would it? The dynamic of it at least. Like would we be as close if say Zayn hadn’t come?”

“No,” the other boys said in unison, shaking their heads at the thought.

“We’ve been through so much together these past, what, four, five years? None of it would have happened if one of us wasn’t here,” Niall said.

“Yeah,” Zayn nodded. “Wouldn’t be the same. And it’s strange to think because we might not all be in the same place together, say years down the line. What’ll happen then? Will we still be best friends?”

“I think so,” Harry said. “It’ll be different, but this won’t change. We won’t change. When I think about who my best friends are, I don’t think about people from my town or who I grew up with. I think of you boys because the best times of my life have been with all of you.”

“Aw, Harry,” Niall cooed, leaning over to poke his dimple. “I agree, though. You guys are my best fucking friends and I wouldn’t think of anyone else to take that spot.” The rest of the boys smiled warmly at each other, lovingly and fondly. Harry agree with Niall. He wouldn’t trade these boys, their memories with anyone for anything.

“So, where do you see yourself in a few years then?” Louis asked. “Liam. Let’s start with you -- you made a huge move with Sophia today.”

“I did,” Liam laughed sheepishly. “I don’t know -- I mean, I like my job at Soul Cycle. Being a trainer is great. Maybe get married?”

“You ready to pop the question?” Zayn asked, curiously.

Liam shrugged. “Not yet, but hopefully in the future. I know Niall’s ready to pop the question.”

“I was ready to pop the question, like, years ago,” Niall replied slurring a bit with excitement. “But B and I are good and happy together now, marriage or no marriage. Workwise we’re both succeeding, so that’s good. I’d like to be promoted -- maybe open my own label someday. And with the baby on the way, I know we’ll need more money. It’s not easy raising kids in the city, but I don’t doubt we can do it.”

“What about proposing then?” Harry asked, looking at him with a gleam in his eyes. If there was anything he loved more than babies, it was weddings. What could he say? He was a domestic kind of guy.

“Maybe after the baby is born,” Niall replied before fixing Harry with a look. “What about you then, lover boy? When are you two tying the knot? With the rate at which you two got together, chances are Zayn will find a new girl and get married to her before then.”

Heeey,” Zayn whined, hiccuping as he started to laugh. “Perrie and I’ve only been broken up for about three months. I’m not ready to date and don’t know when I’ll be. Just focusing on me. My art and stuff.”

“How are you holding up with that?” Liam asked him.

Zayn shrugged, giving them a soft smile. “I’m okay. It was for the best -- and shit like this happens all the time. I’m sure I’ll find someone who is really meant to be with me soon.”

“No doubt about it,” Harry smiled at him, his eyes sparkling. “You’re beautiful, Zaynie.”

Louis shot Harry a look, not liking the tone of his voice and the rest of them laughed because they knew Louis was only joking. Harry pet his cheek and leaned up to give him a kiss to respite him.

“Don’t avoid the question,” Niall said, focusing back on them again. “What’s your plan? We’ve just laid out ours for you now tell us yours.”

“I think,” Louis started to reply, while Harry shifted up to look at him properly because he was genuinely curious about the answer. “That Harry and I are happy together and we’ll continue to be happy together. And that’s where we are at right now.”

A sort of silence took over as they all stared at the two of them and Harry smiled mischievously before saying, “But I’m proposing whenever we do get to that point.”

“Fuck off,” Louis cried indignantly. “I’m proposing. You’re not going to do it.”

“Um, no. I already know what I’m doing and everything. You’re definitely not going to propose to me. I’m going to do what I’m planning.”

“Harry,” Louis pouted. “That’s so unfair. How do you know --.”

“Alright boys,” Liam cut in before either of them could continue. “How about one of you propose and the other one gets to name the first baby or something.”

“Darcy,” Harry said at the same time Louis said, “David Beckham Jr.”

The two of them turned to look at each other and instead of arguing, they just burst out laughing with all the other boys.

november (louis)

Louis walked out of his office building, having just finished his slot on air when he noticed him.  

Greg was sitting alone on a bench in the park across the street, one leg over the other, with a cigarette between his lips. Louis hadn’t seen him at all since their talk at Starbucks all those months ago. He’d often wondered what had happened to him, but he felt like he wasn’t allowed to text him to ask after everything that had went down. It was so cringe-worthy and embarrassing. Louis was aware he’d hurt someone who was only ever good to him and that guilty had still never properly settled in.

A small part of Louis was scared to see him again, so close and right there, but there was also another part of him that wanted to approach Greg. Things were at its worst when they last saw each other, the beginning of the downfall, and now everything was different. Louis felt like a completely different person, having grown up in a lot of ways since he’d last seen Greg. Louis knew if he walked away then he’d always regret it if he didn’t at least say something to him now when he had the chance. It was like seeing an old friend who you had once been so close with, but things had fizzled out and you stopped seeing them yet you still thought about them from time to time. That was how Louis felt about Greg and he was curious to see how he was, what he’d been doing, when he’d started smoking.

After all, Louis was lucky that Greg didn’t get him fired.

Maybe he didn’t completely hate Louis, Louis thought to himself as he slowly made his way over to Greg.

Greg looked up before Louis had even reached him or could say anything and their eyes locked. Panic spread through Louis’ entire body, but he willed himself to get a grip and go through with it, even if Greg wasn’t smiling at him like he hung the stars as he so often used to. “Hey,” Louis said, coming up to him.

“Hi,” Greg said slowly, exhaling smoke and looking up at him. “How’ve you, uh, been?”

“Good,” Louis nodded far too eagerly. “Can I sit?”

Greg didn’t respond right away and Louis wondered if this was a terrible, terrible mistake. He’d thought it was just one of those situations where people over thought and made a mountain out of a molehill. Like Louis was just being too pessimistic and it was going to be fine and okay if he approached Greg and tried to talk to him. But, no, this was bad. This was downright humiliating.

“Just wanted to talk to you,” Louis said, his voice growing smaller as the silence wore on longer than he felt comfortable. Greg put the cigarette back in his lips and nodded. Louis took that as a yes and tried not to breathe an obvious sigh of relief. He had to be quick, though. They weren’t here for small talk, that much was for sure. It was way too awkward for that. Louis turned to Greg, studying his profile curiously. “How’ve you been? Haven’t seen you around work that much.”

“I’m over in Boston now,” he answered. “It’s good. I’m good.”

“That’s good,” Louis said, still feeling a little awkward, but less scared. Greg had a guard up, Louis could tell, but he didn’t blame him. “You came to visit then? When did you get here?”

“I came for a meeting, yeah. I think I got here, like, two days ago. The meeting is later today, but I’ll be here for another week or so.”

“Still got your old place?” Louis asked, hoping it was okay that he did. God, they’d spent so much time together there. It felt like a decade ago, even though it really wasn’t. It was only a little over a year ago.

“Yeah,” Greg replied after a brief pause. “A friend stays there when I’m not here. So, it works out.”

Louis nodded again, looking down at his lap. His fingers were stiff and pale due to the cold, November weather. It was silent between them again, a bit longer than the time before, so Louis said the only thing that he could think of at this point. “I’m sorry.”

Greg looked at him and frowned. “What? Sorry for what?”

“Everything,” Louis blurted. “I know I apologized months ago, but I still am sorry, Greg. I’m sorry that I made work so unbearable for you that you had to leave town.”

“No,” Greg shook his head quickly, interrupting him. He looked utterly confused and frantic. “I didn’t leave because of you. I got a promotion, but it was in Boston. I get three times what I’m paid for here.” Louis stared at him blankly and then Greg broke out laughing at his reaction. “You thought I skipped town because of you?” He was practically in stitches from laughing so hard and Louis couldn’t help but smile a little, feeling so stupid for jumping to conclusions.

“Shut up,” Louis said, trying not to blush. “What was I supposed to think? I stopped seeing you since we last met and I had no idea where to find you.”

“It was a bit after that, yes. But it wasn’t because of you. I did avoid you for awhile, but the moving thing had nothing to do with it.”

Louis nodded his head, pursing his lips. “That’s a relief, otherwise I think I’d have added on guilt for the rest of my life.”

Greg cocked his head to the side and smirked at Louis. “How important do you think you are, Tomlinson?”

“Don’t be a dick, Gregory.” And oh, they were teasing each other. Greg wasn’t as angry as Louis thought he was. So maybe it was better than he expected. Greg laughed with a shake of his head, throwing his cigarette down on the ground and stubbing it with his shoe. “When did you start smoking, then?”

“Picked it up off my roommate in Boston. Nasty habit. Been trying to quit.” Louis snickered, leaning back comfortably on the bench. This was good. They were doing good. Louis could potentially walk out of this feeling like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.

“Are you -- did -- you. Uhm,” Greg stuttered suddenly and then looked up at Louis, awkwardly. “Are you and Harry okay?”

Louis slowly nodded with a soft, fond smile at the thought of Harry. “Yeah,” he replied. “Things were a bit rough after what happened with you. It only got worse, believe it or not, but we’re together now. We have been for months, actually.”

Greg smiled at that. Not a fake one, but an actual genuine smile, and it made Louis feel a lot better knowing he wasn’t upset anymore over what happened and that there were no hard feelings. “That’s good. Does he treat you right?”

“Yeah,” Louis said without a second thought. “He’s great. It’s terrible that we spent so much time playing games and, like, dragged other people into it. We regret that obviously, but it’s best to move on and try to be a better person.”

“I’m glad you two got your shit together. It was about time.”

Louis giggled, nodding his head. “Yeah, it was about time.”

Greg stood up then, brushing his hands on his pants, and looked down at Louis. “I’ve to go upstairs for the meeting. But, uh, good luck with everything. And say hello to Harry for me.”

“Thanks, Greg,” Louis smiled. He quickly stood up and gave him a hug before he could convince himself not to. Pulling away, Louis noticed Greg wasn’t cringing or wincing, which, thank God. He didn’t want to overstep his boundaries, but he wanted to do that. “Good luck to you, too. Hope to see you again soon.”

Greg gave him a smile before walking back towards their building. He turned around once and gave Louis a two fingered wave before stepping inside.

december (harry)

Holiday season in New York City had to be one of the best things ever.

Harry remembered growing up in Long Island and taking the LIRR over to the city every other year just to get a glimpse of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, to see the decorations at Bloomingdales and 5th Ave, to take a walk in Central Park while drinking hot chocolate. Ever since he moved there, those traditions didn’t cease. He was still giddy as ever to push through the crowds and see the biggest Christmas tree because it made him feel like Kevin from Home Alone. He still liked to stroll down 5th Ave with a cup of hot chocolate and look at all the window displays. And ice skating at Bryant Park. He loved to ice skate there even though he landed on his ass most of the time.

Louis called him a cliche for doing these things, but it wasn’t cliche to appreciate what your city had. It wasn’t cliche to do all the things tourists traveled hours to see. And even though Louis made fun of him, he only complained minimally when Harry dragged him out of the flat to go see the tree that cold, December night.

“I can’t believe this,” Louis said when he got jostled by another tourist while Harry tugged him towards the tree. “I cannot fucking believe this.”

“We’re going to have fun, Lou. Trust me!” Harry smiled, all of his white, straight teeth on display.

“I’m not having a lot of fun, right now, Harry. There’s a reason I haven’t come to see the tree since I was 16,” Louis groaned. Harry stopped momentarily, tugged Louis until he was stood in front of Harry’s body. “What are you doing?”

“I’m caging you in so that if you do get jostled it’ll be by me and you won’t mind as much,” Harry said, pressing a kiss on the back of his neck while moving them forward. It proved to be a lot more difficult to walk, but Louis wasn’t complaining anymore, so Harry counted that as a win.

After they finally made it to the front of the tree, Harry looked stumped and in absolute awe as if he hadn’t seen that tree ever in his life. When Harry turned to look at Louis, he found him looking back at Harry instead. “What?” Harry asked, looking at him and licking his chapped, cold lips.

“You look pretty,” Louis said, leaning in closer and batting his eyes at him. Harry grinned down as Louis cupped Harry’s face. “You have rosy red cheeks and a green beanie to match your fucking eyes for crying out loud. You look prettier than the tree, baby.”

Harry batted at him shyly, while Louis laughed and kissed him before drawing back and wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist, instead. Harry wrapped an arm around him, too, but took pictures of the tree on his phone with the other.

“We should get one together in front of the tree,” Harry said, looking down at Louis.

Louis agreed easily, much to Harry’s surprise. They stood under the tree and asked a nearby couple to take the pictures for them. They took three; one with them just smiling, another pulling faces, and the last one of Harry kissing Louis’ cheek, which quickly became Louis' Facebook profile picture with a heart and tree emoji as the caption.

By the end of the night, after maneuvering around thousands of tourists and seeing all the Holiday sights that New York had to offer, Harry took Louis to dinner over at Serendipity. They got a nice little table in a cozy, warm spot and sat next to each other after their main course to sip from their frozen hot chocolate bowl together.

“Did you have fun?” Harry asked, slurping up some whipped cream through his straw.

Louis was staring at him and struggling to hide his fond smile while shaking his head, but Harry knew better. He grinned through his straw and nudged Louis knowingly.

“Don’t lie,” he said. “I know you did.”

“I really didn’t,” Louis said trying to be convincing, but failing.

“C’mon,” Harry grinned, pulling him closer and mouthing at his cheeks with his cold, cold lips. “You did. You were smiling.”

“Okay, okay,” Louis said, giving up easily and shivering beside Harry. “Only because I was with you.”

“I was smiling only because I was with you, too,” Harry said, kissing Louis’ cheek. “Would you like another frozen hot chocolate?”

“Yes, please,” Louis beamed.

january (harry)

Harry could see Louis messing about with some of the toys in the aisle next the one he was standing in, and he shook his head, trying to suppress the fond that was about to burst through his chest for his boyfriend. They were at Babies R’ Us trying to buy some new gifts for Niall and Barbara’s new baby girl, Blake, but it was taking forever.

It had only been two days since she was born and she was perfect. They’d gone to the hospital yesterday when Blake was born and Harry could hardly believe it when Niall came out of the delivery holding the baby, looking like the happiest man on earth. Blake was beautiful, simply put. She had the bluest eyes like her daddy and her mommy’s soft, pretty features. Harry fell in love with her right away -- even before it was his turn to hold baby Blake. She blinked up at him and spit up only once and Harry was fucking gone.

Harry remembered the entire walk home he was pattering on and on about Blake to Louis. He was telling him how he’d like to see Blake at least once a week so that he was up to date on how she was growing because babies tend to grow up in the blink of an eye, Lou, they’re always developing and I have to see Blake develop and grow. Harry told him how he’d like to spoil Blake even though he wasn’t earning too much right now with his new internship at a small company in midtown, but he still wanted to take her out and babysit her a lot, if that was okay with Louis.

Louis, of course, was down with it all. He loved babies, having grown up with so many younger siblings and his mom’s two newest ones. Louis was more just amused by Harry’s reaction because he said it was cute.

Now, the two of them were on their way to see Blake and her parents at their apartment since it was her first day at home. However, Harry knew he wanted to get Blake some gifts before they went, so they made a pit stop on the way. Only thing was, Louis was distracted by the toys while Harry was stashing every outfit he could find in their basket since he wanted to get them all.

“Are you quite finished?” Harry asked Louis when he’d managed to get everything he liked. Louis nodded, walking back with a teddy bear and what looked like a piano that lit up when you pressed on the keys. Harry laughed while Louis looked offended.

“What’s funny?”

“You do realize she is, like, two days old, right? Why are you getting her these? She won’t be able to play with them.”

Louis rolled his eyes, although there was no mirth behind it. “Maybe it’ll entertain her, I don’t know. I want to spoil her just as much as you do. Besides, you’re no better at this than I am. Look at all the clothes you got, babe.”

“They’re all so cute, though,” Harry preened, holding up a yellow dress with sunflowers on them. “Wouldn’t she look like sunshine in this?”

Louis smiled, touching the fabric and nodding. He turned back to the rest of the clothes, going through them with approval before looking at the selection in front of them again. His eyes landed on some pink sneakers and Louis picked them up, grinning at Harry.

“These,” he said simply, like Harry would understand.

“No,” Harry shook his head. “They don’t match any of these clothes I picked.”

“Yes, they do,” Louis argued, picking up a pink outfit that was an entire shade different and would look so off. Louis held it next to the dress and grinned up at Harry. “See?”

“No,” Harry shook his head again. “These booties -,” he picked up the booties that actually went with the dress, “- go so much better.”

“Harry,” Louis whined.

“Trust me,” Harry said.

“Fine,” Louis groaned. “I’m still getting these sneakers then.”

“At least get an outfit to match it, Lou,” Harry said. “We can’t give her these sneakers without an outfit.”

“Oh my God,” Louis said, laughing at him. “You’re terrible. Imagine what you’ll do when we have our own babies.”

It was like everything froze for a moment -- all time, movement, space. Harry was staring at Louis with his lips parted and heart racing. It was a given that they were together for the long run. They were in it to be together forever, but talks of marriage or even babies weren’t something they did often. And Harry did want that -- he wanted everything with Louis. He couldn’t imagine having it with anyone but Louis.

A slow smile creeped on his face and Louis seemed to unfreeze, too, not quite able to meet Harry’s eyes after that. Harry decided to not call him out quite yet. They could talk about this. Have fun with it.

“You have no idea,” he said to Louis. “I’d spoil our babies so much. They’d have every toy in this store without a doubt.”

“Oh yeah?” Louis asked, grinning as he traced over some random onesie. “Would that be your way of being the favorite daddy?”

He was smirking at Harry and something warm coiled in Harry’s stomach. Something that made him take a step closer and kiss Louis really quick before drawing back and try not to kiss him again even though he was doing that cute little surprised face he does.

“You’d be their favorite daddy, Lou,” he said. “I couldn’t compete if I tried.”

“Not true,” Louis said, smiling fondly up at Harry, cupping his cheek. “You’d be the best daddy.”

“Nuh-uh,” Harry shook his head. “You’d be the one who would let them get away with eating ice cream before dinner or staying up a little late.”

“Yeah, but you’d be the one to take care of them when they’re sick or needed someone to make them a grilled cheese because God knows you make the best ones.”

Harry beamed at him, his eyes shining. “We would be such good daddies.”

Louis nodded, smiling up at him. “We would, wouldn’t we?”

Harry leaned forward and kissed Louis again, trying to keep it sweet and short since they were standing in an aisle at Babies ‘R Us of all places, but it was so hard. He reluctantly pulled away after a few moments and looked down at Louis. “I love you.”

Louis flushed adorably, giving him a quick kiss again before looking back at the clothes. “Right, so I’m going to find the perfect fucking outfit for this, just so you know, because I’m getting these. They’re so cute.”

Harry cackled out a laugh and followed his future baby daddy over to the next aisle to find more clothes.

february (harry)

Hey Haz. It’s been a while we’ve talked, but I just wanted to wish you happy birthday. I haven’t forgotten. I know things ended really badly the last time we saw each other, but I was hoping that maybe we could meet up and talk. - Peter

Hey Peter. thank you! and yeah, sure. we could grab a coffee.

I could meet you now if you’re free?

Harry was chewing his bottom lip harshly as he walked to the Caffe Bene in Union Square, trying not to bump straight into any people leaving their offices after work since it was rush hour. He was just distracted and dazed and a bit nervous to watch where he was going.  And he had a good reason to be a bit nervous, too. He was about to go see his ex-boyfriend of practically five years after their tumultuous breakup once he had told him that he cheated on him with his current boyfriend.

Which was like -- shit.

Harry honestly hadn’t expected to hear from him ever again, but that was a bit stupid of him to think. Peter had been in his life longer than most of his friends and being from the same town, he knew they’d somehow end up seeing each other again one way or another. He just didn’t expect it to be this soon, albeit it was nice that he texted to meet up with him on his birthday. The way they ended was messy and something neither of them deserved. That relationship was beautiful in the beginning and it deserved to end without any bitterness. It deserved honesty and equality, not for it burn down in flames like it had.

Obviously, Harry ran it by Louis first. And Louis seemed a bit wary, which Harry didn’t blame him for, but then he said it could be good and that he trusted Harry completely. Harry knew he was only saying that because Louis himself had bumped into Greg back in November. He’d told Harry all about it that night and how it had made him feel a lot better so a part of Harry went into this thinking that maybe it would make him feel better, too. Or maybe it wouldn’t.

While Harry knew he was mistreated by Peter during their relationship, he also wasn’t going to play the victim card because he knew he was in the wrong as well. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t think about this often, didn’t think about the many different ways everything could have turned out. In the end, though, what had happened happened. He couldn't change the past, and hopefully Peter for a cup of coffee would be good. They could both walk away from it and not have it end on such a terrible note.

When Harry walked into Caffe Bene, he found Peter sitting at a table by the corner window. Harry took a deep, shaky breath before walking over. “Hey,” he said, announcing himself.

Peter looked up and gave him a small, almost relieved smile. “Hi,” he said. “How are you? Sit.” He gestured to the seat in front of him and Harry sat down, looking at the boy who he once loved. He looked good, miles better than how he would when they were together. There weren’t any stress lines on his face anymore, his hair was styled a different way, and even his shirt looked new, something Harry hadn’t seen him in before. “Happy birthday, again.”

“Thanks,” Harry replied. “Sweet of you to remember. Also, to answer your question, I’m good, thank you.”

Peter nodded with a smile. “I couldn’t not wish you. I’ve spent so many of your birthdays with you. It would have felt a bit weird to just skip this one out.”

Harry hummed, pulling his chapped lips in and awkwardly placed his hands on the table. “How are you doing?”

“I’m okay. Just busy with work and all,” Peter replied. “What about you? What have you been up to?”

After that the conversation started to flow easily between. They both got their coffees and sat down and caught up. There wasn’t any awkwardness, just some disconnection, which was understandable. They’d known each other too long for it to be awkward, but since they’d lost touch in the middle and they both did some growing up, it was just different. They talked about Peter’s job and how he was promoted within the office. Peter asked Harry about his new job and graduation.

“It all sounds really exciting,” Peter said once Harry filled him in. “I just wish that I was around for some of it.”

Harry gripped his coffee cup and tried not to say anything, even though the words were on the tip of his tongue. Instead he opted to act aloof. “What do you mean?”

Peter sighed wistfully and folded his hands on the table. “I mean, I’ve been in your life for a long time, Haz. I was there through all the major moments of your life and we got through it together. It’s just upsetting that I’m not there anymore. I didn’t expect that, is what I’m saying.”

Harry knew what Peter was doing and he just didn’t want him to. Not anymore. They weren’t dating anymore. They weren’t anything to each other anymore.

“Don’t do that, Peter,” Harry said quietly.

“Do what?” He looked a bit taken aback.

“You know what you’re doing. Yeah, you were there during through all those times, but you aren’t anymore. We had to break up. It wasn’t healthy what we were doing.”

“Don’t put it down on the table like it was my fault.”

Harry look at Peter sadly, wishing that he’d just understand because it wasn’t a blame game since they were both to blame. “I don’t want to play the victim card, okay? I agree that it wasn’t all you, but a good portion of it was and it’s time you owned up to it, too. I tried my best with us and you were always extremely difficult with me.”

Peter’s expression changed quick and he glared at Harry, his lips in a thin line. “You wouldn’t understand how I felt. I know we have a bit of an age difference, but not so much that you completely disvalue what I was going through.”

“You make it sound like I wasn’t struggling either and that I was ungrateful to have you around or wasn’t there to help you through everything, which you know I was.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he argued. “I never said that. You’ve always just had your own set of friends here, Harry. Ever since we moved to the city, it’s been you and them and it was intimidating to see you change like that.”

“Well, it’s who I am now,” Harry told him firmly. “I was never going to always be that kid you started dating, I had to grow up and become my own. And it had nothing to do with my friends. We had to break up regardless of whether there was someone else in the picture or not.”

At the mention of that, they both became silent. Peter looked at Harry imploringly before saying, “I didn’t come here to fight with you. I came here to be on good terms with you. I want to be friends again.”

“I didn’t come here to argue either,” Harry told him earnestly. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here, but to be honest, I don’t know if what you want is going to happen. Maybe in, like, ten years if you start to own up to all the things you did. Until then...”

“Fine,” Peter said harshly once Harry denied him. “I was in the wrong, okay? I told you. I couldn’t handle it and I’m sorry.”

Harry sighed again, leaning back in his chair and running his fingers through his hair frustratingly. “I’m sorry, too. I’m sorry I cheated on you and for not ending things between us sooner. I let it drag on and that was my fault.”

“Don’t make it sound like you hated it.” Peter was pouting a little and genuinely looked upset. And Harry didn’t want that either. He didn’t want him to be upset or make him feel like Harry regretted his time spent with Peter because he didn’t. Peter was a big part of Harry’s life back in Port Washington, but that was a small town and this was a big city. Things had to change. That wasn’t all Harry wanted and it wasn’t Peter’s fault. It was just how things were meant to be.

“I didn’t hate it at first,” Harry said to him, honestly. “But we both just grew up and we weren’t compatible. It had to happen.” Peter nodded his head in response, not saying anything. “I should probably get going, though.”

Peter snapped his head up at that. “Already?”

Harry shrugged, putting his phone and wallet in his pocket. “I’ve got plans with my friends later and Louis is waiting for me.”

Peter’s lips parted when he heard Louis’ name. He didn’t know they were officially dating as far as Harry knew. “So, you’re together then?” Peter asked at last.

“Yeah,” Harry nodded. “We’ve been together for almost a year now.”

“Wow,” he said as casually as he could, though Harry knew he wasn’t quite pleased.

“So, it was nice meeting you,” Harry said. “Thank you for wishing me a good birthday again and for talking. I’m sorry if I was out of line back there, but...yeah. I don’t know, Peter. It’s just best if we don’t talk for a while. You’re clearly not over it and I’ve well moved on.”

“Good for you.”

Harry looked at him for something more, but he didn’t offer it. So, he slipped his coat on and stood up. “So, bye?”

“Bye,” Peter said with a clipping tone.

It was best not to push his buttons or drag this out any longer than it needed to be. Harry walked out of there, the cold hair nipping against his skin. When he felt his phone vibrate with a simple text from Louis asking where he was, Harry smiled while hitting the dial button. It was his birthday and he was going to let bygones be bygones and go home to his amazing boy.

march (harry)

While Harry’s apartment that he once shared with Liam since sophomore year of college was too tiny for two guys to be living in, it was too big when he moved out as well. The fact remained that it was a shoebox apartment with two bedrooms, a small kitchen, a narrow hallway, and only one bathroom, but Liam moved out almost six months ago and as the days passed, Harry started to feel like he needed a change of scenery, too.

Harry loved his apartment, he really did. He had made many memories and grew into who he was while living there (the first time he drank so much he puked the entire next day and the day after that, cooking an entire meal on his own, and the most obvious one, being out on his own for the first time in the city). However, it was time and he could just feel it in his bones because he’d started dreading going up those same stairs and walking into his too small, too big living space. It only dawned on him one day when Louis was over that what he needed was not only a bigger apartment, but also someone to live in it with him. And Harry couldn’t think of anyone who he’d want that someone to be other than Louis.

It had only been about a year since they became boyfriends, officially in a relationship and completely, totally, fully devoted to each other. Harry was so in love with Louis that he wanted to do every sort of commitment there was between two people with him. He wanted to marry him, he wanted to have kids with him, he wanted forever with Louis. Nevertheless, he knew that the ride there was a part of life, too.

Harry knew that every step was important and he loved it with Louis. He liked the buildup to the new aspects of their relationship because although he might have shared some of it once with someone before, it was on a whole other level with Louis. Everything felt twice as much to him as it did before. And it kept him on his toes, while also paving the way for their future. They fit well together and it showed. He just didn’t know if Louis wanted to move in with him, too. The only way to find out would be to ask him and Harry knew the perfect way to do so.

By the time March rolled around and the birds started chirping and the weather was warming up and the city was colored in pretty pastel shades, Harry made his decision. He was going to move out. He printed out several addresses with pictures for open houses that were going around in the city and texted Louis.

Going apartment hunting, do you wanna come? :)

apartment hunting?????? you were serious about that???????

Of course, Lou.

umm okay !!!!! sure. ill get dressed. where do i meet u???????????????

An hour later, Louis and Harry were walking to the first apartment that was located near Noho with their fingers laced together between them. Louis looked so pretty in his jean jacket and maroon t-shirt that Harry had to kiss him for a few minutes outside the apartment before walking inside. It was nice, a bit smaller than how they made it seem in the pictures, but had a really spacious kitchen. That worked well for Harry, however, he was mostly watching Louis look around. There were some cookies on the counter, which Louis was munching on with crumbs falling out of his mouth, while he hummed in approval of things he liked or wrinkled at things he didn’t like.

Harry followed him into one of the bedrooms, watching as Louis inspected the view outside the window. “Do you like it?” Harry asked.

Louis nodded, but then shrugged. “It’s alright. What about you?”

“You know…,” Harry trailed off. “I just wanna know if you like it.”

Louis laughed, eyeing him suspiciously before walking over to him. “Where else are we going?”

That was how the rest of the apartment hunting went. They traveled to the different open houses, stealing kisses on the subway on the way, or holding hands while walking there, and looking at the apartments. Louis would be quiet and inspective, while Harry would eye him, trying to gauge out a proper reaction as to whether or not this was a place Louis could see himself living in.

Once they got to their last house, the sky was darkening outside and they were both stuffed with cookies that were offered at every open house.

“Have you decided?” Louis asked Harry in the last room.

Harry looked at Louis, the last of the sunlight pouring into the room and casting shadows on Louis’ face, and decided maybe it was time he could muster up the courage to ask. “I’m not sure yet,” he replied. “What about you? Did you like any of them?”

Louis smiled, shrugging while pacing the room and distracting himself by touching the peeling wallpaper on the wall or looking in the small closet. “It’s gonna be your apartment, H. I’m okay with whatever you’re okay with. That third one did have the Taco Bell down the street, though. Easily a plus.”

Harry laughed, his dimple sinking into his cheek and eyes gleaming. “Taco Bell is an important thing to have nearby. Is that the one you liked the most? Because if it is then I’d totally get it so you can go to Taco Bell everyday.”

Harry didn’t miss the way Louis froze for a moment before turning to face him. “So I can go to Taco Bell everyday?”

“Yeah,” Harry replied, smiling sheepishly and looking at Louis with wide, earnest eyes, which probably made him look like a frog as Louis had told him once before. “I want you to move in with me, Lou. I want to get a place with you.”

Louis was quiet for a moment, stunned and speechless before a grin broke out on his face. “Harry,” he preened, his face lighting up as he closed the distance between them and practically hopped into Harry’s arms. Harry’s arms wound around Louis’ waist, while Louis cupped his face in his hands. “Shut up. Are you serious?”

Harry nodded his head. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but didn’t know how to bring it up.”

“That’s why you asked me to come with you and that’s why you were asking all those questions about whether I liked it or not?” Louis asked, smiling up at Harry. Harry only grinned as innocently as he could. “That’s so like you, dumb ass. Fuck, wow. Move in together?”

“Yeah...we’re about to have our one year anniversary and there is no way I’d like to celebrate than by moving in with you, Lou. Only if you’re ready, though. I know it’s a lot, but just know that I am.”

Louis only watched him with a fond expression, wonder and awe in his eyes before leaning forward and kissing Harry sweetly. He tasted like chocolate chips and cookie dough. Before Harry could swipe and dip his tongue in Louis’ mouth, Louis drew back. “I’m ready,” he said immediately. “I wanna move in with you.”

“Yeah?” Harry asked, his grin widening. “You and me?”

“You and me, babe.”