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Louis is the first one to notice, or at least the first to bring it up, while they’re waiting to go in for a signing.

“Oi,” he calls, unnecessarily loud even with the screaming in the background. “Hazza’s got taller than Liam!”

Of course, because Liam’s life is his life and he’s in this completely mental band, that is not the end of it. For anyone else, it would have been. But no. For the next week, Harry insists on standing next to him at every photo opportunity, even the ones where it doesn’t make sense for them to be next to each other. He offers to get things down from high shelves for Liam, he offers Liam a hand up into the bus.

Louis seems perpetually amused by it all, and Niall and Zayn ignore it for the most part, but Harry doesn’t let up. Generally speaking, the best way to make Harry give something up is to not let him get a rise out of you—it’s a skill Liam has perfected. A problem with Harry jumping on the bed to wake you up? Pretend to sleep through it and he’ll get bored. A problem with Harry whispering dirty come-ons in your ear on stage? Look completely unflustered and he’ll get bored.

Honestly, half of the art of dealing with Harry is just understanding that he’s like a puppy who’ll give up anything that doesn’t entertain him enough.

Liam wakes up one morning and finds that everything on the floor of his hotel room—mostly clothes—has been piled on top of the cupboard. It’s perfectly within his reach, but it’s also the highest place in the room. Liam just gets it down himself and rolls his eyes at Harry’s unsubtle sense of humor.

Revenge isn’t an option, because it violates the principle of not letting Harry get a rise out of him.

Harry’s not the only culprit; they have a photoshoot one morning and the photographer is clearly taken aback by the height change. It didn’t happen overnight, obviously, but it does seem kind of sudden how Harry has gone from being vaguely perhaps the same height as Liam to being noticeably taller. Every time the photographer mutters something audible about needing to move them because “Mr Styles is too tall for this position,” Harry shoots him the most impressive shit-eating grin Liam’s ever seen.

At one point, Harry tries to convince them all they should change the stage show to accommodate his new height; he only relents when they point out to him, repeatedly and with examples, that they can barely get through their choreography as it is and changing everyone’s positions on stage will just make things worse. Louis gets a look like he’s suddenly interested in doing it, if it means Zayn might crash into more people and/or objects, but Niall manages to distract him before everything goes completely sideways.

Nothing about it is particularly subtle. More than once, Liam catches Harry just standing next to him and smirking a little bit. Their conversations start to take place with Harry so close to him that Liam’s forced to look up just slightly to meet his eyes, which has the unfortunate side effect of making it look to anyone around them like they’re about to kiss.

Louis doesn’t stop laughing for an hour the first time Harry does it, and Liam’s entirely unsure if he’s laughing at Harry for being ridiculous or Liam for being really, really uncomfortable.

It’s kind of awful that Harry has found something to do where he doesn’t need a reaction from someone else to be entertained, because now there’s nothing Liam can do to get him to stop. Eventually, he’ll have to get bored, right? Someone else will become more interesting; he’ll remember that Louis is more fun for fake snogging or that Zayn is cuddlier.

Liam will just have to wait it out, which proves easier said than done.

He manages to keep his annoyance just barely under control until Harry snatches his iPod and waves it over his head. Harry’s new height isn’t usually enough to make any significant difference, except that if Harry stretches his arms all the way up and goes up on his toes, Liam can’t quite reach as high as he can.

So Harry is waving Liam’s iPod just barely out of his reach, and Louis is laughing because he’s a shit, and Liam just—Liam just really wanted to spend his couple of hours of free time having a rest and listening to some music. He could tackle Harry easily—Harry might be taller but Liam is much more fit—but that risks breaking his iPod.

After a couple of futile lunges upward for it—in addition to now being taller, Harry’s always been narrow and long, and has the arms to match it—Liam scowls a bit and resigns himself to waiting this out as well.

Unless—there is a sofa. That has some potential as a way to get his iPod back without risking it cracking against the floor or flying across the room, if he can just get Harry in the right position. And Liam’s frustrated enough to give it a go.

It takes a bit of maneuvering, and he probably looks a right idiot while he’s doing it—well, not probably, because Louis is laughing his ass off—but Harry is at exactly the right angle to fall flat onto the sofa and he won’t stay there for long.

Liam lunges, and they fall; Harry’s fingers are still tight around the iPod, but it’s a fair fight now. Liam scrabbles upward, but Harry’s fist is too tight and it’s futile.

No one said he had to fight fair.

He abandons both Harry’s hands and the iPod, and reaches down. This is probably going to get him kicked, but if tickling makes Harry let go of the damn iPod, it will be more than worth it. Predictably, as soon as Liam’s fingers make contact with Harry’s sides he’s flailing about wildly, kneeing Liam in the stomach more than once. And, of course, because he’s Harry and about the most obnoxious person on the planet, instead of admitting defeat, he calls for help.

Louis, naturally, comes running to his aid.

They’re both skinnier than Liam, or at least less muscular, and—no matter what Louis says to the contrary—he can and has beaten each of them individually. But combined, they’re nearly impossible to defeat, and so despite putting up a valiant effort (really, there could be songs), Liam finds himself pinned to the sofa only a couple of minutes later.

Harry, currently perched on his thighs, at least looks a little worse for the wear. His shirt, which upon closer examination might actually be Niall’s, is stretched at the neck from where Liam had got a firm grip on it just before Louis pulled him down on the sofa. Louis has Liam’s head in his lap, arms draped across his shoulders and chest. If it were a life-or-death situation, he could probably get away from them, but Harry is reaching up to poke at his stomach in some sort of twisted retaliation, and Liam’s fairly certain that any attempts to fight back will end with Louis biting him.

“What should we do to him, Haz?” Louis’s voice is laughing; Liam can almost hear the grin he’s probably shooting Harry. Liam can’t help giggling a bit, as well.

“We could tickle him. He was tickling me,” Harry suggests. Liam forces himself to scowl but, predictably, neither Harry nor Louis is particularly fazed by it. Then Harry’s eyes go narrow and gleeful, and he reaches for the top button of Liam’s shirt. “Or we could steal his clothes!”

Louis doesn’t answer, at least not that Liam can hear, but his hands tighten on Liam’s arms while Harry undoes the buttons and pushes Liam’s shirt to the side. Harry sticks his finger into Liam’s belly button and kind of swirls it around, which partly hurts and partly tickles, and mostly looks ridiculous. Liam schools his face into something like complete disinterest while Harry uses his other hand to poke at Liam’s nipple a couple of times, seeming disappointed by the lack of response he’s getting.

In a display that would be terrifying if he hadn’t spent almost every day with them for two years, Harry and Louis perfectly execute a swap that leaves Harry holding down Liam’s arm so that one of Louis’s is free, and they do it without saying a word. Then, in unison, they each pinch one of his nipples hard.

Liam sees it coming but still flinches with his whole body, curling away from the pain, his knees bending in towards his chest. The movement makes Harry slide forward down Liam’s thighs, stopping only when their hips slam together. Harry grimaces very slightly, probably at the impact, but it quickly turns into a smile. Louis has gone incredibly still, the hand that’s still gripping Liam’s wrist a little slack and Liam wishes he could see his face, what he’s looking at.

Their reactions are slowed by shock, so when Harry and Liam try to adjust their positions so that Harry isn’t actually sitting on Liam’s dick, they move at the same moment and accidentally sort of grind their hips together. Liam feels Harry against him, solid and present and new-but-unexpectedly-not-unwelcome. The weight is kind of comforting, like when Louis sits on him or Harry falls asleep draped half over him. If it weren’t for the context, Liam’d be thinking about sex.

Okay, fine, he’s thinking about sex anyway.

Harry’s mouth makes a nearly perfect O. Liam thinks very, very hard about his mum and the Queen and—and sheep and Paul and every not-sexy thing that’s happened to him in the last year, all in some kind of twisted attempt to distract himself because he can feel Harry’s dick through his trousers and he’s suddenly worried that he might start getting hard. Harry’s face freezes, the rest of his body going completely still, and Liam realizes in a moment of perfect clarity that Harry is thinking the exact same thoughts. This isn’t how this goes, they wrestle so often but this is charged with something else entirely. Louis is squirming a little now, like he’s trying to make himself comfortable. Liam sympathises.

The pressure on one of Liam’s wrists eases up, then disappears entirely as Louis lets go of his hand. Liam could move, could shove Harry onto the floor, could go be somewhere else and not get a hard-on from one of his best mates sitting on his dick, but he’s reluctant to do it. There’s a hand against his shoulder—it must be the one Louis just took off his wrist—and it’s sliding up the side of his neck, fingers trailing across his cheek. Harry’s eyes are wide and dark, flicking rapidly between Liam and Louis, and he’s biting his lip.

Liam’s hips twitch up just the tiniest bit at the sight of Harry’s red and swollen mouth. In response, Harry’s breath hitches visibly and Louis exhales the softest “oh” that Liam thinks he’s ever heard—he probably would have missed it if it weren’t for how close Louis’s mouth is to his ear.

It’s no use pretending he’s not half-hard, not with Harry pressed down on him and Louis’s fingers resting against his cheek, sliding so that his thumb is against Liam’s mouth. Liam, almost on instinct, parts his lips slightly and wraps them around the pad of Louis’s thumb, sucking it against his teeth and then opening them and swirling his tongue around it once. Harry’s hips jerk against Liam’s, with more force than either of them was anticipating, judging by the colour that Harry turns. “Jesus, Liam,” he whispers.

Liam—Liam realizes with a feeling not unlike being punched, that he’d really like to put that look—eyes wide and mouth slightly open—on Harry’s face again.

Thinking is becoming kind of difficult, between Louis’s thumb in his mouth and Harry’s hips against his, jerking forwards occasionally; every time they move, Liam goes a little lightheaded and it feels like he’s forgotten how to breathe. Harry pitches forward slowly, the hand that’s been forgotten on Liam’s chest moving so that he can thumb at Liam’s nipple. His eyes are huge and fixed on Liam’s lips, and Liam can’t stop looking at them. The next breath he manages to take in is shaky, wheezing.

He’s eventually distracted by Harry’s hands moving across his chest, by the fingers Louis is trailing gently through his hair, and it comes as a shock when Harry presses their lips together. It’s a kiss that would be chaste if his hand weren’t edging toward the button of Liam’s jeans, if Louis’s hand weren’t still against Liam’s neck, stroking at a pulse point.

Not that it stays that way, because Liam opens his mouth and tangles his tongue with Harry’s. They’re rolling their hips together in something that’s almost a rhythm, now, and Louis has reached around to press one hand between Harry’s shoulders. This is happening, Liam thinks dumbly, this is really happening.

He’s still kissing Harry, but Louis’s presence behind him is constant and—if he’s doing this, he’s going to think it. Louis behind him, pressing up against him irregularly is hot. His breathing is noisy, heavy, and Liam can feel his dick behind his shoulders. He’s hard and occasionally his hips jerk upward, in turn pressing Liam closer to Harry, which makes them both gasp. It doesn’t take Liam long to start feeling a little desperate, working his hands under Harry’s trousers—of course he’s not wearing any underwear—and grabbing at his ass to pull him closer.

There’s heat pooling in Liam’s stomach, familiar but also new—this is new, disorienting, Louis hard and gasping harshly in in his ear when Liam pushes back against him. The next roll of his hips into Harry’s is so strong that it makes Harry gasp and bite down on Liam's lip. Liam’d be embarrassed about his low whimper if Harry weren’t rocking faster against him, making throaty noises that Liam swallows with increasingly messy kisses.

Disconcerting it may be, but Liam really doesn’t want to stop. He and Harry are both moving fast, without any pretense of rhythm, just slamming their hips into each other’s and making small noises in each other’s mouths. It still takes him by surprise when Liam feels himself going tense and everything goes white for a moment. Harry grinds against him for a few more moments and then he’s is gasping sharply against Liam’s mouth and coming as well.

Liam’s trapped under a limp and panting Harry, not that he’s especially keen on moving. It’s only when Louis starts squirming behind him that he realizes he’s not so much as kissed him, which suddenly feels like a terrible oversight he needs to correct immediately. Shoving at Harry and trying to pull himself upright only draws his attention to how sticky and disgusting his clothes are. Harry catches his eye and says “Just take them off.” Of course Harry would suggest that, but for once Liam is completely on board with it.

Louis’s voice is rough and low. “Yes, you should both do that. I can too.” Liam kisses him before he has the chance, leaving the hard work of taking everyone’s clothes off to Harry. He’s got plenty of practice stripping himself, doing it to someone else shouldn’t be a trial. Louis kisses exactly the way Liam expected him to, incautious and passionate, but somehow generous as well. He tries to respond in kind, focusing on the new and almost overwhelming desire to kiss Louis (and Harry) rather than the strangeness of having just got off with Harry.

Harry’s hands are between them now, working first at Liam’s trousers then at Louis’s. As soon as they’ve both been shoved down—Liam’s not sure exactly how low, but far enough that they’re out of the way—Liam reaches forward with a slightly unsteady hand and wraps it around Louis’s dick. The angle is strange and Harry’s hands dancing around between them are distracting, and Liam’s never done this before, not for someone else, and definitely not with his but bandmates, his best mates. It’s so good, though, so easy and comfortable and right. And kind of baffling, but there’s no going back now, so Liam tightens his grip on Louis’s cock and twists on the upstroke, enjoying the way his whole face goes momentarily slack. Louis seems to be close, gasping at Liam’s first touch. Liam can feel that he’s been leaking all over himself as he spreads it around the head of Louis’s cock.

Liam is barely having to move at all, just gripping firmly and letting Louis rock himself into his fist, fast and a little frantic. He pulls away from Louis’s lips and tucks his face into the side of his neck, pressing soft kisses to his shoulder. Louis and Harry are kissing, he can hear them, but he’s too limp to pull his head up watch. All the energy in his body is going to getting Louis off.

When he comes over Liam’s hand and both their stomachs, Louis makes a hilariously unattractive grunting noise into Harry’s mouth, which sets them all off giggling. Liam grimaces and wipes the mess off his hand in Harry’s hair; Harry scowls and pushes Liam back down on the sofa, trying to tickle him again. Louis promptly flops down on Harry’s back, crushing both of them into the cushions. Between the laughter and the tussling, Liam nearly misses the kiss that Harry presses next to his ear, and the way that Louis squeezes his hand briefly. He’s glad he doesn’t, though, find himself relishing the familiar comfort and the new intimacy.

They all fall asleep on the sofa in a slightly uncomfortable—and slightly-naked—pile, which is disgusting but probably worth it for the look on Niall’s face when he stumbles in later. His mouth drops open and he backs out of the room, pressing his hands tight over his eyes.

That, of course, sets them off laughing again. “Couldn’t you have left a sock on the door?” Niall yells from the next room.