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If you're the one for me then I'll be your hero

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You’re insecure
Don’t know what for

“Ugh,” Louis groans as he throws his head back. “I’m fucking going to kill her.”

You’re turning heads when you walk through the door
Don’t need make up
To cover up
Being the way that you are is enough

Louis sits up on his bed slowly, careful not to close the book he’s currently reading. He was peacefully reading, completely into his novel, when his sister turned the music up. And it’s too loud.

Especially because Louis hates this song. In fact, he hates all the songs. The songs, and the singer. Harry Fucking Styles.

Okay, maybe Louis is lying a bit. He actually likes the songs, he just doesn’t like Harry Styles. Or maybe he’s lying here too. Whatever.

Everyone else in the room can see it
Everyone else but you

He closes his eyes and pinches his nose. Okay. Breathe. In, and out.

Baby you light up my world like nobody else

“Ugh, that’s it, I’m done.”

Louis stands up abruptly from his bed, sending his book flying away. He furiously heads towards his sister’s room. He is so going to destroy her stereo. He knocks at the door – because he is polite – but obviously Lottie doesn’t hear him with all the racket.

He sighs and opens the door, discovering without so much surprise his sister on her bed, jumping while singing her heart out, eyes closed.

“You don’t know-oh oh, you don’t know you’re beautiful,” Lottie sings.

Louis rolls his eyes and crosses his arms over his chest. “Lottie,” he yells.

The younger girl opens her eyes and beams at him. “Yeah?” She inquires with a happy voice, although out of breath.

Louis wants to smash her head on the floor. Gently. It’s his sister after all. “Turn the volume down.”

“Am I not allowed to listen to music now?” She frowns, stopping her jumps.

“You can, but at least turn it down a bit, or turn it off, that’d be better,” Louis suggests, raising an eyebrow.

Lottie sighs and plops down on her bed, turning her stereo off. “Happy?” she asks with a fake smile, raising an eyebrow in turn.

“Very.” Louis returns the fake smile, tilting his head on the side, then closes the door without another word. He hasn’t made two steps when the music starts again.

He sighs and goes to the living room, resigned to watch TV. He can hear his mother humming some song in the kitchen while preparing lunch. He doesn’t even have time to turn the TV on and put his feet on the table when Lottie appears before him and takes the remote from his hands.

“What the fuck?” he squawks.

“Language!” scolds his mother from the kitchen.

Lottie settles next to him without a care in the world and changes the channel to the program E!News, that is known to report on celebrity news and gossip and stuff.

Louis grunts when Harry Styles appears on TV. “I was fucking watching,” he informs indignantly.

Lottie glances at him and returns her attention on the screen. “No, you weren’t. You were just turning it on. But I am watching now, so hush.”

He watches her incredulously, mouth opened. What a nerve. Teens nowadays. He drops his head against the back of the sofa. “Moooom.”

“Oh come on, Louis,” his mom replies as she enters the living room. “Let her watch her show, you know how much she loves the curly boy,” she says with an affectionate smile as she glances at the TV. Even his mom seems fond of the fucking singer.

“But I was–”

“Shht!” Lottie admonishes when Harry Styles appears, giving an interview that goes along the lines, “No, Kendall Jenner and I aren’t dating, we’re just friends“. Yeah, right. He said the same things for all the girls he “dated“.

Louis laughs internally. This boy is a fucking womanizer. Or at least, that’s what the media says. And okay, Louis is a clever boy, he knows he must not believe everything he reads, and Lottie always defends the singer and says: “he wouldn’t treat a woman like this, he is such a sweetheart and a gentleman“ blah blah blah.

The thing is... It’s crazy to see how the media is... Powerful, to say the least. Malcolm X used to say that the media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. And Louis agrees.

Whatever, he isn’t at all trying to figure out if the image they are showing of Harry is true or not. It’s not like he cares. No, not at all. He doesn’t give a damn fuck about Harry’s love life. Nor does he care about his sexuality.

What.

Okay, now it’s time to go back to his room, because he can’t stand Harry’s slow voice, his flashing smile, and his fucking dimples.

Louis stands up without a word and quits the living room, leaving his sister fangirling over whatever the singer is saying on TV.

Once he is in his bedroom, he takes his seat in front of his computer. If he plugs a pair of headphones into his laptop and listens to Harry’s last album on repeat for the rest of the afternoon, then no one has to know.

~

“Louis, have you put all your stuff in the truck already?”

“Yes, mom,” Louis replies in a detached voice. She already asked him twice, for God’s sake. They’re only going on his cousin’s for the summer, it’s not like they can’t use their family’s stuff if they forgot something.

God, they’re going to Los Angeles. Louis likes the city, it’s actually been a while since they went there, due to the fact that his mom was too busy with work. But Louis never got the opportunity to visit, as he was too young to go on his own.

But now he has a drivers license, as well as Liam, and he plans on taking full advantage of that and visits the magnificent city.

“Lottie, are you ready darling?” Johannah calls as she waits by the entrance, keys in hand, ready to lock the door.

“Yes, I’m comiiiiing mom!”

Louis sighs and heads towards the vehicle, taking a seat on the passenger side. He hears his mom urging Lottie to get in the car, and soon enough his sister takes place in the backseat, her gaze glued on her phone. Louis closes his eyes and rests his head against the seat, almost wanting to have a doze until they arrive at the airport. But that is without taking into account Lottie squealing with delight in the back.

“Oh my god. Oh my gooood. Oh my–” she screeches.

Louis groans. “What happened now?”

“Oh my god, look how handsome Harry Styles is!”

He opens his eyes and he has to blink several times when Lottie shoves her phone in his face. There are several pictures of Harry Styles at LAX, wearing a long black coat that probably costs more than Louis’ university fees, golden boots, hair tied up in a bun and glasses on. He looks quite good, but honestly, Louis doesn’t care.

He feigns nonchalance and shoves her phone away as their mom takes her seat.

“Okay, we’re ready to go,” Jay announces happily as she puts her bag at Louis’ feet. She pinches his chin and Louis smiles at her. “Fasten your seat belts, loves.”

Louis complies as Lottie struggles to do so with one hand, the other hand holding her phone. “I can’t believe we’re going to LAX right after Harry Styles,” she sobs with wide eyes. “Can you believe it, mom? I could have met him,” she laments.

“Maybe it was meant to be,” Louis pips in. “Don’t think you’ll automatically meet him just because you go to LA, you know?”

He can’t see his sister, as he gazes at the road in front of him, but he can feel Lottie’s glare on him. “What do you know about fate anyway?” she huffs.

“More than you think. And it’s more than hoping you meet a superstar who will never look at you once, and who will never be interested in you. Seriously, you read too many fanfic–”

“Louis,” Jay cuts off.

Louis glances at her, staying quiet. He then turns to look at Lottie, who’s frowning at her phone. He bites his lip. “Sorry, Lotts.”

He tentatively nudges her knee, and the young girl only looks up at him and shrugs. “I know you’re right, it’s okay. I don’t expect to have a romance with him, I just like him, you know?”

Yeah, Louis knows. “Yeah,” he replies, turning back to watch the road.

~

Harry Styles takes a place on the sofa between his parents, while the three are waiting for the upcoming call from his manager Simon Cowell.

He feels nervous. Discussing business always seems stressing for some reason. His mother must feel the same, because she’s spent the last few minutes cleaning the coffee table in front of them. The table wasn’t even dirty in the first place. But whatever, it seems to relax his mother. She finally stops and puts her attention to him as she brushes a hand through his hair. “Better.” She says with a smile.

Harry returns it, and before he opens his mouth to ask her if she’s okay, he hears the familiar sound of an incoming call on Skype. His step-father answers it and Simon Cowell appears on the giant screen.

“Good afternoon, Anne, Robin and Harry,” the manager greets with a nod.

“Hello,” Harry returns with a charming smile. Simon smiles at him. Harry likes Simon, he’s an imposing guy who knows everything there is to know about the music industry and the business world. He knows what’s the best for Harry. And Harry practically owes him everything. He wouldn’t be that far in his career without his manager. And also without his parents and Zayn, of course. Harry thinks he is lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who help him in his career.

“So, the clichés of you and Taylor Swift in Central Park was a full success,” Simon starts.

And, yeah. Of course they’d have to talk about Taylor Swift and Harry’s vacation in New York. All the “dates“ they had to go, like the last one, in Central Park. But also when Harry had to make sure he got spotted exiting her hotel to add fuel to the rumors of the two dating. That’d be very good for the two of them if they were dating, that’s what Simon Cowell, Simon Jones, his PR manager, and Ben, the director of the movie Harry is about to make a deal with, keep telling him.

“The tabloids all jumped on the pictures, you’ve made the front pages of several newspapers,” his manager carries on, “Jones reported it is all going very good for both of you, the fact that you two are seen together.” Simon seems pleased on the screen, clapping his hands together.

“Your name has been mentioned in lots of articles dealing about your next upcoming album, and, of course, the potential movie of you with Swift. Everyone is very excited,” the man concludes enthusiastically with a calculating smile.

Besides Harry, Anne nods contentedly and Robin only gives a hint of smile. His step-father doesn’t really like the idea of PR stunts in which Harry has to go through, neither does Anne, but as long as it helps Harry, and he agrees and is okay with it, then so is everyone.

That’s what Harry tries to tell himself. He tries to give his most enthusiastic smile at his manager, but.

Yeah, it’s hard sometimes to pretend to be someone you really aren’t. Or to pretend you are in love with somebody you don’t even truly know. Taylor is nice, don’t get him wrong, but they’re just friends, and even if Harry knows he needs the promo with the singer, he can’t help but feel a bit uneasy and a twist in a stomach.

“However,” Simon starts with a frown, looking down at his desk, without a doubt going through his paperwork. Harry feels his mom stiffen besides him. “You’ve recently been spotted a lot partying with that friend of yours, hmm, Elise–”

“Ellis,” Harry corrects, a bit apprehensive.

“Yeah, Ellis.” Simon looks up, staring ahead of him. “All the instagram pictures of you two are really cute, but...” he stops and seems to be thinking of his next words.

Harry frowns. Ellis and him have been best friends since they were four years old. He trusts her with his life, more than he trusts Zayn, although they’ve been best friends for four years already. Sure, Harry parties a lot, especially with Ellis and their common friends, and they are always keen to share their pictures on instagram, but Harry never thought that’d be a problem. Not until now, apparently.

Simon speaks up, “I’ve seen a lot of comments about some fans who actually think you and Ellis are dating.” Harry’s frown deepens. “And I don’t really think being linked with another woman would be good for you right now.”

Harry wants to laugh. He wants to say, “You mean, besides all the other women I was linked to in the past? All these PR stunts to get my womanizer image on the spot?” At least with Ellis, Harry doesn’t have to pretend anything.

“Oh that won’t be a problem, Simon,” Anne brings in, “Mademoiselle Calcutt will be spending her summer vacation in Spain, so they won’t see each other for a while.”

Thanks, mom. Harry wants to roll his eyes.

“Good,” Simon simply responds. “I wouldn’t ask you to stop hanging out with your female friends, yeah? But I’d really appreciate if you could at least not expose your photos next time, or just like, keep a low profile a bit? Me and Jones are trying our best to clear up the rumors about you and Kendall already.” Simon takes a breath, making gestures with his hands. “You need this promo with Taylor, Harry,” he says with a considerate but assured voice.

Yes, Harry knows. So he just nods. “Alright, I won’t do anything stupid to mess everything up. You can count on me.”

He gives his best flashing smile, and Simon smiles in return, clapping his hands together. “Good, then it’s settled. I’ll see you tomorrow for the party.”

Harry’s parents decided to organize a party for Harry’s launching new album. Ben Winston will be attending too, with few other celebrities and closest friends (sadly, oh sadly, Taylor couldn’t come, at Simon’s greatest displeasure), and Harry will perform one of his new songs.

Harry nods again at his manager. “Very well, until then, stay outside of the headlines.” Simon winks and says his goodbyes.

A few minutes pass without another word, until Robin claps his hands on his knees. “Well, I like Ellis.”

“She’s just a friend,” Harry says, smiling at him.

“I know what she means to you. I don’t entirely agree with Simon,” his step-father says with malice in his tone.

Harry observes his step-father curiously.

Robin smiles. “I haven’t forgotten you promised her to sing at her birthday party tomorrow. And you better go,” the man warns with a raising eyebrow.

Harry beams and nods, Robin patting him on the back as he stands up.

“You heard what Simon said, Robin,” Anne chimes in, “Harry, you can’t go anymore.” She rests her hand on his leg. “There’ll be too many people.”

Harry doesn’t look at her. Instead, he observes his step-father who’s smiling at him. Harry shakes his head and turns to face his mom. “Mom, I always keep my promises. I told her I’d come, so I will. I’ll keep a low profile, I promise. And I’ll be back before anyone figures I sneaked off.

Anne sighs but smiles nonetheless. Finally, she says, “That’s my son,” and hugs him.

~

Five hours and twenty minutes is a very very very very long flight when you have an old woman sat next you, mumbling about everything and nothing. Louis wanted to smack her head against the window and shamelessly dreamt of throwing her out of the plane several times.

And here they are now, in Los Angeles. It’s different from New Jersey, for sure. They’re waiting outside the airport for their cousins to pick them up, while Lottie is glancing around the airport.

“You won’t see Harry Styles, you know,” Louis sighs with a roll of his eyes. “He was here like, 6 hours ago? He’s probably already at his mansion.”

Lottie briefly looks at him but doesn’t answer.

When their mother joins them with the rest of their luggage, Lottie straightens up and bats her eyelashes. “Mom, do you think you’d let me drive the car to go to the beach tomorrow?”

Jay gives her a knowing look and lifts her eyebrows. “You mean, the beach Harry Styles always goes to?”

And. What? How does she even know that? Oh yeah, probably because Lottie won’t shut up about Harry Styles all day. Because she knows everything, she keeps track of his slightest actions, is always updated and aware of his whereabouts. Louis thinks it’s creepy. And he doesn’t know how Jay stays calm about Lottie’s obsession over that pop singer. If it was his daughter, Louis would sign her up in an asylum.

“Pleaseeee? Pretty, pretty, please,” Lottie begs.

Jay tolerantly smiles at her. “We’ll see. Maybe Louis will take you there, I don’t want you to drive in LA on your own.”

Louis whines. “And I don’t want to babysit her while we’re here. I have plans.”

His mother gives him a look that basically means she’s about to lecture him, but, saved by the bell, sort of, they hear a horn and a car pulls over at their level.

“What’s up, fam?” Liam calls as he gets out of the car, followed by one of his older sisters, Ruth.

“Liam, dear,” Johannah greets as she hugs him.

“Wow, look how big you are now, Lotts,” Ruth exclaims as she hugs Lottie, who smiles at her.

Liam pulls away from Jay’s hug and hugs Lottie in return, then he looks at Louis. “Hi dude, it’s good to see you.” He hugs him and Louis pats him on the back. “Hi, you too.”

“Did you guys have a good trip?” Ruth asks as she hugs Jay.

“Yeah, I just look forward to getting into a comfortable bed,” Lottie answers. “Being sat in the same spot for 5 hours straight is bloody exhausting.”

“I bet,” Ruth chuckles. “Dad is sorry to not be here. Busy at work in England,” she announces. “Nicola apologies for not being here for this reunion, but she is living her own life, now,” she says in an amused tone. “She says hi, though.”

“Ah, yes, I see all the pictures she posts on Instagram,” Jay replies with a smile. “Seems like she’s enjoying herself in New York.”

“Yeah, she definitely is,” Ruth chuckles.

“Come on, let’s get everything in the car, mom is excited to see you lot,” Liam announces as he lifts up a bag with no effort. Wow, he definitely went to the gym. Maybe Louis should take example, but... Nah, too lazy.

~

The next morning, Louis enters the kitchen where his auntie seems to be cleaning the dishes.

“Did you sleep well, Louis?” she asks when he steps into the kitchen bathed in the morning sunlight.

He smiles and hugs her as a greeting. “Yes, thank you.”

“You still sure you don’t want to take Liam’s bed? He doesn’t mind sleeping on a mattress, you know.”

Yesterday when they made the sleeping arrangements, Louis had to tell his aunt at least for ten minutes that he was okay with sleeping on a mattress.

“Neither do I. I was fine, don’t worry.” He sits at the table and pours some cereal from the box into his bowl (coco pops, his favorite, he loves his aunt).

“If you’re sure, darling.” She shrugs and goes back to washing her kitchen.

“Where’s my mom?” he asks around a spoonful of cereal.

“She went to the supermarket to buy some stuff I forgot with Ruth,” she answers.

“And Lot–”

“MOM!”

As if on cue, Lottie appears in the kitchen and scans the room. “Mom still isn’t here?” she asks their aunt.

“No darling, but they’ll be here soon.”

Louis looks at his phone, noticing it’s almost noon. He slept in, but he blames in on the time zone and the flight. Unlike him, Lottie is well awake, and seems excited. Oh no, surely it has to be about Harry Styles. But to his surprise, Lottie doesn’t say anything. Yet.

When his mother is barely in the kitchen with some shopping bags, Lottie is already bouncing. “Mom, can I go to the beach today? It’s sunny and I’d really fancy a swim at the beach.”

“You mean, you’d fancy stalking Harry Styles,” Louis corrects, making Lottie sigh and glance at him with a bored expression.

“Oh, so you’re still a fan of that boy, then?” Ruth comments as she puts the bag on the table. “I think Nicola met him last month, they were at the same club.”

“WHAT!?” Lottie yells, and even if she’s not next to him, Louis winces and rubs his right ear.

Ruth chuckles. “Yeah, I thought we told you,” she says with an amused expression.

Lottie looks at her with wide eyes. “I think I would remember if you told me.” She plops down on the chair next to Louis. “I can’t believe it.” She lets out in a breath, lost in a daydream. She shakes her head and looks up at her mom, a hopeful light in her eyes. “So, mom? Can I go? If Ruth comes too, is that okay?”

Jay opens the fridge to put some stuff in it, but before she can answer, Ruth does. “Sorry, doll. I’ve got work right after lunch. You should ask the boys.”

“No wa–” Louis says at the same time Liam enters the kitchen and says “of course“ with a radiant smile.

Lottie smiles at her cousin and goes to hug him, and the boy almost stumbles as he laughs and accepts her hug. “Thank you, Liam. Why aren’t you my brother?” she wonders as she gives a sarcastic smile to Louis who only rolls his eyes.

Kids nowadays.

~

So here they are now, he, Liam and Lottie at the beach. His sister feels like a kid on Christmas day, all excited and jumping everywhere, but nervous as well. They spend the afternoon at the beach, and there’s no sign of Harry Styles anywhere.

Louis doesn’t know how to feel about this, at least he’s spent a cool day at the beach, with no fans screaming for a bloody curly-haired boy, but the face Lottie had after they drove back home was a bit heartbroken.

Whatever, did she really think she’d meet Harry Styles straight off? But Louis isn’t a cruel man, so he spends dinner trying to cheer his sister up, who laughs at his jokes and silly faces. And it’s a great evening overall.

Until.

Until he tells Lottie his generosity has limits.

“No, Lottie. For the hundredth times, it’s a no from me,” he yells as he exists the bathroom and heads towards his (Liam’s) room.

“Please, Louis, I’m begging you,” Lottie cries in supplication as she follows him. He turns to face her, and his sister looks at him with pleading eyes, her hands glued to each other. She makes a puppy face, and nope, Louis won’t fall for it. “Please, Louis, it’s my only chance.”

Louis looks away with a groan, then sighs in defeat. “How do you even know he’ll be there anyway?”

Lottie’s lips shake and she really looks like she’s on the verge of crying. God, he is going to give in. “I know it for sure, I swear. It’s all over twitter, he’ll be performing at that club in LA. For his best friend’s birthday party! I know he’ll be there. Please, Louis! I can’t go alone, please, go with me?”

He chews on his lip and thinks for a few seconds. He stares at his sister who is now pouting. “If you accompany me, I swear I will never talk about Harry Styles ever again.” That perks his interest.

He raises an eyebrow. “Never, ever?”

His sister opens her mouth and closes it. Then, “For the rest of the summer.”

He thinks for a few seconds. Alright, a few weeks without Lottie rambling on about Harry Styles. That is definitely what he calls a vacation. He sighs. “Alright, alright. I’ll take you.”

“Oh my god,” Lottie squeals, “THANK YOU!” She jumps on him for a hug, and Louis can’t help but laugh.

Once she pulls away with a wide grin on her face, Louis realizes he doesn’t even know how to get to that club. He says as much to her.

“I do,” a voice chimes in.

They both turn their head to the door, where Liam stands there with a smile. The boy only shrugs. “I often go there, it’s a great club. I know the directions.”

Lottie turns her head towards Louis. “Then it’s settled.” She announces happily. “Oh my god, I’m going to meet Harry Styles,” she says with a breathless voice.

She may meet him, yeah. At a club. Which reminds Louis... “How do you expect to meet him if you can’t even enter the club? You’re only 16, remember?”

Lottie’s smile falters only a bit. “Well, it’s okay, I’m just going to wait for him outside.”

“What if he gets out by a private exist?” Louis insists.

“Louis, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, okay?” Lottie retorts.

Louis raises his hands in defense and catches Liam laughing behind his hand. Their cousin finally speaks up. “Lottie, I can get you in,” he admits. Lottie’s head turns quickly towards him.

“You serious?”

“Yeah, one of my friends work there. He could let you in for a few minutes if I go with you. But only for a few minutes. Is that okay?” he asks while glancing at Louis.

Lottie turns towards her brother, wide eyes full of hope. So Louis simply nods.

His ears will forever hear the scream of happiness Lottie made.

The things he does for his sister, honestly.

~

Without much of a fuss with the parents, they are free to go, Liam driving his car to take them. They arrive at the club around ten in the evening, and they spend at least ten minutes before finding a parking place, but they eventually make it.

Lottie hasn’t stopped talking about Harry, and Liam was listening to every word, much too polite to cut her off, or maybe he was just very interested, but if he was faking it, Louis reckons he’s a good actor. Liam is a great cousin.

“Okay, so,” Louis turns to look at his sister, “we’ll stay one hour max. Deal?”

Lottie nods eagerly.

“Don’t worry, Lou. I’ve got her,” Liam reassures with a hand on Louis’ shoulder.

Louis nods and waves them away. “I’ll just wait here, then.”

Liam makes the salute gesture before exiting the car, and Lottie follows shortly after him, not without giving a kiss to Louis’ cheek. “Thank you,” she says with glittering eyes full of stars.

Louis can’t help but grin at her. “Enjoy it, little sis.”

Her smile widens and she gets out of the car, making sure she has her handbag with her.

And here he is now, waiting in the car. God, okay. He can totally wait an hour long in the car. With all the commotion outside. It’s so well known that Louis has always been a patient person, ha. Damn it, the waiting is going to be long...

~

“Man, where are you?” is what Harry hears when he answers his phone.

“Hello to you, too, Zayn,” he smiles, securing his cell phone between his shoulder and cheek while driving.

“Yeah, hello Haz,” his best friend answers with a sigh, but Harry can still hear his amusement.

“I’m still in the car. Just drove by the entrance. There are way too many people,” Harry informs, glancing out of the window.

“I know, I saw that. Turn right after the stop, then turn right again and you’ll find yourself in a dark alley. I’ll be waiting for you.”

Harry wants to laugh. “Thanks, Zee. It’s not the first time I’ve come here, you know?”

“No, but this is the first time you must enter incognito by the back door. I feel like a special agent,” Zayn jokes with a laugh.

Harry chuckles. “I’ll be there in ten seconds.” And with that, he hangs up.

True to his words, Zayn is waiting for him, smoking a cigarette, wearing a leather jacket with black skinny jeans. Harry decided to wear a black shirt and grey jeans with a blazer with a fedora over his hair.

He steps outside the car as Zayn crushes his cigarette on the ground and greets him with a hug. “It’s about time.”

“I’m here now, that’s all that matters.” Harry winks, and Zayn huffs.

As soon as his best friend opens the heavy door, Harry’s ears are filled with loud music and screams.

Zayn leads him to backstage, where Harry greets everyone with a handshake. Some man shortly gives him a microphone as Zayn talks to him, holding Harry by his shoulders. “So, Ellis is in the crowd. She was looking for you earlier.”

“What did you tell her?” Harry inquires, plugging an earpiece in his ear.

“You had complications but that you would arrive soon. And here you are!” Zayn pats his shoulders. “So give everything you have, man!” Harry beams and they bump their fists together.

The music that was currently playing is stopped, and Zayn promptly makes a gesture. And then, Harry’s on stage, welcomed by screams and cheers.

“Helloooooo, everybodyyyy,” he screams in the microphone as he spots Ellis straight away. The girl is in the front row, sipping a drink with her friends. She is wearing a short leopard dress, brown leather jacket on, her curly blonde hair loose on her shoulders.

As soon as their eyes meet, she smiles delightedly and Harry gives her a thumbs up.

“I’m here to say a massive, massive happy birthday to my friend Ellis.” She waves at the crowd when people cheer. “You’re all grown-up, now. Twenty one years old... Can you believe it?” She shakes her head at him with a wide smile, and Harry giggles. “Remember that time when you at– No, okay, I won’t say it, don’t give me that murderous look.” People laugh and Harry blows her a kiss that she catches and returns with a grateful smile.

“Now, this song I wrote a while ago is about true friendship, and obviously Ellis kinda inspired it. So I thought I could sing it tonight?” More cheers, and Ellis gasps as he sees her clapping her hands in delight.

“Yeah?” Harry asks with an immense smile. “Let’s go!”

During the whole performance, people dance and cheer, lots of people even singing along, including Ellis, who dances happily with her friends, throwing grateful looks and smiles at Harry.

Zayn joins to sing one of the parts of the song and the chorus, and when it’s over, Harry bows while introducing Zayn. People cheer and whistle more.

“Thank you everyone, you guys were amazing,” Harry praises in his microphone, trying to catch his breath. “Have a great night! And happy birthday again, Ellis. Love you,” he says, eyeing his best friend. The girl flashes him a smile and makes a heart with her hands, mouthing ’thank you’. He winks at her with a last wave, and leaves the stage under the applause of people.

~

Louis is so done waiting.

It’s only been twelve minutes, but he can’t take it anymore. He huffs and puts the keys in his pocket. He opens the door and decides to go for a walk. He passes by the entrance of the club, where lots of people, mainly girls, are still waiting with their phones, trying to probably catch a glimpse of Harry.

Louis forces his way through the crowd, and gratefully takes a breath when he’s out of it. People are fucking crazy. Then there are loud exclamations, and Louis looks behind him to notice a bunch of paparazzis running towards the doors of the club.

He rolls his eyes and accelerates his pace, wanting more than anything to get away. He turns right and decides to look for a little shop. He really needs a smoke.

He turns right again and finds himself in an alley. Nope, definitely not here. However, there’s a black Range Rover pulled over in the alley.

God, this car must cost a fortune. Louis huffs and walks around the vehicle, observing it with pursed lips. He whistles at the car, because come on, it’s not a bad car. Then his gaze finds a door, and Louis has a feeling it might lead him inside the club. So he heads towards it.

~

“We gotta go, mom keeps calling me,” Harry says in a rush when Zayn joins him backstage.

“Okay. I’ll go grab my coat, I’ll be right back,” Zayn answers, disappearing.

“I’ll wait for you outside,” Harry yells as he slips his coat on, texting his mom he’ll be there in a few minutes.

He’s just sent the text message when he opens the door, and then there’s a bump sound and a groan. Harry looks down and there’s a boy on the ground, rubbing his forehead.

“Oh my god,” Harry says as he pockets his phone. He crouches down, eyes wide open. “I’m so, so, sorry. Are you alright?” He tilts his head, observing the person.

The boy – no, man – with a little bit of beard and amazing cheekbones, from what Harry can see, looks up and wow. Harry has never made eye contact with such beautiful eyes. They are the bluest blue he’s ever seen. Piercing blue eyes, with long eyelashes. And the most beautiful lips Harry has ever laid his eyes on. He realizes he’s staring and he is cut off in his thoughts when the boy speaks.

“Do I look like I’m alright?” he groans.

Harry winces. “I’m sorry. Really. Um...” He inspects the man’s forehead and notes that the skin is reddened. “Do you need to see a doctor?”

The man finally looks up, and his eyes meet Harry’s. There’s a silence of two seconds where the man must recognize the singer, so Harry prompts, “Please, don’t scream. Don’t. I’ll, um, I’ll give you free tickets.”

The stranger opens his mouth and frowns, then grimaces. “I don’t want your fucking free tickets,” he spits.

Harry opens his eyes wide. “Okay, you really need to see a doctor,” he concludes.

He tries to help the man when the latter is trying to get up, but the male flinches and snaps, “Don’t touch me.”

Harry raises his hands in defense, baffled. “I just want to help.”

“It’d help if you could just leave me alone,” the man retorts.

Harry frowns. “No way I’m leaving you alone without taking you to see a doctor. I know one, it’s not far from here, I can drive you to the hospital?”

The man groans and rubs his forehead as he observes Harry for a few minutes. Harry tries his best to communicate by his eyes that he is not going to hurt the man or anything, since the guy seems reluctant.

“Fine,” the man finally capitulates with a sigh.

~

What the fuck. What the actual fuck.

The only person Louis doesn’t want to meet, of fucking course he has to meet him. And he gets hit by a fucking door. And now the singer is all flushing and he seems all worried, but Louis won’t fall for it. He accepted to go to the hospital only because he could get rid of the pop star later and leave.

And now Harry Styles is guiding him to his car – of course the Range Rover was Harry Freaking Styles’ car – with an arm wrapped around his waist to support Louis. The singer is being all gentle, careful and caring, but Louis won’t fall for it, okay?

“I’m Harry, by the way,” the singer says.

Louis wants to groan an ’I already fucking know, shut up’ but he feels quite dizzy and sick right now, taken by a strong feeling of discomfort, so instead he doesn’t say anything except, “I’m Louis“.

“Nice to meet you, Louis,” Harry says in a cheerful tone. Like. Really? Louis glares at him, and Harry winces with wide eyes. “I mean, I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances?” and Louis rolls his eyes.

The singer opens the passenger door and helps Louis to get in the car. The latter wants to scream. He doesn’t need help, thank you very much. Except maybe he does. So he still doesn’t say anything when Harry slips in the drivers seat.

Louis groans and rubs his forehead, because god, it fucking hurts. Fucking fucking fucking door. And fucking Harry Styles. Louis hates him.

Louis’ mental assault of insults is interrupted when his face is suddenly hit with cold air, as the passenger door is opened wide.

“Uh,” a voice says.

“Zayn,” Harry exclaims next to Louis.

Louis glances at the man who opened the door and.

Wow, alright. Not bad. He’s actually, wow, very handsome. The man has dark skin, brown eyes, perfect eyelashes (Louis gets lucky to see him close, since the boy is leaning against the car, face painted with surprise). Speaking of face, it’s definitely a face sculpted by the Greek Gods, if you’d ask Louis. And... Oh god, Louis wants to vomit.

No, wait.

Why would he vomit? This boy is gorgeous as fuck? But, oh my god, Louis is going to throw up.

He wants to warn, but. Too late. He just tilts his head to the right and throws up on the handsome man’s shoes.

Fuck everything, Louis is damned. Is this a punishment for not liking Harry Styles?

“Oh, man,” Tthe dark-skinned man says with a grimace, taken off guard.

Louis coughs and wipes his mouth. He glances up shamefully at the boy. “I’m–” he clears his throat and straightens up to rest his back against the seat, taking a breath. “I’m so sorry.”

Zayn shakes his head and backs away – something he should have done before Louis threw up, just saying – and looks down at his shoes with a sad expression. “These were my favorites...” he weeps.

“Um,” Harry finally speaks, making Louis jump.

Oh great, Louis completely forgot about him. Nice. Fantastic. He just threw up in front of an international pop star. No doubt it’ll make a good story in the newspaper. Fuck this shit.

“I’ll buy you new ones, I promise,” Harry says with an apologetic look, glancing at Zayn before putting his keys in the ignition switch to start the car. “I’m taking him to the doct–”

“No, wait, my sister and Liam are still there,” Louis realizes, turning in his seat to face Harry. “I can’t leave them.”

Harry is about to open his mouth when a ringtone is heard. He groans and closes his eyes, then he looks at him. “Look, Zayn will take care of them, right Zaynie?” Zayn gives him a look that basically means he doesn’t really have a choice. “I’m driving him right now, I’m already late,” Harry finishes.

Without any more words of acceptance from Zayn, Harry leans over Louis to close the passenger door, and Louis’ nostrils are filled with cologne and, well, Harry Styles doesn’t smell that bad.

~

Ten minutes later they’re in a hospital room, and a doctor is checking up on Louis as he’s sat on a chair.

“Follow the light with your eyes,” the man instructs, and Louis does as he’s told. “Well,” he puts down the tiny flashlight. “I did the exams and the CT SCAN was normal. Everything is good,” he announces with a reassuring smile.

“So, he’s okay?” Harry asks, passing his head through the curtains that separate the observing room with the rest of the office.

The doctor barely flinches. “Out.” Harry complies with a brooding look as Louis glares at him.

“There’s no sign of trauma, and I’m absolutely sure you don’t have a concussion,” the specialist continues.

Louis frowns. “How come I threw up, then?”

The doctor crosses his arm over his chest. “Maybe it was something you ate, or a reaction to getting hit...” He shrugs. “Or maybe it was a reaction to meeting that dufus.” At that, the man pulls a compassionate face. For the first time of the night, Louis laughs.

Harry passes his head through the curtains again. “It’s a curtain, Mike. I can hear you, you know?”

Louis narrows his eyes at both of them. “You two know each other?”

“He’s my half-brother,” Harry admits with a shy smile, and Mike shrugs again.

Louis’ shoulders lower as he sighs. “So can I go home now?”

Harry rights himself. “Oh yeah, of course, sure!”

Louis wants to tell the guy he wasn’t talking to him, but the doctor cuts in.

“Yeah but,” the man holds an ice pack out to Louis. “I want you to keep this on your bump till you get home.”

“Okay,” he answers as he takes it. “Thank you.”

Harry’s phone rings again and Louis is almost sure he’s going to lose his self restraint and smash the phone on the ground if it keeps ringing. It apparently seems that Harry isn’t even realizing his cell phone is ringing, since he’s staring at Louis with an idiotic smile.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Louis asks through his teeth.

“Oh, yeah, right.” Harry struggles to pull his phone out of his pocket, and Louis can’t help but roll his eyes.

~

“Mom?” Harry answers.

“Harry, where are you?” he hears his mother say through the music in the background. She seems to go away, as the music fades away.

“Um, I’m almost there?”

“Don’t tell me you’re on the phone while driving, you know what I think of that.” Harry can almost see his mother’s disapproving look.

“I... I stopped by to say hi to Mike,” Harry lies as he grimaces, glancing at Louis before turning his back to him. The latter raises an eyebrow. He can see right through him. This guy definitely can’t lie, even on the phone.

“What?” his mother exclaims, startled. “Why are you... Whatever, just get home. Now. Ben Winston is here with his wife. We are all waiting for you,” she whispers the last part. “You’re late.”

Harry closes his eyes and pinches his nose. “Yeah, right. Um, just stall them a bit and I’ll be right over.”

“Hurry up,” a pause, then a gentle tone, “and be careful on the road.”

“Yes, mom. See ya.”

He hangs up as he pockets his phone. Shit, he needs to hurry the fuck up. He turns towards Louis. “Um, is it alright to go now? I’m a bit late for something.”

Louis lifts an eyebrow as he stands up. “I was waiting for you, in case you didn’t notice,” he retorts with an annoyed sigh.

Alright, will this boy ever cool off? Harry did his best to be kind, but he is stressing right now, and Louis’ mood isn’t helping at all. He bites back his remark though as Mike comes back to the room, looking discomfited. “Erm, Harry... Paps are outside.”

“What?” Harry yelps with wide eyes as he rushes towards the window. “How did they– Great. Someone must have seen me.” He stays silent for a few seconds before he turns towards Mike with a smirk.

The doctor cocks his head to the side and then quickly shakes it. “No, don’t even think about it–”

“Mike, please, I need you car. They won’t recognize your car!” Harry moves forward, a pleading look on his face.

The doctor sighs and rolls his eyes. “Alright, take it.” He holds his keys out to Harry, but before he gives them, he glares at his step-brother. “You better be careful with it, Harry,” he warns with a serious expression, eyes looking dead into Harry’s. “I’m serious.”

“I’m always careful,” Harry says with a pout, taking the keys.

“Can we go now?” Louis snaps with a sigh, tapping his foot on the floor impatiently.

“Yeah, Jesus, we’re leaving,” Harry replies, frowning at the boy.

“Thank God, hallelujah,” Louis breathes out.

Harry chooses to ignore him.

~

Louis is in Harry Freaking Styles’ bedroom.

When the singer had said he needed to make a stop before driving Louis to his house, he didn’t think Harry meant his fucking house. His... Mansion, really.

What is happening to Louis? He has no idea. If Lottie knew... God, what is he going to say to Lottie? Damn, Louis doesn’t know what to do, he is just so fucking tired, and he wants to go home, for fuck’s sake. Where’s Harry again? Oh yeah, he went to see his guests. Louis doesn’t even know what they are all celebrating here.

Okay, fresh air. Louis needs fresh air.

He looks around the bedroom and immediately spots the plate glass window, leading to a balcony. As soon as the fresh air hits him, he feels a bit better. Oh damn, he should check his phone.

Why has Liam not called him yet? Or Lottie? Oh right, his phone died.

Great. Fucking awesome.

“So, um...” Louis startles when he hears Harry’s amplified voice. He looks down, where the balcony has a view of the backyard. All the guests, there must be at least 30 people, are all talking with animation. Louis spots Harry who’s sat on a stool by the pool, a guitar in his arms. Louis leans on the railing, focusing his attention on Harry.

“I wrote this song with a friend of mine,” the singer announces with a joyful voice. He seems to be so proud of himself, and Louis doesn’t want to be endeared, nope, not at all.

Harry starts strumming his guitar, tapping his foot on the ground to the rhythm of the music.

One day you’ll come into my world and say it all

Louis’ elbow slips off the balcony and he almost hurts himself. Oh, fuck. “Something Great“ is probably one of Louis’ favorite songs of Harry Styles. Not that people are aware of that, of course.

And Harry Styles is singing it live.

Alright, cool. Nice. Breathe, Louis.

It’s just that... Louis likes the lyrics of this song, the wistful love themes and piano flourishes... And he particularly likes the soothing chorus, screaming for hope. It’s so full of energy, sung with an intense emotion...

He watches as Harry takes a breath and closes his eyes, raising his head a little as he loses himself in the song, focused.

I want you here with me
Like how I pictured it
So I don’t have to keep imagining

He moves his head to the rhythm of the song, tilting it to the side when he hits the higher note at the end of the sentence. The guests are listening to every word with full attention, moving a bit along to the rhythm of the music.

The script was written and I could not change a thing

Harry looks down as he pronounces these words, staring at the ground.

I want to rip it all to shreds and start again

Louis sometimes wonders what Harry meant by these words. Because, there’s something very special with this song. Like... Like Harry Styles truly connects with it? The lyrics are beautiful, yet there’s something very sad about it. Like it’s a cry for help, but at the same time, a tiny part of hope is present.

Harry raises his head, looking at everyone in the crowd, then he arrives at the chorus again.

I want you here with me
Like how I pictured it
Is it too much to ask for something great?

Louis wishes he could wrap Harry in a blanket and run away with him.

Wait.

What?

The song continues until Harry sings the last lines in a slow pace, making Louis shiver a bit.

Then, all of a sudden, Harry looks up and notices Louis. The latter stays frozen, doesn’t dare to move or break the eye contact with Harry, who’s staring at Louis with an intense gaze. Louis feels almost like he is alone with Harry. Just him, Louis Tomlinson, with Harry Styles. Singing to him.

You’re all I want
So much it’s hurting

Harry breaks the visual (and Louis relaxes at that) and closes his eyes, his head moving as he sings the last notes.

And Louis finds himself captivated till the end of the song.

You’re all I want
So much it’s hurting

Harry says the last sentence while looking up back at Louis. And then the curly-haired boy smiles, and Louis can’t help but return it slowly.

There are a few seconds of silence and then the crowd erupts in applause. They break their eye contact again and Harry stands up as he thanks everyone one by one, shaking their hands with a wide smile present on his face.

Louis shakes his head as he pulls away from the railing of the balcony. He needs to get out of here. He needs to go home.

He quickly goes down the stairs, looking around him to find the exit. He chooses the first door he sees and opens it, finding himself in a garage.

“Hey, what are you doing?” a voice says behind him.

Louis turns around and he finds himself meeting Harry’s brightening eyes. He looks really good.

Louis gulps and crosses his arms over his chest. “I want to go home now.”

Harry opens his mouth and closes it. At Louis’ arching eyebrow, he flushes. “Yeah, of course. Pick a car,” he says while gesturing towards the vehicles.

Louis frowns and turns to discover at least 3 cars parked. He looks incredulously to Harry who only shrugs.

He sighs, slightly annoyed. Does it really mater which car? Rich people. “I don’t care which car, I just want to go home.”

The singer raises his hands in defense. “Alright!” Then he goes to the first car near them, a Ford Capri. He opens the passenger door and waits for Louis.

The latter tilts his head on the side, raises his eyebrows, then heads towards the last car, a Porsche Carrera, and settles in the passenger seat without another word.

Harry throws his arms in the air, frowning. “What’s wrong with this car?” Then goes to take place in the Porsche next to a quiet Louis.

~

During the journey, neither of them speak. And Harry doesn’t like not talking. The whole car is too quiet for him. He tried to make small talk with Louis while the latter just kept wincing every time he put the ice pack on his forehead, but the boy definitely doesn’t want to talk to Harry.

So yeah.

It is pretty clear to Harry that Louis just wants to get over it and go home.

Still, Harry wants to try to lighten the mood, so he decides to turn on the radio. He automatically smiles when his own voice is heard in the car.

You’re insecure
Don’t know what for

Harry starts singing, but immediately stops when Louis gives him a look. “What?” Harry says, smile falling a bit. “You don’t like this song?”

Louis laughs humorlessly and goes back to observe the houses through the window. “Oh, I do. I just don’t like you.”

Harry turns his head towards him, wide eyes. He bites his lip. “You don’t?”

Louis doesn’t answer him and instead tells him to turn right, so Harry does. The singer tries again. “You don’t like me, but you don’t even know me?”

“And I don’t want to,” Louis answers with an emotionless voice, still looking at the road.

Harry stays silent, staring at the road. He frowns. “Okay, so you’re not a fan.”

Louis snorts. “Now you got it.” He turns his head towards Harry, a mocking smile on his face. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I didn’t want your free tickets.” At Harry’s expression, Louis adds, “What? You thought I was out of my mind because you hit me with the door?” he snorts. “No, I really am not a fan of yours. No, tonight is not a fan dream come true, but more like a nightmare.” Louis pauses while he looks away, and then he smiles. “And thank God, it’s about to be over.” He unbuckles his seatbelt. “Stop here.”

Harry pulls over wordlessly, and for the first time of the night, Louis seems truly happy. Happy to get rid of Harry, apparently.

Okay then, this kid wasn’t kidding when he said he didn’t like him.

“Thanks for the ride,” Louis announces at he’s opening the door. “And looking forward not to meet you ever again,” he says, flashing a grin at Harry.

The singer frowns and puts a hand on Louis’ arm, who flinches and looks down at Harry’s hand before his eyes snap up at Harry. Immediately, the singer pulls his hand away. “Sorry. Um, but... I mean...”

At Louis’ annoyed expression, Harry flushes.

Okay... It’s useless to try to discuss with this boy, and if Louis doesn’t like him, then so be it. Harry knows he can’t please everyone. But for some reason, he would like the boy to appreciates him, even just a bit. He feels like it’s unfair of Louis to judge him without even knowing him.

But Harry only sighs, moving in his seat to stare ahead. “No, forget it. Get home safe.”

With that, he resolutely ignores Louis and keeps staring at the road in front of him, waiting for Louis to go.

~

Okay, Louis may or may not be a dick.

The look on Harry’s face right now is a tiny bit heartbreaking, and after all, he took care of Louis tonight, drove him back home, and yes, maybe it was the singer’s fault in the first place, but Harry did try his best to make up for it, right?

Louis is a dick, but his mom taught him to be polite. So he clears his throat awkwardly to get Harry’s attention. The singer glances at him, blinking and waiting for Louis to say something.

The latter tries to give the curly-haired boy a gentle smile. “I’m sorry. Really, I mean it. Thanks for driving me back home.” Louis looks away, biting his lip. “Erm, goodnight.” And with that, he closes the door, heading towards the house.

Louis tries his hardest to not pay attention to Harry’s gaze behind his back, and instead, he clutches the ice pack tighter in his hands.

It feels like a relief when he closes the front door behind him, away from Harry’s emerald gaze.

~

Louis is brushing his teeth while thinking about all the events of tonight. It was so fucking weird. And all Louis wants right now, is his bed.

He spits the water in the sink and wipes his mouth. When he looks up in the mirror, he stares at himself for a few seconds. His mind is still replaying all the night in his head, and Louis can’t help but think of Harry’s expression when he left the car.

He frowns. Why should he care?

He sighs and shakes his head, and when he turns to exit the bathroom, Liam is standing in the doorway, leaning against the door frame, observing Louis.

The latter jumps and rests his hand on his heart. “Fuck, Jesus.”

He closes his eyes and hears Liam chuckling. “Usually people call me Liam, but fine by me.”

Louis opens his eyes and his cousin arches an eyebrow. “So... Care to explain what happened tonight?” Liam asks. “Why did that handsome guy, who apparently happens to be Harry Styles’ best friend by the way, get to bring me and Lotts home?” He straightens up. “And where were you? I was getting worried.”

Louis sighs. “Long story...” Then he narrows his eyes at his cousin. “Handsome guy, you said?” Okay, yeah. Louis reckons that Zayn guy was definitely attractive. If you leave out the fact that Louis threw up on his shoes. At the memory, he furiously blushes and looks away from Liam.

“Guess Lottie was happy to see him,” he finally answers as he passes Liam to go to their room, his cousin following suit.

“Yeah, she was,” Liam exclaims in an amused tone as Louis turns on the light. “She asked him for at least three pictures, but the lad only smiled at her and accepted as if he wasn’t bothered at all,” he informs, a smile on his face. Liam sits down on his bed, leaning backwards on his hands. “She was just gutted she didn’t get to meet Styles, but we got a pretty good view of him on stage though. She really is fond of him.”

Louis sits down on his mattress, taking off his shoes. “I really don’t know why.” He huffs.

A flash of green eyes and curly hair appears to him, and he mentally slaps himself. He didn’t even get to see Harry’s dimples in real life. Maybe he would have gotten a smile from Harry, if he hadn’t been rude to him the whole night. Louis is aware of that, but he couldn’t help it.

“Did you hear that?” Liam asks as he stands up, interrupting Louis’ thoughts.

“What?” Louis frowns.

Thunk

Both Louis and Liam look at each other, then turn their head towards the window.

Thunk

They exchange a look and Louis stands up so fast he almost stumbles to reach the window. He opens it and–

Harry Fucking Styles is standing in the garden, with an apologizing smile on his face. Louis widens his eyes as he awaits Liam’s reaction who’s just arrived beside him.

“What is Harry Styles doing in my backyard?” He asks in a surprisingly mild tone, looking between Louis and Harry.

Louis ignores him and glares down at Harry. “What are you still doing here?” he hisses.

The singer raises his hand in defense, and Louis can only hear “pap“, “can’t go“, but it’s enough for Louis to sigh again and throw his hands in his turn. “Fucking great!”

~

“Here, you can take this hoodie and this cap. I don’t wear them anymore,” Liam suggests as he enters the room with a black OnePiece cap and a blue hoodie.

Harry, who was awkwardly standing in the room while Louis was sitting on Liam’s bed, perks at Liam’s voice, glad to be saved from the awkward and uncomfortable silence between him and Louis.

While Liam was absent, Louis kept wondering why the universe keeps messing with him. Seriously. Why? What did he do wrong in his previous life to deserve this?

Harry smiles (and a true, real, nice smile) at Liam. “Thank you so much,” he says with a soft-spoken voice. “I’m sorry, I don’t even know your name?”

“Oh, I’m Liam,” Liam announces as he extends his hand, and Harry shakes it with another smile. “I’m Harry. Harry Styles.” Louis rolls his eyes (because it’s not like Liam doesn’t know who he is) as Liam smiles warmly at Harry.

Liam goes to the window to look out while Harry slips the hoodie on. “I think the pap is gone,” he informs, turning towards Harry. “You only saw one car, yeah?”

Harry nods. “I’m so sorry again for bursting in like this. I just didn’t want to take the risk for him to follow me with my car, or lead him here,” Harry apologies with a small voice, not meeting Liam’s eyes or Louis’.

“Nah mate, it’s alright,” Liam says in an amiable tone.

Louis sighs and stands up. “Okay, now he’s gone, so you can go! It’s late and I’m tired, and I think I’ve done my part of putting up with you tonight,” he bursts out, words probably harsher than intended, but it’s too late to take them back.

There’s a silence where Harry widens his eyes and looks down, and Louis glances at Liam who gives him a warning look.

“Don’t listen to him, Har–” he tries, but the singer cuts him off. “No, he’s right. I’ve overstayed my welcome, and I can’t ever thank you enough for this,” he gestures at the cap and hoodie, “but now it’s time for me to leave you. Sorry for the trouble,” he says with a polite smile as he puts on his hat.

The singer steps towards Liam and extends his hand. The latter gives him a gentle smile and shakes it.

When Harry turns towards Louis, there’s a brief moment where their gazes meet, and Louis can see hesitance in Harry’s eyes, but the singer doesn’t make any move to approach Louis. As if he knew whatever he’d do, Louis would take it wrong.

Louis feels a pang of regret and guilt, but he only bites his lip and looks down. He catches Harry’s small nod and hears him heading towards the door, Liam accompanying him.

Louis sighs and shakes his head as he stands up. “Wait.”

Harry stops and turns to look at him, and Louis finds himself staring like an idiot. “Um...” He glances at his luggage on the floor. “Here, take this.” He bends down and holds something out to Harry, who notices it’s a pair of sunglasses. The curly-haired boy frowns and Louis squirms under his gaze.

“Part of your... Um, disguise?” Louis tries. “Put them on, at least they won’t see your face,” he mumbles with incoherent words. He’s a fucking idiot, but thanks Heaven, Harry seems to take pity on him as he accepts the accessory.

“Thank you,” he simply says as he puts them on.

Louis observes him and. Well, at least he looks good with them. Not that he’s going to tell him, of course. He glances at Liam who seems to be really enjoying this. God, Louis makes himself look like a fool in front of Harry, but also in front of his cousin. Liam will never let this go.

Louis clears his throat and casts one last glance at Harry. “Bye then.” He tries with a smile, and extraordinarily, Harry returns it. “Bye,” the boy answers in a husky tone.

When Liam and Harry exit the room, Louis plops down on his mattress and curses. He allows himself five minutes to breath, but then Liam reappears in the room, and Louis almost feels a bit of disappointment when he doesn’t see Harry with him.

Wait.

What.

Louis stays quiet while his cousin sits on his bed, watching Louis with a smirk. Finally, he speaks. “Those aviators you gave him...” Here we go. Louis groans and lies down, preferring to stare at the ceiling that is strangely now very interesting. “Weren’t they your favorites?” Louis can hear his amused tone.

“So what?” he snaps.

“Nothing,” Liam chuckles. “It’s just funny you’d give someone you don’t like your favorite sunglasses, is all.”

“Who said I didn’t like him?” Louis hits back at his cousin.

“You made it pretty clear.”

Louis sits up and looks at Liam. “Did I?” he asks with a hesitant smile.

Liam arches an eyebrow and lets out a laugh, taking his top off. He doesn’t answer Louis as he slips under his covers, so Louis takes that as the end of the conversation and does the same, ready to go to bed. He checks his phone to realize it’s already two in the morning.

Liam turns the light off and Louis closes his eyes, ready to finally sleep, when his cousin speaks up again. “So, what happened with Styles?” Louis opens his eyes, meeting the darkness of the room. He sighs, but eventually, decides to tell him everything.

Liam doesn’t interrupt him, he just listens to Louis, and when he is finally done with his story, he hears Liam sigh.

“I know you, Lou...” Louis frowns, waiting for Liam to continue. “I know how you act sometimes with strangers, the walls you’ve built around yourself. Harry doesn’t seem like a bad guy though, so you can give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Louis’ frown deepens. “Why would I?”

“I mean, I think deep down you don’t dislike him entirely.” Liam chuckles. “And he brought you home. He apologized throughout the whole night, and you were a bit of a dick with him.”

“I was a dick?”

“Yeah, you know you were.” Liam huffs.

Louis can’t help but chuckle. Okay, yes, he is sometimes.

“Whatever...” Louis sighs. “Finally this day is over, and I’m eager to sleep... Good night, mate.”

“Yeah, good night,” Liam whispers.

There’s a silence of two seconds before his cousin speaks. “Louis?”

“Mmh?”

“How would Lottie react if she knew what happened though?” Louis thinks he can hear Liam giggle.

And now Louis can’t stop imagining his sister throwing tantrums if she knew, because she was unaware that Harry Styles had been in the same house as her. Louis laughs with Liam. “It’s for the best not to tell her.”

“Yeah,” his cousin agrees with a laugh. “But still, it’s not every day you get hit by a door, and by none other than Harry Styles. Then threw up on a guy’s shoes,” Liam finishes his sentences with a loud chuckle, and Louis shushes him with a groan, but Liam continues. “And you had to take in a pop star because he was trying to run away from the paps.”

Silence one more time.

“Jeez, man, you’re living a real movie right now,” Liam snorts.

Louis scoffs and buries his head in his pillow. “Good night, Liam.”

~

Louis is relaxing on his deckchair, letting the sun penetrate under his skin, when he hears Lottie gasp at his left.

He raises his sunglasses (Ray-ban, since he fucking gave Harry Styles his Aviators), and looks down at his sister who’s lying on her stomach, reading a gossip magazine.

When she doesn’t say anything though, still completely lost in her reading, Louis speaks. “What?”

Lottie turns her head and looks up at him. “Mmh? What ’what’?

He raises an eyebrow. “Why did you gasp?”

“Oh, just reading an article about Harry Styles,” she answers as she goes back to her reading.

Someone pinch him if he asks what the article is about, but he has to. “What’s it about?”

This time, Lottie turns her head towards him and raises her sunglasses to push them in her hair. She looks at him weirdly. “Why do you care?”

“I’m bored, entertain me,” he says as he leans back, closing his eyes. “What did the pop star do this time? Which girl is he dating now?” He inquires in a teasing tone.

He hears Lottie sigh and grumble ’he’s not a womanizer’, before she answers him. “If you really want to know, it’s about his last donation to that children’s hospital.”

At Louis’ look, she narrows her eyes. “What? You think just because he’s a celebrity and has money, he doesn’t care about the very poor or sick people? You think he just fucks around with every woman he sees? Because let me tell you,” she leans on her elbows, glaring at Louis, “he’s not like that, and I don’t know why I’m still talking to you, you only believe what you read. You don’t know him.” Then she just turns her head and looks down at her magazine.

Louis stays silent for a few seconds after his sister’s outburst. She always gets like that when she tries to defend Harry Styles.

“I don’t believe everything I read, I’m not stupid,” he answers with an offended voice, but then he lowers his tone. “And, he is... Kind. At least he seems to be.”

She furrows her eyebrows at him but doesn’t say anything else as Liam calls out for them. “Are you two gonna take a swim or nah?”

Lottie stands up with enthusiasm and runs towards the ocean. As soon as she reaches Liam, he pulls her under the water as she struggles and hits him playfully on the arm when she rises to the surface, laughing.

Louis observes them for a moment, smiling to himself. He shakes his head with a smile still present on his face, then he rests his head back, closing his eyes.

“What a lovely day, isn’t it?” a voice says to his right.

Louis jumps and opens his eyes to look at the man who has taken place on the deckchair next to his. The deckchair that originally belonged to Liam. Louis is about to tell him to get the fuck away, when he takes in the man.

The person is wearing a blue denim shirt only half buttoned up and black jeans. And Louis honestly wonders how a person can wear so many layers of clothes like this when it’s summer and hot. And on a beach.

The man’s hair is tied up in a messy bun, although he’s wearing a familiar cap, with Aviators perched on his nose. Then Louis recognizes the facial features, the pink lips, the big cute nose and he can even see one dimple when the boy finally turns his head towards him and smiles.

And Louis can’t help but smile back. “If you are trying to go unnoticed, I’m not sure coming to the beach with this outfit is the best way,” he finally says, amused.

Harry lets out a chuckle. “Yeah, I know,” he says with a smile. “I’m not staying for too long. I was actually leaving when I saw Liam.” They both look at the boy in question, who’s still playing with Lottie in the water.

“Is that your sister then?” Louis nods and smiles as Lottie climbs on Liam’s back, making him fall in the process. “She looks like you.” There’s a gentle tone in there, and Louis turns his attention on the singer, curious.

Harry shakes his head. “Here.” He holds a bag out and Louis takes it with a questioning look. “Liam’s hoodie,” Harry clarifies. He points to the cap and sunglasses. “I’m just gonna keep these a bit longer though, I’m afraid. And you’ll apologize to Liam, I haven’t had time to wash his hoodie.”

Louis incredulously laughs. “It’s okay. And you can keep the sunglasses, I don’t mind,” Louis finds himself confessing. “Pretty sure Liam doesn’t want his cap either. It was an ex-girlfriend’s gift,” he tells with a disdained tone.

“Oh,” Harry responds. “Well, you’ll thank him anyway.” The singer laces his fingers together, and Louis tries to stop staring at them. Because these seem to be long fingers... And huge hands... Okay, stop, Tomlinson.

“And thank you to you, too. Um, for the sunglasses,” Harry says, making Louis stop in his thoughts.

“No worries,” Louis says in, at least he tries, an indifferent tone. Harry looks really good with them, so that’s not a real loss for Louis.

“He seems like a nice friend,” Harry says, looking back at Liam. “Is he your...” when Harry trails off, Louis looks at him, frowning. “My what?”

“Boyfriend?”

Louis chokes and coughs. “WHAT?”

“What?” Harry exclaims, and Louis is pretty sure that behind his sunglasses, Harry’s eyes are widening.

“Liam is not my boyfriend.” Louis spits with a grimace. “Ew, no. He’s my cousin.”

Harry turns red. “Oh.”

Louis coughs again as he looks away, and he almost chokes again on his laughter.

When he glances at the singer, Harry twists in his chair but he eventually lets out an embarrassed laugh. “I’m sorry, god, this is awkward.”

Louis laughs even harder. “I’ve never had this one, oh my god.” When he calms down, he wipes his tears away from his eyes. “God, you’re an idiot,” he chuckles, and Harry bites his lip, looking away.

“Yeah, okay, sometimes I am.”

Louis bites his lip in his turn. “So am I.” When Harry looks at him, puzzled, Louis extends, “I’m sorry for my behavior yesterday. I’m not usually that rude.”

Harry seems taken a back for a moment, but he quickly recovers and gives Louis a smile. “It’s okay.”

Louis shakes his head. “No, it’s not. I mean, I sure had a hell of a night, but... It was quite fun,” he admits, looking down.

Harry smiles. “Really?”

“Mmh...” Louis can’t help but look up again at the boy and smile. This guy’s smile is contagious. “Yeah.”

Harry smiles even more and... Wow! This time, Louis can totally see the wonderfulness that are Harry’s dimples. And it takes Louis’ breath away.

In that instant, Louis wishes Harry wasn’t wearing sunglasses. Because he’d like to see Harry’s full smile, and the way his eyes crinkle. Because Louis is sure Harry gets crinkles by his eyes when he smiles hard. And he probably gets shining eyes when he laughs, and... What the fuck, Louis, cool off.

They stare at each other in silence, and although Louis can’t see Harry’s eyes, he feels exposed under Harry’s fixed stare. Finally, the pop star clears his throat and looks away. “Um, I should go.”

Strangely, Louis doesn’t want Harry to leave him yet. He feels like he’s only starting to appreciate Harry, and it’s weird, but he does want to get to know Harry a bit.

Because he only knows what he reads in magazines and what he hears on TV, and from what his sister says. She always throws praises and compliments about the singer, and somehow Louis can see and understand why.

Harry Styles doesn’t seem that bad, and he doesn’t sound like a spoiled pop star. Unlike what Louis thought of him.

When Harry stands up, Louis naturally follows. “How did you come here?” he inquires.

“Car?” the singer answers hesitantly. “I’m parked right there.” He nods towards the parking lot, right behind the little beach.

Louis glances back at Liam and Lottie, who appear to be in an intense swim competition. These two aren’t even a little bit preoccupied by him. He internally huffs.

He turns his attention on the boy next to him. “I can walk you to your car, if you want?” Harry tilts his head. “I mean– So that you can go to your car and drive home... Safe.” What? “And also before you go...” Louis rambles. “You can give me back my sunglasses.” What.

Harry laughs. “I thought you said I could keep them?” Louis feels heat rising to his cheeks.

The singer gives him a sly smile, probably noticing Louis’ blush. And it’s not like Louis just stupidly fumbled over his words. What the fuck, Louis. And Harry seems really amused. Ugh, whatever. Louis takes back everything he just said about Harry Styles. He’s a prat.

“Let’s go then,” the singer finally says with the same smile.

He starts walking towards the parking lot, and Louis throws one last glance at the ocean to check on his cousin and sister before following him.

When they reach Harry’s car, Louis lets out an incredulous huff. “You came to the beach with this car?”

Harry proudly pats his red Porshe. “Yep.”

“Way to go unnoticed, Styles, really.” Louis rolls his eyes but he doesn’t even try to hide his amusing tone.

Apparently Harry notices it too, because he only smiles bigger. He’s about to say something when he looks over Louis’ shoulder and curses under his breath. He then suddenly grabs Louis’ wrist and pulls him down to the ground to hide behind his car, trying to not be spotted by the paparazzis.

Louis lets out a small surprised sound as he pulls away so that Harry lets go of his wrist. The singer gives him an apologetic look but Louis doesn’t let him speak. “What is it?” he hisses.

Harry bites his lip (he seems to do that a lot, and that’s really disturbing to Louis for some reason) and whispers, “They found me.”

“Who?” Louis panics, looking around him. “Oh my god, don’t tell me you’re secretly a wanted criminal and the police are after you,” he jokes.

Harry gives him a strange look although the corner of his lips tilt upward despite himself. “No, you idiot.” And at that, Louis hits him playfully on the shoulder.

Harry ignores it and instead raises his head a little to look over the car, before crouching down again. “Shit, they’re by the entrance,” he curses as he looks down at the ground.

Louis takes a look too, and surely, there are at least 3 cars of paps entering the parking lot a few meters away, but still far away from them.

Here we go again...

Louis sighs. “Okay? What’s the big deal, just get in the car and go?”

Harry looks at him. “But they’ll recognize me. And I can’t really hide in that Porshe now, can I?”

Louis forgot about the Porshe. “Yeah, right. Why did you choose a fucking car without a roof, and a noticeable one, no less?” He shakes his head in disbelief. “Do you ever use your pretty little head of yours to think, or are you just capable of singing and lack any sort of intelligence?”

Harry glares at him through his sunglasses. “Oi, you’re back at being rude.”

Louis is starting to grow impatient. And being in a crouched position is hurting. “I’m not going to stay crouched till they leave. My legs are starting to hurt,” he groans. “I swear to God Styles, you’re a pain in the ass.”

This time, Harry hits him on the shoulder. “You’re being rude again,” he whines with a pout, and Louis would be endeared in any circumstances, but really, this boy is... Ugh.

“I don’t fucking care, why am I waiting here with you anyway, it’s not like they want me. They only want you. Okay, you’re on your own with this,” Louis huffs, ready to stand up and leave.

Before he can move though, Harry grips his shoulder. “What do you think they’re gonna do when they see you coming out of our hiding and if they see me?”

Louis sighs, now impatient. “I don’t know, what?” he snaps.

Harry opens his mouth to answer but closes it. Then, “How did you come here?”

At Harry’s question, Louis frowns at him. “With Liam’s car, why?”

“Great, where is it?”

Louis sighs again and looks away, before widening his eyes. “Well, right there actually.”

Harry follows Louis’ gaze and notices the red Scion just beside his own car. He smiles slyly at Louis. “Perfect.”

Louis’ head turns towards him in question, before it hits him. “No way.”

Harry looks at him with pleading eyes. “Come on, please! I need to get away from them, but not in my car, they’ll recognize me.”

“I don’t ca–”

“Please, Louis. I’ll pay you if you want. For helping me. And driving me away.”

“I don’t want your mon–”

They hear sounds of closing doors as the paps all step out of their cars, starting to look around with hungry looks and seeking eyes.

Louis sighs and gives in. “Okay, I’m driving you away, then I swear I’m throwing you at the doorstep of your house and I don’t want to see you ever again,” he warns with a somewhat serious tone mixed with teasing, showing Harry he doesn’t really mean it.

Harry gives him a radiant smile. “Thank you, really. I appreciate it.”

Louis waves him off. “Yeah yeah, come on, let’s go.”

They both slowly and discreetly crawl on all fours, and when Louis sees the paps watching the beach, he glances back at Harry. “Okay, you’re going to stay right here as I go grab the keys in Liam’s bag, then off we go.” He starts moving, glancing back at Harry. “Stay low.”

“Wait,” Harry exclaims, handing his keys to Louis. “Swap them with my keys. They’ll have to have a car for later.” Louis rolls his eyes but takes them anyway, because yeah, he hadn’t thought of that. The boy does use his head after all.

When he reaches their emplacement, Liam and Lottie are still swimming far away, and Louis quickly grabs the keys in Liam’s bag. If Lottie knew what he was doing right now, god... She’d drown him.

Louis shakes his head. The things he’s doing for that fucker of a pop star, seriously. He drops Harry’s keys in Liam’s bag and leaves as quickly as he came.

When he finds Harry again, the paps haven’t moved from their emplacement, still keeping an eye on the beach, cameras and microphones ready in their hands, not even suspecting that Harry Styles isn’t far away from them, crouching down, hidden, and ready to flee.

When Harry sees him, he sighs in relief. “Thank God. Let’s go.”

“Hey, I’m the one in charge here. I command,” Louis quips as he crouches down again. God, they must be such a sight. Too boys crouching down on the ground. Louis’ legs are starting to really hurt.

He’s about to open the drivers side door, struggling with the key, when Harry stops him with his hand on his arm. “Shouldn’t I be the one driving?” he asks in a whisper, and Louis doesn’t know why he’s whispering, seriously, but Harry is close to his face, a few centimeters away from him. Like.

He can see Harry’s face close-up. His pink lips are even pinker when you look closer, and then the singer licks his lips. Louis can’t stop staring. But the worst thing is that Louis still can’t see Harry’s eyes, and frankly, he is about to throw those sunglasses because he wants to get lost in Harry’s green eyes. He wonders how green they are in the sun. They are probably a bright green color... Fuck, Louis needs to stop. Seriously, it’s getting ridiculous.

“It’s my cousin’s car,” Louis finally says when he regains control, Harry totally unaware of his internal dilemma.

“You don’t know Los Angeles,” the pop star points out with an arching eyebrow. “I do.”

Louis bounces on his feet and sighs, giving Harry the keys. “Fine!”

Harry opens the door and–

“FUCK, you dumb idiot,” Louis groans. “Wait till I back away before opening that door.” He hisses while rubbing his nose.

“I’m so sorr–” Harry starts.

Louis holds up a hand to make him shut up. “Mmh.”

“Really, Lou, I’m–”

Louis’ head hurts already so bad he doesn’t pay attention to the nickname. Instead, he tilts his head with pursed lips and closed eyes, waving his hand. “Mmh.”

Finally Harry takes the hint and shuts up.

“You really need to stop hitting me,” Louis finally sighs.

~

And here they are a few minutes later, in Liam’s car, with Harry driving.

They succeed in passing the paps without a problem, Harry hidden under Lottie’s scarf she left in the car. When they hit the road and drive away, they finally let out a sigh of relief.

Harry takes the scarf off without a word as Louis gets his phone from his pocket. He just now realized he’s only wearing his shorts, and that he’s shirtless. Great. He left all his stuff at the beach. He sighs and opens a new message to text Liam.

“What are you doing?” Harry inquires, not looking away from the road.

Louis hits the “send“ button and looks up to watch the road. “I was just warning Liam about the trouble you got me in this time.”

He must have said that in a reproachful voice, because there’s a moment of silence, and when Louis glances at Harry, the boy is biting his lip, not daring to look at Louis. “I’m so, so, sorry... Again?” he finishes with a grimace.

“For what?” Louis snorts. “Bringing me back with you again on the run from the paps, for hitting me with the car door... again. Mmh? Which one, Curly?”

Harry tries to ignore the nickname. They stop at a red light, and finally, Louis thanks all the Gods at this instant, Harry pushes the sunglasses up to rest on top of his curly hair and looks at Louis. His green eyes are bright and wide open. “Both?” he tries with a small smile, and Louis almost forgot what they were talking about.

He shakes his head and turns his gaze back on the road. “It’s fine,” the older boy says.

The light turns green and Harry starts driving again. “So...” Louis starts, “how long are we going to drive?”

“Until the paps leave the beach?” Harry proposes.

“Great...” Louis sighs, leaning his elbow against the door.

“We could...” Harry trails off with a hesitant smile, “do something?”

Louis looks at him inquisitively. “Like what?”

“I don’t know, you’re here on vacation I suppose?” He glances at Louis who nods. “Well... I don’t know... I could, I don’t know, what do you think about visiting Los Angeles?” At Louis’ narrowing eyes, he adds, “What have you seen since you’ve been here?”

“Well...” Louis snorts as he moves in his seat. “Nothing. I’ve been busy following you around actually. Between you taking me on board or my sister dragging me to that beach where you apparently always go...” He shakes his head. “She, my sister, idolizes you.”

Harry gives him a smile, but unlike usual, he seems like he’s not completely at ease. Louis ignores it and goes on. “It’s not like I care about you,” he says with a teasing tone, and here it is, a more genuine smile from the singer. “Or that beach, or this city...” He stops talking when Harry gasps.

“Hey now, I know you don’t like me, but don’t talk bad about this city,” the curly-haired boy teases with a smile. A smile with dimples and everything. Louis has started to see them a lot lately, and he strangely likes it. “You, my pal,” the younger boy continues, “have to discover Los Angeles. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world.”

“Really?” Louis smiles, looking at Harry. He finds it funny how Harry seems to take to heart if Louis says or thinks anything bad about LA.

“In fact...” Harry says with an amused and singsong tone. “I’ll be your tour guide,” he announces, raising his chin with a fulfilled smile.

Louis lets out a chuckle. “You? Seriously, don’t you have anything better to do? Don’t you need to get back home or something?”

“I’ll take the long way.” Harry shrugs. “Besides, I’m always up to show how cool Los Angeles is to people.”

And with that, he slides his sunglasses back on and gives Louis one last cheeky smile, and the older boy returns it. “Okay then, visiting Los Angeles it is.”

And if Louis doesn’t stop smiling when a tune of Harry’s plays on the radio and the latter sings it in an exaggerated and funny voice, then no one has to know.

~

They must spend at least two hours exploring and walking around. They stop at a place where people sell a variety of items, like clothes, jewellery, bags, and when Harry stops at a stall of sunglasses, he buys a fake pair of Aviators similar to Louis’, and gives the real ones back to Louis, who smiles wide at him at the gesture, crinkles by his eyes. Harry feels warm when Louis smiles at him like that.

Later on, they buy ice creams while they walk in Los Angeles with no destination in mind, just talking about everything and anything. Louis finds himself thinking that Harry is... Nice to talk to. He is openly enthusiastic about anything. Like, even when he sees some stupid stuff, but it makes Louis smile in a fond way... Harry is caring and gentle, for instance when they spot a girl walking five dogs at the same time, struggling a bit, and the singer asks her if she’s okay and if she needs help, or when Harry almost walks on a dog’s tail, and he apologies to the dog and pets him for five minutes until he’s sure it’s okay for the dog to continue his path. He’s a gentleman, when an old lady drops her purse and carries on her way, not noticing it. Harry runs after her and gives it back to her, with the most charming smile ever, the woman thanking him with a kiss on his cheek.

And Louis is truly having a good time. Harry is nice, although he tells terrible jokes, Louis noticed, so he doesn’t waste any chance to mock him every time, but in a gentle way. It’s only fair, because they tease each other and they also genuinely have a good laugh. Like when they stop at a stall with funny accessories, and Harry puts on a pair of sunglasses with a black mustache attached to them... Louis laughs so hard he almost falls backward. Obviously, he has to take a picture with his phone, and from that moment, they keep taking pictures of everything. Which is funny, because Harry then can’t stop taking pictures of landscapes, weird places and random things like an ice cream left abandoned on the ground, or a cloud that “I swear Louis, it looks like a dick...” (Louis may have choked on his own saliva at that), the sky, the sun, shoes random people are wearing... Louis thinks Harry Styles is definitely a weird dork, but finds he doesn’t really mind.

For their final step of the tour, Harry takes Louis to the famous hill where the letters of Los Angeles are. As expected, they take some more pictures and chat for a while up there, until they decide they should head back to the beach, the paparazzis probably gone.

~

They’re in the car on their way back, singing at the top of their lungs as some old hits are being played on the radio. It’s fun, and quite nice, because Louis gets to listen to Harry’s smooth voice. He doesn’t realize he’s staring until Harry takes his eyes off the road and glances at him with a smile. “What?” the singer laughs.

Louis blushes, annoyed to be caught in the act. “Nothing... I just think your voice sounds... pretty good,” he admits in a small voice.

Harry laughs. “What was that? A compliment from Louis Tomlinson?”

“Shut up.” The boy rolls his eyes.

Harry chuckles again, shaking his head. “Well, after all, I’d better have a good voice. You know, with having this kind of career and all.” He says while waving his hand.

“Right...” Louis lets out a little chuckle.

“So, um...” Harry starts after a silence, hesitance in his tone. Louis cocks his head to the side and gives him his full attention. Not that Harry hasn’t gotten his full attention since the beginning of the afternoon. Or even since last night. Whatever.

“Yesterday, you said you didn’t like me... Did you mean it?”

Louis furrows his eyebrows. It’s one thing to not give a fuck about a celebrity when you hear about them on TV or on the radio, or when you say you don’t like them, but never had Louis thought he’d have to explain to Harry Styles himself why he didn’t like him.

As a matter of fact, it’s not that he doesn’t like him. He... He doesn’t really know. And Harry is waiting for an answer.

Louis clears his throat. “Um. I mean– I don’t know you, so how would I know if I like you or not?” He settles as an answer with a nonchalant shrug.

“But...” Harry bites his lip, looking at him. “Now, do you still mean it?”

Louis averts his eyes and opens his mouth. “I–” He looks in his external mirror for a distraction, and– “I can’t fucking believe it.”

“What?” Harry asks, glancing at him with crazy eyes.

“I think the car behind is following us.” Louis narrows his eyes as he turns his head to look behind. Sure enough, there’s a black car just behind them.

Harry looks in the rear view mirror and his hands tighten on the wheel. “Crap.”

“How do they even find you?” Louis whines as he turns his head to glare at Harry.

The singer turns abruptly to the right and Louis grips his seat. “That’s their job.” Harry huffs. “But lucky us, I’m pretty good at slipping out of someone’s hands.”

~

It takes a while, but they manage to lose the paps. They’re back in the lost roads near the hill, and all they can see is... The desert.

They drive for a few minutes, taking narrow routes, until they hit sand roads. Louis sighs at the view and landscapes. “You’re lost, aren’t you?”

“No I’m not,” Harry says in a high voice.

“Yes, you are! You’re looking around like you’re expecting we miraculously reach the city.” Louis points out as Harry’s eyes scan the countryside.

“I’m just not used to... Driving here, is all.”

Louis throws his hands in the air with a dramatic sigh. “Yes, so you’re lost.”

“I’m momentarily not sure which way–”

“Yeah...” Louis glares at him and raises an eyebrow. “You’re lost.”

The car stops abruptly and Louis automatically puts his hands in front of him under the impact, catching himself with the glove compartment. “What the h–”

“We may need to use a map,” Harry says reluctantly as he goes to turn on his phone. He unbuckles his seat belt to pull his phone out of his pocket, sighing after a few seconds. “I’m not getting any service.”

Louis checks his own phone, but of course, neither is he. “Great. We’re lost in the Los Angeles desert.”

“No we’re not,” Harry retorts, looking at him with some sort of an appeasing face. Which doesn’t appease Louis at all.

Louis turns his head and regards him with a bored expression. “Does your optimism ever have limits?” he asks in a dry tone.

“At least I’m being positive about this,” Harry reproaches. “You are always so negative and you project bad vibes–”

Louis gasps with a shocked face on. “Oh, I’m projecting bad vibes?”

Harry doesn’t even try to answer, instead he looks down at the glove compartment. “Maybe Liam owns a map.”

Louis follows his gaze and snorts. “Why would he? We’re in the 21st century, we all use our cell phones now.”

Harry gives him a look. “And that’s so very useful right now,” the singer retorts in a sarcastic tone. He leans in and opens the comportment. He grabs something and shoves it in Louis’ face with a proud smile. “See?”

The younger boy unfolds the map in front of him as Louis huffs and rolls his eyes. The singer next to him doesn’t say anything for a few minutes, reading the map with attention. “Okay, so I think I know how to get our way back.”

Louis raises his eyebrows. “Well, hopefully you’re better at reading a map and finding your way than driving.”

Harry gasps and turns to look at him. “What’s wrong with my driving?”

Louis throws him a I-am-done-with-you look. “You drive like my grandpa.”

“How dare you?” Harry says with an indignant voice as he struggles to buckle his seat belt, and if Louis wasn’t so furious he’d probably laugh his ass off at his battle with the seat belt.

“Just start the car and drive,” Louis commands instead.

~

They drive for a good ten minutes before Harry stops the car again.

God, Louis is going to lose it.

“Admit it, you’re lost.”

Harry doesn’t say anything and continues to stare down at the map, as if the object would tell him the answers and show him the directions.

“Admit it,” Louis singsongs as he moves his head back and forth.

“Fine,” Harry cracks up. “Yes, Louis, I don’t know where we are.” He turns towards Louis in his seat. “Happy? Now what? What are you going to do?”

Louis doesn’t answer immediately as he looks longingly into those frantic green eyes. Finally, he takes a breath and holds his hand out. “God, just give me the fucking map and keep driving,” he says, not looking at Harry. “I’ll give you the directions. I’m better than you at it, I’m sure.”

Harry must be exhausted, because he doesn’t even argue and hands over the map.

They drive and drive, Louis giving him guidance until he realizes he may have been reading the map the wrong way the whole time. He turns the map and tilts his head. He feels Harry glancing at him, but the singer doesn’t say anything.

“Um, take the next left, the road is not far from here...” He turns the map again. “Or maybe not.”

“I don’t see any road near us right now,” Harry says with a sigh as he watches out.

“Just keep driving.”

“We’re not driving on real routes anymore, it’s just paths and they’re fading. It’s like we’re getting more lost in this desert.”

Louis drops the map and snaps his head towards the boy. “You know, you complain more than my mom.”

Harry sighs again. “Show me the map.”

“No!” Louis takes the map defensively from his lap. “Keep your eyes on the road.” He raises his chin in defiance. “I’m the navigator.”

Harry snorts. “Oh, is that what you call it?”

Louis turns in his seat and narrows his eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Harry bites his lip. “It means you’re such a know-it-all.”

Here, he lets it out.

Louis opens his mouth. “A what?”

“A know-it-all!”

Louis gapes like a fish for a few seconds, before he huffs. “God, you are the king of snap judgments. And here I thought mister Harry Styles never judges people, ha, what a bunch of crap.”

“Oh, defensive, are we?” Harry turns towards Louis, facing him.

“Just–” Louis cuts himself off and frowns. “Why’d you stop the car?”

Harry stares at him, confused. “I– I didn’t.”

“Well, we’re not moving!” Louis exclaims with an exasperated voice.

They exchange a look, and Louis lets out a gasp when he looks over his opened window. They seem to be in the middle of a huge puddle of mud, the car shrinking down, slowly.

“Start the car,” Louis orders on a panicked tone.

Harry turns the key, eyes frantic, but the car doesn’t budge. “It won’t move! We have to get out and push!”

Louis bangs his head against the headrest. Why does he keep having troubles when he’s around Styles? Without question, Harry’s second name must be Trouble.

They open their car doors and Louis lets out a disgusted noise when he sees the mud around them. The car seems to sink even more when they both make a gesture to get out. They glance at each other.

“Okay...” Harry says lowly, as if the situation could get worse if he said it louder. “Let’s climb on the roof, and then we’ll jump on the ground. Let’s not try to get stuck in the mud too.”

Louis sighs. This day couldn’t get any worse.

He stands up and turns around to climb, as Harry does the same on the other side. The singer gets on the roof first, and he holds his hand out to Louis. “Here, let me help.”

Louis huffs. “This is stupid, we should just jump, not climb on the roof.” He says as he takes the singer’s hand. “We’re gonna make the car shrink even more–” As Louis is about to climb and get a firm grip, he feels his foot slip and suddenly they both fall in the mud, Louis dragging Harry with him in his fall.

“Ew, no,” Louis groans as they both quickly struggle to get out.

He was wrong, this day could get worse.

When they’re finally on dry land, they hear a tumult and as soon as they turn back, the car sinks deeper in the mud.

Louis lets out a strangled noise. “Liam is so going to kill me.”

Another sound (as if the car was agreeing with Louis) and the last remains of the car completely sink. A moment later, and they hear a noise, as if the puddle of mud just burped. Louis gasps and throws his hands in the air. “You drowned my cousin’s car!” he yells with huge incredulous eyes.

Harry rubs the back of his neck and bites his lip. “Well...”

A ringtone is then heard, and Louis violently turns to face Harry. “Answer your damn phone!”

Harry jumps. “Oh yeah, sure!” As he steps away to answer his call, Louis contemplates the car. Well, the place where the car was a few seconds ago. It’s a disaster. He’s going to be in so much trouble.

“Dad, I’m sorry this is a really bad line, I can’t hear you– Dad?” Louis hears Harry say.

The singer sighs and pockets his phone when he realizes the call has disconnected. He shuffles next to Louis, staring at the puddle of mud. The older boy glares at him. “When we get back, you’re paying for a new one,” he says, and then walks away.

“Where are you going?” Harry shouts, not moving.

“To the beach! Where my cousin and sister are, probably wondering where the hell I am,” Louis yells over his shoulder.

Harry’s voice sounds hesitant when he calls again. “Louis...!?”

The latter turns around, glaring at Harry with annoyed eyes. “WHAT?”

Harry chews on his lip, fighting a smile (he can’t help it, Louis being all mad and going nuts is quite entertaining). “The beach is that way,” he informs as he points in the opposite direction.

Louis looks at the direction Harry’s pointing, then glances back at him with dark eyes. He walks past him without another word as Harry sighs and follows him.

The journey is going to be pleasant.

~

Harry runs to catch up with Louis, a few minutes of awkward silence pass. “Are you ok?” he inquires with a sincere voice.

And no, Louis won’t accept any concern from Harry. Not after he got him into so much trouble, and really, Louis is wasting his time. God, he just wants to go home.

“Why do you care?” he replies bluntly.

“I always care.” And Harry’s voice sounds so honest Louis wants to rip his head off.

“Maybe you should just shut up,” he snaps, not finding anything else to say.

“You know,” Harry blurts out, “I’m so done with you. I’m trying to be nice, I’m concerned about you,” at that, Louis raises an eyebrow at him, “and no matter how hard I try, it’s never enough, you always seem to push me away with sassy replies and wicked comments. Why can’t you just understand... Why can’t you just be at least not rude? Why are you always so grumpy–”

Louis sighs and cuts him off. “I’m not grumpy or cranky or crabby! I just wanna get home to my family, explain why I disappeared, and suffer the consequences.”

“And you know what I want?” Louis gives him an annoyed look but continues to walk as Harry slows down his pace, his voice only heard behind his back. “I wanna have fun. I’m having a great time, despite the situation and–”

Louis huffs. “I’m glad one of us is enjoying himself.”

“And I want you to stop being like this, like a– a– a brat.”

Louis stops abruptly, making the other boy stop in his tracks. The older boy turns around and walks towards Harry in a rapid pace, and the singer automatically backs away a little at Louis’ sudden proximity. Their faces are still relatively close, and Harry tries not to pay attention to that.

Louis narrows his eyes at him. “I’m a brat, I am a brat?”

“Yeah,” Harry upholds, rising his chin.

And for the first time, Louis sees the younger boy... Confident, almost challenging.

They stare at each other in silence. Their faces are close, so close Louis can count Harry’s eyelashes, can feel his breath against his face, can smell his... Okay, back to the situation.

Harry sighs after he realizes Louis won’t say anything. “For the last few hours, I’ve been nothing but nice to you, I know I’ve annoyed you, but I try to make up for it, okay? And–” Louis, the impolite, doesn’t let him finish and turns around as he starts walking away, so Harry runs to step in his way. “I kept thinking about you–”

“Really?” Louis lets out a fake laugh, stopping in his tracks since Harry Fucking Styles won’t let him walk away. Way to ruin his exit, really. “So when you hit me with a door, twice, hid me in your house, wrecked my cousin’s car and dropped me in mud, you were just being thoughtful?” He lets out a whistle, a frown on his face. “Wow, I pity your friends.”

Harry stares down at him, and really, Louis hates the fact this fucking pop star is taller than him. “You wish you were one.”

Louis backs up, mock-offended. He narrows his eyes and steps towards Harry again, his face even closer to Harry’s than earlier, eye to eye, toes to toes. His tone is cold when he speaks. “I’d rather go down with the car.” And with that, Louis walks past him, bumping his shoulder into his.

Harry closes his eyes and sighs. He turns, facing Louis’ back who’s walking away. “You know what, I’m confused about something.” He starts walking to follow Louis.

“What?” Louis exclaims over his shoulder, back still facing Harry.

“When we were on our little photography tour, I thought you– I thought we had fun, that you could like me?”

Harry hears Louis huff. “You thought wrong.”

“Stop doing that,” Harry exclaims as he jogs to catch him again. He stops Louis by standing in his way, again, and the latter lets out a sigh, his face annoyed. “I thought you could finally like me–”

Louis shakes his head with wide-eyes, throwing his arms in the air. “God, why is it so important to you if I like you? Just because you’re Harry Styles doesn’t mean I’d be at your feet like anyone else. Sorry to break your bubble pop star, but not everyone you meet will automatically like you.”

Now Harry seems genuinely offended. “I know that.” He raises his eyebrows. “I know how you see me, you think I expect everyone to like me just because I’m a...” He raises his hands and gestures the quotation marks, “pop star, but no. I want people to like me for who I am, and because I don’t wanna hold bad impressions on them.”

“I just like people, but it’s fine by me if they don’t like me. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. But... I wanted you to like me because I thought... I don’t know, I thought we could be friends.”

Louis frowns and looks down at his sandals. “You and me, we can’t be friends.”

“Why not?” And Harry sounds so incredibly clueless.

Louis looks up to stare at Harry, an incredulous look on his face. “Look at you and then look at me. You’re...” He waves his hand. “You.” He points a finger at his chest. “Harry Styles, international pop star, rich as fuck, loved by everyone, and you get everything you want. “ He throws his arms in the air with an open mouth. “I mean, you basically have to snap your fingers,” he says this while snapping his fingers, “to get what you want. You own a huge house, so many fucking cars, you are just a known person, okay? And I’m... Me. Okay. Just me.”

Harry looks at him with a sad face. “Don’t give me that crap. You’re–”

But Louis doesn’t let him finish. He just walks around him quickly, and Harry is going to slap him, seriously. He runs and gets in Louis’ way again, stumbling a bit on his feet. “Lou–”

He doesn’t get to finish his sentence because he suddenly falls backward in front of Louis’ eyes, who lets out a scream. “Harry!” Louis can’t register anything else because two arms grab his and Louis falls with Harry.

When Louis’ body collides with water, they find themselves waving their arms to stay on the surface of the pond they fell into.

Harry shakes his wet hair and looks at Louis who’s choking. “Are you okay!?”

“I can’t swim,” Louis yelps as he’s fighting in the water.

Harry opens his eyes wide and reaches for the boys’ arms, slipping an arm around Louis’ waist. The latter looks at him with a... Smirk?

“GOTCHA!” The singer doesn’t even have time to do anything that he finds himself under water, Louis’ laugh piercing through the water.

When Harry comes back to the surface, Louis is swimming near him, a devilish smile on his face.

The younger boy stares at the other man in shock, and then he jumps on him. “You little devil!” Harry laughs.

“You deserved it,” Louis exclaims as he erupts in laughter.

“You’re so evil!,” Harry laughs as he douses water on Louis who tries to swim away from the boy. “You’re gonna get it!”

“You can try!”

“Get over here!”

“No!”

“Come on!”

~

They fought in the water for a least ten minutes, until they finally settle down on land, Harry sitting on a fallen tree trunk, and Louis on the ground, playing with the sand and dry grass, looking at the pond in front of them. The sun is shining in the sky, projecting yellow lights on the water. The scenery is truly beautiful.

Louis sighs contently. “It’s nice, isn’t it?”

Harry hums, and when Louis looks at him over his shoulder, his gaze meets a relaxed Harry, who has his head angled towards the sun, eyes closed. “I wish I could stay here forever,” the singer confesses in a whisper. “At least, no one could find me here.”

“You think this place could be your safe haven?” Louis jokes, but with a serious face.

The curly-haired boy opens his eyes and looks down at Louis. He doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, but then he opens his mouth as he lowers his gaze on the ground. “I just... I feel like everybody wants something from me right now. An interview, or a photograph. You know...” He glances at Louis. “It’s been a while since I went out without being stopped for a picture.”

“I almost forgot what it was like.” He directs his attention towards the pond. “Every time I meet a fan, they... They don’t even try to engage a conversation with me or something. They just want their picture, or an autograph, and then that’s it... Sometimes...” He looks down again, a sad expression on his face, and Louis wishes he could make it disappear, because sadness doesn’t fit on Harry’s beautiful face. “Sometimes I feel like I’m more an object to them. To everyone.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Louis soothes with a soft voice. “For instance, your parents–”

Harry scoffs. “Oh, with them... It’s all about business. I think they forgot who I really am too. Like, I’m their son first, yeah? And I need my parents, and not people who manage my career.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Louis repeats, frowning.

“I don’t know...” Harry sighs. “Lately, all we talk is about the movie deal.”

“Listening to you, it sounds like you’re not exactly keen as mustard about it,” Louis lets out. He chews his lip, realizing what he just said. Sometimes he really should have a filter to his mouth.

But Harry only looks at him with a sad smile. “I don’t really have a choice. My management thinks it will be good for my career.”

There’s a silence. Now Harry’s opening up a bit, Louis wants to ask something. He really doesn’t want to pry, but this question has been bugging him for ages.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Why are you dating Taylor Swift?” At Harry’s startled look, Louis elaborates, “I mean... Real people date someone because they want to be with them. Why are you with her?”

Harry narrows his eyes a bit, peering at him, and Louis wonders if he should not have asked. After all, it’s none of his business, and why would he care, really? But then the singer speaks, rubbing his neck. “She’s actually my... It’s complicated.”

“PR stunt?” Louis tries. When Harry gives him a shocked look, Louis shrugs. “I know a bit on how things work. Figured if you weren’t a womanizer as my sister claimed, then it is all about PR stunts.”

Harry seems impressed, and Louis can’t help but smile.

“Yeah...” Harry starts. “Well, don’t get me wrong, I like Taylor, but...” He shakes his head, looking at Louis, frowning. “I don’t feel anything for her. It’s just for the movie. I don’t support this relationship, not romantically at least. I don’t want to date a person I don’t like, and pretend to be someone else.”

“I want to be with someone I care about, someone nice,” he lets out a chuckle, and Louis notices how much Harry uses “someone“ instead of “girl“. Not that he cares. “Sorry, I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this,” Harry blurts out.

“Sometimes it’s easier to confide in strangers.”

Harry leans his head. “You’re not really a stranger.”

Louis feels something in his stomach, but he ignores it. He leans back on his hands on the ground, observing Harry.

“Can I ask you another question?”

“Go on.”

“Why are you accepting to date Taylor if you don’t want to? I mean, I get why PR stunts are important and how it works, but shouldn’t happiness be more important?”

Harry’s face gets sadder, if it’s even possible, and Louis feels so sorry for him suddenly.

“As I told you, they forget sometimes who I really am. And after all, I can’t exactly date an average girl or boy if it brings... Nothing to my career,” Harry finishes with a shrug.

Louis hesitates, but he has to ask. “Are you...” he trails off.

He doesn’t know if Harry will get it, but apparently he does. “I’m kind of in the closet?”

Louis frowns. “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t know... I’m not sure. I am, but not really? My management just wants me to focus on my career and not the label on my sexual orientation...”

Louis shakes his head. “But what do you really want?”

Harry lets out a dry laugh. “Does it matter?”

Louis snorts. “Harry, we’re talking about you. And your life, your career. Your love life, yes it matters. What do you want?”

Harry thinks for a few moments. “The love thing? For now, I’m content. I think I am.” He glances down at Louis, and the older boy notices Harry blushing, but the singer looks away, and Louis decides he probably imagined it. “I thought I was. Anyway, concerning my career... I just like making music, for now at least. I already have so many things going on...”

“I– I don’t wanna sound like I’m complaining, but being a singer is already hard enough, so adding a movie to my tour? But... I don’t know, I don’t want to disappoint people. So I don’t really have a choice, do I?”

“Everyone has a choice. What do you want?” Louis repeats.

Harry looks thoughtful for a moment. “I just wanna stay on stage. I like being on stage. I love pleasing my fans, make their day just with a ’hi’, and touring in countries to meet everyone. I like the adrenaline I feel when I’m about to hit the stage.” His eyes are shining, and Louis rather prefers this look on his face over the sad one. “I love hearing the fans sing my songs at the top of their lungs, and...” he stops with a smile. “Erm, sorry, sometimes I get carried away.”

Louis doesn’t even realize he’s smiling. Hearing Harry talk about things he likes is... So endearing and captivating. When he talks about music, he looks genuinely happy, comfortable, in his element. Louis has seen some footage of Harry on stage, and Lottie told him a bit about how he is during his performances. How present Harry is on stage, how he truly gives everything.

Harry was made to be a star, Louis cannot deny it. And if you’d ask Louis, he’d say Harry is pretty good on stage and with what he does. Not that he’s watched lots of videos, mind you. Nope. Not at all.

“I may not know about your life...” Louis finally says as he takes a breath, a hesitant tone to his voice. “As I said, our lives are pretty different. I’m just... Me. Normal.” He stares at the ground, not wanting to meet Harry’s eyes for some reason. “Everything you do is big and public.”

“Not everything,” Harry cuts him off. Louis looks up at him, meeting Harry’s honest and soft eyes. “Right now, with you, I feel like I can be myself. You know, before I fell,” and he smiles when Louis giggles, “I wanted to tell you... Well, you– You never saw me once like Harry Styles, “the pop star“,” and he says these words with an awful imitation of Louis’ accent. The latter has to stifle a laugh, and Harry seems very satisfied.

“But, yeah... You treated me like anyone else, even worse because... I’m starting to know you,” Harry chuckles as he doesn’t stop staring at Louis’ eyes. “You act like all tough, but you’ve got a kind heart. Like...” He glances at the pond before returning his attention on the older boy. “You drove your sister to see me sing because she begged you, you came to the beach for her to meet me, you helped me to escape from the paparazzis, twice, when we both know you could have let me go on my own...”

“And even if you’re an insufferable little shit, I... I like you.” Louis’ eyes had stopped looking at the singer, feeling embarrassed for some reason, but then at that, his eyes snap up to watch the curly-haired boy. “And... I’m having a really good time here, with you,” Harry finishes, tone so full of kindness and sincerity.

The declaration is so sudden Louis stiffens. For one moment he doesn’t know how to breathe. Did Harry just say he liked him? Did the precious boy with beautiful green eyes, this annoying and wonderful boy just say he liked him?

Harry clears his throat. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that, it was stupid of me.” The boy looks away, chewing on his lip. “I know how you feel about me anyway, ha,” he laughs humourlessly, cheeks red. “You hate me, I get it.”

Louis rolls his eyes and finally is out of his trance. “I don’t hate you, you big idiot.”

When Harry looks down at him, Louis takes a deep breath. “You’re right on some points. I do act like I’m tough and I know sometimes I can be a little shit, trust me, I know. Sometimes I don’t even know how people put up with me...” he laughs. “That’s why I’m surprised you like me because... Truth is, I– I pushed you away. You’re annoying and yet I can’t help myself but enjoy your presence.”

Harry arches an eyebrow, a smirk on his face. “You enjoy my presence?”

Louis smirks too. “Yeah, but don’t take it personally, I just tolerate you, that’s it,” he clarifies with an offensive voice.

Harry can’t help but burst into laughter. “Okay, good enough for me.”

Louis bites his lip so hard as he tries not to laugh. They stare at each other for a long moment, both boys not moving, just enjoying the present moment.

Harry is smiling so hard his dimples are showing, ready to pop out. Louis really wants to lick them. Which is... Yeah... Okay, stop it Louis.

The older boy lets out a sigh as he shakes his head. “You think you can charm me with your dimples and all.”

Harry lets out an incredulous laugh at this, faking innocence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.” Louis angles his head towards the singer as he rolls his eyes, smiling wide. His mouth is starting to hurt. “You charm everyone with those dimples of yours, and that smile, and your curls and your smell–”

“My smell!?” Harry’s laugh is louder.

“But it’s not working with me,” Louis rushes as he straightens up, on the defensive.

Harry shakes his head. “You’re something else, Louis Tomlinson.”

“Yeah, I know,” Louis says with a satisfied smile, resting his hands back on the ground. He looks away, eyeing the pond.

Harry only shakes his head harder, chuckling. What Louis doesn’t notice, is Harry’s fond look on him the next ten minutes afterwards.

~

When they finally find their way to the beach, Harry realizes it’s probably the last time he’ll see Louis. He feels his stomach tighten for some reason. His throat is dry and he doesn’t want to let go of Louis’ hand, not now.

He doesn’t really know how it happened, they were just walking and chatting, their arms brushing, and they just laced their fingers together. It just sort of happened.

Back in their little secret place, at the pond, Harry and Louis talked for a while longer. When Louis isn’t trying to act all tough and defensive, he is the brightest person Harry’s ever seen. They talked about everything and nothing, Louis slowly opening up to Harry, and Harry drinking in all his words. The more he talked with Louis, the more he liked him, and he felt something for him he never felt for anyone else. He didn’t quite know what it was, but he didn’t try to wonder too much.

When Louis had stood up and announced they should get back, Harry’s heart dropped in his chest, because he wouldn’t have minded to stay hidden in their safe haven a little while longer.

But here here they are now, almost at the beach.

Back to reality.

Harry suddenly stops in his tracks, making Louis stop as well, who turns back to look at him with a puzzled look.

“You alright, Haz?”

Harry can’t help but smile at the nickname. Louis found it amusing to try to find a nickname for him, and strangely he thought Hazza could match his curls. But obviously, Hazza is too long, so Louis settled for Haz.

“Yeah. Yeah I’m alright. I’m just...” He looks behind Louis’ back, observing the people on the beach. Over there, there’s a couple holding hands, as they’re walking along the beach, smiles plastered on their faces, not a care in the world if they’re seen by people. But Harry can’t afford that. He can’t be seen holding hands with Louis. Not in public.

And suddenly, it’s like everything’s crashing down on Harry, remembering his management’s words from their last meeting. What is Harry doing? Falling head over heels with a boy he just met, when he is supposed to focus on his career, and also his relationship with Taylor Swift. What would happen if someone saw Harry holding hands with someone else? Not simply someone else, but with a boy nonetheless?

Louis squeezes his hand to get his attention, and Harry lets it go, as if the contact burnt him. The older boy doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t need to. His saddened expression says enough.

Harry takes a shattered breath, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry, erm. But...” He opens his eyes, looking everywhere but Louis’ eyes. He can’t look at him, not when he is responsible for Louis’ sadness. “Back to the real world.” Harry finds himself saying with a steady voice. “You know what happens next, right?” His words already feel so wrong on his tongue.

Louis seems taken aback, but to his credit, he quickly regains his composure, crossing his arms over his chest.

And here we go, Harry thinks, Louis is back to the tough guy, and it’s all Harry’s fault.

They were having such a great time. Now it’s over, and Harry already feels devastated. He just wishes he could stay with Louis and run away, with no one to bother him about PR stunts, or a movie contract or touring schedules.

“No,” Louis simply says with an indifferent voice, and Harry almost forgot he’s asked him a question.

“This ends,” he lets out, finally meeting Louis’ eyes.

Louis frowns. “What ends?”

“Me. You.” He looks down. “Us.”

Louis stays silent, then smiles bitterly. “Nothing ever truly started. There never was an “us“.”

Harry closes his eyes. He feels like he’s on the verge of tears, because that’s not what he wants, he would very much like an “us.” if possible.

“Louis, please, I– It’s not easy. I don’t want to do this,” Harry says with a quivering voice, all steadiness gone.

“Do what? What the fuck are you on about, Harry?” Louis asks with an annoyed voice, throwing his arms in the air, losing patience.

“I– We can’t be seen together. We have to go our separate ways.”

Louis just looks confused. “What?”

“If we get papped together, it’s gonna be crazy. And I won’t have this movie deal.” And no, that’s the wrong thing to say, why is he saying that?

Louis lets out a huff, shaking his head in confusion. “Since when did this conversation become about a movie deal, Harry? And what– Why would it be crazy?”

“Because I’m Harry Styles,” Harry exclaims in a loud voice, letting everything out. “I’m supposed to be seen with Taylor Swift, and not some random guy.”

The words are out before Harry can’t take them back. And these words feel like daggers to Louis.

The latter raises his eyebrows, mouth opened wide.

The singer registers what he’s said, but it’s too late. Louis huffs and gives Harry one last disgusted look before walking away.

Harry runs to catch him. “Lou! Louis, wait! Please!” He grabs the boy’s arm but Louis bolts away. “Stay away from me,” he yells, his icy blue eyes piercing Harry’s. “I was right about you,” he says with a venom of anger, and Harry can only stay still, listening to Louis, his heart dropping from his chest. “My sister tried so hard to convince me you were a good person, not like all those other celebrities who only care about fame and money, but that is exactly what you are, Harry.”

“I thought you were different too, but you are exactly the same. Go get your fucking movie, go get papped with that fake girlfriend if you want, but don’t ever talk to me again if everything you said to me wasn’t even real.”

And fuck you Harry Styles for making him feel like he was special.

“What?” Harry shakes his head quickly, a pleading face on. “Louis, it was real, I swear! Please, I don’t–” Harry is begging at this point, stumbling with his words, feeling tears in his eyes. “It’s not easy, you don’t understand, the paparazzis never go away, nor does the attention of people! They want to know everything,” he tries to explain, voice desperate. “You said it yourself, everything I do is public, they won’t quit, not until they get what they want.”

“And what we have, it’s something I really care about, something I want to treasure, and it may be selfish, yeah, but I don’t want them to have it! Because once they have what they want, they’ll turn it into something ugly... And I don’t want them to ruin everything,” Harry finishes, panting, wet eyes staring at the boy.

Louis lets out a bitter snort, eyes glaring. “Oh don’t worry! They won’t ruin anything. You already did,” he spits.

“Louis, please!”

But Louis walks away without another glance, and Harry lets him go.

The singer doesn’t even have time to recover, because as soon as he ventures further into the beach, a horde of girls approaches him with hopeful smiles and phones in hand.

So Harry plasters the best genuine smile he is capable of, and tries to convince himself everything will be okay, ignoring his broken heart.

~

“Sooo...” Liam drawls the word, raising an eyebrow at Louis, who only rolls on his side on the mattress, his back facing Liam. He hears his cousin sigh.

After the fight, Louis had called Liam to pick him up. Louis was never the kind of person to cry for someone, but apparently Harry was an exception. As soon as Louis was away from Harry on the beach, he entered a phone box and called his cousin, but not before trying to catch his breath and cry a bit. God, he was pathetic.

When his cousin had arrived and Louis entered the car, he only briefly explained what happened (especially what happened to Liam’s car, and god, what did Louis do to deserve a nice cousin who isn’t even mad at him for the car?). And then the car journey was silent, except from Louis’ wavering breathing.

Now they are back at the house, and Louis just wants to sleep and forget everything.

“Wanna talk about it?” Liam tries with a gentle voice.

Louis rubs his nose and sniffs. “No.” His voice sounds raspy, and he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to cry over Harry Fucking Styles. When did this ever happen? When did he get so attached to someone he just met?

And yeah, maybe they clicked, maybe Harry wasn’t that bad after all... But then his last words ring in Louis’ ears and. Random guy. Fuck Harry Styles, honestly.

“Okay...” Liam answers in a sad tone, and Louis feels guilty. He turns around to look at his cousin. “But how was your day?”

Liam bites his lip and lets out a chuckle. “Well... Once again, you disappeared and so did my car.”

Yeah, about that. Louis bites his lip and sits on the bed, feeling more guilty. “Liam, I’m so sorry about this. I’ll buy you a new one, I swear! I saved some money for my car, and I’ll just need to take night shifts at work, but I’ll manage–”

“God, Louis no, it’s okay,” Liam cuts him off as he sits cross-legged on his bed. “You won’t pay me a car, please. And, you know...” he smiles tentatively, “I kinda hated that car. Bad memories.”

Louis knows. It has to do with the fact Liam might have taken his ex-girlfriend’s virginity in the backseat (not that he is proud of that now), and that his ex and him aren’t on good terms at the moment. Well, since ages really.

Louis eases off a bit at that, smiling mirthlessly. “Still. I’ll give you money.”

“Well...” Liam pauses, pretending to think, “I wouldn’t mind getting a new car like the one we drove today.”

Louis can’t help but laugh. “Oh yeah, did you enjoy the surprise?”

Liam joins him in his laughter. “You should have seen Lottie’s and my face. We were in the parking lot, trying to find the car, with the keys we had in my bag, and then, surprise! A red Porshe!” Liam shakes his head as he chuckles. “Maybe Harry could give us the car? I mean, really, I bet he must have at least 10 cars, he wouldn’t mind, would he?”

Louis’ smile drops. “Three cars. He has three cars. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.” He tries to smile to lighten the mood, but. Yeah.

Liam stays silent, eyeing Louis with concern.

When neither of them says anything else, Louis lets out a sigh and waves at his cousin. “Anyways... Good night, Li.”

Liam stands up from his bed and flops down besides Louis, dragging him in his arms.

The warm is more than welcome, and so is the comfort .

Louis loves Liam.

“Night, Lou.”

~

The universe must hate Louis. It is a fact.

They are all having pancakes (with granny smith apple segments with cheese for Ruth, which is... Yeah, weird. Fucking weird craving, at which Louis had joked asking if she was pregnant), and they are all sat in the living room at the table, listening to some gossip shows. Which is not a real surprise when the TV host starts talking about Harry Fucking Styles.

Louis tries to ignore Liam’s glance at him.

“Last time the pop star has been seen, he was having a walk at the beach, then stopped for fans and since, we’ve got no news from him.” God, Louis wants to crawl in a hole and never get out. He doesn’t want to think about that day. He really doesn’t.

He tried his best to forget about Styles. Even Lottie kept her promise and stopped talking about him. Although Louis suspects Liam may have asked her.

“Well, ladies,” the annoying voice of the woman says, “apparently, a source said the singer locked himself up in the studio and has started writing songs. Our very same source said the boy was very inspired by someone. Houuu.” Louis wants to slap the woman. “Who that might be? Maybe Taylor Swift? What do you think guys, will Harry Styles’ next single be a declaration for his girlfriend?”

Louis wants to throw up.

Suddenly, he’s lost his appetite, and he mumbles a quick excuse before leaving the table.

And if he feels Liam’s worried gaze on his back, then he strongly ignores it.

Louis Tomlinson will not mope over Harry Fucking Styles. Nope.

~

After three days of writing, Harry is now rehearsing his very last songs he wrote with his band.

It’s just a try, Harry doesn’t even know if his management would accept these types of songs on his next album, but he wanted to record them, especially one he really likes, so he just proposed and his musicians naturally accepted.

They just finished recording when Zayn appears behind the glass of the recording room. Harry casts a glance to his band and takes a sip of his water bottle. “Thanks guys, that was great. Let’s take a break.”

“Alright man,” Josh says, and the band put their instruments down then go out, as Zayn enters the room, dragging Harry into a tight hug.

“Hey, you okay?” His best friend inquires as soon as he pulls back, observing Harry with a worried expression.

And no, Harry doesn’t want his friend to worry, he’s fine. Perfectly fine. Maybe his heart is still broken, yeah, but he’s fine.

At least he has inspiration for his songs, ha.

No. No, he’s not fine.

“Yeah, yeah,” he settles for an answer. But Zayn sees right through him, and he gives Harry a look making it clear that he doesn’t believe him for a second.

“I just can’t get him out of my mind,” Harry admits in a low voice, tone sad.

“Yeah...” Zayn sighs, eyebrows raised. “Me neither. He cacked all over my shoes.”

And Harry wasn’t even sure he was capable of this, but he suddenly laughs. “I’ll buy you new ones, I promise.”

“Yeah yeah, still waiting.” Zayn teases, nudging his shoulder.

There’s a silence, then Harry speaks. “He’s real, you know? He’s annoyingly honest, sassy. But he is also caring, smart, funny, bright... And... Beautiful.”

Zayn watches him with a fond smile. “You like him, huh?”

Harry thinks for a moment, but... Isn’t it obvious? “Yeah. Yeah I think I quite like him.”

“So, what’s stopping you?” Zayn asks, as if he is waiting for the simplest answer. And maybe it is simple, but right now, Harry doesn’t feel like it.

“You know what,” Harry responds with a sad smile.

“Mate...” Zayn purses his lips and shakes his head. “You know I’ll always have your back, yeah?” He waits for Harry to nod before continuing. “So. Just do your thing, and stand up for yourself. You were born to do what you want, Harry. Not what people expect you to do. Please don’t be that guy.”

Harry sighs. “It’s not that easy... I have so many things to think about. Ben counts on me for the movie, so does my management and–”

“You know, I think Simon will understand.”

Harry just shakes his head. “I can’t allow that. That’s just not possible.”

“Harry...”

The conversation ends when the band enters the room.

Zayn gives a look meaning ’we’re not finished’, but he claps Harry on the back. “See you later, Haz.”

~

So... Louis might be moping over Harry Fucking Styles. So what. And yes, Harry’s middle name is Fucking.

And the universe definitely hates Louis. He must have done terrible things in his previous life to deserve this.

Louis, Liam and Lottie are all sat in Liam’s room. They just finished a movie and Lottie is currently surfing on Tumblr at Liam’s desk, while Liam’s reading a comic on his bed. Louis is trying to entertain himself with a book, he doesn’t even know what it is about, sat on the floor.

He would do something else, but he can’t even text people, because he can’t look at his phone since Liam put it away, after Louis kept looking at the pictures he and Harry took.

The previous night, after Louis left the table during their pancakes session, Louis had found himself confiding in Liam. And he will be forever grateful for his cousin and his support and understanding. Louis has always been close to Liam, but this vacation made them closer.

And yes, if there is one good thing about Los Angeles, it is definitely Liam.

It may erase the bad memories with Harry. Just a bit.

So yeah, the universe hates him. Because Lottie is on fucking Tumblr, and obviously she’d have to stumble upon posts about Harry Fucking Styles. And the scream she just let out means probably something bad.

At least, Louis can’t help but laugh when Liam jumps on his bed and his comic falls from his lap.

“What is it?” He asks, standing up to look over her shoulder. Louis is about to do the same, but the face Liam does prevents him from doing so. “Oh,” is all Liam says, and Louis knows it’ll be about Harry.

“Harry’s new song leaked,” she announces enthusiastically. And nope, Louis doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t want to listen. “Well actually, someone who helped him produce the song posted it on Soundclound,” she continues, thrilled. “And, OH MY GOD. He wrote that song. It’s the one he said was special to him. Oh my god.”

And Louis must love torture, because he doesn’t even try to leave the room or whatever when Lottie hits the play button. He doesn’t even budge when Harry’s voice fills the room. Doesn’t even flinch when he hears the first lines.

Now you were standing there right in front of me
I hold on it’s getting harder to breathe
All of a sudden these lights are blinding me
I never noticed how bright they would be

Louis closes his eyes. Harry’s voice sounds good. The song sounds great. Harry wrote it. Louis doesn’t allow himself to think of anything else until the end of the song.

Don’t let me
Don’t let me go
’Cause I’m tired of sleeping alone

Once the song is over, Lottie is a puddle of tears. Okay, no she is not, but she clearly has water in her eyes, and Liam doesn’t even dare to look at Louis.

And Louis...

Well, Louis’ heart is certainly a puddle of tears.

Whatever.

He won’t think about this song and the meaning of it, and he will forget and get over Harry Styles.

It’s only later at night, when Louis had downloaded “Don’t Let Me Go“ on his iPod, listening to it on replay with a pain in his heart and tears in his eyes, that he realizes how fucked up he is.

~

“Bye, Lou! Take care of yourself, Boo Bear,” Ruth teases as she hugs him to say goodbye.

Louis rolls his eyes but smiles nonetheless. “Bye, Ruthless.” He winks and kisses her cheek.

“Thank you for everything, Karen,” Jay says as she pulls the woman into a hug. “We had such a great time.” She pulls away. “Say hi to Geoff from us.”

Louis and Liam clap hands as the latter drags Louis into a tight hug. “You’ll be alright, Lou,” he whispers into his ears.

God, Louis feels like a little girl who just broke up with her boyfriend. He never thought he’d need to be this comforted. But it feels good. Liam is kind. He’ll miss Liam.

Louis pulls away with an apologizing smile. “Sorry again for the car, dude.”

Liam laughs and waves it off. “Please.”

Louis smiles at Karen when she hugs him and kisses his cheek, while Lottie’s hugging Liam and Ruth.

It’s only when Jay, Lottie and Louis are waiting for the plane at the airport that Jay is looking at Louis, not daring to speak.

Lottie went to the bathroom, and Louis wonders how long his mother would last before she talks to him. Apparently not long.

Louis had told her a bit of what happened. Of course he did. His mother is like his best friend, and she quickly understood something was wrong with him. So he told her.

As always, his mother had found the right words to comfort him, then she hugged him tight until Louis claimed he was not a little girl crying over her boyfriend, that he was strong and going to be okay. His mother replied he was always so strong, and that she was so proud of him. And that he will be okay. Louis’ heart might have clenched at that.

“Hey, Boo,” his mother says in a gentle voice as she touches his shoulder. “I know it hurts right now, but things are not always what they seem in the moment. Given some time, life has a way of working itself out for the better.”

Louis gives his mother a look. “Really, mom? We’re having this conversation in the middle of the airport?” But he smiles and tugs her into a hug.

They’re interrupted however when Lottie arrives, complaining about an old lady who didn’t queue and went into the stall before her.

And then they’re all on the plane, flying away from Los Angeles.

Flying away from a certain singer.

And that’s probably for the best, Louis thinks.

~

“Louis Tomlinson... Such a nice name for a nice boy.”

Harry stares wide-eyed at the pictures Simon’s holding in his hands on the computer screen.

They’re skyping because Simon asked to, and right from the beginning, Harry felt uneasy and knew it wouldn’t be good.

Although he wasn’t expecting this, he was right.

His mother’s hand rests on his, and he feels a bit better. But still.

The photographs are pictures of them. Louis and Harry. The first one shows Louis walking in a parking lot, close-up of his face (and Harry feels sick because Louis looks sad, red eyes, and it was his fault), the other one shows Louis and Harry discussing, Harry’s grip on Louis’ arm. It was right before Louis leaves Harry’s broken heart.

And shit, they were papped.

Thank god the paparazzis who were there seemed to have caught only the end of their conversation, because there is no pic of them holding hands whatsoever.

“Where’d you get that?” Harry’s voice sounds weak even in his own ears.

Simon drops the pictures and gives him a long look through the camera. “Where do you think I got them, Harry? E!News had a whole fleet of photographers on you for the past few days.”

Harry swallows. “I know, but I was so careful.”

Simon looks like he wants to argue, but he doesn’t. Instead he shakes his head and sighs. “Now, this is exactly the kind of thing I was afraid of with you, Harry.” Harry feels his mother’s hand squeeze his. “I mean, you’re obviously not serious about doing this movie with Taylor Swift. Maybe it was a mistake of me, perhaps you’re not ready yet to deal with a film in addition to your music tour. I don’t know.” Simon rubs the bridge of his nose, a crease on his skin.

“No, I am,” Harry interrupts as he feels his step-father’s gaze on him at his side.

He wants this. He does, right?

“You really want this, Harry?” his mother tries with a soft voice. “Are you sure?”

But before he can answer, his step-father speaks, “Come on Simon, give him a chance to fix this.”

Huh. Fix this?

Harry stares at Robin.

“Alright, alright,” Simon sighs. “Make the story go away.”

Here we go Harry thinks, closing his eyes.

“How do we proceed?” Robin asks.

“You call E!News.” Simon throws his hands. “You offer them an exclusive. You say you don’t know this boy. You say he was just some fan who was following you around all day. After all, you did meet some fans that day, didn’t you?”

Harry’s throat feels tight. “You want me to lie.” He’s not asking, he knows the answer already. Of course he would have to lie.

“Harry, son, listen,” Simon says, rubbing his temples. “This is simple here, you have this movie with Taylor Swift, alright? You guys were already great friends before the film, but imagine how big it would be if there was more, and the promo for the movie? People are waiting for it, they would love to see the alchemy between you two, off screen and on screen.”

The alchemy, yeah... Right.

“Harry,” Simon says to get his attention, and Harry realizes he hasn’t given his answer, “either this boy goes away or the movie does. Okay? Because trust me, Ben will find someone else if you don’t want to do it.”

With that, he gives them a quick excuse and goodbye, and ends the call.

Harry lets himself sink on the couch.

Great. Just. Fantastic.

His mother touches his cheek. “Love?”

“I don’t know what to do, mom,” he admits as he stares into the void.

“I thought you wanted this movie, Harry?” Robin asks, and Harry realizes his step-father truly seemed to think Harry wanted this. And maybe he did yeah, a while ago, at some point, but now? He isn’t that sure.

Does he really want this? Is he ready to accept the pressure of a movie, the PR stunt with Taylor? Put his happiness aside?

He thinks of his conversation with Zayn, or even when he talked about it with Louis...

Louis... Who’ll hate Harry if he lies on TV...

“I don’t know,” Harry settles for, and his voice sounds desperate. He is desperate.

“Harry, listen,” Robin tries, “that boy, Louis? Do you know him? Is he worth it? I mean, we’re talking about a movie! That’d be a huge opportunity for you, an experience. Will you ever get to see that boy again?”

And his step-father has plenty other reasons for Harry to accept this movie.

And maybe he’s right.

Harry will never see Louis again anyway, and because of how they took their separate ways last time, he is not sure Louis wants to see him again.

They’ll just carry on with their life as if they never met.

~

“Louis!?”

Lottie’s voice sounds frantic and alarmed when he hears it. He enters the living room to find his sister sat on the couch, mouth opened as she is gasping at the TV. When she spots him, she points a finger at the screen. “They’re... Harry Styles is talking about you!”

Louis follows her gaze and stares at the screen, taking a seat next to her.

Harry’s smile wavers when the interviewer shows him a picture of... Louis. A close-up picture of him, with an ugly face and red eyes.

And fuck no! That was when he was fighting back the tears after he left Harry on the beach.

Fucking paps! How!? Are they even allowed to fucking do that? Louis is going to sue them.

“So we’re talking about this boy, very fit boy, Louis Tomlinson,” the interview wiggles her eyebrows, and the audience laughs.

The camera focuses on Harry again, and the singer smiles (Louis knows it is forced). “Yeah... Erm. He looks kind of familiar.”

“Kind of?” The camera shows the TV host laughing. “Come on, Harry,” she touches his arm, “we saw that other picture of you, oh here we go!” The image changes into the photograph of Louis and Harry on the beach, Harry’s grip on Louis’ arm.

Louis feels Lottie’s gaze on him, but he doesn’t dare to move, glance at her or breathe.

Harry moves in his chair. He tries to give the woman a tentative smile, then he shakes his head. “Look, lots of fans come to Malibu to watch me surf, and I try to say hi to everybody that comes up to me, but...” He waves a hand. “Maybe I signed him something, I don’t know. But aside from that, I don’t really know him?”

The interviewer nods. “Oh! Well, excuse us. Some of our sources said he flew all the way from New Jersey to see you.”

And. What!? What a load of bullshit! Louis wants to punch the TV.

Harry raises an eyebrow. “Oh, really? Well then...” He shrugs and looks at the camera with an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to meet him.” His smile doesn’t reach his eyes, and he quickly drops it, down casting his eyes.

Louis hates him. Oh yes, he hates him.

How dare he?

Lottie’s hand rests on his and he closes his eyes.

“So... You’re saying... You don’t know this boy?” And why does this interviewer sound so excited about it?

Harry bites his lip as he tilts his head on the right. “No. I don’t know anybody named Louis Tomlinson,” he answers with a shrug. “Sorry Libby,” he tells the girl with a fucking cheeky smile. “Nothing more to tell.”

The woman seems satisfied though, damn her. She looks right through the camera, as if she’s nagging Louis. “Okay! You heard it here first. I’m Libby Lam. This was E!News with an exclusive interview with Harry Styles!”

Louis hates Harry Styles.

That’s what he gets for trying to get to know a pop star.

Fuck it. He was right about him.

He fucking hates Harry Fucking Styles.

~

There are paparazzis in front of their house.

Louis doesn’t know how they found him, how they flew so fast to his home, but here they are, standing, even camping, outside his family’s house.

And his mother Jay welcomed them... Well, not very nicely.

After Louis had to endure this shitty gossip TV show and watched Harry Fucking Styles deny everything on TV, he locked himself up in his room. His mother had found him and hugged him until the boy felt better.

The day after that, when she was coming home from the grocery store, she had been welcomed to her house by paparazzis. And, to put it midly, she wasn’t very thrilled.

She had made her way towards the house, pushing them, ignoring their questions they were throwing at her face, and yelled at them not to stay, then closed the door at an interviewer’s face who was handing her a microphone.

You go, Jay.

“I called Lottie. I have to pick her up eventually,” Jay announces as she sits next to Louis on the couch.

The boy sighs, jaded. “Did you tell her about the paps outside?” He’s playing with his hands, not wanting to make eye contact with his mom.

“Yeah...” Jay sighs in turn. Louis can feel her gaze on him. She’s probably frowning wistfully at him, sadness in her eyes.

Louis doesn’t want her to be sad. He’ll be okay, really.

“Jeez, I just wish they could go,” gis mother lets out.

Louis stares at his hands. “They won’t,” he says on a tired tone. “Not until they get what they came for.” He throws his head back, groaning. “God, Harry said this would happen... He said it would go crazy.” He looks up at his mom. “I don’t understand what they want. He fucking denied everything on TV already, what do they want more?” His voice croaks, and his mom chews on her lips, a sad expression on as she wraps her arm around him, kissing his head.

Seriously...

He feels like his mom is comforting him because he broke up with his boyfriend.

Which is not the case.

He and Harry weren’t boyfriends. Not even close. Not even friends, really. More like acquaintances.

Nothing happened between them. Not a kiss. They just held hands, and maybe Harry confided in Louis, and maybe Louis did so in return. And yeah, maybe Louis felt a spark between them, maybe he thought they could have something, just a little bit of something.

But apparently he is dead wrong.

~

Harry is laying on his hammock, sipping a beer by the pool.

It’s a beautiful sunny day, it’s hot, but Harry’s heart feels cold and empty.

He should not be drinking in the middle of the afternoon, but he really doesn’t care right now. He tried very hard to stop thinking about Louis, but he just can’t.

Not when he had dared to do what he did on TV.

Harry shakes his head. God, he can’t believe he did that. He can’t believe he lied on TV. About Louis. About the only true thing he’s ever had lately.

He didn’t even want people to know about their relationship in the first place. But in the end, they did, and now Louis must hate him.

God, Harry doesn’t blame him. He hates himself so much right now.

He doesn’t know why he accepted and did what Simon told him to do. He doesn’t even want this fucking movie anymore.

He just wants to do music, and share his love and passion on stage with his fans. He wants to keep touring the world, and be free and happy.

He doesn’t want to be stuck in a fake relationship and pretend to be someone he is not.

But it’s too late now, isn’t it.

Harry sighs and turns his attention to the page in his lap. He’s been writing for hours, inspiration hitting him.

Since what’s happening in his love life (love life, really!?), the only good thing about all this mess is that Harry can put his feelings into songs.

A noise comes from behind him, and he turns his head just in time to watch Zayn sit beside him on a stool.

Harry averts his eyes and sips his beer without a word.

He can feel Zayn’s piercing eyes on him, but neither of them say anything.

Harry waits, because he knows Zayn is going to speak eventually, and he closes his eyes when his friend finally does so.

“So...” Harry slowly turns his head to look at him. Zayn’s wearing a tank top and khaki shorts. His face doesn’t show any judgmental signs, yet Harry feels judged. Maybe because he is judging himself. “What’s up with you, man?”

“Nothing,” Harry lies. He plasters his best smile on his face, but Zayn’s glare stops him straight away.

“You want to know what I think?” Zayn doesn’t let him answer as he continues, “Yes, of course you do! I’m your best friend, you always want to know what I have to say. Because as best friend, it’s my duty, okay?”

He nods, because that’s what Zayn wants, and the boy continues. “I think you’re still torn up about Louis.”

Harry brings his beer to his mouth. “No, really...” He takes a sip, Zayn’s eyes still not leaving him. “I’m over him.”

Zayn snorts, shaking his head. He leans forward and takes Harry’s page from his lap.

“Hey!” He tries to take it back, but Zayn stands up from his seat, moving away.

All my life people telling me just who I am,“ Zayn starts reading, “They don’t wanna know, they don’t really understand.

“Oh, and...” Zayn narrows his eyes at the rest of the page, continuing.

I’m sick of lying to myself
Gotta live the truth
Now I gotta do what I gotta do
This is where I should be
There ain’t no other place, yeah
Where my soul really speaks
There ain’t no other way
I can feel it
Save me, move me, shake me
Gotta go where the music takes me
Let it set me free

Zayn then reads the rest of the page in silence, frowning.

Harry bites his lip.

He doesn’t mind Zayn reading his song, but he just didn’t expect to get an opinion on it so soon. It’s a personal song, and what Harry feels right now. It’s Louis’ words ringing in his head, telling Harry to decide for himself, to stand up for himself, to be free, to live his own life... To make his own decisions.

Louis gave Harry a choice and told him exactly what he wanted to hear.

And yet all Harry did was the contrary.

When Harry had told Zayn about everything, about Louis, and also his uncertainty about the movie, Zayn had said he totally agreed with Louis, and that he would support Harry, whatever the decision he will make. But he just wanted Harry to be happy. (Harry might have hugged Zayn very hard at this. He loves his best friend.)

The singer looks up at Zayn who’s still frowning. Then he finally breaks the silence. “Yeah, sure. You’re definitely over him.” He hands the paper to Harry, who takes it with a sigh, looking down.

His best friend shakes his head sadly as he sits back on his seat. “Harry, mate...” His thumb rubbing against Harry’s thigh. “Babe.” Harry looks up, tears in his eyes.

Zayn doesn’t even try to say anything else. Instead, he just pulls Harry into a hug.

~

It’s almost seven in the evening, and since then, it’s been a full day, and the vultures are still outside.

Louis had watched them from his window for several minutes, contemplating if he should give them what they want and then make them leave, or if he should just wait.

In the end, the anger gets the upper hand when Lottie comes home from her friend’s house and her mom had to protect her from the bastards, a protective arm around the girl as they were making their way into the house.

Those fucking pieces of shit really don’t have any sense of privacy and respect.

Louis is going to rip them into pieces.

When he rushes downstairs, his mom is just about to lock the door, but Louis shakes his head. “Wait, mom!”

Jay turns around and raises a questioning eyebrow. He observes his sister and grips her elbow, pulling her into a hug. “Are you ok?”

Lottie frowns when he pulls back, but nods nonetheless. “Yeah...” She shakes her head. “It was a bit crazy. Even if mom warned me, I didn’t expect this.” She glances at their mother. “When are they leaving?”

Louis grits his teeth, a determined look on his face. “They’re going to leave right now.”

“Lou–” Jay starts, worried.

“No, mom. I’m going to clean up this mess, and make them go. Celebrities might have to put up with this, but I don’t have to.” He looks at his mom and sister. “Stay inside.”

With that, he opens the door and closes it behind him.

As soon as he steps outside, the paparazzis, who were sitting on the ground – how fucking dare they rest their asses on their precious grass – rapidly stand up when they notice Louis.

He tries his best to scowl, trying to appear confident and menacing, although his hands start shaking. He puts them behind his back, clenching them and squeezing hard until his nails dig into his skin.

“Louis, Louis!” A black girl with red hair approaches with a microphone, shoving it in his face. He tries really hard not to shove it down the girl’s throat. “Tell us about your escapade with Harry Styles!”

Another microphone is pushed into his face by a man with grey hair. “We only want the truth, tell us!”

Louis snickers. “You don’t want the truth, you want a fucking story to sell,” he throws, anger starting to build up. “Because that’s what you do, all of you.” He pointedly lookS at everyone. “You take a good, normal person, and turn him into your own reality show. You build him up into some sort of celebrity only so you can tear him down in public. You create rumors and make up stories to sell magazines and fill up your little nasty gossip TV shows. Harry Styles is one example among others. And what a shame, really,” he spits in disgust.

“He’s talented and successful, honest, kind and caring. He is one of the most genuine persons I’ve ever seen. He is not some sort of womanizer as you all portray him. He’s just so nice, hell, even abnormally nice towards you all. Why isn’t this enough for you? Why give him this fake image? Why all those lies?”

“God, how can you look yourself in the mirror after all the bullshit you sell? You ignore what he does for charity and such, and only focus on his public image and unimportant things that don’t matter. You label him and name him things he isn’t. That’s so sick and disgusting.” He gives a fiery look at the interviewers who only blink at him, shoving their microphones closer to his face.

“He has all the stuff lots of kids dream of having.” Louis remembers that moment at the pond, where Harry confessed his dream to Louis. “But thanks to you, he’s had to give up some of the best things in life. Freedom. Privacy. Honesty.”

Louis feels so mad, so choleric, his skin feels hot and he feels like he’s going to explode. Hot tears threaten to fall, but he fights them back. “So, congratulations.” He claps his hands, shaking his head with a fake mocking smile. “You’ve created a celebrity. But you have wrecked the human being inside. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

There’s a silence of maybe ten seconds, but it feels like an eternity to Louis.

Did he just give that speech?

He’s panting by the end of it, anger still present in his veins while all the interviewers are looking at him speechless.

Until one of them turns towards his colleague, smile on his face. “Did you get that?” The camera man nods, happy for his new scoop. Louis wants to throw up.

“Louis, Louis! Just one more question,” the red-haired girl from earlier calls, trying to opt for a gentle tone. Louis still wants to slap her. “In your opinion, who is Harry Styles then? The real Harry Styles? Who is he?” she asks with wide-eyes, waiting for the real answer.

As if Louis would give it to her.

He thinks of answering with a million things. But in the end, he settles for an “I don’t know.” He shakes his head, trying not to cry. He will not cry in front of paparazzis. He is not that weak. Fuck ’em.

“The Harry Styles you’re all so obsessed with, I promise you, I never met him, and I wouldn’t want to,” he finishes with a humourless laugh.

~

Zayn whistles at the TV screen, glancing down at Harry. “Didn’t you say you liked him because he was so honest?” his best friend asks after a bit.

They’re in the living room, and on the screen, an “exclusive interview of Harry Styles’ mysterious fan on the beach“ was just broadcast. Zayn had just turned on the TV when it started.

Harry feels deflated. He didn’t want things to turn out like this.

He buries his head into the pillows on the couch with a groan. “Yeah...”

When he finally has the strength to look at Zayn (although he wishes he could stay buried under the pillows, at least he doesn’t feel so ashamed under the darkness and his couch won’t blame him, will it), the darkened-skin boy crosses his arms over his chest, frowning.

“Wow,” Zayn finally says. “Congratulations, Haz. You did it.” He shakes his head, looking disappointed. “You got him to lie for you.”

Harry sits upright on the couch, frowning at his friend. “I didn’t have a choice, alright?”

Zayn puffs, shaking his head. “Yeah, alright.” He then turns around, walking away.

Harry doesn’t even budge, disconcerted. “Where are you going? Zayn?”

The latter turns around. “To find my best friend! ’Cause he’s not the guy sitting here now.”

At these words, Harry stands up with wide-eyes. “What... Why... What are you talking about?” He tries to say, flustered.

Zayn throws his hands in the air, looking baffled. “’I didn’t have a choice’, lately that’s been your answer to everything, Haz!”

Harry’s frown deepens. “No, no that’s not true.”

“Isn’t it?”

Harry runs a hand through his hair, letting out a sigh. “I tried, okay? I wanted us to part ways so that he won’t be in trouble. I didn’t think they would find him, I didn’t want them to find him! I guess I failed... He probably hates me now.”

Harry lets himself plop down onto his couch. He hears Zayn sigh, then steps, and the couch sinks as Zayn sits next to him. “Your life, your choices, Harry. You told me Louis made you realize some things. I don’t want you to lose yourself, Haz. I want you to be free, and happy. And do what the fuck you want. I keep telling you that. Why don’t you just do what you really want to do, Haz?” Zayn says, not really waiting for an answer.

Harry frowns, lost in his thoughts.

A million things are spinning in his mind right now.

He needs to sort his life out. And he’s going to do it right.

~

“Harry,” Ben exclaims as he pulls away to let Harry enter. “I didn’t expect you here! Oh but that’s good, I wanted to talk to you about the movie!”

Harry smiles at him, although it’s a nervous smile because of what he is about to do.

But Ben doesn’t seem to notice it as he leads Harry towards the living room.

“The rehearsals start on Monday,” Ben informs while moving his hands. “I hope you’re ready, Harry. This is going to be great!” The man sits on his couch, gesturing for Harry to do the same.

Harry doesn’t sit down. “Actually...” he starts unsure, but then, he takes a deep breath, squares off his shoulders and gives Ben his most flashing smile. “I’m not available.”

Ben’s enthusiasm falters a bit, but his smile doesn’t disappear. “Oh. Well, it’s okay, we’ll reschedule.”

“No, I–” Harry laughs nervously, determination blossoming in him. “I actually came to say... You know.” He shifts on his feet. “You’re a great director Ben, really,” at that, the man beams, “and I have no doubt your movie will be great... But you’ll have to do it without me.” Ben’s smile instantly drops. “If I have to lie to enter your little club, then I think I’ll pass. So...” Harry shrugs. “I’m out.”

And wow, it feels good to say it.

“Thank you, Ben.” Harry holds his hand out, and the producer shakes it, clearly still shocked.

“Are you sure about this, Harry?” the man asks with a frown.

Harry nods. “I’ve never been so sure in my life.”

Ben doesn’t say anything for a few minutes. He just keeps frowning and observing Harry. To Harry’s surprise, Ben just smiles and nods. “Okay. Well, good luck with everything, Harry.”

“Thank you.”

~

Harry didn’t think walking out of the movie with Ben himself would be easy. But it did go pretty well. It finally feels right.

It was a hard thing to do, and yet Harry still fears to affront his parents.

His mother and step-father are in the living room, TV on but not really watching it. They’re agitatedly talking. His mom is wearing her glasses, hair tied in a bun, frown present on her face.

Harry takes a deep breath and goes to see them, planting himself in front of them.

His mom notices him first, smiling sweetly at him. “Hi, honey.” Then Robin raises his nose from the paper he’s reading and smiles at Harry.

The latter sighs as he sits down on the table, ignoring his mother’s look of disapproval. “I really need to talk to you guys.”

He gives a pause before continuing, taking in account his parents’ expression. “Is everything alright, dear?” Anne demands.

“Yeah, yeah. Well, I just wanted to let you know... I don’t want to do the movie anymore.”

His mother just blinks at him, before she turns her head towards Robin, who is frowning at him. “But... Bud, are you sure? We’re about to make the deal–”

Harry shakes his head. “No, I’ve already passed. I went to see Ben earlier and I told him I was out.”

His step-father looks taken aback. “Why didn’t you talk to us? We would have come with you.”

Now it’s Harry’s turn to be caught off guard. He expected them to say ’Why would you do such thing? A movie is a big deal, Harry! It wasn’t your call, why didn’t you tell us!’

He looks between his mother and step-father, dismayed. “You aren’t mad?”

“Why would we be mad, darling?” Anne frowns.

“I– I don’t know, I thought you guys wanted me to do this movie.”

“We thought that’s what you wanted,” Robin counters.

“Well... Not really,” Harry simply admits. Wow, if he knew this would be that easy, he would have said it sooner. “I just want to have fun and make music.” And yes, really, it’s that simple.

His mother takes his hand in hers, smiling gently at him. “If that’s what you want, then it’s okay for us.”

Harry feels his face split into a grin. “So... No movie?”

Anne and Robin smile broadly at him. “No movie, it is.”

~

Later on, as Harry’s making a cup of tea around midnight because he can’t sleep, his mother finds him in the kitchen, sitting at the table.

“You can’t sleep, love?”

Harry watches her over the rim of his mug. “Nope... You neither?”

Anne shakes her head as she fills her glass with water and settles down on the stool next to Harry. She tucks a curly hair behind Harry’s ear as she observes him with gentle eyes. “What’s wrong, love?”

Harry looks at her, deciding whether to tell her everything. He knows he will, because he always confides in his mom. And right now, he needs to pull some things off his chest.

“Well...” He straightens up in his chair. “There’s that boy...” He gulps. “Louis.” His mother just takes a sip of her glass, nodding to make him understand she’s listening to him. “Well, you know him from the pictures but... God, I don’t know. I met him and spent maybe half a day with him but... Those were probably the best and most agreeable hours I spent with someone.” His mother puts the glass down, smiling at him.

“I– With him, I didn’t have to pretend anything, you know? I was just me, and he took me for who I was, hell, he even gave me shit–” At his mother’s look, he winces, “Sorry. He wasn’t very... Kind with me at first, because he thought I was like all those celebrities, and when he finally got to see me, he was just so honest and so nice, and he supported me so much.”

“He understood me like no one did before. We knew each other for a short time, but in those few hours together he knew how to figure me out. He is so honest, maybe too frank, but I think I needed that. He gave me that push, told me to stand up for myself. Told me to follow my dreams, and that no one ever had the right to run my life for me.”

“But I was awful with him in the end. I was so scared to share him with the world, too scared of what they would do to him. I didn’t want them to know, because I knew it would turn out ugly,” he sighs, taking a breath. “In the end...” he says in a whisper, “I ruined everything and hurt him. Now he must hate me. I don’t know what to do.”

He looks at his mother, who didn’t interrupt him and listened with attention. Finally, she speaks. “Well darling, you should tell him what you just told me.”

Harry doesn’t answer right away. He sighs and looks away while playing with his fingers. He feels his mother’s caring gaze on him. “You want him back?”

“I do.” His answer is immediate.

He finally looks up again at his mother, who’s still smiling at him. She puts her hand on his and squeezes it. “Then go get him, baby.”

And again, it’s that simple.

~

“Ready?” Zayn asks as he helps Harry put his bag on his shoulder.

The latter rolls his eyes. “Yes, dad.”

His friend only snorts. He looks straight into Harry’s eyes, and suddenly, Harry feels Zayn’s chest against his, his friend squeezing him in a tight embrace.

Harry huffs, blinking as his chin rests on his best friend’s shoulder. “I’m not going away for too long Zee, don’t worry.”

Zayn chuckles and pulls away. “No, I know.” He puts his hands on both Harry’s shoulders. “Listen. I’m very proud of you.”

The singer rolls his eyes again, but smiles nonetheless. “Stop it. You’re acting like I did something monumental.”

Zayn frowns. “But you did.” He squeezes Harry’s shoulders. “You stood up for yourself. And now you’re actually going to fly to get your boy back.”

“He’s not my bo–”

“Yet!” Zayn winks. “Point is, you’re finally taking charge of your life, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Harry feels almost tearful. God. He tugs Zayn into another hug, kissing his cheek. “Thank you, Zayn.”

They pull away and smile at each other, then Zayn taps his back. “Now go get him. I know he’ll forgive you.”

Harry takes the rest of his luggage as the woman announces in the microphone that his flight is leaving soon. He bites his lip as he looks at his friend. “I hope so.”

Zayn sends him a thumbs up. “Good luck!”

Harry takes a deep breath and smiles at his friend, before waving and walking away.

As he’s sitting on the airplane, he thinks of Louis and what he’s going to say.

He wanted to prepare a speech yesterday night, but he couldn’t find the right words. And when he thinks about it, he guesses when he’ll face Louis, everything will come naturally to him.

Because with Louis, nothing is forced.

Everything comes naturally.

And Harry is so grateful to have met Louis.

Even if he is unprepared, he is kind of ready. Ready to talk to Louis, to start a new part of his life.

And maybe, just maybe, ready to fall in love.

~

“The last van left,” Lottie exclaims with a mock enthusiastic tone as she looks out of the window.

“Yay,” Louis answers as enthusiastic as her as he sits down at the table, eating his apple.

Since the unceremonious interview Louis gave yesterday, the paparazzis finally packed their things and started leaving gradually.

And Louis was so grateful and relieved.

Yeah, he might have flaunted himself and also made a fool of himself in front of the cameras, but at least those idiots are finally leaving.

Now, he is hoping to never hear the name of Harry Styles again (Lottie had totally stopped talking about the artist since everything that happened, and when Louis told her about everything, she just shook her head, insulted Harry, and hugged Louis for ages, saying Harry didn’t deserve him) and, hopefully, that his life will finally go back to normal.

He really hopes so. But little does he know what is coming.

“Louis,” His mother yells from upstairs.

“Yeah?” he says after he gulps his last piece of apple. Lottie sits down at the table in front of him, eyes glued on her phone.

“The pants on your bed, do they need to be washed?”

Louis thinks and waves his hand off, even if his mother can’t see him. “Yeah yeah,” he yells back.

He stands up and goes to wash his hands, when he hears Lottie gasp behind his back. He turns around as he dries his hands with a dish towel. “What is it?”

Lottie rapidly turns toward him on her chair, locking her iPhone. “Nothing,” she answers quickly. Louis narrows his eyes at her.

She is looking everywhere except him, and he guesses she must have seen something about Harry on twitter.

So he doesn’t ask. He turns his back to her and looks out of the window. The sun is going down slowly, setting the sky on fire with this orange color in the sky. Louis always loved sunsets.

He sighs and heads for the stairs, when the bell rings.

He groans and turns around, ready to scowl at the paparazzis.

“For god’s sake!”

He thought they left for good?

He’s trying his best to have a menacing look on his face. He moves towards the door, opens it, gets out of the house and–

And he stops as soon as he notices the person on his porch, his face falling.

It’s not a paparazzi, far from that.

Because the person standing in front of Louis is simply Harry Styles.

Louis’ mouth opens but nothing falls from his lips. He just stares at the boy, gaping like a fish.

Harry Fucking Styles is standing in front of him. Harry Fucking Styles is actually at his house.

They’re separated by three little steps, Louis on his porch and Harry in front of him.

He is actually here. Louis can’t believe this.

He’s wearing Louis’ similar aviators he bought when they were shopping, a brown coat and jeans with black boots that are probably expensive. One bag is hung on his shoulder, and his hair is tied in a messy bun. He looks... Good. So fucking good.

Louis gulps but he still doesn’t know what to say.

There’s a silence, where the two boys just stare at each other, until finally, the curly-haired boy takes off his sunglasses, drops his bag, then smiles shyly at Louis. “Hi...”

Louis doesn’t answer. At least, he hasn’t shut the door in his face.

“I know you probably hate me right now–” Harry starts in a low voice.

“You’re damn right,” Louis cuts him off, crossing his arms over his chest.

Harry stays silent. He deserves it. He hurt Louis, he knows it. “God, I’m so sorry, Louis.” The latter doesn’t say anything, but he raises his eyebrows, signifying Harry can continue. “I truly am. These last few days, I felt so terrible. I should have never lied, not for a movie, not for my reputation, not for anything in the world. Not on something so precious.” Louis’ arms drop from his chest, eyes looking down. “I forgot to tell you something.” Louis’ eyes snap up, looking at the boy. “When we were in California, I forgot to tell...”

Harry takes a deep breath, and he starts singing.

He actually fucking starts singing.

Can’t blame you that you never really knew me at all
I tried to deny you but nothing ever made me feel so wrong
I thought I was protecting you from everything that I go through
But I know that we got lost along the way
Here I am with all my heart
I hope you understand
I hope you understand
I know I let you down but I’m never gonna make that mistake again
You brought me closer to who I really am
So come take my hand, I want the world to see
What you mean to me
What you mean to me

Louis doesn’t know what to say as Harry watches him with hopeful eyes full of regret.

Harry’s voice is so beautiful, he knows he means every word, he knows it. Deep down, he knows.

But Harry still hurt him.

“So what?” Louis says, crossing his arms over his chest again. “You thought you would come back to get me, sing me a song, and everything will be forgiven?”

Harry urgently shakes his head. “No, of course not! God, I am so sorry.”

“You said that already.”

“Louis...” Harry climbs the first step, getting closer to Louis.

Louis instantly backs away, but he doesn’t really want to be away from Harry. It’s obvious when Harry takes his hand in his, and that Louis doesn’t take his hand back.

The older boy looks at their hands, Harry’s thumb caressing his skin. He frowns and looks up at the singer who’s just watching him with a pleading look, eyebrows furrowed. His pink lips are parted a bit, and Louis should really not be staring at his lips.

So he focuses his gaze back on Harry’s emerald eyes.

It’s Harry squeezing his hand that brings Louis back to the situation.

“Louis Tomlinson,” Harry speaks up, “you may be shit at giving directions in a car...”, at that, Louis can’t help but snort, and Harry’s mouth twitches up, “but you definitely are so good to me when it comes to leading me on the right path. Everything we talked about, I meant it. It was real. And I’m sorry I lied. I’m sorry you felt like it wasn’t real, because it was. Trust me. I made a mistake, yeah, but I’m willing to make up for it... If you let me.”

Harry’s honest eyes are staring at Louis’, as if Harry wants to communicate everything he can’t through their eyes. The force of his fixed stare pins Louis down, and he shifts under his gaze. He doesn’t know what to think, but he knows Harry means it. He can see it in the boy’s eyes.

Louis sighs, shaking his head. “You really hurt me, you know...”

Harry’s sad eyes shouldn’t make Louis feel guilty. After all, Harry hurt him, it’s Louis who should be sad. “I know,” Harry whispers. “I will never stop saying sorry for that. It will never happen again. Please, forgive me.”

Louis is silent for a few seconds, lost in his thoughts under Harry’s fixed stare.

He thinks of a million things, how Harry let him go without much protest, how he lied and said he didn’t know Louis, just to get his movie deal, and now he’s here, pleading for Louis to forgive him.

As if Harry’s reading his thoughts, the boy says, “I didn’t accept the movie deal.” Louis arches an eyebrow. “You were right. It was too much for me, it’s not what I wanted to do. I want to make music, and tour the world. I want to be myself and not pretend to be someone I’m not.” He climbs the second step, looking up at Louis (for once Louis is taller than Harry. Ok, he’s on the porch, but it still counts).

“I only had to meet you to realize what I needed to do. You...” Harry shakes his head. “You supported me. We met and discussed it for only a few hours but you understood me like no one did before. And I am so grateful for that. I am so grateful I met you, Louis Tomlinson. I regret what I did, it won’t happen again,” he repeats, shaking his head. “I won’t ever lie about you. Not when you’re the best thing that has happened to me.”

But then, the moment is broken when Louis notices someone run behind Harry. He narrows his eyes and groans. “I can’t believe this.”

Harry turns around and spots a girl with red hair. The same interviewer who has been camping outside Louis’ house for days is running towards the boys with a microphone, a camera man following suit behind her.

Harry turns to Louis and rests his hand on his forearm. “Let me handle this, please.”

Louis chews on his lip but nods.

“Harry! Harry!” the interviewer exclaims as she arrives at the bottom of the stairs, holding out her microphone. “Harry, what are you doing here? Tell us everything!”

Harry climbs down the stairs and takes the girl’s microphone, making her flinch with surprised, but she still wears a satisfied smile, not a doubt happy to get a scoop.

“I’d like to clarify something,” Harry announces as he stares at the camera. “I mentioned in a recent interview that I didn’t know Louis Tomlinson. Truth is, I lied.” He turns a bit towards Louis, then he glances back at the camera. “In fact, I know Louis Tomlinson. Louis Tomlinson is a terrible navigator, and a know-it-all.” Louis rolls his eyes, but a smile creeps its way on his face.

It’s a smile that makes Harry continue. “But when he makes a promise, he keeps it. He understands me like no one else does. And,” the singer takes a breath and looks dead at the camera, “and I’m crazy about him.” He shoves the microphone back into the girl’s hands as he climbs all the steps, finally at Louis’ level, making the older boy look up (Louis really hates the fact the singer is taller than him). “I know that I hurt you, and I will never do anything like that again. Please, I’m asking you. Forgive me.”

The interviewer steps forward, holding her microphone out.

Louis tries his best to ignore her.

He looks into Harry’s eyes, only seeing honesty and a desire to be forgiven. He just sees what he needs to simply see. So he nods at Harry, who instantly smiles broadly at him, dimples out and all, eyes shinning. Louis can’t help but smile widely. Because, god. He missed seeing Harry Styles smile like that at him.

The moment is interrupted when the woman applauds. Harry turns to her and says in a strict tone, “Go away now.”

The interviewer blushes and pulls her microphone to her chest. “Oh, yes! Of course! Sorry!” She turns to her camera man. “Let’s go!”

And just like that, they go away.

Louis laughs incredulously, Harry shyly joining him.

Wow, Louis can’t believe this is happening. He can’t believe Harry flew all the way from Los Angeles and is in front of his house. And that he just gave an interview about him.

Oh god...

He said he liked him.

Louis stands there in silence as he watches Harry, processing everything.

In the end, Louis decides to listen to his heart. He sighs and shakes his head, a little smile making its way on his face. “I meant it, you know. I didn’t say it so that the girl and her pet would leave. I do forgive you. And,” he chews on his lip, “well, maybe I still hate you, but...” Harry’s eyes don’t stop watching his. “I’m crazy about you, too. Like. I didn’t mean to fal– to like you, popstar. But I do. I like you.”

Harry seems rooted to the spot for a few seconds, like he doesn’t realize Louis just said these words.

Louis can’t believe it himself either to be honest.

But then the singer smiles the brightest smile he’s ever smiled (Louis didn’t know it was possible) and Louis can’t help but giggle.

He bites his lip, staring at Harry. “So... What happens now?”

Harry looks down at his feet, licks his lips and then looks up again, eyes piercing Louis’ eyes. “Now...” Harry’s eyes fall on Louis’ mouth as he steps closer to Louis, taking his hand again as his other one cups Louis’ cheek. “Now I’m going to kiss you, if that’s okay.” He looks up at Louis’ eyes again, waiting.

Louis can feel Harry’s hot breath close to his mouth, can smell his perfume and Harry’s hand is playing with his, his other one caressing his cheek.

“Mmh... I don’t know, I’m not that easy,” he smirks. “In all the things you said, you did say I was a know-it-all. I don’t usually let people get out of this so easy.”

Harry laughs. “Shut up and kiss me you fool.”

So Louis does.