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Louis knows most parents are insane. Whether it’s to protect their children or, like his own, their insane hobby. It’s normal, after all, for a teenager to think this. Completely normal for children to be embarrassed of their mother and father, but Louis just wins the trophy of having permission to want to stamp his forehead against the wall.

All in all, Louis’ parents are fucking insane. Like, batshit crazy. Luckily he lives in a large city full of tourism and way too many people to keep track of so not many people know of his parents’… hobby. In other words, not many people know of his parents’ life dedication.

Ghosts, Louis. They’re everywhere!” His father says, his eyebrows furrowed in what Louis pointedly recognizes as determination, “You can never be too sure you’re safe. They can be in this room right now.”

Just as Louis sighs and prepares to wave him off for the millionth time in his lifetime his mother appears by Mr. Tomlinson’s side and smiles softly, and normally this would be the time when she’d reassure her husband that he’s hallucinating and pat him off to their room to make him take a nap to clear his head but she doesn’t do that. She never does because she’s just as insane.

“Lou, I know what you’re thinking and I know you think we’ve lost our minds but—”

Louis cuts her off with a hand in front of him as he shakes his head, “Yeah, okay, mum. We’ve talked about this before and—”

“And you still choose to not believe us.” She finishes with a sigh, and she watches as her husband moves to get ready for work, something they just have to maintain the family and not because they enjoy it. Louis shrugs and turns to the door, nods noncommittally over his shoulder at her.

As he leaves for school and tries not to slam the door behind him (he fails) before making his way to the subway, stumbling to retrieve his card from his wallet, he walks ahead and tries not to stomp (he also fails at that) to not attract any attention with his temper tantrum, not that he really would considering even early in the morning the streets are busy and no one could bother to glance at him (a stupid 18 year old kid who somehow managed to fail a year and repeat his last year of college).

When he feels an arm settle itself around his shoulders he doesn’t jump, or even acknowledge it. Instead, he fidgets with his fingers to ease his Oyster card into his back pocket and grab his lighter from his front pocket. He feels Zayn pass him a cigarette after unwrapping his arm around the shorter boy and wastes no time in lighting it.

As he exhales shakily, he realizes Zayn’s eyeing his shaking hands warily. “Parents?” He asks. From Zayn’s other side, Niall has begun to sing the Ghostbusters theme song. Thankfully, before Louis could begin to skin him alive, Zayn elbows him hard enough to shut him up.

(“Ow.” Niall complains.)

“They won’t stop believing in all this supernatural crap,” He says as he stubs his cigarette on one of the concrete walls they pass even though he only took two drags from it, and he throws it on the ground (though he’s about 97 percent sure Liam picked it up again while wrinkling his nose to throw it away in a bypassing trashcan), “It’s getting out of control.”

“You do look tired.” Liam says from behind them, trailing behind as he says this with a hint of distain in his voice.

“I think you look boooooooo- tiful.” Niall says as he imitates a ghost, and then begins to crackle. Zayn pushes him away. Louis and Zayn ignore him as Niall sputters in indignation, though Liam does send him a look of sympathy.

“A portal. They built a bloody ghost portal.” Louis forces out through his clenched teeth, and his hand whitens around the strap of his schoolbag.

“Oh, wow.” Liam’s quiet voice says. And he moves his eyes to the ground as he blindly moves behind them.

And, okay, right now Louis is still pissed, with every step growing less and less stressed and more having the burning sensation of anger begin to boil in the pit of his stomach so it is only logical that he doesn’t care at all that an outsider is listening in onto his soon-to-be ranting even though before not letting it happen was all Louis would care about, because that’s what Liam is—an outsider.

Louis’ group of friends are well-known in the large school they go to here in London, and therefore their popularity is much higher than Louis would want since, though he enjoys the attention he gets from both sexes, those people he talks to are one step closer to revealing how completely ridiculous his family is and Louis can’t imagine a world where he’ll be known as the Tomlinson freak with Ed and Lorraine Warren as his parents.

Zayn trusts Liam, though, Liam who doesn’t really have any friends but the ones he occasionally talks to on the debate team, and the three of them let Liam tag along like the team mascot so he obviously has some advantages. He’s quiet and has no one to tell their secrets to (assuming that Liam one day would), so really, Louis’ pretty sure he’s still in the safe zone.

All things considered, pity is something Louis, Zayn and Niall are good at, and if one of the school’s nerd likes to trail behind wherever they go, so be it.

Back to the problem at hand, “A portal? To a place where ghosts are? Wouldn’t that be, you know, a door to the afterlife and completely impossible?” Zayn asks. His voice is bored and he’s not really lifting his voice to indicate any of the words he said before were questions but Louis knows him well enough to know the difference between his statements and inquisitions.

“It might be like that one American show with Mark Sheppard, ‘Supernatural’,” Niall’s grinning like a madman, and unlike with Zayn, Louis isn’t sure whether he’s joking or genuinely trying to give a helpful input into the conversation, “Where they can open the door to the Purgatory and it’s like, a huge forests where other creatures go but the older brother gets stuck there and—”

He’s cut off as a man shoves Niall away as they near the station and sends Niall stumbling to the ground which has the Irish man try to catch himself, but thankfully Zayn pulls him up before he could continue his voyage onto the pavement straight on his face (Louis doesn’t think Niall would want a single mark on his, quote him, ‘Flawless Cillian Murphy face’ because apparently he could only compare himself to other people from Ireland).

“Hey, watch where you’re going!” Louis yells at the man as he moves to stand in front of Niall. The man doesn’t turn around, merely flashes Louis his middle finger as he continues walking.

“Prat.” The Doncaster boy mutters, and narrows his eyes at the body slowly disappearing into the distance. He hears Liam ask Niall whether he’s alright from behind him and then turns around to make sure himself, only to see Niall grinning, happy as ever and not caring at all that he was just thrown like a rag doll.

“M’ fine,” He says, “Keep talking, Louis.” He says. He didn’t think it through as he said this, though, because for the next fifteen minutes on their way to the station and then the school that’s exactly what Louis did, and though they were all listening to what he had to say, Liam was the only one nodding along with a hint of interest, and that was only because he barely found out of the Tomlinsons’ hobby.

 

°

 

After three terribly boring classes involving world history, letters in maths (who the fuck thought that was a good idea?) and something about politics in that… one class, Louis finds himself on his way to the canteen with his face permanently masked into an expression of general pissed-off-edness (though he admits he always says that but no more than half an hour later Louis will find himself having a laugh with a large circle of friends around him).

As he passes through the halls he sees many people, many teenagers like himself, though he doesn’t stop to speak to any of them in fear of snapping and making someone cry because he’s really good at that, apparently. He stumbles upon people he talks to whenever he can (“What’s up, Tommo!”), people he talks to sometimes when he feels like making new friends (“Hi, Lou!”) and people he swears he’s never even glanced at in his years at this school (“Hey, Louis!”). And then, well, and then there’s Harry Styles.

He’s been trying to avoid all life forms besides his two best friends, not feeling up to making conversation, but the one person he really does not enjoy being near is Harry Styles, and especially on this day because how does the kid even have any friends?

Louis had seen his childhood friend named Jon leaning on the locker doors trying to get Elizabeth to agree on being his date for the winter dance (it’s literally two months away) and decided to stop being a twat to turn his torso and give his friend a slight wave and respond to the receiving serious salute with a grin he gave halfheartedly. Sadly, he hadn’t noticed the oncoming person walking his way from the opposite direction.

At least, not until he felt a body collide with his and had to grab someone’s locker door to stay up.

Setting his feet back on the ground properly while still gripping the metal of the lockers with one hand, he hisses, “The fuck?” Turning around rapidly, his fist is already curled and ready for a fight, but in the end he falters when he sees a head of brown curls and begins to realize who it is. He is only proved correct with his eyes strike green ones and soon dimples are flashing his way. This is the exact reason why he turns on his heel and begins to return the way he came from even though he knows it’s the longer way towards the canteen.

“Hey!” Harry Styles begins to yell at him, and Louis would not be surprised if Harry were waving his arms around as well, “Hey!” He repeats it in hopes that Louis didn’t hear here and isn’t just ignoring him. In this case, sad from his side, Louis is in fact doing this and doing a poor job at it, it seems.

“Louis!” The hallways and clearing out as people disappear to their next class or to eat, and so Harry’s voice sounds remarkably louder now that the chatter around them is dying. People turn to look at Louis and Harry curiously.

When Louis feels a hand set itself on his shoulder he whirls around and snaps out a, “What? What the fuck do you want?!” Harry, being Harry, doesn’t seem to falter at all in his welcoming smile, sweet and innocent as ever and continues to grin. His dimples annoy Louis.

“I’m sorry I bumped into you back there,” He says and jesus fucking christ. Harry really will find any dumb fucking reason to talk to him, won’t he? Just as he’s about to leave again because he has things to talk about with his actual friends, Harry continues, “Maybe I can compensate you for it?” Oh no, “Like, I know this really nice café where they serve the best fairy cakes with different toppings and—”

Louis literally can’t take any of this crap anymore, and definitely not today so it’s no surprise when he clenches his jaw and holds himself back with admirable self-strength as he forces out words he has to admit he doesn’t really regret, no matter how much of a twat he feels like.

Taking a shaky breath, full of fire and his eyes already glowering, “Look, whatever crush you haven’t gotten over of during the summer I suggest you try harder now. I’ve got better things to do than waste my time with you, kid.” And, alright, Louis admits that it wasn’t exactly the nicest thing to say. Of all the times Harry has gotten on his nerves with his mindless crush on him, (along with many other people who wish to date Louis, really, because it’s attention you’re bound to have when you’re in the footie team and especially the team captain), Louis has never really snapped at him, only smiled tightly and made up excuses.

Harry seems to catch onto this as well because his huge green eyes only widen further and he opens and closes his mouth for a few moments before he manages to form any words, perhaps wondering what happened to the sweet smiles Louis would usually respond to with kind eyes before gently telling him he had other plans (it’s odd how everyone knows Louis’ straight yet Harry seems to be waiting for Louis to come out as it to him. Everyone knows the sixteen year old is bi and Louis rather no rumors begin about him for talking with the curly haired idiot).

“I—uh, sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Harry trails off and clears his throat, probably still shocked and his bottom lip seems to quiver a bit as his eyes snap from the floor to Louis’ eyes and back again. Louis suspects Harry’s eyes are a little wetter but rolls his eyes.

“Whatever. It’s nice you finally took the message.” And makes his way towards where his friends are waiting for him at their usual table. He doesn’t turn around as he hears those remaining in the halls begin taunting Harry as he walks away and ignores those who try to high-five him for finally telling Harry (the fag) what he needed to hear.

By every step his guilt is only multiplied as he remembers Harry’s eyes slowly redden as he talked and he sighs, mostly because he’s never actually seen Harry upset or anything close to not being, well, happy.

The problem with Louis William Tomlinson, though, is that fifteen minutes later it’s all forgotten when he’s seated between Zayn and a friend from the team as he tries to have Zayn agree to go to his place after school. Generally speaking, it’s not going well. Not even when he blackmails him.

“I’ll send everyone we know those pictures of you naked in a ballerina skirt and with the ponytails!”  Louis threatens, leaning close to Zayn to make sure no one is listening in as pleasant chatter and laughs occurs on the table. Zayn turns his head and Louis is overly aware that their noses are smashed together from how close Louis is but, given the fact that Louis has always been a very affectionate person with no means of comprehension over personal space, Zayn is not affected.

“No.” He turns back to his food and Louis is left to gape at him.

“Ballerina tutu, Malik! Real bullying material!” Louis repeats, raising his voice slightly.

“Release them, I don’t care. The most it’ll do is have girls think it’s cute that I play with my niece and that I understand and support the right for men to practice feminization or some crap like that.” Zayn says with a shrug, and takes a bite out of his sandwich. Louis frowns because he knows it’s true. For some reason girls have an extreme weakness for the boy, and Louis’ growing tired of it. He tries a different approach.

Fazing his expression from one of malice to plead, he continues, “Please, Zayn?” He supplicates, and Zayn rolls his eyes the moment he hears Louis’ new tone of voice, “I just don’t want to go back home and have my parents try to explain to me some shit about atoms and the possibility of other worlds. Maybe if you go they’ll spare me. As my best friend, Zayn, can you please go and save me from eternal damnation?”

Sighing, the younger boy responds, “All you had to do is ask nicely like a human being, Lou. ‘Course I’ll go.”

Louis doesn’t know whether he wants to strangle him or kiss him, so he does neither and just grins at him before flashing him his middle finger. The last thing he needs is to be called a killer… or worse. Gay.

 

°

 

“Do you think it works though? Aren’t you even a bit curious?” Niall might as well be jumping on his heels to match the tone of voice he uses, layered and layered with excitement. Zayn exhales the smoke from his cigarette as he holds it between the mid part of his middle and pointer fingers. Louis notices from the corner of his eyes how Zayn inclines his head towards the skies and slightly closes his eyes as the smoke dances around his lips before disappearing into the air. He always does that, and though sometimes Louis thinks he does it to seem cooler, he knows it really just relaxes him.

In other (much simpler) words, Zayn’s stressed out, and Niall still has ‘The Problem’, where he talks but never listens. Louis loves Niall because of that, the reason they met in the first place in a big city like London, but right now Zayn is grabbing his arm with great strength to stop him from hitting the blonde boy.

“It’s not going to work,” Louis sighs, ripping his arm away from Zayn’s grip, “Or even worse.”

“It’ll explode.” He says at the same time as Zayn. Niall shrugs.

“The worst thing that could happen is to get burned, right?” He asks, and grins once more from Louis’ other side. Louis doesn’t respond, and Zayn takes another drag. He looks away to avoid looking at his friend in the eye as he just spits out what he knows is in the air around them. Exhaling the smoke, he responds.

“Niall, I know you don’t actually want to follow me and Zayn into my house so, really, if you prefer to spend your time at a bar or something I won’t judge.” Turning his head to look at the Irish lad, Louis realizes he doesn’t think he had ever seen Niall stare at him with such an expression of bewilderment as that moment.

“And leave you alone? Fuck that.” He laughs and a smile dances away onto Zayn’s lips as Louis grins back. They leave it at that.

When they walk into the Tomlinson household, though, they aren’t as lucky as to disappear into Louis’ room without going noticed.  In fact, they are immediately grabbed from behind and hauled into the basement, stumbling with their steps as they are practically dragged. Once they arrive, Zayn’s mouth goes agape and he holds his cigarette loosely as he sees what surrounds them (that is, until Louis’ father grabs the cigar and offhandedly chucks it into the fire place).

“The hell?” He says softly, and Louis cringes at the sound. Meanwhile, Niall does the very grave mistake of asking what they were taken to ‘the bat cave’ for as Louis’ parents, they grin.

“Now,” Mrs. Tomlinson says, “I know both of you are quite close to my son so I suppose he’s already told you what it is my husband and I do in our free time,” Zayn and Niall nod dumbly, “Well then, assuming Louis picks his friends well I know I can trust you to keep what we have here a secret.”

“You mean all this high tech sh—stuff?” Zayn asks as he whirls around, observing all the machines around them, stamped with a fancy ‘T’ from what he can see, labeled. Louis sighs.

“They aren’t high tech or anything, Zayn. They’re just crap things that are supposed to catch ghosts. They’ve been doing it for years, you know this.”

“I never thought it was this serious.” Zayn says, eyes wide.

“Yeah, well, until they actually catch a ghost, it isn’t.” Louis directs a glare their way while his parents smile kindly at them, knowing that there’s no way Louis will ever understand the reason behind their slight obsession. Niall was too distracted picking at a weird looking cooking utensil to hear any of their words, and this time the amazement dancing in his blue eyes is genuine as he turns to his friend’s parents.

“And all of this works?” He asks. Louis snorts and his parents hesitate as they risk a glance at each other.

“Well…” His mother says.

“We aren’t sure yet,” His father continues as he moves to pick a ragged piece of cloth to clear the weird black substance from the table that was dripping (Louis doesn’t even want to know what it is), “We’re not sure yet since we haven’t really found a ghost to experiment the instruments on, which is why we’ve created something new.”

“The ghost portal.” Louis says, a bit too loudly and with a bit too much malice lacing his tone.

“It’s not a ghost portal, Louis.” Louis’ father rolls his eyes.

“That sounds childish.” His mother finishes, and this time Louis rolls his eyes.

“It’s an entrance to the afterlife, if even that.”

“Ghost portal.” Niall agrees, and Zayn is too busy staring in awe at everything that surrounds them still before his eyes lie on a giant metal circle with huge doors, which oddly looks like it was taken out of the first Avengers movie.

Nodding towards it, he says, “That it?”

“Yes, actually, it is.” Mr. Tomlinson says, and he grins, “And we have invited you here today to watch as we put into motion the first door to the afterlife.”

It took a couple more minutes of bickering from Louis and his parents’ part before he moves to the small but seemingly heavy lever under a (unnecessary) glass box which he hauls up and soon his fingers wrap around it as Louis stares with wide eyes, watches as he begins to doubt that his parents might be wrong judging by the confidence in which they talk. To his left, Zayn and Niall stare agape as well.

Mr. Tomlinson pushes the lever downwards and they all breathe in collectively as there are crackles, smoke and—

Nothing happens. The doors slide open, Louis can see the different wires and technology in the inside, but nothing ever happens. No whirling from the inside, or loud ‘poof’, just smoke and the metal doors jam open, don’t close once more like they’re supposed to and they all stand in silence.

Sucking in a breath, Louis doesn’t dare move until he hears his parents’ first reaction.

“It didn’t work.” Mrs. Tomlinson breathes out, and the words aren’t necessary but Louis flinches as he hears the disappointment in her voice. Although he knew he’d be right in the end, that his parents’ technology they’ve worked on for years would be of no use, he didn’t actually want to witness it. He didn’t want to stand still as he saw his parents stare, his mother heartbroken and father disillusioned. Years and years waiting for this moment so they could try out all the other ‘ghost hunting’ utilities they’ve harvested for most of their lives only to finally realize it was all a failure.

Louis thinks he hears his mother choke as she exits the room quickly, her footsteps loud on the stairs as she elevates to the first floor. Her husband doesn’t wait a second as he follows her and the three friends are left alone in silence as they try to catch their breath.

“So, that just happened.” Zayn says, and moves away to grab an odd looking gun from one of the tables, obviously an excuse to avoid looking anyone in the eye after what they had seen. Louis sighs as he slips onto one of the office chairs nearby.

“Yeah.”

Meanwhile Niall slowly nears the portal and ducks his head inside, staring with wide eyes full of wonder at the inside until he’s pulled away from it by Louis who hisses, “Are you insane, Niall? The doors could snap shut any moment and decapitate you.” Niall shrugs.

“I was curious.”

“Most of the time I’m against quoting but right now the cat one really seems to be fitting.” Zayn says dryly and turns on a switch on the gun he’s still holding, watches uninterestedly as nothing happens only to have it suddenly flash red around the handle and he quickly switches it off and sets it on the table again. Walking to where Niall and Louis are, he keeps sneaking wary glances at it on his way.

“Fine then,” Niall start petulantly, “If I can’t go inside to check the portal out, you do it.” He sets his finger on Louis’ chest pointedly and pushes, of which the older teenager rolls his eyes and pushes Niall back. Setting himself back onto the chair, he presses his lips together.

“What’s there to check out? You guys saw what happened. Nothing. Nothing happened.”

“Which is why you have no reason to be afraid.” Niall says, and Louis squawks.

“I’m not even scared!” He argues.

“Go in then.” Niall argues back. Zayn smells disaster, and it isn’t the corner of the room full of jars labeled ‘ECTOPLASM’. It does seem like something terribly bad is going to happen, though, when Louis huffs and gets up from his seat (which Niall takes quite happily as his friend leaves it unoccupied) before beginning to enter the portal, the wide opening seeming anything but welcome. He just hopes the door don’t slam shut or it doesn’t explode while he’s inside.

Inside, it’s long. Not so dreadfully that he can’t see the end, but just about a meter and a half long and he hides the deep breathe he takes by turning away.

As he enters he hears Zayn call out to him from behind and tell him that he needs to stop doing things just because Niall likes to see others in danger. He distinctively hears Niall whine and accuse Zayn of calling him sadistic and he focuses on that, focuses on the sounds of his best mates bickering instead of the cold metal around him as he carefully sets his fingers on the walls around him, running his fingers through the platforms.

“Shut up, Niall. You know that I mean it.”

“Yeah, I know, which is why I’m offended!”

“Cry me a river.”

“You only know that quote because I asked Liam to tell me about Michael Bublé.”

“I didn’t even hear him talk. God, you act as if I’m even near him half the time he sticks to us like leeches.”

“Oi! Liam’s pretty fun once you get to know him!”

“More like dull.”

You’re the one who invited him to sit with us for the first time, Zayn-o.”

“Yeah, in our first year here. I didn’t think he’d be like that.

Focus, Louis. Focus. All he needs to do to look for something to tell Niall, something interesting. While listening, but not daring to open his mouth or make any rash movements, he keeps walking slowly as his fingers continue to explore. It’s all fine completely and utterly fine, until, well, until Louis’ thumb gets caught on a wire. He hadn’t thought it out, and the first thing he did was remove his hand, only he brought the wire with him as he sliced it into two with the force of his hand and suddenly he feels a spiral of electricity climb its way up his fingertips, his arm and he feels like flames are engulfing him all at once.

“Louis? Louis!” His friends yell in realization and they run to the entrance and see Louis standing, his expression contorted in pain. Louis feels terrible. Terrible, terrible. Am I being burned alive? He lets out a very small whimper as he imagines himself in the pits of hell, and then he passes out. Luckily for him, Zayn manages to run fast enough into the portal and catch him before he hits the ground.

As Zayn carries Louis out, he sends a revolting glare Niall’s way, who bites his bottom lip and looks like he’s about to cry. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry. I almost killed Louis.

What Niall says quietly is, “What happened?”

“What the fuck do you think happened, you prat?” Zayn says, and his voice holds so much contained anger that Niall backs away slightly, briefly closing his eyes to fight away the tears which are quickly coming, “He got electrocuted and almost murdered.”

Murder. Noun. Verb.

The act of a human being killing another in an act of malice.

Niall is truly trying not to burst into tears, so he says, voice shaky, “Is he fine?”

“He’s unconscious, but he’s alive. Fuck.” Zayn runs a hand through his hair as he holds Louis’ head in his lap, staring down at his best friend’s face as he breathes heavily, “I don’t even know what to do.”

“I’ll go get his parents and tell them what happened.” Niall says quickly and he moves to leave the room and run up to the first floor to start screaming for the Tomlinsons to hear him and try to save his friend.

“No.” Zayn didn’t say it. Niall didn’t say it. There’s only one for person in the room. When Niall turns around Zayn is already trying to shut Louis up by shaking his head as Louis moves to sit up.

“No?” Niall asks. Louis coughs and tries to sit up again, but Zayn pushes him down again more forcefully.

“I’m fine. Perfectly fine,” Louis heaves and Zayn frowns, unamused, “Really. I just have a sore throat, ‘s all.”

“And you expect me to believe that?” Zayn says wryly, raises an eyebrow.

“You just got electrocuted, mate.” Niall says, and flinches at his own words. Louis shakes his head slowly and coughs once more. When Niall passes him a water bottle he got from the basement refrigerator he quickly grabs it and cracks it open before Zayn could (because Zayn doesn’t even believe he can open a water bottle on his own). Swallowing the whole bottle in one breathe, he chucks it in the general direction of where the trashcan is.

“I know, and I also know it sounds crazy but I feel great. Can’t even remember much besides the ‘electrocuted’ part.” Louis grins and stands up ignores Zayn’s insistent hand telling him to get down again, until Zayn stands up as well and dusts himself off.

“Well, thank god for that, right Niall?” He says, and Niall swallows, avoids Zayn’s eyes.

“Yeah.”

“Oi!” Louis says, and he laughs as he wraps his arm around Zayn and pull Niall closer to him to do the same, “Why the sour faces, you twats? I’m perfectly fine.” Neither respond, so Louis rolls his eyes and pushes them away to do a cartwheel. Nor Zayn or even Niall look amused as he finishes with his arms up in the air and a satisfied ‘Tada!’.

“I still think we should take you to the hospital.” Who would have guessed that Niall were a party pooper. He is no longer Louis’ favorite (which is funny because he never really was. The position has always belonged to Zayn). Louis shakes his head vehemently and gestures towards the door.

“I hear there’s this really great gig up near Amanda’s place. Let’s check it out and see if we’re still let in, yeah?”

Zayn still eyes him guardedly because Louis’ had not been this cheery for weeks, and especially after have been hurt but it doesn’t matter to Louis because the blue eyed boy is already exiting the basement and Zayn can already hear him yelling at his parents that he’ll be back in a couple hours, not that they’d really care. Niall hesitates to follow him and he turns to Zayn, fear in his eyes to see anger in Zayn’s eyes once more. Signaling to their left, Niall gives him a smile, but it seems forced, as if he’s just waiting for Zayn to start yelling at him.

Throwing a puff out from between his lips, he follows Niall out.

 

°

 

“Bloody hell.” Louis begins to wipe at his shirt with a napkin that he had found on the bar table. Honestly, he’s just glad the three of them had enough mind to change out of their school clothes before leaving his house. Waving away the dishonest apologies that are thrown his way, he begins dabbing and grimaces.

After having spent most of the day mindlessly walking around the city before they went to the place where the gig was taking place, they were already a bit spent since walking through the busy streets of a humongous city was no easy task. On top of that, Louis could see the worry in Zayn’s eyes from a mile away and he really just wants to wipe it off. Niall asks, “When’s it starting?”

He shrugs and replies that within half an hour the band would go on and hopefully make a night worth remembering. If there was something the three of them had in common it was the need for a night full of bodies pressing against their own, good music and alcohol. Hell, good music isn’t really even necessary as long as the bass line has them shivering to the core and moving their hips against someone else’s.  Louis doesn’t mean to brag or anything but he’s seen at least four girls from different spots in the venue eyeing him and none of them seem younger than twenty two.

It didn’t take long for Zayn to find someone else (it never does), and when Louis turns to him he can already see Zayn’s worry has evaporated and Niall’s seems to have as well. He’s already drunk, it’s a school night and he’s already whispering things into a girl’s ear that have her giggle before a flush takes place on her cheeks. Louis loves his friends.

 All things considered, it seems like it’s going to be a great night. There’s a bartender giving them as much drinks as they’d desire, Louis has a Manhattan in his hand, he can already see one of the beautiful women coming his way with a coy smile, it’s Thursday but he doesn’t give a shit, and the band is about start. Everything’s fantastic up until Louis sees a familiar flash of brown hair.

“You alright, mate?” Niall asks with a grin, his eyes dazed and a girl slyly slipping her hand up his shirt, “Went a bit pale there.”

“Fuck.”

“What is it?” Zayn appears, and his hair is tousled.

No, no, no. Out of all places, Harry Styles had to appear here today the day he snapped at him? What the fuck did he do to deserve this? Ah, yes. Humiliate him in front of the whole school and make him the talk of the student body. That’s what he did.

“You did what?” Zayn asks, incredulous. Right, he said that aloud.

“That too, Lou.” Niall says, suddenly serious, only to begin cackling again, “That rhymed.”

Louis would kill to go invisible right now and avoid the stares of embarrassment from Harry, knows the moment Harry sees him he’ll blush and stare at the floor in mortification. He’s really not drunk enough to deal with this, deal with the same stupid crush Harry has seemed to have on him for a decade (but really it’s been two years and Louis has tried, god has he tried to let Harry down softly and try to let him know he’s not interested and never will be but Harry just seems desperate and anxious enough to not want to follow through with his message). Around them, the band has already started playing and shouted their name but Louis didn’t catch it. Hot bodies move in from of him and he feels girls’ skirts ride up as they pass by and not so subtly rub their bum against his crotch. In any other situation Louis would he so, so grateful to be here today but sadly that’s not the case now.

Because Harry turns his head their way and he grins, and the grin is so bright that Louis would have never guessed what had happened to him, would have never guessed that only a couple hours ago Harry had been cruelly teased and pushed against the lockers as Louis had walked away without looking back. He would have never guessed that only a few hours ago he’d been called a faggot and had been threatened because he wouldn’t stop hitting on the straight football captain. Louis doesn’t understand and his breathe catches in his throat as Harry heads their way, weaving between everyone towards them, seeming to be happy to see someone he knows (not that he really knows them. Harry has only every talked to Louis and as far as he knows he’s never breathed a word towards Zayn and Niall).

“Hey!” Harry yells over the music when he finally stands in front of them, and his smile doesn’t falter as people stumble into him, elbow him as they walk past. From his sides Niall and Zayn stare at the sixteen year old (how did Harry even get in here) skeptically.

“Uh.” Zayn says eloquently, but that’s probably due to the alcohol in his system as he grabs the edge of a table to stay upright.

“Hi?” Niall has always had a higher tolerance for alcoholic drinks (“That’s because I’m Irish!”).

“Who are you?” Zayn asks, oh so delightful and full of manners. Harry’s grin (dimples) drops from his face and he suddenly morphs into a nervous wreck as he ducks his head and jesus christ. Is he really playing with the end of his shirt? Louis had always thought people only did that in movies. Also, Harry has not glanced at him once. Louis doesn’t know Harry but he didn’t think Harry was one to ignore.

“Sorry,” Harry sneaks a look at them and smiles shyly, “I’m Harry. I go to school with you. I mean, I’m not in something cool like the football team like you,” He looks at Niall, “Or head of the Art clubs,” He glances at Zayn and then stares at the floor again, “But I—”

“Harry? As in Harry who Louis did that one thing in the hall today?” Zayn’s slurring, and he’s talking shit and Niall knows it but he’s too drunk now to care (I’m right beside you, Zayn. Why would you say that). Louis chokes on his breathe as he stares at his best friend with wide eyes and he’s pretty sure his jaw is touching the floor. Harry, though, continues to ignore Louis’ existence and turns bright red.

“Look, I’m sorry for walking up to you guys. I just came here alone today and I felt weird and when I saw you two I just thought I’d try to talk to you. I’ll just—” Harry cuts himself off and he gesturing behind him as he moves to leave but Niall quickly grabs his arm (no, no, no, Niall. What the fuck are you doing?! Let him leave).

“Hey, no, mate. Come chill with us. We’re great company.” Niall grins at the sixteen year old and he leans over to wrap his arm around Harry’s shoulder to pull him near, clearly too out of his mind drunk. Harry hesitates, as if considering declining the offer and leaving which Louis wonders why he hasn’t done it yet.

Running his fingers through his fringe to push it away, Harry asks, “Uh, is—is Louis here too?” Louis blinks, and waves a hand over Harry eyes, raises an eyebrow but Harry’s eyes don’t even twitch at the movement.

“Hey, Styles? Right here.” Louis finally says loudly because he absolutely detests being ignored. Zayn turns to Louis as do Niall and Harry (though Zayn and Niall with eyes more than a tad unfocused due to the large amount of alcohol they’ve introduced into their body). Louis furrows his eyebrows and surely looks defiant, sticks his nose in the air and looks down at Harry (seeing as he’s the only one there who’s shorter than Louis himself). Only then does Louis actually look him in the eye and he sees Harry’s eyes also unfocused, as if seeing right through Louis, only the latter is sure the green-eyed boy is sober by the way he’s acting as his usual (annoying) self.

“Where’s Lou?” Zayn says, or well, makes noises that generally sound like that sentence. Louis stares at him.

“Dunno, heard him right here.” Niall responds, slurred but much more coherent. Louis turns to him too and raises an eyebrow.

“Alright, mate. How drunk are you? Have you gone blind?” Louis snaps and rolls his eyes. Harry, from his place, is fucking confused.

“Uh, Louis? Yeah—” Harry coughs into his hand and turns bright red, as his eyes dart from one side to the other, seeming terrified at hearing Louis so close yet, fuck. He can’t see Louis either? He’s heard that alcohol sometimes makes people believe what they’d like to, so is it that his best mates and Harry Styles all wish Louis didn’t exist? What the fuck has he done to deserve this? Oh wait.

“Harry.” Louis deadpans, and then wonders how Harry’s face managed to be flushed one moment and then go deadly pale the next. Harry blinks, turns around and runs, disappearing in the crowd of enthusiastic people grinding on the dance floor. Louis is left staring after him and at his sides Zayn jumps and is staring at him, lips agape and Niall seems amused.

“Where the fuck did you come from?”