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One day to believe in you

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* * *

Hiatus has been brilliant for Louis. California is gorgeous and welcoming, and he hasn't missed touring or the band nearly as much as he thought he might've. He gets home often enough to check in with his mum, do a bit of writing with Liam, and see his mates, but on the whole, he's very content with how things have been going.

It's not until Niall returns from Cambodia that things start to go a bit shit.

"You sentimental little bugger," Louis grins as he slips the necklace over his head.

"It's hand-carved," Niall points out proudly. "Picked one out for each of you."

"Is mine the nicest?" Louis asks cheekily, lifting the charm from where it's fallen against his chest. He's never been one for jewelry, but he's so endeared by Niall bringing him a charm from some faraway village that he can't help but smile. "The most expensive, surely."

"You like it, then?"

"It's ugly as hell, isn't it?" Louis says before he can think better of it. "But I love that you thought of me while you were on the other side of the planet."

"Tosser," Niall says, laughing.

Much, much later, Louis will realize this is where it all fell apart.

* * *

He's set up a studio in his house. Nothing fancy - just a room with a keyboard and decent enough acoustics to record whatever he and Liam come up with on their writing days. More times than not they end up smoking up and getting distracted looking at cars online, but today they're actually being productive and making music. He's sat at the keyboard, mucking around with a tune he's been working on, and he starts to sing, just the first verse and the chorus.

"Whoa," Liam says, looking impressed. "What was that?"

"A song," Louis says, rolling his eyes. "Keep up, Liam."

"Again," Liam says, tapping at his laptop and turning it around so the mic's closer to Louis. He gestures impatiently.

Louis shakes his head but obliges, playing the beginning bits and singing the lyrics he's got so far. Eventually he runs out of words and starts singing the alphabet.

When he goes quiet, Liam is staring at him, mouth agape.

"What?" Louis says, defensive.

"That was—" He screws up his face, eyebrows scrunching. "That was really, like, emotional." He looks confused.

"Which part?" Louis says. "The rush of L-M-N-O-P or the crescendo at Q-R-S-T-U-V?"

Liam is still staring at him like he's trying to figure something out. Louis doesn't much care for it.

"The part about him moving on before you could catch up," Liam says slowly. "And leaving you behind."

A pit forms in Louis's stomach at the realization that he'd forgotten to change the lyric. He ignores the low-grade panic rising in his chest and tries to shrug it off. "Yeah, well. Heartbreak sells, don't it?"

"Generally," Liam agrees, still frowning. He taps at the laptop and the song starts to play again. Louis cringes at how earnest he sounds on the playback. They both sit there in silence after it's done.

"Mate," Liam says, hesitant. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Definitely not," Louis blurts out, surprising himself. He definitely does not want to talk about it, but he'd normally play it a bit more cool.

Liam purses his lips and nods faintly, like he understands. He must not, though, because he keeps at it. "I mean," he says slowly, "you wrote that for someone."

Right, yes, Louis thinks, relieved at the out. He'd written the song for someone else. Someone else who'd been in love with a bloke. Not him.

Which is why it doesn't make any sense at all when he admits otherwise. "I didn't write it for anyone else," Louis says, shoulders slumping. "It's just—mostly from personal experience, I reckon."

Liam watches him, a patient expression on his face. "Right, yeah, I meant, more like, who is it about?"

The answer is falling from his lips before he can stop it.

It's almost funny how quickly Liam drops his supportive-bro face. His eyes go wide, mouth falling open before he pulls himself back together.

"So, that's a thing, then," he says, pretending to take it in stride, bless him. "You know, it's not that unexpected," he says, maybe more to himself than to Louis. "I'd always thought, maybe."

"You and the rest of the world," Louis says, cheeks burning. He doesn't know why he's saying any of this. He's managed to hold his tongue for nearly six bloody years. What's so special about today that's got him confessing his feelings?

"And they were right?" Liam asks carefully.

"Not about everything," Louis says. Then he laughs, shoulders dropping. "Not about most of it."

He can see that Liam's gearing up to ask him something else, but Louis feels too unsettled to dive into the topic further. "Do you mind if we don't talk about it right now?"

"'Course," Liam agrees. He gives Louis a considering look, supportive-bro face back complete with concerned eyebrows. "Feeling alright, mate?"

"Had a bit of an unsatisfying poo earlier," Louis says, for absolutely no good reason.

Liam laughs, eyebrows shooting up, and Louis laughs along with him. "That's the worst," Liam says, voice full of empathy even as he chokes on a giggle.

Louis grins, "Isn't it though?" He waves a hand in the air dismissively. He knows that's not what Liam had meant. "I'm fine," he says, because on the whole that's the truth. The low grade of lovesick he's been feeling is completely manageable so long as he doesn't talk about it. Which he's going to stop doing immediately, as soon as he clarifies this one minor point: "Just talking about it makes me feel a little off, you know? Like. Vulnerable, I suppose."

Liam frowns. "Are we still talking about the poo?"

"No," Louis clarifies. "The other bit."

It's quiet for a long moment. Louis taps out a beat on his knee. Pats at his shirt pocket, hoping in vain to find a cig.

"We should go out," he decides, after the silence gets so uncomfortable he can't last another second without saying something. "I'm in the mood for a proper piss up."

"I'm in," Liam agrees, sounding very much relieved. "What the hell." He slaps Louis on the shoulder and shakes him. "You've got to live a little."

* * *

The thing about Los Angeles is that it has magical proportions. When you're trying to get from Culver City to Santa Monica, the city is its own planet, miles and miles of highway stretching on to infinity. When you're feeling a bit too honest about your secret feelings for your former bandmate, he's standing right next to you at the bar.

It's not a complete coincidence—they'd remembered James's birthday as they'd headed out, and meeting up with him for a couple of rounds had sounded like a good idea. It didn't occur to Louis that they might run into Harry here.

Or maybe it did. Fuck. He's got no idea what's come over him lately.

Harry's with James, face dimpled in a smug grin while the group of people huddled around them burst into laughter. He's dressed like a twat, as usual, but he's wearing a charm like the one Niall had bought Louis. Harry's is bigger and uglier, definitely fits Harry's look, but the style is similar enough to recognize. "Hey," Louis says, nudging Liam with his arm. "Did Niall get you one of these?" He fingers the charm around his neck.

"Yeah, yeah," Liam says as he fishes around in his back pocket. "Mine's on my car keys," he says, holding them up proudly.

"Top lad," Louis muses, taking a healthy swig of his vodka. "I love Niall."

Liam chokes on his drink, beer dribbling down his chin. "Niall, too?"

Louis rolls his eyes and gives Liam a slow har har har.

"You've got a lot of love in you, Tommo," he says. "I'm starting to feel left out."

Louis steadily does not look over at Harry. He's already feeling a bit looser than he should be, probably.

Harry cuts his eyes over, looking at them with a curious smile on his face. He's all square-jawed and long-limbed and confident and when their eyes meet Louis gets an uneasy feeling in his gut like he's falling and—alright. Maybe he's not doing such a great job of not noticing Harry.

Even when he looks away, he can feel it when Harry comes over to join them, the hairs on Louis's arms standing up when he gets close. "Gentlemen," Harry says, patting Liam on the back manfully. He doesn't touch Louis, surprising no one.

"Ohmygod," Liam exclaims, bringing both hands up to fan at his own cheeks. "It's Harry Styles!"

Harry narrows his eyes at Liam, extending one long, ringed finger. "Hang on," he says, drawing it out as he peers at Liam over the rim of his glass. "Haven't I seen your pubic hair on the Twitter?"

Louis laughs, forgetting to catch himself until it's too late. Whatever. That was a good one. Harry grins at him, pleased.

"Louis," he says, mumbling the way he does sometimes, like his tongue's too big for his enormous mouth.

Louis ignores the butterflies swirling in his belly and nods. "Harold," he replies.

They both easily manage to participate in conversation without speaking directly to each other. It's fine, not weird at all until a friend of Harry's, a nice-looking girl, comes over and wiggles between them, slipping her arm around Harry's waist and placing her free hand on Louis's arm. "Hello, Louis Tomlinson," she says in greeting, smiling widely. She's pretty and tall, and Louis thinks vaguely that she's a model, maybe friends with the Kardashians or Taylor Swift or something, but he can't recall her name.

"Hello, yourself," he says, tipping his drink in greeting. He gives her a friendly smile, doing his best to ignore how her hand is slipping down the curve of Harry's bum.

"You don't remember my name," she laughs.

Louis presses his lips together, vaguely sheepish but mostly not giving a fuck. "Afraid not. Did we—?" He gestures between them.

Harry coughs, eyes going wide, but he's biting back a grin. Fortunately, the girl seems to find Louis rather entertaining. "You'd remember if we had, sweetheart," she says, winking at him.

Louis should leave it alone, but he can't help himself. "Doubt it."

Liam shoves at him, pretending to be shocked even as he chuckles. "Tommo!"

"It's fine," she assures Liam before leaning in closer, crowding against Harry and ducking her face to speak with Louis. "I'm not here for me anyway," she says. "I've got a friend, though, who's very interested in you."

Louis gives her a blank smile. "No thanks," he says, easily.

The girl tilts her head, surprised. "Don't you even want to know who it is?"

Louis considers the question, perhaps more honestly than he really should. "Not unless it's this one," he finds himself saying, gesturing at Harry. He can only hope he says it low enough that only she can hear him. Not looking at Harry is taking every bit of his focus.

"Harry?" she laughs, definitely loud enough to catch Harry’s attention. “No—?"

"Right," Louis says. "Not interested, then."

She laughs, but it comes out uncertain. "Wait, are you, like, into guys?"

There are so many simple answers to that question: 'no,' 'fuck no,' 'none of your business,' even, 'fuck off,' or 'he wishes' would work, given the context. Instead Louis says, "Sometimes."

What. The. Fuck.

"Really?" she says, scrunching her nose up. Next to her, Harry chokes on his drink. Liam's mouth is just hanging open. Louis clenches his jaw, resolving to end this conversation yesterday. The girl just laughs. "Right on," she says, smiling widely. "Everyone's a little bit gay, right?"

"Except for people who are all the way gay," Louis says. "My mate Liam, though," he says, hoping he doesn't sound as frantic as he feels, "is always looking to make new lady friends. Isn't that right, Payno?"

He looks up, finds Liam staring at him, mouth slack. "I—yes," he says eventually. "I am."

"He drives a Lamborghini," Louis offers. "But he doesn't have a small penis. I've only ever seen it soft, mind you, but it had a decent heft to it. Very promising."

She's looking rather confused, but she takes it in stride. "That works, I guess," she says.

When Liam walks off with her, shooting them a pained look over his shoulder, he feels Harry staring at him. "That was mildly flattering," Louis says. Ice hits him in the nose when he tries to take another drink.

Harry snorts. "Your word," he says, pointing a long finger in Louis's direction. "Not mine." He turns to face Louis, giving him a curious look. "And since when are you 'into guys'?" he asks, making sure to keep his voice down.

Louis looks up at the ceiling, does a bit of math. "Since around 1996."

The look Harry gives him is hard to decipher. It's like he's amused but also annoyed at the same time. "You don't generally go announcing it to random people in bars, though."

"Not so random," Louis protests. "Wasn't she a friend of yours?"

"She was," Harry says, nodding slowly. "Why so rude to her?'

Louis looks around, realizing that they're alone and Harry's directly addressing him. His heart starts to pound in his chest, panic rising in his throat. "She was all over you," he says, biting his lip hard as soon as the words are out. He stares at his empty glass, puts it down on the table in front of them. He's cutting himself off, effective immediately.

Harry blinks, turning towards him. "And that bothers you?"

Louis can't meet his eyes. "Yes," he says, feeling like he's going to throw up. Something is wrong.

He knows what Harry's going to ask next. For a fleeting moment, Louis considers breaking into a run and heading for the exit.

"Why?"

He clamps a hand over his mouth, willing himself not to say—fuck. Well there goes that idea.

Harry freezes, his drink halfway to his lips. After a beat, he snorts, deciding Louis must be having him on. "Right," he says.

"I'm going to," Louis says, waving vaguely, "go talk to anyone else."

The corner of Harry's mouth quirks up in a wry smile. "Then I'll be jealous," he says.

"Good," Louis says before biting down hard on his lip. He can feel Harry's eyes on him as he walks away.

* * *

The next morning, when Lottie comes round to visit, he's nursing a mild hangover and is working hard to ignore his lingering humiliation. He'd made sure to steer clear of Harry for the rest of the night, and things had been relatively uneventful as a result.

They'll just have to add that whole conversation about jealousy and—Louis cringes—touching to the enormous stockpile of uncomfortable topics he and Harry keep swept under a rug.

"Made your favorites," Lottie says, scooping some eggs onto a plate and sliding it towards where Louis is slumped onto a stool at the kitchen counter. "That should perk you right up."

"Thanks, bug," Louis mumbles. "Definitely not my favorites, though."

Lottie chuckles. "No? So why do you always ask me to make 'em for you?"

"Because I know cooking makes you feel grown-up even though you're absolute shit at it," he finds himself saying. "Your fry-up is the only thing I can even pretend to eat without wanting to chuck it all up."

Oh no.

The pot clatters onto the stove. Lottie turns to gape at him, her mouth hanging open like she's certain he's just having a laugh.

"I just know how hard it's been to find success for you," he blurts, certainly making it worse. "I want you to feel like you're good at something. And I don't need you to put makeup on me so I'll just eat your vile breakfast and act like I like it."

"Vile?" The smile disappears from her eyes slowly. "Why don't you tell me how you really feel?"

"I love you?" Louis says. "You're definitely my favorite sister, and you're great at makeup even though sometimes you do up your own face like a sex doll."

"Sorry?!"

Louis absolutely panics. "You know, one of those really expensive sex dolls? With the lips, and," he trails off, hating himself. "They're really high end."

Lottie simply upends his tomato juice right onto the plate of eggs and drops a spoon right into the mess, splattering Louis's shirt rather spectacularly.

"I really wish I hadn't said any of that," he says as she gathers her bag and car keys.

"Maybe your perspective on success is a bit fucked," Lottie calls out as she heads for the door. "Also sex dolls."

* * *

Twenty minutes later, a representative from Toyota calls to see how Louis is enjoying the VIOS they've sent him.

* * *

Thirty minutes later, Louis sends a WhatsApp to the rest of the lads.

LT: pls do me a favor and ignore everything i say for the next

He stares into the distance.

LT: undetermined period of time

And after a deep breath:

LT: sorry about the toyota sponsorship

He shuts off his phone and rests his head in his hands.

* * *

The next morning, when the FedEx woman asks him how he's doing, Louis tells her that he's got a big fat crush on Harry Styles.

He stops answering the door after that.

* * *

On Tuesday, he wakes up from a nap to find Harry sitting quietly in a chair that he’s dragged into Louis’s bedroom. It’s basically his worst nightmare come true.

"Did I talk in my sleep?" he asks in a panicked rush, drawing Harry’s attention up from whatever stupid game he’s playing on his phone.

Harry frowns at him. "No?"

Louis's heart starts to slow down, only barely. He blinks at Harry. "How did you get in here?"

"Liam told me where the key was," Harry says, his voice rough with disuse. "Must have called me fourteen times to come check on you after he went back home." He licks his lips and fixes Louis with a steady gaze. "And the gate code hasn't changed."

Louis's face heats up at that. He's been using the same security code since they'd lived together back in London. "Anyway, you didn't have to barge in," he barrels ahead. "Could have called first.”

“Your phone’s been off,” Harry says, patting at Louis’s phone where it now sits, charging on the night table.

“Ever hear of knocking?”

Harry leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He scrunches his nose up like he’s been hit with a face full of pollen. “There’s a sign on the door that says ‘Do Not Knock or Ring Bell.’ Nice penmanship, by the way.”

“Why didn’t Liam send Niall?”

“Niall’s gone to Bora Bora,” Harry answers with a shrug.

“And you had nothing to do?”

“I did," Harry says, twisting in the chair to stretch his back. "I actually had several plans but I cancelled them all.”

Louis flumps back into the pillows with a huff and stares at the ceiling. “You’re the best.”

“You’re welcome,” Harry says, sounding pleased even if he thinks Louis is being sarcastic.

Louis is not being sarcastic. Louis can't bloody be sarcastic. Can't be anything other than brutally, uncomfortably honest, and it's killing him.

He sits quietly for a moment, trying to choose the right words to assure Harry that he's okay, without actually saying he's okay. He just needs Harry to go before—before anything else happens.

"Well, you've checked on me," Louis says, hoping it comes out breezy. "So you can go now, and I'll get back to my nap."

"Liam says you keep putting your foot in your mouth," Harry says conversationally, which is not a good sign.

Louis tries very hard to subtly, subtly bring his fist up to his face so he can bite his knuckle.

"Says you're mucking it up worse than he usually does."

"I haven't been on Twitter," Louis protests.

Harry’s nostrils flare but Louis can tell he’s trying not to smile. “Good.”

It's annoying how warm Harry's approval makes him feel. “Right, so. You should probably leave,” Louis says, feeling rather proud of himself for that one.

Harry sits back in the chair, making himself comfortable. “You really want me to leave?”

“No,” Louis says, burying his face in his hands. “No, I do not.”

Harry’s face splits into a huge, annoying smile. “Louis,” he says, drawing it out like a twat. “Louiiiiiis.”

“Fuck, I h—I haaaa—” He kicks at the bed, shoving the blankets to the floor. “I hate this." He looks over at Harry, feeling the desperation rise to his face. "Look, the thing is, I can't lie," he explains in a rush. "Not even about stupid things, and I don't know why or how to fix it."

Harry's grin falters, like he's waiting for a punchline. "You can't—?"

"It's like I'm cursed or something," Louis says. "The whole foot-in-mouth thing. I can't help it."

Harry presses his lips together and nods slowly. He looks skeptical, but like he's going to humor Louis. "So that's what happened with Toyota?"

"Yes, fuck," Louis breathes out, like the burden of keeping that in was too much to bear. "I wouldn't drive that car if it blew me."

Harry looks thoughtful. “And this is what you told the nice marketing lady," he says.

"She asked!" Louis says defensively.

"Of course," Harry agrees mildly. "It was definitely her fault."

Oh, fuck him. "You don't believe me?"

"Nope," Harry says simply.

"This is absolute pants," Louis gripes. "I literally can't lie, and you don't believe me!"

"Would you believe me if the situation were reversed?"

"Of course not," Louis snaps. "But that's because I'm insecure and don't want to look foolish, especially in front of you!"

He tips his head up and glares at the ceiling. "I would really appreciate if you didn't make a comment about that last bit," he grits out.

It's quiet between them for a moment. Eventually Harry clears his throat. He's still looking uncertain, like this could all be a prank, and frankly, it would have been a brilliant one. Louis wishes he had thought of it before it ruined his life. "Right," Harry finally says. "You're going to answer some questions." There’s a challenge in his eyes, in the set of his chin. "I'll know if you're lying."

Louis swallows thickly, but fuck it. He's already humiliated himself a fair amount. "Yeah," he agrees, although the way Harry's looking at him is making him anxious already.

Harry stares at him for a good, long time. "I'm genuinely frightened," Louis starts to say, but Harry cuts him off.

"When was the last time you wanked?"

"The last time I—?" Louis looks up, frowning. Leave it to Harry to jump straight to sex. "This morning? Around seven? Seven thirty?"

Harry's eyes narrow, but his gaze doesn't waver. For a moment, Louis tries to think of ways he could prove he's telling the truth, but then it hits him. "What the fuck," he says, giving Harry a confused look. "How would you know if I was lying about that?"

Harry's mouth goes slack for a moment. He shakes his head. "I'll ask the questions," he says dismissively. "So this morning. What did you think about when you got off?"

Louis's eyes go wide. He tries to squeeze his mouth shut but the answer is falling from his lips before he can stop it. “That mate of Niall’s," he blurts unhappily. He slaps a hand over his mouth as soon as the words are out. Still, it would have been much, much worse if Harry had asked the same question yesterday.

Harry makes a huh face, mouth turning down at the corners. “Which mate of Niall’s?”

Louis presses his lips together again, but there’s no use. “The big—the rugby one.”

Harry looks justifiably intrigued, eyebrows shooting up when he realizes who Louis is talking about. “Massive? Irish?" Louis nods. “What about him?"

Louis's face is on fire. His mouth actually hurts when he says, “Him holding me down and forcing me to take it.”

Harry barks out a laugh, looking equal parts dubious and impressed. "Are you serious?"

"Yes," Louis grits out. "I can't be anything but."

Harry snuffles out a laugh, a little amused burst of air through his nose. "Sorry," he says, trying to wipe the grin off of his face. "I really just expected you to say, like, feet or something."

"Feet?" Louis says, horrified. "That's more your territory."

Harry scrunches up his nose. "I don't have a thing for feet," he protests.

"No?" Let’s see how he likes it for a change. "You're always staring at mine."

The flush on Harry's cheeks is absolutely incriminating. “That’s—not.” He looks up at Louis and points at him accusingly. “You walk barefoot in gas stations.”

"And that does it for you?" Louis wonders aloud. "Makes the Bressie thing seem not so weird."

"Bressie! Right!" Harry snaps his fingers. He looks Louis over thoughtfully. "So you thought about him holding you down and—?" He waits with his eyebrows raised, like he'll catch Louis in a lie somehow.

Or maybe he just wants to hear Louis say it again. Louis may be the one with the stinking crush, but given the opportunity to get Louis to admit anything in the world, Harry's most curious about what gets Louis off.

Louis clenches his jaw but holds Harry's gaze. "Fucking my throat."

Harry's gone quiet for a moment, rubbing at his mouth as he watches Louis. "Just your throat?" he asks, clearing his throat when his voice breaks.

"No," Louis says bravely.

"Right," Harry says after a loaded silence. "So, the usual." He sounds a bit dazed.

Louis raises an eyebrow. "Stop trying to picture it," he says.

"I'm not," Harry shakes his head, obviously lying. "I just really wasn't expecting you to say him."

Louis rolls his eyes. "You thought I'd say you? That I get myself off thinking about you?" He manages to huff as if the very idea is ridiculous. Apparently he can still breathe sort of dishonestly, so that's a win.

Harry peers at him for a long moment. He licks his lips. "Do you?"

"Yes," Louis finds himself saying.

Harry blinks and has the nerve to look surprised. "You think about me when you get off?"

"Yes," Louis says. He wonders how hard he'd need to punch himself in the face to knock himself out.

"Often?"

"Yes, Christ, Harry," Louis groans. "Probably eight times a week for going on six years now. On average, you know. More when we were touring, less when I've been visiting family. Anything else you'd like to know?"

The corner of Harry's mouth quirks up in a half-smile. "Well," he says, nose scrunching again as he drops his eyes to his hands, fiddles with the ring on his thumb. He takes a deep breath. "I suppose," he says, looking back at Louis with a glint in his eye, "I'd like to know as much as you want to tell me."

The obvious answer is that he doesn't want to tell Harry any of it, but he can't bring himself to say so. He certainly hadn't planned on ever discussing his wank habits with Harry, but he'd be lying if he said he wasn't somewhat pleased by the reaction he's getting. Harry looks interested, and Louis has never been able to resist that.

Louis blows out a breath and wipes his face with one hand. "You're going to have to ask better questions, mate."

Harry stills, eyes fixed on Louis. After a moment, he says, "Alright," mostly to himself, and leans back in the chair. He pulls one foot up, and then the other, to pull off his boots and place them neatly on the ground.

Louis pulls himself up into a seated position, rests his back against his headboard and waits. He tucks his hands under his thighs to keep them still.

"So, six years," Harry starts. It's not a question, but Louis nods anyway. Harry tilts his head, pressing his lips together like he's fighting back a grin. "Right from when we met, then?"

Louis can feel his cheeks go hot. "Not the actual moment we met, no," he clarifies. The humiliation is doing nothing to dampen the thrill of Harry's undivided attention.

Harry's mouth twitches. "You waited a few hours."

"Maybe a week," Louis concedes. Surely this is flirting.

Harry licks his lips, the dimple on his left cheek popping. "I was sixteen."

Louis looks down at his fingers, slowing extending six as if he's counting. "Y-yes," he says eventually. "Well done."

"I was a mess," Harry says slowly, like he's remembering. He scoffs quietly, laughing at himself. "I had spots and ridiculous hair and none of my clothes fit properly."

"None of that has changed, really," Louis says, pleased that he can say this.

Harry makes a face like he absolutely does not agree, which doesn't surprise Louis. "And yet somehow I managed to earn your interest," he drawls, half-smug and half-defensive. "Eight times a week, on average."

Louis coughs, ears going hot. "Way more back then."

Harry's eyebrows knit together even as he laughs. "Are you saying I've lost my touch?"

Louis waits, lets it go quiet between them for a beat before he answers earnestly. "No," he says. "I wouldn't say that."

Harry looks him in the eye. "Good to know," he murmurs, trying for casual but the roughness of his voice gives him away.

Louis can feel himself blushing but he keeps his eyes on Harry's. "You've still got your charm," he says. He takes a breath, and thinks, fuck it. "And, one would assume, your giant willy."

Harry keeps his lips pressed tight around a grin. He's always been so proud of his dick, not that Louis can blame him. Even just the mention of it has Harry splaying his legs shamelessly, like he's just remembered to make room for it.

"Ah," Harry says, as if he's figured Louis out. "You just liked me for my willy."

"No," Louis answers, ignoring how his stomach flutters at Harry saying you liked me. What a marvelous understatement. "Although you were always waving it around, giving me a good look. It was impossible not to notice."

The first time Louis had seen it, hanging long and soft and wet when Harry pulled himself out of the pool, stark naked, he’d stared, almost confused by how big it had been. After that, he couldn’t stop looking.

Harry's gone glassy-eyed, and Louis knows that look. Louis remembers that look. Things start to piece together, until Louis feels strangely calm. He brings his hands up, rests one on his belly, watches Harry track the motion. In for a penny, he thinks.

"All I had to do was think about getting my mouth on you," he says, voice breaking, "and I'd get so hard."

Harry's eyes flicker down. It takes every ounce of self-control for Louis not to smile.

"Did you—Is that what you wanted?" Harry asks, voice low and eyes intent. "Did it make you come, thinking about that? About," he swallows, throat bobbing, "sucking me?"

Louis's mouth goes wet at the suggestion. "Yes," he rasps.

Harry inhales through his nose, nostrils flaring as his chest expands. He shifts in the chair, tugging at one knee. "That's," he starts, then coughs into his fist, seeming to change his mind. "What else did you want?" he asks, meeting Louis's eyes and holding them. "Did you want to fuck me?"

"Yes."

Harry nods slowly, like Louis has confirmed a long-held suspicion. It's not like he'd been particularly subtle back then. He's had to develop that muscle over the years.

"I would have let you," Harry says, voice cracking. "You would have been my first."

Louis huffs out through his nose, a half-smile on his face. "Shame we didn't have this chat earlier."

Harry's mouth quirks into a fleeting grin. He watches Louis for a beat too long, making Louis wonder what he sees. "Did you want me to fuck you?"

Louis looks at him from under his lashes. "So much," he says, cheeks flaming even as he's undeterred.

Harry's tongue comes out to wet his mouth. His eyes are fixed on Louis, watching him like a hawk. "How much?"

"More than I wanted to win X Factor." He pauses, letting the realization sink in. "More than I wanted you to win, even."

It's a horrible thing to say, dulled only by the fact that they didn't win anyway, and things have worked out fairly well since.

Harry doesn't look cross, though. His jaw is clenched, cheeks are pink, eyes steady on Louis's, rapt. Louis will gladly tell the truth for the rest of his days if it means Harry will keep looking at him like this.

They're quiet for a beat, Harry watching him with an expression Louis can't quite read. "Who was your first time with?" he eventually asks, voice sticking in his throat. The way he's cracking his knuckles tells Louis it's more than casual curiosity.

"Bloke called Jason," Louis answers, thankful that it hadn't been anyone all that shocking. He even manages to leave out the part about Jason being skinny and pale with a big mouth and messy, curly hair. "You wouldn't know him."

Harry's eyes flash at him. "Would Niall know him?"

"No," Louis says slowly, biting back a grin. He can see how Harry's shirt sticks to his chest, the fabric under his arms dark with sweat. A heady, nervous thrill licks through him. "Would have preferred you, if I'm honest," he confesses bravely, stomach clenching as the words leave his lips. It feels like falling, like he's stepping out over nothing but air. "And I am."

Harry doesn't even blink, just keeps watching him with hot eyes. It's impossible not to imagine it, Harry hunched over him, hair hanging down as he works his huge dick into Louis again and again. Louis has to slide his hand down, rest it lightly over the crude tent in his joggers.

Harry falters, his mouth going slack. His eyes flick down to Louis's lap and catch there. There's no way he can hide it, not any of it.

Harry exhales shakily, clearly affected. He wets his lips with his tongue, and Louis can't stop noticing how flushed and tender his mouth looks, or how he keeps fussing with his hair like he does whenever he's nervous. "So," Harry starts to say, then bites his lip and changes course. "Is that, um. Do you still—?"

The yes is already falling from Louis's mouth when Harry looks away, startled by Louis's now-charged phone vibrating on the night table. "Oh," Harry says, looking at the message on the screen. "Niall." He frowns, brow creasing as he swipes and enters Louis's passcode. "He says it's the necklace."

"I don't care," Louis huffs, then freezes. "Wait. What?"

Harry holds the phone out for Louis to read. There's a series of messages from Niall to their WhatsApp conversation, starting with one in all caps.

Louis snatches the phone from Harry and scrolls. And then he rips the Cambodian necklace off of his neck so fast the cord leaves a burn.

* * *

"Stop pacing," Harry says, infuriatingly calm.

Louis isn't pacing. He's just—thinking. Nervous energy is making him fidget. He snatches his phone from the bed and starts scrolling through his missed messages, cursing under his breath when he sees the shit that's built up while he's been hiding himself away.

"I'm not pacing," he says, secretly chuffed that he can say this. "I'm just thinking about all of the things I need to do, y'know? I've got to ring the people at Toyota, clearly. I've got to send Lottie a gift," he pauses, shaking his head. "A really nice gift."

"Maybe you should send her a Toyota," Harry says, dimples popping.

Louis swallows down the urge to smile. "You're not funny."

"But I do have a giant willy," Harry says, standing and stretching. He grins when he catches Louis watching him. "As you know."

Louis snorts and turns away, hoping that Harry doesn't see how his face goes hot at the reminder. Christ, the things he's said. "Yeah," he mutters, staring blankly at his phone.

He can't help but flinch when Harry steps up behind him, puts both hands on his waist and hooks his chin over Louis's shoulder. It's the kind of touching they haven't done for years, the kind that Louis used to happily melt into. The kind of touching he eventually lost, or actively avoided, and he's not sure which came first. All he can do now is hold still and notice that Harry still smells really fucking good.

Louis abruptly realizes that he hasn't showered today. "Right," he huffs, attempting to put a tiny bit of space between them.

Harry clings, refusing to budge. "Hey," he says quietly. "Can we talk?"

Louis lets his head drop, shoulders slumping. "I'd really rather not," he says honestly.

"Look at you," Harry teases, giving him a squeeze around the middle. "Being honest about your feelings even without your cursed necklace."

Louis laughs, exhaling shakily. "I genuinely hate talking about feelings."

Harry hugs him again, trapping his arms and rocking him from side to side. "You did it again! Maybe it's the positive reinforcement," he muses. "I feel like I should give you a biscuit or something."

"Or something," Louis snorts.

"Okay," Harry murmurs before dipping down to press a kiss to the back of Louis's neck. His mouth lingers, the swipe of his hot tongue sends a shock of arousal sizzling through Louis.

"Oh," Louis breathes, surprised.

"What do you want?" Harry rumbles in his ear. His hands are wandering, fingers catching at the hem of Louis's shirt and slipping under, making Louis suck in his gut, ticklish.

Louis can only hope that was a rhetorical question. Harry can't honestly expect him to keep up the unrestrained honesty that the curse had brought out of him. He tilts his head to the side instead, giving Harry more access to his neck. He's counting on Harry to read his signals.

He breathes out when Harry fits his mouth to Louis's neck, sucks a bruise that has Louis's hand flying up to grip Harry by his hair, his toes curling on the wood floors. If Louis still had it in him to be embarrassed about anything, it'd be how easily he gets worked up just from the feel of Harry's body pressing into his backside. Harry feels overheated, skin hot, damp with sweat. His cock is already stiff.

"M'gonna make you tell me," Harry says, hugging Louis against him with one arm while he slides his other hand down to squeeze Louis's fattening cock. "This okay?" he asks, nuzzling just behind Louis's ear. "If I touch you?"

Louis can only nod jerkily as he bites his lip and closes his eyes. His head drops back against Harry's shoulder when Harry starts pulling him off with slow, easy strokes. His dick feels like a fever between his legs, big and hungry.

"Fuck, you're gorgeous," Harry says, looking down Louis's body to watch. His breath is coming faster now, his erection pressing into Louis's arse. "Absolutely gorgeous. Look at that."

Louis's mouth goes wet as he watches the muscles of Harry's arm tense and release while he jerks Louis off. Harry keeps talking, muttering about the skin on Louis's back, how he wants Louis so much, can't wait to tease him, open him with fingers, with his tongue. Louis groans, embarrassingly loud, hips jerking up, helplessly responsive. He's going to come, too close already, but he wants that.

Harry’s fingers smooth at his hip and then spread his arse, bluntly searching out Louis’s hot, sensitive hole. He rubs at it curiously until Louis arches his back, needy. "Yeah?"

When Harry gets a finger in him, Louis begs out loud. “Please,” he whispers, hole clenching hungrily around Harry’s long, wicked finger. It’s dry and it hurts but for a mindless, hot-blooded moment Louis doesn’t even care. He feels empty, greedy and he wants Harry deeper inside. More.

“Gonna,” Harry pants, sounding overwhelmed. He doesn’t get more than the tip of a second finger inside before Louis loses it, shooting thick spurts of come into the cup of Harry’s palm while Harry pants into his neck, gonna put you down, get in you deep just like you need.

Louis wants that, but he’s useless now, fuck-stupid and comed-out. He can barely hold himself upright while Harry rubs one out against his arse with little presses and gasps, face buried in Louis's hair. He's messy with need, his mouth sloppy-wet and eager against Louis's shoulder, his grunts loud and unrestrained.

He can feel Harry getting close, can tell by the way he sucks desperately at Louis's earlobe, at the choppy jerks of his hips against Louis's bum. He could feel Harry making a mess of him, precome sliding down the crack of his arse, creaming up the inside of his thighs. At the last second, Harry scrambles to get Louis's pants all the way down, tugging frantically before coming all over Louis’s arsecheeks and between his legs. His dick catches there and flexes, slicking Louis up thoroughly. Harry groans and curls his hand around Louis’s softening cock, holds it possessively while he shakes through it.

Harry tumbles him onto the bed just when Louis is certain his legs are going to give out. "Coming standing up is rubbish," Louis grumbles, moving around delicately as Harry's come dries sticky on his skin.

"Which part of that was rubbish?" Harry asks. His voice is wrecked, sleepy-sated. "I must have missed it."

Louis eyes Harry drowsily, drinks in the long, lean pale of his skin, the boyish meat around his hips contrasted with his grown-man's cock, still flushed and heavy against his leg. "Yeah," Louis agrees weakly. "It was all ace, actually. Well done, you."

"You're welcome," Harry says, preening. "We could have been doing that for years," he sighs. "If I knew you wanted to." He rolls over and peers at Louis, curious. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Louis draws in a breath, pretends to consider the question. "Dunno," he says, shrugging. There was never any real point, was there? Sex with Harry was brilliant, the taste of him on Louis's tongue good enough to supply his wank bank for the foreseeable future, but sex wasn't ever what Louis had truly been after. And he's not naive enough to confuse making Harry come with making Harry his. He knows Harry better than that. He's seen what Harry's like after he's scratched an itch. "Never seemed like the right time."

Harry's brows crease. "In six years?" The doubt in his voice is clear. "Try again, and tell the truth this time."

"I am telling the truth," Louis protests. It's the wrong answer—he knows it even before Harry's expression goes cloudy.

"I'm going to have to get a spray bottle with water," Harry grumbles. "Give you a squirt when you're bad."

"Kinky," Louis says, grinning.

Harry's nostrils flare but he doesn't smile, just keeps his lips pressed tightly together and his eyes fixed on Louis. Waiting.

"Fine," Louis sighs, more terrified than exasperated but there's probably no sense keeping secrets anymore. "The reason I never said anything," he says, "is because I wanted more. I—wanted it all." He gestures vaguely with one hand, hoping to distract Harry from the way his voice is trembling. "The whole thing. Not just—" he trails off, almost wishing he still had the shitting necklace on. Being honest about his feelings is bloody difficult.

Harry's brow crumples in confusion. "And you thought I didn't?" He almost looks offended.

Louis remembers how Harry used to look at him, touch him, laugh at everything he said. Louis also remembers Harry being easily infatuated, moving on from fancy to fancy. "I knew you'd get over it, though," Louis says. "Over me. Which you did." It comes out sounding a little bitter, although Louis doesn't mean for it to. It's just the truth. It's not Harry's fault or Louis's fault. It is what it is.

Harry's still staring at him like he's mad. "Did I?" he asks, eyebrows raised.

Louis cocks his head, because, yeah. He had. Hadn't he?

"Why don't you ask me?" Harry looks fierce, chin jutting out defiantly. "Want me to put the necklace on?"

Louis blinks at him, speechless.

"You are a fucking idiot," Harry says, exasperated even as he rolls on top of Louis, weighing him down.

"Wait," Louis stutters. "Wait."

Harry barks out a laugh. "No thank you," he says, giving Louis a quick, hard pinch on the bum. "I'm done waiting."

At Louis's gobsmacked expression, Harry's grin goes wider. "Fine," he says, sighing like he's put upon. "I'll give you twenty minutes because you're old and need to rest." He waggles his eyebrows like an idiot as he rolls off the bed. "I'll make us some tea and bring you a biscuit as a reward for being very, very good."

Louis's mouth clicks shut. Harry's a complete fuckwit and Louis is in love with him. Louis is in love with him and Harry knows and is—making him tea.

Louis's brain is nothing but static. He feels a bit pathetic for asking, but. "And after that?"

At first, Harry blinks at him like he doesn't understand the question, but then his face changes, mouth twisting into a smug grin. "After that," he says, crowding up against Louis. "I'm going to make sure you forget the names of all of Niall's friends."

The kiss Harry lays on him is fierce and bitey and takes Louis's breath away.

When Harry pulls back, Louis stares at him with wide eyes. "Who's Niall?" he whispers, just to see Harry smile.

* * *

A week later, they're dozing in bed when the doorbell sounds. Louis makes no move to get it. He's not expecting anyone, and he figures it's Harry's fault he can barely walk, anyway.

He spends the rest of the morning trying to explain to Harry why his sister has sent him an eerily realistic and very life-sized female sex doll, and why the delivery woman had assured Harry that he was, in fact, a very lucky man.

THE END