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Pieces of You

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***Harry***

Harry sighed, throwing his make-up brush on his bathroom counter and patting the messy bun on top of his head one more time before deciding to just give up. He just wasn't going to get it down today. Sometimes, he could apply the bit of make-up he did wear just right and look good enough to actually feel confident about himself, but most of the time, such as that day, he fell just short of getting it and was left nervous and uncomfortable overall while facing the world.

Still, some make-up was better than none.

It wasn't that Harry even wore a lot; just some foundation, subtle lip color and contouring tools to make his face look a little thinner, but he needed it. He could barely look at himself in the mirror without it, so he wasn't going to force the world to endure a naked-faced Harry. It was a social service, really.

Turning away from the mirror, Harry picked at his too-tight shirt before grabbing his dance bag from its designated place on his bedroom chair (his bag's throne) and heading out. He'd decided upon waking up that he would walk to class that day. It was warm, as summer (and graduation) was only a couple of weeks away and, besides, he could use the exercise anyway, as he'd had to miss a couple of dance classes last week due to a chest cold that left him coughing up a lung while he was sitting and doing nothing, let alone dancing his heart out.

Harry was better from the cold now, but he still felt disgusting.

Since he'd walked a good 2.75 miles to class (he'd tracked it), Harry ate the protein bar he had in his bag for emergency purposes before heading into the dance studio, to ensure that he would have enough energy to make it to the end. Eating the bar made him feel as if he'd just lost all of the progress he'd made by walking, but he rationalized that he still had his walk home and that he could practice for the recital in the living room of his apartment after that.

“Welcome back, Harry!” Ms. Gloria, the dance instructor, greeted the student as he entered her class. Harry liked Ms. Gloria. She had been the instructor for all of his favorite dance classes the past four years, which he didn't find to be a coincidence. The middle-aged woman was so talented that Harry didn't know how she hadn't made it past 'dance instructor,' even if this was one of the best dance colleges in London. She was so kind, though; always helping students, no matter their talent ranking. She was encouraging, too, and sometimes she even made Harry feel like he wasn't a complete embarrassment to himself. Honestly, Harry didn't know what he was going to do once graduation was over and Ms. Gloria wasn't in his life anymore.

Of course, he really didn't know what he was going to do after graduation, period. He would try to find a job where he could use his education, but, though he would love to be a professional dancer, Harry knew they weren't easy to come by and he wasn't the best dancer anyway. He should be a lot better, he knew, as he'd started at age three. His mom had put him in ballet, as he'd been an overactive child and she thought maybe that would help him to calm down. Harry never really got the hang of ballet, so after two years, she withdrew him and put him in hip-hop instead. There, Harry thrived. Well, maybe that was an exaggeration, but he was a lot better at hip-hop than he was at ballet, and he enjoyed it a lot more too. Still, as much as he enjoyed it, and even though he knew he was better in that genre than ballet, Harry still felt inadequate.

He wondered if that was actually how he felt, or if that was the disorder talking. Could the disorder still be that strong after he'd been 'recovered' for five years, minus a couple of minor relapses?

From the age of eleven to the age of fifteen, Harry suffered from anorexia nervosa. The path to that discovery was a long and harrowing journey for both him and his family, but Harry finally accepted his diagnosis and didn't hold it against his parents when they sent him to a treatment facility at the age of fifteen. They didn't know how to handle him anymore, which Harry understood, because he couldn't handle his own thoughts or feelings either. Besides, it wasn't so bad in there, and Harry did get better. Sure, maybe he still wasn't completely 'normal,' but he was okay and happy. He really was. At least most of the time.

Harry's father blamed dancing for Harry's eating disorder and for the first year that he was out of treatment, he wasn't allowed to participate in the sport. He still did, with the support of his mother, unbeknownst to the other man, but when Harry told his parents that he had chosen dance to be his area of study after secondary school, his father refused to send him away to the dance college Harry had already been dreaming of since he was little. Eventually Harry got his way, after explaining (multiple times) that dance actually helped. He'd told his dad that, when he was suffering from anorexia, he could sometimes dance instead of purge, or he could let himself eat something because he knew that he needed it in order to be able to dance. He hadn't mentioned that the same had been true for the past year while he was recovered, of course, but his father finally agreed to let him go to dance school anyway.

And here Harry was.

Liam smiled and nodded to Harry as he walked over to take his designated warm-up spot next to the other man. Harry nodded and smiled back, but they didn't have time for the friendly chats that they sometimes had before class. Harry liked Liam. They hadn't met until that year, as Liam had transferred from another school for his final year after a rather scandalous affair with a teacher. Liam was the polar opposite of Harry in almost every way. Whenever they would go out on the weekends (which wasn't often, but it still happened sometimes), Liam would be flirting with the entire dance floor, accepting shot after shot and inevitably losing his shirt. Harry, on the other hand, watched from a distance, running at any sign of interest from other men or women. Not that Harry was a virgin. He'd had a steady boyfriend for two years who he had learned to be intimate with, but it had taken a while. He still had a good time with Liam, though, and was grateful for his company, as he was the only person that Harry could really even consider as something close to a friend.

Still, as much as Harry liked Liam, he hated standing next to him. Liam's body was literal perfection. He was sure the people who hit on him in bars and clubs only did so as a last resort when Liam was tied up with someone else. More than that, though, Harry really despised standing next to Liam in dance class. He tried not to look in the mirror often, but when he did unthinkingly glance at his reflection, all he saw was awkward movements, a strange face and a body that just wasn't fit enough while Liam's fit body could move and contort any way he wished. Easily, Liam was one of the top in the class, if not the top.

Not that Liam didn't deserve it because he did. He was always practicing and perhaps even more passionate about dance than Harry. Harry danced to lose himself. Liam danced to find and express himself.

It was funny how that worked, Harry thought.

“Alright, class, before we get started on our recital routine, I have an announcement,” Ms. Gloria began once warm-ups were through and the students took a slight break to get a drink of water. The chatter died down instantly, all eyes traveling to the instructor, even as they walked back to their positions. Ms. Gloria smiled and continued.

“As you know, professionals typically come watch seniors their final couple weeks in school in order to recruit talent. These could be professional dance crews, movie directors, music artists...whoever needs wonderful dancers such as yourselves.'

'Today, and also on Wednesday, we have a singer coming into our class. I have no doubts that most if not all of you will know him. He has a worldwide tour starting up this summer and is putting together a new dance crew for his set, and he was very interested in seeing what our school had to offer! Now, he could pick a lot of you or he could pick none of you. Either way, please don't let it get to your head. All of you are amazing and you all deserve the spot. Please believe that I am not just saying that. However, there are limited spots, of course, and multiple schools are scouted for a crew that just fits together. With that being said, try your best, be professional and good luck!”

Ms. Gloria let the excited and nervous chatter of her students take over the room for a few moments before she smiled again, to herself that time, and went to the door to beckon someone in. Immediately, silence took over the class. Liam glanced to Harry, who shrugged, and they simultaneously turned back to the door, waiting for their guest to enter.

When he finally did, gasps could be heard all around, and even a couple of quiet squeals.

“Hey, everyone,” the singer said with a polite smile and wave before accepting the chair that Ms. Gloria offered him. Harry suddenly wondered if his teacher lived under at least a small rock because the whole class definitely knew this man.

Louis Tomlinson, who just went by Louis or Louis T., became famous at age seventeen with his very first album, when Harry was just fourteen. Admittedly, he'd been Harry's celebrity crush for...Well, to be honest, he was still Harry's celebrity crush, though he wasn't quite as obsessed as he used to be. Needless to say, when Louis came out as gay only one year after his album was released, Harry was elated. That had been the event that helped Harry come to terms with and accept his sexuality, and therefore, he came out to his parents right after. (They hadn't been too surprised, though, perhaps because of the multiple posters of Louis on Harry's wall.)

His parents were supportive. In fact, they even bought Harry concert tickets and backstage passes to meet Louis for Harry's sixteenth birthday. Harry was grateful, and he had a great time at the show, though didn't even use the backstage passes. He was sure his celebrity crush was a nice person, because he wouldn't have a crush on him if he thought otherwise, but he hadn't wanted to see how flirty his fantasy husband was with all of the pretty guys who went to his shows and then be forced to compare it to the completely blank, maybe even disappointed, expression he gave Harry.

He'd told his mom he had a great time but that he didn't like how he looked in the picture that came with the backstage pass. She didn't push to see it after that, knowing if Harry showed her, he would be too busy pointing out all of his flaws.

“Just carry on as if I'm not here,” Louis spoke again, and how long exactly had it been? Harry felt like they had all been gaping at the man forever. Oh well. He had to be used to it by now, but Harry's cheeks burned a little anyway. Luckily, he didn't think Louis had noticed him yet because why would he?

The class giggled nervously and Ms. Gloria hummed while finding their recital song. It was only then that Harry's heart began to race while simultaneously dropping to his stomach. Louis, the guy he'd idolized since he was a young teen, was going to have to notice him eventually. It was hard not to notice an uncoordinated cow in a room of lithe bodies. He would wonder how someone had let such an uncoordinated cow get through four years of dance school without telling him that he was, in fact, a clumsy bovine.

Suddenly, the protein bar that Harry had scarfed down was sitting heavy in his stomach right along with his heart and he felt nauseous.

Still, he carried on like he couldn't care less what anyone thought of him, even a gorgeous singer that he had dreamed of marrying once upon a time.

Well, he tried, at least, but Harry found himself messing up over and over again because all he could think about was that damn food and how he shouldn't have eaten it. He felt sicker with every minute.

After what seemed like what should have been the entirety of the dance class but was really only about fifteen minutes, Harry couldn't take it anymore and he hurried off to the bathroom, head down, praying to not be seen while knowing fully well that that wasn't a possibility.

He didn't throw up on his own and, as sick as he did feel, Harry knew he wasn't going to. If he wanted to throw up, he was going to have to force himself, and he did want to. He wanted to so, so much.

And so he did.

He was better now, and he knew that, so he didn't feel too guilty as he stuck his pointer and his middle finger down his throat and began to gag silently. He was only doing it strategically now, to ease the feeling of nausea. That was it; the only reason.

After he'd brought up all he could, Harry did feel better. His throat was killing him, but other than that, he was back to normal. His stomach had settled, and his nerves too. He could do this. He could make it through the rest of class.

Harry was almost smiling as he walked back to the room.

When he entered the room, the class was in the middle of the routine so he stood back, waiting for them to finish before taking his spot again.

He stared at the back of Louis's head.

That turned out to be a mistake, though, because Louis felt his gaze and turned his head, eyes locking with Harry's. Both of them stared for just a brief moment before Louis smiled, and that was it. Harry couldn't take the day anymore because he knew Louis had only been smiling to hide his laugh at the uncoordinated cow that couldn't even make it fifteen minutes without having to stop for a break.

Harry grabbed his bag from where it sat in front of the mirror and ran, ignoring Ms. Gloria calling out his name behind him. He ran all the way back to his apartment and, though he'd wanted to cry the whole journey back, suddenly, his tears were gone and Harry felt numb. He was okay with that.

The only emotion Harry seemed able to feel right then was tired, and could that even be considered an emotion? Harry didn't know, but whatever it was, Harry felt it, and he dropped his bag before lying down on the floor next to it.

He laid there until he heard a knock on his door sometime later.

Slowly, Harry sat up. Checking his watch, he was shocked to find that he had been laying on the floor for nearly two hours, and hadn't he meant to practice dancing when he got home? Well, leave it to the fat boar to not move for one hundred and twenty minutes.

Standing up, Harry opened the door to find Liam on the other side.

“Oh my god!” the man exclaimed, hands flying up in the air as he brushed by Harry to allow himself into the apartment. “Can you believe today?!”

Before Harry could even answer, Liam changed the subject.

“What happened, by the way? Why did you leave?”

“Oh, nothing big,” Harry said, trying to put some feeling into his voice as he finally remembered to close the door. “I'm just a bit sick.”

“Still?” Liam asked, his eyebrows pulled together in concern.

“I think it's something else now,” Harry told him, diverting his eyes from Liam's worried face, feeling suddenly ashamed. Well, at least his emotions were starting to come back. Harry didn't know whether to be happy about that or not.

“Do you need anything, mate?” Liam continued.

“No, I'm fine, thank you.”

Liam nodded, allowing himself to take a seat on Harry's couch.

“How did the rest of class go?” Harry asked, curling up on the opposite side of him, as if he could really spread his disease to the other man. Except he didn't have a disease. He was fine. Even his psychologist had told him so before claiming that they didn't need to have anymore sessions unless Harry felt they were necessary. Secretly, Harry did, but there were other people who needed his time slot and if the doctor thought he was fine, that meant that he was okay.

“It went pretty well,” Liam answered. “Joey fell on his face. I feel bad for the guy, of course, but that leaves a spot open for someone else, I guess.”

“I'm sure you'll get chosen,” Harry told him, and meant it.

“Please,” Liam said with a roll of his eyes, but there was a big smile on his face that showed that he knew Harry was right. Liam wasn't naïve to how good he was, which he shouldn't be.

“Anyway, you need to rest up,” Liam said, getting to his feet again. “You have to be back at class on Wednesday!”

“It's not like I'll be getting into the tour anyway,” Harry said.

“I think you have a good shot.”

“You're too kind.”

Harry stood to his feet as well to see Liam out the door, but instead of heading that way, Liam took a couple of steps towards Harry, and then squished his friend's cheeks with both hands, causing Harry to make a somewhat humiliating fish face, though that was the least of Harry's concern. He was more worried about Liam feeling just how squishy his chubby cheeks were.

He wondered if he could also feel them burning, because Harry certainly could.

“You need to get some confidence in yourself,” Liam commented. With that, he dropped his hands from Harry's face and gave him a smile. “See you on Wednesday!”

With a chipper wave, Liam turned and all but skipped out of Harry's place. Harry wasn't so sure, at first, if Liam would see him on Wednesday, but then decided, to hell with it. Louis had already seen him and laughed at him. What did he really have to lose?

Chapter Text

***Harry***

In his strange state of half depression and half numbness, Harry almost forgotten that he had work that night. Thankfully, he remembered right on time.

Part of the deal he had to make with his parents in order to go to the dance school was to get a job and pay half of the rent for an apartment, as he didn't want to stay on campus and be paired with someone potentially awful. Harry agreed to the deal right away and, honestly, he was glad for it because being so busy kept his mind off of things; it kept his mind off of himself.

In his desperation to go to the school, Harry had applied everywhere within the vicinity. The irony of the situation was that the first place to offer him a job was a bakery.

Harry was often self-conscious at work, more so than usual, because, while he didn't eat the goods, no one would ever know that by looking at him, and he just knew the customers were probably disgusted with his apparent lack of self-control. Harry really didn't understand why he was so chubby, given how healthy he ate. He guessed it was just part of his fate. He didn't like it, but he was learning to accept it...Mostly...Sometimes.

Since Harry had remembered that he had work just in time to run out of his apartment, jump into his car and make it there on time by speeding, he hadn't had time to eat his regular dinner. He had managed to grab a banana on the way out the door, though was going to try not to eat it. He would probably eat at least a little dinner when he got back home and he didn't need that snack on top of it. He was doing pretty good, too. His stomach started growling only an hour into his shift, but Harry fought the hunger. He knew just what to think about when he started craving food (fat, fat, so much fat) and also just what to do when his stomach gave a rather loud growl, like clear his throat, or drum on the counter, or noisily set up supplies. He could make it to the end of the work day, he was sure of it.

Unfortunately, with only fifteen minutes left of his shift, Harry found himself getting that light-headed and shaky feeling that he got whenever his blood sugar dropped. If he didn't get something in his system, there was a high possibility that he would end up on the floor before he could make it out the door. Water wasn't enough (though he did try that, at first), so, sighing, Harry was left with no choice but to go to the back and grab his banana. He took it out front with him again, sure no one would come in with so little time left, but wanting to be prepared just in case.

Since all of his closing procedures that he could possibly get done at that point were already finished, Harry took his time in eating the banana, hoping that if he ate slow enough, his blood sugar would normalize before he ate the whole thing and he could toss out the rest.

He was only about halfway done when the bell at the top of the door dinged five minutes later, announcing someone's arrival. Harry fought to roll his eyes because only the worst people came in ten minutes before closing, he thought, but he smiled anyway and turned his gaze from the fruit in his hands to the customer. He felt a jolt go through his body when he saw that it was Louis. The Louis. Louis T.

In his state of shock, excitement and panic, Harry had forgotten that he still had a chunk of banana in his mouth and nearly choked when he went to greet the customer. Luckily, he managed to swallow the food with only a mild cough and clearing of the throat and then, face turning red, he threw the rest of his banana in the trashcan.

“Don't worry,” Louis said, giving the bakery employee a smile. “I won't tell on you.”

Harry didn't mention that he wasn't ashamed of Louis finding him eating at work, but that he was ashamed he'd found him eating in general. He cleared his throat again.

“What can I get you?” he asked, voice thick, and ew. He was truly disgusting.

“That is a good question, Harry,” Louis told him, looking into the display bin of all of the items that they still had available this late at night. Harry wondered for a moment how Louis knew his name, but then remembered that Ms. Gloria had used it earlier when he'd darted out of class. Louis continued, “It's my manager ' s birthday, but I can't get him a cake because he doesn't like icing.”

Louis rolled his eyes after that statement, but then smiled again.

“So what's good?”

Harry didn't know what was good from personal experience, of course, and he'd heard different things about all of their treats, but he wanted to be a good employee, so he glanced into the display and said the first item that came to his mind.

“The double fudge brownies are pretty good,” he said, and then felt his face grow even hotter. It was a bakery, so of course they didn't really have any particularly healthy choices, but he should have picked something with a bit smaller of a calorie count, at least.

Louis's smile widened. Of course you like the double fudge brownies , he was probably thinking.

“They do look good,” Louis agreed. “Okay, I'll take one. Actually, make that two.”

Harry rang the singer up, still blushing. The fact that he was blushing embarrassed him further, and probably caused him to blush even more. Harry wanted to disappear.

Since Louis had ordered two of the brownies, Harry had naturally assumed that one was for the singer, but after he was given his change, Louis took out one of the brownies and placed it on a napkin before scooting it to Harry.

“For you,” he said. “You know, since I caused you to throw away your banana.”

“You didn't have to do that, but thank you,” Harry said, finding the gesture kind even though he had no intention of eating the dessert.

Though their business transaction was done, instead of leaving, Louis leaned his front against the counter, his elbows resting on the surface and his hands clamped together.

“I'm sorry for coming in last minute,” he apologized. “I just figured it would be less busy and just...easier, you know?”

“Oh, yeah, it's totally okay,” Harry said because, suddenly, it was.

“That over there is my bodyguard, by the way,” Louis said, nodding to a big, burly man who was waiting, bored, by the door. “His name is Alberto.”

Alberto nodded and Harry gave a small wave.

“Alberto, this is Harry,” Louis said. “He's a student in the dance class I observed today. You did great by the way, Harry.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, even though he knew Louis was just saying that to be kind. Or maybe he was being sarcastic and Harry wasn't picking up on it. He didn't have time to really dwell on that dilemma,though, because his boss dropped something in the back, causing a clang loud enough to make Louis noticeably jump a little. He stepped away from the counter.

“I should probably let you get to closing up so you can go home,” he said.

“Yeah, I guess,” Harry said, though he wanted to tell Louis that he didn't really have to go if he didn't want to. (But why wouldn't he want to anyway?)

“Will you be in class on Wednesday?” Louis asked.

“Yeah, I'll be there,” Harry said.

“Good. I'll see you then, Harry.”

“Have a good night.”

“Thank you. You too.”

Louis reached in to his wallet for some more money to throw in the tip jar and then turned on his heel, following Alberto quickly from the shop. Harry let out a breath, his eyes traveling to the brownie Louis had bought him, sitting on that napkin and turning it slightly moist from the grease. Harry gagged a little, though had a strange urge to eat the dessert too because Louis had bought it for him. His long-t ime celebrity crush had bought him something!

Why couldn't Harry have worked in a flower shop instead, damn it?

Deciding to not throw it away just yet, Harry placed another napkin on top of the item and wrapped it up before finishing his closing chores and getting the okay to go home for the night.

Harry had just reached his car and unlocked it when his phone buzzed. After getting in and putting the wrapped brownie in his glove box, he checked his mobile to see that it was Liam that had texted him.

Mate, I'm sooo drunk. Can you pick me up??? Pleeeeeasaee

Harry replied that he would pick Liam up, of course, and after Liam had replied with the address of the place he was at, the dancer went on his way.

It ended up being a small, nicely decorated home that Liam was at, though when Harry arrived, he was sitting at the end of the driveway, smoking a cigarette. Harry wanted to tell him that smoking would likely end his dancing career prematurely, but decided not to start that conversation at that time. That wasn't what Liam needed right then.

Are you okay?” Harry asked after Liam had put out his cigarette and climbed into the other's passenger seat.

“Yeah, jus' couldn't spend the night with Cal again,” Liam explained.

“Which one is Cal?” Harry asked as he began to drive again.

“Blonde fohawk guy. The bartender at that club we went to last week.”

“Ah, yeah,” Harry said, remembering. “I didn't realize you were still seeing him.”

“I'm not seeing him,” Liam snapped quickly. “I went to the club again and he was working, and there weren't very many good choices at the club tonight, so I just went home with him again. I couldn't stay, though, because he might think things are more serious than they are if I do.”

“So you just ran out while the guy was sleeping?”

“Yeah. So?”

“Do you like him?”

“He's a good fuck.”

Harry held in his sigh, keeping his eyes on the road as he reached blindly with one hand to open his glove compartment and fe lt around until he found the brownie.

“Eat this,” he instructed, both because Liam needed it and because it would get it away from Harry.

“Oooh, thanks, mate. You're so nice to me.”

“It's no problem,” Harry assured him as he closed his glove compartment.

Harry didn't like leaving Liam in his dorm while he was drunk, because it was no secret that he and his dorm mate didn't get along great as it was, so he took him back to his apartment, got him some water and then put him to bed as he went to wash up.

When he returned to his room, Liam's eyes were closed, but when Harry crawled in bed next to him, the drunk let out a loud yawn and rolled over, placing one arm over Harry's middle and burying his face into his shoulder. Even though Liam and Harry weren't super close, they had shared a bed before on multiple occasions and it wasn’t weird to them. It was kind of nice, actually, because Liam could get close to someone who wouldn't try to get in his pants and Harry could let someone touch him without worrying about what they would think when they felt all of his extra pounds. Liam wouldn't judge him for his weight or clumsiness, he knew, no matter the fact that he was so graceful and had a perfect body. Harry didn't know how he knew Liam wouldn't judge him, but he just did, and it felt good to be able to relax around somebody, at least when others weren't around to compare the two.

Harry woke the next morning to find that Liam was already gone. He'd left a note on the bedside table, reading,

Har-bear,

Thanks for picking me up and being my handler last night. I owe you, mate! (Again.)

I had Mikey pick me up, so I didn't walk, don't worry. There's a cinnamon melt for you on your table. Talk to you later!

XXXLiamXXX

Harry didn't know who this Mikey guy was, but he smiled, setting the note back down on his nightstand and getting out of bed to head to his kitchen. He smiled wider when he saw the cinnamon melt. Liam was so sweet and thoughtful, and Harry thought it was sad that he wouldn't let anyone else see that side of him.

Of course, Harry wasn't going to eat the cinnamon melt, but he couldn't bring himself to throw it away yet either, so he put it in one of his top cupboards before making himself a bowl of oatmeal.

Unfortunately, at dance school, there was more curriculum to do than just dancing, and Harry was in a very boring 'dance history' class when his phone started buzzing. He never put his phone on silent just in case of an emergency, but the only people who ever tried to get in touch with him were Liam and his family, all of whom knew his schedule and never contacted him during class, so when Harry saw Liam's name lit up on the phone screen, his heart picked up speed and he apologized as he rushed out of the classroom, answering his phone before he was even in the hall.

“Liam?”

“Harry!”

“What's wrong? Do I need to come get you?”

“Do you need to come get me? No, I'm too fucked up to go to class so I'm just nice and comfy in my bed, mate.”

“Liam...”

Harry trailed off and sighed. He and Liam were basically friends, sure, but he didn't think they were at the point in their relationship where Harry could scold him for getting 'fucked up' instead of going to class.

“Why did you call me?” he asked instead.

“Because you are in deep trouble, mister.”

“What? Why?”

“You didn't tell me that Louis T. was at your bakery last night, and while you were working, no less!”

“How do you know about that?”

“Look at his Twitter!”

“Okay, I'll look when we hang up...”

“No! Look now!”

Sighing quietly, Harry brought up his Twitter app and found Louis's page. The most recent tweet was a picture of a man, who Harry assumed to be his manager, blowing out a candle that was sitting on top of a double fudge brownie, and the caption underneath said, Dean loved his double fudge brownie! Thanks Harry at @Paula'sBakery !

Harry was blushing again.

“Well…?” Liam prodded when Harry said nothing.

“I mean, yeah, he was there, but he just bought a brownie for his manager and left,” Harry said. It was basically the truth.

“Are you going to fuck him?”

“What the hell?” Harry said. “No….”

“Why? He's gorgeous.”

“Yeah, but he's famous and, even if I did ever talk to him again, it's not like he would be interested.”

“I bet he already is. You're gorgeous too.”

“I'm not.”

“Yeah, you are.”

“Liam, you haven't even tried to fuck me,” Harry pointed out. He kept his voice light, but the words were true. Liam hadn't tried to sleep with him, and he tried (and usually succeeded) in sleeping with every man that breathed in his general direction.

“Actually, when I started talking to you in dance class, my original intentions were to make love to you,” Liam said, “but you were so oblivious and thought I just really needed help with my posture and that was very charming in such an innocent way that I just couldn't corrupt you. And, well, now we're friends and if I had sex with you, we couldn't be friends anymore.”

“I have to get back to class,” Harry said, because that was easier than trying to find something to say in reply to Liam. So he did consider them 'friends,' then. Harry wasn't sure Liam would want to think of him in such close terms, and he'd also said 'made love' when referencing Harry instead of his usual 'fuck,' 'bang,' 'penetrate,' 'shag,' 'do,' or 'screw.'

“I can't believe you were that close to Louis,” Liam said.

“You will be too when he picks you for his dance team,” Harry said. Liam only laughed.


Louis arrived to the dance class late on Wednesday, after it had already started, and left early. Harry felt something, but he told himself that it wasn't disappointment. Why would it be? It wasn't like he had expected Louis to say anything to him. Besides, he had thought that the singer smiled at him once when their eyes met, but he was probably wrong about that too. He was sure Louis must have been looking at Liam or someone directly behind Harry, unless he was laughing at him again.

Harry spent the rest of dance class silently asking himself why he couldn't get better no matter how hard he tried, and why did he have to work so hard anyway when all of the moves came so naturally for most of the other dancers?

Thankfully, Harry was so busy between work and trying to perfect his dance routine for the recital that he had completely forgotten that Louis was supposed to be there on the big night.

“You don't have anything to worry about, baby,” his mom had said, spraying yet more hairspray into her son's hair, determined to get every single curly piece to stay down.

“I'm not worried,” Harry told her, even though he was a little bit. Logically, he knew it was too late to worry about it then. He couldn't get any more prepared. His fate for the night had been set.

“You look thin,” the woman replied. “Have you been eating?”

“Yes, mum,” Harry groaned.

“Have you been…?”

“No, mum. I haven't been purging.”

That one time about a week-and-a-half ago didn't count, and neither did the time he'd gotten curious and eaten half of the cinnamon melt that Liam had kindly bought him. They were special circumstances and he hadn't made it a habit, so he didn't feel as if it counted, not that he would tell his mother either way.

“Leave him be, Anne,” Harry's dad said, a warning edge to his voice.

I'm just making sure!” the woman defended.

“I'm fine. I promise,” Harry assured them all, kissing his mother on the cheek first, and then his sister, and, lastly, his dad.

Harry still didn't recall that Louis T. was in the audience as the recital went on, which was good, because if he had, he probably would have fallen on his face.

His routine went quickly, as they always did, but he felt pretty satisfied afterward. He could have done better, of course, because he could always do better, but he'd done much worse on different occasions, so he didn't feel too bad about himself and accepted the compliments from his family without arguing too much over them.

“I can't believe that was your last recital!” his sister, Gemma, exclaimed, pulling her brother into the third hug of the night. “Next time I see you dance, you're going to be a back-up for, like, some big-time singer or something.”

Harry huffed out a laugh, and he knew Gemma was just joking, but it was just then that he realized, oh yeah, Louis had been scheduled to be in the audience that night. He wondered if he'd shown up and, if he had, if he'd offered Liam a spot yet, and just as he pulled apart from his sister, his eyes landed on the very same singer standing a bit in the distance, looking over towards him and his family. His heart dropped to his stomach and, for just a moment, he got light-headed.

When Louis saw that Harry had noticed him, he smiled and began walking over. Alberto stayed back, but watched carefully. Oh god, oh god, oh god.

Harry wasn't naive enough to think that Louis was heading over to offer him a spot in his tour, but he had no clue why Louis would be heading over to him and his family, which made him even more nervous.

“Excuse me,” Louis said, for Harry's family had somehow not noticed their their son and brother had checked out from their conversation to stare at the approaching singer. All of them turned, and Louis's smile grew. “Hello!” he greeted. “I'm Louis.”

He shook all of their hands like he'd actually had to introduce himself to the three who were gaping at him, even Harry's father. Gemma looked as if she might faint. Harry thought it would be hilarious if she did and also make him feel a bit better about the embarrassing things Louis had seen him do. Not that he actually hoped she would faint, but still.

“I'm sorry to interrupt your family time, and I promise I won't keep Harry long, but would you mind if I borrowed him for just a minute or two?” the singer asked the family. None of them answered for what seemed like a long time, but really wasn't all that much, and then Gemma finally came halfway to her senses and shook her head, pushing her parents away quickly. Louis watched them go and then turned back to Harry, still smiling.

“Congratulations,” he began. “You did amazing tonight.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, of course not believing that for a second.

“Seriously, you were flawless,” Louis said. Harry fought off a frown. What kind of game was this guy trying to play?

“Thank you,” he said again anyway.

“Of course. So, Harry, I promised I wouldn't keep you from your family long, so I'm going to get right to the point.'

'I think you're great. You're so talented and I would love if you joined me on tour as one of the dance team.'”

Harry's mouth dropped open. All thoughts seemed to leave him. Louis's smile somehow grew still, but he stayed silent, waiting for Harry to come to his senses and give him an answer.

“Are you joking?” Harry asked once he had finally regained most of his thinking ability.

“Not at all. I would really love to have you on my tour.”

Harry fish-mouthed, which he was sure he would have time to be embarrassed about later.

“Why don't you offer it to one of the more talented dancers?” he managed to ask after a moment. “Why not Liam? Liam Payne? Um...he's about five-foot-ten, buff, big brown eyes-”

“I know who Liam is,” Louis assured Harry gently, “and he has a spot waiting for him too, but you are also very talented, Harry, and I really don't think the tour would be complete without you.”

Again, Harry didn't know what to say.

“You don't have to decide right now,” Louis said. “ Obviously, we still have a lot of talking to do. Just think about it, alright? And when you decide...”

Louis reached into his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper with an e-mail address on it.

“...Just send me an e-mail. If it could be within the next week or so, that would be great.”

Harry looked at the small slip of paper, feeling dizzy again.

“I hope to hear from you soon, Harry,” Louis spoke again. “And I hope your answer is yes.”

When Harry looked back up, the singer gave him another smile.

“Congratulations again and have a great night.”

Harry should have returned the sentiment, but he had apparently lost the ability to speak.

Louis turned on his heel and walked away.

“What in the bloody hell was that?” Gemma asked, grabbing Harry's elbow, and he jumped, not having heard them approach.

“Um…,” Harry said. Well, it was a start at least. Apparently it wasn't good enough, b ecause both his parents and his sister raised their eyebrows.

“Well?” Gemma prodded.

“He...uh...he offered me a spot on his tour as a dancer. Obviously as a dancer...”

Gemma gave Harry a look much like he'd given Louis, but then she screamed. Luckily, it was loud backstage anyway.

“Harry, that's great! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh-my-gosh! Do you think you can get us free tickets sometime?”

“Gem, I don't think I'm actually doing it,” Harry said, trying to force out a laugh. It fell flat.

“What?! Why not?!”

“I'll humiliate myself! Did you see his dancers last time?! They were amazing .”

“So are you!”

“No, not really.”

“Louis...oh my god, I can't believe I'm actually saying this...but he wouldn't have offered you a spot if he didn't think you were amazing too.”

Silently, Harry thought that Louis must be a sadist who liked to embarrass people. Out loud he assured his family that he would think about it and turned to put the paper with the singer's e-mail address (or maybe it was just a handler, Harry wasn't sure) in his dance bag.

“Well, anyway, change your clothes and meet us in the lobby,” Anne said. “We're going out to eat to celebrate!”

Harry swallowed against the strange feeling in his throat. He hated restaurants. They always used too much salt, too much cheese, too much...everything, and to top it off, his family never took him anywhere that had the calories listed in the menus and if they did by accident, Harry wasn't allowed to look, but was forced to listen as they read off the choices to him until he made his decision.

“That sounds great,” he told his mom anyway. They told him about where they would be waiting for him and left him to change. As Harry sifted through his things, trying to find his regular clothes, he took out that small slip of paper and gave it one last look. He knew he probably would never use it, but he decided to keep it for the time being, just in case.

Chapter Text

***Liam***

Frowning at his reflection in the mirror, Liam readjusted his graduation cap and then looked down disdainfully at his robe. This was so not a good look for him and he didn't want this to be the last image everyone had of him, but then he realized that it probably wouldn't be because he was touring with Louis.

Liam knew it would be the modest thing to do if he said that he was surprised when Louis offered him the spot, but he wasn't. He had a way of getting what he wanted, and he had wanted that spot, damn it.

Still, not everyone followed Louis's career, and for those individuals, this might be the last look they ever saw Liam in. He sighed at the thought, but his attention was drawn away from his own self-pity when he heard footsteps and, through the mirror, saw Harry walking towards him from behind.

Well, look how adorable you are!” Liam commented, and Harry did look absolutely precious. He pulled off the cap and gown much better than Liam did. He could definitely be in a graduation porn or something.

At the compliment, Harry just smiled, checking Liam over once himself and then helping him fix his collar.

“Are you nervous?” Liam asked. “Because you don't have to be. Great things will come to you, Harry, I know it.”

“I'm not nervous,” Harry said, “and even better things will come for you. I still can't believe that you didn't get a spot on Louis's tour!”

Liam hadn't yet told Harry about the offer he'd gotten because he knew how much Harry liked the singer (he got so excited every time his song would come on when they were at the club, and it was the closest thing to 'happy' that Liam ever saw the man) and he also knew that Harry was hypercritical of himself, so he didn't want him to feel bad about not being offered the spot that should have been his. Harry was so pretty and moved so naturally and elegantly. He was born to perform through dance. The fact that he hadn't been offered a place in the tour really did blow Liam's mind.

He was aware of the fact that he couldn't keep the secret from Harry forever, though, and so decided he might as well tell him now that Harry had brought the topic up.

“Actually, I did get offered a spot,” Liam admitted, his voice small, having to force himself to not look away from Harry because he didn't want to see the look of disappointment and self-hatred that he sometimes saw on his face.

Harry didn't look disappointed or upset at all, though. Instead, he beamed, his whole demeanor lighting up at the news.

“Liam, that's great!” he exclaimed, even bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet a little bit, clearly excited for his friend. “Why didn't you tell me?!”

Liam shrugged sheepishly. Harry pursed his lips and looked at him down the bridge of his nose, but then smiled again and fixed the tassel on Liam's cap.

“I actually got an offer too,” Harry admitted then, nonchalantly, like it was no big deal. Liam outwardly gasped.

“You got an offer for Louis's tour?!”

“Yeah.”

Liam's mouth was gaped open; not because he didn't think Harry would get an offer, of course, but because he thought he would have heard by now that he had. Oh well. No matter.

“That's awesome, mate!” Liam said. “I can't wait to tour the world with you!”

Harry gave yet another smile, but shook his head.

“I don't know if I'm going to do it,” he said.

Why the hell not?!”

“I'm not at the same level as everyone else,” Harry said, still speaking nonchalantly, though he had become obsessed with getting Liam's graduation robe as straight as he could. “I don't deserve it and I don't want to humiliate myself.”

“That's bullshit, Harry,” Liam sighed. “You're so good. You have to do it!”

“I don't know.”

“You're doing it.”

“I don't want to take the spot from someone who actually deserves it, Li.”

“Sweetie, you picked the wrong area of study if that's how you're going to feel with everything.”

“I'll just take a smaller role eventually. It will be fine.”

“No. That's stupid.”

Harry shrugged.

“You're doing the Louis tour, Harry.”

Harry laughed, giving his head another quick shake.

“Yes,” Liam argued still. “I will even leave Louis untouched so that you can screw him.”

“Yeah, like that would happen.”

“He's already tweeted about you! The next step is the bed. Or the shower, pla n e, back stage , tour bus, limo...Oh my god, I've always wanted to have sex in a limo. It's on my bucket list, actually.”

Harry rolled his eyes, though he didn't look completely unamused.

“Well, I'm sure Louis would love to have sex with you in a limo.”

“Nope. He's yours. I'll just take the other back-up dancers and the easy and desperate fans who can't get with Louis.”

“I'm not doing the tour.”

“You are.”

Harry opened his mouth, no doubt to tell him yet again that he was not doing it, but their argument was interrupted by the dean's voice telling them to quickly take their places in line.

“This isn't over,” Liam had said before hurrying to his spot so that he would have the last say.


The graduation ceremony was, unsurprisingly, boring. To entertain himself, Liam made a game of counting how many people he'd slept with during his year at that school. He'd only gotten to s ix before they started calling the 'P's' and then he lost track in the haste to get his diploma and get his robed self back to his seat. He thought s ix was an awfully low number, but he rationalized that he was only counting the people at that school and not the various club-goers and bartenders he'd had sex with that year.

Still, he was mildly disappointed in himself, but he didn't have time to dwell because he felt his phone buzz from his pocket and pulled it out to see a text from Mikey, some 27-year-old that was best friends with his dorm mate's brother and who he had been sleeping with off and on for a couple of months . He smiled.

Meet me outside when you can , the text read.

K, was all Liam replied. Honestly, he wanted to run out and find Mikey right then, knowing he had to have something much better than this stupid ceremony planned, but he didn't feel right leaving before he saw Harry get his diploma and, besides, it was good to make guys wait a little bit.

Once Harry had gone up to the stage, received his diploma and then sat back down, Liam hurried to the usher, said he didn't feel well, and then went outside. The building was large and Liam pulled out his phone before he'd even made it out the front doors, prepared to text Mikey and ask where exactly he was, but he didn't need to. The man was sitting on the top step b y the entrance, smoking a cigarette and scrolling through his phone.

Hey,” Liam said to get his attention. Mikey glanced over his shoulder and then smiled, turning briefly to lock his phone and then slipping it in to his pocket as he stood. He had something else in his free hand and when the older man turned, Liam saw that it was flowers; a bouquet of roses, to be exact. His heart dropped.

“Hey, hot stuff,” Mikey said, walking towards Liam, who was suddenly frozen in place, and giving him a kiss on the lips before forcing the flowers into his hands.

“Um...thanks,” Liam said, giving the flowers a mildly reproachful look, but resisting the temptation to throw them on the ground.

“You're welcome,” Mikey said. “How is the ceremony going?”

“Pretty boring, honestly.”

“Yeah? Well, do you want to get out of here?”

“I can't,” Liam told him, and any other time he would be at least a little disappointed by the fact, but suddenly, he was grateful. “My aunt and uncle are here and they will kill me if I bail.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Mikey didn't look particularly disappointed either and gave Liam another smile and kiss.

“Hey,” he said then, taking Liam's free hand suddenly and kissing the top of that instead. Liam gave the man the same look he had given the flowers while resisting the urge to push him away.

“Yes?” Liam prodded when Mikey said nothing; just continued to press faint kisses onto the top of his hand.

“I need to ask you something.”

“What is it?”

“I know we have that party tonight and you're leaving the day after tomorrow, so I was wondering if, tomorrow night, you would like to go to dinner with me?”

Liam's eyes widened, and he panicked even more then. His heart was seriously about to beat out of his chest, and not in a good, happy way.

“I'm just not ready to say goodbye to you yet,” Mikey continued. “I know your body almost perfectly by this point, but I really want to get to know the rest of you too.”

“No,” Liam said when the last word was barely out of the other's mouth.

“No?” Mikey repeated, looking nothing less than shocked.

“I don't date,” Liam explained, and he was sure he let Mikey know of that fact beforehand. He always told the men he went to bed with that that was all that was going to happen; that they were never to get to anything beyond sex. It hadn't really been a problem for any of them before.

“Well...babe, we don't have to call it a date if you don't want to,” Mikey said. He still had a hold on Liam's hand, so the younger man drew it away.

“That's what it would be though; a date.”

“I like you, Li. Don't you like me too?”

“We were having sex, Mike. That's it.”

Mikey stared at Liam just long enough for it to get awkward.

“Wow,” he finally said.

“Just...no,” Liam stammered and, with a shake of his head, dropped the flowers to the ground, turned on his heel and went back into the building and down to his seat. The ceremony was almost over, but he resumed his earlier game of finding his past lovers amongst the men that were still up to walk. He counted two more.

Once the graduates were dismissed to go b ackstage, Liam quickly found Harry and they went off in search of their families together, Liam shrugging out of his cap and gown the moment they were in the lobby.

The two first found Karen and Geoff, Liam's aunt and uncle who had taken custody of him when he was fifteen after his homophobic father had found out he was gay and kicked him out. Nicola and Ruth, Liam's slightly older cousins, were also with them, and they gave him embarrassing pinches on the cheek to go along with their congratulations. Sometimes Liam wished he had just run away.

It didn't take long after that for the group to find Harry's parents and sister, who gave the both of them congratulations as well.

“I need a pic ture of you boys!” Harry's mom, Anne, announced giddily, waving her camera in the air. Liam found it endearing that she still used an actual camera instead of just a phone. Harry, however, groaned.

“No, she's right,” Karen agreed. “Come on, let's go outside first. Liam, put your cap and gown back on.”

It was Liam's turn to groan then, but he obeyed.

“How should we pose?” Liam asked Harry teasingly once they were outside and found what, according to Anne and Karen, was the perfect spot.

“I don't know. I hate pictures,” Harry said, sounding a bit like a petulant child.

“Aww,” Liam cooed, and then pulled Harry into a tight side-hug, squeezing his friend tightly and placing a big, sloppy kiss on his cheek. Harry shrieked, but after giving the women a couple of moments to get a picture, Liam pulled away to see that the other man was smiling.

“Was that good?” Liam asked Anne and Karen.

“It better be because that's all they're getting,” Harry said.

“No, I need one of you and your sister,” Anne told her son, who groaned yet again.

“We'll get one later, at the restaurant,” Gemma said.

“Restaurant?” Harry asked.

“Yes,” Karen spoke. “We all ran into each other before the ceremony began and decided it would be lovely to go out to eat together and celebrate!”

“Okay, but we can't be long,” Liam said. “I have to go shopping for this party tonight and I'm taking Harry with me.”

“Where are we going to eat ?” Harry asked.

“It's up to you two,” Anne said. “It's your special day.”

“Pasta!” Liam decided right away.


If Liam was being honest, he found it a little strange that they were going out. His aunt, uncle and cousins were nice, and they liked Liam well enough , but they never spent much time together. He was beginning to think they were regretting the decision only a few minutes into dinner anyway.

“Our waiter is really cute,” Liam commented, watching the guy walk away after they had put in their food orders.

“Back off, he's mine,” Ruth said.

“Yeah, he is probably straight,” Liam decided with a sigh.

“But the good news is, the bartender is equally a s cute and definitely not straight,” Gemma announced as she came back from the bar, setting one drink in front of Liam and another in front of Harry; her graduation present to them. “One of you need s to go make a move.”

The graduates looked at each other, each quirking an eyebrow, before Harry laughed, taking a small sip of his beverage.

“Go for it, mate,” he said. Smiling, Liam downed at least a quarter of his drink before standing from his seat.

“Thanks for the drink, by the way, Gemma,” he said. She assured him that he was welcome and then Liam made his way to the bar, making sure to keep his posture straight and put just the right amount of sway in his hips. The bartender-who was really cute, Gemma was right-noticed him before he was even five feet within the bar and smiled. Liam returned the expression. He had this.

Ten minutes later, he returned to his seat with the bartender's number saved into his phone.

“So?” Gemma prodded when Liam ignored everyone's gazes and sat down to take a bite of his food, which had arrived in his absence. After swallowing that bite, he chugged the rest of his drink before shrugging and saying,

“Got his number.”

“You go, boy,” Gemma congratulated him, reaching across the table to high-five her brother's friend. Meanwhile, Karen and Geoff noticeably sighed.

“You're a slut,” Nicola commented. “I thought you were talking to a guy named Bradley?”

“Bradley was, like, three boyfriends ago,” Harry spoke up. The three younger girls laughed, but Liam was quick to cut in.

“They aren't boyfriends!”

“'Tis why you're a slut, baby brother,” Nicola said, pinching his cheek. Liam turned and bit her hand gently.

“I'm not your brother,” he reminded her.

“I'm hurt,” the woman said with false betrayal in her voice. “We took you in and you won't even claim us?”

Liam rolled his eyes, and luckily Karen spoke up to tell her daughter that this was not the appropriate time to talk about that. Liam went to the bar to order himself another drink. He got it for free. He pretended to be surprised and promised to tip the bartender, Alex, very well later. He even threw in a wink and everything. Sometimes, Liam loved himself, which was good since no one else would.

Even with all of his trips to the bar, Liam still finished his meal before Harry, but waited patiently for him, despite the fact that he really wanted to get to the mall and find an outfit while he was still feeling confident from his success with Alex. Harry stopped at about halfway through his course, though, and placed his napkin on his plate to show Liam that he was finished.

“Are you ready to head to the mall?” Liam asked him.

“Yeah, just let me use the toilet real quick,” Harry said, standing from his chair and excusing himself as he brushed by his father. A noticeable silence fell over Harry's family suddenly and all three of them turned their heads and watched as Harry walked away. Finally, Liam thought he saw Anne nudge her husband and he stood, following Harry to the restroom. It was all kind of strange, really, but Liam didn't think about it much.

“Okay, are you ready?” Harry asked Liam when he returned a couple minutes later, standing behind his chair instead of sitting in it.

“Ready,” Liam assured him, getting to his feet.

“How are you boys planning on getting to the mall?” Anne asked.

“Cab,” Liam said.

“You're always running off somewhere,” Nicola said. It almost sounded like she was whining, but Liam knew she didn't actually care, so he just winked and, moving stealthily, swiped her alcoholic beverage from the table, chugging it despite her protests. When he placed the empty glass back in front of her , she threw a straw wrapper at him.

“Okay, leave now,” Ruth said. “The cute waiter is coming back.”

“Get his digits,” Liam told her, taking a sip from her drink as well before turning and following Harry out of the restaurant. Of course, he turned to smile enticingly at Alex the Bartender as he passed, and smirked to himself when Alex proceeded to drop the shot glass he was cleaning.

“Should I invite him to the party tonight?” Liam asked as he and Harry stepped out into the warm spring air. Liam fell to the side a bit and Harry grabbed onto his arm. Liam giggled. “Sorry,” he said. “I'm a bit buzzed.”

Harry ignored that last statement.

“I thought you were bringing Mikey to the party?” he asked.

“Oh, I'm done with Mikey,” Liam said, shaking his head as if that could make the memories of what happened between them earlier disappear. Instead, it just made him a bit dizzy.

“What happened?” Harry asked.

“Nothing.”

“Liam, come on.”

“He fucked up.”

“How?”

Liam sighed.

“He wanted to take me to dinner.”

“He wanted to take you to dinner to make up for messing up or…?”

“No. Wanting to take me to dinner was how he fucked up.”

“I don't understand,” Harry said, his eyebrows pulled together to show that he truly didn't. Liam sighed again.

“We were supposed to be fuck buddies,” he explained. “I really liked Mikey too, but he had to go and ruin it.”

“If you liked him, I think you would want to go to dinner with him, Liam.”

Liam shrugged, stepping forward to hail a cab and leaving the conversation like that .

It didn't take them long to get a cab and Liam hadn't even been trying to hit on the driver, but he had his number by the end of the ride. Again, he promised to tip him well later.

“I feel like that's a form of prostitution,” Harry commented.

“Sometimes, you do what you have to do,” Liam said.

“I guess.”

The two walked silently into the mall.

“Do I make you uncomfortable?” Liam asked when they reached the front doors, opening it and holding it for Harry.

“Thank you. And no, you're fine, Liam. I mean, I hope you're fine...”

“I'm great, Harry.”

“Good. I'm going to the bathroom. I'll be right back.”

“Didn't you just go before we left the restaurant?”

“I have a weak bladder.”

“Alright, old man.”

Harry smiled, not bothered. Liam told him what store to meet him in and then went on his way.


It took an hour, but, finally, Liam found the perfect outfit; a black crop top that showed enough of his abs to tease, but kept enough hidden to stir up the imagination, a tight black jacket and faded black skinny jeans with boots. Liam thought Alex the bartender and/or George the cab driver would appreciate it.

While shopping, Liam had tried to convince Harry to get a new outfit as well. He'd even offered to buy it for him (his mom had sent him a lot of graduation money, a.k.a. guilt money), but Harry insisted that he already had the outfit he wanted to wear picked out at home.


Liam ended up not inviting anyone to the party, but promised Alex he would stop by later. He never texted George, figuring he would squeeze him in sometime, but in the mean time, it wouldn't kill him to wait. When he asked Harry if he could drop him off at Alex's on the way home from the party, he could tell that he didn't really want to, but he agreed anyway.

Harry was such a good friend.

***Harry***

Harry didn't really expect to have fun at the party. He figured it would be the same as the times he and Liam went to clubs, where Liam would get drunk and run off for bathroom blow jobs or disappear completely with someone while Harry tried to stay invisible and wait for his friend's return, but, while Liam went off a couple of times, he was never gone long. Besides, a guy that Liam had had a fling with once or twice; Stefan, his name was, found Harry during one of the times he was alone and brought him along for shots and beer pong. Stefan was nice. Harry kind of wished something more came from his and Liam's affair. Of course, he kind of wished something more would come from any of Liam's affairs if it meant the guy would stop setting himself up to be murdered or at least given an STD.

Liam always told Harry he worried too much, but Harry didn't mind because worrying about Liam kept him from worrying about himself.

Harry didn't drink too often due to the calories and such, but he would sometimes let himself and just make up for it later. Even Harry had to have fun sometimes.

By the time Liam came back from his second rendezvous, Harry was a bit past 'tipsy' and he insisted that his friend watch how amazing he was at beer pong. When Harry missed, he assured the other man that he was better just a couple of minutes ago.

“I'm sure you were,” Liam had said, ruffling Harry's hair. “It's nice to see you compliment yourself, you know,” he added.

“Don't get used to it,” Harry said with what was supposed to be a wink. Liam laughed and grabbed a can of beer for the both of them.

After a couple hours of intense alcohol-related games, Liam flirting, and the both of them just drinking in general, Liam started to gag and so Harry quickly took him outside to cool off. He seemed to feel better almost immediately and began dancing to the song that was blaring from the speakers. Harry watched, smiling and sipping on what he swore was going to be his last drink.

“Oh my god!” Liam screeched when the next song came on; something by Louis T. He began all but humping the air and Harry literally cackled.

“You should do that on the tour,” he said. “It will make your slut legendary-ness at least three times easier than it already is.”

Harry was well aware that legendary-ness wasn't a word. He was also aware that he didn't care.

“I would, but I wouldn't want you to have an oopsie in your tight little dance uniform onstage,” Liam said, sticking out his tongue childishly, but then turning it into something sexual by licking his finger and rubbing his nipple. Harry laughed about that until his side hurt.

“I'm not doing the tour, though,” he said once he'd regained his composure.

“But you have to!”

“I don't know...”

“No, Harry! You have to!” Liam insisted. “You deserve it.”

Harry wanted to tell Liam that he really, really didn't, but now that he thought about it, he realized that he did. He'd told himself that if he lost seven pounds by next week then he would do the tour. It had only been two days, but he'd lost three pounds, and that was pretty awesome of him, if he said so himself.

“You know what? I do deserve it!” he said.

“Yes!” Liam screamed, halting his dance to pump a fist in the air excitedly.

“I'm going to e-mail Louis right now,” Harry decided.

“Yes!” Liam screamed again, even louder, as his other fist flew into the air . Hands still up, he began to swing his hips.

Smiling widely, Harry pulled his phone from his back pocket, opened his e-mail app and typed out what he thought to be,

To whom it may concern,

I would love to go on the Louis tour as a dancer. Thank you.

Love,

Harry Styles

He showed Liam. Liam told him it was perfect, so Harry sent it. Then, Liam screamed yet again and pulled Harry into a hug.

“We're going to be tour mates!” he exclaimed excitedly. Harry hugged his friend back, laughing uncontrollably again. He was just in such a good mood. He was reaching his goal weight, was drunk as all hell, and was going on a worldwide tour, doing what he loved to do, with his best friend...and Louis Tomlinson.


 

 

Chapter Text

***Louis***

Louis checked his e-mail one last time before calling it a night. He didn't actually expect to have an e-mail from Harry, as he was losing hope that he would get an e-mail from Harry at all. Not everyone agreed to his tours right away, of course. It was a big commitment, but the ones who did decide to take the offer usually e-mailed back within twenty-four hours if they were going to do it, according to his tour manager. Typically, it was his tour manager that dealt with the dance crews, band and other groups of people they needed to set up and put on a show. No one, after the casting process, ever talked directly to Louis again until tour started. That was, until Harry showed up.

What it was exactly that caused Louis to be so drawn to Harry was unclear to the singer. Yeah, Harry was beautiful, graceful and altogether captivating, but that could be said about many others that Louis had come across in his time in the music industry as well, though Louis thought that Harry might be more beautiful than any other, to be honest. He was real. Most people with that natural charm knew that they had it and used it to their advantage. There was no shame in that, but Louis could already tell from the little interaction he'd had with Harry that he was not like that, which only made Louis want to get to know the guy more.

Louis barely looked when he opened his e-mail, certain that nothing would be there anyway. It was only as he closed his browser that he noted one line much darker than the others, like it was bold-faced. That, of course, meant that Louis had an unread message.

It probably wasn't Harry, Louis told himself, but he clicked on his internet icon again, quickly, nearly holding his breath as he logged into his account. His eyes widened when he saw that there was, in fact, an unread message from someone with the username harry.styles.94.

Maybe it still wasn't the Harry he was hoping for. Even though he probably should have, Louis didn't know his last name, (maybe 'styles' wasn't even the last name), but he felt like the name would fit the beautiful dancer. He took a minute to brace himself for disappointment and then clicked on the message with no subject.


To whom it may concern,

I would love to go on the Louis tour as a dancer. Thank you.

Love,

Harry Styles


As Louis had only offered one Harry a spot on his tour as a dancer, he was left with the conclusion that it was the man he'd wanted it to be and he found himself grinning widely, both because he was happy over that fact, but also because of the message itself. Either Harry was just as awkward (in the cutest way) even over e-mail or he was partying on the hard side that night. Given the time of nearly two in the morning, Louis guessed the latter to be the most correct option.

He typed out his reply.

Harry,

I am so happy to hear from you, and even happier that your answer is yes! Would you be able and willing to meet my managers and me on Wednesday? Please reply and we will pick a time and place that works for everyone. I'll hear from you soon!

Love,

Louis

After sending the message, Louis went to bed, still smiling.

He was not smiling when he woke up, at least, but that quickly changed when he took his phone from the nightstand, opened his e-mail and saw that Harry had replied to him with a 'yes.'


The next day, Wednesday, Louis found himself a bit nervous as he waited in the cafe they had agreed to meet at. He and his two managers were there. The only person missing was Harry. They still had fifteen minutes until their agreed-upon meeting time, so maybe Louis shouldn't be nervous, but he couldn't shake the fear that Harry was going to change his mind. And why was he so afraid of that happening anyway? Harry was a great dancer, and yeah he was one of the most attractive ones he'd ever had, but he wouldn't make or break the tour. People enjoyed the back-up dancers, but if Louis had to pick someone who was still good, just maybe a little less elegant or, less well..hot, his tour would survive.

He needn't have worried though. Harry showed up five minutes later-still ten minutes early- holding a water bottle and with his hair in its typical bun. Louis wondered if he had been practicing dance before he got there.

“Hey, Harry, over here,” Louis called, not too loudly as to bring a lot of attention to the group, but loud enough to get the attention of the person he needed. Harry looked over and, after giving everyone already sitting there a nervous glance, he walked to the table, where Dean told him to have a seat by him, across from Louis. The poor guy looked so riddled with anxiety. Louis gave him a reassuring smile, but was sure it didn't help much. As Harry wasn't even making eye contact, Louis wasn't even sure he saw it anyway.

“How are you?” Louis continued speaking.

“I'm fine,” Harry answered, looking towards Louis, yet not in his eyes. “How are you?”

“I'm great. This is my tour manager, Beatrice, and my main manager, Dean. Beatrice and Dean, this is Harry.”

“The brownie guy,” Dean noted with a smile. Harry returned the smile, but scratched nervously at his ear.

“Before we begin, Harry, would you like anything to eat?” Louis asked after the three had finished their greetings.

“No, thank you,” Harry replied.

“What about to drink?”

“This is fine,” Harry said, brandishing his water bottle around a bit.

“Alright. Time to get down to business then?”

Beatrice nodded in affirmation, studied her notepad for just a few brief moments and then began talking to Harry about the important aspects of his duties if he were to go through with the tour, such as the tour dates, dancer responsibilities, privacy policies, payment and other perks. Harry listened, but his leg was bouncing the whole time, his fists resting underneath his chin.

He's not going to do the tour, Louis repeated to himself what seemed like a thousand times during the meeting. The man was already far too nervous and, having been as hesitant as he was before, Louis really could not see him taking the job offer when it was all said and done.

That was exactly what Harry did though, and a flood of relief coursed through Louis.

“We'll have to meet up one more time so you can sign your contract,” Louis said to Harry as they all stood to leave. “I'll get in contact with the lawyer first so that he can be there to assure you that we aren't throwing you to the dogs or anything.”

“Oh, yeah, okay,” Harry said with an awkward shrug. He was just so adorable. How was it possible to be adorable and sexy at the same time?

“Do you have any free time tomorrow?” Louis asked then.

“Yeah, I'm free all day.”

“Great. I'll call the lawyer as soon as I get in the car and e-mail you right back, alright?”

“Okay.”

Finally, now that they were out of the booth and Louis was slipping on his jacket, Harry made eye contact with the singer, who smiled at him again.

“Don't be nervous,” he tried. “We're going to have a fantastic time.”

Harry smiled, though it was clear that Louis's words hadn't really done much to sooth his worries. Louis hadn't really expected them to, of course.

“Do you need a ride anywhere?” Louis said next.

“No, I'm okay, but thanks.”

“You're welcome. I'll see you, probably tomorrow, then.”

Harry nodded and, after just another brief grin, Louis left with Beatrice and Dean close behind him.


***Harry***

He couldn't believe that he actually did it. He agreed to the tour. Technically, he agreed twice. What was wrong with him?

It wasn't too late yet, Harry knew. He hadn't signed a contract, but now, after everyone went through all of this trouble for him, he also knew that he couldn't back out. It was actually official. He was going on tour with Louis T.

Not all of his feelings about the situation were bad. He was excited too; not just nervous and ashamed. He knew he would make a fool of himself and maybe even of Louis, but, still, he was excited.

All of those emotions were too much. Shaking his head, Harry left the cafe, where he had been standing, alone, for a questionable amount of time, and jogged the seven miles home.

Once he finally reached his apartment and caught his breath, Harry checked his phone to see a missed call from Gemma. It was from over a half an hour ago, but he figured a few more minutes wouldn't hurt her and washed the sweat off of his body and changed clothes before calling his sister back.

“Did you do it?!” she asked in means of a 'hello.'

“Yeah,” Harry said. “I did it.”

Gemma shrieked.

“I'm so proud of you, baby brother!” she said, and Harry was pretty sure her voice broke. He closed his eyes because, no. He couldn't deal with that.

“Thanks,” he said, his voice not quite normal either. Luckily, Gemma's voice had at least steadied by the time she spoke again.

“Not to be a downer, but dad wants me to ask you if you're sure all of this is a good idea.”

No, Harry said in his head.

“Yeah, I'm sure,” he said out loud.

“And you're really okay, Harry?”

“I'm fine!” Harry said, a bit snappier than he'd intended, but the question grew very frustrating after answering it so many times and nothing changing no matter what he said. “Why doesn't anyone believe me?!”

“Hey, calm down,” Gemma said, being a strong enough person to not raise her voice in return. “I was just checking. I thought you would rather have this talk with me than with mum.”

“Sorry.”

“It's okay.”

“I'm fine. I love you.”

“I love you too, baby bro.”

Their phone call ended after that and, for the first time since arriving home, Harry checked the time. It was only three o' clock. He sighed and leaned his head back against the couch as his stomach growled. He still had an hour and a half until he could eat his second bowl of oatmeal for the day, which would also be his last meal until breakfast tomorrow.

To pass the time, Harry danced.

He crashed early that evening, as his dinner didn't do much to satisfy his hunger, but luckily, he remembered to check his e-mail before crashing. He already had a message from Louis, stating the time and place they were to meet tomorrow.

Setting his alarm clock to leave him plenty of time to get in his morning exercise, Harry fell asleep at seven o' clock.


Harry only had to wait about three minutes in the lobby of the suite where Louis's main manager, Dean, worked, before the secretary led him back to the room where Dean, Beatrice, Louis and a man in a suit who Harry assumed to be the lawyer were sitting. He didn't really think about it too hard anyway because, out of all of those people, the only person he really saw was Louis. He was dressed in red. That was definitely his color.

Louis gave Harry one of his breathtaking smiles and Harry returned it a little more genuinely that time. He no longer thought Louis's smile was to mock him. It might have held sympathy, but Harry supposed that was a little better.

“Hello, Harry. Have a seat, please,” Dean instructed. Harry nodded, looking towards the ground and tucking a piece of hair behind his ear as he took the only seat that was still available. Unfortunately, it was far away from Louis.

“I like your hair down,” Louis commented, and it took Harry a moment to realize that he was talking to him.

“Oh,” he said, shocked when he looked up to see everyone's eyes on him. “Thank you.”

Okay, maybe that was a little mocking, but Harry swallowed against the lump in his throat and decided to worry about that later.

The lawyer spent nearly forty-five minutes explaining the contract in full detail to Harry, who listened intently even though it was all a little overwhelming.

“Do you have any questions?” the man asked Harry as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose after he'd finished.

“No,” Harry answered.

“Are you sure, Harry?” Louis asked. The dancer nodded.

Once the contract was signed (Harry's hands were shaking just a little as he moved the pen and he hoped it wasn't noticeable,) the others stood, signaling the end of the event. Harry got to his feet as well. Beatrice and the lawyer made their way out the door, but Louis took a few steps closer to Harry, who could feel his cheeks growing hot.

“I'm planning something for the tour crew, including the dance team, soon, so that we can all get to know each other and whatnot. I'll be in touch,” he said. Then, he shook Harry's hand like it was the first time they'd met and not the sixth. Not that Harry was counting.

As soon as their hands touched, Louis gasped.

“Bloody hell, I thought my hands were always cold, but yours are freezing!” he said, putting Harry's two hands together and beginning to rub them with his own. Harry grew a bit dizzy.

“You could have asked us to turn down the air,” Louis continued.

“I'm just always cold,” Harry said.

“We'll get along well in terms of heat then,” Louis said. He let go of Harry's hands and the dancer quickly put them back down to his side.

“Well, I guess I'll let you get out to your car, where you can maybe get warm,” Louis told him. “Actually, I'll walk you out, if you're ready.”

Harry nodded, swallowing subtly, both nervous and excited again.

“Bye, Dean!” Louis called with a brief wave as he turned and exited the room. The other man said goodbye to the both of them as Harry quickly followed the singer.

He was glad that, as they walked, they fell in step comfortably with each other. Harry didn't want to walk too slow and showcase just how out of shape he actually was, but he also didn't want to quicken his pace a lot and get out of breath.

“Where is your car?” Louis asked once the two had reached the parking garage.

“Oh, I walked, actually,” Harry said, wondering why he had allowed himself to follow Louis to the parking garage like a weirdo when he didn't need to go there at all.

Louis raised an eyebrow.

“You live that close?” he asked.

“About four blocks away, so not too bad.”

“That's too far to walk,” Louis said. “I'll drive you home.”

“Oh, thanks, but you don't have to. I'm really fine.”

“Harry, it's pouring.”

Pausing to strain his ears and listen, Harry realized that Louis was right.

“I'm not a threat, I promise,” Louis assured the other, who blushed.

“No, it's not that,” Harry said. “A ride home would be great if it's not too much trouble.”

“Not at all! I'm this way.”

Harry followed Louis to his car, the newest model of the Escalade, unsurprisingly, and Louis even opened the door for him; probably because he didn't want anyone else touching his car, especially Harry's greasy fingers.

“How long have you been dancing?” Louis asked after a couple minutes of driving in silence, besides for him telling Harry that he could adjust the heat and air as he wished.

“Seventeen years,” Harry answered. “So since I was three.”

He mentally slapped himself at that last statement because Louis hadn't asked.

“Wow,” the singer commented. “I guess that's why you're so good. Well, that and natural talent, of course.”

Harry didn't say anything, unsure of how to reply since he didn't know exactly how to read that comment, so he just messed with his ear.

“What other hobbies do you have?” Louis questioned next.

“None, really,” Harry answered.

“Yeah, I get that,” Louis assured him when Harry didn't go on. “Singing always took up all of my time.”

Harry nodded and then belatedly smiled when Louis glanced over at him. Louis, of course, smiled back. Not for the first time, Harry noticed how much more beautiful Louis was in person than in pictures. He didn't know how that was even possible because he was pretty damn attractive in basically every single picture, but it was true.

When Louis looked over again, Harry realized he was staring and looked away quickly.

“Sorry,” he said.

“That's okay,” Louis assured him.

They finished the drive in silence, except for Harry giving directions.

Once they reached Harry's apartment, the dancer thanked the singer for the ride and hurried in with Louis's umbrella which the singer insisted he take. (He refused to unlock the door to his car until Harry agreed to use it and Harry pretended like he couldn't just flip the lock himself.)

Once inside, Harry watched the clock on his phone for three minutes. Figuring Louis was a good distance away by then, Harry turned right back around and went outside for a thirty minute jog.

While jogging, he thought of Louis.

When Harry got home, he noticed with dread that he'd forgotten to turn the calorie tracker on his phone on, which meant, naturally, that he had to do the jog again. He had to be serious about his fitness now that he was a professional dancer and was going to be on stage in front of millions of people and with the man he'd had a crush on for years…

Those thoughts had Harry panicking and he was left with no choice but to slow down as he started coughing. If he'd had anything in his system, he probably would have thrown up right there on the side of the road, but, luckily, he didn't.

It only took Harry a couple of minutes to pull himself together and finish his jog.

When he stepped back into his apartment, his legs were shaking, and the rest of his body was too, from the cold. It felt like there were knives in his lungs, and the room was starting to turn a slight shade of blue.

Kicking his wet shoes off, Harry made his way to the bathroom where he collapsed in the tub, his clothes still on. After a minute, he closed his shower curtain and turned on the hot water.

He wished Louis was there to warm him up again.


***Liam***

Liam almost peed himself as there was a loud bam from his bedroom door back at home being flung open and hitting the wall to allow Nicola and Ruth's entrance. More accurately, he almost spilled his bottle of whiskey, but that would have been equally as traumatic.

“Jeez!” he breathed once he had found his voice again. “Haven't you heard of knocking?!”

He took a swig from his whiskey bottle, thinking that the girls were worse than his dorm mate back at school. He had at least stayed far away from Liam's 'sex dungeon.' (The guy was awfully homophobic for a straight guy at a dance school, Liam thought. He was probably only there for the girls; horny pervert.)

“You're drinking alone,” Nicola observed instead of answering her cousin's question.

“So?”

“You're on your bed...in the dark...drinking alone.”

“It's not completely dark,” Liam reasoned. “The blinds are partially open.”

Nicola shook her head.

“No,” the older woman said to her younger sister. “We aren't doing this.”

“Doing what?” Liam asked, taking another drink from his bottle. Nicola made a grab for the alcohol, but Liam yanked it away and downed the rest of it quickly, just to be safe. Afterward, he burped loudly, giving himself an eleven out of ten.

“Attractive,” Nicola said. Liam smiled, his nose scrunched up adorably, in his personal opinion.

“We have a mission for you,” Ruth said to the man. Liam sat up straighter.

“Go on,” he urged.

“A fairly attractive homosexual man just moved in across the street,” she said.

“Boring,” Liam said with a fake yawn that turned into a real one. Once he'd recovered, he said, “That's not even a challenge.”

“But he moved in with his partner,” the girl continued. Liam raised a curious eyebrow.

“So what's the mission?”

“You need to go land yourself a threesome!”

“I've never had a threesome before,” Liam said, stroking his chin as he pondered the possibility. Why not, he finally decided after two seconds. “I bet I could pull it.”

The guy tried to stand, but Nicola pushed him gently back onto the bed.

“No,” she said.

“Come on, Nic, don't be a killjoy,” Liam said.

“Have some respect for yourself, Liam,” she responded.

“I do respect myself,” Liam said. “I love myself.”

“What about trying a dating site if you're lonely?”

“I'm not lonely,” Liam said. “And I would have to go on at least one date with a dating website, and I don't date.”

Nicola sighed.

“What happened to the nine-year-old boy who sent me an invitation for his wedding with the new kid in his class?”

“He got the shit beat out of him one too many times. I don't think he's alive anymore.”

Even Ruth seemed to sober up at that statement, her amused smile quickly changing to a frown.

“Liam,” Nicola said with a warning tone to her voice as the man stood and gently brushed by her.

“Get out,” he said. “I need to change.”

The girls didn't move.

“I'm getting naked no matter what,” Liam said, loosening the strings on his sweatpants. His cousins quickly hurried out. Smiling to himself, Liam hurriedly changed into a pair of form-fitting blue jeans and a tight white t-shirt, as it was raining outside.

“Liam, wait a minute,” Karen called from the kitchen when she heard her nephew coming down the stairs. “It's almost dinner time.”

“I'm not hungry,” Liam called, making his way to the front door.

“Liam,” Geoff said. Sighing, Liam stopped, his hand on the doorknob, and he turned to face the approaching man.

“Stay and eat with us,” Geoff said.

“I'm not hungry.”

“Well, you need to eat something, regardless.”

The man was walking closer. Liam found himself pressed against the door so that the knob was jamming him in the lower back painfully, but he still managed to smirk as he said,

“I'm planning on going out and getting a couple of hot dogs tonight.”

From the walkway in between the living room and the kitchen, the three women in the house gasped, though Liam thought Ruth's was more of a hidden laugh. Geoff noticeably cringed at the words.

“We don't need that kind of talk in here,” he said. “That's disgusting, Liam.”

Just like that, Liam's fear changed to anger and he pushed himself away from the door, coming nearly face-to-face with his uncle.

“I know!” he shouted, and the older man shrunk back. “I know I'm disgusting! I'm a fucking faggot whore, and I know that, but I never asked you to keep me!”

“You did, actually, when you called me crying from a gas station!” Geoff said, his face turning red as he, too, grew angry.

“Well that was a dumb move on my part!” Liam said, and then gasped as Geoff grabbed his arms and backed him against the door again. The girls gasped even louder, Karen crying her husband's name, but being ignored.

“If you want to be ungrateful like that, then maybe we should kick you out too!” he said.

“Geoff, we're not kicking him out! Let go of him!” Karen said. Liam thought she might be crying but he wasn't taking his eyes off of his uncle to check.

“Go ahead and kick me out!” Liam said. “I have a job starting soon anyway and until then, I'll make more money as a hooker on the streets than any of you ever will!”

“You're drunk,” Geoff noted, studying the younger guy's face intently. “You're just like your mother, Liam.”

“And you're just like you're brother,” Liam retorted. He definitely heard Karen cry out then.

“Geoff, let go of him!”

Geoff had already pulled his hands away from Liam at those words, though. Liam's uncle and father were fraternal twins, but looked exactly the same except for the placement of their individual birthmarks, but, personality-wise, the brothers were polar opposites and they couldn't stand each other.

“Don't compare me to that homophobic, psychotic son-of-a-bitch,” he warned.

“Then don't compare me to that drunk bitch that can't do anything by herself! I don't need a guy like she did! I don't need anyone!”

With that, Liam turned on his heel and left the house, slamming the door behind him. Part of him wanted to cry, but he shut that part down quickly. Liam Payne didn't cry; not anymore.

After taking just a couple of moments to compose himself, Liam put his well-practiced enticing smile on his face and began walking across the street, where there was a guy pulling boxes from a moving van. By the time he reached the man, he was already soaked from the rain; his tight white shirt showing off all of his muscles.

“Hello!” he called cheerily. The guy glanced over his shoulder and then turned again for just a moment to pull the box out from the vehicle. “Do you need any help?” Liam asked, sticking his hip out a bit and running a hand through his dripping wet hair. The stranger looked him up and down a couple of times.

“Okay,” he finally said. “Grab a box.”

So demanding, Liam thought, but did as he was told and followed the man into his new house. About halfway up the path, his aunt and uncle's new neighbor stopped, allowing Liam to go ahead of him. Liam could feel him staring at his ass as he walked. Suddenly, it was good to be home...Or whatever this place was.

Chapter Text

***Liam***

Surprisingly, the threesome was a bit of a challenge to land. The first of the two men that Liam met, Elijah, was clearly super into the idea from the start, but his partner, Rhys, was reluctant.

“I don't know, babe,” he'd said when Elijah made his and Liam's intentions known. “I haven't touched anyone but you for seven years now.”

“But we always thought about trying it out when we were younger,” Elijah had reasoned. “I know it hasn't really been brought up for a while, but come on. The opportunity is right here; ready and willing.”

Rhys had studied Liam intently then. Liam gave his best smoldering look and, finally, Rhys sighed in defeat.

“I'm going to need a drink for this,” he said. “Liam, do you want one?”

Liam was still feeling his whiskey from earlier quite heavily, but he wasn't going to turn down a free drink. Or three, which it turned out being.

Due to the amount of alcohol he consumed, Liam wasn't all present for the trio's rendezvous, but he guessed he still performed pretty well because each guy wanted a couple of turns with him. Liam knew he was really going to pay for this later, once the alcohol wore off, but he didn't really care right then, and he passed out as soon as Rhys and Elijah rolled over, signaling that their fun was over.

The sound of a doorbell pulled Liam partway back into the real world. Was he back at Geoff and Karen's again? Was it even the same day? He wasn't sure, but he wasn't too concerned, and he concentrated on trying to fall back to sleep when a voice carried through the empty house and up the stairs. The voice sounded like it belonged to Liam's father.

“Where is my son?” it asked, and for a moment, Liam wanted to scream, but then he rationalized that he was probably just in a deeper sleep than he was aware of and thus on the brink of a nightmare. His father hadn't talked to him in nearly six years, so there was no way he was going to come looking for him now.

Muffled voices followed the older man's words and Liam couldn't understand what they were saying, but given that he'd already concluded he was dreaming, he didn't try all that hard to make them out. It wasn't like it was important, as he wouldn't remember any of this when he woke anyway.

Liam was just about to slip over the edge to full sleep when he felt a hand on his shoulder and bolted upright, gasping. His head spun and his stomach lurched, and all of it was only made worse when he saw that his dad was sitting in front of him.

Letting out a small scream, Liam scooted back as far as he could against the head of the bed, telling the other to go away and leave him alone.

“Liam, relax,” the older man said. “It's me; it's Geoff.”

Geoff. Of course. That made sense. How could Liam be stupid enough to think it would be his father?

The dancer became dizzy again as pure relief flooded through him. He almost cried. Almost, but, of course, Liam didn't cry, not even when drunk.

“Do you have anything gon?” Geoff asked. Liam had to feel himself to check, but then told his uncle that he was wearing underwear. Geoff found the rest of Liam's clothes on the floor, placed them on the bed, and told his nephew to get dressed and meet him downstairs as quickly as he could.

“Why?” Liam asked.

“Because we're going home,” Geoff said, like it should have been obvious. Maybe before their earlier fight, it would have been.

“I don't have a home,” Liam said then, and he didn't care if he sounded like a kid.

“Our place is your home, Liam,” Geoff told him, and then left the bedroom without another word. Moving as quickly as he could without vomiting, Liam put his clothes on and went downstairs. Geoff was standing by the front door with Rhys and Elijah waiting nearby awkwardly. Liam smiled at them.

“Welcome to the neighborhood!” he said and then followed Geoff across the street.

“Get to bed,” Geoff instructed once inside the door, and Liam didn't have to be told twice. He felt as if he should be able to fall right to a deep, peaceful sleep, but the room was spinning and his whole body felt unsettled. Still, he must have been out of it enough because he didn't even notice that anyone entered his room until he felt hands on his back, giving him a light massage. When Liam checked to see who it was and found that it was his uncle, he frowned, but that hurt, so he quickly stopped and closed his eyes again, deciding to not think about the weirdness of the situation.

“Why do you always have to challenge me, Liam?” the older man asked gently.

When Liam had first moved in with his aunt and uncle and started 'acting out,' they had forced him to see a therapist, who said that Liam 'challenged' Geoff because he looked so much like his father and he was subconsciously expecting to be hurt or betrayed in some way by him as well. The result was, apparently, that Liam pushed his buttons to try to prove himself right.

Liam wasn't so sure about all of that, but it could be true, he guessed. He would actually have to think about his feelings to figure it out for sure, and that was something that Liam wasn't interested in doing.

The dancer felt too sick to answer his uncle right then, and he wouldn't know what to say anyway, but the older man didn't press for a response.

“Get some rest, kid,” he said prior to leaving the room and, finally, Liam did fall asleep.

When he woke, Liam was glad that he didn't feel too terrible, given how awful he had felt before drifting off. His head ached, as well as every other part of his body, but if he breathed in just the right way, he could refrain from feeling like he was about to spew his guts out.

“Good morning!” Karen greeted the man when he entered the kitchen. Liam had no idea if it was actually morning or not, but given that the ladies seemed to be eating breakfast, he guessed it was.

“Would you like an egg sandwich?” his aunt continued.

“Please,” Liam said, his voice only a croak. The girls pretended not to notice as he took a seat by Nicola, wincing as he did so. His body was so not used to being put through quite that much, but Liam would do it again, if the opportunity ever arose.

“How are you?” Nicola asked, somewhat awkwardly, after a few moments of silence.

“I'm fine,” Liam replied.

“Ruth and I should never have set you up to that. We're sorry,” the woman said, to which Liam shrugged.

“It was fun,” he assured her.

“Can we please do something this weekend as, like, a family?” his oldest cousin asked. It seemed like kind of a random question, but Liam could see in her eyes how much it meant to her, so, shrugging again, he said,

“Okay, sure.”

***Harry***

Two days after Harry signed his contract, he got an e-mail from Louis about the party he'd mentioned. It was to take place at a nearby hotel in exactly a week. Harry knew he should be excited for it; for everything, but he was starting to feel the beginning of pure regret for agreeing to join this tour. He was going to make a fool out of himself. This was way too big for him, and when he failed at this, he knew he could say goodbye to any other job opportunity in his field as well.

The contract was signed, though, and Harry knew he was going to have to go along with the tour until they came up with a good enough reason to fire him.

Briefly, Harry wondered if the party was mandatory, but he didn't wonder long because he knew he had to go anyway. It would be rude of him not to and, though he didn't want to admit it to himself, he actually did want to go if there was any chance at all that Louis would be there as well. He didn't know why he felt that way when he always felt more self-conscious and inferior than normal around the guy. Still, he enjoyed being around him.

Harry was realizing more almost every day that nothing about himself made sense.

Maybe the party wouldn't be so bad anyway, Harry tried to tell himself. Though Louis had booked rooms for the guests, given that not everyone lived in London, of course, Harry had yet to drop his apartment contract and so he could always leave and go home whenever he wanted. It would all be okay, even if Louis didn't show up. It had to be.

Liam called Harry later that day, asking if he would mind if he crashed with him the night before the party. Harry told him that of course he could stay there and added that he could crash with him anytime. He mostly just said that last part to be nice, but he was surprised when Liam showed up at his apartment door that very night.

“Oh,” Harry said, nothing short of surprised to see his friend. “Liam, hey!”

“Hey,” Liam said, forcing a smile that didn't quite meet his eyes. “I hope you meant what you said about me crashing here any time.”

“Yeah, come on in,” Harry said, because even though it had just been the polite thing for him to say, he didn't mind. Besides, something was clearly upsetting his friend and Harry legitimately wanted to help. “Is everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah, everything's fine!” Liam said, his voice too chipper to be believable.

“Right,” Harry said, voice laced with sarcasm.

“I don't really want to talk about it,” Liam amended and before Harry had a chance to press, he unzipped one of his two bags and pulled out an unopened bottle of wine.

“Want some?” he asked.

“No, thank you.”

“Do you have a cork screw?”

“Yeah. In the kitchen.”

Liam followed Harry, which made the latter a little nervous. He hoped Liam wouldn't notice how empty his kitchen actually was. He supposed he would have to go to the grocery for the other man in the morning.

Of course, Harry's fear was irrational for the time being. Liam was only worried about getting to his wine, so he didn't go rummaging through Harry's nearly-bare refrigerator or cabinets.

“So, movie night?” Liam asked after Harry had helped him open his bottle and he had taken a long swig from it. “Or were you busy?”

“No, I wasn't busy,” Harry answered truthfully. He had been lying in bed, doing absolutely nothing, yet unable to fall asleep, when his friend showed up. “We can watch a movie.”

“Cool. What do you have?”

“Come on, let's go look.”

Liam drank while he followed Harry to his small DVD collection. Harry prayed there were no accidents so he could at least get the deposit back when he moved out in a couple of months.

Harry was embarrassed when Liam found, amongst his romantic comedies and dramas, Louis T.'s DVD from his second tour. Liam didn't seem to think anything of it, though and insisted that they watch it 'in celebration.'

“Do you have popcorn?” Liam asked as he got himself comfortable on Harry's sofa while the other put the movie in.

“No. Sorry.”

“It's okay. Hey, can you toss me my smaller bag?”

Harry did. Liam pulled out a chocolate bar, offered Harry part of it and, when he declined, shoved half of the thing into his mouth. How Liam remained so fit was a mystery to Harry and he felt a twinge of jealousy, which he quickly pushed away.

Before the DVD was even half over, Liam's chocolate bar was gone, along with his entire bottle of wine, and he fell asleep laying with the empty bottle still next to him. Harry paused the movie to move the bottle to the end table and cover Liam with a blanket, thinking that it was going to be a long week.

Over all, though, Harry thoroughly enjoyed having Liam in the apartment with him. Despite the fact that he had no other friends, he really wasn't a loner and having company was nice. The only hard part was having to sneak around with his impractical eating habits, but even that wasn't too terribly difficult. Liam was still passed out from a long night of partying when it was breakfast time, but Harry ate his bowl of oatmeal anyway. By dinner, Liam was usually gone getting an early start at bars or in clubs, and so the only difficult meal for Harry to fake was lunch. Typically, Harry didn't eat lunch, but with Liam there, he allowed himself a small salad or a piece of fruit. On the times that he felt Liam was growing suspicious, Harry would eat whatever the other guy ate and then purge. He waited until after lunch to shower for this very reason; so he could turn on the water and not be heard.

Sometimes, Harry wondered if he was relapsing, but he always soon after concluded that he wasn't. He still ate more than he did back when he was diagnosed with anorexia and he only purged in emergency situations. He was totally and completely fine, and it was an insult to those suffering that Harry even considered himself near the same boat.

 

On the day of the party, Liam looked, of course, amazing and available. Harry had planned to go in an oversized shirt and jeans so that no one would know how out of shape he was and wonder how he got in the tour in the first place, but Liam wouldn't let him. He searched through every article of Harry's clothing until he found a button-up shirt that fit way too snug and a pair of skinny jeans that Harry's ex-boyfriend had bought and insisted he looked amazing in. Harry thought he was lying, but Liam said the same thing. Of course, he only concluded that Liam was lying then too, but he wouldn't let him change. Harry knew Liam was a genuinely good guy, but he thought that maybe he had a motive to make Harry look as unappealing as he could so that it would be easier for him to draw the attention of all the men, not that it was hard for him anyway or that there would ever be any competition between the two of them.

Harry was hoping that his clothes would loosen up a little bit by the time they got to the party, but, if anything, they only got tighter. He could feel the material squeezing against his fat and it was kind of hard to breathe. He didn't think all of that was from nerves, which grew worse the closer the two got to the hotel where the party was being held.

“Whoa,” Liam breathed approvingly when the two entered the room where the party was taking place, and even Harry temporarily forgot his nerves as he looked around in awe. There were balloons, lights, streamers, confetti and glitter everywhere, creating an organized chaos. In short, it was beautiful.

“Well,” Liam continued after they had both looked around for a few moments, “let's go check out the atmosphere.”

Harry knew he didn't mean the party decorations.

Luckily, with Liam there in front of him, not many people noticed Harry, but he looked away quickly from those who did, not wanting to see what undesirable emotions lay behind their eyes.

“Nice,” Liam commented approvingly after the pair had made their rounds.

“So there are some worthy of Liam Payne's attention?” Harry teased, pretending that Liam didn't go for anyone who so much as looked at him.

“There are many,” Liam assured him.

“So are you going to find your first victim now or…?”

“Nah. Punch bowl,” Liam said, and ventured off in search of the drinks. Harry followed close behind.

There were two different punch bowls, one full of blue liquid and the other red. The blue was labeled simply 'punch' while the red was 'punch with a kick.'

“Do you want any?” Liam asked after he had already begun to fill two cups with the red drink.

“I'm good for now, thanks,” Harry said, not feeling bad because he knew neither cup would go to waste in Liam's hands. As his friend set in on his drink, Harry looked around once more. He had yet to see Louis and wondered if he would actually show up at all. He hoped he did, though not if he was going to regret his decision about Harry once he saw the dancer in such a tight, unflattering outfit.

“Okay,” Liam spoke once both cups were emptied less than five minutes later.

“You are going to puke,” Harry commented, wanting to puke himself just thinking of all the sugar his friend had ingested. Liam shrugged.

“I feel fine. Now off to find victim one.”

“Do you have anyone in mind?”

“That guy with the black and blue hair was cute,” Liam said.

“I think I just saw him go towards the DJ booth,” Harry informed his friend.

“Wonderful. How do I look?”

Liam gave Harry the pouty face and Harry rolled his eyes, smiling.

“Perfect, as always. Why do you even bother asking?”

“Aww, you're so sweet.”

Harry had been serious, but he didn't get the chance to tell Liam so because his friend was off. Harry hung back awkwardly until Liam turned and waved him over. He didn't know what the point was, as he was going to have to see himself off as soon as they found the black-and-blue-haired man, but Harry followed anyway.

The two were halfway to the DJ booth when Liam stopped, letting a gasp escape from his throat as he grabbed Harry's wrist to stop him from walking any further. Harry followed his friend's gaze, but couldn't find what the cause of this strange behavior could be. There were cute guys up ahead, but Liam never acted like this, no matter how attractive the man. He was the one to make people gasp, not vice versa.

“What is it?” Harry finally asked his friend when Liam didn't move or explain his actions.

“Niall,” Liam said.

“Who?”

“I sat next to him in psych class at the school I went to before I transferred.”

“Did you have an extraordinarily amazing fling with him or something?” Harry asked. Liam shook his head.

“I'm going to say hi,” he said, and walked off without another word. He didn't gesture for Harry to follow that time, so he didn't. He watched for a minute, intrigued by the way Liam's flirty stance had fallen away. He looked casual, which Harry didn't even know was a thing for Liam, though he was a bit guarded as well by the way he kept his arms crossed. Still, his smile when Niall turned his attention to him was genuine with no traces of the typical hungry smirk that was usually placed upon Liam's lips.

Smiling a little bit himself, Harry turned, feeling as if he would be intruding if he watched any longer. When he did, he made eye contact with a guy in the near distance, who had a perfectly trimmed beard, small button nose and, by the looks of it, a perfectly toned body. The smile slipped from Harry's face as he looked away, embarrassed. He decided it would be best to just hide in the bathroom for a bit.

***Niall***

“Just go say hi!”

“Nah. He probably doesn't remember me.”

Zayn, one of Niall's fellow back-up dancers who had attached himself to the latter quickly due to them both being at the party alone, groaned.

“So re-introduce yourself then.”

“He's not going to care about me. He's probably busy looking for someone to take back to his hotel room.”

Zayn rolled his eyes.

“I'm so glad that I have no attraction to people or a desire for a relationship. Both seem to involve too much drama.”

Niall didn't know what to say to that, and when Zayn moved his gaze back to the other dancer, his eyes settled instead on a spot behind him, and then they widened.

“What?” Niall asked, not turning at first because he was sure it was just Louis T. approaching and he didn't want to look like one of those fans when he worked for the guy, but Zayn just kept staring, so, rolling his eyes, Niall turned his whole body to look. Then, he gasped because it wasn't Louis walking towards them at all. It was Liam, the guy he had been gushing over to Zayn for at least five minutes, but probably more than that.

Niall thought he was freaking out more on the inside over Liam approaching than he would have been if it was Louis walking their way. Logically, he knew Liam wasn't walking in slow motion, but he seemed like he was, and when the man had finally stopped in front of Niall, it seemed like it took at least two hours for him to say a word when it probably took him two seconds or less.

“Hey.”

Holy hell, Niall had forgotten how much he loved Liam's accent. Sure, he was the Irish guy surrounded in London by a bunch of English people, but Liam's accent was different. It was posh, it was clear, it was staggering, it was-

“Oh, um, do you remember me?”

Liam's voice broke through Niall's thoughts, stopping him from coming up with any more words to describe his accent. It was then that Niall realized he must have been staring and he was glad that it was too dark for anyone to see his red cheeks.

Mentally shaking himself, Niall smiled widely and, luckily, his voice was normal when he spoke.

“Of course I remember you, Liam!”

Liam smiled. Niall turned to excuse himself to Zayn, sure the man would understand, but his new friend was already gone. Well, he was sure he would find the guy later, so he shrugged it off and turned back to Liam.

“How have you been?” the English man asked then.

“I've been good!” Niall said, smiling again. “How about you?”

“I've been okay.”

Niall hoped Liam had truly been more than 'okay.' He knew Liam from his dance academy, as the guy had sat next to him in psychology and Art History class, but, unfortunately for him, Liam had been transferred a little over halfway through the term when he was caught sucking off the psychology professor during a time when it was only supposed to be janitors roaming the school. Supposedly, Liam had said that he was 'earning his A,' but whether that was true or not was a mystery. No one was really surprised at the thought, though. Liam was known to be a wild one and he'd probably had sex with at least half of the male population at that school.

Plus, Niall had seen the way the professor looked at Liam, always touching him as he made his frequent and unnecessary trips up and down the aisle.

Niall wasn't one to judge and he actually almost respected Liam for being so suave. He might have even looked up to him in a way if not for the fact that he fancied him. He'd gotten to know Liam before discovering his wild side. Actually, Niall wasn't sure that he hit his wild side until later that year because it was only in December that Liam would start coming to class drunk, hungover or both. Sometimes, Niall was even pretty sure that he was stoned. He remembered fondly how Liam had come to class with a bowl of cold spaghetti one day, insisting Niall eat some too so people wouldn't think he was on drugs, even though he clearly was.

Still, even with his wild side, Liam was a good guy. He met up with Niall a couple of times outside of class to study and brought cupcakes like a housewife greeting new neighbors. He let Niall copy his notes when he was sick and missed a couple classes, and he'd even come to his dorm to check on him and bring him medicine.

Niall had been planning on asking Liam on a date until his room mate told him that Liam made it very clear that he didn't date (though he still recommended shagging the guy, telling Niall that he 'gave head like no other.') Even after that, Niall still contemplated asking him on a date, but he didn't want to get rejected and make things awkward. He figured Liam was out of his league anyway with a track record like that.

“You've been just okay?” Niall asked Liam. Liam smiled and changed the subject.

“Are you one of Louis's dancers?”

“Yeah,” Niall said, letting him drop that topic.

“That's awesome.”

“I'm really glad you got a spot too! You totally deserve it.”

“Thank you.”

“Hey, do you want to come with me to get a drink? I want to hear about your new school.”

Really, Niall just wanted to hear Liam talk some more.

“Yeah, sure,” Liam agreed, leading the way.

***Louis***

Louis heard that his party was going successfully as soon as he reached the appropriate floor. The music was loud, but not loud enough to drown out the sounds of laughter and friendly chatting, and that made him smile. He always showed up late to these events on purpose so that everyone else could mingle instead of trying to get to know only Louis. He didn't mind when they talked to him, of course, but they would be seeing each other more often, so he wanted them all to bond. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to feel left out or lonely for a long, worldwide tour.

Proving the point that everything was going well, Louis walked into the party room to see lots of smiling faces. His own smile growing, Louis's eyes began to roam, scanning the area for one person in particular. His smile faded a little when he failed to spot him. Of course, there were a lot of people, so maybe he was just hidden behind someone else.

Louis began to walk around, still searching.

Surprisingly, it took a fairly long time for anyone to notice him, but everyone remained calm when they realized the singer had finally shown up to the party. Well, some of them were faking calm, Louis knew (he got very good at recognizing the 'calm' fans from the 'fake calm' fans to the 'I really don't care, get me out of here' boyfriends, girlfriends and parents.) He also knew that the ones still struggling would learn quickly that he was just a person; not at all amazing in any spectacular way.

Louis forced himself to pay complete attention whenever someone would begin chatting with him, but whenever they parted, Harry instantly popped back to the forefront of his mind. He wished he'd gotten a contact number from the dancer so that he could check if he was there. Louis was wondering if it would be creepy to stop by the other's room to check for his presence when he finally spotted the man he was looking for, sitting by himself at a table and scrolling through his phone. Smiling again, Louis headed over, only getting stopped a couple of more times.

“Well, that's no way to spend a party,” Louis commented once in front of the guy he'd been targeting, who looked up and then quickly slipped his phone into his pocket, looking almost scared. Louis made sure to give him a smile. “This is where I am supposed to say something about technology sucking the life away from you youngsters, I think.”

“Yeah, because you're so old,” Harry said, and he gave an almost-smile. “Sorry. My mate went off to talk to someone so...”

“So make some new mates,” Louis said. “That's what this party is for.”

“I'm not very good at that kind of thing,” Harry told him with an awkward shrug.

“I'll help then. Come on.”

Harry simply stared, his fingertips drumming nervously on the tabletop. Louis motioned for him to follow and turned, hoping the guy would listen to his words. When he looked back after a few steps, he saw Harry standing from his chair, and mentally patted himself on the back.

It didn't take long for Harry to catch up to Louis and together they walked up to a man who Louis remembered to be named Fergus and his girlfriend, Tina. Louis tapped them on the shoulders and they stopped dancing to turn around.

“Sorry for interrupting,” Louis apologized though, to be frank, they looked thrilled that he had. “How is the party going?”

“Great,” Fergus answered while Tina replied,

“It's marvelous.”

“Glad to hear it,” Louis said. “This is Harry, by the way. He's a dancer too. Harry, this is Fergus and Tina.”

The three exchanged pleasantries, Harry tugging nervously on his shirt but still smiling politely. After a minute, when their light conversation about where they went to school and such had settled down, Louis told Fergus and Tina to keep enjoying the party and led Harry away.

Louis introduced Harry to a few more people before he decided that the poor guy's nerves had been through enough for the time being. Besides, Louis wanted to talk to him by himself.

“Will you come with me to the food table?” the singer asked the dancer.

“Okay,” Harry said after a brief, but noticeable pause.

“You don't have to,” Louis made sure to tell him. Harry gave what Louis was finding to be his version of a smile, but was really just the corners of his mouth twitching upwards a couple of times in a row.

“No, it's okay,” Harry said. Louis hoped he meant his words and headed off to the food table to gather a plate.

“Do you want anything?” Louis asked as he picked up a plate. Harry politely declined the offer.

“Alright, Harry,” Louis said as the two sat by the nearest empty table, “how can I help you have fun?”

“I am having fun,” Harry told him. Louis gave him a disbelieving look. Harry glanced down.

“Do you want me to leave you alone?” Louis asked. “Because I can be quite annoying, I know that, so I really won't be offended if you tell me to bug off.”

Well, Louis might be a little offended if Harry told him that, but he wouldn't hold it against him.

At the words, Harry's head shot back up.

“You don't have to,” he said, which really didn't answer Louis's question.

“Would you prefer I did though?” he pressed. Harry chewed on his lip, debating silently, before finally shaking his head.

“Pinky promise?” Louis asked, sticking out his littlest finger. That finally got a genuine smile out of Harry and Louis thought he almost wanted to die happily right then because oh my god, who knew those dimples were so deep?

Still smiling, Harry pinky promised Louis that he didn't want him to get lost, so Louis popped a strawberry into his mouth happily.

The two were quiet for a minute, but it was a comfortable silence. The smile had yet to fully fade from Harry's face and Louis hoped it never did, even though he knew it would.

Taking in the atmosphere, Louis thought this was what prom would have been like, had he gone, what with the candles on the table, the music, the balloons…

He hoped the night wouldn't end with him getting called a faggot and then jumped like the one school dance he did attend had, though since these people worked for him, he doubted things would get taken to that extreme.

“So, would you like to go dance with me?” Louis asked the man sitting across from him once he'd finished eating. Harry raised his eyebrows. Louis shrugged. “Feel free to say no,” he said, “but you're going to have to come up with a better excuse than that you can't or don't dance.”

Harry laughed then-actually laughed. Louis felt warm, his chest heavy in a most pleasant way.

“I would love to dance with you, but people might not want to be my friend if I get to, honestly.”

“I'll fire them all.”

Harry laughed again and shook his head. He was biting his lip as he looked down towards the floor. Louis sighed.

“Okay, rejected,” he said, rather dramatically. “This is just like primary school.”

“I doubt anyone ever rejected you,” Harry said, looking back at Louis, though Louis thought his eyes were trained on his nose and not his actual eyes. Louis had been taught that technique when he first got into the business. Looking at the tip of someone's nose gave the impression that you were really looking at them, but was less intimidating than looking in someone's eyes.

“They did though,” Louis told Harry.

“Was it a straight guy? Because that doesn't count.”

“No, the guy was openly gay.”

“Well...his loss.”

“Is it your loss that you won't come dance with me then?”

Harry smiled yet again. Another score for Louis.

“Maybe,” Harry said, getting distracted by the candle in front of them flickering. Louis, however, didn't look away from Harry's face. He looked beautiful, of course. Louis doubted Harry could ever not look stunning, but the way the light settled then showed the circles underneath the dancer's eyes, mostly hidden by make-up, that Louis wasn't used to seeing. He frowned.

“Are you tired?” he asked.

“A little,” Harry admitted.

“Thank you for coming to the party anyway.”

“It's cool that you threw something like this.”

“Thank you for agreeing to do the tour.”

“I still can't believe I actually got offered a spot.”

“I know you can't, but you deserve it.”

Louis thought Harry blushed then, but with the dim light, he couldn't be positive.

Beatrice approached the table then, telling Louis that it was time for him to do his 'welcome and thank you' speech. Louis sighed, looking towards Harry regretfully.

“Duty calls,” he said. “Will I see you around more tonight?”

“Maybe.”

Louis sighed again, louder; too loudly.

“Why do the pretty ones always play hard to get?” he wondered aloud. Harry definitely turned red then, Louis could see it. Smiling proudly, the singer stood and followed Beatrice to the stand she had set up for him. The DJ cut the music and people groaned before realizing why the sound had stopped and then turned their attention to him.

“Hello!” Louis began. “I hope you're all enjoying the party, eating and drinking lots and making new friends. I'm so excited to get to know all of you better as well.”

Inadvertently, Louis's eyes traveled back to the table where he had been sitting with Harry only moments ago, and his heart fell as he saw the guy stand up and slide stealthily out of the room. He hoped the disappointment wasn't obvious as he continued his previously rehearsed speech.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

Niall was beginning to wonder if taking Liam over to the punch bowls had been a good idea. He hadn't thought of the party boy liking to...well...party. He filled and re-filled his cup like he was drinking water, but the more he drank, the happier he got, so Niall guessed it was alright, at least until the morning. Besides, Liam was still pretty comprehensible when he was intoxicated and he talked to his former classmate like nothing was out of the ordinary, despite for a few slurred words and hiccups.

Liam told Niall what was better and what was worse about his new school and then asked what had changed since he'd been gone.

“Well,” Niall began. “The professor that took over psychology class after Fugate was sacked was a complete bitch.”

“Sorry about that,” Liam said with a sheepish grin.

“It's okay,” Niall assured him. He almost told Liam that he'd missed sitting by him once he'd gone, but he didn't.

“I'm hungry,” Liam announced then, sliding over to the food table in what Niall thought was supposed to be a stealth move. Playing along, Niall pretended to have no idea where Liam had disappeared to until the other man called him over, waving enthusiastically and nearly dropping the plate he was putting different kinds of cheeses on.

“There you are!” Niall called, sighing in relief as he went to join the man. “I thought you got tired of me and apparated away.”

“Never from you,” Liam said, looking down the bridge of his nose at Niall seriously and then giggling.

Niall waited until Liam was satisfied with his plate and then they headed towards the tables. In his drunken state, Liam was having quite a difficult time balancing his food and his very full cup, and Niall was just about to offer his help when Liam fell sideways, sloshing some of his beverage out and onto someone's shoes.

“Oh, shit, sorry!” Liam said, looking up at the same time that Niall glanced over to see who Liam had bumped into. Both gasped when they saw that it was Louis T.

“I'm really sorry!” the intoxicated man apologized again, even though he had started to giggle uncontrollably. Louis smiled.

“No harm done, mate,” Louis assured him. “You're enjoying the party then?”

“Yeah!” Liam said.

“Good,” Louis said, and then looked to Niall. “Are you?”

Niall nodded.

“This is my friend!” Liam explained to the singer. “His name is Niall.”

“Yeah, I remember Niall,” Louis said, turning his kind smile back to Liam.

“Oh yeah,” he said with another giggle and even a snort. “He's your dancer, duh!”

Finally coming out of his state of being shell-shocked (Niall was maybe really bad about the whole 'getting starstruck' thing), Niall smiled, able to peel his eyes off of Louis to look back at Liam, whose own eyes were lit up with joy. Niall didn't think he could like Liam much more than he already did, but he kept getting proven wrong.

“Oh, hey,” Liam said, turning to his former classmate, “we need to go find Harry!”

“Who?” Niall asked.

“My other friend! Harry!”

“I think Harry left,” Louis spoke up then. Niall had somehow almost forgotten he was there.

“He couldn't have left! He's my ride home!” Liam announced, sounding panicked at the thought. “I'll go check his room.”

After giving his plate a longing look, Liam plopped one last piece of cheese into his mouth before handing the whole thing off to Louis.

“Have some cheese,” he told the singer.

“Thank you,” Louis said with a small laugh.

“You're welcome, Louis. Come, Niall! We must go find Harry!”

After slipping his hand into Niall's, Liam ran off, leaving the Irish man hurrying to keep up while also doing his best to steady the other. He was mostly successful, but when Liam gave one particularly wide swerve, Niall couldn't stop him from bumping into yet another man.

“Sorry!” he apologized, nearly backing into Niall as he tried to move away from the stranger with black and blue hair. The man whom he'd accidentally assaulted looked Liam up and down, a smirk forming slowly on his face.

“That's okay, baby,” he said, and was about to say something else-probably a crude pick-up line, Niall guessed-but Liam didn't give him a chance and ran off again. It was Niall's turn to smirk.

***Harry***

Harry's stomach growled as soon as Louis went off to do his speech. It had been growling for a while, but it was painful that time. He crossed his arms around his stomach and pressed against it, trying to relieve some of the pain, but the effort soon caused him to get shaky and weak and Harry knew it was hopeless. He had to eat something.

Luckily for him, the food table was close and there were some truly healthy options available, but, unfortunately, there were too many people around. Someone would see Harry eating and if he ate junk food, they would think that it was no wonder he was so fat. On the flip side, if he ate something healthier, they would then wonder what the point was. Harry knew he wasn't fooling anybody with this body.

Harry stood slowly, praying the room wouldn't turn blue. It didn't, and so he made his way as quickly as his body would allow to the elevators and then up to his room where he dug into his overnight bag in search of his protein bars.

He had the whole bag empty before he realized that he'd left the box sitting on his kitchen counter.

“Shit,” Harry whispered to himself. Well, he was just going to have to starve then, he guessed, except that he knew that, if he did, he would end up passing out and wake up miserable. Plus, if someone found him unconscious, that would create more problems than the situation was worth. He knew that no one would probably come looking for him anyway, but there was still an off chance, and the last thing Harry needed right now was a hospital visit. He was just going to have to suck it up and get something from the vending machine.

The room started to change colors when Harry stood from his squatting position, but after squeezing his eyes shut for a few moments and concentrating on breathing slowly and steadily out and in, Harry got to the point where he thought he could at least make it to the vending machine. Just in case, he first drank a cup of water, wishing that would buy him more time than just a couple of minutes.

Harry crossed his arms as he studied the options the machine held for him, trying to find the healthiest one. He supposed that would be the peanut butter crackers and, after looking around to make sure no one was watching, he pressed the corresponding code and received his food. He felt guilty because he knew he shouldn't be eating this, as it wasn't in his diet plan, but he also knew that it was necessary.

Once back in his hotel room, Harry dead bolted the door and sat on the bed, opening the package and taking a bite out of the first cracker. His stomach rejoiced immediately, even though Harry's mind was shrieking at him like a banshee. He almost didn't care. The food tasted so good, like it was from a five-star restaurant and not just a five-star hotel's vending machine.

The plan had been for Harry to eat half of the package and throw the other half away, but before he could even register what he was doing, all six peanut butter crackers were gone; into his stomach.

When he realized what he'd done, Harry's heart dropped as heat rose to his cheeks. He'd let his 'pig' side out again.

Maybe it wasn't so bad, Harry tried to reason with himself after staring in horror at the empty and torn wrapping. Peanut butter had protein in it, so maybe it wasn't much different than his protein bars.

With shaking fingers, Harry flipped the wrapper over and checked the nutritional facts, needing to know how much damage control he was going to have to do later. When he did, he almost threw up right on the bed. 150 calories. 13 grams of fat!!!

Gasping out loud, Harry jumped off of the bed and ran to the bathroom, flipping open the toilet lid and dropping to his knees so hard that he knew they were going to bruise later. He didn't care.

Putting his pointer and middle fingers together, Harry opened his mouth and slid them in. He used so much force that he scratched the back of his throat, but, again, he didn't care. He coughed and kept going farther and farther down until he gagged, coughed, then gagged again and, finally, threw up.

He repeated those actions twice more. Then he saw blood.

Harry gasped again, blinking a few times to make sure that was really what he was looking at there in the toilet. As he blinked, he realized he was crying. Thinking back, he thought maybe he did remember starting to cry as he'd shoved his fingers down his throat for the second time.

With a loud sob, Harry wiped his mouth and then doubled over, feeling as if knives were stabbing him in the stomach.

This has to stop , Harry told himself, echoing many other voices from his past. This isn't normal behavior. There is a party going on a couple floors above you where you should be having fun. Your celebrity crush is there and he'd wanted to hang out and dance with you, but you left to go eat in private, purge and then cry on the bathroom floor. This is not normal behavior.

Harry had to take several deep, calming breaths before his tears stopped and when they did, he sat up. His stomach still hurt, but not quite as bad.

Slowly getting to his feet, Harry flushed the toilet, washed his hands and brushed his teeth before splashing water onto his face. He then re-applied his makeup and adjusted his clothing. Lastly, he popped a piece of gum into his mouth for good measure. The juice burned his throat, though, so he didn't keep it in long.

He should go back to the party, he knew. So what if he wasn't quite as fit or attractive as the others? He was chosen by Louis to be a part of this tour, just like them. They could judge all they wanted, but that wouldn't change that fact.

Harry took a breath.

Just go back to the party, Harry. It's what a normal person would do.

Go back and accept that dance from Louis.

Don't you want to be normal?

As Harry opened the bathroom door (and he thought he was heading to the party, but he couldn't quite trust his legs, so he wasn't sure), there was a knock on the main door. Harry paused for only a moment before opening it and coming face to face with Liam. His friend, Niall, was close behind.

“Harry!” Liam exclaimed, pulling him into a tight hug. “I was so afraid you left me, Harry.”

“I wouldn't do that, Liam,” Harry told his clearly intoxicated friend, wrapping his arms around his middle to return the hug.

“I thought you decided that you didn't want to be my friend anymore.”

“Of course I didn't.”

Liam held onto him for a couple moments more before letting go and then smiling.

“This is my friend, Niall! Niall this is my friend, Harry!”

The two exchanged friendly greetings and then Liam spoke again.

“Why aren't you up at the party?” he asked Harry.

“I just needed a breather,” Harry said.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I feel great, actually.”

He did feel great, for the most part. At least, he felt better than he had in a while, even with the soreness of his throat and pain in his stomach. He was used to that anyway, especially the latter issue.

“Are you coming back to the party?” Liam asked.

“Yeah, I was just about to head up, actually.”

Good,” Liam said, moving from the doorway to allow Harry to exit. “I think Louis misses you.”

“Sure,” Harry said with a roll of his eyes.

“He does! Doesn't he, Niall?” Liam asked, the trio beginning the walk to the elevators.

“He definitely noticed your absence,” Niall told Harry. Harry gave him a look, trying to convey the message, 'give me a break,' and Niall smiled. Harry wondered if it was a mocking smile, but the more logical side of him knew it probably wasn't. It was probably just the disorder making Harry feel that way.

“I can feel myself sobering up,” Liam announced as they reached the party again. “I'm going to get a drink.”

“I think water is the best option for you right now, Li,” Harry reasoned.

“Boooor-ring,” Liam drawled and headed away, leaving Niall and Harry with not much choice but to follow him.

Staying true to the kind individual that he was, Liam poured Niall and Harry a cup too, and not just himself.

“So, Harry, you went to school with Liam?” Niall asked to create polite conversation.

“Yeah,” Harry said. “We were in each other's main dance class.”

“That's cool that you both made it.”

“Yeah.”

Harry was about to ask Niall about his own dance history when he felt a tap on the shoulder. Turning, Harry saw the man he'd briefly made eye contact with earlier-the one with the beard and the cute nose-and the guy smiled shyly at him.

“Hey, I'm Andy,” he introduced himself.

“Harry.”

“Nice to meet you, Harry. What part of Louis's tour do you work as?”

“I'm a dancer.”

“Really?” Andy asked, his eyes widening. Harry fought to roll his own. He knew he didn't look like a dancer, but Andy didn't need to make that fact so obvious.

“Yeah,” Harry replied anyway.

“I'm just a bus driver,” Andy explained. “Do you think you can show me some moves?”

Harry's mouth opened a little bit, unsure if Andy was serious or not. Even if he was, he was probably expecting Harry to be much better than he was, given that he was supposed to be a professional, and if Harry embarrassed himself in front of this man, he was going to have to live with touring the world with him for seven months.

“Doooo it!” Liam had whispered loudly sometime during Harry's internal crisis, but Andy was apparently giving up because with a quiet, 'ok then,' he turned to leave, but stopped when Harry reached out and touched his arm quickly; briefly.

“Sorry,” Harry said, “but, I mean, yeah, I can show you some moves.”

He handed Liam his drink, took Andy's hand and saw him smile before Harry turned and led him to the dance floor, his cheeks growing warm for the umpteenth time that night. Of course, his embarrassment was helped none by Liam cat-calling behind them.

Their dance started awkward, mainly because of Harry, probably, but when Andy whispered 'relax' in Harry's ear, he actually started to.

“I just want to have a good time,” Andy assured him.

Once it was clear that Harry had relaxed enough, Andy moved closer and grabbed onto the dancer's hips. He tensed again, knowing Andy could feel every imperfection around his waistline.

You're beautiful,” Andy said to make Harry feel better, and even though it wasn't the truth, he didn't seem completely turned off and only moved closer still. This was the closest Harry had been to a man in over a year, and his breath caught in his throat. All he wanted to do was run away and lock himself back in the bedroom, but he didn't. He kept dancing, determined to not let the sickness win.

*** Louis***

Oh, sure, Harry can dance with that hipster guy with the stupid beard, but not me. Okay then.

Louis wondered who hired the hipster guy anyway and what his job was. Whoever did the hiring needed to have a stern talking to, in Louis's opinion.

The singer was at least self-aware enough to know that he was being petty and bitter, and he forced himself to look away from the pair on the dance floor as he finished his drink quickly. After downing the beverage and hiccuping once, Louis turned his eyes back to Beatrice and Dean, who he was sure had been saying something to him before he became distracted, but he had no idea what.

Whatever they had been talking about, they weren't anymore anyway. Both were silent, staring at Louis with a look of half worry and half amusement on their faces.

“What?” Louis asked, though he had a slight idea of what.

“Let me guess, you were looking at that dancer,” Beatrice spoke.

“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Louis said, attempting to take another sip from his drink but, oh yeah, it was empty.

“I mean, I can't really blame Lou, Beatrice,” Dean said. “Those brownies were quite magical.”

“I didn't ever have a brownie,” Louis reminded the guy. “Anyway, I wasn't looking at Harry.”

Pursing her lips, Beatrice turned and looked in the exact direction Louis had been staring. Harry had yet to move from the spot, betraying Louis yet again.

“Aww, Lou-Lou, are you jealous?” Beatrice asked as if she were talking to a baby, smiling as she turned back to her employer. Maybe Louis should fire both her and whoever the guy with Harry was.

“Why would I be jealous?” Louis questioned hypothetically. Beatrice decided to answer anyway.

“Because your dancer crush seems to have eyes for someone else, obviously.”

Louis wanted to tell the woman that just because Harry and beard-o were dancing didn't mean that Harry liked the guy, but instead he simply rolled his eyes.

“You're ridiculous. Anyway, I'm calling it a night. I'll be back later to help clean up.”

Are you okay?” Beatrice asked, truly worried then. It wasn't like Louis to skip out on parties early. S how up late, yes, but leave early? Never.

“I'm fine,” Louis said, moving out of the way of Beatrice's hand which she tried to place on his forehead to check for a fever. “I'm just really tired.”

Bitterness could really wear a guy out.

“Okay, Louis,” she said, still unsure. She was such a mom sometimes. “I'll see you later then.”

“Enjoy the rest of the party.”

By some miracle, Louis got out of the room and was halfway to the elevators before anyone tried to stop him.

“Hey, wait,” a voice said. Even though Louis really just wanted to curl up in bed and watch Titanic or something, he wasn't one to ignore fans or anyone else so, holding in his sigh, he turned around and was shocked to see that it was Harry walking towards him.

Stay cool, make him work for it; he betrayed you , Louis told himself.

“Oh, hey!” he called out, starting to smile before he remembered to not. Harry came to a halt in front of him.

“You can't leave without giving me that dance,” Harry said. Louis raised an eyebrow.

“I thought you didn't want it?”

“I changed my mind.”

“Hmm. Well, I can't actually dance, so you will wind up disappointed anyway, I'm afraid,” Louis said because he was suddenly very worried about disappointing Harry.

“I saw your tour DVD,” Harry said flatly. “I already know that you can't dance.”

Even though his face was serious, there was a glint in the dancer's eyes; teasing. He was teasing Louis! The singer had to let out a smile, wondering if Harry had sneaked off earlier to take a nap. If so, it had done him wonders.

Still trying (very hard) to play it cool, Louis let out an exaggerated yawn.

“But I'm tired,” he whined. Harry glared at him, but there was a smile on his face; his dimples on full display, and then he made to grab Louis's hands, but pulled back last second.

Can I touch you?” he asked.

“No, I'm very fragile,” Louis said.

“I promise to be gentle.”

Louis pretended to think it over for a bit.

“Fine,” he finally said. “I guess holding your hand is worth the risk of being broken.”

“Are you writing a song?” Harry teased again.

“Maybe,” Louis said, though reminded himself to keep that line in mind. He could work with it.

“Well, I won't break you.”

Staying true to his word of being gentle, as if Louis really was fragile, Harry took the singer's hand and led him back into the party, where they quickly found an empty spot on the dance floor.

“Okay,” Harry said, letting go of Louis's hand but turning his body to face the singer, “show me what you've got.”

Louis took a few deep breaths and even closed his eyes in preparation. Then, he went right into an extremely bad version of the sprinkler. Harry's eyes widened before he burst into laughter, covering his face but peeking through the spaces in his fingers while continuing to crack up. Proud, Louis soon changed his move to the lawnmower. Harry's hands fell to knees as he doubled over, laughing even harder.

“Okay, okay, stop,” he said after about half a minute. “Stop, you're literally killing me. It hurts.”

“But you haven't even seen my disco moves yet!” Louis said, slowly bringing his lawnmower to a stop.

“I really don't think I would be able to handle that,” Harry said, straightening his body with a smile still on his face.

“Would that be a sexiness overload?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah, way too much sexy.”

The song playing from the massive speakers stopped, leaving only a couple seconds of silence before the next song began. That one was cut off quickly though, and a longer silence ensued before a slower song sounded throughout the room. Louis recognized it immediately as “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias and frowned in confusion, certain he hadn't put any slow songs on the play list, but especially not that sappy of a love song.

When he looked to the DJ booth to see what was going on, all was explained by Dean standing there, a huge, goofy grin on his face. When he saw that Louis noticed him, his smile got even bigger and he gave Louis two thumbs up. Louis was sure, in that moment, that he actually hated the man.

“My manager is a dick,” Louis announced, but when he turned to face Harry again, he saw that the other man's face had grown completely serious; almost too serious.

“Harry?” Louis asked, tilting his head in concern. “Are you okay?”

For a moment, Harry only continued to look at Louis with that same expression. Then, a small smile graced itself upon his face again.

“Louis, will you do me the honor of dancing with me?” he asked.

“I thought that's what we were doing…?”

Harry raised an eyebrow.

“I would love to dance with you,” Louis amended. Harry moved closer and acted again as if he wanted to reach out and touch Louis, but stopped short. Taking over, Louis took Harry's hands and placed them gently on his own hips before wrapping his arms around Harry's neck.

Yep, this definitely felt like prom.

Smiling a bit bigger and seeming to relax most of the way, Harry began to lead the dance. Louis thought that maybe this was better than prom would have been.

“Smile for the picture!” a voice from the side commanded of them and, whipping their heads over, the men saw that it was Dean. Louis shouldn't have been surprised.

“I hate pictures,” Harry said, his eyes wide as he leaned his head back, getting as far away from the camera as possible in his current position.

“Oh, come on,” Louis said, “like you could ever take a bad photo.”

Harry didn't reply, just moved his gaze to the floor. Louis felt bad immediately, so he was extra gentle as he lifted Harry's chin up with his index finger and made him look back into his eyes.

“Hey, show me those sexy dimples, yeah?” he requested. Harry fought his smile, that much was obvious, but he lost the fight.

“Perfect,” Dean commented after a couple moments of the two others just standing there, Louis's finger still under Harry's chin while they looked into each other's eyes. Harry's eyes were green; truly green...The most beautiful green Louis had ever seen.

“Did you take a picture?!” Harry asked the older man, breaking away from Louis as the smile melted off his face, and he looked nothing short of horrified then instead.

“Yep,” Dean said, and hurried off without another word.

“That won't be posted anywhere, will it?” Harry asked, turning back to Louis.

“I doubt it,” Louis said, “but don't worry. You look gorgeous tonight.”

Harry tried to smile, but it fell somewhat short as he looked back to the ground.

“You've looked gorgeous every time I've seen you, actually,” Louis corrected himself.

“You're full of it,” Harry said and then, “spin.”

Louis did, twirling like a ballerina as Harry held their arms in the air. Once he was back to facing the dancer, Harry gave him another small grin and pulled him closer, looking down again so that Louis couldn't see his eyes.

I can kiss away the pain,” Enrique Iglesias sang out, and Louis wished that he could.

Chapter Text

***Harry***

Once the slow song ended, the dance music came back on. Harry was glad because he didn't think he would be able to handle another emotionally charged song, but he was admittedly a little disappointed when Louis let go of his waist and backed up. He was still close, but compared to what he had been, it didn't really seem like it. Harry had just been growing comfortable with Louis's hands touching him and feeling his imperfections. Like Andy, he hadn't seemed turned off, but unlike Andy, he looked in Harry's eyes and smiled, his touch always firm but gentle, instead of looking at his lips like he was a piece of meat and digging his fingers into Harry's flesh.

“Oh, do I get this dance too?” Louis asked when Harry hadn't moved; he was standing there and wondering silently if Louis had secretly been disgusted and just waiting for the song to end to make a break for it, like a gentleman would do.

“Um...do you want it?” Harry asked, bouncing awkwardly on the balls of his feet.

“I'm kind of a greedy guy, so...yeah. Yeah, I do,” Louis said, and winked. The heavy weight that had settled itself again upon Harry lifted a little, and he smiled too. Louis moved closer again and, even though his rhythm was a little off, he moved his hips with Harry's as he again held onto the other's waist. After about a minute, Harry decided it was his turn to hold onto Louis's waist, and the singer seemed to like that idea.

After that song had ended, Louis announced that he was going to get a drink and offered Harry to come along. He did, and even picked up a bowl of fruit for himself, aware as he passed the food table of how very hungry he actually was. Part of him protested the fruit, thinking he shouldn't be eating anything when he'd devoured the peanut butter crackers earlier, but Harry had gotten rid of those and he wasn't going to let himself starve. Not again.

It didn't take long for Harry to finish his fruit or for Louis to finish his drink, and as they stood, perhaps to go back to the dance floor (Harry wasn't sure), Niall approached them, a slight frown on his face.

“Hey, guys, sorry to interrupt,” he began.

“You aren't interrupting anything,” Harry assured him. Niall smiled for a split second before his frown appeared again.

“Have you seen Liam recently?” he asked.

“No, I haven't,” Harry said as Louis too said that he had not seen the other man. Harry figured Liam had done what Liam often did; find some guy to run off with, and he felt bad for Niall. He had no reason to believe this, but something gave him the feeling that Niall might like Liam in a way that meant more than taking him to his hotel room for one night.

He saw Niall's shoulders droop. Harry was about to suggest that maybe Liam went to bed and hope Niall didn't get the pun when the blonde spoke again.

“Never mind,” he said. “I found him.”

Following the other's gaze, Harry saw Liam as well, passed out with his forehead on a table in the far corner of the room. Immediately growing worried, Harry followed Niall as he hurried away and was surprised when he noticed that Louis was coming along as well.

“Liam,” Niall said gently when they reached the dancer's side, touching his shoulder briefly. Liam didn't budge. Making sure to support his weight, Niall lifted Liam to a sitting position, and his head rolled to the side, his eyes still closed. Harry almost screamed. Liam's face was pale except for the bright red tint of his cheeks.

“Whoa,” Louis said. “Did he drop something?”

“It wouldn't surprise me,” Niall said.

“Did he overdose?!” Harry asked. He could feel his heart racing, but Louis remained calm.

“Nah, I don't think so,” he answered. There was a cup of water on the table near where Liam had been lying, so Harry thought he'd at least tried to sober himself up. Louis stuck his bare hand into the cup and fished out an ice cube, which he ran across Liam's face. Almost right away, Liam's eyes opened and he sat up a little on his own, taking some of his weight from Niall.

“Waz going on?”

“Hey, Liam! Rise and shine!” Louis said, leaning over so that his eyes were at level with his back-up dancer's. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

Liam studied Louis for a moment before his eyes roamed over to Harry and then, finally, Niall, whom he gave a sleepy smile. Niall smiled right back, a look of relief on his face, but Harry didn't feel much better quite yet.

“Are you ready to go to bed, Liam?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Liam answered, and lazily put his wrists up next to each other. “Cuff me, baby.”

Harry knew he turned some shade of red as Louis snorted.

“I'm taking him to bed,” Harry told the more sober individuals. “I mean, not for that, but to, you know…sleep.”

“I'm glad you're not the type to take advantage of a very intoxicated man, Harry,” Louis teased. Harry could still feel his cheeks burning, perhaps worse then.

Liam made no effort to stand by himself, so both Harry and Niall helped him up and to get into a comfortable position against Harry. His legs were almost complete jello, but Liam still managed to look at Niall and offer another grin.

“It was nice to hang out with you tonight,” he told his former classmate.

“You too, Liam,” Niall said sincerely.

“Thank you for everything,” Harry said to Louis.

“You're welcome,” Louis assured him. “I'll see you soon.”

Harry smiled briefly and then spoke again.

“I'm sorry for him too,” he said, nodding to Liam, who was asleep against his shoulder. “I swear none of his partying interferes with his dancing.”

“Relax, Harry. He's just having fun,” Louis said. “I work in the music industry, you know. I've seen my fair share of party boys and girls.”

Harry nodded, then said good night to both the singer and Niall before dragging Liam into the hall. (Dragging was pretty much literally what he had to do.)

“Okay, Liam, mate, you're going to have to get on my back,” Harry said breathlessly once they'd made it out to the hall. Harry was pretty sure he was about to break into a sweat at any moment.

“Okay,” Liam agreed, semi-conscious, and he didn't really help, but allowed Harry to move his body as needed until he was in a somewhat comfortable position on his back. “Sorry 'm a fat ass,” he slurred as Harry began to walk towards the elevator, praying to all the higher powers that may have ever existed that he could make it without injuring either one of them.

“Liam, you aren't fat!” he snapped.

“Was a joke. Calm down,” Liam yawned, but Harry felt guilty. He hoped he hadn't made Liam feel bad with his clear exhaustion. Liam had a great body, Harry was just weak.

The higher powers, or at least luck, was on Harry's side and he made it to his bedroom with only a mild stitch in his side and a couple of knives in his lungs.

After laying Liam on the bed and helping him to remove his sweat-drenched shirt, Harry got his friend a glass of water and helped him drink some of it before Liam assured Harry that he would be fine while he went and got washed up for bed. Liam was asleep by the time he returned, so after making sure his breathing and pulse were normal, Harry curled against the other man and went to sleep as well.

Unsurprisingly, Harry awoke to the sound of Liam getting sick in the bathroom. He sat up quickly to go check on him, but he'd risen too quickly and the room spun for a good twenty seconds before Harry was able to slowly get to his feet.

He'd just reached the bathroom door when a knock from his main door halted him. He paused with one hand on the door knob to the bathroom. He knew he should see who was outside his room, but he really wanted to check on his friend, who had grown quiet.

“Liam?” he called out, and was relieved when Liam called back,

“Yeah?”

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I'm good. I'll be out in a second.”

Nodding to himself, Harry let go of the doorknob and answered his other door. It was a hotel employee with a kart full of food. She greeted him with a large smile.

“Good morning! Free breakfast?”

“Oh, um, okay. Thanks…,” Harry said, moving back so that she could enter. He didn't expect her to have to make three trips to get all of the food onto the desk.

“Wait, all of this is for me?” he asked her. She nodded.

“Compliments from Louis, sir,” she added. Still in shock, Harry thanked her and she was on her way out the door when Liam exited the bathroom.

“Oh, awesome, food,” he said, immediately taking one of the plates the server had left and beginning to pile on the food.

“I was under the impression you weren't feeling well,” Harry commented, eyeing Liam with both worry and awe.

“Throwing up can do wonders,” Liam said nonchalantly.

Don't I know it , Harry thought silently. He cleared his throat, but then a thought hit him, causing something to clench and knot up in his chest. Liam was already a self-destructive person, prone to addictions, if his observed behaviors were anything to go by, and who could really eat a bunch of food right after being sick?

Bulimics.

Of course, the binging usually came before the throwing up for bulimics, but everyone with an eating disorder had a different experience and Harry knew more about the anorexia side of things anyway.

Plus, Liam had called himself fat last night…

“Liam?” Harry asked, his throat tight.

“Yeah?”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I'm fine,” Liam answered, looking at Harry, confused.. “Why?”

“Is there anything you want or need to talk about?” Harry asked instead of replying. “You can tell me anything.”

“Um...I'm all good, Harry, but thanks. Now eat some breakfast.”

Harry didn't want to drop the topic, but he wasn't sure he was right about Liam and even if he was, he knew that you couldn't help someone who didn't want to be helped, so instead of pressing the matter further at that moment, he picked up a plate. At first, he went for the fruit, but then he stopped. Fruit didn't really sound that good right now, and besides, he was literally starving. Eating that would do nothing to curb his appetite. Of course, he wasn't used to actually letting himself get full, but he needed to right now. He needed to be full because that meant the sickness was losing.

Instead of the fruit, Harry chose a waffle. He added only a little amount of syrup, and he choked on the first couple of bites, but he kept forcing himself to eat it anyway, ignoring the screaming in his head.

Harry wasn't sure how much time had passed. He knew it was taking him way too long to eat this single waffle, as Liam was already done with his entire plate, but then there was a knock on the door.

“I'll get it!” Liam offered, and went to answer. Looking around his friend, Harry saw that their visitor was Niall.

“Oh, hi!” Niall said when he saw that it was Liam standing before him. “I just came to see how you were doing this morning.”

“I'm good,” Liam assured him. “Did you get breakfast sent to your room too?”

“Actually, I woke up early and so I went out and grabbed something with Louis.”

“Shhh!” Liam hushed loudly. “Don't let Harry hear that! Louis is his man.”

“Louis isn't my man!” Harry called. Niall laughed, entering the room as Liam moved to allow him to do so.

“Don't worry, I think Louis only has eyes for Harry anyway.”

“You are both ridiculous,” Harry commented.

“No, actually, I have a message to you from Louis,” Niall said, looking at him. Harry narrowed his eyes.

“No you don't.”

“I do!” Niall said after laughing again. Harry raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

“Fine. What is it then?”

“Louis told me to tell you that, should you desire to find him from now until two o' clock this afternoon, which is the extended check-out time, by the way, then his room number is 1224.”

Harry glared. Niall held up his hands.

“I'm serious, mate!”

After staring Niall down for another few moments, Harry sighed and headed out of the room.

“Don't you want to get dressed first?” Liam called out, as Harry was still only in his pajamas and socks.

“There's no need,” Harry said. “It's not like it's Louis's real room.”


***Louis***

Louis didn't know why he couldn't sleep. He'd stayed at the party until it was over and then had helped Beatrice, Dean and the hotel staff clean up. Then he'd posed for pictures with a couple of the hotel employees. He'd tried to sleep after that, but his mind just wouldn't shut off. Now that the 'tour kick-off' party was over, it was starting to hit him how close to a tour he really was, and he was nervous. He'd toured internationally before, but this was definitely going to be the biggest with the most dates in so many different places. It would be fine, and he would enjoy himself, but it was always nerve-wracking anyway. Not that it had happened yet, but Louis was awaiting the day when he would be booed off a stage and he had a feeling that this was going to be that tour.

Maybe if that happened, Harry would let him cry on his shoulder or something equally as cheesy and embarrassing.

After Louis and Niall had gone to breakfast, Louis went to his room to, again, attempt to sleep for more than the two-and-a-half hours he had gotten, but he was too keyed up still. That time, he knew it was probably because he had asked Niall to tell Harry his room number and was anxiously awaiting his visitation which he knew probably wouldn't come.

To try to distract himself, he put on Titanic. Even if the previous night had gone wonderfully, it was always a good time for Titanic, Louis thought. It didn't matter how many times he watched the movie, he was immersed into it every time. Well, every time except that morning, when Louis was barely paying attention, eagerly hoping for a knock on the door..

When, finally, there was a knock, Louis jumped, but was grinning as he paused the movie, got to his feet and hurried to open the door. He told himself not to get his hopes up, knowing there was a good chance that it wasn't Harry on the other side, but he couldn't help but to be a little hopeful as he looked through the peep hole. His smile grew when he saw that it was, in fact, Harry waiting for him to answer.

“Hey!” Louis greeted, flinging open the door with slightly too much enthusiasm. Harry jumped, and then his face dropped and his eyes widened.

“Oh,” he said softly.

“Hi, Harry,” Louis greeted again, unsure what this reaction was all about but trying not to think about it too much. Harry was a peculiar man. “Come on in,” Louis continued, stepping back. Harry hesitated, but entered the room once he saw Louis trying to subtly hide himself behind the door. He didn't mind fan encounters, but that didn't mean he wanted people to know where he had been sleeping and showering.

“I thought Niall was playing a trick on me,” Harry spoke. “Otherwise, I wouldn't have come in pajamas.”

“No worries!” Louis assured the man. He looked absolutely adorable in his pajamas, Louis thought as the dancer ran a hand through his messy curls.

“Maybe I should go shower,” Harry said. Louis frowned, but made sure it was a quick thing, hopefully not even noticeable.

“If you want to,” he allowed. Harry nodded and turned towards the door which he'd just come in.

“Are you coming back?” Louis asked.

“Yeah,” Harry answered, and Louis wasn't sure if the pause was real or just in his head that time. Either way, Harry had said he was coming back, so Louis smiled.

“Good.”

When Harry came back, he was in a hoodie and jeans, his wet hair put up into a bun and a subtle amount of make-up on his face. Of course, he still looked adorable.

“Do you feel better?” Louis asked. Harry nodded.

“Good. Come on in again then.”

Harry did, following Louis as he walked back to his bed.

“Did you get breakfast delivered to your room?” the singer asked.

“Yeah. Thanks for that.”

“You're welcome. How is Liam doing?”

“He's good, I think.”

“That's good...I think. Did you sleep okay?”

“Yeah.”

“I'm glad.”

Louis tilted his head at Harry, still smiling as he took a seat on his bed without Harry following suit.

“You can sit,” Louis said. “I'm not going to start anything.”

It wasn't that Louis wouldn't want to start something, as Harry was gorgeous, but Louis wasn't the 'casual sex' type of guy, to be honest.

“Oh, I'm not worried about that,” Harry assured Louis, his face suddenly flushed. He took a seat though; on the edge of the bed, but it was a start.

“Are you sure I don't make you uncomfortable or annoy you?” Louis asked. Sure, Harry hadn't had to come by the room, but he was a hard guy to read. Louis didn't know how to take anything about the man. He wanted to learn, though.

“No,” Harry answered, looking startled at the question. “You don't. I'm sorry, I'm just awkward.”

“You're fine, Harry.”

Briefly, Louis contemplated making that a bad pick-up line, but quickly decided against it. Harry looked down to the bedspread, folding and unfolding his hands, and then his eyes roamed to the TV. When he saw the paused movie, he smiled.

Titanic?” he asked.

“Don't judge me.”

“I'm not judging. I've actually never seen the movie.”

Louis's mouth dropped open, but he closed it quickly and then narrowed his eyes. When he didn't say anything, Harry turned to look at him and gave him a questioning look.

“Are you straight?” Louis asked. That question did it; it got Harry to laugh.

“I'm definitely not straight,” Harry assured him. “The opportunity to watch it just never arose, I guess.”

Typically, Louis would use this as an opportunity to tell Harry he should come over and watch it sometime, and he almost did-he wanted to-but Louis wasn't too proud to admit that he didn't do well with rejection and he felt there was a good chance that Harry might reject him, or, worse, accept without wanting to simply because he seemed like the guy that wanted everyone else to be happy above himself.

Instead of asking Harry for his number, or something along those lines, Louis said,

“What are you doing for the next two hours?”

“Um...I think I'm watching Titanic with you,” Harry replied. Louis smiled and Harry returned it.

Louis started the movie over and as he did so, Harry actually got comfortable, putting his feet up on the bed and propping himself up against a pillow.

“I'm warning you, I'm an ugly crier,” Harry said as the opening credits began to play.

“My nose is a floodgate opening to a green river of goo when I get weepy, so you're in good company.”

Harry smiled, biting his lip as he fixed his hair and then focused his full attention on the movie. Louis resisted the urge to rest his head on the dancer's shoulder.

***Liam***

“Was that really Louis's room?” Liam asked Niall. He didn't think Niall would be the type to play such a cruel prank, but he really didn't know, and if it wasn't, then Liam was going to have to re-evaluate this whole friendship with Niall, which he really did not want to do.

“Yeah,” Niall answered, and Liam could tell he was genuine. He smiled.

“Harry is about to hate himself,” he commented.

“At least he looks cute in his pajamas.”

“Very true.”

After a moment of silence, Niall spoke again.

“It would be cool if Harry started something with Louis,” he said. “That would make a nice little love story.”

“Oh, so we have a hopeless romantic on our hands?” Liam asked, one eyebrow raise, partly endeared. Niall laughed.

“Maybe a little.”

“There's nothing wrong with that,” Liam assured him.

“You not so much then?” Niall asked. Liam gave him a look, figuring Niall should know the answer to that already.

“My love story would be for eighteen and over only.”

Niall rolled his eyes and shook his head, but the smile was still on his face.

“Do you have a boyfriend then?” Liam asked, figuring Niall must have a significant other if he was such a hopeless romantic. Even if he wasn't, he was definitely attractive enough that he likely had to have someone. Still, Liam found himself hoping that Niall's answer was no, which quite alarmed him.

“No boyfriend,” Niall said.

“Girlfriend?”

“Nope, I'm single for now.”

“I'm sure that will change soon,” Liam said, ignoring the feeling of potential relief running through his veins.

“Maybe,” Niall said.

“I'm going to get a shower,” Liam announced. He felt gross, and knew he couldn't look or smell the best either, which hadn't really bothered him up until that point.

“Alright,” Niall said, starting to stand from the desk chair, but the sound of a key being inserted into the hotel room door made them both freeze.

“You're evil!” Harry told Niall as he stumbled in, looking absolutely mortified. Liam felt bad for him, even if it was slightly hilarious.

“How am I evil?” Niall asked. “I warned you.”

“Oh my god,” Harry said, and then proceeded to quickly gather a pair of clothes and lock himself in the bathroom. With a small laugh, Liam stood, and Niall did as well.

“Are you on this floor?” Liam asked the other man. Niall told him that he was, so Liam told him he would walk him to his room. Niall let him.

“I know we said this last night, but I did really have a good time hanging out with you,” Niall commented once the two were standing outside of his bedroom door.

“I did too,” Liam assured him.

“Are you staying in the area until rehearsals start next week?” Niall questioned.

“I...don't know, actually,” Liam said. He had planned on staying with Harry, but he didn't want to over-stay his welcome.

“I'm crashing with one of the other back-up dancers who's a local,” Niall said, and then, “so maybe if you do stick around, we can meet up for lunch or dinner sometime before Wednesday?”

The familiar feeling of panic rose in Liam then. Not this question again.

“Not like a date, right?” he verified, holding his breath. Niall frowned.

“Well….no...”

Liam let himself breathe, although he wasn't quite as relieved as he felt he should have been. He almost felt…

Well, he wasn't going to concentrate on what he was feeling.

“Okay,” he said. “Yeah, that sounds good. I'll let you know when I figure out what I'm doing.”

“Great. Do you need my number?”

“I suppose that would help...”

The two both gave each other their phone numbers and Liam was trying not to smile too wide. Seriously, what was wrong with him? Must be an after-effect of the ecstasy…

“I'll see you soon then, Liam,” Niall said, sliding his phone back into his pocket once the other's number had been saved.

“Yeah,” Liam said, doing the same. “Either way, I'll see you soon.”

Chapter Text

***Liam***

Liam was beginning to think Harry had forgotten about him when it was nearing two o' clock and his friend hadn't shown back up to his room yet. Of course, he couldn't blame the guy. If he had been in Louis T.'s hotel room, he probably would have forgotten about his slutty, hungover friend too.

At about quarter 'til, Liam heard the ding of an elevator door being opened and feet shuffling and then Harry appeared around the corner, hurrying to his room, which Liam was sitting outside of with all of his luggage.

“Sorry,” Harry apologized. “Lost track of time. How long have you been sitting here?”

“Not long,” Liam lied. It had been close to an hour and he had been starting to regret rejecting Niall's offer for a ride anywhere, even though Liam had nowhere to go, really.

“I just have to throw a few things back in my bag and I'll be ready,” Harry said.

“No problem. I already checked out of my room. I'll help you.”

 

Harry checked out just in time to not have to pay for another night and he took a deep breath once in the car. Now that Liam's own nerves were settling, he smiled. It took Harry a minute to realize he was being stared down as he started to drive, but then he looked over at his passenger, giving him a questioning look.

“What?” he asked.

“'Lost track of time, eh?” Liam teased. Harry shook his head quickly.

“Nothing like that went on, Liam.”

“Well, how did it go?”

“Fine.”

“'Fine?' You spent the entire morning and part of the afternoon in your celebrity crush's hotel room and it was just 'fine?'”

“Like I said, nothing happened.”

“Okay, but you had to have done something unless you want me to believe you just sat and stared at each other for hours on end. Actually, that wouldn't surprise me too much, but I'm thinking that's not how it went.”

“We watched Titanic and then ate some lunch,” Harry said.

“Did you go out somewhere?”

“No, we ordered room service.”

“That still counts as a date. Congratulations.”

“It wasn't a date,” Harry insisted. Liam smiled, but dropped the subject at that, not wanting to make his friend too uncomfortable. He was starting to think he was even worse with the whole 'dating' thing than Liam himself was.

Once the pair reached Harry's apartment, Liam started gathering the rest of his things, trying to decide if he should actually give sleeping with people for money a try instead of just joking about it so that he could stay in a hotel until leaving for tour. That way, he wouldn't have to go back to his aunt and uncle's, where he knew he would probably be invited back in, but was terrified of the other possible outcome.

Harry stayed out in his living room while Liam packed, giving the illusion that he was watching something on the television when he was very obviously spaced out, probably reliving his day with Louis over in his head. Liam didn't blame him, of course. He only hoped that Harry recognized that Louis really was interested in him soon. Liam could tell. He was good at reading those kinds of signals, and he felt that it was more than a sexual interest.

“Are you leaving?” Harry asked when he came back to reality and glanced up to see his friend heading to the door with all of his luggage.

“I've burdened you for too long. Thanks for letting me stay with you. I had a great time.”

“You haven't burdened me,” Harry said.

“You're too nice to tell me if I was,” Liam pointed out.

“You haven't been burdening me, Liam,” Harry said again. Liam just looked at him down the bridge of his nose, disbelieving. Harry continued, “I don't want to make you stay, but you don't have to leave if you don't want to, honestly. I really don't mind at all.”

“I don't even have money to give you for food or rent or anything else,” Liam said. He'd spent the rest of his graduation money from his mother getting to London.

At the statement, Harry just rolled his eyes.

“I'm not worried about it.”

“I can pay you back when we get our first checks from Louis,” Liam determined. “However much you want. You can have the whole thing, actually.”

“Liam,” Harry said flatly, “You can give me a little if it will make you feel better, but it's really, really not necessary.”

“I don't like owing anyone anything,” Liam said.

“You don't.”

“Ooookay,” Liam sighed. He would still give Harry his first check, he knew.

“Stay,” Harry said. “We can watch a film or something.”

“Okay. Do you want to go out tonight?” Liam asked. “We can go to a free bar and get cute guys to buy us drinks. I didn't even get laid last night, man.”

“I think you have Niall to blame for that,” Harry said with a smile. Liam shrugged, making his way to the couch to sit next to the other dancer and leaving his bags at the door. Niall was worth missing one night of sex, he thought.

Liam had Harry pick the movie that time and as he searched for one and stuck it in the player, Liam sent Niall a text to tell him that he was staying in town with Harry. Niall replied almost immediately.

Sweet, he said. Do you and Harry want to go to the mall with Zayn and me tomorrow? Zayn is the guy I'm staying with, but he's got no interest in sex or dating, so he won't try to get between Harry and Louis ;)

Liam laughed out loud and when Harry gave him a strange look, probably thinking he was laughing at his movie choice-Love, Actually-Liam quickly read Niall's text to him. Harry very obviously blushed as he shook his head.

“Louis doesn't want me,” he said.

“Yeah, right.”

“He doesn't, but yes, we can go to the mall tomorrow if you want.”

“Awesome,” Liam said, typing out his reply to Niall, telling him that they would meet them there. He added then, “But Louis does want you.”

 

When Harry and Liam went out that night, Liam had a quick fling with some guy in the back of the guy's friend's car. It wasn't the first time he had done that, and usually he found it quite enjoyable, but it was just okay that night. He didn't think it had anything to do with the man he was with. He was gorgeous, very skilled and quite flexible, but Liam was distracted. The conversation he'd had with Niall about being a hopeless romantic played over in his head. He wondered if Louis and Harry were a love story waiting to happen. He thought it was quite possible and hoped they would get a happy ending if so. Liam also wondered briefly if he had a love story waiting for him too, but he didn't ponder that thought long because it was ridiculous. Some people were destined to live fairy tales. Liam wasn't one of them.

***Harry***

Harry was glad that Liam decided to stay. He enjoyed Liam's company, but he also needed him around so that he wouldn't fall back to his old ways with food. Sure, he had sneaked around with Liam there before, but now that he actually felt guilty about it, he knew that he would end up making a mistake and getting caught, maybe accidentally-on-purpose. He just couldn't get caught and sent back to rehab. It really hadn't been all that bad, but Harry's life was just maybe starting to fall in place. He couldn't delay it again.

It was hard for him during the next few days to choke down three regular meals, especially when he knew he couldn't throw up, even if he was desperate. He did it though; he ate like a normal person would do, and he even forgot about his problem for a bit when he went to the mall with Liam, Niall and Zayn that Sunday.

Zayn had kept subtly making sure that Liam and Niall were beside each other, at one point even taking Harry off somewhere else so that the two could have 'alone time.' Harry couldn't help but to keep noticing how cute Liam and Niall were together. He even thought Niall had a good chance at being the one to finally get Liam to settle down a little bit.

During the next few days, Harry also paid more attention to Liam's eating habits, hoping that he had been wrong on his theory of Liam potentially having an eating disorder as well. Liam never gave him any concrete reason to believe he was right, so Harry began to feel a little better. He had a habit of finding issues in others that weren't necessarily there, which his previous psychologist had explained was a 'misery loves company' type of thing. Harry wasn't sure he believed that, because he didn't want others to feel the pain he felt.

 

On Wednesday, the first day of rehearsals for tour, Harry was discouraged to find that his dance clothes fit too small on him now. Okay, so they weren't technically too small, but they were almost the same size as before Harry had started to relapse in his disorder, so they felt as if they were. He told himself that it wasn't true and that it was actually a good thing. It meant that he was healthy and had things under control. He was stronger, physically and emotionally.

Whether or not that was true, it was what Harry had to tell himself.

Before the rehearsal started, Harry had secretly hoped that Louis would be there as well, but he wasn't. That was just as well, though, because Harry didn't perform near his best that day and, again, the wonder and fear of what he was getting himself into resurfaced.

After dinner, Harry and Liam went back to Harry's to shower and then go to a pool party that Zayn had set up last minute at his parents' house. A pool party sounded like a terrible idea for Harry and he tried to use the excuse of being tired to get out of going, still offering to take Liam and pick him up, but Liam had said that he wasn't going if Harry didn't, and since it was obvious he really wanted to go, Harry said he would attend the party for 'just a little bit.'

The party was already in full swing when the two arrived. The pool was occupied by a good amount of people and Zayn was grilling out.

Niall found Liam almost as soon as the two entered and Harry used Liam's distraction as a chance to slip by and sit in a chair a good distance from the pool. He checked his phone, deciding to give himself a half an hour before he thanked Zayn and left.

Before he could put his phone away, he received a text from an unknown number. Frowning in confusion, Harry opened the message.

Hi, Harry! It's Louis. I hope you don't care, but I got your number from Beatrice. How did the rehearsal go?

The message made Harry smile, even though he figured it had to be a generated message that was sent to all dancers, personalized only by their names, but, looking around, he didn't see too many people on their phones, and those who were didn't look exceptionally excited, so he didn't think it would be a text from Louis that they were looking at.

Biting the inside of his cheeks so as not to smile even wider, Harry replied.

They went really well, he said, and didn't really expect another text-he still wasn't completely convinced the message wasn't automatically generated-but then his phone buzzed with a notification from the same, unsaved phone number.

Good. I can't wait to see what the choreographer came up with this year, the message read. Harry almost asked if Louis was planning to come to any of the rehearsals, but he didn't. Instead, he told Louis that he liked the dance routines and inside, thought to himself, oh my god, am I really texting Louis?

I'm glad you do, the singer replied next. What are you doing tonight?

A bunch of us are at Zayn's, Harry said.

I'm happy that you all seem to be getting on so well, Louis told him.

Me too.

Have fun! I'll talk to you soon :)

Have a good night, Harry responded. He saw that Louis read the message, but he didn't reply, and Harry slid his phone back into his pocket. When he looked back up, he saw that Liam was standing in front of his chair and jumped.

“How long have you been standing there?” he asked.

“Long enough to know that you were texting someone pretty special,” Liam answered, his facial expression unreadable.

“It was my sister,” Harry lied quickly.

“Uh-huh,” Liam said disbelievingly, but then changed the subject. “Come and get in the pool,” he said, and he'd clearly already been in the water because he was changed into his swim trunks, water dripping from his body.

“I didn't bring anything to swim in,” Harry told him. Liam gave Harry a look that hinted he thought the other man was a bit dumb.

“You knew this was a pool party,” he stated flatly.

“I think I left my swim trunks at my mum's,” Harry said, and he had, but had done so quite intentionally.

“Well, I guess you're swimming in your clothes then,” Liam said, moving forward quickly and scooping Harry up with no effort at all. Harry screamed.

“No! Liam, put me down!”

“Jeez, you weigh literally nothing,” Liam commented as he began walking to the pool with Harry in his arms.

“No!” Harry screamed again, in protest to both Liam's actions and his words. Harry's screams only got louder the closer Liam got to the pool as he clung to his friend's arms for dear life. He realized that almost everyone was staring and he could hear Niall laughing from where he was in the water.

“Liam!” Harry yelled as his friend got in stance to toss Harry in. “My phone is in my pocket! Don't!”

Liam paused, attempting to fish Harry's phone from his jeans while still keeping a hold of the man, but Harry gently smacked his hand away, causing him to sigh dramatically.

“Fine,” he said in defeat as he set Harry back to his feet. Almost immediately, Zayn made his way by, pushing Liam into the pool instead. Laughter erupted from almost everyone, and Harry stuck around long enough to make sure Liam came up for air before hurrying away to hide inside for the remainder of his thirty minutes.

When he went back outside to tell Liam that he was going home, Liam and Niall were playing a game of chicken against Fergus and the guy with blue in his hair that Liam had been planning to sleep with the night of the party before Niall had come into the picture. Not wanting to interrupt, Harry waited until Niall had knocked blue-hair-guy into the pool with a considerable amount of vigor before speaking.

“Hey, Liam, I'm going home,” he said. “Just text me later when you're ready for me to come back and get you.”

“You're leaving already?” Zayn asked from where he was sitting a few feet away with his feet in the pool.

“Yeah, I'm kind of tired. Thanks for having me over, though.”

“I can take Liam back later,” Niall offered.

“It's no trouble to come back and get him,” Harry said.

“I'll take him home,” Niall insisted.

“Okay,” Harry gave in. “I'll see you soon, Liam. Have fun. Thanks again, Zayn. Bye Niall.”

 

When Harry returned to his apartment, he checked his phone again, not expecting to have anything, but being surprised at another message from Louis's number. Since they had exchanged a considerable amount of texts, Harry saved his contact information and then read the message.

What do you think of the color pink? The message read. Okay then…

It's a nice color, Harry replied, even with the appeared randomness of the message.

Would you wear it though? Louis asked. Of course, Harry thought; he must be doing something that had to do with costumes for the shows.

Yeah, Harry said, both because he would and often did, but also because it was Louis's tour. He was just an employee.

What about flowers? Louis asked next. For just a moment, Harry wondered if Louis meant flowers in general, and his heart skipped a beat, but that was stupid.

I mean, would you wear something with flowers? Louis sent, verifying that Harry had been dumb in not knowing what he meant.

Yeah, Harry replied.

Cool, Louis said, and then sent yet another text. Do you still work at the bakery?

Yeah, Saturday is my last day

Dean has been wanting another double fudge brownie, so I'll probably have to come in. Do you get a break?

Yeah, at 1.

Ok. See you Saturday.

Harry tried not to count on it, but suddenly, he couldn't wait for the weekend.

At first, he almost forgot that Louis had said he would be in on Saturday, mainly because he'd convinced himself that the singer wouldn't come, but when the bell over the door chimed ten minutes before Harry's break, he saw Louis enter the shop and nearly gasped. He turned away from the door for a brief second so that Louis wouldn't see him smile.

“Hi, Louis,” Harry greeted quietly only once the man had reached the counter, not wanting to draw any attention to the famous singer, who had, so far, gone unnoticed.

“Hi, Harry!” Louis greeted with a smile. Harry returned it and then asked,

“So a double fudge brownie then?”

“Yes, and a tea, please.”

“What kind?”

“Black, please.”

“Hot or cold?”

“Cold.”

“Sugar?”

“Please.”

“How much?”

“However much is customary. I'm not a diva, Harry.”

Louis was smiling, so Harry smiled again too and then got Louis's order ready. The singer paid and tipped and then asked,

“Hey, are you doing anything on your break?”

“No. I usually just go for a walk.”

“Well, can I take just, like, five minutes of your time, if that? I have something to give you.”

“Sure…,” Harry said, trying not to get flattered. He knew it was just something for tour that the other dancers would get as well whenever they saw the singer again.

“Alright, cool. I'll be over at the corner table,” Louis said, nodding to the table he was talking about. Harry told him he would be over in a few minutes and then Louis went to sit. It was only then that Harry noticed a gift bag hanging from his wrist and he turned, hiding his smile from Louis again.

The next seven minutes went painfully slow, but, finally, he was let off for break. After grabbing a peanut butter bar for Louis, Harry hurried-but not too quickly-to where Louis had seated himself.

“Are you allergic to peanuts?” Harry asked to draw Louis's attention once he was close enough. “And do you eat sweets?”

“I'm not allergic to peanuts and yes I do eat sweets,” Louis said, looking confused at the questions, but smiling all the same. Harry suddenly decided he had to hate every single photo shoot in which Louis wasn't allowed to smile. Louis added, “I'm not supposed to eat them, but I do.”

“Why aren't you supposed to eat them?” Harry asked, frowning as he took a seat across from the singer, still holding the bag with the peanut butter bar inside of it.

“Because apparently the only reason I have fans is because I can look decent shirtless,” Louis said, and Harry's frown deepened.

“That's not true,” he said. Harry had shamelessly had a picture of Louis shirtless on his wall a few years ago, but his gorgeous body and face weren't the only reasons he liked the singer. He liked his voice and music too, and Louis seemed like a genuinely good person.

“It's not true? I don't look decent shirtless?” Louis asked, and Harry's eyes widened.

“No! No, that's not what I meant.”

Louis smiled again.

“I was teasing.”

Harry was blushing.

“I think you can afford to eat one peanut butter bar if you want it,” Harry said, setting the treat down in front of the other man.

“Thank you,” Louis said. “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing.”

“I can pay you, Harry.”

“Obviously,” Harry said, smiling himself. “It's fine though. You have no idea how much business you got us with your tweet about the bakery.”

Louis's constant smile grew.

“Thank you,” he said again, and took a bite.

“This is amazing,” he said. “Did you bake it?”

Harry shrugged.

“It's not my recipe,” he answered indirectly. Louis gave him a strange look, but then laughed and took another bite.

“Okay,” he said after he'd chewed and swallowed. “I have a present for you too.”

Louis handed Harry the gift bag from across the table and Harry felt himself blushing again. He really hoped he got this under control soon or he wouldn't be able to face Louis after the tour. Not that he would have to worry about that, probably.

Harry pulled the tissue paper from the bag, revealing a wrap-around hair bun decoration; pink, flowered and sparkly.

“Don't feel pressured to wear it,” Louis spoke before he could gauge Harry's reaction. “I went shopping with my friend yesterday and she had one kind of like that in. I thought it was pretty, but I don't know anyone with long enough hair to wear it. I thought it kind of looked like you, but obviously I...I don't know, so don't feel bad if you don't like it.”

“I do like it,” Harry assured Louis, who seemed to relax a little.

“We can get more to match your tour outfits if you want,” he said. “But, yeah, you don't have to.”

Harry thought that Louis's cheeks had turned a little pink by that point and he smiled.

“I love it,” he said, and since he currently had his hair up in a bun, he put the decoration around it. “Does that look right?” he asked, turning his back to show Louis.

“Hold on,” Louis said, getting to his feet so that he could reach across the table and adjust the accessory a bit. “There.”

Harry turned back around and smiled again. It was really so hard not to smile around Louis.

“Thank you,” he said.

“You're welcome.”

Both men were silent as Louis finished his snack from Harry and as he was taking another drink of tea, a couple of women that looked to be around Harry's age approached shyly. Louis smiled invitingly and they walked over quicker, smiling and looking more relaxed, yet still ecstatic.

“Hi,” the darker haired of the two said. “Um...can we get a picture?”

“Sure, loves,” Louis answered and then turned to Harry. “Do I have peanut butter or chocolate on my face?”

“A little,” Harry admitted with a laugh.

“Where?” Louis asked, and Harry tried to show him, but Louis couldn't get it off for the life of him so, laughing more, Harry got a napkin from the front and helped him. The fans were watching, looking amused, yet curious.

“I can take the picture, if you want,” Harry offered once Louis's face was clean. The girls agreed, handing both of their phones to Harry. He took the pictures and made sure they approved before sitting back down, thinking of the picture Dean had taken of him and Louis at the party.

“Thank you so much,” the lighter haired girl thanked Louis. “You're amazing and so gorgeous.”

With a laugh, Louis thanked the lady as her friend turned to Harry.

“You're hot too,” she added. Both of the women giggled and Harry had to tell himself that they weren't making fun of him, they were just being polite.

After thanking Louis again, the two hurried off, glancing back a couple of times. Louis looked to Harry, smiling, of course.

“You, sir, may end up stealing my show,” he said.

“Right,” Harry said sarcastically. “Um, hey, what happened to that picture Dean took of you and me?”

“He sent it to me, but he didn't post it anywhere, don't worry.”

Harry nodded, but when he didn't say anything else, Louis asked,

“Do you want to see it?”

Harry nodded, so Louis pulled out his own phone and scrolled through it, holding it out to Harry once he found the picture. Harry had feared that, next to Louis, he would look even worse than usual, but he didn't. He was surprised by how happy he looked, actually. He was almost glowing, and he guessed that people weren't lying-his dimples really were pretty deep.

“I think it's a good picture,” Louis said. Clearing his throat, Harry nodded again, looking up at Louis's face.

“I guess I should let you go on your walk now,” the singer said. Harry checked the clock.

“I won't have time,” he said.

“Oh, sorry,” Louis apologized.

“No, it's fine,” Harry assured him. Typically, he would freak out a little at missing a chance for exercise, but how could he be upset about it when he'd spent the whole break with Louis, who gave him a present and let him wipe chocolate off of his face?

Both men stood.

“Have a good rest of your shift,” Louis spoke.

“Thank you. I hope you have a good day too, and thanks again for the bun accessory.”

“Thank you again for the peanut butter bar.”

The two said their goodbyes and then Louis left the shop. Harry finally breathed normally for the first time in over a half an hour.

Harry's smile, which was almost constant while he was around Louis, lasted for much of the day. It felt nice, but weird.

“Why are you smiling so much?” his boss had even asked at one point. Harry had quickly told her that he wasn't smiling, despite knowing that he was.

Just over an hour later, the bakery got pretty busy and Harry didn't think much of it until later, when he discovered that Louis had tweeted them again, this time giving a shout out to their peanut butter bars.

He'd also followed Harry back, but that wasn't too important of a detail, probably.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

The night of Zayn's pool party was the night that Niall was convinced he was in love. In the least, he was in the process of falling in love. It could be just his romanticism talking, he guessed, but he didn't think so. Though he was a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic, he had never been the guy who could fall head over heels for someone. He had dreamed of finding a love that made him feel that way from the time he was small, but he hadn't experienced it so far. In fact, he had always tried to tell himself that he should date whoever was interested in him, sure that he would fall in love somewhere along the way. That had yet to happen. He'd never had someone that kept him awake at night and he'd never, ever felt the 'butterflies' that everyone talked about.

Until that night, that was.

It was taking Liam a while to arrive at Zayn's party and Niall feared that he wasn't going to come after all. He supposed he could have missed him coming in, but he'd barely taken his eyes off of the back gate, where Zayn had instructed everyone to enter. Niall was just about to give up, get a drink and stick himself by Zayn's side the whole night when the gate opened and Harry walked through; Liam close behind.

Grinning, Niall forgot the drink and hurried over to say hello. After saying a quick, 'hi,' back, Harry slipped off, but Liam stayed, giving Niall a smile and asking where the food was. That smile made Niall's heart skipped a beat and he felt weird, but he felt good.

Somehow, even though Niall and Liam had been texting almost non-stop since Sunday afternoon, had spent hours together at the mall and had met up for lunch once, they still hadn't run out of things to talk about. As they ate, they talked about rehearsal and how it had just really started to hit them that they were professional dancers now, getting ready to go on tour with one of the most popular singers of the present. From there, they discussed the cities they were most excited to visit while on tour. When Niall mentioned how much he was looking forward to Paris, Liam rolled his eyes.

“Of course,” he said, a smile on his face. “The city of love.”

“So?” Niall asked, throwing a crisp at the other man. Liam laughed. His laugh was beautiful. The day was beautiful. Liam was beautiful.

Soon after eating, the two went inside to change into their swim trunks, both agreeing to get in the pool as soon as it cleared out a bit. Niall had figured Liam had a great body. Typically, in Niall's experience, there were two types of dancer bodies; super thin or super muscular. Niall was one of the rare ones that fell somewhere in the middle-he was thin, but not unbelievably so-but, if Liam's biceps were anything to go by, he was one of the extremely fit ones. (Besides, one didn't get a reputation such as his with mediocre essentials.) Still, Niall didn't think he had properly prepared himself to see Liam exposed in such a way.

“Damn,” he said out loud when his former classmate had exited the bathroom and rejoined Niall outside. He hadn't meant to verbalize his thoughts, but he didn't regret it when Liam smiled.

“What?” he asked, even though he clearly already knew what. Liam stood a little straighter.

“Nothing,” Niall said with his own, sheepish grin. The pool had cleared, and he was about to ask Liam if he was ready to get in-the thought of him exposed and wet was suddenly quite appealing-but before he got the chance, one of the other dancers approached; Jakob. Niall felt that he was soon going to despise this guy and his black-and-blue hair.

“Hey, Liam,” Jakob said, standing close enough to 'accidentally' brush Liam's arm with his. “Hey, Niall,” he added, seemingly like an afterthought. Niall didn't bother to return the greeting as Liam did.

“You look hot,” Jakob told Liam. “Do you want a drink?”

Niall couldn't help but to roll his eyes. Lame.

“Sure,” Liam said, because of course he did.

“Come on.”

Jakob walked away and Liam followed, but not before turning to make sure Niall was coming too, and of course Niall was. He wasn't the type to give up easily. He'd let Liam slip by one time and wasn't going to do it again.

Actually, as he was kind of a coward, Niall probably wouldn't be making a real move anytime soon, but still. He wasn't going to give up all hope just like that.

Jakob hung around for an annoyingly long time, getting Liam another drink as soon as his cup was empty and scooting closer with every minute that passed until he was continuously brushing against Liam's arm, hip or stomach 'by accident.' It was almost nauseating, and Niall had an almost irresistible urge to push him into the pool, but then Liam spoke up to suggest they swim, and Niall somehow had the strength to refrain from shoving Jakob off of the diving board.

Once in the pool, Liam stayed close to Niall just like Jakob had stayed close to him. Niall may have developed a semi-permanent smirk on his face, and it only grew when the dark haired man got frustrated and went to find his next target; Fergus. Niall hoped Jakob knew that he was straight.

Actually, it would be more amusing if he didn't.

A few moments after Jakob left, Liam got out of the pool to go and get Harry. When he came back, he was holding the other dancer, who was screaming at the top of his lungs as Liam prepared to throw him in the pool.

“Liam! My phone is in my pocket! Don't!” Harry pleaded. Liam hesitated and then attempted to swipe the phone from Harry's jeans, but he failed, so was then forced to set the man down in defeat. No sooner than Harry's feet were on the ground did Zayn appear from nowhere and take revenge for the guy by pushing Liam into the water. Niall, who had already been laughing over the whole ordeal with Harry, burst into laughter along with everyone else in the surrounding area, but when Liam popped up, coughing and sputtering quite dramatically, Niall made sure to rush over.

“Are you alright?” he asked, still giggling as he threw his arms around Liam's neck. It was necessary, really. He only needed a closer observation to assure that Liam hadn't swallowed too much water.

“I'm fine,” Liam said with a smile, and Niall felt him place his hands on his waist. He was very glad that he was in a cold pool.

“Race you to the other side!” Liam said after a few moments of them maintaining that position and staring into each other's eyes. With that, he broke free from Niall and kicked himself off.

“That's cheating!” Niall called, and began to swim after him.

Niall and Liam only got two rounds of racing in before Jakob had returned with Fergus close by, declaring a game of chicken. Admittedly, Niall had been annoyed at the return of the other man, but quickly became excited at the prospect of throwing Jakob to a watery doom.

It all happened as Niall had hoped. He took his position on Liam's strong shoulders while Jakob got on Fergus's. It probably should have been Fergus at the top on Jakob's, as he was closer to Niall's build and Jakob to Liam's, but Niall felt that both he and Jakob had the same goal with this game.

He grew a bit nervous as the game began, realizing there was a great likelihood of Jakob being much stronger than he was, as if the winner of this game would also be the winner of Liam's heart, but luck seemed to be on his side anyway; or at least sheer adrenaline because it didn't take him long at all to knock Jakob into the pool, creating a satisfyingly loud 'splash.' The look of shock and fear on his rival's face as he fell was going to make for a pretty great memory too.

At their success, Liam cheered loudly, moving so that Niall fell from his shoulders and into his arms. Niall smiled up at him and Liam returned it.

“Congratulations,” he said.

“Thanks for not dropping me,” Niall replied. Liam smiled, but then Harry spoke from off to the side of the pool, announcing that he was going home but would be back later to pick Liam up. Niall assured Harry that wouldn't be necessary, as he would take the guy home, and, after saying their goodbyes, Harry left.

“Well, I guess it's just me and you now,” Liam commented when his friend walked away, despite the fact that there were quite a few guests at this party. For the time being, it was almost like it was just them, as the pool had emptied to make room for their chicken tournament. After receiving a humiliating defeat, their opponents had also fled. Niall smirked.

“Try to catch me!” Liam said after setting Niall upright in the pool, and then he took off again. Niall already knew that he was going to like this game a lot more than the racing one.

The two swam, chased each other and attempted water ballet until Niall noticed Liam's lips turning blue and insisted that they get out. As they jumped out of the pool, Liam was shivering and his teeth were chattering, and Niall was about to offer him his towel when, from his repossessed position in the pool, Jakob spoke.

“Hey, Li, I can warm you up if you want.”

The black haired man winked and Liam looked down the bridge of his nose at him before taking a nearby pool noodle and hitting the other in the head with it. Jakob didn't seem offended and used the same noodle to smack Liam in the bum as he and Niall walked away. Liam laughed, turning to smile at Jakob for only an instant, his hips swaying just a bit more than before.

It's really on now, Jakob, Niall thought silently.

After finding their towels and drying off a bit, Liam and Niall got some more to eat and drink. Niall realized he should have known better than to offer Liam a drink when the dancer downed four by the time he'd finished one plate of food. Not that he minded if Liam got tipsy. Liam could do what he wanted, of course, but Niall was quite fond of the sober Liam as well.

Zayn's parents had a hot tub to go along with their pool, which was pretty empty since the day itself was hot enough, and so Niall and Liam decided to get in with their second and fifth drinks, respectively. Liam was pretty gone by that point, and the hot water did nothing to help that matter.

“So sleepy,” he yawned, positioning himself so that he could rest his head on Niall's shoulder.

“Do you want to leave?” Niall questioned.

“No,” Liam said, so Niall just let him lay on him. He quite enjoyed that he was doing so, in fact, but when Zayn noticed that one of his guests was nearly passed out in his hot tub, he took it upon himself to pour a cup of cold pool water on the tired man's head. Liam yelped, almost making Niall go temporarily deaf.

“Niall!” Liam shrieked, swimming around to hide behind the smaller man. “Protect me, Niall! Save me from the bad man!”

Niall wasn't going to take that request lightly, so he grabbed an empty water bottle that someone had carelessly left by the edge of the hot tub and chucked it at Zayn's head.

“Ack! I've been wounded!” Zayn yelled, a huge smile on his face as he ran away, still screaming. Niall laughed, but sobered quickly when he felt a pair of arms wrap around his middle and a face rest itself against his back.

“Thank you,” Liam said.

“Any time,” Niall assured Liam. He expected Liam to say something else or, in the least, move after that, but Liam just stayed there, hugging Niall silently from behind. Once a somewhat strange amount of time had passed, Niall looked over his shoulder to see that the other man had fallen asleep, and he laughed again.

“Oh, Liam,” he said to the unconscious man, and carefully got them both into a more comfortable position so that Liam could continue to sleep.

It wasn't too much longer when Niall started to feel himself overheating and knew that Liam must have been too, considering how much more alcohol he'd consumed than Niall. Reluctantly, he woke Liam up and they got out.

Deciding that they were done in the pool for a while, the two changed back into their regular clothes and then laid out their beach towels in the grass so that they could lay on them. They both started out on their backs, gazing up at the sky, but then Liam groaned, rolling over onto his side closer to Niall and flinging an arm over his friend's stomach.

“Do you want to go home so that you can sleep?” Niall asked.

“No,” Liam said.

“Okay.”

“I'm sorry I always get drunk,” Liam said then.

“It's okay,” Niall assured the man. He felt as if there was probably a better response, but the words had surprised him, so he was at a loss for what that might be right then.

“I really like being around you,” Liam continued.

“I like being around you too,” Niall replied.

“I'm glad you came back into my life.”

Niall could say the same back to Liam again, but instead, he leaned down and placed a very soft kiss onto the top of the other man's head. Liam only moved closer, taking Niall's hand as he, again, fell asleep.

 

Finally, once there was no more sunlight left, people started to leave. After all, they did have rehearsal again in the morning.

Liam and Niall joined those leaving and by that time, Liam was pretty sober; just sleepy. Still, he was able to keep up a conversation with Niall while giving him directions to Harry's place and, once they arrived, Niall walked him to the door.

“Thank you for driving me back,” Liam said.

“You're welcome. I'll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, see you.”

With a sleepy smile, Liam took a key out of his pocket and let himself into Harry's.

“Bye,” he said again before he shut the door, and Niall offered a smile and a wave.

All the way home, Niall thought about Liam. He smiled the entire time. He knew the guy wasn't perfect. He drank what was probably, arguably, too much and was no doubt a heart breaker, but Niall couldn't help but to hope that he would be able to get the other to settle down just a little. Maybe he could be the one that Liam would finally commit to for more than just a few random nights.

Niall found that he had a really hard time sleeping that night.

***Louis***

The Monday after his tour rehearsals had started, Louis had a meeting with Dean. He wasn't sure what it was about; Dean had only scheduled it suddenly the day before. The randomness of the event had him nervous, and those nerves only grew when Dean greeted him flatly and then folded his hands and stared for a good half a minute before beginning.

“I have your next boyfriend in place,” the older man said.

“Another fake boyfriend, I'm assuming?” Louis verified. Dean nodded, suddenly looking as nervous as Louis had felt only moments ago. The singer groaned loudly.

“I'm tired of fake dating!” he said, doing his best not to let his voice turn to a whine. “I want to focus on my real love life!”

“It will be with a new singer I just signed on a couple weeks ago,” Dean said. “It won't be anything intense. In fact, he's straight! I just want to get all of your fan base interested, and then when the news of his heterosexuality is released, maybe there will be some guys who will actually agree to go to his shows and whatnot with their girlfriends.”

“So, basically, you want a heterosexual version of me that is homophobe safe?”

Louis quirked an eyebrow as Dean's face fell.

“No, Louis, it's not like that, mate. I don't think Josiah-that's his name-is going to be as commercially successful as you, so you don't have to worry, but don't you want to help a fellow artist out? Don't you remember what it was like to be struggling on the ladder to fame?”

“I remember and I wish him the best, but I can't do it, Dean.”

“Why not, Louis?”

Dean's hands were still locked tightly together, propped under his chin as he stared at Louis, trying to look curious and concerned, but Louis could see the fear in his eyes. He was afraid that, for once, Louis wasn't going to let himself be a puppet.

“Do you know how long it's been since I've had a real boyfriend?” Louis asked.

“Two years, three months and two days,” Dean answered right away, shocking Louis, who did a quick mental count to see if that was accurate, which it was. Dean continued, “How could I forget that tragic day?”

“Anyway,” Louis said, his cheeks burning. He knew he hadn't handled his last-and only-break-up well, and now that those wounds had healed, he didn't need to be reminded of how he'd made Dean end a meeting prematurely so that he could cry on his office floor and ask why men never stuck around with him. “I want to get back out there, in the dating field. I'm ready for it now.”

Dean's eyes turned to slants for just a moment and he unfolded his hands as he rested them on the table.

“Is this about that dancer?” he asked.

“He has a name,” Louis said.

“Harry,” Dean verified.

“Maybe, partly,” Louis answered his manager's former question. “I don't know if that will go anywhere or not, but I just want to find someone.”

“It's only going to be for a month and a half,” Dean spoke, his voice softer. “Once your tour starts, you and Josiah are going to go your separate ways and later Josiah will say that you two were always just friends and that he is straight. Nothing will ever be confirmed. I just want the two of you to go out and have genuine fun together. The rumors will begin themselves, as they typically do.”

“I don't know,” Louis sighed, and then wondered when his answer went from 'no' to 'I don't know.' He was truly a push-over, he was realizing. He went on, “I think I definitely won't have a chance with Harry….with anyone...if he thinks I'm taken or just got out of a relationship.”

“Well, to be fair, Louis, this stunt could be beneficial to you too,” Dean said, looking at the other man sympathetically. Something unpleasant twisted inside of Louis.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You still have several tour dates that have yet to sell out.”

“Yeah, because the tickets are too expensive! I told Beatrice that. They're ridiculously priced and-”

“We've sold tickets at the same price for artists who are far less successful than you are,” Dean interrupted. “People are getting bored, Lou.”

“In that case, I can get a real boyfriend and they can all talk about that.”

“Too risky,” Dean decided right away with a shake of the head. “We need something quick. Come on, Josiah is a great guy. Please, Louis. It could save your career.”

“My career is fine!”

“Yeah, for now you're doing okay, but you could be doing better.”

Louis swallowed against the lump in his throat. He saw the numbers; he knew he was doing more than just 'okay,' even if he didn't have a completely sold-out tour. Dean was just trying to hit him where he knew it would hurt but, damn it, it was working.

“Fine,” Louis said after more than a minute had passed, his voice weak. He hated himself for even giving in, but failure was his second biggest fear behind rejection. Actually, the two may just in fact be tied. He didn't want to prove those people from his past right. He didn't want to be worthless.

Sensing that he had been emotionally wounded, Dean made sure to soften his tone again and tell Louis what a wonderful artist he was and how much what he was doing was going to mean to Josiah. He got him to sign the contract immediately, told him that he loved him like a son and then sent him on his way.

“Oh, but Louis?” Dean said as the singer opened the door to his office. Louis turned to him, too drained to speak anymore.

“You might want to consider hitting the gym again,” Dean said. “You and Josiah have a beach outing in a couple of weeks and I'm sure you want to be in tip-top shape.”

 

I'm in trouble.

Louis typed out the message and then debated for only a few moments before sending it to Harry. Though more than twenty-four hours had passed since his meeting with Dean, Louis was still feeling down from it and that was the only way he could think to cheer himself up besides a tub of ice cream, which was, apparently, forbidden.

After sending the message, Louis kept an eye on his phone to see if Harry opened it and then if he was replying. The dancer opened it almost right away but kept pausing during his reply. When he finally sent something, it was a simple question mark.

Dean wants me to get in better shape, Louis explained. I have no motivation. You're into fitness, right??

Kind of.., Harry replied about a minute after he read the message. Not that Louis was still staring at his phone or anything…

Do you have a break from rehearsals tomorrow?

Yeah.

Louis thought so, as he was typically on the same rehearsing schedule as the dancers.

Want to go hiking with me in the morning? He typed. I know this trail that is really nice and private, so no cameras :)

Ok, sure

Louis smiled.

Do you want me to pick you up?

If you want. Or we can meet there. Doesn't matter.

I'll pick you up. Is 9 ok?

Yeah

Still smiling, Louis locked his phone. He wanted to reply and keep the conversation going all night, but he was out of things to say. Besides, he needed his sleep if he was actually going to get up and do this tomorrow, so he set the phone on his nightstand and closed his eyes.

 

Liam answered Harry's door the next morning. He was just in his boxers, his hair a mess and his eyes bloodshot, but once the evident shock wore off his face when he saw that it was Louis who had knocked, a huge smile took place across his lips.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hey, Liam,” Louis said with his own smile.

“Are you here for Harry?” Liam asked.

“Yeah.”

“Come on in. I'll see what's taking him so long.”

Louis stepped in and shut the door behind himself while Liam went down the hall yelling Harry's name. Politely, Louis stayed by the door. He heard Harry and Liam's voices talking back and forth, but couldn't hear what they were saying (not that he tried hard to figure it out) and within the minute, Harry was walking towards him.

“Hi, sorry,” he said, looking spectacular in his yoga pants, t-shirt, light makeup and messy bun.

“No need to apologize,” Louis assured him.

“I'm ready,” Harry confirmed.

“I didn't realize you lived with Liam,” Louis said. “Do you think he would want to come?”

Louis was trying to be polite, of course. He liked Liam from what little he knew of him, but he wasn't too fond of him and Harry potentially being a couple. He had never got that vibe from them, but it wasn't like he was a love expert by any means. He couldn't even tell when someone was or wasn't in love with him.

“Yeah, Liam is staying with me for a bit, but I don't think he'll really feel like coming. He had a long night.”

“Oh,” Louis said, selfishly hoping it wasn't Harry with whom Liam had a long night.

“Anyway, are you ready?” Harry asked. Louis said that he was and the two left.

 

“Do you want to go the long way or the short way?” Louis asked when they arrived and he'd parked in the available lot.

“It doesn't matter,” Harry said.

“The long way it is, I guess,” Louis sighed. “I don't really want to, but I also don't want Dean to have my head, so...”

“Looks are really important in this industry, aren't they?” Harry asked. Louis shrugged.

“I guess so,” he said. “I'm not sure why, but...”

He shrugged again, and then dropped the subject by reaching into his backpack and handing Harry the bottle of water he had brought for him.

“Did you always want to be a dancer?” he asked as they began their hike.

“Yeah,” Harry answered. “Pretty much.”

“I'm glad you're getting a chance to live your dream.”

“Yeah, thanks to you,” Harry said with a small smile.

“You would have gotten an opportunity even without me,” Louis assured the other. “It comes so naturally to you.”

Louis saw Harry blush as he reached up to scratch his ear, and the singer resisted the urge to hold his hand.

The hike was actually going very smoothly-Louis was barely even out of breath-and he and Harry kept up a conversation nearly the whole time. Even during the times when they weren't speaking, it was nice to just have each other's company, at least in Louis's opinion. Harry seemed relaxed, in terms of Harry, so he guessed that he felt the same way.

Then, Louis stepped on a rock and, somehow, his feet slid out from under him and he fell to the ground, letting out a scream loud enough to make birds shriek and flee from the trees.

To his honor, Louis could feel that Harry made a grab for him, but missed, leaving Louis getting a face full of dirt.

“Oh my god!” Harry said, kneeling next to the singer, his face showing nothing short of fear. “Are you okay?!”

Half embarrassed and half in awe at himself for never failing to ruin a perfectly good time, Louis burst into laughter. He laughed so hard he nearly cried. That did nothing to ease Harry's worry.

“Are you laughing to cover the fact that you're in pain or do you genuinely find this funny…?” the dancer asked, and Louis snorted.

“May-Maybe both,” he said, and took a few more moments to compose himself. Once his laughs and then his giggles had subsided, Louis got to his feet, Harry hurrying to support him.

“Are you okay?” the younger man asked again.

“I'm fine,” Louis said. “Sorry, I should have warned you that this section of the trail is highly dangerous.”

“Dangerous? Didn't you trip over your own feet?”

“No!” Louis exclaimed, appalled that Harry would think such a thing. “I tripped over that miniature boulder right there!”

Louis pointed and Harry looked to see the offending rock, that was really just a bit larger than a pebble. The dancer smiled.

“Wow, these are such treacherous grounds,” he said.

“I know!” Louis agreed. “In fact...”

The singer trailed off and moved swiftly to scoop Harry off his feet and into his arms, like a bride. Harry gasped.

“What are you doing?” he asked, holding tight to the front of Louis's slightly gross shirt.

“I must protect my tiny dancer's precious feet and ankles,” Louis reasoned.

“I know I'm not tiny,” Harry said.

“You're tallish...Everyone is tall to me, pretty much...But you're still pretty tiny,” Louis disagreed. “It's not an insult,” he added.

“I don't think I'm in danger,” Harry said.

“Didn't you just see me fall?! That could have been you!”

“Um...Well...You see...The thing is...I'm not...How should I say this...a klutz, so...”

Louis gasped, feigning offense again. Harry smiled, his eyes locking with Louis's for just a moment before he looked away and squirmed.

“Put me down before I break you.”

“Damn, Harry, I know I'm not in the best shape, but I can lift a tiny dancer and carry him across dangerous grounds for at least a few minutes before my lungs collapse and my heart explodes.”

Harry glared. Louis smiled.

“I'll set you down when we get back to safety, your highness.”

Still, Harry glared, and continued to do so for a while, but, finally, he started to relax. He even let go of Louis's shirt to wrap his arms around the singer's neck instead.

“Thank you, my hero,” Harry said grandly once Louis had set him back on his feet a few minutes later, the younger man clutching his heart with fake emotion.

“My pleasure, sir,” Louis replied, tucking a stray piece of hair behind Harry's ear. The dancer blushed and Louis felt his own cheeks growing hot as well. Perhaps he should have put on more sunscreen.

Without even thinking about it, Louis felt his body gravitating towards Harry, but before he could get too far into the man's personal bubble, he jolted himself back and cleared his throat. He wanted to kiss Harry, and he wanted to do so badly, but now, in the middle of the woods when he was Harry's ride home to his possible boyfriend, was not the time.

“We're a little over halfway done now,” Louis said, turning away from Harry and beginning to walk on. Slowly, Harry started to follow.

Despite Louis's potentially fatal almost-mistake, the rest of the hike was enjoyable, as was the car ride home. It was only after Louis had told a pretty bad joke and Harry actually laughed that Louis couldn't stop himself from asking the question.

“So is Liam your boyfriend?”

“What? No!” Harry said, sounding alarmed. “No, no, no.”

“Damn, okay then,” Louis said with an amused and a relieved laugh.

“Nothing against Liam,” Harry said. “I just don't think I'm quite experienced enough for him.”

Louis laughed again. It seemed as if a weight was lifted from him. He suddenly found himself about to tell Harry of his upcoming press stunt so that the other guy would know he was single and very available, just in case, but the singer very literally bit his tongue. Telling Harry that could get him in pretty big trouble and, besides, he had no actual reason to believe that Harry cared anyway. All Louis could really do was hope that everything worked out for the best in the end because he couldn't deny that he really, really liked Harry. He had known that he liked him for a while but just realized how much that morning.

Unfortunately, Josiah sucked up all of Louis's time for the next few weeks. The only free time he had was for sleeping and Louis wanted to use that time to text Harry instead, but he didn't know what to say to him. He didn't want to seem like a two-timer now that he and Josiah were plastered on nearly every entertainment website and magazine. Even though the two had never stated that they were together, people came to their own conclusions, and usually it was the wrong one. Harry had probably determined the same thing, and Louis felt kind of sick thinking of how he had possibly messed up an opportunity for great things, but he guessed that was the life he had signed up for. He knew the industry he was in didn't care about anyone's happiness. All they cared about were sales and stunts.

***Harry***

Harry was almost too embarrassed to face Liam, Niall or even Zayn, whom he knew the two others had informed about his 'crush' on Louis. How had he started to think that Liam was right in saying that Louis was interested in him as well? He hadn't been able to deny that he was being treated differently than the other dancers when he found out that neither Liam, Niall nor Zayn had Louis's phone number, but now, Harry concluded that the singer must have been bored and sensed that Harry was vulnerable.

But now Louis had a boyfriend. He wasn't bored anymore and Harry no longer heard from him at all.

“They haven't confirmed anything,” Liam pointed out while scrolling through the internet with Harry and a picture of Louis and his new 'boy'-Josiah Wells-popped up.

“They don't have to,” Harry said.

“Aren't they signed with the same label?” Liam continued. “It might just be a press stunt to get Josiah's name out there to the public."

“People don't really do that,” Harry said.

“Yeah they do.”

“They look happy together though.”

“Are you kidding?” Niall asked from Liam's other side on the couch. “Louis's eyes are dead.”

“Yeah. He's looking at his hot dog in that picture right there with more lust than the guy he's with.”

Despite feeling like crap, that got Harry to laugh a little bit.

“That's probably because his manger was making him starve himself.”

Harry suddenly thought of the lunch he just had not too long ago and felt sick.

“Well, anyway, just fight for your man,” Liam piped up.

“There's no competition!” Harry exclaimed. “Josiah is rich and beautiful.”

“He's not rich yet,” Liam said.

“And I think you're more attractive than he is, to be honest,” Niall said, looking at Harry, who rolled his eyes.

“You are,” Liam agreed with the blonde. “You're a lot more attractive than him, actually.”

“You two are so sweet,” Harry said, patting each on the cheek gently.

“It's true,” Liam insisted.

“Harry, Louis is a giggly, smiley unicorn when he's around you and with this Josiah bloke, it looks like he's a man on death row,” Niall said.

“A unicorn,” Liam snorted, but then nodded and said, “That's true. If Louis is really involved with this guy, it won't be hard to get him away from him.”

“Even if that were true, it wouldn't be right to just steal him away.”

“Yeah it would because you and Louis are soul mates,” Niall said.

“Trust him, he's a romantic,” Liam said. Before Harry could even think of a response to their ridiculous statements, Liam clapped his hands loudly, causing both of his friends to jump.

“We're going out tonight,” the party boy said.

“Okay…,” Harry agreed, mainly because it was a much welcomed change of topic, even if it was quite abrupt. Not another word was said about Louis or Josiah.

That night, Liam insisted on dressing Harry and put him in a tight black shirt and ripped blue skinny jeans that belonged to Zayn, whom they'd invited along.

“I look fat,” Harry stated as he looked in the mirror. Liam, Niall and Zayn all looked to him quickly, alarmed.

“You look nowhere near fat,” Zayn said. Like Liam and Niall, Zayn was so sweet.

Liam also forced Harry to leave his hair down that night, using product to put some stylish muss in his curls. He did let Harry do his own makeup, but insisted on picking the shades. Naturally, he chose the darker shades that Harry rarely wore, as he thought they drew too much attention to him.

“You look amazing,” Liam complimented once his friend was all ready to go.

“I look ridiculous,” Harry disagreed.

“Do not. Come on, we have to take a picture!”

“I'll take it,” Zayn offered.

“No, Zayn, you get in the picture. I'll take it,” Harry offered.

“Nope,” Zayn said, accepting the phone Liam handed to him and, wait, wasn't that Harry's phone?

Before Harry could question it, Liam was dragging Harry over to stand in the middle of him and Niall. Though he felt uncomfortable, Harry posed, knowing he could untag himself should the picture be uploaded anywhere later.

“Hey, Harry, Louis follows you on Twitter, right?” Liam asked as Zayn handed him the phone back.

“Yeah…,” Harry said and then, upon noting that it was, in fact, his phone that Liam was holding, asked, “What are you doing?!”

“Nothing,” Liam said, speeding up his process before locking Harry's phone and handing it back to him. Of course, Harry quickly re-unlocked it and went to his Twitter to see that the picture had been uploaded along with the caption, 'Single and ready to mingle!'

“Liam!” Harry shrieked.

“Don't delete it!” Liam said, snatching Harry's phone away as he went to do just that.

“How did you get my pass code?!”

“Is it Louis's birthday?” Zayn teased.

“No,” Liam said with a snort. “I just have my ways.”

“Give me my phone!” Harry demanded, though it wasn't very threatening, as he sounded like a scared child.

“Calm down. Jealousy is a miraculous thing sometimes, Harry, and we're making Louis jealous tonight.”

“He's not going to be jealous!”

“You already have three comments,” Liam said. “'OMG, Harry, you look stunning! 'Beautiful boy.' 'Hey babe, where you going tonight? Maybe we can meet up.'”

Since Liam had relaxed into reading the comments, Harry took that as an opportunity to snatch his phone back.

“Don't delete it!” Liam said again.

“I won't for now,” Harry said, not sure if he was going to keep true to that promise or not. “Later tonight, it's gone.”

“Whatever.”

 

To no one's surprise, Liam was drunk within the first hour of arriving at the club. Niall and Zayn got a bit tipsy themselves, but Harry didn't drink, despite the fact that he wasn't the driver for the night. If Louis with the amazing body had to work to get in shape for tour, then Harry really had to.

He wondered what Josiah's workout routine was.

Niall and Liam spent most of their time on the dance floor, never separating, but Zayn stuck by Harry's side almost the whole night, despite Harry telling him he could go off and have fun.

“I'm having fun with you,” Zayn had said. Harry didn't believe him, but he didn't want the guy to think he was trying to get rid of him, so he didn't argue.

The one time Zayn did disappear besides to make a run to the bathroom, he reappeared after only a couple of minutes with two drinks, one of which he placed in front of Harry.

“It's a lite,” he said. Harry wasn't sure he believed him, but he took a sip anyway to be polite. Zayn watched him intently. Harry straightened up self-consciously.

“You're beautiful, Harry,” Zayn commented.

“Thanks…,” Harry said suspiciously. Zayn moved closer so that his forehead was nearly pressed against Harry's.

“You don't know how beautiful you are though, do you?” he asked. Harry only stared. Zayn must be really drunk because he thought he wasn't interested in sex or dating. Unless that was what he told everyone to protect himself.

The two stood in that position for what should have been an awkward amount of time, but, really, Harry was just confused. Finally, Zayn backed up, gave a wink and then sauntered away, sipping on his beverage.

Only seconds later, Harry's phone gave a ding, and Harry saw that he had a Twitter notification stating that Niall had mentioned him. Wondering what in the world that could be, Harry opened his app to see a picture of him and Zayn from only moments ago, when they had been nearly touching and looking in each other's eyes, along with the caption, '@zaynmalik trying to dance his way into @harry.styles heart! The @louist91 tour is about to heat up!'

Harry shrieked right there at the bar.

“Chill!” Niall said from his hiding spot a couple tables away. He and Liam stood and made their way over.

“You mentioned him!” Harry cried and probably received a strange look from the bartender, but he didn't care. “He's going to see that!”

“That's the point.”

“Won't him thinking I have a boyfriend make him stay away? What exactly is this accomplishing?”

“Well, right now, Zayn is clearly just pursuing you,” Niall said calmly. “That will show Louis that he needs to make his move soon.”

Harry turned to slam his head down on the bar (a bit harder than actually intended) and say goodbye to any last hope that he would ever be with Louis.

 

The next day, Louis was at the rehearsal. Zayn was staying purposely close to Harry, partly to keep up the stupid 'make Louis jealous' mission, but also because he was very obviously worried. Harry was pale and shaky and clearly not feeling well that day, but he wished Zayn wouldn't worry. He'd told him that he was just coming down with a cold.

Before rehearsals started, when Harry and Zayn were just chilling rather closely on one of the couches in the lobby, Louis approached.

“Hi, Harry,” he said and then, “Hey, Zayn.”

The two said their hellos and Louis gave Harry a brief smile before looking at Zayn, his smile disappearing as he glanced the man up and down.

“Did you have fun last night?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Harry answered simply.

“It was a really good time,” Zayn added, smiling. If Harry had a single violent bone in his body, he probably would have punched him. Okay, smacked him. Alright, he would have only poked him, but he would have poked him very hard.

“Good,” Louis said in response. “Good luck,” he added after a slightly awkward pause, and he walked away before receiving a reply. From their spot not too far away, Niall and Liam gave the two a thumbs up, and then Liam proceeded to hump the air rather obscenely.

 

Louis didn't have much of a dance routine to do. He was only needed at rehearsal so that he could figure out where to move and when, and avoid bumping into one of the dancers.

Though Harry hadn't thought this was in the choreography plans, Louis did, at one point, approach him, take his hand and spin him away from the group while lip-synching to the backtrack that was playing. Harry tilted his head to the side questioningly, but Louis just smiled and did his best to match Harry's rhythm. He didn't quite get it and Harry laughed softly, taking Louis's hand and spinning him around in a circle instead. Louis was positively beaming then and took his turn to spin Harry once again, sending him back to his group.

Harry bit the insides of his cheeks so he wouldn't smile too big, but there was nothing he could do about the burning of his cheeks. In fact, his entire body was nearly on fire and Harry concentrated on breathing steadily in and out while keeping up with the dance. He had a tendency to get a little worked up around Louis, because while they had interacted in real life a few times recently, he had still been Harry's celebrity crush for years, but Harry didn't cool down once Louis had gone, like usual. In fact, he grew hotter and weaker. Something wasn't right. He had been concentrating on breathing properly, but suddenly, it was impossible for him to do so; his breaths coming out shallow. Soon, the room started to grow fuzzy. He was still moving, but feared how long he would be able to stay on his feet once the room started to turn blue.

After what seemed like a really long time, but likely wasn't long at all, Harry heard someone-Louis, he thought, but his voice was muffled-yell to stop the music and as the sound cut, Harry stumbled forward. Though he was unable to move his legs and balance himself, he kept from hitting the ground and blinked a few times to see a very discolored Louis holding him around the waist.

“Harry?!” Louis asked as Harry tried to focus his eyes on him. The dancer tried to assure the singer that he was fine, but suddenly, he couldn't open his mouth or even utter a single noise. Louis picked him up like he had done in the woods and Harry was too weak to protest, though he managed to sigh in relief when Louis laid him down on the nearest couch.

“Someone get him water, please!” Louis was ordering and finally, Harry was stable enough to speak, even if his words were a bit slurred.

“I'm fine,” he said, trying to stand, but Louis pushed him gently against the back of the couch.

“Just relax,” the older guy said, fixing a stray curl on Harry's head, also much like when they went on their hike.

Liam approached quickly with a bottle of water and Harry could tell even with his slightly blurry face that he was worried.

“I'm fine,” he repeated as Louis opened up the water bottle and held it to Harry's lips.

“Drink,” the singer said, and tipped the bottle. Once Harry had ingested a good amount of water, Louis removed the bottle. He and Liam were still staring worriedly at Harry, as well as the rest of the damn class.

“What happened, Harry?” Louis asked.

“I'm not sure,” Harry said. It was a bit of a lie.

“When was the last time you ate?” Louis questioned next. Harry thought. His head pounded.

“Oh, I ate something last night,” he said, not mentioning the fact that it had been only half of an apple. Nobody needed to know that. He'd still eaten.

“That long ago?!” Louis asked. “Why haven't you eaten anything?”

Looking around, Harry moved clumsily forward so that only Louis and maybe Liam could hear.

“I'm getting in shape for tour,” he said, aggravated that it still sounded like he was drunk.

At the statement, Louis's face fell.

“Starving yourself isn't the answer,” he said. “You're fine how you are, Harry, and I'm really sorry if you thought I was insinuating something with any of the conversations we've had about the topic, but I wasn't insinuating anything. I don't want you skipping meals, okay?”

“Okay,” Harry answered, because that was what he was supposed to say.

Harry wasn't sure if the choreographer had heard their conversation or not, but she brought over a snack bar and handed it to Louis, who then attempted to hand it to Harry.

“No, thanks,” Harry said without even thinking.

“Harry...please eat it,” Louis begged, one of his thumbs stroking the back of Harry's hand. Harry didn't say anything, but Louis unwrapped the food and handed it to him, so he took a bite, his hands still shaking.

He choked as the food went down, but he managed to eat it.

“I'm sorry,” Harry apologized once the snack bar was gone and Zayn retrieved the wrapper to put in the trash can. Already, the room was back to almost a normal color and the noises surrounding Harry were no longer muffled.

“You don't need to apologize,” Louis said. “Just take care of yourself, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Sit out for the rest of rehearsal, alright?”

“No, I feel better!” Harry said, attempting to get to his feet, but Louis stopped him with a hand on his chest.

“Just sit there and finish your water. Please.”

Internally, Harry sighed.

“Okay.”

Practice continued and Harry wished he could disappear. He was embarrassed now because nobody was supposed to see him that weak. Plus, nobody probably believed it was the lack of eating that caused him to nearly faint. They had to just think he overworked himself, as he was clearly too out of shape for this much physical exercise.

Being the great guy that he was, Louis kept glancing over to the couch to check on Harry, smiling and winking when he saw that he hadn't lost consciousness. That did make Harry smile and mostly accept the fact that he wasn't going to disappear into thin air.

During break, Louis sat down next to Harry on the couch. Harry moved his body sideways to get a better view of the guy and Louis let out a sigh as he leaned forward to put his head against Harry's. That was almost like Zayn had done in the club the other night, but Louis was actually physically touching him.

“Are you okay?” Louis asked Harry yet again, their foreheads still pressed together. Harry nodded lightly.

“I'm sorry.”

“Stop apologizing. I just want you to be alright,” Louis said.

“Hey, now, what would Josiah think about how close you two are?” a voice asked from in front of the couch; Liam's. Harry and Louis broke apart.

“Maybe Josiah could say something if he was actually my boyfriend. Which he's not. Fortunately.”

Liam's eyes widened. He had clearly not been expecting that answer, and neither had Harry, so the two just stared as Louis got to his feet.

“Do you feel good, for real?” Louis asked, looking at Harry.

“Perfectly fine,” Harry said, smiling weakly.

“Good. I have to take a wee.”

With that, Louis left. Liam still appeared to be in shock because he just stood there for a moment, but then a wide grin spread across his face and he plopped himself down on the couch next to Harry, throwing another snack bar into his friend's lap.

“Eat up,” he said. “You will need your energy for when Louis fucks your brains out.”

Chapter Text

***Liam***

Two days before Louis's tour was set to start, Liam woke to the distant vibrating of his phone. He did his best to ignore it and stay asleep. It couldn't be anyone important, unless it was Niall, in which case Liam knew he would forgive him for ignoring him briefly. The buzzing went on and on, though, and Liam was pretty sure it never rang for that long, but for some reason, it was that time, and his eyes slowly opened against his will. Of course, right at that moment, the buzzing stopped and Liam groaned loudly.

Since Harry wasn't next to him anymore, Liam flung his arm out and felt around blindly until he reached his cell phone on his friend's nightstand and rubbed his eyes before checking to see who had tried to get a hold of him. There was a ding as the device alerted him that he had a voice mail and his stomach did flips as he saw that the call had been from Ruth. Or maybe that was the mild hangover making him feel strange, but he didn't think so.

Reluctantly, Liam opened the voice mail.

“Liam,” the woman started out sternly, only making Liam feel worse. “It's been months, cuz. Call me. If I don't hear from you by tonight, I'm filing a missing person's report. I love you.”

Though Liam doubted that Ruth would actually file a missing person report, he could see Nicola doing so if the idea was brought to her, so after taking a few deep breaths in and out, Liam called his cousin.

“Thank you!” the woman exclaimed as soon as she'd accepted his call. “How are you?”

“I'm good,” Liam replied, suddenly feeling guilty for reasons he wasn't sure of. It hadn't been the first time Ruth, Nicola or even Karen had tried to contact him, but the family was better off without him there, he knew. “How are you?”

“I'm fine. Miss you, though. You're leaving for tour soon, yeah?”

“Two days, yeah.”

“That's exciting.”

“It is.”

“I want to see you before you go, Li.”

“No, you don't,” Liam disagreed.

“Yeah, I do. We all do.”

“Your dad didn't seem to want to ever see me again when he told me to leave.”

“He was angry. His emotions were talking. You should know he didn't mean it. He didn't really want you to leave.”

“Either way, I'm sure he hasn't missed me.”

“He has.”

“Then why did you just now decide to file a missing person report? As you've said, it's been months. Almost two months, at least. I would be dead or at least damaged beyond repair by now if something had happened to me.”

“Gemma and I talk,” Ruth said. “I knew you've been safe with Harry. I just really wanted to talk to you.”

“I'm fine,” Liam said, and he wasn't sure if that even fit the conversation, but he didn't know what else to say.

“What have you been up to?” Ruth asked.

“Rehearsing, partying, fucking strangers. The usual. Anyway, I have to go. I'm meeting someone for lunch and it's already way later than I thought.”

“Ooh, like a date?” Ruth said excitedly.

“No,” Liam interrupted before the question had even been fully out of her mouth.

“Lunch with someone sounds like a date,” she said.

“If that's all a date is for you, then I feel sorry for your love life,” Liam told her.

“I do too,” she agreed, making Liam snort.

Luckily, Ruth let him go after that. Liam hadn't been lying; he did have to meet Niall for lunch in just over a half hour, so he jumped in the shower quickly and dressed, deciding he would just have to leave his hair wet for the day. When he was ready, he found Harry on his couch, texting someone. He wondered if it was Louis and the thought made him smile.

“Hey, are you ready to go to lunch?” Liam asked the other dancer. Harry glanced up, finished his message and then locked his phone before giving his friend his full attention.

“I really don't want to go and be a third wheel for your date with Niall, Li,” he said. Liam groaned.

“It's not a date!” he said exasperatedly. He wished people would stop insinuating that he and Niall were 'on a date' every time they hung out. Liam didn't date, and he was tired of feeling the irrational disappointment that came with denying that was what he and Niall were doing.

The corners of Harry's mouth twitched. Liam fought the urge to shake him, even if he would do so gently.

“I'm not hungry,” Harry said next. “I'll make something for myself here in a little bit, but have fun!”

Liam narrowed his eyes.

“Will you really?” he asked.

“Will I really what?” Harry replied, giving Liam a strange look.

“Make yourself something to eat.”

“Yeah…”

“Well, we don't need you fainting at our last rehearsal tomorrow.”

It was Harry's turn to groan.

“That was forever ago! It hasn't happened since then, so please quit treating me like I have an eating disorder.”

“I'm not…,” Liam said, the words shocking him. He tilted his head. “Do you have one?”

“Of course not!” Harry exclaimed, sounding offended at the question. “Have you not seen how much I've been eating?!”

“Not that much,” Liam said. He didn't think Harry had skipped any meals recently, but his portions weren't big anyway, and Liam couldn't be quite sure there was no meal skipping, as he was either gone working out or...well...'working out' quite often.

“Not everyone can eat as much as they weigh and still be fit,” Harry said, looking down the bridge of his nose at Liam. He smiled at him right after, though, and got off of the couch, patting Liam on the back as he went by him to get to his bedroom. Liam debated on literally forcing Harry out of the apartment, but he figured that would only make things worse, so he yelled his goodbye and received one in reply before leaving for the restaurant he was set to meet Niall at.

“Hey,” Niall greeted with a smile when he saw Liam approaching their table. Liam returned the smile slightly, but Niall seemed not to notice. “I thought Harry was coming?” he questioned.

“He said he wasn't hungry,” Liam said.

“Is he okay?” Niall asked.

“I don't know,” Liam answered honestly. “How common do you think eating disorders are amongst dancers?”

Niall's eyes widened, clearly shocked by the question, but he answered anyway.

“I met a couple of girls who were in recovery and one that had to quit dance school because she was still struggling...Sad...but I'm not sure with guys. Do you think Harry has one?”

“I don't know,” Liam said with a shrug, wondering if he was being ridiculous even theorizing it. “I've always known he has self-esteem issues, but I never really suspected something like that until he mentioned it today. He said I was treating him like he had one and, I don't know, I thought it was weird.”

“Huh,” Niall said with a frown. “I don't know. We'll keep an eye on him. I'm sure he's fine.”

Liam nodded, not completely convinced. Niall touched his hand, only briefly.

“Don't worry yet,” the blonde said. “Be excited! The tour is about to start!”

“I'm so excited,” Liam said with a smile, and he was, but the worry over Harry still nagged at the back of his mid. He thought that if something was wrong, he would have realized it much sooner, as he had been living with Harry for nearly two months. He knew he wasn't the most observant person, and he was kind of selfish; thinking of himself much more than he thought of others, but he decided then that that was going to stop, at least until he made sure Harry was really okay.

***Harry***

Harry felt bad for blowing Liam off for lunch, but skipping out meant that he could just not eat lunch instead of doing as he had been recently; pretending to eat or eating and then purging. He knew he shouldn't be doing either, but he couldn't help it. The tour was about to start and Harry was still seven pounds over his goal weight. He was only doing 'the bad things' until he lost all of the weight and then he would stop. He would focus on healthy eating after that point. Well, he might lose a few extra pounds past his goal weight just so he wouldn't gain it all back when he was eating regularly again, but still.

As guilty as Harry felt by sneaking around Liam to do this, it was worse around Louis.

The night after Harry had nearly fainted in rehearsal, Louis had texted him twice, asking him how he felt. Harry had assured him that he felt fine and that he had eaten a good dinner when Louis had asked. That hadn't been a lie because Liam had cooked a stir fry for them to eat that evening and Harry had eaten it, resisting purging afterward. Admittedly, nearly fainting had scared him a little bit. It had reminded him of when he was in the full threshold of his eating disorder. He hadn't meant to fall that far back. He just lost his appetite every time he saw or heard something about Louis and Josiah, or even whenever he thought of them. He wasn't actively concentrating on not eating. He just didn't feel like it most of the time and he wasn't going to force himself to.

The day after his embarrassing moment in practice, Louis invited Harry over to his place for breakfast. Harry had agreed right away, because why wouldn't he agree when his celebrity crush was inviting him over to his house?!

Harry wondered if Louis could even be considered a 'celebrity crush' now that he knew him fairly well and was working with him, or if now he was just a regular 'crush.' The thought of having a real crush scared him a little bit because that led to many possibilities, a couple of which ended well, but most of which ended with him being hurt. Still, he didn't think he'd fallen in too deep with Louis yet, so breakfast at his place was perfectly fine.

Before seeing Louis's place, Harry had imagined that he lived in a huge mansion with various servants around the place and many rooms that were either unnecessary or at least extravagant, but when he pulled up to the address that Louis had given him that morning, he saw that he had been wrong. The place was nice and fairly large, but it was nowhere near a mansion and, upon entering, it appeared that they were the only two there.

“Do you like French Toast?” Louis asked Harry as he led him into the kitchen. Ah, yes; that was what that delicious and simultaneously nauseating smell was. Harry should have recognized it.

“Yeah,” he said, and he guessed he did. He hadn't eaten it in a while, as there was more sugar in half of a piece than Harry usually consumed in a week, but he supposed it tasted alright when he had eaten it and not been freaking out about the fat content and whatnot.

The breakfast did taste good, but Harry had only been planning on eating one piece. However, when Harry announced that he was finished afterward, and Louis teased that he was a terrible cook, Harry feared that he had inadvertently hurt the singer's feelings and so he ate another piece. He felt really sick afterward, and everything in him wanted to go to the bathroom and throw up, but he didn't. He could probably hide what he was doing, but there was always the chance of getting caught and even if Louis didn't know that it was something that Harry sometimes did after eating too much, Harry really didn't want this gorgeous, stable man to find him throwing up in his expensive bathroom.

Instead of giving into his urges, Harry tried to use the distraction method on himself.

“If you don't mind telling me, what did you mean when you said that Josiah isn't your real boyfriend?” he asked, and Louis gave a small, quick smile.

“It's all a PR stunt,” Louis explained. “He needs media recognition, so I was put in place to kind of help with that.”

“Liam thought that might be what was going on, but I didn't think stunts like that actually existed,” Harry said.

“Unfortunately, they do,” Louis said. “It will end when my tour starts, though, and eventually Josiah is going to let everyone know how straight he is. Please don't tell anyone that I'm saying this, though.”

“I won't,” Harry assured him.

“Thank you.”

There was a brief silence and then Harry spoke.

“Again, you don't have to answer me and you can tell me if I'm asking too many questions or whatever, but how many of your relationships have been real, then? Any of them?”

“One of the three have,” Louis said. Harry nodded, willing to drop the subject at that, but Louis went on.

“It was a while ago and it's over now,” he said.

“I guess it would be hard to meet people when you're almost always on the move,” Harry allowed.

“Yeah,” Louis said, “but sometimes people come into your life at exactly the right time.”

Something about the way Louis completely stopped messing around with his food and drink to look directly at Harry as he said that made the dancer's heart flutter. Before he could really let all that in, Louis spoke again.

“Now, feel free to tell me if I'm stepping out of line, but what about you?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, his hands fidgeting nervously on the napkin he had placed on his lap.

“Well, if Liam isn't the lucky guy who has your heart, is there one?”

“No,” Harry answered, rather quickly. He quietly cleared his throat. “I don't have anyone.”

“Hm,” Louis said, and then sipped his tea. Harry thought he was smiling around the mug and didn't know what to make of that.

 

Niall picked up Liam for rehearsal that morning so that Harry wouldn't have to rush back from Louis's to get him. Since the singer was attending again, Harry rode with him. Luckily, by the time they reached the studio, Harry wasn't too nauseous anymore and the rehearsal went well.

It was late in the afternoon by the time Harry and Louis arrived back to the singer's house and before Harry could say a goodbye, get in his car and leave, Louis had invited him to stay for dinner. Harry had to debate on it for a moment that time. He wanted to, but he had already eaten a much larger breakfast than usual as well as lunch, when Louis had gotten all of the dancers subs. He felt way too full, despite the fact that he knew he burned much of the calories dancing, but since he couldn't think of a good excuse to say no, and also because he did really enjoy being around Louis, he agreed.

While Louis began cooking, Harry got into his shower, very glad that he kept a spare change of clothes in his dance bag. He felt weird being naked at Louis's place and covered himself while showering even though the door was locked and he knew that Louis most likely didn't have hidden cameras in the bathroom. His anxiety was irrational, but it was there.

Once he was out of the shower and dressed, Harry threw his hair into a ponytail, as it was quicker than his typical bun, and quickly put on his make up before returning to the kitchen, where Louis was cutting up vegetables.

“Hi,” the singer said with a smile and a quick glance to the dancer.

“Hi,” Harry said, smiling as well. “Thank you for cooking for me again.”

“You're very welcome.”

“Do you like cooking?”

Louis opened his mouth, prepared to give Harry an answer, but before he had uttered a word, he chopped down with the knife, not on the vegetable, but on his finger instead. With a yelp, Louis screamed that no, he did not like cooking, as he rushed to put his finger under water. Harry hurried over to look, and the cut wasn't deep, but it was still bleeding a fair amount.

“Where are your bandages?” he asked, his adrenaline bursting.

“In the bathroom, but I can get them in a minute,” Louis said. Harry then remembered that he fortunately had one in his dance bag and ran to grab that instead. Louis smiled when he saw that Harry had returned with it and he shut off the water, putting pressure on his wound with a paper towel as Harry opened the band-aid. When Louis's finger was dried and the blood flow slowed a little, Harry wrapped the wound.

“Are you okay?” he asked once the bandage was secured in place.

“Yes,” Louis assured him. “You may have been a little bit right about me being a klutz, though.”

“I had a feeling I was,” Harry said with an endeared smile.“I guess I'll have to keep more bandages around,” he said, and then, without thinking, lifted Louis's hand up to his lips and gently kissed the wounded area. He froze afterward, with Louis's hand still up by his mouth as he looked into the other's eyes, reading his reaction even though he was afraid. He didn't know what had possessed him to do such a thing. Sure, he had done it every time his ex-boyfriend, who was also a little clumsy, hurt himself, but that was completely different. Louis wasn't his boyfriend. Louis was his employer.

“I'm sorry,” Harry apologized as he let go of Louis's hand, which the singer dropped back down to his side. Louis smiled.

“That is quite alright,” he assured Harry. “My finger feels much better now.”

As the older man went around Harry to get back to his task of cooking, Harry heard him mutter,

“I might have to make sure I bust my lip next time I fall.”

Harry was glad that Louis's back was to him because his mouth fell open rather unintelligibly.

Luckily, dinner was chicken, rice and vegetables, so Harry didn't feel too terribly guilty eating it. Besides, he only had a small helping and Louis made no jokes about being a bad chef, so Harry guessed he didn't mind.

After dinner, Harry expected Louis to say he was tired or make some other polite excuse as to get Harry out of his house, but he didn't. Instead, he invited Harry to stay and watch a movie with him, though by the end, Harry couldn't say much of what actually happened in the film, as the two had spent the entire time talking.

Once back at his apartment, Harry spent several minutes trying to convince Liam that he and Louis hadn't had sex.

“Yeah, right,” Liam had said. “No one spends that much alone time with someone in a day without having sex with them.”

“Actually, they do, and we didn't have sex,” Harry said.

“Come on, Harry. 'Watching a movie' is basically code for having sex.”

“Liam, your view on interpersonal relationships is literally fucked and I worry about you.”

“Did you at least kiss?”

“No.”

“Not even a little?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don't know, probably because he's not interested in me,” Harry said, fearing that this conversation was proving that to be correct. Wouldn't Louis have made a serious move by now if he were into him? Sure, he'd made that comment about busting his lip, perhaps so Harry would kiss it better, but that was just Louis's personality.

“Nah, that's not it,” Liam said off-handedly, as if it wasn't even a possibility. Harry wished he were right, but he suddenly felt that this crush was definitely going to end in pain, and he also knew he probably wasn't going to do anything to prevent it from happening.

 

That Friday, the dancers had to pick out and get fitted for their tour outfits and Louis went to that as well. Naturally, the dancers didn't have too much say in the matter as the tour stylist picked out the costumes, but she did allow votes on some of them. None to Harry's surprise, the winners were the ones that showed the most skin and he felt physically sick as he was being measured, which wasn't helped by the fact that Louis was sitting right there watching the whole thing. Did the stylist really have to read his measurements out loud? Louis could see how much bigger Harry was than the rest of the dancers; he didn't need a number to confirm it.

After the fitting, the dancers were free to go for the weekend and Louis took Harry to the mall to pick out more bun decorations, as promised. He was pretty good at not getting spotted often in such a public place, but he was still seen sometimes and Harry spent a lot of time turning away from sneakily pointed camera phones and taking pictures. He didn't mind the latter, but he was very unnerved to know that he was probably included in some of the sneaked shots and realized with dread that he would probably end up in some photos onstage too, in outfits much less flattering than the large t-shirt and unfitted jeans that he had on.

“I'm really sorry,” Louis apologized, looking like he meant it, after the second pair of fans that had approached had gone. “I know you didn't ask for this.”

“It's fine,” Harry assured Louis with a smile, not wanting him to worry. Louis smiled too, but looked uncertain.

“I love all these bun accessories,” Harry said, turning back to the selection in front of them, “but don't you think it will look odd if no one else has them?”

“No,” Louis answered right away, but then said, “You don't have to wear them if you don't want to, though, honestly. It was just an idea, but I don't want you to feel uncomfortable.”

“I want to wear them,” Harry said, “and I'm going to. Really, thank you.”

Louis smiled, a more genuine smile that time, and Harry returned it. He wasn't typically the type who liked to stick out, like he knew he might with the added decoration to his costume, but he did like to pretend that it meant that he stuck out to Louis too. For some reason, that idea was very appealing.

 

About twenty minutes after Liam left for lunch with Niall, Harry heated up a frozen dinner and then proceeded to throw the food into an empty trash bag, which he took out to the dumpster. He set the empty container in the kitchen trashcan in case Liam looked to make sure he had eaten, which Harry doubted he would, but he couldn't be too safe right now. He really couldn't mess this tour up now that there was more on the line than his dancing career.

***Louis***

The first show of his tour was in London, which meant that he didn't have far to travel. The other crew members were flying in early that day, but since Harry was in the area too, Louis had a driver pick up him and Liam. When they arrived, Louis was helping his VIP organizer, Alan, get things ready for the meet-and-greet, but they came through the back door and Louis couldn't help but to smile when he saw the sunlight pouring in behind Harry, who was smiling wide enough to show almost the full depth of his dimples. Liam was with him, and he said something to Harry before darting off, but Harry didn't seem bothered and he soon made eye contact with Louis, who had admittedly been staring. The dancer's smile grew and he approached, calling out a 'hello' when he was about a hundred feet from the singer.

“Hey!” Louis greeted. “Tiny dancer looks happy today.”

Harry tilted his head, though his smile didn't falter.

“Is that my official nickname now or something?” he asked.

“Yes, so I hope you like it,” Louis replied.

“I'm growing fond of it, even if it is inaccurate,” Harry stated.

“It is not inaccurate. Look at your pretty little waist!”

Harry gasped as Louis put down what he had been holding to place his hands on Harry's hips, but after a quick jolt, he smiled and put his hands on Louis's, letting them linger in their place before gently removing them from his waist. Even still, he kept their hands locked.

“You should take up acting if you get bored of the singing gig,” Harry said, and Louis was confused as to what that meant, but he didn't get a chance to ask before Harry changed the subject.

“I'm sorry about your break-up, by the way,” the dancer said, and Louis laughed. Only a couple of days ago, the stories had started to speculate that all was not well between Louis and Josiah when the new singer was spotted with a 'mysterious blonde female.' Later, a source 'close to the stars' confirmed that they had decided to not see each other anymore.

“Yeah, it's been a rough few days, but I think I can pull through. I might need some cuddles from a certain tiny dancer though,” Louis said.

“Zayn?” Harry asked with an eyebrow raise.

“Um, yeah, sure, we can pretend I was talking about Zayn if it will keep things from getting awkward,” Louis said, and Harry laughed but was then whisked away by the choreographer. Louis went back to helping Alan, his nerves growing when he realized just how close to the first show they actually were.

Louis's touring chef made everyone dinner that evening, but not many people ate all that much. The anxiety was extremely prevalent in the room, and not only from Louis, though he was probably doing the worst job at hiding it. He knew it was likely actually worse for the others, especially the new backing musicians and the dancers, because unlike Louis, this was new to them. Louis had done the whole concert thing many times before, but it never really got any easier. He enjoyed it and it was all worth it in the end, but the hours beforehand were a struggle.

“Hey,” Harry said, sneaking up behind Louis to sit next to him during dinner time. “Don't worry, you're going to do great.”

“What if I forget the lyrics?” Louis asked.

“Then you'll recover,” Harry said.

“What if my voice cracks?”

“People will just think you're getting emotional. Go with it.”

“What if I trip and fall off the stage?”

That question made Harry pause, his reassuring smile faltering a little.

“Please be careful, Louis, because I can actually see that happening.”

Whether it was his intention or not, Harry made Louis laugh with that.

“Did you eat?” Louis asked, still not fully recovered from seeing the other nearly lose consciousness that one time.

“I did, though I can't say the same for you,” Harry said, nodding to the singer's barely touched plate.

“Yeah, I'm choosing starvation over throwing up today,” Louis explained. Any trace of a smile was instantly wiped from Harry's face and his eyes widened as he stared at Louis, speechless.

“Because of the nerves…,” Louis quickly explained. He thought it would have been obvious what he meant, but he didn't know why, if so, Harry would have reacted like that, though he also didn't know what else would have been on Harry's mind.

“Oh!” Harry said, and gave a nervous laugh as he rubbed his forehead. “Yeah, sorry, I thought...Never mind. Try to eat some, okay? I heard you can faint if you skip a meal; not that I would know from experience or anything.”

Louis smiled, able to take a couple bites of his food then.

“Are you nervous?” he asked Harry.

“So nervous.”

“You'll do amazing,” Louis assured him. Harry gave a small smile.

“I have to go get changed. Please try to eat,” he said, and then stood and walked away. Louis managed a couple more bites.

 

Despite how nervous everyone clearly was, the show went smoothly that night. Louis supposed he sounded alright, and he didn't forget lyrics or fall off stage, so that was all he could really have asked for. The dancers, from what he saw, did an amazingly spectacular job, and Louis looked at Harry what was probably too much, smiling each time. He looked so concentrated, but graceful and beautiful, as he always did.

Louis had almost missed an intro for one of his songs due to staring at the dancer, but luckily, he pulled himself together at the very last second.

Once the show, plus Louis's encore, had finished and everyone was backstage, cheers filled the place; all of the anxiety from earlier being released in slight mania. Louis joined in, jumping from person to person to thank them and tell them they did amazing, as well as give them a hug. When he came across Harry, Louis screamed and threw himself at the man unthinkingly. Harry caught him though and spun him around a couple times before setting him on his feet and smiling. Louis smiled too, his breathing heavy. He meant to thank the dancer and tell him that he did a wonderful job as he had the others, but suddenly, the words failed him. His brain seemed to check out and he found his body gravitating towards the other again. Instead of jolting back like last time, he stood up on his tiptoes and kissed Harry's forehead, somewhat coming back to himself afterward. Harry was blushing.

“How did my sweat taste?” he still managed to tease, and Louis licked his lips.

“Salty,” he said. They both laughed, but then were interrupted; Harry by Liam and Louis by Beatrice. The pair's hands brushed together as their friend and manager pulled them apart to wrap them in their own elated hugs and, normally, Louis would pop the champagne bottle that Beatrice had in her hands and declare a celebration party, but he really just wanted to take the bottle and have a celebration for two with his precious tiny dancer.

Chapter Text

***Harry***

The first show went pretty well, in Harry's opinion. He felt pretty good about it. Sure, he knew that he messed up a couple of times, but he tried to take comfort in the fact that the audience probably wasn't looking at him very much. They were looking at Louis a majority of the time, naturally, and the other times Harry assumed they were probably looking at the other, prettier dancers. He knew they had to have noticed him at first since his different physique stuck out, but they had likely looked away quickly. Though Harry had been insecure up there on the stage, he'd still had fun and even occasionally forgotten about his insecurities.

Louis's second show of the tour was only a few hours away from where the first one had been held. The group didn't need to travel until the following morning and so were being placed in a hotel for the night. That meant no rush to get out of the stadium where the concert had taken place, and the celebration went on for a good while. Once everyone had calmed down from the post-performance high, Louis popped a champagne bottle, and Harry pretended that he wasn't at all turned on when the singer licked the bit of alcohol that had escaped off of his arm before pouring everyone a glass and passing them around. Harry accepted his glass with a smile, which Louis returned, but as soon as the man had gone on to the next person, Harry sneaked away to discard the drink. There was to be no alcohol for him; not until he was under his goal weight.

Harry didn't know where they were coming from, but more and more champagne bottles kept appearing in Louis's hand and before long, it was pretty obvious that he was tipsy. His eyes were bright and glossy, his cheeks pink and his loud, boisterous laugh was even louder than usual. Harry smiled watching him for a bit and then looked around, trying to find Liam. He looked away quickly once he found his friend, having his face sucked off by Jakob in a corner, a half full champagne glass in his hands. Sighing, Harry bounced awkwardly on the balls of his feet, suddenly just wanting to be in the hotel away from all of the noise and the drinks, but the party didn't seem like it was going to be dying down anytime soon.

Once a few more minutes had passed and Harry felt as if his head might explode-it didn't hurt, but the chaos seemed to be seeping into his brain-he decided to wait out in the hall for something to happen.

As luck would have it, Louis exited the room right as Harry started heading towards the door and so he went after him. The singer was stumbling a bit, and he giggled as he accidentally spilled a little champagne down his front, and Harry had just opened his mouth to ask Louis if he needed assistance when the older man turned around and smiled at him.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” Harry replied, returning his smile.

“I'm just going to the loo,” Louis explained.

“Okay,” Harry said. “I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“I'm brilliant!” the singer exclaimed. Harry smiled again.

“Good,” he said.

“Can you hold my drink, please?” Louis asked.

“Sure.”

Louis handed his glass over to Harry and then went into the bathroom. Harry heard him singing to himself as he took care of business and tried not to giggle too loudly. How could someone possibly be so cute?

“Thank you!” Louis said happily once he had come back and taken his glass from Harry.

“You're welcome.”

“Hey, Harry?” Louis asked as the two started to walk again. With dread, Harry realized they were probably headed back to the party.

“Yes, Louis?”

“We should have a sleep over in my hotel room! Do you want to spend the night?”

Harry's heart skipped a beat or two as he briefly fish-mouthed, shock amongst other things filling his body and mind.

“Okay,” he finally said, his breath still coming out unevenly. Harry still had doubts that Louis was at all attracted to him, but he knew what being asked to spend the night usually meant and when it came to quick flings, some guys weren't picky, especially when drunk.

Of course, Harry wouldn't mind if spending the night with Louis led to more than just sleeping if it weren't for the fact that such things would lead to Louis seeing him naked. Dean could tell Louis that he was out of shape all he wanted, though it made Harry mad because he knew better. Louis was perfectly toned, unlike Harry, who had no tone or muscle whatsoever, and if Louis was told that his body wasn't even good enough, he couldn't imagine what he was going to think if Harry were displayed before him.

But he'd already said okay now and that was that.

“Okay,” Louis said as well, still smiling. Of course, Louis was usually always smiling.

Luckily, as soon as they arrived back to the mini party, Beatrice approached to ask Louis if he was ready to go to the hotel and Louis agreed that it sounded like a fabulous idea.

They all got carpooled there on the buses. Harry, Zayn, Niall and Liam were bus mates, and Louis rode over with them. Harry had assumed Liam had been heavily intoxicated, but he seemed pretty sober, leaving Louis the only one even slightly drunk, but it was clear that the rest agreed with Harry; he was adorable, looking in the bus's refrigerator and cabinets to make sure they were 'properly stocked for you lads' and laying in all of the bunks to make sure they were comfortable enough.

Zayn and Harry were supposed to be room mates at the hotel, but upon their arrival, Harry told the other dancer that he was going to make sure Louis got to his room okay, not wanting to actually say out loud that he was planning on spending the night with the singer. It was a bad excuse anyway, as Louis had specialized security with him to make sure he made it to his room alright, but Zayn simply smirked and told Harry not to hurry back and to stay until he was positive Louis was thriving.

Since it was late and the tour crew had come in through the back entryway, they missed any potential fans that could be around and made it to Louis's room in record time. Security waited for him to check the room and assure them that everything was okay before leaving, and then it was just Louis and Harry.

“I don't know why Beatrice thinks I need a whole suite to myself,” Louis said, almost as if he was embarrassed over the fact.

“It's a nice room,” Harry commented, not knowing what else to say.

“Yeah, it's nice, but we'll only be here one night...”

Louis trailed off and then shrugged.

“I'm going to get a shower,” the singer said next. His voice was much less slurred now. He wasn't exactly 'sober' yet, but he wasn't drunk either. “I don't want you to have to smell my post-concert odor any longer than necessary.”

“Okay,” Harry said, and then added, “but I don't think you smell.”

Louis smiled.

“Thank you. I'll be out soon.”

Harry made a mental note to get in the shower as soon as Louis was finished, as his post-concert odor had to be worse, probably, but in the mean time, he took a seat on the suite's couch and checked his phone; something he had yet to do since coming offstage. Unsurprisingly, he had one missed call from his mom, along with a text saying to call her whenever he got the chance and that she didn't care what time it was. Harry found her contact information and pressed the call button.

“Hi, baby!” the woman greeted cheerily after only the first ring. “How did the show go?”

“It went really good,” Harry answered, smiling as he remembered the performance high he had felt on the stage. “Louis sounded great,” he said too, because he had. Harry knew he was far from flawless, but he still thought he could have avoided messing up those couple of times if he hadn't been concentrating so hard on the pitch and the beautiful tone of Louis's voice as he sang his favorite songs.

“I'm sure he did,” Anne said. “Did you have fun though?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“So you think you will be okay doing this for the next several months?”

“Yeah. I don't really have a choice.”

“There's always a way out if you don't think you're going to be happy,” Anne said quickly, sounding worried. Harry should have just answered her question with a 'yes' and left it at that.

“I am happy,” he tried to assure the woman. “Don't worry, mum, please.”

“You're my baby; of course I'm going to worry.”

“I'm okay.”

“And you have a plan in place to be able to get all of your medication refills while on tour, yes?”

“Yes, mum,” Harry said, even though he'd answered the exact same question as she had helped him move his excess belongings back to her place the previous day. What she didn't know was that it was a lie. Harry didn't have any plan to get his medicine because he hadn't taken the anti-depressants in at least three months. They had worked. Harry never even really considered himself 'depressed,' but he couldn't deny that he felt better and had a lot more energy while on the pills, but they hadn't come without any negative side effects, the worst of which being weight gain. Harry cared less about the weight gain while taking the medicine than he did while off it, but he still knew how bad he looked, even if he wasn't willing to starve himself in an attempt to fix it, so he went off them by himself.

“You can call me any time, Harry,” Anne reminded her son.

“I know,” the dancer said. “I love you and I'll see you soon. Just let me know when you want to come to a show. Louis already said a while ago that all family and close friends are welcome backstage.”

“We will take that offer up very soon. Be safe. I love you.”

“Love you too, mum.”

The two hung up just as Harry heard the shower water turn off from the bathroom. About a minute later, Louis was walking towards his luggage, placed conveniently by the couch, in nothing but a towel, and Harry couldn't help but to stare at the shirtless man.

“Sorry,” Louis said with a small, embarrassed smile. “I forgot to grab a change of clothes.”

“It's okay,” Harry assured him, his eyes traveling quickly up and down the other man's torso. He couldn't help it, but he finally regained some self control and forced himself to look into Louis's eyes.

“I forgot my spare clothes in my room, actually,” the dancer said. “I'm just going to run down and shower real quick, but then I'll be back.”

“Okay,” Louis said, straightening up as soon as he found an outfit that he deemed suitable. “Hurry back.”

Harry smiled to return the one Louis was giving him.

“I will.”

“Oh, I think I'm going to order a pizza while you're gone. What toppings do you like?”

“I'm not very hungry,” Harry said, and it was the truth. He should have been hungry, he realized, or he should have at least been able to feel his blood sugar dropping, but for the time being, he felt fine. It must have been adrenaline or something. “Get whatever you want on it.”

“How aren't you hungry?” Louis asked, looking dumbfounded. “Shows always leave me starving.”

“I ate a lot more dinner than you did,” Harry pointed out, which was actually a lie, as he'd only had a handful of nuts, but that wasn't the point. Louis still hadn't eaten much and, for someone who wasn't used to that, it was a big deal.

“Maybe,” Louis said and then paused a moment before smiling again and saying, “Hey, if you want, you can invite Zayn, Niall and Liam to join us for a little bit. I can't eat a whole pizza by myself, and I'm also not having someone deliver for just me.”

“Okay,” Harry said with a small laugh. Louis was so cute. “I'll ask them.”

After inviting Zayn, the other dancer said he would join so long as Harry promised that he wouldn't be interrupting anything. Harry assured him that he wouldn't and then asked him to invite Niall and Liam as well. Zayn promised that he would.

Harry showered and fixed himself up quickly and then hurried back to Louis's room. After he knocked, the singer answered the door.

“Finally!” he sighed dramatically. “I didn't think you were ever coming back!”

Louis took Harry's hand and pulled him gently into the room, closing and locking the door behind him.

“You smell good,” he complimented.

“Thank you,” Harry said.

“I just ordered a veggie pizza,” Louis said. “I hope that's okay.”

“That's fine,” Harry replied, hoping that Louis knew he had been serious about not wanting any. “Zayn is going to get Niall and Liam and then he'll be up.”

“Okay, great.”

The two sat on the couch and turned on some television while waiting for the others, but it didn't take long before there was a knock on the door. Louis looked very interested in whatever late night show was on, so Harry offered to get the door and stood.

“Hello!” Zayn said, letting himself into the room as, from behind him, Niall gave the tiniest of smiles and waited for Harry to move back before entering.

“Where's Liam?” Harry asked, and then regretted it because every hint of a grin that had been on Niall's face fell away. You should have known where Liam was, Harry, the man chastised himself.

“He's with Jakob,” Niall replied simply, trying and failing to keep his voice chipper.

“Oh,” Harry said. There was an awkward pause, but they were saved by another knock on the door.

“Pizza!” Louis cheered from the den area. Smiling to himself, Harry opened the door as Louis came forward to sign for the food. As he reached Harry's side, he rest ed one of his hands, in a fist, on the small of the dancer's back and massaged the area gently before reaching out for the receipt. Niall, in the mean time, took the pizza, which distracted from the fact that Harry's face was probably at least a slight shade of pink.

Louis, Zayn and Niall helped themselves to pizza and drinks while Harry grabbed a simple bottle of water and joined them by the breakfast bar in the suite's kitchen.

“You're really not hungry at all?” Louis asked, his eyebrows pulled together in concern. Harry made sure to offer one of his best smiles.

“No, not right now.”

No one else returned his smile and, feeling eyes on him that weren't Louis's, Harry turned to see Niall staring. The blonde looked away quickly when he realized he'd been caught, but that didn't stop a bad feeling from growing inside of Harry. For a moment, he thought that Niall must have known, but then he realized that that was ridiculous. There was no way he could. Harry had been extremely careful and covering himself well, he thought. He'd even fake eaten for him and Liam earlier, but they'd seemed none the wiser to the fact that he was actually holding the fork until they looked away and then placing its contents onto the napkin in his lap. Or, if he was forced to take a bite, that he was nodding along to whatever they were saying and then spitting it into the napkin when they looked away.

Luckily, Zayn chose that moment to mention the show and how 'sick' it had been, and the group got distracted from Harry's lack of eating to talk about that. Harry nodded along and piped in every now and then, but, suddenly, the exhaustion was starting to hit him. He leaned against the counter.

“You can pull up a chair,” Louis offered when he noticed, nodding to one of the chairs by the small dining table. Harry assured him that he was alright, and their conversation continued.

It wasn't too long until there was another knock on Louis's door. Harry offered to get it again and when no one protested, he rushed to the door, just a bit dizzy.

“Oh,” Harry said in surprise when he saw who was on the other side. “Liam, hey.”

“Hey,” Liam said with a small smile. His eyes were bloodshot and a bruise marked him high up on the neck, but Harry chose not to say anything.

“They're all in the kitchen,” Harry said, stepping back to allow Liam to enter and then leading the way. Zayn and Louis said their hellos immediately while Niall simply looked to the side, seeming to pretend that Liam hadn't entered.

“How was Jakob?” Louis asked with a smirk once Liam had given his greetings as well.

“He was okay,” Liam said, inviting himself to open the refrigerator. “Ooh, can I have this?” he asked as he pulled out yet another bottle of champagne.

“Sure,” Louis said. “Have some pizza as well, and bring it to the living area.”

Liam accepted that offer and then followed the others back to the room they had been in before. Louis, Zayn and Niall took the couch while Harry took the chair and Liam sat on the floor by Niall's feet.

“You know, Liam, from my experience, sex is better if the person you're having it with actually means something to you,” Louis continued their conversation.

“Just because they mean something to you doesn't mean you mean something to them,” Liam pointed out, taking another drink straight from the champagne bottle.

“Well, that's why you wait a bit and find out how you both feel.”

“Life is too short,” Liam said and then added, “and I'm much too slutty.”

Though Liam was giving an ornery smile, Harry didn't miss the way Niall shook his head before taking the bottle straight from Liam's hands and taking a swig himself. The rest watched as he drank and drank until the bottle, which had been just slightly down past the neck, was nearly to the middle and then, finally, Niall pulled it away from his mouth.

“Damn!” Liam said, his eyes wide. “Impressive!”

Niall gave no response but a loud belch.

“I think you both need more pizza now,” Louis said, taking in his guests' red, unfocused eyes.

“I'm fine,” Niall said, but added, “Go for it, Liam. There's plenty since Harry didn't eat any.”

Harry's face burned as Liam turned to look at him, his eyes spinning just a bit, but his face completely sobered and serious.

“Why didn't you eat?” he asked.

“I'm not hungry,” Harry said.

“You need to eat at least a little bit,” Liam continued. “We burn a lot of calories on stage and so you need to replenish so you don't lose weight.”

“Yeah, because I can't afford to lose a few pounds,” Harry said, the sarcasm laced heavily in his voice. He expected a few agreed chuckles, even if they were awkward ones, but was met with complete silence as his friends all gaped at him.

“Just kidding,” Harry added weakly, hoping they would all look away.

“I sure hope you were because there's nothing to you,” Zayn said. Harry snorted, though thought that was a bit hypocritical when Zayn was much thinner than him; they all were.

“Eat a piece of pizza,” Liam tried again.

“I'm not hungry,” Harry repeated for what felt like the hundredth time that night.

“Eat a piece of pizza before I shove it down your throat,” Liam said. Harry's eyes widened. A big part of him told him that Liam wasn't being at all serious, but suddenly he was reminded strongly of feeding tubes being forced down his throat and, worse, his dad holding him down while hysterically trying to shove food into his mouth.

“Fine, just one,” he said quickly, feeling guilty, but heading to the kitchen to grab the smallest slice of pizza he could find anyway. Liam smiled once Harry came back to the entryway with a plate, and the rest watched Harry as he took his first bite. He squirmed as he chewed, uncomfortable and unsure as to why people found it so amusing to watch fat people eat.

Though his tongue was working to push the food out of his mouth, Harry forced himself to swallow it and then coughed. His stomach constricted and for a moment, he thought he was going to throw up right there on the spot, but he didn't, and everyone was still watching, so he took another bite, his eyes wanting to water. He hoped it wasn't obvious.

Finally, after that second bite, the attention was taken away from him as Louis flipped on the television and started taking requests for what they should watch, and Harry took that as an opportunity to grab a napkin. Still, even with spitting half of it out, Harry had still eaten half of the pizza and his stomach was killing him. Some of it was psychological, he knew, but his body hadn't had to digest that much fat in a long, long time, so he knew that there was a chance that he might actually throw up.

Quickly taking Liam's plate from its spot on the floor next to him, Harry went to throw away their garbage and then went to the bathroom.

He knew he could probably get himself to throw up pretty easily without shoving his fingers down his throat since he was already extremely nauseous, but he also knew that he didn't have much time, so he leaned over the toilet and shoved his two handy fingers down until he coughed, gagged and then, finally, expelled what he had just eaten.

After he had finished, he rinsed his mouth, washed his hands, dabbed his moist eyes and exited the bathroom. The whole ordeal had taken less than five minutes, he assumed, but still, he found Louis waiting just down the hall from the bathroom, and he jumped, then focused on trying not to look guilty.

“Hey,” Louis said with the tiniest of smiles. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, and then, “Why?”

He prayed Louis hadn't heard him. He'd been quiet, but still, noise echoed, and there wasn't a lot of sound on this side of the suite.

“You just looked like you felt a bit iffy.”

“Yeah, no, I mean, I really wasn't hungry so it was kind of hard to eat, but I'm fine...Yeah. I was just peeing.”

Louis nodded, his expression unreadable.

“I'm sorry that Liam practically made you eat that,” he said.

“It's okay,” Harry said, not mentioning that it was something he had grown quite used to.

“Are you still staying the night here?” Louis asked.

“Do you want me to?”

Louis nodded. “Yeah, if you feel okay.”

“I'm fine, honestly.”

While Harry brushed his teeth, Louis kindly got everyone else to leave by exclaiming how exhausted he was and how he hated getting up as early as they had to wake tomorrow.

As Harry had done since Liam had started staying with him, he forwent washing his face so that he wouldn't have to be seen without his makeup on.

When he had finished getting ready for bed and exited the bathroom again, he found Louis without a shirt and in his pajama pants, sitting by the breakfast bar and eating a cookie.

“Don't tell on me,” he begged.

“I won't,” Harry said, feeling a pang of anger that anyone had made Louis feel like he had to hide eating something that he enjoyed. Louis didn't seem bothered and offered a smile, because of course he did.

There's only one bed in this suite, so I can sleep on the couch. It was actually pretty comfortable.”

“Oh, um, you don't have to,” Harry said, shuffling one foot and hoping that Louis didn't think he was just trying to sleep with him. “Unless you want to, but, um, I can sleep on the couch or, you know, both of us in the bed...It doesn't matter.”

“Are you sure?” Louis asked, and though Harry's heart was racing, he assured Louis that he was.

Harry needn't have worried, though. Louis kept a respectful distance when they laid down in the bed next to each other.

Thank you again for doing this tour with me,” the singer said, his voice already growing hoarse as soon as his head had hit the pillow. Harry hoped it was just because he was tired and not that he was actually losing it. “You did an amazing job tonight, Harry.”

“Thank you,” Harry said. “I still can't believe you sound the same live as you do on your album.”

“You're too kind,” Louis said, and Harry had been serious, but he didn't say so.

Louis yawned and then got closer for just a moment to place a gentle kiss on Harry's forehead.

“Goodnight, tiny dancer.”

“Good night.”

None to Harry's surprise, Louis fell asleep quickly, and Harry hoped that he wasn't being creepy, but he couldn't take his eyes off of the other man. He was so unbelievably pretty and-Harry had been right-such a genuinely good person. Obviously, Harry was nothing special in any way, but Louis made him feel like he was, even if only for fleeting instances, and Harry thought that he probably did so on purpose so that Harry wouldn't feel bad about himself.

He couldn't believe that he was actually laying next to this man, and Harry thought that Louis might even be a good enough person to be able to fall for someone based on their personality and leave their physical appearance out of it. Still, Harry knew that if Louis did, by some miracle, fall for him even a little bit, it wouldn't last because not only was his outside ugly, but his insides were messed up as well.

***Liam***

Liam was so nervous for the first show that even Niall couldn't make him feel better; probably because Niall was just as nervous as he was, but in this case, misery did not love company. Liam needed a drink desperately, but he knew better. He'd mastered the skill of dancing through a hangover and he was even pretty graceful while he was drunk, usually, but alcohol mixed with hot stage lights and chaos would be a recipe for disaster involving everything Liam had eaten that day and possibly the day before too.

So, since alcohol was out of the cards for the time being, Liam decided to get relief from another source.

Though he didn't know if he was particularly allowed to, nobody had told him otherwise, so Liam hung around close to where Louis was holding his meet-and-greet session a few hours before the show. It was easy to spot the men who were after more than just a 'hello' and a photo, and Liam stayed back out of the way until he saw one that he thought he could get off easily with.

“Don't take it personally,” Liam called out as the man began to walk (sulk, more like) straight by him towards the exit after Louis had stepped out of the grasp he'd had on the singer's hips. “He just went through a break-up, so I'm sure he's just not in the mood, no matter how sexy the boy is.”

Liam knew that Louis hadn't really just broken up with anyone, but most people didn't, and he thought it was a rather good conversation starter, so he was pretty pleased with himself.

The stranger looked Liam up and down, frowning questioningly, but his eyes didn't look all disapproving.

“Who are you?” he finally asked after a moment.

“I'm one of Louis's back-up dancers.”

“Really?” the guy asked, one eyebrow raised and looking far more intrigued than he had just moments ago.

“Really.”

“Well,” the man stated, stepping closer to Liam, and Liam gave himself a pat on the back, already considering this a success. “Can I have a name?”

Less than ten minutes later, Liam had the guy in the bathroom.

When the dancer exited again, Jakob was standing outside the bathroom door. Liam gave him a smirk and then continued walking, but halted at his co-worker's voice calling out to him.

“Oh, come on, now! Really?!”

“What?” Liam asked turning around slowly. Jakob took a couple steps towards him.

“I've been trying to get you alone with me since the kick-off party and that bloke got you in less than thirty minutes?”

Liam raised an eyebrow, quite aware that this was true, but deciding to play dumb.

“Oh, so you want a go?” he asked, jutting his hip out just so. In reply, Jakob only smirked.

“You should have said something,” Liam continued, blinking slowly so as to draw the other man in further.

You're so damn sexy,” Jakob breathed, closing in nearly the whole gap between the pair's bodies.

“Will you be able to get rid of your room mate tonight?” Liam asked in nearly a whisper.

“Oh, yeah, for sure. Don't you worry about that, babe.”

Good. I'll see you tonight then.”

Liam turned and began to walk away, putting just the right amount of sway into his hips, but, once again, Jakob stopped him.

“Hey!”

“Yes?” Liam asked, not turning around that time.

“Makeup is looking for you.”

“Oops,” Liam said, turning around and smiling innocently. Though he tried to act like he wasn't phased, he was panicking on the inside and subtly hurried away, hoping he wasn't going to be fired.


Despite everyone's nerves, the show ended up being amazing. Liam always performed his best under pressure.

During costume changes, Liam made sure to ask Harry how he was holding up, as he had been the one who was unsure about the whole thing in the first place, but Harry always assured him that he was fine. Liam hoped that was the truth, but Harry kept his expression unreadable.

Once the show was over and everyone was backstage getting rid of the last bit of their anxiety by drinking too much and laughing and talking too loudly, Liam found Niall again.

“First show down! How many more to go?” Liam asked.

“You know, I've counted the number of shows we have a million times but I can't remember all of the sudden.”

Liam smiled, raising his alcohol glass.

“Well then, here's to fighting off our nerves almost every day for the next seven months!”

Smiling, Niall tapped his cup to Liam's and both men took a drink. Liam had barely swallowed the fizzy goodness when a hand on his shoulder turned him around and he came face-to-face with Jakob.

“Hey, Li, you did great,” he said, looking the dancer up and down and noticeably licking his lips.

“Oh, don't pretend you even looked at me once on that stage!” Liam said, shoving Jakob's shoulder lightly.

“I couldn't take my eyes off you,” Jakob said, his face completely serious, and then he pulled Liam closer by the waist. “Can we go talk?”

Liam thought it should be enough for Jakob to have him in his hotel room later that night, but he supposed he still did need a few details such as the guy's room number and what turned him on the most, so he looked to Niall.

“I'll be back in a second,” he said.

“Ooookay,” Niall said disbelievingly, and without sparing him another glance, turned and walked away. Liam felt bad, but he didn't know why and he didn't have time to even consider doing anything about it because Jakob dragged him to a nearby corner and immediately locked their lips. Instinctively, Liam almost pushed the slightly larger man away, but pulled himself together at the last second. He wasn't sure why he thought that 'talking' had actually meant talking anyway.

When they finally left the stadium, Jakob asked Liam to ride to the hotel with him on his bus, but Liam wasn't quite ready for tour bus sex yet, so he refused.

As soon as he had reached his own room at the hotel, he jumped in the shower without a word to Niall, who was his room mate, put on a tight outfit and did his hair before exiting and grabbing his hotel room key from the nightstand he'd set it on.

“Are you going out with Jakob?” Niall asked from his place on the bed he'd apparently claimed.

“No,” Liam said. “Just to his room.”

Niall half rolled his eyes, but seemed to stop himself and force a small smile.

“Have fun,” he said. Still, Liam thought there was something off about his voice, but rationalized that he was probably just tired or it was all in Liam's head, so he thanked the man and went to the hotel room that Jakob had written on his wrist in sharpie.

Unfortunately, Jakob's spectacular looks had given rise to Liam's expectations which the guy just couldn't live up to, so after all was said and done, Liam was left feeling a bit disappointed, even after a couple of drinks from the bar a few floors up. In fact, he didn't even wait for his momentary lover to pass out afterward before giving him a quick kiss on the lips and pulling himself from the bed to get dressed.

“Is that it?” Jakob called from the bed as Liam picked up his phone and made his way to the door.

“I have other plans,” Liam explained without a backwards glance. Truthfully, he hadn't had any other plans at all, but when he checked his phone on his way to the elevator, he saw that he had a text from Niall telling him that 'they' were in Louis's room if he wanted to join once he was through. The room number was included in the text, so Liam pressed the correct button inside the elevator to take him to Louis's floor.

Harry answered the door for him once he knocked.

“Oh, Liam, hey,” his friend greeted, seeming surprised to see him on the other side of the door.

“Hey,” Liam said, giving the best smile he could muster.

“They're all in the kitchen,” Harry told him, stepping back so that Liam could enter, which he did.

“Hi!” Louis and Zayn greeted him unanimously as the two walked into the kitchen of the gigantic suite room that Louis was staying in. Rich people, Liam thought, though knew he would probably splurge on the room too if he'd been a 'rich person.'

“Hi,” Liam said, his eyes focused on Niall, who was turned away. He was acting so strange. Liam really didn't understand.

“How was Jakob?” Louis asked, and when Liam turned to him, he saw that he had an actual smirk on his face. Sadly, if he was looking for a dirty, juicy story, he was going to be thoroughly disappointed, like Liam had been.

“He was okay,” Liam answered, and suddenly realized that he could feel himself actively sobering up, so he invited himself to open the refrigerator, hoping that this nice suite had been adequately supplied. A surge of pure joy coursed through him when he saw another bottle of champagne waiting for him.

“Ooh, can I have this?” he asked.

“Sure,” Louis answered. Liam loved him. Well, not actually loved him because Liam did not love people, except Harry in the most friendly of ways, but he admired the singer greatly.

“Have some pizza as well, and bring it to the living area,” Louis added.

Liam was almost as likely to never pass up free food as he was to pass up free alcohol and so he accepted that offer, taking his food out into the living room like he was instructed.

“You know, Liam,” Louis spoke again, “from my experience, sex is better if the person you're having it with actually means something to you.”

“Just because they mean something to you doesn't mean you mean something to them,” Liam pointed out, not mentioning that he would never disrespect someone that he cared for by having sex with them, knowing he would just have to run afterward.

“Well, that's why you wait a bit and see how you both feel,” Louis said.

“Life is too short,” Liam said simply, not wanting to go into details of why that was not a possibility for him. To ensure the conversation became too awkward to continue, he added, “and I'm much too slutty.”

As he hoped, no one replied to that comment. Niall took the champagne bottle from Liam's hands and took a swig long enough to impress even him, and Liam told him as much, to which he got a simple belch in return. Yeah, something was definitely off with him, Liam thought.

“I think you both need more pizza now,” Louis said.

“I'm fine,” Niall assured the singer, but turning to his fellow dancer, said, “Go for it, Liam. There's plenty since Harry didn't eat any.”

A strange, bad feeling suddenly overcame Liam.

“Why didn't you eat?” he asked his friend.

“I'm not hungry,” Harry said, and that should have been a reasonable excuse, but Liam wasn't comforted by it.

“You need to eat at least a little bit. We burn a lot of calories on stage and so you need to replenish so you don't lose weight.”

Already, at the very first show, Liam thought Harry's outfit should have fit his body at least a little tighter.

“Yeah, because I can't afford to lose a few pounds,” Harry said, the sarcasm heavy in his voice. The room fell silent as the three others stared at him disbelievingly.

“Just kidding,” Harry added, softer; in a way that Liam didn't think he had been joking at all.

“I sure hope you were because there's nothing to you,” Zayn spoke.

“Eat a piece of pizza,” Liam demanded lightly.

“I'm not hungry,” Harry reminded him, but Liam wasn't having it.

“Eat a piece of pizza before I shove it down your throat.”

Maybe he shouldn't have threatened that to someone who may have an eating disorder, but Liam was so scared and he didn't know what else to do. Plus, he really would do that, if he had to.

Somehow, the threat worked, and Harry went to the kitchen to get some pizza. Everyone watched as he took his first couple of bites, and Liam wondered if Zayn and Louis had the same worries as he and Niall. Liam didn't know why he still had this fear, because he'd been watching Harry more intently recently, and he'd eaten pretty normally at home, but something still felt off.

Once he finished his slice of pizza, Harry threw away his and Liam's plates and then went to what Liam assumed was the bathroom. He and Niall glanced at each other, but they knew it would be weird to follow him, so they didn't.

Besides, Louis took care of that.

Zayn seemed oblivious to everything, whether he actually was or not, and there was no way Niall and Liam could hear what the two others were talking about when Harry exited the room, but Louis politely kicked the three out when he returned. That was okay, though, because suddenly Liam just needed to talk.

“Do you think he went to the bathroom to throw up?” he asked his room mate once they were in their room, sitting on their respective beds.

“I don't know,” Niall said, chewing his lip and looking deep in thought.

“He wasn't in there long,” Liam attempted to rationalize the situation for the better. “I've only made myself throw up a couple times when I was sick and knew it was going to happen anyway, but it took me a while and it hurt. Harry looked pretty normal; not like he'd been sick or in pain or anything.”

“I don't know,” Niall said again, finally looking to Liam. “His eyes were a little bit red.”

“Were they?”

Liam silently cursed himself for not noticing. He'd been trying to be a less selfish person, honestly, but he didn't appear to be doing a good job of not being naive.

“Yeah. And if he's had practice, it probably wouldn't take long. The girl I told you about that had to drop out of the dance academy; she'd always be having a feast before class and then sneak off a few minutes later, but she would always be back in, like, no time at all. It wasn't until she left that people put the pieces together.”

“Should I just ask him?” Liam said to Niall, who, for the third time, said,

“I don't know. He probably won't tell the truth if something is going on, but on the other hand, maybe he's just waiting for someone to notice. Maybe he wants help but doesn't know how to ask for it.”

“If something is actually wrong.”

The possibility chilled him.

“Yeah,” Niall agreed. They were both quiet for a solid couple of minutes before Liam asked another question.

“Do you think love can save a person?”

“You might be asking the wrong person because I'm an optimist on top of a hopeless romantic, but...I think a lot of problems that people have are because they don't feel loved enough, so, yeah, if it's the right kind of love I think it can save a person, or at least give them what they need to save themselves.”

“I hope he and Louis fall in love then,” Liam said, feeling a little lighter at the prospect because he may not be a romantic person in the slightest, but he could see potential for them.

Niall took a moment to reply, and when he did, it wasn't about Louis or Harry anymore.

“Do you think you’re going to fall in love with Jakob even though his bedroom skills aren't fantastic?”

“Definitely not,” Liam said with a laugh. “I'm not falling in love with Jakob. I can't fall in love with anyone.”

“You can't or you won't let yourself?”

Liam wondered how this conversation got flipped on him, but was convinced that Niall just had to be joking around with him, trying to lighten the mood, so he went along with it.

“You can't stop yourself from falling in love. It's just something that happens,” Liam pointed out.

“True, but you can pretend you're not in love, and the mind is a powerful thing, so with the right amount of skill, you could even convince yourself you don't feel a thing.”

This suddenly didn't feel like joking anymore, and Liam grew quiet for a while. Niall waited.

“The room is starting to spin,” Liam said, and it wasn't a lie. He suddenly felt very dizzy, very weak and even a little sick. “I need to sleep off the alcohol.”

Moving the bed sheets down, Liam crawled under, pulled them up to his chin and rolled over so that he was facing the wall.

“Good night.”

“'Night.”

Niall got up to turn off the floor light and turned off the bedside lamp as he crawled under his own covers. Liam heard him toss and turn for only a couple of minutes before he stilled and his breathing evened out.

Personally, Liam slept fitfully. He was worried about Harry, and the more he thought about him, the sicker he felt. Part of it was the alcohol, he knew, but he thought most of his problem was sheer fear for his friend. Liam didn't let himself get attached to many people, but it had been different with Harry from the very first moment. Well, from the first moment after Liam realized he wasn't getting in his pants. Harry was his best friend, and if something was truly wrong with him, he had to find out and do anything he could to help. He could hope for the future of Harry and Louis; that they would fall in love and Louis would erase all self-doubts from Harry's mind and make him happy, but, though he liked the thought, he knew better than to put his faith and trust in what was even supposed to be the most unconditional of loves.

Chapter Text

***Louis***

All that Louis knew about Harry was that he was a great dancer, loved romantic comedies, he had a sister and that he cared more about others than he did himself. He had dimples as deep as an ocean if you were one of the lucky ones who got to see his real smile, and he was beautiful, inside and out.

Louis also knew that Harry wasn't aware of most of those things.

Though that wasn't a lot to know about a person at all, it was enough for Louis to know that he really, genuinely liked the guy. It went beyond that, actually. He had only felt this way about one other person, and even then, it hadn't been as intense as his feelings for Harry were. Given a little time, Louis knew he could-and would-fall in love with the dancer.


When Louis's alarm went off the morning after that first show of the tour, both Louis and Harry groaned at the same time. Louis rubbed his eyes and then looked over and laughed, as Harry was doing the same thing, with the same displeased facial expression that Louis had had. The older man gave a small laugh.

“Good morning,” he greeted.

“'Morning,” Harry replied, attempting a smile but not getting very far with it.

“Did you sleep well?” Louis asked.

“I did.”

“I'm glad.”

Checking the time on his phone, Louis sighed.

“We have to hit the road in a little over an hour.”

“I guess we should get a move on then. I can go get you-us-some breakfast from downstairs if you want to get in the shower. I know you showered last night, but I have to shower in the morning, no matter what, so...”

“I'm the same way, and that would be great,” Louis said, noting for the first time that morning, but definitely not the first time over all, how wonderful Harry was. “Thanks.”

“You're welcome. What do you like?”

“Surprise me. I'm not picky.”

Harry nodded and sat up, hesitating only a moment before getting to his feet, but as soon as he was off the bed, he gasped and fell back onto it, his fists balling the sheets up so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. Louis, who had yet to move from his position himself, bolted up quickly.

“Harry?!”

“Hm?”

Okay, so he had responded, and that was good, but he had yet to turn around and still had a death grip on the bed sheets. Louis feared that he would lose consciousness at any moment.

“Are you okay?” Louis asked stupidly, because it was pretty clear that he wasn't.

“Uh-huh,” Harry said anyway. Louis crawled across the bed to sit by the man's side, and his worry only grew more when he saw that his pale face had grown even paler and his pretty green eyes were glazed over, all light in them gone. Without another word, Louis stood and laid Harry back down before standing on the bed and lifting Harry's legs so that his feet were above his head.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked, his voice not quite normal.

“I'm trying to keep you from fainting!” Louis exclaimed, and he didn't mean to sound so harsh about it, but he was panicking and trying to decide if an ambulance was needed or not.

“I'm fine,” Harry said.

“Really? Because I moved you like a rag doll. When was the last time you ate?”

“Last night; here. Remember?”

Louis did remember, but he also remembered that Harry had only eaten one piece of pizza, which wasn't a lot, especially considering how hard he had worked up onstage. But, then again, Harry had looked pretty miserable for a bit afterward, so maybe he was getting sick.

“Keep laying there,” Louis instructed. “I'm going to get a thermometer.”

“No,” Harry said, grabbing Louis's hand before he could turn and go. “I'm okay, honest.”

He did look a little bit better now that he was laying down, but Louis was still worried, obviously, because someone who was 'okay' didn't just faint out of nowhere.

Pursing his lips, Louis rested the back of his hand on Harry's forehead, expecting him to feel at least slightly warm, but his skin was cool, especially considering that it was summer and he'd just nearly passed out.

Letting out an audible 'hmm,' Louis brushed some hair off of the dancer's forehead and studied him. Harry looked right back, some light coming back to his eyes, even if he was still abnormally pale.

“I'm getting you water, at least,” Louis said. “Just lay here, please.”

“No, we need to hurry. We have to leave soon.”

“You're the most important thing right now.”

Harry didn't say anything back to that, and Louis turned on his heel, hurrying to the bathroom to pour some water into one of the complimentary Styrofoam cups. When he got back to Harry's side, he helped him sit up and then kept a supportive hand on the other guy's back while he took a few sips of water. Once he was finished, Louis took the cup and placed it on the nightstand, and then rubbed Harry's back in what he hoped to be a soothing manner.

“What's going on, love?”

Louis hadn't meant to use the pet name, and hoped that Harry didn't find it weird because he used it on most people. Though it meant a little more to him when he was using it on Harry, he didn't need to know that at this moment.

If Harry thought the term was strange, he didn't say so.

“I think I'm just dehydrated,” he said.

“Here, drink more then,” Louis said, retrieving the cup he'd just placed down and handing it right back to Harry before he got out his phone to call Beatrice.

“Yes, Lou?” she asked, sounding like she already knew he was going to tell her that he was running late or something. Louis wanted to tease about being offended, because it wasn't like he was late that often, but now was not the time for joking.

“Hey, Bumble Bee. I have a favor to ask.”

“Stop calling me Bumble Bee. And what is it, diva?”

“Can you please bring some food up for Harry and me? Something with a lot of protein.”

Harry was staring at the sheets, biting his lip as he twisted the cloth around his finger and released.

“I guess I can do that,” Beatrice sighed from the other end of the line. “Please tell me you're going to be ready to leave soon.”

“Yeah, yeah, of course.”

“What am I going to do with you?”

“Love me.”

“Like I have a choice. So Harry is there? Are you both appropriate?”

“Yes, Beatrice. It's not like that.”

“I'm not judging, just trying to save us all from a very uncomfortable situation. I'll be up in a few minutes.”

“Thanks, Bumble Bee.”

“Louis, will you seriously-”

Louis hung up on the woman before she could finish her rant.

“Do you think you might be getting sick?” he asked Harry. The dancer shook his head, but Louis was still unsure, so he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his forehead. He still felt cool, but, somehow, that didn't comfort Louis any.

Beatrice arrived only about ten minutes later with waffles, scrambled eggs and oranges. Though Harry claimed only one orange as his, Louis kindly insisted that he eat the eggs as well for the protein. Harry didn't say whether he would eat any or not, but Louis put some on his plate and, after poking them with his fork for a couple of moments, the dancer took a small bite.

“I can still dance tonight, right?” he asked after he'd swallowed that first bit.

“As long as you feel okay,” Louis told him.

“I'm fine,” Harry said again.

“I should have made you drink more water last night. I'm sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” Harry asked, frowning.

“I have experience with being onstage and have been dehydrated from it on more than one occasion, so I should have warned you.”

“I've been dancing for years,” the other replied. “I should have known better.”

Looking back to his plate, he shoved the eggs around a little more before saying again, softer,

“I should have known better.”

Louis finished his waffle and then leaned over to give Harry a kiss on the cheek.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“I should get my shower.”

“Yeah, yeah. Go on, I'm okay, I swear.”

“Okay, but scream if you need me, alright?”

“I'm fine, but I will.”

Even though Harry had assured him multiple times, Louis still wasn't convinced and took the quickest shower he'd ever taken in his life. He left the door cracked so that he could better hear if the man called for him, and he didn't think he had, but when Louis exited the bathroom, Harry was standing outside the door, a pair of clothes in his hand.

“Are you done?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

Without so much as a nod, Harry rushed into the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind him. Louis felt his eyebrows pull together, and he stood there, unsure of what to do. Harry was acting strange, even for Harry, and Louis wanted to help, but he had no idea where to even begin.

The shower water turned on, and Louis still thought he heard Harry cough a couple of times, so maybe he had just caught a cold or something. Hurrying over to the bed, where he'd left his phone lying, Louis this time sent Beatrice a text, asking if there was anyway she or someone else could pick up some chicken noodle soup and cold medicine before they left. That resulted in his tour manager calling him, panicked that he was the sick one, though honestly, Louis would rather it have been him than Harry.

Luckily, Louis had kept a few of his favorite movies with him and not in the luggage that was lost somewhere in one of the several buses on the road with him. He smiled, thinking of potential movie marathons while traveling that day. He wasn't happy that Harry was sick, of course, but he could hope that, while under the weather, Harry loved cuddling in front of the television as much as Louis did.

***Harry***

You know better, you know better, you know better .

The words repeated over and over in Harry's head, first as he ate his breakfast and then again as he threw it up. He didn't even know if the words were there because he knew better than to fall back into his disorder, or simply because he had eaten.

Harry didn't know why he felt as if he had to get rid of the eggs. Scrambled eggs were on his 'safe' list. He didn't typically have his eggs that salty, though, and salt made one retain water, which he had drunk lots of after telling Louis that he was dehydrated. That might not have been a lie either, because he was sure he was dehydrated, but he doubted that was the main reason he nearly almost fainted again.

When Harry threw up, it had been mostly water coming up, and it hurt. Purging never felt good, at least physically, but sometimes it hurt worse than others, and that time, it felt like Harry's stomach lining was ripping. His breaths came out in gasps, and he had to hold his breath in as he moved from the toilet to the shower. He turned the water on hot and stood there, letting it pour down on him and turn his skin red, and then, when he finally breathed again, it came out a choked sob and by the burn of his eyes, he knew that he was crying. That was ridiculous and pathetic, and Harry did his best to stop, but he hurt and he was embarrassed, ashamed and afraid, so it took a good few minutes before he was able to fully quit.

When Harry dried off, he saw that his eyes had already turned red, either from the crying or purging he wasn't sure; maybe both, but he splashed cold water on his face and then, once dressed, hurried to his bag to use his eye drops. Luckily, Louis hadn't been in the room, and he entered just as Harry tossed the drops back in with the rest of his luggage.

“Everything good?” the singer asked when Harry turned around and offered a smile.

“Yeah, everything is good,” Harry assured him. He realized then, with panic, that his face was still bare; no hint of makeup covering his flaws. Well, there was nothing he could do about it now, and he guessed it was best for Louis to see his true self now, when he could still run without it hurting Harry too bad.

“Okay. Are you about ready to go down to the buses then?”

“I'm ready.”

Louis double checked the room as Harry waited by the door with his one bag and then, after assuring both men had all of their belongings, they went on their way. Before they reached the elevator, Louis slyly slipped his free hand into Harry's, and Harry looked down, hoping Louis couldn't tell how that had made him smile. He was probably holding his hand in case he fell over, and Harry knew that, but he still liked the way Louis's small, warm hand fit into his larger, cold one.

“Is this okay?” Louis asked after a couple of moments, and Harry looked up, his smile under control.

“Yeah,” he said, grinning just a bit. Louis smiled as well and swung their hands inside the elevator as they waited to reach the bottom floor of the hotel.

Louis once again joined Harry, Niall, Liam and Zayn on their bus as they made their way to their next destination. Harry sat next to Louis, applying his make-up with his small pocket mirror, and he didn't miss the way that Liam was staring the two men down, but he was pointedly ignoring him. When his phone buzzed, he quickly took it from his pocket, and then nearly rolled his eyes when he saw that the text was from Liam.

Did you use protection? The message read. That time, Harry couldn't resist from rolling his eyes.

We didn't have sex.

Looking up, Harry saw that Liam frowned reading the text message and then put his phone away.


Much to Harry's gratitude, Louis never again mentioned what had happened earlier, with him almost fainting and all, but Harry knew that, when he wasn't looking at the singer, he was studying him to try to read if he was truly alright. When Harry went to the bathroom to give himself a quick check in the mirror, he saw that his eyes looked normal and his face wasn't quite so pale anymore, so he hoped Louis couldn't tell that he wasn't okay at all.

For lunch, Louis heated up some chicken noodle soup, and Harry almost cried again, for some stupid reason. It was sweet t hat Louis was doing everything he knew how to try to make Harry feel better when he thought he was sick with something as easily cured as a cold or the flu.


“You're sure you're alright?” Louis asked once the two had a moment alone backstage at the venue, just a few minutes before Louis had to go to his meet-and-greet.

“Yes,” Harry said, smiling, and it was mostly genuine. He didn't like when people worried about him, but Louis's concern was still appreciated. “I feel much better now. Thank you.”

Louis didn't need to know the way that Harry was clasping his hands tightly behind his back so that he wouldn't see that they were shaking.


Even though he felt like literal hell, Harry made himself eat a little bit of dinner. The chef was serving angel hair pasta with vegetable and marinara sauce, and Harry wished he could eat the vegetables and have that be it, but he knew he wouldn't survive the night if so, so he got a couple tong-fuls of food and sat by Louis, who appeared at least a little more relaxed than he had been the previous night.

“You're less nervous then?” Harry asked when Louis gave him a smile without looking like he was holding back vomit.

“Nah,” Louis said. “I'm just handling it better.”

“You always do great,” Harry said. “I don't know why you're so nervous. You wouldn't have made it this far if you weren't amazing, which you are.”

Harry swore that he saw Louis blush, which was nice, considering that it was usually Louis causing Harry's cheeks to burn.

“You're sweet,” Louis said. “I'll be okay. So, one more time, are you sure-”

“That I am fine? Yes.”

Louis smiled and Harry returned it.

“Just know that if you need to leave the stage at any time, please do. No one is going to be upset or anything. The other dancers can hold it together, I guess.”

Louis winked and Harry gave him another smile, and he even laughed a little bit, ignoring the way it made his heart flutter.

“I'll remember that. Thank you.”


Though Harry was a little bit tired throughout the night, he made it to the end and he didn't even mess up. That was probably because he hadn't been able to concentrate on Louis's voice, fearing that if he lost focus on what he was doing, he would lose consciousness.

Like he had the previous night, Liam kept asking Harry if he was alright between wardrobe changes, and Harry was really getting sick of that question, and of lying about the answer. He told the lie so much that he would probably have convinced himself that it was true except for the fact that he wanted to cry every time he was asked the question. Harry was a mess, and he thought again of how he shouldn't have done the tour. He didn't deserve any of this. He didn't deserve these friends.

Harry didn't join the celebration at the end of the show. Instead, he sneaked out to the tour bus, collapsing on the floor by the sofa and covering his face, trying to focus on breathing and not crying or throwing up or passing out, but his tears came anyway. Harry gave up on stopping them for the time being. He knew he couldn't cry for long, but for the next few moments, he was going to let himself break a little before having to pretend to put the pieces back together.

***Liam***

Liam was sitting away from the others, not drinking and not trying to sex himself up for anyone that night, when he was approached by Dylan; the blonde, curly-haired dancer that should have been attractive, but had too much creep factor going on to really pull it off.

“Hey,” Dylan said, sitting by Liam and handing him a drink. Liam studied the contents inside, and it smelled good, but he really wasn't in the mood for any of this because Harry had disappeared. “You left too soon last night,” the guy next to him continued. “You, Jakob and I were going to have a threesome.”

Liam outwardly sighed a bit, though Dylan gave no indication that he noticed.

“You know, mate, that would be an honor, but my throat hurts,” Liam said, both of those things being lies. “I think I'm getting sick, so we best not do anything of that nature tonight. Rain check?”

Without waiting for a response, Liam stood, set his drink on the floor next to Dylan's feet and then hurried off to find Niall.

“Have you seen Harry?” he asked when he approached the more attractive blonde dancer.

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Niall said. “I haven't seen him since we left the stage.”

“If you're looking for Harry, I saw him going outside,” Zayn piped up from behind Liam. Liam didn't know how long the other guy h ad been near him, but he thanked him and headed outside. He didn't see Harry anywhere around and prayed that no one had taken him as he ran onto their tour bus. A moment of relief passed over Liam when he found his friend sitting on the bus's floor, but it lasted only briefly before Liam realized that he was crying. Harry didn't even look up as Liam took the few steps towards him and then sunk to his knees beside him.

“Hey, what's wrong?” he asked softly, but he still made Harry jump. The curly haired dancer looked up and then wiped his eyes quickly. They were so red and puffy that they looked painful, and Liam's chest hurt.

“Shit,” Harry breathed.

“What happened?” Liam asked.

“Nothing.”

“Do you often cry for no reason then?”

“Maybe. Don't judge me,” Harry said, and he tried to smile, but his bottom lip quivered and a sob escaped his throat as a tear rolled down his cheek. He smacked it away.

“Please tell me what's wrong,” Liam tried again. Harry sobbed again.

“I don't deserve this,” he said.

“You don't deserve what?”

“To be on this tour.”

“Yes you do! Why would you think that, Harry?”

“Because I don't! I'm a mess!”

“You're a mess because you have feelings? No. You're doing great, Harry. I know it's all stressful right now. Our bodies are being so worked and getting used to the tour schedule and performing, but we'll be fine.”

Harry didn't say anything, but he seemed to be contemplating what Liam was telling him. However, when he spoke, it wasn't about anything Liam had said.

“I'm so hungry,” the other dancer whispered. Goosebumps suddenly covered Liam's arms, despite it being fairly warm on the bus.

“You're hungry?”

Harry nodded.

“I have a question, and please don't get mad,” Liam said, deciding that now was a better time than any to bring up the topic that had been on his mind. Harry sniffled a bit and blinked, waiting for his friend to continue, which he did.

“Um...have you been, like, throwing up your food?”

Harry's entire body jolted, his eyes growing wide, and that gave Liam all the answer he needed.

“No,” Harry said, but his voice was quiet and it broke. Liam was pretty sure his heart did too as he pulled the man into a tight side hug.

“It's okay,” he said. “I want to help.”

“I don't need help,” Harry said, and his voice had grown thick by then.

“It's okay,” Liam repeated. “You don't have to hide it anymore.”

“I'm not doing anything!” Harry insisted, but his body shook and Liam could feel tears soaking through his shirt.

“Do you want the rest of that soup?”

Harry hesitated for only a moment before nodding, his head still on Liam's chest. Liam moved him gently so that he could get up and heat the food. Harry moved to the sofa as he did so, and once the soup was ready, Liam joined him.

“Please stop looking at me,” Harry asked after Liam had handed him the bowl and he had blown absently on its contents for a few seconds. Liam hadn't even realized that he had been looking at Harry, but he turned his body. He heard Harry take a few sips of food and then he said, his voice a bit cheerier,

“Okay, my turn.”

“What?” Liam asked, almost turning around but stopping himself.

“I have a question that you might get mad about.”

“Hit me.”

“Do you drink and sleep around because it's fun or because you're hiding from yourself?”

“That's an awfully deep question,” Liam said, not even knowing where to begin searching inside himself for an answer.

“I told you that you might get mad,” Harry said.

“I'm not mad,” Liam assured him. “I'll answer on one condition.”

“What is it?”

“Answer me honestly; have you been throwing up your food?”

The only thing Liam heard for at least a solid minute was Harry's sp oo n stirring around the soup he still had in his bowl but, finally, the dancer replied,

“Sometimes.”

“Please stop, Harry.”

“Okay. I will. Now answer my question.”

Liam's heart was palpitating as he went to answer, and he nearly felt sick preparing to say these things out loud, but Harry had been open with him, so he was right; it was Liam's turn.

“I have sex so that I can feel wanted in some way, and I drink the rest of the time so that I don't have to feel anything else at all.”

Liam's reply was met with silence, and then a sigh. A moment later, he felt Harry rest his head against his back and he turned around again to pull Harry into a cuddle.

“We can help each other,” Harry said.

“Okay,” Liam said, knowing that he would do anything he could to help Harry, but he didn't know if there was any help for himself when he didn't want to be any other way than the disaster he was.

Chapter Text

***Liam***

After a few minutes of sniffling and holding back harder cries, Harry ended up falling asleep, still huddled up next to Liam. Liam stayed like that with him for a few minutes, but he was afraid that his friend was going to end up with a crook in his neck when he woke if they stayed like that too long, so then, moving carefully, he situated the man into his arms-he was so, so light-and put him in one of the bottom bunks. Harry barely even stirred, and, knowing that he was usually a light sleeper, Liam thought sadly that he must be exhausted. How had he even survived the night? How was he surviving at all?

Liam wondered how often 'sometimes' was in regards to Harry throwing up his food, and also how he hid it. Niall's words about it not taking long to purge if he had practice played over in Liam's mind, and his fear grew. Not only would practice make it easier to do, but if he did it often enough, he also probably learned more and better ways to hide it. Liam knew he was oblivious to some things, but if his friend was getting sick in the bathroom of the small apartment they'd stayed in together for over a month, he thought he would know. Well, he would just have to keep an even closer watch on his friend now, was all. Harry seemed to be accepting Liam's help, so that was a good sign. Still, Liam couldn't help but wonder just how long Harry had been doing all of this.

As Liam was pacing in front of the bus's television, Niall and Louis hopped on the bus, worry on both of their faces.

“Did you find Harry?” Niall asked.

“Yeah,” Liam said, his voice off pitch.

“He's sick, isn't he?” Louis asked, like he already knew the answer.

“Yeah…,” Liam said, guessing that he wasn't really lying. What was wrong with Harry could definitely be considered an illness, he thought. He wasn't going to tell Louis the full truth yet, though, as he was hoping that he could help Harry and that Louis would never have to know at all. Harry would prefer it to be that way, Liam thought.

Liam wasn't sure how long the silence between the three stretched on with him being lost in his thoughts, but when he felt eyes boring into him, he blinked his own into focus and saw Niall staring at him questioningly. Liam gave a slight nod, his frown growing. He wasn't sure if Niall was trying to quietly ask what Liam thought he was; if they were right about Harry, but Niall frowned at Liam's gesture, and so he thought that he had been.

“Here are these,” Louis, oblivious to the exchange between the two, spoke as he rustled through a grocery bag sitting on the table and pulled out cold medicine. “He can take this when he wakes up.”

“I'll make sure he does,” Liam assured the singer. Louis's eyes flickered towards the bunks, a concerned look on his face, but he looked back to the other two dancers quickly.

“Let me know if any of you need anything,” he said.

“We will,” Liam said. Louis nodded.

“Thank you for another great performance tonight.”

“Yeah, I mean, you did amazing too. Thanks again for giving us this opportunity.”

After exchanging good nights, Louis got off of their bus, calling out a good night to someone off in the distance as he walked to his own bus. After listening to make sure it was nobody coming to join them, Niall asked,

“Is he okay?”

Even though it was quiet, Liam still peeked around the corner to make sure that he and Niall were alone before answering.

“No,” he said quietly.

“Is he...”

Liam was ninety nine percent sure he knew Niall's question that time, and he nodded.

“Shit,” Niall breathed, running a hand through his hair, though it barely moved from all the product the stylist had put into it pre-show.

“But he told me about it, so he wants help, which is the first step to recovery, right?” Liam asked hopefully.

“I guess,” Niall said, but he sounded unsure.

“He's going to be okay,” Liam stated. He knew that he was just trying to convince himself of it at that point, but it wasn't really working.

“We'll keep an eye on him,” Niall said.

“We're keeping this between us for now,” Liam told him. “Don't tell Harry I told you.”

“Okay,” Niall said, nodding once.

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

Promises were just words that could be broken very easily, but Liam trusted Niall, and right now, he selfishly needed him, so, grabbing the man's hand, he pulled him closer until he could wrap him into a tight hug. Niall hugged right back, and Liam almost let himself melt into the touch because it felt so good. Niall was quite a bit smaller than Liam, but Liam still felt like he was safer with him, in his touch, but that was stupid, and, with heat rising to his face, he pulled away pretty quickly.

“Top or bottom?” he asked, causing Niall's eyebrows to shoot up towards his hairline.

“What?”

Liam laughed.

“I meant do you want the top or bottom bunk.”

“Oh,” Niall said, and at least Liam wasn't the only one blushing now. “It doesn't matter.”

“Ooh, I like versatile men,” Liam said, winking over his shoulder as he turned and went back to the bunk area. He may not have lost his flirtatiousness yet, but he was suddenly dizzy with exhaustion and needed to lay down as soon as possible.

Liam was typically a bottom himself, but the only reason he took the bottom bunk that night was so that he could easily keep an eye on Harry, laying in the bunk directly across from him.

In his sleep, Harry looked so peaceful. It was strange because Liam doubted he ever got much peace while he was awake.

Though he fell asleep quickly, Liam doubted that he would get much peace himself that night.

***Harry***

Harry could feel himself tossing and turning, but he couldn't pull himself from his restless slumber. He was sweating too, he knew.

You stupid, stupid idiot, his half unconscious mind screamed at him. Why did you tell Liam?! You are fine! You shouldn't be so weak about this. It's not like you have an actual disorder again. It was a temporary thing until you met your goal, that was it! But now you have to be even more careful because any little abnormality will send off alarms in Liam's head, because you told him you throw up your food, you stupid, whiny, weak, oaf.

Harry groaned out loud, conscious enough now to feel sick but not yet able to do anything about it.

If Liam told Louis what Harry had told him, then Harry could be kicked off the tour. He was a liability. Even if Harry wasn't kicked off the tour, he knew that Louis definitely wouldn't be inviting him to spend the night in his room or holding his hand anymore, and Harry couldn't blame him. He could barely stand himself during his diets, and he knew for a fact that no one else wanted to deal with him either.

“Harry?”

His name was said softly, but the contrast between the real voice speaking to him against the voice in his head screaming at him made Harry gasp and bolt upright. Someone else-Louis, he saw once his eyes focused-gasped too, from his spot on the edge of Harry's bunk, and he quickly put his hand up against the top board of the beds so that Harry's head would hit his hand instead of the wood.

“Sorry to wake you,” Louis continued when he saw that Harry was awake enough to know what was going on but had yet to speak. “The bus is stopped for gas and probably won't stop again, so do you need anything?”

“Oh,” Harry said, rubbing his face to try to wake up the rest of the way. “No, I'm okay, thanks.”

“Okay. Sorry again for waking you.”

Louis started to stand, but Harry reached out, touching his hand briefly.

“It's fine,” he said. “I was trying to wake up anyway.”

Louis smiled a little bit, but it wasn't a real one.

“How do you feel?” he asked, and the panic hit Harry immediately. Had Liam already told him?

“I'm fine,” Harry said, and he could hear the questioning tone to his own voice.

“Liam said you weren't feeling well,” Louis explained, and Harry relaxed a bit, letting out a small, unnoticeable breath.

“Yeah, I wasn't. I don't know what was wrong with me last night, but I'm feeling better now.”

“There's non-drowsy cold medicine out there if you need it.”

“I might. Thank you.”

“I'll let you go back to bed.”

Louis hesitated, so Harry gave a small smile, laying back down but scooting his body closer to the singer.

“I'm going to stay awake,” he said. “Where are we anyway?”

“Just about an hour from the stadium,” Louis answered. Harry nodded, sitting up again and stretching his arms out in front of him before placing his pillow against the headboard and leaning against it.

“I have a question,” Louis said, causing Harry to panic again.

“What is it?” he asked anyway, his hands still locked together as he stared at Louis, hoping the fear wasn't showing in his eyes.

“Well, I don't know if you like either of these songs, but if you had to pick to listen to one of them, would it be 'Summer Song' or 'In the Dark?'”

Relief coursed through Harry yet again. He was getting dizzy from these emotional up and downs. Or maybe he was dizzy because his blood sugar was dropping, but it was probably from the internal roller coaster he was on.

Both of those songs were by Louis, and truthfully, Harry liked them both. He told Louis so, which earned him a real smile from the singer.

“Okay, but if you had to pick one, which would you choose?” Louis asked.

“'In the Dark,'” Harry answered, and even though he did also like 'Summer Song,' it wasn't really a competition to him. 'Summer Song' was a fun song about getting tipsy, skinny dipping with friends and kissing a cute guy under the midnight moonlight, but 'In the Dark,' while still with a pop beat, also had slower back music and deeper lyrics; its meaning finding hope in the darkest corners of your own mind.

“Okay,” Louis said. “I'm releasing a new single soon and my management is letting me pick between those two. I know they actually want 'Summer Song' since you know, it's summer, but I think 'In the Dark' would reach a wider, newer audience.”

Harry smiled, silently agreeing. Maybe Harry only preferred 'In the Dark' because he could relate to it more, but he thought others would be able to relate to it too and, yes, it was summer, but the back beat of the song would keep it from being too dark for the season, Harry thought.

“That's only my opinion though,” Harry pointed out, because, even if he thought it would be a good choice, he didn't want to be the reason Louis's next single flopped. Not that Louis had ever had a single that flopped, but Harry didn't want to be the cause of his first.“When do you have to decide?”

“They want my decision tomorrow.”

“Why don't you make a poll and ask your other fans?”

“How would I do that?” Louis asked, frowning in confusion.

“You can make a poll on Twitter,” Harry reminded him, but Louis's confusion only seemed to grow.

“You can?!”

“Yeah,” Harry said, a smile splitting across his face. “You didn't know that?”

“No, I did not.”

“Are you really the one controlling your account?” Harry asked, and he was teasing, but he narrowed his eyes.

“I am,” Louis said with a small laugh. “I'm just unobservant I suppose.”

“It's really easy to do,” Harry said.

“Can you show me?”

“Yeah. Do you have your lap top?”

“It's on the other bus, but you can use my phone.”

Louis typed in his pass code, opened his Twitter app and then handed the phone to Harry. Harry made the poll, showing Louis how to do it as he did so, and then handed the phone back to the man as he posted it.

“That's really it?” Louis asked.

“That's it.”

“Wow. You youngsters and your technology.”

Harry laughed, which made his stomach hurt and his head spin. His heart fluttered and he coughed.

“You need to rest,” Louis said.

“It doesn't get more restful than lying in a bunk making polls on Twitter.”

Louis gave Harry a look and acted as if he were going to say something, but stopped when they heard Niall's voice, closely followed by Liam's and Zayn's as the trio climbed back onto the bus. Less than a minute later, Zayn poked his head around the bunk area and, upon seeing that Harry was awake, walked in.

“Hey, don't get too close to each other now,” he said. “We don't want our singer getting a cold.”

“He's worth it,” Louis said, smiling and winking at Harry. Harry really tried to contain his smile, but he failed big time.

“I brought you breakfast in case you didn't want anything on the bus,” Zayn said, handing a paper plate with a bagel over to Harry. Harry thanked him and didn't mention that the bagel had too much bread and that he knew he was going to feel sick if he ate it. He also knew, though, that he was going to pass out at any moment if he didn't eat it and, due to his own big mouth last night, he couldn't come up with a good enough excuse for fainting again, so he took a bite of the bagel before even putting the low-fat cream cheese on the top. (Zayn had brought him both regular cream cheese and low fat, and Harry absolutely loved him.) (Not as much as he loved Louis but still.) (Wait, what?)

“Hungry much?” Zayn asked.

“You have no idea,” Harry said. The food was thick going down his throat, but his stomach rejoiced every time it successfully gained a bit of food. Harry knew its happiness wouldn't last long, but oh well. The way he saw it, he really had no choice but to do this now. The after effects of eating the bagel would be better than not.

As he ate, Louis moved a bit of hair away from Harry's forehead so that he could rest his hand there. Harry kept eating.

“You don't feel warm,” Louis noted.

“I don't think I have a fever,” Harry said after he swallowed the bite he had been working on.

“That's good at least,” Louis said, but he still didn't look completely happy.

“I'm good,” Harry assured him, making sure to smile. “Don't worry.”

Feeling eyes on him that weren't Louis's, Harry looked directly to Liam, whose face was twisted in concern as well. Still looking at him, Harry took another bite. It unnerved him, the way his friend was just watching him eat, but he didn't say anything.

Harry had to stop after half of the bagel was gone. He had been so hungry, but was suddenly so full that he wanted to be sick. Somehow, he managed to fight the nausea and, even more amazing still, he beat the urge to shove his fingers down his throat once he was in the bathroom alone with the bus's shower on. His doctors had told him he should be proud when he fought those urges, but he didn't know why. The only reason he even bothered was because he knew he had to keep something down to ensure that he would make it through the third show in a row that night. Well, and because it was too risky. The bus was small and, even with the shower on and Harry being as quiet as he possibly could, the noise could potentially travel to the others' ears. He could tell them it was only because he was sick but Liam, in the least, would know better.

Why did you tell him, Harry?

Once Harry was showered, dressed and had his normal amount of makeup on, he exited the bathroom to be met with a smiling Louis sitting on the couch.

“Do you want to watch a film with us?” he asked. Harry nodded, going over and sitting in the empty space left for him between Louis and Liam.

Only a few minutes into the movie, Harry realized that his and Louis's knees were touching, and Louis probably hadn't done it on purpose, or even noticed, but when Harry looked over, Louis turned his head as well to smile at Harry. Harry returned it a bit, and then Louis blinked, his smile falling off his face as he let out a loud yawn, stretching his arms above his head before he brought them back down; one around Harry's shoulders. A beat of nothingness passed, but then Liam burst into laughter, snorting a couple of times as well. From beside him, Niall chuckled, and the others were at least smiling too.

“Louis!” Liam breathed once he had somewhat gotten control of himself. “Did you just do the stretch and yawn?!”

“Yes,” Louis answered with a smile, unashamed. Liam snorted again and the rest giggled, including Louis. He had the cutest, most angelic giggle, and Harry locked eyes with him, the pure happiness in Louis's making him feel a smidgeon of pure glee for just an instant.

“I think it was very smooth,” Harry said, and situated himself so that his head was resting on Louis's shoulder. Louis wrapped his arm tighter around Harry's body, and the dancer's heart raced. He thought it was in a good way that time. Though he didn't know what part of himself that Louis could possibly be interested in, he was going to hold on to whatever this was for as long as he could.

 

While Louis was busy doing his meet-and-greet before the concert, Harry sat with Niall and Liam, feeling guilt over the fact that Liam was choosing to stay with him rather than hang around the meet-and-greet and find a short-term lover like he had the past couple of nights. The guilt didn't last, though, because now Harry knew that Liam wasn't doing it for fun. Harry wished more than ever that he wouldn't do it at all.

Maybe it wouldn't have been so uncomfortable if they weren't sitting in complete silence, but they were and Harry knew the only reason Liam was there was to keep an eye on him and, of course, Niall was there because Liam was.

The silence was broken when Beatrice approached.

“Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“There's a man here that says he's a friend of yours.”

Harry frowned, not knowing who that could possibly be because he didn't really have any other friends besides the dancers anymore.

Sensing his confusion, Beatrice added,

“He says his name is Dracen.”

Harry only knew one Dracen; his ex, but it had been nearly a year since he had seen him. Still, it wasn't like Dracen was a common name, so he doubted it could be anyone else.

“Would you like to see him?” Beatrice continued.

“Oh, um, sure,” Harry said, still lost in his thoughts of who and how and, most importantly, why.

The 'who' was answered as soon as Harry was led into the hallway right outside where the meet-and-greet was being held; it was his ex-boyfriend. The other two questions remained to be answered.

Harry had long ago lost all feelings he'd had for Dracen and, though he missed the happiness he'd had for a time with the man, he didn't miss him, and so he didn't know why he got a sharp stab of pain when he saw that it was his former lover inquiring to see him. It didn't help when Dracen smiled, showing that he hadn't felt even an ounce of pain himself.

“Hi!” he greeted the singer cheerfully as Beatrice walked back to Louis, who Harry could see off in the distance. Maybe if he just kept his eyes on him…

But that was weird, so he peeled his eyes from the singer and focused them on the guy before him instead.

“Hi,” Harry said, softer. There was a beat of awkward silence, but then Dracen's smile grew and he said,

“You look great.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, though thought it was funny that he would say that when he weighed less now than he had when the two broke up and the reason for their break up had been because Dracen couldn't deal with Harry's 'weird problems' anymore.

“You're doing good then?” Dracen asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said. There was no way in hell he would ever tell him otherwise.

“Good,” Dracen said. “I'm so glad. I heard that you were one of Louis T.'s dancers! That's awesome! I know how you always liked him.”

“Yeah, he's really nice,” Harry said, though 'nice' didn't even begin to describe the singer.

“I just had a quick meet-and-greet. He seems pretty cool.”

Harry nodded once, bouncing on the balls of his feet and hoping that Dracen felt as uncomfortable as him so that maybe he would leave. When he didn't move, Harry decided to be polite.

“Where are you sitting?” he asked.

“I'm up in the stands, but I think the seats will still be pretty good.”

“I hope so.”

“What are you doing after the show?”

“I don't know,” Harry answered, a bad worse feeling settling in him. “I have to be up early to catch a flight tomorrow.”

“Oh.”

Dracen paused, but then said,

“If you feel up for it, maybe we can hang out after for just a little bit.”

“Okay,” Harry said, because what else could he really say?

No, he supposed. He could have said no.

“Do you have the same phone number?” Dracen asked.

“Yeah.”

“Okay. I'll talk to you soon.”

Harry nodded and, after giving another blank smile, his ex went to find his friend (Max, Harry remembered) and find their seats. Harry stared after him for a moment before looking to where Louis had been standing, except he was gone, as well as all of the fans. The meet-and-greet was, apparently, over. Harry hurried back to his friends.

***Louis***

He tried really hard not to stare at Harry while he talked to his friend, he really did. Harry had told him that he was single, and if this guy had been his secret boyfriend, then he could have managed to get a VIP pass without having to pay for it. Still, Louis had that uneasy feeling that he knew to be jealousy. That was one of Louis's many flaws; his tendency to get jealous easily, but he could usually hide it well so he didn't really consider it a 'problem.' This time, though...Well, it might be a problem because he already had a strong dislike of this man he didn't know, and he hadn't particularly disliked him only moments ago during their meet-and-greet session. Louis gave himself credit for at least feeling bad about it.

The man talking to Harry was cute; pretty, even. His artfully disheveled hair was just a couple of shades lighter than Harry's and his wide brown eyes were extenuated by the beauty mark at the corner of one. His skin was tan and flawless and his lips were an ungodly pink color. (Though they clashed awfully with Harry's red lips, Louis thought smugly.)

Harry and his guy friend were still talking when the last of Louis's fans were away from the meet-and-greet and Louis didn't even wait for anyone on his team to address him before walking to where Harry had been sitting with Liam and Niall, happy to find that those two were still there.

“Hey,” he greeted, nodding once, and the gesture was returned. “Who's that bloke?” Louis asked, waving over to Harry's friend. He hoped his voice had sounded nonchalant.

“I'm pretty sure it's his ex,” Liam said, and the unpleasant feeling in Louis grew. Liam continued,

“I can't be positive, but I saw some of Harry's old profile pictures on Facebook and he was kissing some guy that looked like him, and I'm pretty sure the name was the same.”

“But they're not together anymore?” Louis asked, and if he was nonchalant before he guessed he was less so now because the corners of Liam's mouth twitched upwards.

“No,” he said. “I haven't even met that guy and I've known Harry since the beginning of the year.”

That made Louis feel a little bit better, but not much.

“It looks like they're done chatting,” Niall commented, perhaps to warn the two, because when Louis turned to look, he saw Harry walking back to the group.

“Sorry about that,” Harry said when he was within earshot.

“What are you sorry for?” Louis asked, trying to make his smile look genuine.

“I didn't know my, erm, friend was coming.”

“No apologies necessary,” Louis said. “I told you that you can bring people backstage to any show.”

Harry shrugged.

“It's just that I haven't talked to him in forever.”

“I'm glad you got to have a reunion then,” Louis said, and of course he didn't mean it, but he was trying to come off as not crazy. For some reason, Liam and Niall were still smiling, looking between the two strangely.

“How are you feeling?” Louis asked Harry, suddenly desperate to change the subject, but also because he genuinely wanted to know.

“I feel a lot better, thanks.”

“So you're good to perform?”

“Oh yeah, definitely.”

“Okay then, as long as you're sure.”

Harry nodded. He did look like he felt better and so, even though he was still a little worried, Louis didn't press it.

 

Unlike the previous night, Harry stayed backstage for a bit after the show before approaching Louis, giving him a smile and leaning down to say in his ear,

“Hey, if it's okay, I'll just take a cab to the hotel because Dracen, my friend from earlier, wants me to meet him at this bar nearby. I promise to be ready for the flight tomorrow.”

“Oh, you're going out?” Louis asked, and then mentally slapped himself. Harry had just literally told him that he was going out. Well, there went him asking the dancer to stay another night in his hotel room, but it was fine if he wanted to hang out with his ex instead, honestly.

“Yeah,” Harry said, backing up and giving Louis a once-over before leaning to his ear again. “Do you want to come?”

“Oh, um, no. I mean, I don't want to be an annoyance to you two.”

Louis wanted to be more than annoyance between the two, but, again, he was trying to keep up his 'sane' appearance.

“You won't be,” Harry assured him. “You should come if you want to.”

“Even if I have to bring security?”

“Of course. Only if you want to though. We'll invite the other three too, and whoever else you want.”

“Okay,” Louis said, afraid that if he rejected Harry's invitation one more time then it would be revoked completely.

Harry waved over Liam, and so, naturally, Niall followed as well as Zayn.

“Do you all want to go to a bar tonight?” Harry asked.

“I'm in,” Liam said.

“Of course you are,” Zayn commented.

“I'm in too,” Niall said.

“Alright, fine,” Zayn agreed. Smiling, Harry looked back to Louis.

“So are you coming, super star?”

“Super star?” Louis asked, one eyebrow quirked up.

“That's my 'tiny dancer,'” Harry answered. Louis ignored the fact that Niall, Liam and Zayn looked both confused and utterly disgusted (Zayn), and he smiled.

“Okay, I'll come,” the singer finally agreed, and Harry's smile grew. His eyes were even sparkling a little, but Louis couldn't help but to wonder if that was all thanks to his ex.

Since they now had plans, Louis had Beatrice end the backstage shenanigans early and take them to the hotel as soon as possible. Once there, everyone showered and got changed and then met out behind the hotel, where Louis's driver was waiting to take the boys and Alberto to the bar.

When they arrived at their destination and went inside, they immediately found Dracen sitting at the bar talking to some already intoxicated man. Louis saw Liam roll his eyes, and then the dancer sauntered away to stand next to Harry's ex-boyfriend and tap him on the shoulder. Some words were exchanged, Liam nodded to the group still standing by the door and then Dracen smiled and waved them all over.

“Hey, Haz,” he greeted, pulling his former lover into a side hug. Harry looked a little awkward about it, so Louis thought with hope that maybe he wasn't interested in a reconciliation with the other, but then again, Harry was just kind of an awkward person by nature. It wasn't a bad thing and, as far as Louis saw it, was actually part of his charm.

When they broke apart, Harry turned back to the group, smiling slightly, as if embarrassed.

“Um, this is Dracen,” he said. “Dracen, this is Liam, Niall, Zayn and, of course, Louis. Oh, and Alberto, Louis's body guard. Sorry, Alberto.”

“Harry and I used to date,” Dracen said, even though not a single soul had asked. Louis bit the insides of his cheeks, but it was more than jealousy this time. He also wondered why the pair had broken up and thought in his head that the ass hole better not have hurt Harry.

“Max is in the other room,” Dracen said to Harry. “You remember Max, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Come on.”

Dracen hopped down from his chair and the others followed him to the next room, where karaoke was being held.

“My mate is the one singing, if that's what you can call it,” Dracen told the group after giving a loud laugh. “I apologize for the damage your ear drums may endure.”

Before anyone could say anything, Dracen continued,

“Hey, Haz, you should do a song!”

“I don't think so,” Harry said, his eyes widening as he looked at Dracen like he had lost his mind completely.

“Why not?” the man asked. “You have an amazing voice.”

“I didn't know that you sang,” Louis commented, smiling at his dancer. Was there anyone more talented in this world? Probably not.

“I don't sing,” Harry insisted.

“Don't lie,” Dracen said. “You're really good.”

“Go do a song, Harry!” Liam jumped on the 'torture Harry' band wagon.

“I'm not that good,” Harry said.

“You don't think you're good at dancing either, but you're clearly wrong about that,” Liam pointed out. “I'm going to go put in a song for you.”

“Liam! No! Liam!” Harry called, but his friend ignored him, swinging his hips seductively as he went to the dj booth. Louis wondered if Liam even concentrated on being seductive at this point or if it just came to him when he was in this element.

“You don't have to actually go up there if you don't want to,” Louis told Harry in an attempt to make him feel better.

“You should though,” Dracen butted in. Harry didn't say a word, and so his ex took that as an opportunity to lead the others to a table. Dracen, Louis and Harry took the bench side while Niall and Zayn sat in the chairs across from them, leaving an empty one in the middle for Liam.

“Okay, lads, first shots are on me,” Louis spoke. “What do you all like?”

Everyone gave their orders except Liam, who was still up looking through the song book; his booty out for all the world to see, but Niall assured Louis that Liam would drink anything. Louis took a couple of moments to pick his dancer a drink in his mind, and then he turned to Harry.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“I'm not thirsty, thanks,” Harry said.

“You don't drink alcohol because you're thirsty,” Louis commented with a wink. “You don't even want something to help you get through your song?”

Harry hesitated.

“Okay, maybe one,” he agreed.

“What do you like?”

“Tequila shot, right, Harry?” Dracen asked with a smug smile on his face. Louis's dislike was quickly turning to hatred, but Harry nodded.

“You prefer pure tequila shots?!” Louis asked, alarming the dancer.

“Yeah...”

“You are something, Styles.”

Harry looked unsure, so Louis was quick to add,

“That's not a bad thing, I promise.”

Alberto went with Louis and when Louis offered to buy him a shot as well, just stared at the singer like he was a dumb child. Well, to the older man, Louis supposed that was exactly what he was, but he knew that Alberto loved him anyway, and he helped carry the shots back to the group once the order was ready.

Liam had returned to the table by that point and screamed with unfiltered excitement when he found out that one of the shots were for him. The whole table jumped and then stared as Liam lifted his glass, put it to his lips and tilted his head back, the shot disappearing in a matter of a second.

“What?” Liam asked when he saw that everyone was staring. “I didn't drink anything yesterday.”

“How are you surviving?” Zayn asked sarcastically.

“Miserably,” Liam answered anyway.

“Hey, Liam, have you heard of this great program called Alcoholics Anonymous?” Zayn asked, and the group started to laugh until Liam said, his voice nearly a shout,

“I'm not an alcoholic!”

Louis sobered quickly at the anger in Liam's voice. Zayn gave the others a nervous glance and then gave their friend a small smile as he reached out to massage his shoulder gently.

“It was a joke. Calm down, mate.”

A beat of awkward silence fell between them all, but Louis came to his senses and broke it quickly.

“Aaaanyway...Cheers!”

He held up his glass and those who still had their drinks followed suit, taking their shots after Louis made Alberto count to three (which he did, very unamused-like.)

“So, Liam, what song did you sign me up for?” Harry asked, and the tension on Liam's face immediately fell away so an ornery one could take its place.

“You will see,” he said. Harry glared, but before he could continue trying to convince his friend to tell him, Dracen's friend that had butchered his karaoke song came over to join the group.

“Hello!” he said cheerily. “Harry! Nice to see you again!”

“You too,” Harry said, and in the commotion of everything, only Louis and Max heard the low whistle Dracen let out before nodding to Liam. Max gave Liam the once-over before smirking and bringing a chair into the small space between Liam and Niall.

It was official. Louis hated these men.

“Hey, babe, what's your name?” Max asked Liam, and in that moment, Louis took selfish pleasure in the fact that he could see his hatred for the pair reflected on Niall's face.

Harry's phone, which he had set on the table, started buzzing, causing the dancer to jump a little.

“It's my sister,” he said. “I'll be right back.”

“Okay, but hurry up!” Liam said. “You don't want to miss your song!”

“I don't?” Harry asked, but then assured Liam that he would be back and if not, to just have someone run out and get him.

“He's a really good singer,” Max commented.

“I haven't heard him sing before,” Liam said.

“You'll be amazed. Anyway...”

Max lifted Liam's empty shot glass.

“You look empty. Can I buy you another one?”

Liam told him that he could, and so while Max went to order him a drink-Liam did not follow, Louis noted with amusement-Dracen turned to Louis.

“I'm glad you have Harry on your tour,” he said. “He's always loved you.”

Louis blushed, which he didn't usually do for fan compliments. He appreciated them, of course, but they were expected when someone approached him for a photo or something else of the kind.

“I'm so glad to have him,” Louis replied. “He's wonderful.”

“Yeah. I'm happy he's finally doing better.”

The smile that had, at some unknown point, formed on Louis's face slipped away to turn to a confused frown.

“What do you mean?”

“From his…disorder thing.”

Louis simply stared, even more confused and worried now too. He glanced to the others briefly to see if they might have any idea what this man was talking about. Zayn looked just as confused as Louis did, but Liam and Niall were looking at Dracen with something that looked like warning in their eyes.

“His eating disorder thing,” Dracen explained with a shrug, like something of that nature would be no big deal.

“Eating disorder?” Louis repeated, basically trying to wrap it around his own mind, but Dracen decided to elaborate.

“Yeah. He used to starve himself, I guess. I don't know, he was fine when I met him because he'd already been in a mental institution and stuff, but he always had confidence issues and then went on a strange diet after we'd dated for almost two years. I didn't see the issue with it, really, because it wasn't like he was super skinny or anything, but his family wanted me to keep an eye on him, and it just got so tiring monitoring everything he ate and making sure he didn't go to the bathroom and throw it up afterward, or whatever they do.”

“You poor thing,” Niall commented, his voice drenched with sarcasm. Dracen didn't get it.

“I know, right?” he said. “It's pretty gross, really. I don't know why anyone does that. It's so weird.”

Dracen shrugged while the others stared, dumbfounded.

“You realize that it's an actual mental disorder, right?” Zayn asked, speaking to the other as if he were dumb. He may be right about that, actually, Louis thought, and meant no offense to people who weren't the brightest but were actually good people. Zayn continued, “If what you're saying is true, then his brain doesn't allow himself to view his body or food in the way it does for people without the disorder.”

“It's still strange,” Dracen said with another shrug. “Anyway, it doesn't matter because he seems to be better now anyway.”

No one said a word; just took turns staring across the table at each other. The silence went on, and the tension was only made worse when Max returned.

“Sorry it took so long, doll,” he said, taking his seat by Liam again and setting a couple of shot glasses in front of him. “The bar was really busy.”

“Was it, or were you distracted by some other drunk thing?” Liam asked, sounding falsely innocent, and then he took his shots while Max gaped at him. He never did answer the question, even after Liam had finished, Louis noted. How in the world did precious Harry ever get involved with these two?

And what was taking Harry so long?

Louis was just about to go check on him when the dancer re-entered and took his spot beside the singer again. The site of Harry sent a familiar warmth swelling up in Louis's chest, but it made him hurt now too. He hoped that what Dracen had told them about him wasn't true, but he doubted he would just make something like that up, and he was right; even Louis could see that Harry had confidence issues. He'd thought that was all it was, and the possibility that it was something deeper scared him.

Needing suddenly to hold him close, Louis wrapped his arm around Harry's shoulders and pulled him over gently.

“Hey, gorgeous,” he greeted him with a soft, warm smile. Harry smiled a little as well, but asked,

“How much did you have to drink while I was gone?”

“None,” Louis answered. “Why?”

Harry simply shook his head and diverted his eyes away. A moment later, Louis realized why he did when he noticed Dracen staring.

“Are you two a thing?” he asked. Harry and Louis looked at each other, and Louis had no idea what his face was showing, but Harry's looked uncertain and maybe even a little scared.

“N-no,” he stuttered, and then Liam spoke up.

“It's obvious they like each other,” he said. “They're just playing hard to get.”

“Do you even know what hard to get is?” Max teased, smirking at the man who's thigh he was currently squeezing. Niall's head whipped toward him so fast that Louis thought his neck had to have cracked, but he didn't seem to care if it did. He was staring at Max as though he was plotting his untimely demise in his head.

“Yes, actually, I do,” Liam said, replying calmly. “For instance, I got you to buy me two drinks, but you're still not getting in my pants tonight. Or any other night for that matter. Now if you'll excuse me...”

Liam lifted Max's hand from his leg and then let go, causing it to drop down and hit the chair.

“...I'm going to go change Harry's song.”

There was yet another awkward silence as the dancer walked away-though Louis could swear he could hear Alberto chuckling from behind him-and everyone besides Max, who was understandably trying to hide himself in plain sight, focused on watching Liam at the dj booth, his stance much less flirty than before. The dj nodded, and as soon as Liam turned back, smiled and began walking towards the group again, Harry's name was called.

“Oh no,” he said out loud, causing Louis to chuckle. “Someone has to go sing with me!”

Everyone looked to Louis, but Liam missed the memo and volunteered himself, which was more than fine with Louis. He would rather just watch.

The song that Liam had chosen-or rather, the song he had changed the original to-ended up being one of Louis's, titled 'Goodbye for the Last Time.' It was a song about letting an ex back into your life and then realizing that their intentions weren't pure and so ending it for good.

When Louis saw the title up on the karaoke screen, he choked on the piece of ice he had been chewing on. Zayn slammed him on the back, which didn't really help, but luckily, he sorted himself out quickly. Harry was looking back with a worried smile on his face, but Louis smiled.

“Go Harry! Go Liam!” he cheered, and they both smiled before turning back to the screen.

There was one thing that Louis had to agree with Dracen on and that was that Harry's voice was absolutely amazing. Ironically, even though Harry's ex had been the one to encourage him to sing in the first place, he and Max were now the only ones that didn't look happy over the performance. Even tables they didn't know where cheering and hollering, some singing along, but not so loud as to be heard over Harry and Liam. Liam, however, was barely singing. Louis was pretty sure he was lip synching and had only gone up with Harry for moral support.

Halfway through the song, Dracen and Max got up and left without a word.

Once the song ended, every single person in the place cheered and some even whistled. Louis could see the redness of Harry's cheeks way from his spot at the table.

“Your voice is truly amazing, Harry,” Louis told the man when he sat back down beside him, and Louis leaned forward to kiss his cheek. Harry's face grew redder.

“Thank you,” he said, not looking directly in the singer's eyes.

“You sounded like a professional,” Louis continued. Harry's face grew redder still.

“Thank you,” he said again and then, after looking around, “Where did Dracen and Max go?”

“I don't know,” Louis said, taking it upon himself to fluff up the back of Harry's hair and twist his finger lightly around a loose curl, “but you can do better than that.”

“Why do you say that?” Harry asked, looking genuinely curious. “Dracen is a good guy.”

Niall took it upon himself to answer for Louis.

“Dracen is a pompous dick,” he said.

“He's just confident,” Harry said. “That's not a bad thing.”

“Do you want him back?” Louis asked, doing his best to not sound like he was judging Harry or hoping against all hope that his answer would be no.

To his relief, Harry shook his head.

“You sure?” Louis asked.

“Yeah.”

“Good.”

“Hey, Louis, you should go up there and sing 'Jealous' by Nick Jonas,” Liam commented, and Louis laughed. He may have a jealousy issue, but he was still self-aware enough to laugh at himself when he was being ridiculous.

Looking back to Harry, Louis let his curl pop back into place and then ran his hand through the back of his hair once more before resting his arm around his shoulders.

“You really are so gorgeous,” he commented. Harry looked down, and Louis could see a bit of those dimples even though Harry said,

“No, stop.”

“Why don't you like compliments?” Louis asked, really wanting to know. Harry didn't answer, so Louis didn't press it.

“Well, I'm just telling an honest observation anyway,” Louis said. “You're so pretty, but in a handsome way.”

“Louis, stop!” Harry groaned, throwing his head back, but he was still smiling so Louis went on.

“You have the most beautiful smile.”

“Louis!” Harry said with a laugh.

“Your laugh makes birds sing.”

“Stop! Seriously, you're being really ridiculous now.”

“Your skin glistens like diamonds.”

“Shut up!”

“Make me,” Louis said, sticking out his tongue. Then, Harry did something that Louis had been hoping for but never expected. He balled his hands into fists around the singer's shirt and moved in to him closer and closer until they were inches apart. The dancer's eyes had started to close, but when he stopped, he opened them up again, looking up at Louis, though the older man's shirt was still twisted in his hands.

Louis's heart was racing. He prayed Harry didn't feel it, nor was able to tell the way his breathing had suddenly become quite labored.

“Did you change your mind?” Louis asked softly, partly teasing but mostly serious and seriously hoping that Harry said no.

“I'll get you sick,” Harry pointed out.

“I don't care.”

“But you have the tour.”

“I've performed with worse than a cold before.”

Harry thought about it and then got a little closer, but still not close enough to kiss. His eyes couldn't decide whether they wanted to close or stay open. His beautiful, beautiful eyes…

Louis realized he hadn't yet complimented them.

“Your eyes are the purest green which one could get high off of,” he said.

“Oh my god!” Harry exclaimed, and then dove in the rest of the way for the kiss. His eyes shut and at the first sign of contact, Louis's did too. His heart somehow raced even faster, his palms grew sweaty and his head spun, but Louis felt amazing. He hadn't felt this amazing in…

Well, honestly, he wasn't sure he'd ever felt this amazing before and he suddenly regretted using the cliché “never felt this way before” line in a previous song about a different man whom he had most certainly not felt this way for.

Everything about this felt right. Harry's full lips against Louis's thinner ones felt right. Harry's long, lean body against Louis's more compact, curvier one felt right. Louis felt safe, and he felt warm and he felt all those ways he wasn't sure people actually felt when they found where they belonged, but he did feel it now. Was it completely insane that he thought he might have found where he belonged after all?

When they broke apart, both men were breathing a little heavier and it took a minute for Harry to relax his grip on Louis's shirt, his hand sliding down the singer's body and resting on the bench next to them.

“Well,” Louis began, “I don't know about the pompous dick, but confident is a good look on you.”

Though Harry's blush had yet to fade all the way, the part that had faded came back with a vengeance and he made a small sound as he moved down to hide his face in Louis's chest. Louis laughed warmly and pulled him closer, keeping his arms wrapped around the other's middle. He wanted to keep him there forever, he decided.

Alberto shifted from behind Louis, causing the singer to somewhat come back to reality and realize that the guard was trying to hide Louis from a couple of people attempting to take creeper shots of him and Harry. Louis's hold on the dancer grew tighter still, and he knew his main goal now was to protect him from both the outside world and from himself.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

Niall was so proud of Liam that he thought he might explode. Maybe he had only rejected Max because of the business between Dracen and Harry, but still; he'd said no, and more than that, he'd put Max in his place. Niall loved Liam. He deserved so much more than to be taken in for a night by a sleaze ball that only wanted to get him drunk and have his way with him. He deserved to be looked at with more than pillow cases and twisted sheets in the other guy's eyes; deserved more than hands on his leg, squeezing his thigh, potentially hard enough to bruise. Liam should be viewed with love and care and should receive only the gentlest of touches because, despite the tough exterior he put out, Niall knew he was a soft, warm person in need of the exact same thing.

Niall was just thinking these things when his soft, warm, precious Liam elbowed him so hard in the rib that Niall gasped and jumped.

“Ow! What-” he began, but when he looked over at the other man, Liam had a finger held up to his lips and nodded across the table. Niall moved his gaze towards the gesture and then his eyes widened as he was met with the site of Harry nearly on top of Louis, the two kissing like there was no one else around.

His mouth hanging open, Niall looked to Liam, then back, just to make sure that his eyes weren't playing tricks on him. They weren't, and when he looked at Liam again, the man was beaming. Niall smiled too, and then shared another grin with Zayn, although he was too hesitant to be completely joyous. It was clear that Louis and Harry liked each other, and Niall had been rooting for them-still was-but with all of the new information that they had received that night, he was leery. He'd known of Harry's disorder, but not to the extent that he knew of it now; he hadn't known that he'd actually been in an institution for it, assuming Dracen was telling the truth, which Niall believed he was. Why would he need to lie?

That didn't mean, of course, that Dracen wasn't a pompous dick; he was, and Niall didn't think that Louis was anything like the guy, but he did also know that being in a relationship with someone who had an eating disorder couldn’t have been easy. Of course, that didn't give Dracen the right to leave Harry when he needed him most, or come back later and use the struggle to make himself seem like a (failed) tragic hero, but still. It was hard enough for him to think of Harry doing those things to himself, so he couldn't imagine if Harry had been his boyfriend.

Now, he could only hope that Louis had really taken in everything that was being told to him and that he knew what he was getting himself into. Niall didn't want Harry's emotions toyed with.

After a bit, Louis (and Alberto, of course) went off to the bathroom and Niall made a fib about having to go too so that he could follow.

“Hey,” Niall spoke as soon as the bathroom door had swung shut behind them. Louis turned, giving a small smile, and Niall began. “Sorry, I don't want to be weird. I just wanted to talk to you real quick.”

“Okay. About what?” Louis asked, turning to face Niall in front of his selected urinal.

“Harry,” Niall said, “and his potential eating disorder.”

Louis frowned.

“That was in the past, right?” he asked. “I mean, I know those things stay with you forever, but he's better for the most part, right?”

Niall hesitated before answering.

“I don't know,” he said, and it wasn't a complete lie because he honestly didn't know where exactly Harry stood with his disorder at this time. He'd told Liam about sometimes throwing up his food, and that was a problem, but was it like it had been in the past, when he'd needed a mental institution? Niall did not yet know. He felt bad still, knowing that he was keeping at least some of the truth from Louis, but he honestly had no idea what would be best for Harry at the time, and had to make a snap decision to give Liam a chance to work on their friend before mentioning it to his possible future boyfriend. Everyone had things they would rather keep a secret and Niall technically wasn't even supposed to know any of this about Harry yet.

“He is really thin,” Louis spoke, seeming deep in thought, “but he's a dancer, so that's not totally weird.”

“But don’t you think he's lost some weight since rehearsals started?” Niall asked. He didn't want to tell Louis what little he knew about Harry and his problem, but he also didn't want to dismiss the fact that there was a problem.

“Maybe a little,” Louis admitted after thinking about it, and his frown grew. “He's been doing a lot of cardio though.”

“Okay...”

“I'm worried about him too,” Louis said to Niall's unspoken statement. “I just don't want to make a big deal out of this until we know that it is still a big deal.”

Niall nodded. That made sense, but he still hated it. He hated this situation, and he didn't blame Harry, but why did it have to happen to him? Why did it have to happen to anyone for that matter?

“Would you like to talk more?” Louis asked, genuinely wanting to continue if Niall did so, but the dancer shook his head.

“I guess that's it for now.”

“Okay. Here.”

Louis dug into his back pocket for his wallet, took out some money and handed it to Niall.

“Will you get some food for all of us, please? Whatever you want. I don't care.”

Niall did, putting in his order at the bar real quick before going to sit back down at the table.

“Did you two have fun in there?” Zayn teased, and Niall glared.

“Louis's only got eyes for Harry,” he said, and noticed their friend look down quickly as a blush rose to his cheeks.

When their food arrived at the table, Niall watched Harry's facial expression, and his heart fell when he saw that it was one of horror. The look didn't last long before the dancer gulped and forced a smile, but Niall had seen it.

Whether anyone else noticed or not, Niall wasn't sure because they all dug in right away. Harry seemed to try to make himself disappear into the seat.

“Go ahead, Harry,” Zayn said, nodding towards the baskets of bar food. Niall felt terrible, like they were testing Harry, which, he guessed, they were. He hated that too, but he despised the thought of Harry starving more.

After hesitating for a moment, knowing all eyes were on him, Harry took a couple of nachos from the basket nearest him and put them on a napkin, taking a smile bite from the first one under the careful watch of the others. Everyone stopped studying him as soon as he took that bite, but Niall stole a couple more glances, not feeling comforted in the slightest.

 

Once the baskets of food were emptied and everyone's tabs cleared up, the group headed back to the hotel. The car ride was silent, everyone tired, until Liam sighed dramatically.

“Is there a problem?” Zayn asked, his eyebrows raised.

“Should I have had sex with Max?” Liam asked, and something unpleasant stirred within Niall.

“Are you kidding? No way,” Zayn said. “He was a jerk and not cute at all.”

“You don't think anyone is cute,” Liam pointed out.

“I don't feel attraction towards people, but I can still appreciate beauty,” Zayn told him.

“It's not like it really matters what he looks like,” Louis piped in, “but his personality was a zero, so, no, you definitely shouldn't have had sex with him.”

Liam sighed again and looked to Harry.

“Do you have any better friends from your past that you can resurrect?”

Niall had to bite the insides of his cheeks.

“I don't think so,” Harry said, and then, “but you have a guy sitting right next to you that likes you pretty well, I believe.”

The only person sitting next to Liam was Niall, and his face grew hot. Liam, however, didn't seem to take Harry seriously, and he snorted.

“I can't see our little hopeless romantic here falling for someone like me. He needs someone who is actually emotionally available.”

“Why don't you let Niall decide what he wants and needs?” Louis asked. Niall, who had taken to staring past Harry and out the window at nothing, was forced to acknowledge the conversation when all eyes fell on him and refused to look away. He hated all of them. Well, all of them except for Liam because, even though he wanted to hate him as well, that was impossible.

Might as well go for it, Niall told himself. What have you got to lose? It's not like Liam is actually anywhere near being yours anyway, no matter what you tell yourself in your head.

“Okay, Liam, here's the thing,” Niall said, keeping the tone of his voice cool even though inside he was anything but. “You're gorgeous, sweet and talented and you have so much love in you to give other people, so whenever you decide to actually let someone give some of that love back to you, let me know.”

Niall didn't know what everyone had expected him to say, but a shocked silence fell upon the group at his words and lasted for the rest of the car ride.

 

Since they had all left the nightly backstage party early, there was still an unopened wine bottle left, and Louis had kindly given it to Liam to finish off. As soon as they were in the hotel room, Liam made a beeline for his night stand, where the bottle was sitting, and popped it open, taking a huge swig as the cork rolled underneath the opposite bed. Wordlessly, Niall went to the bathroom to change and brush his teeth. It didn't take long, but by the time he was back, Liam already had a good portion of the wine gone. Niall didn't know why he was surprised.

Still keeping silent-Niall had said far too much earlier-the smaller dancer climbed onto his bed and placed the pillow against the head board, deciding to just sit and relax for a few minutes before attempting to fall asleep.

From the bed next to his, Niall heard Liam shuffling around and assumed he was going to the bathroom to get ready for sleeping as well, but in the next moment, his bed dipped down and when he looked up, Liam gave him a small smirk and climbed over to straddle his legs. Niall raised an eyebrow. He would be lying if he said that Liam's weight on top of him didn't feel good, but he was starting to think that Liam had misinterpreted his earlier speech.

That theory was proven when Liam leaned forward, going in for a kiss, and though Niall didn't want to stop him, he wanted more to not be another one night fling for Liam, and so he placed his hand on the other guy's chest and gently pushed him back, just a bit. Liam was still sitting on his legs.

“What are you doing?” Niall asked in response to Liam's questioning gaze.

“I thought you wanted to have sex. Er...'make love,' I mean,” Liam said.

“No,” Niall told him. “That isn't what I meant back there.”

“What could you have possibly meant then?” Liam asked, clearly a bit annoyed. Niall wanted to feel bad, but couldn't.

“I meant that when you're ready to be respected for more than just your body, meaning when you're ready to have a conversation with someone about more than what sex position you both like or, I don't know, maybe even go on a godforsaken date, then to let me know.”

Liam's eyes widened and he backed off Niall quicker than Niall had ever seen him do anything.

“I don't date,” he said.

“I know,” Niall sighed.

“Sorry,” Liam said, and he did sound a bit like he meant it. He added, “But you're not missing anything anyway.”

Niall was more than ready to argue that statement, but before he could get a word out, Liam was off his bed, picking his wine bottle up from off the floor and taking another drink. He'd only managed to take one step away before Niall grabbed onto his arm, stopping him.

“Wait,” the blonde said, and then, gently, took the bottle away from the other man. “You don't need this.”

Liam frowned, staring at Niall's hand in disbelief as he set the bottle on the night stand and then took Liam's hand, pulling him onto the bed.

“I might not need it, but I want it,” Liam insisted.

“I know,” Niall said, pushing Liam onto his side and then laying down behind him, one arm wrapping tight around his middle.

“What are we doing?”

“Cuddling,” Niall replied, his eyes growing heavy immediately. Liam felt so right in Niall's arms, just like he fit perfectly, and Niall thought the other man had to notice it too.

“What are you doing?” Liam asked after nearly a minute had passed.

“Cuddling,” Niall reminded him.

“No, I mean...I'm never going to change.”

“Hm,” Niall hummed, pretending the statement didn't send a jolt of hurt through him. “You're not uncomfortable, are you?”

“As long as you know what I said is true, it's fine,” Liam said.

“I know,” Niall assured him, though he still wasn't completely convinced. Maybe he was just in denial, but either way, he wasn't giving up yet.

“Did someone hurt you, Liam?” he asked after a few more moments had gone by. Liam hesitated before answering.

“Everyone has been hurt by someone.”

“Yeah, maybe, but not so badly that they shut down and pretend that they don't feel love.”

There was another pause from the other man.

“You're dramatic,” he said finally. “Good night, Nialler.”

“Good night,” Niall said, willing to let Liam drop the subject for now, but insisting that he hold the man tighter.

He didn't even think Liam was conscious when he put his hands on top of Niall's folded ones a couple minutes later.

 

***Louis***

Harry and Louis had both done one last shot before leaving the bar that night, and even though it was only one and they had eaten, it had sent both of them back to the realm of 'tipsy.' He thought they were faking sobriety well and was giddy that it was like their own little secret that they weren't sober, and they shared many subtle glances and smiles when the others weren't paying attention.

“You're coming back to my room, right?” Louis asked Harry once they reached the hotel and climbed out of the car.

“Harry's things have already been taken to your room,” Alberto told the two. They both giggled.

The dancer changed in Louis's bathroom and though Louis felt like he was invading his privacy, he listened outside the bathroom door for just a few moments, making sure that he didn't make himself sick or anything of the sort. All was quiet, so Louis smiled and walked to the bed area to get changed, feeling better about the whole situation.

He had kissed Harry!

When the younger man emerged just a couple minutes later, he dropped his clothes on top of the bag sitting by the bed before plopping down onto the mattress and letting out a big sigh. Louis climbed over top of him to lay on his other side and fought with the comforter until they each had the sheet across their bodies. Harry's eyes had been closed but he opened them when Louis stopped struggling and gave him a small smile.

“Sorry that Dracen was a jerk,” he said.

“It's not your fault,” Louis told him. “I'm totally judging your taste in men now, though.”

“But I like you,” Harry said, and Louis's heart skipped a beat. He smiled.

“I guess you're redeemed then.”

Louis leaned forward, aiming to kiss Harry's forehead but, apparently feeling bold, Harry moved his head so that Louis got his lips instead. That was perfectly fine with Louis, of course.

“I like you too, by the way,” he said when they had finished their kiss. Harry simply hummed. “I do,” Louis insisted.

“Good night, Louis,” Harry said.

“Good night, tiny dancer.”

Harry let out a little laugh and then took Louis's hand in his, squeezing it a couple of times, gently, before loosening his grip and relaxing his muscles. He seemed to fall asleep almost immediately and Louis had to really work to resist kissing him one more time, too afraid to wake him up.

Laying there, he thanked all the higher powers that may be that Harry got better. He couldn't imagine never meeting him, and he didn't like to think about Harry suffering like that.

Just as Louis was starting to drift off, a few unsettling memories placed themselves at the forefront of his mind and his eyes shot open, the singer taking in the sleeping dancer's form, his worry growing. He was forced to revisit the time during rehearsal when Harry had almost fainted (and the more recent time too), and then said he was getting in shape for tour. He thought of Harry shying away from cameras and compliments, and how Liam had to nearly force the pizza down his throat just a couple nights ago. Suddenly, Louis wasn't so sure that Harry had gotten better at all.

Swallowing hard, Louis closed his eyes again. He was much too tired and intoxicated to figure out how to help Harry right now, but he would, first thing in the morning, knowing he wouldn't get any true peace until he knew that Harry was at peace with himself.

 

When Louis's alarm went off, both men groaned together again.

“Good morning, beautiful,” Louis greeted with barely any voice, and he turned his head to smile at the other, but saw that he had fallen asleep again already. Louis quickly turned off his alarm and placed a very gentle kiss on Harry's forehead, deciding that he could let him sleep for a few more minutes.

Louis took a quick shower and saw that Harry was still asleep when he emerged from the bathroom, despite the fact that Louis had dropped his shampoo bottle twice, and cursed both times. Still, since Louis tended to move slowly in the mornings, he figured that Harry could snooze for a little longer while Louis hurried downstairs to get breakfast for the two of them.

It took much longer than it should have for Louis to get food,, but as he stared at the options he had, he was at a loss. He had no idea what Harry ate, or if he ate at all. Well, he did eat, he knew. He'd gone to Louis's house for breakfast and/or dinner more than once while rehearsals were still going on, and he had eaten pizza the other night, even if he hadn't wanted to. Dracen had mentioned monitoring Harry to make sure he didn't throw up his food, but Louis was almost certain he hadn't while at his house. The other night was a mystery, because he had looked quite ill after ingesting the food, but he had no proof.

Louis didn't want to not put enough food on Harry's plate and have him go hungry or think that was all he was 'allowed' to eat, but he didn't want to put too much and overwhelm him.

Figuring that Harry could just not eat what he didn't feel comfortable eating if there was too much, Louis gathered a combination of fruits, a couple of waffles and a muffin for both of them and then ventured back to the room.

He knew his team would have his head for it later, but Louis had gone down without Alberto or any other form of security, and so he was stopped by fans more often than usual. He didn't mind, though was internally panicking at the time ticking away and also about the fact that he was about to drop a plate, but, luckily, Zayn noticed the struggle and helped Louis get away and carry the food back to his room.

“Are you going to make sure he eats?” Zayn asked, his eyebrows pulled together in concern. Louis nodded, not feeling right conspiring against Harry when he was just on the other side of the door. After opening the door, Louis assured Zayn that he could handle it and thanked him, taking both of their plates back over to the bed.

The fan encounters had put him a bit behind schedule, but Louis was happy to find that Harry was already up and in the shower, and Louis put his plate on the nightstand, taking just a small bite of his own waffle.

It didn't take Harry long and when he came back to the bed area, his wet hair had yet to be put up. Louis kind of hoped he left it down for a while, mesmerized by his curls.

“Good morning. How are you feeling?” Louis asked. The dancer still looked a bit paler than Louis was used to, but Harry put on a small smile and said,

“I'm fine. How are you feeling?”

“I'm fine,” Louis answered with a frown. “Why?”

“It sounds like you're getting sick now too.”

When he had awoken, Louis had assumed his voice had just yet to wake itself, and he had barely said a word to the fans-just a hi and then posing for a picture-but now that he'd spoken more, he knew that Harry was right. His voice was pretty shot. He knew he wasn't getting sick, though, and gave Harry a smile.

“No, I'm fine,” Louis tried to assure him, but Harry didn't look convinced, and his smile had melted away.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. My voice is just tired from doing a show three nights in a row and then not getting a lot of sleep last night. I'm okay.”

Wanting to focus instead on Harry, Louis nodded to the plate sitting on the nightstand.

“I brought you some breakfast,” he said, taking a bite from the plate in his own lap.

“Oh. Thank you,” Harry said, sitting on the bed next to Louis and looking at the plate for just a moment before picking it up and eating a strawberry. The two were quiet as they ate, Louis trying not to stare, but being unable to notice that Harry was only eating the fruit. He told himself not to be too nervous about that because at least he was eating something, but he didn't know how fruit would get him to survive the morning.

“Do you happen to have a napkin?” Harry asked once the fruit was gone.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry.”

Louis handed him a napkin from the pile he'd kept under his plate on his lap and Harry thanked him before starting in on the waffle. Relief coursed through Louis.

Harry finished eating before Louis-and Louis was very happy to see that he'd eaten most of what he'd given him-and then the dancer got up to throw both of their plates away. Louis half expected him to make a beeline to the bathroom afterward, but he didn't.

To Louis's pleasure, Harry ran out of time to do his hair before they had to head outside to meet the rest. Louis couldn't stop himself from bouncing a curl on their way out the door and Harry shot a curious look back to him. Louis smiled guiltily.

“Sorry,” he apologized. “It's just so curly and pretty.”

Harry only laughed, and Louis picked up his pace to fall in step with the dancer, lacing their free hands together as they walked.

“Good morning!” Beatrice greeted Harry and Louis, two of the last to arrive, by the looks of it.

“Good morning,” they both said, and, instantaneously, Beatrice's eyes widened.

“Louis!” she gasped.

“What?” the singer asked, feeling as if he already knew 'what.'

“Your voice!” she said, confirming Louis's suspicions.

“I'm fine,” Louis assured her, but she didn't appear to be listening as she called over one of the tour medics. Louis rolled his eyes, looking, bored, at Harry while the doctor examined the back of his throat and felt his neck. Harry looked worried, and Louis hated it because he was fine and he didn't want Harry to think he had gotten him ill and refrain from kissing him.

“His throat is a little swollen,” the doctor told Beatrice. “He should recover quickly as long as he rests.”

“It's going to be a really long plane ride if I can't talk,” Louis said.

“Sh!” Beatrice and Harry both hushed him, and Louis tried to hide the fact that he was amused.

“How rude.”

“Sh!”

“Anyways,” Beatrice said when Louis gave an ornery smile but stayed silent, “I sat you and Harry next to each other for the plane ride, Louis. You're welcome. Harry...good luck. Louis sometimes gets scared and faints while flying.”

“That was one time!” Louis defended himself, and Beatrice hushed him again but Harry looked at him, one eyebrow raised but the expression on his face ultimately unreadable.

“What?” he questioned.

“There was one time where Louis thought he heard a strange noise on the plane, convinced himself that we were going down and got so scared that he fainted,” Beatrice explained, her lips forming a tight line so she wouldn't burst into laughter. Louis glared.

“It was only my second plane ride ever,” the singer told Harry.

“Aww,” the dancer cooed, grinning widely. “You're precious.”

“I'm sure they investigated the plane after we landed and found something wrong with it. I probably saved several lives that day.”

“I'm sure,” Harry said. “Congratulations on keeping that out of the media, by the way.”

“I was less known then, and I'm not completely convinced that someone didn't pay them off. It's funny now, but it was humiliating then.”

“You're telling me,” Beatrice spoke. “You were such an embarrassment, waking up and locking yourself in the bathroom to cry over the theory that your career was ruined because of that one moment.”

“Aww,” Harry cooed again.

“Why did you have to tell that part?” Louis questioned the woman. “You really are a mum.”

“Someone has to help your poor mother with the responsibilities. She can't handle you on her own; no one could.”

“My mum loves me and all of the stress I cause her.”

“Sh,” Beatrice and Harry shushed him again when his voice cracked and faded at the end of the sentence, and Harry rested one of his fingers against Louis's lips. Louis smiled, but stayed silent, and that earned him a smile full of dimples as well.

Before boarding the plane, Harry disappeared and Louis was starting to grow worried, but he soon returned with a bag from one of the airport shops in his hand. Louis gave the bag a questioning look.

“Sh,” Harry said before Louis would have had a chance to ask, which he wasn't going to anyway, thank you. “They're just puzzle and game books. I don't know if you even like that kind of thing, but I was trying to think of something you could do where you didn't have to speak.”

Louis smiled, wanting to tell Harry how sweet he was, but knowing his words would be overtaken by Harry silencing him, so he hoped he could see the unspoken words in his grin. Whether he could or not, Harry smiled back.

When he insisted, Harry helped Louis with various word searches and cross word puzzles on the plane. Louis felt much like an old man, but he had a lot of fun, probably mainly because he would have fun doing anything as long as Harry was with him. He found the face he made when he was concentrating extremely cute; the way his full lips pursed and his eyebrows pulled together. He kept that to himself too, at least for the time being.

Any time that a flight attendant stopped by to ask if they needed any refreshments, Harry would thank them for Louis and explain that he was on vocal rest so he wouldn't seem rude. Louis would tell him how grateful he was for that later.

It was only a three hour flight until they got to the layover destination, and they'd eaten a big breakfast, so Louis told himself that he shouldn't be worried when Harry rejected food every time. Dracen had said that Harry seemed better and, sadly, Dracen knew Harry better than Louis did, so Louis tried to take his word for it. He just couldn't, not all the way.

“Hey,” Harry said gently when Louis choked on a piece of cracker, and rubbed his back gently. “Does your throat hurt? Just shake your head or nod.”

Truthfully, it did hurt a little bit, and Louis was starting to be able to feel the swell, hence why he choked in the first place, but he didn't want Harry to worry when he knew that he was going to be perfectly fine, so he shook his head no.

“Good,” Harry said.

“I'm bored though,” Louis said, and Harry glared as he hushed him. Louis smiled and Harry rolled his eyes, turning his head, but Louis still saw the beginning of a grin on his face.

“Yeah, I guess I should have gotten regular books or something too. Crosswords can only be entertaining for so long,” he said once he'd gained composure of himself.

“It's okay,” Louis assured him, very quietly, as he yawned and moved to rest his head on the dancer's shoulder. Harry's hand twitched, as if he was unsure of what his next move should be, or even if he should make a move, but, to Louis's pleasure, he decided to rest his knuckles gently against the singer's thigh, his thumb tracing small circles into his jeans. It was so relaxing, just feeling his touch and watching his hand move that Louis found himself growing tired and, though he hadn't thought he was falling asleep, he must have been drifting off a little, because he jumped when Beatrice said his name from the aisle next to them.

“Don't speak,” she ordered when Louis looked to her. “Dean wants you to facetime him when we land for the layover. I already warned him that your talking has to be at a minimum.”

Louis nodded, still not all with it, and without another word, Beatrice went back to her seat. From beside him, Louis felt Harry's gaze and turned to meet it, smiling to try to erase the worry from the dancer's face. He didn't know what he had to be worried about, but he wasn't going to ask him when their conversation could be heard so easily, so Louis settled for kissing his cheek and resting his head back onto his shoulder.

Only ten minutes later, the plane landed at the airport for the layover and while Liam, Niall and Zayn caught up to sit with them, Louis slipped away to call Dean.

“Hello!” the manager greeted with a wide smile that instantly made Louis suspicious.

“You look way too happy,” Louis noted.

“I'm actually mad at myself for not seeing how good this could be before now.”

“What in the hell are you talking about?”

“You and Harry.”

“What?”

The suspicious feeling Louis had was slowly forming into something worse.

“That was Harry you were kissing last night, right?” Dean verified.

“Yeah, we kissed, but how do you know about that?”

“The pictures, of course.”

“Pictures?”

Louis had seen the people attempting to take pictures, but had assumed that Alberto had blocked them in time. Sometimes, he could be so stupid.

“Of course fans got pictures, Louis, and they've gone viral already. Everyone and their brother are trying to figure out who the other man is.”

“Oh, shit.”

“No, it's great!” Dean exclaimed gleefully. “They're all saying how sweet you were with him.”

“This isn't great!” Louis said, much less gleefully. His voice cracked and he coughed to clear his throat before continuing. “Harry didn't ask for this.”

“Um...he kind of did when he got involved with a world famous singer, Louis.”

“But I don't think he realizes...”

Louis trailed off, shaking his head as he lost his train of thought, anxiety making it hard to think.

“I should have been smarter,” he said.

“Relax,” Dean said, like he was talking to a ridiculous child. “It will be fine.”

“Harry hates cameras, for fucks sake!”

“He realizes that he's performing onstage in front of thousands of people with cameras...right?”

Louis had to fight not to yell; not that he probably could have even if he wanted to, but still. He really did not appreciate his manager's attitude at the time being.

“Of course he does,” he snapped.

“Then I really don't think this should be much of a problem. Permission to leak the information involving who your 'new man' is?”

“No!”

Dean frowned as Louis took another few moments to clear his throat.

“You don't have my permission to do anything until I talk to Harry.”

“Well then go talk to him will you?” Dean asked with a roll of his eyes. “But make it quick because Beatrice was right; you do sound awful.”

“Fuck you.”

Completely unaffected, Dean smiled.

“Love you, kid.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

The two disconnected, but for a couple of moments, Louis didn't move, staring at his phone and feeling sick from nerves. Whatever he had, or was going to have, with Harry had barely begun and now he was wondering if it was going to end already. Many times before he had wondered if he would have already found the love of his life if his career wasn't so obscure and demanding, but he never thought he would give it up for that love until now.

That was probably because he honestly believed that a person could only have one true love in their lifetime and he hadn't met Harry until just recently.

***Harry***

Though he didn't have much energy, he felt like he just had to move. His legs were jumpy and, without Louis there, he felt uneasy. He didn't know why, but he was worried about the call Louis was making to Dean. Had the manager found out about him and Harry? Was he angry about it? All of the people that Louis had been with, or at least pretended to be with, were already in the business and they were gorgeous. Harry wasn't Louis's type, at least publicly (though probably not privately either, really) and if it came down to it, Harry knew Louis would cut things off with him in a heartbeat.

He needed to distract himself.

Harry didn't know how long Louis would be gone, Harry had a feeling it would be at least a few minutes, which worried him as well because Louis's voice really had sounded rough and Harry wasn't all convinced that the singer's throat didn't hurt. Harry knew he wasn't really sick and so he wasn't the cause of Louis's ailment, but he hated that there was nothing he could to do help anyway.

Though he knew it probably wouldn't make things any better for Louis, Harry decided to get him some ice cream in the hopes that it would numb his throat a little if it did hurt. Harry didn't tell anyone where he was going; just said that he would be right back and went off. Luckily, no one followed him. It wasn't that Harry minded their company, but with all of his internal panic, he didn't know how well he could hold up conversation at the moment and wanted a bit to just clear his head.

The walk, even if exhausting, did help to relax him somewhat, but that changed while ordering Louis's ice cream because of course the servers thought it was for him. They were polite, but Harry couldn't shake the thought that they were judging him, as he obviously did not need that ice cream and appeared to have no self control. Still, he was doing this for Louis so he tried not to feel too ashamed about it.

On his way back to his seat, Harry came across Louis and Alberto, walking his way, and his worry eased for just a moment as a small smile briefly lit his face, his heart fluttering, but in a good way. Louis simultaneously did the best and worst things to him.

“Tiny dancer!” Louis exclaimed, smiling as well. “I was looking for you.”

Louis's voice had faded even more from the last time Harry heard him and he nearly cringed listening to him because it just sounded so painful.

“This is for you,” Harry said once in front of Louis, holding out the bowl of ice cream. The singer's smile grew.

“How did you know that cookies and cream was my favorite?”

“You said it in an interview once,” Harry reminded him, blushing at the fact that he just gave himself away as a potentially creepy fan. Louis didn't seem bothered.

“Oh yeah. Well, thank you!”

He took a bite as they began walking the direction Harry had been going and then he asked,

“So what's your favorite flavor?”

Harry struggled not to cringe again, this time at the thought of actually forcing ice cream down his throat. He made himself think back to when he had allowed himself the sweet, and answered.

“Chocolate mint.”

“Ooh, that's good too. Anything with chocolate, really...”

Harry smiled, and Louis naturally returned it for only a moment before changing the subject.

“Actually, before we go back, can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Shouldn't you be resting your voice?” Harry asked, his nerves growing again and suddenly not wanting to hear what Louis had to say at all.

“It's important,” Louis said, which didn't help Harry, but he agreed to talk to him. Taking his arm gently, Louis led him to stand by a wall and had Alberto block them the best that one man could.

“Um...so...I'm really, really sorry, Harry, but last night, someone got a picture of us kissing and put it on the internet.”

“That's okay,” Harry said, still nervous but mostly just sad because he was convinced then that he was right; people knew about what they nearly were and so now it had to end.

“I should have known that I can't just do that.”

“I should have realized it too. It's fine.”

Harry hated how weak his own voice suddenly sounded.

“But I'm the one with experience,” Louis said.

“You have experience kissing innocent regular people in bars?” Harry teased, trying to lighten the mood. It didn't really work for him personally, but Louis blushed.

“That's not what I meant,” he said.

“It's okay,” Harry said again. “I should be the one who's sorry.”

“Why would you be sorry?” Louis asked, frowning in confusion.

“You're the one that's going to have to deal with more rumors about a relationship.”

“I'm not worried about that,” Louis said, waving his hand. “I don't think I'll mind them as long a you're the rumored lover.”

Louis smiled a little again and then said,

“I should still be the one apologizing because now people are going to be trying to figure out who you are.”

Harry would be lying if he said the thought didn't scare him, but if he had Louis deny everything and make up a lie about who he was and what they were doing, then he might never see how far things could go with the other man. He was under no impression that Louis would ever fall in love with him, but he would take what he was given until the singer found someone better. No matter what he meant to Louis, he couldn't deny that Louis meant something to him, as more than just a celebrity now, and Harry wanted to keep him around for as long as he could.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said after a brief pause as he turned all of that over in his mind. Louis looked him up and down, his expression unreadable.

“There will be constant pictures. Okay, maybe not constant, but I'm sure it won't take long for people to realize it was you who I was kissing and then fans will be just as interested in you as they are me.”

This was it, Harry decided. Louis was trying to scare him away so that he wouldn't have to end things and worry about hurting him, but he still wanted whatever they were to be over.

Somehow, Harry held his posture.

“We can pretend last night didn't ever happen if you want to,” he offered, even though it hurt and he had to brace himself for Louis's next words.

“No!” Louis said, his eyes widening, and Harry was actually shocked. “That wasn't what I was trying to get at! I really like you, but I just want to make sure that you're going to be okay.”

Though Harry wanted to be happy at this response, and he was, he was also confused because it didn't make sense. Why in the world would Louis think he liked him?

Well, whatever. Harry was going to ignore that for now and let Louis believe what he wished until he realized different, even if that made Harry selfish.

“I'm going to be fine,” he said.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

No matter what, Harry knew that he couldn't get any worse than a few years prior, and he'd survived that; Barely, a voice inside whispered.

Harry would be okay.

Without another word, Louis stood on his tiptoes and pulled Harry into a tight hug, which Harry returned, gentler. Louis smiled when he pulled away.

“Okay, I don't think the airport has chocolate mint ice cream, but you should probably eat something before we get on the plane because airport food is a tad bit better than airplane food and the longest part of the trip is yet to come,” he said. Harry internally groaned.

“I'm not really hungry,” he said nonchalantly. He was, actually, but he hadn't passed any 'safe' foods on his way to the ice cream shop and suddenly really just wanted to sit. He began walking back towards the chairs, and Louis and Alberto followed.

“Are you sure?” Louis asked.

“Yes, now please be quiet. You're supposed to be resting your voice.”

“You're just trying to get me to shut up, aren't you?”

“You know it,” Harry said, but tapped his hand against Louis's. He hadn't been expecting Louis to lace their fingers together after that, refraining from eating his ice cream and holding the bowl rather awkwardly just to do so, but harry wasn't going to complain about it.

“I liked last night's method of getting me quiet better,” he commented. Harry smiled, but didn't offer another reply.

“I'll stop talking in a minute,” Louis promised next, “but I do have another question first.”

“What is it?” Harry asked, his nerves growing yet again. He hated the I have a question statement. He thought that was probably because that had been the last thing Gemma had said to him before asking about his eating disorder and everything fell apart.

“Well, first, it's really not like me to kiss before the first date and so I do still apologize for last night.”

“Technically, I kissed you,” Harry reminded him. Louis thought for a moment and then smiled.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Well, I was going to ask you on a date, but in that case, I must request that you take me on a date and treat me like the gentleman I am...jeez.”

Relieved, Harry laughed, a bit too loudly, but he didn't care at the moment.

“Oh, I'm terribly sorry. Was I moving too fast for you?”

“Yeah, a bit, if I'm being honest,” Louis said.

“I'm so sorry.”

“That's okay. I just told you how you can make it up to me anyway.”

“Hm…I'll take you on a date on one condition,” Harry said, though knew he would take Louis on a date with no conditions at all.

“What's that?” Louis questioned.

“Shut up,” Harry told him. Louis laughed loudly then; even more loudly than Harry had, and he coughed, wincing as he did.

“My point exactly!” Harry exclaimed. Louis stuck out his tongue and Harry pretended to be offended.

“Whoa. I don't do that until the second date, thanks.”

Using sign language, Louis gave Harry a rather rude response, but Harry had to bite the insides of his cheeks so as not to smile.

“I know you just called me an ass hole,” he said, and Louis's mouth dropped open.“Yeah, I know sign language,” the dancer continued.

“Why didn't you tell me that on the way here?! We could have been chatting the entire time!”

“I didn't know that you knew it,” Harry said. “Believe it or not, I don't know everything about you.”

In fact, Harry had thought that he knew all about Louis that was available for the general public's knowledge, so perhaps this was a secret. Anyway, it was best to keep the singer humble.

Louis glared at Harry's response, and Harry glared right back. They kept the stares for a few seconds before Louis caved and giggled, telling Harry through sign language that he was cute. Using the same method, Harry told him that he was pretty cute himself, and Louis smiled. This wasn't like his other smiles, though. Harry hadn't seen this smile yet; the one that made Louis's eyes crinkle up and his nose scrunch. It felt like his heart literally melted looking at Louis like this, and he felt a moment's pride that he had been the one to cause this smile. For a couple of seconds, Harry liked himself just a little bit.

Chapter Text

***Harry***

Harry felt really lucky that he was the one taking Louis on a date instead of it being the other way around because that meant he was the one in charge of deciding what they were going to do. That, of course, gave him a way to, hopefully, leave food completely out of the date. Dinner was the typical first date outing, but Harry was not a typical man.

Not too long after they arrived at their seats in the airport, Louis had fallen asleep and Harry took that as opportunity to do some research on his phone of what he could possibly take the other man to do in Sydney, Australia; where they were headed. In the end, he was down to two choices; either an observatory or an outdoor movie. He was hoping for the first idea, as the movies were full of popcorn, candy and soda, but he hadn't the faintest idea if Louis would like the observatory thing or not, and he was trying to somewhat impress the singer, the best he could.

Harry bit his lip while giving a small smile as he glanced over at his sleeping crush. He was excited over the fact that he was actually getting to go on a date with the man he'd idolized since his early teen years, but he was also nervous. He supposed that was normal.

From beside him, Liam let out a giggle and Harry quickly locked his phone, afraid that Liam had seen that he had been researching 'date ideas in Sydney, Australia,' but when he looked to the other, Liam wasn't looking at him. He had his body angled past Harry and was smiling at something on his phone. When he felt eyes on him, Liam looked to the side and smiled at Harry, straightening up his body as he held his phone out for him to see.

“Isn't he cute?” Liam cooed as Harry smiled down at the picture of Louis the other had taken. “I uploaded it to Twitter.”

“It's your own fault if you get fired,” Harry teased. Liam shrugged.

“Oh, you're visible from the side, a little bit. Sorry,” he said. Harry again looked at the picture and saw that he was, indeed, in the side of the frame, looking particularly awful after the flight. Everything in him wanted to beg Liam to take the picture down, but he supposed he was going to have to get used to being caught unknowingly on camera. He made a mental note to never look down at anything, though, as that angle gave him a double chin that he didn't think he had otherwise.

“It's fine,” Harry told him.

“Hello, boys,” Beatrice greeted as she approached, and they all said hi back before she rested a hand on Louis's shoulder and gently shook him. “Lou,” she said softly. The singer's nose scrunched up and he turned his head a bit, but he didn't wake. Harry smiled because, well, it was pretty freaking cute.

“Louis,” Beatrice said, more sternly, as she shook him a bit rougher. The singer groaned, his voice cracking, and coughing, as he blinked open his eyes, looking confusedly between her and Harry, and then at their surroundings.

“Holy shit, I thought I was back in the hotel,” he muttered. Harry smiled again as Beatrice shushed him softly.

“We have twenty minutes until we board,” the tour manager told him. “If you wanted to pick up anything or use the loo, you need to do it now.”

“Yeah, I need to wee,” he said, standing along with Liam, Niall and Zayn who appeared to have thought the same thing. Louis laughed a little. “This will be quite the bonding experience,” he said.

“Want to join, Harry?” Liam asked with a devious twinkle in his eye, and Harry looked down his nose at the man.

“I'm fine,” he said, and then wondered when the last time he actually had gone to the bathroom was; that morning in the hotel, he thought, which had been quite a while ago. He must have been dehydrated. It was easy for him to get that way while dieting. “I'm just going to get water.”

Harry's legs ached as he stood, but it was the sudden dizziness that sent him lurching forward a bit; his hand wrapping around the arm rest of the seat to prevent himself from falling down. He hoped it hadn't been obvious, because he had recovered fairly quickly, he thought, but when he blinked his eyes back into full focus, the others were staring at him. Heat rising to his face, Harry gave the group a small smile and slowly let go of the arm rest. He swayed, just a bit, but that appeared to be noticeable too because in the next moment, Louis was forcing him down to his seat.

“Okay, you're staying right there,” he announced. “I'll go get you some water.”

“I'm okay,” Harry insisted. “I just stood too fast.”

“Sit.”

Harry was already sitting, but he didn't point that out.

“Are you alright, Harry?” Beatrice asked, looking worried herself, and Harry saw her glance over to where the doctor was sitting not too far away. A rush of panic flooded through him.

“I'm fine,” he assured her. “I promise.”

“I'll be right back,” Louis said before turning on his heel and walking away. The three other men stared at him for another couple of moments before announcing that they would return soon too and walked away, Liam glancing over his shoulder at Harry once as he headed towards the bathroom. Beatrice stayed, studying Harry, and Louis was right; she looked just like a mom. Harry gave her the smile he always gave his own mom when she was giving him those looks and put his hands in between his thighs so that she wouldn't see that they were shaking. Still, Beatrice didn't move, even when Louis returned with some water and a pack of peanuts. Harry thanked him, downed half the bottle of water and ate the peanuts with barely a second thought, knowing it would be far less of an adorable story if he fainted on the plane than when Louis had.

Only after he had ingested a good amount of the food and drink did Louis sit and Beatrice snapped out of her trance.

“Did you already use the bathroom?” she asked the singer.

“I'm going to wait,” he said.

“You should go or you'll be holding it a while,” Harry pointed out, feeling guilty suddenly, for he had assumed Louis had used the bathroom before getting him his things.

“I don't really have to go,” Louis said, his voice fading towards the end of the sentence and Harry fought cringing again.

“Alright, sh,” he said soothingly. He didn't know why, but Louis looked sad and he wanted to make it go away. Before he could even fathom how to do that, Beatrice verified one more time that he was alright before walking away and, once she was out of earshot, Louis sighed and leaned forward to press his forehead against Harry's. Harry's food was gone, so he folded the wrapper up in his hands and shoved it into his jeans pocket, taking in Louis's closed eyes and long eyelashes. He'd known before that they were long, but not that long. They were mesmerizing. Harry could stare at them for quite a time, but then Louis let out a sigh and Harry remembered the sad look he'd had in his eyes before he shut them.

“Are you okay?” the dancer asked.

“Mhm,” Louis hummed, his eyes still closed.

“Are you sure?” Harry said. “Because you don't look like it.”

“Gee, thanks,” Louis said teasingly as he opened his eyes and gave a half-lit smile. He didn't move his forehead from the other man's yet.

“That's not what I meant,” Harry told him. “I just meant that you look a bit down.”

“I'm tired,” Louis said after a brief pause. Or maybe Harry had imagined the pause; he couldn't be sure.

“Go back to sleep,” he said. “I'll wake you up when it's time to board.”

Pulling away from Harry, Louis shook his head.

“So do you know what we're going to do on our date yet?” he asked, his voice cheerier at the change of subject.

“Well, we could do an outdoor movie, or, um, I thought about...And you might think this is a dumb idea, but I thought we could go to an observatory.”

Louis straightened his body, his eyes widening.

“I don't think that's a dumb idea at all!” he said. Harry gave him a small smile.

“Well, if we can squeeze it in, that's fine, if that's what you want to do.”

“We'll figure something out.”

Before standing to get on the plane, Louis checked again to make sure that Harry felt okay. Harry assured him that he was fine. He didn't tell him that the peanuts had whet his appetite, making him hungrier, but that wasn't important anyway. It had leveled out his blood sugar for now, which was what he'd needed. He could deal with the hunger.

The pair were quiet as they took their seats on the plane and even as they took off, but only a couple minutes into the flight, Louis turned his body to Harry, using sign language to start a conversation.

“When did you learn sign language? And what made you decide to do it?”

Harry hesitated before answering, which Louis might have found strange, but that was a period of time that the dancer didn't like to remember. Even though he appreciated the fact that he'd learned the language, he didn't like the circumstances surrounding his desire to learn. Still, it wasn't like he could tell Louis that he didn't want to talk about it. It had been a harmless question.

“I started to teach myself when I was eleven,” he explained, using sign language as well.“I had been in a pretty bad car accident and was injured, so I couldn't dance for a year.”

Harry could stop the story there, he knew, but now that he'd started, he decided he might as well go on. Louis was frowning, but he looked interested all the same, so Harry assumed he had a few more questions and it was best to explain as much as he was comfortable saying rather than dance around questions the other asked.

“Dance was all I knew and I needed something to entertain me and distract me from the fact that I thought my dream of being a professional dancer was over.”

Harry left out how he'd also needed a distraction from how much weight he'd been gaining from not exercising and eating through his emotions. He also didn't mention that the accident had given him mild control problems because, as a dancer, Harry had learned how to move and contort his body into virtually any position he wanted at any pace. He had gained dominance over his movements, but he couldn't control the healing process. He didn't say that he started eating less and less until he was barely eating anything just to prove to himself that he still had control over something.

“My parents signed me up for classes once they found out that I had been trying to learn,” Harry said, but didn't say that the only reason he didn't quit was because he refused to fail at something else. He kept quiet on the fact that he felt like a failure still anyway because, once he was able to go back to dancing, it wasn't the same. His break had thrown him off and put him behind everyone else. He'd honestly thought he was a pretty good dancer beforehand, but, even with all those years of experience, it had taken only one year to take him off track, and he'd never quite caught back up.

“It's awesome that you put your dedication into something else during that, but I'm happy that you healed alright and got back to dancing,” Louis said. Harry smiled the best he could at the moment, with all of those thoughts and memories in the surface of his mind, and thanked him. Then he turned the man's original question back around on him.

“My mum dated a deaf man for a few years when I was small,” Louis told him. “He taught both of us.”

“Your mum's boyfriend taught you 'ass hole?'” Harry asked, eyebrows quirked, and Louis laughed and shook his head.

“No. My mum taught me that one when she was 'yelling' at his back as he left.”

Louis's face was bright, trying to turn the whole thing into a joke, but Harry had seen a flash of pain cross his face, however so quickly. He probably wouldn't have noticed it at all, but he had experience because that was the very same expression he felt on his own face multiple times a day.

It was common knowledge that Louis's biological dad had left him and his mom and cut off contact from both of them when Louis was still pretty young. He'd even had a song about it on his first album. His second album had a song detailing when his father tried to come back into his life after Louis had found fame, and then the man had tried to steal his money. Luckily, he'd been unsuccessful.

There was no song openly dedicated to his father on his latest album, but there was one about learning to love yourself because you can't rely on someone else doing it, and Harry got the vibe that it was highly inspired from his experience with the man. Some people thought that song was a happy, positive song, but Harry never got that vibe. It had been his 'go-to' song during his sadder moments recently, in fact; though he had yet to learn to love himself as Louis claimed to have in the song. Harry hoped he really had.

From the seat next to him, Louis tilted his head to the side and Harry realized that he had yet to reply to his latest confession.

Trying to stick with the joking mood that Louis was attempting to set off, Harry gave the singer a comforting smile and signed, “I can appreciate that, but that guy sounds like more of an ass hole than me, if I'm being honest.”

Louis beamed, but he didn't have a response to that, and he turned slowly to face the window as he let the conversation die. Harry didn't mind and leaned against Louis's shoulder, trying to show him that he was there if he needed him as he drifted off to sleep.

***Liam***

When Liam woke in Niall's bed, his first instinct was to panic, and that he did. Before last night he'd only ever slept in someone else's bed when he passed out drunk. Hell, he'd even told Niall that it was okay that they were sharing a bed for nothing more than cuddling and sleeping. What the fuck was wrong with him? He knew he had been desperate for attention after not having any action the past couple of nights, but that was not the kind of attention he needed. He absolutely did not need to be cuddled and told what a good person he was. For one, nobody ever desired to touch him gently, so he felt it was only a matter of time before the cuddling turned into something else, and, more importantly, he wasn't a good person. He used men for the one and only thing he wanted and then he left them. Usually, it ended up being okay because they just wanted to take that thing from him and have him gone afterward, but Niall wasn't like that and Liam knew it.

Niall needed and deserved someone who would take him on dates and give him innocent kisses good night; someone who would snuggle with him under the stars or whatever romantic people did. He deserved better than Liam, that was for sure.

Swallowing hard as a tiny whine escaped his throat, Liam quickly snaked himself out from underneath Niall's arm and hurried to his own bed. He was dizzy and his head hurt, and he wasn't nauseous, but he was shaking. From where he lay, he saw the not-yet empty wine bottle still sitting on the nightstand where Niall had set it the previous night and hoisted himself back up to grab it and drink some more. He felt better physically as soon as he'd taken the first swig, but emotionally, he felt terrible. He didn't day drink, except for special occasions. Otherwise, he kept the drinking for evenings and nights. Drinking first thing in the morning was too much like…

You're just like your mother, Liam,” Liam remembered Geoff telling him.

The nausea hit him suddenly and Liam hurried to the bathroom, not even realizing he was still holding the wine bottle until he'd reached the sink. Crying out quietly, Liam turned on the water and dumped the rest of the bottle, coughing and gagging at the smell that typically made him feel high.

Niall arrived in the bathroom before all of the alcohol had even finished swirling down the drain.

“Are you okay?” he asked gently, resting his hand lightly on Liam's back and, once Liam was done nearly throwing up, he turned off the water and smiled shakily at the other man.

“Fine,” he said. Niall didn't look convinced and rubbed a few circles into the small of Liam's back.

“Come on, let's go get some food in your system. It will help.”

Liam was a little hungover, but he knew that wasn't his main problem. However, he didn't mention that to Niall and instead followed him down to the lobby to get breakfast.

After gathering their plates, the two sat at a table to eat together quietly. Liam chewed slowly, still feeling a little sick and not very hungry at all. He knew he had to eat a little though, so he did, absently, too distracted by looking at Niall. The smaller dancer didn't seem to notice; just kept eating in peace, but Liam noticed him. For the first time, he tried to take a moment and really think about how he felt about the other man. He was really cute, which Liam had noticed the first time he'd seen him, of course. You couldn't not notice that he was extremely attractive, Liam thought, but Niall was also nice and caring and smart and talented and perfect and, damn it, Liam liked him. He actually, truly liked him.

The previous night, Liam had honestly been a little relieved that Niall didn't have sex with him. It wasn't that he didn't want to have sex with the guy, of course, but he didn't want just a one night stand with him that would result in the two never talking again. Liam liked their friendship and wished that they could be friends while kissing and doing other things, but they couldn't. Liam had never done the 'friends with benefits' thing. One either had to be his friend or his fuck buddy.

Of course, Niall would never do the 'friends with benefits' route either, Liam knew, but even if he would, Liam couldn't. The end result would be Liam falling for Niall even more and, though Liam didn't want to tell Niall this and ruin his adorably optimistic vision, happily ever afters didn't happen. Well, maybe they did, but only for the most special of people. His aunt and uncle might get a happy ending, Liam thought, and Niall was special enough to get his too, but Liam wasn't his happy ending, or his happy anything. Liam was quite the opposite of 'special.' Born to his drunken mother and his violent father, Liam was doomed from conception and no matter how great of a person Niall was, he couldn't save Liam from that.

“Are you okay?”

At the familiar and adored Irish accent, Liam jolted, looking down to his plate and taking a bite as he answered,

“Yeah. Why?”

“You looked either like you were upset or going to be sick,” Niall commented, but when Liam looked up again, he saw that he was smiling. For some reason, that seemed to be like a stab straight in Liam's heart.

“No, I'm fine,” he said anyway.

“Is it over what we talked about last night?” Niall asked, suddenly not smiling anymore. He looked worried, and that hurt even worse.

“It's just...we're still friends, right?” Liam asked.

“Of course,” Niall said with no hesitation.

“Good,” Liam said, and wasn't sure why he didn't feel that much better. That had been what he'd wanted to hear.

“I hope I didn't upset you last night,” Niall continued. “I just care about you and I meant what I said, but I'm not going to push anything. I'll be what you want me to be, Liam; nothing more and nothing less.”

No , Liam screamed silently as he rubbed his hands over his face. You need to be what you want to be, and if I can't help give you that, you need to run.

But Liam was selfish, so instead of saying that, he said,

“Okay, let's change the subject, yeah?”

Niall still looked worried, but he didn't say anything, so the two finished eating in silence.


The two were sat next to each other on the plane ride, and at first Liam was afraid that it was going to be awkward still, but it wasn't. They played games on Niall's phone and when they got bored of that, Niall used the shaky wifi on the plane to look up jokes and read them aloud. Liam probably laughed too hard at all of them, but Niall was so animated telling them and sometimes would laugh in the middle, right at the punch line; his face turning red as he gasped for breath and attempted multiple times to continue. Liam couldn't remember ever laughing to the point where his stomach hurt, and eventually, he made Niall stop so that he wouldn't a) throw up or b) get them yelled at.

Luckily, they landed for the layover not too long after that and when they boarded the plane again nearly an hour late r , Niall got out a book and asked Liam if he wanted to read it with him.

“Is it some Nicholas Sparks love shit?” Liam teased with a wink. Niall laughed.

“No,” he said. “It's a murder mystery.”

“Ooh, there's a dark side to you?!” Liam asked. Niall just smiled.

Reading together turned out to be too difficult so the two decided to each read a chapter and then pass the book back, after, of course, discussing what they had both read. Liam wasn't really a reader, but he was still having a great time.

Occasionally, while Niall had the book, Liam would look over to Harry, making sure he was okay. He knew that Louis had taken him food that morning, but he wondered if he had somehow managed to avoid it or purge afterward because Harry could try to play it off as no big deal, but when he stood from his chair at the airport, his face had gone ghostly pale and for a moment Liam had been sure he was going to lose it. If only Liam knew how he sneaked around eating or threw up in secret, it would be a lot easier to help him, he thought.

For the time being, though, Harry seemed to be fine. He was sitting up straight and signing with Louis; the two involved in what appeared to be a pretty intense, but pleasant enough, conversation. Liam was glad, though was taken aback by the fact that Harry knew sign language. That had been something the man had never told him before. Of course, it seemed that Harry didn't tell Liam a lot.

Harry's friendship had been something that Liam had never had to question. Harry was such a genuine guy that Liam felt that he had actually cared about Liam and maybe even sometimes enjoyed his presence. Even if it didn't always seem like it, Liam cared about Harry and loved spending time with him, but suddenly, he felt that the feeling wasn't mutual. Harry knew almost everything about him. Okay, so he didn't know about his parents, but they weren't even in his life, so they didn't count. Harry knew everything else, but Liam knew nothing about him. Harry didn't want to tell Liam anything about himself, and could they really be considered friends if that was the case? He was such a nice person that he probably wouldn't say anything if he didn't want Liam around.

Liam had thought getting close to Harry was safe, but now he felt as if he were wrong. A lump formed in his throat and, quite alarmingly, tears poked at Liam's eyeballs, sending a rush of panic through him for the second time that day.

You don't cry, Liam, you don't cry, you don't cry.

Luckily, Liam had gotten a water soon after re-boarding the plane and gulped it down until his throat felt clear and his eyes were dry. It was only after he smacked his lips together and put his water bottle back in the holder that he realized Niall was staring at him, his forehead creased. Liam tried to smile, but he knew it fell flat.

“Are you okay?” Niall asked.

“Yeah,” Liam answered, his voice thick. He coughed to clear it.

“Okay...”

He sounded unsure, but Liam didn't give him a chance to press the subject.

“I'm going to take a nap,” he announced. “Fill me in on the book when I wake up, okay?”

Niall nodded, still giving Liam that same look, but Liam simply turned to the window and rested his head back against the seat, closing his eyes. He thought he felt Niall's gaze linger, but he didn't look, wanting to feign sleep when he knew he wouldn't get any real sleep at all. It was kind of hard to rest when his nails were digging painfully into his thighs, but he didn't stop. It would be a while before a flight assistant came back and he could get alcohol-and fuck if he was like his mom or not-and he couldn't run for miles and miles until his lungs wanted to collapse, so the physical pain was the only thing distracting Liam from whatever chaos was going on in his mind.

He dug his nails deeper until he bit his tongue and then jolted. Niall, assuming, probably, that he had a nightmare, patted Liam's knee, unable to see the way he was scratching at his other leg.

Chapter Text

***Louis***

Louis ended up falling asleep there on the plane with Harry's head rested on his shoulder. He wasn't out long and, upon waking, tried to stay awake either until Harry fell asleep or they landed, not wanting to bore the other man. It was a hopeless goal, however, and when he started drifting off for the third time, he just had to accept the fact that it was going to be for a while. He remembered his last words before he fell asleep; telling Harry to get some rest, but whether he did or not was uncertain then.

When Louis came back to, he quickly discovered it was due to the fact that someone was using their thumb to gently stroke his cheek. It ended up being Harry, Louis saw when he tiredly turned his head, and his heart did a happy little thump.

“Sorry,” he mumbled with a smile as he forced himself to sit straight. “Was I snoring or talking?”

“No,” Harry told him, offering a small smile himself. “We're about to land.”

“Oh,” Louis said, rubbing his eyes and blinking hard a few times to fully clear his vision. “I was out for a while then. Sorry.”

“It's okay,” Harry assured him. “I was asleep most of the time too. How is your throat?”

“It feels better,” Louis said, and it did. It was a little sore still, though he thought just from being dry. It wasn't nearly as bad as before.

“You sound better,” Harry told him, “which is kind of sad since you just woke up and all.”

“Told you I was fine.”

“Maybe, but still be quiet until the doctor looks at you.”

“You just really don't want to talk to me, do you?”

Harry smiled, recognizing that Louis was joking. Louis was glad he wasn't so afraid to offend him anymore.

“I don't really have much choice now that you know I know sign language,” the dancer said.

“It's easy enough for you to turn and pretend I'm not talking to you with that though.”

“I wouldn't do that.”

Feeling something on his knee, Louis looked down to see the thumb that Harry had been using to stroke Louis's cheek was now stroking his knee. Harry glanced down and perhaps just realized what he was doing because he stopped immediately, folding his hands on his lap.

“Sorry,” he said.

“You kissed me, but you can't touch my knee?” Louis teased. Harry's mouth twitched upward.

“I mean, I don't want to keep moving too fast for the princess.”

Beaming-Louis absolutely loved it when Harry fired back to his snarky remarks-the singer simply winked, letting him win this one. He really had no choice, as the pilot came on over the intercom and began giving the final landing instructions.


The regular group of five all rode together to the hotel they were to be staying at and, of course, as they had just gotten off a seriously long plane ride, instructed the driver to stop and get them fast food.

“Write down your orders,” Louis's very patient driver said, passing back a notepad and pen. They all took turns putting in their requests, except for Harry who insisted that he had eaten a sandwich on the plane while Louis had been asleep. Louis wasn't sure he believed him or not, no matter how badly he wanted to, but he didn't press the matter. He didn't know how, but even if he had, he wouldn't do that in front of their friends. The last thing he wanted was for Harry to feel embarrassed or ashamed over any of this.

While they ate, they talked; loudly and quickly, all stumbling over each other and probably driving the poor chauffeur crazy. All of them were wired from the plane ride, besides, it seemed Liam. Louis hadn't even noticed that the other hadn't said a single word until Harry asked if he was okay and Louis glanced over to find his dancer just staring out the window. Still, he didn't talk; only nodded.

“Do you get air sick?” Louis asked. It was a surprisingly common occurrence around tour, but Liam shook his head no. Everyone fell silent and then noticed a banging noise, which they soon discovered to be from Liam hitting his wrists against the door handle. Louis heard Niall gasp a little at the discovery and the blonde quickly put his hands over top of Liam's. After a moment, he lowered them; one to his lap and the other to the seat beside him. Completely seriously, Louis wondered if he should hire a psychologist to tour with them, at least for a bit. Hell, he'd needed one during his first tour both to keep him grounded and to help him get used to the mental effects of almost constant jet lag. He made a mental note to talk to Beatrice about it soon.

Once they had finally arrived at the hotel-Harry, of course, had come directly to Louis's room-the dancer went to wash up while the singer collapsed onto his bed. He didn't know how, as he'd just slept roughly eleven hours on the plane, but he was tired and felt himself drifting off again. To be fair, it was only about four in the morning where they'd just come from, but still…

Fortunately, he remained conscious enough to feel the bed dip down once Harry sat on it, and he forced his eyes open, smiling at the other. Harry returned it, though his looked very sleepy.

“Are you going to take a nap?” Louis asked, thinking of how wonderful napping together sounded at the moment.

“Maybe,” Harry said, his eyes falling shut but then opening again quickly.

“Go ahead,” Louis told him, scooting a bit closer. Harry let out a big yawn, but shook his head, widening his eyes as he smiled and changed the subject.

“Did you check your poll to see which song won for the single?”

“No. I completely forgot.”

Dean must have been really excited about this Harry thing, Louis thought, as he hadn't even pressed him for the answer yet.

Reaching behind him, Louis felt around the mattress until he felt his phone and then got onto Twitter, blinking his eyes into focus. He couldn't recall if the beginning of his last tour had been this draining, though figured it must have been. Oh well. His body would adjust soon.

“'Summer Song' won by four percent,” Louis announced, only disappointed for the fact that it wasn't Harry's favorite.

“So close.”

“I figured that one would win,” the singer said and then, teasingly, “No one cares about my serious shit.”

“That's not true,” Harry told him. “I care. Besides, the numbers are so close. It's too bad you can't release them both.”

“Hmm,” Louis hummed, wondering if it would be at all possible to do just that, but he didn't have time to contemplate long before his phone began to buzz.

“Dean,” he sighed upon checking the ID. Then, he rejected the call.

“I'm going to let you sleep,” he said to Harry, “but first, Dean wants to know. if he can tell the media who you are.”

Harry's eyes had, again, fallen partly shut, but they opened wide at the remark.

“Or we can keep them guessing for a while,” Louis added quickly. “It's completely up to you.”

For only a couple of seconds, the dancer chewed on his lips, his eyes far away as he thought, but then he looked back to Louis and put on a small grin.

“No, he can tell. It's fine.”

“Are you sure?”

A pause, and then Harry nodded.

“People will find out soon anyway,” he said.

“Maybe,” Louis agreed, “but are you positive that you're okay with Dean going to the press with it now?”

Again, Harry nodded.

“I'm sorry you have to make these decisions,” Louis said, and he really did feel so bad about it.

“We talked about this already,” Harry pointed out. “It's okay.”

Louis leaned forward, giving Harry a kiss on the nose, though his eyes lingered on the dancer's lips as he pulled away.

“God, we need to go on that date so I can kiss your lips again,” he said, which earned him a dimpled smile.

“Well, when can you fit it in?”

“Don't word it like that, please,” Louis asked. “It makes it sound like the date is an afterthought and not a priority.”

“Sorry.”

“You don't have anything to apologize for. I just want to make sure that you don't feel that way.”

Harry shook his head, which could mean that he was lying, but he didn't seem bothered regardless, so Louis decided to not make an annoyance of himself by pressing it. Instead, he had planned to keep his lips busy by kissing Harry but remembered at the last minute that, oh yeah, he couldn't. Wasn't that the whole point of this conversation anyway?

“Damn it,” Louis breathed, just inches away from Harry's lips, and the dancer actually giggled.

“We can pretend that the bar was our first date so that we can kiss if you want,” he allowed, and Louis tried to hide just how much that suggestion appalled him. He was quickly distracted from his disgust by the very hot way that Harry was (probably unpurposefully) pursing his lips anyway. Louis internally groaned, but out loud, said,

“Your ex definitely wouldn't have been present at our first date.”

“Well, we can always kiss anyway,” Harry allowed.

“No,” Louis sighed, no matter how tempting the thought was. “I'm not breaking my rule again.”

“Is there a reason that you have that rule?” Harry questioned.

“It helps me determine the real from the fake. I never kiss my press relationships.”

“That's sweet,” Harry said, and Louis at first thought he was poking fun at him, but then realized that he was completely serious. Either way, Louis felt his cheeks go pink.

“I have to call Dean,” he said after a few moments where the two were just looking at each other, studying every small detail of the other's face. Well, that was what Louis was doing anyway, and he guessed that Harry was doing something along the same lines because he hadn't even noticed the intensity with which Louis was looking at him. If he had, Louis knew he would have turned pink himself before hiding his face.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry, I'll stop distracting you.”

“I like being distracted by you,” Louis said, winking as he sat up and ran a hand through his hair, coughing a couple of times.

“Make it quick. You still need to rest your voice,” Harry said, not moving from the pillow.

“I'll hurry back, but just so I can see your face again.”

Harry snorted.

“There you go writing songs again.”

Louis smiled.

“I'll be back,” he said as he got to his feet. He was ashamed by how weak they felt. He must be getting old.

“I'll be here,” Harry said.

“I hope so. One last time, are you sure about this?”

“I'm sure.”

There hadn't even been a hesitation that time.

“Go call Dean,” Harry said. Louis obeyed, taking his phone out onto the back patio. He supposed he should be excited about all of this and, really, he was. This thing with Harry was the closest thing he'd gotten to a relationship in so long and, well, it was with Harry, whom he'd fancied since basically the first time he saw him. He remembered asking Harry's dance instructor after class who the man who had run out had been and what his story was. She hadn't exactly known what Louis meant by 'his story,' but she had told him that his name was Harry and that he was one of the most talented students she'd taught in her years. Louis could have figured that out by himself.

Louis supposed the reason he was so nervous was because he did like Harry so much and usually that led to heartbreak. More so, though, he was worried about Harry. He hoped their relationship, if that was what it could be called, would be good for him. Louis knew that Harry's eating disorder didn't define him, but he was so afraid of doing something that would make it worse. He really had no reason to believe that Harry wasn't better. Well, the fainting thing was really worrisome, but he knew he'd eaten breakfast that morning and if he had thrown it up, it wouldn't have been until they were on the plane a couple hours later. By that point, Louis thought it would have been pointless. That day had been the third time he'd nearly fainted, though, which, of course, wasn't normal. Maybe he would have the doctor check Harry out and figure out what was going on.

As he stood outside, staring over the balcony with his phone in hand, contemplating all of this, the mobile went off again, alerting him that it was Dean making another attempt at contacting him. Dean was so impatient, but with a roll of his eyes, Louis answered.

***Harry***

Harry began drifting off almost as soon as he heard the patio door shut, but right before he slipped over the brink of sleep, he realized that he hadn't checked his phone once during the plane ride, nor had he let his family know that he had made it to Australia safely.

Surprisingly, when he dug his phone out from his bag, he only had three missed calls from his sister and one from his mom. They had left voice mails as well, but Harry decided to save himself the pain of listening to them freaking out over his silence and just call them. He chose to dial his mom's number, as he was less likely to get yelled at by her than by Gemma.

“Finally!” a shrill voice answered the other line, and it wasn't his mom after all. Harry sighed, but before he could tell his sister to relax, she said, “What took you so long?! Did you get lost up Louis's arse?!”

“Gemma!” Anne hissed from the background, hinting that Gemma had literally ripped the phone from her hands when she saw that it was Harry who was calling. He should have known.

“What the fuck, Gem?” Harry asked, his eyes darting to the patio, where he could see Louis leaning lightly over the balcony, still on the phone. He of course didn't say this, but with the way the singer was leaning...well...Harry wouldn't mind getting lost up his arse, maybe.

“I saw the picture of you two all tongue-tied with each other!” Gemma said.

“There was no tongue.”

Gemma ignored that true statement.

“Thanks for letting us know that you have a famous pop star boyfriend!”

“He's not my boyfriend.”

“Well, you're not just being one of his hussies, are you? I know you're in love with him, Harry, but you need to respect yourself more than that.”

“It was only a kiss.”

After a very brief pause; brief enough so that she couldn't say anything back, Harry said,

“And we are also supposed to go on a date before leaving Sydney, but-”

“What?!”

The pitch of Gemma's voice actually hurt Harry's ears, and he winced, though was smiling as well.

“Yeah, even if it doesn't happen, it was totally worth it for that reaction.”

“If he told you that you were going on a date, then you better fucking go on a date or I will personally set fire to his tour bus.”

“Um, okay, psycho; calm down.”

“What are you talking about?” Harry heard Anne ask her daughter. Gemma told her and then Anne gasped loud enough for Harry to hear from the other line.

“Let me talk to him,” the mother demanded. There was the sound of shuffling and then her voice was in Harry's ear. “Hello?”

“Hi, mum.”

You have a date with Louis?!”

“We're supposed to go to an observatory if we have time.”

“Oh, Harry, that sounds lovely, but...You do know what you're getting yourself into, yes?”

“Yeah. Louis's warned me all about it.”

“Is all this attention going to be good for you?”

I really like him,” Harry replied, which he realized was really not answering the question at all.

“I know you do, sweet heart, but is it worth all that it comes with?”

“Yes.”

Harry hadn't even had to hesitate. Though he had been leery before, he knew without a doubt that it was definitely worth it. Even if the media tore him apart and even if he and Louis ended...No matter how insecure Harry felt around Louis sometimes, he also felt true happiness when he was around and, for some reason, Louis seemed to really enjoy his company too. Harry may not be what Louis was expecting him to be, but he hoped that he could make Louis feel good until he realized that. Harry wanted to show Louis that there were people who liked him for him and who wouldn't leave; not until Louis wanted them to.

“I just worry about you,” Anne spoke, bringing Harry back to their conversation.

“I know you do, but I'm fine,” Harry told her.

“I'm so proud of you.”

Harry bit his lip, guilt welling up inside of him. He faked a yawn, which quickly turned into a real one.

“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I got in safely. I'm going to take a nap, I think.”

“Okay, baby,” Anne said softly. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

They said their goodbyes-and Gemma too-and then Harry ended the call, closing his eyes before he'd even let his phone drop back down to the bed. He was still tired, but he knew that now he wouldn't be able to sleep. He felt too sick.

Though he knew Louis hadn't believed him, Harry had eaten some of a sandwich on the plane ride while the singer had been resting, but he'd gotten full fast. That had been a while ago, but Harry suddenly felt as if he needed to throw up what he could of it.

His mother had nothing at all to be proud of.

A loud noise as the door opened made Harry jump and open his eyes. In stepped Louis, rubbing his arm.

“Ouch,” he said under his breath, and then smiled when he realized that Harry was looking at him. “The door hit me.”

Harry laughed as much as he could.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah. I won the fight, believe it or not.”

“Oh, I believe you, don't worry. The door looks wounded and absolutely humiliated.”

Louis looked at the door, smirking as though it really had been his victim, and Harry couldn't help but to laugh again. As he turned his gaze to the dancer, Louis's smirk turned into one of his crinkly-eyed grins. It didn't last long, but Harry had still seen it and got that warm feeling as he had the first time. Once it faded, Louis looked Harry up and down, and then sighed dramatically.

“God, why are you so hot?” he asked. Harry didn't have a good response for that, so he said nothing, but Louis didn't appear to expect an answer anyway, and he gathered fresh clothes before heading for the shower.

As soon as the door clicked, Harry began to panic, aware that he couldn't get into the bathroom. He hadn't heard Louis lock it, so he figured that he could, if absolutely necessary, but he couldn't do what he needed to do in the bathroom with Louis right there in the shower next to the toilet.

His sick feeling grew, and it was only then that he realized it had been absent while he'd been talking with Louis. That gave further proof to what he had already known; that his illness was psychological. Harry was ashamed. He was such a psychotic mess. Why did anyone want to be around him?

Forcing himself off the bed, Harry walked the few feet to the full-length mirror, straightened both his clothes and his posture and looked at his reflection. He tried to see what Louis thought was 'so hot' about him. He couldn't, but for the first time in a while, he wasn't completely disgusted at what he saw. Of course, there were still his problem areas, such as his stomach and arms, but his cheekbones actually were looking better. They were much more prominent than they'd been before. He wondered if that was what attracted Louis to him; his prominent cheekbones…

Bones, bones, bones…

Though Harry's bicep area was much too flabby for his liking, when he pulled down his shirt, he saw popping collar bones, and when he turned around and lifted his shirt, he could faintly count his ribs from the back. Pulling his shirt tight a round his middle , Harry noted that his stomach, while far from perfect and not completely flat, had still shrunk a lot from just last week.

That's not healthy, Harry; that's not normal. You aren't supposed to look like this. Why do you have to be starving to look even halfway decent?

Starving, starving, starving…

Harry was starving. He may not be able to feel that he was starving, as he rarely felt hungry anymore, but that was just further proof that his stomach was shrinking. Next, his body would probably start eating itself again. His hair would turn dull, his eye color would fade…

Would Louis still think he was 'hot' then?

Tears pricked at Harry's eyes and he pressed his fists hard against them, taking deep breaths until he felt in control of himself.

He wondered if he had time to find the fitness center before Louis got out of the shower. He needed to weigh himself and see if he was below his goal weight yet. If he was, then he could eat like a typical human and pretend to be normal for a little while. He could pretend that his mind wasn't screaming at him for every bite he took. Maybe he could even enjoy it sometimes.

Deciding that he had to find the fitness center and that he would come up with an excuse later if need be, Harry hurried from Louis's hotel room. It was only as he heard the door click shut behind him that it dawned on him that he didn't have a way back in. Oh well. Better work on that excuse on the way back up, after he got over the anxiety of finding out what he weighed. He just had to know.

Luckily, the room number to the fitness room was listed inside of the elevator and Harry pressed the correct button. When he exited the lift, he walked briskly to the door he wanted and pushed it open, and then stopped dead in his tracks because Liam was there, running on the treadmill like he was running from something; drenched in sweat. For a moment Harry was impressed, but then he realized that something wasn't quite right. Liam's eyes were red, and not the type of red they got from being under the influence. He didn't even notice when Harry entered, which wasn't that strange, especially since he had ear phones in, but he remained oblivious even as Harry stood next to him, close enough to see that he had been running on the treadmill for close to an hour, even though they had barely been at the hotel sixty minutes.

Feeling guilty that he had forgotten, Harry suddenly remembered Liam's strange silence on the ride to the hotel-and the even stranger way that he had been beating his wrists against the door handle without even flinching. He frowned, his worry growing deep.

Harry realized as he did this that it wasn't the brightest idea he'd ever had, but he tapped Liam on the shoulder to gain his attention, causing the runner to gasp and nearly fall off the treadmill. Luckily, Liam pulled the emergency key and stopped the machine before he did.

“Oh my god, I'm so sorry!” Harry said, his eyes wide with terror. Though Liam had steadied himself, Harry had a hold of his arm and had yet to let go.

“It's alright,” Liam assured him, his breathing surprisingly normal for how hard he had been running, but he gave a tired half-smile. It almost looked painful. “What are you doing here?”

Harry nearly told him, but stopped himself in the nick of time. His intentions were good, he thought, but he knew it would sound bad if he told the only friend who knew of his eating disorder that he had ventured down to the fitness center simply to weigh himself.

“How long have you been here?” Harry asked.

“Way to answer a question with another question,” Liam commented. Harry smiled a little bit, nervously, but was serious as he said,

“You've been acting strange, Liam. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I'm fine,” the dancer said with a nonchalant shrug.

“You can tell me the truth,” Harry said. “I'm worried about you, mate.”

“You don't need to worry about me.”

“Of course I'm going to worry about you. You're my best friend.”

Harry didn't think he'd said anything particularly mind-blowing, but at his words, Liam looked shocked.

“I am?”

“Of course,” Harry said, though he thought the man had known that even before Harry realized it. He'd considered Harry his best mate on more than one occasion.

Liam smiled, suddenly seeming a lot less tense than before.

“I'm fine,” he said. “I'm not the one who nearly fainted at the airport, you know.”

“I didn't almost faint,” Harry said, but Liam looked down the bridge of his nose disbelievingly, so Harry amended, “I just didn't get much sleep last night is all.”

He wholeheartedly expected to be met with a snarky remark about Louis keeping him up all night, but he wasn't.

“None of us got a lot of sleep last night,” Liam said, “but the rest of us didn't nearly collapse.”

“I'm good, Liam. Promise.”

Harry knew he wasn't, of course, but he would be. As long as he was where he needed to be, he could be his version of 'good' for at least a little while.

As a best friend, I'm worried about you, Harry,” Liam continued on. “I don't want you to have to go back to an institution, but I'm at a loss for how to help you. Can you at least tell me what to do?”

“First of all, I'm not going to have to go back to...an...insti...Liam, how did you know about that?!”

Harry knew for a fact that the only people he had ever told about having to go to a mental facility were the friends he'd had back when he'd been sick the first time, and…

“Dracen,” Harry answered his own question. Liam remained silent, his eyes just as wide as when he realized he'd let slip on something he wasn't supposed to know.

“Sorry,” Liam finally nearly squeaked when Harry remained quiet as well, his breathing growing shallow. He was getting dizzy. He wanted to scream and cry and throw up and even punch something before collapsing and becoming unaware of the outside world for hours.

“When did he tell you?” he asked instead. He had removed his hand from Liam's arm a bit ago and now held tightly onto the treadmill, keeping himself steady on his feet.

“When we were all at the bar and you were outside talking to your sister on the phone.”

“Fuck,” Harry said, bending and straightening his knees as his legs grew weak.

“We're all just worried about you,” Liam said, which didn't help anything.

“Who exactly is 'we all?!'”

Liam noticeably swallowed.

“All of us,” he muttered, looking away for a moment as he ran a hand through his sweaty hair.

“He told everyone?!”

Liam jumped as Harry's tone raised and then he shrunk back a little, looking afraid. Harry wanted to cry, but instead, he just laughed; very humorlessly, but still.

“It makes perfect sense now,” he said.

“What does?” Liam asked, looking at Harry like he had lost his mind, but still obviously frightened. He kept his body arched uncomfortably backwards, trying to subtly distance himself from Harry when it wasn't subtle at all. Right now, though, Harry had other things to worry about besides the fact that Liam didn't want to be near him.

“Everything with Louis makes sense,” Harry explained. Well, he thought that should be explanation enough, but Liam looked confused. Harry couldn't go into further detail at the moment because he needed desperately to get back to Louis and fix this whole thing.

“I'll catch up with you later,” Harry said to Liam as he turned and jogged back to the elevators. The scale was going to have to wait.

“Hey,” Louis said with a smile as he opened the hotel room door after Harry had rapped on it. “I was wondering where you went.”

The smile was wiped off his face before he even finished his sentence and then he asked,

“Are you alright?”

“Can I come in?”

“Yeah...of course.”

Louis stepped back, allowing Harry to enter the room, and then closed the door, following the dancer over to the bed. Harry didn't take a seat though; instead pacing in circles for a few rounds before stopping in front of Louis. His head was starting to spin, but he bit the insides of his cheek and swallowed, keeping himself alert.

Harry, what's wrong?” Louis asked, his frown deep, and Harry hated that. He hated that he did that; that he put that frown there.

“You don't have to go on a date with me,” Harry said, and for a moment, he thought he saw hurt cross Louis's face, but then reminded himself that that would be ridiculous.

“What do you mean I don't have to?” Louis asked.

“I know why you're doing it,” Harry said. Louis's frown somehow grew and he crossed his arms tightly over his chest.

“By the way you're acting, I don't think that you know why at all, but go ahead and explain your theory.”

Swallowing against the lump in his throat, Harry blinked the moisture in his eyes back rapidly and then, once he had a hold of himself again, continued.

“I know that Dracen told you about when I was a teenager and had to go to a facility for my, um, disorder.”

“Okay…,” Louis said, pausing as if he expected Harry to go on and when he didn't, saying, “Sorry, but I don't see what that has to do with us going on a date.”

“You really don't?”

“No, not at all.”

“So you didn't say you would go on a date with me just because you feel sorry for me?”

“No! Why would you think that, Harry?”

“It's the only thing that makes sense!” Harry exclaimed, and took a moment to, once again, collect himself. “Everyone told you what a big fan I was of you and you're a good person, so you said that you would go on a date with me so that I would maybe feel better about myself.”

Louis's mouth was literally hanging open, and Harry assumed that it was because he was shocked that Harry had figured him out, but then the singer shook his head quick enough to nearly give himself whiplash, his arms falling back down to his sides.

“No, Harry, that's not true at all!”

“You don't have to spare my feelings. I'm fine now. You can tell me the truth.”

As far as he knew, Louis had no idea that he still wasn't 'fine' so he was going to play that narrative up and hope that Liam hadn't blabbed like Dracen had.

“Do you want the truth?” Louis asked, crossing his arms yet again.

“Yeah.”

No , he thought silently. I should have just gone to my room and locked myself in seclusion.

“I'm sorry that you went through all of that as a teenager,” Louis began, “and I know it will probably stay with you forever, and it makes me sad, but that doesn't mean that I feel sorry for you. I like you, Harry. You're funny and you're sweet and you're gorgeous and over all amazing. And before you get the wrong idea, I thought you were gorgeous before you lost the weight you have.”

It was Harry's turn to cross his arms, in a sad attempt at self-defense. He hadn't thought that anyone had noticed his weight loss because, even though he could see the differences earlier when he'd looked in the mirror, he had been looking for them and, besides, he still had enough parts of him that weren't growing thinner to distract from the places that were trimming up.

“I really hope you're okay,” Louis continued, “and maybe I should have mentioned the fact that you were losing weight before, but I wanted to believe you when you said that you were fine. Really, I'm not so sure. Either way, though, I want to be here for you.”

“I'm fine. I don't need help,” Harry said. The last thing he wanted was to put pressure on Louis and have him run faster, if, of course, he hadn't already succeeded in scaring him away.

“Are you sure?” Louis asked, studying Harry's face for something that Harry was unsure of. He tried to keep his expression neutral.

“Yes,” he said. “I don't want all of that to be the only thing you see when you look at me.”

Louis's shoulders slumped and his face softened. He took a subtle step closer to the other man.

“It's not,” he said.

“It's just none of this makes sense because why would you even like me?” Harry wondered aloud. He was aware that he probably should have kept that thought to himself, but while Louis was already experiencing his crazy, he might as well go all the way.

“I just told you,” Louis said, his voice still gentle.

“You were lying.”

Be quiet, Harry, be quiet, be quiet, shut up!

“I'm not lying, I-”

But Harry interrupted.

“Tell me how this makes sense then!” he said, his hands flying up helplessly. Mentally, he slapped himself, but that wasn't enough to get him to stop. “You're beautiful; I'm not. You're rich; I had to have my parents pay for half of my rent. You're outgoing and captivating; I'm awkward and basically invisible, which is completely okay because I'm comfortable that way, but still...You're funny and I'm fucking crazy. You're-”

It was Louis's turn to interrupt then.

“Okay, first off, firecracker, you're not crazy. I think you're quite funny and charming, and I'm sorry to tell you, but you're not invisible. Secondly...all of those things are so superficial, Harry. Do you think all I'm looking for is a pretty rich boy I can take to parties and show off? Do you think I'd give a shit if you were less attractive and came from a cardboard box on the side of the road, even if you had the same heart? Do you think I'm attracted to appearances only and couldn't care less about who you are as a person? Do you honestly think that I want someone I can take on cute dates as long as they smile and laugh at my jokes, but the second they give any indication that they're actually a fucking human with feelings and problems, I'm done? Do you think I'm like that, Harry? Tell me the truth.”

“No,” Harry said, looking down because the look of hurt was undeniable on Louis's face now and, damn it, that hurt Harry too. “I don't think you're like that at all. I know you're a good person, but the messed up part of me tries to convince me otherwise because I'm never going to feel good enough for you, so I have to get ready for you to realize it too.”

“That's...really fucking sad, Harry.”

Harry squeezed his eyes shut at the genuine pain that sounded in Louis's voice. He didn't want to hear that and know that, like the frown, he'd caused it. He wanted to disappear. He wished, not for the first time, that he had died in that car accident all those years ago.

Those thoughts popped up in Harry's mind every now and then. It happened less now than it used to, but he always wondered how things would be different if he hadn't made it out. For him, obviously, things would be good. He wouldn't feel a damn thing and he wouldn't need to eat. He always contemplated the state his mother, father and sister would be in at that point. Surely, nine years after the fact, they would have all accepted it and moved on. Probably, they would be happier than they were now as, every day, they waited for Harry to relapse and be put on his death bed yet again. Every day, they had to worry about if they would have to see their son and brother die before his time when he felt that his time should have been that wreck.

Sometimes those thoughts could lead Harry to very dark places, but that time, they were sweetly interrupted when Harry was pulled back from the gloomiest parts of his mind by a pair of lips on his. His eyes shot open, but only for a split second because, of course, it was Louis that was kissing him. At first, Harry just embraced the kiss, which may have been a bit awkward, but he didn't know what else to do when he was making Louis 'break his rule' again. He had just barely begun kissing back when Louis broke away.

For a few moments, neither of them said anything; just stared. When that got to be quite uncomfortable, Harry finally spoke.

“You broke your rule,” he said, and cleared his throat, hoping his voice would be stronger if he needed to speak again.

“Not really,” Louis said with a shrug. “I said that I don't kiss unless it's real and I don't need a date to know that I'm in this for real. Are you?”

“Louis...you don't understand how complicated I am.”

“Let's see, you ran out of your dance class the first day I observed you, despite the fact that it was basically an open audition for your dream career; you made me wait forever and a day to say that you would join the tour, despite later telling me that dancing was all you wanted to do and making it seem like you wanted to do it all along; you rejected my dance only to disappear and then come back later to ask me to dance; you can be so afraid of offending me one minute and then ruthlessly teasing me the next-which I enjoy, so don't think differently. You'll kiss me, but act like you did something wrong when you touch my knee and you'll let me kiss you despite the fact that you're doing everything in your power to try to push me away. I think I understand that you're a rather complex individual, Styles.”

Louis winked, keeping the mood as light as it could possibly be at the moment, and then he kissed him again. Harry was quick to kiss back that time, though it was only a peck from both.

“If this is actually your way of trying to get out of the date or of anything else, you can tell me. I'm not going to be upset. I just want to know what's going on in your head.”

“It's not...I'm not trying to get out of anything,” Harry said. “To be honest, I don't even know what's going on in my head half of the time.”

“Join the club,” Louis said with a humorless laugh, but his smile was genuine. “So you're still into...this?”

Harry nodded.

“Okay then,” Louis said. “Tomorrow, we're going to go on our date, and in the mean time, we are going to kiss until you realize how amazing you are.”

“We might be kissing a while then,” Harry said teasingly. Louis let out a fake sigh.

“Alright, if we must.”

Taking Harry's hand, Louis led him over to the bed and helped him to lay down gently. Then the singer climbed on top of the dancer, straddling his waist without actually putting much weight on him as he leaned down to kiss Harry's lips and then his neck. Harry's eyes briefly fluttered closed, but he opened them, cleared his throat and said,

“You know I won't break if you're actually on me...right?”

“I don't want to crush my tiny dancer with my massive bum.”

Harry snorted, but then felt bad about it, and said, “Oh my god, your bum is fine.”

“I wasn't saying anything bad about it, but it is rather large, isn't it?”

“I think it's quite lovely how it is.”

“Large is lovely, Harry.”

A beat of silence, and then,

Um...that sounded a lot dirtier than I meant it to, but, um...”

Harry laughed, saving Louis the pain of trying to recover from that statement by propping himself against the headboard and gently leading Louis's hips down until he was properly sitting on Harry's thighs. He hated to be treated like he was fragile, but, mostly, Harry just wanted Louis there.

Next, Harry leaned forward to kiss the singer . He felt calmer now, suddenly. There was still the internal chaos, of course, but its volume was at low instead of booming around like a movie theater.

He knew he wasn't going to ever have a sudden realization that he was, as Louis claimed, 'amazing,' but he thought that he was starting to believe that Louis really liked him anyway, and Harry could appreciate how truly beautiful that was.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

Niall knew that something was wrong with Liam and he couldn't shake the fear that it was his fault. He'd thought that, even after the mildly awkward morning he and Liam had had before the flight, they were okay. It quickly became obvious, though, that something still wasn't quite right with his crush. There was something missing from his smile and even from his voice when he spoke while, over all, he remained much quieter than usual. Even when Liam was asleep, he wasn't really relaxed. It all almost made Niall wish that he just hadn't said anything that night that he and Liam had cuddled and fallen asleep together, but he couldn't regret it too much when he knew he wouldn't take it back, given the chance. He'd needed to say it for himself, and he hoped that, one day, Liam would realize that he had needed to hear it.

After Liam had fallen asleep and woken up on the plane, he tried to smile, but something looked even more off than before. He'd been having nightmares, Niall thought, but before he could even think about questioning Liam, the other man asked how the book they had been reading was going. Maybe he was wrong, but Niall had a feeling that Liam had somehow known what he was going to ask and didn't want to talk about it, so he decided to refrain from bringing up the topic.

“I didn't even get a whole chapter read,” Niall admitted. “It just wasn't as fun without you.”

“Sorry,” Liam said, and his smile then was small, but it at least looked genuine.

“No need to apologize,” Niall assured him. “I probably should have slept too, but I don't think I would have been able to anyway.”

Instantly looking concerned, Liam tilted his head as his eyebrows pulled together.

“Do you feel alright?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

Niall made sure to give his own comforting smile. Liam simply nodded and then took the book they had been reading previously from the net on the back of the seat in front of Niall and began searching for where they had left off.

Proving himself wrong, Niall was asleep before Liam had even finished one more chapter.

When he woke up, Liam had a drink; an alcoholic one, of course. Niall didn't say anything, assuming, or at least hoping, that had been the only drink Liam had ordered, and he supposed that one drink for such a long flight wasn't bad.

 

Once Niall and Liam both started to feel as if they were really going to go stir crazy, the plane landed. Niall was one of the ones who clapped at the event.

Liam was completely silent on the ride back to the hotel, which Niall seemed to be the only one to notice at first. He desperately wanted to ask if he was okay, but he knew it would be pointless around the rest. Liam would, of course, insist that he was fine. Besides, Niall didn't want to draw attention to the fact that their friend was acting different, sure that was how Liam would want it.

Niall turned out not to be the only one to notice the man's strange behavior, though, and after everyone, minus Harry, got food, Harry took it upon himself to ask if he was alright.

“I'm fine,” Liam said, and Niall nearly rolled his eyes. He already knew this man all too well.

Harry seemed willing to let the subject go, despite the fact that Niall could tell he didn't believe Liam anymore than he did himself, but then a strange noise sounded throughout the backseat and they soon discovered it to be Liam hitting his wrists against the door handle. Gasping, Niall didn't even think about it before he reached out and covered Liam's hands, causing him to stop immediately. After a moment, Niall let go and Liam withdrew his hands; one sitting in his lap and the other on the seat next to him. Shifting subtly so that the others couldn't see, Niall gently stroked the hand resting on the seat with his pinky and, as he was hoping, Liam locked their fingers together.

They didn't let go until they reached the hotel.

Liam locked himself in the bathroom as soon as he and Niall got to their room, and when he came out, he was dressed in a t-shirt and sweats. He looked comfortable and very cuddly, and Niall was just wondering how likely another snuggle session would be when Liam said,

“I'm going to go down to the fitness room for a bit.”

“Aren't you exhausted?” Niall asked, because he could barely even think about moving from his bed at the moment, let alone exercising.

“I rested on the plane,” Liam said.

“Yeah, but that's not the same as sleeping in a bed.”

“I've been sitting for so long. I just need to move.”

“Alright. Well, more power to you, then.”

Niall honestly didn't know whether he should be irritated or amazed.

Without another word, Liam turned and exited the room. Niall sighed, way too disappointed over the fact that he wasn't going to get to cuddle Liam and nap than he should have been. Luckily, he was tired enough that he fell asleep anyway.

 

“Niall! Niall, hey, can you wake up? I need to talk.”

“Hm?” Niall hummed, and if he had heard Liam correctly, he would have woken up immediately, but he hadn't heard what he'd said and could barely even register that it was him speaking, so he simply turned his head and was out again before the person could repeat themselves.

 

When Niall did finally wake nearly three hours later, he looked to the side to see if Liam had returned yet, but he wasn't on the bed or at the nearby desk. It was only as Niall sat up and stretched, trying to decide if he should go look for the other man, that he realized the shower was going. He smiled, relieved. He already wasn't Liam's favorite person at the moment, and dragging him away from the fitness center would solidify his dislike.

Feeling full of energy, Niall stood from the bed and walked over to the mirror, attempting to fix his mess of hair the best he could without wetting it; shaking his hips and humming to some song he couldn't remember the name to at the time. As he worked on his appearance, his stomach growled and Niall decided that once Liam was out of the shower, he would ask him if he wanted to go eat at an authentic Australian steakhouse.

After a couple of minutes, Niall came to the conclusion that his hair was a lost cause until he could get into the bathroom, but overall, it didn't look terrible considering he'd been on a plane for almost a full twenty-four hours and had just woken from a three hour nap.

Just as he was turning from the mirror, preparing to watch some television and do some sit-ups while waiting for Liam, the shower water turned off. Niall went ahead and turned on the TV anyway, but forwent the exercise routine for the time being. He wasn't really paying attention to what was on, as he was too nervous over asking Liam to dinner. Maybe it was stupid. He and Liam had gone out to eat together before-never as a date, of course-but now, after their earlier conversation, Niall wondered if Liam would take to distancing himself. Niall had gotten too close and he assumed the other man was going to do a bit of pushing him away before giving up and letting him in again, at least a little bit.

But, then again, they had held hands in the car, so Niall was really just all sorts of confused and didn't know what the correct way to be feeling was.

Despite it all, once he heard the 'click' of the bathroom door being opened, he couldn't help but to smile. As pathetic as it was, he'd missed Liam. There had rarely been a time the two were apart since the tour had started and Niall didn't mind that at all. He wanted all the time in the world with Liam.

Unfortunately, it appeared that he was going to have to share because when the person had exited the bathroom and rounded the corner, Niall saw that it wasn't Liam. When he looked over to make eye contact with the stranger, he jumped.

“Sorry,” the other guy apologized with a smile. Niall didn't recognize him and, given his thick Australian accent and ugly blue button-up, he guessed that he was a worker at the hotel. “Didn't mean to startle you.”

“It's alright,” Niall said, even though he felt anything but. A lump formed in his throat and he swallowed against it. He wasn't even sure if he was sad, angry or both, but the nerves were gone and something much more unpleasant had taken its place.

“Noah!” a voice hissed, and Niall heard footsteps as Liam made his way quickly from the bathroom. “What are you doing? I thought you were leave-Oh...hey, Niall.”

“Hey,” Niall said, his voice flat, and he would be lying if he said he didn't feel a little smug at the shocked and guilty look that Liam had on his face. There was a few beats of awkward silence, broken eventually by Noah.

“Yeah, I'm leaving. I just heard that your room mate was awake and thought I'd introduce myself.”

“Noah, Niall; Niall, Noah. He works at the front desk.”

“I had a feeling,” Niall said, and, he didn't smile, but he at least made his lips twitch upward which was the best he was going to be able to do at the moment. Then, his voice laced with just enough sarcasm so that Liam was probably the only one that could tell, he said, “It's a pleasure, Noah.”

“Yeah, you too!” Noah said with a huge grin. Yep, he was completely clueless. “I'll see you around. Liam...I'll see you again before you leave?”

“Maybe. I'll be pretty busy with the shows and stuff, but, uh...we'll see. Shall I walk you to the door?”

Noah frowned, but it only lasted a second before he put the smile back on his face and nodded. Both rounded the corner, there was the sickening sound of two pairs of lips smacking together, and then the door opened and shut. Niall bit the insides of his cheeks, swallowed and had himself composed by the time Liam came back, the other dancer leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, just staring daggers into Niall's head.

“Yes?” Niall asked, turning his head from the TV to look at Liam as well.

“Nothing,” Liam said, diverting his eyes to the floor and shuffling his foot around before sitting on the edge of his bed and staring at what seemed to be nothing in particular. Niall outwardly sighed, his emotions changing yet again to make him feel guilty. Something was wrong with Liam, and Niall shouldn't be angry at the same coping strategy he always used, and he definitely shouldn't feel good that Liam had felt bad about it; maybe even ashamed.

It was only then that Niall remembered that someone had tried to pull him from his sleep earlier; a man. It made sense then that it had to have been Liam, and what had he said?

For the life of him, Niall couldn't recall, but that didn't change the fact that Liam had tried to rouse him. Maybe he'd tried to come to Niall with whatever was wrong and when Niall refused to wake, Liam did the only thing he knew could make him feel better.

It was a good thing Liam didn't want to date Niall. He would be a terrible boyfriend.

Flipping off the TV, Niall moved so that he was sitting on the side of his own bed, facing Liam, who was still concentrated on a seemingly very interesting speck on the floor.

“Hey,” the blonde said, making his voice much softer than it had been only moments before, “did you say something to me when you got back from working out?”

Liam shrugged. Niall took that as a yes.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Why are you apologizing?” Liam asked, and Niall was glad that he finally looked over to him, but was unhappy with the sad and distant look in Liam's eyes. “I shouldn't have even tried to wake you up. That was rude of me.”

“No it wasn't,” Niall tried to assure him. “I don't care at all to wake up if you need something. I was just super out of it. I'm sorry.”

“Stop apologizing!”

Liam sounded exasperated, and Niall bit his tongue so that he wouldn't apologize yet again for upsetting him.

“Well, what did you need?” he asked instead.

“It's nothing,” Liam mumbled, falling backwards onto the bed and covering his eyes for a brief second before letting his arms flop to his sides and looking at the ceiling.

“Please tell me,” Niall tried. He half expected Liam to get defensive and close up, as he often did when he was being pushed to talk about anything that went deeper than guys and alcohol, but to his surprise, that wasn't the case.

“I fucked up,” Liam sighed.

“How?” Niall asked, figuring that Liam's reason for fucking up was probably not having sex with some guy he didn't know in the shower of a hotel room like Niall thought it should be.

“I accidentally told Harry that we all know he was in an institution for his eating disorder when he was younger.”

Niall's eyes widened, but he composed himself quickly.

“I'm not judging or anything, Liam, but how did that accidentally come up?”

Liam sighed again.

“Long story short, he came to the fitness center, said he was worried about me and I said the same thing about him. I told him I didn't want him to be put back in an institution. I know I should have thought before I said that, but I'm just so scared...Anyway, he wanted to know how I knew, of course, so I told him, and then I fucked up again by telling him we were all worried about him.”

“It's going to be okay,” Niall assured the other, because while Harry was probably understandably upset, he had expected Liam's 'mess up' to be much worse, and now maybe Harry would realize how many people he had supporting him.

“I don't know. He was so upset. He got...angry. I've never seen him angry before.”

“I think he was probably mad at Dracen, not you.”

“I know that, but still. He said some shit about things with Louis making sense now, and he didn't explain what he meant by that before he ran off. That was hours ago and I haven't heard from him since. He didn't go back to his room, and it's not like I have Louis's number to get in contact with him and see if he's seen Harry.”

“He probably went to talk to Louis,” Niall theorized. “Maybe they've been talking or went to do something or...I don't know, but I'm sure Harry is fine.”

“He probably is, but I don't know for sure!”

“You didn't do anything wrong, Liam,” Niall said then. “Harry would have found out eventually anyway probably, and honestly, I don't even know if not telling him that we knew was the correct thing to do.”

“With how upset he is now that he knows we know, it was the right thing.”

“Well, we'll have a chat with him and make him feel better. In fact, I'm sure that's what Louis is doing right now, which is why you haven't heard from him.”

“What if he's not?”

“Then apparently Harry just needed some time alone, like everyone does sometimes. It's going to be fine, Liam. I understand why you feel bad, but you don't need to. You didn't do anything wrong. Everything will be fine.”

Liam began to say something, closed his mouth, and then sighed. When he did say something, Niall thought it was different than what he had planned the first time.

“I just don't know how to help him.”

“I know. Me neither.”

Taking a chance, Niall got off his bed and joined Liam in laying on his.

“We'll figure it out though. We're going to make sure he's okay.”

“You're so optimistic,” Liam commented, turning to look at Niall, and he didn't smile, but he looked at least a bit more relaxed than before.

“I've got to balance out your negativity,” Niall teased, and then said, “I'm scared too, but until there's not a choice, I have to believe the best.”

Liam nodded, like he understood, even though Niall wasn't sure he did. He and Liam definitely were two very different people when it came to coping with stress. Niall became dangerously optimistic, and Liam simply became a danger to himself.

“Now,” Niall continued, “I know this stuff with Harry is terrifying and that it's everyone's big focus right now, but you can be a little less selfless and tell me what's going on with you.”

“Selfless?” Liam asked, one eyebrow quirking up. Niall nodded and Liam gave a humorless laugh. “I don't think that has ever been an adjective used to describe me.”

“Allow me to be the first then,” Niall said. “Seriously, though, mate, what's up?”

“What do you mean? I told you. I was stressing over telling Harry that-”

“No, something was going on before that,” Niall interrupted. He felt rude but he was really not in the mood to hear Liam pretend that everything was fine, as he usually did.

“No it wasn't,” Liam disagreed anyway, and Niall rolled his eyes.

“You've been extremely quiet which, no offense, is completely unlike you, and, once again, no offense, but perfectly happy and okay people do not bang their wrists into door handles.”

“That was a subconscious thing,” Liam said.

“Okay,” Niall responded noncommittally, “but what's wrong that you subconsciously felt the need to do that?”

“Nothing.”

Again, Niall rolled his eyes.

“Twenty questions?” he suggested. Liam frowned.

“What?”

“Shall we play twenty questions?”

“I don't know,” Liam replied cautiously. “What kind of questions are we asking?”

“Anything we want, but if we don't want to answer a certain one, we can pass and have each other ask something else.”

Liam took a moment to study the bedspread, running his finger around the shapes in the print while he thought. Finally, he stilled and looked back to Niall.

“Fine.”

“Great,” Niall said, sitting up and crossing his legs. Liam did the same.

“Who first?”

“I'll probably regret this, but you.”

“Okay. What's wrong?”

“I knew it. Pass.”

“Favorite color?”

“Purple.”

“Purple is a nice color. Your turn.”

“Are you a natural blonde?”

“Unfortunately, no. Boxers or briefs?”

Liam snorted and Niall grew rather proud of himself.

“Boxers,” Liam answered. “Condom or raw?”

“Jesus Christ!” Niall breathed, causing Liam to laugh again, the dimple appearing by his eye that proved it was a real smile. “Condom. I'd rather not have to worry about contracting AIDS or an STD while I'm cheerily going at it.”

Liam snorted not only once or twice, but three times at that answer, covering his face as he laughed, and Niall smiled. He intended to get to some deeper questions, but he dreaded seeing that smile fade.

“Okay, so...I'm not sure I want to know the answer to this, actually, but….Please tell me you use condoms, Liam.”

“Of course,” Liam answered, uncovering his face, but still smiling. “I'm not stupid.”

Niall let out a breath, relieved.

“I know you're not stupid, Liam,” he said, “but I do think we should come up with a safe word?”

“Safe word?” Liam asked, his eyebrow lifting again.

“Yeah. You know, a word that you can text me or say when you call me to let me know that you need help or whatever.”

“Niall, that is...ridiculous.”

Niall wasn't offended by the remark because maybe it was, but he would feel better if he and Liam made one anyway.

“Just humor me?”

“Okay, fine, but the safe phrase has to be 'blue balls.'”

“Blue-...Okay, whatever you want.”

Liam's smile grew for a moment, clearly amused, but, even though Niall knew that he was laughing at him on the inside, he didn't care because he really did feel so much better.

“Okay, whose turn was it?” Liam asked.

“Yours.”

“Oh yeah. Um...if you weren't a dancer, what do you think you would want to do, career-wise.”

“Sports manager, probably.”

Liam nodded in approval.

“That would be cool,” he said.

“Maybe I'll do it someday when I'm too old to dance professionally. Who knows? Anyway...hm...favorite childhood memory?”

Niall didn't think that question would be too deep or personal. In fact, he thought it was a rather light question, but Liam grew silent, his smile slowly turning to a frown as his brows pulled together in concentration. The other dancer's heart dropped because, honestly, he didn't think a favorite childhood memory should take so long to come up with, unless there were just too many, which Niall didn't think to be the case, given Liam's expression.

“Li?” he prodded after a good while of silence. “You can pass if you want.”

Niall supposed he could stick to asking his favorite animal or something, but Liam shook his head.

“No, I've got one,” he said.

“Okay, I'm ready.”

“It's going to sound stupid.”

“I doubt that, but if it makes you happy, who cares?”

“Yeah...I guess.”

A moment passed and so Niall decided that Liam needed a little more encouragement.

“Go on,” he urged. “I'm not going to judge.”

“Okay.”

Liam smiled nervously before continuing.

“So when I was twelve, my parents and I went on vacation to Dublin, Ireland.”

When Liam mentioned Niall's country, a small smile graced his lips and he nodded to the other man, who smiled as well, but stayed quiet and waited for his story to go on.

“We were at the zoo one day and I sneaked off into some shops while they were taking a bathroom break. I'd broken my arm right before we left home from, um, falling down the stairs or something, and so I had this bright blue cast on. There was this kid and he, um...Yeah, you're really going to think this is lame, but-”

“He told you he liked your cast?” Niall guessed, his heart picking up speed. No, he tried to tell himself. It couldn't be. This didn't mean anything. There were plenty of people from the UK who traveled to Dublin, and lots of people, kids especially, had broken arms. Almost every twelve-year-old-boy probably picked to have a blue cast. There was no way…

“Yeah,” Liam said. “We talked for a little bit. He told me he liked my accent and then we went and he bought us both ice cream. I hadn't thought to get his name, because I guess that's just not something twelve-year-old boys think about, but he was about to sign my cast with this dinosaur highlighter he'd taken from the store, and then-”

“Then your dad showed up,” Niall interrupted again. Liam frowned, but he looked more confused than annoyed, oblivious to what Niall now knew; That it had been Liam he met that summer so long ago, and it had been he who had nearly signed Liam's cast.

“Is my story that predictable?” Liam asked. “I swear it's true. I'm not making it up.”

“I know you're not,” Niall assured him, “because...uh...I was the kid.”

Liam's frown deepened.

“What?”

“Yeah,” Niall said, because he had a suspicion that Liam had heard him just fine and needed time to process the information he'd been given. “I was the kid in the shop that said he liked your cast and...holy shit, how did I not recognize you?”

The question was stupid, Niall supposed. They had been young and had only spent about a half an hour in each other's company. Really, Niall thought that if he were anyone else, he would barely even remember the day at all, but he had. In fact he'd played the day over and over in his head for the next few weeks after it had happened until the memory finally started to fade. It never went away completely though.

“I didn't recognize you either,” Liam pointed out, studying Niall's face. “Are you sure it was me? It wasn't just some other English boy with a blue cast?”

“Not unless we had the exact same experience with different guys.”

Liam thought about it and then shook his head.

“Probably not likely,” he said.

“Probably not.”

“I just can't believe...How the fuck is that even possible?”

Fate, Niall wanted to answer, but that would be the cheesy answer, so he decided to stick with the more logical one for now.

“Small world and all that,” he said. “Told you I wasn't a natural blonde.”

Liam smiled.

“That's so fucking crazy.”

“Can I confess a couple of things to you?” Niall asked.

“By all means.”

“First...I only took that highlighter because I saw you slip candy into your pocket and I wanted you to think I was cool. I put it back later.”

Liam laughed. Niall smiled, and then went on to his second confession.

“And when I signed your cast, I was definitely going to pull a trick from the movies and put my phone number on it too.”

The other man refrained from laughing at that one, but his smile grew so wide that the dimple appeared again. Niall wondered if it was a happy smile or a mocking one. Perhaps both.

“Damn it,” he sighed once his smile had faded as he threw himself back onto the bed again, his head resting on a pillow. “My father just had to ruin everything.”

“Like you would have used my number anyway,” Niall teased, laying down right next to the other. “You don't seem like the long distance relationship type.”

“Hey, back then, who knows? I hadn't yet discovered the wonders of using casual sex as therapy. I was actually quite a cheese ball myself.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So what happened?”

“Life,” Liam answered dramatically after a short pause. For the multiple time that day, Niall rolled his eyes.

“You would have called me then?”

“Yeah, and it would have been worth being beaten for the long distance minutes.”

Though the way he said the words were light and teasing, Niall cringed. He had assumed, with how shut off Liam was, that someone had hurt him, but he had figured it to be a crush or previous boyfriend who made a dumb mistake and broke his heart. Now he had to wonder if it was actually a hundred times worse than that.

Maybe he was jumping to conclusions. Twelve-year-old boys were reckless and clumsy. Broken arms were common amongst them, as he'd reminded himself earlier. It was a typical 'joke' to say that someone's parents would beat or kill them if they did something wrong. Those things weren't all that strange, but Niall guessed that Liam didn't remember that his pre-teen self had told Niall he'd broken his arm by falling off a horse, not by tumbling down the stairs, and he also had a feeling that Liam was oblivious to how he had jumped when his dad had yelled his name after Niall had only put a simple 'N' on his bright blue cast.

Please, please make me be jumping to conclusions, Niall pleaded to no one in particular.

“I guess putting my e-mail address would have been a better method,” he spoke, and hoped that Liam didn't notice the slight quiver in his voice.

“Far less cool though,” Liam said with another smile and a wink. Well, Niall assumed it was supposed to be a wink, but Liam apparently needed both eyes to do it. That was okay though because it was basically the cutest thing ever; even cuter than the eye dimple.

“Would you have let me take you on a date before you left Dublin?” Niall asked.

“Hm...What would we have done on our date at the very mature age of twelve?”

“Mini-golf, of course,” Niall said, not mentioning that, should Liam not have been taken away when he had, he would have asked him to go mini-golfing with him and a couple of his friends later that night when they had met.

“How would I have been able to say no to mini-golf?” Liam questioned.

“So, hey, Liam?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you want to go mini-golfing with me?”

That produced another laugh from the man.

“Sure, but it's not considered a date at twenty.”

“Why not?”

“It's just not.”

“Hm...What if we went to a park and fed the ducks afterward?”

“Why would that make it a date?”

“Why wouldn't it be a date in the first place?”

It was Liam's turn to roll his eyes, but the smile was still on his face and he used his index finger to bop Niall on the nose.

“I don't date.”

“But you said that you would have told me yes back then.”

“Yeah; then.”

“I'm the same person now as I was then, just a lot less awkward and a lot more attractive, in my humble opinion. Other than that, I haven't changed.”

“Maybe not, but I have.”

Liam had turned serious again, so, holding in a sigh, Niall scooted closer to him and reached out to gently stroke his cheek-hey, he just really wanted to touch Liam, okay? He never got his cuddle session earlier-but the man flinched back when he saw Niall's hand going towards his face. The smaller dancer's heart sank again.

“Twenty questions again?” he asked, withdrawing his hand and putting it underneath his head so that he wouldn't again reach out for the other unthinkingly.

“Okay,” Liam said.

“How did you break your arm when you were twelve?”

“I told you; I fell down the stairs.”

“That's what you told me today. Back then you told me you fell off a horse.”

Liam fish-mouthed, caught in his lie, and Niall wanted to assure him that it would be okay; that he just wanted to be there for him, but he remained silent.

“It just sounded cooler,” Liam finally said, far too late, and his voice was weak. Niall even thought he saw the beginnings of tears welling up in his eyes. He blinked furiously, but they didn't go away.

“Your turn to ask a question,” Niall said.

“I don't...I don't want to play this anymore,” Liam said, and it pained Niall how hard he tried to hold it together only for his lip to quiver and a tear to roll down his cheek before he quickly turned his head to bury his face in the pillow; trying to hide.

“Liam,” Niall called out gently.

“What?” the other asked, his voice much higher than normal. He cleared his throat and sniffled.

“Talk to me.”

“No.”

“Can I...Can I touch you?”

Liam said something, but spoke much too quickly for Niall to be able to understand with the words being muffled by the pillow.

“I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you said,” he told him. Liam sat up, wiping his eyes furiously, though that wouldn't have hid the fact that he was crying anyway. Niall was often frustrated by the fact that Liam wouldn't ever admit to his emotions, but seeing him like this was so painful that Niall almost wanted to look away. He didn't though, for fear that if he broke eye contact, then he would also break the trust that Liam was showing him in the moment.

“Of course you can touch me!” he cried, tugging at his hair, so Niall took that as permission to sit up and hold his hand, just to get him to stop. Liam intertwined his fingers with Niall's, but was no more relaxed as he went on.

“Everyone's allowed to touch me!” he said, shaking Niall's hand as he swung around his own. “Have you not realized by now that I'm a fucking queer whore?!”

“Liam!” Niall gasped harshly, causing the other to grow quiet, but also making him jump. “Sorry, but...don't say that! Fuck, someone has said that to you, haven't they?”

Niall's question was rhetorical, which he guessed Liam knew because he didn't answer; only took a deep, shaky breath in as he continued to try to blink back his tears.

“I don't know what all has happened to you,” Niall spoke again, “but you can tell me how much-or how little-you want. No matter what, you have me, okay? You don't have to get drunk or sleep with strangers if you don't want to. And you can be whoever you want to be, not just who some cunt told you that you are or made you feel like you are.”

“Can we just pretend this didn't happen?” Liam asked, taking his hand away from Niall to cover his face, resting his knees on his elbows.

“I'd rather not. I want to get to know you, Li; the real you and all of you. I don't know if you realize this, but you're allowed to act like a human because you are, you know, a human and not a...dancing sex robot.”

Liam snorted, which sounded quite lovely through his tears, and he muttered an 'ew' at himself. Niall laughed and went to pat his knee, but stopped.

“I'm sorry that I've probably tainted your favorite childhood memory though,” he commented, and was both happy and sad that the thirty minutes they'd spent together in a zoo when they were young was the best memory that Liam could come up with.

“Yeah, that was quite a dick move,” Liam commented, uncovering his face, but his smile showed that he was joking. His eyes were dryer than before, though tears still stained his cheek and Niall wanted to kiss him until all was fine, but that would make him one of Liam's therapy 'tools' and not his friend, so he didn't.

“How was the rest of your Ireland vacation?” Niall asked.

“It kind of sucked, to be honest,” Liam said, and Niall's mouth dropped open.

“Ouch! That kind of hurts me on the inside.”

“It's nothing to do with your beautiful country,” Liam assured him. “Just the company I was with.”

“That is still unacceptable,” Niall told him. “When we travel there for tour, I'm going to make it up to you, I promise.”

Liam just smiled wider, shaking his head.

“You're...I have no words for you.”

“I'll take that as a compliment.”

Before Liam could reply, Niall's phone began ringing from where it was lying on the other bed. Niall hurried over to get it and then went right back to be next to Liam, flashing the screen at the other before he answered so that he could see who was calling.

“Harry, hey.”

“Hey, Niall,” Harry said. “Have you heard from Liam? He's not answering his phone.”

Niall laughed, not because anything was funny, but because it was just like those two to be going through their own personal hell but still worrying about each other, and everybody else, above all.

“Yeah, he's in the room with me,” Niall said. “He's good.”

“Oh, good,” Harry sighed in relief.

“Everything good with you?” Niall asked.

“Yeah, all is fine. Please tell Liam that.”

“I will.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem. Catch up with you soon?”

“Yeah. Thanks again.”

They hung up and Niall smiled up at Liam.

“I think you may have missed a call or two,” he said. Liam reached into his pocket, but apparently did not find his phone, and his eyes grew wide before he patted himself down.

“Oh, wait,” he said after a few seconds of undeniable panic. “I left it in the bathroom.”

“Harry was worried about you,” Niall said.

“How ironic.”

“That's what I was thinking. He says all is good though.”

“I hope so. Sorry I just freaked out.”

“No need to apologize,” Niall said with a shrug.

“I need a nap,” Liam announced, and he did look absolutely exhausted. Niall's stomach growled, reminding him that he was hungry. He then remembered that he had been planning on going to an Australian steakhouse with Liam, but figured that it was not the right time.

“Take a nap,” he said. “In the mean time, I'm going to order room service. Do you want anything?”

“I'll just order something when I wake up.”

“Okay.”

Moving very slowly, Niall leaned forward to press a gentle kiss to Liam's forehead. He knew that it was a move which could very likely blow up in his face, but Liam was smiling sleepily when he pulled away.

“Can I get serious again for a moment?” Niall asked.

“I suppose,” Liam sighed jokingly.

“Not everyone that wants to get close to you wants to do so only to hurt you or take from you.”

Liam's face became serious, but he didn't look upset at what Niall said. Rather, he looked contemplative. Niall decided to leave him to that.

“Have a good nap,” he said, and threw himself off the bed to fetch the room service menu from the desk.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

Liam was still asleep by the time Niall was growing hungry again, so, putting the idea of going to a steakhouse away for another time, he grabbed a snack from the vending machine and decided to go outside for some fresh air. It was dark and cold, and Niall shivered as soon as he stepped out, and it only then occurred to him that it might be summer in England, but it was not in Australia. He could run onto the tour bus and grab a jacket, he supposed, but quickly decided that it wasn't worth it. After eating, he would go back inside. Maybe by then, Liam would be awake and they could cuddle under the warm blankets.

That was probably hoping for way too much, but Niall wasn't an optimist for nothing.

Niall had gone to the back of the hotel, where the buses were parked, and he wasn't sure he was allowed to do that, but was comforted by the fact that Zayn and Louis were also out there, sitting on the ground a little more than a hundred feet away, chatting as Zayn smoked something that didn't smell like a cigarette. He smiled, but was going to leave them be until Zayn noticed him in the distance and called out to him.

“Niall! Hi, Niall! Come join us!”

Louis turned, and Niall thought he gave a smile, but it was hard to tell when his face was only being illuminated by a very faint light. Still, he took his cheez-its and walked over to the two.

“Hey,” he greeted with a nod as he shoved food into his mouth.

“Hello,” Louis greeted, his grin clear that time. “Have a seat.”

Obediently, Niall sat on the ground next to the two.

“You want a hit?” Zayn asked, holding his blunt out to the other dancer as he blew a stream of smoke from his mouth.

“No, thank you,” Niall said kindly.

“You two are boring,” Zayn commented. Niall and Louis smiled at each other, neither offended.

“How is Harry doing?” Niall asked the singer as Zayn took another hit for himself. “I heard that he knows about Dracen telling us about his problem.”

“Yeah,” Louis said. “He was freaking out at first, but I think he's okay now, or at least as okay as he can be expected to be.”

“Do you think he still has an eating disorder?”

Louis thought for just a moment.

“I don't think that's something that you ever really get rid of once you've had it, but he seems to be eating...I think.”

He paused again and then frowned, but that lasted only a second before he put the smile back on his face.

“How is Liam?”

“Okay, I guess,” Niall answered, deciding not to question what the brief change of demeanor was about. If he had wanted to share whatever thought had caused that reaction, then he would have.

“Liam is bat shit crazy,” Zayn commented, and Niall felt himself become slightly offended.

“Zayn!” Louis said, hitting his dancer's knee lightly with the back of his hand.

“Sorry! Zayn said, holding up his hands before taking another hit and then throwing the rest of his cigar on the ground. “He's a nice guy and all, but in the car on the way here he was all, like...I don't know, it was like he belonged in Girl, Interrupted or some shit.”

“That doesn't mean he's crazy,” Niall said, making sure to keep his tone even. He knew that Zayn hadn't actually meant any offense. He was just high as a freaking kite.

“He and Harry both need help,” Zayn said, and neither of the others could deny that. Zayn continued, “Like, I know you love Liam and all, Niall, but have you thought of moving onto someone with less daddy and/or mommy issues?”

“Hey,” Louis said sternly, “guys with daddy issues are great in bed.”

Louis winked at Niall.

“Sure,” Zayn said, “if Niall is into all that kinky stuff.”

“I guess he can call me daddy if he really wants to,” Niall said, mostly joking, but kind of serious too. Louis laughed loudly, then covered his face and rested his elbows on his knees.

“That's so gross,” he said, his words clear even if his voice was muffled.

“Hey, don't kink shame,” Zayn said, and he was smiling.

“Not all daddies are bad, Louis,” Niall said softly, but smiling to show that he was, mainly, joking. “Some of them do truly love their babies...or sugar babies.”

“Stop!” Louis said, covering his ears, but keeping his eyes tightly shut still. The other two laughed.

“I'll be sure to tell Harry not to call you daddy,” Zayn said, getting to his feet and wiping his hands on his pant leg before wiping the dirt from his bottom. “And on that note, I'm going inside. I'm hungry.”

“Of course you are, Zayn,” Niall said, and he would have offered him some of his food, had he not eaten it all. Zayn didn't reply to him, his face suddenly twisted in concentration; his eyebrows pulled together. Louis and Niall glanced to each other, partly amused with just a little concern.

“Hey, Zayn?” the singer called and when he got no answer, said, “Zayn! Earth to Zayn! You okay, mate?”

“Do you think weed can cure Harry's anorexia?” Zayn asked, speaking slowly, his eyes still glazed over.

“I doubt it,” Louis said. Zayn's shoulders slumped and at his disappointment, Louis added, “It was a good theory, though.”

Shaking himself, Zayn blinked his eyes back into focus and smiled.

“Good night!”

Louis and Niall told him good night and watched as he made his way inside. Then, Louis looked to Niall and smiled again.

“So how are you doing?” he asked.

“I'm great,” Niall replied. “How are you? Your voice still sounds a little rough. Are you going to be good for the concert in a couple days?”

“I'm fine,” Louis said, and then coughed. Niall raised an eyebrow.

“You're sure you're not sick?”

“I'm not sick,” Louis stated. “I'm taking Harry on a date tomorrow.”

“Oh, so what I'm hearing is that you're going to pretend you're not sick.”

“I'm fine,” Louis insisted. “I'm getting pretty insulted that everyone keeps telling me that my voice sounds like shit when I sing for a living, though.”

Niall smiled, knowing the man was joking, but assuring him anyway.

“Your voice doesn't usually sound like that, which is why we know there's a problem.”

Louis shook his head, but then proceeded to have a coughing fit. Niall gave him a knowing look as he waited for him to stop and, once he had, said,

“I don't think you should be out in the cold, in all honesty. Maybe we should go in.”

“In a minute,” Louis said. Niall didn't argue and let a few moments of silence passed. It was broken by Louis.

“What should I do about Harry? I want to make him happy, but I don't think that I can overpower a mental illness that keeps telling him he isn't good enough. Harry told me that he doesn't even think he's good enough for me. Isn't that crazy?”

“I'm used to it,” Niall said. “He always said that back when the lot of us were only teasing him about dating you; before we really knew that it was going to happen.”

“That's so sad,” Louis said, and he did sound quite torn up about it. “I don't know how someone can see flaws that aren't there.”

“I don't know,” Niall said, knowing that he wasn't helping at all, but he was at a loss too. Another second of quiet passed and then Louis spoke again.

“I don't think Liam is crazy, by the way,” he said. “I think he's hurt, like Harry, but that he showcases it in a very different way.”

“Yeah,” Niall agreed, not informing Louis of just how correct he was. “What are we going to do with them?”

“I don't know,” Louis said. “Love them until they learn to love themselves and then love them more then, if that's possible, I guess.”

“That was deep,” Niall said, and he hadn't meant for it to sound like he was making fun of the singer, but Louis laughed and looked embarrassed.

“I'm writing a song with that line,” he teased himself.

“It will be a hit,” Niall assured him. Louis laughed again, though it turned to a long cough.

“Oh, shit,” he breathed, slowly rising to his feet. Niall followed suit.

“Are you finally going in?” the dancer asked.

“I guess,” Louis said. “It's so cold out here that I'm getting hot.”

“That makes no sense,” Niall informed the other. “I think you definitely have a fever.”

“I'm taking Harry on a date tomorrow.”

“A date to the doctor's office sounds like it will be lovely.”

“We're not going there!” Louis exclaimed, and then gave a cough so harsh that even Niall cringed. Without another word, the two went inside.

“Hey, by the way, did I ever give you my phone number?” Louis asked in the elevator. Niall noted that his voice was starting to fade again, but didn't say anything about it.

“No,” he answered his question.

“Let me give it to you,” Louis said, and so Niall unlocked his phone and handed it to the singer.

“You can give it to Liam too,” he told him afterward as he stood in front of the now-opened elevator doors to prevent it from shutting and taking them back down. “He sounded pretty freaked out on the voice mail that he left Harry.”

“Yeah,” Niall said. “He felt really bad about accidentally telling him all that.”

“Harry was worried when he couldn't reach Liam too,” Louis said.

“Those two may drive us crazy one day,” Niall thought out loud. Louis laughed, but agreed. Since they were on Niall's floor, he stepped out.

“Have a good night, Louis,” he said. “Get some rest and try to feel better.”

“I feel fine,” Louis insisted. Niall rolled his eyes.

“Good night,” he said again.

“Good night.”

Sadly, Niall's optimistic thought had not come true and Liam was still asleep when he entered his room. Figuring that he was out for the night at that point, Niall got into his pajamas and laid down in his own bed. He couldn't keep his eyes off of Liam, though, until the other dancer took a deep breath in and stretched his arm out in front of him as he turned his head. Niall feared he'd stared so hard that he'd woken him, but then Liam's arm flopped back down to his side and he stilled. Finally, Niall looked away, feeling a bit creepy. He wanted to crawl into bed with Liam anyway, but knew that would be even creepier and so just turned off the light, rolled over and closed his eyes, knowing that he would probably see Liam in his sleep anyway.

***Liam***

Liam slept well, and when he woke at five in the morning, he felt refreshed. He was unsure why at first, until he looked over to Niall sleeping in the other bed and then he remembered. The smile slipped off his face and panic rose up in him because now Niall knew too much. He'd put some of the pieces together about Liam's life before the dance academy, where he'd taken on his 'numb sex machine' persona. He'd seen Liam cry. Basically, he'd been face to face with past Liam, and Liam did not like it. There was a reason he wasn't like that anymore. Now that Niall knew he was vulnerable, he could use it against him.

Niall wouldn't do that, Liam tried to tell himself. Besides, Niall had already met past Liam because he'd been the kid at the zoo. The boy that Liam had been wondering if he would let him run away with him was Niall. Niall had been the one who allowed Liam to realize, without a doubt, that he got the butterfly feelings over boys, not girls, and Liam spent years chasing that feeling again until he realized that his father had been right; he wasn't going to find love with a man because any man who liked guys would find Liam too weak, too sensitive; too girly, as if being girly was a bad thing.

But Niall had met weak, sensitive, feminine Liam, and he'd liked him well enough. He'd actually met him twice; once at the zoo and then again at university because Liam hadn't developed his persona until a couple months into his first semester at school.

Liam had been forced from Niall's life twice, Liam realized then. First, he'd been taken by his father and the second time, he'd had to leave from his own actions, but even though he'd left Niall's life twice, Niall had come back into his three times. If Liam was anyone else, he might consider that a sign, or fate, or something, but he was Liam and, as he'd already concluded, he wasn't Niall's fate. Maybe he was a challenge that Niall had to get around and once he got rid of Liam for good, he would be free to live the happily ever after he deserved while Liam was stuck sleeping with strangers and drinking away his loneliness.

Except he wasn't lonely. Nope, Liam didn't get lonely. He embraced being by himself, actually. Really, he did.

His body didn't appear to get the message that Liam's mind was trying to send him and infuriating tears pricked at his eyes again. Sitting up, Liam pressed his wrists hard into his eye sockets until the tears were gone and then he blinked until the colors of the dark room were normal again and his vision was clear.

After getting a quick shower, where he tried to scrub away any sign of weakness he'd let himself have the night before, Liam quietly left the room and went down to the lobby.

“Can I help you?” the lovely front desk lady asked as Liam approached her.

“Hi,” Liam said with a small smile. “Do you know where the nearest grocery store is?”

The lady gave him directions and Liam nodded along. Then, she asked,

“Would you like me to call a cab for you? It's about three miles away.”

“That's okay,” Liam assured her. “I can walk.”

“Alright, sir. Just give the front desk a ring if you get lost or have any questions.”

“Thank you.”

Liam took the paper that she had written the directions on and went on his way. The morning air was cold, even with his sweatshirt on, but Liam didn't mind.

On his way to the store, Liam checked his bank statement to see how much money he had. He was pleasantly surprised when he saw that his first check from Louis had come in. It felt nice that he could buy as much alcohol as he wanted, but reminded himself that he had to use most of the money to pay Harry back. Oh well. He could still get a couple packs.

Liam started in on the drinks during his walk back to the hotel. He was on his second by the time he reached the room, but it was nearly gone, so he set a third on his nightstand and put the rest in the mini fridge the hotel provided.

Niall began to stir as Liam started in on his third drink, his head becoming just a bit foggy, and he sat up as Liam gave a quiet burp.

“Good morning,” Niall greeted with a yawn. “Can I turn on the lamp?”

“Go ahead,” Liam allowed. Niall did, and he was giving a sleepy smile, but it fell off his face quickly when he saw the bottle in Liam's hand.

“You're starting early,” he noted.

“Breakfast,” Liam explained.

“There are, you know, muffins and such downstairs,” Niall said. “That would be a better breakfast than...whatever that is.”

“Some Australian drink,” Liam said, glancing at the bottle but not actually reading the name. “It's really good though. Want to try it?”

“Why not?” Niall sighed, getting out of bed and taking the bottle that Liam was offering him. He made a face as the liquid slid down his throat and handed the drink back to Liam. “It's way too early to drink,” he said.

“No it's not,” Liam disagreed, pretending that he wasn't actually feeling a bit sick.

“How many have you had?” Niall asked.

“This is my third.”

“Jeez. No wonder you look like you want to upchuck.”

Liam finished off the bottle and fought off a gag.

“I'm good,” he said nonchalantly. Niall didn't look like he believed him at all.

“So I'm assuming this means you regret last night.”

“I was having a moment of weakness,” Liam said. “I'm sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing for having emotions?” Niall sighed. “I thought we discussed this and came to the conclusion that you're not a robot.”

“I want to be a robot,” Liam said. Niall shook his head.

“Robots might not be able to feel sadness, but they can't feel happiness either, Liam.”

Liam shrugged and crossed his legs, not mentioning that happiness was such a rarity for him that he might as well never feel it at all. Even though he kept that thought to himself, Niall looked at him sadly.

“I'm sorry,” the blonde finally said. Liam frowned, confused.

“What the hell are you apologizing for?”

“For not chasing after you at the zoo and, later, for not ever really making a move to even be your friend at university. I wanted to do both of those things.”

Liam remained silent, unsure of what to say because he still didn't really know why Niall was apologizing.

“Want to come get some real breakfast with me?” the Irishman asked.

“Okay,” Liam said, thinking food might do him good. He thought wrong, and after only a couple of bites, he pushed his plate away and covered his face, taking deep breaths in an attempt to not be sick all over the table.

“Still think morning drinking was a good idea?” Niall questioned.

“Don't make fun of my pain,” Liam mumbled.

“I would never make fun of your pain, Liam,” Niall said, his voice much more gentle.

Liam took another moment to compose himself and then lowered his hands to his lap, giving Niall the best smile he could muster. The other simply looked back at him in worry.

“I'm good now,” Liam said.

“I don't think you know what 'good' is,” Niall muttered, going back to his cereal. Again, Liam didn't give him a reply.

On the way back to their room, Niall stopped at a vending machine to buy Liam a Sprite. Liam thanked him, genuinely touched by the thought, even if it wasn't necessarily a big deal.

The pair watched a few shows on TV in their separate beds. Liam sipped on his drink and once he finally felt better, he was ready to go.

“Okay, so what are we doing today?” he asked, sitting up straight and swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. Niall looked at him, dumbfounded.

“You are exhausting,” he sighed. Liam frowned.

“What do you mean?”

“You go from sad, to drunk, to fine, to sick, to sad, to fine, faster than anyone I've ever met.”

Liam smiled and even gave a small laugh, but Niall didn't return either.

“Seriously, I don't know how you live as you.”

“I'm quite a wonder,” Liam said, going to sit by Niall's feet. “Come on, let's get Louis, Harry and Zayn and go do stuff. I'm bored and you know what I do when I'm bored and unentertained.”

Liam winked but, still, Niall looked unamused.

“I don't know if Louis and Harry can come,” he said. “It depends on what time their date is.”

“They have a date?!” Liam asked, his mouth falling open.

“Oh, yeah,” Niall said. “Or Louis said they did last night at least.”

“This man tells me nothing,” Liam sighed.

“Do you want to go to a steakhouse tonight?” Niall asked, changing the subject.

“That sounds good,” Liam said, already taking out his phone. “I'm going to call Harry, hold on.”


Harry agreed to go to dinner with Liam and Niall that night, though was going to stay with Louis until then. The singer was, apparently, ill, and so Harry didn't think their date was going to happen and Liam sincerely hoped that it wouldn't be a hit against his ego.

Zayn didn't even answer his phone when Liam tried to call and invite him along.

“I guess it's just us,” Liam said.

“You're okay with that?” Niall asked.

“Of course,” Liam said. “We're friends.”

“Friends,” Niall repeated, and then laughed to himself, throwing his body back onto the mattress and covering his face. “You're exhausting,” he repeated. Liam chose to ignore that, acting like it didn't hurt him, for whatever reason.

“Let's go!” he said, pulling on Niall's hand. “I want to see Australia!”


Liam and Niall mostly did sight seeing and a little bit of shopping, but before they had to head back to the hotel in order to meet Harry for dinner, they stopped by the Sydney Harbor Bridge to look out over the edge.

“I bet this is really pretty at night time,” Niall commented.

“Maybe we can come back,” Liam said and, for the first time that Liam could recall that day, Niall smiled.

It was late by the time the two reached their room again. Harry would arrive at any minute, and so the two changed quickly, not even bothering to take their things into the bathroom and change in privacy. It wasn't like they hadn't seen each other's bodies in their dance outfits or while swimming anyway, but when Liam caught Niall staring, he gave him a knowing smirk. Niall blushed, and Liam laughed.

“Careful,” he warned teasingly. “I might start thinking you want something.”

“I do,” Niall said, and Liam jolted.

“You do?” he asked, barely managing to not get turned on right then and there.

“Yeah, but it's nothing you're interested in,” Niall said, no longer looking at Liam, but focusing intently on buttoning his shirt.

“What do you mean?” Liam asked.

“What do you think I mean, Liam?” Niall asked. Liam thought about it, and though he had a suspicion, he didn't want to think about it or go there.

“I probably don't want to know,” he said. Niall clearly held back a sigh.

“Probably not.”

“But,” Liam said slowly, his heart picking up speed, “if I was into that stuff, it would be you who I wanted to...do it with.”

Niall smiled; a small one, but still.

“Maybe someday,” he said. There was a knock on the door.

“Optimism,” Liam said lamely before turning and heading for the door, though he for some reason couldn't get the smile off of his face.

***Harry***

Though Harry had fallen asleep early in Australian time, he stayed asleep until seven in the morning, which he found quite impressive. Maybe jet lag wouldn't hit him as hard as it hit most people.

After checking the clock, Harry had let out a sigh and laid back down, staring up at the ceiling. He needed food, and he was going to let himself get some, but he needed to muster the energy first, which was quite a task.

When he heard a cough, something inside of him gave him enough juice to at least sit up, and he focused his bleary eyes on Louis sitting at the desk across the room, writing something onto one of the hotel's notepads. The singer sniffled and then, perhaps feeling eyes on him, looked up and smiled at Harry.

“Good morning,” he greeted, and Harry's eyes grew wide because his voice sounded even worse than it had the previous day.

“Holy shit,” the dancer breathed.

“That bad, huh?” Louis asked, coughing into his sleeve afterward.

“You're definitely ill,” Harry said, and motioned for Louis to come over.

“I'm not ill,” Louis told him, but crawled onto the bed anyway. Harry had leaned himself against the headboard, and Louis ducked down as if to kiss him, but only puckered his lips, hinting that he did actually know that he was sick. Harry laid his hand across his forehead.

“You're burning up,” he noted.

“I'm not sick,” Louis insisted, but then fell silent as Harry placed a finger on his lips.

“Please stop,” he asked softly. “It sounds painful.”

When Louis didn't respond, Harry continued.

“Maybe I should get Beatrice or the doctor.”

Louis shook his head, Harry's finger still on his lips. When Harry lowered it, the singer took that as permission to speak.

“Are you ready for our date tonight?” he asked.

“I don't think you're going anywhere today,” Harry commented. Louis frowned.

“But I want to go on a date.”

Somehow, Harry held his breath and mustered enough energy to lay Louis down onto the pillows next to him. Of course, he didn't think the singer was fighting him about it all that much. Harry leaned down to kiss his forehead.

“I'm going to go find a thermometer,” he said.

“No,” Louis said, his voice cracking before he coughed. His red eyes started to water, so Harry thought that the cough hurt, but, still, Louis shook his head.

“They'll freak out if they think I'm sick,” he said in a whisper. He still had Harry's hand in his own.

“Maybe with good reason because if you're this way tomorrow, there's no way you'll be able to do the concert.”

“I want to go on a date,” Louis said yet again, sticking his bottom lip out slightly. Harry placed another kiss on his forehead.

“You're whiny when you're sick,” he commented endearingly.

“I'm not sick,” Louis said, pouty voice and all.

“Aww, aren't you cute?” Harry cooed, but lightly pulled himself away from Louis as he got to his feet. The room only spun a little bit.

“No, don't leave me,” Louis said, making grabby hands at the man.

“I need food,” Harry said, knowing that Louis wouldn't argue with that. “Do you feel like eating anything?” he asked.

“I'm not hungry,” Louis answered.

“Because you're si-ick!” Harry declared in a sing-song voice as he turned and began heading for the door. Louis threw a pillow at him, and it hit Harry in the head, but the dancer only laughed and turned to blow a kiss before continuing on his way.

“Nooo, my pillow!” he heard Louis cry as the hotel room door shut, but Harry didn't feel too bad, knowing there were other pillows surrounding the man, so he chuckled to himself and began walking towards the elevators.

Though Harry wanted taking care of Louis to be his number one priority, he was too shaky and dizzy to not eat before searching for a thermometer, especially since he had no idea where to even begin.

As luck would have it, Beatrice was in the breakfast area, so Harry approached her, thinking he had a few more minutes in him before the got to the fainting stage.

“Hello, Harry!” Beatrice greeted with a warm smile as she saw the dancer approaching. “How are you feeling?”

“I'm fine,” Harry said, because for all intents and purposes, he was. “Um, Louis is ill though.”

Beatrice's face morphed into what could only be considered horror.

“What's wrong with him?” she asked.

“He's coughing, has almost no voice and I'm pretty sure he has a fever too.”

Beatrice's mouth formed a tight line.

“I'm calling the doctor,” she announced, and whipped out her phone. Harry took that moment to grab a waffle, without adding syrup, and a cup of strawberries, and then made his way back just as she was locking her phone.

“The doctor is heading up,” the manager explained, rising to her feet.

“I'll be up there in a minute,” Harry said. “Um, how does Louis take his tea?”

Beatrice told him. Harry quickly finished his waffle and threw out the plate before getting Louis's tea and heading upstairs with that and his strawberries. He felt a little nauseated already from the waffle, but he knew he would be okay. He wasn't going to throw up on his own and he wouldn't be able to purge, but right now, that was alright He hadn't been able to weigh himself yesterday, but he would give himself a bit of a cheat day, if only to keep Louis from worrying and becoming even more ill.

Harry had again forgotten that he didn't have a way into Louis's room until he was right outside the door, so he held his cup of strawberries in his mouth and knocked. Beatrice answered, and for a quick moment, Harry was afraid that she was going to tell him to leave, though he didn't know why he'd thought that and she didn't say anything of the sort. Instead, she let him in immediately.

“Sorry,” Harry apologized anyway as he followed her around the corner to face Louis, who was laying down in bed with all of the covers pulled up to his chin. Harry wondered if that was his doing or Beatrice's. “I keep forgetting that I don't have a key.”

“Beatrice, give him yours,” Louis croaked. That way you can't barge in and scare the shit of me anymore.”

“Hush,” Beatrice ordered.

“I brought you tea,” Harry said quickly, before Louis could argue with the woman, as Harry got the feeling he would.

“You're so sweet,” Louis said, taking the cup from Harry and sitting up just a bit to sip on it. Harry waited for him to finish the amount he wanted for the time being and then took the cup from him and set it on the nightstand before he sat down next to Louis, putting his legs up on the bed and leaning against the headboard. When he was settled, he popped a strawberry into his mouth.

“Want one?” he offered to Louis, who shook his head and turned so that his forehead was against Harry's bicep. Harry rubbed his arm soothingly, and even that felt hot.

The trio was quiet and Harry thought Louis must have started to doze off because he jumped when there was a knock on the door. Beatrice answered again, and the doctor stepped in.

“Louis!” he exclaimed humorously. “It's too early in the tour for you to be falling apart on us!”

“I'm fine,” Louis said, yawning and laying his head against Harry's arm again.

“Open,” the doctor instructed, pulling out his thermometer. Louis sighed quietly, but did as he was told. The doctor was checking his pulse when the device beeped, so Harry took it upon himself to retrieve it from Louis's mouth and check the reading.

“Jesus, Louis,” he breathed.

“What?” Beatrice asked, and Harry showed her.

“What is it?” Louis asked.

“One-oh-two point two,” Harry said.

“That's not that high,” Louis said.

“Your pulse is good,” the doctor told him. “Sit up, please.”

Louis did, and Harry stood so that he could be better examined. After checking his eyes, ears, nose and throat, as per usual with doctor's visits, it was declared that Louis only had a virus.

“Just take Ibuprofen for the fever,” the professional instructed, “and drink plenty of liquids, of course. Get lots of rest. I can give you cough medicine and a numbing spray for your throat if it hurts, which I'm guessing it does by the redness of it, but other than that, it just has to work itself out.”

“Please give him anything you can,” Beatrice said. “What about the show tomorrow?”

“It's possible that he'll be well enough by then to perform, but the liquids and rest are extremely important, and I'm not just saying that as a cliché,” the doctor told them both.

“Rest, Louis,” Beatrice reiterated. “That means stay in bed.”

“I'll stay in bed until it's time for Harry and I to go on our date,” Louis said, and Beatrice looked to the dancer, who, she seemed glad to find, was shaking his head.

“No date tonight,” he said, climbing back in bed next to the singer. “You'll just have to make it up to me in the next country.”

Louis frowned and opened his mouth to say something, but Beatrice spoke before he could.

“Rest, Louis,” she said, “and for the love of God, be quiet for once in your life.”

“Rude,” Louis whispered, but the woman ignored him and looked instead to Harry.

“Please make sure he rests?”

“I will,” Harry assured her.

The doctor set Louis's prescriptions on the nightstand and Harry helped him take them after reading the correct dosage. Seeming a little more relaxed now that she was leaving Louis in Harry's care, Beatrice smiled.

Call me if you need anything; either of you. Alright?”

They both assured her that they would and, after telling Louis that she hoped he felt better after getting some rest (emphasis placed on that word), she left. The doctor had already seen himself out. When the door shut, Louis let out a groan.

“Why?” he asked, laying all the way down again and putting his arm around Harry's waist. Harry sucked in and straightened up, but didn't make Louis move, and took to playing with the other's hair now that his strawberries were gone.

“You poor thing,” he said, and he was teasing, kind of, but he meant it too. Whether he was dramatic about it or not, Harry didn't undermine Louis's illness.

“Maybe you shouldn't be around me,” Louis said. “You might get sick.”

I don't need my voice to dance anyway,” Harry said, and almost pointed out that Louis might have gotten it from him, but he was unsure now if the others had come to the conclusion that when he had been 'sick' a couple days ago, it wasn't from a cold or virus, but from the eating disorder.

“Yeah, but you won't want to dance feeling like shit,” Louis reasoned.

“Oh, so you're finally admitting that you don't feel good?” Harry asked.

“No,” Louis said, snuggling into Harry's side. Harry began rubbing his back.

“You're stubborn.”

Me? Never?”

Harry huffed out a laugh and raised Louis's hand to his lips so that he could kiss it. Louis sighed, this time in contentment.

“I'm really sorry that we might not be able to go out tonight,” he said.

“We definitely aren't going out tonight,” Harry corrected, “but it's okay. You just need to get better. Here; finish your tea.”

Louis sat up and accepted the cup from Harry. They were quiet as he drank, and he snuggled right next to Harry again once he'd finished.

“Hey, it's not in your stomach too, is it?” Harry asked, worried by the fact that Louis hadn't wanted anything to eat and had even drank the tea slowly.

“No,” Louis said. “I'm not going to puke on you, don't worry.”

“That's not what I was worried about,” Harry told him, “but that's good, at least.”

“I don't know. I've performed with a stomach bug before. I can't really perform without a voice unless I lip synch the whole thing and I am not that kind of guy.”

“How in the hell did you manage to perform with a stomach bug?” Harry wondered aloud.

“Nausea pills, though they don't do much under the hot lights, but they at least make it possible to hold back vomit until I can run backstage, throw up and go back out.”

“That's...crazy,” Harry said, and he didn't know if she was the one to blame, but Harry suddenly felt himself losing a bit of respect for Beatrice. For being such a 'mom' figure, he didn't think she should allow that.

“It's just my job,” Louis said.

“I hope you weren't sick when I saw you,” Harry commented. “I would rather you cancel a show than have to perform like that.”

“You saw me?” Louis asked, looking up curiously. Harry felt himself start to blush. Damn it.

“Um, yeah,” he said. Louis smiled.

“When?”

“A few years back, for my sixteenth birthday.”

Louis's smile grew, probably because Harry had just affirmed how much of a fan boy he'd been by admitting that tickets to Louis's show had been his birthday present. At least he hadn't told him that he'd been given backstage passes as well that he didn't use.

“Did I do well?” he asked.

“Yeah, you did awesome,” Harry assured him.

“Are you just saying that?”

“No.”

“I probably wasn't sick,” Louis said, “but even if I was, I'm glad I performed through it. It wouldn't be good for our budding relationship to cancel on you twice.”

Relationship . Harry was internally screaming, but swallowed and forced the teenage fan boy down and said,

“Twice in a four year time isn't too bad, though.”

“It is when we haven't even been on a first date.”

“You're right. You're lucky you're cute.”

Louis wrinkled his nose adorably but then buried his face into the mattress and coughed a few times, loudly. Harry rubbed his back again.

“Go to sleep, super star,” he said gently once Louis had finished his fit and turned to look back at him.

“I'm not tired,” he said, his voice even more ruined than a moment ago.

“Sign your answer,” Harry instructed before asking, “Were you writing a song earlier when I woke up?”

Instead of signing, Louis just nodded, a small smile touching his face.

“What is it about?” Harry asked.

“It's a secret,” Louis answered, obeying Harry and using sign language. “I'll sing it for you when it's done.”

“I can't wait.”

With another small smile, Louis sat up.

“Do you need something?” Harry asked.

“Water,” Louis whispered, “but I've got it.”

“Nope, I'll get it,” Harry said, and Louis surprised him by not arguing, but by plopping back down onto his stomach. Hurrying to the bathroom, Harry threw out their cups from earlier and filled a new one with water before taking it to Louis. Though he had been gone all of fifteen seconds, Louis's eyes were already shut, his breathing soft. Harry smiled, taking in the other's beautiful form, before he set the cup on the nightstand and got back into his spot in bed. Though he'd been gentle, Louis jumped.

“Not tired my arse,” Harry commented as Louis sat up, and Harry handed him the water cup he'd filled.

“I have a high fever, Harry; I'm dying,” Louis told him, still whispering.

“You went from not being ill to dying rather quickly.”

“Now that I've accepted that you won't go on a date with me anyway, I feel fully entitled to feel sorry for myself, thank you.”

Oh, I see.”

Louis took a drink from his cup and then handed it back to Harry and laid down again.

“Hey, I don't want to be, like...weird or annoying or anything, but was strawberries all you had for breakfast?” he asked.

“No,” Harry answered. “I ate a waffle before I came up.”

“Really?”

“I promise.”

“Okay,” Louis said, and coughed. Though he already knew that Louis had a fever, Harry felt his forehead again. He didn't seem to be cooling down any, but Harry supposed the Ibuprofen hadn't had sufficient time to kick in and so wouldn't worry about it too much yet. He moved a sweaty strand of Louis's hair from his even sweatier forehead.

“Are you hot or cold?” he asked.

“Cold right now,” Louis said, burying himself deeper into the sheets. Harry got up only to turn the heat in the room up.

“Let me know when you get hot.”

“I wish you could see how amazing you are, Harry,” Louis said, resting his head on Harry's chest when the dancer took to lying down himself. Instead of replying to that, Harry reached his arm back and felt around the nightstand until he'd grabbed onto the remote control.

“Would you like to fall asleep to a movie?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“What would you like?”

“You pick. I'll probably be out in, like, three minutes, if I'm being honest.”

“Okay, well, what genre?”

“Romantic comedy.”

Harry began searching for one.

“I love that you're cuddling me,” Louis commented, “but you don't have to if you don't want to. I know I'm sweaty and gross.”

“That's no different than how we all are after shows,” Harry reasoned. Louis coughed as Harry pulled his body closer so that the singer was nearly on top of him.

“Sorry. I just coughed on you.”

“Oh my god. Now I'm probably going to perish. Thanks.”

“Hey. Not funny. I might have the plague.”

“Let's hope we both go to the same place when we die.”

Louis laughed, but then coughed and shook his head.

“I don't like talking about you dying.”

“Then let's just not talk, yeah? My throat is starting to hurt in sympathy for yours.”

“Or you're getting sick too.”

“Nope. That's not it. Hush now, super star.”

Louis obeyed and was asleep before Harry had even picked a movie. Harry kissed his nose and closed his eyes as well, feeling more relaxed and content than he had in a while.


Harry never actually fell asleep, but he was fine with keeping his eyes closed and resting while listening to the movie playing in the background. In fact, the only time he opened his eyes was to check on Louis when he coughed or moaned. Sweat was starting to pour from his body, and he would sometimes roll over to get away from Harry's body heat, but he always came back, snuggling close again. Harry turned the furnace down a little bit during one of the moments where he felt he could get up without disturbing Louis, but he didn't want to make it too low because Louis needed to sweat the fever out.

When the movie reached what Harry guessed was almost its end, the dancer's phone began to ring, and it rang loudly.

“Shit,” Harry whispered, sitting up and accidentally letting Louis's head, which had been resting against his side, drop down to the pillow. The singer blinked open his eyes.

“Sorry,” Harry said, and picked up his phone. “Hey, Liam, hold on,” he said into the phone and then, covering the receiver, told Louis to go back to sleep before hurrying out into the hall.

“Were you asleep?” Liam asked once his friend had told him that he was back.

“No, I wasn't. Just Louis,” Harry said.

“Wear him out, did you?” Liam teased, and while Harry would typically roll his eyes, that time, he smiled because he felt that Liam making dirty jokes meant that he was feeling at least a bit better after whatever had been bothering him the previous day.

“He's sick,” Harry explained.

“Oh shit, that sucks,” Liam said. “How sick?”

“Pretty sick. Fever, coughing, no voice; that stuff.”

“Is the show still on for tomorrow?”

“So far, yeah.”

“What about your date?”

“That's not happening,” Harry said, and then, “Wait, how did you know? I hadn't told anyone yet.”

“Louis told Niall,” Liam explained. “I'm a little offended that you didn't tell me, though. I thought I was your best mate.”

“You are,” Harry assured him. “I just wanted to save myself embarrassment if Louis canceled.”

“Like he would do that,” Liam said. “Well, I guess he did, but he has a good excuse right now.”

“Actually he was still going to take me,” Harry said. “Beatrice and I said no.”

“I'm sorry, mate.”

“It's okay,” Harry told him, and he meant it. He figured anyone else would be disappointed, and it wasn't that Harry had wanted their date to be canceled, but he had already half expected it not to happen and he was relieved that the reason they weren't going was because of Louis's illness and not because he had changed his mind.

“I'm sure he'll take you out once he's better,” Liam said.

“Maybe,” Harry said, mostly believing that Louis would but still wanting to be cautious.

“Well, since Louis's bedridden, do you want to come out with Niall and me?” Liam asked.

“I don't know,” Harry said. “I don't really want to leave him.”

“That's sweet and all, Harry, but I'm pretty sure he can take care of himself for a few hours. Don't you want to explore Australia?”

“I don't know.”

“At least come to dinner with us tonight,” Liam urged. Harry fought off panic just at the word 'dinner' and reminded himself that he was allowed to eat that day.

“Okay,” he agreed.

“Awesome!” Liam said. “Come to Niall's room at about...Uh...Hey, Niall, what time do you want to leave for dinner?”

Harry heard Niall reply, though couldn't understand what he was saying, and smiled to himself. He chose not to tell Liam how domestic the two were being.

“Come to Niall's room at, like, six thirty,” Liam decided.

“Okay.”

“See you later then, mate. Tell Louis I hope he feels better.”

“I will. See you. Have fun today.”

The two hung up and Harry re-entered the room using the key Beatrice had left for him. He had hoped that Louis had been able to fall right back to sleep after being jarred awake, but the singer was shirtless and sitting in front of the air conditioning unit, blasting cold air out at himself. Harry swiped the thermometer that the doctor had left on the nightstand and approached Louis, who surprisingly let Harry take his temperature without argument.

“It's still a little above one hundred,” Harry noted.

“I'm okay,” Louis said before giving a painful sounding cough. “I'm going to get a shower though.”

Moving to sit on the edge of the bed, the singer said,

“You should go out and do something today though. Laying in bed with me all day has got to be boring.”

“I'm not bored,” Harry assured him, “but I'm going to dinner with Liam and Niall later.”

Louis smiled.

“Good,” he said.

“Are you hungry yet?” Harry asked. Louis shook his head while coughing into his sleeve. Harry frowned.

“Do you think you should go ahead and cancel the show for tomorrow?” he asked, feeling as if Beatrice would probably give him a good whack upside the head if she heard him suggest such a thing.

“No,” Louis said. “I'll be alright.”

Harry wasn't quite sure about that, but he didn't say a word, and Louis dug through his bag until he found a clean pair of shorts before going to shower. While he was in the bathroom, Gemma sent Harry a text telling him that he'd better give her the details of their date as soon as possible. Harry decided to break the news to her later and hope that she deemed Louis's sickness a good enough reason to not set his tour bus on fire.

When Louis exited the bathroom in just his pair of shorts, Harry couldn't help but to let his eyes roam over his body briefly.

“I don't know why Dean is so hard on you,” he commented as Louis climbed onto the sheets and laid on his side so that he could keep eye contact with Harry. “You're perfect.”

“First off, I'm not perfect,” Louis said. “And secondly, I don't want you to think about that stuff anymore, alright? There's more to a person than what they look like.”

Harry nodded.

“Sorry.”

“No need for apologies,” Louis assured him. “Another movie now?”


Once late afternoon rolled around, Harry showered and got himself made up to go to dinner. He'd skipped lunch, not purposely, so his stomach was growling. It was going to be a struggle to not eat too much with being so hungry on his 'cheat day,' but at least the others would be there, and Harry was sure that they would be watching him closely now that they knew the history of his eating disorder. He wouldn't want to look like a complete pig in front of them, so he would be able to muster enough self control to stick to a salad and maybe a piece of chicken.

“Have fun,” Louis said with a small smile as Harry prepared to leave.

“I will,” Harry assured him. “Do you want me to bring you back anything?”

“Um...yeah, sure. You can decide what. I'm not picky. My wallet is in the safe in the closet and the code is 1991.”

“Why would I need your wallet?” Harry asked, not sure if Louis was dumb by letting some guy get into his wallet or if he just really trusted Harry. He could trust Harry, of course, but Harry didn't think he would be so trusting if he was in Louis's place.

“For the food,” Louis explained, like it should have been obvious, and Harry rolled his eyes.

“I've got it,” he said. “I'm not that poor. I can pay for your dinner.”

“You don't have to do that...”

“I know. It's fine, okay?”

Harry knew that Louis was obviously several times richer than he was, but he didn't want that to come into their so-called relationship. If Louis was just an average guy, Harry would take turns paying for things with him, and so that's what he was going to do even though Louis was a super successful pop star.

Luckily, Louis didn't press the issue and, after giving his cheek a kiss and reminding him to take his medicine in a couple of hours, Harry went to Niall's room.


The food was much too easy for Harry to eat. There wasn't much fat content since he had stuck to his chicken and salad idea, but it went down his throat so easily that Harry had to force himself to slow down and reminded himself that he couldn't get used to this. Once eating became easy, he would want to do it all the time and the struggle to stay in shape would be ten times worse.

Over all, though, he did have fun at dinner, even if he did feel a bit like a third wheel. Niall and Liam didn't do anything to make him feel that way, of course, but with the way the two were giggling at each other and stealing bites of food from the other's plate, it felt like they were on a date and that Harry was simply an observer. He didn't mind, though, because Liam looked happy, even though he agreed to sharing a dessert with Niall while insisting they had to use separate plates. Niall had rolled his eyes, but his smile hadn't faltered. Harry wasn't sure why Liam was the way he was, and he didn't know if Niall had any idea or not, but Niall's patience with him was admirable. One day, Harry hoped Liam realized how good Niall would be for him and would let him in all the way.

By the time Harry got back to the hotel, it was dark. The lights were off when he entered Louis's room, so he tiptoed to the bed area and set his things softly on the nightstand. Then he leaned across the bed, planning to, very gently feel Louis's skin for a fever, but he was faced with only cold sheets. Panicking, though he didn't know why, Harry flipped on the light. Instead of Louis in his bed, a bouquet of roses lay on his pillow. Harry assumed they were a get well gift from someone, but he lifted the flowers to read the note attached to them anyway.

Tiny dancer,

Please join me in my tour bus when you return. I missed you!

x xxLouisxxx

Harry's cheeks nearly hurt from how wide he was smiling, and he picked the bag with Louis's food up from the nightstand before hurrying outside to the buses. Louis's bus was dark, but there was a small, strange light on the inside, so, curious, Harry made his way over. The doors were open, so he let himself on.

“Louis?” he called, but he saw the other as soon as he rounded the corner, laying in a sleeping bag. The light, he saw, came from a small machine, projecting stars and other constellations onto the roof of the bus. Harry's mouth dropped open.

“This is the best I could do,” Louis said in a whisper.

“It's beautiful,” Harry said after using another moment to take in the atmosphere.

“You're beautiful,” Louis commented. Harry looked to him and saw a soft smile on his pale face. He looked better than he had earlier, though was still clearly sick, but Harry swore that he had never seen him look as wonderful as he did now.

“You're gorgeous,” the dancer replied, getting onto his knees beside Louis.

“There's room in here,” Louis said, holding out the edges of the sleeping bag. Harry climbed in and Louis rested his head on his shoulder once he was situated.

“Do you know anything about the stars?” the singer asked.

“Not much,” Harry replied. “I know that one's Aquarius.”

Louis looked to where he was pointing and hummed.

“Is that your sign?” he asked.

“Yeah. And yours is Capricorn, so you're right...there.”

Harry pointed again and Louis looked while snuggling closer to Harry.

“You know more about them than I do. All I know is that they're pretty.”

Harry gave a small laugh.

“There's Lyra, the harp,” he said as he pointed out that one.

“I like that one,” Louis commented. For a few moments, the two just laid there, admiring the stars' images, and then Harry kissed the top of Louis's head.

“Do you want your food?” he asked. Louis nodded, sitting up and leaning against the nearby couch.

“I brought soup because, well, obviously, it's the easiest thing to eat when you're sick, but I'm sure you're starving by now so I also brought a couple of biscuits if you want them and a brownie for dessert.”

“You are amazing,” Louis commented as he placed the food in front of him. “Thank you.”

“You're welcome. Are you feeling any better?”

Louis nodded.

“I think we could have gone on our date,” he said.

“I don't quite agree with that,” Harry told him, “but we are on our date, really.”

“This isn't a date,” Louis said.

“Why not?”

“It's just my tour bus.”

“So? There's starlight; real and projected, there's food and there's me and you.”

“And music,” Louis added before picking up a remote and turning on some soft piano melodies. Harry smiled.

“This is definitely a date.”

Louis smiled and sipped on his soup. Harry was quiet as he let him eat and when Louis decided he was finished, the singer turned off the music.

“Okay, I want to play you something now,” he said.

“Oh?” Harry asked curiously.

“Yeah. I mean, I can't sing, obviously, but I finished the song I was writing earlier so I'll show you the chords.”

Getting to his feet, Louis threw away his trash and then went to the bunk area of his bus. He returned only a few seconds later, guitar in hand. He sat on the couch and patted the seat next to him, inviting Harry to do the same, so he did.

“I don't know how exciting this will be without lyrics, but...”

Louis shrugged, took a couple moments to get himself situated with the instrument and then began to play.

It was a simple song, Harry felt, but that didn't mean that it wasn't good, because it was. Though he had no idea still what the song was about or how he was supposed to feel listening to it, he felt that, while simple, it was deep too, and he felt happy listening to it, but sad at the same time. All of these things were contradictory, he knew, but that was how Harry felt.

“That was beautiful,” Harry told him once he'd finished, and then he had to clear his throat. Louis gave a small smile.

“Thank you,” he said. “Once I have my voice back and can practice it a few times, I'm thinking of performing it.”

“I think you should.”

Again, Louis smiled, but then he sighed.

“I was supposed to be able to kiss you on our first date,” he said. Harry wanted to tell him that he still could, but knew deep down that Louis wouldn't risk it, so the dancer kissed his own fingertips and then placed them on Louis's lips. Louis smiled.

“You're such an amazing kisser,” he commented. Harry laughed.

“This was perfect,” he told the singer. “Thank you.”

“You deserve the best,” Louis commented, and then yawned as he set his guitar by his feet. Being careful not to step on the instrument, Harry stood and held out his hand.

“Bed time?” he asked.

“Want to sleep under the stars?” Louis asked, taking his hand.

“That sounds lovely.”

The two climbed into the sleeping bag.

“Oh,” Louis commented after lying there for a couple minutes, jolting himself from the light sleep he'd already been in. “I brought you something more comfortable to wear. It's back on the bed.”

“Oh, perfect,” Harry said. He had just been contemplating whether sneaking away from Louis to change was worth it. “I'll be right back.”

Louis's bed was, truly, a bed; no bunk, but a true double bed. Yet, he still spent more time on Harry's bus with the others and was currently out laying in a sleeping bag so they could 'sleep under the stars.'

Harry couldn't stop smiling as he changed.

Louis had gotten up to close the bus doors, but was still already asleep by the time Harry crawled back into the sleeping bag with him, so Harry kissed his shoulder lightly, laid his head down and whispered,

“Good night, Lou. And thank you.”

Chapter Text

***Louis***

When Louis started to wake, before he opened his eyes, he was at first confused as to where he was and who exactly was holding him so tightly. The memory came back to him quickly, of course. He was on his tour bus, under his fake, projected constellations, and warm in Harry's hold after their not-date, which the dancer kept insisting was a date.

Well, he hoped that it was Harry who was holding him, at least.

Louis smiled when he opened his eyes to find out that it was, indeed, Harry who was snuggling with him tight, still asleep but keeping himself wrapped around Louis like he was an oversized teddy bear. Honestly, Louis didn't know how much more he could fall for Harry before he hit the ground and exploded into butterflies or rainbows or whatever happy people in love exploded into.

Though Louis loved being in Harry's arms and wished it were possible to stay there all day, he was too hot and thirsty, and had to pee too bad, to really be comfortable. He waited a few minutes, but when Harry gave no indication that he was going to wake anytime soon, Louis was left with not much choice but to snake himself out of Harry's hold. At his absence, a small frown formed on Harry's face and he made a face before groaning, smacking his lips and turning over to become still again. Louis let out a quiet breath and made his way to the bathroom, taking off his slightly sweaty shirt and throwing it on the ground before taking care of business. Once he was through, he went to the fridge to get a water bottle and drank about half before using the rest to take his medicine. He thought he'd sweated out all of the fever last night, but he took Ibuprofen just in case, and Harry rolled over and blinked open his eyes as Louis was washing down the last pill.

Harry's bleary eyes focused on Louis as the singer finished the rest of the water bottle and placed it on the counter (just until he could get it to a recycling bin,) and he smiled sleepily as he rubbed one eye. Louis hoped that he could wake up with Harry for the rest of the tour, and then after as well.

“Good morning,” Harry said, his voice still gravelly. “How are you feeling?”

Before answering, Louis cleared his throat and swallowed, trying to prepare his voice but afraid for what sound was going to come out.

“Better,” he answered simply, relieved that his voice was mostly back. He did feel a lot better too; not one hundred percent, but he would take it.

Harry stood, stretching his arms to the side and then above his head before approaching Louis and laying his hand across his forehead.

“You still feel a little warm,” he noted.

“I just took Ibuprofen so if there's any fever left, it should be gone soon,” Louis assured him. Harry nodded, still looking so sleepy, and he put his arms around Louis's waist, seemingly without even a second thought. He'd come so far from the Harry that Louis first met, but Louis admired both of them the same anyway.

“Are you hungry?” Harry asked.

“I'm starving,” Louis said. “I have breakfast food on the bus so we don't have to venture into the hotel just yet. Well, by breakfast food, I mean cereal, but...Are you hungry?”

Harry paused, his head tilting to the side a bit before he answered.

“A little.”

Louis turned, opening the cupboard which he knew to hold the cereal. Harry's hands didn't slip from his waist; just readjusted their position. Louis was glad that his back was turned to the dancer now because his smile was ridiculous.

“Um...Cookie Crisp, Crunchy Nut or this disgusting wheat shit…Seriously, Beatrice? Why did you even bother?”

“Actually, I'll take the disgusting wheat shit,” Harry said, and Louis turned to give him a look of pure horror. Harry laughed.

“It's not that bad,” he said.

“It's not Cookie Crisp,” Louis pointed out, but handed Harry his preferred cereal anyway. He supposed he could still love Harry even if he had shit taste in breakfast foods.

When Harry chose to eat the cereal milk-less, however, Louis couldn't help but to make an exaggerated gagging sound. Not offended, Harry laughed again.

“I think they're good,” he said.

“I think you're lying to yourself, but, hey, whatever you choose to put in your body is up to you, love.”

At least he was putting some form of nourishment into his body, Louis thought.

“Is the show still on for tonight?” Harry asked after the two had taken a few bites of their cereal.

“Definitely, which I should probably tell Beatrice. She's probably freaking out.”

“Yeah, she probably is,” Harry agreed. Louis grabbed his phone from its spot next to him at the table and found his tour manager's number, continuing to eat as he waited for an answer.

“Louis! Darling, how are you feeling?” Beatrice asked, and the tone in her voice confirmed that she had, indeed, been panicking. Louis huffed out a laugh.

“I'm fine,” he assured the woman. “Listen to how lovely my voice sounds! La la la la laaaaa!”

“That was torturous,” Beatrice spoke of Louis's attempt at opera, “but you do sound much better, in general. Are you going to be good for tonight?”

“Yep, all good.”

“Thank god,” she breathed. “You still need to rest your voice today until the show, Louis, do you understand?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“And drink lots of tea.”

“Well that actually is not a problem.”

“Good. I'm glad you're feeling better.”

“Thanks, Bumble Bee.”

Beatrice sighed. Louis smiled.

“Also, call your mum,” the woman added. “She was quite worried about you when she found out that you were ill.”

“You told her?” Louis asked after loudly groaning.

“Yes. Now call her, but please make it quick.”

“I'll call when I get done eating.”

“Perfect. I'll see you soon.”

The two hung up and Louis continued on with his breakfast, deciding to call his mother after. That was a conversation that he didn't particularly want to have in front of Harry. He loved his mother with all of his heart, but she tended to sometimes treat him as a primary school child and that could get rather embarrassing.

“How is your horse food?” Louis asked Harry.

“Horse food?” he asked, one eyebrow quirking up in amusement.

“That's what that stuff reminds me of; horse food.”

Again, Harry laughed and shook his head at Louis.

“You're mean.”

“I say all of this with the utmost respect for you.”

Harry smiled, dimples popping out fully, so, of course, Louis had to smile as well, even wider.

Louis finished his food before Harry; probably because Harry's was disgusting and he was too stubborn to admit it, but no matter. The singer excused himself, put on a jacket and stepped outside to Facetime his mom.

“Hey, baby,” she greeted with a wide smile as soon as she'd accepted his call. Louis smiled back.

“Hi, mum.”

“How are you feeling?” the woman asked, her smile fading just as quickly as it had come. “You look pale, Louis. Do you still have a fever?”

“I'm good, mum,” Louis said. “I feel a lot better.”

“I think you should cancel the show,” she said. “You need rest.”

“You know I won't do that.”

“I know,” the woman sighed. “But you know I really don't like it.”

Louis did. His wonderful mother had the tendency to freak out when anything was even the least bit wrong with her son, but Louis understood. They'd been all each other had and then Louis had shot to fame, leaving her behind. He knew that she wished she could go on tour with him-and she could; Louis wasn't stopping her-but she refused to leave her job and have her child take care of her.

“I won't keep you long,” Louis's mom added. “You still shouldn't talk much, probably, but when am I going to see you, baby?”

“You see me now.”

The woman narrowed her eyes.

“I mean in person, which you know quite well, Louis William.”

Louis laughed and made a kiss sound, puckering his lips.

“You know you can come to any show you like,” he added, seriously. “I'll fly you to any show you want.”

“I need to come to one soon,” she said. “I need to meet this new boy of yours!”

Louis smiled, causing a high-pitched 'awww' to come from his mother.

“Why did I have to learn of this from the media though?!” she asked then.

“It all happened really quick,” Louis answered. “Like...super quick. I'm sorry. You're going to like Harry though.”

It was at that moment that Louis heard footsteps coming from the bus and Harry stepped out. Louis gave him a smile to try to ease his apparent worry.

“If he makes you happy then of course I will,” the woman said, oblivious to the fact that Louis's attention had just been temporarily drawn from her.

“He does,” Louis said. “Anyway, mum, I love you, but I should probably go.”

“Yes, get inside, where it's warm!” she demanded. “And rest your voice. I'll see you soon.”

“Just let me know when.”

“I will. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Louis disconnected the call and then looked back to Harry, smiling again.

“Sorry, I wasn't trying to eavesdrop,” Harry said, that same worried look still on his face. “I was just going back to the room to shower and...um…Yeah, I should have waited. I'm sorry.”

“It's okay. I know you weren't eavesdropping,” he said, and then switched to sign language to tell Harry that he was on vocal rest.

“Probably for the best,” Harry spoke out loud. “Are you coming in the hotel or going back on the bus?”

Louis nodded to the hotel, shutting the doors to the bus before he and Harry headed in, hand-in-hand. Louis wasn't sure who initiated the contact because he wasn't even sure when they'd first touched. Either way, they were touching and Louis loved it.

Naturally, the first thing that Harry did upon entering the bedroom was take Louis's temperature-it was just a bit above ninety-nine-and then get him some tea as well as juice. He still looked so genuinely concerned about Louis, who only had a virus and was going to recover quickly, and Louis just really wished that he cared for himself as much as he did others.

***Harry***

Though he was worried about Louis going on with the show, he knew it would do no good to say anything about it. As Louis had said, this was his job and he clearly took it very seriously. He was willing to risk his health, comfort and maybe even safety to perform for his fans, and Harry didn't like it, but as long as Louis allowed him to try to nurse him back to health offstage, he supposed he was going to have to be fine with it.

While Louis was busy with his meet-and-greet session, Harry and Niall sat a bit away; close enough to hear the chatter and occasional squeals, but not in a spot where they could be seen or heard themselves.

“You know, you should go out there too,” Niall said, a teasing smile on his face.

“Why would I do that?” Harry asked.

“Because most of them are your fans too now.”

“They're not my fans,” Harry said flatly. “I don't have fans.”

“Hold on,” Niall said, and then pulled out his phone. He scrolled through quickly until he found what he wanted and then cleared his throat. “Alright, and I quote, 'OMG, definitely Louis's hottest boyfriend!'

'Where can I get one of those?'

'Holy shit, oh my god, he's so beautiful! I really wish those two could reproduce, damn!'

'How much do you think they would leak their sex tape for?' Hey, wanna bet Liam posted that one?”

“Okay, enough,” Harry said, his cheeks burning. “Where is Liam, by the way?” he asked, and he was just trying to change the subject, but he should have known better because Niall's smile faltered.

“Hanging around the meet-and-greet, of course,” he mumbled. Harry felt himself growing a little angry at his friend because both he and Niall had been so happy at the restaurant last night. Liam had even ignored the cute waiter to give his full attention to Niall and, kind of, to Harry, but mostly to Niall. He clearly liked Niall in some way that went beyond 'friends' and even beyond 'fuck buddies,' and Harry didn't know why he kept insisting on hurting himself and Niall instead of just admitting that.

“Anyway, if he can go out, you definitely can,” Niall spoke when he had been met with only silence.

“I'm not going out there,” Harry said, and the words were barely out of his mouth before three security guards ran past them, along with a medic. Harry's heart dropped and he and Niall both looked to each other, Niall looking worried and Harry probably horrified. Then, without a word, Harry went against the very statement he'd just made and ran towards the guards, who were heading to Louis. Niall followed behind.

It took him no time at all to reach the meet-and-greet, but it seemed for the longest time as if he was moving but making no progress. Something had to be wrong with Louis. He was sick, so he must have fainted or something, unless the worse option occurred and someone had hurt him.

Harry was fully convinced that whatever happened would lead to Louis being in a hospital, and so was relieved when he finally reached the session and saw the singer standing, fully alert, with a couple guards around him, but not having to support him in the slightest. His comfort didn't last long, though, because then he took in what was actually going on.

The first thing he noticed after realizing that Louis was okay was that, while Louis had two guards surrounding him, Liam had three guards holding him back, and he looked murderous. Next, he noticed more guards pulling on another man, who was squirming harshly against their hold, looking just as angry. Niall immediately went to Liam's side as the stranger yelled,

“Let him go! Let him at me! He can't fight! He's just another weak little fag! Let him go!”

“Shut the fuck up, you grotty wanker!” Liam yelled back, and Harry saw Niall jump, one hand reaching out to touch Liam's arm, but the other didn't even notice. “I'll beat you to a bloody fucking pulp and bathe you in my gay, diseased spit! Let's go!”

The fans in line gasped, along with Harry, and Beatrice rushed forward, attempting to shush Liam while rubbing his back soothingly, but Harry wasn't sure that his friend noticed her either.

“You can't hurt me!” the stranger continued on. “I bet you hit like a fairy! Wait, you are one!”

Looking at Louis, he added,

“You're all pathetic fairies.”

“Hey, you're the one who bought backstage passes, buddy, so if you spent all that money just to tell me something that I've heard a thousand times over, I think the joke is on you,” Louis said nonchalantly, and Harry didn't know how he was being so calm because he was with Liam now in his desire to beat this man. Instead of joining in the fight, though, Harry simply made his way to be next to Louis.

“Maybe if you didn't spend all of your free time choking on dicks, you wouldn't have to be on vocal rest before your pathetic shows,” the guy said, glaring at Louis, who laughed.

“Hey, that was actually a good one,” he allowed.

“You're the pathetic one, dick head!” Liam shouted as another guard joined in the mission to drag the unknown man out. “Maybe if you got laid, you'd be a little less anal, you fucking-”

“Liam, let it go,” Louis said. “He's not worth your energy.”

“You're all going to Hell!” the guy said; his last statement before he was literally thrown from the building.

Harry found his legs moving towards Louis, and he ignored the gasps that followed as the guards surrounding the singer parted only to let him through.

“What happened?” he asked, gently touching Louis's side, but Liam's voice interrupted anything Louis may have said.

“Let go of me!” he yelled, using all of his strength to bust away from the guards and Niall. Harry was afraid that he was going to run after the man and actually try to do what he'd threatened earlier, but instead, he just stormed in the opposite direction. Niall and one guard ran after him.

“Uh...that happened,” Louis said, and shook his head. “I'll explain later.”

“Listen up!” Beatrice yelled, her voice ringing effortlessly amongst the group. “I am very sorry that you all had to witness that. We do our best to provide a safe, loving, fun environment for everybody, but, unfortunately, some things are out of our control.'

'I am going to be taking Louis away for a moment, but please, do not go anywhere. We will be right back.”

Beatrice signaled something to the guards and in the next instant, Louis and Harry were being forced to walk and follow the woman. Amongst the chatter and buzz coming from the fans, Harry heard his name and instinctively looked. That caused another collective gasp and, as a flash went off, Harry heard the meet-and-greet manager remind everyone that outside pictures were not permitted. Quickly, Louis moved to Harry's other side and nudged him over to keep him more hidden. The singer kept his hand on Harry's back, which was probably the only thing keeping him from having an anxiety attack, as it gave him something positive to focus on.

The men were led to Louis's empty dressing room, and after they had all entered, Beatrice shut the door and turned to Louis, looking as if she might cry.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“I'm fine, Bumble Bee,” Louis assured her, managing a small smile. Harry wanted to again ask exactly what happened but knew that he had to be patient.

Louis turned to Harry.

“Are you alright?” he questioned.

“I'm fine,” Harry said. “I still don't even know what happened, so...”

It was at that moment that Louis's door flew open dramatically and in stepped Liam, looking no calmer than before. All of them jumped.

“I'll tell you what happened,” Liam said, giving Harry the impression he had been listening at the door for a minute. “Some homophobic prick decided that it would be a good idea to come to an openly gay singer's show just to tell him that he's a...he's a...”

“We were there,” Beatrice reminded the dancer gently, putting an arm on his shoulder, most likely to let him know that he didn't have to repeat the word which had so offended him.

“It's okay, Liam,” Louis said calmly.

“No it's not!” Liam insisted.

“Okay, you're right,” Louis decided, “but I'm used to it and it doesn't bother me anymore. I'm sorry that you were involved and that it upset you, though.”

“There isn't anything wrong with being gay!” Liam exclaimed, as if someone had just said that there was.

“We all know that, dear,” Beatrice told him in her softest voice as she moved to pull Liam into her arms. He surprised Harry by hugging her back. Beatrice didn't back off until Liam did and then she placed a motherly kiss on his forehead.

“There are just hateful people in this world, and if there is a God, then they will have to face judgment someday. If there isn't, then they will get bitten hard by karma in their lifetime.”

He didn't know why, but Harry felt a little choked up at that point and wrapped an arm around Louis's waist for both of their comforts, since he wasn't completely convinced that the event hadn't affected him at all. Louis turned his head to place a kiss onto Harry's bicep.

“Are you really okay?” Harry whispered, though was sure the others could hear if they tried. Louis simply gave a smile and a nod.

Turning away from Liam, Beatrice looked to the singer as she spoke again.

“Do you feel alright to finish the meet-and-greet?”

“Oh, yeah, of course,” Louis said like any other option would have been ridiculous. “Can I say something to the fans though?”

“Sure. We'll get you a microphone so you don't strain your voice.”

Louis nodded and then looked to Harry, his facial expression suddenly much less serious.

“Are you going to be joining?” he asked.

“I'll stand off to the side,” Harry said, and even though it made him nervous to be out there, it made his anxiety worse if he thought of leaving Louis. In reality, he knew he couldn't do much, should something happen again. His guards would do a much better job at protecting Louis's physical well-being than Harry would be able to do, but he hoped that he would at least provide some emotional support. Still, not wanting to be a burden, he added, “Unless you don't want me around, and then, um, I don't have to join...”

“I always want you around,” Louis told him with a warm smile that Harry could physically feel.

The guards, who had been waiting around quietly and patiently for their okay to get things going again, led Beatrice, Louis and Harry back to the group of eagerly awaiting fans after someone had grabbed a microphone for the singer to speak into. When the fans saw him approaching again, screams and cheers filled the entire backstage area. Louis smiled and, despite what had just happened to him, it was a genuine smile. It even crinkled his eyes, and when Louis turned to give Harry one last look, the grin grew, and Harry nearly stopped dead in his tracks as his heart gave a hard thump. Harry had already fallen in love with Louis's smile a while ago, but at that seemingly random moment, he fell in love with Louis too.

Though Harry didn't actually stop dead in his tracks, he must have slowed down because the man who was guarding them from the back walked straight into the dancer. Both apologized and then assured the other that they were fine as Beatrice motioned for Harry to follow her to a couple of chairs sitting nearby. Louis took his place in front of the fans, visible yet still properly guarded.

“Hey, everyone!” the singer said, and the cheers grew. When they had grown a bit quieter, Louis continued. “I'm really sorry about what just happened, and I would like to thank my staff as well as the stadium staff for being amazing during it. Thank you to you all too, of course, for remaining calm and sticking around while I took a moment to process what just happened. I'm fine, and I hope that you all are as well because I'm sure what that bloke was saying was quite offensive to a lot of you also. This is going to sound like a whole lot of cheese, but I mean this; you are all wonderful and perfect just how you are. Please try not to let anyone make you feel bad for being yourself.”

Louis gave them just a moment to take in what he'd just said before clapping his hands together and smiling again.

“Okay! Thank you all for the support, with all of my heart. How about we get back to the meet-and-greet now, yeah?”

Watching Louis with his fans was a truly heartwarming experience. Many were too excited to really know what to do with themselves and, while they were clearly embarrassed, Louis did his best to make sure that they knew they were not being judged by him and that he truly appreciated them. He took as much time as he could with each one and gave every single person hugs (Harry was starting to understand how he'd become so sick), and the fans that had clearly been affected by the previous homophobic outburst received extra long and tight embraces. Harry didn't know how someone like Louis was real, and he found himself wondering what would have happened if he had used the backstage passes he'd been given for his birthday all those years ago.

As the fans exited the building once their session was over, they had to pass Harry and almost every single one said hello. Harry always waved, smiled and said hello back, and even though it was all weird to him, the smile was genuine because these people had helped make Louis's dream come true and continuously made him happy, so Harry loved them too.

Once the last fan had exited, the team began cheering over another (mostly) successful meet-and-greet session. Louis was, naturally, smiling, but gently pushed his way from security to walk to Harry, who had risen to his feet.

“You okay, love?” Louis asked, wrapping his arms around Harry's waist and tilting his head in concern. Harry gave him a reassuring smile, wanting to pull him even closer, but straightening up and sucking in instead.

“I'm good,” he assured the other. “How are you?”

“I'm great,” Louis said, and then stood on his tiptoes to place a kiss to Harry's lips. “Dinner time?”

Locking their hands together, Louis led Harry away. It was only as they neared the dinner area that Harry slowed and told Louis that he wasn't very hungry. It was the truth, as he was still trying to digest the fact that he was in love with Louis.

“You sure you're good?” Louis asked, facing Harry with one eyebrow up. Harry offered a smile.

“I'm completely fine,” he assured him. “It's nothing to do with...I'm just not hungry, honestly.”

Louis nodded, looking unsure for a few moments before speaking.

“I'm not really hungry either,” he admitted, causing Harry to frown.

“I don't like that you have to perform when you're not feeling well,” he said, kissing Louis's forehead after a short, yet fierce internal debate. He had already done far more than give Louis a simple kiss on the forehead, but it felt different now that he knew he loved him, and that Louis most likely didn't feel the same way. In the end, he decided to still go for it because Louis couldn't feel the way Harry's heart raced and his entire being warmed at the simplest touches now.

“I'm fine, Harry,” Louis said, a tired smile forming before he gave a yawn.

“Hi, boys!” Beatrice called from the distance as she quickly approached, and then gave each of the men a hug. “Are you two okay?”

When they assured her that they were fine, the tour manager nodded, looking somewhat relaxed but still tense. Harry thought the earlier ordeal may have bothered her more than it had Louis.

“Dinner is ready,” Beatrice said then. “Go on and eat and then, Harry, when you're finished, wardrobe will need you.”

“We're not really hungry, Bee,” Louis spoke, and the woman narrowed her eyes.

“You have to eat a little bit anyway,” she said. “I don't want anyone passing out onstage.”

Harry wasn't sure, but he thought her eyes lingered on him as she made the last remark, though it could have been all in his head. He hoped it was, at least.

Knowing it would be pointless to argue with the woman, Louis and Harry helped themselves to a bit of dinner. Harry hid most of his in his napkin, because he'd felt sick from the very first bite he took from how full he really was, but when Louis barely touched his food, the dancer grew worried again. He told Louis as much.

“Really?” Louis asked flatly, looking down the bridge of his nose. “You're going to worry about my eating habits?”

“If you can worry about mine when I'm fine then I can worry about yours when you're sick,” Harry said, not bothered by Louis's reaction.

“I'm fine, love,” Louis said softly, and bumped Harry's foot with his own as he put another forkful of food into his mouth.


Harry had been afraid that his costume was going to fit too snugly that night since he'd eaten more the previous day than he'd been used to recently and had gotten basically no exercise, but he was pleasantly surprised to find that his costume wasn't small on him at all. In fact, it was gaping in certain areas.

“Honey, did you lose weight?” the head stylist asked and Harry tried not to smile. It was probably very abnormal how much he loved that question; at least when it was coming from someone who was unaware of his past.

“I don't think so,” Harry said.

“Hmm,” the woman hummed. “Well, we'll get it all hemmed up later, but I have everything in place for now. Go eat some more dinner, will you? We can't make your outfits much smaller.”

Harry just gave a laugh, flitting out of the room like he was walking on clouds.

As he passed the bathrooms, he paused, doing a double take at the doors. Nobody was around. It would be so easy for him to push open the doors, lock himself in a stall and make himself sick. He didn't necessarily need to. He'd stayed under his limits at dinner and his costume had grown too big on him, alerting him that he was doing something right, but now that he had that confirmation, he was terrified of ruining all his work. More than that, he wanted to keep progressing.

With one last glance around, Harry entered the bathroom.

When he was done, Harry felt relief.

While he was at the sink, washing his hands, Zayn entered. Harry gave him a smile, and perhaps it was too big or something, because Zayn frowned in returned.

“You alright, mate?” he asked.

“Yeah, I'm good, thanks,” Harry said. “Are you excited for tonight?”

“Um, yeah, I guess,” Zayn said, giving Harry one last strange look before going to take care of business. It was all Harry could do to not whistle as he dried his hands because Zayn and his other friends may know all about his past and Louis's fans may soon know of him as Louis's boyfriend or whatever they were calling him; they would know his name, where he went to school and other small details about him, but this, perhaps dangerous, secret was all Harry's.

***Liam***

“Liam, calm down! Come here!” Niall called behind Liam as he ran outside, chasing after him, but Liam was really not in the mood to hear anymore 'it will be ok's' or other words that should be comforting but were empty.

“Leave me alone!” he called back.

“'Alone' is the last thing you need to be right now!” Niall said, hopping onto the tour bus after Liam and both ignoring the curious stare that the driver was giving them. Liam flung open the refrigerator, pulling out a can of beer. Niall outwardly groaned.

“Are you really drinking before the show?”

In response, Liam took a huge swig, looking directly into Niall's pretty blue eyes, which he rolled.

“Stop, Liam,” he sighed, snatching the beer away from Liam almost effortlessly.

“Hey!” Liam shouted, and made a grab for his beverage, but Niall moved it out of his reach.

“This is ridiculous,” the Irishman said. “You don't need to hurt yourself every time you get upset.”

“I'm not hurting myself!”

“What is this then?” Niall asked, shaking the can enough to slosh a bit out onto his hand. Liam wondered what Niall would do if he licked it off. He decided not to try it.

“That would be beer,” Liam answered. “People drink beer all the time, Niall.”

“People drink beer, but if they do it all the time or as a coping mechanism, then it's a sign of alcohol-”

“I'm not an alcoholic!” Liam said harshly, moving forward quickly to grab onto both of Niall's shoulders. Niall gasped, the can of beer falling right out of his hands and onto the floor, but neither looked down even though Liam could feel the liquid seeping into his shoes. He didn't care. The guilt and shame welled up in him strongly, almost sending him to the ground, but he stayed upright and instead backed up quickly until he hit his back on the counter.

“I'm so sorry,” he gasped, barely able to breathe.

“What are you apologizing for?” Niall asked. “I'm the one who spilled the beer.”

Niall moved around Liam to grab some paper towels and Liam flinched as if Niall had been the wrongdoer and not him.

“I hurt you,” Liam pointed out as Niall placed the paper towels on the ground and attempted to sop up the drink.

“I need actual towels,” he muttered, and then, “Wait, what? You didn't hurt me, Liam.”

“Well, I scared you,” Liam amended.

“I was startled, but it's fine,” Niall said, grabbing some towels from the drawer near Liam and again beginning to clean up the mess.

“It's not fine,” Liam said, and he wanted to cry, but instead he opened the refrigerator and grabbed another beer.

“Seriously?!” Niall asked.

“People drink alcohol every day! I don't see what the problem is!” Liam said, brandishing his unopened can around in the air.

“Some people drink beer for fun sometimes,” Niall said, “but like I was saying, when it becomes a regular coping mechanism, that's a problem.”

“Yeah, well, that's just how I was always supposed to be, isn't it?”

Maybe he was an alcoholic, Liam realized then, but what more had he actually expected from himself?

Nothing , he answered his own question. He hadn't expected a damn thing other than that for himself.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Niall asked, unaware of the conversation that Liam had just had with himself in his head.

“It was just in the cards!” Liam explained, popping open his can and taking a sip. Niall stood straight, leaving the towels lying on the floor, and crossed his arms. Liam continued. “It's fate! I was always destined to be a violent drunk.”

“I've never seen you behave violently,” Niall replied, “and I don't think you can be classified as a drunk quite yet, but I want to help keep you from getting to that point.”

“I'm drinking now and I was just violent with you,” Liam pointed out.

“That wasn't violent,” Niall said.

“Using fear is a form of abuse!”

“You weren't trying to scare me though.”

“That doesn't matter! I still did!”

“Well, I scared you the other night when I went to touch your face,” Niall said then. “Does that mean I abused you?”

“Of course not.”

Both of Niall's eyebrows nearly met his hairline and he unfolded his arms as he backed up to sit on the nearby couch.

“Please explain to me the difference of the scenarios,” he requested.

“The difference, Niall, is that you were trying to comfort me and I was trying to shut you up.”

Liam knew that his words were harsh. He'd meant them to be. He wanted Niall to see what a bad person he was.

Niall sighed.

“Do you want to know what I think?” he asked.

“I guess,” Liam said, knowing he should have said no.

“I think you're scared of becoming like whoever hurt you, but at the same time, you don't think of yourself as any better than them so you're creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“That sounds like an excuse,” Liam said.

“It isn't an excuse for anything because you aren't like them, Liam.”

“Maybe not quite yet.”

“You don't ever have to be like them,” Niall continued.

“Haven't you heard of the 'born this way' saying?” Liam questioned.

“Yes, and it's true to an extent. You're born with your sexuality and with certain physical and personality aspects, but you are not born with predetermined actions and paths. You're not your dad, Li.”

At the mention of the man, Liam physically jolted and looked around, as if he was expecting him to suddenly be there when he knew that was ridiculous. His father had better things to do than hunt down his estranged son, even if it was to make his life a living hell.

“My dad didn't do anything to me,” he belatedly told Niall, out of habit mostly, but also because he didn't want to go down that road. He liked to pretend he couldn't still feel exactly what all the hits felt like.

“Please don't do this,” Niall sighed, his shoulders dropping like this conversation had worn him out. Well, he had told Liam multiple times that he was exhausting. “Please stop blocking me out.”

“I'm trying to protect you, Niall!” Liam exclaimed, and Niall rolled his eyes again.

“Oh, come on, Li. I'm not some princess and you're not a villain. This is real life. Nobody is going to write our happy endings for us.”

“I don't have a happy ending.”

“And you say I'm dramatic.”

Niall paused for just a second to let that sink in to Liam's head, he guessed, before continuing.

“Besides, if you have nothing to lose, why don't you let me figure out my ending for myself instead of trying to determine what will or won't allow me to reach it happily?”

Sometime in the midst of his speech, Niall had risen to his feet and was walking slowly but surely over towards Liam. Liam's heart was pounding, but not all in a bad way. Niall had said this was real life, but suddenly it felt to Liam like he was in the climax of some cheesy romantic drama. He never thought that would be a good thing but when Niall finally stopped in front of Liam, the tops of their shoes almost touching, the taller dancer found it really hard not to kiss the other.

“It's your move,” Niall spoke, and Liam briefly wondered if Niall could read his mind.

“My move?” Liam asked lamely, his voice barely sounding like it belonged to him at all.

“Yes,” Niall answered simply with no further explanation. Liam thought that counted as permission to kiss him, and he desperately wanted to, but he knew it was a bad idea. He should walk away and get as far away from Niall as he could, but he couldn't seem to get his feet to move.

Before Liam even really knew what he was doing, he had started to play with the bottom of Niall's hair with one hand while the other rested on the man's hip. It was then that Liam noticed that Niall's breathing was much harder than normal too, but he didn't look scared at all. He looked almost hopeful.

“I can't,” Liam whispered, mostly not wanting Niall to hear him, but he did anyway.

“Fine,” he said, but instead of pulling away like Liam expected him to do, Niall raised himself up onto his toes and pressed his lips to Liam's, his eyes shutting right before they touched. Instead of holding onto his hip, Liam moved to support Niall on the back, liking the way his weight was pressed into him. After a second too long, Liam began to kiss him back, and he was pretty sure he had meant to pull away, but now Niall wouldn't let him, one of his hands gripping the back of Liam's neck while the other was wrapped tightly around his middle.

So apparently this was happening, Liam realized after a few seconds had passed and Niall had yet to stop anything. Well, if this was what Niall wanted…

As Liam let go of Niall's back, running his hands instead up his shirt, Niall finally leaned away, breaking their kiss and gently pushing Liam off of him.

. “No,” he said. “You told me before that anyone you have sex with has to leave, but you never said anything about a kiss.”

“I...I don't know,” Liam said, suddenly panicking because he had never been in this situation before. He never kissed without later having sex, and so he'd never kissed anyone that he wanted to stick around.

“You don't have to know,” Niall said. “We can just see where things go.”

“I don't know how to do that.”

“Well, first off, will you go on a date with me?”

Liam jolted again, perhaps more than he had when his father had been mentioned.

“I don't date,” he reminded Niall for the umpteenth time.

“Why are you so scared of that word?” Niall asked. “It's just a word.”

“I don't like it.”

“Fine,” Niall sighed. “How about we just go to dinner and then see a movie? That's simple, yeah?”

“But not as a date?” Liam verified.

“As a something,” Niall said.

“What's a 'something'?”

“Whatever you imagine it to be.”

“I need answers.”

“Life doesn't always have answers, Liam. Some things just are.”

“That literally makes no sense.”

Niall gave a small laugh.

“Just go to dinner and the movies with me?” he asked.

“Fine, but not as a date.”

“As a something.”

Despite how hard he tried not to, Liam smiled and then bit his lip to keep it from growing too wide.

“Okay. That works.”

Niall smiled and gave Liam another kiss; a quick one.

“You're exhausting,” Liam sighed dramatically, and Niall laughed loudly, throwing his head back.

“I guess we both need to get to know each other a little better so we understand where we're coming from,” he said.

“Didn't you learn enough during twenty questions?” Liam asked.

“We barely scratched the surface,” Niall said. Liam frowned, feeling as if Niall already knew too much.

Sensing his distress, Niall offered another smile.

“Don't worry, Li,” he said. “Getting to know each other is what somethings are for.”

 

 

Chapter Text

***Harry***

When Harry left the bathroom, he popped a piece of gum into his mouth and went to join Louis in hair and makeup. Louis was chatting politely with the stylist as Harry entered, but he stopped mid-sentence when he heard Harry and looked up to see his reflection in the mirror.

“Hey, gorgeous,” Louis said, a big smile forming across his face. Harry smiled a bit in return, knowing that Louis didn't call him gorgeous because of what he just did or because his costume was too big on him now, but the dancer couldn't help but to think there had to be a correlation between all of it. He felt guilt start to take over his pride, but he swallowed it down and took a couple deep, yet subtle, breaths to relax. Louis didn't need to know what Harry had just done. He would just worry and it was really no big deal. Harry wouldn't get as bad as he had gotten before. He was just going to cut back a little more and purge if he felt the need, which honestly wasn't that often as long as he didn't over eat. Harry didn't like purging all that much. It hurt and was gross, but sometimes, he felt it was necessary.

“Are you ready for the show?” Harry asked, sitting in the chair next to Louis. The stylist spun him around so the two could face each other and when Harry was staring at Louis, he almost felt better than when he gave into those unhealthy urges. Almost, but Louis would be temporary, Harry still knew, and his disorder, which he simultaneously loved and hated, would be around as long as Harry wanted it, and then after as well.


Despite Harry doing things he knew could make him collapse and Louis being sick; despite all that had happened before the show, the concert went smoothly. It was no secret that Louis was more nervous for this show than he had even been for the first of the tour, but that was understandable, as his voice was still likely to go out at any minute. Luckily, he got through without any missed notes or voice cracks; just a few coughing fits in between songs. During the first, when he had to pause what he was saying to cough into his elbow away from the microphone, a chorus of 'aw's could be heard from the audience, as well as giggles from both fans and the performers on stage.

“Awwww,” Louis mocked them before giving a small laugh himself. “Yeah, everyone who was at the meet-and-greet, this is what you have to look forward to in the next week or so. You're welcome.”

Someone screamed something, and Harry couldn't understand what they said, but Louis had, and he laughed again.

“Did you just ask me to cough on you?” he said. “You are all very weird, and I love it.”

Turning from the audience, Louis locked eyes with Harry and winked before blowing a kiss. Since there was a slew of earsplitting screams at that very moment, Harry guessed that it hadn't gone unnoticed. Louis's eyes widened, he signed 'sorry,' even though he didn't have anything to apologize for, Harry thought, and then he turned back around to introduce his next song.


Once the encore songs had been performed and the curtain had closed for the final time, Harry and Louis spotted each other backstage and both ran towards each other. Well, Louis was running, and Harry guessed he was too, but his legs were suddenly very heavy and the room had a slight tint of blue. He swallowed hard and blinked against it as Louis reached him and collapsed into his chest. His arms just as heavy as his legs were, Harry somehow managed to hold the man upright, wrapping him tightly against him.

“That was a struggle, wasn't it?” Harry asked, giving the top of Louis's head a kiss. In response, Louis coughed harshly right into Harry's chest.

“Oh, thanks so much for that,” the dancer teased.

“Sorry.”

“I was joking.”

Harry pulled back, but kept a firm hold on Louis's shoulders, the contact keeping them both upright, he thought.

“No drinking tonight,” Harry continued. “You need to rest.”

“Will you come with me?” Louis asked, his voice sounding a bit scratchy but not nearly as bad as Harry imagined it would be after the show.

“Of course I will,” Harry replied, slipping his hand into Louis's. They found Beatrice just to tell her that they were going to the bus and then went on their way. The cool air gave Harry a little more energy and the blue in his vision cleared. Harry knew it would probably be temporary, but he was thankful anyway.

Once on Louis's bus, the older man stripped down to his underwear and then collapsed onto his stomach on his bed. He took a few deep breaths into the pillow and then rolled onto his back.

“I need to shower,” he muttered sleepily.

“Right now I'm afraid you would pass out in it,” Harry admitted. Louis didn't say anything back, his eyes half shut already. Harry moved forward, wanting to kiss Louis all over his cute, sleepy face, but he felt too dirty, and not from the show, but from before, when he'd purged. He was the one that needed a scalding hot shower and to brush his teeth, perhaps until his gums bled, so that he could be clean again.

Harry cleared his throat, shaking his head against the thoughts and glad that Louis's eyes had closed all the way. By the way his breathing pattern was, Harry didn't think he was actually asleep yet, but he was definitely heading that way.

“I'm going to get you water,” Harry told him. “You need to drink a little and then you need to sleep, okay?”

“Mm.”

Taking that as an agreement, Harry hurried to the refrigerator and grabbed a cold water bottle before going back to the bed. He helped Louis sit up and watched him drink and then helped him lay back down once he was through, even though Louis probably didn't need his help at all.

“I'm going to go wash up,” Harry said.

“Okay,” Louis mumbled, rolling onto his side and pulling his pillow closer to him. Harry rubbed his arm soothingly before grabbing clothes from his own tour bus and cleaning up. Once he felt at least halfway sanitized, he laid down next to Louis, who was sound asleep. Harry wished that he could tell Louis, even in a whisper, that he loved him because he knew that he did. Though he'd tried to convince himself that he had just been tricked by the lighting or sympathy for what had happened earlier, Harry knew better. He'd never felt the way he felt with Louis, even with Dracen. Sure, he'd loved his ex-boyfriend, but he never struggled to take his eyes off of him, and he didn't miss him every second that he wasn't around. Harry thought those feelings were only felt by characters in a fiction story, but that was how he felt now.

Unlike characters in a fiction story, though, Harry couldn't tell Louis how he felt because it would scare him away. Louis might like Harry well enough, but he didn't love him, and Harry didn't want him to either leave or try to fake the same feelings. Harry still knew deep down that there was a quickly approaching expiration date on their relationship-that wasn't even a true relationship yet-but that didn't stop him from continuing to do what he felt would make it last as long as possible.

To ensure that Harry didn't say anything dumb, the dancer bit his tongue, closed his eyes and repeated to himself over and over in his head the ugly truth; Louis would never love him.

***Niall***

It was a good thing that their dance routine had been ingrained deeply into Niall's mind during the several practice sessions they'd had that summer because he had to work from instinct that night. It was too hard for him to concentrate on what he was supposed to be doing when he knew that, soon, he would be going on a date with Liam!

Okay, so they weren't calling it a date, but that was totally what it was.

I'm going on a date with him , Niall kept reminding himself, as if he could forget, every time his eyes found their way to Liam that night. I am going on a date with that beautiful man that makes my heart pound.

After their kiss, Liam had acted a bit funny at first. He kept his distance as he and Niall walked back into the stadium and was uncharacteristically quiet during dinner, but he had given Niall a good luck kiss before they went onstage that night. Niall didn't mind that, though the kiss was to give him luck, it probably made him perform a bit worse because how was he supposed to not be a little shaky when Liam had kissed him first?

Before kissing him, Liam had approached a bit awkwardly. He had been standing away from Niall, staring him down and then looking away quickly and blushing when he realized he'd been busted. Niall simply smiled to himself and waited to see what Liam was going to do next.

After getting busted staring a second time, Liam finally made the decision to approach, shuffling his feet nervously as he did so. Niall continued to smile, knowing teasing Liam when he felt vulnerable like this would be the worst decision he could possibly make. Besides, it was cute. Niall was used to confident Liam, and he loved him of course, but it was good to see him humbled as well.

“Hi,” Liam said when he stopped in front of Niall, their toes inches from touching.

“Hi,” Niall replied. Liam shifted.

“Um, good luck,” he said.

“Thanks, you too,” Niall said. Liam nodded, bounced a couple times on the balls of his feet and then leaned down and placed a kiss to Niall's lips before hurrying off.

In retrospect, that shouldn't have been enough to make Niall feel so giddy for the whole entire show, but it was.

Once the concert was over, Liam found Niall, grabbing his arm and turning him around before wrapping him up tightly in his arms. Niall may have hummed out loud, but if so, he at least did it quietly and Liam seemed to have no idea.

Wrapping his own arms around Liam's middle, Niall could feel him shaking a little as his muscles worked on calming down. He had a feeling it wasn't only his muscles that needed to relax and he rubbed the other's back soothingly until Liam pulled away.

“Are you getting a drink?” Niall asked then. Liam shook his head, and then covered his mouth as he let out a yawn.

“Can we go to the bus instead?” he asked after he'd caught his breath.

“I was hoping for that, actually,” Niall said, and followed Liam to their bus, which was currently empty besides the driver sleeping in his seat.

Liam sat down on the couch right away, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

“You know you can go to the bunk if you want to sleep,” Niall pointed out. “I'll wake you up when we get to the hotel.”

“I don't want to,” Liam said, opening one eye and motioning for Niall to go closer. He did, and when he was within reach, Liam pulled him down onto his lap, sitting forwards, and lifted his head to give a sleepy smile. Niall liked the way that Liam's hands felt on his thighs and he wanted to kiss him from his neck to his collar bone and then back up to his lips, but he didn't because he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to stop himself from going further at that point, and he couldn't lose Liam, which he knew he would if they did anything.

“When are we doing the dinner and movie thing?” Liam asked once the two had stared at each other for what was probably an awkward amount of time, but, to Niall, at least, it didn't feel awkward at all.

At the mention of their non-date date, Niall felt a brief moment of elation, but he held himself together well.

“We can do it the day after tomorrow once we reach our destination and have the rest of the day to ourselves,” he decided, but he didn't actually want to wait that long to go out with Liam. “We can do something else tomorrow before the show,” Niall added.

“I have a great idea,” Liam said, patting Niall's thighs to ask him to get up. Niall didn't want to, but he did anyway, and then Liam got to his feet.

“Let's get washed up,” Liam said. “We'll have to take a taxi there and to the hotel, but I want to take you somewhere.”

“Where?” Niall asked. The corners of Liam's mouth twitched up briefly.

“Sydney Harbo u r,” he said. “You said you wanted to see it at night, right?”

“Yes,” Niall said, a grin spreading across his face again. “Yes, I did.”


Niall was right; the bridge was absolutely beautiful at night. The bridge itself was pretty, being lit by its several sparkling lights, but the entire area was lovely; the outlines of partially lit buildings just visible against the black sky.

Liam had brought a blanket, snacks and, naturally, a bottle of wine, and he set up a mini picnic along the walkway. It felt romantic to Niall, but he of course didn't say so out loud.

“So does this count as a 'something?'” he asked instead. Liam didn't give any indication that he'd heard him until he finished chewing his bite and swallowed.

“By technical definition, yes,” he answered, looking up at Niall, appearing guarded, but not altogether unhappy.

“What about by your definition?” Niall questioned. He expected that to possibly cause Liam to put his walls up more, but instead, he seemed to relax a bit, a smile breaking the seriousness on his face.

Instead of replying, he sipped wine from the bottle the two were sharing.

“Want to play twenty questions?” Niall asked.

“That didn't turn out so well last time,” Liam said.

“I think it turned out fine. We can skip questions again.”

“Fine,” Liam said, taking another sip of wine before setting the bottle down carefully in between the two.

“Are you having fun?” Niall asked, taking Liam's silence as his cue to go first.

“I am,” Liam said. “Ar e you?”

“Lots. I'm counting that as your question, so it's my turn again. Um...What's one thing on your bucket list?”

“I want to skydive,” Liam said.

“Well, that's terrifying, but okay.”

Liam smiled, but instead of asking Niall a question, he said,

“I also want to record a song, like, in a studio.”

“You sing?” Niall asked, genuinely curious.

“I like to, I just don't often,” Liam said.

“Why did you lip synch when you and Harry did that song at karaoke then?” Niall questioned.

“It was Harry's time to show off,” Liam explained. “Besides, I haven't sung in forever. I don't even know what I sound like anymore.”

“Why don't you sing more if you like to do it?”

“It isn't your turn for a question,” Liam pointed out, sticking out his tongue, despite the fact that Niall had already asked a question out of turn. The smaller man motioned for him to go on.

“What's something on your bucket list?”

“You're stealing all of my questions,” Niall teased. Both of them smiled, and Niall answered.

“I want to go to school and actually get a degree,” he said. “I don't know what in. Probably business or sports management or medicine.”

“That's cool,” Liam said.

“Yeah, I guess. So why has it been so long since you've sung?”

Niall almost expected Liam to skip the question, but he didn't.

“I wasn't allowed to when I was younger,” Liam said. “My dad thought that I should be into sports instead. He would have loved you.”

Liam gave a teasing smile and Niall gave a slight grin in return, but thought that the feeling would definitely not have be en mutual.

“That's why I started dancing,” Liam continued. “No one could hear me doing that and when my mum found out it was something I was interested in, she put me in classes secretly. It was my new way to express myself and my instructors were always so supportive, so I just stuck to it.”

“We'll have to go do karaoke sometime,” Niall said. Liam smiled.

“Anyway, what's your favorite sport?” he asked.

“That's tough,” Niall said. “Probably golf, but I really enjoy soccer too. Or, you know, football. What's your favorite type of music?”

“Pop, probably, with an R&B type feel to it, but I like most genres of music, really. Um...How did you come to be a hopeless romantic?”

Niall laughed, taking a drink from the bottle.

“I don't know,” he answered. “I think it's just in my nature, mostly, but I also think it started out when my parents got divorced. Like every other kid, I said I was never going to end up like that and created in my head what the perfect relationship would be like and then swore to myself that I would have that someday. Now that I'm not so young and naive, I know there isn't any perfect relationship and that a lot of people don't find their true love, or soul mate or whatever, but I haven't given up the hope yet.”

Liam smiled, but this time it had a sadder look to it.

“Your parents divorced and you managed to gain more hope rather than lose it?”

“Yeah. I mean, they're still on good terms, so it's not like I was put through an ugly separation or anything, but yeah, a lot of kids take it a lot harder, I think.”

“I think you're just amazing,” Liam said, moving the empty snack wrappers to the side and putting the wine bottle next to the blanket before scooting forward so that his and Niall's knees were touching. Niall smiled, admiring, not for the first time, how pretty Liam's eyes were. They were so dark of a brown that Niall thought one could literally get lost in them and not be able to look away.

“You have really pretty eyes,” Liam complimented, looking down; unable to speak his mind while looking right at Niall. The smaller man gave a slight laugh.

“I was just thinking the same thing about you,” he said.

“Really?” Liam asked, looking up again, his forehead creased. “They're just brown.”

“They're so dark,” Niall said, “and they have the prettiest shape to them. They really are pretty, Li.”

Liam looked down again and Niall thought he may have blushed a tad, but of course couldn't be sure in the dark. It didn't take long before Liam was again looking into Niall's eyes and they took in each other's appearance for a few moments before Liam leaned down and kissed Niall. This kiss wasn't the slightest bit awkward, and it wasn't over before Niall really knew what was going on. Both of their eyes fluttered shut immediately. The kiss grew deeper and hungrier the longer it went on, but they stopped before things got too far, pulling apart at exactly the same time. When they did, they smiled, and then Liam yawned again before positioning himself so that his head was resting on Niall's shoulders as the two looked out through the bridge at the water.

“I don't want to go back,” Liam said, his voice showing signs of sleep already.

“It's not like we have to say goodbye when we do,” Niall said. “We share a room.”

“Yeah,” Liam agreed, “but nothing feels real right now, and I mean that in a good way. I like it.”

“Reality isn't all bad,” Niall told him, “and I'm not just saying that as an optimist. Good things will happen to you, Li, and you don't have to run away and escape reality to keep them. I'm just as real here as I'm going to be back at the hotel, or the tour bus, or anywhere else we go. I don't know if I'm a good thing for you, but I like to think that I am, and I'm actually here.”

“You are a good thing,” Liam assured him. “Too good.”

“How can something be too good?” Niall questioned.

“Because then it's harder to recover when it's gone.”

“What if it never leaves?”

“Nothing lasts forever.”

“I guess you're right,” Niall said because, technically, he was, and Liam seemed to try to be a technical person, “but not everything ends in pain.”

“You know that, even if you find the person that you're supposed to be with the rest of your life; your soul mate, that one day, you will die, or they will die, and the other will be left without them until they die too.”

“Unless we die together like The Notebook.

“I thought we were talking about reality here?”

Niall laughed, moving himself to a more comfortable position but pulling Liam along with him and making sure to barely jostle him.

Living your life afraid of feeling pain is worse than living a happy life that sometimes has moments of pain.”

Niall expected Liam to shoot down his remark with another sarcastic comment, but to his surprise, he didn't. He stayed quiet for a while and Niall didn't interrupt his thoughts.

“Maybe you're right,” Liam finally said, very quietly, and Niall only held him closer until they both started shivering and decided to call a taxi and go back to normalcy. Niall couldn't help but to hope, though, that his every day life would be a little more special now; a little less lonely. He hoped that when they reached the brightness of the hotel and went on with their nightly routine that Liam wouldn't feel as if he was okay with his own reality that he deemed safe and painless, even if Niall saw it as anything but.

Chapter Text

***Liam***

Even though Liam hadn't had that much to drink while out with Niall, he felt pretty intoxicated as the taxi took the pair to their hotel. He was dizzy and everything around him seemed to be moving too fast for him to keep up with. It wasn't an entirely unpleasant feeling, but he thought he should be a little more concerned than what he was. Niall was next to him, though, and kept giving him those perfect, dazzling smiles and so Liam couldn't find it in himself to worry about anything at all.

As soon as the men were inside of their hotel room, Liam made his way to his bed, not bothering to undress or anything before he collapsed down on top of the sheets.

“Tired?” Niall asked from the foot of the bed, but Liam could only see a bit of him with his eyes half open. Somehow, he still found enough energy to nod.

“Come here,” he mumbled, but his words were clear enough for Niall, who did as he was asked. Liam reached out half blindly until he found Niall's hand and pulled him to the bed. Sighing in what Liam hoped what content, Niall adjusted himself to a more comfortable position, resting his arm over Liam's waist. Liam forced his eyes open and smiled, scooting himself closer to Niall before shutting them again.

“I don't really know what I'm doing,” he admitted, hearing the sleep in his own voice. He truly didn't know what he was doing or why, either, but it felt right, at least for the time being. He knew he might feel different in the morning when his head was less foggy.

“You know, I've discovered that people act like they know what they're doing, but most of them truly have no idea, including me, so you're not alone,” Niall said.

“You have great philosophies on life and love,” Liam commented, to which Niall laughed. The smaller man turned his head slightly to the side to place a kiss on the top of Liam's hand before he settled into the pillow again.

“Good night, Li,” he said. “I'll see you in the morning. Well...later in the morning.”

“Don't expect me to be awake until, like, at least noon,” Liam warned.

“Okay, then I'll see you in the afternoon.”

Liam thought Niall said something else after that, but he had already drifted too far from consciousness to know for certain.


It was eleven o' clock when Liam pulled himself from slumber.

“Good morning,” Niall greeted when the other man lifted his head from the pillow. Through half closed eyes, Liam saw him sitting up in bed next to him, hinting that he hadn't woken up too much earlier himself, so he didn't feel all that bad when he replied with only a huff as he buried his face into his pillow.

“You're awake earlier than I expected you to be,” Niall continued.

Liam simply yawned and, giving a small chuckle, Niall started playing with the back of the other man's hair. It almost lulled Liam back into a sleep, but he felt that if he dozed off again, he would be out for another few hours and he knew he shouldn't let himself sleep the whole day away, so, begrudgingly, Liam sat up after a few relaxing minutes. Niall gave a smile.

“Your Aunt Karen called,” he said. “She wants you to call her or Nicola when you have a chance. I hope you don't mind that I answered your phone when she rang, but I didn't want you to be woken. You looked peaceful.”

“No, it's fine,” Liam assured the other, smiling a tad bit himself. Yawning again, Liam took a few moments to rub the sleep out of his eyes before he crawled over Niall's legs and retrieved his phone from the nightstand. “I'm going to go out in the hall to call,” he explained.

“Okay.”

Liam's first instinct was to ignore the fact that his aunt had called, of course, but he hadn't talked to her since much before the tour started and even though he had his reasons, he still felt bad about it. His reasons were selfish and reflected only his own issues; not the woman's.

“Hello?” she answered after the very first ring, sounding unsure.

“Hey,” Liam said, and the woman gasped upon the realization that it was indeed her nephew who was calling her.

“Liam, hey honey! How are you?”

“I'm fine. How are you?”

“I'm doing well. I miss you.”

Unexpectedly, the woman's words made a few tears form in Liam's eyes, and he hated himself for it. He swallowed them down before replying.

“I miss you too,” he admitted, and he did. He probably missed her more than she could ever miss him, he thought.

“How is the tour going?” Karen asked.

“It's great. I'm having a lot of fun; more fun than I even thought I would, actually.”

“Good. I'm so glad.”

She paused, and Liam didn't fill the silence.

“I heard about what happened at the meet-and-greet yesterday,” the woman continued on. “Are you sure you're really okay, sweetie?”

“Are there pictures?” Liam asked instead of answering right away. He felt a bit of panic, not wanting to be known as Louis's back-up dancer who was missing a few marbles.

“Yes…,” Karen answered hesitantly. “...And videos.”

Liam groaned.

“I'm fine,” he assured his aunt belatedly. “I let the bloke get to me, obviously, but I'm fine now. Really.”

“Are you in any trouble?”

“No. Everyone was really nice about it.”

“Good. None of it was your fault.”

“I guess, but, Karen, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, babe.”

Liam didn't know why he was letting himself ask this question. It had been on his mind for a while, but he was always too afraid to know the answer. He still felt fear now, but suddenly, he just couldn't stop the words from coming out of his mouth.

“What did you think when you found out that I was gay?”

He expected a long pause and then a lie for an answer, or, worse, the truth; that she was disappointed but had eventually come to terms with it. However, Karen didn't hesitate to answer at all, and she sounded genuine in her reply.

“I didn't think anything, really,” she said. “You were still the same boy that I'd always known. I just knew then that I would have to annoy you with my questions about cute boys instead of cute girls.”

“Really?” Liam asked, a wide smile breaking across his face. His voice didn't sound much like his.

“Really.”

“You didn't seem approving of all of the guys I was with in school,” the dancer pointed out.

“That had nothing to do with the fact that they were men,” Karen replied. “I was just worried that you weren't treating yourself right or being safe. I would have been the same way if you were with a new woman every night. I love you and I want you happy, Liam.”

“I love you too,” Liam said, and he was surprised at how good that felt to say. “And I'm happy, don't worry.”

“Promise?”

“Yeah.”

It was a work in progress, Liam knew, but compared to how he usually felt, he was happy. The fact that he woke up not thinking of alcohol or how he was going to pick up a man that night proved that, he thought.

“There's a guy,” Liam continued, unaware that he was going to say anything before it was out of his mouth. He'd already started, though, so he knew that he had to finish now. “He's my room mate, and he's cool. I mean...he's really cute and seems to be interested in me and stuff. We've been hanging out.”

“Have you?!” Karen asked, sounding way too excited, but Liam smiled at the tone in her voice anyway.

“Yeah.”

“Actually hanging out and not just...”

“Yeah, no. Just, like, hanging out.”

Well, there was the kissing, but that was innocent enough, in Liam's opinion.

“That makes me happy, Liam,” Karen told hm.

Liam didn't say anything. What could he really say to that? Luckily, his aunt didn't expect him to.

“Anyway, I'd love to talk to you all day, but I won't keep you. I know you're busy. I just wanted to check on you after hearing the news, and I wanted to hear your voice.”

“I'll talk to you soon, Karen,” Liam promised.

“I do hope so. I love you.”

“I love you too. Tell the girls and Geoff that I love them too, please.”

“I will,” Karen said, and Liam could basically hear her smile. “They love you too, and I hope you know that.”

Liam hummed noncommittally, and after another round of goodbyes, the pair hung up.

When Liam entered the room again, Niall was still sitting in bed, leaning against the head board and watching some sports channel on the television. He turned the volume down as Liam took his place next to him.

“Do you want to do something today?” Niall asked, leaning slightly against Liam. In return, Liam rested his own head on top of Niall's.

“We probably have just enough time for lunch and a film as long as we hurry up and get ready, if you're up for it.”

“Yeah!” Niall answered, and then paused, clearly trying to tone down the excitement in his voice before he spoke again. “That sounds fun.”

***Harry***

Before Harry was awake enough to be able to open his eyes, he heard voices speaking. He didn't think they were talking to him and so he didn't try too hard to pull himself to full consciousness. Still feeling Louis beside him, Harry simply snuggled closer. He thought he felt an arm wrap around him as the voices continued, and only smiled in contentment. After a while-Harry wasn't sure how long because he had no concept of time at the moment-the noise stopped and he was about to drift back to sleep when he heard the click of a door closing. He thought he felt Louis's chest vibrate as he let out a groan, and lips touched Harry's forehead gently before the bed shifted and, suddenly, all of the body heat from next to him was gone. His smile turned to a frown and he curled around himself, but it wasn't the same and soon, his eyes fluttered open to confirm that Louis was no longer beside him.

“Lou?” Harry asked quietly, sitting up and blinking against the dizziness he felt. He received no reply besides another door closing-the bathroom door-and Harry heard a few coughs and a sneeze before the sink was turned on.

Sighing, Harry pulled his knees up and rested his forehead on top of them. His head was pounding and he was shaking. The position soon made him start to feel sick, so he took to laying down flat on his back and covering his eyes with one hand, trying to block out as much light as he could. He didn't move, even when the bathroom door reopened and footsteps slowly made their way closer.

“Harry?” Louis whispered. “Are you awake?”

“Mhm,” Harry mumbled, fearing that his words would be slurred if he tried to speak.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Harry managed and uncovered his eyes, barely resisting cringing against the brightness. It was so bright that the room was a little blurry, but he of course wouldn't say so because he knew that it wasn't normal.

Despite it all, Harry forced a tiny smile, but Louis didn't return it. He was frowning and forwent buttoning his shirt past the couple bottom buttons he had already done to straddle Harry on the bed. He kept all of his weight off the younger man again, treating him like he was fragile. Even though Harry honestly felt fragile right then, he still hated being treated in such a way and so he guided Louis's hips down until the singer was sitting on top of him.

“You look a little pale,” Louis commented, feeling Harry's forehead for a fever that Harry knew he didn't have.

“You look handsome,” Harry said in means of a reply, buttoning one more of Louis's buttons for him, but then stopping because he was quite enjoying the view. “Are you going somewhere?”

“Yeah. Turns out I totally forgot that I have an interview this morning. It's a really good thing I forced myself into the shower when we got back to the hotel last night. Do you want to come with?”

“I probably don't have time to get ready,” Harry guessed, wanting to go but glad for the excuse not to because he didn't trust himself to stand right then.

“Probably not,” Louis said, looking disappointed, and he leaned forward to kiss Harry's forehead. “I can't wait until I can kiss your lips again,” he commented.

“Just do it then,” Harry urged.

“I might still be contagious.”

His arm feeling heavy, Harry placed his hand across Louis's forehead.

“You don't have a fever, so I think we're good,” he said, grateful that Louis felt cool for the first time in days. Still, he had a feeling that Louis wouldn't take the initiative, so Harry mustered the strength to lean up and kiss Louis's lips. Though he felt terrible physically, Harry still had some pride and a tiny bit of confidence from the progress he'd made yesterday, and that seemed to be fueling him.

Giving in, Louis kissed Harry back, the two gasping and making the tiniest of moans against each other's mouths. After a minute, Harry needed more and so he slid his hands up the loose shirt on Louis's torso and squeezed his hips lightly. Louis gasped, breaking their lips' contact, but he kept the two close by tangling his fingers in Harry's curls. Harry managed to sit up even straighter, holding onto Louis to reposition him as well, and then the dancer began kissing the singer's neck. A slightly louder moan escaped from Louis's throat.

“What are we doing?” he asked somewhat breathlessly.

“What do you want to do?” Harry asked, willing to do whatever Louis wished, though he hoped that he would be able to at least keep some clothes on, whatever Louis's answer was.

“I have to go,” Louis said, sounding as if he spoke the words reluctantly.

“When?” Harry asked.

“I have to meet Beatrice out back in ten minutes.”

“I can work fast.”

“Jesus Christ,” Louis breathed as Harry moved his hands high up on Louis's thighs, closer to his butt, really, and squeezed again. “You're moving awfully fast for a guy who claimed to not even use tongue before the second date,” he teased.

“I may have lied about that,” Harry said. He hadn't lied, because the only person he'd gone on a second date with, or had used tongue with, had been his ex-boyfriend and they hadn't done anything more than a peck on the lips until the third, but that didn't mean that Harry was going to make Louis wait that long. Part of it was because he knew that he would likely be allowed to keep Louis longer if he gave him what he wanted, but he did genuinely want to make Louis feel good too, for unselfish reasons.

Louis moaned again as Harry bit down lightly on his neck and, getting a burst of energy from adrenaline, Harry hoisted Louis further up on him and then bit down on his collarbone.

Then came a knock on the door, making Louis jump.

“Fuck!” he groaned, though it came out more like a sultry moan. There was a pause and then, from the other side of the door, came Beatrice's voice.

“Never mind!” she called. “Please make it quick, though.”

“Shit,” Louis hissed, getting clumsily off of Harry and nearly tripping as he ran to the door, trying and failing to button his shirt as he went. “Beatrice!”

But by the time Louis had gotten to the door, the woman was already gone.

“Shit,” Louis muttered again, turning to Harry, who was walking towards him, as he shut the door.

“I'm sorry,” Harry said, blushing from embarrassment.

“No, no, it's fine. You don't have anything to apologize for,” Louis said, standing on his tiptoes to place a quick kiss on Harry's lips.

“Are you leaving now?” Harry asked.

“I probably should,” Louis sighed. Harry nodded, beginning to button the man's shirt for him. When he'd finished, Louis kissed him again. “I'll see you soon.”

“Good luck,” Harry said. “Is it a show that you're on?”

Louis told him that it was and informed him of the channel, should Harry want to watch, and then, with one last kiss, he left. Harry had to shove his embarrassment down and take pride in the fact that Louis's eyes had still looked glassy as he turned away from him.

When a couple minutes had passed and Harry was sure Louis had to be at least in the elevator, the dancer got an orange juice from the drink machine in the hallway and took it to bed, sipping on it as he waited for Louis's interview to start.

Just like when he was a teenager, waiting to watch Louis on TV, Harry felt his excitement start to grow as soon as the show came on. Unlike then, though, he felt a physical warmth when Louis walked out from backstage to take his seat, and Harry couldn't help but to smile. Though the orange juice had made his headache worse, he turned the volume on the television up anyway.

“Thanks so much for agreeing to come on our show,” the female interviewer, Ruby, said once the fans in the audience had quieted down.

“Thanks for inviting me,” Louis said politely, smiling.

“How are you doing?” Ruby asked. “I heard you weren't feeling well at last night's show.”

“Oh, no, I'm great,” Louis assured her. “I've been a bit ill for the past couple of days, but it was nothing serious and I'm doing a lot better today. Thanks for asking.”

“How is the Australian tour going so far?” the other interviewer, William, asked. Louis answered that it was going extremely well and was telling them how much he loved it there when Harry received a text message from his sister.

I'm live streaming your boyfriend's interview, it read. He's much cuter than I originally gave him credit for.

Back off , Harry replied teasingly.

Don't worry. He's yours, Gemma assured him. Harry wished that were true.

“We're really sorry about what happened at the meet-and-greet yesterday,” Ruby was apologizing to Louis when Harry turned his full attention back to the screen. Louis gave a small laugh.

“It definitely made the night more interesting,” Louis said, “though I don't know why you're apologizing. It's all on that bloke.”

“I'm sure it must have been hard to perform like normal after that,” Ruby continued.

“Not really,” Louis told her. “Not at all, actually. With my profession, you have to get used to receiving criticism and even hate. It was shocking and it was a bit upsetting, but I forgot all about it once I was surrounded by the fans who actually care and was making them happy.”

“Was your boyfriend around when it happened?” William asked, and Harry sucked in a loud breath. He knew that celebrities typically knew of the questions they were going to be asked beforehand, but by Louis's reaction, he guessed he hadn't seen this one coming either.

“Harry?” the singer verified.

“Yeah; Harry,” William said, “but he is your boyfriend, right?”

“We haven't labeled anything yet,” Louis said after thinking about it for just a moment. “I like to think things are heading that way, but Harry and I have yet to have that chat in full. And he's watching this, I think, so I hope he's not wanting to run down here and cut my mic right about now.”

There were a few laughs, including a nervous one from Louis, who then said,

“Okay, next subject, please?”

“Aw, you're blushing!” Ruby exclaimed which, of course, only made the singer's blush deepen.

OMG OMG OMG, Gemma sent to Harry, who found that he was blushing himself. He ignored her text for the time being.

“Wait, before we move on, I have to know, how did you two meet?” Ruby asked. “Did you know him before he was your dancer?”

“No. I mean, he is one that I picked myself when I observed his dance class, but we hadn't known each other previously.”

“Did the attraction come before or after you decided to put him on tour?” William questioned.

“Um, neither, really,” Louis said. “I definitely thought he was extremely attractive right from the start, but he earned his place. He's really talented. I was infatuated right away, but once I got to know him and his amazing personality better is when I really...fell...”

Louis trailed off, looking embarrassed as a chorus of 'aws' surrounded throughout the place. Harry would never admit to anyone that he had to turn on the ceiling fan at that point.

OMG, Gemma said again. Still, Harry ignored her, too dizzy and light-headed to even try to form a reply.

“Well everyone wishes the both of you the best,” William told Louis before finally moving on to a subject that didn't involve Harry.

You're not with Louis at the show, right? Gemma sent her third text in a row. When Harry told her that he wasn't, the woman called.

“Oh my god!” she said after Harry had said hello.

“It's not that big of a deal,” Harry said, glad she couldn't see his blush over the phone. He laid down, situating the phone between his ear and the pillow.

“Are you kidding?” Gemma asked rhetorically. “Your celebrity crush that you've idolized from the time you were just a hormonal teenager wants to be your boyfriend!”

“I'm sure he was just saying that so he didn't come off as a dick on air,” Harry said, half believing it.

“He was blushing, Harry,” Gemma said.

“What would he want to date me for?” Harry muttered.

“You're a nice guy and attractive, so why wouldn't he?” Gemma replied.

“I'm not attractive, at least by celebrity standards,” Harry said.

“Yeah you are, and I'm not just saying that because I'm your sister. In fact, it might be a little weird to say that as your sister, but anyway…Make that man your boyfriend as soon as you see him again, Hazza.”

Harry could find no suitable reply but to laugh. Gemma could take that as she wished.

“I have to go, Gem,” he said. The pain in his head was now throbbing and his heart was fluttering, and not just from the butterflies in his stomach.

“No, don't go,” Gemma said.

“I'm not feeling great,” Harry said, hoping she wouldn't use that as an excuse to worry. Luckily, she didn't sound too concerned as she said,

“Yeah, well that's what you get for not being able to keep your hands or lips off of your sick boyfriend.”

Harry simply let out another laugh, and then coughed to regulate his heart beat.

“I'll talk to you later, Gem.”

“Rest up, baby brother. I love you.”

Harry returned the sentiment and the two hung up. Somehow, Harry was asleep in the next few minutes despite the fact that he was freaking out on the inside.

*** Louis***

“Get a hold of yourself, diva,” Beatrice said as a means of congratulations once Louis's interview had ended. “You're still blushing.”

Louis had stopped blushing a long time ago, and he knew that, but his manager's words brought the red right back to his cheeks and he shoved her lightly.

“Shut up.”


Harry was sleeping when Louis got back to the hotel room. The television was still on, so Louis found the remote beside of the dancer and turned it off. Normally he would probably try to kiss Harry gently on the cheek or something, but he didn't dare do anything that might wake him. Truthfully, he'd been a little relieved when he'd found out he was sleeping because he'd been so nervous about how their first interaction after that extremely awkward part of the interview would go. Louis guessed he should have been better prepared for the 'Harry' questions. They hadn't had any lined up specifically, but the subject hadn't been black listed, so he should have known the interviewers would find a way to work him in.

With any luck, Louis thought, Harry had fallen asleep before he had witnessed the disaster that was Louis's answer to the 'boyfriend' topic, though now that he took a better look at Harry, his relief disappeared and worry took its place. Harry had grown even paler than before Louis had left. Something clearly wasn't right and Louis was going to feel terrible if he'd given Harry whatever he had.

Taking his chances, Louis felt the other's face again-he was cold-and though he'd done so gently, the contact was still enough to pull Harry from his slumber.

“Hey, sorry,” Louis said, standing only to turn the ceiling fan off and then sitting back by Harry's feet. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Harry answered, blinking a few times, rapidly. “Why?”

“Well, it's after noon and you're still sleeping. Plus you just don't look like you feel the best.”

“I'm fine,” Harry assured Louis. “I was awake for a bit. I saw most of your interview.”

A small smile touched Harry's lips, but that didn't do much to calm Louis.

“Oh,” he said. “I'm sorry if I made anything awkward. I was kind of a blubbering idiot.”

“No, you didn't make anything awkward. It's okay,” Harry said, tugging on Louis's shirt so that the singer would lean down and kiss him. “Now, where were we before you had to go?”

Harry's hands found their way to Louis's bottom, insinuating that he knew very well where they had been, and though starting from that point sounded good to Louis, he knew he was too tense to function properly anyway.

“Hold on,” he said. “I'm going to get the thermometer.”

He doubted Harry had a fever, as his skin wasn't warm in the slightest, but something was off with him and Louis needed to know what.

“I'm not sick,” Harry said, but Louis stood anyway, making his way to the bathroom, where he'd left the thermometer that morning after checking his own temperature for good measure. “Lou?”

“I'm coming,” Louis assured the dancer, rinsing off the thermometer quickly. It was after he'd turned off the water and turned to exit the bathroom that he heard a thump from the bed area. He wasn't too concerned, assuming that Harry had dropped something, but when he rounded the corner, he saw that it was Harry himself lying on the ground, face down.

“Harry!” Louis gasped, dropping the thermometer as he ran to the other's side. “Harry, are you okay?”

The dancer didn't answer, nor did he move at all, so Louis rolled his limp body over, fear hitting him hard in the gut when he saw the other's closed eyes.

Hey! Harry! Wake up!” Louis urged, slapping the dancer's cheek gently. He turned his head, which made Louis feel only slightly better, but he didn't open his eyes or give any indication that he was actually conscious. Using one hand to check Harry's pulse, Louis used his other to call the doctor. H arry ' s pulse was steady, so, while explaining the situation to the man on the phone, Louis moved quickly to get a cold, damp wash cloth which he then used to pat Harry's face. It didn't seem to be helping until Louis hung up the phone and then Harry's eyes started slowly opening.

“Harry!” Louis exclaimed, relieved but still scared out of his mind.

“Hey, good morning,” Harry mumbled, hitting himself in the face when he tried to rub his eyes, and he attempted to sit up, but Louis gently pushed him back. Harry frowned.

“Wait, what happened?” he asked.

“You passed out,” Louis explained. “I was in the bathroom getting the thermometer to take your temperature and I guess you got out of bed for some reason, but when I came out, you were just lying on the floor. The doctor is on his way up now.”

“No,” Harry said, his glassy eyes widening. “I'm okay. I just got dizzy.”

“You fainted ,” Louis said.

“I'm okay.”

Louis didn't attempt to hide his sigh.

“What's going on, Harry?”

The dancer didn't answer.

“Harry,” Louis urged. “Talk to me. Have you been eating?”

“Yes!” Harry exclaimed, sounded offended, or maybe just defensive. Louis wanted to cry.

“I'm sorry,” he said and Harry's frown deepened, his eyes shutting for a moment from the effort, but he didn't lose consciousness.

“What are you sorry for?”

“I don't know exactly, but I guess for not seeing that something was wrong sooner.”

“Louis, I'm fine.”

“This isn't fine!”

The words came out harsher than Louis had meant them to, and his heart broke as a few tears welled up in Harry's eyes and the dancer bit his lip, trying to keep them from sliding down his cheek.

“I don't want to do this,” Harry said, his voice shaky.

“You don't want to do what?” Louis asked. He was terrified that the answer was going to be the tour or their relationship or both, knowing his heart would actually be shattered if so, but he also knew that, if that was the case, then he would understand.

“I don't want to talk about it or live like this,” Harry said instead, and that maybe hurt Louis worse than if Harry had said what Louis had thought he was going to.

“You don't have to,” Louis said.

“I'll pack my bags,” Harry said, and for a moment Louis thought he'd misunderstood and it was him that Harry wanted to get away from.

“Do you want to go home?” Louis asked, needing the answer outright. Harry shook his head, still lying on the ground.

“No, I don't want to, but I don't want you to have to deal with me.”

“I want what's best for you,” Louis said, picking his words as carefully as he could from the jumbled nonsense in his head. “If you need to leave, then by all means, go, but if you want to stay, that would be great. Either way, I want to be around, if it's safe for you.”

Harry didn't have a chance to reply because a knock on the door sounded before Louis had even finished his statement.

“Stay here,” the singer asked, hurrying to let the doctor inside.

Louis helped Harry onto the bed, despite Harry insisting that he was fine despite being shaky, and then the doctor began his examination. The problem, unsurprising to Harry and Louis, ended up being low blood sugar levels and dehydration. Harry didn't mention his problem to the professional, but did admit that he hadn't been eating enough.

That can happen easily on tour,” the doctor said, and Louis wanted to scream because he had no idea. “For someone as thin as you are anyway, I'm sure it's even easier. We can purchase some protein shakes for you if necessary to keep you from going under calories .”

“I'll keep that in mind,” Harry said, ducking his head, embarrassed by something or another. “Thank you.”

“I'm going to get you some food. For now, have this.”

The older man handed Harry a bottle of water and a protein bar, told Louis to keep an eye on him (like he would be doing anything but) and then left, assuring the two that he would be right back. Harry flipped the bar over and stared at the back before slowly opening it and taking a small bite. When he saw Louis looking at him, he seemed even more embarrassed.

“How bad is it?” Louis asked. “The disorder I mean.”

“It's not bad,” Harry replied quickly. “It's not an actual eating disorder right now.”

Louis looked at Harry, unsure, and trying to study his face for any sign that he wasn't being honest, but Harry forced a smile, making that impossible.

“This was my wake up call,” he said. “I'm going to be fine.”

“How can I help?”

“You do help,” Harry insisted, and when Louis looked at him disbelievingly, said, “You do. The only times I ever feel normal are when I'm around you.”

“But it's not enough.”

“It is.”

Harry sighed and paused before continuing.

“I know you can't understand. I don't expect you to because it's crazy-”

“It's not crazy.”

“-But I'm going to have times like this every now and then. It's nothing to worry about.”

“Is all of this good for you, Harry? The tour, the fame…and me. Are you sure all of this is okay?”

“Please don't ever doubt that you're good for me,” Harry said. “I'm happy around you, honestly.”

“Really?”

Harry nodded, finally taking another bite of his bar. Louis didn't know if it was just for show or not, but he wasn't going to worry about the small details at the moment.

“I feel the same way,” Louis said then.

“And just so you know, if it was up to me, I would definitely call you my boyfriend,” Harry added, his words coming out quickly, like he would draw them back in if it took too long.

Louis's head spun as if he'd just taken a hit of something. He shouldn't be happy right now, when Harry was sick, but he couldn't help but to feel a little bit of joy overtake his fear.

“Even though we've only been on one date that I'm still not even sure can be considered a date?” he asked Harry.

“It was a date,” Harry said, “and yes. If therapy taught me anything, which it did, despite how it seems right now, it's that it's okay to do things a little backwards.”

“I say I owe you a lot of dates though.”

Harry only smiled, setting down his barely touched bar to snuggle against Louis's side.

“You need to eat,” Louis spoke, refusing to let Harry's cuteness distract him.

“I'll eat when he brings me the real food.”

“Hey...um...Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“Dracen mentioned...uh, he said...Well...do you make yourself throw up too?”

“M-mm.”

“No?”

“No. Don't worry.”

Harry turned just enough to look up at Louis and give him a tired smile.

“It's not that serious,” he said. Louis ducked his own head down to place a kiss on Harry's lips.

“I wish I could make you see what I see.”

“So romantic.”

Harry was teasing him, Louis knew, and even though he'd been serious, he let it slide. It hadn't been all Louis had wanted to tell him anyway because that would scare Harry away. It was much too soon for Louis to tell Harry that he loved him. He hadn't done anything to deserve Harry's love in return yet. In all honesty, he didn't know if he would ever deserve Harry's love, but he was going to treat him as if, one day, he would.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

The day that he and Liam went to the movies was the most magical day Niall had experienced since Zayn's pool party, when he'd first started really falling for Liam. To the outside observer, the day probably wouldn't have appeared that special, but Liam had let Niall buy him lunch on the condition that he would pay for the movie tickets. That set-up didn't make much sense since they had spent the same amount of money as they would have if they'd both purchased their own meal and ticket, but Niall didn't care. He'd enjoyed asking for one check and had liked hearing Liam ask for two movie tickets.

Somehow, Niall had managed to not smile too big at any point throughout the day so Liam wouldn't be scared off, but it was hard. Liam hadn't been closed off all day. At the restaurant, he'd been leaned across the table, talking to Niall animatedly, instead of sitting back against his chair with his arms crossed. He'd been smiling and laughing, truly, and without the assistance of alcohol. There had even been a point where Niall had made him laugh so hard that he had done an adorable squeak. After that, Niall had almost been convinced that he could die happy.

Once in the cab on the way to the theater, Liam had kissed Niall and thanked him for lunch. Niall did the same for the tickets after they had taken their seats in the movie.

That night was the only night that Niall had dreaded having to go dance in the show because he wanted to keep Liam to himself for a while longer. Sadly, the two had to head to the stadium as soon as the film had finished. Luckily the stadium-the same one they had performed in the previous night-wasn't far away and so they didn't have to rush in, but could instead take their time strolling inside, hand-in-hand as they discussed what they had just watched. Niall almost sighed once they were in the building and he was forced back to reality by the typical pre-show hustle and bustle.

“Nice that you could finally join us, lads,” Zayn teased, brushing close by Niall and giving a knowing smile. The Irishman rolled his eyes, but the smile refused to come off of his face. Zayn winked before flitting off to whatever destination he had in mind. Niall turned to Liam.

“See? Today wasn't so bad, was it?”

“No,” Liam admitted. “Somethings are much less scary than dates.”

Niall huffed out a laugh, shaking his head.

“Someday, when you're ready, I would like to hear why you're so afraid to call anything a date. Only when you're ready though.”

Niall placed a quick kiss on the other man's cheek and then saved him from trying to find a good reply by speaking again.

“I'm going to go see if I'm needed for anything. I'll see you soon.”

In reality, Niall just wanted to catch up with Zayn, needing to set the record straight of what had really happened with Liam that day.

“It's not what you think,” Niall called out once he had found the man, who gave him a thumbs up and a too-wide grin.

“You two just couldn't get out of bed this morning, eh?” Zayn teased.

“We were on a something,” Niall explained. Zayn's eyebrows raised slightly.

“What the fuck were you on that knocked you out all damn day?”

“No!” Niall laughed. “We weren't on something. We went on a something.”

“What?” Zayn asked, his voice flat. Niall felt as if he was already checking out of this conversation.

“A something,” he said. “It's like a date, but not.”

“Right,” Zayn said, drawing out the word to hint that he thought Niall was crazy. “Normal people are so weird.”

Again, Niall laughed. He knew that Zayn wasn't actually trying to insult him, but he wouldn't have cared if he had been anyway. Niall was pretty sure that nothing could destroy his mood.

In fact, he was almost positive that he had enough energy to last him for two whole shows when he discovered that Liam was skipping hanging around Louis's meet-and-greet session just to stay with him.

***Harry***

It took a lot of convincing for Louis to let him dance that night, even after the doctor had given the okay, but once he ate what Louis deemed 'enough,' the singer reluctantly gave him permission to perform under the oath that he would go backstage and rest if he felt off in any way at all.

Harry actually did eat most of what he led Louis to believe he had. Fainting onstage was possibly the only thing he feared more than going above his food intake limit. For one, it would be embarrassing and he would likely never show his face to anyone ever again, but, more than that, he couldn't do that to Louis. The show would go on, he was sure, but with Louis being the wonderful, caring person he was, it was unlikely that he would enjoy himself after that, and it was clear that he really did have fun when he was onstage performing.


Louis wasn't yet needed in hair and makeup when it was time for Harry to get changed into his first costume, so the singer decided to join.

“Here you go, Harry,” the stylist said, handing the outfit to the dancer and, before Harry could stop her, she added, “I hemmed it all up so it should fit better now.”

Harry thanked her, hoping his cheeks weren't actually turning color as he felt that they were, and he pointedly ignored the stare down Louis was giving him.

“I'm sorry for being so unobservant,” Louis commented a few minutes later as the men walked to the makeup station.

“What?” Harry asked, but then realized that he was probably talking about the costume, so was quick to include, “Oh, it was just a little loose. It got stretched out, I think. It's no big deal. I promise.”

Louis continued to stare, not looking convinced, and so Harry kissed him.

“I'm going to the toilet,” he said, and he hated the way that Louis's eyes widened. Harry was sure he would have followed him in there if he hadn't been swept away by Beatrice at that very moment.

“I promise I'll be there in just a second,” Harry called to the singer, who turned and gave him a rather sad look before he was taken around a corner and no longer visible.

Harry didn't really need to use the restroom. He'd just needed to get away, hoping that when he returned, Louis would have forgotten all about the conversation they'd been having.

Though Harry was tempted to purge as he waited in the stall, he didn't, instead choosing to count the next one hundred and twenty seconds before he hurried out of the bathroom. His mind was disappointed in him, but Harry knew that purging would only dehydrate him more and, besides, he would sweat a fair bit of his calories out onstage.

Harry had one foot out the door before he turned back around, closed the door and did some sit-ups; just a few and only to get the panic in his mind to calm down.

When Harry joined Louis in his dressing room, the singer didn't give him his typical welcoming smile. Instead, he raised an eyebrow, a concerned frown on his face.

“Everything is good,” Harry tried to assure him, placing a light kiss to his lips, quickly, so as not to get in the way. Although Harry hadn't purged which should have meant that everything really was okay, they didn't feel that way to him, and he could only hope that Louis believed the words more than he did.

***Louis***

Louis kept a close eye on Harry that night. The poor fans trying to get pictures would probably have to go through a lot of back photos just to find any of his face because Louis couldn't stay facing forward too long, not knowing where Harry was behind him and how he was doing. He seemed fine, but still, Louis knew that he wasn't completely. He wondered if he was a terrible boyfriend for letting him perform, but Harry had desperately wanted to, and, already, Louis found it extremely hard to say no to him, which was both wonderful and terrifying.

Though he wasn't exactly proud of it, Louis had gone back and listened at the door for a minute when Harry had gone into the bathroom. He hadn't heard anything, and so he tried to take comfort in that, but any relief he felt was minimal, partly because Louis also felt guilty for not believing Harry's words that he didn't do that kind of thing. He couldn't help it though because he was so worried. Hiring a tour therapist was seeming better by the day, but he wouldn't yet. He would give Harry a chance to prove his words first because he didn't want to bring up any unpleasant memories from the past, and he hadn't any idea what his dancer had gone through before.


“Louis! My favorite star!” Dean greeted once the show was over and Louis made his way backstage for the final time.

“Hey. What are you doing here?” Louis asked as the manager pulled him into a hug. Instead of answering, Dean motioned to Harry, who was watching from a close distance.

“Harry, mate! Come join us!” the older man called. Harry gave Louis an unreadable glance but then made his way over.

“I just wanted to tell you the good news in person,” Dean finally answered Louis's question as Harry stopped by his side, close enough so that their hands brushed together.

“The good news?” Louis urged.

“'Summer Song' is number one on all the major charts!” Dean exclaimed, and Louis smiled, glancing to Harry, who had squeezed his hand lightly. The two shared grins as Dean continued.

“I hope you didn't have any plans for your upcoming few days off,” he said, “because we're going to be filming the music video.”

“I didn't, really,” Louis answered.

“Good,” Dean said. “Start brainstorming ideas and we'll meet up for lunch tomorrow to discuss what we want to do for the video.”

“Okay.”

With all of that being said, Dean gave a firm nod before turning his attention to Harry. He stared at the dancer just a second long enough to make it awkward and then gave him a hug. Louis made a mental note to apologize on Dean's behalf later.

“You're welcome to join the two of us tomorrow, Harry,” the older man told the dancer.

“Thank you,” Harry said noncommittally as Dean let go of him. The manager offered a smile and then excused himself to grab a beer.

“Sorry about-” Louis began, but Harry interrupted with a hard kiss to the lips. Louis made a sound of surprise but when he felt Harry start to pull away, he kissed back hungrily, silently begging him to stay, which he did, for a bit. When they finally did break apart-their moment ruined by a few people cat-calling at them-both had to gasp for breath and Harry blushed, looking embarrassed, as Louis raised an eyebrow; not protesting to what had just happened, but wondering where it had come from, all the same.

“Sorry,” Harry apologized. “I'm just so proud of you.”

Louis was beaming, he knew it, and when Harry smiled in return, Louis kissed him. He decided against telling Harry just how much his words meant to him.


The backstage shenanigans couldn't go on long because the crew had to load up on the buses and head off to their next destination. Harry and Louis went back to Louis's bus, and while Harry took his turn showering first, Louis called his mom to fill her in on the day.

After Harry was finished, Louis washed up, doing so quickly. He wondered if Harry would try to get something started again since their last two attempts had failed, but when he exited the bathroom, he saw the dancer sitting up on the couch, but fast asleep. Louis curled up next to him, putting his feet under himself, and gently woke Harry with a kiss on the cheek.

“Sorry,” Louis said. “How are you feeling?”

“I'm fine.”

“You...um...you need to eat something, okay?”

“Yeah, I know.”

Louis nodded, uncurling his legs to stand. Harry stayed seated as Louis went to the kitchen area and listed off their options, looking in the refrigerator, freezer and every cabinet.

“I'll just make a veggie wrap,” Harry said after Louis had finished.

“I don't want to be pushy or anything, Harry, but would you consider adding chicken for protein?” Louis asked. The fact that Harry was willing to eat anything at all was good, but Louis feared a simple veggie wrap wouldn't be enough to stop him from collapsing again.

“Okay,” Harry agreed, surprising Louis, but he smiled and turned quickly, trying to hide the shock from his face.

Louis decided to have the same thing that Harry was having and so while Harry got the vegetables ready, Louis heated the chicken and set the available dressings on the table. He ended up being the only one to add dressing anyway, but that was okay. Harry was doing great.

“Do you have any idea of what you might want to do for your music video?” Harry questioned after a minute of eating in silence.

“Yeah, actually. It's nothing spectacular, but I thought about just setting up a party at my California place and having you dancers and maybe some other members of my crew there. The song is about summer and having a good time, so I want to make it as raw and light as we can.”

“That sounds fun,” Harry said.

“You don't have to be in it if you don't want to,” Louis assured him, picking up on a bit of hesitation in the other's voice, “but I would love if you were. No pressure though, of course.”

“Would I have to skinny dip?” Harry asked teasingly. Louis laughed.

“Not unless you want to,” he said, “though I would be honored if you would be the cute guy that I kiss under the moonlight.”

Harry smiled, his eyes going down to his plate as he picked absently at the tortilla his chicken and vegetables were wrapped in. After only a couple of moments, he raised his head to lock eyes with Louis again.

“Yeah, okay,” he said. Louis's heart did a skip.

“Yeah? You'll be in it?”

“Yeah. Not to sound like that guy, but I really don't want you kissing Liam or someone else.”

Louis laughed, thinking that there was something about jealous Harry which he liked very much.

“I would much rather kiss you than anyone else,” Louis said. A slight tint appeared on Harry's cheeks as he dimple-smiled.

“By the way,” the dancer said next, “how is that new song you're working on coming along?”

“Oh, really good!” Louis told him, perking up. “I think I'll be ready to perform it in the next country.”

“I can't wait to hear the whole, finished product.”

“I'm kind of nervous for you to, honestly.”

“Why?” Harry asked, his eyebrows pulling together in genuine concern. “I loved the chords to it and I really don't not like any of your songs, so I know it's going to be great.”

“Thank you, but...I don't know. Well, I do, but...you'll see.”

Harry's face morphed further into confusion. Louis leaned across the table to kiss him.

“Let's finish eating and get to sleep, yeah? It's been an interesting day.”


Instead of going out to lunch with Dean the next day, the manager changed the plans to bringing takeout to Louis's hotel room. It was healthy takeout that even Harry would eat, and Louis was convinced more than ever that Dean hated him. He'd been ready for the greasy burger he'd asked his manager to bring, but he couldn't be too mad because Harry seemed so pleased with his low-fat omelet.

“You two are so cute,” Dean commented, smiling at Louis and Harry, who were sitting on the bed, their knees touching.

“Thanks,” Louis said, tapping Harry's foot lightly with his own. Then, to Dean, he said, “So I have an idea for the video...”

Louis told Dean the idea he'd mentioned to Harry last night and, surprisingly, Dean liked it. He asked Louis to get a count of all who wanted to be in his video by the next night so that he could arrange to fly them all to his place, and then he left to buy decorations, seeming about to explode from excitement.

“He feels things very intensely, doesn't he?” Harry asked after Louis had seen the other man out and went to lay across the bed, his head in his boyfriend's lap.

“He does,” Louis agreed. Feeling lazy, he puckered his lips for a kiss and Harry delighted him by leaning down and pressing his lips against them.


The remaining three Australian shows went well and the time between shows was quite enjoyable too. Louis took Harry on a breakfast date and then-finally-to the observatory on their day off, and he took all of the dancers and back-up band to a nearby aquarium before their last performance in the country. The whole time they were looking at the fish and other marine animals, Harry didn't let go of Louis's hand and Louis, of course, hadn't wanted him to. By some miracle, they weren't spotted or, if they were, they at least weren't approached, and it was the most relaxed that Louis had ever seen his boyfriend.


Only one dancer wasn't going to be able to participate in Louis's music video and, for the rest of them, Dean changed their previously booked flights home to take them to California, where they were put in a nice hotel unless they had places to stay nearby; or if they were Harry, who was staying with Louis.

“Home! I've missed you!” Louis exclaimed dramatically upon their arrival, throwing open the front door and holding his arms out grandly. From behind him, Harry giggled.

“I'm sure it missed you too,” he said.

“I have a guest bedroom,” Louis commented as the two made their way upstairs with their bags. “You can stay in there if you want but, of course, if you'd like to stay with me, I would much enjoy your company.”

“That's a rather large bed,” Harry commented, eyeing the king-sized bed, adorned with a deep red comforter and gold throw pillows. “I feel as if you would be lonely sleeping in that by yourself.”

“It is rather lonely,” Louis agreed, not commenting on the sexual undertones that Harry probably hadn't meant to place in his words, but which were there, regardless. “I've spent many nights that way.”

“Aw,” Harry said, touching Louis's cheek gently and then sticking out his tongue. Louis smiled and, once Harry lowered his hand, the singer went to his dresser and began moving clothes from the top drawer.

“You can have this one,” he told the other. “It will give you a little break from living out of bags.”

“Thanks, but you don't have to...”

“I know, but I hate living out of bags, so I feel like everyone else does too.”

Without waiting for a reply, Louis went to the bathroom connected to his bedroom and began emptying one of those drawers as well. Harry joined as Louis placed his last loose item in its new living spot.

“This one is for you too,” he said and, smiling, Harry went to grab his bathroom materials.

“I feel so special that I have a drawer now,” Harry said, sliding close behind Louis so that he could enter the bathroom and begin putting his makeup away. Heat rose to Louis's face and, desperately needing to distract himself, Louis picked up the lip gloss that the man had just put away.

“I really like this shade,” he said, and it was the truth. It was a dark red; almost purple color and Louis decided that he had to soon see what it looked like against Harry's pale skin and dark hair. He bet it was amazing.

“Oh. Thanks,” Harry said. “I don't wear actual colors too often, but sometimes I get in the mood.”

“I'm sure they look gorgeous on you,” Louis said. “Especially this one.”

Harry took the gloss from Louis and checked the name before unscrewing the top and carefully applying it to his lips. Louis watched, in awe by how effortlessly and flawlessly Harry applied the color.

“Yep,” the singer said once Harry had smacked his lips a couple of times and sealed up his makeup again. “Gorgeous.”

Instead of replying, Harry leaned down and placed a big, wet kiss on Louis's cheek, leaving his lip stain on the skin.

“I'm never washing that cheek again,” Louis said. Harry legitimately cackled, and then cleared his throat, trying to pull himself together. Once he succeed, he gave Louis the once-over before lifting him from his feet and setting him on the counter; Harry keeping his arms around the other's waist to help him balance.

“Can I experiment with your face?” he asked, blinking his beautiful green eyes rather seductively, Louis thought.

“You mean with makeup?” Louis verified, causing Harry to redden.

“Yes.”

“Go ahead.”

Harry hummed as he sifted through his makeups, explaining to Louis that he was picking the best shades for his skin tone and eye color. Once he had made his choices and washed his own lip print from the other's cheek, he began working. His touch was gentle, but the eyeshadow tickled, and Louis couldn't help but to giggle. Harry huffed out a laugh as well and kissed Louis's nose before continuing to work, asking him to please try to hold still.

“Done,” Harry said not much later, stepping back to admire his work. “You're so beautiful, Lou.”

Louis hopped off the counter, turning around to look at his reflection in the mirror. Seeing himself so made up was a new experience for him, but it didn't look bad.

“You did a really good job,” Louis told the other man, “but no amount of makeup can make me as pretty as you.”

“You're full of shit,” Harry commented, kissing Louis's lips.

“I was telling the truth,” Louis insisted when they broke apart, but then changed the subject, knowing that Harry would never agree with him, even though he was right. “I need to upload a picture.”

Harry moved out of the shot as Louis took a selfie and uploaded it to his social media.

“I tagged you as the makeup artist,” he told Harry once he was done. “Hey, can we take a picture togeher? I won't upload it or anything. I just want one on my phone.”

“Okay,” Harry agreed. Half in shock that Harry had allowed it, Louis smiled as he held his camera up and flipped it to selfie mode. Then, both he and Harry laughed as they continued to stand there, staring at their own reflections and each other's, unsure what to do next.

“How are we posing?” Harry asked, still with an amused smile on his face.

“Hm,” Louis hummed, thinking quick, and then he stood on his tiptoes to place a kiss on Harry's cheek, half smirking while doing so as he saw just how cute they looked in the camera. Even Harry was smiling and Louis decided not to chastise him for looking at Louis's image instead of his own when the picture was taken.

“Love it,” Louis sang. “Do you want to see?”

“Okay,” Harry said after a brief hesitation. His eyes scanned the image quickly, but when he looked away, he smiled and gave a nod. “It's cute.”

“It's perfect,” Louis said. “See how photogenic you are?”

“No, I do not,” Harry returned, “but it wasn't a bad picture.”

“I love it,” Louis said again as he set it as his home screen.

“I need one for my lock screen too,” he commented and, though he rolled his eyes, Harry was smiling and he leaned down to kiss Louis's cheek instead. When his lips lingered there, Louis got the hint and took the picture. That one came out even better, he thought.

“Perfect,” he said again, but his stomach interrupted any chance for Harry to protest by growling.

“Hungry?” Harry asked.

“I am,” Louis said. “Are you?”

“Kind of, I guess.”

“What sounds good to eat?”

“You decide. I'm up for anything.”

“Burgers?”

Louis still wasn't quite over the fact that he'd been forced to eat a healthy omelet instead of a burger when Dean had brought them lunch.

Harry nodded in agreement.

“I'm so excited!” Louis said, using his sing-song voice again. “I had one of my mates stock up my place yesterday and if he knows me at all, he would have gotten stuff for burgers. I'll go ahead and start the grill up.”

“Do you need any help?” Harry asked.

“Would you like to make salad?” Louis questioned. Harry smiled and almost looked relieved.

“Yeah, I can do that,” he said.

As Harry got things put together inside, Louis worked at the grill, humming and letting his mind wander as he worked. He wondered if it was too early to think about Harry moving in with him after the tour was over. It probably was, but that was all Louis could think about. As long as he knew that, logically, it was still highly likely that things wouldn't work out and didn't let himself get too emotionally vested in the idea, he didn't think it was a problem. He could dream about how great it would be coming home from a long day in the studio to Harry, and cooking dinner with him every evening. It would be wonderful to fall asleep next to him every night and wake up with him every morning. He wouldn't say any of these things out loud yet, but one day, he hoped that he could.


Once dinner was ready, Louis helped Harry set up the table on the back patio and, as it was nearing dark already, Louis flipped on the party lights and turned on some music softly before they settled.

“This would be a perfect scene for tomorrow,” Harry commented as he cut off a piece of his bun-less burger and pushed it around his plate before taking a small bite off of it.

“It would look neat, wouldn't it?” Louis agreed, possible scenarios popping in his head; particularly of the different places he could kiss Harry.

“Do you like making music videos?” Harry asked. “I always thought it would be fun, but I'm sure it's a lot more work than people think.”

“It is a lot of work, but it's fun,” Louis said. “Some are more enjoyable than others, but I think this one will be the funnest so far. I hope it will, at least.”

“Everyone's excited for it.”

Louis smiled. “Good.”

They continued to eat in silence, but the great thing about this point in their relationship was that there didn't have to be constant conversation. The two were content to just be in each other's company.

“Oh,” Harry said towards the end of the meal, patting himself down. “I left my phone inside. I'll be right back. Sorry. My mum said she was going to call me before she went to bed and I'm sure you know how mums get if you miss their call.”

“I do,” Louis said, smiling to go along with Harry's grin. “Are you still eating?” he asked as Harry began to walk away, because Louis didn't think he'd touched the food for at least a couple of minutes.

“No, I'm finished, but I'll clean up when I get back out.”

“It's fine. I'll clean up and then I'll come back out here if you want to meet me once you're ready.”

“I would love to.”

Louis quickly cleaned up the mess from dinner and then, choosing his best bottle of wine, went back outside. He felt quite relaxed with his bare feet dipped in the water as he sipped on his drink, and he hummed to himself until, finally, the back door opened and out stepped Harry.

“Sorry,” the dancer said, taking off his shoes.

“What for?” Louis asked as Harry sat down beside him and stuck his feet into the water as well. Louis offered the bottle he was drinking from to Harry, who took a small sip before replying.

“That took longer than I expected. She'd already called and I had to ring her back before she went to sleep.”

“It's quite alright. Family comes first.”

Harry smiled and Louis returned it briefly before sighing contently and resting his head on the other's shoulder, setting the wine beside of him. Harry sighed in the same manner and Louis could smell peppermint on his breath. Suddenly, the singer became self-conscious, realizing he should have been better prepared for kissing. Well, perhaps he could go inside and freshen up before any of that began, but for the time being, he was too comfortable to move.

“Thanks for coming out to do the video with me,” he spoke. “I'm sure you were looking forward to spending time with your family during the next few days.”

“It's okay,” Harry assured him. “I'll see them soon enough.”

“I'm sure they don't feel the same way.”

“They'll be okay.”

Louis chuckled, but that turned into a yawn.

“Jet lag, man,” he sighed, nuzzling his face further into Harry's shoulder. In return, Harry pulled him even closer.

“Maybe you should get to sleep,” he suggested. “Tomorrow will be a busy day.”

“But I don't want to.”

“Why not?”

“Because...I don't want to close my eyes...I don't want to fall asleep cuz I'd miss you, babe.”

Louis had spoken the words, not sung them, and so he couldn't tell if that was the reason Harry snorted or if it was just because he was being cheesy again.

“You're cute,” Harry said, so either way, Louis supposed he wasn't bothered. The singer smiled, hoping that Harry could feel it against his body, and didn't say anything; just let his eyes close until Harry spoke again.

“Thank you, Lou.”

“You're welcome,” Louis said, his voice already sounding sleepy, “but what am I being thanked for?”

“For being a better person than I ever imagined you would be, and my standards were set pretty high, I'll have you know. It's actually pretty embarrassing to admit, but teenage Harry had you put on a pedestal. Now I know that you deserved it and just...thanks.”

Louis had to swallow a few times, feeling choked up. It always meant a lot to him when he got huge, genuine compliments like that, but coming from Harry, it felt ten times deeper.

“I don't think I'm amazing as you think I am,” Louis said once he trusted himself to talk again, because while he was flattered that Harry thought so highly of him, it was also terrifying because that left more chance for Louis to unintentionally let him down.

“You are,” Harry said. “Trust me.”

“I can't trust you when you don't even like yourself,” Louis retorted, and then moved to kiss Harry.

“I think I like who I am when it's just you and me,” Harry replied, his voice lower and deeper than normal. Louis nearly shivered despite the sticky hot night air.

“It's a start,” he said, aggravated that his voice had grown higher. He cleared his throat. “I need to thank you too, Harry.”

“What could you possibly be thanking me for?” Harry asked.

“Well...I would answer you, but you're going to think it's cheesy.”

“You are a cheese ball, but you can get away with it.”

“Um, well, it's just...I don't know where we'll end up together or as individuals. I know where I hope we end up, but I don't know what will actually happen. Anyway, no matter what, I need to thank you now simply for coming into my life because I know you won't understand, but I needed someone like you. Actually, I'm not sure anyone else would do, no matter how similar. I think I just needed you.”

Harry tilted his head, looking concerned, which wasn't what Louis had expected at all. He had thought Harry would laugh it off, tell Louis he was ridiculous and proceed to insult himself.

“Are you okay, Lou?” Harry asked, his deep voice going softer. For some reason, it made heat rise to Louis's cheeks.

“I'm totally cool,” he said lamely, waving his hand around obnoxiously. “Just um, yeah, thanks, I, uh...This isn't going well at all. Can you please kiss me?”

Harry did, though the worry never left his face, so Louis made sure to smile once they broke apart.

“Okay, and with all of that being said, I also need to tell you that I want you happy and I always want you to do the best thing for you. Don't think about anyone else's wants or needs. Just do what's best for you.”

“You,” Harry said immediately. “You're what's best for me.”

In the next instant, Harry was kissing Louis again, and with much more force. So much for Louis freshening up, but Harry didn't seem to mind. He searched Louis's mouth with his tongue, making small sounds of pleasure, though some of the noises were coming from Louis, who suddenly wasn't all that tired anymore.

Before Louis could really register what was happening, Harry had slid his hands up his shirt and was sliding it above Louis's head. Louis gasped, though not from any negative feeling, and he found it way too hot when Harry balled up the clothing and threw it to the side nonchalantly.

“Harry,” Louis said, but he didn't actually have anything else to say, which was okay because Harry only continued to kiss him, from his lips to his chin and down his neck until he reached his chest.

“I think inside would probably be more comfortable,” Harry said, and Louis got to his feet so fast that he nearly plummeted into the pool. Luckily, Harry grabbed onto his arm and, acting as if that little blunder hadn't happened, the pair hurried inside and up the stairs. As soon as they were at the top, their lips were together again and they made their way awkwardly, yet pleasurably, to the bedroom. At first, Louis reached out a hand, looking for the light switch, but then paused, his hand resting on some random part of the wall.

“Lights off?” he asked.

“Please,” Harry said, and so Louis moved his searching hand to rest against the back of Harry's head. Still kissing, they slowly made their way to the bed, where Louis laid down and Harry leaned over top of him, their lips barely breaking contact for more than a second.

While having sex with someone new for the first time could sometimes be awkward, Louis loved every part of it. He loved learning the other person's body and what they liked or weren't a fan of. He loved it even more now that it was Harry. He learned, he thought, every small curve of his thin body and discovered that, while Harry liked his ears touched and his neck kissed, he recoiled a bit whenever Louis's hands roamed over his waist, stomach or lower thighs. As a result, Louis made sure to keep his hands wrapped around Harry's biceps or tangled in his hair and, though he instantly fell in love with Harry's narrow hips, flat stomach and toned thighs, not being able to touch them didn't make the night any less enjoyable. In fact, if he were to write about that moment in time, he thought he could create a whole album and still not be able to properly convey just how amazing he felt, or how wonderful he wanted to make Harry feel.

Chapter Text

***Harry***

Harry and Louis fell asleep quickly after they'd finished, limbs tangled, somehow comfortably, with one another's. When Harry woke only a couple of hours later, he didn't want to move. Louis's head was nestled into his side and he could feel the man's chest moving slowly up and down as soft breaths escaped his nose and his slightly opened mouth. He looked so peaceful and, honestly, Harry felt at peace too. Louis gave off a lot of heat for having such a little body, and mixed with the sticky summer night temperature, Harry felt himself sweating just a bit, but he would take this warmth over the cold he felt when Louis wasn't around any day.

But then Harry realized what woke him in the first place; his bladder.

Sighing quietly, Harry carefully untangled himself from Louis. The singer whined and stirred, his eyes fluttering open for a brief moment, but Harry whispered for him to stay asleep and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips, which lulled him back into unconsciousness. Smiling, because right now his life felt like the wonderfully unrealistic part of a movie, Harry got out of bed.

He was right; the slight chill he felt at the lack of contact with Louis felt more like a block of ice piercing through him, and that was pathetic, so Harry pretended he hadn't just created that metaphor in his head and found his shirt and boxers in the dark and slipped them on before walking to the bathroom. The self-consciousness that overwhelmed him when he realized he'd been so close to Louis and completely naked-all of his flaws exposed-banished any embarrassment he had felt over his own cheesiness. Louis had seen and worse, felt, all of his imperfections already, and Harry knew he really had no one to blame but himself. Louis had been willing to let him keep his shirt on during their romance, but eventually, it just got in the way so Harry, in the heat of the moment, worked up the courage to take it off and toss it far away from the bed; out of sight, out of mind.

Now that his mind was overworking, Harry wondered if that had been such a good idea after all. Maybe Louis hadn't wanted him to take his shirt off; hadn't wanted to see.

Taking a deep breath, because he was not going to cry after sex, even if a couple hours had passed, Harry entered the bathroom, closing the door before he turned on the light so as not to wake Louis again. The light exposed Harry's reflection in the mirror across from him, and Harry was actually kind of proud that he looked like a wreck. His hair was a mess, his lips red and puffy and his eyes bright despite the fact that he'd just woken up after such a little amount of sleep.

Harry smiled again, quite liking how his face looked like that, but he tugged down on his shirt, still worried about that whole issue.

Once Harry was through with his business, he gave his face one last, approving glance and then opened the door, exposing a naked Louis standing on the other side, visible only by the moonlight seeping into the room through the curtains.

“Hey, babe,” the singer greeted, his voice hoarse from sleep and other recent activities. It was hot, but Harry felt bad and hoped it returned to normal after a bit more rest and perhaps a cup of tea in the morning.

Louis stood on his tiptoes to give Harry a kiss on the neck and then the lips, and then he flipped on the bathroom light, causing both of them to wince, before sitting on the closed toilet lid and staring off into space.

“Are you okay?” Harry asked.

“Yeah,” Louis said. “Just tired, and also I didn't know if we were at the point in our relationship where I can take a piss in front of you.”

Harry laughed, relieved. He'd been worried, of course, that Louis had suddenly remembered a shirtless Harry probably nearly squishing him last night and had become disgusted.

“I don't care,” Harry said, “but I'm going back to bed anyway.”

“I'll be there in a minute.”

It did really only take a minute. Harry had barely settled again before Louis was exiting the bathroom, clearing his throat as he climbed onto the bed and kissed Harry. He'd brushed his teeth while in the bathroom and Harry realized that he probably should have as well. He was probably more than a little disgusting at the moment, but if Louis cared, he didn't make it obvious.

Harry reached out, running a hand down Louis's toned stomach as Louis moved his kisses to Harry's ear, causing him to shiver. Louis giggled a little; not making fun of Harry, just amused at his ability to so easily bring out that reaction in him, and then he collapsed on top of him. Harry was glad that Louis wasn't treating him as if he were fragile anymore. He must have proved himself with his performance last night.

“Good night, Harry,” Louis said for the second time that night.

“Good night,” Harry returned, running his fingernails lightly along Louis's bare back; not nearly enough to scratch. Louis gave a soft, non-sexual moan and, before even two minutes had passed, he was asleep again.

“I-,” Harry began, wanting to whisper, 'I love you,' to Louis, but instead, he cleared his throat, swallowed down the words and eventually fell back to sleep.


Both men were startled awake by a crash from downstairs the next morning. Though Harry jumped, Louis really jumped; flying upwards so fast that he appeared to make himself dizzy. Harry grabbed him around the middle, steadying him as they both strained their ears, listening. They didn't really have to strain.

“Nice!” a booming voice called, hands clapping together slowly and loudly.

“What the fuck?” Louis asked, yawning and rubbing his eyes. Harry thought he should probably be more concerned, as there was at least one unknown person in his home, but then again, if it had been a burglar or something, they probably wouldn't have been so loud.

“Do you want me to go check it out for you?” Harry asked as Louis climbed off top of him and began to get into a pair of sweats.

“I'm almost ready. We'll go down together,” Louis said. Harry nodded.

Louis kept Harry behind him as they ventured downstairs, their hands laced somewhat awkwardly together. Belatedly, Harry realized that he was still in his underwear, but he wasn't going to leave Louis to discover the stranger in his home alone, so he blushed and sucked it up.

The person-persons, actually-weren't strangers at all. One of them was Dean and the other was a woman that Harry didn't know, but she looked familiar, so he assumed that she was connected to Louis in some way.

“Now look what you did, Jay!” Dean exclaimed to the woman. “You woke up the boys! I'm sure they had a long night last night.”

Harry's blush deepened, feeling as if his boxer-clad body and, worse, his wrecked face, proved Dean's words. He wanted to run back upstairs and hide, but he didn't.

“That is my baby boy you're talking about, Dean,” the woman scolded. “He is much too young for the stuff you are insinuating.”

“Oh yeah,” Louis said sarcastically, letting go of Harry's hand to go give the woman a hug, stepping over broken pieces of glass from an apparent coffee mug on the floor. Harry wanted to ask him to stop, terrified that he was going to cut his bare feet on a stray shard, but he kept his mouth shut.

“Careful, careful,” the lady told him, and then smiled in relief once he reached her side without being harmed.

“Harry,” Louis said, turning around to face his boyfriend with his arm still around the woman's middle, “this is my mum, Jay. Now you know where I get my beauty and grace from.”

“Well, you're definitely beautiful,” Harry said, and he was talking to Louis, but Jay was as well. Louis looked a lot like her, actually.

Both mother and son smiled and then Jay let go of the man to step over the pieces of the broken mug and shake Harry's hand.

“I'm so happy to meet you, Harry,” she said.

“You too,” Harry said, and he was, just...not in his boxers with his face looking as it did. Sure, Harry had liked the way it had looked last night in his post-sex haze, but he hadn't particularly wanted to meet Louis's mother looking like the result of her son's love making.

“This wasn't how I was planning on introducing you two,” Louis spoke, thinking along the same path as Harry. “What are you doing here?”

“Dean and I have already been here for nearly two hours, decorating your backyard for the video,” Jay explained.

“You two left the lights and music on outside last night, along with a nearly full bottle of wine sitting by the pool that a bug got into. Such a waste. You boys must have gone inside in a hurry. We'd thought you'd been kidnapped.”

Harry knew his face had to look like a tomato by that point, but luckily, Jay took mercy.

“You leave them alone, Dean.”

“Alright, alright. In all seriousness, though, I suggest you two get your showers. We should have woken you up long ago. Makeup will be here soon and I'm sure it won't be too much later that the other dancers start to arrive.”

“I'll cook breakfast while you get ready,” Jay volunteered. “What would you both like?”

Louis looked questioningly to Harry, who suddenly felt nauseous at the thought of eating.

“Whatever you want,” he told Louis.

“Waffles,” Louis told his mother right away, and of course he wanted sugar.

“Perfect,” Jay said.

“I can help with breakfast while Louis showers,” Harry offered, wanting to be polite, but also wanting to delay his shower. Jay told him that his help would be lovely and so, while Louis was upstairs getting cleaned up and Dean went to the back to put finishing touches on the décor, Harry and Jay worked in the kitchen. Even though Harry felt awkward at first, he relaxed quickly at the easy way that Jay made light conversation. She was really nice, even though Harry knew she had to probably be confused as to why her son liked him. Harry was in the same boat as her, and he hoped she knew that.

With perfect timing, Louis made his way downstairs just as the tea was finishing and the trio ate, the light conversation still going. Harry ate one waffle and, though he'd tried to eat it syrup-less, he found that it was too hard to get down that way, so he caved and drizzled some maple syrup onto his breakfast.

He was weak.

After his single waffle was gone, Harry cleaned up his dishes and then hurried upstairs. He grabbed an outfit, not really concentrating on what it was since he would likely be forced to change anyway, and then shut himself in the bathroom, turning on the water before getting in the shower.

As he undressed, Harry studied himself in the mirror, feeling sick still. Logically, he knew eating juts one waffle wasn't all that bad and that he definitely couldn't see the effect on his weight yet, even though he felt as if he could-as if everyone could-but he had seen the butter that had been used to cook them. That butter, perhaps more than the sugary syrup, was bound to stick to him and make him blow up, probably just in time to start filming the video. The camera added ten pounds anyway, and so Harry really needed all the help he could get.

He told himself not to, but Harry supposed he'd known from the moment Louis suggested waffles that he was going to end up purging.

He did it methodically; not thinking while he did it. It wasn't supposed to act as an emotional release that time; it was just a routine procedure for looking as if he would ever have the slightest chance of being the guy who Louis chose to kiss out of everyone else.

***Louis***

“Harry is gorgeous, Lou, and so, so sweet,” Jay told her son after a safe amount of time had passed since Harry had gone upstairs.

“I know,” Louis said, a grin spreading across his face. “He's amazing.”

The smile on Jay's face was even wider and brighter than Louis's. Still, since she was a mom, she had to ask,

“You definitely think he's in this for the right reasons then?”

“Yeah,” Louis said immediately. He trusted Harry, whether he should or not, though there was no part of him that told him he shouldn't.

“Good,” Jay said. “I like him already, and I like looking at you with him. You deserve to be happy, Lou.”

“I know,” Louis said, shocking even himself.


The chaos of getting ready for the video shoot caused Louis to keep losing track of Harry, but, somehow, whenever Louis realized he'd escaped and called his name, Harry was suddenly by his side, assuring Louis that he was there.

The point of the video, besides being a simple summer bash, was to have Harry as the love interest that Louis never really got until the end. It wasn't that Harry didn't like him too, but at first, it was his shyness that made him harder for Louis to reach. Then, as he started opening up more, other interruptions began happening. Louis was pulled away to take shots, to play beer pong, to host a dancing competition, to skinny dip…

Harry received many praises from Dean and the director on his acting abilities every time he turned shyly away from Louis, singing closely in front of him or when he burst into nervous giggles, and Louis wasn't doubting Harry's acting abilities, but he felt as if the reactions he received were genuine. The 'shy' persona was topped off by Harry insisting that he wore a shirt along with his swim trunks.

“You're beautiful,” Louis whispered one time after 'cut' had been yelled. He wasn't saying it for the cameras or the audience. He was just saying it for Harry, who smiled and gave Louis a quick peck on the cheek.

Once it was time to shoot the skinny dipping scene, it was Louis's turn to get shy. That scene was completely optional for everyone except Louis, but luckily, he didn't do it alone; Liam volunteered (unsurprisingly) as well as four of his other dancers. Fortunately, Jay allowed herself to sit inside while that scene was being filmed, feeling just as awkward as Louis.

“You have nothing to be self-conscious of,” Harry told Louis when his naked body was wrapped only in a towel which was to be taken away from him in just a few moments. “But if you really don't want to do this, then you don't have to.”

“It's okay,” Louis said, not mentioning that he did, kind of, have to do this whether he wanted to or not.

“You're beautiful,” Harry said, returning Louis's earlier words to him right before the skinny dippers were called to action. They all lined up at the pool, giving each other nervous, 'we're-in-this-together' smiles and then, once action was called, they dropped their towels one by one, as instructed. It seemed as if they stood on the side of the pool like that for an hour but was likely only five or so seconds before they were told to jump in and they did, coming up from the water laughing, hollering and splashing each other.

Louis didn't know if Harry was told to do this or if he had simply forgotten that the camera was rolling, but soon, he was at the pool's side, offering the singer a towel and a hand.

“You gonna blur the front?” Louis asked his director, who nodded. Smiling up at Harry, Louis allowed him to pull him from the pool and quickly wrap the towel around his middle. They looked in each other's eyes, and Louis knew he wasn't supposed to kiss him yet, but it was so hard. He thought about going for it and letting them edit it out later because Harry's full lips and sparkling eyes were pretty much asking for it, but then Tina quickly approached to smack Harry in the head with a pool noddle and, laughing, Harry turned from Louis and chased her. So it probably was in the script then, and Louis smiled as he crossed his arms, walking slowly to the bar as he watched Harry run after the woman.

“All good?” Louis asked once they were released for a short break and Harry came up to him, slightly out of breath.

“Good,” Harry assured him, sitting at the nearby patio table.

“Harry,” Louis said in a warning tone, and Harry smiled.

“I'm good,” Harry said again, and Louis was forced to drop the subject when he was whisked away to have his hair fixed.

Finally, they reached the final scene where Louis and Harry got to kiss under the moonlight in front of the pool, at the perfect spot where the party lights and neon bar in the background were visible. Louis sang the last couple of lines of the song to him and then, as the music began to fade, their lips locked, their eyes shutting in perfect time. The two kissed and kissed, waiting for 'cut' to be called, but it never was, so they continued on. It wasn't awkward, but Louis thought that if they didn't yell 'cut' soon, that it would become so because he could only control himself for so long when Harry's tongue was in his mouth.

Just as Louis was about to break away and ask what the deal was-he didn't want to, but it was a necessity, really-he felt a rough shove against his shoulder and both he and Harry went flailing into the pool, trying to keep a hold of each other, but forced apart once they hit the water.

“I'm sorry!” Liam yelled, holding up his hands defensively as the two came up, coughing and sputtering. “They told me to!”

Liam ran, but Harry and Louis only laughed, gasping a few more times to catch their breath as they swam towards each other and just began to kiss again.

“Alright, you two that's enough. Get a room,” Dean said after a few moments, and Louis smiled as he pulled away from Harry.

They got out of the pool, but when Harry shivered, Louis kissed him again, and he heard Dean cuss as, yet again, Harry kissed him back. They only stopped when Louis swept Harry off the ground, holding him bridle style, and Harry gasped.

“Don't worry, babe,” Louis said. “I've got you.”

Harry smiled, leaning up to peck Louis's lips, but Louis hoped Harry knew that he meant his words and that he meant them more than just having him, physically, for the moment.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

“That's a wrap, everybody!” the director of the music video announced after nearly a whole minute of waiting for Harry and Louis to finish kissing. It was only then that the pair finally broke apart, holding their interlocked hands in the air and cheering along with everybody else. It had been a fun day, but an exhausting one, so all were elated that they could finally call it a night.

Louis's way of 'calling it a night' was to bust out the alcohol; the hard stuff, since the alcohol used in the video had only been the light drinks that weren't enough to get anybody drunk.

“Thank you all again for coming and helping me with the video,” Louis announced to the crowd after he and Harry had changed into dry clothes. Louis was standing on his patio table, shouting into a megaphone with a shot glass filled to the brim with some dark liquor held halfway in the air. Niall thought he may have been a bit slap happy, but the singer's smile was contagious and even Harry, who was standing close by, ready to catch him if he fell, was beaming.

“I can't wait to see the finished product,” Louis continued, “and you all are, of course, invited along to watch it for the very first time. For now, though, let's just celebrate a great day! Drinks are at the bar and in the cooler, and pizza is on its way! Stay as long as you want!”

Cheers again filled the backyard as Louis set down his megaphone and accepted Harry's hand to get down from the table. Once safe on the ground, Niall saw him wrap his arms around the dancer's neck and place a passionate kiss to his lips, and then he looked away because, while the two were adorable and Niall was really happy for them, he had seen enough of their intimate life for the day.

“Well, that was fun,” Niall said, turning to Liam, who had been standing close behind him. Liam smiled.

“Yeah, it was,” he agreed.

“Hey, guys!”

Niall turned again to face a newly approached Harry and Louis. Apparently a simple kiss had satisfied them that time, and they were both smiling with a couple drinks in their hands, respectively.

“Want one?” Louis asked, holding both of his bottles out to Niall and Liam.

“Yes,” Liam said without hesitation, taking the drink gently but quickly. Niall tried to tell himself not to think anything of it because Liam had been really good recently. He didn't think he'd had any alcoholic beverages the whole plane ride to California, and he hadn't consumed any at the hotel the previous night either. The two had watched movies, eaten popcorn and drank simple sodas. It would have been better if they had been cuddling on one of their beds with one popcorn bowl in between the two instead of on their separate beds with their individual bags, but that was okay because once they had finally decided, after the third movie, to go to sleep and the light was turned off, Liam had made his way from his bed to Niall's, laying down without waiting for permission and placing a soft kiss to the other's neck. Niall had been glad that it was dark because his smile was ridiculously wide, but he regained his composure quickly and turned to put his arms comfortably around Liam's figure. It was then that Liam gave him a kiss on the lips; just a quick, sweet smooch, and that, to Niall, was better than any heated kiss would have been.

When Niall woke up that morning, Liam was already up and out of bed, doing push ups on the floor, but Niall had woken a couple times briefly during the night to find the pair still wrapped closely together, so he was happy, and after brushing his teeth, he placed himself by Liam's feet while he did sit-ups, offering a kiss every time he came up until he tired and wrapped his arms around Niall's waist, pulling him down on top of him and continuing to kiss him while lying on the floor.

All of that had felt very boyfriend-y, which Niall, of course, knew better than to say. Liam wasn't his boyfriend and Niall still had no claim on him whatsoever. Liam was still free to get drunk and flirt with whoever he desired, and Niall accepted that even though he knew it would hurt worse than ever now. It was his own fault because he knew what he had been getting into from the start, and he had no regrets. No matter what happened, he wouldn't have any regrets over it, ever.

Liam did get borderline trashed at Louis's that night and Niall lost him once, but instead of finding him tangled up with someone else, Niall came back upon Liam while he was shoving pizza into his mouth, not finishing chewing one bite before he took another. With a laugh of admiration and relief, Niall joined his side.

“Hello!” Liam greeted, his mouth full, and Niall probably should have been grossed out, but he wasn't in the slightest. Liam held out his pizza, offering Niall a bite, which he accepted, though more of the food got on his chin than in his mouth as the slice kept flopping over whenever Liam almost had it to Niall's mouth. Neither could stop themselves from giggling until Liam choked on his huge bite.

“You okay?” Niall asked, rubbing Liam's back once he had stopped coughing and took a drink, his eyes watering.

“Yeah!” Liam said cheerily. He blinked the tears away and then used his finger to wipe some excess sauce from Niall's face. Then, of course, he found it only suiting to suck the sauce from his finger. The images of Liam skinny dipping rushed back to Niall in a flood, but he forced them away. It wasn't an easy task, but Niall was a strong minded person, so he prevailed.

“Are we leaving soon?” Liam, who, unable to find a napkin, wiped his hands on his swim trunks, asked.

“Do you want to?” Niall asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I'm tired.”

“Wow. Party boy calling it an early night, huh?” Niall teased, even though it was after one o' clock in the morning.

“Party boy is getting old,” Liam said with a serious nod before he did that thing where he giggled and scrunched up his eyes and nose. Niall wished he could kiss him, but he didn't think Liam would appreciate that in front of everyone. They might think something serious was going on with them or something.

“So old,” Niall said instead.

The two found Louis to tell him that they were leaving, and all three shared hugs and thank yous.

“Hey, where did Harry go?” Liam asked as Louis and Niall were letting go of each other.

“I sent him to bed. He looked nearly dead on his feet,” Louis explained, smiling.

“Making a music video is exhausting,” Liam agreed, doing his serious nod again.

“Maybe kick everyone out soon,” Niall suggested to the singer. “You need some rest too.”

Louis hadn't stopped smiling, but his grin grew.

“Thank you for coming,” he said again, and that was that.


Liam fell asleep on Niall's shoulder on the way to the hotel, and Niall really didn't want to wake him, but was unable to figure out a way he could pull him from the cab without injuring one of them if not.

Though he was out of it at first, holding onto Niall's hand tightly and still stumbling while looking around the place, confused, when they got to their floor, Liam readjusted his hold on Niall's hand and began running down the hall, forcing Niall to run along with him.

“Uh, are you okay?” Niall asked when they stopped in front of the door (Liam almost falling as he came to an abrupt halt) and the drunk was attempting to open the door with his room key. Liam didn't answer, but gave a 'woop' as he successfully unlocked the door and pulled Niall inside with him. He closed the door quickly, pushing Niall lightly against it as he began kissing him, and Niall wasn't complaining, but the shock prevented him from kissing back for a couple of moments. When they broke apart, Liam giggled.

“Well,” Niall said, and then stopped because all other words failed him.

“Sorry,” Liam said, though his smile was unapologetic. “People always run down hotel hallways holding hands in movies.”

“So you want to live like the movies now?” Niall asked, one eyebrow quirked up hopefully. Life wasn't like a movie, of course, but Niall would make it the closest he could for Liam.

“Maybe for just a minute,” Liam said, staring into Niall's eyes. Though they could barely see each other, neither having turned on the light yet, Niall felt as if they were having a 'moment.' This was the time that he should say or do something monumental, and his brain was working hard on coming up with just what that should be, but before he had succeeded, Liam backed up a little, his shoulders tensing as his breath hitched.

“Uh, hold on, I think I have to throw up,” he said, and maybe he shouldn't have, but Niall couldn't help but to laugh because of course.

“Need me?” he asked as Liam began making his way to the bathroom, not in any particular rush.

“Oh, I need you,” the drunk replied, his voice soft, “but with this particular task, I think I can man it on my own.”

Niall changed and sat on his bed, waiting for Liam to get done with what he had to do, and when he finally exited the bathroom and collapsed onto his own bed, Niall told himself that it was only because his bed was closer than Niall's.

“You okay?” Niall asked, and received no reply. “Liam?”

“Yeah,” Liam said, turning his face from the pillow he'd had it buried into. “Cuddles?”

The pout-y pleading in his voice was almost too much for Niall to handle, and his chest felt about to burst as he stood from his bed and made his way to Liam's, laying beside him and pulling him close. Liam buried his face in his chest.

“Sorry I can't be like everyone else,” Liam said, his voice muffled against Niall's shirt, but the words still audible.

“What do you mean by that?” Niall asked.

“You know,” Liam said. Niall might have, he wasn't sure, but he definitely didn't know what to say in response, so he settled on,

“Get some sleep, okay?”

“Leave.”

“You want me to leave?” Niall asked, the wonderful feeling he'd just had vanishing instantly as sadness and confusion took its place; confusion because, while Liam was telling him to leave, his hands were still balled up in Niall's night shirt.

“No, I don't want you to,” Liam said, “but you should anyway.”

“Nah,” Niall said, feeling a bit better now that he was realizing that Liam was only having one of his many moments of self-deprecation. “I'm not in the mood right now.”

Liam snorted and, though he couldn't see it, Niall smiled as he kissed the top of Liam's head.

“I'll see you in the morning, Li.”

“You'll be here?”

“Yep. Right here.”

“Okay.”

Liam released Niall's shirt, resting one hand under his own head, but taking Niall's hand in his other. Clearly, Liam still had some damage to work through-as everyone did-but this, in Niall's eyes, was progress. The self-deprecation he could work with as long as Liam wasn't shutting him out anymore.

***Liam***

The only way that Liam knew he'd drank too much as he came to the next morning was the dizziness. That was just from being dehydrated, though, and he didn't have a headache or any nausea whatesoever. It took him a moment to remember that he'd gotten sick the previous night and so that was probably how he was skipping out on the hangover, but whatever worked.

Niall's body on top of him, causing him to overheat and sweat, meant that Liam was slowly becoming even more dehydrated and so he carefully laid the man on the mattress next to him and slid to the end of the bed to get to his feet.

Liam sort of remembered the conversation he'd tried to make with Niall the previous night about the other man leaving and, though Liam hadn't really thought he would pack up his things and vanish in the middle of the night, he felt a bit of relief that he had still been in bed with him. In his strange state of fantasy, Liam had imagined Niall being gone when he woke, only coming back into Liam's life after he had gotten himself together. Then maybe they could have their happily ever after.

But, of course, Liam's life was not a movie, as he'd pretended last night, and if Niall fled, only returning after Liam turned himself around, then Liam would never see him again.

After chugging a couple bottles of water, Liam decided to go on a jog. He couldn't stay in the hotel, just watching Niall sleep peacefully in his perfect form.

Liam lost track of time, jogging along the beach by himself, becoming dehydrated again from how much he was sweating in the hot morning sun, and when he checked his phone, it was nearing eleven and he had a text from Niall asking if he was okay, as well as a missed call from him and Harry. Frowning, Liam waited a couple minutes, sitting on the shoreline as he caught his breath, and then he stood again and called Harry.

“Hey, Liam,” Harry greeted, his nose sounding a little stuffy. Liam wondered if he had gotten what Louis had after all.

“Hey,” Liam said. “Is there a problem?”

“No. We were worried about you is all. Where are you?”

“The beach. I went for a jog. Why were you worried about me?”

“Well, you disappeared in a foreign country that you've never been to before.”

“I'm fine.”

“I know that now. And I'm glad. Have you called Niall yet?”

“No, not yet.”

“Call him,” Harry said.

“I was planning on it.”

“Okay, snappy,” Harry teased before sniffling.

“Are you sick?” Liam asked.

“No. Call Niall.”

“Fine. I'll let you go since you clearly don't want to talk to me.”

Liam had been teasing, but Harry sounded very serious as he said,

“That's not true, Liam.”

“I'll talk to you soon,” Liam said.

When he called Niall to tell him that he hadn't gotten himself hopelessly lost, kidnapped, or murdered, Niall sounded relieved. Liam found it strange, as his own mom hadn't even cared to check where he was when his dad threw him out those few years ago.

“Are you coming back to the hotel soon?” Niall asked.

“Probably,” Liam said. He was already exhausted just from the jog and he knew he really should eat and drink some more water anyway.

“I'll order room service,” Niall said, as if he was reading Liam's mind. “What do you want?”

“Surprise me.”

“Yes, sir.”


Liam shouted a 'hi' to Niall when he arrived back at the hotel, and he thought he received a reply, but the other dancer's voice was drowned out by the bathroom door shutting. Liam stripped quickly and took a fast shower, but the food that Niall ordered was waiting on the desk for him when he exited the bathroom with just a towel wrapped around his waist. Niall was sitting cross-legged on his bed, not having gotten a plate yet, and he noticeably checked Liam out, causing the towel-clad man to smirk. When Niall noticed that he'd been caught, his face turned a shade of red that Liam didn't know was possible, and his smirk only grew, even as he just wanted to kiss Niall and tell him how cute he was.

“We can take this to the next level,” Liam pointed out with faux innocence in his voice. “We're only waiting on you, you know.”

“I'm not going to be just another notch in your bedpost, and I definitely don't have sex before the first date,” Niall said confidently, even if he had to swallow before speaking.

“What about sex after the first something?” Liam asked, smiling in a way he knew to be seductive. Again, Niall shook his head.

“What kind of guy do I look like to you, Liam? Jeez.”

Liam gave a small laugh and dropped the conversation, but he wasn't shy about dropping his towel after he'd turned and began looking for a pair of jeans.

“Oops,” he said. Niall snorted.

“You're ridiculous,” the blonde said, touching Liam's back lightly as he walked past him to grab a plate from the desk. “When you're done being a tease, there's macaroni and cheese. I figured you can't go wrong with that, right?”

“Actually, would you believe that there are people who don't like cheese?” Liam asked.

“Well, yeah; like lactose intolerant people,” Niall said, scooping a big glob of noodles onto his plate.

“Not only lactose intolerant people,” Liam said. Niall's face morphed into one of horror.

“Those poor, miserable people,” he said, and gave a sympathetic sniffle. “You don't happen to be one of those unfortunate souls, do you?”

“Nope, not at all,” Liam said, zipping up his trousers and resting one hand on Niall's waist afterward as he reached around him to grab his own plate.

“Lou's music video is going to be great,” Niall changed the subject as the two went to sit on the bed farthest from the door.

“I think so too,” Liam agreed. “It was a lot of fun. Filming a music video was actually on my bucket list too.”

“Really?” Niall asked, wiping his mouth with a napkin, but making sure to widen his eyes, showing he was curious.

“Yeah,” Liam said, embarrassed even though Niall hadn't done anything to make him feel that way. “Guess that's done though, so...that's cool.”

“Maybe one day you can film another one for one of the songs you record in the studio.”

“Right,” Liam said with a snort. “Hey, Niall, sorry about getting so drunk last night.”

Niall's eyebrows furrowed together, his expression confused then. He was such an expressive person. Liam adored his face.

“Why are you apologizing?” he asked.

“I tried to stay sober,” Liam said, and he felt like he was admitting some dark and dirty secret; that he'd tried to stay sober, and he'd failed. Niall frowned.

“Is there any certain reason you were trying to stay sober?” he asked, seeming to choose his words carefully.

“To prove to myself that I could do it, but apparently I can't, so...”

Shut up, Liam; shut up, shut up, shut up.

Listening to himself, Liam closed his mouth, cleared his throat and then took a drink from the water bottle he had between his legs. He didn't mention to Niall that he didn't know why it was so hard for him to stay sober when he could clearly remember the anger and frustration he'd felt every time he had to pick up alcohol bottles from around the sofa and help his mother to bed.

“You can stay sober, Li,” Niall said. “I know you can.”

“Yeah, like...I know that,” Liam said lamely. “So, uh, the skinny dipping scene yesterday; how did it look? Were we totally awkward?”

“No, you looked great. It's going to be a highlight of the video for sure, but, Liam, please try to believe in yourself. Believe in your ability to turn your life around, if that's what you want to do.”

Niall was really getting good at catching onto Liam's not-so-smooth subject changes, and Liam was grateful for it, even if he wouldn't admit it verbally. Hoping to relay the message in another way, Liam put down his fork and balanced his plate carefully as he leaned forward and pecked Niall's lips. It was a quick kiss, but when Liam tried to pull away, Niall quickly took a turn to kiss him in return. Liam didn't have the energy or will power to protest-not that he wanted to-and when Niall stopped kissing him, he put their foreheads together, smiling brightly at Liam before putting a short kiss on his nose. Even though Liam's instinct was to panic, like he always did when things got too intimate, he decided to, just for a moment, embrace the way his heart was pounding, realizing that it didn't actually feel like a heart attack, but more like...happiness.

He should tell Niall, he knew. Liam was a complicated person and Niall tried so hard to make him happy, and he succeeded most of the time, but he probably never knew that because Liam wasn't good at showing any emotion unless it was anger. He needed to tell Niall that he was an amazing person and that Liam enjoyed being around him; enjoyed being whatever they were, but he just couldn't.

When Niall rested his hand on Liam's chest, Liam wondered if he could feel it anyway.

***Harry***

Louis's mom left his place shortly after Louis gave his thanks to the participants of the video. He and Harry went inside to tell her goodbye, and Harry couldn't help but smile as he watched Louis and Jay give each other goodbye hugs because so many people, he found, took their family for granted, but that was something Harry desperately tried not to do, and it appeared that Louis felt the same way.

“Are you busy tomorrow?” Jay asked her son, rubbing his arms for a brief moment once they pulled away from their hug.

“No, nothing is planned,” Louis told her.

“Want to do lunch?” she asked, and then, looking at Harry, added, “All of us.”

“Yeah, sounds good,” Louis answered, shooting Harry a look that perhaps said something like 'you don't have to go if you don't want to.' Harry would go if they wanted him to, of course.

“Great. I'll call you in the morning and we can figure out specifics,” the woman said. With that, the three said their final goodbyes and then Louis turned to kiss Harry, sighing as they broke apart, but smiling up at the other man.

“Go to bed, babe. You look exhausted,” he said. Harry was exhausted, physically and mentally. He felt drunk despite the fact that he'd only had one shot.

“Are you sure?” Harry asked, putting his arms around Louis's waist and ducking his head to kiss and gently bite the side of the singer's neck.

“Mhm,” Louis hummed, goosebumps forming on his skin. “I'll be up soon.”

“Okay,” Harry said, licking the small mark he'd made on the other's neck before kissing his lips. “I'll miss you.”

“I'll miss you more,” Louis said with a smile. Harry smiled too, but the distantly familiar, metaphorical raincloud decided to attack him right then, causing a heaviness in his chest that took away his ability to breathe correctly. Luckily, he'd managed the smile before that happened, and Louis had already turned away, missing the way Harry's face morphed into something far uglier than a smile and how every muscle in his body had tensed painfully.

Still, Harry was surprised to find tears on his cheeks when he entered the bedroom, and when he noticed them, he let out a small, audible cry, slapping the moisture away, though it did no good because the realization that he was crying only created more tears. It wasn't that he was really angry that he was crying, but he was forced to face the reason why now, and that was something that Harry had been trying to avoid.

He was disappointed in himself. Filming the music video had been tiring, but Harry knew that wasn't the reason for his complete exhaustion. The reason was his diet. His disorder. He should be in Louis's backyard, having fun by his boyfriend's side, but, just like the pre-tour party that Louis had thrown so long ago, this thing ruined it.

There was really no winning, Harry realized, because he felt physically weak when he didn't eat and mentally weak when he did, and he honestly didn't know which was worse. He supposed the mental was worse because not eating was winning. It always won, even when Harry thought he was ahead.

Harry didn't know when he'd sat on the floor, but before he knew what he was doing, he was crawling to the bathroom connected to Louis's room and throwing up the single shot he'd taken. He wasn't sure if it was because he'd been gasping for breath or simply because he was that mentally messed up, but Harry got sick on his own which usually made him feel even better than purging (as it was getting rid of the 'bad' without giving in and sticking his fingers down his throat), but that time, he felt about a hundred times worse. All he could think about as he coughed and gagged and then eventually scooted himself back against the wall, too drained to move anywhere else, was how disappointed Louis would be in him if he knew.

Eventually, Harry was fueled enough by the fear of Louis coming upstairs and finding him crying on the floor in front of the toilet to get to his feet, brush his teeth and put on a hoodie with some pajama pants. He crawled into Louis's bed, hugging the pillow he'd slept on last night tightly as he concentrated again on normalizing his breathing pattern. Louis had changed the sheets that morning, but the pillow still somehow smelled like him and, pathetically, all Harry wanted was to go downstairs and drag Louis to bed with him so he could distract himself from the chaos in his mind by making love to him again and then, finally, getting rest in his smooth, strong arms.

Of course, Harry was probably too weak to even make it out of the bedroom, so that wouldn't have happened even if he could say goodbye to the remainder of his pride and attempt to get the man anyway.

Harry got a reprieve from the tears after a few more minutes, if only for the fact that he was too tired to continue. He wasn't falling completely asleep, but was stuck in a strange state of semi-consciousness. His eyes were closed, his mind playing images of Louis from last night and that day, but he could still hear the music thumping in the background along with the occasional scream of delight over something or another.

You should be down there, Harry, he told himself yet again. If you were normal, you would be out there having fun; not a crying mess in your boyfriend's bed. You don't deserve him, Harry. You don't deserve any of the wonderful things that have happened to you recently because you don't appreciate them.

Harry jolted when he heard the bedroom door open quietly, and Louis gave a soft cough to clear his throat as he went to the bathroom, making sure to close that door quietly as well.

Of course, that was when the tears started again, but Harry sucked his lips in and kept his eyes shut, determined to appear asleep.

Louis messed around in the bathroom for a few minutes, being careful to not wake Harry; the loudest noise being when he dropped something and hissed out a 'shit.' Harry noticed him cracking open the bathroom door, likely checking that he hadn't woken him, and Harry made a point to be completely still. After a few moments, Louis closed the bathroom door again and carried on with his business. Harry would have laughed if he physically could have.

As he got in bed beside Harry only a couple minutes later, Louis yawned and placed a soft kiss to Harry's shoulder. He smelled like chlorine and mint and Louis, and Harry couldn't stop a small noise of both relief and sadness from escaping his throat. Louis froze, but when Harry didn't move or make any sound (or breathe, to be honest), the singer put his head on his pillow and snuggled against Harry's back, yawning again. Finally, Harry continued his broken breathing pattern, feeling dizzy even though he was laying down with his eyes shut.

Harry didn't even realize he'd nearly fallen asleep until he was pulled back to consciousness by a hand touching his forehead. He frowned, wondering what Louis was doing, and it was only when the other man got off the bed that Harry noticed he was shaking.

Louis returned after a minute and Harry felt him place another blanket on top of his body.

He'd thought he was cold. He thought that what was wrong with Harry was something simple that could be fixed with a blanket and, apparently, tighter cuddles.

Again, Harry was unable to stop the small cry that escaped his throat.

“Harry?” Louis whispered, stilling completely. Harry debated continuing to feign his sleep, but his muscles felt far too tight and he knew it had to be obvious then that he was awake.

“Hm?” he hummed, afraid for what his voice sounded like.

“What's wrong?” Louis asked

Thinking quick, Harry replied, “Bad dream,” and his voice sounded a little off, but it could have just been from sleep if Louis didn't know otherwise.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Louis asked, his fingers flitting up and down Harry's leg.

“I don't really remember it,” Harry said. “I just remember it was weird.”

“Oh. Well it's okay now,” Louis said, kissing Harry's back. “Go back to sleep, okay?”

“Okay,” Harry said, feeling sick again; this time because he'd lied to Louis-again. Louis didn't deserve that, and Harry didn't deserve Louis.

“I know I said this last night, Harry, but thank you for coming into my life,” Louis said.

“Thank you for letting me stay,” Harry said, hoping that Louis couldn't sense the please let me stay that he left unspoken.


Louis was already out of bed when Harry woke the next morning, even though it wasn't even nine o' clock yet. As Harry opened his eyes, he felt the pain in them. They were so dry and Harry remembered with embarrassment the disaster that he'd been the previous night. Louis had only seen a small portion of that mess, but still; he'd seen too much.

Pushing his embarrassment aside because there was nothing Harry could do about it now unless he wanted to flee and never let Louis find him again, the dancer got to his feet, his head spinning. There was a sharp pain in his stomach and Harry thought he probably would have just gotten sick everywhere if there had been anything in him. Thankfully, there wasn't.

Harry made it to the bathroom and drank some water from the tap to hold him over until he could get a glass from the kitchen. He knew he needed to eat, and he would, but he wasn't going to go rummaging through Louis's cupboards without permission and have the singer find him stuffing his face like a sloppy boar.

Sipping on his water, Harry walked slowly through the house in search of Louis, eventually finding him in his exercise room. Harry watched for a minute, not wanting to call out to him or sneak up and scare him while he was lifting weights. He admired the way Louis's back muscles were visible through his sheer tank top, even if he was jealous as well. Even when he'd been on a healthier track and exercising regularly, he hadn't had muscle. Dracen had told him he did, but Harry knew what stuck out through his shirt was fat, not muscle.

“Morning,” Harry greeted, approaching Louis only after he'd set down his weights. He jumped, turning around quickly, but smiled when he saw the other man.

“Sorry,” Harry said. “I didn't want to scare you.”

“It's okay. I'm just jumpy,” Louis said, his nose scrunching up adorably when Harry kissed his forehead. “Sorry I'm all sweaty.”

“It's hot,” Harry assured him. Louis smiled, lifting the hand Harry did not have wrapped around his glass so that he could kiss his fingers individually.

“You're shaking again,” he noted, squeezing the hand lightly and looking concerned. That, of course, brought Harry's embarrassment to the surface again.

“I'm hungry,” he admitted, the words coming out slurred from his reluctance to say them.

“Breakfast time then,” Louis said, picking his water bottle and phone up from their spot on the floor.

“I don't want to interrupt your work out,” Harry said.

“I was basically done anyway,” Louis told him. “What do you want?” he asked as they walked to the kitchen.

“Um, just cereal or something, I think,” Harry said, needing something sooner rather than later but of course not wanting to say as much.

“Okay,” Louis said. “Disgusting wheat shit with no milk?” he asked as he went to his cereal cupboard.

“Milk this time,” Harry said, almost smiling at the tease.

“Look at you, living it up,” Louis said, pulling two bowls down before pouring each of them a bowl of cereal. Harry thanked him-once then and again when he was given his food-and the two ate in silence except for Louis humming in between bites.

“How are you real?” Harry wondered aloud, able to finally smile then.

“What do you mean?” Louis asked, his mouth full, and a bit of milk dribbled onto his chin. Harry laughed-a miracle-and explained while Louis retrieved napkins; one for himself and one for Harry, who had yet to make a mess.

“I mean, you're the most smiley person I know. You sing in the shower and hum while peeing and eating, you're so nice and funny, but you know how to be serious and put people in their place when you have to. You're gorgeous and talented and basically have every right to be completely stuck up, but you're so down-to-Earth. I don't know. It's like someone manufactured you to be the perfect pop star and the perfect person at the same time.”

“I told you before I'm not perfect,” Louis said, smiling politely, of course. “I'm actually becoming quite afraid for the day when you realize that. Although really, you should know. How many times have I dropped something, or walked into something, or fallen over or somehow otherwise hurt myself since you've known me?”

“I don't think being clumsy is a flaw,” Harry said. “Plus you even make falling on your face look cute.”

Louis's smile was nothing short of delighted then, but he toned it down quickly and gave a dramatic sigh.

“Oh, Harry; how I wish I could see myself through your eyes. Or that you could see yourself through mine because I think you're a lot more perfect than I am.”

“You can't be more perfect than something that's already perfect.”

“Well, let's just say, I'm like a six and you're like a one hundred.”

“Does your scale go backwards?”

“No it does not,” Louis said, flicking the napkin he'd balled up at Harry's face. The dancer smiled.

“You're much more than a six,” Harry said. “I think your bum is a six by itself, at least.”

Harry must be feeling better, he realized, if he could joke around (except he wasn't really joking) with Louis like this. He didn't know if he had the cereal to thank more, or if it was because of Louis. It was probably a good combination of both.

“My bum is my only redeeming quality,” Louis said, sighing dramatically again. Harry rolled his eyes.

“Is not, though you might want to think about getting it insured.”

“Already done.”

Louis winked and Harry smiled. Looking into his bowl, he realized that his cereal was gone, so he spun his milk around with his spoon for a moment as Louis took his last couple of bites. Then Harry picked up the bowls and went to pour the remainder of their milk into the sink.

“Are you feeling better?” Louis asked then.

“Yeah, I am,” Harry said.

“I meant what I said about you wanting to see yourself how I see you,” Louis said. When Harry turned, he saw the other sitting back in his chair, arms crossed with a serious look on his face. “I'm not perfect, and maybe you're not either, but that's perfectly okay. Actually…”

Louis paused, chewing on his lip. Harry waited patiently for him to continue.

“I'm going to sing that new song that I wrote at my next concert and promise you'll concentrate on the lyrics?”

“Okay,” Harry said, confused.

“I would sing it for you now, but I don't want you to feel pressured to say something if you don't want to. Just...you can be perfect without being flawless, and I promise you that the things you see as flaws are what make you most beautiful.”

“My love handles are what turn you on?” Harry teased, except maybe he wasn't really teasing again, and Louis's face remained serious.

“I think what you think are love handles are hips, which everyone has, but no matter; yes. They are beautiful. Much more beautiful than my wonky elf ears.”

“Wonky elf ears?” Harry snorted, of course looking at Louis's ears then. “Aw, no, I think your ears are cute.”

“They're wonky elf ears,” Louis stated. Pulling his chair closer to Louis's, Harry leaned forward to nip his ear lobe before sitting in his chair, his hands resting on Louis's thighs.

“I like them.”

“See?”

“See what?”

“If you're perfect for a person, then you see them as perfect.”

“You think I'm perfect for you?” Harry asked, raising one eyebrow, amused. Louis definitely just took the whole thing too far because Harry was sure there was someone more suitable for Louis out there. He just selfishly hoped he didn't find them.

“Perfect,” Louis said simply, shifting so he could kiss Harry's lips. That was the last word that was said for a while because, a minute after Louis ended up in Harry's lap, the two decided they needed to shower, and what better way to shower than together?

Harry tried to believe that Louis could see him as perfect as he washed him and kissed him and loved him in the shower. He tried not to worry about positioning himself in angles that made him look better and just let go, and he mostly succeeded.

Louis's phone was ringing on the counter as the two got out of the shower, and Louis wrapped a towel around his waist, excusing himself quickly as he ran out to answer. It must have been important, whoever it was.

Harry looked at his reflection in the mirror, hoping to feel as good about his appearance as he had the first time he and Louis had had sex, but all he could see then was matted down hair, blotchy skin and water dripping from his massive, unattractive body.

He also saw his eyes turn red as more tears filled them.

Chapter Text

***Louis***

It wasn't that Louis didn't know that something was wrong with Harry. The dancer seemed sadder than normal, bordering on tears almost constantly the past couple of days. Louis saw that, and it hurt him, but he just didn't know what to do about it when Harry insisted he was fine. If Louis pushed too hard, he could push Harry away and cause him to shut down instead of helping him.

Louis tried to offer comfort in subtle ways through his actions and sweet words; words that he meant, whether Harry believed it or not. When he found Harry lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling with a blank expression on his face, his hair still wet from the shower they'd taken together, Louis laid next to him, placing a firm, yet gentle kiss on the other's lips before lying his head on the pillow. Harry looked to the side and attempted a smile that almost made it.

“You're so gorgeous,” Louis said softly, and though Harry didn't outwardly reject the words, he simply laughed and turned his attention back to the ceiling, so Louis knew the phrase hadn't reached him at all.

Harry was noticeably nervous in the car on the way to have lunch with Jay, on top of whatever other emotions he was feeling, and Louis held his hand while he drove, making light conversation to try to distract from the negative things going on in the dancer's head. Louis wished he could read into that mind just once, though he knew whatever was in there would make him wish he'd never seen it at all.

Dean had told the paparazzi that Louis had taken Harry along to lunch with his mother, though he gave them the wrong restaurant, assuring their attention would be limited when they arrived at the celebrity hot spot.

Jay was already waiting inside for the two and pulled them into a hug each, offering huge smiles.

“Harry, I love your outfit,” she complimented, and Harry seemed shocked by it, but he smiled more genuinely than Louis had seen all day and thanked the woman. Louis remembered when Harry used to be pleasantly surprised whenever he offered compliments and he wished he could have that back instead of Harry brushing them off as he did these days.

Louis didn't do much of the talking during lunch, which was fine with him. He was thoroughly enjoying watching his mom and his boyfriend interact. It seemed so natural and Harry relaxed more and more as the meal went on. He'd ordered just a salad and was pushing it around more than actually eating it, but Louis knew better than to say anything, especially in front of others. He would just have to try to make sure Harry got a good meal later.

“When are you going back home, mum?” Louis asked during one of the brief moments of silence in which Harry ate a piece of lettuce off of his fork, concentrating on chewing like it took all the will power he had in him. Louis was so proud.

“Trying to get rid of me already?” Jay teased, making sure her expression looked as offended as her words were, but Louis knew better than to think she'd actually taken the question to heart like that.

“Yeah, you know I can only handle you in small doses,” the singer teased right back, but then said, “No, I was asking in case you need a ride to the airport or anything.”

“I am perfectly capable to take a cab,” Jay assured her son, but Louis was having none of that.

“Cab drivers are crazy in this town. I'm driving you,” he said. Jay smiled, knowing all along that she was going to get that reaction.

“My plane leaves a little after ten in the morning tomorrow,” she said.

“Where are you staying?” Louis asked. “And why aren't you staying with me?”

“You two don't get enough time together outside of hotel rooms, I'm sure,” Jay said, smiling politely at the men. “A pestering mum isn't the greatest thing for a new relationship. Besides, Dean put me in the clubhouse suite of the Carlton, so I'm rather enjoying myself.”

“Okay,” Louis said, “but you know you can always stay with me if you want.”

“I know that, dear,” Jay assured him. “How about you pick me up at eight tomorrow, to be on the safe side?”

“I'll be there,” Louis said.

“You're sweet,” Jay complimented, and Louis felt his face heat up under the way Harry was smiling at him.

“He's very sweet,” the dancer added, probably purposefully adding to Louis's embarrassment. Jay beamed and Louis hated them both, except not really. They were his two favorite people in the world and Louis couldn't imagine loving anyone more.


After lunch, the three made their way to the mall, after Louis privately ensured that Harry was truly and completely okay with the idea. He was, because of course he was. Louis felt as if Harry would go along with anything that anyone wanted to do as long as it made someone happy.

Jay wanted to go look at the makeup and she told the others that they could do their own thing if they wanted, but Louis decided he needed some makeup as well.

“It was kind of fun wearing it,” he explained to Harry's confused expression. “I don't think I could get away with doing it all the time, but every now and then...”

Louis trailed off, not sure where he was going with that thought, but Harry nodded as if he understood anyway.

“You have a completely different skin tone than me, so we can probably find some shades that match you even better than what we put on you the other day,” he said.

“Will you help me?” Louis asked. Harry nodded, a determined look on his face as he turned and began looking. He consulted Jay, who was nearly the same color as her son, and together the two picked out shades they thought would look 'marvelous' on the singer. Louis watched, amused and endeared as Harry held shade after shade up to Louis's face, his tongue sticking out and everything as he made the hard decision of what to get.

“Everything looks good on you, it's so unfair,” he whined.

“You are so good at flattering me,” Louis said with a wink, leaning up to place a quick kiss to Harry's forehead. “I saw that cringe you made a few minutes ago with the...What was it? The tulip purple lip stain, I think.”

“That was just an unfortunate color,” Harry said. “I don't know how it made it to the stands.”

“I bet it would look good on you,” Louis disagreed. Harry shook his head.

“No way.”

“Wait right here,” Louis asked, making his way to find the tube again. Harry obeyed, and after finding the product he wanted, Louis power walked back, holding it up to Harry's lips proudly. He didn't actually know what he was looking for, but he liked the color and he liked Harry's face, so he didn't think this could go wrong.

“Yep,” he said, throwing the tube into their little basket. “I'm getting it. If you try it and don't like it, you don't have to use it, but I think it will be beautiful.”

Harry smiled, shaking his head at his boyfriend, but he didn't protest and the smile was mostly real, so Louis felt good about himself for at least a few moments.


After spending more time than anyone probably should have in the makeup store, the group decided to leave the mall. Jay had made a new friend at the hotel (just a female friend, she had assured Louis) and the pair were planning on going to the beach together, so Louis drove her back and hugged her goodbye, assuring her that he would be there at precisely eight o' clock in the morning.

“So what do you want to do with the rest of the day?” Louis asked his boyfriend as he drove out of the hotel's parking lot.

“Whatever you want,” Harry said.

“Would you rather go out or stay in?”

“It doesn't matter.”

Louis sighed dramatically.

“You are so complicated, Styles.”

“Sorry,” Harry said, and Louis glanced over just quick enough to see the small grin on the other's face.

“It's alright,” Louis told him. “How about we just go back to my place and swim in the pool or something? It's so hot out.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

Louis blew out of his nose in a form of a laugh.

“What's so funny?” Harry asked.

“You,” Louis answered.

“Good funny or an 'oh my god, you're so dumb' funny?”

“Cute funny,” Louis replied. “Definitely cute.”

“Would you tell me otherwise?”

“Of course not. I wouldn't lie to you.”


The men changed into their swim apparel as soon as they reached the house; Louis in his trunks and Harry in his t-shirt with slightly longer shorts.

“I like that green on you,” Louis complimented, talking about the color of Harry's shorts, and Harry leaned down to place a kiss to the singer's lips.

“Thank you,” he said. “I'll get us drinks if you want and you can go ahead and get in the pool.”

“Alright,” Louis agreed.

“What do you want?” Harry asked.

“Just a corona, and get whatever you want for yourself.”

Louis waded around in the water absently as he waited for his boyfriend to come out. It didn't take him long, but Louis still felt himself get excited when he heard the back door open and then saw the dancer heading towards him with two drinks in hand.

“Hey, hot stuff,” he called, swimming to the edge of the pool where Harry leaned down, setting Louis's drink by the edge and taking a drink of his own before putting it down too.

“Hi, gorgeous,” the dancer said, his voice softer, and Louis raised himself out of the pool just enough to kiss his boyfriend. Finally, that earned him one of Harry's real smiles.

“Are you getting in?” Louis asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said, getting onto his bottom and sticking his feet in the pool for a few moments before lowering his body into the water.

“Glad you're here,” Louis said. “I was so bored without you.”

“It took me, like, one minute,” Harry pointed out.

“I'm in constant need of entertainment,” Louis explained.

“So sorry,” Harry apologized.

“That's okay. I would never expect you to cater to that silly need.”

Louis kissed the dancer again and then, after offering a smile, hoping to get one in return (he only received a fake one), he changed the subject.

“When do you get to see your family?” he asked, kicking himself off on the side of the pool and floating a bit away, only to swim back.

“Probably on our next semi-long break,” Harry said.

“Tell them to come to one of the shows,” Louis suggested. “They can get in for nothing.”

“I've told them that. I think they just feel bad asking.”

“That is silly,” Louis said. Apparently 'silly' was his word of the day. “Do I need to call them and invite them myself?”

“Maybe,” Harry said, smiling a tad. “I'll let you know. Your mum is really sweet, by the way.”

“Yeah, she's a great lady,” Louis agreed. “I'm sorry she was talking your ear off and asking so many questions though. I swear she didn't mean anything by it. She likes to get to know people. She wasn't interrogating you or anything.”

“Uh-huh,” Harry said teasingly, but was quick to add, “It's okay, though. I understand even if she was. She wants what's best for you.”

“You already have her approval,” Louis told Harry, who had seemed suddenly nervous.

“Really?” the dancer asked, his eyebrows raising.

“Yes,” Louis said. “Why do you seem so surprised?”

“I wouldn't give myself the approval of dating someone else's kid.”

Louis frowned, unable to tell if Harry was being serious or trying to joke.

“Why not?” he asked. Harry shrugged.

“I guess your mum doesn't know that I'm mental yet,” he said, and he was smiling, a teasing glint in his eye, but there was something else there too that suggested that, while he was half joking, he was half serious too. Following the same mood, Louis said,

“Well, you'd have to be a little mental in order to keep up with my issues.”

The dancer's eyebrows raised again, more in curiosity than surprise, and after taking a deep, but subtle breath, Louis decided it was time for him to open up a little bit. Perhaps if he shared the side of him he tried to keep away from most people, Harry would be the same way with him.

“I was on anti-depressants for a while in primary school and then again during the last half of my first tour,” he explained. It wasn't that he was ashamed of the fact, but he tried to give a certain persona to the general public, and that persona didn't involve taking a happy pill every morning. Harry wasn't the general public though; he was his boyfriend and Louis thought that he, out of everyone would understand. He could only hope that this would help show Harry that, while he couldn't understand exactly where the dancer was coming from, he would try and could relate to at least the tiniest extent.

“I'm off them now, but I still talk to someone a couple of times a year for maintenance,” he continued. “I actually went before this tour started to make sure I wouldn't end up going nuts and crying in my tour bus bathroom when I'm supposed to be on stage in five minutes...again.”

“Again?” Harry asked with a laugh, but then his eyes widened and he clamped a hand over his mouth briefly. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to laugh. It's not funny; it's just the way you said it was...I'm sorry.”

“It's okay,” Louis assured him, smiling lightly, hoping it was obvious that he wasn't at all offended. “I'm a bit of a drama king, I know. I was going through a rough time because my tour manager had dropped me when I came out of the closet. Dean was doing his best to take over the role, but he was so busy and had no idea what he was doing with that aspect, so it was stressful and of course I was hurting over the fact that I was dropped over something like that anyway.”

“They really dropped you?” Harry asked, looking nothing less than horrified.

“Yeah. It ended up being okay, obviously. Beatrice was the girlfriend of my original tour manager and she was on the road with us. She left with him at first, but came back after one leg, offering to take over the duties. She had no actual experience, but I'd liked her well enough and honestly, I don't think I would have successfully finished the tour without her. She dumped the homophobic dick head and has been completely awesome in every way, but the whole thing still fucked up my mind a little.”

“Understandably,” Harry said, giving Louis a gentle kiss on the lips. Louis hadn't realized his muscles had tensed until they relaxed under the other's touch. Louis loved kissing Harry, but he loved it even more when Harry kissed him first.

“Just because you went through a rough time doesn't mean you're mental,” Harry said then.

“I don't think so, either, but that also means that your rough times don't make you mental,” Louis commented.

“I bet you weren't locked up in an institution when you were fifteen though, were you?” Harry asked, and though his tone had still been teasing, Louis could see regret cross his face as soon as the words were out. The singer forced his face to remain neutral so that any expression couldn't be misjudged. While this wasn't new information, hearing Harry say it hurt. It still didn't cause Louis to think Harry was crazy, of course; it just made him sad that he'd been so sick where putting him in a hospital had been the only way to save him.

“It was for your eating disorder?” Louis verified. Harry nodded.

“I wish I could get in your brain and fix your self image,” Louis said out loud for the first time.

“I think there would be a lot more in need of repair than that,” Harry commented, winking to lighten the mood, but the pain had yet to leave his face. The men had floated away from each other a bit, but Louis swam forward to kiss Harry yet again.

“You've had to overcome so much and you have a lot to be proud of,” Louis said. “There's been the car accident, your disorder and I'm sure a slew of other things I don't yet know about, but you're strong, love; even if you don't always believe it...Or ever believe it.”

Harry gave a tiny, quick smile and then shook his head as if to clear his head.

“Sorry this got so serious,” he said with a small laugh.

“You don't have to apologize,” Louis assured him. “You can talk to me about anything, and you learned some pretty deep shit about me too that you probably didn't need to know at this point.”

“No, I'm glad you told me what you did,” Harry said quickly, putting his hand on Louis's chest. Louis wondered if he could feel how much his heart rate picked up at the touch. “None of it changes how I feel about your or anything.”

“So you still like me?” Louis asked, smiling as he tilted his head in what he hoped to be a cute manner. Harry laughed, truly; warming Louis from the inside out.

“Yeah,” he said. “I still like you, at least a little bit.”

He gave another wink and, smiling, Louis pressed his lips against Harry's, making a loud smooch sound when he broke away.

“You know, I like shy Harry from back when we first met, because I like all Harrys, but I'm really enjoying the Harry that busts my balls every now and then.”

Harry laughed again, loudly that time, and covered his face until he'd composed himself, although Louis wished he hadn't.

“That's not what I was trying to do,” he said.

“No, it's a good thing,” Louis told him. “I need it, trust me.”

After another kiss, Louis decided to go back to the serious side of their conversation a little bit.

“How are you doing, babe?”

“I'm fine,” Harry said, a confused look on his face.

“I mean really,” Louis said. “How are you with your disorder and everything?”

“Fine,” Harry repeated, his confusion changing to fear rather quickly.

“It's okay, Harry,” Louis told him gently. “I'm only asking so that I can do my best to help you.”

“Well, I mean, I'm always going to be insecure,” Harry said, shrugging awkwardly. “Sometimes it's hard for me to eat normally, but I'm okay, don't worry.”

Louis didn't tell Harry that he wasn't a great liar. Instead, he asked,

“Do you think talking to someone will help? I can get someone to come out on the road. It's no problem.”

“That's not necessary, but thank you,” Harry said.

“I want you to be happy.”

Louis sounded nearly desperate then and quietly cleared his throat.

“I am, most of the time. I might start taking my medication again, but I'm fine. Honest.”

“Will you at least promise to tell me when you don't feel fine or if anything gets to be too much?” Louis asked.

“I promise,” Harry said, and Louis hoped the reason he kissed him then wasn't to distract him.

***Liam***

The next leg of the tour took place in Ireland, and Niall was basically bouncing in his seat on the way to his home country.

“You seem very excited,” he commented when minutes passed and the Irishman still hadn't settled down. Niall smiled, almost apologetically.

“I am,” he admitted. “I love Ireland.”

Liam smiled as well, hoping to show Niall that he hadn't meant it in any way but good.

“You're so cute,” he commented. Niall positively beamed.


Since Niall's family didn't live too far away and they hadn't seen each other in a while, he was going to be staying with them instead of in the hotel with the others for that first night. Liam understood, of course, but he still felt a kind of sadness as the plane landed, knowing that he was going to soon be saying goodbye to Niall for the night.

Pathetic, pathetic, pathetic.

“Hey, where are you going?” Niall asked as Liam started heading in the opposite direction in search of Harry or Zayn after getting off the plane. Liam opened his mouth, then closed it and shrugged, nodding towards the very direction he had been about to go off to.

Pathetic.

Niall tilted his head, smiling with his eyebrows pulled together, but when Liam offered no further explanation, the blonde motioned for him.

“Come on,” he said. “I know you have to go, but you can say hi to my family real quick.”

Wordlessly, Liam followed the other man, feeling nervous although he knew there was no logical reason to. Friends met each other's parents. It was a normal thing that happened. He knew Harry's parents and Harry knew his. Well, Harry knew his aunt and uncle, but that was the same thing in his situation. Yep, it was completely normal to know your friends' parents and that's all he and Niall were; friends.

“Hey, guys,” Niall said, wrapping what Liam guessed to be his mom (or step mom), dad (or step dad) and perhaps a brother into a hug.

“Hey, kid,” the man said, slapping the dancer on the back gently. Niall did the same and then pulled away quickly, smiling as he turned to Liam.

“Liam, this is my mum, Maura, my step dad Chris and my brother Greg. Mum, Chris and Greg, this is my mate, Liam.”

Mate. I told you, Liam, you dumb oaf, Liam told himself in his head while outwardly smiling.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hello!” Maura said, moving forward to shake Liam's hand while the men echoed their greetings. “You're a dancer too?” she asked.

“Yeah. Not as good as Niall, but...”

“Yeah right,” Niall said with a roll of his eyes, but Liam thought he saw him blushing as well. Maura smiled.

“Well, it's great to meet you. Do you have arrangements for where you're staying tonight?”

“Oh, um, yeah,” Liam said, shocked, but not unpleasantly so, at the question. “Louis has us in a great hotel, but, uh, thanks.”

“Of course.”

“Liam! Mate!” Zayn called from the near distance, waving his arms like a crazy person. “You're going to miss the cabs if you don't get a move on. Come on, I have your stuff.”

Liam swore they hadn't been landed for long enough for Zayn to have gone to the luggage port and received both of their belongings, but there he was; being weighed down by five bags and with two pillows in his hands. Zayn was a mystery of a man, Liam decided.

“Yeah, sorry, I guess I should have let you go,” Niall said, moving to stand by his mom, who was still in front of Liam. “I'll see you tomorrow?”

Liam wasn't sure why it sounded like a question when both he and Niall had obligations to see each other tomorrow whether they wanted to or not (he wanted to, of course), but he didn't mention it.

“Yeah, see you,” he said. “Have a great night with your family. It was nice to meet you all.”

The group said their goodbyes and Liam turned after waving to Niall, hurrying to relieve Zayn of some of the bags.

“Thanks,” he said as he did so. “Sorry, I guess you won't get the room to yourself tonight.”

“It's cool, man,” Zayn said. “Hey, if you're not too jet lagged, we can go out.”

“I'm sure I'll be fine after a nap,” Liam said.

Though he collapsed as soon as they got into their hotel room, Liam didn't think Zayn slept at all and yet, he was still ready to go out and explore Ireland that night. The two went to a pub for dinner before hitting up bars, and Liam might not actually see or talk to Zayn much, but he was glad that he was there, like a constant anyone could rely on. He mostly distracted him from his constant thoughts of Niall too, which Liam told himself was a plus.

Liam didn't make it a point to not be flirty that night, but as he and Zayn entered the bar, that normal feeling of lust and wildness didn't hit him. There was an obviously gay man by the pool table who he locked eyes with, but then he quickly looked away. Maybe he really was getting old, as he'd claimed to Niall at Louis's party. Once leaving university, life started going by fast.

Oh well. Liam wasn't actually bothered by it, so he led Zayn to the bar and ordered them both a drink.

“Do you want to play darts?” Zayn asked, his face flushed after only two drinks in. Of course, he'd had a couple drinks and a shot at the pub, so Liam decided to let this slide.

“Sure,” he agreed. “Just don't poke my eye out, please.”

Zayn laughed.

“You're funny,” he said, hopping down from his stool and sloshing alcohol onto his arm. He sucked off what he could and then led Liam away. Both of the dart boards were currently in use, but the couple of girls at the nearest one offered to let them join, and so they did. Liam wondered if Zayn was really too drunk to notice how they were all over him or if he was just ignoring it. Either way, he knew better than to mention anything.

Soon, another person came to join; the man that Liam had made eye contact with when they first entered. An unpleasant feeling that he didn't think had anything to do with the alcohol settled in his stomach, but his natural instinct caused him to smile.

“Hello,” the man said in his pure Irish accent, drawing out his 'o' as he squeezed closely behind Liam. “Who's winning?”

“He is,” the blonde lady said, eyeing the two and smiling like they were the cutest thing she'd seen that night, besides Zayn, of course.

“Should have known,” the newcomer said. “You don't look like there's a single thing you're bad at.”

“You can tell what someone is good at by looking at them?” Liam asked, one eyebrow raised as he looked over his shoulder at the man, and Zayn basically screamed in delight.

“Ooh, Liam's got feist!” he said. Liam decided not to tell him that 'having feist' wasn't actually a thing. The girls giggled anyway and the brunette rubbed Zayn's shoulder.

“I like feisty men,” the guy said and then nodded to the nearly empty glass in Liam's hand. “You look like you need a refill,” he commented. “May I?”

Liam knew he shouldn't, but he agreed and followed the man out, trying not to show his disgust when the man's hand briefly touched his butt.

“What is that?” he asked of Liam's drink. Liam told him and thanked him, but when he sipped it, it didn't taste as good as the other had. Feeling just a tad sick, he sat down and the man did too, putting their knees together.

“My name is Art,” he said.

“Liam.”

“Liam. I like it. Where are you from, Liam?”

“Wolverhampton, England.”

“Oh. I don't know where that is.”

“Yeah, it's not super well known, I guess.”

“English men are hot anyway.”

Art winked and Liam gave a tiny smile before taking a drink. Maybe if he were a little more intoxicated, this wouldn't be so oddly uncomfortable.

“What are you doing in Ireland anyway?” Art asked.

“I'm on tour,” Liam said. “I'm a dancer for Louis. Um, Louis T. I'm guessing you know him?”

“Yeah, of course. A dancer? So you really know how to use your body then.”

Art touched his knee and it took everything Liam had in him not to jerk away. He forced a smile.

“You're gorgeous,” he said. “Are you seriously single? Not that I mind if you are or not if you're okay with it, but I find it hard to believe anyone would let you out if you belonged to them. Or is that bloke in there your boyfriend? Are you in some kinky poly-amorous type thing?”

Liam's head was spinning, but he didn't think it had anything to do with the drink.

“No,” he said.

“No to what?” Art asked.

“Um, all of the above.”

“So you're single?”

“Yeah. I don't date.”

“You don't date?”

“Right.”

“But you're down to fuck, right?”

“Um...”

“Hey,” Art said, not even giving Liam a chance to answer, really. “It's okay, babe.”

The Irishman lifted his hand, cupping Liam's face tightly, and Liam flinched at the contact, causing Art to chuckle as he ran his thumbs along Liam's jawline.

“You're strange,” he said. “Relax, I'm not gonna hurt you, I promise. Well, unless you like that kind of thing.”

Liam shook his head and then his phone buzzing on the bar beside him caused him to jump. He heard Art curse under his breath as he excused himself to check his phone, and was confused when he saw that the text message was from Zayn.

Need help? It read, and if Zayn could sense the tension from where he was and with as much as he'd had to drink, Liam really wondered how Art wasn't picking up on any of it.

I'm ok, Liam replied, because even if he did need help, he would never admit it. Perhaps Zayn knew that because Liam had just put his phone back down when the other man came running over. (If running was what you could call his penguin waddle.)

“Liam!” he called, crashing into Liam's side and almost losing his balance, but Liam quickly wrapped an arm around his waist, preventing him from falling.

“Whoa. Sorry. Thanks. Hey, mate, sorry to interrupt, but we need to go. Tina just sent me a text and I think she's in trouble. We need to go pick her up at the party. I told her that bloke was bad news.”

Zayn sighed, shaking his head sadly and Liam had to work really hard not to smile at his drama because there would be nothing funny about Tina being in trouble.

“Fuck,” he said, sliding off of his chair and away from Art. “Sorry,” he apologized, trying to sound like he meant it. “This is an emergency. I really have to go.”

Liam and Zayn turned simultaneously, hurrying out of the bar and pretending they didn't hear Art calling out to ask for Liam's number or the name of where he was staying.

“Thanks,” Liam said when the two entered another bar about a block away. “And sorry, I didn't mean to ruin your fun.”

“No, man, it's cool,” Zayn said, giving Liam a wide smile. “You alright?”

“Yeah, I'm fine,” Liam said. “I don't know what was going on with me anyway. I'm usually into that stuff...obviously.”

“You're allowed to, you know, not be,” Zayn said, and then changed the subject, leaving no room for awkward silences. “First drinks are on me this time!”

Liam's phone went off again while they were waiting on their order to be made. Checking it, Liam saw that it was Niall and instantly smiled.

Maybe he is what's wrong with you, Liam said, silently talking to himself again. A smaller voice said, And maybe that's not wrong at all.

Ugh! I can't sleep without your snoring! It was oddly peaceful, the text read. Liam's grin was about to crack his face.

I think that's probably just the jet lag, he replied.

Nah. It's because of your snoring.

Liam didn't say so, but he didn't feel sorry for Niall since he couldn't even go out and have fun anymore because of him.

When a minute passed and Liam hadn't replied, Niall sent another text.

So what are you doing, if I may ask?

Out with Zayn

Sounds fun :)

Zayn is fun

Liam hoped that message would show Niall that it was only Zayn he was with, and then wondered why it was so important that Niall know that anyway.

We should all go out again sometime. We can do karaoke so I can actually hear your singing voice.

We can go out but no to the karaoke

We'll see ;)

“Here you go,” Zayn said, handing Liam his drink. Liam thanked him, switching his phone to just one hand so he could hold the glass.

I guess we shall, he said to Niall.

I'll let you go have fun, Niall sent back.

Get some sleep, Liam responded, not telling Niall that he didn't want him to stop texting him.

I'll try. See you tomorrow.

See you

“Everything cool?” Zayn asked as Liam slid his phone back into his pocket.

“Yeah. It was Niall,” Liam explained. Zayn nearly smirked.

“Got it. Hey, up for some blackball?”

Liam agreed, feeling better now than he had all night. He just made it a point not to make eye contact with anyone for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

“So that was Liam.”

Niall's mother said it as a statement, not a question. Though Niall wasn't sure his face had ever returned completely to its normal color while leaving the airport, he was pretty sure the red deepened again.

“Yes,” he verified as he climbed in the back seat of the car next to his brother. “And thank you for not saying anything embarrassing like you've heard all about him or whatever.”

“It was hard not to,” Greg spoke.

“He's really cute!” Maura said.

“Yeah,” Niall agreed, silently thinking that 'cute' didn't even begin to cover Liam's description.


It was crazy that, even though Niall truly was having a great time with his family, he still missed Liam so badly. Upon arriving to his mom and step father's home, he took a short nap and when he woke, he went with his parents, step dad, brother and sister-in-law to see a movie and have dinner at Niall's favorite local restaurant. After that, he went with just Greg to get a couple of drinks, and it was nice to have some quality brother time, but he still couldn't get Liam out of his head. He didn't wish to be away from his family, he just wished Liam could have been there with him. Liam would have never gone for that, though, Niall knew, even though his family would have had no problem with it at all. Whenever anyone was dating someone, they became a part of the family in their eyes. Niall and Liam weren't technically dating, of course, but Niall's parents and, most especially his brother, seemed to be having a hard time remembering that;for every time Niall so much as glanced at a man, Greg would slug him on the arm and say something along the lines of, “Oi, you have a boyfriend. Keep your eyes to yourself.”

He was in too deep with his not-boyfriend to even consider talking to anyone else.


You will not text him, Niall repeated over and over to himself that night as he lay in his childhood bed, unable to sleep and staring at Liam's name in his phone. Don't text him, he's probably busy…

Busy with someone else.

A small sound of protest made its way out of Niall's throat without permission at the intruding thought, and he found his fingers clicking on Liam's contact information and typing out a message despite his weak, internal protests, too.

Ugh! I can't sleep without your snoring. It was oddly peaceful, is what Niall's fingers chose to type out for him, and could he be anymore cheesy?

I think that's probably just the jet lag, Liam replied. Though it was a good theory, Niall knew it wasn't true. Why he was having such issues anyway was a mystery to him. Niall was never the kind to have problems being alone, and he guessed he still wasn't because no one's company sounded good to him except Liam's. So he didn't have problems being alone, he had problems being away from Liam.

Sad.

What was even sadder was the hurt Niall felt when Liam said he was out because he took that as confirmation that Liam was looking for someone to be with for the night because Liam was the type to have problems when alone, and he would take anyone's company, not just Niall's. Even though Niall had known all of this already, and he knew that one day he would be forced to face that reality and it would hurt, he still somehow found himself unprepared for the stupid lump in his throat.

Sounds fun :) Niall told Liam because he was sure it was for the other man.

Zayn is fun, Liam said, and for just a brief moment, Niall felt a pang of jealousy that he would never admit if asked, assuming that Zayn had been the one Liam chose for the night. That was worse than some random guy in the club because Liam couldn't just run from him in the morning like he seemed to do with everyone else. Zayn was on tour with them for the next six or so months, and, worse, he was technically Liam's designated room mate. Liam ran from his feelings, but since he couldn't run from Zayn, what if he couldn't stop feelings from developing?

Fortunately, those thoughts didn't last very long before Niall realized they were ridiculous. Zayn was uninterested in sex and romance, it appeared, and, anyway, if Liam was trying to get into his pants, he probably wouldn't be currently texting Niall. Maybe it was just an innocent night out.

For his own sanity, Niall decided to go with that and, just to ensure he could keep that hope alive, he ended the conversation with Liam first so that he wouldn't have to wait to be told that Liam 'had to go' or just be left mid-conversation as someone else took in his love for the night, making sure he wasn't lonely.

Eventually, Niall did end up falling asleep and when he woke, he found himself disoriented and looking for Liam before realizing that Liam hadn't come home with him. That would be way too boyfriend-y, he reminded himself.

It made Niall sad for a moment; waking up without Liam, but he stayed positive, knowing that he would be seeing the other man in just a few hours. (And hopefully he would be seeing him without any love bites or such from another.) In the mean time, Niall would continue to enjoy his time with his family and keep thoughts of Liam in the back of his mind only.

 

“Do the nerves ever settle down?”

“What?” Niall, hearing his mother speak, asked, looking up from the side window in the front seat of her car.

“I asked if the nerves ever settle down,” Maura repeated and then added, “You're being very quiet. Are you alright?”

“Oh, yeah, I'm fine,” Niall said. “Every show is nerve-wracking still, but never as bad as the first.”

Niall didn't add that the nerves weren't the reason he was being quiet. He was simply trying to keep his excitement to himself, knowing that he really should not be feeling so ecstatic to see Liam when it had been just over twenty-four hours since they had seen each other. Niall had long ago accepted the fact that he was born to be a cheesy person, but his family didn't need to know the exact extent of that. More so, Niall did not need Greg to know.

As fate had it, Liam was passing by the entrance door when Niall and his crew made their way inside the backstage area. He didn't notice them at first, seeming to be on a mission, but when Niall called his name, Liam stopped dead in his tracks, turning on his heel to give a wide grin.

“Niall!”

Without thinking, Niall quickly approached the man and pulled him into a tight hug, but he barely had time to worry about if Liam would mind, what with Niall's family being right there and all, before Liam hugged him back just as tightly; perhaps tighter. The ultimate shock came when Liam leaned his head down, saying softly,

“I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” Niall said, glad that Liam couldn't see the pure joy he knew had to be written on his face and even in his eyes.

“Oh,” Liam said, letting go of Niall and backing up a smidgeon. He appeared to just notice Niall's family in the near distance, and Niall didn't miss the pink on his cheeks.

“It's okay,” Niall assured him, speaking low enough for only him to hear.

“Hello again, Liam!” Maura called cheerily.

“Hi,” Liam said, waving almost shyly, which nearly made Niall laugh because he knew that Liam was anything but shy.

“You met my mum, Chris and Greg yesterday, Li, but this is my dad, Bobby. Dad, this is Liam. He's another dancer.”

Unlike Niall's mother and brother, his dad had been spared his 'Liam is so amazing' speeches. Bobby had nothing against Niall's sexuality and he knew that he would be happy for him, no matter who he ended up with, so long as he treated him right, but Niall figured the dynamics of his and Liam's relationship were too complicated for his father to understand when even Maura and Greg refused to believe they weren't dating.

Since Bobby was a good guy, he didn't question Liam or Niall about the exchange he'd just witnessed; only gave the normal, pleasant 'nice to meet you' greetings with Liam. After that, Beatrice called Liam away and he excused himself, leaving Niall to say goodbye to his family alone.

“We'll see you after the show, yes?” Maura verified, and Niall could swear he saw a tear in her eye, so he refused to look directly at her.

“'Course, mum,” he said, accepting and returning her hug.

“Good luck,” Greg said, patting Niall on the shoulder. “I know you'll do great, obviously.”

“Thanks.”

After being wished good luck more times than he could count and telling each person that he loved them at least twice, Niall's family made their way to their seats. It was right after that when Zayn approached, a suspicious smirk on his face.

“Zayn, has anyone ever told you that you're kind of strange?” Niall teased, knowing the other man could take it. Zayn simply smiled.

“Every day of my life. Anyway, I wasn't actually spying on you or anything...this time. I just saw you and came by to tell you that you should be proud of your boy. He didn't flirt or sleep with anyone last night!”

A huge wave of relief crashed down on Niall at the words. He knew the thought had been bothering him, of course, but he hadn't realized how much until he received confirmation that he had been worrying for nothing all the while. Still, he tried to keep his feeling of bliss to only himself.

“He's not my boy,” Niall told Zayn. “If he wants to flirt or...whatever, it isn't my business.”

Not buying Niall's front at all, Zayn rolled his eyes.

“Why are you putting off the inevitable?” he wondered aloud. “Everyone knows that you're going to end up together. Most already think you are.”

“Don't tell Liam that,” Niall said, keeping his voice casual but secretly fearing what would happen if the other knew. “He doesn't date, remember?”

Again, Zayn rolled his eyes.

“It's time for a new storyline, don't you think?” he asked, and then flitted away with a wink.

“Okay, crisis averted,” a voice from behind Niall spoke; Liam. Niall turned, giving the other a small smile.

“What was the matter?” he asked.

“They couldn't find one of my outfits,” Liam said. “It's all good now. It was located.”

“I'm glad.”

Since no one was around or, at least, paying them any attention, Niall took a chance and wrapped his arms around Liam's waist, tilting his head slightly to silently admire how gorgeous this man in front of him was.

“I really missed you,” Niall said, wanting Liam to know that it was true and that he hadn't only said it earlier because Liam had told him first.

“I'll make you a recording of my snores if you're that fond of them, then,” Liam said, putting his hands on Niall's hips in return. Niall gave a laugh.

“That's not the same,” he said.

“Well, if you missed my snoring that much, don't abandon me again.”

“I didn't just miss your snores; I missed you, doofus,” Niall said endearingly. “And I would never abandon you.”

Liam smiled, his eyes crinkling up adorably, and Niall sighed, if only because breathing got a little bit difficult for a moment.

“Can we go somewhere so that I can kiss you?” he asked.

“Just kiss me here,” Liam said, shocking Niall for at least the third time that day, but he wasn't going to argue.

***Harry***

Harry was having a nightmare and he knew it was only a nightmare, but that didn't make it any less terrifying. He heard the car wheels screeching and his sister screaming like he was right there. He saw a flash of colors and, even though it was impossible, he swore he could feel the glass piercing his skin and his body crumbling in on itself as he hit the tree. His dreams of dancing were over. He was broken; he was worthless-he was…

Sweating. Harry was sweating a lot, he realized as he gasped and sat upright, looking around the room that he'd known all along he was in. He'd been telling himself even in his unconscious state that what he was seeing and feeling wasn't real. He wasn't in the car, about to be shattered in more ways than one. He was in a fancy hotel room with Louis; the love of his life who was doing his best to put his shattered pieces back together without knowing just how many shards of Harry there were.

“Hey, babe, sh...”

And speaking of Louis, here he came; hurrying to sit by Harry's feet on the bed, that familiar look of concern on his face.

“What's wrong?”

“Just...just a bad dream,” Harry said, his heart beat starting to slow down as he focused on the blue of Louis's eyes and the smoothness of his skin.

“Again?” Louis asked.

Harry didn't know what Louis meant by 'again' until he racked his brain and remembered that he had claimed to have had a bad dream when Louis had caught him pathetically crying in bed a few nights ago.

“Yeah,” Harry said, clearing his throat.

“Do you remember it this time?” Louis asked, making small circles with his thumb in Harry's hand. Harry wasn't even sure when he'd taken his hand, but the touch felt nice now.

“Um...yeah. It was more like a memory, actually, from when I got in that car wreck that I, uh, I think I told you about.”

“Yeah,” Louis said, nodding sympathetically.

“That's it,” Harry said, shrugging awkwardly.

“I totally get why it scared you,” Louis said, resting the hand that wasn't holding Harry's on the dancer's thigh as he leaned forward to place a kiss on his forehead, “but it was just a terrible blast from the past. You're here now and you achieved your dream of being a dancer and you are a brilliant dancer, love.”

Harry smiled briefly, but then had to swallow down the rising moisture in his eyes.

“I'm okay,” he assured Louis. “It just felt real and all, but, yeah, obviously it's not.”

“You promise you're okay?” Louis asked, giving Harry a look that hinted he didn't believe he was.

“I promised I would tell you when I wasn't, remember?”

“Mhm,” Louis hummed, raising Harry's hand to his lips to kiss the top of it. Then, without another word, he got off the bed and went to the nearby full-length mirror, sighing as he played around with his hair; messing it up, fixing it and then messing it up again.

“You don't sleep much,” Harry noted, bringing his knees up to his chin and wrapping his arms around them. “You're always awake when I wake up.”

“I don't think I require as much sleep as normal humans, honestly,” Louis said.

“Still...it seems like you should be exhausted,” Harry commented.

“I'm okay,” Louis assured him.

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“Promise to tell me when you're not?”

Louis huffed out a laugh, looking at Harry in the mirror.

“I promise.”

“Good.”

Stretching his legs out in front of him, Harry changed the subject.

“You're performing your new song tonight then?”

“Yes,” Louis said, but not before groaning.

“What was that about?” Harry questioned. “You don't want to perform it anymore?”

“No, I do, I'm just nervous. Performing any song for the first time is always scary, but it's even worse if no one has heard the song before.”

“Well, do you want to perform it for me so that you can get some practice? Not that you need it, I'm sure.”

“I don't know,” Louis said. “One-on-one performances are even more terrifying.”

“But I'm your boyfriend,” Harry pointed out, a happy jolt going through him as he spoke the word.

“I know,” Louis said, smiling at Harry as he got off of the bed and went to stand behind Louis, placing his chin on top of his head. He gave his own reflection a quick glance, but mirrors only led to bad things and so he quickly focused on the singer instead.

“Do you really want to hear it?” Louis asked.

“I would love to,” Harry answered. Louis nodded and Harry stepped back, allowing the other to grab his guitar.

“I haven't warmed up my voice,” Louis explained after clearing his throat as he got himself and his instrument situated on the bed, where Harry had sat again. “I might not sound great.”

“You'll sound fantastic, super star.”

Louis smiled as Harry laid across the bed, using his hand to keep his head propped up so that he could keep his eyes on his gorgeous boyfriend.

“Okay...Um...Here goes.”

Harry was so mesmerized by Louis's voice that it took him a moment to remember that he was supposed to be paying attention to the lyrics. That was how it always was when Harry heard a new song by the man. He listened to it a few times, just taking in the beautiful tone of Louis's voice and the vocal tricks he did that he made sound easy before focusing on the lyrical content.

That time, he focuses on Louis's fingers strumming the guitar and listened to it all.

You might not think you're a supermodel
But you look like one to me
I'd rather have your picture on my phone
Than on the cover of a magazine
It's hard to think that a * guy like you
Could have any insecurities
It's funny how all the things you would change
Are all things that are cute to me

And I know you don't believe me
And you think that I'm a fool
But I don't care

Maybe
You'll never see in you what I see
The little things you do that make me go crazy
I'm not crazy
You're perfectly perfect to me

You brush it off every time I tell you
Your smile lights up the room
And I'm guessing that you don't even notice
The whole world notices you
You think you're clumsy
I think you're cool
You say you're typical
But I think you rule
Sometimes I wonder if you'll ever believe
That I wrote this song for you

Maybe
You'll never see in you what I see
The little things you do that make me go crazy
I'm not crazy
You're perfectly perfect
Someday
You're gonna see you're beautiful this way
And that you're always gonna make me go crazy
I'm not crazy
You’re perfectly perfect to me

You don't have to try
Change a single thing
Cause just the way you are
Is sweeter than anything
Maybe I’m a fool but it’s always been you
Cause no one ever makes me smile the way you do...”

“And then it repeats the chorus again,” Louis spoke, clearing his throat and looking just short of petrified. Harry felt bad, wondering what his own face was showing because it felt like he had barely breathed during the entire song and he had to blink back tears. Louis shifted awkwardly.

“I mean, it will sound different with the other instruments and stuff if I decide to put it on an album,” he said, running his hand through his hair awkwardly, and Harry shook himself out of his fog.

“No, no, no,” he said, and then, “I mean, yes, it should definitely go on an album. It's...amazing. I was just left speechless.”

Louis didn't look as if he believed Harry at first, but when the dancer smiled, he did too.

“You don't have anything to worry about tonight,” Harry told him.

“You're sure you liked it? You can tell me the truth,” Louis said. “I can handle constructive criticism.”

“Lou, it was perfectly perfect.”

Louis laughed, and his eyes looked a little wet too, so Harry kissed his forehead and then went to brush his teeth, giving the other a moment to collect himself, should he want it.

“Do you want breakfast?” Louis asked, approaching the bathroom after only few seconds and leaning against the door frame.

“Mmm…,” Harry said, brushing his teeth with more force to save himself from answering. Louis put the pieces together himself.

“Guess not.”

“Sorry,” Harry said after spitting into the sink and then rinsing his mouth. “I'm just not very hungry right now.”

He truly wasn't. Though he had calmed down a lot listening to Louis's song, his nightmare was still there in his head, playing over and over. Harry didn't know why it still had so much power over him after all of this time, but it did.

“Don't apologize,” Louis said, entering the bathroom to kiss Harry. They were in the middle of kissing when Harry heard the other's stomach growl.

“I think you need food though,” Harry said, kissing Louis's chin.

“I'll wait a bit,” Louis said, turning his head to peck Harry's lips again.

“You're hungry.”

“Not much.”

“Come on. I'll come with you to get something.”

“I don't want to right now.”

Louis sounded so adamant that Harry had to pull back and study him, worried. He was overreacting, probably. Louis wasn't like Harry. Louis was normal. It was just that not eating while noticeably hungry was, to Harry, starving oneself and he didn't like Louis doing that; not one bit.

“Please eat,” he begged, and Louis frowned, probably picking up on the desperation in his voice.

“Okay,” he agreed after a moment and Harry took a quiet, but deep breath in.

“Thank you,” he said, grateful that Louis agreed without saying something along the lines of, “I'll eat if you eat,” as many had tried to do during Harry's darkest times.

“Anything for you,” Louis said, twisting his fingers in Harry's curls as he pulled him down into another kiss. “I mean it. Anything.”

The thing about it was that Harry believed those words. Or he believed that Louis meant them for the time being. He would do anything for Harry now, when his disorder seemed to be nothing more than a quirky personality trait. Louis didn't know the half of it, which wasn't his fault, and it also wouldn't be his fault when he discovered how deep the issues went and then left him, because it was inevitable.

Harry wasn't thinking about that right then though. Those thoughts passed through his head every day but he always pushed them away.

Live in the moment, Harry, he told himself. Besides, if he continued on the path he was on, his moments would be limited, or so his old psychologist would have said.

Chapter Text

***Niall***

As Niall had already discussed with Liam, real life wasn't like the movies. Even the best love stories weren't quite up to par with what one saw on the silver screen. However, that night, when Louis went up on stage alone and sang a song he had very obviously written for Harry in front of thousands of people, it almost felt like Niall was watching someone's wonderfully dramatic life unfolding before him.

Normal rules probably didn't apply to pop stars, Niall told himself.

Nobody knew that Louis was going to perform the new song (except, Niall suspected, Harry), and so the dancers stood backstage, looking around in confusion at first, but they were soon put into an almost trance-like state when Louis started singing. No one made a single noise during the performance besides Beatrice, who was trying to figure out what in the world was going on. The dancers as well as the audience listened intently to every word and every note, and only when Louis stopped singing and strumming his guitar, cleared his throat awkwardly and announced that he was done ,did the fans and the dancers erupt into cheers and applause. Liam turned to look at Niall.

“Aw,” they both mouthed at the same time, and then laughed.

“Who actually gets to date their celebrity crush and have a song written about them?” Liam wondered aloud as he moved closer to Niall.

“You know, I was just thinking the same thing,” Niall said.

“Back onstage, everyone! Hurry up!” Beatrice, looking quite frazzled, ordered, and so the dancers quickly scattered, Liam touching the small of Niall's back briefly as they ran to their spots.


The crew had to travel that night, which meant they were to be sleeping on their fancy buses instead of in their fancy hotels. Harry stayed with Louis, naturally, and, to Liam and Niall's surprise, Zayn went to sleep as soon as they finished the show (Niall made a mental note to check that he wasn't ill later), so that left Liam and Niall to lounge on the couch and play video games alone, trying to come down from the high of the show.

“Fuck I suck,” Liam announced on the fourth time his Mario Kart character (Donkey Kong) went off the side of Rainbow Road. Niall breathed out a laugh.

“Maybe you're just tired,” he tried.

“Not an excuse,” Liam said, and then cursed as Niall crossed the finish line for the final time. Niall laughed again and leaned sideways to kiss Liam on the cheek.

“Are you ready to go to bed then?” he asked.

“No,” Liam said. “We're not going to bed until I win one.”

“So competitive,” Niall said, yawning as Liam had.

“I don't know what you're talking about,” Liam claimed as he picked their next destination; Twisted Mansion.

It was a close one, but Liam ended up winning, and he cheered quietly as he crossed the finish line, smiling widely for an instant before his face became serious.

“You let me win, didn't you?” he asked.

“No,” Niall answered honestly. Well, almost honestly. He'd only purposely slipped on a banana once or twice. That didn't really count.

“You sure?” Liam asked, his eyes narrowed.

“Cross my heart,” Niall said, and Liam didn't need to know that his fingers were crossed childishly behind his back.

Smiling, Liam placed a quick kiss on Niall's lips before getting up and turning off the game console.

“I think I will be able to rest easily now.”

“I'm so glad.”

The two went back to the bunks, Liam crawling to the top of the empty one as Niall took the bottom.

'Rest easily' Liam did not, as Niall could hear him tossing and turning above him. Every time he would settle down and Niall would be nearly asleep, the movement began again, so, finally, Niall crawled out from under his sheet and climbed the ladder, standing at the top and staring at Liam until the other rolled over again, jumping when he saw Niall.

“Shit, you scared me.”

“Sorry,” Niall said. “Is everything okay up here?”

“Yeah. Sorry,” Liam said. “I was probably keeping you up, wasn't I?”

Niall chose not to answer; instead climbing the last step to sit on the bed, having to duck his head a bit to not touch the ceiling.

“Something the matter?” he asked.

“No,” Liam said. “My legs are just jumpy. I think jet lag is starting to hit me all of the sudden.”

“Hmm,” Niall hummed, moving gracefully to straddle Liam's legs. He ended up more lying on top of Liam, still trying to prevent an unwanted head injury, and the two stared at each other, chests together.

“Hi,” Liam said.

“Hi,” Niall replied, smiling. “Sorry, the goal was to put pressure on your legs and try to get them calm, but, uh...this happened.”

“I don't mind,” Liam said, moving his legs so that they were draped over Niall's. Niall swore he also added a certain ornery glint in his eye as well.

“Hey, Li?”

“Hm?”

“Will you go on another something with me when we have a free day?”

“Yeah, that sounds fun,” Liam said after only having to think for a moment. Niall would take it. He kissed Liam. Liam returned the kiss, biting Niall's bottom lip softly when he tried to pull away. Niall nearly moaned, but was luckily able to control himself. When they broke apart, Liam smirked.

“Yeah?” he asked.

“Yeah what?” Niall asked.

“Yeah,” Liam repeated, moving his arms around Niall's bare waist as he thrust up subtly. Niall's eyes widened.

“Li, Zayn is right over there,” he said.

“I can be quiet,” Liam said. “Can you?”

“No.”

“Ooh, that's hot.”

“No, I meant we can't do this yet. Not after only one something.”

“After the next one then?”

Niall narrowed his eyes, though he wasn't really upset and hoped Liam knew that.

“We don't have to set a certain amount of time,” Niall said. “We can just do it when it feels right, you know?”

“It doesn't feel right now?”

“No, and I think you know that.”

Liam hesitated, but then he nodded, dropping his arms down to his side and removing his legs from on top of Niall's.

“You're right. Sorry.”

“You don't need to apologize,” Niall said, laying next to Liam; his head on the other man's arm. “It 's just I...Well you know my reasoning.”

“Yeah,” Liam said. “Can't blame a guy for trying though. What do you expect when you climb on top of me nearly naked?”

Niall snorted, turning his head to kiss Liam's bicep.

“I'm flattered,” he said.

“Nah, you know you're hot.”

“I'm alright.”

“So modest.”

“You're hot.”

“I know.”

Niall laughed yet again, burying his face into Liam's side so the noise wouldn't wake Zayn up.

“I'm glad you know,” he said once he had composed himself. “How are your legs?”

“What? Oh, much less jumpy now, thanks. I think I'm going to fall asleep now.”

“I think that's a great idea.”

Liam hummed, pulling Niall even closer to his body than he already was and repositioning himself a few times before finally stilling.

“Goodnight, Li,” Niall said softly.

“Night, Ni.”

It only took a couple minutes for Liam to fall asleep, but it was around that time which Niall realized he really had to go to the bathroom. He waited a couple of minutes, waiting for Liam's mild snores to start and assure him that he was really asleep before snaking his way out from under the other man's arm and climbing down the bunk steps slowly.

Niall didn't take long at all in the toilet, but when he returned to the bunking area and climbed up to join Liam once again, he was startled to see his love very much awake.

“Oh,” he said. “I thought you were asleep.”

Liam gave the best shrug he could while laying down and simultaneously nodding. Niall laid by his side again. Liam didn't pull him closer that time.

“Sorry if I woke you,” Niall said. “I had to go to the bathroom.”

“It's okay,” Liam said and then, after a brief pause, “Are you staying?”

“Yes,” Niall said, and the dramatic part of him wondered if Liam had meant more than for just the night. It didn't really matter, of course, because his answer would be the same either way. He simply couldn't believe that they were now at the point where Liam would ask him to stay in any way.

***Louis***

“Lou, everyone is freaking out over the new song,” Harry announced the next morning when Louis exited the bathroom only in his boxers and laid next to his boyfriend on his tour bus bed.

“In a good way or bad?” Louis asked.

“Good. It's all good.”

“I don't believe you,” Louis said. There was no way that Harry wasn't at least exaggerating because Louis had felt like he hadn't performed the song very well, especially for the fact that he'd been introducing it.

“Honest,” Harry said, setting his phone on the nightstand and then laying sideways in perfect position to kiss the bare part of Louis's thigh. In turn, Louis began doing one of the things he loved to do most; play with Harry's curls.

“You're so pretty, tiny dancer,” he complimented and then, “Hey, is that, uh, triggering? When I call you tiny dancer?”

“No,” Harry said. “I like it. Are you going to perform your song again tonight?”

“Yeah. Luckily, Beatrice liked the song enough to add it to the set permanently and I got in no trouble for changing up our strict schedule.”

“I'm glad. It's a wonderful song. I want to hear it again.”

“You might not think you're a supermodel, but you look like one to me,” Louis sang, but then stopped and smiled when Harry turned his head to look up at him. “Do we really have to get out of bed today?”

“Not for a while. We haven't even reached our destination yet.”

“Good.”

“Want to make love?”

“Damn, you nympho, we went two rounds last night,” Louis teased, but, of course, he was just as ready and willing as Harry, so the two spent the next little while rolling around in the sheets until Harry collapsed down next to Louis again and let out a big yawn.

“Need a nap now?” Louis asked, kissing Harry one more time.

“I don't think I was actually ready to wake up when I did,” Harry said.

“Go back to sleep.”

“I don't want to be lazy.”

“You're not lazy. You're jet lagged.”

In response, Harry yawned again.

“Sleep,” Louis said, gently closing Harry's eyes for him.

“Wake me up in thirty minutes unless you fall asleep.”

“Sure thing, love.”

Seeming satisfied, Harry nodded, sighed and then, slowly, Louis saw his muscles relax as he drifted off.

Louis also heard his stomach growl. First thing when Harry woke, Louis was going to try to get him to at least eat a little something. Or maybe he would try to get him to eat a lot because, for the life of him, he couldn't actually remember when the last time he'd seen Harry eat was, and that disturbed him. It also made him feel guilty. Clearly he was a shit boyfriend if he was only now noticing this.

Biting his lip, Louis leaned carefully over Harry and took his phone from the nightstand. He was taking a huge chance, he knew, but he had to do this.

Slipping out of bed, Louis went as far away from the bedroom as he could and entered the code to get into Harry's phone. (He'd learned it from Liam, who once unlocked the phone to take selfies and post them on Harry's facebook.) With his guilt only growing, Louis went to Harry's phone book and searched until he found 'mum.' Then, dizzy from how awful he felt, he called.

“Hey, lovey,” a warm female voice greeted. Louis swallowed.

“Hi. Um, this isn't actually Harry. This is Louis. Uh...Louis Tomlinson. Louis T.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” the woman said slowly, clearly confused. The confusion in her tone quickly evaporated, though, and then she just sounded worried; maybe even fearful. “Is something wrong with Harry?!”

“Harry is fine. He's sleeping right now, but he's fine,” Louis assured her, and even though he didn't know how true that statement was, it was what she needed to hear right then. Louis knew how moms worried and he could only imagine how Anne felt with her son so far away from her on a world tour and with the history that he had. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to worry you.”

“No, no, it's fine. I'm a spaz.”

Harry's mom laughed awkwardly.

“I'm Anne, by the way.”

“Hello, Anne. I'm really sorry to call you like this.”

“It's completely fine, dear, though I must ask, is there a particular reason for this call? Not that I mind. It's nice to finally be able to talk to my son's boyfriend.”

“Actually, that's kind of why I'm calling. I wanted to invite you and the rest of your family to a show! Any one you'd like.”

“Oh, I would love to go,” Anne said. “The only reason I haven't is because all of the ones I find that would work are sold out! Which is great, of course. Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

Louis wasn't sure why he was blushing, but he decided to not dwell on it.

“The 'sold out' status doesn't count for families though,” he explained. “Even if we can't find seats, you are all more than welcome to stay and watch the show from backstage. I'll even call your work if you need help getting time off.”

Anne laughed at that, but then asked, “Are you sure everything is alright?”

“I think so, yeah,” Louis said, but Anne was a mom, which practically meant that she was a mind reader, and she didn't let the slight change of answer slip past her.

“Has Harry been eating alright?” she asked.

“Um..,” Louis stalled, but Anne saved him the trouble of lying or sugar coating the truth.

“Oh dear,” she sighed.

“I'm not sure whether his behavior should actually be that worrisome or not,” Louis told her quickly. “I just thought it would be nice for you all to see each other again.”

“I'm glad you're looking out for Harry, Louis. Thank you.”

“Could you please not tell Harry that I said anything?”

“You didn't say anything, really. I won't say a word.”

“Thank you.”

“If it's at all possible, I think the show you're doing next Saturday would work for us,” Anne said.

“Yeah, of course!” Louis said, a feeling of relief flooding through him. “It's no trouble at all. Don't worry about the flight either. I'll have my manager call you and he'll sort everything out. He's much better with details than I am.”

“You really don't have to do any of this, Louis.”

“I want to. I'll see you next Saturday?”


“You seriously never sleep,” Harry commented when Louis woke him up after thirty minutes, as he'd promised.

“How do you know I didn't just wake up myself?” Louis asked.

“You're much too bright-eyed,” Harry said.

“My eyes just sparkle,” Louis joked.

“They do,” Harry agreed, “but you still didn't just wake up.”

Reaching out, Harry pulled Louis gently over top of him and kissed him, smiling as they broke apart. Louis returned the smile, though it was much more difficult than it should have been. He hadn't done anything wrong by inviting Harry's family to a show. It was something he'd been meaning to do anyway. Sure, he had ulterior motives; hoping that they would be able to tell better than Louis how serious the situation was and teach Louis how to help, but that still wasn't a bad thing. He had good intentions. He was so lost and scared when it came to Harry's health and happiness, and even though he might not be the best boyfriend, he wasn't going to sit around and wait for something bad to happen once he finally got his head out of his own butt hole.

“Babe, will you eat something?” Louis asked as Harry sat up and Louis backed away to avoid a head collision.

“I have a headache,” Harry said, suddenly looking uncomfortable.

“Aspirin and some food then?”

The dancer chewed on his lip. Louis could tell he really wanted to say 'no,' but luckily, he agreed to 'a little something' anyway, saving Louis from being the bad guy that time.

You're not the bad guy, Louis , he told himself as he watched Harry shake as he lifted his fork to take a bite of his chicken. That was one thing his therapist wanted him to work on; the self-blame. Louis had a tendency to blame himself for everything; every single technicality that went wrong during shows, whenever someone was ill (even if he had been perfectly healthy), his inability to keep men around and every time he found his mother sad. Now there was another thing to add to the list in Harry's sadness. How that would be Louis's fault, he didn't readily know, but give him some time and he would surely come up with a list of at least twenty reasons.

“You're being quiet,” Harry noted once his chicken was half gone. Louis snapped himself out of his state of self-pity and offered a smile.

“Sorry,” he said. “Just...you have a headache.”

“You can still talk,” Harry said. “You're loud, but you're not that loud.”

Louis smiled. Harry started to return it and then stopped himself.

“Something is wrong,” he stated, not questioning it at all.

“Nothing's wrong,” Louis insisted.

“You seem off.”

“Jet lag.”

“Understandable, though it probably wouldn't be so bad if you slept when you could.”

“I got a full five hours of sleep last night, thank you very much.”

“Look at you, the king of rest.”

“Hush it and eat your chicken.”

Harry grimaced and for a moment appeared to be on the verge of arguing, but then he took another bite of his food. Louis did a happy dance on the inside and only just resisted thanking Harry. Thanking someone for something as simple as eating wasn't normal and, though it wasn't easy for Harry (and what really was normal anyway?), Louis knew better than to basically call him out on it.

Instead, he smiled.

“You make me happy,” he said, causing Harry to look up, a shocked expression on his face.

“I do?” he asked after swallowing his bite of chicken.

“Yeah,” Louis said. “You really do.”

The widest smile that Louis had ever seen on Harry's face formed there then, making Louis's heart flutter, and he wanted to cry. He had a bit more control over his emotions than that, so he didn't, but he wanted to.

In lieu of crying, Louis took Harry's hand and the two silently continued eating.

***Liam***

Holy shit, guys, has Bob Marley joined the tour or something?”

“Harry!” Liam exclaimed as his friend climbed onto the tour bus while at a stop, and he spoke at the same time that Zayn said,

“Bob Marley is dead.”

“Sure doesn't smell like it,” Harry replied, sitting next to Liam and taking the joint right out of his hand to take a hit.

“Watch out, Harry,” Zayn warned, “you might get the munchies. Wait, is it even possible for you to get the munchies?”

“Zayn!” Liam hissed, but Harry only laughed.

“Guess we'll find out.”

“I hope you do. You should eat. Eating is good for you.”

“I just ate lunch. I'm good, mate. Where's Niall?”

“Sleeping,” Liam replied. “Where's Louis?”

“Sleeping,” Harry said. “Finally.”

“What's he going to do when he wakes up and you're gone?” Liam asked, frowning.

“We're less than an hour from where we need to be. I'm hoping he just stays asleep, but I left a note. It will be okay, I promise.”

“How are you doing, Harry?” Zayn asked, his face serious. He looked much like a therapist, ready to take notes, except he had a drug bag and a join t instead of a pen and paper.

“I'm fine,” Harry said, giving Zayn a strange look. “How are you two doing?”

“Good,” Liam said as Zayn replied 'great.'

“How are things with Niall, Li?” Harry asked.

“Okay, I guess,” Liam said, not sure how to answer since he didn't even know what the true answer would be. “We're not together or anything.”

“You don't date,” Harry and Zayn said at the same time, and then high-fived each other.

“Correct,” Liam said.

You need to get over that,” Zayn piped up, as if it were simple.

“You don't know what's happened to me,” Liam said, not realizing until afterward how dramatic that sounded. Oh well.

“Shit happens to everyone , mate,” Zayn said. “Niall loves you. You love him. Be together.”

“Love doesn't exist.”

Liam didn't honestly believe that, but in the moment, it was the only thing he could think to say.

“Anyway,” he continued, “I haven't had sex in, like, a really long time and I'm really sad about it.”

He took another puff.

“You haven't had sex because you're waiting on Niall,” Zayn pointed out. “If that isn't love, then I don't know what love is.”

“You don't know what love is because you don't date either,” Harry said.

“You don't know what love is because it doesn't exist,” Liam, keeping up his facade, commented.

“Love does exist and I do know what it is, even if I haven't ever been, and probably will never be, in love. Jeez. Tough crowd.”

Zayn took another puff himself.

“Enough about me,” Liam said. “This isn't about me. This is about Harry.”

“What? Nothing is about me. I just came to hang out with you guys, not get into a therapy session.”

“We all need therapy,” Liam decided.

“Been there, done that,” Harry said with a lazy wink.

“Does that mean you win the most fucked up award?” Liam asked.

“No, it means he wins most sane award because he actually got help. We're just self medicating and pretending.”

“Whoa,” Liam said, nodding slowly. “That was deep.”

“Too deep. Stop or I will jump off this bus,” Harry said, rising to his feet and looking out the window as the vehicle began to move.

“Never mind, Harry's still more fucked up than us. He should sue his shrink,” Zayn said.

“Don't jump, Harry!” Liam cried. “I will miss you.”

“I'm not jumping off anything,” Harry promised, sitting on the couch behind Liam, who took that as an opportunity to rest his head against Harry's legs. The smaller dancer began playing with his hair.

“I'm sorry I haven't asked you how you're doing recently,” Liam apologized. “I'm a selfish bastard.”

“I haven't asked you either,” Harry pointed out.

“You're not a selfish bastard though.”

“Neither are you. Anyway, I'm fine. I miss you all though. Sorry I haven't been around much.”

“It's alright. You're in love!” Liam said.

“I thought love didn't exist?” Zayn spoke.

“You're in heat!”

Harry laughed.

“One or the other.”

Seriously, though, we all need to go out again, like, soon. Okay? All of us. Okay?”

“Okay,” Harry and Zayn said at the same time, and laughed.

“Don't mock me,” Liam said.

“Aww, poor thing,” Zayn cooed, crawling over to pinch Liam's cheek as Harry leaned down to place a friendly kiss on the top of his head.

“You know we love you,” Harry said. “Or whatever you call it since love doesn't exist.”

“Yeah, yeah. I like you guys a lot too.”

“Burn,” Zayn sighed, laying across Liam's lap. It wasn't comfortable for either, but Liam wasn't going to say anything.

“Come join us, Harry,” he said instead, finding the man's bony wrist and pulling lightly on it. He was pretty sure Harry hadn't always been that bony, but he kept quiet for the time being because if Harry wasn't going to mention the three alcohol bottles next to Liam that he slipped on while rejoining the others on the floor, Liam wasn't going to call him out either. Later he would, he decided, but not right now. There was a lot that Liam wasn't good at, but procrastinating wasn't one of them, no matter the consequences.

Chapter Text

***Liam***

Liam didn't know why he was so excited and simultaneously nervous for the something with Niall. He spent almost all of his time with Niall and this would be no different than usual. Sure, it was a little different than just a normal hang out session because it was a scheduled something, but it still wasn't a date.

No matter how many times Liam told himself that, his head and his body did not seem to be getting the memo.

“Oh, god, don't do that, please,” Niall gasped, putting his hands over Liam's as he'd begun to subconsciously hit his wrists against the door handle of the cab they were in.

“Sorry,” Liam apologized, embarrassed. He'd honestly not even noticed that he'd been doing it and was ashamed of the way his wrists hurt now.

“S'okay,” Niall assured him with a small smile. He opened and closed his hands tightly, but comfortingly around Liam's before simply holding his hand.

“Why can't I know where we're going?” Liam asked.

“I never said you couldn't,” Niall told him. “You asked where we were going, I said it was a surprise and you dropped it.”

“Well where are we going then?”

“I'm not telling now. We're almost there.”

Liam glared, but Niall gave his biggest, cheesiest smile and then he couldn't help but to laugh, turning to the window.

“No, why do you always do that?!” Niall asked.

“Do what?” Liam asked, still not facing the other.

“Turn away whenever you genuinely smile! Your smile is so pretty!”

Using the hand that wasn't holding Liam's, Niall gently turned his face to him and laughed when he saw Liam doing his best to stop smiling; his lips puckered up comically.

“Smile!” he demanded. When Liam refused to give in, Niall began tickling his side. Liam jerked, nearly hitting Niall, but luckily Niall had fast reflexes and he moved just in time, shifting enough to avoid any injuries, but still close enough to tickle Liam.

“Look, Mercedes!” Niall said to the cab driver. “Isn't his smile pretty?!”

“It is,” she agreed, glancing at them in the rear view mirror and smiling a bit herself. They were so lucky that they got one of the few existing patient cab drivers, Liam thought. “You two are cute. Excuse me for asking, but are you two a couple?”

“You're excused, but nope,” Niall said, easing up on the tickling as Liam claimed he was about to piss himself.

“Huh,” Mercedes said, and the topic was left at that.


“The zoo?” Liam asked as Mercedes pulled up to drop them off at what was clearly a zoo a few minutes later. “The same zoo?”

“The same zoo,” Niall confirmed, and Liam smiled (not turning away that time.)

“No stealing highlighters this time, okay?” Liam asked, giving Niall a stern look that was somewhat ruined by the grin that was still on his face.

“Hey, I told you that I returned that.”


Liam hadn't been to the zoo-any zoo-since that day he'd met Niall and even though he was much older now, he enjoyed it a lot more this time around. Niall insisted on reading all of the facts about the animals out loud, and though Liam was never going to retain any of that information, he didn't mind at all. He listened to him speak while making faces at or taking pictures of the creatures.

Eventually, the two wandered into the gift shop where they'd first met and nostalgia hit Liam like a ton of bricks. The merchandise had changed in the shop, but the set up was more or less the same, and he could still tell exactly where he'd been standing when Niall approached him to compliment his cast. As if he were on autopilot, he found his legs going to stand there. Niall followed.

“My pick-up line last time was great and all, but I'm really glad you don't have a cast this time,” he commented as Liam looked briefly at the cheap toys.

“Haven't gone horse back riding in a while,” Liam commented.

“Hmm,” Niall hummed.

“I wish that day had gone differently,” Liam admitted out loud, feeling a nearby sweatshirt so he didn't have to put his full attention on the other man. No matter how that day had gone, Liam knew that he would have, in the end, had to go back home. He couldn't run away to live with Niall like he had fantasized back then, but in the least, they could have exchanged numbers or something. Still, Liam knew he only had himself to blame. He'd been the one who had gone running without a single word or backward glance like the coward he was when his father had called, but he'd been beaten anyway, so he really should have just stayed an extra minute or so. What was an extra bruise? Liam hadn't even really cared about the beating anyway. What had hurt more was his father asking what his 'queer ass' had been doing with 'that boy.' Liam hadn't even come out yet, but that didn't stop his dad from making assumptions, and he hadn't hesitated in telling him that the then-nameless boy at the zoo would never want anything to do with him; that he'd surely made an embarrassment out of himself.

“Me too, but fate seems to have a way around things,” Niall had said, and Liam didn't argue about 'fate' being a whole lot of shit or anything because it was nice to sometimes entertain the notion that it wasn't. It was nice to think that maybe Liam's old man had been wrong and that when he caught Niall staring at him instead of the monkeys, it could have meant something. Maybe it could mean that Niall would one day fall in love with him, like Liam had wished for back when he'd still allowed himself to long for such things.


After the zoo, Niall took Liam to mini-golf, and Liam was worse than he had imagined he could be, but Niall was a pro. He didn't rub his talent in Liam's face, though. Instead, he helped him the best that was possible; standing behind Liam and putting his hands over his as he positioned the other man in a better stance. Liam felt like a teenager, but he didn't mind. This was how he'd always wanted to feel as a teenager-safe and warm inside and out, and happy. Back when Liam was a teenager, he probably would have even called this a date. But it wasn't a date, Liam reminded himself, and he wasn't a teenager. Things had changed.

They don't have to be this way, Liam, a voice in the back of his head said.


The men had their cab driver stop and allow them to get fast food on the way home. This cab driver was much less nice and patient than Mercedes and didn't hide the fact that was was grumbling unhappily under his breath, but he perked up when Niall bought him a sandwich and chips.


“I had a great time,” Liam told Niall once they were in Niall's hotel room, eating their food on his bed. Niall finished taking a sip of his drink and smiled widely.

“I'm glad you did. I did too, of course.”

“Hey, Niall...um...I'm not saying this because I'm expecting you to wait on me or anything, but I just think you should know...I'm changing, I think; slowly. I'm a better person now than I was a month ago...I think.”

“You've always been a great person, Liam,” Niall said. “You just haven't always been great to yourself.”

“I haven't been a great person,” the other man disagreed. “On graduation day, this guy that I'd been fucking brought me flowers and asked me out on an actual date and I yelled at him and dropped the flowers right there on the ground before walking away from him.”

“Well, he should have chased after you,” Niall said, like that would have been the obvious thing to do. “You were worth chasing after, and you're worth waiting for.”

Liam sipped on his drink so that he could easier swallow down the protest that wanted to escape, but also because he needed to cool down his suddenly hot face. Niall took that as a cue to change the subject.

“Has this trip to Ireland been better than your last one?”

“Much.”

“Good.”

“I still can't believe that you're the boy I met at the zoo, though.”

“I know,” Niall agreed. “You're even more gorgeous than I imagined you would be after all this time.”

Liam huffed out a small laugh.

“At that age, I had nowhere to go but up,” he said.

“I thought you were cute,” Niall said with a smile.

“Thanks,” Liam said, but it was then that a sudden unpleasant thought settled itself upon him, and his smile quickly turned to a frown.

“What's wrong?” Niall asked immediately.

“Nothing is wrong, I guess. I was just wondering...You're coming back here after the tour, right?”

“Probably, unless I find a job prospect somewhere else…Or if something inspires me to move.”

Liam nodded, forcing another small smile even though he didn't feel any of his previous happiness at all. He took a drink of his soda, wishing it were alcohol, which they had in the mini fridge, but instead of getting himself one, Liam swallowed his drink and then kissed Niall. Niall accepted the kiss, even setting down the remaining couple bites of his sandwich to return it. After a minute, both of their meals had been moved to the nightstand and Niall was laying on top of Liam, snaking his hands up his shirt to feel his abs.

This is it, Liam thought as Niall made a small moan into his mouth. It's actually happening.

But then, just as Liam was about to help Niall get his shirt off, the Irishman collapsed onto the bed next to Liam, looking at him with an ornery smile on his face.

“Why?” Liam groaned.

“I'm eating,” Niall said simply, kissing Liam before sitting up and gathering his food again.

“You make me crazy,” Liam said as Niall popped a chicken nugget into his mouth (because of course he got a sandwich and chicken nuggets too.)

“In a good way or bad?” the other asked after mostly chewing his food up.

“Good,” Liam decided after thinking on it for a moment. There may have been a little bad in there too, but he wasn't going to tell Niall that because Liam was probably just bad crazy all on his own. Niall smiled, but Liam apparently wasn't done speaking yet, much to his own surprise.

“I seriously don't even know who I am anymore,” he said.

“I think you're actually just starting to discover yourself,” Niall suggested. “I think you're figuring out who you are without the walls you put up for everyone, including yourself.”

“Whoa, Dr. Psychologist, I need a drink after that session!” Liam said, no longer able to resist his longing for a nice cold beer. “Want one?” he asked as he made his way to the mini fridge.

“Sure.”

Liam took out two bottles and handed one to Niall as he joined him again on the bed. The men propped themselves against the headboard on pillows, popped their caps, sighed and then took a drink all in synch with each other. Then, they laughed.

“Wasn't that cute?” Niall asked rhetorically, and Liam giggled his agreement. Suddenly, Liam thought that it would be okay if Niall wanted to come back to Ireland after the tour because, if he wanted him to, then Liam would come with him. Currently, he may only be at a hotel in a country he knew next to nothing about, but in that moment, he'd never felt more at home.

***Harry***

On Sunday, Harry received the news from his mother that she would be attending the upcoming Saturday’s show along with his father and sister. Over the phone, Harry told his mom that he couldn't wait, but inside, he was on the edge of freaking out, and not in a good way. He felt terrible that he didn't want them to come but it was nothing against them, of course. It was just that, even though Harry didn't think he looked like he'd lost any weight, the scale claimed otherwise. Every time he sneaked off to a hotel fitness room while Louis was showering, the number read a little less. The only explanation Harry could come up with was that he was losing the little amount of muscle he'd had and gaining fat. Supposedly, muscle weighed more than fat.

Harry's mom tended to think he look skinner every time she was him regardless of if he had gained or lost weight, and Harry hoped she wouldn't make him weigh himself, but he knew the possibility was high. That was bound to lead to trouble. Anne had taken the goal weight that the doctors in rehab had assigned Harry and used it as the only mark that he was healthy. Then, she'd added a few pounds as Harry grew taller. Sometimes Harry thought she secretly hated him.

Now, Harry was twenty pounds under that rehab goal, and while he wasn't in so much denial that he claimed all of his eating habits to be normal, his family would freak out much more than necessary. Their stress would likely lead to Louis worrying and, if the worst happened, Harry would be forced to drop out of the tour and go to rehab again, leaving behind his love and his dream.

So, yeah, Harry thought he had good reason to not be terribly thrilled over this news.

After pacing back and forth in the empty hotel room (Louis being downstairs working out), Harry came up with a possible solution. It wasn't the best, and it was absolutely terrifying, but it was all Harry had in the moment.

He was going to try to gain weight. He didn't need to, no matter what any doctor or scale said, but experience had taught Harry that his family would rather him be too heavy than what they considered too light, and so for the next week, he would get as close to that goal weight as he could. In the mean time, he would hate himself, but Harry wasn't quite ready to give up Louis yet.

“Hey, babe,” Louis greeted when he got back from exercising. He looked so cute all pink-faced and sweaty, and despite the fact that Harry still felt awful inside, he managed to smile.

“Hi,” he said. “Have a good work out?”

“It was pretty good, yeah. I really need to shower, though.”

“Okay, but real quick, I wanted to tell you that my parents and sister are coming to your show on Saturday.”

“Oh, yeah, Dean told me a little bit ago,” Louis said with his own smile. “I didn't know if they wanted it to be a surprise or not, but I'm glad they're coming.”

“Me too,” Harry lied. Louis smiled again and was about to round the corner into the bathroom when Harry called out to him.

“Hey, can I take you to dinner tonight?”

Louis stopped moving completely for a moment and didn't say anything. Harry didn't take offense. He knew that Louis had noticed him eating slightly less recently and thought the singer was probably just trying to figure out if he'd heard him correctly.

“I'd love that,” he finally said.

“Great,” Harry said, his stomach already churning. “We'll pick a place when you get out of the shower.”


Harry ordered two drinks that night, knowing he was going to have to be fairly intoxicated to do this. Besides, alcohol was supposed to really put weight on a person and Harry figured if he had to gain anything, that this was the funner way to do that.

On top of his two drinks, Harry ordered an actual meal, not just a salad or a lone piece of chicken. He ate the chicken, but he also ate bread, potatoes and a vegetable, as well as some of the sauce that came with his meat. It was oddly enjoyable at first. Harry was pretty sure his taste buds were actually throwing a party, but the pleasure didn't last long. Harry was only halfway through his meal when he had to bolt to the bathroom to let it all back up.

“It's okay, love,” Louis said soothingly, rubbing Harry's back because of course he'd followed, as if Harry wasn't embarrassed enough.

“I think it was the alcohol,” Harry claimed, even though it wasn't true. He'd had to get sick because his body had been too disgusted with the excessive amount of fat and calories he'd been putting into it.

Pig.

“Yeah, the alcohol made me feel a little funny too,” Louis agreed anyway. “We'll get out of here. You can wait outside if you need to. I'll take care of the bill and call the driver.”

“I'll be okay,” Harry assured Louis, fearing that he would start crying if left alone.

Why in the world was Louis even interested in him?


“I feel gross,” Harry told Louis once they were back at the hotel, and he did, but only part of it was from getting sick. Most of the dirtiness he felt, water wasn't going to be able to wash away but that didn't mean that Harry wasn't going to try.

In the shower was where Harry ended up breaking down. He didn't cry long, but he knew it would be pointless to try to stop himself. That would only prolong the inevitable and Harry would much rather crack alone in the shower than around Louis.

“What's wrong?” Louis asked when Harry exited the bathroom. Harry's eyes were still a bit red, but he was going to try to play it off.

“Nothing,” he answered, getting into the bed next to Louis. “Just still don't feel great.”

Louis kissed the back of Harry's neck before pulling him closer.

“I'm sorry, baby,” he said.

“What are you sorry for?”

“Because you don't feel good,” Louis answered, though Harry thought he had paused to think about that answer. He decided to go with it anyway, knowing the pause could have just been in his head.

“You don't either,” Harry noted, remembering what Louis had told him in the restaurant bathroom.

“I'm okay. I just drank way too fast because I was trying to keep up with you,” Louis said, a teasing tone in his voice.

“Well, you didn't vomit, so I think you win.”

Louis moved his arms just enough to intertwine his fingers with Harry's.

“Can I do anything to help you?” the singer asked.

“This is perfect.”

Somehow, despite the day he'd had, Harry felt himself suddenly relaxing and even becoming sleepy. He even almost smiled when he felt Louis kiss the back of his neck again.

“Are you cold?” the singer asked.

“A little,” Harry said, and so Louis pulled the blankets closer until they were tucked underneath Harry's chin. The dancer hummed in near content.

“Thank you.”

“You're welcome. Feel better, tiny dancer.”


Harry didn't feel better when he woke. In fact, he believed it to be the stabbing pains in his stomach that woke him and he was gagging before he even opened his eyes. Luckily, he managed to not be sick and the nausea left almost immediately. Even luckier, Louis was still asleep. He was also sweating and so Harry removed the top blanket from his body and then put on some socks to get a small bag of nuts from a nearby vending machine in the hallway. He ate half of the bag and left the rest for when Louis woke.


After the ordeal at the restaurant, Harry took his gaining weight goal slower. He didn't want to start rumors that he had turned bulimic on top of everything else.

Even still, it only took Harry two days to gain three pounds.

This is good, he told himself as he stared at the number. You needed to gain weight until your family leaves. They'll think you're okay. This is good.