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Naked & Proud

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“‘Move to the country,’ she said,” Louis mutters under his breath, gripping the steering wheel of his Porsche tightly enough that the leather squeaks under his fingers. “‘It’ll do you some good,’ she said.”

Granted, his mother will probably be right in the long run, but did she have to suggest somewhere so fucking quaint?

The town itself is tiny, as evidenced by the ten minutes it’s taken Louis to drive the entire thing. There’s not a single recognisable brand in sight no Tesco or McDonald’s or even a bloody Starbucks. Lining the streets instead are mom and pop stores with names like ‘Jerry’s Burgers’ and ‘The Market Basket’ and…

“'Naked & Proud?'” Louis almost slams on the brakes at the outlandish sign, the name written in a seemingly innocent font, words curved around a large cartoon peach. He can’t help turning into the carpark, easing the car into a spot next to a beat up truck.

He isn’t sure what to make of it. Surely it isn’t a strip joint or sex shop, not with the families and little old ladies going in and out of the establishment. Some kind of nudist hangout, perhaps?

And, oh, God. Did Louis’ mother accidentally send him to live in a nudist colony?

“Just go check it out,” he scolds himself, killing the engine and tugging off his seatbelt. The customers wandering in and out seem to be wearing an adequate amount of clothing, which is a good sign, but if it turns out to be something else, well, Louis hasn’t even unpacked yet, thankfully.

Not that he has anything against nudists. He just doesn’t, you know, want to be one.

There’s a chime above the door that tinkles merrily when Louis steps inside, the cool air of the business a welcome respite from the muggy June air. The lighting is dimmer than he’d expected not quite the harsh fluorescent lighting of most businesses with dull light filtering in through skylights in the roof of the store.

Because that’s what it is. A store. Of the grocery variety, not of the sex toy variety. Louis isn’t sure whether he’s disappointed or relieved.

Still, he’s here, and his rented home has a very empty fridge, so he might as well take a look around.

He grabs a shopping trolley from the corral near the door, setting off toward what seems to be the frozen section and avoiding the produce altogether. He’s never been one for cooking, instead relying on frozen dinners and takeaway to keep him from keeling over. And takeaway doesn’t exactly seem to be an option around here.

When he gets to the freezer section, it takes him a moment to get his bearings. There isn’t a single brand he recognises, not the burritos he likes, or the pizza with the salami on it, or even the single serve ice creams he eats far too many of for his own good.

There are burritos, and pizzas, and ice cream, but they’re all—

“Organic?” Louis wonders aloud, picking up a burrito and flipping it over. The packaging has a blurb about how only the freshest, most natural ingredients are used, all locally sourced. Scanning the rest of the products, he sees more of the same—organic, sustainable, fair trade.

“Figures,” he says, chucking the burrito into his trolley (because he’s already here, and that’s it). He’s always rolled his eyes at people clamoring to eat as healthy as possible, avoiding preservatives and gluten and whatever the hell else they’ve decided is bad for them this week. How does that saying go? The one about health nuts feeling silly one day when they’re dying of nothing?

Louis will take his processed food and his grease and his gluten, whatever the hell that actually is, thank you very much.

He manages to keep his comments mostly to himself as he navigates the store, occasionally scoffing at a label or balking at the price of a box of something vaguely seed like. Seriously, what the fuck is quinoa? But by the time he reaches the checkouts, his trolley has a fair few items in it, most of it snacks. There is a bottle of environmentally friendly hand soap, though, as well as a handmade face scrub that smelled entirely too good to pass up. A few items are chucked in out of curiosity, like crisps made out of kale and a package of gluten-free biscuits.

The cashier greets him with an easy smile, his dyed blond hair as sunny as his disposition. “Thanks for shoppin’ at Naked & Proud,” he says by way of greeting, scanning the items as he speaks. His Irish accent makes the name sound more ridiculous than it already is, and Louis has to stifle a giggle because he’s apparently twelve instead of twenty-seven.

“Did ya find everything okay?” the cashier asks, stacking up Louis’ selection of chocolate bars as he scans them. ‘Niall,’ his name tag proclaims, the writing nestled under a picture of the same peach from the sign outside.

Louis wonders if the innuendo is intentional. Hell, why didn’t they throw in a banana for good measure? Go big or go home.

“Fine, thanks,” Louis answers, not impolitely but not quite enthusiastic either. At this point he’s ready to go home, kick up his feet, and find out if his organic burrito tastes any different than the regular kind.

Seriously, how much difference can there be between organic bell peppers and normal ones?

Louis swipes his card once Niall rattles off the total, already composing a text in his head to his friend Liam about his shopping adventure. When Niall asks about bags, Louis responds “plastic” without hesitation, and is confused when his answer is met with laughter.

“Sorry, mate, but we don’t use plastic bags,” Niall says, pointing out a sign on the checkstand touting the evils of the bags in question. “We sell canvas bags, or I can get ya a box to put everything in.”

Louis glares at the rack of canvas bags, each emblazoned with that damn peach and the shop’s name. Some have sayings as well, things about recycling or being vegan or supporting local businesses. They aren’t expensive, and Louis could definitely afford to buy the two or three it would take to carry his purchases, but it’s the principle of the thing, dammit.

“A box will be fine, thanks,” he says flatly, already annoyed. Fucking hipsters. The bags are probably made of hemp or some shit, from farmers who sing lullabies to their plants and fertilise them with manure from cows who get weekly massages.

If Niall can sense the annoyance radiating off Louis, he doesn’t react. Instead, he gives a jovial shrug of his shoulders, chirping “suit yourself” as he bends to get a box. It’s an apple box, the cardboard still smelling faintly of the fruit, and Niall packs everything neatly inside before handing it over, Louis’ receipt tucked among the groceries.

“Thanks for stopping by. Come back and see us,” Niall recites, treating Louis with a toothy grin before turning to the next customer in line.

Not likely, Louis thinks to himself, awkwardly gathering up his box of groceries and heading outside. If he didn’t feel out of place before, seeing his Boxster in the parking lot among sensible sedans and farm trucks makes him realise just how out of his element he is.

But he can’t afford to think like that. He came out here for fresh air and inspiration, not to try and fit in with the locals. Straightening his back, Louis stomps to his flashy car with pride, depositing the apple box in the passenger seat before sliding into the driver’s side and pulling away.

He won’t be coming back.

&&

It’s not quite a week later when Louis finds himself slinking back to Naked & Proud like a dog with its tail between its legs.

It’s those goddamn burritos. As much as he tried to make himself hate them, they were actually quite good. He’s been craving them ever since, despite finding his usual brand at the other grocer in town. Still, something about those organic beans and that whole-wheat tortilla has been calling to him, so here he is to stock up on the damn things.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and the store is moderately busy. It seems like every aisle has someone in it, and Niall isn’t the only checker this time. He is present, however, his brash voice carrying through the store with each enthusiastic greeting. Louis stands in his line, only moderately embarrassed to have nothing in his basket except burritos, but if anyone is judging him it’s probably for his carefully styled hair or the mess of tattoos littering his forearms, not his choice of frozen delight.

As he waits, Louis listens to Niall greet each and every customer by name. They dutifully produce their reusable bags along with their items, Niall packing each one with the utmost care as he chats about the weather or how well his beans are growing or the new family who moved into the Coltons’ old place.

It’s… kind of charming, and for a moment Louis finds himself wanting to belong to this tight knit little community.

Except, no. He doesn’t. He misses London and his posh flat and having food delivered. Yeah, his rental place is cute, with its little stone walkway and curtains on every window, but he doesn’t belong here. That much is evident by the looks on everyone’s faces when it’s his turn at the checkout and Niall pulls out a box, peaches this time.

“No bags today?” Niall asks, scanning his way through the collection of burritos. Louis grabbed at least one of every flavour, and several of his favourite just for good measure.

“No, thanks,” Louis replies, waiting with his card in hand. The sooner he can get out of here, the better, and hopefully his stash of burritos will hold him off for longer this time.

If Louis had been expecting to avoid the casual chatter Niall had engaged his other customers in, he was sorely mistaken.

“Are you in town for a while, then?” Niall asks, straightening out the bar code on one item proving tricky to scan.

“The summer, yeah,” Louis replies, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

Niall nods, as if he could sense that Louis was only a temporary addition to their community. “Well, you couldn’t’ve picked a nicer place,” he says, boxing up the last of the burritos. “I’m Niall Horan. You have any questions, not just about the store, don’t hesitate to ask.” He proffers his hand, blue eyes crinkled from the width of his smile.

Louis extracts a hand and fits it into Niall’s, the Irish man’s palms chilly from handling a pile of frozen food. “Louis Tomlinson, and thanks.” He swipes his card after releasing Niall’s hand, his mind working while the transaction processes. “Actually, I do have one question.”

“Lay it on me.”

Louis leans over the counter, nodding his head toward the logo embroidered on Niall’s polo. “I have to ask, mate. What’s with the name?”

Niall chuckles, pulling his shirt away from his chest to look at the design. “Like that, do ya? Harry picked it. Said it would get people talking, give them a laugh.” He shakes his head fondly. “He wasn’t wrong.”

“Harry?”

“The owner, yeah,” Niall replies, jerking his thumb over toward the fruit and vegetable section. “He’s right over there. You should say hello, he’s always happy to see a new face.”

The man Niall points to is carefully arranging a display of apples in neat rows, green and red and yellow in their own sections. He’s tall and slim, the apron tied around his waist accentuating his figure.

As if sensing Louis’ eyes on him, Harry turns around, and Louis nearly drops his box of burritos.

If his life were a movie, this is the part where a soft rock song would start playing, the beat timed to fit each of Harry’s movements as he grins at Niall and gives a little wave, perfectly lit from the skylights like the sun is his own personal spotlight, a vision in fair trade cotton.

Louis needs to get a fucking grip.

Cinematic daydreams aside, the lad is quite striking. His smile is framed by pink lips, bracketed by a dimple on either side. Dark hair is pulled up into a bun, the few tendrils escaping giving the impression that it would be quite wavy when let down. His eyes slide from Niall to Louis, eyebrows lifting curiously at the sight of someone new in his store.

“Go say hello,” Niall urges, before turning to greet the next customer.

Harry’s still smiling at him, and Louis can’t exactly make a hasty exit with the box in his arms, so it’s with great reluctance that he trudges over to the apple display to meet the mind behind the store’s rather suggestive moniker.

“Good afternoon,” the man greets in a cheerful drawl. “Did you find everything all right today?” This close, Louis can see that Harry’s eyes are a light, clear green. He’s a bit taller than Louis, with a long torso and endless legs wrapped in black denim.

And, no, Louis isn’t attracted to him in the slightest. Nope.

“Fine, thanks,” Louis replies, hoping his tone reads more ‘calm and collected’ than ‘oh shit, this guy is really fit.’ He has a feeling it’s the latter. “Niall said you’re the owner?”

A pleased blush darkens Harry’s cheeks as he sets down the apple he’d been rolling in his palms. “Yeah, that’s me. Harry Styles,” he says, extending a hand to Louis.

Louis juggles his box to one arm, managing to briefly grasp Harry’s calloused hand. “Louis Tomlinson,” he says, pulling his hand away just in time to keep the box of burritos from crashing to the tiled floor.

Harry raises an eyebrow at Louis’ fumble, but doesn’t comment. “I haven’t seen you around here before. Are you new to town?” he asks conversationally, leaning back against the apple table, both arms resting on the surface. The pose draws attention to the muscles bulging in Harry’s arms, likely owing to a life working outdoors. He’s got tattoos as well, Louis notices, lines and shapes he’d like to examine much closer, given the opportunity.

There’s a soft chuckle, and Louis realises that he never actually answered Harry’s question. His face grows hot at being caught blatantly checking out a relative stranger. “Erm, sort of. Just here for a few months,” Louis explains, suddenly quite interested in the display of vegetables to his right.

Harry just smiles at him, deepening the dimples and flashing a set of straight, white teeth. “Well, we’re happy to have you. I’m glad you decided to check us out,” he says with a wink.

The double entendre isn’t lost on Louis, and oh, god. He’s going to die of embarrassment right here between the kale and the locally grown tomatoes.

“Right,” Louis replies, voice coming out higher than he intends. He readjusts the box in his arms as he turns toward the doors. “I’d best be going. Things to do, and all that,” he rambles, already striding away from the organic Adonis without a backward glance. “Lovely meeting you!”

“Wait!” Harry calls, catching up to Louis in a few quick strides. He reaches over to a rack of reusable bags near the checkouts, grabbing a handful and depositing them into Louis’ box. “For next time. On the house.”

It’s probably wishful thinking, but Louis almost thinks he hears a bit of hope in Harry’s voice. “Thanks,” he replies lamely, looking from the stack of canvas bags to the face of the man beside him.

Harry beams. “My pleasure. Lovely meeting you as well, Louis.” With that, Harry is turning back to his apples, leaving Louis staring after him dumbly.

Get a grip, he scolds himself, gathering his wits about him enough to exit the store. He’s only here for a few months, and his plans do not include seducing the local grocer.

Except, fuck. Harry is something else. He’s all long lines and sweet smiles, drawing Louis in with his dimples and deep voice. He sighs, looking over at the box in his passenger seat and plucking out one of the bags. It’s tan in colour, with ‘Naked & Proud’ screenprinted on the side in forest green. ‘For next time,’ Harry had said.

Well, there isn’t going to be a next time, Louis decides, not trusting himself to show restraint should he and Harry meet again. He’ll just have to make these burritos last all summer, and that’s all there is to it.

How hard can it be?

&&

Louis manages to last three whole days.

It’s Saturday morning, the sky cloudy and grey with the promise of rain, and here he is perusing the personal care aisle of Naked & Proud with his reusable bags tucked under one arm.

As he looks through various soaps and shampoos, he can’t help but wonder which ones Harry uses. There’s an exfoliating scrub made with various seeds, strawberry and chia and the like, and Louis examines it thoughtfully.

Harry seems like the kind of guy to smell like strawberries.

The thought snaps Louis out of his daze and he hurriedly puts the scrub back on the shelf. He’s here to get a few products his cupboards are lacking, and that’s all. He’s not here to see Harry, and certainly not to fantasise about what the other man smells like. That’s creepy, right?

Louis already knows the answer.

Resolving to be less of a creeper, he meanders further down the aisle, now and again picking up a cruelty-free shaving cream or vegan hand soap to sniff. There’s a shampoo made from honey and virgin coconut that smells incredible, so Louis grabs it and the conditioner to match. He tries not to think of how much Liam would tease him if he ever found out, let alone what Cam would have said.

He stops in his tracks, wondering where the hell that particular though came from. He hasn’t let himself think of Cameron since he came to this town. He certainly didn’t give two shits about Cameron’s opinion anymore. That ship had sailed, and Louis hoped it bloody well sank on the way.

Something catches his eye; across the aisle there’s a collection of boxes and bottles under a placard reading ‘family planning.’ Intrigued, Louis can’t help but wander over, all thoughts of Cameron vanishing.

The shelf is filled with condoms and personal lubricant, all in tastefully designed packaging. It had never even crossed Louis’ mind that such things could be organic, though he shouldn’t be surprised.

He reaches for a bottle of lube, reading over the label curiously. ‘Good Clean Fun,’ it’s called, making him chuckle. It’s a bit pricey, and honestly, how much different could all natural lube be compared to the cheap stuff he gets back home?

Then Louis thinks of the burritos, and exactly how wrong he’d been, and the lube ends up in his basket between the fair trade tea and a carton of free-range eggs.

Harry is nowhere to be seen, so is Niall, and Louis engages in small talk with the girl who rings up his purchases instead. She’s younger, a teenager probably, with red hair and freckles, and she goes a bit pink when she scans the lube and tucks it into one of Louis’ bags. After that she can’t seem to make eye contact with him anymore.

To spare the poor thing further embarrassment, Louis gathers his bags with a quick ‘thanks,’ hurrying toward the door as soon as he’s paid.

“Sir, your receipt!” the girl calls after him, waving the slip of paper in the air.

“Keep it,” Louis calls back over his shoulder, before promptly colliding with a tall, solid body. His bags go flying, spreading his items over the floor like an all-natural piñata. Louis falls backward, landing hard on his bum amongst the mess.

Oh, no, he groans internally as soon as he sees the pair of legs in front of him, because of course he’s smacked right into Harry. The man in question stoops down, worry lining his brow as he wraps a hand around Louis’ arm to help him up.

“Are you all right?” he asks, pulling Louis to his feet. His hair is loose today, hanging down past his shoulders in gentle waves. Louis absolutely does not want to know what it smells like.

“Fine, thanks,” Louis replies, reaching back to pat himself on the arse. “Think my bum broke the fall, honestly.” He frowns down at his scattered groceries. “Can’t say the same about me eggs, though.”

Harry follows his gaze, eyes landing on the carton of eggs leaking out onto the floor. “Oh, I’ll have Lindsay get you new ones,” he says, calling over to the ginger girl and sending her after the eggs. That done, he bends to start collecting Louis’ things, packing them carefully back into the bags after inspecting each one for damage.

Too late, Louis remembers the lube. He watches in slow motion as Harry picks up the green and white bottle, a flicker of recognition crossing his face. He stares at it for a second before adding it to the bag, handing everything over to Louis with a shit-eating grin on his stupidly pretty face.

“Thanks,” Louis says, certain he’s about as red as the strawberries he’d bought (and not because of their luscious fragrance, thank you very much).

Harry opens his mouth, but Louis doesn’t wait around to hear what he says. He dashes out of the store as quickly as possible, not even waiting for Lindsay to come back with his eggs. He can do without eggs, but he can’t afford to lose any more of his dignity.

The entire drive back home, he can’t help but think of the brief press of his body against Harry’s, or the way Harry’s hand wrapped around his bicep and lifted him with ease. He certainly doesn’t imagine that long, dark hair hanging over him like a curtain, Harry seated on his dick and those pretty pink lips bitten to a dark, desperate red.

Louis forgoes putting his groceries away, instead going straight to bed to have a wank with his overpriced, organic lube that smells of vanilla.

He isn’t sure if it’s due to the lube or the star of his fantasies, but it’s the best wank he’s ever had in his life.

&&

“What’s going on, Louis?”

Louis chuckles, trapping his mobile between his cheek and shoulder, leaving his hands free to fix himself a cuppa. It’s the fair trade shit he got the other day, and he’s decided to give it a try.

“I don’t know what you mean, Liam,” Louis replies calmly, splashing milk into his tea and taking a delicate sniff. The stuff smells promising, at least.

He can feel Liam’s frustration through the phone. “Cut the crap, Louis. You’ve been there for two weeks, and all of a sudden I have a new song in my inbox this morning.”

Louis scoffs, settling down into the big, squashy recliner in his lounge. “I am a songwriter, Li. Or have you forgotten the reason for my little sojourn already?”

It had been partly Liam’s idea, after all. When Louis had complained that his mother wanted him to get away for a while in the aftermath of his breakup with Cameron, Liam had leapt on the idea. He’d been convinced that some peace and quiet (and a fair amount of distance) would cure the writer’s block brought on by Louis’ heartbreak.

Louis had grumbled that, if nothing else, he could use the distance from Liam.

Not that he doesn’t love his agent. Liam has been there for him from the first song Louis sold, to his first hit, to his first award-winning song. He’s helped shape Louis into one of the most sought after songwriters in the UK, and is well on the way to making Louis just as big in the US as well.

“I’m glad you’re writing again, Lou. That isn’t the point. I’m more interested in why a man who’s just had his heart broken is writing songs about a potential new love.”

Louis takes a sip of his tea, happy to find the taste is rather pleasant, strong and just the perfect amount of bitterness. “I write songs about love all the time, Liam,” he says calmly, mentally berating himself. Of course Liam would ask questions about Louis’ chosen subject matter. That doesn’t mean Louis has to answer honestly.

There’s a heavy sigh on the other end of the call. “Look, I don’t have time for your games today. Whatever it is you’re doing, keep it up because it’s working,” Liam says.

“I’ll do my best, mate,” Louis promises. “Cheers, Li. Thanks for calling.” He’s about to end the call when Liam speaks up once more.

“Oh, and Louis?” He pauses before apparently taking Louis’ silence as permission to continue. “Whoever has that evergreen soul that you’re writing about, do tell him I said hello.”

Then the line goes dead, Louis’ tea is nearly gone, and he’s trying very hard not to think about the fact that he’s written a song about Harry Styles.

So he doesn’t. He dicks around on his iPad, and texts his mum, and loads the dishwasher. He’s just thinking about popping one of his beloved burritos in the microwave when there’s a knock at the door, the taps ringing out in a jaunty rhythm.

Louis tilts his head in the direction of the door, pondering who could possibly be visiting him here. It can’t be Liam, given the fact that he wasn’t giggling during their phone call (Liam sucks at keeping secrets. Louis sucks at not teasing him about it). It won’t be his mum, not with his gaggle of younger siblings to look after. It sure as hell isn’t Cameron.

“Probably a neighbour needing to borrow a cup of sugar or summat,” he mutters to himself with a roll of his eyes, wondering again how he ended up somewhere like this. “Hope they like it organic.”

Already prepared with his most charming smile, Louis pulls open the door without even a glance out the peephole, none too concerned about being murdered or robbed around here. His face falls the instant the door swings wide to reveal Harry Styles on the other side.

“What are you doing here?” Louis demands, rather rudely, before Harry can even get a word out. He doesn’t mean to sound cross, it’s just that Harry’s here, at his house, dressed in his trademark skinnies and a lilac v-neck shirt that shows off a mouthwatering slice of his sculpted chest.

Louis discretely pinches his thigh, killing that line of thought before it can go any further. Down that way lies madness, he scolds himself.

Harry seems to watch Louis’ internal struggle quietly, a bemused expression widening his eyes and twisting his lips to one side. His hair, today loose and parted to one side, leaves him vaguely resembling a cocker spaniel.

“Erm, I don’t mean to intrude,” Harry says eventually, shuffling his feet against the stone of Louis’ walkway. He’s pigeon-toed. It’s adorable.

It’s not adorable, fuck, Louis reminds himself. Then again, he’s never been very good at listening.

Harry plows on, ignorant of the mental sparring taking place in Louis’ head. “You left so quick the other day, and you didn’t take your eggs, and what if you had needed them for a recipe or something?” He holds out one hand, presenting a previously unnoticed carton of eggs. “So I wanted to bring them to you, and here they are.” Harry’s cheeks pinken, like he’s aware exactly how much he’s rambling but can’t quite stop the nervous tumble of words from pouring out.

Taking the eggs, Louis leans against the door frame, one eyebrow cocked high on his forehead. “Right, thanks for that,” Louis says, “but how the hell did you know where I live?”

“Small town,” Harry says with a shrug. “All I had to do was ask a few of our nosier customers if anyone new had moved in lately, and I had an address and a description of your car.” He tilts his head toward said vehicle. “It’s gorgeous, by the way. Though I have to wonder what you do to be able to afford a Porsche, and exactly how you wound up here.”

Part of him wants to tell Harry that it’s none of his concern, that he’s been forward enough today and Louis wants to take his eggs and go inside to wank furiously with his stupid vanilla lube, all the while desperately trying not to imagine how the exposed plane of Harry’s chest might taste.

Then again, that part has been squashed down by the one that wants to tell Harry his life story and invite him in for tea and perhaps to make that wank a group activity.

“I’m a songwriter, actually,” Louis explains, running the egg-less hand through his messy brown hair, pushing his fringe to the side. “I was lucky enough to write a few hits, and now I’m quite comfortable.” It’s always the hardest part, talking about his success without sounding like he’s boasting. Sure, he likes nice cars and spoiling his family and has the luxury of disappearing in the countryside for an entire summer, but he’s also just as down to earth as he ever was. He remembers too many years of hand-me-down clothes and charity Christmases not to appreciate how good he has it now.

But, if he’s honest, he’s a damn good songwriter, and he’s become something of a household name among musicians looking for a hot new single.

Harry’s eyebrows raise, his already youthful face glowing with curiosity. “Really? What have you written?”

Louis shrugs, suddenly bashful. He hates name-dropping, doesn’t want to talk about his evenings at the Brit Awards, how his latest song is looking promising for a Grammy nomination. He’s just as proud of the songs he’s written for himself, the lyrics tucked away in notebooks or scribbled on napkins that will never see the light of day.

“You don’t even look like you own a stereo,” Louis teases in lieu of a reply, “let alone listen to hits.”

“Hey.” Harry squawks indignantly, hands flying to his slender hips. “I’ll have you know that I listen to all kinds of music, thank you very much.” He rolls his eyes, the green even clearer in the natural light. “Fine, my other question: How did you end up here?”

And that’s… that’s a bit of a long story.

It’s one thing to tell Harry about himself, but it feels too intimate, too raw, to share the events of the past couple months with a relative stranger. He can’t help but think of Cameron, of stopping by his office to surprise him only to find his boyfriend getting rather cozy with his assistant. As much as Cam had tried to assure Louis it didn’t mean anything, it clearly meant enough to throw away a four-year relationship.

He didn’t much feel like writing love songs after that.

“My agent thought I should take some time off,” Louis says, picking up the story past the dramatic break up and name-calling. “My mum suggested the country, and then it was just a matter of finding somewhere to rent.” He gestures at the house behind him.

Harry looks like he wants to ask another question, but cuts himself off with a gentle smile. “Well, I’m glad you decided to come here,” he says, the barest hint of a dimple denting his cheek. “If you ever need someone to show you around, you know where to find me.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Louis says with a nod, biting back a comment about how he’d seen the entirety of the town on a five minute drive. “I, erm, should probably get these in the house,” he says lamely as he hefts the eggs, afraid that any longer and he’ll do something stupid like invite Harry inside.

“I have to get back to the store,” Harry replies with a reluctant nod. “It was good to see you, Louis.” With that he turns to leave, hands finding his pockets as he strolls down the walk to a bicycle leaning against the fence at the edge of the yard. Louis can’t help but watch in fascination as Harry swings a long leg over the bike, straddling it easily despite his ridiculously tight jeans.

“Oh, and Louis?” Harry calls just as Louis’ about to step back inside the house.

Louis turns, head cocked in question. “Yes, Harry?”

Harry’s grin is devilish as he says, “Try the strawberry guava scented one next time. It’s way better than the vanilla.” With that he’s peddling off, hair streaming behind him like a banner.

It takes Louis exactly three seconds to realise Harry was referring to the lube, and exactly five before he’s decided that Harry Styles is going to be the death of him.

&&

After Harry’s visit, Louis physically cannot keep himself from stopping by Naked & Proud at least a couple times a week. Even when he doesn’t need anything, he’ll pick out a random item, even if it’s just to send Liam pictures of for a laugh. More often than not, Harry slips something extra into Louis’ canvas bags a treat or a piece of fruit. He doesn’t mention the lube again, thank fuck, though the cheeky wink Niall gives Louis when he buys the kind Harry suggested leads Louis to believe that Harry’s told him about their conversation.

Which… If Harry has talked about him, then surely there’s attraction there, right? But Louis isn’t here to start a new relationship, isn’t sure he wants a relationship at all. At most he could do with a good fuck, and Harry seems far too sweet for that. He’ll just continue his piss-poor job of keeping his distance until the end of summer, then he’ll go back to London and forget all about green eyes and little beauty marks next to plush lips.

It’s why, two weeks later, when Harry asks if Louis wants to join him on his lunch break, Louis does the right thing and politely turns Harry down.

“Sure.” Shit. He meant to say no, he really did, but his mouth and his brain are clearly not on the same page.

The way Harry lights up makes Louis feel better about his decision. The taller man is positively beaming, his long ponytail swaying behind him as he bounces on the balls of his toes. “Great! I know a great little place,” he says, smiling widely. “They do the best hummus I’ve ever had.”

Louis isn’t so sure about hummus, or what kind of place the owner of a natural grocery might take him to, but the organic burritos haven’t killed him yet. Smiling right back, he allows Harry to place a hand at the small of his back and lead him out to the carpark.

“Are you driving, or should I?” Louis asks, unlocking his car and depositing his purchases in the backseat (nothing perishable today, which is convenient).

Harry ducks his head sheepishly, his dark lashes in stark contrast to the creamy skin of his cheeks as he looks at the ground. “Erm, you should probably drive,” Harry says shyly. “I don’t own a car.”

“Excuse me?” Louis says incredulously, certain he didn’t hear that correctly. “Did you just say you don’t own a car?”

“Nope,” Harry replies, pointing to a bike rack next to the building. “Just a bicycle. I have a truck back at the farm, but I never bring it into town.”

An image pops into Louis’ head of Harry peddling away from Louis’ house on a bicycle. He never imagined it was Harry’s only form of transportation. “But why?” Louis asks, dumbfounded. It’s not like there’s public transport here, and surely Harry could afford a vehicle with the business his store brings in.

Harry shrugs, still looking at the pavement below his booted feet. “Better for the environment, innit?” He looks up through his lashes, seeming small despite being several centimetres taller than Louis. “Niall drives me around when the weather’s poor or I need to go out of town, and I like the exercise.”

Louis likes the exercise too, if it’s the reason for Harry’s lean, muscular legs and the pertness of his small, shapely bum. Stop that, he scolds himself, going around the car to open the door for Harry. “Climb in, then,” Louis says, opening the door and gesturing grandly at the empty seat like an exaggerated chauffeur.

Giggling, Harry climbs into the seat and buckles up, and it takes every ounce of Louis’ willpower to walk around to the driver’s side instead of climbing into Harry’s lap.

The place Harry guides them to is small, more a café than a restaurant. It’s call Main Squeeze, and boasts an entirely vegetarian menu.

Louis doesn’t know why he’s surprised.

“Hey, Harry!” the girl behind the counter calls, long hair dyed a brilliant purple and piled high on her head. She has a silver hoop through one nostril, and a half dozen more in each ear.

“Hullo, Marta!” Harry calls in reply, stepping between the tables and up to the little counter. It’s covered in stickers and flyers for various local events. The menu is handwritten on chalkboards on the wall above Marta’s head, filled with words that make Louis a bit nervous to try the food, if he’s honest. Maybe he should let Harry order for him. He does have excellent taste in lube, after all.

“Louis? Know what you want?”

He glances down from the menu to find both Harry and Marta staring at him. He scans the boards one more time, settling on the thing that sounds the most familiar. “Er, I’ll have the tempeh BLT,” he decides, hoping that anything with ‘bacon’ in the title will be edible. Tempeh bacon can’t be that bad, right?

Harry nods approvingly. “Great choice. And I’ll have my usual,” Harry orders, handing Marta his card before Louis can so much as protest.

Marta titters as she hands Harry back his card and receipt. “Oh, Harry, you know we start fixing yours as soon as you walk in the door,” she says flirtatiously, seemingly unbothered that Harry is buying another man lunch. Louis bristles at that; Harry is his for the afternoon.

And, wow. Where did that burst of jealousy come from?

He doesn’t have long to wonder, because Harry’s leading him over to a little table in the corner and pulling out a mismatched chair for him.

“Thanks,” Louis says, taking his seat and watching as Harry lowers himself into the chair opposite. It’s starting to feel a lot like a date, which is both terrifying and thrilling at the same time. How long has it been since Louis’ been on a proper date? Months, probably; Cameron was always too busy with work towards the end of their relationship.

(‘Work,’ of course, turned out to mean Mike the Administrative Assistant.)

They make small talk while they wait for their food, things like the weather and the new brand of juice Harry ordered for the shop and if Louis’ done any writing lately. Which, he has, but he isn’t about to tell Harry where his burst of inspiration came from. The brunet seems to be his muse, inspiring lyrics almost as fast as Louis can pen them, resulting in an email from Liam offering to put Louis’ ‘mystery man’ on the payroll.

Their food comes soon enough, on chipped plates just as mismatched as the chairs. Harry has a bowl of some sort, filled with greens and avocado and cubes of tofu, and Louis’ BLT looks harmless enough. There’s a plate of pita chips, vegetables, and a creamy red hummus for them to share as well.

Harry picks up a baby carrot and swirls it in the dip, popping the entire thing in his mouth with a happy sigh. “I keep trying to convince them to package this hummus and let me sell it at Naked & Proud,” Harry says, once he’s swallowed.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that,” Louis says, tearing off a piece of tempeh bacon and sniffing at it. “How did you end up running a grocery store?” He pops the bacon in his mouth and chews. It’s different, but not altogether unpleasant.

“It wasn’t what I planned, trust me,” Harry says, stirring the contents of his bowl. “My grandparents owned a farm here, and I would come stay with them every summer as a child to help out.” His face is soft, fond, as he recounts his story with a faraway look in his eyes. “I kept coming back even during uni, and when my nan died and granddad got too old to run the place, I just… stayed.” He takes a big bite of avocado, chewing thoughtfully. “I think I always knew it would be mine someday, even as a kid, so when granddad left it to me I didn’t think twice about keeping it. I’d gotten a business degree in uni, and the money he left me is what started Naked & Proud.”

It’s such a sweet story. Louis can just imagine little Harry, tottering around a field after his grandfather, covered in dirt and eating tomatoes straight from the vines. It makes Louis miss his own grandparents, nostalgic for the days he would spend helping his nan tend her flowers. “And the name?” he asks softly, leftover emotion bleeding into his tone. “Where did that come from?”

Harry chuckles into his water glass, wiping stray drops from his mouth before continuing. “I used to run a booth at the local farmer’s market for them when I was old enough,” he explains. “I’d take our extra veg and nan’s preserves and sell them every Saturday. They let me name it, and teenaged me thought the name was an absolute riot.” He shrugs, unabashed. “Still do. It gets people talking.”

“It’s what made me want to check out the store,” Louis admits, picking at the crust of his sandwich.

“Then I’m very glad I chose it,” Harry says, so earnestly that Louis feels hot beneath the collar of his shirt. He wants to reach out and take Harry’s hand over the table, or perhaps tangle their legs together beneath it. But that’s familiar, and intimate, and not at all what this is.

Instead, he stuffs the last bite of sandwich in his mouth, chewing slowly to avoid having to answer. Unperturbed, Harry goes back to his own meal, the pair of them content to eat the rest of their lunches in a comfortable silence.

Louis drops Harry back off at the store shortly after with a thank you for lunch and Harry’s number programmed in his mobile. He’d come to the conclusion, sitting there and watching Harry eat, savouring every bite like it was something new and exciting, that he was already far too gone for this boy. He’d come here for a change, for inspiration, and Harry’s given him that in spades. Resolving to let things happen as they will, Louis had agreed to exchange numbers with the other man, silently praying that he wouldn’t end up breaking Harry’s heart in the long run.

He has one text from Harry by the time he makes it to his driveway, and the few words on the screen are all it takes to confirm his suspicions that he’s in far too deep.

That was a date, if you were wondering. x

Yeah, Louis is definitely fucked.

&&

“Why don’t you ever buy anything fresh?” Harry asks one day, leaning over the check lane as Louis loads his items onto the counter. “Vegetables or a piece of fruit or something?”

Louis pauses, a frozen dinner still in his hand. “Oh, erm. I don’t exactly cook,” he explains, setting the dinner down next to several others.

“Ah ha,” Harry muses, eyeing the line of products Louis’ pulled from his trolley: frozen dinners, soup mixes, some yoghurt cheese. “And by that you mean you never cook, right?”

“You could say that.”

“Louis,” Harry chides, beginning to scan and bag the items.

Indignant at being caught out, Louis tosses a bag of crisps on top of the pile. “All right, fine. I hate cooking, are you happy?”

Harry frowns, a little divot appearing between his furrowed brows. “What do you eat, then? Surely not just microwave meals and takeaway.”

“That, Curly, is exactly what I eat. Or used to,” Louis amends thoughtfully. “Moving here eliminated the takeaway option.”

Harry’s silent after that, finishing ringing Louis up as if he’s deep in thought. The next time he speaks is to tell Louis his total, and it isn’t until he hands Louis his receipt that Harry looks up at him again.

“I’m coming to cook you dinner tomorrow night.”

Louis sighs, tucking his wallet away and gathering his bags. “That’s really generous, but you don’t have to do that. I can feed myself.”

“Barely!” Harry protests, sticking out his lip in a pout. “I want you to have a nice, home-cooked meal. It’s fun for me, I promise.”

The offer is rather tempting. Louis hasn’t had much food this past month that didn’t come from a box or wrapper, and his last actual homemade meal was the roast his mother cooked the night before he left for the country. Spending more time with Harry is a plus as well, though the idea of being alone with the fit man in such close proximity to bedrooms makes Louis have to pinch himself on the thigh.

“Okay,” he relents, trying not to laugh at the victory wiggle Harry does at his response. “Just let me know what I need to do.”

“I’ll take care of everything,” Harry assures him, excitement lighting his features. “I’ll bring over everything I need after work. All you have to do is be home and hungry.”

“I suppose I can do that much,” Louis replies, tossing Harry a wink that has the brunet’s wide grin easing into a small, pleased smile. “See you tomorrow, Harry.”

If he makes sure to shake his arse a little more than necessary on the way out to his car, well, no one but Harry has to know.

&&

Louis isn’t very good at waiting.

He has to tell himself multiple times that he doesn’t need to pop down to the store today, that Harry will be here in a matter of hours.

Then he remembers that, oh shit, Harry will be here in a matter of hours, and his house is a bit of a tip. There’s dishes piled in the sink and the bin is overflowing with burrito wrappers and there’s laundry piled up in his bedroom.

Not that he expects Harry to see his bedroom or anything.

As he cleans, Louis realises he doesn’t know quite what to expect. If Harry had been willing to take him on a date, clearly the other man is interested. And when Louis made no secret about his time here being temporary, that hadn’t seemed to deter Harry in the slightest.

Maybe Harry is up for a summer fling just as much as Louis is, wringing joy and passion from every moment until they’ve bled the nights dry and it’s time to move on. That’s what Louis wants, he reminds himself, even as he wonders if it still holds true.

By the time Louis’ doorbell rings, the house is in far better condition, and Louis has changed out of his joggers and into some decent clothes. He’d managed to hide anything he didn’t have time to clean, and can only hope Harry isn’t the sort to open random drawers and cupboards when he visits somewhere new.

“Coming!” Louis calls, eyes sweeping the place one last time. It’ll have to do. With a deep breath he pulls open the door to reveal Harry on the other side, red-cheeked and arms full of grocery bags.

“That was easy,” Harry replies with a saucy wink, allowing Louis to take some of the bags from him. He uses a now-free hand to swipe at the sheen of sweat at his hairline. “Sorry ‘m all sweaty. I left the shop later than I planned and didn’t want to keep you waiting.”

Louis drags his eyes from Harry to the groceries, then over to the bicycle leaning against the little fence. Even with the small basket attached to the handlebars, Harry would have had to hold some of the bags while he rode. “Harry, I would have given you a ride,” Louis says, gesturing Harry past him and into the house.

“I’m used to it,” Harry replies simply, toeing off his boots and making a beeline for the kitchen just visible from the front door. The curly-haired man wastes no time in unpacking his bags, pulling out an array of vegetables and spices and packages of meat.

Louis whistles at the spread, not sure he’s ever put so many components into one meal in his entire life. “What are we having, then?” he asks, picking up a bell pepper bigger than his fist and tossing it in the air.

“Fajitas!” Harry announces brightly. “You seem so hooked on the burritos that I thought you might enjoy trying something similar but fresh.” His eyes go wide for a second, smile shrinking into a worried twist of his lips. “You do like fajitas, don’t you? Oh my god, I’m such an idiot, I didn’t even think to ask—”

“Harry,” Louis interrupts, resting a calming hand on the brunet’s arm. “I happen to love fajitas.”

Harry relaxes at that, his smile returning once more, and Louis thinks he could get used to being the reason.

Leaving in a couple months, he reminds himself, reluctantly pulling his hand away from the warmth of Harry’s bare forearm. “Erm, let me know if I can help with anything, yeah? Or if you can’t find something you need.”

“Just keep me company,” Harry replies, already pulling open cabinets in search of pots and pans. “Tell me more about you, about your life in London.”

Louis blinks at the request. “What do you want to know?” he asks, finding a clear space on the worktop and hoisting himself up to sit on it.

“Anything,” Harry replies, laying out the vegetables on a cutting board to chop them into smaller pieces. “I just enjoy hearing you talk.”

The feeling’s mutual, Louis thinks, but he does as Harry asks. He tells him about what a shit he’d been in secondary school, about growing up with his mum and four little sisters. He tells him how it felt to finally get a brother (as well as another sister) when his mother remarried.

He tells him about Liam, and what it was like the first time he heard his own lyrics on the radio how proud he’d been watching that song climb the charts. “Cameron hated it,” Louis laughs, stealing a bit of bell pepper from the pile of vegetables now that Harry’s moved on to cutting strips of steak. “He’d make me change the station any time it came on, so I set it as the ringtone on my mobile.”

“Cameron?” Harry asks, carefully trimming a bit of fat from the edge of the steak. “Who’s he?”

Shit. Louis hadn’t meant to bring him up at all. Isn’t it a cardinal sin of dating to bring up exes right off the bat? Still, the cat’s out of the bag. “He was my boyfriend,” Louis replies simply, sliding off the counter in search of a beer. He could really use one at the moment.

“Was?” Harry asks again, trying to sound more innocent than hopeful and failing, adorably so. “What happened?”

Louis pops the top off a beer bottle and offers it to Harry, grabbing one for himself when he accepts. “We were never good together, really. He thought I was wasting my time writing songs for other people instead of trying to make it big myself.” He pauses to take a long pull from his bottle. “I like being behind the scenes. I’m not any less proud of my songs just because someone else is singing them. They don’t mean any less to me.”

He glances up to find Harry staring at him intensely, green eyes shining and eyebrows pushed together. “Then what happened?” he asks, steak forgotten on the cutting board.

“He was sleeping with his assistant,” Louis replies simply, as if the discovery hadn’t nearly destroyed him. “Said he needed someone who understood him, and his work, and didn’t spend all their time writing stupid songs.” That had hurt the worst, Louis thinks, that never once did Cameron like a single one of his songs. Louis certainly never wrote him any. “Anyway, said he’d gotten it out of his system and begged for my forgiveness, and I told him he’d given me material for the breakup song Adele was in the market for.” He looks up at Harry shyly, bottle resting just under his lips. “I guess I should write him a thank you note, because that song went platinum several times over.”

Harry laughs, the sound bursting forth like the blaring of a trumpet. “Oh my god, that’s brilliant. Remind me never to get on your bad side,” Harry giggles, going back to cutting the meat.

If only you knew, Louis thinks, taking a deep swallow from his beer in lieu of responding.

The entire house smells incredible by the time Harry is plating their meals. He layers the steak and veggies onto whole wheat tortillas, topping them with Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream (“Just try it, Lou,” Harry had urged when Louis was suspicious). There’s salsa made from tomatoes Harry’d grown himself, as well as shredded cheddar cheese from a local farm.

Harry carries both over to the table with a triumphant smile on his face, setting them down before returning to the fridge for a fresh beer each. “I hope you like it,” he says, settling into his chair and folding his napkin in his lap daintily, like they’re out at a fancy restaurant instead of in the privacy of Louis’ kitchen. “They’re a family favourite.”

“I’m sure they’re amazing,” Louis says, his heart warming at the thought of Harry cooking dinner for his late grandparents. “They certainly smell amazing.” He carefully folds his tortilla and takes a small bite.

The first taste has Louis moaning through his teeth. The peppers are bursting with flavour, juicy and perfectly cooked. The steak is expertly seasoned and tender, and damned if the Greek yoghurt doesn’t taste a lot like sour cream. It’s better than any fajita he’s ever had in his entire life. Hell, it’s better than any meal anyone’s ever cooked for him.

“I want to write a song about this fajita,” Louis says once he’s managed to swallow. “This is incredible, Haz. Thank you so much.”

The nickname slips out, but the way Harry’s cheeks flush makes Louis want to use it more often. “I’m glad you like them. Though I don’t know who would buy a song like that,” he teases, picking up a piece of steak that escaped from his tortilla and popping into his mouth. A smear of grease makes his plump lips shiny, and Louis would very much like to lick them clean.

“You never know,” Louis argues. “There are songs about stranger things.” He takes another bite, this time managing to hold in the moan.

“Like what?”

“There’s literally a song about being a Barbie,” Louis says through his mouthful of food. “Complete with voices!”

Harry nearly chokes on his beer. “I’m pretty sure that’s, like, symbolic or a metaphor or something.”

Louis huffs, setting his fajita down on his plate. “A fajita can be a metaphor too!”

“Sure, Lou. You’ll have to let me know when that one comes out,” Harry teases, at the same time hooking his foot around Louis’ ankle beneath the table.

The contact is intimate, and Louis doesn’t dare pull away. Instead, he slides his leg against Harry’s, just enough that their bare ankles brush together. It’s almost like a spark climbs his body at the touch, fizzling through his nerves and up his spine to settle around his brain in a heavy fog. He’s completely engulfed in Harry, in his presence and the contact and the wonderful food Harry prepared for them. The scariest part is that it feels so natural, both like they’ve done this a thousand times and could do it for a thousand more.

I want to keep you, Louis wants to say. Instead, he finishes his fajitas in silence.

“Thank you again, Harry,” Louis says once he’s done eating, pushing his plate away and rubbing a hand over his full stomach. “That was the best meal I’ve had in, well, ever.”

“It was my pleasure,” Harry replies, tossing his napkin onto his own empty plate. “You’d be surprised at how much difference using fresh, natural ingredients makes.”

Louis shakes his head. “I think the chef deserves all the credit here. You should add a café in the store, you could make a killing.”

Harry grins at the praise, beaming across the table before his gaze drops to Louis’ mouth. “Oh, you’ve got something, just there,” he says, pointing at the side of his own mouth.

“Here?” Louis asks, scrubbing at his mouth with his napkin.

“No, the other side,” Harry says, leaning across the table. “Here, let me just—”

And then he’s brushing the corner of Louis’ mouth with his thumb, pulling his hand away just enough for Louis to see the glob of yoghurt he’d wiped away. Louis doesn’t even think, just parts his lips and sucks Harry’s thumb into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it to clean off the mess.

He freezes when he hears Harry’s sharp intake of breath and realises what he’s just done. Harry is staring at where Louis’ lips are wrapped around his thumb, his eyes dark and hungry. The hand not currently in Louis’ mouth has a death grip on the edge of the table.

The way Louis sees it, he has two choices: Either he can release Harry’s thumb, laugh it off and apologise, or he can go for broke and show Harry exactly what his mouth is capable of.

Based on the rapid rise and fall of Harry’s chest, the way he’s still staring at Louis’ lips like they hold the secrets of the universe, Louis chooses the latter.

It’s clearly the right decision, because Harry lets out a low moan, his eyes fluttering closed as Louis hollows his cheeks around the digit. If Harry is attractive normally, seeing him turned on is a thing of beauty. Even better, Louis is the cause of the flush climbing his chest, providing a rosy backdrop for his many tattoos.

“Louis,” Harry manages finally, gently pulling his thumb away from Louis. “It’s not fair to start something you don’t intend to finish.”

“Oh, I have every intent of finishing,” Louis says with a smirk. “Perhaps just not at my dining room table.”

Harry laughs at that, making the air around them feel a little less charged. “Yeah, okay,” he says in that slow, thoughtful way of his. “Would you care to show me to your bedroom, then?”

Fuck, is Louis glad he picked up (hid) all that dirty laundry.

They keep their eyes fixed on each other as they rise from the table. Louis definitely wants to glance down, see if Harry’s just as affected as he is, but there will be plenty of time for that. Now is about the tension, the build, and Louis knows the effect he has on men when he wants to. His baby blues become bedroom eyes in a second flat, a slow drag of his tongue over his top lip making Harry’s breath catch in his throat. The brunet is so responsive, even without being touched.

This is going to be a lot of fun.

Louis takes Harry’s hand and leads him down the hall, his thumb dragging over the bumps of Harry’s knuckles. His mind is screaming at him, second-guessing if this is the right thing to do. But Harry wants it just as bad, and Louis aims to please.

The second they cross the threshold into the bedroom, it’s like a switch has been flipped. The careful distance, the slow crescendo are left in the hallway, and now it’s a flurry of hands finding hemlines and fingers fumbling at buttons. Louis is working at Harry’s fly when Harry crashes their mouths together, using his own hands to brush Louis’ away and finish the job himself. Harry shoves his jeans down and starts on Louis’, coaxing the shorter man’s lips open with his own.

Louis can do little but stand there and take it, lost in the sensation of Harry’s chapped lips against his own. His hands find Harry’s hips, holding tight as Harry frees him from the denim growing tighter by the second.

It’s startling to see quiet, clumsy Harry like this, so confident and eager, but it makes sense. This is the man ambitious enough to run a farm and a business at a young age, the man not too shy to flirt with total strangers.

It’s incredibly hot, but Louis has other ideas. He takes control of the kiss, slipping his tongue into Harry’s mouth and sliding his hands around to grip the swell of Harry’s arse. The motion pulls their pelvises together, and the brief brush of their clothed cocks is enough to have them panting in each other’s mouths.

“Wanna blow you,” Louis says, his lips dragging across Harry’s as he speaks.

“God, please,” Harry gasps, reaching down to squeeze himself as if he might come just from the thought of Louis’ mouth on him. Which, he might, considering how turned on he’d been when it was only his thumb in Louis’ mouth.

Harry whips off his shirt as Louis sinks to his knees, eye level with Harry’s last remaining piece of clothing. There’s a wet patch at the front of his pants where the head of his dick rests, and Louis doesn’t hesitate to press his lips to the spot, breathing out hot and damp against Harry’s already overheated skin.

“Please,” Harry repeats, fingers finding their way to curl in Louis’ hair. A glance up reveals Harry with his head already tossed back, eyes tightly closed and hair streaming down his back in waves.

He’s a fucking vision, and Louis wants to absolutely wreck him.

“You’re so gorgeous,” Louis murmurs, finally leaning in and closing his mouth around the head of Harry’s cock. He wraps his hands around the back of Harry’s legs, digging his fingers into the muscle of Harry’s milky thighs.

A litany of moans accompanies Louis’ every move; there’s a shuddery breath the first time he sinks all the way down, letting the head nudge at the back of his throat. There’s a gasp when Louis drags his tongue up the underside and swirls it around the head. Best of all is the way his name spills from Harry’s lips like a prayer when Louis hollows out his cheeks. Harry is heavy and thick on his tongue, bitter drops of precome slipping from his slit and the rich, musky smell of Harry’s skin floods Louis’ nostrils, his natural scent mixing with the fragrance from his body wash.

(And, yeah, Louis would bet money that it’s fucking strawberry. Called it.)

Louis sets a teasing pace, swallowing down only to pull slowly off, then dragging his lips back down the shaft until tears prick at the corner of his eyes. He can feel Harry’s hips shake with the effort of keeping himself from thrusting into Louis’ mouth. Another time, perhaps, Louis thinks, moving back to focus on the head of Harry’s cock.

“Shit, Louis,” Harry gasps, tugging at Louis’ hair. “I’m not going to last if you keep that up.”

“Well, we can’t have you coming yet,” Louis replies once Harry’s dick has slipped from his mouth. “Want you to come on my cock.” It’s a bold statement, and he really hopes Harry is on board with the idea, because his own dick certainly seems to be, twitching where it lays engorged against his thigh.

Harry’s response consists of a throaty groan, and seconds later he’s hauling Louis off the ground and over to the bed, their lips crashing together when they land in a heap on the mattress. Harry’s tongue maps every corner of Louis’ panting mouth, as if he’s chasing the phantom taste of his dick still lingering there.

“Fuck,” Louis cries, breaking the kiss to catch his breath. Harry’s a mess beneath him, cheeks rosy and lips wet and swollen. His big green eyes are glassy as he watches Louis reach for the condoms and lube stashed in the nightstand. “Can’t wait to get inside you,” Louis says once he settles back between Harry’s legs, reaching to brush away a curl plastered to the sweat on Harry’s forehead.

“Then get inside me already,” Harry demands, bucking his pelvis upwards to illustrate his point.

Louis doesn’t need telling twice. He wastes no time slicking up a finger and teasing it around Harry’s rim, dipping in now and again in fascination of the way the tight ring of muscle seems to try to draw him in further.

Finally, when Harry’s mewling and squirming against the sheets, Louis pushes inside. His finger is welcomed by tight heat and a pleased little gasp from the boy beneath him.

“Does that feel good?” Louis asks, gently rubbing along Harry’s walls, getting a feel for him. His mind is spinning with the thought of how amazing Harry’s going to feel around his cock.

“Need more,” Harry whines, hands thrown over his head and face turned into his left arm. “Please, I can take it.”

The second finger slides in neatly beside the first, Harry stretching to accommodate the intrusion. His cries grow more desperate when Louis picks up speed, searching in earnest now for Harry’s prostate and rubbing against it relentlessly the moment he finds it.

Harry nearly shoots off the bed, yelling in surprised pleasure as Louis curls his fingers again and again. “Fuck me, Louis, please,” he begs, fixing his wild eyes on Louis’, teeth marks marring his bottom lip from how hard he’d bitten down. “’M ready, please.”

“God, you’re going to be the death of me,” Louis groans in reply, keeping his fingers inside as he crawls up Harry’s body to seal their mouths together once more. He nips at Harry’s lip when he pulls away, settling his mouth beneath the other man’s jaw and sucking a dark bruise there. Harry hisses at the pain but leans into it, one arm coming down to hold Louis tightly against his thrashing body.

By the time Louis reaches for the condom, the air feels so loaded it could catch fire any second. Harry is practically shaking with need underneath him, and the way Louis’ fingers tremble when he opens the condom wrapper, he’s not much better off. “Sorry, it’s not all-natural,” Louis jokes to break the tension, holding up the wrapper so Harry can see. Harry just rolls his eyes, reaching for the condom wrapper and tossing it off the bed.

The friction of putting on the condom and lubing himself up makes Louis close his eyes in pleasure, squeezing himself once to relieve some of the pressure. He lines himself up carefully, unable to look away from where Harry’s spread out for him. His cock sinks easily into Harry’s waiting hole, and the sensation is greater than Louis could ever have begun to imagine. He has to still himself once he’s fully inside, afraid he might come just from being inside Harry alone, but Harry is having none of it. He lifts his hips to meet Louis, grinding against him in a figure eight that has Louis wanting nothing more than to hold Harry down and fuck him into the mattress in retaliation.

So he does.

“Oh my god, Louis!” Harry yells, fingernails digging into Louis’ forearms as Louis thrusts into him with abandon. Louis pulls Harry’s arse onto his lap, hooking those long, lean legs over his arms and practically folding him in half in order to get as deep as possible.

By the sounds Harry makes, it works. He nearly screams when Louis nails his spot the first time, reduced to babbling incoherent praises on each following stroke. He pulls Louis down until their chests are flush, biting messily at Louis’ collarbones and linking his ankles behind Louis’ back until they’re as close together as possible. Louis can’t get much leverage this way, but it doesn’t seem to matter to Harry, just as loud on the shallow thrusts as he had been on the deepest.

“I’m so close,” Louis groans, dropping his face into the crook of Harry’s sweaty neck and laving at the flushed skin there.

Harry doesn’t reply, just whimpers as he meets Louis thrust for thrust, his cock throbbing where it’s trapped between their bodies. He teeters over the edge first, his come coating their stomachs as he cries Louis’ name. His body clenches around Louis in time with his pounding heart and it only takes one, two, three more erratic strokes before Louis is coming with a groan, sinking his teeth into Harry’s shoulder and relishing the way Harry moans right along with him.

His body collapses down onto Harry as the brunet’s legs slide from around his waist. They’re a mess of sweat and come, chests heaving and bodies still trembling from the aftershocks of their respective orgasms. Harry’s neck is a lovely canvas for the line of love bites littering it, and Louis knows his back will be dotted with little crescents from Harry’s nails.

“You’re incredible,” Harry sighs happily, holding Louis close, the sticky mess between them be damned.

“I’ll bet you say that to all the boys,” Louis replies cheekily, pressing a kiss to Harry’s forehead. He reaches down to grip the condom as he pulls out, wincing at the feeling against his sensitive dick. He gently disentangles himself from Harry’s arms, padding over to the ensuite to dispose of the condom and find something to clean them up with.

By the time he returns, Harry has curled up into a ball on the left side of the bed and is snoring gently. A fond smile on his face, Louis wipes the sleeping man off as best as he can before climbing in next to him, trying to keep his heart from bursting when Harry snuggles up to him in his sleep.

He’s so completely, unbelievably fucked, and in more ways than one.

&&

There’s no keeping himself away from Harry after their lovely… dinner.

Louis is at the shop nearly every day, to take Harry out for his lunch break or just follow him around, asking about products he’s never heard of and fucking with displays just because he can. Sometimes he actually comes to get groceries, but more often than not Harry shows up after work with a bag filled with Louis’ favourite things and they snuggle up on the couch with a movie and share a tub of locally made chocolate-and-wine ice cream.

Once in a while, Louis will surprise Harry at work with lunch. That’s where they are now, sitting in Harry’s office and munching on the sandwiches Louis brought. Harry’s in the office chair, Louis seated on the desk and kicking his legs. He sets down his half-eaten sandwich, looking down at Harry meaningfully.

“We should talk about this,” Louis says, prodding at Harry’s thigh with the toe of his trainer.

“We could,” Harry concedes, swallowing a mouthful of his own sandwich and looking up at Louis with a gleam in his eyes. “Or I could blow you right here on my desk.”

It’s an easy decision.

&&

One Saturday, Harry invites Louis out to the farm. It sits just outside of town, lush fields edged by white fencing. It’s so picturesque it could have come from a postcard, with a red barn and brick farmhouse completing the image.

“How do you manage all this by yourself?” Louis asks as they walk among the neat rows of crops. The air is thick with the smell of fertilizer and tomatoes, the plants on either side of them laden with fruit in varying stages of ripeness.

Harry plucks a cherry tomato off of one, dusting it on his shirt before handing it to Louis. “I don’t,” he chuckles, watching Louis pop the tomato into his mouth. “I hire people to help me. Some of the employees at the store work here part time as well, like Niall.”

The tomato is sweet and juicy when Louis bites into it, the best he’s ever tasted. “I can’t believe you grew that,” he moans, mopping up a bit of juice that escapes onto his lips. “I would never complain about eating my fruit and veg if it all tasted this good.”

“Organic,” Harry replies with a toothy grin. “You don’t need a lot of chemicals to grow something; that’s lazy farming. All you need is water, sunshine, healthy soil, and a little patience.”

“Where do the painfully tight jeans come into play, then?” Louis asks, waggling his brows and earning a swat on the bum for his trouble.

They walk on, side-by-side, their hands brushing as they walk. Every now and then, Harry breaks the silence to point out the tree he loved to climb as a child, or to name a plant, or point out where he patched the fence after Niall accidentally drove a tractor through it. The sun is just beginning to set, streaking the sky above them in shades of amber and rose, bathing the land below in a golden light.

“It’s so beautiful here,” Louis murmurs, though he’s looking at Harry instead of the surrounding farm.

“You should see it come autumn,” Harry replies, oblivious to Louis’ staring. “The trees go the most gorgeous shades of red and orange, and the corn gets so high you could get lost in it. Oh, and we grow pumpkins—”

Louis only half-listens as Harry prattles on, his mind too loud to focus on what the other man is saying. He won’t get to see the leaves change or when Harry invites the local schoolchildren out to pick pumpkins. He won’t get to see these verdant fields blanketed with snow or the first new plants of the season next spring.

He’s leaving. In a matter of weeks, he’ll be back in London, and Harry will stay here, nothing more than a memory and a few lines in a song to mark the time they’d shared.

“What are we doing, Harry?” Louis asks, not caring if he’d interrupted Harry or not.

Harry pauses, his previously gesticulating hand falling limply to his side as he turns to regard Louis curiously. “I’m showing you around the farm,” he answers simply, brows knit in confusion.

And fuck, he looks so beautiful in this light. The gold brings out a hundred different shades of brown in his hair, from copper to nearly black. His shirt, plaid and unbuttoned to his navel, catches the wind to gape open even further, revealing the flat chest and toned abs beneath. He’s everything Louis has ever wanted but, like most dreams, something he’ll never truly have.

“No, I mean, what are we doing,” he emphasises, gesturing between them. “We both know how this is going to end, and frankly you don’t strike me as the friends with benefits type.”

Harry’s eyes soften, as if he catches a glimpse of the war going on behind Louis’ eyes. “I’m not,” he admits, taking a step closer. “You’re going to leave, and I’m going to stay here, and it sucks, Lou. It really does. But,” Harry continues before Louis can butt in, reaching out to tangle their fingers together, “I think I’d be a fool not to make the most of the time we have together, even if it’s only temporary.”

It breaks Louis heart, knowing that both of them are already too deep in this to make it out unscathed, but Harry’s right. They’re here together now, and for the few weeks they have left. Why not try to enjoy it?

“Only if you’re sure,” Louis replies, tightening his grip on Harry’s hand. It’s big and calloused from years of manual labour, wrapping securely around Louis’ smaller one. “We can stop if you want. I would be happy just being your friend.”

It’s a lie and they both know it, but Harry’s too polite to call his bluff. Instead, he offers up a melancholy smile, his bun wobbling on top of his head as he slowly shakes it back and forth. “I wouldn’t,” he says softly, before turning and tugging Louis along the path like the entire conversation never happened.

&&

Louis should feel better now they’ve talked, knowing that he and Harry are on the same page, but somehow he feels even worse.

It’s Harry who’s put down roots. His entire life is here—his farm and his shop and everything he loves in the world. He’s going to spend the rest of his life in this town, and he’s perfectly content to do so.

Louis, on the other hand, has a sparsely furnished flat in London that he’s only lived in for the short while it’s been since his split from Cam. Liam is there, sure, but aside from the occasional meeting with him or a recording artist, most of their business could be conducted online or over the phone. Hell, his family isn’t even in London, still back in his hometown of Doncaster.

There’s absolutely nothing keeping him from staying here, and the thought is, well, terrifying.

He wants to broach the subject with Harry but never seems to find the opportunity. He’s either helping Harry at the store or the farm, or spending countless hours wrapped around him in bed, and the time never feels quite right to ask the question plaguing his every waking moment:

Do you want me to stay?

Louis’ scared, is the thing. He’s scared that Harry will say yes, and a few weeks or months or years down the road, Louis will decide he’s too big for this small town and take off. Or, worse, he’s afraid Harry will say no, content to leave their relationship (if that’s what this is) to a few glorious months before they part ways, never to see each other again.

So he doesn’t ask.

&&

All too soon it’s the week before he leaves.

He’s standing in the carpark of Naked & Proud, looking around at all the happy faces and glowing with pride that his boy is the cause of all this.

It’s the store’s annual summer funfair, and it seems the entire town has turned out for the event. There are samples and games, face painting and a cake walk. Harry even has a dunking booth set up, sitting on the seat in tiny yellow swimming trunks while Niall gleefully hands out balls to the people who pay to play, with all the proceeds going to charity.

“C’mon, Lou!” Harry calls down at him, still dry despite several attempts to unseat him. “Show the people how it’s done!”

Louis grins at being the focus of the beautiful man’s attention, all too aware of the knowing looks being tossed his way by surrounding crowd. While he and Harry have never made the details of their relationship public, people seem to have caught on anyway.

He wonders what they’ll all think when, this time next week, he’s simply gone.

“Wouldn’t want to mess up your pretty hair!” Louis shoots back, even as he reaches for his wallet. Niall’s eyes light up when Louis hands over ten times the suggested donation, dutifully giving Louis three balls and instructing him on where to stand.

Louis toes up to the white line marked on the pavement in chalk, hefting the first ball in his hand as he eyes the target in front of him. It’s small, but Louis has somewhat decent aim. Or he used to, anyway, back in his footie playing days at school.

“Hope you’re ready for this, love!” Louis calls, closing one eye and taking aim.

He misses, though not by much. Harry cackles gleefully from his perch above the tank. “Come on, Lou, I thought you were going to get me wet!” he crows.

“Still have two balls, Styles,” Louis grumbles over the laughter of the small crowd gathered to watch. “More than you’re going to have if you don’t shut it.”

“Make me!” Harry challenges, and Louis throws again.

This one misses too, a bit low, but third time’s the charm. Louis lines up once more, rearing his arm back and throwing the ball as hard as he can into what he hopes is the target. He follows its path just long enough to see it miss before flicking his gaze up to a triumphant Harry.

“That’s all you’ve got?” Harry jeers, crossing his arms over his chest. “You couldn’t hit the broad side of a—”

Then there’s a scream, and a splash, and Niall is standing there innocently with his hand pressed to the target.

“Whoops,” he says, laughing as Harry comes to the surface, spluttering. “Me hand slipped.”

Harry takes a few more turns in the dunking booth, and even convinces Louis to take one (though he’s still dry save from where Harry hugged him whilst dripping wet), before letting someone else take over so he can enjoy the festivities. There's a band playing live music, and Lindsay is handing out complimentary shopping bags designed for the event, and it’s the most fun Louis’ had all summer.

I’m going to miss this, he thinks, chancing a glance at Harry beside him, still clad in his swimwear with a towel wrapped round his shoulders. He tries to soak it all in, every sight and scent and sound, to relive on the days he wakes up alone to an empty flat in a busy city.

It hits him, then, that he doesn’t even have a photo of Harry to remember him by. This entire summer, the hours and hours spent in each other’s presence, they haven’t taken a single photo together. Sure, Harry’d taken one of their hands each gripping ice lollies that he’d posted to Instagram, and one of Louis drinking tea straight from the pot one morning when he’d slept over at the farm and couldn’t figure out where Harry kept his mugs.

But Louis hasn’t taken any of Harry, and now he only has a week to get his fill.

“Let me take a picture of you,” Louis says abruptly, taking Harry by surprise. He has no idea what makes him choose this moment, when Harry is barely dressed and his hair is drying in unruly waves around his face, but he can’t risk not ever being able to see Harry’s face again.

Harry, bless him, doesn’t question it. He merely curves his lips into a smile, running his fingers through his curls in an attempt to tame them, and tugs the towel from around his shoulders. “Okay.”

The sky is starting to darken and the crowds have thinned, the fading light making it hard to make out the green of Harry’s eyes or the dimple Louis’ grown so terribly fond of, but it’s still the perfect representation of the day. Harry is beaming at the camera, giving it a thumbs up with his right hand. Behind him, the Naked & Proud sign glows softly, and it’s fitting, Louis thinks, that Harry’s half naked himself in the photo and grinning like a loon.

It’s the first thing about this place that caught his attention and the thing that stole his heart all in one picture. Louis sets it as his background and posts it to Instagram and laughs with Harry when Louis’ mother texts him to behave himself.

&&

They don’t talk about Louis leaving.

Instead, they spend even more time together than they had been. Louis follows Harry to work, and more often than not follows Harry back to the farm to give him a hand. One day, Louis begs off visiting the shop, claiming he’s tired but not wanting to say it’s because he needs to pack. It’s Wednesday, and he’s driving back on Sunday, and there’s just not enough goddamn time.

Harry seems to know anyway, and shows up after work with ingredients for dinner, insisting Louis let him help pack. It must break Harry’s heart, knowing that his efforts are only leading up to Louis disappearing from his life, but he does it with a smile on his face and then cooks Louis the best damn lasagne that he’s ever had in his life (and not just because Louis helped pick some of the tomatoes that went into the sauce).

They’re both pleasantly full, glasses of wine half-emptied and the bottle between them emptier still. The candles Harry insisted on lighting cast a warm, flickering glow over the table, catching in all the crooks and crevices the way Harry’s ingrained himself into every facet of Louis’ mind.

The silence is deafening, both of them wanting to speak but neither knowing what to say. Four days isn’t enough time, the last few months weren’t enough time, and Louis is dying to open his mouth to say so when Harry beats him to it.

“Maybe we can try long distance?”

It should be comical, the way Louis’ mouth drops open in shock, but Harry flinches back as if he’s been slapped. “Sorry, stupid question, forget I asked,” he says quickly, lowering his eyes to the tablecloth. “You made it clear what this was, and I should respect that.” He stands abruptly, busying himself with gathering their plates and blowing out the candles while Louis just stares at him in wonder.

“I’d like that,” Louis says, but the sound is nearly lost to the water Harry’s running over the dishes in the sink.

He pauses, setting the plate he’s holding down and turning to look at Louis, his eyes seeming to bore straight into Louis’ soul. “What did you say?”

“I said—” Louis’ words are interrupted by three sharp raps on the door. It’s past seven in the evening, and too late in his stay for his family or Liam to pop by for a visit. Last time the mystery caller had been Harry, but now he’s staring at the door, seemingly just as perplexed as Louis is.

“Hold that thought,” Louis says, heart hammering in his chest as he pushes his chair from the table. He’s going to see who’s at the door, and tell them to fuck off, then go back and tell Harry that yes, he’s willing to do anything to keep from having to say goodbye.

Except, when he opens the door, his heart sinks down to his stomach, settling heavy and cold.

“Hello, Lou,” Cameron says pleasantly, and the name sounds so wrong coming from him. He looks exactly the way he did the last time Louis saw him, his black hair still neatly styled and a bit of stubble dusting his jaw. He’s in a suit, as if he’d driven straight from work, and maybe he had.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Louis growls, keeping the door closed so that Cameron can’t see in and Harry can’t see out. “How the fuck did you find me?”

Cameron looks confused at the venom in Louis’ tone, but pulls out his mobile and shows Louis the picture pulled up on the screen. He’d recognise it anywhere, Harry’s smile and the familiar logo glowing brightly behind him.

“I still follow you,” Cameron explains, tucking the phone back into his pocket. “When I saw the name, I had to Google it, and it turns out there’s only one location.”

Louis wants to curse himself for being so careless, but then again, he hadn’t known that Cam would turn out to be a fucking stalker. “Okay, but how did you find me?” he demands, growing angrier by the second.

“I asked around at the shop, said I was a friend coming to surprise you,” Cameron says, frowning. “Louis, I heard the song. The one you wrote about me? It’s incredible, and I’m so sorry I never saw how talented you were before it was too late.”

Louis scoffs. “Well, it is too late. You made sure of that when you were sticking it to your assistant.”

“I told you, it didn’t mean anything—”

“It sure as hell did to me!” Louis explodes, not caring if Harry hears. And he does, coming up behind Louis and settling a cautious hand on his shoulder.

“Lou? Who’s this?” Harry asks, though judging by the cool look he’s giving Cameron, he already knows.

“No one important,” Louis replies, turning to head back inside and shut the door in Cameron’s face. He’ll be damned if he lets that arsehole steal away any of his precious time with Harry.

Cameron catches the door before it can shut all the way. “This is the bloke from the photo,” he says, looking Harry up and down. “He’s on the store website, too, the owner.” He giggles at that, catching both Harry and Louis by surprise. “Must be really slim pickings around here, then.”

“What the fuck do you mean by that?” Harry demands, his tone harsher than Louis’ ever heard before. His grip tightens on Louis’ shoulder, other hand balling into a fist at his side.

Cameron just tosses his head back and keeps laughing. “A fucking hippie, Lou? Really?” he asks, wiping at his eyes before sneering at Harry. “We used to make fun of idiots like you back in London, with your holier-than-thou attitudes and ridiculous ideas of saving the planet.”

Harry looks taken aback, glancing between Cameron and Louis with wide, wounded eyes. “Louis?” he asks, all resolve gone from his voice.

“I didn’t know,” Louis explains with a helpless shrug. “Harry, I didn’t know anything about eating organic or sustainability or any of it. You’ve taught me so much.”

“And you’ve probably been laughing behind my back this entire time,” Harry shoots back. “You were going to go back to London and tell all your friends about the idiot farmer you tricked into falling for you while you were playing pretend off in the countryside.” He shakes his head, the corners of his eyes suspiciously wet. “I can’t believe I was stupid enough to fall for it.” With that he shoulders past Louis, brushing by Cameron as he stalks down the path toward his bike.

“Harry, wait,” Louis calls, stepping out on the walk, his chest tight around the frantic throb of his heart. This can’t be happening .

Harry ignores him, straddling his bike and planting his feet on the pedals without a backwards glance. He’s barefoot, his shoes still sitting next to Louis’ just inside the front door, but he doesn’t seem to notice or care as he disappears from sight.

“Well, that was dramatic.”

Louis starts at the voice, all but forgetting Cameron existed. He rounds on him, hands clenched into fists and seeing red as he confronts his ex-boyfriend. “What do you think you’re playing at?” Louis demands, getting up in Cam’s space.

“What, hurting the bumpkin’s feelings? Come on, Lou,” Cam says with a roll of his eyes. “You and I both know you’re too high maintenance for someone like him.”

“You don’t know shit about me anymore,” Louis spits. “I doubt you ever did.”

Cameron grabs Louis by the biceps, his brown eyes locking onto Louis’. “I know you wrote the most heartbreaking song I’ve ever heard in my life, and it was about me,” Cameron says. “I want you back, Louis. Surely we had something special if it inspired you to write that song.”

“What we had ended because of you!” Louis shouts, tearing free of Cameron’s grasp. “You had a lot of nerve coming here, but now you’re going to turn around and never, and I mean never, contact me again.”

“But—”

Louis doesn’t let his ex get a word in edgewise. “Cam, I want you to think long and hard about our relationship, and how it ended, and what on earth makes you believe I would ever give you a second chance. And, if that isn’t enough, maybe you should question why I never wrote a single song about you in the four years we were together.” He marches past Cameron, ignoring the shocked look on his stupid face, ready to try and fix things with the one person he cares about.

“You’ve written him songs, then?” Cameron’s voice asks, quiet and defeated. All the fight seems to have gone out of him, his shoulders slumping as he looks up at Louis with sad eyes.

“Within days of meeting him,” Louis replies calmly, before shutting the door between them for the last time.

Once inside, his mind is racing. On the one hand, he can’t believe Cameron had the nerve to show up here, months too late, to try and win Louis back. On the other, Harry had said he’d fallen for Louis, and fuck, he’d never been able to give Harry his answer about making this work.

He dials Harry’s number, but there’s no response. He sends texts instead, but they go similarly unanswered. He knows Harry’s mad, understands why even, but Harry couldn’t be more wrong about Louis’ feelings. Yeah, he used to think people who insisted on eating organic shit and turned their nose up at plastic bags were total idiots, but Harry had changed his mind about all that. He got him to buy vegetables, willingly, which is nothing short of a miracle.

Still, he thinks, Harry might need some time to himself to cool down, and Louis owes him that much. Harry had missed the part about Cam hunting Louis down, so for all Harry knows Louis invited him here. He’ll just go to bed and drop by the store, explain everything to Harry and have a laugh over whatever Harry’s packed for his lunch that day.

Everything is going to be just fine.

&&

Except Harry isn’t at the store the next day.

Lindsay says he’s ill, but Niall won’t look him in the eye, and Harry still hasn’t answered a single one of his texts.

He’s not there the next day, either, and word must travel fast because the other employees are giving him the silent treatment as well.

By the time Saturday morning comes, Louis’ desperate. He’s leaving tomorrow afternoon, and at this rate he isn’t going to get to say goodbye to Harry.

He’d dreamt of spending the entire weekend together in bed, trading kisses and memories and planning a time to come back and visit, but all of that vanishes when Louis shows up to the store and Harry’s bike is missing from the rack out front yet again.

“Niall, please,” Louis begs, marching over to Niall’s register, ignoring the people waiting to be checked out. “I have to talk to him. It’s all a misunderstanding.”

Niall doesn’t look up, just keeps scanning Mrs Connelly’s items. “I’m sorry, sir, but this line is for customers only,” he says, his voice cold.

“Fine!” Louis says, throwing up his arms and stomping off. He stalks over to the shopping trolleys and pulls one out. If this is how Niall wants to play, then Louis is game. He weaves through every aisle, filling his trolley to the brim with items without paying a bit of attention to what he grabs. When there’s no way he can possibly fit anything else, he joins the queue at Niall’s register, fingers gripping the handle of the trolley so tightly that his knuckles go white.

Niall’s eyes widen when Louis’ turn comes and he sees the sheer amount of items being loaded onto the counter, no rhyme or reason to the purchases. He doesn’t comment, just starts scanning, but Louis knows he has enough time (is quite literally buying it) to get his point across.

“I know you’re mad at me, and I don’t blame you,” Louis says, “but I’m leaving tomorrow, and it’s going to kill me if I don’t get the chance to explain to him before I go.”

“Shoulda thought of that before you hurt him, eh?” Niall replies brusquely, being none-too-gentle with Louis’ purchases. “Did you bring your bags today or would you like to purchase some?”

The fucking bags, honestly. “Fine, give me the bags, but please, Niall, listen to me.” And he explains everything: the person he’d been when he first came here, the reason he needed to get away, and the way Cameron had shown up out of the blue to ruin everything.

Niall’s nearly finished ringing Louis up by the time Louis’ finished speaking. The blond pauses, his hand resting on a bag of cat food that Louis can’t remember grabbing for the life of him. “I believe you,” he says finally.

Louis blinks, not sure he’s heard correctly. “You do?”

Niall shifts from foot to foot, looking up at Louis with his dark blue eyes. “The guy you mentioned. Cameron? He was here Wednesday, looking for you. Said he was trying to surprise you, so I told him where you lived.” He looks back down guiltily. “I swear, Louis, I had no idea he was your ex or I would have told him to bugger off.”

“Can you please just help me fix it?” Louis begs, hands clasped in front of him. “I love him, Niall. Please help me.”

The blond looks at Louis thoughtfully before coming to a decision. “All right. I’ll help you on one condition.”

“Anything,” Louis says on an exhale, unaware he’d been holding his breath at all.

Niall grins, hitting the ‘total’ button on his register and causing an obscene number to pop up on the display. “You still buy all of this stuff. And the bags.”

Louis just sighs and hands over his card. “Niall, I’d buy everything in this whole bloody store if it meant I could talk to him again.”

“Right answer,” Niall replies with a nod, handing over Louis’ card and receipt. “Now, what do you need me to do?”

The rest of the day is spent putting his plan together. Louis rings Liam and explains the situation, knowing that if anyone can pull this off, it’s his agent. He’s asking a lot, and it might all be for nothing, but Liam knows him well enough to know that Louis won’t stop asking until he gets what he wants.

“No guarantees, Louis,” Liam warns, just before hanging up the phone.

“It’ll work,” Louis replies, not quite sure whether he’s telling Liam or himself.

&&

Operation: Get Harry Back kicks off bright and early the next day. Niall swings by Louis’ on the way to work, grabbing the CD from him. It looks perfectly innocuous in its clear, unmarked case. “You really pulled it off, eh?” he marvels.

“What can I say, my agent is a miracle worker,” Louis replies, still amazed that everything seemed to come together just in the nick of time. He’d been nervous, but an email from Liam had been sitting in his inbox first thing this morning, nothing but a link in the body and at least thirty exclamation marks in the subject line.

“He’d be stupid not to talk to you after this, mate,” Niall says, giving Louis a pat on the back.

Louis smiles at that, running a hand through his messy hair. “I hope so, Niall, because he’s anything but.”

He waves goodbye as Niall climbs into his pickup and rumbles down the lane, before making a quick list of his part of the plan.

Shower. Shave. Put on clean clothes. The rest is in Harry’s hands, and all he can do is wait.

He’s sitting on his sofa, nervously tapping his heel against the floor. The hours seem to speed by. His bags are packed and sitting by the door, the little house as spotless as when he’d first moved in. He hopes it’s for naught—that Harry will change his mind and Louis can put everything back where it belongs. But, in case he doesn’t, Louis doesn’t want to stick around any longer than necessary.

It’s lunchtime when Louis’ mobile chimes, the sound jarring in his otherwise silent house. He glances nervously at the screen, heart leaping into his throat when he reads the sender’s name. It’s from Harry.

I’m coming over.

Louis leaps to his feet, too anxious to sit still as he paces the length of his lounge and back again. Did Harry hear it? Did he understand? Or is he coming to tell Louis to fuck off once and for all?

The knock on the door comes too soon and not soon enough. Louis’ feet barely seem to touch the carpet as he crosses to it, pulling it open breathlessly to await his fate.

Harry’s stood there, hair gathered in a low bun at the base of his neck, He’s still wearing his work shirt and apron, sweaty as if he’d come straight from work and got here as fast as he could. He has the CD case clutched in his hand.

“You heard it,” Louis breathes, his eyes traveling from the case back up to meet Harry’s eyes. His face is calm, impassive, giving no hint of the emotion brewing beneath the surface.

“I did,” Harry confirms, “and you wrote it?”

“I did,” Louis echoes, every muscle in his body thrumming in anticipation.

“For me?” Harry clarifies.

“Yes.”

Harry’s eyes are wide, and he looks so small standing there on the walkway. Louis wants so badly to reach out for him, but he isn’t sure he gets to, not yet.

“When?” Harry asks, his voice wavering around the edges.

Fuck it, Louis thinks, stepping outside and taking Harry’s free hand in both of his. “The second day we met. The day I dropped my eggs and you saw the lube and I couldn’t get you out of my mind. I wrote it that night.”

“I can’t believe you!” Harry cries out, tugging his hand away and taking a step back. “You’re the most confusing person I’ve ever met, Louis. You act like all you want is a summer romance, then you write me a song with the word ‘love’ in it before the thought ever crossed my mind.” He shakes his head angrily. “You make me madder than I’ve ever been, then get Ed fucking Sheeran to record a demo of that same song to try and win me back. I don’t know what I’m supposed to think!”

Louis lets him rant in silence, marveling at the way Harry’s even beautiful when he’s mad. When he finishes, chest heaving and eyes narrowed, Louis reaches for his hand once more.

“You’re supposed to think that I’m in love with you, and I’m sorry, and I promise that I would never, ever make fun of you behind your back.” He takes a deep breath, steeling himself for whatever happens next. “Harry, I swear to you that I had every intention of going back to London, but then you came along and made me realise that I don’t need a big city and a fancy flat to be happy. I need you,” he says, holding Harry’s gaze with his own, “and I don’t plan on leaving until you tell me to. Fuck long distance, Harry. These past couple of days without you nearly killed me; how on earth would I be able to leave?”

Without warning, Harry’s flinging himself at Louis with a sob, nearly bowling both of them over. “You better not be pulling one over on me,” Harry cries, his face buried in the crook of Louis’ neck.

“I’m not, I swear,” Louis promises, holding Harry close and breathing him in because he can. “And Harry, about Cameron—”

“I know,” Harry interrupts, pulling away so that he can look at Louis with wet, shiny eyes. “Niall explained everything. I should have known you wouldn’t do that to me.”

“Never,” Louis vows, and that’s all he has time to say before Harry is pressing their lips together and slipping his tongue into Louis’ mouth.

The kiss is hungry and hot, Louis letting Harry take control with clever presses of his tongue and practised nips of his teeth. They kiss like it’s the last one they’ll ever get, with passion and desperation and hands sliding under hemlines to press each other closer and closer together.

“Inside,” Harry demands, his eyes hooded and dark.

“Yeah,” Louis agrees, his mind foggy with lust. Mere moments ago he was sure he’d lost Harry forever, and now he’s taking him to bed, and the adrenaline coursing through his veins has him feeling on top of the world.

They waste no time stripping down, right there in the lounge, and though it hasn’t been that long since they slept together, it’s never been like this before. Harry crowds Louis against the sofa, pushing him down into the cushions gently and following his body on the way down. His hair has started to come loose from his bun, and Louis tugs the rest of it free, enjoying the way it falls around him like a curtain as Harry laps at his nipples.

“Turn over,” Harry says, pulling off Louis’ nipple, lips wet with saliva as he climbs off the couch entirely and stands at one end of it.

Louis does as he’s asked, rolling onto his stomach and squeaking in surprise when Harry tugs him down so his hips are draped over the arm of the couch, his bum pushed high in the air. “Harry, what are you—”

“Tell me if you want me to stop,” Harry says, his hot breath caressing Louis’ arse, and then he’s pulling Louis’ cheeks apart and diving in to lap at the muscle nestled between them.

The sound Louis makes is inhuman, his entire body alight with the feeling of Harry’s tongue in his ass. He keens when Harry manages to lick inside, squirms at the feeling of Harry’s breath against his spit-slick rim, and nearly passes out when Harry gently spreads him open to lick further inside.

“Fuck me fuck me fuck me,” Louis chants, torn between grinding against the arm of the sofa and pushing his arse closer to Harry’s relentless tongue.

“Where’s your stuff, love?” Harry gasps, lips dragging over Louis’ arse cheeks as he breathes. His tongue is replaced by a finger, tracing his rim teasingly but not quite pushing in.

And, right, Louis was getting ready to leave this afternoon. “Fucking packed,” he groans, rolling onto his back and pouting up at Harry. “You have the worst timing of anyone I’ve ever met.”

“Seems you have a type, then,” Harry replies with a wink, bending down to kiss Louis, his taste still clinging to Harry’s tongue. “Tell me which bag, love, and I’ll be right back.”

True to his word, Harry returns with lube and condom in hand, urging Louis to make room so they can lie together on the sofa, and wastes no time in slicking up one finger and picking up where he’d left off. It’s not slow, but it doesn’t need to be. They’ll have plenty of time to be slow later, but for right now all Louis wants is to feel Harry and relish in the knowledge that this is far from over.

Harry doesn’t disappoint, quickly working Louis up to three fingers before replacing them with his cock, Louis already feeling stretched out just by the head nudging at his entrance. “You’re so big, fuck,” Louis groans as Harry slides inside, the slight burn seeming to ignite his very bones.

“Feel so good, Lou,” Harry replies, stilling once he’s buried to the hilt to give them both time to adjust. It’s the first time they’ve done it this way ‘round, but Louis is willing to bet it won’t be the last.

“Move,” Louis pleads, and then Harry is slamming into him like he was built for it. It’s never felt the way it does now, having someone he loves inside of him. His entire body feels full of Harry, from his arse to his heart to his brain, and still he thinks he could never get enough.

Harry’s hips are already stuttering above him, the brutal pace quickly taking its toll on both of them. “Not gonna last much longer,” he warns, breathing heavily from the exertion.

“Come on, then,” Louis urges, reaching down to stroke himself. Harry beats him to it, wrapping long, slender fingers around Louis’ cock, using his thumb to smear precome down the shaft as he strokes.

Harry works his hand in time with his hips, and all too soon Louis feels the pressure climbing up his thighs and settling in his gut before he comes harder than he ever has in his life, splatters of white painting both their chests as Harry jerks him through it.

“Come for me, baby,” Louis mutters, half-incoherent from his orgasm, and then Harry’s coming with a low groan, fucking in deep as he rides it out.

They both lay there, panting heavily, no words seeming quite right for the bubble they’ve found themselves wrapped up in. Harry’s weight is welcome and grounding on top of Louis, and as he combs his fingers through Harry’s sweat-damp hair, he can’t help but remember the last thing Harry said as he was walking away.

“Did you mean it?” he asks out of nowhere.

“Hm?” Harry prompts, half-asleep where he’s nuzzled against Louis’ chest.

“Before, when you said you fell for me,” Louis elaborates. “Did you mean it?”

Harry chuckles, turning his head just enough to press his lips to Louis’ skin. “Of course I love you,” he replies, “but Beyonce was too busy to record the song I wrote about it.”

Louis tries his best to kick him with their legs tangled together. “You’re an arse,” he replies, hopelessly endeared all the same. Which, that reminds him.

“Hey, Haz?”

“Hmm?”

“Is eating arse organic?”

Harry pushes him off the sofa.

&&

It’s a busy day at the farm.

The leaves are raked into neat piles, certain to be destroyed the end of the day. A table has been set up outside, steaming cups of cider covering the surface. It’s a bit chilly, the sun’s rays diluted by the hazy sky, and Louis thinks it’s the perfect weather for picking pumpkins.

Today’s the day Harry allows all the children in town to come pick a free pumpkin, and the turnout is nothing to scoff at. Scores of children and their parents descend on the farm, running for the leaf piles and the pumpkin patch, giggling at the scarecrow Harry’d set up in the field and reaching anxiously for cups of hot, homemade cider.

Not for the first time, Louis’ incredibly glad that he’s here to witness it. It’s his second autumn on the farm, but each new season only makes him fall more and more in love with the land and the man who tends it.

“Mr Louis! I heard your song on the radio today!” a little girl shouts excitedly, running to Louis and giving one of his legs a tight squeeze. Amelia, she’s called, the daughter of one of the cashiers at the store.

“Yeah? Which one?” he asks, crouching down to smile at her and pluck a leaf from her messy blonde hair.

She looks around shyly before leaning in close to whisper, “the one about Mr Harry.”

Louis chuckles at that, turning his head in search of his boyfriend. He’s in the middle of the pumpkin patch, now wearing the scarecrow’s hat and flannel shirt and chasing a group of squealing children around. Louis loves him so, so much.

“You want to know a secret, love?”

Amelia nods, her big hazel eyes wide.

Louis looks to the side again, catching Harry’s gaze. Even now, in a ridiculous hat and ratty t-shirt, surrounded by a gaggle of children trying to tackle him to the ground, he’s still the most gorgeous thing Louis’ ever laid eyes on.

“They’re all about Mr Harry.”