when harry first spots louis again, he cant be sure. it’s a tuesday afternoon, rain spitting down in london and the lads have a few hours to spare before they need to meet and greet before the show. he takes two bodyguards on a coffee run, and when he looks up to order, something in his stomach drops and swoops.
the red faced young man behind the counter looks stressed out, cocoa powder lightly dusting his cheek, and barely resembles the silly boy that harry used to crowd into empty bedrooms at parties in manchester.
“louis,” he says, a little breathless with surprise.
“that’s what the nametag says,” comes louis’ reply, “what can i get for. oh.”
harry hears the penny drop, watches the cogs tick through his mind. there’s stubble decorating louis’ cheeks, making him look chiseled and manly. his hair has a perfectly styled windswept look to it, ruined only by the stress of rush hour coffee at lunch time. his eyes sparkle as he takes in harry’s face. harry feels out of his depth in a way that he hasn’t in years (more so than meet and greets, more than concerts, more than recording).
“harry styles,” is all louis says. “harry fucking styles.”
one of the big guys steps forward, all muscles and intimidation. “is he bothering you?” he murmurs.
“not at all,” harry replies, feeling a smile stretch over his face. he locks eyes with louis across the counter, butterflies having taken flight from his stomach all over his body.
“text me when you get there,” harry had said before sipping on his soy latte and giving louis a generous tip and what he hoped was a charming wave (it felt stilted and awkward and twitchy).
“you okay?” liam asks ten minutes before the show, pulling on his shirt and adjusting the monitor hooked on the back of his pants.
“fine, fine, fine,” harry chants a mantra, like he’s convincing himself that louis coming to the show wouldn’t be the single biggest thing that’s happened all week (year).
“you’ve checked your phone like sixty times in the past half-hour.”
“that’s twice a minute!” niall calls from where he’s throwing a ball up and down to energize himself. it’s something he’s started doing, ever since they were in LA and went to go see lamar odom play basketball (he mostly wanted to see khloe kardashain).
“look who learnt to count,” harry mutters, crossing the room and knocking the ball out of his hands. niall laughs and throws it at the back of his head.
he goes onstage without a text message. the show that night is strange: he wouldn’t describe it as disastrous per se, but harry himself feels like he’s a bunch of organs and veins melting out of his skin. he cant stand still for more than a minute at a time, trying to work out louis’ face in the crowd even though they can never see shit past the third row because of the lights, anyway.
zayn has to pick up the slack on his vocal acrobatics at least four times, he’s so distracted not running offstage and back to that silly café to see where louis has disappeared to that he simply forgets to sing. during his what makes you beautiful solo, liam pants’ him onstage in front of thousands of people and even more cameras, and he cant even bring himself to care. hurry up, hurry up, hurry up harry chants in his mind.
he’s slicked up in sweat by the time the show is over.
“what the fuck man?” zayn asks. it’s not biting, he’s simply part concerned and part curious.
harry just shrugs, and they high five some venue workers and members of their crew on the way back to their dressing room and then finally, finally he can check his phone.
harry’s had the basics of guitar down for a few years now. after he left for the x-factor house, and discovered that niall had bought his acoustic, he’d spend hours sitting wrapped up in his bedsheets strumming out patterns that reminded him of louis. sometimes, if his brain and his heart were co-operative, harry could get out some words about him, too. they never recorded any of his silly little love songs, but he still knows each one off by heart (just like he’s sure he knows the planes of louis’ body the same: the birthmark here and the tattoo there and the dusting of hair leading from his bellybutton, down).
the rest of the boys are off to funky buddah to celebrate five/ten successful shows at the O2. when harry starts making arrangements to go in the opposite direction, niall whines, “i need my wingman!”
“use li or zayn!” harry tries.
it makes him a bit sad to think about how easily the night could have gone for him: he could have smashed out the show, drank niall under the table at a club less than ten minutes away from his brand new house in primrose hill which he’s barely slept in. he could have crawled back to bed from funky buddah with some breathtaking mayfair girl, except for the fact that he’s not allowed. unless security want to crawl with him.
“you’re dead to me styles,” niall deadpans. “where are you going, anyway?”
“to meet an old friend,” he replies, and it’s not really a lie because him and louis technically never were anything but friends.
“you didn’t come to the show,” harry complains over a pint with louis. they’re in a little pub where no-one so far has recognized him, and louis looks breathtaking. maybe even more so than harry remembers.
he smiles. “i quite fancy my hearing the way it is, mate.” after a beat, he admits, “my sisters, they’re obsessed.”
“you see them much?” harry finds himself asking. louis looks taken aback, and rightfully so. harry never wanted to talk about this stuff when it was important; back in high school when louis’ dad left and he was all his mum had to pick up the pieces and he seemed to struggle so hard sometimes that his shoulders would slump with the weight of the family’s joy riding on them.
“at least twice a month,” louis replies warily, taking a gulp from his drink and watching harry intently. “what about you, how do you do it?”
“haven’t been home in months,” harry shrugs, “the last break we had i flew to LA.”
he looks surprised, and laughs out loud like it’s trivial. “why?”
harry laughs, too. “why not?”
if harry’s honest, he’s spent a lot of the past three years thinking (and trying not to think) about louis tomlinson. things with louis were never classified as serious; never anything to worry about because nobody knew and nobody was ever meant to know. after x-factor happened, harry got whisked away and had to make louis “please, please just promise not to tell anybody.”
“because i like girls. i mean. i need to like girls. for the band.”
they didn’t talk again after that. louis wouldn’t. harry hadn’t been back home in a long time, but it turns out the thing he was avoiding most was hiding in a coffee shop in central london. london’s not huge, but now it seems smaller than ever.
louis is the first thing that really looks like it belongs in his over-the-top primrose hill bachelor pad. “primrose hill?” louis asks incredulously, kicking around the kitchen, “don’t know why we couldn’t have just gone back to my flat.”
when they settle outside on the couches, louis sprawls across one comfortably. like a chameleon who can blend in anywhere. just the way harry remembers him. he lights a joint and after a few inhales, passes it to louis. “i’ve barely spent any time here,” he admits.
“your fault, not mine,” louis argues, mouth wrapped around the joint. harry tries not to look.
it’s been a few hours. he’s drunk. he has to remember not to smoke too much because after drinking it can get gross and dizzy and not fun. he’s pretty content to sit here watching louis (trying not to watch louis) all night.
“you’re my first proper guest,” harry tells him.
“woo,” louis waves a finger around in the air, obvious sarcastic enthusiasm. harry feels laughter bubble up his chest before it spills out his mouth. louis doesn’t take any of his shit. he spent a solid twenty minutes laughing at him about the body guards earlier, and every time they walk through a new room in his house he finds something decadent to comment on. it’s surprisingly refreshing.
thick, grey smoke streams out of harry’s lips, creating a fog around his head. “apart from the lads,” he amends, “but they don’t count.”
“what are they like?” louis asks softly, so softly that harry flicks his eyes up to look at him. the other boy shrugs, the material of his t-shirt moving with his shoulder. (under the collar of the t-shirt is a new tattoo, inked into soft, tanned skin but harry tries not to look. tries). “the guys, are they good t’you?” he mumbles.
“the best,” harry assures him. “my bestest friends in the world.” a silence settles between them, so harry takes another puff before passing the dwindling joint back to louis. he doesn’t ask anything more, but harry feels the words bubbling over again like his laughter before. “liam’s really caring, like. excessively so. always puts everything before himself, it’s hard to watch sometimes. and then on the flipside, zayn’s. he’s indulgent, but only because he knows we’ve worked hard for everything. it’s understandable in a way. niall’s just plain fun, i mean. what can i say about niall?”
he trails off, unsure if anything he said actually made any sense.
“i love them,” he says firmly, eyes fixated on one of his neighbour’s trees over the fence, “i love them more than i thought i would. or could. they understand me in a way that nobody has since.”
“since?” his stoned ramblings must be a lot more compelling than he thought. louis is sitting bolt upright, staring at harry.
“well, since you.”
they fuck. of course they do, they were always going to. from the minute harry walked into that coffee shop, it was a given that he wasn’t going to get out of london without fucking louis tomlinson.
it’s dirty and fast the first time, fucking freezing outside with no attempt from either of them to mask their desperation to be close to one another. louis leaves hickeys all over harry: his chest and hips, the inside of his thighs and his neck. they’re meant to tell the girls they sleep with to leave the neckline clear, but harry can’t bring himself to. it feels too ritualistic, like paying tribute to the past. louis mounts harry, they get their hands down one another’s pants and within minutes its over.
harry wants more. louis’ lips are swollen, made red by the way he’s been licking and biting at them. he drags louis to bed and lays him out, examining what is new and what is old. louis’ skin, always naturally brown and beautiful, is inked with more tattoos here and there, but still the little illegal one he always remembers being there. his torso, his arms, his abs, all more defined but still beautiful as ever and deserving of worship. harry licks a trail from his neck to his cock, and spends twenty minutes sucking him off and prepping him, listening to the sounds he’s making and trying not to come.
when he eventually enters louis, its hard and fast then slow and deep, and harry makes him come another two times before finally releasing into the condom that louis asked him to put on.
(he knows why. he understands why. he’s a fucking rockstar [nick would say popstar] but still. it’s the first time he’s ever had sex with louis wearing a condom and it feels like an apoplogy.)
afterwards, harry lights another joint and they pass it back and forth between their mouths, the earthy scent of smoke mixing in with the smell of sex that lingers in the air.
it works harry up again, but louis groans, “not again, i physically can’t,” and he laughs between kisses, “in the morning.”
harry passes out with something to look forward to.
harrys fingers dance idly across louis’ back. he’s not sure if the other boy is awake: would he let him touch him like this if he was? they don’t stop, running over the skin of his back, his sharp hipbone.
the biggest mistake louis ever made was probably letting harry touch him like this. it blurred the lines too dangerously. the first few times, louis’d shimmy back into his skin-tight jeans and kiss harry hot and hard on the mouth before leaving. “cheap,” harry had told him, sixteen and all hair, “it makes me feel cheap.”
harry started spending the night. started eating meals at louis’ house, amongst the chaos of all the girls. they’d go to parties and lock themselves in a bedroom with a bottle of cheap vodka and fuck until it was over. louis became a permanent fixture, and harry memorized him like he was never supposed to forget him.
his thumb presses against the inside of louis’ arm and stroking up and down his forearm lazily, and hand freezes at the ripple of skin just below louis’ wrist. he stirs, showing the first sign of being awake. “you’re still doing that?” harry asks, feeling uneasy.
“not since i started at uni again.” he replies, sounding scrutinized. it’s miniscule, but he shifts away from harry and lifts his head off of the pillow. harry can feel the crease in his own forehead. “hey,” louis mumbles, “it’s nothing.”
“you know i never liked—“
“well if harry styles doesn’t like it, i should certainly stop,” louis laughs, rolling back over and comfortably sprawling half on top of harry. he’s sleep warmed and beautiful, smile not quite reaching his eyes.
the sun is only just peeking through the curtains outside as he fucks louis into the mattress. the sex is as good as ever, but he cant stop looking at the cuts on louis’ forearm.
“d’you want breakfast?”
louis’ hair is wet from the shower as he wanders into harry’s kitchen. it’s all very domestic, and makes harry feel warm to his bones despite the fact that he’s standing, bare chest cold in front of the open fridge door. it’s depressingly empty in there. he suddenly wonders what louis’ fridge looks like; what his flat looks like. if it resembles his bedroom from high school at all. he wants to know.
unlike last night, louis looks awkward. looks like he feels out of place. harry knows what he’s going to say, and suddenly feels sick. “i should get going,” louis says.
he shakes his head and meets harry’s eyes cautiously, “i’m meant to be going home today. i mean, to see the girls and mum.”
harry closes the door. “oh, okay,” he hears himself mutter, and it sounds wounded. fuck. too open, too honest. he was always that way too, pouring his heart out to louis and never asking anything in return. harry feels his hands shake and hates himself for a minute.
“did you. did you maybe want to come? i mean, if you’re not busy?”
he does a double take. (he’s not busy, they have two days off before finishing the O2 circuit and then moving up through the rest of the UK. technically, he could. he should. he hasn’t seen his mum in a long time). louis looks worried because beneath the stubble he’s the same boy he was three years ago – he doesn’t know how to ask for things. he’s not offering harry a travel buddy. he’s offering something else. something he’s offered before, and harry’s not stupid enough to say no this time.
louis has scars and even if he’s the one who put them there, all harry wants to do is fix them.
“did you want to come home?” he asks, chewing on his bottom lip.
harry smiles. “take me home, louis.”