Work Header

These Roads We Stumble Down

Work Text:

When he was young, one of Harry’s favourite things was lying down in the back seat of his mum’s car in the middle of a storm, watching the raindrops chase horizontal across the glass. Sometimes he would squint his eyes, willing the wind to blow faster or the rain to fall heavier, and revel in a rush of euphoria every time it did. Like he could actually bend the weather’s will. Most of the time though, Harry would lie down and let himself be encompassed by the dark, endless sky above him, the road rushing beneath him, Elvis on the radio and his mum humming along, and safe. Comforted, protected, safe.

The insistent, confused drizzle that’s been chasing his car ever since he left London, conjures none of those feelings. By the time he had arrived in Oxford, the mid-spring shower had been forcing him to sporadically flick his windshield wipers on and off for the better part of an hour as it carelessly and unevenly splattered his windows. Not wet enough to stop his wipers dragging noisily, not dry enough to ignore. Now, as his short detour ends, Harry can only hope that it doesn’t persist and follow him for the rest of his nine-hour journey north to Aberdeen. There’s already a twist of growing anxiety in his chest that doesn’t need to be compounded.

It’s only been a week since the phone call – the one that he sees capitalised and in inverted commas in his mind. But within that time, he has managed to quit his job mixing up orders at a coffee shop, give up his apartment, and reduce his life to two bags, his guitar case, and a ‘98 puke-green Volvo V70 estate that has not only seen better days, but probably danced naked through them while snorting charlie lines in between vodka shots. It’s reckless. Harry’s never believed in doing things halfway.

He had been running late when Ed called, rushing out the door towards a job he hated, but needed if he didn’t want to end up on the streets, or worse, crawling tail between legs back to Holmes Chapel. He could already picture the dirty bathrooms, the uncontrolled children, and the suits ordering non-fat no-foam soy lattes with added shots of espresso under the guise of misplaced pretention. Midway through composing lyrics about stringing himself up by the counter next to the fair trade display, his phone had vibrated through his skin-tight jeans, and they were just five little words, but they seemed like everything. They were his proof that chances were worth taking.

“Come on tour with me?”

It was fitting that it would be Ed who would give him his next chance.

The first months after Harry had arrived in London were filled with a desperate desire to return to the comfort of home, feelings of hopelessness that he would be forever reaching and never grasping, and more importantly, more overwhelmingly, a sense of rightness that he was exactly where he needed to be. Meeting Ed had seemed like just another inevitable happening in a fateful series of events, beginning with their chance encounter at an indie music night at a bar in Camden a year earlier.

If Harry were to describe it, watching Ed play that night was like witnessing one of those fixed, significant moments in history. He had that practiced air of a veteran, confidence coming through every quick-witted line falling from an even quicker tongue. Like he had spent years learning who he was and honing it, while Harry was still clumsily trying to find words that rhymed with ‘hopes’ and ‘fears’.

Surrounded by a loyal fanbase that had been slowly building within the pub scene and that he was rapidly becoming a part of, Harry couldn’t help thinking; this here was everything he had ever wanted. Everything, ever since he was twelve years old and his step-dad had handed him a battered, second-hand Epiphone acoustic and taught him the opening notes of Come As You Are. This here was why he had taken that chance and why he would stick it out.

And a year later – a year of rejection and cruel patrons and a certain loss of naiveté – he finds that the fingers that have been grasping and clutching at straws have finally curled around something solid. It’s not a proper tour, and he’s only a half hour opening act, and he’s essentially being paid in pints, but it feels like he’s taking one giant step closer to where he wants to be.

Yet even so, there are those nerves in his stomach that twist and pull, and try to transplant him from his body and into his eighteen-year-old self, who is alone and out of his depth and inexperienced. It’s one thing to be playing background music for people already half-drunk in local pubs, but another to be playing for people who have actually paid money, who are there to judge and comment and, for better or worse, direct the course of his career. Harry wants this so much that it scares him and has turned the rain vengeful. But fear has never stopped him before.


Oxford, 19:03

Heading towards the M40, Harry tries to remember when exactly the last time he’d changed his tyres was. The rain seems to have finally granted his wish and has begun to pick up, melding into a steady beat and painting the bitumen dark and slick. He’s turned up the volume of the radio to drown it out, and is in the middle of fiddling with the tuner to try and find something other than Katy Perry or Flo Rida and their ilk, when he spots a vaguely human-shaped blur in the near distance.

There’s a figure up ahead, moving slowly down the side of the road with a hand raised, glowing white under the car beams, and curled into a thumbs-up. He’s walking in a slightly wonky zigzag in an effort to avoid being splashed by passing cars, which Harry can’t help but think is kind of ridiculous, considering how hard the rain has begun to come down. As he approaches, he notices the hunch of the shoulders and the sockless feet and how small and solitary he looks beneath the car lights and the rain.

Harry finds himself indicating left and pulling to a stop at the side of the busy road, stubbornly ignoring his mother’s voice at the back of his head telling him to never pick up strangers. Right beside him, he can see the boy’s wearing a maroon sweater with the hood pulled over his head in a futile attempt to escape the rain, and his legs are covered in black jeans rolled up at the ankle, which are so wet that it’s hard to tell whether they’re meant to be plastered to his skin or not. Harry both regrets his decision to pull over, because who knows what kind of person this is, and feels glad that he did, because any time longer spent in the rain would have probably resulted in a bad cold at the very least.

He doesn’t have time to weigh his arguments though, for as soon as he stops, the door is wrenched open, and the boy, who appears to be his age, tumbles into the passenger seat along with approximately a litre of rainwater and a blast of cold air set to challenge the car’s war-weathered heater.

He’s completely drenched, not one millimetre of him not covered in rain, and the old sheepskin cover over the seat is probably going to stink afterwards from the damp. But even with what seems to be a constant tremor shaking his body, brown hair plastered to his forehead, and a blue tinge to his skin that brings out his eyes in startling relief, he’s probably the most gorgeous person that Harry has ever seen.

“Hi, I’m Louis,” the boy says, seemingly wary because of Harry’s silence. “You’re not a serial killer or anything, are you? Because I’d rather stay out in the rain if that’s the case, to be honest.”

“No,” Harry says hastily. “No, definitely not. I’m just Harry. I don’t suppose you’re a serial killer, are you?”

He wants to hit himself in the head once it’s out of his mouth, but Louis just holds out his dripping arms, trembling slightly with cold and says, “Well, Harry, you can pat me down if you want, but I promise I’m not carrying anything except a mobile that no longer works and an empty wallet. Like, that is literally it.”

Harry finally drags his eyes away from his face, and sweeps them up and down Louis’ body, taking in the way the shirt beneath his hoodie pulls down to reveal his collarbones and a hint of cursive script, and the way his jeans are clinging tightly to his firm thighs. Louis follows his gaze with an eyebrow raised and an amused smirk that makes Harry uncertain whether his intentions were completely innocent.

“Maybe later,” Harry says with a smirk of his own. He sees a flicker of quickly schooled surprise cross Louis’ features.

“Yeah, maybe,” Louis echoes, before suddenly turning towards the radio, eyes brightening. “Oh, Katy Perry. I love this song.”

The words of an appalled retort are already filling his mouth, when Louis’ body is racked with a full-on shiver, arms instinctively coming up to guard his chest.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a blanket or something in the boot, would you?” Louis asks, and this time Harry sees the tension in his jaw as he tries to stop his teeth from chattering and feels immediately guilty.

“Hang on, you can borrow some of my clothes,” Harry says, turning to grab one of his leather holdalls in the backseat.

“No, seriously, it’s okay,” Louis says quickly. “I don’t need to borrow anything. I’m fine.”

Harry turns back to stare at Louis in disbelief. “You really aren’t. You’re going to make yourself sick if you stay in those clothes.”

“I won’t, seriously,” Louis says, eyes wide. “I’ve got a great immune system. Once I warm up a bit I’ll be fine.”

“But you won’t get warm if you don’t take off your wet clothes,” Harry persists, pulling out some worn navy joggers, a loose grey jumper and a towel. After a moment’s hesitation he takes out a pair of black boxer briefs as well.

“There’s no point wearing the joggers if they’re going to just get wet,” he says by way of explanation when he sees Louis’ doubtful expression. “I promise they’re clean.”

Louis still seems to be a little unsure, so Harry just shoves the towel and clothes into his hands and makes a show of covering his eyes. “When you’re finished I’ll start driving. There should be a plastic bag in the glove compartment to put your wet clothes in. You can lay the towel on the seat after you’ve finished.”

After another undecided moment he hears the soggy sounds of Louis stripping off his hoodie and shirt and dumping them heavily on the floor, followed by a scratching struggle with his jeans. Harry wants to ask him if he needs a hand, but even he’s not that forward.

Finally, Louis says, “You can stop that, I’m done now,” and Harry uncovers his eyes to look at him. “You didn’t really have to close your eyes in the first place, though. I don’t have a lot of shame.”

Seeing what his clothes are doing to Louis’ body, Harry can understand why. While the joggers fit a little more snug around the thighs than they do on him, and are long enough to bunch up at his ankles, his jumper is another matter altogether. It already wears a little baggy on him, but Louis is positively swimming in it, his small hands covered entirely by the too-long sleeves, and the neckline hanging dangerously low across his shoulders. He should look like a kid in their mother’s dress-ups, but instead, with his wet hair standing in different directions from the quick towelling off, he looks clean and warm and sensual. Through a quick flash of heat and a desire to reach over and bundle Louis into his arms, Harry fervently prays that he won't be spending the next nine hours of the drive with blue balls.

“If you keep looking at me like that, I might have to find a new driver, mate. Not exactly safe, is it?” Louis says, interrupting his train of thought.

Harry cringes, immediately averting his gaze. “Sorry, I, that’s really not—”

Louis rolls his eyes. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just saying that you’ve got to keep your eyes on the road. Car accidents are the biggest cause of death in the world, don’t you know?”

“Right,” Harry says, purposefully directing his eyes ahead and turning on the indicator. “No accidents.”

He tries not to blush when Louis bursts into laughter.


A34, 19:28

They’ve been driving for about ten minutes in what Harry assumes is a comfortable, companionable silence, only interrupted by Louis humming along quietly to the top 40 on the radio. He’s actually humming in tune and he’s got pretty good pitch, which is the sole reason Harry hasn’t switched stations or put on a CD.

The thing is though, he’s never picked up a hitchhiker before, so he’s not really sure on the etiquette of the whole thing, talking-wise. He tries to remind himself that he’s very good at talking to others and has even been called charming on occasion by people who aren’t his immediate family. It doesn’t stop him from breathing a sigh of relief when it’s Louis who ends up breaking the silence.

“So, where are you heading exactly?” Louis asks, seemingly casual, fingers tangling with the bottom of his jumper.

“Aberdeen,” Harry says, determinedly keeping his eyes straight ahead and definitely not straying left and downwards.

Louis blinks up in surprise, and Harry supposes, it is a bit far to drive, really, especially on his own at night.

“I’ve never been to Aberdeen,” is what he says instead.

Harry shrugs. “I think a lot of people haven’t, right? People never want to go to places that appear to be right in front of them. Not exciting enough. Like, what would you tell your friends? ‘Oh yeah, went on a short trip to Aberdeen, been wanting to go there for ages!’ Besides, what could Aberdeen have that London doesn’t?”

“Spoken like a true Londoner,” Louis says wryly. “Although your accent says otherwise.”

“Cheshire,” Harry says, not refuting Louis’ first statement because it’s true really. He’s felt more at home in London than he ever did in Holmes Chapel. Moving was like coming home in every literal sense of the word.

“Figured. Yorkshire, meself, originally. Doncaster.”

“But not anymore?” Harry asks, because he still doesn’t really have any idea where he’s taking Louis, even though that probably should have been the first thing he’d asked. As opposed to “Are you a serial killer?”. Even if he has to go out of his way to drop him somewhere, he doesn’t really mind though. He’s always preferred a little company, and if that company happened to take the shape and form of a beautiful blue-eyed boy currently drowning in his clothes, then so be it.

Louis shakes his head, fingers still turning the hem of the jumper into origami. “Nah, I haven’t been living at home since I finished high school a few years back. Although, I head back often enough.”

“Oh?” Harry says. “So where are you heading now?”

“Well, my mates and I were going to travel up to Glasgow. We’ve got a friend there who told us we could kip with him for a few weeks, so I suppose I’ll just get there a bit ahead of them.” Louis shrugs, apparently unconcerned about his lack of planning.

“That’s convenient, though,” Harry says, smiling. “Shouldn’t take more than six or so hours to get there.”

“Yay, road trip,” Louis says, half-heartedly waving tiny sleeve-covered fists in the air.

He looks so sweet, and Harry has half a mind to reach over and ruffle his hair. Something tells him that Louis wouldn’t exactly appreciate that though.

Instead he asks, “If you’re travelling with friends, why were you walking out there by yourself?”

“Well,” Louis says. His fingers have stopped pulling at his jumper, and he clasps them in his lap and turns to face Harry with a very solemn expression, like he’s settling in for an epic retelling. “If you really want to know, I was actually at a party, but my asshole friends buggered off without letting me know. But it was okay, even though I didn’t really know anyone there, because, you know, free alcohol. But then there was this guy who asked me to go for a walk with him.”

Louis pauses there to cast Harry a meaningful gaze, but Harry merely nods for him to continue, earning a sharp-toothed grin in return.

“And so I thought, sure, fresh air is good, fresh air is really good,” Louis continues. “I may have been a little drunk at that point. But then, as we were walking and he made a grab at my arse, I realised that perhaps he was not the one for me and my destiny lay elsewhere – preferably not behind the brick wall of a block of flats off St Clement’s. And then I ran away before realising I had no idea where I was. And then it began to rain and my phone got waterlogged, didn’t it? And I couldn’t remember where my friends said they were going. And then I thought, I know, I’ll call them, but—” He makes a sheepish gesture to his phone.

“And that’s when I realised what that old guy on the BBC the other day was saying – about how our reliance on technology and that was going to be our downfall? It’s true, because for the life of me I can’t remember any of my friends’ phone numbers.”

Harry can’t help the sudden bark of laughter that escapes him, but when he glances at Louis his eyes are shining like that’s exactly what he wanted.

“I think he was talking about cyber attacks, not people damaging their phones,” Harry says, because he likes knowing things.

“Yeah, that might be true,” Louis concedes. “But any longer out there and I might have been attacked, which would have been much worse, probably. I’m very pretty, you know.”

Louis blinks up owlishly at him through his lashes, and fuck, he really, really is, so much so that once again it takes Harry a moment to pull his gaze away and back onto the road. He is beginning to worry about whether either of them will come out of this journey alive.

“That you are,” Harry says after a pause too long, and he might be wrong, but from the corner of his eye he sees a small smug grin grace Louis’ lips, and it makes his stomach flip dangerously and his hands tighten on the steering wheel.

It’s strange, but he kind of feels like he’s been losing ever since Louis got into the car, even though he’s pretty sure that there’s no game that he agreed to play.


Near Hockley Heath, 20:33

Louis is bored. They had chatted idly on and off, with Harry refusing to pay Louis too much attention lest they die in a pile of twisted metal at the side of the M6, and then Louis had tried and failed to nap. Now he seems even more awake, and as the devil makes work for idle hands, Louis’ keep flitting everywhere – in the glove box and the little draw where Harry keeps his change, along the sun visor in front of him to flick through the CDs he finds there, and then Harry’s too, almost clipping him in the head.

“Looking for anything in particular?” Harry says, trying to sound more exasperated than charmed.

“No,” Louis says, shoving his hand down the passenger door pocket and coming up with a couple of faded receipts. “Just seeing what kind of person you are. Reading your life story, so to speak.”

“Oh? And what do your astute observations tell you?” Harry asks, like casual intrigue is an actual thing.

Louis gives a shrug, the jumper Harry’s given him sliding a little further down his shoulder. “You’re not exactly high on funds, but you’re relatively neat. You have a bit of a sweet tooth because, mate, that is a hell of a lot of candy in your glove box. And, you really like music, especially those pretentious indie hipster bands that all sound like people commemorating a funeral in the Deep South with banjos and barefoot stomping.”

“They’re not pretentious hipster indie bands,” Harry says, frowning.

Louis only raises an eyebrow, looking all too pleased with himself. “But I’m not wrong, am I? And now I know you’re probably in one of those pretentious hipster indie bands.”

Harry purses his lips, because Louis is definitely not as dumb as he pretends to be and it only increases Harry’s desire to jump his bones.

“I’m not in a band,” he says eventually.

“But you’re a musician?” Louis says, waggling his eyebrows.


“Perhaps, as in it’s your personal life goal to sell out the O2.” It’s not even a question. He doesn’t even look like he needs Harry to respond, simply entertaining himself by continuing to contort his eyebrows into weird shapes in the visor mirror.

“Yeah, perhaps,” Harry says.


Near Stafford, 21:17

They’re nearing nearly two hours of solid driving, the rain has stopped and Harry needs a break. Just as he’s beginning to think about food, he hears Louis’ stomach rumble beside him.

“Oops,” Louis says, covering his small belly with his hands. “That’s a bit awkward.”

“Are you hungry?” Harry asks. “There’s a Moto up ahead in Stafford, I checked it before on the route planner. They’ll have a takeaway or something.”

“I’ll need to go to a bank,” Louis says, fiddling with the seam of his jumper and obviously uncomfortable. “I think I left my card with my friends and I’ve got no money.”

“Well there’ll be no banks open this time of night,” Harry says. “Don’t worry about it, you can pay me back later if you want.”

Louis looks uncertain for a moment before nodding. “Yeah, okay. But I’ll definitely pay you back, alright?”

“Yeah, course,” Harry says, because it seems like something Louis needs to hear and not because he actually wants or expects it. Louis just gives another little affirming nod.

There’s a Burger King, and Louis gets a double bacon cheeseburger and Harry contemplates getting a veggie wrap before noticing Louis’ disgusted expression and ordering a whopper with cheese instead.

“This is so bad for you,” Harry mumbles around a mouthful once they’re sitting in a corner booth, ankles crossed under the table, and chips in a big pile on the tray in front of them, decorated with squiggly lines of ketchup. Louis had been quite proud of his creation.

“I know,” Louis says happily, meat still half-chewed in his mouth. “Isn’t it great?”

It’s completely unfair that Louis is still attractive with greasy lips and a bit of plastic cheese stuck to his cheek. His hair is now completely dry from the heater, and it fluffs up around his head softly like a halo. His skin has also lost its blue tinge, and has gone beautifully golden and sun-kissed now that he’s warmed up a bit. Harry wonders how he managed that in the middle of spring, if it’s some remnant of freedom. From what he knows of Louis’ life though, maybe freedom hasn’t escaped him yet.

“It’s all going to go to my bum, though, always does,” Louis says after he’s finished the burger, now slurping noisily on his large cola and picking at the fries.

“I like your bum,” Harry says without thinking. “And don’t drink too much, I don’t want to have to stop constantly ‘cause you need to take a piss.”

“Harry, we are men. We don’t need to stop, there are windows for a reason,” Louis says, and that is not a mental image that Harry wanted. “And what was that about my large, womanly posterior?”

Harry aims for nonchalance, because he did not try to walk an even two steps behind Louis from the car park into Burger King, and then stand behind him in line under the pretence of indecision. “Come off it, you know it’s…great.”

“Great?” Louis says, grinning around the chip in his mouth. “Is that it? Come on Harry, ‘m feeling a little insecure here.”

Harry rolls his eyes, but can’t help smiling back. “Yeah, it’s really great. Amazing, even. Spectacular. Remarkable. Mesmerising. Awe-inspiring. Apocalyptic!”

Apocalyptic?” Louis gasps in exaggerated horror.

Harry winks. “Nations have fought over less.” He stretches his arm in the air, creating an invisible banner. “The bum that launched a thousand ships.”

“Somehow I think we’ve gone from complimentary to mocking,” Louis says dryly, but then shakes his head and gives a small laugh.

“Not mocking,” Harry says, as seriously as he can manage, because he thinks he might be in love with that laugh, and if he’s lucky he might be able to hear it again. “The world will end one day over your bum and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.”

Louis snorts. “Well I wish I could say the same for your tiny booty.”

“Hey!” Harry cries, indignant. “After all those nice things I said about yours, too!”

“What can I say,” Louis says airily, waving a chip. “We can’t all be blessed. I don’t think I need to point out which side of that equation your butt ranks.”

“Wow, you know, I’m beginning to think your inferiority complex was all an act.”

Louis just sticks his tongue out and throws his chip at Harry, who makes a valiant attempt to catch it in his mouth. They spend the next five minutes testing their aim, scattering chips across the table and on the ground and in Harry’s hair amidst raucous laughter until an unimpressed Burger King employee comes over and orders them out.

They shuffle outside, walking much closer to each other than strictly necessary, arms pressed together and sharing warmth. Louis looks up at him, eyes still bright with laughter, and Harry feels like he has to physically hold his insides together, because they are threatening to melt into puddles of mush. The thing is, Louis isn’t just gorgeous. He’s easy to talk to and funny and smart and there’s something about him that just fucking glows. It’s irrational and ridiculous, but Harry feels a little sick knowing that their journey is nearly a third over.

When they get back to the car, Louis snatches the keys out of Harry’s hands while he’s distracted by a loud, jaw-cracking yawn.

“You need a rest, you look exhausted, mate. Let me drive, yeah?” Louis says with a smile, and it’s so sweet and lovely that Harry just nods and settles into the passenger side, not even questioning the logic of essentially letting a stranger drive his car.


M6, 22:15

Harry doesn’t know what he was expecting, but he didn’t foresee Louis being slower than his seventy-five-year-old grandmother pre-hip replacement.

“Louis,” Harry says, trying his hardest to be patient. “Speed up a bit, the cars behind us are starting to get annoyed.”

“They can get as annoyed all they want, there’s a fast lane for a reason,” Louis says mulishly.


“Aren’t you meant to be resting? I thought you were tired.”


Louis huffs out a short breath, knuckles turning white as they grip fiercely at the wheel. “Look, I haven’t really driven stick since high school, okay? I’m just a little nervous. And we’re on a very busy motorway in case you haven't noticed. And you can’t talk; from what I’ve seen of your driving you’re not exactly racetrack-ready either. You should be thanking me for my careful and prudent driving skills, to be quite honest.”

“Oh my god, Louis, why didn’t you say so?” Harry groans, because he is definitely not thankful for the waste petrol, and hence, money. “Just pull over already, let me drive. Oh look, I spot a service area up ahead!”

“No,” Louis says stubbornly. “You are far too tired, and I would rather my cause of death not be a sleepy almost-musician in a mouldy green Volvo estate.”



“I’m serious Louis, just pull over!”

“No! I can do it!”

“Yes, but I’d like get to Aberdeen before next Christmas, if it’s all the same.”

“Don’t be so dramatic!”

“Louis, it’s my car!”

“Fine!” Louis snaps, swinging the car roughly into the service area lane.

Once parked, he wrenches his seatbelt off and stomps over to the passenger side, tapping his foot as Harry slowly unbuckles and gets out. When Harry’s finally comfortably seated, Louis has got his arms crossed in front of his chest, a pout twisting his lips, and his cheeks are pink from either anger or embarrassment. It really shouldn’t be, but Louis is impossibly cute, and Harry feels both a wave of adoration and an intense compulsion to crowd into Louis’ space and make him release all that anger on him.

Louis finally notices that Harry hasn’t even turned the key in the ignition yet and rolls his eyes, and fuck, fuck, he even makes eye rolling attractive and Harry feels like he’s been half hard for the past three straight hours.

“God, you know, for someone so adamant about speed, you’re incredibly—”

He’s is cut off by Harry unbuckling swiftly and practically jumping from his seat, hauling Louis by the front of his jumper into a desperate kiss. Louis doesn't hesitate to kiss back, almost like he’s been anticipating Harry’s loss of control. This suspicion is cemented by the victorious little yes Louis hisses into Harry’s mouth when his lungs begin to cry mercy.

If Harry had thought that finally kissing Louis would bring some kind of welcome relief to the sexual frustration that’s been building since he first set eyes on him, he’s hilariously wrong. The gearstick might be digging into his thigh, and his leg muscles are straining from the way he’s leaning across the car and trying not to crush Louis into the passenger seat, but all Harry can think of is the heat emanating from Louis’ skin, the softness of his lips, the scrape of his fingers along his chest, and how it’s still not enough.

Louis can’t do much more than kiss back, although he fights tooth and nail (literally) for control, and for a while they’re merely gasping in quick breaths between open mouths before pressing in harder, more frantically. It’s messy and wet and perfect, and Harry wants, wants so much more from his boy that he only met hours before.

“Back,” Harry says, voice low, and Louis quickly unbuckles, while Harry tosses his bag into the boot to give them more space.

Louis all but shoves him against the backseat before straddling his lap, fitting his perfect thighs around Harry. Their mouths find each other again instantly, lips fitting together easily, and it’s like Louis’ hands can’t keep still, clutching at Harry’s shirt, then his shoulders and neck and face. Harry holds Louis tightly to him by his waist, which dips in at the sides ridiculously under the cotton of his jumper. It makes his hands feel large and indelicate as they curve into half-moons, trying to pull him closer, closer so their stomachs and chests align and their hearts beat quick right through their skin and clothes. He licks into Louis’ mouth, tongues sliding against each other, and he’s sweet like coke and metallic like rain, and it’s impossibly addicting, might just be the best thing that Harry’s ever tasted.

Now that he’s finally touching him in the way he’s been craving, Harry wants everything. He turns his attention to Louis’ neck, sucking briefly on his pulse before sending hot open-mouthed kisses down his frantically bobbing Adam’s apple and into the dip of his shoulder, leaving marks that he can only hope he’ll be able to see in the sunlight. It causes Louis to squirm uneasily on top of him, like this is just as overwhelming for him as it is for Harry – like every touch between them is taking him one step closer to losing all breath. He’s making these sort of needy noises at the back of his throat that Harry can feel vibrate under his mouth and tongue, like a cat purring from long-overdue attention. Louis’ arms work their way around his neck to tangle his fingers in his curls, gripping the strands tightly and causing Harry to loose a moan into the hollow of his collarbone. It seems as if each tug and sudden, sharp wrench is an imitation of the fraught pull that Harry’s been feeling since Louis entered his car with half the rain in England.

“You’re so. Fucking. Fit,” Louis says breathlessly against his ear, so quiet, but so very loud against the distant, muted traffic and the rustle of clothes. It reminds Harry suddenly of where they are – temporarily isolated on a rusted island in the middle of a service area – and he doesn’t know why, but it takes off the edge of desperation and sparking urgency and replaces it with sudden, focused intent.

Harry’s hands slide down to grip Louis’ arse, and each curve seems to fit perfectly in each fumbling hand. It’s all the adjectives Harry had mentioned a small lifetime ago, plus soft and plush and firm and quite possibly life altering. His hips roll upwards deftly and instinctively, causing Louis’ head to fall against his shoulder with a whimper in response. He’s almost afraid to do it again, afraid that he’s done too much too soon, but then Louis begins to rock forward, his body moving in short little frustrating rubs that only remind Harry that there are way too many clothes between them for his liking.

It’s like Louis is on the same telepathic wavelength because, head still resting on Harry’s shoulder, he begins to unbutton Harry’s shirt, pushing it roughly down his arms until Harry has to regretfully let go of Louis’ arse. As soon as his shirt is on the floor, Louis is immediately yanking on the black vest underneath, not seeming to care when it gets caught awkwardly under Harry’s armpit and around his ear.

With Harry’s torso finally bare, Louis has the complete view of the swallows on his chest and the butterfly tattooed on his abdomen, and he trails his hands across them, eyes wild and pupils blown, and slightly bemused.

“Christ, Harry,” Louis says, letting out a small, hysterical laugh. “What the hell are you?”

Harry doesn’t bother answering, not with Louis ruffled and pink-cheeked and perched in his lap, and chooses to lean in close once more to kiss the wonder off Louis’ face. He skates his hands back down to where they fit so seamlessly, thumbs pulling down at the waistband and caressing the skin they find there. Despite the pressure of his hardened cock against the zipper of his jeans, he’s unwilling to stop, and soon they’re grinding in an earnest, purposeful rhythm, Louis scratching lightly at the ink on his skin, and keening wantonly into Harry’s mouth, sweet voice travelling down his throat and deep into his gut.

Harry thinks that they might just get off like this, because he is already embarrassingly close, but then Louis leans back a little, reaching down to pull off the crinkled jumper that’s almost completely fallen off his right shoulder. Harry stops him without thinking, hands clamping down on his wrists.

“No,” he says, voice rough as if he hasn’t spoken in weeks. “Keep it on.”

Louis looks confused, but Harry simply picks him up from his lap and lies him down along the seats, reaching immediately for the top of his tracksuit bottoms. He glances up briefly for confirmation, and when Louis just nods, jaw slackening, Harry promptly divests him of his bottoms and boxer briefs. He shucks his own jeans off with more grace than he’s ever been granted while merely walking, and fits himself quickly between Louis’ legs, which fall open intuitively to accommodate him. Their cocks stand stiff and red between them, Louis’ smearing precome on the bottom of Harry’s jumper, and then on Harry’s butterfly when he moves forward, dumbfounded by the sight of the small boy lying lax beneath him, naked but for his jumper fitting loosely over his chest. Louis’ stares up under a dark, hooded gaze, cheeks pink and lips and skin already showing red proof of where Harry’s been and conquered. He looks both utterly trusting and utterly debauched and Harry needs to kiss him, so he does, slotting their mouths together once more in slick, wet heat.

They’re lying down, but the angle is awkward in the cramped confines. For a moment it’s just grasping hands and pressing skin, fumbling to find the right niche, a tight enough hold. Louis arches his body up for some much-needed friction, but whines at the unsatisfactory contact, and Harry’s too long to lie down properly. Eventually, he sits back on one leg, puts the other knee on the floor, and pulls Louis’ legs up and around his waist. With one hand holding Louis’ leg, Harry bends down again, causing their cocks to finally rub together and one of Louis’ hands to once again find their way between the strands of Harry’s hair.

“Harry,” Louis whimpers, hips circling upwards. The head of Harry’s cock drags along the wool of his jumper.

He reaches down to pull at the hem, but doesn’t lift it up, seemingly waiting for permission. “Please, Harry, ’m so hot.”

At a more opportune time Harry would make a joke about that, because he’s not above clichéd puns, but at this moment he reluctantly decides to take pity on him, removing the jumper and leaving Louis stretched out under him in all his naked glory.

“Fuck, Louis,” Harry groans, because how, just how, is this happening to him? “Your body, fuck.”

His eyes scan over everything his clothes have been hiding. Louis has a cluster of tattoos over the firm muscles of his right arm, and the hint of cursive script he spied before illustrated over a tiny fuzz of chest hair on his flushed torso. His waist is as narrow as it felt under his hands, and he has a soft little bump of a belly that Harry wants to sink his teeth into. Later, he thinks. For now, there’s a much more pressing need growing between them, swelling with each wriggle and lift of Louis’ hips.

Somehow close is never close enough, even with their clothes on the floor, their bodies folded together and hips working roughly against each other, finding momentum once more. Harry’s nearly there, grinding down blindly, and he doesn’t think he’ll be able to last much longer. From the pants coming from Louis, he doesn’t think he will either. Harry’s left hand is digging imprints into Louis’ lower back, and he spits into his right before it makes its way between them, wrapping them both in its steady grasp. Louis lets out a sharp cry at the touch, holding desperately to his shoulders as Harry’s hand begins working up and down their lengths with precise movements, gliding his thumb over the tips to smooth pre-come down their shafts. Louis’ hips are jerking forward in short, sharp thrusts, ankles hooked around Harry’s thighs and pushing himself into the firm grip, trying for all the friction he can.

Harry begins sucking on Louis’ neck again, nipping unconsciously at the bruises and breaking to smear Louis’ name across his skin. He can feel the build up and the tensing of muscles and the nearing climax, but only when one of Louis’ hands slips down to join his, does Harry come with a deep, stuttering groan, grinding hard into Louis and causing him to finally lose his last bearing. Louis bites down on his shoulder as Harry’s vision burns to white, and pumps a few final times into Harry’s still steady hand, feeling the other’s cock releasing against his own. Come coats the space between their stomachs, and then Harry’s hold slackens and Louis’ legs fall down and they are lying boneless on the backseat in a clingy, sweaty, sticky mess.

Even now, sated and spent, Harry can’t stop himself from touching Louis, mouthing small kisses along the arc of his cheek and next to his ear, while hands trail slowly down the steep slope of his waist.

Louis sighs happily and a little breathlessly beneath him, chest still rising and falling rapidly. “I knew I was destined for something greater than a dirty handjob behind a brick wall.”

Harry snorts into his neck, grinning uncontrollably wide. “Yep, a handjob in the backseat of a car. That’s a step up, that is.”

“Just shush,” Louis says, patting at Harry’s face. “You’re ruining my moment.”

They lay there until Harry insists on getting up and cleaning their skin of drying come, although Louis puts up a mild show of protest, limbs clinging around him like a monkey, which segues into giggling kisses. To be honest, Harry would gladly stay there, wrapped up in Louis, but he suddenly realises that as they’re currently parked in a service area, someone is bound to walk by at some point.

Finally pulling himself away, Harry wets his vest with his water bottle and gives them both a hasty wipe down before tossing it in the back. By the time he’s finished they’re beginning to feel the chill, wasting no time to slip back into their mildly dirty clothes.

This time, when Harry slides into the driver’s seat, Louis doesn’t object.


Near Burton-in-Kendal, 01:10

Harry has been making good time. The number of cars on the road has significantly thinned, so all they pass consists of silent and still fields, the occasional bundle of lights of a nearby township, and lone buses and lorries making midnight runs. Not for the first time Harry is grateful that he has Louis in the passenger seat, a comforting presence even when quiet, and somehow remaining beacon bright in the all-consuming dark.

Louis had fallen asleep soon after they began driving, and throughout the ride Harry’s eyes can’t help sliding over to Louis’ sleeping frame. He looks so soft and inconceivably sweet, knees pulled to his chest and hands tucked under his head in a makeshift pillow. Harry feels a low ache in his belly and a quickening beneath his ribcage, and tries not to think about how it might not have anything to do with lust and wanting.

“I know you’re looking,” Louis says suddenly, because apparently he’s only been feigning sleep.

Harry swallows and looks back to the road, saying, “Has anyone ever told you that you’re completely paranoid?”

Louis cracks an eye open. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a completely shit liar?”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re a complete shit?” Harry retorts.

It’s a terrible comeback but Louis laughs anyway, like he’s delighted that Harry’s taken to swearing. Sitting up properly, he finally gives up on trying or pretending to be asleep.

“So how much longer do you reckon?” Louis asks, surveying the bare scenery as if he can pick up where they are by interpreting the spacing of the trees.

“About two and a half hours is my best guess, give or take,” Harry says. “Although, I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out. Pretty tired.”

“Got you proper knackered, didn’t I?” Louis says smugly, stretching out his arms and legs in content self-satisfaction.

“Yep,” Harry agrees, ignoring how the jumper rides up against Louis’ stomach. “Having you in the car is worse than baby-sitting a five-year-old.” It’s almost true.

“Only trying to keep you on your toes, young Harold. Mustn’t let your mind go in your old age,” Louis says nonsensically.

“My name’s not Harold,” Harry says, ignoring the jibe. “‘S just Harry.”

Just Harry?” Louis asks, turning, mouth open in faux surprise. “It’s like your mother knew you were going to be famous!”

Harry rolls his eyes, but any effort to look exasperated is made redundant by the silly, fond smile on his face. “It’s Harry Styles.”

“Huh,” Louis says, contemplating. “Still sounds like a stage name. Or a porn star’s name. Harry Styles in ‘Fucking in Cars with Boys’.”

Harry’s laugh is especially loud without the rumble of traffic around them, cutting easily through the whir of the engine. “You know, I didn’t think it was possible, but I think you might actually lack the subtlety required for naming pornos.”

“No such thing,” Louis huffs indignantly. “I have the perfect amount of subtleness. Subtlety. Subtleness.”

“I think both are okay,” Harry says, giving Louis a kind smile. Louis merely looks back at him blankly for a full ten seconds before slowly crossing his eyes. Harry wants to kiss him.

He takes a deep, calming breath instead and flicks his eyes back to the winding stretch of road. They drive on in silence and he thinks the conversation over before, “Louis Tomlinson.”

“What?” Harry says, glancing over to see Louis leaning as close to him as his seatbelt allows, and looking the most serious than Harry’s seen him this whole ride.

“I’m formally introducing myself,” Louis explains. “And that’s my name. Louis Tomlinson.”

“Nice to meet you, Louis Tomlinson,” Harry says sincerely, reaching out his left hand, because he’s driving but this should be done properly.

“Nice to meet you, Harry Styles,” Louis says, just as sincere, and gives his hand a firm shake. Harry likes the way his name is shaped in Louis’ mouth, the delicacy of it, like it might just be something special. He wants to hear him say it over and over again until it turns rough and ragged, in a scream, in a gasp, in a moan. And he is driving, and this is not the time.

“So,” Louis says casually, releasing his hand. “When’s the next service area, do you reckon?”

“I think we just passed one, actually,” Harry says, considering. “We could turn back? Or Kendal’s up ahead, they’d have a 24-hour shop. You hungry?”

“Wouldn’t mind a drink,” Louis admits. “You?”

“Yeah, a drink would be good. And a snack. And a bathroom.” Louis hadn’t been the only one to down a large drink.

Louis nods decisively. “Kendal it is then.”

He says it like this is a part of their plan, like they’re in this together and have been for a long time, and it’s easy to forget that Louis, quite literally brought in with the rain in the middle of a storm, only entered his life four hours ago. These four hours might have been days or weeks or months, and maybe Louis was right; maybe they’d both been destined for greater things than rushed handjobs and a lonely journey, and somehow they’d both found that along a street in Oxford.

After taking the next exit Harry stops at a traffic light, and turns to face Louis, and he just knows that there’s got to be a dopey grin on his face right now, but he just can't bring himself to care.

Louis doesn't seem to mind either, because he leans forward swiftly, pressing a brief kiss to Harry’s mouth.

“What was that for?” Harry asks, belatedly accelerating the car forward again with a slight shudder when the Camry behind them gives an annoyed honk.

“Nothing,” Louis says, turning and concentrating on the dark scenery fly past through the side window. In the reflection of the glass Harry can see him press a smile into his shoulder, all pointed teeth and crinkled eyes, and there it is again, that low swoop in his stomach. Not for the first time – not even the first time in the last half hour – it almost knocks him out how absolutely gorgeous Louis is; how bright and perfect.

Harry tosses his mobile to Louis, who quickly locates an Asda. It’s not hard to find, and when they get there the whole car park sits empty, bar a couple vehicles dotted up the front that Harry suspects belong to the shop assistants. They go to the bathroom and Harry asks about the possibility of staying overnight in the car park, and then they’re making their way down empty aisles, grabbing what they need.

Louis plays a fruitless game of chase the lights along the shining floor near the dairy, and then coaxes Harry into seeking while he hides, although that’s cut short when a painfully polite shop assistant informs them that a shop, astonishingly enough, is not a playground.

They continue to browse; Louis juggling their drinks and snacks in his arms and chattering on randomly about the last time he was kicked out of an Asda, and Harry following along while picking up interesting items, only to deem them “unessential” and putting them back. It’s awfully domestic.

While Louis stops to weigh the pros and cons of Wagon Wheels over Jaffa Cakes, scuffing his damp shoes against the floor, Harry moves behind him, locking his arms around his waist and pulling Louis’ back close against his chest. Louis simply falls back against him, pliant and willing. And it shouldn’t be this easy, it really shouldn’t, because they’ve only just met, haven’t they? But it’s like, it would almost feel wrong if he didn’t. Moving away would seem like a slight against the universe when it managed to bring them together tonight, and Louis just fits, his back framed so perfectly by Harry’s shoulders.

Louis tilts his head back to give him a smile, and it really is that simple, and Harry bends down over his shoulder for a kiss, drawing it out much longer than appropriate for the biscuit and tea aisle.

Louis pulls back with flushed cheeks and pink lips and says, “Are you done? I think I’m done,” and Harry nods a happy yes into his hair and waddles them over towards the checkout to the middle-aged cashier’s total lack of amusement. Harry assumes their heart must have shrivelled up and died a long time ago amongst the frankly poor selection of cheeses, because they are fucking cute.

Outside, they’re not even in the car yet and Louis is whipping off his jumper, yelping as the cold hits his skin.

“Come on, Harry,” he whines, hopping lightly from foot to foot, covering his nipples with his hands, and if Harry weren’t so turned on he’d be too busy laughing in a heap on the ground in the middle of this goddamn car park to even attempt opening the door.

As it is, he fumbles the key into the lock and Louis dives in, already starting on his joggers. Harry decides to take his time opening the passenger side door of the car and placing the groceries carefully on the seat, peeling off his coat and stuffing his beanie in the pocket, while Louis continues to moan a string of curses from the back seat.

“Harry, hurry up, please, come on, hurry.”

When Harry finally slips into the back, it’s to the image of Louis laid out on the seat, one leg propped up and the other on the floor. One hand clutching the interior door handle, showing off the strong lines of his biceps, and the other fisted between his legs, showing off his – well.

“Christ, Louis,” Harry hisses out, quickly stripping off the rest of his clothes, jumping in and slamming the door behind him.

He kneels over Louis and kisses him hungrily, figuring that they are well past any need for restraint. When he reaches for his cock, however, his hand gets swatted away.

“Want you to blow me,” Louis says between kisses. “Is that okay?”

Harry nods, heat pooling rapidly in his stomach. “Yeah, Louis. I want to.”

He begins making his way down Louis’ body, and it’s absurd how everything about this boy hits every single kink he never knew he had, from the ridiculous dip of his waist to the curve of his stomach. His skin is soft and smooth underneath his lips, but when he pushes down with his hands, all he feels is the ripple of muscles and coursing strength.

He stops to lick around his right nipple and nip at his left until Louis is shuddering and pushing his shoulders down insistently. Not giving in, wanting to draw this out as long as possible, he bites and sucks a path along golden skin until he reaches his stomach. He moves with it as it rises and falls rapidly, the length of Louis’ dick brushing against his chin. Louis wriggles incessantly, trying for more solid contact, and forcing Harry to slap his hips before using his hands to hold them down firmly.

Now that he’s finally able to press tongue and teeth into the delicious swell of Louis’ belly, lathing and sucking into the flesh, he thinks he might stay there forever, or at least until it’s littered with dark, wet marks that are unmistakeably his. He watches as bruise after bruise is formed and skin becomes shiny with saliva. It’s almost painful to drag himself away, travelling lower to mouth at the soft skin of Louis’ thighs, pressing wet kisses that land closer and closer to their desired destination, and causing Louis to arch up when Harry’s breath ghosts over the underside of his hardened cock.

Louis hasn’t said a word this entire time, the only sounds he’s made being sharp intakes of breath and bitten-off moans. From his crouched position, Harry spares one look at Louis’ face in a silent request for consent, and finds him staring at the ceiling, mouth parted.

“Hey,” Harry says. Louis glances down, looking a little wild. “Alright?”

Louis nods, still silent and tense, and Harry moves up to kiss him, one hand fitting behind his neck and the other pressing warm and purposeful against his chest. He noses and dots small kisses along his jaw and feels Louis relax beneath his touch.

“Okay,” Louis says at last, batting at his arms. “I’m alright, do it, my cock won’t blow itself,” and Harry can’t help laughing into his mouth.

“As you wish, your majesty,” he says with a wink, giving an awkward, mocking little bow from his crouched position.

Louis merely raises an eyebrow and says rather archly, “Yes, quite.”

The backseat hasn’t miraculously extended since their last session, so Harry shuffles Louis up, propping him against the door. Glancing up once more to catch a quick kiss and a smile, Harry slides down the seats.

Louis’ cock is already lying hard against his stomach, precome beading at the top, and this time Harry gets to taste. He places his mouth at the tip, so that the head is nestled gently between the soft parting of lips, before flicking his tongue out in a kitten lick, gathering precome on his tongue. Harry doesn’t always like this part, although he’s received enough compliments on his talented mouth. But tonight, with Louis whining softly above him, his fingers reaching to card through his hair and lightly urging him down, he thinks he might love it.

Harry lets his head be guided downwards, but instead of swallowing Louis’ dick, he curls his tongue and slides it down the length. He presses it wetly along the underside, feels along the swell of the vein, and uses his hand to grip at the base when he feels him twitch. There’s a tremble running through Louis’ thighs now, and it spurs him to finally pull him in so that he lies hot and heavy on his tongue.

As Harry takes him down, hollowing his cheeks and sucking harder, Louis pokes his fingers into his dimples in wonder, and he hears him murmur, wrecked and rough, “Fucking hell, Harry.”

He keeps bobbing up and down at a leisurely pace, wetting and slurping, until Louis’ gentle hold turns into fisted insistence. Harry could reach up and encompass both of Louis’ wrists in one of his large hands, could easily pin them down on the seats, but instead he lets him push his head downwards firmly, so Harry’s mouth is filled with as much of his cock as he can handle. The slight pain and stretch has him grinding against the rough material of the car seats, and he’s never managed to deepthroat before, but with Louis moaning and squirming above and below him, he wonders if now’s the time to learn.

Taking a chance, Harry skims a finger over Louis’ hole and there’s a gasp, hips already wriggling and legs flexing, so responsive and uninhibited. He’s just so responsive and uninhibited, and Harry can feel that pulse within him again, that thumping need for more.

Trying for a more comfortable angle, Harry shifts Louis’ hips with his other hand, moving his thighs over his shoulders before he goes down again. He gathers some of the spit and pre-come on his finger before dragging it over Louis’ rim once more, drawing a long whine from the boy below him.

It’s enough motivation for him to begin working a roughened finger in despite how dry it is. Louis is incredibly tight, and he shifts unpleasantly against the intrusion, a wrinkle developing between his brows, obviously wanting more but not liking the discomfort.

“Harry?” Louis says between short breaths. “Do you have…?”

Harry immediately moves a hand towards his rumpled jeans, fishing around to pull out a small tube.

“You just carry lube around in your pocket?” Louis asks, looking at him with an amused expression. “Do this a lot, do you?”

“No,” Harry says slowly, cheeks tinting pink. He presses his face to Louis’ thigh to hide it. “I got it at Asda.”

“What, you bought lube just then? How did I not notice?” Louis says, laughing.

“Um, I may have just…slipped it in. My pocket.” Harry thinks that if his cheeks grow any hotter they might ignite a small fire.

“You stole it?” Louis says incredulously, eyes crinkling in glee. “What are you, twelve?”

“Well…” Harry says guiltily, and slightly muffled because he’s trying to bury deeper into Louis’ skin, “I didn’t want to, like, I didn’t know if you – or if you would—”

“Jesus, Harry,” Louis says, but it comes out unbearably warm. He reaches out his hands up to grasp Harry’s face and pull him up, and Harry goes willingly, pressing lips, one two three, even though he knows his mouth and chin must be covered with spit and precome.

Louis beams at him when they pull apart. “Now, for the love of all that is holy, just put it in me already. Before next Christmas, if it’s all the same.”

“Hey,” Harry says. “No need to be snarky,” before sitting back, generously coating a finger and unceremoniously thrusting it back inside.

Louis’ indignant yelp soon settles into a desperate whimper though, as Harry continues to swallow his cock while driving his finger deftly in and out. There’s something so focused about the look on Louis’ face, screwed up in pleasure, and the way he clutches at Harry’s hair and shoulders, yet complete passivity in the way he sinks back into the seat and just accepts whatever Harry gives him. It has Harry moaning around his dick, speeding up both his mouth and hand, and rutting harder into the seat.

Squeezing in a second finger, he finally finds the spot he’s been looking for that makes Louis’ toes curl, eyes wide and panting hard. He brushes against it again and again, and it’s only a couple minutes before Louis is frantically tugging Harry up from his dick, stomach tensing. Harry pumps his hand a few more times and then Louis is finally coming with a choked moan, fist pressed to his mouth and feet slipping along the floor and the back of the seat.

Harry sits back to admire his work, white strings of come decorating Louis’ torso right up past black ink, but is immediately knocked back, his head narrowly missing the door handle. Louis clambers on top of him, smearing Harry’s own stomach with come, and drawing him into a hard kiss, all tongue and teeth. His hand finds Harry’s dick, twisting and pulling roughly, and it’s so much, so infinitely better than the upholstery.

“Come on, babe,” Louis purrs through kiss-swollen lips, flicking his wrist. “Just let go.”

Harry comes with his back arched off the seat and his hand latched to the back of Louis’ neck. He presses their foreheads together, sharing shaky exhales as tremors wrack his body, and Louis strokes him through it until it’s too much.

He smiles down at him, all rosy-appled cheeks, and he’s so beautiful, Harry thinks he must have been magicked from the sky itself. Thinks he can still see remnants of the storm spinning in his eyes.

There’s a restless feeling stirring in his gut, the kind he gets when there’s a song itching to be written. He wants to write songs about Louis. It’s highly possible his cock is already composing sickening ballads. He can’t do that now though, not with this boy right in front of him with his shining skin and bruised lips, and all the impossible contradictions crammed into his small frame. He can only kiss him, but of course Louis is snickering into his mouth, and what’s so funny, and your O face, obviously, and that’s it, Harry is wrestling Louis on his back and Louis is biting his ear.

They’re too tired to play fight for long though. It’s only two new bruises and a pinched bum cheek later that Louis buries his head in the base of Harry’s spine and sighs, “Are you sure you don’t want to do porn rather than music? Because I do think you’d do quite well, even with the butterfly tattoo,” which has Harry letting out a strangled laugh into the seat.

Harry cleans them up then, regretfully with the same dirty vest as earlier, although Louis doesn’t seem to care. He still gives a little whine when Harry reaches down to pull his shirt back on, too tired and relaxed to consider moving.

“Up you come, love,” Harry says soothingly, handing Louis his clothes with a kiss on his cheek. “It’s going to get cold, don’t want you to freeze.”

Louis pouts but does what he says, and Harry takes the chance to hop out of the car and open the boot. It’s not ideal, but he thinks that if he pushes down the backseats and lays out a couple of the musty blankets stored in the back, that it’ll do for the night.

Louis shuffles out of the car when he finishes getting dressed and watches him lay the seats down, moving around his bags and guitar, then spreading out the tartan polar fleeces he keeps in the back, setting one aside to cover them. He grabs his thick winter jacket and rolls it up so it’s roughly pillow-shaped. When he finally turns around, Louis is still standing there, barefoot with his arms wrapped around his chest, and an unreadable expression on his face.

Harry sweeps his hair out of his eyes and cringes slightly.

“Sorry, it’s not going to be the most comfortable night—” he begins to say, but Louis just shakes his head.

“No, it’s fine,” he says. “I mean, you didn’t have to do that – letting me sleep here. Or pick me up at all, really. Or buy me food.”

“It’s okay,” Harry says slowly. “I don’t mind.” But Louis is still standing there much too awkwardly, so Harry takes a step forward, takes Louis’ face in his hands and leans down for a brief, chaste kiss. He’s pleased when Louis automatically leans up and into it, eyes fluttering closed.

“It’s really no problem. I wanted to. I want you to stay,” he says when he pulls away.

Louis blinks up at him, the blue of his eyes darkened to reflect the night. “Your hands are cold.”

Harry drops them quickly at his sides. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Louis says with a small smile, reaching out to give his left thumb a tug, then moving to hop nimbly into the cargo bay. “Let’s just go to sleep, yeah?”

After a moment’s hesitation, because for the first time this whole trip Harry feels unnervingly off-kilter, he follows suit, lying back against the blankets. Louis moves to pull the boot down and then curls up small next to him, carefully leaving a distance between and facing away, as if touching is now prohibited. Harry spreads the leftover blanket over them and lies there, his bones pressed uncomfortably into the floor, trying to will himself to sleep. But in the confined, improvised space everything seems both too quiet and too loud. The night stands still around them, but their breaths echo harshly in the air – not the gentle sighs of approaching slumber, but deep exhales like escaping words.

Harry doesn’t realise how tense he is until Louis finally turns on his side and into Harry’s space. He places his hand tentatively on Harry’s stomach, then when there’s no sign of protest, quietly snuggles into his chest. Suddenly it’s like Harry’s whole body is melting back into the hard floor. He immediately reaches around to pull Louis closer so their bodies slot against each other, and that single motion seems to alleviate any remaining hesitance, Louis only waiting a second before lifting one cramped leg over Harry’s, pressing cold toes into his calves.

The past few minutes still sit uneasily under Harry’s skin, but now he notices the moonlight streaming through the scratched windows, and how it casts the beautiful, wonderful boy lying next to him in pale, unearthly shadows.

As his eyes begin to drift to a close, he drops a light kiss in Louis’ hair and hears him release a little, pleased sigh, curling closer. Through the lull of night, his breath filters through Harry’s shirt, warming his chilled skin and seeping through his flesh, then settling into the bone beneath.


Kendal, 06:03

Harry wakes up with a dark patch of Louis’ drool on his shirt, and strands of Louis’ hair stuck to his mouth, and Louis’ hand fisted against his chest, and Louis releasing these low, whispery breaths against his collarbones. His jawline and upper lip are dusted in stubble, coloured gold in the rosy sunrise beginning to stream through the windows, and Harry wants to nuzzle in close and feel and how rough it will be against his face when they kiss. His body aches all over from sleeping knee-bent on such a hard, flat surface in his jeans and he badly needs to pee, but he almost daren’t breathe too hard just in case he loses this moment. So he closes his eyes again and just feels.

When he wakes a second time, there’s no longer a warm body at his side and he sits up in a panic, eyes sweeping the empty car.

His heart’s on the way to squeezing itself out between his ribs when there’s a sharp tap at the window, and he looks through the scratched glass to see Louis holding up a brown paper bag and a tray with two steaming cups.

A sense of relief washes over him. Louis is still here.

Harry reaches over to open the back door and Louis hands the tray and paper bag over to Harry, before crawling awkwardly into the cargo bay.

“Sorry, I got hungry,” Louis says quietly, arranging himself cross-legged on the blankets so he’s sitting against the side of the car. “I took your wallet, I hope you don’t mind.”

Harry shakes his head. “Not at all,” he says, voice sticking and coarse with sleep.

Louis opens the brown paper bag and pulls out a blueberry muffin, which he hands to Harry, and then slides over a cup of tea.

“I didn’t know what kind of tea you liked, so I just got you Yorkshire with a bit of milk. That’s how I drink it, but there’s some sugar packs in the bag if you want.”

“No, this is fine,” Harry says, taking a sip even though it’s much more bitter than he usually takes it, and Louis gives him a shy smile in return.

He looks so young in the morning light that slants through the windows; hair sticking up in odd directions and clothes slightly rumpled from sleep. His dark eyelashes cast shadows against his sharp cheekbones, and there’s bruising beneath his red-lined eyes from a not entirely restful sleep and barely any of it. He’s such a contradiction, such an impossible mix of smooth and sharp, soft and firm, pretty and rugged. Harry wishes he had ten hours more to memorise every contour of his face and every curve of his body with his mouth and hands – every line of muscle and every stretch of skin – and then ten, ten thousand times over again.

“Harry, you’re staring again,” Louis says, an amused smile pulling on the corner of his lips. “I hope you don’t do this to all the hitchhikers you pick up. Could be quite creepy.”

“Nah. Only the really fit ones,” Harry says with a wink.

“What a line,” Louis scoffs, rolling his eyes. “You’re quite the charmer, aren’t you?”

Still, there’s a light blush upon his cheeks as he ducks his head down again, and it’s so endearing that Harry can’t help shuffling over on his knees, lifting Louis’ chin and gently kissing him upon the bow of his lips.

Louis pushes him away after a moment, wrinkling his nose. “Morning breath. Drink your tea and have some breakfast first, yeah?”

“Yeah, okay,” Harry says, settling down in a mirror image of Louis.

They eat in relative silence, stealing glances over the top of their cardboard cups. Harry forces himself to savour, to chew carefully, but when the last drop of tea has been swallowed and the last crumb licked, he immediately draws his hands under Louis’ thighs and pulls him into his lap, determined to chase away the tannins in his mouth.

Louis seems content to take it slow, and for a while it’s nothing more than the gentle swiping of tongues and the soft grazing of teeth along bottom lips. Harry sweeps his hands up under Louis’ jumper, spanning across the smooth skin and tracing the bumps of his spine up his back. The air outside may be cold and biting, but all that’s between them is gathering warmth, spinning and licking delicately inwards with every quieting kiss and settling of weight.

“You’re so gorgeous,” Harry says softly into the swell of Louis’ bottom lip, because it’s true and it’s morning, and having Louis in his arms is like capturing summer sun in the middle of winter.

Louis gives a quick shake of his head, skin prickling in goose bumps under Harry’s hands, and then pushes forward before Harry can disagree. He urges Harry to lie back against the blankets so he’s hovering over him on his knees, moving in once more to suck lightly beneath his jaw as he traces the lines between Harry’s ribs. Harry revels in the warmth and the weight and the wetness along the sensitive strip of skin, and tries not to shudder as Louis tastes and nips with his sharp teeth before soothing the pain with his tongue, repeating the motions down the vein in his neck and then more harshly where his neck meets his shoulder.

It’s not long before Harry’s breathing turns ragged, and the hands that have been trailing their way up Louis’ back move lower, beneath the waistline of his joggers, palming at the round of his arse. It’s then he realises that Louis is no longer wearing his briefs – that they’re probably still on the floor of the backseat along with his come-stained vest – and his stomach pulls tight with a sharp stab of lust and adoration and something entirely ungraspable.

Louis moans into his shoulder when Harry takes a firmer grip, rolling upwards so that Louis can feel exactly what he’s doing to him and his hardening length. Louis responds by shifting down firmly with a wet puff of breath, pressing back against Harry’s hands and then down so Harry can feel where the cleft of his arse sits over his cock. He can practically feel Louis growing through the soft material of his joggers, and with heat collecting in the low of his belly, he rolls his hips up once more in an unrestrained bid for more friction.

“Wanna ride you,” Louis gasps against his neck, voice hitching, and Harry has to swallow hard before he can reply, “Yeah, okay.”

They don’t move, however, Louis leaning up to capture Harry’s mouth once more, and for a while it’s nothing more than languid grinding, smooth and effortless – just enough to take the edge of, but still sparking that throbbing burn, that need for more more more. And then Louis is biting at Harry’s bottom lip and starting to sit up with a mischievous grin.

“Front seat, front seat, front seat,” he chants in a whisper, tugging at Harry’s elbows to get up and move, scrambling to untangle their bodies.

“We can’t,” Harry laughs hoarsely, pulling him back down hard enough so that Louis lands with an oof against his chest. “As hot as that’d be. We’re in broad daylight, what if someone sees? Maybe next time, yeah?”

Louis freezes momentarily, staring down at him, and Harry is beginning to wonder if he’s said or done something wrong, that perhaps for Louis it’s front seat or nothing, when Louis surges forward, knocking the wind out of him with a bruising kiss. Harry’s hands reach out instinctively to hold him steady at the waist, either to pull him closer or calm him down, and ending with him merely caressing the smooth skin of his hips with his thumbs and letting himself be drowned in Louis. The kiss soon turns from desperate to slow and deep, and for a second Harry can imagine them doing this in a proper bed, waking up in the morning and turning to each other and just kissing for hours on end amidst tangled sheets and dappled sunlight over an endless expanse of golden skin. It’s not the kind of thought to be having while they’re trying to blunder their way through car sex.

Harry slides his hands downwards again, grasping at Louis’ bare bum and spreading his cheeks enough to trace a finger down the crease to his rim. Louis shudders above him.

“Yeah?” Harry says, voice cracking, finger lightly caressing, and Louis makes a mewling sound into his mouth that goes straight to his groin.

“Please,” he whispers.

Harry grasps around blindly for the lube on the floor, until Louis rolls off him and reaches down himself, holding it aloft with a hint of triumph. He kisses Louis once, twice, and then lays him down. When he reaches for the lube, however, Louis stops him, pushing his hand away.

“No,” Louis says quietly. “Just. Just let me do it, okay? Just watch,” and Harry wants to argue, because at this moment there’s nothing he wants more than to stretch his fingers inside Louis and see him react and twist to the turn of his wrist. But Louis is flushed and looking at Harry with something bordering on trepidation, so he merely kisses him once more and nods, settling down next to Louis on his side.

Louis strips his clothes off without preamble, Harry gracelessly following suit, and holds his hands out to Harry, lube in one hand and the other with fingers stretched open. He takes the lube, but rather than uncapping, Harry places it on the floor and grabs Louis’ open hand, bringing it to his mouth, sliding his lips down the index and middle finger wetly to the knuckle and licking his tongue between them. He sucks at them lightly, feeling the pulse in Louis’ wrist pick up speed beneath his palm, and peers up through his eyelashes to see the blue of Louis’ irises shrinking to thin rings around his dilated pupils. He’s got that look again – the one that’s so intense and focused, but at the same time completely docile. Like Harry could spend an hour with his tongue curled between his fingers and he wouldn’t move an inch.

Releasing his hand to press a kiss in the middle of Louis’ fate line, Harry finally uncaps the lube to drizzle it on Louis’ wet fingers, stroking them down so they’re completely covered.

“You okay?” Harry asks, and it’s so rough he might as well have been sucking Louis’ dick down his throat.

Louis begins to shake his head, then stops, nodding slightly. Eyes locked on Harry’s and pink lips parted, he reaches down past his hard, leaking cock to trace the rim of his hole with a spit and lube-coated finger, before slipping it in with one slow, slick movement.

Harry shuffles down and places his hand under Louis’ knee. He folds his leg down towards the floor to help with the angle, but maybe also so he has a clearer view to watch Louis as he drags his finger out and pushes it back against the tight resistance. Louis’ eyes flutter close as he continues the shallow thrusts, back arching minutely off the blankets and exposing his neck, and Harry thinks it again, maybe says it aloud, you’re so gorgeous, so beautiful, Lou, and it’s still nothing less than truth.

Harry rests the hand that’s not holding down Louis’ leg on the little pouch of his stomach, trailing his fingers down the dusting of hair and wiry curls, and watching in awe at the clenching of his abdomen and at the twitch of his straining cock when he brushes against it. It encourages Louis to breach his hole with his second finger, working them in until he gasps, hips bearing down and rim muscle contracting obscenely.

“Harry,” Louis whimpers, turning his head into the blankets. “Please.”

Stroking his thumb along his belly, Harry leans in to kiss Louis’ shoulder, his expanding chest – moves down to kiss his knee, the inside of his thigh, presses an okay into the open space he finds there. Louis is now rocking down on his fingers in a steady rhythm, and for a moment Harry is transfixed by how they glide in and out in front of him with slippery sounds, disappearing smoothly, until Louis repeats his desperate plea. Then Harry is slicking up one of his own fingers with lube and sliding it in alongside Louis’.

The heat envelops his finger, and despite his earlier fingering, Louis’ entrance constricts almost painfully, compressing Harry’s one digit and Louis’ two so they’re bundled together tightly. Rubbing his hand up and down Louis’ flexing thigh to get him to relax, Harry tries to match his pace, stretching and searching slick walls till he finds the hard nub that causes Louis to fuck down sharply with a strangled moan, leg kicking out on the flattened seats.

“Are you…Louis, are you? Can I?” Harry says, words slurring as he tears his eyes away from the sight of Louis swallowing his finger, only to refocus on Louis’ cock, angry and red against his stomach, in front of him.

Louis pulls their fingers out and yanks Harry’s hair until he’s moved up and lain himself along the length of the cargo bay, straddling him swiftly. The roof is low, making his neck curve down awkwardly, and Harry reaches out to fit his hands in the dip of his waist to steady him.

“I’m gonna. I’m gonna ride you now, okay?” Louis says breathlessly, like it needs explaining. “Condom?”

“Wallet,” Harry chokes out, and Louis reaches back for the wallet buried amidst the discarded clothes, finding the condom in the main compartment with a raised eyebrow. To his credit, he doesn’t say a word as he rips it open and slides it smoothly down Harry’s length, before finding the lube that’s been digging into Harry back and generously slicking him up. Even the slight pressure of Louis’ hands has Harry bucking up eagerly with a low groan, has him thinking he needs to be inside Louis more than he’s ever needed anything in his life.

“Louis, Lou, come on,” he says urgently, and Louis nods silently, settling over him as well as he can, tummy rolling slightly as he bends.

Louis’ hair, damp with sweat, is falling messily in his eyes, and his neck and chest are flushed brilliantly, blending into bronze. His thighs are straining, all thick flexing muscles pressed on either side of Harry’s hips when he places one small hand on Harry’s chest, and grasps his cock once more with the other to align it with his stretched hole. Harry gasps, feeling almost unprepared as the head slips quickly past the ring of muscle. Louis’ brow furrows in concentration, breath coming out in little pants as he wastes no time working his way down in small increments, and Harry can only watch as his length disappears into impossibly tight heat, no longer knowing if he’s holding Louis up or if Louis is holding him together.

“Harry,” Louis pants, hips rocking slowly and face scrunched up. “So. Fucking, god. You’re so big.”

The last word is released in a hiss as he sinks the rest of the way down in one fluid movement. Harry gives a small grunt as he bottoms out, hands digging roughly into Louis’ sides. For a moment, Louis’ arse is simply nestled against Harry’s hips, and all he can feel is the throb of his cock and Louis’ walls clamping around him sporadically as he tries to get used to Harry’s width and length. It’s too much, it’s too good, too tight, too perfect, and Harry struggles to gain composure so it doesn’t all come to an embarrassingly fast end.

“Fuck, Louis,” Harry groans, and then Louis is leaning down, kissing at his chin and jaw and cheek until Harry turns his head to capture his mouth. The kiss is mostly brushing lips and sharing hot breath, but it gives him the chance to calm himself, gives him something else to focus on besides the spot where their bodies are joined together and the building pleasure coursing through his lower body.

“Gonna move now, okay, love?” Louis murmurs into his mouth, pressing one more light kiss, and Harry squeezes his waist in silent acquiescence.

Louis raises himself up as high as he can without the risk of hitting his head on the low roof, and plants his hands on Harry’s abdomen, eyes dragging from his face to the firm skin beneath his palms.

“Okay,” he says quietly.

Harry watches with something akin to awe as Louis pulls himself off his cock, before sinking down slowly with a shaky sigh, then again in a smooth, continuous motion. Louis’ fingers are digging harshly into Harry’s stomach as he picks up his rhythm, moving with a grace and fluidity that belies their cramped surroundings. Each slick downward slide, each delicious drag is like a punch in the gut, and Harry’s own hips struggle not to follow mindlessly with every upward movement. Louis is moaning unabashedly above him, not seeming to care about their exposed position, and giving Harry barely time to breath between sharp grunts.

“Harry,” Louis groans, working himself frantically on Harry’s cock. There’s sweat gathering along the ridiculous bow of his collarbones and beading across the tattooed script, making it shine like prophesy in the sunlight. Harry wishes he were close enough to lick them, swallow the words whole. “Harry, fuck, come on.”

He doesn’t need to be told twice. Planting his feet on the floor, Harry strengthens his grip on Louis’ hips and starts fucking up into him with short, powerful thrusts that turn Louis’ moans into whines and has him falling forwards, biceps straining to hold himself up. As he drops he lets out a sharp cry, and that seems to be the spot, that perfect angle that has Harry mercilessly hitting his prostate.

Louis is brilliantly, mind-blowingly tight around him, and he’s so, so torn. He doesn’t want this to end, but with the pace they’re going, and the feeling of Louis’ hot breath on his chest, and his tiny hands curled into his sides, and the way his body just readily takes whatever Harry gives him, he knows that he won’t be able to prolong the inevitable much longer.

He reaches down a hand between their bodies, wrapping it around Louis’ hard length. He strips his cock a half dozen times in smooth, quick motions, that has Louis clamping down hard, saying, “Close, ‘m close.”

Then Harry is brushing his thumb over the leaking head and Louis’ mouth is opening in a silent moan, eyebrows furrowed together, neck stretching and glistening with sweat when he comes, and he’s beautiful, so incredibly beautiful.

Louis slumps forward onto his come-striped chest, and Harry’s hands move to grip Louis’ firm arse as he pumps desperately into him, losing rhythm as he chases his oncoming orgasm, so close to the edge now that he can see the approaching blackness below blinding his vision. Louis lets out a strangled yelp when Harry’s cock hits his prostate once more, reflexively squeezing down, and that’s all it takes – Harry is coming hard, pulsing into the tight heat.

When he finally comes to, Louis is still lying boneless on his chest, and he can feel his heartbeat like a hummingbird battering against his ribcage. Harry’s hands have moved from Louis’ bruised arse, seemingly of their own accord, and are now tracing patterns onto his lower back, dipping into the dimples and the curve of his spine. He feels satisfied in a way that he hasn’t felt in a long time after having sex, and not just from the heart-stopping climax. It could be from being on edge all week and finally finding cathartic relief, but it’s most likely because of the impossible boy crushing his lungs and making it difficult to breathe.

Carefully, because he knows he went rougher than necessary, Harry rolls them onto their sides and pulls out, causing Louis to loose a whimper into his neck. He wraps one hand around Louis’ middle to keep him close and continues to stroke the other up and down Louis’ back, feeling the hummingbird flutter gradually peter out into a steady beat. Louis tips his head back and gazes at him with a soft, hazy smile. He looks thoroughly fucked and extremely pleased about it.

“Hey there,” Louis says, bumping their noses together.

“Hey,” Harry croaks, eyes travelling along the edges of his delicate bone structure before landing on his lips.

Louis’ mouth quirks up at the corner, like he knows what Harry’s thinking, and he leans forward pre-emptively to slot their lips together in a warm kiss. His hand comes up to tangle in the wild disarray of curls, scratching lightly at Harry’s scalp and trailing fingers through the hair at the back of his neck. It’s all so lovely and soothing that Harry wants to lean his whole body into the touch and purr like the contented cat his friends always say he is. His stomach seems to have other ideas though, letting out an embarrassing growl that’s all too loud in the peaceful post-coital aftermath.

Harry lies back and covers his face with a groan. “Oh my god. You didn’t hear that.”

Louis throws his head back against the blankets and laughs, eyes crinkling in the corners and belly heaving. He really is very lovely, even though he’s laughing at Harry’s expense.

“Shut up,” Harry says, and he’s whining but he can’t help it. “You’re such a prat. You did exactly the same thing before and I said nothing.”

“That wasn’t mid-kiss after sex though, was it?” Louis says gleefully.

Harry groans again. “Can’t we just make out some more and pretend that never happened?”

“Sorry, too late, my image of you has been completely ruined,” Louis says, and Harry’s never noticed before, but there might be something evil about those big blue eyes. “There’s no way I can see you as anything remotely close to sexy anymore.”

“You think I’m sexy?” Harry says quickly, smug smile overtaking his blushing cheeks as he pushes himself up to loom over Louis.

“Oh, piss off,” Louis says, batting him away with a laugh. “Let’s eat before you embarrass yourself any further.”

Harry nods but doesn’t move, not wanting to pull further away just yet. “We still have the snacks from yesterday. Didn’t really get a chance to eat them.”

“Yeah, but you ate something else, didn’t you?” Louis says lewdly with an exaggerated wink, and okay, yes, the mood has definitely been broken.

Harry digs around in his bag this time for a pack of tissues to clean them up with, and pauses, stricken, with dirty tissues and condom in hand until Louis points out that he could empty the plastic bag with the snacks in it and put it in there for the time being if he’s really concerned about cleanliness.

Louis winces a bit as he pulls his clothes back on, but brushes off Harry’s apologies and efforts at assistance, still managing to lightly hop out of the car when he’s done.

They sit on the bonnet with the pack of chocolate-chip biscuits that Louis decided on, watching the traffic begin to pick up once more along the main street of the town. Louis thinks it’ll be funny to feed him, but ends up attempting to shove as many biscuits in Harry’s mouth as possible at one time, and after an bid to please Harry ends up spraying crumbs down his already filthy shirt and across the bonnet. Through helpless giggles, Louis tries to lick the remaining crumbs off his disgruntled, unamused face, and it should be disgusting, but all Harry can think is cute.

He knows they should be leaving soon, and that Ed is probably wondering where he is, but he can’t bring himself to care. The air is filling with the sounds of awakening life, but suddenly, as Harry leans against the rain-washed windscreen of his car with Louis leaning against his side, it’s like everything about this moment is hushed, sacred, almost endless.

“You’re really beautiful,” Harry says, and it might be for the millionth time, but that doesn't mean that it doesn’t bear repeating.

“How can you just keep saying things like that?” Louis asks, looking up, baffled. “You barely know me. Aren’t you afraid of coming off, too…I don’t know, weirdly open?”

Harry shrugs, because “weirdly open” might just be the perfect description of him. “No, not really? I mean, it's true. I’ve already gotten in your pants, so to speak, so it’s not like it’s a come on. It’s a compliment. Why should I be holding that inside?”

“I just…I don’t know,” Louis says again, this time with a little laugh, turning his attention to picking at the biscuit in his hands. “I…I’m not used to it, I suppose. Thanks, I guess.”

“No, thank you,” Harry says, winking, and Louis throws a choc chip at him.

He’s about to throw another when Harry catches his wrist before he can repeat the action, saying sternly, “No, not that again, you menace.”

Surprisingly, Louis obeys, settling back on his chest. He’s not quiet for long though, and merely a minute goes by before he’s twisting in place, tugging at the front of Harry’s crumby shirt.

“Hey, so I hear you’re a musician, huh?” Louis says, eyes twinkling.

Harry raises an eyebrow. “You heard correctly, yes.”

“Well, play me something then, guitar man,” Louis says, tugging harder on his shirt. “Go on, don’t be shy. You’ll never make it otherwise.”

“Uh,” Harry says, head ducking down. “Like what?”

“One of yours, of course, you twat,” Louis says in exasperation.

“Um.” And Harry has played his songs for people many times, but there’s something so intimidating about sitting here in front of this one small boy with a smudge of chocolate at the corner of his mouth. “Okay. Yeah.”

He gets up clumsily, half tripping his way off the bonnet, to retrieve his guitar from where he put it in on the floor of the backseat. Louis is sitting cross-legged, all wide-eyed attention when he returns, and he almost throws it back in the car with some shit excuse of broken strings or bad memory.

“Um,” he says again, sitting back down, and tuning idly, even though he knows it’s perfectly fine. “I wrote this about a year or so ago. It’s about, like, my music and the choices I’ve made, and,” he shrugs. “I guess, you’ll see.”

Louis just nods encouragingly, and fuck, they’re sitting in the middle of an empty car park at Asda, and the only thing Harry can do is take a deep breath and imagine his song releasing onto this lone island that they’ve created in a sea of asphalt.

Clearing his throat, he plays, something he’s traced over strings a hundred times or more, already long etched into muscle memory. Something about taking hold of life and swallowing it down, straight from the bottle, and not caring if he chokes on the burn. He sings and he means it, doesn’t think he ever won’t.

I’m swimming in fear,
But be not afraid
This love is my life
And it consumes me

He doesn’t look at Louis, closes his eyes when he plays because that’s what he usually does. So when Harry finally finishes and opens them once more, he’s almost like a shock to his system, so silent and still and focused, and haloed in gold sunlight.

“That was brilliant, Harry,” Louis says, and it sounds so heartfelt that Harry feels his whole face burning, right to the tips of his ears. “Honest, you’re amazing. You’re going to be famous one day, I know it.”

“Thanks,” Harry says quietly, and he isn’t usually this flustered, he’s not. He places his guitar on the ground because he fears he might drop it. “I’m really not that good, but.”

“No, really!” Louis insists, placing a hand on his knee, like it’s really important that Harry believes him. “Like, I don’t know much about music or anything. Don’t really know much of anything. But I know that you’ve got something special. Like, I think I could watch you sing forever.”

“Oh god, please stop,” Harry says, half-laughing, rubbing his face with his hands, partly to get the blood to flow elsewhere, and partly to hide his embarrassment. “I mean, thank you, but…oh god.”

Louis moves to sit beside him, sliding an arm around his waist and resting his chin on Harry’s shoulder. When Harry looks down, he’s inches away from bright blue eyes.

Louis quirks an all too dazzling half-smile at Harry, and it’s like he doesn’t know when to shut up. “You’ve got to get used to being praised, Harry. You’re going to hear a lot more of it in the future, trust me. From other artists and producers and fans and—”

And Harry just has to kiss him, right then and there, so he does, hand coming up to cradle the side of Louis’ face in his palm. Louis allows himself to be shushed, pressing up eagerly into the kiss, the arm that’s around Harry’s waist tightening with the digging of fingers, and his other hand reaching up to clutch at the front of Harry’s shirt. Louis fits perfectly into Harry’s side and it makes him ache a little inside.

“Try to remember me, yeah?” Louis says afterwards, with his head resting on Harry’s chest, and with what must be the rapid beating of Harry’s heart thumping in his ears. “When you’re proper famous like.”

“I will. I promise.”

Because, to be quite honest with himself, Harry doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to forget Louis.


Near Moffat, 08:46

After stopping at a petrol station near Asda, they are finally driving again. Despite the early morning rush, the traffic moves along smoothly, almost spitefully, and Harry thinks that it won’t be an hour before they’re in Glasgow.

They’ve been sitting mostly in silence, although Harry fills Louis in on his burgeoning “career” and how Ed’s helping him out, and he wouldn’t have picked Louis for being a good listener, but he is. He looks at Harry directly as he talks, apparently not caring how slow and jumbled his words are, and asks questions like he’s actually interested in his success. About halfway there, Harry begins to wonder how long it would take Louis to notice if he bypassed Glasgow, took the M73 turnoff, and just continued on to Aberdeen.

Louis is fiddling with the radio, because “that obnoxious, quiff-wearing prick” is doing the morning run, and finally catches the dial on a song by The Script.

“These guys are absolutely brilliant,” Louis says, midway through the chorus of The Man Who Can’t Be Moved. “I actually saw them a few years ago down in Manchester. Incredible.”

“Really?” Harry says, perking up. “I saw them, too. In Manchester, at the O2 Apollo arena. 2009, I think?”

Louis whips around to look at him. “Are you serious? February, 2009?”

“February, 2009,” Harry repeats with a grin, and Louis is beaming back at him.

“Jesus Christ, Harry. What the fuck.”

It’s the kind of coincidence that makes Harry’s head spin, because what were the chances? What were the chances two boys from different cities meeting on the side of the road in Oxford, having attended the same concert years before?

“So we were there,” Harry says slowly, “in Manchester, three years ago. At the same concert, even though neither of us lived there.”

Louis shakes his head in disbelief. “Probably singing at the same time. Maybe standing within feet of each other. God, can you imagine what would have happened if we had met then?”

“I was pretty awkward back then. I don’t think you would have looked twice at me, to be honest,” Harry says a little sheepishly.

“Nonsense, Harold,” Louis admonishes. “As long as you still had those ridiculous green eyes of yours, I don’t think I could have missed you.”

“My name’s not Harold,” Harry says automatically, but it’s muffled around the huge smile on his face. Because this is so much all at once, and there’s a word for this that’s been carving itself in the back of his mind that he won’t let slip off the tip of his tongue.

“Hey look,” Louis says suddenly, reaching up to card his fingers through Harry’s hair and pulling out a stray chocolate chip. “Leftovers.”

He puts it in his mouth with a grin, like he’s challenging Harry to say something about it, but Harry just stretches out and pinches his cheek, laughter bubbling out of him like a respite when Louis squeaks and squirms way.


Glasgow, 9:52

“Take the next right, and turn, and keep going, keep going, keep going, and…stop,” Louis says, double-checking the map on Harry’s phone.

In a moment of what Louis had called “genius”, he had emailed his friend and gotten their exact address, saving them from driving in circles around the general area until he recognised their house.

He pulls to a reluctant stop, pocketing his phone when Louis hands it back to him, and tries to ignore the discomforting panic blooming under his ribs.

“Thanks for driving me,” Louis says, and it’s much too polite for what their trip has been. Or, maybe just the right amount when considering the length. “I think I must have ruined your plans a bit.”

Harry swallows. “That’s okay. You were a very welcome distraction.”

“Yeah, well,” Louis smirks, before his face changes into a cringe. “Oh, shit. I forgot about your clothes. I’ll get changed—”

“No, it’s okay,” Harry says, aiming for a smile. “I don’t need them. Look better on you anyway.”

Louis looks like he might argue but then he unbuckles instead, and after a small hesitation, leans forward and kisses him gently, fingers resting in the middle of his chest. Lips and tongues instantly run smooth and soft against each other, and it’s so easy that Harry has to stop himself from just hauling Louis into his lap and kissing him until his lips are swollen and he’s nearly breathless. Later he’ll probably find a moment to regret that they never got to fulfil Louis’ wish for sex in the front seat.

Even though he knows it will have to happen soon, when Louis begins to pull back, Harry follows, hand fitting behind his neck to keep him in place. He doesn’t want to stop kissing him, because one end leads to another, leads to another, leads to Harry alone on the road and an unwanted and unobstructed view of grassy fields to his left. He really doesn’t want that.

But maybe it’s the universe’s way of telling him that he can’t always get what he wants, because Louis eventually prises himself free with an apologetic smile. His lips are shiny and red and Harry thinks, I will never forget this, and, it’s still true.

“Hey,” Harry says, as casually as possible, as if Louis is a skittish creature that will run away at the first sign that Harry’s falling for him, clinging to him so he doesn’t go. Like it isn’t completely obvious already. “I’m playing a show in Glasgow the weekend after next. You should come and watch if you’re still here. Bring your friends.”

“Sure,” Louis says. “That sounds good. I’ll give you a ring. You know, when I get a new phone.”

And even before he’s finished speaking, Harry knows Louis won’t be there, lifestyle too bohemian for even him. He still finds an old receipt and a pen in the glove box and scribbles down his number, pressing it into Louis’ hand.

“I’ll see you around, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Louis says, picking his wet clothes up from the floor. “Bye, Harry. Thanks again.”

He gets out of the car, accidentally shutting it too roughly, and that’s it. Louis doesn’t turn around as he heads up the drive, so Harry restarts the engine, watching him get smaller and smaller than he already is in his rear-view mirror, disappearing from his life as easily as he entered it.

It feels strange, like someone took a snapshot of his life fourteen hours ago and flipped everything outside of the car’s four doors around completely – the rain is gone, and the sun is out, and Louis is not approaching, only moving further away – but Harry is sitting in his front seat, lollies in his glove box and pop music playing on his radio, and it’s exactly the same. Except, even though nothing’s changed, there’s an odd emptiness in the car, unsettling like a school after hours, or a house about to be sold.

Turning the corner, Harry can see the road leading to the motorway up ahead, and the panic that’s been sitting beneath his ribs rises upwards, shadowing his lungs. Because sometimes there are moments in life where you have to make a choice, and this might be one of them.

Abruptly, or maybe not so, Harry is spinning the wheel and circling back sharply, because fuck the universe, he’s not ready for this to end. He’s spent his whole life chasing after things that aren’t his and he’s not going to stop now. All he knows is that the passenger seat is empty, and there’s an ache in his gut that’s getting stronger, and he doesn’t want this to end.

As he makes his way back down the road, he sees Louis sitting on the kerb, arms wrapped around his knees. He looks up in surprise when he hears the car, jumping up when Harry pulls in front of him and winds down the window.

“Harry? What are you—”

“Come with me,” Harry says, cutting in and not caring that it sounds exactly like the desperate plea it is. “Come with me to Aberdeen.”

It might be a line out of an old folk song – the type where a young man sets out to seek fortune and adventure only to encounter a beautiful, impossible creature in his path. It’s honest though, and that’s all Harry’s got.

“Why should I?” Louis asks, eyes wary. “You yourself said it’s a shithole.”

“It would be less of a shithole if you were there,” Harry says earnestly. “And it wouldn’t just be for Aberdeen. It’ll be for Dundee and Edinburgh, and Glasgow too, so you could still see your friends. And then we’re heading to Ireland.”

Louis looks down at his feet, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I’ve never been to Ireland before either.”

“Me too,” Harry says, and it feels a lot like his first proper breath since he turned around. “We should go together.”

“I’ve not got much money,” Louis says stubbornly. Although, maybe Harry’s imagining it, but it seems like he’s saying it more for show rather than really meaning it. “Since my phone’s broke I’d need to tell my mum where I’m going. She wouldn’t appreciate an email.”

“We’ll go back,” Harry says. “We have time, since I’m not playing until tomorrow. Doncaster, right?”

“Yeah,” Louis says, and this time there’s a little more enthusiasm. “Besides, I’d need some clothes as well. Wouldn’t be able to just wear your gear the whole time.”

Harry can’t help but feel a pang at that. “Yeah,” he murmurs a little sadly, eyeing his jumper, and Louis rolls his eyes.

“So that’s a yes, right?” Harry says, since for some reason Louis still isn’t in his car, just standing on the kerb with his wet clothes at his feet.

“I mean. Just. Why?” Louis says, hands flopping. “I mean, you don’t really know anything about me. Was the sex that good?” It’s meant to be a joke, but there’s apprehension laced in his voice, like there really is a possibility that Harry is just keeping him around for sex.

He chooses his words carefully, because it’s too early in the morning to chase away pretty boys by saying how completely gone for them he is and with foolish notions such as fate. That can wait for another time. He can feel every last trace of panic dissipating from his chest with the realisation that there will be another time, maybe even many other times.

“I don’t really know you,” he begins, looking Louis in the eyes, “but I think I’d like to, if you’d let me. I think we could have fun together, and not just sex. Although I won’t lie, that was quite a lot of fun.” Louis’ shoulders relax, and there’s a small smile on his face.

“But, like, you’re funny and sweet,” Harry continues, “and I don’t want you to go yet. There’s no pressure, you can leave whenever you like. But I just don’t want you to go.”

Louis doesn’t say anything. He takes one deep breath, then another, and then he’s walking around the car and pulling open the passenger side door. It’s instantaneous how everything changes in that moment, and Harry remembers again why some chances are worth taking.

“Shall we?” Louis says, and there might be a slight shake in his voice, but his eyebrow is raised mockingly and Harry thinks he looks perfectly at home. “Haven’t got all day, Harry.”

Harry nods through a wild grin, tearing his eyes away to pull out into the street, and it’s like déjà vu but without all the anxious uncertainty.

He doesn’t make it twenty metres before he pulls the car over sharply to the side of the road and unbuckles his seatbelt, startling Louis.

“Harry?” he questions, and Harry’s reaching out, hands resting on either side of his face as he kisses him. Louis lifts his hands after a moment to entangle their fingers, and they stay like that for the count, gently moving lips and slow sweeping tongues and syncing rhythms in their wrists.

“What was that for?” Louis asks when they part, eyes slightly glazed and slightly giddy smile inadvertently slipping out.

“Nothing,” Harry says, smiling back.

Later, in the safe, dark, enfolding shadows, broken up by passing streetlights and car beams, Harry spares one of many glances for the boy beside him, who lies folded up and small and still somehow filling up every available space and crevice. He hopes that he continues to do so once their world expands beyond a rusted roof and tartan polar fleeces and worn sheepskin seat covers. Maybe that’s a scary thought to have about someone he’s known for less than a day, but he wants it – thinks that perhaps that’s all the reason he needs. And fear has never stopped him before.