“What do you mean,” Harry asked, leaning forwards in his chair. “I didn’t make it?”
He should have known Nick had bad news for him. He rarely insisted for Harry to come into his office to talk over an offer. Nick was not only Harry’s agent, he was Harry’s friend, too. They met up for lunch or settled things over a simple phone call. That Nick had wanted to see Harry in his office should have been unsettling enough. Harry had ignored it altogether, which had probably been a bad idea. He should have been prepared for bad news.
Nick sighed and folded his hands on the table. “Listen, Harry…” He fell silent again and took a deep breath.
From his posture, Harry could tell that he was tense, uncomfortable even. Harry knew that look on Nick’s face all too well, too. Ever since Harry had had his big break-through four years ago, Nick had been by his side. They knew each other like a married couple did -- every mood, every look and every thought. If they didn't, they wouldn't be able to work together.
Right now, Nick was struggling to find the right words.
“Just say it, Nick.” Harry raised a brow and held Nick’s gaze.
Nick ran a hand through his short, brown hair. It was growing back long now after he had shaved it off a few months ago. “They didn't see you fit for the role.”
For a moment, Harry thought he’d heard wrong. Because-- It was a Scorsese film, and everyone knew that he tended to pick only the best. Harry had worked with him before. He was the perfect choice for the lead role in Scorsese’s new thriller. A highly intelligent jew, surviving the horrors of Buchenwald solely on his dry humour, wittiness and detachment from reality.
Harry had loved every bit of the character when he had read the script.
“Who do they see fit if not me?” he finally asked when he shook out of the initial shock of being rejected.
“Good news is,” Nick changed the topic, breaking their eye contact, “they offer you the main supporting role. You know, the strong-willed nazi officer who risks his life to save the day. It’s a good role, in one of the most anticipated films for next year.”
Harry gave him an unimpressed stare. “Don't give me that bullshit talk, Nick. Who got the main role?”
Nick pulled a face. “You won't like it.”
“I don't like that I didn't get it.” Harry thought that over. “The only thing worse would be for someone like Louis Tomlinson to be the main. But let's be real, he never stood a chance when he went into that casting.”
Now, Nick pressed his lips together. “Actually…”
Harry could feel his own face fall, the muscles around his jaw loosening up, his mouth falling open. “No fucking way.”
“Hold that thought, Liam,” Louis said and jogged off the pitch to retrieve his ringing mobile phone from the pocket of his jacket. “Gotta check if it's someone important.”
The display flashed Stan’s name and Louis held up one finger to signal Liam to give him a minute. “Stan, mate, what's up?”
“I'd have waited until the meeting, but you'll want to know this.” Stan sounded excited, his voice a little shaky.
“Did I get that Scorsese film?” Louis' heart rate picked up speed upon the mere thought.
Liam walked closer, arms crossed and eyes curious.
“You fucking did!” Stan almost shouted it through the line. “You got the fucking lead!”
“You’re shitting me.” Louis didn’t even want to imagine this could be a joke. His throat felt tight and his knees threatened to give out under his weight any moment.
“I’m not shitting you with this kind of thing, Lou,” Stan said, sounding offended. “I told you you were brilliant. You always were.”
“Fuck.” Louis exhaled the word on a breath. He looked at Liam and ungracefully plopped down onto the bench. “I… fuck.”
“Louis?” Liam asked in a worried tone. He crouched down before Louis and placed a hand on Louis’ knee.
“It’s not all set in stone yet because they wanna see you in a casting again,” Stan went on explaining. “You know, a chemistry read.”
“Any news on who's got the supporting lead?” Louis put his hand over Liam's to signal it wasn't bad news.
“You won't like that bit.” Stan sighed quietly. “They didn't take any of the people who auditioned for the role. They took someone who auditioned for the protagonist, as well.”
Louis groaned and tilted his head back. “Let me guess. Harry fucking Styles.”
“Indeed,” Stan replied.
“Just my luck.” Louis got up from the bench again. “When?”
“Get started on rehearsing. They wanna see you again on Friday.”
“Text me the details.” Louis hung up, staring at the blank screen of his mobile phone, trying to figure out what he was feeling.
“What’s going on, Lou?” Liam asked, pulling Louis back into the moment.
“Scorsese wants me in the lead for his next film.” Saying it out loud felt like a lie. In what world did Scorsese pick someone like Louis over Harry Styles?
“That’s amazing! “ Liam hugged Louis, clapping his back. “That’s what you wanted for that image change, isn't it?”
Louis hummed, frowning a little. “I want that role for me, Liam.”
“That's what I meant, you know,” Liam said. He smiled fondly at Louis, still holding his arms.
“But it's not quite the same. Stan wants the image change, and the role to cater to that. I want the role because it'll be interesting to do something I haven't done before. Also, I don’t have to mention how big it is for me to work with Scorsese, do I?”
Louis led the way inside the house. They went through the wide patio doors that led outside into Louis' garden and football pitch. Inside, they stepped into the spacious kitchen and dining room. There was an old mahogany table big enough to host all of his family. And his family was big.
“I mean, it's good, isn't it?” Liam asked, opening the fridge to take out a bottle of water. “It's not gonna hurt your career, right?”
“I guess,” Louis agreed and sat down on the work counter in the middle of the kitchen. “It's not why I want to come out, you know?”
Liam’s expression turned a little harder. “I know, yeah.”
And Liam would. While Louis' coming out was not going to be much of a big deal, it was entirely different for Liam. Louis was an A-List actor, but his sexuality didn't play a particularly big role when he was casted. There would be articles and questions and comments, but most of the world was not going to care. For Louis, the coming out could probably even open a few doors.
It was different for Liam. He was Britain's hottest singer-songwriter, selling out stadiums on his own worldwide. He was every girl’s celebrity crush. His sexuality had to stay under covers under every circumstance. Which Liam didn't always deal too well with.
“Guess it’s back to LA for you then, isn’t it?” Liam asked when Louis didn’t say anything.
“I’m afraid, yeah,” Louis agreed and took the bottle from Liam’s hand. “Have to be back on Friday.”
“I'll let my assistant know you'll stay in my house.” Liam took out his mobile, probably texting his assistant or making a note to do it later.
Liam nodded, slipping his mobile back in his pocket. “And what's that about Harry Styles?”
“They chose him for the lead support.” Louis rolled his eyes, thinking about the other man. They had met a few times before, and on none of those occasions had Louis come to like him. Styles was vain and arrogant. He thought of himself as superior to every other actor. “They wanna see us in another casting on Friday, see if we fit.”
Liam laughed. “You won't.”
“Fuck off, I'm a professional.” Louis gasped in mock-offense. “I can certainly act like I like him. Love him, even.”
“I'd like to see that.”
“It won't come that far, fortunately.” Louis shrugged and hopped off the counter. “I suppose he'll be all professional about it, too.”
Liam hummed, taking back his bottle. “I expect him to be, yeah.”
He could always refuse the offer.
Harry pursed his lips, one finger swiping over the bottom one. He put his car back in gear when the lights switched to green.
Of course, that would be stupid. No one refused any part in a Scorsese production. The plain thought was ridiculous. It was horrifying that Harry even entertained the idea.
According to Nick’s contact person, everyone had been surprised by Tomlinson's performance. No one had taken his audition seriously, until the moment he had stood on stage. Harry couldn't even imagine it, but apparently, Tomlinson had convinced them all in the mere ten minutes he'd been on stage. Which was odd, because he wasn’t actually known for quality acting.
As far as Harry was concerned, Tomlinson was not to be taken seriously. Harry could appreciate a good romantic comedy, but those didn't require what a Scorsese required. They didn't even come close.
Sighing, Harry parked in front of the restaurant's entrance and handed his keys over to a clerk when he got out. He thanked him quietly and made his way inside.
“Mr Styles. Welcome,” a woman greeted him. “Mr Horan is waiting for you. If you may follow me?”
Approaching the table, Harry saw Niall already seated, sipping some beer and typing on his mobile.
“Who's preparing my food if you're out here?” he asked upon sitting down.
Niall looked up, grinning broadly. “I only ever cook in front of cameras anymore.”
“Fame’s changed you.” Harry grinned back, folding his arms on the table. “Did you make my white chocolate and caramel cheesecake, though?”
“Of course,” Niall replied. “No one can make them like me, eh?”
“They’re the best!” Harry put a hand over his heart. Nothing came even close to Niall's white chocolate and caramel cheesecake.
“So.” Niall leaned back when his entrée was served. “To what do I owe your sudden urge to see me?”
Harry eyed the garlic shrimps on his plate. “Just heard you were in town and thought it'd be nice.”
“So, this got nothing to do with a new fake boyfriend?”
Looking up, Harry met Niall's eye. “Do I even have to ask to bring them here anymore?”
Niall shrugged. “Nah. First date is on me, as always.”
“I'd want to give my fake boyfriends just the best for fake dating me.” Harry gave Niall a thumbs up after tasting the shrimps.
“Who is it this year?”
“Nick decided I should go for another field this time,” Harry said. “He arranged an agreement with Jason Summers’ management.”
Niall gasped. “You gotta introduce me.”
Smiling, Harry put down his fork and knife. He had expected Niall to react that way. He was a big football fan, and Jason Summers was one of Britain's most talented players. So talented that even coming out hadn't affected his eighty million transfer to Bayern Munich last season.
“Footballer, though,” Niall mused, sighing quietly. “They're always on some sort of diet. It'll be hard to put together a proper menu.”
“You’ve got enough time to think about it, don’t worry,” Harry reassured him. “The contract only starts in November.”
“I'll probably be in London around that time, filming a new show.”
Harry thanked the waiter when he quietly removed both Harry and Niall’s plates. “You will? What exactly?”
“It's like, about food that people think is unhealthy, but really isn't if you just prepare it right.” Niall ran a hand through his brunette hair. “Diets and calorie counting. That’s rubbish. The body doesn't know.”
Harry barked out a laugh. “The body doesn't know what?”
“How many calories you take in.” Niall looked completely serious now. “Food is not about being healthy and low in calories. It's about being tasty and comforting. Making your day better.”
There were a lot of reasons why Harry was friends with Niall, but this was probably the most prominent. He was always positive, always looking at the bright side of things. He refused to fit the norm, and with that, he had made it big in the industry. He had skyrocketed from sharing his recipes on a tumblr blog to Hollywood's biggest TV chef. And up until today, he hadn't had to bow to social expectations even once.
“You’re my favourite,” Harry told him.
Niall's eyes were sparkling with joy. “And yet, in four long years, you never even thought of making me your winter boyfriend.”
Harry winced at the term, but laughed anyways. The press liked to refer to Harry's fauxmances he had each year from November to January as that. Of course, within the industry, everyone knew that each of Harry’s relationships had been fake, but it still fulfilled its task of keeping him relevant in the public eye. Nick used to say that every kind of publicity was good publicity. And Harry didn't really mind. It wasn't like he didn't get a say in any of it. He had liked each of the men he had dated for publicity; had always gathered new friendships from it.
“You never made it clear you were up for it.” Harry wiggled his brows. “It’s not too late yet.”
Niall rolled his eyes. “Guess dating me would be the end of any credibility of your little fake dating series.”
Harry tilted his head. “Probably.”
The waiter came back with the main course, placing a plate filled with what looked like ravioli in front of Harry.
“Spinach and bacon cannelloni in a creamy white wine sauce with feta,” Niall explained. “You'll love it.”
Harry picked a dried tomato on his fork and took a bite. “When did I ever not love any of your creations?”
Niall grinned. “True.”
For a while they ate in comfortable silence, then Niall made a gesture with his fork, mouth still full.
“How did that casting go?” he asked. “Did you hear back from them yet?”
“I did. Yesterday, actually.” Harry resumed eating, throwing Niall a glance that hopefully said enough.
“He didn’t pick you?” Niall leaned closer, food forgotten. “I thought he'd personally request you after Rough Tides.”
“He picked me for the lead support.” Harry shrugged. “Which is an interesting role, too.”
“I'm not that mad about not getting the lead.” Harry pursed his lips, shrugging. “I'm upset with whom they picked over me.”
Niall swallowed another bite. “Who is it?”
Stabbing one of the cannelloni, Harry looked at Niall again. “Louis Tomlinson.”
Raising a brow, Niall stopped his motion. “Wow. That’s an--- well, unusual pick, isn’t it?”
“Not the kind of film he usually does,” Harry agreed.
“I always thought he was a good actor.” Niall resumed eating, gesturing with his knife. “It’s about time he gets a chance to prove it.”
“He may be good for shallow comedies, but he doesn’t have what it takes for a Scorsese.” Harry shook his head. “It’s too big for him.”
Niall hummed, finishing his cannelloni. “They must have chosen him for a reason.” He shrugged, looking directly at Harry again. “But I get that you feel offended they chose an actor like him over you. It’s your expertise, not his.”
Harry shrugged, resting his elbows on the table and lacing his fingers. “I just hope I won’t have a lot of scenes with him.”
“Don’t you know that yet?” Niall asked and raised his brows.
Harry shook his head. “We only got excerpts of the script.”
“Well, maybe he’ll surprise you once you guys actually get to work together.”
“I doubt that,” Harry snorted at the thought. He had seen Louis Tomlinson act in his previous films. He was good in comedy, and had the most hilarious facial expressions. He was good. Harry would give him that. He would just prefer to see him stay in his lane.
Niall cut the thought short when he gestured for a waiter. “Ready for dessert?”
Shoving the thoughts about Louis Tomlinson snatching Harry’s role from him aside, Harry beamed at Niall. “I’m always ready for dessert!”
Niall winked. “You think you are, but you have no idea.”
Louis arrived in Los Angeles late Thursday night. He was snuck out LAX without drawing any attention, a car waiting for him in a secure spot. In the backseat, Louis almost fell asleep, but tried to keep himself awake by replying to texts from friends and family.
At Liam’s house, lights were on and upon opening the door, a nice smell welcomed him.
“Ah, Mr Tomlinson,” Katarina, Liam’s house manager, greeted him. She was a tiny woman, petite even, but the biggest force Louis had ever met. Her brown hair was tied back in a messy bun and she wore shorts and a tank top. “Welcome.”
Louis hugged her tightly, patting her back. “Hi Kat. What’s going on here? Did you move in?”
“Mr Tomlinson, what do you think of me?” She furrowed her brows. Louis had known her for three years and met her every time he stayed over at Liam’s house here -- which happened a lot -- but she refused to call him Louis, no matter how often he’d ask. “Of course not!”
She didn’t have the greatest sense of humour, but Louis adored her anyway. “Thanks for preparing everything for me.”
“Mr Payne left me a message to make sure you received a warm welcome.” She lowered the heat for whatever was simmering on the cooker. “Is there anything else you need?”
“I’m good, Kat. Thanks.” Louis dropped to one of the chairs, rubbing his eyes. “I’ll just eat some of that amazing smelling food and then head to bed.”
“I prepared the guest room and bathroom for you. The gym room and pool are ready to be used, too.” She pulled on a light jacket and made for the door. “Call me if you need anything.”
“Will do,” Louis promised and waved after her.
He yawned when he heard the front door fall shut behind her and dropped his head to the table. He was dead on his feet. Despite feeling tired, he forced himself to get up and get out a plate. Peering into the pot, he found pasta and minced meat in a light sauce.
He’d get a house manager, too, if he ever bought a house in L.A. In London, he didn’t need one, because it was his private house and Louis liked taking care of his house himself. Well, that wasn’t completely true, because he had a nice couple coming once a week to clean the house in London. Katarina was different, though. She went shopping for Liam, redecorated the house, prepared everything for guests and made sure everything was in maintenance. Louis was convinced that he should be the one to spot a leaking pipe and call a plumber for it.
Since he spent most of his time in London, he had bought a rather big house there. He only came to L.A. for work and refused to stay longer than necessary. He didn’t feel home in this city. So whenever he needed to stay longer, he’d just stay in a hotel or with Liam.
He ate, texted Liam and took a shower. When he was finally in bed, he took out the script to go over the role once more. Yet, he fell asleep before he had even read three sentences.
Harry arrived at the studios ten minutes early. He had never been late to any of his appointments or for filming, not even once. If there was anything he didn’t want to be said about him, it was that he was unprofessional.
“Hi, I’m Harry,” he greeted one of the assistants, shaking their hand. There were a few people in the room he had met during the casting, and he exchanged a few words with them before he moved on to the preparation room.
Two more people were already there; Maggy Thornhill and Louis Tomlinson. They stopped the conversation upon Harry’s entrance. He put on a smile and went for Maggy first.
“Hi Maggy,” he said and kissed her cheek, holding her hand between his own. “It’s lovely to see you again.”
She smiled and kissed him back on the cheek. As far as Harry knew she was going to play one of the other jewish inmates. “Hi Harry. Good to see you, darling. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“Oscars last year?” He tilted his head, trying to remember when he had last seen her.
“Something like that.” She patted the chair next to herself. “Sit down.”
Harry nodded, but turned again. He approached Louis and held out his hand. “Hi. I’m Harry. It’s nice to meet you.”
Louis got up from his chair and took Harry’s hand. Harry had seen him in films and on some events, but never this close up and just-- real. He was attractive, that was a fact Harry couldn’t deny. His hair was soft and a little messy, curling gently over his ears. He had often heard Louis Tomlinson’s eyes being described as the clearest blue, and it was probably true. Harry had never met someone with such piercing blue eyes. He wore a simple t-shirt and dark jeans, neither of any specific brand if Harry could tell.
Louis smiled kindly. “Louis. It’s a pleasure.”
“You two have never met before?” Maggy asked as Harry sat down next to her.
“I don’t think we have?” Harry shrugged.
“We probably attended some events, but we haven’t been introduced.” Louis gave a small smile. “Somehow.”
“What a pity!” Maggy shook her head. “I mean, Louis, we’ve never worked together, but you’re always been the best company at every party I’ve been to.”
Louis chuckled at that. “Well, I hope you’ll find it just as great to work with me.”
Of fucking course. Harry wasn’t surprised that Louis Tomlinson’s biggest quality were his party skills, apparently. Did he even take the role seriously? “Well, working on this film won’t be a party, will it?”
Maggy hummed. “It won’t be an easy walk.”
Louis was quiet for a moment, then he winked at her. “We’ll make it fun. It can’t be that difficult.”
And cocky, too. Harry was already annoyed by him, and they had only been in a room together for a few minutes. “It’s not exactly a fun topic, is it? Concentration camps.”
“I didn’t say that, did I?” Louis looked irritated. He crossed his arms and tilted his head. “No need to get so condescending, Styles.”
“I--” Harry gasped at that. After that, Tomlinson had the nerve to call him condescending? “I think you---”
“Now, now,” Maggy cut in, patting Harry’s leg. “Calm down you two. What are you getting so worked up about?”
“No idea what’s wrong with him.” Louis shrugged, eyes still trained on Harry. “Bad day?”
Harry was about to answer when the door opened again and a group of people came in. Harry recognised a few more actors and a bunch of people from the filming team.
“We’ll start in a few minutes. Please be ready to be called in,” a woman said. “Louis, would you please come with me?”
Not even sparing Harry another glance, Louis got up and followed the woman out of the room. Harry stared after him, brows furrowed. He had hoped that Louis Tomlinson would turn out to be a decent guy, making up for his lacking acting skills. But no such luck. Louis Tomlinson was an arrogant bastard on top of being a mediocre actor.
Harry should have known.
He was pulled out of thought when someone sat down next to him, clapping a hand on Harry’s shoulder. Harry turned his face and recognised Peter Crawley, who he had worked with before.
“Peter,” he greeted him, going in for a hug. They talked for a while, catching up on what each of them had been working on over the time they hadn’t seen each other. Just when Harry was talking about his last project, the door was opened again and a small boy came in.
He wasn’t older than five and nervously looked around the room. His hands were fiddling with a plush toy and he looked around the room with uncertain eyes.
Harry was the first one to get up from his chair. “Hi, love,” he said to the boy and crouched down in front of him. “I’m Harry.”
“I’m Colin,” the boy replied, eyes settling on Harry. “My mom said it’s okay to go in.”
American, Harry thought. He hadn’t read anything about a child in the script, and judging from everyone else’s faces in the room, neither had they.
“Do you want to sit down, Colin?” Harry asked, gesturing to his chair.
Colin followed him, his little feet in their addidas trainers hanging far above the floor when he sat down. “Thank you.”
“What a polite, little boy you are,” Maggy said from his right and leaned a little closer to Colin. “It’s very nice to meet you.”
The door opened again, and Maggy and Peter were asked to leave the room. Harry took Maggy’s seat and watched the other people in the room talk to Colin.
“Are you here to play in the film?” Romina Hobbs asked him.
Colin nodded, his thick, dark hair bouncing with it. “It’s a very important role, my mom said.”
Harry was curious to what kind of role the boy would take in the film. There was no reason to be impatient, though. He was sure he’d find out soon. If everything went smoothly today, he’d get a full version of the script within the next few days.
“Mr Styles?” someone asked from the door and Harry got up from his chair. He was a little surprised when the woman added, “and Colin, you can come with us, too.”
Harry greeted everyone in the practice room when he came in, Colin trailing behind him. Louis, Maggy and Peter were all in position already, apparently having already acted out a scene already.
Harry was told to play a short scene with Maggy first, then with Peter. His character was a very isolated one, not interacting much more with other characters than to give orders. While he prepared for the short scene with Peter, he caught Louis talking to Colin, both giggling about something.
He focused back on the scene he was about to do, trying to get into character. Peter was going to play another SS officer, one much more corrupt and unethical than the one Harry was going to portray. It was easy to get into character with Peter. He was about twice as old as Harry, and when they had filmed together at the beginning of Harry’s career, he had learned a lot from Peter.
“Thanks,” Scorsese said afterwards, not giving away anything with his tone. Harry remembered being very intimidated by it when he had worked with him for the first time. Now, he simply nodded and waited for further instructions. “Styles and the boy are next.”
The boy, Harry thought. It was very typical for Scorsese, too, that he didn’t give a child any special treatment. Harry would make sure to keep an eye on Colin when filming, to make sure he wouldn’t get lonely, and got to laugh and play -- just a be a child -- in between working.
Peter left and Colin took his place, looking at the director with expectant eyes. They were both handed a page, a short scene written out on it. The woman from earlier came up to them and knelt down next to Colin. On his paper, Harry saw that there wasn’t any text for Colin, only for him. In these character reads it wasn’t about correct script citing, anyways, just about getting a grip on your own and your partner’s character.
Harry read the scene carefully, remembering what he could, trying to get into the right mood. When Colin gave the signal that he was ready, the woman left and Harry exchanged a quick glance with Colin, winking at him, before they got the signal to start.
Slowly, with a thoughtful expression on his face, Harry approached the child, making sure his posture gave away defeat. “What am I going to do with you?” he asked quietly, watching Colin. He blinked once, innocently looking up at Harry. “You poor, little devil. They sent you for certain death.”
Colin took a step back, his expression changing to something fearful. He was good, Harry thought as he waited a moment, letting Colin’s reaction take effect.
“And yet, you have chosen none of this,” Harry mused, tilting his head slightly. “You have not chosen to be born into a family of scum. You simply happen to be scum by birth.” He said it with no sympathy; voiced it as a fact. “And you’ll die as scum, despite these people trying to save you.”
Again, Colin didn’t move. He kept looking at Harry with an insecurity only a child could muster up.
Harry took another step closer and knelt down, coming to eye-level with the boy. “Why would they risk their lives to save yours?” he almost whispered, marvel in his tone. “You didn’t ask for it, did you? Who would ask for any of this.”
“Perfect,” Scorsese interrupted. “Just like I imagined it. Thanks.”
Harry smiled at Colin, and the boy grinned back. It was as if they were bonding over this, getting praised by a director who barely ever praised anyone. Harry got up again, straightening his clothes from kneeling down and looked back at Scorsese for more directions.
“Tomlinson,” he simply said, gesturing for Louis to come forward. “This is very important. It’s the only scene where your three characters are in one frame.”
He didn’t need to say more. Harry knew that it meant the scene was of utmost importance for the film. With a little wariness inside, he watched Louis join them. He didn’t look nervous at all, instead he seemed to be very focused.
Scorsese pointed to Colin. “You pick up the boy, and stand on that side over there. Styles, I need you on the other side.” All of them took their positions, waiting for more instructions. “Now, Tomlinson. You just got away. And you know it’s your only chance. This is the first and last time you’ll look back. Styles, you know it’s out of your hands. You could, but you’re not stopping them. You let them go. I need to see those things in exactly one look.”
Harry nodded, looking at Louis briefly. He just hoped Louis was not going to fuck this up; it would ruin Harry’s chances, too. However, Louis didn’t seem bothered. He barely looked at Harry before he turned. Colin looked at Harry over Louis’ shoulder, eyes wide -- he was already in character.
When Louis turned back around, he suddenly seemed out of breath and his eyes were piercing. He held Colin close to his chest and his eyes locked on Harry. Clenching his jaw, Harry looked back, moving not a single muscle in his body. He held his breath, and thought that Louis did, too. Then, Louis turned again and Harry relaxed.
“Good. Not bad for a first take on it.” Scorsese nodded at him, looking pleased. “Thank you for your time.”
“That’s all?” Harry asked. He had done this before and knew it could be an endless trial, especially with a director like Scorsese.
“That’s all, yes,” he said. “I never doubted my picks, Harry.” He smiled, the switch to Harry’s first name indicating that this was a conversation outside of work. He only used last names when working. “This was just a confirmation of what I already knew. I’m working with professionals, and actors like you can adapt to anything and anyone, really.”
Harry nodded, smiling back. He should have known he had a bit of an advantage after having worked with Scorsese before. Louis, on the other hand… Harry frowned slightly when they left the room, being led back to the waiting room to pick up their belongings.
“You did well,” Louis said to Colin as they walked ahead. Harry followed them together with Peter and Maggy, both of them chatting idly among themselves. “You’re already a proper actor, aren’t you?”
Colin giggled and shook his head. “I wanna be an actor like Harry.”
Harry blinked, stopping when Louis turned to him. “Me?” he asked, finding his own voice sounding baffled. Maggy squeezed his shoulder and chuckled; Louis simply raised a brow, looking unimpressed.
A woman waited outside the room, looking relieved when she spotted Colin. “Sweetheart, how did it go?” she asked and knelt down to hug him. Harry assumed she was Colin’s mother.
Colin shrugged, but hugged her back. “He was nice. Like last time.”
“Colin did really well,” Louis said. “We’re all very impressed by him.”
She looked up and upon seeing Harry, she gaped. “Oh, and you got to meet Harry Styles!” She got up and passed Louis without a glance, holding a hand out for Harry. “Colin is your biggest fan.”
Harry smiled, taking her hand. “Well, and I’m already his.”
“Did you hear that, baby?” She put a hand on Colin’s shoulder. “Isn’t that great?”
Colin nodded, looking at Harry in awe.
Harry knelt down and held out his hand for Colin, too. “I hope we’ll be friends.”
“That’s so cool,” Colin replied with a wide smile, taking Harry’s hand eagerly.
“We gotta leave, but it was very nice meeting you,” Colin’s mother said and Harry looked up in time to see her nod at everyone else, too. “I guess we’ll see you soon.”
Maggy and Peter followed her and Colin outside, both saying goodbye to Harry with warm hugs. Harry looked after them, still smirking over Colin’s confession of being his fan. He was only twenty-seven, so telling someone he was their fan had only ever happened the other way around. It seemed like Harry was getting old enough to see younger, more inexperienced actors enter the scene. Actors who saw him as someone to look up to. The thought was flattering.
“Well,” Louis drew him from his thoughts. He had his arms behind his back. “That chemistry read went better than I expected.”
Harry nodded, the motion feeling a little stiff. “Looks like we caught him on a good day.”
“Or, we probably just did a good job?” Louis shrugged. “I didn’t really have doubts about that.”
“I don’t think you had any reasons to be so sure of yourself?” Harry raised a brow, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “As far as I know you haven’t worked with him before.”
Louis turned to the door, rolling his eyes. “Is that a criteria to be a good actor? Am I missing some qualities if I haven’t?”
“Dunno, but it seems to spell overestimation to me.” Harry followed Louis outside, taking out his car keys. “But I guess that’s none of my business.”
“I guess, yeah.” Louis opened the car door and rested his arms on the roof of his sports car. “You know what, Styles? I had some kind of prejudiced image of you. And it was completely confirmed today.”
Harry tilted his head. He was almost certain that he’d been insulted just now. Strangely, that didn’t offend him as much as it should. “That’s good, because my prejudiced image of you was confirmed just as well.”
“Guess that makes us even,” Louis said. He didn’t look upset or angry. He simply said it matter-of-factly, and then got into his car, raising his hand once before he drove off.
Harry stared after him while he got into his driver’s seat. “I guess it does,” he mumbled to himself. Whatever Louis Tomlinson thought of him wasn’t important. He had learned a long time ago that he couldn’t be friends with everyone and that, especially in the entertainment industry, there were more people who wanted to be his enemy than his friend.
At least he had made one friend today. That wasn’t a bad balance, after all.
Filming began mid October. After endless meetings to read through the script and camera rehearsals in different groups, Louis was glad that they finally started to work in front of the camera. This was the real deal now, and Louis had missed it.
For the first month, they filmed in Germany, and Louis felt the chills when they first got to Buchenwald. It was a grey autumn day, and the big yard behind the gates seemed completely lifeless. It took all of them a while to get used to the atmosphere and to filming in a place where millions of people had died less than a hundred years ago.
He enjoyed working with the crew. Most of his scenes were shot with Maggy Thornhill and a number of supporting actors playing other inmates. During breaks, he got to get to know them better and was relieved that he got along so well with everyone.
After his encounter with Harry Styles, Louis had been worried that the others could be as snobbish, but it turned out none of them was like that. He got along with all of them, and there wasn’t a single person amongst the other actors or on-set crew that doubted Scorsese’s decision to make Louis the main. After he had received the complete script for the film, Louis had noticed that while he got the main character, he wasn’t the most important one. The key figure in the plot was the boy. He didn’t even have a name, didn’t speak a single word throughout the film, but his presence was what the story revolved around.
Another thing the full script had revealed was that there really was only one single scene he and Harry had to shoot together. Louis hadn’t been sure at first whether he was upset or relieved about it. Harry Styles had acted so superior to him, Louis would have liked to get a chance to prove to Harry that he was capable of acting in a Scorsese production. Also, Colin’s reaction had been like a kick to the stomach. Of course a child would see someone like Harry as an idol, not someone like Louis. It had reminded Louis once again that they usually played in different leagues. Louis knew that it had been the reason he hadn’t acted too humble himself. Something inside him had been lit; a will to not let Harry’s prejudices against him get confirmed. To not let Harry win this.
Eventually, Louis would win this, anyway, because the final product was going to showcase Louis’ acting abilities. And there was no way Harry Styles would find a way to deny that Louis had done well. If Louis didn’t have any other motivation, this would be enough to keep him giving his best.
The one scene they shot together went without any complications. Louis had prepared for that day excessively, and it only took eight takes for them to be let off the hook. He had learned that with a director like Scorsese, a scene could be shot up to fifty times if that’s what it took to meet his expectations. There had been a particular scene Louis had had to take more than twenty times. He had felt completely drained afterwards.
The part he had to film with Harry and Colin went smoothly, in comparison. Somehow, Louis felt that both, himself and Harry, had put a lot of effort to get it over with as fast as possible. Harry had greeted him politely and Louis had greeted him back just as politely, but while he had had interesting, funny and serious conversations with his co-actors the other days, Louis hadn’t been talking to Harry at all. They had both talked to Colin, and Louis had to admit that the way Harry had talked to the boy had been the only nice thing about him so far.
At the end of shooting, Louis had got out of his character’s clothes and one of the make-up artists had taken off all the layers of make-up and dirt they had covered him in. He had noticed that Harry had brought his own stylist, a young woman, not much older than him. They seemed friendly, and Louis thought of his younger sister. She was a professional stylist and make-up artist herself, but Louis hadn’t managed to convince her to work with him. She was hellbent on making a name for herself. Only for special occasions did she help out to get him dressed up and styled nicely.
Just a few days before Christmas, filming ended and Louis immediately flew back to London. He arrived early in the morning and spent the day in his house, catching up on sleep. The next day, he drove up to Doncaster to visit his family.
“My baby,” his mother greeted him as she opened the door and embraced him tightly. “You’re finally home.”
Louis was almost thirty, just a day of being twenty-nine left, but he’d never complain about being his mum’s little boy. This, right here in her arms, was the one place on earth he could be the weakest and trust to never get hurt. He closed his eyes and held her close. “Hi, Mum.”
“Come on in,” she said and pulled him through the door. It looked like she had cut and dyed her hair, but she had put it up in a messy bun, so Louis couldn’t tell. She went ahead to the kitchen, putting on the kettle. “Do you want something to eat?”
“I’m good.” Louis sat down and ran a hand over his face. “Where is everyone else?”
“Ernie and Doris are sleeping upstairs. Phoebe and Daisy are last minute gift shopping with friends, and Lottie and Tommy are gonna be here any minute.” She took two mugs from a cupboard. “And Fizzy is actually here. Don’t know why she hasn’t come down yet.”
“I’ll go up in a minute,” Louis said. He watched his mother prepare tea and hummed appreciatively when she handed him a mug. “It’s good to be home.”
“You barely called,” Jay complained. She cradled her own mug between her hands as she leaned against the kitchen counter. “How long will you stay?”
Louis shrugged. “However long you’ll have me.” He sipped from his tea. “I’ll be going to London for New Year’s Eve. Maybe the girls would like to tag along? You know, I could take them out for a bit, take them shopping and stuff.”
Jay smiled. “I’m sure they’d love that.” For a moment, she was silent, then she tilted her head. “So, no new jobs for the time being?”
“I won’t be working on a new film.” He swallowed, looking up to meet his mother’s gaze. “Stan said my coming out is my next big project.”
“I see.” Jay hummed quietly, holding Louis’ gaze. “It’s a big step.”
Louis nodded, his throat feeling a little tight. “It’s not gonna be a big deal for my career, especially not if the critics are impressed with the Scorsese film. It’s still a big deal for me.”
Setting her mug down, Jay came over to pull Louis against her chest. “It’ll be all right, my love.”
“What’s going on here?” Fizzy came into the room, and it took her a double check to recognise her brother. “Louis?”
“Hey hey!” Louis squeezed his mother’s waist before he let go to open his arms for his sister. “So you’re home after all.”
She was up in his space, cuddling close in a second. “I missed you.”
Smiling, Louis leaned his cheek against her hair, arms tight around her shoulders. She was almost bigger than him, and Louis tried to pretend that didn’t happen. Soon enough he wouldn’t be able to deny it anymore, though. “Missed you, too.”
“You gotta tell me all about working on that Scorsese film,” she demanded, tugging him along into the living room. “And about Harry Styles.”
Louis frowned. “I didn’t know you’re a fan?”
“What do you know?” she asked, rolling her eyes. “Of course I’m a fan.”
“I didn’t raise you like that!” Louis clutched his chest in mock-horror.
“Why? Is he that bad?”
He shrugged, making himself comfortable on the sofa. “He’s a good actor, I guess. We didn’t really work together?”
“But you’re in the same film,” Fizzy pointed out, sprawling at his side.
“We had only one scene together.” Louis shrugged and ran a hand through her hair, pulling her a little closer for a cuddle. “I didn’t really like him when I met him.”
Sighing, Fizzy slung an arm over Louis’ chest. “He seems so nice.”
“He’s an actor.”
“But, you know,” she said and raised his head to look at him. “I thought maybe you could be his boyfriend, and all. And he’ll become my brother-in-law.”
Louis snorted. “You wouldn’t want that. Believe me, he’s not that great.”
“And he’s dating Jason Summers now, anyway. Not like you could compete with him.” She pinched Louis’ tummy.
“Excuse you,” Louis complained and pinched her back. Then he raised a brow. He hadn’t known Harry was dating Summers. Apparently, he had good taste in men, at least. Louis wondered if, after his coming out, he’d ever stand a chance with someone like Jason Summer’s, too. “Summer’s pretty hot, though.”
“Shame he’s gay,” Fizzy agreed.
“You’re not supposed to think of any man like that.” Louis dropped the topic by attacking her with tickles, and she immediately got on it, tickling him back. Only when they dropped off the sofa in a heap of limbs did they stop, laughing uncontrollably.
“Will you ever grow up?” Jay asked when she came in, setting down Louis’ mug and one for Fizzy on the sofa table. “You’ll ruin all the furniture.”
“Sorry, mum,” Fizzy said and heaved herself back onto the sofa. “Let’s watch a Christmas movie.”
“Good idea,” Louis agreed and plopped down next to her.
Jay joined them, sitting right between them to pull both of them in. For a moment, Louis just snuggled into his mother’s warmth and forgot about the upcoming months. Right now, and for the next few days, all that mattered was his family.
It was good to be home.
A/N: The idea for the film they work on is loosely based on Naked Among Wolves by Bruno Apitz