Louis is a champion cuddler. It doesn’t matter if you want someone to hold or someone to hold you, he’s ace at it. He just fits himself to you. Louis’ this odd mixture of soft and firm that works for both comfort and security. Niall would think it’s his crush (he’s pretty sure a small crush on Louis maybe actually be a requirement of being in One Direction since Harry, Zayn, and Liam all had their moments, though he’s not sure he can label his as small as it’s lasted for years), but everyone who he’d talked to who had cuddled with Louis had agreed. And since that list includes, but is not limited to, all the boys, some of the band, quite a few siblings, members of opening acts, and the odd crew person, he’s fairly confident that he’s right.
Of course, the other boys aren’t bad at cuddling. They’ve all had plenty of practice, homesick and far from home, pride didn’t stand a chance against loneliness. They all have their quirks, though, and none of them are as adaptable as Louis. Zayn had usually held, unless he’d had a really bad day, and he’d been a bit of a blanket hog. Liam used to want to be held, now he only wants to hold, and he occasionally sings in his sleep, it’s cute, but not restful. Harry almost always wants to be held and he sometimes just randomly twitches. Niall, himself, sometimes wants to hold and sometimes wants to be held and gets a little grumpy when he can’t do the one he’s in the mood for. He also apparently plays chords on an imaginary guitar in his sleep now and then. Although, really, he does that when he’s awake, too.
Niall’s wondering if he can get a cuddle tonight. He thinks Louis is going out, so it’s a little up in the air. After Louis’d gotten over the shock of his break-up, he’d gone out drinking every night he could, often bringing someone back with him for the night, like he had been trying to prove that he was fine. After a bit though, he had slowed down and now he’s only going out sometimes. If Louis gets back early enough and doesn’t have anyone with him, Niall will be golden for a cuddle.
There’s a knock at his hotel room door and he checks who it is before opening it for Harry. “Thought you were going out.”
Harry nods. “We’re actually going just now. You’re staying in, yeah?”
“Could you look in on Lou?”
“What? I thought he was going out too. Is he not feeling well?” Niall asks, concerned.
Harry grimaces. “He’s just… he’s not in the mood, I guess.” Harry sighs a little and says, “He’s sad about something, I think. He says he’s fine, but, well. Anyway, Nialler, you’re pretty good at lifting someone’s mood, maybe you could… be you in his general vicinity.”
Niall smiles a little, feeling a little flattered, but more worried about Louis now. “Sure.”
“Good. See you later.” Harry smiles at him and ambles off down the hall.
“Bye, Harry,” Niall calls after him and closes his door.
Niall can see what Harry means. Louis had said okay when Niall had asked if he’d wanted to watch a movie, but Louis isn’t paying any attention at all to the screen and it’s Grease. Louis seems lost in his own thoughts and whatever they are, they aren’t happy ones. Niall stops the movie. It takes Louis some time to notice.
“Why’d you stop it?” Louis asks, turning toward Niall on the sofa.
Niall faces him. “What’s wrong, Louis?”
“Who says anything is wrong?”
“Harry. He said you were sad.”
Louis scoffs. “What does Harry know?”
Niall shrugs. “Not a lot.”
Louis lets out a surprised laugh.
“But he does know you. And I know you too, maybe not quite as well, but yeah, I think he’s right.”
Louis looks away.
“Is it Eleanor?” Niall asks hesitantly.
“No. Yes. Not really.”
Niall gives him a confused look.
Louis huffs out a breath and says, “I just miss, I don’t know, being with someone, I guess. Like, someone I really know, that really knows me.”
Niall opens his mouth to say something about meeting someone and then closes it, realizing that that’s maybe what Louis had been trying to do and it hadn’t really worked. “Maybe when the tour’s over…”
Louis groans. “But I want it now. I want someone to be silly with and hold hands with and go out to dinner with. I want someone who will listen to me whinge and tell me I’m right or tell me to get over it. I want someone who laughs at me stupid jokes. I want someone to hold. I want someone to hold me back.”
“I do all that with you.”
Louis blinks at him and then shrugs and nods in concession. “Yes, but not just that, like, also, kissing. I want a full-on snogging.”
“Right,” Niall says, nodding, wishing he could say how much he’d be up for that.
Louis looks at him strangely and Niall realizes he’s still nodding.
Louis continues, “And sex. When you know each other and can try things and laugh if they don’t work. I miss that. I want that.”
“That sounds good. I want that, too.”
“Yeah, Nialler? Maybe I should be with you, what do you think?”
And Niall knows he’s joking, teasing like he does, trying to get Niall to laugh. But Niall wants. He knows the ‘Yes, please’ will be written on his face, so he looks away and tries for a laugh. It’s not a very convincing laugh. Niall looks at Louis out of the corner of his eye and Louis is frowning. Niall gets up suddenly and says, “Oh, wow, I just remembered I was supposed to get something from Josh, sorry, Tommo, we can watch a movie another time, yeah?”
“Um, ‘course. Niall…”
“Got to go, bye,” Niall gets out the door as quickly as he can. When he gets back to his room, he slowly bangs his head against the wall.
The next day, Niall doesn’t avoid Louis because he’ll think there’s something really wrong and wonder why Niall’s avoiding him and think about what they talked about yesterday and maybe come to some conclusions. Niall does his best to pretend that everything is fine, but apparently he’s not that good at it because everyone is looking at him uncertainly. He can’t fix it because he doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong.
Harry corners him at the stadium that night, looking really concerned. “Is something really wrong with Louis?”
“Is he sick?” Harry asks urgently.
Niall has no idea where this is coming from. “What are you talk-“
“Oh God, he’s dying, isn’t he?”
“Dying? No! Harry, what are you on about?” Niall practically yelps at him.
“You’re just acting so weirdly. And you’ve been like this all day and you were normal when I talked to you last night. So something must have happened when you talked to Lou,” Harry says. He squints a little, thinking. “Did Louis say something awful to you? I shouldn’t have sent you. Sometimes he gets so prickly and mean.”
Well, yes, Louis can absolutely be prickly and sometimes mean, but generally Niall lets that sort of thing just roll off him, which he would have thought Harry would have noticed. Especially since Niall’s not near so unbothered when Harry goes off on a tangent or speaks too slowly for his taste.
“He did, didn’t he?” And just like that, Harry’s storming off.
Niall hangs his head and sighs. Then he follows after Harry. Harry has already found Louis in the wardrobe room. Niall hovers in the doorway. Harry’s facing away from the door, but Louis can see Niall and he meets Niall’s eyes.
“…to Niall? You can’t just say something nasty to someone when you get all upset,” Harry says with a huff.
Louis focuses on Harry, confused. “What?”
“Niall’s being very weird. It happened after he talked to you.”
“Ah. See, the thing is, I was talking about relationships.” Louis’s face goes solemn and Niall knows he’s going to try to get Harry to swallow some huge lie. “And I told Niall about how I was in love with you and didn’t know what to do about it.”
And wow. If Niall didn’t know all of Louis’ tells, he would have bought that. Louis just sounds so sincere. Apparently, Harry thinks so, too, if the way he’s gone completely still is any indication. Louis just stares at Harry. Niall wonders what Harry’s face looks like. It must be pretty good because after a few moments, Louis lips begin to quirk up.
Harry hits Louis in the arm. “You bastard! I thought you were serious.”
“Oh, but Harry, how can you deny our love?” Louis asks, trying to simper.
“Sod off. And stop whatever it is that you’re doing with your face.”
Louis grins. “Anyway, I was talking to Niall about relationships and I guess I just reminded him about something he didn’t have and it made him sad. I infected him with my sadness. Your fault, by the way.”
“You’re the one that brought it up to him. So, Nialler is a little sad and you know how he feels like he has to be ‘Happy Niall’ for us all sometimes,” Louis says, whilst meeting Niall’s eyes again, somewhat pointedly. “Give him a couple days, it’ll settle.”
“Fine. I would apologize for thinking you were mean to him, but you are a terrible person and you don’t deserve apologies,” Harry says petulantly.
Louis looks delighted. “Scared you, didn’t I?”
Niall backs out of the doorway to Harry’s dry reply of, “Yes, the thought of being with you is terrifying.”
The last thing he hears before he’s out of earshot is Louis’ outraged squawk of, “Oi!”
At the concert, Harry twitches whenever he sees a sign about him and Louis. Liam wanders over as Harry’s talking to the crowd and asks if Niall knows what’s up with Harry. Niall says, with perfect, if not complete, honesty, “Louis told Harry that he was in love with him. Harry did not react well.”
Liam’s eyes go wide with astonishment. “Really?”
Niall nods, careful to keep a concerned expression on his face. “I heard them.”
“Wow,” Liam says and heads across the stage, over to Louis.
Liam says something in Louis’ ear and Louis looks up at Niall in surprise. He schools his face quickly into a slightly upset expression and nods at Liam. Liam hugs him and Louis smiles at Niall, giving him a thumbs up behind Liam’s back. Niall smiles back and it’s the most natural he’s felt since talking to Louis last night, helping Louis take a joke further. The rest of the concert is spent with Niall and Louis exchanging gleeful glances whenever Liam comforts Louis or makes sure Louis doesn’t have to be near Harry or Liam gives Harry reproachful looks or Harry looks puzzled by Liam’s behavior.
After the concert, Liam tells Harry off, whilst Niall and Louis listen at the door. Harry makes such a hash of explaining what actually happened, that it ends up sounding like Harry not only harshly rejected Louis’ heartfelt declaration, but that Harry had insulted Louis and called him names for said declaration. Louis keels over onto the floor outside the door, he’s laughing so hard. There are actual tears in Niall’s eyes. That’s how Liam finds them and finally realizes something’s up. Louis laughingly explains his and Harry’s conversation and Liam is exasperated, but admits that, knowing the whole story, Harry’s explanation fail is pretty funny.
Later, on the bus, Niall is fetching his phone from the kitchen when Louis calls out from the sofa, “Oi, Niall, come cuddle.”
Niall closes his eyes for a second. He can’t not. If he passes up the chance to cuddle with Louis, Louis will get suspicious. He goes over to the couch and settles on it so that they are lying on their sides with Louis snugged up behind him, arm over his waist. Niall clears his throat and says, “Um, thanks for explaining to Harry.”
Niall finally fully relaxes, thinking maybe Louis did think that Niall was upset about not being in a relationship.
“I’d always lie for you, if you needed me to.”
Niall tenses up. “What?” he croaks out.
“Niall, that was a terrible excuse you gave me to get out of the room. And I thought about what would make you run like that. And it wasn’t what I told Harry.”
“Oh,” Niall says faintly.
“Niall, that someone that I talked about, did you want that someone to be you?” Louis asks softly.
Niall is pretty sure he’s shaking, but he doesn’t know why. Because Louis wouldn’t bring it up like this, wouldn’t ask like this if he was going to let him down gently. Louis would only ask like this if he thought there was a chance. Niall takes a deep breath then rolls over in Louis’ arms. He can feel Louis’ breath on his face, they’re so close. He looks into Louis’ eyes and says, “Yes, please.”