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It’s Hard to Say It, Time to Say It

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Harry checked his watch again and sighed. It was 6:48, and he was supposed to close the store in twelve minutes. And for once, he actually had plans, so he really needed to leave at 7.

But of course, fate just loved to screw with Harry, so, on that fine Sunday evening, when he hadn’t had another customer in almost forty-five minutes, he was sent the customer from hell.

Well, not literally the customer from hell. That would’ve been the mother and her three small children who came in, destroyed Harry’s perfectly folded clothing racks, left an opened pouch of baby food in the dressing room and then left without buying anything when Harry told the woman he didn’t have any coupons for her to use on the two T-shirts she was looking to buy because they were already marked down.

No, this customer wasn’t from hell or any other underworld, but he was really trying Harry’s patience. He had been in the store for the last half hour, staring at the same two shirts for twenty-six minutes – Harry had been keeping track – and had yet to try them on or make a purchase.

Harry looked at his watch again. It was so quiet that he could hear the hands of it moving as the seconds ticked by. Most of the other stores in the area closed at six, so the street outside was pretty empty, too. There weren’t any pedestrians wandering by, either, so the environment was so quiet and still that if Harry didn’t know any better, he would say the world had ended and he just hadn’t realized it yet.

Harry knew it was unprofessional, but he rested his forearms on the counter and leaned forward, staring the guy down, hoping that the daggers he was shooting him would make him take a hint. He squinted his eyes and pursed his lips, making the face that Niall called his ‘disgruntled chipmunk’ face. He kept his eyes focused on the guy for a solid minute, and gave up when it didn’t seem to make a difference.

“Just get the blue one,” Harry mumbled.

The guy’s head shot up. “Excuse me?”

Fuck.

“Uhh…” Harry stalled. “What?”

Nice save, genius.

“Sorry, did you say something?” the guy asked.

Harry started to shake his head, but then he looked at his watch again. It was 6:51.

Fuck it, he thought to himself.

“I said to get the blue one,” Harry said.

The guy wrinkled up his nose and looked down at the blue shirt. “Really?”

“Yeah. Don’t make that look. You’re the one that picked it up. You must have some interest in it.”

“Not really. I mean, you have the blue one and the green one in my size, so…”

“We have a lot of clothes in stock, sir-”

“Please don’t call me ‘sir,’” the guy said. “I’m only twenty-six.”

“OK, then. We have a lot of clothes in stock, dude, so finding something else in your size won’t be a problem if it means you’ll buy something. What are you? Like, an extra small?”

The guy actually had the nerve to look offended. Harry resisted laughing. “Hey! I’ll have you know that I’m a medium!”

Harry looked him over. When he got to the guy’s ass, he couldn’t help but slow his gaze down. Just a little.

“Uhh, a medium in what?” Harry asked when he looked back at the guy’s face. “Children’s?”

The guy’s jaw dropped. “OK, that’s it.” He marched up to the counter. “I want to talk to your manager.”

“I am the manager,” Harry replied with a sweet smile.

“There’s no way you’re a manager here. You have no people skills.”

Harry just pointed to the nametag he was wearing. There, in standard size, boring as hell font, it read, ‘Harry – Manager.’

Harry resisted laughing again. He tapped it twice and asked, “You were saying?”

“Wow, Harry,” the guy said, “who made you manager? Whoever they are should be fired. I’ve never had such a rude person wait on me before.”

“Oh, I’m definitely waiting on you, all right,” Harry shot back. “Because you’ve been here forever trying to make a decision about two shirts that are quite literally the same.”

“They are not the same!” the guy whined. He held up the shirts, one on either side of him. “Come on. Seriously, tell me which one is better.”

“I already said the blue one!”

“You’re serious?”

“Yes!”

“But why?”

“Because I like blue,” Harry said through gritted teeth.

The guy frowned. “Really? Why do you like blue so much?”

“Oh, you know, it’s the color of the sky, which I only see when I actually leave here on time. It’s also the color of the ocean, which I don’t often see because I’m always working. And it’s also the color of the blinds on our windows. You know, the ones I pull down when I close the store.

The guy nodded his head. “OK, but what about the green one? It looks better with my skin tone.”

Harry dropped his head to the counter and let out a long groan. When he looked back up, the guy was staring at him with both eyebrows raised, probably wondering whether or not he should call the cops or just book it out of the store.

“OK, look, dude… What’s your name?”

“Louis.”

“Louis? That’s a great name. Very French, very Parisian, very elegant… Can I tell you something?”

Louis shrugged. “Sure.”

“OK, great. Listen…” he checked his watch again, “I need you to make a decision in the next four minutes, because so help me, if you do not, I will lock up this store with or without you in it.”

“Harrison, if you lock me in here-”

“Wait,” Harry said, cutting him off, “where the fuck did you get Harrison from?”

Louis shrugged again. “Well, you don’t look like a Harold, and I just know Harry can’t be your real and only name. So I went with Harrison.”

“OK, calm down. My name is literally Harry. That’s it.”

“Oh, how boring.”

“Thanks,” Harry deadpanned.

“You’re welcome. Now, as I was saying, if you lock me in here, I’ll definitely be calling your supervisor. There has to be some kind of regional manager. Or the owner.”

“Well, the owner would be my stepdad, so I’m really not going anywhere.”

“Ahhh,” Louis said. “Nepotism at its finest.”

Harry just winked. “Welcome to America.”

“You’re funny.”

“I’m even funnier when you catch me more than two minutes before the store closes.”

“Is that a suggestion to return?”

Harry plastered a fake smile on his face and said, “At this point, it can be whatever you want it to be as long as you leave in the next two minutes.”

“Where do you have to be so badly that you have to close the store at seven o’clock?”

“Does it really matter, dude?” Harry asked.

“Stop calling me ‘dude.’ I’m not a Ninja Turtle.”

“Well, you told me not to call you ‘sir,’ so what else should I call you?”

“Uhh, my name?”

“OK. Louis, does it really matter? I just want to leave on time.”

“Well, you could leave on time if you would just give me an opinion on which shirt to get.”

“I already said blue!” Harry shrieked.

“But why?”

“Well, tell me, where are you going to wear it? A club? A party? A meeting? The Annoying Customers Convention that’s in town?”

Louis frowned. “That’s not a real thing.”

“Well you should invent it. You’d be a great leader.”

“I take offense to that.”

“Of course you do. So where are you wearing the shirt?”

“A concert,” Louis finally answered.

“So get blue. It stands out great with the lights. Will that be cash or charge?”

“Stop rushing me!”

“Louis, I have to go!”

“Where? Where do you have to go?” Louis asked.

“I don’t make a habit of giving away my location to strangers. You could be a serial killer. Or worse, you could follow me there and make me listen to Nickelback on repeat for hours and hours.”

Louis giggled. Like, actually giggled. And Harry didn’t know why, but he actually really liked the sound.

“Yeah, I suppose that would be worse, huh?”

“I know it would be!” Harry laughed. “Did you know they’re like, the world’s most hated band or something?”

“I did! And I don’t know why. They’re honestly not horrible. Don’t tell anybody I said that, though.”

“I won’t. They have a few songs I like. But don’t tell anybody I said that, either.”

“Deal.” Louis reached a hand forward and Harry shook it, only momentarily stunned by how small Louis’ hand was, and how his own hand almost completely covered it.

Harry cleared his throat as he pulled his hand away.

“Um…” they both said at the same time. They laughed and looked away from each other.

“So, you like the blue one?” Louis shyly asked.

Harry nodded and looked up, staring right into Louis’ bright blue eyes. “Yeah, I like blue.”

“Funny. I’m starting to like green,” Louis replied, staring right back.

“Green is nice, but… blue is prettier.”

Louis blushed and pressed his lips together. He looked at the shirts again, and finally said, “OK. Blue it is, then.”

“Really?” Harry asked excitedly.

“Yup. Ring me up, then you can get off to where you need to go. Sorry I held you up.”

“It’s OK,” Harry admitted, actually telling the truth. He scanned the price tag on the blue shirt. “I hadn’t had anybody in here for a while before you got here. Just wish you hadn’t come in so soon before we close.”

“I didn’t plan on being here this long,” Louis said, taking out his credit card. “And when I got here, I just, sort of lost track of time. And I forgot it was Sunday, so everyone closed early. Guess I just got lucky that you were open until seven.”

“I think we both did.” Harry smiled at Louis, and his grin only grew when Louis smiled back.

Two minutes later, Louis was leaving the store, and Harry was locking the door behind him. Harry checked the time. 7:07. Only seven minutes late. Harry wasn’t as upset as he should’ve been.

---

Forty-one minutes later, after he closed up the store, changed his shirt and walked the four blocks to The Fillmore, Harry stood off to the side of the crowded general admission area, waiting for the show to start.

His friend Niall had booked a slot opening for some indie band Harry had been meaning to listen to for weeks. Niall was supposed to go on first, at eight o’clock sharp, which was why Harry had been so eager to leave on time. Niall had been playing small gigs in local bars around Philly and in the surrounding areas for almost a year now. This would be a much bigger stage for him, though, as the venue could hold around 2,500 people. He knew Niall was nervous for it, but Harry had no doubts that he would smash it.

Harry felt his pocket vibrate, so he pulled his phone out and saw that Niall had texted him.

Niall: you here?

Harry: yes! had a customer that was taking forever, but i made it!

Niall: ok. after i perform, i’ll come find you. meet me at the bar

Harry: ok. i’ll buy you something to celebrate your success

Niall: DON’T JINX ME

Harry: wow. ok.

Harry: break a leg?

Niall: thanks. now put your phone away. it’s rude to text while someone’s on stage.

Harry laughed, but did as he was told.

A few minutes later, the lights dimmed, and as they went completely out, he felt bodies pushing him forward, as the people behind him wanted to get as close to the stage as possible.

An emcee came out then and after saying a few words to remind people who they were there to see, he introduced Niall. “This first performer isn’t new to the scene, but he’s new to The Fillmore. Hailing all the way from Ireland, here to sing a few tunes we all know and love, and also some songs that he’s written himself, is Niall… Horan!”

Harry cheered and whistled loudly as his friend took the stage. Niall waved slowly to the crowd with one hand, and clutched on to his guitar with the other. Harry was close enough that he could see the amazement in Niall’s eyes that all of the people in the audience were actually going to listen to him play.

“Hello, all of you lovely people,” Niall spoke into the mic. “I’m Niall, and I’ve got a few songs to play for you tonight, if that’s OK.”

Harry let out a loud cheer and a few girls around him raised an eyebrow at him. Harry ignored them.

Niall chuckled into the mic, knowing it was Harry who’d done that. “Well, someone’s excited to hear me play.” A few people laughed, so Niall finished with, “Let’s get started, then.”

Niall started playing the opening chords to ‘On the Loose,’ the newest song he’d written. Harry scoped out the crowd, and was happy to see a lot of people bobbing their heads along already.

Then Niall started singing the lyrics, and Harry’s heart immediately swelled with pride.

“I know what she’s like, she’s out of her mind and wraps herself around the truth,” Niall sang softly into the microphone.

Harry was also close enough to the stage to see the small beads of sweat at the top of Niall’s forehead, so he could tell he was still nervous. Harry let out another cheer, hoping it would help.

“She’ll jump on that flight and meet you that night. Make you tear up the room,” Niall continued.

His shoulders were still stiff and his neck looked tense, but he sounded great. Plus, people were listening and, from where he stood, Harry could only see a few cell phones out. That had to be a good sign.

Niall kept singing, and by the end of the song, he looked more relaxed. The crowd applauded for Niall, and he happily introduced the next song, ‘Slow Hands.’

As he sang this song, he became more himself. He bobbed his head to the music as well and tapped his foot. By the end, he was the energetic, excited, eager-to-please Niall that Harry had seen perform dozens of times.

After that, he performed three more songs. He did back-to-back covers of ‘Issues’ and ‘Scared to Be Lonely,’ before wrapping it up with ‘This Town.’

“Over and over, the only truth. Everything comes back to you.” Niall hummed into the microphone as he strummed on his guitar. Then he repeated, “Everything comes back to you.” He hummed once more, stepping back as he played the final chords.

The crowd went nuts. Harry had thought the shows Niall played with his regular audience members were loud, but those shows were nothing.

People were jumping up and down for Niall, stomping their feet, whistling and cheering so loud it could almost be classified as screaming. And Harry was doing the same. He was so proud of his friend; he’d come so far from playing in their high school talent show. Now he could officially check ‘perform in front of 2,500 people at once’ off his bucket list.

Niall took a final bow before exiting the stage, and the crowd returned to normal after a moment. Lights came on, cell phones were brought out and chattering between friends began.

Harry turned around and pushed his way through the crowd, trying to get to the bar in the back.

He stood there and looked over the beer list, figuring he could at least get a drink while he waited for Niall. Just when he saw that his favorite grapefruit summer ale was on the list, he heard a familiar voice to the side of him. And it wasn’t Niall’s.

“No way.”

Harry turned to the left and, standing there, wearing the blue shirt that Harry had just sold him, was ... “Louis?”

“Harrison? Wh- Th- this is where you had to be tonight? What are you doing here?”

“Um, I was watching my friend perform. He was just on.”

“Excuse me?”

“What?” Harry asked.

“No, I don’t think I heard you right. Did you say that your friend just performed?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.”

“Niall’s your friend?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re friends with Niall?”

“Yeah!”

“How?”

Harry was confused. “What do you mean ‘how?’ I mean, we’ve known each other since the fifth grade. Our families are really close and I’ve been supporting him for a while. Emotionally, I mean. It’s not like a Joey and Chandler situation.”

I’m friends with Niall.”

“No, you’re not.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I am,” Louis said. “He actually invited me here the other day.”

“Wait, are you his new neighbor? You moved in next door a couple of weeks ago? The one with the hot tub?”

“Yeah, and you’re- Oh, my God, you’re the manager friend he’s always talking about.”

Harry grinned. “That’s me. Wow, this is… weird. We should’ve met a few weeks ago.”

“Yeah, I guess so. And it took until I came in to your shop at an unreasonable hour for it to actually happen.”

Harry laughed. “Well, yeah. But I mean, I guess it would’ve happened tonight either way. Are you here to meet up with Niall?”

“Yeah. He told me to find him at the bar after his set.”

“Me, too. I was actually going to get a beer when you walked up.”

“Oh, well don’t let me stop you.” Louis leaned up against the bar next to Harry. “What are you going to get?”

“Uh, probably a Leinenkugel.”

Louis looked at him funny. “Um, do you need a cough drop? Do you have a sore throat?”

Harry laughed again. “No. Leinenkugel. It’s the brand of the beer I like.”

“Oh! Oh, never heard of that one. I’m more of a Corona man.”

Harry pretended to gag. “Oh, that’s disgusting.”

“Oh, don’t be all pretentious just because you drink a gross beer that no one else has ever heard of.”

“A lot of people have heard of it, actually. It’s a pretty popular brand for craft beer drinkers.”

Louis snorted. “Do you hear yourself right now? Craft beer drinkers. You’re a beer snob.”

“I am not!”

“You are, too. You probably don’t even drink craft beer for the taste, but just to say that you drink it.”

“No, I definitely drink it for the taste,” Harry insisted. “It’s like, the perfect summer beer. You know what? I’ll show you how good it is. Hang on.”

He flagged down the waitress and asked for two beers.

“It’s a grapefruit beer, so it might be a little sweet for you,” Harry said as they waited for their drinks.

“I’ll be fine, Harrison. I just better like it. I’d hate to waste your hard-earned manager money.”

“Oh, it won’t go to waste. If you don’t drink it, I will.”

Louis laughed. “Works for me.”

The bartender came back with their beer then, and Harry gave her a twenty-dollar bill to cover the cost.

“Cheers,” Louis said, holding up his cup.

“Cheers.”

They both took a long sip of the beer and Harry waited for Louis’ reaction. He stared at the other man’s face – his beautiful, strikingly handsome face – looking for any giveaway that Louis hated or loved the beer.

He wasn’t surprised when Louis avoided Harry’s eyes after drinking.

“So…?” Harry prodded after Louis didn’t say anything for a minute.

Louis muttered something under his breath, but still wouldn’t look at Harry.

“What was that?”

“It’s good,” Louis whispered.

“Sorry, I can’t hear you.”

“I said, ‘it’s good!’” Louis yelled at him. “OK, beer snob? It’s good.”

“I think you’re the beer snob here.” Harry grinned before taking another sip.

The bartender came back to give Harry his change, and Harry tipped her a dollar.

“It doesn’t taste like beer,” Louis said after taking his next sip. “I think that’s why I like it. That’s also a bit dangerous.”

“It is. Don’t worry; I’ll look out for you.”

“And follow me with Nickelback music?”

Harry let out a loud laugh. “Well, a little birdie told me that might not bother you as much as it would bother the rest of the world.”

Louis chuckled. “No, I guess it wouldn’t.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Niall coming toward them. Harry also noticed how closely he and Louis were standing, so with a lick of his lips, Harry took a step back.

“Hey, boys! I see you already found each other!” Niall exclaimed, either not picking up on the fact that the two of them shouldn’t have actually known each other at that point or just ignoring it for the time being.

“Niall, you killed it up there!” Louis exclaimed.

“That was your best performance yet,” Harry added on. “And the crowd! They loved you.”

Niall shook his head but had a huge smile on his face. “Boys, they didn’t go that crazy.”

“Yeah, they did,” Louis insisted. “They went nuts. When you started moving your hips during ‘Slow Hands,’ there were some girls behind me who started squealing. One of them even said that there was definitely no chance she’d let you leave this club alone if she got her hands on you.”

Niall raised an eyebrow. “Yeah? Was she legal? Did you get a look at her? Do you know if she’s still here?”

Louis and Harry rolled their eyes.

“I didn’t get a look at her, though,” Louis said. “Sorry.”

“Oh. It’s OK. Maybe I’ll meet her later. This place isn’t that big, you know.”

“But it’s the biggest stage you’ve played yet,” Harry reminded him.

Niall lasted about three seconds before a huge grin overtook his face. “Yeah, it is!”

Louis and Harry laughed at their friend, but still patted him on the back as congratulations to his excellent performance.

Because he was feeling generous, Niall bought them all a shot. After they took it, he said, “Now come on. The next opener should be going on in a minute, and I wanted you guys to join me backstage.”

“Oh, backstage, huh?” Louis said. “You hear that, Harry? We’re getting the VIP treatment here.”

“What an honor,” Harry replied. “You know, Niall, I’m going to tell everyone I knew you before you were famous.”

Niall rolled his eyes. “Why did I ever introduce you two? Come on.”

He turned and started walking away. Before Harry could follow, Louis grabbed his arm and asked, “Should we tell him that he didn’t actually introduce us?”

Harry thought it over. “Nah. He’ll be OK.”

Louis shrugged. “OK.”

They caught up to Niall, who took them backstage. They were able to watch the rest of the show from there, getting a much better view of the performers.

The problem was, Louis and Harry got along a little too easily, and due to their constant commentary on the other bands, Niall ditched them ten minutes into the second opener’s set.

“Do you think he stuffs the front of his jeans?” Louis asked about the lead singer as he strutted across the stage.

Harry snorted so hard that some of his beer went up his nose. As he coughed and laughed at Louis’ comment, he tried to punch Louis in the arm, but the other man was too fast.

“Don’t say that shit when I’m drinking.”

“Sorry! But, come on… Look at him.”

Harry looked at the lead singer, and he couldn’t deny that the front of the man’s jeans looked a little… too well endowed.

“I mean, maybe?” Harry finally said, as the singer turned in their direction, wiggling his hips to the beat of the song.

“He definitely does,” Louis decided. “I mean, his junk looks a little too perfectly placed and rounded. No thanks.”

“So what are you saying, you like when other guys’ junk is lopsided and strangely shaped?”

“At least that’s normal! What does your junk look like?”

“Well, it’s- wait. What?”

Louis’ eyes dropped down to Harry’s crotch before quickly returning to his face. Then he just raised an eyebrow and started watching the band again.

Harry didn’t know how to respond to that, so he just awkwardly looked back to the stage and started drinking his beer again.

After a minute, Louis asked, “Do you think the drummer wants to be here?”

Harry looked at the man’s face and, based on the man’s bored expression and listless drumming, decided that he actually didn’t want to be on stage at that moment.

“No, I actually think that he would rather be on Venus without water.”

Louis nodded. “Interesting. I was going to say he’d prefer falling off a cliff into a pit of ravenous mountain lions.”

“Oh, that could be it, too. Honestly, I think he would show more emotion doing either of those options.”

“Same here.”

A few minutes later, the band finished the final song, and Harry was relieved, mostly because he couldn’t actually remember their name.

“Do you want to sit?” Louis asked, tilting his head toward a couch that had just been vacated.

Harry nodded. “Sure.”

The two of them sat down and made themselves comfortable before Louis said, “So tell me about yourself. You know, besides the fact that you’re a store manager who enjoys rushing paying customers out of the store.”

Harry shook his head. “No, I enjoy rushing paying customers out of my store if they’re taking too long. That’s the only time.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Anyway, I’ve worked at the store for almost five years now, but I just became manager last year. I don’t live in Philly, but I’m just across the bridge, so I’m really close.”

“You don’t mind the commute every day?” Louis asked.

“No, actually. And a lot of people ask me about that. But, I don’t know, I like crossing the bridge and getting a small taste of city life without having to be completely exposed to it, you know? I love Philly, but I don’t think I could live there all the time.”

“That makes sense. I feel the same way. I’m much more of a suburban guy,” Louis said. “I’ve always enjoyed having a yard and space to run around. I just moved to the area, but eventually, I’d like to get a dog. And he’ll need a yard, so…”

“So what made you move?” Harry wondered.

“I got a job a few months ago, actually. I’m a nurse at Kennedy Hospital, and once I saved up enough money I moved out of my mom’s house and into my own.”

“That’s awesome. I remember when I moved into my apartment. My mom was so sad that I was ‘leaving the nest,’ but it had been all I’d been dreaming about since I finished college.”

“What’d you go to school for?”

“Business Administration,” Harry answered easily. “I mean, I was already basically doing everything I’d been learning about by the time I graduated, but the degree didn’t hurt, you know?”

“Oh, definitely. Especially now. Times are so uncertain, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Harry nodded. “Exactly. I’ve been thinking of going back for another degree, but I just haven’t had the time yet. The store’s been short-staffed for a while now, so it’s just not a good time.”

“Yeah, but you can’t let that kind of stuff hold you back. There’s always going to be something in your way, whether it’s work or family stuff or financial stuff.”

Harry sighed. “I guess. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out eventually.”

“You don’t seem too concerned.”

“Because I’m not, really. I mean, I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m at, to be honest. Like, I have a great job and my own place and my own car. A Master’s would be cool, but,” he shrugged a shoulder, “it’s not necessary right now.”

“That’s fair. As long as you’re happy.”

“I am. What about you? Are you happy?”

“I am, yeah,” Louis said. Then he smiled. “I mean, just last night, I got to help with a baby being born. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“That is pretty incredible. You like babies, I’m assuming?”

“Of course. It would be bad if I didn’t.”

“Because you work with them?”

“Well, that, and also because I have six younger siblings. My mom would’ve had a fit if I absolutely refused to help with changing diapers and warming bottles.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Six younger siblings? Shit, that sounds like a circus.”

“It is, mostly. But I love it. There’s always someone to talk to and someone who needs help with something. And they’re all pretty damn cute, if I do say so myself. Except for Lottie. She’s annoying.”

Harry laughed. “Is Lottie the youngest?”

“No, the oldest. She’s six years younger than me, so she just turned twenty. And she’s already counting down until her twenty-first.”

“Are you taking her out for her birthday?”

“Probably. Well, if she isn’t too cool to be seen with her big brother, that is.”

“Wish I could relate. I only have an older sister, so she loved having me around to practice makeup on and stuff. It wasn’t all bad, though. I did learn how to highlight my cheekbones to make the light hit them just right.”

Louis started laughing. “Now I’m the one who can’t relate. My sisters always had each other to practice makeup with. And it worked out, because Lottie wants to be a makeup artist, so she has plenty of experience with it.”

“Good luck to her. I heard that’s a tough industry to break into.”

“It is. But she’ll get somewhere. She’s insanely talented.”

“With all those sisters to practice on, how could she be anything less?”

Louis smiled. “What about your sister? What does she do?”

“She’s a journalist. Writes for Huffington Post.”

“Well that’s impressive.”

“Yeah, I guess. Just don’t tell her that; her head will get even bigger than it already is.”

“What, are you saying she shouldn’t be proud of her accomplishments, Harrison?”

Harry just shook his head. “Remind me to never let you two meet. You’ll have too much fun making fun of me.”

“I would never make fun of you!”

“You said I had no people skills!”

“Because you said I was a medium in children’s!”

Harry started laughing. “Yeah, that was pretty funny, though, you have to admit.”

Louis frowned and kicked his leg out, hitting Harry in the knee.

“Ow!”

“Oh, can it, you mountain man. That didn’t hurt.”

“Why am I a mountain man?”

“Because you’re like, twelve feet tall and your hands are the size of catcher’s mitts. That makes you a mountain man.”

“You know you don’t make any sense, right?”

“Well why are you still talking to me, then?” Louis asked.

“I don’t know. Clearly I have low standards for people I stand with at concerts.”

“Technically, we’re sitting,” Louis pointed out.

Harry sighed. “Yeah, definitely never meet my sister.”

Louis chuckled. “I’m funny and you know it.”

“No, you think you’re funny when really you’re just annoying. Isn’t that how we met in the first place?”

“And are you unhappy that we met tonight?” Louis asked. He raised an eyebrow when Harry looked over at him.

Harry couldn’t deny it, so he just took another sip of his beer, which was now pretty damn close to room temperature.

“That’s what I thought,” Louis said smugly.

Just then, the lights dimmed again, and the indie band that everyone had come out to see walked by them, holding on to their instruments. The guitarist nodded at them before taking the stage.

“Now he’s definitely got pec implants,” Louis whispered.

Harry let out a loud laugh, clapping a hand over his mouth to try and stifle it. Luckily, the entire band was on stage now, and there was no chance in hell they would hear Louis or Harry.

“So, um, should we head over there so we can see them perform?” Harry wondered.

Louis thought it over for a second before shifting his body to sit sideways on the couch. He propped his feet in Harry’s lap before saying, “I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty comfortable right here.”

Harry just grinned and rested a hand on Louis’ ankles. “Nah. I’m good here, too.”

---

An hour later, after they’d exchanged all of the stories they could possibly think of, from Harry crying when he got his first tattoo to Louis getting so drunk on his last birthday that he spent ten minutes trying to unlock the wrong car, and as the indie band’s set came to a close, Louis said that he was going to head home.

“I think I will, too,” Harry said. “I couldn’t tell you what these guys are singing about, anyway.”

Louis laughed. “Oh, good. I thought it was just me who felt that way. Should we find Niall and tell him we’re leaving?”

Harry looked around for his friend, but when he didn’t see him anywhere, he just turned to Louis and shook his head.

“Nah, he’ll be fine.”

“Works for me.”

The two of them stood up and headed toward the exit. “Where are you parked?” Louis asked as they walked toward the lot down the street, the closest one to the venue.

“Oh, I’m actually parked at the store. I was just going to walk back.”

Louis stopped in his tracks. “You’re going to walk back to your car? Alone? In Philly? At night?”

Harry grinned. “Yeah, why not? It’s actually a pretty safe area. There are eyes everywhere.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about.”

“Awww, Louis,” Harry cooed. “Are you concerned for my safety?”

“No.”

“Yeah, you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

“You kind of are.”

“I’m really not,” Louis insisted. “Go ahead and walk back to your car. Get mugged for all I care. I hope Nickelback themselves jump out and make you listen to their ‘Greatest Hits’ album.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “OK, how about this? Louis, would you mind driving me to my car so I don’t have to brave the scary Philadelphia night all by myself?”

“I don’t know…” Louis said. “I mean, it’s pretty out of my way. It would be a huge inconvenience.”

“Louis!”

Louis started laughing. “Just kidding. Come on. I’m right over here.”

They entered the lot and walked down the farthest aisle to the left. Harry followed Louis to a little blue Honda and got in on the passenger side.

“Nice car,” Harry said.

“Thanks. I had to get it last year after my other car crapped out on me. Not like I didn’t see it coming, though. The thing was almost twenty years old.”

“Shit. It had a good run, then.”

“Yup. Right up until the end.”

Louis carefully backed out of his spot and made his way to the parking lot’s exit. Harry told him to turn right and then drive straight for four blocks.

“So does Niall have any more gigs coming up?” Louis asked, keeping his eyes locked on the road.

“Probably. I think he was focusing on this one for right now, but he’ll most likely have another one by next weekend.”

“Yeah. Will you be going to any more of them?” Louis snuck a quick look over at Harry before looking straight ahead of him again.

“I go to most of his gigs, honestly. You can turn right up here.”

Louis nodded and put on his signal. “Maybe I should come to more of his gigs, then.”

“I think you definitely should.” Harry knew that on a scale of 1-10, he was definitely around a negative 28 on the subtle scale. But he couldn’t help it. Just a few hours ago, he couldn’t wait for Louis to get out of his store and never show his face again. But now, he couldn’t stop thinking about when he would see Louis next.

“Is that your car?” Louis asked, seeing a lone black sedan parked outside of the store.

“Yup. That’s it.”

Louis pulled up behind it and put the car in Park. The two of them sat quietly, just listening to the quiet music on the radio and the sounds of the engine idling.

“So, um, I guess I’ll see you around?” Harry said uncertainly.

“Yeah!” Louis cleared his throat. “I mean, yeah. I’ll see you around.”

“OK. Um, I’ll just get out, then.”

Harry started to open the door when Louis stopped him.

“Wait!” Louis nearly yelled. “Um, so I have a pretty shitty schedule. I can’t lie. I work three nights a week, overnight, from seven at night to seven in the morning. So I’m pretty nocturnal. It was by a stroke of luck I was even off tonight. But, um… If you have like, a lunch break, or just time off during the day and I don’t have to work, or something, um, would you want to hang out? Again? With me?”

Harry’s head was spinning, and not just because of how fast Louis was speaking.

“Yes,” he answered once he processed that Louis was asking him out. “Yeah. Yeah, definitely.”

“Really?” Louis couldn’t contain his grin.

“Yeah, of course! I had a lot of fun tonight, so yeah, we can make this work.” Harry reached into his back pocket and pulled out his phone. Once he unlocked it, he handed it to Louis. “Here, put your number in.”

Louis happily typed in his number and saved it to Harry’s cell. Then he sent a text to his own phone.

“OK,” Louis said when he passed the phone back. “I have yours, too.”

“Great. So, I’ll talk to you later.”

Louis just nodded.

“OK. Good night.”

“Good night.”

Harry got out of Louis’ car and walked over to his own. He tried not to get too excited when Louis, the gentleman that he was, waited until Harry was in his car and started the engine before pulling off.

Harry sat in his car for a minute, just thinking back over the day’s events. He’d started the day just planning on going to see Niall play and then heading home. But fate had different plans, by sending Louis to the store and then having them meet up again at the show. They’d spent almost two hours just talking about everything under the sun they could think of off the top of their heads, and Harry hadn’t felt this excited about talking to a new guy in a long time.

He didn’t even wait a full two minutes after Louis drove away to text him.

Harry: when are you free this week?

---

Louis wound up being free on Wednesday. Harry had the day off and Louis suggested just meeting for breakfast after Louis finished his shift, insisting that he would be awake enough to have a coherent conversation.

The two of them said they would meet at the IHOP down the street from the hospital. Harry arrived first, and sat in the waiting area, just playing games on his phone. At 7:33, Louis walked in, still wearing his scrubs. His hair was a bit disheveled, like he’d been running his hands through it for a while, and he had slight bags under his eyes, but Harry still couldn’t take his eyes off him.

“Hi, I’m so sorry I’m late,” Louis rushed out as he made his way over to Harry. “I promise I tried to leave on time, but someone needed help with her charts, and I just felt bad, because today’s her birthday and she really wanted to be done, so-”

“Louis,” Harry interrupted him. “Has anyone ever told you that you talk fast?”

Louis nodded. “Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Multiple times, actually.”

“Hope you don’t talk to your patients that fast when you’re telling them what medicines they’ll be taking.”

“I’ll have you know I’m the most professional when I’m at work. It’s all other times I’m a mess.”

“Good to know. You ready?”

“Yes, I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

They went up to the podium and requested a table. The hostess immediately took them to a small booth on the left side of the room, right next to the windows.

“Your waitress will be right with you,” she told them as they reached for their menus.

“Thank you,” Harry said as Louis stifled a yawn.

“I swear I won’t be yawning the whole time we’re here,” Louis promised.

“It’s OK if you do. You just worked twelve hours helping people. It has to be exhausting.”

“It is. But I love it, honestly. My mom’s a nurse, and she would always tell me stories about her nights. Instead of scaring me off, they made me want to get there even faster. I couldn’t believe it when I got offered a job.”

“Clearly the hospital saw how wonderful you were,” Harry said. He pulled his eyes away from the menu to make sure Louis knew that he was being serious.

“I guess.”

“Hello, gentlemen,” a waitress said as she approached the table. “My name’s Alex, and I’ll be taking care of you today. Can I start you off with something to drink?”

“Just a large orange juice?” Harry asked.

“Coffee for me,” Louis said.

“Sounds good,” Alex told them. “Do you want to order your food, too, or do you need a few minutes?”

Harry and Louis looked at each other.

“I mean, I know what I want,” Louis said.

“Yeah, so do I.”

“OK. Can I just have the double chocolate chip pancakes?”

“And I’ll have the Bananas Foster French toast.”

“Perfect. I’ll bring your drinks back in just a minute.”

“So before we get too ahead of ourselves,” Louis said after Alex walked away, “I just wanted to tell you something.”

Harry frowned. “OK…”

“It’s nothing bad, I promise! It’s just a little embarrassing.”

“Oh, well that should be fun, then,” Harry joked.

“Shut up! Um… So, I was out with Lottie a few days before we first met, and I actually wound up in your store because I had been looking for something to wear to Niall’s show. But you weren’t there that day, so I didn’t see you. And, I found the shirts that I was trying to choose between, but I didn’t want to buy one just in case I found something else I liked better. Well, I didn’t find anything else, so I came back on Sunday just to buy it, and I planned on getting it and walking back out. That’s why I got there so late, you know? I didn’t think I would be there for more than five minutes. But, then I saw you standing there, and I just sort of… blanked, I guess? Like, usually I know what to say when I see an attractive guy, but for you, I had nothing.”

Harry smiled and looked down at the table, wishing he at least had his juice so he would have something else to focus on.

“So, the reason why I was standing there looking at those two shirts for so long was because I was trying to figure out what the fuck I should say to you. And then finally, you told me what shirt to buy, I thought you were annoying for a little bit and then some other stuff happened and here we are. So… yeah. Just wanted to get that off my chest.”

Harry licked his lips and opened his mouth to say something, but then Alex showed up with their drinks.

“Here you are, gentlemen,” Alex said. “Sir, I brought you some cream and sugar, as well.”

“Oh, thank you,” Louis said.

When Alex left, Louis mixed in some cream before saying, “OK, I know you’re thinking something, so you might as well go ahead and say it.”

Harry shook his head. “I’m not thinking anything.”

“Harry… Come on.”

“Fine. I’m glad you told me that, otherwise, we would’ve gone into this relationship with me thinking that you were just an obnoxious customer who thought that the closing time on my shop door was just a suggestion.”

“Relationship, huh?” Louis teased.

“You know what I mean. But I’m glad I know that you were really just so enamored by me that you were just left speechless.”

“Well, yes, that’s exactly what happened. I’m glad it hasn’t gone to your head.”

Harry started laughing. “Well, the truth is, once I saw that peach you call an ass, I started to change my opinion of you. Maybe. Just a little bit. I mean, I wouldn’t have minded getting a nice handful of it.”

Louis snorted. “I’ve heard that before.”

Harry nodded and picked up his juice to take a sip. “I believe that.”

“I’ve also been told how great it feels when you can grab my ass while I’m fucking you.”

Harry sputtered and started choking on his juice. He put his cup back on the table and clapped his chest a few times so he could breathe again.

When he was finished, Louis just grinned.

“Stop trying to make me choke when I’m drinking!” Harry hissed.

“Would you rather I make you choke on something else?”

“Stop it!”

Louis shrugged before giving Harry a wink. “You can blame my lack of filter on my lack of sleep.”

“I’ll keep that in mind the first time I sleep over.”

“Well, I have dinner plans at my mom’s tonight and work tomorrow, so that might have to wait a little bit.”

“I can wait,” Harry said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good. Neither am I.”

---

It was a few weeks later when things in Harry and Louis’ relationship took a turn. They were at Louis’ house and had just returned from dinner, since neither of them felt like cooking. They were currently cuddled up on the couch, trying to decide what to do next.

“We could watch a movie,” Harry suggested.

“We could. I have a lot here. What do you feel like watching?”

“I don’t know. What do you have?”

Louis chuckled. “I have a lot. What are you in the mood for?”

Harry shrugged and buried his head against Louis’ chest. “I don’t know.”

“Well, we’re very productive, aren’t we?”

“Yeah, well I had a lot of pizza. I’m full and don’t feel like moving. Or thinking.”

“We can just sit here, babe. It’s OK.”

Harry nodded. “OK.”

The two of them sat for a while longer, so still that Harry was convinced that Louis had fallen asleep. But when Harry looked up, he found Louis already watching him. Harry smiled and leaned up, catching Louis’ lips with his own. The kiss, like most of their kisses, started out slowly before their lips were parting and their tongues were slipping into the other’s mouth. Harry inhaled deeply before slowly sliding his arms around Louis’ waist.

They sat there for a few minutes, exchanging sweet, gentle kisses and just breathing each other in. When he needed to breathe in actual air, Harry pulled back just enough to be able to look into Louis’ eyes.

Louis watched him carefully before asking, “What?”

“Just had a thought.”

“Oh, yeah? What of?”

“Your hot tub. Can we get in?”

Louis grinned. “Absolutely.”

“Perfect. Will I need swim trunks?”

“Oh! Yeah, I have some upstairs you can borrow if you want.”

“No, Louis. Will I need them?” Harry raised his eyebrows, hoping Louis was picking up on his suggestive tone.

Louis frowned. “Well, I guess not. You can always go in your boxers. I wish we had planned this better; you could’ve brought a pair over with you.”

Harry sighed. “Louis. Listen to what I am asking. Will I need them? As in, should I even bother putting any on?”

Louis stared at Harry for approximately six seconds before shooting straight up.

“Oh!” he yelled. “Oh, I get it!”

Harry giggled as Louis stumbled over his thoughts.

“Um…” Louis cleared his throat. “No, you definitely won’t need them.”

“Good. So… Why don’t you go get it set up? And I’ll grab us some towels and some beers?”

“Sounds perfect.” Louis pecked Harry on the lips before untangling himself from his arms and hurrying out the patio door.

Harry bit his lower lip, trying to contain his grin, but he absolutely couldn’t.

He stood up and stretched before walking to Louis’ bedroom. He pulled off his shirt and socks and tossed them onto Louis’ dresser. Then he made his way to the bathroom. He opened the linen closet and pulled out two fluffy looking towels. He took them to the kitchen and set them on the counter before opening the fridge.

Inside, he saw Louis’ Coronas, and was going to grab two of those before seeing a familiar peach label in the back, hidden behind the gallon of milk, a few bottles of water and a jug of Sunny D.

Harry gasped when he saw a six-pack of the grapefruit beer that Louis had refused to try that night at Niall’s concert. Shaking his head, he grabbed two bottles of those instead. He wrapped one of the towels around the top of the first bottle, easily twisting off the cap. He did the same for the other one. He took the beers and the towels outside, where Louis was just pulling off his shirt.

“Hey,” Louis said. “Perfect timing. The hot tub looks ready.”

“Oh, good. Want a beer?”

“Yeah, sounds-” Louis stopped talking when he saw the bottles that Harry was holding. “Oh.”

“Yeah. Oh. Glad to see you like the grapefruit ale.”

“Well, someone once told me that it’s the perfect summer beer.”

“Sounds like a genius,” Harry said.

“I wouldn’t go that far. He’s kind of a snob.”

Harry bumped his shoulder against Louis’, making Louis start laughing.

“Stop! You’re gonna make me spill my beer,” Louis whined.

“Whatever. You have four other bottles in the fridge. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“Nope. I like every last drop.” To prove his point, he took a long drink from his bottle.

As Louis drank, Harry said, “That’s what he said.”

Now it was Louis’ turn to start choking while he drank something.

“What the hell!” Louis sputtered.

“Oh, it’s not so fun when someone says something funny while you’re drinking, is it?”

Louis just glared. “Are we getting in the hot tub or what?”

“Yup. Where should I put the towels?”

“Oh, here.” Louis took the towels from Harry. “I’ll put them on the patio table.”

He walked over to the table and placed the towels down. He took another drink from his bottle and turned around to see Harry… completely naked.

Louis just watched as Harry stepped out of his jeans and walked backward toward the hot tub, a smug smirk on his face.

“How private is this backyard?” Harry asked.

“Not that private,” Louis answered in a strained voice.

“Oh. Oops.” With a wink, he turned and climbed in to the hot tub. After he got comfortable, he took a sip of his beer. Then he asked Louis, “Are you going to join me?”

“You play dirty.”

Harry laughed. “Says the guy who, on our first date, talked about me grabbing his ass while he fucked me.”

“Yeah, and a whole lot of good that did me, too,” Louis replied, undoing the button his jeans. “We left IHOP, came back here and fell asleep on the couch for like, three hours. Yeah, I’m a real dirty player.”

Louis stopped talking then, though, because Harry wasn’t even listening to what he was saying. Instead, Harry’s eyes were trained on Louis’ lower half, as Louis pulled his jeans off his legs. Smiling to himself, Louis stepped out of his jeans and kicked them to the side. Then he hooked his fingers in the top of his briefs and slowly pulled them down. When some hair started to peek out of the top, he stopped.

He heard Harry’s breath hitch and Louis held back a laugh. It was funny to see Harry left so speechless. It didn’t happen that often.

“Will you hurry up?” Harry exclaimed.

“OK, OK. Bossy!” Louis pulled his briefs all the way down and when he looked back at Harry’s eyes, he felt a chill up his spine. Harry was very obviously eyeing him up, and the hungry stare in his eyes sent Louis into a minor state of shock.

“Are you getting in?” Harry eventually asked, after a few minutes of them sizing each other up.

“Yeah. I think I will.” Louis walked over to the tub and slowly climbed in. He sat next to Harry, wrapping an arm around him and pulling him close. The two of them quietly sipped their beer and looked up at the stars.

“This is something you can’t get in the city,” Harry commented.

“What? Stars?”

“Well, the ability to see them. There’s too many lights. Too much pollution, too. Like, you can’t just sit outside and stare at the stars.”

“Just another reason I’m a suburban guy,” Louis said.

Harry hummed. “How’s that dog search coming?”

Louis chuckled. “It’s good, I guess. I filled out an application this afternoon for the animal shelter a few miles from here, and they’re gonna call me later this week to go over the details and explain the whole process before I can actually come see the dogs.”

“That’s awesome!” Harry said. “That’s so exciting. You’re really getting your dog!”

“I am. Can’t wait, either. The house is great, but it’s so quiet. I’m used to a lot of noise in a house. If my siblings aren’t going to be here, then I should have a dog or something.”

“Well, until your dog gets here, I can be here to make lots of noise.”

Louis raised an eyebrow. “Oh, is that so?”

Harry blushed. “No! No, that’s not what I meant! I meant, to like, hang out and stuff. Like, I mean, we can do that stuff, too, but like, also to watch movies and listen to music and play video games and cook and stuff. Shut up.”

Louis laughed and kissed Harry on the cheek. “I know what you meant, babe. I’m just kidding.”

Harry was still pouting, though.

“Harry, I promise I know what you meant. But you also know I would love for you to make noise inside the house, right?”

“Yeah,” Harry mumbled.

“I have an idea, though.”

“What?”

“What if we started with making some noise outside the house? Say, in the hot tub?”

Harry turned to look at Louis.

“If you want to, obviously.”

Harry licked his lips. Then he took their beer bottles and set them on the edge of the hot tub before crawling into Louis’ lap, straddling him with one leg on either side of him.

“Hi,” he whispered.

“Hey.”

Harry ducked his head, connecting their lips together. He put his hands on Louis’ shoulders to keep himself steady.

Louis wrapped his arms around Harry’s waist and held him close as he kissed him. The temperature in the hot tub had already been high, but now that they were literally on top of each other, and they were both starting to get a little, excited, Louis knew it would only get hotter.

When Louis felt Harry part his lips, he didn’t hesitate to slip his tongue into Harry’s mouth.

As Harry sucked on Louis’ tongue, Louis moved his hands so that they were on Harry’s hips. He moved them up and down, rubbing Harry’s back and sides, wanting him to feel as comfortable as he could.

Harry’s grip on Louis’ shoulders tightened as he rolled his hips forward, looking for some kind of friction against his cock. He locked his legs around Louis and he thrusted forward again.

“Louis,” he whined, pulling his lips away just long enough to speak. “Touch me.”

Louis didn’t hesitate to take one hand off Harry’s back and dip it beneath the water. He found Harry’s cock easily and took hold of it. With a loose grip, he moved his fist up and down. Harry’s dick felt heavy, even with the water surrounding it, and it was easy to jerk Harry off with the quiet whimpers he was letting out.

Harry rolled his hips again, sending his cock in between Louis’ fingers. Louis watched Harry as he slowly started getting more aroused, more desperate. He had a flush to his cheeks and his lips looked redder than they had before, probably from being kissed. The curls in his hair were starting to frizz and his eyes looked darker, most likely due to their activities for the past ten minutes.

Although, Harry’s movements had given him an idea.

“Can I try something?” Louis asked. He waited for Harry to nod before taking his hand off Harry’s dick. Harry didn’t get a chance to be too upset about it, though, because now Louis was wrapping a hand around both of their cocks, holding them closely together.

Harry bit his lower lip as he felt the new sensation.

“Move,” Louis said.

Without a word, Harry slowly pulled his hips back before pushing his cock forward through the tight space.

“Oh, God,” Harry whispered. His body already felt loose and relaxed from the warm water he was sitting in, so combined with the pressure on his cock, he felt incredible.

He worked his hips, shifting them back and forth so that he was fucking into the space between Louis’ fingers. As he sped up, he had to move his hands to the ledge of the hot tub, as Louis’ shoulders were starting to get too sweaty to keep a grip on.

Now that they were even closer together, Louis started kissing up Harry’s torso until he got to his nipple. He sucked one into his mouth, lapping at the sensitive bud with his tongue.

Harry gasped, but was only prompted to move faster. He fucked his hips forward, feeling a stirring in his lower belly that told him that he was close.

“Louis,” Harry said loudly.

Louis just groaned against Harry’s chest before moving to the other nipple. Harry bit his lower lip and kept moving.

Part of him hoped that Louis’ neighbors – Niall included, no, especially Niall – couldn’t see or hear him in this moment, with another part of him not caring either way. He knew he was being loud, and the sloshing of the water in the hot tub probably wasn’t too subtle, either.

Although, the thought of someone seeing him like this, absolutely animalistic in his desire to get off in only a way that Louis could do for him at this moment, of someone hearing the erotic sounds coming from Harry, of someone knowing what Harry’s face looked like when he came, well…

Harry moaned again and held on to the hot tub so tightly that his knuckles turned white.  

Harry was so busy bringing himself closer to his orgasm that he didn’t notice Louis’ fingers now trailing behind his back. He didn’t feel Louis’ hand moving down his back toward his ass, not until…

“Oh, God!” Harry’s mouth dropped open as one finger circled around his hole, stopping his movements entirely. “Louis!”

“Keep going, baby,” Louis whispered. “Come on.”

It was going to take him a minute. Harry was struggling to breathe properly. He couldn’t even think about else right now. He was hot and sweaty, his dick was so hard it hurt and Louis was touching him everywhere. It was almost too much for Harry to handle.

Almost.

Harry started to move his hips again, only to gasp one more time as Louis started to gently push his finger in. “Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” Harry said, almost chant-like.

Louis tightened his grip on their cocks as Harry tried to get back to the speed he was at before Louis started playing with his hole. But with Louis’ hands on the most sensitive parts of him, the temperature of the water and the general overwhelmed feeling he was experiencing, he couldn’t.

So, Louis started to turn his fist and move it up and down as Harry thrusted forward. As Harry’s cock moved against Louis’ and into the tight hole Louis had made for him, Louis jerked them off together. His finger stayed moving in Harry’s hole, as well, and it finally became too much for him.

“Shit!” Harry cried as he felt himself come. He tried to catch his breath as he slowed his hips and watched as the water they sat in became slightly murky, his own spunk floating to the surface.

Louis took his hand off Harry’s dick and wrapped it around his own. With a few tugs, he came, too, and he dropped his head back.

Both of them sat there for a minute, in their own world, trying to stabilize their breathing and form words over how amazing that was.

“We should shower,” Louis finally said.

Harry could only nod.

“And I’ll need to clean this out, too.”

Harry just giggled. “Yeah, that might be for the best. Probably don’t have anyone else over until you do.”

“Also a good idea.”

Harry smiled and puckered his lips for a kiss. Louis was only too happy to deliver.

It was a simple kiss, just two long pecks before they were done. But then the sound of a car door slamming shut broke them out of their bubble.

“Hey! You might want to invest in a taller fence!”

Harry and Louis both looked over and saw Niall standing on the side of his house. From his standpoint, he could see them both very easily, and judging by the smug look on his face, he knew exactly what they’d been up to. He pressed a button on the key fob for his car, and the alarm went off, signaling that it was locked.

“And I’ll need to see you drain that and douse it in bleach before I come over there for a party, Lou,” Niall added.

Louis and Harry just nodded.

“You got it, Niall,” Louis said.

“Good. Have a good night. Maybe take the rest of this inside.”

“Thanks, Niall,” they told him.

Niall went into his house, and Louis and Harry lasted about three seconds before bursting into laughter.

“You weren’t kidding when you said this backyard wasn’t private,” Harry said through his giggles.

“I told you! It’s the suburbs, though. What do you expect?”

“I guess you have a point. He is right, though. We should take this inside.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to feel grosser the longer I stay in here.”

They both climbed out and rushed over to the patio table, wiping themselves off quickly before wrapping their towels around their waists.

Louis grabbed their half-full beer bottles and brought them inside, locking the door behind them.

“Do you want to stay over tonight?” Louis asked shyly, as if he was afraid that Harry might actually tell him no.

“Hmm…” Harry said. “Do I really want to sleep over a guy’s house after he gave me a really incredible orgasm in his hot tub? I mean, he’s really cute and funny and was left speechless by how attractive I was…”

“I regret telling you that information.”

“Hmm…” Harry continued to ‘think about it.’ “I guess so. But only if this guy promises to make breakfast in the morning.”

“I suppose that would be a reasonable condition. I think that would make this guy very, wonderfully happy.”

Harry wrapped his arms around Louis’ neck and pulled him close. “It would make me very happy, too.”

As their lips met in a soft kiss, Harry didn’t know how he got so incredibly lucky to be closing the store that day when Louis came in to buy his shirt for Niall’s show. It would’ve been so easy for him to have switched shifts with someone that day, or for Louis to have missed Niall’s gig because he had to work. Fortunately for him, that didn’t happen, and while they met in an unusual way, he was so happy that he met Louis when and how he did.

He guessed fate just liked to work in mysterious ways, and Harry knew that he definitely wouldn’t be questioning fate ever again.