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Little Treasure

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Marcel prided himself on his grades more than any of his classmates appeared to. While they turned up late, eyes still hazed from the wild night and breath still tinted with the potent stench of the excessive amounts of alcohol; Marcel was always early, his books stacked in his arms and a fresh face ready to learn. Most of his fellow classmates found his professional daily attire and attitude what they deemed as ‘extra’ which Marcel was still attempting to figure out. He’d worked astonishingly hard to earn his spot in one of the most prestigious universities in his state so he wasn’t about to throw it all away on a 2 for 1 drinks night at the fresher’s bar down the road.

The seminar ended, students filing out of the doors and dashing back to get prepared for their parties. Marcel observed their muffled chatter from the tail end as he established a more leisurely pace. It consistently amused him that no matter how intellectually superior his fellow students were, they would still behave like every other dumb 18-year-old in a new city. The gaggle of girls ahead of him were reviewing makeup, their perfume so overpowering that Marcel had to persist with uncovering ways to rub his nose without seeming obviously bothered. Their glossy lips shimmered as they hurried their words, most guys from the class twisting their heads as inconspicuously as they could to watch. Boys baffled Marcel to quite a lengthy extent, then again, he planned to marry one, one day. Maybe he should try and learn how they work.

As if they were all connected by some teenage movie stereotype scene, nearly every conversation nearby him included claiming the party tonight was going to be 'the best'. Marcel overheard that sentence uttered around campus endlessly which confused him but he suspected it was merely another way to get everyone to the event by exaggerating more and more the contents of said event. Instead of huddling into the surge of people heading towards dorms, Marcel concluded he’d locate somewhere to study outside. His boxed room was beginning to feel uninspiring and office-like. Despite the welcome silence it provided consistently, it wilted his mood. He regularly needed motivation and even though most of it was installed in him, a change of scenery to complete the last parts of his current business work couldn’t be that detrimental to his education.

Marcel plodded along towards the massively refurbished entrance, his fellow students chatter turning into a mere buzzing hum until he reached the doors and ventured out. The tweed waistcoat and tailored jacket did little to shield the appalling weather as Marcel used his arms to grip onto the stiff fabrics. Originally, he’d planned to hop from place to place in an experiment to find his most convenient study area. That hypothesis didn’t fit with the fact that the weather would leave him shivering and probably brewing a virus if he stayed out too long. Marcel told himself it was fine, he was adaptable. He’d start off at the one within the closest perimeter of him and test the waters.

Rain seemed to look like an ever-present threat and Marcel was still huddled in on himself as he shuffled down the street. The incessant thought that he could be in his reasonably temperatured room right now niggled at him as the road was clear of any visible shelter. He eventually approached a coffee shop aptly named ‘Little Treasures’ and rushed through the door in an attempt to flee the chill.

Once he stepped in, Marcel’s gaze was forced up from where he was straightening his jacket. The shop was, as suggested by the title, little. It even managed to look smaller than the outside suggested. The colour theme was strikingly pastel and there were no customers sat around the sparsely arranged tables. If it wasn’t for the fact that these hours were seen as crucial for stand-alone businesses and the tacky ‘open’ sign hanging plainly inside the door, you wouldn’t know it was even in its opening hours. Marcel bumbled towards the counter and observed the menu. The treats laid out through the glass looked lovingly homemade yet decorative and Marcel picked out a muffin through sheer aesthetics.

“Hello, welcome to Little Treasures, can I help you?” a high pitched, dainty voice asked, his tone blending in with the calming indie music floating around the space. Marcel already felt himself relaxing despite hating social interaction, it must have been the subtle smell of green tea that appeared to have been purposefully placed in the air.

“Hi, could I get one tea with milk and two sugars and a, um, lemon muffin please?” Marcel smiled and did his best to appear normal. The boy didn’t seem to mind Marcel’s unique accent or the way he neurotically shoved his glasses up with his middle finger in between words. Then again, he was under work obligations so he couldn’t say anything even if he did.

“Of course, but we do have an offer on our herbal teas today if you would like to try one, I’d recommend the peppermint tea personally,” the server leaned across and acted like he was telling Marcel an ancient secret. Marcel quickly flustered over the unexpected options now given to him.
“I-I, um, no thanks for now,” Marcel politely declined and the boy seemed to sense his discomfort. His eyes scanning Marcel’s body language in the second before he spoke.
“That’s no problem at all, if you’d like to take a seat, I’ll bring them over to you,” he gestured vaguely to the broad empty space.

“Thank you...” Marcel squinted slightly to see the name tag as even though his glasses were strong, they weren’t always the greatest. The boy looked between the tag and Marcel before helping him out.
“Louis,” he stated, tapping the tag proudly.
“Thank you, Louis,” Marcel finished as he bashed his way through the tables, catching his weighted book bag on every seat around him as he fought nobody to nab the perfect corner spot.

Spreading his books out, he realised the table's surface could only squeeze on maybe 2 of the 4 books he was using so he placed the other two on his lap and figured he’d rotate them as necessary. One thing he hadn’t accounted room for was his order.
“Here is your tea and muffin.” Louis brought Marcel out of his mentally ordered book list except Marcel couldn’t be angry that he’d forgotten it now because of how Louis beamed from where he stood. For a second, there was blank eye contact, Marcel unsure why Louis wasn’t leaving him alone. Then he recognised that Louis wasn't able to physically set anything down.

“Oh, u-um, whoops. I-I guess you could just.” Marcel scrambled to relocate books out of the way but ended up knocking one onto the floor by Louis’ feet. He was so panicked that he didn’t even think to pick it up, he just wanted to make the space and then distribute everything out. Louis stood, both endeared and confused at how Marcel fumbled and messily dropped his work.

“Hey, I think you might need more space, hold on,” Louis butted in from where Marcel was trying to rescue a page lost by a misplaced bookmark. Marcel profusely apologised for being a bumbling idiot but Louis quickly discarded that while setting down his order on a spare table, pushing them together. He placed the tea and muffin on the edge of the new space before sending a glance up to the boy at the table, maybe that wasn’t the best idea. Sliding it to the middle, Louis bent down and collected the strewn textbooks and recovered the bookmark.

“Here you go, take up as many tables as you need. University students have the main right of space in here,” Louis informed, helping Marcel’s worries ease even though his brain was still reeling.
“Okay, thank you for helping me,” Marcel smiled and Louis bowed his head.
“That’s no problem, I’ll be over here if you need anything,” Louis pointed to the counter quickly before wandering back towards his place. Marcel reordered his books from the unfortunate reshuffle and began to slip back into his work headspace.

Things continued that way for several weeks, Marcel would make his way to Little Treasures every day after his classes. He had initially intended to test the establishments further afield but things were so cosy at the one he’d found, he never bothered. As a regular customer, he’d been advised that he had now met all the current shift workers of the time he arrived at. That was a welcome piece of information as not only did that mean no more awkward meetings, he also happened to find them all positively lovely people.

“Hello Marcel, what can I get for you today?” Liam enquired and Marcel decided on today's order. He insisted on switching it up so that he didn’t fall into too much of a rhythm, that meant the server could never predict Marcel’s order.
“I’ll have a lemon balm tea with a plain shortbread today, thank you, Liam,” Marcel recited to arguably one of his favourite workers. He was a little older than Louis but younger than Nick and he was... sweet. That had been the word that Marcel had come up with, he did everything in such a heartfelt manner that the very surroundings of him seemed positive.

“Nice combination today, need a kick for such a dull day like this.” Liam scowled at the drab weather outside before rushing off. It made sense that Liam (the embodiment of sunshine) hated the grey, sombre sky. Marcel made his way to his tables, already bunched together, and gawked at the open shop front. People hastened past in a flurry with their head hung low and their top half curled in on itself. Marcel had learned promptly that students were only seen out of the university if it was reaching the later hours. Which was a relief for Marcel but a shame for some of the artistic little businesses like this that relied heavily on university students.

“Here you are, how’d that business paper go?” Liam placed the tea gently between the stacked hardback books, learning one time too many that Marcel broke things a lot.
“Thank you, considerably decently since my old textbook had the updated chapters missing,” Marcel remarked as he scribbled down some numbers onto the pad he balanced at the edge between the table and his thighs.
“You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for!” Liam commented as he strolled back to the counter, his dimpled smile still cemented on his face.
Yeah, Marcel approved of this place.

It was a drizzly day when he blundered in on the next Friday, Louis was stretched out in the chair with his earbuds in. Today's clothing choice for him, a simple Adidas shirt and thigh-clinging skinny jeans masked by the work apron. Marcel shook himself off, uttering complaints about the state the fabric would be in when Louis looked up. Louis and Marcel had formed an odd relationship, it was a little tenser than he had with the other workers. Most made polite chat but Louis was more reserved and that made him Marcel’s favourite by default.

It was approximately two Fridays ago that Marcel apprehended the way Louis would slip into his mind casually, almost like he’d constantly been there. Since then, he’d made a permanent home in the comfort section of Marcel’s thought trail. Despite their limited interaction, Marcel worried he was developing an attraction to the most closed off member of the crew.

After that week of realisation, any chat between them seemed to plague Marcel’s mind until the next one. Typically he wouldn’t mind, his crushes were always a silent event that just came and passed relatively harmlessly, but this was university level now. Distractions in the form of cute coffee shop boy’s conversations were not on the agenda.

“Hello Marcel, sorry didn’t catch you there mate. What will it be today?” Louis leant idly on the counter, so effortless yet so charming. Marcel was swiftly losing his focus.
“Um, just a black coffee for me today thanks,” Marcel mumbled, he’d been up way later than his sleep pattern would ordinarily allow. The calculus test was brutal and Marcel found himself more unprepared than he had thought at first.

“Oh dear, not a good day?” Louis responded with a slight pout on his baby pink lips and Marcel shouldn’t have let his cheeks flush at that. The cuteness of Louis’ tone and the way he seemed to genuinely care about the shift in Marcel’s order was almost too much to handle.
“Yeah, tough work. It just seems like they’re piling tests on us,” Marcel commented and to his surprise, Louis hummed in agreement.
“I know what you mean, it’s brutal,” he shook his head while he pressed the button on the coffee machine.

“I didn’t know you were at the university?” Marcel tried to make the sentence sound as casual as possible yet Louis still grasped the shock underneath the facade.
“I know, I look dumb. I have a football scholarship,” Louis laughed as he gestured for Marcel to sit at the table while following him with the steaming cup. Marcel tried to contain the buzz of enthusiasm at the idea that he and Louis were related closer than just the chat in the coffee shop.

“Not dumb, football is... um.” Marcel forced himself to think of a complimentary word that fit into the sentence correctly. Louis crossed his arms and cocked his head to the side, dramatically waiting to see what Marcel would draw up. When Marcel was reduced to a few breathless stutters and fish-like mouth movements, Louis stepped in.
“Not your area, clearly,” Louis slightly filled in with a breathy laugh as he plopped the cup into its rightful spot. Marcel looked up into Louis’ ocean coloured eyes in sympathy, desperately not wanting to offend the boy he was pathetically pining after.

“No, it’s not something I’m particularly familiar with however it suits you,” Marcel complimented, hoping it would earn him points he lost from his earlier blunder. Louis seemed content with the comment, his teeth showing in the smile as his eyes cast towards his feet. Marcel questioned when he started noticing that Louis pointed his toes inward when he wasn’t sure of a situation.

“Thanks, I wish your calculus stuff suited me too, maybe then I wouldn’t do so bad in my classes,” Louis joked, nervously coming up to fiddle with the overgrown hair at the nape of his neck. Movements like that had now been made illegal in Marcel's brain, purely for the way it drew attention to the arm muscles that stretched under Louis’ smooth skin.
“I mean, I could help you i-if you want? I’ve got time,” Marcel offered, grabbing at the chance to spend time with the boy outside of his working hours. Louis seemed to hesitate which was very intriguing. Marcel had studied people a lot and finally, he began to use the deductions he’d made. Louis’ first instinct was to decline and Marcel could tell this by the polite smile he sent and the way he shook his head. Then something stopped him, maybe a realisation or an opposing thought as his outward stance switched.

“Yeah actually, that would be... great,” Louis accepted, the answer seeming surprising to even himself but maybe the weight and pressure of the grades was pushing his decision. Whatever it was, Marcel was overjoyed that maybe he could finally start to unbox the mystery of coffee shop Louis.

“When are you free?” Marcel asked, hoping if he got plans solidified then it would be harder for Louis to abandon the idea. Louis leant on the chair and thought for a second, his finger rhythmically tapping his pursed lips. Then he was torn out of his thought by an idea as he looked around.
“We could start now, I mean I’d have to serve if anyone came in but just as a starter?” Louis suggested and Marcel didn’t see any reason to object to that.
“Sure, what areas are you looking at?” Marcel asked as he sorted through his books in terms of level. Louis dragged a chair up next to Marcel and gradually began to gain more confidence in explaining what he needed to know.

Their first few tutor sessions were awkward, to say the least. Marcel occasionally forgot that he wasn’t talking to someone of equal intellect in his subject. Louis was reserved and never seemed to be able to speak up if he was lost or in the wrong area. They managed to gain a routine relatively hastily though, and as the seasons switched from light nights to dark, soon they were breezing through things.

Marcel couldn’t help but gaze at Louis sometimes in between notes, the way he tugged his lip between his cigarette stained teeth was almost as addicting as the nicotine that stained them in the first place. The quirk he has of always drumming up a beat on the surface of which his fingers were placed had become less bothersome and more captivating. Every minute quirk about Louis was picked up by Marcel, sometimes even without him recognising he’d noticed it. He’d resigned himself to the fact he’d fallen hard and fast and with each session, it would get more and more unbearable. That was okay, as long as it didn’t impact his tutoring or their blossoming friendship, Marcel could handle Louis being on his mind 24/7.

“Louis,” Marcel curiously spoke from where they sat in silence jotting notes on an overcast Friday. As usual, the place was deserted.
“Yeah?” Louis dragged the word out, trying to focus on a line he was writing. This time it was his tongue he seemed to be lightly pressing his teeth into.
“Why do you work here?” Marcel asked randomly upon realising that he was still as knowledgeable on Louis’ life outside of university as he was on the day they met. Marcel suspended his reading, reaching over to sip his camomile tea and lean on the table.
“I need the money for my scholarship, my mum’s amazing but I can’t take any more of her money,” Louis explained as he too stopped working and downed a swig of his coke.

“Oh right, how did you get this job? I mean they seem overstaffed here. No offence intended,” Marcel rushed to correct himself but Louis smiled as he shook his head.
“Yeah, I know. An ex-girlfriend of mine used to help run this place so she got me the job, then she left and the new owners liked me so I’m still here,” Louis recalled the story like it was more than he let on. Marcel guessed it was the girlfriend part that was hiding something. The part he’d unknowingly looked shocked about.

“What’s that face for?” Louis laughed in amusement at the way Marcel’s face shifted so quickly. Marcel rushed to cover it up, genuinely fearing if the truth got out.
“N-Nothing,” he blurted, cutting their eye contact in the hopes it would halt any chances of further questioning. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
“No, come on, you seemed surprised! What, you didn’t think they’d keep me or something? Am I really that boring, huh?” Louis joked as he placed his chin in his hand and leaned towards Marcel, raising his eyebrows in an over-exaggerated way. From this distance, Marcel began to feel the mint-tinted breath puffing steadily into his face and he could hear the slopping of Louis’ gum. His head was an internal battle over whether to look up and become annoyingly love-struck or to keep his eyes trained on the page and continue to brush it off. The obvious choice was the latter.

“Nothing, really! Of course they would like you. I just, I don’t know,” Marcel trailed off, trying his best techniques to make it look like he was genuinely busy. Louis wasn’t buying it, he seemed, by Marcel’s observations, too troubled to let it go. When Louis was doubtful, he just had to get to the root of whatever was causing him insecurity. Too nervous that Marcel didn’t enjoy his company.

“Oh come on! You can’t do that and then close off on me!” Louis exclaimed as he concealed his lack of confidence behind a laugh. Both of them knew the length at which this had been drawn out was too extreme for this not to be awkward now, but part of them didn’t want it to drop. Despite the fact Marcel was terrified of Louis finding out Marcel thought he was gay, a minuscule part of him wanted to entertain what would happen if Marcel were to let him know that.

“Really, it was nothing, honestly,” Marcel stressed, hoping if he could quell Louis’ paranoia that Marcel was bored by his company, then he’d get away with it. He was beginning to wish he’d stuck with the drama classes his mum had ordered him to attend when he was little.
“If it was nothing then you can say! C’mon, now I’m going to be paranoid you don’t want me here!” Louis’ tone said that was a light-hearted joke but Marcel knew better.

“Okay, I was just, I was a, um. Look, I was just a bit surprised by the ah... girlfriend thing, I thought maybe that wouldn't be your area of interest specifically,” Marcel said as he looked at Louis for the first time, needing to gauge his initial reaction as that was invariably the one closest to the truth.

“What, you think I couldn’t get a girlfriend! I’ll have you know I’ve had plenty!” Louis was mockingly shocked by the comment and as hard as Marcel tried to laugh and push that narrative Louis had fallen into, it didn’t work. The penny dropped and things came together inevitably. The second Marcel saw the moment of realisation dawn on Louis’ stunning features, he knew he’d made a drastic misjudgement on revealing the information.

“Oh... right,” Louis paused, frozen in his seat and Marcel could almost visualise the metaphorical walls he’d spent time chipping down, reforming in front of his eyes. He’d taken Louis for many things both good and bad, but a homophobe was never one. Now though, studying that reaction, Marcel began to fear for his safety in the same way he did when he saw Dan back in high school offensively taunting him outside his toilet cubicle.

Marcel had never revealed any of his crushes to the recipient of said crush, neither had he come out to anyone besides his immediate family. He was smart in many areas but relationships were certainly not one. Due to all this, he’d never experienced heartbreak although as Louis pushed his book away and got up, leaving only a cold glance at Marcel behind. He started to realise that this is what it felt like and now he could appreciate why people composed so many songs about it.

Marcel was frozen in his spot, trying to work his way around this shock of new emotional territory. He decided distance and time were always a good place to begin with an immediate negative event. Packing up was a quick job, his shaking hands chucking the books in the bag and not caring about the mislaid bookmarks because Louis wasn’t there to pick them up.

The hardest and slowest part was leaving, knowing the terms he was departing on. He tried to formulate an equation for how he should do this. Should he speak or not? Should he make his departure known? Then he realised this wasn’t a case of numbers and order, this was messy, complicated feelings. One last look behind him told him all he needed to know. He couldn’t return for a while.

Regardless of the practicality of it, Marcel ended up in a constant battle of when to go back. He’d been missing for four and a half weeks now and every day seemed to play out the same. His sleep tainted brain conjured up the picture of Louis from the second he was conscious, that smile wasn’t willing to budge.

Then he’d spend the rest of his day taking notes and wondering if today would be the day he’d give in and go back to face the doom he felt he’d left behind. It never was and by the fifth week, he was drained with emotions. This is why he never messed with them, it tore him away from his grades and even though they weren’t dropping, Marcel could feel his studying ebbing into daydreams. He’d had enough, he needed to face this head on and for once, stand up for himself.

Marcel hesitantly gripped and let go of the door handle, turning back and forth between his heart and head. Even though the setting of which he was stood at was undeniably familiar, the friendly aura around it had been replaced for him. Eventually, his head won over and he stumbled in, his heart hammering at an unhealthy rate and banging his chest uncomfortably. Louis was bent over, enamoured in, what looked like his mathematics work. Clad today in a tank top and shorts as the humid, stuffy heating called for.

Marcel decided to allow himself to watch for a second. It was then he realised that he’d truly missed Louis. He’d yearned to hear the soft tuts of when he was frustrated and witness the way he ruffled his own fringe when his energetic body got restless. Marcel was the opposite, he was mild and innocuous. That’s what made Louis infinitely fascinating to him. So much so that his nickname had become ‘Little Treasure’, the name fitting him almost too well due to his lower than average height.

Once the time span stopped being sweet and shifted into creepy, Marcel let out a terribly acted cough and Louis whipped around. Marcel wasn’t sure if it was a purposeful gasp that left Louis’ parted lips or just a consequence of the startling arrival. Either way, it set Marcel on edge and he began thinking up ways to get out.

“Um, hi, what can I get you?” Louis muttered from his seat, not quite angry but not relaxed either. Marcel couldn’t gather enough to pick at what was really behind the words. He did his best to seem stern and like he hadn't been thinking up this moment every single tiresome day since he regrettably walked out.
“Tea, milk, two sugars, thanks,” he said choppily, striving to imitate the coldness of Louis’ initial voice. Of course, he failed miserably, his horrific acting jobs had really set that in stone, but it was the principle behind it that he hoped Louis picked up. The drink was made in silence as their routine was resumed, Marcel sitting on his table and Louis placing the cup in the centre.

“Hey, listen I’m sorry about last time,” Louis quietly uttered and Marcel never thought so much tension could be released by purely bringing up a subject. Marcel realised that he didn’t want to apologise, nor should he, so he stayed silent. Louis seemed to notice that the other boy wanted something more, he couldn't dispute the fact he certainly deserved it. Pulling up a chair, Marcel could tell that this was going to be a heavy conversation. Louis' body language was tremendously twitchy, almost like he behaved at exam time but amplified.

“I know I shouldn’t have got like that over it, I’m stupid a-and I just,” Louis was getting frustrated, his hair messing and tapping growing more violent with his exasperated sighs. Everything seemed to be building to a crescendo and Marcel wasn’t sure what he was going to get at the peak.
“I just,” Louis started but pulled himself away again in the same way Marcel had done with the door, just verbally instead.
“I’m not... sure, okay a-and it’s, it’s stressing me out man,” Louis confessed... something, Marcel guessed that by the fact that it had all the symptoms of a big reveal. He just wasn’t sure what the sentence meant. Louis dragged his palms down his face and left his head to rest there.

“I-I’m sorry Louis, I don’t understand,” Marcel replied, feeling like his inability to catch on was hindering their reforming friendship and prolonging the pain of whatever Louis was feeling.
“I’m not... sure, like about me and stuff,” Louis gestured to himself and then it clicked into place. Louis wasn’t sure about his sexuality, that’s why he was so unnerved with the suggestion, it confirmed exactly what he’d been fearing.

“Oh, right,” Marcel replied before realising he’d mirrored the two words that got them into this fight in the first place. By the downtrodden look now sinking Louis’ face, he’d noticed the link too.
“No, I didn’t mean...” Marcel paused, feeling a wave of sympathy washing over him as he looked at a defeated shell of Louis, “you could have told me. I can help.” Marcel wasn’t sure how he felt, the emotions mixing in one badly forming concoction that really didn't gel well. Louis’ arms slammed down to rest on the table, jolting the cup as he fought the tears glistening in his eyes.

“Listen, I saw the way you would look, like at me. I knew what that meant but it’s just... it’s not easy. For me. So I-I just, I’m sorry. Could I just, have time to like, not talk about it?” Louis choked out his words, almost like his brain was just spitting them out but somehow it made sense.
“Yeah,” Marcel softly replied and even though it was a short word, it seemed to clear the air considerably. Both boys felt like it could go back to before, even though things hadn’t reached a definite answer.

Their normal practice resumed after that. Marcel wasn’t sure whether allowing it to would just create further issues but once he came in and heard Louis' barely audible sighs and groans of frustration. He knew he needed help. Turns out on that specific Friday, he was preparing for one of his exam's and not having Marcel’s aid in his question papers had forced his grades to fall again. Marcel loosely offered a hand in some obviously wrong answers and gradually that seemed to build towards a weekly occurrence.

Something had changed though, despite time healing the rift bit by bit. The agitation was maddening to Marcel, who now felt on edge in Louis’ presence. Every glance, every breath, it became second-guessed and calculated. Marcel began shifting away from Louis as to not seem too friendly and freezing up when their hands brushed as the boys exchanged Marcel’s order. He began to despise this compulsive unspoken barrier between them but he was sure it was only him that felt it.

Part of it was still some leftover anger at how Louis had treated him yet given his situation, it was understandable. Another part was his heart screaming that he really, really liked Louis and the fact he was off limits only served to make it a more passionate crush. Most of Marcel just wanted his friend back. The one that didn’t keep his distance and never made eye contact. The one who wasn’t scared to pass a book over in case their skin touched. Marcel could see there was a bubbling, simmering pot of emotional baggage piling up and soon things were going to spill over catastrophically.

“Hey, Louis, what’s up?” Marcel asked as Louis dramatically flopped himself over the creaking chair with a strained groan. Marcel assumed it would be another education-related stress that was causing Louis to be this over the top.
“Graduation is coming up, how am I that old,” Louis whined and Marcel’s head snapped up, he assumed Louis still had at least a year to go yet.

The initial heart-clenching moment of thinking about not seeing Louis was quickly replaced by a reminder of how to act. He’d learned with the abysmal state of their current relationship, he needed to be loose. He needed to relax and let everything seem like it was no big deal. If he cared too much, Louis saw it as an attraction and veered away instantly.

“Didn’t know you were graduating this year,” Marcel replied nonchalantly, his acting growing better as Louis put it to the test weekly. Marcel forced a bit of dry biscuit into his mouth to keep it shut.
“Yeah, it’s fuckin’ scary man,” Louis sighed which reminded Marcel of the new measures Louis had begun to take in order to reinforce to Marcel he was very not interested.

Apparently, the subtle language changes of ‘mate’ and ‘bro’ weren’t enough, he then added the swearing to try and put Marcel off even more. Louis was oblivious to the fact these things were so obvious to see through they were almost transparent. Plus, the swearing wasn’t actually the biggest turn-off, the context behind him using it was. Marcel was watching what looked like warning signs of blatant denial but if that was how Louis wanted to play it, that was fine. He’d apparently be leaving soon anyway.
“Hmm,” Marcel hummed in reply as his mind raced with too many thoughts to comprehend.

The next week, Louis cancelled his tutoring with Marcel. Just walked up and blatantly, outright stated it was done. Which was totally fine, except for the fact it wasn’t. Marcel had actually run back to his dorm, for once not caring about the state of his newly polished dress shoes. His bags rustled and jolted where they were placed around his body and Marcel could only repeat to himself that his tears were the rain not genuine emotion. He stormed through the door with an echoing bang, curled up stroppily and called his mum. It was then he realised that he’d become infatuated with Louis, the confused and closed off coffee shop worker. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t sob a little onto the pillow as he laid his head down that night.

His pain wasn’t eased when prom posters started popping up day after day. Things seemed to move so fast that he hadn’t noticed time had gone anywhere. Every time he saw a flyer he would entertain the pleasant and loving images of him and Louis attending together before jolting his body away and trying to keep himself as solitary as possible. Even to the people he’d never talked to, he looked upset and that was a disconcerting thought as Marcel never let people catch on to his feelings via his outward appearance.

So work became his outlet through it all. He studied in the library constantly, getting chucked out every night at closing. He’d begun to take extra classes despite being ahead of everybody else. He did anything and everything possible to avoid a stray thought leading to him. Marcel had even started to convince himself Louis was no good for him, emphasising that he saw it all through rose-tinted glasses. That Louis wasn’t everything he wanted, just an outlet for a craving of what everyone else seemed to have. A fever need for some type of love like he saw in the corridors between classes. Louis had merely been an attempt to satisfy that. He would have continued to be okay with that if Louis bloody Tomlinson hadn’t had the audacity to turn up at his door one night.

The sharp three knock’s at his dorm room door had initially put him into a panic. He didn’t know anyone, nor did he have any desire to. Knocking could therefore only mean something bad was happening that Marcel needed to be alerted of. He scrambled to yank the handle in his striped pyjamas, not willing to risk his life if there were an emergency just for the sake of changing his clothes. Once he saw who was actually poised nervously at the door, he had never wished he’d changed his outfit more.

“Hi, could we maybe talk?” Louis asked, his voice a little hoarse as he scraped his fingers along his raw eyes. If it hadn't been such a bizarre occurrence, Marcel would have inwardly cooed at the oversized hoodie and lounging sweatpants that hung loosely off Louis' slim figure. Marcel invited him into the small living space and shut the door behind him. Immediately, the scent of alcohol was overwhelming due to the enclosed space.

“Louis, what are you doing here? You’re drunk, go back to your dorm.” Marcel couldn’t bear to look at him because he knew once he did he would no longer be able to cling to all the incredulous notions he’d held so dear to him. The storyline he’d fed himself would disintegrate before his eyes and he’d be left with only the fact. Despite always counting on the fact, this was the one time he’d been able to discard it. One look at those glazed eyes and it was gone.
“’m not drunk, just... needed something in me,” Louis reasoned as he sat with his legs spread and his elbows resting on them. Marcel still stood posed at the door, he couldn’t see any other option.

“Louis, just... go home,” Marcel sighed, his eyes welling up as he spoke and that was not okay. That was so very not okay. His fist clenched at his side in an attempt to release the nervous energy and will the tears away.
“Hear me out Marce,” Louis replied and Marcel instantly noticed the nickname, that was new. He’d never had someone say it like that before, with such a dulcet vibe to it. The way it rolled off his tongue painted in his accent seemed like a sweet moment of love in such a depressing scenario. Marcel guessed by the lack of a question that Louis wasn’t going anywhere until Marcel was somewhat engaged in the conversation instead of just a voice from the back of a head. He kept his eyes towards the floor as he sat down, for once not caring if there was no room for Louis and his things.

“I’ve been thinking and trying to figure out what I am, who I am. It’s just so messy and crappy and full of feelings that I can’t understand,” Louis rambled, his breath catching and squeaking on some of the words. For the first time since Marcel had known him, he was actually displaying his emotions and not just that, he was crying. Had been for a while too by the looks of his flushed face.

“Lou-“ Marcel started but Louis suddenly cut him off.
“Hold on, I-I’ve practised this a-and I need to get it out or I never will and it’s drivin’ me mental.” Louis looked up finally and Marcel could visibly see how difficult it was for him to turn and catch eye contact. His whole body was so rigid and his eyes fluttered as tears leaked like a tap, dribbling down the side of his nose.

“I don’t like boys, I-I don’t,” Louis sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than Marcel. Still, Marcel’s timid hope that maybe this was a romantic movie-like confession had suddenly faded and he began to wonder why this sudden talk was so urgent.
“I just, I like you, okay. You’re... different and I don’t know why you are but to me, you’re just different,” Louis confessed and Marcel could only... sit there. His mouth half fell open and his brain was too shocked to work on forming a decent response.

When Marcel imagined a confession of liking someone, he’d always romanticised it. Believed in the whole ‘picnic in the park, almost kiss’ scenario. He thought that just happened to people. Never did he envision the boy he’d pined after next to him in his dingy uni dorm all tear tracked cheeks and glossy eyed. He thought they’d flamboyantly hug and be overjoyed but there he was frozen in his seat with his mouth open and a frightening loss at what to say. He chose something he’d always relied on to begin his response, fact.

“I-I mean, scientifically, sexuality i-is one big mess. I mean, i-it’s full of spectrums a-and thousands of possible combinations a-and... that really doesn’t matter at the moment,” Marcel rambled as he let out a shaky breath and a laugh. His hands were trembling and he was starting to rival Louis on the crying side of it.
“I’m sorry, Marcel. I-I keep fuckin’ you around w-when you really don’t deserve that,” Louis apologised as he shuffled closer until the tips of their knees were touching. Automatically, Marcel’s brain had conditioned his reaction to be a flinch but he quickly relaxed into this new phase of their connection as both of them softened.

“What do we do?” Marcel asked, unsure if knowing the answer was going to hurt him more than he could handle. Even though he knew Louis’ thoughts, he didn’t know the actions he wanted to follow up with.
“I-I thought maybe, if you wanted to, y-you could come to prom w-with me like... together a-and then we’d just kinda, see I guess,” Louis stumbled around his words but this is the ecstatic feeling Marcel imagined, that warm sensation spreading around you and lifting you worlds above elation. The excitement was such a giant emotion that Marcel was terrified to fall into it, but he let himself drop anyway, speeding through the air at an exponential speed and with no metaphorical parachute.

“I-I would love to Louis,” Marcel replied, not able to fully convey any hint of what he was going through as it was so new to him. Marcel relied on a smile lighting up his features to carry what he couldn't verbally express. Louis couldn’t help but mirror the grin, his earlier upset fading upon seeing the hope in Marcel’s eyes.

The room dropped silent, not the suffocating type, just a type that allowed them to bathe in the happiness. Louis felt intense relief, his guilt and shame at being attracted to the same sex partially let go. Marcel was beyond elated, so thrilled that someone wanted to take him out, someone actually liked him enough to want to be seen with him romantically in the outside world.

“I-I’ve never been on a date before,” Marcel whispered both happily and nervously. He was pushing his glasses up again but he couldn't find it in himself to hold back the squirming and fidgeting actions. Louis’ head snapped up at the sudden voice in the otherwise soundless room and a fond look spread slowly over his face like a sunrise would over the sea.

“I’m glad I get to be your first,” Louis replied quietly, still nervous which was understandable from Marcel’s point of view. He watched as Louis’ hand twitched, wanting to slide across and just intertwine their fingers but there was still too much internalized prejudice, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Clearly, a realisation dawned that he was about to hold another boy's hand, and Louis launched himself up. Almost forcing himself to have to put a physical barrier in the way of his affection so he didn't do something he deemed as bad.

“I-I should probably go, it’s getting late and you have work to do clearly,” Louis stuttered and as much as Marcel was desperate to drag him to the bed and hold him, he knew today had been quite an overwhelming emotional journey as it was. He didn’t want to push Louis further than he initiated.
“If you would like to go," Marcel simply stated and Lous turned to leave, "I’ll see you later,” Marcel finished, not wanting to sway Louis’ decision either way. Louis pressed his hands to the doorway, leaning onto it and Marcel watched him internally wrestle with the decision.

“C-Could I maybe stay with you for a bit, j-just, my minds still racing and I don’t really want to be alone y’know?” Louis leant back awkwardly, fiddling with his fingers and bobbing from side to side on the corners of his vans. Marcel had never seen such a lovable stance, every part of him was desperate to wrap the small boy up and tell him that every part of him was beautiful. Instead, he settled for a soft gaze.

“Of course, have a seat, I’ll clean up around here a bit.” Marcel gestured to the bed as he noisily scraped up papers from the bare floorboards. Order could wait for a more convenient time, in fact, anything could. Marcel couldn’t help but sneak brief glances at Louis just to check he hadn’t fallen into slumber while studying and tripped into a lucid dream. Each time they made unexpected eye contact, Louis’ mouth would just curl up on one side and Marcel would flush as he fumbled around the room.

“Mum, I’m not sure, does it really look perfect or are you telling me that to ease my nerves? I never wear my hair like this. Does this trim go with the rest of the attire? What if Louis doesn’t match? What if our colour schemes aren’t complimentary?” Marcel babbled to his mum who was standing to the right of him outside his university. All of the questions were valid in Marcel's mind however he dismissed any answers before they were given as they would be useless regardless. Louis would be picking him up in a few minutes to take him to prom so no matter what his appearance was deemed, it was what he was stuck with.

Despite what he believed, Marcel looked stunning from any outsiders point of view. His suit was a standard black, however, swirled texture littered the custom piece and with a trim that matched his waistcoat, the top half of him looked perfect. Like every other day, his shoes had been polished to the point of a mirror and sometimes Marcel would use them as such to check his overall appearance from where he stood. His hair was easily the most noticeable difference, instead of the gelled fringe with his quiff, it was loose in ringlets that had been styled by his mum. He’d even put a little bit of makeup on just to boost his confidence.

“You look wonderful Marcel, he will love it,” his mum reminded again, losing count of how many times she’d had to do so thus far. She fiddled with his suit like a typical parent, declaring Louis would think he looked astonishing no matter what.

It was 20 minutes prior to prom commencing and Louis was already 15 minutes overdue. Marcel had stood there with flowers while he observed everyone driving to the hall within their lavish vehicles. It began to dawn on him that Louis may have lied except he wasn’t ready to wholly entertain that disappointment quite yet. Several times his mum had glanced over and spied the damp eyes and quietened sniffles, she’d coaxed him inside, thinking that seeing others go would make it worse. Every time he’d dismissed her, maintaining that Louis would be there in merely a second. He wasn’t.

His mum volunteered to drop him there herself so he at least had the option to turn up and have a decent time regardless but he didn’t desire to go without Louis. Prom started and that was when he gave up on the utterly foolish fantasy he'd let himself believe. Of course, Louis wouldn't take a nerd he met in a coffee shop to prom, he was insane for allowing himself to even accept that fabricated fiction. Nursing a heavy heart, Marcel let the tears go. He turned to his mum, enclosing his arms around her whilst he sobbed.

“I-I thought, I-I, how c-could I be s-so stupid. This h-happens every time,” Marcel blubbered and his mum’s heart crushed as she escorted her sorrowful son back inside. The students still in the university gave him a sympathetic glance as he advanced his way back up to his dorm gradually. The ache residing inside his stomach burned too enormously to let him entirely believe that Louis had played him so brutally but the salted tracks on his cheeks reminded different. He lingered in silence as he curled up on the bed, his mum sat at the foot of it, and wept as he urged himself to sleep so this day would be over.

2 minutes of silence transpired until they heard an urgent thump at the door.
“If it’s Louis, tell him to go away. I’m not letting him back in again,” Marcel uttered as he folded in further on himself protectively. His mum opened the door but to Marcel's astonishment, he detected Liam’s sonorous tones, not Louis.

“L-Liam?” Marcel shouted, his voice hoarse, as he propped himself up to see. Liam stiffly strode in with that identical sympathetic look everyone else seemed to wear. That could only deliver amidst it bad news as Liam wore his heart plainly in view on his sleeve. A scan of the room and some light comments later, his mum shut the door behind him.

“W-What’s happened? Is something wrong with Louis?” Marcel rushed, wondering why Liam would arrive directly to him if there wasn't something drastically wrong. It was a long shot and a horrific thought yet it was the only point Marcel could draw up.

“I-I, god, I don’t want to do this, look at you. You look wonderful Marcel,” Liam complimented as he took Marcel’s hand while sitting next to him. The whole ridiculous scene reminded Marcel of therapy in the way Liam was thinking over the news he had to present.
“Louis’ not coming, he told me to tell you,” Liam confessed and Marcel couldn’t maintain a casual facade at having his fear confirmed so instead he cried. Liam pulled him in tightly, allowing Marcel's tears to dampen his shirt.

“W-Why did he d-do this, Liam?” Marcel asked as Liam wiped away one of his own tears at witnessing the devastation of one of his friends.
“I-I wish I could answer, he sounded pretty upset on the phone but he just told me to come and tell you so that if you wanted to go without him, you could,” Liam sighed and Marcel merely shook his head as he attempted to clear his face with an already soggy sleeve.
“Didn’t want to go to prom, never have done, I-I just thought if Louis took me then...” Marcel couldn’t complete the sentence, his heart too heavy and his breaths too choked.

“I’m sorry Marcel, I wish I could do something,” Liam replied regretfully, running a hand carefully over Marcel's arm. He wanted to keep Liam there, have a friend to bring him out of his depressed slog however Liam unquestionably had greater things to do on a Saturday night than comfort a nerd over something as ludicrous as a false prom invite.
“It’s okay, you can go Liam. Thank you for coming and telling me,” Marcel smiled the best he could and Liam nodded, understanding he presumably needed his own time to think it over. Exactly as Liam got up, the door went again.

“I’ll get it, I’m leaving anyway,” Liam offered as he opened it to find Louis standing there.
“Did you tell him?” Louis asked and Marcel sprung up at the sound of his voice.
“I did, now leave before you make things any worse,” Liam responded as he guided Louis elsewhere but Louis stood fixed.

“N-No, I want to take him, i-if he’ll let me now,” Louis sighed and Liam was distinctly angry, Marcel could see his clenched fists digging into his thigh.
“Mate, this isn’t my place but you need to stop fucking him around. I’ve watched it all year, you cannot keep doing this to him. I won’t let you hurt him more,” Liam seethed and Louis looked resigned, like he’d given up.
“I know, I know, I’m sorry,” Louis sighed while covering his face with his hands, the heel of his palm digging into his swollen eyes.

“Liam, it’s okay.” Marcel got up, placing a hand on Liam’s shoulder as a thank you for sticking up for him. Liam looked over and Marcel had never seen such a caring expression, he was endlessly thankful for Liam's fierce loyalty. Liam left, recognizing that there was obviously a discussion that demanded to be had.

“Mum, I think me and Louis are going to have a talk,” Marcel told her as he guided Louis into his room, despite the anger, he couldn’t bear witnessing him hurt.
“Okay, I’m going to go and get food, call me if you need anything,” she offered and Marcel pulled her into a tight embrace before she left them to sort their issues.

“I am so fucking sorry, I-I can’t imagine how much I hurt you,” Louis apologised profoundly and Marcel analyzed his face, not detecting any conventional signs of a lie.
“I understand Louis, you’re trying to find your way. I just wish you’d keep me up to date because you have such a closed demeanour and I’m scared because I’ve never let anyone take me out before,” Marcel whispered the last part, feeling ashamed of his clear inexperience of the subject.

“I know I need to be real with you, it’s just that you’re so innocent and I’m so protective of you that I don’t wanna hurt you the same way I don’t want anyone else to. In reality though, I guess I just fucked that up and hurt you more than anyone else would. You deserve better, I’m sorry.” Louis shook his head and Marcel placed a hand on Louis’ thigh. He decided that if he didn’t (to use a well-known phrase) put his foot down on this, the conversation would never get to a conclusion. He could tell it was only going to keep progressing around and around in repetitive apologies and explanations.

“Louis, it’s okay if you’re deciding the specifics of your sexuality. I’m not angry at you. I see it in a way that you have so much going on in your head, you need to sort that before you decide on if you want any aspect of me,” Marcel opined, not entirely sure if the statement was going to initiate a positive or negative reaction.
“It’s not me, I mean, part of me needs to be sorted out I know. I just, I worry what people will think. Being in football, it’s just, it’s still got so much hate and vile shit when it comes to sexuality. I don’t want that, and I don’t want to drag you through that too,” Louis finally expressed his feelings and Marcel could almost see the metaphorical weight lifted from the pressure he’d put himself through.

“Louis, I have been dragged both figuratively and literally, through the mud. I am not unfamiliar with hatred in any form, but I understand your hesitancy and I respect that. I think this is on you to make the move going forward. I don’t want you to worry about me.” Marcel gave Louis the responsibility, knowing that control of the situation might steer him towards whatever he deemed the correct path.

“Fuck it,” Louis stated and Marcel’s heart raced with the snappy, harsh tone. Before Marcel could ask what that was in relation to, Louis’ hand was cupping his cheek and Louis was asking in a half a second flat if their lips could meet. Marcel approved the action and subsequently, his mouth collided with Louis’ in what was a messy but unbelievable first kiss.

“I want to go to prom with you, we still have a few hours left. I don’t care about anyone else, only you and I will not let my date down tonight,” Louis grinned and Marcel wanted so greatly to trust him but something was just holding him back in a struggling grip.
“Louis, don’t rush this. It’s a massive act.” Marcel stroked the back of his pointer finger along the sharp peak of Louis’ cheekbone, admiring the handsome face his lips had just detached from.

“I’m not rushing, I want this and if I don’t do it now, all I’ll ever have is regret. So maybe, if you’d join me, I’d love to take you... somehow,” Louis smiled and Marcel sighed, nodding and praying this was the last leap of faith he would fall into.
“My mum can drop us off,” Marcel offered and Louis pressed another kiss to his lips.
“Perfect,” Louis whispered, his breath hitting Marcel’s mouth.

“Okay, shit, okay I’m nervous.” Louis stood outside the wooden doors, the muffled music blaring and the beat vibrating rhythmically under their feet. Marcel shifted to Louis who continued to pace as he chewed on his nails and sought to gain the courage and lead Marcel in. He settled his hand on Louis’ shoulder to prevent the wandering and Louis looked up, his unease floating away as he gazed at his gorgeous date. Marcel's eyes were always crammed with such patience and there weren't even enough words to begin with how incredible his outward appearance was.

“Louis, you don’t have to do this, we can leave at any point,” Marcel reminded and that gave Louis the push he needed to show Marcel he could be the partner for him, even if it would take a bit of figuring out.
“Okay, come on love,” Louis sighed as he slipped Marcel’s hand in his. Despite the fact Marcel would usually cringe at the humid moisture between their palms, he knew this was a prominent moment so he wanted to be as supportive as practicable. Louis reached with his free hand for the door and they slid in. Marcel could feel the twitches of Louis’ trembling grip and he waited for Louis to direct them somewhere.

“Okay, I need a drink,” Louis leaned in to shout to Marcel who went along with whatever Louis desired. They slid across to the drink table, Marcel just admiring a party as he’d never been to one before. There were people everywhere and the music was so loud that every word drilled into his brain. He saw why people liked to intoxicate themselves with unreasonable amounts of alcohol now, because they couldn’t stand the extravagant noise sober. Louis was pouring himself a drink using a ladle in a bowl when Marcel noticed a gang of jock-looking boys approaching them at a hasty pace, he tried to warn Louis but before he could, they all gathered around him and started clapping their hands on his shoulders.

“AYE, YOU MADE IT TOMMO! THOUGHT YOU WEREN’T GONNA COME! WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?” One of them yelled loud enough for not only Louis to hear but everyone around him too as they cheered. Marcel departed out of the way and sipped quietly on his water, hoping that would make it easier. Louis looked uncomfortable and typically, Marcel would have stepped in but this was for Louis to handle.
“I WAS, UM, I WAS WAITING ON MARCEL,” Louis shouted back next to the guy's ear, then he beckoned Marcel over.

“GUYS, THIS IS MARCEL, HE’S MY,” Louis paused as he willed himself to say it, “HE’S MY DATE TONIGHT,” He introduced and Marcel beamed as he awkwardly waved, still feeling as apprehensive as Louis about coming out to a football group. All the boy's eyebrows raised but they were soon gone as they gathered around him more.
“Congrats Tommo! Finally gettin’ some mate!” One of the boys laughed before reaching out and shaking Marcel’s hand.
“I’m Leo, I’m on Louis’ football team,” he shouted as he leaned in closer so Marcel could hear him.
“Hi, nice to meet you,” Marcel replied with a grin.

He went through and met all of Louis’ football friends, not one of them even slightly prejudice towards either of the pair. Chatting to the last guy, Jared, was when Marcel truly began to admire Louis’ friends.

“Hey, Marcel right?” he asked with a squint as Louis was off talking about something to do with graduation. Marcel was instantly intimidated as the taller than average, muscular footballer was leaning over him to speak.
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ve met you yet?” Marcel asked and Jared took his hand, the force of his grip quite staggering and Marcel's dainty fingers were dwarfed in the wide expanse of his palm.

“No, I’m Jared. Saw you with Louis,” Jared introduced and Marcel beamed as he looked over at his date, he’d never thought Louis could be so social.
“Yeah, Louis’ my date,” Marcel repeated in case Jared wasn’t aware, Marcel had lost track of who was.
“I heard, hey listen. Louis is really special to us and he just needs a confidence boost sometimes. He’s a little unsure of himself but be good to him, we’re protective,” Jared explained with a friendly hint at a warning lacing into the raised talking and Marcel couldn’t help but smile at how well that fit Louis.

“I’ve noticed and I will, he’s an amazing person,” Marcel replied, unable to help the grin that lit up his features when he talked about Louis. Jared seemed to notice that too.
“You know, I never thought Louis would be gay but now I see you two, doesn’t seem like he could ever be with anyone else,” Jared complimented but before Marcel could politely respond, Louis was appearing by his side. A concerned look was etched on his face, only appearing in brief flashes of the strobe lights.
“Hey Jared, not freaking out my boy here, are you?” Louis laughed as his hand just crept protectively around Marcel’s waist, instinctively Marcel shimmied into the warmth and safety. He'd already decided that taking shelter in Louis' hold was his favourite activity to do when social interaction became tiresome.

“No, just saying that you two are good for each other. I gotta go but I’ll see you later?” Jared concluded and Louis nodded, Marcel admired how he ever managed to have his arm around such a handsome man.
“Thanks man,” Louis replied as they did some weird handshake hug hybrid that meant Marcel temporarily lost Louis' comfort. That was okay though, he wasn't going to be one of those clinging, obsessive people. Jared strolled away to someone he'd spotted from across the hall and Louis turned to frown at him.

“Hey, Jared didn’t say anything, did he? Sorry I shouldn’t have left you alone like that,” Louis apologised with such a parent-like expression and Marcel rolled his eyes at the mere suggestion of Louis caring for him like a baby.
“He was lovely and I’ll be fine Louis, have fun with your friends!” Marcel smiled and Louis pulled them together by the waist, his arms wrapping around Marcel’s hips.

“Don’t you have anyone you know here?” Louis asked, looking out into the vast floor of grinding bodies and drunk clusters. Marcel mirrored his gaze and shook his head, the curls bobbing with the fast movement.
“Don’t have any friends,” Marcel blurted, not realising how solemn that sounded until he’d already stated it. Louis pressed a tender kiss, only feather-light, to Marcel's forehead in condolence.

“Well, it seems my friends are yours now baby,” Louis declared and Marcel choked on his drink at the unexpected pet name, thankfully managing to prevent himself from spluttering the water all over Louis.
“Not like that?” Louis squinted, worried he’d overstepped the mark but Marcel merely pulled him in with a finger brushing his jawline and the kiss said everything Louis needed to know.

“Now’s the time for all the couples out here to get their looove on,” The DJ cringingly revealed and Marcel sent an unsure glance up at Louis, wondering if this was too serious of a step to take so early on.
“Come on,” Louis grinned wickedly as he accompanied Marcel to the dance floor by his outstretched hand. Marcel shook his head fondly and averted his gaze to the floor as he followed, nervous but eager.

The opening tones of a cover of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ began and Louis set their stance up, teaching Marcel where his arms should go (around Louis’ shoulders) and where to plant his feet. When Louis drew him in with his arms wrapped tightly around Marcel’s waist, his knees almost went weak. They began swaying softly, occasionally sharing a chaste kiss or a little giggle at the absurdity of the situation.

“I’m so lucky,” Louis whispered in disbelief as he reached up and tucked a stray curl away from Marcel’s forehead. Instead of proclaiming he didn’t believe in luck, he smiled and put their foreheads together.
“You’re so beautiful,” Marcel whispered as they danced away in their own little world. It was quickly whipped away, however, when Louis’ football mates started wolf-whistling and shouting ‘get in there Tommo’ as Louis laughed vibrantly and gestured for them to cut it out.

“Sorry about them, they’re probably drunk,” Louis snorted and Marcel dismissed him.
“Don’t apologise, they’re taking it well and that’s all you could have wished for, right?” Marcel said and Louis hummed contently.
“Yeah, I’m so relieved,” Louis beamed and Marcel couldn’t help but match it at finally seeing Louis happy.

“I’m proud of you,” Marcel responded and Louis couldn’t do anything but kiss him hard, unable to say words at how emotionally freeing it was to be so lovingly accepted. Their tongues slid together for the first time and at first, Marcel wanted to pull away but gradually, he got used to the initial shock and began to melt into it. It was perfect, just like Louis.

The night was consumed by dad dancing and laughing with Louis and his friends. Marcel started to realize why people deemed every party the best ever because if this is what it felt like then, of course it would be. Louis would keep glancing over and catching Marcel’s eye with a hand on his waist and that moment would feel like time had frozen. Although it couldn’t, Marcel had never wished for an invention more. Then there were the constant compliments coming his way from his date gushing to his friends who all collectively fake gagged but still congratulated him. Marcel was certain life couldn’t get much greater.

It was nearing the conclusion of the night, the crowd had decreased considerably and most of them were too drunk to stand unaided. Louis leaned in towards Marcel after checking his phone.
“Our car is here babe,” Louis revealed and for a minute Marcel panicked.
“You’ve drunk too much Louis,” Marcel rushed and Louis held up his cup filled with clear liquid.
“Haven’t had a drink since we got here, took one sip of the punch and you can tell it’s been messed with,” Louis rolled his eyes as he led Marcel out, waving goodbye to his friends and leaving behind crude jeers.

As they reached the entrance, Louis promptly whipped Marcel’s glasses off his face and shielded his eyes.
“I ordered a posh car for us,” Louis smirked and Marcel giggled at how over the top Louis had been.
“Louis, you didn’t need to do this.” Louis placed his head on Marcel’s shoulder and revealed the car while placing Marcel’s glasses carefully on his nose. Marcel’s mouth fell open at the sight, the car was beautiful.

“I, um, I got it because it matches your, um, your eyes,” Louis embarrassedly giggled as he buried his head in Marcel’s shoulder and he’d never heard anything so amazing. The fact that Louis would even order them a car, let alone pick one the shade of Marcel’s eyes. It was just so overwhelming that Marcel felt a tear roll down his cheek.

“Do you like it?” Louis asked cautiously before he noticed the tear.
“Y-Yeah, it’s amazing,” Marcel choked out and Louis noticed the cracks in his voice.
“Woah, hey,” Louis turned Marcel towards him and brushed the tears away with his thumb. The gentle swipe of Louis' skin snatching away Marcel's upset only made him want to cry more.

“Sorry, it’s just... overwhelming,” Marcel breathily laughed as he lifted his glasses and tried to dull the wetness of his eyes.
“It’s okay, come on get in!” Louis took his hand and led him to the passenger door. Like a gentleman, he opened it, allowing Marcel to slip in and then got in himself on the other side.

Louis put the keys in and watched the car come alive, immediately his music from earlier began blaring out so loud it nearly burst Marcel's brain (even though that wasn't a scientifical possibility). Marcel jumped in his seat and knocked his glasses off-kilter before laughing when Louis scrambled to turn it off. His fingers swiped frantically over the buttons until he pressed something that halted the noise.

“Woah, sorry, mum must have turned it back on,” Louis giggled with a breath of relief as he pulled out of the car park.
“I’ve never heard your music taste before, what is it?” Marcel asked curiously, realising it was never a topic that had come up between them. He had deliberated over what the muffled clashes just audible from Louis' tinny earphones were a couple of times but other things had usually seized the simple thoughts like that away.

“Steve Aoki, he’s a sick DJ, me and Jared were dancing to him earlier,” Louis responded as he turned it back on but at a lower volume. The thumping beats sat loosely in the space, giving a vibrant background noise to the silent twilight. Marcel vaguely remembered Louis tearing around the hall when the initial beat started, screeching for Jared and when they detected each other they collectively screamed out the repetitive lyrics. Marcel had stored that moment away in his subconscious to pull out whenever he needed to remember what pure joy looked like spread effortlessly over Louis' face.

“Ah right,” Marcel replied as he looked around, not sure how to give his input as he had no knowledge of Louis' current taste.
“What music do you like?” Louis asked casually, his eyes watching the side mirror. Marcel toyed with telling him the real answer as even though he'd been his true self around Louis so far, he thought the stereotype might be pushed a little too far with his answer.

“Classical mainly, helps with studying,” Marcel replied, typically he’d never been the type to feel ashamed of his abnormal taste that was seen as out of trend. But with Louis’ taste being so current, it made Marcel wonder if Louis would mock it.
“I figured, it’s sweet though,” Louis added as he sent a flash of a smile towards Marcel before turning his attention back to the dark road ahead of them.

“This is a peculiar way back to the dorms,” Marcel squinted and Louis laughed a little at Marcel’s flowery language. He’d never met anyone who could pull it off quite like Marcel could.
“I was hoping you’d let me take you back to mine? My mum went out after she dropped the car off so I thought maybe we could hang out in a space bigger than a box,” Louis said casually but Marcel’s heart began to hammer in his chest. He never thought that Louis would expect anything from him, especially not on a first date however he’d heard the muttered gossips and rumours of prom from last year.
“It’s okay if not, the dorms are on the way,” Louis added, not noticing Marcel’s slight panic about the situation. He tried to think of how to word his answer but realised that if Louis was going to be upset or mad then he was no matter how Marcel worded it.

“Listen, Louis I-I like you a lot however I don’t, I mean, I don’t feel comfortable doing that,” Marcel said and Louis seemed a little downheartened but not put off which was a good sign. With someone like Louis, Marcel assumed he'd have it on his mind if he truly did like him in the way he claimed so it was best to clear up the situation before it had the chance to brew into an issue.

“That’s alright, I guess a night at mine was a bit rushed. I-I just thought, sorry, I’ll drop you at your dorm,” Louis stuttered as he swallowed and tried to remember how to get back. He'd never come this way but he knew it was geographically possible somehow.
“Oh, right okay, I mean I’d still like to stay at yours but that’s okay,” Marcel replied and Louis tilted his head, the phrases not adding together in his interpretation of it.

“Wait, what? You said you weren’t comfortable with staying at mine,” Louis said and it was then that he realised Louis didn’t understand the implications Marcel was attempting to put across.
“No, staying at yours is okay, I meant like... intercourse,” Marcel blurted and the car jolted as Louis froze. Marcel had never seen a person looked so horrified and given the fact he was in charge of a vehicle that could kill them were they to misuse it, he was apprehensive about seeing that now.

“Oh, um, I-I,” Louis rushed to get the car back into gear, luckily the roads were clear or that could have ended in disaster. Marcel held onto the seats in a harsh grip, probably damaging the interior but it was too tense not to.

“Babe, you’ve got to warn me before you go saying shit like that,” Louis laughed as he wiped the sweat from his forehead when the car regained a safe position on the road.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it was such a shocking thing to you. I thought intercou- sorry, warning I’m about to say intercourse, would be something you’re used to,” Marcel squinted innocently, not realising sex was typically a taboo subject among his peers and even worse on a first date. Luckily, Louis saw the humorous and naive side, immediately bursting out laughing.

“D-Did you just, was that just a posh term for calling me a slut?” Louis laughed loudly, nearly doubling over as he hit the steering wheel. Out of all the things he had prepared to come out of Marcel's mouth, that had never even been in a list of the top 1000.

“N-No! I meant like, you’d just had more experience than me!” Marcel rushed as he couldn’t help but laugh too. He wasn't fully aware of how Louis had come to that conclusion and why that term and its connotations were so derogatory but he also recognised that a lot of intercourse was seen as a negative thing.

“You totally just called me a slut oh my god,” Louis argued back, laughing as he looked out of the side window and fixed his hair. Marcel admired the dramatic traits that came out of him briefly, they'd only appear momentarily but sometimes he'd dramatise a few words or an action and it would bring endless joy to Marcel.

“Shut it, Louis,” Marcel retorted in such an out of character way that Louis’ head snapped around. The impulse insult had been intended to shock him out of his vanity. He worried he’d been too harsh upon seeing the wide-eyed and open-mouthed expression until Louis reached over and pinched his nipple, making him hiss in pain.
“That’s what you get for calling me a slut,” Louis smirked as he pulled up into the driveway. Marcel was still nursing his sore nipple as Louis led them inside.

It was clear Louis felt most comfortable here and had a routine as, from the moment they came in, Louis had already toed his shoes off and chucked his shirt over his head. Marcel took his shoes off but did not then follow the same step to Louis' disappointment as he looked around.

“Might want to take that jacket off love, it gets hot in here,” Louis said gesturing to Marcel's blazer. He wasn't planning on letting it out of his sight due to the extortionate amount his mum had paid for it, however, Louis was already sliding it off his body with a grin the Marcel couldn't resist. Louis seemed to recognise the expense that had gone into the item so instead of it suffering the same fate as Louis' shirt had, he hung it on the bannister with care. They went through to the living room where Louis immediately sighed upon noticing the catastrophic mess.

“Damn it, I’m sorry, mum told me she cleaned in here but apparently not,” Louis commented under his breath as he chucked baby toys into the large basket while he walked. Marcel noticed the strewn pacifiers first, followed by the array of stuffed bunnies and finally his eye fell upon a stack of blocks that read 'Lou' vertically. Marcel felt an intense rush of excitement at the knowledge that he could meet babies at some point, not only that, babies that bared a resemblance to Louis. His personal idea of the best creation.

“I didn’t know you had a baby sibling,” Marcel commented, desperately trying to hide his excitement of the possibility of seeing Louis with a baby.
“Okay, I um, I may have just ah, brought you back here for a reason other than to just hang out,” Louis cringed, bringing his hand up to rub at the dusting of scruff coating his lower face and Marcel’s whole mood fell.

“Louis, I told you n-“
“No, no not that!" Louis rushed upon noticing the scared demeanour of Marcel, "I mean, okay look, I-“ Louis was cut off by a noise coming from upstairs, a loud cry that sounded like it was coming from... a baby.

“Your sibling is here too?” Marcel said and Louis’ hand fell into his palms.
“I’m sorry! I forgot I’d promised to babysit and I promise I’ll take you out just me and you-“
“Are you joking, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Marcel exclaimed happily, he found babies utterly adorable.

“Oh, okay well I’ll go get them then,” Louis shrugged, relatively pleased about how the whole ordeal went down and Marcel gasped almost comically.
“There’s two!” Marcel’s eyes widened as he automatically followed Louis into the hall and Louis laughed as he made his way up the stairs.
“Alright calm down, you might faint when I tell you they’re twins,” Louis shouted back as he wandered around upstairs and Marcel’s hand physically gripped his chest in a moment of heart-melting warmth. He prepared for the adorable image while sat in the lounge and tried so hard not to squeal as he heard Louis gently tiptoeing down the stairs.

“Oh dear, I know, I know little one,” Louis cooed and Marcel thought his heart might fall out of his chest when Louis came through the door cradling two babies in his arms.
“Oh Louis,” Marcel gasped as Louis sat down, gently bobbing them. Marcel reached a hand out and the baby grasped one finger in their tiny hand, Marcel could have cried.

“Wanna have a hold? She seems to like you,” Louis offered and Marcel eagerly nodded, never more up for anything in his life. Louis passed the baby on, Marcel keeping the little one’s head sufficiently supported as he took her off Louis.
“This is the best date anyone has ever been on,” Marcel whispered, so endeared by the little noises and movements of such a tiny person in his arms.
“Well that’s good because I don’t really have a way to get you back to the dorms if I’m honest,” Louis replied and Marcel had never been more okay with anything in his life.

“That’s fine, in fact I may just move in now, you’ll have to hire a crane to get me out of here,” Marcel commented and Louis couldn’t help but stare at Marcel with his sister in his arms. The scene couldn't not have brought about images of what Marcel could look like in the future. Despite Louis' unsure feelings on the intense topic of having children, if one day he'd get to gaze upon this all the time, he thought his mind was definitely swayed. It was way too early to even consider that but just in case, Louis stored it away.

“I’m not gonna lie, you two look fucking adorable,” Louis beamed and Marcel gasped as he rushed to cover the girl's ears in his dainty palms.
“Louis! You can’t use profanity like that in front of babies!” Marcel exclaimed as he pouted and Louis rolled his eyes.
“They don’t know what I’m saying Marcel, they can’t even see me from this far away,” Louis laughed as he pressed a kiss to Marcel’s cheek.

That was how they spent their night, curled up with babies on their chests while watching Netflix and sharing brief kisses. It would have been so beautifully cliché if his sister hadn’t vomited all over Marcel’s posh attire. Marcel was initially stuck but once he dug through Louis’ wardrobe and found a Tchaikovski jumper, he was more than content.

After that, things seemed simple, Louis prepared for graduation. Marcel studied extensively despite the fact that Louis had assured him his grades couldn’t be better if he tried. They both took care of Louis’ siblings, one of the pair much more willingly admittedly. Until graduation came. The day Louis had been silently praying against finally dawned on them and he the nervousness was winning over any excitement.

“Marce, Marce!” Louis called, rushing around as he began to panic. Marcel leaned out of the bathroom door, still gelling his hair backwards in his signature style. Louis would have paid him a compliment if he wasn't so antsy.
“I-I’m so fucking nervous, I wanna skip, please skip with me,” Louis whined as he dug his shaking fingers into Marcel's jacket and rocked him back and forth. Marcel rolled his eyes when Louis release his shoulder, his hands slicking up more of the flattened curls. The hair had shifted to a darker shade due to the wet appearance however it only served to add a striking contrast between his hair and his moon shaded skin.

“You can’t skip your own graduation Louis,” Marcel commented as he washed his hands free of the slimy hair product and fixed his tie. This was his possible future boyfriend's graduation, presentable was no longer his aim. He had to look so smart he'd get mistaken for a professor or he'd deem his look a failure.

“But baaaabe,” Louis whined as he squirmed in the loving hold Marcel placed him in. Louis got too energetic, the times Marcel had told him things would have a more approachable outlook if he just took the time to still and think it over were uncountable.
“You look handsome and you’ll be fine. Now go on,” Marcel fluffed a few groups of Louis' hair before he shuffled him out, ignoring the stubborn protests and dragging feet.

Marcel cried at Louis’ graduation, he knew it was always going to happen. Surrounded by the hype of success and the immense pride flooding his heart, he knew he could never have expressed it all enough. As Louis’ name was called and he hesitantly stepped up, Marcel burst into tears as he cheered alongside Louis’ family. Louis posed for his photo and stepped away, cheesily sending a thumbs up to Marcel from the sidelines.

When Louis had finished and he walked towards Marcel, the crowd around them seemed to take a longer glance than usual. At first, Marcel was just so overwhelmed with emotion that he ran towards Louis. However, Louis held his hand out in a stop motion while his classmates crowded closely over his shoulder. Louis looked shaken and unsure, that was how Marcel instantly picked up something was off. He'd spent too much time studying Louis to denounce such an obvious sign.

“Marce, baby,” Louis started with a considerable inhale as he took a sobbing Marcel’s hand. His palm was sweaty, that was a sure sign two. As he shuffled from foot to foot, he seemed to nod to himself as he got down on one knee and everyone gasped. Marcel's breath caught in his throat, it felt like the eyes of the world were on them.

“Will you be my boyfriend?” He asked hesitantly, biting his lip as he fought his shyness and maintained eye contact. Marcel choked on a sob behind his shaking hand and nodded, the words stuck. He fanned himself as he looked up and willed the words out to confirm it.

“Of course I will,” Marcel tearily replied and Louis launched them into a passionate embrace, too relieved to care about whoever was watching. When their lips came together for the first time as a couple, Marcel felt more than complete. Finally, he felt like he had a chance at figuring out a boy and an even better chance of marrying one.