Actions

Work Header

It's not enough to be the one who holds you

Chapter Text

Numb fingers aren’t easy to work with when writing a letter. He’s on the last sentence, wishing he’d kept his message short and sweet. It’s neither. It’s lengthy and a little harsh. Even so, he signs it with a small, half-arsed heart and stuffs it inside an envelope. He shivers and tugs on the blanket draped over his shoulders so that it wraps around his body. The temperature dropped drastically overnight.

Would it be dramatic if Louis proclaimed his patience also dropped drastically?

~ ~ ~

An icy breeze ruffles the hair poking out of his beanie. He ducks his head as he marches to the post office.

He stands in line and mostly stares straight ahead until someone catches his attention. A little girl about half his height walks hand-in-hand with a woman, presumably her mother, dressed in a tour shirt similar to the ones Louis has in his own closet. It’s a soft shade of pink and has the face of someone he knows very well.

Louis must stare for too long because the little girl meets his eyes and offers him a small smile. He stuffs the letter into an inner pocket of his coat and sends the girl a friendly wink. When it’s his turn in line, he buys stamps and nothing else.

~ ~ ~

He encounters that face two more times on his way home. He sees it on a poster in a shop window and a phone case held by a teenager. It’s impossible to avoid.

It’s also quite embarrassing that Louis uses the same protective cover.

~ ~ ~

He gets a call two days later. It's raining so he waits until he's under the cover of a warm coffee house. He eyes the menu as he returns the call.

Lou,” breathes a raspy voice within seconds.

Something's not right. Louis’ chest feels funny. It tightens.

“Hey,” he says.

Hi.”

It's Louis’ turn to order but he allows the person behind him to take his place in line.

“Umm...”

Sorry, did I catch you at a bad time?”

“No, you’re fine. I’m just trying to decide on a pastry,” he says. “Are you okay, love?”

I got you a plane ticket.”

“You what?!” A couple of customers peer at Louis curiously. His cheeks warm.

I want you to come to my show next week. I need to see you.”

“I can’t go.”

You have a three-day weekend.”

Louis needs to sit somewhere.

“So? That doesn't mean you get to decide what I do with my time. We've discussed this.”

But—”

“Cancel it.”

We both know you don’t mean that. I have things to tell you.” He emphasizes “things” like it will surely change Louis’ mind.

“I have to go. It’s my turn in line.” Louis hangs up and he can practically feel the pout from hundreds of miles away.

He will not let Harry Styles dictate his life to accommodate his hectic schedule.

~ ~ ~

Louis frowns when he checks his e-mail that evening. He has a flight confirmation that was forwarded by Harry's assistant.

~ ~ ~

They meet in a hotel lobby a couple of hours after Louis’s plane lands. He turns to his escort, Alberto, and gives him a nod for listening to his rant in the car. Out of all of Harry’s bodyguards, Louis likes him the best.

“Thanks, Berto.”

“Any time, sir.”

Harry approaches Louis while he’s mid-laugh and takes his holdall as they make their way towards the lift.

“I'm so glad you're here! I miss you every day we're apart.”

“You're such a sap.”

Harry ignores his comment and grins brightly. “I have so much to tell you!”

“Oh yeah? I'm all ears.”

“Later…”

Louis feels like he’s being assessed while they wait for a lift. When he turns to look at Harry, he finds him staring at his profile. Louis raises an eyebrow. They enter the first lift that dings open and once they’re alone, Louis’ lips curve into a smile.

“First, I want to make love to you until we have to get ready for my show.” His blatant honesty makes Louis’ smile falter. “We'll talk later.”

His attempted response of anything you want, my dear is muffled by Harry's mouth. The lift dings again and they spring apart just in time.

As soon as they cross the threshold into Harry’s room, Louis feels a pair of strong hands grip onto his waist, his back colliding with Harry’s front. Harry nips at his ear as he aligns their bodies perfectly, Louis’ ass fitting against Harry's crotch. He becomes pliant and allows Harry to lead him, albeit in an awkward walk, to the king-sized bed in the next room. Harry turns him over to run his hands up and down Louis’ chest, an appreciative smile to being allowed to touch. He gives Louis a small push onto the plush mattress and joins him only a second later, instantly straddling him.

From his position above Louis, he seems powerful and strategic with his every move. Louis wraps his hands around the back of his head and urges him down for a kiss. Their lips meet with a sense of urgency. It doesn't take long for their tongues to join.

One of Louis’ favorite things about Harry is his pillowy lips. They're always a deep, beautiful shade of pink. They're always soft. He bites at Harry's lower lip and registers the way Harry moves above him.

“Too much clothes,” Harry says breathlessly. “Need you now.”

“Okay,” Louis rushes.

They discard their clothes with little grace but a lot of fervor.

When their eyes meet, Louis swears his heart responds with a dramatic set of beats. His stomach swoops. Sometimes Harry looks at him in the most intense, and borderline creepy, way. He looks at Louis with the amount of awe that could rival the looks he receives from his millions of fans.

Harry—”

“I know, baby, I know.” Harry gently eases him onto his stomach and immediately massages the backs of his thighs. He urges Louis to spread his legs just more and pulls apart Louis’ cheeks to expose his hole.

Fuck,” Harry exhales near the bottom of his spine. “You're probably really tight. Haven't treated you properly in weeks.”

“Months,” Louis corrects. He sucks in a breath and squeezes his eyes closed. He told himself on the flight over that he wouldn't do this. He wouldn't say things that could start a fight or distract Harry later during his show.

“Oh, baby.”

Harry seems to fumble with something until a slick finger presses against Louis’ entrance. Louis can't help but push back against it. He can feel himself getting hard already. Harry must feel the same way because his finger slips inside without much preamble and it's joined by a second finger not long after. Louis enjoys this part but he's ready for more. Needs more. He voices his urge but Harry refuses to give him what he wants until he's sure he won't hurt him.

After a third finger joins the action, Louis moans rather loudly. Thank goodness for thick walls. He rubs against the mattress, loving the way Harry's fingers work to stretch him open.

As soon as Harry removes his fingers, he feels empty. He hates it. Harry crawls over him and mouths along the back of his neck, leaving a stinging bite to distract Louis from the pressure at his entrance.

Louis keens when Harry bottoms out. Before he has time to fully adjust to the stretch, Harry pulls out halfway to ram back inside. The slap of skin against skin fills Louis’ ears as Harry’s thrusts become rhythmic, just on the edge of erratic. They both swear and mumble kind words.

It's amazing how soon Louis comes untouched once Harry nails his spot a couple of times. He feels Harry release inside him soon after, moaning deliciously at the feeling.

They both wince when Harry pulls out. Louis wastes no time to roll over and pull him in for a kiss. They tease each other’s mouths for a while, tangled in the sheets and sharing the same pillow. Harry holds Louis from around the waist and sometimes slides a hand in between Louis’ thighs to feel the trickle of his own release.

“Don't look so proud.” Louis ruffles his hair, which is shorter than it was when he left for tour.

Harry's eyes are halfway closed but his smile is brilliant, cheeks dimpling. It's unfair.

“I love you. Thanks for coming to see me.”

Louis kisses his chest. “Love you.”

Harry falls asleep shortly after, mumbling for Louis to set an alarm.

“I love you so much,” Louis whispers against Harry's sleeping form. He presses even closer, soaking up the heat that radiates from him. The weather back at home wouldn't affect him so much if he had his boy around. “How am I supposed to let you go?”

~ ~ ~

They met before Harry Styles became a household name. They met when he had .0003 percent of the amount of Twitter followers he has today. They met when they were each just past the point of figuring out their sexuality.

They bumped into each other at a Script concert in Manchester but didn't exchange phone numbers until they met again at a popular milkshake shop months later. Harry and Louis became inseparable from that day on.

There was something unforgettable and kind of stupidly pleasant about the boy with large green eyes and unkempt, curly hair. He was soft in every way and very attuned with the world around him. He was a charmer and it drove Louis absolutely mad because Harry flirted with guys when they were out. In front of Louis! Meanwhile, Louis was coming to terms with the fact that he was head over fucking heels with this ridiculous boy.

Their attraction for each other had been so obvious from the start that even their families caught on. Louis’ mum and sisters literally drew up the plans for their future wedding despite Louis’ attempts at trying to destroy the poster they worked on. He'd shown Harry one evening when they were alone in Louis’ house, cheeks warm from laughing at the absurdity. Harry changed everything when he asked why it couldn't be real.

Louis had given him an incredulous look. “You flirt with other boys all the time, what are you talking about?”

“Only because you don't seem to care at all.”

“How many times have I scared someone from calling you?” Louis shot back, recalling all the times he'd given someone a dirty look or made a sharp comment to ruin Harry's plans of hooking up.

Harry’s eyes were glistening by then and he took a step forward to grip Louis’ hand. “You scare them away because you're jealous or because you feel like you have to protect me?”

“I'm jealous, obviously. I feel like I can't breathe when you bat your eyelashes at someone else.” Louis squeezed his hand to show he meant it. He couldn't believe he was finally being honest about his year-long crush. 

“Lou, those times meant nothing.”

And then they'd kissed for the first time. There had been awkward shuffling and strange sounds and hearts beating louder than drums. It was like they'd finally found their purpose.

It took them one week to make it official, one year to move in together and another year for Harry to get whisked away by fame little by little until it had been three long years of Louis staying behind like a stay-at-home dad with their cat, Sweetie, and their bearded dragon, Tanner.

This wasn't the life he'd wanted.

~ ~ ~

Harry's show that night is magical. Everything from his extravagant outfit to the diva-like struts he makes across the stage. His band is perfect and always on key, his fans are loud and very, very excited. Harry’s voice is beautiful.

Louis watches on from the side wings. Alberto never leaves his side and he feels grateful for the company. Sometimes Harry's hair stylist, Lou Teasdale, joins him too.

Sometimes he imagines Harry announcing that the next song was inspired by none other than Louis himself. He imagines Harry throwing a wink his way and performing his little heart out. He imagines a lot of things from the sidelines but it's all just in his imagination. A perfect world.

In this world, he's Harry's secret.

Harry is one of the most successful musicians in the world and is desired by so many people it's almost impossible to take in. He has an image to uphold and that territory comes with an agenda. He's linked to high-profile romances and anyone but Louis—a mere footie coach for children. From the beginning, Harry's team casted Louis as the longtime best friend that Harry still shares a home with. Most people believe that story while others are skeptical about the nature of their relationship.

Every time Louis has to share Harry with the rest of the world and not in an honest and real way, he slips away just that much more. Harry is at the top of the mountain and Louis is somewhere at the bottom.

~ ~ ~

Louis is going crazy inside Harry’s hotel room.

While he begrudgingly agreed to visit, Louis had a lot more in mind. He expected one-on-one time. Breakfast at any hour. Late night talks. Cuddles. Sex.

Harry knows how to charm him but leaving him in a hotel room, alone, for several hours at a time is not very charming.

He’s irritated and horny. They’ve only had sex once since Louis arrived. Harry had been too tired after his show to do more than exchange innocent kisses. The next morning he'd been booked for meetings, interviews in the afternoon and social outings in the evening. Louis was asked to stay behind as to not raise suspicions in case he's seen as the doting boyfriend on the sidelines.

It’s Monday morning now and Louis’ flight leaves in a handful of hours. He wonders if he can change the time so he can leave sooner and actually sets about packing, assuming it can be done and cursing under his breath because it goes this way every fucking time. He has no idea where Harry is and doesn't attempt to contact him to find out. He's set on leaving without so much as a heads up.

Louis’ about to ring Alberto to help him get the hell away from there when Harry appears at the door with a brown paper bag, two styrofoam cups and a single red rose. How he manages to hold everything in one hand baffles Louis.

“Brunch?” Harry offers with a grin and who can deny that face and those dimples?

They eat greasy food on the bed, surrounded in silence except for the buzzing of Harry's phone every two minutes. Louis’ grip on his cup is leaving dents. The glorious life of dating an international popstar.

“So, I have some exciting news,” Harry starts.

Louis grunts around a mouthful for him to elaborate.

Harry's smile grows. “I'm getting a few months off once this tour ends to work on my next album and guess which studio I've been offered?!”

Louis swallows. “I have no idea…”

His smile grows. “Jeff’s place in Jamaica!”

Louis clambers off the bed like he's been stung. He nearly crushes the cup in his hand. Harry's manager just loves sending Harry all over the world, doesn't he?

“Bloody Jamaica?!”

“Lou, what—” Harry’s smile disappears as he stands too. “Don't you think it's brilliant?”

Louis blinks back at him. He has no idea who he's talking to because for a second be thought his boyfriend of many years was in front of him. He thought that after the end of this world tour, they'd finally spend some much needed time together. Harry promised he wouldn't take more commitments for at least a couple of months.

“Honey?”

“I can't…” Louis sputters. “You promised you would take time off! I'll be on summer holiday by the end of tour. You're supposed to fly back to me.”

Harry's eyebrows shift, forming a crease in between. “You haven't let me finish.”

Oh, there's more? Louis can hardly contain himself.

“I've been given clearance to bring you along. We'd be staying on a gorgeous beach, privacy guaranteed! Alberto will join us but he'll be in his own cabin.”

Louis blinks at him in disbelief. Harry blinks back.

He needs a moment. There's an instance in which Louis makes for the door but Harry intercepts him and grabs him by the waist.

“Hey, don't go. We should talk about this.” His thumbs slip under Louis' shirt and rub at his sides.

Louis furtively glances at his packed bag sitting by the door. Harry catches on and frowns.

“Were you trying to leave early? You have like six hours before you have to head to the airport.”

Louis takes a couple of steps back. Harry drops his arms.

“I don't want to be here,” Louis admits. Harry's frown deepens. “Do you have any idea how it feels to be trapped in a hotel room while your significant other gets to parade around like you don't exist?”

Harry's eyes are wide and glistening a little. He takes a shallow breath. “You've never said anything before. I didn't know it bothered you.”

“Of course you wouldn't. You're always off in your own little world with important people—”

“It's you I come back to every night when you're around,” Harry points out, bottom lip wobbling. “It's you I think about all the fucking time when I'm thousands of miles away. Lou, you're my ba—”

“Don't say it—”

“Baby honey,” Harry finishes stubbornly. He crosses his arms and raises a brow. “So, what's going to happen this summer? Are you not going to paradise with me?”

“You're really fucking good at making these huge decisions for me so I don't know why you even bother asking.” Louis runs both hands over his own face. He needs to calm down. Harry has a show in a couple of days and he can't be the reason it flops. He'd never want to ruin a single thing for Harry.

“Babe,” he starts but in a softer tone. Harry perks up at the endearment. He isn't a fan of confrontations and Louis knows he's waiting for them to make up. “I'll think about it, okay? I may end up teaching a class or two during the break so I might not even be available to take time off but I'll try.”

“That's all I want to hear,” Harry mumbles. He pulls Louis in for a hug and doesn't let go for a while. He leaves kisses along Louis’ neck. “Let's go explore before you go home.”

Louis pulls back. “We can't.”

Harry shakes his head, grabbing for Louis and tugging him towards the door. “I don't care. We'll go act like tourists. We'll stop by Lou’s room and see if she has something to help us blend in.”

“You mean like a disguise?”

Louis allows himself to get pulled away. He can't ever say no to Harry. It would be like saying no to the pope. You don't want to find out what happens when you say no.

~ ~ ~

They stumble back into their room a couple of hours later after spending some time sneaking around town and buying useless things.

Harry cups Louis’ ass and gives him a heated look. Louis knows what it means—what he wants. He lets himself get manhandled out of his clothes and onto the bed and whines loudly as Harry spreads his cheeks and licks into him like it's an olympic sport. He scissors Louis open with two long fingers and his quick tongue. Louis’ cock aches and when he tries pulling at it, Harry brushes his hand away.

They flip over and re-adjust until Louis’ bum is hovering over his crotch. Harry's hands hold his waist while Louis sinks down, enjoying the stretch and moaning out of desperation to get fucked.

Harry lets him bounce at his own pace until he seems impatient from not making much of an effort. He flips them over, Louis landing on his back, and Harry pounds into him roughly and just the way Louis likes it. He'll be very sore tomorrow at work but it will be worth it. He'll be able to feel Harry and that's all that matters right now.

“Fuck!” Harry wails hotly. “You're so fucking incredible, honey. So fucking good, how can you ever question anything?”

Louis doesn't answer, he just pushes up to meet Harry's thrusts. 

“Imagine us in paradise like this. You can have all the sex you want. Anything you want. I'll give you anything. We can bring Sweetie and Tanner. Our little family.”

Louis listens to him ramble and still doesn't offer any words of his own. He's afraid he may cry. Harry eventually spills inside him and shuffles back so he can take Louis' cock into his mouth.

It's a wonder how Louis will get through the next few months without this closeness.

Chapter Text

The next few days after his trip drag on rather slowly.

On the first day he can still feel Harry all over him, especially when he's running drills with his students. On the second day he finds one of Harry's hoodies in his holdall—Harry must have stuffed it in there—and sleeps in it that night. On the third day they manage to FaceTime for the only ten minutes Harry is available. On the fourth day he invites his best friends over because that’s how soon he already needs a distraction.

Zayn and Liam huddle close together on a love seat, Niall lies on the couch across from them and Louis is propped up on one of the armrests of that couch. They trade stories, eat cold pizza and drink some weird mixed drink Liam insisted on making.

“How was Harry’s show the other night?” Niall asks once they've grown quiet.

The lads seem to have come to the conclusion that Harry is a sore topic when he's away for long periods of time. Louis has no idea what gave them that impression.

“No one can work a stage like he can.”

Louis pictures Harry wiggling his cute bum in his sparkly, golden bell bottoms or his sleek, black trousers with the intense dragon designs on the sides. He sees him strut around without a care in the world, far from the boy he was when he did his first couple of shows in front of small crowds. 

“It's amazing that that boy is the same one who will fight with Niall over the last strip of bacon at breakfast,” Liam comments. He’s absently running his hand through Zayn's hair, seemingly the only person who can go near it without suffering any repercussions. “I think I saw him jab his elbow in your side one time, Ni, and you still wouldn't give up.”

Niall scoffs. “I always win those fights. It's like fighting an overgrown kitten. What's a jab from a kitten gonna do?”

“I don't think Sweetie appreciates that,” Zayn interjects. The cat in question is currently rubbing her head against his ankles. She seems to dislike everyone, including her owners, except for Zayn who does absolutely nothing to deserve her affection.

His friends continue talking about cats while he quietly wonders which extravagant outfit Harry is wearing tonight and which shoes he chose to match it with. God knows he hardly listens to his wardrobe stylist these days.

He shoots Harry a quick text: Miss you x

“When is he coming home?” Niall inquires, nudging Louis with a foot.

Louis looks up from his phone. He swallows. “Well… tour ends in June. He doesn’t have time to fly back in between shows and then he’s off to the Caribbean to work on his next album so probably Christmas…”

Niall sits up and settles a pale hand over Louis’, worry taking over his face. “What do you mean 'Christmas'? How long can it possibly take to record an album?”

“I think he’s joking, mate,” Zayn says. He makes eye contact with Louis whom simply nods in confirmation. “He’ll be back soon. We all know you’re dying to see him and he must be yearning for your company as well.”

They all laugh. Niall’s always had a strange yet harmless crush on Harry and has never been afraid to admit it.

“Bastard didn’t think to fly me out this past weekend. Just because I don’t get on my knees–”

“Alright, alright,” Louis interrupts. He shoves Niall’s hand away while Zayn and Liam make disgruntled faces. As if they're any better. “Z's right; he’ll be back before we know it.”

He finds it odd how certain he sounds when he says these things out loud because in reality, it hurts to not really know. It’s during these times that instead of feeling butterflies in his stomach when he thinks of Harry, he feels worms and other ugly things.

No matter the amount of times they’re able to video chat or text or arrange for a quick visit, Louis struggles to find himself truly satisfied with the way they maintain their relationship. His mind tends to go to dark places when they’re apart. It goes from jealousy in one corner to frustration in another, sometimes anger in the opposite corner and heartache in the other. It takes a lot of strength to pull through and not get stuck in the dark corners of his mind. It helps to stay away from social media updates and website articles and paparazzi photos. He knows that those aren’t good ways to keep up with Harry. The best way is to talk to him directly. But sometimes that’s too much of a luxury and it just fucking sucks for lack of a better word.

“Louis?” Liam’s voice makes him jump. He realizes he was in the middle of a conversation.

“Sorry. What’s up?”

“I asked if you’re free tomorrow night. There’s this sick club Zayn and I stumbled upon recently. Are you in?”

Three pairs of hopeful eyes watch him closely.

He wants to say no. He absolutely loves his friends but he also absolutely hates clubbing with them. Zayn and Liam find it difficult to keep their hands and mouths to themselves. Niall either finds a cute girl to keep him company or he manages to make a group of new friends. Louis ends up staring at his phone for unhealthy periods of time and will sometimes get a little too sloshed just from being bored. A guy or two will sometimes try to chat him up but he always tells them he’s taken without so much as glancing at them.

If Harry were here, it would be a different story. He’d keep Louis company at their booth and hold his hand or grip his thigh beneath the table where no one can see. He'd glare at any guy who so much as stares at Louis for too long. They’d talk and glance at each other’s lips until one of them gives in and leads them to an empty stall or a sketchy alley. They’d have to take separate cabs home or force their friends to leave at the same time as them in case of paparazzi or camera-ready fans.  Almost everything he does with Harry has to be calculated or done in secret and with the assumption that the rest of the world is watching and waiting to out them.

“I’m in,” he eventually confirms. He needs distractions because his head keeps spiraling in the wrong direction.

~ ~ ~

Harry doesn’t respond to his message until the following morning when Louis is watching Tanner finish his meal of celery and carrots. He can feel Tanner giving him the side-eye while he rushes to open Harry’s text.

Miss you too ! Send me a photo ? x

Louis considers sending a photo of Tanner’s morning excrement to match his mood from the previous night but thinks against it because it isn’t Harry’s fault.

Instead he picks up their reptile and places him over his bare shoulder. He hasn’t bothered to throw clothes on yet so he takes a shirtless photo and sends it off without a caption.

Harry responds instantly with: My boys !

Seconds later he adds: You look good babe xx

Louis groans with frustration and demands a photo of the same quality or better. Harry doesn’t follow through until much later in the day. He sends a photo of himself fresh out of the shower, eyes comically wide and tongue sticking out to the side. He never takes serious selfies but then again, it’s likely an attempt to distract Louis from focusing on his shirtless upper body. Or rather, his wet, shirtless upper body.

~ ~ ~

His mood has lifted considerably by the time they settle in a booth at the club Liam recommended. Niall orders their first round of shots and Liam gets the second round. So far Louis isn’t disappointed. The dj is playing good mixes and there’s somewhat of a light show going on. If he notices a lot of the color schemes include the color of Harry's eyes, no one has to know.

After the first hour, Niall disappears when he spots someone he knows. Louis rolls his eyes. He wonders how long it will take until Liam and Zayn slip away with a dumb excuse like, “I think Liam spilled his drink on himself.”

They've been together for just under two years and one would think they'd be out of the honeymoon phase by now. (They aren't.)

“Go on,” Louis eventually says when he’s had enough of them eye-fucking each other across the table. Zayn got their third round of drinks so it means Louis will be in charge of the fare for the cab ride home. He's okay with that. He can't wait to go home and cuddle with Sweetie whom will probably try to scratch his face off unless he can magically morph into Zayn.

The pair practically stumble out of the booth and disappear quicker than Niall. It's fine. Louis can be alone for a while. He’ll continue watching the light show and bop to the music. He may even judge some bad outfits. Alone.

He ends up at the bar with a drink to sip.

Ages ago he was interested in the clubbing scene much more than he is now. However, being in a serious relationship for about five years has made Louis change his ways. Or, as Niall says, it has turned him into an old, married man.

Ha! Married!

As if we can manage a proper marriage with the way things are heading, he thinks rather darkly.

He turns away from his drink in time to see the bloke heading his way, intent to pull clear in his expression. Louis gets rid of him with a single look.

~ ~ ~

“Lads, I think tonight was a good one,” Niall says in the quiet and very stuffy cab.

Per usual he's in the front seat while Louis is stuck in the back between the enthusiastic couple that won't stop making moony eyes at each other. Louis situated himself in the middle to impede them from climbing over each other but this might be worse.

“Did you get someone's number?”

“Well, no, Liam, I did not. But I still had fun. I saw Louis get rid of at least three suitors. It's funny to watch.”

Liam turns to Louis, cheeks rosy from whichever acts he performed with Zayn in the toilets. “It happens every time we're out. We should start keeping count.”

“That's disgusting, Liam. Fuck off.”

“Hey,” Zayn grumbles. “Be nice. I think he means we should keep count so Harry knows how many guys hit on you while he's away. Kind of like a way to remind him what he's missing out on.”

“I get it but he doesn't need to know that stuff and that's the end of that.”

They all drop the subject and pretend to be invested in Niall's story about a girl from work.

The last thing he needs is for Harry to feel unreasonably jealous. It's enough that Louis feels that way when people fall all over Harry because of how famous and good looking he is. He knows it's part of his job and there's nothing either of them can do about it.

~ ~ ~

There are photos online the following week. Louis tries to avoid them, as he should, but they appear on a Snapchat story in the media section and he's slightly curious. Harry's been photographed with Kendall Jenner for the millionth time it seems. Old news. The world should know by now it's not even a stunt anymore. They're just friends and get on well. If that.

It doesn't mean it hurts any less.

Harry usually warns him but this is probably the first time he didn't so much as drop a simple text to let him know of the possibility he'd be seen with a rumored girlfriend. Louis pays his phone minimal attention throughout day, hoping that he'll have an apology from Harry sitting in his inbox once he takes it off the silent setting. It's common courtesy. They have an unspoken rule.

Harry doesn't reach out to him that day.

~ ~ ~

Football has always been a good distraction for Louis. He loves watching, playing and coaching it. He thought he'd end up playing for the professional team from his hometown but that never worked out. Harry was in the middle of launching his career at the time and Louis’ complete focus was placed on that. If there were an award for most supportive boyfriend, Louis would win it, no questions asked.

He'd sacrifice anything for Harry's happiness and maybe that's where his problem lies. He shakes his head to try to clear it.

“Alright little lads, we have a game next weekend and we have to remember to limit our sweets.”

Louis is met with a chorus of complaints.

“Alright, alright. Should I sign us up for another nutrition class?”

Coach!”

“That's what I thought.” He throws them a smirk. “We have to be healthy to play our best.”

Fifteen little heads nod along and thank him for practice as they help collect and return field equipment to the storage room. One of his students lingers while the others rush off towards their watchful parents.

“Coach?”

“Yes, Chase?”

“Do you mind waiting with me until my brother gets here?”

Louis’ heart swells. Chase is the best player on his team—even though he can't pick favorites and would never admit it to anyone.

“Of course I don't mind. Is he on your list of contacts? I don't recall ever seeing him…”

Chase scratches his head. “Yeah, he's usually busy with work but he's picking me up today because my parents are out of town. He's taking me to the cinema!”

“That's great, bud.” Louis roughs up his blond hair a little, earning a giggle from his student.

They wait for a couple of minutes until a nice car rolls up. Chase runs towards the vehicle with Louis following close behind for his student’s safety. The driver steps out to envelope Chase in a hug and meets Louis’ eyes.

Chase’s brother has a familiar face that Louis can't quite place. He doesn't particularly look like his nine-year-old brother except for the color of his hair and pale, blue eyes.

“This is Coach Tomlinson!” Chase nods his head in Louis’ direction. “He's the coolest person I know!”

His brother fakes an indignant squawk. “I thought I was the coolest person you know?!”

Louis crosses his arms, a smirk taking over his face.

“Sorry, sorry!” Chase looks between them and shrugs. “You're both the coolest.”

It earns a laugh from Louis. He steps forward with an outstretched hand. “I'm Louis.”

“Roman.”

Their handshake lasts a little longer than normal and it definitely isn’t Louis’ doing. Roman smiles and Louis has a feeling this won’t be the last time he sees him.

Chapter Text

It was Louis’ idea to post a video of Harry covering a Stevie Wonder song. They sort of forgot about it until they checked the account two weeks later and were surprised that over a thousand people had seen and liked his cover of “Isn’t She Lovely.” Louis hadn't been as surprised as Harry. He always knew his boyfriend had a lot of potential. His voice was special and he had a natural charm that could win anyone over. He was meant for something greater.

The next video they posted was a cover of “Wild Horses” and it gained slightly more attention than the first one. Next was “The Chain” and then a variety of Prince, David Bowie and Shania Twain medleys. The amount of views and subscribers increased gradually until the day they posted a video of Harry performing an original song in the middle of a field of wildflowers. The channel statistics blew up.

From then on it was a non-stop hustle.

Harry received an e-mail from a couple of interested producers and suddenly he was searching for a management team and a lawyer and signing a contract and the next thing Louis knew, he was in love with a rising star.

One morning they woke up and Harry was off to his first recording session followed by a single that topped the charts in various countries that summer. His group of fans only increased from that point.

Louis was there for all of it. He was there for the exciting news, the nervous tears and the stressful nights. He massaged and kissed Harry's insecurities away. He was there to effortlessly love and support Harry through everything.

~ ~ ~

Louis’ teeth won't stop chattering no matter how much he burrows into his nest of blankets. He didn’t turn on the heat before climbing into bed and now he’s suffering the consequences. He has a residual amount of a buzz going through his veins, and no, not even that can keep him warm. In that moment he thinks it’s a good time to call Harry and admit how much he needs him and his strong body and ability to keep Louis safe and warm.

Harry picks up right away and it actually startles Louis.

Hi, babe. I was just thinking of you.”

“Oh,” Louis says stupidly. He'd been ready to fight and demand his human heater to come love him. “What about?”

Just how much I miss you and how I can't wait to see you.”

Louis sighed. “Yeah? And when will that be exactly?” There's no bite in his tone. He just wants a serious answer.

The line goes silent.

“That's what I thought.”

Lou… This is really hard for me too. You know that.”

Louis squeezes his eyes closed and tries to control his emotions. That has always been hard with Harry involved and especially after he’s had two glasses of very good wine.

“I know, bub.”

Umm... I also think I should clear up what happened the other day and what you might have heard about? I know Niall keeps up with news about me so I'm sure he might have told you about…”

Louis bites his lip. “Your outing with Kendall? I’m not bothered by it.”

Harry sighs.

Her team kind of surprised us with that one. We weren't expecting paps. There were recent rumors questioning her sexuality but that had nothing to do with why I agreed to go shopping with her… her team just happened to jump at the opportunity…”

Louis swallows the lump in his throat. He hates what Harry is put through. He hates some of his contract obligations and the amount of times his team or other teams take advantage of him. It seems he can never sustain a normal friendship with people without it having to appear as more.

“That's shit, babe, but what can you do about it?”

Harry chuckles dryly on the other end. He sounds exhausted and like he's in need of a nice massage and a bottle of wine. Louis misses him.

“I'm in bed right now and I’m really cold.”

You forgot to turn on the heater, didn't you?

“You know what I would do to you if you were here right now?”

Harry's breath hitches.

“I'd push you out of bed so you can turn the heater on.”

The obnoxious burst of laughter on the other end keeps Louis in high spirits until Harry is summoned by his team. He has an interview and a live performance for a major network (unavailable in the UK, of course) lined up. Louis watches a livestream on Twitter thanks to a loyal fan. Despite the pixelated footage and delayed audio track, Louis is able to watch Harry in his best element. He sings along with unshed tears in his eyes.

He’s not even cold anymore.

~ ~ ~

On rainy days, Louis is forced to run footie practice inside the stuffy gymnasium. He lets his students have a bit more fun on those occasions and doesn’t go as hard on them as he would if they were on the field. He lets them organize their own drills and watches from the sidelines, scribbling away on his clipboard.

Sometimes Zayn brings his own students to the gym so that they can engage in activities with Louis’ group. Zayn teaches English during the day and art after regular school hours. He likes providing different forms of inspiration for his students and in-turn him and Louis get to have a chat. Louis likes to believe the latter part is the real reason why Zayn steers away from curriculum.

It's currently pouring outside with chances of hail. Louis’ group is sharing the space with the art kids. Zayn and him watch from the bleachers as their students partake in several rounds of dodgeball.

Louis has been avoiding his friends for the past few weeks, always coming up with excuses as to why he can’t go out, and providing the bare minimum of answers via their group messages. He has a feeling Zayn will bring it up at some point and it still comes about sooner than expected.

“Are you doing alright?” Zayn’s brows form a worried line and they strangely remind Louis of the way Liam’s face expresses worry. They’re like twin souls. Or is it twin flames? Louis kind of wants to hurl.

“I’m fantastic.”

Zayn snorts.

“Really. I’m fine.”

Zayn hums.

“Alright, alright! I’m stressed out about stuff but I’m working through it.”

“Harry stuff, I’m assuming.”

A ball flies past them, nearly hitting Zayn in the face, and they both warn their students to be more careful. The female students apologize in unison at least three times. Louis is certain they harbor inappropriate crushes on Zayn. He doesn't blame them–Zayn pulls off the hot teacher look very well.

“You know you can talk to me about it, right? I know the distance isn’t easy on you. If I were in the same position with Liam, I’d be in a weird place in my head too.”

“Don't try to analyze me like you’re writing a thesis.”

“A little harsh, mate.”

They remain quiet for a while, watching their groups coexist in a competitive environment. Louis can feel the way Zayn glances at him once in a while like he's waiting for him to run away. He knows his friend is concerned but Louis has no idea how to even begin talking about the turmoil in his head.

Zayn has been his best mate far longer than anyone else. He knows him a little too well.

“I’m scared, Z.”

“Scared?”

“Scared like as soon as I start talking about it, it’s going to become this huge issue and I’m not going to know what to do.”

“It may become a bigger issue if you don’t do something about it now.”

Louis closes his eyes and whispers quickly, “I think I want to take a break.”

He hopes he wasn’t heard. Zayn doesn’t physically react to Louis’ words but he seems to be lost in thought. He eventually exhales harshly, like he’s been holding his breath.

“That’s pretty fucking serious, Tommo.”

“I don’t know how to even bring it up to him.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah, fuck .”

~ ~ ~

Louis blows his whistle when it’s time to go home and most of the kids scurry away, excited to play in the puddles outside. Chase lingers by the exit and waits for Louis and Zayn to join him.

“My brother isn’t here yet,” Chase says apologetically, looking at his phone. It still baffles Louis when he sees young kids with cell phones.

“That’s alright. We’ll wait with you.”

Louis recalls his brief encounter with Roman. He still can’t figure out where he knows him from. Their first encounter ended as soon as they stopped shaking hands and Chase announced he was starving. Roman’s eyes had been kind and a bit overwhelming so Louis had been glad for the interruption and the rushed farewell.

Not that there was anything to interrupt.

A pair of sneakers squeak loudly just outside the entrance to the gym, followed by a dripping umbrella and a tall boy.

“Ro!” Chase greets. It's cute how excited he gets when he sees his brother. Louis is reminded of his younger siblings.

“Hey, mate,” Louis calls.

Roman opens his mouth to respond but his eyes seem to get stuck on Zayn's face. Typical. Zayn’s beauty sometimes shocks people.

“Coach,” Roman greets once his eyes find Louis’. Again, they're kind and overwhelming.

Louis clears his throat. “This is Zayn. He teaches here too.”

“Nice to meet you. Sorry to keep both of you waiting. Traffic is wild!”

“Don’t make it a habit,” Louis teases.

He can feel Zayn’s eyes until they’re alone again.

“Jesus Christ, Tommo.” Zayn playfully shoves Louis the first opportunity he gets.

“What?!”

“That guy...”

Louis blinks back at him.

“Chase’s brother!”

“What about him?”

“He's into you!”

Louis threatens to push Zayn into a puddle on their way to the car lot.

“He doesn't even know me.”

“Yeah, okay. I'm not blind. I can already tell Harry would not approve of that friendship.”

“What makes you think we're becoming friends? That would be unprofessional considering he's my student’s relative. And besides, Harry has a ton of friends I don't necessarily approve of but you don't see me doing anything about it.”

Zayn crosses his arms and raises a brow.

“What now?!”

“Nick Grimshaw.”

Louis childishly puts his hands over his ears upon hearing the first syllable. “La la la la la! I have things to do! Bye!” He runs for his car, hoping his shoes kick up enough water to splash Zayn.

~ ~ ~

Harry's first friend in the industry was none other than Nicholas Peter Andrew Grimshaw, born on the fourteenth of August in 1984, an entire decade before Harry.

Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, right? Louis may or may not know everything a fan should know about Grimshaw. The only difference is that he isn’t a fan. Far from it, in fact.

Harry met Nick when he launched his first radio interview tour. Nick was one of the first interviewers to try to get Harry to open up about the inspiration behind his meaningful songs. Harry always gave vague answers or answers that were too long and difficult to follow. Nick easily gave him shit for it and Louis has to admit, he initially liked Nick for that reason. He didn't seem like the type to fall all over celebrities to try to impress them.

But of course, time came to prove that Nick had his own agenda. As Harry rose to fame, so did Nick. Paparazzi always managed to appear during any little outing. It went so far as to making headlines about them dating.

Louis was accused by their friends of being jealous of all the time Harry spent with Nick but in reality he was jealous that they could be seen together and people could question their relationship but God forbid people thought Harry had a thing with his roommate, Louis. There was no way someone like Harry could love someone like Louis.

~ ~ ~

Louis is forced to go drinking with his friends at an expensive club. It’s basically exclusive except that Niall has some random hookup that can get their group in for free with bottle service on the house. Louis feels like a king as a he sips from a fancy glass at their booth near the dj stand and inhales the smoke coming from Zayn’s side of the couch. This isn’t really their scene so Louis hates to admit he’s having a good time.

The dj ends his set at some point and introduces someone by a familiar name but Louis isn’t really paying attention at that moment. Not until he somehow makes contact with the new dj that got more cheers and screams than normal. 

Zayn and Liam are making out and Niall has a cute girl on his lap. He really needs new fucking friends. He excuses himself from their section and goes unnoticed as he saunters off to the bar for a slight change of scenery. He nurses a fruity drink until the bartender’s flirty eyes start making him uncomfortable and he spins away in his barstool, ready to hop off. He sort of bumps into a solid body and spills half of his shot onto the ground.

“Good one, Tommo, dammit,” he mutters.

“Are you telling yourself off?”

Louis looks up at the person who apparently heard him and plans to apologize for being weird and clumsy but stops short.

He's met with that familiar face again. Deep blue eyes watch him fumble for words. Normally Louis is good at retorts but he's sort of speechless at the moment. Definitely no more alcohol. Juice boxes from now on!

“I know me limits and apparently I passed mine already,” Louis eventually says but maybe it's too late and it doesn't even make sense.

Red lights pulsate over the dj’s face. His arm extends towards Louis. “Hi Coach.”

“Roman.” Louis accepts the offered hand.

“Never seen you ‘round here before.”

“It’s my first time, actually. My mates dragged me here.”

“Oh, nice! I hope you aren’t too disappointed. I don’t think today was one of my best sets.”

“Are you kidding? That was great!”

Roman smirks. “Is that why you ran off?”

“My friends are annoying so I needed a change of scenery.”

“I see. Was that Zayn over there?”

Louis laughs. “Yeah. He can’t seem to stay away from his boyfriend.”

“I can tell.”

They smile at each other, eyes crinkling. The dj from earlier takes the stage again and changes the pace of the night. Everything feels like it goes by faster after that.

Towards the end of the night, Roman has joined Louis at their exclusive table and he’s caught up to Louis in terms of alcohol intake. Niall joins them (he’d disappeared with the cute girl) and immediately points at Louis’ new friend. “Roman Kemp. I love your show.”

“What show?” Louis glances between them. He feels like he should know this.

Roman scratches the back of his neck. “When I'm not performing at clubs, I’m a radio dj for Capital FM.”

“Are you?” Louis thinks back. He knew there was something familiar about Roman and now it makes sense. Harry has been interviewed by him before. Of course! “Oh! But… Chase’s last name isn’t Kemp.”

“Kemp is my artistic name.”

Louis and Niall cackle. The tips of Roman's ears turn pink.

Zayn and Liam return to the table, their fingers entwined and eyes a little tired-looking. Upon seeing their new company, Zayn seems to sober up only long enough to give Louis a strange look and Roman a friendly fist bump.

They end the night by parting ways with Roman just outside the venue and Niall exchanging his phone number with him.

~ ~ ~

The next morning, Louis has a new text message.

Hope you don’t mind I asked Niall for your number :) This is Ro, btw.

Louis types out, I'm married, as a response, but he definitely isn't and Harry definitely isn't here to either approve or disapprove of Louis’ new friend and the latest addition to their friend group. He edits his response and sends it without much thought.

Why would I mind ? :)

Chapter Text

The voice is enchanting. Louis runs barefoot through a field of wildflowers in search of it. His feet trample them, creating clouds of yellow and pink and purple in his wake. The sun shines brightly against his face and he wipes a sleeveless arm over his forehead, more beads of sweat reappearing instantly.

He hears the voice again so he runs faster.

Finally there's a figure at the end of the field, his back turned towards Louis and his body swaying like the flowers surrounding him. His suit sparkles in the sun and nearly blinds Louis. Louis releases a sob because finally. He reaches out.

A ball of fur and claws drag Louis out of his dream. Sweety seems to have pounced on his chest and scurried away as soon as Louis tried to subconsciously hold her.

His heart beats like he just did several rounds of cardio. Louis isn't on the field. He's on the couch where he fell asleep watching clips from Harry's recent shows.

His chest aches and it might not entirely be Sweety’s fault.

~ ~ ~

Roman becomes a member of their friend group naturally and almost seamlessly. Niall adds him to their group chat (which excludes Harry when he's out of town). Liam invites him on their weekend outings (which becomes every weekend). Zayn takes longer to accept him (and still gives him strange looks at times) but eventually starts seeking his opinion on comic book characters.

Louis tries to remain neutral. While he's happy about the whole thing, he still feels strange befriending a student’s family member. Roman opens up about his family sometimes and Louis learns things he probably shouldn't know like the fact that their parents are in the middle of a divorce, a situation Chase is completely unaware of. Louis can relate since his mum has undergone two divorces.

All-in-all they collectively like having a new face around. Roman is pleasant and easy to talk to. He’s comfortable around them and adds a certain kick to their entertainment. He's able to get them into any club or pub for free, his connections much wider spread than Niall’s. He also keeps Louis company when the other three are off in their own worlds.

Tonight they're at a pub with great beer and pool tables. Niall’s already drunk in the corner challenging someone at darts. Liam and Zayn are playing pool against Louis and Roman but from experience, Louis can feel they're moments away from making out against the table.

He's wrong. Ten minutes later they're making out against the table next to theirs. Roman and Louis roll their eyes at the same time. It hardly phases Roman but Louis knows he finds it hard to not look in their direction. It used to happen to Louis at the beginning too. It's nothing alcohol can't fix.

“How about we start a new game, one-on-one? I'll get us more pints while you wrack up?”

“You got it!” Roman says enthusiastically. Sometimes he reminds Louis of a puppy.

The bartender is a friend of Roman’s so he refuses to accept Louis’ money. Louis thanks him but mentally takes note to leave a nice tip later.

They play a couple of rounds of pool until they retire for a table. Louis watches one of the screens overhead as a sports commentator talks about Harry’s favorite team, Man U.

“You a big footie fan?” Roman asks.

Louis nods. “I love it.”

“Figured since you coach it so well.”

Louis can't recall ever seeing Roman at any of their games before meeting him but then again, he has learned to ignore the stands because of highly opinionated parents.

“Cheers mate.” Their glasses clink together.

“Don't know if you mind me asking but did you ever consider playing pro? Chase told me you're really good.”

Louis would scoff if anyone else posed the question. For some reason it doesn't bother him at this moment. It's always been a sore topic and his friends know better than to bring it up. He'll give Roman as much as he's willing to share.

“I played all the time when I was growing up. I played for clubs and my schools.” Louis recalls those days as some of the happiest times of his life. “During my last year of school, Man C made me an offer.”

Roman's eyes widen. “Manchester City. Wow.”

They both take a long sip.

“What happened? Stop me now if I'm being too nosy.”

Louis waves him off. “The timing was off, that's all. My entire focus was needed elsewhere.” Harry. “It's not a big deal. I moved on and found something else I love.”

Coach Tommo," Roman says like he's adding the bow to the top of the gift.

He smoothly changes the subject when he notices Louis is done talking about the matter and Louis couldn't be more grateful for his new friend.

~ ~ ~

Sometimes he can pretend the aching goes away. When he's surrounded by friends or footie or other recreational activities, he's just a cloud floating amongst other clouds. Hardly a puff in the air that moves at a snail’s pace.

That's how he feels right now. Zayn is sharing some of his good stash and it's doing exactly what Louis hoped it would. He feels light and relaxed and like there is not a single problem in his life.

He gets a call from Harry but accidentally presses the wrong button. Louis Tomlinson declined Harry Styles! Oops! What a travesty!

He means to call back, he really, really does. But somehow, his fingers get lighter and he continues to float, float, float.

~ ~ ~

Something isn't right. Louis wakes up abruptly, eyes not fully open, to the sound of a break in. He's getting robbed in the middle of the night and he's not even prepared to handle it. He starts with opening his eyes. His head feels lightheaded as he glances around the living room. Zayn's asleep on the floor with Sweety curled up against his hip.

There's a sound again, one he can't identify, followed by a huff.

He should probably wake Zayn up but Zayn is a deep sleeper so he'd be of no use.

Louis grabs the remote control, getting ready to chuck it at the intruder, and slinks across the room and towards the foyer.

There's a silhouette leaning against the wall in the hallway. Louis brings his arm back to throw the remote but halters when the figure turns the light on. He drops the piece of plastic that means absolutely nothing to him at that moment and rushes into the arms of the assumed intruder.

They embrace for a long time until Louis remembers he should be upset about how be got woken up. He moves back and lands a smack against Harry's arm.

“What was that for?!”

“You scared the shit out of me! I thought someone broke in! What was all that ruckus? And what the hell are you doing here? Why didn't you tell me you were coming?”

“Calm down, Lou, Jesus. I sort of tripped and thought I landed on Sweety and murdered her but it was actually one of your shoes.”

Louis smiles innocently. “Oops.”

Harry crosses his arms. “I tried calling you hours ago but you didn't answer. I know you hate surprises so I tried to warn you.”

“This is actually a surprise I’m okay with.” Louis wraps his arms around Harry once again and feels his entire body relax. Harry draws his arms away from his chest to grab hold of Louis’ waist. “Hi honey,” he whispers against Louis’ neck. “I've missed you.”

“Me too.”

“Why do you smell like Zayn?”

“We're having a manly sleepover.”

“Nice.”

“Yeah,” Louis sighs. He cuddles against Harry's chest and shuts his eyes. He hopes he isn't dreaming. He hopes the floor doesn't sweep out from below them and turn into a field of wildflowers. He wouldn't be able to handle the loss.

“Bedtime?”

“Mhmm.”

They leave Zayn behind and make for their bedroom where Louis has hardly slept in the last few months. Harry glances around until understanding dawns on him. “Aw babe.”

“Please don't,” Louis mutters. While he wants to be cuddled by his man he doesn't necessarily want to be coddled . “You’re here right now and that’s all that matters.”

They strip down to their pants and crawl into bed. Louis swings a leg over Harry’s thighs and rests his chin on Harry’s chest.

“How did you make this happen?”

Harry frowns. “Jeff took pity on me. I’ve been miserable so he booked me a last minute ticket. I have two nights until I have to rush back for my next show. Until then, I’m all yours.” With a hand tangled in Louis’ hair, he brings their faces together so that they can kiss for the first time since he showed up. Louis sinks into it and allows himself the bliss of Harry’s pillowy lips. They're too tired to do more than kiss so eventually they fall asleep wrapped around each other — the way it should be.

Louis gets the best sleep that night.

~ ~ ~

The worst part about waking up from a great sleep is having to work that day. He thinks he's dreaming when he wakes up with Harry wrapped around him. If he could, he'd stay in this position eternally. Small puffs of air escape Harry’s mouth. Louis watches him for a while until he has to drag himself to the shower.

He’s just squeezing shampoo onto the palm of his hand when the door to the shower clicks open and Harry lines himself up behind him, skin to skin beneath a warm stream of water.

Louis shampoos his hair and allows Harry to rinse it out. He relaxes against Harry’s front and enjoys the moment for what it is. He misses the excitement and the closeness.

Harry turns him around to lick into his mouth. He still has pillow creases imprinted on one side of his face and it’s absolutely adorable. Louis sinks down to his knees and takes Harry’s length into his mouth. Harry releases a loud groan and runs his hands through Louis’ soaked hair. Louis observes him through wet lashes, which happens to be Harry’s favorite thing about shower sex, and gives the best performance he’s ever given.

~ ~ ~

They cook a quick breakfast just in time for Louis and Zayn to eat before heading to the school. Zayn was already awake when they emerged from their shower. Judging by the smirk on his face, he must have heard Harry wailing in there.

“I had a feeling you were here,” Zayn jokes, pulling Harry into a long hug. “Good to see you, bro.”

“You too!”

Louis settles into his breakfast while Harry and Zayn catch up. They probably communicate the least when Harry is away but they’re always quick to pick up where they left off. Louis collects their plates despite Harry’s protest of wanting to help. While he loads the dishwasher, he overhears part of their conversation.

“Thanks for taking care of my boy,” Harry says in a very serious tone.

Louis’ heart thumps.

“Of course. He’s my best friend,” Zayn replies.

“Has he – has he been okay?”

“How would you adjust to all of this if your positions were switched?”

Louis re-enters the dining room and playfully ruffles Zayn’s hair. “Ready to go?”

Harry pouts like a child. “Do you really have to work today?”

“Yes, babe. It’s Friday. We’ll do something later.” He gives Harry a lingering kiss and pinches one of his nipples. “Be good!”

~ ~ ~

“Alright, just say it. I know you’re dying to say something.” Louis balls up a napkin at lunch and throws it as Zayn’s stupidly perfect face.

Zayn catches it and pointedly throws it into a bin. “I was just thinking… Are you going to talk to Harry while he’s here? Or… are you going to pretend like everything is fine just like your little morning routine?”

Louis balls up another napkin and aims for Zayn’s face again. Zayn doesn’t crack a smile and neither does Louis.

“Lou, I’m trying to have a serious conversation here.”

“I don’t like the topic.”

“If you rather keep your feelings all bottled up then be my guest. But what really makes mine and Liam’s relationship special is that we tell each other absolutely everything. Have you ever seen us fight?”

“I’ve seen you fight with your tongues, which is absolutely disgusting. I hate both of you.”

“You wouldn’t be saying that if things were completely right with Harry.”

Louis slumps in his chair. “You’re so annoying right now.”

“I’m just trying to help.”

Louis appreciates the help, he really does, but it's giving him a headache. Never mind the kind of night he had. He has a limited amount of time with Harry during this visit. Can't he just enjoy it?

“I appreciate it but I'm just not ready.”

“Well, mate. You're only leading him on at this point.”

~ ~ ~

It's Friday so their group either makes plans for the night throughout the day or they plan for Saturday night. Louis hasn't quite heard from any of the boys yet.

Then he gets a text from Niall.

I saw rumors H was spotted in Heathrow… is it tru??

He's here :)

Now you tell me! I would've missed work today!

Slacker

It's H! Let's do something special tonight!

Any ideas ?

Let's plan with the group

Louis thinks about that before replying. He doesn't mind discussing their plans with the others, obviously… but there's one person who doesn't know about Harry.

Start a new group text without Ro

????

Please

Oh…. we're not telling him yet?

Maybe next time...

I think he can be trusted but your call mate

Roman has grown an awfully lot on Niall. Louis feels bad having to leave him out of something that has become tradition in just a short amount of time but the alternative is adding another person to the list of people who know the truth about Harry. That isn't something they do loosely. He would have to consult with Harry first.

He realizes he hasn't mentioned Roman a single time.

~ ~ ~

Chase is the last student to get picked up yet again. Louis is starting to think that Roman needs a stern talking to about that but he knows Roman drives all the way from work and hits a lot of traffic.

Roman greets Louis with a hug, which is a first, and asks Chase to wait in the car while he has a quick conversation with Louis.

“What's happening this weekend? I haven't heard from anyone,” Roman says easily, gesturing at his phone. “You guys planning without me?”

Louis chuckles uneasily.

“Course not! I guess everyone is busy this time.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess I have some stuff to do too.” Roman tries to disguise his disappointment but fails. “What about you?”

“Me?” Louis nearly squeaks.

“Are you busy? Are you free for lunch tomorrow?”

“Oh, um.” Harry is here. “I'm not sure.” Harry needs me. “I kind of have loads of grading to do.” Harry, Harry, Harry.

Again, Roman does a poor job of hiding his disappointment.

“Well, if you get bored, let me know. I'm pretty open all day tomorrow.”

“Will do.”

Roman hugs him again and drives away with a friendly wave.

Louis feels like a piece of shit.

Chapter Text

Louis stops by the store on his way home from work. He buys a single red rose and half a dozen bananas all while trying to control the stupid smile on his face.

Upon entering their home, he feels attacked by the sight of Harry peacefully napping on the couch with Tanner on his chest. It's almost weird to come home to this after so many months of missing Harry and being upset with their situation. He caresses Harry’s face with the softest touch and bends down to leave a chaste kiss on his forehead.

Harry scrunches up his nose. Louis places Tanner back in his tank and settles for tickling Harry’s nose with the petals of the rose. There’s a brief moment of stillness until Harry’s hands wrap around Louis’ arms and drag him down so that his body covers Harry’s (not entirely).

“I was dreaming about you,” Harry mumbles, voice thick with sleep.

“It must have been a good one.”

“Mhmm.” Harry cups his face and trails kisses over his nose, chin, jaw. Louis basks in the attention. “Is that lovely rose for me?”

“Only if you’ve been good.”

“I’ll show you good.” Harry flips them over, nearly sending both of them to the ground. He giggles against Louis’ mouth as they flail around. Their lips brush together for an instant that is ruined by the sound of the doorbell subsequently followed by a series of knocks. Obnoxious knocks.

They both groan loudly. “Fucking Niall!” Louis yells to make sure he’s heard. Harry’s eyelashes flutter against the sudden noise.

“Knock, knock, bitches!”

Harry’s body still hovers above Louis’, green eyes raking over his face and lingering on his lips. “I want to do many things to you right now but I guess we’ll have to wait.”

Louis’ hands wander down Harry’s muscular back and settle over his love handles. He gently squeezes. “Get rid of the Irish.”

“Can’t.” Harry kisses his cheek. “Later, okay?”

Louis has no choice but to agree and allow Harry to roll off of him. He watches Harry's bum as he sashays towards the door.

~ ~ ~

Niall hogs most of Harry's attention but once in a while allows the other lads to get a word in. They're all gathered around the dinner table, trading stories and eating the roast Harry prepared for them. Louis mostly stares at Harry's face when he thinks no one is paying attention. Zayn and Liam catch him every time.

Louis suspects that Liam knows as much as Zayn.

He feels giddy in Harry's presence. This is different from Louis visiting him on tour. During those times, Harry has a ton of other things to do and he's not necessarily Louis’ Harry. He's the world’s Harry.

When he's here, doing something as simple as hanging out with their closest friends, he's definitely Louis’ Harry.

He'd like to spend the rest of the evening in this calm bubble but Liam and Niall insist that they go out for the night. Harry may have to wear a disguise and Louis will have to withhold from touching him in public but sacrifices must be done. Louis is uneasy about it but Harry promises they won’t stay out late.

They visit a club Louis has never been to, regardless of them visiting different clubs every weekend as of late. Niall swears it's known for being a discreet place for celebrities. He does a lot of research on his spare time.

They get in within seconds once the bouncer takes one good look at Harry.

“Wow, that was quicker than Ro!” Liam comments. “I forget how big you are, Haz.”

At the mention of Roman’s nickname, Niall nearly snaps his neck to look over at Louis. Zayn has a similar reaction but is much cooler about it. Liam must realize his slip up because he looks like a deer caught in headlights.

Harry looks at each of them with a raised brow.

“Ro?”

Liam rolls back his shoulders and says, “We have a new friend. You didn't know?”

Louis wants to aim a kick at him but it would only call more unwanted attention to the situation. And why it's even a situation is beyond him.

“No…” Harry says slowly. He turns to Louis who stares back at him blankly. “Lou, you haven't mentioned him.”

“I haven't?” Is all Louis can get himself to say (although it came out like a squeak). Everyone's focus is suddenly on him and he doesn't quite like feeling this squeamish.

Harry looks confused. “I think I'd remember.”

Louis fish mouths like an idiot until he's saved by a gaggle of girls that look like they aren't quite old enough to be there but are very determined to each take a photo with Harry. Because of the club’s proclaimed discretion, flash photography isn't allowed in the dingy lighting. The girls settle for poorly lit selfies and hugs that last a little too long (but can Louis really blame them?).

Taking advantage of the distraction, Zayn settles an arm around Louis’ shoulders and whispers, “If you continue playing stupid he'll overthink it.”

Louis leans into the embrace to respond with, “I told Ro we were all busy this weekend and I told Niall to exclude him from the group chat.”

“I know,” Zayn laughs. “Niall told us.”

Louis squints his eyes at Niall who frowns back and steps closer to them. “Li’s the one with the big mouth.”

Zayn tenses beside Louis. “It was an accident.”

Liam's standing to the side watching Harry wave at a camera, guilt written on his face although he tries to hide it by nodding along to the music that is currently playing overhead. Louis reaches over to pat Liam’s shoulder.

“Sorry, mate,” Liam says.

“Don’t worry about it.”

The girls aren’t quite done pestering Harry but Niall does a decent job of moving him along and acting like his bodyguard. It's quite amusing how serious he gets, even going as far as wrapping a protective arm around Harry. Niall stops at a booth and allows Harry to slide in first.

“You should just hire me, Styles. I’d be a great bodyguard. People wouldn’t cross me and I have no problem traveling the world.” He iterates his point by flexing.

“Oh yeah? Why didn’t we think of that before?” Harry asks, amusement coloring his face. His cheeks are still a little flushed from meeting his fans and there’s a smudge of lipstick on his jaw. Louis would very much like to reach over and wipe it off but this is neither the time nor place for that.

They sit across from each other, barely touching except for the boot-clad foot that Harry inserts in between Louis’ Vans as a reminder that he’s there.

Louis can’t wait to take him home.

~ ~ ~

They stumble into their living room a while later with as much grace as Niall allows. He had to escort them home because they both drank a little too much and nearly ended up grinding on the dance floor. Liam and Zayn stayed behind to do just that.

“Have fun kiddos!” Niall shouts as he closes the front door behind himself. Niall sometimes reminds Louis of the crazy mom from Mean Girls. It makes him shudder.

Harry giggles as if he's thinking the same thing. He probably is.

“C’mere,” he breathes in the next moment.

Now that they’re alone and the music isn’t pounding in their ears, Louis reaches for Harry and plants an eager kiss against his pouty lips. His fingers find the place on Harry's jaw that is smudged with red lipstick and rub away.

Most of the red comes off and the rest of it clings to Louis’s thumb. He holds it up for Harry to see. “I don't like this.”

Harry grips Louis’ face, pressing several kisses against his mouth and up and down his jaw line. “Sorry, baby.”

And because he's drunk and a little bothered he continues with, “Why do you let them?”

The air between them goes cold. Harry's stepping away and peering at him with his big, big eyes.

“They're my fans.”

Louis scoffs. “So? I'm your boyfriend.

“They get excited to see me and can't help their actions. I can't tell them how to behave and I can't judge them for it.” Harry is frowning now, arms crossed over his chest. He looks completely baffled. “I also very well can't just tell them, ‘I have a boyfriend, don't overstep my boundaries!’”

“They overstep your boundaries all the time because you let them!”

“Wow, okay.” Harry rolls his neck. He looks defeated. “All I wanted tonight was to get naked with you and just be with you. I'm too drunk for this argument."

Louis’ head hurts as if he's already experiencing a hangover. He sits on the couch and covers his face with his hands. This is why he never says anything. Harry doesn't understand.

“Did you buy bananas?” Harry asks into the silence.

Uncovering his face, Louis glances over at the yellow bundle he left on the coffee table earlier.

“Of course.”

A sudden weight ends up on his lap. It's a pile of boy smelling absolutely wonderful. Harry clings to him and despite their size difference, he tries to make himself smaller, face nuzzling against Louis’ neck. “I don't want to spend my visit fighting.”

In that moment, Louis thinks of his conversations with Zayn. He thinks that the proper response to Harry would be, ‘that's the root of our problem,’ and maybe it would be the right time to dig a little deeper. Maybe make a huge decision.

But then, Harry's mouth is on his neck, kissing and biting and licking. “God, I’ve missed this.” Then he's grinding against Louis’ crotch. “Missed you.”

Louis’ not sure if he’ll last long. He’s been half hard since before they left the club.

“You missed me?” Harry’s got a rhythm going and his hands are slipping inside the back of Louis’ jeans. A dry finger hovers over Louis’ crack and fuck, how is he supposed to have a serious conversation now?

Louis nods along quickly. “Yes, love.” He dives in for a kiss and leaves a little bite against Harry’s bottom lip. “Need you.” He lowers himself sideways so they can fit on the couch together. Harry unbuckles their jeans with some trouble and none of Louis’ help.

They giggle the whole time.

~ ~ ~

Louis wakes with a stiff neck and a sleeping boy plastered to his back. They barely fit on the couch this way but it’s nice. He stretches and feels a tad sore but it’s okay. He didn’t let Harry hold back last night. He wanted to feel it the next day.

Sunlight filters into the room and it almost seems strange. It has been gloomy lately but it seems the sun is finally out to play.

He shuts his eyes and falls into another daze.

~ ~ ~

It must be nearly noon the next time he wakes up. He hears singing coming from somewhere in the house and the smell of a fry up fills the air. He finds his phone face down on the coffee table and unlocks it.

There’s a message from Roman.

Tommo! Take a break from grading and have dinner with me today. There’s something cool I want to show you but no pressure if you can’t!

Louis stares at the words that blur into one blob of black text. He can’t pretend he isn’t intrigued. Unfortunately there’s no way he can spare any time. Harry leaves the next morning and Louis has no idea when he’ll see him again. There are two months left of tour. So he leaves the message unanswered and contemplates a plausible excuse to send him later.

He joins Harry in the kitchen who is cooking in the nude like it’s completely normal. Louis rolls his eyes. He hugs him from behind and tries to ignore the fact that the only material separating them is the thin boxers he managed to roll on.

“I didn’t want to wake you,” Harry says. He removes a couple of slices of bacon from a pan and deposits them onto two plates that already have eggs, sausage and toast piled high. Louis reaches for a piece of bacon but Harry slaps his hand away playfully. “Be good.”

To show how good he can be, Louis grinds forward, making Harry’s breath catch.

“The stove is still on, you menace!”

Louis bites at his shoulder completely unapologetic. “What’s the plan for today? Naked in bed all day? Naked on the couch all day? Just naked?”

Harry leans back into his embrace. “Mmm all of the above but I uh–can’t. Sorry.”

“Oh.” Louis tightens his hold. “May I ask why not?”

“Please don’t get mad,” Harry rushes out. He turns in Louis’ arms after securely turning off the stove. He brings his hands up to Louis’ chest and rubs over his pecks in small circles. “Nick found out I’m in town–he’s just as bad as Niall–and requested a dinner outing with the usual...y’know like Kelly and Alexa and maybe a few others...”

Louis suddenly loses his appetite. Leave it to Nick to beg for Harry’s attention and take time away from them. Throw in the minions and it's a party.

“Why would I get mad? If anything I’m a little relieved I won’t have to cancel on a mate.”

Okay, so that wasn't what he meant to say. It just sort of slipped.

“Oh.” Harry stops his hand motions. “Who do you have plans with?”

Should he do it? Should he be that petty?

“Ro? The guy Liam mentioned last night...not sure if you remember. You probably don’t.”

Harry’s hands slide down. “I recall perfectly. Who is he anyways? You guys acted weird the moment Liam brought him up.”

He thinks of Zayn and what he said about acting stupid.

“He’s Roman Kemp. He has a show with Capital FM.”

Understanding washes over Harry’s face. “He’s interviewed me a couple of times. How do you guys know him?”

Louis feels a little lighter now that they’re talking about his new friend. He doesn’t know why he was so scared to bring him up before.

“Ro is the brother of one of my students so that’s how Zayn and I met him. We were with Niall and Liam at a club one night and Ro happened to be DJing there. Ever since then, we’ve been hanging out pretty much every weekend. The five of us,” he tacks on quickly.

There’s something funny about the face Harry’s making but Louis isn’t keen on analyzing it. He feels almost breathless after his spiel. He’s ready to stuff his face with breakfast now so he kisses Harry’s cheek and carries their plates to the dining table. Harry follows with a jug of orange juice and two glasses.

Louis practically stuffs a whole piece of toast in his mouth to keep busy.

“So,” Harry starts as he pours juice for both of them. “Tonight you guys are having dinner together? Just the two of you? You and Roman?”

“Yeah… is that okay?” he asks lightly. There’s a fight stirring somewhere in the floorboards or in the foundation of their home. He can feel it.

Harry is studying him very closely, almost too closely, but then he blinks and shrugs. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

Louis shrugs too. “Right. Just dinner with a mate.”

Harry downs his juice within seconds like it's a shot. Louis might need an actual shot.

Chapter Text

Louis agrees to meet Roman at a train station to the west of town. He can almost feel Roman’s excitement through his text and it leaves his stomach just a tad more unsettled than the way Harry is watching him get ready. It’s almost like he’s planning to pounce the moment Louis least expects it.

He slips into a pair of dark jeans, feeling Harry’s eyes travel up and down his legs. When he bends to fish his shoes from under the bed and straightens up, he catches Harry’s gaze.

“You’re staring.”

Harry pretends to fiddle with his nails. “I can look at you, can’t I?”

“Of course you can. It’s just odd when you’re being so...” he gestures at Harry as if to illustrate his point. He means to say difficult or pouty but he knows it won't bode well without another argument.

Harry sighs. “I'm just registering how good you look this evening so I have a perfect image when I think about you at dinner.”

Louis will absolutely not be charmed by Harry Styles and his ridiculous lines. He will not.

He kisses him on the cheek before heading out.

~ ~ ~

Roman is already waiting for Louis when his train arrives. He's clad in Adidas track pants and a plain, black t-shirt. Louis instantly feels overdressed and opens his mouth to say so but Roman is quicker.

“You look great! I feel like an arse for underdressing.” Roman glances down at himself with a frown.

“Hey, no, it's fine. You look comfortable.”

Roman smiles but tries to hide it by turning and leading the way. “Yeah, so this isn't an ordinary dinner. It's actually not the first stop on our list either.”

“It isn't?”

“You'll see.”

They don't walk for long. In fact, it hasn't been five minutes when they stop at an intersection. Louis stares blankly at the building across the street.

“Emirates Stadium,” he says. “What are we doing here?”

Roman chuckles nervously as they wait for the signal to cross. “This is what I wanted to show you.”

Louis looks at him quizzically but doesn't inquire further until Roman’s presenting a badge at the gate and leading them inside the stadium.

“There's no match going on tonight so what are we doing here?”

“You up for a little one-on-one?”

“On the actual field?”

Roman's eyes light up. “On the actual field.”

~ ~ ~

They sit in the center of the field after an hour of attempting to play a serious game and then completely giving up on seriousness and acting like children let loose in a toy store. Louis’ jeans are stained with grass and there are holes around the knees from sliding. He doesn't even mind.

Roman is still laughing about the multiple falls they both took as he attempts to spin a ball on one finger. Louis knocks it down with his foot whenever he gets a chance.

“My brother was right,” Roman says once he quits laughing and chucks the ball to the side.

Louis watches the ball go. “About?”

“He said you’re very skilled at football. I think he underplayed it. You're incredible.”

Louis’ face heats up. He hasn't been complimented on his football skills by an adult in ages and can't remember the last time it happened. It's something he locked away in a memory box. He figured he'd be rusty by now. He's only played with his students to teach them certain moves. He prefers to instruct from the sidelines.

“I'm serious,” Roman insists. “You could play up against some of the best.”

Louis snorts. “Right…”

“Honestly!”

“Well, thanks.”

“What happened, Louis? Why did you give it up? What stopped you?”

Nope. They're not doing this today. Louis gets up with a flourish. He swipes at the back of his legs and over his bum to get rid of any lingering grass. He doesn't know what to say. What the fuck does one say when the answer is complicated and involves a part of his life that he has never shared with anyone new?

Roman rises to his feet too. “I'm sorry if I'm overstepping but…” He seems to consider his words. “I feel like you're hiding something.”

Louis sees red. He sees absolute red.

“Is that why you brought me here? To figure it out?”

Roman stands there with a deep set frown. The radio dj seems at a loss for words for once. He shakes his head like he's trying to clear it and deny Louis’ claim at the same time.

“No. That's not— that's…”

Louis starts walking away. His stomach rumbles. They didn't even eat dinner yet. He looks back over his shoulder to find Roman standing in the same spot but with his arms wrapped around his body.

Jesus,” Louis mutters under his breath. He feels like a complete tit when he calls out, “What are your dinner plans? I'm fuckin’ starvin’!”

Roman jogs over to him, shrugs. “You still up for it?”

Not really but Louis figures he made his point. “I'm up for it.”

~ ~ ~

“Again, I'm really, really sorry,” Roman says for the fifth or sixth time.

Louis waves him off for the fifth or sixth time. “It's fine. Don't worry about it.”

Roman scratches the back of his neck. “I honestly had the purest intentions when I invited you tonight.”

They're sat in a busy restaurant and so far two people have looked at them curiously like they recognize Roman. Louis picks at his burger. He's trying to battle the awkwardness that settled between them since they got their table. He may have felt the urge to punch Roman in the face earlier but he would never go that far. He's quite fond of his new friend and would prefer to keep him in one piece.

“So, how do you have an all-access badge to Emirates? Are you secretly on the team? Are you their new trainer?”

Roman lets out a loud giggle that draws the attention of their neighboring tables. “You just saw how poorly I play.”

“You're not that bad.”

“If you say so.” Roman laughs again. “I'm starting a new segment for our station's YouTube channel in which I visit the Arsenal squad while they're training and I interview them in different ways. Mostly physical. I practiced a segment the other day and realized how out of shape I am. It was so embarrassing.”

“Maybe you just need some training.”

“Maybe you can help me?”

“Me?”

Roman smiles hopefully. “It would be brilliant! My producers gave me until the end of summer to get it going so I have some time to prepare. If you don't have plans for your summer holiday and if you want to be my paid intern for this project, the position is yours.”

Louis sits back in his seat. He can't think of anything else he'd be doing over the break except walk around his flat naked while drinking ice cold beers or hanging out with the lads at least once a week. Football is a great pastime and it would force Louis into shaping up as well. Arsenal may not be his favorite team but it would be an honor to get to know them.

“You know what? I might just take you up on it. I’ll think about it.”

Roman ducks his head to hide a grin. He does that often. Louis catches it anyway.

~ ~ ~

Roman insists on accompanying Louis home but alas Louis bids him farewell at the station, knowing the other lad has a longer trip to make.

He finds Harry curled up on the couch beneath a throw blanket, eyes squinting at the TV. As soon as he makes his presence known, Harry sits up, the blanket pooling around his waist and a hand reaches up to fluff his hair.

“You're home.”

“Hi…” Louis observes the room. There's a bowl of popcorn, a cherry-scented candle burning in the corner, a glass of red wine on the coffee table and the scent of recently manicured nails. “Did you stay in?”

“Yeah,” Harry says sheepishly.

Louis joins him on the couch. “Are you feeling ill?” He reaches out for Harry's forehead.

“No, I'm fine.” Harry takes his hand and holds onto it in his lap. Louis notices his black nails.

“Then why are you here?”

Harry frowns. “Do you not want me here?”

Louis groans. “Honestly, Haz. You were getting ready to go out when I left. I'm just confused.”

“I didn't feel like going out anymore.” He crosses his arms and pouts. “I almost told you before you left but I didn't want to ruin your plans.”

“You could've said something." Louis sighs. It boggles his mind that Harry stood up his group of posh friends. Nick must be devastated.

“I guess…” Harry tightens his hold on Louis’ hand. “What happened to you?” With his free hand he pokes at Louis’ exposed knees. There are visible grass stains on the material of his jeans as well.

“We played football for a bit. You know how competitive I get."

Harry blinks and nods slowly, vowels blurring. “Yeah. I remember.”

“You look tired, love. Let's go to bed.”

There's hesitation on Harry's part. “Only if you'll cuddle me.”

“As if we sleep any other way.”

They get ready for bed rather silently. Louis slides in behind Harry and wraps an arm around his waist. Harry intertwines his fingers with Louis’ and settles back against him until their breathing patterns match up.

Before he drifts off to sleep, Louis wonders why this night feels strange.

~ ~ ~

The next day they only have a couple of hours together before Harry's driver is set to pick him up and whisk him away to the airport.

Harry wakes Louis up with a blowjob and Louis repays him with a hand job in the shower. They pack a new suitcase for Harry to take different clothes with him. There's about a month  left of tour. Harry folds the shirt Louis had been wearing the previous morning and adds it to his luggage like the sap he is. Louis will secretly keep Harry's pillowcase unwashed until it stops smelling like him but no one knows that. So they're both evenly matched in the sentimental department, sue them.

Harry's looking through the coats in the closet in the foyer because he thinks he left his favorite jumper in there while Louis scrolls through his unanswered text messages. He has one from Roman and two from Zayn. He settles for reading over Roman’s message first:

I had fun yesterday. I'm serious about the gig!

Louis can't imagine himself turning it down. It would most definitely make this his most entertaining summer holiday.

On impulse he shoots back: I'm in !

Then he hears a loud gasp.

“Did you find a spider, love?”

“No, I found a letter addressed to me.”

Harry reappears in the living room where Louis is lounging on the couch. He holds up a half folded envelope. “Did you write me and forget to send it? It was in your coat pocket. You know that brown one I like?” He tears it open with a gleam in his eyes.

Louis’ head rushes as he jumps up with the realization of what Harry has found. He's holding the letter Louis wrote months ago when he was sad and angry and frustrated. He chose to not send it out because it's actually awful. Harry wasn't supposed to ever see it. Shit . Shit shit shit.

Harry's already unfolding it by the time Louis rushes towards him.

“It's nothing important!”

Harry hides the letter behind his back and places his free hand over Louis’ chest.

“It's from you. Of course it's important. This is romantic.”

“You can't read it.”

Harry removes the hand from his chest, a crease forming between his brows. “Why not?”

“You just can't,” Louis rushes. He's a little out of breath and isn't sure what else he can say to stop Harry from reading the letter.

Harry’s eyes look deeply into his until they seem to flash with something. He turns away roughly and Louis can only assume he's lost this battle.

He waits a moment before stepping close to Harry's back, which has gone rigid. A shaking hand comes up but he lets it fall back down. “Babe?”

It takes a few sniffles for Louis to catch on that Harry's silently crying. His stomach twists and it hurts. It feels like someone has struck him in the gut with a metal baseball bat.

“Harry, love–”

“Stop.”

The tone of Harry's voice startles him. It’s like rolling thunder. Louis takes a step back.

Paper crumples and then Harry is turning back around, eyes wide and wet, nose red and dripping. Harry sniffs intensely and wipes his nose with the inside of his shirt. Louis reaches out for him but Harry shakes his head. He holds up the crumpled letter in his hand and slams it down on the nearest surface—a random table occupied by an ugly lamp Harry bought in a vintage shop.

“All this fucking time?”

Louis remains silent trying to gather his thoughts. His brain has gone into a bit of a frenzy. He imagines a million little humans running around in his brain trying to get him to form the right words. He faintly imagines himself in an episode of the “Fairly Odd Parents.”

“You've been miserable all this time and you thought you’d just write it down and send it to me? And then what? What exactly was your plan?”

Louis opens his mouth to respond but Harry holds up a hand. “You bloody wrote this a couple of months ago and yet you're still here, letting me believe we have something special.”

Harry breaks down into a sob. He covers his face with both hands.

“Harry, you weren't supposed to read that! I wrote it when I was in a dark place. Why do you think I never sent it to you? Why do you think I'm still here despite everything?”

“Despite everything we’ve been through together? Despite me overworking myself all the time because I want us to have a huge future? I've been thinking of buying us a bigger home and asking you to marry me and to be the father of my children. To come out with me.” Harry chokes on a sob. “What else have you been hiding from me, hm?” Sounding resigned, Harry mumbles, “Is it him?”

Louis sputters. He wants to address everything Harry just said but the first word he’s able to properly form is, “Him?”

“Roman Kemp! Star of Capital FM!”

Louis feels as if he needs to tread lightly here because it seems Harry has a preconceived opinion. “I’m not sure what you’re insinuating but Roman has nothing to do with any of this. Don’t bring him into this.”

Harry wipes his eyes with the backs of his hands. Louis wants to wipe his face with a soft cloth and kiss the sensitive skin beneath his eyes.

“That was oddly defensive.”

“Because there's nothing going on. He's just a friend.”

“Then why didn't you tell me about him? Why did the lads freak out when he was mentioned in front of me? I didn't want to say anything and make it a big deal but I'm not stupid Louis. I know you were keeping Roman a secret from me.

At this point, Louis can't remember why he kept Roman a secret from Harry but in his head the most reasonable answer is, “It never came up in conversation. We hardly get to talk and when we do, my friendship with Roman is the last thing on my mind. Honestly, Haz. Have I ever given you a reason to doubt my loyalty?”

Harry sinks down on the loveseat and presses his face into his hands, propped by his knees. He's shaking.

“Where do we go from here?”

Louis gets on his knees in front of Harry. He tentatively wraps his hands around Harry's wrists and tugs until he stops hiding his blotchy face.

“We talk this through.”

“I have to leave soon.”

“You can't just leave like this.”

“I can't miss my flight. I have a tight schedule and a show in a few hours.”

Louis nods, tries swallowing the knot forming in his throat.

“Listen, I never meant for you to see that letter. It was stupid of me to even write it. I love you so much, babe, so, so much.”

“I wish you would've told me how you felt. I didn't realize some stuff... I'm almost ashamed of how clueless I've been.”

“It's okay, love. See? We can work through this. We just need to talk.” He tugs Harry forward until their mouths meet for a kiss. It's cut short by Harry's phone, which starts ringing rather loudly. He answers quickly and barely utters a single word.

Harry frowns. “My driver is here. Sorry.”

“Okay. We're okay, right? We'll talk as soon as you land?”

Harry shrugs. “Sure.” He gets up and pulls Louis along with him. They zip up his suitcase and carry on bag. Before heading for the door, Harry meets Louis’ eyes and asks, “Have you decided about this summer? My assistant needs to start making flight arrangements.”

Louis stares at him.

Harry huffs. “Jamaica? Did you seriously forget? You promised you'd think about it.”

Shit. He doesn’t want to make things worse but honesty is the best path to take at this point.

“I will be working this summer.”

Harry frowns. “At the school?”

“It’s an outside gig actually.”

“And it’s more important than spending time with me. Even after the argument we just had?”

“It’s an incredible opportunity. I’d be an idiot to turn it down.”

Harry sighs. “Okay. I can’t compete with that. Congratulations. What’s the job?”

Louis hesitates and Harry immediately stiffens. “It’s a paid internship with Capital FM.”

There’s an instance in which their flat fills with dead silence. Then, Harry’s collecting his luggage and rushing away like Louis isn’t even standing there. Like he’s part of the walls.

“Haz!”

Harry spins around dramatically. “I get it, Louis. You rather spend your summer with him and you weren’t even going to tell me about it. I literally had to drag it out of you. I have a flight to catch.” His phone starts ringing again and Louis knows there’s no use in going after him. He doesn’t want to make a scene in front of their neighbors who are pretty much unaware Harry lives there. It’s better to keep it that way for safety reasons.

Louis waits a few minutes before he tries calling Harry. His call gets rejected. He tries again and again but both attempts go directly to voicemail.

He feels the metal bat against his gut again.

Because he feels like making himself feel worse, he finds the crumpled letter where Harry left it and reads it.

Harry,

I’m really fucking cold right now and you’re not here to keep me warm. That used to be your thing. You’re always naturally warm and so you act like my personal space heater whenever I need it. I need it right now.

It seems like you’ve been away for years. I can’t even remember the last time you came home. Do you ever think about that? The time you spend away from me… I sure as hell spend all of my time thinking about you. But it gets tiring.

I’m at the point where I’m done holding things back. I’ve sacrificed a lot for this relationship. I turned down my football dreams for you. You know that, right? And you’re somehow okay with that? As long as you’re on a stage, who cares, right?

I don’t know what to do. This relationship feels one-sided most of the time. What does it feel like to you? I’m tired of hiding if I’m honest.

Louis

There’s a half-arsed heart drawn by Louis’ name. The letter definitely warranted Harry’s reaction, Louis cannot deny that. What is he supposed to do now that Harry will be halfway across the world again? This time it seems like he’ll be unavailable by choice.

Chapter Text

Louis can’t recall a time when Harry purposely ignored him. He can’t even recall a time when Harry held a grudge.

In the many years of their relationship, they’ve never had a huge fight. Well, there was one. They threatened to break up with each other because they were both young and acting stupid and overly sensitive. They ended up having incredible make up sex afterward because no matter what, they were a forever type of deal.

Louis’ heart clenches after the tenth time that Harry refuses to answer his phone. Harry won't board his flight for another hour, so there is no reason why he should be denying Louis the opportunity to explain himself and apologize. It’s very unlike him.

Sweetie wanders into the room, meowing and rubbing against the couch where Harry last sat.

“He’s gone,” Louis attempts to say. His voice cracks.

~ ~ ~

Louis keeps an eye on Twitter that evening. He learns that Harry got on stage five minutes later than usual.

Harry is never late.

~ ~ ~

Louis begs Zayn to come over because he did something stupid and there’s no way Harry will ever, ever forgive him. He’s had two generous glasses of Harry’s fancy wine by the time Zayn arrives with a baggie of pot. Louis turns it down and instead sips on a third glass. He doesn’t even like wine that much.

“What’s wrong, babes?”

As soon as Zayn poses the question, Louis feels the tears begin to wet his face. He tries to apologize and tries to wipe them away roughly like they never happened. Zayn rubs his back.

“I fucked up.” Louis hiccups. “He thinks I don’t want him anymore.”

“That’s ridiculous.” Zayn furrows his brows until something dawns on him. “You finally talked?”

Louis lets out a sob.

When he finally composes himself, Louis launches into the story of how he hung out with Roman the previous night to spite Harry for making plans with Nick and then he recounts how Harry found his letter in the coat closet. He allows his friend to read it.

The flat is quiet while Zayn analyses the letter. It completely antagonizes Louis.

“Yikes,” Zayn whispers once he’s done rereading Louis’ scribbles. “I can only imagine what he must think.”

Louis coughs, nostrils flaring. “That’s not all.”

“Go on.”

“He asked me about summer right when I thought we were going to be okay. I admitted I chose a job with Capital FM over a romantic holiday in Jamaica with him.”

“Does this job have anything to do with Roman?”

“He asked me to help with his new football segment… Haz jumped to the conclusion that Roman is involved, which is true, but he didn’t give me a chance to explain myself.”

“Wow. Harry is jealous of Roman. I can’t help but say I saw that coming.”

“I suppose.” Louis recalls the rainy day Zayn met Roman at work. He said Roman was into Louis, which Louis sill thought was insane. He'd also said, “ I can already tell Harry would not approve of that friendship .” Louis has scoffed at the idea.

He clenches and unclenches his jaw. From the beginning he told Harry he didn’t do jealousy. It’s unhealthy and typically uncalled for. Sure, he’s felt jealous the times the media or the majority of a fan base have believed in a relationship between Harry and some random model–even though he’s always known what actually goes on behind the scenes. It bothers him to see someone else spend time with Harry publicly when he very well can’t.

He’s never questioned Harry’s loyalty despite him having several male friends–including people like Nick Grimshaw. Louis trusts him.

“He knows I would never…” Louis presses his palms against his eyes until he starts to see stars. “I contemplated a break but I wasn’t actually gonna go through with it. And yes, I chose a job over a holiday with my boyfriend but I thought it would be good for me.”

“Hey,” Zayn says soothingly. He prods at Louis until their eyes meet. “You deserve good things. You have to stop doubting it. I think that's the root of your problem. You prioritized Harry's happiness over yours and now you're stuck in this limbo where you're afraid to do things that will benefit you . Maybe this job opportunity is a sign.”

“Haz surely doesn't see it that way.”

“He will. You need to sit down and have a serious conversation with him—like I suggested ages ago.” Zayn avoids Louis’ lighthearted swat. “If he loves you, which I know he does, he'll understand.”

“I really hurt his feelings.” Louis sniffles. “I didn't mean to.”

Zayn doesn't respond right away. He rolls his shoulders and sinks down in his seat to stare at the ceiling. Then he says, “Are you sure?”

“Huh?”

“Are you sure you didn't mean for Harry to find that letter?”

Louis stares at him dumbfounded. “Why would I mean for that to happen?”

“Well, isn't it strange that you didn't throw it out the day you decided not to send it? Why would you pocket it knowing that if Harry were to find it…” Zayn trails off. “Maybe you subconsciously wanted it to happen that way."

“There’s no way.”

~ ~ ~

Louis spends the next few days thinking about his conversation with Zayn. He goes over everything in his head. Over and over again. He doesn’t believe that Zayn’s theory is correct. He would never intentionally hurt Harry. Never ever.

He hasn’t given up on reaching out to Harry. Louis cries a little each time he's ignored.

Harry has two more shows in that time. He’s ten minutes late for one and almost fifteen minutes late for the other.

It’s definitely out of character and the fans are not silent about it. It’s all over social media. Louis scans through multiple posts about it. Some people speculate he’s becoming a diva, which is absolutely preposterous; others believe he’s going through a rough patch with his secret lover. Well.

This isn’t a breakup , Louis practically tells himself everyday as the silence between them continues to grow. He’s tempted to fly himself out to the next city where Harry will be but he’s afraid to get the cold shoulder in person. He thinks it might feel worse than getting run over by a herd of elephants or getting attacked by a pack of ferocious wolves.

He lets his imagination run wild some nights. He pictures Harry returning to the UK without stopping home. He imagines him sending his sister Gemma or his good pal Nick to pick up his things from Louis’ flat. And then Louis realizes that he may have to move. He wouldn’t be able to afford Harry’s half of the rent. He’d have to surf on Niall’s couch and then Zayn’s and Liam’s and whoever else would be willing to give Louis a temporary place to stay. Harry would move on and Louis would have to live without the person he loves most.

Okay, so maybe he should go back to work and stop claiming contagious illness as a reason for staying home all week. His students need him and he definitely needs to distract himself.

~ ~ ~

Louis finally drags himself to work on Friday. Harry has a show that night. Louis hopes he’ll be on time and in better spirits. (There are multiple photos and clips of Harry looking solemn during his most romantic songs and whenever he thinks the lights are too low for cameras to capture his emotionless face.)

Zayn corners Louis as soon as he spots him by the teacher’s lounge during lunch. He shares funny work-related anecdotes and never once mentions the elephant in the room. Louis appreciates it. They agree to meet after school to have dinner with Niall and Liam.

When he’s on the field running drills with his students he feels slightly better. He hopes the effort and the sweat will help release some of the frustration and sadness he can't shake off. It works in small increments.

At the end of the day, Chase is surprisingly the first to get picked up. He waits around with his friends while Roman heads straight for Louis and nearly tackles him to the ground. His arms wrap around Louis and Louis is left with nothing to offer except for a weak greeting.

Roman steps back.

“I’m a little sweaty, sorry,” Louis mutters, gesturing around his face and neck.

Roman shrugs. “I was worried about you. Chase told me you had a sub all week.”

“Yeah. I came down with something but I’m fine now.” Louis wants to head home and shower. He’s not up for a chat but something tells him he should be patient. That’s what a good friend would do.

“That’s good. I’m sorry I didn’t text or call. I figured you might want space.”

“I appreciate that, thanks.”

“So I talked to my team about you.”

Louis perks up. “Did you tell them how wonderful I am?” He aims for light and fun but instead it sounds a little dry and meaningless.

Roman tilts his head. He places a hand on Louis’ shoulder and applies the lightest pressure. “Of course. They agree you’d be a great addition to the team so you start as soon as the school year ends. We can discuss your contract then.”

“Really?! Just like that?” Now that Louis pours a little feeling into his words he realizes he actually means them.

“They take my opinion very seriously. It’ll be fun, Lou. I think we’ll make a great team!”

Louis swallows and nods his head for lack of something to say this time. He tries to not focus on the fact that Roman called him Lou for the first time or that his eyes are practically sparkling with excitement like they did Saturday night. An outsider may think there’s something going on when in reality it’s nothing.

“Yeah, mate . Can’t wait.”

Roman smiles despite the term and slips into a story about something that happened in the morning. Louis only catches part of it because he realizes that Roman’s still gripping his shoulder and his thumb is gently rubbing over his collarbone. He attempts to wriggle away before he catches a flash of dark hair in his peripheral vision.

~ ~ ~

“Just say it.”

“Say what?”

“What you’re bloody thinking.”

“I’m not thinking about anything.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

Zayn is the smartest person Louis knows. He’s always thinking about something. They’re sat in a cafe, waiting for Liam and Niall to join them. Zayn’s been in a pensive state since they arrived and Louis has been wanting to crawl out of his own skin. He knows what Zayn’s thinking but he’s afraid to say it.

“I think you need to find a way to talk to Harry before things get worse.”

Louis clenches his fists. “Don’t you think I’ve tried?”

“Try harder.” He starts leafing through the menu even though it’s pointless because he always orders the same thing for him and Liam.

“I am,” Louis huffs. His head hurts and he needs a shower.

“Didn’t seem like it earlier.”

Finally . “What exactly do you think you saw?”

Zayn peers at Louis over the top of his menu and gives him a pointed look. “You were flirting with Kemp out in the open.”

“I was not!” Louis nearly shouts. He glances around and grins awkwardly at the elderly couple sat in a booth near them. They look startled. “We were just talking.”

“He was touching you.”

“In a platonic way.”

“If you say so.”

“Zayn.”

“Look, Lewis .” Louis scowls at the nickname he never approved. “I know what I saw. You may not be into him but that guy is totally into you. I told you from the start.”

“He’s like a puppy. That’s what you’re seeing. He was telling me I officially got the job. I start as soon as school lets out.”

Zayn lowers the menu. “What are you going to do when he finally makes a move on you?”

“He won’t! Can you stop–”

“Lewis–”

“Stop calling me that!”

“I prefer the French pronunciation of your name,” says a third voice.

Louis and Zayn look up and find Niall smiling down at them. “I saw Liam parking before I walked in. What did I miss?” He takes a seat beside Louis.

“Ask him,” Zayn grunts. “I’ll be back.” He drops his menu and heads for the door, likely on his way to greet his boyfriend. Louis hates them.

Niall turns to Louis. He already has half a slice of complimentary bread in his mouth. “Been meaning to ask ya. What’s up with our Harry? I’ve been catching livestreams of his shows this week and he seems...off. People are talking about how late he’s been coming on stage. Do you know what’s wrong?”

Niall is Harry’s biggest fan. No one can beat him for the title. Louis also cannot lie to him. Liam most likely knows what’s going on so it’s only fair to keep Niall in the loop.

“Hazza and I had a fight before he left.”

“Yeah, right,” Niall says through the other half of his bread. “You guys never fight.”

“Why do you think he’s been odd this week?” Louis launches into the story and it hurts as much as it did when he talked to Zayn about it. At least he is able to hold back from crying this time.

Niall frowns the entire time. “But you guys are like my gay dads,” he whines.

Louis shoves at him. “Don’t say that ever again. It’s weird enough when the internet talks like that.”

“I’m serious! I look up to your relationship as much as I look up to Zayn’s and Liam’s. I can only hope to have what you have someday. You have your matching puzzle piece and someday you’re going to have little baby puzzle pieces.”

“Niall…” Louis sniffs. His eyes are burning but he’ll be damned if he tears up in public.

“All I’m saying is that I agree with Zayn. Talk to him before either of you do something stupid, okay?”

“Yes, son.”

“Okay, that’s weird.”

“Why is it okay when you do it?”

~ ~ ~

Louis goes to bed that night feeling slightly better. Liam also offered helpful advice and was much nicer about it than Zayn. He loves his friends and he thinks that without them, he’d be a bigger mess than he is now.

His phone goes off around four in the morning. He immediately thinks of Harry and doesn’t bother to check the screen.

“Hazza?”

Um, no, it’s not Harry. I’m sorry if I woke you. It’s Alberto .”

Louis sits up in bed so quickly he gets a head rush. Harry’s head bodyguard calling out of the blue is enough of a reason to fully wake up.

“What’s wrong? What happened? Is he okay? I–”

Relax, Louis. I can barely deal with this one over here .”

Louis’ heart falls into his ass. “What’s going on?”

“I think you need to come see him. He’s threatening to cancel tonight’s show and you know there’s no way he’ll ever forgive himself if he does that. This kid’s work ethic… Please tell me you can come. I can have his assistant book your flight as soon as we get off the phone .”

“Yeah. Yes, of course. I’ll get ready now.” He stumbles out of bed and almost trips over Sweetie. She hisses at him and saunters away.

God bless you, kid. I don’t know what’s going on. He doesn’t want to tell anyone so I think this is something only you can fix.

If he didn’t already feel like absolute shit, that definitely drives it home.

“Thanks, Berto. I really appreciate you calling me.”

Check your email in a couple of minutes. Have a safe flight, sir.

~ ~ ~

Alberto picks up Louis at the airport. They drive in a comfortable silence until the radio starts playing one of Harry’s hits.

“Just a little warning but you may find it a little difficult to recognize him.”

“Why? Appearance-wise he didn’t look different during his last show. I keep up.”

Alberto shakes his head. His knuckles are white where they grip the steering wheel. It goes without saying that he cares a lot about Harry. He isn’t just another client to him. “The way he’s been acting… I’ve never seen that side of him.”

Louis rubs his face with the sleeves of his hoodie. “It’s my fault.”

They’re stopped at a traffic light when the older man turns to him. “It wasn’t a mistake bringing you here, was it?”

“Absolutely not. I’ve been trying to contact him but he’s been icing me out all week. You actually did me a favor by getting me here. I was out of ideas.”

“Don’t make me regret this, Tomlinson.”

Louis looks over at him and sees that the bodyguard that must weigh more than twice as much as Louis is not as serious as he sounds.

“As if I’m afraid of you, big guy.”

~ ~ ~

Louis is given a spare key to Harry’s hotel room. He grips it tightly on his way up to the highest floor. Harry’s in the penthouse suite. A bodyguard by the name of Preston is standing in front of the door with his arms crossed. He looks exhausted. When he sees Alberto and Louis, he lets out an audible sigh of relief and heads for the lift.

“Good luck,” Preston says as he passes by Louis.

Louis thanks him quietly. He’s not sure if Harry can hear them in the hallway. He doesn’t want to give him an opportunity to hide.

They stop in front of the door. Alberto pats his back. “I’ll be one floor down, room 1367. You got this.”

Louis’ hand shakes as he slides the key card into the slot. The red light flashes green and his heart jumps once he’s able to push the door open.

He looks around and freezes.

Chapter Text

Alberto was right. Louis hardly recognizes the person he's been with for the past four and a half years. There’s a boy lying on the floor in the center of the room, body clad in a fluffy bathrobe, hair hidden beneath a towel. He’s surrounded by a mess of things like clothes, shoes, wine bottles and opened nail polish bottles. It reeks of alcohol and it takes Louis only a moment to realize Harry is drunk at one in the afternoon on a work day.

He has the intention to approach him slowly but he somehow startles Harry into an upright position. The towel on his head slips off revealing a mess of dry curls. His robe also slips so that a nipple is exposed. Louis pointedly avoids staring at it.

Harry wipes at his puffy eyes, reddening the sensitive skin, and blinks up at Louis a couple of times. Harry’s face seems to flush with embarrassment and then anger.

This will definitely not turn into a happy reunion.

“What are you doing here?” Harry questions with a sleepy voice. He squints his eyes. “Who called you? I fucking told them I was fine.”

Louis wants to melt away but he stands his ground. “You don’t look fine, babe.”

“Don’t do that!” The hurt in his eyes make Louis lose his breath.

“What?”

“Don’t try to charm me by calling me pet names. I have nothing to say to you. You can tell them I’m fine and there was no reason for you to come.”

“Ha…” Louis almost goes for “Haz” but he bites his tongue. “Harry, you’re clearly not fine. Look at you. Look at this mess. This isn’t you.”

Harry crosses his arms and stubbornly looks away. From his place on the floor he looks like a petulant child.

“Are you here to scold me? I got enough of that from Teasdale and Alberto already.”

“I’m here because I miss you and because we need to talk and most importantly...” Louis drops his holdall and squats so that he can place a hand under Harry’s chin to have him meet his eyes. “I’m here because I love you.”

Harry shakes his head out of Louis’ hold but Louis doesn’t let him move away. He places each hand on Harry’s cheeks and holds on gently. Harry squeezes his eyes closed.

Louis misses his giant green orbs. He says so out loud but Harry groans.

“Stop. I don’t want to talk. The room is spinning.”

“Harry, look at me. Look at me, please.” When they make eye contact, a stray tear spills down Harry’s face. He blinks rapidly as if to keep the rest from falling. “How about we go lay down and we take a nap until you feel better.”

Harry doesn’t agree but he also doesn’t argue against it. Louis takes it as a win.

He helps Harry get to his feet. Harry, being the imbalanced giraffe he’s always been, loses his balance and stumbles into Louis. When he realizes how close they are, he jumps back and makes his way over to a door in the corner. Louis follows, stepping over random crap.

The bedroom is gorgeous. It has a beautiful view and an enormous bed. Harry sits at the foot of it.

“I want to sleep alone.”

Louis’ heart breaks a little. “Oh. Okay. Do you want me to tuck you in?”

Harry sighs. “I’m not a bloody child.”

That goo that spills out of Louis’ chest is his crushed heart. Never once has Harry ever complained about the way Louis takes care of him when he needs to. Not ever. He guesses there’s a first time for everything. Harry starts to remove his robe and reveals he isn’t wearing anything underneath. Louis looks away because this isn’t the time to ogle his angry boyfriend’s body.

“I’ll be over there,” Louis says, pointing in the direction of the living room. Harry doesn’t acknowledge him. “Shout if you need anything.” Again, he’s met with silence.

Louis distracts himself by cleaning up most of Harry’s mess except for the spilled nail polish. That will for sure come out of the room deposit. He settles on the couch, which is actually quite comfortable, and texts Zayn. He called him when he was on his way to the airport. Zayn wasn’t happy about getting woken up early but he did tell Louis to update him as soon as possible.

He hates me. Cheers xx

He thinks you’re moving on.

I’m not!

Tell him.

I will when he wakes up… he’s napping right now.

Will you two be able to keep your pants on until after you talk?

He asked to sleep alone

Oh

Good luck, mate.

~ ~ ~

Louis doesn’t know when he dozes off but the next time he wakes up the sky looks slightly darker and there’s an unhappy boy glaring at him from across the room. Harry’s wearing the bathrobe again and he’s guzzling a water bottle.

“Thought you were dead,” Harry comments.

“Sorry to disappoint.”

Harry frowns but immediately schools his expression. “You said you wanted to talk.”

Louis sits up, clenches his hands. “Yes, please.”

“More lies?”

“I have not lied to you.” Louis is genuinely offended and he thinks it shows well on his face because Harry coughs awkwardly and stalks over to the couch. He sits down, leaving about two feet of space between them, and gestures for Louis to start.

He takes a deep breath. “First, I want to remind you that I love you more than anything.” Harry scoffs and it makes Louis’ eyes burn. “I’m being serious, Harold. I love you and I’m sorry I pushed you to question that.”

“You wrote me a letter saying you’re tired of this.” Harry points between them. “You couldn’t even tell me to my face.”

“I wasn’t ever going to tell you because it isn’t like that. I’m not tired of being with you. The problem is that we lead completely different lives. I hardly ever know when I’ll see you or when you’ll have time to talk. And even when we are together those few times out of the year, we can’t go on public dates without our friends serving as buffers. We can’t function like a normal couple.”

Harry opens his mouth to argue but Louis shakes his head. “Hold on. I really need to get this out before I change my mind.”

In a small voice, Harry agrees.

“Thank you…” He sighs. “I want to have something normal with you but obviously that’s out of the question for the time being. I respect your career and I know that someday you’ll be in a place where you’re free to be who you want to be without worrying about any repercussions. Until then, I’m here like I promised I would be from the start. Remember your first legit gig?”

“Of course,” Harry nods his head quickly, passionately.

“I promised I would always support you no matter what.”

Harry eyes fill with tears and so do Louis’.

“I sacrificed my career for you because if I had gone off to play for Manchester, do you think I would have been able to live with myself? Knowing that I promised you I’d always be there… Football would’ve taken up all of my time and you still needed me to reassure you and to make sure you knew you were loved no matter what. You think I could give that up for footie?”

Harry is silent for a while. The silence is almost too much. Eventually he insists, “We could’ve found a way for you to do both… I would’ve been there for you too. Lou, I know you just want me to listen right now but I need to say stuff too.” He dabs at his eyes. Louis despises the distance between them so he shifts over to eliminate that space. Harry clears his throat. “I didn’t realize exactly what you were giving up at the time. I didn’t even understand what I was getting myself into. I was scared and you were always so sweet about everything… Since I read that letter I feel like such an idiot for not realizing what I took from you.”

“You didn’t take anything from me. It was my choice.”

Harry places a finger over Louis’ lips. “I’ll never forgive myself for that. I appreciate everything you did for me back when I was scared and helpless and I appreciate that you’ve stuck around this long despite me being gone all the time. I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days and I’m sorry I’ve been ignoring all of your calls... I was trapped in my mess of a head.”

“It’s okay. I think I deserved it.”

Harry takes his hands. “You only deserve the best.”

“You do too.”

Harry bites his lip. “You deserve better than what I can offer you.”

Louis falters.

Harry presses on. “I’m also sorry about earlier. I was drunk and emotional and an absolute prick. I shouldn’t have talked to you like that. Thank you for coming and for staying. I was an absolute mess but everything seems clear now. All thanks to you.”

“That’s good, Haz. I’m glad that we’re talking about this.”

“Me too. And um… I still have questions.”

Louis urges him to ask away. He’ll answer everything and anything if that gets him closer to being done with this chapter. He wants to move on to cuddling and kissing and hopefully no more fights.

“How did you meet Roman Kemp again?”

Of course. He should’ve seen it coming.

“His little brother happens to be my star player this year. Roman usually picks him up from practice.”

“I see.” Judging by his expression, Harry appears to have fallen into a weird, contemplative state. “What is he like?”

Louis furrows his brows. “My student?”

“Roman Kemp. What is he like when you’re together?”

“Er–he’s nice? Fun to be around. Everyone likes him. Where are you going with this?”

“I’m just trying to figure out why you chose him over me.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Seriously? I’m here trying to have a mature conversation and you’re over here acting like a jealous child.”

“Of course I’m jealous! You’re spending your whole summer holiday with him instead of spending it with me! How do you think that makes me feel?”

“You have absolutely nothing to be jealous about, you idiot. We don’t see each other in any way that isn’t strictly platonic. Look. He offered me an incredible opportunity and you haven’t even given me a chance to tell you about it."

Harry frowns. He lets go of Louis’ hands and messes with his hair leaving it in an even messier state. “Sorry. You’re right. I’m being an idiot. What is this job he’s given you?”

“He’s starting a new physical segment in collaboration with Arsenal and he asked for my help because he knows I love footie. I’ll be training with him and the team and stuff. That’s pretty much all I know until we actually get started.”

Harry looks genuinely impressed. “That’s amazing, Lou.”

“I’m buzzin'!"

“How did he know about your love for footie. Does he know about your past?”

“He knows I was almost recruited but he doesn’t know the whole story.”

“I see.”

“Is there anything else you’d like to ask or are we done talking about Ro?”

Ro,” Harry repeats a little weakly. “Yeah, that’s all. I was just curious.”

“Okay, then. So, does this mean you forgive me for taking the job?”

“I mean, I can’t imagine myself stopping you from pursuing this. Like you said, it’s an incredible opportunity. I’m glad you have Roman for that.” A few tears spill from Harry’s eyes.

Louis leans over to try to wipe them away. “Haz––”

Harry moves away. “I’m being silly. I need to shower so that I’m not late for my show.” He stands up and stretches.

It relieves Louis that Harry is no longer threatening to cancel the show like Alberto had mentioned over the phone. It does however hurt that Harry seems so stuck on the whole Roman situation.

“I could join you,” Louis says coyly. He bats his lashes for effect.

Harry rushes away. “I don’t think there’s time.”

Louis’ mouth hangs open as he watches his figure retreat. Harry never denies him shower sex.

~ ~ ~

Harry is on time for his show. In his beautiful custom-made, maroon suit, Harry tells the crowd that there are only nine shows left of the tour and he’s beginning to feel emotional about it. Louis watches him on the big screen from his box seat way up top. This is the first time he’s allowed to watch Harry from the point of view of the audience. The difference is that he’s sitting in a dark room with Lou Teasdale to his left, keeping him company per usual.

She pats his back once in a while like she knows he had a tough talk with Harry. He appreciates her because she doesn’t ask questions and she sings along to each song in a terrible, off-key voice that Louis pokes fun at occasionally. He genuinely enjoys himself.

During the second-to-last song, one of Harry’s bodyguards shows up to guide them backstage before chaos ensues. Louis waits in Harry’s dressing room, which is decorated how he’s always requested––thick, black curtain, ugly rug, candles and lots and lots of fruit. He helps himself to a green apple and scowls from how sour it is.

Harry bursts into the room at that moment with a posse in tow. Louis sort of knows some of them and so he smiles and pretends he isn’t annoyed by their presence. He was hoping to get Harry alone and congratulate him with a kiss or two. It’s been about a week since their last kiss!

Harry hardly makes eye contact with him and he doesn’t discourage his friends from sticking around until Alberto deems it time for all of them to leave the venue.

Louis is disappointed when the group doesn’t leave Harry’s side as they all pile into the same SUV. He’s almost seething by the time they get to the hotel. Harry allows his friends to come to his suite. Louis follows along because he has nowhere else to go. He tries to convince Lou to join them so he at least has someone to talk to but she claims she’s tired and goes in the direction of her own room.

The group makes a mess of the suite, which Louis had selflessly cleaned earlier, and they’re loud and annoying. Louis hates them all. Especially the one named Xander. He’s tall and attractive and keeps touching and giving Harry fond looks. Harry is oblivious and tells his friends that he wouldn’t be where he is without everyone in that room. Louis excuses himself and hides away in the bedroom.

It seems like he lays there for ages until their company leaves and the door to the bedroom opens slowly. Harry slips inside, tiptoeing because he seems to think Louis’ asleep. He definitely doesn’t watch Harry strip down to a pair of clingy pants before he joins Louis under the covers.

“Lou? You awake?”

Louis doesn’t answer. He refuses. He’s biting the inside of his cheek and hoping Harry gives up on talking.

“I think we need to take some time off. I think you were right when you wrote that letter. That’s why it hurts. Because you were fucking right. I haven't been there for you like you deserve and maybe this relationship is unhealthy...”

He breaks off and Louis listens to him cry. He never once attempts to console him because he starts to cry too.

~ ~ ~

The next morning Louis wakes up with Harry plastered against his back. He ignores the hard on pressed against his backside and rolls out of bed. It’s like he’s on autopilot as he throws his clothes on and double-checks his holdall. He glances at Harry whom is now awake, quietly watching him with wide but sad eyes. Louis crawls onto the bed and kisses his forehead. He observes the way the dim morning light falls over Harry’s head like a halo. It’s an image he wants to keep for the rest of his life.

“Enjoy the rest of your tour and have a great time in Jamaica. Let me know if you need me to ship any clothes or stuff to you.”

Harry doesn’t respond. He simply grabs onto Louis’ arm and tugs him down until their lips meet. It’s soft and sweet. Louis pulls away first.

“I guess you were awake last night,” Harry whispers.

“Yeah,” Louis whispers back. He struggles to maintain eye contact. “It’s okay, Haz. We’ll be okay.” He’s not sure if he’s trying to convince Harry or himself.

“I’m sorry, baby.”

“Don’t be. Take care, okay?”

He gives him one final kiss and moves away as quickly as possible before he changes his mind and stays buried beneath those blankets with Harry.

~ ~ ~ 

He promises Alberto he's okay before he drops him off at the airport.

~ ~ ~ 

He didn't remind Harry he loves him and Harry didn't say it either. 

He breaks down on the plane within the private walls of its tiny loo. No one will ever know.

Chapter Text

Sleep is but a concept on the first night. He doesn't get a smidge of it. Louis spends it on the couch with Harry's pillow. It still smells like his shampoo. Coconut.

He curls up in a ball and lets Sweetie sleep against his back. His tears flow like a broken sprinkler.

~ ~ ~

“Look After You” by The Fray was the only song he could fully play on the keyboard when he was in school. His fingers landed on each key properly and he hardly had to look down to watch what he was doing. Sure, it wasn’t the most challenging song to play but he still felt proud of himself considering he learned it by watching a tutorial on YouTube.

When he finally got to see his favorite band play live, Louis was elated. It was the nicest gift his grandparents had ever given him and it wasn’t even his birthday yet.

The crowd was energetic and excited — feeling every emotion Louis was feeling — but there was something that drew his eye. He noticed the back of someone’s head — a nice, healthy head of curls. It was unexplainable. He shook his head and focused on the show.

It was later, about halfway through, when the opening keys to “Look After You” filled the arena. Louis admired that song for its vulnerability and honesty. He imagined himself playing along on his keyboard. When they reached the bridge, his eyes were once again drawn to the same head of hair. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was the way that person was swaying from side to side. Maybe it was the hand that constantly flew up to adjust the hair. He was one row down and a couple of seats over. Louis stared and stared until he caught sight of the individual’s profile.

There was a prominent-yet-cute nose and pouty lips to appreciate. The face turned as if the owner of it knew it was being examined and Louis was met with the largest, most beautiful eyes he’d ever seen. Given the dim lighting surrounding them, Louis still deemed those eyes enchanting. The boy quickly looked away.

It was in that moment that Louis knew he would have to find a way to talk to him.

By the time The Fray closed the show, Louis had a plan. He was overwhelmed with the need to speak to that gorgeous boy, if only just to hear his voice. Louis imagined it sounded sweet.

The boy and his companion, a girl with slick black hair, moved down their aisle towards the right. They'd reach the steps before Louis. By some miracle Louis made sure him and his own companion, his old childhood friend, Stan, would make it to the steps quicker. They practically trampled the people in their aisle. Louis apologized repeatedly but he was on a mission. When he reached the steps, he moved down quickly so that he'd block the boy’s path.

They nearly collided. The boy’s eyes met Louis’ timidly. Louis smiled. The boy smiled back. Both Stan and the boy's (friend? Girlfriend?) tried to get them to move along but they were both frozen in place.

“Oops,” the boy eventually said. He already sounded better than Louis imagined.

“Hi!” Louis’ lips twisted. He didn't have anything else to say. He was completely out of words. That never happened to him. Stan could attest to that.

“I think we're blocking everyone's way,” the boy said, cheeks tinting so that they almost matched his pigmented lips.

Louis glanced around. “Are we?” He wasn't ready to move on yet. He couldn't believe he got more than one word from him without even trying. He needed more. “Good show, wasn't it?”

“Incredible!” The boy looked genuinely content to continue chatting except for the girl behind him.

“Jesus, Harold! People are waiting!”

Harold. Louis would store that information for later.

Somehow the flow of the traffic picked up again as Louis’ body filtered out of the venue along with everybody else. He was disappointed that the boy disappeared in the crowd.

~ ~ ~

The boys visit Louis when they note something is wrong. They all crowd around him, leaving no space for Jesus himself, and cuddle Louis as he announces the break.

Tears glisten in Niall's eyes. Liam pouts. Zayn scowls.

“You guys are meant to be. I fucking know it. You'll be back together sooner than you think,” Niall insists passionately.

Liam hums in agreement. “This is healthy and this is common. Couples take breaks all the time.”

“What are you trying to say?” Zayn asks, tugging on Liam’s arm.

“I didn't say all couples,” Liam says, exasperated.

He giggles when Zayn presses a loud kiss into his neck. “I'm not letting you go anywhere.”

Louis looks away. He wants to hurl.

“Don't be insensitive,” Niall reprimands them. He probably wants to hurl too.

Louis loves Niall the most at the moment. Liam and Zayn have somehow managed to maintain a perfect fucking relationship since day one. They've never had a big fight and they've never struggled with honesty and whatever else went wrong in Louis and Harry’s relationship.

To be fair, they aren't in a similar position. Neither one of them is famous. They don't have to deal with blood contracts (not literally but Louis sees them that way) and the media and paparazzi and just about everything else that comes along with being a celebrity or the partner of one. To put it plainly, Liam and Zayn have it easy.

Louis would like to have it easy for once. He'd welcome it with open arms. Unfortunately, Harry isn't in that place yet and Louis isn't keen on finding it without him. Just thinking of doing that with someone else makes a chill go down his spine.

“Thanks guys. I think I'll be fine. It's just going to take a little while to get used to.” His heart thumps in his chest like it doesn't believe him. He couldn't agree more.

“We're here for you, Tommo.” Liam gives his hand a squeeze.

Niall wraps himself around Louis like an octopus. “Love you, Tommo.”

“You'll be okay, babes,” Zayn adds. He shakes his head. “I'm sorry it went down the way it did but at least you're finally moving in the right direction.”

He doesn't like wallowing in self pity but he isn't sure how to even begin to heal. He stares over Niall's shoulder at the pictures on the mantel and figures that's probably a good place to start: by putting away the memories that hurt most. Temporarily.

There's a framed photo of Harry blowing kisses at his first live show. Louis took that photo with shaking hands. There's another of Harry laughing so hard his cheeks are pink, Louis at his side, watching with unmistakable fondness. The third photo is one of Louis’ favorites because of the memory attached to it. It's of Louis in a football kit, looking happier than the sun. Harry took that photo and Louis will never forget what he shouted to get him to look at the camera.

“I love you, baby honey!”

“You're so embarrassing,” Louis had complained afterward. His closest teammates that knew about them sniggered behind his back, cooing and mouthing insufferable things.

“So call me a fool.” Harry took his hand and kissed it. “I'm a fool for you.”

Louis blushed so hard he had to press his face against Harry's neck to hide it from their audience.

Later that day, Harry completed a song he'd been struggling to finish writing and within a couple of days, Ariana Grande’s team begged for it.

She apparently asked Harry who inspired that song and he'd blushed so hard she immediately dropped the question.

~ ~ ~

Louis startles awake from a vivid dream involving curls, a huge smile and a pair of pretty eyes. He finds it hard to maneuver around his friends who decided to crash in his living room for the night. He manages to slip away without waking anyone up.

It has been ages since he last smoked a cigarette. Harry hates it and in reality so does Louis but there's something alluring about smoking one tonight.

He lights up on the balcony just off the master bedroom. The moon is a crescent, dim enough to not overpower the night sky as it keeps him company. He takes a long drag and wonders how Harry is doing. Louis’ been able to evade the internet in the past few days. He has not once searched updates on any social media platform. It would be like taking a step backwards. Besides, Niall keeps tabs on Harry out of his own free will so Louis trusts that if there's ever something he needs to know, Niall will bring it to his attention.

He takes a long drag and lets it out slowly, forming perfect smoke donuts. He nearly jumps when a body joins him on the balcony.

“Thought I might find you here.”

Louis offers up the cigarette and Zayn accepts it, inhaling once and returning it right away. He's been trying to quit for Liam. Louis immediately feels guilty.

“You usually sleep like a rock. Did I wake you?”

“Nah, I was kind of awake.” Zayn frowns at him. “Alright?”

“I've been having trouble getting a full night's rest. I keep dreaming about him and waking up thinking about him. This almost feels worse than the situation we were in before. How is that possible?”

“Well… you must feel like you lost him but you have to remind yourself that that isn't what this is. You're taking time apart to think and to do better next time.”

“I think this is too fucking hard.”

“I don't want to say the cliched, ‘it gets better line,’ but I believe it will.”

Louis drops the cigarette and stubs it out. “I really fucking hope so.”

~ ~ ~

It doesn't get better any time soon.

Louis wakes up in a cold sweat each morning after his talk with Zayn and he can't even remember if he gets any actual sleep. He showers and drags himself to work, counting down the days until the end of term.

At work he tries to act like nothing's wrong and for the most part, it works. Neither his coworkers (excluding Zayn) nor his students notice a difference so it’s a nice break from the stress of his closest friends knowing. It's really only one person who catches on.

Roman.

Louis has been a shit friend to him as of late. He hardly responds to his text messages with more than one or two words, he avoids him on the days he picks up Chase and he manages to get out of hanging out with the excuse that he has final grades to work on. He knows he's being a dick and he feels terrible about it but he doesn't know how to face Roman just yet. He is unknowingly part of the reason Harry reacted the way he did. He doesn't blame him but he also doesn't know how to act around him with that knowledge.

“Coach?”

“Yes, little lad?”

Chase grips the black shoulder straps of his backpack with small hands, knuckles a pale contrast. He's the last student waiting for his ride. He looks up at Louis with worried eyes. “Will you still be our coach next year?”

“Of course, bud! You just have to make sure your parents sign you up before the term starts. You'll get a letter in the mail as a reminder.”

Chase’s face lights up. “Cool! I can't wait! I'll be practicing all summer! Even though...” he sighs, unable to continue.

Louis ruffles his hair playfully. “What's wrong? That sounds like a good plan to me.”

“Yeah, well… I'm not sure where I'll be staying.”

Louis worries his brows. Could this be about his parents divorce?

“My dad moved out. We visited his new home last weekend. It doesn't have grass.”

Without even thinking, Louis squats so he's shorter than Chase. “That doesn't mean you can't play at a park. I'm sure if you ask, someone will take you.”

Chase’s frown turns into a small smile. “Do you think you and my brother can take me to the park to play sometime?”

Louis is taken aback by the sincerity on his face. He melts a little. “Sure thing. As long as that's okay with your family.”

“That's more than okay.” Roman startles them. Louis rises and Chase wraps his arms around Louis’ waist. “Thanks Coach! I feel loads better!”

Roman watches on with a serene smile. He hands over his keys to Chase and tells him to turn on the radio while he has a few words with Louis.

“I've been hoping to talk to you.”

Louis maintains a poker face. “What do you want to talk about?”

Roman scratches the back of his neck, biting his lip. “Did I do something wrong?”

Louis hates these types of conversations. He always feels like he's being forced to lie because how else would he respond? My boyfriend thinks there's a thing between us. How ridiculous would that sound? And how would he even explain that he hid the fact that he has… had a boyfriend all this time?

Louis panics inwardly and goes for the white lie.

“Absolutely not. I've just been busy and tired. Can't wait for term to end though I'll miss my students.”

“I'm sure they'll miss you too,” Roman says, eyes stuck on Louis’. He seems to hesitate before: “Are you still interested in the gig I offered you?”

Louis feels bad he's even asking. He thought he made it clear he's all in.

“Of course!”

He lets out a sigh of relief. “I was starting to think you changed your mind. We start on Monday. Does that work for you?”

Louis is desperate to try something new and different — something that will distract him all summer.

“Monday works. Text me the details, yeah?”

“Sure.” Roman glances over at his car where Chase has lowered his window and is leaning forward so he can reach the buttons on the stereo. “I caught a piece of your conversation with him. Thanks for being so kind and patient. He's going through a rough time with the divorce.”

“I'm sorry to hear that. Chase is a great kid. I hate to see him sad but he seems fine when he's playing footie. It's a good distraction for him.”

“I agree! I'm thinking of bringing him to work with us a couple of days here and there.”

Louis grins. “I'm sure he would love that.”

“Yup.” Roman studies Louis for a moment. “Is everything good with you?”

Louis waves him off. “Yeah, don’t worry about me. What about you? You’re in a tough situation.”

He shrugs. “I'm not taking it as hard as my brother but it does hurt to see my mum upset. I thought they would grow old together. They were soulmates, y’know?”

Louis’ eyes water. He thinks of Harry. Always, always thinks of Harry.

“Sorry, did I say something wrong?”

“I went through something similar. My parents split when I was too young to understand what was going on. I was younger than Chase.”

Roman's arms wrap around Louis’ body without a warning of some kind. He pats Roman's back awkwardly, not really sure what to do with his hands. “I'm sorry, Lou,” is said into his ear. It's very intimate.

Louis pulls back.

Roman looks like he wants to say something else but decides against it. “I'll see you on Monday. My mum is picking Chase up tomorrow and Friday.”

“Okay.”

“Maybe we can do something this weekend? If you're free? We can celebrate the end of term…”

“Sure. I'll let you know.”

Roman's eyes either dim a little at Louis’ unenthusiastic response or it could be due to the clouds that just settled partially over the sun.

Either way Louis wants to bang his head against the asphalt.

~ ~ ~

Friday arrives quicker than Louis expects. He's feeling a tad better by then. Instead of spending the past few evenings with his head in his hands and body curled into a ball, he temporarily packed up most of their framed photos and Harry's dozens of awards, changed the sheets, restocked the fridge, cleaned out Tanner’s cage and made plans with his friends (including Roman).

They all meet at Niall's favorite bar to kick off the night. Zayn and Liam occupy one side of the booth, Louis and Roman on the other. Niall pulls up a chair at the end of the table.

They drink beers on tap. The barkeeper keeps sending them refills. Louis is pretty sure Niall bewitched him.

“Here's to Tommo!” Liam slurs. “You're going through some shit but you're hanging in there.”

Liam doesn't wait for the group to second the toast. He chugs the rest of his beer and giggles against Zayn’s shoulder.

Niall and Zayn sip their pints without muttering a single thing. Roman remains quiet but he takes a drink anyway. Louis can feel his eyes on him and squirms in his seat.

“I'm fine, Li.”

Liam frowns. “But we all know you're not.”

Zayn wraps an arm around Liam and tugs so that they slide out of the booth together. “Let's go over there.”

“But —”

“That's code for let's go makeout. C’mon, babe, keep up.”

Liam doesn't hesitate to follow his boyfriend. They disappear around the back.

“I'm gonna check on Bill and make sure we're not abusing.” Niall points in the direction of the bar and walks away briskly.

Great. That's exactly what Louis wanted. Alone time with Roman right after Liam made it awkward.

“Um... Louis? I have a feeling you don't want me to ask about what just happened.”

“Then don't,” Louis begs.

“I won't. Cheers, mate.”

“Cheers.”

Zayn and Liam get them kicked out of the joint at some point for indecent acts that Louis attempts to zone out. Niall smacks them both upside the head.

Roman is quiet for the most part except for when Louis addresses him. They make small talk as they all walk towards their next destination only three blocks away. It's a club they've been to before. The bouncer lets them in as soon as he sees Roman. The five of them squeeze through the crowd. They lose Zayn and Liam at some point. Niall sticks with them until he sees a mate and goes off in that direction. Typical.

Louis and Roman find themselves in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by energetic people and a sick beat. Without a word they start dancing too. It's a little strange. Louis hasn't danced with anyone in a long time aside from Harry and their friends. The crowd pushes in on them and suddenly they're in each other’s space. Their eyes meet and Louis isn't sure if it's just him or the atmosphere or the alcohol but Roman looks about ready to do something about their proximity.

Louis turns away and focuses on the dj. He thinks Roman does the same but is too scared to make eye contact with him again.

Some songs and lots of sweat later, Louis feels a pair of unfamiliar hands circle his hips. He freezes in place, uncertain if he should overreact and elbow them in the face or at least look back to see who it is. He turns just slightly and finds he's being touched by a much older man with a head of grey hair that doesn't quite fit the demographic.

Louis struggles to move away. The man maintains a tight grip as he tries to grind forward. In his haste to shoo him off, Louis knocks his elbow into Roman's side, successfully catching his attention. Louis is yanked away from the man and pulled to Roman's side.

“Back off, mate!”

The man, a silver fox it seems now that Louis can properly see him, scowls at the pair of them. He doesn't even try to put up a fight.

“Sorry, mate. Didn't know he was taken,” he yells over the noise.

Louis sputters as he feels Roman stiffen beside him. They don't get a chance to respond. The man stumbles away and disappears into the crowd of gyrating bodies likely in search of his next victim.

Roman grips his shoulder, the pad of his thumb settling against his collarbone. “You alright?” He looks down at Louis with his lip worried in between his teeth.

Louis nods jerkily. “Yeah. Thanks for that.”

“Of course. Some men don't have boundaries.”

“He was a creep!”

Roman laughs. “Was it me or was he a little attractive?”

Louis shrugs. He pictures Harry. “Not really my type,” he admits.

He's not sure if he hears correctly but in the next moment, Roman gives his shoulder a light squeeze as he leans in and asks, “What is your type?”

Once again, Louis is left speechless. He opens his mouth to respond but is left flopping it back closed when he spots Niall in the distance. Niall is looking back at him — actually, he's looking at both of them — with both eyebrows raised. He cocks his head as he makes eye contact with Louis and then continues to dance with the girl pressed against him. Louis wishes he hadn't noticed Niall. He feels his cheeks color.

“I don't know,” he finally answers, moving away so that Roman's hand gets dislodged.

“How do you not know? Everyone has a type!”

“Well, I don't,” Louis calls over his shoulder. He begins walking in the direction of the bar, hoping to ignore the buzzing in his ears.

Roman follows him. It's easier to hear him as they get further and further away from the dance floor. “I'll give you an example. Mine is someone shorter than me. Someone nice with lovely eyes. Someone smart and talented. Someone I feel comfortable around.”

Louis pretends he isn't listening to this. He feels something weird stir in his chest. They reach the bar and be orders two shots. He hands one to Roman as soon as they're ready.

They slam their empty shot glasses back down at the same time. Before Louis can begin to walk away, Roman blocks his path. Louis’ back rests against the side of the bar as Roman looms over him. He forgets their height difference.

“How do you not have a type?”

“Will you drop it already?”

Roman rubs his face. His cheeks are a little blotchy. “There's so much you keep to yourself, Lou. I'm just trying to figure you out.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “This again? Why do you care so bloody much?”

“Because…” Roman frowns as he appears to struggle internally. “Fuck, forget I said anything. You're about to work with me. I have to act professional.”

“What —”

https://thosedamnbears.tumblr.com/post/180677344945/zarrie1998-zayn-knows-how-much-fashion-means-to“If you ever decide to tell me why you're always so sad and closed off, ring me. If not, don't worry. We don't have to be close friends. We can strictly be coworkers if that's what you'd prefer.”

“Ro —”

“I'm tired. I think it's time for me to head home. See you on Monday.”

Louis watches him head for the exit. What the fuck just happened? Roman has never been anything but sweet and patient. He's never so much as frowned at Louis.

He dully stays in the same spot and forgets to school his expression before Niall joins him. The girl he'd been dancing with is nowhere to be seen.

“Bored already?”

Niall raises a brow. “She went to go powder her nose.”

“I wonder if that's actually a thing.”

“Lou…”

“What?” Louis snaps without meaning to. He's tired of being interrogated.

Furrowing his brows this time, Niall lifts his hands in a silent surrender. “I guess I won't ask about what I've seen tonight.”

“You haven't seen anything.”

“If you say so... But can I just say that you should be careful?”

“Careful?”

He lowers his hands. “If Harry somehow finds out about you and Ro —”

Louis’ heart races. “What the fuck are you talking about? 'Me and Ro'? There's no me and Ro!”

“Oh, I just thought —”

“You saw one thing but it isn't what you think.”

“Okay…” Niall shrugs. “Then I'm not sure if I should be telling you this but I've seen the way he looks at you. I didn't say anything before because you never showed interest but I saw you, Tommo, you were looking at him a certain way tonight.”

Louis sees red. “No, I wasn't.”

“Mate, you don't need to lie to me. If you aren't ready to admit whatever you're feeling, then don't.”

“I'm feeling like I'm about to throw up.” Although it's mainly a joke and a way to steer the conversation in a different direction, Louis feels actual bile move up his throat. He rushes to the loo and releases most of the contents in his stomach. Niall is there, offering wet paper towels and gentle back rubs.

Louis can't quite shake the feeling that maybe Harry was right to question the new member of their friend group and Louis' reluctance to tell them about each other. 

Chapter Text

The first day of his summer gig feels like the first day of school. He double checks to make sure his laces are tied and his hair looks presentable, fringe artfully swooping to the right. He brushes his teeth thoroughly, staring into the depths of his own eyes for far too long while he stands at the sink.

He’s not the type to pack ahead of time but his nerves kept him up late enough to prepare a backpack with items that were suggested to him by the Capital FM team. Louis expected at least a professional text with a confirmation or a reminder about Monday but he didn't hear from Roman over the weekend.

After a fairly short ride in the tube, he's on time with a few minutes to spare. He's greeted at the reception by a girl with kind eyes and an eager smile. She introduces herself as Jade.

“I'll be assisting you with anything you may need,” Jade explains as they take a lift to another floor. “Tea? Coffee? What's your preference?”

“Tea would be lovely, thanks.”

They make their way down a hallway that is lined up with several doors. Jade stops at the one labeled Roman Kemp. Louis sucks in a breath.

Roman is perched at his desk, hands moving in different ways to guide his storytelling. He’s not his usual enthusiastic self when he notices Louis and Jade at the door. His conversation with the man in front of him ends as his eyes settle on Louis. He nods his gratitude at Jade and cocks an eyebrow at Louis once she exits the room.

“You made it.”

The man Roman had been talking to is still standing there but instead of facing Roman, he's now standing off to the side awkwardly staring at Louis.

Louis holds back a sigh. “I told you I would.” He knew their interaction today would be difficult..

Roman gestures at the man who is still staring at Louis. “This is one of our producers. Tony meet Louis. Louis meet Tony.”

“I've heard great things about you, Louis,” Tony says when they shake hands.

Louis glances at Roman who has turned away to fiddle with something on his desk. Louis thinks he sees a faint blush on his cheeks.

Tony sticks around for a couple of minutes and in that time, Jade brings tea for Louis and takes their lunch orders for later. Louis likes her already.

Before he leaves, Tony suggests that Roman should give Louis a tour of the building. It sounds more like an order than a suggestion.

As they walk around, he holds back from making jokes that come to mind. The timing does not feel appropriate. He wishes Roman would break out of his spell but the stiffness continues as they enter the studio in which Louis has seen him conduct the few interviews he’s watched. He did some research. He likes the relaxed atmosphere Roman provides for his guests. It must help ease their nerves. It doesn’t quite ease his.

“Take a seat,” Roman pulls out an office chair without meeting his eyes. “Would you like more tea? I can page Jade.”

“I’m okay right now, thanks,” Louis says. “This is cool.” He looks around at the equipment surrounding them. He doesn't have a clue if he's allowed to touch anything so he keeps his hands on his lap.

“Yeah.” Roman types something into the computer in front of him. “So, I think we should brainstorm how we’re going to make this segment work. Once we have a solid outline, we can run it with Tony and some of the other producers you’ll meet later. They're all very easy to work with so don't fret it.” He looks at Louis expectantly.

“You’re the expert here so feel free to take the reigns.”

Roman gives him an unimpressed look. “You’re the expert on footie.”

Louis sinks back in his seat. “I suppose.”

They narrow their eyes at each other. It’s almost like they’re fighting without actually fighting. Louis can’t stand it. He clears his throat. “Should we talk about the other night?”

Roman sighs. He leans back in his chair so that it slightly reclines. “Won’t it just end in another argument? You already know where I stand.”

“And you know where I stand as well.”

“Do I?”

“Why do you insist on digging where you're not needed?”

Roman makes a noise. “Ouch.”

“Sorry. That was mean.”

“A bit.”

They stare at each other in silence until Roman cracks first with a giggle and Louis finds himself laughing with him.

“Alright, Tomlinson. I obviously brought you on board to help make this segment enjoyable for fans as well as the players themselves. I bet you can be much more creative than you think and I don't believe fighting will make this any easier so how about we call a truce? I promise I'll stop digging.”

Louis mulls it over. He doesn’t have this type of experience but he does understand entertainment and as a massive football fan, he knows what he likes. He'd also like to go back to the way it was before — easy conversation, light banter and zero stiffness between them.

“Agreed.”

“Brilliant.”

~ ~ ~

Louis heads home with a big smile on his face and he knows he probably looks like a tit but it doesn't make the smile any smaller. After calling truce, they accomplished a lot and had a great time working together. Roman suspects they'll be ahead of schedule by the end of the week.

His phones buzzes while he's walking from the tube station to his flat, which only a couple of blocks away. He gives it a quick glance and feels his smile vanish. It's a message from Harry.

It's unexpected.

He somehow holds off on reading it until he's home.

I hope you are having a wonderful day.

Louis reads the text at least five times. He can hardly believe Harry took the first step, no matter the increment. It has to mean something.

Thanks xx, he types out but quickly erases the x’s and replaces them with an H.

Thanks H

Harry appears to be typing as soon as Louis sends off his message but a response never comes through. He locks the screen and settles on the feeling that at least they're getting somewhere.

~ ~ ~

The next few days go even better than Louis expected. He meets the rest of Roman’s team. They come up with more plans and strategies, which are presented to Tony and three other producers by the end of the week, half a week ahead of schedule. Most of their ideas for the segment are given the green light.

They're set to meet with the Arsenal squad by the end of the following week and the pit of Louis’ stomach fills with butterflies just at the thought of it. He can hardly contain his excitement.

One evening, Louis finds himself packing up his stuff later than usual. Roman left the studio earlier due to older brother duties and had left Louis in the hands of his team, which went really well considering he's still getting to know them. His mind continues flowing with ideas long after the session ended so he hardly notices the figure standing in the doorway.

“Hello,” Louis says as he finishes zipping up his backpack.

“Hey,” Tony responds. There's something very casual about the way he's dressed and the way he's leaning against the doorframe. “How are you feeling about everything? You seem comfortable here.”

“I am very comfortable. You guys make it easy for a noob like me.”

Tony shrugs. “You make it easy on us. You're really fun to work with, Louis. In fact, I want to talk to you about hiring you officially once summer ends and this segment is concluded.”

Louis’ mouth drops just a pinch. He sucks in some air. “You want to hire me for another segment?”

“I want to hire you as Roman’s co-anchor.”

He frowns. “What do you mean? I thought he was a one-man show?”

“We've been losing listeners according to the latest trends and some of us have been thinking that maybe Roman would do even better with a pal he gets on with. It's nothing personal. He's fantastic but sometimes you have to make changes in this industry. Think about it. We can talk more about it in August.”

Louis nods slowly. “Okay… um… I guess I wasn't expecting that.” He coughs. “Thanks for the offer but —”

“Don't answer now.” Tony starts backing out in the hall. “Take some time to get more acquainted around here.”

He doesn't give Louis another opportunity to reject his offer. Tony excuses himself and shortly after Jade walks in to brief Louis on the following week’s schedule. She gives him a tight smile when they make eye contact. Louis wonders if she heard the previous conversation.

~ ~ ~

The following days are difficult for Louis. Every time he makes eye contact with Roman or they accomplish any task, he can't help but feel like a traitor. Louis wouldn't be in this position if it weren't for their friendship and here he is, having received a job offer by one of Roman's bosses. If Louis accepts, it would change Roman's show, which has been going on for years, and he'd look like the guy who took advantage of a friend. Louis would have to quit his job at the school and that would mean letting down his past and future students. That would include letting down Chase, which would in turn affect Roman.

There's no way Louis can take the job. There are too many variables and none of them lead to positive outcomes.

Tony doesn't bring up the subject again as if he can hear the internal turmoil stirring in Louis’ mind. He greets Louis kindly and gives his shoulder a squeeze when the moment allows it.

Jade sometimes watches their interactions closely like she's studying a textbook. Louis will send her a smile and she'll return it albeit not as friendly as before.

Roman seems unaware of the situation. He doesn't question Louis’ expressions during the moments when he fails subtlety. He has taken their truce seriously and has not badgered Louis about anything. In fact, they've stripped away all the playfulness and are stuck with curt and professional interactions.

Louis wants to fix it and he feels particularly optimistic about it on the day they are set to meet the team.

Roman and Louis sport personalized jerseys and joggers. They're accompanied to Arsenal’s stadium by Tony, Jade and the guys from the video crew. Louis is buzzing and the feeling certainly doesn't dwindle when he's being introduced to each player. Louis hardly has an opportunity to chat with any of them. They're on a tight schedule. Roman, whom has already met the players, stands back and allows Louis to go around the group and have his brief moment.

They take a group photo eventually and Louis posts it on his social media accounts. It's the first time he features Roman. They're standing with their arms around each other and Arsenal surrounding them. It's a good photo.

He gets a message from Harry that night, the second time he's reached out.

Congrats, Lou! That group photo is sick.

It was an exciting day, Louis writes back.

I'm glad. x

Progress, Louis thinks.

How was your day?

He doesn't get a response right away so he takes his time to shower and pack for the weekend. Liam enlisted him and the other boys to go camping. Niall apparently invited Roman but he turned them down with the excuse that he has plans with family. Louis doubts it.

He's rolling his sleeping bag when his phone buzzes. He opens up the new message to a gorgeous photo of the ocean lapping against the sparkling shore. He takes that as Harry enjoying himself too. He's glad though his chest tightens.

That's beautiful, H x

Harry sends back the peace sign emoji and that ends their conversation.

Louis wishes he could tell Harry how much he misses him and needs him but that wouldn't help their situation, would it?

He hates second guessing himself so he flicks the TV on and settles into a deep sleep with the peaceful sounds of Hell’s Kitchen in the background.

~ ~ ~

Unsurprisingly and quite worrisome, he dreams of Jamaica that night. He envisions himself wrapped around thin sheets and fed fresh fruit every morning. He almost feels the splash when he dives into the depths of the ocean to explore the beauties within it. But the true beauty lies beneath him when he's sunbathing or walks beside him on a stroll through an outdoor market or above him late at night with their lower halves at work. Harry is a sore sight to see in his dreams. He's free and he's happy and he's beautiful.

~ ~ ~

“I think I made a mistake,” Louis admits as soon as he settles in his tent with Zayn. Niall vowed to bunk with Liam to keep them from fucking late into the night, as he seriously declared. It earned him a pinch from Zayn and a beet red Liam. Louis personally didn’t care as long as he got a good night's rest after the hiking Liam made them endure.

“What? Allowing Niall to separate me from Liam?” Zayn huffs. He doesn't sound as peeved as before. “I can manage to sleep without my boyfriend one night. We're not that bad.”

Louis rolls his eyes because yes, they are bad. Terrible, in fact. “No… I mean, with Harry. I think I should have gone on the trip with him.”

“Is this about the photo he sent you?”

“Well, it surely set off my dream last night, which was pretty fucking vivid. But no, I was just thinking that it might have been what Harry and I needed. We haven't had a vacation like that in years. What if it could've fixed our problems?”

Zayn is quiet for a while. Either he's fallen asleep or he's thinking. It's thankfully the latter when he finally sighs. “You would be missing out on your new gig and you wouldn't have met the squad. I can tell you're having a lot of fun, Tommo. You deserve it. Let yourself have it.”

Louis thinks about that until he falls asleep. Zayn's right. He is having a lot of fun and it feels good to be selfish for once. Although, is it selfish at this point?

Let yourself have it, he reminds himself before falling asleep.

~ ~ ~

He carries around that same attitude with him as the month progresses. They have finally been cleared to start recording and shooting the new segment. They're set to record talking bits for radio only and video for the station’s YouTube channel. Tony and their producer, Jessy, came up with the name of their segment, Footie Talk with Ro and Tommo. It's not the most clever name but it won the most votes on the day it was selected.

Everyone involved seems ecstatic to watch it kick off. The first shooting day goes so well, they all go out for dinner and drinks afterward.

Louis finds himself sat beside Roman and directly across from Tony. He avoids Tony’s eye as he makes casual conversation with Roman and makes him laugh a couple of times. The mood between them has shifted. Roman doesn't seem as tense anymore. It's almost as if he's decided that Louis’ personal life no longer matters to him and Louis is grateful for that. It really shouldn't be anyone’s business.

As their waiter makes a round, Louis glances down at the drink menu and notices the title of a cocktail: Backstabber.

Louis bites down on his lip and quickly flips the menu over to select an IPA instead. When it's his turn to order, he's almost certain he feels Tony’s stare.

Louis would be a backstabber to take up his offer.

He can't help but allow Zayn's advice overtake his conscience.

Let yourself have it.