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fallin' and laughin' at the drinks we spilled

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When Louis was a little boy, he wanted nothing more than to stay with his mother for the rest of his life. 

Then she gave him his first baby sister. And then another one. And then three more, and a brother. And while Louis loved his big family dearly, he just knew it was about time for him to head out on his own.

Not sure what he wanted to study right out of high school, he only had a few classes when he began toying with the idea of leaving home, becoming obsessed with the idea of buying a van and hitting the open road. That made it easy enough to sign up entirely for online classes and devise a plan on how he was going to travel the country.

He came up with a list of what he needed in his van to live comfortably, and made a decision on what size van he’d need because of it. He’s not much of a cook, so a sink and a mini fridge is all he needed. With some of the money he saved working full time for his grandpa’s carpet cleaning service over the past three years, he was able to get a good deal on a small sprinter van from an associate and friend his grandpa has been doing business with for years.

The first time he attempted to leave and be out on his own, he was gone for almost three weeks before he came scrambling home. He had never been without his family for more than a week, so he was yearning for his mom’s gentle hugs, his sisters and their non-stop teenage bickering, the omnipresence of background noise in their home full of love.

Eventually, his mom was the one who pushed him to get back out. It was on New Year's Day, and Louis was sleeping off a hangover after going out to a party with his friend Zayn. He was roused by a knock on the door, his mom walking when there was no response. “Louis, love. How you feeling?" She carried in a small tray with a plate of buttered toast and juice, as well as a glass of water and some aspirin, and placed it on his nightstand. She sat on the edge of his bed, tickling his feet through the covers. He groaned in displeasure and hungover agony as he tucked himself into a fetal position. "Listen, I know you’ve loved spending the holidays with us, but I think you should try getting back out there. There’s a whole world that you have yet to see, waiting to be explored. And we’ll all be here waiting for you to come back to us, but you should enjoy it while you can. It’s obviously your choice, but I think you should do it.” She kissed the top of his head before heading out, Louis burying himself back under the covers to reflect on what she said.

Louis left on a Tuesday in the third week of January, his mom's words lingering in the back of his mind for days before he made a decision. After investing his time and money into something he was very passionate and excited to do, he knew he couldn’t just give up so easily.

Money was tight after his parents split, before his step-dad came into the picture, but his mom worked hard over the years and managed to save up a little money to give Louis as a small safety net for college. When he decided the traditional school route wasn’t necessarily one he wanted to take, his mom told him that she trusted him to make good decisions with the money she saved for him. 

It was easier this time – he managed to work out a schedule where he could keep in almost daily contact with his mom and sisters. They looked forward to his photos and stories of what he got up to each day, and he loved nothing more than to send off souvenirs from cool towns he managed to come across during his trips.

His mom made a suggestion that Louis happily agreed to – at the end of the summer, before school starts back up for the girls, the whole family would fly out and meet Louis in Florida for a vacation.

He somehow made it to July on his own and grew very confident in his ability to figure shit out. It was an adjustment at first, recognizing small things going wrong that he had to troubleshoot himself. He built this van mostly with the help of his stepdad and a few friends, and while they had done many of the projects and installations right, in real life application he had to admit they had also gotten a few things wrong.

His best chance, he realized, in learning along the way would be seeking out guidance from the van life community on the internet. He joined some message boards, taking in advice from strangers on problems he ran across, like how to get his campstove to work properly, or better suggestions on how to disguise his van to avoid break-ins. He also began documenting some of his stops, or drives if he was travelling on a beautiful scenic route; not in any kind of professional manner, just something he could have for the memories. But quickly, he was encouraged to upload some of his videos to Youtube, as the community was always growing.

His channel had a small blow up overnight, and he gained a steady following on the platform, a lot of people in the comments acknowledging how funny and vibrant and genuine he is. While he didn’t enjoy the restrictions put in place to monetize videos, he could easily cut out or censor profanities, and he was able to bring in enough money to cover his gas costs for each month. He was living off of his savings right now, but it was nice to have at least one less thing that would make a dent in his funds.

It’s the first day of July, only technically a few weeks into the sweltering summer, and Louis now finds himself in Kentucky. In Colorado, the summers can definitely get hot, maybe even hotter based on a thermostat alone, but he’s not used to this level of humidity, the cloying thickness of the air, the rolling winds giving almost no relief.

He didn’t really give any initial thought to stopping in Kentucky, but he doesn’t ever make plans more than a few days, never knowing where the wind will take him. Along the way, though, he’s made a few friends, some online, and some who he’s encountered in real life, whose travels overlap with his, who may suggest places for him to see. One of them, Addison, who he met hiking in the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, recommended he should stop and visit the Mammoth Caves. It’s breathtaking, and he’s glad he took her suggestion for a place he never would have considered seeing, wouldn’t even know existed.

After that, he’s curious about what else Kentucky has to offer and soon finds himself heading towards a small city off of the Ohio River.

He spends the evening driving around and looking for a place to park for the night, and despite the fact that it’s a small town, the atmosphere is pleasant. There’s a group of people playing music down by the river, older couples holding hands, walking down the sidewalk. He spots a bar and decides that might be the most exciting thing this town has to offer. He uses his phone to find the closest gym and calls them, asking if they offer a one day pass before heading over. One of the things he has learned is to take advantage of public showers where he can. His travel shower does well in a pinch, but nothing will beat the real thing, especially with the muggy heat like the kind he’s experienced today. It’s nice to wash the sweat and grime off after a long day.

His clothing options are running low, and he makes a mental note that he’ll have to do laundry again soon. He picks out a grey t-shirt and medium wash blue jeans which can afford a few more wears before they need to be cleaned.

It’s still warm when he finishes up in the gym, but the sun has gone down completely, which provides considerable relief from the daytime heat. He parks on an empty street that he passed earlier, checking the signs for any restrictions on parking there before locking up his van and heading in the direction of the bar.

When he walks inside, he’s met with the same muggy heat from outside, only slightly more tolerable. The main door is propped open and the windows facing the patio are swung open, allowing the indoor and outdoor spaces of the bar to meld together.

The people inside are exactly the kind of mix Louis expected to see – a handful of dusty old guys sitting at the bar, hunched over their drinks, a position they’ve likely been in since the doors opened this morning; a good number of college kids from the small university he passed by on his drive around the town. There’s even a group of the typical rednecks, with their one “going out” ensemble that consists of a plaid button up, blue jeans with an obnoxious Browning belt buckle, and their square toe work boots. Louis was almost certain he misjudged Kentucky, that maybe rednecks didn’t really exist here like he assumed, but he was mistaken. Still, the rest of the people he’s seen around town have seemed normal enough. The bar is busy but not terribly full, which gives Louis the perfect opportunity to just sit back and enjoy the crowd.

They’re playing some bluegrassy type song, which isn’t really Louis’ type of music, but given the overall vibe of the night, it’s fitting and he can’t complain. He takes note of a small stage on the opposite side of the wall from the bar, but none of the instruments are set up. It’s a shame Louis couldn’t have come in when there was live music. Maybe there would’ve been a little less banjo.

He walks up to the bar and waves over the bartender, a guy in his mid twenties. “Hey bud, what can I getcha?” he asks in an interesting accent Louis can’t quite put his finger on.

“Um, I see you guys have a few local brews.” He nods his head up to the sign over the bartender’s shoulder, highlighting the small selection. “Which one would you recommend I try?”

“What kind of beer do you normally go for?”

“Cheap and easy to get,” Louis responds, laughing. “Nah really, I’m only just getting into beer. So I’m open to anything. Been trying a lot of IPAs lately, but that’s the extent of my knowledge.”

“Well, we do have a beer sampler with the most popular choice of each brewery listed. I could set one up for you, that way you can try them all and expand your palate,” the bartender suggested.

“Yeah, that sounds good!”

“Great, I’ll just need to see your ID.” 

Louis reaches into his wallet and pulls out his ID, handing it over to the bartender.

“Wow, Arizona. What brings you out here?” the bartender remarks as he hands Louis back his ID, turning to pull four glasses from the shelf behind him. 

“I’m driving around the country, doing the hashtag van life.” Louis cringes, rolls his eyes at himself as soon as the words exit his mouth, and he truly hopes the bartender realizes he meant that ironically. 

“That’s cool, man. Very brave of you to just pick up and go wherever at your age. How long you been at it for?”

“Uh, since January. I tried to do it last year but I don’t think I was ready the first time around.” Louis doesn’t know why he feels compelled to share these details with a stranger, but something about the bartender is inviting, warm. “I missed my family a bit too much.”

The bartender slides the wooden tray with Louis’ drinks in front of him. “Do you want to start a tab?” He’s looking at Louis with a soft expression. “And yeah, I get that. Fuck, I miss my mum so much. I’ll have to give her a call tomorrow.”

Louis nods his head and swaps out his ID for a credit card, and the bartender grabs one of the handhelds off the dock, quickly adding Louis’ name into the system. “Do you see her often?” He asks, looking down at his beer tray, trying to decide which he’ll try first.

“Yeah I see her for all the good holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Paddy’s Day. She lives in Louisville, so that’s a bit of a drive to make often, but we get together when it matters.”

Louis takes notice of the way the bartender singles out St. Patrick’s Day. “So you’re from Ireland?” he questions. He thought he could pick up bits of an Irish accent, but there was a southern twang to it which made figuring out exactly what made it so distinct more difficult.

“Born and bred. Though I only lived there until I was 14. My parents got divorced and my mom wanted to see what the states were like, so we moved. I used to fly back a couple times a year to see my dad and brother. That’s how I managed to get the absolute abomination of an accent you hear before you,” Niall explains.

“That’s pretty cool, man. But why Kentucky?” Louis is very curious to know why anyone would choose to move here, considering it doesn’t have anything noteworthy that would appeal to travelers from abroad. It doesn’t even seem like a place most Americans would visit.

“Okay, no shit. Swear you’ll believe me."

“I swear.”

“My mom really loved KFC. Was very disappointed when she discovered it wasn’t any better here.” 

Louis can’t stop the splash of beer spilling from the glass in his hand as he shakes with laughter.

 


 

They continue chatting between patrons, the bartender occasionally excusing himself to fulfill a large order or grab something from the backroom. There’s another bartender working alongside him, and the company around the bar is pretty slow, so it’s easy for them to carry on a conversation. 

They chat about where they grew up, about where Louis has been on the road and where he's planning to travel next, about how the bartender ended up working at a bar hours from where he spent his teenage years. Apparently, his uncle by marriage, who never had children of his own, gave him the bar after his wife passed, not wanting to be in a place with so many memories but still wanting to keep it in the family.

At one point, a girl from the big group of college students approaches Louis and asks him if he wants to join her and her friends, to which Louis politely declines, explaining that he’s just visiting and not planning to stay out for long. It’s a shit excuse, but he’s not really interested in the social pressures of interacting with a bunch of strangers all at once right now, and she doesn’t press.  He turns around to glance at the girl as she walks back to her friends, shaking her head. A few of the guys laugh, the other girls in the group swat at them, tell them to knock it off. He feels bad for rejecting her, but he’s not really interested in hooking up with anyone tonight.

He starts turning back to the bar, giving another look around, seeing who else has come in. He spots two women at a table towards the front door who look completely out of place here. While most of the women look casual with their bootcut jeans, plus the few college girls in their tight dresses, these ladies stand out to the rest. They’re both long brunettes, Louis’ type when he goes for a woman, one curly and one straight. He can only see one of their faces, the woman with the straight hair, and she’s objectively beautiful, wearing a burnt orange button up jumpsuit with flouncy sleeves. He’s curious to see what the other woman looks like. She’s wearing a silky black dress with white cowgirl style boots, and a pale blue fur coat which is somehow tastefully slipping off her shoulders.

As though she can sense Louis’ eyes on her, the woman in the fur coat turns her head swiftly, and their eyes meet. She gives Louis a genuine smile before turning her attention back to the other woman at the table. 

Louis quickly averts his eyes and turns his head back to the bar, but not before he realizes two things: One, that was not a woman. No, that’s not right, Louis mentally reprimands himself. Don’t assume anyone’s gender. (He wasn’t the most active participant in the lgbt groups in high school, but he knows there’s a whole world of gender identities out there and that they’re all valid.) That’s not a cis woman, he corrects. Two: whatever they – Jesus Christ, this is hard, Louis thinks – identify as, they’re stunning. Louis only saw them for a second, but their sparkling eyes, the flash of dimple as they smiled at him – Louis wants to know more.

“Who is that over there?” Louis says, subtly jerking his head in the direction of the table.

The bartender looks up from where he’s wiping up a mess of lime juice and salt on the counter and peers past Louis’ head to the table he’s referring to. He squints his eyes at Louis when he realizes who he’s talking about. “Why are you asking?” 

“I’m just curious.”

“Look buddy” –he swings his towel over his shoulder, crossing his arms– “I know we’ve just got on well, but there’s no place for homophobic bullshit in this bar. If you have a problem, you can go.”

“No! No! I swear that’s not it.” He looks away from his stare off with the bartender, eyes glued to his beer tray. There’s one glass left and Louis considers gulping it down instead of explaining why he asked. But that wouldn’t help him make a case for himself. “I, uh... I think they’re pretty hot actually.” It occurs to him with the way his words sound that his admission might come off in a fetish type of way, so he quickly adds, “For the record, I’m bi. A little more gay than straight most days, but yeah. No homophobia from me, I swear.”

The bartender jokingly wipes imaginary sweat from his eyebrow. “Good to know. Well, that’s Harry. He’s a friend, and a friend of the bar I guess you could say. He comes here pretty regularly, not in an 'I've got a concerning relationship with alcohol' kind of way; more of a 'small town life can be pretty boring after 10pm' kind of way. I’ve just recently put him in rotation for our Saturday night music actually. It’s a shame you didn’t come this weekend because he’ll be performing, and he’s a pretty exceptional musician.”

Louis lets out a non-committal sigh. “Yeah, that is a shame.” 

“You should go talk to him. He’s very friendly.”

“I don’t know.” He’s had a few hookups on the road, the solitude of his travels making him crave the short term company of another person. But he didn’t come out tonight with any expectations. Something about Harry is drawing him in. “What if he tells me to fuck off?”

“That’s not Harry at all. I’m serious when I say he loves talking to strangers and making them feel welcome. Here, I’ll fix you up his favorite drink and you can bring it over. One for his sister too.” Louis begins to protest, suddenly feeling completely nervous at the thought of speaking to someone he’s interested in, but the bartender is already pulling various bottles off the shelf, throwing together some unidentifiable concoctions. He pushes the glasses in front of Louis, nudging them against his hands, giving him an encouraging nod.

Louis groans and gets up from his stool, grabbing both drinks. “If this backfires, I think I deserve a drink on the house.” 

The bartender laughs as he guides his attention to another waiting patron. “I know the perfect thing to ice your wound.”

Louis starts walking away, but turns back and interrupts the customer speaking. “Sorry. Sorry.” He turns his attention to the bartender. “I’ve been talking to you this whole time and didn’t even ask your name.”

“Well I’m not the one you’re trying to flirt with. At least I don’t think. But it’s Niall.”

Louis winks at Niall and laughs before he makes his way across the bar, glancing around at the different groups, suddenly feeling self conscious. He sees the college girl who invited him over and she smiles at him, her expression dropping when she realizes he’s not coming in her direction. Her eyes follow his intended path and she scoffs when she realizes where he’s headed. 

He’s two steps from the table when the woman in the jumpsuit looks over and notices him. She gives him a smile and pushes a few glasses to the side to give Louis somewhere to put the drinks in his hands. Harry looks up from his phone and does a double glance before shutting off the screen and placing it face down on the table. “Hi.”

“Hi! Uh, I saw you two over here and Niall told me I should come say hi. I don’t know which is which but he made these drinks for you both. Said they were your favorites.” He’s alternating between looking at the two of them, but something about the way Harry’s looking at him sets his entire being alight, so he spends more time focused on the woman.

“So you don’t work here?” she quips. Louis shakes his head no, but she just laughs. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I saw you sitting over there at the bar.” She exchanges a funny look with Harry, and when Louis flits his eyes over to him, he looks down at the offered drinks with interest. “Anyway, I appreciate the drink, and you are a real cutie. But I’m gay.”

“Oh, uh, so am I. Well, bi actually. But yeah. I’m actually here,” he says, turning his attention to Harry, “for you.” Harry looks up at him, his gaze fixed and his expression bright, and Louis can see his eyes clearly now, a dazzling, gentle sage green. Louis may have underestimated just how gorgeous Harry is, with his delicate eyelashes and his soft pink mouth and the beauty mark on his chin. He has a bit of highlighter on his cheekbones, and a subtle winged eyeliner. There is a faint stubble on his face, and it’s an enticing contrast to the femininity of his presentation.

Louis lowers his gaze and takes in the sight of the tattoos littered across Harry’s chest and arms. The right arm is seemingly untouched from ink, at least on the part that isn’t shielded by the sleeve of his coat. The left arm is heavily tattooed, random marks filling the skin. On his chest, under his collar bone, sits two sparrows. His eyes are drawn to their movement as he breathes, and Louis imagines what it would be like with Harry under him, chest heaving as he–

Gemma clears her throat and Louis startles, quickly changing his train of thought. He would die of shame trying to will away an erection right now. Harry picks up his drink and raises it to Louis before taking a sip. “Well, I’m Harry. And this is my sister Gemma.” He puts down his glass and reaches his hand out for Louis to shake. Behind her own glass, he can see Gemma huff out a laugh before taking a drink. Louis grabs Harry’s hand and gives it a light shake, holding it longer than the socially acceptable duration of a handshake, but Harry seems to be just as entranced by the contact. His hands are incredibly soft yet firm, his nails polished a shimmery black. The warm metal of his rings press into Louis’ palm and the touch suddenly feels too intimate. Louis pulls his hand away gently, and Harry grabs his drink again, removes the orange from the rim before downing it. “Thank you for the drink, Louis.”

“You’re very welcome.” He stands there, awkwardly, not knowing what to say now. “So, I hope this comes out the right way, and please tell me if I’m overstepping. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. But, um, what do you identify as? Like, what are your pronouns and whatnot.”

“And whatnot,” Harry parrots, grinning at Louis. “I’m fluid. I identify as he or they depending on the day. Occasionally she in a serious way. Always she in a fun way. I’m comfortable with just he, though. And thank you for asking. Most people just assume whatever they want.”

“I want to make sure I don’t fuck up and look at you the wrong way.”

Harry looks at Gemma and raises his eyebrows at her, smiling. She smiles and nods her head back at him, some silent exchange Louis doesn’t understand.

"Hey, why dont you pull up a chair?” Harry begins looking around, spots and points to an empty stool a few tables over. Louis starts moving away to go grab it when Gemma places her hand on top of his arm, stopping him.

“It’s okay, Harry; he can have my seat. I have got to get home now.” She begins to gather up her things and Harry flips his phone over to check the time. Louis sneaks a glance, too bothered to check his own phone. It’s 10:56pm. She steps around the table and kisses Harry on the top of his head. “I love you. Be good and stay safe.” She waggles her eyebrows and Harry playfully pushes at her. “Louis, it was very nice to meet you. Maybe I’ll see you again some day.”

“Oh, I’m actually not from around here, so I’ll be leaving tomorrow. But it was very nice meeting you too.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she responds, reaching into her purse for her car keys. “But you two enjoy your night. Harry, call me in the morning, okay?” When Harry tells her he will, she turns and heads for the door.

“And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, missy!” 

Harry laughs as Louis takes the seat across from him. He searches the bar for the waitress, and waves her over.

“So Louis. Where are you from?”

 


 

After midnight, an influx of people come flowing into the bar. Harry informs him that the local breweries and bars close at midnight, and Niall’s bar is the only one that stays open until 2:30. To accommodate for the growing crowd and noise, they move toward the back of the bar where the long forgotten pool table is located.

They talk about what each of them do for a living, Harry explaining that he does freelance work as a social media manager for a few small companies, Louis revealing that he doesn’t really work at the moment besides his YouTube videos. Harry is very interested when he learns that Louis lives and travels in his van, telling him that he’s envious of that kind of freedom. They talk about coming out when they were teenagers, about how their environments shaped their relationship with their identities. Harry told him that despite the overall vibe of Kentucky, there are progressive pockets which, growing up, was enough to help him feel free to be himself. The conversation gets very candid when they’re inebriated from tequila shots and they talk about sex, about how neither of them has gotten any action in a couple of months, about what part of sex they’re missing the most and in what positions they prefer to fuck.

They play a round of pool, but there is only one stick and a third of the balls missing, so it’s no competition, just the two of them pressing up against each other as they take turns knocking the balls around the table. Harry casually suggests that they’ll have to play for real one day, and Louis is either too drunk or too optimistic to disagree, to remind him that he’ll be gone in the morning.

At some point, Harry abandons his coat and Louis sees the full extent of his arm tattoos. He is both intimidated and aroused at the sight, and is curious to know where else there is ink, wanting to take the time to explore Harry’s body and ask him the story behind each one.

When the tequila wears off, the conversation returns to something milder. Where they dream of going on vacation. What plans they have for Independence Day. How and why Harry has the Packers logo tattooed on his body.

“Any Man of Mine” by Shania Twain starts playing and Harry jumps from his seat, starting to do a line dance. His moves are a little off, and Louis can’t tell if that's how Harry is on a normal day or if it's the alcohol. He hitches his dress above his knees to give himself a little more motion, and Louis discovers a few more tattoos there, though they’re so small he can’t make them out. He wants to drop to his knees and kiss them. Well, he wants to be on his knees for more than that.

After the song, Harry stumbles his way back to their booth on his slender, coltish legs and half falls against Louis, his legs draping across his lap.

Harry laughs as he throws his arms around Louis’ neck. The way Harry falls onto Louis causes his dress to gather under his leg, exposing one of his thighs. Louis tentatively places his hand on Harry’s right knee, thumbing over the tattoo at the top of his kneecap. “Non? What does the other one say? Oui?”

Harry lights up at the question. “Oui.” He laughs. “How could you ever have guessed?”

Louis looks back up at Harry. “I think I’ve got you all figured out by now.” 

Getting to know Harry is one of the most exhilarating things Louis has had the pleasure of experiencing.

“Mm. Maybe so,” Harry says, using his fingers to fluff at Louis’ fringe. Louis runs his hand up Harry’s arm, pushing the dress strap that had fallen aside back onto his shoulder. He tucks a stray bit of his hair behind his ear. They stare at each other and Louis feels like he’s in a tunnel. Like nothing else exists but the two of them. In the distance, he can hear a woman’s voice shout out LAST CALL. 

Harry licks his lips. “Do you wanna–" Louis surges forward and kisses his mouth. Whatever Harry was going to say, it doesn’t even matter. Whatever Harry wants, Louis wants too. He smiles against his mouth as he nods his head. At first it’s awkward with Harry caught off guard.  But he catches on, using the arm draped around Louis’ neck to pull him in closer. He draws his legs up onto the seat of the booth, bending them across Louis’ lap. Harry opens his mouth, and Louis licks his tongue inside. Harry tastes of wax and fragrance, and Louis knows that taste, is just now realizing that Harry must’ve been wearing lipstick this whole night. He moves his right hand, places it on the outside of Harry’s thigh. Tracing the hem of his dress, Louis slides his fingers on the inside, teasing at the skin.

Harry pulls away first, his mouth spit soaked and swollen, and they stare at each other, panting. Harry reaches between his legs, adjusting himself with an exaggerated clearing of his throat.

“Look at that tranny.” 

If there were ever a time for a real life record scratch, it would probably be in this moment, Louis thinks to himself. 

They both turn their heads and look toward the idiot who had the audacity to use that word.

There’s two rednecks staring at them, their faces contorted in disgust, and they look too drunk to stand. Louis isn’t sure if they’re the same guys he spotted earlier, nothing about them particularly distinguishable from one another. 

Harry straightens his legs and moves to stand. Louis follows his action, getting ready to leave. It’s a good idea, no point in getting into some altercation with a couple of drunk idiots. But as Louis begins looking around to collect their things, Harry walks over to the guys and plants himself in front of them with his posture strong, a hand resting on his hip. He stands taller than both of them with his heeled boots.

“Which one of you said that?”

“I did. It’s disgusting, you dressed like that,” one of the guys slurs, stepping closer. He looks over Harry with a sneer. “Can’t even hide your dick right. You shouldn’t be allowed in here. No faggots, no trannies.” 

Louis wants to move toward him, wants to do something, but Harry doesn’t stand down. “Say it again, dickhead.”

“I’ll do you one better.” The guy says, and lands a punch to Harry’s nose.

 


 

Harry pushes his clutch into Louis’ hands, turning on the flashlight of his phone to search for his keys. He looks down at the bag, at the way it shines under the flashlight. It’s opalescent, shaped like a seashell, and Louis thinks Lottie would love something like this. “Aren’t smaller bags supposed to help you not lose your stuff?” Louis jokes.

Harry gives him a faux scowl before returning to his search. He produces a set of keys a second later, letting out a small cheer of victory. He unlocks the door and pushes it open, walking in before turning back to lean against the door. “After you, ma’am.” He sweeps his arm to welcome Louis inside.

“That’s ‘Miss’ to you,” Louis retorts, walking over the threshold. Harry shuts the door behind them and takes Louis’ hand, leading him up the stairs. It’s a small four story building sitting at the end of the block, next to a legion hall. At the bottom floor of this one, there is a hair salon. Louis looks around, taking in the historic appearance of this building. There’s some modern touches visible in the small lobby, but the chipped brick walls and the creaking floorboards of the stairs give it away. “How old is this place?”

“It was built in 1907, I think.” They’ve stopped on the landing for the third floor, and Harry leads him down the hall. They pass four other apartments before they reach Harry’s door in the corner. “According to my meemaw, this used to be a whorehouse. Guess it technically still is.” 

It takes Louis a second to process what Harry’s joke means, but when he does finally get it, he swiftly turns around, pretending to flee, and Harry cackles, slapping a hand over his mouth at the loud noise he's let out at this hour. Louis moves back by Harry’s side and watches as he uses the other key on the ring to let them into the apartment. He looks down and smiles when he sees Harry’s rainbow doormat. 

Everything about Harry’s personality is colorful and bright, and Louis is anticipating that same vibrancy to spill over into his home. What he walks into, however, is entirely unexpected. This place is surprisingly rustic and masculine. The exposed brick walls of the hallway continue into his apartment. He’s got a deep cognac leather sectional in the middle of the living room, black and white striped pillows and a soft, white knitted throw blanket draped across the arm. The coffee, console and side tables are all varying levels of distressed wood. There’s a deer head mounted in the center of the back wall, with framed photos and art surrounding it. 

It’s a studio apartment, with a large kitchen and bedroom off to the right. If Louis had a proper place to live, instead of a glorified bed on wheels, this is exactly the kind of space he would want to call home.

He can vaguely hear Harry moving about, closing cabinets, mumbling something.

“Huh?” Louis responds. Harry is standing barefoot, his boots and fur coat sitting in an abandoned pile under the kitchen island.

“I said would you like some water?”

“Oh! No, but thank you.” 

Harry fixes himself a glass and drinks it down quickly before he grabs the first aid kit from under the sink. He walks over to his bed and sits at the foot, patting the space next to him. “Come here.”

Louis toes off his shoes and leaves them at the door, walking over to the bed. He tries to find a place where he can discard his soaked rag, acutely aware that he’s been dripping a trail of water across the floor, and starts leaving it on the counter before deciding against it, dumping the remaining ice bits into the sink and wringing it out, bringing it over to the bed with him.

He sees Harry reaching for the first aid kit, and moves to grab it first. “Let me take care of you,” Louis says, dangling the rag in front of him. Harry looks up at Louis and smiles, nods his head. Even with the dried blood marking his skin, clinging to the hairs of his mustache, Harry still looks gorgeous. 

Harry tucks his hair behind both ears and leans forward, ready to be tended to. Louis places his left hand on the back of Harry’s head and pulls him closer, tilting his head back. He begins wiping at the blood under his nose.

Being in a secluded corner of the bar might not have been the best scenario when two homophobes try to pick a fight, Louis thought.

After the guy punches him in the nose, Harry stumbles and falls, scraping his right knee against the coarse concrete floor. Louis moves to help Harry up but the other guy sees him, moves quickly around the table and grabs Louis by the throat, slamming him back against the wall. Louis falls to the floor, his shirt catching and ripping on the edge of the booth’s wooden back on the way down. Harry rises quickly and tackles the guy who punched him to the floor. He lands two punches at the guy's jaw, his friend coming behind Harry and grabbing him by the hair.

Louis has never before this night gotten into anything more serious than a playful spat with his friends, but the adrenaline of the moment kicks in and he moves quickly to help Harry. He looks around for anything to assist him and spots the abandoned pool stick in the middle of the table. He grabs it and runs back to the fight, trying to quickly assess what spot would be the best place to hit him. He swings sideways, lashing a blow to the middle of his back. The guy falters and releases his grip on Harry’s head, hunching in pain before passing out onto the floor. With that guy out of the way, Harry punches the other one twice in the stomach and once more across his face (plus a knee to his crotch) before he passes out.

Harry stands, walks over to Louis and gives him a worried once-over and a peck on the cheek, even as he’s got blood running down his nose, and grabs his coat and bag off the corner of the booth. “You coming home with me?” Harry reaches his hand out, and Louis takes a second to stand there bewildered, shocked. He wants nothing more than to sit Harry down and check over every inch of him, but Harry’s confidence and the way he’s walking away from a fight like nothing has happened has Louis being dragged toward the exit.

They stop at the bar on their way out. Niall looks up from the customer he’s serving and his eyes go wide at Harry’s disheveled state. “Oh my god. What happened to you?” he asks, immediately turning his attention to Louis, looking like he’s going to produce a shotgun from behind that bar at any moment. Louis shakes his head furiously, silently pleading with Niall to not go any further with that thought.

“Niall, it wasn’t Louis, I promise. Couple of idiots thought they had the right to voice their opinions about me. Guess their mommas never taught them that if they didn’t have anything nice to say, they should shut their fucking mouths. They’re both passed out by the pool table.” Niall’s face grows from angry to shocked. “I promise, they were borderline black out already. It only took a few swings to knock them out. Louis even managed to take one of them out. My hero.” Harry pretends to swoon, and Louis laughs, knows he’s bullshitting him. The truth is Harry completely handled his own, and he’s proud of him.

A couple of people who were eavesdropping at the bar go over to the corner to check it out, throwing impressed looks back in Harry’s direction, and snapping photos of the two drunk idiots.

“At least lemme check you out before you go.” 

Harry shakes his head, “I’m fine, Niall. That guy wouldn’t be worth shit in the ring.” 

That’s right. Harry did mention that his stepfather encouraged him to take boxing lessons, wanted 17 year old Harry to be able to defend himself from people who would have a problem with Harry being comfortable in his own skin. It amazes Louis, and explains how Harry managed to have so much control in that fight. What else is there to unpack about this wild, funny, sexy human? 

“Do you need anything?” Niall turns his attention to Louis.

“Uh, maybe an ice pack?” His head isn’t really concerning, but his mother is a nurse after all. Better safe than sorry. 

Niall moves quickly to wrap some ice cubes into a clean bar towel, giving it a few twists before handing it over. “Hey man, sorry I assumed the worst in you. Twice. If you ever decide to come back to town, I swear you’ve got a friend here,” Niall assures, extending his arm out for a handshake which Louis gladly accepts, wanting to leave this place on a good note.

After Niall closes their bar tabs, they head out into the warm summer night, Harry leading the way.

“Where else?” he asks once Harry’s face is clean.

“My leg.” Harry answers, pulling back from Louis and sitting up straight, his palms flat against his sides.

Louis kneels on the floor, pushing Harry’s dress up enough to expose his knees. He can see the other two tattoos, si and no, from this angle. He’s got a pretty big scrape there on his right knee, between the tattoos. It’s stopped bleeding mostly, so Louis uses the rag to wipe off the dried blood and applies a layer of neosporin. He contemplates his bandaging options, and decides to go for gauze and a wrap considering the amount of hair on Harry’s legs. No need to cause him any more pain later on.

“My own personal nurse. I wish I could keep you forever.”

Louis wishes he could have that. He’s only gotten to know Harry, but Louis could imagine spending a million more nights with him and never growing tired. He looks up at Harry as he’s done wrapping his leg, pushing the first aid kit and all the used items off to the side.

He’s staring up at Harry, gaze flitting between his eyes and mouth. Without the encouragement of the booze and music and dim lights, Louis is suddenly reserved, his hesitation palpable.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Harry grouses, cupping Louis behind the ears and pulling him into a kiss. Louis sits up straight, pushing up into Harry’s space and placing a hand on the back of his neck. Harry tilts his head to the side, parting Louis’ lips with his tongue, and Louis complies, accepting the taste of him in his mouth. The kiss grows heady, insistent, and Louis moves away from Harry’s lips, mouthing his way down Harry’s chin, to his neck. Little sighs, moans escape from Harry’s mouth, directly into Louis’ ear and right to his cock.

Louis pulls back from Harry’s neck, and begins pushing on his stomach. “Lie back.” Harry sits back, settling on his elbows. Louis pushes Harry’s dress up to his waist, not surprised to find a few more tattoos along the way. He’s never wanted tattoos for himself, but Harry inspires something in him, makes him desire a way to tell a story on his skin. 

Louis pushes Harry’s legs apart, fits himself between them, and hovers his mouth over his black lace panties. “You’re so fucking hot,” he groans. He presses open mouth kisses down his cock, seeking out the head. Precome soaks through the lace, and Louis wraps his mouth around the tip, sucks on the fabric. He leans back, tugs on the waistband of Harry’s panties, and Harry lifts his hips to help Louis pull them down to his ankles.

Louis wraps his hand around the base of Harry’s cock, stroking him before leaning over and wrapping his lips back around the tip, tongue licking at the slit. He sucks down as much of Harry’s length as he can, breathes through his nose as he adjusts. Louis hasn’t given enough blowjobs to refine his expertise, not for lack of interest, just that his hookups always seem to go in the other direction. He moves his mouth, sucking as he pulls up to the tip. 

“You feel so good on my cock.” Harry runs his fingers through Louis’ hair, leaving his hand resting on the back of Louis’ head. He doesn’t press down, just holds his hand there as Louis moves his mouth around him. Louis uses his other hand, which had been resting on Harry’s thigh, to reach under and rub his balls, giving a gentle tug, causing Harry to buck up into his mouth. Louis chokes with a painful whine. “Sorry! Sorry!” Harry cries out, removing his hand. Louis pulls off but continues licking at the head. “Warn a girl before you play with her balls next time,” he jokes. Louis smiles, eyes crinkling up at him with the tip of his cock resting against his tongue.

Harry pats Louis on the arm, and Louis takes in the look of him, at the flush of color blooming up his neck. “Come here.” He wraps a hand around Louis’ bicep and tugs on his arm, and Louis follows, climbing on top of the bed to straddle Harry at the waist. Harry undoes the buckle of Louis’ belt, his delicate fingers pulling each button open, and he reaches into Louis’ boxer briefs, his cock springing out over the waistband. His deft fingers wrap around Louis’ cock, stroking it to full attention.

“Here, lay down.” As Louis moves off of Harry, Harry leans down to pull his panties the rest of the way off, tossing them in the direction of his bathroom. He kneels next to Louis and leans over his cock. His hair falls into his face and Louis reaches out to brush his hair back. Harry grabs the long locks and moves it over to one shoulder. He looks up at Louis and gives him a hungry smile before sucking his cock down all the way. Harry works his mouth and Louis searches for anything to put his hands on. He settles on Harry’s back, rubbing his hand against the soft satin. Harry gags on Louis’ cock, his moans muffled, and Louis looks down at him as he wipes at his tears. He moves his hand further down, grabbing at Harry’s ass through the dress. Rubbing back and forth between Harry’s cheeks, his fingers dragging against the dip of his asshole. Harry’s mouth falters and he moans through his nose.

“Is this okay?” Louis pants, overwhelmed. In response, Harry, never pulling off of Louis’ cock, rises up slightly to push the dress above his ass, bunching the material in a fist against his stomach as he kneels back down. Louis sucks his index and middle fingers into his mouth, getting them wet before he puts his hand back on Harry’s ass, swiping them against the puckered skin of his rim.

Harry pushes his ass back, chasing the touch. Louis struggles to focus as Harry sucks his balls into his mouth, but he presses on the skin, the tip of his middle finger pushing inside. Harry pulls off of Louis’ cock at that, resting his head against his thigh, moaning when Louis does it again, works the finger in deeper.

He sits up, removing Louis’ hand from his ass, and crawls to the other side of his bed. He slides off his rings and places them in a dish on his nightstand, then opens the drawer to grab lube and a few condoms. Louis makes quick work taking off his clothes, laughing when Harry throws the condoms at his head. He raises his eyebrows. “Optimistic, are we?”

Harry places a hand on Louis’ chest and pushes him back onto the bed, straddling his hips. “Would you please continue?” Harry bats his eyelashes at Louis, holding the bottle of lube for him to grab. Louis pretends he’s contemplating for a second before taking the bottle, drizzling a bit of lube onto his fingers. Harry pulls his dress up, exposing himself. Louis’ hard cock is brushing against the crease of Harry’s thigh, and he could rub himself off right there, against the slick satin of the dress. He reaches between Harry’s legs and rubs lube into his rim, slowly pushing his middle finger in, all the way this time. Louis fucks Harry with his middle finger, and Harry falls forward, grinds against Louis’ cock, arching his back to leave space for Louis’ arm, kissing him hard on the mouth. They’re mostly just panting into each other's mouths as Harry rocks back and forth, seeking release as Louis slips in his index finger alongside the first one.

Harry feels around for the discarded lube bottle, pouring a small amount into his hand as he reaches into the tight space between their hips, wrapping a hand around Louis’ cock. With his other hand, he reaches behind himself and taps Louis’ fingers where they’re pumping into his hole. “Wait,” he tells Louis, and Louis stills his movement, holding his fingers inside. Harry rubs his finger against his hole, gathering some lube before pressing his finger in alongside Louis’, his mouth falling wide with no sound. They fuck Harry’s hole together, Louis’ hand following the pace of the hand jerking his cock. Harry whines at the stretch, collapses onto Louis’ chest, moaning against his collarbone. Louis removes his hand and puts it behind Harry’s ass. Harry pulls out his own finger, using his hand to spread his hole, opening his body for Louis to thrust his fingers back in. He moves his arm back in front of himself, slowing his hand on Louis’ cock while he quickly strokes his own, coming with a loud moan a moment later, shooting into the inside of his dress.

Harry tilts his head up and kisses Louis, chaste. He sits up and Louis slips his fingers from his ass, rubs absently at his rim. He unhooks some clips on the strap of his soiled dress, pulling it off over his head. Louis has a short moment to admire the butterfly tattoo on Harry’s torso, maybe the most beautiful piece of ink on his body, before he’s staring at something else. He saw the lace under the dress at the bar, assuming it was just a trim on the neckline. Now, however, he’s realizing that Harry has had on a soft lace bralette, the same material as his panties, the whole night. “You’re amazing.” Louis marvels. Harry ducks his head and smiles. He folds his arms back to unhook his bra, but Louis reaches out, stops him. “Keep it on. You look so fucking good, Harry.” Harry relaxes his arms before running his fingers through the front of his hair, flipping it to one side.

He rolls over onto his back and dips a finger back into his hole, moaning at the sensation. “I want you to fuck me.” Louis crawls between his legs, Harry spreading them wider. Louis kisses him before pushing Harry’s hand from his body. “Where’s the condoms?” he says against his mouth. He turns his head to look for them but can’t see any. 

"Here." Harry moves his shoulder slightly and Louis reaches under him to grab a condom, laughing.

Louis rolls the condom on, and grabs the lube again but Harry stops himself. “It’s enough. I like the burn a little.” Louis sits back on his shins, rubbing his cock against Harry’s hole. He presses the tip down, watching as it stretches his rim, before slowly pushing forward. Harry moans at the pressure, hooking his hands on the back of his thighs, tilting his ass up higher. Louis slides all the way in, grinding his hips in a circle before pulling out and slamming back in. “Oh my god!” Harry shouts, moaning from deep inside.

He rolls his hips, dragging his cock in and out, placing his hand against Harry’s chest, grounding him into the mattress. Harry has his head turned to the side, eyes shut; he’s panting out gentle moans now. Louis leans over and presses a kiss to the side of Harry’s open mouth before sitting back up, pulling one of Harry’s legs over his shoulder.

He’s pushing in and in and in, and he moves his hand down from Harry’s throat, grabs at his chest. “I love your tits,” he pants. Louis is shocked with himself, never so forward during sex. Harry doesn’t respond, and Louis is nervous, worried that maybe he’s overstepped with Harry’s gender fluidity. But Harry moves his hand, holding it on top of Louis’ hand. "My– my tits. Suck my tits. Please,” Harry whines. He pulls his arm back, drapes it across his eyes as Louis cups Harry’s tit, squeezing it, thumbing over his nipple through the lace. He pulls the fabric down, pushes it under the fullness of his chest. Leans over and licks his nipple, rolling his tongue around the nub of flesh, sucking on the skin. He slides Harry’s leg off of his shoulder as he moves to do the same with the other nipple. Harry plants both his feet into the mattress, his hips undulating as Louis continues to fuck into him.

He picks up his pace when Harry pushes his hand between them, his fingers prodding where they are intimately connected, teasing the stretched skin of his rim around Louis' cock, and Louis feels the tightening in his balls before he’s coming with a shout, grinding against Harry’s ass. He pulls out, hand wrapped around his cock to finish himself off, and Harry looks up at him, runs his fingers through his hair, folding an arm under the back of his head.

Louis smiles at him and pokes a finger into his armpit, causing Harry to giggle and push Louis off of him. He moves off the bed and heads into the bathroom. Louis sits up and pulls off the condom as Harry returns with a small wastebasket, and he holds it out to Louis before he’s had a chance to tie it. “Don’t worry,” Harry jokes as he moves to pick up the used first aid supplies that had been abandoned on the floor, “I won’t try to get myself pregnant.” He takes the trash back into the bathroom before Louis hears the sink running.

Louis just sits there, at the edge of the bed, watching Harry move around his space. His feet are planted on the floor as he waits for the inevitable moment when the sexual energy has worn off and they return to being two strangers who share nothing more than fleeting intimacy. One person always breaks the silence to make some excuse about work the next morning, or a dog waiting to be fed, and they will thank each other for the wonderful sex. He hates the thought of leaving now, has never connected with anyone like this before.

Harry makes his way over to his dresser, pulling on a pair on black briefs. They’re nothing sexy like the lace panties from earlier, but Harry seems like he does nothing outside of what makes him comfortable, and that’s enough to make Louis’ knees buckle. 

He turns back to Louis and tilts his head like he’s considering something. With a soft smile, Harry says, ‘Will you stay the night?”

Louis feels like he can’t get his words out fast enough. “If you insist.”

 


 

Louis wakes up to the sound of a car alarm blaring from down the road, a mouthful of greasy hair and sweaty skin pressed against his chest.

They carry on through the night, drinking (“You can’t have a hangover if you never stop drinking” Harry says, tapping his temple) and dancing, music low in the background because Harry may be a menace but he’s also an extremely considerate neighbor. Harry offers up a midnight snack, even though it’s after 3 am, then proceeds to pull out half the contents in his fridge and pantry for them to munch on. 

Harry asks Louis if he smokes, grabbing a metal tin box from under his bed. 

They sit in the lounge chairs next to the open window, passing the joint between the two of them as they continue talking about their lives. Louis asks about Harry’s family, about Gemma, if she’s dating anyone. Harry laughs loudly, and Louis is confused. “Yeah actually, she’s got a boyfriend she’s been seeing for three years.” Louis frowns, beginning to ask about the lesbian thing at the bar. “She was just fishing. For me,” Harry says, taking a long drag. “I saw you at the bar and told her you were cute. When she saw you coming to the table, she told me to play it cool. I’m not used to guys being so straightforward about their attraction to me.”

Louis has been with closeted guys before, but he can only imagine how much worse it must be for someone like Harry, having someone ashamed of liking his genitals and how he presents. “Well, I’m glad she did.”

Harry stamps out the flame of the joint in the ashtray and pulls off his briefs, Louis quickly getting the message and pushing his own down to his knees. Harry’s clearly not satisfied with this, pulls Louis’ underwear off completely and throws it to the side. Except he actually manages to toss them right out the window. Harry covers his mouth and laughs before he climbs into Louis’ lap and rides him, the warm air turning their sweat into tacky skin. Louis didn’t see when Harry snuck the lube over, probably when he went to grab the weed.

Harry is struggling, can’t get a good enough angle in the sloped chair so he pulls off, crawling to his hands and knees on the floor with Louis moving right behind him. “Nope, nope, nope.” Harry protests from the weight on his injured knee, too tender against the hardwood floor. He starts to get up but Louis places a hand on his back. “Let’s try something,” he says, and maneuvers Harry so that his front is pressed against the floor, pulling his injured leg up, bent at the knee. He lies on top of Harry and slides back in, the two of them coming together.

He presses his hand to Harry’s sternum, feeling the rise and fall of his chest as he sleeps. Harry stirs next to him, rolling onto his back, the leather squeaking under his body as he turns. “Good morning,” he croaks, sounding worse for wear. Louis can’t tell if it’s the booze, or the lack of sleep, or if this is just morning Harry.

“Good morning,” Louis responds. He cups Harry’s face, brushing the sweaty hair from off his forehead before leaning down to give him a kiss. Harry quickly intervenes and places a hand over Louis’ mouth. 

“I don’t do morning breath kisses before the third hookup,” Harry jokes. Louis’ stomach sinks at that, knowing that he won’t have Harry after this morning. He pulls his head away, settles for a kiss on Harry’s neck instead.

“What time is it?” 

Harry turns his head, looking at the time on the clock in the kitchen. It’s 8:12.

“I should get going.” 

Harry groans, but he gets up first. Louis gets up after, wincing at the uncomfortable tug on his skin as he peels himself off of the couch. He’s grateful that Harry had enough sense to offer up some Advil before they fell asleep, staving off the worst of their hangover.

“Where you headed next?” Harry asks, pulling on his discarded briefs. 

“Nashville.”

“Boooooooo. What does Nashville have that we don’t have right here?” 

Louis could answer that question with a million different things, but the only thing he can think about is what this town has that Nashville doesn’t.

“Do you see my underwear anywhere?” Louis asks, checking under the coffee table, behind the chair they fucked in just a few hours prior.

“Um, about that...” Harry leans out of the window, laughing at whatever he’s looking at. Louis comes up behind him, holding him by the hips as he squeezes his head in the empty space next to Harry. “Oh my god, I thought that happened in my dream!” His boxer briefs are sitting in the middle of the sidewalk.

They pull back in at the same time, Harry bumping his head on the edge of the window. “Ow. You can borrow something from me.” 

Louis walks over to the bed area, and begins pulling on his clothes. “It’s okay. I live in a van with sporadic access to laundry facilities. I’ve grown way too familiar with freeballing.”

“You know, that should be gross and humiliating, but it’s actually kinda hot.”

Louis considers showing Harry exactly how hot it is, but it’s not in his best interest to continue with someone he’s going to be thinking about for weeks and months after he leaves town.

“Do you mind if I wash my face real quick?" Louis asks. "I feel so grimy right now.” 

“Yeah, go for it. There are rags in the cabinet above the toilet.”

Louis heads into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him to take a piss. “There’s a few spare toothbrushes in there too if you want to brush your teeth," he hears Harry call, voice softened through the closed door. He opens the cabinet and grabs a washcloth and toothbrush, turning back to the sink. He didn’t pay much attention when he stumbled in here before to the toiletries cluttering Harry’s counter, the basket of lipsticks and eyeshadows, the highlighter palette left sitting open from when, he’s assuming, Harry was getting ready last night. He hopes one day he’ll find someone as confident and comfortable as Harry is. He finds the toothpaste and brushes his teeth quickly, wrapping the brush in toilet paper and placing it in his pocket to take with him. No need for it to stay here.

When he comes out of the bathroom, Harry is leaning against the kitchen counter, scrolling through his phone. Louis walks past him toward the front door and begins sliding on his shoes.

“Hey, let me walk you out.” He turns and Harry is looking up from his phone with a shy smile.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to.”

In a truly impressive southern belle accent, he says,“It’s no worry, darling. I insist.” He walks to his dresser and pulls on a pair of joggers and a t-shirt before grabbing a scrunchie from his nightstand and tying his hair up into a bun as they walk out the door. 

They grab coffee at a shop around the corner and cross the street to walk alongside the river, pointedly ignoring Louis’ underwear sitting there on the sidewalk. The old ladies would be scandalized. The street is quiet save for a few cars heading in the direction of the highway for their morning commute.

“I won’t forget this night." Louis almost feels himself recoil the second it comes out of his mouth, but Harry stops and grabs Louis by his bicep, turning him around, and the look on Harry’s face tells him he feels the same.

Harry takes a step forward, closing the space between them. He leans his forehead against Louis’, making the move to kiss him.

“I’m not sure coffee breath is much better than what we had going on this morning,” Louis says, inches from his face, but Harry wraps his arm around Louis’ shoulders, pulling him into a kiss anyway, narrowly missing spilling coffee on the back of his shirt.

“Give me your phone,” Harry says when he pulls away.

Louis reaches into his pocket, noticing his phone only has two percent battery left. “Ah shit, it’s gonna die.”

Harry grabs the phone from Louis’ hand and smiles, puts in his number right before it gives its final, pathetic buzz and shuts off.

“Did it save?” Louis panics, though he suddenly doesn’t know why. He already decided he’s moving on.

“I don’t know. I guess if it’s in there, maybe we’re meant to see each other again some day. Like fate or something.”

Louis nods his head and pockets his phone, gives Harry one more soft kiss. “Until we maybe meet again.” He says, wondering if he’ll ever really return back to this town.

“Take care, Lou.”

 


 

On his walk back to his van, Louis thinks about Harry, thinks about how happy he is to have met someone with whom he experienced such a deep bond. He never thought he would meet someone who he clicked so well with, never believed this kind of connection could be out here waiting for him. 

When he returns to the van, he plugs his phone up on the charger and pulls a rag from one of the cabinets above his “bathroom.” He doesn’t feel like making the effort to operate his shower this morning, so he fills the sink up with water and body wash, giving himself a quick wipe down. He’ll take a proper shower when he gets to his next destination.

After he feels he’s sufficiently clean enough, he drains the water and puts on a clean pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt.

He turns on his phone and quickly opens his contacts the second it boots up. He scrolls back and forth through the contacts searching for Harry’s name with no success. He’s disappointed at the thought that it didn’t save, but maybe it's for the best. He’s got a travel plan in place until November, not really the best time to start a relationship with someone. Especially not knowing what kind of relationship, or if it would even work out. Just as he’s about to close out of his contacts, his thumb hovers over a peculiar name and he knows, he just knows it’s Harry. That’s Harry’s number. 

Fate or something.

He checks the time and realizes his mom should be in the last hour of her night shift, so he decides to call her on Facetime, hoping there’s not much action at this time in the morning. 

The phone rings a few times before she picks up, a fond smile plastered on her tired face. “Hi, my love.”

Louis quickly apologizes for not calling the night before, explaining to his mom that he went out to a bar. “Did you have a good time?”

“Yeah mom, I had a great time. Actually, I met someone.”

“Boy or girl?” she asks, smiling and waving at someone out of frame.

“Boy. Well, sort of. Depending on the day.” He laughs at her confused face. He’ll get into this conversation with her another day.

“Does this sort of boy have a name?”

“Harry.”

“So what happened with Harry?”

Louis goes red in the face, remembering their night together. This is the first time he’s telling his mom about one of his hookups on the road. As close as they are, some things he has to keep to himself. “Oooh. Understood. So, what’s the problem?”

“Well, I was trying to visit as many places as I can before I see you guys in Orlando next month. But I don’t know now, mom. Harry was wonderful. I kinda want to see him again, see where things go.”

“This Harry must be something special if you’re considering this.”

“He’s pretty amazing, mom.”

“Well then stay, Lou. See where it goes. If it doesn’t turn out well, you can always make up for lost time later on.” 

“I’m nervous. What if I'm reading too much into it and he isn’t interested the same way I am?”

“Then at least you tried, right?”

“Right. You’re right mom. Thanks. I’ll let you get back to work now. And I’ll call you this afternoon when everyone’s home from school.”

“Okay. Good luck, honey. Let me know how it goes for you!” She blows him a kiss through the screen and he smiles back at her, waving her goodbye.

God, I’m really gonna do this, Louis thinks. His stomach is in knots, and he’s suddenly doubting himself. Wondering if maybe he misread Harry’s intentions, projected his own feelings. No, no. Harry was genuine and open the entire night, no purpose in now assuming he wasn’t when he made it clear that he would be interested in seeing Louis again.

Louis gets up into the front seat and starts the van, pulls out of his space before he can continue to overthink this. He rolls up to Harry’s building and parks around the corner in an empty space with no meter. He goes into his contacts and searches for the number he spotted earlier, hitting the call button so he can’t talk himself out of it.

“Hello?” Harry groans. His voice sounds heavy with sleep.

“Ariel? Really?” Louis teases.

It takes a moment for Harry to respond, probably waiting for the words to click into place. “I did tell you that I am a mermaid.”

“Yeah, you did. You also told me it would be like fate or something if your number was in my phone.” He gets out of his van, needs to pace back and forth. He’s shooting glances up to the third floor window, where Harry has his curtains drawn shut.

“That I did. So when will I see you again?”

“How about right now?" Louis says.

“How far are you?” Harry asks, curiosity in his voice.

“I miiiight be downstairs. Not in a creepy way, I promise. Just figured I might be close in case I got lucky.”

He hears fabric rustling, a muffled yawn. “Oh, you think you’re gonna get lucky?” A second later, Harry appears at the window, closed now to keep out the daytime heat, and smiles down at Louis.

“That ship has already sailed. Twice. But you are more than welcome to tell me to fuck off if you’re not interested after all.”

“Fuck off then,” he says, staring out to Louis with a blank expression. Louis would be concerned, would be fearful that he’s being way too forward with someone he’s known for less than twelve hours now, someone who he hasn’t even exchanged last names with, but he can hear the joking lilt of Harry’s voice, so he laughs, and Harry breaks. “Come up. The door should be open downstairs, but let me know if it’s not and I’ll come let you in.”

“Okay, hang on.” Louis jogs around the corner to the front entrance, finds that the door has been propped open with a brick. “Yeah it’s open. Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of a locked door?” he says, trying to keep a steady breath while he runs up the stairs.

“Probably, but then how would all the local hooligans get in?”

 Louis reaches the top step and turns the corner, hanging up the phone when he spots Harry standing outside his door. “Well, we certainly can’t disturb the hooligans and their petty crimes.”

Harry smiles at him. Standing there in a soft purple robe and soft yellow running shorts, Louis can’t decide if he wants to fuck him or cuddle him. Maybe both. He’s got his damp hair pulled into a long french braid which whips over his shoulder when he turns, walking into the apartment. Louis follows him, removing his shoes at the door. “Come to bed.” 

Louis raises his eyebrows.

“To sleep,” Harry clarifies, rolling his eyes. “We have plenty of time for other bed activities later.”

Harry removes his robe and gets back onto his side, pulling the blanket up to his neck. He lifts the covers on the other side, an invitation for Louis to crawl in next to him. Harry kisses him before rolling over and scooting back against Louis’ body, wrapping his arm around his waist.

“You’re a little smelly. Did you shower?” 

“Define shower.”

“I think I’ve made a mistake,” Harry says, pulling Louis closer to him.

Later that night, Louis heads to the bar counter as Harry goes to set up for his performance. A female bartender comes over and he orders a beer, one of the local ones he tried last night. He spots Niall coming out of the backroom and waves at him. Niall laughs at him with confusion as he sets down a stack of boxes and walks over. “Hey man, what happened to your whole ‘one city a day’ thing?”

Louis looks over to Harry as he unloads his guitar from the case. Harry sticks his tongue out at Louis and Louis laughs, takes a sip from his beer.

“I think I may have found something worth sticking around for right here.”

 

 

– epilogue –

 

 

“Ohh! Oh my god!” Harry gasps, clutching at the sheets. He lifts his leg up and points his toes on the way back down. A soft kick lands at the back of Louis’ head, and he isn’t entirely convinced Harry didn’t do it on purpose, but Harry rubs at his head gently and giggles out “sorry” before pressing down, pushing Louis’ face against his ass as he continues to eat him out.

They left Kentucky four days ago, and it’s been slow to work out the kinks of their cohabitation. Their relationship developed a bit unconventionally, with Louis living right outside of Harry’s place most nights. With exception of the occasional shower when he didn’t feel like setting his up, or dates when Harry just wanted to stay in for takeout and Netflix, plus a lot of sex, they managed to stay out of each others’ spaces.

Louis was preparing to leave to meet his family in Florida, but his heart ached at the thought of being away from Harry for almost two weeks. He took a few overnight trips to visit some places no more than a few hours away, but they otherwise saw each other almost daily for the last six weeks. It was still early into their relationship, but their bond was strong, a little unorthodox, and they felt pretty good about being together long term. So Louis asked Harry if he wanted to come with him, after fucking him against the kitchen counter, and Harry was too blissed out to say no. 

The girls have grown very fond of Harry, sometimes getting straight to it and asking for him when Louis calls home, so he figured it would be a nice surprise for them. His mom agreed and made last minute arrangements, booking a room for the two of them so that they could have a little sanctuary away from nosy, squealing girls. Louis insisted it was too much, that they would make it work with what she had before, but she insisted, just excited to meet the person who made her first born so happy.

Sleeping over at your boyfriend’s place one or two nights a week and essentially living with him in the close quarters of a sprinter van are two outrageously different things, Louis comes to learn.

So they have a fight. 

Louis was frustrated with Harry’s inability to put things back where they belonged. He’s never really cared so much about keeping a neat space, his mom would fuss at him for leaving things around the house all the time growing up, but Louis realized the van is different, recognized the importance of keeping everything tidy in order to keep from losing his mind. 

Louis cleared out the perfect space for Harry’s suitcase, in the back under his bed, next to his hiking equipment and his mountain bike.

But Harry wasn’t always quick to put the bag back into this space. They decided to head east to Asheville and spend a few days exploring some of Harry’s favorite hiking trails there. When they returned to the van, sweat soaked and exhausted, Louis wanted nothing more than to just shower and go to bed. But what he returned to was half of Harry’s luggage contents dumped across the bed, his hair bands scattered on the floor, his dirty clothes left in a pile next to the door.

He yelled at Harry, and Harry yelled back. He told Harry he couldn’t possibly imagine having to live with someone who didn’t care to clean up after himself, and Harry told him that he never once complained about how Harry lived when he was freeloading at his place. Louis scoffed, and told Harry he shouldn’t have invited him to come along after all. Harry frowned at that, grabbed some clothes from his suitcase and left, heading for the campsite showers. Louis sat at the open door of the van the whole time, and when the dust cleared, he felt remorseful, knowing he should have communicated how he was feeling instead of letting it build up.

When Harry returned, his eyes were red rimmed and Louis knew he had been crying. He felt guilty at the thought, and he was ready to apologize, but as he opened his mouth, Harry cut him off. “I don’t want to fight anymore.” He climbed past Louis into the van, and that stunned him, that Harry believed he would show him no mercy, would continue to yell at him over something he shouldn't have in the first place. Louis suddenly couldn’t speak, didn’t know where to start. He grabbed his pile of clothes from the floor and headed to the shower. When he returned, Harry had fallen asleep, turned away from the side door, turned away from Louis. He noticed the floor was clear, the suitcase was gone. Louis put his dirty clothes into the laundry bag under the bench and climbed into bed, kissing Harry on the top of his head before turning over and falling asleep.

Louis was the first to wake up, the sunshine pouring in from the skylight and small windows along the walls, so he decided to make them both breakfast since they’re planning a long drive ahead for the day. Using up the last of their bread, he made some avocado toast for Harry, and toast with peanut butter for himself. He also cut up the rest of their fruit. They’ll be in the hotel for the next five days, so everything they have in the van will go bad in competition with hotel breakfast. While he ate, he checked up with the rest of the world on his phone. He also scrolled through some videos he recorded yesterday on their hike that he’ll hopefully get to edit during some downtime at the hotel.

When Harry began to stir, Louis was by his side a second later. “Harry, babe, are you awake?”

Harry groaned in response.

“Listen, I’m sorry for yesterday. I shouldn’t have exploded on you like that.” 

“Mhmm,” Harry agreed.

“I get very uneasy with mess, and clutter, and when it just kept building up, I lost my head. I should’ve explained to you how important it is to me instead of just getting mad with you for doing something you didn’t know was making me upset.” When Harry didn’t respond, Louis got nervous their first fight was also going to be their last. “Babe, what can I do to make this better?”

“Eat my ass.” Harry grunted out.

Louis’ eyes grew large, taken aback. “I can’t tell if you’re asking me to fuck off, or…?”

Harry rolled over and pushed the covers down, smiling up at Louis as he rubbed between his legs. “Eat my ass.”

Which leads to now, with Louis kneeling between Harry’s legs, hands spreading them wider against the mattress, pressing a flat tongue on his hole. He’s panting, his nose bumping up against Harry’s balls. Harry removes his hand from Louis’ head and pushes his fingers between Louis’ mouth and his ass, fingers framing his rim, drawing it open wider.

“Let me, baby.”

He pushes his hand away, moving his own from where they’re pressing Harry into the mattress, planting them instead on Harry’s ass. He uses his thumbs to stretch his rim, pull him taut, and points his tongue into his hole. Harry takes his cock into his hand and jerks himself, his head thrown back as he moans.

Louis didn’t bother to put the black out panels on the windows, no need for complete stealth when he’s sleeping at a campground instead of somewhere that a cop can bust him. The windows have a heavy tint, mostly for temperature control, but the sunlight hitting them just right would leave the interior of the van exposed for curious eyes.

“Anybody can walk by and see us, you know.” Louis looks up at Harry, watches his reaction. Harry swallows hard, nodding his head. “They would see you spread open for me, squirming on my tongue.” Harry speeds up the stroke on his cock. He kisses his hole, sucks on his skin.

“Do you like that? Like being a little slut for anyone to see?”

Harry fists his cock hard, fast, tugging his shirt up as he comes on his stomach. Louis grinds against the bed as Harry continues milking his cock, moaning against Harry’s hole as he relaxes his legs. He lays his head onto Harry’s thigh and smiles up at him. Harry smiles back, sitting up on his elbows, chest heaving. “Let me get you off.”

Louis shakes his head, too pliant to move. “That’s okay. I, uh, already came.”

“What? When?”

“Just now. When you did.”

“You–? Just now?” Harry looks at him in awe. “Louis Tomlinson, do you have a service kink?”

“More like a 'I just successfully had make up sex for the first time with my boyfriend’ kink,” he jokes.

He lays there with Harry stroking the back of his head, playing with his ear. When his breathing settles, he climbs up the bed and licks at the come on Harry’s stomach, the trimmed hair of his happy trail rasping against his tongue. “You want it?” he asks, looking at Harry as he lowers his mouth. Harry nods, and Louis licks up the come pooled in his navel, curling his tongue to hold it in place. He crawls over Harry’s body and cradles his face, the come slipping from his lips into Harry’s mouth. Harry pulls him down into a kiss once he’s swallowed, licking into Louis’ mouth, tasting himself.

Louis collapses to the side, wrapping an arm around Harry’s waist and resting his head on his shoulder. He wedges a leg between Harry’s thighs, his shin nudging against Harry’s softened cock.

“I’m sorry for what I said too, by the way,” Harry confesses, his thumb rubbing circles into Louis’ forearm.

“I know you didn’t mean it. You’ve never made me feel that way when I come around. And you wouldn’t have said that if I didn’t provoke you.”

“I know, but I still shouldn’t have said it. And I really don’t feel that way at all. At first, I was a little uncomfortable. Not with you, just with how fast and out of order everything moved with us. You being around so much made me nervous because I’ve never had a real relationship like this before. But I’m very happy being with you. And I know someday we’ll live together and it’ll be great. Because we’re great together.”

“Let’s be clear and honest when something is bothering us, okay? I’ve never had a serious relationship before either, but I want to learn how to build a great one with you.” Louis almost admits that he loves him, but he thinks it’s too soon, and he’s willing to wait for the right moment.

“I want that too.”

Later, a few hours left until they reach their destination, Harry will grab Louis’ arm off the rest and pull the back of his hand to his mouth, whispering “I love you” against his skin. And Louis, alternating glances between the road and Harry, with the soft pink cast of light from the sunset washing over his skin, will know that it’s then.