Chapter 1: Monday
Liam hates Ruth.
Okay, he doesn’t, not really, obviously, but he’s just. He’s frustrated and he’s stressed and he’s almost-sorta-kinda terrified. Well, scared, at least.
And it’s all Ruth’s fault is the thing.
He knows she only wants what’s best for him, knows she worries and like, she’s his sister and he loves her and he knows she loves him too, it’s just. For once, just, he wishes she would’ve left him alone, that she wouldn’t have made a decision on his behalf.
Okay, see Ruth is his sister. She’s also one of his absolute best friends.
The thing though, is that sometimes the sister-thing - which is linked with the protective-thing - kinda dominates everything else, and she gets these ideas that she just has to go through with.
Some of them are good, like how when she found out he wanted to move to London too, she went out of her way to get a flat that they could share. Some of them are not, like how she tried to sweet-talk Liam’s high school crush into going to the dance with him, and instead just scared her away.
This- This one he’s not quite sure of yet. It definitely leans towards the bad though.
The thing is, he knows they worry about him; Ruth and Nicola and his mum.
Liam is, well. Liam is not that good at adapting to new surroundings. He never has been, it’s just how he is.
It’s like, he’s shy, with new people. And he’s just not the kinda person to, like, reach out and make new friends or force himself into groups of people like he belongs there. But it’s not like he doesn’t have any friends, he does, three-four that he really, truly likes and are comfortable with!
But the thing is, none of them are here, they all went to other parts of the country - heck Martin even went to the states - and Liam figured, like, it’s better to be in a new town, by yourself, without any friends, than to be in the town you’ve grown up in, by yourself, without any friends. Yeah?
He’s not even by himself though, because Ruth suggested they live together, as she already lived in London anyway.
So he’s not lonely, or, like, sad, or anything.
Sure, sometimes it would’ve been fun to have at least one person, other than his sister and her boyfriend, to go to the movies with, or go out to eat with, or study with.. But he’s - he knew this would happen anyway, and at least now he has someone to talk to and also loads of time to work and focus on his studies, instead of wasting time fucking around. So it all worked out for the best.
Because like, Ruth and David, they’ve been dating for well over a year now, and Ruth spends a lot - like a lot - of time over at his place, and Liam thinks maybe she wants to move in with David, is the thing.
And even though Liam can actually afford this place by himself - the rent is rather low seeing as the owner is a friend of their dad - he knows Ruth is afraid that he’ll be lonely if she moves out. It’s as clears as the guilt on her face when she’s been away three days in a row.
So Ruth went and did this ridiculous thing. Probably with help and encouragement from his other stupid sister.
And Liam promised he’d give it a go; answered the phone call he got and talked to them for like an hour. And then, a week later, when they told him he was a candidate and wanted to meet him and see the place, he showed them around the flat as they took pictures of everything and did another - but this time short - interview with a camera in his face.
And so here he is, pacing the living room floor as he anxiously waits for the camera crew to come, ready to film his day of Come dine with me: supersize.
It’s a ridiculous idea, is what he told Ruth.
Because, like, they’ve both watched many episodes of the show, and they both know how it works - they always pick a group of mismatched people so that it will be entertaining, and did Ruth really think he’d make new friends out of this?
Also, not to mention that Liam is socially awkward as hell, and now the entire world - well the british part of the world that watch Come dine with me, at least - will see that, and how on earth is that gonna better his chances of making new friends in London?
He just hopes no one at his work will see this, and he’s rather relived that most of his schoolwork is self-study at home. He’s also glad he doesn’t know anyone at work well enough for it to be natural to mention he’s doing this show.
He’s not so much nervous about the crew itself, he met them yesterday.
Well, he met three of them, Ruth the director - there had been an awkward moment when they’d met yesterday and she shook his hand and Liam was like two seconds away from saying no, um, Liam before he realized it was her name, and she wasn’t mistaking him for his sister -, Philip the cameraman and Brendan the sound-guy.
They did a almost two hour long interview, asking so many random questions he can’t even remember half of them.
Ruth will be present every day, all the time, to ask questions and help with the conversations, while Philip and Brendan will be replaced with three other guys - the evening crew - when the guests have arrived.
The doorbell buzzes just before ten thirty, and Liam exhales heavily before he lets them in.
RuthTheDirector told him yesterday that she wants to film him shopping for food and drinks first, so they barely come inside before they’re all out again, Liam feeling extremely awkward being followed by the camera and extracting a lot of curious looks and stares.
Buying the ingredients goes rather quickly, he has a detailed shopping list that he follows, and he only wants the ground to swallow him whole once - when they tell him to interact with the butcher at the meat desk, and he hopelessly fails at being able to carry a conversation.
He’s been informed that there will be a jew and a muslim at the party, so he has to make sure the recipes are adjusted to their needs.
It’s not a lot of adjustments though, he gets kosher beef when he asks for it, and he also manages to find a alcohol-free dry white whine that he can use for his main, and makes sure to buy non-alcoholic beer and some soda to drink, along with the required alcohol off course - and that’s it, really.
It’s expensive, but they all get one hundred and twenty pounds each for the food, and he doesn’t go over that.
When they’ve made it back home, the crew moves a few things around in the kitchen - for better lightning and stuff - before he’s allowed to begin.
He starts with his dessert, black forest sundaes, because he has to make ice cream and brownies from scratch.
Well, the ice cream is basically making itself in a machine that he borrowed from David, but it takes time so he figures it’s the best place to start.
“Remember to tell us what your thinking and roughly what you‘re doing.” RuthTheDirector says from where she’s sitting on a chair.
“Right. Um. I’m gonna start with the ice cream for the dessert.” He says, wiping his hands over his jeans before thinking better of it and quickly washing them.
He has all the recipes printed out, and his plan is to follow them and measure everything thoroughly.
His sister had written up the menu in the application form, so they’re all dishes he’s done successfully before, but he still feels extremely nervous.
He also really wants to turn on the radio, like he always does when he cooks, but he’s pretty sure that’s not allowed.
He gets to work on the ice cream mainly unbothered though, and once the machine is going he feels a bit more at ease, and lets out a breath.
“Okay, that’s one down.” He says, mostly to himself.
“What are you doing next?” RuthTheDirector asks.
“Next is the brownies.” He replies, remembering how she asked him to try and include the question in his answer yesterday, because the viewers aren’t supposed to know she’s there.
“Have you made brownies before?”
He turns on the oven and takes out the ingredients listed. “I’ve made brownies loads of time, so hopefully it’ll go without a hitch.”
It does, and he places the batter in the oven, before turning back to RuthTheDirector.
“I’ll make the rest of the dessert before we eat it.” He says, and she nods.
“And what are you making next?”
“Um, I thought I’d prep the starter and then the main.”
“How long will the starter take?”
“I dunno. Like, twenty minutes, perhaps?” She takes out her phone, clicking away for a moment before she looks up again.
“Right, do the starter, and then we’ll have an hour lunch break. We need to make some arrangements before you start on the main.” She finally decides, and then makes a hand motion signaling him to continue.
“Right. I’ll prepare for the starter then.” He informs for the sake of the camera, quickly putting away the dirty dishes and bowls from the baking and grabbing the new ingredients from the fridge.
It’s an easy starter to make; baked mushrooms - so he just trims the stalks and oils the dish and makes the ricotta-pesto-garlic mix.
Halfway through filling the mix into the mushroom caps though, there’s some issue with the sound, and they have to take a ten minute break to fix it before he gets to continue. That also means that he literally jumps in surprise when the oven dings five minutes after they‘ve started filming again; signaling his brownies are done, and he has to rush to clear some space and put out coasters and grab the oven mittens.
He can just imagine the narrator having a field day with this later.
When the crew leaves for the one hour lunch break, it’s like he can finally breathe for the first time all day.
He’s been strictly forbidden to do anything related to the food or show in any way, which is completely fine, as he can make himself some toast and sit down and actually relax. Well, relax his feet at least, his head is still going at a hundred miles per hour with questions that he’d really like the answers to now, and not in five hours when the guests should be arriving.
He watches one of his recorded shows to distract himself, and then paces the living room while he waits for the crew to get back.
“Right, we need to rearrange your living room.” RuthTheDirector says as she walks through the front door.
“The dining table is too close to the kitchen. We’re gonna switch it over to where the sofa group is.”
“Do you have room in one of the bedrooms for the chairs and table while we move the couch and tv-stand?”
“Sure? I mean, we can put chairs in one and the table in one I guess..”
“Great. You start with the chairs, Philip and Brendan will take the table.”
He stacks the chairs in Ruth’s room - RuthTheSister that is, not the director, as she most certainly does not have a room in his flat - and then they leave the table halfway into his room and halfway into the hall, because it was the only place it fit.
The moving of the couch is a bit worse, it’s big and heavy and not properly put together where it meets the chaise, so all four of them have to struggle to push and twist it through the corner in their living room.
They set it against the wall and put the telly in front of it, and it looks weird and misplaced and not at all like it’s supposed to stand there. Ruth seems to agree, as she tells Philip to try and avoid filming that corner, and then they head back to the kitchen so Liam can finally get started on the beef Wellington.
He has to roast the beef by itself first, and he was originally planning to roast it to medium, but as he’s seasoning it, he stops in his tracks.
“Wait, can muslims and jews eat medium cooked meat?” He asks, and gets no response. “I’ll google it.” he decides, taking out his phone and opening safari.
He reads silently, searching jews first, and he’s about the alter his search to muslims when Ruth speaks up. “What does google say?”
“Um, jews can eat medium steak if the meat is kosher. Which it is. And muslims… can’t? It’s a bit of discussion in this thread. Apparently it depends on how strict they are..” He looks up, hopeful that Ruth will maybe at least give him a hint as to how strict the guest he’s having is, but she just raises a brow.
“Right, okay, so to be on the safe side, I’ll just cook it a bit over medium,” he decides loudly, “and if I get any complaints I’ll panfry it.” He starts chopping mushrooms as he waits for the oven to heat up, because he was dumb enough to turn it off after doing the brownies, and pops the meat in once it dings, setting it to twenty-five minutes.
He puts on potatoes to boil for the mash as well, because they need around the same amount of time to be done.
The meat has to come out of the oven to cool and then chill in the fridge, so he has plenty of time to make the mushroom mix - the alcohol free wine didn’t make the mix taste any differently, thankfully - and then preparing the cling film and prosciutto, before rolling out the puff pastry.
Yes it is store bought, and he’s certain he’ll get shit for that later, but whatever, he needed to prioritize.
Covering the Wellington in pastry is always a bit tricky - as he has to be careful not to let the pastry rip - but he has enough time to do it proper, and after sealing it and glazing it with egg yolk, he even manages to make the diagonal lines without cutting through the pastry like he did last time.
”I’m gonna cook it and the veggies and the mash before serving it.” He says after having placed it in the fridge to chill. Again.
“Great. Are you done with the food then?” She asks, pressing the lock-button on her phone twice, presumably to check the time.
“Yeah, I think so.” He replies, looking at the mess in the kitchen that he very much would like to clean.
“You can clean up before your shower if you have time,” Ruth says, because apparently she’s a mind reader as well as a director. “Let’s do the preparations for your entertainment. You said you’d play a game, correct?”
“Um, okay, yeah. I just need to cut up some pieces of paper, really..”
“We’ll set up in the living room then.”
He should’ve known, when he was about to do such a mindless task, that Ruth would fire questions at him.
“How do you think the night will go?”
“Um, I dunno, really, we have to wait and see who and how the guests are.”
“Please repeat that and remember to include the question.”
“I don’t know how the night will go, it depends on who the guests are, I guess.”
“What are you expecting?”
“I don’t really have any expectations, it could be anyone, really.”
“The lights not good.” Philip interrupts. “We need to adjust it and do it again.” Liam sighs, stopping his work of cutting paper and waits for fifteen minutes while they try different lightning and discuss how to do it tonight.
“I think it’ll be best if we just close the curtains and move the floor lamp that’s by the couch over to the window, so we wont get too many shadows.” Brendan finally concludes.
“The sun only really shines through for half an hour or so.” Liam interrupts quietly, but they ignore him, and set up before returning to the questioing.
“How do you feel about having a muslim and a jew here tonight?” Ruth asks after having repeated the other questions. Liam sighs.
“I don’t mind having any religious people over at all. As long as they’re nice and get along, it’s no hassle. I didn’t have to do a lot of changes with the menu either, so.” He pauses mid-cut to shrug.
“What ages do you think or hope the guests will be?”
“It would be nice if there were someone my age, but I mainly get along with all age groups as long as they’re nice, so I don’t mind if there’s not.” Ruth shakes her head slightly, looking down at the paper she‘s been reading questions off.
“Remember what you said in your phone interview? How you get along easier with adults sometimes? Could you repeat that please.”
“Oh. Right, um. To be honest, people my own age can often be the most difficult to get along with, I think, sometimes I find it easier to talk to adults.” He’s not sure if that’s an exact quote, but Ruth nods so he figures it’s fine.
“And are you nervous about having the first night?” Liam tucks his lips into his mouth for a second, swallowing down annoyance, because she knows damn well that he is; she asked what would be the worst scenario during the week in the phone interview, and he - being the idiot that he is - told her that he’d hate to have the first night, because he’d be a nervous wreck.
“Yes. I’m very nervous of being first, since I have no idea what kinda people I’ll be faced with.”
“And are you nervous about what they’ll think of your cooking?”
“Well, I obviously hope they’ll like my food, but we’ll just have to wait and see. People have different tastes so. I know undercooked meat can be a bit risky.” He says as he cuts the last bit of paper in half and gathers it all into a neat stack.
“Okay,” she says, “We have what we need for now. You can set the table.” At least they keep quiet as he does that, there’s not much decoration; a plain white table cloth with black and green patterned placemats, some grey decoration rocks and a few tealights. When he goes to the kitchen to get the cutlery, he notices that two cabs are already parked on the pavement outside.
“Um. I think people have arrived?” He says loudly, seeing as Ruth is still in the living room doing god knows what.
“Yes. There’s usually some waiting. Just finish setting the table and go get ready.”
Well, he still feels bad about his guests waiting though. “I can - I mean, should I skip my shower?”
“No, take your time, they’re not even all here. It’s fine.”
He still tries to hurry though, showering quickly and skipping the shaving, and he’s definitely glad he picked out the outfit last night.
He walks back down the hall, announcing he’s ready, and is sent back to the bathroom so they can film him exiting - which he does, only to be sent back once more. “No, go back again, say something as you come to a stop for the camera.”
Liam sighs, already feeling a bit breathless, but does as told, half-running down the hall for the third time, with an eager - and lame - “Let’s get the party started then!”
“Great. Go make the welcome drinks, the other crew just got here, so we’re gonna get ready to film the arrivals.”
“Sure.” The nerves are definitely kicking up a notch, his heart hammering almost painfully like after a long run, and his palms and forehead feels sweaty. Fuck. Hopefully the guests will be nice.
The welcome drinks are simple; just champagne with a couple of strawberries bobbing in each glass, except three strawberries for the non-alcoholic one, just to keep track.
Brendan and Philip are replaced by Bernard and David on cameras and Damien on sound. They all shake his hands quickly before setting up; David on the outside to film people knocking on the doors, and Bernard and Damien inside to film the introductions and conversations - all on the same side of the door so they wont catch each other on film.
“Right. All set?” Ruth asks a few minutes later, and Liam feels his stomach drop, because shit, this is happening, and it’s happening right now, and holy shit the odds of him not embarrassing himself on telly are totally not in his favor. After getting affirmation from the three crewmembers - and none from he - she taps on her phone and puts it to her ear before saying “Okay, send him in.”
It’s too late to back out now, isn’t it?
The doorbell rings, and Liam has to buzz the person, a guy apparently, in downstairs, and then wait for what feels like way too long before the knock finally comes.
He takes a deep breath, wipes his palms on his jeans and opens the door with - what he hopes is - a kind smile.
It is a guy indeed, definitely around his own age, and he gives him a somewhat shy smile and says “Hi. I’m Zayn.”
Liam replies with “Hi.” adds a silent I’m screwed in his head before continuing with “Liam. Um, come in?”
It’s like he can physically feel the presence of the camera zooming in on his face as Zayn comes in and awkwardly looks around the room, nodding slightly in what might be approval. Or just, like, a rhythm inside his own head. Or whatever else people nod for - questions, for example, though Liam hasn’t asked any. Right.
“Um, a welcome drink?” He gestures towards the drinks that he’s placed on the small drawer that is otherwise occupied by a plant, a bowl for keys and a few framed pictures. Zayn looks a bit awkward, so Liam tacks on, “I have, like, are you- um, I mean, there’s one alcohol-free?” sounding just as awkward a he feels, and probably judgmental as well, if Zayn is in fact not the muslim.
But Zayn says “That’d be great, thank you.”, leaving Liam feeling a tiny - really incredibly small - bit more relieved. At least it’s not too horrible. Yet.
He picks the one with the three strawberries, and hands it to Zayn, taking one for himself as well, and leads them like four feet further into the room, and then they just stand there in silence, because of course Zayn is a shy person too.
Liam wishes he had like a proper hall, so he could at least occupy them with showing Zayn inside, but the front door is right in the living room, and so they just stand there like idiots.
Zayn takes a sip of his glass, a smile curling to his lips as he mumbles “’s good.” Liam blushes.
“It’s, um, I think it’s kinda a kids champagne? It was the only alcohol-free one they had.” He knows it’s a kids one, because the bottle was bright orange with cartoon animals on it, and god he’s serving it to an adult.
“I don’t mind.” Zayn assures, though Liam’s not sure if he means it or if he’s just a nice guy. Either way, he’s thankful.
“How old are you?” Liam asks curiously but before Zayn has a chance to answer, Ruth cuts in and tells them to wait with those questions until everyone’s arrived. Which leaves them with more awkward silence. Great.
At least Zayn seems nice, like, he seems calm and not attention craving and loud, which is probably the personality-type that Liam clashes the most with.
As Zayn takes the opportunity to look around the living room, Liam takes the opportunity to look at Zayn. It might be a bit creepy, but, like, Zayn is really attractive to be honest and it’s intriguing.
He tries not to be obvious though, because, like, camera.
“Send the next one in.” Ruth says. Liam takes a big gulp of his drink.
When Liam opens the door this time, he’s met with another guy around their age. The initial just be looking at him, Liam knows the two of them are very different people.
While he himself and Zayn of them are both modestly dressed in dark jeans, Liam in a red and black checkered shirt and Zayn in a long-sleeved green-ish shirt, this guy is dressed in skin-tight bright blue pants, a red button-down tucked in and black suspenders that doesn’t seem to have any purpose but decoration.
And, his personality seems to be as bright and radiant as his style. “Hi, I’m Louis!” He says with a big smile, sticking out his hand. When Liam pgrips it for a handshake, Louis uses the hold to pull him in and gives him one loud smack of a kiss on each cheek. “Pleasure to meet you!” He adds, before turning to Zayn and giving him the same treatment.
“Oh, drinks!” He notes as he lets go of a completely at ease Zayn, twisting around and locating the glasses Liam has placed on the drawer, grabbing one. “Cheers.” He says before drinking half of it in one go.
“Um.” Is all Liam has time to say before Louis speaks up again.
“Sorry, I didn’t quite catch your names?”
“Right. I’m Liam, and this is Zayn.”
“Great! So who else do you think will show up then? Gotta be girls right? Probably proper ladies since we’re all young. Maybe a couple of grandma’s?” Liam kinda just stares at him, and Zayn doesn’t say anything either, but Liam’s the host though, so he should probably reply.
He lets out a small laugh that doesn’t sound genuine at all. “Yeah, maybe.” They all stand around awkwardly, and like, Liam knows it’s his duty as the host to keep the conversation flowing, but he can’t think of anything interesting to say. “I- uh, I hope you didn’t wait too long.” He stutters out finally, looking between them, but before any of them get to answer, Ruth is telling someone to let the next person in.
A third young guy is standing at the door, this one blond, and with a grin that rivals Louis’.
“Come in.” Liam says, stepping aside. The guy only gives him a smile before going to greet the others, so Liam closes the door behind him queitly.
“Hi there blondie, I’m Louis!” He hears, and turns around just in time to witness the boy get pulled into cheek-kisses. He only laughs though, loud and genuine, and grabs Louis’ face to plant a proper kiss to his cheek as well, before turning to Zayn and keeping up with Louis’ strategy.
“Should’ve probably greeted you first.” He says when he turns to Liam. “Sorry ‘bout that! I’m Niall.” He kisses Liam’s cheeks, wet and loud, and since Liam is prepared this time, he manages to return them as well, although he feels his cheeks heating up. It’s not how he usually greets boys.
“It’s fine, I’m Liam, nice to meet you. Would you li-” He cuts himself off when he sees the drink already in Niall’s hand. “Oh.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to steal your duties.” Louis says, though he doesn’t sound sorry at all. Not that Liam’s mad or anything though, it’s just, he feels like a hopeless enough host as it is.
Liam doesn’t even hear Ruth sending in number five, and he jumps when the buzzer goes off. Christ, they’ve caught him of guard twice already, and he doesn’t doubt that they’ll use both times in the show, making him seem like a skittish, nervous wreck.
Well, that’s exactly what he is tonight though.
When he finds yet another young guy on the other side of the door, he tries his best not to gape. Usually they mix the genders and ages, and this is..
The boy’s eyes fleet over the rest of them, a bouquet of red roses in his hand, and a slow grin spreading over his face. “Well this is unexpected.” He says, as he takes a step inside. “I’m Harry.”
Louis gets to him first - of course - and Liam hears the kisses as he closes the door, wondering if maybe he’s the only one who finds this whole cheek-kissing-thingy a bit odd. He must be though, because Harry seems as delighted as the rest of them, kissing Zayn and Niall as well and lastly Liam before bashfully handing him the roses, and getting his welcome drink from Niall.
“I guess we’re all here then!” Louis exclaims holding his glass up.
“To a great evening and a great week.” Liam throws in, probably a bit unnatural and fast, but he feels like he has to do some hosting, and they all cheer, glasses clinking.
Louis downs his drink, then holds his mouth wide open and tongue out as he tilts the strawberries into his mouth. Liam accidentally catches his eye. He probably blushes all the way down to his chest when Louis winks at him, and prays that neither the camera, nor the other boys, caught it.
“Right.” He says, clearing his throat. “Let me show you to the table then, and I’ll get started on the, um, starter.”
After he’s put the roses in a vase, and they’ve been seated by Ruth - Liam at the end of the table, Louis next to him and Zayn next to Louis on the left side, and Niall on his right side, followed by Harry - Liam is excused to finish his starter with Ruth, the sound guy and one of the camera men at his heels.
The oven is already preheated to the right temperature, so he simply takes the pan of mushrooms out of the fridge and puts it into the oven, and then they have to bake for approximately twenty minutes, and that’s it.
It gives him plenty of time to get out the plates - cutlery and glasses already on the table - and to serve the wine.
“Right.” He says as he walks over to his table of guests. “So, white wine anyone?” They all nod, except Zayn who stays quiet, and Liam tops the four other glasses before turning to him. “I have more of that champagne, um, some alcohol-free white wine, beer? Or soda, I have coke and fanta?”
“I can try some of the wine.” He says with a small smile, and Liam nods and leaves to get the bottle, glad he doesn’t have to bring out the stupid, orange, champagne one.
“It’s half empty cause I used it for the beef Wellington as well, so that you can eat it.” He says, filling Zayns glass.
“That’s great, thank you Liam.”
“I’ll leave the bottle? Just let me know if you want anything else.” Zayn thanks him again, and Liam just kinda gets lost in his eyes for a few seconds before he shakes himself out of it. “Any of you, I mean.” He adds, glancing over the table. “Um, I have other wines and like, beer and yeah, you can have whatever as well off course.”
“The wine’s great for now, thank you.” Harry assures, and Niall and Louis agrees.
“Okay. Um. I- yeah.” Liam says, pointing his thumb towards the kitchen and walking away. His hands are clammy, so he places one underneath the bottle to make sure it wont slip out of his grasp, before remembering he was supposed to leave it and abruptly turns, setting it down next to Zayn while stuttering apologies.
Christ. They all seem like perfectly nice people, why the fuck is he so stressed out?
He gets a five minute breather as he waits for the timer to ding, and he’s sure they’ll include it to enhance the shyness and awkwardness of his personality - the host hiding in the kitchen instead of actually hosting - but he can’t really be bothered at the moment.
When the mushrooms are done, he plates them in a flower formation - six per person, it’s only a starter after all - and adds small globs of pesto on each, before sprinkling over chopped parsley.
They make him clear some counter space and do it slowly for the camera, which makes the process take longer than Liam likes and makes him anxious about his guests getting impatient - but they all seem completely content when he finally gets the clear and starts serving. He carries three plates out, handing them to Louis, Zayn and Harry first, before rushing to get the last two ones for Niall and himself.
“So. Enjoy.” He says awkwardly once he’s sat down.
“It looks great.” Harry says kindly - though it really doesn’t; it’s five brown-grey lumps with green stuff on. He thanks him anyway.
It’s fairly quiet as they eat, but at least everyone seems to enjoy it. Liam eats slowly so he wont finish first, and tries to chew as quietly as possible, the camera making him hyperaware of everything he does. “You know, I’ve never been much of a fan of mushrooms, but you may have convinced me otherwise.” Louis says as he leans back, hands folded over his own stomach.
“Oh. Well that’s, I mean. I’m glad.”
“Yeah, it was good, I’d happily eat more.” Niall agrees. Liam feels his face slowly heat up, never having been good at taking complements of any kind. He kind of wishes he could rush to the kitchen to start the main already, so that he at least could blame his soon-to-be red cheeks on the heat from the oven.
“Everyone done?” Ruth asks, standing up from where she’s been sitting on a chair just out of view from the camera before anyone can answer. “Let’s do some interviews so you can talk about your impressions of the food and the night so far. Louis, if you can follow Bernard here, Niall come with me and David.”
“Can I start the main, or?” Liam asks uncertainly.
“No, no cooking until all the interviews are done. But you can clear the plates.” she replies, not even looking back at him.
Liam sighs, getting up to gather the plates, and both Zayn and Harry gets up to help as well. It’s very nice of them, but Liam would honestly rather have a minute to himself than this the awkward silence - he’s pretty sure Ruth purposely left with the two most talkative and outgoing people in their group.
“You have a really nice place.” Harry offers as he starts rinsing the plates.
“Thanks. I share it with my sister, we rent it through a friend of our dads.”
“Yeah, it’s very convenient.” He agrees, opening the dishwasher to load it.
“And you don’t have to do the washing by hand.” Zayn comments with an edge to his voice that makes Liam turn to look at him. He’s pouting. “That’s what I’m dreading the most about my night.”
“Yes, who cares about the food, and money and all.” Harry says sarcastically, making Liam and Zayn chuckle, and Harry beam at them in return, as he starts rinsing the bowls and dishes that Liam had dropped in the sink earlier when he was cooking.
“Oh, you don’t have to-” Liam starts, but Harry bumps his hip into him, effectively silencing the rest of the sentence.
“You can pay me back on my night.” He adds with a grin. Zayn immediately starts grabbing things from the counter to put in as well, stating he wants to be a part of that deal. “And then Louis and Niall can clean up after themselves all alone.”
“Well that’s just rude.” Louis says, apparently having tip-toed to the doorway and managed to avoid that one squeaky spot. “They asked me to send you in Harry.”
“Alright.“ Harry washes his hands and dries them on the dish towel, before heading towards the living room. Louis blatantly checks him out when he passes, and when he looks back at Liam and sees he‘s been caught, he simply lifts his eyebrows once with a small smirk on his lips. It makes Liam hot all the way down his neck.
“So what’s this secret cleaning club then? And how do I join?”
“You join by helping, and hope we’re kind enough to return the favor on your night.” Zayn answers dryly, though he doesn’t sound particularly annoyed.
“I’ll set the table then!”
“Why are we all cleaning?” Niall asks when he enters the kitchen a few minutes later.
“We’re not.” Louis replies - which is true, only Zayn is washing over a counter. Liam is handing beer-glasses to Louis, figuring it’d be best to have that, as well as wine glasses, ready on the table. It looks more sophisticated. Probably.
Niall shrugs as he heads over to the pan that’s standing on the oven top and still has a few mushrooms left in it, and pops a couple into his mouth. “They want you Zayn. Down the hall and second door on the left.”
Zayn grabs two of the five glasses that Louis has stacked into his own arms and hands - getting protests in return but ignoring them - and walks out to the living room, Louis hot on his tail. “I would’ve managed just fine thank you!” He hears Louis protest. Zayn’s reply is too silent for him to make out.
“We, um, we decided to all help each other clean up in the breaks? Like every night? So it wont be so much for us individually.” Liam explains, scratching at the back of his neck.
“It’s a brilliant idea, really. Can’t wait to boss you all around on my night.” Louis says as he returns, looking around the kitchen in a very obvious matter until Liam points out the drawer with cutlery.
“Yeah, sure, I’m in.” Niall agrees. He eats the last mushroom and then gives the pan a quick rinse and stacks it in the dish washer, before taking Zayn’s disregarded cloth and continuing his work of wiping down surfaces.
Liam feels a bit helpless, there’s no time to proper wash the pans and stuff, so he just stands there and watches Niall clean the last counter.
“Anything else, Master?” Louis asks, entering the kitchen again.
“No, I think that’s all. Um, thanks.” Liam says, scratching the back of his head as he gestures for them all to go back into the living room to wait for the rest of the boys.
It takes another five minutes before the others return, time that Louis and Niall spends discussing football, while Liam just sits in his chair listening.
“You can start the main now.” Ruth announces hautily as she, David and Damien passes them on the way to the kitchen while Bernard sets back up in the living room.
“Are you all okay with the meat cooked medium to well done?” Liam asks as he stands up, looking mostly at Zayn, as he’s the one he’s the most worried about. They all say it’s fine though, so Liam speedwalks to the kitchen to get started.
He puts the wellington in right away, as it has have to cook for forty minutes, and then rest for another ten.
He had contemplated putting it in right before serving the starter, but with eating and then the interviews, he was afraid to overcook it. Also, he needs time to boil vegetables and make the mash and sauce.
He starts chopping the veggies, broccoli and cauliflower and carrots, putting them in a pan with cold water, so that he can just turn the heat on fifteen minutes before serving.
He’s gonna make the sauce and mash right away though, because they can easily be reheated without being overly done, so he opens the fridge to grab the potatoes and then freezes.
“Shit.” He mutters lowly to himself, before rushing to the living room, the chatter around the table stopping as soon as they see him.
“Drinks?” He asks, sounding almost forceful and on the edge of desperation, so he clears his throat and hopes they cut it out of the episode. Probably not. “Would you like something to drink while you wait? Red wine? Beer? Water? I dunno.”
“I’m good with this wine for now.” Zayn says, raising his glass that is half-full, the wine bottle on the floor empty.
“I’ll take a beer.” Niall says, Louis adding a yes please and Harry frowning to himself.
“Like. What red wine do you have?” He asks finally, slowly, like he’s unsure whether or not he’s being impolite by asking.
“It’s. Um. I can’t remember? I’ll bring out the bottles.” Liam says, already halfway to the kitchen before he’s finished his last sentence. He grabs two beers and the two different bottles of red wine and hurries out again, ignoring Ruth as she starts to say something.
Harry chooses the bottle of his desire, and Niall and Louis thank him for the beers, and Zayn smiles sweetly at him, and then Liam’s rushing back out to the kitchen, feeling flustered and warm and a bit stupid.
“What was that then?” Ruth asks, all accusing like. Liam lets out a puff of air and wills his face to cool down.
“I forgot to get them drinks. Bad hosting that, making them wait for dinner and not offering any drinks while they wait.” He grabs the potatoes from the fridge - two milks and two butters as well - as he speaks, and when he places it on the bench, Ruth makes him repeat the answer while facing the camera.
He’s barely finished the sentence when Louis comes waltzing into the kitchen.
“Do you have a bottle opener?” He asks, and Liam almost smacks his own forehead - definitely does it mentally.
“Of course, yeah, sure, um.” He practically dives for the drawer and pulls it out. “Here. Sorry.”
Louis smiles and takes the opener from him, before putting a hand on his right shoulder, leaning in. “You’re doing fine, babe.” He says in a soft, kind voice that immediately makes Liam’s shoulders lower a bit. “We all knew there would be a wait, and we’re all enjoying the evening and the food, so just relax and take your time.” He pulls back, gives his shoulder a comforting squeeze. “Okay?” He asks looking him in the eyes, and Liam can’t do anything but nod.
“I- Yeah. Thank you.”
“I’m gonna make two mashed potatoes. Um, like two different types.” Liam says for the camera once he’s gathered himself enough to start cooking again.
When he’d been told, the day before, that one of his guests were eating kosher and could not mix meat and dairy in one meal, he figured he’d just make all the mashed potatoes kosher.
Ruth hadn’t liked that idea though, wanted him to make an extra portion that was kosher as well as the normal one instead - probably to give him more work and make the jew seem like a more difficult guest.
He does as he’s told however, cutting the potatoes into smaller pieces and separating approximately one fifth into a different bowl.
Taking out a pan, he measures soy butter and soy milk into it and heats it up, pouring over the small portion of potatoes and mashing them, before using the same pan to heat the regular butter and milk.
“Because we can have the residue of the soy in our mash. But not vice versa.” He says lamely when Ruth asks why he doesn’t change the pan. Once that batch of milk and butter is melted and heated, he pours the bowl of potatoes into the pan to mash them, and then adds salt, pepper, garlic and chives to them both.
“And I’m gonna put it in the oven like, soon I guess, so it’s warm for serving.” For now, he puts the pan on a oven mitten on the counter, and the bowl with the soy-mash next to it.
“And now Imma make the sauce.” That is probably the easiest task; melting soy butter, adding flour and then some meat stock and a pinch of salt and sugar and pepper and black food colouring, and it’s ready to just simmer on low heat till serving.
He turns on the heat for the vegetables as well, with the timer only having five minutes left till the meat is done, and pops the bowl and pan with the mash in the oven for heating.
The four minutes Liam has left to wait for the meat are spent answerings Ruth questions like how is the night going so far, and what’s your impressions of the guests and how did the starter go in your opinion and the likes, and then the timer dings, and Liam’s off to cook again. Thank god.
The night is going well though, they seemed to like the starter and they’re all nice, but Liam’s seen this show enough times to know that some people are two-faced and will praise your food and then give you a low score when they’re alone - and that personalities often change during the week as well - so he’s not quite sure yet.
While the meat is resting, Liam checks the vegetables and deems them done, setting the plates out so he can put the food on quickly and avoid anyone getting cold food.
David sets up so he can film from one side, the counter clear enough for the shot since they cleaned it, and Liam starts plating.
The mash is a bit dry on the top, but at least it’s really warm, so he just mixes it around a bit.
“It has some tiny lumps in it, but it’s supposed to.” He says as he drops a glob onto the plate for- well, the jew, he doesn’t even know which one of them that is. It’s not Zayn or him, and he kinda doubts it’s Louis, so that leaves Harry or Niall. But he wouldn’t be able to guess between the two of them.
He cuts up the wellington, anxious to see if it’s cooked right, and definitely relived when he sees that it looks really good, pink in the middle and well done on the sides. He carefully slices it so they can have three pieces each - keeping the two end bits for himself - and then slowly pours the sauce over the mash with David practically breathing down his neck.
He grabs the kosher plate - with some extra chives on the mash, to make sure he doesn’t mix it - in his right hand and a plate of regular in his left, and then slowly makes his way to the living room, Ruth and David and Damien following, although David just goes to sit on the couch, since Bernard does all the filming while they’re in here.
“So um, which one of you eats kosher?” Liam asks raising his right hand a bit to show that that is the kosher plate.
He’s met with silence.
“Um.” Harry finally says. “I’m making kosher on my night? But I don’t eat kosher normally.”
“What?” Ruth yelps before anyone else has a chance to, and she halfway jumps out of the chair she’d sat down in literally seconds before, index finger already out and pointing accusingly. “You’re Jewish!”
“Um. No?” Harry says unsurely, slowly leaning away from Ruth and her finger.
“Yes! You said you were Jewish and ate kosher!”
“I said I have Jewish family and like the Jewish culture and sometimes eat kosher and wanted to make a kosher meal?” Harry says, or, more like questions, as if he’s not quite sure if that’s what he actually said.
“God.” Ruth mutters, thumb and index finger now rubbing over her own forehead as if she’s got a headache. Well for all Liam knows she probably does. They all just look at each other for a while. Liam’s still standing awkwardly with his two plates of food that are starting to burn his hands slightly, while Zayn, Niall and Louis all have different degrees of amusement written over their faces.
“I swear..” She starts, then sighs as she picks up her ipad and taps angrily at it. “You’re not Jewish?” Harry shakes his head like a child who’s been caught doing something wrong; eyes wide and lips tucked into his mouth.
Ruth mutters to herself again, and it’s so low Liam’s probably the only one who picks it up, but it sounds something like well if you’d just answered the questions I asked instead of your long ramblings about nothing, then maybe I’d realized you weren’t- she cuts herself off with another long, deep sigh, looking up from her ipad.
“Fine. Fine. We’ll just pretend then. Harry. You will be Jewish and you will eat kosher, okay?”
“I don’t really wa-”
“Yeah, well neither do I. You wouldn’t even be here if I knew you weren’t Jewish, but you like the culture or religion or whatever, so I’m gonna assume you know enough about it to make it believable. And if you don’t, read up on it.”
“Okay. Sorry.” Liam feels bad for Harry, he genuinely looks upset about it, and Ruth doesn’t even seem to care. At least Liam now knows to not get on her bad side.
“Okay, redo that scene. Liam enter the room as asks who eats kosher.” Liam nods, walking back to the kitchen and then repeating the question, trying to sound normal.
“Um. That would be me.” Harry says, half-rising his hand and looking sheepish and awkward. Liam glances over at Ruth, worried that they might have to do it again - worried about his food getting cold - but she nods her head once in what is supposedly approval, so he hands the plates to Niall and Harry and then rushes to get the rest, as well as more to drink.
“It looks really good, Liam.” Zayn says as Liam finally sits down, making sure everyone has what they need in terms of food and drinks, and anything else really.
“Thank you. Um. Dig in. Please. Before it gets cold.”
It’s no use though. The vegetables have gone lukewarm and the mash is crusty on the top again, and Liam’s frustrated, because the meal isn’t how it’s supposed to be and it’s not even his fault. They all praise it anyway, telling him the meat is perfectly cooked and tender and that the mash is really good - Harry in particular - and then Zayn asks if he made the sauce himself, and Ruth tells someone to ask if he made the pastry.
“Did you do everything yourself, then?” Louis asks.
“Except the pastry, yeah.”
“That’s impressive, mate. And it tastes amazing! It’s easy to understand why you didn’t have time to do the pastry as well.” Liam shoots him a smile, gaze flitting to Ruth to find the corners of her mouth turned down. It makes his own tug up a bit more.
They eat really quickly actually, probably because they all know it’s only a matter of time before it goes cold.
As soon as Harry lays down his fork, being the last to finish, Ruth gets up and gestures for Niall and Louis to follow her and the cameras.
Zayn, Harry and him start clearing the table again, managing to bring most of it with them in one run, and only Harry goes back to get the rest.
“I’m really sorry ‘bout this mess.” He says when he comes back, shoulders hunched and teeth digging into his bottom lip.
“It’s okay. Honestly. It wasn’t your fault.” Harry doesn’t seems satisfied with that though. He shrugs, sniffs, and then silently places the glasses he’s carrying in the dishwasher.
“I just, sometimes I get a bit lost in my head, and like, answer questions that were never asked, instead of the ones that were.” He shrugs again, trying to seem unaffected, probably, but it doesn’t really work. “Leads to some misunderstandings sometimes, is all.”
“Yeah, well, it’s her job as the director and main researcher to pick out the people for this show based on what they tell her, and if she doesn’t listen to what you say, then she’s not doing her job, and that’s on her, not you.” Liam and Harry both turn to look at Zayn, who’s currently adding soap to the water he’s filled the sink with, standing casually with his back turned to them, as if he didn’t say anything at all.
“I-” Harry says. Liam can totally relate to his speechlessness. “Thank you Zayn.” Zayn turns halfway, gives Harry a kind, soft smile, and then crouches down to open the cupboard under the sink.
“Do you have washing gloves or something?”
“Oh, no, you don’t have to-”
“It’s fine.” Zayn says, cutting him off. “I don’t mind at all.” Liam somehow doubts that, seeing as it’s barely an hour and a half since Zayn told him that washing up was what he dreaded the most. “Ah, found them!”
“I’ll dry!” Liam is about to say, mouth open and first syllable already formed, but Harry beat him to it.
“Oh. Um. I’ll..” Liam looks around the kitchen. “Well, I’ll put the rest of the food away.” He finally decides. The rest of the food is only a lump of mash and some sauce though, so Zayns not even done washing the first pan when Liam’s done.
“You need to put things in their place though, cause we don’t know where it goes.” Harry says while Liam is contemplating his next move. Or like, task.
“Yeah.” He agrees, but he’s not just gonna stand around waiting while they do all the work, so he washes down the counters - even though there’s not really any need for it - and starts scrubbing down the oven.
“You know, the kitchens are always so messy and stuff when we watch the show, like, I wonder what people do on these breaks.”
“Probably laze around.”
“Yeah, who wanna spend their free time doing the washing when they’re a guest at a dinner party.” Liam points out, because he honestly think they’re all a bit mad, though he himself likes having a distraction from the awkward conversations.
“Don’t you dare skip out on my night!” Zayn says, waving the brush at him and getting soapy water on the floor. He’s scowling, eyes thin slits, and he’d probably look scary if it weren’t for the fact that they look golden and shine with something Liam can’t quite put his finger on - it’s definitely not anger though.
“I wont.” He says seriously, defensively raising both hands palms up, and a smile breaks out on Zayns face, turning into laughter when Harry smacks him with the dish cloth and sternly tells him to do his job.
It takes a solid ten minutes before Louis returns, once again telling Harry to go do his interview. He places a hand on the round of Harry’s hip as he passes him, squeezing gently in what seems like a comforting gesture, and Harry smiles gratefully in return.
“I hope she doesn’t bitch at him.” Louis says once Harry’s left the kitchen, walking over to where Liam had taken Harry’s place and grabbing the towel from him, hip checking him away in the process.
“You guys are impossible.” Liam complains, pouting. They both turn their heads and flashes him bright smiles.
“I think you need to wash over the dinner table, Niall spilt some mashed potatoes.” Liam pretends to sulk about it, but he’s happy to do something, so he grabs a wash cloth and leaves.
The smear of mashed potatoes is definitely on Louis’ side, but overall the table doesn’t look very clean, so he washes over the place mats and the spots he finds on the table cloth , finishing just as Niall walks out of his bedroom, Ruth following and then going straight to RuthHisSister’s bedroom.
“God, there are so many questions.” Niall complains, leaning his forehead on Liam’s shoulder for a few seconds, before Liam awkwardly shuffles on his feet and they both head to the kitchen.
“Zayn, you’re up.” Zayn sighs, peeling of the gloves and running a hand through his hair, which is not as springy and quiffy as it was, probably due to the steam from the warm water. He hands them to Niall, who takes them with a groan, but continues Zayns work nevertheless.
“Pretty sure you’re the one who spilt the mash.” Liam says as he takes out the white wine glasses, having chosen a dessert wine in the shop earlier. He’s not sure what he’s gonna serve Zayn, what’s gonna pair well with the sundaes, but maybe the champagne? Either way, he can have that in a white wine glass as well, they’re not that posh.
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” Louis replies, handing him a wooden cutting board with a pointed look.
Liam rolls his eyes, a smile tucked into the corner of his lips, but remains silent, placing the cutting board behind the coffee maker and leaving the kitchen to set the table with glasses and spoons.
When the rest of them have finally returned, Liam announces that he’s gonna go make the dessert, only to have Ruth remind him about the entertainment.
“Right.” He’d forgotten about that. “Um, I’ll get that then.”
He hands out five notes and a pen to each person before asking them all to number them from one to five.
“Okay. So what we’re gonna do is, on note number one, you write a sentence. It could be anything in the world, about anything you want. Okay, so we all write a sentence on number one, then when we’re all done, we’re gonna send the entire pile of papers to the left, and then we’re gonna draw the sentence that we get on the second note in that pile.”
“I can’t draw for shit.” Niall says, Louis and Harry joining in.
“That just makes it better though.” Liam argues, feeling flustered by the fact that they probably find his game lame. “See, cause then, you put note number one in the back, and send the pile to the person left to you again, and then they have to write a sentence based on the drawing, and then the next is a drawing based on that sentence, and then a sentence based on that drawing, and we’ve made a full circle.”
“So basically, write the most obscure and abstract sentence you can.” Louis concludes, after a beat of silence, what can only be described as a smirk taking over his face, and Liam lets out a relieved breath.
There’s murmur and laughter and what the fuck even is this?? all around the table as they play, but everyone seems to genuinely have a good time, and it makes Liam feel somewhat accomplished.
Well, everyone except Ruth, off course, who points out that “This isn’t really good for the show, it takes too long, I don’t know if we’ll be able to put it in he episode.”
To which Niall replies “Well, it’s entertainment and we’re all entertained.” and then leaves it at that. Liam feels someone nudge his foot, and when he looks up from where he’s trying to identify whatever the hell the drawing in front of him is supposed to be, he finds Zayn smiling at him, making his stomach flutter a little bit.
It’s just, Liam really likes it when people seem to approve of him, is all.
Reading through the piles is hilarious, even the sound and camera guys laughing, Bernard having moved from the couch so he can look at the drawings with the rest of the crew.
They pick out Louis’ to be read and shown properly for the camera; starting innocently with the colors of the rainbow are the prettiest in the spring and ending with during pollen season cats mate with rats, with some rather interesting drawings in between.
He gets the clear to start dessert once they’re done, the rest of they guys looking through the stories again and mocking each others drawings.
Liam kinda wishes he could be a part of it, but, duty calls.
“So, I’m just gonna whip some cream and make the cherry sauce, and that’s it, so. Shouldn’t take too long.” Ruth nods, and Liam starts measuring icing sugar and double cream, whipping it till it forms soft peaks, and dipping a spoon in to see how sweet it is. “It’s not very sweet.” He says, making a face “but with the ice cream and brownies, I’m sure the dessert itself will be sweet enough.”
Next, he drains the can of cherries into a pan for heating, and he’s like a second away from adding the brandy when he remembers that Zayn’s not supposed to have any alcohol. “Um.” He says to himself, before he pulls out another pan, the smallest one they have that they occasionally use for melting butter, and transfers three spoonfuls of the cherry juice into it.
Ruth clears her throat pointedly and Liam sighs. “I forgot that Zayn can’t have brandy.” He says, wiping the side of the pan where he spilt a drop. “Um, I’m supposed to mix it with brandy and heat it to make it syrup-y. I guess, maybe like some sugar will have the same affect?” He looks at the three people in front of him and doesn’t get any sort of reply. “Right.”
He adds a teaspoon of sugar to the small pan, putting it on heat, and then two teaspoons of brandy to the other. “Zayns’ actually might be a bit oversweet.” He says, mouth twisting. Damn, he should’ve tried to make one without alcohol yesterday or something, just to see how it turned out.
He doesn’t dare leave the liquid in case it burns, so he just stands there watching it till it’s consistence is close to syrup - thankful that the sugar worked - and then turns off the heat, but keeps them on the warm plate, as he starts assembling.
He makes Zayn’s first, as he’s afraid the syrup will either burn or get too sticky, layering the dish in a glass to make it look proper fancy; the brownies, then ice cream before drizzling over the cherries and the sauce, followed by a glob of whipped cream and grating some chocolate over, and then another cherry on top, so he can tell his apart from the others.
They film Zayn’s close up and deems it good enough to show, so he hurries more with the others, layering them together instead of one by one, but they look just as good as Zayns as he finally grates the chocolate over.
When he serves them, having carried them all in on a tray together with the dessert wine and the alcohol-free champagne for Zayn in a wine carafe - he simply could not look Zayn in the eyes and serve him from that bottle - he gets a chorus of ooh’s and aah’s making him all warm and pleased.
He hands them out, and then places the tray on the floor so it doesn’t mess up the décor of the table - shut up - and scoops up a mouthful for himself as he sits down.
“God this is orgasmic.” Louis moans, head leaning back and eyes fluttering closed in a utmost pornographic way. It makes Liam blush, and he abruptly turns to see his other guests reactions instead.
Harry is definitely not looking away from Louis, while both Niall and Zayn are still engrossed in their dessert, seeming to not have noticed at all.
“How’s your’s Zayn? Is it too sweet?”
“No, it’s - well, it’s sweet but,” he shrugs. “I like it.”
“Is his different?” Louis asks.
“Yeah, um, ours has brandy in it, and his has some extra sugar in the cherry sauce instead, so I was a bit worried.”
“Can I have a taste?” Zayn holds the glass out for Louis, who takes a not-too-generous scoop out of it.
“Mh, yeah it’s good, but not as good as ours mate. Lacks the tang, you know? Well, you don’t know, obviously, I’d let you taste mine but..” He trails off, shrugging but not really looking apologetic. Zayn smiles back though, it might be a bit tight, but it might also just be a normal smile, Liam doesn’t know him well enough to tell.
“The taxi’s all lined up, are we ready?” Ruth asks as they’re scraping the remains of their dessert out of the glasses.
“I wanted to ask for seconds.” Niall says, a small pout on his lips.
“We’re gonna set up in one taxi who’ll take you around a few blocks, doing the last interview and the score, and then bring you back to your own taxi’s to take you home, so there’s still time to eat some if someone else will do the scoring first.” She says it with the wave of a hand and in a bored tone.
“Um, do you guys want some brownies before you go?” Liam asks the crew everyone but Ruth happily nodding, so he brings out the tray for them to take a slice each. Ruth reluctantly takes one as well.
“Be quick to fix the desserts for those who want. Damien, David and I will set up in a cab, and Bernard will do the final interview with you, Liam, while we do that.”
Zayn says he’s full and don’t mind taking the first taxi, so they said goodbye - awkward waves included until Louis rolls his eyes and places a loud kiss on Zayn’s cheek, the rest of them following with normal cheek-kisses.
Liam realizes that him and Zayn didn’t actually greet each other like this when they met earlier, since Zayn came before Louis introduced that tradition. For some reason it makes him feel a bit awkward, like he doesn’t have the experience the others has, like he can feel them all watching and judging, though he’s certain they’re not.
Nevertheless, he gets through it, silently willing down the blush that’s crawling up his neck, and then sees him out the door.
When he comes back into the kitchen, the remaining three boys are assembling desserts for themselves, which is actually kind of relieving, because Liam can feel the tiredness crashing into his body and he’s not in the mood to play host anymore.
They chat a bit, just about the day in general and how they’re looking forward to the next few days, and then Harry sees the car arriving, so he quickly says his goodbyes, before heading out.
Louis and Niall decides to go outside and wait so that Bernard can do his interview, and they say goodbye as well, thanking him for a great night. Liam says he’ll come outside and keep them company if he wraps up before they’re gone, but they just tell him not to stress it.
“Okay.” Bernard says angling the camera at him. “Just tell me how you think the day went, with the guests and the food and the entertainment.”
Liam nods, rambling about how he’s happy with the evening, they seemed to like the food and have a good time, and that’s what matters the most. “I don’t know if I’ll win. Nothing I can do about it now, is it? But I think we all had a great night, so no matter the outcome, I’m really happy with my dinner party.”
“Great.” David says, turning off the camera and packing up his stuff - leaving Liam a bit baffled, as he was sure he’d ask him more questions, but certainly not complaining - before asking for another brownie, saying goodnight and escorting himself out.
Liam sees the taxi come back again, Harry coming out and Niall going in. He contemplates going out to keep Louis company while he waits but it seems Harry has the same idea, going over to talk to him instead of getting into the taxi to take him home.
Liam bites at his lip, watches them laugh together, and decides to leave them be - they’re perfectly capable of entertaining each other - and instead puts away the rest of the food and starts the dishwasher, before heading to bed.
The last of the wash up can wait till tomorrow.
Chapter 2: Tuesday
When Zayn is awakened by his alarm at ten, he want’s nothing more than to smash it to pieces and sleep for another eight hours.
Fuck, yesterday was exhausting.
He had to get up at seven to go to class because there was a guest lecturer and he had to be there. And he didn’t have time for a nap before the crew came knocking on the door taking almost an hour to read the menu and ask stupid questions that probably wont even be showed on the telly, and then he had to get ready and leave.
Not to mention the fact that they made him wait an hour - an hour - outside of Liam’s house before they were ready for him.
And he couldn’t even nap then, too nervous about it all.
He groans as he rubs both hands over his face, tiredtiredtired, but they’re showing up at his door in half an hour and he needs to be at least a bit presentable.
Not gonna bother with a shower though.
He also needs to get a cig in before they get here.
God, that was actually one of the hardest things last night, not having a smoke. At least no one else was smoking either, so he didn’t get tempted by the smell. Still, he’d chain-smoked three when he got home, after making sure the taxi was gone and no one could catch him.
Damn, he regrets entering this show with the pretence of being a proper muslim.
Nevertheless, what’s done is done, and Zayn drags himself out of his soft, warm, alluring bed, and into the cold air of the bedroom.
Okay, not that cold, it’s May after all, but still.
He grabs his clothes and changes in the bathroom - jeans and a long-sleeved black sweater - and then sleepily makes his way to the kitchen, were he finds Melanie sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee and eating a muffin.
“Hi Zee, Imma leave in a few minutes.” She says, not even looking up from where she’s reading some kind of fashion magazine.
“You have like fifteen minutes.”
She smiles. “There’s coffee. Oh, and Vic spent the night, brought some pastries from the bakery, it’s in the brown bag.”
“Have I ever told you I love you?” He asks, filling some coffee in one of his mugs before deciding on a apple crumble muffin. “Also, your boyfriend.”
“Don’t know how I feel about that.” She chirps back as he cranks the window open and grabs the pack of cigarettes lying in the windowpane. They’re not technically supposed to smoke indoors, and he rarely does it, but he just really can’t be bothered going outside right now. “Petey and Jane left already.”
“Alright. Are any of you coming back tonight? We were filming till like midnight last night, but I’m sure we can sneak you in though.”
“Don’t think so, no. I‘m not at least.”
“M'kay.” He pats out a smoke and sticks it between his lips. “You mind?” He asks, lighter at the ready. She usually doesn’t, but she’s been nauseous a few mornings lately and she can’t stand the smell of cigarettes when she is.
He kinda suspects she’s pregnant, but he respects her too much to pry.
“Just blow it out the window.”
“Sure. Thanks.” He lights it, taking a deep drag and leaning to blow it outside a few seconds later. Melanie scoots her chair further away from the table.
“You nervous about tonight?” She asks, closing her magazine and putting it in her giant purse.
“Kinda? I mean, I don’t really cook a lot, especially not my nanna’s recipes. And I dunno if they’ll like the food. What we got yesterday was really great.”
“Yeah? I’m sure you’ll do fine though. And I think most people like to try different flavors. The dinner you cooked last week was delicious!”
“Yeah, it was okay I guess.”
“Always so modest.” She says with a long drawn out sigh. “How was the company then?”
“They’re all, like, our age? I was really surprised. But they seem like an okay crowd. Different personalities for sure, but so far we click well I think.”
“S’only one night in though.” She reminds him - as if he’s forgotten. He stubs his cigarette and puts it in the ashtray with sigh. Only five minutes till they’re gonna be here.
“I’ll get out of your hair.” Mel says, getting up and grabbing her phone from where it’s charging. “Good luck though, and have fun! And don’t forget that I've called dibs on the leftovers!”
“Yeah, yeah.” He agrees, waving her off with a smile tucked into his coffee cup. The door slams shut and Zayn clicks his phone to life to check the time.
Three more minutes of solitude. He’s gonna fucking enjoy them.
They go shopping first, once the crew gets there.
There’s not much he needs to shop - his nanna already took him to buy most of the ingredients at a local Pakistani-owned shop near where she lives a couple of weeks ago, lecturing him to use proper ingredients when he’s using her recipes.
So all he needs is vegetables, meat and alcohol.
He’s silent as he shops and can feel Ruth’s annoyance at his passiveness, but he really can’t be bothered pretending to be talkative and interesting. He’s pretending enough as it is.
Besides; it’s still early, he’s still tired, and he’s still itching for a cigarette.
He asks the butcher for kosher meat, but he makes sure to go over there when there’s other people crowding the desk, and he keeps his voice low as he asks. It’s out of spite, really, and a petty thing to do, but he’s just not in the mood to play nice.
God, today’s gonna be a pain.
Buying alcohol is far worse though.
He has to pretend to know absolutely nothing about beer or wine, even though he knows exactly what brands he’d like to have, and what goes with the food he’s making.
Still, he makes a show of looking around, checking out a few bottles and looking lost and uncomfortable - though the last bit isn’t to hard to play up, seeing as there’s three people and a camera attached to his every move - and finally a girl with a nametag comes up to him and shyly asks if he needs any help.
“I need to buy some alcohol.” He says, letting his attitude lie low, it’s not her fault he feels a bit shit anyway.
“Sure!” She agrees easily, and then tries to help him pick out a few bottles of wine and a coupe of six-packs that she ensures goes well with the food he’s making.
The beer’s fine, but he actually had his eyes set on a particular type of red that goes swimmingly well with his main. He has to swallow that down though - he’s clueless about alcohol after all - and thanks her before heading towards the checkout.
There’s a fifteen minute walk home. There’s actually two food shops closer to his flat than the one they‘ve been at, but the people who works there knows him, and he couldn’t risk the chance of them looking weirdly at him when he asked for help with the alcohol, seeing as he pops by to buy it probably like once a week.
So he really likes a glass of wine with his dinner, sue him.
The walk does give him time to clear his head a bit though, breathe in some fresh air and try to not be so grumpy.
He’s usually easily irritated in the mornings, but today just feels like one of those days though, were you just wanna scream fuck you at the world and crawl back into bed.
It’s not inconvenient at all.
No. He needs to get a grip. It’s not that big of a deal anyway, really, he’s just making dinner for some new friends.
Well, if they were actual friends, he wouldn’t have to keep up with this charade, but in all honesty it’s no worse - no more pretending - than spending a day at his grandparents. Except he’s the one doing all the cooking and the hosting.
The first thing Ruth says when they come back to the flat is that things need to be rearranged.
They have their dining table in the kitchen - because their living room is tiny - but that’s not good for the filming, apparently, so they have to stuff one couch into Petey’s room and one into Melanie’s, and the living room table into Jane‘s, so that they can do the interviews in his.
The two remaining chairs are taken to the kitchen so that the crew can alternate sitting in them while he does the cooking.
They use a good fifteen minutes moving the table, because it’s solid wood and broad and long and heavy as fuck, and the hallway is rather narrow. They do manage though, and the accompanying benches are much easier to carry out.
Zayn briefly wonders how mad his flat mates are gonna get when they have to help move it all back - he sincerely doubts the crew will stay long enough to do the job with him.
Once that’s done, he gets the clear to start.
“I’m gonna start with some prep for the dessert.” He tells Ruth. She makes a motion with her hand to tell him to keep talking. “I’m making Kheer. It‘s a kind of rice pudding. My grandma‘s recipe. Well all of them are, all the food I‘m making are traditional Pakistani recipes that I‘ve gotten from her.”
“Why have you chosen to make a Pakistani menu?”
“I’ve made this menu because I’m half Pakistani myself, and this is food that I’ve kinda grown up with. I don’t think a lot of people have tasted these dishes, but middle eastern and south-asian food is kinda popular these days, like kebabs and stuff, so I don’t think it’s too risky.”
He starts by boiling rice that he’s soaked overnight, adding saffron and cardamom. The rice needs to be overdone before he can do anything else though, so he goes to prep his starter as well, making sure to check on the rice every once in a while so he wont forget it.
“For the starter I’m making Shami kabab. Not to be mistaken with the kebabs you can buy in the fast-food restaurants here in London. I think maybe the boys will be a bit surprised by that.”
He gets most of the work with the starter done as well - boiling a mixture of beef, lentils, spices and soy yogurt - before he sees that the rice is done, and sets it aside to cool.
He’s gonna have to use his food processor - well, Jane’s food processor - for both dishes, but they both need to cool first, so it’s at least fifteen minutes until he can get to that part.
Now would be the perfect time for a small break and a smoke actually, but instead he fills his cup from this morning half-full with coffee and takes a few gulps before he goes to cut some onions and garlic for the kabab stuffing.
He didn’t really realize it would be this boring to make it all himself.
When he went to visit his family a couple of weeks back, he’d made all three dishes for his grandparents and parents and sisters, but his nanna had helped him cook it all, and she talks enough for five people, never a time to be even remotely bored.
And otherwise when he cooks, he’s listening to music and taking his time, doing all sorts of other things in between - he’s never been particularly good at putting all his focus on one thing.
It’s getting really warm with all the steam and the oven and whatnot as well, so he cranks up the window, giving a longing stare to the Marlboro’s lying there. He also wants to roll up his sleeves, but he can’t do that, seeing as tattoos isn’t exactly something he’s allowed to have.
Instead he scratches at his forearm - above the sweater - and gets back to work. Besides, his families are gonna watch this, including all four of his grandparents; neither of which knows about his tattoos, so it’s all for the best anyway. For, like, the sake of family relations and shit.
It’s a few years now since he got the first one, just a simple black heart on his hip. He was scared to even show his mum and dad, kept it secret for a few weeks until he took of his shirt on a hot day, and his mum said ‘Zayn, what’s that on your hip?’. He’d entertained the possibility of lying, saying a friend drew on him with a sharpie, but the way his body froze made it obvious that it was the real thing.
They didn’t get mad at him though - even though he wasn’t even seventeen yet - said it was his body and his life, and he’s still their boy and they love him no matter what he chooses to do.
They also kindly suggested that certain members of the family would maybe be better off not knowing about it, which Zayn had no problem agreeing to.
He runs the rice for the dessert through the processor first, and then washes it thoroughly before he runs the beef mixture through it.
“I’m done with the dessert for now.” He says belatedly as he adds a egg to the mixture and kneads it with his hands.
“And the starter?” She asks, nodding towards his hands.
“I’m gonna make the kababs, it’s just filling them with the stuffing and shaping them. I’ll cook them when the boys are here.”
“Alright. Do that, and then we’ll take a lunch break.” Zayn nods, casting a glance at the clock.
God, he’s so ready for another smoke.
Stuffing and shaping the kababs is, unfortunately, a very easy job, that involves no machines or noises or time issues, which means Ruth takes it upon herself to get him talking.
“So. Zayn.” She starts, all important-like. Zayn doesn’t really like her, to be completely honest, she comes across as the kind of person who enjoys having power a little too much. Especially after the whole incident with Harry last night, it left a bad taste in his mouth. He’s also a bit scared of what she’s do if she were to find out that Harry’s not the only one lying about his religious ways. “What did you think of last night?”
The camera guy - Zayn has absolutely no idea what his name is, even though he’s pretty sure he introduced himself both for the interview on Sunday and this morning - has moved back a bit to film Zayn, and not just a closeup of the food he’s making. “Last night was good, I think. Was definitely surprised that they’re all so close to my age, but I like them so far.”
“So you feel like you get along with them then? Despite the differences?”
“I mean, yeah, we’re all a bit different I guess, some of them are probably not the kind of people I would normally gravitate towards, but they all seem nice.” Which is the truth.
“You didn’t feel left out last night then?”
“No? I didn’t feel left out last night at all. I think when you put together a group of strangers like that, some are gonna be a bit more forwards than others, that’s just how people’s personalities are. I’m a kind of observant guy, I like to lean back a bit and, yeah, observe, so I normally choose to be a bit withdrawn. But that doesn’t mean I was ignored. It didn’t feel like that at all.”
“So what are your impressions of the guys then. What did you observe?”
“As I said; they all seem like good guys. Different personalities, but no one seems rude or arrogant or impolite.”
“Could you give us a more detailed narrative? All of them separately would be great.” Zayn sighs.
Yeah, so he observes people. Calculates them a bit, likes to see how they act with different people and in different settings before he decides how to approach them himself.
That doesn’t mean he wants to share his thoughts though, especially not on telly.
He’s kinda quiet about this habit of his is the thing. Like, most people just pin him down as shy or introvert, and Zayn likes to play that card, likes to figure out people on his own, without them being suspicious, likes to choose friends based on their behavior towards others, rather then the fake shell everyone introduces at first meet, or the rumors that surrounds them.
And maybe that is a type of shyness; the chosen slow approach - or whatever you should call it - but it’s not something he sees as a bad thing or as something that holds him back from life. It’s maybe more like a self-preservation, something that has sharpened both his judge of character and his people skills, and definitely something that helps him pick the right people to keep close to his heart and let in to his mind.
Bottom line, he needs to think through what he wants to say when it comes to his observations from last night, he doesn’t want to overshare, and he hasn’t properly gathered his thoughts yet.
“Obviously, one night isn’t really enough to get a clear picture of someone.” He says finally. “Last night was more of an introduction, and some might have been on their best behavior because of that, and then change over the week. But no one stuck out as putting on a facade, I think.”
He makes a couple of more kababs in silence before he adds, “But again, it’s extremely hard to tell that based on one night, when there’s several new people and settings. You don’t really have the time to get a proper impression of anyone.”
“Fair enough.” Ruth agrees, but she doesn’t sound satisfied with his answer. She’s silent for another few minutes before she presses again. “But could you just give a quick individual-”
“Fine.” Zayn says, cutting her off. “Just let me think it through for a minute.” She makes a noise, it’s probably supposed to agreement, but it sounds more like a bitchy whine. Zayn ignores it.
“Liam was a good host last night.” He starts. Which he was, it was obvious he wanted to please his guests and that’s what a good host does. Sure, he was nervous, but that was more charming, cute, than annoying, and he didn’t do anything wrong or let it take control over him. “He was a bit nervous, but I think anyone would be in that situation anyway.”
“And how about his personality?”
“I think Liam and I are similar in the way that we like to stand back a bit when we’re in groups or crowds. He strikes me as someone who’s not comfortable being in the spotlight.” He likes people like that though, people he can relax with and be silent with without it being awkward; which is how he sees Liam.
There’s different types of shy and silent people off course, but Liam doesn’t come across as the ‘I’m sorry I exist’-kinda person; the ones who always seem to feel like they don’t belong anywhere, not even in their own skin.
Zayn’s pretty sure Liam will warm up to them over the week, and perhaps, hopefully, come out of his shell a bit.
“Niall seems very easygoing and relaxed. Like he easily adapts to the people and situations around him.” Zayn continues. He doesn’t really know what else to say about Niall though; he’s a bit tricky. He seemed so comfortable last night, as if he’d know them all for years and it was just another get-together, no cameras or competition in sight.
The thing with people like that though, is usually one of two:
It’s either just the way they are; carefree and relaxed - they solve problems easily, and if it’s not their problem to solve, it’s not their problem to worry about either. Some would say they’re a bit simple.
Or, they are the kind of person who keeps it all inside, bottled up, because they don’t feel like they have anyone to talk to or because they don’t wanna burden anyone with their secrets and problems, and it’s all a facade, destined to crack - Zayn has witnessed a few of those.
He has no idea which of the two it is this time though.
“Harry and Louis as well.” He adds, deciding to move on. “They seem to like to meet new people and experience new things.” Harry definitely doesn’t like to pretend to be something he’s not, but Zayn can’t say that, knows it will be cut out anyway. “Harry seems to be a good guy, like, he has a big heart.”
It’s the thing that stuck out the most about him, he always paid attention to people and what they said, seemed persistent on making sure no one was left out. It’s also the way he reacted when he thought he was an inconvenience with the whole jew thing, and the way he seemed to think through what he said and asked, like he picked his words carefully.
Though; that could also be because of the whole misunderstanding, and how he told him and Liam that he gets lost in his own head at times - so it might as well have been a precaution, instead of a personality trait.
“Louis. He seems like he likes to be the life of the party, a bit opposite to me in that way. He’s a bit loud perhaps, but it’s not in a demanding way. And he is funny, so.” Out of all of them, Louis is probably the person Zayn would be the most cautious about in any other situation. But it’s true what he said though, Louis seemed to be the natural center of attention, and those kinds of people are way less annoying than the ones who forces it through.
Still, it can be tiring in the long run, when someone always needs to fill the silence, and Louis definitely took that role last night. The thing is though, he’s not quite sure Louis is like that, or if he might be playing it up a bit. There’s just something that makes Zayn think that there could be a different, less in-your-face, side to him.
He shapes the last kabab in silence, before he turns to Ruth, hands still covered in disgusting meaty residue. “I’m done.” He declares. It means ‘I’m done with the prep for my starter’ just as much as it means ‘I was promised a lunch break. Leave.’
Zayn waits approximately two minutes from the door has closed behind the crew, before he’s out it himself, lighter and pack of smokes in hand.
It’s a bad habit, he knows, and he’s kinda, sorta trying to rid himself of it. In his defense though, he’ll be more or less forced to lay of them for several hours a day throughout the week, so like combined, he’ll smoke less this week then he usually does.
He only allows himself to have one, that way he can have one more just before lunch break is over - then he’s off them till the guests have left.
And tonight he’s not gonna have three in a row like he did last night.
He spends the rest of the break mainly relaxing.
He’s not allowed to prepare or do anything for tonight - which is not a problem at all, he wasn’t exactly planning on it - so he grabs the book he’s reading for one of his classes and sits down with a bowl of cereal, completely content to clear his mind of anything else.
If there’s one downfall to being an observant person, it’s that he’s always thinking, analyzing and going through everything that’s been said and done lately, every conversation he‘s had and whatever else sticks to his mind. It’s annoying and it’s tiring, and the only way he knows how to stop it is to read a good book, something that catches and intrigues him too much to let his mind wander elsewhere.
It’s definitely one of the reasons why he chose English literature as a major.
Getting lost in his book also mean he forgets the time though, and he jumps when there’s a knock on the door again, second smoke completely forgotten.
Cursing at himself, he promptly reads through the paragraph he’s in the middle of before going to open the door for them. Ruth seems a bit annoyed at the time he took, but it’s not like he wont do something else to annoy her later anyway, so.
“We’ll get started on the main then.” She announces, making her way into the kitchen. “And then set the table and get ready I guess. You don’t have any entertainment planned, do you?”
“No. I don’t. I’m gonna make them, like, table card-thingies though.”
“Right.” She says, “We’ll do that before we set the table then.”
We - as if she’s doing anything at all. She probably needs to feel important and included, even though she enjoys bossing people around. Maybe that’s part of the reason why, actually; she wants to be the boss, but she wants people to respect and look up to her, admire her, just as much.
What’s that saying - it’s lonely at the top?
Not that she’s really at the top, she’s definitely not the boss of all of this, but she’s the boss of the people she works with daily and maybe she’s afraid-
Right, he’s supposed to make food, not pick her personality apart.
“Alright. Dinner then.”
They let him work mostly in peace, main disturbance being the fact that the cameraman is in the way whenever he goes to move around.
They also tell him to do things slower, cut up and add the different ingredients one by one so they can film it properly and have the narrator explain it when they show it. It’s a bit annoying, but it’s not like he’s running out of time, nor does he usually stress around when he cooks, so he tries his best to do as they say and otherwise ignore their presence.
“So, we were thinking of maybe switching things up a little bit..” Ruth says while Zayn’s cutting up the chicken. He doesn’t like the way she says it. “Since, you know, you don’t drink alcohol; how about we just cut that bit out for tonight?”
“No alcohol for anyone?” He asks, a bit baffled. Having watched the show himself, it really seems like they want people to get as drunk as possible.
“Well, I mean,” She shrugs with an air of fake nonchalance. “Doesn’t hurt, does it? You don’t drink, so why should you serve?”
“Because that’s what people usually do at dinner parties?”
“Well, but it’s not like it’s required. I figured maybe it would be more comfortable for you to not have to serve.”
“Well.. I’ve already bought the stuff, haven’t I? And I don’t have enough alcohol-free drinks for all of us. I’m not serving them water.”
“Oh, no, off course not! We’ll send someone to buy more Furstenberg. Some soda’s as well.”
“Right.. I have plenty of friends who drink, all my flat mates drink. I don’t have a problem with serving it.” She scowls at him, and he can’t help but roll his eyes.
Of course. They probably want to make some kind of drama out of it, make him less popular and a worse host. How very, very kind of them to suggest.
“So.” She doesn’t elaborate, but it’s not like Zayn needs her to.
“Do I really have a say in this?” He asks skeptically.
“Yes, of course you do. We just figured it could be, you know, an interesting twist to the evening. Show people it’s possible to have fun without alcohol.”
“It is. But it will probably also make me lose some points. Believe it or not, I would actually like to win.”
“Do you really think it will have that much to say?” She presses.
“Well, you’re the one who’s done this before, so you tell me. How many times have those who have hosted alcohol-free nights won?”
“Well I mean-” she clears her throat silently. “It depends on the food and the company as well, it’s definitely not down to the alcohol.”
“I know. But last night was very good. I don’t feel like taking any risks.”
“Fine. Serve your alcohol then. It was only a suggestion.” She’s clearly not happy with the outcome, so Zayn gives her a sweet smile as he turns around after having added all the chicken to the mixture.
All that’s left to do of the main is letting it simmer on the stove for a good forty minutes, and rinsing the rice to prevent it from sticking together.
The rinsing goes quickly, so Zayn gets time to clean up a bit, the timer for the food going off just as he’s about to fill the sink with soap water.
“Washing up will have to wait then.” Ruth says, as he takes the pan off of the hot plate. “Let’s make the table cards.”
It’s not that much work to be honest. He cuts out four equally big squares from his drawing pad with the thickest paper, and then draw easy caricatures using different pens. He decides against coloring, instead just shadowing as best and quick he can.
In the end they all look decent enough, and you can definitely tell who’s who, so he’s pleased with it, even if it’s not his best work.
Ruth then tells him to set the table, which he does. It’s a large, old fashioned wooden table, and they never use tablecloths for it, but he makes sure to wash over it properly so it looks inviting.
He puts on the glasses and all the cutlery - not planning on switching it all out after each meal like Liam did - and then decorates with scattered stemless, plastic flowers and a few candles, before lastly putting the drawings where Ruth decides they all should sit.
After that he’s allowed to get ready.
He seriously contemplates bringing a cigarette into the bathroom with him, smoking it out of the tiny window, but he decides against it, he’s trying to quit anyway, so he might as well take the chance to cut back when it’s handed to him. He takes his time, showering and quiffing up his hair the way he likes it, using extra gel to try prevent it from withering like it did last night.
If he wins the prize, the first thing he’ll do is go and buy some proper hair products from a proper hairdresser.
He assembles the welcome drink quickly, it’s a lemonade with rooh afza, lemon juice and sugar, and a couple of mint leaves floating around on top just because it looks better. It might not be to everyone’s taste, quite frankly the main reason he likes it is probably because he’s been used to it since he was a child, but, he might as well go all out when he’s first doing this thing.
Still, he makes them in tall, slim champagne glasses, just in case they don’t go down well.
The other crew arrives - only one camera this time, but it’s the same guy that filmed his menu read and was set up in the living room at the dinner yesterday - and then it’s only a few minutes of setting up on both sides of the door before there’s a knock, signaling his first guest.
”Harry!” He says brightly as he opens the door. Harry grins back, and kisses his cheek in greeting, asking how he is, and then handing him a bouquet of red roses.
“For the host.” He says simply.
“Thank you. They’re, um, gorgeous.” He doesn’t mean to sound awkward, it’s not like it’s that weird to get flowers from another boy, and he clearly remembers that Harry gave Liam flowers as well - even though he didn’t know Liam would be a boy - but there’s just something about the combination of the kiss on his cheek and the flowers and the camera that makes him a bit ..icky.
Icky as if there’s a sign over his head blinking and screaming bisexual for all - for his family - to see. As much as he loves his family, and knows that they love him, there are certain things that he’s not quite comfortable sharing yet.
Hell, he didn’t even realize it himself until a few months ago.
Harry doesn’t comment on it though, just smiles sweetly at him as Zayn finds a tall glass - he doesn’t know if they have any vases, and if they do he has no idea where - to put them in, before handing him his welcome drink.
“What is it?” Harry asks as he takes a sip.
“It’s, um, it’s a lemonade called rooh afza. It’s non-alcoholic.”
“It’s good. Reminds me of something I’ve had before. …can’t recall what though.” There’s no time to ponder though, as there’s another knock on the door.
“Liam!” Liam smiles back, only hesitates for a second before he leans in to kiss Zayn’s cheeks, and then moves on to Harry.
“I ..brought chocolates?” He says, holding up a flat box wrapped in red paper. He shakes his head slightly, casts a glance at the camera and then looks down at his hands. Still nervous then.
“Thank you Liam. Now I feel bad for not bringing you anything yesterday..” Liam blushes, stutters a bit like he’s actually embarrassed about bringing gifts, so Zayn ends his misery by handing him a lemonade. Liam takes a huge gulp, then pulls the glass away from his mouth with a slight grimace.
“Oh. That’s. Um, different.”
“It’s a non-alcoholic Pakistani drink.” Zayn offers.
“Doesn’t it remind you of something?” Harry ask.
“I. Um, I dunno? It’s..” He takes another sip, this one much smaller, and then holds it in his mouth for a moment.
“You don’t have to drink it if you don’t like it.”
“No! No, it’s okay, just not what I was expecting. It’s better now that I’m ..expecting. It.” He blushes at the end of the sentence, but Zayn only has time to throw him a smile before going to open the door as it knocks again. He hears Harry offering to drink Liam’s for him.
“Niall, come in!” Niall greets them all before practically downing his drink in one go.
“Was really thirsty.” He says with a shrug.
“Did you like it?” He licks his lips, eyebrows furrowed.
“I dunno. Didn’t really taste it to be honest.” Liam looks down at his half-empty glass as if he’s considering offering it up.
“And that would be Louis.” Harry says as there’s a final knock on the door. It is - of course - his smile as bright as his outfit, as he loudly proclaims Lads! and gets on with his round of kisses.
“Here’s your welcome drink.” Zayn says, offering it to him as he grabs the last one for himself, having completely forgotten about it until now. Louis sniffs it skeptically.
“What is it?”
“Rooh afza lemonade.” Louis gives it another skeptic look before tasting it. He wrinkles his nose in dislike, making Niall laugh.
“Not really my cup of tea mate, sorry.” He doesn't sound too apologetic though, and Harry swipes in and takes it out of his hand.
“I’ll drink it!” He says, as if there were any doubt.
Zayn collects the empty glasses, says a quick goodbye to the camera and sound guys that has followed him around all day, and then shows them down the hall and into the living room, telling them to find their own seats.
He leaves for the kitchen to avoid hearing any comments on his drawings.
“I’m just gonna fry the kababs.” He says to Ruth, who enters the kitchen right after him. It’s a really easy task, just frying them in oil till they get golden and crispy. It also makes a lot of sizzling noise, which means Ruth can’t really ask any questions, thought they have to stand there in awkward silence for a few minutes as they wait for the cameraman to return from filming they boys in the living room.
As he goes, he puts the fried ones in another pan on low heat to keep them warm, and when they’re all done, he plates them on Jane’s fancy square plates, with two tiny square bowls for each, filled with sour cream and sweet and sour sauce respectively.
When he’s served them and sat down, they all compliment him on the table cards, Zayn squirming uncomfortably at the attention, and then start eating.
It’s only seconds later when Ruth speaks up.
“Zayn. There’s meat in these right?”
“Harry. You can’t have them with the sour cream.” Harry, who has a kabab practically covered in white halfway up to his mouth, pouts. “No dairy and meat together.”
“Can’t you just cut that bit out?” He asks. Ruth sighs dramatically.
“Have a couple then, and eat the rest without when you’re all talking.” He complies, shoving two in before reluctantly dipping the next in the sweet and sour sauce.
“Do you not like the sauce? I can get you ketchup or something?” Zayn offers, but Harry insists it’s fine.
“What’s the difference between kebab and kabab?” Niall asks. “Well, apart from, like, the obvious.”
“The name just depends on which country it’s from. Um, normal kebab is actually meat on a stick or sliced meat cooked over fire, and then the kebab you’re used to is doner kebab, which is in pita.”
“Aaah!” Louis says in a very eureka-ish way. “Cause I was like a whole kebab for a starter?”
“I wouldn’t have minded.” Niall puts in with a shrug, eating his last piece. “But this was really good too though.” The others chorus their agreement, making Zayn blush.
It’s a good thing he‘s just on the right side of tan, so that it doesn‘t show. It’s just, he doesn’t like being complimented, never knows how to respond, so he just says a mumbled thanks and puts more food in his mouth so that they that can’t expect him to say anything else.
They sit in somewhat silence after all the plates are empty and the food swallowed down, waiting for Ruth to drag someone away for the interviews.
She’s probably doing it on purpose, creating this awkward and uncomfortable pause as they all just look around - something to add to the show for extra entertainment for sure.
He clears his throat awkwardly to make it stop itching.
The things he’d do for a smoke right now.
Ruth finally takes Niall with her to Zayn’s bedroom, and the rest of them starts clearing the table.
“Is it, like- do they ask a lot of questions in the interviews?” Liam asks silently, the question not directed at anyone.
“A few, yeah.” Harry says. “It’s a bit surprising isn‘t it, since they hardly show anything on the show.”
“I think they mainly just try to get you to say the right thing, like something stupid or funny they can use. That’s why they ask so many.” Louis supplies, and Zayn nods in agreement, because that’s his thoughts exactly.
“I wonder how many people are made out to be something they’re not because of the editing.” He supplies as he starts rinsing plates in the sink, stacking them for washing later.
Apparently they’re cutting down on the interviewing, probably since they’re not able to do two at a time, so Niall is back within five minutes, giving Liam a pat on the shoulder and saying he’s next.
Liam bites at his lip and walks uncertainly down the hall.
“So, we’ll wait with the washing I assume?” Louis says, eyeing the stack of dishes that Zayn is preparing.
“Well, we certainly have time to start it! We can just do the plates and stuff, we’re gonna have to switch out the water after a while anyway.” Louis glares at Harry, who seems completely oblivious to the dismay at his suggestion. “Zayn and Niall did the washing yesterday, so, I think we should rotate, so they’re off the hook tonight.” He continues.
Louis scoffs and Niall laughs loudly at it, which finally catches Harry’s attention. “Well it’s only fair!" He points out as Zayn pulls out his washing gloves, and waves them at Louis with a smile.
“I’ll go first!” Louis says, yanking the gloves out of Zayn’s grip. “At least I wont have to scrub pans.”
“Oh, I don’t mind doing that.”
“Off course you don’t Harry, you’re not wired right.” It makes Harry pout, and for a second Zayn’s unsure whether or not he was genuinely hurt by the comment, but it only takes for Louis to turn and look at him for a few seconds before the frown turns into a grin.
Zayn can’t see Louis’ face from where he‘s standing, so he doesn’t know what he does, but it’s probably a wink or something equally cheesy.
Liam returns shortly after, taking the dish towel from Harry and sending him on his way.
“Did it go okay?” Zayn ask.
“Yeah, it was fine. She’s ..persistent. But I’m not really scared of her or anything.” He says with a shrug. “Where’s Niall?”
“Bathroom.” Louis says with a scowl. “Been in there for ages, probably ditching his duty.”
“Oi, don’t go gossiping about me behind my back!” Niall says as he returns - but he doesn’t sound at all offended - grabbing a cloth and soaking it in the dish water. “I’ll go wash the table.”
“Two minutes! I‘m timing you!” Louis calls after him, getting himself slapped on the upper arm by Liam and the moist towel to the sound of Niall’s laughter ringing down the hall.
Harry takes longer than the others, Zayn’s pretty sure, but it could also just be that it feels that way since he spends the entire time scrubbing the stupid surface of the oven, which is filled with oily spots after frying the kababs.
When he returns though, with Niall in tow, he’s frowning.
“What’s up grumpy face?” Louis asks, to which Harry twists his mouth.
“Ruth’s waiting for you.”
“That’s what got you frowning?” Louis asks with a smirk. “I wont be gone for long baby, you wont even have time to miss me.” Harry rolls his eyes, but it’s combined with a small smile and a what looks to be a slight blush.
“No. She just. She kept pestering me to, like, complain about you serving me meat and dairy together. But, like, I don’t eat kosher, so I certainly wont complain about it.”
“You’re not supposed to though, I should’ve served you something else, sorry.”
“No. You shouldn’t have. Like, it’s just ridiculous, and I don’t like that you have to take, like, extra precaution for me when it’s not necessary.”
“It’s not that big of a deal though Harry, honestly.” Liam says just as Ruth comes into the kitchen.
“Louis? We’re waiting.” Louis rolls his eyes but mumbles a sorry and follows Ruth out, turning around as he walks out of the kitchen and making a stabbing motion at her.
It makes the rest of them laugh and Louis composes his face into something way too innocent before he turns to face Ruth just as she turns too see what’s going on.
Louis’ barely gone for a couple of minutes, and the rest of the boys leave as the crew enters for the making of the main.
Zayn puts some chicken stock over the heat, and then fries onions in a wok pan before adding some spices and the rice.
It’s just for seasoning, so he stirs it around, waiting for the broth to heat up, and once it does, he pours it over the rice mixture, and adds the chicken mixture and potatoes he made earlier.
Once it’s boiling, he turns the heat down low and sets his timer to twenty minutes.
“Right, so there’s nothing else to do but wait.” He says.
“How do you think the night is going so far?” Ruth asks as Zayn turns to face her, leaning against the counter.
“I think the night is going well so far. They seemed to enjoy the starter, even though it wasn’t what they expected, so that’s good.”
“And the welcome drink?”
“The welcome drink didn’t go down that well, but it’s not really the most important thing, is it? They all gave it a try, I’m happy.” She nods, looking down at her ipad, no doubt filled with questions.
“And, how do you feel about serving the alcohol, are you nervous about how it goes with the food, since you don’t drink it yourself?”
“I’m not too nervous about the wine. I’ll just have to trust the girl who sold it to me. They all liked the wine for the starter, so.” He ends the sentence with a shrug. “Speaking of; can I go serve them drinks now?” Ruth waves her hand, and Zayn goes to the living room and asks what they want to drink. They all want beer, except Harry, who wants red wine, so he brings it out to them and fills their glasses.
“The foods cooking itself.” He says at the raised eyebrows he gets when he sits down with them.
It’s only a minute later that the crew comes in to join - well, to film them - probably having realized that Zayn wasn’t returning.
He’s gotten pretty good at ignoring them though, finds it much easier now than he did yesterday, or even this morning, to be honest. It’s a good thing he assumes, as they were told to try and pretend the crew weren’t there, so as long as he doesn’t get too careless about it, it’ll be fine.
They’re discussing a show on the telly - Zayn’s not really paying attention to what they’re saying - when Ruth cuts them off by loudly clearing her throat.
“How bout, when the dinner is served, you talk about jobs and studies?” She suggests.
“Maybe make it in to a guessing game? It makes it more interesting.” They all agree before they go back to ignoring her and talking about- QI, it seems.
“No, but, like, I’m pretty sure it’s accurate.” Harry says, though his composure and tone is anything but confident. Zayn’s pinning it more down to his personality though; that he doesn’t like pressing his opinions or knowledge on people, even if he’s right.
“It depends on how old the episode is though. I’ve seen they’ve gone back on their word before. Or made statements on things before it’s been, like, proper figured out.” Louis argues. He’s pretty much the opposite of Harry in that way - he likes to be right and he likes people to know it.
“Like the second moon thing!” Niall adds, which gets a shout of agreement from Louis, and confusion from the rest of them. “It was on a show once, they were like ‘the earth has two moons’ and then I was like ‘what?’ and google’d it and it was wrong. Like, they thought so at first but then found out it wasn’t.”
“See. They can be wrong.” Louis concludes with arms crossed and a blatant smirk thrown at Harry.
“..But I still think they were right about this though.”
There’s five minutes left on the timer, so Zayn should probably get, like, plates ready. Or something.
He sighs as he gets up, tired and quite frankly done with the whole hosting thing. His body is complaining as well after too much static standing in one day; his feet hurt and his back pops and cracks as he stretches.
Ruth is already ahead of him and Zayn lets out a long exhale as he follows her to the kitchen, can hear the other boys snickering behind him.
He stops himself from flipping them the bird though, figuring that would kinda ruin his fake image.
The plating of the food doesn’t look too great, as it’s all a yellow-ish brown color, but it smells delicious so he’s not complaining. Well not complaining a lot anyway.
“It has soy yoghurt in it, so, no dairy.” He says as he puts a plate in front of Harry.
“Great. That’s - thanks. Um, it smells really good.”
“Yeah, I mean, thank you. I hope it’s not too spicy for you guys.” It’s not the spiciest food he’s eaten - by far, he does like his food to have a bit of a zing - but there are definitely people out there who‘s more sensitive to hot food than he is.”
“No, this is perfect. Really.” Niall says around a mouthful. They all murmur in agreement, except Liam; who tries to cough discreetly and takes a swig of beer. And then two more.
Actually, both Liam and Niall are almost out of beer, Louis having switched to wine, so Zayn goes to get them refills and brings the yoghurt as well.
“Here, mix some in, it’ll make it milder.” He says as he hands it to Liam, who blushes, but does so anyway.
“Never really been good with spicy food.” He admits sheepishly.
“Well we all have our kryptonite.” Louis offers, which maybe isn’t what Zayn would’ve responded with, but it makes Liam smile, so.
“So, how old are we?” Louis asks after Ruth had pointedly cleared her throat.
There’s a stretch of silence, which Liam eventually ends by saying; “Well, I’m-” only to be interrupted by Harry saying they should guess.
“Sorry.” He adds, sending Liam a small apologetic smile. “Um, I think you look younger today. Like, when you’ve shaved.”
“Yes!” Louis agrees. “Like, yesterday, I though mid-twenties. Now I think more.. Twenty-one, maybe?”
“I’m nineteen actually, but I turn twenty in August.” Liam supplies, when a few seconds have gone by without anyone else guessing.
“Oi, I turn twenty in September, so we’re the same!”
“Niall! We’re supposed to guess!”
Niall shrugs as Louis reaches over and smacks his arm. “Oh, right, I forgot. Sorry.”
“Okay, do me.” Louis says, looking around the table with a mix of enthusiasm and skepticism.
“Maybe, like, twenty-one?” Liam offers.
“You’re difficult, cause you could be eighteen, but you could be twenty-three.” Harry adds very not helpfully. It’s true though, Louis is kinda hard to place.
“So. Twenty-one.” Liam repeats. “It’s the middle. Ish.”
“Damn it! But I do turn twenty-two this year, so like, not completely correct.”
“When?” Zayn asks.
“Okay, so you’re closer to twenty-one. Liam was completely correct.” Louis glares at him, but there’s really no heat behind it.
“Well you’re probably, like, a thousand years old. A vampire!”
“Or an angel.” Liam supplies, his eyes widening in horror as soon as the words leave his mouth. His cheeks reddens so quickly Zayn would’ve probably believed it if Liam said a ghost just bitch-slapped him.
“Or a god.” Harry throws in, successfully attracting the attention away from Liam.
“Could be a witch. Or like, warlock. Or whatever you call them.” Niall supplies as he scrapes the remains of rice from his plate.
“I’m afraid I’m not a immortal creature. Just twenty, birthday in January.”
“What about you Harry? You a part of the ninety-three club as well?”
“When’s your birthday?”
“Month, Harry, not year.” Harry looks at Niall, contemplating.
“February.” He says finally, allowing Niall to steal the last piece of potato from his plate.
“I’d say eighteen.” Zayn finally says, and the rest of them seem to agree.
“Are you all done eating?” Ruth asks after a moment of silence, to which they all nod.
Louis stands up rather abruptly, almost knocking his chair over. “I’m off to the loo!“ he announces, already heading towards the bathroom.
“We’ll start with Harry, then.” Ruth decides.
The crew don’t even make it out of the living room though, before Louis pops his head past the doorframe.
“Zayn. I need you in the bathroom. Emergency.” Ruth and the cameraman glances at each other, but before they can say anything Louis adds “No camera. It’s ..a delicate matter.” It seems like Ruth wants to protest, but Louis is already gone again, and Harry and the rest of the crew are walking into Zayn’s room, so she reluctantly turns and follows.
“Right. I’ll..” Zayn trails off, pointing his thumb towards the hall, before he gets up and leaves.
Delicate matter. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?
For a moment he thinks maybe Louis has clogged up the toilet or something, but he was only gone for, like, thirty seconds, so probably not.
He could’ve broken something, one of the girls perfume bottles perhaps, but why on earth that’s too embarrassing to be filmed is beyond him, so.
Maybe there’s a spider.
The door is closed when he gets there, so he knocks gently, once, only to nearly be hit in the face with it as it swings open.
He’s grabbed by the shirt and hauled inside, standing there in somewhat shock as Louis shuts and locks the door.
A quick glance around the room tells him nothing seems out of order or broken, but he doesn’t get more time to dwell on it before he’s pushed against the sink and Louis is grabbing the bottom of his shirt, shoving it halfway up his stomach.
“What?” He stutters, for a moment wondering if Louis is trying to seduce him or something, maybe he’s gonna drop to his knees and- His cock gives a small twitch and he immediately drops that train of thought.
He looks up from Louis’ hands to his face, just to see that Louis is watching him as well, before he swipes his thumb over his tongue and brings it down, rubs it against Zayn’s hip and side just where -fuck!
“I knew it!” Louis hisses. Zayn pushes him back a bit and tries to pull his shirt down again, as if hiding the tattoos now will make Louis forget he ever saw them.
Louis hardly seems to notice at all, as he starts unbuttoning Zayns shirt from the bottom. “Do you have more?”
“You can’t tell!” Zayn protests, but doing nothing else about it, just watches Louis undress him.
“Off course I wont!” Is the response he gets, and Louis sounds kinda offended, which. Um? He drops his hands though, leaving only the three top buttons done, and takes a small step back. “Sorry.”
“It’s. Yeah. Um.”
“I just- I saw the heart, well some of it anyway, when you were stretching earlier. Don’t worry, no one else paid attention.” He stresses to add when he sees Zayns panicked expression. “But I was like, that has got to be proper ink, and I just wanted to see. Didn’t mean to, like. Come on to you. Or whatever.”
“It’s fine.” Zayn finally says, and to his own surprise he actually means it as well. He unbuttons the last of his shirt and takes it off for Louis to see.
“Sick! Why are you hiding it though?” He questions as he traces a finger over the snake along his shoulder and upper arm.
“I’m not really allowed, like, muslim-wise. Also, none of my grandparents know, and they’ll definitely by watching this, so I kinda had to.”
“Oh. Are they very strict?”
“Well, yeah. Strict muslims on one side and strict catholics on the other. Like, I know they wouldn’t disown me or anything, but my parents and I agreed it was better to not let them know.”
“So you’re not strict then.” Louis correctly concludes. Zayn just shrugs and shakes his head. “Anything else you’re hiding? Do you normally drink alcohol?”
“Yes.” Zayn says, and he knows he’s pouting a bit, but. “And cigarettes. I’ve been going crazy today.” He doesn’t add that he’s bi, because surely that would make it seem like he was coming on to Louis, at least after the whole undressing-incident, and he’s not really interested in Louis in that way.
“Oh! Do you want me to get you some? Sneak one out the window?”
“I really should stop smoking.” It’s not an argument, and they both know it. “There’s a pack and a lighter in the kitchen. Windowsill.” He adds.
He barely has time to put his shirt back on before Louis is knocking on the door again.
“Sorry. Liam was in the kitchen, had to distract him.” Louis says, as if he used a unreasonably long time. “You should maybe take the shirt of again though, so the smell wont cling to it.”
“You’re an angel, I swear.” Zayn responds, only undoing a few of the top buttons and pulling the shirt over his head. It’s a bit of a tight fit, but he doesn’t pop any buttons, so it’s all good.
Taking the single cigarette from Louis, he cranks the window open and sticks pretty much half his torso out, before he lights it. His roommates really wont be happy if they found out he sneaked one in here, so he tries to block most of the opening so that no smoke gets blown back inside by the wind.
“Liam would disagree.” Louis quips. It takes Zayn a moment to realize what he’s referring to, but when he does, he lets out a laugh. He takes a few more drags, figuring half will do, and stubs it against the wall next to the window - for once truly appreciating that they live in a brick wall house, as it leaves no visible mark.
“God, I feel a bit sorry for him, he gets flustered so easily.” He says as he closes the window and pulls his shirt back on.
“Yeah, but it’s cute as well.” Zayn makes a noise of agreement, opening the mirrored cabinet above the sink to find his cologne, but Louis doesn’t call him out on it. “Hey, you’re not the only one who’s pretending a bit, you know?” Louis says instead.
“I’m not as twinky as I appear to be. Well, not anymore at least.” He wiggles his eyebrows, but doesn’t elaborate, instead waiting for the cloud of cologne to settle in the air before giving Zayn a close sniff and a thumbs up, and then exiting the bathroom without another word.
Zayn stares after him for a couple of seconds but quickly shakes himself out of it and puts the lighter and half-smoked cig in the drawer, hoping he’ll remember to remove them later.
Harry’s back and Niall’s gone when they return, him and Liam doing the wash-up in the kitchen. “Everything alright?” Harry asks, brows furrowed and seeming genuinely worried. They both stop what they’re doing to look at them.
“Yup. Sorry ‘bout that.” Louis answers. It doesn’t quite seem to apase the other two boys but they let it drop.
Once they’ve all been interviewed, Zayn leaves to finish the dessert, crew looming behind him.
Pulling the rice mixture out of the fridge, he adds condensed milk, evaporated milk, sugar and custard powder and puts it on low heat. It has to boil, and he has to stir it quite often so it doesn’t burn or stick too much, but he still takes the chance to hack some pistachios to garnish it with.
”So-” Ruth starts.
”Wait a second.” Zayn says, giving the rice a quick stir before running out to the living room.
”None of you have a nut allergy, right?” There’s a chorus of no’s so he goes back to the kitchen, stirring the rice one, and then continues cutting. ”Just wanted to make sure no one was allergic to nuts.” He explains, which calms Ruth’s stormy expression a bit.
“Okay. So, what happened in the bathroom with you and Louis?”
“That’s private.” Ruth sighs.
“You signed up for this show, Zayn, and you agreed to have a camera film you all day.”
“Yes. But what happened in the bathroom has nothing to do with the food nor the dinner party, and is therefore irrelevant to the show. Besides, you didn’t even film what happened, so it’s not like you can use it for the show anyway.”
“Fine.” Ruth agrees after a moment. “But don’t go around making secrets that can ruin things for the program. And no cheating of any kind.” Zayn rolls his eyes, turning to her.
“We’re not cheating. Neither of us would do that. I told you it didn’t have anything to do with the show.” Which is technically true.
Ruth studies him for a moment, but seems to let it go, looking down at her ipad. “So, how do you think the main went?”
“The main went well, I think. To me it tasted like it’s supposed to, and I’m glad they all, except Liam, were okay with the spices. And Liam seemed to like it too, when he got the yoghurt to tame it a bit.”
“And what about the night in general?”
“I think the night is going great so far, everyone gets along and seem to have a good time. The only thing I’m worried about is that they’ll give me a lower score due to my lack of entertainment. Hopefully the table cards I made will weigh up for it though.”
“How do you think the boys are behaving? Do you still have the same impressions as you did earlier today?”
No. “Yeah.. Like, things feel a bit more settled today, like more relaxed and the silences that come in between talk isn’t as awkward, so. Yeah, it feels like everyone’s more at ease. But there’s no, like, drastic personality changes or anything.” Well, he did have suspicions of Louis playing it up a bit, and they’re confirmed, but he’s still not grasping his personality completely.
It would be nice to hang out with him after the show is done though, see how he’s like when he’s just being himself.
Scratch that, it would be nice to hang out with all the boys.
He wonders what they’d think of him, when they find out that he’s not really who he pretends to be. Though, apparently, neither is Louis, and they all know Harry’s been forced to put on a act.
The only ones who’re probably themselves are Niall and Liam. And there’s no guarantees with them either.
He looks at Ruth, ready for her next question, when she tells him not to forget he‘s cooking, and he almost swears, - fffuh -turning to the oven, only to find that the rice has indeed set in the bottom of the pan, almost half of it thickened way more than it’s supposed to, lumpy and slightly brown.
He grunts as he takes it off the heat, tries to stir the sugar and custard powder into only the top part of it to avoid what’s burnt, but it doesn’t work; lumps mixing with the rest.
He sighs, the cameraman moving to film closer and he stops himself from glaring at him, knowing he’s only doing his job.
He kinda wants to blame this on Ruth for distracting her with questions, but that would be unfair, wouldn’t it, so instead he spoons up what he can salvage, making the portions much smaller than he’d intended and sprinkles the nuts on top.
“Sooo, I kinda ruined it a bit.” He says as he sits down, not feeling as anxious as he probably should.
“Why? What went wrong?”
“It got stuck in the bottom of the pan. So it’s a bit lumpy, and, um, overdone I guess. It tastes okay, but not completely as it should.”
“Well, I think it’s good.” Niall says with a shrug, his bowl already half-empty. Well, there’s probably only five or six spoonfuls per bowl though, so it’s not like he’s eating that quickly.
“’s why the portions are small as well, couldn’t save it all.”
They all eat up, but they’re not throwing compliments like they had during the other two meals.
Well, it is rice pudding though, and not everyone likes that - even if it’s not slightly lumpy and burnt - especially when there’s no jam or anything else sweet like most people are used to, so he‘s not judging them for it.
The meal being over so quickly means there’s not really any time to discuss studies and work, though, like they were supposed to. Instead, they just banter about nothing really, and then Ruth decides she’ll call the cabs over, and they all get up to clear the table.
They don’t get to wash up, because Ruth announces that the taxi’s will be ready in five, so instead the boys just rinse and line up the bowls and spoons and finish whatever drinks they have left in their glasses while Zayn does a last quick interview in the living room - saying the night went well, but all things considered he doubts he’ll win.
He brings in the last wine and beer bottle from the table - the beer’s not even opened, he’s pretty sure it’s the second one he got for Niall - and puts them in the fridge.
There’s actually surprisingly much drink left, eight beers and over half a bottle wine - though he doesn’t think they’ve drunk considerably less than they did last night - but like, they’re all young and there’s free drinks so, it is a bit surprising, is all.
He wonders if maybe it’s to, like, respect him, if things would be different if he was drinking as well, though that seems a bit self-absorbed, actually.
Maybe it’s just that none of them are big drinkers, or that they prefer spirits and drinks over beer and wine.
“Rose water lemonade!” Harry exclaims, making everyone else turn to look at him. “Um, like, that’s what your welcome drink tasted like.”
“Okay, taxi’s ready. Who’s first?” Ruth says, gesturing towards the door where the crew is standing already dressed and ready to go.
“I’ll go.” Niall volunteers, kissing them goodbye and quickly shuffling his shoes on.
The rest of them take their time to put their shoes and jackets on, Zayn joining them as he’s quite warm and some fresh air sounds alluring. Also, he’s gonna have to go outside and smoke anyway, so he might as well join them now instead of waiting up here till they‘re all gone.
They kinda huddle against the wall of the building, talking while they wait, all of them seeming a bit more at comfortable now that there’s no camera documenting their every move.
Liam goes next, and then Harry, leaving Zayn alone with Louis.
“Mate, it was a good night, proper host you are.” He says with a easy grin, knocking their shoulders together. “And I don’t think anyone suspects anything.”
“Thanks. That talk really helped though. It’s like ..easier to breathe? And relax. When I know someone knows.”
“Yeah, I get it. For me too, like, it’s good knowing not everyone thinks I am a obnoxious twat.”
“No one thinks that.” Zayn says with a laugh. “You’re just a bit loud. But not in a bad way though.”
“Well someone has to make up for your gloominess.” Louis replies. Zayn tries to hold on to a glare, but he can feel his eyes crinkling up in amusement.
Harry returns soon after giving them a wave and a dimply smile before he goes into his taxi, rolls down the window and blows them each a kiss. Zayn catches his and smack is against his cheek. Louis catches his and smacks it against his arsecheek.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then. Is it Harry’s night?”
“I think so, yeah.” Zayn replies, even though he knows for sure it is.
“Louis!” Ruth calls from the cab, and Louis makes a face but skips - literally skips - towards the car.
Zayn sits down on the stairs with a sigh, waiting for Louis to return, and then watches as the two taxi‘s leave, before he finally lights up a cigarette and tags a deep drag.
There’s still the wash up to do, not to mentioned the fact that the table has to be put back in the kitchen and the living room furniture is completely clogging up his roommates bedrooms, but fuck it - it’s eleven thirty and he feels exhausted.
It’ll just have to wait for tomorrow. He’ll bribe his roommates with the leftover beer to help him.
Taking the last drag of his cigarette - he’s only allowing himself one tonight, no matter how much his body is itching for another one - he stubs it out against the rail and throws the filter in the bucket/makeshift ashtray, before getting up.
God, it’s been a long day, he literally has to drag his feet all the steps up to the fourth floor, and he barely brushes his teeth at all before he crawls into bed.
At least his day is over, and he can spend the rest of the week a little more relaxed - it’s all out if his hands now.
Okay, so. Harry’s a bit stressed.
See, it’s five past twelve, and the crew is showing up at the house at one, and Harry had estimated enough time to make it home, but then the professor was running late and, like, Harry wanted to be there for the entire lecture, right, so he stayed the extra fifteen minutes.
Which would’ve been fine, really, if he hadn’t realized that he’d totally forgot to buy the complimentary salad ingredients for his starter, and the shop by him is absolute rubbish at having fresh vegetables unless it’s Monday or Thursday - which it is not - and he had to jump off the bus after two stops to find somewhere to buy the stuff.
And like, ten past twelve, and he’s still running around like a maniac looking for a shop.
“Excuse me!” He kinda, sorta, shouts at a woman who walks by. She takes one sideways glance at his sweaty face and rabid expression and scurries off before he can say anything else.
“God damn-” He mutters to himself, spinning around and praying that he’ll develop x-ray vision so he can see through all the useless buildings around him and find what he actually needs.
He would’ve used the maps-app on his phone, had he not used up all his data already. Shit.
Like, he had to go to school today, okay? He has a paper due in that particular class in two weeks, and usually the professor gives them loads of helpful advice regarding the different subjects and how to write it and sources, and like, everything.
Usually - because off course today‘s the one day where he doesn‘t and Harry could’ve skipped without missing out on a single helpful thing.
Okay. Okay. Deep breath.
He wipes his hands over his face, hoping to, like, wipe off some sweat and maybe also the redness that is surely coloring his skin.
A lady is walking down the street with a dark blue pram and Harry approaches her carefully and calmly - just in general not as a person who’s about to attack - and she stops when she understands he’s headed for her. Progress.
“Excuse me.” He says. She smiles at him. He can hear the seconds ticking by. “Do you know where the nearest food shop is?”
“Oh, sure! If you go up the street and then to the left when you come to the junction. It’s down that street, on the left.”
“Up, left, down, left.” Harry repeats. He takes a peek into the pram because he can’t not.
The baby is sleeping, but cute nonetheless; tan with wisps of silky dark hair, a dummy between his lips that covers almost the entirety of his cheeks. He assumes it’s a boy because of the light green blanked draped around him, but that might be a bit stereotypical of him. “Adorable.” He says, looking up at the mum. She has that kinda soft, loving look that only a parent can have for their child.
“Always cute when they’re sleeping, aren’t they?” She replies with a smile. “Keeps me up all night, but all the frustration and tiredness just melts away when he’s sleeping peacefully like that.” Harry laughs quietly, doesn’t wanna disturb, even though they were talking in normal voices just a second ago. “It comes back just as quickly though, come night.” She adds with a sigh, but she doesn’t look too bothered about it.
“It’s only for a short period, though, he’ll grow out if it.” Harry says, because he’s heard other parents say it thousands of times.
She nods. “Yeah, he’s only a few weeks old, gotta give him some time.” Which. Time. Right. Twelve twenty.
“Speaking of, I need to run. Thank you for the directions!” He’s off before she can reply, but he turns to see her looking after him, smiling and giving him a small wave. He waves back as he rounds the corner.
Down the street and on the left. The street is long though, hopefully the store isn’t at the end of it.
It’s not, thank god, only about a minute of half-jogging and he sees it. He makes a quick mental note to remember where he’s walked, so that he’ll actually make it back to his bus as well, because that’s a bit crucial, isn‘t it?
It’s a big Sainsbury’s, which is good, they probably have everything he needs and all fresh and lovely, so he grabs a basket and takes a breath.
Vegetables are easy to find, they’re right by the entrance along with the fruit. Harry normally hates that fruits and veggies are by the entrance, because if you put them in the basket first they always get bruised by all the heavier stuff that you put on top, and if you have to go back after you’ve picked up everything else - well it just seems a bit counter-productive.
Right now, though, he’s very glad, because it makes it easier and quicker for him.
He’s just making a very easy, very simple salad - it is only a sidedish for his starter after all - so there’s no need to make it too complicated.
He grabs a couple of perfectly ripe mangos, a cucumber, a courgette, lime, fresh coriander and mint and a bag of snap peas, putting it all carefully in his basket as to not squish them - being in a hurry is no excuse for having poor ingredients.
Next he needs sesame seeds, and they’re usually located around, like, flour and sugar and those kind of ingredients, and that’s exactly where he’s headed when he stops dead in his tracks. Okay, like, he’s searching for the seeds, right, so he’s looking up and down the aisles, and then he sees a boy and like, that‘s always interesting, but then said boy turns slightly so that Harry sees his profile and. Stop.
Stop. Because. Louis?
Except. Except.. This boy, this Louis, is not his Louis ..not that Louis is actually Harry’s but, like. See, Louis - the Louis he’s gotten to know for the past two days - is- is bright and loud and colorful. Is feminine and soft and twinky. Is.
Is not this.
Because this Louis. This Louis is wearing baggy basketshorts and a loose tank top. And like, yeah, it’s warm out, practically summer temperatures, but still, this is- And, and his hair is all shaggy and soft, not fringy and artful like he’s worn it the previous days, and -is that the tiniest hint of scruff?
And also, also, there’s a tattoo. There is a honest to god tattoo covering most of his upper arm; a deer or stag or whatever, a wild animal, with antlers and there’s a heart between those antlers and like. Like.
Maybe Louis has a twin?
Except, “Louis?” the boy turns.
So unless Louis has a twin named Louis, who knows who Harry is - based on the way his eyes widens in recognition - then no, Louis is his own twin.
Well, there is no twin.
“Harry?” Harry nods dumbly, and then carefully steps forward.
Then he remembers that Louis isn’t actually a wild animal, and walks the last couple of steps normally.
“Well, this is..” Louis says, trailing off while he eyes Harry up and down. Because, right, Louis not the only one who looks a bit different today.
“Mh.” Harry agrees. Louis looks great, to be honest. Like, Harry likes Louis, likes the twinky, colorful persona he’s displayed, cause like - cute - but this. Oh, this is a bit more down his alley. How Louis can pull of both looks perfectly is beyond him. Also, a bit unfair.
“Well, at least you somewhat knew I was pretending.” He mumbles out, forcing himself to take his eyes away from Louis’ tattooed, bulging bicep.
“That you were Jewish, yes. This however..” He gestures to Harry’s body, checking him out again, in what Harry hopes - prays - is a seductive manner, and not just like ‘oh look at you, you uninteresting, unappealing, but different-looking boy.’
His eyebrows are raised though, and there’s a small smirk on his lips. Harry licks his own and Louis’ eyes follow the movement. Good. That’s potentially a good sign.
“Well.” He says with a shrug. “Figured Ruth wouldn’t appreciate my tattoos.” Which she definitely wouldn’t.
Louis hm’s. “I guess she wouldn’t.” He agrees. He steps forward, closing the distance between them so that he can push at Harry’s barely buttoned shirt; pulls it to the side to look at his chest and down so he can look at his stomach. “I do though.” He adds.
Harry bites down at his bottom lip. Louis is so close that he has to look proper up at him - through his lashes - and fuck if Harry isn’t turned on right now. “What’s your excuse then?” Harry somehow manages to ask. It makes Louis take a step back again. Harry definitely has mixed feelings about that.
“Makes me a bit more interesting, doesn’t it? The stereotypical loud twink. Figured I‘d have a better shot at getting on the show if I played that part.”
“You do play it well.”
“Had years of training.” Louis said, there’s a wink thrown in there, which Harry usually hates, people who wink, but Louis does it naturally, so he’s excused. “From when I actually were one.”
Louis tilts his head and gives him somewhat of an unimpressed look. “I’m gonna ignore that and instead pretend it was a normal compliment.”
“Well, it was a compliment though.”
“Mhm. So what else are you hiding then?” Louis asks before he takes on a mock shocked expression. “Are you even straight?” It’s such a badly concealed way of asking as they have never, not once, even breached the subjects of sexualities.
“Smooth.” He replies, raised eyebrows for an added affect. Louis slaps his arm. “Never said I was, did I?” It’s not a straight - hah - answer, but like, he’s obviously flirting, so like.
“What are you doing in my shop, then?” Louis asks after a few seconds that are spent staring at each other and hardening in their pants. Well, Harry is, at least.
Louis leans forward to peek into Harry’s basket and Harry somewhat squeaks and twists so it’s out of sight. “Cheating!”
“Christ. Whatever. But surely this isn’t the shop closest to you? How come I’ve never seen you here?”
“It’s not. I was on the bus and realized I’d forgotten some stuff for my starter. So I jumped off on the next stop and this is where I ended.”
“Wait, so you’ve already bought stuff? I thought we had to do it with the crew following us?”
“Usually, like, but I had this class I needed to go to. So I did it yesterday.” Louis twists his mouth, considering. “They gave me permission.” Harry adds, to be on the safe side.
“Oh. Oh well. Aren’t you gonna ask what I’m doing here?”
“Oh, um what-”
“I’m hot. So I was gonna get something to cool me down a bit.” He says. Which would explain why he’s in front of a drinks display. “But. I actually might go for an ice cream in stead. Feel like sucking on something.” Harry chokes on air. Louis smirks.
“An ice lolly I think. Ice lollies are great. Very familiar size for the lips and weight on the tongue, I‘d say.” Harry would like to shove Louis up against the wall and drop to his knees right about now, but there’s the issue of like, other people existing. And stuff.
Also, Ruth probably wouldn’t be very happy if the show got put on hold because Harry and Louis got arrested for public indecency.
Which - fuck - it’s fifteen to one and there’s no way Harry will make it home in time. ”Shit! I need to go!”
Louis pouts, seeming genuinely displeased and Harry wants nothing more than to kiss it of his lips - and maybe also fuck it out of his system. details - but there is no time, he needs the seeds and to pay and catch the bus.
”Do you know where the seeds are?”
”Didn’t you just call me a cheater for wanting to know what you had in your basket?”
“Fine.” Louis says petulantly. “flour and stuff is down and to the left.”
“Everything is to the left.” Harry mutters, walking in long strides, not even registering that Louis is following him until there’s a mumbled ‘not my dick’ behind him.
There’s a nice selection of seeds, and Harry almost panics when he can‘t find the sesame‘s anywhere, but they‘re there, almost hidden from view because they’re next to the sunflower seeds and the bags are practically the same. Harry grabs one keeping it in his hand as he hurries towards the front of the store and, more importantly, the checkout.
Louis disappears for a few seconds, but then there’s a small thud in Harry's shopping basket, and he peers to see a ice lolly in it, Louis standing behind him in the queue with a bright smile. He doesn’t even consider it when he adds it on the till with his own things and pays.
“What bus are you taking?”
“Eighteen” Harry says, packing his groceries while Louis unwraps his ice cream. It’s one of those multi-colored artificial-tasting ones, and Louis sucks it down to the base on first go - well he probably took the time to wet it while Harry's back was turned, or his lips would've stuck to the frost, wouldn't they - cheeks hallowing prettily, before he pulls it out with a pop and licks his lips.
“It’s good to get it all wet right away.” He says innocently. “Makes the slide easier.” Harry silently reminds himself that the cashier and the elderly couple in the queue probably wouldn’t like to be front row to a live impromptu blow job.
Louis walks him to the bus, all the while suckling on his lolly and licking his fingers and slurping and generally being mean.
“You’re mean.” Harry tells him as they reach the bus stop. Louis bats his lashes.
“Why?” He asks. Harry doesn’t dignify him with an answer. It’s five to one and he’s screwed.
“I hate being late.”
“People who’s always on time are boring and predicable.” Louis argues.
“People who are late are annoying and rude.”
“I’m always late.” Harry gazes over at Louis, who locks his eyes with him and sucks the entire lolly in to his mouth again.
“My point exactly.” Harry says. Louis looks stupid trying to smirk with his mouth full.
It takes another five minutes before the bus arrives, Harry’s erection is definitely visible through his pants and the crew is probably angrily ringing his doorbell.
“Right. I’ll see you tonight.” He says to Louis, who’s finally - thank god - finished the ice cream and is chewing on the stick.
“Mm, yes. Looking forward to it.” Harry waves a hand at the bus to let the driver know to stop, just as Louis adds, “Why haven’t you called Ruth and let her know you’re late though? She did ring you during the interview rounds, yeah?”
Harry rolls his eyes and mentally face palms himself. “Yeah.” He says dumbly, fishing his phone out of his pocket, as the bus screeches to a stop.
“Alright, bye babe.” Louis leans in, ghosts his lips over Harry’s, literally not even half an inch away, before he turns slightly and kisses Harry’s cheek with cold, sticky lips, the corners of their mouths brushing.
Harry can still taste something undeniably artificial and sweet on his lips as he exit’s the bus fifteen minutes later.
“I’m so, so sorry!” He pants, having jogged from the bus stop and home.
The crew is sitting on the steps outside of the house, but they’ve all got cups of coffee in their hands, so at least they haven’t been sitting around doing absolutely nothing.
The camera is up and running though, pointing at him as he arrives. He’s very glad he buttoned up his shirt and rolled down the sleeves on the bus. “Lecture ran late.” He says, “And I needed some veggies for my starter as well. Sorry.”
He unlocks the door and leads them inside, going straight for the kitchen, footsteps following him.
It’s a big house, as Harry is lucky enough to rent the top floor of the house owned by some good friends of his mums.
It means he has a private bedroom, bathroom and small living room. He does share the kitchen with them though, but he has his own shelves and drawers in the cupboards and fridge and freezer, and is allowed to borrow anything else.
It’s fine, he doesn’t mind sharing with the Jay’s, and they’re a lovely couple really, always offering him dinner even though food is not a part of the rent.
They‘re also away a lot, both for business and pleasure, and they even decided to go on a weeks vacation to visit some friends in Wales, so that Harry has the house to himself for the show.
“So.” Ruth starts, before Harry even has time to wash his hands. “You have a double fridge, right? So we’re gonna start with rearranging it, meat in one and dairy in one, to keep it kosher.”
Harry kinda just blinks at her. Rearranging both fridges is gonna take time, and they’re already late as it is, and like, only the really strict jews does that anyway. He says as much. Ruth’s not impressed.
It takes nearly half an hour; time that the crew spends drinking their coffees and chilling, Ruth uses going over her notes, or something, and taking a few calls, and Harry spends doing all the work himself.
It’s stupid and unnecessary - like can’t they just not film inside the fridge? - but he keeps his mouth shut though, figures Ruth is annoyed with him enough as it is.
“Great. Introduce the dish you’re starting with and get to it.” She doesn’t have a particularly harsh tone, but Harry still feels a bit like a disobeying child.
“Okay, so I’m starting with my dessert. It’s a apricot cheesecake, and it’s gonna be served cold so, that’s a good place to start I think.”
Ruth nods once and motions for him to get over with it, so he grabs the piece of paper with the recipe on and starts getting ingredients out.
“I’ve got these forms, so that I can make five- well six, cause that’s how many the recipe is for, but, um, I can make them all individually. It looks nicer, I think.” He holds them up for a few seconds, before setting them down on the bench and lining the bottoms with baking paper. “I’m not gonna serve them in them, so I need to make sure the cake comes out.” He explains lamely as he oils them.
He’s pretty sure he’ll never get used to talking to people who doesn’t talk back, it makes him feel small and awkward, even though it’s their job to make him talk and stay mostly silent themselves. They do smile on occasion though.
He turns to set the oven to the right temperature before getting back to the stove and starting the apricot compote.
It’s not very difficult, however it demands his full attention, seeing as sugar easily burns, but it only takes ten or so minutes before it’s reduced to the sticky liquid he wants.
“Have you made this before?”
Harry startles, but tries to cover it up by rolling his shoulders and nodding. “Yeah, it’s kind of a family favorite, I suppose. Well, my stepdad’s not to keen on it, but he doesn’t really like cakes and stuff in general so. Especially cheesecakes, which are my mums favorite actually. For their wedding last year four out of the six cakes where cheesecakes.”
He stirs the compote one last time before setting it to the side, looking at the recipe to see what to do next, though he knows it already. It’s good to be sure though.
He cracks the first egg over a cup to separate it, looking up at Ruth to see her doing something on her phone.
“Um, and this was one of them. Well in a larger, like proper cake-sized portion though. And I also added like lots of fresh berries on top. Which I’m not. Adding now I mean. But, yeah, so I’ve made it several times before.”
“Why aren’t you adding berries this time?”
“Because when I did-”
“Mention the question in your answer, please?”
“Yeah, I- sorry. Um, I’m not adding the berries on top this time because the cake is good enough in itself. And like, some people mentioned that the berries kinda took away from the taste? Because they were a bit overpowering. So I decided not to.” She nods, and then stares pointedly at his hands, which, right, he’s supposed to make food and stuff.
Mixing together the rest of the ingredients is easy, and he remembers to fold the eggs whites into the batter carefully so it doesn’t get too heavy like it did last time.
“The apricot goes in the bottom of the forms,” He says as he adds a spoonful to each, “because Imma turn them upside-down when I serve them, so then it’ll look, um ..better, with the orange on top. Like orange in colour, not, like, orange the fruit.” He rubs a hand through his hair, feeling flustered and warm, and he can definitely sympathize with Liam on the first night.
The oven’s not ready yet so he excuses himself and runs upstairs to his bedroom, getting his hair tie from the nightstand and pulling his fringe back and into a tiny ponytail nestled and almost invisible in the mess of a hair that‘s loose.
It might look a bit weird, but it’s better than getting it in his eyes all the time, and it also helps avoiding getting hair in the food, so.
He normally uses the tie to pull all his hair back in a tiny bun when he sleeps because he gets really warm at night and sweaty and clingy hair is the worst, though it’s become more frequent at daytime as well, seeing as his hair has gotten rather long.
The oven signals it’s ready literally as he sets a foot back into the kitchen, so he grabs a deep oven dish and puts the cakes in it.
“I’m gonna fill it with warm water to help it bake evenly.” He says, turning the tap and letting it run till steam comes up from the sink, before filling a jug with it. “The first time I made this I filled it with water before I put it in the oven.” He adds, as he slides the dish slightly in on the side rails for support and pours the water so it reaches halfway up and the ramekins, and then slides the tray in. “It didn’t end well.”
“Yeah. It’s gonna bake for twenty-five minutes, and then just chill and into the fridge. I figured I’d get on with the starter?”
“Yes, good. I’m gonna take a quick phone call, but you can just start okay?”
Harry nods, turning his attention back to the camera man as she leaves. “Okay, so for my starter I’m making borekas, but it’s a spinach version instead of the regular one. Um, I’m also making a salad, but not until the guests get here though.”
Ruth returns just as Harry is blending the ingredients for the filling together. “Almost done?” She asks surprised, and Harry nods.
“Just gonna roll out the pastry and form them. I’m gonna cook them almost done now, and then finish them when the guys are here.”
“Alright. And then it’s just the main left, how long do you think that’ll take?”
“Oh, not long at all. I’m just gonna chop and prepare stuff, I’ll cook it all before I serve it.” He sets the bowl to the side and starts rolling out the pastry. “So it’ll all be done within forty-five minutes for sure.”
“Good. That gives us a bit more time than I thought. Now, for entertainment, you mentioned about a outdoors jacuzzi?” Which makes him freeze, because shit, he’d forgotten about that.
“We can’t do that! I’m - I have tattoos, I can’t show them because of the jew thing.”
“Right.. “ She says with a deep sigh, running a hand down her face. “Right. Okay. I’m gonna go make a few calls again then. Do you have any other entertainment lined up?”
Ruth closes her eyes for a few seconds. It makes Harry feel very small. “Try to think of something then, will you? Just ..something.”
He does think, while he stuffs and forms the borekas, trying to come up with something that doesn’t take a lot of preparation or, like, things, because he obviously doesn’t have much time for that. He manages to remember a couple easy games that’s he’s played before though, and when he explains them to Ruth, she deems them good enough, which is a relief.
It’s nearing four when he starts to cut the fish and vegetables for the main course.
It stresses him a bit, because on the two previous days he were picked up somewhere around now, and he still needs to set the table and get himself ready.
The kitchen also looks like a downright mess, worse than both Liam and Zayn’s did - probably because the kitchen is rather big and he hasn’t run out of counter space yet, and therefore cleaning haven’t been a necessity to be able to do the preparations. It makes him feel bad, because it means there’ll be more to do for everyone else later. The dishwasher is even full and clean, as he was planning on emptying it before the crew arrived.
He blames it all on Louis to be honest.
Ruth assures him that it’s fine though, she’s let the taxi’s know to arrive a tad later, so that the boys wont have to wait too long - and even still, she says, there’s been occasions in the past where the guests have been waiting for almost three hours because of various complications and delays, so it’s all fine.
It doesn’t make him feel any better.
They did wait for almost an hour at Liam’s though - well Harry did anyway - so hopefully they’ve all realized that they should bring a book or at least have their phone fully charged so they can play games, and no one will die of complete boredom.
He chopping as quickly as he deems safe, and speeds up the process of everything else as well, but whenever he quickens his pace, he’s told to slow back down down. He even has to take the eggs out of the boiling water and put them back in because they didn’t catch it on camera. At least he learns his lesson at that.
“So Harry, are you nervous about tonight?”
“Honestly? I’m not really nervous. Like, I know my food is good in my eyes, or, like ..mouth? Um. Like, I’ve made it before and I know I like it, and unless I screw something up, it’s all just down to what kinda food they like, you know?”
“Okay.. What about the night other than the food? Conversations, entertainment, how about the dynamic of the group?”
“Conversations have gone well so far, I think we all get along, so I’m not really nervous about that either.” Well, he is a tad nervous about Louis, and whether or not he will keep it up with the innuendoes and flirting. Harry’s not sure he can handle that. Especially when he can’t flirt back. ..not that he did a splendid job of that earlier.
“Not worried about anyone changing their behavior or anything like that?” Harry looks up at her, wonders if she possibly saw him and Louis earlier, or maybe reads minds. She does seem completely nonchalant, but that’s not really telling, is it?
“Um no. I think, like, as we all warm up to each other, some might let their personality show more, like be a bit more comfortable to be themselves. But I don’t think there’ll be any drastic changes or anything,”
“Who might show themselves more then?”
“I think.. Niall and Louis are pretty much, like, -Actually, they’re both kinda loud and brash, I think if they were to be more comfortable they might be a bit more quiet? Like, maybe not feel the need to speak up as much or keep everyone entertained? Silence can be nice sometimes.”
“So do you think they’ve been a bit much then?”
“No! No, I think they’re both lovely, it’s just an observation, I guess, like some people who are loud will be more laid back and quiet when they’re comfortable, while those who are more shy will be more talkative when they’re comfortable. So, like, I don’t think Louis or Niall are holding back, while maybe Zayn and Liam are, since they’ve both been a bit, um, reserved. I think.”
“Have you noticed a difference in anyone from the first night to the second?
“Maybe Liam. Like the-”
“Remember to include the question, Harry.”
“Right. Sorry. Um, Liam has definitely changed over the past two nights, like he’s become less shy and more.. like, he throws himself into conversations more and stuff. He was rather silent the first night, but that could also be because he was nervous so.”
“So where do you fit in? Are you the shy type who loosens up or the loud type who calms down?”
“Um. I don’t think- I think I’m the kinda person that just ..fills in the gaps? Does that sound weird? It probably does, but like, I don’t particularly like to be the center of attention, but I don’t really mind either? So if someone else naturally is, then I just pull back, I guess, and if I’m in a group of people where no one fills that spot, I just automatically take it.
So like, in our group, I just.. I dunno. I try to make everyone feel like they’re a part of the conversations and stuff. I don’t like it when someone is left out. So. Yeah. I don’t really fit into either category I think.”
Ruth nods, taking a moments pause, and Harry uses it to finish chopping the chives and then declares himself done.
“Alright, set the table and get yourself ready.” She instructs and Harry nods, leaving the kitchen with Philip and Brendan following, while Ruth stays behind to make more calls.
The Jay’s have this really lovely candle chandelier above their dining table. They don’t use it that often - they don’t use the dining room in general that often - so Harry fills it with new candles that he’s bought, all of them a light purple colour but only two of them lavender-scented, because as much as he loves scented candles, he doesn’t want the scent to actually overpower the food.
He’s gonna light them when everyone’s seated, so for now he sets three different glasses and two types of cutlery per plate - he’s been instructed by the lady of the house on how to properly set the table - and places a long mirrored plate along the middle of it, cleaning it thoroughly, and setting three white pillar candles and two purple flower decorations on it.
“Let’s just hope nothing catches fire tonight.” He says to the camera with a bright smile.
His original plan was to make his shower very, very quick. Which, he tries, but he really needs a wank because there’s no way he’ll have a boner on national television. Not that he’s incapable of having a boner after he’s pulled one of - the right kind of motivation can definitely make that happen more than once - but at least he’ll have a bit more control.
Also, thank god they’re gonna spend most of the time sitting.
He finishes his shower within like, maybe ten minutes, and he’s pretty sure no one suspects a thing as he shuts it off and opens the window to let some steam out, grabbing a towel from the rack underneath it to dry himself.
It’s still warm outside, easily the warmest day this year, but he’s also still hiding tattoos, so the air condition is already set on low and will have to stay that way, no matter if his guests complain about it being cold.
Besides, Louis will have to wear a shirt with sleeves at least down to his elbow that he wont be able to take off, so it’s not only himself he’s regulating the warmth for.
He’s being a considerate host for one guest, at least.
So he grabs a thin grey sweater, folds the sleeves halfway up on his forearm, pulls on his favorite dark jeans and towel-dries his hair as best he can. It’s still damp and annoying though, tickling his cheek and neck with wet ringlets, and like, after he’s had it up for so long he really, really can’t stand it.
It takes him a few seconds to make up his mind, but he ties his fringe back again, making sure to comb through the pulled back hair so there’s no lumps or stray hairs - if he’s doing this, he’s doing it right - and exits the bathroom with a sigh.
The camera’s there, off course, so he forces a smile as he exclaims he’s ‘All good to go, woo!’ accompanied with thrusting his hand in the air, and he doesn’t really have time to regret it before Ruth tells him to get the drinks on while the newly arrived evening shift crew gets themselves ready.
He’s making strawberry daiquiris because they’re delicious and cold and everyone should like them.
First things first, he puts the oven on so that it’ll be warm when he goes to heat the starter later. Then, he puts on a nice frilly apron and cuts a lime in half smearing it thoroughly over the rims of the glasses before rolling them in sugar.
Blender and ingredients out; he makes Zayn’s first, replacing the rum and triple sec with a lime/lemon soda, and then blends the final four drinks in one go. The blender mucks up a bit, probably too full and the ice cubes a tad too big, but he stabs it a bit with a knife and eventually it cooperates.
“Good thing I put this on!” He says as he holds the apron out from his body, a couple of red stains decorating it. “That’s a tip to remember; stabbing may lead to red stains.” He says it with a bright smile as he takes the apron off - probably looks a bit like a maniac -, makes a mental note to remember to put on a wash later and then places the drinks on a black serving plate and carries it into the living room.
“Send the first one in.” Ruth says, and half a minute later, the doorbell rings.
First up is Liam and he smiles before pulling a bouquet of red roses out from behind his back.
“Liam, that’s lovely.” Harry says, taking the flowers and kissing his cheeks and leading him into the living room. “Have a drink.” He points to the tray and adds “The one with the lime wedge is for Zayn, but other than that, take a pick.”
Liam nods and takes one so Harry goes to find a vase and fills it with water before unwrapping the roses and putting them in. The vase is a bit big, the roses spreading out, but it‘s a vase he bought for the Jay’s for christmas - and it’s crystal and pretty - so he wants to use it.
He places it next to the plate with the drinks and then grabs one for himself, taking a big sip. “Did you have a nice day?”
“It was alright.” Liam replies. “I did some coursework and then there was the menu read and stuff, um, yeah. The menu looks good, I’m looking forward to it.”
“Yeah?” Harry says with a smile. Chances are Liam’s just being polite, but like, his menu is good and therefore does look good. And also he likes compliments.
Liam nods. “The drink too. Tastes very, um, fresh.”
The next person to arrive is Niall, who’s also carrying a bouquet of red roses and Harry makes a tiny embarrassed noise. He really loves getting flowers, okay?
“Niall, come on in! How are you?” He unwraps the flowers as he goes, glad he picked that vase after all, it’ll look perfect with the added flowers.
“I’m good, cheers, you? Nice hairdo.”
“Thanks! Yeah, I’m good, excited about the evening I s’pose.”
“Yeah, gotta live up to the standards of the other nights, don’t you? Hi Liam!”
They don’t have time for much chatter before Zayn gets there and a third bouquet of red roses is handed to Harry, who bites at his lip to keep his giddy smile hidden. Chances are it doesn’t really work.
The smile Zayn gives him makes up for it though, warm and crinkly and genuine, and Harry hands him his virgin daiquiri before heading out to find a bigger vase.
He’s barely squeezed the flowers into a new vase before the doorbell goes off again. Harry sorta wishes there weren’t cameras at him as he goes to open the door for the last time.
It’s such a difference to the boy he met at the groceries earlier, even though he knew it would be, but.
“Louis, come in, you look great.” It’s slips out before he’s even aware of it, and he can feel his cheeks flame as he didn’t compliment the others, but, like. Louis is wearing tight, white jeans and a soft, knitted purple sweater and he looks good.
“You too, babe.” He says as he leans in, angling them slightly away from the camera and presses a soft teasing kiss to the corner of his mouth.
It takes every ounce of his will power not to turn his head and slot their lips together.
“Got you something.” Louis adds as he pulls back, and more red roses though these are wrapped in very pretty cellophane with a neat bow on it - fancier than the other three.
Niall laughs as they enter the living room. “Have you got enough roses now, Harry?” He asks as Louis’ eyes fall on the full vase.
“Well, at least I hope you have another vase.” He says. Harry nods, giving the roses back to Louis and goes to get the biggest vase in the house. It’s practically a bucket made of glass, and probably too big for the flowers, but there’s nothing else that'll fit the forty or so roses.
“There’s never enough roses.” He informs as he enters the room, vase filled with water and carried with both hands. Louis - who has taken the last drink, god Harry should’ve offered him that before he left the room - hands him the flowers again.
“There’s a couple of packets of flower nutrient in there as well.” He says as Harry peels of the wads of wet paper.
“Oh, that’s great!” Harry says, locating them inside the lump of cellophane.
“Show off.” Zayn mumbles. It doesn‘t sound very hostile though.
“Well, some of us actually buys flowers at proper flower shops and not just at a store.”
“I think they’re all lovely.” Harry offers, though, to be fair, Louis’ are the prettiest, a bit bigger and a bit taller than the rest of them.
“Are you sure this is safe?” Louis asks for the second time, as Harry tries to light the candles in the chandelier.
“Off course it is!” It’s just, he hasn’t really done it before, and like, twirling a chandelier with burning candles is a bit dangerous, perhaps. But, like, safe. “Just have to do it slowly.” He adds.
They watch him silently as he turns it, lighting the last three and then slowly lets it slide back to it’s normal position. He stays for a few seconds, hands at the ready and making sure that it’s not swaying or something before he exclaims “See!” and steps down to light the candles on the table.
“Still not sure how I feel about having burning flames over my head.” Louis says crouching as best as one can crouch in a sitting position and scowling at the candles. It makes everyone laugh - Harry included, though he tries his best to hide it with a pout. “I’m sure we’ll be fine love, I’ll just sue you if I die.”
“Good luck with that.” Zayn says and Harry hums in agreement, before excusing himself to the kitchen.
Louis squeezes his bum when he passes him, and Harry turns to look at him, only to be faced with something entirely too innocent.
He stops, leans down over Louis and pretends to check if his cutlery is clean. “I’ll just sue you for sexual harassment then.” He whispers, hoping Louis takes it as the joke it is, which; by the way he laughs, he does.
Harry still makes sure to throw him a smirk over his shoulder as he exits the room.
The oven is done preheating, so Harry pops in the plate of borekas.
They’re only gonna cook for ten-ish minutes, till they’re golden on top, which means he has to be quick with the salads.
It’s not that much to do though, so it should be fine.
Peeling mangoes is easy, chopping snap peas and herbs is easy, using the spiralizer to get long, thin, curly strips of cucumber and courgette is easy. Still, when he’s finished with these task, there’s only two minutes left on the timer.
He checks on the borekas, they’re starting to get golden around the edges, so he turns the oven off, but leaves them inside, and then grabs the tall rings he’s laid out next to the oven.
“What are those?” Ruth asks, pointing at them.
“They’re like- you use them to form a tower of the salad and then take it away and it still stands and looks great.” He doesn’t know what they’re called, but he figures that comes across in his answer, really.
He presses them into the slices of mango to make a dent before cutting out the circles and carefully sliding them to the bottom of the rings once they‘re seated on the plates.
Then he makes the dressing - limejuice, honey and salt - and mixes it with the herbs and veggies, before quite literally stuffing it all into the rings.
“It has to be compact, or else the salad will collapse when I remove them.” He says to the camera. Then goes another slice of mango on top and some cucumber and sesame seeds to garnish and, done. “This is the moment.” He mutters as he slowly lifts the first ring, one finger carefully pressing down on the top mango. It comes off without a hitch, and Harry beams at the cameraman in delight.
The next four goes just as easily, and when he takes the borekas out they’re perfectly golden - could things get any better? - and be puts two on each plate.
“The portions might be a bit big. But like, if you’re afraid you’ll get too full you don’t have to eat it all.” He says as he puts plates in front of Louis and Zayn.
He’s pretty proud of himself when he manages to carry the last three plates in one go without destroying the salad-towers.
Therefore it’s given, really, that he trips on the leg of Liam’s chair and send his own plate half-flying before he regains balance, resulting in the salad lying across the entirety of his plate, as well as the top bit of mango and some salad on the table.
He hangs his head in embarrassment as he gets a slow round of applause.
“Well at least it was your own plate. Ours look great, so we’re not gonna take away points for what you do with your own food.” Niall says as Harry picks up the food from the table and wipes the stains with his napkin.
He only stops pouting when Louis squeezes his upper thigh, grounding him enough to make him realize that he’s the host and he hasn’t given his guests the clear to start eating. “Right. Enjoy, dig in. Please.”
The starter‘s like it should be; the dressing has the perfect balance between sweet and sour and the borekas are perfectly crispy and warm all the way to the center and- “Did you make the pastry yourself?”
“Nooo, I didn’t really have time.” He sucks his bottom lip into his mouth to prevent himself from pouting. He can see Louis smirking at his food to his right, and he kicks at his foot as punishment. It only makes him snicker though.
“Well I didn’t make mine either, so.” Liam says with a shrug. “And it’s really good.” The others voices their agreements, making Harry feel all warm and pleasant.
“But Harry, babe, what’s up with the hair?” Louis asks with a sigh.
“What? It‘s comfy.”
“Comfy. Your hair is comfy.” Louis turns to Zayn abruptly. “Is it even possible for the hair to be comfy? Is that an actual adjective you can use to describe hair?”
“I’m comfy. Because my hair’s not in the way.”
“Well maybe you should cut it mate, if it’s in the way.” Niall suggests.
“No, but like, I like it as well. Just sometimes it’s a bit annoying is all. But not most of the time.”
“Well I think it looks good.” Liam tries, only to be overpowered by Louis.
“So what do you do when it’s annoying then? Is this the only do? What about a full on ponytail?”
“Braid?” Zayn throws in, making Louis grin.
“Or one of those buns on top of the head?”
“Headband?” Niall suggests, and Harry groans, brushing the back of his hand over his nose.
“Sometimes.” He mumbles.
“What, headbands, or all of the above?” Louis asks gleefully. Harry glares at him - relishing in the fact that he can stare at him for a moment without it being creepy, because like, damn - though he really doesn’t mind them teasing him, there’s no better friendship than those filled with banter. Or sex. Wait, no, not going there.
“Well, I don’t braid it but-”
“So what kinda headbands are we talking about? Like glittery, pink and plastic with flowers, or?”
That‘s a more accurate description of his dildo actually, but. “No, like scarves. And bandanas.”
“What so like sixty’s style with a big bow on top?” Liam asks, sounding genuinely confused, but when Harry looks over at him, there’s a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“I hate you all.” He mumbles. He doesn’t, but it sets of a chorus of laughter, which was exactly what he was aiming for, and it doesn’t take long before his fake pout is replaced by a very real smile. “Since you’re obviously so intrigued by it, I’ll wear a headband tomorrow. Happy?”
“Very.” Louis says. Harry kicks at his food again, but Louis only twist his foot on top and then presses back, running his toes up Harry’s ankle with a smirk on his lips.
Idiot. Gorgeous, sexy idiot.
They keep the easy conversation for another ten or so minutes, until everyone’s finished their food and Ruth tells them that they’re gonna do the interviews.
There are two cameramen today - probably since Harry has lots of space in the house, and therefore the ability to film two at once.
They take Liam and Zayn first, so the rest of them starts gathering things from the table, and Harry leads them into the kitchen.
“It really is a mess, sorry.” He says as he enters the room, which, somehow, seems twice as messy now. “And I have to empty the dishwasher as well.”
“Well you start that then, cause we don’t know where anything goes. And we’ll clear the table and get stuff ready to put in.” Louis nods, surprisingly not putting up a fight, but he slacks behind when Niall leaves for the dining room again.
“By the way,” He says as he presses up behind Harry. “I do like that tiny ponytail of yours. It’s always nice to have something to pull, yeah?” He yanks it in demonstration, just hard enough for it to sting a bit - and just hard enough for Harry to dig his teeth deep into his bottom lip as to not let out any moan or groan.
Louis darts away before he realizes Harry’s reaction though, so Harry quickly adjusts himself and grabs a few glasses from the dishwasher.
He manages to empty and half-way fill it up again by the time Zayn comes waltzing in. “Louis.” He says, tilting his head towards the door. Louis nods back.
“Show me the way?” He requests, and Zayn turns on his heel to walk him to the guestroom Harry knows they’re situated in.
“What do you think is up with them then? All the secrecy yesterday and stuff.” Niall asks from where he’s busy wiping down the kitchen island.
“I dunno. Do you think it’s anything? I mean they only left that one time when they were in the bathroom yesterday..”
“Yeah, but they were gone for, like, ten minutes though. Doubt they just stood there in silence.”
“Yeah, well, I dunno. They’ll tell if they want to, so, I’m not gonna bother, like, analyzing or whatever.” Harry says, shrugging. Of course he’d like to know he doesn’t want to be prying. And like, as long as they weren’t hooking up or anything, then it’s not really any of his business.
Not that it’s his business if they were hooking up, but.
“Nah mate, I was just curious.”
“About what?” Zayn asks as he comes back. Harry freezes for a minute, not knowing what to say, but Niall doesn’t seem bothered at all.
“’bout you and Louis and your sneaky conversations.” He replies with complete nonchalance.
Zayn just lets out a quiet laugh though, doesn’t seem bothered at all by them talking about him behind his back. “It’s not nearly as exciting as you probably think it is.” He says, but doesn’t elaborate. It only makes Harry more curious to be honest.
“Not criminal masterminds plotting your next attack then?”
“Or CIA agents hunting down a mass murderer?” Harry supplies, Zayn watching between them with amusement written all over his face.
“Or hunting down aliens.”
Harry turns to Niall, pointing at him. “Are you an alien, Niall?”
“Nope. Must be Liam then.”
“Must be me what?” Liam wonders as he enters the kitchen. “Niall you’re up.”
Niall walks up to Liam, looks him square in the eye and puts on a very serious tone as he asks “Are you an alien, Liam?”
“Hm.” Niall says, taking a step back.
“Hm.” Harry echoes.
“Who’s to say Louis and I aren’t the aliens?” Zayn questions, and Niall turns to him quickly, scrutinizing him properly before walking past him. He turns at the door and points his index and middle finger at his own eyes before pointing them at Zayn, repeating the motion a couple of times as he walks backwards around the corner and out of sight.
“Um?” Liam says, just as Harry and Zayn starts laughing. It’s obvious though, that Liam’s a little uncomfortable with being the only one left out, so Harry quickly calms himself down.
“We’re just trying to figure out what Zayn and Louis were doing in the bathroom yesterday.”
“Oh. I reckon they’re superhero’s and had to run of to, like, save the world.”
“Yes!” Zayn agrees with a grin. “That’s exactly what it was!”
“Saving the world from aliens?”
“The less you know, the better.” Zayn replies, and that’s that.
While Harry is prepping the main course, the boys are sent upstairs - accompanied by the other cameraman - to his quarters for a bit of snooping. It’s all been planned out beforehand, of course. When they were visiting for the final interview they told Harry which items to lay out so that the guests could ’find’ them and spark some more conversations.
On his bed he’d laid out a selection of scarves - because apparently that was something quirky and interesting - but they’ve already talked about how he likes to tie them in his hair, so he doubts that’ll be brought up again.
There’s also the giant teddy bear holding a red heart with I love you written on it, that is now leaning up against the pillows instead of the bookshelf where he’s usually at. He’ll definitely be surprised if that’s not mentioned.
The bathroom counter is filled with every single hair product he owns, which; there‘s a lot. That’s only because his hairdresser-friend keeps giving them to him as thanks for whenever he watches her kid though, even though he’s told her several times that he doesn’t use any, really.
She just waves him off whenever he says as much, tells him to give them away as gifts or something, and of course tells him off for not using proper hair saloon-branded shampoo and conditioner, and then again when he tells her that's because they don’t smell as nice as the one he prefers.
He even uses one of the most expensive ones from the normal shops, and it says it’s developed in collaboration with some important hairdressers from London - she snorts at that - and it makes his hair soft and half-curly, but tangle-free, like he likes it and it smells good.
But yeah, there’s probably twenty different gel’s and mousses and treatments, and though he has a feeling Ruth wants to show him off as some sorta vain hair product-fixated guy, Harry is secretly hoping he can make the boys lessen his pile.
Cooking the salmon kedgeree is very easy. He heats some oil, adds onion and spices and cooks it for five minutes before the rice and stock goes in, and then there’s another five minutes before the fish.
“This is gonna boil for ten minutes, more or less, and then I’m just gonna chop the eggs and add them and the peas, and it’s done.”
Ruth comes in just as he ends the sentence, and lets him know that the boys are back in their seats and he can go serve them drinks if he’s ready for that. Harry nods, putting the lid on before washing his hands and grabbing some beer and wine from the fridge.
The chatter dies out when he enters the room, and they stay silent as he fills their glasses with the drink they prefer.
It’s not uncomfortable though, not particularly comfortable either, it just ..is.
“The food’ll be ready in ten-fifteen minutes.” He says, getting a murmur of appreciative noises in return, before he goes back into the kitchen, where Ruth is clearly waiting for him.
“So, Harry, how do you think they night is going so far?”
“I think everything’s gone well so far. They seemed to like the daiquiris, and the starter as well. I was worried it might be a bit heavy, but they ate it all, so. We’ll see if they have enough room for the rest of the food I guess.”
“Are you worried about them not eating all the main or dessert?”
“I’m not worried about what they eat. I mean, if they like the food they like it, and if they don’t then they don’t. And if they happen to be full before dessert then they can take the cheesecake home if they want, I don’t mind.”
“They can’t score it if they don’t taste it though.” She points out.
“No, but they can have a small taste and then eat the rest later? Anyway. I think I’m gonna make the kedgeree portions a bit smaller than I intentionally planned, and we’re gonna have a few games in between the main and dessert, so it should be fine.”
“Are you worried about what they found snooping around?” Of course he’s not, as they’ve been told to not to look into drawers and stuff, and he doubts they’d break those rules with a camera on them.
Well, they could just cut it out of the show if any of them did look into, say, the bottom drawer on his nightstand where all his ..supplies are located.
To be honest he’s not too opposed to the idea of Louis finding his pink, glittery dildo - it certainly would spark some interesting conversation.
“No, not really. I don’t have anything to hide I think.” Besides, he’s like ninety percent sure he locked that drawer anyway.
“How do you think the main will go down?”
“Honestly, I’m a little concerned since it’s fish, and not everyone likes that.. Especially since we’re all so young, I mean a lot of people don’t learn to appreciate fish until they’re older, I guess. But other than that, I know the flavor’s good.”
“Do you eat a lot of fish then?”
“I eat a lot of fish, yeah, it’s one of my favorite meats. Like, it’s versatile, cause there’s so many types of fish, and it’s really healthy and good for you, which is important as well. I love to experiment with it and make new dishes and stuff.
Like, I think that’s probably the main issue with like teenagers and stuff, cause they don’t realize how much good food you can make with fish? Cause they’ll be like ‘I hate fish’ but then they eat fish and chips? They just don’t know how to cook it right, I think, and-”
“Alright Harry,” Ruth says with a polite smile, cutting him off. Harry can feel his cheeks warm up at the interruption - at the fact that he got carried away again. “maybe you should check on the food?”
The fish is pretty much cooked through, actually, and the rice only needs, like, a couple of more minutes, so Harry grabs the hardboiled eggs and roughly chops them, before stirring them in with the peas. He gives it another few minutes, makes sure that everything’s warm and then grabs the bowls he’s serving it in.
“Um, there’s dry coriander in here so I’m garnishing with some fresh coriander cause it’ll, like, bring out the flavor more, and also some chopped chives.” The camera is practically in the bowl as it films him neatly drizzling the chives and setting the tiny coriander-stick into the mix, and then he’s given the clear to go, this time managing to serve them all - himself included - without tripping.
He’s so focused on the three bowls he’ carrying on the second serve though, that he doesn’t notice that Louis and Liam has nicked a bandana each and tied them onto their heads in proper old farm-lady style - the cloth folded in half so they’re neat triangles and tied underneath the chin - until he’s sat down.
He presses his lips together and does his best to swallow down his laughter.
“What a marvelous look. You should adopt it into your everyday style, I’d say.” He manages to get out, only stopping once to suppress a bubble of a laugh crawling it’s way out of his throat.
Liam, Niall and Zayn laughs, while Louis only bats his lashes prettily. “Thank you darling, I appreciate your honesty.”
“Of course.” To be fair- okay it looks silly, but it’s not, like, the worst thing he’s ever seen. Besides, it’s Louis; is he even capable of looking anything but good?
“So, Harry, you have a lovely companion in your bed.” Louis says, wiggling his eyebrows before biting over a forkful. He’s kinda pretty when he eats. It’s really not fair.
“I do, don’t I?” He agrees easily. “Good cuddler, excellent pillow as well.”
“So do you spoon him ..her? it? at night?”
“It may have happened once or twice.” Which is true, on nights where he’s feeling a bit lonely, or sometimes if he has a cold. He tries to avoid it though.
“What’s it’s name?” Zayn asks. Harry guesses they’ve all been into the bedroom then, since neither Niall nor Zayn seems curious as to what they’re talking about. Only Liam and Louis have the bandana’s though - and he can’t imagine Niall turning down the opportunity to wear one as well - so he’s guessing the official story is that they’ve been in the bedroom and Zayn and Niall in the bathroom.
“Him. And his name is Bumbles.”
"Bumbles?” Louis asks in disbelief and Niall fucking giggles.
“Okay, so the story is; when I was little I had a teddy bear that was, like, normal sized and had a red, flat heart sewn above where his heart should be. Anyway, I got him like right after I was born, and he was my absolute favorite. But then one day - I was five, maybe six - my sister was really mad at me, and she threw him into the rubbish bin, like the big one outside, and then when I went to go to bed we couldn’t find him, and my sister told my mum, but by then they had gathered the trash and so he was gone. I was proper mad at her for, like, a week, and didn‘t want a new one to replace him.”
“I’m guessing his name was Bumbles?”
“Yup! See, then last year, my sister was at a Tivoli or something, and she won that teddy, and she gave it to me and said it could be Bumbles junior. So that’s, um, why.”
“And you finally forgave your sister?”
“Yes.. It took, like, fifteen years, but she’s now forgiven.” Harry deadpans.
“Remind me never to get on your bad side.” Zayn mutters, smiling widely when everyone laughs. “I’m curious about all your hair products though, cause I don’t think I’ve seen you use any?”
“Yeah, no, I prefer it to be natural. Like, occasionally I use some to make, like, a quiff-ish thing out of my fringe? But. Yeah. Um, I have a friend who’s a hairdresser and she gives me stuff so.”
“And you just ..hoard them in your bathroom?” Louis asks, squinting his eyes at him. Harry shots him a look that transforms Louis’ eyes into something much cuter, crinkles curling around the edges.
“Honestly, I try to get rid of them. But I don’t know that many guys who wants that many hair products.” He can see the other boys eyeing each other, all of them sitting up straighter and Zayn gripping the edges of the table. “I mean, if you guys want any, help-” The four of them shoot up, Niall’s chair falling over in the process and Liam kinda graciously leaping over it. “-yourself.” He ends, before turning to look at the camera, the other camera guy already running after them.
There’s a commotion from the stairs - he imagines them pulling at each others clothes and pushing and shoving - and then above their heads as they run down the short hall to the bathroom.
Harry takes another mouthful of his kedgeree and rejoices in the fact that he’ll finally have some free space for the washing supplies he’s been keeping in a bucket behind the toilet.
They’ve picked out three or four products each, and they set them in neat piles next to their plates as they continue eating.
Harry offers to warm up their plates again, but they all decline.
“You sure you don’t mind?” Liam asks, gesturing to the products at his side, and Harry shakes his head.
“Honestly, you’re doing me a favour.”
“I’ll be happy to keep doing you this favour.” Zayn says. “Anytime. Really.”
“Me too!” Louis chimes in. “I have to say though, I’m envious of the fact that your parents let you have a full floor of the house for yourself. I barely had a bedroom back home.”
“Oh.” Harry says, swallowing the piece of fish in his mouth almost whole. It’s a good thing the meat’s tender. “No, this isn’t my parents house. They’re back in Cheshire. Um, I live with some of their friends though, so the rent’s cheap, which is why I can afford it.”
“Aaah, so you moved to London for school then?” Harry nods. “What are you studying?”
“Take a guess.” He says with a grin. He honestly loves guessing games, though people are pretty good at guessing his choice of career. It’s just as fun guessing others as well though.
“It’s probably something really weird and complicated, like ..neuroscientist!”
“Random? But no.”
“I reckon it has something to do with helping people.” Zayn says, expression thoughtful as he studies Harry in a way that is borderline uncomfortable.
“Well,” He says, tilting his head. “Not, like, directly. But yeah.”
There’s a few guesses - therapist, doctor and midwife among them - but Zayn points out that all of those are directly helping people, before his eyes widen for a split second, and he says “Vet.” a smug smile spreading over his lips.
Harry kinda wants to deny it, only because Zayn seems so sure of himself, but, well, he is right, so he gives his affirmative. “You strike me as rather observant.” He says in return, nodding at Zayn to make it clear who he’s referring to. “I’d say you’d make an ace therapist.”
“Too bad that’s not what I’m going for then.” He says in response, one eyebrow raised.
“It’s probably something very smart though. Like some kind of engineer or something.” Liam suggest, Zayn smiles, but shakes his head.
“Is it, like, a practical thing? Or is it some kind of a degree?” Zayn contemplates, seeming unsure whether or not he wants to give too much away, but he finally caves.
Niall Ooh’s. “Language? Like, I dunno. Mandarin or something.”
“English?” Louis suggests. Zayn turns to him, teeth digging into his bottom lip and both eyebrows raised expectantly. “…literature?”
“Do you know what you’re gonna do with it?” Harry asks.
“Um, it’s not, like, set in stone. But one of my professors has halfway offered me a job as an editorial assistant through the publishing company he writes for? It’s a start, so.” He shrugs, like it’s no big deal, though Harry knows it probably is.
“You must be really good then.” Niall points out. “Like he probably has hundreds of students, so you must stand out in some really good way for him to pick you.” Zayn shrugs again, seeming bashful and a bit uncomfortable at the praise.
Louis seems to pick up at that as well, cause he draws everyone’s attention to himself when he halfway shouts at them to take a guess at him. Harry manages to catch the grateful smile Zayn throws at him for it.
“Hairdresser.” Niall says, like there’s no question about it. Louis smirks, fixing a non-existent stray hair in his fringe.
“Do you really think I’d fight you for this wax” - he holds up the wax in question, shakes it at Niall - “if I had the access to this stuff on a daily business, and at a cheap price?”
“Okay, fair enough.”
“And as for my hairstyle, which I am sure you drew your conclusion based on, it’s a trick I learnt from an ex. Terrible in the sack, but a wonderful hairstylist.” Niall laughs loudly, while Harry spares a thought for the poor guy, hoping he’s not watching this show.
“I still think it’s something creative though.”
“Yeah, like maybe theater? Artist, or actor?” Liam asks, Louis shaking his head before he’s even finished the sentence.
“Dancer?” Harry suggests.
“You’re just saying that ‘cause you wanna see my glorious arse in tights.” Louis protests, not seeming bothered at all. Harry doesn’t dignify it with an answer, just lets one corner of his lip curl slightly upwards. He’s never really been a fan of denying the truth anyway. “But, no.”
“Is it something creative?” Zayn asks after a moments silence.
“Nope.” Louis replies smugly, eyeing them all individually, and letting out a loud, drawn out sigh when no one guesses any further. “You’re bad at this.” He whines, somewhat exaggerated.
“Economist.” Liam says, to which Louis shots him a look that clearly says no.
“Lawyer.” Harry suggests, Louis sighs.
“Okay! Okay!” Louis says cutting off their excellent suggestions. He’s acting all annoyed, but Harry can easily tell he’s trying to suppress a smile. “Psychologist. Children’s psychologist, actually, but I haven’t decided exactly where to go with it yet.”
The thing is; Harry’s surprised, but at the same time he’s not? Like, he wouldn’t have guessed it, but now that Louis told him, it makes complete sense. “What options are you looking at?” He asks.
“Well, at first I was pretty sure I wanted to be an abnormal child psychologist.. I haven’t completely thrown that away, but I’m leaning more towards school psychologist now. Though, I do find the field of developmental psychology very interesting as well, to be honest.”
“They all sound interesting to me.” Zayn says, and Louis nods.
“Yeah, they are. That’s the problem, I guess. Just. A few too many options.”
“But, can’t you like, dabble?" Harry asks. "I’m sure if you start with one of the others it’ll be easy to get a job in a school, like if you have loads of experience?”
“Yeah, it is, but..” He bites at his lip, seeming slightly uncertain, as he turns to face Harry completely. “It’s a long education, right, and I just think.. the younger I am, the easier it would be for me to connect with the kids? I don’t know if I wanna miss out on that opportunity because I might wanna gather some experience, you know?”
Harry nods, “Yeah, I get that.” he says, getting a somewhat dejected shrug in return. It’s clear that this is something Louis has put a lot of thought into.
Ruth clears her throat pointedly, the conversation probably not light-hearted enough for her likes, so Harry looks away from Louis and puts his attention on Liam instead.
“Now, Liam.” He says, drumming his fingers against the table a few times and then forcing himself to stop as it probably looks ridiculous.
“Mine’s been mentioned already actually.” Liam says. “As one of the wrong guesses.”
They all start firing careers at him, fast enough that Harry can’t really tell them apart, but Liam seems to be listening, shaking his head no every time there’s a small lull in suggestions.
“Astronaut?” Harry asks finally, getting another no. “Did we suggest anything else?”
“Well, there was the princess one, but I somehow doubt that.” Louis says, which makes them all laugh. “No, I can’t remember anything else.”
“Police officer. I think Niall suggested it for Louis?” Liam says. They all turn to Niall who shrugs.
“I dunno, can’t remember. But that’s cool though, are you like, patrolling and stuff yet?”
“No, no, I’ve just started. I’m doing my CPK now, which I’ll be done with before summer, and then I’m not quite sure if I wanna go back to Wolverhampton to start training or if I wanna stay here in London. But if I wanna work in London I have to live here for three years before I can start training.”
“Yeah, new rules. It’s so the police officers knows the city better and stuff. So if I wanna stay I might take some uni classes on criminology or something. Maybe law. I really haven’t decided yet.”
“But it sounds cool though. It fits you, like, I can picture it.” Harry says with a smile, Louis seems to agree.
“You can handcuff me anytime.” He says with a cheeky smile and a wink. It makes Liam blush a deep red color, while Harry feels something twisting in the bottom of his stomach.
“So what about Niall then?” Harry asks the group in general, smoothly moving on. Louis gives him a smug smile.
“Sound engineering.” Niall supplies.
“So we’re gonna play a couple of games.” Harry announces. They’ve set all the plates aside, but not cleaned up yet, as they’re waiting with the interviews until the games are done. “One I’m sure we all know, so we’ll play that last, um, but it’s the celebrity guessing game? Where we write names on post-it notes and put them in a pile and draw one and have to guess who we are?” Everyone nods in recognition. “So we should all think of names while we do the first one.”
He’s already gotten everything ready, a pile of pens and a post-it pad lying on the fancy bench-counter-thingy that’s lined up behind the dining table. He grabs it all, along with a regular-sized teddybear.
“Okay.” Harry says, sitting back down. “So. I need you to all kiss somewhere on the teddybear.” He takes the bear’s right arm and kisses it’s paw in demonstration, then hands it to Niall.
Niall shrugs, kisses the bear on it’s mouth and hands it to Liam, who kisses it’s ear. Zayn’s next, and he kisses it’s belly button, and when he gives it to Louis, he makes a big show of kissing its crotch.
Harry swallows loudly, immediately regretting the stupid game - it’s been fun at a few parties, but they’re not drunk enough what the fuck was he thinking - and cursing Ruth’s seating arrangements.
“Right.” He says as Louis hands the bear back to him and Harry places him on the table. “Um. Now, you have to kiss the person to your left at the same spot.” Niall laughs, Liam blushes, Zayn shrugs, Louis grins and Harry still very much regrets this.
Harry could’ve just changed the direction, so they kissed the one to the right instead, but that would mean- yeah no, if Louis’ gonna get on his knees for anyone, it’s gonna be for him. He squeezes his legs together as his dick twitches at the mere thought.
“So I’ll go first then,” He says, taking Niall’s hand when it’s offered to him and giving it a chaste kiss.
“Pucker up, Liam.” Niall says, but his own cheeks has gone red as well, and they share a brief peck.
“What, not even a proper snog?” Louis complains.
“Didn’t snog the teddy, did I?” Niall counters, and Louis can’t really argue with that. He does stick out his tongue at him though.
Liam gets up and walks around the table to kiss Zayn’s ear, and then Louis stands up with a grin and pulls his shirt up. Zayn rolls his eyes, but kisses Louis’ bellybutton nonetheless, and then, Louis turns to Harry.
Harry scoots his chair a few inches away from the table, but not enough to be totally visible to the camera, and then Louis graciously drops to his knees and gets under the table and in between his spread legs.
Harry’s warm from head to toe, and his breath feels too loud and irregular as Louis tips his head up slightly and looks up at him through his lashes. He’s definitely getting hard and Louis will definitely notice.
Just as he’s leaning in to place a kiss, Louis turns his head and bites Harry’s inner thigh, hard, through his jeans. Harry’s knee jerks, slamming against the underside of the table, and Niall pops his head underneath to see what’s going on.
Louis places a kiss on his zipper, and then crawls back up as if nothing happened at all. The smirk he’s trying to hide says otherwise though.
During the fifteen minutes they spend playing the celebrity guess game, Harry thankfully manages to kill his hard-on, which he is very grateful for as they get up to clear the table, Louis and Zayn disappearing to do the interviews.
“What made you kick the table?” Niall asks as soon as the camera’s are gone. Harry blushes, but answers truthfully as nonchalant has he manages. It makes Niall laugh while Liam giggles somewhat uncomfortably.
“I was thinking he was gonna give you a kiss underneath the clothes.” Niall says. The heat in Harry’s cheeks intensifies, but he laughs along, although he’d very much like that. Just, maybe not with three other guys around the table, unbeknownst of what was going on underneath it. Well, actually- no. Nope.
No. There are guests here and there’s camera’s and he just managed to get rid of that boner and he’s sure as hell not bringing it back thank you very much.
They clean up mostly in silence, it’s getting late, past midnight already, and they’re all tired, so they enjoy the few moments of silence that they have before dessert.
The interviews take almost fifteen minutes each, and by the time all four of them are done, they’ve managed to finish all the wash-up, which is a feat in itself.
Right before Ruth leads all the boys back into the living room, so that Harry can prep his desserts, Louis sneaks up close behind him and slides a hand around his waist, making him lean back so his ear is at level with Louis’ mouth.
“I saw that frown on your face when I said Liam could handcuff me.” He whispers, Harry’s body instantly goes from pliant to frozen. The others have already left the room, and Harry’s very glad they’re alone when Louis’ hand travels down his torso.
“Um.” Is all Harry manages.
“Could feel you hard when I kissed you as well.” He continues, as his arm sinks further down, pressure added. Harry’s hips bucks forward at their own accord as Louis hand goes where he wants it - or doesn’t want it, his mind’s not quite sure yet, but his body sure seems to enjoy it when Louis starts slowly palming him. “Maybe you’d rather I handcuff you, yeah?” He breathes.
“Please.” There’s teeth on his earlobe and then there’s footsteps down the hall and then there’s Harry standing confused and aroused in the middle of the kitchen while Ruth walks in and Louis sneaks out, the latter looking far too pleased for his own good.
It takes Harry a good couple of minutes before he manages to focus enough to do anything but breathe.
“How do you think the main and the games went?”
“The main went really well, like, everyone ate their portion, so I’m really happy ‘bout that! The games went well as well I think. I was afraid the teddy bear one could get a bit awkward but they all took it in good spirit so.”
“What about when Louis kissed you, was that awkward?”
“Um. I wouldn’t say Louis kissing my zipper was exactly awkward, I mean, um. I- It was, like, different? Or not different, well, different, but like, weird? But not like super uncomfortable? Um. I should’ve seen it coming I guess, I did decide on that game, and like, I should’ve figured someone would do that. And probably him. But. Yeah.”
“Right.” Ruth says, not looking very impressed with his ability to form sentences. Harry scratches at the back of his neck. This is definitively more uncomfortable than Louis kissing his crotch.
“Do you, um, want me to answer that again, or?”
“No, it’s fine.” She says, giving him a small smile. “Are you happy with the boys taking those hair products?”
“Yeah, I’m glad they cleared out some space for me. Those products have been in my way for months, so.”
“Alright. Well.” She drags her finger up and down on her tablet a few times. “Let’s get started on the dessert then.” She says, and Harry nods, pulling plates out of the cabinet and the cheesecakes out of the fridge.
“There really isn’t much to do. I just gotta pop them out of the forms and dust some icing sugar over and that’s literally it.” She nods at him, so he turns the first cake up-side-down and smiles at it slides out of the ramekin and onto the plate.
The baking paper comes off easily as well - without anything sticking to it - and he repeats he process with the remaining four cakes.
“Does it look a bit dull?” He asks. Maybe he should’ve served it with some ice cream or something, instead of just a lump of cold cheesecake with a dusting of icing sugar on top.
He’s not really talking to anyone but himself, but Ruth answers anyway, tells him it looks fine and that it’s too late now anyway, so Harry reluctantly serves them as they are.
He really should’ve thought about it sooner though. Maybe, like, made some more apricot compote and then mixed it with whipped cream or something.
“It’s good!” The boys assure him. “We’re all pretty full anyway, yeah, it doesn’t need anything else.” Harry wants to complain some more - it’s a cooking competition, he really wanna win it and good wont be enough - but then Louis’ hand is on his thigh, rubbing circles with his thumb and Harry’s mouth snaps shut.
They try to keep a conversation going while they eat, but they always seem to just fall back into a comfortable silence, which is probably not very good entertainment, but very nice still.
Zayn starts yawning by the end of the meal and within minutes the rest of them have joined in, so Ruth sighs and stops trying to give them interesting topics to discuss in favor of going to call the taxi’s.
Liam leaves first, and due to the fact that it’s started raining, the rest of them have gotten permission to wait inside.
“We’re a bit pathetic lads.” Louis declares as they’re waiting in the lounge, having gotten strict instructions to stay there and pay attention to when the taxi returns so there wont be long, unnecessary waits.
“I think everyone would be tired having long days like these on top of classes and studying and the stress of impending exams.” Zayn counters.
“I’m going next. Dibs. Or whatever.” Niall says.
“Dibs on the one after that.” Zayn calls, eyeing Louis challengingly, but only getting a shrug in return. Harry’s pleased, and he knows it probably shows on his face, but, like. Whatever.
It only takes a couple of minutes before Niall leaves and then only a couple more before he returns .
“That was quick.” Zayn says, getting his shoes on and cheek-kissing Harry goodbye.
“Great food, great games, ten out of ten.” Louis says in what is probably supposed to be a mock-irish accent, but sounds more like someone talking with their mouth full. Well, it’s a rather good impression of Niall anyway, so Harry laughs.
Zayn kisses Louis’ cheek and then they hug and whisper something and laugh, and then he kisses Louis’ cheek again, and Harry’s not really laughing anymore.
“Oh, wipe that frown off your face babe.” Louis says once Zayn’s outside, rolling his eyes. Harry pouts instead. “Okay, fine, wanna know mine and Zayn’s secret then?”
“Yes?” He really does, secrets are fun to be let in on, and he honestly didn’t think Louis would cave that quickly.
“Zayn’s pretending. Just like us, yeah? S’got tattoos and smokes and the whole ordeal. That’s what I found out when we disappeared to the bathroom - well I suspected and then investigated - but that’s why we’ve bonded, since I know about him and he half-way knows about me.”
“Oh.” That’s. Hm.
“Yeah, so no need to be so jealous.” Louis reaches forward, smoothing out the line between Harry’s brows with his thumb, and then letting his hand fall to Harry’s cheek. There’s a small smile on his face, but it’s more fond than anything else, so Harry nuzzles slightly against Louis’ palm, eyes falling closed for a second.
There’s a breath of a laugh hitting against his face, and when Harry looks up again, Louis has stepped closer. He’s looking sleepy and soft and it’s such a contrast to the teasing side he’s been playing up all day, but it’s just as enchanting.
Harry really wants to kiss him. “Kiss me.” He says. Louis smiles, takes a tiny step closer, as close as he can get, and tilts his head just so, lips barely an inch away from Harry’s.
He hums, licks his lips, and Harry can feel just the tiniest flick of a tongue against his upper lip, so quick that he’d be sure it was just imagination, if it weren’t for the fact that that tiny spot is cooling more so than the rest of his lips when Louis breathes against him.
Just as Louis leans up and forward, there’s a honk from outside, startling them apart.
“Nooo.” Harry groans, trying to rest his forehead against Louis‘, who starts cackling. Head tilted back and literally cackling.
“Can’t keep Ruth waiting.” He says - sounding cheerful as well the sodding bastard - as he walks away to slip into his shoes.
“Just one, come on.” Harry argues, grabbing at Louis’ wrist.
“See you tomorrow, love!” Louis replies, darting in and kissing the corner of his mouth, and then twisting his hand out of Harry’s grasp and skipping out the door. Well, not really skipping per se, but it seems like it anyway.
Harry stands in the lounge and pouts at the door - probably for longer than a normal person would - before deciding to put the last of the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and head to bed. He literally jumps in surprise when the door opens just as he’s about to move.
“Really Harry?” Louis questions, hair damp and white jeans practically see-through where drops of rain have fallen on them.
“Waiting by the door like a dog, are you?”
“I-” Harry starts, ready to defend himself in some way, surely, but then he’s got an armful of Louis and slightly cold lips on his.
He smiles, ruining the kiss completely, making Louis pull back and smack his arm. “At least kiss me proper.” He says and Harry can’t do anything but comply, diving back in and turning his full attention to Louis’ mouth.
Sadly, Louis pulls back when Harry tries to slip him some tongue.
“Told the cabbie I forgot something.” He explains as Harry kisses the corner of his mouth, his cheek, higher up on his cheekbone.
“You did.” Harry agrees. Louis laughs.
“I have to go.” Harry kisses him again, and Louis gives in for a few short seconds before he pulls back completely, a hand on Harry’s chest to keep him at an arms length. “Harry.” He chides. Harry pouts. “You’re impossible.”
“Sorry.” Harry says with a smile. Louis rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling too, so Harry doesn’t mind.
“I see you tomorrow, yeah. Go to bed, get some sleep.” Harry nods, and Louis goes to kiss his cheek. Harry turns his head though and catches his mouth, but he keeps it chaste this time.
“Night Louis.” He says, face still close to Louis’, breathing him in.
“Goodnight darling.” Louis replies softly, lips ghosting over Harry’s as he speaks.
Harry wants to tuck Louis into his arms and take him up to bed so that he can cuddle up around him all night long. Instead, he lets Louis slip out the door again, locks up behind him after making sure the cab’s driven away, and sleepily puts the ramekins in the dishwasher, before starting it.
He looks over the kitchen and dining room, making sure it’s all clean - if there’s one thing he hates, it’s waking up to a messy house - before turning of the lights and going to bed.
If he keeps Bumbles in his bed that night, well, that’s his business.
Chapter 4: Thursday
Someone’s knocking on the door. It’s annoying and loud, and Niall was very contempt sleeping actually, so it’s also very rude. He turns over, facing the wall, and wraps his pillow around his head to try and block the sound.
It doesn’t work.
He gives it another few minutes, feels like hours really, but the knocking keep happening in intervals - every time he thinks they finally gave up, it starts again.
He groans, sitting up in bed and grabbing his phone to check the time. The screen is already lit though, because someone’s calling, and it says Ruth Davies and - oh fuck.
In nothing but boxers, he hops out of bed and practically runs for the door. His vision is still blurry from sleep and he scrapes his arm against the doorframe on the way out of his room, but he makes it to the hall, ripping the door open to find three very impatient and rather annoyed-looking crewmembers.
“Sorry, sorry, forgot to set the alarm.” He mumbles, ushering them inside. The click of Ruth’s heels seems incredibly loud this early in the morning.
“We’ve been calling and knocking for over twenty minutes.” Is what he gets in response.
“Yeah, phone’s on silent.” He says, immediately pressing the button to change that. “Sorry.”
Ruth sighs, dragging a hand through her hair before pulling on it to put in in a ponytail. “Just. Go get ready, yeah?”
It’s not his fault he’s so tried though, like. The week has been hectic, and not just because of the show.
He had a paper due on Tuesday, so he stayed up till, like, four in the morning to proofread it. Then it’s the whole situation with his flatmates and difficult decisions he had to make, and like- it’s weird how physically draining emotional problems can be, isn’t it?
Niall pulls on the sweatpants laying on the floor of his bedroom. Even though he’s used them for a few days now - but not full days, obviously, since he’s been to all these dinner parties - they still look clean, there’s no food spilled on them, and they don’t smell bad, so he deems them okay. He’s gonna change before people come over anyway so.
Still, he’s not a complete caveman, so he forgoes yesterdays shirt and grabs a new one from his closet instead, before hurrying to the bathroom for a quick wash and some deodorant and cologne.
Might as well smell decent for the people present.
“Okay.” Ruth says as he enters the kitchen. He cleaned it yesterday, and it’s still spotless, which means neither Mike nor Jeffry has been here, which is good, hopefully they’ll stay away for the rest of the day. “Are you ready to go shopping?”
“Can I eat breakfast first?” Niall asks, pleads more like, but he doesn’t proper work until he has some food in his system.
“Yeah, okay.” Ruth easily agrees to his complete surprise, he was certain she’d put up a fight to be honest. He’s sure as hell not gonna complain though, instead, he grabs the bread from the cupboard and the butter and jam from the fridge and fixes himself four loaves. Ruth seems pleased with his multitasking - putting the food back and cleaning the counter for breadcrumbs while he eats - and even more so when he sandwiches the last two slices and offers to eat it on the way to the store.
“Are you buying everything at one store?” She asks as they exit the flat. The camera’s already on and filming, the sound guy following behind, but he’s just carrying the mic by his side for now.
“Um, no, we’re going to the butcher for the meat and then to a fruit and veg shop for the veggies and stuff, and then we’re going to Asda for the drinks and whatever I can’t buy elsewhere.”
“Why don’t you just buy everything at the Asda?” He can see the shadow of the mic looming over his head now, the cameraman goes in front of him to film his face, having to walk backwards himself, so Niall slows his pace to make it easier for him.
“The shop closest to here is kinda shit, um, I mean, small and doesn‘t have much and are often sold out. But we have this huge non-brand, or whatever, shop nearby that sells all organic stuff. It may cost more than in normal shops, I dunno if it does to be honest, but everything always look fresh and the owner’s nice so I go there.”
“Okay. Where do you want to go first?”
According to the recipe he’s supposed to get bacon and pork sausages for his main, but that doesn’t really work with Zayn and Harry’s diets, so he figures turkey bacon, and then like beef or lamb sausages. He’ll see what the dude suggests.
The butcher is a small hole-in-the-wall kinda shop, just a light green front door with a small sign hanging above it - hidden in-between a bookshop and a restaurant - but they have good quality meat. He knows this because his mum took him there to shop when the family was visiting a few weeks ago and she’d wanted to make a proper dinner. She‘s good at finding the best places; asking a few random people on the street for a good butcher, and then surveying the place once they got there - asking questions and checking out the meats, because she knows what to look for.
The bell jingles as they enter, and Ruth walks right up to the counter, making sure it’s alright to film in there, which the butcher immediately agrees to.
“Niall, right?” He asks after a few seconds of thoroughly staring, and Niall stares back, not really able to place him, though he does seem vaguely familiar.
“You took my daughter on a date a couple of weeks ago. Viola?”
“Right, right. Mr. Simmons.” Niall shakes his hand, hoping he wont ask why Niall hasn’t gone out with Viola again.
See, okay, he asked her out after they’d chatted in class a few times; she’s pretty and she seemed nice. But, not only did she kinda force him to pick her up at home and come inside to meet the parents - and is that ever not awkward? - ten minutes into the date he realized she was actually incredibly dull and humorless. Like, she only laughed once during their dinner, and it wasn’t even at something funny.
So he’d followed her back home, said there wouldn’t be a second date cause, like, they had no chemistry, she’d asked if they could have sex anyway, he’d complied - obviously - and left. However the next day she’d waited at him outside of one of his lectures, and tried to kiss him, and when he’d turned her down again she’d been utterly pissed and called him a player and accused him of stringing her along. And then dramatically slapped him.
They haven’t exactly chatted since.
“Long time, no see.” Niall sighs.
“Yeah, um, you know..” He replies, trying to work out a good sentence in his head, but Mr. Simmons beats him to it.
“Ah, well.” He says, shrugging. “Can’t work out every time, can it?”
“No, I guess not.” Niall agrees, and then Ruth ushers him outside so they can film him walking into the shop.
“Niall!” Mr. Simmons says with a big smile, as if he didn’t just talk to him. He’s a decent actor though, if you ignore the fact that his gaze flickers towards the camera a couple of times.
“Simmons.” He says back, albeit less enthusiastically, stepping up to the counter. “I need some meats.” Mr. Simmons nods as he starts suggesting different things before Niall even gets to explain what he‘s making.
“Lemme tell you what I’m looking for first, yeah?” He asks through a laugh, and Mr. Simmons cheeks color as he clears his throat awkwardly and stops his rambling of cuts and prices, casting another glance at the camera.
“Right. Of course. What do you need?”
“I’m making a Dublin coddle, but I can’t have pork in it, cause two of my guests don’t eat it. So, I need a good substitute for the bacon and the sausages.”
“Well, the best bacon is turkey! Other than pork, I mean.” He says clapping his hands together, and then leaning over the disk to pick out a chunk. “How much do you need?”
“Like a pound or so.”
He nods, offering to slice it as well, which Niall says no to as the recipe says to cut it into thick pieces. He wraps it up in some glossy, white paper and places it on top of the counter before he claps again.
“As for sausages; I have some delicious chicken-turkey ones. That way you have the same type of meat and flavours.”
“Yeah, sure. Give me a pound of that as well then.”
After hand-shakes and well wishes and reassurances that no, they wont be needing anything else, Niall leads them towards the fruit and veg shop.
It’s called Gresham fruit and greens - as it’s located close to Gresham street - and it’s annoying because it’s a long name, and you can’t just call it Gresham’s, cause there are more shops with Gresham in it’s name.
Long, uncreative, unnecessary names are annoying.
The shop’s great though, so he’ll live with it.
It consists of three rooms. To the left you have the veggies, and to the right you have the fruits, both in air conditioned rooms to make the products stay fresh longer. Well, that’s what Niall assumes the reason is at least.
Straight ahead is just a normal shop, organic foods and, like, lentils and rice and dried fruit and nuts and stuff like that. There are a few fridges with different juices as well - the mango/pineapple one is to die for - and off course the register, where one of the owners are standing, greeting Niall and the team as they enter.
Again, Ruth goes over and introduces herself, presumably asking for permission to film. Niall walks through the strands of plastic in the doorway to the left and digs out his shopping list.
He’s picked out potatoes and onions by the time Ruth comes back, giving the clear to start filming. It’s silent, just the automatic whirr of the air-con, amd Niall’s never been particularly good with silence.
“Normally, when you look for veggies you want the ones that looks the absolute nicest, yeah, like, as polished as possible.” He says, holding up a leak and examining it. “But I saw on a show once, I don’t remember which, but like, you should always pick something that’s fresh, but a little bruised as well, because then chances are they don’t have that much toxics and stuff on them.”
He deems the leak good, the outer leaves a bit limp, but inside looking fresh and crisp, and puts it in his basket. “Cause you just cut off whatever’s bad, and then the rest is healthier.”
“Do you always follow that, then?”
“Nah, I don’t always do it. Like if I’m buying an apple, yeah, and eating it right away, I want something not bruised that looks good. So I’ll rather buy that. But if I have the opportunity to cut away things, like, then I do.” He pauses, thinking it over. “But, I mean, we eat a lot of shit that’s dangerous all the time anyway, so I dunno how much of a difference it makes.”
“Well, that’s one way to look at it.” Ruth says, eyebrows raised as she lets out a breath of a laugh.
Niall shrugs. “I mean, everything kills you, you know? Doesn’t mean you should be reckless or stuff, but like, you don’t need to be too careful either, I think.” He guides them back out of the veggie room, and beings to roam the rest of the store for the other items on his list.
“So what things are you the most reckless with?” She asks from where she’s looming behind him. They have two types of brown sugar here, and he has no idea what the difference between them are. One’s cheaper than the other though, so he adds that one to the basket.
“Like, food, I guess, I like to try new foods and stuff. And traveling? And I’m not really scared of stuff that most people are scared of, like heights and water and shi- um. Stuff.” Ruth nods, her face contorted in a somewhat amused expression. Come to think of it, it seems to pop up whenever he swears and then corrects himself actually. “I mean, okay. Um, like I think experiences are important. Like, people should experience things, because that’s what life’s about, isn’t it?” He says as he turns to face the camera properly. “Obviously you need to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself or, like, die. And you should always surround yourself with friends and family and, well people, really. But, yeah, experience stuff, it’s what makes life worth living I think.”
“What have you experienced then? What’s made your life worth living?”
“It doesn’t have to be huge, massive things, like sailing around the world, you know? There are different kinds of experiences, I like to have a little bit of all. So like, different vacations is one type of experience, and then going to a Tivoli with friends is another. And then, like, having a nephew -e ven though that’s not something I’ve had much to do with - is an experience.”
“How is that an experience?” Ruth asks, seeming to actually pay attention instead of just halfway listening like she usually does.
“Cause, like, I choose to be in his life and see him grow up and stuff. Like he’s my first nephew and even though it’s not my own kid, every time I see him something will be said or done that will create one of those unforgettable memories, you know?”
“But isn’t there a difference between memories and experiences?”
“Yeah, there is, but at the same time it goes hand in hand. Like, when I was changing his nappy and he peed all over my shirt, it became a funny memory but also taught me how to stop it from happening again.” He tilts his head, thinking it over for a second. “That was a shit example, but you get what I mean.”
“I guess.” She replies, tilting her head left snd right.
“Anyway, I just think, like, take opportunities to do new stuff, no matter how lame or embarrassing or scary or whatever it seems, at least you’ll get a good memory out of it.”
“Yeah, that’s wise words to live by, as long as - as you said - you’re not completely reckless about it.”
“Yeah. Make sure you are aware of what’s around you, and that you have people and things to fall back on.” Honestly, it all sounds a bit muddled even to him. It’s just easier to understand it when it’s all in his own head, than it is to put it in words. “Like, I wanna go backpacking across Europe, that’s one of my dreams or whatever, but I’ve decided to finish an education and save up a bit of money first.”
“And it’s well known that going to university is a good experience, isn’t it?”
Niall smiles brightly. “Exactly!”
He likes Ruth much more today than he has the previous days, he thinks. Well, the last two nights were okay, she seems to have warmed up to them all a bit, but she’d been quiet and just ..there.
That is her job though, apparently, to just sit there and watch and occasionally give inputs.
When he woke up - well, was woken up would be the correct way to put it - and found her sour expression on the other side of the door, he began kinda dreading the day, the mood reminded him of how she was with Harry the first day.
But yeah, no, her spirits has definitely been lifted even just in the one hour they’ve spent together.
It’s been good this week, being around kind faces a lot - a welcome change to how things have been lately.
And he’s just really glad Ruth hasn’t ruined that for him today.
After paying and a quick chat, they make a pit stop at Asda to buy guinness and proper chocolate, and then head back to his flat to start cooking.
The door’s unlocked when they get back, and Niall is very certain he’d locked it, so it can only mean that one of his two roommates are home.
He’s not sure which one he prefers it to be.
“Hello?” He calls out as they enter, turning to Ruth with a apologetic look. There’s no answer, but as he walks into the living room he sees that one of the other bedroom doors are open. Mike then.
He walks over to check his room, only to find it empty. Mike could’ve stopped by and then left again right away, but he rarely leaves his door open, so probably not.
There’s a clang from the kitchen, and spinning around, Niall sees him leaning by the counter, eating cereal out of a bowl. “Hi.” Niall says as he steps closer, getting a nod in return. He holds back the sigh, even as he feels the familiar tiredness seeping into his bones again. “Um. We’re filming? Come dine with me? I sent you a text and there’s a note on the fridge..” He trails off as Mike just stares with a raised eyebrow, only breaking eye contact when the crew enters the kitchen.
“Right.” Mike says, clearing his throat. “Well, last time I checked this is my flat too, and you can’t just kick me out of it.”
“I’m just stopping by for some food, Niall. No need to be so bitchy about it.” He says coldly. Niall doesn’t hold back the sigh this time. He literally has no idea when this happened, when Mike just decided not to like him anymore.
“Sorry.” He mumbles, even though he’s not, well not for that at least. He can see Ruth looking questioning at him from his right, but he refuses to look back at her.
There’s a stretch of uncomfortable, tense silence as Mike finishes his food.
He doesn’t look at Niall, but his head is still held high as his gaze flits through the room, simply standing there like he owns it. Which, well, in some why he kinda does, doesn’t he, because his mere presence makes Niall feel small and inadequate.
He hates it, hates that Mike has this sort of control over him - over his own emotions and self-esteem - but it’s been a slow build over the last few months, starting with small jabs and disinterest, things that Niall has tried to fix along the way, only to end here; with Mike pretending he doesn‘t exist.
Once he’s finished eating he makes somewhat of a show putting the bowl in the sink and everything else in it’s place loudly, before disappearing to his room.
He leaves his door open though - and he did say he was going to leave - so no one makes a move to start filming just yet.
There’s another good ten minutes of him doing god knows what before he exits with a duffle bag, closing and locking the door behind him. Without a word, he heads for the hall, and Niall bites on his lip for a second, considering - and follows.
“Have you seen Jeffry this week?” He asks, leaning against the wall, watching as Mike ties up his converse.
“No.” There’s no hint of concern in his voice, no care at all, really, and it worries Niall. He knows Mike’s not Jeffry’s, like, best friend or anything - Niall isn’t either, it’s hard to get close to Jeffry at all - but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to simply not care. Especially when they both know his history and what he spends most of his time doing.
“Okay.” He says, tearing his hand away from his mouth once he realizes he's biting at his nails and shoves it in his pocket instead. “Um, I need to talk to you. Like, this weekend maybe? If you’re here.”
“I dunno.” Mike replies, grabbing his jacket and stuffing it into his duffle, zipping it back up. He opens the door, apparently just going to walk out on the conversation, and Niall almost chokes on his words in the hurry to speak.
“Tell me now then.” He says impatiently, pausing in the doorway. Niall casts a glance back towards the living room, knows the crew is waiting for him, and this really isn’t the time nor the place. “When do you know you’ll be here then?” He asks instead.
“I don’t know, I don’t plan everything ahead all the time okay? If it’s that important-”
“It is! But it takes more than a minute, and both of us are obviously busy right now..” He says with a pointed tilt of his head towards the kitchen.
“I’m spending the weekend with Cilia. If she’s okay with it we may come by Sunday or something, okay? I gotta go now.” With that, he slams the door shut behind him.
Niall takes a minute to lean against the wall and will his frustration away. He wants to talk to Mike alone, and Cilia is far too clingy for that to happen, not to mention the fact that Mike is the ‘whatever you can say to me you can say to her’ type of boyfriend.
It’s not that he dislikes her, or whatever, but they always team up against him when he says anything either of the two disagrees with, and he’s not quite sure how Mike’s gonna respond to the fact that Niall’s moving out come the end of term.
With the way that he’s been acting lately it’d seem he wont give a fuck, but Niall knows Mike, has known Mike for almost ten years now, and he’s a complex person.
To say the least.
Taking a deep breath, he closes his eyes and composes himself as best he can before pushing off the wall and heading for the kitchen with a smile.
It’s closing in on noon which is a problem, seeing as Niall needs to bake the cake and then make the coddle that has to cook in the oven for preferably four hours.
And fuck there’s the bread as well.
His smile is pretty much gone when he reaches the kitchen, a somewhat nervousness taking over.
“Shit I’m kinda running out of time already.” He says as he enters the kitchen. “I guess I can wait with baking the cake till we’re gonna eat it though?”
He’s talking to himself, really, so he’s not too bothered when Ruth doesn’t answer. Checking the recipe for the cake, it says it only has to bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes, and he figures that’s a reasonable wait between dinner and dessert.
“It’s up to you,” Ruth comments what feels like minutes after he said anything. “but keep in mind that there’s an hour lunch break around one, and you can’t make anything during it.”
“No but if the foods already in though, then it’s alright?”
“Yes, just for it to cook or simmer is fine.”
Okay- well actually, shit no, because the soda bread needs forty-five minutes in the oven and that leaves him like fifteen minutes to throw it together and he needs to finish everything for the coddle while the breads baking so that he can put it in right after.
“Is the time for lunch set in stone, or?”
Ruth smiles slightly. “We’ll see when we get there.”
Alright, well one thing’s for sure, he needs to get to work pronto.
Looking over his recipes though, he’s pretty sure he can make it, at least close to the timeframe, as they’re both fairly easy to prep. He grabs the one for the soda bread and starts pulling out ingredients and utensils quickly.
There’s some fumbling from the crew, the men hurrying to get their camera and mic up so that what he does will actually be recorded, but they don’t chide him for not giving them a warning or anything, so he figures it’s fine.
First of all, he preheats the oven and sends a quick prayer that it’ll cooperate today. It’s an old shitty one, and it does have a tendency to have it’s own will on some days, meaning it takes twice as long as it normally does to heat up. However, the less they use it, the more likely is it to work properly, and seeing as this is the first time it’s used this week, it should be okay.
And with a little luck that will go for all three meals.
He greases the cake tin quickly and perhaps not thoroughly enough, but if anything sticks he’ll just cut the bread loose and deal with the tin later.
After that comes the sieving of the dry ingredients - the wheat flour as well, even though it says it’s not necessary. His mum says it makes the food fluffier and lighter though, and he trusts her more than the recipe - and then he mixes the wet ingredients in a different bowl.
“It says to stir it all together with a wooden spoon, but I don’t have one. I mean, how important can it be anyway? Surely a normal spoon will do?” He gets a shrug in return. “Well, it’s not like I have a choice anyway. Unless I go out and find a twig. That would be ridiculous, could you imagine?” He laughs at the thought and the crew seems amused as well - though, having watched some of the characters that make it on this show, he wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually happened at some point.
However, he’s not that stupid, so he plucks a normal metal spoon from the drawer and gets to mixing.
After deeming the dough good enough, he turns it out on the counter and starts kneading it, counting each time loudly, because it says not to knead it more than twenty times.
He forgets to put flour on the counter first though, so it keeps sticking to the surface, and it’s only after fourteen times that he realizes the reason why. Dusting a good amount of flour over both the countertop and the dough, he takes the last six turns before forming it into a round shape and dropping it in the cake tin.
“It doesn’t fill out the tin.” He says, leaning over to read the recipe again to make sure it’s correct. “But, it’s not supposed to, cause it’ll fill out while cooking.” Finally, he cuts a cross in the surface of the bread. “The oven’s not done preheating yet, though.” He observes, as the light is still red instead of green. “Do you think it’s crucial that it’s warm enough before I put it in? It shouldn’t be far from done, I think, I reckon it should be fine?”
“It depends on the dough, really.” Ruth says, and then scrunches her nose as if she shouldn’t have revealed that kind of information.
“I’ll just try.” Niall decides, putting it in and turning on the timer on his phone. He doesn’t really have the time to wait the extra minutes since it’s already twenty past twelve.
Next he starts prepping his main, which is easy work; cutting potatoes and onions, broiling bacon and sausages, making bullion water, chopping bacon and sausages..
“How are you feeling about tonight?” Ruth asks as he puts the meats on paper towels to drain them of the excess oil, and then move them over to the cutting board.
“Good. It’ll be good, like, no matter how the food is. Cause the company’s great, so.”
“Doesn’t sound like you’re too optimistic about your food then?” Ruth questions, eyebrows raised.
“No, No I am. I reckon I’m a good chef, but it’s typical that something goes wrong, isn’t it? But I’m not nervous or anything. Like, whatever happens happens.” He takes the boiling water off the heat and dissolves the bullion in it, before moving back to cutting sausages in three. “Like, obviously, I’d like to win, but I’m just happy I’ve made new friends and that I’m having fun. That’s the most important to me.”
“So you’re having a good time so far? You like all the guys?”
“Yeah, this week’s been great! And we all get along so it couldn’t be better, honestly.”
“And you’re happy with the conversations as well?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m not really fond of like, heavy topics. Like, it’s okay every once in a while, but it’s been really nice that we’ve been able to keep all the conversations light. Hopefully that’ll continue tonight.”
“You mentioned in a earlier interview that the topics you’d dread the most would be those along the lines of politics and religion. What do you think the chances for those coming up are?”
“I doubt there’ll be any talk about politics or religion. Like, no one seems that invested in either subject, so even if it’s brought up, I don’t think the topic will last for very long.” Having cut the last pieces of sausage, he quickly rinses the cutting board and knife, and then grabs for the onions. “Oh!” He says as a thought occurs to him. “That’s probably why you wanted Zayn and Harry, innit? To get some religious discussions.”
She takes a moment to respond. “We were hoping it would inspire interesting conversations.” She says nonchalantly, which hah!, they just wanna create intrigues for a better show.
“That’s absolute bullshit and you know it! Christ, I bet you had it all figured out with the two religious guys and the gay dude. That certainly failed didn’t it?” He can’t help but laugh, thinking about how surprised Ruth must’ve been when she realized.
Ruth just clears her throat, looking uncomfortable and very much like she wants Niall to drop it. “Explains why you got so pissed at Harry over the jew thing.” He adds anyway.
“Right.” Ruth says. “Speaking of personalities and reasons for being chosen to be on the show; you said you’re a very honest, not-holding-back type of person.”
It’s supposed to be a jab at him, and he knows it. They probably expected him to be rude as fuck. “I am. But I’ve genuinely liked all the people and all the food, and I’m not gonna badmouth or be rude when it’s not called for.”
“And all the conversations have been to your taste as well?”
“Yup.” She stares at him for a moment, her mouth pulled into a tight line. She’s probably trying to create somewhat of an awkward tension between them, but Niall doesn’t care enough for it to actually settle. “I also said I’m outgoing and get along with most people, and love a good laugh, so I dunno why you’re expecting me to be bitchy.”
“I’m not. Just surprised by your ..level of honesty.”
“Yeah, well it’s not gonna change so.” He replies, trailing of with a shrug as he cuts the last of the onions and then washes his hands before pressing a clean, wet towel against his stinging eyes.
There’s nothing but silence as Niall starts layering the huge casserole with ingredients, but he doesn’t mind it at all. Okay so maybe he shouldn’t have pointed out how she kinda failed at creating the show she wanted this week, but honestly, he enjoys watching come dine with me so much more when everyone gets along anyway.
After the bread is done and the pot of coddle is placed in the oven, it’s almost ten past one and the crew leaves for their lunch.
However, the coddle should cook for four hours, and other than that, all that’s left for him to do is make the cake batter and set the table and get himself ready, so after a few phone calls, it’s been settled that they’ll have a two hour lunch break instead.
Niall’s not complaining - at all - it gives him plenty of time to clean up his room so it’s camera ready for the interviews, and also - hopefully - to take a short nap.
The cleaning part is done pretty quickly, as he doesn’t need to vacuum or anything. There’s just some scattered clothes that he picks up and some empty cups that he brings to the kitchen, and then he makes his bed as well, as he knows they’ll be sitting on it for the interview, and voila, all done.
For lunch, he makes himself a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and almonds and a banana, all healthy and shit - well, except for those two spoonfuls of sugar that he stirred into it. Details.
Besides, he’s been eating healthier than he usually does this week, so, all in all, it’s good.
He considers cleaning the kitchen for a long minute, but the sofa looks too inviting, so he goes for the nap instead, putting on some dull nature channel on the telly and falling asleep within minutes.
For the second time that day, he’s awoken by a knock on the door.
This time, however, there are no displeased faces as he opens the door while rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“Do you have the entertainment all lined up?” Ruth asks as she leads them to the kitchen.
“Yeah, she said she’d be here around eight.”
“Good. Ready to make the cake?” Niall nods, and waits for the camera to turn on before pulling out two cake pans and greasing them.
“So, my dessert is a Guinness cake.” He informs. “It’s basically a chocolate cake with beer. Um, I’m gonna make the batter now, and then bake it and make the icing before serving it.” Ruth nods in approval, so Niall reads over the recipe and then pulls out all the ingredients and bowls and utensils.
It’s fairly easy to make; beating the butter and sugar in one bowl, sifting the flour and baking soda and powder in a second and the Guinness and cocoa in a third, before mixing it all together, little by little.
He’s mixed almost half the batter when Ruth clears her throat, getting his attention.
“So, are you making a second cake for Zayn, then?”
“Fuck, shit! I was supposed to take some of this to the side and make it in ramekin, but I forgot, fucking-” It’s too late now though, everything is already mixed with the beer. “Should I make another one from scratch?”
“It’s up to you.” Ruth says nonchalantly. Why couldn’t she have reminded him before he started mixing it all. Fuck, she probably waited on purpose.
“I have time to make the batter now, but it will take too long to bake another one, as the oven will be full with the two cakes I’m already making.” He bites at his thumbnail as he looks through the ingredients he’s left with. “And I don’t have all the stuff I need to start from scratch..”
He tries to come up with a good solution as he mixes the last of the batter and separates it into the two cake tins. He can only come up with one thing though. “Imma call me mum.”
She answers on the third ring with a chipper ‘hello!’ before asking Theo if he wants to talk to his uncle.
“Ma.” Niall tries to interrupt, but there’s no answer. “Theo?” He tries instead. After another moment of silence the line goes dead.
Niall sighs hanging his head down, and he can hear Ruth opening her mouth, but it’s cut of by his mum calling him up again.
“Theo accidentally hung up on you.” She laughs, Theo making some squeal-y noises in the background. “Wait a sec, I’ll put you on speaker.” Niall waits patiently - at least he tries - while his mum fiddles with the phone. “There we go. Say hi to uncle Niall, Theo.”
“Hi Theo.” Niall says, because Theo is at the tender age of eleven months and hasn’t exactly grasped the whole talking-thing, let alone the concept of phones.
“He’s looking at the phone!” His mum supplies, as if this is something out of the extraordinary. The kid’s attracted to light and sounds like a moth to the flame. “It’s your uncle, uncle Niall, remember him? You do don’t you? You‘ll see him in just-”
“Ma!” Niall interrupts, cutting of her cooing. “I’m kinda in a hurry.”
“Oh, why didn’t you just say so?” Niall fights the urge to roll his eyes, before remembering that she can’t actually see him, and stops fighting. She’ll probably chide him once she sees it on the telly though.
“It’s my night of come dine with me-” He starts only to be cut of by a load of questions on how it’s all going, and how the other competitors are, and how old are they and did they make good food and do you think you’ll win and- “So I’m making the Guinness cake.” He says loudly.
“Oh you probably can’t talk about it. Are they there now?”
“We’re filming, yes. Anyway, one of my guests don’t drink alcohol, and I forgot before I put it in the cake.”
“Oh, there’s no going back on that, honey.”
“I know, I’m not an idiot.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” He hears Greg say in the background, followed by a chorus of laughter.
“What I wanted to know is, do you know any recipes for like, a cake that takes five minutes or something? Something easy to make.”
“Google cake in a cup!” Denise shouts from the background. “Used to make some when I got intense cravings during pregnancy.”
“Yeah, those were pretty good actually!” Greg chimes in, just as Theo starts making loud noises right next the speaker, sounding like he’s producing some spitbubbles.
“Alright, thank you!” Niall shouts, and then hangs up before they try to drag him into a longer conversation. He’ll call back later - or well, tomorrow perhaps, as his mum wont really appreciate it if he rings her at one am.
“Any good advice then?” Ruth asks.
“Yeah, you can make like a cake in a cup. Imma google it.” He finds a decent recipe online - it’s got good reviews and takes like ten minutes to make - and decides he’ll have plenty of time to make it later while the other cakes are in the oven. “I’ll do it all later, so I’m done with all my prep.”
After setting the table, Ruth sits him down for a quick interview for the camera, asking a few questions regarding the previous nights and expectations for his own, and then Niall’s off to get ready while there’s a change of crew and Ruth makes calls to confirm that everything’s in order.
He takes his time to shower and do his hair, exiting the bathroom in just a towel to see that people are still keeping themselves busy, and changes in his room. The tripod the camera rests on during interviews is already up in front of his bed, but other than that it’s just as he left it.
They haven’t asked him to put anything out like they did with Harry, but his guitar is in it’s usual place in the corner and he has a framed guitar pick hanging on his wall - both of which Ruth and the lady accompanying her on the first interview-round had seemed interested in - so he figures they might send them in to look at that and bring it into conversation.
Once he’s changed into some green loose-fitting jeans and a black t-shirt, he double-checks that the window is open, and then goes to the living room to open the balcony door as well. It’s not really that warm, but seeing as the flat hasn’t been aired out once all week it’s kinda stuffy all over, only fueled by the smell of food.
He doesn’t have a welcome drink, so he fills five glasses with irish white wine - bought and brought over by his parents on their last visit - and is looking through his cabinets for something to decorate said glasses with, when Ruth appears.
“Oh.” She says, before calling over a camera guy. “Can you pour it back in the bottle and then fill the glasses while we film?” It’s not really a question, is it, so he goes over to the sink and spills like a third of the wine trying to get it back in the bottle, before drying the glasses so they look clean and starting over.
“It’s a Irish white wine.” He explains while he pours. “It’s from this small family farm, um, so I ordered it via phone, and they posted it to my mum, and then she brought it over a few weeks back.” He finishes topping the last glass, and then gets back to his previous task of finding something to add to it. “I have a red one for dinner as well.” He adds as he opens the fridge.
There’s a lemon, but that probably doesn’t go with the wine, does it? Also, it looks moldy.
“What are you looking for?” Ruth questions.
“Something to put in, like, to garnish or decorate. Liam had strawberries. I didn’t really think ahead though.” He turns to their drawers, skipping the cutlery one and going straight for number two.
Plastic bags. No.
In the third one though - where they keep random stuff like matches and twine and needles - there’s a plastic bag with drink umbrellas, which- “Perfect!”
He puts one in each glass, all different colours even, and drops the rest back in the drawer. They don’t really fit the slim, tall wine glasses, but fuck it, it’s better than nothing yeah?
He can’t be bothered looking for a tray, so he takes three trips carrying the glasses over and then Ruth mumbles something and seconds later there’s a knock on the door.
His first guest is Louis, and they just grin at each other for a few seconds before they start laughing. Niall’s not really sure why, to be honest, but he feels good, and he’s just happy.
“Come in!” He says forcing his laughter down a bit, but they’re still grinning as Louis enfolds him in a huge, tight hug.
“Good to see you.” Louis says, clapping his back twice, before breaking apart and kissing his cheeks like they’ve done every other night. “How you’ve been? Stressed?”
Niall leads him into the living room where he takes Louis’ jacket and lays it on the couch. “Nah, not really, it’s alright I think.” He says with a shrug, motioning towards the drinks.
“May I have the purple one? I wanna match.”
“You may.” Niall says, handing the glass with the purple umbrella in it - that does in fact match his purple jeans, thought the umbrellas colour is a bit brighter - to Louis and taking the green one for himself.
Louis clinks their glasses together before taking a sip. He doesn’t seem too fond of the wine but he disguises the slight grimace he makes well enough by pondering whether or not they’ll be able to colour coordinate all the guests with their drinks.
The second to arrive is Liam, who is wearing jeans and a black shirt, and is therefore handed the drink with the blue umbrella. They chat for a while, Liam asking how his day went as well, before Zayn knocks on the door. Louis cheers when he sees the black and red plaid shirt he’s wearing, which leads to Zayn getting the red umbrella, and the four of them discussing what yellow garment Harry could possibly be wearing.
“Well, I mean, if anyone’s likely to wear yellow though..” Louis points out, which is met with a brief silence before Liam clears his throat.
“Then that’d be you.”
“Right.” Louis says after another beat of silence. “But I’m already in purple. You cannot mix yellow and purple.”
There’s a knock again, so Niall briefly excuses himself, going to open the door.
Harry’s wearing blue jeans and brown fabric in his hair, but he’s also wearing a jacket, so all hope’s not lost.
“Hey, come on in.” He says, accepting the bouquet of red roses and cheek-kisses.
The others have all gone quiet, simply staring at Harry who looks a bit unsure as he takes of the jacket.
“Harry, you've ruined everything!” Louis exclaims as Harry reveals a thin, brown sweater underneath.
Well, at least he’s matching himself.
“Um, why?” Harry asks, his fingers darting up to his hair, adjusting the headband there.
“See, we’re all matching our umbrellas.” Louis explains, unnecessary pointing of said matching objects included, before he points at the lone drink still on the table. “And you’re not.”
“Oh. Um, did I miss a memo?” Harry asks.
“No, it was all faith. But, apparently not.”
“Wait!” Harry practically shouts, before he bends over and slides the zipper on the inside of his shoe down.
Taking it off, he straightens up as he balances his foot on the other knee and then tugs up his jeans to reveal that his seemingly plain black socks actually aren’t plain black socks.
Close to the hem is the word Bananas followed by a small banana, all in yellow.
The cheers may or may not be a bit overenthusiastic, but Harry beams nonetheless as he slides his shoe back on and gladly accepts the well deserved glass of wine.
“To faith!” Louis says as he holds up his glass, and they clink them with mumbled agreement and a added “And a good night!” from Liam.
“I’m gonna make the starter now.” Niall says to the camera. The roses have been put in a beer jug on the bench, and the boys have all been sent to Niall’s room to snoop around a bit, before the other camera team leaves for the night.
“It’s a potato and leak soup.” He explains as he gathers all the ingredients, the cutting board and a knife. “Come to think of it, I probably should’ve chopped all these beforehand.” Oh well, there’s nothing he can do about that now.
He starts with the onion and garlic, adding them to the pan he’s already drizzled with oil as he goes, then the celery and finally the leeks. While he waits for the ingredients to go soft, he chops the potatoes and makes the stock and then adds them as soon as he’s done, along with the spices, before he turns up the heat.
“It’s gonna simmer for, like, twenty minutes.” He says, biting at his lip. “Is that a bit of a long wait?” He’s already used a good fifteen minutes prepping, and the boys were seated five minutes ago.
He really should’ve chopped the ingredients earlier.
While the soup is cooking, he brings out the soda bread and cuts two pieces for each person, putting them on individual plates - that also has small craters to hold the bowls of soup - before excusing himself to offer his guests drinks and put the butter on the table.
The boys are all chatting amongst themselves, not seeming impatient or starving, as Niall offers to top of their wine glasses. Louis politely says no thanks, while Harry and Liam holds out their glasses to get them filled, and Zayn’s glass is still full because- “Fuck, forgot you don’t drink, sorry mate! What do you want? Water? Coke? Um, I’ve got non-alcoholic beer?”
“Coke’s fine, thanks.”
When Niall returns to the kitchen to get coke for Zayn he finds his soup boiling a bit too much, water going down the side of the pan making a huge mess, and he curses as he yanks it off the heat, turning it down and tries to clean the worst of it.
The cloth he uses sizzles when the water comes in contact with the heat, leaving small puffs of smoke, and then of course he twist his hand a bit wrong and grazes the hot plate.
“Fuck!” He hisses hurrying over to the sink to hold it under cold water. “This is going splendidly well.” He adds for the camera, making the crew laugh a bit.
When his hand feels nothing but numb he turns off the water and moves the pan back over the now medium heat, before taking the lid off.
“At least it doesn’t look burnt.” He says, scraping at the bottom with a spoon. “Good thing there’s no cream in it yet.”
With a last glance to make sure it wont boil over again, he downs half of Zayns untouched wine in one go, and then grabs the coke and a clean glass.
“Sorry ‘bout that, had a little accident.” He says as he enters the room.
“What happened?” Harry asks, and Niall gives a brief explanation before showing the bright red mark on the side of his hand.
Louis beckons him over, grabbing his hand and taking a look at it. “You should put some aloe on it. If you have any?” He asks. “Or I’m pretty sure it’ll blister.”
“Oh, um, probably in the bathroom, I’ll-” He points his thumb back towards the hall where the door for the bathroom is, and Louis gets up as well, following him.
There’s a bottle in the cabinet. He’s not sure whose it is, but he figures no ones gonna miss a few drops of it anyway. “Do you have a band aid as well?” Louis asks, taking the bottle from him, and Niall dutifully digs out a box of Batman-themes ones. Those are definitely his.
Louis snickers but doesn’t comment on it, just pulls out one and takes his hand, pushing out a dollop of aloe straight on his burn. It’s a bit cold, but it’s only pleasant, as the burn has started throbbing slightly again.
When he sticks the band aid on though, all the gel squeezes out through the sides, so Louis takes another one and puts it on crisscross, making it look proper cartoon-y.
He tells Louis as much, making him laugh, before adding a “Thanks though.”
“No worries mate.” Louis assures, exiting the bathroom and heading back to his seat. “I’d love a beer though.” He adds cheekily, which makes Niall blush a bit as he realizes he didn’t offer Louis anything else when he declined the wine.
“Coming right up!”
The rest of the soup-making goes without a hitch, and he finally fills the bowls and carries out the plates.
“Dig in.” He says as he sits down. The soup is a bit salty to be honest, but not enough to bother him, and the bread is a bit dry, but other than that he’s pleased, and no one else is complaining, so.
“You play the guitar then?” Zayn asks as he dips his bread in the soup.
“I do. yeah. Just for fun though.”
“Sing as well?”
“Um, I always sing along when I play, but, I don’t perform and stuff.” He says with a shrug. Ruth had asked him to play as entertainment, but he doesn’t want it to seem like he’s only doing the show to promote himself or something.
“So you’re not gonna do a song for us?” Harry asks with a pout, it looks unfairly toddler-esque actually.
“Not right now at least.” Is what he settles with.
“So what about the guitar pick you’ve got framed then?” Louis asks. “I reckon it’s from someone famous.”
“It is.” Niall confirms. “Take a guess.”
“You’re gonna have to give us a little more info.”
Niall drums his fingers against his chin, considering. “Alright, it’s from ‘08, and I got it at a concert.”
“Oh yes, that really narrows it down for us..” Louis says, sarcasm practically dripping off of his words, and it makes them all laugh.
“Alright, alright! Um, it’s a band, and they were pretty popular back then, especially among young cool lads like meself.”
“Is it like a metal band or something? Cause if that’s the case, I’m out.” Harry says. “Unless it’s like ..Metallica, or something obvious like that.”
Niall laughs. “No, more pop-y.”
“Did Busted tour back then?” Louis asks the table in general, only getting shrugs and a few hesitant headshakes in return.
“But like, really close! Right genre and all.” Niall supplies.
“McFly!” Several voices guesses at once, and Niall nods.
“Tom Fletcher’s! He threw it out in the crowd, had to fight a girl wearing a shirt with her number on it to get it. She slapped me when I refused to give it to her, but I don’t regret it.” He says, grin broadening when the other lads laughs.
The starter goes without any complaints, though there aren’t really many compliments either.
Once they’re all done, Ruth grabs Liam and the rest of them start clearing the table.
Not having the luxury of a dishwasher Zayn begins rinsing the bowls and spoons, and lines them up with the rest of the wash that’s piled on the bench, while Niall puts everything else away.
Meanwhile, Louis and Harry are- “Where’s Louis and Harry?”
Zayn looks back over his shoulder, eyes scanning the living room, before he turns back to the sink with a shrug. “Dunno mate, can’t see them.” Zayn doesn’t have a view over all of the living room though, so Niall pops his head out the doorway, but they’re not there. Which leaves either the hall or the bathroom, as he knows for sure Jeffry’s and Mike’s rooms are locked.
He’s about to go look for them when they tumble around the corner, both sporting a slight blush and looking casual as ever. Niall chooses not to comment, just walks back into the kitchen again with them both at his heels, Harry taking the spot next to Zayn to start drying while he washes.
The interviews go fairly quickly, but they still manages to do almost all the washing up before the boys go back to the table and Niall’s allowed to get his main ready.
He pulls the casserole out of the oven and places it on the hotplate.
“It’s been cooking for four and a half hours, so it should be perfect.” He says before pulling off the lid.
There’s a waft of smoke coming out of it and it smells slightly burnt, and that’s when he realizes that he were supposed to refill it with water at the two-hour mark. “Fuck.” He mutters, taking in the dry coddle, while the cameraman slides up to him to film the food.
“Well, I can probably save it, like, I’ll just..” He grabs a spoon from the drawer and a plate from the cabinet and starts scooping. “I’ll just take away the dry bits. And add some water and stir.” The spoon makes a disgustingly scratchy noise as he scrapes it against the side of the casserole, but it’s necessary as that’s where it’s the most burnt.
Once he’s sure he’s got the worst out, he uses the spoon to mix around a bit. “See, it looks fine here in the middle and stuff.”
He adds some water, mixes some more and then gives it a taste.
“It tastes a bit burnt. But that’s probably because I used the same spoon to remove the stuff?” It’s not like he can fix it anyway, so he gets a ladle and fills five deep plates. “It looks really.. I fell like I should’ve had like a green salad or something. Should I serve some more bread?”
As usual, Ruth just shrugs for an answer, so Niall decides to ask the guys instead.
He carries out two plates and places them in front of Liam and Zayn. “Do you want some bread with it?” He asks the table in general, and after getting the affirmative, he goes back to the kitchen and slices the rest of his soda bread, before putting it on a plate and grabbing the butter as well.
Niall lets out a breath as he sits down - all the food and drinks served - and digs into his own stew. It still tastes burnt.
“I burnt the food a bit.” He informs, because he’s sure they all can taste it anyway. “Forgot to add the water halfway in.”
“It’s not that burnt though.” Liam says kindly. “You can still taste, like, the flavours as well.”
“Cheers.” Niall says, but there’s no way of denying he ruined it. The water he added isn’t proper mixed into the stew either, so it’s half lumpy and half soggy.
While Ruth takes Zayn away for the first after-main interview, Niall goes out into the hall to call Ana, leaving the other three to clear the table.
“Hi Niall!” Ana answers cheerily. “Should I come over then?”
“Hey, yeah that’d be great. Fifteen-ish minutes, right?”
“Yeah, like fifteen-twenty. Depends on when the bus gets there.”
“Alright, great! Just knock on the door, the doorbells broken.”
Zayn exits his room just as Niall walks past it, so he ends the call and walks over to the doorway to let Ruth know the entertainment’s on the way.
Harry leaves to do his interview while the rest of them bustle around, and by the time he’s back they’re done cleaning, so they spend the rest of the time just standing around chatting.
When Ana arrives, knocking on the door as told, the other boys are told to sit around the dining table while he goes to let her in.
She kisses his cheeks rather enthusiastically, before asking if there are any cute boys among his guests.
“All of them.” Niall says, and she laughs before she realizes he’s serious.
“They’re all young lads, around the same age as us.”
“Seriously?” She asks, trying to peak around the wall, but Niall pulls her back.
“Some professional you are.” He says with a mock frown, getting a slap on the arm in return.
“Not like you’re paying me.”
“I‘ll pay you if I win.”
“Yeah? You think you’ve got a shot then?”
“Nope!” He says with a grin. “Wait here, I have to call you in“ Seeing her puzzled expression, he adds; “It’s how they wanna film it.”
“Alright! So, for the entertainment, I’ve brought in a good friend of mine. Ana!” At the call, Ana comes in and stands next to him, waving at the boys who all wave back at her. “Right, so this is Ana. And she’s gonna teach us something.”
“It’s Irish folkdance, isn‘t it?” Louis guesses correctly. Her dancing outfit combined with the Irish theme of the night probably gave it away.
“Correct! Now, me being Irish born and bred, I do know a few moves, so don’t get to astounded by my talents.” Ana laughs loudly at that - rude - before she manages to stop herself, and bites her lip instead, clearly fighting back a smile. “Right, so Ana here is gonna teach us all a pretty basic traditional dance routine.”
“Well, I’m gonna try anyway.” Ana adds. “If you all line up over there, I’ll dance it for you once so you can see it, and then I’ll slowly go over the steps with you.” She sets her phone in Niall’s Ipod-dock - brought out of his room for this very occasion - and flicks through her music before she puts on a song and gets into position.
“This is the beginners light jig, and I have a class of seven-year-olds who can do this routine perfectly, so it shouldn’t be too hard.” She says over the interlude, before she sticks her right foot out and hops into the first step.
As anticipated, the dancing is a absolute disaster; they all keep bumping into each other, falling out of balance and forgetting the order of the different steps and moves.
There are also a couple of instances where Harry falls over and takes someone with him, and it fucks up the entire dance both times - mostly because the rest of them can’t stop laughing.
As anticipated; it’s a whole lot of fun.
Ana tries to teach them for a good half hour before she gives up, goes to restart the music and sits down on the couch so they can show her what they’ve learned.
The only move they all do correctly, at the right time and in sync, is the first step: which is simply stepping forward with one foot.
“I mean, you’ve all got, um. Potential.” She says as she grabs her phone and puts it in her bag. “It might just take some time to ..reach it.”
“I think Harry needs the most time.” Louis says, causing Harry to pout and the rest to laugh. Louis bumps his hip right after though, with a genuine smile, and Harry’s pout vanishes like it never existed at all.
“Just let me know if you wanna sign up for any classes guys!” Ana offers as she shoulders her bag. They all murmur yeah’s in a way that clearly means no, and then calls their goodbye’s as Niall walks her out.
“So, Niall, how do you think they night is going so far?” Niall knows he’ll have to repeat it if he answers with his head inside the fridge, so he pulls out the two cake tins and places them in the already heated oven before he turns to face the camera properly.
“It’s been good, I’d say. Like, the main wasn’t the best, but other than that we’ve had fun.”
“What about entertainment?”
“The dancing was hilarious. I’m just glad they’re all as terrible as me, and that we could just have fun with it.”
“Do you think anyone will sign up for some irish folkdance classes?”
“No, not in a million years.” Niall says through laughter, the rest of the crew chuckling as well. “They should though, I think we all need to improve our skills.”
“Not arguing with that.” Ruth mumbles, before clearing her throat. “Did you remember to set a timer for the cakes?”
“Shit! No, um, how long has it been? Thirty minutes, right? So if I. Um. Imma put it on twenty-five and then check.”
After double-checking the timer is set, he begins making the icing for the cake, grabbing the walnuts and chopping them first.
Ruth asks a few more questions, wants some details on what he think he could’ve done better with the main and compare it to the other mains of the weeks, and Niall answers in between melting the chocolate and beating in butter and separating the icing to add the walnuts to the filling-bit.
“Is this a cake you’ve made before?”
“No. But I’ve had it a few times, it’s good.”
“Are you worried about anyone not liking it?”
“I dunno.” He says with a shrug, but then stops to think it over. “Maybe Harry? He’s only drunk wine this week, maybe he doesn’t like beer? But the beer-taste isn’t too strong I don’t think.”
By the time the timer goes off, the icing is done and he’s also made the mix for the cake-in-a-cup for Zayn.
He grabs a fork and pokes it through the cake, to check if it’s cooked through.
It comes out with wet dough sticking to it.
“Shit.” He curses, pulling the fork through his thumb and index finger and licking off the dough. “It should be done. At least close to. Not this raw.”
“Is the temperature right?” Ruth asks, and Niall’s stomach twists at the question. He knows exactly what the answer is.
“No.” He mumbles through his fingers as he runs his hands over his face. “I was supposed to turn it up after I’d taken the coddle out. I just.” He bites down on his bottom lip. “If I turn it up now, would it ruin the cakes?” One look at Ruth tells him she’s not gonna answer, as per usual. “I’ll ring mum.”
After a quick conversation - Theo had already left, aka no distractions - he cranks the heat up to where it’s supposed to be.
“She said it might get a bit burnt on the top or around the edges, but I can just cut those bits away, and it should be completely fine.”
When he checks on the cakes ten minutes later, they are indeed burnt, but also cooked through, so he takes the tins out and turns the oven off.
The cakes needs to cool a bit before he can take them out of their tins. He figures putting them on the windowsill for the required five minutes will probably help. That’s why they do it in movies and shit, right?
Those five minutes passes extremely slowly, giving him time to pull out a big plate to serve it on, and also to stir the icing, like, fifteen times, and ask the boys if they need anything - they don’t - and then scrolling through his twitter.
Four and a half minutes later he’s run out of patience and turns the first cake upside-down over the plate. It slides out without any hassle, and he grins at the camera in triumph, before grabbing the icing with the chopped walnuts in it and spreading it out on top.
“Um, I probably should’ve left it a bit longer” He says as he watches the icing become thin like water, melting into and over and around the cake. Nonetheless, he turns the second sponge over it, but carries it back to the window, not putting icing on that top yet. “I hate waiting. Time always goes incredibly slow when you’re waiting like this.”
He lasts for probably less than a minute before he goes to check on the cake, being almost burned when he touches the back of his fingers to it.
Burned. Fuck. “I forgot to cut off the burnt pieces on the bottom one.” He says with a sigh. “I need to stop making all these tiny mistakes..” He mumbles the last part mostly to himself, but he can feel the camera looming behind him, and he turns to explain how annoying it is that he always forget small things like these and it’s obviously butchering his chances.
He’s interrupted by a bang coming from the hall though.
It’s an automatic reaction, really, the way he just runs out into the living room to make sure everyone’s alright.
They are, they’re all sitting around the table, looking just as puzzled as him, and he thinks something must’ve fallen down in the hall, and he rushes towards it, maybe the coat rack or-
Something has fallen down in the hall, well, someone. “Jeffry.”
He’s out of, completely and utterly out of it, skin pale and eyes empty as he looks up at him from where he’s fallen down along the wall. “Leave.” Niall says to the crew, turning around when he doesn’t hear any footsteps. “There’s no reason for you to film this.”
Once they’ve gone back to the living room, he crouches down next to him. “Hi, hey mate. You okay? You with me?” There’s no response, but at least his eyes move from where Niall‘s head were when he was standing, down to find him again.
Niall has to suppress the shiver that wants to run down his back when their eyes meet.
How Jeffry even managed to get inside the flat is beyond him.
“Alright, let’s get you up.” He says, grabbing him under the armpits and lifting him. He’s dead weight in Niall’s arms but at least manages to stay on his feet so Niall can maneuver him over to his bedroom.
The key is in the door - thank god for that - so he unlocks and opens it, making a grimace when the smell hits his nose; a pleasant mix of sweat and stale air. He sits Jeffry down on the bed and steps over dirty clothes and trash to reach the window, opening it as wide as it goes.
“I’ll be right back.” He says, before he exits, closing the door behind him.
There’s silence as he walks past the boys and into the kitchen, fetching a bottle of water and some plain biscuits, and then heads back, four pairs of eyes following him.
Jeffry’s still in the same position, sitting slumped on the bed, looking like he might faceplant the floor any second.
“Alright.” Niall says cheerily, kneeling in front of him and unscrewing the lid of the bottle. “Gonna need you to drink some water for me.” Jeffry’s still unresponsive, so Niall tilts his head back and sets the bottle to his lip, slowly pouring some in and waiting for him to swallow.
After a few minutes some colour returns to his cheeks, and he blinks slowly before taking bigger mouthfuls.
When half the bottle is gone, Niall sets it on the nightstand and grabs a biscuit. “Can you eat this for me?” Jeffry frowns but takes it, nibbling tiny pieces of it while Niall watches.
“Thanks.” He mumbles finally, it’s always the first thing he’s says once he starts to come back.
Niall follows with the first thing he always answers. “Are you hurt? Do you know what you took?” Jeffry shrugs, which unfortunately is the norm.
Niall sighs. He’s given up on trying to convince him to let him call paramedics - the few times he did Jeffry refused any help, and the paramedics eventually had to leave.
Instead he nods, makes sure he drinks some more water, and then helps him lie down on the bed so he can go to sleep.
As exits, he leaves the door cranked open, so that Jeffry wont wake up and panic thinking he’s locked up again.
The cake is definitely cool enough now, so he grabs it from where it’s placed on the windowsill and stirs the icing a few times, before spreading it over the top and sides of the cake, finishing with a sprinkle of walnuts while Zayn’s cake-in-a-cup is in the microwave.
He slices the cake, putting one piece on each plate and then carries it all - the rest of the cake included, incase anyone wants seconds - out on the table.
“Enjoy.” He says, and only then remembers he forgot to remove the burnt bits on the top sponge as well. “Um, I burnt it a bit, forgot to remove that. So like, just put it aside if you find any.”
They eat in silence, no doubt because of the whole scene with Jeffry, and even when they compliment the cake, it’s mumbled.
It is good though, the Guinness isn’t too overpowering, and if you manage to avoid the burnt stuff it tastes pretty decent.
You can’t really taste the layer of icing in the middle though.
Zayn says he likes his cake as well, and he finishes first. Niall offers to make another one, but he says he’s full so they leave it at that.
The silence is uncomfortable, loaded with the questions they wont ask. “Can you turn off the camera’s for a bit?” He asks Ruth, who doesn’t look too pleased. Niall doesn’t back down though, looks her straight in the eyes, and after a moment she agrees, gesturing for the guy to stop filming.
“Thanks.” He says, before turning back to the boys. It’s not like he thinks they’d actually add this in the show, but he wants to be on the safe side. “My roommate’s a bit troubled. Bad childhood, abusive dad, you know the drill. Like, I don’t know a lot of details, but yeah, he’s in a bad place and he does a lot of bad shit.”
“You don’t have to explain.” Louis says softly, to which the other boys nods.
“I know. But like, you’ve already seen it, and it’d be kinda nice to have someone to air it out with.” There’s another round of nods, these ones more understanding. “So, he’s been like this - an addict - since we moved in here, and he’s not always as out of it as this, like sometimes he’s all over the place; loud and stuff, and sometimes he just seems ..normal.
Anyway, I’ve tried to help him, like in the beginning I tried to make him hang out with me instead of the people he’s usually with, and then, when I realized how bad things actually were, I tried to make him get help. Like see a therapist or go to rehab or, just. Something. But he wont, and I can’t make him.”
“Yeah, no, you can’t force anyone over eighteen to rehab or counseling against their will. Unless he gets in trouble with the law and is sentenced to it.” Louis says with a frown.
“Exactly. And then, when I told him that, like, this lifestyle was gonna kill him in the end, he was like I know. Like he wants it to, that’s what he’s aiming for.” Niall sighs. “I can’t help him cause he doesn’t want it, and I feel like I spend half my time worrying about it all, like every night when he doesn’t come home. And like, that, combined with the fact that my other roommate suddenly wants nothing to do with me.. Like." He swallows around the lump in his throat that appeared from nowhere. Shit. He really didn’t want to be the one to bring heavy subjects on the table, but he just needs to know - “Am I a bad person for moving out?”
“No!” Harry says firmly. “You’ve offered help and it’s been declined, there’s nothing more you can do. And if this affects you in a negative way, which it clearly does, then your responsibility is to take care of you.”
“But like, what if he changes his mind, and wants help, and I’m not here?”
“Give him your number and new address, make sure he can find you if he needs to. Just because you don’t live here, doesn’t mean that you can’t be there for him.”
“Do you have a new place?” Zayn asks.
“No. I’m staying till I’m done with finals and shit. And then there’s summer vacation, so I figured I’d go back home, and then find something new for next semester. I have to pay for three more months, and I can’t afford two rents.”
“Um. I-” Liam starts before cutting himself off. He looks a bit panicked as everyone stares at him, but takes a deep breath and continues. “My sister, um, who I live with? She’s looking to move in with her boyfriend, but she doesn’t wanna, like, leave me alone. So if you’re interested, I mean..” He trails off scratching at his neck. “It could be better than living with complete strangers?”
“For real? Yeah, that’d be.. Yeah! If you’re sure?”
“Yeah. Yeah, it’s not too far from here I think? And like, the rent is really cheap since the guy’s a friend of my mum, so you could move in earlier and not pay rent there while you’re paying here, cause i can afford it. I mean, if you want-”
“Fuck, yeah, off course I do! That’d be amazing!”
“And we can have dinner parties at your place!” Harry adds with a big smile.
“Gotta redeem myself with my cooking, don’t I?” Niall says, earning a round of laughter. It’s funny becausr it’s true, and all that.
The camera’s turned back on shortly after, and they keep the conversation light, talking a bit about uni and jobs while they finish dessert.
When they’re all done, Ruth goes to call the taxi’s and the boys help Niall clean the table, and then say their goodbye’s before Niall does the final interview for the camera.
They each give him tight hugs before they go and all of them silently asks him if he’s alright, and, honestly, it warms him inside-out.
“How do you think your night went?”
“Today’s been good. I think the food was alright, just did a few stupid mistakes, but I don’t think it was that big of a deal to be honest. Um, I’m not gonna win, for sure, all of the other three nights were better - at least food-wise.
I think my entertainment was maybe the best of the week. But, like, we’ve all had fun every night, so I don’t think it was enough to win me the prize.”
“How was the dessert?”
“Oh. Um. The dessert was okay. I forgot to cut off the burnt bits but I don’t think you could really taste it anyway, so.”
“And what score would you give yourself?”
“If I were to score my night.. I dunno, I’d probably give it a seven, I think.”
“Alright.” Ruth says as the camera and mic is lowered. “Thank you for today, and we’ll see you tomorrow!”
“Yeah. Um, I’ll walk you out, keep the boys company while they’re waiting.” On the way out, he grabs one of the plates and forks - not really sure whose it is, and not really caring - and cuts himself another slice of the cake, making it extra big in case any of the other boys wants more as well.
When he gets outside, the crew and Liam are already gone.
Niall walks over to the remaining three boys who are huddled together. Harry’s leaning on Louis who has his arm around his waist, so Niall goes to stand next to Zayn, who’s facing the other two. “Cake?” He offers, holding the plate out so they can all reach it, but taking the fork himself to have the first bite.
“Actually, um, can I have a taste?” Zayn asks uncertainly. Niall shrugs and hands over the fork.
“Thought you didn’t do alcohol?”
“I do, just. Not on telly.” He says, eyeing Niall and Harry a little wearily.
“To each their own.” Niall replies with another shrug. People hide parts of themselves all the time, it’s no big deal.
“We all know I’m scheming.” Harry adds when Zayn’s attention shifts to him, tiliting the fork towards him in a unspoken question. He makes grabby motions for the fork and cuts himself a rather big bite once he gets it. Louis coughs very pointedly, making Harry feed it to him, before cutting off another piece for himself.
The car returns and Liam climbs out, waving as he walks over to the taxi that‘ll take him home.
No one makes a immediate move towards the awaiting cab and crew, so they stand there just staring at each other for a moment before Zayn rolls his eyes and goes.
They finish the cake by the time he gets back, and Niall places the plate and fork next to the building door so he can curl his cold fingers inside the sleeves of his sweater.
Harry leaves Louis side to do his interview while Zayn walks up to them. “The Guinness cake was really good Niall, I forgot to tell you earlier.”
“Thanks.” Niall replies, and then Zayn goes to his own cab with a shouted see you tomorrow.
Niall and Louis chat while they wait, and Niall slots himself into the place along Louis’ side that Harry previously occupied, because it’s chilly outside and he forgot his jacket. It makes Harry frown a bit when he returns, but he quickly composes himself and walks over.
“I’ll wait till you get back?” He asks Louis who nods, and then scurries off to do the last interview of the night. In the absence of Louis’ warmth, Niall curls into Harry instead. He doesn’t provide as much heat as Louis did, but they make do with what they have.
Harry’s cab driver honks impatiently, and Harry holds up one finger, telling him to wait. Louis comes back shortly after and they wait till the crew leaves again before Harry walks over to his own taxi.
And sends it away empty.
“Ooookay.” Niall says, eyeing them. Harry smiles and shrugs and Louis just laughs. “Right. Imma go back inside. See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you.” They chorus.
“And, um, have fun? Be safe and all that.” He enters his building to the sound of laughter.
It’s not till he’s turning off the kitchen lights that he remembers the plate and fork sat on the pavement.
“Fuck it.” He mutters to himself. He’s going to bed, end off. He’s already missing stuff from his dishware anyway, it’s not like he’ll mourn the loss if anyone steals them.
Chapter 5: Friday
It’s the annoying sound of his alarm that wakes Louis up Friday morning, bright and early at eight thirty am. It’s also very unnecessary, because Louis can sleep in today, can sleep till eleven actually, but he’d forgotten to change his pre-scheduled alarm last night.
Louis turns it off and stretches, palms reaching the wall behind him and toes stretching past where the mattress ends.
His back pops deliciously, and he turns to his left, a small smile spreading across his face.
Harry looks adorable when he sleeps.
And that’s really saying something, isn’t it, considering his hair is all ruffled and his mouth is pouty and slightly open, and his cheek is all squished against his pillow.
Louis ignores the urge to pull his fingers through Harry’s soft-looking hair, and instead leans up on his elbows and admires the view.
Harry is laying on his stomach, arms surrounding his head on his pillow, and legs spread rather wide apart. He has part of the bed sheet wrapped around his left leg - upper thigh to above the ankle - and other than that, he’s completely and utterly naked.
It’s a sight to behold.
Last night was great, they’d gone straight to bed - dressed down to their undies quickly and then snuck under the covers, where they’d had a staring contest for a minute or so before Harry had given in, throwing himself on top of Louis and practically attacking his lips.
They’d only gone for handjobs though, ending with Harry grabbing them both in one and bringing them to a quick finish, before they’d drifted off to sleep.
It’s been an exhausting week, really.
Louis’ wide awake now however, knows he wont be able to fall back asleep for ages, and, well, he’s got a Harry in his bed, all soft and sleepy and there. He’d be a fool not to make the best of that opportunity.
He doesn’t know how deep of a sleeper Harry is, but the possibilities are limited when it comes to what he can do to Harry when his on his stomach anyway, isn‘t it? Louis has nothing against a good rimjob, but Harry is practically a stranger, and though Louis is pretty sure he’s a hygienic and clean guy, rimjobs with practically strangers is simply not a thing.
So. Fingering it is.
He’s half-hard at the mere though of it - well he was half-hard when he woke up, but details - Harry’s sounds are still well embedded in his mind, and he’s very much looking forward to relive them.
With minimal movement, he manages to get off the bed without jostling Harry.
He walks over to his door, where he stands still for a moment, listening to any noises or movement, and then - by the lack of it - deems the place empty.
He shares his flat with five others.
Well, calling it a flat might be a bit generous, to be honest. It’s an old building, and though it has been redecorated and modernized several times over the past decades, the layout of it remains the same.
Essentially, this means they each have a medium sized bedroom with bathrooms built in, and a long, but rather narrow room in the middle of it all that rooms the hall, kitchen and living room. It’s not particularly cozy.
The fact that the only two people who’s stayed throughout the entire year is him and a blonde girl doesn’t make it any better either. The girl - Veronica or Victoria, he never remembers which one it is - is completely uninterested in getting to know anyone, and the four others who have stayed for various lengths of time, are all foreign students who doesn’t speak much English at all. Or at least pretends that’s the case.
Bottom line, Louis isn’t much of a fan of his housing at the moment, but, the situation could probably be worse.
Having taken a quick wee, he tiptoes back to the bed, to see Harry still peacefully sleeping.
He walks over to his chest of drawers - because there simply is no room for a nightstand - and pulls out the bottom one, retrieving the lube and a condom. Louis is all about consent though, so after having carefully kneeled back on the bed, he puts his supplies aside and instead focuses on waking Harry up.
Carefully making his way between Harry’s spread thighs, he considers his options;
a smack on the bum, a massage, pulling his hair- but then Harry’s inner thigh catches his attention. High up on his pale skin is a dark red - edging on purple - bruise. At first Louis’ tummy knots in jealousy at the thought of someone else marking this boy up so shortly before he found him, but then he remembers Harry’s dinner party, and his little game and how Louis had bitten his thigh, just for the hell of it.
He smirks, staring at the mark, and only takes a second to make up his mind before he presses his thumb against it, as hard as he possibly can.
Harry literally gasps awake, and for a moment Louis wonders if he took it a bit too far, and upset the boy, but when Harry rolls over, his pupils are blown and his dick lying half-hard against his thigh.
“Morning!” Louis says cheerily.
“Morning.” Harry drawls out, far slower and deeper and more seductive than Louis was prepared for. To steel himself, he rubs his hands up Harry’s thighs.
“Sleep well?” He asks, not sure why he‘s bothering with the smalltalk, as he clearly has intentions as to what should happen next, and he really would like to get on with it.
“Splendid.” Harry responds with a smile. “You?” He drags his hand up his own thigh to meet Louis’ and intertwines their fingers, pulling so that Louis lands on his elbows and knees above Harry.
Louis hums. “I dunno. Someone stole the bed sheets just so he could sleep on top of them.” Harry’s lips spread into a slow grin.
“I literally woke up shivering in the middle of the night only to find the sheets balled up and tucked into your arms like a teddy bear. Figured I’d have better use of them than you.” It’s not the first time Louis has been told he’s done that in the middle of the night.
Just like every other time, he denies it.
“Lies will get you nowhere! ..I probably should invest in a second blanket tough.” It’s not him saying he wants Harry to spend more time in his bed. He has several other friends who occasionally stay the night. He also wants Harry to spend more time in his bed though.
“Wouldn’t hurt.” Harry replies, and that’s an agreement if Louis’ ever heard one.
“Maybe a second duvet as well.” He adds, completely conversational. They’re on the topic of it, it’s only natural really. “For those cold winter nights.” Harry doesn’t respond to that, instead, he curls his fingers around Louis’ neck and pulls him down for a kiss.
It’s slow and nice - morning breath aside - but every time Louis tries to speed things up a little, Harry ignores him. However, he’s still rutting up against him - slowly, but oh so sexily, so Louis’ not really offended.
Harry’s hands move from where they’re grasping his neck and Louis’ hand. He drags his blunt nails down Louis’ back in a way that somehow both tickles and scratches him at the same time, making Louis shiver. He tries to hide it by nibbling onto Harry’s bottom lip, but the boy’s already smirking against his mouth. As a punishment, Louis detaches his lips from his, and instead attacks the underside of his jaw, sucking and biting until he’s sure there’ll be a lasting mark.
Harry arches against him, their chests flush together, and drags his hands further down till he’s proper groping and squeezing Louis’ arse. He pulls the cheeks apart and a finger finds it’s way to Louis’ hole, rubbing over it.
He can feel Harry tense under him, probably wary of Louis’ reaction, and he tries his best to melt back into Harry’s arms, but he just can’t.
“Um.” He says awkwardly, pulling away from Harry’s neck.
“I don’t mind- um, I mean. I’m versatile?” Harry offers, and Louis feels his muscles relax a bit.
“Okay, alright. Good. I, uh, mainly top.”
“It’s okay.” Harry says, tentatively raising his left hand so he can brush his fingers through Louis’ hair. “Some people don’t like to bottom, it’s no problem.”
“It’s not- it’s.” Louis sighs. “I.. It just takes some time for me to be comfortable enough with someone to bottom.” He finally admits.
It’s weird, because Louis is a somewhat of a dominant top, likes to be in charge and likes to see people fall apart at his hands, really. But put something up his bum though, and he becomes a blubbering, pleading, submissive mess of a boy.
It makes him feel vulnerable; it’s a side of himself that he’s never been comfortable showing people, and he needs to trust Harry completely before they go there.
“And that’s fine as well. I honestly don’t mind.” Harry assures, giving Louis’ bum a final small squeeze before he moves both his hands to his waist.
Louis kisses him with gratitude.
Despite the small setback, they quickly get comfortable with each other again. Harry doesn’t try to fight Louis for dominance - neither over their bodies or their kiss, and it makes Louis feel much more at ease.
When Harry starts to wriggle more underneath him, his hard cock sliding against Louis’ hip, Louis finally pulls away to sit back on his knees. He grabs the bottle of lube, shakes it in the air a little with a raised eyebrow and small smile, and Harry bites at his bottom lip and nods in return.
He can tell Harry tries to be patient as he waits for Louis to warm the lube with his fingers, but his body keeps twitching every now and then, like he can’t physically relax.
It’s amusing, really, so much so that Louis takes his time, slowly dragging his fingers through his palm.
It turns him on as well though, and he’s not one for teasing himself, so eventually, he wraps his lubed palm around Harry’s cock, giving it a few strokes, and then reaches the fingers of his other hand down.
Harry is very responsive, is the thing; back arching and breaths almost always leaving his lips as a moans, thighs twitching deliciously - it’s mesmerizing.
Louis doesn’t take long before going from one to two fingers, but the transition to three, however, is something else entirely.
Harry pleads and begs for it, but Louis ignores him completely, as Harry obviously enjoys it anyway.
Minutes later, once he’s - albeit reluctantly - three fingers deep, he starts using his mouth as well, licking and sucking at his cock until Harry starts proper gasping, and then pulling off, nibbling at his thighs or teasing his nipples instead.
He does a few rounds of this, constantly driving Harry - and himself, to be honest - to the edge.
It’s when he’s suckling at the head and playing with one of nipples at the same time, fingers slowly thrusting up against Harry’s prostate, that Harry gasps a ‘Lou!’, and comes.
His thighs squeezes against the sides of Louis’ chest, and he arches off the bed as he throws his head back in a final silent moan.
It makes Louis stop for a second - surprised but delighted - before he collects himself and quickly pulls back as he’s kinda forgotten to breathe, all the while prodding his fingers up inside Harry.
When Harry’s spent, he literally collapses back on the bed. Louis didn’t even know his mattress was that soft. He finda himself left with a raging boner and a seemingly unhelpful Harry, so he’s got no choice left but to take matters into his own hands.
Pulling out of Harry, he stands up on his knees, and uses that very hand - all warm and wet - to wank himself off. Harry grins up at him, filthily and hot, and Louis braces himself on his other hand as he comes all over Harry’s ridiculous butterfly tattoo, biting into Harry’s shoulder to silence himself. The flat might be empty, but Louis isn’t really proud of how squeaky his moans gets when he comes.
Harry’s still grinning when Louis lifts his head, so Louis swats at his arm. “Thanks for helping.” He says, voice laced with sarcasm. Harry only laughs.
After a few moments of relaxation - aka Louis trying to go back to sleep - Harry starts nagging at him to take a shower.
“I don’t need a shower.” Louis says, eyes closed and heavy. “You’re the one covered in jizz, not me.”
“Louuuuis.” Harry whines, poking at Louis’ side until he opens one eye and glares at him. “There’s no fun showering alone.” He’s got a pretty pout on his lips, eyes still glossy and soft from sleep and sex and it takes most of Louis’ willpower to turn away from him again.
Face turned to the ceiling, he shrugs, burying himself deeper into the bed and whishes he could command his body to be as boneless as Harry’s were mere minutes ago. He does feel relaxed through, comfortable and sated and he closes his eyes while focusing on breathing deeply.
The silence has just gone on long enough for Louis to start getting suspicious when there’s a hand being dragged over his stomach. It’s sticky.
“Harry!” He gasps, eyes flying open to see a white substance smeared right above his navel.
“Now you need a shower as well!” Harry reasons with a bright, almost giddy, smile.
Louis would’ve slapped him if he weren’t so cute.
“I do.” He agrees, shifting. “But I’m not gonna take one with you!” Leaping out of bed, he runs for the bathroom, Harry hot on his heels. His stomach is curling in on itself in a mix of scary thrill and delight and he has to hold in the squeal as he reaches the bathroom door, throwing it open just as Harry grabs him from behind.
“Put me down!” He shouts as Harry carries him over to the shower and drops him inside it, before stepping in himself and sliding the glass door shut.
Louis jumps up against the wall of the cubicle as Harry turns the shower on, knowing it’ll either be freezing or scolding, and wanting to stay out of the spray either way.
He’s breathing a bit heavily, just from the rush of the past few seconds, and Harry is staring intensely at him.
Louis raises his eyebrows.
“How nice to share a shower.” Harry says, snapping out of his trance.
“Idiot.” Louis responds, putting his hand out to feel the temperature. It’s almost warmed up, so he goes in under the water and makes sure to take up as much of the spray as he can when Harry joins him. “Not so nice now, is it?”
“Mm, I beg to differ.” Harry says, somehow squeezing himself in behind Louis and wrapping around him, pressing a kiss to his shoulder in the process. Louis grumbles and swats at him, although he really doesn’t mind it at all.
Harry offers - well insists more like it - to wash his hair, and well, it’s not like Louis’ gonna object to that, is it? His hands are like magic as he rubs the shampoo in with the tips of his fingers, just like a proper hairdresser does. It’s hard to keep the moans back, really.
“Think I’m gonna keep you around just for this.” Louis says, leaning back against Harry’s chest.
“I’m complimenting your skills, be thankful.” Harry pulls harshly at his hair, making Louis jolt back right into the spray of water before he has any chance of breaching himself. As a result, he somehow manages to breathe in water trough his nose and his mouth.
“Whoops, sorry.” Harry apologizes as Louis splutters water, the chemicals in the shampoo stinging at his eyes even though they were closed. Louis is at least ninety-five percent sure it was on purpose.
“See if I ever compliment you again.”
“See if I ever wash your hair again.” Harry chirps back, right before there’s the snick of a lid and he continues massaging at Louis’ scalp.
“Definitely keeping you around.” Louis concludes with a sigh as his eyes yet again slips closed.
Breakfast consists of the amazing luxury food that is coco pops and milk. It’s basically the only food he has, like, besides some frozen meals and half a jar of mustard.
Harry seems disappointed.
“Don’t you like to eat, you know, healthy?” He asks, skeptically chewing on the cereal like it’s gonna hurt him.
“Sometimes.” Louis says with a shrug. It’s a lie, he only eats healthy if there’s something on sale or someone’s making and serving him it. It doesn’t matter though, as Harry doesn’t seem to believe him anyway. “What do you normally eat for breakfast then?”
Harry shrugs. “Like oatmeal or muesli or something, and fruit or berries. Maybe some yoghurt. And milk.”
“Right. Well, you’ve got the milk down. Cocoa’s like ..a plant? Grows on plants? That probably qualifies as fruit.” Harry snorts. “And there’s like, wheat or something in these, which there is also in muesli.”
“So, basically the same thing then.” Harry correctly concludes. Louis gives him a satisfied nod.
“Kinda getting worried about what we’ll be served tonight.”
“Hey!” Louis complains as he sets his bowl in the sink. “I’ll have you know I actually have a very healthy menu laid out for tonight.” Which he actually does, though it has more to do with keeping things simple than keeping it healthy.
“Do you now?”
“Yes. And I will not tell you, as it is against the rules, so stop fishing.” Harry pouts.
“When are they coming anyway?” He finally asks, taking a spoonful of the - now soggy - pops. Louis grimaces. “What?”
“Your foods gone soggy. Do you want to throw it out, start over?”
“I was waiting for them to go soggy, that’s when they’re best.” The pouts’ back on his face, like he knows how wrong that is, and should be ashamed. He should, really.
Louis shakes his head and tuts as he walks over to the telly to check the time display on the DVD-player. Someone really should invest in a wall clock.
“They’re coming in like …thirty minutes.” He says with a sigh. He’d much rather spend the day curled up in bed with Harry than cooking stupid food with a camera in his face.
Harry makes a small displeased sound as he stretches. “Should probably head out soon then.” He says. “Got to do the menu-read and all that anyway.”
While Harry puts on last nights wrinkled clothes, Louis puts on his old red sweatpants and a white t-shirt with a bit of a scoop neck. It shows of his collarbones nicely - and his chest hair, so that he can reclaim the masculinity he’s sure Dave Lamb will narrate away once the episodes air.
Grabbing one of the waxes he took from Harry’s on Wednesday, he combs his fingers through his hair to make an half-arsed do. It’s a bit fluffier and less styled than he’s had it the previous nights, but he’ll fix it before the boys come over.
Harry’s busy tying his scarf into his hair when Louis exit’s the bathroom, back turned to him as he’s facing the full-body mirror hanging on his door, and Louis stops to admire the muscles moving over his back, deliciously tempting even through the sweater.
Louis has always been a sucker for a muscular back.
He smiles at Harry when he catches his eye through the mirror, but doesn’t look away or try to hide he’s been watching him. Harry doesn’t seem to mind anyway, tightening the final knot and hiding the loose ends in the constructed mess of fabric before turning to face him.
He walks past Louis and grabs his phone from the top of the drawer, stuffing it in his pocket, before he sits on the bed and beckons Louis over to sit on his lap.
“Well last night was lovely.” Harry says, leaning up to brush a kiss to his cheek once Louis is seated. “And this morning.”
“Mm, it was indeed.”
“And. We’ll, I mean. It’ll happen again, right?” He looks bashful, borderline nervous, even though everything they said this morning indicated that this was certainly not a one-off.
“I’m game if you are.” Louis says casually, though he knows his smile gives him away, the fact that he tries to bite it down probably not working in his favour. Well, if he wanted Harry to think he’s completely casual about it, that is, because Harry leans in to give him a soft kiss and that definitely is in Louis’ favour.
They kiss for a while, lips slotting together in lacy open-mouthed kisses while Louis stays in Harry’s lap. He’s towering over Harry for once, and it’s nice - though he does like being the smaller one. Not that he’s admitting that.
Harry’s palms are resting on his lower back, twitching occasionally like he’s not sure where he’s allowed to put them. It’s sweet, and Louis really appreciates the fact that Harry’s being respective.
Still, he pulls back from the kiss, only an inch or so. “You’re allowed to touch.” He says, breath wet in the constricted space between their lips. “I don’t mind. Promise.”
Harry still seems a bit unsure, eyes flicking up to Louis’ as he slowly lowers his hands to cup a good feel at his arse. He squeezes, carefully at first, and Louis tries to smile encouragingly, but it’s probably clouded by lust.
Leaning back in, he kisses along Harry’s jaw before he finds his lips again, Harry’s mouth is already open and willing, and god Louis could do this all day.
He winds his fingers into Harry’s hair, tugging gently as they kiss, and Harry seems to throw all caution to the wind as he pulls Louis’ hips closer to his own, fingers probably leaving red imprints. He can feel himself starting to get hard, cock twitching each time his crotch makes contact with Harry’s, and he forces himself to pull away.
“Babe,” He pants, dodging Harry whenever he tries to reel him back in. “darling, you know I’d love to keep doing this, but-” He groans as Harry slowly palms him, mouth attached to his throat and he gives himself three seconds of pleasure before he moves Harry’s hand.
“Seriously. The crew is coming any minute, and I’d rather not have my mum and sisters see me on telly with a stiffy, yeah?”
“We’ll be quick.” Harry argues. Louis can feel his resolve crumbling.
“What time’s it?” He asks himself as he fishes Harry’s phone out of his pocket, totally not purposely brushing Harry’s cock in the process. “We’ve got, like, seven minutes.”
“I’ll blow you real quick.” Harry decides, in a swift movement standing up and dumping Louis on the bed.
“Fuck. Yeah, alright.”
Harry keeps his promise, seemingly pulling out all his tricks as he goes down on Louis. It works very well indeed, as Louis comes minutes later - despite the fact that he tried to make it last longer - and Harry crawls up the bed, fist already working himself.
Louis considers helping, but, fuck it, he was left to his own devices earlier, and also; Harry looks hot as hell wanking himself off. “Not on my clothes.” He says instead, because he doesn’t know what else he could wear, should Harry spoil them.
Harry looks slightly bewildered for a second, so Louis touches his fingertips to Harry’s thigh, gaining his attention, before he closes his eyes and tilts his head back.
Harry definitely gets Louis’ offer, as the bed dips by his chest and come splatter over his cheek and lips a moment later.
It’s not even five seconds after he’s closed the door behind Harry that the doorbell buzzes.
He wrenches the door open again as he presses the button to let the crew in downstairs. Harry’s just about halfway down the first flight of stairs. “They’re here!” He whisper yells, and Harry turns to him with big eyes. It’s a bit funny, seeing as they’re not actually doing anything illegal, but, “Hide!”
Harry runs back upstairs and down the hall, pulling the hood of his jacket up as he comes to a stop in front of one of his neighbors doors. He stands there, back to Louis and the stairs, as the crew emerges, greeting him and entering through Louis’ open door without so much as a glance back.
Once they’re inside, Harry sprints over and gives Louis a quick peck on the lips, before darting down the stairs with a grin.
Louis shakes his head with a smile before closing the door behind himself and joining the crew in the kitchen.
“Alright, Louis. We’ll arrange your room to put the table and chairs there, right?”
“Yeah.” Louis says. There’s really no other place to fit it, seeing as the living room is stuffed already with the tv-rack and two sofas and small table. ..Not that there’s a lot of space in Louis’ room either, he’s still not quite sure how it’s gonna fit. “It’s all down in the basement, you want me to get it now?”
Ruth considers it for a moment before she nods, all three of them coming along with him so that it’ll go quicker.
It’s not much, a fold table and five fold chairs - all of which are actually outdoors furniture he borrowed from a friend - plus a bag. The furniture looks weathered and ugly, but he’s got a table cloth and some sitting pillows, so if he combines those with a good wash-down it should be perfectly fine.
He leaves the Ikea-bag full of supplies and the one chair he was carrying leaning against the wall outside his bedroom as he opens up the door to it. It definitely smells like sex in there. Oops.
“You might want to ..air out. A bit.” Ruth suggests, which is somewhat embarrassing. Instead of responding he opens the window and hopes the slightly chill air will take the heat off of his face. Probably not.
“Um. We’re gonna have to put most things on my bed.” He says. He considers changing the sheets first, but he’s pretty sure he and Harry they didn’t actually spill on them, and besides, he’s gonna have to change them tonight anyway, with all the dirt that’ll rub off from the legs of his other furniture.
He should probably give his floors a quick wash as well, lord knows a lot of dust will be hiding behind his stuff.
His bed is a small double, or large single, whichever one prefers, so at least it can room what he needs.
“The desk will have to stay where it is.” It’s cramped with things and wires and would be hell to move, really, so no one argues with him
Other than that, he’s got a two-seater couch, his chest of drawers that doubles - well triples - as nightstand and tv-stand, his desk chair and the tiny stool that doubles as a table.
Somehow, they manage to balance it all on his bed.
It clears a good amount of space. It also reveals a good amount of dust bunnies.
“Yeah, I definitely need to wash the floors.” Louis says.
“Right.” Ruth agrees, turning to address the other two. “Let’s get ready to film while he gets whatever supplies he needs.”
They film him as he vacuums the floor - making him feel pressured to do a decent job, really - and asks him why he throws water over his floors instead of just wetting the mop - it’s how my mum’s always done it -, and then they watch him struggle to unfold the table.
Which, it’s actually is not as easy as it seems, thank you very much.
He lets out a shout of victory as the table pops open, only for it to turn into a groan as dead leaves and dry dirt fall to his floor.
After cleaning that mess up, he sets the chairs up and washes it all - which takes over half an hour as it’s dirty as fuck - before he declares himself done and ready to shop.
“It’s a good thing my food-prep wont take too long.” He says, throwing the dirty water out the window, before leaning out and making sure he didn’t actually splash anyone.
They pop by a farm shop first, where Louis buys all the fruit and veg he needs for tonight. He may or may not also buy some organic muesli and extra strawberries and bananas, trying to keep his face as neutral as possible - and probably failing - but like, that’s his business and all that.
From there they go to the Sainsbury’s down the street, the one he met Harry at on Wednesday and he smirks as he walks past the drinks, over to the meats where he gets kosher minced beef and turkey bacon while he holds a brief, awkward conversation with the man behind the counter.
After adding the few other ingredients he needs, he heads towards the alcohol, picking out beer and wine, as well as non-alcoholic wine for Zayn - as he hasn’t had any beer so far this week.
Going over his budget in his head, he knows he has a bit money to spare - seeing as his menu is simple and mostly vegetables and fruit - so he decided to spurge a little and buys a delicious dessert wine, that’s still plenty expensive even if it’s twenty percent off.
Well, plenty expensive for a student anyway.
Once back home, they shut the curtains in the living room because apparently the sun is to bright, and instead turns on every lamp in the room. And then Louis is given the go to start cooking.
First things first, he empties his grocery bags.
They don’t have a lot of space in the fridge, but seeing as his shelf is mostly empty anyway, he manages to fit in over half of his stuff. He has to borrow his flatmates space for the rest of it, but it’s all gonna be used tonight and they’re not coming home anyway, so he figures they wont mind.
Well, hopefully they’re not coming home. Louis wrote a note and hung it on the fridge on Monday - saying he would host a dinner party for come dine with me tonight, and that he needed the flat to himself, and asked them all to sign it when they’d read it; which they all have. He just hopes the four foreign students actually understood what they were signing.
He pops the last cream in the fridge before turning to the camera.
“Alright!” He says, clapping his hands together in a slightly over-eager way. “So, for my starter, I’m actually gonna make it all when the guests are here, so like. That’s that prep done.”
“Tell us what you’re gonna make and why you’ll wait.” Ruth requests.
“I’m making a salad for starter, and, as most people, I prefer my veggies freshly cut. And making a salad doesn’t take long at all either, so.”
Ruth nods. “Do you think you’re playing it too safe?”
“Honestly? No. Like, I’m rubbish at cooking, so I’d rather make something simple and edible than try and cook something fancy and have my guests leave hungry.”
“So you don’t have much hope of winning then?”
Louis laughs, probably a little too loud, but the idea of him actually winning this shit is ridiculous. “Nope, none at all!”
“Why did you sign up for a cooking show then, if you’re not a good cook and you don’t think you’ll win?” They’ve already asked these questions actually, at the first interview they did, but whatever, Louis doesn’t really mind repeating it.
“I signed up for the company, basically. I love getting to know new people, and I like challenging myself with going for things I’m not always super-comfortable with. Besides, I’ve gotten four great, home cooked meals out of it; it’s been a luxurious week, really.”
“What do you normally eat then?”
“For dinner I usually eat take away or frozen food. Or something really easy like pot noodles. Certainly not three course meals.”
“You’ve given pretty high scores all week..” She doesn’t finish, even though Louis wait’s a few seconds for her to do so.
“I have given good scores, yes. To be fair, the food really has been good, like even though my standards may be a bit low. Not that I’m not used to good cooking, my mum’s ace! But, yeah, I guess my expectations were a bit low when I realized we were all students.”
“So it’s been a pleasant surprise then.”
“It’s definitely been a pleasant surprise, yeah. Both the food and the company.”
“Alright, let’s start with the main then.”
“My main course is spag bol.” He says, wiggling his eyebrows. “It’s a simple dish, but like, I’m not taking the easiest way out. So I’m making my own meatballs and sauce. The meatballs are my mums recipe, and then the sauce is one I found online.”
“Your mum didn’t have a good recipe for tomato sauce?” Ruth asks, Louis tries his best not to glare at her.
“She does, but I wanted to try something else I guess. And hers has mushrooms in it, which I hate.”
“You could’ve just taken those out of the recipe, though.”
“I could’ve jut removed the mushrooms, yes, but I found a recipe online that is actually made by Rachael Ray, who happens to be a famous tv-cook overseas, so I’m going with that.” He’d never heard of her, to be honest, before he randomly came across the recipe and then saw there was a video attached. He’s not sure if she’s really famous or not, but either way, she has a tv-show and she’s a cook, so her recipe has to be good.
“Alright, off you go then.”
“Off I go!” Louis agrees, before starting to pull out all the ingredients for his meatballs. “Imma make the balls and the sauce now, and then I’ll cook the spaghetti and reheat everything before serving.” He nods to himself before Ruth can, and pulls out his small, neon-pink frying pan.
The camaraguy - Philip? - lets out a breath of air which sounds suspiciously much like a poorly disguised laugh. The way he presses his lips together pretty much confirms that.
Louis clears his throat. “Um, yes, well, I don’t have the most ..equipped kitchen, as I do not use it a lot. Um, my darling twin sisters gave me this for christmas last year. Picked it out themselves and everything.” He waves it about before he puts it on the stovetop. “I’ve probably used it like, five times to be honest. Says a lot about how often I cook, doesn’t it?”
He grabs his spatula - a cheap plastic one from Ikea that’s a bit malformed after he accidentally left it on the heat a few months back - and places it in the pan, ready to be used once he’s got the meat-dough-mixture-thingy ready. “Alright. Now, I think I have a bowl somewhere…”
It turns out he doesn’t. Only after looking through all the cupboards three times does he vaguely recall that he left some food it in so long it got rotten and moldy and completely disgusting and he thought fuck it, and threw it away, making a mental note to buy a new one.
He probably should’ve written that note down.
“Um, yeah, so I’m just gonna borrow someone else’s then.” There’s a red one that has a label reading ‘Veronica’, and Louis grabs it, only feeling a bit bad. “Please forgive me for borrowing it Veronica.” He says to the camera with a pout.
At least he gets the name right.
He finds his beef knife and cutting board, and then grabs one onion and a clove of garlic. “Wait!” He exclaims, before running to his bedroom and grabbing a tealight from his supplies. “Mum always lights candles when she cuts onions! I think it’s to stop her from crying?”
It doesn’t work, at least not proper, as his eyes are stinging seconds later. He rubs at them with the back of his hand, but it only seems to make it worse, so he cuts the last few pieces quick and big and rough, and then runs to the bathroom to wash his hands proper and then his eyes.
His face is still red and his eyes are still itchy when he comes back - even though he rinsed them thoroughly with water. Grabing the garlic to peel it, he sniffs pointedly and announces that he’ll boicott onions from here on.
After he’s added the onion, garlic and minced beef to the bowl, he pulls out his phone to find the recipe that his mum texted him earlier this week. It’s fairly easy; he adds a cup of milk - an actual cup, because he doesn’t own the measurement one -, three eggs, and a tablespoon of salt and pepper and nutmeg each.
“A ‘ts’ means a tablespoon, right?” he asks Ruth.
“Small or big letters?”
“The letters are small…” He hasn’t got a very good feeling about this. “I’m gonna ring my mum.”
He puts it on speaker and uses the wait to get a spoon to stir the mix with, his mum picking up just as he’s grabbed it from the drawer, so he has to rush back to be with hearing distance.
“Hi darling.” She says quietly. There’s probably a sleeping baby in her lap.
“Hi mum, how are you?”
“I’m good, you? Having difficulties with the cooking?” There’s a knowing tilt to her voice, and Louis sticks his tongue out at the phone.
“Only a small question. Um, in the meatballs..”
“The ‘ts’ of salt and pepper and nutmeg..”
“Shit!” Louis curses. His mum is trying to chide him for language, but she’s too busy laughing at him. Some mum she is.
“Didn’t you see the big T for the flour? That’s a tablespoon.”
“Flour? Um. Right. Hadn’t gotten there yet.” His mum hums. It sounds more like put on understanding than anything else.
“Have you mixed it yet? If not you can probably salvage it by scooping some of it out.”
“See.. I kinda drizzled it all over the place, so like. I can’t just scoop it out, really.” He looks up to see the crew with various degrees of amusement on their faces. This is definitely going into the show, isn’t it?
“Alright, well maybe try and balance it out then? Mix in some oatmeal perhaps, add a bit more milk? But make sure that it has the right texture, you don’t want the balls too soft or too hard.”
“Right.” He drawls.
“Oh shut it you.” She says, though Louis likes to think there’s some fondness in her voice. It’s not his fault he’s got a dirty mind. “And mix it with your hands.”
He bids her goodbye with a frown. It’s easy for her to say to balance it out with whatever, she’s got a pantry full of stuff, he can’t very well balance it out with organic muesli can he. Can he? Maybe if he picks out the raisins..
He hums, looking towards the crew. “Okay, so. I’m just gonna fry a little one, like a small piece of dough, and see how bad it is, and then decide.”
He mixes it all together with his hands as told - it makes a rather disgusting squelchy sound, and he’s pretty sure he grimaces a bit too much. At least he knows what texture it should be.
After adding the tablespoon of flour, he fries a flat piece of meat and makes sure it’s proper cooked through before sticking it on a fork and taking a bite.
“Yeah, okay.” He says wrinkling his nose and throwing the remaining bit in the bin. “So, I’m out of meat, so I guess I just have to try some more flour and milk?”
After three mix-and-fails, he’s left with a dough that holds somewhat of the right texture, but tastes not enough meat and still way too much nutmeg. There’s not much he can do about it though, so he admits defeat and starts frying up the meatballs, hoping that the tomato sauce will be overpowering enough to disguise some of the taste.
“I mean, they’re not vile or anything.” He tells Ruth, who seems a bit skeptic to his solution. “They just ..don’t really taste like meatballs.” He drops five balls in the hot pan and presses them down a bit. “Do you want a taste?”
Ruth shakes her head no with a polite smile. Oh well, that’s your loss Louis doesn’t say, because it really isn’t.
Maybe he should’ve tried with the muesli after all.
Meatballs done, he goes to start his sauce.
This time he lights ten tealights before he starts chopping the onion, and it has a much better effect. It’s not perfect, but at least he escapes the tears and the sting, is only left with his eyes feeling a bit itchy, and that’s definitely tolerable. He’s a man after all.
He gets his smallest pan out, one he inherited from his mum when he moved out because she didn’t trust him to buy these kinds of things himself - or, for the real reason; because she was looking for an excuse to buy herself some new ones. Not that Louis would’ve bought it for himself anyway, but that’s besides the point.
Making sure to actually follow the recipe properly this time, he drizzles two tablespoons of oil in the pan, and then adds the onions, garlic and dry red pepper flakes.
It says to ‘Sauté’ - whatever the fuck that is - them for five to seven minutes, till the onion goes soft, so he pushes them back and forth with his spatula and hopes for the best.
After poking at the onions a few times he finally deems them soft, and adds the canned tomatoes and beef stock.
“I feel like a proper chef now, I have to say.” Nothing seems ruined or burnt or wrong, which makes this, by far, his biggest success as far as making dinner from scratch goes.
“You look it as well.” Ruth answers. He’s not sure whether or not it’s sarcasm, but he decides to take it as a compliment nonetheless, and says thank you with a grin.
“Now. The recipe says to use fresh herbs. However, if I buy fresh herbs they’ll all rot and go to waste, cause I wont use the rest of them, so! I bought some dried herbs instead, because, like, it’s the same herbs, yeah, so the taste wont be that different?“ At least he hopes it wont be. It is still the same flavour, right? Maybe it’s like milder? Chili powder is milder than fresh chili, isn’t it? “The recipe says ‘ten leaves’ though, and this is all crushed, so I’m just gonna have chance it.”
He takes of the plastic bit and then unscrews the lid, tipping it upside down for a few seconds. Stirring it in, he shrugs to himself before adding a bit more and then deemes it’s good.
“For the parsley, it says a handful..” he pours as much parsley as he can fit in his curled hand and then throws it in. “Now it just has to simmer, and then I’ll reheat it later.”
“Okay, are you doing any prep for dessert?”
“I am, yes. Just mixing the cream though, I’m cutting the fruits before serving.”
“And your dessert is..” Ruth prompts, tilting her head to the camera.
“For dessert I’m making fruit salad. I figured that’s a nice red line; Salad, spag bol, fruit salad.” It’s literally what his menu says as well, he’s certain the boys will laugh when they read it. He’s not gonna fluff it up though, adding any ingredients and making it sound more advanced than it is. It’s more like he’s played it down a bit, to keep their expectations as low as possible - and his food is quite basic, just not as basic as they might think.
Hopefully, they wont double-cross it and understand that he’s playing it down, thus ending up expecting it to be fancy anyway, in which case they’ll set themselves up for disappointment.
“And still keeping it simple.”
“Yes, well, I’ve never made or baked a dessert in my life, so I’m not gonna start now. Again I’m sticking to the idea of not food poisoning my guests.” He says with a pointed eyebrow-raise. Ruth smiles and motions for him to go on. “So, I’m making a fruit salad, but, I’m also serving it with a vanilla cream. It’s just a mix of whipped cream and vanilla custard, but it’s good.”
“And have you made this before then?”
“I’m always in charge of the vanilla cream, so this I actually do know how to make! I’m not completely clueless, you know.”
“So are you making the custard yourself then?”
Louis laughs. “No.”
He has to whisk the cream by hand, something he‘s never done before, and it takes ages. It also hurts his wrist and forearm and bicep and triceps and all the other stupid muscles his arm consists of. Louis’ not sure if that’s normal, but either way, he should probably exercise those more.
He stops himself from making the comment about handjobs that sits at the tip of his tongue though, figuring he should spare his little sisters of that trauma, and instead announces, “If I win, Imma invest in a proper mixer. I’m not gonna win though, so-” He turns to the camera with a pout. “Mum, I want a mixer for my birthday.”
Five minutes later, the cream is still too runny and Louis sighs. Shifting on his feet - since they’re staring to hurt as well, Louis is definitely not made for standing all day - he takes a break stretching out his fingers and shaking out his hand and checking the time on his phone. God, he’s been at it for almost fifteen minutes.
“I should’ve just bought it already whipped. It’s not like it would’ve cost me the win anyway. ” He says regretfully. At least it seems to be starting to thicken up a bit, but to be fair, that might only be his imagination. “Also, mum, I really don’t want a mixer. Buy me a game for my playstation instead.”
After another twenty minutes, a google search, replacing his plastic box with one of his housemates metal bowls and putting it all in the freezer to get it cold, he manages to power-whisk the cream perfectly in less than seven minutes and finally blend in the vanilla custard with a spoon.
Putting the bowl in the fridge, he wriggles his sore fingers and wrist and swears loudly that he’ll never ever do that again.
“Well that’s all the prep done! I’m off to get ready!”
“Alright, good.” Ruth says, as the camera-man backs away from his face. "Do you need to do anything regarding your entertainment?”
“Okay, lets set the table, and you can go get ready.”
Setting the table takes approximately five minutes, just rolling the paper tablecloth on and spreading a bunch of tealights and his very fancy tableware.
“See, the thing is.. I only have like three plates and three normal glasses and three sets of cutlery. So, instead of buying more stuff that I’ll never have the need for again, I just figured..” He holds up his packs of paper bowls and plastic champagne glasses with a smile. “It’s cheaper, easy to clean and, well, practical, I’d say.”
“You don’t think the combination of paper and twenty plus tealights is a bit of a fire hazard?” Ruth questions. Louis scoffs.
“We’re all adults here, I think we can manage to not set our plates on fire.” He opens the bag of plastic forks and puts one below each glass. “At least they’re not swirling over our heads like on Harry’s night.”
After quickly changing his clothes and slowly styling his hair, he surveys his room to make sure there are no huge dust bunnies on the floor or dirt on his table or tableware. Ruth is on the phone, and the night crew has arrived and is setting up by his door, so Louis finds his slippers and waits for Ruth and the camera to come to him.
“Alright, explain that,” She says nodding towards the slippers still in his hand. “and then prepare the welcome drinks. The boys are already here.”
“Okay. So my ‘theme’ for tonight is fancy slippers. I’ve chosen this because one; the floors here are really cold, and two; we don’t allow shoes inside.” He also warned the boys yesterday that the heater is not working properly at the moment, so they might want to wear thicker sweater than one normally would these days. It kinda is a blessing in disguise - well for Harry, Zayn and himself at least.
For the drinks, he mixes a store-bought margarita drink mix with ice cubes and tequila, and fills the fifth glass with some weird paleish-green fruit soda for Zayn.
He lets Ruth know he‘s done, and then spends the time waiting for the first boy to knock digging out someone else’s vase for the flowers he’s expecting from Harry and filling it with lukewarm water.
The first one at his door is Harry himself. He’s got a pink mark on the underside of his jaw, a fancy bouquet of roses in one hand, and his brown suede shoes in his other. On his feet are monkey slippers - complete with arms and toy bananas - and Louis laughs at them before he pulls him in for a hug.
“Love the slippers, babe.” He says, pulling back and placing a kiss on his left cheek, followed by a kiss to the right corner of his mouth because the camera’s not angled to catch it.
“Thank you. Where’s yours?” Harry asks, brows furrowed, and Louis holds back the curse as he sprints the to kitchen - Harry following behind him - grabbing them from where he left them on the counter.
It’s probably not completely sanitary, but he’s only worn them, like, ten times anyway.
His slippers are cute, fluffy hedgehogs. They aren’t the funniest or coolest, but he figured rather those than the ones with big, pink cocks standing up from them, what with family watching and all.
Harry aw’s and then says he sees the resemblance between Louis and the slippers, which makes him scoff, Harry laughing in response.
“I’m not cute nor fluffy.” Louis states defiantly as he grabs two drinks, though even he has to admit that the point is kinda lost considering his hair is extra poofy today, and he’s wearing a soft grey sweater that is a couple of sizes too big. Whatever. He’s usually not cute and fluffy, is the point, and Harry knows that, since, like, he saw him in the store all rumpled and rugged.
Harry’s stupid little smirk says otherwise.
There’s a knock on the door before the argument can go any further so Louis sends Harry a tiny glare as he leaves. The effect is probably ruined by the way the corner of his mouth involuntary twitches upwards.
“Zayn!” He greets as he opens the door. Zayn grins back at him, leaning in for his cheek kisses before peeking down at Louis’ feet.
“Cute.” He says. There’s really no point in arguing.
“Can’t say the same for you.”
Zayn shrugs as he sets his shoes down next to Harry’s. His slippers aren’t very creative, just plain black with three claw-like toes and long yellow nails. “It’s the only ones I found on such short notice.” He says unapologetically as he trails behind Louis to the kitchen area, greeting Harry before cautiously taking a sip from the drink Louis offers him. “That’s …interesting.”
He guesses that’s Zaynsk for ‘tastes like shit.’
“Sorry, just took something that had the same colour as the margaritas.”
“It’s like.. I dunno. It’s okay I s’pose, just- a bit different.”
“You don’t have to drink it.” Louis assures. To be fair, he probably shouldn’t have served something without tasting it himself first. “Do you want something else?” Harry makes a grab for the glass and takes a sip, grimacing slightly, before handing it over to Louis. Taking a sip himself, he discovers that it tastes like artificial grapes mixed with soap.
And down the drain it goes.
He’s about to refill the - rinsed - glass with coke, when there’s another knock on the door, so he hands the bottle and glass to Harry and goes to open up.
He has to wait a few moments for the crew to come back from the kitchen and set up behind him, so when he‘s finally given the go, he kinda throws the door open. “Come on in!”” He says, before even registering who it is, eyes on the floor. “Nice slippers!”
They’re sharks, mouths biting at his ankles, and Louis looks up to find Liam grinning back at him.
“Thanks! My sister got them for me last christmas.”
They trail behind the crew back to the kitchen, where Harry hands Liam a margarita and Zayn compliments Liam’s hoodie - bright blue with a red and white shield printed on the chest.
“It is quite nice.” Louis agrees, though as far as Marvel heroes goes, Captain America isn’t exactly his first choice.
When Louis goes to let Niall in, his first thought is that his slippers are quite disturbing. “Your slippers are quite disturbing.”
Niall laughs, throws in a thanks mate and then follows Louis with dead babies on his feet.
Okay, so maybe not dead babies, but his slippers are literally doll-like plush babies - a girl and a boy if the pink and blue onesies they’re wearing are anything to go by - and his feet are stuck through their bellies.
The other boys seems to agree, as they react with different degrees of detestation, all of which Niall takes with laughter.
“I got them from a friend of mine.” He finally explains. “We always get each other silly, stupid gifts for christmas. I think he had these special ordered or something.” He lifts his feet one at a time, as if anyone needed to be reminded of them, before he adds; “It’s the only ones I have, except proper boring grandpa ones.”
“You probably should’ve gone with those.” Harry says lightly - though it’s accompanied with a grimace - but Niall just laughs again, the rest of them more or less joining him.
“Cheers!” Louis says, holding up his glass as he fights the tiny shiver crawling down his back at the thought of his baby brother and sister, and whether he’ll be able to not picture Niall’s feet through them the next time he goes for a visit. “May no one get food poisoned tonight!”
Louis shows the boys into his room, all of them graciously trying to compliment it, even with the furniture stacked on his bed and the obvious makeshift table arrangement.
Once Ruth has assigned them seats, Louis lights all the candles and the hands out crayons so they can draw and write on the paper table cloth while waiting for the food.
“And please don’t set anything on fire.” He says as he tops his own glass with white wine. They all seem very cautious of the combination of fire and paper though, so he figures they should be fine.
He has to close the door when he goes to make the starter, since the boys would be looking straight at him if not. He can still hear them talking and laughing though, and part of him feels sad because he really enjoys this group of people, and he wants in on the conversations and stories and laughs.
But, he has a job to do, and do it he will.
He digs out his ingredients while the camera sets up, and then stands there waiting for a few minutes while they fix something regarding the sound. The boys are shouting at each other, laughter filtering in between the words, and Louis is trying to make out exactly what’s going on when Ruth pointedly clears her throat.
“So, Louis. Are you following a recipe for your starter?”
Louis blinks out of his dace, turning to the camera with a unsure smile. “I am not.”
“Well, for once, it’s just a salad, innit? It’s basic ingredients, but with a twist. I got it in a wedding once, actually, and I know the ingredients, so I figured I’d just chance it, you know?” He shrugs, wanting to seem confident, but, really, he was just too lazy to try and find the right recipe. Like, honestly, who needs a recipe for a salad anyway?
First, he fries the bacon strips. “It’s easier to cut them up when they’re fried.” He says, because his knife isn’t really sharp and raw bacon is kinda tough, and one bacon related catastrophe a month is more than enough.
The lettuce he bought has some brown spots on it, so he tears of those leaves and throws them away - hears his mum’s voice in the back of his head complaining about wasting food - and rinses the first few decent looking ones he finds. By the time that’s done, the kitchen is starting to smell burnt, which was not really the intention.
The bacon is well-cooked, kinda stiff, but it’s still edible, so he flips it over, but stands guard this time, and only cooks them for a few seconds before he removes the pan from the heat.
It still smells like burnt food though so, after fiddling with the oven fan for a few minutes and concluding that it doesn’t work, he opens up the door to their teeny tiny balcony.
After ripping the lettuce into bite-sized pieces, “Because it’s much more efficient than cutting.” He cuts up the bacon and throws the bits back in the pan too keep them warm, “Because the ripping-thingy only works with lettuce.”
Then he cuts the cherry tomatoes and the chives and the red onions, throws some pine nuts in the pan with the bacon to get some of the grease on them, and he’s ready to assemble.
“Now the secret to this dish,” He says as he scoops the bacon and pine nuts out of the pan in - hopefully - even portions. “is three things. First, parmesan cheese - already grated because I’m lazy.” He artfully sprinkles some on the small mountains of salad. It’s looking rather good, in his opinion, but he might be a bit biased though.
“Two, is some brie.” He adds a couple of long, but not too thick, slices to each plate because that’s what they did in the wedding. “And three; honey.” Ruth looks surprised. “It sounds a bit weird, but it’s good, I swear.”
He’s got one of those bottles with a cap lid, and he dunks it on the counter a few times before popping the lid and squeezing out a dollop. It’s a fat one, and it rests on top of the salad instead of melting out like he thought it would.
“Um.” He says, staring at it. “That’s. Hm.” Maybe he should take a fork and like, scoop it around a bit? Or microwave it, doesn’t honey get softer with heat? Like it does in tea. “Right. Maybe I should..” He scratches at his neck, not finishing his sentence, hoping against hope that maybe someone else will pop in with a solution.
“I’m gonna put it in the microwave.” He finally decides.
He scoops three tablespoons of honey into a cup and then adds the glob from the salad before putting it in for thirty seconds. It’s runnier when he takes it out, but not as thin as he wants it, so he gives it another twenty seconds before deeming it good.
With the spoon, he drizzles some over each plate in zigzags, so it’ll spread to most of the food - the camera focused in on his movements - before adding a couple of long chives to each plate as decoration, and “Voilà!”
The crew leaves to film from his room as he carries the food out. “It looks good.” Liam comments, as Louis sets the plate down in front of him. It doesn’t, really, the half-constructed mountains have slid out to flat hills instead, looking nothing but a mess. He thanks him anyway.
He only needs to take one bite to know it’s not completely right. There’s too much honey, making it taste sickly sweet for a savory dish, and, on second thought, he’s not so sure there were supposed to be any parmesan on there after all.
It’s just, it’s not particularly good is all - and like, leave it to Louis to mess up a fucking salad.
The other boys clearly agree with him if their expressions are anything to go by.
“It’s, um, it’s a different take on a salad. Supposed to be a bit sweet.” He says, trying to salvage it as he takes another bite with a forced neutral expression. “Might not be to everyone’s taste.”
“It’s ..different.” Harry agrees slowly, seemingly trying to dig his way to the center of it all to find something that’s not coated with honey. “But not necessarily bad?”
“Sorry mate, but it kinda is bad.” Niall counters with a shrug, and Louis would probably have been offended had it been anyone else. Liam and Harry’s reactions to Niall’s honesty throws him into a fit though, unattractively spitting a bit of lettuce as laughter forces it’s way out between his closed lips, and in seconds the entire table is shaking along with the five of them.
They only manage to get themselves to stop when Ruth’s voice cuts through with a reminder of the paper and the tealights.
“Alright, we’re gonna have to do the interviews on the couch, so you lot stay here while we do them. Niall, you‘re first.”
The crew leaves to set up and Harry gives Louis a somewhat sympathetic smile. Louis rolls his eyes in response as he gets up and grabs Niall’s shoulders, shaking him dramatically. “Go out there and praise me!”
Louis grabs a roll of garbage bags from his Ikea bag and tears one of. It takes him a few seconds to pry the edges on the opening apart, but once he does he shakes air into it and begins clearing the table.
“Are you just gonna throw all the food away?” Harry asks, his brows furrowed like what Louis is doing is unacceptable.
Honestly, Louis isn’t one to waste food but, “It’s inedible Harry. Besides, we’ve all eaten off it.”
“It wasn’t that bad.” Harry protests. His half-eaten plate speaks for itself though. Louis grabs it with a raised eyebrow, holding it in front of his face for a few seconds - guiltily enjoying the way his cheeks redden - before throwing it in the bag.
“There’s nothing wrong with being honest.” He assures, his voice a tad on the soft side, and waits till Harry looks at him before he adds, “I know I’m a shite cook.” He pecks Harry’s lips when he sees the bottom one sliding out in a pout, effectively turning it into a small smile.
“So what you’re saying is we’re going home hungry tonight?” Zayn asks dryly from across the table. Louis gives him a dirty look.
“I don’t like you, so you better be nice and eat what I serve.” He states matter-of-factly. Zayn responds by pointedly throwing his almost full plate into the bin bag.
“So Harry’s the only one who’s allowed to be honest then?”
“See; Liam gets it!” Louis exclaims to Zayn, whose stone-face façade finally breaks as the corner of his lip twitches. He quickly recovers though, turning to Liam.
“Well I, for one, rather lie about the food, than be honest and have to kiss that ugly mug.” Louis flips him off and straddles Harry, going in for a proper snog session, when the door opens, signaling Niall’s return.
The rest of the interviews passes quickly.
The boys insists on helping clearing and re-setting the table, and also offer to stay behind after and help do the dishes and get his room back in order - since they’re unable to use the kitchen during the interviews - and well, Louis’ not one to decline offers like those.
“So, how do you think the starter went?” Ruth asks when they’re back in the kitchen. Louis snorts.
“The starter went down marvelous, I’d say. They all loved it and if the rest of the meals goes like that, I’m definitely on to a winner!” Ruth tries to hide her smile, and the sound guy is silently shaking, so he figures his sarcasm is clear enough.
“Are you nervous about the main?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, I know the flavour of the meatballs is a bit dull, but I think the sauce is good though, however, I doubt it‘ll mask the lack of taste of the meatballs.” He shakes his right hand - it’s still sore from when he whipped the cream, so he‘s really glad he doesn‘t have much to do. “At least they wont have high expectations now.”
“Other than the food, are you happy with the night so far?”
“I am yeah, the company’s great and the conversations are still natural and fun and stuff, so I’m chuffed.”
“Alright, good. Get started on the main then.”
He starts by filling a pot with water, adding oil and salt, and explains that the oil is added to prevent the pasta from sticking together, something he learned when he was watching a random comedy show on the telly years ago.
Then he grabs the plate with meatballs and the saucepan that he put in the fridge earlier, and sets them on the counter.
He’s pretty sure the pan is to small to fit it all for a reheat, but he tries anyway, getting almost all the meatballs in before they start toppling over the edges.
“I knew that wouldn’t work.” He says with a sigh, removing a few of them and letting the rest be. “I’ll just wait till the spaghetti’s done and drain the water and add it all in there.”
After a few unnecessary questions about his cooking skills and the like, Louis leaves to refill the boys drinks, thankfully not being followed by the camera team this time as the guys apparently wants to fix some settings.
Louis shuts the door behind himself as he enters the room, and heads over to Harry first to fill his glass and give him a soft kiss. Or two. Or three.
Honestly, it would probably have been four, had Niall not kicked his leg.
“Mean.” Louis complains, pulling out a new plastic champagne glass and filling it with wine before offering it to Zayn.
“Cheers.” He mumbles, before downing it.
“I feel like I’m missing out on something..” Liam says, looking back and forth between Zayn and Louis with a fake - but maybe not really - pout.
“Louis and Harry are fucking.”
“We’re not!” Louis protests, because, well they haven’t - yet - and also, it sounds kinda crude. Niall and Zayn both shoot him a rather unimpressed look. “We’re not.” Louis repeats.
“What he means, is, we haven’t yet.” Harry explains. Louis likes Harry.
“Okay. Louis and Harry have a thing.” Niall corrects then, and Louis can’t really argue with that.
“A very good thing.” Harry says with a sweet smile, it’s a tad too sappy so Louis rolls his eyes and walks away from Harry to fill Liam and Niall’s glasses. His stomach knots pleasantly though.
When he returns to the kitchen after a bit of chatting and filling Liam in on Zayn and his not-so-strict ways, the spaghetti is definitely done cooking. Like really, really done.
It’s so done, in fact, that when he tries to fish a string out with a fork, it breaks. Breaks.
“Spaghetti is like chocolate. It’s best when it melts on the tongue.” Louis informs - bullshits more like - and carries the pan over to the sink to drain the water. He adds the sauce and meatballs and puts it all back on the heat, watching with a pout as the spaghetti crumbles into smaller and smaller pieces the more he stirs in it. “A fork might not be the best tool to use for this task.” He admits, “But I don’t have a proper spaghetti-.. whatever they’re called. Tool. The one that’s a ladle with plastic spikes standing up.”
“Maybe that’s something you can put on your christmas wish list.” Ruth suggests.
“Yeah, mum, there’s a tip for you!”
He grabs the stack of paper bowls and spends ages forking the food into them, before carrying them out to his room one by one as they’re warm and heavy and he’s afraid they’re gonna rip if he just holds them by the thin rim.
“Homemade spaghetti and meatballs. And sauce.” He presents as he sits down after carrying his own bowl in. The other boys smile, throws in comments about it smelling delicious and looking good.
Louis watches as Liam tries to twirl the overcooked spaghetti around his fork, frowning when it splits and slips off on both sides. His starring is interrupted by Harry who, in the process of slicing a meatball in half, has splattered tomato sauce across half the table and into his line of vision.
The meatballs might be a bit though.
“Well there’s no doubt the meatballs are homemade.” Niall is saying with a laugh, fork stuck through a half bitten one. “Did you forget the meat Lou?”
“I might’ve miscalculated the spices a bit and ended up having to ..supplement.”
“The sauce’s good at least.” Zayn says. From the looks of it, the sauce is the only thing he’s tried so far.
“You know, usually the meatballs are soft and the spaghetti a bit chewy, not the other way around..” If there weren’t any camera’s recording this, Louis would’ve flipped Niall the bird. Instead, he just gives him a big - obviously fake - close-lipped smile and takes a big forkful of his own plate.
“At least he tried.” Harry argues. “He could’ve just taken the easy way and bought something pre-made.”
“Yeah, and he probably should’ve.” Louis doesn’t hold back his middle finger this time - cute, impressionable little sisters be damned. He tries to angle it away from the camera though.
They do end up eating most of their portions, though he’s pretty sure it has to do with the fact that everyone’s as hungry as he is.
Honestly, it’s not that bad. Yes, the meatballs are bland and yes, the spaghetti is mush, but the sauce is good and adds lots of flavour, so all in all, it’s alright. Descent, at the very least.
He’s even planning on having the leftovers for dinner tomorrow - well, cook some new spaghetti maybe - but like, if he cuts the meatballs into small pieces and mixes it all together it’s gonna be good.
“Well then,” He says, once they’re all leaning back in their chairs, seemingly finished. “who wants seconds?”
They take Zayn for his interview first, and the rest of them just sits there mostly in quiet while he’s gone, none of them in the mood for moving or clearing the table.
When he returns, merely a couple of minutes later, he brushes his fingers against Liam’s neck as he quietly tells him it’s his turn.
Liam’s face seems to flush a bit in response and he averts his gaze when Louis tries to catch it, getting up with a groan and heading for the door.
“I’m so tired.” Zayn says, slumping back in his chair just as Niall yawns. “Wish your bed wasn’t full of shit, so I could take a nap.”
“Pretty sure you wouldn’t wanna take a nap on it anyway mate.” Louis assures, pressing his toes - well the face of his hedgehog slipper at least - against Harry’s calf.
“You didn’t change the sheets?” Harry asks, surprised.
“I have to change them tonight because of all the dirt from the furniture!” He defends. “I’m not gonna change them twice in one day!”
“You’re disgusting.” Niall says, Zayn grunting in agreement, though none of them really seems that repulsed.
“It’s not like we spilt much anyway.” He responds, which has Harry smirking. His lips are stained red from the wine he’s been drinking, and the colour is quite similar to the one he sported this morning, though they’re - sadly - not as puffy and swollen.
A glance up at Harry’s eyes reveals slightly blown pupils that are staring intently right back at him. He shifts a bit in his chair, just as Harry sinks his teeth into his own bottom lip, and Louis is seriously considering dragging Harry into the bathroom when the door opens, Liam announcing it’s Niall’s turn as he walks over to the table.
“Thank fuck.” Niall mumbles. It’s quite rude, really.
Liam starts gathering up their plates, and Louis feels bad for not helping, so he reluctantly gets up to get the bin bag.
He’s feeling tired and achy - fuck, his wrist is still sore from all the whipping earlier, and he kinda wants the night to end already, just hand the money to whoever won and crawl into bed. Preferably with Harry.
He wonders if the other boys felt as worn put on their nights, they sure as hell didn’t seem like it, so if they were they all deserve a standing ovation.
Louis sulks once Harry comes back from his interview, cause it means he has to get back to the kitchen. The kitchen is certainly not where Louis belongs.
“I think I’ve cooked enough meals this year.” He says with a pout, the boys laughing at him. Normally, he likes to make people laugh, but now he just glares at them. Okay, so maybe he’s being a bit dramatic, but there is a level of truth behind it all.
Louis loathes cooking; the only exception being when there’s sweets being made, and he helps by licking bowls or eating dough.
It’s just boring, is the thing, standing there and cutting stupid vegetables and stirring stuff - there’s no action, no excitement.
And this time, not only must he do it all by himself with no music or people to keep him company; he has to have a camera shoved in his face, filming his every move while an idiot narratives it and points out all his stupid mistakes.
Okay, so, Louis may get a bit grumpy when he’s tired. And a bit hungry. And things don’t go his way.
He meets Ruth right outside his bedroom door. He scowls at her, thinking she’s gonna reprimand him for taking too long as usual, but instead, she just raises and eyebrow at him and says, “Entertainment?”
“Right.” Louis says, turning on his heel and going back into his room. The boys seems a bit confused at that, but it quickly disappears when Louis tells them to help him pack the chairs and table away so they can get ready for some fun.
Once everything is stacked out in the living room, and the boys have left him alone, he grabs his Twister game and spreads the sheet out on the floor.
Then, he grabs the tubes of red, blue, green and yellow body paints, and squirts out some on each dot.
“The paint is water-based, so it’ll wash of easily.” He explains as the boys stumble back into his bedroom. They all seem pretty excited, which is great, and Ruth ends up being the one twisting the board as they all want to participate.
Slippers off and Harry’s hair tied back, they line up around the mat as Ruth spins the pin for the first time.
“Right hand, blue.” She says, and Niall steps up to position.
Everything after that point is chaos.
In the end, Zayn’s the one who wins, somehow only getting paint on his hands and feet - and a few dots on the sleeve of his sweater - while the rest of them are coated in colours.
Well, the rest of them did fall and thus loose the game though, so that would explain it.
Still, Louis congratulates Zayn with a tight hug, stroking his hands up and down his back and sides to make sure as much paint as possible is transferred, and the rest of the boys easily joins the huddle, only pulling back when Zayn is the messiest of them all.
After, the boys - well, Harry mostly - offers to clean the mat and floor while Louis get started on the desert.
He tries to politely decline saying they’re the guests and all of that, but they just push him towards the kitchen and gathers stuff, so Louis leaves them to it, a very pleased smile across his lips.
“So, Louis, happy with the main?” Louis rolls his head towards Ruth with an arched eyebrow and a very unimpressed look. “I’ll take that as a no.”
“The main didn’t quite go down as I had hoped, no. But that’s because I screwed it up though. I mean, the sauce was good, but the spaghetti was overcooked and the meatballs a flop, so. But it didn’t go worse than I expected.”
“How about the entertainment then?”
“The entertainment was great! I’m glad they all wanted to join in and didn’t mind getting paint all over. Though, I still have no idea how Zayn stayed so clean during the game.”
Louis has just started cutting the apples when Harry emerges, looking for a bag and a mop.
“You don’t need to wash my floors!” Louis protests, but Harry’s having none of it, apparently, as he just repeats his question.
With a grumble, Louis rinses his hands and pulls out a plastic bag from a drawer, and then leads Harry to the little closet they have near the front door, where a vacuum cleaner and the washing supplies are stocked.
“By the way,” Harry says as he grabs the mop and a floor wash. “if you use some lemon on your hands and the cutting board, the fruits wont go brown.”
“I think this is classified as cheating.” Louis whispers, though he’s definitely planning on following the advice.
“Oh, I don’t think we’re in danger of robbing anyone of the win.” Harry says with a bright grin. Louis slaps his arm, before he looks back over his shoulder to make sure no one is watching, and gives Harry the chaste kiss he’s already leaning in for.
He makes a very believable act about how he totally forgot to use the concentrated lemon he has for the fruits, and then explains the purpose of it.
Ruth seems a bit skeptic of this sudden newfound knowledge, but it’s not like they can stop him anyway, so he rubs it in like soap and squirts it on the chopping board and the previously cut apples, and is very pleased to see it works wonders.
“Who taught you this trick, then?” Ruth asks.
“Me mum.” He replies nonchalantly, mentally making a note to teach her the trick next time they have a chat. It’s thanks to her that he has the concentrated lemon juice in the first place - he bought it for her the last time she came to visit, as she loves some in her tea.
Cutting fruit takes ages.
Louis figured ten-fifteen minutes would be enough time, but apparently not.
By the time the apples and cantaloupes were done, Harry was returning the washing supplies, and halfway through the mango the table and chairs and supplies were gathered back into his room, and he’s just started with the oranges.
And then there’s the grapes and the bananas.
Okay, so it’s not like the grapes are a lot of work, just taking them of the stems and making sure they’re not rotten or anything. But still, he’s been out here for over thirty minutes, so he’s certainly not cutting them in half like he planned to.
He’s decided on making one big bowl of fruit and then just bring that and the vanilla cream on the table and let people serve themselves. Still, the plates and spoons needs to be put out, and serving utensils for the cream and the fruit salad, and glasses and the wine.
“Boys?” He calls. The voices from his room cuts off and then there’s a few seconds of silence before Zayn cracks the door open. “Would you be a doll and set the table for me?” He asks in his prettiest voice - innocent and just on the right side of pleading - and it’s once again proven to be effective as Zayn rolls his eyes and then walks over to gather the stack of paper bowls, the spoons and glasses still in the supply bag in his room.
Liam comes out right after, asking if he needs to get anything else, so Louis guides him to the utensil drawer and asks him to find a couple of ladles or big spoons or something.
Liam pulls out a deep ladle and a spork of sorts - neither belonging to Louis - and trots back into the room. While the door is open Louis can see that the table is set and the boys are sitting around it drawing again.
At least they’re not bored then.
The cameraman leaves to film them while Louis finishes the oranges and gives the banana a hand job with the lemon juice. The grapes go in last, before he takes the bowl of vanilla cream out of the fridge and heads for his room.
“At last!” Niall cries dramatically, the rest of the boys cheering.
Okay so maybe forty-five minutes is a bit of a long wait for a fruit salad.
Still, he keeps his head held high as he puts the two bowls on the table, mixes around a bit with the utensils and proclaims, “Serve yourself you ungrateful bastards.”
While they do that, Louis slips back into the kitchen to grab and pop open the desert wine, carrying it back into the room with a smile, because it really is good, and he‘s pretty sure the boys will appreciate it.
“Care for some wine boys?” He asks as he begins filling their glasses. When he gets to his own, his gaze falls on Zayn, who looks at the wine with a somewhat longing expression. Louis quickly excuses himself to fetch a coke for Zayn, taking the wine with him and making sure to close the door behind him.
In the kitchen, he grabs one of the two glasses he owns and fills it half full with the wine, before stealing some cling film to cover it with - he’s pretty sure that’s something you’re supposed to do? - and putting it in the fridge.
“So boys, are we gonna keep in touch then?” Louis asks the table after being prompted by Ruth. He can see Harry do a weird mix of a smirk and a smile to his side, but he ignores it as best he can, worried his own face will melt into something similar.
“I reckon we will yeah?” Zayn says, earning nods and murmurs of agreement from the rest of them.
“We’ll do weekly dinners or something. Rotate who gets to cook it.” Harry suggests.
“Yeah, lets leave Louis out of that rotation though.” Niall quips, clinking - as much as you can clink plastic anyway - his glass against Louis’ with a bright smile when he glares at him. “You can bring the drinks.” He adds as an afterthought. Louis flips him of for the second time that night.
The desert is labeled the best meal of the day. It is though, the fruit is fresh and the vanilla cream is delicious even if it’s maybe a bit too runny.
But, he’s getting compliments none the less, compliments.
Louis takes the opportunity to whine about his sore wrist, receiving a pleasing amount of sympathy and praise. He might preen a bit. Niall says his face matches the ones on his slippers. Harry leans over to whisper that Louis wont be needing to use that hand in a while anyway, accompanied with a squeeze to his upper thigh.
All in all, the desert is a success.
They actually clear both bowls completely. Louis would take it as another great compliment, had it not been for the fact that they’re all probably starving.
Actually, scratch that, he takes it as a compliment anyway.
The boys are pulled out one by one again, this time to give their review of the desert as well as the score of the night, since there’s money to be handed out. It goes fairly quickly, the rest of them chatting in the mean time, and finally Louis is called out for his interview.
“Are you pleased with the desert then?”
“I am, I think the desert went really well. Wasn’t much I could’ve screwed up anyway I’ll admit, but yeah.”
“What would you score your own night?”
“Ooooh, um, if I had to score myself tonight, I think probably a five? Maybe a generous six? I know my food wasn’t up to par, but I did make a genuine effort, and I think we’ve all had fun, so.”
“Who do you think is going to win?”
“I think it’s between Harry and Liam. Zayn and Niall both had really good food and nights, but they made some small errors that I think could’ve cost them the win.”
“And if you had to choose a winner between Liam and Harry?”
“I dunno. I honestly couldn’t pick! Both their nights were really good, I mean, I scored them both nine’s.”
There’s a bit of a wait for someone to come with the scroll of the placement list, so they all go to sit on the couch while the crew takes a break and Ruth makes some phone calls. As usual the tiredness settles over them, so the conversations are slow and far between, but it’s not awkward or uncomfortable at all.
Since Liam, Niall and Zayn occupy one couch, Harry and Louis share the other, curling up together at one end even though there’s plenty of room.
Louis yawns into Harry’s sweater four or five times as they wait, his body heavy and pliant where he’s sitting, and he can’t wait to go to bed.He should be ashamed, really, a twenty-one year old student, longing for bed at ..five past twelve on a Friday night. He’s not though. It’s been a long week, and besides if there’s one thing students - well this particular student at least - always lack, it’s sleep.
The doorbell sounds approximately fifteen minutes later, and Ruth goes to let the person in, returning with a young girl carrying a silver platter, topped with one of those lids that you usually see covering food, in tow.
Since it’s Louis’s duty to get the platter and read the list out loud like a proper host, he drags himself away from Harry with a sigh. In the kitchen, he grabs a bottle of red wine that’s only half empty and takes a couple of swigs straight from it, before he puts on a bright smile and nods at Ruth that he’s ready to go. In the meantime, Harry’s moved to the couch with the other boys, the four of them pressed closely together with their arms around each other, looking cozy and warm. Louis is a tiny bit jealous.
He ‘enters’ the living room to cheers and ‘oooh’s, lifting the lid dramatically to reveal what they all know lies beneath - a thousand pounds in fresh, crisp twenties and a scroll tied up with a red band. Placing the plate on the table, he grabs the scroll and straightens up, unwinding it slowly.
“In fifth place: …it’s Louis.” He says it with a pout and the boys aw’s as if anyone’s actually surprised. “There must be something wrong with the tally.” He says anyway, earning laughter as he continues to read of the list.
“And in forth place we have: Niall!” Niall just shrugs, but happily accepts the hugs he gets.
“Third plaaaace: Zaynie!” The boys cuddle Zayn for a few seconds, before straightening up and hitting their hands against their thighs to make a drum roll at Louis‘ command.
“And in second place- no, wait! It’s a joint first, Liam and Harry!” The two boys leaps off the couch and Harry makes a grab for the money thrusting the plate into the air so the notes flies up and fall over them. Liam grabs him then, and they hug and jump around, the rest of them joining in with celebratory cheers and congratulations.
“Okay.” Ruth says eventually, cutting them off. “I’ll have the cabs arrive in ten. We’re gonna do some last, quick interviews with you all. Liam and Harry, we’ll start with you, the rest of you can wait in Louis’ room.”
“Can you have our cabs here in half an hour instead? We promised Lou we’d help clean up.” Liam requests, which Ruth easily agrees to.
“And, um, you can just cancel mine.” Harry adds, with a sheepish smile.
“Well that’s quite presumptuous of you.” Louis says dryly, but Harry’s smile just widens.
“It’s really not.”
They rearrange his room during the very short final interviews, folding up the table and chairs and putting the furniture back where it belongs.
Louis doesn’t really help, just directs the others while he looks over everything written and drawn on the paper tablecloth - laughing of the small comments and rude drawings, and smiling softly at Harry’s ‘U R a Q’ followed by small drawings of a cup of tea and a slice of pie, an exclamation point and three hearts.
Harry changes the bed sheets while Louis does his final interview, saying he’s absolutely gutted he didn’t win - which is a lie - but that Liam and Harry certainly both deserved it, and he’s very happy for them - which is not a lie.
After saying their final goodbye’s to the crew, they clean the kitchen and do the washing up, and Louis presents Zayn with the glass of wine, which makes him smile brightly and sloppily kiss his cheek in thanks - which earns them some rather interesting looks from two of the other boys, much to Louis’ amusement.
Finally, Louis and Harry follows the rest of them out, giving them tight hugs and promises of getting together soon - two weekends from now at the latest, as that’s when Niall moves in with Liam and they all promised to help.
“Bed?” Louis requests when they’ve locked themselves back in the flat.
“Yeah.” Harry easily agrees, taking his hand and leading him to his bedroom as if Louis doesn’t know the way himself.
They’ve aired the room out a bit, so it’s slightly chilly in there, giving Louis the perfect excuse to cuddle Harry as close as possible as soon as they’re in bed.
“Congrats on the win. How does it feel?” It comes out far softer than he intended, but he’s okay with that, especially when Harry kisses his temple.
“Good, I guess. I weren’t really in it for the money, but I certainly don’t mind.”
“You’d be a right weirdo if you did. I’d throw you out of here and never speak to you again. In fact, you should probably watch your every move, my affection for you is already hanging by a thread.” He states matter-of-factly.
“Is that so?” Harry questions, voice amused.
Harry hums. “See, I don’t know if you just spontaneously change your diet every know and then.. But earlier I was trying to find the right cabinet for a bowl, and happened to come across a bag of organic muesli. Located right next to some coco pops might I add.”
Louis doesn’t really like the smug tone in his voice. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Well, I’ll enjoy a healthy breakfast tomorrow anyway.”
“Well I wont.” Harry laughs scooting further down the bed so he can face Louis properly.
“You’re cute when you’re grumpy.”
“Sure you’re not. Still cute.” Louis is about to respond to that, but he’s cut of when Harry leans in to kiss him, soft and wet and sweet - which reminds him that they’ve forgotten to brush their teeth. He doesn’t pull back to point that out though, instead he winds his fingers into Harry’s soft hair, combing them through the loose tangles when Harry sighs contently against his lips.
The kiss slows down gradually, and Louis is honest to God half asleep when Harry speaks up again.
“Hey, can I take you out on a date tomorrow?” He asks against Louis shoulder, the vibration tickling Louis‘ lips into a smile.
“Okay.” His voice remains indifferent, he’s too tired to put in an effort, but his smile must be confirmation enough, as Harry leans up for a final kiss.
“Good enough for me.” He responds. Louis shushes him.
“Sleep.” He reminds him in a quiet voice, though he doesn’t move away from Harry. He’s quite comfortable where he is, actually.
Harry must agree, because his breath evens out within a minute or so, making Louis’ mouth threaten to twitch back into a smile. He tries his best to stop it from happening - doesn’t want to disturb Harry’s light sleep - but in the end he doesn’t remember whether or not he managed to do so, as sleep overtakes him as well.
(i'm not very good at endings i know, anyway)
THANK YOU to everyone who's stuck through the entire thing!! (:
aaaaaand if you want, you can find me on tumblr as welllll!