The first time was an accident. The sort of accident that comes about in the spare bedroom at a mutual friend's house party after too many different alcohols in too high a quantity. The sort of accident that gets forgotten, almost, wiped away by the booze except for flashes in the following days, vivid bursts of sensation at the worst times and then gone again. An accident that gets consigned to history, just another stupid mistake eventually buried under newer mistakes that are just as stupid.
The second time was an accident too. An industry party full of boring types, but his agent said he had to show his face. Hobnob. Like that means anything except a biscuit to him. But two glasses of white wine down, and he was somehow walking up to Nick Grimshaw, who looked almost relieved to see him.
“Everyone here's a twat,” Nick had leaned down and said into his ear, hot and close.
He doesn't like Nick. The man wasn’t incorrect though, because Nick is a twat and Louis can admit that sometimes he is too, and certainly the suited and booted types they were surrounded by are.
“I think I've insulted every pop star here,” Nick continued, looking a little cornered, and Louis had stifled a laugh in his hand.
“Think I remember one or two comments,” he’d muttered, when he’d bitten back the grin. Careful to not even think of that time before, when the insults disappeared and things clicked together in a completely different way.
“Not talking about you,” Nick smirked. “You insult me back.”
“You provide so many opportunities, it's hard to avoid.”
Nick shoved him then, a push hard on his shoulder, but his hand tightened to reel him back in when it became clear the wine had made Louis a little unsteady. Louis had let him, then shrugged him off.
“All right, baby boybander. I just mean you're such a dick back, you don't make me feel bad about it.”
Louis kind of likes that about Nick, too. How he can let anything that runs into his head drip off his tongue, and tomorrow Nick will play his record anyway. No arse kissing required. It’s sort of refreshing.
“Sure you want to call me a baby, old man?” he'd quipped, raising an eyebrow. The expression on Nick's face was clear; he remembered too. Partly, at least. Enough to know.
It wasn't why he walked up to Nick, but it ended up happening again anyway. It was an accident, just not one he quite regretted.
He also hadn't been drunk enough to wake with the memories erased. No, he remembers every second, from hailing a shared cab to the stroke of big hands down his sides, pulling his shirt free from his trousers as a warm mouth landed on his. Every later touch of skin on skin. He remembers Nick typing Louis' number into his phone after it was all over, and the emoji aubergine that pinged through as his door closed with a bang.
They don't talk. They're not friends and they're certainly not more than that. They're boredom busters, perhaps, empty evenings or dragging Sunday afternoons filled with a text of an aubergine or a peach and a follow-up knock half an hour later. The sex is good – and somehow still getting better all the time – but when they're done they leave. They're still Nick Grimshaw and Louis Tomlinson - there are no sweet nothings, no dates, no relationship. They can't be in public without resorting to biting words and they can’t be in private without biting marks into fresh, clean skin.
Louis scrolls through their text log. It's nothing but the same two emojis, back and forth, a question answered every time. Not a single word passed between them. He hesitates, then flicks through the options. He sends a sheep. It's high up in his recently used list because he'd been accusing Liam of following the crowd.
You're going to have to explain. If that's a sex act, I need to know what so I can give informed consent.
Louis' stomach flips. He sends a tropical beach.
Interesting... a riddle, comes the response. Hot and cold maybe? I've never done temperature play, love, but we can give it a go.
Louis' face burns. They're just random emojis, he doesn't mean anything by them. He locks his phone, then unlocks it again. Embarrassed, he bites his lip and sends the monkey with hands over his eyes.
I think we're going to have to talk in words, darling. Unless you're asking in a really roundabout way to be blindfolded while I mess about with ice and wax.
Louis gapes at his phone.
Not that I’m against it, pings through a second later. But it’s the kind of thing I need to be really clear about.
Louis waits, but nothing else comes through. He waits so long his phone screen goes black and he’s left staring at his own face, slightly drawn and eyes wide and hard to look at. He turns off the ringer and shoves the phone under his pillow.
He doesn’t check his phone until three in the afternoon the next day. He’s got a WhatsApp from Oli, two from Lottie, and a missed call from his agent. Underneath all that, two unread texts from Nick.
He doesn’t answer. In fact, he ignores Nick entirely for two weeks, until he feels like he’s bursting out of his skin, antsy and restless in a way crappy telly and beer can’t settle. He’s just got used to regular sex, he tells himself, and going without is hard. Except it’s not just that, there’s something underneath it all that’s keeping him on edge and preoccupied, that has him tuning into the Breakfast Show on catch up even when he’s trying to ignore the existence of its host. Something that pushed him to send that stupid sheep in the first place. Something more.
Shit. He wants something more with Nick Grimshaw.
He knows what he’s like. He’d not forgotten exactly, but he thought it’d be different with a bloke. He’s had the odd one night stand before, of course he has, but anyone who sticks around… he tends to get attached. But he knows Grimmy gets about, and sex is all he wanted, he doesn’t even like Nick. He was just someone safe, who wouldn’t run to the press. Someone easy, who fell into his lap, the perfect way to try things out, get a bit of experience.
And now he’s fucked it all up because he can’t keep a lid on his fucking heart. It snuck up on him.
He opens their text log. The last conversation - if it can be called that - is stark and obvious, almost too large to overcome. He hovers over the keypad, then sends an aubergine. He keeps the app open, refreshing the screen and watching as it ticks down his battery. Seven per cent wasted when a peach appears.
He breathes out in a whoosh. Alright then.
Louis doesn’t give them time for conversation. They normally don’t bother with much anyway, but generally he’ll let Nick get the door locked before he pounces.
It’s just better, isn’t it? He tried for more and Nick made it clear this is a sex thing. He’s not going to get upset about it. It’s good sex. Easy. Convenient. Not worth throwing away because he’s an idiot.
Nick’s bedroom is the same as it always is. His bed made up so neatly with those useless little extra cushions that hit the deck as soon as Louis hits the sheets, duvet crumpling to the side as he wrenches it out from beneath him. He can’t stand the neatness. The prissy way Nick styles his hair, thick with product that crunches under his fingers. The designer clothes that take too long to undo and strip away.
It’s better underneath.
He loses himself in it, so good until the haze clears and his breath gets back to normal, the sweat on his skin turning cold. Then he swings his legs off the bed and stands up, gathering his clothes. He’s always liked passing out after getting off, no sleep like the cuddly sleep of the recently orgasmed. But he’s at Nick’s, so. A drive across London it is.
“Before you run away,” Nick says mildly, still unabashedly naked and sprawled like he doesn’t know what that does to Louis - but then, maybe he doesn’t, it’s not like Louis’ ever said, and they never hang around long enough to rev up for round two. “Are we going to acknowledge the elephant in the room? Or the monkey.”
Louis says nothing. Nick’s voice is soft; it makes something tense in his chest.
“It could be fun, you know?” Nick’s trailing one hand in slow circles on his stomach. It’s distracting, but unfortunately not quite distracting enough for Louis to forget this conversation is happening. “You don’t have to be embarrassed.”
“I don’t-” he clears his throat, and tries again. “I don’t want that.” He’d managed to get as far as putting his boxers on before Nick started talking, but he still feels somewhat naked, hovering awkwardly next to the bed with his jeans in his hands. He digs his fingernails into a tough denim seam.
“Okay,” Nick says easily. “But if you did, it-”
“I was trying to talk to you,” he blurts. For the first time, Nick looks wrongfooted.
“By… sending me a sheep?”
“I always send emojis.”
“Tried and tested technique is it? Sheep, beach, monkey.” He nods, ticking them off on his fingers. “Yep, it all makes sense now. Sends all the lads you fancy wild.”
“I don’t fancy you,” he lies, but Nick just raises one of his expressive eyebrows. Nick probably uses that word liberally, about anyone who catches his eye - a no brainer of a descriptor for someone he’s been tumbling into bed for months. It’s just not like that for Louis. For Louis, it means feelings. “It was just something... something not-” he blows air out in an annoyed huff. Damn Nick Grimshaw to hell. This is all his fault. “Something that wasn’t a dick or an arse, okay? Something neutral.” He scoffs. “Course you managed to turn it into something dirty.”
“You’re the one trying to communicate with farm animals, you can’t blame an innocent text recipient for misinterpreting.”
Louis turns away and steps into his jeans. This conversation is going nowhere, and he needs to be going anyway. The unwritten rule of fuck and flee is dangerously close to being broken. There’s a shifting behind him, then hands close on his as he goes to do up his belt.
“Louis,” Nick says quietly.
He’s a better person, Louis realises. They’re both twats, but Nick is kind, forgiving, whereas Louis can hold a grudge as long as it takes. If it was the other way round right now, he’d be ripping the piss out of Nick, and Nick is all just soft and quiet and big, gentle hands.
He almost wants to laugh. Louis’ not good enough for Nick Grimshaw, and the him of six months ago would think he’d had a stroke for even thinking that, but it’s true. There’s a difference between loving your family and giving a shit about your fans and being genuinely… nice. Friendly. Louis tries, but he’s not nice.
Louis knows about that ticklish spot on Nick’s hip, and that’s he’s got a bit of a thing for arses. He knows he’s a good guy, kind, and he knows he makes his bed and keeps his lube in the left-hand side table. Everything else - everything that makes Nick Nick, he either doesn’t know or he’s heard on the radio, or second-hand from Harry. He’s got none of his own little anecdotes and stories, nothing that only he knows because Nick whispered it late one night when his defences were down and they were curled up together. He’s fallen in - something - with Nick, and it means nothing. He doesn’t even know him.
“You’ve been lying to me,” Louis says as nonchalantly as he can manage. “You’re not really a twat at all, are you?” He swallows. “Just to me.”
“I’m not a twat to you either. Or I’m a twat to everyone.”
“I’m not special then?” he says with a teasing lilt of a smile, but Nick doesn’t take the bait. He just screws his face up a bit, until he looks like Pig on one of Nick’s many Instagram stories. He wonders who copied who.
“Why don’t you come over Thursday?” Nick asks. “I’m having some mates round. We’re watching the Love Island final.”
“Harry’s coming,” he adds, like the issue is that Louis won’t know anyone, not that he knows Nick too well - in some ways, at least - and there’ll be a load of spectators waiting for him to slip up.
“I can’t,” he says miserably.
“I’m not expecting a couples costume if that’s what’s got your knickers in a twist,” Nick sighs, rolling his eyes. “It’s just a hang out. A few bottles of wine. Snacks we’ll definitely regret in the morning.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“Ah, we’re not all blessed with the metabolism of youth, and neither will you be for much longer.” There’s a stretch of silence. “Did you want to meet my friends?”
Nick sounds sort of small, and Louis nods hurriedly. He doesn't, really, he wants some fictional world where he can be with Nick and no one has to know, but Nick comes with friends who let themselves into his house and sleep over in his bed and it’s a miracle no one has stumbled across anything yet. His fantasy would never work out. If he wants more, he has to meet his friends.
“What will we tell them?”
“Thought I’d print out our text convo, stick it on the front door. Should give everyone the right idea, right love?”
Love. It’s nothing, he uses it all the time himself, it’s just a Northern thing and it doesn’t mean what he wants it to mean - but there’s still a little frisson of excitement hearing it directed his way from Nick.
“Whatever you want,” Nick continues. “Say you tagged along with Harry if you like. We don’t even know each other. What’s your name again? Stewie?”
“We could be friends,” he decides. It’s not true, but it’s a step, isn’t it? And he’d like to be.
“Friends,” Nick agrees.
The gathering starts well, with so few odd looks that Louis expects Aimee, Ian, Pixie and Gillian were given some prior warning about an extra boybander being present. The only one who looks alarmed is Harry, as it occurs to Louis far too late that perhaps telling Harry was his job, and sends him a dark ‘we’ll talk about it later’ glare from his spot on the sofa.
He’s sort of stupidly into Love Island, because apparently finding yourself without a band and without a world tour and without a normal job either, you end up sinking hours into TV shows you’re embarrassed to tell anyone about. It makes it easier, because everyone else is into it too, so as soon as the show starts they’re passing crisps and taking the piss and not talking about any potentially touchy topics such as Why Louis Tomlinson is in Nick Grimshaw’s Living Room, or How Come He’s Displaced Pixie as Pig’s Favourite. There are bets being passed round, and he idly puts a tenner on Jack and Dani before the ad break comes and he nips into the kitchen for more beer.
“Since when are you mates with Grimmy?” Harry asks incredulously. Louis spins, heart racing, before carefully turning away again. He finds the bottle opener, popping the top off two beers and hands one to Harry, who somehow looks even more shocked. “You knew where that was,” he says.
Louis looks at the bottle opener. He did. He’s never had a meal in this kitchen, never even so much as stuck the kettle on, but he knew where the bottle opener was. He tries to remember why, when he found out. It’s a blank. “Just makes sense it was there, doesn’t it?”
“You know I’ve been trying to get you two to hang out for years.”
Louis shrugs. “Now we are.”
“Does it matter?” He picks at the label of his beer. “We ran into each other a couple of times. He’s not so bad.” He grins as he says it, well aware of the many, many times Harry extolled Nick’s virtues and Louis made a game of shooting them all down until Harry was frustrated and pissy with him. He raises the beer to his lips.
“Are you sleeping together?”
He chokes. “What?” he wheezes.
“He’s good for an experiment, doesn't mind helping out.”
“No,” he says firmly, not sure if he means it or not. Because sort of yes, he’s definitely sleeping with Nick, but he doesn’t want to blurt it out in the space of an ITV advert break and also it’s not an experiment any more. “Did you?”
“Alright boys?” Nick sweeps into the kitchen, burying his head in the fridge. He tucks a bottle of white wine under one arm, then piles up little pots of salsa, guacamole and sour cream dip. “Forgot I even bought these, not like I’m gonna eat them tomorrow is it?” He nudges the fridge closed and glances between them warily. He looks soft and approachable in a worn out band t-shirt Louis’ seen him in before - something obscure from the nineties that never made it big. Nick is attached to it, and had scolded Louis when he yanked at it too roughly while trying to wrestle it over his head. “Am I interrupting something?”
“You and Harry pulled each other off?”
Nick nearly drops the wine. “What? You - you were in here less than two minutes?!”
Nick’s holding the dips so tightly the pots are crumpling. Louis shifts his gaze to them. He almost wants to take them from Nick. The plastic might split, and the salsa would stain his t-shirt.
“In the living room,” Harry says slowly, and Louis remembers, idly, that he’s there. “On the sofa.”
Something loosens a little in his chest. Not in Nick’s bed. Louis always gets Nick’s bed - but then, that’s because they’ve never hung out, have they? Never been watching TV and felt the urge. Maybe the sofa means more than the bed. The sofa he was just sitting on. It tightens again.
“Was it good?”
Harry laughs, and Louis forces a teasing grin. Nick’s still staring at him. He’s being a dick. He’s being an obvious fucking dick. It’s natural for Louis to have questions, this isn't a revelation he could just brush off with a ‘oh right’ and move on, Harry would be suspicious.
“Yeah,” Harry drawls.
“Only happened once,” Nick says finally, his voice a little rough. It sounds entirely too much like he’s been on his knees for Louis’ comfort. He takes a quick swig of his beer, almost getting it down the wrong pipe, and coughs. He’s nearly finished the bottle already. If he carries on at this rate he’ll be useless and messy before they announce the winners.
“Not really my thing, fun as it was,” Harry continues. “Good to try things out though. When you know, you know, and all that.”
“Yeah I guess,” Louis says, and the Love Island music starts up in the living room like a chorus of freaking angels. “It’s back on,” he says, and shoves past them both. Aimee and Ian are arguing about who’s taking the lion share of Nick’s fluffy blue blanket, and he sinks to his knees by the coffee table instead of sitting next to them. He can’t reach the crisps from the sofa.
Nick kicks everyone out at eleven, claiming Breakfast Show bedtime. Louis doesn’t really want to go, and not because he’s dying to get his end away - he’s eaten a few too many crisps and dips for that to be high on his priority list right now - but because he wants to be the one who gets to stay. It’s uncomfortable though, trying to hang around, taking his time when everyone knows he doesn’t fit there in the first place. Eventually he slips into a cab and then looks super weird by asking to drive two streets over and pull up. Luckily, the cabbie is a guy in his fifties with no clue who Louis is, and quite happy to sit there with his newspaper if Louis’ happy to keep the meter running. He gives it twenty minutes, then texts Nick a sheep.
Everyone gone? His fingers are trembling. The little dots appear then disappear, like Nick is overthinking whatever he’s typing. He bites at a hangnail on his thumb. Maybe someone’s staying over, and Louis’ being a sad twat waiting in a taxi around the corner. Maybe Harry stayed. Maybe tonight brought it all up again, and they’ll have another go on the sofa, or maybe this time they’ll graduate to the bed and the sheets won’t smell like Nick any more, they’ll smell like Nick&Harry. Maybe Nick’s had enough of a short, closeted popstar who had to be taught everything like a fucking virgin, who throws insults at Nick like it’s sport, who sneers and scowls in public and honestly, isn’t much better in private.
He knows he’s fit. He owns a mirror, and even if he somehow lost it he’s got his own little set of fans willing to shout it at him on Twitter or Instagram whenever he posts something. It’s just. He’s always one of five, even now. And Harry is all tall and somehow sexily smooth despite his gooberish tendencies. Liam is ripped, and Zayn is beautiful, and Niall charms everyone within minutes of meeting them. So yeah, no hang ups here, he’s hot stuff and proud of it, but he’s under no illusions either. He surrounds himself with even hotter stuff. Like Nick. His puppy eyes rival Liam’s any day, he’s taller even than Harry, his quiff is ridiculous but it’s really fucking sexy too, and he makes people fall in love with him when the rest of the world is still bleary eyed and yawning.
It’s not enough that Louis’ fit, is it? It’s a good start, but in the end a body and a face is just that, and he’s not knock your socks off, drop dead gorgeous.
He groans lightly. It’s just sex, just sex, just sex. Sex and one night watching crappy telly with five other people where the only things they even said to each other were about Nick getting off with Louis’ best mate. And he’s still a sap, desperately watching the little dots on his phone with the taxi meter stretching into three figures.
“You sure you want to stop here, mate?” the cabbie asks.
“Yeah,” he says roughly. “Just, like, just giving it a minute.”
The cabbie snorts. “Women’s prerogative,” he chuckles. “They like to keep us waiting. My Sam was just the same. Don’t worry about it though, we’re coming up on eighteen years next month.”
“Yeah?” he says absently. “Congrats, man.”
“What’s yours called?”
He swallows. “Nick,” he says quietly.
“Ah,” the cabbie nods. He thumbs a sheet of his tabloid. “I had a Nic of my own back in high school. Think she ended up becoming a lawyer or summat. You know how you catch things on Facebook these days. Yeah, right smart cookie, that one.”
“Mine too,” he whispers.
“What’s she do?”
The cabbie laughs. “You know I read an article once? Said women talk twice as much as men. Not sure I believe that. Get me going and I can ramble on a bit. Sam always says she has to shut my gob with a sandwich if she wants to...”
Sorry. Was kicking Pixie out. You want to come over?
“...tell me anything important. That’s an exaggeration, of course-”
“Sorry mate, can you drop me back where you picked me up from?”
The cabbie turns round, his face creased into a look of pity. “That’s shit man, getting you out like that. ‘Course I can.” He clicks on his indicator and performs a messy three point turn that almost scrapes along a parked Land Rover. “Hell of a bill, I’m afraid. I’d knock it down for you, but they keep track you see. Auto-syncs with the box when we check the car back in. They had a run of people giving their mates free lifts on the company’s petrol a year or two ago.”
They pull back up in front of Nick’s house. It’s by far the most Louis has ever paid for a journey of less than five hundred metres, and he’s used to a life of stupid extravagance. He hands his card over, and the cabbie whistles, running it through the machine. He’s clearly surprised when it isn’t declined, and Louis wonders if it’s down to his tracksuit or his age.
“Better luck next time,” he says, handing Louis’ card back.
“Yeah,” he nods. “Thanks.” And then he’s out on the darkened pavement, his new friend - the only person in the world who knows, sort of, about him and Nick - driving away into the distance.
The door opens when he knocks. The light is off in the hallway, so Nick is silhouetted against the glow still coming from the living room. Louis shuffles in, closes and bolts the door, then slips off his shoes.
When he turns back, he’s caught immediately in a kiss. He sinks into it; they’re so familiar these days, Nick knows exactly which buttons to press - but he tears himself away.
“I sent you a sheep.”
Somehow Nick gets it. The hand in Louis’ hair tugs lightly then slips away, fitting itself into one of Nick’s back pockets instead. He seems to steel himself. “You want to talk?”
“I want more than just sex,” he says in a rush. “I know what this is, and what it started as, but I want more than that now. And you don’t, which is fine. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say. Like I can say it’s fine, but it’s not fine, and do I mean fine as in let’s carry on? Because that might really fuck me up, actually, but I don’t want to stop either. Fuck. Fuck.” He sucks in a breath, and then another.
“Alright then,” Nick says quietly, and Louis slowly becomes aware of a large hand sweeping comfortingly up and down his back. He blinks back the beginnings of wetness at the corner of his eyes and breathes deeply again. He’s not going to fucking cry like some teenager. It’s just a lot. He didn’t mean to say all that, but once he started it was like pulling a plug, everything just whooshing away and he couldn’t get the stopper back in. “It’s alright.”
“It’s not,” he says roughly. “I’m sorry, God, what am I even...? I’ll go. I shouldn’t have come.”
“No, don’t.” Nick catches him by the shoulders before he can turn and holds him in place. “You want more,” he repeats, like the concept is an interesting flavour on his tongue that needs further thought.
“I don’t even know you,” Louis says, defeated.
“That’s normally why people start dating, to get to know each other.”
Dating. It sits in his chest like hope. “We’ve fucked,” he says harshly, trying to damp it down before it can get too comfortable.
“Mmm,” Nick hums a little wickedly, “I was there. So we missed a few steps. We can go back and fill them in.”
“You don’t like me. I don’t like you.” Lie. Stupid, fucking lie.
“I thought we didn’t know each other?”
He clears his throat and shifts, tangling his fingers in his tracksuit sleeves.
“Are you going to run away if I let you go?”
He shrugs. Nick sighs, and pointedly doesn’t move his hands from Louis’ shoulders. His grip is warm but relaxed; it would be nothing to slip sideways out from under it. He's not wearing his shoes though, and awkwardly hopping about pulling on trainers would ruin any kind of quick exit. Besides, he wanted this. Somehow. He wanted to talk, he chose to land himself in this quagmire of embarrassment and shame. He could have been pants down on Nick’s bed by now if he hadn’t stopped the kiss.
If he hadn’t sent a fucking sheep.
“I’m not exactly a relationship guru,” Nick says. “No, it’s true!” He nods emphatically. He’s got his radio voice on a bit, that self-deprecating ramble that’s so out of place here, between the two of them, it makes something in Louis die a little. “I haven’t the foggiest how to do this properly, and I’m probably going to make a right hash of it. But we can give it a go, right?”
His voice changed right at the end, just enough to have the damned kernel of hope take light again. He bites at his lip. It tastes a little like the white wine Nick was drinking all night. “You don’t want to. I’m just really fit.”
“You are,” Nick says, and he sounds confused. “And I’m not sure why that would mean I didn’t want to, but I definitely do. It’s just like a bonus. Or something?”
“Prove it,” he whispers. It’s stupid, and too much to ask - but he feels raw. He’s so fucking gone already and he doesn’t know what to do with it. Nick’s not gone. Not in the same way.
Nick takes a step back, but he slides his big hands down Louis' arms until they’re holding hands, face to face in Nick’s hallway while Louis stares at their socks. “How?” Nick asks softly.
“No, tell me,” Nick presses. He drops one hand in the silence and tightens the other, pulling him through to the living room. The bowls and empty glasses have been tidied away, the fluffy blue blanket folded neatly over the back of the sofa. He stiffens a little at the sight of it. “I’ve been thinking about getting a new sofa,” Nick says lightly. “I never got round to replacing it when I redecorated. Have you got an eye for interior design? You could help me find something that fits the walls better.”
“Harry’s better at that kinda thing,” he mutters. Pig wanders in from the kitchen and noses hopefully at his toes, before snuffling around the bottom of the coffee table in search of hidden crumbs.
“I don’t want Harry’s opinion,” Nick says quietly, firmly. “I want to try, with you. Tell me how to prove it.”
“I don’t know, shout out on the radio?” he says hopelessly. “Can I have a cup of tea?”
“I- yeah, course, come through.” Nick boils the kettle and fetches mugs. He keeps PG Tips in, and Louis wrinkles his nose but holds his tongue. He feels more settled when he’s got a warm mug in his hands, years of self-medicating with tea having developed a Pavlovian response where it really does make everything better. They sit at the kitchen table. “You can have the shout out too,” Nick says eventually.
“I don’t….” he shrugs. It’s not like it really will prove anything, but he sort of wants it. Nick talks about Aimee and Pixie and Harry all the time, but it’s been months and not a single veiled comment has slipped through that could be applied to Louis. He’s not ready to come out. It’s going to be a shitshow, and it’ll be worse for Nick - they’ve barely agreed to date, and are far too fragile to withstand all that. But a throwaway reference. That no one but themselves would get. “If you want,” he ends with.
“Want a biccie?”
Louis raises an eyebrow. “I’m not a three year old. Or Pig,” he says disgruntledly, but takes a Hobnob when the packet’s waved under his nose. Nick dunks his, and not particularly well either; he loses the final bit as it crumbles under its own soggy weight into his tea. “That’s disgusting.”
“All ending up in the same place, innit?”
“Tell you a secret,” Nick says, and leans in. Louis looks up. He wants secrets. Any - big, small and everything in between, he wants to know everything about Nick. “I can’t stand the chocolate Hobnobs. People think they’re a proper posh one. Stick ‘em out at events all the time. Try and woo me with the pinnacle of packet biscuits.”
“And you turn ‘em down?” He smiles, watching as Nick demolishes another (non-chocolate) Hobnob.
“I’m terribly rude about it.”
“Next time I barely get those boring Nice ones. Or squashed fly biscuits.”
Nick yawns, and Louis watches the way he tries to fight it. He glances at the clock on the microwave; it’s closer to one than twelve. Nick has to be up in just a handful of hours.
“Shit, sorry. It’s really late.” He gathers their mugs and sticks them in the sink. “I’ll get out of your ridiculous hair. You need your beauty sleep.”
Nick catches him by the hand and pulls him down into his lap. His lips land on Louis’ neck, but instead of the usual biting and sucking they just nuzzle gently. “Wouldn't mind a cuddle, if you’re up for it? Just a cuddle mind, I've not got the energy for anything athletic.”
His breath catches. “Upstairs?”
“I’d rather you kick me out now than at five AM.”
Nick laughs quietly into the crook where his neck meets his shoulder, breath blowing out in teasing little tickles. “I’m not a monster. You can stay. Just let yourself out whenever, or be here when I get back. If you want.”
Louis shifts enough that he can wrap his arms around Nick’s neck and press a chaste kiss to his cheek. It feels big, far bigger than the snog in the hallway or any time he’s stood in Nick’s bedroom and stripped off his boxers. It’s something he never would have attempted without the warm comfort of tea and biscuits in his belly and the quiet hum of the fridge in the background. “Mmm,” he murmurs, a little shy, and rubs his nose into Nick's shoulder. “Alright then.”
“A friend of mine asked me to prove something to him by way of a shout out on the radio.” There’s a brief pause, and Louis’ pulse jumps. “He should know better than to use his celebrity connections like that of course, but hey. I kinda like him, so. This is for you, and remember I could have made it so much worse, right love?”
Nick’s tone is as light and casual as ever, his radio voice that goes out to millions of listeners every morning, the friend in everyone’s bedroom, kitchen and car as they get ready for work. Still, the ‘love’ sends little thrills through him as the song starts up.
See I reckon you about an eight or a nine, maybe even nine and a half in 4 beers time
Louis laughs, rolling onto his back in Nick’s bed. He’s got his phone clutched in one hand, and flicks through to his text log. There’s a new message waiting.
Twat, he sends back affectionately.
Takes one to know one, love
You don’t think it fits better the other way? Pretty sure I’m the one who’d stop sharking for chips and drinks
You're as vain as I am, stop denying it... I was kind of hoping if you went out, you'd not be looking to pull though?
Yeah, Louis types slowly. Not right now.
Not looking for a girlfriend?
“That was The Streets, with You’re Fit But You Know It, hope you all enjoyed that! Now I reckon it’s been about half an hour, so let's sneak in a bit more Florence. Can never get enough Florence.”
I’m getting very weird looks from Fifi, so if you’re looking for a boyfriend can you just say yes? Instead of talking in riddles or sending it in hieroglyphs. 👨❤️👨 🍤 🤞
Louis bites his lip.
And then: 🌮
I have no idea how to translate a taco.
Well what the fuck does a prawn mean??
Nothing. But me too btw 🧡
Warmth spreads through him like he's sunk into a jacuzzi. Nick's, like, his boyfriend now. He takes a selfie of himself sprawled out in Nick’s sheets, sticking his tongue out at the camera. Get home soon.
Cheeky fucker you know I’ve got two hours left!
He grins. Might have to entertain myself while you entertain the nation then
Nick’s next text is just a stream of random emojis. Louis smiles and turns up the volume on his radio app. He stretches, taking a deep breath of Nick’s pillow, the way it holds onto the odd smell of his shampoo that Louis’ never managed to place. Maybe he can courier over a packet of plain Hobnobs in apology. Maybe he can take a shower and find out what brand of shampoo it is.
“That was… Fifi, what was that? Florence! That was Florence, and up next we’ve got, erm, Beyoncé? No, I played that already. Fifi, stop laughing! She’s laughing at me folks, you can’t get the staff these days, absolutely no respect. Oh, that’s right, it’s Charlie XCX. Banging. Here we go, this is ‘Boys’.”
Four months later
“Here, Charlie, you want another shift this weekend?”
Leo chucks his newspaper on the table between them, and Charlie nods distractedly, he could do with the extra cash. He points at the picture, still shaking a sugar packet out into his tea with the other hand. “I had that lad in my taxi a few months back,” he says. “Nice kid. Dropped nearly three hundred waiting for his girl, and she stood him up.” He shakes his head and stirs vigorously, then taps the spoon on the side with a sharp clink.
“Girl?” asks Leo.
“Nic, I think it was. Yeah, I remember because I told him about the Nic I dated at school. Why’s he in the paper?”
Leo smirks and unfolds it, revealing the headline: One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson in Secret Gay Tryst with Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw! Page 4 for all the ‘Grimmy’ details.
“Oh,” says Charlie. “I guess Nick came around in the end then.” He smiles. “Good for them.”