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“What are the chances,” Harry asks into the pillow, “that I can get away with just not existing outside of my room at all today?”

Zayn probably shrugs, because Zayn is always shrugging. It seems to be his favorite way of dealing with his fantastic decision to room with Harry. “If Russia was like ‘fuck it, only we know’ and nuked us right now, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t get fired.”

“Nice,” Harry says. “Do you have Vlad on speed dial?”

“Don’t call him Vlad,” Zayn says, scandalized. “You can’t just desanctify him like that.”

“You’re right,” Harry says, unwillingly giving up the attempt at suffocation. “What was I thinking. Fuck,” he continues, standing up and rummaging through his dresser. “On the off chance that Vlad doesn’t save me, will I be late?”

Zayn is sitting on the floor in the middle of Harry’s room, eyes closed and palms down on his crossed thighs. “Do I have a watch behind my eyelids?”

Shit, I’m so late. I fucked up, Zayn. I fucked up so bad.” He grabs the first t-shirt he sees, which is of course a worn Packer’s one, because most of the plain t-shirts he owns are sports related. Zayn claims it clashes with the amount of mesh he has, but Zayn only owns black and grey (and the occasional white for when he decides that color is worthy of his time), so Harry doesn’t think he’s the best on what clashes what. Or something. That sentence was meant to have a more hardcore ending, but it’s 7:45 AM and he fucked up.

Zayn shrugs again. “You’re teaching poetry to freshman; it’ll be a disaster no matter what. Who the fuck cares when you show up?”

“God, that optimism goes really well with your skin tone,” Harry tells him, hopping on one foot to get the right leg of his cleanest black slacks in. He really needs to do laundry. Living with Zayn and his insistence that washers not be used until absolutely necessary isn’t doing him any good. Of course, Zayn would remind him that it doesn’t matter how good he’s doing so long as the environment doesn’t crash around his great-grandchildren.

“Everything goes well with my skin tone,” Zayn dismisses.

“Hey, how do I look?” Zayn doesn’t open his eyes. “If you don’t open your eyes, I’ll tell everyone on your contact list about the two-month period where you listened to you-know-who and claimed she was a good rapper.”

Zayn’s eyes pop open. “Fix your blazer. And your pants aren’t done up, I can see your hot pink underwear.”

“I’m aiming for vintage 90s gay,” Harry says, even as he does the zip and button up. It'd been a gag gift, except that whoever gave it clearly underestimated Harry's preference for comfort over anything else. “Other than that, I’m good? Am I exuding ‘chill but will give you an F if you say Cummings was weird’?”

“You’re wearing a Wisconsin Green Bay Packers shirt under a navy blue blazer with black pants. You’ll fit in perfectly with the white Greek-lettered population at this school.”

“So I look like an asshole,” Harry translates. “You don’t know how happy that makes me. Love you.” He grabs his phone off the charger, kicks Zayn on the knee to show he cares, and sprints out the apartment.

 

Okay, contrary to what Zayn claimed, Harry's first stint as an American Poetry Since 1900 TA is not a disaster.

That being said, it was only the first class, the professor was there, and all they did was go over the syllabus and assign reading. But! Not a disaster, all other details are superfluous and won’t be brought up when he recounts to Zayn.

“You think you’re ready for the challenge?” Professor Martin asks him, raising a perfectly done eyebrow. Harry has literally been in love with her since he was eighteen and fresh-faced, and he can't even emphasize how blessed he feels to get paid to talk poetry with her on a regular basis.

Harry grins. “It’s now or never, right?” It’s literally now or never; he’s on a fast track to finish his Master’s so that he can move on to law school, and there isn’t all that much time to dawdle on things he needs and wants to get done.

Professor Martin hums thoughtfully. “If you screw this up, I won’t be very pleased, Harry.”

“I’ll have dropped out before you even have a chance to see me.”

She hums again. “A wise choice. Well, all of luck to you for the next class. Remember, I’ll always be in my office if you need me, and it’s directly attached. I appreciate you doing this for me.”

“It’s always my pleasure,” Harry says, staring longingly after her as she walks away.

I didn’t die! he texts Zayn. He and Zayn practically live on campus, but practically does not equate to literally, and he wants to get down to his bike and to the Starbucks next to their apartment complex in the elite and compact time between the post-8AM and pre-10AM frenzy.

doens’t count, syll day, you’re gonna crash and burn Honestly, if Harry didn’t remember the weekend before when Zayn had helped him go over every poem and poet he’ll be teaching this semester, he’d be under the assumption that Zayn maybe doesn’t value his success.

Harry sends him a flower emoji.

It is during this critical emoji-deciding period that Harry runs into someone. Literally. He has his head down, is letting muscle memory and brief glances up guide him to his bike, and so misses when someone exits the adjoining classroom and walks directly into them.

“Motherfuck!” the guy shouts, falling and sprawling all his things around.

“Shit, I’m so sorry,” Harry says, kneeling down to help gather his things. On one hand, though, Harry is wondering since when human beings with that much cargo choose to carry it by hand and not in a bag. Is he in a 90s sitcom? Is he going to look up, bump their heads, and instantly fall in love with the guy’s bright blue eyes?

He—wow. Okay. Yes. All those things are going to happen. All those things happen.

“I’m so sorry,” Harry repeats, rubbing at his own forehead and resisting the urge to reach across and rub the stranger’s. “I didn’t mean to do that, obviously, obviously. Are you okay? If you’d had your hat on the right way, our foreheads wouldn’t have bumped, probably.”

The guy snatches his papers from Harry’s hand and stands up, giving Harry an incredulous look. Harry follows. “You fuckin’ barrel into me and then insult how I wear my snapback?”

“I wasn’t insulting it,” Harry defends. “I was pointing out—okay, I’m sorry. It was a pointless comment. I'm Harry," he tacks on at the end for whatever reason he can't figure out.

"Okay?" the guy asks, raising an eyebrow. "Good for you. Watch where you're going next time." And then, quite anticlimactically, he walks away. Well.

 

"Honey, I'm home!" Harry announces into the apartment, closing the door behind him. He follows the sounds of Drake, the usual and most obvious indicator, and finds Zayn in the exact same position he’d been in when Harry left this morning. It’s four in the afternoon.

“Have you even left the house at any point today? Didn’t you have class this morning?”

Zayn says, “maybe.”

"How can you mediate when you have Drake on in high bass full volume?" Harry asks as he toes his shoes off. He shucks his clothes off, left only in his briefs and socks. Even though he knows Zayn will be annoyed, he lies down on the floor, stomach up, and rests his head in Zayn's folded lap. "How was your day? I forgot to ask this morning, but did you sleep well? What'd you have for breakfast?" If he asks enough questions and makes Zayn want to kill him, then he'll finally get responded to.

Like clockwork, Zayn starts, "are you fucking me?" Harry grins. He's so predictable. "Are you financing me? Are you feeding me?"

"Actually," Harry answers, "yes. I cooked dinner last night..

"I could have bought the grocery store you used," Zayn says.

"Reminders of how rich you are turn me on. Hey, I was serious about wanting to know how your day was."

"Dull," Zayn tells him, finally opening his eyes and looking down at Harry. His hands go into Harry's hair, and start massaging. He's easily Harry's favorite living human. "Went to class, bumped into your ex, wished you were good enough for him—" (Harry's ex-boyfriend is a business major, progeny of a celebrity surgeon, a math prodigy, strong support for all positive stereotypes about black male genitalia and, as Zayn likes to remind him every so often, too good for Harry. Harry knows. To be fair, no one is good enough for Gene, so he's probably going to stay single and perfect for the rest of his natural born life.) "—told me to tell you to call him because he misses you, I laughed, went to class, got Moe Monday. Is that enough info? Do you want to know what I ordered and how many times I pissed?"

"Regular urination is key to a healthy kidney," Harry says matter-of-factly, hissing and laughing when Zayn digs nails into his scalp. "Dude, chill!"

"When you speak like that I remember that you're not just a pretentious gay English major but actually a suburban Midwestern white kid. I love the contrast," Zayn says.

"Who looks like an asshole," Harry adds, quoting Zayn's earlier assessment.

"Who looks like an asshole," Zayn agrees, grinning widely. He smiles like this so rarely that Harry always feels doubly proud of himself when it happens. "You?"

"I met a beautiful man today," Harry starts, but is interrupted by Zayn groaning and rolling his eyes. "No, seriously! Stop. This is a state emergency."

"Scale him," Zayn says.

"Like...a 9.2. Only not a 10 because he desperately needed to shave and looked like he was simultaneously three days high and hungover. That, and he was wearing..." Harry hesitates. He shouldn't have said anything.

"Now I have to know or you'll have to die."

"There's a nice serrated knife in the second drawer from the dishwasher. Okay, okay," he concedes when Zayn's hands tighten painfully in his hair. "There was a lot of Nike."

"You're a mistake," Zayn tells him.

"All of God's children are beautiful," says Harry. "He had really nice blue eyes, though. Like a country song."

"Blue eyes are a mutation." Zayn pushes Harry's head away and stands, walking out of the room and leaving Harry to scramble after and follow him into the kitchen. "Your mother took the wrong child, since they all look the same, and you're actually Rick Scott's, which explains a lot."

"We look nothing alike in our baby pics," Harry says.

Zayn, having taken a plum from the fridge, bites into it whilst looking at Harry judgmentally. "Because I'm not white. I was cute."

Harry makes a noise.

"Sorry for the casual reverse racism," Zayn says, biting down. "I just can't believe you'd downgrade so far down from Gene."

Harry makes a noise.

 

"Honestly, though." Zayn says an hour later, digging his fork into the salad Harry whipped up with the quickly browning romaine in their fridge and the leftover chicken from the I Missed You I'm So Glad We're Back meal Harry made on Saturday. It's a beautiful salad. Harry should post it into Instagram. "If a blue-eyed excessive Nike-wearing boy is what you're interested in, I support your happiness."

Harry places his palm romantically over Zayn's and squeezes.

 

Zayn has started the habit of pointing at random jocks and asking Harry, "is that him? Is that your Gene rebound?" every time they go out.

After the fifteenth time, Harry gives up and agrees to all of them, even when it’s a girl or someone of Afro-Asian Persuasion, an often reminder of Zayn’s not so subtle hints of where he’d prefer Harry to direct his attention. (“We all have flaws,” Harry says. Zayn sighs loudly and makes a photo of Gene and Harry his lock screen wallpaper.)

It becomes a joke. Of course, it’s when this joke becomes settled in that it proves inconvenient. They’re at the campus Starbucks, because Harry is a white middle class cliché, Zayn has a few of the usual vices of an hotel heir, and they’re both on approximately two hours of sleep because of coursework and Harry’s delightful adventures grading 200 freshman’s essays on mental illness and madness in Poe's poems.

"I think I need to examine the likelihood of madness in myself," Harry tells Zayn, setting down his venti whatever with nine shots of espresso and laptop next to Zayn’s. Zayn has one of the old Macbooks, the white ones, because he likes to downplay his wealth and make Harry look like he’s the one who spends excessively on electronic materials, but he literally got his handmade from a request his Dad gave Tim Cook, and the specs are lightyears better than Harry’s refurbished Air. Rich kids. Honestly.

“You’re telling me,” Zayn answers, folding his legs underneath himself. This booth is pretty much reserved for them in that it’s literally reserved for them. Harry’s life would be empty without Zayn’s bribes.

They both have too much work to do for chatter and banter, so it’s silent for a while, Zayn working on one of the ninety essays he always has due, one of the qualms of double-majoring, and Harry fawning over an essay that compares The Raven and Crime and Punishment, saying that their madness is evidence of their guilt. Harry wants to cry, just a little.

He’s trying not to give a solid hundred simply on basis alone when Zayn throws a bit of cookie at him and says, “hey, is that your boy toy? Are they all your boy toys?”

“Yes,” Harry says automatically, before he even glances up. When he does, he has to squint his eyes from the glare of neon. There’s actually a flock—a herd—a gaggle? of jocks entering the store, increasing the noise level by a thousand and heckling each other as they line up. The barista, an obvious theatre kid, twitches.

“It’s like watching the Animal Channel,” Zayn says, holding his head up on his hands, taking on a really bad Australian accent. “And here we have the Northern Pacific White away from its natural habitat, aggression increased tenfold to assert its dominance within the enemy’s nest.”

“Can we record this? Will we go to jail if we record this?”

“I’m willing to find out,” Zayn says.

Harry squints harder. He thinks he… “Holy shit, I think that’s actually him,” Harry says, shocked. One of them, in neon orange vans, is leaning flirtatiously over the counter as he orders, batting his lashes at the now-blushing barista.

“Stop being so gay and fuckin’ order, Tommo,” one of them says, poking the one ordering in the side. “I have class in ten minutes.”

“Gutierrez might actually kick you out if you’re late again,” another one laughs.

“Just getting to know Allen, aren’t I, Allen? Just having a chat with the best barista this side of Kansas,” the one Harry assumes is Tommo and is almost surely the boy he ran into croons.

“You’re such a shit,” someone else laughs. There are so many of them and they all literally look the same, at least from a distance. Different shades of neon, maybe, and a few rebels daring to wear Adidas, but. At least Harry knows the Tommo kid is cute, if his memory serves him right and he’s got the right guy. He should… talk to him. He should say a thing.

“You’re kidding me,” Zayn says. He pauses. Bursts into laughter.

“You have a secret jock fetish, so shut up,” Harry tells him, leaning over and smashing his hands on the keyboard and immediately feeling really bad about Zayn’s ninety essays. “I’m sorry, that was really mean, I shouldn’t have done that.”

“I was just reading a webcomic, so I guess you can live,” Zayn reassures him. “It’s the least I can do considering this sudden affliction.”

“Maybe he’s actually a really great person and we’ll fall in love and have four point five kids and a white picket fence,” Harry says.

Zayn laughs.

 

Harry doesn’t go up to him that day, in the Starbucks, for several reasons. He still has 75 essays left to grade, choose a few to send to Professor Martin so she can verify that he’s not being a total fuck up, put them into the gradebook, buy four more cups of coffee and try to convince Mary on the second shift to give him a venti cup consisting solely of espresso shots, give Zayn’s essays a second lookover, maybe eat, and try not to die. There is an order.

That, and he hasn't showered since the night before last and should have done laundry three days ago, naught to Zayn's complaints.

That being said, when he sees Tommo the Frat Jock at a party a few weekends later, there is absolutely nothing stopping him from going up, red cup like he’s an undergrad who can’t legally buy the good stuff, and saying, “hi.” If this was Sims, he’d be full blast Irresistible Greet.

Tommo is in the kitchen, mixing what seems like an alarming amount of tequila with orange juice. Harry’s pretty sure that’s the wrong combo, but it’s bad form to insult the person you’re trying to pick up. He glances to the side. “Hi?”

Times like this, Harry understands what Zayn means when he says that he’s atrociously horrible at picking up. Gene had been his friend before they fell into dating, and otherwise Harry has been lucky enough to be approached most of the time. He’s suddenly blank on what he’s done the few times it was left solely in his hands.

He looks nice, though. He’s not dressed like a frat clone; he’s wearing black jeans and an ACDC shirt. “I own the same shirt,” Harry says.

Tommo takes a sip—a gulp, more like it. “Cool. I don’t actually listen to them. Try again.” Another gulp. He holds it up against his lips, like he’s expecting to take another drink really soon instead of having a long and worthy conversation with Harry. Rude. He can be charming.

Harry sighs. “Hi, I’m Harry Styles, and I’m really hoping you’ll dance with me?” he tries, grinning and resting his hip against the counter.

Tommo tsks, but his mouth is twitching like he’s fighting a smile, and his body, unconsciously or not, is leaning towards Harry’s. “I don’t dance. Try harder.”

Harry tips his head back, staring at the ceiling with exasperation. When he puts his head back down, he softens his smile and angles his body forward, close enough that it surpasses platonic parameters. "What's a pretty lil' thing like you doing all on your lonesome?" voice low and sweet.

Tommo barks out a laugh, snorting and finally lowering his cup. "Have you ever been in a relationship?"

"You'd be shocked," Harry answers.

"You're the fuck who ran into me, aren't you?" Tommo asks. Harry's kinda shocked he even remembers; people rarely remember minor situations like that.

"Uh," Harry starts. "Depends."

Tommo raises an eyebrow. Harry is chronically unable to do so and has never met anyone who could. Well, Zayn can, but Zayn went to private school so he never counts. "On what?"

"You telling me your name."

"Harry Styles, Human Disaster," Tommo says. If that was a Parks reference, Harry is set. "You wanna know my name real bad?"

"Wouldn't hurt," Harry replies.

"Okay," Tommo says, putting down his cup. "I want Denny's."

Harry stares at him. "What?"

"You heard me. Let's go," and he starts walking out of the kitchen, brushing his arm by Harry's waist on his way out. And, well, he has a really nice fucking ass. Of course Harry is gonna follow him.

 

There’s a Denny’s right off the campus, the way there always seems to be Denny’s everywhere. It’s the ideal spot for hangover grease-relief, and they keep their lighting pretty low solely for this reason, like a well kept secret.

This is where he finds himself ten minutes later, making eyes at Tommo over the Denny’s menu.

Tommo breaks first. “I want five Oreo shakes and ninety nachos.”

“I think you’re severely overestimating my ability to spend more than five dollars a week on food,” Harry says.

“Aren’t you a grad student?”

Harry squints. “How would you know that?”

Tommo turns the page on his menu. “It’s pretty obvious. You carry yourself differently."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Harry asks, lowering his menu a little more.

Tommo shrugs. "And you were the only person above 17 to leave that room. When you bumped into me and fucked up all my papers."

"You watching me?" Harry teases, hoping Tommo answers before the server approaches.

Barely. "No," he says.

"Good evening, I'm Martha, what can I start you gentleman off with?"

Tommo stares at him, gaze heavy. Harry finds it difficult to look away, and even though he knows it's rude and he feels really bad for doing it, he keeps his eyes on him. "Hi, Martha. Can we get, uh, two Oreo shakes and two orders of the nachos? With a gallon of sour cream on the side." Tommo mouths ninety at him. Harry rolls his eyes.

"Can you include another nacho in that? And a side of hashbrowns," Tommo adds.

"Only two nachos, Martha." "Don't you wanna know my name?" "Two nachos, Martha." Tommo sniffs. "You can leave the hash browns."

When Martha walks away, Tommo tells Harry, "you're losing your chances of learning my name."

"I doubt that," Harry answers. "Are you an undergrad?"

"I get my bachelors in human physiology in May." Huh. Layers.

"So you're an undergrad. To be young and free," Harry says wistfully, laughing and dodging when Tommo throws the wrapped silverware at him. “There’s a knife. Sorry to be the person to ask—”

“—no you’re not,” Tommo interrupts. “I’m going into physical therapy.”

“I am,” Harry denies, laughing a little for literally no discernible reason. "Pretty hardcore.”

Their food arrives. It’s the fastest Harry has ever gotten a meal delivered, but maybe that’s because there are two other people here and it’s 1AM on a Thursday night. Maybe.

“I’m gonna be Beckham’s PT and steal him from Posh,” Tommo says with a full mouth. Harry fakes a gag, so Tommo just opens his mouth wider. Harry covers his eyes with an abnormally large nacho and desperately wants to kiss him.

 

Twenty minutes later, the nachos are almost all done, Tommo is licking cheese from his bottom lip, and Harry still wants to kiss him.

He sips from his shake. “So,” Harry says.

“So,” Tommo agrees. Harry feels mesmerized, staring avidly as Tommo sucks of the straw into his mouth, pulling in the, uh, cream, maybe? There’s definitely a better word, but with Tommo looking back at him like that, it's hard for Harry to think all that clearly. Somewhere, right now, Zayn is laughing at him.

Harry waggles his eyebrows. Correction: Harry attempts to waggle his eyebrows and, in the process, looks very constipated and confused.

Tommo snorts around his straw and closes his eyes, facepalming. "Jesus Christ."

"Is that it? Gotta say, you look nothing like your namesake, but I figured there was something hallowed about you."

"How do you ever get laid?" Tommo asks in disbelief.

"It's all part of the charm," Harry assures him.

"I'm sure," Tommo says. "Louis."

 

"Who the fuck in the Pacific Northwest names their child Louis?" Zayn asks the next morning. "Who the fuck, in the state of Oregon, thinks it's hip to name their child after an assassinated French king?"

"You don't know that he's Oregonian," Harry calls back, spitting out into the sink and rinsing his foamy mouth before rejoining Zayn in the kitchen.

Zayn is heating up what looks like and most certainly is an entire package of toaster strudels in the microwave. Harry sends out a blind prayer that he'll even be allowed to touch one. "Frat jocks never go out of state. Basic knowledge."

"Maybe he's part of the 1%," Harry suggests, snatching a finished strudel from Zayn's plate and licking over the top of it before Zayn can process. "You two can have something to bond over when we get married and you're my best man and maid of honor."

"Licking it doesn't stop me from getting it back, you fucker." Even so, he doesn't try. As he smears the frosting over the top of the others, he says, "my 1% has significantly less unsponsored product placement for Nike."

"I don't know why anyone thinks you're cool or mysterious or a sensitive soul when all you do is eat breakfast food and whine about me being over Gene. I should've let him take you in the divorce."

"I wish you did," Zayn says, but the pastry he hands Harry underplays the sentiment.

"Don't you have class in half an hour?" he asks, shoving half of it into his mouth (his inner frat jock really wants to make the joke) and grabbing a bottled orange juice in the fridge.

Zayn waves it off, scratching idly at his bare stomach and shrugging. "I guess. Sixteenth century Asia through the eyes of Europe. Just what I wanted."

"What a refreshing and unique viewpoint," Harry nods, grabbing his keys from the rack. "Also. Maybe he's named Louis because he's like a thirtieth Belgian or something."

"Get out of my kitchen," Zayn says.

"Hey," Harry protests. "That's my line."

 

"Mr. Styles," one of his freshmen starts, walking up to him after the bell rings. "You put a lot of good comments on my essay, and said it was one of the best you read, but I got a low B. I'm just wondering why."

Harry scratches his cheek and tries to put a name to the face to the paper. “Sorry, which one was it again?”

“Comparison with madness’ role in Dostoyevsky’s Crime,” she answers.

“Oh, right! It was great, and I really enjoyed reading it. The point deductions were for some loose ends and minimal understanding of MLA formatting.”

“I used Perdue?”

Yes, Harry thinks. Don’t we all. He’s had Purdue bookmarked since he first made the mistake of taking AP Lang and still has the full citations page URL memorized. “Honestly, I didn’t fully grasp MLA until my junior year—of college, at that. Even now, I sometimes have to double check, and this is coming from an English major going into law. It’s a working process. It’ll come to you in the night like a dream,” he jokes, grinning at her.

“Okay,” she says simply, deeply unimpressed by his sense of humor. “Have a nice weekend.”

Harry goes back to sorting out and packing up his papers. Not fifteen seconds later, a voice is ringing through the empty classroom, saying, “pretty sure you’re not supposed to reveal weaknesses to underclass wards.”

“It makes me so happy that you’re stalking me,” Harry replies.

“Dude, you’re right next door, don’t flatter yourself.”

“It makes me so happy that you’re stalking me,” Harry repeats.

Louis snorts. Harry reaches him then, standing there in front of the doorway. He looks up at Harry, barely restrained smile on his face. He looks well-rested and finally shaved, hands deep in his Oregon hoodie. Harry feels his fingertips flare. “Hey.”

“When do I get to kiss you?” Harry asks, stepping closer and gripping his bag tightly.

“Probably never,” Louis answers, grinning. “I have a game tonight. You should come.”

Harry almost chokes. “I don’t even know what team you’re on?”

Louis starts moving away, walking backwards towards the door and putting his headphones back in. “So figure it the fuck out.”

 

Harry figures it the fuck out.

“Zayn,” he starts when he finally gets home a few hours later, as most of his sentences start. “I need you.”

He follows Usher's crooning to Zayn’s usual spot, crossed on the floor of Harry's room. They should save money and move to a single bedroom apartment.

"Louis invited me to his game," he says, sitting down and mirroring Zayn's position.

"What sport?" Zayn asks, opening his eyes.

"I think you should let me offer pros first."

"Oh. It's soccer isn't it?"

"Maybe," says Harry, tipping forward until his head is on Zayn's shoulder. When Zayn sighs, Harry feels it on his neck.

"Thanks for asking."

Fucking—"I will buy you a McFlurry every day and wash your clothes for the rest of my life."

Zayn snorts. Harry already does both of those things. "Thanks for asking."

"Pro: it'll make me happy and my happiness fuels directly into yours," Harry tries.

"Who lied to you?" Zayn asks. Still, he pushes Harry back to stand, leaving the room and heading towards his. If he wasn't going to go he'd have never moved. Harry loves these tiny affirmations of being Zayn's favorite.

Harry changes into more comfortable jeans, shrugging off his button down and slipping into a plain white tee. Comfort and ease of movement.

"Hey, what's the temperature outside?" Zayn calls out.

"Uh... Siri says 45, feels like 42."

"Good," Zayn says when they meet at the door and are stepping out of the apartment. "Means I can dress light." And he has, donned in exactly the same clothes as Harry, even though his t-shirt is gray. They're so in sync.

 

"I want to suck his dick so fucking much," Harry is saying an hour later.

"Say that a little louder," Zayn suggests. "I don't think you're drawing enough attention with your giant fucking sign."

Aforementioned sign says ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ LOUIS 17 ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ in red marker on a gold board. It's not even that big.

"I want to fuck him on the field in front of everyone," Harry is saying after Louis scores his second goal of the game.

Zayn sighs longsufferingly.

 

When the game is over, 3-2, Harry drags Zayn from the bleachers onto the field a little ways where Louis is talking to one of the school reporters about the game.

He’s sweaty all over, shirt clinging to his torso and thin shorts to his ass. God, it’s such a nice ass. Harry feels faint.

Louis looks up, and looks at Harry the entire time the reporter is taking notes, like he doesn’t even care how rude it is, small smile on his face. It’s such a turnaround from the annoyance and roughness when Harry first bumped into him, and it feels like bursting.

When the reporter finally goes away, Louis jogs over to them, pushing his hair back from his forehead. “You came.”

“In more ways than one,” Zayn says under his breath. Harry elbows him.

"Where else would I have been?"

Louis' smile grows, but he doesn't answer Harry, rocking back on his heels and looking away to Zayn. Harry's pretty sure he'd be blushing if he wasn't already flushed from the game, and it's amazing. So many layers to a single frat jock. "Is this Zayn? Sup."

Zayn raises a brow. "Hey. You know who I am?"

Harry is kind of offended. "He's been around me for more than three seconds, Zayn." He bumps a hand against Harry’s side, smiling a little.

"I've seen your art," says Louis. "My bro bought one of them for his mom once at your exhibit. You're really good."

"Thanks," Zayn says blankly. He narrows his eyes. "Who's your favorite president?" Harry wants to punch him.

Louis blinks. "Um, I don't know? Obama's okay?"

Zayn has a very specific ordering for the forty-four U.S. presidents, and Obama fluctuates on a daily basis. Still, he's pretty high up and Louis didn't say Reagan or Jefferson or anyone equally disgusting, and Harry is so grateful. He still wants to punch Zayn, just a little, but at least now Zayn won't punch Louis.

"His foreign policy could use some work," he answers, nodding, but murder does not seem imminent. Zayn is so ridiculous. He did the same thing with Gene, because he has a complex, but Gene got every question perfect and elaborated just enough. Shocking to no one.

"You were amazing out there," says Harry, changing the subject.

“I know,” Louis grins. Harry finds the humility so hot. “Are you—” He stops, like he’s not sure if he wants to say it, glances at Zayn. “Are you doing anything tomorrow?”

“Depends,” Harry answers.

“On?”

“What you’re asking me.” He really wants to blindlessly say yes to whatever Louis wants, but he has classes to teach and attend Friday morning, and if Thirsty Thursday is the aim, he’s going to have to bow out.

“You should come over. The ‘hawks are playing Miami so it should be a really chill game so we can just…”

“Chill?” Harry tries. Next to him, Zayn snorts.

“Yeah… that works. Could order pizza.”

The temperature is dropping. When Louis speaks, puffs of cool air escape. His hands are fidgeting around his thighs like he’s used to hiding them in pockets, he looks nervous, he looks partially frozen, and Harry feels countered. Harry wants to kiss him.

“Alright,” Harry agrees.

“I’ll text you my address. It’s the KD house.”

Even though Harry finds it flattering that Louis assumes he knows frat initials, all he says is, “I don’t have to figure it the fuck out myself this time?”

“Figure I’d give you a break once in a while,” Louis says. And then—Harry is starting to quickly realize that Louis Tomlinson has a flair for dramatic exits—he steps closer, wraps a cold hand around the back of Harry’s neck, and pulls him down for a kiss, their first kiss, right there on a nearly empty field after a game for which he scored two of three goals, next to Harry’s best friend on a cold and moonless Oregonian fall night.

Jesus Christ.

“I have to go now,” he says against Harry’s mouth, scratching his nails at the hair at the back of Harry’s neck. He goes to move back, but Harry makes a noise against his mouth, hands at his waist, and pulls him back in, kissing harder, wetter, full of purpose and intent and just what he wants to do with Louis’—

Zayn clears his throat very, very loudly.

When Louis separates them this time, he means it. He doesn’t say anything, mouth red and swollen and looking so, so fuckable. He looks at Harry, and then he leaves.

“Way to keep it PG,” Zayn says.

 

Harry hates waiting.

There’s breakfast with Zayn at the homely coffeeshop they feel bad for usually ignoring in favor of the delicious corporate capitalism of Starbucks. Zayn offers his tentative approval of Louis over gluten-free chocolate banana oat pancakes and questionable amounts of eggs and fruit. Harry thinks this year is on the road to being fantastic—he’s surrounded by two of his favorite things, breakfast food and Zayn's approval, and has a date in the afternoon.

“It’s not a date,” Zayn tells him.

“It’s definitely a date,” Harry says.

its not a date, Louis texts him, immediately followed by his address.

“It’s probably a date,” Harry tells Zayn. “90/10.”

There’s a blur of time he spends discussing his thesis with his advisor, kind of freaked out at his final months of UO ticking down.

Louis: u can come at 5 if that works for u im home all day:)

There are five seconds wondering if he can skip the rest of the day and run to Louis’ house, and Zayn’s voice in his head yelling at him not to be so desperate. There’s a twenty minute break he spends on the Quad, renewing the scholarship that paid most of undergrad for law school and checking acceptances for law schools. He’s sick of thinking about law school and it hasn’t even started yet.

There’s class to teach and literary analysis to analyze. There’s the student who tries to argue against religious allusion and almost gets kicked out of the course, essays to take back for grading, and regret to feel. There’s the same passionate joy overshadowing the regret, the wonder of getting paid to talk about his favorite things in the world.

There’s a lot to do, there always is on Thursdays, but he still hates waiting, and he still can’t stop thinking about Louis. So it goes.

 

The Kappa Delta fraternity house smells like weed and bad decisions.

Louis is sitting on a lime green sofa when a freshman lets Harry in, a blunt in one hand and beer in the other.

"I brought pizza," Harry announces, lifting the box. "For the date we're having."

A bunch of his frat brothers are crowded in the living room, staring at Harry from the moment he walks in. If Louis planned on acting like he and Harry were solely platonic dudebros, he's got another thing coming.

Luckily for him, when he says, "it's not a date," it's with bright eyes and a poorly restrained grin. He motions Harry over, patting the free space next to him with the bottom of his beer bottle. Harry sits.

"Hey," Harry nods at the rest of the room. "I'm Harry."

A blond boy—there are a lot of blond boys, as is usual with most fraternities—says, "I thought you were shorter."

"Because Tommo always, like, what's the word, downplays height since he's a fucking midget." Harry hasn't heard that word used since he was in the tenth grade; everyone he regularly communicated with collectively and unconsciously agreed to at least try to be PC.

"Zack, dude, stop using that fucking word, I told you my little cousin actually is," another blond boy complains, throwing a cheeto at Zack.

Zack shrugs and eats the cheeto.

"Ignore them," Louis says, opening the pizza and grabbing a slice. "They're gonna offend your delicate poetry-teaching, Bon Iver-listening, liberal soul at least ninety times before the game's over."

"Great," Harry says weakly, pretending he's not a little turned on by how Louis licks the cheese around his mouth.

 

It's not as bad as Louis insinuated. Harry doesn't know if they're just toning it down because he's there, but they seem okay.

They're very passionate about sports—a huge surprise, he knows—so Harry has at least one thing in common with them, even though they're mostly Seahawks fans and he's aggressively loyal to the Packers. Everyone on the planet can agree the Dolphins suck, though, even the Dolphins, so there's some fun ribbing there, laughing every time they fumble a ball and fuck up, which is often.

Most everyone is high, Louis especially. Harry is disappointed to note that he's one of those people who constantly mentions how high he is while he's high, but it could be way worse, and he spends most of the game verbally sucking Richard Sherman's dick, anyway. He's adorable. Harry wants to finger him until he passes out.

"Stop looking at me," he says, blowing out smoke through his nose and keeping his eyes avidly on the screen.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Harry denies, even though he's spent more time studying Louis' features than he has the game.

Two Blue Moons and one touchdown later, Louis' hand is on his thigh. High on his thigh.

"Uh," Harry says, looking around to see if any of Louis' brothers are looking at them.

Louis squeezes his thigh, and puts the beer down, leans in close until his mouth is pressing against Harry's shoulder, open and hot against his shirt.

"Tommo's horny when he's high," one of the blonds Harry thought wasn’t paying attention says.

“Suck my fucking dick, Niall,” Louis says, now half on Harry’s lap. Harry cannot say he minds.

“The fuck do you use that as an insult when you’re literally gay?” asks a white guy with dreads. Louis’ friends are really an eclectic crew. Harry can’t even imagine Zayn’s reaction.

“You can suck it, too, Cam,” Louis says in lieu of an answer. Then he’s whispering into Harry’s ear, “wanna go up to my room?”

Harry is standing before he’s even finished the sentence.

 

“Fuck, fuck, fuck me, please, c’mon—”

“Everyone’s right downstairs,” Harry says, shaking his head against Louis’ neck.

“I don’t give a motherfuck,” Louis hisses, hitching his leg higher up around Harry’s waist and grinding up.

They’ve got pants off, just enough slick from Louis’ half empty bottle of lube keeping the slide good, great, fucking fantastic. Harry is so hard it hurts, just a little, fucking down against the crease of Louis’ thigh, on an irregular pattern he hopes is good enough to get both of them off. Their dicks keep bumping against each other, and every time it happens, Harry feels himself spark up everywhere on the inside. Fuck. He wants to come inside Louis, on Louis’ stomach, all over Louis’ face. It’s proving a dilemma.

“This is good, this is good,” Harry assures him, attaching his mouth to Louis’ collarbone, sucking on it hard. It’s sure to leave a bruise and—good. He wants that. God, he wants to mark Louis up everywhere.

“I want you dead,” Louis tries to say, but most of the sentence fades away on a high pitched moan when Harry does it as filthy as he knows how.

“Yeah,” Harry agrees nonsensically. Louis will get his wish, since he’s surely going to die of spontaneous combustion before he comes.

Obviously, Harry doesn't know Louis' body well, but he's not a virgin. When Louis starts rocking his body up faster, legs tightening around Harry's hips and sounds getting louder, he can tell he's close. And sure enough, the moment Harry snakes his hand down and rubs his index finger around his rim, he's there.

"Nice," Harry compliments. Louis whimpers.

Harry knows synchronized orgasms don't happen outside of porn save once in a blue moon, but he's definitely not far behind.

"I want you to come on my ass," Louis says breathlessly.

"Oh my God," Harry doesn't screech. He does come, though. He comes pretty hard.

"You're so easy," Louis laughs, voice raspy from the weed and making so much damn noise.

Harry is going to pass out. "And you're loud."

"Fuck you, I am not," Louis complains. "I make just enough noise." He kicks at Harry's back with the heel of his foot. "Get off."

"Already did," Harry giggles. He gets so punch-drunk after he comes. Gene recorded him once, and posted it on Instagram, where Harry's mom saw. He had to ignore her calls for 72 hours.

"I can't believe how fast you transitioned from hot to embarrassing," Louis says, awed, probably.

"Few are so talented," Harry murmurs. "I'mma sleep. Just... just for a little."

"Dude," Louis warns.

"Just a little," he repeats, before passing out.

 

He doesn't sleep for that long. He's the master of the power nap. Zayn, as everyone would expect, doesn't know how to take a nap shorter than two hours, and considers Harry's ability further proof of Satanic forces habitating his body.

"You awake?" Louis asks. Harry grunts.

Louis has rearranged them—he's sat up against his headboard, legs elongated. Harry's head is on his lap, pleasantly close to Louis' boxer-clad crotch, and back warm from the heat of Louis' laptop.

"I'm hungry," says Louis, typing away on the laptop. Harry snuffles. "I want wings and beer."

"You're not even legal," Harry mumbles, rubbing his cheek against the cotton. Louis actually isn't—he started school late because of his birthday, and has another twoish months to go before he no longer has to pay others to buy liquor for him. It makes Harry strangely gleeful.

"I'll literally never fucking have sex with you ever fucking again," says Louis.

"Suddenly," Harry says, sitting up. "I'm ravenous."

 

"You smell of weed," Zayn says when Harry gets home later that night.

"It's Oregon," Harry reminds him. "Everyone smells a little like weed."

"Medical marijuana has a very distinct smell, Harry. You smell like shitty beer and shitty weed. Did you spend your entire not-date embracing your inner frat jock?"

Harry toes off his shoes, strips from his clothes until he's left only in his underwear. Zayn's bed is the comfiest, and Harry doesn't hesitate in getting into the bed with him and snuggling under the comforter. Zayn has joggers on, so most of the effect is gone when he rubs his toes against his ankles. He ignores 90% of what Zayn spewed out, and says, "I got him to admit it was a date."

"You're lying." Zayn is burrowed entirely under his quilt, but there's a spot of light where he's surely using his phone and probably sending Drake sexually-laced business letters. It's not beyond him.

"Here, look," says Harry, bracing his legs and curving his upper body off the bed to grab his phone from his pants' pocket. When he gets it, he gets under with Zayn and pulls Photos up. "I have visual proof."

It's a video of Louis immediately following the second time Harry got him off—a little hazy eyed and lax everywhere, soft smile pulling at his lips.

"Tell the public that this was a date, baby," Harry says out of the shot.

Louis raises an eyebrow. "Did you just call me baby?"

"I'm gonna call you baby so often, baby. C'mon. Tell."

"This might have been a date," Louis admits.

"Good enough for me," offscreen Harry says. Louis beams.

"That's disgusting," Zayn says in real time.

"I know, I love it," Harry tells him. "If I post this on Instagram, will I have to ignore my mom's phones calls?"

Zayn grunts.

“Thank you for your heartfelt advice, Zayn. Really. I appreciate it.

 

Louis, Harry learns, isn’t as much of a dudebro as his outward appearance and housing situation would suggest. Sure, it’s there, and it’s definitely more than Harry could ever hope to aspire to, but he’s not saying bro in every sentence and catcalling at every hot girl that walks past him. If he was catcalling, Harry would have fucked off away from him right away, for several obvious reasons.

Louis forces him to binge watch Breaking Bad, most of it down on a single Saturday, cuddling on Louis’ bed and stuffing their faces with Harry’s healthy snacks that Louis tried to throw out at first, deeply offended (“You can’t just eat pizza and wings every day,” Harry said, holding the whole-grain granola out of reach and thanking God for his height advantage. “You wanna fucking bet?!” he exclaimed, jumping up and trying to bat Harry’s arm down) at first and now shoveling into his mouth by the handful.

“I cannot believe I just spent eleven hours watching two straight guys cook meth,” Harry says at the end, getting off the bed and stretching out his muscles.

“What time are you coming over tomorrow?” Louis asks, standing up and swiping himself down with his hand. Crumbs fall all on the floor, and Harry grimaces, wondering if it’s okay to offer to sweep your romantic interest’s floor after only about a month and a half. “I wanna finish season two and start three.”

“Ten?”

 

“What the fuck makes you think I’m gonna be awake before noon on a Sunday?”

“Ten it is,” Harry nods, dodging the honey-roasted almond Louis throws his way. “Can I sweep your floor for you? I’m gonna catch rabies if I live like this.”

“Look at you, real fuckin’ domesticated,” Louis murmurs, leaning up on his toes and kissing Harry goodbye.

Zayn warms up to Louis pretty quickly. Very few people can match or understand his dry humor, and while Louis can’t always understand it, he’s good at keeping up and shooting something right back at him. Sometimes Harry is completely ignored in favor of whatever inane thing they’re joking about, and—because they’re both sore fucking losers and laugh at Harry’s annoyance—they tag team against him in video games, Super Mario especially. Whatever. It’s not like they could have done it alone.

It gets to the point where—

Are you and Louis hanging out together RIGHT NOW w/o me?????????

who the fuck is louis

Except that then Louis sends him a Snapchat of Zayn eating a cookie at Starbucks and flipping the camera off, so obviously they’re together while Harry is not there.

This is MINDBLOWING
I can’t believe you’re hanging out with white people who aren’t me
I’m kind of hurt honestly. You made me think i was special :(

i dont see color, Zayn texts back. Harry forcibly locks his phone.

 

In six years of school away, Harry has only gone home for Thanksgiving twice.

He’s average middle class, so average he could be used as a case study for the Psych majors, and flights are really, really expensive. He doesn’t fancy being in debt until he’s retired, so almost all of the money he gets from his back-home job, work study, and TAing grad year goes towards paying off loans. He’s fine with it. He’s always been close to his family, so he wishes every free day could be spent with them, but he’s got to be realistic. He chose to attend this school, and has to deal with the side effects. He has a good cry about it on Thanksgiving Day, when he’s double-tapping everyone from back home’s posts and just spent two hours on the phone with his mom, but he forces himself to look on the bright side the rest of the time, like how Whole Foods lines are empty and there’s virtually no one to judge him when he sings Bruno Mars out loud in the library and how mild Oregon winters are compared to the Midwest.

That being said—by the time Christmas break rolls around, he’s out the door by three AM for a seven o’clock flight. (“Because the airport is two hours away, stop being so dramatic,” Zayn tells him. “Me? Me? I’m dramatic? When you said, not three minutes ago, that you’re going to find a way to spontaneously burst into flames in Chicago cold so that you wouldn’t have to attend any winter banquets?” “I’m not awake, so I can’t hear you speak.” “You can’t use that excuse every time, Zayn!”)

Louis drove home with Niall, who was apparently an original high school dudebro, to Medford. Zayn was in fact right and only one of Louis’ friends hails from outside Oregon. And it’s southern Washington near Clatsop State, which is...it doesn’t even count, in no way does it count.

After a five hour flight and three months away from home, the first thing Harry hears when he enters Mom’s Toyota is Gemma’s, “which body of water in Israel is known for its high levels of salt?”

“Dead Sea. School has been pretty great, thanks for asking. Yeah, being a TA is challenging, but I’ve managed to find the right balance, you know? It’ll prepare me for law school next fall for sure. No, I haven’t been accepted into anywhere yet, but Zayn got into Yale this morning on the flight to Chicago. I’ll be sure to pass along your congratulations.”

“What’s the normal pH level of water?”

“I genuinely hate you,” Harry tells her.

“Gemma, play nice,” their mom says when she finally enters the car, coming from using the bathroom. She twists herself around to drag Harry into a hug, uncomfortable over the console and seat but so worth it. She smells like vanilla and always like home. Harry tries not to think too often about how badly he misses her, but he does. Times like this, when she’s right here, it hits him hardest. “How’re you, baby?”

“Love you,” he mumbles against her shoulder.

“Sorry to break your moment,” Gemma says unapologetically, “but I’m playing my boss and have to destroy her, so which one of you knows the freezing point for ice in Celsius?”

“How did you manage to skip every single day of ninth grade science? Honestly, Gem, I’m almost impressed. Was Justin worth it?” Harry asks her, separating from Mom and increasing the distance between himself and Gemma.

“I should have dropped you out the window when I was four and had the chance,” she answers.

“Gemma, be kinder to your brother,” Mom says idly, putting the car into reverse and navigating the annoying layout of CWA.

"He literally said he hates me two seconds ago!" she exclaims, waving her phone and throwing the aux cord at Harry. Joke's on her, because it just means that he's now got first call at noise level.

"You antagonize him," she grins, just to rile Gemma up. She hears too many yeses at her high-level corporate job in Michigan. They have to knock her down a few notches. Harry will be smothering her with love by the time they hit the halfway mark.

"Yeah, Gemma, stop antagonizing me," Harry says.

"I can't believe I begged my boss to let me come down three days earlier when my own family hates me,” she complains, as if she hasn’t just turned twenty-eight three weeks ago.

 

Mom gives him some buffer time.

She doesn’t ask until the next morning, when he’s slept off the jetlag and recalibrated himself to Wisconsin cold and small town quiet. They’re sat around their tiny dining table, the same one cracked in some places, with the leg that creaks and Sharpie marks from when he and Gemma were young—the ugly, disgusting and anatomically incorrect dinosaur Gemma drew on the underside when she was five, and the spectacular and colorfully accurate solar system Harry did in the third grade. Zayn’s words, not his. Who the fuck cares if Zayn switched those descriptors around? Harry doesn’t. No one who matters does.

Point: they’re at that dining table. It’s the Everybody (Backhome Brunch) (the direct counterpart to Get Down (Dinner Before Your Flight) that Harry came up with when he was fourteen and Gemma first went away to college and, yes, he knows, they could use a little work, but Hemingway as a human could have used a little work, and he won the Nobel Prize, didn’t he?), Harry is trying not to accidentally kick Robin under the table, Gemma is trying to convince Robin that Bath & Body Works coupons never actually expire and he surely should drive the thirty minutes to Green Bay with her, Mom is saying, “Harry, honey, I noticed there’s a boy.”

Harry, mouth stuffed to the brim with the veggie omelette he spent half an hour making to accommodate Gemma’s recent transition to vegetarianism, makes a noise.

Mom takes that as confirmation to keep going. “He seems nice,” she says, which Harry knows by age twenty-three means that she wants to know his family origins, Social Security number, and credit history. Gemma and Robin stop talking.

Harry swallows. “Yeah.” Her eyes narrow a little. Harry hastens to add more. “His name’s Louis. He’s going into physical therapy and will have his bachelor’s in May.”

“You’re dating an undergrad?” Gemma says gleefully. “Is he even legal? Are you going for jailbait now, Harry? Can I pitch your story to Netflix when you end up in jail?”

Harry is a master of selective hearing. It’s easy to get away with ignoring people without coming off as rude if he pretends he didn’t hear them at all. “Technically, we’re not dating.”

“If you’re posting as many pictures as you do, it’s dating,” Robin says. Harry makes a face; Robin doesn’t even have an Instagram, it’s not fair that he can grill him, too. There isn’t even anything to grill! Louis exists, as a person (kind of), on planet Earth, under the vast skies of the Milky Way, and sometimes Harry puts his dick inside him and nags at him to eat healthier and wonders who’s going to give sperm for the surrogacy first. Literally nothing there to grill. Very straightforward.

“Is he a rebound?” his mom asks. Her voice is softer now, like it always gets when she’s talking about his breakup with Gene. Jesus Christ. He’s not still crying himself to sleep after nine months.

“Mom, no. Not only do I try not to be that shiiiii—shoddy to people, but I’m actually okay with the breakup. Believe it or not. There’s no reason for me to still be hung up over Gene.”

Gemma raises an eyebrow.

“Okay,” Harry concedes, remembering how much he’d gone on and on about Gene being perfect and how charmed his family has always been when he visited in the summer and how the second Thanksgiving Harry coughed out five hundred dollars to come up had also been the first time Gene broke up with him. “Fine. But I’m not. I’m fine—I’m more than fine, I’m happy, and I’m happy with Louis, and with where I am and what I'm doing. This is supposed to be BSB-Let's Have A Party, not BSB-Inconsolable."

Mom still looks a little worried, but she says, "Inconsolable was a much better song, Harry."

"You're right, Mom," Harry replies. "Don't know what I was even thinking. Louis is more If You Want It To Be Good Girl (Get Yourself A Bad Boy), anyway."

Robin sighs. Gemma sighs louder. "You can't go through all of life using Backstreet Boys songs titles in place of adjectives." She has no room to talk; she titled her senior thesis with B2K lyrics.

"Wanna bet on it? When you lose, I'll steal your casket money and we can throw your body into the bay instead."

Gemma bares her teeth.

"My food is getting cold," Robin says decisively, and takes a bite out of his turkey bacon.

"Yeah, Gemma, stop wasting our time with your rambling," Harry says, and immediately ducks from the banana she throws at him. What a waste of perfectly good food.

 

"Merry birthday," he says into the phone, lying on his back on his bed and staring up at the glow-in-the-dark solar system on his ceiling.

"Why didn't you call me at midnight last night?" Louis demands instead of thanking him.

"See, what had happened was," Harry starts, laying it on thick. In all realness, he'd been at his church's Christmas Eve's Eve Extravaganza with his family. He couldn't call earlier today because they spent all of it at a soup kitchen. Still, it's funnier to rile Louis up.

Louis laughs in spite of himself. "Better have a good story."

"My father was a great king," he says, "when suddenly he was killed. My uncle took power, and like some sick incestual fiend, my mother, who I hate as much as I hate literally every other woman I've come across, went and remarried him not days after my father was buried. One day, my best friend Horatio, the kinda guy to win National Merit Schol—"

Louis hangs up.

Harry calls back. "Heeeeey."

"You're the weirdest person I've ever dated," Louis tells him. He doesn't sound all that bothered by it.

"We're dating?"

"You've posted ten pictures of me between Twitter and Instagram, Styles. If we're not dating by now, what are you doing wasting my minutes?"

"Maybe I just like hearing your voice, baby."

"Saying stuff like that doesn't really, like, hurt my case."

"I didn't want it to hurt your case," says Harry, smiling wide. "Whatcha wearing?"

Louis laughs. "Really?"

Lowering his voice, like flipping on a switch, he tells Louis, "last night, I was supposed to be driving home from school after being a good little Christian, but instead I almost drove my entire family into a tree because I was thinking about eating you out and letting you watch in front of that big mirror in your room."

"Oh," Louis croaks. He clears his throat. "That would have sucked. If you crashed. The car."

"Mhmm," Harry agrees, amused. "You should touch yourself."

"I'm not even home," Louis hisses. "I'm at dinner with my family."

Harry is horrified. "Why are you on the phone when you're at a restaurant? Why are you at dinner at ten o'clock?"

"We haven't been seated yet, calm down. I'll go to dinner whenever I wanna go to dinner."

"That's so rude," Harry says, still scandalized. "You should hang up. I'm going to hang up. And jack off and not think about how you let me talk about rimming you when your mom is right there."

Louis giggles.

"I must go." Harry hangs up.

 

They have phone sex the next night instead—Harry guides Louis through fucking himself with a vibrator, saying the type of filth to make even the most vulgar dudebro blush (and Louis almost certainly does blush; he flushes up during sex more often than Harry could have ever imagined and it's the best) and, hand on his dick, is pushed over the edge himself when Louis comes.

This house has its faults, but at least the walls are thick.

 

Lover I miss you

alright

Can you come up and visit me?

what part of im in amsterdam dont U understand

I literally don't see how that relates to my question at all.
Also I'm still shocked that you're vacationing in Western Europe. How did your family manage to force that one?

fucking liyah she was like "its my turn to choose & i wanna go to europe and see that stuff we talk ABT i lcass :)" and I was like my birthday is in a month dont I get to choose? I choose not Europe
and mom was like "oh Zayn you cant just use ur bday as reason to pick every time" i'd never felt more hated by my own b.lood
then liyah was all "lets gt london!!" and i had to put my foot down nd said i wld not step foot into englns
tried t bring me t the bottom but now we hea

Thanks for taking me on an adventure with these texts :)

fuck U
there
is so much europe in a tiny place
i had nightmare like this. now iknow it was a preminiimn.
*premonition
mon is all its not good2 harbor all this hate fr an entire continent! UR entire half of me isfrom here!
dont ducking remind me

Little does she know that hatred is what keeps you looking so youthful and handsome

exactly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
U 2 are my only exception
at least the dutch aren't so bad if U ignore the whole colonization and subsequent apartheid thing

Hey, at least they don't throw a chocolate covered Andrew Jackson on it call it manifest destiny.

dropped my mic when i read that text just now
luv how much i hate aj
luv ya

Always

are u not gonna say it back.

As I write this letter
Send my love to you
Remember that I'll always
Be in love with youTreasure these few words till we're together Keep all my love foreverP.S. I love you
You, you, youI'll be coming home again to you, loveAnd till the day I do, love
P.S. I love youYou, you, youAs I write this letterSend my love to youRemember that I'll always Be in love with youTreasure these few words till we're together Keep all my love forever
P.S. I love you You, you, youAs I write this letter (Oh) Send my love to you (You know I want you to) Remember that I'll always (Yeah) Be in love with youI'll be coming home again to you, love And till the day I do, love
P.S. I love you You, you, you You, you, you
I love you--The Beatles

i take it back & im deletiung u gfrom my phone goodbye

 

There's a really neat bakery/coffee shop off the corner of Lincoln and 5th. Since Gemma was old enough to go places alone, she's been coming here and bringing Harry along. It was always a good excuse to claim when one them wanted to spend the day with a partner without introducing to their parents, and became an even better excuse when Harry got a job here summer of his freshman year of high school.

He's been putting in some work during winter break, knocking out ten-hour shifts when he has a chance. It's a nice environment, and Deborah, the hippie-wave owner, pays him more per hour than he could ever deserve, but he's grateful that it'll pull him through the next few months of bills.

He's not working now, though. It's two am, he's got the key, and Gemma couldn't sleep.

"Whataya want me to make for you?" Harry asks groggily, pulling Gemma to the kitchen. He needs to rinse his face and perk up before he starts operating an oven. He's clumsy enough at full speed.

"You don't need to make anything for me. You don't even need to be here, H. I'm sorry for waking you up, I just figured you were still awake and writing sonnets about Louis by the light of the moon."

Harry flicks on one of the fluorescent high-voltage lights, squinting against the flare. "He forbade me from doing anymore. Apparently 200 in a day is too much for some people."

"Weak-willed men," she shakes her head.

Harry grins. "Right? You want cake balls? I could probably whip up a pie, but then I'd have to make another for home or face Mom's wrath..."

"Cake is fine," she says exasperatedly.

"Awesome. Chocolate, mixed, what?"

Gemma tells him to surprise her, so he does. Cake balls are easy to make, so an hour later, Harry's dunking the last red velvet ball in chocolate. "I'm not gonna cool the coating. Hopefully your fancy corporate job hasn't killed your ability to be a little messy."

Gemma rolls her eyes. She's sat on the floor against a counter, toying around on her phone and blasting Beyoncé. Harry almost brained himself twice trying to dance to Partition. "Fancy corporate job is why I can't sleep."

Even though it's deeply unsanitary and he'll have to soak the container in industrial strength bleach for a few hours tomorrow, Harry places it on the floor and folds down next to his sister and watches her gulp down two in succession. "Talk to me, Gem."

"My boss is offering me a promotion.”

He slaps her shoulder. “Gemma! How is this keeping you up at night?!”

Her face scrunches up. Harry puts cake in her mouth, “it’ll help you organize your thoughts.”

“She wants me to live in London for a year to help establish a new branch.”

Harry slaps her shoulder again, trying not to choke on the food in his mouth. He almost thought “balls in his mouth”, but he’s been trying not to think about sex in really inopportune moments.

“Ow,” she complains. “Stop hitting my shoulder.”

“Why aren’t you excited for this? You don’t sound excited at all!”

“A year is a really long time, okay. We don’t have anyone in Europe. Twelve months. 365 days. Fifty-two weeks. A tenth of a decade.”

“Listing scales of time is more effective when you go in order,” says Harry.

That’s what you’re focusing on? Seriously? It doesn’t bother you that I’d be ten hours away by plane?”

“Look,” Harry says, “of course I’m gonna miss you. But this is a pretty cool offer, and you’d be getting paid so much. You know we never got to, like, travel outside of the U.S. for the few vacations we had, so I’m not going to be all, oh, how dare you leave this continent and go to another one for a full year, you horrible monster of a human being. C’mon. It’s freaking… cool. Like, if you don’t want to, then no one can make you, but don’t feel like a year is forever. You can always come back home. There’s no way in hell you, of all people, are gonna be sad about a promotion.”

Gemma says, “I can’t believe it took you an hour just to get through such a short spiel,” so Harry knows she’s feeling better.

“That was a really weak one. Anyway, if you’re in London, that means you can pay for me to come visit you and eat all your food.”

“I thought you hated England,” she says.

“I lowkey wanna visit Dover Beach and HP Studios, but I can’t say it too loud or Zayn will appear in the night and start listing off the body count for every city they colonized. By memorization alone.”

“Wouldn’t put it past him," she grins. "Thanks, little bro. You're almost eloquent. Putting that degree to work."

"I'd fucking hope so. I kinda thought you were gonna tell me that you can't sleep because there's a boy you're thinking of eloping and you're having issues dreaming at night without him."

"Sometimes you're so embarrassing I can't believe we're related. There is a boy, but he's background noise. A game for when I have free time," she tells him.

"I love how romantic you are," Harry says. "Wanna look at embarrassing pictures of Louis on social media and leave Taylor Swift lyrics as comments to piss him off?"

"Holy shit," Gemma replies, “I thought you’d never ask.”

 

“God fucking shit!” he shouts when he walks into his room and finds Louis bare-assed naked. Nude. He doesn’t have any clothes on.

“Hey,” Louis says.

He’s got a hand on his dick and two fingers up his ass, slowly fucking them up, not even enough to get off and more like he just wants to put on a show. And, God, but Harry is watching.

This is disrespectful. This is so disrespectful. Harry has never felt more disrespected.

“You gonna stand there all day or you gonna come fuck me?” Louis demands.

Harry whimpers. The human body is not built or equipped to move as quickly as he does to take off his clothes, and he’s almost positive that he’s broken something. Be that as it may—

He rearranges Louis, putting the soles of his feet flat on the bed and knees up. When he kneels in between them, he feels significantly closer to coming than he did four milliseconds again. There’s the gleam of the lube around his ass, wet and messy like he rushed it a little and fuck, isn’t that a thought, Louis getting into his apartment God knows how, stripping down and smearing Harry’s lubricant all over his ass, getting himself in there…

“Harry,” Louis gasps. Harry’s hand, without his explicit approval, has grasped Louis’ wrist and begun moving it, setting a much more efficient pace than the one Louis was following before. As he watches, it shoves in hard, pulling another gasp from Louis’ mouth.

“You… you showered, babe?”

“Yeah. Yeah, m’good,” so Harry leans in real close and starts tonguing at his hole. Well, he means to, but this is a really bad position for his back, and he can’t afford to visit the chiropractor again.

“Wait,” he says, and with a little maneuvering and a lot of death threats on Louis’ side, he gets him to turn over onto his hands and knees. Goddamn, but that's a sight.

"I'm gonna... I'm just..." he trails off nonsensically. He doesn't know what he's trying to say, he just wants to grab Louis' ass—and he does—shake it a little—and he does—and eat him out until he's pushing back and crying for it. And he does.

Harry really likes licking people out. He doesn't think about his exes when he's got his face buried in his current boyfriend's ass, but if he did, it'd be to mention how they were always asking for his mouth and how every time a relationship ended there'd be a comment of regret for no longer getting him down there.

Right now, in real time, in a decidedly still ongoing relationship, Louis is reaching his hand back and pushing Harry's face closer. It makes it a little hard to breathe, but Harry is nothing if not a professional. He gets Louis the way he’s learned he likes best: slow, long passes of the flat of his tongue to start off with. It's just enough to build him up, step-by-step pressure to get him frustrated and unbearably turned on. He gives Harry a lot of commands, tells him to, "stop fucking around and get to it," or risk bleeding out to death via castration.

It can be a tease for Harry, too, because his main goal is always to give Louis what he wants and get him off, but he has learned through trial and error that end goal trumps in media res every time. So he ignores the throbbing in his cock and the need to get in and get off and keeps swiping his tongue over Louis' hole, getting him even wetter than he already is, to the point where Harry's jaw is already starting to hurt but then—

Louis, Harry has found, can be very predictable. He’s generally good at keeping Harry and everyone around him on their toes, but when it comes to sex, some things are just so surefire, like how loud he always is and how, if Harry rims him for long enough right enough, he’ll make that sound, like this super weird and embarrassing conglomeration of a whine and growl that Harry always makes fun of after.

Now, though, he adjusts his grip on Louis' ass so that his thumbs are spreading him apart, better access and better view, and works on getting his tongue in there.

Well—he lightly slaps Louis' ass, tells him to, "relax, c'mon," against the flesh of it and nipping when he finally does and, yeah, now he really can.

He slicks Louis up on the inside, rendering the previously applied lube pretty useless but fucking in enough spit that when he stills Louis' rolling hips, he can easily slide a finger into his hole.

"Oh my God," Louis croaks, jolting a little when Harry continues fucking his hole without pause, finger and tongue stretching him out. "You fucking fuck."

"Talk filth to me, baby," Harry says when he comes up for air, pressing a soft kiss around the rim.

"I hate you," Louis says.

"I know," Harry grins, giving a tease of a second digit alongside the first. "Lube, please."

"Don't tell me what to do," Louis says, even while he's handing it over.

Harry knows the importance of a good and careful fingering, but he also knows that getting his cock inside his boyfriend ranks higher, so.

"Hey," he tells Louis after he's rolled on the condom and is pressing in, bracing himself with a hand tight around his waist, "let's get tested tomorrow so we can fuck bare without worrying about syphilis."

"I'm going to dismember your body," Louis answers, "send the pieces to Canada, and let the penguins peck away at your flesh."

"God, yeah." Harry tips his head forward, watching himself bottom out, balls pressed against the curve of Louis' ass. "You know just what to say to get me in mood," and fucks him so nice that he can't even talk back.

 

"So here I am," Zayn starts, "sat in the library, encyclopedia section so that no one looks at me too long, working on my sixtieth essay of the day..."

"You have to stop saving every essay for the day before they're due," Harry says exasperatedly, mixing the ketchup into his hash browns.

"Is he exaggerating when he says sixtieth? He is, right? Zayn, you are, aren't you?"

Harry pats Louis' thigh. "Probably not, babe."

"Who the fuck knows? Anyway, so this white-haired girl comes up, neon orange highlights in her hair, and I'm like why is Guy Fieri coming up to me at the University of Oregon?" Zayn's humor when he's been running on nothing but coffee for 38 hours is, as far as Harry’s concerned, worthy of being brought up with the psych department. Especially since he’s not even trying to be funny; he just is this much. “She goes, she goes—’hey, you’re Zayn Malik, right?’ and I’m like? What? Why does Guy Fieri know who I am? Did my dad do this?”

“Which hour was this?”

“Honestly, time is abstract and meaningless, but it was probably the twelfth cup of coffee, give or take two.”

“Zayn,” Harry says, casually cutting up his whole-wheat pancakes (shut up, Louis), “you’re going to die.”

“Probably,” Zayn grins. “Anyway, Fieri tells me she loves my art and thinks that I am to die for and, maybe would I like to go out sometimes? There’s a really nice pub in Portland that sells, like, authentic British food. Everyone likes British food, right?”

“Stop mimicking her voice, you’re a monster,” Harry chastises, even though he’s trying desperately not to laugh.

“Pass me the ketchup?” Louis asks aside to Harry and, louder, “I love you mocking her voice, continue it forfuckingever, dude. Harry, pass me the ketchup, are you deaf?”

“I can’t believe I loudly affiliate with you two.” He passes Louis the ketchup. “Don’t smother that on your entire plate, oh my God, you’re a secondhand health risk.”

Just to spite Harry, Louis shoots ketchup into his mouth and grins with his red teeth. Harry gags. “You can have your ex-boyfriend’s daddy cure you of your secondhand cholesterol, can’t you?”

“First of all,” Harry says, jabbing Louis in the side, “he’s a surgeon. Second of all, you like Gene, stop acting like you don’t.” They met at Zayn's last gallery show. Louis tried to be standoffish and rude, but then Gene pulled that smile and talked about how he'd seen Louis' games before and that he was an amazing athlete who could easily go pro and that majoring in PT was an extraordinary and awe-inspiring profession and that his father knew people who could help him out once he got his degree and that he and Harry made a gorgeous couple and that Louis was so lucky to have Harry’s attention and all the genuine Gene-type shit that makes it impossible to hate him, even at that low point when Harry’d really wanted to.

Louis pulls a face.

Zayn continues talking like he never even stopped. “So I start speaking French, and she goes, ‘what?’ so I rap PND, in French of course, and she looks really confused, so I pull a really apologetic look, point at my laptop, and tell her that global warming is wiping out vast sheets of ice in the North and South Poles. ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry, I must have gotten you confused with someone! So sorry, bye! But...’ and then she gives me her honest-to-God business card, tells me to have my translator call her, and scuttles away. Like a crab. The point of the story is that if you ever want to reveal your culinary abilities to the world, Harry, I’ve got a business contact you can call.”

“That was a fantastic story, Zayn,” Harry says, very much used to these sleep-deprived ramblings fueled by three dozen cups of coffee. “Really. Thanks for that. Best moment of my life.”

“I do what I can to please the masses,” Zayn says, and then almost dunks his hand into the scalding hot water they used to rinse their silverware.

“Okay!” Harry moves the cup away, slapping Zayn’s hand. “We need to go.”

“Why? I’m fine. Slip of the foot.”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Harry hails their server and asks for to-go boxes and the check.

“That was the literally best story I’ve ever heard,” says Louis when they’re exiting. The parking lot of dark and empty. They seriously need to stop frequenting a breakfast diner in the middle of the night. Every time Harry suggests going while the sun is still up, though, Louis rolls his eyes. “Can I steal your best friendship from Harry? I think we can all agree I’m cooler.”

“I’ll murder your entire fa—I’m sorry, I can’t say it, that was mean, I really like your mom. I won’t murder anyone. Jesus Christ, Zayn, our apartment is that way, not through the incoming traffic!”

“If you keep nagging the way you do, all your healthy living for a longer life will be pointless,” Louis says.

“I’m already dead,” Harry assures him, steering Zayn in the right direction with a hand on his shoulder. “As a human being, who exists on God’s green earth, I don’t. Exist. That is. Goddamn, Zayn’s getting to me.”

“I love these moments we have,” Zayn tells them, patting Harry’s hand on his shoulder, and then he almost walks into a stop sign.

Louis laughs.

 

“If you’d run into me, I would have honestly cut your fucking balls off this time,” Louis greets.

“It’d be kinda romantic, don’t you think?” Harry asks, hoisting his bag up on his shoulder.

“Me cutting off your balls?”

“No, Louis Tomlinson. Me running into you. Kinda 360, y’know?”

“I don’t, because you weigh a ton, and it hurt last time.”

“Baby, aren’t you a star athlete? Your pain tolerance is higher than that. Hey, bun me.”

“Harry,” Louis says slowly, like he’s talking to a toddler, “we’re in the middle of the hallway.”

“You’re so observant of your surroundings, and I love that about you.” He beams and pats Louis’ check. “Bun me.”

Harry crouches down a bit, moving somewhat out of the way so no one runs into them. As Louis puts his hair up, he contemplates, “maybe I should cut your balls off, after all. That’d be 360 in its own way, right?”

“Actually,” Harry responds, wishing Louis would hurry up so he could stop damaging the nerves in his neck, “it’d be more 180, since we’d be in a completely different place than we started off, right? When we began, my dick was still functioning properly. With that it wouldn’t be. Bit of faulty math, Tommo. Also, you wouldn’t survive 24 hours without it.”

Louis drops his hand, completely abandoning the bun attempt, and walks away. He’s so dramatic.

“I love you!” Harry calls after him. In return to such a public proclamation of affection, he gets a middle finger.

Well.