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we can take the long way home

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Louis knows Harry’s home as soon as he wakes up.

It’s a bit of a sixth sense he’s developed over the years. His flat is silent save for the whir of the air conditioner, and the only thing he can smell is his sleep-warm pillow. The wan light of a rainy Tuesday afternoon is all he can see by, but as he climbs out of bed and wraps the duvet around his bare shoulders, he knows who he’s going to find in his kitchen.

“When did you get in?”

There’s a spoon in Harry’s mouth, and his hair is in a tired bun. He holds up three fingers while he chews. Louis leans his head against the doorframe and watches him. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

Harry swallows and makes a face. He’s never appreciated Frosties; Louis doesn’t know why he puts up with him. “You were sleeping.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “That answers my question.”

He hikes the duvet up from where it’d been slipping over his arms and pads into the kitchen, toes curling on cold tile. Harry’s eyes are puffy from sleep and red from not enough of it, face pale and a little drawn. He can fall asleep anywhere, and Louis has witnessed twelve hour flights refresh him, but he fares better with company, someone familiar around to make sure he’s up on time and has his juice on the ready. Traveling alone always makes him grumpy and puts that strain to his mouth, but even a tired Harry still charges the air around him. Pulls Louis in like a magnet.

Louis knocks his hip against the dining table and waits until Harry’s looking up before crooking his finger. “C’mere.”

It would’ve been easier to round the table himself instead of making Harry get up, but Harry’s suitcase is still by the front door, a reminder of the impermanence of all this. It’s been over a month since they were on the same continent. Louis doesn’t think he could resent Harry for anything, not really, but that doesn’t mean he won’t take his frustration from the long absence out where he can.

Harry pushes his chair back without complaint. He’s got some milk clinging to his upper lip that he licks away when Louis spreads his arms imperiously for a hug. He’s broad and solid and feels good in Louis’ arms, until he ducks his cold hands under the duvet and slaps them against Louis’ stomach.

Fucker!

Harry laughs at Louis’ yelp and then groans when Louis hits him in the balls and kicks his shin for good measure.

“What’s wrong with you?” Louis demands. “You ruined the moment.”

“What’s wrong with you,” Harry whines, still hunched over protectively. He sounds hoarse, like he’s been talking too much or not at all. “I’m fucking starving. You don’t even have eggs.”

Louis had meant to stock up the fridge. He’d been meaning to all week, ever since Harry rang him up in the middle of the night and said he was done with LA for a while, and did Louis have any guests over, and would he mind having one more. ‘No,’ Louis had said, ‘I don’t want you. Why do you keep calling me? Who are you?’ and Harry hung up, but not before Louis heard him laugh.

“The thought doesn’t count for that much, Lewis,” Harry says when Louis tells him so, but Louis shrugs, unrepentant. It’s Harry’s own fault for being away for so long; he should’ve known Louis would revert to his tried and true diet of cereal and tea without someone around to drag him to the shop and be wheedled into cooking for him. He’d hired a cleaning lady cum chef for a while there, but it didn’t stick. He doesn’t like eating alone, and living off of takeaway makes it feel less like something to be shared.

“I didn’t sign up to feed you,” is what he says, and follows Harry into the kitchen, tangling his feet in the dufet while Harry washes out his bowl. The rain’s turned the whole flat grey. Louis squints against the bright lights of the kitchen and tries not to feel like he’s slept the day away. “How’s Ed?”

“Ed’s… Ed,” Harry says, with his usual brand of verbosity. At Louis’ narrowed eyes, he grins. “What? He’s good. You talked to him.” It was a two minute conversation before one of Ed’s shows in Texas, when he’d snatched Harry’s phone from him on account of ‘wanting to know whether he was surgically attached to this thing, hi, Louis.’ Harry snatched it back before Louis could do much more than inquire after his findings.

“Heard you sat in for him on a radio thing the other day.”

Harry wrinkles his nose. “I didn’t sit in for him. I just tagged along, and the guy got a little distracted.”

“Aww,” Louis coos, sliding over to pinch his side. “I know you can’t help making everything about you, Harold.” He laughs when Harry bats him away with wet hands and then drapes himself over Harry's back when he turns around. Hides a smile when Harry hunches a little to make it easier. “So what did you get asked about? It was me, wasn’t it.”

“All you,” Harry confirms.

“And were you put out?”

“Terribly.”

Louis bites his shoulder and squeezes him hard around the middle before letting go. He levers himself up over the back of the sofa and flops down before Harry can, stretching his legs out and taking up as much room as possible. Harry gives him an unimpressed look before dropping his entire weight on Louis’ chest.

“Fuck,” Louis squeaks in his highest voice, “you’re crushing me, you’re crushing me!”

“Deserve it,” Harry says, but he’s laughing, and groans, “god, shut up,” when Louis begins to gurgle. He lets himself be shoved onto the floor and then hauled back up again. They end up with Louis’ legs sprawled over Harry’s lap and the comforter sprawled over both of them. Louis’ feet poke out from under the edge and he squirms until Harry wraps them up, mobile in one hand and the other curled around Louis’ foot.

Harry slumps into the sofa and leans his head back, throat working as he swallows. He claps, and the kitchen light flicks off; it goes dark and warm and quiet in the space it takes to blink, and something inside Louis settles. It’s been ages since they were this close, though it feels like that even when Harry’s only been gone for an hour. It would be strange if it wasn’t so familiar, but so many years would wear anyone down. Louis closes his eyes and curls his toes as the days spent apart melt away to Harry’s humming, the buzz of his mobile, all the places they touch. There’s a warmth in his gut that makes him want to get even closer, as close as he can, but Louis has restraint. He’s not that desperate. Yet.

So he says, instead: “You’d think they’d be bored of it by now. It’s going to be eight months, yeah? Since the split.”

“Don’t let Nialler hear you calling it that,” Harry warns. Louis’ soft snort earns him a pinch. “We’re not old news just yet. They did ask after you, believe it or not. What you’ve been up to.”

Louis’ surprised, but only in the sense that anyone’s interest these days surprises him. He’s been sat on his arse doing awe-inspiring amounts of nothing for longer than he’d care to disclose. There’s not really much to ask after. “‘s that right?”

“Mm.”

Nothing more is forthcoming. When Louis cracks open an eye there's a little smile playing on Harry’s mouth that makes his stomach flip. So he kicks him.

“And?” he asks, because that’s the look Harry gets when he thinks he’s been particularly clever. “What’d you tell them?”

“That we weren’t speaking and I couldn’t be fucked to know or care.”

Louis sits up. “Fuck off, you didn’t.”

“Google it,” Harry says with a careless wave of his hand. Louis kicks him again. “Ow, hey. Don’t be a sore loser now.”

“You didn’t say it exactly like that,” Louis argues, because he has more than money riding on this. His pride. His pride.

“Google it,” Harry sing-songs, so Louis sits up, grabs his mobile and does just that.

It doesn’t take long to find a clip of the interview, only aired three days ago. Ed’s nowhere to be seen and Harry looks like he just rolled out of bed and wrapped the first towel he found around his head, eyes droopy and hair curling every which way. He’s perched precariously on a stool and nodding seriously at whatever’s being said, but Louis can tell he’s miles away.

‘And your other bandmate,’ comes the tinny, thickly accented voice of the interviewer, ‘uh, well, ex-bandmate, Louis, how is he?’

The way he snaps to attention makes Louis flush to see, though Harry’s always been this obvious, and just as shameless. He doesn’t even pretend to try anymore. It’s indecent.

“No,” Louis groans, because Harry deadpans his response, stretching the ensuing awkward silence for a good fifteen seconds before he starts laughing. The Harry of now looks more smug than Louis can bear, all dimple, so Louis throws his phone at him and struggles to his feet. It’s either go back to bed or straddle Harry and make a fool out of himself, and Louis thinks he can hold that off for a few more days, at least.

He yanks the duvet off Harry out of spite and says, “I hate you,” before spinning on his heel. “I never want to see you again.”

The rain visibly picks up just as he stalks past the floor-to-ceiling windows.

“Hey,” Harry says, sounding pleased, “look at that.”

“London missed you!” Louis calls back meanly, and Harry’s bark of a laugh swallows his own.

 


 

It should be alarming how quickly they settle into routine. They haven’t lived together for years, not properly, and they’re used to their own space now. The last Louis had someone staying over was months ago, and Danny went out more often than he stayed in. It should be a little unsettling, at least at first, to get hip checked on his way to the kitchen, or find Harry occupying his spot on the couch, or lose track of the wet towel he dropped on the floor right over there, what have I told you about touching my things, Harold.

But it feels, instead, like they never stopped. Louis tries not to dwell on the fact that a little part of his life has always been set aside for Harry, and always will be, regardless of whether he’s within reach or oceans away.

Louis doesn’t ask how long he’s staying for. The suitcase gets dragged from the foyer to the spare bedroom across from Louis’, where it’s gutted and picked thoroughly apart. Harry’s boots, which still look like they’re held together only by sheer force of will, stay by the door. It could be a week. It could be a month. Louis doesn’t ask, because there’s no answer that will satisfy him. He’s doing this break thing all wrong, and he knows it; the idea was to take some time for themselves, not pop over to Zayn and Perrie’s whenever they’re in town, or feel anxious when he doesn’t get to talk to Niall and Liam for more than three days, or wish Harry didn’t like being away more than he likes being here, bleary eyed and soft from sleep, picking through Louis’ extensive collection of takeaway menus.

It’s all temporary, anyway. For all that they laugh at Niall’s sullen quips, this wasn’t meant to be the end of anything. Zayn called it the pause at the top of the roller coaster, a split second to catch their breath—’Or piss ourselves,’ was Niall’s contribution—and their official statement contained the word hiatus. The media spat that out as ‘1D HEADED IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS: THEY CAN’T BEAR TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM ANYMORE!’ and Louis dared the boys to confirm it, because why the fuck not.

It’s just like Harry to do it months after the buzz finally died down.

“I think the statute of limitations applies here,” Louis tells him that night, while he’s flopped on the couch watching Harry watch Antiques Roadshow and complaining about it intermittently. It’s late, but not late enough for bed. They skipped dinner in favor of FaceTiming all the people Harry had been meaning to call but never got around to, and Louis is peckish and restless. He half expected Harry would wander off to his old haunts already, but he hadn’t, and they were left circling each other all day. It’s got Louis feeling too big for his skin.

“I’m getting Chinese. And no, I don’t think so,” Harry says. He turned the heat up so he could take his shirt off, and Louis traces the long line of his bare back with a fingernail, grinning when he squirms away from the scratch. He doesn’t know anyone with a back as sensitive as Harry’s. It’s unmarked, still, even though he’s long since run out of space on his arms. “Why do you have—ten, eleven, eleven copies of the same menu?”

“So it has a better chance when I pick one at random. Keep up.” His skin warms where Louis knuckles it, and there’s something obscene about the way muscles shift under the skin. Louis wants to bite him, so he does. “Harry.”

“Mm.” Harry’s managed to neatly divide his attention between the telly, his phone, and the menus, eyes flickering lazily from one to the other. There’s something wrong with this picture.

“Harry. Harry. Hazza.” Louis sinks his teeth into the meat of Harry’s shoulder, feels the way his breath catches and releases. “Pay attention to me.”

Louis can make out the curve of his cheek as he smiles. “Maybe if you did something interesting.”

Louis debates holding out some more, but he’s already gone longer than he thought he could and the heat settling low in his gut compels him to turn the bite into a suck, work at it until he’s sure he’s left a mark. Harry’s breathing slows, and he drops the menus onto the coffee table. Louis drags his mouth over the ridge of his shoulderblades, slow and wet, tasting salt. He can’t hear the hum of the telly anymore, hyperfocused on the small sound Harry makes in the back of his throat.

Harry catches his hand when Louis scratches up his side. His eyes are dark. “Didn’t even last a day.”

“You look hard up,” Louis says, lofty. He refuses to flush. “I’m taking pity on you.”

Harry hums, turning to face him. “Saint Louis.”

“That’s me,” Louis agrees, but it gets lost between their mouths. The kiss is dry, almost chaste, but it still makes Louis’ insides go hot and swimmy. There’s something that makes every touch between them electric, and it’s always been there, just—never worth jeapordising the band for, before.

It’s different now. There’s no band, for one thing.

“How long’s it been now?” Harry asks, and for a second Louis doesn’t know what he means, too caught up in his own head. How long’s it been—since this started? Harry should know, because he’s the one who kissed him, mouth soft and tart from some fruity drink he’d been nursing all night, at a party that’s now blurred into all the others. ‘Sorry,’ he’d said, and then leaned right in and kissed him again. ‘Shit. Fuck. Sorry.’ Something about the bewildered look on his face had made Louis laugh so hard he spilled his drink, though there was nothing funny about being kissed by his best friend right as their world prepared to turn upside down.

Well. It was a little funny. Zayn wouldn’t agree, probably, but Zayn doesn’t know. It’s their little secret, and it’s going to stay that way, because it’s small enough to keep. They’re friends first, and always; this is just one more perk of getting to shed all their responsibilities for a while.

But that’s not what Harry’s asking. They’ve shifted up onto the couch, and Louis squirms until Harry lets him flip him onto his back. Louis likes being held down, probably more than he should, but he likes this, too: straddling Harry’s slim waist and taking control, granting kisses as he pleases.

“Maybe a month,” he says, though it’s been longer.

“Yeah?” Harry tongues into his mouth when Louis leans down to kiss him, and sighs when he pulls away. “Guy or girl?”

“Girl.” A model he met at an exhibition in Hoxton that Zayn bullied him into attending. Blue eyes, long legs, way too tall for him. Louis doesn’t like one night stands, usually, the idea of learning someone’s body that way and then letting them walk away, but he doesn’t want a relationship either, stuck in some middling place. His right hand was getting sick of him, and Harry wasn’t available. The sex had been good. Great.

Louis doesn’t dwell too long on how much better just kissing Harry feels.

Harry hums. “Thought so.”

Louis pulls back to look at him. “Thought what?”

Harry’s hands slide down from his waist to grip his arse, knead at him roughly enough that Louis gasps. The corner of his mouth hitches up into a smile that makes Louis want to pull his hair. “That you haven’t been fucked in a while.”

Not since Harry, before he skipped off to America for no good reason. Louis isn’t annoyed, or anything.

“She would’ve fucked me,” he argues anyway, since it’s the principle of the thing. And she would have, happily, if the fingerfucking he got while she blew him was any indication, but when Louis wants to get fucked he picks up men who could pick him up. “If I asked.”

Harry squeezes his arse and digs his fingers in, slots them against his hole through the soft, worn fabric of Louis’ trackies. Rubs there, just gently, until Louis’ hips start to twitch. Harry’s mouth is red and he’s sweating already, hair wet at the temples, curling wildly where Louis’ been tugging at it. “But you didn’t. Ask.”

Louis would recognize the jealous strain to his voice anywhere, so he leans down to kiss him some more. Doesn’t think too hard on how the sound of it makes his own skin prickle.

“No.”

“Why not?”

Louis knows what he wants to hear. It’d be shameful how predictable Harry is at heart, if most people weren’t so distracted by all the layers of quirky.

“Maybe I just didn’t feel like it.” Louis sits up and lays his palms flat on Harry’s chest, rocks back a little into the hands squeezing his arse and thumbing inquisitively at his taint. He feels overheated already, cock kind of sore from getting hard so fast, and really doesn’t know how he lasted this long, not when he had spent the past few days counting down and wanking himself raw to the thought of this—just this. Getting to touch him again. “Contrary to popular belief, Harold,” he says, managing to keep his voice steady, “carriers don’t need to get fucked.”

“But you do,” Harry says, and knuckles at the tight furl of his hole. “Yeah?” Louis bites the inside of his mouth and rides out a shudder. Harry watches him, eyes bright. “I had a guy last. In Santa Fe.”

“Don’t care,” Louis says sharply, and twists Harry’s nipple when he laughs. Fuck him, anyway. Louis rises onto his knees and slides one foot to the floor. “If you’re waiting for me to ask for it,” he informs him, “you’ll be waiting for a while.”

It’s not a bluff if you know you won’t be called on it. Louis’ so easy it’s ridiculous, but Harry’s easier, once they get started; starts begging before he’s even got his cock out, most times, eyes wide and plaintive, affecting innocence like please won’t turn filthy coming from his mouth.

Harry hums and tugs him down into another kiss. His cock is a stiff press against Louis’ thigh, tenting his briefs and getting them wet with precome. “Let me eat you out,” he says into the kiss. “Please.”

Right on schedule. But Louis isn’t any better, what with the way he clenches up in reaction, cock twitching predictably. They haven’t done that yet. There was the one messy handjob in the back of the cab to set them off, and Louis had been giddy with it, just from Harry fumbling to get a hand on his prick, the hot weight of him in Louis’ palm. They graduated to blowjobs that same night and fucked for the first time nearly four months ago. Harry’s been absent for half as long since then, but it’s been so—it’s been better than Louis thought sex could be, something visceral, a little violent, in the way his body reacts to Harry. Sometimes all it takes is a kiss to overwhelm him. The thought of Harry’s tonguing his arse, where he’s so stupidly sensitive, makes him squirm.

“I haven’t showered,” is what he says, and his own voice sounds unfamiliar.

Harry slides his hands under his vest and rucks it up as he frames Louis’ ribs. His eyes don’t look green. “So go shower,” he says, and Louis scratches a little at his chest with indecision.

“Harry—”

“I can’t stop thinking about it,” Harry says, running his hands up Louis’ side, fidgety, like he can’t help himself. “Please. I want to get my mouth on you so badly. Come here.” He draws Louis down into a kiss, sucks his tongue into his mouth. “Feel how wet,” he murmurs, and the kiss turns sloppy with spit, “I can make you so wet—”

Louis kisses him quiet, and when he pulls back Harry’s mouth is so red it looks like it hurts, all roughed up and hot to the touch. Louis scrubs a hand across his own mouth and swallows.

“D’you want me to shave? My face,” he clarifies, when Harry’s eyes go wide and bright. “Fuck’s sake, Harry.” He tries to sound exasperated, but his cock throbs so hard he has to curl his hands into fists to keep from touching himself. He tamps down on a shiver and clears his throat. “‘s just, you’re getting all—scratched up.”

Harry sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and grins a little. “No, I like it. I like—” He rubs his knuckles against Louis’ jaw and lets Louis chomp at his finger. “I like the way it looks. On you.” Their eyes catch and hold for long enough that Louis’ face begins to heat. Harry’s grin widens. “Very hobo chic.”

Louis gapes, outraged. “If you think you’re in any position to be calling anyone hobo anything—”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry says, interrupting him with another kiss, slower this time, just as wet. He’s letting him stall, and it makes Louis want to dig his nails in. Harry’s patience has always made Louis turn contrary; something about the lazy curl of his voice, the way he manages to seem unaffected while Louis is close to crying makes him want—he doesn’t know. He’d like to watch Harry fall apart, for once.

“Okay,” he says, and heaves himself off the couch before he can change his mind. He ignores the way his trackies are tented and smacks Harry’s hand away when he reaches out to thumb the head of his prick. He only spares a brief glance at the way Harry’s cupping himself before turning around and heading for the bathroom.

“Hate to see you go,” Harry sings. Louis swallows a laugh and flips him off over his shoulder before shimmying out of his clothes right there in the hallway. The strangled noise Harry makes is worth every awkward bob of his blood-heavy dick, and Louis lets it tide him to the shower, grinning.

He’s thorough about soaping himself up, because Harry doesn’t do anything by halves, but he doesn’t finger himself the way he wants to. His shower is massive and has a comfortable bench with slotted seats, multiple jets, the works, but there’s a ball of nerves in Louis’ belly that’s made his throat dry and hands shaky. He doesn’t know why; it’s not like he’s never been rimmed before. His arse has been a focal point of nearly every sexual encounter he’s ever had, and he loves it, loves getting fingered and tongued and fucked, and isn’t shy about it, not anymore. He outgrew all the complexes that came with being a carrier years ago.

But there’s something about Harry that ties him up in knots, winds him with how much he wants. How badly. Every first between them feels like the first, like Louis is fourteen, fifteen, eighteen, all over again. Kissing Harry makes him forget he’s ever kissed anyone else.

He hadn’t thought it would be like this, when they’d fumbled their way into it. He hadn’t known it could be. Zayn wouldn’t find this funny, he thinks again, standing under the too-hot spray, and gets shampoo in his eye when he tries to shake the thought away.

That cuts the shower short.

The sting in his eye hasn’t made him any softer, at least. He gives in and grants himself a few tugs while he towels off, then wraps the towel around his waist, trapping his dick against his belly. The smell of takeaway hits him as soon as he steps out of the bathroom, so he pads out of his room and pokes his head around the corner to see it piled on the coffee table.

“Oh, hey,” he says stupidly, “food’s here.”

Harry’s on the couch and doesn’t look like he’s moved at all.

“Yep,” he says, and stretches before getting up. Louis’ seen him stretch a million times, in various states of undress, and he makes the same noise when his back pops, that throaty little moan. It never used to make Louis’ dick twitch, before. Mostly. Harry’s still hard, the head of his dick poking out over the waistband of his briefs, all shiny and wet from how much he’s been leaking. Louis gets a split second to lick his lips before an arm wraps around his waist and he’s being hauled back into the bedroom. “Let’s eat.”

Louis groans at that, but it sounds more like a laugh. He debates digging his heels in, but Harry’s just as likely to try and throw him over his shoulder and kill them both in the process, so he goes willingly.

“Hope you didn’t answer the door like that,” he says, palming his dick as Harry topples them onto the bed. He stretches an arm over his head and laughs when Harry nuzzles into his armpit. Bites. “Haz. The food will get cold.”

“Mm,” Harry mumbles, sucking a bruise on the inside of Louis’ arm, making a mottled mess of the Far Away. The bed is unmade, duvet all bunched up, so Louis squirms around until he’s comfortable, hitching himself up toward the headboard. Harry grabs him under his knees and drags him back down.

“Harry, for fuck’s—”

“Want you to sit on my face,” Harry says, looking hungry. His voice is the sort of deep it only really gets when he’s about to come. “Yeah?”

Louis rides out a wave of heat and pretends his face isn’t burning. His arsehole tightens reflexively at the thought of riding Harry’s face, humping down onto his mouth, knuckles white as he fists the sheets. Louis thinks his knees would just fucking give out. “Oh, so I end up doing all the work,” he says, straining to keep his voice light. “Don’t think so, pal.”

Harry narrows his eyes, and for a second Louis is sure he’s about to call him out, but he grabs him around the waist and flips him instead. He’s rough enough that Louis knows he’s annoyed, nails digging into skin, and there’s that petulant huff that Louis loves so much. “Hands and knees, then. Think you can handle that?”

Louis shouldn’t push, but few things get him off faster than watching Harry struggle to keep his cool. So he stretches out flat on his front, head pillowed on his arms, and turns his face to smile at him. “I’m good like this, thanks.”

Harry gives him a look and a slow, pointed blink before leaning down to kiss the dip of his spine. His necklace drags over Louis’ skin as he peppers kisses across his back, hands running up his sides. Louis’ hips get hitched up to shove two pillows underneath, and he ruts down into the soft give of them helplessly, head of his cock snagging against the fabric, friction not nearly enough. Harry murmurs something he doesn’t catch before nuzzling the curve of his arse, palms him gently before spreading him open. Louis doesn’t know what he expects: a broad swipe of his tongue or little licks, maybe, at the core of him. What he gets is a hot rush of breath and a soft, dry kiss, right over his hole, like Harry’s saying hello.

Louis flinches and buries his face in the pillow, hips twitching. He wants to get a hand on himself, but can’t quite unclench his fingers from where they’re clawing at the sheets. Already. It’s mortifying how affected he is, so he bites the pillow to keep from moaning when Harry kisses him again, slower this time, mouthing over his hole, thumbs digging into his arse to keep him spread. When Harry starts tonguing him it’s at the same lazy pace, like he’s got nowhere to be and nothing to do but lick Louis out, slow and easy. Harry doesn’t like to rush; he can make a blowjob last an hour, edging him until Louis is on the brink of very real violence, but the thought of this stretching for more than a few minutes makes Louis feel frantic, like he might start crying.

“Come on,” he says, and his voice only cracks a little. “‘m not getting any younger here.”

Harry flicks him with the tip of his tongue. “If you loosen up for me,” he says, almost conversationally, “I can get my tongue in you. Yeah? I’ll fuck you with it.” He rubs Louis’ tense thighs and bites at a cheek before placing a wet, open-mouthed kiss over his hole, sucking a little. “Lou. Let me.”

Louis’ cock throbs plaintively, caught against his stomach and so hard it’s becoming impossible to keep still. The space he’s created with his arms and the pillow and the rucked up sheets is hot and humid and it’s hard to breathe, but when he lifts his head the rush of air against his heated skin is somehow worse. He wants to turn off the lights so Harry can’t read what’s written all over his face. He wants to say something, but isn’t sure the sound of his voice won’t embarrass him.

Harry makes a noise, low in his throat. A hand slides up to stroke over Louis’ tailbone and settle at the small of his back. “We had that week long heatwave, in LA,” Harry says into his skin. Louis can barely hear him. “Remember? I told you about it. Thought it was going to break into the forties for a while.” He hefts Louis’ hips up so he can get to his taint and teethes it until Louis’ toes are cramping from having curled so hard. “It was so fucking hot. Worse than that time in Australia. Remember that?”

If Louis could catch his fucking breath, he’d tell him to shut up. As it is, he just humps the pillow and ignores how sore his cock’s gotten, the way his eyes are prickling. Harry keeps talking between playful licks to Louis’ hole, keeping him wet as promised.

“It was so bad you’d sweat in the shower. Dry yourself off and get wet again right away, in minutes. Nothing helped. And outside you could see it, the heat, rising off the pavement. Off of everyone around you.” He kisses up Louis’ back and licks at the sweat gathered there. “‘s what you taste like,” he mumbles. “It drives me crazy.”

“I taste like sweaty Americans?” Louis manages to get out, because he can’t not take advantage of a set-up like that, no matter what state he’s in. He feels Harry smile against his skin.

“Exactly so.”

He sounds so pleased that Louis laughs, helpless to the way tension drains out of his body. “Twat.”

“Like heat,” Harry says, after a moment, and Louis feels it somewhere in the pit of his stomach. So he tilts his hips up with a little sigh and doesn’t try to bite back a whine when Harry gets his tongue in him, humming when Louis screws up tight and then goes loose again. Louis can’t keep quiet, usually, but there’s something different about the animal noises that escape him now, something vulnerable that makes him want to keep them in. He can barely hear himself over the thump of his own heart but it sounds like he’s—whining. Like he’s desperate.

He shouts when Harry tucks in two fingers to keep him open while he licks inside, but it’s muffled in the pillow. It gets sloppy fast, so wet Louis can feel the spit trickling down to his balls, skin prickling as air hits it when Harry moves back, and Harry has to slurp a little every time he does. If Louis thought much more of this would make him combust before, he’s reached some sort of greedy plateau now where he wants it to go on forever, doesn’t care to move or come as long as Harry keeps fucking his tongue in like that, rolling Louis’ balls in a palm and rubbing at his taint.

So of course Harry pulls away.

“No, I wanna,” he says, when Louis makes a sad, protesting noise. “I wanna fuck you, can I?”

And just like that, it’s all Louis can think about. His arsehole clenches up, wet and empty, and Harry’s fumbling with the drawers of the nightstand before Louis can even roll onto his back and say, yes, please, now.

“‘s the bottom one,” Louis says, when Harry ends up taking longer than two seconds. He’s fisting his slick, slippery cock with one hand and kneading at the sheets with the other, watching Harry’s back flex. He’s been hard for so long now that he’s no longer even bothered with coming. Sex with Harry always takes for-fucking-ever, messy handjobs in cabs aside, and Louis has come to accept it. His face is still hot, and he feels so fucking loose, the way he only does after a long, drawn out fingerfuck, like he could take Harry’s cock easy, as hard and deep as he wants to give it. The thought makes him squirm. “I said, it’s the bottom—”

“It’s fucking not,” Harry says, and nearly upends everything. He turns to look at Louis, mouth this obscene red, eyes wild. Colour’s high in his face and his chin is shiny from spit. Louis has to squeeze the base of his cock, just a little. “You don’t fucking have any? Louis. You don’t have any condoms.”

Louis groans and gets up, because of course eating arse makes Harry even more fuck stupid than he usually gets. He knee-walks to the edge of the bed, cock bobbing unhappily, and shoves him out of the way. “You’re useless,” Louis tells him before turning to the nightstand, and—oh. “Oh.”

He doesn’t even remember using the last of them up, because he hasn’t brought anyone home in ages, never liked the awkward shuffle involved in sending someone on their way after the deed’s done. It’s easier to get off in the loo or the back room of a club or their hotel room, when getting off’s all he’s there to do, and condoms just tend to appear.

They’re not appearing now. Louis checks the other drawers, and then the bottom one again, just in case they have. There’s no condoms, but among the odds and ends he does find four tubes of lube, all varying degrees of empty, and this, for some reason, ends up striking Louis as particularly hysterical. He glances at the growing look of horror on Harry’s face and has to bite his tongue to keep from laughing.

“Bathroom,” Harry says, snapping his fingers. “Right? There’s some in the bathroom?”

“‘fraid not, babe,” Louis says, as gently as he can, because Harry looks like he’s about to either throw things, or cry. His eyes already look a little wet, and Louis’ insides do this queer little flip on the tail end of a surge of affection. “Harry—”

“Wallet?” At the shake of Louis’ head, Harry takes in a deep breath. “Okay,” he says, “okay, it’s okay. I can go out. I can go get some.” He squares his shoulders and shakes out his hair like that’s going to make a single bit of difference.

“Don’t think you’re going to be able to pull your pants on over that boner, love,” Louis tells him, and receives a glare so fierce he shrinks back, mouth twitching.

“Just give me a fucking minute,” Harry says, testily, “all right?”

“Okay, grumpy,” Louis drawls, settling back into the pillows. He warms up the last of the lube in his palm and goes back to fisting his dick while Harry levels a betrayed look at the nightstand. “You can wait for your prick to cooperate, or you can come over here and fuck me. Your call.”

Harry turns big, startled eyes on him. Sometimes he looks so much like the kid Louis met in the loo that it fucks him up.

“What?” He swallows when Louis just looks at him. “What, like—like—”

“Like, like,” Louis mocks, drawing his knees up and tucking the fingers of his free hand inside his arse. He fucks himself languidly and delights in the way Harry’s dick jumps. “Like bare, you tit. C’mere, let’s get this over with. I’m hungry.”

“But,” Harry says, “but you, um.”

“Me, um,” Louis prompts. His wrist is starting to ache a little from the angle, and he doesn’t even need the prep, not with how thoroughly Harry ate him out, but it’s worth it for how blown out Harry’s eyes get.

“You know,” Harry mumbles, sitting gingerly on the edge of the bed and nudging Louis’ fingers with his own.

Louis hums. Harry always gets quiet when it’s brought up, has ever since the first time, when Louis confessed to being a carrier. The bungalow was a good place to share secrets, and Louis’ wasn’t as big as all that, in the grand scheme of things, but it was his. Harry had frowned a little, and tucked his chin over Louis’ shoulder, curls tickling his neck. At the time, Louis took his silence as a show of support for how uncomfortable Louis was obviously feeling, and didn’t question it. There’s a lot of himself he’s learned to embrace over the years, including everything that comes with being a carrier, but it’s not really anything he’s thought to announce. Harry wouldn’t know.

So Louis tugs him close and hooks his ankles behind his back, straining up to kiss him. “It’s fine, just. Pull out, yeah?”

Harry’s prick is hot and smooth in his palm, big enough to make Louis go flush with anticipation, and so slick he barely needs any lube. Louis does him up anyway, indulges in a few tugs before nudging him up against his hole.

“Lou, wait, wait,” Harry babbles, even as he starts to fuck inside. Louis’ never done it bare before, and the heat of it shocks him a little, the drag of skin on skin. All this friction, even with the lube, and how massive Harry’s cock suddenly feels. “Wait.

It feels too good to wait.

“‘s fine,” Louis says, rocking back into it, arse clenching around the girth of Harry’s cock. If Louis had known it felt like this, he might’ve thrown out the condoms a while ago. “Mm, not like you’re going to knock me up.”

“Fuck,” Harry gasps, and dicks all the way in, balls slapping against Louis’ arse. Louis echoes the sentiment when his hands come up to hook under Louis’ knees and press them to his chest, fold him up so he can thrust hard, almost jarringly so. ”Oh, fuck.”

“Yeah, you can,” Louis tells him, “you can, harder, if you—” and he’s barely got the words out before Harry’s pounding into him, short, rough thrusts that have no real rhythm. It’s not how Harry usually fucks; he likes it slow, most of the time, slotting in deep, more of a grind than a piston. He likes taking his time, as with most things, but he’s fucking into Louis now like he has a deadline to make, like he’ll die if he doesn’t come in the next minute. There’s so much force behind his rabbity thrusts that they’ve set the headboard banging.

“Babe,” Louis manages to say, gripping his biceps, feeling the way they strain, “shh, it’s all right, give it to me,” and Harry’s mouth drops open, eyes so dark they’re almost black. Louis drags a hand through his sweaty curls, smoothing them back from his forehead, laughing a little when Harry squeezes his eyes shut like he hurts, fucking him so hard Louis can barely catch his breath to say, “But you gotta pull out, yeah? Harry? Come on, don’t wanna make a baby tonight.”

Harry’s entire body seizes as he comes.

“Jesus,” Louis gets out, “Harry—what did I just say—”

“Oh,” Harry says, voice completely shot, “Lou, I’m—” and he’s still coming, Louis can feel his dick flex and the hot pulse of come that leaks out. His arms are shaking and there’s something panicked in the lines of his face that prevents Louis from chiding him as much as he’d like, so he draws him down into a kiss instead, shushes him until he slips out. Fuck, but he’s wrecked Louis’ arse. There’s so much come inside him and it feels slippery and strange and Louis’ still hard, for fuck’s sake, cock throbbing.

“What should I do,” Harry whispers urgently into his mouth. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Do we—”

“It’s okay,” Louis interrupts firmly, biting his lower lip to get him to shut up. “Hey. C’mere.” Harry’s face is flushed and sweaty, and he makes a noise when Louis licks at the corner of his mouth, turns into the kiss. It’s more of a sloppy catch of their open mouths than anything else, but it seems to calm him down, his eyes losing that frantic glint as he tongues into Louis mouth. Louis curls a hand around the back of his neck and just kisses him, languid, before pulling back. “I was just fucking with you, idiot. I’m on the pill.”

Kind of. Intermittently. When he remembers, which he hasn’t for a while now, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not the right time of month, and he knows he has the morning after stuff somewhere.

Harry’s throat clicks when he swallows. “So you won’t, um.”

“Nope,” Louis says, stretching out his legs before lifting one onto Harry’s shoulder. His cock could use some attention, but Harry still looks kind of shaken, flushed all the way down to his chest. The muscles in his thighs are jumping, and his eyes are unfocused when he looks down at where Louis’ cupping his balls, curling a hand around his cock. “You just made a fucking mess, is all.”

Louis tries not to flinch when curious fingers find his hole, but doesn’t quite manage. He hasn’t been fucked that hard in a while; it’s probably a good thing it didn’t last for very long, because Louis doesn’t know if he could’ve kept up. The thought makes him throb a little, all over, and when Harry looks up, whatever he sees on Louis’ face makes him suck his bottom lip into his mouth.

“Sorry,” he says, and gentles. “Are you sore? I don’t know what—” He shakes his head and his hair falls into his face, shielding his eyes. He slides his middle finger inside and curls it, gently, feels around until Louis twitches his hips up and starts fisting his cock in earnest. He is sore, and he’ll definitely be feeling it tomorrow, but right now the consistent pressure against his spot is all he needs. He bears down when Harry tucks another finger in and starts working him properly, head down, eyes on where Louis is stretched around him. “You took me so well,” he says, sounding awed.

“You’re not that big,” Louis scoffs, to cover for how quickly his face heats up, but it trails off into a moan. “And you only lasted, like—unh—like, two minutes.”

“Hey,” Harry protests, but there’s a quake to his voice, and the way he ducks his head makes Louis curl his free hand in his hair and tug him closer.

“What was that all about, hm?” he says, as Harry settles over him and tucks his face against Louis’ sweaty neck, still fucking him with his fingers.

“Dunno, just,” Harry mumbles, and bites at his jaw, snuffles. “You make me feel like—”

“A virgin?” Louis suggests.

“Like—”

“Thirteen years old?”

Harry kisses him, but he’s laughing, and Louis comes like that, with his laugh caught between their mouths. It’s the kind of orgasm that’s been building for so long that the relief is what makes him weak. He pulls at himself until the last spurts of come dribble weakly out, working his hand just under the ridge of his cockhead to milk it all. His toes uncurl and he lets his head fall back, only wincing a little when Harry pulls his fingers out. He tilts his face obligingly when Harry deepens the kiss, even keeps his eyes open for most of it before the bone deep lethargy catches up with him.

“Like I want you to keep taking the piss forever,” Harry says after a beat, and Louis blinks up at him. Everything’s swimming, the way it does when he’s right on the edge of sleep, but Harry is steady.

“Well,” Louis says slowly, and there’s a hundred quips coming to mind, but as Harry presses a smile against his throat, what comes out is, “You’re in luck, Curly.”

 


 

Louis doesn’t mean to fall asleep, and when he comes to he has no idea what time it is.

The lights are still on, and the pillow under his head is damp and smells like shampoo. His hair’s tangled and his arse hurts, this deep, persistent ache that’s just on the edge of too much, the kind that’ll leave him feeling well-fucked for days. He can’t focus his bleary eyes enough to make out the alarm clock on the nightstand, but it’s still dark outside, so he can’t have slept for more than a few hours, dozed off sometime in the midst of trading slow, sloppy kisses and insisting he had to get up and wash off, and would, after one more kiss. One more. Just one more.

It’s strange, waking to find Harry curled around him, though maybe it shouldn’t be. They’ve slept in the same bed more times than Louis can count or even remember, from cramped bunks and pre-show nerves to shared hotel rooms and that awful, crushing loneliness that big cities seem to inspire, but this is different. It feels different. Something about the soft give of Harry’s mouth, maybe, or the fine lines just starting to appear at the corner of his eyes. The way his hand rests on Louis’ chest, and his head on Louis’ pillow. Something.

Harry’s snoring in his ear, and that, at least, is painfully familiar. He doesn’t move save for smacking his mouth a little when Louis squirms out from underneath him, and Louis turns off the lights before he heads to the bathroom.

The morning after pills are tucked away in a corner of the medicine cabinet, behind eyedrops Louis doesn’t remember buying and cough syrup that looks like it’s congealed. They’re the souvenirs of a scare he had a while ago over a torn rubber; he’d popped three ‘just in case’ and then threw them all up fifteen minutes later. The fact that he’s done stupider things probably shouldn’t be a source of pride.

“Idiot,” he mutters, and checks the expiration date before swallowing one dry. They’re good to go for four more years, and Louis feels none of the old skin-crawling, stomach-turning panic as he steps into the shower and cleans himself up.

Finding Harry at the sink when he gets out makes his insides lurch, but only for a second. He’s frowning around the toothbrush in his mouth and blearily eyeing the pill packet Louis left on the counter. There’s streaks of come on his thighs and angry red lines raised all over his arms and back. Showering will sting. He’ll like it.

“Budge over.” Louis clears his throat and hip checks him out of the way, despite the vanity being more than large enough for both of them. He bats away the towel Harry hands him. “I prefer to air dry, you know this.”

Harry spits and rinses. “Prefer to make a fucking mess.” There’s a nicely sized puddle forming around Louis’ feet. At Harry’s narrowed eyes, Louis drags the bath mat over and gamely drips on that instead.

“You’re the one who made a mess,” Louis says after a beat, and gets in a quick tug on Harry’s cock before he’s smacked. “Took me ages to get all your spunk out.”

Harry’s silent, and it isn’t until Louis’ loaded up his own brush with toothpaste that he thinks to look over and ask, “What?”

“What?” Harry parrots, but his throat bobs on a swallow. He’s got his back to the mirror, shoulders hunched, rubbing at the scratches left on his arms. His toes look nervous.

“What’s with that look? Don’t say what look.

“What look?” He whines when Louis punches him, but uncurls a little, shakes out his hair and lets it fall into his eyes. “Had you done it like that before?”

“Done what like what?” Louis asks, with more patience than most people would believe him capable of. He’s even feeling charitable enough to let Harry finish his sentences tonight. Orgasms make him soft.

“It,” Harry says stubbornly, still avoiding Louis’ eyes. “You know. Bare.”

“No,” Louis says slowly, turning to face him. “Why? Have you? Please don’t let this be your way of telling me you’ve given me the clap.”

He’s not serious. Harry used to get into a strop over Louis blowing people bare, much less fucking them, but the way he’s picking at his bottom lip now makes Louis’ skin prickle. He’s acting strange. Stranger than usual, anyway.

“No, it’s just,” Harry says, nodding at the morning after pills. “You have these.”

“So? Good to have a back up, innit? In case the condom’s faulty. Or in case someone,” Louis says, rapping the back of his hand against Harry’s stomach, “shoots off as soon as he’s got the tip inside.”

“Hey,” Harry protests, but lets Louis give his soft prick an affectionate squeeze. He’s quiet while Louis brushes his teeth, and makes no move to rinse himself off, so Louis wets a flannel and wipes him down, from his sweaty chest to his hips to his thighs. For a second Louis’ tempted to drag him into the shower and soap him up properly, but he likes the way he smells too much to wash it away just yet. Besides, it’d be odd to shower together and not fuck. They don’t do the whole—couple thing. Because they’re not one. When it’s not about sex, it’s about how they’ve always been.

He noses into the spot behind Harry’s ear, where it’s all skin and sweat and the faintest traces of leftover product, and Harry’s hand comes up to brace against his hip. He twitches when Louis trails a hand down his back, and kisses him.

It’s too minty. Louis allows it anyway.

“But do you need to take it,” Harry mumbles against his mouth, “if you’re already taking the other—like, if you’re on the pill.”

“You’re still on about this?” Louis draws back and raises his eyebrows, but Harry just shrugs. He looks a little unfocused, eyes heavy, like he’s turned on but too tired to do anything about it. His fingers are drumming some slow beat on Louis’ hip. “I’m not, really,” Louis confesses, after a moment. “On the pill. Not for a while.”

Harry’s brow furrows. “You said.”

“I lied,” Louis says patiently. “Didn’t have your inhaler on hand, had to make do. But I might as well be. Wrong time of month to get knocked up.”

“When’s the right time?” Harry says, and then bites the corner of his mouth like he didn’t mean to. He’s turning red again, and Louis spends a few seconds just taking it in. Few things make Harry visibly uncomfortable, and until now Louis had no idea this was one of them. “Can you—you can tell?”

“Yeah, I can tell,” Louis murmurs. Harry’s shoulders are tense under his hands. “I can feel it. Couple of days a month, a week sometimes. I get all—” Sore. Sensitive. He shakes his head and digs his thumbs into the notch of Harry’s clavicle. “Anyway, it’s why I stopped taking the birth control, it makes it worse. All those side effects.”

“Like?”

“Like,” Louis starts, and then stops himself with a laugh. “Like, stuff. Why so curious, George? You never cared before.”

Harry shifts restlessly. He’s still got his head ducked down, but he glances up at Louis through his lashes, like he’s shy. He’s not. “I did.”

Louis considers. He’d been on the pill enough times on and off over the years, spanning multiple tours and spells where he fucked anything that moved, and it’s never once become the topic of conversation. Not like this, anyway, and not with Harry, because Louis always took his complaints to Lou or Caroline or Josh, who was the only other carrier around. It wasn’t like anyone was uncomfortable with it—certainly not as much as Louis himself had been, young and prickly under a spotlight he hadn’t realised would be quite so bright, but it wasn’t a big deal. They always had something more pressing to talk or worry or laugh about.

“Well, you never asked.”

Harry shrugs. “Didn’t think it was any of my business.”

Louis lets out a startled laugh, because that’s not something he’s ever expected to come out of Harry’s mouth. Not when it comes to them. “Since when? Hey,” Louis says, poking him in the side. “Come on. Nothing’s off limits with us.”

That’s probably not normal, but then few things about their lives are. Louis came to terms with it a while ago. But when Harry doesn’t respond, even over a long, expectant silence, he has to pull back and ask, just to make sure.

“Is there?”

Harry has a way of looking at you that’ll make you doubt yourself. It’s careful. Considering. Louis’ used to him talking in slow, meandering circles, or missing the point, or not having a point, but occasionally he’ll make Louis feel like the answers are right in front of him and he’s just asking all the wrong questions.

But he sounds firm when he says, “no,” and that’s enough to ease the sudden tightness in Louis’ chest.

“Well, then,” he says, and shoves the wet towel in Harry’s face to make him sputter, “if you’re done with the twenty questions, I’m fucking starved.”

 

They end up on the couch again, eating Chinese straight from the greasy, overstuffed takeaway containers. A throw’s been haphazardly spread over the sofa to keep them from staining the upholstery, and it bunches up beneath Louis when he draws his legs up onto the cushions. The sweet corn soup is rather vile when cold, but Louis can’t be arsed to get up and trek all the way to the kitchen for reheating purposes, and Harry can’t move either, on account of his lap being occupied by Louis’ feet.

“Would you please just use the fucking fork,” Louis says, when another noodle falls from Harry’s chopsticks and slides off his big toe. “Harry.”

“If you stop slurping that,” Harry counters, loading far too much on his chopsticks again. Stalemate.

“No deal,” Louis says after a second’s consideration, and grimly slurps the last of his soup in the loudest, most obnoxious manner possible. Harry looks like he’s tempted to dump the contents of his container over Louis’ head, but hunger must win out, because he finishes it off instead. His mouth is shiny and slick, made worse when he licks at it, and it takes effort for Louis to wrench his eyes away and focus on the telly.

He doesn’t even know what they’re meant to be watching, but Louis makes a point to look absorbed, because they’re done with the fucking portion of the evening. His arse aches something awful, and he can’t quite keep himself from darting glances at Harry when he stretches, or sighs, or does nothing at all, but other than that, this could just be another in a long line of nights spent stuffing themselves at odd hours. He feels a little too full for comfort, and so heavy the sofa is probably sagging under his weight. His stomach’s tight, and Harry’s eyes catch on it when Louis pushes the boxers a little lower on his waist.

“Ate too much?” Harry asks, when he notices Louis noticing. His voice is unsteady, and he cuts his eyes away before Louis can read anything on his face.

“Worked up an appetite, didn’t I?” Louis sniffs, and prides himself on only twitching a little when Harry rolls his eyes and squeezes his ankle.

His hand stays there, stroking against the grain of hair on Louis’ shin, while they go back to pretending whatever’s on telly has their full attention. It’s beyond late, but Louis has never been so awake, excruciatingly aware of everywhere they touch. He can’t get hard again without some effort, well past his teenage years as he is, but his body flares up with arousal anyway, this low-grade simmer that makes his face go hot. On telly, someone’s in the middle of a drug bust gone very bad, but all Louis can see is what Harry looked like when he came. Shocked. Overwhelmed. Like it was so good it hurt. Louis’ toes curl at the thought, and he has to breathe through his mouth to ease the ache in his chest. He’s never seen Harry get like that, not with him and not with anyone else, and Louis wants to see it again, with an urgency that alarms him. There’s a car chase playing out with great gusto on the screen, but he can’t stop thinking.

It can only be the result of going without for so long, but Louis takes a raincheck on admitting the absence was of Harry, not sex.

“I wasn’t done,” Harry says abruptly, quiet enough that the cars exploding drown out his voice. Good thing Louis’ been staring at his mouth. “Asking,” he clarifies, when Louis continues staring.

“Yeah?” Louis keeps his voice light, because this is just Harry, asking after a mate. Casual conversation about Louis’ body that doesn’t have to be sexual. It’s fine. “Well, go on, then.”

“How can you tell?” He’s not looking at Louis anymore, but he seems to have sorted whatever was making him jumpy in the bathroom. His shoulders are relaxed and eyes sleepy, so there’s no reason for Louis’ stomach to lurch the way it does. “When you’re, uh.”

“Fertile,” Louis supplies, and then laughs because it sounds stupid to say out loud. He hasn’t ever really thought of himself in those terms. Baby-making terms. It’s just one of those things his body can do, like exercise, or go without tea. Doesn’t mean he will. “I told you, I just—can.”

“Great answer,” Harry says, “really informative. Thank you.”

“Hey, if you want an education,” Louis says, stretching out an arm to grab Harry’s mobile from the coffee table. His password’s still the same. Louis opens up the browser and tosses it at him. “That’s what Wikipedia’s for.”

Harry darts a glance at the screen before looking up at Louis. “I don’t want to know about carriers,” he says, in that slow, careful way of his. “I want to know about you.”

Something about the look on his face makes Louis’ throat go tight. He swallows around it and says, “One and the same, innit?”

Harry blinks in response, mouth taking on that mullish set that means he’s not quite annoyed, but getting there. Louis can’t hold the eye contact for longer than a few seconds, turning his head to face the telly and fighting the urge to draw his legs in, curl up. His insides feel all fluttery, and he doesn’t know why. Maybe he did have a little too much to eat.

“I get horny,” he says bluntly, louder than he maybe meant to. So much for not making it sexual. “Like, really. Not just hard up for a wank, I—I’ll want—like, I’ll need something inside.” He chances a quick look at Harry before cutting his eyes away again. “That time you made me come without touching my prick? Wasn’t really you, sorry, love.”

Harry gasps, loud and showy, and Louis twists his mouth to keep from smiling. He kicks at the hand that’s pinching his toes while he clears his throat. One of Harry’s worst qualities is how well he listens; Louis would kill to be interrupted right about now.

“There’s headaches, sometimes. But it feels like—it feels good to be touched. Anywhere. More than usual. Even the sheets, I can rub one off like that.” Thousand-twenty thread count Egyptian cotton was good for something after all. “I get sore easily. My nipples get really—like, I can’t wear a shirt sometimes, because they’re so sore.”

“Yeah?” Harry’s eyes flicker to Louis’ bare chest, where his nipples have already hardened to tight, incriminating points. “‘s that why you don’t let me play with them?”

“No,” Louis lies. “I’ve just got better things for you to suck on.”

“Mm,” Harry hums noncommittally, but he’s got that look on his face, the one that says he’ll drop it, but only for now, and only because he wants time to think it over. He rolls his eyes when Louis indulges in a few showy hip thrusts. “What else?”

“What, that wasn’t enough?”

Harry shrugs and picks at his bottom lip. They’ve left the lights dim enough that Louis can’t tell whether he flushed at Louis’ incredulous tone, but his back’s gone stiff again, like he’s trying not to fidget.

“I wanna know,” he says, and that’s something he’s said thousands of times before, in that same near-petulant tone of voice, so it’s not novelty that makes Louis falter. It’s just that he hasn’t been the target of his curiosity in a while, and no one does interested quite like Harry. Louis had almost forgotten what it felt like.

For a second, he considers answering in all seriousness. Then Harry blinks at him and some of the butterflies take flight, and Louis decides to bugger that idea.

“Well,” he says reluctantly, making sure his voice wavers just a little, drawing out the word until Harry’s frowning at him. “Sometimes I hear things.”

A line forms between Harry’s brows. “What?”

“Only sometimes,” Louis reassures him. “It sounds like, I dunno. Like a ticking, almost. Like a tick… tick… tock…” Louis holds in the laughter until he sees Harry’s eyes widen with understanding, and then it’s a mad scramble to get away before Harry can dig his fingers into the arch of Louis’ foot and tickle him until he cries.

“Twat,” Harry says, once Louis has stopped kicking him and settled at the far end of the couch. He’s drawn his knees up to his chest in order to protect all the sensitive, ticklish bits, just in case Harry decides to bridge the two-cushion gap between them. He ducks when Harry throws a chopstick at his head, but it goes so wide he doesn’t even need to.

Louis yelps anyway. “Oi! That could’ve poked my eye out.”

Massive twat,” Harry elaborates, but his dimples come out to play. Louis sticks out his tongue, and they make rude faces at each other until Harry breaks his exaggerated scowl to yawn. Louis tries not to feel fond when he grumbles and knuckles at his eyes. “I’m considering making the whole estranged thing a reality.”

“Liar,” Louis says, watching him stack the takeaway. “You’d miss me too much.”

“I did.” Harry looks up once he’s finished, eyes droopy already. He gets sleepy so easily. “Miss you,” he clarifies, like there’s any other way Louis could’ve taken it. Louis thinks he just likes saying it, which is funny, because the words always gets stuck somewhere in Louis’ throat.

“Good,” Louis says, predictably haughty, but tonight, for some reason, it doesn’t sound like enough. “Next time you’ll have to say it on air.”

“Already did,” Harry says, and laughs softly at whatever look is on Louis’ face. “What, you didn’t listen to the rest of it?”

“Got to the part where they called me a recluse and decided I’d heard enough.” It’s mostly true. He’d settled in to watch the video while Harry slept off the worst of the jetlag in the guest bedroom, but he was too jittery to pay it much attention. Harry’s an awful distraction, even when he’s asleep—even when he’s a world away, and missing Louis. “I can’t believe that’s what they’ve latched onto, by the way,” he says, because there’s easier things to talk about. “I think I’d prefer cokehead, let’s go back to that. Me, a recluse.

“Well,” Harry says, leaning back on his hands and blowing a stray curl out of his eyes, “you have been playing the part.”

“I got papped at the fucking match last week,” Louis says, outraged. “Meanwhile Zayn’s been MIA for a month, but you don’t hear a single peep about that.”

“Yeah, but Zayn’s been tweeting.”

“So?” Louis challenges.

“So,” Harry says slowly, “you’ve been wronged and should sue.”

“Fucking right I should,” Louis says, and uncurls from the sofa to shake out the throw, making sure to shower all the food bits on Harry’s hair. That gets him a yell and a “fuck off, Louis,” and he’s still laughing when he heads into the kitchen for a glass of water. He’s hovering by the fridge, torn over going for a beer instead, when Harry comes up behind him and drops his chin onto Louis’ shoulder.

He has to hunch to do it, and it’s going to make his back twinge if he keeps it up, so Louis turns around and draws him into a quick, one-armed hug.

“What’s up?” he asks, when Harry knocks their heads together gently. “More questions?”

“Nah,” Harry says, and Louis doesn’t know what name to give the cocktail of relief and disappointment that stirs in him, so he ignores it. “Just, I know you’re attached to the telly, but you could go out more, you know. Not to get papped, but. You could come with me. Places.”

Louis wasn’t expecting that. If the way Harry suddenly busies himself with tying his hair up is any indication, he wasn’t either. Louis lets him fidget for a good thirty seconds before he gives in.

“Right. Or, here’s an idea: you could come with me. Places.”

“Okay,” Harry says, before Louis’ gotten all the words out, and doesn’t even look embarrassed when Louis laughs at his eagerness, just ducks his head and shrugs like, what can you do?

“Yeah,” Louis says. “Okay.”

 


 

It takes longer than Louis expects to clear their schedules, because Harry only gets a 24-hour window before people start realizing where he’s at and what they need him to do. Half of the friends calling Louis only knows by having exchanged pleasantries that one time at that one thing, so he refuses to get dragged to brunches and cocktail parties and shows no matter how loudly Harry pouts.

But he comes along for the rest. They run a favour for Cal that turns into a bigger favour for a friend of a friend of his, and pop by the studios when they know who’s recording and when. Upcoming birthdays merit multiple shopping trips and a wide variety of useless shit finds its way into Louis’ storeroom almost immediately, while Harry stocks up the closet in the guest bedroom with clothes Louis doubts he’ll wear more than once. They start eating out at all the hole-in-the-walls that Harry insists were recommended to him by he can’t remember who. They get a little bit of food poisoning.

But they don’t fuck.

Louis has no idea what flipped the switch, as he ordered a bulk pack of condoms overnight, and he knows Harry knows, because Louis made it rain Magnum XLs on him as he slept. But that night Harry just rolled him over, lubed up their cocks and fisted them together until Louis came. The next day he let Louis fuck his mouth, and fucked his the day after, so it’s not like they aren’t fooling around at all, but--dry humping and sloppy blowjobs pale in comparison to having had Harry’s tongue in his arse. His cock. Louis misses his fucking cock.

He doesn’t ask for it, because he isn’t sure he could get all the words out, and anyway, he’s not desperate. Just—confused. He’s known Harry too well and for too long to be blindsided this way. Once something sparks Harry’s interest, he runs it through and wears it out until it begs him to stop. After that first night, Louis fully expected to find himself bent over the nearest flat surface and eaten out at the earliest opportunity, before he got dicked hard enough to hurt. He was coming to terms with this. He sure as fuck didn’t think he wouldn’t be getting dicked at all.

There aren’t any more questions, either, and Louis tries not to feel bothered about that. It’s unlikely he’s turned Harry off with all the carrier talk, not when he was the one so fucking keen to know in the first place, but it still sets Louis off-kilter, leaves him feeling like he’s missed something obvious. Harry’s very much present when he’s choking on Louis’ cock or rubbing him through his trackies or rutting against his thigh, but the rest of the time he looks a little lost, and his touches are almost hesitant, like he has to think before he kisses Louis’ belly or knuckles the small of his back.

What he’s thinking about is a mystery, but it’s been over a week since they fucked last, so he’s clearly doing far too much of it. He’s given no indication of wanting to pack up and take off anytime soon, but Louis can’t snuff out the anxiety that keeps sparking in his chest. Harry’s restless at heart, always has been, and there’s no shortage of people around the world who want him near. Someone could invite him to a bloody—golf tour tonight and he’d be gone tomorrow, off to be appallingly posh and boring somewhere Louis isn’t.

Louis wants to make the most of what he has, is all. He’s taken a page out of Harry’s book and decided he wants everything while he can get it, and that includes getting fucked, thoroughly and often, so Harry’s sudden reluctance has thrown a massive fucking wrench in his plans.

The worst part is that he can’t make any sense of it, and Harry, as always, doesn’t seem keen on enlightening him. Louis could ask, maybe, or shove Harry down and just fucking sit on his cock, but he does neither.

They go paintballing instead.

As it’s one of Louis’ favourite activities and something he participates in almost as religiously as footy, he’s gone with Harry plenty of times before, but never just the two of them. Usually it’s Louis and Zayn and whoever else they can wrangle together to make a sizeable group, from the band to the Riachs to members of their old security team. Buying out courses for the day makes it easy to keep it private, and Louis likes it best when he’s surrounded by—and quickly decimating—people he’s familiar with.

So of course Harry teams them up with an excitable hen party right away and gets killed by his own paint grenade two minutes in.

“There was supposed to be a ten second delay,” he says, looking confused while Louis curses him out. Free of the mask, his hair’s curling wildly, and there’s a little splotch of war paint on the very tip of his nose that makes him look like an idiot. Skidding halfway across the field on his knees thanks to a failed charge has left him covered in mud, and Louis wants to kiss him so badly he can’t breathe. “Oh, wait, I got this. Louis, wait, wait, give it back.”

“Stick to your gun, soldier,” Louis says, and confiscates the grenades for the rest of their runs despite Harry’s heavy pout. He’s a much better shot than Louis, when he’s not tempted to blaze a trail and go all in. Louis has to dirty wrestle to keep him under cover more than once, but there’s nothing he can do to quiet his war cries or frankly ridiculous shittalk. Louis reckons he spends more time doubled over with laughter than he does sniping, but Harry’s grin looks like it hurts, and he doesn’t protest when Louis hipchecks him into a stall during their bathroom break.

He should, because they’re not supposed to be doing this. This is best mate time, not—anything else, but it’s hard not to snog Harry silly when he looks the way he does and his wide, soft mouth opens under Louis’ so easy, like he’s been waiting for this, too. The stall is barely big enough to fit the both of them and Louis’ leg knocks into the toilet every time they shift. He has to go on his tip toes to get the angle he wants, one hand in Harry’s sweaty hair and the other pressed flat against the door, holding them both up when Harry moans into his mouth and goes boneless.

There’s something frantic about the catch of their mouths, and that’s all wrong, because the entire bloody point of their arrangement is that it’s easy and convenient and comfortable. They’re humping each other in a public loo at a crowded paintball centre and Harry keeps fucking stepping on Louis’ feet, so this is clearly none of those things, but Louis can’t stop. Doesn’t want to. He’d drop his pants and spread his legs in an instant if Harry asked, get fucked right up against the door of this cramped, filthy stall with who knows what happening on the other side, and he wouldn’t even have the good sense to be quiet about it.

But Harry doesn’t ask. His big hands are cupping Louis’ arse, trying to spread him, but there’s too much fabric in the way. Louis needs skin on skin and they’re covered, fucking swaddled in gear; the only bit of Harry that’s bare is his throat, and his head thunks back against the door when Louis latches on, sinks his teeth in.

He smells strongly of sweat here, beneath all the paint and grass, and the heat of his skin is making Louis dizzy. His pulse pounds hard under Louis’ tongue and Louis feels wild with it. Zero to sixty didn’t mean anything to him until now.

“Fuck, wait,” Harry’s saying, insistent despite Louis’ attempts to quiet him with his mouth. His bottom lip throbs where it’s pressed against Louis’. “Lou—come on, let’s—go home, let’s—”

“Yeah?” Louis pulls back to say, and Harry makes a wounded noise. “And then what? You gonna fuck me?” Harry’s cheeks are nearly as red as his mouth, and hot to the touch. “If what you want,” Louis breathes, “is to suck my cock, you can get on your knees right now. But if you get me on a bed you had better fucking fuck me, Harry.”

Harry squeezes his eyes shut and Louis nudges their faces together to bite his bottom lip, very gently, before kissing him again. The inside of Harry’s mouth is silky soft, and he sucks on Louis’ tongue in little fits and starts, like he doesn’t know what else to do. Like he’s overwhelmed already.

“Yeah,” he says finally, and his voice makes Louis throb all over. He sounds like he has been on his knees, taking Louis’ cock for hours. “Yeah, ‘m gonna fuck you.”

Success. Louis tries not to look smug while they sort themselves out, and it isn’t too difficult because while Harry’s face is red and hands trembling, Louis is actually gagging for it, mouth so wet with saliva he has to swallow convulsively just to keep from humiliating himself.

They slip out of the centre while everyone else gathers for lunch. The ride home feels familiar, too much like that fucking fifteen minute cab ride that set it all off. Louis got come all over Harry’s hideous, overpriced leopard print shirt and laughed at the genuine horror on his face. Fogged up the windows and couldn’t stop kissing him.

He’d felt a bit like someone had hit him over the head then too.

They don’t touch each other, because Harry’s driving and Louis wants to make it back in one piece, but he’s buzzing by the time they’re parked. Harry crowds him into the lift and is on him before the door’s even shut. He loves to talk through sex, the dirtier the better, and normally Louis can’t get him to shut the fuck up, but he’s silent now. His eyes are dark and glassy, grip a little too tight, and Louis is so bloody hard it’s starting to hurt.

The lift is a private one, and its only stop is Louis’ flat. It opens right up into the foyer, which is a good thing because Louis has lost his pants by the time they stumble out. The rest of his clothes are discarded on the trek to the bedroom, and Louis has to laugh because he’s actually shaking, vibrating with need. But he’s suffered through a fucking week of foreplay, so he reckons his reaction is justified.

His bed is unmade and it’s only half past one in the afternoon, so the room is flooded with light. Louis would make to close the curtains if Harry didn’t practically tackle him to the bed, driving all the breath out of him with his weight and kissing him before he can get it back.

Harry’s so pliant, usually, so easy to shape and lead, that Louis forgets how difficult he is to move when he doesn’t want to be moved. Shoving at his shoulders gets Louis’ wrists pinned to the bed, and hooking a leg over his and trying to roll them over only results in Harry settling further into the cradle of Louis’ hips. He’s still got his jeans on, and rutting against denim hurts but Louis does it anyway, chases the friction with every frantic rise of his hips until Harry slides his free hand between their bodies and begins pulling at Louis’ cock instead.

His eyes are so dark even the sunlight can’t coax green from them. When Louis folds a leg up against his chest, Harry’s fingers dip down to his hole, a dry catch that has him flinching, clenching up. For a wild second Louis thinks he could take it like that—his fingers, his cock, whatever Harry wanted to give him—and revel in the burn of it, but Harry’s already up and scrambling for the lube.

Louis helps yank his jeans down while Harry fumbles with the drawer, and can’t resist giving his cock a quick suck once it’s freed, catching just a hint of salt on his tongue before Harry squirms and nudges his face away with a lube-slick hand.

“Don’t need prep,” Louis tells him, because he fingered himself in the shower this morning, if halfheartedly and without any real intent. If Harry knew that he’d used just the one finger, he’d insist on prep, because he doesn’t like having to fight to get his cock in and complains about how tight Louis screws up at the best of times. But he doesn’t know, and Louis wants it to hurt a little. He wants to feel it. “Just put it in me, all right? You can just—just get in me.”

“Yeah,” Harry mumbles, mouthing at Louis’ knee, the inside of his thighs, “yeah, I will,” but there’s still something cautious about the way he thumbs at Louis’ hole. His mouth is swollen, this violent red that’s hot to the touch when Louis strains up to kiss him. Louis can’t read the look on his face, doesn’t know what it means when his eyes flicker like that. “Lou,” he starts, and then stops. Starts again. “Can I—I want—”

“Yes,” Louis says, because all this uncertainty is driving him out of his fucking mind. “Yes, fuck, anything. You don’t have to ask.”

Harry’s brow furrows.

“Don’t say that,” he says, and shoves Louis back with enough force that he bounces on the mattress. His soft, beautiful mouth draws tight as Louis watches, more than a little bewildered. Anger looks different under the heat flush on Harry face, settles with some urgency behind his hungry eyes.

“Why not? I meant it.” Maybe it’s too big for a quick, clumsy fuck in the middle of the afternoon, but Louis doesn’t care. He’s meant it for a while now, longer than he’d admit to, and if Harry’s failed to pick up on it then he’s a fucking idiot. Louis is almost as obvious as he is. “I mean it. Anything you want.”

“You don’t know what I want,” Harry says. His mouth trembles a little, and Louis’ insides lurch.

“Doesn’t matter,” he says, gentling, but Harry shakes his head, resists when Louis tries to draw him in. His hair is curling wildly, and he makes a noise low in his throat when Louis brushes it out of his eyes. Sweat gleams on his skin, lights him up in the sun, and Louis presses soft, open-mouthed kisses to his throat to taste it. “Tell me, then,” he says, when Harry’s started touching him back, sweeping his hand over Louis’ flank, slotting their bodies together again. “What is it? Tell me what you want, Haz. I’ll give it to you.”

Harry whines, and Louis’ heart kicks in his chest when they kiss because it’s wet and clumsy and Harry’s mouth has gone all slack the way it does right as he’s about to come. When Louis eases himself back onto the bed, Harry follows, chasing his mouth until he’s settled between Louis’ legs, cocks trapped between their bodies. Under him this way, Louis feels like the raw end of a pulse, like little currents shock him everywhere they touch. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed just touching him, skin on skin.

It’s been a week. Louis doesn’t want to dwell on what it means that a fucking week felt like forever. Harry’s still making these sounds, soft and hurt, even as he ruts his prick against Louis’ belly, so Louis breaks the kiss and leans their foreheads together, cups his face in his hands.

“Hey,” he murmurs, kissing his hot cheeks, the corners of his eyes. “Enough with the suspense, yeah? It’s too late to pretend you’re shy.”

“I’m,” Harry starts, and bites it back, teeth digging into his bottom lip. If he worries it any harder it’s going to split, so Louis tugs it into his mouth instead, soothes it with his tongue. “Louis.”

“Harry.”

“Do I have to wear a condom?”

He slurs it, like he can’t get the words out fast enough. Their mouths make a wet pop when they separate, and it sounds as surprised as Louis feels. “What, that’s it?” Harry ducks his head against Louis’ throat to avoid his eyes and Louis can’t keep himself from laughing. “Harry. For fuck’s sake, I thought you wanted to bring out the Scooby costume, or something.”

“You should be so lucky,” Harry mumbles, but the line of his back is tense and unhappy under Louis’ palm, muscles knotted up so tight Louis’ own back twinges in sympathy. His breathing is controlled, slow but shallow, like he’s still a little upset for no reason.

Louis is so fucking gone for him he feels sick with it.

“No, you don’t,” he says, keeping his voice steady. “You don’t have to. Wish you’d told me before I bought out the fucking store, though.”

The pack of condoms is lying on the nightstand, in full view and within reach. Louis was thinking ahead—a rough, conservative estimate of three condoms a day, for a month—but of course Harry fucked up his plans. He always does.

“Give them to charity,” Harry says against Louis’ neck, before lifting his head. Colour’s still high on his face but he’s trying to look unaffected, and failing miserably. Louis wants to kiss him, so he does.

“I’ll give you to charity,” he mutters, and Harry laughs into the kiss, knocks their noses together.

“But then who’d fuck you?”

“I’ve gotten used to not getting fucked,” Louis says, lofty, and yells when Harry bites down on his shoulder and digs his fingers into his sides. “No—tickling, you fucker, I’ll leave, I mean it, I’ll—”

Harry stops, but only once Louis’ is breathless, and only to nudge their hips together. When he finally fucks in the stretch is enough to make Louis gasp, but it’s Harry who looks like he’s being split open. There’s no pillow under Louis’ hips, and his legs are still drawn around Harry’s waist, so Harry has to cup his arse with both hands and tilt him up into his thrusts. He goes slow this time, slicks himself up with more lube on each stroke until they’re squelching, absolutely wrecking the sheets, but he’s breathing through his nose, nostrils flared. His abs clench every time he fucks in and his eyes are slits, like he’s fighting to keep them open when what he wants badly is to squeeze them shut.

“Does it feel that good?” Louis muses aloud, and Harry lets out a short, helpless unh, before hiking Louis’ legs onto his shoulders and folding him right up, bringing their mouths close enough to kiss. It’s impossible to breathe under his weight, not when he’s driving into Louis like that, balls slapping against his arse, but Louis doesn’t even feel the burn in his chest, not really. He’s too caught up in watching Harry, tracing the tense lines of his face and counting every vicious lip bite. It looks like it is that good—like it’s better, and the way Harry’s straining not to come makes heat coil low in Louis’ belly, drives him over the edge before he even realizes that he’s come.

“Lou,” Harry gasps, and keeps working at Louis’ cock until Louis bucks away, too sensitive. “I—fuck, do I have to pull out?”

“No,” Louis gets out, and wonders what Harry would have done if he said yes. He’s grinding his cock into Louis’ arse, hitching his hips back just barely before rocking back in, like he can’t quite bring himself to pull out all the way. Nothing feels as good now that Louis’ come, the ache brought on by the size of Harry’s cock edging on too much, but there’s something about the look on his face that has Louis clenching, squirming back to meet his short, choppy thrusts. “You can come,” he tells him, almost as an afterthought, “in me, if you want, is that what—you wanna fill me up, is that it?”

Harry sobs as he comes, which Louis figures is answer enough, and his orgasm seems to go on forever, wrenching these hurt little noises from him that make Louis’ teeth itch. He doesn’t pull out and roll over onto his back to catch his breath once he’s done, the way he usually does; they stay notched tight together until Louis’ legs drop from Harry’s shoulders and he shifts back. Harry’s come slips out along with his cock, hot and just as strange-feeling as it was the first time, and there’s so much of it. Every time Louis lets his arsehole loosen up more slides out, so he squeezes his thighs together and smacks Harry away when he licks his lips and tries to touch.

They end up sharing a pillow, with Louis flat on his back and Harry curled up against his side, big hand low on Louis’ stomach to pin him down when he tries to go for a wash.

“Stay,” Harry says, and all of Louis’ protests—that he’s in the wet spot, that he needs a piss, that he still feels like he’s leaking—die in his throat, because Harry’s close enough to count lashes and freckles, individual flecks of colour in his eyes. He’s facing the windows, sun bright on his face, but he doesn’t seem to mind having to squint, and neither of them get up to close the curtains. If Louis shifted, just a little, the tips of their noses would brush. A little more, their mouths.

Harry closes the distance for him.

“Don’t say it,” Louis warns, nipping at his lower lip, so Harry thanks him by pressing dry, soft kisses to his mouth instead. His knuckles brush over the softest part of Louis’ belly in slow, even strokes, and Louis dozes off like that, pointing his toes in a languid stretch before letting his body melt back into the bed.

 

Harry’s talking when Louis wakes, voice scratchy like he has been for a while.

“Yeah,” he’s saying, “‘m in London right now. No—yeah, staying with a friend.”

He’s not close enough for Louis to be able to hear what whoever’s on the other end of the line is saying, but he can make a guess. Their legs are still tangled together under the sheets, but Harry’s hand has stopped stroking Louis’ side to card through his own hair, tugging on errant curls the way he does when he’s preoccupied. Louis feels boneless and lethargic and just annoyed enough to accidentally kick him as he gets out of bed.

“Yeah, no, I hadn’t forgotten—I wouldn’t forget!”

Louis’ eye-roll is wasted on the curly crown of Harry’s head. He’s still on the phone when Louis returns from the loo, and for a second Louis considers leaving him to it. They don’t usually loiter in bed after a fuck, but Louis is the best kind of sore and the floor is cold under his bare feet and the bed too inviting to resist. It’s his bed, anyway. If anyone’s going to leave, it should be Harry.

“Of course,” Harry says, as Louis flops back into bed with enough enthusiasm to send them both bouncing. He doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. He makes no move to touch Louis again, but turns onto his side so they’re facing each other and mouths, hello.

“Hiya,” Louis says soundlessly and leans in because he can’t fucking help himself. Harry kisses him back easy, like he was expecting it, like it’s his due, and Louis has to bite the inside of his mouth to keep from smiling when they break apart.

“Yeah,” Harry murmurs into the phone, but he’s distracted now, eyes hooked on the curve of Louis’ mouth. “I want to, but I dunno if—yeah. Yeah, maybe. I’ll try.”

That’s what he says when he doesn’t know how to say no, so Louis tunes out the rest of his one-sided conversation in favour of artfully arranging a pair of curls on his forehead. He’s just gotten them to stay in place when Harry ends the call and buries his face in the pillow with a low groan.

Louis noses in behind his ear, where he smells warm. “Should I ask?”

Harry turns his head to look up at Louis with one eye, still a bit bleary from sleep. It was a good nap. Louis wants another.

“Dunno,” he says. “Do you care?”

“I could pretend,” Louis suggests, and Harry tugs him down until they’re sharing the pillow again, close enough that Louis lets himself go cross-eyed trying to keep him in focus. He blinks at him seriously and folds his hands under his chin, though they both know Louis’ apparent lack of interest has never kept Harry from talking his ears off.

“It was Lauren. American Lauren. You know her—you met her,” Harry corrects himself at the look on Louis’ face. “Once. I think you liked her, or her kids, anyway. She has a two-year-old—well, he’s three now, but he was two when you met him.”

“Fascinating.”

“You thought so,” Harry shoots back, and all right, if there were babies involved Louis probably did. “Ed and I ran into her a while ago and she’s got a club opening in Chicago soon. Said I’d be there.”

“Yeah?” Louis says, as mild as he can make it, like his throat didn’t just close up. Like he hasn’t started counting down the hours already. “So?”

“So,” Harry says slowly, “opening night will turn into opening week. And I’ve got—I have other stuff. Plans.”

“Overbooked yourself already?”

Harry shrugs, but a pout is starting to form at the corner of his mouth. He’s good about keeping promises, usually, and hates to break them. Louis thumbs at an absent dimple and lets Harry nuzzle into his palm. He wishes he could ask him to stay without feeling like he’s asking for too much. It’s just—what would he even say? Stay, but for what? Cold takeaway and cloudy days? Marathon telly and too much tea?

It sounds foolish even inside his own head. Every time Louis thinks he’s grown up and grown out of this, he finds himself in Harry’s orbit again, drawing closer like there’s no such thing as close enough. He wants to blame it on the fooling around, because he’s always been prone to physical attachment, but for all that the sex is new, this feeling isn’t. Unwanted, but not unfamiliar.

Harry brings out the child in him, greedy and unapologetic.

“I know I can’t be everywhere at once,” Harry says slowly, and scowls when Louis lets out a snort.

“Do you?”

“Yes. Shut up.” He worries at Louis’ knuckles with his teeth. “But I still—I feel like I’m losing time. Like I’ll miss something if I stop moving. You know.”

Louis does know. “But you’d miss something anyway.”

Harry’s frown deepens. “What?”

“Staying still,” Louis says, and flicks his nose to watch him wrinkle it. “If you were always moving. You’d miss staying still.” He laughs at the way Harry’s eyes widen, because it turns him all of five years old. “What, Bukowski didn’t touch on that?”

“Oh fuck off,” Harry says, but there’s still something startled in the lines of his face. “Don’t act like your Marvel phase was any less embarrassing.”

“It absolutely was,” Louis informs him, and then covers Harry’s mouth with both hands so he can talk over him without having to shout. “Don’t get out of bed before noon! Wee in the sink! Give me everything or nothing at all!”

Harry wrenches away, but he’s laughing too hard to speak for a good minute. Louis feels giddy with it. He could listen to Harry laugh forever.

“That’s not even the quote, you twat. And you’re the one who keeps saying I could.”

“Could what?”

He shrugs again, mouth drawing up all sweet. “Have it all. Do whatever I wanted.”

“Not in the sink, Harry, have some decency—” Louis scrambles away before Harry can grab him, but the bed’s only so big, and Harry’s got him hanging halfway off the edge in a blink, laughing silently, out of breath. Louis’ lips tingle when they kiss, and he doesn’t know if it’s because of all the blood rushing to his head or something else.

His arse twinges, but he’s not too sore to go another round. Harry eases them both upright so Louis is settled on his lap in the middle of the bed, sheets tangled around them, kissing until they’re dizzy. He gets a hand in between their bodies to tug on Louis’ half-hard cock, and it’s good but rough, too much too fast.

“Oi,” he says into the kiss, squirming when Harry thumbs the head. “Gimme a sec, would you. ‘m an old man now.”

Harry mumbles something into his neck that Louis doesn’t catch, but drags his hands away from Louis’ cock and up his back instead, in long, lavish strokes that make Louis arch and rise up onto his knees. He likes kissing Harry this way, digging a hand in his hair and tilting his head back so Louis can fuck his tongue in and just have him take it. It makes Harry’s neck twinge, and he’ll start making little noises of complaint in a second because Louis has spoiled him, but for now Louis holds him in place and kisses him until his chest aches.

When they break apart for air Harry ducks down to butt his head against Louis’ chest, nuzzling into the sparse hair there, mouthing at it. He whines when Louis tugs him away before he can latch on to a nipple.

“Don’t even think about it.”

“You said anything I wanted,” Harry says pointedly.

“Heat of the moment,” Louis dismisses, and twitches when Harry’s hands move over his ribs.

“Said you meant it.” His thumb brushes over the swell of Louis’ pec in a slow arc, and his eyes are already glassy, like just the possibility of getting to suck on Louis’ nipples is driving him closer to the edge. Louis can never look him in the eye for long when he’s like this, because it makes his own face flush, how desperate Harry gets, how shameless. “Please?”

“No,” Louis says, yanking on his hair. It makes Harry’s mouth drop open, wet and red, all invitation. Louis can’t resist dipping his tongue in, quick, just for a taste. “I know this is a difficult concept to grasp, but not everyone loves the pain.”

“Won’t hurt you,” he says immediately, all big, earnest eyes, but Louis knows him, and he’s a fucking liar. They always get a bit rough, whether by chance or by design, and Harry has the worst oral fixation known to man. Louis’ awfully sensitive on a good day, and now Harry knows that. It won’t stop at a little play, and it won’t stay gentle, but Harry’s frowning and saying, “please,” and “I want to,” like he thinks that’s all it’ll take to make Louis cave.

He’s not wrong.

“No teeth.”

Louis’ barely got the words out before Harry’s licking at him, a slow, thorough swipe of his tongue that makes Louis’ cock throb. Both of Louis’ hands find their way into Harry’s hair, and he tells himself it’s so he can pull him away if it becomes too much, that he’s not using the grip just to hold him in place.

“‘s it good?” Harry says into his skin, like he doesn’t fucking know. Louis would blame his reaction on not getting any for a week, but the ache each strong suck sparks in the pit of his stomach is something he’s never going to be able to escape. He doesn’t know if it’s a carrier thing or a bloody inconvenient Louis thing, but it all makes him feel a bit untethered. Consumed. He wants to get back to the place where Harry was the one who was coming apart, almost as badly as he never wants this to stop.

The heat of his mouth has Louis seizing up, and he only lasts through a minute of gentle sucking before he starts to gasp. The nipple Harry’s been neglecting is a tight, sore point, and Louis doesn’t want to encourage him, but he can’t keep himself from drawing Harry’s mouth to it anyway. Harry’s eyes flicker up to his as he does, smug.

“Shut up,” Louis says, and hisses when Harry sucks harder. “Ah! Fuck, Harry. You do know nothing’s going to come out of it, right?”

Harry pulls off with a pop, swiping his tongue over his bottom lip to break the string of saliva that connects him to Louis’ skin. He’s flushed, cheeks hot under Louis’ curious fingers, and makes a throaty noise when Louis drives his hips forward, bumping their cocks together. He drops his hand from Louis’ waist and curls it around their cocks instead, pumping quickly, like he’s just remembered he’s hard and wants to make up for lost time.

It gets good once his precome slicks them both up. He’s mouthing at Louis’ nipples again, flicking the tips with his tongue, and Louis could come from this, easy.

“Thought you’d want to fuck me again,” he says, just because it makes Harry’s head snap up.

“Can I?” he asks hopefully.

“No.”

The speed with which Harry’s face falls has Louis laughing so hard he topples backwards and off of his lap. Harry crawls over and bites him.

“Maybe later,” Louis tells him, pinching his cheeks until he stops looking quite so disgruntled. “Come on, you big baby. What’s a few hours? You’ve already gone--what? Eight years without fucking me.”

“And it was hard,” Harry argues, settling his weight on Louis so his cock digs pointedly into his hip. The sheets are bunched under Louis’ back and his leg is trapped beneath Harry’s at an awkward angle, but he feels like he could stay here, just like this, watching Harry watch him, for as long as he was allowed.

“Was it?”

Harry’s body throws a shadow over him, the last rays from the sun sneaking past the breadth of his shoulders to make Louis squint. Curls keep falling into Harry’s eyes, no matter how extravagantly he flips his hair, so Louis scrapes it back with a hand and holds it in place.

Their noses bump when Harry leans down too fast. “You know it was.”

Louis clears his throat, but that doesn’t make it any less tight. “Well don’t go making it sound like a bloody tragedy, Curly. It’s not like you didn’t get to fuck anyone at all.”

“Wanted you,” Harry says, and Louis can’t meet his eyes for longer than a second, has to look away with a short laugh. There’s a quip on the tip of his tongue but Harry takes advantage of his bared throat to bite down, sucks a nasty bruise under the cut of his jaw before rubbing his face against Louis’ stubble. “Really wanted you. Knew we couldn’t, but. ‘s not like this with anyone else.”

Louis’ stomach swoops. He keeps his voice steady. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Harry says quietly. “You know.”

He didn’t think Harry knew. “That why you kissed me, then? That night. Because you’d been wanting to?”

Harry blinks at him, then lets his eyes fall shut as Louis runs his free hand over his back. He shifts into the touch so Louis can dig his nails in and draw them down, just enough to make him shiver. They rock against each other, lazy, rutting their pricks together like kids who don’t know any better.

“You remember that? You said you didn’t.”

“I remember the kiss.”

“It was a good one,” Harry says, so seriously that Louis laughs.

“Yeah, it’s all gone downhill from there.”

Louis kisses the heeey from Harry’s mouth and wraps his legs around his waist, pulling him in until there’s only a breath left between them, and then not even that. There’s a strange heaviness in Louis’ chest that he doesn’t want to think about. He kisses Harry to keep from asking him what it means that he’s been wanting it, or when he’s planning to leave. The air between them goes thick and needy in the span of a second, and just like that rubbing each other off no longer feels anything like good enough.

Louis finds the lube in the tangle of sheets. “You gonna come in me again?”

“Please,” Harry breathes into the kiss, strained already. “Fuck, please.”

“Whatever you want, ” Louis says, voice light, and tries not to think about what that might be.

 


 

It so happens that what Harry wants is to fuck Louis bare as often as he’s allowed.

In the mornings, with Louis face down on the bed and Harry’s weight pinning him in place, Harry pants in his ear and fucks him so slow and so hard every thrust drives a sound from Louis’ throat. His hand stays pressed low on Louis’ belly even after they’re done, palming him while he leaves lovebites all over Louis’ neck and shoulders. He shakes, a little.

Louis messes about while Harry makes lunch and gets pinned to the fridge after Harry turns off the stove, pants around his ankles and shirt pulled over his head. Harry hauls his legs up around his waist and fucks him like that, roughing up Louis’ nipples with his mouth until Louis cries with it, yanks on his hair and holds him close.

On one occasion, they end up in the gym. Louis can’t recall how, because he sure as fuck has no intention of working out, but making Harry laugh so hard he falls off the treadmill results in getting fucked in the showers not ten minutes later. They nearly slip and crack their heads open on the tiles more times than Louis bothers to count, and he has to bite his own arm so he doesn’t shout while Harry nails him against the wall.

Harry doesn’t let him clean himself up. They spend half an hour in the fucking shower but Louis has to leave the gym full of spunk, on account of ‘having taken too long already’ and ‘Lou-is, you can wash up at home’ — but he doesn’t, of course, because Harry has him bent over the back of the couch as soon as they walk through the door.

Nothing seems to sate him the way coming inside Louis does. The one time Louis makes him pull out he creams all over Louis’ arse and the back of his thighs, laughing even as he apologizes, rubbing his come into Louis’ skin while Louis calls him a bloody idiot. They attend a flashy birthday party and Louis decides blowing Harry in the loo is a great idea, except Harry insists he’d rather go home and fuck Louis properly instead.

Louis shoves him into a stall and sucks him off anyway. Harry pointedly sulks through the rest of the evening, and sulks harder when they get back to Louis’ flat and discover they’re entirely too wasted to get hard again, despite the fact that they’ve spent what feels like the whole week just fucking.

Louis can’t make any sense of it. They’re explosive together, always have been, but he can’t place the urgency that drives Harry, doesn’t know what makes him so wild—just that it’s contagious. It feels like they’ve only just discovered what their dicks are for and can’t get enough. Even when they’re apart some part of Louis’ mind is reserved for contemplating the softness of Harry’s mouth, the look on his face when he comes.

So it’s not like he has room to complain. But getting fucked raw is bloody inconvenient, and made more so by how unreasonably clingy Harry gets right after.

Harry doesn’t have an answer when Louis asks after the appeal of it, so Louis decides to find out for himself. Fucking Harry is one of those things where he forgets how good it is until he’s doing it—the rush he gets from setting the pace and having Harry just take it—and it’s bloody brilliant without a condom, all that heat and friction, but not quite enough to explain the way Harry goes silent and shaky and falls right apart. Louis doesn’t know what he’s missing, but it’s—something.

“I‘m not sure it’s worth the mess, to be honest,” Louis tells him as he pulls out, but Harry just points his toes and sighs, making no move to get up and wash off. Louis tries to wipe him down with the ruined sheets and gets a foot in the ribs for his trouble.

“I like it,” Harry says, and the look he gives him is almost accusing, like he thinks Louis just isn’t trying hard enough.

“I figured that out, believe it or not,” Louis says. “Stop looking at me like that.”

Harry widens his eyes. “Like what?”

“Like you want to fuck again.”

“Well,” Harry says, and doesn’t even try to dodge the pillow Louis throws at his head.

“Can you even get it up?” Louis demands, pinching his sides until he squirms. “Fuck’s sake, aren’t you sore?”

Louis is sore. He fucked Harry hard enough to set the headboard banging, and there’s still sweat rolling off his back and a muscle in his leg that won’t stop twitching. Harry had to ask him to slow down, at one point. There’s no way he isn’t still feeling it.

“I am,” Harry concedes with a magnanimous tilt of his head. “Which is why you should ride me.”

Louis swipes his hand through the pool of come drying on Harry’s stomach and shoves it in his face.

 

It’s late by the time they clean up the mess that ensues. Louis finds himself spending another evening sprawled sideways on his bed, Harry’s head in his lap, mindlessly watching reruns of Friends. Harry doesn’t bother sleeping in the guest room anymore. Louis braids bits of his hair and doesn’t mention it.

The rain outside is heavy enough that Louis doesn’t want to go out, anyway, but this, what they’re doing—laying about for hours and talking intermittently or not at all, just existing in the same space—it’s becoming routine. The sort of routine they used to have, back when they decided on a whim that living together was what they were going to do, regardless of where the X Factor took them. The sort of routine that becomes second nature. Comfortable.

Necessary.

Between the two of them, it’s Harry who’s prone to worrying, about anything and everything. But Louis can’t shake the thought of what he’ll do when this breaks, how he’s going to fill up this particular Harry-shaped hole in his life. If he even can.

Maybe he goes tense, trying so hard not to think about it, because Harry snuffles and shifts so he’s nuzzling Louis’ belly, riding his shirt up. “Lou.”

“Hm,” Louis says, but there’s nothing further. The braid starts unraveling as soon as he’s done with it, so Louis uses it to start another, bigger one. “What?”

Harry yawns and rucks Louis’ shirt up a little more, getting comfortable, skin on skin. “Nothing.”

The word is garbled around another yawn. Louis has to swallow down one of his own. “What was that, old man?”

“Like you can talk.”

“I’m not the one falling asleep at ten, mate.”

Harry’s protest is lost to the laugh track, and they spend the next few minutes distracted by an episode they’ve seen a billion times before. Louis tugs absently on a curl and Harry squirms. Some things never change.

“Reminds me of that last month, though,” Harry says eventually, huffing a laugh. “God. Sleeping was all I could think about.”

Harry falling asleep anywhere and everywhere is hardly surprising, at this point, but he’d caught a nasty cold during the last leg of tour and worn himself out so badly they wondered if he would even make it through all the shows. It wasn’t anything as dramatic as the final straw, though that was what the media inevitably spun it as, but it had snuffed any lingering doubts about the break.

“You feeling poorly, then?”

“No,” Harry says, butting his head against Louis’ hand until he starts braiding again. They’ve left the lights on, and their reflection obscures nearly half of the flatscreen. Louis doesn’t know what it means that they no longer even bother to pretend they’re watching. Not even a month in each other’s company.

This isn’t where Louis saw the break going, but Harry has a way of turning everything on its head.

“You miss it?”

He can’t see Harry’s face from his angle, but feels the little huff of breath. “Yeah.”

“Badly?” Louis muses.

“Dunno.” He lifts his head to look at Louis for a beat, before dropping back down. “No. I thought this’d be awful, but. It’s all right, isn’t it? It’s good. I’ve been on the road with Ed, anyway.”

“Not the same, though,” Louis says, because he can still read Harry better than anyone else. “Those crowds aren’t for you.” He tugs on a sloppy braid until Harry looks up at him again. He’s pouting openly, now, so Louis lets himself tease. “Don’t you worry, Curly. Everyone still loves you.”

Harry’s eyes flicker over his face. Louis swallows, and they drop to his throat. Then Harry levers himself up until he’s hovering over him, and there’s nothing for Louis to do but meet his eyes. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Louis says quietly. “That’s not going to change.”

Harry looks at him for so long that Louis begins to wonder what it is that he’s seeing. Then they’re kissing, mouths slotting together easy, no hesitation, like they’ve been doing it for years and years. Harry’s hands come up to cradle Louis’ jaw, then the back of his head, moving him how he wants. It’s soft. Louis shivers.

When he opens his eyes, Harry’s watching him. He nudges their noses together, once, twice, until Louis strains up for another kiss.

“You wanna talk to the boys?” Louis murmurs, and Harry shakes his head no. His mouth drops open when Louis digs his fingers into his hair, pulls a little. It takes a second for him to swallow.

“Not yet,” he says. Something inside Louis pinches at the sound of his voice, a sweet hurt that makes him tug him back down. Kiss him harder. Harry’s lips are chapped, because they’ve been giving the Xbox a workout and he has to bite them to concentrate, but the insides are silky. He tastes familiar.

Harry pulls back to drop little kisses to Louis’ mouth, quick like punctuation.

“You miss it too,” he says.

Of course Louis does. There’s nothing else like touring, and there never will be. It’s like going home, in its own way.

That’s what Louis means to say. What comes out is, “not yet,” thready and revealing. Louis wants to believe it gets lost between their mouths, that Harry doesn’t hear the plaintive note in his voice, but he says it back to him. Not yet. Presses a kiss high on Louis’ cheek. His temple. His mouth. Not yet.

Hands slide up Louis’ shirt and frame his ribs. Harry tucks his face into Louis’ neck and bites.

We don’t have to stop. It’s on the tip of his tongue. Louis bites it back.

Temporary, he reminds himself. Convenient. Just for fun. Just to see. Harry’s hands find his nipples and Louis moans, low in his throat, and tries to lose himself in it. It’s easy, because he’s so sensitive it hurts, but he doesn’t realize why until Harry ducks down to suck one into his mouth.

Louis shoves him away with a gasp. “‘m sore.”

Louis had woken up feeling like his skin was too tight, close to coming just from rutting against the sheets, but hadn’t thought anything of it. Hadn’t gotten a chance, with Harry waking up beside him. But as he drags his hands up Louis’ sides now, all of a sudden even that feels like too much.

Harry huffs when Louis bats him away. “Haven’t even touched you yet.”

“I told you,” Louis says, spreading his legs when Harry drops his weight on him, as though instinct. “When I’m—fuck.” Harry’s so hard already, rubbing off on Louis’ thigh. Louis squirms a hand between them and cups him through his briefs. They’re wet. “I told you, I can feel it.”

He can pinpoint the second Harry gets it.

“You—now? You’re—”

“On like five different types of birth control, thanks to you,” Louis says. It’s not that much of an exaggeration. He thumbs the head of Harry’s prick through the fabric to watch his mouth drop open. “But if I wasn’t, yeah. You could probably knock me up.”

Harry’s hips jerk and he makes a sound, short and bitten off. Louis takes in his wide, dark eyes, the sudden strain in his arms.

“Don’t look so scared,” Louis murmurs, giving his cock a rough squeeze before drawing it out of his pants. “We’re good.” Harry’s head drops to watch as Louis fists him, slide made easy from all the precome. He’s so fucking big, Louis’ breath gets a little short just thinking about having it in him. He wants that. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to take it, not with the way he feels, but he wants it. “Come on. You’re gonna fuck me, yeah?”

“Louis,” Harry manages, and Louis can feel his cock twitch. “I’m gonna come.”

“Jesus.” Louis laughs, because it does look like he’s going to come, face red, eyes a little wet already. “Does the thought of making a baby get you that hot?”

Harry’s abs tense as he fucks into Louis’ hand, and Louis—

“Oh,” Louis gasps, “oh, fuck, it does. It does get you off,” and Harry comes, just like that, shooting all over Louis’ stomach with a pained gasp. Louis can’t help laughing even as he jerks him through it, until come is dribbling over the cuff of Louis’ fist and Harry’s twitching from oversensitivity. “Fuck, I knew it. I knew it had to be something weird.”

Harry knocks Louis’ hand out of the way and tries to crawl off of him without meeting his eyes. What Louis can see of his face is flushed, and he scowls when Louis holds him in place by the arms.

“Fuck off,” he mutters, and rolls to the side when Louis’ hold grows weak from laughing so hard.

Louis tries to bite back his laughter enough to speak. “Oh, what? What? Harry! Are you cross with me now?” He scrambles to pin Harry to the bed before he can get up, swinging a leg over so he’s sitting astride his thighs, both hands flat on his shoulders. “Are you embarrassed?

Harry keeps his eyes down, stubborn, even when Louis leans in. His cheeks are hot to the touch, chest heaving a little, like he’s still winded from the force of his orgasm.

“You are,” Louis marvels, and he doesn’t mean to sound so gleeful, but it’s been so bloody long since he’s gotten any proper material on Harry. Like—at least a few months. “Since when do you get embarrassed about sex?”

Harry’s eyes snap up to meet his, just for a second, and the rest of the tease dies in Louis’ throat.

“I know it’s weird,” Harry says finally, voice low.

Sex, Louis tells himself. It’s sex. Just sex. It has to be.

“Well,” Louis says, clearing his throat. “Yes. I won’t lie to you, Harold. But I’ve seen weirder. From you, actually.” He lets his hand drift down to settle on Harry’s chest, heartbeat thumping under Louis’ palm. “I’m sorry I laughed.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “No, you’re not.”

“No,” Louis agrees immediately, “I’m not,” and has to clap a hand over his mouth because he can’t not cackle at the flat look on Harry’s face.

“Tosser,” Harry says, but his mouth’s twitching, and he rolls them over as soon as Louis shouts in triumph, kisses him hard before he can open his mouth again. Louis laughs into the kisses, helpless to the giddy feeling ballooning inside his chest. The come cooled on his stomach smears between their bodies, there’s so much of it, and Louis has to pull back and comment.

“Well that’s just a fucking waste, innit,” he manages to get out before Harry can silence him again. “Could’ve made a baby with that load.”

The sharp smack Harry lands on his arse just makes him laugh harder.

 


  

Harry’s gone when Louis wakes up the next morning—called in to the studio first thing, apparently—which means Louis takes two bites of his toast before texting him: YOU FORGOT TO FEED ME. Harry’s reply is an address, so Louis sighs, gets dressed, and heads out to meet him for brunch in a cramped, kitschy little cafe that smells overwhelmingly of old tyres and takes him twenty minutes to even find.

He can see Harry sat in a booth by the window, staring at his mobile and picking at his bottom lip, hair done up in a messy bun. He doesn’t look like the sort to have a breeding fetish, but that might be because you can’t see his eyes. Louis is half tempted to take a seat outside and wait for him to notice, but he’s the urge to slide into the booth is stronger, to lean in and kiss him hello, in front of anyone who cares enough to look.

Louis settles for plucking Harry’s Ray-Bans off his face and kicking him in the shin as he gets comfortable.

“Harold! How’s my favourite little breeder today?”

Harry inhales his tea. Louis steals the cup from him while he coughs.

“Keep your bloody voice down,” Harry hisses, and Louis takes a sip, wrinkles his nose. Too much milk.

“Why?” Louis asks innocently, then widens his eyes. “Ohhh, is it a secret?”

Harry gives him a look, and Louis has to bite the inside of his mouth to keep from grinning. The window they’re sat by is tinted this ugly green, and the light it casts on Harry’s face prevents Louis from seeing the flush he knows is there, so Louis reaches out to pinch his hot cheek.

Harry only allows it for a few seconds before smacking his hand away. He used to be a lot more cooperative when younger. “Stop it. And I’m not a—breeder. Don’t be a twat.”

Louis tilts his head to the side. “Is that right? So you don’t get off to the thought of knocking people up?”

“No,” Harry says firmly. Louis raises his eyebrows like he has any room to judge, having spent the morning staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror before he took his pills, imagining. “Not people, I don’t—it’s not like any random off the street’s going to do it for me.”

“Isn’t it?”

“No.”

Louis leans back and affects mild curiosity. “So just me, then.”

Harry looks at him like he knows exactly what Louis is doing. He doesn’t answer, but Louis doesn’t need him to, because it’s written all over his face. Harry’s never been as transparent as he is right now, and it has to be intentional. Louis doesn’t know what to make of that.

He wants to ask how long it’s been just him. Wants to know whether this goes back to when they used to circle around each other helplessly, playing it off as inconvenient attraction because anything else was too complicated and had too many consequences. Or even further back, when they had that first, halting conversation about what it meant that Louis was a carrier and came to the conclusion that it meant nothing at all.

Harry looks at him now, and Louis wonders.

“What do you think about?” Louis licks his lips and Harry’s eyes drop to his mouth. “Getting me pregnant, obviously. But then what? Do you—do you picture it? What I’d look like, all full of your baby?” Harry makes a strangled noise that Louis talks over. “I’d get big,” he muses, and drops a hand to his belly. Watches Harry’s eyes track the movement. “Really big. Would you want to fuck me like that?”

”Louis.” It’s a hiss. “Stop it.”

“Why? Are you getting hard?” Harry reaches down to grab his foot before Louis can put it to his crotch. His jaw ticks, and Louis feels heat swell in the pit of his stomach. Harry’s always been easy for him, in every sense of the word, but this is something else. “Is that all it takes?”

They’re out of the cafe before Louis can get another word in. He keeps talking on the way to the flat, because now that he’s started it’s like he can’t stop, addicted to the reactions he gets. Most of what he says is nonsense, half-formed thoughts that wouldn’t have this kind of effect unless Harry’s had them before, used them to get off. Louis wants to know, wants to hear it from his mouth, but Harry stays stubbornly silent, teeth gritted, knuckles white.

Louis’ fully hard by the time they’re home and he’s shoved up against the door as soon as they stumble inside, Harry at his back with one hand palming Louis’ aching cock and the other pressed low on his belly.

“I wanna—I can’t wait,” Harry mumbles, biting the back of his neck, hot breath making Louis shiver. He drags Louis’ jeans down along with his briefs and pulls his own cock out. “Okay? Is that okay? I can’t—”

“Yeah,” Louis says, and grinds back against him. He’s breathless already, pulse pounding in his throat, his wrists when Harry grabs them in one big hand. Louis can feel denim against the back of his thighs, the tip of Harry’s cock against the small of his back, sliding between his cheeks when Harry rocks him onto his toes. He’s wet with precome, making the slide just slick enough. “You always get so wet,” Louis says, but it comes out gasped against the door, and he doesn’t know if Harry hears. “And you come so fucking much, there’s always—there’s so much of it.”

Harry muffles a groan in the curve of Louis’ neck and releases his wrists so he can grab his hips with both hands, holding Louis still while he ruts against his arse. Louis takes the opportunity to strip his own cock, and it’s so good, all of it, that he can’t speak for a long, breathless moment.

“‘s good, that’s good,” he says when he can, struggling to spread his legs as wide as his jeans will allow, because Harry’s gasping like it hurts a little, how bad he wants it. His cock bumps right up against Louis’ hole and makes him twitch, scrabbling at the door for purchase when his knees go abruptly weak. He wants that in him, doesn’t even care for prep, but Harry sinks his teeth into his shoulder just as he starts to speak, and comes with his cock nestled in the cleft of Louis’ arse, pulling back and spreading him so he can get come all over his arsehole.

The feel of it shocks Louis into his own orgasm. It isn’t until he’s started breathing again that he realizes Harry’s been dragging his fingers through his spunk and easing them into Louis’ arse. It’s filthy, and fucking—ridiculous. Louis’ gut clenches.

So he turns around and kisses him. Harry’s eyes are closed, and there’s enough sweat beaded on his upper lip to turn the kiss salty. Louis leans their foreheads together, still shaking a little. Harry’s made a fucking mess of him. Again.

“Should’ve just put it in,” Louis says, once he feels steady enough. “Won’t get anyone pregnant like this, Harold. Poor form.”

“Shut up,” Harry sighs, and rocks into him gently.

“Reckon I shouldn’t wash up just yet, huh? Give your swimmers a fighting chance?”

Harry’s mouth twitches, and he kisses Louis like he thinks that’ll keep him from seeing his smile. “You’re the fucking worst.”

Louis sniffs. “Flatterer.”

 


 

Louis’ started sleeping on the right side of the bed, even when Harry isn’t around. He takes great pains to pretend he doesn’t know what that means. There’s nothing permanent about their arrangement. He knows that. All the traces of Harry he sees around the flat now—his new yoga mat and packets of gum, half a dozen electric toothbrush heads and that brand of shaving cream he doesn’t even need to use, spare chargers for all of his phones plugged into every available socket and his underwear mixed in with Louis’ laundry—they could disappear tomorrow. Louis knows that, but some stupid, stubborn part of him must reject the idea, because he still falls asleep every night expecting to find Harry next to him when he wakes.

If anyone’s surprised to discover Harry’s still staying at his, they don’t mention it. Niall and Liam threaten to drop by and ‘make it a proper sleepover’ and Zayn says, “huh,” and nothing else, despite Louis’ increasingly agitated questioning. The twins’ birthday arrives in a blink and since Harry begs off on account of multiple previous engagements, Louis heads out alone, like he would have, anyway. If he spends the entire trip wondering whether Harry’s going to be there when he gets back, that’s his business.

He’s with family. He’s busy. It’s been a while since they’ve all been together in one place, and there’s always so much to catch up on, but in the lulls between food and conversation Louis finds his thoughts drifting despite himself. He’s only there for a few days, and it’s not like he thinks Harry would take off without telling him, without a call or text or something, but he can’t shake the worry. He can’t bring himself to call either, because it’s so fucking stupid, this mess they’ve made.

The twins have just finished unwrapping their gifts when Harry calls in to wish them a happy birthday. Jay doesn’t say anything about the fact that he’s Skyping from Louis’ bedroom, and Louis doesn’t think too hard about any of it.

But relief makes him a little weak.

He planned to stay another night, but talking to Harry for five minutes has Louis itching to head back. It reminds him of how he felt when they first met, how badly Louis wanted Harry within reach, all the time, just in case. In case he had something to tell him. In case he needed to touch him. In case he missed him.

He’s in over his head. It was too soon then, to be calling Harry his best mate a week after they met, and it’s too soon now, whatever it is. But Louis’ always had a hard time accepting the impossibility of things, so he sneaks the twins their last set of gifts and takes off a day early. It’s only a little past midnight when he gets home, but the flat is dark and quiet and smells like Harry, somehow.

Harry’s curled up in Louis’ bed. On the left.

While his eyes adjust to the dark, Louis toes off his shoes and strips down to his briefs. His heart is beating loud enough to wake the dead, but Harry doesn’t twitch, not even when Louis slides in behind him. His skin is so soft and warm that Louis aches to kiss it, so he does, from the nape of his neck to his shoulderblades, pressing his face against Harry’s back and feeling him breathe.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Louis says quietly, and there’s a beat before Harry reaches back to draw Louis’ arm over his waist, squirming until he’s comfortable and their bodies are fit together.

“Where else would I be?” he mumbles.

Louis huffs.

“Not here,” he says, because stupid questions deserve stupid answers, but Harry’s fallen asleep again already, having woken only to spoon and tangle their fingers. Louis squeezes his hand and closes his eyes.

 

Harry getting back into bed is what wakes Louis up. He leans over for a kiss when Louis squints at him from where he’s still snuggled under the covers, and his mouth is cool and minty.

“Did you get up just to brush your teeth?” Louis demands, because Harry drops his head back onto the pillow and stretches out like he’s planning to spend the rest of the day in bed. “I’m not doing that.”

“The shock hasn’t killed me yet, so I guess I’ll live,” Harry says dryly, and it’s too bloody early, so Louis just flips him off before burying his face in the pillow again. It smells sleepy, and the curtains are still drawn, leaving everything soft and blurry and just dark enough to pretend it’s not morning yet. Louis fully intends to go back to sleep; he’s too comfortable not to, but Harry’s shifting behind him, rustling the covers and kicking the sheets, a bloody nuisance when he wants attention.

Louis hides a smile in the pillow before rolling over onto his back to smack him. But they end up kissing, somehow, all slow and deep, their eyes closed. Something in Louis’ chest has settled since yesterday, left him feeling open and a little tender, absurdly responsive to every brush of their mouths. These kisses linger, melt into each other, and Louis doesn’t even notice Harry’s weight settling over him, too busy cradling his jaw and tangling his hands in his hair and dragging them down his back.

“Didn’t think you’d be back until tomorrow,” Harry murmurs between kisses, nipping Louis’ bottom lip.

“Couldn’t trust you not the wreck the place,” Louis says, instead of I missed you too much, but the way Harry smiles makes him think he knows, anyway. It’s hard to stop kissing Harry, because his mouth is soft and wet and knows Louis’, knows how to cling, but Louis pulls back so he can look at him. It only takes a few seconds for Harry’s dimples to pop.

“What?” he asks, a touch whiny, the way he gets when he has Louis’ attention and is trying not to show how pleased he is about the fact. “Don’t say what.”

“What?” Louis parrots, and bites back a smile when Harry leans in to knock their noses together in an aggressive nuzzle. Then he kisses him, again and again and again, until Louis’ dizzy from the warmth ballooning in his chest and feeling like he could just—float away.

He breaks the kiss with a shaky moan when Harry splays a hand over his chest.

“Oh,” Harry says, “are you still—” and blinks at him like he doesn’t know, like he isn’t brushing his fingers over Louis’ nipples still, plucking at them.

“Yes, I am still,” Louis mocks, a little breathless. “But you’re cutting it close. If you’re gonna knock me up you better do it now.”

Harry’s response is to pinch him, which strangles whatever else Louis might have said. He’s not rough, playing with Louis’ nipples almost absentmindedly, but the sensation is still strong enough to have Louis squirming, the near-hurt of it getting him hard. Harry watching him so intently doesn’t help, eyes fixed on Louis’ face and catching every little sound Louis has to bite back, every moan and whimper. He can’t hold Harry’s gaze for long—never can, even now—so it’s almost a relief when he ducks his head to take a nipple into his mouth.

The wet heat of it has Louis riding out a shudder. He tries not to squirm, but Harry’s rolling his other nipple between his thumb and forefinger, tugging a little, gently. He’s being sweet, careful not to use his teeth or suck too hard, and it makes Louis drive his hips up, searching for friction to ease the sudden ache that sparks.

Thinking what it’d be like if he were pregnant startles him into stillness. He’s never thought much of being a carrier—hated it, sometimes, when he was younger, because it was one more inconvenience, one more thing setting him apart in all the wrong ways—but never wondered the way he can’t seem to stop doing now. What it’d be like, becoming even more stupidly sensitive than he is already, until just this slow suction and a few tugs on his cock could make him come. If he’d be sore all the time from being so full of milk, what it’d look like—what it’d feel like—

“Harry,” he gasps, because he wants to say it out loud, wants to see Harry’s eyes go dark and mouth slack from wanting, wants that upper hand again, but he can’t shape the words. It’s personal, somehow, so intensely personal that he throbs, all over, just thinking it. Harry’s making hungry little noises, mouthing first one nipple then the other, and he’s settled in the cradle of Louis’ hips so his erection digs into Louis’ thigh every time he shifts, rutting against him slow and easy, like he doesn’t need any more than this.

But Louis does.

Harry.” Louis digs his fingers into his hair, tugging until Harry leaves his nipple with one last, hard suck and looks at him.

“I slept here while you were gone,” Harry says, almost conversationally, like he can’t see that Louis’ gagging for it, and shifts up so his arms are on either side of Louis’ head, his weight pinning Louis down. If Louis turns his head he can mouth at his bicep and leave a bruise, so he does. Harry lets out a slow breath. “Didn’t wash the sheets. They smelled like you.”

“Yeah?” Louis tries not to sound as affected as he is, but his voice cracks anyway, and Harry’s smile turns toothy. His mouth is still wet. Louis bites him and ignores it. “And did you have a nice wank, sniffing my pillows?”

“Humping them,” Harry corrects, and drives his hips down into Louis’ with this long, sinuous move that has his back flexing under Louis’ palms. He can’t not picture it, then: Harry in his bed, sweaty and horny, with his little grey briefs shoved down to his thighs, fucking Louis’ pillow and wishing—

“What have I said about wasting come?” The look that brings to Harry’s face is enough to make Louis swallow past his dry throat and keep talking. “You’re not very good at this, are you, Harold? Think how much you’d come if you went without a wank or two, if you waited—” Harry kisses him, but Louis wrenches away, determined to finish, delighted already by the way Harry’s eyes have narrowed. “If you waited until you could come in me there’d be so much of it—so much that I couldn’t hold it all in—”

“I’d plug you up,” Harry cuts him off, leaning in abruptly to bite the hinge of Louis’ jaw and press his mouth to his ear. Louis’ cock twitches at the sound of his voice. “With my cock, at first. Then a real plug, big, bigger than me, because you’d like the ache, yeah? You like when it hurts a little, and you can’t get away from it.”

He pulls back to look at Louis’ face, and whatever he sees there makes him wet his lips. He holds Louis’ eyes when he speaks, rutting down slow and hard, so Louis can feel it, even through all the layers of fabric, the thick, hot press of his cock.

“Like it so much you lie about having fingered yourself,” he says, “like you think I can’t tell, when you’re squeezing my prick so hard it hurts—not even on purpose, not like when you’re teasing, but because you’re just that fucking tight. You think you’re getting away with something, telling me to give it to you as hard as I can.” He kisses the corner of Louis’ mouth, like a punctuation mark. “Harder, harder, harder, thinking I don’t know how much you love feeling it.”

Louis wants to say something, but all that comes to mind is white noise, buzzing, the way his skin prickles when Harry kisses him properly, sliding their mouths together and making it wet, barely giving him a chance to breathe.

He’s talking slowly, like he’s keeping time with his hips, and Louis’ legs keep twitching with the urge to kick free of the sheets and wrap around his waist, pull him in so they’re notched together. He doesn’t catch half of what Harry says, because his low voice is lost to the way Louis’ pulse is pounding in his ears, but his face burns from what he does hear. Harry’s kissing his neck, sucking on the sensitive patch of skin just underneath Louis’ jaw. His fingers have found Louis’ nipples again, so tight and sore by now that he can hardly think about anything else, and Louis could come from this, just from Harry rubbing off on him, but he doesn’t want to.

He drags his nails down Harry’s back to make him shut up.

“Are you going to fuck me, or are you just going to talk about it?”

There’s a second before Harry moves, when everything’s suspended and Louis’ heartbeat seems to take up the room. Then Harry’s lifting himself up and taking the covers with him, stripping them off the bed as he stands.

“Yeah, I’ll fuck you,” he says, crawling back over Louis with the lube in hand. He squeezes out way too much, as always, and Louis watches his abs clench when he wraps a lube-slick hand around his cock, fisting himself so roughly and for so long it’s a miracle he doesn’t come. The little smirk on his face that says he knows exactly what he looks like. “‘ve got more than enough come for you, don’t worry.”

“Do you?” Louis says, as mildly as he can with his own cock this hard, leaking all over his belly. He stretches out, pointing his toes and folding his arms behind his head, watching Harry watch him. “Hasn’t been enough to knock me up yet though, has it? And I’ve been letting you fuck me bare for weeks.”

“It’s enough,” Harry snaps, but his voice wavers, and the smirk’s gone, left a pouty little frown in its place. Louis tries not to take too much delight in having annoyed him, but he’s so easy. Even the way he fingers Louis is sullen, now, perfunctory. He has Louis’ legs wrapped around his waist before Louis can even get used to the ache, head of his cock smearing wet all over the inside of Louis’ thighs as he lines himself up. Louis recognizes the look on his face, that vicious lip-bite; he’s close to coming already, having driven himself to the edge while he was showing off his big dick. But he wants desperately to last, so he’s holding his breath and just nudging his cock at Louis’ hole, like he’s teasing instead of buying himself time, like Louis won’t notice, won’t realize.

Maybe they know each other a little too well.

“I’d do it, if you let me,” Harry says, tightening his grip on Louis’ legs. “I’d knock you up on the first try, I’d—” He fucks the head of his cock in with a jerk, almost like he hadn’t meant to. “I’d knock you up with twins—”

“Yeah?” Louis gets out, fisting his hands in the sheets, and Harry sinks all the way in with a grunt, hooking Louis’ legs over his shoulders properly, folding him right up.

”Yes,” he says, and he’s close enough now to kiss, so Louis does. He can’t speak, because Harry’s driving the breath out of him with each hard thrust, hard, hard, like Louis wants it, but Louis kisses him, wet and sloppy, both hands cupping his face. “I want it,” Harry whispers against his mouth, like he's confessing, and turns his head into Louis’ palm, squeezing his eyes shut. “Lou, I—fuck, I want it so bad.”

Louis wonders if there’ll ever come a time when that isn’t all it takes. If there’ll come a time when he doesn’t want to give Harry everything he wants. He doubts it.

So he drags him in for one more kiss and says, “You can have it.”

Harry whines when Louis drops his legs from his shoulders, but falls silent once Louis maneuvers them so Harry’s flat on his back. Louis crouches over him and kisses him before he can complain.

“Hold on,” Louis says, reaching back to stroke Harry’s slick cock and guide it into place. The head snubs up against Louis’ hole and Harry’s hands come up to squeeze his hips, his arse, restless. His face is flushed, sweaty, and he makes a hurt sound when Louis sinks down on him. “We have to do it like this, yeah? ‘cos you knocked me up and now—now I’m big.”

“Louis,” Harry grits, and his hips snap up.

“Yeah,” Louis says, “like this,” and puts his hands on Harry’s chest to feel the violent thump of his heart. He doesn’t bounce on Harry’s cock like he wants to, because Harry’s so tense underneath him, so close to coming, muscles twitching every time Louis rolls his hips. “Go slow, huh? Think you can go slow for me?”

“Yes—”

“Slow,” Louis reminds him, leaning forward so Harry can do all the work, pumping his cock into Louis’ arse even as Louis drops his hips back down to meet him. “Gentle, yeah? Because I’m so fucking full of you—”

It’s not gentle. Louis’ lungs are burning, and his arse aches, legs trembling every time he lifts himself up. But it’s so fucking good his vision’s gone a bit blurry, and he can’t stop picturing it, what’s always been an abstract idea in the past, something to be dismissed before it’s even considered. Him, all round and heavy with a baby—Harry’s baby—

Louis comes before he means to. He doesn’t even realize he’s been stripping his cock until he’s shooting all over Harry’s stomach with a strangled moan. He slumps over Harry’s chest, gone boneless, can’t help it, and lets out a breathless laugh at the frantic, unhappy noise Harry makes when his cock slips out.

“Don’t come unless you’re in me,” Louis tells him, and Harry doesn’t, easing his cock back in and holding Louis in place while he fucks him, then fills him up as promised. He looks like he’s coming so hard it hurts, face red and eyes teary, so Louis can’t resist clenching down on him a little, milking him until he’s done.

“Fuck,” Harry gasps, and Louis agrees, dropping his head back down and trying to catch his breath, still twitching from the aftershocks. He doesn’t think he’s ever been fucked like that—come like that—and his mind is still spinning, trying to wrangle everything at once. They’ve been at it for long enough that some stubborn sunlight has sneaked in past the curtains, but Louis closes his eyes to it and drifts, shifting only when Harry’s come slips out of his arse along with his cock.

“I wanna,” Harry says hoarsely, hands on Louis’ arse still, palming him. “I wanna flip you over and get your legs in the air, but I don’t think I can move.”

Louis looks at him and raises his brows. “Thought I was already pregnant?”

“Shut up,” Harry says, so Louis laughs and squirms up to kiss him. “You’re so—you’re so—” Harry’s saying, but Louis doesn’t let him finish until he’s had his fill, and by then Harry’s mouth is red and eyes glazed. Louis curls a hand around the back of his neck, fingers tangling in sweaty curls, and kisses him thoroughly, deep and wet, pulling away only when his jaw gets sore.

In the quiet, the only thing Louis can hear is their breathing falling into sync.

“You’re beautiful, you know.” Harry grins when Louis snorts, but his eyes are earnest. “Hard to look at you, sometimes.”

“You’ve never had any problem looking at me, Harold,” Louis says, because he’s doing it right now, serious, unblinking, and it’s making Louis’ face heat up.

“It’s harder to look away,” Harry says, and saves Louis from replying by leaning their foreheads together. This close he’s a blur, so it doesn’t mean anything when Louis closes his eyes, heart lodged in his throat. He doesn’t know how long they stay like that, just breathing each other’s air, Harry’s fingers tapping some familiar beat on his arm, but by the time Harry speaks again Louis almost has his wits about him.

“I didn’t think you’d like it.”

“What,” Louis says, pressing his smile to Harry’s cheek, “sitting on your cock?”

“Among other things,” Harry says lightly. His throat clicks on a swallow, so Louis pulls back to look him in the eye.

“I like it.”

That doesn’t quite sum up the intense, visceral reaction Louis’ had to the thought of Harry getting him pregnant, but it’s enough to make Harry relax back into the pillows. Louis should tell him—that he can’t imagine going back from this, that they’ve fucked it up, somehow. That if they ever were just friends with benefits, they sure as fuck aren’t anymore. That Louis doesn’t even care.

But those pesky thoughts aren’t going anywhere, and Harry’s eyes turn sleepy in a blink. It can wait. Harry nuzzles into his hand when Louis cups his cheek, half asleep already, and Louis finds himself spooning him again, nose pressed into the sweaty, sweet-smelling hair at the nape of his neck. He’s wide awake, but a bone deep sort of contentment has weighed him down. When Harry asks, soft and somehow cautious, Louis doesn’t even consider making a joke of it.

“What do you think about?”

“You.”

 


 

Louis gets used to it, this—whatever it is. Waking up in the middle of the night thanks to the light of Harry’s mobile, having him mutter sorry, sorry at Louis’ grumpy noises and hauling the covers over his head. Harry making breakfast before he fucks off to the gym at arse o’ clock in the morning, Louis waiting until he’s back to eat it. Getting hip-checked on his way to the kitchen, getting kicked out of the kitchen, fucking in the kitchen. Spending an appalling amount of time helping—all right, observing—Harry clean the place, vacuuming under the rugs and all. Making a point of taking his birth control while Harry’s watching, and reveling in the frenzied fuck that always follows.

Falling asleep curled up around him, face pressed to his back. Kissing him whenever he wants.

Louis doesn’t know what to call it, whether Harry wants to call it anything at all, so he doesn’t bring it up. The fear that kept hounding him is gone; Harry left for a few days—golf was involved—but he made Louis pick him up at the airport when he got back, and there was no question where he’d be staying. Louis could have brought it up then, while they were shoving Harry’s bags in the boot of Louis’ car, but if Harry’s forgotten they never actually decided to live together, Louis doesn’t want to remind him.

It’s easy, being with him. It always has been. Worrying over what it all means has never gotten Louis anywhere, and he doesn’t think it’s going to start now, so he ignores the stupid, childish part of him that wants to get in Harry’s face and demand to know what they are. They’re Harry and Louis. They’re good.

He tells himself that every time he starts feeling like he doesn’t have enough of Harry, not yet. Louis is always going to be a little greedy, but he’s—working on it.

Somehow, in the middle of all that, he forgets that Harry’s greedy, too.

“What’s with that look?”

“What look?” Harry says automatically, so Louis throws a cushion at his head. Harry bats it out of the air instead of making a show of failing to dodge it, which confirms Louis’ suspicion that something’s wrong. They’re sat watching footie and fucking about on Twitter, but Harry’s been subdued all day. Lost in his own head, maybe, but there’s something deliberate about the way he avoids Louis’ eyes and refuses to smile that makes Louis think he’s being punished for something. He doesn’t know what the fuck that could be, but Harry’s more than capable of keeping mum on whatever’s caused him to get that look on his face.

Unless Louis nags it out of him.

“It’s nothing,” Harry insists. “I’m not cross.”

“If it’s nothing, then tell me what it is,” Louis demands, and Harry gives him an incredulous look.

“That doesn’t make any fucking sense,” he says, so Louis kicks him until he gets off the couch. He stands there, blocking the telly, and unties his hair just so he has something to do with his hands. Louis waits until he’s got the bun up again.

”Harry.”

“It’s nothing,” Harry says again, and schools his features so well that Louis almost believes him. Harry sighs at the look on Louis’ face and lifts his hands to run them through his hair before realizing he’s tied it up already. “You didn’t tell Zayn I was staying here.”

Louis frowns. “Yeah, I did. Or you did, whatever. He’s known for ages.”

“No, not like—” Harry stops, then starts again. “You didn’t tell him we were—fucking.”

“Why the fuck would I do that?” Louis asks, baffled. Zayn’s seen him through the fallout of every relationship he’s had so far, but Louis is not interested in having him know just how badly he’s fucked up this time—from thinking that fucking Harry could ever be kept simple in the first place, to getting so tangled up in this he can’t even see a way out. Zayn’s already been worryingly quiet over Harry living with him again; there’s a good chance that he’s known about the fucking for ages too, but confirming it would just throw open the gates. “Wait, did you? Did you tell him?”

Harry’s mouth flattens. “Was it supposed to be a secret?”

“Don’t act thick, you know it was. We bloody well decided, didn’t we?”

“Months ago,” Harry says, and Louis can’t make sense of the colour rising in his face. “Is it just going to stay a secret forever? If Zayn or—Niall’s going to be back in London soon, if he drops by we, what? Act like everything’s the same as it’s always been? Pretend we’re not—” He cuts himself off. “Fuck. Nevermind. Forget I said anything.”

There’s no easier way to spark Louis’ temper, and Harry knows it. But Louis still doesn’t understand what they’re suddenly fighting about, so he swallows past it and tries to keep his voice level.

“You know I hate it when you do that. Harry. I can’t forget about it, you—where are you going?”

“Out. To the shop. I don’t know.”

Harry’s shrugged his coat on already, and it looks fucking ridiculous over the trackies he was lounging in, but he doesn’t seem to care. Louis grabs both scarves off the hook before he can get to them, and then his keys, positioning himself in front of the door. It’d be funny if Harry didn’t look so—

“Just tell me why you’re upset.”

“I’m not upset,” Harry says stubbornly, and shoulders Louis out of the way before he can open his mouth. “I don’t want to talk, all right?”

“No, it’s not all right,” Louis snaps, and he doesn’t know if it’s his temper that’s gotten the best of him, or the sudden sick worry churning in his gut. “You can’t just say nevermind and expect—”

The slam of the door cuts him off.

“Fuck. Fucking twat.

Louis’ tempted to go after him, because he hates letting Harry get away with acting like a fucking child, but he doesn’t know what’s wrong and shouting at him won’t help Louis figure it out. The keys are still digging into his palm, and Harry hasn’t taken his wallet, so he won’t be more than a few hours, but knowing that doesn’t ease the headache now pounding at his temples. Louis scrubs a hand over his face and decides to get a drink.

They don’t fight nearly as often as they used to, even though they’re in each other’s space all the time now. Louis attributed it to finally growing up, but maybe it has more to do with not wanting to rock their scrappy little boat. It’s not like Louis thinks Harry’s going to pack his bags over a screaming match about the wet towels Louis leaves lying around, but then again, who knows what goes on in his head. It’s not like he’s willing to talk about it.

Louis isn’t annoyed, or anything. But this was supposed to be a quiet night in at the end of a busy week, and now Louis is going to get drunk, by himself, while Harry stomps around in the rain. If he flings open the fridge with more force than is strictly necessary, well, whatever.

He hasn’t even opened the beer yet when Harry stomps back in.

“Don’t interrupt me,” he says, when Louis opens his mouth. He doesn’t look like he even left the building, for all that his face is red from the cold. His coat is still on, and his arms stay folded tight across his chest, even when Louis leans against the fridge and waits. Louis resists the urge to raise his eyebrows, as that just makes Harry more agitated and prone to throwing things. Harry purses his mouth like he knows all about Louis’ struggle, but then he cuts his eyes away. “I haven’t fucked anyone else since we kissed. The first time.”

It startles a laugh out of Louis, because that can’t be right. Harry had told him otherwise, teased him with it. “What? You said—”

Harry talks over him. “I know what I said. Don’t interrupt me. I didn’t want you to think I was expecting anything, so I lied. There were a few guys but we didn’t—we just went out for drinks. Nothing else.” He swallows, then firms his jaw. “I was missing you.”

“Harry,” Louis starts, but his heart has started beating so hard it leaves him a little dizzy, and Harry doesn’t look like he’s listening.

“I’ve been trying to tell you but I—I don’t know what you want me to say.” He unfolds his arms and lets them hang by his sides, presence shrinking to something small and uncertain. “I don’t want anybody else. And I don’t want it to be a secret. Okay?”

“Okay,” Louis says, trying to keep his voice steady. “Why did you kiss me?”

Harry’s mouth twists like he was expecting Louis to say something else, and it makes Louis hate himself a little, but they’ve been circling around this for too fucking long and Louis is going to get it out of him one way or the other. He fumbles with his beer while Harry struggles to get his thoughts together, like this is just another late-night conversation, like Louis isn’t trembling with the urge to cross the distance and kiss him and say—

“You were talking about signing on with the X Factor,” Harry says, “and I said you wouldn’t like being the other Louis, so we’d have to get rid of him first. And you said—you said you meant the Australian one, and you were joking—”

Louis doesn’t even remember having this conversation, but for once he keeps his mouth shut.

“You were joking, but we were drunk, and I realized I didn’t know what you might do. Where you might go. That without the band there weren’t any—any plans, anymore, that I wouldn’t be seeing you next week because we had an interview, or in a month because we had rehearsals, or.” Harry shrugs, swiping at his face with a hand. “There wasn’t anything tying us together.”

“We’re best friends, Harry,” Louis interrupts, because he can’t not. “Of course there was.”

“It didn’t feel like that,” Harry says. “It didn’t feel like enough. I thought I was going to lose you, because I wouldn’t remember to call, and you wouldn’t want to fly over, and we’d get busy doing one thing and then another and you—you’d forget me. I was scared, so I kissed you, but then it was—it felt like.” He shrugs again, helplessly. “You know.”

Louis does. “Yeah. I know.”

“I’d wanted to kiss you for so long.” Harry laughs, and it’s watery. He’s stopped meeting Louis’ eyes, like he’s accepted he’s not going to get what he wants. Louis itches with the urge to touch him. “Since we first met, probably. But something was always more important, yeah? And then—that wasn’t true anymore. It felt like nothing could be more important than this. Us.” There’s a beat where Louis tries to get his voice to work, and Harry looks up. “I just don’t want to miss you anymore. I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“I want you to say you’re in love with me, you tit,” Louis finally manages, “because I’m in love with you.”

“Oh,” Harry says, and crosses the kitchen to kiss him instead, cupping Louis’ face with both hands and slotting their mouths together. “I am, I am in love with you.”

“You just had to tell me a story,” Louis says into the kiss, laughing a little, because his heart’s pounding and he’s shaking all over, only steady where he’s touching Harry. He’s familiar, now, with this giddy warmth, but it still alarms him, how happy he’s capable of being. He kisses Harry hard on the mouth and leans their foreheads together, squeezing him until he squeezes back. Then, as it strikes him: “This why you wanna knock me up so badly? So you can tie us together forever? It’d be easier to just get married, Harry.”

“Shut up,” Harry says, but Louis catches the look on his face before he ducks his head, and the next kiss is bitey, Harry’s cheeks hot under his fingers. Louis doesn’t know what to do about the butterflies rioting in his stomach, so he laughs, and Harry’s mouth begins to twitch.

He can’t be sure how they long they stand there, kissing whenever they catch their breath, but Louis knows what he wants, now, his greedy heart as loud as it’s ever been.

“I love you,” Louis tells him again, softly, like it is a secret. “Everything else we’ll figure out.”

Harry's chest expands under his hands. Louis can feel him smile. “Even the babies?”

"Especially the babies.”