Actions

Work Header

Space Oddity

Work Text:

RAM

The door slams harder than Louis meant it to.

Which is hardly surprising, considering it’s a dilapidated thing made up of chipped paint and warped wood, its hinges singing symphonies every time it moves. It shuts too harshly, shuts too fast, and always thwacks through the silence of Louis’ flat at a volume that not-so-politely reminds him how boring these dusty rooms really are. He needs more furniture. Or maybe friends. Or maybe furniture. A futon or two. Maybe an art…thing. Maybe not.

Grunting, he sets his plastic bags down on the counter, successfully knocking down a few old empty cups left there. He’s knocked something else down too, but he can’t see what, so it doesn’t count.

The entire day was lethargic. Right now feels lethargic. Even as he disassembles his takeout and pushes newspapers and magazines off the kitchen table and onto the opposing chair, everything is just… Dimly lit and blue. That’s Louis’ flat, that’s Louis’ light. It’s not bad, per se. It’s his choice. It just…is.

Sniffing, he thumbs through his mail as he brings a slice of pizza to his mouth. He’s really not that hungry but, given the time and his lack of energy to eat anytime later, he supposes he should consume food now. That’s what he should do. So he bites through hot, sweet sauce that clings to the corners of his mouth and he swallows oozing, bubbled cheese while his eyes flit over the small stack of envelopes that are just, essentially, rubbish. Why does he even look at his mail, anyway? Why does he get mail? He’s not exactly expecting letters (thankfully, he has no friends) and he doesn’t have magazine subscriptions or anything. That would require him to care. And pay money. So, no.

He’s just about to toss the whole lot into the bin and stuff another slice of still-hot pizza in his mouth, when suddenly one of the letters catches his eye. His eyebrows furrow as he narrows in on the name printed in delicate black ink, sauce still dabbed at the corner of his mouth. He stops chewing as he squints.

Harry Styles C3

Well, then. Clearly the mailman’s fucked up.

Granted, Louis lives in C2 so it’s not much of a fuck-up, but still. It requires Louis to suffer through the hefty obligatory internal debate of whether or not to just throw the letter out or, you know—actually deliver it to its proper owner. It’s a tedious task to stand up, open his shitty door, and trudge all the way next door. It’s a tedious fucking task. And he’s not even finished with his pizza yet. (Nevermind if he’s not hungry, piss off. Not important.)

He sighs, leaning back in his rickety wood chair. His old mate Stan salvaged it from a dumpster while they were spectacularly inebriated, back in uni. They’d needed it to set their new plant on; it was a Venus Flytrap (Seymour) and it died in a week. Still, it’s Louis’ favorite chair to this day. He likes to think it’s an ode to Seymour. Or his youth. Something. Even though he’s only twenty-four now, he might as well be seventy, to be honest.

The envelope is still lying on the table, the kitchen light frying it golden. Frying it up like an egg in a skillet. Sizzling up the edges and unfolding the paper. It’s on fire and the room is being engulfed in flames.

Nahh, it’s not actually. Louis’ just always really fucking bored and likes to pretend that things are more dramatic than he claims he wishes they weren’t.

He sighs again, because it feels right. His toes are itchy in his socks. The envelope is golden. There’s still sauce on his face. He’s not hungry. His flat is dim and blue and there’s shit all to do for the rest of the night, save for reading, sleeping, or watching some shitty program he’ll just use as background noise as he flits through footie updates on his phone. He’s tired from a day of scrubbing toilets and sprucing bedspreads, he smells like bleach, and his entire future is a tidy black spot on a map. He doesn’t have friends, he prefers talking to himself rather than anybody else, and the most exciting thing he’s done in the past year is not wear pants. Well—there was that one time he spray-painted Shakespeare on a bank, but that’s only because he was piss drunk and had a momentary desire to become a revolutionist. (He was in theater, you know—he still remembers his lines, thanks, can still quote Much Ado About Nothing with the greats, fuck yes, inebriation be damned.)

So, quite unexaggeratedly, everything is dull as fucking rocks around here. And, while Louis himself has carefully created this perpetual state of inactivity and mild depression, he can admit that he’s probably, erm, a little too restless and imaginative for the confines of it all.

So. Maybe he’ll just get his arse off this fine rickety chair of his, march it over to his neighbor’s, and do his good deed for the day—drop a goddamn letter off. It’s the least he can do. Besides. It appears to be some…animal charity, or something. It’s clearly important.

He eyes the pastel green envelope, wearily once-overing the smiling face of a kitten next to a puppy with a red ribbon around its neck. It’s poorly illustrated and mildly terrifying and Louis sort of loves it enough to cut it out and stick it to his fridge. He can’t do that, though—Harry Styles would be mad.

So Louis gets up, letter in tow, and wipes the sauce off his face with the back of his hand, before wiping the hand on his jeans. Classy. He could be a prince. As he leaves his flat, the door slams behind him and, as per usual, startles a jump out of him. (It’s just so fucking loud, okay? So unnecessarily loud, it’s a shitty door and he hates it.) His feet carry him across creaky brown carpet. The lights out here in the corridor are bluish white. It’s terrifying. It’d be an excellent place to be murdered.

Maybe Harry Styles is a nice old man. Maybe he’ll give Louis money and a purpose in life. Hm, that would be nice. Or maybe that’d be too much responsibility. Maybe he’ll just give Louis a plant for his troubles. Another Seymour! Or maybe he’ll give him nothing and Louis doesn’t have to pretend to be thankful. That’d be nice.

When he knocks on the door, he taps it incessantly with his fingers, drumming out a racetrack song. Something symphonic. It sounds really good, so he drums even louder, tapping his foot in accordance. It’s not obnoxious, though. It’s melodic.

The door opens so fast, it startles the shit outta Louis, makes him jump and nearly drop the potential-animal-charity letter, his hands falling to his sides.

Okay, so Harry Styles isn’t an old man. But he’s probably still nice and he may yet give Louis a plant.

“Hello,” Harry Styles nods, the word almost sung. It’s said really slow, almost…too slow. He’s staring at Louis with an alarming intensity. And then suddenly he’s just grinning—grinning really aggressively. Like. Too much. And his eyes are really fucking red and he reeks of pot.

Louis eyes him. He’s only wearing (what appears to be) black leggings. And that’s fine, cool, sick, but like… They’re really tight. They seem uncomfortable. Harry Styles can pull them off though, he’ll give him that—he’s in excellent shape and he has tattoos that probably start conversations. He’s got really long hair, too. It’s curly. Cool. Weird and cool.

“Good evening,” Louis says peaceably, hoping he doesn’t sound as bored as he perpetually feels. Maybe he’s made of dust? “I have a letter for you.”

Harry Styles doesn’t move. Instead, he continues to stare at Louis. He looks mildly sweaty, maybe a bit sticky. His eyes are very sleepy and shine like polished glass. And they’re glued to Louis’ face.

Louis holds out the letter. “Do you, maybe, want it?” He points to the small kitten/puppy picture. “Look. It’s got an unsettling illustration. You’ve got to want it.”

Luckily, Harry Styles moves then—but only in that he just smiles more, a silent laugh coasting on an exhale. He doesn’t actually do anything like, say, take the letter, though.

Disgruntled, Louis scrunches his nose, hand dropping. “Well, now I’ve come all this way and it’s weird.” He looks down at the paper as he speaks. “You don’t want your present, Harry Styles from Flat C3?”

The syrupy, alarming grin on Harry Styles’ face moves. With words. “It’s not weird. I am Harry Styles and I do live here. Thank you.” It’s the most earnest and childlike tone Louis’ ever heard despite its belly-deep octave and Harry follows it up by extending one hand—that’s as large as an elephant ear. Louis grips it approvingly. He likes elephant ears. “What’s your name and where do you live?”

Very forward. That can be fun.

“Hm,” Louis hums, pretending to debate the matter as he lets go of Harry’s hand. “I dunno if I should tell you. This sounds a lot like Stranger Danger.”

Harry looks blissful when he laughs in surprise, one of his hands resting on his bare stomach. There’s a butterfly on there, by the way. Did Louis mention that? Harry Styles lives in Flat C3 and collects butterflies on his stomach.

Then he settles, his face still all grin-y but more serious. “I’m glad you’ve been instilled with core values,” he says, the words punctuated by a crater in his cheek. Louis wonders if he could fit a pebble in there and if it’d stay. “That’s really important, especially in today’s really awful world… It’s sometimes good to be weary of strangers.”

Louis’ lips twitch. Well, then. That was a nice response. Much better than what he usually gets from people.

“I’m Louis Tomlinson and I live in Flat C2,” he then says, loud and definitive. “I’m next to you. And”—he continues, even after Harry’s face brightens through its fog at this newfound information—“I’ve got a letter for you.”

At long last, Harry’s eyes finally fall upon the letter. And again, he brightens, but with all the bogginess of one who lives in slow-motion animation. Or is extremely easily amused. Yeah, he’s definitely stoned. “Oh! That’s my Humane Society newsletter!” he exclaims with delight before glancing up at Louis as his hands reach forward. Momentarily, he pauses. “May I?”

It’s a struggle to tamp his smirk down. “It’s yours, Harry Styles. I hardly warrant your permission.”

“Okay,” he says simply and he takes the letter, but his eyes linger on Louis. Everything about him is gentle and glazed. Like butter’s been rubbed over the apples of his cheeks and poured on his limbs. “You can just call me ‘Harry’, if you like.”

“Hm, yeah,” Louis nods, hands sliding in his pockets. “But I think I’ll call you Styles. It’s better.”

A wider grin. “Cool. Okay. I don’t mind. I think all names are…like, really nice. Important.”

What a peaceful creature.

Louis smiles back; it’s mostly genuine. “Well,” he clucks, taking a step back. For one moment, it looks like Harry might follow him. “I’m going to go now, Styles. Okay? Bye.” Simple as that, he turns and walks away, not even waiting for a response. He’s sick of talking.

“It was great to meet you, Louis in Flat C2!” he hears being called after him, dreamlike and melodic.

But then the sound’s effectively cut off by the slamming of his door, that awful slamming, so he goes back to his kitchen table, finishes his pizza, and stares out of the window until he feels tired enough to sleep.

**

It doesn’t happen until a couple of days later.

Harry Styles C3

“That’s funny,” Louis remarks to himself as he chomps on cereal, staring down at the envelope sitting on his counter. This one appears to be…a home and gardening one? Something like that. There’s a lot of ivy decorating the corners of the white paper. It’s in floral script.

Honestly, their mailman’s shit.

Guess he’ll have to visit Harry again. That’ll be nice. He seems peaceful and he smells like weed. Since Louis spends most of his time cleaning (he works for a friend of his family’s—they own this little picturesque resort thing thirty minutes away and Louis gets to scrub down the rooms for good money and even better self-loathing) he doesn’t really interact with many people these days. It’s mostly ideal since he’s not very partial to human interaction, save for the odd few that stand out. But Harry hasn’t bored him yet and he doesn’t seem to spout typical bullshit, so. Yeah, okay, he’ll drop off another misplaced letter, alright.

He slurps down the milk in his bowl (the best part of cereal, to be honest) before dumping it in his sink, shrugging on a hoodie, and sliding his feet into his already-tied shoes. He’s too lazy to tie them every time he wears them. That’s honestly so purposeless. In fact, he refuses to tie his shoes ever again; do you know how much time you waste by tying shoes? A lot.

The brown carpet creaks as he walks to Harry’s door. When he reaches it, he drums out another melody. And he’s staring down at the hideously-adorned letter with amusement when Harry finally opens it.

Oh, wow. Harry’s wearing clothes this time. Proper ones. A fetching flamingo button-up and inappropriately tight jeans. That’s nice, it’s good he’s got style and can live up to his name.

“I really like what’s going on here,” Louis says in his typical monotone, by way of greeting, as he eyes up his clothes before he even attempts to catch his eye. He waves his hand in the air in an all-encompassing way. “This is good. Good job.”

When he looks up, Harry looks stoned again. Really swirly and smiley and pink. But also much more pleased and focused than last time. “That’s really nice to say,” he says earnestly, holding a hand to his heart. “Thank you, Louis. You always look nice.”

He’s seen Louis—what? Twice now?

“That’s probably true,” Louis responds offhandedly, just because he can, before holding up the letter. Harry’s already smiling aggressively again. “Got you another present.”

“Okay,” Harry smiles, but doesn’t move to grab it. He smells like patchouli and smoke.

Louis sniffs it in. “You smell a lot like weed, you know. Like, a lot.”

“Oh, yeah,” Harry nods, grinning in a glittering way. He smells the collar of his shirt, though, eyes never leaving Louis’ face. “I smoke all the time. I mean, it’s nice. So I probably smell like it. Is that okay?”

That’s very okay. Stoners are Louis’ favorite type of people—especially the ones that claim they hallucinate when they smoke. Like, nahh, son. You’re just fucking crazy and you’re incredible.

So Louis flashes a thumbs up, loud and proud, bumping it against Harry’s chest. The buttons on his flamingo shirt are open, so half his hand touches skin. It’s warm. Harry tracks the movement with his entire head.

“That’s okay. I used to smoke, back in the day.”

Harry lifts his head, curious and faintly amused. He tilts it like a dog. “Back in the day?”

“Yeah,” Louis shrugs, eyes skimming the corridor. “At uni. I’m twenty-four now. I’m old.”

“You’re not old,” Harry argues softly, before he pauses. “I’m twenty-two.”

“Yeah, well, I’m twenty,” Louis challenges, but he says it because he’s bored, because he’s still holding the letter and also Harry looks like he might start giggling. Maybe his hits are catching up with him.

“Then I’m eighteen,” Harry counters, laughing softly. He looks like he’s having the time of his life, swaying on his feet. The sun is streaming in from behind him and he still looks like he’s dipped in butter. Louis likes him, mostly.

“I’m not playing anymore. I’ve already won,” Louis sniffs, but he quirks his lips when Harry laughs harder. “You’re very high.”

“No, I just think you’re funny,” Harry beams, itching his nose. His cheeks are red.

“Like I said—you’re very high.”

“And you’re weird,” Harry comments approvingly, nodding with the sentence. “That’s a positive attribute.”

Louis hums, rolling on the balls of his feet. He tries to peer in Harry’s flat but he can’t see much. “But I have negative attributes, mostly.”

“Oh. Well, I think that means you’re really electric, then,” Harry says, and his eyes have widened with a bit of wonder. They look iced-over and contemplative. Studious, even; Harry was probably a really good student. He probably did his homework sometimes and never had to try.

“I’m made of lightning,” Louis nods in response, as if it’s the most common fact in the world. “It’s just a thing. No big deal.” He pokes one finger into Harry’s arm. “Zap,” he says, lifeless.

Harry smiles again and a brief silence falls.

“Take your letter?” Louis asks, offering it up once more.

The expression on Harry’s face droops a bit, looks reluctant to let Louis go, but it’s nearing late afternoon and Louis wants to just sit down and nap or something.

“Okay,” Harry mumbles, taking the letter in his very large hands. He holds it with both as he stares, eyes saddened. Maybe he suffers from mood swings. “Uhm. Thank you again for dropping these off. I’m not sure why this keeps happening.”

“It’s only twice, though,” Louis shrugs, pulling a strand of hair off of Harry’s shirt with intent focus. It’s really long. And curly. Harry’s face eases into another smile while he watches. “If it happens again, things are weird. Three times is no longer a coincidence, you know.”

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Harry replies seriously, firmly shaking his head like a child. “I like to think things happen for a reason. I believe in fate.”

“Well then, let’s hope there’s a third time,” Louis shrugs, and then he walks away.

“Bye, Louis. Thank you!”

The door slams too loud and everything falls silent.

**

Louis’ life is really, really boring. Maybe the most boring.

He literally does nothing. He doesn’t know how the hours pass. Well, he reads. And he watches things. And occasionally he eats. He bathes. Sometimes he draws or writes down his brilliant ideas and theories in this green, peeled, tea-stained notebook that he still hasn’t managed to fill up for the past five years. He also likes going for walks and taking midnight runs. So, okay, maybe he does stuff.

Still though, he always just feels so bored.

“Maybe I should get friends,” he tells nobody as he lies on his living room floor. It’s wooden and cold and smells like powdery feet.

His only response is by way of the flicker of the lamp by the couch.

Hm. Maybe not.

He spends the rest of his day attempting to do a headstand while he watches silent movies on TV. They’re surprisingly hilarious, oddly calming, and they help his balance. All in all, it’s not a bad day.

**

It’s very sunny (and hot as fuck) when Louis arrives back to his flat, bleach-stained shirt sticking to his skin. Despite being soaked to the bone, he doesn’t even smell—he’s that chemical-bathed. It’s probably really dangerous and it’s certainly horrifying, but it’s also really stupid to think about, so he just opens his mail slot instead and flits through rubbish, his powdery, dry fingers slipping on the edges of crisp paper.

It’s been awhile since he’s had a letter for Harry so he hasn’t seen him in awhile. He can’t say he minds all that much, just because he’s accustomed to being alone. But he wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Harry again—he flows easily with Louis’ sporadic train of thought and purposefully inconstant conversation. He’s really nice, too. Not just because of all the marijuana, either—he’s proper shiny and nice. He’s probably an optimist and Louis finds those people fascinating.

Fate must be listening to his thoughts. Because, as Louis’ absently thinking and absently thumbing, plop! goes a letter to the floor and lieu! Fuck yes, it’s for Harry Edward Styles. Hah. Edward.

Louis smirks as he bends and fetches it, studying the name with amusement.

Harry Edward Styles C2

C2. C2?

Isn’t Harry in C3? Doesn’t Louis live in C2?

Louis blinks, eyes flitting across the surface of the envelope—it’s pristine, with a nice little emblem with a vegetable on it. It’s probably some health magazine subscription or something. Maybe a vegetable society. That’s pretty cool even though Louis hates vegetables. He really likes their colors and shapes and sometimes he tries to eat pickled beets and pretends he loves them because they die his lips this pleasant shade of magenta.

That’s definitely his address, though. Definitely not Harry’s. So the mail guy didn’t fuck up. The universe did. Cool.

He tucks Harry’s letter for the Vegetable Society (which Louis is most definitely going to ask to join) in his back pocket, tosses the rest of his own letters in the nearest bin, and trots up the stairwell, sweat beads sliding down his body all the way.

**

“It’s me again and I have another present for youuuuu!” Louis shouts, as loud as he can (which is quite loud, thank you), his mouth pressed against the dirty wood of Harry’s door.

He doesn’t knock this time—been there, done that.

Happily though, the door opens fairly quickly. And voila, there’s Harry (today his ensemble consists of white shorts, nothing else, and a bun—brilliant) and he’s clearly just taken a hit, what with how his mouth is tightly sealed despite his stubbornly insistent smile, his chest heaved with the smoke that’s stuffed inside. Bless this vision, aw.

“I catch you every time you smoke,” Louis observes, sliding out the envelope. “I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not.”

“I’m not either,” Harry hacks out, coughing gloriously as he splutters over spilled smoke and watery giggles. He brings a gentle hand to his mouth, long fingers playing over his lips, as an apology flashes across his features. He did, essentially, just throw up stale weed residue in Louis’ face. “I’m so sorry. That was really…mean. Impolite. I’m so sorry. Are you hurt??”

Pffft—‘are you hurt.’ Honestly.  

Still, Louis’ delighted by it, especially because Harry’s hand is still over his mouth, horror in his eyes. “It’s fine, I’m not mad,” he replies easily. He smiles once, watching Harry’s facial muscles relax as he absorbs it greedily (what a happy clam), before he thrusts the envelope at Harry’s chest. “I want to be part of your Vegetable Society,” he says without transition or explanation. “Talk to your president and demand my entry. I’ll be expecting my acceptance letter shortly.”

Blinking, Harry looks down at the letter, lifting his hand to settle atop Louis’ (which is settled atop Harry’s warm skin) and rests it there, not even bothering to take the letter. When he looks back up at Louis, his expression is fuzzy and amused, smile a little lop-sided. “What vegetable society?” he asks, brows coming together.

“The one right there. In the vegetable letter.” Louis nods to the aforementioned. “I want in, Styles.”

Easy as breathing, Harry beams. “It’s not a vegetable society, Louis,” he says slowly, the words like tumbleweeds. “It’s just, like, a newsletter about the local food systems.” He grins harder, staring at Louis like he’s a light bulb. “I love that you wanted to join a Vegetable Society, though. I’ve been known to be very informative about root vegetables. And herbs.”

“Well, you’re clearly very herbal,” Louis smirks. He’s so funny.

“The herbiest,” Harry says proudly, still not taking the letter and still letting his hand rest atop Louis’. “We could start our own Vegetable Society?”

It’s so strange because Louis hasn’t touched another human affectionately in, probably, years. It’s less startling than he assumed it would be, less anticlimactic. It’s actually a little fizzy and nice. So, chasing the feeling, he lets his envelope-hand pull away from Harry’s chest, taking Harry’s fingers with it. They fall, fingers gripping fingers. There.

Harry tracks the movement with his head, a volcanic explosion of a startled smile on his face. A curl is loose from his bun and it’s a perfect corkscrew, lying along his peachy neck.

“Send me the details,” Louis continues breezily, as if he wasn’t holding a stranger’s hand. “I think it’s high time that I’m part of a society.”

“We’re all part of our own societies, Louis,” Harry drips, looking back up at him. He looks so calm, like all the pieces of his world are clicked together. “But I suppose the official ones can be more fun. Gives you an excuse to wear shoes.”

“Very true,” Louis nods sagely, watching Harry’s serious face. “I am quite fond of shoes.”

“I like heels, myself.”

“I like shoes without laces. Do you know how much time we waste tying our shoes?”

“How much?”

“A lot.”

“Whoah.” Harry blinks like it’s revolutionary information. And that’s how Louis knows he likes this person. “I never even thought of that.”

“We take time for granted, but, truth is, all we are are just hourglasses,” Louis says, emotionless and factual, blinking slow. “We’re all just a bunch of hourglasses and every grain of sand counts, Styles. Think about it.”

It’s a conversation he’s had with his walls and his shitty notebook countless times. It’s nice to say it to Harry though, because he looks enthralled. Enlightened, even.

“Louis?” Harry asks, earnest and serious. His face is still etched in rosy hues and glass, but he looks oddly delicate and pointy with his hair pulled back. “Will you be the president of our society?”

Louis feels himself smile, proper. “Yeah. Yep. Thank you for asking.”

Harry nods emphatically. “Of course.”

“Will you take your letter now?” Louis asks then, and the lack of transition doesn’t startle Harry.

He nods, untangling his fingers from Louis’, beaming again as he clutches the letter to his chest. “It was nice. Holding your hand. Thank you.”

“It was nice,” Louis agrees thoughtfully. He wipes his hand across his damp brow. He still feels like he’s sweating. “I’m going to go now. Bye, Styles.”

“Bye, Louis!”

Boom, goes his loud door, and Louis’ back in his flat alone. He should probably take a shower.

**

He ends up writing out a full page document about the fucking Vegetable Society. It has him staying up too late, giggling into his own palm as he scribbles down his very clever jokes, and signs his signature at the bottom. Underneath, he draws a wobbly line for Harry’s.

‘Sign here’ he writes in the margin, complete with an arrow.

Pajama-clad, he slips downstairs to the lobby and slides it into Harry’s mailbox. He laughs to himself as he runs back upstairs, taking the steps two at a time, before launching himself inside his flat, amused and tingly.

He goes to bed and he sleeps well.

**

He gets more mail for his address under Harry’s name the very next day. It’s from LUSH.

“I think you’re putting the wrong address on things,” Louis says from Harry’s doorway, glancing at the pale postcard in his hand. “This is becoming a thing.”

Harry looks both mysterious and proud as he looks down at Louis. He’s wearing an enormous hat that gives Saturn’s rings a run for their money. Louis’ decided he loves Harry’s clothes. And his style. Styles’ style.

“Also, I like that enormous hat you’re wearing,” he says, pointing.

Looking genuinely touched, Harry brings a hand to it, fingertips resting on the brim. “Thank you. I love headwear. Would you like to wear it?”

Surprised, Louis smiles. “Why, yes, actually. Sharing is caring, you know.”

“Charity starts at home.” Harry hands over the hat. “For you, Blue,” he grins.

It smells like Harry—weed and patchouli. He wonders just how much Harry smokes.

“Are you calling me Blue?”

“Yes. Because I think your eyes are celestial and oceanic and both are blue. You’re blue.”

“Okay,” Louis nods sensibly, donning the hat. That makes sense. “I think you might be yellow.” He shifts his weight onto the other foot, absently bringing a nail to his mouth. The hat fits really well. “Like butter.” Pause. “I can’t believe you’re not butter.”

The sentence makes Harry cackle in this morbidly low tone which sends Louis in delighted peals of mockery.

“Lookit your morbid self and that morbid laugh!” he caws. “What is that??”

Harry laughs harder then, self-conscious, his eyes still on Louis as his hands rest on his t-shirt-clad stomach. It’s a Rolling Stones shirt. Was once white but is now yellow-ish. Like butter. His eyes are so shiny. Maybe Louis should bring him eyedrops.

“You’re funny,” Harry smiles, calming at last and taking the LUSH card. “And I’m currently making tea. Would you like to join me and drink it? It’s green tea and I’ve got this new tea set from a friend that’s made from, like, clay. It’s really cool.” He sniffs and itches his nose, waiting expectantly as Louis shoves his hands in his pockets.

“I hate green tea. But I’ll still drink it. So, sure,” Louis shrugs.

“Excellent.” Apropos of nothing, Harry flashes a peace sign. “Cool, come inside. Make yourself at home. The couch is really comfortable.”

It’s a yellow couch. This is brilliant.

Actually, the entire flat is brilliant. It’s orangey and yellowy and the windows are large enough to stream in warm, dusty sunbeams. Only thin strands of beads separate the light from the flat and there are plants and cacti everywhere. Naturally, there’s an impressively large bong beside the couch, as well as a plethora of reading material. There’s no TV, just paintings and plants and books and large pillows. There’s a map of the stars that almost takes up the entire wall. There’s an unused fireplace with a picture of Jimmy Hendrix settled inside. The kitchen is filled with fruit in wooden bowls and cans of tuna and there’s a whiteboard on the fridge—one that’s filled with various handwriting. Louis wonders which is Harry’s.

It’s very different in here than Louis’ flat. It’s incredible.

“Oi,” Louis calls, spotting a small black case nestled in the corner of the room. He points to it, looking over his shoulder. Harry’s just taking off the kettle. “Is that a fiddle or summat?”

Harry blinks up, syrup in his smile. “It’s a violin,” he drawls happily, pouring two neat cups of tea in two tiny clay cups. “I give lessons to some kids.”

“Fuck off, you do not!” Louis exclaims, excited. The violin is so neat, Louis’ always wanted to play it. He’s never wanted to put the work in for it, though. “Do you seriously play?”

“Yeah,” Harry hums, proud, standing a little taller and lifting his chin. He speaks through his grin, flashing big, white teeth. “Since I was five.” He holds up his hand and shows off five long fingers, the other hand on his hip. “I can play anything that I hear and have yet to be stumped by a song.”

This is amazing. Harry’s both a childish stoner and a musical prodigy. He’s like Mozart but… Not.

Nodding, impressed, Louis continues surveying the room, standing in the midst of it all, hands limp at his sides. He inspects the ceiling closely; there are less water spots on Harry’s ceiling than there are on Louis’. He tilts his head further back but the hat slips a little—it feels heavier than he’d expected it to. “You know I would awfully love it if you played for me, right? Play violin for me while I lay down and romanticize my failures?”

“Okay,” Harry shrugs, pleased. “But maybe after tea?”

“Yeah, after tea,” Louis nods, accepting his cup as he plops down onto the couch (it is comfortable) and Harry sits beside him. He sniffs it, scrunches his nose, then sips. It’s still awful. “It’s really bad.”

Peaceful, Harry blows on his own cup, a serene smile on his face. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Do you paint? What are all these paintings?” He motions to the walls where slabs of wood are nailed, strange spray-painted designs adorning their surfaces. One of them looks like a wolf’s head coming out of a volcano and Louis thinks it’s the best piece of art he’s ever seen.

“Uhhhm,” Harry drawls, glancing up momentarily. “They’re my friend’s. He’s an artist.” He takes another sip and pauses, staring ahead sightlessly before he continues, voice a little far away. “I want to be an artist but I always get distracted.” Pause. “I think I’m better with music.”

“Probably,” Louis agrees, tucking his legs beneath him and adjusting the hat. He takes another drink and winces, staring out the window right alongside Harry. “But I’m the same. The only art I’ve ever done was spray-painting Shakespeare onto a bank.” He manages another sip.

And Harry nearly spits out his tea.

“You what?” he splutters, stunned, setting down his cup as he coughs into the back of his arm.

Louis beams, amused at Harry’s spluttering as he claps a hand to his back. “Yeah. Stan also said that I tried to throw a brick through its window as well, but I’m not sure I believe him.”

For a moment, Harry’s laughter subsides, his watery gaze finding Louis’. “Who’s Stan?”

Sighing, Louis waves a noncommittal hand through the hair. “Oh. Just my best mate from uni. Don’t talk to him anymore much, though.” At Harry’s curious wide eyes and expectant silence, Louis shrugs, setting down his own tea. “I’m not big on friends.”

“Oh,” Harry says, dropped low and sad. His shoulders slump and Louis notices it, just like he notices the eyelash clinging to the soft skin beneath his right eye. “I like friends,” he mumbles. “I like sharing things, you know? I like hearing someone else talk.”

Louis’ lips twitch as he turns to face him. “I figured you were a sharer.” He motions to the hat.

It makes a small smile forms on Harry’s face. “I really like that hat on you,” he says quietly. “You can have it, if you want.”

Pleased, Louis poses, modeling the hat with all the grace that usually lies dormant in his limbs; it causes Harry’s grin to widen. “Thank you. But I think I’ll only wear it when I come over. If I ever come over again, that is.”

“No, you should definitely come over again,” Harry says immediately, words nearly rushed. Nearly. “I like you. We can be friends.” He’s so sincere and unabashed as he looks at Louis.

Hm. He hasn’t had friends in ages. He’s not sure if he wants any.

But Harry looks nearly downtrodden the longer Louis silently contemplates him and the eyelash is still stuck to his skin and he’s letting Louis wear his hat, so…

“Well… I guess here’s to friendship, then,” Louis smirks, picking up his shitty clay cup to clink it against Harry’s.

Harry’s eyes never stray from his as he smiles.

**

There’s more mail the next day and the next day and so on. Every day, there’s always something.

Today, there’s one from Topshop and it’s just another advert essentially, coupled up with the same old duo of Harry’s name and Louis’ address. At this point, it appears that Louis is just collecting all of Harry’s junk mail. Nifty.

“Do you want me to start throwing them away?” he asks as Harry prepares more tea. It’s black today so Louis can actually drink it.

It’s his day off and he’s spent it walking around outside because it’s beautiful out, all sunny and breezy with the smell of damp grass wafting in and out. He bought a croissant for breakfast and watched the birds in the park as he stuffed it in his mouth, crumbs decorating his entire jumper. And then he walked until his feet hurt, sunlight hitting his eyelids because his eyes were closed, arms outstretched. He walked like that for just one block, though; he only ran into a tree once.

It’s now late afternoon and he smells like outside and he’s lightly sweaty but it’s refreshing. Harry is home (he’s always home, Louis’ not sure what he does besides teaching violin) and they’re both a little quiet and tired today, something a little heavier lingering in the air. Harry’s still high (perpetually, Louis’ come to realize) and he’s lethargic and sleepy. But he’s still mostly happy and he seems to like staring at Louis, so that’s nice.

Harry shakes his head at the question. “No, thank you. You can keep bringing them to me.”

“Alright.” Louis doesn’t mind.

When the tea’s done, Harry hands it to him and smiles, sitting beside him with all the practiced ease of their daily ritual. His feet are bare and he’s got a little anklet on, just a bunch of colored string knotted together. He smiles without words and it fades a little when the yellow cushions begin to swallow him.

“This is amazing,” Louis mutters, steam tickling his nose. It feels nice despite the heat. “Thanks, Styles.”

“You’re welcome.” He sips, eyes seeming far away. “Do you ever get bored, Louis?”

“Every day,” he replies instantly. “Why?”

Harry shrugs, eyes cast down. “I dunno. Sometimes I feel sorta lonely. And bored. I just wanna, like. Do something. I dunno. I think I smoked too much.” He rubs at his eyes with the palm of his hand. He’s frowning.

It makes Louis smile though, just a bit, as he nods, setting down his now empty cup. “Wanna go for a walk? I was walking all day and it helps me, like, not hate myself. And everybody else. I think fresh air invigorates our dusty brains.”

Immediately, Harry nods, helpless and eager. “Yes, that’s what it is—my brain’s dusty. Can you please clean it off?”

“Yeah,” Louis nods, already hopping up. “Of course.” He doesn’t care that his feet still ache, he still pulls Harry up by his hands without a second’s thought. “Let’s go walking until the dust is gone. And if some still hangs about, just let me know. I’ll scrub your brain clean.” He punctuates the sentence with soft-rough hands that rub through Harry’s hair, on his scalp, and it makes Harry yelp as much as it makes him laugh. He doesn’t push him away though, and he takes Louis’ hand in his own when it drops.

“Let’s walk,” he says quietly, smiling down at him. Harry likes to stand close, Louis’ come to realize. There’s no space bubble. With anyone else, it would send him into spirals of annoyance. But Harry is sweet and airy and he smells soothing so Louis likes it.

He laces their fingers. “Let’s walk until our legs fall off.”

“I’ll pick up your legs if you pick up mine?” Harry offers as Louis begins to tug him along. He’s smiling properly for the first time today.

“Deal, Styles,” Louis smiles over his shoulder. “Now come on. Let’s clean our brains.”

**

They’re walking down the street and the sun’s setting so everything’s more saturated and the shadows are deeper. The crowds are thinning, everything’s getting quieter, and gelato drips out of their waffle cones and down their hands. Louis’ got nutella. Harry’s got one scoop peanut butter and one scoop strawberry.

“I feel cleaner already,” Harry smiles, despite the fact that he’s a sticky mess and his lips looks numb and painfully red. His curls cling to his skin and he’s got beads of sweat on his upper lip but he always looks so touchable and warm that it doesn’t bother Louis in the slightest.

Instead, he walks closer to him, lets their hips bump, as he bites into his cone with a loud crunch. “Me, too. Wanna go to the park? Swing on the swings?”

The very prospect seems to spiral Harry into near hyperactivity. “Hell yes!” he shouts, louder than Louis’ ever heard him, sending a few pigeons scattering nearby.

He laughs in response, surprised, covering his mouth to keep in the melted pools of nutella and vanilla.

This, of course, delights Harry even further, and he turns to stare as they walk, his entire demeanor alight. “Can we do somersaults down a hill as well?”

Louis can’t help but snort. “If you want to die, yes.”

Harry eyes him speculatively, a stream of pink slipping over his knuckles. Louis debates licking it off but has an oddly sobering moment of clarity—that would probably be sorta creepy, huh? He doesn’t want to creep Harry out.

So he shrugs off the thought and goes back to disemboweling his cone as he continues. “I, myself, have always embraced death so I think we should.” He slurps down a wad of hazelnut. “Wanna get, like, proper food afterwards? Wanna have a night picnic?”

And Harry stops dead in his tracks then, cheeks pink and chin sticky and eyes wide. “A night picnic? Are you serious?”

“Yes, absolutely. Why?”

The resulting reaction is really rather alarming. “I love the stars!” Harry squawks, faster than Louis thought him capable, more animated and alert than Louis’ ever seen him. “Did you know that I love the stars? I have a fascination with the planets and, like, potential life forms and comets and meteors and stuff. So, Louis—I love the stars!” He says it emphatically, grabbing Louis’ shoulder like it’s important but Louis’ sorta just confused and charmed at his volume and energy, so he merely nods, chewing away. Harry sighs, happily though, and nods. “Uhm, so yeah. Of course I want a night picnic. That would be really wonderful. Like, perfect.” He blinks as Louis continues chewing. “Can we eat cheese and fruit?”

“Yeah, sure,” Louis shrugs. “And we can plan our Vegetable Society.”

He knows Harry’s special because instead of snorting or rolling his eyes, Harry nods seriously. “Yes, good. Sounds like a plan. I signed the contract, you know.”

“I figured.”

“You can count on me, Louis.”

“I know.”

They continue walking down the street, hips bumping, sun setting, gelato melting.

**

Unsurprisingly, the mail doesn’t stop.  So, unsurprisingly, Louis going over to Harry’s flat doesn’t stop.

He doesn’t always stay for very long, to be fair, since Harry sometimes has to woefully kick him out so he can go and give those violin lessons or do whatever. Yoga or something, maybe. And sometimes Louis works and sometimes he just wants to be by himself so he only drops by for a few odd moments. But it’s still a thing, sorta. And while it goes against the grain of Louis’ lackluster existence, he’s finding that it’s very easy to grow accustomed to the curly stoned boy who happily joins Louis on verbal adventures and does nice things like laugh at his jokes and get moody when Louis doesn’t stay long enough. He’s also very free-spirited and idealistic and positive and that’s really fascinating. Louis sorta wants to poke at him and ask him questions that he’ll write down the answers to in his notebook. Maybe he should show Harry his notebook. Or maybe he should get one for him so they each have one and can swap. It would be nice to crawl in Harry’s mind for awhile. It seems nautical and warm.

“Today it’s a magazine for mountain climbing,” Louis hums as he strolls right inside Harry’s flat.

Harry’s smile is already taking up half the room as he holds the door open and tracks every step Louis takes with soupy limbs and damp hair. He’s just gotten out of the shower and he’s wearing, what might be, a nightgown—that would befit an elderly lady. Which is fantastic.

“I swear, Styles, you get more mail than anybody else I know. Where does all this shit come from? And why is it always my address, eh? Someone’s fucking up.”

“Uhm, yeah, I dunno,” Harry says bashfully, rubbing the back of his neck as he shuts the door. It sends his nightgown billowing. “Weird. Weird stuff.” He coughs.

Louis sets the magazine on the countertop before he turns around, hands limp at his sides. He worked today so he smells like toilet-bowl cleaner and wood polish. A nice mix of urine and citrus. “I like your nightgown,” he says simply, eyeing it.

Harry nods, looking down at himself and grabbing fistfuls of fabric. “Yeah, me too. It’s very breezy and comfortable. Good for summer.”

“If you find another one, can you get it for me?”

Harry blinks, seemingly surprised as he looks up to meet Louis’ eye. But then he beams, a softness in his pink gaze. “Yeah, of course. I’d love to.” Everything is so sincere with Harry. Louis wonders if he asked him to read an instructions manual aloud, if it would still sound just as heartfelt and pleasant.

Probably. Yes.

“Whatcha up to today?” Louis asks with a yawn, leaning against the counter. The air smells sweet. Like cake, or something. He sniffs and sniffs, Harry watching him with a quiet laugh.

“Baking some, uh…special treats,” Harry winks, lips smirking as he adorns a baking glove. “They’re for my mates.”

As if on cue, he takes out a fresh batch of said special treats. Delicious little chocolate cookies. And they really do look special—all gooey and chocolate chip-y. Louis wants one in his mouth. He doesn’t really like biscuits but these look fucking phenomenal.

“You, uhm… You should meet them sometime,” Harry says casually, poking at the plops of dough with a spatula.

“What? Those cookies?” Louis asks, eyebrow quirked. They smell so damn good. He might be hungry.

“Nooo, silly,” Harry croons, glancing up with a sleepy smile. His hair is drying quickly and it’s beginning to frizz. “My mates. They’re really nice and I’ve told them a lot about you.”

“Have you?” Louis questions indifferently, inspecting an odd brown stain on his shoe. It looks really gross against the white of his Converse. Really, really gross.

“Yeah,” he continues casually. “They’re coming over for, like, a gathering this Friday.”

“Cool.” Louis toes at the stain.

“Uhm. Would you…” Harry pauses. Louis waits. “Wanna come?”

He looks up from his shoes. “You want me to come hang out with your friends?”

“And me,” Harry says hopefully, spatula in hand. All he needs is an apron and he’s the perfect portrait of a grandmother.

“Hm. Okay. Maybe,” Louis shrugs, and his stomach feels a little weird. “Probably.” He flashes a thumbs-up before making his way toward the door. “I always say ‘maybe’ and it usually means ‘no.’ But with you, I think it means ‘yes.’”

“Okay,” Harry smiles softly, frozen in time as he watches Louis depart. “I like that. I hope it means yes.” He pauses before he sings. “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

Harry’s so bizarre.

“Sure,” Louis chuckles, shaking his head. Bizarre boy, the Styles boy. “Also, those cookies are sick and I want all of them. Literally, I want to eat them all.” He stops before he opens the door, hand on the knob. It’s hot and his hand is moist. “Will you make me some?”

Harry blinks, looking down at the cooling sheet before him. “What, you want these exactly?” he asks, seeming genuinely surprised. “Like… This batch?”

Louis nods. “Definitely. Bye, Styles.”

“Okay. Bye, Louis!”

**

Louis arrives home from work the next day and finds no mail for Harry. It’s oddly disappointing and disjointed and he walks up the stairs with a strange sort of frown on his face, his hands feeling too heavy for his body.

But he’s only in his flat for all of five minutes before there’s a gentle knock that lasts ten seconds too long.

The door is opened and there is Harry. Holding an enormous tray of cookies with a serene smile and red eyes. He’s also wearing his urban sombrero and doesn’t have any shoes. Excellent.

“You knock for too long,” Louis greets, but he’s finding himself smiling as they stand there and look at each other.

“I just wanted to be sure that you’d hear me,” Harry clarifies, but he’s swaying on the spot and Louis likes him.

He steps aside. “Come inside?”

“Yes, please.” And Harry wobbles his way over to the counter. “I made these for you.”

“All of them?” They smell phenomenal. Fresh. Louis’ not to proud to admit that his eyes are probably sparkling.

“Yeah, definitely, Louis. I was going to make more but I figured that would, uh… Well, it’d be overkill, wouldn’t it?” He searches Louis’ face though, as if second-guessing his actions. “Or would it not be overkill? Would you like another batch? I’ve just gotten some fresh—“

“Nahhh, no, stop,” Louis hushes, already grabbing fistfuls. “This is more than enough, Generous Pony. Thanks, mate.” He shoves as much as he can into his mouth and chews thoughtfully, ungluing at the seams when the chocolate melts on his tongue and everything feels warm and sweet. Like Harry.

Harry is the best. Harry keeps him company and bakes him delicious food.

“I’ve just decided that I really like you,” Louis attempts through his packed mouth.

But Harry blushes and beams, head held high. “I already decided that I really like you. But I’m glad it’s mutual.”

“It’s so fucking mutual,” Louis groans, shoving still more in his still-full mouth. They’re just so good and he’s so tired and he’s so sad today. “I didn’t have any mail for you.”

“I know,” Harry says, then blushes again. “I mean, I figured. Like. You didn’t have anything in your hand, so…”

Louis nods. “Yeah. Sorry.”

“Oh, no! It’s fine. We don’t need misplaced mail to see each other anymore… Right?”

“Right,” Louis agrees, swallowing down the last mouthful. It’s warm and it does down gloupy. God, he’s so sleepy. “I think I’m gonna take a nap, Harry.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, enjoy your cookies,” Harry smiles, but it’s definitely a put-out smile and he’s definitely sad. He’ll probably be petulant soon.

Harry’s too lovely to be petulant.

“I really like you,” Louis says once more, mostly to placate him, as he pets a clumsy hand down Harry’s curls, tugging on one of them.

It makes Harry smile, small.

“Come over later, maybe?” Louis asks, removing his hand and heading towards his room. He keeps Harry’s eye though, and he watches as it brightens, hopeful.

“Definitely!” he nods, smile genuine as he waves to Louis. He literally waves and it’s Louis’ favorite thing in the world. “I’ll knock on your door!”

“Yeah, but not so long this time, yeah?” he teases.

Harry grins back, smug. He hasn’t moved yet. “I’ll definitely knock longer.”

Oi. Of course he will.

And then Louis’ in his room and he hears the door shut, too loud. But Louis can’t say he completely minds it as he flops onto his bed, smiling.

**

It’s not very long before his face starts tingling.

Like. Proper tingling. A slow, bleeding tingle. A spreading tingle. A tingle of warmth.

And ah, now his toes feel tingly. And his hands feel… Weird.

Like. Literally, he feels… Really… Like…

Weird…

Wait.

What the fuck.

His heartbeat spikes as he sits up in his bed. And, yup, the room is swirly. Mildly swirly. Not drunk-swirly. Just like… He’s so sleepy? Yet he’s not? He’s so…

Is he fucking high??

A mild sense of panic erupts in his bloodstream. It’s like a tiny droplet of yellow dye is dripped in, spreading everywhere and flowing like a river and… Anxiety is probably yellow, right? So, like, panic is yellow? Fuck, everything is fucked right now.

He dashes across his flat, rips open his door, and runs down the creaky brown carpet. He doesn’t so much knock on Harry’s door as he does slump against it, sweat prickling on his forehead as he paws weakly at the shitty wood.

It takes about two seconds for it to open and when it does, Harry smiles. “Hey, you.”

“What the fuck did you give me?” Louis asks as he stares wildly at the really tall human being in front of him. Harry is really, really tall. What if he falls on Louis and crushes him? Holy shit.

Harry’s smile instantly falls.

“Uhm. Didn’t you…” Harry’s brows twitch together, confused. “They’re weed cookies. Did I forget to mention that?”

Holy fuck.

“Weed cookies?!” Louis screeches, panic, panic, panic overflowing him. It’s being poured over the top of his head like a bucket of ice water. Or boiling water. Or both. “Holy shit, Harry, I haven’t been high in years!”

“You called me Harry!” Harry claps, joyous, but Louis can only look at him like he has three heads.

“Harry. I’m high,” he tries to articulate, staring him dead in the eye and trying to squash his paranoia. He’s too old for this, he’s so old, oh god.

And again, Harry’s smile falls, everything slow to process. “Wait. Did you not—is that not what you wanted?”

Louis stares.

“But—but you said you wanted that exact batch of cookies, so I just thought—oh my god!” Harry claps his hands over his mouth, looking horrorstruck and tweakish as he surveys Louis’ wildly panicked expression. “Oh my god, Louis, I’m so sorry!”

“Holy shit, it’s been years,” Louis repeats, feeling his body swell. Is his heart pounding? Can it pound too much? “I haven’t done this in forever. Harry!” He returns his wild eyes to him. “You drugged me!”

“Oh my god, I drugged you!” Harry shouts through his clasped hands. “I’m so sorry!”

To be honest, he looks ready to faint or cry.

There’s a brief stretch of silence, filled only with the beat of Louis’ heart in his ears and Harry’s truly horrorstruck expression.

And then suddenly Louis bursts into laughter.

“Are—are you okay, Louis?” he hears Harry ask, tentative. “I’m so sorry, Louis, I’m so sorry. Will you ever forgive me? Louis? …Lou?”

But Louis is nearly on the floor laughing, everything’s so funny, Harry’s so upset, oh god. And Louis hasn’t been high since uni, shit.

Oh, to be young again.

“This is incredible,” Louis chuckles, wiping actual tears from his eyes. Incredible. “I miss being stoned. This is fucking brilliant, Harry, oh my god—“

And then he laughs all over again.

Harry, thankfully, has begun to chuckle a bit as well. Albeit very, very nervously. “I really am sorry, though,” he tries again, watching Louis closely. “I know that I was, like, so out of line in just giving those to you without a note or, like, an ingredients list. I should’ve asked and been clearer about—“

“Harry,” Louis articulates clearly, settling a hand on his shoulder as his laughter fades away and leaves only a pleasant hum in his joints and lungs. A harmony. A melody. A song.

Harry shuts up, eyes wide and slightly fearful.

“No worries, mate. I’m just like… I didn’t know…” A chuckle falls from his lips before he can stop it. “Harry,” he laughs. “I’m high!”

Despite looking mostly terrified, Harry smiles a small bit, lips full with it. “And you keep calling me Harry,” he remarks quietly.

“I do? Oh, I do.” Louis squints at him, failing to keep his giggles at bay. It’s funny because he’s giggling and that’s what babies do. “Is that bad?”

“No!” Harry rushes, eyes widening as he holds up his hands. “No, not at all! I love it. I like Styles, too. But I like how you say my name. And other things. All things, I guess.”

“What are you talking about?” Louis seriously cannot stop laughing and this is fucking excellent, is what it is.

“Uhm. Nothing. Do you wanna come inside?” Harry asks, beginning to laugh a little more genuinely as he settles a hand on Louis’ arm. “I promise I won’t drug you again.”

Another fit of laughter from Louis. “I won’t be mad if you do, honestly!”

“Oh. Okay,” Harry chuckles, but it’s still a little awkwardly. “Well, we’ll wait and see what sober Louis says but, thank you. Come inside?”

“Definitely.”

The door shuts behind them.

**

The rest of the evening consists of a lot of lying down, pointless conversations, and handholding.

It’s been hours and Louis still feels super fucking high and the moon’s at the top of the sky, bleeding in through the beads on Harry’s windows. They’re lying on the floor, side by side with their palms pressed together, Louis’ right foot resting on Harry’s left, and they keep giggling like children.

Louis’ also been talking a lot but he doesn’t remember about what.

“Sometimes I’m super sad and bored and I feel like everything means nothing,” he says, after their chuckles subside. “It doesn’t really bother me, it just sort of is. But I think it might be a little fucked up. I might be a little fucked up.”

“I sometimes feel like that,” Harry mumbles, turning to face Louis. He’s very pale beneath the moon. “It’s a weird feeling.”

“It is.” Louis turns to catch his eye. “But. Not always. Like, right now doesn’t feel like ‘nothing’. It feels like something. You know?”

“Yeah. I know.”

“Thanks, Harry.”

“You’re welcome.”

**

The very next day, Louis knocks on Harry’s door and politely asks for more cookies.

“Do you want to get high again?” Harry asks, amused.

“Absolutely,” Louis grins.

And they bake, they get baked, and they talk about things that are too serious for the sober light of day. It’s weird and unexpected, this new little habit of theirs. But it’s oddly cathartic and it feels like something.

“I get overwhelmed really easily,” Harry admits, chin resting on Louis’ chest. He’s blinking up at him with messy hair and lidded eyes. Louis’ stroking the line of his back. “I get really upset really easily too, because I take everything too seriously. I’m, like, constantly worried about what people think of me.”

Considering the guy wears nightgowns, Louis can honestly say that he’s taken aback by the confession. But it’s oddly sobering and meaningful and Louis breathes in the words, staring up above.

“I wish I gave a fuck what people thought of me,” he mumbles back, blinking through his haze. “Maybe then I wouldn’t be such a selfish prick.”

“I don’t think you’re selfish or a prick,” Harry says quietly. “I think you’re the only person I’ve met so far who makes everything seem very easy.”

“Hm,” Louis nods, feeling warmth tingle up and down his entire body. Is it synthetic or is it natural? “I didn’t know I made it easy for anybody. I’m glad I make it easy for you.” He licks his lips, watching as Harry tracks the movement. A moment later, he brings his hand up to Louis’ mouth, delicately tracing brushstrokes. It doesn’t feel weird or intrusive, though. It just feels like it’s supposed to be this way. “You make it easy for me, too.”

“Good,” Harry whispers, eyes flickering up and down. His fingertips are soft and they smell burnt. “I want it to be easy.”

“Me, too.”

They don’t kiss, they just stare, and somehow it seems more powerful.

Louis wonders if he’s found his soulmate.

**

“I like your nineties windbreaker,” Harry tells Louis on the day that it’s cold enough to warrant layers.

Louis smiles, looking down at himself. “Thanks. I got it at a thrift shop but never washed it so it smells like someone else.”

Curiously, Harry leans forward, hair curtaining his face. His nose grazes the base of Louis’ neck to which his pulse makes note, as does his stomach. He swallows and keeps perfectly still.

“It does,” Harry murmurs, before his pink gaze lands on Louis again. It’s softer now. “I like the way you smell better.”

“Me, too.”

They continue walking down the street.

**

“Wanna smoke today?” Harry asks, the minute Louis opens his door.

It’s been a month or two or more since he’s gotten any of Harry’s mail. Not that it matters—Harry says they’re friends and it’s even better this way. Louis agrees.

“Nah,” Louis says, picking at his red-t-shirt. Smells like Windex today. “I wanna just eat food and keep my feet on the ground. Do you wanna go walk to the park instead? After we eat?”

“Okay,” Harry nods happily. “I’m sorta sick of smoking, anyway.” He says it offhandedly as he steps inside, absently studying his nails while Louis shuts the door.

“Oh? Really?” he asks, surprised. Harry has always smoked, always, for as long as he’s known him. “I thought you smoked all the time.”

Harry shrugs. “Well, yeah. I used to. But, I dunno.” He glances up at Louis. “I feel like we have more fun when we don’t smoke sometimes. I dunno. It’s not always necessary. I haven’t smoked at all today.”

Louis blinks.

“I mean, I still really enjoy the feeling, don’t get me wrong,” Harry rushes, almost defensive at Louis’ silence. He calms though, drops his hands and stares Louis dead in the eye. He’s got motorcycles on his shirt. “I just… Don’t feel like I need it as much.”

“Oh. Okay. Cool. Me neither, actually,” Louis nods. He’s over it. Been there, done that.

“Really?” Harry asks, surprised as he follows Louis’ path into the kitchen, slow and loping.

They’ve been smoking together every day for awhile now, see—it’s sorta become their thing. Smoking and talking for hours as they share body heat and blink away the glue that holds their heads together.

But, thing is, they don’t need to. Not anymore, at least. For awhile it worked and for awhile it made sense and felt good. But now Louis feels hazy and sorta misses the feeling of reality.

“Yeah” he nods, leaning on his counter. “I mean, once in awhile’s fun, I like that. But I don’t think we need to do it every day anymore. I like seeing you with my own eyes,” he shrugs, which makes Harry smile to himself, chin bumping his chest. He pauses, letting himself grin before he adds, “Surprisingly though, you don’t speak any faster when you’re sober.”

Harry nods. “I know.”

“Still love you, though.” Louis blinks slowly as he says it, watching as Harry’s head shoots up, eyes wide.

Conventionally, any first ‘I love you’ is a really big moment. Louis’ never really understood that, though. Society’s so weird. It just is what it is and he usually doesn’t like things at all, so Harry should know that he’s special because Louis likes Harry and Louis loves Harry, also.

“Well, I love you, too,” Harry replies instantly, but it’s definitely as bashful as it is earnest and that’s so silly.

“Good. Do you want cheese toasties for dinner?”

If there was tension, it’s gone now, melted away by Harry’s soft butteriness and his smile.

“Yes, cheese toasties, please,” he beams.

And it’s easy like that.

Still, he watches Louis the entire time he makes them dinner, always standing just a breath away. At one point, Louis kisses his cheek, just because he seems so on edge, and that startles Harry into laughter, easing up his shoulders a bit. They don’t address it, though, and it works perfectly fine.

They finish up their dinner before walking to the park, hand in hand.

**

“Wanna meet my mates?” Harry asks, words muffled in Louis’ shoulder.

They’re lying on the floor of Harry’s flat again. At first, it was with the purpose to spot constellations. Now they’re just curled up together and watching the candles flicker, limbs against limbs.

“You keep asking me,” Louis yawns, hand buried in Harry’s hair. He should probably kiss him. Maybe.

“I know. But you keep cancelling,” Harry frowns.

And, true. Louis has cancelled for the past few months Harry’s attempted to socialize Louis. He only cancels because he’s tired, though.

“I know,” Louis says back. “I just don’t like having friends. You know that, Harry.”

“But I’m your friend,” Harry argues, soft as leaves, expression moody and churlish. He grips onto Louis’ shirt and it’s so pouty that Louis has to smile because his body doesn’t know what else to do anymore.

“Nah. You’re my special friend,” he counters and decides that he should kiss him, should kiss Harry’s pout away because he’s beautiful and he makes Louis smile when his body sometimes forgets that he can.

So he does.

It’s just one kiss, lips pressing up into Harry’s lips, hooked over each other and dry, and he pulls away in time to see the moodiness wash away in Harry’s expression. It’s replaced by shock and reddened cheeks.

“You kissed me,” he scratches out, lifting his head. His mouth is parted on an ‘o’.

“I did. It’s probably been a long time coming,” Louis reasons calmly, but his heart really is quite jumpy despite the assuredness of his brain. He just really loves Harry, that’s all. It’s very simple—his veins say so.

“Yeah, but like…” Harry pauses, eyes darting back down to Louis’ lips. “Can’t we do it again?”

And Louis bursts into a surprised laugh. “Yeah, Harry, we can,” he chuckles, settling a fond smile on him. “We can a lot, if you like. Every day, even. For forever.”

“Yes, please,” Harry nods seriously, eyes still wide and cheeks still flushed. “Yes, definitely. Also,” he adds, just before he leans down. “Can you please meet my mates tomorrow?”

Oh yeah.

“Uhm. Yes,” Louis agrees, knowing that he has to. He should. And he wants to, he thinks. “Yes, because I promise.”

“Well, you don’t have to promise if you don’t want to, Blue,” Harry mumbles, but the nickname is so incredible, makes Louis so weak about everything, that he’s nodding all of Harry’s doubt away.

“I want to. Promise,” he says again, firmer, extending his pinky.

Harry hooks his own with it and they shake, so to speak, before smiling as one, eyes on each other’s lips.

“More kissing now?” Harry asks, already crawling up higher, when their hands finally drop, a sneaky look in his clear eyes.

“More kissing now,” Louis grins, already wrapping arms around his neck.

They close their eyes simultaneously and Louis decides that, yes, Harry’s probably his soulmate.

**

In a really pleasant twist of events, Louis intends to keep his promise about meeting Harry’s mates.

He’s got the day off tomorrow, is the thing, so he has no reason to go to bed early. He’s not even that tired anyways, so he might as well take advantage of such liveliness. It’s 6PM on a Thursday and Louis is living wild.

The flat is quiet as he pours himself a bowl of cereal, debating whether or not to change his shirt; it’s a dingy grey t-shirt that he’d gotten when he was nineteen and very cool. All it says is “Fucking Fuck” in bold print and it’s got about three holes in each armpit. But it’s really comfortable and it smells like him (which Harry likes) and it’s a nice color against his faded skin so… Maybe he’ll just keep it on. If Harry’s friends hate him because he dresses himself in rags, then they can fuck off.

Not that he typically cares what others think of him—that’s the best part of believing yourself to be a bored and constantly unfulfilled superior being; nobody else matters.

But Harry kind of matters, is kind of beginning to matter a lot. A lot. So maybe Louis should change his t-shirt.

He slurps down the last of his milk before he tosses both spoon and bowl in the sick on his way back his room.

**

“Louis! You came!” Harry nearly squeals the minute Louis steps inside his flat.

Faintly, his lips quirk, amused as he takes in the scene before him—Harry’s looking fetching in a lilac sweater and mangled jeans, carrying around a tray that looks to be weighed down with sweets (is that a bowl of licorice?) and tea. Oh, and a bottle of vodka, how did Louis miss that? Beyond him are three faces, two of which are staring at him openly while one is busying himself with his phone. Cool.

“It’s me, I’ve arrived,” Louis celebrates, immediately pressing up to Harry and specking a kiss to his cheek, leaning up on the balls of his feet.

Harry nearly purrs, preening like the cat he is, and when he reopens his eyes, Louis notices how wonderfully clean and clear they are. They’re big, clean eyes.

“Your eyes are huge, you know,” he mumbles, still just for them to hear as he settles back.

“That’s because they’re filled with wonder,” Harry says simply, and then he returns the kiss to Louis’ cheek. “Want anything? A drink?”

“Nah,” Louis shrugs as he tries (and fails) to take the tray from Harry’s hands. “Just an introduction to the small congregation of people sitting on your couch.”

“Liam’s not on the couch, he’s in the chair,” Harry points out, but he smiles peacefully as he they make their way forward.

All eyes are now on Louis. It makes him feel powerful, like he could conduct a symphony or a riot. Or, like… Perform. He has a sudden, terrible urge to sing for them. Obviously, he resists it. (If it was just him and Harry, he definitely would’ve sang, though.)

“Hello, people,” he waves calmly, plucking up a natural smile. He doesn’t bother showing teeth—they’re not at that point in their relationship. He needs names and personalities before he starts flashing toothy grins.

They all wave back. Every single one of them, even the phone-one that looks lazy and uninvested.

“Hello,” the short-cropped hair boy says first, almost nervously, just as Harry starts passing out cups of tea.

“Liam,” he addresses, smile still in place. He pauses, pointing at Louis. “Liam, this is Louis. My Louis.”

“Oh, right,” this Liam character nods, blushing very faintly as he smiles at Louis. “Hi. Harry’s been mentioning that you might stop by one of these nights.”

“We’ve been curious about you,” the blondish one says and oh, he’s very Irish, isn’t he. That’s good. It’s always good to have an Irishman nearby. “We were wondering if you’d ever show.”

“Yeah,” Louis nods seriously. “Well, I like to keep up an air of mystery.”

Irish makes a face, but it’s contemplative and—dare he say? Approving. Then he half-smiles. “I like that. People need more mystery. The modern age is filled with too much information and presence. People needa hold back a bit, don’t they, Z?”

Beside him, the guy on the phone blinks, sliding dark brown eyes up to the ones sitting very closely next to him. Hm.

“Yeah,” he drawls, before a smile forms on his lips when Irish suddenly tries to peel his phone away.

“You’re always on your goddamn phone!”

“I’m playing games, Niall. I’m not, like, texting anyone.” The guy says it with this shit-eating though, and Niall looks proper amused beneath the air of exhaustion.

“Alright, alright,” he grumbles in surrender, but the guy puts his phone away and the whole thing is weird. Mildly cute, though, judging by the pleased slant of Niall’s shoulders when the other one slings an arm around them. Ah. So that’s what’s up. Cool.

It takes a moment for Louis to realize that Harry’s just standing there, watching him watch them. He blinks a bit, startled, when he catches Louis’ eye. Sheepishly, he says with a shrug, holding up his hands, “So, these are my mates.”

Louis laughs. Harry is the funniest guy in the world. “You have yet to introduce me, you realize.”

“You’ve only introduced him to me,” Liam points out, but he seems pleased, like he’s special.

“Technically, he introduced you to me,” Louis remarks, faintly amused at Liam’s expression. “But whatever.”

“That’s true,” Harry agrees seriously, before he clears his throat and plops onto the couch next the pair that may or may not be fucking. “Niall, Zayn—this is Louis. Louis, this is Niall and Zayn. They’re some of my oldest mates—we’ve been friends all our lives.”

“Hello, hello,” Louis greets, sliding hands into his pockets. “That’s very nice. I like a proper sentimental story. Good job, the lot of you.”

Zayn’s lips quirk as Niall looks amused, Liam letting out a laugh. They’re very calm and watchful and they remind Louis of birds. Or dogs.

“So,” he continues, glancing around and drumming his fingers. “What’s everybody drinking?”

“Green tea,” Harry supplies happily, cupping it in his great, big hands and bathing his lips in steam.

Louis briefly smiles as he watches. “I hate that stuff. Tastes like piss and tree roots.”

Luckily, that sends all three boys into a surprised laugh.

“Same, mate,” Niall says easily, kicking his feet up on the table. “I’d rather a beer, to be honest. I’m a simple man.” Zayn smiles coyly as he watches him, rubbing a finger over his lip absently. “I’ll fetch us something we can actually stomach, yeah?”

Smirking at Harry’s appalled expression, Louis nods. “Good. Usually I pretend to like his tea because he’s cute but you lot are here now, so… You can placate him for me.”

Harry’s brows furrow. “Hey.”

Niall laughs, even more genuinely than before. “Brilliant,” he remarks approvingly as he hauls himself into a standing position, Zayn’s hand lingering near his waist. “We’ll share the burden tonight.”

“Beautiful,” Louis agrees, just as Harry protests another, louder, “Hey!” Louis glances over to him and, aw, he’s got his pout on.

“You’re not allowed to all gang up on me, you know,” he says, but there’s a quietly pleased undertone to his words, so Louis just rolls his eyes with a small smile while he waits for Niall—Zayn’s currently pulling on his hand offering up the most model-chic puppy eyes Louis has yet discovered.

“Get me a drink? I don’t want to be the only one stuck with green tea,” he mutters quietly as Niall sighs, looking annoyed, despite swinging their clasped hands.

“Alright, you lazy arse. But you’re going to drink whatever I get you and you’re not fucking taking mine this time.”

It sounds like an argument they’ve had before. Possibly every day. It’s cute.

“Promise,” Zayn murmurs with a full-out grin, all soft and focused on him. He’s got to be aware of how attractive he is, even if Niall just rolls his eyes at him. He smacks his bum as the latter leaves, Niall yelping and flipping him off before he joins Louis, simple as can be.

“Ready to concoct something delicious?” he asks, his expression lidded and cloudless. He smells like cigarettes. “I doubt Harry actually has beer in his fridge.”

“Born ready,” Louis agrees. “As long as I can swallow it, I’m fully supportive. Whatever mess we make will be our greatest achievement.”

Niall grins and Louis actually returns it, just as Liam appears out of nowhere. “I wanna join you guys,” he says, like a child left out of the fun.

This one seems like a good one, this Liam. Like the type that gets his knickers in a twist if you pull his pigtails too much. Louis loves those types—the awkward ones who pout really easily but also try to have fun at the same time.

So, beaming, Louis flings an arm around his neck. “You absolutely must, Liam,” he grins, watching Liam’s face flush at the unexpected camaraderie. “Let’s play.”

**

They’re mixing drinks like fiends, exchanging them with a stubborn Harry (“My tea will do just fine, thank you”) and a restless Zayn (“Niall, come sit.” “No!” “Please?”) as quickly as they’re procuring them. Louis’ hands are sticky and Niall’s cheeks are rosy and Liam’s eyes are shiny but it’s fun as fuck and it’s only been an hour.

Louis’ missed alcohol. It can be so pleasant sometimes. Fuck, he hasn’t drank in a really long time. He forgets what it’s like to have fun.

“Harry!” he thunders, dumping a bottle of Tonic into a pitcher. It’s a mess of various flavors that don’t make sense (whatever’s leftover in Harry’s fridge—oh, and sliced bananas because Liam had thought that would be a good idea which Louis hasn’t stopped giving him shit for) and it smells like generic fruit but Louis grins as Harry ambles up to him, face a little more lax. He’s grinning as he reaches for his waist while the other boys snicker about god-knows-what in the living room.

Clearly, someone isn’t just sticking to green tea like they’d furiously claimed.

Still though, Louis grins, letting himself be embraced. “I’m making you a pretty drink,” he says loudly, proud, because he’s a master mixer. “It’s got bananas in it though cuz Liam fucked up—“

“I didn’t fuck up,” Liam immediately whines from across the way. “You said that they’d—“

“Hush, Liam, the adults are speaking,” Louis calls back, louder, and Harry buries his laugh into Louis’ shoulder.

“You’re getting along with my friends,” he mumbles against his t-shirt.

“Huh?”

Harry lifts his head, gaze foggy and fond. “You’re getting along with my friends,” he repeats, syrupy. “I’m so happy.”

“Oh. Yeah, me too,” Louis smiles quieter, letting his fingers comb through curls. “’S fun. Have a lot of fun lately.”

“Good,” Harry nods, kissing him once. “Want you to. I’m also having a lot of fun.”

“Good,” Louis parrots. “Want you to.”

They smile.

And then Louis notices the guitar.

“Oi, who’s guitar?” he shouts without thinking, making Harry flinch. Oops. They’re still pressed together.

“Mine!” Niall calls back as he pulls Zayn off the couch—who stumbles into him with a laugh, arm wrapping around his waist. Zayn is very touch-y. Very sensual. “Why you asking?”

“Because I want someone to play it!” Louis shouts back.

Just as Liam opens his mouth to volunteer from across the room, Harry straightens, shooting an arm up into the air.

“Me! I’ll play!” he shouts back, and Louis laughs at his eagerness and how his hair is currently falling into his eyes.

“Okay, yes. Perfect. Play me a song, Styles,” he grins, letting Harry lead him forwards as he effortlessly picks up the acoustic in one hand.

“I’ll play you a song if you sing me a song,” Harry counters, looking coy and clever. Of course, of course.

So Louis nods, happiness bubbling his brain. He almost trips over a stray shoe. “Okay,” he agrees easily because it’s a no-brainer, really.

They settle on the floor as Liam ventures off to make more drinks while Zayn and Niall share a cigarette near the cracked window.

**

“Rocky Raccoon,” Louis sings, two swampy hours later, “checked into his room, only to find Gideon’s bible.”

Harry’s strumming the guitar, high as a kite as he chews on a mouthful of licorice, laughter in his mouth and adoration in his eyes as he watches Louis sway. They’re still sitting—Louis crosslegged, Harry sprawled out—and they’ve drank too much. A lot. Way too much. So much.

But it’s brilliant and Louis keeps singing, faintly aware that the others might be singing along with him. Liam’s found a spot right next to him. He’s also watching him reverently and Louis feels like a king right now.

“Rocky had come, equipped with a gun, to shoot off the legs of his rival.”

Zayn’s waving his arms, a lighter clutched in one hand, his face completely emotionless as he towers over them. It’s somehow hilarious and Louis can’t stop laughing in between verses.

“His rival it seems, had broken his dreams by stealing the girl of his fancy.”

Niall’s attempting something that might be an Irish jig, a determined look on his face as he tries not to spill his drink—he’s drinking vodka and lime juice out of a glass vase because Harry ran out of cups.

Louis smiles when he catches Harry’s eye, smiles even more when he joins him in singing, his smoky voice purring right alongside Louis’.

“Her name was Magil and she called herself Lil but everyone knew her as Nancy.”

It’s feels like it could be near midnight and usually Louis’ almost asleep by now. But he genuinely doesn’t care and he’s having fun and he feels young again.

Or maybe he feels his age. Whichever.

He beams when Harry kicks his feet onto his lap, joyously strumming that guitar and leaning back onto the floor.

He beams and beams and beams. And he sings, too.

**

It’s very late now, misty and late, and their eyes are heavy as they pass a joint around with greasy fingers.

“Don’t fall asleep before you give us our presents,” Zayn mumbles, half-asleep on Niall’s shoulder. He’s got a cigarette in one hand, the joint in the other, and both are just settled between his fingers, smoking away.

Niall grins, soft, and plucks the joint away, reigniting the life into it as he tugs on smoke and hollows his cheeks. He’s got bags under his eyes and, despite his exhaustion, has never-ending life in his limbs and eyes. Louis wonders if he ever sleeps.

“Yeah, you haven’t given us our stash yet,” Liam says, his head in Louis’ lap. He’s been quite clingy all night. It’s annoyed Harry on more than one occasion and Louis finds that hilarious.

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry sighs, and Louis feels it rumble in his back. He’s nestled in his long limbs, head tucked under his chin as they lean against the back of the couch, bare feet pressed against the cold wooden floorboards. “I’ll set you up before you all leave.” He yawns, dropping his head to nuzzle at Louis’ ear, which tickles.

Louis chuckles through his sleepy eyes and weighted limbs. “Are you a drug dealer, Harry?” he murmurs softly.

Harry shakes his head. “Only for my friends.”

“Cool.”

“He’s the best,” Niall adds as he watches the smoke pour from his lips. Zayn’s eyes have officially drifted shut, his head lolling on Niall’s shoulder.

They’re going to all fall asleep in seconds, probably, smelling like weed and chips (at some point, somehow, they managed to order takeout? Louis doesn’t remember but they have the leftovers to prove it) and stale alcohol. The echoes of acoustics still hang in the smoky air and someone’s iPhone is quietly playing a loop of “Rocky Raccoon” and all the lights are on so it’s too bright but…

But Louis turns his head and his cheek rubs against Harry’s shirt and his hair spills onto Louis’ face and he smells so familiar and nice. And he decides that this is the most comfortable he’s been in a long time. So he shuts his eyes and lets himself fall asleep.

**

“You liked my friends,” Harry mumbles in his ear the next day as they make tea.

They’re alone in Harry’s flat and they’re wearing these enormous white t-shirts from the bottom of Harry’s drawers; both of them are still damp from the shower, hair clumpy and moist. It’s cold yet humid out today, rain drizzling past the open windows, and the lights are all off so it’s bluish and grayish and dark and Harry’s pressed to his back, smiling against the side of Louis’ neck.

“You liked them and they liked you.”

Louis feels his mouth twitch as he watches the kettle, settling his hands atop Harry’s. “Maaaybe,” he sings, but it’s teasing and he feels Harry’s grin grow.

They sway on their feet as little whispers of steam begin to slip out the spout of the kettle. Everything’s quiet and humming and Louis doesn’t feel bored. Doesn’t feel restless. Just feels calm.

He closes his eyes, lets it wash over him as Harry hums into his neck.

“I purposely changed my address.”

His eyes open. “Hm?”

Harry lifts his head, turning Louis to meet his gaze. It’s bright and a little embarrassed and a little smug. His forehead’s pink and shiny so Louis kisses it, quirking Harry’s lips up even further. “I purposely changed my address,” he repeats, finding Louis’ hands. Fingers lacing fingers. “I searched for adverts online and typed in your address on purpose so I’d have a reason to keep seeing you when they sent me things. To get you to come over.”

Wait.

It takes a moment for the information to settle in Louis’ brain.

Wait, yeah. That makes sense.

For a moment, Harry looks a little nervous, eyeing Louis’ expression closely. But then Louis laughs once, just once, and Harry loosens, ducking his head. “I mean, the first few times weren’t me—that was just fate.”

“Fate?” Louis questions, tightening his grip on Harry’s hands.

Harry nods earnestly. “Yeah. Fate. But all the times after that were me.”

Louis grins, hears the kettle beginning to whistle behind them but doesn’t care. “Yeah? So you liked me, huh? Thought I was cool and fun?”

“Thought you were beautiful,” Harry smiles impishly, laughing when Louis steps on his toes; but it softens after a moment. “Think you’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen, Louis. Think you’re different, too. Fun. Easy. Nice. You stand out.”

“You, too,” Louis says, soft, and his voice both feels and sounds like sandpaper in the gloom of the flat. He swallows past it, wishing he could crawl inside Harry’s ribs and wrap himself around his heart, fall asleep to the steady beats every minute of every day. “Everyone else is boring.”

The kettle screams as their lips connect.

**

Louis’ lying in bed. He can’t sleep, can never sleep on his own these days.

So he texts Harry.

‘Don’t think we should have two beds,’ is all he types, squinting into the blue light of his phone.

It goes off just a minute later.

‘Don’t think we should have two flats. :)’

He smiles, sets his phone down, and kicks off the covers as he waits, just like he always does. It’s winter now so it’s cold and bitter and dry everywhere but Louis still feels hot and a little suffocated when the sheets bog him down.

He listens to the silence, straining to hear a key click into a lock.

Then, as expected, the startling sound of his front door slamming shut cuts through the dark and the silence.

RAM

He smiles wider, sitting up in his bed, strips of moonlight lying across his legs.

He loves his door. He loves the harsh, abrasive sound of his door, because it’s almost always accompanied by Harry.

It always thwacks too loudly, always snaps the chords of silence, always unsettles any of the remaining dust, and is always a very polite reminder that Louis somehow, miraculously, at some point, has forgotten what it’s like to be bored.