Louis first meets Brendon while waiting for Zayn to finish up for the day. His friend is a part time skateboarder, part time photographer, and all around douche for making Louis wait for him as the sun sets over the buildings.
Of course, it's probably Louis' fault for offering to drive Zayn home in the first place, but Zayn'd said something about best friends and cold, dark alley ways and Louis'd been swayed. So he sits on the cold metal bars that fence in the skatepark and watches Zayn watch the guys there skateboarding, taking snaps every now and again.
It's fascinating, or at least enough so that he doesn't notice the person walking up to him. That is until he all but jumps onto the fence next to Louis, startling him off his perch.
"Hey there!" the guy says, and Louis' saved from acting a complete idiot by throwing his hands back at the last moment and clutching a death grip onto the cold metal.
"Fuck," Louis swears. He shifts his weight so that he's sitting back on the metal and thanks god that his arse makes for good padding.
"Crap, are you okay? Sorry, I totally didn't mean to startle you or anything-" and the guy is talking at something like lightning speed, but all Louis can notice is the foreign accent and impressive ability to not. take. a. breath.
"You're new here, aren't you?" Louis interrupts and the guy finally stops rambling, pushes a hand through his unruly sort-of-quiff with a laugh.
"Is it that obvious?" he says.
Louis quirks an eyebrow, and almost refuses to answer. Across the park, Zayn is taking much care to frame a shot, lying half on his stomach to get just the right angle as a kid kick flips.
"People don't usually talk to me," Louis says instead, and his tone says exactly why they don't.
"Yeah, um, well," and the confused expression he's pulling makes Louis take pity on him.
He tears his eyes away from Zayn and extends his hand. "Louis."
The guy looks so grateful at that, he almost forgets to grasp Louis' hand. When he does, he squeezes it tightly and a smile stretches across his face. "Brendon," he says. "I um, just moved here?"
Louis nods, extricating his hand from Brendon's grip. "Do you skate then?"
Brendon hums, shifts a little where he's sat next to Louis. "A bit, every now and again, you know. My friends taught me, back in middle school?"
"Nice," Louis says, like he has an idea of what American middle school is like.
"Yeah, I suppose," Brendon says with a laugh. Louis' starting to think it's a nervous thing. "Do you, um, skate or anything?"
Louis give Brendon this look, one that he'll deny practising in the mirror. He's perfected it though, a mixture of disdain and amusement, like skating is much below him. "No. Like I'd risk falling on my arse in front of other people."
Brendon barks out another laugh at that, and Louis can't help himself, he smles in response.
"So what actually brings you here then?" Brendon says and it's almost a line.
Looking to where Zayn's still snapping shots, framing them against the afternoon light, Louis nods. "My mate takes photos a lot, and I'm the idiot who drives him around."
Brendon lights up at that. "Cool," he says and he nods as he says so. "I had my licence, back in the states, but I kind of haven't tried here yet?"
He drops down from where he's been sat on the metal, and leans on the fence instead, shoving his hands into his pockets.
"At least you sort of know how," Louis offers. "Zayn doesn't even try to learn, not since I've already got a car."
"Yeah, no, I get that," Brendon says. "I dunno."
He trails off, like he wants to say more and doesn't quite know how. Louis' saved from the silence stretching on any longer, Zayn walking up to them, camera in hand.
"Hey Lou, you ready?"
Louis nods, jumps off the bars too and bends down to pick up his rucksack and fetch his car keys.
"Hey Bren," Louis hears Zayn say and then he's got his bag on properly, keys in hand. "You know Louis then?"
"We chatted," Louis cuts in. "C'mon, don't wanna be any later. Brendon." He nods at the guy.
Zayn looks a little affronted at their quick goodbye, but Louis' already given Brendon a flash of a smile and starts to walk towards the small car, parked along the kerbside.
"Bye Brendon," Zayn calls out, trailing after Louis.
When they slip into the car, Louis turning the key in the ignition, Zayn flips on the radio, but turns it down low. "What was that about then?" he asks, and Louis' surprised he lasted that long.
"What was what about?" Louis says as he indicates right. He knows that if he took his eyes away from the road, Zayn would be boring a hole into his head with his gaze right now. Luckily, Louis is a safe driver.
"Bden's a nice guy," Zayn says, and Louis pulls a face at the nickname.
"He's weird," Louis replies.
"You're weird," counters Zayn and Louis can't refute that, but-
"You like it, though," he says and Zayn's lack of response is enough. "He just started talking to me. He's too friendly. And loud."
"He just rubbed you the wrong way, is what I think."
"And thank you for thinking that, but can we move on?" Louis asks.
Zayn sighs, and settles back a bit more into his seat. "He's a nice guy, Lou. New here, doesn't have many friends. Excuse me for wanting him to have a good impression of the area."
Louis taps his fingers on the steering wheel, waits for the light to turn green before turning right again, onto the main street.
"He's from the states, yeah? Las Vegas or something, just came in last month. Skates pretty damn well, too," Zayn says.
"I didn't ask how you know him."
"Ah," he replies, "but you were wondering it. Just. Be nice, next time?"
Louis nods tightly and turns the music up. Zayn doesn't react, except to pull his camera closer in his lap, and stare out the window as the streets roll by.
The next time Louis goes to pick Zayn up, he brings his earphones, slides them in as soon as he arrives, and sits down on the grass under the shade of the solitary tree. He hopes the combination of sunglasses, earphones and a textbook from one of his courses will deter any sort of social interaction.
Of course, that's why not ten minutes after sitting himself down, a shadow casts itself over his book. Louis' almost doesn't want to look up, already can guess who's standing there, but it turns out he doesn't need to. Brendon slides himself down, resting his back against the tree, and sits next to Louis.
"Hey," he says and Louis pretends not to have heard him.
A few seconds pass and Louis hopes that maybe Brendon can take a hint but then a hand passes in front of the page and Louis has to look up, or else he'll look like a complete jerk.
"Brendon," Louis says, not even bothering to remove either of the earbuds.
Now that he can see Brendon's face, it's clear that he's been skateboarding today, sweat starting to bead at his hairline in a way that Louis is surprised he's noticed.
"You're here again," Brendon says, stating the obvious. Louis just nods sharply and continues reading.
Or, pretending to read, but it's not like anyone can tell the difference.
Brendon, thank God, is actually silent for a while, and out of the corner of his eye, Louis can see him watching the other skaters.
"So," Brendon says, and Louis is getting frustrated because, honestly, how hard can it be to ignore one guy.
"I'm reading," Louis says sharply, and Brendon almost looks cut at that. His bottom lip pops out a little like he's going to pout and Louis definitely did not need to notice how plump they look. He sighs instead. "For my course, while I wait for Zayn."
Brendon latches on to the sentence like the lifeline that it is. "Cool. What's it that you're studying?"
"Drama," Louis says, and he puffs his chest out a little at that, proud.
"Awesome," and Brendon actually sounds enthused about that. "I was in college - I mean, uni, right? Back in Vegas. But um, I kind of pulled out and found myself here."
He's pulled his knees up to his chest, Brendon has, and the movement makes Louis notice the rips in Brendon's tight jeans. Whether they're their by design or mistake, Louis' not sure, but his eyes are drawn to the peeks of skin in any case.
And maybe it's just that it's something new amongst his classes and family and friends but Louis actually finds himself curious, wants to ask after Brendon's move. Music is still blasting in his ears though, and he fumbles, taking out the left earphone.
"What's that you're listening to?" Brendon asks.
"Hm?" Louis asks, and Brendon nods at the iPod.
"You are listening to something, right?"
Louis pretends to be affronted at that, but he probably overdoes it, if Brendon's small smile is any indication. "Of course I am. It's-"
And the truth is that Louis doesn't know - it's one of those obscure bands that Harry's added to his music collection at some point or another, a band with no name, or five names, and barely an EP to their name.
"...interesting," Louis decides on saying.
"Interesting is always good," Brendon replies. He's pulling at the threads in his jeans and Louis kind of wants to put his hand there, stop him from ripping it into a larger hole. He doesn't.
Brendon's brought his board over too, Louis notes. It's old, scuffed and scratched more than Zayn would ever allow his boards to become, but Zayn's never been low maintenance in any area of his life. That much is obvious, especially in the way that he's working now, camera directed at the numerous subjects in the skatepark and its surrounding areas.
"You any good?" Louis finds himself saying, indicating towards the skateboard.
"I'm okay," says Brendon with a smile. "You any good at acting?"
"You tell me," Louis says and he quirks an eyebrow.
"Never seen you in action, have I," Brendon replies. "But I'm sure you're top notch."
Louis has to smile at that, can't not when someone is being nice. "Thanks?" he says, question mark clear in his voice.
"You're welcome." Brendon speaks with a startling amount of sincerity, the kind that Louis' not used to after years out in the drama scene, much more competitive and bitter than he'd ever have imagined.
He doesn't know what to say in reply, so he doesn't, just flips open his phone and starts thumbing through the text messages, rereading over old conversations. It's a bit crap, Louis'll admit, but it works well enough for the purposes that he uses it for. Plus, he's thrown it on the ground one too many drunken times and it still works, so Louis counts that as a plus.
Brendon still hasn't moved from where he's sat, but now Louis can actually feel his gaze on him.
They sit like that, Louis with his phone and Brendon with his - whatever it is he's doing, Louis ignores it. After a while, Louis even starts to get comfortable, despite the weird half-song that he's getting because of the current track's panned vocals.
Eventually, Zayn comes over again, camera packed away into its little bag for once, rather than slung around his neck. Zayn nods at Brendon, who smiles back and he kicks at Louis' leg.
Louis would pretend it hurts but Zayn's got the kicking force of maybe a young duckling so there's no point even joking around about it. He closes his book, pauses his music and wraps the earphones around his iPod. Picking up his bag, Louis shoves it all in, and settles his bag on his shoulders.
It's quiet, and he's not sure if it's the situation or just the way that he and Zayn can interact now. In any case, Zayn makes conversation for the both of them, talks to Brendon as Louis packs up, and when he's sure he's got everything, Louis just taps Zayn on the shoulder, indicates that they should go.
"It was nice talking to you again, Louis," Brendon says, a hopeful smile on his face.
And maybe it's a bit short but he's got a flat to go home to, X Factor to watch or something or other. He's not sure. Zayn says a warmer goodbye before Louis all but drags them into the car, away from the tree and Brendon still sat under it.
"You know you play hot and cold too much," Zayn says. Louis would pay Zayn more attention but he's decided to bring it up during a round of FIFA and they all know better than to try and talk to Louis when he's in the zone.
"Like, I know you're not a complete saint, or whatever, but you don't have to act a douche to all my friends."
Louis' eyes break from the screen long enough to glare at Zayn, before focusing back on the game.
"He's your friend now?"
Harry takes advantage of Louis' distraction to steal the ball off of him, skirting around Louis' other players and making a pass down a quarter of the field. Sometimes there are disadvantages to sharing a flat with someone who actually plays football on the regular.
"'Course he is," says Zayn as he leans on Louis' shoulder. Louis fumbles a steal, and Harry zips past some of Louis' defenders to a clear shot into the goal.
"You fucker," Louis swears, and at this point, he's not sure if he's talking about the game or Brendon.
"Nope, pretty sure that'd be you," Zayn says. "He's a decent guy. We all get along with him."
"He's in Liam's music class," Harry adds. "And Liam likes him."
"Liam likes everyone," Louis protests with a roll of his eyes. "And I never said we didn't get along."
He tosses the controller down, not bothered to put it back in its charging station. For someone with a rather shitty mobile phone, Louis has spent an awful lot on gaming consoles and the like, but he gets much more use out of these things.
"He thinks you don't," Zayn says and he picks up the controller, a challenge to Harry in his eyes. "Asked after you yesterday and was a bit sad you weren't giving me a lift."
"More like you were a bit sad," Louis says, poking his tongue out at Zayn.
"Shut up," his friend replies. He shoves Louis over on the couch, then its the three of them squished together, elbows everywhere. "I just think you'd like him, if you gave him the chance."
"I don't mind him," Louis says, and apparently that's enough for Zayn, at least for the moment, because he lets Louis be.
He also somehow manages to kick Harry's arse at the next game and Harry puts it down to luck. Whatever it is, it has Zayn in a good mood for the rest of the night, and when Louis goes to drop him off at his flat, Zayn actually bothers to say thank you, brings Louis into a one-armed hug.
"You're free Saturday, right?" Zayn asks as he pulls back and Louis mentally flicks through his schedule, a mishmash of classes and acting workshops and the occasional movie date, thirdwheeling with Liam and Harry. There's nothing pressing coming to mind so Louis nods.
"Need another lift then? More photography?" he asks and Zayn smiles.
"Last time, I promise. Just gotta get a couple more shots. And I'm thinking of taking my board out too, 's been a while."
Louis nods, like he understands anything about Zayn's draw to skateboarding. "Do you need me to drop you off or?"
"Nah, just meet me there," Zayn says and Louis smiles. "I'll text you, yeah? So maybe remember to charge that brick sometime soon."
Scoffing, Louis pulls a face. "I'll have you know that this brick actually has longer battery life than your flimsy whatever, so shove it."
"Yeah, yeah," Zayn replies and he's got this most fond look on his face. "See you, Lou."
"Bye Zayn," Louis says and he goes to his car. As much as he complains, Louis actually likes picking Zayn up, the time they spend together during the drives, and getting to watch anyone in their element is cool. Louis just hopes that his day won't be disturbed by certain people who still unnerve him.
Zayn possibly is still the worst of all his friends, Louis thinks, and he knows Niall, who'll willingly steal all your food and manage to look cute while doing so. Zayn is the worst because he failed to mention that Saturday meant 10PM on a Saturday night, when Louis' already wrapped up in his sweatpants and comfy jumpers. And while Louis may be a brands snob, he'll be damned if he has to change out of this get up. Instead, he steals one of Harry's many beanies, shoves it over the mess that is his hair this late at night, and snatches his keys off the kitchen counter.
"I'm gonna pick up Zayn now," he calls out to the boys and they all grunt something in return. Somehow, Harry having a sore tummy has devolved into an action movie night, but Louis doesn't mind, since Liam will always bring some popcorn with him and Niall undoubtedly brings some beer, after insulting Louis' brew of choice. "Don't waste away without me."
Liam actually deigns to tear his eyes from the screen, waves goodbye, proving once more that, yeah Louis probably likes him best of all his friends, if only because of how nice he is to everyone.
Of course, because Louis fails to change out of his slouchy clothes or even fix his hair, when he gets to the skate park, it's full, some sort of competition or festival or God knows what. Louis tries to stick to the sidelines and pick out Zayn in the crowd.
Of course, he's easily spotted, snapback resting over some carefully quiffed hair, and a red FUCK YOU emblazoned on his shirt. He's about to kick off the rim of the bowl and Louis heart swoops for him as he makes the drop.
Louis could never actually do any of the shit that he sees when he waits for Zayn, wasn't kidding when he told Brendon that he doesn't want to fall on his arse.
Speaking of which, Louis finds himself picking out Brendon in the crowd, highlighted under the bright floodlights that surround the park. He's got jeans on, not as ripped up this time, but clearly old. They're low slung and Louis can't help but notice the way that the hem of Brendon's shirt doesn't quite reach his jeans either. It's distracting and Louis finds himself pretending that it doesn't pique his interest, the same way that Brendon's life story isn't intriguing.
It's so not-interesting that he barely notices Brendon hop onto his skateboard, kick off and push himself forward into the mostly empty space in front of him. He glides smoothly, looks effortless in the way that he moves and Louis can see how much Brendon likes this in the way he leans into each move.
And, because the universe likes to mess with Louis, he realises that Brendon's actually doing shit. Because of course he had to lie, had to be modest, and Louis' no expert but he's watched Zayn enough to know that Brendon is good. Brendon is fucking fantastic, and Louis finds himself cheering with the rest of the guys standing around the bowl as Brendon does a series of tricks, barely pausing for breath.
"He's good, isn't he," Zayn says, and Louis jumps about half a metre because he did not see Zayn coming.
"Fuck, Zayn, warn a guy, yeah?"
Zayn just laughs and slings an arm around Louis' shoulder. "Was watching you watch him for a good minute, you know."
"Hm," is all Louis says in response. Across the bowl, Brendon is done showing off, just doing little ollies as he skates around. Eventually, he looks up and catches Louis' eye, throws a hand up in a wave before Louis can look away.
"Are you going to say hi then?" Zayn asks and Louis suddenly realises he's just dawdling there, in sweats and a jumper, quite aware of the way that he must look standing next to Zayn.
Shaking himself out of his reverie, Louis looks at Zayn. "Actually, we're going home now. It's much too late."
It's almost as if Zayn knows him, with the look that he gets, but Louis just tries to pull them towards the car faster, ignoring Zayn's noises of protest. Last time Louis checked, Brendon was already skating his way over to the two of them.
"Hey, Brendon, what's up!" Zayn then calls out, and Louis knows he can't keep going now, not that Zayn's acknowledged Brendon's presence.
"Hey guys," Brendon nods. "Louis."
"Hello," Louis tries, and it's not that standoffish.
"You were good tonight, Zayn," Brendon offers and Louis knows that his friend is absolutely glowing under the praise. "Awesome on the half pipe before."
"Thanks mate, you too! Sick as," Zayn says. "How you did that kick flip just before-"
And that's when Louis starts to zone off again, too tired as well as being too-not-a-skateboarder to bother listening.
"Hey, no but it's cool that you turned up," he then hears Brendon saying, and Louis pays attention at that. "Wasn't sure how many people would come to my event but it's kind of cool. Dunno if it's just being the new kid but-"
"Your event?" Louis finds himself asking and Brendon turns to answer him with a beaming smile.
"Yeah, the first of a couple, actually. Used to organise them back home, and Zayn here actually suggested starting up some, just as a way to fill in my time while I'm not working."
Louis wants to glare at Zayn, knew that something was up when he took him out so late at night, but instead he finds himself talking to Brendon again.
"So more than just a little bit of skating, then," he says and as joking as he gets with someone this new.
"Haha, yeah, I guess," Brendon says, and he pushes his hand through his hair, the sweat making it stick back and stop falling in his face. "I guess you could say I'm semi-pro."
"Don't listen to him," Zayn interjects. "He's fucking wicked."
Brendon laughs at that. "Thanks," he says, and there's that modesty again. Louis almost finds it agitating.
"Well," Louis says, and it's clear that the conversation won't head to a topic that Louis knows soon. "As lovely as this is, and it was nice to see you, Brendon, I'm kind of itching to get home."
"Oh, yeah, of course," Brendon says and he smiles, sweetly. "Mustn't be too warm just in those pants."
And Louis actually does a quick check at that, worried that his underwear is showing, knows that the bright colours can be a bit much for people but also concerned because Brendon and underpants are in the same train of thought.
"Ah, no, I meant your trousers?" says Brendon with a slight laugh. "Um, sweatpants? Not sure what you call them over here..."
And he trails off, but Zayn is laughing a little, smiling at Brendon and Louis finds the corner of his mouth quirking up too.
"Anyway," Louis finds himself saying. "You were great, Brendon."
"Thanks," Brendon says, and Louis wonders if he'll ever actually doubt a word Brendon says.
They're about to actually properly leave, and Louis is thinking of a warm bath already, when Brendon calls out, fumbling in his wallet. "Hey, Louis- Zayn, actually, you too."
"Yeah?" Zayn says, obviously waiting for what Brendon has to say.
"I've um, I've got this show coming up," Brendon says and he passes them a card each, the name of a little café on it and a time and date for an acoustic show. "A bit different from what I do here but- I dunno, I was wondering if you wanted to go?"
"Yeah, sure," Zayn agrees immediately. Louis is still turning his card over, trying to see the catch, because Brendon doesn't seem like the type to play music much.
"Awesome," Brendon enthuses. "So I'll see you then?"
"Maybe," Louis says, and Brendon's smile drops a little at that, but not by much.
"Well, I hope you can make it," Brendon tries once more, and Zayn nods.
"We'll do our best, maybe bring some friends along."
"Sweet," says Brendon, and he bobs his head. "Well, I gotta head back home now too so."
"Goodbye," says Louis, and he pulls Zayn away, firmly this time.
The lights cast long, stark shadows across the street and Louis takes longer strides, wants to get into the car before the beginnings of an autumn chill can get to him any more. It's strange that he didn't notice it before Brendon said anything, but he can feel his skin breaking out in goosebumps now.
"You alright?" Zayn asks and Louis nods, tightly.
"Just a bit cold," he says, and switches on the car. He checks his mirrors, flicks on the indicator before pulling out. The radio is on, down low, and Louis keeps his eyes glued on the dark roads ahead of him.
"So you're gonna go, right?"
"Hm?" Louis asks, and he turns left, passes by the school that both he and Zayn attended in sixth form. "To that thing?"
"It's a gig, I think. He does a bit of singing, from what I've heard."
"An all-rounder then," Louis says, not unkindly. "The guy gets more interesting every day."
"Yeah, suppose he does."
And then, because Louis can't help himself, he has to ask. "So what was tonight then?"
Zayn's avoiding Louis' eyes, just nods at the traffic lights, where it's now green. "Brendon was talking about how he used to do all this stuff back home, right?" Zayn says. "Like, with his mates, he'd organise shows and get people to come along, just to build up momentum in their little community."
Louis laughs. "What, skateboarders of the Las Vegas Strip?"
"Nah," Zayn replies. "Lived out in the actual suburbs, or something. Point is, he's been doing this for what, almost a decade now, and he's good. So I said he should try and organise one here, and he called up the council and they said yes."
Louis taps on the steering wheel, The Darkness playing on the late night station. He mulls over what Zayn says, wonders about a young Brendon in the heart of the desert, probably scuffing his new sneakers for a chance to do something, anything different in his town. Louis knows the feeling - it's why he moved out of home as soon as he could.
When he pulls up to Zayn's though, something of what Zayn's said clicks into place. "Wait, a decade?"
Zayn's already undone his seatbelt, eager to get inside and to his bed. "Yeah, or close to it."
"What is he, some sort of child prodigy?" Louis says, and it's not really a question but Zayn answers anyway.
"Nah, he did actually start in middle school. The guy's 25 now, Lou. Not exactly a spritely young thing like Harry or Niall."
"He's older than me?" and Louis' genuinely shocked at that.
"Yeah, Louis, it's a thing that happens. You know, you might actually know this if you talked to him for more than five minutes."
"A conversation takes two people, Zayn," Louis retorts.
"But Brendon at least tries," Zayn counters and he goes to open his door. "What do you say Louis, it's just a night out."
Zayn's letting the cold air in, Louis thinks, and that's why he gives in easily. Not because he actually wants to see what a performance by Brendon will be like. "Fine."
"Have a good night Lou," Zayn says as he closes the door, and Louis you too gets lost in the sound. It's cold and dark and late, but somehow Louis can still clearly read the card on his dashboard, a time on Tuesday night, cheap coffee and music. It could be worse.
It is. Zayn, somehow, has forgotten that he needs to process his negatives. Or at least, that's what he texts Louis as he waits at the counter. The barista seems nice enough, passes Louis his hot cocoa with a toothy smile that would seem suspect, if he didn't have his eyes glued to who Louis assumes is his boyfriend the rest of the time. "George", his name tag says, and Louis nods a thanks to the guy before seeking out a corner to hide in.
He's never been in this café before - not because he doesn't want to, but because Harry's somewhat ironic love for chain store coffee has steered him away from independent joints like this. There are an awful lot of sofas, Louis notes, and he's still not sure if it's a good thing Liam's caught Harry's bug, and that the two of them are wrapped up together at home. On the one hand, if he'd not been sick, Louis wouldn't look like a total loner. On the other, Liam and Harry would probably have been obnoxiously in love. At least at home, Louis can demand they shut Harry's bedroom door.
Niall is at work, or something, Louis not quite sure, but the point is that he's alone enough for Brendon to notice him as soon as he emerges from the employee room.
"Louis!" Brendon shouts. "You came!"
He sounds entirely too happy about it and somehow, that's what makes Louis smile. The ridiculousness of it, not the fact that Brendon's glad he's here.
"Yeah, figured I'd show some support."
Brendon smiles even wider at that, if possible. "Awesome! Well, I've gotta set up right now actually, but we can totally talk afterwards?"
It's not quite what Louis intended, but he can't bring himself to say no. Brendon bounds off back stage, undoubtedly to do whatever it is that musicians do. Louis will admit, he knows slightly more about music than he does skateboarding, but it's still not much.
It's enough, though, that when Brendon opens his mouth, after a short intro, and sings, it's enough to know that Brendon is good.
Louis wonders if there's anything this guy can't do. (A small part of him says, calm down, and Louis thinks about how maybe, that's a characteristic he can admire, being enthusiastic. Maybe.) He plays guitar well, Louis notes, not just simple strumming, and something about his posture when he switches to the tiny keyboard says that he knows music. Louis is utterly fascinated by this new side of Brendon.
"This next one's a cover," he says, taking a swig of water from the bottle next to him. "You might know it, it's by a band called Kansas, because I play a lot of video games. It would probably sound better with a whole band, but I left mine back in Vegas," and that gets a laugh out of the small crowd. "Anyway, this is Carry On My Wayward Son."
And Louis might not recognise it from any game, but he's walked in on Harry marathoning enough Supernatural to recognise the tune. Brendon absolutely kills it, voice going rough in all the right bits and if Louis wasn't itching to talk to Brendon before his set, he definitely wants to pick his brain now.
He doesn't let it get the better of him though, just settles into his seat and sips the hot chocolate. It's good, a salted caramel variation that he'd not been sure on but the cashier had recommended, and it maybe makes Louis feel at odds to the atmosphere, the way that Brendon is throwing himself into the song completely. By the time he finishes his drink, Brendon is finished his set, and Louis finds himself clapping, smiling at Brendon who walks amongst cheers for an encore. He just nods at the guys there, (some of whom Louis recognises from the skatepark) and steps off stage.
Louis stands up, thinks that maybe he should make his way out now that he's seen Brendon, but Brendon has other ideas, making a beeline for the couch. Louis sits back down again and watches as Brendon plonks himself down next to Louis, slings an arm around the back of the furniture.
"So what'd you think?" Brendon asks after he's caught his breath, and Louis can't help but be honest.
"That was bloody brilliant, mate," he says and the compliment clearly takes Brendon by surprise. Louis' starting to think that maybe Zayn was right about how he'd been treating Brendon but he pushes it to the back of his mind. "Killed that last song, that was sick."
"Yeah, you think?" Brendon asks, and he waves to the cashier to get him a drink. "I only added it to the set tonight, thought I could get a different reaction out of the crowd."
Louis'll give him that, it was much different to some of the slower ballads that Brendon had chosen to do.
"So you write your own music then?" he asks.
"Sort of," Brendon says. The cashier walks over with a sixpack of beer, clearly not off the menu, but for Brendon nonetheless. He offers one to Louis too and he takes it because he'd be stupid to refuse a free drink. "Thanks Josh," and the guy walks off without much of a smile. "He's always like that," Brendon continues.
"Your songs?" Louis presses, and he doesn't know why he cares so much except that maybe Brendon actually is fascinating.
"Yeah, well. A bunch of them are mine, my own. Like, the second one, Always? Wrote that when I first fell in love this side of the pond."
He takes a drink from his bottle and Louis does too. It's then that he realises he'll be here for a little while, since he's settled in with a drink.
"But some I wrote with my band, the one that I mentioned. They're still in Vegas, but they're totally cool with me singing the songs."
Louis nods, like he can understand how someone would give up something so personal (even though he doesn't, can barely hand off a monologue to a fellow cast mate). "Sounds like some good friends," Louis says, for lack of anything better.
"Yeah," replies Brendon. "They really were. Supported the move and everything."
And Louis can spot an opening when he sees one, so he takes the chance to ask. "'S there any reason you did move?"
Brendon raises an eyebrow at that, and Louis thinks that maybe British people are too forward. He can't take it back, though, and won't apologise.
"Family," is Brendon's response, a sizeable pause before it. He stops, as if challenging Louis to pursue further.
"It's cool, I get it," Louis says, because he does. He switches the topic then, moves it to something safer. It's possible that he brought up video games, which then derails into movies and musicals and before Louis knows it, it's half ten, and he's still sat with Brendon, discussing their favourite vocal parts in Grease.
"It's gotta be Summer Nights, though," Louis argues. "That's a classic. Anyone can recognise the beginning riff."
"And yet, it still holds nothing to You're The One That I Want," Brendon says. And possibly sticks out his tongue.
"Says who?" Louis asks and he's eager to keep this going.
"Um, everyone," Brendon replies and he calls out to the café's employees, the only other people left in the place. "George, Josh, Summer Nights or You're The One That I Want?"
"Both," they say in unison, and Louis and Brendon groan.
"That solves nothing," complains Brendon, and Louis laughs.
"Then just admit that Summer Nights is better."
"In your dreams," Brendon says, and of course, that's when Louis has to yawn.
"Crap, it's late, isn't it?"
Louis has to restrain himself from saying thank you Captain Obvious, and nods. "Should probably be heading home."
"Same," Brendon says, but he sounds reluctant. Or at least, Louis hopes he's not projecting.
As much as he'd not admit it, the night's been fun, and Louis' not sure when the last time he laughed so much with someone who wasn't his four best friends. "This was nice, though," he says and Brendon's eyes light up, even as his face is too tired to smile.
"It was," Brendon says.
"So are-" Louis starts.
"Did you-" continues Brendon of the top of them, and they both stop, laugh a little at themselves.
"You first," Louis offers and Brendon takes it.
"I, uh. I was like, wondering if you wanted to see me play again, then maybe? Come earlier, and like. We can hang out."
Louis stands up, hyperaware of the way that George the barista is watching them from behind his coffee machine. "Yeah, hang out."
He tries not to let any emotion seep through into his voice, but clearly some does because Brendon pauses a little. "Or, you know, we can skip the pretences and I can ask you on a date."
Louis has to smile at that, can't not, eyes crinkling because that's what he likes. He likes that maybe Brendon is older and acts younger, likes the way that he can throw himself so recklessly and fully into anything, even asking Louis out. Oh, and he's not sore on the eyes either.
"Sounds good to me," Louis says and he passes his phone over to Brendon. "Give me your number and we'll sort something out, yeah?"
"Awesome," Brendon says as he keys in his number. "I'm gonna call myself, just so I have your number, is that cool?"
Louis nods and watches as Brendon stands up, pulls his phone out of the (tight) back pocket of his jeans and smiles. "Got it now."
"So," Louis says, and he's glad that he doesn't have to look up at Brendon now, their heights almost even. "You'll call me?"
"I'll call," Brendon confirms. "And you'll come watch again."
"Yeah, I'll see what I can do."
And what with the way Brendon reacts to that, as he walks Louis to his car, Louis thinks that maybe this will work out better than he'd ever imagined.