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in the grip of a hurricane

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It’s a Wednesday night, and the prettiest boy Louis has ever seen just walked into the pub.

“Holy shit, Zayn,” he breathes, nudging his best friend sitting in front of him at the bar. Zayn’s been waxing rhetoric about a boy in his Lit class, someone called Liam, and Louis is only half-listening because this has been going on for weeks and if it were him, he would’ve just fucked the guy and gotten it out of his system.

“What?” Zayn stops in the middle of a sentence about Liam’s toned arms to look around, and his eyes widen slightly. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” Louis says, “Sometimes I love my job.”

The boy’s by himself, barely looks old enough to even be inside a pub, and his eyes are tired as he perches at a stool at the bar.

“Could I get a whiskey? Neat,” he asks, and who is this kid, walking in and asking for a fifty year old businessman’s drink? (Granted, Louis prefers ridiculous cocktails, but that’s mostly because they’re fun to make and always get him pleasantly tipsy.)

Zayn’s watching the exchange, and he raises his eyebrows meaningfully as he pushes himself up to leave. “Got an early class tomorrow,” he says, “You got your keys? I’ll try not to wake you up.”

Louis knows that he’ll probably need to wake up anyway, finish his readings on Boal before heading to class, but he nods, says, “Night,” as Zayn leaves. He likes living with Zayn. Supposes he’s used to it, really, since they grew up living out of each other’s pockets, trading nights at each other’s places. This is just a more permanent arrangement.

The rest of the night’s fairly busy, because it’s the start of term and people aren’t inundated yet, still have time to take a night off in the middle of the week. Most of them are second-year students, and Louis envies them, wishes he could go back to a time when he could get blackout drunk every other night and roll out of bed, head to class with his head still swimming.

He’s served so many people that he’s lost track of the drinks he’s sent to the boy at the end of the bar, but he can see his eyes becoming more and more unfocused and his movements clumsier. He’s the last person in there, most people filing out around midnight, and Louis almost feels bad to make him leave.

“Sorry, mate, but ‘m closing up now, so…” he trails off, and the boy looks up at him, startled.

“Oh. Yeah, um, sorry,” he replies, standing up and stumbling slightly, running a hand through the halo of disheveled curls on his head.

Louis feels a pang of sympathy for him, this lost-looking boy with startlingly green eyes, and he opens the door from behind the bar, comes out into the main area of the pub so he can guide the boy to the door, keeping a hand on his waist to anchor him.

“Should be a taxi some time soon,” Louis says when they’re outside, the boy smiling at him gratefully.

“Thanks,” he says, sounding abashed, “You can – I’ll be fine.”

“S’alright. I’m just around the corner anyway, won’t take me much longer to wait with you.”

It’s strange, though. Because usually Louis wouldn’t bother with this, would kick the stragglers out without even a second thought. And here he is, pouring this boy he’s never met before into a cab, keeping a steady grip on him so he doesn’t fall.

He’s just about to close the door, when he realizes he doesn’t know the boy’s name, and says, “Louis. M’name’s Louis.”

“Harry,” he replies, offering a small smile, “Thanks again.”

Then he’s gone, the door of the cab closing as it drives away, and Louis is left to go back inside to the empty pub, wipe down the bar, and try not to fall asleep before he gets back to his flat.

+

Louis wakes up at six-thirty a.m. the next day, and tries very hard to resist the urge to throw his alarm clock at the wall. (It doesn’t work, and he hears something break. He sighs. He quite liked that alarm clock, and it’s the third one he’s broken in a month.)

Zayn isn’t awake yet, won’t be until he smells his double-shot espresso – made by Louis, as usual – wafting through the apartment, will come out of his room with a frown and a grunt good morning. Zayn’s useless in the mornings, leaves Louis to do everything. Like put the toast in the toaster, which is clearly a very dangerous and difficult endeavor. As is buttering the toast, and putting jam on it. Louis should be a chef, really.

Louis has just settled in with his breakfast and a cup of tea when Zayn walks out, picks up his coffee, and walks straight back into his room.

“You’re welcome!” He calls out, laughing under his breath.

It’s only after Zayn leaves for his class that Louis gets into his work, flipping through some of his notes on post-colonialism in literature and trying not to hit his head against the desk. It’s not that he doesn’t like learning – he loves it, really – but when it comes to actually applying himself, he’d much rather pretend he has nothing to do and get plastered instead.

He used to be able to do that, he remembers, his first few years of uni where nothing seemed to matter, where he was the talk of the campus, legendary for his parties and being up for anything. Louis remembers not caring about much other than what he was going to drink that night and whether he was likely to get laid (the answer was always yes).

And then his mother had called him up at the end of last semester, barely fighting back tears, and told him that Mark was leaving her.

Just like that, he’d been snapped out of the haze he was in. The most important thing in the world to him was his family, and he had to protect them, look after all of his girls. So he got a job, stopped partying (to a degree – he was only human, and it was university), and became proper responsible. Now, instead of getting home at six-thirty, he wakes up then to do his readings that he doesn’t have time for when he’s working, and sends his extra cash back home instead of spending it on whatever ridiculous thing he feels like that week.

If this is being an adult, he thinks, it’s not so bad.

+

It’s Friday, the pub is full, and the boy with the ridiculous green eyes – Harry, Louis corrects himself mentally – is back. He’s with a friend this time, a blonde with an Irish accent who orders pints and pays for Harry, but any suspicions Louis would usually have about the two of them are dispelled when he realizes the blonde is a lot more interested in eyeing up the leggy brunette across the room.

Harry’s not any more vocal than he was the other day, despite not being alone, and Louis can see his friend try to coax him out of his shell, cracking jokes that Harry will smile sort of sadly at. He feels a strange sort of need to go over to him, to try and make him smile properly, light up the dullness in his eyes. But the other bartender’s on tonight, a lovely girl named Eleanor, and she’s over that side, serving the customers there, and Louis is stuck where he is.

He gets his chance, though, at the end of the night, when the pub clears out, Harry’s friend disappearing with the girl he’d been watching, and Louis’ eyes are drooping with exhaustion. Harry’s still sitting there, messing around on his phone with flushed cheeks and pupils blown, and Louis wonders exactly how drunk he is.

His question’s answered when he gently says, “Hey, Harry. Sorry, but –“

Harry looks up, eyes darting around wildly as if he hasn’t noticed he’s the only one left. “You’re closing?” He asks.

“Yeah. Hey, let me get you into a taxi.”

Harry contemplates, seems to decide against arguing and just nods silently. When Louis slides out from behind the bar, he hops off the stool and leans into Louis and shivers slightly, almost as if he’s craving the warmth even though it’s not that cold for November.

Harry’s all loose-limbed and lanky, but he fits against Louis perfectly, notches of his ribs built for Louis’ fingers gripping him surely. Louis finds himself wondering what the fuck he’s doing as they come outside into the late autumn air, wonders why this boy is so silent and sad.

“D’you go to uni ‘round here?” He asks.

“Yeah,” Harry says, “Just a couple blocks away.”

Oh. “Me too,” Louis says, “I’m a drama student, third-year.”

 

He has absolutely no idea why he’s offering pieces of himself up like this to someone he doesn’t know, but he knows he wants to be let in too, wants to take the pieces of Harry that he’s given and figure him out. Louis can’t remember the last time he wanted to know someone so badly, cared enough to try.

“Law and sociology, second year,” Harry replies, just as a taxi pulls up. He steps away from where he’s leaning against the wall, almost stumbles before Louis catches him, guides him into the car.

“See you around, Harry.”

“Bye, Louis.”

+

Zayn comes home late from class one day, sprawling across the couch and laying his head on Louis’ lap.

“Louis. Loooouis,” he smiles up at him.

Louis sighs. He knows that look, and it usually ends up with him being kicked out of the flat while Zayn brings someone home and Louis is left to contemplate his sad, lonely life.

“What do you want, Zayn?”

Zayn frowns. “Can’t someone come have a cuddle with his best friend without wanting anything? God, Lou.”

“Well, yes, they can, but you’ve got your I’m-trying-to-get-laid look on your face, so.”

Zayn’s eyes light up, and he says, “I asked Liam from my lit class out the other day, and we went for coffee, and we’re going for dinner tonight.” He’s adorably excited about it, Louis thinks. He doesn’t think he’s seen Zayn this interested in someone since his ex, Perrie, and they’d lasted for almost two years.

It’s because of that he says, “I’ll go round Aiden’s after work, or something. Maybe see what El’s up to.”

“You’re a saint, Tommo,” Zayn says, and kisses him full on the mouth, almost reflexively. Louis likes kissing people, figures it’s just a nice way to say hello and goodbye. He kind of wishes there wasn’t so much attached to it.

“Better not do that near Liam,” He says dryly, nudging Zayn off his lap. “C’mon, get off, I need to go get ready for work. Some of us earn our keep around here.”

“You love me, really,” Zayn says as he stands up, and Louis does.

“If I come home tomorrow and Liam’s still here, can I make fun of you for the rest of your life?” Louis asks with a grin, because really, that should be fair considering he’s getting kicked out of his bloody flat so Zayn can have sex. Maybe he should try pulling tonight, head out after work with El and her friends.

“No, and you won’t be a dick to him either,” Zayn’s eyes turn serious, “I mean it, Lou. Not this one.”

Louis softens at that, pressing a kiss to the top of Zayn’s head. “Alright, love.” He can’t really be too awful, not with Zayn looking at him with those stupidly pretty eyes.

+

It’s surprisingly quiet at work, for a Thursday night, and Louis and Eleanor actually have time to breathe in between serving customers.

“Okay, so what’s her story?” Louis asks, pointing to a girl with bubblegum pink hair, checking her phone as she sips on a martini.

“Waiting for a date,” Eleanor says, “Probably a second or third-year, majoring in something more interesting than poli-sci.”

“Thought you liked your major?” Louis asks, frowning. He loves when Eleanor talks about politics, mostly because he can then use her knowledge in his own debates and sound more intelligent than he actually is.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love it. Just can’t help feeling like… like it’s not really me? Or like it’s someone else’s life, and I’m just living it. Dunno.”

And, oh. Louis gets that, feels like he’s been living someone else’s life for the last few months, someone older and more responsible and less ridiculous than he is.

“Maybe that’s just growing up,” he suggests.

“Well, I fully intend to go out after we close up and get trashed so that I can pretend that I’m not getting older,” she pouts. “Twenty is an awful age.”

“You’re practically a dinosaur, love,” he teases. “Mind if I come along?”

She looks taken aback. “Not going home to Zayn, then?”

“Nah, think he’s trying to pull. Might do the same,” he grins, and she shakes her head.

“You’re a monster, Tomlinson,” she laughs, snorting when he winks dirtily.

They’re just closing up, Eleanor wiping the bar down with her hair tied back messily in a bun, when the door opens.

“Sorry, mate, we’re –“ Louis begins, looking up, but cuts his sentence short when he sees it’s Harry, looking disheveled in a button-up shirt over a white top and jeans, pushing his hair out of his face. “Harry.”

Harry’s face is flushed, nose red from the cold air outside. Louis imagines him nuzzling into his shoulder, wrapping an arm around his broad body. “Shit, sorry, Louis, I’m just a bit –“

He breaks off, dropping onto a chair in front of Louis. Eleanor clears her throat, then, and Louis jolts. He’d kind of forgotten that she was standing just there, and he whispers, “a moment, El?”

“I’ll wait outside,” she says, disappearing into the back room to grab her coat and bag, “Don’t be too long, yeah?”

After she’s slipped outside and closed the door with a questioning look over her shoulder, Louis says, “What’s up, then?”

Harry frowns. “Don’t really want to talk about it, to be honest. Was kind of hoping you could just get me drunk.”

And that, Louis can do. Because he wants to know what it is that’s doing this to Harry, what’s eating him from the inside like this, but he can tell that if he pushes him he’ll shut himself off even more, won’t trust Louis. (Besides, getting people drunk is usually a pretty effective way of getting them to open up.)

“Alright, young Harold,” Louis says, hopping over the bar. Harry looks amused and slightly terrified at the same time.

“My name isn’t Harold,” he replies, “S’just Harry.”

“Bloody hell, you sound like Harry Potter now, boy wizard and all that,” Louis laughs, holding the door open for him, “’M just Harry.’”

“Does that make you Hagrid, then?” Harry asks, closing the door behind him and stepping aside so Louis can lock it. He spots Eleanor a couple of steps away, leaning against the wall and messing about on her phone, and smiles at her. “I’m Harry, sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier.”

Eleanor looks up, and smiles warmly. “Eleanor,” she offers, “Has Louis taken you in, then?”

Harry looks over to where Louis is fussing with the door, the key not turning properly. Louis thinks that this is probably their manager’s job, but he also hasn’t seen his manager in a few weeks. He doesn’t really care, honestly, as long as the paychecks keep coming.

“We’re bringing Harry along with us,” Louis says, finally clicking the door shut. “He needs to get properly plastered.”

“Okay,” Eleanor shrugs, and that’s probably what Louis likes the most about her, the casual friendliness that she exudes. “You’ll just have to deal with stopping off at mine first. Need to get changed, dump my work shit and everything.”

The walk to Eleanor’s is only about five minutes, and the streets are reasonably quiet for eleven o’clock in a university area. Louis asks Harry about his classes, and they make small talk until they arrive at an block of flats.

Neither of Eleanor’s two roommates are home – “awful girls went out partying without me,” she sniffs – so Louis and Harry slump onto the couch as if they’re in their own houses. “No, no, make yourself at home,” Eleanor teases, bustling from room to room, but she’s got a fond smile on her face, so Louis knows that she’s alright with it, really.

To her credit, Eleanor doesn’t take a ridiculous time to get ready, emerging from her room twenty or so minutes later, all dolled up.

“Let’s go get fucked,” she announces, pulling on her jacket.

“Woo,” Harry cheers, sort of half-heartedly.

+

True to their word, about an hour later, all three of them are impressively drunk. Eleanor’s getting chatted up by a very attractive boy with hipster glasses and stubble – “bloody artistic types” – Louis grumbles to Harry. And Harry and Louis?

Well.

There had been cocktails (which Louis insisted on drinking with a small umbrella because they were fun and Louis was a very fun person, thank you very much) and then there had been vodka and then there had been tequila.

And then Louis had dragged a reluctant Harry onto the dancefloor, into the moving throng of bodies, until they were pressed up against each other and breathlessly laughing.

“Is this okay?” Louis says, winding himself around Harry and standing on his tiptoes so he can murmur into his ear, loud enough to be heard over the music.

Harry doesn’t say anything, but he nods, his arms around Louis’ neck and stepping closer to him until their chests are flush and Louis can feel Harry breathing heavily, and he has to do it, has to close the distance between their lips.

Harry kisses him hungrily, like he’s been waiting for this his whole life, and Louis has to respond in kind, parting his lips and nipping down gently on Harry’s lower, reaching one of his hands up to tangle in Harry’s hair and the other to rest on the small of his back. Harry makes a needy sound into Louis’ mouth, rolling his hips towards him, and Louis shivers at the hot press of Harry’s hardening cock against him, and –

He’s breaking the kiss, stumbling back, because he can’t do this, can’t be just another random hook-up, because he’ll only hurt Harry more (he doesn’t want to admit he cares more about him than he lets on, doesn’t want him to know that Harry could break his heart and he might not even mind).

“I’m sorry,” he says wildly, “I can’t do this, not to you, I can’t –“

And then he turns, pushing his way out of the clusters of bodies and out of the club.

+

It’s noon, and Louis has just woken up to the lovely sounds of Zayn singing along to the Grease soundtrack extremely loudly. He resists the urge to punch him, mostly because that involves getting out of bed. Instead, he yells, “if you don’t shut the fuck up I might come out there and vomit on you.”

Zayn doesn’t turn the music down any lower, but he does come into Louis room and plonk down on his bed, looking extremely pleased with himself.

“You got laid last night, didn’t you?” Louis sighs. The flat had been silent when he’d stumbled back into it at around two a.m., forgetting that he wasn’t actually meant to be home, and he’d thanked the god he didn’t believe in before falling straight into bed.

Zayn just grins. “You don’t look too great, Lou. Y’alright?”

“Fuck off,” Louis groans, “I need something greasy. And. And coffee. And also maybe to throw up a little.”

“I made eggs?” Zayn offers, “D’you want breakfast in bed?”

“I love you,” Louis says.

After he’s gotten something in his stomach, he feels slightly better. He’s got this awful guilt tugging at the back of his mind, though, and he knows it’s to do with Harry.

“Zayn,” he says thoughtfully, “I think I have a problem.”

“The famously emotionally stunted Louis Tomlinson, talking about his feelings,” Zayn announces, sliding up the bed so he can throw his legs over Louis’. “Do tell.”

“Well, there’s this boy. The one that came into the pub a few weeks ago, with the hair and the face.”

“You might have to be a bit more specific than that, Lou.”

“Twat. Really pretty, curly hair, green eyes, dimples?”

“Right, yeah. Did you fuck him?”

Louis chokes. “No, god, Zayn, I would never –“ Zayn gives him a pointed look, and, well. “Okay, maybe I would. The point is, he keeps coming in and getting like, proper ‘I have to deposit him in a cab at the end of the night’ drunk. And then, last night, he comes in just as El and I are closing up, and comes along with us to go out, and, well.”

“Thought you said you didn’t fuck him?”

“No, but we kissed, and, I just – the whole thing is incredibly fucked up, because he has these really sad eyes and I want him to tell me why he keeps doing this to himself and then I either want to fuck him or wrap him up in a blanket and protect him from the world. I haven’t decided which.”

“Have you tried, y’know, talking to him, like a normal person?” Zayn asks pointedly.

Louis sighs. “I just don’t want to like, drive him away? Dunno, he doesn’t really seem to want to talk about it. I just don’t want to hurt him more.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Zayn says absently, fiddling with his phone. Louis figures he’s probably texting Liam, which is simultaneously adorable and irritating.

“So, when do I get to meet this lover of yours?” He changes the subject, waggling his eyebrows at Zayn suggestively, who elbows him in the ribs.

“Mmm,” Zayn thinks for a moment, then says, “Was gonna head over tomorrow afternoon to meet his flatmates. I’m sure it’d be alright if you came?”

“Sounds good,” Louis says, “Now fuck off, I have to try and get through my readings for Monday without passing out.”

“Love you too,” Zayn says as he leaves the room, flipping Louis off.

+

Harry’s back that night, much to Louis’ surprise, walking in and ordering a Jack and coke like nothing had happened between them.

“Um,” Louis says, before remembering that he’s at work and doesn’t exactly have time for a private mental breakdown. “Sure.”

Harry drains his glass in one go, only wincing slightly, but Louis shudders in sympathy for him. He just keeps ordering more, though, and by his third, Louis is watering down the drink, pouring hardly any whiskey in. (He refuses to think of this as him looking after Harry, or anything ridiculous like that. He’s just trying to make sure he doesn’t have to help Harry walk at the end of the night, because really.)

Still, he can’t help himself from keeping a watchful eye on Harry, even as he serves other customers. He’s just messing about on his phone, like usual, but even so, Louis worries.

Louis has turned around for about thirty seconds so he can pour a couple glasses of wine for a happy looking couple – honeymoon stage, he’d bet, still chatting animatedly and glancing shyly at each other with puppy eyes – and when he turns back, he can see a flash of curly hair disappear through the back door, the door slamming closed behind him.

Fuck.

He pulls his phone out, texts Eleanor: come down ASAP please emergency!!!! She might be kind of pissed that the bar isn’t like, on fire or something, but she only lives five minutes away and will probably get over it.

And then he follows out the back, making his way past the staffroom and into the back alley behind the pub. Harry’s slumped against a wall, his phone lying on the ground beside him. Louis can see the cracks formed on its screen from where he’s standing, just outside the warmth of the bar.

“Harry?” He asks tentatively. Harry looks up at him, eyes brimming with tears, and Louis thinks he can feel his heart break straight down the centre, ache for him, because he looks so young in that moment, so fragile.

“Shit,” he mumbles, “Sorry, Lou, I’m fine, I am, I promise.”

Louis walks over to Harry, sits down next to him and picks up his phone. “Dropped it,” Harry says, frowning. Louis can hardly see through the cracks, but Instagram’s open, and he can see a photo of two guys kissing, taken by someone called nicholasgrimshaw.

“Is that an ex?” he asks gently, wrapping his arm around Harry’s shoulders. Harry nods weakly.

“Yeah, we were a thing for a while last semester, and then he graduated and moved to London, right after summer,” he replies. “We were never serious, but…” He trails off.

“You were serious enough to get properly fucked over him for about a month or so,” Louis observes. He’s only ever been in a serious relationship once, with a guy called Greg, and it’d all ended pretty amicably. They just weren’t working, and they both knew it. He’s had his fair share of flings, though. Most of them ended with him failing to return calls and avoiding whoever it was as much as he could.

“I always cared about him a lot more than he did me,” Harry says, “We agreed that we’d keep it casual, but I wanted more. I just never told him, I guess. It’s not his fault, but, y’know.”

“You’re still upset?” Louis guesses, “Perfectly natural, I promise.”

“Can you take me home?” Harry asks, resting his head on Louis’ shoulder.

Louis should say no, knows he should. But he’s realizing that he’s not very good at seeing sense when it comes to Harry, so he stands up, offering Harry a hand so he can pull himself up.

Louis ducks back inside, and he can see Eleanor behind the bar, serving a tall girl with a fringe.

“Eleanor,” he says, walking up to the bar. It always feels odd when he’s on this side, used to being behind it.

“It’s alright, Lou,” she says, having spotted Harry standing awkwardly behind him, “I’ll take care of this and you take care of what you need to.”

“I have said this before and I will say it again: you are an absolute saint, El.” Louis kisses her on the cheek, flashing her a smile.

“You owe me, though, Tommo!” She calls as Louis turns to leave, taking hold of Harry’s arm to guide him through the mess of tables and people.

The cab only takes about five minutes and is more trouble than it’s worth, really, and if it was just Louis he wouldn’t bother with it, would walk instead. But then he remembers just how drunk Harry’s been when he’s come to the pub, and figures it’s fair enough.

Harry’s flat is quiet when he lets himself and Louis in, lights off.

“Niall and Li might be asleep or something,” he murmurs, but light is creeping out from underneath several of the doors, so he figures they’re just not in the mood for company tonight.

Harry tiredly leads them straight into his own room, and strips off so quickly that Louis is startled by it.

“Um,” he says. He seems to have this reaction to Harry an awful lot. “Are you –“

“Relax,” Harry laughs, grabbing a pair of sweatpants. “I don’t really like clothes, but I’ll maintain my dignity for your virgin eyes.”

“Thanks,” Louis says dryly, perching on the end of Harry’s bed.

And then Harry’s turning off the light, crawling into his bed and under the covers.

“Oh,” Louis says, “Well, I should –“

“No,” Harry reaches out and pulls Louis towards him, making a space for him. “It’s too cold in my bed by m’self. Used to have Nick to cuddle with, but he’s gone.”

Louis supposes he can’t really argue with that, so he kicks off his shoes and slips under the covers, curling up against Harry.

“You’re warm,” Harry mumbles into his skin, “Can I keep you?”

“You’re drunk,” Louis counters. He doesn’t say that he’d actually quite like Harry to keep him, to stay like this forever. His heart’s thrumming like a hummingbird and he feels like he’s getting a contact high, drunk off Harry.

“Want to kiss you,” Harry sighs, almost like he doesn’t realize he’s speaking out loud.

Louis smiles. “If you remember this in the morning, I just might let you.”

“Good,” Harry yawns, and then his eyes are fluttering closed, breath evening out. He looks even more vulnerable like this, incredibly sweet. Louis wants to kick this Nick bloke in the balls for being such an utter twat.

Instead, he sighs and tangles his legs through Harry’s, marvelling at the way their bodies fit together so perfectly. Their height difference lets him rest his head on Harry’s sternum, tuck the crevices of their bodies together. “Goodnight, Harry,” he murmurs.

But Harry’s already asleep.

+

Louis wakes to the gentle press of Harry brushing up against him as he climbs back into the bed.

“Sorry,” Harry whispers, frowning. Louis can smell the mint toothpaste on his breath.

“Hi,” he replies. “How’s the head?”

Harry shrugs. “S’alright. I don’t really get hangovers.”

“Fuck off,” Louis says, “You are the worst kind of person.”

Harry smiles, and then kisses him. It’s only a peck, really, just lips ghosting against one another, but Louis jolts into it anyway.

“You remembered,” he says, stunned.

“Well, I wasn’t really that drunk. Might have had something to do with a certain bartender watering down my drinks?” Harry replies pointedly, and Louis can’t help but grin sheepishly.

“Was worried about you,” he mumbles, quiet enough that Harry almost doesn’t catch it, but when he realizes what Louis’ said, he leans in to kiss him again, pulling back quickly.

“Ugh, morning breath,” he wrinkles his nose adorably. Louis frowns, because it’s hardly fair. Harry practically coerced him into staying here, and he got to brush his teeth before they kissed.

 

“C’mon, my flatmates are up. You can meet them.”

“D’you really think –“ Louis begins, but Harry’s sliding out of bed and tugging Louis up with him, and he figures it’s easier if he just doesn’t argue.

Harry’s flatmates are lounging on the sofa in the living room, TV on in the background. They look up when the two walk in, and Louis belatedly realizes he’s still wearing last night’s clothes. Fuck.

“Hi,” the blonde one says. Louis recognizes him from the pub, and he has a big smile and an Irish accent. Louis likes him instantly.

“Hello,” says a brunette with tousled waves, “You must be Louis.”

Louis looks askance at Harry, who just shakes his head a little and says, “Lou, this is Niall and Liam,” pointing to the blonde and brunette in turn.

“Wait. Liam?” Louis asks, “Surely not…Zayn’s Liam?”

“You know Zayn?” Liam asks, doe eyes wide, flushing slightly.

“Known him since we were about four,” Louis laughs, “Great to meet ya. I can’t wait to tease him about this forever. You’re proper adorable.”

“Thanks?” Liam says, sort of questioningly as the flush on his cheeks deepens.

Niall’s frowning. “Wait, does that mean I’m gonna be surrounded by couples from now on? Fuck that.”

Louis looks down to where Harry’s still holding his hand. He doesn’t really know what to say to that, doesn’t know what it means, but he does know the firm pressure of Harry’s hand against his is something he doesn’t want to let go anytime soon.

Louis insists on going home for breakfast, intending to say goodbye to Harry, but when Harry pouts at him he relents and invites him along.

“Just don’t want to impose, y’know? Plus you can meet Zayn,” Louis smiles.

Zayn’s reaction to Louis and Harry walking inside, hands laced together is a nonchalant “hey” as he keeps sipping coffee from his mug, flipping through his book of Neruda poetry.

“Neruda, huh?” Louis asks, leaning against their kitchen counter as he slips his jacket off and puts his keys on the table, “Gonna read some to Liam? He’s very nice, by the way. Blushed and all when I called him adorable.”

Zayn’s eyes go very wide. It’s almost comical. “You what?”

“Relax, loverboy. Turns out he’s Harry’s flatmate, him and some Irish bloke named Niall. Seems quite nice, really,” Louis shrugs, before remembering his manners. “Oh, right. Harry – Zayn. Zayn – Harry.”

“Did you get your shit together, then?” Zayn asks, his eyes flickering between them.

Louis just raises his eyebrows, and Zayn shuts up.

Harry and Louis mostly eat in silence, but it’s comfortable. Like they already know each other’s habits, the way the other takes their tea, what sections of the newspaper they like to read. When they’re done, Harry stands, presumably to leave, but something in Louis makes him frown and say, “Wait.”

Harry cocks his head, asks, “What is it?”

“C’mon, in my room,” Louis pushes his seat back, leaving their dirty plates on the table. He’ll deal with them later.

Once they’re in there, though, sitting side-by-side on Louis’ bed, he feels nervous all of a sudden, as if all his words have disappeared.

“Spit it out,” Harry says, kind of smirking.

“Alright,” Louis starts. “I just…I don’t want to hurt you? Like, you just came into my pub and nearly drank yourself to death for a month over some guy, and what if something happens with us?”

Harry laughs then, sudden in the quiet of the room. “God, Louis, you’re worried about hurting me before we’re even together? That’s…kind of adorable, actually.”

Louis just shrugs.

“Look, I’m not looking for anything like, proper serious right now, I promise,” Harry continues, “I don’t even really know what I want. I’m only nineteen, for chrissakes. I just know that being around you makes me feel better I’ve been for a really long time, and I don’t want to give that up.”

“Okay,” Louis says, surprising himself.

“Okay?”

“Okay,” he repeats, and then kisses Harry, his body melting into it. It’s nice, he thinks, feels natural already, not too much teeth or tongue.

When Harry pulls back, he says, “So, do I call you my boyfriend now?”

Louis thinks. It’s kind of early for that, but he’s not really interested in seeing anyone else right now, and Harry makes him happier than he’d really like to admit. Something about it still feels off, though. “I dunno,” he says, “Maybe not yet? Haven’t even taken you out properly.”

Harry smiles widely then, and gets a wicked glint in his eyes. “Well, even if you’re not my boyfriend, I still want to suck you off.”

Louis gulps. “Zayn’s right next door,” he warns, but Harry’s already pushing him back onto the bed.

“Well, we’ll just have to make sure we’re quiet,” Harry teases, smirking.

+

It’s later, when they’re lying in the afterglow of it, that Louis turns and kisses Harry on the forehead, on the nose, on the lips.

“Are you happy?” He asks, scratching his fingers against Harry’s scalp, marvelling at the intimacy of it.

“Well,” Harry begins, “I wasn’t? And I don’t know if I am yet, but I think I’m getting there.”

“I’m glad,” Louis smiles. Harry kisses him once more, and it’s happened enough that Louis has lost track of the mental tally running through his mind, replacing it with something that aches for their next kiss. He craves Harry now, but he thinks that’s okay with him. He thinks that lying here with Harry in his arms, feeling his warmth, is all he ever wants to do.

And yeah, Louis could definitely get used to this.