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When The Stars Come Out

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“Have I said thank you enough?” Gemma asked her lips still pressed against Louis’ cheeks.

“Gross, get off,” he shoved at her but smiled. “Stop throwing yourself at me, woman. How many times do I have to tell you I like cock?”

“My hero,” she batted long eyelashes him, but couldn’t hold back the laugh that sprung to her lips moments later.

She sobered quickly, though, laying a hand on his forearm. “Seriously, Lou. I’m really grateful.”

He shrugged it off, knowing he didn’t always react properly to true emotional moments. It was easier to make a joke, tease or embarrass the person into laughter. That he knew what to do with. But compliments, gratitude? He couldn’t trust himself around them.

“You realize I’m now picturing your family as monsters,” he said, nudging her to the passenger side of his car.

She slipped in, sliding sunglasses over her eyes. “They’re actually quite wonderful and you will love them. This is all about her.

“The evil cousin who isn’t really a cousin,” he confirmed, pulling into traffic.

“Horrid, horrid woman,” she said. “I would literally die before showing up at her wedding single. And my mother would kill me if I didn’t show up, so you see the position that puts me in.”

“Bribing your gay friend to pretend to be your boyfriend for the weekend,” he answered for her, smirking.

“Precisely,” she jabbed her finger into the space in front of her.

“This is real healthy, you know that Gem.”

“Shut it,” she turned on him, poking him in the ribs. He swatted her away. “You’re getting a beautiful weekend at an English manor and--more importantly--an open bar out of it.”

He sighed in pleasure. “An open bar for longer than that, babes.”

“Right, right,” she waved that away, propping her now-bare feet on the dash. “Drinks on me for two weeks.”

“Hey!”

She wrinkled her nose. “Fine, a month.”

“There we go,” he resisted the urge to reach out a mum-hand when he had to stop short at a light. “Are you sure you don’t want to tell your family about our little...arrangement? It seems like it would be much easier if they are actually as wonderful as you say.”

“Don’t go soft on me now, Tomlinson.” Shifting to glare at him over the upper rims of her sunglasses.

“Not something I really have to worry about, babes,” he wiggled his eyebrows back at her.

She poked him again, finding that particularly sensitive spot between his ribs. “I’m serious. My mum would be fine, but my brother’s a shit actor. And if that horrid woman senses weakness, she’ll pounce. Absolutely pounce.”

“Harry,” Louis murmured. “And Anne’s your mum.”

“Gold star for Lou.”

“Watch the sass, Gem. I can turn this car right back around.”

She was immediately contrite. “Ah love, don’t be like that.”

“Tell me about them.” He knew the basics. The brother had just graduated and was looking for a photography job in London. The mum was a doll. The horrid cousin was horrid.

Gemma smiled a smile he could tell reached her eyes. It softened her entire expression. “Well Harry is the best. He’s the nicest soul you’ll ever meet. But not in an annoying way, you know?”

He did know. Sometimes you met someone that was just too good. And you had to watch what you said in front of them. You couldn’t ever shit talk even when it was warranted. “He’s not a prick about it?”

“Exactly,” she said, crossing her ankles and sinking deeper into the passenger seat. “He can hang. But also, like, the soul of an angel I swear to God. I don’t know where he came from because I certainly didn’t get any of that.”

“Well, I thought it rude to point that out …”

“Hush, you.”

The London traffic was starting to thin out as the road opened into picturesque country lanes. He didn’t get out of the city nearly enough. He zipped past a dawdling van and Gemma squealed as he slid back into his lane just before the oncoming car swiped by them.

“My mum’s the best, too,” she continued after a few minutes of just the radio. “She’s like me. And you love me, so you’ll love her.”

“I’m not sure she’ll be so happy with me sharing a hotel room with her baby girl,” he said.

Gemma laughed, tipping her head back. “She’ll just be so thankful I’m dating someone she’ll probably slip some condoms under the door.”

“She’ll be in for such a disappointment,” he shook his head slowly. “She’ll be crushed when I exit stage right.”

Gemma slipped her fingers between his, and the warmth felt nice against his palm. It would be so much easier if it felt better than nice. But it didn’t.

“As if we could ever get you to get off stage,” she said, her hand tightening around his. “You bask in the limelight.”

“You’re right,” he said. “I was born for this role.”

***

Fuck me.

It was the only thing that processed through the absolute mush his traitorous brain had decided to turn into. Fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck me.

It was a mantra that shot straight to his cock. He willed himself not to get hard as he watched his best friend’s brother nibble on his plush bottom lip.

“Uh, Harry,” the boy said for the second time. “Harry Styles. But you know that, duh, of course.”

They gripped sweaty palms and Louis pretended not to notice the electricity that shot between them at their first touch.

He cleared his throat. Manly manliness and all that. “Louis.”

They hadn’t let go of hands. They should probably let go of hands. But he didn’t want to.

Harry finally detached himself, a sharp canine still worrying at the soft flesh that Louis desperately wanted to dig into.

Louis coughed, and stepped back. Gemma was chatting with her mum so thankfully hadn’t witnessed the interaction. She would have known something was up.

“So you--”

“So you--”

They both broke off smiling goofy grins at each other. Harry waved a long-fingered hand at Louis, the universal gesture to get him to continue.

“So you just graduated?”

Harry tugged at the tiny, delicate earlobe that peeked out from under his luscious, curly locks. “Uh. Yeah. Uh. I’m applying to jobs in the city.”

“Gemma mentioned you were interested in photography?” Louis asked.

Louis wanted to press his mouth to the flush that bloomed on Harry’s cheeks at the question.

Rein it in, Tomlinson.

“Yeah,” Harry was answering. “I don’t really know what I’m going to find. There are a bunch of studio jobs, but I’d pretty much end up taking posed pictures of babies.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Louis was quick to reassure him. Starting out in the city was rough. You took what jobs you could get, and you didn’t act the diva about it.

“Yeah,” Harry drawled once more in that deep, slow voice that traced its way along each vertebrae of Louis’ spine. “I just …”

If he’d been about to say something, he’d completely lost the train of thought.

“What would you do if you could do anything?” Lous surprised himself with asking.

The lip again. He gnawed it, sucked it into his mouth, released it. It was glistening and wet and all Louis could think about was pressing into him there, between those lips.

“I think newspapers. I’d love to take pictures that actually matter,” he finally answered.

“Ha!” Louis let out a bark of laughter he regretted immediately as Harry’s face crumpled. “No. No. I mean. I …”

“It’s OK, I know it’s silly of me to think…” Harry’s fingers tangled in his hair. Louis wanted to replace them with his own. But first, to clear up this little confusion.

“No. Harry. I’m not laughing at you.” His instinct was to place a hand on the boy’s shoulder, but he let it drop halfway between them. “I just. I might be able to help.”

Harry glanced back up, eyes bright. “Really?”

“Well, my flatmate works at the Times. I mean he’s just a sports reporter, but at least he would know if they’re hiring and who to put you in touch with,” Louis said, faltering a bit at the absolute gratitude that flooded Harry’s face. “He could make sure you don’t get pulled into the dark hole of internet job applications.”

“You haven’t even seen my stuff,” Harry said, his voice unsteady.

Louis was about to reassure him further when Gemma bounded back over to him, slipping a hand around his waist. Harry’s eyes followed the movement. And then that lip gnaw again. Christ. How was he supposed to survive this weekend?

He turned his attention to Gemma as her palm came to rest right above his heart. Laying it on a bit thick, dear. Or at least that’s what he hoped he’d conveyed with the simple tilt of an eyebrow.

In response, she went up on tiptoes and laid a noisy kiss on the hollow beneath his cheekbone. Louis didn’t take his eyes off Harry, who watched the scene play out with a blank expression. Once Gemma dropped back to the ground, Harry shifted away from them, his gaze dropping to his feet.

“What were you babes talking about?” Gemma wanted to know, lacing her fingers in Louis’ and tugging him forward.

“Nothing,” Harry murmured, leading the way.

Louis wasn’t going to let him off easily though. “Harry’s photography, actually. I was thinking Liam could help him out.”

“That’s brilliant, Lou.”

“As if you would expect anything less than brilliance from me, Gem.”

It earned him a small smirk from Harry, and a swat on the shoulder from her.

“But for real, that is such a good idea. I can’t believe I didn’t think about it. Harry, make sure to show Louis your portfolio. We can take it back with us.”

Harry blushed a pretty pink. “You don’t have to …”

“Do you have it with you?” Louis cut him off.

The boy nodded.

“Excellent. I’ll swing by your room after we check in, yeah?”

Harry’s eyes darted to his sister, then back to him. He coughed. “Yeah.”

***

323

The number on the door stared back at Louis and he wondered if he had lost his mind. Why. Why God why had he suggested he Swing. By. Harry’s. Room.

Where there would be a bed. And a gorgeous boy. With lips to die for.

Shit.

His head dropped back before he took a deep breath and knocked.

The door swung open almost immediately and Louis’ life flashed before his eyes Because of course Harry was half-naked, curls still dripping wet from a shower, towel slipping just enough for Louis to be tempted by the shadow of dark hair there.

This was punishment. Karma for all the times he’d sinned in past lives. He hated his past lives.

Louis tore his eyes from Harry’s happy trail, but felt it snag on the pink, puffy nipples that just begged for a mouth to work them over. It took a moment longer to meet the boy’s eyes. He prayed his lust wasn’t written all over his face.

“Oh,” is all Harry had to say.

“Uh, yeah mate, sorry, didn’t mean to catch you, um…” Louis waved a hand at him unable to finish the thought.

“Oh,” Harry said again.

“Right,” Louis drawled out, tipping his head to the side to study the boy’s face, without letting it slide any lower. There was a pink blush resting on the apples of his cheeks, and he was back to sucking on that lower lip. His pupils were blown and his breathing was even a little … off.

Christ. He looked like he had just….wanked in the shower. Yup. Harry had definitely just wanked in the shower and Louis was going to die. Just right where he stood. He’d lived a good life, though he kind of wished he’d had more time. A few more years. Or minutes. Enough to fuck this boy into the mattress at least.

“Um, so I can come back?” His voice was raspy and broken.

Harry’s eyes widened and he reached out as if to hold on to Louis so he wouldn’t leave. Louis flinched, not sure he could be responsible for his actions if Harry touched him in this state.

Harry’s face went blank as he let his hand drop into the air between them. “Sorry, um. No don’t go. Just,” he looked back into the room behind him. “Give me a second?”

“Sure, sure.”

The door shut in his face and Louis thought about football. And cold showers. No not showers. War. Famine. Anything to get his mind off the now-naked Harry. The way that little rivulet of water dripped from his curls to glide over broad shoulders down to his chest, catching just a bit on his nipple before trailing lower. Christ. No. Sad kittens. His mum. His mum holding a sad kitten.  

Louis was just congratulating himself for not getting hard when Harry -- now dressed in simple black skinny jeans and a white-nearly translucent t-shirt -- opened the door, gesturing him in.

He skirted around him to survey the room, but made sure not to stand too close to the bed. Harry followed him, then dug into the brown-leather messenger bag propped up against a chair.

“This is really nice of you, Louis,” Harry mumbled before powering on the slim laptop he’d pulled from the bag.

“To be honest, I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” Louis said, feeling guilty for the gratitude. “I’m sure you’re great though.”

Harry’s lips tipped up in a sweet, shy smile, that revealed a hint of the deep dimples Louis had seen earlier. He watched his own finger, horrified but unable to stop it, poke into the groove to bring them fully to life. It worked for a moment, a full-out grin spreading across the boy’s face. But then he seemed to shake himself and the mask fell again. He squinted down at Louis.

“Um.”

Fuck. He was supposed to be dating Gemma. He had no excuse for groping at her very probably straight brother. This shouldn’t be that hard. Don’t grope brother. Act the doting boyfriend. Drinks on Gemma for a month.

Apart from everything else, he must seem so skeevy to Harry. And that thought is what finally did it. He coughed, letting his hand drop. “Sorry, mate.” Keep it moving, making an excuse would just draw attention to it. “So, show me.”

Harry’s face lit up again as he turned the computer for Louis to take. Louis settled himself into the small, delicate writing desk in the corner of the room to swipe through the portfolio, Harry hovering at his shoulders.

Louis waited to say anything until he was through them all, even though he could tell Harry was a bundle of nervous energy behind him. “These are amazing, mate.” He glanced back and up to meet Harry’s eyes.

“Yeah?” There was hope in Harry’s voice even as uncertainty lingered in the tight corners of his lips.

Louis stood up, wanting to reassure him. This time he wasn’t a fucking idiot and actually remembered to keep his hands to himself. But he nodded and smiled. “I don’t know all the technical stuff, but the photos are incredible. Beautiful but emotional too. The one of the lady with her kid in the park? It could have been so boring. But the way you captured the perfect mix of frustration and love on her face? It’s so impressive.”

Harry turned shy at that again, his gaze dropping to his feet. But that sweet smile was there, his pleasure at the praise evident. “Thanks, Louis.”

“I’m not just bullshitting you either,” Louis said, desperate to see Harry’s greengreengreen eyes again. It did the trick. Harry huffed out an amused half-laugh and glanced up. And Louis recognized the mistake for what it was immediately. Because when their eyes locked, time seemed to stop, everything around them went a little dim, and the world narrowed down to just the two of them. In this moment.

A knock on the door was the only thing that saved Louis. He had been seconds away from tangling his fingers in that hair and pulling Harry flush up against him. But Harry stepped back at the noise, and they both dragged in ragged breaths.

There was guilt there, in those green eyes, and Louis realized he hadn’t been alone in that morass of tension and lust. So maybe the brother wasn’t 100% straight. It was strange Gemma hadn’t mentioned it.

His pulse was erratic but the thought calmed him more than he would have guessed. Crushing on straight boys was very 10-years ago and he had not been enjoying the trip back to those embarassing years.

When the pounding started again, he rose eyebrows at Harry who was still staring at him, an arms-length away. Harry jerked back at the movement, flushing. Then he ran across the room, tripping over air on the way there. Cute.

Of course he was still smiling fondly at the boy’s back when Harry flung open the door. And that’s how Gemma found them. Harry flustered and -- from what Louis could tell -- a bit turned on, and Louis affectionately gazing at him like he held the answers to all the mysteries of the world.

Shit.

***

Chapter Text

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

If there were a theme song for Harry’s life it would be just those words set to some really obnoxious tune like “It’s a Small World After All,” just to really drive home how ridiculous he was.

It certainly fit his current predicament where he'd thought it would be a good idea to try to fool Gemma into thinking nothing was wrong. He knew as soon as her smile faded and her eyes took on that suspicious glint that his grin had been too bright. Too innocent. She saw right through him and always had.

Her gaze slipped by him to scan the room, and he knew the precise moment it hitched on Louis.

Guilt. Mortification. Lust. Confusion. It tangled in Harry’s belly, tightened like a vise around his spine, nipped at his airways. Not that he’d done anything wrong. But it had been a close call. Had the knock not startled them both, Harry would have done something so embarrassing he would have had to leave the country and change his name. Something like coming on to his sister’s new boyfriend.

(Okay, so maybe he had also wanked to the idea of getting his mouth on Louis’ cock but that was between him and the shower drain. And really didn’t have anything to do with the current situation.)

“Gemma!” He was overcompensating, but he’d already started down this path and he didn’t seem to be able to stop himself. Her eyes flicked back to him, tracing over his face. “What a lovely surprise!”

Oh God. That was...not normal. Or smooth. What a lovely surprise? What the fuck? Why had he lost all semblance of normal conversation?

A movement from behind him drew his attention. Ah, that was right. That was why. Louis.

Louis. Louis. Even his name was pretty. Gemma had mentioned him in passing before. Going to get drinks with Louis. Just got back from the game with Louis. He’d even shown up on her Instagram, but it had always just been flashes of light and blurred action. A hint of blue eyes that Harry hadn’t actually processed. Louis had been a vague idea, a friend of Gemma’s from London who seemed like a good time.

But, God. Louis in real life, in the flesh? Well that was like a religious experience.

Harry dipped his head down, letting his curls hide the flush on his cheeks from Gemma and stepped back as she pushed in past him. She still hadn’t said anything, and it was getting a little spooky.

“Were you looking for me, love?” Louis’ asked and Harry’s stomach dropped. Love. Nothing like a clear reminder that Louis was straight and in a relationship to truly drive home how foolish and silly Harry’s crush on him was.

“Mmmmm,” Gemma hummed.

“Popped down here while you were in the shower,” Louis said, and he was talking just a bit too fast. As if he was feeling guilty. But that couldn't be. “Harry was just showing me his portfolio. Quite impressive.”

“Is that so?” Gemma asked, a weird tension in her voice.

Did she think Louis had made him upset? He had, of course. But not on purpose. He couldn’t let her think that.

“Um, yeah?” Harry cut in. He couldn’t imagine the guilt he’d feel if he was actually responsible for them getting in a fight. Because the thought that he wanted it too much would plague him. “Just my recent stuff. What I’ve been sending out, you know?”

Gemma finally, finally relaxed. Maybe his expression had smoothed out from raw lust-driven panic. One could hope.

Louis noticed the change in her, reaching out a hand to tug her into his side. She went, letting their shoulders bump and Harry wanted to cry at all the injustices of the world. Louis’ fingers settled at the curve of her hip and Gemma leaned into his side. They looked so cute together. Fuck.

“Why don’t you get me a flashdrive, with those pictures and your resume on it and I’ll have Liam pass it along?” Louis said, smiling easily.

Harry dropped his gaze so he didn’t have to look at them and nodded. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

And then, oh God, the awkward silence settled into the room like a palpable entity, all syrupy and suffocating. It almost broke him. He was a breath away from confessing all. Just telling them how we wanted to lick at Louis’ golden skin, how he wanted Louis’ teeth to sink into his flesh, how he wanted Louis’ fingers in his hair as he wrecked him, how he wanted to just spread himself on that giant bed in the middle of the room and have Louis ride his face. How he wanted. Wanted. Wanted.

The universe, for once in his life though, decided to spare him the mortification that word vomit would have caused by prompting Gemma to finally break the tension.

“So anyway, mum sent me to get you. There’s lunch on the patio in five minutes and we’re all supposed to show,” she made a face at that and he had to laugh past the lump in his throat. Gemma really hated Aunt Muriel and Calista.

“Should I…” Louis started, clearly wanting to be told he didn’t have to come.

“Fuck off, Lou. You are not getting out of this,” Gemma said, her finger digging into his sternum. Harry winced in sympathy and Louis batted her hand away.

“Alright, alright. Calm down, you,” Louis muttered. “Didn’t know if it was just family.”

“Yeah, nice try. You know the deal.”

They both froze at that, and Harry knew he missed something.

Louis recovered first, bending a bit to brush his lips against Gemma’s cheekbones. “Yes I know the deal. When you’re dating someone you have to be there for them even in the worst of times. And, never fear, we can come up with a drinking game or something to make it tolerable. Every time Muriel or horrid cousin Calista says something passive aggressive we’ll do a shot.”

Gemma groaned. “Oh god we’ll be wasted by noon.”

“And that’s a bad thing, because….?” Louis voice was so pretty and teasing. Harry wanted it directed at him. He felt left out of their banter and he knew he was pouting but couldn’t do anything to stop. Pay attention to me instead, he wanted to scream, and felt like a child at the thought.

“Touche,” Gemma said, stepping away from Louis finally.

“Come on Harry, you can run interference so we don’t get blacked out for the wedding. Every time you see Aunt Muriel heading toward us, throw yourself in her path and let her tell you about all the young, available ladies she wants to foist on you.” Gemma was laughing and pulling Louis behind her.

“Yeah, she shouldn’t really hold her breath on that,” he muttered, grabbing the key for the room. Louis shot him a look as he passed by, as if not sure he heard that correctly.

And that’s how he came out to his sister’s boyfriend.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

***

Harry tucked himself into the shadows at the corner of the porch and breathed a sigh of relief at finding a tiny bit of quiet. He’d been charming all the older ladies in his extended family for two hours now as Louis and Gemma kept sneaking off to the bar and the much too friendly bartender.

Louis was over there now, leaning against the dark wood. From his position, Harry had a direct view of his arse. His gorgeous, gorgeous arse. The jeans he wore hugged his curves, the ones that went on for days. Harry let his mind wander as his gaze skimmed over them.

Harry knew he fell hard and fast. It was his MO, and it had never bothered him before. The boys usually went as quickly as they’d come into his life. If he was lucky he’d get a fun shag out of it, and then move on. No one had ever stuck for him. And he kind of liked it that way.

Because the falling was the fun part. Those butterflies, the tension, the first rush of endorphins as skin met skin. He couldn’t get enough of it. But then it all faded and Harry would find himself on the cold, hard ground wondering what happened to bliss of the fall. Until someone else came around, that is.

So he recognized what was happening. Louis was beautiful and captivating. There was no other way to put it. His eyes were clear pools of glacier water on a hot summer day. His skin was molten caramel. His bum could inspire sonnets. It probably had. The whole package was a bundle of sparking, vibrant energy that drew the eye over and over again.

Yeah, Harry recognized what was happening. But this time it also felt like something...more. And Harry refused to explore that. Because there was only one way this could end, and that was in heartache. Louis was very, very straight, and very, very taken. By Gemma. Fuck, he was going to hell.

“Thinking deep thoughts there, Curly?”

Harry startled. He didn’t know how he’d missed Louis sidling up to him, but he had. It was too much, being so close to him with no warning, no time to prepare. Harry could only gape at him and hope every emotion he was feeling wasn’t painted across his face in neon letters.

While Harry tried to gather his scattered thoughts enough to form a coherent sentence, Louis caught one of Harry’s curls, and wrapped it around his finger. He tugged it and Harry couldn’t stop the moan that slipped out. They both stilled.

And now it was time to sink into the ground and disappear under the weight of his mortification.

Louis, however, didn’t comment, just gave another gentle pull before letting his hand drop back to his side.

What was he doing messing with Harry’s hair anyway? Yeah! This wasn’t Harry’s fault. He wasn’t going to be embarrassed about it. (Okay that was easier said than done, but still.)

“A fiver for them?” Louis asked as if nothing had happened.

It probably hadn’t. Harry knew he just wanted it to have. To have this man’s attention on him, well, it felt like he was basking in the sun’s warmth. If he let himself indulge in a little fantasy, so be it.

“A fiver? They’re not worth that,” Harry said, taking a sip of the pretty pink drink he’d had the bartender make. It gave him something to do with his mouth. Other than pulling Louis in for a soul-melting kiss.

“Ah, love, I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” Louis said, lifting his own glass to his lips. He’d ordered something golden and very sophisticated. Probably bourbon. Or whiskey. Harry wanted to taste it on his tongue by licking into Louis' mouth.

Harry shook his head, turning his gaze back to the gaggle of women clustered on the porch. “Just thinking about marriage and stuff.”

“See, deep thoughts, I knew it,” Louis nudged an elbow into the soft flesh beneath his ribcage as he settled in next to Harry. There were propped up against the banister, their arms pressed lightly together. Harry savoured the warmth radiating from the spot where they touched. “Were you think about how much you want to avoid it?”

Harry huffed out a breath but didn’t turn to look at Louis. His friends made fun of him for it, but for some reason he wanted to tell him. So he did. “No, not at all,” he said, taking another fortifying sip from his drink. “If I met my soulmate tomorrow I would want to get married the next day.”

He felt Louis’ muscles bunch in surprise.

“Really? Even as young as you are?”

“Not that young.”

Louis leaned into him. “You’re right, sorry mate.”

Mate. Harry wanted to go back to “love.” Even if Louis seemed to call most people that. Mate was the worst, though. Like bro or pal or dude. He didn’t respond.

“But that’s a big commitment, you know?” Louis prodded at it, like a tongue worrying a loose tooth.

Harry turned at that, and Louis mirrored his movement, so that they became their own little bubble.

“I know,” Harry said, trying to keep his eyes on Louis’. They wanted to slip down to his lips, to his collarbones, to the little swell of belly. But he had self control, damn it. He really did. “It’s not like...I’m not looking to get married. But if the right person came along, well, there’s no point in waiting right?”

“And who would this right person be?” Louis murmured so lightly Harry had to lean forward to catch it.

Harry lifted one shoulder then let it drop. “Someone who’s nice. Someone who’s funny. Someone who you can just sit and be yourself with.”

“Those aren’t exactly the strictest of requirements, Harold.”

Harry preened at the nickname but tried not to be too obvious about it. What had he been saying?

Oh right. “I guess it’s more than that, you know? I think there will be this feeling with the person. They’ll make me feel like the best version of myself without trying. They’ll know how to handle me when we’re in a fight and make me smile when I’m sad. They’ll feel like…”

“Home,” Lous finished for him when he trailed off.

He met Louis’ eyes. “Yeah.”

And there was that feeling again. It was a little glowing thing that came to life between them and pulsed with some kind of energy, wrapping around Harry like silk and honey. He wanted to bathe in this feeling, to lap it at with a lazy tongue. He wondered what it was like for Louis. How did he not feel this...this. It was bigger than attraction. Bigger than lust. It was just bigger.

But Louis wasn’t feeling it. Harry had to keep reminding himself of that. Otherwise it would be too easy to sink into the warmth and let it consume him.

It was Louis that broke the trance of course. Harry didn’t think he would have been capable of it.

“So this person,” Louis started, then cleared his throat, shifting his body so that he was once again facing out to the party instead of Harry. It broke their little bubble of solitude and the noise rushed back in. Harry turned too, but didn’t stop himself from leaning back into Louis’ arm. “They haven’t come along yet?”

“I’m single,” Harry said, deflecting the question. He didn’t want to answer it.

Louis smirked and slid his gaze over to Harry without actually looking at him. “That’s not what I asked.”

“I know,” Harry said softly. The moment held. Harry could tell Louis wanted to poke further. He seemed the type to do it too. To poke and prod and hassle until he got what he wanted. Harry hoped he’d let it drop though. He wasn’t even ready to answer the question for himself, let alone to Louis.

It didn’t matter, though, what Louis had planned to say, because that’s when Gemma decided to join them.

“You both look so serious,” she said, raising her half-empty glass of champagne to her lips.

“Well we haven’t had as many drinks as you, love,” Louis said, lifting his own glass in a half-salute.

“Piss off. It’s not my fault you can’t keep up, you wussy,” Gemma said, but she was smiling. And once more Harry realized how close they were. Only people who loved each other could tease like they did. Fuck.

There had been moments there where he convinced himself Louis must feel something--anything--for him. It was too much, too sudden, too overwhelming to be one-sided. But then this. Harry wanted to sink into a pit of despair. How had he found this person only to not be able to actually have him? And worse, for him to be in love with his sister. It was the cruelest fate he could imagine. He downed the rest of his drink, chasing a bit of the oblivion that would come with the alcohol.

“That’s the spirit,” Gemma laughed at Harry, her eyes alight with happiness. Harry felt like shit for even momentarily begrudging her that. He wouldn’t from now on. It was a promise to himself. He just couldn’t look at Louis when he made it.

“Easy there, long day ahead of us,” Louis murmured, and Harry felt his eyes on him even though he didn’t turn to look.

“Wedding’s at five, right, Gem?” Harry asked instead of responding.

“Yeah,” she drawled out the word, glancing at her watch. “Which, by my calculation, gives us three hours to get properly smashed before we have to start getting ready.”

“Hmm, I have a better idea,” Louis cut in and Harry winced. If he alluded to any kind of sexual past time Harry might have to burn his brain with acid. He shifted away, to give them some privacy but Louis was already moving.

He plucked Gemma’s glass from her hands, ignoring her weak protest, and then tangled his fingers with hers pulling her along behind him. He stopped after a few steps, and glanced back over his shoulders. His eyes met Harry’s.

“You coming, Curly?”

***

 

Chapter Text

“Absolutely not,” Gemma said, pulling her hand from Louis’.

Forward momentum propelled Louis off the pebbled pathway and into the soft grass before he registered her resistance. He turned, slipping just a bit, to see Harry hovering at Gemma’s shoulders, his eyes flicking past Louis.

“Gem,” Louis whined, 100 percent ready to be as obnoxious as he needed to get his way.

“No.”

“Just as the goalie.”

“Oh, that’s supposed to sway me?” Gemma asked, one eyebrow raised. “Louis William Tomlinson do you know how expensive these heels were?”

“I have a feeling you’re going to tell me.” It was not a wise retort. This he knew. Still, the day he was able to control his mouth was a rare one indeed. His eyes found Harry’s at the thought.

“Not worth the energy, love,” Gemma said, and he returned his attention to the problem at hand. “You can keep Harry. I’m going to go find Niall again.”

Louis hammed it up. Complete boyfriend mode. He could do this. “And who is this Niall? Do I have to beat him up?”

That was definitely a snort. And it was not attractive. He loved her anyway. “He’s the pretty boy who serves me alcohol instead of making me roll around in the dirt before my arch nemesis’ wedding, that’s who Niall is.”

“Bartender,” Harry murmured at the same time.

Dyed-blonde hair and an open smile. The image flashed in Louis’ mind, and he was amazed he could even come up with that. He’d barely noticed anything other than Harry for the entirety of the little Hell-gathering that was that pre-wedding lunch. And he wasn’t being dramatic at that. Louis was certainly earning his free drinks.

“Double wedding then, yeah?” he asked Gemma.

Harry barked out a laugh and Louis had never heard something so endearing. It rocked his entire body, and lit up his face, which he quickly buried behind the palm of his hand. Louis wished he hadn’t.

“Oh, you would be so lucky,” Gemma flicked him two fingers and spun off down the path back toward the liquor and the--cute, if he was remembering correctly--bartender.

“I think you just insulted yourself, love, if I followed that correctly,” Louis called after her, not willing to give up the last word. Even if Gemma would make him pay for it later.

It was worth it though, because it kept Harry giggling. And Harry giggling was a sight to behold.  

The early afternoon sun caught in his curls, slid across his sharp jawline, created shadows in the dip beneath his Adam’s Apple. Pretty. So, so pretty. It wasn’t just his features, though. It was the way he smiled from his eyes even as he muffled his laughter behind raspberry lips that were made for sin. It was the way he held himself, open and ready for wherever Louis was leading him. It was the way he smiled and entertained the ladies of Hell Lunch but then found solitude when he could.

It was the way he was now staring at Louis as if he had lost his mind because Jesus fucking christ while Louis had been writing sonnets in his head he had also apparently been caressing him fondly with his eyes. Could Louis get any fucking weirder?

“Um,” Harry broke the weird silence that had wrapped around them, and Louis wanted to burrow into the ground. What was it about this boy that made him lose all sense of social decorum? “Footie?”

Louis latched onto it like a lifeline. “Yeah! You play?”

He didn’t wait for an answer, just took off toward the far corner of the lawn. Tucked away out of sight of the grand manor and all the wedding festivities was a football goal. He’d found it when he’d managed to duck away from Hell lunch for a few minutes to wander the grounds.

“In theory,” Harry muttered behind him, and Louis glanced over his shoulder at that, grinning.

“Mate. That means you’re terrible, yeah?”

“Heyyyy,” Harry drawled out, looking like a disgruntled kitten, and Louis wanted to bathe in his warm, honey voice.

“Good sport though,” Louis said, toeing off his dress shoes. They had shit traction. Harry followed suit, placing a hand on Louis’ arm for balance. The heat from his palm burned through Louis’ blazer, imprinting on his skin. But he didn’t flinch away. Instead, he tested the waters. “Could have gone and battled it out with Gemma for the cute bartender’s attention.”

Harry cut him a look at that, his eyes shuttered beneath thick eyelashes. “Wouldn’t be fun, though, because she’s not playing for real,” he said, nibbling on his lip again. Goddamn it.

“So it’s the competition you like?” Louis cocked out a hip, knowing he was flirting. Knowing he couldn’t stop.

Harry had dropped his hand, but they hadn’t stepped away from each other, and the air between them became electric.

And maybe he was imagining it, but he thought he saw Harry’s eyes flick down to his lips. It was the briefest moment, but it shot straight to his cock.

“Where’s the fun when it’s easy?” Harry asked, one should lifting in a seemingly careless shrug. “I like it…hard.”

Ok. Okkkkk. There was testing the waters and then there was...this. Louis had flirted enough in his life to know when it was intentional.

He felt the “Oh, yeah baby? You like it fast, too? Or slow and deep?” rise to his lips. But he swallowed it back. God, he’d promised Gemma. There wasn’t a lot you could count on from him, but keeping a damn promise was one of those things.

So he did the hardest thing he’s ever done and took a deliberate step back, away from Harry. And then felt like a complete dick. Because Harry’s face crumpled on the spot in mortification. He flushed red, dropping his gaze to where his bare toes dug into the soil beneath the grass and dipped his head so Louis couldn’t see his face.

Fuckity fuck fuck fuck.

There wasn’t an easy way out, though. He couldn’t reassure him without giving up the game, and calling attention to it would only further embarrass him. They’d have to just shoulder through. He prayed to whatever God there was that Harry wouldn’t hold it against him at the end of the weekend.

Because this? Whatever this was. Well he wasn’t going to forget it, once he was free of the charade. It wasn’t just going to disappear.

Especially since Harry hadn’t denied he would make a go at the very male bartender.

“So one-on-one to five?” Louis asked, as if they hadn’t just been doused in awkwardness.

Harry nodded, but didn’t say anything as Louis bent to retrieve the ball from the back corner of the net.

“It might be too easy for you though, since there’s not goalie,” Louis tried teasing a blush into Harry’s cheeks to return them to the cautious friendliness they had settled into. It was too soon to prod that raw nerve though it seemed. Louis caught just a glimpse of hurt eyes before Harry brushed past him heading back into the field.

Louis closed his own on a deep breath. Well this was not going as planned. Perhaps the getting smashed route would have been the wiser choice. But he’d known if he’d kept drinking he would do something utterly horrible like biting a deep bruise into Harry’s neck. Right in front of horrid cousin Calista.

But now Harry was sulking and probably feeling like a twat because of Louis and Louis hated himself for it. He needed to see him smiling again. Had to.

Louis jogged out to where Harry’d stopped, nestling the ball into the curve of his hip. Harry wouldn’t look at him.

“Love,” Louis murmured. No reaction. Just a glimpse of a lip nibble beneath a mop of curls. This wouldn’t do.

He snaked out a hand before Harry could realize what was happening, and pinched at the soft flesh at his hips. Harry jerked, squealed and swatted Louis’ hands away and Louis couldn’t stop the grin that tugged at his lips.

That was better.

He went in again, this time a little higher, and Harry tried to dance away. Louis was relentless though. By dropping the ball so that he could fully focus on this new mission in life, he freed both hands to go to work.

They found the sensitive skin at the edge of Harry’s T-shirt, dug into the hollow beneath his arm, tweaked a nipple --maybe, could you blame him?--and generally tortured the boy until he was a flailing whirlwind of choked laughter and half-formed screams.

It was light and happiness and summer and butterflies. Giggles into sun saturated air and the feeling of warm boy beneath his fingertips. It was a little manic, this rush of that left him fuzzy headed in the best way.

Louis ducked and darted beneath Harry’s long limbs, but he miscalculated. He bobbed when he should have weaved and ended up with a faceful of Harry’s chest as they both tumbled to the ground.

He tried to keep it together enough to brace Harry from the jolt of the landing. But they were both mostly useless, knocked windless from the fall and the laughter neither of them seemed to be able to control.

They were a tangle of long arms and legs and Harry’s face was buried in the crook of Louis’ neck and Louis had never been happier in his life. He turned into Harry’s curls as he’d wanted to all day, and breathed in the subtle hint of vanilla. The urge to reach up and hold Harry’s head there, to keep him against him was almost overwhelming. Instead, he dug his fingertips into the earth, as if that would balance him. As if that would quiet the way mineminemine kept ricocheting in the recess of his head.  

Harry’s guffaws had soothed into quiet giggles that were little hiccups of warm air against Louis’ skin. It was only when they’d both settled into just breathing that Harry pushed up on forearms to hover above Louis.

Their faces were still close. It would be easy, so easy, to just lift into it a bit. Harry would dip his head, and lips would find lips, tongues would chase tongues, heat would meet heat. Louis cleared his throat and didn’t shift a muscle. And neither did Harry.

The feel of him on top of Louis. God. The weight of him, pressing Louis into the grass. His scent, just on this side of spicy, whispered dangerous promises to Louis. And his pretty, pretty face. It was all Louis could see.

He dragged in a ragged breath that Harry must have felt at the point where their bellies touched. They locked eyes, and Harry’s pupil’s were almost completely blown.

Louis licked his lips and was just about to resign Gemma and horrid cousin Calista to hell when he froze. Because that was Harry’s cock. Getting hard against his.

They both shifted their hips, just a little, until they slotted perfectly against each other. And then Harry’s eyes drifted shut as he rutted against Louis. Just once. But the movement was unmistakeable. Holy fuck. Louis’ brain whited out a bit at the edges at the feel of it. Perfect. Hard. Harry. He didn’t even have time to react as Harry let out a moan from deep in the back of his throat. If Louis hadn’t been hard yet, yup, that would have done it.

Harry’s eyes flew open in that moment, though, and what Louis saw there broke his heart. Utter horror.

“Oh my god,” Harry whispered, rolling off Louis in one quick move. “Oh my god.”

“No,” Louis started but he didn’t seem to be coherent at the moment. All the blood that usually helped his brain work seemed to be elsewhere.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry Louis,” Harry was scrambling away and up. He stood still for a moment staring at his bare feet, but then seemed to reach the conclusion that fleeing took all precedence to finding his shoes and started running -- running-- away.

Shit. “No,” Louis tried again. “Baby.” He was helpless though, still completely shook from the experience that had barely reached middle-school levels of groping. “Harry…”

But Harry didn’t stop and Louis didn’t expect him to.

Louis dropped his shoulders back to the ground and palmed himself through his jeans, completely hard from one moan, one touch from Harry.

He was truly and completely fucked. And not in the way he liked.

Chapter Text

Harry was still not over it.

Even after he ran away like a child. Even after he proceeded to slam his forehead against the pretty papered walls of his room enough times for the neighbors to pound back. Even after he tried unsuccessfully to scrub the humiliation away with his peach-scented exfoliating soap.

He was still not over it.

As he finished buttoning his shirt, his fingers found the skin beneath his nipple and pinched hard, wanting the pain. But it just reminded him of other soft hands exploring the vulnerable slope of his chest, the curve of his love handles, the swell of his bicep. The way they left little flares of heat in their wake as they teased and jabbed.  

Harry groaned, flopping spread eagle onto the bed.

He’d thought he’d reached peak embarrassment when he’d flirted with Louis so openly and then been so gently rebuffed. There had been a moment there, as their bodies swayed just slightly closer together in the air that had all but sparkled with the possibilities that Harry had thought -- maybe. Thought that maybe that shimmer in Louis’ eyes was interest.

God those eyes.

So blue. They had seemed to match the cloudless sky. Or the sky had seen them and, jealous, had refused to be upstaged. As if that wasn’t the most fanciful thought Harry had ever had. The sky being envious of Louis’ eyes. It should be, though.

And when Louis smiled and the corners of them crinkled up with genuine amusement? Well. Harry could hardly be responsible for his actions.

Except that he was responsible for his actions. And in that warm moment, when it felt like the world was just the two of them and the grass tickling their feet and the birds singing love songs as they danced in the shadows of ancient leafy trees he’d tossed aside caution and had tried.

It wasn’t that he’d call himself a flirt, so much. Just...he liked people. People tended to like him, too. Charming was the word that had stuck to him since his hair had stopped doing that weird 1960s Paul McCartney thing. Sometimes it was pejorative and that bothered him more than he wanted to admit. Mostly, though, it was lighthearted.   

His mum’s friends would coo and pinch his cheeks or the bartender would pour him a free shot or a number, hastily scribbled out, would be shoved in his pocket. All harmless. There were times when people at school had gotten the wrong idea, but Harry always seemed to manage to smooth it over.

The point being, he wasn’t awkward around people. But he was awkward around Louis.

Standing there, though, as Louis smiled at him he’d thought maybe he’d finally overcome the way his nerves went haywire around the man. The way his pulse kicked up and his brain fluttered to a complete stand-still. And he’d flirted. Flirted . With his sister’s boyfriend. Fuck.

Not for nothing, though, Louis had flirted back. Sure, there was being friendly. It could have been that. Well, a combination of that, and trying to get in good with the brother. Or maybe he could even believe they just had really good, genuine--platonic--chemistry. It happened.

But Harry was 99.9 percent sure that Louis had flirted back. It was in the way his hip popped out, the way his voice went a little raspy and higher at the same time. To be honest, and he was trying to be, Louis did seem like that type, though. Fun and happy and, well, flirty. 

So maybe Harry had gotten caught up in it. Maybe he’d let himself believe it was real. It had only lasted a second, anyway, because then Louis had stepped back, breaking whatever delicate spell had been woven between them.

Reality had crashed through the door, an angry, drunk uncle destroying the little fantasy Harry had been building out so carefully with careless swipes of ape-like arms.

Gemma. Boyfriend. Right.

Harry had definitely thought that was the low point of his day. If only.

He’d only just been recovering his equilibrium-- and OK maybe pouting a bit -- when he’d felt the prod of gentle fingertips, then a squeeze into the soft flesh of his hips. He’d been undone. The pure mischief that had lit Louis’ face had tugged at something in the vicinity of Harry’s heart. This was a Peter Pan man.

It was more than that though, and Harry, whirling and gasping for breath as he had been, as willing to follow him into Neverland as he had been, had recognized that. Louis wasn’t tickling him to be a little shit--though he seemed like he could be one. He was tickling him because Harry had been embarrassed, withdrawn, and he’d wanted to make Harry feel better. It was as simple as that.

And then the world had been pulled out from under him and he had found himself flush up against Louis’ body, gravity a heavy hand on his back pressing until there was no space between them. It had been disorienting, the change in altitude. But it had been a soft landing.

There was more laughter then, and Harry had wondered if this was what life with Louis would be like. Laughter all the time. Giggles over breakfast, deep belly-shaking roars at the end of an epic food-fight when they both had an unmentionable amount of crap in their hair, quick, smirking snickers when Louis slipped in a sassy, cutting comment about someone they both--naturally--hated. Rumbles that tickled up, refused to be pushed back, when Harry would fall off the bed while trying to execute a complex sex move. They’d meet eyes, Louis trying not to burst and Harry, a pathetic pile on the floor, would say “twist then roll” and they’d lose it.

Harry thought he’d might like those the best.

He lost himself in the fantasy, laying there, his face buried in Louis’ neck, breathing in his scent, relishing the feel of Louis’ thick, gorgeous thigh slipped in between his own. He would live in this heartbeat of a moment if he could -- tuck it away to bring out on sad and rainy days to let it warm him like a good cup of tea.

Then he’d had to go and fuck it up. Because apparently that was his MO around Louis William Tomlinson. God.

When he’d lifted up, just a little, the sight of Louis -- this caramel-skinned sun god laughing up at him -- had flooded his senses. If his fantasy of their life had been sweet and soft like molasses before, it turned the second their eyes locked, becoming hot and sharp and spicy. Taut.

He just hadn’t been able to stop his hips from seeking that friction. The drag of hardness and denim and Louis. And then he’d died because oh my god he had just humped his sister’s boyfriend into the grass while moaning like a porn star. Jesus fucking Christ could he get any weirder?

Of course he’d run instead of dealing with the gentle reassurances from Louis that were sure to come. If Harry knew nothing else he knew Louis would be gentle in calming him down. He was kind, so kind. Harry had seen that side of him already. Louis probably would have rubbed Harry’s back in circles as he talked -- in the type of soft voice people used when trying to soothe skittish animals -- about natural reactions and it’s fine and getting caught up in moments.

It would have been a fate worse than the death he’d just suffered, because Harry wasn’t sure he would have been able to keep the tears out of his eyes. Why was the universe doing this to him? Why did he send him the most perfect, beautiful, funny, angel just to tease him with the possibilities? Just to make Harry realize, even after only hours of meeting Louis, that anything he’d ever had before was a pale shadow to this masterpiece of a human.  

Why was life so cruel?

There was only silence in return for his mournful, wordless shout into the void.

He groaned and glanced at the time. He’d procrastinated enough. It was time to go face the music and try to convince Gemma he wasn’t losing his fucking mind over her boyfriend.

Because that was easier said than done, he slipped a little silver flask into the inside pocket of his jacket.

Getting smashed was probably a terrible idea considering how much his inhibitions were already lowered around Louis. But thinking of Louis and Gemma dancing together, whispering, touching, kissing…leaving together. Well, he didn’t think he’d be able to survive without drinking away his feelings.

And right now there didn’t seem to be enough alcohol in the world.

***

“You’re avoiding me.”

Harry started at the whisper by his ear and the way Gemma, who must be on tip-toes, rested her chin against his shoulder.

He pivoted so he was facing her, wrapping his arms around her so she couldn’t see his face, and held on tight. Nothing was worth jeopardizing this. Nothing.

“Never,” he murmured even as his eyes met Louis’. He dropped his gaze quickly afraid of the pity he might see there. Just pretending like nothing happened seemed like the wisest course of action. Head, sand, buried.

“You should have come and hung out in our room, H,” Gemma said burrowing into the nook of his shoulder. “Niall slipped me a bottle of the good champagne, and Louis and I have been indulging.”

Harry laughed at the way her words were a little slurred at the edges the way they got when she was on her way past tipsy into buzzed territory. “I can tell.”

“Heyyyyy,” Gemma pulled back, and Harry was certain she was mocking him.

“Come on, you lush,” Harry said, shifting so his arm was around Gemma’s shoulder, guiding her toward the door leading out to the garden. “Wouldn’t want us to be late to the wedding.”

Harry felt Louis trailing behind them. Actually felt him. He squeezed Gemma tighter until she glanced up at him.

“You OK, H?” she asked, her voice quiet and much more sober all of a sudden.

“Course,” he said, not meeting her eyes. “Have I mentioned you look gorgeous yet? Calista is going to die.”

“That’s the plan,” Gemma grinned, with a quick look back at Louis. Something passed between them and once again Harry felt like he was missing a point.

She really did look pretty in her bright green dress that was a breath of spring in the middle of the summer garden. Her hair was platinum white these days and she wore it in a simple, straight bob that brushed her shoulders. She’d done something golden to her eyes that made them glitter at the corners when they stepped into the sun. So lovely.

But it was Louis who stole the show. Harry let his eyes linger over his curves as Louis caught up, stopping just a little in front of them, sizing up the elaborate set-up that had taken over a large chunk of the manor’s back lawn.

Louis had done something to his hair. It had been soft earlier, with his fringe brushed to the side over his eyes. It had made Harry want to rub the strands between the pads of his fingers to feel the silkiness of them. Now, though, it was lifted into a little swirl and brought out a sharpness in his features. This look made Harry want to drop to his knees, put his hands behind his back and have Louis tell him what do.

The desire that pulsed through Harry at that thought was only turned a notch higher as Harry slid his gaze down past the smooth column of Louis’ neck. His suit fit him perfectly. It was expensive and blue and the shirt beneath buttoned right against his throat. Harry’s fingers itched to tug at the fabric, rip it from his body.

The jacket tucked in at Louis’ waist--why God did he have an hourglass body designed specifically to torture Harry-- and then flared over the softness of his hips. And that’s where Harry died. Was buried. Then was resurrected and died again. Because the way Louis’ pants hugged the curve of his arse was an assault against his very life.

Harry wanted to bury his face there, lick and suck and explore as his fingernails dug half-moons into the skin. He wanted to worship at the swell of flesh and give thanks. He wanted to spank it and watch it turn a pretty pink with the imprint of his hand. He wanted to spend hours whispering dirty promises to it as his fingers prodded and nudged and pressed.

Christ Jesus. Where was all the fucking air? It was gone. Completely gone.

He gulped in deep when he realized he wasn’t breathing properly, and though his brain had turned fuzzy he did in fact realize how ridiculous he was being. It was just an arse. A clothed one at that. You’d think he’d just had his cock sucked with how turned on he was.

Thank god for black pants that were slightly forgiving.

Louis and Gemma were both staring at him, because of course they were. He’d completely lost the plot and had been gaping at Louis as graphic images of rimming him and then getting thoroughly fucked by him chased each other through his mind. Why was this the longest, most awkward, day of Harry’s life?

“Um,” is all he managed because clearly they’d just asked him a question. Gemma’s eyes were narrowed on his face, and he could swear her gaze flicked between him and Louis.

Louis. Louis. He was just standing there, all gorgeous and fuckable, with a small smile at the corner of his lips and a tilt to his head Harry didn’t understand.

“Earth to Harry,” Gemma said, snapping her fingers in his face. He jolted and looked back at her, eyebrows raised as if she were being the crazy one. Good plan, Styles. That’ll work.

“What…” she did that thing again where she looked between Louis and Harry and Harry’s throat closed up in guilt and shame and lust. But she just trailed off, then shook her head as if she was ridding herself of whatever thought had just come into it.

“I mean, where should we sit?” Gemma asked instead, nodding to the bride’s side where the guests were starting to fill in the rows.

“In the back,” Louis and Harry answered in unison and they grinned at each other. It felt like the first time Harry was back on solid ground since he’d tumbled into the field all those hours ago.

“So we can drink every time Calista and Bradley do something ridiculous and sappy,” Harry explained further.

Gemma gasped and clasped her hands to her chest, her eyes wide. “You have alcohol?”

“Who’s your favorite brother?” He smirked back, pulling his jacket flap back so that they could see the bulge in the fabric that was unmistakably his flask. At least it kept their eyes up and away from another prominent bulge.

“Well look at that, seems like you just earned yourself the top spot, dear love,” Gemma said standing on toes to smack a kiss against his jaw.

“Oh phew, lots of competition for that I know,” he said without thinking. His gaze snagged on Louis and his cheeks flamed, but Louis just smiled.

“Well you’re certainly my MVP, now,” Louis said. “I caught a glimpse of the bridesmaids’ dresses earlier and we’re definitely going to need some refreshments to make it through this.”

Harry knew he was just teasing, but he glowed at the praise.

And then tried to ignore the warm press of Louis’ thigh against his as they settled into their seats.

Would it be too obvious to break into the supply already?

Chapter Text

By the time Horrid Cousin Calista--in a full-on replica of Kate Middleton’s dress--said “I do,” their merry little bunch had made it through most of Harry’s flask. When the pastor had bent down to release the six doves, one for every year the happy couple had known each other, they’d even managed to convince Anne to take a nip. (“You guys are a bad influence,” she’d said as she’d tossed the shot back like a pro, glancing around once then taking one more sip before passing it back to a delighted Gemma.)

“Finish it,” Harry whispered to Louis now, his palm pressing the metal against Louis’ fingers. It was still warm from where Harry’d been holding it and it seared into Louis’ skin. Between the liquor and the buzz that came with his proximity to Harry, everything was just starting to feel a little bit...more.

Harry’s eyes, already the shade of evergreens deep in a winter forest, became greener. His scent -- warm peaches drizzled in honey and vanilla -- became softer, wrapping around Louis like a memory of happy days. The way Harry’s lips almost, just almost, brushed the soft skin behind Louis’ ear sent shivers along Louis' spine.

The burn that slid down his throat as he finished off the flask was a poor substitute to the heat that he knew could--scratch that. would, abso-fucking-lutely would-- ignite between them.

Louis just had to make it through that night without doing something completely insane like dragging Harry to the ground right as HC Calista led off the recession to snog him senseless. Gemma would probably not appreciate that.

He had been close to doing it anyway, back in the lobby. God. When he’d first seen Harry in that unrelenting black, with his titties all but falling out of his blouse and his pants fitted snugly to his long, beautiful legs, all Louis could think about was pushing him back against the wall, crowding into him, letting him ride Louis’ thigh and sinking his teeth into that wide swatch of exposed chest. He’d wanted to tongue and lick and suck on those nipples--those nipples--until they were pretty and puffy and pink and Harry was sobbing for relief.

Louis coughed, shifting in his seat. Not really a great train of thought when he was about to have to stand in approximately...yes, now. Everyone was pushing to their feet and Louis had to follow suit or be the weirdo who remained seated because he was sporting a semi.

It took only a few discrete tucks before he was pretty sure he was at least presentable, though.

It was then Louis realized he was still holding the flask. Without thinking about it, he stepped closer to Harry, opening his jacket to slip it back into the inside pocket. When his hand dropped his knuckle dragged against the exposed skin right above that precarious button that was the only thing between Harry being dressed and Harry being half naked.

They both stilled, but Louis refused to meet Harry’s eyes, keeping his gaze firmly locked on the twin swallow tattoos swooping just beneath Harry’s collarbones. Self-control completely shot, he rasped the pad of his thumb against where his knuckle had just been.  

He didn’t so much as hear as he felt Harry’s quick indrawn breath. But he didn’t move away.  

“Come on, babe,” Gemma’s voice cut through the haze that had turned his brain into a useless blob of gray matter. He jolted back, blindly turning to reach out for Gemma.

Gemma. Right.

Gemma who was now staring him down in that way she had where he swore she could read every dirty thought he’d just had about her baby brother. Thank God he knew--OK he was like 95 percent sure--she couldn’t. She’d want to cut his balls off if she could. And he was pretty fond of them.

“Right,” he said, taking her elbow, steering her away from the scene of the crime. “There is free booze to be had.”

Harry and Anne fell in behind them, and Louis tried not to feel the heat of Harry’s gaze on his arse.  

“What are you doing?” Gemma asked him, quietly enough that Louis knew the others wouldn’t hear her.

“What do you mean?” Louis asked, the picture of innocence. Or at least he hoped he was.

She just glared at him, then tugged him sideways. “We’ll catch up, I just want to show Louis this little spot I discovered earlier, down by the stream,” she told the pair that had just caught up to them. Anne winked fondly and Harry’s face shuttered into that blank expression Louis was growing to hate.  

“Oh, go on,” Anne beamed and winked. “Take some private time.

“Mum,” Gemma rolled her eyes, and Harry glanced away.

Louis wanted to reassure him. But what could he do? It was a moot point anyway, because Gemma was already dragging him off past the rows of dainty white chairs, down a little hill to an old bridge tucked into the shadows of the gardens.

“OK,” Gemma lead back against the railing, crossing her arms. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Louis sighed, leaning his forearms against the wood next to her, so he wouldn’t have to look at her. “I’m sorry, Gem.”

“Sorry for what?” There was a dangerous edge to her voice.

He bent forward, so that his forehead was resting against his clasped fingers. The water babbled beneath them, crystal and cool and flowing and soothing. His palms itched to dip into it, cup it in his hands, bury his face in it. Let it pull him back to reality.

“Nothing,” he said shaking his head.

“Ah, and here I thought you were actually going to be honest with me for a hot second.”

Jesus, what did she want him to say? “What do you want me to say?”

“I don’t know, maybe tell me why you and my brother can’t stop eye fucking each other?” she said.

“Well, Gem, when two people like each other very much…” he started, knowing he was being a little shit.

“Oh God, stop,” she actually covered her ears with her hands. “You and my brother...just…no. No, never.”

That stung. “Ouch, Gem.”

“Louis,” her voice finally softened and he glanced at her out of the side of his eye still not lifting his head. “Just…”

“What?”

“It’s Harry,” she said, and lifted her shoulders in a helpless shrug.

“And...I’m me?” It probably shouldn’t hurt. But it was a bit of a slap.

She tilted her head, caught in an honesty that was rare and brutal even between the best of friends. “It’s not that,” she said, cautious now. “It’s just...I wouldn’t say you’re a player or anything. You just don’t tend to let anyone stick. And Harry is someone who will want to stick.”

OK, she wasn’t completely wrong. Maybe he hadn’t found the right person yet. Maybe he got busy at work and with friends and with life and finding a long-lasting boyfriend hadn’t been on the top of his list. Especially after the last time he’d tried that route. His mind skittered away from that memory. The one she knew about all too well.

And so yeah maybe he’d filled the time with hook-ups here and there. “Are you slut-shaming me right now?”

That got a laugh. “Louis. Fuck, no. Please, who would I be one to talk, anyway?”

“So, then...? Just spit it out, Gem” he straightened and turned toward her. “You don’t think I’m good enough for him?”

“Don’t fucking put words in my mouth, Lou,” Gemma spit out, angry now.

“Well that’s what it sounds like you’re saying from over here,” Louis said, hating the petulance in his voice but unable to do anything about it.

“You know I think you’re the absolute best, the best, Louis,” Gemma said. “You’re smart and loving and fierce and loyal and would do anything for me.” She waved a hand around her at that. “Clearly.”

“OK,” he said slowly, trying to unravel it all. He got it, he really did. That didn’t make it easier to hear, though. “So I’m the best, when it comes to being your friend. But as a potential boyfriend to your brother, I’m shit?”

“Stop being fucking dense Louis,” Gemma shot back. “You’re better than that.”

“Better. But just not good enough?”

“It’s not about you, OK? I mean, it is and it isn’t.”

“Seriously, Gem. Not to be a dick, but you’re making zero sense right now.”

“I know I’m making zero sense, do you think I don’t know I’m making zero sense?” she all but stomped her foot like a child. He just raised his brow and waited.

The beats of silence that followed were loaded. But then she took a breath and met his eyes dead on.

“I’m pretty sure you’d break his heart.”

And there it was. “As I recall the last heart that got broken was mine,” he said softly. “So not quite sure why’d you’d think that.”

“Exactly, though,” she laid a gentle hand on his arm, all of the blustery wind seemingly out of her sails. Comforting him still, always there to comfort him. “But since James…well every time someone gets even a little close you back off. Find something wrong with them or suddenly work needs all your attention or whatever. You ghost them. And I keep watching it happen and I can’t watch that happen to Harry.”

Fuck. It was true. He couldn’t even deny it was a pattern. It never seemed like it in the moment though. Really, really, there hadn’t been that many of them. The handful that hung around for longer than a night, well they were great. Just, there was always something missing. Even if the physical chemistry had been there, even if the few dates had been fun, even if it felt nice to have a warm body curled against him at night. Why drag it out if he knew it wasn’t going anywhere? That didn’t make him incapable of forming emotional attachments, right? It made him smart.

Still. “Say that’s true. I just met someone who I think would break that pattern for me and you’re saying I shouldn’t even get the chance to try? Because, what? It makes you uncomfortable?”

Her eyes slid shut at that as if he’d landed a particularly cutting blow. “That’s not fair.”

“You’re not being fair,” he threw back at her.

“You don’t even know him,” she tried.

“It took a second,” he told her, the words almost catching in his throat. They made him vulnerable because they were foolish. But they were true. “It took one second.”

“That’s lust then,” she retorted, looking only mildly uneasy at the topic, he had to give it to her.

He shook his head, though. “It’s not Gemma. I know lust. Believe me. It’s not that. Or just that,” he rolled his eyes. Of course it was lust. Harry was Harry and made Louis want to wreck him on the spot with just a nibble of his lips, so. But it was more, too. “Don’t you ever just know? The minute you talk to someone and it’s like, soul recognizing soul. And god I realize that seems stupid and fake and cheesy but it’s the best way to describe it? After, like, four fucking words, Gemma. I knew. Haven’t you ever just...?” He should probably find better words when he tried to talk to Harry about all this. Now, though, it was still too new to even know what the fuck he was really saying. Was he babbling incoherently?

But Gemma opened her mouth. Then closed it. Looked away.

Interesting.

“Babe?”

After a few beats of silence, she shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe.”

“Oh. Oh. Intrigue,” he laughed. “Who is the lucky man?”

“It’s no one, it’s nothing,” she waved a hand, but still wouldn’t look at him. "Really."

“Well, you’ve got me convinced,” he said, relaxing back against the rail now that the focus was off him. He bumped his shoulder against hers. “Hmmmmm. Let me think, let me think. Clearly someone new.”

A little distressed sound caught in her throat. Bingo.

“Never say it is my replacement? The bartender? What was his… Niall!”

“Shut up,” she muttered.

“Oh. My. God. I’m right,” he cackled and pumped his fist in the air. “Gemma’s gonna get some.”

“Heyyyy, neither of us are getting anything tonight,” Gemma dug her pointer finger into Louis’ ribs and he felt back on solid ground for the first time since she’d dragged him away to talk.

“I mean after her horridness goes and thinks of England while Bradley tries to get it up, we can drag our respective soulmates off to their rooms right?” Louis said, testing to see if they were ready to joke about it.

Gemma buried her head in her hands and groaned but he swore her shoulders were shaking with laughter.

“Ok, fine but we have to make it through the reception,” she said, looking up to glare at him. “If you think you can handle that.”

“I do have some self-control,” he said, fake offended.

“Not that I’ve witnessed this weekend.”

“If only you knew, babe. You’d be so impressed,” he said.

“Ew gross,” she swatted at his shoulder and he nabbed her hand, interlacing their fingers.

“Hey. I’m not going to hurt him,” he said, squeezing hard.

The laughter left her eyes. “You can’t promise that.”

Fair. “OK. I will try very hard not to hurt him. I know that doesn’t count as much, but you know me, Gemma. When have I ever been this sure about something?”

She studied his eyes as if they held all the answers to the uncertainties that lurked in their futures. When she nodded he let out a little sigh. “Alright. If you hurt him I will literally cut off your penis with a really, really dull knife.”

“Terrifying image,” Louis murmured pulling her into him. “And noted.” His lips found her forehead. “We’re OK?”

He felt her nod against his chest. “Right as rain, babe.”

“I love you,” Louis said, lifting his chin to rest against the top of hers. That’s when he met Harry’s wide eyes. Fuck.

“I just…,” Harry stuttered, from his position at the edge of the bridge. “You guys were taking a long… and I thought I’d come…”

Gemma pulled out of Louis’ arms at Harry’s voice. “Oh love, hi. Sorry, yeah we got distracted, we’re coming now.”

Harry just nodded and swiveled on the spot, heading back to the manor.

“So how much do you think he heard?” Louis asked out of the side of his mouth as he and Gemma followed in Harry’s wake.

“I don’t know what answer you prefer,” Gemma said and, yes, there was definitely amusement in her voice.

“You mean if it would be worse for him to have heard me profess my love about him or if he heard me profess my love to you?”

“Either way, this wedding just got a lot more interesting,” Gemma said and the laughter finally broke through. Harry threw a glare over his shoulder that he tried to wipe away once he saw Louis watching.

Yes. A lot more interesting.

***

When Gemma had first told him about the horrid cousin he’d been sure she had been exaggerating the woman’s awfulness.

Now that he’d met her, Louis was sure she’d undersold it.

“I can’t believe dear Gemma here has been hiding you away,” Calista’s fingernails were little daggers digging into Louis' forearm, her eyes almost as sharp as they searched over him for flaws. “I wonder why she’s so embarrassed.”

“That’s my fault,” he said, smoothly slipping an arm around Gemma’s waist to pull her into his side. “I’ve been selfish, keeping her to myself.”

“Louis!” Gemma tapped his shoulder as if she were scandalized by the implication, and Calista’s mouth tightened at the corners. It would have all been vastly amusing had Harry not been standing at the edges of their little circle, steadily working his way through a purple cocktail. His eyes lingered on the spot where Louis’ fingers pushed into Gemma’s hips.

“Well we know Gemma could definitely use the exercise,” Calista cackled as if they were all in on some teasing joke about their sex life. But really she was just a huge fucking asshole.

“I don’t get it, can you explain it to me?” Louis asked.

Harry barked out a laugh, his fist coming up to his mouth as if that would cover the amusement. Louis winked at him and Harry beamed back.

Calista cleared her throat, glancing between the three. Louis and Gemma presented a united front, eyebrows raised as if it were a valid question, and Harry had dissolved into little giggles that he tried to mask by shaking his hair out in front of his face.

“So Harry, what do you think of lovely Gemma’s new boyfriend?” Calista decided to sidestep, her voice syrupy sweet. And this is why they didn’t tell Harry about the rouse. Because all the humor slipped from his face the second he heard the question. He flicked his gaze up to meet Louis’ eyes and then let them drop again.

“I actually just met him,” Harry said. “But congratulations on the wedding, it was beautiful.”

It was a valiant effort to redirect the conversation, but Calista had sensed weakness. And she did exactly what Gemma had predicted she would. She pounced.

“I was under the impression you two had been friends for a bit of time?” She asked, all polite confusion.

“Yes, but Harry’s been at school so he hasn’t gotten a chance to meet Louis before this weekend,” Gemma answered without missing a beat and Louis wondered why it felt like they were being interrogated for a horrific crime.

“You seem quiet, Harry,” Calista sidled up to the boy, latching on to him. “But you must be happy for your sister. It’s been so long since she’d been able to hold on to a man.”

“Well, she manages to hold on to me just...perfectly,” Louis cut in, letting the sex drip from his voice. God, this was stupid. This woman was stupid. Her cliches were even stupid. At least be original lady. “And Gemma had been too busy being promoted three times in the past three years to give me the time of day. What was it that you do, Calista? I think I missed that.”

“Oh Bradley would never let me work,” Calista answered as if it were something to brag about.

Louis simply let the silence hold. Yes, we are all judging you.

He met Harry’s eyes and saw something warm and fond in them that tugged at the space beneath his clavicle. Near his heart.

“Of course, I’m on several charity boards,” Calista’s voice was high and tight--she was starting to break. “They’re very fulfilling.”

“I’d imagine,” Louis murmured.

“So rewarding, so rewarding” Calista hurried to say. “You could not imagine the way it feels to really... give so much of your time to others that are in need. It is indescribable really.”

“Well, Gemma would never tell anyone this, but she volunteers at a center for homeless teens every Sunday morning. Without fail. So I think she does actually know what it feels like.”

“Louis, we don’t need to talk about that,” Gemma said, genuinely blushing.

“See,” Louis said in a conspiratorial voice, leaning in closer to Calista. “So modest and humble. She finds the work rewarding enough in and of itself. Doesn’t like going around telling people about it.”

Harry was biting on his lip now to keep from outright grinning and Louis wanted to join in. Calista looked like she’d sucked on a raw lemon.

Louis decided to go for the knockout blow. This is what he was being put through hell for right? “I really am so lucky. Beautiful inside and out and a killer brain to boot. I can barely believe she even deigned to notice me at all.” He smiled down at Gemma and saw the gleam of humor in her eyes.

“You’re embarrassing me, babe,” she murmured.

“That’s my job right?” he laughed before kissing her soundly and without any warning. She mumbled something against his lips before relaxing into it. Louis tried not to think about Harry watching them.

By the time he lifted his head, Harry was gone and Calista’s glare had turned murderous.

“Well,” she said. “I’m so glad you two could make it. Gemma, maybe skip the cake, dear. Wouldn’t want to get complacent just because you’ve got a man now.”

“Right back atcha, Callie,” Gemma said and Louis knew immediately that Calista must hate the name. They didn’t wait around for a response though, simply swept off through the crowd barely able to contain their smirks.

“That, my friend, was worth the month of paying for your drinks,” Gemma said. “Thank you.”

“Anything for you, love,” he said, smacking a noisy kiss against her cheek. And that’s the exact moment Harry found them again. His face was blank once more and his drink was replenished.

“Harry!” Gemma was riding the high of getting the best of horrid cousin Callie and she practically glowed up at her brother. “Did you see her face?”

“I did,” some of the humor came back to the shuttered facade. “That was brilliant, mate.”

Louis acknowledged the compliment with a twitch of his eyebrow. “Nothing but the truth. Gem, I don’t know why you let her get to you. She’s a miserable person who just wants to make everyone else miserable.”

“God, I know. I shouldn’t care. Why do I? It doesn’t matter though, we made it through guys,” Gemma gripped a hand on each other their forearms as if they were all in it together and had just made it through a particularly nasty battle. “And I am going to go celebrate with more vino. Louis?”

He raised his mostly full glass. “I’m set, love, thanks.”

“Don’t get in too much trouble while I’m gone,” she said with a wink and Louis thought he could gleefully strangle her.

Harry watched her back disappear into the crowd and Louis watched Harry.

“Hey,” Louis said, nudging him until he had his attention again. Harry turned those forrest eyes on him, but didn’t say anything. “Hi.”

That got a smile. “Hi,” Harry murmured, as if suddenly shy. Louis wanted to wrap his arms around him, hold him close so he could feel Harry’s heartbeat against his own. The memory of him on top of Louis in the grass in the sunshine with just their laughter weaving intimacies between them swamped Louis’s senses and he ached. Ached for that and more.

It wasn’t desire. Not sexual at least. It was a need to hold this boy close and just exist together in the same space, in the same breath. It was powerful and overwhelming and Louis knew what Gemma was scared about. Because the initial urge, that knee-jerk reaction, was to run from this, as fast he could. This would hurt. God it would hurt so bad if it crashed and burned.

He’d known Harry for less than 12 hours and he already knew he could destroy him. What kind of bullshit was that?

“So, is this the worst wedding you’ve been to?” he asked, pulling himself out of the emotional morass. It certainly wasn’t the time or place.

“I don’t know. It’s had it’s highlights,” Harry said, one corner of his mouth tugging up at some inside joke with himself. “What about you?”

“Just getting started, yeah? Let’s see where the night takes us before I make any sweeping statements.”

“That sounds like a challenge,” Harry said.

“Are you up for it, then, Harrold?”

“Am I up for making sure you have a good time tonight? Yeah, I think I’m up for it,” Harry said, leaning in closer, his voice smooth and dangerous. Such a riddle this boy. One moment he was all stutters and shyness and mumbled words and bitten lips and the next his eyes smoldered like they were on the set of a bad 90s teen romance. Louis couldn’t say he minded.

“And if I don’t have a good time?” Louis prodded.

“You will,” Harry said. “But if you don’t, I’ll take full responsibility. And you can punish me.”

They both sucked in air at that, as if Harry hadn’t known he was going to let those words slip out. Meanwhile, the edges of Louis’ vision whited out at the image.

“Well,” he managed to choke out. It was a rare person who could throw off Louis Tomlinson. He had to give him props for that. “That certainly sounds promising either way.”

There was a question there, in Harry’s eyes, on his lips. They parted maybe to ask it, or maybe just to keep up this risky game they were playing.

Of fucking course that’s when Gemma came back, all flushed cheeks and bright eyes and laughter at the corners of her lips, slinging an arm around Louis shoulders.

“My loves, come on. Come with me.”

“Where to?” Louis asked, not breaking eye contact with Harry.

“Niall has promised he can conjure up some really fancy champagne. We must go celebrate our victory over the giant pain in the ass that is that awful woman.”

She was already tugging at Louis’ hand. He untangled their fingers to press a hand against Harry’s back instead, guiding him forward. Harry smiled down at him.

“This doesn’t change anything,” Louis said under his breath so Gemma wouldn’t hear. “I’m still holding you to your promise.”

Harry’s hand was warm on the back of his neck as he leaned down, his mouth against the shell of Louis’ ear. “I’ll make it good for you, Louis. I keep my promises.”

Chapter Text

There was no way Harry was imagining it. No fucking way.

His lips closed around the still-cool rim of the champagne bottle and he let the bubbles pop against his tongue before he swallowed and passed it over to Niall.

Niall was a good lad. He laughed a lot. A lot. Seemingly at anything anyone said. But it was endearing rather than off-putting, especially the way his shoulders hunched into themselves when he giggled at something with almost no provocation.

But it wasn’t Niall that caught, and held, his attention.

It was Louis. The golden man who carried himself with an easy confidence that drew people around him in like the sun.

That’s what was happening now, in the little hotel room Niall had pulled them into. They’d collapsed onto the beds but they were all turned, just slightly, toward Louis as he teased and poked Gemma and Niall and held the room captive with just his energy.

Harry was being obvious about staring and he just had zero fucks to give. Because he wasn’t imagining this, whatever this was. Maybe it had been ambiguous before--Louis was clearly a flirtatious man--but there was no way he could dismiss that moment when the innuendo was barely innuendo and the air had been thick with promise. Louis’ pupils had blown out at the mere suggestion that Harry be punished. And when Harry’s fingers had cradled the back of Louis’ neck and promised him a good time--who could misinterpret that --Louis had leaned into the touch.

So Harry was left wondering what the fuck was going on. Maybe it was the bubbly going to his head, maybe it was wishful thinking, but it didn’t seem like it. It seemed like Louis wanted to fuck him. His girlfriend’s brother.

Except Harry kept having to remind himself the two were even dating. That was weird, right? Harry loved happy couples. He loved the way they touched at insignificant moments and made them significant. He loved the way their eyes found each other when something particularly funny happened. He loved the way they told stories--layers upon layers of interruptions and corrections and “oh yeahs” and laughter. Well-worn patterns that slotted into each other’s vocabularies.

Gemma and Louis had some of that.

But the more Harry watched--and it was getting to be constantly--the more it looked like they were just good friends. They laughed into each other’s eyes, but when Louis had parried with Calista his gaze had found Harry’s. Not Gemma’s. He would pull Gemma close, but his fingers never lingered over her curves like they did over Harry’s skin. He’d kissed her forehead, and told her he loved her, and though it had been knives into Harry’s heart, the loose circle of his arms hadn’t tightened, hadn’t erased the very air between them when Louis had said it.

And Harry was pretty sure he was going to hell for thinking such things.

Besides, finish the thought right? What was he trying to convince himself of? That Gemma and Louis were faking it? This wasn’t a rom-com. People didn’t do that in real life.

But as the bottle made it back around to him he couldn’t help but lock eyes with Louis as he swallowed the molten gold.

Louis just stared back, his eyes hooded.

“Let’s play truth or dare,” Harry suggested, emboldened, perhaps to the point of foolishness, by the effervescent bubbles and the heat in Louis eyes.

“God, yes,” Gemma clapped her hands, collapsing back against the bed. They’d paired off, Harry and Niall on one queen-sized mattress and Gemma and Louis on the other. They reached over the divide to keep the alcohol moving.

Louis’ eyes sparked back at him when Harry chanced a glance in his direction. “Well that certainly does sound entertaining.”

“I do my best,” Harry murmured.

“Who starts?” Niall asked, on board, as he seemed to be with everything. Harry wondered if they’d suggested hopping a flight to Portugal what Niall would say. Hell yeah, probably.

“Well,” Louis drawled. “Harry is  the one to suggest it.”

“Yes!” Gemma shouted from her supine position. “And Louis you do the questioning, since you’re to his right.”

“Your logic is just so impeccable whence drunk, Gem,” Louis smiled down at her and Harry ignored the twinge of jealously that flared in his gut.

Gemma smacked his arm. God they were cute.

“So, Harry,” Louis turned those sharp blue eyes on him and Harry lost the plot. Fuck me, please, he wanted to say, but managed to swallow the words. They were on the tip of his tongue, though, and he wondered what it would take for them to spill over.

But for now, he simply said, “Yes?”

“Truth or dare?” Louis said because right. Of course.  

“Truth,” Harry decided, though it was a tough call. Either could be thrilling. Either could be dangerous.

Louis’ eyes swept over him and Harry felt naked under the caress.

“Have you ever been in love,” Louis finally asked after a few moments of consideration.

“Ohhhh,” Niall laughed. Because he always did, it seemed. But Gemma actually sat up, shooting a glance between him and Louis. Her eyebrows creased and she leaned forward, as if she were anxious to hear his answer.

Louis’ eyes never wavered from Harry’s face. So Harry didn’t look away when he answered. It felt important for some reason. “Yes, once.”

“Well don’t leave us hanging, there, mate,” Louis prodded when Harry didn’t elaborate, and there was a practiced casualness to the words.

“My first year in uni,” he started. Was he really about to share this? He took another swig when the bottle miraculously re-appeared in his hands, then passed it off to Niall. “Bloke named Edward. He was...everything.”

Louis cleared his throat at that. “You can spare us some of the details, love.”

Harry laughed but it was without humor. “Well, there isn’t much to tell. I was hopelessly in love and he wanted a booty call. But it was so different, you know?” This time he searched out Gemma’s gaze, knowing she’d understand.

“Holmes Chapel is so tiny, so tiny. You know the same people since you were five and everyone has expectations for you. And they always want to know what girl you’re dating and when you’re getting married and fuck.”

And, lovely. This turned real, real fast and he was starting to sound pathetic. “It’s just that going to school, I kind of fell hard for the first person who liked me back.”

“We all went through that phase, babe,” Louis said softly.

“Yeah, but did you think it was real?” He’d felt so stupid when Edward had stopped answering his calls. Stopped responding to his texts. Harry had been thinking about wedding colors and Edward had been fucking every new student who had a crush he could exploit.

“Of course,” Louis said, sweetly, and of course he did. Why was he perfect in every aspect of his being? “But…”

“But, what?”

Louis looked hesitant. But he finally spit it out. “But were you really in love with him?”

“Isn’t that another round? I answered my truth,” Harry laughed, trying to deflect.

He braced for further interrogation but he only saw kindness in Louis' face. “That you did, babe,” Louis murmured. “Niall! You’re up.”

“Niall,” Harry lunged at the chance to lighten the mood. “Truth or Dare?”

Niall thought about it for a moment. “Dare,” he finally said, tossing it out as if it were a challenge.

And it was. Harry had to think of something good. The obvious one was kissing, of course. He’d been playing this game since he’d been eleven in the schoolyard and the kids had made him kiss Barbara Palvin and he’d felt absolutely nothing except for abject fear that he’d be found out for being uncool.

Kissing was out though. No way was he daring Niall to kiss Louis, and daring him to kiss Gem was just weird. So. “I dare you to streak up and down the hallway. The whole length. Twice,” And Harry felt a burst of pleasure in his chest when Louis fell into a pile of laughter. He wanted to spend his life trying to make Louis laugh.

“Are you going to watch?” Niall was already standing up, shucking off his sweater.

“Of course,” Harry and Louis answered simultaneously, and then grinned at each other. Gemma remained curiously silent.

“Fuckkk,” He drew out the “k”s in that delightful Irish accent and Harry was hopelessly endeared by this person. This stranger who seemed to slot into their group so easily. And then he dropped trow and Harry had certainly not been prepared for a dick in his face. But there one was. He turned away quickly, choking on the giggles.

Harry looked over at Louis, whose eyes had widen at a very naked Irishman standing pretty blatantly and shamelessly in the middle of their room. Maybe Harry should have gone with the kissing thing. But before he could over-think it, Niall brushed past him, and tore out into the hallway whooping and hollering without a care in the world.

“Oh. My. God,” is all Gemma seemed to be capable of uttering before she buried her face in her hands. Louis couldn’t stop cackling and Harry again felt like he was missing something. But that worry didn’t last long as Niall burst back into the room, in full naked glory.

“I hope I don’t get fired for that, mate,” Niall laughed as he tugged his briefs back on. Gemma’s cheeks were red and Harry thought she might be sneaking glances.

Huh.

“I hope not,” Harry said, with all sincerity. Honestly, he’d just been trying to get Louis to laugh. If Niall got fired for it…

“Just kidding, lad,” Niall said, shuking Harry’s arm as he went by. “No one saw.”

He settled against the headboard, seemingly content in just his briefs. Harry met Louis eyes and got a quirked eyebrow in return. Harry chose to interrupt that as, “Can you believe?”

“So Gems,” Niall started and Gemma immediately went on full alert. Harry thought it would be funny except that it was weird. “Truth or dare?”

“I hate this game,” she muttered.

“Be that as it may,” Louis nudged her with his elbow. “You still gotta choose.”

“Mother fucker,” Harry thought she uttered under her breath, but couldn’t be sure. “Dare.”

“Kiss me,” Niall said, without shame. “For at least five seconds.”

The silence hung thick in the room. And then, “Hey.” From Louis.

Niall glanced over at him and shrugged. “Sorry, mate. I’m just not that creative.”

But Harry thought that was probably a lie. Harry thought maybe Niall just wanted to kiss Gemma. Because why else would you dare someone to kiss you? Harry should probably feel bad for Louis. But he didn’t.

“Um” Gemma said, glancing at Louis, who, frankly, looked highly amused at the turn of events.

“Go on, love,” Louis urged. “I’m quite secure in my prowess.”

Gemma rolled her eyes at that as she should have, but then glanced at Niall. ‘Um.” It seemed to be all she was capable of saying.

Niall merely quirked an eyebrow at Gemma and Harry admired him for his cool.

To everyone’s surprise, though, Gemma pushed herself off the bed and stood in front of Niall. He reached up for her, pulling her down so that her knees rested on the mattress beside his hips. One of Niall’s hands found its place at the small of Gemma’s back and the other snagged around the nape of her neck, bringing her closer to him. Their lips finally brushed and Harry looked away.

The chemistry was palpable and he couldn’t be the only one seeing it. He glanced at Louis who was watching it all play out with a little smile lurking at the corner of his lips. Shit. He didn’t seem to care at all.

What did that mean? What did it fucking mean? Was it just that Louis was supremely un-jealous?

Harry studied Louis until he must have felt his eyes on him. And then their gazes caught, intertwined. And as Gemma and Niall deepened their kiss, Harry and Louis simply stared at each other. The air between them was electric, crackling. Harry couldn’t be imagining this. He couldn’t be imagining the promise he saw in Louis eyes as the unmistakable sounds of lust filled his ears, he couldn’t be imagining the heat in his face as he skimmed his gaze down Harry’s body; he couldn’t be imagining the way they didn’t look away when they caught each other staring.

Finally Gemma and Niall broke apart and it was like a spell shattering. Harry glanced down at his lap and willed himself not to be affected by Louis. His lap didn’t seem to want to listen to his calm explanations of how it would be disastrous to lust after the man, though.

“Louis,” Gemma croaked out, settling back into the bed. It was a bit awkward, to be honest. “Truth or dare?”

“Dare,” Louis said, not taking his eyes off Harry. Jesus Christ, Harry wanted. He wanted the dare to be a kiss. Or a touch, or something that brought them closer so that this ambiguousness that lurked in the spaces between them could either catch fire or be doused.

Harry heard the smirk in Gemma’s voice. “Give Harry a lap dance,” she said, and Harry’s world shattered around him. What the fuck. What the fuck was this? Was Gemma taking the piss?

“Uhhhh,” he managed to get out even as Louis stood, tugging at the edges of his shirt. He’d removed his jacket when they’d first walked into the room. But he was still wearing those pants, those pants that were made of sin and dirty thoughts and caressed his bum in ways Harry wanted his hands to.

“Harry, babe, you can veto if you want,” Gemma laughed, a little tipsy, a little slurred. Weird. This was weird. Why wouldn’t the pieces click together? But his brain had stopped functioning the second Louis had pushed to his feet and he couldn’t get anything to make sense.

“Um,” how did he say he was a-o-fucking-kay with this? Without seeming too desperate? Louis had paused, his eyebrows raised, so Harry had to answer. Fuck. “No, it’s cool. I’m game. It’s dare after all right? Gotta do it.”

Louis smirked and Harry didn’t care if he was obvious. He was about to get a fucking lap dance from Louis fucking Tomlinson and this was probably the best moment of his life?

“Oi, let me get…” Niall trailed off as he dug in his pocket, emerging from the excavation with his phone and a little whispered “yes.” “Let me get some music, here.”

A quick flurry of fingers and then something with a low, pounding bass started playing and Harry wondered if all of the air had been sucked out of the room. It certainly seemed like that was the case, because Louis was stepping in between his splayed legs, turning around so his perfect, gorgeous arse was all but in Harry’s face. Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

And then the beat dropped and Louis dropped his bum into Harry’s lap and Harry thought maybe he saw God. Because Louis’ arse nestled right into Harry’s, as if it were made for it. Harry clenched his fingers into the comforter to stop himself from reaching for Louis’ hips. Not that Louis needed any guidance.

It was a slow, relentless grind against Harry’s poor cock. There was no way Louis didn’t feel the hard ridge as he pressed down, as he circled those hips, as he pushed back into Harry. Harry’s hips canted up as Louis pulled away just a bit, in a smooth motion that left no doubt to how good he’d be at riding cock. Then he was back, just there against Harry. The solid weight of him driving Harry mad. Before shifting and moving once more. It was torture. It was paradise.

It was a sad mimicry of what Harry wanted.

Harry took it anyway. He took the feel of Louis’ curves against him, he took the way Louis’ soft belly fluttered at his touch. He took the way those thighs spread over his, accommodating but at the same time demanding worship. Harry’s fingers traced over Louis’ hips, his stomach, his biceps, before, finally, finding his fingers.  Theirs tangled together over the warm flesh of Louis’ thigh as he worked himself against Harry’s thick, hard cock.

Louis leaned his head back, so their bodies were flush against each other, chest to shoulders, with their mouths a whisper apart.

“Baby,” Louis moaned, his lips finding Harry’s dimples and Harry gave up, gave in. Pleasure, that’s all there was left. Nothing else mattered. All he could care about was that he had Louis in his arms, hot, responsive, teasing. Harry traced his fingers up and under Louis’ shirt. Louis didn’t push him away.

He just leaned into it, Louis’ lips finding Harry’s jaw. Harry shifted so that the corners of their mouths touched. Not so much that it was a kiss. He didn’t want to scare Louis off. But enough that it felt like something. Something real.

They both groaned and didn’t move a centimeter, lips just barely--just barely--touching lips, arse flush up against groin, breaths heavy and weighted against each other’s skin.

It was too much. Too much. And then Louis’ fingers found the nape of Harry’s neck, using it as an anchor to go deeper, harder. Harry leaned back into the touch, his hips stuttering up as Louis tugged on his hair.

This time he laid his palm flat against Louis’ stomach. They were both panting as the bass pounded and Harry could feel the gentle rise and fall beneath his fingers.

Fuck it. His mouth found the soft skin of Louis’ neck, his teeth sinking in and Louis bucked into the soft bite of pain.

Still, he didn’t pull away. So Harry went to work. His tongue laved over the skin, his teeth held him in place. It would leave a bruise. Harry groaned at the thought. Of Louis wearing a deep purple love bite on his throat from Harry. It almost had Harry coming in his pants like a teenager.

Harry peeled off, but Louis didn’t stop moving back into his hips, and Harry’s thumb found the sore point he’d just worked over. He pressed down on it wanting it to stick, wanting to mark Louis permanently as his.

And then the music cut off and Harry was doused with ice cold water -- metaphorically.

“Sorry, lads,” Niall sounded regretful, for real. “Time’s up.”

No. God no, Harry wanted to shout. His fingertips dug into the soft flesh of Louis’ hips as if he could hold him there. Against the aching, hard line of Harry’s cock.

Instead of screaming, though, Harry let him go. Even that was sensous, a rock of arse against cock that Harry would have guessed was deliberate if he didn’t know better.

Harry flopped back against the bed, not caring if the bulge in his pants was obvious. At this point, of course it was. Anyone in the room who thought he was immune to Louis Tomlinson was delusional.

He didn’t even bother to look at Louis, just closed his eyes against the artificial light that did nothing to hide what an absolute wreck he was after that simple lap dance.

“Well,” it was Gemma who broke the taut silence. “Hrm.”

“Well said, love,” Louis chimed in, but his usually smooth voice was raspy. Or at least Harry thought it might be. Had he really just given his sister’s boyfriend a hickey while he rode his boner? Jesus fucking christ.

Suddenly he couldn’t stand it any more. In a quick move, he rolled off the bed and stumbled toward the door. Out. He had to get out. Away. Someone called his name and he didn’t even know who it was, he just had to get to the door. There it was, turning in his hand. His name again. But he didn’t stop, didn’t let it register, just fell out into the blessedly quiet hallway.

He only made it two doors down before he collapsed back against a wall, palming his cock, head thrown back at the relief it brought.

And that’s how Louis found him. Harry didn’t drop his hand. He just met Louis' eyes, his own pleading.

Harry's voice was harsh but he had to get the question out. It felt like if he didn’t he would become untethered from reality. “What do you want from me, Louis? What do you want from me?”  

Chapter Text

“Harry,” Gemma started to push off the bed, but Louis beat her to it.

“Harry,” Louis rasped out, his voice still shaky from the, frankly, pornographic scene that had just played out.

But Harry didn’t stop, just fumbled for the door and then he was gone.

“Shit.”

“Oh god, sorry that was my fault,” Gemma collapsed back on the mattress, face buried in her hands. “I was trying to be supportive or something.”

Niall cackled at that, nearly doubling in two. Louis glared at them both as he adjusted himself. “Not your fault, Gem, but shut the fuck up, Irish.”

That only seemed to make Niall laugh harder and Gem winced an apology. Louis didn’t waste any more time on them. He had to get to Harry. 

“They’ll be fine,” Niall’s easy voice followed him out of the room.

He glanced up and down the hallway until he saw his boy, leaning up against the wall his head thrown back, one hand cupping his cock. God, he looked positively obscene and Louis wanted to wreck him where he stood.

That’s when Harry opened his eyes and Louis’ breath caught in his throat at the longing that burned here.

“What do you want from me Louis?” Harry’s voice was raw and Louis’ heart broke at the question. “What do you want from me?”

“Baby,” Louis murmured not sure where to even start.

“No,” Harry bit out, finally dropping his hand and Louis swallowed a sharp command that he put it back. “No, you don’t get to call me that if you don’t mean it.”

This certainly wasn’t the place to have this conversation. And have it they would. It was long past time for this pumpkin of a shit situation to turn into Cinderella. Not here, though. 

“Can you… are you OK?” Louis tipped his head in the general direction of Harry’s cock. “Can you come with me? Erm, no pun intended.”

Harry didn’t seem in the mood to be amused. But he gave a curt nod, just a dip of his head, really. “Give me a second?”

“Yeah, OK,” Louis had his own problem to deal with. He stepped back, stepped away and thought of the pain he saw in the shadows of Harry’s eyes. That was all it took to cool the final flames of desire that had ravaged him only moments earlier. Jesus he hoped he hadn’t fucked this up but good.

It took a few more minutes before Harry said, “Alright, let’s go.”

“Are you sure?” Louis asked, studying him. That goddamn neutral mask of his was back in place.

“I said, alright,” Harry snapped and Louis felt an answering flare. He preferred the little crack of anger breaking through to the blank wall Harry had carefully constructed. Emotion he could work with. Detachment, not so much.

“Whoa, untwist your knickers there, love,” Louis said holding defensive hands up.

“My knickers are none of your business,” Harry said. “Stop thinking about my knickers.” 

“Yeah, easier said than done,” Louis retorted earning him a glare. “Come on.”

He hooked his finger into the loop on Harry’s waistband and gave a gentle tug, letting his hand fall away just as Harry went to swat at it. OK. This wasn’t going to be painless.

They were quiet the rest of the way, skirting the main ballroom where most of the guests were still gathered, slipping by the parlor where a few had wandered to escape the noise. Louis had been holding his breath, praying they weren’t seen. It was just as he let it out, relieved that the doors to the garden were there in sight that he heard the voice. Horrid. Fucking. Cousin Calista. 

“Oh boys,” the purr of it was still all sickeningly sweet sugar-covered poison berries. It made Louis’ skin crawl. Both he and Harry stopped, rooted on the spot then swiveled in near perfect unison.

“Hi, Calista,” Harry hadn’t even bothered to paste on a fake smile. He was over it. He was so clearly over it. Louis let him take the lead. If he was allowed to speak he might say something they’d all regret. And would certainly cost him his month of free drinks.

“Boys,” she said again and Louis heard the alcohol in her voice. It softened the edges of her words but didn’t quite mask the malevolence there. “Sneaking off to make mischief are we?”

Who talked like that?

“Actually, Calista, I’m going to go suck Louis’ beautiful cock, and then maybe I’ll let him fuck me a bit too, we’ll see how the night goes,” Harry surprised them all by saying. Calista’s face went pale, then red, the pale again, her mouth working itself into shapes more commonly seen on fish and Louis choked on his shocked laughter wishing he’d been recording the moment for Gemma. “Have a great night!” Harry finished with a cheeky wave and a cheekier smile, full dimple treatment and everything.

He pulled a still sputtering Louis behind him out into the clean, fresh air of the night. Louis managed to wait until the door shut behind him to unleash his laughter.

“Oh my god, Harold. That was the best thing I’ve ever experienced, I am so, so proud of you,” Louis could barely get it out. There were actual tears in his eyes.

For a moment it seemed like all was about to be forgiven, in the way Harry smiled and blushed under the praise and from having made Louis laugh. But then their eyes locked and Louis could tell the exact second Harry remembered why they were out there in the first place. 

“Yeah, well, I didn’t mean it. I only said it to piss her off. She’s awful and mean to Gemma, and like why is she monitoring us anyway?” Harry was turning away, walking away. Louis sighed and skipped up to him a bit, to redirect his path. He had a plan, after all. Harry let him.

“I wish her a long life full of bad sex and bitterness over other people’s lives,” Louis said.

“Cheers to that, mate." 

The shared amusement faded again as they walked under the deep dark blue sky that was fading rapidly into black. Harry knew where they were going, but didn’t comment on it.

They reached the little field with the football goal a few minutes later. Louis jogged over to pick up the ball they’d long ago discarded. Was that only a few hours back? God it felt like a lifetime ago. And only seconds, at the same time. The smell and feel of Harry, giggling in his arms, was crystal clear in his memory banks.

Harry now though looked unimpressed, just standing there, arms crossed, eyebrows raised. “Really?”

“We never got to play,” Louis wheedled.

“Lou.”

Louis sighed. “Look. I’m scared and nervous and I’m sorry I’m probably shit at this and it would maybe kind of help if we took the edge off first,” Louis held his hand up at that. “Not like that, I mean I would like it like that but no.” He was babbling. Jesus. “I’m just. I need a few minutes? Can we just?”

He didn’t think Harry was going to soften, but then he did, seeming to break all at once. His eyes swept over Louis and then his face relaxed. Not quite into a smile, but he was no longer that blank stranger. He was Harry again. 

And so they played. They played and Louis realized that Harry was particularly awful at footie. They played and Louis realized Harry could fight dirty when he “accidentally” tripped him right as Louis was about to move on the goal. They played and Louis realized that Harry’s natural instinct was to cheer for Louis when he made a good shot, though he quickly slipped his competitive game-face back on after doing what looked like a pirouette in celebration for him.  

They played and Louis realized he could fall for this boy. So hard. He wasn’t there yet, that would be crazy, but he couldn’t remember ever having so much fun with someone. If he could break the clocks, stop time, he would pick this hour to live in forever.

Four goals later and they were lying on the grass again, shoulder to shoulder staring up into the void, but not really seeing it. At least Louis wasn’t.

“This is my favorite time,” Harry whispered, breaking the silence that had wrapped around them. “When the stars come out.”

There was no way Louis was in love with him yet. No way. Except maybe he was a little. He cleared his throat. “Oh yeah? Why’s that?”

Harry shifted his arm so the back of their hands touched. Louis went a step further, interlacing their fingers, letting his thumb rub smooth circles over Harry’s knuckles. The connection was at once fragile and the only thing holding Louis to this earth. 

He felt more than heard Harry sigh. “Sometimes things feel really big, yeah? Like, how am I going to find a job? What am I doing with my life? How do I make my mum proud of me?”

Louis just squeezed, letting him know he was there, listening.

“I don’t know, life’s hard sometimes. Harder than you ever thought it was going to,” Harry’s voice was quiet, but it cut through the still summer air. “But then you go outside and you find an open space and you watch as the stars come out. One by one, until the sky is dotted with fairy lights.”

He broke off. They were quiet again, but Louis didn’t think he was done yet. 

“It makes you feel small,” Harry finally said. “It makes your problems seem small. And maybe not as scary anymore.”

“Love,” Louis murmured and wanted to gather him in his arms. But he couldn’t. Yet.

“It’s silly,” Harry muttered and Louis slid his gaze to him. He could see the faintest hint of a blush splashed across his cheeks.

“It’s not,” Louis said. “It’s really not.”

Harry shrugged. 

“Do you know when I was like seven, my grandfather died,” Louis unlocked their fingers and pushed up onto his elbow so he could look down into Harry’s face. He needed to see him. “A few days later my mum took me driving, because we liked to do that sometimes. She pulled off into this meadow or something, and we sat on the hood of the car until really late at night.” 

Harry’s eyes were locked on his and Louis wanted. God he wanted.

“She told me that the people we love don’t actually leave us,” Louis continued softly. “They just become stars. We get to see them each night if we just look up. They’ll be there watching over us.” He paused. “You can’t really see the stars in London.”

“Lou.”

“See mine is so much sillier,” Louis tried to laugh it off, tried to ignore the coating of emotion that was slick against his throat. 

“Lou,” Harry said simply, but it was loaded with understanding, affection, promise. Louis blinked back tears, not even sure why they were there in the first place. It was just … a lot.

“Lou,” Harry said, one more time, his thumb brushing the corner of Louis’ eye where moisture had gathered. “Are you still scared?”

“Shit-less,” Louis laughed, but it was a watery laugh. He pushed up, away, until he was sitting crossed-legged by Harry’s hip. “But you deserve an explanation.”

Harry nodded, shifting until he was upright too. Their knees bumped together.

Where to even fucking start?

“Gemma and I aren’t dating,” he blurted out without any grace whatsoever. Perfect. Nailed it.

Harry’s eyes went wide at that, but there wasn’t any real shock on his face. “I gathered,” he murmured with a sweep of his hand toward Louis and then the field and the stars and everything in between them.

“Ha, yeah. Sorry,” Louis should have spent the time playing footie preparing for this instead of watching the way Harry’s curls bounced around his pretty face. “Um. Apparently my acting skills are not up to snuff.”

Harry barked out a laugh and Louis felt a little piece of the rock currently weighing down his soul break off and disintegrate. If Harry was laughing maybe it meant he didn’t hate him for it. “I don’t know, you did a pretty good job. I was convinced,” he paused. “For some of it.”

“I’m sorry, love,” Louis said, his hand on Harry’s knee, gentle and questioning. Harry didn’t grab it, but he didn’t push it away either, so Louis left it there. “We never intended it to be like that.”

“What did you intend? Why were you even doing it? You’re actually friends with Gemma right?”

“You know it sounded like a brilliant plan when she first pitched it,” Louis stopped at that. “Well actually it sounded mad, but she was desperate. And yes we’re friends, unfortunately. She is the platonic love of my life so I seem to be stuck with her for good.”

Harry smiled at that. “She is all kinds of amazing.”

“Which she knows,” Louis said with a glare that only Gemma’s brother could understand. Harry did a slow head nod and had they not been in the middle of an emotionally charged moment Louis would have fist-bumped him. “So anyway she kind of hates Calista.”

“Yeah, most people do.”

“But with like a passion. And I guess cares what she thinks at the same time? I don’t know, people are weird,” Louis said, not wanting to dive into Gemma’s psychology. “Anyway, all that to say is Gemma was about to show up as single to her mortal enemy’s wedding." 

“Enter Louis,” Harry murmured. 

“Enter me. And give me a fucking medal for the best friend of the year because this weekend has tested my soul,” Louis said and Harry giggled at that. The sound of it eased the tight vise of terror that had held Louis in its grasp. 

“I feel like I’m in a rom-com,” Harry said. “I couldn’t figure out why you guys wouldn’t be dating if you said you were. Everytime I tried I just felt crazier than I already did.”

“I’m sorry,” Louis said again, because what else could he say? “I couldn’t have predicted…”

“Me.”

“Yeah. You,” Louis said.

“So?”

“The rest?” Louis asked, trying to delay it.

“Please.”

“Well since you asked nicely,” snark was Louis’ comfort zone, what could he say? Harry just stared. “OK. Well, remember how I said we all had that phase? Mine was a kid name Patrick.”

He held his breath at essentially coming out to Harry, but Harry merely raised his brows for Louis to continue. Louis huffed out a breath.

“It was when I was back in Doncaster and he was mostly straight except when he wasn’t and wanted blow jobs in the back of his truck and I was stupidly in love and thought that of course he loved me he just needed to figure some things out.” Louis closed his eyes at the memory, not wanting to see Harry’s face. “I thought he was… what did you say about your guy? Everything.”

“Oh, Lou.” And it was then that Harry reached for his hand, letting their fingers slot together until Louis could feel the warmth of his palm and he let that heat slip into all the dark and bruised places he kept locked up.

“It’s OK, really, I am over it, truly” Louis gave a shaky laugh. “But it was stupid and cliche and ended horribly if you can imagine. After that there was James. Thankfully he was not straight, but he was an ass. Again, the details don’t really matter other than they left me pretty skittish when it comes to...love. Ah god,” Louis stuttered out a breath. “Do you see why I was terrified to do this?”

“You don’t have to,” Harry started, and Louis could tell he was going to let him off the hook. Let him duck this conversation and any guilt or responsibility from the way he acted. 

“No. I said you deserve an explanation and you do,” Louis breathed in deep. Counted to three. Ready and go. “The thing is, I’ve been avoiding any emotional attachments ever since. I never let anyone get close. It wasn’t conscious. But anytime I thought, maybe, I’d start finding all the ways they annoyed me or that we didn’t fit or why it wouldn’t work. And ended it. Then I saw you.”

Harry stilled completely. But didn’t say anything.

“You and your curls and the way you bite your lip and your eyes and pretty face and your legs and Jesus, Harry,” Louis cut himself off. Because. Whelp. That was embarrassing.

But Harry just laughed.

“So yeah, my first thought was that I wanted to fuck you. Like on the spot,” and there was that pretty blush again, just barely visible in the moonlight. “But then we talked and we laughed and we flirted and, God, I wanted to know you. Like properly know you.”

“Wanted?”

“Want,” Louis breathed out, hope a dangerous little bubble that was maybe, possibly, growing the longer Harry kept holding his hand. “I want to make you laugh, I want to hear your stories, I want to know what you don’t like and why. And I really, really, really want to suck your cock.”

Harry barked out a laugh at that, his free hand coming up to cover his mouth.

“Is that OK?” Louis asked into the silence that gathered around them once more. 

Harry took a few moments to answer and Louis died approximately fourteen times in those minutes. “You shouldn’t have lied to me.”

“I should not have,” Louis agreed quickly.

“I mean once you knew me,” Harry amended. “You were helping a friend. I get it. I just felt like a complete idiot.”

Louis made a sound deep in his throat, wishing he could make that go away. “You weren’t, though. An idiot. And even if I had been dating Gemma, you still wouldn’t have been an idiot. You shouldn’t be embarrassed by any feelings you have.”

And Harry was back to chewing on that bottom lip again, the first thing that had driven Louis mad. This time he didn’t restrain himself, simply reached up and thumbed at that plush mouth of his. The tip of Harry’s tongue darted out to touch, to taste. But then he pulled back. 

“I was mortified,” Harry mumbled and Louis hated this shift in him. He’d been angry before, sure, but he hadn’t been dejected.

Louis couldn’t take it any more. He pushed to his knees and then shifted so that he was straddling Harry, his bum nestled into his lap, his hands cupping that beautiful jaw to force Harry to meet his eyes. 

“Hey,” Louis said softly, and Harry’s arms came loosely around him. It was just them and the stars and the summer night and the cool grass beneath them and Louis was utterly, utterly lost. “I know what it’s like to feel that way. I hated it and I wish you didn’t have to experience even a moment of doubt. Because I didn’t. The second I saw you, baby, I knew.”

“That sounds like a cheesy line you’d use to pull,” Harry muttered but there was no heat in it, and he leaned his face into Louis’ touch, his hands clasping tighter at the small of Louis’ back.  

“Give me some credit, if I was trying to use a line it certainly wouldn’t be cheesy,” Louis pushed his hand back into Harry’s curls, carding his fingers through the locks.

“Are you saying you weren’t trying to pull me?” Harry asked, and the teasing was back in his voice. So was a warm, slick emotion. And Harry’s breath hitched when Louis tugged at his hair, something he’d already noted Harry liked. Confirmation was nice though.

“I’ve never tried so hard at anything in my life,” Louis murmured. They sat there for a moment, their mouths a whisper apart but neither of them moving in or moving away. It was startlingly intimate. But Louis needed to make sure. “Do you forgive me?”

It was just a heartbeat between the question and Harry’s slow nod, but for Louis it felt like eternity. “Yeah, Lou. I do.”

“Whoooooooop,” Louis tossed his head back and shouted into the night, breaking both the quiet serenity and the mood. He couldn’t help it. 

“You freak,” Harry giggled, his dimples out in full force. Louis pressed a finger into one of them and Harry batted away his hand, a playful kitten.

Louis beamed down at his boy, the joy and relief making him giddy. God that had been a tense 12 hours. “You like me.”

“Shut up,” Harry said, burying his smile in his hands.

“You do, you like me. You can’t take it back,” Louis started poking at him, his fingers finding the vulnerable spots he remembered from earlier. “Admit it! You like me, you want to marry me, you want to have my babies.” Each taunt was accompanied by a little jab until Harry was gasping and squirming beneath him.

But Louis made a fatal mistake and let his attention drift, his gaze caught by those deep forest eyes crinkling up at the corners. Harry seized the opportunity to wrap Louis in his arms, and shift them in a quick move so that he had the upper ground.

Suddenly they were both breathless as Harry slotted himself so that they were pressed together from chest to hip, their legs intertwined. Harry had managed to snag Louis’ wrists in one of his humongous hands and held them above Louis’ head, and Louis, for once in his life, felt helpless. And he loved it.

So. That was interesting.

“You say it first,” Harry said, his teeth finding Louis’ jaw. He nipped at the skin there, then licked it, then moved on to Louis’ neck. Harry seemed to have a thing for love bites. That was cool, too.

But this was important.

“Hey,” Louis said to get his attention, lifting his shoulder up to knock into his. Harry begrudgingly pulled off his neck, and met his eyes. “I like you, Harry.”

Louis thought Harry’s face might actually split from how wide his stupid grin was.

“Hey, Louis,” Harry said, his lips just resting against Louis’, and Louis was left just smiling like an idiot against them. “I like you, too.”

It was Louis who closed that last breath of air between them, surging up to meet Harry’s mouth. And lord thank you baby jesus they were kissing. His tongue tangled with Harry’s, each a bit frantic, a bit sloppy, each desperate to get a taste. Louis sunk his teeth into Harry’s plush bottom lip like he’d been wanting to do all day and tugged. Harry moaned deep, and chased Louis’ tongue back into his mouth. Slick, silky heat, that’s all that mattered now.

Louis shifted his hips, because he wanted to feel Harry. Feel Harry as he started to harden against Louis, feel Harry’s little thrusts that didn’t he didn’t seem able to control, feel Harry’s thigh, tight up against Louis giving him the friction he craved. Feel Harry. That’s all he wanted, that’s all he could do.

And then. Then. Because life wanted to slap him in the balls one more time for all his sinning ways, the fucking sprinklers came on.

Chapter Text

“Mother fucking christ,” the words were shouted into Harry’s mouth and Harry had to bite back his own shrieks as they were doused with water. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

Harry pulled back, laughing down at the man beneath him, too happy with life to mind the sprinklers. Louis didn’t seem to be sharing the sentiment.

“Stop grinning down at me like a lunatic and haul ass, Styles,” Louis tugged at his wrists, still firmly held in Harry’s hand, bucking his hips up in a way that made Harry swallow his tongue even if that wasn’t the intended purpose.

“We’re just going to be taking our clothes off anyway,” Harry couldn’t help it. There was something about an irritated, wet and writhing Louis that he didn’t want to let go of yet.

“Harold,” Louis gritted out right before the sprinkler did another pass and they both ended up with a faceful of water. Harry just shook his head to clear the drops, some of them splashing down onto Louis and Harry had to swallow his laughter.

“Yes, Lewis?”

“I would like to remind you that my knee is very well-placed to do some damage to an area I would prefer not to do damage to,” Louis said. “But, mind you, I will pull the trigger if necessary.”

Harry considered calling his bluff, but then Louis’ leg twitched beneath him and he decided it wasn’t worth it. He wanted Louis in a bed, anyway.

“Heyyy,” he drawled out, blocking the aborted motion anyway and rolling off Louis. He pushed to his feet, and timed the arc of the sprinklers. Just when they were about to swivel back toward them, he took off running. “Catch me if you can!”

“You fucking bastard,” he heard Louis shout out behind him, but he didn’t look back. His heart was pounding as he slipped on the wet grass, but he was giggling madly and he could not remember a more perfect feeling in his life.

Louis caught him just as he was just about to round the corner of the house, all but tackling him to a stop. They stayed on their feet, but Harry stumbled back a few paces and then let Louis push him back a few more until he was pressed up against the brick wall.

“You’ll pay for that,” Louis said, his body flush up against Harry, and Harry couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but let Louis’ mouth ravage the soft skin where his throat met his collarbones. Harry let his head drop back against the wall to provide better access. Louis’ tongue found Harry’s pulse point and it lingered there, pressing deep, his teeth nipping at the skin.

Harry need more, though. And then, as if reading his thoughts, Louis’ hand slipped between them and palmed Harry’s hard cock. “Pleaseee…” Harry whimpered, his hips stuttering into Louis’ hand.

“OK, baby, I’ve got you,” Louis pulled back with a soft, lingering kiss on the mark he’d just made. “Come on.”

Grasping Louis’ fingers tight, Harry let himself be pulled into the manor. They kept to the shadows as best they could.

When Louis paused at the stairs, Harry bumped into his back.

“Do you have stuff?” Louis asked, starting up them, but slowly.

Stuff. Shit. Did he? He tried to remember, but his brain was a bit foggy.

“Pretty sure,” he muttered.

Louis quirked a brow. “Pretty sure, Harold? You realize neither of us are in a state to mess around with pretty sure.”

Harry grinned back and copped a quick feel. “Yeah. I have stuff.” He was pretty sure.

He really didn’t want to go to Louis’ room and risk a metaphorical cold shower in the form of his sister.

“Your room,” Louis leaned into Harry’s hand before skipping up the stairs at a much faster pace. Harry would feel smug if he wasn’t achingly hard himself. Especially with Louis’ arse now wiggling in his face.

They made it to his room without incident -- thank Christ -- and Harry dove for his bag. There. He sent up a prayer of thanks as his hands closed around a little travel bottle of lube and some condoms. Apparently he’d been optimistic?

He held them out like trophies to Louis who smirked at him, took them from his hands and laid them on the side table. Official business out of the way, then.

When Louis turned back to him, they both stilled. They hadn’t turned the lights on but there was enough coming in from the windows to bathe the room in a romantic, silvery glow. The shadows it created were almost as intriguing as the way it caressed Louis’ cheekbones, his lips, his shoulders.

“Are you sure about this,” Louis asked, his watchful gaze tracing over Harry, where he stood rooted on the spot.

How to say yes? That he was just completely blown away by the beauty that stood before him he couldn’t even move. Probably tone it down from that, maybe? He bit his lip stepping closer and watched Louis’ eyes drop to his mouth. It gave him the confidence to actually speak.

“Yeah. Fucking yeah, Lou. I’ve been at least half-hard all day because of you. Can we?” OK that wasn’t the most eloquent he’s ever been, but it got Louis to finally move. And then Louis’ hands were on him and that was really all that mattered. So.

Somehow he ended up on the bed, Louis pressing him into the mattress, his mouth all over Harry. His tongue swirling into the shell of Harry’s ear, his teeth teasing his shoulder, his lips finding Harry’s nipple. And sucking.

Harry arched off the bed, his fingers tugging frantically at Louis shirt. They didn’t seem to be working properly though. “Off,” he muttered, hoping Louis’ were more functional. Louis was no help though; he simply hummed against Harry’s chest and kept working over Harry’s nipple. “Lou, want.”

Louis finally pulled off to study Harry’s face. There was lust there, in his eyes, in the way his cheeks flushed. But there was affection, too. And Harry couldn’t look away.

“OK, yeah, let’s…” Louis pushed up until he was straddling Harry’s hips, and started tugging at the last remaining buttons on Harry’s shirt so he could nudge it off him. Harry shifted to accommodate Louis, unable to do anything else. “God you’re so pretty, baby,” Louis said, his fingers reverent against Harry’s skin. Each stroke was fire and Harry burned. Harry burned. “These are so pretty,” a pinch and a twist that was just on this side of pain.

Harry’s mouth dropped open, gasping for what, he didn’t know. But Louis did.

“Here, sweetheart,” he murmured pushing two fingers in between Harry’s lips, his eyes hooded as he watched them sink into the warmth.

So good. Perfect. Louis was perfect. He knew what Harry needed.

Harry lapped at the fingers, as Louis’ started working on Harry’s belt. Only when he’d gone as far as he could with one hand, did he pull out of Harry’s mouth. Harry whimpered, earning him a smirk.

“Shhh, just a minute.”

Then Louis pulled Harry’s trousers and pants off in one swift move and Harry was naked. Naked and hard and panting. He didn’t care if he looked easy for it. He was. For Louis. He let his legs drop and spread, watching Louis from behind half-shuttered eyes.

“Fuck,” Louis breathed out, his hand going to his own still-clothed cock. “You are so fucking beautiful.”

“You are,” Harry slurred, his voice heavy with desire. And then it processed that Louis still wasn’t even close to naked. That wouldn’t do at all.  

“Louis,” he whined, his fingers inching toward his own cock needing something, anything.

“No touching, baby,” Louis said, his eyes following the movement. “That’s my job, yeah?”

Shit. Harry’s cock twitched at that command. But he didn’t dare move. He didn’t want to. All he wanted to do was watch Louis as he slowly, so fucking slowly, popped the buttons open on his shirt, as he shrugged out of it in the most delicious way possible, as his hands trailed over his soft tummy to the waistband of his pants.  

OK he really fucking wanted to grab his cock then. He didn’t though, he didn’t. He was good for Louis.

This tension was too much to sustain though. He was about to break into a million burning pieces of glass.

“That’s it baby,” Louis knew. He knew. “You’re being so good, sweetheart. You’re so good, so pretty. Just want to wreck that mouth of yours. Want you to get your lips around my cock, take it deep. Would you like that?”

There was a faint buzzing in Harry’s ears, and he couldn’t do anything more than whimper out vowels that he knew weren’t actually words. Louis smiled anyway, letting the pants fall to the ground. His cock was hard and dripping and Harry had never wanted anything more in his life.

“Yeah? And then when your throat is all fucked out I’ll move on to that little bum of yours,” Louis said as he climbed on the bed. “Want my fingers in you. Want to make you feel good, want to make you ready for me.”

Louis shifted over him, and Harry mouthed at the hot cock that was suddenly within reach. “Here you go baby, here you go,” Louis murmured as he fed Harry his cock.

Harry’s brain went white with pleasure at the feel of Louis hard against his tongue. He didn’t know if it was allowed, but he brought his hands up to cup Louis’ bum, his fingers digging into the flesh there. Louis groaned and let his hips stutter forward just a little and Harry took him down easily.  And then he couldn’t think any more.

It was just Louis and the taste of him and his scent and the pressure against the back of his throat and Louis’ fingers in his hair pulling, guiding. Harry let his jaw go slack so that Louis could set the pace and he was completely out of control. He was flying in a daze, but also somehow grounded. It was the light pressure on his chest, Louis’ thumb pressing into the hollow of his cheek, the swell of arse beneath his fingers. It was those points that kept him from shattering.

He hummed around Louis and managed to draw a whine from him. The victory of it was a slow pulse of happiness. Louis was so in control. Harry wanted to see him lose it. Now, though, he simply hollowed his cheeks and took him deep again. Louis held there, long enough for Harry’s head to go a little spinny, and then pulled back. And then guided himself deep again. The rhythm was intoxicating.

But then Louis was pulling back completely and Harry clutched at him afraid to lose his tether to reality.

“Don’t want to come yet,” Louis said, his voice hot against Harry’s ear as he moved away and down Harry’s body. “You were so gorgeous for me though, sweetheart. So gorgeous.” The words alone shouldn’t make Harry feel this way. But they did.

Louis’ fingers danced over the hair leading down to Harry’s cock, his mouth a whisper behind. Harry thought he’d get some blessed relief, but Louis’ lips simply ghosted over his aching, dripping, length as he continued his path down.

Louis didn’t stop until he got to the bottom of the bed. Then he gently took one of Harry’s feet in his hand, shifting it so that Harry’s legs fell open even wider, and then kissed the ankle. “So strong,” he murmured against the skin, his tongue darting out in a little kitten lick as he moved up. His mouth traced up until he reached Harry’s knee. He licked into the little dimple behind it. “So long. They go on forever, love.”

Harry reached up for the the spindles of the headboard, knowing that if he didn’t have something to hold onto his fingers would find Louis’ head, guide him to the place he needed him the most.

“Ah,” Louis breathed as he reached Harry’s thigh. It had been a slow and torturous journey, and it sounded as if he reached the promised land. When Louis’ bit down into the flesh of his inner leg Harry couldn’t hold still. He bucked at the wave of pleasure that radiated from the point. Louis simply gripped his hips harder, holding him down against the bed.

“Louis...Louis,” Harry panted. He didn’t even know what he was asking for anymore. Louis, goddamn his gorgeous face, just smiled at him, and brushed the scruff on his chin against the sensitive skin. “Gahhhh.”

“That’s it, sweetheart, want to hear you,” Louis said, still just idly scratching his beard against Harry’s inner thigh as he worked himself closer toward Harry’s cock.

“Lou, can’t. Want. Now,” Harry tried. Louis’ smooth voice had been sliding over him, making all the nerves already buzzing from his touch go electric. But Harry couldn’t manage anything past one syllable. Which could have something to do with the way Louis’ fingers finally wrapped around the weeping head of his cock. He used the pre-come to glide down and Harry lost what little remaining ability to talk he’d been holding onto.

Louis smirked, and Harry wanted to turn the tables, watch him come undone. But now he just really, really wanted Louis to fuck him.

“Plshaf,” Harry tried to say as Louis’ dry finger dipped between the swell of his arse to nudge at his hole, not pushing in, just resting there. “Please,” he managed.

“So pretty for me,” Louis murmured against his thigh. “Want to watch you come apart.”

He was, though. He was all but shuddering with the desire that coursed through him. It had never been this good, and they’d barely done anything. It was scary as hell.

Harry wanted to cry when he felt Louis reach for the bottle, heard the snick as he opened it to coat his fingers with the slick lube.

“Is this what you want, baby?” Louis settled in between his thighs again and Harry spread wide like he was greedy for it. “Ready?”

“Louissss,” Harry gritted out. Was he fucking joking? His suspicions were confirmed when Louis laughed quietly. He was fucking evil.

But Harry immediately forgave him once he slipped a finger The burn was slow and hot and Harry arched into it. And through it all Louis kept up his constant murmuring of sweet words and praise. Harry had never before realized how much he needed it, how hot it was. Jesus.

“So tight, baby,” Louis said, against the skin of his thigh.

Harry nodded, unable to do much more. Everything was taut. His muscles strained as if he were being pinned down, but it was only Louis hand holding him still. A thin layer of sweat coated his body as Louis worked a second finger in, scissoring him open.

“Another,” Harry choked out. He needed Louis’ cock. But if he didn’t get it soon he’d come anyway.

“Shhh,” Louis pressed his free hand on Harry’s stomach right above his cock and the pressure was somehow exactly what he needed. And then Louis was three fingers deep with Harry bucking against him. “I’ve got you baby. Just what you need.”

“Need. You,” Harry said. It should have been embarrassing, but it wasn’t. And Harry pried his eyes open to meet Louis gaze. It was then that Louis faltered. Harry felt Louis finger pause while Louis dragged in a deep breath.

“Christ Harry,” Louis murmured, moving again, hooking his fingers so that they rubbed over the sensitive bundle of nerves in Harry and Harry keened, unable to hold back the moan at the sensation.  

“Gonna…” Harry warned and Louis stopped again.

“Ok, baby, Ok. Thank you for warning, me. So good,” Louis pulled out, leaving Harry gaping and clenching on air. Harry whimpered again, but there were Louis’ lips to swallow the sound. And then he was licking into Harry’s mouth, their tongues finding each other and Harry thought maybe this was all he needed. But then Louis’ cock brushed against his and Harry knew he need more. Right. Fucking. Now.

Louis seemed to sense his urgency and moved to quickly sheathe himself with the condom, then slick himself up. Harry let his hands roam over him as he set about his tasks, marveling at the contrast of his pale fingers against Louis golden skin. He wanted to lap at it, taste the honey on his tongue.

But now he just wanted Louis in him. He’d wanted it all day, and now he was about to get it. He’d been fucking patient. He deserved it.

Louis hitched Harry’s legs up, so that he was spread wide for him. Harry felt wanton and vulnerable and needy. He panted out, wishing he could cup his cock just to give it the little bit of the friction he needed. But Louis had said no.

So he didn’t as Louis’ cock caught on the ring of muscle. So he didn’t as Louis sunk slowly into the warmth of him. So he didn’t as Louis settled himself, balls deep.

“Baby.” Louis had dropped to his forearms so their faces were close so close. Harry lifted up just slightly to brush his nose against Louis’ and Louis let out a slow chuckle. “Are you good?”

“The best,” Harry said, not caring if it didn’t make sense. Louis would know what he meant. He seemed to get it. He smiled down at Harry, even though his muscles were bunched and tight as if it was taking everything in him to not wreck Harry. He didn’t though. He just stayed buried where he was, pulsing and hot inside Harry, and bent so their lips whispered over each other.

It was sweet. So achingly sweet. Just a slip of tongue against tongue, but not in that hot and dirty (and amazing) way from earlier. This was just. It felt...loving. Tears gathered at the corners of Harry’s eyes and god he was awful. He blinked hard so Louis wouldn’t see them, because he might think something was wrong. And Harry had never had a moment be this not-wrong in his life.

So instead of blurting out something incredibly insane like “I love you, marry me, have babies with me,” he squeezed his eyes shut, broke the kiss and nipped at Louis’ ear with his teeth.

“Louis,” he’d meant it as a growl, as in get your ass moving, literally. But it came out more of a plea. He didn’t care though, because it got a laugh out of Louis and then finally - Jesus fucking Christ - finally Louis started to move.

It was slow and deep at first, just like that kiss. Glorious. But then Louis shifted and hit right up against Harry’s prostate, and Harry saw fucking stars. He saw fucking stars.

“Come just on my cock, baby,” Louis said, his voice broken. Harry wanted to, God he wanted to. He’d never had before though. “Be so good for me, yeah?”

And with that, Louis twisted Harry’s nipple at the same time he hit his prostate with a particularly hard thrust and Harry was gone. Untethered. He was coming all over his chest but he didn’t even feel it, all he felt was white-hot pleasure racing up his spine, pulsing waves of sensations coursing through him.

He didn’t know how long it took him to return to earth, but he knew his heart was still racing and that Louis was still hard, unmoving, inside of him. Harry met his eyes, and there was sweat beading on Louis’ forehead as he gritted his teeth.

“That was gorgeous,” Louis said, his voice sounding awed. “So, so pretty Harry. You were so good for me. So good. So beautiful.”

The words brought the rush of tears back to his eyes and this time Louis saw them.

“Baby?” he asked, his thumb catching one of the drops as it slipped over.

Harry shook his head, not sure he could even explain if he wanted to. He tried, though, because Louis was looking so worried. “Happy.”

Louis dropped his forehead to Harry’s and the movement reminded Harry of Louis’ predicament.

“Lou, please.”

“Are you sure?” Louis asked, and Harry, though sore, wanted it.

He dug his fingers into Louis’ arse to get him moving because forming words was still a bit hard, and it seemed to do the trick. It only took a couple more thrusts before Louis followed him over the edge.

Louis pulled out slowly, tying off the condom before dropping it in the little bin next to the bed. Then he gathered Harry in his arms, pulling him up against his chest, so Harry’s head could nestle in the crook beneath his chin. Harry felt him bury his face in Harry’s hair, one hand following suit, while the other splayed on Harry’s back. It was heaven.

“Christ, Harry,” Louis said softly.

Harry smiled against Louis’ slowing pulse. “It was alright,” he murmured, his words fading as sleep pulled at him.

“Fucker,” Louis said and pinched Harry, but there was amusement in his voice.

“Best Louis,” Harry said, leaving his mouth open against Louis throat, just breathing in the sweet smell of his skin. “Best.”

“You are, baby,” Louis said into his hair, but Harry was already on the cusp. Louis’ voice, murmuring sweet words of praise, was a lullabye as he finally succumbed to sleep.

 

***

Louis’ arms were filled with warm boy and if he had to wake up this was the way to do it. Harry was mouthing at his throat, still caught somewhere in the delicate web between sleeping and not sleeping.

Louis smiled against his hair, not in a rush. He let himself remember last night and images of Harry hot and begging beneath him flashed through his head like an old home movie, broken and beautiful and rose-toned. Its soundtrack was the way Harry had whimpered when Louis fucked him just right.

And these thoughts were doing nothing good to the semi he’d woken up with. Or they were doing everything good to the semi he’d woken up with. He was pressed up against Harry’s hip, and as he got hard, Harry’s movements became more deliberate, more insistent.

Louis tugged on his curls. He wanted to see his boy’s face.

Harry shifted up and over so that they were slotted together, their cocks pressed against each other and Louis hissed out at the contact.

“Morning,” Harry murmured, brushing his lips against Louis’, neither of them caring about their breath.

It was all too much. The warm bed, the sleepy voice, the way the light streamed into the room, casting it in a soft golden glow. How was this so good? So right?

“Are you real?” Louis asked, pushing a finger into the dimple -- the one he was, dangerously, thinking of as his -- as Harry smiled at the question.

“What do you think?” Harry asked, grinding his cock down against Louis.

“Mmmm, not convinced. Sorry Harold,” Louis choked out, belying the words.

There was a glint in Harry’s eyes Louis hadn’t seen before. It looked like determination.

“You need more proof, then?” Harry asked, his voice slipping even deeper than his normal register. “Is that what you’re saying, Lewis?”

Louis wondered if he was poking a sleeping dragon. Probably he was. Probably he wouldn’t mind seeing what that dragon would do. Louis’d taken control last night and it had felt natural. But he flashed back to that moment under the stars when Harry had trapped him against the ground. It had been fucking hot.

He was just so big. Everywhere. Louis arched into his cock wondering what it would be like to be fucked by it. It had been a while since he’d done that, so it was a little terrifying. But he wanted it. God, he wanted it.

And Harry seemed game.

“I’m saying you seem like a lot of talk and no action this morning,” Louis threw out the challenge, squirming beneath Harry as if trying to escape.

It had the intended effect. “I’ll show you action,” Harry muttered and Louis laughed. The sound died on his lips though as Harry pushed off him and then in a smooth move flipped him over like he was just a rag doll. The man-handling. Jesus. It was working.

He canted his hips into the bed, missing the friction of Harry against him. But he was there again, pressed against Louis’ back, his tongue and mouth working the skin at the nape of Louis’ neck. He nibbled on the sharp point at the top of his spine, as his hands - his huge fucking hands- captured Louis’ wrists, bringing his arms up and over his head.

“Stay,” Harry murmured into Louis’ ear, nipping at the vulnerable lobe before moving on.

“And if I don’t?” Louis asked. He wanted this, he wanted Harry in control. But whereas Harry gave himself over to Louis like a gift, Louis needed for it to be dragged from him. He would always challenge and prod and poke, and Harry better get used to it.

“Do you want to find out, Lou?” Harry’s hand brushed against the swell of Louis’ bum in a ghost of a promise and Louis couldn’t stop his hips from pushing into the caress.

That was. An interesting thought. His cock twitched and spurted against the sheets.

But it was probably something to be explored at a later date. Now he was already too close to the edge to talk through it like they would need to do.

So though Harry’s low chuckle at Louis’ lack of response was galling, he didn’t really think he could saying anything past, “Mhmmph,” which he muttered against the pillow.

Anyway, losing that little stand-off wasn’t so bad, because it meant Harry was tracing wet, open-mouthed kisses down the length of his back, He paused at the dip right above Louis’ bum, licking and biting at the skin there. “This has been torturing me.”

“My bum?” Louis asked, trying not to shift and push said bum against Harry’s face. Patience was probably a virtue. Or something.

“Hmmm,” Harry hummed and proved Louis right as he moved lower. And then his fingers and mouth were kneading and tonguing and exploring the flesh there. “Jesus Louis. It’s a fucking masterpiece. Should be in the Louvre.”

“Then you couldn’t play with it, baby,” Louis said and then moaned deep in his throat as Harry bit down. Hard.

“Still would,” he said against Louis’ bum.

“Scandalize the old biddies and tourists?”

“Hmm, they’d like it,” Harry laughed and then pulled away. Louis whined, but Harry merely brushed a comforting hand over him and then started arranging his legs so that Louis was open and vulnerable before him.

“You’d be arrested, Harold,” Louis said to cover his nerves that were coated in a layer of desire and excitement. He wanted to beg for it, but he wouldn’t.

“It would be worth it, Lewis,” Harry said and then his tongue was there, sweeping over his hole and Louis couldn’t think any more. He went to work on Louis, with little kitten licks, before pressing his tongue flat up against the ring of muscle. Then he would run his tongue along the sensitive skin between his hole and his balls. And then repeat the whole bit. Shivers chased each other up Louis’ spine, sparking into little bursts of pleasure with each movement.

Through it all, Harry held Louis’ hips still so he couldn’t rut against the bed. All he could do was lie there and take it. Take the slow and deliberate torture.

“Harry,” his voice was high and broken and he didn’t care.

Harry must have been waiting for it. For a sign that Louis was on the verge of breaking down, because he finally, christ finally, pushed into Louis. “Gaharfifgi,” Louis screamed into the pillow. He felt, fucking felt, Harry smile against him. It was brief though, because then Harry went back to it, lickng slow and deep, pressing in and pulling back.

A thin sheen of sweat covered Louis’ whole body and he turned his face into his shoulder to bite his own arm to keep the string of incoherent feelings from spilling out.

It only took a few more minutes before he felt the slow tightening in his stomach, in his balls. “Harry, gonna come,” he said, because he didn’t want to. Not yet.

“Hmm, that’s good,” Harry didn’t get the message, just pressed a thumb against his hole as his tongue continued to explore.


“Don’t. Want to,” Louis got out, squeezing his eyes tight. “Want you to fuck me.”

Harry finally pulled off at that, dragging one more long lick over Louis. “Want to fuck you.”

Louis nodded. “Just give me…”

He heard Harry move away, a rustling that told Louis he was going for the lube and condoms. It gave Louis the time to stave off the orgasm that had built to the point he hadn’t been sure if he’d be able to.

He breathed deep and felt Harry’s fingers against him again, slick this time. If he hadn’t had the few seconds of relief he would have come at the touch alone. But he welcomed the burn as his finger slipped in, let it anchor his scattered thoughts. It didn’t take long to work up to three fingers and by the time he did Louis was squirming again. “M’ ready, Harry. Come on.”

And then Harry’s mouth was against Louis’ neck, and Louis felt the rumble of his laugh against his back. “Greedy.”

“For you,” Louis said. It made him vulnerable to admit, and he never would have to one of his previous partners. But Harry was different. Harry smiled against his back, and Louis knew he was pleased with the confession. It made it worth it.

“Just for me, right?”

Louis shifted beneath him, somehow managing to roll over so they were face to face.

“Yeah, just for you. Only for you, baby,” Louis said, all teasing leaving his voice. This felt big. Bigger than just sweet sex talk. It caught in Louis’ chest and he had to remind himself to breathe as Harry’s eyes darkened. He didn’t seem scared from the enormity of it.

“Good.”

Louis reached up to cup Harry’s jaw, bringing his face down so that he could press his lips against it. Then Harry was manhandling him again, flipping him over so that he was on his hands and knees. Louis arched his back, pressing his arse up into the air, so goddamn ready for it.

And then Harry was pushing into him. Slow. Easy. But he was so fucking huge and there was no getting around that. There was a stretch and burn and it brought wetness to Louis’ eyes but god it felt so fucking good and he rocked back into it.

Harry dug his fingers into the soft flesh of Louis’ lips, controlling Louis, setting the pace. And the pace was brutal in the best way. Harry’s hips snapped against Louis and Louis felt so full, so full. He dropped to his forearms, and the change in angle brought Harry up against his prostate. He nailed it every time. Each thrust bringing Louis closer to the brink.

“Come on, Lou,” Harry murmured. He wasn’t a talker like Louis, but Louis didn’t mind. He liked the sound of sweaty flesh slapping against sweaty flesh, punctuated by the little moans that were ripped from Louis’ throat.

Louis reached down to palm his own cock, and it only took a few quick pulls for him to spill into his hand. Harry had been waiting for it, because it was only two thrusts later that he stilled, buried deep in Louis and pulsed out his own orgasm, his hips stuttering with each wave of pleasure.

They collapsed into the bed, Harry’s weight warm and heavy on him. “I thought no way could it be as good as I was remembering,” Harry slurred, his breath hot against Louis ear.

Louis laughed and he hoped Harry didn’t hear the slight twinge of panic in it. They were so good together. So fucking good together. He was ruined for anyone else now.

As much as he was enjoying the feeling of a hot man laying on top of him, it was getting a little hard to breath. He elbowed Harry, who took the hint and rolled off him. He didn’t let Louis shift away though, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him close until he was on top of Harry looking down into his face.

“Hi,” Harry said, the soft light of the morning caressing his curls, turning his eyes into emerald pools. How the fuck did Louis manage to get this boy?

“Hi,” Louis said back, hopelessly endeared. Their morning sex made him feel all fond and boneless and he settled himself comfortably against Harry and let his fingers of one hand tangle into his curls.

They just watched each other for a bit and Louis wanted this. He wanted slow and quiet mornings and laughter and warmth and this boy.

But he didn’t know what Harry was thinking. It seemed like they were on the same page, but maybe Louis was just an easy fuck at a wedding. Something must have shifted in his face, because Harry reached up to smooth out Louis’ eyebrows.

“Louis?” His voice was uncertain and Louis hated that. If nothing else, Harry shouldn’t doubt for even a minute where Louis was on this.

“I like you a lot, Harry,” Louis said. Being scared had nothing on erasing that look of concern on Harry’s face.

He was immediately rewarded with Harry’s bright smile. Harry’s arms tightened around him until they were hugging and Louis tangled their legs together, never wanting to let go.

“I thought we covered that last night,” Harry said, but Louis heard the pleasure in his voice.

“Just...” Louis peeked up at him. “I wanted you to know. This isn’t a one-night thing for me.”

“Clearly it was more than one-night. It was the morning, too” Harry waggled his eyebrows at him and Louis pinched his nipple in retaliation.

“I’m being serious here,” Louis muttered.

Harry immediately sobered. “It’s not a one-night thing for me either, Lou. I thought I made it clear how mad I am for you.”

Louis ducked his head, smiling again. “Well it’s nice to hear.”

“I’ll tell you every day,” Harry said, and Louis could hear it in his voice that he was smiling again. Louis didn’t want him to ever stop smiling. “Every minute of the day.”

“That’s a bit obsessive, Harold,” Louis said pushing up. He flicked a curl out his boy’s eyes.

“Well that makes sense, I am a bit obsessed,” Harry said easily, his hands sweeping down to cup Louis’ bum. His grip tightened letting Louis know exactly what Harry was obsessed with.

“Creeper,” Louis said, but softened it with a kiss.

“You like me anyway,” Harry cooed.

“I like you because,” Louis corrected.

Harry beamed up at him and Louis thanked fucking god for horrid cousins and desperate best friends.  

Chapter Text

Two years later

Gemma burst into the apartment without even bothering to knock. “Happy days, Lou, happy days!” She launched herself at Louis and he just barely kept his feet as he caught the bundle of wild energy and cackling laughter and hair. She wrapped her legs around his waist and started pressing kisses all over his face.

“Jesus Christ, Gem,” Louis choked out dropping her legs so that she was forced to slide back down to the floor. There was no way she could know. He hadn’t told anyone.

“I’m sorry,” Gemma said laughing and dancing away from him, doing a full-out jig in the little hallway of Louis’ apartment. “But it finally happened!”

“What happened? You weren’t even this excited when Niall proposed,” Louis said. “Jesus, stop dancing.”

“Don’t be a party pooper, Lou,” Gemma said, still flailing and making her way toward his kitchen. He trailed after her. “I’m too happy to stop dancing.”

“Gemma…” There was no way she could know. No way.

“This requires a drum roll, Louis,” she said hoisting herself on the counter after grabbing a bottle of water from his fridge. She finally got a good look at him and stilled. “Wait. What’s wrong?”

Louis fiddled at the edge of his shirt. “What do you mean, what’s wrong? Nothing’s wrong. You’re the one being weird.” Shit. That wasn’t going to convince her.

“Um, Louis,” Gemma said, her head tilted. “Tell me.”

“Christ Gemma you’re so nosy.”

“Tell me, tell me,” Gemma slid off the counter and advanced on Louis. “You’re being weird. Stop it and tell me.”

He held his hands up to ward her off, but she was not deterred, she just kept coming until she latched onto one of his nipples which she knew --she knew-- were sensitive. “Tell me,” she said tweaking it.

“Fuck Gemma,” he hissed out. “You’re so fucking annoying.”

“Don’t care. Tell me,” she said still studying him. He glanced away and then back at her. “Oh. My. Fucking. God.”

And then she launched herself at him again and he had no choice but to catch her legs as they wrapped around his waist. “Stop kissing me, Gem, God. We’ve discussed this.”

“You’re going to do it!” she all but yelled. Directly in his ear.

“Your face is going to do it,” Louis muttered, not his proudest moment. What could he say, he was nervous.

Gemma cackled, dropped to the floor and clasped Louis face in her hands and laid a gentle kiss against his lips.

“Welcome to the family, babes,” all the humor had slid from her voice and Louis blinked back tears at both the sentiment and the happiness in her eyes.

“He might say no,” Louis murmured.

“Oh shut up,” Gemma swatted him. Because yeah. That probably wasn’t going to happen.

“Lou?” It was Harry’s voice, curious and low, probably because they hadn’t closed the door behind Gemma. Both Gemma and Louis froze, and despite knowing how this would turn out, Louis’ stomach clenched against nothing because he hadn’t managed to actually eat anything all day.

And then Harry was there, his confusion melting into a smile when he spotted his sister. “Oh hey, Gemma.”

Gemma, because she was awful and clearly sent into Louis’ life to ruin it, let out a watery “Harry!” And then she was hugging him tight, burying her head in the crook beneath his shoulder. Harry met Louis’ eyes, clearly seeking an answer to the strange behavior while patting Gem’s back soothingly. Louis hoped his face conveyed the don’t-look-at-me-she’s-the-crazy-one vibe he was going for.

“Um Gem.”

“Don’t mind me,” Gem said dabbing at her eyes and Louis was going to kill her. “I’ll just see myself out.” She paused before starting down the hall. “I really love both of you.”

“Ummm,” Harry glanced between Louis and Gemma, a little groove in between his eyebrows.

“Oh Gemma, what were you so happy about?” Louis cut in hoping to deflect any questions.

Gemma’s eyes widened and she glowed again. “Calista’s getting a divorce!”

“Ah, Gem,” Harry chastised. “You shouldn’t be happy about that.”

“I am a horrible, irredeemable person and I will take my pleasure where I please,” Gemma said happily and then danced down the hallway and out the door.

Harry turned to Louis, laughing. “She’s awful.”

Louis smiled. “That’s why she’s the best.”

Harry tipped his head as their gazes met. “You look strange.” What was it with the Styles siblings that they could read him like a book?

Louis huffed out a faux-annoyed breath. “Well, cheers for that, mate.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Please. You know you always look gorgeous. You just…”

“Let’s go upstairs,” Louis cut in. Jesus. He had a plan. A plan. The Styles siblings and their weirdly sensitive intuition were not going to ruin it.

“To the roof?” Harry asked, already smiling. It was their favorite place. They’d set up a couple chairs and a table and even strung up some fairy lights. Their little haven in the middle of the city. They spend nights up there drinking wine and pretending they can see the stars, they spend quiet Sunday mornings there drinking tea; they spend Saturday afternoons cuddled up and reading.

It held all the small and big memories of their relationship.

The first time they’d said I love you had been there. It was the night Harry had moved in, three months after the wedding. He’d got the job at the Times after Liam sent his stuff along to the photo editor. It was just an internship, but it was something. They had been just a little tipsy off the champagne Louis had bought to celebrate and a little bit buzzed off each other.

The first time they’d fought, they’d made up there. There had always been little disagreements or heated debates, of course, but this time had been different. It was a real fight with each lashing out at the other. It had been seven months in and Louis had thought he’d completely ruined it, just because he’d gotten a little scared. It was something he still struggled with, even with how much he loved Harry. And he’d gone up to the roof and Harry had found him there, sobbing, terrified of losing the boy but not sure what to do to keep him. Harry had held him and kissed the tears away but hadn’t let him off easy.

The first time they’d talked about kids had been there. They both wanted them. Two or three, and they didn’t care about the gender. It had felt like a promise. Huge and weighty and something Louis could hold against his heart when he got nervous about whether Harry wanted to actually stick.

But it wasn’t just those big moments. It was the little ones. The way Harry, with his camera, captured a small smile as Louis flipped through the newspaper; the way Louis brought Harry his favorite mug of tea when Harry was bundled and too comfortable to go all the way back down to the apartment; the way Louis held Harry in his arms as he complained about work or a bad commute. Those little moments weaved together and became everything that he and Harry meant to each other.

“Yeah,” he said, tugging at Harry’s hand to pull him out of the apartment and up the stairs behind him. Harry knew something was going on. Louis could tell by the way he’d gone quiet, so quiet.

They didn’t speak until they reached the roof. Harry stood near their chairs, uncertain. Should he sit? Louis saw him considering it. But then he just looked back at Louis, his face set and serious.

“Hi,” Louis said, at a loss. The stars were just starting to come out. They couldn’t really see them, but Louis knew they were there, and for some reason that was a comforting thought. He flashed back to that first night, back on a field in the middle of England. He’d been all but ready to pledge himself to this boy back then. He couldn’t believe how much their love had grown since then. But that didn’t mean it hadn’t been love back there on that night. It had been.

“Hi,” Harry murmured, their call-and-response. It always had been. Louis stepped closer.

“I really like you, Harold,” Louis said and Harry relaxed, his face breaking into a grin.

“I really like you, too, Lewis,” Harry said, reaching out for Louis.

Louis dodged his hands. “I always have, you know. Liked you. Even when we fell in love, even when we fought, even when we fucked. I liked you through it all,” Louis said. Harry was watching him, his eyes shadows in the rapidly dimming light. “You’re my best friend, Harry. You’re my first call with happy news and the arms I run into when I’m sad. You have my back when I’m being irrational, and you talk me down from ledges, and you know how to fight with me in a way that we don’t end up emotionally bleeding all over the floor. You’re my partner in crime, you’re my biggest cheerleader, you’re the one who gets me out of my own head when I need it. You make me laugh so hard. You’re my very best friend.”

His voice wobbled only a bit. Just a bit. And he blamed Harry, who was already crying, silent tears just spilling out of wide green forest eyes.

“I also love you. I love you so much,” Louis said. “Every day it’s more. And I don’t think it ever can be, but then you look at me and tell a stupid fucking knock-knock joke or I see one of your beautiful photos and I fall even deeper. I never want to stopping falling. I want to see how much I can love you. I want to be able to see it five years from now, 15, 25. I want to be old and wrinkly and gray and still be falling even deeper in love with you.”

It was now or never. Louis took a deep breath before reaching in his pocket for the little box that had been burning a hole in his underwear drawer for the past six months.

“Harry,” he said, getting down on one knee. Harry was a mess, his hand over his mouth. His eyes were damp and red and there was a bit of snot there too. He was gorgeous. “Will you…?”

Before he could get the words out Harry was launching himself at Louis. “Yes, yes, yes, yess,” he said, tackling them both down to ground. Harry was laughing and crying and sniffing and had seemed to have completely lost control over the emotions tumbling out of him. Louis held him tight, so tight, and made a promise to himself that he would never let go. That he would never take this for granted.

“Marry me,” he finally got out because goddamn it he was going to do it right.

“Ohhhhhh,” Harry pulled back, giggling despite his attempt to keep a straight face. “That’s what you were going to say? In that case…”

“Ass,” Louis pinched him and Harry collapsed back down, his curls bouncing into Louis’ face.

“I love you so much Lou,” Harry said against his neck. “And I like you. You are my very best friend.”

Louis smiled against his head and let the pleasure rush through him at the words. They said them often. But this time was special.

This time it was a vow. A vow that they would hold these words dear for the rest of their life together. During fights, during hard times--because there would be hard times-- during the happy ones. They would always have this moment, under the stars that they couldn’t see. Their promise to always, always, like each other.

Harry pushed up until he was straddling Louis, so that he could grab at the ring. Louis pulled it back, wanting to be the one to slip it on his finger. It was a perfect fit.

“Baby,” Louis murmured, his voice thick with the emotion.

“I’m never taking it off,” Harry said, studying it, before turning to smile at Louis. And Louis realized he didn’t need to see the stars. They were there in Harry’s eyes. Actually the whole fucking universe was there. Everything Louis ever needed or wanted was there.

They stayed there, wrapped in each other, as the moon came out, as the lights of the city turned on, as the sound and rush of people drifted up to them from the street below. Louis wanted to fuck him under the night sky, but for now he just wanted to hold his love a bit longer. There was no rush after all. They had the rest of their lives.