“I bet I can find it.”
Harry turns his head slowly, tapping his chin as he looks around the room. “You know,” he says. “Until I see the thing, you can’t convince me it’s not one of them pink fuzzy ones. With, like, a little heart-shaped lock at the front?”
“You’d know a lot about pink fuzzy diaries, would you?” Louis smiles down at him from the edge of his bed, watching Harry’s eyes dart first to Louis’ desk drawer, then to the closet on the far side of the room, shaking his head a little to himself before finally landing on the floor next to his own outstretched legs, at the foot of Louis’ bed. He narrows his eyes, musing as they consider it, and then slowly drags them up to Louis, who’s biting back his smile now, starting to shake his head before Harry even opens his mouth.
“You do!” Harry sits up on the floor, bounces a little on his heels and he points up at Louis. “You keep it next to your snacks and your—and your lube, God, and you called me a weirdo,“ he says, then surges forward suddenly, Louis catching on just quick enough to hold Harry back by the elbows, a safe distance from his hiding spot.
“What,” Harry says as he fights against Louis’ grip. “You have a wank then write a nice poem about it? Is that it, easy access?”
Laughing, Louis nods. “Yeah, the pages, they get kinda sticky, though,” he says thoughtfully. “Really ought to find something else to get inspired by.”
“How ‘bout me?“ Harry grins, dimple popping out as he moves closer to the bed again.
“What about you?“
“Me,” he says. “Write a poem about me.”
Louis cocks his head. “Can you think of any words that rhyme with curly-haired and head-case?“
“Hey,“ Harry protests. “’M not the one who keeps stories hidden in some mysterious notebook under his bed,” he says. “Wont even let me see, when I asked so nicely, too.”
Rolling his eyes, Louis leans forward to pat him kindly on the shoulder. “Don’t feel special, babe, really,“ he tells him. “I hardly let anyone see, barely even my mum.”
Harry pulls a face. “You don’t let her read the ones about you tossing off, do you?” He asks, and doubles over in exaggerated pain when Louis jabs in in the ribs with his foot.
“I don’t write stories about my cock, Jesus,“ he says, sighing indifferently as Harry gives a few fake whimpers from the floor, rubbing a hand over his side tenderly.
After another minute, Louis leans back on his hands, eyes Harry still pouting on the floor. “So,“ he says. “What do you wanna do?”
Harry smiles again and says, “What d’you mean?”
“I mean, it’s your last day in London, right? There’s gotta be something you want to do before you leave this fine city,” Louis says, gesturing a hand to the view out his dorm room window, which is really just half a brick wall and a tree whose leaves have already started falling off, getting a head-start on winter, but he trusts Harry to use his imagination.
“I dunno.” He shrugs. “We can do anything we want.”
“Anything,” Louis mocks, turning his face to hide they way his lips quirk up reluctantly when Harry nods up at him from the floor, eyes actually sparkling, like he’s got strings of little fairy lights strung up inside his head where his brain’s supposed to be. That would make a lot of sense, actually, Louis thinks. He’ll have to track down someone who’s pre-med, maybe, check if they know whether it’s anatomically possible.
“Sure, why not?“ Harry says, not bothering to conceal his own smirk as he scoots forward on his knees, settling right between Louis‘ legs at the edge of the bed. “After all, we’re… uh, what d’they say—young, dumb and in love?” He beams up at him.
Louis snorts as he raises an eyebrow. “Oh, are we in love now, then?” He asks sarcastically. “I hadn’t realised.”
“Yeah, I reckon a little,” Harry answers casually, then leans forward on his hands, serious, lips drawing up again and giving him away. “You okay with that?”
“Happened pretty fast, yeah?“ Louis says, deciding to indulge him. “Just wish someone‘d told me, s‘all.”
Harry lifts a shoulder. "Well now you know," he says, pressing a little laugh into Louis’ knee.
He’s becoming kind of fascinated at the way Harry seems to find every little thing, every conversation they’ve had or thing Louis says so fucking funny, always smiling or chuckling lowly like he’s enjoying a private joke with himself, oblivious to the fact that no one else is in on it.
Louis shakes his head a little as he laughs too, and brings a hand to pat the top of Harry’s hair, then tugs back on it when Harry aims a bite at Louis’ leg through his jeans. "You're strange," he says as Harry squints up at him. He has hints of shadows under his eyes, and when he stretches his neck back there’s the smallest trace of stubble across his jaw, a bruise peaking out from under his collar in the shape of Louis’ mouth that all look starkly out of place with the rest of his features. “And I think you need a shower," Louis adds.
“And a shower buddy,” Harry mutters, sniggering again, grin spreading slowly as he dances his finger tips up Louis‘ thighs, wriggling his eyebrows.
"Already had one. When you were still dead to the world," Louis says, letting go of Harry‘s hair, fighting back the urge to smooth it down again when it stays stuck straight up from the top of his head. "You can borrow my things, yeah? And some pants, if you want, since yours are still on my floor.” Louis drops his eyes to a few feet from Harry’s hand, where there’s a pair of black boxer-briefs crumpled next to his desk.
Harry just laughs again and sticks a foot out to kick them under Louis’ bed and out of sight.
He spends the majority of the time Harry’s down the hall in the shower staring at his mum’s name on his phone’s contact list. She’s next to his one and only option right now, seeing as he hasn’t found the time to call around to see whose bed Aiden ended up in last night. He considers. If he called her, she’d certainly assume he was panicking or something from the tone of his voice, which tends to lean on the over-dramatic when he’s anxious. Panicking is not quite the word Louis would use, though. Mild internal conflict, maybe, would be more apt of a term. So he opens a new text message instead and lets his fingers hover over the keyboard for another minute.
Help is the first word that comes to mind, perhaps in all capital letters. But that would probably need to be followed up with something more specific, Louis thinks, if he wanted any real assistance. For some reason he’s just not finding in him the strength it would take to type out a message to his mother asking for advice on this particular situation, though.
Louis wonders briefly if a quick Google search might yield any helpful results on whether or not it’s considered normal behavior to lend a one-night-stand your shampoo and a spare pair of underwear, after you’ve already invited him to spend a casual day together. He could even kill two birds with one stone, maybe have a look around for something like, 'fun activities to do with hot strangers once you’ve already slept with each other', since he’s realising he and Harry never actually decided what to do with the rest of their afternoon. He looks to his desk for his laptop, and then shakes his head to himself quickly, decides he’s being ridiculous, even by his standards, and closes his phone as well for good measure.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It’s not a big deal, Louis tells himself. Completely normal, even.
“It’ll work,” Louis says, clapping a hand on Harry‘s shoulder. “I believe in you, Harry, don’t underestimate yourself.”
Harry looks down at him doubtfully. “How do you even know they have one?”
“’Cos I hear it every bloody hour of the night, don’t I? They‘ve got bongos, too, do you know how to play the bongos?”
“No, I don’t, and why can’t we just go get my guitar, again? My car’s still parked by that house, you know, I’ll have to move it sometime today, anyway.”
“Because,” says Louis simply. “This way’s more fun.”
“More fun for who?”
“Me, obviously. Now get on with it.”
Harry doesn’t move, just drops his gaze to his chest with a groan. “Look what I’m wearing,” he says glumly, poking at the too-small jumper Louis offered to him after he showered, emblazoned with the university’s logo in obnoxious red block lettering stretched proudly across Harry‘s broad chest.
Louis gives him an encouraging nod. “School spirit. It’s sexy, yeah? They won’t be looking at your clothes, anyway, Harry. Trust me.” He assures him, growing more and more amused at how skeptically Harry‘s eyeing the innocent brown door at the end of the corridor, like there might be a pack of wild dogs waiting to pounce on him as soon as he knocks. “Just use some of that charm I saw last night and you’ll be fine.”
“I was pretty sure you weren’t going to knock me out the second I talked to you, though,” Harry says. “These guys, they could be wresters or like, those big people who row canoes and stuff, what do you call them?”
“Rowers. They call them rowers.”
“Right.” Says Harry. “Plus, I was drunk last night, too, so.”
Temporarily distracted in his attempt at shoving Harry forward by the shoulders, Louis pauses and looks up at him, affronted. “Are you saying you wouldn’t have picked me up last night if you weren’t drunk, then?”
“I think you were the one who picked me up, actually.” Harry points a finger at him matter-of-factly.
Louis rolls his eyes. “Sure, I was the one tracking you around that house for hours like a fucking hawk, or something,” he scoffs.
“You ditched that guy with the trainers and practically pulled me into that kitchen,” Harry insists, but Louis cuts him off.
“That‘s beside the point now,” he says quickly, waving a hand. “I don’t know if you forgot, but we don’t have all day, remember?”
Harry looks at him a second, frowning. “I would’ve still went home with you if I wasn’t drunk, you know.”
“That’s lovely, Harry, really.“ Says Louis sarcastically before he gives him one final shove in the direction of the door.
He waits down the hall, peeking around a corner. He didn’t mention to Harry that he’s not exactly sure which of the people he’s used to seeing around his corridor actually live in room 108, and that they could in fact turn out to be the lanky-boy-crushing jocks he so feared, so he keeps an eye on him as he knocks, just in case. He can’t see them inside the room once the door swings open, and Harry starts a greeting that Louis can‘t hear either, from his position, but he can see clearly the moment when he leans his shoulder casually against the door frame, hip cocked a little to the side, stupid jumper riding up to show a cheeky bit of skin.
Louis makes an impatient sound after watching the scene for several more minutes, drums his fingers against the wall when he spots the unmistakable shadow of a dimple appearing in the grin Harry’s displaying now. He tries a loud cough then, but only garners an inquiring look from a girl stepping out of the loo at that exact moment.
Harry finally steps back from the room, a slightly worn acoustic guitar in one hand, waving goodbye brightly with the other. He‘s positively beaming when he reaches Louis at the end of the hall. “They were nice!”
“Yeah, I bet they were,” Louis mutters, rolling his eyes back at the now-closed door.
They sit right there in the narrow hallway, settling on opposite walls, legs stretched out next to each other. And then Harry pauses with the guitar propped up on his knee, fingers hovering over strings as he looks up, and gives a nervous little laugh when he sees Louis’ expectant gaze.
“I dunno what you want me to play,” he says sheepishly.
Louis bends his knees up to his chest and lifts a shoulder as he hugs his arms around his legs. “I wanna hear something you wrote.”
“You wouldn’t read me anything you wrote,” Harry says, shaking his head. “Doesn’t seem fair.”
“Yeah, because it’s all nonsense, you don’t want to hear it. This—” He makes a sweeping motion with his hands from the guitar in Harry’s lap to himself. “—It’s like, your job, to play in front of people.”
“It is not,” Harry counters. “I quit my job two weeks ago. I told you, this is just for fun.” He says firmly. “I don’t do very well in front of crowds, actually.”
“Well, you’ve gotta build your confidence if you’re gonna play in arenas, you know. They don’t give rock stars who get stage freight Rolling Stone covers, think I heard that somewhere.”
Harry makes a noncommittal sound. "I like the smaller crowds well enough," he says. "I like when you can see their faces and stuff. See who's singing along, or whatever. It's fun. Weird sometimes, too, really weird, when they know the words, but…" he trails off.
"Who‘ve you got singing along to your songs?" Louis asks, raising his eyebrows impressively. “You didn’t mention you had actual groupies, Harry, I’m so proud.” He brings a hand to clutch his heart.
“Well, we kind of did a mini-tour last summer? After we met Nick, our manager—thing, whatever you wanna call him,” he says. “Anyway, went all over, kind of. To Manchester, and Birmingham, played a couple shows when Niall went over to visit his parents, even.” Louis notices Harry’s started moving his fingers now, switching between bits of chords randomly as he continues, telling Louis, “Most people, they know us from this place across town, though, it’s this club on um, I think it’s on 19th? They don‘t even have a stage or anything, just let bands play right on the floor it the middle of everyone, s‘really cool.”
“Yeah,” Louis clears his throat. “Yeah, no, I’ve been there, I think.”
“Oh,“ Harry says. “Yeah, well we’re there loads. They even pay us now, most nights, if Zayn chats up the girl who runs it enough.”
Louis hums as an answer, tips his head back to rest against the wall as Harry does the same.
His hands are still moving idly, shifting into something else, slower, Louis thinks it‘s probably an actual song now, by the way Harry’s fingers are sliding over the strings like muscle memory, like second nature, private little melody drifting through the empty corridor. Louis keeps quiet as he listens, in case saying something would make Harry realise what he‘s doing and stop. He watches him through half-closed lids, though, Harry‘s eyes staring up, unfocused at a spot on the ceiling, glassy and bright under even the cheap hallway lighting, his hair still a little damp from his shower and bending up in little wispy curls around his ears. He’s even pulling off the school jumper remarkably well, considering Louis had given it to him as a joke, not expecting Harry to actually wear it. But it suits him, makes him look soft and warm and like Louis wants to bury his head in his shoulder, or something, breathe him in when they’re close together like that.
“Are you thinking about taking a picture, then?“ Harry quirks his eyebrows up suddenly, squints an eye over at him curiously, and Louis looks away quickly, smoothly. Or maybe not so smoothly, at the way Harry starts snickering into his shoulder.
“Don’t go on about it,“ Louis says, rolling his eyes and then kicking Harry in the shin for good measure.
They find Harry’s car a block away from the house, a pink parking ticket sticking to the front windscreen with the drizzle that’s starting to fall from the dark clouds overhead.
“Fuck.” Harry says when he sees it, then looks around the empty street helplessly, arms held out to no one. “What did I even do! Do you see any signs?” He asks Louis.
“You probably don’t have to pay it,” he says as Harry unlocks the drivers side door, pushing the guitar case that‘s propped in the seat over to the opposite side of the car. “They’re not exactly gonna track you down all the way in the states, right?”
“There’s an upside, I guess,” mutters Harry as he crumbles up the ticket and throws it in the backseat, where it gets lost between two giant piles of clothes that look like they were thrown into Harry’s car last minute, some hangers still tucked into collars of shirts, and an overstuffed duffle bag stacked on top of a black suitcase.
“I thought you said your mum was going to ship all this stuff over,“ remembers Louis, peeking in at it through the back window. “Why isn’t it in boxes or something?”
“Yeah, well, that’s what she wants to do, but I think I’ll just convince her to keep it at her house while I‘m gone,” Harry says. “Niall’s already taken care of all the stuff for the band, and I don’t really think I’ll need all that much, anyway. S’just temporary, right?”
“I guess so,“ Louis mutters, shrugging as he pulls opens the back door and ducks his head down into the car to get a better look at the things Harry has crammed into every available space. “So then where’s the rest of the luggage you‘re taking with you?” He asks.
“Uh, that’s it,” comes Harry’s voice from near the front seat. Louis‘ eyebrows cinch together as he double takes, then straightens back out of the car the same time Harry does.
He looks at him, and can’t help but laugh as he shakes his head, confused. “You’re only bringing two bags? You know you’re not staying over at a friend‘s for the night, Harry, you‘re like, living there. In another country. With only a suitcase and a duffel bag?”
“That’s all I need.” Harry bites his lip, looking uncertain. “I mean, it’s temporary, yeah? Like we just said.”
“But you said yourself that you don’t really know how long you’ll be gone, right, don’t you think you should like, prepare for the long term, or something? Isn‘t that what you guys are aiming for out there anyway—long term?”
Harry laughs then too, but Louis thinks it sounds put on for some reason. “It’ll work out, okay? You don’t have to be worried about me, Louis,” he says confidently. “I’m a big kid, now. Cook m’ own dinners and everything.”
“I am not worried,” Louis counters. “I’m—concerned. About you not having a proper amount of socks, s‘all.”
“Think they just walk around barefoot there all the time, anyway, right?” Harry throws him a winning grin. “So, no worries,“ he says, biting his lip again after Louis doesn’t seem convinced.
He’s trying to brush off whatever conversation is starting, clearly. Perhaps because it’s one he’s already had, but Louis presses his lips together as he lets it go, keeps eyeing Harry’s luggage skeptically until he hears his low chuckle again, looking up to see him leaning against the driver’s side door, shoulders angled in Louis’ direction.
“C’mere,” He says. His voice sounds even deeper than usual, scratchy and slow, maybe from the weather. Whatever it is, it makes Louis shuffle over on his feet until he‘s right in front of him at the side of the car, arms folded over his chest. Harry’s still rolling his lips between his teeth, but it’s different now—musing, and his eyes are wide, almost wild with the way his hair is whipping across his face in the wind outside, and Louis cocks his head in amusement.
“What?” He laughs a little defensively when Harry keeps staring.
“Are we gonna have sex again?” He asks, his mouth quirking up the smallest bit. Louis snorts another laugh before composing his face seriously as he considers.
“Mmm,” he hums, tapping a finger to his lips. “I dunno, maybe.”
“I’d like if we did,” says Harry, breaking into a slow smile now. “Y’know.” He raises a shoulder and drops it loosely. “In time.”
“We’ll see,” Louis says wryly. “Let you know when I decide, yeah?”
Harry’s hands go to Louis‘ waist then, like it‘s a natural movement, one he‘s made a hundred times, as expected as the dimple that appears in his cheek as he flashes his teeth. “When’ll that be?”
“In time, I s‘pose.“ he lets little laugh escape, shattering his cool demeanor, and Harry grins at him a second longer before dipping down until his lips are on Louis’.
A drop of water hits the side of Louis‘ head, as if on cue, and runs down his cheek. He would roll his eyes, maybe laugh if his mouth weren’t otherwise occupied, laugh at how he’d already managed to land himself in the middle of some embarrassingly sappy movie, one he’d probably be coerced into seeing by his sisters, and now it’s raining, to top it all off. To complete the scene, he thinks.
He starts making a mental note to punch himself in the ribs after this, maybe take a torturously cold shower later, but then he feels Harry suck his bottom lip gently between his own, and Louis can’t help but lean into him, pushing up a little until they‘re pressed close against the car, just let himself begrudgingly accept the fact that he’s standing in the middle of the bloody street kissing a boy, just his luck that it’s during what he bets is probably the most ironically-timed thunderstorm in England’s meteorological history.
The longer he lets himself accept it, though, the more he realises that it’s a boy whose hands fit perfectly around his middle, and who smells like Louis’ soap, and that this might be one of the better kisses he’s had in a while, and he’s starting to think he should probably pop his foot out or something incase anyone passing by wants a goddamn picture, because they should. Because it’s fucking romantic, and lovely, and a lot of things that it definitely shouldn’t be.
Harry draws back after what‘s probably an eternity—or several minutes—his breath still hot on Louis’ lips, ears and cheeks bitten red in the cold. There‘s drops of rain sticking to the ends of his hair, and his eyes won’t stop running over Louis’ face, like they have been all afternoon, over and over and over, like he’s trying to memorize something.
One of his hands is on the side of his jaw now, tracing his thumb under Louis’ cheekbone as he looks down at him. “You’re really gorgeous,” he says after a moment, voice low, breath visible in the air between them, coming out in little puffs from Harry’s lips.
Shaking his head a little into Harry’s hand, Louis breathes out a quiet laugh before he drops his own hands from where they’re gripping the front of Harry’s coat. “Don’t do that, yeah?” He says, just as quiet as he pulls away a fraction, looking at a spot just over Harry‘s shoulder. “I don’t—let’s, like. Not do that.”
“Why not?” Harry asks, tilting his head down so he‘s in Louis‘ eye line. “I want to.”
He trains his lips into a tight smile when he looks up again. “Because, I don’t want you to.”
“Oh.” Harry‘s voice is flat now, face in inscrutable. For once, Louis thinks, as Harry mutters, “Yeah, okay,” and drops his arms from Louis’ sides.
He makes no effort to move from where he’s still boxed in against the car, though, nor do his eyes stop searching Louis‘, a little frown making its way to the corners of his mouth the longer he looks, and Louis has to clear his throat after a moment to break the silence.
“Are you hungry?” He asks, for lack of anything better, and is relieved when Harry’s usual grin reappears.
The sun’s nearly setting by the time they make it back to the campus. Louis squints at where it’s bright through a break in the cloud cover, muttering something about not realising how late it is once they reach the dining hall. Harry doesn’t seem to hear him, though, keeping his eyes down as he walks past Louis through the door.
"Hey," Louis says once they‘ve sat down at a table and started on the bowls of soup they picked from the cafeteria’s unfortunately lackluster selection of dinner choices. He waits for Harry to hum around his plastic spoon before continuing, “So, do you, um—what time do you think you should, you know, get going?"
Harry takes a few seconds to swallow before he looks up, when he does he‘s worrying his bottom lip a little between his teeth. "Well, I’ve got like a three hour drive tonight? Mum wants to spend the whole day together tomorrow," he says. "I promised her we would."
"Oh, okay,” says Louis, and then they sit in silence for a minute, during which Harry seems very concentrated on pushing a carrot around his half-empty soup bowl, a little frown forming at the corners of his mouth.
"Actually, though," he starts after another long moment. "It’d probably be smarter to leave late, do y'think? Drive overnight, and I’d still be there by the time mum woke up. She'd probably not even notice."
"Yeah, maybe," Louis says, looking up from his own bowl. It doesn't make that much sense, actually, to drive in the middle of the night when Harry's already had hardly any sleep as it is. But he's not going to point that out. "Beat, like, traffic and stuff?" He offers.
Harry looks at him, like he‘s considering something, and then nods his head. "Yeah,” he says with another nod, more sure this time. “Yeah, okay."
It feels weird then, like maybe they’ve just decided on something more important than a vague time for Harry’s departure. There’s a faint buzz running over Louis’ skin, too, little sparks going off anxiously his stomach, like the kind he gets only when he’s keeping a really good secret, or up to something he knows he shouldn’t be. But then Harry coughs loudly on a bit of bread and whatever it is dissipates.
“Anyway,” he says to Louis, patting himself roughly on the chest. “You’ve hardly enough material for that novel you said you’d write about me, so.” He shrugs casually. “Should probably stick around a little longer. For your sake”
Louis laughs and lets out a heavy sigh. “Oh, Harry Styles,” he says, feeling only a little betrayed by himself when it comes out fond, instead of mocking like he’d intended. “I’d not have a clue where to start with you, it‘d be quite a project.”
Drumming his fingers together contemplatively, Harry clears his throat before starting, “Once upon a time…” and then gesturing expectantly at Louis to continue.
He nods and repeats slowly, “Once upon a time, there was this guy…”
“What did he look like?” Asks Harry. “The guy, you have to give a visual.”
“Right.” Louis pretends to think it over as he slurps a noodle out of his spoon, then gives a little shake of his head. “Nothing to write home about, really,” he decides.
Harry smirks, tucks it away quickly before he asks with mock-curiously, “There had to have been something? Any redeeming qualities, appearance-wise? Or maybe he had other talents, you know, elsewhere,“ he coaxes. “Anything at all?”
Squinting one eye, Louis gives him a once-over across the table, then answers, “Can’t say there’s anything that really stands out…”
“Louis,” he whines, pouting a little stubbornly now. And a little adorably. Louis’ finding it hard to keep his gaze carefully impassive, as to not ruin the competition he‘s decided they‘re having.
“Anyway,” he raises his voice over Harry’s, straightens his posture a bit on the table bench. “Once upon a time there was this guy, who fancied himself a proper rock star, right?” He says, waving a hand grandly as he goes on, “Admired by, like, tens of adoring fans, at least. And he was…tall.” Louis eyes the way Harry’s listening with what he’s not entirely convinced is fake anticipation as he waits for Louis to continue. “And he had silly curls and funny dimples, and boots, and he acted kind of like a nutter most of the time, and I didn’t really care for him all that much, if I’m being honest.” He gets it all out in one breath, then pauses half out of necessity, half for dramatic effect. “The end.” He finishes, with much conviction, and tries not to flinch back when he catches the almost affectionate way Harry’s now grinning across the table at him.
They stare at each other like that for a long beat before Harry speaks.
“I hated it. You‘re a rubbish story writer.”
Louis shrugs, unbothered as he finishes off his soup. “You’re not as well-versed in literature as I am,” he states, raising his eyebrows importantly and waving his spoon in front of Harry‘s face. “Don’t really trust your opinion, anyway, do I?”
Harry laughs around his spoon, starts a short fight over the crackers sitting on a napkin next to Louis‘ food that Louis wins, and then lets the conversation end at that. It’s not uncomfortable silence, Louis thinks, but he notices Harry’s got his lip pulled between his teeth once again, is staring across the table at him with a look that’s too intense once again, for what Louis guesses is probably the eighth time today. He pretends not to notice until several more minutes pass like that, and he turns his attention to Harry.
“What is it?” Harry startles a little, blinks a few times when he realises he’s being addressed.
“It’s just, I know you said you didn't want to," he starts with no preface, and makes a vague gesture with his hand before tucking it under his leg on the bench. "Um, but, I really like you… Just so y’know."
"Okay," Louis says, and tries to swallow away the tightness in his throat that’s just appeared out of nowhere.
"I mean, if I didn’t have to—” Harry ducks his head a bit, tapping his spoon back and forth around the inside of his empty bowl, following the little movements with his eyes before chancing a glance back up at Louis when he says, “You know. If, um. If things were different, and like—”
“Harry,“ Louis says quickly, darting a hand out across the table to squeeze Harry’s wrist as he interrupts, waiting for him to look up again. “It’s alright, really. You don’t have to, like—it’s okay.”
“Right,” Harry says quietly, huffing out a little laugh. “Sorry.” He looks away like he’s embarrassed. Louis sees when his eyes focus out the tall window on the opposite wall, on the last bit of daylight peeking out from around the edges of the surrounding buildings.
“Just. You’ve still got a little while, yeah?” Louis says. “We can do anything, remember?” He feels like kind of a twat, using Harry’s line to try and cheer him up, but Harry nods anyway, distractedly.
“Yeah, s’pose,“ he says, still watching the sun steadily disappearing behind rooftops, frowning again in the way that makes Louis feel responsible for fixing.
“So, then,” he says then, a bit too loud. “Dessert?” He asks to break the silence, and isn’t surprised when it pulls Harry’s smile out again as quickly as he’d expected.
“What the hell are you going to do with a degree in history?”
“It’s interesting.“ He shrugs. “What are you gonna do with an English degree?”
“I dunno, teach, or something unoriginal like that, maybe,” Louis says.
“Yeah?” Harry raises his eyebrows, the corners of his mouth quirking up slowly. “You’d be a good teacher,” he says as he unfolds himself from the desk chair he’s been perched on to sit in front of Louis on the bed instead. “You’d be the one all the students have got crushes on, I’d bet.”
Louis laughs, rolls his eyes a little. “I mean, what would be the point of all this hard work if I can’t have my arse ogled at from the blackboard, right?”
Harry nods in agreement. “Mister Louis,” he sing-songs teasingly, then his grin widens wickedly as he lowers his voice a little, gives Louis a very obvious once-over to emphasize his words when he adds, “Yeah, you‘d get a lot of kids in trouble.”
“Oh, yeah?” Louis plays along, biting his lip at the way Harry’s look darkens, like a switch has been hit and he‘s suddenly all tempting voice and flirty eyes. It’s a little comical, Louis thinks, the way Harry changes so abruptly. But it’s working.
It’s, like, really working.
“No doubt,” Harry answers quietly, nodding slowly again. They’re already sitting unnecessarily close on the bed, knees touching, and when Harry leans towards him just a fraction, Louis can feel his breath ghost over his cheek.
The door to the room swings open, and Louis whips his head around.
“Oh. Hello,” says Aiden, looking between them from the doorway with mild interest.
“Where have you been?” Louis asks him, ignoring the way Harry hasn’t pulled his face back so much as an inch.
Aiden crosses the room to his bed and flops down, face first. “I had a long night,” he explains into the pillows. After a moment he flips over, looks at Harry again, a bit more curious this time before he says to Louis, “Looks like you did, too.”
“This is Harry,” he says in response to Aiden’s eyebrow quirk. Harry’s hand has moved to sit on his thigh now, and Louis can feel it burning through the denim of his jeans as he tries to keep a straight face.
Aiden just lifts his other eyebrow, so Louis adds, “He’s in a band?”
“Oh,” he replies, nodding with something like understanding as he spares Harry another glance. “Hey, mate.”
“Hey.” Harry says without looking over.
Louis coughs as Harry sends him another look that makes his skin hot all over. “Yeah, we‘re really busy, actually, so…” he hints loudly.
Aiden’s taken out a magazine now, flipping through the pages absently, missing completely the way Harry’s hand is now slowly creeping it’s way up Louis’ thigh until Louis makes an involuntary squeal and he looks up again, features growing suspicious as he watches Louis and Harry across the room.
Clapping his hands over Harry’s ears, Louis shoots Aiden a pointed look across the room before whispering, “fuck off, yeah,” under his breath, to which Aiden gives him a slightly offended scoff.
Harry‘s sniggering next to him, putting up a very poor job of pretending he can‘t hear them.
“No way, go somewhere else,” says Aiden. “You’ve been here all day!”
Louis makes an impatient noise. “I think you’re forgetting about the—” He presses his palms more firmly to Harry’s ears. “—three used condoms I found under my pillow last week,” he hisses sharply, narrowing his eyes. “You owe me, Aiden Grimshaw.”
Aiden throws his hands up as he rolls off his bed with a grumble. “I’ll be at Matt’s, I guess,” he mutters, picking up a backpack from the corner, shoving a few text books inside of it and sending what Louis thinks is meant to be a discreetly rude hand gesture his way before turning towards the door.
Harry’s on him the second Aiden‘s gone, knocking Louis on his back and muffling his indignant laugh by pushing his tongue into his mouth with no pretense.
“God, good to know the only reason you’re hanging out with me,” Louis says sarcastically, already a little out of breath when Harry moves down to his neck.
“You might be my last chance,” he mutters. “It could be just me and my hand for a while, you know.”
“And why would that be? Think they’re not gonna like you over in California?”
Harry shakes his head against Louis’ neck, whispers near his ear, “They’re gonna think I’m weird there.” He lets out a breathy laugh that ruffles Louis‘ hair. “I know it.”
Louis pushes on Harry‘s shoulder until he rolls them over easily, straddling his thighs as Harry drops down to his elbows on the bed. “Bet you’re right,” he mumbles, half into Harry’s mouth when he continues where they left off. “The weirdo with the accent… and the hair,” he adds as his fingers scratch across Harry’s scalp, then tilts his chin down, bites at Harry’s bottom lip once before he mutters against it, “Don’t think they’re used to this kinda mouth there, either,” and smiles when Harry sweeps his tongue over the marks Louis’ teeth made.
“Yeah,” he murmurs, making a quiet sound when Louis ducks to his neck, then breathes out after a moment, “What else?”
Finding the top of Harry’s jumper with his fingers, Louis pulls it down, stretches it below Harry’s collar bones. “These birds you’ve got here,” he says, biting back a smirk as he looks over Harry‘s chest thoughtfully.
“They’re sparrows,” Harry tells him, grinning half-amused, half-something else when Louis hums lowly between his lips.
“Yeah, don’t like them,” he mutters, words muffled against Harry’s skin as he traces the black lines of them with his mouth, then slips his hands slowly down to Harry’s waist, pushing the fabric of his jumper up, up, up to get at more of his skin.
“Too pale for my liking, too,” he says in to his ear, running his hands up Harry’s sides. He feels warm under Louis’ fingers, his chest starting to rise and fall a little with each breath when Louis dips down to drag his mouth across it.
“Like a ghost,” Harry agrees, watching Louis nod up at him as he lets himself linger when he gets to one of Harry’s nipples, trailing his mouth down his torso in increments, stopping to press his lips or skim his teeth over the lines of his ribs, the dip at the side of his stomach. He’s almost bent in half when he gets to the skin stretched over the cut of his hip, biting a last bruise under the scribbled words of the tattoo there, then looking up at Harry as he runs his tongue over it, one of his hands sliding up Harry’s thigh to splay across the front of his jeans, pressing the heel of his palm down where he can feel him through the denim.
Sliding off him, he drops both knees down to the floor now, settles between Harry’s open legs at the edge of the bed, and Harry follows, propping himself half up on his forearms like he doesn’t want to stop watching and shifting his hips a little, rocking up into the hand Louis still has pressed to his zipper when he does.
“What else?” He gets out again as Louis’ fingers go to undo his flies, drawing down the zip to make a vee around the line of Harry’s cock underneath his boxers. It’s quiet, and a little strained, but Louis still picks up the smallest hint of something like a challenge in Harry’s tone.
“You make this face when you come,” Louis says slyly as he dips down, and Harry makes a sound somewhere between a whine and a laugh when he presses his mouth to the fabric of his boxers, molding his lips around the head of Harry’s cock through the cotton, wetting it with his tongue.
When Louis lets his eyes trail up, Harry is staring down at him with his lips slightly parted, like he’s forgotten how to close them, his eyes blown as they flit from Louis’ mouth to the hand he has playing at the elastic of his briefs, and then back up to meet his eyes again. His cheeks are flushed deep pink now, the colour spreading down his neck and peeking out under where his jumper is still rucked up over his chest, and Louis remembers that from before, how Harry was wrecked almost right away, all attempts at his usual cheek falling short to how obvious he’s aching for it.
Another time, he might draw this out even more, see how long he can go before Harry has to give up and just ask for it. But Louis is already feeling restricted in his own clothes, skin hot under his T-shirt, half-hard in his jeans from just this. So he hooks his fingers under Harry’s boxers instead, quickly pulling them down just enough to free his dick, then curls his hand around him in a loose fist, presses the other to his hip when Harry tries to jerk forward into it.
He keeps his eyes on Harry’s as he flicks his tongue out to lick a long line up the underside of his cock, circles it when he gets to the tip before finally wrapping his lips around the head and swallowing him down, tasting the wetness that’s already there when his cock slides heavy against Louis’ tongue.
And Louis thinks this is better, so much better than last night when he did this, when his only real goal was to get Harry off again before falling asleep. Now, though, Louis wants to gauge Harry’s reaction when he sucks him down slowly, he wants to memorize the way Harry’s muttering words between these short little breaths, reacting to everything Louis does, even the smallest movements, like they’re a shock to his whole system.
Harry slips a hand into his hair when Louis takes him down again and again, fingers gently encouraging at the nape of his neck. He’s so polite like this, Harry is, Louis makes a mental note to come up with a joke about that later as he hollows out his cheeks, drags his tongue insistently along the underside of Harry’s cock as he starts to slowly bob up and down, building a rhythm quickly when Harry falls onto his back, looking like he’s practicing great effort to not buck up off the bed, with the way he has his feet planted down firmly to the floor on either side of Louis’ knees.
“Fuck, Louis,” he groans loudly, and Louis looks up without stopping. There’s a sheen of sweat over Harry’s skin now, the muscles in his stomach contracting and settling under Louis‘ fingers in time with the little whines coming from low in his throat, and they’re both still nearly fully dressed, but Louis thinks he wants to devour him like this, until Harry’s torn apart from it.
He tilts his chin off, holding back a self-satisfied smirk. "Keep it down. Jesus,” he rasps, and presses his thumb down under the head of Harry‘s cock, squeezing ever so slightly with his other fingers. "The walls aren't thick here and I’m friends with some of these people."
"Probably doing you a favor," Harry gets out, he still has his eyes half-closed and his hand cupped loosely around the back of Louis’ neck. "Gonna have 'em all knocking down your door for their own turn, I bet.”
Louis rolls his eyes as he grabs a pillow, attempting to shove it over Harry’s face. Harry manages a strangled laugh when he bats it away, throwing an arm over his mouth instead to muffle the groan that’s pulled from his throat when Louis leans back down. He swallows around him again as he works up to taking him deeper, feels the tip of Harry’s cock nudge the back of his throat and the corners of his eyes start to water a little when he does, holding himself there when Harry doesn’t bother holding back a positively obscene sound that Louis feels shoot down to his crotch from the pit of his stomach.
Harry’s fingers tighten in his hair, for the first time with any real force, and when Louis takes it as a warning and spares a glance up at him, he’s got his other hand bunched in the fabric of the jumper, clutched so tightly is looks painful.
He gives a small nod then, but thinks Harry probably misses it, so he hums around him as pulls up half-way and closes slick fingers around Harry’s cock, letting him fuck into his fist until he chokes out another moan, hips jolting when he comes into Louis’ mouth. Louis keeps stroking him through it as he swallows, missing a bit of come that spills over his bottom lip when he pulls off a second too soon. Harry watches him with half-dazed eyes as Louis swipes his finger over his lip to catch it, sucking his thumb into his mouth and grinning wickedly around it up at Harry.
He has time to let out a quiet laugh and wipe the back of his hand over the rest of his mouth before Harry’s hauling him off the floor and back up onto the bed by his elbows, kissing him hard before Louis‘ even fully on top of him.
Bracketing Harry’s hips with his knees, Louis leans down into it when Harry opens his mouth to him, slipping fingers into Harry’s hair when he feels hands curling in the front of his T-shirt, keeping Louis on top of him. He can feel Harry trying to taste, curling his tongue around Louis’ as he licks deeper into his mouth, pausing to nip at his bottom lip with his teeth, sucking at it and then soothing it over with his tongue until Louis’ mouth is dark and swollen and his fingers are white-knuckled in Harry’s hair.
And maybe that should be it, Louis thinks. Maybe he should stop it there, let Harry leave, get himself out of this fucking bubble he’s been living in the for last twenty-four hours. Every logical part of his brain is telling him to do that, to help Harry clean himself up and maybe walk him to his car, send him on his way and then try to pretend he won’t spend the rest of the night—or maybe the foreseeable future, if he‘s being honest—trying to recall the hazy memory of Harry’s long fingers, or his hands touching him, or the way he fit inside him before. Try not to think if that would’ve been even better this time around, too, if he’d have let it happen again.
He could do that. It would be easy, probably.
Instead, he draws back enough to see Harry clearly, his skin is flushed and blotchy all over, mouth obscenely red and bitten. Louis drags his thumb across his bottom lip, pushes down in the middle and lets his finger catch on the swell of it as he drops his hand to Harry’s neck, pressing his fingers over a fresh bruise on his throat. And it’s there again, as Louis lifts his eyes to Harry’s slowly; that feeling he had at dinner like they’ve already crossed some sort of unspoken line, like they’ve made another notch in something that can’t be taken back. He can feel it hanging heavy in the few inches of air between their noses, but Louis blinks, pushes it away and tries to steady his breath enough to get words out.
“Can you fuck me again?” He asks, voice still raw, and Harry doesn’t hesitate, just nods up at him.
It is different this time, once the rest of their clothes are finally off and they're pressed together on the bed. Harry takes almost achingly long with his fingers, one, two, then three, slick and long and skilled as they slide into him deeper, deeper, until Louis is rocking back on Harry’s hand, until can feel sparks already coiling at the base of his spine, waiting to rush through him.
“Harry,” he mutters, reaching a hand down, tips of his fingers only brushing Harry’s forearm.
Harry blinks and stills his hand as he looks at Louis with dark eyes, just a thin ring of green barely visible around the edges, and Louis expects to feel the loss when his fingers pull out, but Harry just blinks down at him again, waits for a moment before he asks, quiet, “Do you wanna come like this?”
“What?” Louis’ voice sounds wrecked, still or again, he's not sure. When he strains his neck off the bed to look at him, he can see Harry’s hard again, painfully so, it looks like—curved onto his stomach, the skin there shiny with beads of precome—but he hasn’t paid himself any attention since he started opening Louis up. He meets Harry’s eyes as he tries to remember the question. Can he come like this, he thinks it was. “No,“ he says. “I don’t—I want you. I want—” he stops when Harry shifts on his knees a little, causing his fingers to slide deeper inside of him and Louis' head to loll back again. He's forgotten what he was even saying now, but if he could think clearer he’d probably accuse Harry of cutting him off on purpose.
“I will,” Harry's whispering, holding his other hand hesitantly to the inside of Louis’ thigh, waiting. “Just. Lou, can you do this, too? First?” He doesn’t say please, but it’s all over his face, in the way he’s biting at his bottom lip desperately, the way it seems like he’s holding in a breath while he waits, eyes growing a little wider.
“S'not like you've got anywhere to be, right?” Louis mumbles after a moment, going for light even though his voice breaks at the end, getting out a laugh as Harry smiles down at him, pleased, and shakes his head a little, hair falling into his eyes when he does.
Louis brings a hand down his chest, lets out a long breath and wraps it around his own dick, spreads precome down the length as Harry pries his legs open more, pushes one of Louis’ knees up towards his chest and starts moving his fingers with more purpose, not holding back anymore as they drag inside of him, pulling a groan from Louis when Harry bends over to kiss him, hot and open mouthed. He curls the fingers of his other hand over Harry’s shoulder, feels the muscles there flex with the pace Harry picks up with his hand.
He tries to hold off, but with Harry’s fingers twisting up inside of him, hitting at the same angle every time, it takes hardly another minute before Louis’ coming over his own fist, pressing a moan under Harry’s jaw when he tightens around his fingers.
He feels overwhelmed as is waves over him, at the way Harry’s muttering nonsense into his ear, at way he hardly gives Louis time to come down, just draws his fingers back but not all the way out, pressing his mouth to Louis’ neck again, to his jaw, down his chest until he’s breathing over Louis’ hand on his stomach. He touches his lips there too, in the come still spilled over his knuckles. Louis brings it up to thread fingers weakly into his hair, and then lets Harry’s mouth wander down to the sides of his torso, too, nipping his teeth at the skin on Louis’ hip and dragging them down the inside of his thigh before moving inward again, hovering over where Louis’ cock is lying still half-hard against his stomach.
He makes an effort to prop himself up, but just ends up craning his neck forward while he watches Harry’s lips, shiny and slick as they move over him slowly, stretching over just the head of Louis’ cock first, sucking him down slowly as he thickens up in his mouth, pulling more and more moans out of Louis until the oversensitivity from his first orgasm has waned away and he has to reach a hand in Harry’s hair again, tug him off gently.
He budges up the bed to lay against the pillows after he straightens up, Harry crawling after him once he’s fished a condom from Louis’ desk drawer. He rolls it on and slicks himself with more lube, bites his lip over another smile when he finally folds Louis’ knees up again and pushes himself in, and Louis thinks, as he pulls Harry closer by his shoulders, that he never had a chance at forcing himself into thinking this could be a bad idea, he thinks he probably would’ve never forgiven his stupid, stupid brain if it hadn’t let him have this again.
Harry kisses him again, languidly as he rolls his hips against him, making Louis feel every inch of his cock dragging slowly inside of him before he changes course, turning his thrusts steadily harder as he brings them both to the edge again, puffing out little breaths and moans into each others mouths. And right when Louis feels like he might lose it, like they’ve already pushed their luck with how long they’ve made this last, then Harry lifts up on his forearms, before he eases out completely, eyes boring into Louis’ again as he leans back against the wall, pulling Louis on top of him, digging fingernails into his thighs when he sinks down slowly into his lap.
It's too much, and so, so good, this way; deeper and just the right angle that makes Louis feel dizzy as he chases it, wound so tight with need that he thinks he might explode or scream or something, biting his teeth harshly into Harry’s shoulder before Harry finally wraps long fingers around him, pulling in almost frantic strokes until Louis comes between them, feels Harry follow a second later with a sound muffled into Louis‘ neck.
It seems like forever before he gains the energy to do more than roll off of Harry and slump next to him on the bed. When he does finally turn his head a fraction, Harry’s already looking over, grinning blissfully, hair matted around his face with sweat. Louis thinks somewhere in the back of his mind that he could look at him like this forever, spread out boneless and sated on his bed. He blinks a few times, tries to push it away before he has time to really process the thought, it makes his head spin when he still hasn’t moved an inch.
“Fuck,” Harry says suddenly.
“We were supposed to watch X Factor,“ he says.
“Shit.“ Louis giggles at the ceiling, still feeling a little happily light-headed. “Do you think we missed it already?”
Harry hiccups a laugh and rolls so he’s on his side before he says, “I dunno, probably.”
Neither of them look at the clock to check.
Harry’s phone rings at midnight. Louis only notices the time when his eyes catch it lit up on the screen. He has the sudden blinding urge to grab it from his desk and chuck it against the wall before Harry has a chance to see, but he doesn’t, because Harry‘s attention is still very much concentrated down.
“Uh, do you have any eights?” He asks, pursing his lips.
“M’not,” Louis insists and Harry sighs.
“You’ve said go fish every bloody turn!”
“Yeah, well we’re only playing with about thirteen cards here, what do you expect.“ Louis flicks the box they found at the bottom of Aiden’s desk drawer in Harry’s direction. It‘s seen better days, and so have the cards, Louis thinks they might‘ve been left over from the room’s previous occupant. “You’re the one who wanted to play, anyway,” he says.
There‘s a few moments of silence and then the buzz of Harry‘s phone vibrating on the desk starts again. “Are you gonna get that?” Louis jabs a thumb towards it when Harry doesn’t move.
“And interrupt a game this intense?” Harry says, shaking his head and not sparing his phone so much as a glance. “It’s probably just Niall, they should be leaving for the airport soon, I think. I can call him back tomorrow. Do you have any fours?”
"Go fish. Why are they leaving before you, anyway?" Louis asks, and pauses when he has to yawn into his shoulder, blinks a few times when his vision goes temporarily fuzzy. “Didn‘t you all wanna start your new cool hipster American lifestyle together?” He teases, nudging Harry’s knee with a finger.
Harry shrugs indifferently. "They're eager to get there, I guess. Any twos?"
"I've got half a two," Louis answers, holding up a two of hearts that's been ripped right down the middle. "Think that counts as a one, yeah?" He chuckles at his own joke and Harry rolls his eyes with a small smile.
"Give it here, anyway." He snatches it from Louis' fingers, slipping it into his own deck before Louis reaches over and grabs the whole lot from his hands, tossing them into the air with a flick of his wrist.
“New game!” He says cheerfully as they flutter down onto the bed between them, and dodges the handful of cards Harry scoops up and lodges at his face, before dissolving into a small fit of laughter by himself on the bed while Harry shakes his head disapprovingly.
"You know," Harry starts again after a few minutes, not looking up from his knee where Louis' now attempting to balance four cards against each other. "The gigs we have lined up? They don't even start until the middle of November."
"Yeah?" Louis says absently, cursing under his breath when the four of spades slips off of Harry's knee, sending the rest of his work toppling over.
"Yeah. We're just going over now for like, meetings and things. Not even actual meetings like you‘d think—just meeting people, Nick says we ought to like, show everyone our pretty faces, or something? His words. But Niall and Zayn, they'd probably be fine at that without me."
His voice sounds strange—too high, and Louis suspects he’s trying, and failing, to sound casual when he notices the way Harry keeps flicking his eyes up, measuring Louis’ reaction to his words.
Louis looks up at him then. "And what, you’d just go over in a few weeks?"
"It would make more sense, wouldn't it?” Harry says quickly, and before Louis can answer, “Get out of here just as the weather gets bad, yeah? It‘d be nice, like I’m going on holiday kind of?”
"I thought you said you liked the snow?" Louis remembers, knitting his eyebrows together. “That you’d miss it?”
“Oh, right.“ Harry‘s face falls as he says it, almost to himself, and looks down again, picking at a spot on Louis' bedspread, shoulders slumped a little.
Then he opens his mouth, like he’s going to say something, but cuts himself off before it comes out, taking a deep breath instead. It sounds shaky as Harry draws it in, and Louis notices he’s gripping the fabric of the bedspread tightly between his fingers now, like he’s trying to steady his hands.
"Harry?" Louis' voice is quiet, so quiet with just the long exhale of air that Harry releases after much too long, cutting through the silence of the room. Moving closer, he tilts his head down to see him better, reaches a hand to the side of Harry’s cheek to try to get him to look up again.
Harry just turns his face into it, bringing both his own hands to hold Louis' wrist up. He presses his mouth to the center of Louis’ palm first, then to the tips of his fingers, splaying them out wide as he traces over Louis’ knuckles with his bottom lip and Louis thinks his eyes look heavy, tired for the first time, lids not completely closed but just weary enough to make Louis feel like he shouldn't speak, shouldn't do anything to interrupt whatever Harry's doing.
His face is half in shadow, thrown into stark relief by the dim lamp on the desk, and it’s completely silent, Louis he can still see it through the gaps between his fingers—still make it out clearly, unmistakably, when Harry looks up at him and mouths the words I don’t want to go into his hand like it’s a secret, slowly, like he’s testing how they might sound if he were to say them out loud.
Louis’ still just staring back in silence when Harry drops their hands and lets out another long breath, bending over in half so that his head is in Louis' lap. He feels frozen for a moment, looking down at the way Harry is curling his fingers around his ankles, gripping Louis tight.
He thinks it's unsettling, seeing him like this; Louis' only known Harry with shoulders shaking from laughs and grins that make his whole face glow, automatically hates whatever could make those things falter for a second. He still can’t quite find the words he thinks are right, so he just leaves his hand to rest on the back of Harry’s neck, draws little circles on the skin there until the stiff line of his shoulders settles, evens out with the ragged breaths Louis can feel ghosting over the skin at his ankles.
When Harry finally gets his own T-shirt and coat back on, it’s just turned two in the morning. He takes another fifteen minutes with his boots then lays down, spread-eagle on the floor between the beds, staring at the ceiling.
“I’m too tired to drive,” he whines. “I’m probably gonna crash the second I hit the M40. S’your fault, really.” He points a lazy finger up at Louis, who’s looking down at him from the edge of his bed with a frown.
He knows Harry is delaying now. Realises that’s what he’s been doing all day, with the unanswered phone calls and the card games and the going back for two desserts after dinner before Louis had to drag him out of the dining hall by his sleeve.
He has to leave soon, though. He has to. Louis’ running his brain to find something to say to him before he does. Not thank you, surely, he’s certain he’d sound like the worlds biggest prat for that. He thinks that Harry probably wants to hear something else, anyway. Something that Louis can’t—won’t say. Even if he can feel the words eating at him, bouncing around the inside of his mouth and echoing inside his head.
“You can’t stay here,“ he tells him instead, and Harry lets out a quiet sigh on the floor, scrubs a hand over his face.
“It’s not just because of you,” he says after a moment. “I didn’t—I thought it before last night. I’ve been thinking it for a while. It‘s not just because of this, you know.”
“I don’t think that highly of myself, Harry,” Louis says. “Try to keep the rom-com clichés out of my life as much as possible, remember?”
“How’s that workin’ for you?” Harry mutters up at him.
“It’s proving difficult, actually.” He smiles, but Harry just sighs again. Louis thinks he looks stuck to the carpets, like he’s making himself heavier, like maybe he’ll just sink right through the floor and never have to get up.
“No one asked me,” he continues, quieter. “If it’s what I wanted. They just set everything up, the gigs and the plane tickets—and the house we’re renting? It’s not even by the beach, did I tell you?” He says, sounding genuinely offended. “What’s the point in that?”
“Why didn’t you just tell them?”
“I couldn‘t,” Harry tells him, pushing up off the floor so he can see him better. “No one gave me time to say it, Louis. They just told me what a great idea it was and pat me on the back and said that we’re gonna be great and good luck and to make sure I send them a bloody postcard when I‘m there.” He gives a short laugh.
Louis waits a minute before asking, “What is it you want, then?”
“I just don’t think this is what we’re supposed to be doing.” Harry sits up straighter, tucking a knee up to his chest and looking at his shoes when he says, “It doesn’t feel right. None of it ever feels like, right, you know?”
This feels right, though, Louis thinks, you and I feel right. “I don’t know,” he says.
“How am I supposed to tell them that, though, that I can’t get excited when they talk about like, money and fans and wanting to be famous, because I just want to keep playing for those people at the club on weekends, you know… It sounds stupid, right? They’d think I was crazy?” Louis wishes Harry would stop making everything come out as a question, like he needs Louis to give him the confirmation that he hasn’t, in fact, lost his mind. He’s not sure he’s the most stable person mentally, to be giving out such advice, judging form some of the things running through Louis’ head right now.
“I don’t know,” he answers again and then there’s a few beats of more silence. It’s deafening, with the way it’s filled with just Harry’s eyes staring up at him, unblinking. They‘re almost pleading, verging on desperate the longer Louis doesn‘t look away.
And, God, Louis wants to touch him right now, flatten the bit of hair that's sticking up over Harry’s ear or fix the way the collar of his coat is tucked in on itself. It feels ridiculous that he's hesitating at simple things like that after everything else they've done, but he doesn't know what he's allowed to do right now, has to remind himself that he's only known Harry for a day. That that would seem like no time at all to anyone else.
He cuts through the quiet finally then. “Harry, I can’t tell you not to go.”
“Why not?” He says, crawling over to kneel next to the bed. Then he adds quietly, like he’s afraid of anyone outside this room catching it, “You could.”
He looks down at him, crouched by his knees, hands curled around Louis’ calves. “Because, okay?“ He says. “I don’t even know you. I don’t know your friends or your family or anything. I’m not gonna tell you to do something that’ll affect them or like, let them down, or whatever. It’s not my place, I can’t do that.”
“It wouldn’t be that bad, though, would it?” Says Harry quickly, like a question he’s already asked himself a hundred times. “They’d—they’d get over it, yeah? Niall and Zayn and Mum and everyone, they’d be okay with it eventually?”
“I don’t know, Harry. How am I supposed to know that?”
“It’s like they want me to go,” Harry says. “They’re practically pushing me out the door.”
“I’m sure they’re just excited for you, like you said,” Louis tells him, in an attempt to sound more upbeat. It’s been too many minutes since Harry smiled last and he wants to pull it out of him again so he can memorize it, file it away in his brain for later. Far away, maybe, somewhere he might never take it out of again.
“No, they’re excited for me to leave,” Harry’s mumbling to his hands. “Get all tan in California, only call them twice a month and come home nice and famous just in time for Christmas. They’ll probably be expecting me to bring them all expensive gifts, too, from my travels—”
“Stop it.“ Louis shoves his shoulder. “You’re whining,“ he says. “It’s not attractive.”
Harry glances up at him from the floor. “You’d miss me if I left, right?”
“I will miss you.”
His lips finally stretch into a small grin at that as he says easily, “I knew it.”
“What—no, you said if,” Louis tells him, shaking his head firmly. “This isn’t an if situation, okay? You’re leaving, Harry, you have to leave.”
“And you’ll miss me?” His eyes are shining with something a bit reckless now. And Jesus, it’s like Louis was expecting it, already anticipating Harry’s little satisfied smirk, the way he looks like he’s gotten away with something and is just waiting for someone to scold him for it now.
“Don‘t think so, actually, no.” Louis says, looking away airily. “You‘ve kinda been a pain in the arse, if I‘m being honest… Ate all my crisps.”
He doesn’t have time to put up any defense when Harry lunges up from the floor suddenly, knocking Louis backwards, jumping on top of him on the bed and pinning him down by the shoulders. Louis yields easily, looks up at Harry. For some reason both their breathing is coming out heavier than what makes sense, and Harry’s hands are hardly even gripping him anymore, but Louis still feels helpless, like he has no option than to let Harry’s eyes wander over his face again, not saying a word as Louis stares back in silence. He can see the clock on his desk in the corner of his eye, numbers ticking away like a fucking time bomb, every minute that passes giving Louis another reason why he shouldn’t be letting Harry do this.
“What time are your friends getting on their plane?” He whispers, because there’s problems with this, more than he thinks Harry’s probably considered.
Harry doesn’t answer—Louis’ not even sure he heard the question—just dips down to fit their lips together, and Louis lets his mouth fall open easily, sighs into it and wraps his fingers around the back of Harry’s neck.
There’s so much still going through his head, is the thing, questions, maybe ones he should’ve asked hours ago, about all the people who are waiting for Harry at home, who are going to be waiting for him practically across the fucking world, if any of those people even know where Harry is right now. Too many things that come with those questions that he can’t help but let make their way from where they’ve been lingering in the back of his mind all day, that make him wonder if maybe this was just one big way of buying time, if Louis was just Harry’s last-ditched effort to find something that would hold onto him here, that would give him the answers to the questions he couldn’t ask anyone else.
There's part of him that thinks he might be okay with that, though. Even if Louis can’t fully deliver on his end and give Harry everything he wanted. He’s fine with it if that’s it, and he’s trying to remind himself, as Harry’s weight presses him into the mattress, how that’s more than it was ever supposed to be, anyway.
It’s much too soon when Harry draws back, and Louis finds his hands reaching inadvertently to keep him there before he can stop them. Harry doesn’t move from on top of him, though, just drops down to lie flat on top of Louis, feet dangling off the end of the bed, still in his boots.
“Thanks for hanging out with me today,” he whispers somewhere near Louis‘ ear.
“Sure,” Louis says, voice suddenly small.
“’M glad Niall made me go to that party, yeah?”
Louis huffs out a laugh. “Yeah.”
Then Harry tucks his forehead down into his shoulder, and Louis feels like every excuse he’s been formulating, everything he’s been telling himself all day is giving up on him, starting to make less and less sense when Harry presses his lips to the side of his neck, hums a little against the skin there.
He falters when he tries to open his mouth to say something, none of the things floating in his mind forming actual words, just a stream of random thoughts, things he‘d forgotten about that suddenly seem so important as he remembers them. Things like how he wants to admit to Harry now that he didn’t really have a good reason to not let him see that notebook full of stories he keeps under his bed, like how he forgot to tell Harry that he really likes him, too, that he liked him in that kitchen when he was drunk, and this morning when he had Louis’ dirty sheets wrapped around his thighs, and in the coffee shop when he‘d told Louis he was leaving and was making plans to mail each other stupid letters. He remembers how they’d never continued that discussion after Louis had brushed off the idea, wonders if Harry would laugh at him if he brought it up again.
Mostly, though, he can’t stop thinking about how none of it should be like this, how this weight on top of him shouldn’t be allowed to feel so familiar, crucial, like he might float away once it’s gone. How much he really, really doesn’t want it to be gone now.
“You shouldn’t be here anymore,“ he says finally. It sounds scripted, he doesn’t mean it at all.
“I know.” Harry’s voice comes out far away, and Louis can hear his breath getting shallow now in his ear, evening out sleepily as he relaxes on top of him. He slips his hands under Louis’ back, tucking them between him and the mattress.
Louis settles into it like he doesn’t know how to do anything but, swallows tightly as he feels Harry’s eyes flutter shut against his neck. He lets his fingers crawl under Harry’s coat, lets them curl in the back of his T-shirt before he whispers into the room, quiet enough that Harry might not even hear it, “You can‘t be here in the morning.”
There’s no response, other than the tiniest sound that Harry hums out from between his lips. Louis thinks it might be something like a laugh when he feels it blow over his skin.
He turns his head the smallest fraction, careful not to jostle Harry on top of him. "You're gonna be in trouble, Harry Styles," he warns, even softer, the hair at the side Harry’s head tickling the tip of Louis’ nose when his lips barely move against his ear.
Harry sighs contently, letting it out in a long, steady breath, hot when it ripples in Louis' hair, before he tightens his arms even more around Louis' waist, firm, holding on like it's a decision when he finally breathes out, "I know," again softly against his neck.
Louis lets the words echo in his head, but its already so full with his last thoughts, so worn out from the somersaults and back-and-forth it‘s been doing all day, and there's just no room for any of it. Not when the ceiling is swimming in front of Louis’ eyes, getting fuzzy around the edges as he fights against the last shreds of consciousness, not when the idea of waking up like this, with Harry draped over him like a blanket, is winning out over everything else still left in his head.
So he lets his eyes close heavily, and he thinks he feels Harry’s lips pressing a hint of a smile into his hair before his thoughts slip away completely.