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Fall At My Door

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Chapter One

▪Louis▪

▲▲▲

The rich smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the air and seeps under the plush comforter. Louis grunts and hides his head under a pillow to prevent the sun from reaching his eyes. He inhales deeply, which is a mistake because, along with the coffee, he smells himself and he desperately needs a shower. Lifting the covers slightly, he listens for the sound of running water. He groans and talks himself into crawling out of bed.

The coffee on the room service cart is hot, so he pours two cups, careful not to splash it on his naked body, and peeks under the cloches to find enough breakfast food to feed a family. He nibbles on a piece of bacon and leans against the door jamb, “Are you almost done or do I need to come in there?” It’s a pointless question because, as soon as he says it, the water shuts off and a tattooed arm reaches out of the shower to grab a towel. Louis sets their coffee cups down, leans his bare bum against the bathroom counter and eats more bacon while he waits.

A deep, slow voice comes from behind the shower door. “I know you’re out there, Lou. Did you drink all the coffee?”

“No.”

“Eat all the bacon?”

“No.” He tries to sound offended.

“Does that mean you left me one piece of bacon?”

“No.” Louis struggles not to laugh.

“Two?”

“Yes.” He chuckles and sips his coffee.

“You’re such an asshole.” Harry steps out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his head, his body now dry, except for a few beads of water on his chest, right between his bird tattoos. “I ordered all that bacon for you anyway.”

Louis watches the water slide down toward his belly button and sets his coffee cup down harder than planned, his eyes never wavering from Harry’s chest. Harry steps closer, reaches a hand out and cups Louis’ balls, dragging his thumb across the thin skin, then tips his head downward and nips at Louis’ neck. Louis drops his head to the side to give him room to have his way, but Harry steps back, picks up his coffee, and turns away, so Louis watches his ass as he walks out of the bathroom. He swallows down the rest of his coffee.

The water is a touch too hot, but the pressure is strong, so Louis stays under the spray for far too long. His skin is pink when he steps out, the bathroom full of steam that billows into the hotel room when he opens the door and walks out, still naked. “I feel like some sort of super hero when I do that, or maybe like, a super villain. The steam seems kind of evil.”

Harry is already fully dressed, which is disappointing. Louis would have liked one last look. Instead he watches as Harry bends over his bag, zips it up, then slings it over his shoulder, turning to face Louis all in one graceful move.

“Gotta go. Flight to catch. Last night was, um, really great.” Harry traces a finger along the tattoo on Louis’ collarbones, then drops a kiss on his shoulder. “See you.” Harry slides his sunglasses on and then pushes them up into his hair like a headband. He tosses his key card onto the table and opens the door to leave. “Check out’s in an hour, unless you want to pay for another night. Eat that bacon and get the fuck out of here.” Harry’s dopey grin is the last thing he sees as the door swings shut.

“Yeah, yeah.” Louis chuckles at Harry’s failed attempt to sound rude. “See you, Harry.” Louis picks up a pancake, folds it in half around the last two pieces of bacon, and eats it like a taco.

Louis has another cup of coffee, gets dressed, and is out of the room before the hour is up. The elevator dings and the doors slide open just as Louis’ phone vibrates in his pocket. It’s a message from Liam double checking that they’re meeting at the writing room; he’s running a little bit late, but is on his way. Liam should know better than to expect him on time.

▲▲▲

When Louis is back home in New York a few days later, he and Liam meet up to write again, finishing two songs they’d started a couple of weeks back, and tossing around ideas for a few more. It’s a good session; Louis is tired and wants to head home, but Liam isn't having it. “Come on. Just a drink or two, then you can get home. We’ll even go to the bar around the corner from your place, okay?”

As they’re trying to flag down a cab, Louis asks, “You haven’t been going to my bar without me, have you, Liam?” Liam shakes his head. It’s Louis’ favorite place, other than his apartment, and he considers it his very own. It’s tiny, is the thing. From the outside, it looks like a shit bar, and maybe it used to be, but the people who run it now have turned it into Louis’ oasis of calm in the middle of a busy city, and they either don’t know or don’t care who Louis is. Inside, it’s dark and cramped, but after they order their drinks at the bar, they make their way outside to the covered patio. It’s a tiny square, just big enough for four small bistro tables and the collection of secondhand chairs that surround them, with a roof of old tin that’s been pieced together and slants just enough to let the water run away from the patio when it rains. They’ve strung twinkling lights from the support beams, back and forth under the roof, until there’s no need for another light source. Liam and Louis sit down at their usual table in the corner and Louis lights two cigarettes and passes one to Liam.

“Good session today, man. I don’t know how we do it. We’re like a machine, churning out these songs.”

Louis shrugs. “You’re an excellent songwriter and we work well together.”

“Yeah, alright,” Liam rolls his eyes at Louis’ professional tone, “But like, I want to know more about your process. It fucks with my head, man, because you write these amazing love songs, but it’s not like you have any real life experience to draw on. It’s fascinating.”

“Fuck off, I have experience.” Louis leans over and ashes his cigarette onto Liam’s hand.

Liam blows the ashes away. “You know what I mean, jackass. It’s not like you’re writing love songs about your relationship with your fake boyfriend. You haven’t had a relationship in, well, ever, as far as I know.”

Louis scrubs a hand through his hair. “It’s been years, yeah. I don’t know, man, the words just come out. I’m not questioning it too much or they might stop. Then where would we be?”

“Unemployed, probably. The rest of the band would be pissed. We’d be doing covers of Journey songs in some shitty bar. Anyway, drinks are on me tonight.”

Louis shrugs and smiles. “Thanks, Li.”

After their third drink, when the bar starts to fill up, Liam settles the tab and they walk towards Louis’ apartment. “Joseph home?”

“Maybe? Think he has a date tonight though.”

“Really? What, like a hook-up?”

“I mean, I don’t know the specifics, but they’re dating. Have been for a while, I think. So…”

“Oh shit, will there have to be a public break up?”

“No, we’ll just release something, a statement that we’re still good friends. Keep it simple.” Louis groans, realizing he’ll have to move out too. “Damn. You’ll help me find a new place?”

“Yeah, if you want. Why does he get to keep the apartment?”

“It’s Joseph’s grandmother’s place.”

“Lame that it’s taking your fake-boyfriend getting a real boyfriend to push you into finally getting your own place.”

Being openly gay and single when he was younger was one thing, with fame thrown into the mix, the added pressure made Louis uncomfortable. When the band got bigger and interviewers started asking about his love life, it was easier to lie and say he had a boyfriend who wanted privacy than to deal with the speculation and the same questions again and again. The first time he needed a date for a red carpet event, he’d asked his roommate Joseph. It snowballed from there. If Louis needed a date for industry events, Joseph came on his arm. It was simple. Convenient. They were both discrete with their sex lives and agreed to never bring anyone back to their place. They’d occasionally get each other off; friends with sporadic benefits. Joseph was too busy with school and work for a real boyfriend, and Louis had his regular hook-ups in the cities he spent the most time in. And he has Harry whenever they’re both available.

Louis opens the door to his building and holds it for Liam. “Are you sleeping on my couch?”

“Yeah, maybe. That okay?”

“As long as Joseph doesn’t have people over. You can sleep in my bed with me if the couch is taken.”

They grab some beers from the fridge and make themselves comfortable on the couch. Louis hums around the bottle, “I have to find someone else to fuck in this city.” It's a shame Harry doesn't live in New York.

“That’s, uh…” Liam flounders then finds his footing. “That’ll be fun for you, kissing a lot of frogs or whatever.”

“Um, no. No, it won't. Finding a good, discreet, no strings attached hook-up is harder than it looks, Li.”

“That why you offered up your bed tonight?”

Louis winks and jokes, “Want to be my fuck buddy?”

Liam snorts. “No chance in hell, dude.”

Louis sighs. This is going to be a pain in his ass.

▲▲▲

Louis texts his manager and asks her to release a statement about their harmonious break-up. A second later, he sends another one asking her for help finding a new place to live.

As far as break-ups go, it’s the easiest, most amicable end of a relationship that Louis has ever witnessed or been a part of. He hugs Joseph and kisses his cheek and tells him he’s happy he’s found someone he loves, and he means it. Even if it’s inconvenient.

The press release is short, there’s a blurb in a few tabloids, and Louis is publicly, officially single for the first time in almost three years.

It’s been a few weeks, and he does look for an apartment, but doesn’t even know if he wants to stay in Brooklyn or not and is overwhelmed with the sheer number of decisions he has to make after deciding on a neighborhood. Joseph and his boyfriend are gone for two weeks in Mexico, and they've begged Louis to be gone when they get back. Louis considers making appointments to look at some places, scoffs at the thought, and tosses his phone onto the couch before curling up to take a nap instead.

He wakes up with his dick tenting his sweatpants and starts to get up and go to his room to jack off, but lies back down when he remembers that he has the place to himself for two weeks. It’s been awhile since he tossed off in the living room. Sprawled on the couch, pants shoved down to his ankles, one finger in his ass, halfway to his orgasm, his usual David Beckham fantasy morphs into a memory of the last time he was with Harry. The hand wrapped around his dick becomes a blur. As he comes, he pictures Harry on the couch between his legs, sucking his cock, and an idea takes root.

Two cigarettes later, Louis sips a beer and scrolls through his calendar for Harry’s schedule. Perfect. He’s in town for Jimmy Fallon. As he makes sure the apartment is spotless, Louis texts him the same way they always do; a question mark, date, time, and address. It’s not weird, Louis thinks. Hopes.

It’s not really his apartment anymore anyway, so it’s not the same thing as inviting Harry to his own house, and the agreement not to bring anyone back to the apartment is surely no longer in place now that his break up with Joseph is official.

Harry responds with a simple yes.

Louis opens the door wearing an old, worn pair of sweatshorts and nothing else. Harry is wearing far too many clothes, but the layers will make it almost like unwrapping a present.

With a bright grin, Harry steps inside and untangles his scarf. He drops his bag on the floor to slide his coat down his arms. “Is this your apartment?”

“Yeah, sort of? I’m moving out soon.” Louis drapes Harry’s coat and scarf over the back of the couch. “So I guess it’s my roommate’s apartment now.”

“Hmm. Where’s your roommate?” Harry steps into Louis’ space, eyes drifting down over Louis’ chest, his desire clear on his face.

“Yeah. He’s on vacation.” Louis slips a finger through one of Harry’s belt loops and tugs him closer. “Far away.”

Harry leans in, his lips brush Louis’ ear. “Okay.”

“Want a tour?” Louis whispers.

“Of the bedroom, I do.”

Louis leads him across the living room to his bedroom, pointing out the kitchen and bathroom on the way.

The sex between them is always amazing, but Harry is especially enthusiastic tonight. He sucks Louis off before he can even shut the bedroom door. Round two has Harry pressed against Louis’ bedroom window while Louis silently thanks his neighbors for closing their blinds. They don’t even make it to the bed until round three when Harry rides Louis so hard he sees constellations behind his eyelids as he comes.

They only surface between round two and three to eat cold pizza, share a beer, and tumble back into bed.

Louis wakes up the next morning with Harry half-covering his body; sweat and come glueing Harry’s arm to Louis’ stomach. It takes actual effort to peel them apart and he loses a couple of hairs from his happy trail in the process, but he manages to disentangle them without waking Harry.

Harry’s still asleep when Louis gets out of the shower. Lying on his back with only the sheet pulled over his lower body, Harry’s morning wood is obvious and impressive after the night they had. Louis reaches over and trails two fingers over the sheet, from the head of Harry’s cock, along the shaft, tracing circles around his balls, down between his legs. He presses in, pushes the sheet between Harry’s cheeks, rubs against his hole until he groans.

“You got a flight to catch? It’s almost ten.”

Harry’s voice is thick and he stretches without opening his eyes. “Nah, I’ve got time.”

“Let’s go again. I don’t have to be anywhere.”

“Yeah, alright.” Harry sits up and catches Louis’ lips in a quick kiss before he rolls onto his stomach. “Grab the stuff.”

Louis tugs the sheet off, baring Harry’s naked body, taking the time to appreciate all the hard work he’s put into it for his most recent film, before slicking his fingers. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

Harry lifts his hips, pushes his ass back and smiles as he lifts his head up off the mattress and looks at Louis over his shoulder. “Yeah?”

Louis nods. Harry is beautiful and seeing him like this, well, Louis thinks it’s possibly the best way to start his day. “Yeah, I’ve been needing a good fuck.”

Harry goes quiet while Louis works a second finger in, scissoring them and twisting them a little until Harry asks for another; he stretches and fucks Harry with three fingers until he’s rutting against the mattress and Louis can’t wait anymore. He urges Harry up onto his hands and knees and watches him arch his back and stick out his ass while he rolls on the condom. So fucking sexy. He strokes the back of Harry’s thighs and a part of his mind thinks how shocked people would be to know who he’s got ass up and spread out on his bed right now—Harry Styles, award-winning, A-list actor, leading man extraordinaire, star of blockbuster movies, and everyone's wet dream.

He sinks in slowly, careful because Harry rode him hard last night and he’s bound to be at least a little bit sore this morning. As he comes to rest, flush with Harry’s ass, he pauses and runs his hands up and down Harry’s back as he waits for him to adjust. When Harry’s ready, Louis grips his hips, pulling halfway out and slowly pushing back in. It’s hot and wet and Harry is never quiet when they fuck, but he’s especially loud this morning. Louis tries to be gentle, but Harry fucks himself back onto Louis’ cock with abandon, until the sounds of their moans and their skin slapping together echo in his ears.

In an effort to take back some control, he threads his fingers through Harry’s hair and pulls until he’s kneeling, and Harry reaches his hands behind Louis to hold onto his hips. Louis bites at the back of his shoulder, tugs on his hair again forcing his head to the side, then bites his neck and sucks hard. The position allows Louis more control and he fucks in and out as slowly as he can, while sliding his other hand down Harry’s chest and belly to wrap around his dick. Harry becomes completely pliant as soon as Louis begins to stroke his cock, whining, moaning and muttering nonsensical words, until he comes in Louis’ hand. His body tightens and then falls forward from the force of it; he rocks on his hands and knees and clenches his ass around Louis’ cock, encouraging him to finish.

Louis holds tight to Harry’s hips and drives himself forward, again and again, until he comes, grunting, buried deep in Harry. Harry drops the rest of the way down to the mattress and they both hiss as Louis’ dick slides free. He trails his fingers between Harry’s asscheeks, pops his thumb inside and tugs on the rim; Harry groans. “So fucking hot, I swear.” Louis mutters, before hopping off the bed and heading to the bathroom.

Louis makes their coffee and comes back with a mug for Harry while he’s still in the shower, washing his hair. “Hey, man, thanks for coming over. No joke. I’ve been needing a good fuck for weeks.”

“Um, yeah, you said.”

“It’s convenient too, like having you come here instead of a hotel. I didn’t even have to get dressed or leave the house for sex.” There’s no room service, and Louis can’t cook, but maybe Harry can. Louis could supply the groceries. He tries to catch his reflection, but the mirror is foggy from the steam. He wipes at it, but it doesn’t totally clear.

“Right. So, um, how come you asked me over here?”

“I told you. Joseph’s on vacation.” Louis turns to look at Harry’s blurry outline through the shower door. “We’ve lived together for ages so I couldn’t really have people sleep over before, and I mean, hotels are fine for fucking when I’m in L.A. or Vegas or wherever, but now that I’ll be able to fuck people in my own home… guess you’re first in line.” Louis laughs at his little joke and takes a sip of coffee.

Harry clears his throat. “Sounds like you’re going to be busy, Lou.”

“Haha. Very funny coming from you. I’ve seen what you get up to.”

“Don't believe everything you read, Louis.”

Louis laughs because, at that moment, he’s looking at some magazine that his manager has mailed to him, a post-it stuck to the front with a big arrow pointing to the blurb on the front page about his ‘break-up’ and ‘possible reconciliation’ with Joseph. He peels off the post-it and tosses the magazine onto the pile beside the sink and leaves Harry to finish getting dried off and dressed.

Stumbling out of the bedroom with sunglasses already on his face and one boot on, Harry bends over to pull on his other boot. Water flies off his still-wet hair when he throws his bag over his shoulder. He waves goodbye as he opens the door and rushes out before Louis can offer him any cereal.

Louis shrugs and pours himself a bowl. Harry’s flight must be sooner than he thought. Plopping his bum down onto his favorite spot on the couch, he picks up his phone to call Liam; maybe he’ll be willing to go apartment hunting this week.

▲▲▲

It’s pure serendipity. Louis finds the perfect place on the first morning of their apartment search; he makes an offer that afternoon, they haggle back and forth through the real estate agents for a few days, and settle on a sale price before the weekend. It can't possibly get any easier. Louis briefly considers leaving the band and going into real estate.

Joseph politely, but firmly, kicks Louis out as soon as he returns from his vacation. Liam, Joseph, and his boyfriend help Louis pack his things and move them to Liam’s living room, where Louis spends the next month sleeping on Liam’s couch and waiting for the paperwork to go through on the purchase of his new place. It’s somewhat convenient staying with Liam; they write songs in the living room instead of going to a writing room, and they have fun, though it’s obvious by the looks Liam gives the pile of Louis’ boxes that he’s ready for Louis to move into his new apartment.

The end of the year is a crazy blur of holidays and family and too much food and Louis is so busy that he almost doesn’t notice that he hasn’t seen Harry in more than a month. He’s so out of touch with the whole celebrity world since the band started this hiatus. He didn’t attend the AMAs for the first time in years, didn’t even watch them. He hasn't even been on Tumblr in weeks. He kisses his mom at midnight on New Year’s Eve, just like he always did growing up, and spends New Year’s Day helping her take down all of the holiday decorations and get her house back to normal.

The first week of January is filled with paperwork and going over tax forms with his manager and accountant and it stresses Louis out. He just wants to sleep on Liam’s couch until the end of April. The appointment with the lawyer to close on the purchase of the apartment is set for the following Monday afternoon. Louis flies to Las Vegas Friday morning to spend three days writing and hanging out with Steve Aoki. He’s been looking forward to this for months, they’d talked about writing together, but never seemed to be in the same place at the same time. He goes to Steve’s show Friday night, dances for so long that his entire body is sore when he wakes up Saturday morning, lounges around his hotel room, spends a few hours by the pool, gets a massage, and plays blackjack for a bit, before meeting up with Steve to write. By eleven o’clock that night, Louis is exhausted.

The time difference is getting to him, but he still feels weirdly relaxed from his massage. It’s a nice, floaty feeling. He wants to get laid and thinks about calling the guy he used to always hook-up with in Vegas, but isn’t really in the mood to be around other people. The hotel suite happens to be the same one he stayed in with Harry the last time they crossed paths in Vegas and he thinks about how good it is when they fuck, how gorgeous Harry is, how he loves to watch him fall apart. He thinks about the pictures. It’s so easy with him; Louis feels like he can be himself with Harry, and maybe it's because they're both in the industry, but he doesn’t have to play the part of Louis Tomlinson™ and can relax around him. He opens his phone to check his calendar for Harry’s latest schedule. Only it’s not there. Hmm. Harry must be filming or something. Louis shoots off a quick text to Harry, the words ‘in vegas now. same room as last time’ with a link to his own monthly schedule; that’ll be enough of a reminder.

He scrolls through his photo albums until he finds the one labeled ‘H’—he still can’t believe Harry let him take pictures of them fucking. Sure, they both went through and made sure that none of the pictures show anything that makes them easily identifiable, no tattoos or scars or anything above the shoulders, but Louis is pretty sure that the one of him fucking Harry from behind could be I.D.’d in a split second by some of Harry’s fans. They may not know what his ass looks like when it’s stuffed full of Louis’ cock, but they have Tumblr masterposts about his back and his love handles. Maybe Harry will let him take a video some time.

Louis gets off with one hand on his dick while the other flips through the pictures of Harry. After he comes, he briefly thinks about making the pictures into a GIF, but all of that is forgotten by the time he cleans himself up and falls asleep.

▲▲▲

The closing goes as easily as any meeting with a lawyer can go, but the delivery date on Louis’ furniture isn’t until the following week, so he makes plans to stay on Liam’s couch until the very last minute. Which, it turns out, is that Saturday. They’ve already moved all of Louis’ boxes into his empty apartment, the only thing left at Liam’s place is a single suitcase and a collection of toiletries. Liam has a date on Saturday, a very important date if Louis judges it by the shade of red that Liam’s face turns when he comes home Friday evening to find Louis sprawled on his couch, surrounded by crumbs and empty snack bags and beer bottles. When Liam’s face turns that color and the sounds coming out of his mouth are more like growls than words, Louis hops up off the couch and collects the trash, making quick work of cleaning the living room. When he turns off the vacuum, he tells Liam not to worry, that he already has another place to stay until his furniture is delivered. It’s only sort of a lie. He has an air mattress that he uses when he goes camping; he can sleep on that in the meantime.

Saturday afternoon, Louis takes what’s left of his stuff to his new place. The most striking feature, and the deciding factor in the purchase of his new apartment, are the tall windows; the amount of natural light that comes in through them is amazing. He unpacks the few boxes he has, mostly clothes and some towels and bed linens, then walks down to the corner store to stock up on some groceries. The sun is setting when he gets back home, so he puts the groceries on the counter and watches the sky change from light blue, to orange, then pink, dark blue and purple. There are stars out there, but he can't see them because of the city lights. Maybe Liam will want to go camping again, once he’s had a little bit of a break from Louis.

Louis’ groceries are really just snacks, so everything fits in one cabinet, except the bottle of champagne he bought to properly christen his apartment once it’s furnished. He opens the fridge to put the champagne inside, but it’s not cold. It’s then he realizes that the entire apartment is darker than it should be. He’d enjoyed the natural light so much that he hadn’t bothered turning on any lamps.

Only they won’t turn on.

Because there’s no electricity.

He’s forgotten to call the power company to have his utilities turned on. He checks his phone, which thankfully has a full battery, and shrugs. His air mattress has a battery powered pump and his phone works, he has blankets and it’s not that cold out, he’ll be fine to sleep there until he gets the power turned on.

While the air mattress fills, Louis changes out of his jeans and into his sweatpants, then sits on the floor to scroll through Twitter and Tumblr while he waits. He only follows a few blogs, mostly fans of the band, some up-and-coming musicians, and a Harry fan account. He followed that one after Harry brought it up as an example of his fans’ devotion while they were arguing over whether anyone would know it was him in the naked photos. There are pictures, recent ones, of Harry in New York. He clicks through to the blog that posted them originally and finds the dates. He’s in New York right now. Louis checks his calendar again to be sure, but Harry never sent him an updated schedule. Strange. He must be really busy.

Louis sends him a text in the same pattern that they always use—a question mark, followed by the words tonight and anytime. Quickly followed by another text asking where Harry’s staying.

He opens a bag of pretzels, stuffs a few in his mouth, pops the champagne and takes a swig from the bottle. He can’t even get dressed to go out unless he literally wants to look like he got dressed in the dark. The idea that maybe he should just get a hotel room leads to the thought that Harry probably has a really nice suite. Louis checks his phone again. His text conversation with Harry has been a little one-sided over the last few months and it kind of pisses him off. It’s not as if they owe each other anything, they’re not really even friends, but they have a sort of unspoken arrangement that’s gone on for a couple of years now, and lately Harry’s not keeping up his end of the deal.

He locks his phone and checks his air mattress. It should be full by now, but the pump is still going. Louis closes his eyes and prays to the god of batteries that the pump will run long enough to fill his air mattress, and that’s when it shuts off, sputtering to a stop. Sitting on the floor of his bedroom in the dark, Louis flicks on the flashlight on his phone, lays a hand on the air mattress, and watches as it slowly flattens. Fuck. He turns off the flashlight when he realizes that there must be a hole in the air mattress and he’s never going to find it, let alone fix it, when he can't see for shit. He leans back against the wall and swallows another mouthful of champagne before deciding to give Harry one last opportunity to get fucked before he finds his own hotel room for the night.

H, need a favor. Kind of an emergency. Lmk if you're still in town. Need a place to crash tonight.

Louis trips over the air mattress pump while looking for some clothes to shove back into his bag and almost spills his champagne. He flicks the flashlight on his phone back on and he’s ready to go in minutes with clothes, phone charger, condoms and lube. He slips his feet into his shoes and hesitates a second before going back for his laptop and another chug from the bottle of champagne. He hasn’t heard back from Harry and if he ends up spending the night alone in his own hotel room, at least he’ll be able to write.

He’s almost to his lobby when his phone pings with a message from Harry. He’s at the Tribeca Grand, of course. Louis should’ve known. It’s still early, but it’s dark and Louis is tired, so he’s hoping to trade blow jobs and call it a night.

Harry opens the door fully dressed, which is unfortunate. Not that Louis doesn’t appreciate what his clothes look like on his body, because he always looks phenomenal, but because he’s feeling tired and lazy and Harry is usually naked when Louis is around him. It’s what he’s accustomed to. Louis’ gaze travels down his body, a purple flannel shirt that’s barely buttoned over his chest and abs, tight black jeans that make Louis want to get down on his knees and worship his thighs, and white athletic socks that make him seem young. He looks up with a smile to find Harry leaning against the open door, scowling at him.

“Come on in.” Harry says as he steps aside to let Louis through the door. “What’s the emergency?”

Louis drops his bag in a chair and kicks off his shoes. “Huh? Oh, I mean, it’s no big deal really. If you didn’t get back to me, I was on my way to The Greenwich for the night. Kind of a dumb story, unless you want to hear it.”

“Nah, not really. You want some food?”

“Yeah, that’d be good. I had like half a bottle of champagne and some pretzels earlier. Really need a shower.” Harry sits on the bed with his back against the headboard and points to the room service menu before popping his earbuds in and going back to whatever he was doing on his laptop. Louis orders their usual and heads for the bathroom.

He’s standing under the water when Harry hands him a beer. “Tell me your dumb story while we wait for the food.”

So he does. Louis relays the whole spiel to Harry, from moving out, to living on Liam’s couch, shopping for his own place, to the air mattress, and the lack of electricity. Harry is quiet through the whole thing until Louis says, “So I saw you were in town and I thought I’d see if you were up for it. I’d rather get laid than not.”

Harry huffs. “Nice.”

“What?”

“What about your boyfriend?” Harry asks. “Why don’t you stay with him?”

“Who, Joseph?” Louis laughs around a mouthful of beer. “He’s not my boyfriend.”

“Right. Not anymore.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Louis laughs again as he rinses the beer off his face and chest.

“Food’s here. I’ll let you finish up.”

Harry’s back is to him when he steps out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. No point in getting dressed just to get undressed again, though Harry is still annoyingly clothed, drinking a beer, and standing by the large window. The food is on the coffee table, and Harry turns on the television while they eat. Halfway finished with his food, Harry drops his fork onto his plate. He stands up and roots around in his suitcase for a bit before picking the whole thing up in a huff and carrying it to the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Louis finishes his burger and lays down on the couch to watch TV.

The bathroom door remains closed and locked for over an hour. Louis messes around on his phone, flips through the television channels and settles on the weather, drinks two more beers, scrolls through Harry's photo album in his phone and gets a little pissed off at the fact that the actual dick in the pictures is practically in the same room, but he can’t see it or touch it. He turns off the lamp and snuggles down under the covers, one hand still scrolling through pictures, the other shoved under the blanket and wrapped loosely around his cock. He’s in the same position when he wakes up a little while later. Harry’s next to him in the bed, under the covers, sitting up against the headboard, a book in his hand, and glasses on his face.

Louis wipes the drool from his chin and sits up a bit more, his hand still holding his cock. His voice is scratchy from sleeping with his mouth open. “I didn’t know you wore glasses.”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me, apparently.” Harry mutters in response without taking his eyes off of his book. He marks his place with one of his long fingers and turns to Louis. “I only wear them for reading.”

“They’re, um, you look good in them. Would you ever… do you think maybe you could suck me off and I could come on them? Your glasses, I mean.” He squeezes himself. He’s starting to get worked up just thinking about it. It’s really been too long since they’ve had sex. Since Louis has had sex. He shakes his head and gives himself one slow stroke.

Harry watches him, clearly aware of what Louis’ hand is doing beneath the blankets. “Not happening tonight. I’ve had a headache all day and I thought a hot bath would help, but it didn’t, so I’m going to finish this chapter and go to sleep.”

“Seriously?”

“I’m very serious. I might be getting a sinus infection or something. And I’ve got,” he flips through the next few pages of his book, “Less than two pages to the end of this chapter.” He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose and settles back against the headboard, focusing on the page in front of him.

Louis slides back down, curls onto his side facing away from Harry. He’s pouting, he knows it, and he wants Harry to know it too. So he huffs a little and wiggles around like he’s trying to get comfortable, but he’s actually trying to scoot close enough that his bare ass will rub against the warm skin of Harry’s thigh; his ass is his not-so-secret weapon. Only when he finally wiggles himself into the right position, Harry’s leg isn't bare at all, he’s wearing pants. In bed. With Louis. This is ridiculous. He huffs again, a little louder.

“I cannot believe you are pouting because you’re not getting laid.”

“I’m not pouting.”

“You are. Pouting does not make me want to fuck you, Louis. Good night.”

Louis feels the bed move as Harry starts to make himself comfortable. He rolls over onto his other side and watches as Harry uses an actual bookmark to keep his place, lays his book on the bedside table, carefully folds his glasses and places them on top. “It’s just… why am I here if we’re not fucking?”

“Are you shitting me, Lou?” Harry frowns at him and then closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. “You said it was an emergency. You said you didn’t have a place to sleep. That’s why you’re here.” He scoots down under the covers and rolls onto his side facing away from Louis, reaches out and turns off the lamp. “Please, just go to sleep.”

Louis stares at the back of his head. It’s the only thing he can make out in the dark, the outline of Harry’s hair against the white pillowcase, so he focuses on that until his eyes adjust to the darkness. It’s strange to be in a bed with Harry and not touch him. Every other time they’ve slept together, they’ve slept together first, so they’re both sweaty and naked and it’s simple to fall asleep sticky and tangled together. But tonight there’s at least a foot of space between them and Harry has pants on, and it’s, well, it’s not what Louis is used to. Harry has been so weird lately, it almost seems like he’s been avoiding Louis, like he’s angry about something, but that’s impossible. What is there to be angry about? They’re not really even friends. They don't hang out. They get together and fuck when they happen to be in the same city. It’s convenient. And it’s good sex. Maybe Harry wants to top next time. Louis falls asleep thinking about it; it’s not something that he particularly likes to do, he hasn’t had the best experiences bottoming, hasn’t done it in years, but he thinks it could be good with Harry.

When Louis wakes up, Harry’s grinding his ass back onto his morning wood. He’s already sweaty, pressed against Harry’s back, arm draped across Harry’s middle, his hand curled up against his chest.

Once he gets his bearings, he whispers, “You awake?”

When Harry nods, Louis trails his fingers until he finds a nipple, catches it, and tugs, then slowly works the other three in the same manner. When he drags his hand down Harry’s lower belly, pulling him back and pressing his hips forward at the same time, Louis’ lips brush the shell of Harry’s ear as he quietly asks, “What happened to your pajamas?”

“Took ‘em off last night.” Harry mumbles in response. “Can’t sleep in clothes. You know that.”

Louis hums and runs the tips of his fingers through the hair at the base of Harry’s cock.

Harry shivers and lets out a low whine. “Why do you do that?”

With a chuckle, Louis does it again. Then lightly tugs on the hair. “Because you like it.” He wraps his fingers around Harry’s cock, gives it a squeeze and Harry groans, pushing into Louis’ fist.

Their skin is warm and damp with sweat, making the slide a little easier. Louis slips his other hand up, threads his fingers through the short curls on the back of Harry’s head and pulls him back, kissing along the side of his neck before whispering, “Play with your nipples, Harry.” Louis watches over Harry’s shoulder as he pulls and twists, making himself moan, rocking his body, pushing back against Louis’ cock as it slides against his rim, and fucking forward into Louis’ fist. Louis can't believe it; he’s half-awake, giving a fucking hand job, his dick isn’t even inside Harry, yet this is definitely one of the hottest things he’s ever done. With a throaty groan, Harry comes, panting, eyes closed, head thrown back, Louis’ fingers still tangled in his hair.

Louis thrusts, his dick sliding up and down the crack of Harry’s ass, until the aftershocks of Harry’s orgasm are mere trembles. “So fucking hot. Goddamn it.” He rolls Harry onto his back and pushes himself up to his knees beside him, working himself at a frantic pace. Harry is spent, arms resting on the pillow above his head, chest heaving. Louis mutters to himself and his voice pitches higher and higher as he approaches his orgasm, “Fucking gorgeous. Shit. So fucking pretty.” He moans and whines and bucks into his hand as he comes on Harry’s butterfly tattoo. The last drops fall and Harry watches through heavily lidded eyes as Louis finger paints the wings and antennae. “That was amazing.” Louis murmurs. Then he squeezes and pats Harry's thigh. “You are such a great fuck, I swear. Shit. Thanks, man.”

Harry’s body stiffens. He closes his eyes and grits out, “You’re welcome, man,” before climbing to his feet and walking to the bathroom. As he closes the bathroom door, he calls over his shoulder, “Order breakfast. I need coffee for this.”

Breakfast is delivered a few minutes before Harry steps out of the bathroom. Fully clothed. Louis purses his lips, shrugs, hands him a cup of coffee and smacks his ass on the way to the shower. He’s barely closed the shower door when he notices Harry leaning against the bathroom counter cradling his coffee cup.

“What’s up?” Louis looks around in the shower, then peeks through the shower door. “Did you leave something in here?”

Harry shakes his head and looks up from his coffee. “What would you call this, Louis?”

“Huh?” Louis squirts some of Harry’s shampoo into his hand. He loves the smell. Maybe he should buy some.

“This.” Louis watches as he gestures between himself and the shower door. “What would you call it? Us. Classify it.”

“Really?” Louis stands facing the shower door so he can see Harry’s blurry outline while he scrubs at his scalp and hair.

“Mmhmm. Please.”

“Well, we fuck sometimes.”

Harry hums and stares over his coffee cup.

“I guess we’re like friends with benefits.”

Harry hums again. “Okay then.” He takes a sip of coffee and says, “I didn’t realize you were in a relationship with Joseph. You always said he was your roommate.”

“He was my roommate.” Louis steps under the spray to rinse the suds from his hair. “I mean, yeah, we fucked around every now and then, but he wasn’t my boyfriend. It was for P.R. Someone to take to red carpets, and help keep my private life private.” He watches Harry from the corner of his eye.

“Right. He was your fake P.R. boyfriend, whom you lived with, and had sex with, and took to events.” Harry counts each thing on his fingers, then looks up, meeting Louis’ gaze through the glass door.

“Yeah, exactly. You thought he was my real boyfriend and what? I was cheating on him with you?” Louis laughs. “I may be an asshole, but if I was in a relationship, I wouldn’t cheat. We had an arrangement, but he met someone and fell in love. I’m happy for him, he deserves it.”

“I thought… you know what, never mind.” Harry clears his throat and sips his coffee. “That wasn’t really why I came in here. I—you said friends with benefits, but we’re not friends. We don’t hang out. We don’t talk when we’re not together and when we’re together we’re almost always fucking.”

“That’s not true. We didn’t fuck last night. We hung out and watched TV and ate dinner. And you took a bath and read your book.”

“Last night was an anomaly. Extenuating circumstances. You had an emergency and I didn’t feel well.”

The conversation is making Louis feel strangely uncomfortable and slightly nauseated. He needs to lighten the mood. “Is that book you’re reading some sort of detective novel?”

“Shut the fuck up, Louis, god.”

“Sorry, shit.” Louis’ just standing there in the shower, water running over him, watching Harry through the glass. “Why are you so pissed at me, Harry? Because you’ve been kind of strange lately.” He pauses as the thought occurs to him. “Oh, fuck, are you seeing someone, like for real? Sorry, I didn’t even think of that. You wanna call this off?”

“No. I’m not seeing anyone, like for real.” Harry scoffs and takes another sip of coffee.

“Oh, good. ‘Cause that would suck. I’d hate to lose you.”

“Really.” It’s not a question and there’s something heavy in Harry’s tone.

“Yeah, man. We always have a good time.”

“A good time.” Harry huffs and sets his coffee down on the counter. “Louis, who do you regularly fuck? Besides me.”

“You know who. I’ve told you. I told you the first time we hooked up.”

“I remember.” Harry admits quietly. “It was quite an enlightening conversation, actually. How many cities was it?”

“L.A., Vegas, Chicago, and Toronto. I never had anyone else in New York because Joseph was always around.”

“Your ex-fake-boyfriend.”

“Yeah, I mean, because of the whole fake boyfriend thing and, really, it’s just me being lazy. I needed a fake boyfriend and he was already my roommate, you know? So it was cool, easy, took my friend to red carpets, had fun. And I kept all the same, um…”

“You called them hoes. You said hoes in different area codes, Louis.” Harry scoffs. “It’s demeaning.”

“It’s a song. I was—I didn’t mean it like that. They’re all good guys. I just, with the whole fake boyfriend thing, it was easier to have people that I already knew I could trust.” Louis explains. “It’s convenient.”

“Yeah, alright. That makes sense. I get it.” He counts them on his fingers and says, “So six people, including me and your ex-fake-boyfriend.”

“Yep.” Louis feels good about that. He’s been honest with Harry from the start, just in case that’s what this whole conversation is about.

“Alright. When was the last time you were in L.A.?” Harry asks.

“You know. You were there. We fucked in that big ass shower in my hotel room. Remember?” Louis smirks at him through the glass, which usually earns him at least a small smile, but Harry doesn’t look at him.

“I remember. Before that? When was the last time you were with your regular L.A. hook-up?” Harry’s talking faster than Louis’ ever heard him and it’s making him nervous.

“I don’t fucking know, Harry. You’re always in L.A., so I just text you.” It’s so obvious, Louis thinks. Of course he texts Harry, usually before he even leaves New York.

“I live in L.A.”

“You do? I didn’t know that.” Louis thinks that maybe he should know where Harry lives. For future reference.

“Yeah, was, um, thinking of looking for a place in New York, but I—it doesn’t matter.” He shakes his head. “Toronto.”

“What? When did I go to Toronto? I don’t know… I don’t go there that often. With that guy it was more like a very occasional thing. Last time I was there was in the spring. You had that movie you were filming there.”

“Yep. I did.” Harry’s clipped tone is confusing. He seems pissed, but Louis can’t figure out why. “Chicago.”

“Chicago. I was there maybe a month or so ago? Between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn’t have time for sex. I was busy the whole time. Before that… shit, I don’t even know. It’s been a while.”

“Was it Lollapalooza? Summer before last?”

“Oh, yeah, that was so fucking fun. You met me at my hotel. I’m not sure, I’d have to check my calendar for dates and stuff. Is there a reason you’re—”

“Vegas.”

“Um, okay. That’s easy. I was there last weekend. Oh, but I didn’t get laid. I was in the same room I stayed in with you in September, yeah, and I fucking texted you that night. You still haven’t—”

“When was the last time you hooked up with Joseph?”

“What? Oh, god, it’s been months and months. He and his boyfriend have been dating for at least six months. So probably like eight or nine months, or longer because I was touring.”

“Louis, when was the last time you had sex with someone other than me?”

“I—” He closes his eyes and searches his mind, “I don’t know. I don’t really, um, keep track, I guess.”

“When I send you my schedule, what do you do with it?”

“Put it in my calendar, why? What do you do with mine?”

“Same. I put it in my calendar. So, um, when you’re planning shit, like, when you’re deciding to go to Vegas or L.A. or wherever, how do you figure that out?”

“What do you mean? Like how do I book my flights?”

“No, Louis. How do you determine where you’re going and when? Does your manager or someone give you a schedule and say ‘this is what you’re doing’ or what? How do you decide when and where?”

“Oh, well, we’re on hiatus right now, so I’m free to do whatever I want, but my manager books my flights and rooms, so I look at your schedule and see where you’re gonna be and when and then I—” Louis’ eyes widen and his mouth drops open.

Harry hums and picks up his coffee. “Got there, have you?”

“Have you seriously been asking me all these questions knowing the answers?” Louis is pissed. He’s been standing in the shower, wasting water, wracking his brain to answer questions that Harry already knew the answers to.

“No. I mean, I had suspicions about some things, I guess, I thought maybe, but I didn’t know I was right…”

Quite suddenly, Louis comprehends that it’s likely that this is the reason that Harry’s been ignoring his texts and acting strange. He’s been behaving as if this arrangement is more than it is. He’s been clingy. Shit. That wasn’t supposed to happen. He squints his eyes and blurts out. “It doesn’t mean anything though. Just because you’re right, doesn’t mean I’m wrong. It’s not like we’re dating. We just fuck. Like you said, we’re not even friends. We don't hang out. We don’t talk when we’re not together and when we’re together we’re fucking, right? It doesn’t mean anything.”

“How long have we been just fucking, Louis?”

Louis throws up his hands, splattering water on the glass of the shower door. “I don’t know. We met after the AMAs, so it was two years in November, I guess. A little more than two years. It doesn’t fucking matter. Why?”

“Fine. Honestly. It’s been more than two years, Lou. Six months after we met, you sent me your schedule and asked for mine. You’ve been scheduling your life around just fucking me for more than a year and a half. I’m pretty sure the last time you had sex with anyone other than me was more than a year ago.”

“That’s not true. Joseph gave me a blow job for Christmas.”

“You’re talking about last Christmas and that was more than a year ago.”

“Fine. I don't know why you fucking care about this. Didn’t I just see pictures of you with your girlfriend at your movie premier? What is the point of this conversation?”

“She’s not my girlfriend, she’s my co-star. I didn’t take her… I’m gay, Louis, I thought you knew that.”

It’s news to him that Harry isn’t bisexual. He always sees pictures of him out on dates with different women. He eats a lot of frozen yogurt. “It doesn’t fucking matter. It doesn’t. None of this matters. It’s not like we’re in a relationship. It is just sex. I don’t even know what we’re talking about.”

“What we’re talking about is the fact that we’ve basically been exclusively fucking, god forbid we call it anything else, for at least a year. We’re talking about the fact that you are so goddamn oblivious that you didn’t see that any of this was going on! Shit, Louis. When you invited me over to your apartment, I thought maybe we were finally getting—You know what, forget it. This was a waste of time. You’re such a fucking prick. Finish your shower. You’ve just been standing there, you haven’t even washed.”

“Wait!” Louis calls out before Harry can close the door behind him. “You said exclusively. When was the last time you fucked someone other than me?”

“Last weekend. In Vegas.” Harry slams the door.

Louis washes quickly, putting his anger to good use as he scrubs his skin. He’s fuming. Harry was in Vegas last weekend when Louis texted him and Harry had ignored him, knew he was there, probably in the same hotel, and he’d fucked somebody else anyway. It makes Louis’ stomach feel funny. He steps out of the shower and wraps a towel around his waist without bothering to dry off. Whatever this argument is with Harry, he wants to finish it, clear the air, and get things back to normal. He stalks out into the room, dripping water, scowl in place, pissed as hell. All those fucking questions and Harry knew the answers to every single one. Breakfast is still on the table. The bed is still a mess. His bag is still in the chair he’d dropped it in the night before. But Harry is gone.

Louis dries off and gets dressed, his anger simmering below the surface. He picks at his breakfast and scrolls through his phone, wasting time until Harry comes back from wherever he’s run off to, so Louis can talk to him and figure out what the hell just happened. The hotel phone rings on the bedside table, so Louis answers. It’s the front desk. Harry’s checking out and the reservations desk wants to know if it’s alright to send housekeeping up or if Louis wants to continue the reservation under his own name and credit card. He can’t leave yet, so he has everything transferred over. He flops down onto the bed and buries his face in Harry’s pillow.

Louis keeps the Do Not Disturb sign hanging from the doorknob of Harry’s room at the Tribeca until his bed is delivered to his apartment a few days later.

▲▲▲

It’s another week or so before the rest of his furniture shows up and Liam comes over to help him finish unpacking and move furniture around.

When they finish they order pizza and beer and try to write for the third time since Louis’ been sleeping in this apartment. Louis gets comfortable on his new couch, laptop balanced on his knees, and nothing comes. He and Liam bounce ideas back and forth, play a rhyming game, and they get a few halfway decent lines. It’s not bad, but it’s not what they’re used to. Louis blames his new couch. It’s too comfortable. Too big. Too soft. Too green. He moves to the chair by the window. An hour later, he’s sitting at his desk. Not long after that, he’s on his bed, laptop forgotten, lying head to foot with Liam, empty pizza box between them, finishing his sixth beer. Or seventh. He’s not sure.

Liam tickles his foot and almost catches that same foot right in the eye. “What the fuck, Liam? I’ll kick you in the teeth.”

“Just wanted to tell you that it’s not a big deal. Sometimes you won’t have ideas. Don’t be down about it.”

“I’ll be down about it if I want, Liam.”

“That’s not what I mean, you know, be down about it, but don’t dwell. Do something else. Distract yourself.”

“Isn’t that why you’re here?”

“Wanna go dancing tonight?”

So they go. It’s a Tuesday, which is ridiculous, but they don’t have to wait in line. They dance together and with other people, but it’s an unspoken agreement that they’re not there to pick anyone up. It’s almost four in the morning when Louis falls into bed fully clothed. He doesn’t move until noon when he rolls over and chugs the entire bottle of water that’s magically appeared on his bedside table. There’s a text from Liam telling him to take a vacation. Louis rolls his eyes until he realizes it’s too painful and sends him an eye roll emoji instead. He opens his Tumblr app and doesn’t bother scrolling his dash, just goes straight to the one blog he wants to see. He should unfollow, if he’s honest with himself. He tries to avoid thinking about him at all, but it doesn’t work; he pops up in Louis’ mind every time he masturbates. When he sees the first post, he drops his phone onto the mattress, rolls over and goes back to sleep for another hour.

It’s Harry’s birthday and he’s in the city. There are pictures of him out in Times Square with a beautiful girl. He’s twenty-five, which is odd; Louis thought he was younger than that, but they’re only two years apart. It’s been a couple of weeks since the Tribeca, which is how Louis has begun to call whatever happened that day. He refuses to call it a fight or an argument; it’s an incident at most. He doesn’t have to call it anything, since no one knows he’s sleeping with Harry anyway. Was. Was sleeping with Harry. Louis thinks about texting him to say happy birthday. He stares at his phone, types the message out, then deletes it when he realizes he’s never told him happy birthday before.

It’s mid-February when Louis finally finishes decorating his apartment. He stands by the window, holding a champagne flute, brooding. That’s what Liam calls it anyway. After the next few writing sessions turn up nothing but a grumpy Louis, Liam says he won’t try to write with him again until he takes a vacation. He refuses to come over, even for a housewarming, so Louis decides not to bother inviting anyone else and spends the evening alone. He trades the champagne flute for the rest of the bottle, and lies on his couch pouring little splashes of champagne directly into his mouth, scrolling through Tumblr. He sees another picture of Harry in New York. It’s a pap pic, and the blurb beneath it says something about leaving a theater after rehearsal. There’s a split second when Louis considers waking up early to go down and hang out at the coffee shop he knows is around the corner from that theater, but the reality of the situation hits him in the form of his phone which he literally drops on his face.

That would be stalking and that would be crazy.

He pulls a book from the stack he’s made on his coffee table. Maybe he’ll finally read it this time.

March blows in and Louis has spent the last two months doing as close to nothing as he can manage. Liam meets him at his bar when the patio is finally tolerable. They’re three drinks in when Liam starts. “When was the last time you went on vacation?”

“What do you mean? I go places all the time.”

“No, not to work or write. Like, what about going to some island and unplugging for a week?”

“I’ve never done that, Liam. Sounds like a honeymoon or something.”

Liam tuts. “It’s not. You should do it. I’m telling you. You need a vacation. Go fucking lay on a beach chair in the Caribbean, go parasailing or scuba diving or surfing, drink daiquiris, then come home and we’ll see what happens. You’re constantly going, Louis, whether it’s working or volunteering. Don’t you ever want to just stop?”

“Maybe. I haven’t been going anywhere lately.”

“Just a few months ago you were all over the country. What happened? Just sick of flying?”

“I, um.” Louis clears his throat. “Something got fucked up with my schedule and I just kind of stopped scheduling anything at all. Just enjoying my new place.”

After he gets home that night, Louis lies in the dark in the middle of his brand new bed and stares at the ceiling. It’s almost two in the morning and though he’s tired, he can’t fall asleep. He considers getting himself off, but his laziness prevails. His eyes drift closed as he tries in vain to picture himself on an island, umbrella in his drink, feet in the sand. When he’s still awake half an hour later, he opens his laptop and starts searching.

▲▲▲

Instead of a sunny beach, Louis finds a lake house in the foothills of the Appalachians. It’s old and small, with only one bedroom, but it’s got a nice porch, an outdoor fireplace, and a dock. It’s right on the lake; he could walk twenty feet from the back door and stand in water. He flies down to the closest airport, rents a truck, and drives two hours to get to it. It’s a rental-by-owner and he’s paid extra to have the kitchen fully stocked when he arrived. He has the little house for a month in the hopes that that’s enough time for him to get his shit together.

Liam was right, Louis thinks as he reels in his fishing line to cast it out again. Doing nothing is nice. He spends his days fishing, watching the boats go by on the lake, swimming, and hiking at the nearby national park. He sits in the adirondack chair on the dock, fishing pole in one hand, beer in the other, and wonders why he never tried fishing before; it’s basically just sitting and drinking. When the sun goes down, he sits by the outdoor fireplace, and as it has every single day since the Tribeca, his mind drifts to Harry. He’s long since figured the whole thing out, at least, he thinks he has, but damn if he doesn’t know of a single thing he can do about it. He puts out the fire and calls it a night. Then he strips out of his clothes and drops into bed to dream about Harry again.

One evening, Louis drives his rental truck the two hours to the airport to pick up Liam. Louis secures Liam’s suitcase in the bed of the truck while Liam settles into the passenger seat. He takes a deep breath before sliding in behind the wheel. It’s a two hour ride back to the lake house, and Louis hasn’t seen or spoken to anyone, other than the old ladies down the street, since he left New York.

“So,” Liam says as Louis pulls the truck onto a two-lane road and turns on the high-beams. “This isn’t quite what I meant when I told you to find an island and go on vacation.”

“Yeah, well, there are actually a bunch of islands in the middle of the lake. You can camp on them. Maybe we can rent a boat or something and go out to one.”

“I don’t know how to drive a boat. Do you?”

“No,” Louis shrugs. “But it can’t be that hard.”

“Um, yeah, I think it’s probably harder than you think. Especially parking it or whatever it’s called.”

“Docking? Is that it?”

“Well, if you’re not sure, you’re not driving a boat.” Liam points his finger and winks. “Plus you said you were ready to write. That’s the reason I’m here, isn’t it?”

Louis hums. “Yeah.”

“Something’s changed then. You said you weren’t inspired in the city. Does this lake have some magical inspirational power or is it something else?”

“It’s something else.” Louis sighs and clears his throat. “We can, um, can we talk about this later? I’m just, it’s been a long day and driving so much… I’m tired.”

They stop to pick up groceries at the tiny corner store, Louis leans against the counter and flirts with the elderly lady working the till while Liam makes trips back and forth to the register with their snacks and beer.

In the first two days of Liam's visit, Louis drags him around the hiking trails at the national park, introduces him to all of the elderly people on his street, whom he’s somehow managed to befriend in two short weeks, takes him to a barbecue at his neighbor’s house, and is currently teaching him to fish. Liam drags a second adirondack chair down from the porch onto the dock and sits down next to Louis. There are two fishing poles, Louis has already cast their lines into the lake, and they’re sitting in the sun, feet propped up on their cooler full of beer.

“I swear to god, Louis, if you say ‘give a man a fish’ one more time, I’m throwing you in the lake. How many fish have you caught to make you such an expert?”

“That’s not the point, Liam. The point is that I have two weeks of fishing experience to share with you.”

“How many fish?”

“None.” Louis huffs. “But that’s not the point. It’s the process.”

“So, just sitting on the dock and drinking beer? What are you even using for bait? What is that?” He points at the hook on the end of Louis’ fishing line. “Is that cheese?”

“Gouda.” He straightens up and pulls the other fishing line out of the water. “Now, pay attention. I’ve already put your rod and reel together and baited your hook for you.”

Liam’s voice is suspicious when he squints his eyes and asks, “You put the fishing rods together?”

“Well, no, but I watched very closely while Ida Mae did it for me.”

“Your elderly neighbor who drives a motorized wheelchair?”

“Yes, she’s an excellent fishing instructor. Ok, so hold it right here by the reel, point the rod,” Louis snickers. Penis jokes. “At wherever you’re aiming, pull it up and back, and then—” He casts the line and it actually flies forward about two feet before dropping straight down to the dock. “Shit. Okay. Or you could just do what I’ve been doing.” Louis picks up the cheese on the hook and tosses it over the edge of the dock into the water, sits back down in his chair, picks up his beer, and grins.

“You are a ludicrous person, Louis. Will you just tell me why I’m here? You said you were ready to write. We haven’t written a thing and you haven’t talked about anything other than fishing and the old ladies down the street.”

Louis sighs and scrubs his hands down his face. He leans back in his chair and sips his beer; he knows he’s cornered. He starts with how he and Harry met backstage at the AMAs, got each other off in the bathroom fifteen minutes later, then skipped the after-party to fuck on every surface in Louis’ hotel suite. He finishes with Harry practically interrogating him in the shower at the Tribeca and then disappearing.

He doesn’t tell Liam about the dreams that seem so real that he wakes up expecting to be curled around Harry in bed, or the memories that keep popping up. He doesn’t tell him about making his coffee wrong and realizing he’s made it the way Harry likes it. Or finally buying Harry's brand of shampoo so he can be surrounded by the smell of him in the shower.

Louis has feelings for Harry. He knows this, he admitted it to himself in the bathroom mirror the night he drank an entire bottle of champagne after seeing pictures of Harry out on what he can only assume was a date with a handsome dark-haired man on Valentine’s Day.

He has feelings, he just doesn’t know what to do with them. About them. For them. To them?

So he starts naming them, because there’s clearly more than one feeling roiling around in his chest. There’s jealousy, an easy one to figure out between the Valentine's date and mystery fuck in Vegas. There’s regret that seems to overshadow everything else. There’s this weird, empty, confused feeling that Louis doesn’t like at all, and can’t name. There’s embarrassment at his lack of awareness. Shame for they way he treated Harry. Disappointment that things with Harry ended before he even knew they’d begun. And finally resignation that it’s actually over.

Liam is surprised at first, it is Harry Styles after all. But he listens, encourages Louis to keep talking, opens his beers, lights his cigarettes, and makes him dinner.

But it’s okay, Louis finally finishes, because at least he’s learned something from this whole thing.

They lay on the floor in the living room, digesting dinner and listening to the crickets through the open window, and Liam asks, “Is this where all those love songs came from? Do you think he was like, your muse?”

“Yeah, probably.” Louis hums. “I think I’ll be okay though.” Then he tells Liam about the songs he started right before he showed up.

They finish the songs over the next few days and Louis texts Harry later that night.

H, hey I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to apologize. Maybe one day I can say it in person.

There’s no response, and Louis isn’t surprised.

▲▲▲

The city is the same when Louis gets home; he’s not sure what he expected to change in his absence. He meets Liam on the patio of his bar once or twice a week; they write together on Louis’ too big, too comfortable, too soft, too green couch. There’s a new normal and Louis is a little bit surprised at how easy it is adapt to the change. He doesn’t want to go anywhere and instead spends more time working with charities and volunteering. He reads three books from start to finish. He rearranges his furniture. He buys new sheets. He takes an introductory cooking class. He misses Harry. It’s not the same shocking ache that it was when he first felt it, god he’d thought he was actually ill for a few days, but it’s still there. It’s been months. He thinks it’ll fade eventually.

▲▲▲

There isn’t an album yet, there aren’t enough songs and they don’t want to do anything officially because they’re still on hiatus, but the band is getting the itch to perform, so Louis calls in a favor. Steve always has at least two opening acts for his shows, but Louis asks if the band can perform a song or two after the actual show is over. It’ll be really late by that point, so if they suck or they haven’t practiced enough, hopefully the crowd will be too far gone to notice.

There’s a warehouse in Brooklyn and when Steve first tells Louis about the place, he thinks it’s a bar or a club that just looks like a warehouse from the outside, but nope. It’s an actual warehouse. And it’s perfect. There are port-a-toilets in the corner furthest from the stage, a bar along one side that looks like it’s made out of wood they ripped from the walls, lights and speakers and wiring in the rafters. At least the stage looks sturdy. No one would expect him to even be here, let alone perform here.

They’re all hyped. Liam is warming up his voice and strumming his guitar. Louis splits his time between sipping on a cup of tea, bouncing and dancing to the music on the side of the stage, and pacing back and forth.

“Liam. These shoes are fucking squeaking. Listen.” Louis paces back and forth in front of Liam, the shoes making an almost unnoticeable noise.

“I don't think you'll be able to hear them on stage though.”

“It’s not that. I can feel the squeak on my foot. Shit. I’m gonna have to go barefoot.”

“Dude, that’s disgusting. Have you seen the floor out there? In here?”

“The stage is clean enough. I’ll wear them out and kick ‘em off by my mic stand.” He pulls out his phone to check the time. “Right. Just enough time to piss then.”

Louis finishes at the urinal in no time and spends the next few minutes admiring his choice of clothing and talking himself out of running away. It would be a shame to waste this look, so he stays. His hair is purposefully messy and swept to the side, it’s getting long and he’s not sure whether to let it go or cut it, but he feels like a rock star. He’s wearing a loose, black, mesh tank top that sparkles when the light hits it, tight black leather pants rolled up to show off his ankles, and black leather Vans slip-ons. His ass and thighs look phenomenal in the leather pants, that’s why he bought them; though they’re not nearly as sweaty as he anticipated. Ross Gellar was totally lying on that one episode of Friends. The shirt is perfect. You can see every single one of the tattoos on his chest and arms. He swipes on some sparkly lip balm and checks his phone again. Two minutes.

The crowd is amazing. Steve is such a great guy, but he’s an astonishingly impressive performer. He hypes the crowd to such an intense pitch that they’re still going long after he leaves the stage. After his encore, he introduces the band by announcing, “Please welcome my wonderful friends! They’d like to perform a couple of songs for you. Make some noise and we’ll get this on Snapchat!” Steve turns his back to the audience and holds up his phone, everyone jumps and screams, and once he’s Snapchatted a few seconds, he shoots his steam gun into the air, and exits the stage while the crowd roars.

There’s cake all over the stage and Louis doesn’t take that into account when he kicks his shoes off, but there’s no going back now. Liam leads off on guitar while the rest of the band clap along to the beat, then Louis sings out the first line of the song and it’s like all the months off stage didn’t happen. He’s totally at home, belting out the lyrics, running around the stage, making faces and waving at the audience when Liam starts to sing. The chorus comes back around and Louis is spinning and jumping as he sings.

Waking up

Beside you I’m a loaded gun

I can't contain this anymore

I'm all yours, I've got no control

No control

Powerless

And I don't care it's obvious

I just can't get enough of you

The pedal's down, my eyes are closed

No control

The song ends and the crowd is clapping and yelling and Louis is beaming. He runs at Liam and jumps onto his back; Liam tries to protect his guitar as he carries Louis around the amps and cords without tripping, then sets Louis down so he can switch out his guitar. Someone brings them two bar stools and they pull their mic stands over and get set up for the last song.

Louis clears his throat and adjusts his mic. “Hello, everyone. Thanks for sticking around to listen to us. We’re going to play one more song for you. It’s slower, and I know it’s late, so please don't fall asleep on us!”

The song begins with Liam strumming his guitar and singing in clear voice. Louis watches the audience as they settle down and begin to sway to the music. He joins in and their voices meld together.

I'm the first to admit that I'm reckless

I get lost in your beauty and I can't see

Two feet in front of me

And I know in my heart

You're just a moving part

And, yeah, I let you use me from the day that we first met

But I'm not done yet

Falling for your fool's gold

The song ends and Louis introduces the band, they all take a quick bow and thank Steve and the crowd, then they head backstage. The boys sit around and drink a beer together, congratulate each other on the performance, and make plans to meet up for drinks the following weekend. Liam stares at the bottom of Louis’ feet and makes a retching sound. “Your feet are fucking disgusting. Go get your shoes and I’ll pick you up around front. I’m exhausted.”

Louis picks his way across the dirty floor to the stage, where he tiptoes around piles of cake that he somehow didn’t mind stepping in earlier, until he finds his shoes in the corner by an amp. The stage lights are still on, but the audience is gone, just the bartenders and bouncers and a few stragglers finishing their drinks or making out against the wall in the corner by the port-a-toilets. Nice. Louis struggles to get his sticky feet into his shoes, gives up, sits on top of the amp, rips his shirt over his head, and uses it to wipe as much cake and grime off of his feet as he can. Finally, he wiggles his shoes on and heads for the stairs at the side of the stage. He stops short on the bottom step.

Harry.

Harry in a big, fluffy, coat that makes him look like some sort of bear furry. Louis tells him so. Harry laughs his big honking laugh, slaps his knee and smiles and his dimple shows up and for just a few seconds, it’s like the Tribeca never happened. Except it did. And Louis realizes again that he can’t fix it or go back in time. So he does what he promised himself he’d do if he ever got the chance.

“I’m sorry, Harry.” He takes the last step down from the stage and drapes his cake covered mesh shirt over his shoulder. “I, um, said I wanted to apologize in person, and I do. I also kind of want to say some other stuff, but I—”

“I liked your songs. They’re good. You’re amazing up there, you know?”

Louis brushes his hair out of his eyes and looks down again. His face heats and he shakes his head. That’s not what this is about. “Thank you, but, uh, you’re not supposed to compliment me, Harry. Or interrupt me, actually, I think, um, I think I should have the chance to talk this time.” He looks up and catches Harry’s eye.

He looks a little embarrassed when he agrees. “Yeah, that’s seems fair.”

“Shit. Okay. Can you walk with me outside? Just, um, my ride might be waiting for me.”

Harry nods and they head towards the exit together. Outside on the sidewalk, Louis shivers a bit in the night air. Liam’s car isn’t there, so he turns to Harry to finish apologizing.

“So, um, I’m sorry for being such a shit to you. I, uh, think I probably could say that better, but it’s like four in the morning and I’m fucking tired. But um, just, I didn’t know and it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure it out.” Louis crosses his arms and rubs his hands up and down his biceps. “My manager, she, uh, really got on my case because I didn’t have anything scheduled and we kind of got into a fight about it, she really let me have it too. I didn’t know what to do, like, I didn’t have anywhere that I wanted to go or anything.” He gestures wildly with his hands as he adds, “I’d been flying all over for so long, chasing you—I mean, um, meeting you places and… Fuck. This isn’t coming out how I want.”

“You should wear my coat.” Harry shrugs his heavy bear coat off his arms and holds it out with both hands, offering it to Louis. “You’re only in,” Harry breathes out a deep breath, “uh, I didn’t know you owned leather pants.”

Louis eyes him suspiciously, but turns and slips inside the coat. It’s too big and hangs almost to his knees, gaping open over his bare chest. “Happy?” He asks, but Harry just watches him with eyebrows raised.

Louis clears his throat and wishes for the distraction of a cigarette. “I looked back at my schedule for like, the past two years, and it’s fucked up. So fucked up. You let me take pictures of, well, you know. Even thinking about it again is making me feel like such an idiot.”

“You’re not an idiot, Louis.”

“Really? You were in Toronto for two months filming and I flew in almost every weekend. I didn’t have shit to do in Toronto. I didn’t write any songs there, I mean I wrote back home during the week, but I fucking flew there to be with you. How did I not see that?”

“I, well, I don’t know how to answer that Louis. Yeah, we saw each other a lot then, but that was like a year ago.”

“After I met you, we ran into each other what? Twice in six months while I was still on tour? And then I sent you my schedule and you sent me yours and we saw each other like once a month.”

“Yeah, for a while there it was like clockwork.”

“And then Toronto.”

“Mmhmm.”

“And then I guess I started flying to L.A. more often, and fuck. Harry. I’m sorry. We were seeing each other like every other week there for a while.”

“At least.”

“I didn’t know.”

“You said that. Um, but I was in New York a lot too, so…”

Louis rubs his knuckles against his eyes, then yawns. “Anyway, I’m sorry again. I want you to know that like, I’ve resigned myself with the idea that this,” he gestures between them, “is over. I get that. I fucked it up before we even got started. I just wanted to tell you that I would never have hurt you intentionally. I want you to believe me, Harry, just, um, that if I could change the past and be less of an asshole to you, I would.”

Their heads whip around at the sound of Liam's car horn. Louis asks Harry if he needs a ride, but Harry’s friend is waiting inside at the bar, so he gives Harry back his bear coat and says goodbye. He tosses his cake-covered shirt onto the floorboard and climbs into the passenger seat. As he closes the door, he says one last goodbye, and waves as Liam pulls out onto the road.

After he showers and rinses the cake from his mesh shirt, Louis pulls on a pair of boxers and slips into bed. He checks his phone one last time, it’s almost five in the morning. The exhaustion must be getting to him, because he decides to text Harry.

If you ever want to see me, this is my home and you’re always welcome

He sends his address in a second text and is asleep before the screen on his phone dims.

▲▲▲

It's afternoon when Louis’ bladder forces him out of bed. He debates crawling back into the covers, but he knows that he'll regret it later, so he brews a pot of coffee and eats some toast. He checks his fridge and cabinets and decides that he's going to put his newly acquired cooking skills to the test and make an entire meal from scratch.

Louis shuts the oven door and sets the timer. The food all looks so normal. He chuckles to himself; there’s still time to fuck it up. He opens a bottle of champagne and pours a glass just as there’s a knock at the door. Maybe it’s one of his neighbors or something. He brushes his hands off on his apron and carries his champagne to the door to find Harry waiting on the other side.

He’s standing there, scuffing the toes of his worn brown boots against the carpet of the hallway; he stops when he sees Louis. He’s beautiful, of course, he always is. But, in his favorite jeans with the hole in the knee from that one time in Toronto, and a lightweight cream colored sweater, he looks amazing. Without thinking Louis reaches up to adjust the collar of the shirt Harry’s wearing underneath the sweater, but pulls his hand back like he’s been burned.

“I’m sorry, um. Hi. What’s uh, um.” How very smooth. Louis looks down at his apron and takes a big gulp of champagne. “What are you doing here, Harry?”

Harry’s eyes dart from side to side. “Shit. I, um, I can come back later. I thought—”

Louis reaches out a hand and grasps Harry’s elbow. “Wait. You can come in, I’m just making dinner. I was surprised; didn’t really expect to see you at my door.” He leads Harry into the kitchen and offers him a glass of champagne.

Harry is looking everywhere except Louis’ face. “I—I got your text and, um, I needed to… you said…” He finally stops looking around the room and Louis catches his gaze, willing him not to look away. “I wanted to see you.”

▲▲▲

Chapter Two

▪Harry▪

▼▼▼

about a year ago

The last day of filming goes well, and there’s a wrap party on Saturday that Harry attends even though he’d rather just go back to his hotel. He hugs every single member of the cast and crew, drinks a celebratory glass of champagne, and leaves as soon as he can without seeming rude. It’s his last night in Toronto before he has to fly home to L.A.

He’s nervous during the short elevator ride and his stomach is still doing flips when he keys open the door to his suite. It doesn’t settle until he walks into the room and sees Louis sprawled on the floor, playing some game on his PlayStation. He nudges Louis’ bum with the toe of his boot. “Hey.”

“Hey, so how was it? Is it over?”

“Yeah, that’s it, I suppose. I’ve got one more night here; check-out is tomorrow. Then it’s back to normal.”

“I ordered dinner. That shrimp thing you like with the broccoli? And I had them send up champagne so we can celebrate.” Louis hops up from the floor and plants a kiss on the side of Harry’s mouth before hurrying off to the kitchen.

Harry shakes his head. He’s too accustomed to Louis’ presence. Two months of seeing him almost every weekend has made this into a routine thing, and Harry knows that it ends tomorrow. He’ll fly home to L.A. and Louis will go back to New York to start tour, and they’ll see each other occasionally, when their schedules coincide. Harry sighs. It’s not so bad, really, it’s not as if they’re dating. They both see other people, though to be fair, Harry hasn’t seen much of anyone else since he refused to be exclusive with the other guy he was hooking up with.

By the time Harry takes off his boots and jeans and pulls on his favorite sweatpants, Louis has dinner all set up. As Harry approaches the table, Louis rushes around to pull out his chair and gestures for him to sit.

Harry looks at him askance, eyes squinting and lips pursed. “What are you doing?”

“It’s your celebration. Like a private wrap party for the movie.” He slides Harry’s dinner over and centers it in front of him, carefully places his silverware on either side of the plate, shakes out a cloth napkin and drapes it over Harry’s lap.

“You’re fucking weird.” Harry observes as Louis helps him push his chair in.

Louis sits across from him, dramatically flapping his own napkin around before putting it in his lap and reaching for his phone. His thumbs fly over the screen and soft music starts to play. He picks up the champagne and pours a splash in Harry’s glass, gesturing for him to taste it.

Harry rolls his eyes, but he grins, swirls the champagne around like it’s wine, sips it, then adopts a serious expression and a snooty tone as he drawls out, “Absolute piss. I’d like to complain to your management.”

Louis brings the back of his hand to cover his mouth as he giggles uncontrollably.

He fills their glasses with champagne after they calm down a bit and toasts to Harry’s movie. It’s only a few minutes later that they’re both laughing and choking because Louis says something ridiculous and Harry shoots champagne out of his nose. He swears Louis does it on purpose, like he times his jokes so that Harry always has a mouthful of his drink when the punchline hits.

After dinner, Louis turns off the music and turns on The Princess Bride. They sit side by side on the bed, propped up against the pillows, and say all the good lines along with the actors in the film. Harry’s drunk on champagne and tired from his last week of work, so he falls asleep before the movie ends, one arm wrapped around Louis’ belly, one leg thrown across his thighs, Louis’ face buried in his neck.

When Harry wakes up the next morning with Louis plastered to his back, he smiles, but then an uneasiness starts to creep in. This is all just a little too domestic and not at all what he signed up for. He somehow wiggles himself out of Louis’ grasp without waking him, and goes to the bathroom for a long, hot, shower. He misses L.A. and his sister and, as much as these last few months have been fun, he needs some time away from Louis. He needs to think.

It’s hard to think about much of anything when he's being fucked like this. Harry's mind is swimming; his eyes flicker back and forth between Louis’ face and the reflection of their bodies slamming into each other. The mirror in the bathroom is massive and the counter is the perfect height for Harry to bend over while Louis fucks into him from behind; and watching Louis fuck him is just… incredibly hot. His eyes are dark and focused on the place where their bodies are joined; his mouth hangs slightly open, pink tongue peeking out from between his teeth. A flush and sheen of sweat across his face and the tattoos on his chest make Harry want to lick him all over. Harry grips onto the edge of the counter, trying to give as good as he gets, but it’s difficult when Louis fucks him so well. He’s barely able to stay upright as it is.

He’s so full, and Louis is going slow and deep, pulling his hair and making him watch. “Love seeing yourself, don’t you?” He must not realize Harry’s watching him, can’t take his eyes off Louis as his eyelids flutter shut and he bites down on his bottom lip. Louis is so gorgeous like this.

“You are so fucking hot, Harry, god.” Louis growls and starts to fuck him faster. He slides his hands up and down Harry’s sides, then finally wraps one hand around his cock. “Fucking perfect. So good. So pretty.”

Harry watches Louis’ reflection as he starts to mutter to himself, the same way he always does, a sure sign he’s about to lose it completely. He fucks back onto Louis’ cock as hard as he can until Louis’ hips stutter and he comes, slowly pumping in and out as his orgasm crests and recedes. He quickly pulls out and slips two fingers inside Harry, driving them deep, rubbing his spot, and stroking him just the way he likes it with the other hand until Harry comes all over the floor and the side of the counter.

Their sex is explosive, amazing, heart-stopping. Harry has had more orgasms since meeting Louis than in his entire life before then. It’s unbelievable. They’re infinitely compatible in bed, able to read each other's bodies so well, a single whine or tremble tells more than an hour’s conversation. Seeing him so often lately has made this even more apparent.

The only time they veer off course is when Louis thanks him after sex. He does it every single time. Like Harry’s fucking him as a favor or something. It’s weird. Harry doesn't know what to do about it, so he tries to ignore it and hopes he stops. His best friend and assistant Niall says he should just high-five Louis and say thanks for the orgasms. Harry wonders what it would mean if Louis stopped thanking him and then wonders why it matters to him.

Finally making it into the shower, they rinse quickly and dry each other off before packing their bags to get ready to leave Toronto.

Harry settles into his seat on the plane; the thought that he’s missing something persists until he goes to shut his phone off and sees the text from Louis.

Thanks for the fuck, man, that was amazing.

▼▼▼

With filming wrapped up, Harry spends most of the summer in L.A. It’s hot, it’s sunny, it’s gorgeous, and he has a new house with a big pool and a laughably large yard, especially for one person. Gemma, his sister, visits for a couple of weeks and they spend their days shopping, going to the beach, hanging out by the pool, baking in Harry’s new state-of-the-art kitchen, and trying to convince their mom to come visit too.

Louis’ tour brings him to L.A. in the middle of Gemma’s visit, and when Harry comes home Sunday afternoon after disappearing late Saturday evening, she gives him absolute hell. She’s his sister, but she’s always been his best friend. There’s not a single secret that he can remember ever keeping from her, other than this. She’s the first person he came out to, the first person he told about his first kiss, and the first person he calls when he’s down or just needs to hear a friendly voice; so when he starts to tell her about Louis, she’s not happy at all.

He opens two ridiculously expensive bottles of cabernet and they take them outside, lying down on lounge chairs by the pool, so they can talk while they look at the stars and search for meteors. He tells her everything, from the immediate overwhelming sexual chemistry that made Harry consider the possibility that he’d actually been drugged, to their current arrangement while Louis’ been on tour. Harry shows her their text conversation to explain about their hook-up code and while she scrolls back to look at them, he mentions filming in Toronto. It’s in the middle of explaining about Toronto that he stumbles into the realization that he has feelings.

The subsequent jaw drop and unintelligible garbled noises that fall out of his mouth lead to quite possibly the strangest conversation he’s ever had, because how is it even possible to have feelings for someone for months and not know it?

“Baby brother.” Gemma prods his leg with her wine bottle. “How long has this been going on?”

“I told you. Almost two years.” He tips his bottle back and takes a swig, then giggles at the thought of the sommelier who sold him the wine watching him drink it from the bottle.

“Not the weird ass hooking up. How long have you been in love with him?”

Harry sputters and spits wine. “I’m not in love with him. I just, I have feelings for him, um, that are more than just—”

“You like him.” She laughs. “You like-like him.”

“Yeah, I suppose I do.” He sighs and takes another sip of wine. “I guess it started in Toronto in the spring. So, four or five months now?”

Gemma points at a meteor as it burns across the sky and they watch until it disappears. “It’s not like you to be so blind to your feelings, Harry.”

“I know. I think, maybe, I don’t know. I’ve been so busy over the past few years. It’s like I’ve been constantly filming or promoting, it’s kind of been non-stop work and… I don’t know. Maybe because early on we talked about being discreet… I think back, especially about Toronto, and it’s so obvious to me now. It’s embarrassing.”

They end up sleeping in the lounge chairs, covered with towels, waking with the sunrise. Gemma pushes him right into the pool first thing, then jumps in still in her pajamas, and splashes Harry in the face before telling him to get his shit together with Louis.

▼▼▼

In September, Harry flies to Vegas for Niall’s birthday. He gets his own suite, as far away from Niall’s as possible, because no one wants to know or hear what goes on in there. They spend the first night gambling and dancing and drinking. It’s the best birthday of Niall’s life, or so he drunkenly screams at Harry from his place on top of the bar while some of his new friends do body shots off of his chest and belly.

Niall stumbles through the casino, the majority of his body weight supported by Harry, who’s smiling at a text message while they weave their way to the elevator. When they make it just as the elevator doors start to close, a familiar hand reaches out to hold the doors open for them. The elevator is crowded—full of mostly over-intoxicated tourists—nobody seems to recognize him, and no one but Harry notices the hand slipping into his back pocket to take his key card, or a moment later when that same hand creeps around the front of Harry’s jeans to trace the outline of his cock. He holds his breath and tries not to react outwardly as his dick begins to thicken in his pants.

Harry discreetly adjusts himself as he half-carries Niall to his room. He helps his friend get undressed and puts him to bed, leaving a bottle of water and headache medicine on the bedside table, before quietly leaving the room and heading back to the elevator.

The door to his suite is slightly ajar, and he slowly pushes it open the rest of the way. He hangs the Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob and locks every lock before making his way to the bedroom. Louis is waiting for him—propped up on every single one of the pillows, in the middle of the bed, completely naked, and completely hard, surrounded by what must be hundreds of condoms.

“Lou, I can’t believe you did that in the elev—what… what’s with the condoms?”

“You know, like when people say if they win, they’re gonna roll around in a bunch of cash? Except instead of cash, it’s condoms; and instead of winning in the casinos, I’ve got you.”

Harry can’t help it. He giggles as he strips off his clothes and jumps onto the bed.

They don’t use all of the condoms that Louis brought, but they use a fair few.

Harry has plans with Niall for most of the day on Saturday, but they don’t start until lunchtime, so Louis and Harry spend the morning naked and fucking all over the suite. Harry lets Louis take pictures of them while they’re fucking against the window, and he knows he’s lost the plot. At this point he thinks he’s barely hanging onto his sanity.

When they catch their breath, they sit on the edge of the bed and scroll through the pictures together to make sure that they don’t show any identifying marks, but when they get to the last one, a picture of Harry’s hands pressed against the window, and you can see the reflection of his face contorted in pleasure, Louis tosses the phone to the floor and pushes Harry back onto the mattress for another round. They’ll delete it later.

It’s early October and Harry floats in his pool, wearing absolutely nothing, and wonders what the hell he’s thinking with regards to this whole mess with Louis. After the realization hits that he’s fallen for Louis, Harry tries his best not to be obvious about it or behave any differently when they’re together. He doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be able to keep it up though, it gets more and more difficult every time he sees him, and it’s starting to break his heart a little more each time Louis thanks him after they fuck. There’s this tiny glimmer of hope that won’t die though. When Harry looks back over his calendar and schedule for the year so far, there appears to be a very clear pattern, but he doesn’t know if what he’s seeing is just coincidence.

A text in their usual format comes in from Louis as soon as Harry steps off the plane and turns on his phone. He’s taping Jimmy Fallon that afternoon, and has dinner plans with Niall afterward, but his Saturday is free. Well, it was free. He maps the address from the text and it looks like it’s not a hotel, and it's in Brooklyn, which is weird. Come to think of it, it’s weird for Louis to even text him when he’s in New York, it’s usually the other way around, with Harry texting Louis the room number and name of his hotel. Harry tries not to think of this as an interesting development in their non-relationship; it doesn’t mean anything.

Saturday morning, he wakes up late, still on L.A. time, but early enough to shower before he and Niall meet with the realtor. The list of apartments is long, and they narrow it down to just a few before they leave the real estate office.

“Why are you even looking at places in New York?” Niall asks, even though Harry is pretty sure he knows the answer.

“Just thinking it’d be good to have a place here. Won’t have to stay in a hotel every time.”

“I’ll still have to stay in a hotel. I’m not staying in an apartment with you and Louis going at it in the next room. No way.”

“Shut up, Niall. Going at it. We don’t go at it.” He raises his hands to make air quotes and Niall takes the opportunity to poke him in the ribs, hard.

“You fucking do. If you don’t remember the last time we had hotel rooms next to each other, I can remind you.”

Harry just knocks their shoulders together and doesn’t say anything. He can’t really, he remembers that night very well, and the morning after, and the entire flight back to L.A. when Niall wouldn’t shut up about it.

None of the apartments are what Harry really wants, he’s not even sure he wants to buy property in New York, but he looks at them all and makes comments and halfway listens to Niall’s opinions, but he can’t help but wonder how close each apartment is to wherever Louis might live.

▼▼▼

Harry rings the buzzer for the number Louis gave him at the building’s entrance, and Louis lets him up. Louis opens the door and Harry fights to keep his mouth from dropping open. He’s practically naked, in thin cotton shorts that look like at one time they used to be sweatpants, no shirt and bare feet. Harry’s gaze catches when his eyes slide down past Louis' waist. There’s no way he has underwear on; Harry can see the outline of his cock.

Not sure how much time has passed while he’s been staring at Louis’ crotch, Harry smiles, steps inside and untangles his scarf. He sets his bag on the floor and slips off his coat, which Louis takes and drapes over the back of the couch with his scarf. “Is this your apartment?” Harry fights to keep his smile normal, to prevent his emotions from playing across his face. He’s never been more thankful for his vocation.

“Yeah, sort of?” Louis shrugs and grins and Harry wants to kiss him. This is Louis’ apartment. He was right. “I’m moving out soon. So I guess it’s my roommate’s apartment now.”

“Hmm. Where’s your roommate?” Harry steps into Louis’ space, eyes drifting down over Louis’ chest. God, he’s gorgeous.

“Yeah. He’s on vacation.” Louis slips a finger through one of Harry’s belt loops and tugs him closer. “Far away.”

Harry leans in until his lips brush Louis’ ear. “Okay.”

“Want a tour?” Louis whispers.

“Of the bedroom, I do.”

It is quite literally the best sex he’s ever had in his entire life. It’s so amazing that Harry kind of wants to cry. During their third round, Harry rides Louis, and it’s like a religious experience. His mind feels like it’s flying, and it’s like he has tunnel vision. All he can see is Louis, all he can hear is Louis, all he can feel is Louis, and it’s so good that it’s almost painful, like his skin is too tight on his body. He swivels his hips and Louis bucks up into him and he comes, his orgasm careening through him, ripping an honest-to-god howl from his throat. All he can do is hold on while Louis grips his hips and fucks up into him, but he’s completely out of it and doesn’t even notice when Louis comes. He falls forward, nuzzles into Louis’ neck, and starts to drift off into a deep sleep, while in his ear Louis murmurs, “So good, baby. So beautiful. Perfect, baby. Mine.”

The next morning Harry wakes up to Louis tickling his balls. Harry is in Louis’ bed. It seems surreal and this is the first chance he has to think about it, but then Louis is touching him. Harry’s already hard, already wants him, so when Louis rubs two fingers over the sheet, against his lube-sticky hole, he stops thinking.

“You got a flight to catch? It’s almost ten.” Louis asks, his tone sweet and quiet, like he thinks Harry might actually still be asleep.

Harry’s voice is thick and he stretches without opening his eyes. “Nah, I’ve got time.”

“Let’s go again. I don’t have to be anywhere.”

“Yeah, alright.” Harry sits up and catches Louis’ lips in a quick kiss before he rolls onto his stomach. “Grab the stuff.”

Harry’s spread out on his stomach when Louis says, “I’m so glad you’re here.” And Harry’s heart soars. It’s completely senseless, he knows, but he can’t stop it.

Harry lifts his hips, pushes his ass back and smiles as he lifts his head up off the mattress and looks at Louis over his shoulder. God, Louis is gorgeous. Smiling down at him, hair all messy and sticking up everywhere, bright blue eyes shining in the morning light of his bedroom. Harry wants to do this every morning. “Yeah?” he asks.

Louis’ smile widens and he nods. “Yeah, I’ve been needing a good fuck.” And Harry’s stomach plummets. There’s another fracture in his heart and it's suddenly one too many; he thinks that this will be the last time he sees Louis. It has to be.

Harry goes quiet while Louis fingers him. It’s so good, it’s always so good, but Harry’s mind won’t let him enjoy it. It’s the last time and his heart is breaking a little more each moment, but he forces himself to focus on the physical.

When Louis starts fucking him, Harry can tell that he’s trying to be gentle and fuck if that doesn’t hurt more.

He slams his body back, fucking himself on Louis’ cock, allowing his whines and moans to escape unguarded, he just wants Louis to come. Needs to get him there. Once Louis comes, then Harry can come, and it can be over. It’s working until Louis tugs his hair and pulls him until he’s kneeling. When Louis bites his neck and starts to stroke his cock, he just lets go. He can’t fight it anymore, so he gives himself over to pleasure and lets it mix with the pain and wash it away. He’s just taking it and he doesn’t know what he’s saying, the noises simply fall out of him, until he comes in Louis’ hand. His body tightens and falls forward from the force of it; he’s barely able to hold himself up. Louis fucks him at a bruising pace until he comes and Harry drops the rest of the way down to the mattress with a hiss. It’s over.

Harry sighs weakly and squeezes his eyes shut while Louis trails his fingers between Harry’s asscheeks, pops his thumb inside and tugs on the rim. Harry can’t help the groan that escapes him. “So fucking hot, I swear.” Louis mutters.

Harry turns the water up so that it scorches his skin. He feels disgusting and sad and disappointed. He hears Louis open the bathroom door and set something down on the counter. He’s probably brought Harry’s coffee, he always does, and he always makes it just the way Harry likes it.

“Hey, man, thanks for coming over. No joke. I’ve been needing a good fuck for weeks.”

“Um, yeah, you said.” Harry just wants to rinse his hair and get the fuck out. It’s too much.

“It’s convenient too, like having you come here instead of a hotel. I didn’t even have to get dressed or leave the house for sex.” In case it isn’t already clear, you’re just here for a fuck, Harry. He feels like a complete idiot.

“Right. So, um, how come you asked me over here?” Why ask him to come to his home? Why cross that line? God, this is so fucked up.

“I told you. Joseph’s on vacation. We’ve lived together for ages so I couldn’t really have people sleep over before, and I mean, hotels are fine for fucking when I’m in L.A. or Vegas or wherever, but now that I’ll be able to fuck people in my own home… guess you’re first in line.” Louis laughs.

This was such a mistake. This whole thing. Just one in a list of many, apparently. Harry thinks back to the summer, to his calendar, and to seeing patterns that weren’t there. He swallows around a lump in his throat. “Sounds like you’re going to be busy, Lou.”

“Haha. Very funny coming from you. I’ve seen what you get up to.”

Harry hasn’t had a date in so long it’s embarrassing. He’s always waiting for Louis. “Don't believe everything you read, Louis.”

As soon as Louis leaves the bathroom, Harry steps out of the shower. He dries himself quickly and looks down at the pile of magazines beside the sink and, if possible, his heart breaks even further. Right on the bottom corner of the cover of People magazine is a picture of Louis, arm in arm on a red carpet with someone named Joseph. Harry sees the words “boyfriend of three years” and his stomach heaves. A boyfriend. He never knew. His eyes sting as the tears begin to collect and he blinks rapidly in a futile attempt to stop them before they fall. He dresses as quickly as possible, wipes his tears on his sleeve, and hides his eyes behind his sunglasses, trying to shove his foot into his boot as he stumbles to the door. Finally, his boot slips on and he throws his bag over his shoulder, waves goodbye at Louis and hurries out the door.

Harry walks until he finds a coffee shop. He keeps his sunglasses on while he waits in line to order and, as soon as he finds a seat in the corner, he texts Niall to send a car for him. He can’t handle riding the subway right now and thinks even hailing a cab is probably beyond his ability.

The car drops him off at his hotel and he goes to Niall’s room instead of his own, resting his forehead on the door while he knocks, slinking past him without a word when he opens the door, walking through the room, and flopping down face first across the foot of the bed.

He hears Niall shut the door and say, “Come on in, Harry.”

A muffled sound is the only response as Harry wraps his arms around his head.

“What were you doing in Brooklyn this morning?”

Harry rolls over onto his back and stares at the ceiling. “Can you order some lunch? I want something bad for me. Like a big, greasy, bacon cheeseburger.”

Niall is quiet for a few seconds, then picks up the phone and calls room service. “Food’ll be up in a bit. You planning to tell me what this is about?”

“Louis.”

“He was in Brooklyn?” Harry really doesn’t want to answer that.

“He lives there.”

Niall sits down on the edge of the bed beside Harry’s feet. “So things are getting serious with him then?”

Harry pushes the heels of his hands against his eyes and sighs. “The exact opposite actually. We’re not, um, I’m not going to see him anymore. Fuck. I don’t want to talk about it, Ni, I feel like an idiot. I guess I thought it was more than it was. Doesn’t matter now. It’s done.”

With a hum, Niall claps his hand on Harry’s knee. “Alright, man. You need a distraction?”

“Maybe when we get back to L.A.”

▼▼▼

If by a distraction, Niall means more promo for the movie, pap walks, interviews, the AMAs, and the holidays, then Harry is distracted. His movie is premiering soon, and he needs to get his name back out there after laying low for most of the summer and fall, so he gets papped going for lunch at Cafe Habana, and shopping in Calabasas. He does Jimmy Kimmel and Late Late and throws himself into reading scripts and trying to figure out his next project.

He’s presenting again at the AMAs and his nerves have him hanging out in the bathroom of his hotel suite beforehand. Louis won’t be there; the band is on hiatus and he knows there isn’t going to be some awkward run-in, but he can’t stop thinking about the first time they met, and he wishes he’d gotten up the nerve to introduce himself to Sting instead of hiding in the corner by the bathrooms where he ended up meeting Louis instead. He avoids walking the red carpet with the excuse that people want to see musicians, not actors, at the AMAs. The show goes off without a hitch. Harry gets to meet Beyoncé and only fangirls a little bit, though Niall makes fun of him for weeks afterward.

The movie he filmed in Toronto in the spring premiers just before Christmas. Harry tells Niall and Gemma to fight it out when they both want to attend the premier as his date, but ultimately decides to take Niall so he doesn’t have to see another tabloid article calling his sister his most recent fling.

On the red carpet, Niall is mostly professional, standing back while Harry is photographed with his co-star, and staying out of the view of the cameras, until an interviewer asks Harry who his “hot date” is, and then all bets are off. Niall tries to hold Harry’s hand, and when Harry escapes that by shoving his hands in the pockets of his floral Gucci suit, Niall snakes his arm through Harry’s and manages to slip little comments into every single interview after that. As Harry turns to walk away from the last interview, Niall smacks him on the ass in full view of the camera. The clip is on TMZ, E!, and every other entertainment news outlet that week.

In the car on the way home after the movie, Harry threatens not to take Niall to In-N-Out for his usual order of three double-doubles because of his behavior. “I mean, don’t you know how awful the rumors are going to be now? I should’ve taken Gemma.”

“Nah, man. It’ll make Louis jealous.”

Harry’s head whips around at the name. “What the fuck, Ni? That’s not… He doesn’t pay attention to this shit.” Still, he directs the driver to take them to the closest In-N-Out Burger. “That wasn’t necessary.”

“Sure it was. You’re fucking moping. Have been for months.”

“Fuck off. It’s Christmas. Everyone gets a little mopey around the holidays.”

Niall snorts. “Yeah, okay. If you’re including Halloween as the beginning of the holidays.”

Christmas is the perfect distraction. Harry loves the lights and the decorations and the whole shebang. He spends the rest of December with his family, sleeping in his childhood bed, baking Christmas cookies with his mom, and generally ignoring the real world.

On New Year’s Eve, Gemma drags him to West Hollywood. They walk from club to club, drinking at least one drink and one shot at each bar, until they end up at Flaming Saddles, where Harry runs into one of the guys he used to hook up with before the whole thing with Louis. Gemma finds a seat so she can watch the cowboy bartenders dance on the bar and waves Harry off when he tries to pull her onto the dance floor. Harry ends up dancing with his previous fling for the rest of the night, shouting “Yeehaw!” with the rest of the crowd, and riding a mechanical bull so well that he receives a raucous round of applause. Still, when the clock strikes midnight, Harry ducks the kiss and soon he and Gemma are in an Uber on their way home.

“Why didn’t you kiss that guy? At least one of us should get some action and it wasn’t going to be me.”

Harry sighs. He’s too drunk to make much sense, so he just says, “Louis.”

Gemma doesn’t ask him anymore questions that night, though she makes him tell her everything the next day. He doesn’t cry, won’t let himself after that first day, but he does promise her that he’ll go out and have a good time when he meets Niall in Vegas the next weekend, and that he won’t text Louis when he lands in New York the week after that.

▼▼▼

Rubbing his temples, Harry climbs into a taxi and asks the driver to take him to the Tribeca Grand. His head hurts and his sinuses are bothering him, but the audition went well, and he thinks he’ll get a call-back. It’s his first time attempting a stage production since high school. Something new. Something different. Niall says it’s a good idea, and Niall is happy, like all the time, so Harry goes along with it. He’s opening the door to his suite when Louis texts him twice in a row looking to hook up. It’s been about two months since Harry left Louis’ apartment that morning. The distraction of the holidays helped him avoid most of Niall’s questions and all of Louis’ texts and emails up to this point, so he ignores this one as well. He calls his mom and his sister and complains about his headache and fills them in on the audition, then gets comfortable with his laptop to go over the lines for his audition again.

A little while later, he takes a break, cracks open a beer and watches the city from the window. His phone pings with a text message.

H, need a favor. Kind of an emergency. Lmk if you're still in town. Need a place to crash tonight.

Fuck. He finishes his beer and goes back to work on his lines, but he can’t hold out. He picks up his phone and tells Louis where he is. He can sleep in the bed, it doesn’t mean they have to have sex. Harry puts his shirt back on, just in case.

There’s a knock at the door and Harry's breath catches. He opens the door and leans on it and tries to school his expression. Louis looks tired and soft in his messy sweatpants and hoodie and Harry fights every urge in his body that wants to pull him in, hold him, and cuddle him. He steps back to let Louis into the room. “Come on in. What’s the emergency?”

Louis drops his bag in a chair and kicks off his shoes. “Huh? Oh, I mean, it’s no big deal really. If you didn’t get back to me, I was on my way to The Greenwich for the night. Kind of a dumb story, unless you want to hear it.”

“Nah, not really. You want some food?” Harry points to the room service menu and stops listening at that point. He silently fumes until Louis takes a shower, and then fumes louder. Not an emergency. A dumb story. Sure. He probably just wants to get laid. Harry opens two beers and heads for the bathroom.

“Tell me your dumb story while we wait for the food.”

Harry hardly listens. He’s nervous and sweaty and angry and his head hurts. He drinks his beer and responds in as snarky a tone as he can manage. Thankfully the food arrives, giving Harry an excuse to leave.

Harry turns on the television so he doesn’t feel pressured to fill the silence with his own voice. He eats some of his dinner, but he’s miserable and uncomfortable sitting there with Louis, who doesn't seem to notice anything is amiss, so he decides to escape into the bathroom. In his suitcase is a bath bomb and a pair of flannel pajama pants that he always packs just in case, but he can’t find them when he digs through, so he just hauls the whole thing to the bathroom. He soaks in the bath until his head feels better and the water turns cool. When he opens the door to the bathroom, he finds Louis asleep in the bed. Good. Fine. He climbs in on the other side, slips on his glasses and opens his book.

Louis wakes up and pisses Harry off almost immediately. He’s playing with his dick under the blanket and asking Harry to suck his cock and Harry wants to scream, but instead he politely tells him goodnight. And god, he acts like such an entitled asshole when he pouts and rubs his ass on Harry’s leg and asks, “It’s just… why am I here if we’re not fucking?”

Harry wants to murder him. He settles on telling him exactly why he’s here, then rolls over onto his side, facing away from Louis and eventually falls into a fitful sleep.

When he wakes up, Louis is curled around his back, his arm wrapped tight around his chest, their fingers threaded together in front of Harry’s heart. It’s lovely and sweet and Harry’s warm and comfortable, so he drifts in the state between sleep and wakefulness, but snaps awake when he becomes aware that he’s completely naked and that he’s grinding his ass backwards against Louis’ hard cock. He stills and peeks over his shoulder; Louis is still asleep. He untangles their hands and reaches down to touch himself; he’s harder than he usually is in the morning and he blames Louis one hundred percent. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck it. He starts to grind his ass back purposefully, catching Louis’ dick and sliding up and down along the shaft. It’s not long before Louis is fully awake and playing with Harry’s nipples.

Louis’ lips brush the shell of Harry’s ear as he quietly asks, “What happened to your pajamas?”

“Took ‘em off last night.” Harry mumbles in response. He should have known this would happen. He’s only comfortable sleeping naked. “Can’t sleep in clothes. You know that.”

Louis hums and runs the tips of his fingers through the hair at the base of Harry’s cock.

Harry shivers, his eyes roll back in his head and he sighs. He loves it when Louis does that. It’s something that only Louis has ever done to him and Harry doesn’t know if Louis does it because he knows Harry likes it or if it’s something he does to every person he fucks. “Why do you do that?”

With a chuckle, Louis does it again. Then lightly tugs on the hair. “Because you like it.” He wraps his fingers around Harry’s cock, gives it a squeeze and Harry groans, pushing into Louis’ fist.

The sadness and regret that tinged their last time together disappear. Harry lets Louis stroke him just the way he likes it, pulls and twists his nipples, and doesn’t hold back his orgasm at all, just rides the enormous wave of pleasure. After he comes he lets Louis maneuver his body and lies there on his back, spent, chest heaving. His breath catches in his throat when he hears Louis start to mutter to himself. It’s always the same and it used to make Harry’s heart want to leap out of his chest, but they’re just empty words, Harry knows that now. Still, there's an echo in his head of Louis’ scratchy sex-voice repeating the words perfect and baby and mine. Louis comes on Harry’s belly and smears it around on his butterfly tattoo.

“That was amazing.” Louis murmurs. Then he squeezes and pats Harry's thigh. “You are such a great fuck, I swear. Shit. Thanks, man.”

Harry’s body stiffens. He honestly thought he was prepared for this. He closes his eyes and grits out, “You’re welcome, man,” before climbing to his feet and walking to the bathroom. As he closes the bathroom door, he calls over his shoulder, “Order breakfast. I need coffee for this.”

It’s not a fight or an argument so much as it is Harry cornering Louis while he’s in the shower and can’t run away. Plus, he’s naked and Harry’s not, so he feels like he’s a little less vulnerable. He doesn’t let up, constantly questioning him, interrupting him, and calling him out on his shit. And there’s a part of Harry that feels awful because, what? Louis didn’t realize there was more to this, that there was more going on between them, but neither did Harry. Harry just had the misfortune to figure it out first.

All these months and Harry was right. He can't wait to tell Niall. Exclusively fucking. And he has to drag it out of him; it is literally like pulling teeth, except Harry remembers pulling his baby teeth for the tooth fairy and that was incredibly easy compared to pulling Louis in the direction Harry wants him to go. It’s almost like he’s got some sort of mental block when it comes to Harry because he’s fucking brilliant otherwise. It’s driving Harry mad. Harry loses count of the number of times Louis has said this doesn’t matter or that it’s just sex between them and, honestly, Harry expects it to hurt a hell of a lot more than it does, but he’s riding an adrenaline high from sex and anger and he’s not letting it go now. When Louis says he doesn’t know what they’re even talking about, Harry loses it. In no uncertain terms, he tells Louis exactly what they’re talking about and then he’s done.

Harry spins around and is just about through the door when Louis calls out to him. “Wait. You said exclusively. When was the last time you fucked someone other than me?”

“Last weekend. In Vegas.” Harry slams the door.

He sinks onto the bed and cradles his head in his hands. It still hurts. Maybe he does have a sinus infection. As quickly as he can, he packs the rest of his stuff and hurries for the elevator. He can’t be here when Louis gets out of the shower. Really doesn’t want to hear shit from him about Vegas. He’d drunkenly sucked some guy off in the bathroom of a club and gotten a clumsy handjob in return, all because Louis had sent him a text from the same hotel room they’d stayed in the last time he’d been in Vegas. Fucking ridiculous.

Harry ducks into a cab and texts Niall to make an appointment for him to see a doctor and book him into some other hotel, as far away from the Tribeca as possible. He needs to focus, worry about his call-back for this play, and forget about Louis Tomlinson.

▼▼▼

Harry nails his call-back audition and gets the part in the play, so since he’ll be spending so much time in New York, in between read-throughs and rehearsals, he and Niall start looking for apartments again; the only real requirement Harry has is that they don’t look in Brooklyn, as much as Niall might want to. He may have to stay in the same city as Louis, but he wants to be as far away from him as he can get.

Gemma comes to visit him in New York and they spend the week of his birthday shopping and playing tourist around the city. His actual birthday passes without much fanfare, though he does get caught up in someone else’s pap walk when Gemma makes him take her to Times Square. Niall gets a good laugh out of that headline. She helps him look at apartments and doesn’t bring up Louis, which Harry is incredibly grateful for.

After the first week of rehearsals, Harry is exhausted, and his body is screaming for a massage. Going in, he knew the work would be hard, but it’s still a big adjustment for him and he wants to go to his hotel and sleep, but agrees to go with Niall to check out some apartments in Chelsea. They’re nice enough, but boring, and Harry wants something with personality.

“What did you think of that one, Harry?” Niall asks after they say farewell to the real estate agent. “It was nice, yeah?”

Harry flags down a cab and turns to answer. “I mean, it was nice, but it’s not what I want. I guess I’ll keep looking.”

“Yeah, that’s fine.” Niall readily agrees. “Hey, what are you doing for Valentine’s Day? You got a date?”

Harry scoffs. “Nope. I don’t have any plans, actually, but, um, I was invited to that restaurant opening, remember? You want to go?”

They drink champagne and have a good laugh at the paparazzi outside. Most of their dinner conversation revolves around guessing what the headlines will be when the pictures come out, especially after Niall’s over-the-top behavior at the movie premier.

“You look nice tonight, Ni.”

Niall barks a laugh. “Compliments and a fancy dinner aren’t getting you into my pants, Harry.”

“Eww, Niall.” Harry pulls a face. “Thanks for that. I was planning to order dessert, but now, not so much.”

“You know I’m sexy, H. No need to be rude. Let’s order all three of the special desserts and share.”

“Yeah, okay. More champagne?” Harry takes the bottle from the ice bucket and refills their glasses.

Niall sips his champagne and they thank the server when he places the three dessert plates on their table.

“So, H, why’d you bring me tonight instead of a real date?”

Harry licks the chocolate mousse from his spoon. “Didn’t want a real date.”

“What about that guy, you know, the one that gave you his number when we went out dancing with Gemma?” Niall slides the strawberry cake over to spoon it into his mouth.

Harry shakes his head. “Not interested in that sort of thing anymore. Casual is not something I’m built for, apparently. I’m just… I’m happier alone right now. I hooked up with a guy in Vegas last month and it just confirmed it. Right now, I’m going to focus on work and finding a place to live.”

“Okay, man, I get that.” Niall scrapes the last of the crème brûlée from the dish. “Do you think the paps will think I’m your real date? Will they call me stunning or talk about my leggy pins?”

Harry giggles and finishes the last of the champagne.

▼▼▼

“That coat is… very large and fluffy, Harry. What if you get cake on it?”

“There is no way I’ll be close enough to the stage to get cake on my clothes.” Harry checks himself in the mirror. He doesn’t feel ridiculous. He feels warm and happy. Niall can suck it. “You should be nice to me, Niall. I’m only going to this show because you asked me so sweetly.”

“It’ll be fun, H. We got a good nap this afternoon, had some coffee. Now it’s time to stay up all night and dance. Let’s go. I want to find a good spot to get caked.”

They take a taxi and as they cross the Brooklyn Bridge, Harry’s stomach starts to churn. He’s successfully avoided the entire borough for the last few months. He shakes his head. It’s not as though he’s going to run into Louis at some EDM show in a warehouse.

Except that’s exactly what happens.

Harry stands by the bar for most of the show, venturing into the crowd to dance with Niall a few times, but the more he dances, the warmer he gets, and he refuses to take off his new coat, so he finds a spot at the bar and sips his gin and tonic. The show is almost over and Niall is still relatively clean, having missed getting caked in the face by about three feet. Harry stands up when the encore is over, expecting the lights to come up and the place to start clearing out. Instead, Steve announces that his friend’s band wants to play a few songs, so Harry sits back down.

The band takes the stage and Harry staggers from his perch on the stool. He hasn’t seen Louis in months and he’s never seen him on stage before. His heart is racing and he feels like he can’t breathe, but a tiny corner of his brain reminds him that Louis can’t see him, doesn’t even know he’s here in the audience, so he slowly brings himself back under control.

He’s luminous. Harry doesn’t know if it’s the stage lighting or if it’s just Louis, but it’s like he glows. And he looks incredible. Harry can’t focus on the song at first because he’s so overwhelmed by the visual of Louis on stage. He grips his microphone and leans forward and his black mesh tank top swings loose and Harry catches sight of his armpit and his nipple and suddenly he needs to get closer to the stage. The lyrics remind him of something or someone, but he can’t place it, and he’s having a really difficult time doing anything at all other than slowly making his way closer to Louis. There’s so much to look at, so much to take in, that Harry is a little bit worried that the song will end before he’s seen enough of him. His voice is beautiful. It’s shocking and Harry can’t believe he’s never heard him perform before.

He’s wearing black leather pants. They look soft and mold to his body and Harry wants to pet them. His eyes follow the curve of Louis’ lower back and bum and suddenly Harry is filled with longing. He lets his gaze travel down, taking in Louis’ thighs which Harry has the sudden urge to bite, and the way he’s managed to roll his leather pants up to show off his ankles and somehow make it seem effortlessly sexy. His feet are bare and covered in cake and Harry chuckles a little at that, he knows Louis will be irritable and annoyed about it later, but right now he looks like he’s having the time of his life. His eyes are wide and bright as he messes around on stage and points and laughs at the audience while someone else in the band is singing. The chorus starts up again and Harry tries to listen to the words.

Waking up

Beside you I’m a loaded gun

I can't contain this anymore

I'm all yours, I've got no control

No control

Powerless

And I don't care it's obvious

I just can't get enough of you

The pedal's down, my eyes are closed

No control

That’s, um, that’s a song about sex. Alright. Harry clears his throat and tries not to draw attention to himself as he adjusts his dick in his pants.

He huffs a laugh when the song ends and Louis jumps on his bandmate to get carried around the stage for a few minutes. Someone brings out two bar stools and Harry watches as Louis and his bandmate hop up and get comfortable. Louis looks proud and happy and Harry briefly wonders what things might be like if they’d met in some other way, but before he can think too hard about it, Louis clears his throat and adjusts his mic.

Harry’s heart skips a beat when Louis speaks; he hasn’t heard him talk in months. “Hello, everyone. Thanks for sticking around to listen to us. We’re going to play one more song for you. It’s slower, and I know it’s late, so please don't fall asleep on us.” He smiles and Harry’s stomach flips. He should find Niall. They should go ahead and leave; beat the crowd. But he can’t. His eyes are glued to Louis’ face.

The guitarist begins the song and his voice is lovely by itself. He unconsciously begins to sway to the music, but stops when Louis joins in. Their voices blend beautifully, but the song has a melancholy feel to it that makes Harry’s heart hurt.

Yeah, I know your love's not real

That's not the way it feels

That's not the way you feel

And, yes, I let you use me from the day that we first met

But I'm not done yet

Falling for your fool's gold

And I knew that you turned it on for everyone you met

But I don't regret

Falling for your fool's gold

Harry watches as Louis introduces the band, then thanks Steve and the audience, and disappears backstage. He sighs and turns to look for Niall as the warehouse starts to empty out. He’s at the bar having another beer, so Harry slides onto the stool next to him and orders another drink. “Did you, um, did you know he’d be here?”

“Who, Louis? Nah, man, I don’t think anyone did. He was good though, wasn’t he? I didn’t know he sounded like that, the first song was badass. I thought he was only into like, happy love songs and stuff, but that second song was kind of sad.”

“Yeah, I don’t know, we, um, we never talked much about work stuff.”

Harry finishes his gin and is about to suggest they leave when Niall orders another beer and points towards the stage. “Think you ought to go over there and talk to him, man. Give him the chance to apologize in person like he said he wants to.”

“Really?” Harry stands up and looks around. “You think I should?”

“Yeah, man, I think you kind of have to. Just maybe chill out a bit, you’re too high-strung when it comes to him. You need closure or some shit. Time to move on. Let him say sorry and you can go out on a date with that real estate agent that keeps harassing me for your number.”

Harry snorts and shakes his head. “That dude is like seventy years old, Ni.” He brushes imaginary crumbs from his coat and says, “Wish me luck.”

Harry stands by the side of the stage. It’s dark and shadowed and with the stage lights still on, it’s like he’s still watching the show. It’s comforting to know that Louis can’t see him, so he can openly watch him. He’s tiptoeing across the stage, avoiding piles of cake, which makes Harry giggle because his feet are disgusting and covered with cake already. Louis picks up his shoes, struggles with them, trying to shove them onto his feet, icing be damned, until he sits down in an exasperated huff. An audible gasp leaves Harry’s mouth when Louis yanks his shirt over his head, and starts scrubbing his feet with it. His skin is tan, like he’s been out in the actual sunshine somewhere, it sparkles under the stage lights, and Harry wants to reach out and touch. He’s staring, but he can’t stop, and as Louis finally gets his shoes on and makes his way toward the stairs at the side of the stage, Harry shuffles forward, out of the shadows, and waits.

Louis is clearly surprised to see Harry, but he recovers almost immediately. “You look like a bear furry in that coat. Didn’t know you were into that sort of thing, Harry.”

And Harry can’t help it. He laughs, big and loud, the laugh his sister says makes him sound like a distressed goose, and slaps his knee like he’s never heard anything funnier, and for just a second it’s like all the bullshit between them has been erased. Louis is looking at him, blue eyes sparkling in the stage lights, grinning so hard that the corners of his eyes are crinkling and he looks beautiful. His eyes drop from Harry’s face and he looks at his feet for a second before he meets Harry’s gaze again and steps the rest of the way down from the stage.

Louis apologizes and Harry’s not really even listening to him. It’s distracting, a sweaty shirtless Louis in leather pants standing in front of him, he can’t be blamed when he interrupts him. “I liked your songs. They’re good. You’re amazing up there, you know?”

Louis brushes his hair to the side and looks down again. “Thank you, but, uh, you’re not supposed to compliment me, Harry. Or interrupt me, actually, I think, um, I think I should have the chance to talk this time.” He looks up and catches Harry’s eye.

Oh. He’s talking about the Tribeca. Harry feels his cheeks start to flush as he agrees. “Yeah, that’s seems fair.”

“Shit. Okay. Can you walk with me outside? Just, um, my ride might be waiting for me.”

Louis keeps apologizing and Harry’s exhausted brain can’t handle it. He’s saying all the right things and it’s like he doesn’t even realize he’s saying them, which means he must actually mean them, and Harry’s mind reels. All he can do is stand there on the sidewalk and stare because Louis still doesn’t have a shirt on, but now instead of sweating, he’s shivering a little in the night air. His nipples are hard and Harry wants to reach out and brush his thumbs over them, but that’s not what this is about. He should listen to whatever it is Louis is saying.

“You should wear my coat.” Harry takes it off and holds it out, offering it to Louis. “You’re only in,” Harry breathes out a deep breath, “uh, I didn’t know you owned leather pants.” Please, just cover up so I can focus on what you’re saying.

Louis slips into Harry’s coat, turns back around and says, “Happy?”

And no. Not really? Sort of. Harry’s eyebrows raise and it’s like he can’t lower them. They’re stuck up there. Louis is wearing his coat and it just looks… indecent. This isn’t any better than shirtless Louis in leather pants; it’s much, much worse. The coat is too big and hangs almost to his knees, gaping open over his bare chest, highlighting his collarbones and tattoos.

Harry tries to listen, he really does. It’s just that this is all so unexpected and it’s like four in the morning, he’s incredibly tired, and Louis keeps saying all these things that Harry didn’t know he needed to hear. The more he talks, the lighter Harry feels, until it’s like he’s weightless. Every single thought that has been heavy in Harry’s mind is now somehow feather-light. He responds now and then when he can find words, but otherwise, he’s pretty much just along for the ride. This night is not at all what Harry expected.

A car horn sounds and they both turn towards the street. Louis offers to give Harry a ride to wherever he needs to go and he almost accepts until he remembers that Niall is sitting inside at the bar. Louis returns his coat and before Harry can put it back on, Louis is leaving; waving through the passenger window as his friend pulls the car into the street.

▼▼▼

Harry slips into his bed while it’s just barely still dark outside. He rolls to the side to check the time on his phone and sees that he missed a few texts at some point. They’re from Louis.

If you ever want to see me, this is my home and you’re always welcome

He falls asleep thinking of Louis standing on the sidewalk telling him that he wants to change the past.

▼▼▼

Harry almost goes straight to Louis’ apartment after his first cup of coffee, but then he wakes up the rest of the way, eats breakfast, and decides to go shopping instead. He moved into his new Lower East Side apartment, but it’s sparsely decorated and could use some personality. He buys a new rug for his bedroom and probably too many lamps for one person’s apartment, but he has a fun day, and even brings home a life-size, antique, white, porcelain cat that he’s decided to name Petunia. The majority of his purchases will be delivered the following week, so he hauls Petunia and his shopping bags up to his apartment and spends the rest of the day mentally preparing to see Louis.

The taxi drops him in front of Louis’ building and thankfully Harry catches the door as one of Louis’ neighbors is leaving. He stands outside Louis’ door for a few minutes, debating whether or not to turn and leave or go through with it. His decision is made for him when Louis’ neighbor across the hall opens their door a crack and watches him until he knocks.

His stomach churns while he stares down at his boots. Maybe he should’ve dressed up or something. He tugs on the neck of his sweater and scuffs the toes of his boots against the carpet, but stops when the door opens and he sees Louis standing there. His hair is soft, like he just let it dry after a shower and didn’t put anything in it, and it’s getting long; he’s wearing an old, worn, long sleeved, red t-shirt, a loose pair of grey sweatpants, and a novelty apron that says once you put my meat in your mouth, you’re going to want to swallow and Harry wants to laugh, but he doesn’t.

Louis reaches his hand up toward Harry’s face, but snatches it back almost immediately and looks down. “I’m sorry, um. Hi. What’s uh, um. What are you doing here, Harry?”

Harry looks around quickly. Maybe Louis has someone over. He’s obviously cooking or something, maybe it’s a date. “Shit. I, um, I can come back later. I thought—”

But Louis smiles and grabs Harry’s elbow before he can disappear down the hall. “Wait. You can come in, I’m just making dinner. I was surprised; didn’t really expect to see you at my door.”

Harry follows him into the kitchen, trying to focus on what he wants to say. He sips the champagne that Louis offers him and tries to get his words in order, but Harry doesn’t know how to say it, his mouth isn’t working at all. His eyes dart around the room, trying to settle on something that he can focus on. “I—I got your text and, um, I needed to… you said…” He finally stops looking around the room when Louis catches his gaze and he suddenly feels like he can breathe again. “I wanted to see you.”

Louis’ eyes go wide. “Why?” and then he squints. “I mean, no, um, yes, why?”

“I—well, I didn’t really get to talk to you last night. I mean, this morning. It was late—I mean, early. Fuck.” Harry runs his hand through his hair and looks up at the ceiling. “I just, I missed you, is all.”

“Really?” Louis sounds surprised.

“Yeah, listen. Um, about the stuff you said, you know, when you were apologizing… I was too hard on you at the Tribeca—”

Louis waves his hands to stop him. “No, Harry, I totally had it coming.”

“No, please, just let me say this.” Harry reaches out and grabs hold of Louis wrists. “Okay?”

Louis stills and nods, looking up at Harry expectantly.

“I don’t want you to think that I was like, pining for you the whole time. I, well, I didn’t figure it out at first either. We’re very similar, you and I. It was last summer for me. When you came to L.A. on tour. My sister Gemma, she, um, kind of pointed it out to me.” Harry chuckles. He's still holding Louis’ wrists, rubbing his thumb back and forth over the pulse points. “I wish I’d, I don’t know, told you or something, but who knows how that would’ve worked out.” He drops Louis’ wrists and looks at his hands like they’ve been misbehaving.

“Do you?” Louis clears his throat, then smiles. “Would you want to stay for dinner?”

Harry scratches at the back of his head and grins. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Oh, you know what?” Louis asks, then smirks. “We totally did hang out. Like, maybe not every time we were together, and I know sometimes we were, well,” He’s blushing. “Kind of rushed, but we did hang out.”

“Yeah, I know, especially in Toronto.”

“In Toronto, yeah, but in L.A. and Chicago and Vegas and here. I taught you how to play Skyrim. I’m just saying, I guess, that it wasn’t just sex between us. Not that the sex wasn’t incredible, but…”

“Best I’ve ever—” Harry turns his face away and squeezes his eyes shut. He feels his neck and cheeks heating and turning pink.

“Hey.” Louis brushes a hand along Harry’s shoulder until he turns his head and meets his eyes. “Um, me too. I still—Harry, listen. I have to, I just have to get this out, okay? I still want you. Like, I want you, yeah, but I want you other ways too. I want to touch you and kiss you and sleep with you, like actually sleeping. I want to hang out with you. Whatever you want to do. Anything. And make you coffee because, hey, guess what? I know how you like it.” He fidgets with his hands and nods toward the stove. “I, um, took this cooking class and then when I was trying to decide what to cook, I looked up recipes for meals I know are your favorites. Fuck. I still can’t believe I—I just think, I don’t know if I can do this. Like, be friends with you and stuff.” He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. “I don’t know how to stop wanting you.”

Harry is completely shocked. It’s like all the muscles in his body are working together to keep his jaw from dropping open. “You took a cooking class?”

“That’s what you’re taking from all of that? Yes. I moved in here, got this fancy kitchen and didn’t know what to do with it. So, yeah.”

Oh, wait. “You want me?”

“I just. I just said that. Yes, Harry.” Louis groans and buries his face in his hands.

“For how long?”

“I don’t know how long, Harry. Apparently this has been going on for at least a year, with no signs of stopping.”

“No signs of stopping…” Harry repeats. “No, I meant how long do you want me for? The weekend? A month?”

“Forever.” Louis gasps and slaps his hand over his mouth. “Shit. I didn’t—I’m sorry. I mean, I don’t know? Indefinitely. Fuck. That’s, well, that’s embarrassing.”

“Don’t be embarrassed, Lou.” Harry pokes him in the calf with the toe of his boot. Louis wants him. Indefinitely. This is not what he thought would be the outcome of going to an EDM show in a warehouse in Brooklyn. It’s even better than Louis in leather pants. “Hey, you know that last night was the first time I’ve ever seen you perform? You’re, um, well, you’re amazing. You were made for that sort of thing, I think. Remember Lollapalooza? You were performing and I went to a different stage, I don’t know why.”

“I left before you and told you I’d see you back at the room.” Louis squeezes his eyes shut and pulls at his hair. “I didn’t want you there because I thought it’d make me too nervous. Fuck. That was almost two years ago, Harry. This keeps getting worse. It’s like… I think I’m getting over it or past it or whatever, but then something else comes up like this. You were like, the inspiration for at least an entire album’s worth of songs, and I had no idea. Payno kept asking me where I was getting all these ideas and I just brushed it off. Those songs last night? For you. No Control? About the last time we—at the Tribeca before, well, you know. And it took me seeing pictures of you on a date with, according to People Magazine, the same handsome brunette you had on your arm at your latest movie premier, on Valentine’s Day to fucking understand—”

“People Magazine? Handsome brunette?” Harry laughs. “That was Niall.”

“Who?”

“On Valentine’s Day. Niall. My best friend. Um, he’s my assistant. It wasn’t a date.” Harry chuckles. “We, um, were kind of fucking with the paps that were hanging around that night. It was a restaurant opening. There were a lot of celebrities there.”

“Really? I mean, okay—” The alarm on his phone buzzes. “Shit. Okay. Dinner’s ready.” Louis puts a pair of oven mitts on and starts to pull everything out of the oven.

Harry leans against the counter, watching while Louis tries to check the chicken’s temperature and gets frustrated with the placement of the thermometer. Harry steps closer and encloses Louis’ hand in his own, guides him to properly place the thermometer, and steps back. “There you go. I think that it’s supposed to rest before you cut it, right?”

The recipe is on the counter, so Harry takes a peek and shows it to Louis. He nods. “Yeah. That’s right. Listen, Harry, you, um, you don’t have to stay for dinner. I just, I don’t want you to feel obligated since you’re already here. Especially now that, well, now that you know about my feelings.”

Harry huffs a little laugh. “I don’t want to leave.” He wonders if this is how things are always going to be with Louis. “Lou? I didn’t end things with you because I stopped wanting you. I ended things because it hurt too much to be with you when we didn’t want the same things. But, um, and please, please, please correct me if I’m wrong, I think you do want what I want.”

Louis leans back against the counter and crosses his arms. “What do you want then?”

“You. Indefinitely. If that’s alright.”

“Are you shitting me?”

“No?”

“Like, for real, though? Dates? And like, holding hands and shit? Are you going to be my boyfriend?” Louis looks like he won the lottery.

“Well, I mean.” Harry rolls his eyes. “Not for P.R.”

Louis tries to scowl, but the grin takes over. “Fuck off.”

Harry steps closer so his feet are between Louis’ and says, “No, I don’t think I will, actually.”

Instinctually, Louis reaches out and his hands land on Harry’s hips. “Am I going to be your boyfriend?”

“Yes.”

“What if I fuck it up?” Louis asks. He has a good point.

“Um, well, to be honest, I don’t know that it can get much more fucked up. And, I mean, I could fuck it up. Anything could happen, really.” Harry brackets Louis in with both of his hands on the counter and leans in close.

Louis tilts his head to the side. “Are you going to fuck it up?”

“Not on purpose!”

“Well, neither am I.”

“We’ll, um, we’ll have to work on, like our communication skills.” Harry leans in until they're almost touching.

“Yeah, true.” Louis nudges his nose against Harry’s. “Um, I really like you. How’s that for communication?”

“Huh? That’s good, I suppose. How about this though? It drives me crazy when you thank me after sex. It’s weird and I don’t like it.”

Louis let’s go of Harry’s hips and crosses his arms over his chest. “It’s not weird. It’s polite.”

“Saying ‘thanks, man’ and smacking my ass like we’re playing baseball or something is not polite.” Harry takes a step back so he can cross his arms too.

“I don’t know. I like saying thank you.” Louis pouts. “But I could probably try not to call you man.”

“Fine. I’ll say you’re welcome then.”

“I’m okay with that.” Louis lights up with a smile. “Anything else you want to say?”

“Do you think the sex will be different?” Harry reaches out and tugs on Louis’ apron until he unties it and lays it on the countertop.

“I don’t know. Maybe. We, um, we have our patterns, I guess. Might be good to keep it interesting.” Louis picks up the champagne bottle to refill their glasses.

“Interesting how, Lou?”

“I don’t know, like, I love your bum. Would like to, um, get to know it a little more… personally.”

Harry snorts. “What does that mean? You want to eat my ass?”

“Yes?”

“You don’t sound so sure, Lou.” A dirty grin spreads across Harry’s lips. “I want to eat yours.”

“Fuck. Okay. Yes. Yes, I want to do that to you. Is that, um, is that it?” Louis asks and sips his champagne.

“Do you always top?”

Louis chokes on his champagne. When it doesn’t come out of his nose, he sputters, “Jesus. Um, I haven’t, um, it’s been years, but I’d like to, yeah? I was thinking, with you, I’d, um, well, I’d like to try.”

“You’re going to let me fuck you?” Harry whispers as he steps closer.

“I mean, yeah? Yes.”

“When?” Harry asks and tips his head to the side.

“I don’t know. Whenever you want.” They’re standing toe-to-toe in the middle of the kitchen.

“Now?” Harry takes Louis’ glass and puts both champagne flutes on the counter.

“Don’t you want to try the chicken?” Louis sounds a bit nervous as he gestures at the food on the stovetop.

“Not really. I mean, maybe after.” Harry spins Louis around by the shoulders and guides him out of the kitchen.

“After?” Louis asks over his shoulder.

“Yeah, let’s go.” Harry smacks Louis’ ass. “Show me to your bedroom.”

Harry chases him to the bedroom, smacking and pinching Louis’ bum on the way. Louis throws himself onto his back in the middle of his bed in a fit of laughter. Harry crawls up next to him, nudges his nose against Louis’ cheek, and whispers. “We don’t have to do it like that. You can fuck me like we usually do.”

Louis stills beside him. “Why? Do you not want to?”

“No, no, I do. I didn’t want you to feel pressured or anything.” Harry shakes his head. Then he purrs, “If I’m going to fuck you, I want you to want it as much as I do.”

Louis shivers at that and jumps up off the bed. Harry stares at him, completely confused by what’s happening, until Louis strips his shirt off so fast that his hair stands up. He yanks his sweatpants and underwear down in one move, kicks them off, pulls open his bedside table drawer, rummages through for a few seconds, then throws a condom and a bottle of lube at Harry, flops back down onto the bed, and rolls onto his stomach.

“Let’s go.”

“What? Lou. Roll back over.”

He does. Slowly. His dick is half-hard and he reaches down to stroke it a few times. “Yes?”

Harry takes a deep breath and lets it go. Louis is naked and it’s always a little hard to think when that’s the case. He closes his eyes to make it easier. “Well, um, did you want me to keep my clothes on?”

Louis snorts. “No.”

Harry sits up and tugs his sweater over his head, then starts on the buttons of his shirt.

“Wait. Let me.” Louis pushes him down to lie on his back and straddles his hips, then unbuttons Harry’s shirt. “Your, um, you have a beautiful body, Harry.” He traces his finger along the outline of Harry’s bird tattoos, then down to his butterfly.

A flush starts to creep up Harry’s chest and neck and he turns his head. This is new. Louis always compliments his body, tells him he's hot or sexy, but it’s only ever been during or right after sex. They’ve never done much talking beforehand, and their foreplay has always been more physical than anything else. “Um, thank you. I’ve been working out for this play, and, um, it’s been… different. Had to buy new shirts.”

“You look amazing.” Louis scoots down and starts on Harry’s jeans. He pulls and wiggles until he gets them down to mid-thigh, then he slides back up, sitting astride Harry so their cocks line up. “Your dick is bigger than mine. That’s unfair.”

Harry barks a laugh, and Louis’ body bounces uncontrollably, so Harry rests his hands on Louis’ hips to steady him. “How have you not noticed that before?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never looked at them next to each other like this.” Louis lightly trails a finger down the warm skin of Harry’s cock.

“Do you want to take another picture?”

“What? Photographic evidence that your dick is bigger than mine? No, thank you.”

“Yeah, it’s not even fully hard, so it’s going to get bigger. You wanna take my pants off the rest of the way or are you going to ride me like this?”

With a scoff, Louis pinches one of Harry’s nipples and says, “If you’re fucking me, I’m not doing the work. Don’t be ridiculous.”

Harry slips his hands around and grips Louis’ ass, squeezing the muscles. “Okay.”

Louis hums and closes his eyes. “Look at us communicating. We’re pros.”

“Oh my god. Shut up.” Harry pinches Louis bum and then rubs the same spot. “I asked you to take off my pants and you’re ignoring that request, so the communication still needs work.”

With an exaggerated eyeroll, Louis begins to scoot down until he’s standing on the floor at the foot of the bed. He leans forward and grabs hold of Harry’s jeans and underwear and slowly peels them off, drops them to the floor, and cocks his hip to the side. “Happy now?”

“No, because you’re over there.”

Louis stands there, hand on his hip, looking down at Harry. “How do you want to do this?”

Harry shrugs and smirks. “It’s your ass. You decide.”

“You’re awful.” He reaches down and pinches the arch of Harry’s foot. “I think, um, I’d like to see your face while we do it.”

“Really?” Harry almost squeaks. Wow. “Um, I just know that you said it’s been a long time, so like, are you sure?”

Louis nods and climbs back onto the bed and lowers himself down until they’re face to face, chests pressed together. “I trust you. It’ll be good, I think.”

“Fuck. Okay.” Harry wraps his arms around Louis’ back, rolls them over, and settles in between his legs. “Gonna kiss you for a bit first.”

Louis parts his lips to say something, but Harry dips down and flicks his tongue into his mouth. There’s nothing slow or sweet about it, it’s how their kisses have always been, hungry, eager, and hot as hell. Harry bites down on Louis’ bottom lip then sucks it into his mouth and Louis moans. His hands are all over Harry, running up his sides, scratching down his back, and finally settling on his ass, squeezing it with both hands and pushing them closer together. Harry grinds down, their dicks getting harder as they press them against each other; then he pulls his head back and takes a few seconds to look down at Louis’ face, slowly circling his hips. He kisses along Louis’ jaw to his ear and pulls back to watch him again, then does the same to the other side.

“What are you doing?” Louis eyelashes flutter open and he bucks his hips.

Harry nudges their noses together and mumbles. “Looking at you. That okay?”

“I mean, if you want.” Louis rolls his eyes and turns his head to the side. “I’m nice to look at.”

“You are.” He is. Even his half smile when he’s trying to be coy like this lights up his face. His soft, caramel-colored hair is brushed back off his forehead, and his brilliant blue eyes shine, even in the low light of the bedroom. And his body. He’s beautiful. Harry kisses down his neck again and over his shoulder until his lips land on the beginning of Louis’ It Is What It Is tattoo. He trails his lips along the script to the end, nipping his collarbone, then sucking kisses up his neck. “You looked so fucking hot on stage last night. Those pants? A fucking mesh shirt? Your ankles?” Harry catches Louis’ ear between his teeth and rolls his hips. “I wanted to climb up there, throw you over my shoulder, and carry you off somewhere.”

“Fuck. Okay. You can do that next time.” Louis rakes his fingernails up the back of Harry’s scalp and twists the short curls around his fingers, guiding him to meet his mouth. Their humid breath mixes, Harry’s tongue slips out and teases along Louis’ top lip, then he presses forward, crashing their mouths together. Louis moans into his mouth and wraps his legs around Harry’s waist. They rock against each other, their hard cocks pressing and sliding, Harry nipping and sucking down his neck, until Louis’ breath hitches and he tugs Harry’s hair to pull his head away. “I don’t want to come like this.”

Harry buries his face in Louis’ neck and breathes in the familiar scent of Louis’ skin. He mumbles, “Okay.” Then sucks one last kiss before pushing himself up and back onto his knees. He kneels between Louis’ legs, and Louis’s eyes track Harry's hands as they rub up and down the firm muscles. He massages his way back up until his thumbs just brush the skin of his balls, then trails his hands back down to Louis’ knees. He cups his hands underneath and pulls Louis’ knees up until his feet are flat on the mattress. “Spread ‘em.”

Louis blushes and closes his eyes, but does as he’s told while Harry finds the lube and condom hidden in the sheets. Still on his knees, Harry plucks his rings off, one by one and drops them onto the bedside table, then he leans forward and places kisses on each of Louis’ nipples, back and forth, sucking a little harder each time, biting them lightly and moving down his belly, leaving a trail of kisses. Harry flicks his tongue out at the wetness on the tip of Louis’ dick, then lies down between Louis’ legs, on his tummy, propped up on his elbows, with his knees bent and his feet swinging in the air behind him.

He sucks slow kisses along Louis’ inner thighs, nuzzling against his skin, pressing his nose into the crease of his groin and breathing deeply. Harry hums against his skin and kisses lightly across Louis’ balls, licking them, then climbs onto his hands and knees and kisses up the shaft of his dick. Harry sits back and wets his fingers with lube, and keeps his gaze locked with Louis’ as he leans back down to suckle on the head of his cock. When Louis gasps, Harry rubs his slick finger around the outside of his rim, and sucks more of him into his mouth. He works Louis’ dick with his mouth and a hand wrapped around the shaft while slipping his finger just inside. When Louis clenches down, Harry sucks harder, concentrating on tonguing the head of his dick and pumping it with his hand until Louis relaxes. Harry slides his finger in a little more and Louis’ body is hot and unbelievably tight, so Harry pulls off Louis’ dick, slides his finger out and drizzles it with more lube. He slips it back inside, easily pushing in all the way, and they both moan. Harry moves his finger in and out slowly, watching as Louis’ entire body loosens to allow him inside. He observes Louis carefully, eyes jumping from his face to his dick to the finger in his ass, waiting until Louis begins pushing back against his hand, short little grunts coming from his throat each time Harry pushes back inside.

“Please, Harry.” Louis whines, begging quietly. “More.”

Slowly Harry’s slick middle finger presses in alongside, stretching and advancing, not stopping until both fingers are all the way in, then pausing while Louis’ body adjusts. He works two fingers in and out, twisting them, curling them, rubbing along his walls, and looking for his spot. When he finds it, he leans forward, licking up from Louis’ balls to the head of his cock, causing Louis to shudder and moan and fuck down onto Harry’s fingers. Harry waits until Louis asks for another finger before adding more lube and slipping his ring finger in with the other two.

When Louis fucks him, Harry is loud. Louder by far than he’s ever been with anyone else because Louis likes it and it spurs him on. Normally his noises reverberate around the room, bouncing off bathroom tiles or plate glass windows. He’s so enthralled with watching Louis, fascinated by the way his body goes slack, the way his forehead wrinkles, the way his breath puffs out each time Harry hits his spot, that he’s absolutely silent. The only sounds in the room are from the slick movement of Harry’s fingers pumping in and out of Louis’ ass and the tiny grunts and breathy moans coming from Louis’ throat.

“Now, please, I’m ready. Please, baby.” Louis’ voice is scratchy, but sweet, when he asks Harry to fuck him. So he rubs his spot once more, then pulls his fingers free, tipping his body forward to catch Louis’ lips in a messy kiss. Their teeth bump together and Harry laughs when Louis wrinkles his nose and says, “Ow.”

“You called me baby.”

“I’m sorry. Do you not—I can try not to.”

“No, no, it’s not that. You, um, you’ve said it before. You say it sometimes, a lot actually, right before you come. You say other stuff too.”

“Shut the fuck up, I do not.”

Harry sits up, nudges Louis to let him slide a pillow under his bum, then opens the condom and rolls it on. He spreads lube over his shaft and rubs his fingers around Louis’ rim, slipping two fingers inside again. “You do. You say all kinds of stuff. But I don’t care. You can call me that. Say anything.” He shuffles closer, lines up and pulls his fingers out to guide himself inside. “Hey, Lou? Take a deep breath and then let it out.” On Louis’ exhale, Harry pushes the head of his cock past the ring of muscle. He stills and watches Louis’ face, waits until it’s no longer tense, then slides in slowly to the hilt.

“Oh, oh, fuck. Lou. Hold on.” It’s incredibly tight, hot, and slick and Harry is immediately and completely overwhelmed. In all of his concern for Louis, thinking of making it good, prepping him slowly to make it as easy as possible, Harry hadn’t thought about how long it’d been since he’d topped. Sweat beads on his forehead, his body trembles, and as his hips stutter out of his control, they both groan. Louis locks his ankles behind Harry’s bum and pulls him closer; and for a few seconds, he thinks he’s going to come then and there, but he manages to reel himself in.

Louis let’s out a breathy moan and slides his hands up and down Harry’s arms, then says, “I can’t believe your cock is bigger than mine.”

Harry laughs and his body convulses with it and he gasps. “Shut up, Lou. Oh my god. Fuck. So tight.” He wants to piston his hips and drive himself forward hard and fast until he comes, but he takes a deep breath and slowly pulls out halfway, then plunges back in. Slow and steady, Harry fucks him. He hitches Louis’ hips higher, hitting him deeper, and reaches down to wrap his hand around Louis’ cock. He tries to stroke him in time to his thrusts, but only manages an awkward rhythm until Louis knocks his hand away. Harry drops forward instead, catching himself with his hands on the pillow on either side of Louis head, while Louis works his own cock. Harry places sloppy kisses on Louis’ mouth and jaw, circling his hips, fucking him faster. His orgasm is building, his balls draw up and he’s already panting against Louis’ cheek. He wants to make it good for Louis, wants him to love it, to make him come on his cock to prove that Louis was right to trust him enough to do this. But it’s too much. Louis is too pretty on a normal day, but seeing him like this, trembling and incoherent, it’s overwhelming.

“Fuck. I’m not gonna last.” He thrusts harder, pushing in and staying deep, then fucking fast again. “Fuck. Fuck. I’m coming.” His hips stutter as his orgasm takes over, he comes hard and fast into the condom, grunting and calling Louis’ name. He rests his head against Louis’ temple, sucking air into his lungs, body shaking. When he catches his breath, he pushes himself off of Louis, pulls out, and slips two fingers inside Louis’ hole. He searches until he finds Louis’ spot, then gets to work, sucking his dick and fingering him, pumping his fist around the base of Louis’ cock.

Louis’ legs are quivering, the noises coming from his mouth are mostly unintelligible moans and whines, but then he starts muttering. “Yeah, perfect, baby. So good, baby. Yeah. Mine.” When his voice disappears and his hips jerk up, Harry sucks him deeper, rubs firmly over his spot, and he comes, shooting hot and filling Harry’s mouth. Harry swallows it down and licks him clean, slipping his fingers out and wiping them off on the sheet.

Harry collapses down, lays his head on Louis’ hip, closes his eyes and sighs. “You called me baby again.”

Louis slips his hand into Harry’s hair, twirling it around his fingers, drawing circles on his scalp. “I guess I did.”

“I don’t know how you do it and like, sometimes more than once. I’m exhausted. I don’t know if I can do that again for like… a long time.” Harry mumbles into his skin. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t very good.”

“What?” Louis’ hand stills in Harry’s hair. “What do you mean not good? I can’t even move.”

“I don’t know. I think I need more practice maybe.”

“I’m not opposed to doing it again, if you want to call it practice, but, um, I’ve never… I loved it, Harry, and that’s, well, I never even liked it before.” Louis pats his hand against his chest. “Come up here, please.”

Harry sits back and removes the condom, carefully tying it and laying it on top of the condom wrapper on the bedside table. He crawls up and settles his hips between Louis’ and catches his lips in a soft kiss while Louis lightly drags his fingers across Harry’s shoulders, down his arms and back up again. “Hi,” Harry murmurs, brushing their lips together.

Louis slides his hands down Harry’s back, resting them on his bum. “Hi. That was wonderful.” He smacks Harry’s ass. “Thank you. You’re an incredible fuck.”

“Oh my god, shut up.” Harry tucks his face into Louis’ neck and mutters. “You’re welcome. You’re amazing. Let’s go eat dinner.” He pulls away and drops a quick kiss on Louis’ nose before clambering to his feet. He reaches a hand out and helps Louis stand, then holds his hand up, palm out. Louis stares at his hand, then looks at his face in confusion. Harry grins and says, “Don’t leave me hangin’, Lou.”

Louis rolls his eyes and high-fives him.

“Thanks for the orgasm.” Harry laughs. He finds Louis’ underwear sticking out from the edge of the bed and tosses them to him. His own are stuck inside his jeans, so he fishes them out.

“Round two after we eat.” Louis hip-checks Harry as he pulls his boxers over his bum.

Harry’s eyes go wide and he stammers out, “I—I don’t think, um, I don’t know if I can—”

Louis shakes his head slightly and steps in front of him, running his thumb down the middle of Harry’s chest to his belly button. “I want you to ride me. Please. It’s my favorite.”

Harry’s stomach muscles flutter under Louis’ touch and his face heats up. “Um, okay. I think I can do that.”

Louis rubs the palms of his hands up Harry’s sides and chest and over his nipples. “Then after, we can take a shower together and you can sleep here. You can snore and I can drool in your hair.”

Harry circles his arms around Louis’ shoulders and pulls him in close, resting their foreheads together and agreeing, “Yeah, okay.” Before catching Louis lips between his own and mumbling into his mouth, “And in the morning you’re on coffee duty.”

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