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A Cuddle Guide, courtesy of Louis

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“Did you know,” Louis muses as he curls up beside Liam, Harry’s arms tightening around his waist at the gesture, “that being addicted to cuddles is a thing?” he continues with a fake innocent tone.

“Oh, really?” Zayn humours him. “I wonder how we ended up like this,” he says at the same time he pinches Louis’ side who yelps and tries to slap him away but Niall catches his wrist from where he sat at the end of the bed.

“Calm down, sweets,” Niall laughs. “We ain’t complaining.”

“I sure hope so,” Louis huffs, pulling Niall forward and forcing him to properly join the cuddle pile they are all currently in. He ends up partially crushing Zayn but the latter barely reacts.

“So don’t act like you’re not the one who started this baby,” Harry chuckles while nuzzling his neck. “Because I’m still adjusting to all this.”

“Yeah, we got it about the hundredth time you groaned at the sight of us near Lou,” Liam mocks.

“He’s my boyfriend!”

“Am I?” Louis teases, throwing a glance behind him, “I don’t remember you asking me properly.” They are boyfriends, even if they’ve never referred to each other as such — it’s always been cute pet names on Harry’s part and Louis for some reason being obsessed with the word “lover” so “boyfriend” seemed like a downgrade for him — but Louis just likes to mess with him. They are way past this point in their relationship now but it is always fun to point that little fact out to him.

It just kind of happened even if Harry just took forever.

Harry blushes at the accusation and looks away. “Don’t tell me you kiss them too now. Cuddles is one thing—”

“Well actually—” Zayn starts but gets cut off by a pillow.

“Don’t even joke about it,” Harry warns as Zayn’s, Liam’s and Niall’s laughter fill the room.

Louis laughs as well, though in a quieter way, before turning around and curling up around Harry to calm his boyfriend down. It seems to work a little.

However, it is Liam’s turn to be bothered, now that he is left out so he sneakily moves Harry’s arms away so his could wrap around Louis’ middle with no problem.

It’s all a game, truly, Louis thinks to himself, pretending to not notice the glares Liam and Harry are currently sending each other, except there is no loser. He knows all of it is just playful fight.

Still, they’ve come such a long way. Getting these four boys to be comfortable enough to cuddle with him but also with each other — only so Louis could have his own warm cuddle pile whenever he needs extra comfort — was no easy task to do. Some, Louis muses as his eyes land on Niall and Zayn, were easier to get through. And others, he thinks — with a little snort at the thought of how stubborn Liam and Harry used to be — were a real pain in the ass for a while — metaphorically and literally, respectively.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

First year — September

 

Admittedly, moving in with four people you’ve never met before is quite a scary perspective but Louis has never been one to be afraid of taking a big leap of faith, even if this leap fails. And it has failed, a lot, in the past, whether it was in his love life, in his school life, or social life. Turns out, even in this day and age, being a flamboyant petite gay teenager won’t help you get a lot of friends in a small conservative town.

That doesn’t mean Louis let that bother him, his sisters constantly ask him how he always manages to keep his head up and to be honest — he has no idea either. He supposes he’s always had a strong support system at home despite the lack of parental figure, so he could cope with the lack of friends with the love of his mother and adorable little sisters. And it’s not like the handful of friends he managed to make were awful either, in fact they still keep in touch, kind of, they just never hang out as much as Louis was made to believe they should with how friends group are portrayed in the shows he watched… anyway. Now that he’s moving to London, however, it will be the opposite. He is leaving the comfort of home and familiarity behind and if he doesn’t get along with his roommates, truth be told, he wouldn’t know what to do or if he would be able to survive university life at all.

Hopefully, things will go well.

He has already met one of the boys he’s gonna share the next three or more years with — Liam Payne. When he described the other roommates — Niall, Zayn and Harry, if Louis recalls correctly — Liam seemed to be the one in charge of keeping everything in order. That intimidated Louis a little as he has never been one to… follow the rules without messing with them first, and just by looking at Liam, he knew that if he wanted to mess with him, he’d better be careful or he’d probably end up with a broken bone, whether accidental or not, probably accidental, Liam radiates an odd gentleness around him despite his harsh words and his muscles.

Now, facing the door of the flat with his few bags and two suitcases he is struggling to hold, he feels terrified. He takes a deep breath, before gently knocking and almost immediately someone opens the door, with big blue eyes and a contagious smile. Louis blinks, a little taken aback.

“You must be the new roommate, Louis right?” the guy asks excitedly, grabbing Louis’ arm and dragging him inside without waiting for an answer. “I’m Niall, and you have the room right next to mine, poor you, I hope you like music.”

“Who doesn’t?” Louis smiles weakly, still a bit unsettled.

“I’ll show you around first, the others are still outside running errands, or something,” Niall continues, now taking Louis up the stairs but he suddenly stops, prompting Louis to bump on his back and nearly fall over if he hadn’t had a hand on the handrail. “Oops sorry, let me…” he trails off, motioning to Louis’ baggage.

Louis lends him half of it and now, on a much calmer and slower pace, they continue their way upstairs. During the tour of the rather spacious flat, Niall fills him in with the remaining information he would need about the other boys. They are all the same age, making Louis technically the youngest as of now with a birthday in December, Zayn studies psychology, like Louis, but also has a minor in arts, Liam studies business, Niall studies music and Harry studies law but apparently spends a lot of time practising photography as well, which would explain the countless polaroid pictures he’s seen a bit scattered everywhere in the flat.

By the time Louis has put away all of his stuff in his own room — and after he’s already planned on how to decorate it to fit his personality more — Liam has come home, but Zayn and Harry are still nowhere to be found. Louis goes to greet him with a hug but the guy dodges it immediately with a “personal space, Louis” before disappearing in his own room promptly.

It hurt Louis a little.

“Don’t fret it, not a very affectionate guy, this one,” Niall tells him, throwing an arm around his shoulders to compensate this rejection. “Come help me make lunch, eh?”

Louis only nods at that, though with still a little pout. At least Niall is affectionate but knowing himself, he knew the Irish lad would soon get fed up of Louis’ weird need of physical attention at all times. He sighs and heads towards the kitchen.

Liam comes helping them after about ten minutes now that he’s changed into more comfortable clothes, but he keeps to himself, while Niall is happily singing and dancing around — which earns him a few annoyed glances from Liam — and Louis is silent as well, trying to figure out the dynamic between the two — as far as he was concerned, the four boys have been roommates for a few months already, yet they looked like complete strangers right now, or people who tried their best to ignore someone they cannot stand. It’s odd.

Louis only gets to meet Zayn and Harry after lunch and… it wasn’t really pleasant either. Zayn only acknowledges him with a nod and a quick up-and-down, before locking himself in his own room that happens to be at the opposite side of Louis’ and Niall’s living quarter. As for Harry…

He barely gets a glimpse of him, actually. He came home, eyes fixed on his phone, saw Louis from the corner of his eyes and then just continued his way towards his own room but at least bothered to yell “Welcome in this mess!” to Louis before disappearing behind a door. So really, Louis doesn’t know what he is supposed to think because he hardly even had the time to take in his appearance, unlike Zayn who at least had the decency to greet him with his presence for more than two seconds.

“Zayn keeps to himself while Harry is most often out with his more interesting uni friends,” Niall tells him then. “Liam keeps to himself too, when he doesn’t have to tell us off for not paying our part of the rent in time. ‘fraid you’re gonna be stuck with me most of the time if you ain’t one to go out lots.”

Louis smiles at that. “That doesn’t sound so bad, Nialler.”

“Oh, a nickname already? I like it, can I call you Loulou?”

That makes Louis giggle. The twins back home used to call him that before stopping a year or so ago because they dubbed it “too childish”. They call him “brother bear” now, which is equally as childish if you ask him.

“Yeah, it’s cute,” he approves.

“Like you,” the Irish boy laughs, booping his nose. Louis decides Niall is his favourite right here. “Let’s put on a movie and completely ignore to instead get to know each other, how does that sound?”

Louis smiles brightly. “Perfect.”

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Later that afternoon, Louis is now staring for a moment at the blank page, the motivation to study to prepare for his first day tomorrow nowhere to be found after such an unsettling arrival. He sighs as he can hear Niall strumming his guitar in the room next to his and Harry loudly talking on the phone – he sounded like he had an exciting night planned. He wonders for a quick second what Zayn must be doing, while he's pretty sure Liam is out for a jog as he heard someone leave a few minutes ago. 

Everyone just seems to do their own thing alone and… It isn't bad, per se, but it kind of rubs Louis the wrong way when he's used to a lively home life where everyone is willing to share almost everything with the other. It just feels… sad, and boring. Louis feels itchy as well, his body apparently missing the hugs and kisses he usually gets when he comes back home, the affection he's always needed to be motivated for a few days. 

Would he be able to make these four boys like him enough so they'd be comfortable sharing a cuddle with him? That makes Louis wonder. They didn't strike him as homophobic or filled with inner toxic masculinity, or they probably wouldn't have accepted him as a new roommate, let's be real. 

He looks at the blank page one more time before smiling. 

“Time to set a plan,” Louis whispers to himself like some sort of evil scheme. 

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Step one, be emotionally available

 

“Hey, I have a weird favour to ask you,” Zayn tells him while walking into his room the next day, not even knocking on the door. Louis was still in the process of dressing himself, currently shirtless, and he startles at the intrusion quickly grabbing a shirt to hide his tummy. “Oh yeah sorry about that, forgot you literally just moved in. I don’t mind you being shirtless y’know, Harry tends to go around naked in the morning.”

Still blushing, Louis nods. “That is… good information to have.” He doesn’t fancy seeing anyone naked while drinking his tea, he is not going to lie, no matter how fit the others are.

There is a moment of silence as Zayn, still with a stone-cold face, looks him up and down in a similar way as the day before. Louis usually wouldn’t complain about having a handsome guy looking at him that way, but he does need to get ready for the day and he isn’t comfortable enough to go around shirtless around people he’s known for not even a full day.

“So…?” he asks tentatively, “What did you want to ask me?”

This seems to snap Zayn out of whatever trance he was in as he claps his hands together. “Oh right!” A sudden smile overtakes his lips and Louis is stunned for the third time already this morning. “Model for me please.”

Another bit of silence. “Excuse me?”

“Yeah so actually if you wanna stay shirtless—”

“No wait, I’m gonna need a bit of context first mate.”

Zayn blinks up at him as if he was the crazy one in this situation before another wave of realisation goes through his face.

“Oh right, I keep forgetting you’re new here.” Louis isn’t about to question that. Zayn seems like a handful already. “I just have this habit of having to draw and paint anything that catches my eyes, doesn’t happen often but for some reason, my creative spirit just needs you to be my muse.”

Louis would be flattered, if he weren’t still a little bit creeped out.

“So, you haven’t drawn the other lads?”

Zayn shakes his head. “Nope. Except for Niall that one time he passed out on the floor after drinking too much so making a caricature to bully him was too tempting.” That makes Louis snort. “Listen, I know it sounds weird but—”

“I’ll do it,” the younger boy agrees with a shrug. “However I’ll be dressed.”

“Dammit!” Zayn dramatically deplores, which surprises Louis again. That guy is a fucking dork why did he act all mighty and mysterious the day before?

“Does your creative spirit want me to dress a certain way or… because my wardrobe isn’t really diverse right now,” Louis asks, looking at his suitcase full of clothes he still hasn’t organised in his closet yet.

“Oh, actually…” Zayn trails off, properly coming into the room and going straight to Louis’ suitcase, digging into it. “You don’t have any classes this morning right?”

“Nope, only at 3 pm.”

“Great! Because I’m inspired!” And suddenly Louis has four outfits thrown his way and he can barely see an overexcited Zayn amongst the pile of clothes now in his arms. “God I have been in such an art block lately and you’re exactly what I need right now! Hey, you study psychology too, don’t you?”

“Uh yeah—”

“Even better! We’ll have stuff to discuss about while I paint and you pose.” Zayn sighs in content. “A match made in heaven.”

“You’re forgetting the fact I’m not a model, Zayn.”

“Eh you seem like a natural, you could totally be one,” he dismisses, probably not noticing how furiously Louis was already blushing. “C’mon to my studio we go.”

So, Louis just follows him across the flat after putting one of the outfits — an oversized cream sweatshirt with washed denim. He can hear someone in the kitchen making breakfast, and a quick look around shows him that Niall’s door is still firmly closed while Liam’s one is half-opened, soft music coming out of it. By deduction, Harry is the one in the kitchen, presumably naked so Louis just hurries by Zayn’s side.

The room that Zayn calls his studio blows his mind as soon as he passes through the door. All walls are filled with graffitis and Louis can spot each of the other lads’ names somewhere in one corner, each in a specific font that he guess matches their personality according to Zayn. The whole room is a downright mess, paintings, sketches and what look like small sculptures made of clay scattered everywhere except in one side of the room with a white sheet hanging from the ceiling and a canvas a few feet away from that.

Again, it’s a little intimidating.

As Zayn takes place in front of his canvas and starts gathering his paint and palette, Louis tentatively tiptoes his way in front of the white sheet, putting his other clothes on the side. But then, when Zayn sits down on his stool, he moves the canvas away and has a pencil and a sketchbook on his laps.

“I like to only sketch the models first, so I can let you go without putting you through hours of me trying to get the paint to listen to me,” Zayn explains.

“I’d love to watch though,” Louis says.

“But you’ll get hungry.” Zayn smiles. “I'll show you the end result I promise. Now just stay like that! Perfect you already look soft like I want to draw.”

“I… I’m not doing anything?”

“Exactly!”

So Louis stays like that, hands linked in front of him, head tilted on the right with his gaze on the floor and he doesn’t know if he’s supposed to smile, but he doesn’t and Zayn doesn’t complain.

Silence overtakes the room for at least thirty minutes as Louis closes his eyes, trying to concentrate to hear any sound from outside or from anyone in the flat. All he can hear is the scribbling of Zayn’s pen, and maybe something falling in the kitchen and a yelp?

“When’s your birthday again?” Zayn suddenly asks. Louis startles, trying to look at the older boy without moving too much.

“December 24.”

“A Christmas baby!” Zayn exclaims oddly excitedly. “And a Capricorn like me.”

Louis starts to lift his head in wonder then realises he still needs to be still so he freezes. “And that’s good? I don’t really know anything about astrology.”

“I believe you’ll become my best friend,” the artist grins, prompting Louis to return the smile. 

“Did I even have some competition to begin with?”

“Not really, no.”

“You don’t get on well with the others?”

“We tolerate each other,” Zayn answers dismissively, eyes back on his notebook. “We don’t have much in common.”

“We’ve known each other for barely a day though?”

“You study psychology too, we’re both Capricorn, from big, modest families and we have similar taste in clothes and music — saw your room and the collection of vinyl. Already a lot. My little finger tells me you don’t like tattoos though.”

Louis shivers at the thought. “I’m scared of needles.”

Zayn looks at him for a long while, seeming taken aback. Louis slightly raises an eyebrow in confusion.

“No, just,” the artist starts, trying to find his words. “guess I’m not used to guys admitting they’re afraid of something like that. ‘specially needles. Took a month of torturing Niall for him to admit it.”

The thought makes Louis giggle. “That’s mean.”

“His fault for not admitting it when we all drunkenly decided to get a screw tattooed on our ankles.”

“You don’t get along that well but you all have matching tattoos?”

“It’s a stupid little thing. And again. Drunken decision.”

“So you all need alcohol to get along?” Zayn shrugs in agreement. “That’s sad.”

“Ouch.”

“I’m honest.”

“I gathered. I like you.”

Louis bites his lip to stop himself from smiling too big.

It goes on like that for the next hour, with Louis changing outfit or pose as Zayn pleases. Zayn surprisingly makes most of the conversation while Louis shares bits and pieces of his own life back home. It’s where they seem to connect the most on — their similar family life.

To his surprise, Zayn hugs him while thanking him again once they’re done before letting him go have his day.

When Louis goes back to his room, he immediately grabs his journal and notes:

Zayn is easier to get through than expected — not a bad thing.

A knock on his open door startles him. When he looks up, Harry is standing there with a little smile.

“Zayn didn’t freak you out too much did he?” the curly-haired lad asks with an amused tone. “It’d be a bummer if you decided to leave already.”

Louis rolls his eyes to prevent a laugh from escaping his lips — he is still a bit offended by Harry’s lack of proper greeting and introduction the day before.

“It will take more than that, I quite like being the centre of someone’s attention, bonus point if that someone is as attractive as him,” he replies with an innocent shrug, observing intently Harry’s reaction from the corner of his eyes. To his pleasure, the boy frowns for a quick second before he smirks as he takes a few steps forward.

“Is that so?” Harry asks, now standing right next to Louis’ bed where he is sat, but Louis cannot be bothered to hurt his neck to look up at him right now so his eyes remain on his journal.

Louis hums. “In no time, I’ll make all of you fall in love with me.” Something flickers in Harry’s eyes, so he continues, “And you won’t let go of your hold on me.”

“If you’re so sure,” Harry says at the same time as he sits down as well to nudge him in the arm. “Then I shall surrender now, shouldn’t I, pixie?”

Taken aback, Louis looks at him with a confused look — he is not sure the “pixie” was meant as a compliment but Harry didn’t sound mean while he was saying it.

“Perhaps…” the psychology student whispers, trying to not get distracted by the sudden proximity and Harry’s curls almost in his face. “But what’s the fun of that?”

Harry laughs at that, pulling back a little and then patting Louis’ head. Louis blinks at the odd gesture but… he doesn’t mind it, exactly.

“I like you,” the older boy concludes, now kissing his temple. That makes Louis blush way more furiously than it should. “Wanted to apologise too for yesterday, I was rude. No excuse really.”

“Niall told you off, didn’t he,” Louis deadpans.

Harry holds his hands in the air with a nonchalant smile. “Ay, guilty. That little guy is scary when he wants to. And when he’s protective of someone.” He claps his hands. “Anyway, I made breakfast, care to join me? Zayn will probably stay in his studio for a few more hours, perfecting your pretty face on his canvas so we’ll have to bring him lunch, and Niall probably won’t wake up before that so I’m afraid, it’s just me right now.”

“I just gotta write something and change and I’ll join you,” Louis says and Harry nods, getting up again — not without a quick glance towards Louis’ journal, though — then promptly walks away with a “hurry though” and a dismissive hand gesture.

Louis watches him leave with a little thoughtful pout.

Harry is a flirt. Serious or not?

 

-: ✧ :-

 

First year — October

 

Turns out, Liam loves Halloween. The others don’t seem to share this excitement, even Harry who claims Halloween is no fun anymore even though he came to the party with a full bedazzled baseball suit to imitate Elton John’s one he probably made himself so Louis suspects someone is a fucking big liar.

Louis, on his part, got pretty lazy and just dressed in all black, drew whiskers on his face and put on a headband with cat ears that were in one of his suitcases so he guesses he might have to give it back to Lottie or Fizzy next time he comes home. He isn’t one for dressing up into costumes… or for partying altogether, actually, but that was when he had no friends to party with.

Right now, he doesn’t mind Niall and Zayn battling to keep his attention on them, really. Harry is currently amusing the gallery, being the centre of everyone’s attention like always, and Louis finds himself sort of envious of such confidence — not that he actually likes being that centre of attention when he thinks about it, he likes attention, but not from a bunch of strangers he doesn’t care to keep close, really.

After a while, however, he realises someone is missing.

Liam is missing. Which is odd, since he is the host of the party — well, supposed to be, that is. Over the past month, Louis learned the flat is actually a property of the Payne, Liam’s parents, which explained why he was the most strict about the rules and deadlines. Louis took a liking on teasing him and challenging said rules. All in good fun, obviously, though in his actions he led Zayn and Niall to be a little disobedient as well…

But it’s all good. He thinks. Liam has shown some annoyance, obviously, but other than that, he stayed rather closed off. Nothing much different from their first encounter, despite Louis’ attempts at getting through to him.

Now, not seeing him around when he was so excited setting everything up just this morning was unsettling.

“Any idea where Liam is?” Louis suddenly asks, even though Niall was in the middle of telling a story about some couple falling in the toilet at his work.

“Uh, no.” Niall immediately goes back to his story while Zayn doesn’t seem too fazed by the lack of Liam. Louis frowns at such dismissiveness.

“Be right back, just gotta go to the toilet real quick,” he tells Zayn who nods with a smile.

Of course, it isn’t what he does.

As he makes his way upstairs, the music gets quieter and somehow, his steps feel heavier as he approaches the bedroom hallway. All doors are closed, but something still tells him to check on Liam’s. He cannot hear anything, but he gently knocks anyway.

He waits, bouncing on the heels of his feet, before, faintly, he hears a “who’s here” and he gulps, for some reason.

“Lou— I mean, Louis, heh,” he laughs softly, he got too used to Zayn calling him Lou. Niall has been pretty adamant on always calling him Loulou as well. As for Harry, they haven’t really talked a lot in this past month. The guy truly spends most of his time on campus or with other friends.

“… Come in.”

That is when Louis realises he’s never been to Liam’s room before. He’s had a few sleepovers at both Zayn’s and Niall’s room, and he had a glimpse of Harry’s room but because he walked passed it once while the door was wide open and Harry had a model over he was taking pictures of — and later probably did more, but who was Louis to judge, the girl was gorgeous. Liam, however? He is very private, he came to learn, and the many times Louis tried to bother him by knocking on his door à la Anna from Frozen, Liam played his part always saying “Go away, Louis” intentionally, always.

Tonight, he might have caught him in a moment of weakness, though.

He takes a deep breath, then walks in.

He is tempted to take a look around — feeling like he won’t have the opportunity to enter this very room ever again, really — but his eyes directly land on Liam, sat on his bed, face in his hands. He is dressed as Superman, but he spared himself the uncomfortable latex around his… lower region, and opted for the Clark Kent office look but with the shirt opened showing off the S symbol. Except he looks nothing close to powerful right now, fake glasses discarded on the floor. On a normal day, Louis would have thrown a playful remark, to make Liam react — and sometimes he didn’t even react really, he was good at ignoring everything and everyone — but here, he knows it isn’t the right time for teasing or banter.

So he makes his way towards the bed, and simply plops down beside the older boy, unintentionally bouncing on the bed — his mattress is awfully fluffy.

“Hey buddy,” Louis says carefully, going to give him a little push on his shoulder like he usually does to get his attention but Liam doesn’t seem amused and catches his wrist firmly. Louis would lie if he said that didn’t slightly turn him on. He shakes his head. Not the time.

“Right, sorry Liam,” he says instead. Liam doesn’t let go, on the contrary, he tightens his hold and Louis raises an eyebrow at that.

“What are you doing here? Why aren’t you down there partying?”

“‘Cause you were missing,” Louis replies like it is obvious. To him it is, to Liam not so much considering the way his eyes slightly widen. “I wondered where you were. You were so excited about this party.”

Liam is drunk, or at least a little tipsy, he can tell. His cheeks are slightly red, and his eyes don’t quite meet his gaze, they seem glassy, elsewhere and present at the same time.

“Uh, don’t you hate me, though?”

“What?”

“Out of all the people, I really expected you the least.”

Okay, so, drunk Liam is brutally honest.

“Though I shouldn’t have, at least you know I exist. Better to be hated than ignored.”

Louis frowns.

“I don’t hate you,” he argues gently, resting his chin on Liam’s shoulder. Liam is too drunk to complain about the proximity for once. “I like messing with you, because you need to loosen up every once in a while.”

Liam is silent for a moment, before he turns his head, nose hitting Louis’ forehead. “How do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Be so… trusting, loving, I don’t know. Maybe I’m the one who resents you actually.”

Louis hums, not truly affected by his words, then tightens his hold on Liam’s arm as he thinks for a moment. “Truth be told, got tired of being tough I guess. Y’know, my whole life I felt like I wasn’t good enough and that was why Troy left—”

“Wait, who’s Troy?”

“Uh, my biological dad. Was born Louis Austin, ugly innit? Probably would have taken my mum’s name later anyway, Poulston or Darling sounds better. Louis Darling sounds fucking cute actually. Anyway.” He ignores Liam’s concerned look and continues, “So then mum got sick for a while and I had to provide for my sisters and comfort them, so I couldn’t let them see me be weak or it would have discouraged them. They needed one strong man to look up to, I believe they still do, though I’m not strong like I used to be, I like to believe that there’s some strength in being more vulnerable and affectionate, though.”

“Could be dangerous. You could—”

“Be taken advantage of, yeah I know,” Louis laughs at that. “I only am like that with people I trust.”

“And you trust me? And the others? Even if it’s just been a month?”

“Well…” Louis pouts when Liam shuffles a little away so he cannot keep his chin on his shoulder and has to settle for rubbing his cheek on his arm. “Niall is an obvious one, Zayn took me by surprise but we kinda click, and I don’t trust Harry yet I think… You, on the other hand, you accepted me here, it’s your parents’ flat after all, and it’s obvious you just want everything to go smooth and well. You don’t mean harm, am I wrong?”

“Not intentionally…” Liam admits. “Still feel like I only annoy you all.”

“You do.”

“Hey! Aren’t you supposed to comfort me?!”

“Doesn’t mean I can’t be honest.” Louis sticks his tongue out, making Liam roll his eyes and then pinch his nose. The younger boy yelps, and kicks him in the shin. Liam barely reacts, but he has a small smile on his face. “Don’t act like I don’t annoy you in return!”

“Fair enough.”

“Look— we’re roommates, we’re all gonna annoy each other every once in a while over mundane things. ’s like a family, in a way. So don’t fret it, yeah?”

Liam hums, then, to Louis’ surprise, he leans against him and when Louis tentatively wraps his arms around his shoulders to nuzzle his neck — thing he just loves to do with Niall and Zayn now — Liam doesn’t flinch nor goes away.

“You gotta be patient with me, Louis,” Liam says softly. “I’m still learning.”

“Learning?”

“How to have friends. Didn’t have that luxury growing up.”

Louis smiles, getting closer somehow and ending up on the older boy’s laps. “That makes the two of us.” Again, he ignores the surprised little gasp Liam lets out. “And don’t apologise dummy, you’re already a great friend, maybe a bit too stiff at times. But do tell me if I don’t respect some boundaries, or if I’m being too much, we gotta adapt to each other, yeah?”

Liam nods, arms firmly holding him around his waist. “Thank you, Lou.”

Later that night, Louis writes:

Liam is just a soft bear in need of love — still a little bit scared of it. Should tell him to dress up as a huge teddy bear for next Halloween. He’s also an emotional drunk, all the feelings he keeps inside, they just overflow.

“Kitten got to play?”

Louis yelps at the sudden voice near him and he promptly closes the notebook.

“You let your door open,” Harry says casually as if he didn’t nearly give Louis a heart attack.

“What the fuck, you gotta stop doing that!” Harry only laughs to his face, smile almost as blinding as all the fake shiny rocks on his pink sunglasses.

“But it’s funny! You jump so easily.”

“As if you wouldn’t startle if I did that.”

“It is difficult to surprise me, yeah.”

He’s so cocky, so confident and so narcissistic. Louis doesn’t know if he likes that yet or not. He wonders when he’ll be able to see a bit more of Harry’s softer side. He’s seen it, from afar, when he’s with his friends. He is affectionate, like Louis, never hesitating to wrap an arm around his friends’ shoulders, kissing their temple and all that stuff. But he’s always been distant with Liam, Niall, Zayn and him. Louis wonders why.

“What are you doing here anyway? Don’t you have friends to entertain or something?” Louis asks, rubbing his cheeks to find black ink on his hand. Right, he forgot to wash that.

“They’re all passed out in my room by now.”

“So what, you don’t have any space left to sleep now?”

“Well… actually yeah.”

Louis blinks at that. So what? What is he supposed to say now?

“Don’t worry, I’ll sleep on the couch, won’t bother you,” Harry dismisses. Louis swears he sees a slight blush on his cheeks despite Harry looking away so he can’t have a proper look on his face. “But, just wanted to say — Liam looked… happier when I saw him, even if he didn’t come back to the party I guess. So, whatever you told him… good job on that.”

Louis shrugs with a little smile.

“Just doing my part, as a friend and roommate, y’know?”

There is a bit of silence as they look at each other in the eyes.

“You’re a psychology student though, you’re not studying us or some shit, right?”

That makes Louis snort. “And give me more homework than I already have? Uh uh, no way.”

“Too bad, would make a good study I suppose. Four completely different people that somehow fit together better ‘cause of one pixie.”

“You gotta stop calling me a pixie though mate.”

“I mean it affectionately.” And Harry smiles at that. A warm, almost shy smile. “Also… I’ve seen Zayn and Niall hangout together lately, I don’t think it’s too farfetched to say it’s thanks to you. Before I always heard them bitch about each other under their breath. You must use magic, I cannot believe anything otherwise.”

“Oh.” Is that so.

Another silence. Then, Harry bends down and kisses his forehead.

“G’night Lou.”

“Goodnight,” he replies.

And then he’s off.

Louis looks down at his notebook he’s been keeping a hard hold on for the whole duration of their talk.

Maybe I’m weak for forehead kisses, he writes.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Step two, make them feel listened to

 

First Year — November

 

Christmas break approaches. It doesn’t feel like it in the flat, with how devoid of decorations it is. For Louis, festive season was always stressful yet joyful at the same time. Being the older in the household meant that he was the only one his mother talked to in order to help her find gifts for all the others while he usually didn’t receive much — or he would get one collective birthday and Christmas gift at once. He is used to running around the house to decorate or hide gifts a bit everywhere so the twins particularly wouldn’t try to find them.

The flat, however, feels so… silent, and indifferent about the festive season.

“Let’s do a Secret Santa, come on!” Louis whines, not letting go of Liam’s arm as he paces around the living room, Niall, Zayn and Harry looking at them in amusement. Louis is aware of how childish he currently looks but to be fair, he spent all his life being a mini adult for his family, and now he is the youngest in the flat so he will take advantage of that.

“We’re five, how does that even work Louis?”

“What do you mean, everyone still gets a gift?”

“Uh?”

“You don’t know how Secret Santa works, do you?” Louis doesn’t mean it to be accusatory but Liam still frowns as he blushes.

“Shut up, alright we’ll do it if the others are up for it as well.”

“We agreed a week ago actually,” Harry butts in just as Louis lets go of Liam and rushes towards the couch, retrieving a little hat from behind it. “Pixie has been planning this for a while, apparently.” Louis sticks his tongue out at that.

“Christmas baby is passionate about this,” Zayn sing-songs with a not so subtle challenging look towards Harry while saying the nickname, just as Louis stands up in front of him, presenting him the hat.

Inside, five folded pieces of papers. It isn’t hard to guess what is written on them.

“If you pick your own name, obviously put it back in.”

Zayn only rolls his eyes as he shuffles the papers a bit for good measures, then picks on. As he opens it, he frowns a little, then simply puts it in his pocket.

Then each takes a turn; Niall is conflicted upon reading his, Harry smiles brightly and Liam sighs heavily. As for Louis, he is quite satisfied with already an idea in head.

He got Niall.

“Nothing over £15, that’s the limit right?” Liam asks.

“Yeah, let’s keep it small, I’m sure we’ve all got lots of other gifts to buy,” Niall says, specifically looking at Zayn and Louis who happen to indeed have the biggest families. They both shrug.

“Actually already did all of mine,” Louis says.

“Ditto,” Zayn bounces back.

“It’s the first week of November, what the fuck?”

“Hey, I’ve got six younger siblings, it’s no joke!” Louis laughs. “Besides, gotta be the best brother ever so I can guilt trip them if they forget to get my birthday present as well.”

“And my sisters have expensive taste,” Zayn simply puts in. “Gotta order stuff early before it gets out of stock, y’know.”

“I’m glad I don’t know actually,” Harry comments. “Should thank Gemma for not being too picky.”

“Or you’re the one not making an effort, perhaps,” Louis teases. “I pity whoever you picked.”

Harry frowns, walking towards Louis specifically to look down on him. Louis only rolls his eyes with a snort. “Is that a challenge?”

“Yup.”

They stare at each other for a solid ten seconds more, and Harry is the one who looks away, with a dismissive hand gesture.

“Accepted, then.”

And then he walks off which is his signature move now, Louis concedes. The latter snorts before letting out a full-on laugh as he falls on the couch beside Zayn.

“You two are fucking weird mate,” Liam comments finally. “Sure he doesn’t bother you too much? I can talk to him.”

“I can handle it,” Louis refuses. “It’s fun.”

“Just don’t end up in his bed, I guess,” Zayn mutters but Louis hears it perfectly.

That, he can’t guarantee, if he’s being honest, but that is an issue for another day. For now, it’s Christmas shopping for Niall. He’ll worry about Harry later.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

First Year — December

 

“I genuinely don’t know what to get Liam, feels like the guy doesn’t like anything!” Zayn complains as he and Louis are currently walking in a mall.

“He’s actually interested in art, he always slows down when he walks past your studio when the door’s open but never dares to ask you if he can take a proper look. He also doodles a lot of buildings when he pretends to be studying,” Louis comments absentmindedly, his eyes intensely looking around for some inspiration for Niall’s gift, but not finding anything. “You two would get along if you gave it a try.”

“Wait what, how do you know that?”

“We’ve been spending some time together.” Louis shrugs. Ever since Liam’s slight breakdown at Halloween, they have started to hang out together every Wednesday, the only day in which they both are home with nothing to do while Zayn, Niall and Harry have either classes or work. They don’t do much, and they barely talk, actually, sometimes they are in Louis’ room, sometimes in Liam’s, most of the time they just do their own work in silence, just in the same room.

Louis decided that he should wait for Liam to initiate… something once he’s comfortable enough with Louis’ overly affectionate being instead of Louis risking to push his boundaries. Lately, though, he did notice how annoyed Liam tended to look when Louis stayed glued too long to Niall’s or Zayn’s side, though, so he suspects Liam is getting quite jealous but refuses to admit it quite yet.

“Did you go soft on him?” Zayn asks.

“Kinda, I guess. Anyway, I don’t know what to get Niall either.”

“He’s easy to please.”

“But I don’t want it to look like I didn’t make an effort in his gift anyway!” Louis pouts. “I might have an idea but it’s well over the budget.”

“Well, what is it?”

“Plane tickets for Dublin and back.”

“Louis no.”

“I’ve got money to spare and he’s really been complaining about missing home! I don’t want him to spend Christmas alone, that’s sad.”

“You really pay that much attention to us?” Zayn wonders as if it was some incredible thing.

“As a friend, yeah?”

Silence.

“Anyway Niall seems okay with the idea to have the flat to himself though,” the older boy weakly argues, prompting Louis to give him a pointed look. “Yeah okay he’s probably not. Um, his parents feel guilty too, not being able to buy him tickets home.”

That makes Louis smile a little. He didn’t tell Zayn that. “And how do you know that?”

Zayn groans, looking away. “We’ve been spending some time together, he’s a good guy, and his music’s interesting.”

The happiness bubbling up inside Louis is almost overwhelming. 

 

-: ✧ :-

 

He ends up buying the plane tickets because of course he does; when he is set on something, Louis rarely backs down. And, well, Christmas is the time to be generous, he guesses.

And that is basically how he ends up with arms full with a happy sobbing Niall who just somehow broke down in front of him as soon as he saw the tickets.

“We said nothing over £15 Louis you idiot!” Niall yells.

“You can’t hug me, cry while smiling and yet call me an idiot that’s illegal,” Louis chastises, earning a slight punch in the arm as Niall pulls back. “Ouch, I bruise easily be gentle with me.”

Niall rolls his eyes. “Idiot.”

“Yeah, you already said that.” Louis gently holds his face, thumbs wiping away his tears. “Might have to call your family, though.”

“I still can’t believe it, that’s too much Lou.”

“Nonsense! No one deserves to spend this time of the year alone if they don’t want to. Would have invited you to mine, but mum and my sisters probably would have assumed you’re my boyfriend so I wanted to spare you that embarrassment.”

“How would it be an embarrassment? Any guy would be fucking lucky to have you.”

“Is that an offer?” Louis teases. “An embarrassment because my family is quite invasive. I never brought anyone home, even friends, so they get too excited when they learn I’m being social for once.”

Niall snorts. “I’m the opposite. Think I scared dad a lot proclaiming I found love every two months. I’ve been slacking off lately, or taking a break I guess.”

“That’s alright too.”

“I know,” he sighs, then he frowns, suddenly realising something. “You know what, I was going to say I miss having someone close with whom I can share anything with but… I’ve got you, don’t I?” A bright smile overtakes Niall’s face, warming Louis’ heart who can’t help but reciprocate such joyful expression.

“You do, for as long as I don’t freak you out with how many cuddles I need in a day.”

“As if I’d mind that when it’s fucking freezing.”

“You won’t be pleased to know I’m the same when it’s summer, then.”

Niall does seem to hesitate for a second there, which, Louis cannot blame him for, really.

“Y’know what? I’ll deal with that when it comes around,” the Irish lad declares with a confident nod. “Thanks a lot again, Loulou.”

“Pleasure’s all mine, Nialler.”

Niall thanks him again about twenty more times before finally letting go to lock himself in his room, phone and ticket planes in his hand and a huge smile on his face. That is when Louis checks the time, and realises he probably should go make dinner — or well, fetch Zayn and tell him they should cook something because he cannot be left alone unsupervised in the kitchen.

To his biggest surprise, he finds Zayn in his art studio… with Liam, both boys sat on the ground and a bunch of sketches laying all around them. Louis blinks at the sight before softly knocking on the door — despite it being wide open — and wonders out loud, “Hey, hope I’m not interrupting anything?”

To his delight, the two boys only smile and invite him in, so Louis promptly plops down next to them while being careful not to step on any drawings on his way in. This room will forever be a creative mess, he assumes.

“Just in time, was showing Liam my drawings of you, haven’t finished the big painting yet,” Zayn explains, prompting Louis to actually blush because oh, he forgot for a second Zayn developed a tendency to just draw him even when he’s not even modelling for him. “Planning on teaching him some stuff as well, so be prepared to have now both eyes on you next time I ask you to model.”

Louis frowns in confusion. So is that Zayn’s Secret Santa gift? Art lessons? He must have found Liam an art kit or something, though. Louis isn’t too familiar with this world. His artistic abilities are really limited, he can barely draw a heart without it looking like a butt.

“You’re quite the muse,” Liam chuckles softly. “In no time we’ll have Niall writing songs about you and Harry asking you to model for him too.”

Louis hums. He isn’t opposed to the idea, to be honest. And now that he thinks about it, he hasn’t heard any of Niall’s own music apart from the few times he could hear him through the wall strumming his life away. “And what about you? How would I be your muse as well?” he asks.

He expects a sarcastic answer, instead, he gets a genuine one: “Easy, you’re the one who keeps me trying new stuff. I do consider that being a muse.” And that renders Louis speechless and a blushing mess again.

Zayn coughs, getting the attention back on him. “Uh uh, I was there first.”

“You’re saying that to me, or Louis?” Liam asks, amusement clear in his smile.

“You, obviously, mate.” It’s not exactly an angry tone, but it is like a playful… challenge. Louis blinks with a little pout.

An interesting predicament.

“Now now boys, I’ve got enough love and time for everyone in this household anyway!” Louis exclaims, prompting the two boys to break the staring contest and roll their eyes at him. “Speaking of which Liam, how was the Secret Santa?”

“Ah, I picked Harry, got him a candle since he seems keen on collecting every scent possible,” Liam answers, frowning as he said so. Clearly he had a little bit of trouble finding a gift for the guy. “Not really personal, but since we don’t hang out loads…”

Louis visibly deflates. “Oh I thought you picked me since Niall had you,” he complains a little, disappointment filling his voice at the fact the day is coming to an end. Did Harry forget, then? He hasn’t seen him at all.

“Sorry boo bear,” Liam affectionately says, which Louis can’t help but a smile a little too. Ever since Liam heard his mum call him that through the phone that one time they were hanging out together, he has been adamant on calling him boo bear as well. He proclaims it is so that he finally has his own nickname for Louis, even if he didn’t come up with it himself. 

“I haven’t seen Harry at all today either, so I couldn’t give him his present yet. Might just leave it in his room. But he seemed pretty serious about that challenge or whatever, and now that we know he picked you, well then you shouldn’t worry, I think,” he continues, with a reassuring smile.

“Doesn’t he leave tomorrow though?” Louis points out.

“If he truly forgot I can beat him up for you,” Zayn butts in and that is enough for Louis to laugh out loud and forget his disappointment for a moment.

“It’s not that important anyway, I’m glad this Secret Santa at least brought you two a bit closer,” Louis admits. And he suddenly realises again he forgot to ask Niall what he got for Zayn, but he’s sure he’ll find out soon enough. For now… “Actually came here because it’s almost dinner time and Niall is busy announcing to his family he’s actually going back home for the next week, so, care to make sure I don’t burn this flat down?”

Niall later joins them with the brightest smile Louis has ever seen, and he ends up not being able to help Liam and Zayn cook because the Irish lad just traps him in a hug on the couch and refuses to let go despite Liam’s complaints. So, they decided to eat in the living room while watching some stupid Christmas movie, Niall and Louis cuddled on the couch while Zayn and Liam sat on the floor. They didn’t seem to mind too much, Louis notes, as they start talking in a low voice to each other halfway through the movie and though Louis can’t pick up what they are talking about, he doesn’t miss the crinkle by Liam’s eyes that used to be pretty rare appear as Zayn rambles on and on about whatever topic he is currently passionate about.

Louis smiles to himself as he nuzzles further into Niall’s neck. He feels pretty accomplished, right now.

At some point, he seems to have fallen asleep because when he opens his eyes again, it is completely dark outside and he’s somehow tucked warmly in his bed. The bad side, now, is that he doesn’t feel tired at all anymore — all in all, he even feels kind of excited about the upcoming days knowing how much closer he and his roommates have become and with the prospect of going back to his family as well soon enough.

So, he switches his bedside lamp on, grabs his notebook and a pen, and shares his achievement.

Niall is a sweetheart. Nothing much to say, really. Liam and Zayn have started bonding over art nerd stuff, good for them.

There’s a sudden squeaking noise and then, Louis hears a “hey”. Looking up, of course, he sees Harry there. He really has a tendency to show up while Louis is writing.

“Hey,” Louis replies softly, inviting Harry inside with a simple nod. “Look who finally showed up. What are you doing here?”

“Giving you your presents. Sorry it wasn’t Liam who picked you.”

Louis laughs softly. That was on him for badly guessing. If Liam had picked him it would have left Harry with no one to give a present to, actually.

“How did you even know I was up? It’s…” Louis briefly looks at his clock, gasping at the sight. “4 am, fucking hell.”

“I didn’t, I was planning on just leaving your gifts in your room then noticed the light.” Harry is still hiding said gifts behind his back.

“Where were you all day, even?” Louis is genuinely curious because out of all his other roommates, Harry truly is the only one he barely knows anything about and thus despite their occasional sort of flirty discussions here and there. There is a connection Louis cannot deny but he isn’t one to fall just at first glance. He wants to know someone first, will never be up for a one-night stand and he does truly want to get to know Harry… But the latter doesn’t seem really keen on doing that just yet. Or he has a completely different view on their… thing, and thinks just casually flirting with Louis every time they talk will be enough.

And indeed, instead of replying, Harry just throws two wrapped boxes in Louis’ laps and then just stares with an excited little smile reminding Louis of a child.

“Wait, two?”

Harry nods. “The Secret Santa, and then your birthday. I’ll tell you which is which. But be careful with the biggest one.”

“You just threw them in my laps?”

“Ssh, open them!”

And so Louis does, ending up with fairy lights disguised as vine leaves and an artificial terrarium in the shape of a jewellery box, almost, with tiny daffodils, daisies and roses inside of it. Louis’ heart flutters.

“The fairy lights are the Secret Santa, I remember you complaining about wanting to brighten up your room and I thought you’d want something a bit more interesting than just plain fairy lights,” Harry starts to explain but Louis gasps dramatically.

“There is no such thing as plain fairy lights, Harold!” he protests, to which his only response is a pinch on the forehead. Right he deserved that one.

“And the terrarium is your birthday present, I handmade the daisies!” Harry continues proudly, “and a friend did the daffodils and daisies because my creative abilities were too restricted.”

“Was that friend Zayn?” Louis asks. So the fucker was lying earlier, or he genuinely wanted to beat Harry up, one or the other.

Harry looks like he’s been caught in a lie, for some reason. “Uh, yeah. Funny that, when I first asked his help he told me to fuck off, but as soon as I said it was for you he did a full 180. Anyway back to me.” Louis huffs, but he is smiling warmly at the taller boy. “Hope I didn’t mess up your favourite flowers.”

“You definitely didn’t,” Louis assures him, “though I am surprised you even know?”

“You share a lot about yourself, you’re not the only one who pays attention to others,” Harry informs him with a cheeky tone and a wink.

“But you’re barely home.”

“Home?”

Louis blushes. Yeah so, he’s already attached to this place and his boys, sue him.

“That’s cute, it does feel like home ever since you’re here, yeah,” Harry concedes with a warm smile as he sits down next to Louis.

The smaller boy smiles as well, putting away the gifts behind him to reach out for Harry and hold his arm. Harry leans into it immediately. “Then I would love to see you around a bit more, Haz.”

“Your wish is my command, pixie,” Harry playfully answers but Louis pouts at the still dismissive tone.

“Seriously,” he insists. “If not with the others, would love to hang out together a bit more and not just when you decide to jump scare me in my own room when I’m writing or studying.”

“But what’s the fun of that,” Harry echoes Louis’ words, looking down at him.

“Me actually opening up to you and the other way around instead of trying to pick up information about the other through other people,” Louis answers seriously, cheek not so gracefully squished against Harry’s shoulder. “That’s a lot of other, and not enough of us, if you ask me.”

There is a bit of silence and for a moment, Louis thinks the conversation will end there and he can close his eyes and maybe lull himself back to sleep thanks to the extra human warmth now provided to him by the law student, but then the latter speaks up again in a low whisper.

“Y’know…” Harry seems hesitant, despite how close their faces already are, so Louis chuckles, lifting his head up more so their eyes meet properly, his grip tightening on his arm.

“Yeah?”

For a moment, Louis thinks he is going to close the gap between them but then Harry closes his eyes. “Nothing,” the taller boy finally says as he backs away with a defeated sigh. Louis lets go abruptly when Harry just stands up as if Louis wasn’t putting any weight on him — he probably wasn’t, to be fair. “See you in a week.”

Louis doesn’t even try to hide his disappointment but Harry isn’t looking at him anyway anymore.

“See you,” he replies.

Guess he’ll only see him again just before the New Year now. Louis sighs as he looks around the room, debating where to put the terrarium and the fairy lights now.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

First year — December, New Year’s Eve

 

“Surprise!” Louis gets suddenly lifted in the air and thrown over someone’s shoulder. He lets out a very manly squeal as he hears Zayn very indignantly yell out “Harry for fuck’s sake be careful!” Harry only laughs, easily manoeuvring Louis so now he is carrying him bridal style.

Louis glares at him.

“I’m not a fucking doll to play around with, Harold!”

“Well then say that to Zayn I ain’t the one dressing you up in kinky outfits to paint you, now that’s treating you like a doll,” Harry replies.

“Knock off,” Zayn huffs. “There’s nothing kinky about our sessions, can’t say the same about you and your artsy nude black and white pictures that end up in loud sex.”

“Artistic choice, mate. Everything’s consensual too.”

“Then don’t judge mine.”

“Guys I’m still here,” Louis butts in. “Harry I’d like to be back on my feet again so I can finish preparing that goddamn party.”

“I’m wounded by how unimpressed you sound right now, I did just lift you like you weigh nothing,” Harry complains even though he does carefully put Louis down at his request.

“No offence, but I helped Liam working out by literally sitting on his back while he does push-ups and he seemed hardly bothered, and both Zayn and Niall developed a habit of lifting me up out of nowhere as well,” Louis explains, sending a glare Zayn’s way as well now. “I’m being thrown around here like a rag doll I swear.”

“Don’t act as if you hate it,” Zayn accuses. “You literally ask us to carry you sometimes or when you fake sleep on the couch so you don’t have to get up while we carry you and tuck you to bed!”

“I don’t do that, I have no idea what you’re talking about mate,” Louis denies. “At least Liam holds me right when he does it. When it’s Niall or you, I always have a small heart attack because a voice in the back of my mind always tells me you two noodle arms will drop me at any time.”

“That’s bloody offensive, Niall’s been working out have you seen his arms?!”

“You aren’t even going to defend yourself?”

“No I’m fucking weak and I know it. You’re just so light so even I can carry you I’m genuinely scared you’re going to get knocked over by the goddamn wind one day.”

“Oh come on!”

“Right, is the lovers’ quarrel over?” Harry interrupts, absolutely not trying to hide his annoyance. “Nice seeing you after two weeks, by the way,” he continues sarcastically.

“Oh my god right weren’t you supposed to come back after New Year?” Louis exclaims.

“I thought you’d be happy to see me?” Harry answers and ignores Zayn’s snort. Louis notes that he doesn’t sound as cocky as he usually does, but rather curious and a little hurt.

And we can’t have that, he decides, he has never seen a sad Harry before and he doesn’t plan on seeing that anytime soon either. So instead, he goes for his signature move: he traps the taller boy in a hug, head resting affectionately on his chest.

“Welcome back, Haz.”

He hears Zayn leave just as Harry’s arms wrap around Louis’ waist and the future lawyer sighs in what seems like pure content.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

The flat is packed now, and Louis made 100% sure his own door was locked because he doesn’t plan on walking in some couple shagging in his own goddamn bed — he is not saying that out of experience, clearly not.

He doesn’t know most of these people, though he does recognise a few faces from his classes he never talked to. In fact, now he realises how little he tried to socialise outside of his roommates, he’s been maybe a bit too focused on them.

Truth be told, when Niall asked if they could host a New Year’s party, Louis was scared it would end like the Halloween one with Liam disappearing in his own room all over again, but to his delighted surprise, Liam has been the proper life of the party. Without even being drunk. He’s been going around dancing with everyone, distributing drinks on drinks and has been particularly affectionate with Louis whenever some guy tried to talk to him and Louis would usually feel pretty bothered at being so blatantly cock-blocked like that but he just physically cannot be mad at such a happy Liam he rarely ever gets to see in public.

“Lou bear come on, with those hips you’re telling me you can’t dance? Lies lies lies,” Liam tuts as he drags him to the dance floor, people parting like the fucking Red Sea.

Ah, Liam has also updated his nickname from Boo Bear to Lou Bear “so that it is truly different from what Jay calls you” — oh right the guy is in a first name basis with his mum too now apparently, Louis has no idea how it happened — and then proceeded to say “sorry Lou you’re gonna have to bear with it” and Louis immediately ran to Harry’s room to slap him because one way or another he knew this newfound love of puns from Liam was his fault.

Anyway, back to the present.

“Don’t objectify me like that, Lima,” he protests with a laugh.

“You constantly comment about my arms?”

Louis actually blushes at that. “Anyway my hips do not lie — they don’t know how to move properly.”

“You worry too much, let loose and just follow the beat, see?” And Liam proceeds to flawlessly dance to some upbeat song currently playing, shocking Louis with how natural it comes to him.

Oh how the tables have turned, Louis thinks since he ends up in a fit of giggles as Liam twirls him around until he loses balance and the taller boy just ends up lifting him up for a while and then lead him in another impromptu and uncoordinated waltz. They soon become the centre of the attention, and Louis can vaguely hear Niall and Zayn cheering in the distance above the music and the other people dancing and shouting as well.

However, Louis soon becomes self-conscious again. See, he loves having the attention on him… when it’s in a small group, between people he knows and cares about and he wants to be affectionate with. He doesn’t do as well in parties, or in bars, his awkwardness always shines through if he isn’t at the very least a little intoxicated.

Fortunately, the attention shifts back to the television as the presenter announces that only ten minutes are left until the new year. Soon everything becomes a blur around him and while Liam is distracted, he takes a few steps back, hiding from the party again.

The countdown flashes before Louis’ eyes and warmth fills his heart at the prospect of this year ending in such euphoria. People are loud and proud, drink in one hand, the other either in the air as well or wrapped around someone else’s hand. He can spot Niall, Liam and Zayn each with a pretty stranger at their side; faces Louis doesn’t bother remembering because he knows he will most likely not see them again because this whole party feels like another dimension altogether.

He startles when an arm wraps around his middle but he doesn’t move away, immediately recognising the perfect mix of fruit and spices so strongly associated with Harry whenever he goes out.

Ah, he wondered where the boy was all night.

“Let’s kiss at midnight,” the hushed voice of the taller boy graces his ear and Louis hums with a nod.

Again, this feels like another dimension, Louis is allowed to let go just for that night.

And so the countdown gets louder as everyone else joins in with the presenter’s voice on TV, but Louis doesn’t pay attention to that because Harry already leans down, eyes clear and smile shy yet warm. Louis observes his face, so close again, but this time with a purpose, and no trace of alcoholic decision anywhere in his eyes or movements.

Midnight explodes into a new, hopefully bright year and Louis lets go as his and Harry’s lips meet oh so softly. Harry immediately cradles his cheek with one hand while the other settles on the small of his back and Louis might have as well just melted right here and there.

This is supposed to be short and sweet, a good luck kiss for the year ahead, but Louis feels his heart flutter when Harry pulls away for just a brief moment, looks directly into Louis’ eyes, as if making sure there was no fight in there, and then dives right back in, prompting the both of them to stumble a few steps until Louis’ back gently meets a wall to help them stay on their feet.

Louis smiles into the kiss this time as he fully wraps his arms around Harry’s shoulders, bringing them closer together again. He takes great delight on the feeling of Harry’s slight stubble against his own clean-shaven cheeks, and the way they both somehow decide to keep it sweet with no tongues involved — at least not yet.

Just the taste of his lips is intoxicating enough, Louis muses, he would need a lot more time to even process having more.

They startle out of their bubble when Niall’s loud and very Irish accent at that moment yells out some kind of game they need to play to start this new year. Of course, it involves drinking some more. Louis and Harry break out of each other’s arm, then share a look and a fond laugh.

Louis doesn’t think anyone has noticed them, they are currently far back in the party.

“Hey uh, you’re a good kisser, by the way, thanks for that,” Louis whispers as they make their way towards their friends again.

Harry grins and then winks. “I’m more than just a good kisser if you’re up for one night,” he says but the use of the ‘one night’ throws Louis off.

He laughs it off, though. “Not that kinda girl Harold, I’m afraid.”

“You’re missing out then pixie, just saying!”

He only rolls his eyes at that and Harry laughs wholeheartedly.

Harry then goes back to his friends while Louis finds comfort next to Niall and Liam — Zayn has disappeared somewhere with some girl — again and they don’t really interact more throughout the rest of the party. 

I don’t think Harry and I are on the same wavelength but I don’t exactly want to let go of whatever we have going on, right now.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Step three, give them love

 

Second Year — February

 

“Is it because of Valentine’s Day approaching or have you always been this fucking needy?” Liam asks him out of nowhere on prompting Louis to frown, offended, at the annoyed tone his friend is adopting.

“Excuse me?”

Louis was minding his own business, redecorating the flat a bit — with the others’ approval obviously — giving the living room’s corners touches of red here and there. He knew somewhere he was a bit influenced by the romantic holiday and the prospect of spring gracing their lives. He always needed to do something around that time to forget how inexistent his love life is.

Then Liam suddenly barged in and nearly startled Louis enough to fall from the stool he was stood on to reach the highest shelves he was decorating with fake plants.

One day he’s gonna have to talk about his obsession with fake plants, but not right now, right now apparently he needs to tell Liam off.

“I don’t think it’s any of your business what the fuck Liam?”

“But it is Niall’s and Zayn’s?” Liam retorts, stepping closer. Louis, for once, stands taller, if you forget the stool he is still standing on.

“I’m afraid you lost me, what are you even complaining about?”

“You always ask them for cuddles, or whatever, and even when they’re busy and I’m right here, you never ask me, how am I supposed to take that? You just whine at them until they give in and it’s annoying and I’m sure it annoys them but they love you too much to complain.”

Louis blinks.

Oh.

Oh.

Liam is jealous. And apparently when he’s jealous he is very easily irritable and not as careful with his words. His sweet Lima bean who usually always makes sure to not upset or offend anyone is just lashing out here.

“You asked me to give you space, so I did,” Louis replies easily. “I am a handful and I know Niall and Zayn can bear my neediness.”

“Well, I can too now ok?” Liam petulantly says. “I feel left out,” he admits next.

What a silly argument they were having.

“I made you addicted to me, oh no that’s not good!” Louis dramatically gasps, prompting Liam to roll his eyes… and then he simply reaches forward to poke him in the ribs. And see, the thing is Louis is very ticklish and sensitive so this alone made him lose balance as he lets out a giggle. But he isn’t afraid because Liam confidently catches him bridal style. “Look at you being a knight after insulting the princess and nearly killing him.”

“You really think highly of yourself, Lou.”

Louis shrugs. It is a half-truth.

“Let’s watch a movie and cuddle then?” he asks softly. “Home designing got me exhausted.”

Liam only nods, bringing them towards the couch without any issue.

They end up not really watching the movie though.

“So for real, what’s your plan for Valentine’s Day?” Liam asks. “Sorry for how pissy I sounded by the way, guess I’m feeling the touch deprivation after a bad breakup.”

Right, Louis almost forgot about that. After New Year, Liam announced he found himself a pretty and nice girlfriend. It was short-lived, ended roughly two weeks later so Louis didn’t have the time to get attached to the girl. He does wonder what happened because as far as he knew, two weeks wasn’t quite long enough to get out of the honeymoon phase but he never dated anyone so who is he to know, and it is Liam’s business only.

“It’s okay mate,” Louis replies, then frowns. “And well, I’m still alone, like always. So instead I’m planning on sending gift cards to my sisters and friends, after all, it’s not just for couples, family and friends deserve to be reminded that they’re loved too, y’know?”

Liam groans against Louis’ nape, prompting the latter to frown in confusion.

“Stop being so cute,” the business student mumbles.

Louis snorts at that. “Well, I’m not doing it on purpose here.”

“So you do do that on purpose sometimes.”

“Heh, do do.”

That earns him a slight smack behind the head.

“Say, do you have at least someone in mind, though?” Liam asks softly.

Louis doesn’t answer for at least a good thirty seconds, debating the pros and cons of telling him, but then he figures, it’s Liam, he’s probably the most trustworthy boy in this household. Niall can’t keep a secret to save a life and Zayn and Harry are aloof way too often.

“Yeah,” he answers finally, somehow sounding disappointed in himself at the mere prospect.

“Do I know him?”

“Yeah.”

They share a look. Somehow, Louis knows Liam has guessed who the guy is when the older boy frowns, clearly irritated as his eyes just very briefly look towards Harry’s room before looking back at Louis with a little sigh.

“Tough shit,” Liam whispers. “You plan on doing anything?”

Louis shakes his head. “Nah, if something happens I want it to be an actual relationship, y’know? He seems to be more about casual relationships right now anyway so, not interested.” But he is still hella intrigued still, which sucks.

Liam only hums in response, probably at a loss of words of advice in this domain.

They go back to watching the movie in silence, but somehow Liam holds him tighter against him and it makes Louis feel a little better inside.

The movie ends just as they hear the front door open, Harry’s voice and another unfamiliar masculine voice filling up the hallway. Louis turns around, burying his face into Liam’s torso and ignores everything until silence overtakes the flat again and he somehow falls asleep to Liam’s steady breathing.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Valentine’s Day comes and goes like nothing, really. Louis sends his cards for his family and childhood friends, gifts Liam, Zayn, Niall and Harry each a small box of chocolate he got from the bakery down the street and that is it. He does get a few forehead kisses from his boys which, he certainly didn’t complain about at all, he is going to grasp into any form of affection he can get now.

“I want a boyfriend!” he whines.

Okay so maybe he isn’t handling it as well as he thought. Neither are the other boys because here they all are, sat on the living room’s floor, beers in hands, and lamenting their lack of love life. Or at least it’s what Louis and Niall are doing while the three others just sip their beers, silently but not so subtly judging their whiny asses.

“Weren’t you the one literally just telling us this day is also about other types of love,” Zayn points out.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” Louis retorts with a pout. “Maybe I just need to get laid and let go for once.”

“If I weren't straight,” Niall starts suddenly, voice clearly slurred, pointing at Louis. “I'd totally smash you.” 

“Yeah that sounds very straight of you Niall,” Louis laughs in response, ignoring the way Liam, Zayn and Harry seemed to perk up at that though, eyes darkening with a subtle hint of lust. Well, as subtle as a truck running you over considering Zayn currently has a hand maybe a little too close to his crotch but that is beside the point. It was originally there to comfort him when he started complaining about how lonely he feels but now he is pretty sure Zayn has other intents but he isn’t about to call him out on that, honestly.

“When even was the last time you pulled?” Harry butts in, earning a glare from the Irish lad.

“It is kinda hard to bring girls home when said home has four other guys there without it sounding like a shady gang bang,” Niall replies. Louis cringes at that. “No seriously, having four roommates is a cock-block in itself.”

“These two have no issue doing that though,” Liam complains, pointing at Zayn and Harry who hold their hands in the air. “And they ain’t exactly quiet about it,” he accuses furthermore. “The walls are fucking thin guys.” Well, only Liam can truly complain there, since Niall’s and Louis’ rooms are at the distinct opposite of the three others’ so they are spared the occasional awkward loud sex through the walls.

“Yeah well, asking someone to be their model for an art project sure is a good pick-up line, I didn’t want to say it but it’s fucking creepy out of context by the way,” Niall persists. “But also these two look like gods, not exactly fair either, so it isn’t creepy suddenly I guess.”

“Oh c’mon!” Louis chastises, crawling towards him and then simply dropping on his laps. “You’re handsome as hell too. Anyone’s a sucker for blue eyes, honestly.”

He sees Niall heavily blink, eyes very briefly looking at his lips before meeting his blues. “Are we about to kiss?”

Louis snorts, ignoring the others’ bewildered looks. “Would you want to?”

“Nope, I don’t want to see that,” Harry interrupts, grabbing without any issue Louis by his collar and bringing him to his side instead.

“Hey!” the Irish lad complains with a pout.

“Listen, mate, don’t want any of you to regret it tomorrow when hangover.”

“Hey, it’s not like I’ve been getting a lot of action either okay, I miss being loved!” Louis dramatically whines again, as if he hasn’t done that all evening. He does wonder how the others have not snapped at him yet.

“You’re loved quite enough here aren’t you, got all of us wrapped around your little—” Liam starts sweetly but get brutally cut off by Harry suddenly gasping and shouting “Wait!”

“And out of all us you’re attracted to Niall?!” Harry asks.

“That’s fucking rude, Harry,” Niall grumbles, throwing a cushion his way. The taller boy dodges it easily.

“I find you all attractive, there, does your ego feel better love?” Louis answers, voice dripping sarcasm at the pet name. “No really, you all are so fit, it’s nice.”

“Okay... but if you had to rank us—” Liam starts but of course gets cut off once again.

“Not you getting worked up too!” Zayn groans.

“You’re one to talk, mister cheekbones carved by the gods,” Niall mutters.

“You complimented me in a mean voice I have no idea how to feel right now.”

“You’re fucking perfect and it’s fucking annoying okay?! Y’all can’t even let me have Loulou to myself these days,” the music major deplores.

“You spend the most time with him what the fuck?” Harry accuses.

And… and Louis sits back, suddenly sobering up and watching them bicker for a while, a bit taken aback by the turn of event.

So maybe his plan backfired? He is not really sure if this is a positive development — he was supposed to get closer to all of them to bring them together so in the end he’d have his sort of second family always up for movie nights and cuddle sessions whenever he wants but right now… it is a battle for his attention.

He kinda likes that too, though. He hides his smile behind the pillow he is holding.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Breakfast the next morning is awkward, well, for everyone except Louis who is almost amused at the current situation if he didn’t feel just a little guilty about how utterly embarrassed Niall and Liam look right now.

Though Liam probably is the last person who should feel embarrassed right now.

“So, we’re going to talk about last night? Don’t pretend you don’t remember.”

There is a sudden thud, then a yelp from Niall who apparently just hit his head on the table. Louis sighs, quickly grabbing a cold bag of ice from the fridge and giving it to the boy. Niall avoids his gaze during the whole action.

“Listen, if you all feel uncomfortable because of me, just tell me now so I can look for somewhere else to go,” Louis finally sighs, hopping on the kitchen counter in a nonchalant way. He knows none of these boys would kick him out though, but anything to make them fucking react.

“No! You’re not going anywhere or I’ll punch Liam,” Harry finally speaks up, inevitably prompting a reaction from the latter who gasps.

“Woah there, I taught you how to box, do you actually think you can beat me?”

That intrigues Louis for a second. And here he thought he knew almost everything about these boys. “Wait what, since when?”

“Some time after New Year’s? That guy told me one of his New Year's resolutions would be to work out a bit more, I’ve been trying to guess who he plans on impressing but he is dead set on keeping the secret, oh maybe you can get it out of him Louis,” Liam says, and though he tries to stay neutral and innocently curious, the smile that threatens to break his lips betrays him.

Louis thinks he’s never seen Harry this red before, as Zayn seems to understand immediately Liam’s implications, frowning Harry’s way, while Niall sits there, a bit dumbfounded, eyes finally trying to meet anyone’s gaze.

“Shut up it’s just for me, myself and I!” Harry poorly defends himself. “Working out helps me… unwind after classes.”

Zayn and Liam both seem ready to tease him some more but Louis speaks up, in a dismissive tone: “If you say so, good for you.”

Silence.

“Anygays— I mean anyways,” Niall speaks up to try to break the awkward atmosphere again but then immediately hides again, face planting on the counter, ears red.

“Oh right, your gay freak out, let’s get back to that,” Louis chuckles.

“That’s not—” Niall sighs, voice muffled against the marble. “You just don’t casually tell your gay roommate you’d shag him while implying it’s because you have no other option or that you’re horny, that’s fucking rude.”

“I mean I was fully ready to commit too, it’s not like I completely consider kisses and cuddles as full-on romantic gestures if you haven’t noticed,” Louis says softly. “So I’m as much to blame instead of stopping you since you would have regretted it now.”

“Told you two you’d regret it in the morning though,” Harry mumbles on the side and Zayn has the kindness to slap the back of his head in response. Not the time for a told you so moment.

“Wait, hold on, have you kissed any of us?” Liam asks, oddly curious. Does he feel left out? Louis wonders.

“Why, wanna try?” Louis chuckles and before Liam actually says something crazy like ‘yeah why not’ and launch another wave of freak outs, he continues: “Only pecks though, actual kisses are reserved for my future boyfriend and husband, though.”

He completely ignores Harry’s intense stare at his words.

“You just do that with your friends?”

He shrugs. “The few I had yeah, they didn’t mind much, but it was mostly as kids before the whole ‘the world is judging me’ you get through during teenage years, y’know? Calvin once compared it to the way some parents peck their babies. So I guess I’m a baby,” he concludes in an oddly proud tone for such a statement. “Wouldn’t call that kissing truly in the end.”

“Man, just when I thought you couldn’t be more affectionate,” Zayn laughs. “C’me here I want a peck now, wanna be an official friend.”

“That’s a weird way to put it.” Louis rolls his eyes. “But alright.”

But actually no, because Harry abruptly gets up and grabs Louis’ arm before he could move and then drags him out of the kitchen. Louis follows silently, not even trying to put up a fight because he just knows it would be useless anyway. In no time he finds himself in Harry’s room.

“What are you doing?” he gets asked on a hushed tone. It makes him frown.

“Being honest.”

“Pecks between friends, seriously?”

“And so what, it’s true it’s nothing that significant to me,” Louis huffs.

“Kisses are reserved for my future boyfriend and husband only?”

Louis seriously flushes at that. “W-Well I got carried away there. I did offer to make out with Niall but to be fair he’s boyfriend material.”

“Is he now.” Harry sounds bored, condescending, and Louis cannot deal with that right now.

“More than you for sure,” he says finally, turning around. However, as soon as his hand lands on the doorknob, Harry speaks again.

“Is that a challenge?”

What is it with this guy and challenges? Louis chances a look over his shoulders with a frown.

“If that’s your way of asking me out, that’s a no.”

And then he walks out with a wink and a saccharine smile.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Second Year — March

 

Pecks don’t become a thing, but kisses on the cheek or forehead do and Louis is more than delighted.

And that may be because he discovered a recent love for lip balms, and by extension lipsticks, that Lottie has been sending him because fucking hell Louis your lips are always so dry and chapped stop biting on them. They ended up invading their mailbox so Louis had no choice but to indulge her.

And well, he really can’t argue with his sister on that he guesses, he just never noticed the issue before.

But anyway, back to the point he was making — with his recently discovered love for light pink lipsticks that match his natural lips’ colour — he doesn’t think he’ll go on and become a full-on makeup lover anytime soon anyway he’s been traumatised enough by Lottie and Fizzy experimenting on him while growing up— he’s been having maybe a bit too much fun going up to his boys, kiss their cheek as a hello or a goodbye like normal and hear them shout later when they realise they have a kiss mark on there.

It is fun and harmless, and none of the boys minds it much. It does sometimes worry Louis though especially when this stupid little prank inspired Zayn for a new art piece and now he is dead set on seeing Louis in full makeup which Louis wouldn’t mind if it’s just to model it really, except they don’t know anyone who is good enough with makeup to help them and make Louis look good instead of a clown — that is not a dig to his sisters’ skills, he cannot bring them to London as he pleases… but they also have time to learn, impatient teenagers that they are.

Until now.

“Found someone,” Zayn says and he should sound delighted, instead he sounds bothered. It intrigues Louis who raises an eyebrow at him.

“And it’s me!” A voice perks up behind the artist, and soon enough Harry barges into the room as well, smile so big on his face.

“What what.” Louis blinks at the perfect contrast of a grumpy-looking Zayn and an overexcited Harry before him.

“He’s got experience touching up his models and stuff during photoshoots,” Zayn explains with a roll of his eyes, very strongly emphasising the touching part. Louis remains unimpressed while Harry huffs.

“Anyway, I’ve just got one request — I want to take some pictures too. It’s perfect for a project I've been meaning to do for months.”

Ah, somehow Louis knew he would want something in return.

“What, boys in makeup? You’d look prettier in makeup than me I’m sure, can’t you do it on yourself?”

“I could,” Harry concedes. “And I tried.” Louis tries to pretend in his mind he isn’t interested in seeing the result of those pics. “But having other models is always better. Also, the dresses I got didn’t fit me, a size too small.”

Louis flushes. “Nope, I’m not cross-dressing though!”

“Well, for other times then I guess, you’d look hot, just saying,” Harry swiftly says with a smug smile and if possible Louis gets redder at the not so subtle implication.

“Yeah yeah can you two fuck later, I wanna paint first,” Zayn butts in, “actually don’t fuck at all, Styles stay away from the baby.”

“Ew, don’t make it sound so fucking weird,” Harry complains.

“Alright boys, let’s go,” Louis finally announces, standing up from his bed.

And almost immediately, Zayn rushes to his wardrobe without even asking permission — not that he needs to anyway. Harry blinks quickly, clearly taken aback by how casual that action was while Louis makes his way towards to door to get to Zayn’s studio already while the artist is putting up whatever outfit he has in mind.

He sees Harry finally move and run towards his own room probably to retrieve the makeup needed. Knowing they will probably take a bit of time, Louis makes a slight detour by Niall’s door, seeing it open. He knocks gently, and he gets a strum of the guitar as a response. Not a groan, he can come in.

Who is he kidding, he’s always welcome anyway.

“Heya you,” Niall greets from where he sits on his bed, guitar still on his laps.

“How’s writing going?” Louis softly asks, closing the door behind him. “I’ve got about twenty minutes before Zayn finally makes up his mind about the outfit I should wear for his painting.”

They both chuckle. 

“Inspiration struck him again, huh? Wish I could relate,” Niall muses then, answering Louis’ question. “I don’t get you to myself long enough these days to properly write something decent.”

“Oh, you big baby.” Louis rolls his eyes. “Sorry, being Zayn’s muse is a full-time job.”

“Should have asked to be paid, honestly,” Niall points out.

“Eh, it’s okay, he helps me out with the countless essays I gotta write. Sometimes I wonder why I even chose psychology.”

“Because you’ve got a big brain in there and a big heart over there,” Niall says as he pokes Louis’ head and then chest, making the latter giggle and scoot away. He is ticklish, and the music major knows that more than anyone else.

Louis has lost count of the number of tickle fights they got on.

“You know, you never actually showed me any of your music? Or what you can play? I’m offended I haven’t been serenaded yet!”

Niall laughs.

“That’s what you think, boo.”

“What does that even mean?”

“You’ll see at your birthday.”

“But it’s in forever!”

“Exactly, I need time to finish this masterpiece.”

“Don’t be shy you know I’m the least judgemental person!” Louis whines.

“That’s a lie and we both know it.”

“But—”

“Lou, we’re ready,” Zayn’s voice interrupts and, of course when Louis turns around, the boy is just. There. Without announcing himself.

“Man, has it been twenty minutes already?” Niall deplores. “You all stealing all my Loulou time.”

“Not sorry,” Zayn answers with a not so subtle smug smile. “I’m his favourite.”

 “What no—” Louis mumbles but it gets unnoticed as Niall gasps dramatically. Maybe Louis has influenced them a little too much over the past year and a half. This household is just a competition of who can be the most dramatic now.

“Excuse you I was there first, so I am his priority!”

“But he’d rather spend time with me, you just admitted it.”

“Just because your entitled ass makes anyone feel guilty about not helping you!”

“Well, you’re too passive. You gotta work for what you want.”

It’s just playful confrontation, not a real argument, and Louis is aware of that by the huge smiles both boys are sporting right now, but it still feels a little unsettling, Louis not quite used yet to people fighting for his attention.

He stays seated between the back and forth, until his eyes land on Harry standing quietly at the door, watching the scene unfold as well and a makeup bag under his arm. When their eyes meet, Harry slightly nods his head towards the hallway, and Louis just quietly makes his way towards the exit while Zayn and Niall are still “arguing”.

Louis makes a show of letting out a big breath when Harry carefully closes the door behind them again.

“You did manage to make everyone fall in love with you, now you gotta deal with the consequences,” Harry echoes his words back to him and Louis groans.

“Ssh, shut up.”

“But have you fallen for anyone, pixie?”

Louis frowns then smiles, pretending that the question doesn’t make him fucking frustrated given who is asking.

“You could have found out that months ago.”

“You really can’t answer any questions simply, can you?”

“Shit Zayn’s studio is locked.”

He can literally feel Harry rolling his eyes beside him at the blatant attempt at avoiding his question.

Harry sighs, gently taking Louis’ hand away from the doorknob to instead intertwine their fingers. Louis raises an eyebrow at that, though he doesn’t protest, and then Harry leads them towards his own room. For some reason Louis gulps — he’s never actually been to Harry’s room before.

“Got the lights and everything to do your makeup in my room, if Zayn couldn’t be bothered to remember to leave his door open,” the taller boy explains. “And he’s the one asking for our help, I swear.”

Louis laughs softly. “He’s forgetful.”

The conversation stops there.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Harry’s room is exactly as Louis expected. The decoration is pretty minimalistic as opposed to his own mess of fake plants, bean bags and fairy lights. Paintings dress three walls of the room — and Louis kind of recognises Zayn’s style which makes him frown in confusion — meanwhile the fourth one only possesses a wooden board with a bunch of polaroid pictures attached to it above Harry’s bed.

Louis spots Harry’s camera on his bedside table but he doesn’t have time to ask anything before Harry is on his feet, going to his closet and getting out a ring light, plugging it in and literally blinding Louis who yelps and promptly covers his eyes.

“Oh sorry should have warned you!” he hears before feeling gentle and warm hands on his own, as if trying to smooth the sting in his eyes.

“You fucking sure should have,” Louis groans, blinking softly while still hiding his gaze. He then feels Harry turning him around and it makes smile just a teensy tiny bit as he slowly slides his hands off his face, eyes immediately meeting Harry’s ones.

“There you go.”

“Hi.”

“Hey.”

It’s awkward.

It’s the first time it actually feels awkward.

Harry coughs into his fist then steps back, pulling the chair from his desk to a few feet away from the ring light. “Right um, the makeup so— Zayn briefed me quickly on what… um, kind of vibe, I’d say, he wants. I’m afraid you’re gonna have to handle some glittery eyeshadows and bright red lipstick.”

“Sounds very glamorous,” Louis whistles. “Please tell me I don’t need fake eyelashes I have been traumatised by Lottie and Fizzy constantly poking my eyeballs trying to put some on me.”

Harry chuckles, which Louis takes offence in. It truly was a traumatic experience and he isn’t being dramatic for once, he really flinches when something ever comes close to his eyes.

“Your eyelashes are long enough baby,” Harry says. “But I guess a touch of mascara won’t hurt anyone.”

“Except for my eyeballs.”

“I’ll be careful.”

“I saw you drop knives way too many times in the kitchen.”

“Why haven’t you run away yet, then?”

That gets Louis silent. He doesn’t know.

“C’mon”, Harry beckons him closer and Louis squints his eyes, still not very comfortable with that bright light burning his face. He sits down and then blinks down when he realises his feet don’t even reach the floor. Harry notices too and Louis glares before the other boy dares make a comment.

Instead, Harry just smiles and grabs his makeup supplies. It is silent from there, Louis keeping his eyes close for most of it unless asked to open his eyes. He does flinch a little when a brush nears his eyelids but relaxes almost immediately — albeit a little embarrassingly — whenever Harry simply holds his cheek in his warm palm.

It is a little distracting too, how close Harry is, breath hitting his skin and his lips, Louis feels like he should just stop breathing.

They are done pretty quickly, Louis putting the bright red lipstick on himself since apparently Harry was having trouble with his upper lip (“That is fucking rude, excuse you.” “I didn’t mean it in a mean way!” “I don’t care, shut up now.”) and right on time and as if he sensed it, Zayn barges in and drags Louis away.

But of course, Harry follows nonchalantly.

“Do you need to be there too? Seriously?” Zayn asks annoyed once they are in the studio again and Louis has changed for the all-white outfit Zayn had prepared for him. “You’ve done the makeup now go, we’ll call you once we’re done and you can do your own thing.”

Harry shakes his head and stubbornly sits down not too far from Zayn’s own chair. A clear challenge. “No I’m curious, and so I can get inspiration for the pictures later.”

“Louis doesn’t like when there’s more—”

“Zee it’s fine, he isn’t about to move anyway,” Louis finally intervenes with a little laugh. “As long as he stays quiet, hm?”

Harry gestures zipping his mouth shut and then gives him two thumbs up. Zayn rolls his eyes while Louis smiles, absolutely content with Harry’s sudden goofy behaviour.

“Great I gotta handle his creepy loving stares in my own studio now,” Zayn mumbles.

“Zee.”

“Am I lying?”

“Get to sketching I’m not about to stay in this position forever.”

“Bossy bossy."

And surprisingly, Harry does stay silent for the whole duration of Zayn sketching and making Louis do several poses to his desires. Only some *NSYNC tune on a low volume can be heard from the record player hidden in some corner. Niall has gifted Zayn the vinyl for Secret Santa and apparently it unleashed Zayn’s inner boyband fanatic because he’s been going around searching for vintage vinyl of 90s boybands and just started a collection.

One of the few things Zayn and Louis disagree on: boyband music. Zayn — and Niall — love them, Louis cannot help but cringe at the amount of “girl” in songs with such queer undertones when sang by five dudes harmonising with each other.

But anyway.

It takes about the whole afternoon and ends with Zayn making both Louis and Harry promise that if he needs a repeat of this session, they will drop anything to help him because “inspiration is no fucking joke you grab it while you can” and it’s a little unsettled by how intense and focused Zayn suddenly became after hours of seemingly plenitude contentment that Harry slowly drags Louis out of the art studio.

“Is he always like that?” Harry finally asks as they make their way towards his room.

“Yeah, you get used to it. Don’t you get a bit too passionate about your pictures?”

“It’s more of a hobby, so… It’s great for the extra credits though.”

And so back to Harry’s room they go.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Now that Louis thinks about it as he stands in Harry’s room, the latter fiddling with his camera, after Valentine’s Day and that faceless man he ever only heard the voice of, Louis hasn’t seen Harry bring anyone else home in quite a long time, compared to how often he used to see a stranger walk in in the evening, and then leave quickly the morning after.

“You asked me why I was barely home before,” Harry says softly as he puts the camera down. Louis startles a little — they just walked into his room and he didn’t take any pictures? “It’s simple, I thought I would have moved out by now.”

Louis frowns at that.

“But a little pixie used his magic on me.” Harry laughs at his own analogy. “Sounds cliché, but that actually is it. Got money and everything to buy my own flat. Love my family but as the youngest, I grew up smothered by them and I guess I wanted to prove a point by living alone in London but I couldn’t do that at first, but I also knew that if I lived with my actual friends I wouldn’t have been serious about neither uni or my job.”

During his explanation, Louis only listens and offers a few hums. When Harry finally stops and just looks at him with a slight tilt of his head, he understands he can ask questions now and doesn’t hesitate.

“So aren’t I, and the other boys, your friends too now?”

Harry smiles with a small huff. “Well— you all feel like a second family, more than friends now if you get what I mean? Didn’t think I’d actually like that feeling.”

“And what are we?” Louis prompts again with a little smile.

“Can I kiss you?”

Well, that’s forward at least.

“It is three months overdue,” Louis answers as he opens his arms. In no time Harry pulls him forward as he walks backwards towards the bed then sits down, prompting Louis to just plop down on his laps. “And yes you can.”

And so he does, both hands cradling Louis’ face tenderly before gently bringing their lips together. They both keep the kiss chaste and sweet, just a simple press of the lips before pulling away. Only then does Louis remember he was wearing makeup.

“So,” Harry whispers. Louis has trouble not just staring at the smudged lipstick on his plush lips really, making him want to dive right in again. He wonders how his even looks like now as well. “Let me show you how loyal and sickeningly sweet I can be, pixie.”

“Promise?” Louis surprises himself with how small he sounds.

Harry’s face visibly softens as he smiles. “Promise.”

“Also uh, your project?” Louis reminds him.

“Oh yeah I lied about that, just wanted to spend time with you and see Zayn fume about it.” This gets a laugh out of Louis.

“Did you lie about the dresses too though?”

“Nope, well, I originally bought some for a friend of mine, Sarah, don’t think you know her but anyway, I did end up buying something too small for her though. Why, you changed your mind, wanna try some on?”

Ah, here’s the cheeky smile Louis almost missed. He hums. “I mean, perhaps—”

And in no time Harry suddenly runs to his closet, almost tripping on the ring light unplugged and laying there by his bed. Louis snickers as he shakes his head.

He was kidding but now he doesn’t feel like denying the boy this excitement, he guesses.

Later, as Harry is soundly asleep, Louis quickly sneaks back into his own room just to write:

Dear diary, haven’t written in a while… I mean things have been going well with all the other boys so there isn’t much to write about now that this place actually feels like home now. Anyway, got a lover.

Then he snuggles to Harry’s side again.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Second year — July

 

So. They are boyfriends now apparently. They haven’t used that term exactly despite the three months behind them. They just know, they are exclusive and it just sort of happened quite fast.

Harry refuses to tell the others or actually act like a couple in the flat. It would disturb the current dynamic and the others would get upset and think Louis is playing favourites with him, or at least that is Harry’s argument, making it sound like Louis is a goddamn mother forced to choose her favourite child.

And he has one, it’s Niall.

Harry always pinches him when he reminds him of that.

Now, they have been spending a lot of time together both in the flat when the others aren’t there and outside of it, which kind of felt surreal at times. Even with Zayn or Niall, Louis doesn’t spend a lot of time hanging out outside of the flat or the campus when they’re not on break, mostly because of a problem of schedules but it turns out Louis and Harry both have a lot of similar free time during the week now that Harry bothers to tell Louis about his whereabouts.

Now though, summer vacation is approaching, and though the whole flat planned on spending it together in some villa in the South of France Liam’s parents kindly offered to rent them — Louis did squeal at the idea, not gonna lie — Louis wanted to still spend a bit of time with his own family just before they leave.

Which is why he is packing right now and Harry isn’t taking it well.

“It hasn’t even been a full four months and you’re already leaving me!” Harry laments, currently laying on Louis’ bed with a hand over his forehead.

“Being dramatic is my job, stop that,” Louis simply says in the silence of the flat.

Niall has been gone for a little over a week as well, having flown back to Ireland for some family time too and he is supposed to be back on the day Louis leaves, which the Irish lad complained a lot about as well. Zayn and Liam were a bit reluctant too and held on just a little bit longer to him while Louis was cuddling with them when watching a movie earlier that day and they’ve both now been out getting groceries.

Louis worries he unintentionally made everyone a little too co-dependent on each other at this point.

“But I’ll miss your ass!”

“Should have known you only wanted me for sex, uh.”

“Can you blame me though, peach?”

That is another thing with how their relationship evolved — Harry has now switched to calling him “peach” when they’re alone instead of “pixie” in public. And, needless to say, Louis isn’t as sexually frustrated as he was four months ago, in fact, he could almost complain of how much action he’s been getting with how horny Harry can be, sometimes it felt like he couldn’t walk for a whole goddamn week and Harry always had a fucking smug smile on watching Louis trying to find excuses to tell the other boys when they ask him why he is limping. It has been a literal pain in the ass but to Harry, it’s a fucking game. Pun intended.

“Oh shut it big head.”

“That’s a compliment to my di—”

“Shut up!” This time Louis is full-on whining as he closes his suitcase then jumps on the bed, landing perfectly on Harry. Harry immediately lights up, bringing his own hands on the small of Louis’ back. “Just tell me you’ll miss me normally, Haz.”

Harry sighs lovingly.

“I will miss you, I should worry about how much I’m dreading this time apart. Is it normal?”

“Mmh I just have that effect on people,” Louis grins, giving him an Eskimo kiss. “We’ve been apart longer during Christmas though.”

“But we weren’t together yet. I couldn’t exclusively kiss and cuddle you.”

“You might need to have a talk with the boys for the cuddle part.”

Harry groans while Louis laughs.

“Well then, when I couldn’t exclusively kiss you all over and fuck you, is that better?”

“Harry!”

Harry kisses him quiet.

“Zayn and Liam will soon be back, lemme have you to myself in the meantime, yeah?”

Instead of replying, Louis dives back in for another kiss that soon turns into more.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

No one is there to welcome him back.

It isn’t as sad as he just made it sound, his train somehow arrived early and he didn’t text anyone because he knew they would all be at work, except Harry, but Louis wanted to surprise him anyway.

However, Louis finds Harry asleep on the couch, which isn’t really anything new as he learned that Harry can fall asleep at any time of the day and literally anywhere, but what really surprises him is the fact that Harry is holding for dear life the huge teddy bear Fizzy gifted Louis last time he came to visit, about two months ago just before his final exams. It is one her and his other sisters customised to make it look like him, actually, giving it small rectangle glasses, a grey hoodie and black shorts and even stitched what looked like a fringe on the forehead. It is adorable, and Louis has been cuddling with it when none of the other boys is available when he feels particularly needy and he did wonder where it disappeared when he wanted to pack it for this past week.

He nudges Harry until the latter grumbles and half-opens only one eye. In what seems to be a second, the older boy becomes completely red and he lets go of the teddy bear as if it burned him. Louis catches it before it reaches the floor and frowns.

“Rude, this bear is supposed to be me,” Louis complains. “Also you’ve got the real deal no need to seek a dupe.”

Harry only stares at him, seemingly in-between awake and asleep and then just simply tugs Louis’ arm strongly enough to make the other just fall right beside him on the couch — and perhaps Louis didn’t even try to protest, really. With Harry swiftly rolling him — and the teddy bear he was still holding — over, Louis ends up sandwiched between the couch and Harry, the latter’s arms wrapping strongly around his middle and the stuffed bear effortlessly.

“Missed you,” Harry mumbles and then promptly falls back asleep, and Louis has no choice but to stay there, though he obviously doesn’t mind.

Later on, when the other boys come back home as well and complain loud enough about being left out so that Harry actually wakes up from his slumber, Louis finds himself in a big cuddle pile with blankets and cushions everywhere, not minding the extra warmth despite the summer weather outside.

And he thinks I did it.

Summer promises to be fun.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Step four, lay back and enjoy it

 

Third Year — January

 

The others find out quite easily when Louis unconsciously stops asking them for cuddles and begins to just settle next to Harry whenever he was near, and thus despite the winter season which usually brings a lot of whines from Louis asking for cuddles every two seconds.

And, well, of all the thing to complain about, Louis sure didn’t expect the boys to complain about how much less needy he has been with them lately when he’s pretty sure a few months ago they were almost ready to punch him if he whined one more time about needing arms around him while eating cereals.

“Not fair!” Niall shouts, pouting and hands in fists like a child. “I don’t care if Harry fucks you you’re my cuddlebug!”

“You two are not moving out, Harry can go but Louis stays!” Zayn adds.

“Guys—” Liam starts and Louis expects him to scold them, but instead he nods. “I agree with them.” And now he’s crossing his arms like a disapproving father looking down on Louis.

Lous stares at them incredulously while Harry just looks close to dying from how hard he is trying to stop himself from laughing.

“I fucking told you they wouldn’t take it well, but not the way you expected,” Harry finally wheezes after about a good minute of struggling to keep a straight face.

And it is true, they should be mad that Louis and Harry have been hiding this relationship from them. Instead, they’re mad because… actually Louis is not exactly sure.

“Who said we were moving out anyway?” he asks instead.

“Seems like the logical next step,” Harry supplies and holds his hands in the air when their three roommates double their effort to glare at him. “Hey, chill I literally told you I didn’t plan on moving out anytime soon anymore. At least not until we’ve all finished uni.”

“That’s soon though,” Liam points out.

“Gosh and I don’t want to think about it,” Louis interjects. “No one’s moving out, chill. And if you all want cuddles I don’t know you can ask too, I felt like I was beginning to bother you always being the one asking for one and I just knew Harry didn’t mind ‘cause he’s obligated as my lover now.”

“Lover,” Harry sighs lovingly, immediately wrapping his arms around Louis’ shoulder and resting his chin on his shoulder. For some reason, he always melts when Louis calls him that, and he absolutely revels in it.

“Ew gross, actually I liked it better when you hid it from us,” Zayn complains, but he is smiling anyway. “And also false, I’ll never get tired of cuddles with you, speaking of which it’s been approximately three weeks and two days since the last one so I demand one right now.”

“Let’s just make a cuddle pile while Harry goes out to get the groceries because he’s been privileged for a whole month,” Niall suggests.

“Very good point, I’m gonna fetch some blankets and a pillow, Zayn pick a movie,” Liam agrees.

“On it!”

“Woah hey I don’t have a say in this?!” Harry complains.

“Nope! It’s three against one. Now shoo!” Niall insists.

“Arguing with them is useless and you know it,” Louis laughs as he unhooks Harry’s arms from around him and then drags him towards the entryway. “Besides aren’t you the designed chef tonight?”

“Are you siding with them? My baby betraying me.”

“I do feel like I have to make it up to them right now, not gonna lie.”

Harry groans even as Louis kindly gives him his winter jacket and a beanie. “See that’s why I wanted to keep it a secret from them. They’re fucking annoying and plotting to take you away from me any chance they’ll get now.”

“Oh you big baby,” Louis mocks, kissing his lips to make that frown disappear. “The faster you do those groceries the faster you can come back and join the cuddle pile, alright?”

“Still not sure I like it, you’re mine.”

“These are our friends, love, second family, remember? They just like to tease you a lot they love you too, and you know it.”

Harry sighs. “I do. But they clearly have a favourite.”

“Well duh.” Louis grins. “I did warn you about that.”

“That you did, that you did.”

And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Present

 

“You ever think about how unconventional we actually are,” Liam muses one day, as he and Louis are left alone at home, everyone else having classes or work again.

“A bunch of guys being affectionate and not afraid of it? Yeah,” Louis replies. “Though you were afraid of it.”

“Oh shut it.”

Louis only chuckles. “I don’t know, I grew up with girls surrounding me you know? And whenever they had girl friends over for a sleepover they always ended up in a huge cuddle pile in the living room. Couldn’t even bother to go to their room, they just slept there. I didn’t have loads of friends to invite over anyway back then, but I knew guys just didn’t do that. Cuddle. Always found it odd.”

“I never noticed it before despite having two older sisters I guess,” Liam admits. “But you’ve got a point.”

“I always do.”

“Now that’s a lie.”

“Excuse you.”

“Just being honest.”

“Go back to studying your boring business stuff.”

Liam shakes his head with a smile. “Say that again when you’ll need me when you’ll want to set up your own cabinet.”

Louis doesn’t deny it but rolls over, so his head ends up on Liam’s laps, covering Liam’s notes completely. “You sure you and the guys don’t mind Harry and I dating though?”

“I should be the one asking you if it doesn’t bother Harry.”

“He trusts me, he knows I only love him romantically. You all are like, platonic soulmates you know?” But he does wonder how someone outside their friend group would react. What about if the others start seeing other people? Louis shakes his head, putting that thought aside for now. “Unless you’ve got something to tell me?” he jokes.

That makes the older boy chuckle a little. “No, I’m afraid as pretty as you are, you are not my type.” A pause. “And of course you and Harry don’t bother us.”

“Just checking, that you all aren’t actually fighting, y’know.”

“As if you don’t enjoy it too,” Liam accuses softly, bringing his hands to Louis’ cheeks and just… squishing them a little. Louis lets him do it. “Which is actually why we continue fighting over you, it’s fun and you fucking revel in it, you little minx. Also, don’t try to deny how it is weird foreplay between you and Harry too, you get off on how possessive he can get or so I’ve heard.”

That gets Louis to react, blushing furiously as he stands up again. “Harry needs to stop talking about what we do for fuck’s sake.”

“Sorry, sometimes our workout sessions are a bit too intense I guess and he gets delirious when tired out of his mind and just starts rambling about you and… yeah.”

“So in a fight, you would still win?”

“Is that really all you take from what I just said?”

Louis shrugs helplessly. 

“I’m so happy, you know,” he says softly and as if sensing the shift in the conversation, Liam puts his notes on the bedside table then opens his arms for Louis to fall right back into so the two can properly cuddle now. “I never thought I’d actually manage to make you all addicted to cuddles as much as I am, really.

“To your cuddles, you mean”, Liam replies, in a similarly low voice.

“I see you cuddling with Niall or Zayn sometimes just before bed while watching a movie, you can’t fool me.”

“Alright alright,” Liam concedes. “But we still don’t do it as often as when you’re here, I guess.”

“I’m flattered, professional cuddler I am.”

“Alright baby Yoda, settle down.” A small silence. “Sometimes I can’t believe it either really. Spent basically all my life so shut off and scared and now… I don’t know, it feels like I’ll have you and the others by my side no matter what the future entails? I mean, almost three years constantly in each other’s spaces and we’re still not sick of each other? I find that impressing.”

“Did we ever even have a fight, hold on…” Louis frowns deeply as he tries to recall every memory from the past years. Apart from the first weeks after he moved in, and then the slightly awkward phase where they all genuinely fought over Louis’ attention, he cannot pinpoint a moment in which they had an actual big fight that he’s always heard roommates end up having one way or another.

“Don’t think so,” Liam answers for him. “Or we talked out of them. You made us good at that, talking about what bothers us, be open about that.”

“You’re giving me too much credit here,” Louis mumbles. “Thank my studies for that.”

Liam only fondly rolls his eyes. “I’m happy too, by the way.”

Louis knows, he can feel and hear it, head resting gently against Liam’s chest. He smiles, snuggling a little closer as he closes his eyes.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

“You ever worry about relationships though?” Louis asks Niall later that day.

They are out at some bar Louis never bothers to remember the name of because he’s never the one who drives them here or drives them back anyway. That’s Harry’s or Liam’s job, always. Speaking of whom, tonight, it is Harry’s job, so the latter is currently completely sober and also completely bored, scrolling through his phone with an arm around Louis’ shoulder, not caring about anything happening around him. Liam and Zayn, on the other hand, are going pretty crazy on the dance floor and looking like they have a great time.

“Why?” Niall replies. “Oh you mean if the girl minds us cuddling?”

“Basically.”

It is a thing Louis never took into account when he set up his evil cuddling schemes; how it could affect the boys’ potential future relationships. Because he knows that even though they might not consider cuddling as a romantic gesture, people outside of their bubble might and get uncomfortable with seeing their significant other so close to someone else. He’s been so focused on their little group, he forgot the outside world existed and his discussion with Liam just made every insecurity about ruining everything for everyone come back up.

“Well she’ll have to trust me and not immediately think I’m cheating I guess, it doesn’t bother Harry.”

“Yeah but he knows us, and me and how we work, I guess.”

“Is cuddling cheating? Think I saw a study about that one time,” Niall wonders. “But anyway, I’d have to have a talk with whoever I’m dating and see from there. I personally don’t see a problem with it.”

“But if she has a problem with it?”

Niall frowns. “What got you so worried suddenly about my love life? Or lack, thereof.”

“I’m afraid I’m holding you back or something,” Louis mumbles, trying to hide behind his glass. “It’s been bothering me for a while.”

“Sweets…”

“Oh my god and I forgot the pet names too—”

“Hey hey, calm down,” Niall insists, now forcibly removing Louis’ drink from his hand. That seems to stir Harry away from whatever bubble he’s been stuck in as he startles and turns towards the duo, a frown on his face.

“What’s happening?” he asks, scooting closer to his boyfriend, sensing the current distress.

“Your Lou is worried he’s interfering with my love life.” Niall laughs softly as he says so.

Louis, however, panics. “But am I though?!”

“No! I keep telling you, you’re not.”

“If Niall says so, you gotta believe him pixie,” Harry adds on. “You know he’s the most honest and straightforward person out of all of us.”

“But—”

“Ssh. You’re worried over nothing, besides I wouldn’t want someone who would immediately assume I’m cheating when I’m cuddling with my friends despite me insisting it’s only platonic. I love our cuddles and our cuddle piles, sometimes I wake up with numb limbs but… I wouldn’t give that away. Besides I’m not so sure I want to seek out a relationship, at least now. But it is not because of how overly affectionate and needy you are.”

“Feels like that should be an insult but you said it in such a fond voice, what the hell,” Louis complains. He doesn’t know why he is complaining, he just needs to.

“Oh no they’re annoying traits, but we learned to love them,” Harry supplies and Louis slightly slaps him on the chest.

“Gonna dance for a bit, you coming?” Louis asks.

“Actually, I just remembered Niall and I had something to talk about,” Harry replies, making Niall frown, confused. Louis is about to ask what it is all about but Harry shuts him up with a kiss. “Don’t worry peach, I’m keeping an eye on you, go have fun you need it right now.”

“But I wanna be with you.”

He ignores Niall fake gagging on the side.

“And you’ll have me when we go back home, I’m pretty sure Zayn is waiting for you to join him on the dance-floor.”

“But—”

“He’s right, you need to loosen up a bit sweets,” Niall joins in. “Go on.”

Still frowning, Louis gets up.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

“Louis!” Zayn immediately reaches for him among the crowd, pulling him in his arms. Louis blinks a little surprised and taken aback but ultimately doesn’t mind. “Sorry, a guy has been way too clingy the whole evening and it was finally starting to make me uncomfortable.”

“Why not tell Liam?” Louis asks loud enough to be heard above the music.

“He didn’t quite get the memo and thought I was telling him to leave us alone, I lost sight of him,” Zayn laughs, arms wrapping around Louis’ waist as he halts their movements for a while despite the upbeat music still deafening their ears. “Now do tell, what’s got you all worked up?”

“What?”

“You’re all tense and frowning and you’re the one who offered to go out yet you’ve been sulking on the side almost all evening, do you really think I wouldn’t notice?”

“Already had the talk with both Liam and Niall, I don’t think you have more to tell me.”

“You wound me!”

Louis chuckles but sighs right after, slumping against Zayn’s form.

“I don’t want things to change, ’s all. But that’s selfish.”

“It’s not, that’s normal, but none of us is going anywhere if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I know, is the thing, I know and yet.”

“Baby is overthinking again, huh?” Zayn coos, prompting Louis to roll his eyes and slightly nudge his stomach. “Since I cannot offer more pieces of advice because Mr Payne and Mr Horan already did the job, let’s just have fun, then?”

Louis can’t help but grimace, though. “Why did you call them that?”

“They hate it and I love annoying them.”

“Oh god, I’ve influenced you too much.”

“Maybe so.”

“How long before you turn against me?”

“Ne-ver,” Zayn assures, nuzzling Louis’ neck to make him giggle. “You’re untouchable. Because we love you too much but also because Harry would kill us.”

“Liam didn’t sound too afraid of that,” the younger points out, as he subtly drags the both of them closer to the bar so people would stop just bumping into them. Even when they do reach the counter, Zayn remains glued to Louis’ back.

He isn’t even the cuddly type when drunk, usually. Zayn is more of the blunt and snappy type of drunk. Not with Louis though. Well, he is still quite blunt when he speaks up again.

“He’s just playing but if you ask me Harry is pretty damn close to beating him in arm wrestling.”

“Is that why he refuses that I watch and sit there prettily when they work out? Don’t wanna lose his title of the strongest of us, uh?”

“Yeah, also you’d distract Harry too much.”

“But you can watch?”

“Me insulting them and their obsession with having pecs motivate them, apparently.”

“And Niall?”

“He started working out intensively too actually, guess it’s contagious.”

Louis blinks at that, utterly surprised by this information, for some reason. It makes him self-conscious for a second, his hands softly their way to his slightly chubby stomach but he hears Zayn tut, arms now firmly locked around his middle.

“Stop that right now, you’re fit.”

“I’m weak though.”

“Physically maybe.”

“You’re supposed to disagree!”

“How the fuck am I supposed to do that you can’t open the pickle jar.”

Louis flushes as he pouts, squishing Zayn’s cheeks in his hands when the latter tries to nuzzle his neck again. He swears to god sometimes Zayn is worse than him in the PDA department, actually.

“But Harry keeps talking about how your thighs could crush his head and not gonna lie it’s actually hot to think about.”

“Zayn ew what the fuck!”

Zayn only laughs, prompting Louis to do the same. So yeah, Zayn is fucking blunt and Louis really has to have a talk about how Harry should keep the things they do in the bedroom private.

“You’re distracted, it worked,” Zayn slurs. He sounds sleepy all of a sudden and Louis indeed feels the added weight on his back as his best friend just seems to slumps forward.

“Yeah, gotta take care of your sleepy and drunk ass now,” Louis sighs fondly, already finding a way around the dance floor to get back to Harry and Niall. He also keeps an eye around, trying to spot Liam to no avail.

“Come on, let’s get home it’s getting late anyway, where’s Liam,” Louis mumbles and as if summoned by the mere mention of his name, Liam suddenly appears to his side and almost immediately as well Zayn stands up straight again, except he is pouting now.

“Called me?” Liam says with a cheery smile, oblivious to Zayn’s sudden grumpiness. “Are we going home?”

“Yeah let’s go home,” Zayn answers, his voice sounding a little softer at the last word. “I’m knackered.”

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Louis finds his place in Harry’s arms again as the city falls asleep and the moon shines through the window of Louis’ room. It is silent apart from the gentle strumming coming out of Niall’s room they can hear through the thin walls. He thinks Liam is still awake and probably reading while Zayn is proper passed out on his bed, he knows because Louis tucked him into bed himself.

“Harry,” Louis mumbles at last. He seems to startle the other back awake and he feels just the slightest bit sorry before he continues: “please stop telling the boys about our sex life.”

“But they like it,” Harry argues.

Louis grimaces for probably the hundredth time today. “That makes it worse!”

“I can’t help it.” Harry pouts. Louis can’t see but he knows, he has that childish tone that really doesn’t match how deep and slow his voice is. “It just slips out sometimes, I got no filters. You should have expected that.”

“Yeah but you’ve never been this blunt before we started dating.”

“Cause the people I was with before were meh.”

“Rude, hope you didn’t treat them like that.”

“I didn’t! I was a proper gentleman! And I hope you were treated like royalty too.”

“Eh, you were my first everything so, got nothing to compare with.”

“What, you never told me that!” There is an odd sense of pride in Harry’s voice suddenly.

Louis flushes. “Perhaps I was lying during our guys nights. Now wipe that stupid smile off your face, I don’t want your ego to get even bigger.”

“Too late.” He really can just hear the glee in his boyfriend’s voice and Louis rolls his eyes.

He lets silence overtakes the room again though he keeps his eyes wide open, staring into essentially nothing as only darkness graces his eyes what with his face being pressed in the crook of Harry’s neck. Soon, Harry’s breathing evens out. Louis follows him an hour and a half later only when Niall’s strumming stops.

Life is good right now. He should just embrace it.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

December rolls around, and so does Louis’ birthday. To his surprise, the boys decided to spend it and Christmas with him and his family. From that, they somehow decided that from now on, each year they would spend this time with one of their families, next year being Harry’s. It was eerily easy to announce it to all their families — he guesses it has been pretty obvious how co-dependent they’ve become.

However, right now, Louis is kind of deeply regretting it.

“You kinda asked for it Lou, remember?” Liam whispers, trying really hard not to laugh.

“And I wish they had forgotten,” Louis grumbles, face still half-hidden in his hands.

“Your family’s enjoying it,” Zayn comments as well.

“My family’s realising I’m living with a bunch of weirdos.”

“Lovable ones, I’d say having a whole song about your eyes and your smile sang to you at your birthday is the good side of weirdo.”

“If they took it seriously!” Louis whines, still trying to ignore Niall obnoxiously playing the guitar and Harry purposely singing off-key to amuse the gallery. It is working. Lottie and Fizzy are filming with a huge smile on their face, Phoebe and Daisy are bopping their heads along while Ernest and Doris are dancing happily. “I take everything back, you two are my favourite now.”

“Hold up you have a rank?!” Liam exclaims, gripping his shoulders and shaking him a little. “That’s illegal!”

Oops.

“Harry is literally my boyfriend?”

“And friends are as important as significant others, invalid reasoning,” Zayn argues, a frown on his face.

“I was joking,” he insists.

“Were you.” Liam squints his eyes. “Zayn we need to step up our game.”

“Apparently.”

Louis just sighs as Liam lets go of him and he sinks into the couch again, praying Niall and Harry will end their show soon and also praying that Liam and Zayn are not planning a silly show of their own.

Needless to say neither of his prayers got answered.

Louis has some trouble explaining to his mum why their little party suddenly turned into a rap battle about who knows Louis the best.

 

-: ✧ :-

 

Christmas in the Tomlinson household is never a joke. Everyone is usually up at 7 am, the kids ready to jump off their bed and run to the Christmas tree and absolutely devastate the prettily wrapped gifts standing under it.

That is why Louis is surprised to wake up to a very silent house.

He is also very surprised to wake up at 6am and feeling like his limbs just disappeared because he cannot feel them anymore. That is when he realises he is in the middle of a cuddle pile which he didn’t remember falling asleep in.

“Oh hey, morning sunshine,” Niall’s voice greets him and oh, he’s right beside him. How did they even fit in Louis’ childhood bed?

“Morning, Nialler,” Louis yawns halfway through the sentence. “Now do tell how we ended up in this mess?”

“Frankly, I don’t remember. When I sneaked in, there was only you and Harry.”

“When you what—”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Niall cuts him off, snuggling closer. “I knew you both wouldn’t have minded given you still haven’t kicked me in the face. Dunno when the two others appeared though.”

“The two others have a name,” Liam’s groggy voice complains this time. He is laying half on Niall’s legs and Louis’ legs. “But basically I had the same issue. Zayn probably too.”

“Needed familiarity in this crazy house,” the latter’s voice joins the party as well, but he sounds very awake unlike the three of them. When Louis looks on his left, Harry is still soundly asleep. He’s a heavy sleeper, despite usually being the first one of them to be awake in the morning.

“You take that back, nothing’s crazy here.”

“Eh.”

Louis slightly kicks him but Zayn barely reacts.

“You all could have just said so, we would have laid out our extra mattresses on the floor and we would have been a lot more comfortable,” Louis speaks up again.

“Yeah about that, wouldn’t your family find that weird?” Liam asks.

“Oh honey my family is the reason I’m so quickly touch-deprived, cuddles and friendship are sacred in this house. Besides it’s like a sleepover except we’re adults.”

“Are we?” Niall wonders.

“I just turned twenty-two so yeah?”

“Oh, right Christmas baby isn’t too much of a baby anymore is he,” Zayn coos, earning another kick. This one he lets out a small “oof” as he rolls a little to avoid a second kick and accidentally bumps into Harry who startles awake.

The curly-haired boy takes a quick look around and groans. “Oh so you all are here, of course, should have expected it,” he slurs.

“Morning to you too,” Liam mocks.

“Appreciate how you didn’t add the ‘good’ beforehand because it surely isn't about to be that.”

“Someone woke up on the wrong foot and hasn’t even gotten up yet,” Louis sing-songs, turning around to place a kiss on the boy’s cheek. “Cheer up, love.”

It works, Harry’s dimples soon greeting him as well and prompting Louis to smother his cheeks with kisses even more. He only stops when the others start to get restless and Niall apparently physically cannot handle this anymore and suddenly grabs Louis around his waist and rolls him over effortlessly, separating the two lovebirds by putting himself in the middle but keeping his hold on Louis only. Harry gasps, offended but is too sleepy to truly protest at the moment.

“Why the fuck are you all even awake,” Harry complains instead. “That’s not normal.”

“It really isn’t, yet we are,” Zayn answers unhelpfully.

“Better be awake when the twins will come barging in anyway, I can assure you, overexcited high-pitched screams aren’t the best things to wake up to,” Louis says.

“That was you waking us up at dawn a week ago for the Secret Santa even though we had the whole fucking day,” Liam points out.

“Totally not the same thing.”

“It runs in the family.” Niall slightly tickles his sides as he says that, forcing Louis to cover his mouth to avoid bursting out into laughter and wake up the rest of the household.

“Ssh don’t do that!” Louis chastises as he somehow wiggles his way out of the bed. “No cuddles for you all, I’m gonna make some tea.”

“No!” Zayn exclaims, swiftly dragging Louis back down, making the bed dangerously creak. “More cuddle time, you never say no to more cuddle time or god forbid you are not the Louis we love.”

Louis pretends to think about it for a second until Harry rolls his eyes and manhandles him back in the middle of the cuddle pile. Louis giggles as he sinks properly into the bed.

“Did you know cuddles increase the serotonin your brain produces?” Louis hums. “Because I’m really fucking happy. Even if it’s fucking 6am.”

“Oh that explains things,” Liam muses. “A lot, actually,” he continues, staring into Louis’ soul it seems.

“Ok that’s creepy stop looking at me,” the latter complains.

“Harry’s worse, you should be creeped out by him yet you’re dating him,” Niall comments.

“Yeah it’s called being privileged,” Harry replies with a smug smile, prompting the Irish boy to throw a pillow right to his face.

This somehow ends in a pillow fight that lasts about thirty minutes before all the noise they are making wakes the kids up and soon, overexcited little girls barge in the room and join the commotion.

Soon, Louis is watching Harry lifting Ernest and Doris up as if to make them fly, Zayn teaching Fizzy how to paint and Liam having to deal with Lottie and her million questions about a business degree she plans on pursuing as well and Niall singing some songs to Phoebe and Daisy, mostly cheesy boyband songs, to his great pleasure.

And yeah, Louis thinks as he takes in the whole scene, he is happy.