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Washed away in you

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Louis has been thinking about ways to give the concert tickets to his sister for the past two hours, and to be honest, his mind is completely blank. He doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it by explaining to Lottie how and why Harry himself gave him those tickets and is probably expecting him to show up to the concert in two weeks, but he knows how his sister thinks.

She will make a big deal out of it and ask intrusive questions, and Louis isn’t even sure whether Harry even remembers giving him those tickets. It’s been a week since the festival and even though Harry follows Louis on Instagram, he hasn’t received a single message.

It is what he expected though. He thought about it the whole flight home, about how Harry probably has hookups after every single show he performs and that he was nice enough to give Louis two tickets in order for him to not feel bad about not being interested in keeping in touch.

People have been speculating in the press about who the ‘mystery person’ (because apparently Harry was right and people just love talking and assuming about his love life) that Harry was seen at the festival with is, and if he’s the same guy Harry talked to while on stage (Louis’ name is still unknown). The rumors have died down for the past few days, ever since something else happened with the Kardashians that was way more captivating.

“Louis?”

Louis blinks at his sister, who’s staring at him over the table.

“What?”

“I asked you if you wanted the last pancake, I’m full.”

“No, thanks.”

Lottie shakes her head and then checks her phone before she asks him about this mysterious ‘special occasion dinner’.

“Oh, right. It’s your birthday dinner.”

Lottie frowns. “You do know that my birthday is in August, right? That’s like, still three months away.”

Louis nods. “Yeah, of course. But I’m not going to give you a present in August, because I’m giving it to you now.”

Lottie’s eyes light up. “Really? What did you get me?”

Louis digs his hand into the pocket of his jacket before he pulls out the envelope.

“Here you go.”

Lottie doesn’t waste one second before she rips up the envelope and pulls out the tickets. She turns pale, eyes wide, and then starts hyperventilating.

“Louis, are you serious?” she asks and takes her right hand up to cover her mouth.

“Yeah.”

She looks down at the tickets, turns them around to make sure they’re real, and when she looks back up, she has tears in her eyes.

“Are you serious? You can’t be. These are so…Louis.”

She gets up from the table and walks around it to give him a hug. He pats her on the back, smiling. “You’re welcome. Happy early birthday.”

“I’m going to meet Harry Styles. I’m going to hug Harry Styles and I’m going to hear him live. This is the best present ever!”

She wipes her eyes as she calls her best friend to tell her about it, and Louis thinks it’s pretty much settled that Lottie will take her friend to the concert. She hasn’t asked how he got the tickets, most probably won’t even bother, so Louis won’t ask her whether he can come with, because that would mean Lottie asking questions.

After she ends the call she starts cutting up her pancake, but then stops and looks at Louis.

“How did you get the tickets?”

Oh, here we go.

“Huh? Oh…yeah, I got them a few weeks ago.”

“These were sold out three hours after they were put on sale.”

“Right.” Shit, he didn’t think this thing through.

Lottie squints at him.

“Fuck, okay. Harry gave them to me.”

“Harry Styles?!” Lottie asks and a few people around them turn their heads, so Louis shushes her.

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

Louis shrugs, trying to keep a poker face. “Oh, well you called me about a hundred times and he was there and I told him you are a fan. He wanted to be nice.”

“He wanted to be nice. I don’t-although…that does sound like him.”

It’s weird, hearing his sister say ‘that does sound like him’ when she hasn’t even met him. Louis can’t even say that he ‘knows’ Harry because he spent three days with him, but still, hearing a person who never met him talk about him like they know him feels weird. Although, and now it dawns on Louis, it would sound like something Harry would do. He’s polite and ughgh and the last part of Louis that doubted the fact that Harry was just being nice has just been destroyed.

“Why do you say it sounds like him?” Louis asks. Does he really want to get into this conversation? No, he probably doesn’t.

Lottie lifts a finger up as she takes a photo of the tickets and types something on her phone. “Yeah? What?”

“Why do you say it sounds like him?”

Lottie shrugs. “Oh, I don’t know. I’ve watched a lot of interviews with him and he’s just a nice person. Very polite and charming.”

“Do you know a lot of stuff about him?”

“I mean, yeah, probably? I’ve been following him since the first year of his career, I’ve read every single magazine interview and I used to have posters of him in my room.”

“What? How have I not noticed it before? I used to buy you those magazines.”

“You didn’t really care.” Lottie laughs. “And you moved out for Uni before he even became famous, so you didn’t see the posters.”

“What does the press say about his…uh, relationships?”

Why is Louis even asking these questions, honestly.

“Why do you want to know?” Lottie asks, already getting suspicious. Her right eyebrow isn’t raised yet though, so she’s not that suspicious. Yet.

“I don’t know, I guess I’m just curious.”

“Well, he’s been linked to a lot of models. Like, if he follows someone on Instagram, half of the fandom starts assuming that he’s dating them.”

“What about the other half of the fandom?”

“The other half of the fandom believes that Harry isn’t really that straight to begin with.”

Louis’ eyes widen. “What, really?”

Lottie nods. “Yeah.”

“And…what do you think?”

“I think he’s definitely not straight. He’s not gay either, I think. He’s just… Harry. Putting him in a box and with a label on it would be a shame.”

Louis uncomfortably shifts on his chair. He doesn’t really like the whole ‘assuming sexuality’ thing, but the reality is that people will always tend to do that, even if they don’t voice it.

“Why?”

“I don’t know, Lou. During interviews for example, he has way more chemistry with the men than the women, and he’s been spotted at some gay bars over the years.”

Louis nods, taking all the information in. Wow, people really do love assuming everything about Harry.

“But…I think his management wants to market him to the female audience and that’s why people are inclined to believe he’s straight. It’s appealing to the fanbase and the media. To be honest though, I really don’t like talking about it that much, because I think that’s his own business and people shouldn’t talk about it as much as they do.”

Louis is kind of impressed by the way Lottie just explained the whole thing and is thankful that she’s one of the people who sees the bigger picture and is mature enough not to pry too much.

The waiter comes over and asks if they want anything else, to which Lottie responds by asking for the bill. Louis pays for it when it comes back two minutes later and since Lottie didn’t mention anything about who she’s taking to the concert, Louis assumes that he won’t be going. After all, he knew that it was a promise that was meant to be broken.

He clicks on the ‘lottietomlinson tagged you in their story’ notification from Instagram and opens Lottie’s story. It’s a photo of her holding the tickets, with ‘thank you @louist91 for the best early bday gift ever! @harrystyles’ written over them.

They wait for the Uber outside when Lottie turns to him.

“Oh my God, Harry Styles just replied to my story. He sent a heart! LOUIS! HE SENT A HEART!”

It takes a few moments for Louis to realize what she just said to him.

“Lou, I love you, really. Do you want to go with me to the concert? Since you already met Harry? And I can’t choose between my friends, one of them will definitely get mad.”

Louis’ stomach turns upside down and his ears are hot. “Uh…yeah. If you want.”

Lottie hugs him just as the Uber pulls up in front of them. “Thank you so much, I’m so happy!”

Louis kisses the top of her head and then opens the passenger door to get in. Lottie tells him about something the twins did recently, but all Louis can think about is how he will see Harry in two weeks and how Harry maybe forgot or will think that Louis accompanying his sister will be desperate.

***

“Go for the ‘look at my ass’ jeans.” Zayn advises two weeks later on May 2nd. Yes, it is the second day of May and yes Louis is going to the Harry Styles concert with his sister.

Lottie is in the bathroom putting her makeup on and they should’ve left five minutes ago but Louis is still in his briefs, running around the room hyperventilating while trying to find something to wear.

In hindsight, it’s not one of his proudest moments. It’s not even a proud moment period. But in his defense, it’s the only time in his life that something like this will ever happen. He knows that the jeans he’ll be wearing won’t make a difference to the fact that he’ll be leaving the concert with his sister and won’t be in contact with Harry afterwards, but the least he can do is feel good about himself while that happens.

“Zayn, I need to give him ‘you’d-like-to-have-me-but-can’t’ vibes, not ‘i-would-do-anything-for-you-to-dick-me-down’ vibes.”

“When did we start using ‘dick me down’ as a term for having sex? I didn’t agree to that.” Zayn says, of course not being helpful, so Louis throws his jeans at his head but misses.

“You want Harry Styles to fuck you?” Lottie asks, standing in the doorway of Louis’ room.

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Lottie was never supposed to hear their conversation.

“I mean, he looks good-“

“Oh my God, I’m going to be Harry Styles’ sister in law?” Lottie exclaims and Louis hates the whole situation. THIS is why he’s been trying to avoid the whole thing altogether.

First of all, he hates it because he knows there’s 0% chance of that happening ever, and second-well…that’s it. Harry replied to Lottie’s story two weeks ago and Louis was also tagged in it, and yet, Harry didn’t say anything to Louis, so it’s pretty clear that there’s no chance of getting dicked down-okay, Zayn’s right; they won’t be using that phrase for sex.

He doesn’t hold any type of grudge though, not even the slightest resentment because of the lack of contact, since Harry is an international rockstar with more problems than he can probably count, and Louis is a tattoo artist who just got lucky at one of the most overhyped festivals in the world.

“The Uber is outside.” Louis lies as he tries to change the subject.

Lottie rushes to get her shoes on while Louis finally pulls his pants up and slips into his Vans.

“Have a good time, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Zayn chirps as he closes the door behind them, and Louis already regrets agreeing to go.

They have to be at the venue two hours before the show actually starts so they have time to take photos and chat with the artist for about ten minutes before the next guests can.

“Do I look good? Is this okay? Do you think I’m too extra?” Lottie keeps asking during the ride to the arena, and Louis honestly can’t concentrate on his sister right now.

“You’re fine, Lottie.”

That doesn’t seem to relax her at all, but Louis can understand her, because he’s having an internal freak-out as well, which he can’t really exteriorize.

The car stops in front of the venue and Louis can already see people queued up at the General Access entrance. It’s crazy seeing so many people lined up for someone Louis actually met.

There’s a queue for the VIP entrance as well, only significantly smaller, and as soon as Louis gets in line with Lottie, he starts feeling paranoid. First of all, because he thinks he shouldn’t have come, and that Harry will assume he’s got a crush-which he does not. Second of all, because three girls are now looking at him like they’re trying to figure out where they know him from.

“Hey, sorry to ask.” One of them starts and a red light goes off in Louis’ head. “Are you the guy Harry talked to during his Coachella concerts?”

Does he lie? Does he tell the truth? How can she still know and remember that? Even Louis himself forgets that sometimes and remembers only when something reminds him of the festival.

“Uh, I think so?”

What kind of answer is that?

“OH my GOD! Do you know him personally?”

Louis shakes his head. “No.”

He’d really like it if the conversation were to end right about now.

The girls lose interest in him after that and Lottie looks at him before she rolls her eyes at the three girls. Louis pulls her closer to him and pats her shoulder just as the doors open and the girls start to scream.

“We will be taking two groups at a time, and you will each have ten minutes with Mr. Styles before you’ll be led to the VIP area. Please pair up.” one of the security guards say and there’s a lot of ruckus before everyone is grouped up and they’re being let inside.

Two security guards lead them down a long corridor and then into a room filled with chairs that has a door on the right.

Louis feels like he’s about to panic when he sees the first group of girls going through the door, closing it behind themselves.

“Yeah, it took a lot of time to convince my mother to get me the tickets as well.” One girl says and Louis turns his head to listen.

“My dad nearly laughed in my face when I told him that I needed six hundred pounds to pay for a concert ticket.” Another girl buts in and Louis’ eyes widen. People paid six hundred pounds for two hours of concert and a photo with Harry? That’s insane. Sure, Louis knew tickets were hard to get (Lottie mentioned it), but he didn’t know they were that expensive. He believed them to be around two hundred pounds, maximum.

“Yeah, tickets are really that expensive.” Lottie tells Louis when she sees his face.

“I think it’s ridiculous.” Louis states. But then again, there were a lot of ridiculous things about Harry. Like the way he walked sometimes or that pink shirt he was wearing when Louis met him that made him look like a flamingo.

“And yet, people still buy them. So I guess it works.” Lottie shrugs and then focuses on her phone.

Five minutes later, another group goes in and Louis’ heartbeat speeds up. He’s getting closer and closer to ‘hour zero’, as Zayn had put it, and he’s way more nervous than he initially thought he’d be.

“Stop bouncing your leg up and down, it’s making me nervous and I’m about to meet the love of my life.” Lottie tells him and Louis stops. He thinks that he should really stop thinking about him meeting Harry and start thinking about Lottie meeting Harry because that’s why they came here for. He’s doing this for Lottie.

And once again, it dawns on him that Harry did this because he knew Louis’ sister was a fan and wanted to be nice, not because he wanted Louis to come. No pun intended.

“He’s the love of your life?” Louis teases, although the smile doesn’t really reach his eyes.

“I mean, I grew up listening to him. His first album is the first album I ever bought. I was fourteen. And now I’m nearly twenty.”

Louis nods and remembers the first album he bought, which was a Take That album in 2003.

“Who’s next?” the security guard’s voice booms through the small room and Lottie looks around before she raises her hand and points to Louis as well. Two other girls in the corner stand up, excited about finally getting their turn, even though they’re last.

And now Louis panics. His heart is hammering against his ribcage as he gets up from the chair and sees everyone staring at them while they walk towards the door. He’s about to see Harry for the first time after three weeks, their last interaction having involved some kissing and some promising.

“Be cool.” Is the last thing Lottie says before Louis steps into a well-lit room. There’s a large banner in one of the corners that has the Harry Styles logo, which is basically his name written with a special green font and a blue anchor in the middle (just like the one Louis saw at Coachella), a table filled with snacks and drinks and a lot of people who are roaming around the room because they have something to do.

It’s hectic, but Louis’ eyes still focus on finding Harry. The moment he sees him, he regrets coming here.

Harry’s got his back to him as he’s talking to a security guard Louis hasn’t seen before. He’s got a white shirt on and black jeans and his back looks-be cool.

The security guy says something to him which makes Harry turn around.

Oh here we go.

Louis isn’t ready.

***

“The car is downstairs.” Paul informs Harry that Wednesday morning while he’s in his bedroom in front of the mirror.

“Yeah, we’re ready.” Liam chirps in from where he’s laying on the bed, scrolling through his phone.

Harry rushes back into his walk-in closet and takes out his favorite jean jacket from the hanger before he’s back out, ready to go.

“Your phone.” Liam reminds him as they’re already walking down the stairs.

“Right, thanks mate.”

“Your head is all over the place this morning.” Liam observes after they’ve gotten into the car and Harry turns on his phone.

“I know.”

“Is it because Louis and his sister are coming tonight?” Liam asks the inevitable question.

Harry hoped Liam had forgotten about it, but Liam never forgets anything, so it was a long shot anyway.

“Huh? No, not really.”

“You forgot about it already?”

No, Harry hasn’t. He doesn’t tell Liam that though, and he takes it as an answer and continues to ask questions.

“Did you do that thing where you gave him concert tickets because you were just feeling guilty about the fact that you would ignore him after you fooled around?”

Harry shakes his head. Yes, he’s done that before, and yes, Liam had been there to see it all happen, but this wasn’t like that.

“No, this time it really wasn’t that type of situation. I just thought he was fun and it would be even more fun to see him, plus his sister is a really big fan…but I don’t even know if he’s coming. I mean his sister tagged him in her Instagram story but I’m not-I don’t think-“

“Did you reply something?”

Harry nods. “Yes, but to his sister.”

Liam shakes his head. “Did she screenshot it and post it?”

“No, I didn’t see anything.”

But then again, he doesn’t really check Instagram stories at all, ever.

They enter the arena through the back, because there are already hundreds of fans outside the venue and his security team has advised him that he can’t just go out and say hi anymore.

The room where the Meet and Greet is supposed to take place has already been set up and the photographers are ready to go, so as soon as he drinks his cup of coffee, he lets Paul know that he’s ready.

After the first three groups that come in to take photos and autographs, his breath stops hitching whenever the door opens to let new people in.

“We’ve got the last two groups and then we’re done.” Paul tells him and then nods his head towards something behind Harry.

Harry turns around, smile ready and disappointment buried in his chest. The first thing he sees-

blue.

***

Harry’s eyes meet Louis’ and for a second Louis feels like he’s about to catch on fire, but then Lottie makes a weird sound in the back of her throat and he comes back to reality. He’s here for his sister.

“Louis I’m dying.” Is the last thing Lottie whispers to him before Harry makes his way over to the four of them.

“Hiii!” a girl gushes and hugs him tightly, to which Harry smiles, eyes not leaving Louis’ face.

The other girl also hugs him and quite obviously smells him before it’s Lottie’s turn.

“You must be Lottie.” Harry smiles and Louis bites down on his bottom lip. Of course he remembers her name.

Lottie is having a heart attack and doesn’t seem to actually realize what’s happening to her as Harry pulls her into a hug. Louis’ heart is warm because he can tell his sister is happy and he (sort of) made that happen. Then his mind drifts off to the possibility that he might have (sort of) prostituted himself for the tickets and-

“Hi, Louis.” Harry smiles and Louis extends his hand so Harry can shake it.

It’s all formal and what-not, but his paranoia is telling him that hugging Harry would make the two girls (and maybe even Lottie) suspicious.

“Can we do our photoshoot?” one of the girls buts into the conversation, completely catching Harry’s attention now.

“Of course.” He smiles. “Tell me how you want me.”

It’s a dirty innuendo, but maybe it’s just in Louis’ head, because Harry’s done this a hundred times before and will do this a hundred times after this is over, so all he has to do right now is shut up and do whatever Lottie wants to do.

The two girls get their turn first, even though they were behind Louis in the queue outside and they all know it.

“Can you get on your knees?” one of the girls asks.

“Gladly.” Harry answers, eyes meeting Louis’ for a split of a second.

I made him get on his knees without-fuck.

Louis’ mind is taking him to places it shouldn’t, because these are just young girls meeting their idol and he’s being selfish.

They make a proposal scenario and Harry is glad to oblige and get into whatever position the girls tell him to, so Louis makes himself busy with the snacks on the table.

There’s a big variety to pick from and he’s kind of overwhelmed because he hasn’t eaten at all today due to the nerves, which now seem to have evaporated from his body. Harry didn’t seem annoyed nor surprised when he saw him, which is a bit reassuring and at the same time disappointing. If he felt anything, be it happiness or surprise, he didn’t let it show.

He takes a small plate from the corner of the table and places some fruits on there before a lady with a Bluetooth headset comes over to him.

“I’m sorry, these are for the artist.” She tells him and Louis looks down at his plate.

“Uh-should I put them back or?”

This is ridiculous and Louis thinks about making a comment about how Harry would literally be unable to eat everything off the table, but he bites his tongue.

“It’s okay.” He hears Harry’s voice behind him, so he turns around. “He can eat whatever he wants.”

Another dirty innuendo? Possibly, most definitely, not. Louis smiles at him and the lady nods, leaving them alone.

“Your sister is waiting.” Harry states and nods over to the panel, where Lottie is standing, looking at them with a curious expression on her face.

Louis takes a few grapes from the plate before he sets it down on the table and follows Harry over to the panel.

“What would you like me to do?” Harry politely asks Lottie, showing a dimple.

“I haven’t thought about it.” Lottie lies. “Can we get one of the three of us first?”

Louis scrambles up next to Harry’s side because Lottie wants him in the middle as she hugs him, and Harry places one hand on Lottie’s shoulder and one on Louis’.

It’s a bit weird, Louis thinks, because he’s seen Harry naked (almost), and now he’s smiling at the camera next to him, on a completely different continent. A continent on which he hasn’t seen Harry naked. Yet.

He shakes his head to get out of his thoughts and smiles before Lottie steps back and asks for one with just her and Harry.

Louis steps to the side and uses the time to steal more fruit before the photoshoot is over.

The same woman with the headset walks over to Harry and tells him that he’s needed in his dressing room, so Lottie’s face saddens as she steps away from Harry. Harry, who is now looking at Louis as he walks over with his sister in tow.

“I’ll see you out there, yeah?” Harry asks Louis, who doesn’t really know what to do with himself. The fact that he just saw Harry at Coachella a few weeks ago and now he’s here, taking photos before his concert in London, still feels unreal. It’s by far the most interesting thing to happen to him in a long time and he doesn’t know how to react to everything. What he can do right now is be happy for his sister, who seems to be enjoying every minute of it.

“Yeah.” He finds himself answering and smiling.

“Oh, a-“Harry starts, but the woman nudges him.

“Your stylist is getting impatient.” She tells him and Harry nods, stepping back.

He throws Louis one more look before he follows her out of the room. Louis watches Harry’s back until it disappears behind the closing door. He turns to look at Lottie, who looks like she’s about to cry.

“Why are you crying?” he asks her, voice softening as he pulls her into a hug.

“I can’t believe I just met him; I’m overwhelmed.” She whines into his shoulder, gripping into the back of his jacket. “He’s so nice.”

Harry’s bodyguard, which Louis now knows is Paul, comes over.

“We need to escort you to your seats before the show starts.” He informs them, at which Lottie steps back and wipes the tears under her eyes to make sure that her mascara hasn’t run down her cheeks, looking embarrassed. Louis is sure that this isn’t the first nor the last time that Paul sees a crying girl.

He feels like Paul is giving him weird looks as he guides them through a long hallway, but then again, he’s been really into his thoughts ever since he arrived and he’s pretty sure by now that his mind is playing tricks on him to make himself feel better.

The VIP area is at the front of the stage, separated from the general access tickets by fences, and there’s a bar and a food cart on the side, which Louis makes a mental note to check out later.

People are being let in and the stadium fills out in no time, so Louis asks Lottie whether she wants anything to drink or eat before it will be physically impossible to get to the food stands.

“Just some water, I’m too nervous to eat.”

Louis rolls his eyes at her and then proceeds to walk over to the stands and gets in line behind two girls who are talking about how good-looking Harry is in person.

“I mean-he always looks like a daddy but now he’s daddy.” One of the girls whines and biting his tongue is all Louis can do in order to not huff in annoyance. He would feel uncomfortable if people were talking about him that way, especially without him knowing.

He gets a small popcorn and two bottles of water before he returns to Lottie, who’s currently having a conversation with one of the girls he saw in front of him just a few minutes ago.

Everyone seems to be friends with everyone, and Louis thinks that it’s nice how Harry can bring so many people together. The thought brings him back to wondering what the hell Harry wanted to say when he got interrupted backstage, but then again, he was probably just trying to thank them for coming.

And then he thinks about the word ‘coming’ and how it can have double meaning and-

“Louis?”

He blinks down at his sister, who’s watching him with worry in her eyes.

“What?”

“Are you okay? I’ve been talking to you for the past minute and you’re just standing there.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Here’s your water.”

Lottie takes it from him, not looking convinced at all, but she’s too busy to focus on the lights going out than on her brother. The same Rubik’s cube appears on the screen with Harry’s fingers playing with it, and Louis is experiencing some extreme déjà vu shit right about now. And then his mind drifts off to those actual fingers that were fiddling with his jeans, that travelled down his ass and-fuck. Not the time, Louis.

Lottie is screaming the moment the first chords ring through the air and Louis’ ears are buzzing, because they’re way closer to the stage than he was at Coachella and there are way more people screaming way louder.

When the lights come on and Harry starts belting out the first song, Louis forgets how to breathe. Because Harry fucking Styles is wearing fucking leather pants that cling to his thighs as if they were the last parachute on a crashing plane, and his shirt. His white see-through shirt that’s halfway unbuttoned, revealing the ridiculous tattoos on his chest, which sends 90% of the stadium (Louis included) in hyperventilation mode.

Harry finishes the first song and looks around, smiling.

“LONDOOON, how are you feeling toniiiight?”

Cue the screams.

A few seconds later, when most of the people have finished screaming, Harry announces his next song and Louis moves along to the beat even though it’s a slow one and he doesn’t even know it.

Three songs later, Harry takes his electric guitar off and walks over to the edge of the stage, ready to read some signs.

“Such lovely signs tonight.” He laughs into the mic as he crouches down. “Harry can you be my ride?”

The crowd laughs and Louis does too, because he remembers that Harry was in fact his ride (sort of) during a few songs at the festival.

“I assume you mean shoulder rides, don’t ya?” he says in a low voice and Louis mind goes blank because-he can’t not know.

Harry tries to listen to what the person with the sign has to say, before he shakes his head. “To be quite honest, my shoulders are still a bit sore.”

Okay, he definitely knows that Louis is in the audience, hearing everything he’s saying into the microphone.

“Oh, I see there’s someone there on their phones.” Harry says and the camera on the big screen shifts on a guy who’s currently texting someone.

The guy looks up and a terrified expression settles on his face, but then a guy next to him places his arm around him in a reassuring manner.

“Who’re you texting?” Harry asks, and guy-with-phone says something that looks a lot like ‘my sister. “Your sister?” Guy-with-phone nods. “Well then, tell her I said hi.” Harry winks. “Why isn’t she here?”

So Harry’s really trying to understand everything that guy is saying huh. Louis is watching the screen, which is focused on Harry’s face now.

“Oh, she’s not in London.” Harry pouts. “What’s her name?”

There’s a pause as Harry waits to understand. “Jade? Jane! Give it up for Jane everyone!”

Louis can’t help but smile, because Harry sure loves moments like these. He walks back to the mic stand and places his microphone back.

“What is it with guys who talk to their sisters at my concerts?” he laughs and Lottie turns to Louis, mouth agape. She presses two fingers to her neck to check if she’s alive, which makes Louis laugh and almost forget the fact that this is the second Coachella reference Harry’s made since the concert started.

You know what they say; first time is an accident, second time’s a coincidence, but the third time’s a pattern.

Louis thinks about this during the whole set, and when Harry announces Medicine (which probably also indicates the end of the concert), Louis wonders whether he’ll do that lyric change he’s 99% sure he heard right during Coachella.

When the last chords ring through the arena as Harry ends the song, Louis tries to hide his disappointment about the fact that he sang ‘got drunk on you’. Maybe he did mishear three weeks ago, and maybe it was all in his head. But he’s not really disappointed, even after all the bullshit about how Harry definitely wants something that Zayn filled his head with before coming here.

When the lights come on and Harry’s gone, Lottie turns to him with tears in her eyes.

“Why are you crying?” Louis asks, even though he can’t deny the fact that he also has post concert depression. Sort of.

“It was the best thing I’ve ever experienced Lou.” Lottie cries and hugs him. “Thank you so much for this. I can’t-thank you.”

Louis’ heart jumps in his chest and he genuinely feels happy for his sister, so he suggests going for ice cream down the street to end the day in the best way he knows how.

They’re close to the exit when they hear faint screams in the background so they turn around to see Harry running up on stage to greet the people who are still waiting at the VIP area, in hopes of seeing him again.

“Fuck!” Lottie cries, tugging at Louis’ arm. “We should’ve stayed, but I thought-nevermind.”

“What?” Louis asks, looking at how Harry’s taking photos with the people at the fence.

“He only came out after the show once before in Amsterdam, but people basically mobbed him and he was banned from coming out after shows.”

There’s people running back to the stage, screaming as they’re taking their phones out, but before Louis can even blink or suggest that they go back, two security guards come up behind Harry and nearly tear him away from the fans.

And just like that, he’s gone.

***

It’s been two weeks since the concert. It’s also been two weeks since Zayn told him that the only reason he didn’t get Harry’s number is because he decided against the ‘look at my ass’ jeans and just went with the ‘I have great legs’ jeans.

“Look, all I’m saying is that you should’ve-“

“It’s been a fortnight, Zayn. Let it go.” Louis sighs and puts his cigarette out in the ashtray.

They’re at their apartment, sitting on the balcony to enjoy a little bit of sun- or ‘the only vitamin D you’re getting’ as Zayn calls it. It’s 2pm on a Friday and since they live in a quiet area in Hampstead, it’s quite nice because the people living in their neighborhood are off to work.

Louis closes his eyes and leans back into his chair, exhaling. It’s kind of therapeutic, sitting on their balcony on a Friday afternoon with birds chirping somewhere in the trees, the sun stroking his face and the low crumpling of a paper as Zayn tries to roll the first joint of the day.

They decided to stop their ‘wake and bake’ tradition a few months ago when they were trying to save up for Coachella, but now that it’s long gone and there’s nothing to ‘save up for’, Zayn came into Louis’ room the night before and suggested they reinstate the tradition. To be fair, they were both pretty stoned when the decision was made but in Louis’ defense, it’s not like he spends money on anything else other than rent and food (‘it’s not like you have any other expenses, you know, like going out’ Zayn argued). Plus, it was a unanimous vote, so who is Louis to argue with democracy?

“Do you need help with that?” he asks and opens one eye to look at the table where Zayn is struggling to close the joint.

“Nah, got it.”

Louis watches him lick the paper and swiftly close it with one finger, before he taps the filter against the table and proceeds to stuff it with the roll of his clipper.

“Niall called.”

Louis opens both eyes now. “Niall The Irish?”

Zayn nods.

“Coachella Niall?” Louis double checks.

“The same one.”

“What did he say?”

Zayn lights up the joint and takes a few drags to get it going before he lets the smoke out in Louis’ face. “That he just realized that we’re all actually living in London and that he’s celebrating a mate’s birthday this weekend.”

Louis waits for him to continue the sentence, but it apparently stops there.

“Aaand?”

Zayn passes the joint and leans back into his chair. “Aaand, he asked if we wanted to come with. It’s Bryan’s birthday, if you remember him.”

“Small guy with the weird beard?” Louis asks, coughing a little.

“Yeah.”

“And what did you say?”

“I said I’d ask you but that we’d be there.”

Louis nods, passing the joint. “Where is it?”

“A pub in the city somewhere. Have to ask for the name because I forgot.”

“I think I have appointments until eight tomorrow, but we can make it work.”

Zayn agrees by passing the joint. “It would also be good to get out more.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Can you stop nagging for like two seconds?”

“Can you stop pretending like you don’t want someone to dick you down? Actually, not even want, but need?” Zayn argues.

“I thought you didn’t like that term.”

“That was back when I thought it might happen. Now, I’ll accept any term as long as it’s going to happen. Desperate times call for desperate measures I guess.”

Louis huffs. “Why are we always focusing on my sex life? Let’s talk about yours. How’s Ryan doing? Oh wait, that’s right. You dumped him two months ago.”

“Technically, it’s not called dumping if we weren’t in a relationship.”

Louis takes a hit. “What would you call it then?”

“Ghosting.”

Louis pulls his lips into a thin line and cocks his head, making sure that Zayn can read the disappointment on his face.

“What? Louis, we were fucking.”

“For three months.”

“So?”

“Sooo, you can’t just not reply-“

“He was getting clingy, Louis.” Zayn says and raises both arms in defence.

“Maybe the problem is you-“

“Why are we changing the subject? We were talking about you.”

“And we’ve been doing that for the past month and a half, ever since the ‘Harryncident’.” Louis huffs, making air quotes for the last word.

“Did you come up with that name just now?”

Louis nods and makes a face when Zayn takes the joint from his fingers. “Anyway-“

“Look. We’re going to go to that pub tomorrow, we’re going to drink, and we’re going to like it. And if it just so happens that we’re going to meet someone there to ‘dick us down’ or whatever-“

Louis interrupts him by raising a hand. “Why do you assume I need to find a guy?”

Zayn squints at him. “Because I know you, and you were clearly gagging for Harry to give it to you.”

Well, he’s got a point. What he doesn’t know is that Louis’s been having dreams about getting fucked by Harry at least once a week, until they started turning into him getting fucked period.

A long comfortable silence follows after that, only filled by the sound of the smoke coming out of their mouths and the occasional car passing by.

“You want to know what I think?” Zayn asks after a few minutes.

“Do I ever have a choice?”

Zayn flips him off. “I think, that the first one to get laid should not have to pay for weed for an entire week.”

Louis thinks about it. At this point, it can be anyone’s guess on who the first one to get laid will be, because they’re both sexually frustrated and not really motivated to find someone. Not to mention that neither of them have been out to a club in weeks.

“Alright.” He agrees and watches Zayn stub the joint into the ashtray.

He checks the time on his phone, but then remembers that he doesn’t have to be at the tattoo parlor today since Tom’s got it covered. He decides that the best thing to do right now is to roll another one, and Zayn doesn’t seem to mind when he pulls the Tupperware on his side of the table.

“Can I ask you something? It’s been bugging me for a while.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Hm?”

“When did you start using the word ‘fortnight’?”

***

Louis wakes up with drool on his chin. Not the most attractive way to wake up, but then again, no one’s there to see it.

Except, there is someone there to see it.

“Why are you looking at me while I sleep.” Louis states more than asks and turns on his other side, away from Zayn.

“I’m not, but your alarm’s been ringing for the past half hour and you didn’t even hear it.”

“Shit, what time’s it?” Louis asks and turns on his back, opening his eyes to face the ceiling.

“Ten past one.”

“Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck.”

He pushes the blanket to the edge of the bed with his feet and sits up at the edge of the bed facing Zayn.

“What time do you have to be there?”

“First appointment’s at two. Tom called to make sure you didn’t oversleep.”

“What did you tell him?”

Sometimes, even though the parlor is called LWTattoos, it feels like it should be called ‘Tom keeping Louis’ shit in check tattoos’, because he acts more like a boss than Louis does (Zayn’s words, not Louis’).

“What do you think I told him?” Zayn asks, following him into the kitchen, where a pot of coffee (bless Zayn’s dark soul) is already on the table.

“That I definitely overslept.”

“If you already know, why do you ask?” Zayn grins and sits down at the table across from him.

Louis can’t even be bothered to come up with a snarky remark right now, since he hasn’t been able to function in the morning without a coffee and a cigarette for the past five years, not to mention keeping up with Zayn’s ‘jokes’ in the morning.

“You should become a standup comedian.” Louis mutters under his breath. “What with all your good jokes.”

Anyone would take one look at Zayn and think that he’s not a morning person. They’d say that he’s the mysterious artistic type (because of his tattoo sleeves and changing haircut and the way he dresses) that chain-smokes and doesn’t talk too much. And while the second part is true, the ‘not being a morning person’ part definitely isn’t. He’s the only person Louis knows on this earth that wakes up in a good mood, but proceeds to get worse throughout the day.

Louis, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. Waking up in the morning and having to leave the comfort of his bed is the worst part of his day by far. And anyone who would take one look at him would say that he’s an extrovert; someone who always makes jokes and lightens the mood at any social gathering. Which also implies that he’s always happy and in a good mood, something Louis certainly disagrees with.

This is why Zayn and him work; they balance eachother out. Over the years, Zayn has learned to be more open, which is where his witty ‘jokes’ come from (Louis takes full credit for each and every single one of Zayn’s lines, because when they met Zayn was very closed-in and couldn’t even take a joke). Also, thanks to him, Louis has become more responsible and polite (aka, he’s stopped making comments about everything-for the most part).

They drink coffee and smoke a cigarette in the kitchen by the window before Louis goes to the bathroom to take a shower and put on some clothes.

“Dress for the pub, because it’s twenty minutes away from work.” Zayn yells from the living room and even though Louis doesn’t reply, he does just that.

“We should really invest in a car.” Zayn mutters as they wait for the metro in the overcrowded station.

“You’ve been saying that every single day for the past two years.”

“And this time I mean it.” they both say at the same time (Zayn in a serious tone, Louis in a mocking accent).

Tom is already in the back office, going over some sketches while also checking emails, red as a tomato because the universe had just decided that a heatwave would be appropriate for London.

“We’re here.” Louis announces and drops into one of the chairs by the desk.

“Good.” Tom says, not looking up from the computer. “We’ve got an appointment overlap that needs to be taken care of, ten new sketch requests and three new appointments that need to be scheduled for tomorrow.”

“Aren’t we fully booked until next Thursday?”

“Yeah, but they’re urgent.” Tom finally looks up from the laptop screen. “You should put some sun cream on.”

“I could say the same to you.” Louis smiles and takes the sheet of paper that has today’s date on top.

Tom blatantly ignores him and focuses on Zayn now. “I forwarded the sketch requests to you, tagged as urgent and not really urgent, but if you could do them all today while Louis and I get to work-“

“That’s my job, innit?” Zayn asks and takes a seat behind his desk, turning on his tablet/laptop/sketch pad.

Louis looks over today’s appointments while silence settles into the office, everyone deep in their own work. Well, Tom and Zayn at least, since Louis can’t really figure out how he’s supposed to fit three medium tattoos in just one hour.

“How am I supposed to-“

“I’m also working today, so I’ll be taking one of them.” Tom answers, not even waiting for Louis to finish the sentence. “The ones in the pink font are mine.”

“Suits you.” Louis smirks. Tom. A six-foot-two ‘walking tattoo’ (Louis’ first thought about him during Tom’s interview years ago when he first started out) of a man, who now has two kids and a wife. “Where’s Max?”

“Took two weeks off as of today, I told you.”

Max. About Louis’ height, no tattoos, nose piercing, but great artist. He’s worked with Louis longer than Zayn has.

“I don’t really remember signing off on his vacation days and you know how Em gets about these things-“

“I did, it’s fine.” Tom says, meeting Louis’ eyes.

“What would I do without you Thomas?” Louis cries. “You’re the best COO I’ve ever had.”

“I’m the only COO you’ve ever had.”

That’s true. When Louis opened up his place almost four years ago, he was CEO (still is, but that’s not the point), CFO, COO and everything else rolled into one. He found Max on Grindr of all places, and after a one night stand (it wasn’t really, because they both kind of wanted to bottom and it ended up being awkward), they got to talking (and drinking) and Louis ended up telling him about how he just rented a space in the city to open up a tattoo place and how he can’t really back out now since he already paid three months of rent, and Max ended up telling him how he’s been struggling to find work as an artist since he finished Uni.

A lightbulb went off in Louis’ head then and Max didn’t even waste one breath when Louis asked whether he’d like them to work together. Zayn wasn’t really happy about it, because Louis’ could’ve asked him first too, but in Louis’ defense, Zayn had been working for the same advertising company ever since they got out of Uni. So Max has been here for the past four years, Zayn and Tom have been here for almost three, and Emma (their CFO) for two.

The door chimes at the entrance and Louis looks at the clock on the wall. It’s past 2pm, which means that his day officially started.

He checks the schedule once again, tries to memorize it by heart (he doesn’t), and then walks out of the office to greet the first customer of the day.

***

Seven hours, three coffees, and twenty-three tattoos later, Louis drops back into his chair in the office and lets out a sigh. Thursday, Friday and the weekend are definitely the busiest days at the parlor. That’s why they work Monday-Wednesday from 3-11pm and Thursday-Sunday from 1-9 (8pm on Sunday’s). He took a day off yesterday due to ‘personal problems’ (he got too high with Zayn and they both decided that they weren’t fit to go to work – Tom saw right through them but didn’t object), so he made up for it today.

“What time is the whole pub thing?” Louis asks and takes the office Tupperware out of his (and Tom’s) desk.

“They’re meeting at ten.”

Louis places a small amount of weed in his rainbow grinder and starts twisting it while asking Tom to give him the schedule for tomorrow.

“Fully booked as usual, from two until eight. But those three urgent ones need to be put in there somehow.”

“Can’t you take them while I do someone else?”

“We’re already working together back-to-back tomorrow.” Tom tells him and Louis stops grinding to place a hand over Tom’s.

“I love how our relationship continues to blossom.”

Tom takes his hand out from under Louis’ and looks at him with the ‘Tom look’; a look that means ‘cut the bullshit it’s time to get serious’.

Louis sighs. “Fine.” He opens his laptop and asks Tom to send over the schedule. “Tell me again why these three are so urgent? Why is Sarah’s heart or Lilly’s arrow or Harvey’s tiny cross tattoo urgent?”

Tom looks up, and usual, he’s got an answer to all of Louis’ questions. Louis should really consider giving him a raise sometime soon.

“The two girls want to come in together at the same time, said something about doing it together and it’s the only day they can both make it work, and Harvey said that he won’t be in London next week and would also be open to paying a ‘late fee’, that’s how urgent it is. Plus, Zayn can take the arrow and I can take the heart while you can take the cross. And I know we only have two beds, but the cross is supposed to be on his hand so it can be done at the table.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “What did you tell Harvey about the fee? What fee?”

“He offered to pay triple of what it would cost.” Tom says.

“And did you tell him that we don’t do that here?”

“I did.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said thank you when I told him that he can come in after hours. It’s a small cross, it can be done in under fifteen minutes-thirty, tops, if he wants to fill it up.”

Louis nods. “Who are we to deny someone the right to express themselves, right?”

Tom agrees and Louis gets back to rolling. The office phone rings and Tom looks at Louis, who in turn looks down at the open paper he’s about to take care of, so Tom rolls his eyes and takes the call.

“LWTattoos, this is Tom.”

Louis cackles.

“Yeah. I talked to the boss-he said it’s fine. Uhuh. How? We’re going to schedule you and two others at the same time shortly after 8pm. That’s private. Yeah, hold on.”

Tom presses the mute button and Louis looks up at him.

“He asked who will be getting tattoos at the same time as him, told him it’s private.”

Louis snarls. “Who does this guy think he is? Queen of England? Shit, maybe it’s a prince.”

Que the ‘Tom look’.

“We can’t be taking any chances Thomas! Just tell him it’s two girls.”

Tom unmutes the call and repeats what Louis just told him.

“Yeah? Okay. Sure, no problem. Have a good day Mr. Specter.”

Louis stops and looks at Tom. Then looks over his shoulder, just to meet Zayn’s eyes, who carry the same ‘are you serious’ look that Louis’ have.

“What?” Tom asks.

“Oh, poor Thomas.” Louis shakes his head. “It was a prank call.”

“What? How can you even tell?”

“Have you ever seen Suits?” Louis asks.

“No, but I guess that the two of you are watching it?”

“Yeah. And Harvey Specter is the main character. Don’t tell me, he cancelled?”

Tom’s expression changes to admit defeat. “Yeah, he did. But he said he’ll call again when he’s going to be in town.”

“Sure.” Louis laughs. “I guess we can expect a call from El Profesor any day now.”

“And be prepared to tell him what you’re wearing.” Zayn adds. Louis bursts out laughing and turns his head to appreciate Zayn’s joke.

“What are you talking about?”

“Are you-Thomas! Honestly, just go on Netflix every once in a while, when you have time. You’d understand.” Louis says, taking his disappointed-parent tone.

“Well, Lewis, I’m too busy keeping your shit in check than to start watching shows.”

Louis pouts. “Touché.”

***

They arrive at the pub about thirty minutes later than everyone else, but they’re a bit high so they had to stop at a kebab place to get something to eat. Niall’s group isn’t really hard to spot, since it’s the biggest table and also the loudest.

“LOUIS!” Niall yells from where he’s already standing, leaning over two girls as he talks to them, arms around each of their shoulders.

It’s sort of a hole-in-the-wall pub, on a side street, where everyone is loud and nobody really gives a shit, so it’s just Louis’ sort of place.

Niall retracts himself from the two girls, spilling a bit of beer over one of them as he turns around to properly face Zayn and Louis.

“Just in time for the first round of shots! Long time no see!” Niall laughs and pats both of them on the back, before he turns his head to signal the waiter. “Oi, Marty! Shots for everyone! On me!”

Everyone cheers and Niall invites them to sit down next to him since he saved them two seats. Louis and Zayn congratulate Bryan on turning twenty-five before sitting down.

Niall immediately makes sure that they each have a pint under their noses before he starts asking them how they’ve been. Zayn seems happy to converse, so Louis looks around the table. He recognizes the two girls Niall was talking to earlier (Amy and Nina?? from the festival), a guy Louis can’t really remember the name of who sits next to Bryan at the end of the table, and Bryan’s girlfriend. Then there’s two more guys and one more girl he doesn’t recognize, but all in all, no one really catches his eye at the table. He looks over to Zayn who’s too busy listening to Niall’s story.

“Where’s Shawn?”

“He should be here any minute now, he’s got a Tinder date.” Niall answers and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. “I don’t know if he’s bringing her though. Texted me saying she’s pretty uptight. But that was two hours ago, so who knows?”

The waiter comes over with a tray filled with Tequila shots, and Louis does NOT want to remember the last time they took Tequila shots. Because it was in America. At a festival. Right before Harry Styles basically came into his hand.

He grabs a shot glass and holds it up, ready for everyone else to follow suit. Zayn takes his glass and they exchange looks. Louis knows what he’s thinking, because they’re literally thinking the same thing.

“I know that you know that I know that you know what I’m thinking.” Zayn tells him and Louis hates him.

“Try to tell me that whole sentence again after three shots and I’ll pay for your fourth.” Louis challenges and Zayn raises an intrigued eyebrow before the whole table yells ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRYAN’ and downs the shots at record speed.

They’re two shots in, about to take the third, when Niall asks everyone to stop.

“Shawn is going to be here soon! And he’s bringing his date.” He announces and the whole table cheers, some guys even slamming their hands down on the table.

“So who is she?” Zayn asks, sipping on his newly ordered Gin Tonic, which Louis convinced him to get so that he wouldn’t be the only one not drinking beer.

“I don’t know, some girl he met on there a few months ago and he’s usually really picky about it, but for some reason he decided to agree to go out with her and now they hit it off.”

“Didn’t he say that she was boring?” Louis asks, because who doesn’t love a bit of gossip?

“I guess not.” Niall says and turns to look towards the door, where Shawn just walked in, followed by a smaller girl trailing after him.

A smaller girl that looks veeery familiar.

“Holy shit-“ Zayn starts.

“Is that-“ Louis continues.

“Emma?” Zayn finishes, and they both look at each other in shock.

Niall’s confused and keeps looking between an approaching Shawn and a very shocked Louis and Zayn.

“Do you know her?” Niall asks, but before either of them can give a proper explanation, Amy (or Nina) stands up and hands a shot to both Shawn and Emma.

It’s not until she’s got the shot to her lips that Emma actually realizes who’s sitting at the table. She’s a small girl; five-foot-four, blue eyes and long dark-brown hair, but all of her freezes when she sees her two ‘bosses’ looking just as shocked at her.

“Cheers!” Shawn yells and everyone but three people join in with the yelling, downing their shot.

Zayn slams his third empty shot glass on the table and turns to Louis. “She knows that we know that she knows that we know what she’s doing here.”

Louis stares at his best friend in awe, then looks back at Emma, who hasn’t moved but is fake smiling at something Shawn is telling Niall, who has somehow teleported himself next to them.

“I’m going to go out for a smoke.” Louis says, loud enough that anyone can hear, but not loud enough that someone would think he wasn’t only talking to Zayn, who says that he’ll join him outside.

Louis looks behind him to make sure they’re out of hearing range before he leans against the wall outside and pulls out a cigarette.

“Javadd, are you seeing this?” he asks and Zayn shoots him a death stare.

“Yes, William. Would you maybe care to share some thoughts?”

“Oh my God, Emma is on Tinder.” Louis explodes.

“And you’re on Grindr and Bumble and Tinder and all other existing dating apps.”

“No, Zayn. Emma.”

Zayn cocks his head. Louis knows he’s got a point. They’re used to the ‘fresh out of Uni Emma who’s good at Math, keeps their books in check, and is an accounting genius who accepts getting paid way less than she could earn at a big corporation’. Louis is shook.

“Hi.”

They both turn their heads towards the door, where Emma stands, in her short dress with red lipstick and all that jazz.

“Oh hello, when did you get here?” Louis asks, and even though it’s the worst save in history, it lightens the mood.

Emma closes the door behind her and looks between the two of them, a guilty expression on her face.

“So…” she starts. “I guess you both know how I know Shawn.”

“What?” Zayn asks, at the same time as Louis says “No clue.”

“I know you guys.” She sighs. “And I know you’re my bosses but-“

“Well, technically, I’m your boss.” Louis interjects and Zayn purses his lips.

“Anyway, I really don’t want this to be weird, okay? I’m-it’s the weekend.” She tries and Louis thinks it’s so cute how she’s worried about them judging her or being weird at work.

“Let me tell you something, young grasshoppa’.” Louis starts, and thinks about how that one beer, three Tequila shots and two Gin Tonics are probably starting to kick in. “I’m-“

“On Grindr, Tinder and Bumble.” Zayn says and Emma looks at Louis with big eyes, before she bursts out laughing.

“Why thank you, Zayn. But what I was about to say is that I’m about to go buy a round of shots, and that you should join us. Also, let’s drop this bullshit about us being your bosses, okay? You know by now that we’ve got a flat hierarchy thing going on. C’mon, let’s go do some shots.”

They put their cigarettes out in the ashtray and walk back inside, Louis’ arm around her shoulders now while she tells them about what her and Shawn did earlier in the evening.

“Isn’t it weird that he’s like, a hundred times taller than you?” he asks her while they wait at the bar for their shots.

“I find it sort of sexy actually. I don’t know about him though, having to look down every time.” She says and Louis asks for salt as soon as three shots are laid out in front of them.

“Ha, Louis’ the one to talk.” Zayn laughs and Emma gives them confused looks.

Louis points at Zayn, who takes his shot glass from the bar. “You know that’s a closed subject.”

It is. They agreed yesterday that the ‘Harryncident’ is a closed case. A closed, buried, never-to-be-talked-about case, because how else is Louis supposed to get over one of the (if not the) hottest sexual encounters of his life?

(“Are you sure it’s not just because he’s a famous rockstar?” Zayn had asked as they passed the joint between the two of them.

“Yes, I’m sure. I don’t care who or what he is, have you ever gotten off on a table with a hot guy where anyone could’ve walked by and seen?” Louis argued.

Zayn didn’t give an answer, but Louis took it as one.)

“Here’s to…” Louis starts as the three of them hold their shot glasses up. What should they drink to? The tattoo place? Boring. To Louis and Zayn’s getting laid mission? Too inappropriate in front of Emma. Bryan? Well… Drinking? “…drinking!”

Emma and Zayn laugh, then the two of them lick the salt off their hands (except for Louis, who doesn’t do Tequila with salt) before they down the shot. Louis makes a face as he sucks on the lemon, before he slams the shot glass back down on the bar.

Emma sits down between Shawn and Louis, and since everyone has started a game of Piccolo without actually including the three of them, Louis focuses his sole attention on Emma, who he thinks he should get to know better (bad idea, since he’s quite a few drinks in and starting to get tipsy).

“So…was this your first Tinder date?” he asks, trying to make casual conversation.

Louis.” Zayn interjects.

Emma laughs. “It’s fine. Yeah, I mean…I made a profile a year ago but never really met with anyone because it was just to have fun while being high-uuuh, highly…bored.” She says, trying to save herself, but Louis’ eyes are already shimmering.

“You smoke?” Louis asks, placing a dramatic hand on his chest.

“Only on weekends, okay? Never before work! Or after!” she says, looking mortified.

Louis looks at Zayn. Zayn looks at Louis. “Yeah, good choice. Mhm. It’s bad to…do that.”

Niall announces another round of shots some time later, when they finish the game, and Shawn takes the opportunity of remote silence (aka no one yelling or telling jokes) to place an arm around Emma’s shoulders and lean over to talk to Louis.

“So how was the concert?”

Louis is confused for a second. Then he remembers.

“Oh. Yeah, it was-Lottie had fun.”

“Did you have fun?” Shawn asks, wiggling his eyebrows.

Louis watches Emma’s confused expression.

“Well, I only knew like…two songs.” Is the only answer he can come up with. Abort abort ABORT.

“Hey, shots are here!” Zayn says, God bless his soul.

Everyone takes a glass and there’s an extra one that no one knows what to do with.

“That’s for Liam, he’s on the way.” Niall explains, and it takes Louis’ mind 0.004 seconds to realise which Liam he’s referring to.

If there’s only one shot, it means Liam’s coming alone.

But still.

“There he is!” Niall says and stands up from his seat to walk over to Liam, who just entered the pub.

Liam shakes every guy’s hand and kisses every girl on the cheek before he stops next to Zayn and Louis’ chairs.

“Hi.” He says, looking genuinely happy to see them. Louis and Zayn shake his hand as Niall brings a new chair to the table and makes space between him and Zayn.

“Just in time for shots! Who could’ve seen this coming?” he says and Liam shakes his head in amusement. “Take a seat and a shot.”

Zayn looks at Louis. Louis looks at Zayn. The subject is closed, sealed, buried.

“To Bryan!” Liam says and holds up his glass. Everyone cheers.

As Louis takes his fifth shot (or is it fourth? Or sixth?), he thinks about how if they continue going out with this group, there’s no possibility of the case being closed any time soon. Unless he actually makes an effort with the getting laid mission.

***

It’s way past midnight and Louis is pretty sure he’s drunk. Well, scratch that. He’s definitely drunk.

“I’m definitely drunk.” He mutters to Zayn as they lean against the wall in the smoking area, trying to get his lighter to work.

“I can see that.” Zayn states and takes his cigarette out of his mouth to turn it around and place it properly on his lips.

“’fanks.”

“You know what I never noticed?” Zayn goes on. “Liam’s kind of fit.”

“Oh please, even I noticed you noticed.” Louis slurs, dropping his cigarette.

They both look down at it. Louis groans and picks it up.

“When did you notice I noticed?”

“Fuck. Don’t say shit like that, I can’t follow it.”

“Am I that obvious?” Zayn whines.

Okay, they’re both drunk. Which isn’t good, since they have to get back to their apartment somehow.

“Not really, but I know you. And when your jaw clenches while looking at someone, it means business.”

“Do you think he’s gay?” Zayn ponders.

“I think he doesn’t have to necessarily be gay for you to have a chance. He can be bi, pan-“

“Okay, okay, you don’t have to be politically correct around me.”

“Maybe we can find out.” Louis suggests.

“I don’t really want to ask Niall.”

Louis waves his hand all over the place. “No, not ask Niall The Irish. Ask the Gram.”

Zayn looks confused.

“Good old fashion Instagram stalking.” Louis clarifies. “Get your phone out.”

“’The Gram’. You sound like-“

“Do you want to roast each other right now or do you want to find out if you have the possibility of getting dicked down?”

Zayn obliges and opens up the app, before typing Liam’s name in. He’s got around nine million followers and his business profile states ‘Music producer @ HSHQ’.

“How am I supposed to figure out if he’d be interested from his profile?”

“Gimme it.” Louis says and makes grabby-hands towards the phone.

Cigarette in his left hand, phone in his right, he starts scrolling through his profile. There’s pictures of him in different places, locations such as Bali, Lake Como, LA, New York, all of him alone and without a shirt on. There’s one of him and Harry (and a few other people), but Louis scrolls past it.

“Now this is some serious eye candy.” Louis says and clicks on a picture of Liam where he stands on a yacht, hands spread out, naked.

“Too bad it’s blurred.”

“Well…” Louis trails off and double-taps the screen.

“LOUIS!” Zayn exclaims, quickly unliking the photo.

Louis cackles. “Too late. If he’s on his phone and has notifications on, he already saw it.”

“Maybe he didn’t, since he probably gets a hundred likes per second, ha.”

“I mean-I can’t really tell if he’s interested in men, but. We know he’s good looking.”

Zayn takes the phone out of Louis’ hand and pockets it. “You’re useless.”

“And you are sexually frustrated.”

“No, you are.” Louis argues.

Niall interrupts them by sticking his head out through the door-crack. “We’re taking the last round of shots. You in?”

Before Zayn can say anything, Louis puts his cigarette out in the ashtray, then Zayn’s, and takes his friend’s hand. “We’re in.”

It ends up being a bad idea. A very, very bad idea. Because it’s the last bit of alcohol needed for Louis to go from ‘drunk Louis’ to ‘shitfaced Louis’. It’s a whole system with levels and stages that Zayn analysed during one of their smoking sessions-Louis doesn’t want to get into it.

So right now, Louis is all but yelling into Niall’s ear as they wait in line for the bathroom about how he really isn’t that drunk and how he could drink Niall The Irish under the table any day.

“Where’s Zayn?” Louis asks out of a sudden, because whenever he’s drunk and feels disorientated he needs to know that Zayn is there, even though he’s not really sure why. He thinks it might’ve started sometime during their first year at Uni.

“Him and Liam are putting Bryan and Noelle into the cab.”

“Are they having sexy time?” Louis slurs and gives a smirk he thinks might look mischievous but might also just look like he’s really pissed.

Niall laughs out loud, throwing his head back. Louis thinks he has the best laugh he’s ever heard.

“Why are you laughing? Is Liam straight? Is that why you’re laughing?”

No matter how drunk he is, he’ll always be Zayn’s best wingman. He makes a mental note to tell him later.

“No, you actually said ‘sexy time’. Legend.” Niall says between laughs and Louis want to kiss him for being so pure.

“So?”

“So? It’s funny.”

They take a few more steps as the queue advances.

“No. Is Liam straight?”

Niall gets serious now and squints at Louis as he leans his head back against the wall. “Why do you want to know?”

Louis squints back at him. “Do you care?”

“Not really. And no, he hasn’t done anything with a guy before if that’s what you’re asking. But I don’t think he’d be opposed to the idea either.”

“Are you guessing or do you know for sure?”

“I know for sure.” Niall says, mocking his accent.

“I’m not even going to ask how you know that, but I trust you. The Irish don’t lie.”

“Well, if history’s anything to go by…” Niall trails off and before Louis’ drunken mind can understand his historical reference, they’re next to go into the toilets.

The number of people at the table has significantly gone down and right now it’s only Zayn, Louis, Shawn, Emma, Niall, Liam and Nina left.

“I have something to tell you.” Louis whispers into Zayn’s ear as Shawn and Niall reminisce about Bryan’s last birthday.

“What did you do?” Zayn looks absolutely mortified.

“Can’t tell you now.” Louis cryptically says and not so subtly looks in Liam’s direction.

Zayn’s expression turns from mortified to serious to terrified, but Louis winks (tries to) at him and then proceeds to suck on the straw he put into the bottle of water.

It’s nearly 2am, which is when the bar closes, so Niall asks the waiter to bring their check before they start gathering their shit.

Shawn says he’ll take Emma home since she doesn’t live far from here, Nina takes a taxi so it’s just the four of them left.

“Where are you guys going? Maybe we can drop you off with the Uber.” Niall says, checking his phone.

“Hampstead.” Zayn replies, since Louis is too busy trying to eye who Liam is texting on his phone.

“Shit, we’re going in Vauxhall.” Niall says and Louis assures him that they’ll find an Uber.

“Or you can just split it.” Liam suggests and Louis raises his eyebrows, agreeing.

Liam sits in the front since he needs the most leg space, so Louis ends up in the middle of the backseat, squished between Zayn and Niall.

“Can you like, move? I’m suffocating.” Louis tells him.

“Don’t pretend like I don’t have a bony ass.” Zayn retorts. “Yours is taking up all the space if you haven’t noticed.”

Louis rolls his eyes and leans back into the seat, closing his eyes. He reopens them when they come to a stop, dizziness settling in. He blinks out the window and sees tall apartment buildings, lit up as if they were in New York.

“Am I in Singapore?” Louis asks, because although he may be drunk, he can tell they’re close to a river.

“No, this is our stop.” Liam laughs. Louis and Zayn exchange looks as they say goodbye to the two of them.

As soon as the car starts moving north towards their stop, Louis shifts to the other side of the car.

“So he’s rich as fuck.” Louis concludes.

“What did you want to tell me back at the bar?”

Louis is confused.

“Please don’t tell me you’re so pissed you forgot.”

“No…no. Wait. YES! So, I asked Niall if Liam’s straight-“ Zayn makes a face “-and BEFORE you say anything, I didn’t give anything away and I found out something.” dramatic pause “Liam wouldn’t be opposed to explorin’.”

“Explorin’?” Zayn repeats, mocking Louis’ accent. “Does that mean-“

“Yes. But it also doesn’t mean-“

“I know.”

“Well, there you have it. You’ve got a green light.”

Zayn doesn’t say anything after that so Louis closes his eyes and leans his head against the window. He really should stop drinking (so much at once).

When they get home, he nearly goes up the flight of stairs on all fours and plops down on the couch. Zayn sits down a few seconds later with a bottle of water.

“I’m soooo drunk.” Louis smiles.

“I know, that’s what the bottle’s for.”

“I could use some sexy time right now.” Louis pouts.

“Please do it in your room, I don’t want to ever see that a-“

“You know with whom? With Haaarrold.”

“I don’t think that’s his name-“

“I’m going to text him.”

Zayn knows he should stop him, but he kind of wants to see what’s going to happen. And Louis knows it.

He opens Instagram and searches for Harry’s name before he enters the blank conversation.

louist91: helkfoo

louist91: lest hve some siwxu tine

“Okay, I love you, so that’s enough.” Zayn says and takes the phone out of his hand.

“But Zaaaayn.” Louis whines and Zayn locks the phone.

“You need to get some sleep.”

“I’m not sleepy.”

“If you don’t go to sleep, serious Tom’s voice will be the first thing you’ll hear in the morning when he calls you.”

“Goodnight for me.” Louis says, stretching his legs out over Zayn and placing his head on the armrest.

Zayn shakes his head and places the phone on the coffee table beside Louis’ head.

***

Harry’s on the couch in his London apartment, bowl of Nachos on his belly, when the door in the hallway slams shut. He pauses Netflix because he knows that Liam and Niall won’t be silent enough for him to be able to continue his binging marathon.

Ten seconds later, Niall and Liam appear in the living room, loudly conversing about how much Niall had to drink.

“How was it?” he asks, although he knows the answer to it already.

“I got shitfaced.” Niall laughs, not even hesitating to take the bowl from Harry and dig his whole hand in.

“Shitfaced enough to not show up to the airport tomorrow night?”

“Psh, please. Isn’t the flight at like, midnight? I won’t even have a hangover tomorrow. But I can’t speak about everyone else at that table.” He turns to Liam. “Louis will definitely have a hangover tomorrow hahaha.”

Harry absentmindedly scrolls through his Instagram feed.

“Well, I read something about how people with light-colored eyes are lightweights. Especially light blue ones.” Liam adds. Harry looks up.

“Who are you talking about?”

“Louis, you know him.” Niall suggestively says.

Harry locks his phone. Yes, he knows Louis. How can he forget. It’s not every day that he gets off on a table in public next to portable toilets.

“I think he might have a thing for Liam.” Niall adds, and Harry’s stomach gets weird. Liam looks just as lost as Harry does.

“Why?”

“He asked me if you’re straight.”

Liam looks at Harry in a weird way, as if to say that he has no fault in this whatsoever.

“And what did you tell him?” Harry finds himself asking.

“That you’re open to experiences with other genders.” Niall states.

Liam opens his mouth to protest and then closes it. All three of them know that it’s true, because Liam once fell for one of Harry’s opening acts and even though it didn’t go further than just kissing, he would’ve done more.

“I’m not interested in Louis though.” Liam says, more to Harry than to Niall.

“Why not?” Harry and Niall ask at the same time, but Niall continues. “I think he’s really good looking.”

“Then why don’t you date him?” Liam asks.

As an answer, they both look at Harry, who suddenly finds his Instagram feed very interesting. He looks up and gives in.

“You know that just because I…fooled around with him, that doesn’t mean I own him or that I’m going to get jealous. People can have casual hookups, you know.”

Liam cocks his head in a ‘cut the bullshit’ way. “Is that why you called his tattoo place and tried making an appointment after hours? Or why you gave him free concert tickets?”

“Well, that still doesn’t mean I own him. Or that I’m in love with him.”

“Yeah, but it means you want…something.”

What is Harry supposed to say? That he’d love fucking Louis into the sheets until tears stream down his cheeks and that maybe he’s been having involuntary dreams about it ever since Louis got him off just by basically doing nothing?

“He’s handsome, I’ll just leave it at that.” Harry says and makes a point by looking back at his phone. He decides to scroll through his message requests on Instagram and Twitter; a thing he does whenever he’s bored and doesn’t know what to do with himself.

On Twitter it’s the usual ‘marry me’ or ‘Harry can I lick your chest’, so he moves onto Instagram.

The fact that Liam and Niall pressed play on the episode of Suits he was just watching goes right past his head when he sees a message in his Primary mailbox from louist91. Shit. If he clicks on it, Louis will see that he saw it, since Harry followed him in April. Does he delete it? Does he read it?

He chooses to turn off his Wifi and click on the message.

louist91: helkfoo

louist91: lest hve some siwxu tine

Okay, so Louis is definitely drunk. What is lest hve some siwxu tine supposed to mean?

“Hey, Liam, did you follow up on that reservation I made for tomorrow?” he asks, locking his phone.

“Yeah. I was told you’re going to be at the same time with two girls and it’s only after eight, so I cancelled.”

Harry looks back at his dark screen. “Alright.”

“What.” Liam says when he sees Harry just staring at his phone.

Harry shakes his head. “Oh, nothing.”

He goes to his contact list and searches for Elliott’s name. Elliott is a guy he met before he became famous, who came to the bakery he used to work at one day, all smiles and green eyes. When he finally asked for Harry’s number, Harry didn’t really know what to say because even though he had been flirting with him (unknowingly, maybe), he never actually went out on a date with a guy. One thing led to another and they became friends with benefits, which continued (occasionally), even after Harry’s fame skyrocketed.

He’s called Elliott every single time he’s been in London and needed some kind of stress relief. When he flew back to London for the concert two weeks ago was the first time he didn’t, and Elliott didn’t question it, maybe didn’t even notice.

Harry: you up?

It takes five minutes for a reply to come through.

Elliott Dane: yeah

Harry: want to come over? Leaving for Italy tomorrow

Elliott Dane: sure

Elliott Dane: still live @ Dumont?

Harry: yes

He stands up from the couch, makes a mental note of what episode he’s at, and then announces to the lot that he’s going to take a shower.

“Is Elliott coming over?” Liam asks, and Harry doesn’t have to answer for him to know the answer to the question.

Half an hour later, the elevator in his apartment chimes, since he’s given Elliott a key about two months after he bought the apartment two years prior in 2016.

Their mouths meet before Elliott can even say hello, and as they walk over to the master bedroom, Harry thinks this may work too.

When he wakes up the next day around noon, Elliott is on the other side of the king-sized bed, sleeping. He turns on his Wifi and goes on Instagram, but then remembers Louis texted him some time around 2am last night and therefore can see that Harry’s read the message and didn’t reply.

He clicks on his messages, but the conversation with Louis is gone.

***

Louis wakes up, sweating. He’s in his clothes from last night but through some type of miracle, his head doesn’t hurt and the room isn’t spinning. First thing’s first, he has to brush his teeth. Then take a shower. Then sue the fucking sun, since this heatwave is really uncalled for.

As usual, Zayn’s in the kitchen on his iPad, smoking a cigarette and sipping on a cup of coffee.

“Good morning sunshine.” He smirks. “I could’ve sworn on my life that you wouldn’t wake up before noon.”

Louis ignores him as he pours himself a cup of coffee. “Why are you looking at me like that?” he mumbles and sits down at the table in a fresh pair of briefs.

“Do you remember what you did after you came home last night?”

“Crashed on the couch. That’s why my neck hurts.”

“Check Instagram.”

Louis does just that, and the whole world comes crushing down on him, embarrassment and panic settling into his bones.

“HOLY FUCK. ZAYN! Why didn’t you stop me?”

“I did.”

Louis runs a hand through his hair. “You know that he can see this, right? It’s not going to go into his requests.”

“Hasn’t he already?”

“No.”

“Then just unsend the messages.”

“You can do that?”

This might be the best news Louis’ ears have heard in the past twenty-six years.

“Yeah, you can. Do you actually think I would’ve let you embarrass yourself like this?”

“Uhh, yes? What if he had already seen the message?”

“Well he didn’t, did he? So just click on the message and unsend it.”

Louis does just that, without saying anything else.

“Next time don’t even let me text him.” He says when they’re on the way to the subway station, not far from their house.

“Noted.” Zayn agrees.

“Because, next time, it’ll be an eye for an eye.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Louis grins. “I guess if you don’t want to find out, don’t test me.”

Zayn rolls his eyes as they enter the subway station. They only have to wait three more minutes for the next metro, so Louis squeezes in through the crowd to get as close to the doors as possible.

“You know I meant I’ll sabotage something to do with Liam, right?” Louis checks and Zayn nods.

“Figured that-“ someone pushes past Zayn, who doesn’t waste a breath before he swears at the man “-much.”

The subway arrives and only a few people come out, but an entire hoard of desperate commuters try to get inside.

Louis looks at Zayn. Zayn looks at Louis. They both know it’s coming.

“We should really invest in a car.”

***

“Where are you going for your sister’s birthday?” Zayn asks on August 3rd.

Louis panics for a second. First, because he’s got a hot date with James tomorrow (and completely forgot about his sister’s birthday). Second, because he didn’t get her anything for her birthday. Then he remembers that he actually (sort of) got her the concert tickets and he’s off the hook for the next four to seven years.

He gets distracted by his phone going off, signalling a new Snapchat from James.

Louis doesn’t really know how a night at the club two months ago evolved into an everyday thing, but he can’t really say that he’s mad at it.

Storytime.

Zayn and him decided to fuck it after they realized they don’t really do anything but smoke and go to work and called up Niall to organize a club night, which ended up in Louis making out with a random tall guy with jet black hair and blue eyes -James- and taking him home. James fucked the whole ‘Harryncident’ out of him and Louis got drunk a few days later and texted him, which resulted in James coming over and doing it again. They decided to do it once a week, when they both found time, until they realized that they weren’t actually that busy and it sort of became a regular thing. Now, fast forward two months, they talk every day on social media and sometimes meet up for lunch. Sometimes they go to the club and stay for about two hours before James gets too jealous and hot about guys ogling Louis, so they go to his or Louis’ place to get it out of his system. It works.

Not to mention that at the end of May, Harry started the American part of his tour and was seen with Kendall Jenner ‘out and about’ (Lottie informs him about what Harry does every time they meet; not because she knows Louis sometimes has wet dreams about him, but because she thinks that the concert brought them closer together and it’s somehow relevant).

So Louis eventually gave up on his whole ‘groupie fantasy’ (“Time heals everything” Zayn said at one point, and as much as Louis hates to admit it, Zayn is always right) and moved on. He has the occasional hot dream but nobody has to know. It’s not like he wants the dreams to happen, but it’s involuntary (he looked it up). James usually fucks him until the only thing he knows is JamesJamesJames.

Main point is; he got over his fantasy when he realized that it was one sided.

“Louis?”

“Hm?”

“I asked you a question.”

Zayn’s looking at him with an annoyed expression.

“I have to text her.”

Zayn shakes his head. “I knew you’d forget.”

Cue Louis’ eye roll.

“I’ll probably take her out for lunch or something. I’m going to text her, chill.”

He does just that, and soon enough, Lottie replies that she’ll be in Ibiza with her friends as of tonight, but that she’ll definitely take a rain check on it when she gets back. Louis reads the text out loud and that’s that.

***

Lottie keeps true to her word and a week and a half later, she walks into Louis’ tattoo parlour right before 5pm and sits down on a chair next to Louis’, who’s currently busy tattooing a lion on a man’s back.

“Hello brother.” She smiles and pats him on the back. The last time she kissed him, she nearly made him move and fuck up a tattoo. Louis yelled and she almost cried. It wasn’t pretty.

“I’m going to finish in ten minutes and then we can go.” He lets her know.

She goes to the toilet and the man on the table takes it as his cue to continue talking about his next tattoo idea. When she comes back, she’s smiling.

“Who’s the hot guy in your office?”

“I hope you’re talking about Shawn.” Louis tells her.

Lottie rolls her eyes. “I know Tom and Max.”

“He’s Emma’s boyfriend.”

Lottie pouts and Louis ignores it.

“How’s James? Is he coming with?”

“No, it’s just going to be the two of us.”

“Have you gotten over your commitment issues and finally admitted to him that you like him?”

Louis sighs, squinting at the small line he’s drawing to get it perfectly done. “No.”

It’s not that James isn’t fun to be with or good in bed (he’s definitely both those things), it’s just that Louis is 26 years old and if he’s going to start dating, he wants it to be sure that it’ll work out, since he doesn’t want to be 35 and still going to clubs or checking dating apps to meet someone. Not that it would be a shame, but when he (sometimes) thinks about his life in a few years he thinks about living somewhere in a house with dogs running in the big back yard, maybe a kid. And he’s known James for roughly two and a half months.

“Do you get butterflies when you’re with him?” Lottie continues.

That’s an easy answer. “No.”

“Then why-“

“Because I want to, okay?” Louis huffs and takes the tattoo gun off the man’s skin. “You’re done mate.”

“Thanks a lot, it looks great!” the man answers as Louis holds up a mirror. He bandages him up and gives him a paper with all the proper instructions.

“Do you have all the stuff I need here? Or do I have to go to a pharmacy?”

“You can buy it here too.” he says. “Go to the reception and ask.”

They never used the storage room right by the entrance – except for storing a broom and a mop - so they knocked down the walls to fit a reception desk back in July, and Emma volunteered to not only come in twice a week and manage their account, but to come in every day and also manage the reception desk during working hours.

“Well, you are our accountant. Do you think we can afford to pay you full time? And give you a twenty percent raise?” Louis had asked when she suggested the reception idea a month ago. She came in all nervous, had arguments planned out about how it would be better for Tom if he focused more on tattoos than scheduling appointments, and how she’s been looking for a more stable job. It took about 10 seconds until Louis was convinced.

“Well the average net profit is around 33 thousand a month, after everyone’s been paid, plus supplies, maintenance and unforeseeable costs.” She told Louis. That’s when he decided that everyone will be getting a 10% raise starting August and that at the end of September, they’ll take a ‘work-but-not-really-work trip’ somewhere in Europe. An investment in a car was also definitely a possibility.

The man shakes Louis’ hand and leaves the room. While Lottie busies herself looking at the piercings in the small glass cabinet by the door, Louis goes into the office.

They go to a place a few streets away in a side-alley, a hipster-ish type of restaurant that serves mostly vegan food, and even though Louis scrunches his nose when he sees the menu, he decides on ordering the salmon.

“Oh my God, Harry’s coming back to London soon!” Lottie exclaims.

They haven’t even gotten their drinks, for fuck’s sake.

“Oh?”

‘Oh’ is his most used response to anything Lottie says that’s Harry Styles related.

“I mean, he just posted a photo with the caption ‘thank you USA. I’ll be back’.”

Louis exhales through his nostrils. He can’t really tell her he’s not interested and that she should stop, because there’s no good reason for it. The most it will do is make Lottie feel bad.

Lottie shoves the phone into his face and Louis makes an effort to look at the picture. It’s of Harry, his band, and Liam, smiling at the camera somewhere backstage. Of course Harry’s wearing a thousand rings and ripped jeans topped with a half-unbuttoned floral shirt.

“Very nice.”

Lottie makes a face as she takes the phone away. “What’s your problem?”

“Huh?”

“Why are you so…bleah?”

“Bleah?”

“Yeah. Is James not-“

“It’s not about James, I’m just hangry.” Louis tells her, and it seems to be a valid answer because she stops questioning it.

“How was Ibiza?”

Lottie pulls her lips into a thin line. “I know you don’t really care so let’s talk about what’s going on with you.”

“No, this is your birthday lunch slash dinner so we’re talking about you.”

“It was good, as usual. Went to Ushuaia, saw Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike two times, Martin Garrix, the lot. And now that we’ve talked about me, let’s talk about you.”

“Fine.” Louis gives in, placing his arms on the table. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Tell me about James.”

“What’s with this James obsession?”

“Lou.” Oh no, it’s getting serious. “I haven’t seen you with someone in about…three years? I liked Paula, she was good for you. You were happy.”

“And then she cheated.”

“Well, you weren’t in a relationship, were you?”

Technicalities. Louis actually allowed himself to be close to someone, after starting out as fuck buddies, but then he found out that she was sleeping with someone on the side, which shouldn’t have bothered him, but seeing as the two of them had been doing ‘it’ for about nine months and going out as well, he thought it was kind of a given that they weren’t seeing other people. And putting labels on things has never been something he liked doing.

“I am happy with James, just…just not happy enough for me to ask him to be exclusive.”

“What if he is?”

Louis has never thought about it like that. And James has never been clingy (maybe jealous, but never clingy), so he just assumed it was an open kind of thing.

“I don’t know.”

“Would you be willing to lose him?”

Louis pulls his head back. “Lottie, you’ve met him like…two times.”

“And I liked that you were laughing. And being all smiley.”

“He has good jokes, what am I supposed to do? Just because I laugh at his jokes doesn’t mean I want to marry him.”

“Do you ever laugh at his bad jokes?”

“No, why the fuck would I do that.”

The waitress brings them their food and drinks at the same time, probably because it’s all just unfrozen anyway. Thankfully though, Lottie drops the conversation to take a photo of their plates.

“Are you still dating Jeff?” Louis asks, because he feels bad, although he’s not really sure why.

“Nah. Dumped him a few weeks ago before Ibiza.”

The conversation shifts onto her after that and Louis is happy that he’s not being interrogated anymore.

***

An unknown phone number is calling Louis.

“An unknown phone number is calling me.” he says, pausing the movie him and Zayn were just watching. Before Zayn can make any wise-ass comment about holding Louis’ hand so he can answer it, he slides his finger across the screen and puts the phone to his ear.

“Domino’s pizza, how may I help you?”

“Ah shit! Did I get the number wrong?” there’s a short pause “Oh well, since I reached you anyway, I’d like to order two large Philly Cheese Steak pizzas and a medium Pacific Veggie pizza. I’m at St. James, the Dumont. Address is-”

“Who the fuck orders a medium ‘pacific veggie’ pizza?” Louis bursts out laughing and Zayn gives him a confused look. Louis presses on the speaker button.

“Louis?” Niall asks.

“Yeah.”

They wait for Niall to stop laughing. He eventually does and gets to the point.

“Tried calling Zayn but he didn’t answer so I’m calling you now.”

“How did you get the number?”

“Emma.”

“Right.”

“So. We’re doing a thing for Liam’s birthday this weekend on the 25th. He doesn’t know it’s happening yet, but we’re thinking of-“

Louis gets distracted by Zayn nodding like he just took way too much Molly, so he turns his head in the other direction.

“Yes, Zayn and I would love to come. Where is it?”

“It’s going to be here at the apartment, you know.”

“At that insane Singapore building?”

“Yes! His birthday is on Wednesday next week but it’s a workday and he probably has some shit planned, and it also takes the element of surprise out of it, you know.”

“Well, we’re both going to be there. Do you need help with anything?”

“I’m in charge of inviting people and Harry’s taking care of-“ Louis’ mind tries to process the fact that Harry’s also going to be there. For some reason, his last two neurons didn’t even make the connection until just now. “-and he’s going to be home around nine-ish or so, so everyone should be there around eight.”

“How can we help?” Louis repeats the question, hoping that Niall didn’t already tell him while he was zoning out.

“Do you have a car?”

Louis and Zayn exchange looks, both of them having subway station war flashbacks.

“Not really. No.”

“Can you drive?”

“That I can do.”

“Then I’m going to give you my car and a list of drinks. We have a guy who has a liquor store and you can get it from there because he gives 15% off bulk buys.”

“How many people are coming?” Louis asks when he hears the words ‘bulk buy’.

“Around sixty maybe? I don’t know yet. You’re the first one I called.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just make a group?”

“I will, but I had to ask for help first.”

Louis snorts. “I’m honoured. But yeah, we’re going to take care of drinks.”

“GREAT! Knew I could count on you lot! I’m going to drop off the list and the car tomorrow-are you working?”

“I am.”

“Would it be better if I came to your house then?”

“If you can find parking in the city, you can drop it off any time during three and eleven.”

“Maybe I’ll come in and get a tattoo eh? Ahahhaha, who knows!”

“If it’s not on your ass I’m not going to let you in.”

There’s a laugh in the background that’s not Niall’s, and Louis wonders for a second whether it’s Harry.

“Hahaahah, I’m going to save your number by the way.”

Zayn smiles.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Great. Great. Alright then, see you tomorrow!” there’s a shuffle in the background as Niall probably puts his phone down and yells ‘Oi! Where’s that Domino’s menu with the number on it?’, so Louis ends the call and looks at Zayn.

“So.” Louis starts. “Remember when I said that good things come to those who wait when you were high last week and complained about how you can’t find anyone better looking than Liam?”

Zayn nods.

“Well. I guess you’re not the only one who’s always right.”

***

It’s around 9pm when Niall walks into the tattooing room with a grin on his face and a piece of paper in hand.

“Oi!” he greets and walks over to shake Louis’ hand, who’s just finished a small ankle tattoo. Tom looks over from where he’s piercing a guy’s lip. “Emma said you should be done with a tattoo by now.”

The girl on the bed stands up and checks her tattoo out before she checks Niall out and then turns to Louis.

“Do I just pay upfront?”

“Yes please. Cash or card.” Louis gives himself a push with his legs to go to the small coffee table in the corner by the door that leads to the office and takes a piece of paper from there. “These are the steps you should follow to take care of your tattoo.” She takes it and looks at it. “Don’t go into the pool or anything like that for a few days.” He adds as he places the foil over the tattoo and secures it. “You can also buy the ointment at our front desk.”

She thanks him and Louis smiles at her until she leaves the room, closing the door behind her.

“Let’s go into the office.”

Zayn’s in there doing some work and Max is in the smoking area outside, so Louis takes a seat at his desk and invites Niall to pull Tom’s chair out and sit down after he’s greeted Zayn.

“This is the address. Say Niall sent you and ask for Sam. And then here’s a list of everything you need to get.”

Louis takes the list from him. “Ten liters of Vodka? EIGHT bottles of Hennessy?” he gasps, and that’s just the first two on the list. “What are you hosting? The national alcohol convention?”

Niall laughs. “No, but that’s a good idea.”

Louis folds the list up and places it in his pocket. “Anything else I should know?”

“Yes. I parked the car in that paid parking lot right around the corner, here’s the ticket. Just bring it over on Saturday. Oh, and the key for the underground parking at the apartment building is in the glovebox.”

“You’re leaving us your car for three days?” Zayn asks incredulously.

“It’s fine, I’ll just borrow one of Harry’s.”

“Of course you will.” Louis laughs. ‘One of Harry’s’. How many cars does one even need?

“When are they open?” Zayn asks. “Your liquor plug, I mean.”

“Nonstop. But it’s better if you go there today or tomorrow, since they won’t have anything good left in stock by Friday.”

“I’ll say.” Louis snorts.

“And in case you were wondering but are too polite to ask, you can use my car to drive to work.” Niall winks and Louis is in love. Would it be too soon to ask Niall to marry him? Maybe. Maybe not. “Louis?”

“I think he’s in love with you, give him some time.” Zayn speaks up from behind him, and Louis flips him off without even turning around.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Niall laughs and stands up. “I have to go meet the other party planner, but I’ll see you latest this weekend yeah?”

They say goodbye and Louis watches Niall leave until the door closes behind him. Then he turns to Zayn.

“Shotgun on driving!” he says before Zayn beats him to it.

He can’t finish the last tattoo of the day fast enough, and by the time they get to the parking lot, it’s a bit past eleven.

“What car does he drive?” Louis wonders.

“I really hope it is but I know it’s not that Lambo over there.” Zayn ponders and Louis holds the key up, both going silent. He presses the button on it. Somewhere behind them, a car beeps.

YESSS.” They say at the same time. It’s a black Range Rover with matching black wheels.

“As black as my soul.” Zayn adds when they climb inside, Louis in the driver’s seat.

“My ass has never been happier than on this seat right here.” Louis concludes on their way to the liquor store. “Maybe we should just buy one of these and move out of the flat. I mean, we could sleep in here, it’s roomy, right?”

“And relieve the whole tent fiasco from Coachella?”

“What tent fiasco?” Louis asks, although he knows very well that Zayn’s referring to the fact that Louis would spread out in his sleep and force Zayn to sleep with his face against the side of the tent. “If I remember correctly, you were always cheery in the morning.”

“I was smiling through the pain, Louis.” Zayn dramatically says.

Sam is a tall man with outrageous amounts of muscle, but he’s got an Irish accent and matches Niall’s good vibes. He gives them half of the bottles on the list, helps them load all of it into the car, and tells them that the rest of it will be ready for pickup in two days.

On the way back to the flat, Louis wonders whether they should actually put their money where their mouth is and invest into a car.

“If we were to actually buy a car, what would it be?” he asks Zayn when they’re out on the balcony, smoking a good night spliff.

“I don’t know…” Zayn trails off, blowing smoke into the air.

“It would be a Range Rover, wouldn’t it.”

They look down at the sidewalk under their balcony, where the car is parked in their designated parking spot. It’s kind of sad that it’s always empty, since every apartment gets a parking space, and theirs is always deserted.

“Yeah. Do we have the money though?”

“Well we can pay it every month for a year I guess, and then it’s ours. We just have to find a good deal on it.”

Zayn hums in agreement. “Let’s see how it drives to work tomorrow and then we can decide.”

***

As it turns out, to no one’s surprise really, the car is a God-send in the morning, because they don’t have to smell some random guy’s sweat as they wait for the subway, nor uncomfortably squish themselves between two people just to make room for the next person.

“So we agree that we’re going to a dealership next week.” Louis says on their way out of the parking lot.

He doesn’t even have to turn his head to know that Zayn is nodding.

***

It’s Saturday evening and Louis’ just finished the last tattoo he had scheduled at 6:30pm. Tom agreed to take over until closing time, since him and Zayn have to be at Niall’s in an hour to unload the drinks.

“Are you sure you’re going to come in tomorrow? You know that we have seven days full of work starting 8am because tattoo appointments have been piling up and-” Tom asks as he’s getting ready for the next client by putting on gloves in the office.

“We’ll try.” Is all Louis can say. He’ll genuinely try, but he’s not sure whether he’ll have fun at this party or if he’ll want to leave early. It’s because James sort of auto-invited himself, even though he works until midnight, and Louis knows how he can be when he’s had too much to drink. That’s when he decides that it’s been a long time since he’s gone out drinking with someone other than Zayn or James, so he makes it his mission to get as drunk as possible tonight.

“Zayn?” Tom asks, going right over Louis’ head, because apparently Zayn is the mature one out of the two of them. In Tom’s eyes at least.

“Thomas, I’m offended.” He says, placing a hand on his chest.

Tom ignores him and takes Zayn’s word for it that they’ll try and make it.

Back at their apartment, Louis spreads out three possible outfit choices and looks at them for five minutes before he calls Zayn in, hands on his hips.

“Why do you even care what outfit you’re going to wear?” Zayn wonders, although his voice is telling Louis that he might have an idea as to why. “James is going to fuck the shit out of you at the end of the night either way. Or-wait. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that a certain indie rockstar will be attending? Hmmm…”

“Oh bite me Zayn.”

“What should you wear, you ask?” Zayn continues and walks over to the closet, where he pulls out a pair of black jeans. “Why, what do we have here? Are these the look-at-my-ass jeans? Left to rot in the closet?”

Louis rolls his eyes and takes them from Zayn’s hands. “To go with what?”

Zayn points to the plain white tank top on the bed. “With your black Vans.”

Louis agrees.

They meet up in the living room fifteen minutes later after Zayn’s taken a shower and put on a plain black shirt with black jeans and a leather jacket. Louis grabs his jean jacket from the hanger and looks at himself in the mirror.

“Let’s go get drunk.” Zayn deadpans and Louis nods, sparing one more look at himself in the mirror before they’re out the door.

Zayn’s driving this time while Louis holds the phone with the navigation system. It’s a thirty-minute drive so they get there just in time.

“I swear, who’s got so much money they can afford to live here? What does one have to do?” Louis wonders as he looks up at the giant glass apartment building. It’s ridiculous; it has about twenty-five stories (Louis counted) and is overlooking the water. Not to mention that even the underground parking lot looks expensive.

Louis calls Niall as Zayn presses a button on the key they found in the glove box so the barriers open for them to drive in.

“Hi, we’re in.” Louis says into the phone before he puts it on speaker.

“Okay, our parking spots are in the back, check for number 13.07 and just pick an empty lot. I’m going to come down and help you with the bottles.”

Zayn drives around for a few minutes trying to find the space, and they eventually do, right next to the entrance into the building. There are two empty parking spaces in the roped area titled ’13.07’, and Louis can’t do anything but stare.

“You know that’s a Bentley and a Tesla, right? I mean, an actual Tesla.” He says when he gets out of the car and looks at the other cars in the lot.

“What did you expect? He’s a producer, Louis.”

“What?”

“Niall. He’s a producer, just like Liam.”

Louis knew that Niall had met Liam during Uni while studying Music Engineering, and he also knew that Liam’s a producer, but what he didn’t know was that Niall’s also a producer. He never really thought to ask.

There are two more cars in the lot; another Range Rover and-

“A black Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid? I think I just came in my pants.” Louis says to no one in particular but himself as he walks over to the car. “I’m literally touching it. Zayn, take a photo.”

He hears someone laugh behind him and soon enough Niall comes into view, pushing a trolley. He’s got sweatpants and a hoodie on, looking as bright as ever.

“How?” Louis asks, motioning to all the cars around them.

“We got a guy.” Niall cryptically answers as Zayn opens the trunk of the Rover.

“What’s the missing car? A Lambo?” Louis jokes. Niall doesn’t think it’s funny. “Are you-are you serious? Is it a Lambo?”

“Urus.” Niall confirms.

“I’m dead.” Louis says, not a hint of amusement in his voice.

“Yeah, well, my roommates are car addicts. I only have the Rover.” Niall explains.

They unload the boxes onto the trolley Niall brought before they head over to the elevator in the corner. It’s spacious and has mirrors on every wall, which isn’t good for Zayn’s vanity. Or for Louis’ sanity. They both watch as Niall presses the button for the lobby, where they switch to a smaller elevator.

“If you’re telling me that the elevator opens up in the apartment, I’m going to get down on one knee right now. Or both.”

Niall throws his head back and laughs as he punches in a code, before the elevator starts moving. It takes them to the twentieth floor, and as the doors open, Louis swears he can hear angels sing.

All the lights are on and Louis is…Louis is.

There’s a long hallway with an unsettling number of coatracks and a giant shoe closet against the wall, at which Louis stares as they walk down the hallway. He takes his jacket off and places it on one of the emptier coatracks, and even though it’s an expensive apartment, it looks lived-in. But to be honest, the only thing Louis can compare it to is the expensive apartments he sees in the movies, or Harvey Specter’s apartment in Suits.

“These are the two guest bathrooms.” Niall explains, pointing to two doors on the left. “That’s the storage room. That’s the master bedroom.” he points to the furthest door on the right, which is actually a double door. “Then that’s my bedroom.” He says, motioning towards the closed door. “Right next to the living room area and the kitchen.”

“What’s that door? The Gucci handbag closet?” Louis jokes. “If you tell me I’m right I swear-“

Niall cackles. “No, that’s Liam’s bedroom.”

Zayn’s ears perk up at that and Louis stifles a laugh as they enter the dining room/kitchen. Louis falls in love all over again. It’s just like those you see in movies, with marble counter tops and an island counter in the middle, a bar on the side and a dining table in the corner, right next to the archway that leads into the living room.

“That’s the biggest TV I’ve ever seen in my life.” Louis states. There’s a huge semi-circle couch in the middle of the giant room, the biggest TV Louis’ eyes ever seen against the wall, two armchairs that could easily pass as loveseats, all pointed towards the TV and a giant set of shelves filled with books, photos and what looks like awards against the wall with the archway.

The other two walls are windows from the floor to the ceiling, with glass sliding doors leading to a huge (every single synonym for ‘big’ could be used to describe this apartment) balcony that covers both walls. There are lounging chairs on the balcony for fuck’s sake. There’s even one of those big umbrellas with a beer brand on it that you see on restaurant terraces.

While Zayn and Niall start unloading the drinks and putting them into the bar, Louis busies himself with looking at the photos on the left side of the archway. Before he can squint to see who exactly is in those photos, or read the names on the awards on the other side, Zayn calls him into the kitchen.

The fridge is-well, you already know. He stocks some bottles in the fridge and others into the freezer, before Niall pops three beer bottles open and hands one to each of them.

“Cheers! Thanks for helping me.”

“Thanks for giving us your car.” Zayn laughs as they bump their beers together before taking a sip. Or in Niall and Louis’ case, a big fat gulp. Louis wasn’t lying when he said he’s on a mission to get drunk tonight.

***

Half an hour later, the guests start coming, and Louis is too busy helping Zayn arrange the food brought over by the catering company to notice who exactly is coming through the door. So it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the moment he walks into the kitchen to fetch himself a glass of Gin&Tonic, he nearly collapses at the sight of a certain redheaded singer.

“Fuck.” He says and Ed fucking Sheeran turns around. Niall laughs at that and goes on to introduce them.

“Ed, this is Louis. Louis, this is Ed.”

Louis smiles and shakes his hand.

“Love your songs man.” Louis says, as composed as he possibly can.

“Love your tattoos man.” Ed replies and Louis nearly chokes.

“Thanks, did some of them meself.”

Ed’s eyes light up at that and then starts telling him that he tattooed some of his own on himself as well, and conversation just flows easily after that. Louis tells him about his tattoo place and in return Ed talks about his upcoming album, so when Zayn walks over with a new drink, they’ve already become friends.

“How do you know Liam? I don’t think I’ve seen you at his last party.” Ed ponders as they refill their glasses at the bar.

“Oh, we met Niall and Liam at Coachella, Niall was our neighbor in the camp.” Louis explains and Ed nods. “How do you know Liam?”

“I’ve been writing songs with Harry for the past few years, and Liam was producing the beats. That’s how I know Niall too.”

“Eddie! Long time no see.” Someone behind them laughs and okay, Rita Ora just walked into the room looking like Louis’ celebrity crush. And honestly, fuck Coachella, because apparently this is the place where Louis gets to meet all his favorite artists.

It only escalates from there; one thing leads to another and Louis finds himself playing a round of beer pong with Zayn and Ed against Niall, Shawn and Cara.

It’s only a little past nine and Louis’ two beers and one G&T mix in when Niall turns down the music to announce that ‘LIAM PAYNE HAS ENTERED THE BUILDING’.

There’s about forty guests in the living room that still looks way too spacious, so they turn off the lights and try to be silent. Three minutes later, the elevator in the hallway beeps and two voices get closer and closer. “Harry just turn on the lights, I can’t see shit.”

When the lights come on, everybody jumps up and yells SURPRISEEE!, which startles a very surprised Liam. Louis watches him for a moment, all happy and genuinely surprised, before his eyes fall on the person next to him.

Green.

***

“We’ve got a radio interview scheduled for Monday morning with Nick, but then you’re on holiday until late August.” Liam tells Harry as soon as they climb into the car after their boxing session.

Harry turns the key into the ignition and nods, waiting for Liam to put his seatbelt on. He’s proud of himself for keeping the surprise party from his best friend up until now, because he’s never been able to keep things from Liam for too long. Ever.

“Niall texted.” Harry starts as they wait at a red light. “Asked if you want pizza tonight. I said yes.”

Harry knows that he has to be as unsuspicious as possible in order for Liam not to start asking questions, so he turns the radio on and pretends to be very concentrated on the road ahead.

When he parks the car, Niall’s Range Rover is back and Harry wonders how out of all the things in the world, Liam hasn’t noticed that the car had been gone for the past few days. He texts Niall that they’ve arrived in the parking lot and Niall replies with a row of emojis, so Harry just shakes his head, a smile playing on his face.

“What kind of pizza did Niall order though?” Liam asks once they’re in the elevator, and Harry’s heart starts beating faster because even though he can’t really keep them, he loves surprises.

“The usual.” Is the best answer he can come up with, watching the numbers on the elevator go up.

“Last time he ordered ‘the usual’ I nearly burned my tongue off from those jalapeños.” Liam reminds him and the elevator stops, doors opening.

The apartment is pitch black and Harry would turn on the lights but he’s pretty sure that the surprise would be ruined by the new coats hung on the racks, so he turns on his phone to light the way.

“I think the power is out, let’s try the living room.” It’s the worst excuse ever, but he just needs to get it over with.

“Harry just turn on the lights, I can’t see shit.” Liam says and Harry does, as soon as they’re in the archway.

“SURPRISEEE!!” everyone screams, jumping up, and Liam nearly chokes. Harry laughs, looking at Liam’s face, before he looks back at the people in his living room.

He can see Rita, Cara, Ed, Niall, Shawn and-

Blue.

***

Okay. So. Seeing Harry wasn’t as revolutionizing to his world as Louis had thought it would be, but it also doesn’t mean that he didn’t get a flashback from the time Harry was sucking him off against a frigid table near the camping toilets.

Oh well.

Everyone goes over to greet Liam and congratulate him, so he slips out of the mass of people to get to the kitchen and fix himself another drink. He’s also pretty sure that he just walked past Perrie and Jesy from Little Mix so his head is all over the place.

It’s not like he’s starstruck or that he thinks that the people here are ‘celebrities’ but seeing so many talented people that he admires in one room has never happened to him before. You can't blame him for feeling a little overwhelmed.

Someone is hogging the bar in a crouching position, so Louis fits himself between the wall and the person to get to the Gin. The bottle bumps against the person’s arm.

“Shit, sorry, don’t mind me, I’m just going to make myself a little mix.”

The person finds it hilarious, because they start laughing, so when they stand up, Louis feels embarrassed. Because it’s Jade from Little Mix.

“Oh, sorry-“ Louis says, thinking about how he’s never apologized so much in the span of one minute in his life.

“I’m Jade.” She smiles and Louis shakes her hand, presenting himself.

“What are you drinking?” he asks her, noticing how she waits for him to pour his drink.

“Vodka Cranberry.”

Louis hurries up with his drink and as soon as he’s done, they knock their glasses together. Okay, so he may have exaggerated with the amount of Gin. But oh well, his parents didn’t raise a quitter. Jade laughs at the face he makes when he takes another sip.

“Jade c’mon we need two more people to play beer pong with!” Perrie whines as she materializes in the kitchen.

Louis and Jade exchange looks and he shrugs, before they follow Perrie into the living room. And oh. The fourth person is Harry. Harry, who is currently talking to a guy with a ridiculous quiff.

“We’re ready.” Perrie tells Harry and grabs him by the arm to get his attention.

Harry turns around to smile at her, beer in hand, and then his eyes fall on Louis. Louis cocks his head, throwing him a challenging look. The corners of Harry’s mouth turn upwards, as if he just accepted the unspoken challenge.

“Losers take two Tequila shots each!” Jade announces as soon as they get into formation, and Louis sets his drink down on the table. He’s got this.

Turns out, he does not ‘got this’. At all. Because Perrie is exceptional, and so is Harry for some reason. Ten minutes later, it’s 4-2 for Harry and Perrie.

“Who could’ve seen this coming?” Perrie teases, smiling from ear to ear. Harry smirks in a smug way that Louis hates, so he grips harder into the ball and concentrates, lip poking out on the right side of his mouth. He gets it in, obviously, and celebrates by hugging Jade, who apparently is just as competitive as Louis.

They lose. Louis tries to argue it. Fails.

He knows Harry is looking at him as he shakes hands with Jade, congratulating each other for a good game, so he sets off to find Zayn and Niall to convince them to take one (or ten) shot together.

Niall is in the hallway chatting to Ed and Rita, so Louis taps him on the shoulder and gives him a look. “Shots?”

Ed and Rita are also in, so Louis doesn’t feel the need to find Zayn anymore.

“Where is Zayn though?” he asks Niall when they’re at the bar, getting the salt and lemons ready.

“I haven’t seen him since we surprised Liam.”

They take the shots and Louis immediately grabs a beer from the fridge before he decides that he has to find Zayn. They’re at a party, yes, but it’s a party where Zayn doesn’t know anyone except Niall and Louis, so the fact that he disappeared is new.

He finds him on the balcony with Emma, Shawn and Liam, rolling joints.

Louis is proud.

“How’s my favorite flatmate doing?” Louis laughs and squishes himself on the lounger between Zayn and Emma.

“You’re drunk.”

Louis dramatically gasps. “Excuse me?”

“You smell like a distillery.” Zayn adds and if it wasn’t for the few people in their presence right now, Louis would definitely wrestle him.

“We’ll talk about this at home.” Louis says in a low voice, but Emma hears it anyway and starts laughing.

“What’s there to talk about?” Zayn asks, and okay, now he’s trying to be funny because Liam is here.

Louis lowers his head to Zayn’s ear. “I don’t know, but whatever comes next, I can assure you…it will be payne-ful.”

Zayn’s eyes widen as he shuts his mouth and Louis raises his eyebrows, nodding, as if to say, ‘that’s what I thought’.

“I hate you.”

Then there’s a joint under his nose so Louis takes it from Shawn’s fingers and lights it up.

They’re five minutes into their smoking session when Harry stumbles out on the balcony and gives Liam a huge smile, drink wobbling in his hand.

“I was looking for you.” He tells Liam, not even noticing that everyone’s eyes are on him. “We’re going to sing happy birthday in a few minutes.”

“Joint?” Shawn asks, holding it up for Harry to take.

Harry takes it between his fingers. “It’s not really smart to combine it with alcohol, but sure.”

Louis snorts, which gets Harry’s attention immediately. After two seconds of complete silence, which, in Louis’ head, feel more like two hours, he coughs and looks at Zayn for no reason (maybe to get a little help).

“He’s right.” Is what Zayn says, and honestly, fuck him for being a hypocrite.

But that’s alright, two can play at this game.

“Oh, Liam!” he chirps and Zayn’s nails dig into his thigh so hard he almost screams.

Liam raises his brows expectantly and Louis’ mind blanks.

“Happy birthday.” Is the only thing he can find to say. Fuck Zayn, fuck the fact that he decided to drink his bodyweight tonight, fuck this, fuck Harry. Oh, he’d love that.

No.

Nonono.

  1. o.

So what if Harry’s right in his level of sight, looking like Louis’ wet dreams with two legs? So what if Louis’ ‘not boyfriend’ James is probably on his way as we speak, happy to see him?? SO WHAT if Louis’ mind sometimes still drifts off to that night of the Harryncident and he gets too hot so he smokes a joint which only makes the situation worse (and he knows it but he loves being mean to himself)??

So fucking what?

He realizes that everyone is silent now and looking at him with confused expressions.

“What?” he asks and hates himself for looking at Harry as he does so.

Harry snorts. “I think you voiced your thoughts out loud mate.”

Mate.

He refuses to get called “mate” by someone who deep-throated him just a few months ago.

Okay, it’s time to chill.

His drunken mind isn’t really sure whether he’s thinking all these things himself or if Zayn somehow got into his brain and told him to chill.

Niall pops his head out on the balcony/terrace and invites them back inside for the ‘fucking cake!’. Louis loves him.

“Why can’t Niall be gay?” he asks Zayn as they pile back into the living room, one by one. “Things would be so much easier.”

Zayn taps him on the shoulder and shakes his head, so Louis pokes his side and decides to stand by the wall and observe.

Niall’s got the microphone in hand as he stands on the coffee table.

“Ladies and gentlemen! The fucking cake is coming!”

Someone dims the lights so everyone is focused on the archway that leads to the kitchen, where Jade and Rita roll out the giant cake, accompanied by small fireworks on the side.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!” Niall starts and the same time with the accompanying song playing on the speakers.

Louis joins in, raising his now empty glass, screaming from the top of his lungs along with everyone else. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR LIMA!” he yells, trying to be funny, and apparently it works because some people interrupt their singing to laugh at his joke. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOOOOOUUUU!”

The singers in the room try to hold the note as much as possible, before everyone erupts in a clapping-fest and Louis decides to fetch himself another drink.

“Don’t you think it’s enough for today?” Zayn asks him when he sees Louis’ intention.

“Um…no? I haven’t had anything to drink today.”

Zayn rolls his eyes. “I guess if you can be that technical you can carry a couple more mixes.”

“How about birthday shots?” Louis suggests.

“Fuck, you’ve got that look.” Zayn groans.

“What look?”

“That look. When you have an idea that will end badly but it’s too much fun to not do it anyway.”

Louis extends his hand for Zayn to take it, and being the bad influence as usual, he manages to convince him.

They stop by Liam to hug and congratulate him, and if Zayn lingers with his ‘bro-hug’ more than the average person, well, no one really cares. Or notices, for that matter.

“Zayn, your pants are wet.” Louis whispers as they cram behind the bar to get themselves some shot glasses.

“Fuck right off. You’re no better.”

Louis blinks. “Um…excuse me? What’s that supposed to mean?”

As if he doesn’t know what that’s supposed to mean.

"As if you don’t know what that’s supposed to mean." Zayn laughs.

Louis checks the clock on his phone, and to his shock, there are messages from James.

James: just finished work

James: what's the address?

Louis sends him his location and turns around to look at Zayn.

"James's on his way." He states and waits for Zayn's reaction.

"And what am I supposed to do with this information?"

"I want to leave."

"No you don’t. Do you think James will get out of hand if he drinks or what?"

Louis sighs. No, it’s not that. But how is he supposed to explain to Zayn what he's feeling?? He'll try.

"Okay but don’t judge me." He starts and Zayn snorts, taking a few steps back so they're in the corner of the kitchen, able to have an important conversation without people listening in. "I sort of want him to come but I sort of don’t."

"Please elaborate because you're making no sense."

"Okay. Fine. So, if he comes here, there will definitely be kissing going on and I do want Harry to see us, but I also don’t, because then it would ruin the 0.1 percent chance I still have."

Zayn blinks at him. "You're acting like you're in high school trying to make the prettiest boy in school jealous."

"I said no judging." Louis hisses and lowers his voice when he sees Harry entering the room.

"Shots?" Harry asks, butting into the conversation as he looks down at the shot glasses in Zayn's hands.

"Yeah, right on time." Zayn says and steps aside to get out another glass. "Also, I invited a friend, if that’s okay?"

Harry waves his hand as if to say that it's fine, and watches Louis, who doesn’t really know what to do with himself. He hates being awkward. Mainly because he's not an awkward person. Usually. He used to be, but only in tenth grade when he had impossible crushes.

Fuck. Zayn's right. He is in high school trying to impress the prettiest boy in school.

"To Liam." Zayn says and hands Louis his glass, before the three of them toast and down their shots.

"I think he was looking for you, by the way."

Louis looks at Harry, then at Zayn, who looks confused about what just came out of Harry's mouth. "Wha-for me?"

Harry nods. "Yeah. Asked about you by name. I think he's in the hallway or something."

So here Louis is, watching his best friend disappear, probably going on an impromptu booty call that no one could have seen coming.

There's silence in the kitchen and Louis is so focused on Harry's shoes to notice that he's staring.

"Do I have something on my shoes?" Harry asks, a small smirk playing on his lips.

Louis' eyes snap up to his face. "No. Zoned out for a moment."

Harry opens his mouth to say something, but then Niall comes into the kitchen to announce that there's someone in the lobby asking to be let up. Great. James is here.

***

Okay. So Louis is drunk out of his mind, Zayn is nowhere to be found, and James is all up in his ear on the balcony.

"Whaat?" he asks, blinking.

"You're definitely the most drunk I've ever seen you." James says. "And I also didn’t think you'd hang out with people like these."

They're sitting sideways on a lounger with drinks in hand, watching Shawn roll yet another joint, Emma sitting in his lap.

"People like what?"

"Celebrities."

Louis rolls his eyes. "I don’t really-we met-ugh. They're friends of friends."

"Harry Styles is here."

Does anyone have to know who he is??

"So?"

"So, your sister would freak."

Again with the sister thing. Louis hates everyone.

"So?" is the only reasonable reply Louis can come up with. "She doesn’t have to know everything about my life."

"Why are you getting angry?"

Louis turns to look at James. "I'm not. I just don’t get the big deal about Harry or the people at this party."

He says it loud enough for Emma to turn her head and look at him as if to ask if he's okay. He shakes his head to brush it off and turns back to look at James. "Sorry. I'm just…"

"Drunk."

"Yeah."

And tired and extremely attracted to someone unreachable and kind of jealous that I haven’t seen Zayn and Liam for some time now.

"Where is Zayn? Isn't he always with you?"

Louis shrugs. "Haven't seen him since you arrived."

And as if on cue, Harry comes out on the balcony, followed by Zayn. Louis motions for him to come sit down and Zayn does just that.

"Your quiff is a bit off." Louis observes. He doesn’t mention the fact that Zayn's lips are also a bit swollen, because Zayn's too busy shaking James' hand.

"Got some action huh." James says.

"Not really." Zayn replies, and Louis knows that it means that he kissed Liam Payne.

James and Zayn start off a conversation he's not interested in at all then, so he settles on watching Harry interact with Emma and Shawn. He should really stop himself from watching so much.

The joint is lit up two minutes later, and they all stand up to get closer.

"I don’t think we've met. I'm James."

Louis watches horrified as James extends his hand towards Harry.

Harry smiles (of course) and shakes his hand. "Harry."

Louis wonders whether there was a point where Harry just started assuming that everyone already knows his name but only says it to be polite.

"I'm going to go to the bathroom." Louis excuses himself and stumbles back inside, through the people in the living room and finally into the bathroom in the hallway. He locks the door and kneels down in front of the toilet, waiting to see if his body will throw up everything he drank tonight. It should, to be honest.

Someone knocks on the door.

"Occupied."

There's silence, and then there's another knock.

"OCCUPIED!" he yells.

"Open the fucking door." Comes Zayn's voice from the other side so Louis scrambles to the door to let him in. Zayn locks the door behind himself and sits down on the bathtub.

"You sick?"

"Not really. Thought I would be."

They sit in silence for a while.

"So what happened with Liam?"

"We kissed. Gonna tell you about it tomorrow though, when you can pay attention."

"I'm fine now."

Zayn shakes his head. "Do you want to go home?"

Louis shrugs. "I want to lay down."

He tries to stand up but trips over and Zayn has to grip into his arm to stabilise him.

"Thanks. Do you want to stay?" he asks as they make their way out of the bathroom.

"Wouldn’t mind staying a bit longer."

Louis stops in front of the double doors. "I'll lay down here for a bit. Come get me in fifteen."

Zayn wants to interject but stops himself and nods. "Just don’t…don’t throw up in there okay?"

Louis rolls his eyes. "I promise."

Zayn watches him open the doors, stepping inside, and then closing them.

The room is dimly lit because the huge windows don’t have the curtains drawn, so he finds the bed and plops down on his stomach, closing his eyes.

He's focused on making the room stop spinning when the doors open.

"I said fifteen minutes. It's been five." Louis slurs and makes a huge effort to turn on his back.

"Wasn’t aware of that."

Louis lifts his head to look at the door so fast his neck breaks.

"Shit."

Harry looks at him amused and walks over to sit down on the bed at Louis' feet, placing his glass into his lap.

"I didn’t take off my shoes, sorry. Is-is this your room?"

Louis didn’t even give it a thought when he found it.

"It's fine. Your boyfriend was asking about you and Zayn said you were somewhere in a room."

Silence. Louis should reply, probably.

"He's not my boyfriend." Louis says and closes his eyes again.

How is that even relevant??

"Nice place." He adds, trying to shift the conversation. "Like the view."

"Your eyes are closed though."

Louis opens one of them to look at Harry. "Are you trying to be funny?"

Harry pouts before taking a sip of his drink. "I like to think that I am."

"Yeah you should become a comedian if the whole singer thing doesn’t work out."

Now he's just talking out of his ass because he doesn’t want the conversation to end.

"Have thought about it, you know, after I retire."

"Retire? From what, being a musician?"

"Yeah, after I don’t have anything else to write about." Harry says and there's a glint in his eyes which tells Louis that Harry is actually just trying to joke around.

"Do you think people just run out of stuff to write about? Like, poets and artists and writers."

Great, now he's going into deep-conversations-while-drunk-and-high mode. How much time left until Zayn's coming to get him? Fuck if he knows.

"Yeah."

"Why?" Louis asks, mainly because he was so caught up in his head that he forgot what they were talking about.

"Well…because their muses become…not muses. I guess? Or their life changes and the things that they used to write about or what inspired them just isn’t that interesting anymore." Harry replies and then stops to look at Louis, as if waiting for him to continue.

"That's sad." Is the only thing Louis can say. "Are you afraid it's going to happen to you?"

Harry pulls his head back and thinks. Louis likes the way he seems to think about every answer in a serious way, like he's actually interested in the conversation. He's talking to him just like he did in an interview Lottie showed him once, where the interviewer kept asking some fucked up questions and Harry, instead of giving him answers that would match his Rockstar persona and exactly what the interviewer was looking for, actually took a few moments to think about an honest answer.

"It might happen to me, but I'm not afraid of it. If it happens, then it means that singing isn’t for me anymore."

Louis makes a face. Once again, the answer seems genuine.

"I think I'll tattoo people until my hands give out." Louis lets him know. "I like the idea of being a part of something that has meaning for someone else."

Now he feels stupid for saying it, and he almost waits for Harry to laugh. But he didn’t.

"No, I get it." Harry says when he sees Louis' expression. "You help people bring their ideas to life and what you do lasts a lifetime, you get to hear stories, meet all kinds of people with all kinds of different backstories. I think it's cool."

Louis smiles. "I am cool." Then he shifts so he's lying on his side, head propped up in the palm of his hand, elbow resting on the pillow. He feels like he won’t throw up anymore, but the room is still spinning and if he tilts his head, his temples feel like they're suffocating his brain. Okay, he has to get up.

He pushes himself to sit up straight and then crosses his legs under himself.

"You okay?" Harry asks.

"Yeah, just a bit dizzy." Louis laughs.

"I can get you water if you want."

The last thing Louis wants is for Harry to leave right now. He stares at his arms for a second, clad in tattoos and muscly. Louis wants to lick it all.

"No, I don’t want." He assures Harry, before getting onto his knees and moving towards the end of the bed where Harry is sitting. "I'm not a lightweight."

"Oh please, you're drunk as fuck and I've had more to drink than you." Harry exclaims.

Louis drops down on his ass in front of him so they're face to face.

"Do you have a Breathalyzer?" Louis asks. "Because I can go right now."

Harry watches him in silence, a small smile playing on his lips.

Louis is a few centimetres away now, can smell Harry's cologne and the small trace of faint hair over his upper lip. He feels like the whole room has been sucked out of oxygen. Then Harry speaks.

"You know what I'm thinking?" he asks, slowly, before placing one hand next to Louis' feet, leaning in.

Louis places his hands in his own lap. He can't remember where they were just seconds ago. But he can feel the warmth of Harry's body now, which means he's incredibly close. He replies. "What?"

"Do you remember-"

There's a knock on the door. Then Zayn comes in. Louis wants to scream, feeling like someone just threw a bucket of ice water over him. Harry pulls away and stands up. Louis wants to kill Zayn. Simple as that.

"Fifteen minutes are gone man. James wants to go."

"James." Louis repeats and wants to yell but doesn’t know why or what.

"Yeah. You coming?" Zayn asks, hand still on the doorknob, eyes flickering to Harry and then back at Louis.

Harry's also looking at Louis now, and Louis feels pressured by his own mind. Then, "Yeah, I'm coming."

He gets out of the bed and tries to straighten out the duvet.

"It's fine." Harry assures him and Louis nods, before he stops right by the door, between Zayn and Harry.

"Bye." He says to Harry, who places his hands in the pocket of his jeans.

"Bye Louis."

"Bye man." Zayn also says and takes a few steps to shake Harry's hand, then walks out of the room after Louis.

They meet James in the hallway as he searches for an Uber.

"Can I come over to your place?" he asks Louis, who still hasn’t had an angry conversation with Zayn.

"No." Louis says without even thinking. James looks at him surprised. Louis adds: "Because we've got work early tomorrow, and the next week after that."

This makes James' face features soften and then he announces that the Uber will arrive in five minutes. He agrees to add an additional stop and split the fare with Louis.

They drop James off first, and only once the car starts moving towards their apartment does Louis finally talk.

"You came in at the worst possible time."

Zayn turns his head from the other side of the car, looking like he was expecting this once James left them alone.

"And why do you say that?"

Louis rolls his eyes. "You know why. We were about to-"

"About to what?"

He knows Zayn isn’t asking because he thinks Louis is delusional and there would be no chance in hell that he would do something with Harry, but because he wanted Louis to get straight to the point. And Louis has no point.

"I don’t know?"

"And you blew off James for him?"

"No." he makes a face. "I blew off James because I just can't be bothered right now."

The Uber stops in front of their building and they get out of the car after thanking the driver. Louis dramatically opens the door and waltzes into their apartment to show that he's not done with the subject yet.

"What." Zayn sighs, not really asking. He sits down on the couch and waits for Louis to sit down on the coffee table, facing him. After that happens, Zayn asks again and Louis starts rambling.

"Fuck if I know, I just feel attracted to him man. Like something I know I can't have but I want it because I like it not because I can't have it. And I know I'm talking about a person but it sounds like an object but he looks like he'd be really fun-"

"Okay I'm going to stop you right there." Zayn intervenes and Louis is glad. "It might happen, it might not, but you shouldn’t let it control your life. I mean, I know you're drunk and everything and tomorrow you'll sulk but then you'll forget about him for a few months. But. I think he also…I don’t know. Likes you, I guess."

Louis feels like he's back in high school living some drama.

"Why do you say that?"

"I don’t know, I just think so."

Then Louis changes the subject by asking about Zayn and Liam kissing, but his mind is only half processing what his friend is saying; the other half is preoccupied with thinking about the fact that he doesn’t even know when he'd be seeing Harry again.

***

Harry watches Zayn closing the door to his room and waits a few moments, thinking about what to do next. Should he go back? Should he just go to sleep? Then he decides on finding Niall, because Niall makes him feel safe.

He stops right by the kitchen when he sees Louis, Zayn and James huddled up by the elevator door, probably looking for an Uber.

"Can I come over to your place?" James asks Louis and Harry almost turns around to leave the conversation that doesn’t concern him, but his feet don’t move.

"No." Louis says and now Harry's feet feel lighter for no reason. "Because we've got work early tomorrow, and the next week after that."

They press the button for the elevator and Harry sees that Louis doesn’t say anything else until the doors close behind them.

He finds Niall and Liam outside smoking, and after socialising for another hour he finally gives in to himself and goes to sleep. The pillows where Louis laid smelled like him and Harry found it weird that it sort of relaxed him.

The next day went by uneventful since it was a day off, but come Monday morning, Liam almost beat down his door at seven in the morning to get him up and ready for the BBC Radio 1 interview with Nick. He knows he can be way more relaxed in this interview than in the other ones he usually does, because Nick won't ask him anything he knows Harry doesn’t want to discuss in the moment.

Everyone at the studio greets him not in a formal but in a friendly way, and he places the dozen donuts on the coffee table before going in the room where Nick is currently talking into the microphone.

As soon as Nick sees him, he grins. He wraps up by telling the listeners that he'll be back after a few songs and then takes off his headphones and stands up to greet Harry.

"Thanks for coming so early." Nick tells him and Harry takes a seat across from him at the table. He waits for Nick to go grab a coffee and a donut before returning to his seat.

After a few more minutes of banter, they're signalled to get ready for the interview.

"Aaand we're back at BBC Radio 1 with a special guest interview." Nick motions for him to speak.

"Hi, I'm Harry Styles." Harry says into the microphone and laughs at himself.

"Now all of our listeners know that Harry Styles is an actual dork."

"Heeeey."

They talk about the tour that came and went, and his upcoming dates in Europe starting in the fall.

"When do you even get to just chill and go on holiday?"

"Well, I'm on holiday for a month right now, and then I have two months of touring come fall, before I'm…launching a new album I guess." Harry smiles and knows the people behind the glass listening in are very happy that he just announced a new album on their radio show.

"A new album? Do you already have some songs written?"

Harry thinks about it. "Maybe a few. But I'm sure it'll be done by spring."

It's a bold thing to say with only one or two songs, but he's confident that he'll be done in no time.

"What are they about?" Nick asks and Harry recognizes that look on his face which says that he's trying to give the listeners something juicy.

"Ah…you know."

"No, I don’t."

Harry shakes his head. "The usual. Romance. Drama. Existentialism."

"Sex." Nick adds, point blank. Harry starts laughing, because he knows that this must've pissed off the producers.

"Yeah, sex." He repeats, only to piss off the big guys even more.

"What type of sex?"

Harry throws Nick a questioning look. "What exactly is your question."

"Can I read you some lyrics that I just happen to have on hand?" Nick smirks and Harry gives him this one.

"Sure."

"They're from a song that was never released, but everybody knows it."

"Right."

Nick starts reading. "You got that something, I got me an appetite, now I can taste it. Then there's another one, which was highly debated, which goes like this: the boys and the girls are in, I mess around with him, and I'm okay with it."

Harry doesn’t confirm nor deny the lyrics. "And?"

"And when I sleep I'm gonna dream of how you tasted."

Harry looks at him expectantly. So does Nick.

"So what is your question?" Harry repeats, trying to mess with Nick, who probably just wanted to make fun of his sexual lyrics rather than lead up to something intrusive.

"Do you like tasting people, Harry?" Nick asks.

"Uh…I feel like any answer will be taken the wrong way." he chuckles, thinking about his label and managers listening to what he's saying, not to mention the listeners.

"I feel like not answering is also an answer." Nick says, wriggling his eyebrows at him.

Fuck off, Harry mouths to him and Nick tries to stifle a laugh.

"I mean, it all depends on the taste." Harry says, finally deciding to play along and piss off his record label as well. He's going on holiday after all, so his money hungry bosses can shove it.

Nick's eyes glimmer with amusement. "Meaning?"

"Meaning, do they taste like fruit? Because I like fruit."

"So here it is, ladies and gentlemen. If you taste like fruit, then Harry would be open to tasting you perhaps."

"You're such a dick." Harry laughs and flips him off, before a producer comes into the room and signals them to end the interview. He looks pissed.

"When could we expect a new single?" Nick asks and Harry shrugs, but then remembers that shrugs cannot be heard on the radio.

"Soon. But I'm going on holiday before, I need to take a break for some inspiration."

"Where do you plan on finding it? What is the process of it?"

"Well, I usually travel, go somewhere outside of my everyday life and just…I don’t know. I guess I unwind, get into a zen mood."

"So here you have it then. Harry Styles likes going to exotic places to get inspiration and be zen."

"And tasting fruity people." Is all he says into the microphone before they cut his mic and start playing one of his songs, meaning the interview is done. It was supposed to go on for about another ten minutes, but the two men in the door seem pissed and his phone is buzzing in his pocket. But he doesn’t care. He's on holiday now, and he's in a good mood.

***

Louis gets into work on Monday morning at exactly 8 in the morning, ready for a twelve-hour shift. He knows that the number of appointments exceeds their usual working hours (which is 11pm anyway during the first half of the week), and Tom was really excited about the company trip Louis suggested a few weeks ago ("All expenses paid, for you and your families or whoever you want to bring along" Louis had said and sworn by it.). But by the time Tom was looking for plane and accommodations he realised that they would have to work extra hours for two weeks. He wanted to bring his wife and children along, Emma wanted to bring two friends and Max wanted to bring his boyfriend.

"Aaand we're back at BBC Radio 1 with a special guest interview." He hears as soon as he enters the back office.

Tom and Max are at their desks, the whole room smelling like coffee. Zayn takes his seat while Louis walks over to grab the printed out schedule for the day.

"Hi, I'm Harry Styles." Rings out through the room.

Louis stops, looks at the paper then at Zayn, who's already looking at him, amused. Tom and Max don’t even seem to bat an eye.

"I checked our options for the trip." Tom says, turning the volume of the radio down. "Either Italy or France."

Louis cocks his head. "Italy, definitely."

Tom looks over his options. "Rome? Venice? Milan?"

"Rome is the cheapest." Max adds, checking on his own laptop.

"Okay, I'll book the tickets and the hotel." Tom agrees and just like that, Louis is going to Rome sometime next month.

"Dates?" Zayn asks.

"Twenty-second to the twenty-nineth of September."

Louis gives him a thumbs up and then tries to concentrate on the radio. He turns it up and nobody (except for Zayn but who cares about what Zayn thinks) reacts.

"Do you like tasting people, Harry?" Nick asks.

Louis nearly chokes. What is this? Is he imagining things?

The fact that Tom and Max have stopped what they were doing lets him know that this is actually live radio.

"Uh…I feel like any answer will be taken the wrong way." Harry chuckles and Louis side eyes Zayn only to find that he's side eyeing Louis as well.

"I feel like not answering is also an answer." Nick teases him and you can hear Harry mouthing something before Nick snorts.

"I mean, it all depends on the taste."

Louis nearly chokes, for unrelated reasons.

"Meaning?"

"Meaning, do they taste like fruit? Because I like fruit."

Zayn laughs out loud at that and Tom lifts his head from the laptop, eyeing them suspiciously.

"So here it is, ladies and gentlemen. If you taste like fruit, then Harry would be open to tasting you perhaps."

Zayn starts exaggerating at this point and Louis is having none of it.

"You're such a dick." Harry laughs.

"When could we expect a new single?" Nick asks.

"Soon. But I'm going on holiday before, I need to take a break for some inspiration."

"Where do you plan on finding it? What is the process of it?"

Louis acts like he's starting to lose interest because he can feel both Tom and Zayn watching him. Well, maybe they're looking at the radio, but Louis is in their line of vision.

"Well, I usually travel, go somewhere outside of my everyday life and just…I don’t know. I guess I unwind, get into a zen mood."

"So here you have it then. Harry Styles likes going to exotic places to get inspiration and be zen."

"And tasting fruity people."

Louis shakes his head and breaks a smile, before the sound of Harry's voice gets cut off and a song starts playing.

"What a lovely man." Zayn says.

"I like him." Tom finally says.

"You know who he is?" Louis asks, kind of surprised. Harry's music doesn’t seem to be Tom's style at all. Then again, Tom keeps a lot to himself.

"Yeah, he's the kid from Manchester who got big three years ago, isn’t he? He was all over the news back then."

"Back then." Zayn says. "As if we're forty."

"Well…" Louis trails off, looking at Tom.

"I'm thirty, not forty." Tom warns and looks back down at what he was working. "I'm just saying, it seems like he's still humble, given the circumstances. Wouldn’t have thought, judging by his reputation."

"What reputation?" Louis asks. How does Tom even know this? And why doesn’t Louis?

"I don’t know anything about him, it's very subjective. I've seen it in the magazines my wife leaves around the house. Like he's the typical Rockstar you know, young adult, fame went to his head, has sex with a lot of people."

"Ah." Yeah, Louis has read that somewhere before as well. "Well, I'm going to start soon, so I better get ready."

He busies himself in the tattooing room, replacing the sheet on top of the bed (which was probably new anyway) and adjusting his chair (which was also already adjusted).

Tom pops his head out. "How long do you work tomorrow?"

"Shit, overtime tomorrow too?" Louis groans.

"Do you want to get high in your apartment or get high on a balcony in Rome?" Zayn yells from the other room and Louis rolls his eyes. "I work until nine tomorrow."

"That's not even overtime!" Tom protests. "I was about to book it at eleven, but you can take both at nine then."

"What is it?"

"Well, the reservation is under Specter, and he wants a cross tattoo, small, and a twenty-nine. The number, to be more exact."

"Why can't Zayn take it? Or Max?"

Louis is just trying to piss him off at this point, he was going to do it anyway.

"Because it's supposed to be on their hands."

"So?"

Tom sighs, knowing exactly how to end the conversation.

"So, you know you're the best when it comes to delicate tattoos."

"There we go." Louis smiles.

"Because you've got the smallest hands here." Tom finishes, smiles, then pulls his head back and closes the door.

***

Louis looks at the clock in the office. It's five past nine, and his appointments should have been here already. He has a rule that if more than fifteen minutes pass that's just disrespectful and he will pack his shit and go home.

"Well, I guess they're not showing up." Louis concludes when it's ten past nine.

He walks into the tattooing room and starts to shut off the lamp in the corner, place the needle packs in the cupboards, when the bell in the reception chimes and two muffled voices start talking to Emma.

Louis places everything back and sits down on his chair. The door opens and first he sees Liam, then Harry.

Shock.

"Hi, we're a bit late, I know." Harry says and looks at Liam.

"It was my fault." Liam adds. "Traffic."

Before Louis has time to react, Liam extends his hand for Louis to shake. Zayn also comes out, followed by Tom, and it's a whole thing now.

Liam and Harry introduce themselves to Tom after greeting Zayn and Tom looks at Harry for a moment too long. "Harry as in Harry Styles?" he asks.

"Yes."

"That's so funny, we heard you on the radio today." Tom says and Louis hasn’t ever seen him this excited about a coincidence.

"Did you?" Harry asks, crossing his arms and relaxing his shoulders.

"Yeah. How you like tasting people." Zayn jokes.

"Who taste like fruit." Louis adds.

"I got a lot of shit from my label afterwards." Harry says and Tom invites them to take a seat at the table.

"Louis is going to take care of you now, I have another appointment in the other room. As promised, no one else is going to be getting tattooed in here."

Louis looks at Harry in a weird way.

"If someone recognizes me and posts about it, by the time we leave there will be a lot of people outside." Harry explains.

"It's happened before." Liam agrees.

Tom excuses himself and Zayn takes a seat on his chair next to Louis, saying he needs to be there for the sketching on the special paper. That's a lie, they both know it. He only needs to be there at the complicated tattoos, not a simple cross and a number. Louis doesn’t mention it.

"So who am I doing first?" Louis asks and puts his gloves on.

The corner of Harry's lips curve upwards and Liam is already placing his palm down on the table.

"I've got the twenty-nine, right here."

Zayn makes a show of sketching it exactly like it is in the picture they printed out which Liam sent, and then places it over the spot Liam indicated.

"Why are you tattooing a twenty-nine on your hand?" Louis asks, not even trying to not sound blunt.

"It's my birthday. I guess I just felt like getting a tattoo, and since it's tomorrow…" Liam trails off.

"Are you celebrating tonight as well?" Louis asks.

"Well, that was kind of the point of the party last weekend." Harry chimes in, raising a finger. "But we will gather at a friend's house, she has a garden and everything so we're going over there."

"Would you like to come?" Liam asks, looking at both Zayn and Louis. "It's in Chelsea."

"Chelsea? Posh." Louis observes and grips into Liam's hard a bit too hard when he flinches. "Don’t move."

"How long do we work tomorrow?" Zayn asks and Louis cocks his head. "No idea. I work until seven, because I've got a uh- I've got a date."

"Is it the same guy that came to the party last week?"

Louis nods. "James."

"Bring him along too, he was fun."

"Yeah, he gets a bit loud when he's drunk." Louis nods, rounding the nine up.

"Sounds like someone I know." Zayn says and Louis shoots him a warning glare.

Ten minutes later he's done with Liam's tattoo and patches it up. "Go to the front desk and ask for treatment."

As Liam does just that, Louis takes the contour out of Zayn's sketchbook.

"Here." Harry says, pointing to the spot just above the opening between his thumb and index finger.

"Alright, let's get you started." Louis says and takes out a new needle to place into the tattoo gun. Harry's hands are laid out in front of him, fingers strained straight.

"Right here, okay?" Harry double checks, wriggling his thumb to make a point.

Louis starts his tattoo gun and holds the needle up towards the sky. "Yeah, got that the first time you said it." he bends over, placing thumb over Harry's fingers and the rest of his hand over the back of his palm.

"Sorry, it's just that the tattoo gun looks really wobbly in your hands." Harry says, looking up at him.

Louis clenches his jaw. "Are you insinuating that I don’t know how to do my job?"

Harry looks at their hands and doesn’t even flinch when the needle rips into his skin. "No…sorry, maybe your hands are just…tiny."

Louis rolls his eyes, thanking whoever is up there that Tom wasn’t in the room to hear it. "At least I don’t have giant-" Harry's hand moves again as he cocks his head to look at him "AHH for fuck's sake, stop moving!"

Harry's hand becomes still. "Then stop being distracting."

Louis pokes his tongue into the inside of his right cheek to stop himself from smiling but fails. (INSPIRATION FROM HERE)

Zayn awkwardly moving his body in his chair gets Louis out of the Harry bubble he was just in and makes him switch his focus on the tattoo.

"So what does it mean?" Louis asks. It’s the standard question everyone gets to break the ice. Some choose not to say, which Louis is totally okay with, and some choose to open up and most likely come back for their second one in the same place.

"That I'm blessed." Harry bluntly answers.

Louis blinks down at the half cross he's created.

"I mean, there's more to it, but that's the summary." Harry corrects himself and snickers at Louis, who would probably try to flirt even more if he wasn’t too busy inking Harry's skin for the rest of his life.

"Stop moving." He says through gritted teeth. "Or I'm gonna have to restrain you."

He doesn’t have time to regret his choice of words because Harry shifts, taking his hand along with him. Louis is close to giving up and handing the gun to Tom when he's done in the other room.

"Yeah? How?" Harry asks, pushes, maybe a bit too far, and Louis would care that Zayn is assisting to this whole conversation (even though he's trying to make it seem like he's busy sketching something) except for the fact that the last time Zayn had someone over, Louis didn’t only have to hear them having sex in the kitchen of all places, but also heard the bloke break down crying afterwards and yelling about his ex.

"By sitting on you. On your hand, I mean." Louis says, stuttering. He hates himself. He should really just focus on the tattoo. It should take longer than ten minutes tops.

"Now I'm intrigued. Show me."

Zayn stands up at that. "I think they called me at reception. I'll be right back." He stands up, and they both watch him leave the room.

As soon as the door closes shut, the atmosphere seem to shift.

"Do you think we made him uncomfortable?" Harry asks, turning his head towards the door.

His hand pulls away from the gun, but Louis is quick enough to pull it away before he puts ink where he shouldn’t. "Can you. Stop."

He digs his nails into Harry's hand, then stands up and bends over the table, placing his upper arm over Harry's lower arm, holding him in place. They’re closer now, and yes, this is something Louis has never done before, but to his defence, he's never had a client who has this much trouble holding still.

"Okay." Harry smiles, looking down at his hand. "I didn’t know this was a technique."

Louis decides to drown him out since he's two thirds done anyway and his close proximity to Harry, who smells incredible, is making his mind cloudy.

A few minutes go by and Louis actually manages to finish the cross. He blows on the tattoo and then sits back down in his chair. "You're done."

Harry looks down at his hand.

"Nice." Then he turns his head to look at Louis. "How much?"

"I don’t calculate the prices, Emma does that. But for you specially? Five hundred including taxes."

Harry laughs out loud at that and Louis looks at him weird, because he wasn’t really intending to be funny.

"How about four hundred and I bring a Breathalyzer tomorrow?" Harry suggests.

It takes Louis exactly 2 seconds to realize what Harry's referring to. "Oh. Fine. Deal."

He doesn’t think about the fact that he's still got a date with James tomorrow at eight when he shakes Harry's hand.

The door opens and Liam and Zayn come in, still talking to Emma as they do so.

"Yeah, tomorrow at seven!" Liam adds before he turns his head towards the room.

Louis patches Harry up before pointing him towards the reception.

They talk about football and Liam's next tattoo (to which Zayn adds that he could in fact help him with an original sketch) before Harry comes back with the most expensive type of ointment they have. "The car is out front."

Louis and Zayn walk them out because they’re the last clients of the day, before Emma prints out the sales sheet and hands it over to Louis.

"Ten thousand today? Not bad." Louis smiles, and then looks down at the last recorded payment.

"Motherfucker." Louis mumbles.

"What?" Zayn asks, sticking his nose into the paper.

"He really paid four hundred pounds." Louis says and hands the sheet over to Zayn. "I have to make a call."

***

James picks Zayn and Louis up with an Uber at seven thirty the following evening. When Louis suggested going to Liam's birthday party instead of a movie and a pizza, James didn’t even hesitate. It's insanely hot outside for a summer evening in London, and Louis wouldn’t have brought a jacket if Zayn hadn’t pestered him about it. Now he has to carry it around in his hand like an asshole.

"I bought Liam a shirt for the three of us." Zayn says, lifting a Burberry bag.

"Aren't those like over three hundred pounds? Zayn." Louis gasps.

"That's why it's from the three of us."

James laughs and pats Zayn on the back. "Thanks man."

It's a gated community in Chelsea, so the Uber stops by the entrance and the three of them get out.

"Liam says it's the house with the loud music." Zayn says, looking down at his phone.

"Look at you two texting." Louis sarcastically coos and Zayn tries to kick him, but Louis anticipates it and gets out of the way.

The house is not far from the gate, maybe a two-minute walk, and it's huge. It's a big, modern semi-mansion with a large driveway and a fountain in the front.

"See Zayn?" Louis says after ringing the doorbell. "This could be us living here but you buy Burberry shirts."

James laughs at that and Zayn ignores him.

The door opens and Liam is standing there in a tank top, muscles and tattoos showing, smiling.

"Hey! You're right on time." He says, not even intending to be sarcastic.

It's colder in the house than it is outside, and Louis takes it all in before they're back outside in the back garden. Which might be the biggest garden he's ever seen in London. There are lounge chairs in the corner of the garden, a big table with people sitting at it, and a stereo system in another corner where some people are huddled up, singing and dancing to the music.

"Happy birthday." Zayn says and hands him the gift. "From the three of us."

Liam takes it. "Wow thank you, I didn’t expect you to bring anything."

He guides them to the long table by the other fountain and introduces them to the crowd. There are some people Louis already knows from Coachella and Bryan's birthday, who also know him, and Louis starts to feel at ease.

"NIALL!" Louis exclaims when he sees a fake blonde leaning over to say something in Bryan's ear.

Niall stands up straight and his whole face lights up. "OI!"

They say hello like they haven't seen each other just a few days ago, and then Niall looks around the garden, squinting his eyes as he's searching for someone.

"Where's Harry? Oh, there he is!"

Louis watches Harry come out of the house, in nothing but a pair of jean shorts and a see-through button up (that of course isn’t actually buttoned up), alongside a guy and a woman Louis has never seen before. Harry smiles as he approaches them, and Liam takes the time to introduce everyone.

"This is Chloe, she is a co-founder of two gin brands, and a good friend of ours." Liam says, and the three of shake her hand.

"I'm having a little taste slash birthday party for Liam here. There's a new flavour we're trying to test and bring to the market." She explains and holds up a bottle Louis didn’t even notice she was holding.

"Sweet." Louis smiles. "What flavour is it?"

"Watermelon." She says and Louis already knows he's going to get shitfaced tonight, once again. Well, it's a new week, so it doesn’t count.

"And this is Elliott, a friend of ours." Liam continues.

Pretty, Louis thinks as they shake hands. The guy is a bit taller than him, has green eyes and jet-black hair which curls up on the sides of his face, and he's wearing shorts and a t-shirt, which makes him look skinnier than he actually is.

Chloe pics up a microphone from the table and yells "WHO WANTS GIN!" into it, which makes everyone cheer. Louis loves it.

***

Louis is two gin tonics in, so he decides to spice it up and listen to Chloe when she offers to make him a mix with San Pellegrino blood orange and add some fruit into the glass. He follows her to the bar by the entrance in the house and shifts on his feet impatiently.

"I would LOVE to have my own alcohol brand. It looks like so much fun." Louis tells her as she watches her prepare his cocktail. "I would make a lime flavour for gin, then you only have to add the mix drink and that's it."

Chloe points at him. "I will write that down."

She hands him his cup. "So there's strawberries and blueberries in it, and the new sod should make it fizzier."

Louis takes a sip. Falls in love. Dies. Comes back. "It's exfuckingquisite."

Chloe's eyes light up and she clinks their glasses together. "Cheers."

Louis returns to the table and knocks glasses with Niall and Sean who are walking towards the house as he does so.

Don’t say it

Don’t say it

Don’t fucking say it

"SHOOOTS!" he yells and most of the people who hear him approve.

They follow him back to the bar where Louis takes out as many plastic shot glasses as he can find. Since it's a gin party, he decides to pour everyone a shot of normal gin because why not.

He's almost done when he sees Niall and Sean coming out of the house with the corner of his eye, also accompanied by Emma.

He yells at them to join, and before he knows it, he's also two shots in. Then, a familiar smell reaches him. And finally:

"Where's Zayn?"

***

Harry has no idea what he's had to drink by the time he finds himself next to Elliott, Liam, Zayn and James (Louis' friend) on the loungers in the back corner of the garden, rolling a joint.

He hears someone yell out 'SHOTS' and he knows it's Louis, which makes him shake his head. He hasn’t seen Louis much in the past hour because he's been chatting to Chloe, Bryan, Niall, basically everyone.

"Should we invite him over for the joint?" Harry asks, motioning with his head in Louis' direction.

"He's too drunk for that I think." James replies, looking at Louis as well.

Zayn snorts. "Pssh, please. It's Louis. He can take more than you think."

Harry looks back at Louis, before he shifts his eyes back to the group. Zayn lights up the joint after he's finished rolling and puffs out the first smoke with a smile. "Quality."

Elliott is a bit tipsy and keeps touching him, which Harry doesn’t mind per se, but he can see James eyeing them and thinks about how he doesn’t know James well enough to trust him.

Thankfully, he can see a wobbling Louis stumbling towards them with a drink in hand. "Zaaaayn."

Zayn sighs and shifts on the lounger to make space for Louis to sit down.

"Right on time." Zayn tells him and passes it over to him.

"I smelled it from miles away. Oh, Emma is also here."

"Yeah, she told me she'd join us after Tom finishes the last appointment.

"Why are you working so late this week?" James asks.

Louis shrugs. "We want to go to Rome at the end of September."

Harry thinks about his European tour, which he'll have to start as of Monday next week but doesn’t say anything.

"Everyone at LWTattoos." Zayn clarifies for him.

Emma, Niall and Sean join them a few minutes later and the subject shifts.

Elliott leans over to whisper into Harry's ear when nobody's paying attention to them. "Let's go upstairs."

Harry shifts in his seat. "I don’t think it's the right moment." He says in a low voice, motioning to the joint that's still going around.

Elliott pouts and Harry bops his nose with his index before he takes the joint from Emma. It's not even really about the right moment or the joint, it's more about him not wanting to do it right now.

Louis sucks on his straw until it starts making a weird noise which means the glass is empty.

"Fuck, I'm going to get a new one." He announces to nobody in particular and stands up.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" James asks, grabbing his wrist to stop him from going anywhere.

Louis pulls his arm away. "Yes."

"Because you're a bit drunk."

"Leave me alone." Louis says and rolls his eyes before he's off towards the bar.

"What a child, I swear." James sighs and Harry opens his mouth to say something but decides against it. Instead, he looks at Zayn, who is already looking at him and motioning with his head that he should go after Louis.

"I'm going to get a refill. Anybody want anything?"

Niall hands him his glass and then Harry's off.

***

Louis is waiting for Chloe to prepare him another drink, just like the one before, when he feels someone come to a halt next to him and sees them placing two glasses on the bar.

"Having fun?" Harry asks and Louis turns to him, placing two hands on his hips.

"Yes. Chloe is making me a new cocktail."

"I'll have the same." Harry tells her and she nods, taking his glasses as well.

"Why do you wear button ups if you don’t actually button them up?" Louis asks, eyeing Harry's exposed chest, which makes Harry also look down at himself.

"Why do you say you can drink me under the table and then get drunk one hour into the party?" Harry retorts.

"Hmm. Well played. Oh! Speaking of which, you actually paid four hundred dollars for the tattoo? You know I was joking, right?"

Harry shakes his head. "Well I wasn’t."

Louis snorts. "Does that mean you have a Breathalyzer as well?"

Harry nods. "Yeah."

"Swear."

"I swear, I do. It's in my bag."

Louis shakes his head, smiling. "I can't believe it."

"Hey, I keep my word."

"Very noble of you." Louis sarcastically agrees and takes his cocktail from Chloe.

"Hope you enjoy them." She tells the two of them before she's off to entertain other people.

"Okay, how many drinks and shots have you had?"

"This is my fourth mix and I've had two shots. You?"

Harry takes a sip. "Fourth- or fifth, and no shots."

Louis' eyes widen. "Aha! So…I guess we have a winner. And you've been here longer."

"Well, I've had stronger drinks." Harry argues.

"Fine. Where's the thing?"

"In my bag in the coat room."

Louis steps inside without saying anything else and Harry follows him silently.

"Where's the coat room?"

Harry extends his arm to show the way and Louis follows him inside.

Harry opens one of the doors in the main foyer to reveal a smaller room filled with coats and bags of all colours. Harry finds his Nike duffle bag in the corner and takes out a Breathalyzer from the side pocket.

"You're unbelievable." Louis says and takes it out of his hands.

"I've been told, thank you." Harry replies, matching Louis' sarcastic attitude towards life.

"Well…blow." Louis says and holds the Breathalyzer up to Harry's mouth.

Harry's eyes glimmer and he leans down to place his lips around the tube. "Gladly."

Louis presses the button and Harry blows for a few seconds before it beeps.

"0.14. Hm." Louis says as he reads the displayed numbers.

"Now you." Harry says and Louis makes a show of wiping the part which was just in Harry's mouth before he blows as well.

They both look down at the numbers once it's done.

"Haha! 0.16, told you." Louis says and makes a face at Harry.

"It's not really accurate though, you're smaller so you would get drunk-"

"It's maths, Harry. That’s facts." Louis says and hands him the thing back. "So I win."

Harry crosses his arms over his chest. "Win what?"

"I don’t know. The right to say I was right."

Louis purses his lips and walks out of the room without saying anything else, and smiles to himself when he hears Harry hurrying to pack the Breathalyzer back into his bag and follow him.

When Louis abruptly stops by the back door, Harry bumps into him, nearly tipping his glass over.

"Ugh, I would kill to smoke right now but I just can't be bothered with James." Louis mumbles, glancing over at his friends who are still by the loungers.

"I need to show you something." Harry says.

"What?"

"I have to show you."

When Louis dramatically hesitates, Harry changes his tactic.

"It's an adventure, I promise."

Louis finally agrees and follows Harry through a long corridor that also leads outside, but this time it's a smaller garden with just flowers and a small gate in the back. Harry leads them through the garden and past the gate, which opens into a slim walkway between the trees and finally, another garden.

"There's a pool here? What the hell." Louis says when he sees what's in front of him.

There's a pool in the middle with loungers on one side and a shed on the other.

"This is great for summer parties." Harry agrees. "Look at the sunset."

Louis takes a moment to appreciate that the setting sun is making the sky warm orange and feels like he could do anything.

"And now, this." Harry says, interrupting him.

Louis watches silently as Harry takes out a small baggie filled with weed and rolling papers from his shorts.

"No way." Louis says in awe, grabbing the baggie from him. "Sick. What about a grinder?"

"Don’t have that, sadly."

Louis is already walking towards the lounge chairs. "It's fine, I'll finesse it by hand."

He sets his drink down by the leg of one of the loungers and plops down on it.

"You sure you're not too high to roll?" Harry teases, sitting on the one next to it, turning on its side to face Louis, who has pulled the table next to them so he can roll.

"What, you're going to get a drug test as well?" Louis jokes as he sets his phone on the table and places rolling paper over it.

"You know I could."

"You know what? I think you should roll it, since you think you'd be better at it." Louis says, deciding to go along with it.

It's obvious that Harry shits himself at this point because Louis is clearly more skilled, but he proudly takes over anyway, by taking out a cigarette and spreading its tobacco on the rolling paper.

They work in silence; Louis on the actual weed, Harry on the filter, but it's not awkward, it's just…silent. They can hear the others just a few meters away on the other side of the two-meter wall, and Louis wonders why they didn’t just make a big garden out of it.

"Because the other garden is for evening parties and this one is for everyday use." Harry answers his question.

Louis blinks at him.

"You thought out loud again." Harry explains and Louis shakes his head before leaning back on his palms.

"Do you think they can hear us?" Louis asks, lowering his voice.

"No."

"But I can hear them."

"Because they're louder."

Louis nods and stretches his legs out so they're between Harry's.

"How do you think they even invented the Breathalyzer?" Louis ponders as he leans his right cheek over his shoulder and watches Harry struggle to roll the joint. "Like how do we know it's accurate? How can it smell?"

Harry snorts and holds up the joint to his mouth, tongue darting out to lick it shut. Louis makes eye contact with him and covers up his thirst by making a questioning face.

"So... they have these charged electrodes in them and the ethanol from the alcohol in your breath reacts with them, which reacts again I think and then that gives you the percentage of ethanol in your breath."

Louis stares at him, not really knowing what to say to that. "I didn’t expect you to give me the legit answer. How do you even know that?"

Harry shrugs, taking out a lighter. "I read."

Louis watches him take the first few hits before handing it to him.

"You can read, you can sing, and you can definitely fuck up a live interview wow, what a man." Louis says takes two hits one after the other.

"So you listened to the interview." Harry smirks, taking the joint from Louis.

"We always listen to BBC in the morning."

"Yeah, fuck." Harry laughs. "My label gave me so much shit for that interview."

"Did they cut you off at the end?" Louis asks, half joking.

"They did, yeah."

"Well, I didn’t think it was that bad. If anything, I think it made people like you more. My co-worker, Tom, listened and he only knew stuff about you from years ago. He said you're yourself. Or somethin' like that, for sure. And he doesn’t usually give compliments."

Harry smiles. "I feel flattered." He blows the smoke out and hands the joint back to Louis. He looks down at his cross tattoo as he retracts his hand. "I think it's not entirely straight, you know." Harry adds, showing Louis the cross.

Louis blows the smoke right into Harry's eyes. "Yeah, just like its owner."

Harry's jaw drops. "Fuck you."

"See? Proved my point." Louis teases and stands up. "You're not completely straight either, so I don’t see a problem."

Harry looks up at him, nearly straining his neck. "How could I be?"

"If anything, I see it as a very funny irony and metaphor." Louis adds and stops the joint halfway to his lips when Harry's hand comes to grab behind his left thigh.

"Why funny?" Harry asks, acting like he's not currently touching Louis under his ass.

"Because you're not-" Harry grips into his thigh and pulls Louis towards him, who loses his balance (dramatically, of course – he wasn't pulled that hard) and places his left knee on Harry's right side and his hands on his shoulders "…straight." He breathes, looking down at Harry, who's suddenly so close to his face it's unreal.

Harry's other hand comes up to the back of Louis' right thigh and oh, Louis' both feet are off the ground and now he's almost straddling Harry's thighs and everyone is just a few meters away behind a wall.

The music sounds as if it's coming from outside the world at the moment, and Louis' mind is cloudy until he sees ash falling on Harry's forehead and him squirming and closing his eyes.

"Shit." Louis realises that he's been holding the joint all this time. "Fuck, sorry."

"It's fine." Harry says, taking a hand off Louis' body to rub his fist against his eye.

Louis watches him squint and scrunch his nose and before he even has the time to actually stop his eye from itching, Louis kisses him.

Harry's hand finds its place back on Louis' body and he kisses back immediately, as if he was already expecting it.

"Were you expecting it?" Louis asks after a few seconds, pulling back to light the joint back up. He finally allows himself so to sit down on Harry's lap.

"You kissing me? Or you straddling me?"

"They go together."

"Maybe, yeah." Harry says. "Or maybe I wanted it so bad my mind was expecting it."

"You're so full of shit." Louis laughs and passes the joint after taking a few hits.

"Means I've got a healthy-"

"Don’t say metabolism or I'll scream." Louis warns.

Harry blows the smoke in Louis' face.

"Your eye is red."

Harry makes a face. "No shit."

Then Louis kisses him again, just as Harry is about to blow another round of smoke into his face. Louis feels hot all over, and he can't really think about anything he'd rather be doing with his life than kissing Harry.

His lips are soft and plump, he knows exactly how to move his mouth to make Louis want to grind down on him.

Harry's hand come up his thighs and under his shirt, soft fingertips running across his belly. Louis feels like he's high on everything, the worst of it all being Harry.

"You taste like strawberries." Louis notes.

"And you taste like watermelon, but you don’t hear me complaining." Harry retorts.

"I thought you liked tasting people as long as they taste like fruit. Don’t tell me you're a hypocrite-"

Before Louis can finish his joke, Harry kisses him again, this time harder.

"Shit, we're outside." Louis groans when he hears James loudly laugh from over the fence.

"It's a pattern, I know." Harry says, passing the joint.

He squeezes Louis' thigh as he watches him smoke.

"What?" Louis asks.

"You look like the sun."

Louis laughs, maybe a bit too loud, and slams his palm over his mouth, because the laughter and voices die down a bit.

"LOUIS?" Niall screams from behind the wall, and Harry places a finger over his lips, widening his eyes. Louis rolls his eyes and nods. They wait for the noise to engulf them once again before their mouths meet as if on cue.

His hands grip the nape of Harry's neck and the moment Harry's hands slide under his shirt; he knows he's fucked (because he can't be fucked – the irony).

The phone on the table starts ringing and he double clicks on the lock button without breaking the kiss. Then, a few seconds later, Harry's thigh starts to vibrate.

"They won't stop." Harry says against his lips and Louis curses the world before he pulls away and lifts his ass up so Harry can get to the phone. "Hello?"

"Where are you? People are starting to ask." Comes Liam's voice through the receiver.

"I'm ugh…" Louis points with his index to his mouth, as if he were throwing up "throwing up" Louis shakes his head, pointing to himself "Louis is throwing up, I mean."

"Okay uh- wait. Where are you?"

"In the bathroom. He's almost done…ugh, we'll be there in five."

"What bathroom? Why?"

Harry rolls his eyes and Louis gets bored just listening, so he starts kissing down his neck.\

"Fuck, upstairs, Liam. In our room."

"Okay. Can you bring my wallet from your bag? I need to pay for the food."

"Okay. Be there soon." Harry says and hangs up.

They stare at each other for a second before Louis sighs and gets up from the lounger, away from Harry's body. The universe hates him, obviously.

"I need to go get Liam's wallet." Harry says, finally standing up as well and adjusting himself in his shorts.

"Okay, let's go." He says and grabs his drink and phone.

They finish the joint by the time they reach the doors to the house and Harry puts it out in an ashtray next to the smoking area.

"Where's the bag?" Harry asks after two minutes of searching the coat room.

"I can't see it."

Louis likes being helpful.

"Shit, I think it's in our room." Harry concludes.

"You have a room here?"

"As in, if we stay the night. There's like…five guest bedrooms in this place."

They go up the circular stairs and down a long hallway before Harry finally stops by a door and opens it. The room is large, with windows that go from the ceiling to the floor and a sofa on the side, in front of a TV on the wall.

The duffle bag is by the bed and Harry looks through it until he finds Liam's wallet.

"Why is the bag here anyway?" Louis asks, placing his hands on his hips.

"I don’t-actually, good question." Harry looks at the bag. "I think Liam must've brought it here."

"That's suspicious." Louis squints. "What if he was here with Zayn?"

"No!" Harry whispers in shock. "You think?"

"It's a possibility. Birthday sex, right?"

Harry shakes his head. "Where were you on my birthday?" he jokes.

But the joke sucks all the air out of the room and Louis does feel like it might be spinning due to the lack of oxygen.

"I…don’t know how to reply to that." Is all he says and then closes the distance between them.

Harry's tongue meets his and they're already making their way towards the bed. They fall down on it, Louis first and Harry over him.

Maybe it's the weather or maybe the radiator is turned up to the maximum because Louis feels hot all over, but not in a sweaty way.

He yelps when Harry suddenly turns them over and pulls Louis over his lap by the back of his knees so they're in the same position as they were on the lounger.

"You're so fucking…ugh." Harry says, running his hands all over Louis' thighs.

"Thanks." Louis breathes and lets Harry pull his shirt over his head. "Now you."

Harry's see-through shirt is soft against Louis' hands and he nearly rips it trying to unbutton it. "This is ridiculous."

Louis stands up on the bed and wiggles out of his shorts but before he can sit back down, Harry's fingers curl up under the hem of his briefs and he pulls them down as well. Louis' semi springs free and Harry's eyes light up at the sight.

He plops back down onto Harry, completely naked now, and kisses him again. He knows, in the back of his mind, that James is downstairs, but the guilt is nowhere to be seen (plus, they never really made it official).

He can feel Harry's cock against his thigh, and he deepens the kiss, trying to get Harry's shorts off in the process.

Louis doesn’t know how it happens, but they're both naked now, cocks rubbing against one another and kisses getting more heated with every second that passes.

Harry's hand comes down between them and it's just ridiculous that he can grab both cocks with his hand. Louis doesn’t really have the time to joke about that because Harry's cock is hard against his and his mind is so cloudy it's like autumn in his brain.

Harry stops the movement of his hands and looks up at Louis.

"Well…blow." He says, eyes shiny and lips curling up at each end.

Louis shimmies down so he's between Harry's ankles, grabs Harry's cock and spits on it.

"Damn." Harry says under his breath and groans when Louis takes him into his mouth.

Louis feels a hand curling up in his hair, guiding him up and down slowly, before holding him still and thrusting upwards, fucking his mouth.

"Fuck, your mouth is so…" Harry trails off and tugs on Louis' hair, signalling for him to come back up. He kisses him, deep and soft at the same time, cock bumping against Louis' stomach as he does so. "Get the lube from the bag."

Louis bends over to the side of the bed to grab the lube and watches Harry struggling to open the cap to lube up his fingers.

"Is it okay?" Harry asks and Louis feels taken aback by the question. He's never been asked that during sex.

"Of course." He says when he sees that Harry's actually expecting an answer.

He settles on Harry's thighs, placing a hand on his chest to keep himself up on his knees. The back of his thighs are trembling with anticipation and he stares down at Harry's hard cock as he lowers himself on a finger.

"Fuuuuck." He exhales, easing down and clenching against Harry's middle finger.

They kiss again and for a moment everything stands still, before the feeling in Louis' core intensifies and he tries to relieve it by moving up and down.

Soon enough, another finger enters him and he's too flustered to keep going because everything is happening at once and he wants to fuck or get fucked by Harry now.

"Condom." He tells Harry between kisses because they're doing this now.

Harry's other hand darts out to the bag by the bed and after a few seconds of blindly searching through it while still fingering Louis, he stops.

"Ugh, I don’t think I have one with me. I thought I did."

"Fuck." Louis sighs and leans his forehead against Harry's.

"I've never done it without one, with anyone."

Louis looks up at him. "Really?"

Harry nods.

"And you want to do it now?"

Harry nods again. "I promise, I've never-"

Louis holds up his pinky. "Pinky promise?"

Harry's pinky (the one that doesn’t belong to the hand still in Louis) comes up to intertwine with Louis'. "Pinky promise."

"Fuck, okay then."

Louis squirts some lube into his palm and shivers when Harry takes all his fingers out, leaving him cold and empty. He lubes up Harry's pulsing shaft and curls his fingers around it, positioning himself above him.

"HARRY!?" someone yells and for a moment, neither of them actually registers it.

Then, the door opens, and Louis barely gets the time to cover himself up with the blanket before he sees Liam's head popping out from behind the door.

"Uh…what are you doing?" he asks, eyes falling on Harry and Louis with the blanket up to their necks.

"I was uh…testing these Egyptian cotton sheets. I'm thinking of buying some for my apartment."

Pathetic.

"Right." Liam says and steps in.

Louis tries to pull up his briefs and get dressed without moving. Fails.

"People are asking about you." He says to Harry and walks over to the bag. "And I still need to pay for the pizzas."

"Right."

Liam grabs his wallet from the bag, stares at them for another moment, then leaves the room.

"Shit." Harry sighs and gets out of bed, his briefs already on. "Way to ruin the mood."

"You've got…" Louis says, pointing to the tent in his briefs. He's trying to lighten the mood to hide the fact that he's so horny it's insane.

"Yeah. I'll just…take care of it." Harry points to the bathroom.

"Okay. I think it's best if we don't go out there together."

Harry agrees and waits for Louis to get dressed.

"So…" Louis trails off, looking at Harry. Harry, who is the most beautiful person Louis has ever seen. Harry, who managed to get Louis' brain so dizzy that he doesn’t even care about James or his friends waiting outside for him. Harry, who came into his life unexpectedly and keeps popping up even though Louis doesn’t go out of his way to make it happen.

Harry, who grabs him by the back of his neck and kisses him long and deep, like they're the only people in the world right now.

"See you outside." Louis says against his lips as he rethinks all of his life choices that have led up to this moment.

Harry nods, kisses him again, and then watches him walk away.

***

When Harry comes out of the bathroom, he feels liberated. And a bit sad for the sort-of ruined orgasm.

He finds everyone outside, still sipping on gins and smoking joints. Louis is by James' side now, giggling into the nape of his neck at something he said, so he chooses to sit down next to Liam and grab the drink out of his friend's hand.

"Do you have any idea what happened to my emergency condom?" he asks, lowering his voice.

Liam's face turns red. "Maybe."

Harry shakes his head. "I knew it."

"You're one to talk." Liam hisses at him. "I don’t even know what I walked into."

Harry's eyes drift off in Louis' direction, only to find him staring right back at him.

"Yeah, I don’t know either."

He stares at his feet for way too long, and suddenly there's a joint in his face.

"So where are you off to tomorrow?" Elliott asks, curling his hand around Harry's thigh as he moves closer. He reeks of Tequila shots and weed, and all the alcohol Harry has had tonight suddenly comes right back to his head.

"I think I'm going to LA. I need to work on a new album."

"I thought you were going to unwind for a bit." Elliott pouts.

"Do you want to come with?" Harry suggests, and involuntarily looks in Louis' direction. The lad doesn’t even seem to be paying attention to Harry, since he's too busy whispering something into James' ear.

Elliott's eyes light up and Harry warmly smiles, even though he feels like it doesn’t reach his eyes. "Are you joking? I would love to go to LA!"

"When are we leaving?" he asks Liam.

"Tomorrow night. Then you have a week of doing whatever before the Europe leg starts."

Zayn asks something, Emma laughs and Elliott whispers into his ear about whatever he's planning on doing once they get to LA, but Harry can't concentrate on anything that's going on around him.

There's a weird feeling in his stomach, like he's had too much to drink and someone decided to light a fire in there. He looks at Louis, who hasn’t looked at him since they came back outside and wonders why he can't seem to look anywhere else.

Surely it must be because he's drunk and high.

It's the alcohol. And the weed. Always.

Definitely.

Fuck.