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It's Only A Beginning

Chapter Text

Louis got in from football, dropped his dirty kit on his bedroom floor, then kicked it across his bedroom floor when his mum yelled up the stairs that he wouldn’t get any tea if he didn’t put it in the basket in the bathroom. He chucked his buggered phone in the direction of the bed, then faceplanted after it, burrowing his face in the pillow.

“Louis, did you hear me?” his mum snapped, coming up the stairs.

“Whole of bloody Doncaster could hear you,” he said, face still mashed into the pillow. “Whole of bloody South Yorkshire, that’s how loud you are.”

“Louis,” she said, coming into his bedroom. “What's the matter with you? You’ve had a face on you like a slapped arse all week.”

“Nothing,” Louis said, but he kicked the duvet anyway and kept his face firmly wedged into the pillow.

“Is it school?” she asked. “I thought this year was going better than last year?”

No. No, this year was not going better than last year, because last year he was with his friends, and everything was okay, and it wasn't the case that every single last thing was crap. Last year he wasn’t the stupid fucking sixth former who’d failed his fucking AS levels and had had to move stupid fucking schools to do them again.

“It’s fine,” he said.

“Louis.”

“It’s fine,” he said again, because his mum looked knackered and there had been enough arguments over the summer to last a lifetime, and because it wasn’t anyone else’s fault but his own that he’d totally fucking fucked up.

Downstairs, the combined racket of the twins, the smoke alarm, Lottie yelling at them all to shut up, and his dad shouting for his mum to come and sort out the mess in the kitchen grew to deafening levels.

“The kitchen’s probably on fire,” he said.

She rolled her eyes. “It probably is. We’ll talk about this later.”

She always said that, but later never seemed to show up. Not this year, anyway.

“If you want that kit washed, put it in the bathroom with the rest of the washing.”

“Fine,” he said, but he had no intention to, not really. He was going to lie here and feel sorry for himself instead.

~*~

He got bored of feeling sorry for himself after a while, so he went to steal the family laptop to check his emails. He’d broken his old phone and then he’d lost his job at the cinema so there wasn’t any money for a new one, so he’d had to go back to his mum’s old-old phone that barely even made phone calls, and didn’t connect to the internet. It was like living in the dark ages.

He logged into his Gmail instead, and mentally fistpumped when there, at the top of his inbox, was a Tumblr ask from pixiemademedothis. He hated logging onto Tumblr on the family computer, but his battered laptop was still locked away in his dad’s filing cabinet as punishment for staying out all night three weeks ago, and there was still another week left before he could get it back. He clicked on Pixiemademedothis’s message:

Still on internet lockdown?? When do you get your computer back? The internet misses your wildly inaccurate opinions about everything. My dash is a much more boring place without you on it.

Louis logged in to Tumblr so he could reply. His username—which he changed relatively frequently—was now noonemademedothis.

My opinions are great Yours are terrible . You made that whole post about how you hated the fray !! that’s a proper wrong opinion mate !

He paused. Fuck, he was sick of everything.

Anyway I get my laptop back next week unless I fuck up again which I might cos everything is fucking me off right now n I feel like I might explode. Just sneaking time on the family comp but that never ends well . hope your dash dunt miss me too much, I know I’m properly unforgettable. L x

He’d pressed send before he realised he’d added the kiss.

Chapter Text

Louis’s Tumblr dash was a mixture of people talking about music, Grease appreciation blogs, football, people obsessed with footballers’ arses, people who wrote stories about Radio 1 DJs and musicians, and gay porn.

It was the gay porn part that meant he hated logging on from the family computer. It was the gay part that made him change his username relatively frequently, in case anyone he knew in real life ever accidentally came in contact with him online and figured it out. That, and he hadn’t decided on the perfect username yet, but anything that grabbed pixiemademedothis's attention was a definite positive.

Pixie had been in music fandom for approximately a million years, although they a) got mad when people called them Pixie, and b) couldn’t be that much older than Louis, if any. Right at the beginning, when Louis had started stalking their blog for wrong opinions he could be self-righteous about, he was fairly sure he could remember them moaning about getting ID’d in Tesco trying to buy peach schnapps, and not having a fake ID. They had, like, a million friends, and were always engaging in stupid, public, multi-ask threads of mutual masturbation with all their cool friends.

It made Louis want to stab his eyes out with a fork at exactly the same time as wanting to be liked as much as Pixie, so he’d done what any self-respecting Tumblr aficionado would do, and made a series of posts about things he knew Pixie had opinions about before adding them as a friend. Pixie hadn’t added him back, so he’d reblogged a pile of their posts with either:

a) scathing tags tearing Pixie’s opinions to pieces at the same time as highlighting how great Louis was (what, you can’t think Cristina was better than Britney back in the day, ok so genie in a bottle is good, but it’s no baby one more time, I went as her in that to our 90s disco at school, wore the skirt and everything, I proper smashed it, probably got better legs than you too) or

b) tags agreeing with Pixie’s opinions about relatively obscure things that they didn’t seem to have anyone else to talk about (Fleetwood mac forever, think dreams was the first song I ever sang, move over the wheels on the fucking bus).

He'd also started reblogging pictures of dogs. After one particularly terrible day at school, he’d sent a four-part ask to Pixie listing all the ways in which Pitbull was an abomination, and Pixie had sent him a message back that just said, calm it down mate, who pissed in your cornflakes? Closely followed by a follow up saying not that I don’t agree obvs.

That was weeks ago, and it had sort of spiralled from there.

Louis clicked over to Pixiemademedothis’s blog, scrolling down to see what he’d missed. A text post that said, I hate songs that end with a fade out, a picture of Florence from Florence and the Machine dressed as a bear, a video of some goats dancing to the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back, a reblog of some Tumblr dickhead Louis hated talking about how great James Bay was—which was shit, as Louis had liked him first—a puppy hugging a toy carrot, and a text post with a billion reblogs that just said exams are shit. Louis could definitely agree with that. He reblogged it, then googled songs that ended with a fade out. He opened up a new video post, copied the link from YouTube of 10cc’s I’m not in love, wrote cracking fade out pixiemademedothis !! and pressed post.

Then he logged out, wiped the internet history, wiped it again in case playing Tumblr roulette with penises had left any kind of gay germs anywhere his family might find them, shut down the laptop, and went down to have his tea.

~*~

School was shit, was the thing. His friends were all at his old school, doing their A2s, not stuck back in year twelve retaking their AS levels with a year full of people who knew he’d already failed once. It wasn't like they'd forgotten him, but it was easy to sort of forget and move on if he wasn't in their face every day. And this school didn’t make it any better either. He couldn’t be bothered with the homework, and he couldn’t be bothered listening, and he couldn’t bring himself to care, even though he knew that there was no getting past the fact that him failing again would probably cause his family to break down around his ears. Everyone already knew each other, and it wasn’t like he didn’t have friends, but they weren’t the kind of friends he used to have. Only the vague prospect of the upcoming end-of-term school musical was giving him any kind of joy at all, and even that came with its own issues, because if the rumours were true and they were doing Grease, then not getting Danny Zuko might be the crowning glory on eighteen months of total and utter fucking shit.

His mum and dad had started fighting even before Louis’s alarm had gone off that morning. He wasn’t thinking about it.

“Let’s talk coursework deadlines,” his English teacher said, clapping her hands together. “Louis, I’m assuming we have your full attention?”

“Of course,” he lied. “This is literally the most interested I’ve ever been in anything.”

Her eyebrow twitched. “Of course,” she said. “To that end, you might want to open your book. And stay behind afterwards for a little chat.”

“Fine,” he said. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

She took a deep breath. Louis knew he was a pain in the arse. He didn’t quite know when he’d stopped being someone that people laughed with.

~*~

At lunchtime, he went to the shop with a couple of the girls to buy a sandwich and a bag of crisps. Lisa asked him if he was thinking of doing the school musical as they were contemplating buying an Asda Smartprice chocolate Swiss roll to share between the three of them, Sasha holding it up with puppy-dog eyes.

“Dunno,” Louis said, which meant yes, yes, a thousand times yes. He wasn’t particularly good at failing in front of people, and he really, really wanted to be Danny if they were doing Grease. “Probably.”

Grease is your favourite film, isn’t it?”

“Toss up between that and The Fast and the Furious,” Louis said, even though it was a lie. Loving a musical a hundred times more than any other film really was a bit gay, and at the moment, Louis was only gay when no one else was around.

He was really, really gay. Sometimes he thought about pretending he was staying over at Stan’s and going into Sheffield by himself instead, try and get a first gay kiss out of some guy who wouldn’t know anyone he knew. Maybe a uni student. Someone who wouldn’t tell. Except he really didn't see Stan all that often anymore to use him as a cover story, and the last time he'd done that, he'd ended up with his laptop being taken off him as a punishment.

They got the chocolate Swiss roll and wandered back towards school. Outside the front gates, a pile of year 13s were hanging around and smoking and playing music on their phones, one of them pretending to tap dance to Years and Years. At his old school, Louis would have been one of them, one of the kings and queens of the school. Here he was an outsider, too old for his year, too young to know what to do with his life.

Daisy Lowe leaned over the wall in Louis’s direction. “Are you eating a whole chocolate Swiss roll?”

“We’re sharing it,” Louis said.

“Generous,” she said.

“We try.”

Nick Grimshaw hooked his chin over Daisy’s shoulder. “Thought you were supposed to, like, cut that into little slices and have ‘em at your nan’s.”

“Nah,” Louis said, since Lisa and Sasha had gone a bit quiet. “That’s so last season. Current fashion is to eat them walking down the road.”

“So, it’s like a statement, then?”

“It’s a political statement,” Louis agreed. “And you’re getting in our way. We’re on a deadline here.”

“Wouldn’t want to get in the way of a deadline,” Nick said, holding his hands up. He stepped back. “Everyone out of the way, chocolate Swiss roll on a deadline coming through.”

Louis managed to restrain himself from giving Nick the finger, and traipsed through the middle of their circle and in the school gates instead.

~*~

Pixiemademedothis had replied when Louis checked his emails after school.

Sorry everythings so shit. Want to talk about it? You know where my ask box is if you do. What did you do to get put into lockdown anyway? And fuck you for 10cc, that’s the worst song ever. What did I do to deserve the fade out??? NOTHING. xx

Louis stared at the xx in some consternation. He flicked over to Pixie’s Tumblr, but Pixie was like him and didn’t use the queue, so their blog was empty during school hours. There was a pony with an ice cream cone on their head from before school, with rainbow writing that said unicorns exist, and then a reblog of last night’s 10cc post. Pixie had written I DON’T KNOW WHY WE ARE EVEN FRIENDS underneath before reblogging.

To be honest, Louis hadn’t been entirely sure they were friends, other than exchanging Tumblr asks and his fiercely dedicated plan to make it so. There was a little flutter of something anticipatory in his chest, but Louis tamped it down. He switched back to his inbox instead, and clicked answer.

Stayed out all night didn’t i. mum went mental. I told her I was stopping with my friend but then she met his mum in asda and I was properly fucked. Story of my life at the moment, no one else got in trouble for it. I get my laptop taken off me and my dad yelled at my mum for a ges about how she didn’t yell at me enough when I got in. all they do is yell now . I dunno. You ever have those times when everythings completely shit ??

He pressed send, and went back to his dash. All of David Beckham’s recent Instagram pictures went by in one hot scroll, then a close-up of a dick in pale pink knickers—which did nothing but make Louis’s own dick perk up—then a post from Pixie, meaning they were online. Pixie’s post said just call me THE GRIM over a screencap from Harry Potter of Sirius Black as a dog. The tags said my name’s not Pixie.

Louis clicked through onto Pixie’s blog, then onto their ask box, where he wrote PIXIE PIXIE PIXIE PIXIE PIX PIX PIX PIXIE before pressing send. He reblogged Pixie’s post after that, tagging it and they call it puppy love. Anything was better than trying to do his homework. He’d texted Stan and Oli before, but they were at footy training at his old school, so they weren’t up for hanging out. Everyone else was busy apart from him, trying to figure out their futures and everything else that went with it.

Louis was having enough problems with the here and now.

He contemplated putting his Grease CD in and turning the volume up in the name of practicing, but another email popped up; Pixie’s reply.

MY NAME ISN’T PIXIE you terrible excuse for a human.

Louis sent back, well I’m not calling you the grim what the fuck kind of name is that ?? might as well call you serious black.

Call me serious if you like. Just not pixie. The real pixie is my tumblr mate and she’s getting well jell.

Pick a better username then mate

Like what??? Soz everything’s rubbish by the way. Soon youll get your laptop back though. At least that’s one good thing even if everything else is a bit crap. You can fill your time up bothering me with pitbull and ke$$$$$ha gifs again and ignore the rest of it xx

Louis stared at his screen. The kisses were back. Louis’s heart fluttered a little, but he tried to ignore it. He sent back, you love the pitbull gifs.

Who doesn’t love a pitbull gif. Ive got some good pictures saved. You want me to make a HURRY UP AND COME BACK TO THE INTERNET post for you, L x?

Nope, Louis’s heart definitely just loop-the-looped. I cant think of anything id rather want, he sent back. Downstairs the front door went, and it had to be his step-dad coming home. Maybe it was just him, but the tension in the house shifted into something sharper, more on edge. I’ve got to go. Dads home and the fighting will start soon. I’ll think of a better username for you. can’t be hard, yours is shit . L xxx

He logged off, wiped his internet history twice, shut down the computer, and went downstairs to see if he could get his dad to yell at him instead of his mum.

He didn’t think about the kisses.

Chapter Text

Grease auditions were supposed to be happening on Monday, which meant Louis spent the whole of Saturday morning listening to the soundtrack over and over and trying to badger his mum into helping him pick a song to sing. His mum looked knackered, but she always looked knackered now, dark shadows under her eyes. Louis had snuck downstairs for a bit of toast and chocolate spread in the middle of the night, only to find his dad sleeping on the sofa, so he’d snuck back upstairs and done without the toast.

“Do you have to sing a song from Grease?” she asked, as they hung out towels and sheets and school uniforms on the line outside, as the twins jumped on the trampoline and Lottie whined about going to hang out at her friend’s house. “What about another musical? Maybe your dad will drive you, Lots. Go and ask him.”

“He says he’s going out,” Lottie complained.

“Ask him if he’ll drop you off,” she said, after a moment where his mum went very still and Louis pretended not to notice.

“He won’t,” Lottie said. “Where’s he going that he needs a suitcase?”

It all went to shit after that, and Louis spent Saturday night crying into his pillow after six hours of trying—and failing—to hold his family together with both hands.

~*~

Louis got his laptop back on the Sunday, his mum too tear stained and exhausted to put up a fight any longer. Dad's work laptop had gone with him when he'd left, so there'd be competition for his from now on. The other one was about as old as the phone Louis was using, and barely connected to the internet anymore.

Things were shit. The girls were clinging and asking where their dad was, and Louis didn’t have the heart to say that he’d gone and he wasn’t coming back. Divorce was an ugly word, and the house didn’t feel the same any more.

my dad left last night, he told pixiemademedothis. took his bags and everything. do you think ant and dec have ever done it?

He reblogged some football stuff for a bit, then went all out and spammed his dash with ten different pictures of dicks before he went back to Pixie’s blog and into their ask box.

by the way i’m gay and never told anyone.

He switched his laptop off, grabbed his jacket, and went off to get shitfaced with Stan.

~*~

He didn’t mean to cry his eyes out all over Stan late that night, drunk in the park with nowhere to go and no dad to come home to, but he did it anyway. Stan patted his back and told him to let it all out, but there was too much inside of him to do that. It wouldn’t end. He wouldn’t know where to begin.

He got home late, missing his curfew by miles, and found his mum sitting out on the front step waiting for him, smoking a cigarette.

“You don’t smoke,” he said, coming to sit down next to him.

“They’re yours,” she said. “Sorry for stealing them.”

“I’d hidden those.”

“You never were very good at hide and seek.” She handed him the packet. “You want one? Before you and me have a conversation about nasty habits that will kill you in the end?”

“There’s a lot that’ll kill you,” Louis said. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her hair. “I love you.”

“I love you the most,” she said. “I’m sorry about everything. Do you want this? It tastes awful.” She held out the cigarette and he took it.

“Is Mark coming back?” He forced himself not to say Dad, tapping the ash off the end of the cigarette instead.

“No,” she said. “No, baby, he’s not living here any more.”

He nodded. “I tried to make it so that he didn’t yell at you.”

“I know you did. But it wasn’t his fault. We were yelling at each other.”

That wasn’t quite how Louis remembered it, but whatever. He really was still quite drunk. He had school in the morning.

“Have you been crying?”

“A bit,” he said. “It’s all right.”

They didn’t go in, staying out on the step until the cigarette burnt down into nothing, and the night seeped inside of them, and didn’t come out again.

~*~

the spectacular amount of dicks gave the whole gay thing away, Pixie’s message said when Louis logged on, hot chocolate in hand. And I’m really, really sorry about your dad. You ok? Check my tumblr, I made you something to make you smile xxx

At the top of Pixie’s Tumblr was a post with at least twenty pictures and gifs of Ant and Dec through the years, without any kind of read-more cut. At the bottom were two hundred words of the very worst porn fiction that Louis had ever read. Ant apparently had a velvet-sheathed sword of passion and desire. Dec cried sex tears. It was beautiful and terrible, and even the fact that Louis had to get up for school in four hours’ time, and he was only staying up to make sure he couldn’t hear his mum crying through the wall wasn’t enough to stop him reblogging it right the fuck away. He added his own backstage at Saturday Night Takeaway secret kissing scene to the bottom, too. He made Ant and Dec stare into each other’s eyes like they were the most in love two people could be. He was a fucking talent.

Then he scrolled down, and Pixie’s next post was a little animated dick, somewhat reminiscent of Mr Hanky the Christmas poo, dancing round like it didn’t have a care in the world. For noonemademedothis, it said underneath, welcome to the world.

Louis scrubbed at his eyes, and shut the lid of his laptop.

~*~

Chapter Text

Louis fucked up his Grease audition at lunchtime on Monday. He, like, properly fucked it. They wanted a bit from Grease as well as another song, and he hadn’t read that bit and ended up trying to do Plain White T’s off the top of his head, and it didn’t go well. Surviving on four hours’ sleep, a hangover, and the fact his family had broken down around his ears didn’t lend itself to doing well. He properly fucked it.

He texted his mum after, trying not to cry. It was the icing on the fucking cake. Messed it up didn’t I, he sent, sorry mum xx

She was at work and couldn't reply. He went to his English lesson and tried not to lose interest two seconds in. He didn’t know how he was supposed to concentrate. He’d only wanted two things this year: his mum to be okay, and to be Danny Zuko. He’d failed on both counts.

~*~

He might have cried on his mum after the girls had gone to bed, but as it was the middle of the night, it didn’t count.

~*~

“I’m going to phone the school,” his mum told him, early the following morning. “I should have done it yesterday, for all of you. Explained things.”

Louis was making sandwiches for the twins, slapping bits of ham onto bread rolls and cutting up cucumber, messy and haphazard. “And say what? I don’t need you to phone anyone.”

“You’re all upset. I’m telling them. They might give you another chance for an audition.”

“Mum—”

“No, Louis. I want someone looking out for you all, making sure you’re okay. The girls are upset. You’re upset.”

Louis didn’t want to think about breaking down the previous night, about sobbing into his mum’s shoulder about fucking up Danny Zuko, about his dad going. About the big empty space in the house where his dad should be, and his stuff still was, the ghost of how things used to be. About how she’d cried right on back. “I’m all right.”

“I’m not,” his mum said. “The girls aren’t. It’s all right that you’re not. It’s a huge change for all of us.”

“He yelled at you,” Louis said solidly, putting sandwiches in sandwich bags and then into lunchboxes. “He made you cry.”

“He’s your dad, baby. Don’t hate him because we stopped being able to get along.”

Louis shook his head. “I can hate whoever I want to hate. And I hate dad.”

He didn’t mean to say it so that Fizzy overheard, but she still did, and Louis was helpless and desperate and he really, really wished he’d got Danny Zuko.

~*~

The cast list hadn’t gone up when Louis got to school, but there was a year eleven kid hanging out looking hopeful.

Louis slouched against the wall. “Did you audition?”

The boy shrugged, rocking from foot to foot. “Yeah,” he said, a bit defensive. “But I think musicals are cool. I love Grease.”

“Me too,” Louis said. “Like, not as much as The Fast and the Furious. But, like, they’re cool. Who do you want?”

“Danny,” the boy said quickly. “But I can’t get him cos I’m not sixth form. They always give them to sixth formers. I went for Kenickie, though. He's a main too but I think they might give him to me cos of my singing.”

Louis nodded. “Right. That’s a good part. You must be good.”

“I practice a lot,” the boy said.

“Louis,” the drama teacher said, coming out of her office. “I’ve just had your mum on the phone.” She looked like she was sorry for him. Louis’s hackles went up. He couldn’t bear people being sorry for him.

“What’s she say? I told her not to ring.”

“She, uh, explained—” His drama teacher stopped. “Didn’t see you there, Liam. Were you waiting for something?”

“Just the list,” the boy—Liam—said. “Are you putting it up yet?”

She glanced at Louis. “After lunch,” she said. “Come back at the end of school. Louis, come into my office for a minute.”

~*~

They were giving him another chance to sing, and this time, he wasn’t going to fuck it up. Not like everything else.

This time, he fucking smashed it.

~*~

He hung around the common room at the end of school until the corridors were empty, before shoving his hands in his pockets and mooching about near the drama studio. A piece of paper fluttered by itself in the middle of the noticeboard.

Danny Zuko, it said, played by Louis Tomlinson.

Louis shoved his fist in the air and ran all the way home.

~*~

It was weird, not having his dad there to tell these things to as soon as he got in. He didn’t text him. There was only one side, and it was always going to be his mum’s.

~*~

Pixie's message said, how are you doing? Everything ok? I have all these ant and dec thoughts and no one to share them with. Did you know that people have written top gear porn??

Louis poked pointlessly at his shift key. He hadn’t spoken to Pixie since he’d come out, and he’d purposefully waited until everyone else was in bed before logging on. He hadn’t even said thank you for Mr Knobby the Non-Denominational Dancing Cock. Hey, maybe that could be Pixie’s new username.

Have you considered mrknobbythedancingcock as your username ?? im ok. Sort of. Dunno. Is there really top gear porn ? does the hamster drill james may over the bonnet of a gigantic bently?? I bet you wrote it all . He waited a bit, finger hovering over the answer button. He clicked back into the text box. Thanks for the posts by the way . never told anyone before . properly scary coming out. Don’t want to have to do it in real life. Ill shit myself or something .

Pixie must have been online, because their reply came pretty quickly. Must be properly scary, their message said. I’ve never worked up the courage to do it. Before now obviously. Don’t know if theres a bently or not the first one had Jeremy Clarkson tied to a chair with his knob out. I had to burn down the internet.

Bet it would be all wrinkly and not hot at all, Louis replied. Probably has giant hairy balls. Don’t want to go anywhere near his cock . Is this you coming out? Its proper scary innit ??? ? Thanks for telling me though xx

His heart pounded. There was someone else. There was someone else who hadn’t told anyone and was hiding it and knew how scary saying it out loud was.

He wasn’t alone.

Fuck, he wasn’t alone. He’d had to imagine Jeremy Clarkson naked, but he wasn’t fucking alone.

The next time a message arrived in his inbox, it was from mrknobbythedancingcock. Louis hid his face in his pillow to stop from shouting out loud.

I think people probably know im gay. I don’t know. Think my brother does. He said I was gay when I was six. Me and my friends don’t talk about it and they probably know but it still doesn’t make it less scary. People are dickheads.

I’m not, Louis replied. Well sometimes I am but people pay extra for that .

I know you’re not. Even if you do pick terrible usernames. How does it look on me do you think? *twirls*

“Christ,” Louis said, hiding his face again. “Fucking, fucking fuck.” It looks good on you, he sent back. Properly suits you. L xxx

Thought so, the reply said. Gotta go to bed but thanks for listening. N xxx

The thing was, Louis realised, shoving his laptop on the floor and pulling the duvet over his head, this might be becoming a problem.

Chapter Text

Louis spotted that Liam kid hanging around the drama studio after morning lessons, and rather than mooching back to the sixth form common room to eat a sandwich and wish he had more friends, he wandered over to where Liam was leaning up against the wall.

“All right, Kenickie,” Louis said. “What are you up to?”

Liam shrugged. He looked a little pink. “Dunno,” he said. “Nothing.”

Louis narrowed his eyes. “Were you going to hide in the drama studio all lunch or something?”

“Maybe,” Liam said. “Thought I might go over my lines or whatever.”

“You don’t need to know those for weeks.” Secretly, Louis had been reading them in bed last night. Three rehearsals in and he was more engrossed in being Danny than he’d ever been in his A levels, even the first time around.

“I like learning them,” Liam said. He really did look a bit pink.

Louis shrugged. Maybe it was catching. He couldn’t stop himself. “Don’t stay in here, that’s dead boring. I’ll practice with you, if you want.”

Liam’s eyes got bright. “Really? Will you?” He had stupid curly hair and it fell into his eyes. The collar of his school shirt was worn down at the fold, fraying from too much wear. Louis’s shirts had done that too.

“Only for half of lunch, though, mind,” Louis said, because the only way he even vaguely managed to get through the school day was if he managed to expel energy in some way at lunchtime. “Let’s have a kickabout the rest of the time. Much more fun.”

He hadn’t meant it to turn into a thing. He just hadn’t realised Liam didn’t have anywhere else to go, or anyone else to be with at school.

And Louis always did like a partner in crime.

~*~

Alexa leaned over the divide in the common room, elbows perched on the wall.

“All right, Tomlinson,” she said.

“All right, Chung,” Louis said. He didn’t get ignored. Louis wasn’t the kind of person to get ignored. It didn’t mean he had friends, though, just acquaintances, and Louis didn’t really know how to deal with that. He’d always had friends. “What’s up?”

“Party weekend after next,” she said. “You can come if you want to."

“Party’s my middle name.”

“Louis Party Tomlinson,” Nick Grimshaw said, popping up from behind the divide like a stick of asparagus with his hair all stuck up in a point. “Got a nice ring to it. Are you going to bring your new friend?”

“Are children allowed?” Aimee asked, from where she and Henry Holland were fighting over their huge stupid art folders. “Your new mate’s, like, year ten or something, right?”

“He’s year eleven,” Louis said, “and fuck off being so judgmental.”

Aimee made a face at him. “Claws away, darling. I was just saying.”

“Yeah, well,” Louis said. “He’s a proper good lad.”

“He’s like a puppy,” Nick said. “He follows you around everywhere.”

“Shut it, Grimshaw. Just cos you’re always following your mates around everywhere. That’s proper year seven, that is. Going round in packs.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “It wasn’t even me that said anything, but whatever. Don’t suppose you want to come to our party now, do you?”

“It’s not your party,” Alexa butted in. “It’s mine, and Louis’s still invited. You can bring your friend, too, if you want.”

Louis read his own intimation into friend. He could feel himself colouring up. “He’s probably busy,” he said quickly. “I might be too, I don’t know. Seeing my old mates, you know.”

That looked like a smirk, but Louis couldn’t get a close enough look at it to make sure. “Invitation’s still there,” Alexa said. “I’ll add you to the invite on Facebook.”

Louis was left trying to figure out if people could tell he was gay from the outside, just from looking, if his guilt was scrawled across his face for all to see.

Being the only one was hard.

~*~

porn bots keep following me :((((((((((((((((((((( think it’s the name.

Louis rolled his eyes, dropped his theatre studies homework down next to him on the bed, and typed mr knobby is a proper good name your just jelous you didn’t think of it yourself! !!

Sadly I think my knobby might be on its last legs xx

Louis snorted. My knobby, he sent back. What are you trying to tell me? ??

IT WAS A TYPO I DON’T CALL MY COCK MY KNOBBY

You should, Louis typed back. That’s well funny . that’s what im gonna call you from now on xx

He didn’t know why talking to Pixie made his stomach twist a little. He refreshed his inbox even though there wasn’t time for him to reply, and opened up his dash in another tab, reblogging a Fast and the Furious gif set with Wiz Khalifa lyrics underneath because Grease might be his favourite film but he wasn’t lying about loving The Fast and the Furious too. Just not as much. That was fair. He followed it up with reblogging a tiled wall of pop tarts, a post that listed seven reasons why he could relate to a racoon – his favourite being lives in the trash and eats garbage – and then a retrospective of Adidas tops through the last thirty years. Louis wanted them all. He refreshed his inbox.

You’re terrible, the newest message said. Don’t call me that.

Too late, Louis sent back. How’s life my knobby xx

THINK OF A BETTER NAME FOR ME OH GOD WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE YOU XX

It wasn’t that Louis actually had to put his shitty laptop down so he could kick his heels in the air, but that’s what he did anyway.

Knobby suits you thogh xx

You’ve got until tomorrow otherwise I’m going back to pixie xx gtg do my homework else my dad will actually ground me like im thirteen again PARENTS >:( you fuck up one piece of coursework and they treat you like a kid. Might be on later though Nxxx

MY KNOBBY, Louis sent back. Talk later. L xxx

Terrible. This was terrible. Terrible.

Louis hid his face in his pillow and laughed out loud.

~*~

“So, like, you met her on the internet?” Liam asked the following lunchtime.

“Yep,” Louis said, plucking bits of grass with merry abandonment, and blithely ignoring the fact he was making Knobby into a girl. He sprinkled the grass over Liam’s head. He was doing the school field a favour, honestly, keeping the grass short. “We’re friends.”

“But you fancy her,” Liam said, trying to shake grass out of his hair whilst Louis showered him with more.

“Nope,” Louis said. He relented. “Well, a bit. Maybe.”

“She could be a forty year old guy,” Liam said, frowning. “It was in the Daily Mail.”

“Shut up, Liam,” Louis said fondly, before Liam promptly shut up, cheeks flushing. Liam sometimes reacted in the oddest ways. Louis elbowed him. “Stop being weird.”

Liam dropped his gaze. “There’s a girl in my class I like,” he said. “I thought she might like me too, and all the guys told me to ask her out, but when I did she just said no. I think they just made it up when they said she liked me.”

“Point them out to me,” Louis said, keeping his voice even. “I’ll punch them all.”

“Don’t be an idiot. It’s fine. I’m just saying, it’s hard enough in real life without them being from the internet. They could be anyone.”

“It’s not anything,” Louis said. “We’re just talking.” He didn’t even know why he’d told Liam about Knobby; they’d only been friends a couple of weeks. He hadn’t told anyone else, not even Stan or his mum, and he told his mum everything. Just not about him liking dick. Or knobs in general. She was a bit preoccupied recently, though. Louis listened to her crying herself to sleep through the wall.

“Louis—”

“Kickabout time,” Louis said. “Come on. Up and off your arse.”

“We didn’t practice our lines or anything.”

“Shut up, Liam,” Louis said. “We’ll do that later.”

School was better if you had a friend, it turned out. Even if he was a year eleven.

~*~

He checked Knobby’s Tumblr when he got home from his Grease rehearsal, waiting for his tea to be ready. He’d done one of those questionnaire things, ask me anything memes. His answer to what’s your favourite emoji? was a screencap of ten aubergines and fifteen moon faces in a row, followed by a little smiley face with a halo, a smiley face in sunglasses, the dog, a monkey covering its mouth, and ending with the two boys holding hands.

Louis replied to the post with auberginemoonface and went to have his tea.

~*~

He posted noonemademedothis >> is now >> smug-moon at half eleven that night, wiping his eyes because he could hear his mum crying through the wall and she wouldn’t answer when he knocked on the bedroom door.

Good name, the new message in his inbox said. I like it. It was from auberginemoonface.

He didn’t know what to say in response, so he didn’t say anything at all. He switched the computer off and stared up at the ceiling until he was sure his mum was asleep in the room next door.

He didn’t know what to do to make any of it all right.

Chapter Text

~*~

Do you feel different now you’ve told someone youre gay? Now you’ve been out for a few weeks?

Auberginemoonface’s message sat at the top of his Tumblr inbox, and Louis tugged his laptop into his lap and clicked answer. Dunno, he typed back. Telling you was scary but sort of a relief too. How about you ??

He half-heartedly attempted his homework whilst he waited for the response. He was really, really bad at doing his homework. He just couldn’t be bothered. Other people seemed to find it easy to get it all done, but he just messed around and messed around until it was the last minute, and then he did what he could and handed it in and forgot about it. It was worse now they were getting so close to the end of Grease rehearsals. Every minute after school was spent trying to shepherd the lower school to where they were supposed to be on stage whilst Danny and Sandy’s love story played out around them, and he might love being Danny, but he definitely didn’t love hanging around for hours whilst the music teacher yelled at the year sevens to pay attention. That bit of it he’d definitely be happy leaving behind in a couple of weeks.

Louis’s Gmail pinged with a message, and he refreshed his Tumblr inbox.

Does it make you want to be out irl?

Louis didn’t know the answer to that. Secrets from his mum were the worst, but this was the worst possible timing. Now his dad was gone, someone had had to step up and be the man round the house, and it had to be him. With everything still so stressful, his mum didn’t need this on top of everything else. The gap where his dad used to be might have got a little bit more familiar over the past few weeks, but it was still a gaping hole in the corner of their lives.

Don’t know. Scary tho innit ? like schools already shit and these dickheads make fun of my mate and me for hanging round with him . its alright cos I can totally take them but like at my old school I was well popular and this ones sort of shit. Im crap at lessons and I hate my a levels and if it comes out that I like boys then it might just make it worse

The reply didn’t come for another ten minutes. Ive kind of been thinking it doesn’t matter anymore. Do you want to come on gtalk? N xx

Louis—who was mostly brave when it came down to it—typed fuck yeah, and fucked around for a minute trying to get his email address into a format that would let him send his ask. Then he went to the loo, washed his hands, grabbed a mini bottle of Morrisons lemonade from the cupboard in the kitchen, and went back upstairs.

The little chat window was open when he got back to his room.

Lookbadfeelrad: hi
You there?
Hello?

danny Zuko: soz just gettin a drink
ey up
alright????

Lookbadfeelrad: yeah soz tumblr kept crashing and I couldn’t be arsed tryin to restart my comp so I just thought fuck it and chat’s easier anyway. Is your name really danny zuko?

Louis leaned back from his computer.

danny Zuko: its from grease. How can u not know tht ?? are u jokin me?

Lookbadfeelrad: ha ha don’t tell anyone but I prefer grease 2

Louis blinked.

danny Zuko: that’s it we can no longer be friends
are you BLIND
OR STUPID
GREASE is the BEST FILM IN THE WORLD !!! ! LIKE THE BEST
Grease 2 is te WORST ! THE WORSE !!!

Lookbadfeelrad: someone has some strong feelings
Omg are you watching springwatch I think the snake ate the baby wader birds
I didn’t know we had snakes
Brb wrapping my socks round my pyjama bottoms
They were only babies
I hate snakes

danny Zuko: …spring watch

Lookbadfeelrad: they put radio transmitters on all the adders
Who would get close enough to an adder to strap a microphone to i
It
And what are they gonna do with all the recordings

danny Zuko: snake radio
its all the rage
snake fm

Lookbadfeelrad: they only play songs with snake puns in the title
My mate harry would be really good at that
Hes well good at puns
Im crap

danny Zuko: you have to be mate you like grease 2

Lookbadfeelrad: does your film have a song where the guy tries to persuade the girl to have sex with him by faking a nuclear war and by them singing a duet that they’re gonna do it for DISNEYLAND cos if it doesn’t then my films better

danny Zuko: your crackers you are.
If anyone tried to make me sleep with them by faking a war Id punch them in the face

Lookbadfeelrad: duly noted

Louis hid his face in his pillow. Just for a moment. Just long enough to remember that breathing might be a good thing.

danny Zuko: start makin a list

There was a pause.

Lookbadfeelrad: ive been thinking about coming out
Like properly coming out
I dunno if tons of people are going to be surprised
I don’t think my mum’s going to be but my dad might
Idk
Like ive been thinking that maybe it doesn’t matter that people know

danny Zuko: youre braver than me
doesn’t it bother you that your friends might not tret you the same after ?
or that they might not even be your friend anymore ??

Lookbadfeelrad: dunno. Like. Maybe? But also theres like this lad at school

Louis’s heart sank.

danny Zuko: oh yeh
do you fancy him

Lookbadfeelrad: dunno
Its not really the point
Its not like I want to go out with him
He thinks im a twat and he’s definitely a twat
But hes cute
And I was thinking that it might be nice if he was gay then he could see me and maybe like me and he’d know that me liking him back was a possibility
You know?

danny Zuko: youre really brave xxx

Lookbadfeelrad: I don’t know if I am.
Its not like I’m telling you that I like you way better than that lad from school
Or you know like maybe I am
Telling you that I mean
Fuck
Sorry xx

Louis was fairly sure he was going to throw up. He kept thinking about what Liam had said, about how he could be faking his identity.

danny Zuko: are you really doin your a levels or are you 40 and from texas
cos my mate thinks that’s what you are and also that you are a girl. sorry about that
and like I look forward to messages from you more than anything else but im not telling some old guy from Alaska that

Lookbadfeelrad: I was from texas a minute ago

danny Zuko: you move round a lot
you might live in florida next

Lookbadfeelrad: you should move me to new york
I think that would be cool
But no
Im not forty
Im seventeen
Doin my a levels this year

danny Zuko: what did you get in your as levels

Lookbadfeelrad: b and 2 c’s. did general studies and got an e or something
No one cares about general studies

danny Zuko: alright so youre not in texas
do you really like me

Lookbadfeelrad: yeah but I don’t want to make you uncomfortable
And maybe its cos we are both gay and haven’t told anyone else yet
But I really like you
And I thought maybe you were like flirting with me and I wasn’t just making it up because I wanted you to be

danny Zuko: you weren’t making it up
I was flirting with you
I like flirting with you
I like getting messages from you
You let me pick your username

Lookbadfeelrad: I must be far gone if I let you pick mr knobby
Oh fuck my mums yelling at me
I said id help with the washing up

danny Zuko: I don’t even know where you live
whats the point of fancying someone if they live in Glasgow and you live in wales or something

Lookbadfeelrad: doncater
Doncaster
I live in Doncaster

danny Zuko: can I email you ??

Lookbadfeelrad: yeah
That would be great
Ive got to go if I don’t want my comp taken off me
I think youre lovely xxx
Its alright if you don’t fancy me back
Talk soon x

Lookbadfeelrad has left the conversation

danny Zuko: but I do fancy you
and I’m from Donny too

your message cannot be delivered

Louis opened a new email message to his Tumblr boy, copied and pasted his undeliverable message into the body of it, and pressed send.

Then he went downstairs to where his mum was watching last night’s Coronation Street, and snuck under her arm.

“You all right, love?” she asked, kissing the top of his head. The twins were in bed and the older girls were upstairs.

“I told someone I fancied them,” he said.

“Brave boy,” she said. “Who’s the lucky girl? Is it someone in Grease? You haven’t got long left of that, you’d better get a wriggle on.”

“It’s not someone from Grease.” The sentence he wanted to say was wrapped around his heart in a cold, desperate kind of a way. Like a snake. auberginemoonface hated snakes, he’d said. “They hate snakes.”

“That’s good. That’s a sensible life choice.”

He closed his eyes. His heart was pounding. His mum could probably feel it. "What if it wasn’t a girl? That I fancied?”

There was a long, desperate silence. Louis felt like his lungs were constricting.

"Oh, Lou.”

“What if it wasn’t ever going to be a girl that I fancied? What then?”

“Louis, baby.”

“Do you think everything’s still going to be the same if I’m gay?”

“I think so,” his mum said finally, and if her voice shook then at least she wasn’t crying. She hugged him tighter, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. Louis squeezed his eyes shut to stop the tears from escaping. “Is that what you are?”

He nodded, hiding his face in her shoulder. “I didn’t know how to tell you.”

“Like this, I think. Just like this. I love you.”

“Don’t tell anyone,” Louis told her. “It’s just you and me. I don’t want anyone else to know yet. Please, Mum.”

“I love you,” his mum told him again, still hugging him tight. “Everything’s going to be all right.”

~*~

In the morning, there was an email from lookbadfeelrad in his inbox.

It’s destiny, it said, followed by ten little pink hearts and an aubergine emoji. Have a good day babe xxx

He was bloody Danny Zuko. His mum knew he was gay and the sky wasn’t going to fall in. A boy he liked fancied him back.

He was king of the fucking world today, and nothing was going to bring him down.

Chapter Text

~*~

“You’re perky,” Nick Grimshaw said at the end of the free period before lunch.

“That makes you Pinky, doesn’t it?” Louis said, flopping down on the bench in the common room, breathless.

“Think that role’s already taken, mate,” Nick said, nodding towards Lisa and Sasha, who were both wearing their brand new Pink Lady jackets and doing a cracking rendition of Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee. Louis had harmonised on the first two verses, before giving it up in favour of not dancing up and down the common room.

It was costume day, and Louis had to go to the drama studio in a bit to get his Danny stuff, but he had to eat his ham roll first, and drink his carton of Morrisons orange juice.

“I haven’t had one of them in years.” Nick pointed at the orange juice.

“Fuck off,” Louis said, taking a gigantic, noisy slurp. “Just cos your life isn’t as great as mine.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “You wouldn’t know.”

“Well, you wouldn’t know about mine either.” His mum knew he was gay. He was Danny Zuko. There was a boy somewhere out there in Donny who liked Louis back. Maybe they could meet up.

Maybe they could kiss.

Today was the best day since he’d got the part of Danny. Second best day since before he started at this dump.

“You’re in Grease, aren’t you?” Nick asked. “That’s what you and that mate of yours are practicing every lunchtime.”

“Might be,” Louis said, taking a big bite of his sandwich. “Why?”

“Cos I want to borrow the DVD off of someone, and I thought you might have a copy you wouldn’t mind me having a lend of.”

Louis narrowed his eyes. “And you thought of me first, obviously.”

“You seemed an obvious candidate.”

“Are you going to lose it?” There was a generosity of spirit sitting somewhere in his chest that wasn’t normally there, and it had a lot to do with his Tumblr boy and his mum still loving him. “Cos I can’t afford to replace it if you sit on it with your bony arse or whatever.”

“Cross my heart and swear to die,” Nick said. He seemed to go a bit pink.
“Thought I’d have a watch of it this weekend. Seemed the right time.”

Louis nodded. “Cos you’re gonna come and watch Daisy be Rizzo.”

There was a momentary pause. “Yeah, course.”

“She’s really good,” Louis told him, even though he and Nick didn’t exactly talk. This might have been the first time. “Super hot and everything.”

“She’s got a boyfriend,” Nick said quickly.

“I know.” Louis rolled his eyes. “It doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the, you know, wotsit.” He tried to suggest curves or general hotness in a way that also suggested he was into it. It was harder than he’d anticipated. Usually with Stan and the others he’d employed a general wahey approach to conversations about girls, usually accompanied with a fist pump of some kind. If he came out, he might never need to say get in every again, or indulge in some kind of FHM-inspired back slap. The dream.

“Can I borrow it or what?"

“Fine,” Louis said, stuffing the rest of the sandwich in his mouth. “I’ve got to go. I’ll bring it in tomorrow.”

“Aww,” Nick said. “That was almost friendly.”

“Get stuffed,” Louis said kindly.

Nick just laughed, the bastard.

~*~

Liam was in the drama studio, complete with leather jacket with T-Bird scrawled across the back.

“All my life has just been building towards this moment,” Louis said, getting in Mrs Humphrey’s way and wrapping an arm around Liam’s shoulders so that Liam laughed. “Where’s mine?”

Mrs Humphrey nudged him out of the way. “Kenickie first, you monster.”

“But what if I was hopelessly devoted to you?” Louis burst into song.

Liam started to sing too, and Mrs Humphrey couldn’t ignore them for long, it was impossible.

“Fine,” she said. “If it’ll mean you’ll shut up whilst I finish up with Liam, I’ll get you your jacket.”

“Brilliant,” Louis said, jumping on Liam’s back. “T-Birds forever.”

“T-Birds forever,” Liam echoed, as Mrs Humphrey disappeared behind the curtains into the school hall. “Hey, so, I know you’re probably busy, but what are you doing on Friday after rehearsal?”

“Dunno,” Louis said.

“Do you want to come bowling with me and my mate?”

“Bowling?”

“Yeah, me and my dad used to be in this league, right, and it was great, but we had to stop going cos it—” He stopped, and Louis wondered if Liam was going to say was too expensive. “We had to stop. But there was this lad who went and sometimes we meet up and bowl. His name’s Niall and he’s dead nice. We could go back to mine and have some tea and then my mum will drop us off at the bowling alley, I mean, only if you want to—”

“I’m in,” Louis said.

“What, really?” Liam looked surprised.

“Course. I love bowling. I’m well good at it. What’s your mum gonna do for our tea?”

“Dunno. Pork chops maybe? Or chicken curry. We usually have a curry on Friday, cos we used to do it on Saturdays but my sisters go out now and don’t want to smell like korma, they say. I like the smell.”

“Curry’s well good. Oi, Mrs Humphreys. Come on. I’m excited out here.”

“Stop being a pain, Louis,” she said, but she came out from behind the curtain with his very own T-Bird jacket, and Louis was so excited he grabbed Liam’s arm and held on.

“Wow,” he said, and when he tried it on he didn’t feel like a sixth former who couldn’t pass an exam; he felt like a fucking king. “Wow,” he said again, and when he started laughing, he couldn’t stop.

~*~

how was your day? Xxx I kept thinking about us both in Doncaster and not knowing it.

Louis plonked himself down on the floor by his bed, his Tumblr inbox open, and clicked answer.

Pretty great actually, he typed. Did I tell you I was in the school play ? Just felt pretty good today. He waited a moment. Thought about you a lot tooo X

He almost had to stuff his fist in his mouth to stop from smiling too hard. This was ridiculous. He was ridiculous. His mum kept hugging him and his sisters weren’t quite as miserable about Dad not being here anymore as they had been. He was Danny fucking Zuko, and he liked this boy so much and he didn’t even know his name.

How stupid is this?? I’ve been grinning to myself all day like ive got the best possible secret. My mates kept asking me what was wrong. Couldn’t say I was just really happy over some boy could i? xxx

Dunno. Maybe you could. I told my mum last night. She told me everything was gonna b alright . I dunno . maybe it is x

It was another ten minutes before he got a response, and Louis was half-heartedly reading his English set text when Gmail flopped up with another message, but an email this time instead of an ask.

Don’t know why I automatically sent you a tumblr message when we’ve got each others emails now. Stupid autopilot or whatever. Too many weeks of talking to you every night. Just wanted to say youre really brave for telling your mum. Think im going to tell my mum and dad this weekend. Both be brave together or something. So I was thinking and you can totally say no but how do you fancy meeting up at some point? Like im telling my mum and dad this weekend and I dunno how that’s gonna go but maybe next weekend instead? You can totally say no but id like it a lot if we could meet xxx

Louis put his face in his hands. “Mum,” he called, and she stuck her head round the bedroom door from where she was singing Frozen songs with the twins. “Mum, I want to meet this boy from the internet. The one I told I fancy. And he wants to meet me too.”

“No,” she said.

“Just cos I’m retaking year twelve doesn’t make me a kid.”

She let out a breath. “You don’t know anything about him. What if he’s an axe murderer?”

“What if he’s a seventeen year old boy who talks to me every night and who likes me, though?”

“Louis—”

“I’ll pick somewhere public. I just—I want to go.”

“I know you’re going to go anyway. I know you.”

“It’s better if you know where I’ll be and when, then.”

“Middle of the day, somewhere public, and you call to check in every half hour. If you’re ten minutes late home, I’m calling the police, got it?”

“Mum—”

“That’s my final offer, kid.”

“Fine.”

Yes please. Mum has these stupid rules though so maybe like somewhere busy or something on Saturday. I couldn’t this weekend anyway because im rehersing but next weekend I’m free. Ill look forward to it xx

He didn’t say that it was the dress rehearsal this weekend and all next week it was the show. Feeling like this, being Danny, it was fucking fantastic, and it had been so long since he felt this good about himself he wanted to keep it all for himself, and safe.

Brilliant xxxx and just so you know I keep thinking about kissing you

Louis let out a yelp.

“What’s wrong?”

“Stubbed my toe,” Louis lied.

“You’re sitting down,” his mum said, sticking her head round the door again. “Come on, put that laptop down and come and sing Reindeers are Better Than People for your sisters.”

“Fine,” Louis grumbled. He typed me too xxxxxxxxxxxxx gtg sing frozen with my sistersssss <3 <3 <3 <3

He shut his laptop lid, singing people smell better than reindeers under his breath. Yeah. Yeah.

Chapter Text

~*~

Rehearsal on Friday went awfully. Louis was off key and the year sevens were off the planet and Sandy kept forgetting her words and Louis felt like he had three left feet. Miss Fletcher looked like she wanted to go home and weep.

To be fair, Louis felt a bit like that too.

“Dress rehearsal’s supposed to be rotten,” Liam said, wrapping an arm around Louis’s shoulders on the way out of school.

“Dress rehearsal’s not until Sunday,” Louis told him moodily. He felt so crap he couldn’t even find the words to say how proud he was of Liam for voluntarily touching another human being; eight weeks of Grease rehearsals and Liam was almost a real boy. Louis’s little mischievous Pinocchio. “God, what if I’m this shit all next week?”

“You won’t be, you’re brilliant,” Liam said. He sounded quite confident about it too, like he wasn’t quite aware that Louis failed everything, always. “Anyway, you love being on stage.”

“When I’m not being shit on it.”

“Shut it, you’re ace,” Liam said. “Do you think anyone’s going to laugh at me?”

Louis contemplated punching some people, just for fun. He shoved Liam in the direction of the school gates instead. “Stop searching for compliments, Payne-o. Anyway, no one would dare laugh. You’ve got to kiss Daisy Lowe. Every lad in the place is going to be well jealous of you and Rizzo.”

“She is gorgeous, isn’t she? And lovely.”

“Uh-huh,” Louis made an awkward kind of a laddy noise of agreement. He’d almost told Liam about being gay three times this week already, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to. Liam was a year eleven, and there was something a bit sad about the fact that he was fast turning out to be Louis’s best friend here. And admitting that the boy he was madly in love with was from the internet, and from Tumblr, was even more embarrassing. Nothing about the way Louis lived his life was right. He should be off playing footie all the time and snogging a load of girls at the weekend and not doing the big shop with his mum and playing with his sisters a lot because they were struggling now their dad had gone. His favourite film shouldn’t be Grease, apart from how it was. He’d even practiced it in his head: Liam, I’m gay and I love musicals and I love this boy from the internet and it’s okay that I don’t know his name.

He was building up to it.

They wandered out of the school gates in the general direction of Liam’s house, because tonight was pork chops at Liam’s followed by bowling night.

When they went round the corner, they almost tripped over Nick Grimshaw, who was flailing about in the middle of the pavement by the bus stop with a few upper sixth kids. They were all dressed up, Aimee and Collette and Emily all in little dresses, the lads all in fresh shirts.

Nick Grimshaw looked like he was waltzing with Gillian Orr.

Louis raised an eyebrow. “I’d stick to figuring out how to walk and talk at the same time,” he said as Nick fell over his feet.

Nick looked a bit pink and let go of Gillian, who hooked her chin over Aimee’s shoulder instead. “I’ve got moves, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“I haven’t watched it yet,” Nick said quickly. “If you want your DVD back.”

“I only gave it to you yesterday.”

“We’re waiting for Daisy. We’re off out.”

“Would you like a prize?” Louis asked. “Maybe a badge?” He glanced at Gillian. “The Strictly Come Dancing glitterball?”

“I’m a well good dancer,” Nick said.

“Course you are.” Louis rolled his eyes again. “You going to move out of the way anytime soon, or what?”

Nick obligingly moved two centimetres to the left. “What are you up to tonight?”

Louis glanced at Liam. “Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Trying to take over the world.” He nodded over Nick’s shoulder. “Isn’t that your bus?”

“Fuck, come on, Daisy.” Daisy was pelting down the road in full heels, just as the bus pulled up and they all piled on, leaving Louis and Liam on the pavement, already forgotten.

Daisy waved at them through the window.

“Come on,” Louis said, determinedly not looking at the bus. “Let’s go to yours.”

Liam bumped his elbow into Louis’s. “Tonight, we bowl.”

Louis laughed, and maybe he didn’t feel quite so terrible about his messed up rehearsal as he had five minutes ago.

~*~

Liam’s mate Niall was well funny, a bleached blond Irish matchstick of a human turning up at the bowling alley dragging his friend Zayn with him. Zayn initially demonstrated about as much interest in bowling as a rolling pin, but after he’d disappeared to the loo, Niall told them he was shy, and that he’d just been dumped by his girlfriend. Louis knew the pain of love, so he made it his mission to make him feel better. He bought him a packet of cheesy Wotsits, ruffled his hair, and asked if he liked Grease. Louis could talk a lot about Grease. So could Liam, and they could also sing You’re The One That I Want quite loudly in the bowling alley.

Getting thrown out was a badge of honour Louis wanted to wear like a crown, and even good, dependable Liam seemed like it was the best thing to happen to him in ages.

Louis ended up going home with Niall and Zayn’s numbers.

~*~

His Tumblr boy was drunk, and that was quite delicious.

Youre wasted, Louis typed into his ask box, after he’d watched three or four posts in a row go by with barely comprehensible tags and one in all caps that said something along the lines of WETHWYJW DID THEY ORTU RUM GOOO which Louis assumed was proof if proof were needed that he’d made a good choice in internet crush.

I AMN NNOOOT XXXOXXXO WHYEN ARWO ETH MEETING UP the reply said, but he was clearly so drunk he’d forgotten to private message, and the post showed up at the top of Louis’s dash in a luminescent, sparkling, Las Vegas-esque beacon of joy kind of a way. Louis sunk his head into his hands and tried not to feel affection right down to his toes.

He switched to email instead. howdy cowboy, where have you been you dirty stop out ???

DRINKOKNIRYNH. DRINGKING. canw we kitsss youwt yet

Louis had a lot of feelings he didn’t know how to process right there and then. He settled for making an odd, yelpy sort of noise and emailing him back a message that just said SOOOOOOOOOOOOON xxxxxxxxx

This was all getting very silly indeed.

Hooug good gooooteh. I thinunjk I am a bit dfrunikk. Goineyh to tell my munun anf fad toooeoorw il ikey you. whist I suhwwas kissingunh you insatwea. Got sausaheys for fingeys. Yrinkthink this iws the vodkas folt

And then, a minute later, after Louis had heavy breathed his feelings into the bathroom mirror, another message that just said think I sicked up a biy in my ned. Maynys slwwpy now.

Louis really had no idea what that was, but he hoped it had nothing to do with vomit. He pressed reply. Go to sleep u utter KNOB cos your totally wasted and making litrally zero ZERO sense !! ! it is a very good thing I already fancy you loads cos tonight ur makin me laugh you LIGHT WEIGHT. Hope its ok tomorrow with your mum n dad I bet it will be but if it isn’t ill tell you all about how tonight me n my mates got chucked out of megabowl for singing. It were well good and I’m turning my mate into a right bad boy. Think he was always really good before he met me !! im a bad influence. Im really lookin forward to meeting you and youre not making much sense tonight but I really want to kiss you too . I bet you’re a good kisser. In my head you are anyway . hope the hangover isn’t tooooo bangin but you shoud have a mahoosive fried egg sandwich in the morning with loads of bacon and brown sauce and youll want to die but then aftwrwards youll be like WELL GOOD SANDWICH HANGOVER WHAT HANGOVER. Take it from someone who knows. He paused. This time next week we’ll be meeting each other in the morning! !!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

After he pressed send, he shut down his computer, crept into his mum’s room to say goodnight without waking the girls, then he crawled back into his own bed and went to sleep thinking about his drunk, incoherent, lightweight of a maybe-boyfriend.

~*~

Sunday’s dress rehearsal was going to be six hours of hell. The first run through – for lights and stuff – was slow and boring, and when they had a break for lunch, Louis took the first opportunity he could to take his sandwich out to the back field with Liam and kick a ball around.

Afterwards, worn out but still hungry, he flopped down onto the grass by their jumper goalposts, and Liam collapsed down next to him.

“If I tell you something,” Louis said, staring up at the clouds and trying to make shapes out of them in his head, like he had when he was a kid. The only think he could think of was a giant boner, though, and that was hardly helpful. Portentous perhaps, but not helpful. He hadn’t heard from his Tumblr boy since Friday night. “Will you promise still to be my friend?”

“Course,” Liam said, propping himself up on his elbow. “Unless you killed someone or something. Then I’d probably still be your friend, but I’d make you tell your mum or something.”

“Liam,” Louis said. “If I’d killed someone, you wouldn’t honestly make me tell my mum, would you? That’s rubbish.”

“Dunno, do I? You haven’t told me what you’ve done yet. But I’d probably make you tell your mum.”

“What about helping me hide the body? That’s what best mates do.”

There was a pause.

“Right,” Liam said. “Okay. Yeah. Best mates.”

“That’s all right, innit?” Louis asked. “The bezzas thing. Unless you’ve got someone else or something.”

“No,” Liam said, sounding remarkably cheerful. “No one else. You going to tell me what you’ve done, yet?”

“I haven’t done anything,” Louis said, staring up at the clouds again. He waited a minute. “But my mum already knows, anyway.”

Liam bumped his elbow into Louis’s. “What is it?”

“I’m gay, aren’t I?” Louis said, very quickly indeed. He squeezed his eyes shut. His heart had gone all sped up, like one of those little wind-up toys you wound right to the edge and then let go so it would skitter across the table like the clappers of hell. “Like boys. Not girls.”

“Oh,” Liam said. There was a pause. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”

“Hopefully not ‘fuck off you disgusting poof’, I think,” Louis said, in as upbeat a tone as he could manage. He cracked open an eye. “Were you thinking of saying anything like that?”

“Not really,” Liam said. “It’s nice that you like boys.”

“Right,” Louis said. “Is that it?”

“I don’t know what to say. It’s fine though. Although I don’t think you should use words like poof. It’s not very nice.”

“Right,” Louis said again. “I’ll remember that.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

Louis shrugged. “I dunno. Like, maybe? Sort of.” He plucked at the grass. “I was really scared of telling you.”

“You shouldn’t have been scared,” Liam said solidly. “You’re my new best mate.”

Louis laughed at that, rolling onto his side and hiding his face in his hands. “God,” he said into his palms. “What have I got myself into?”

“I’m secretly really good at punching things,” Liam told him. “If you tell anyone and it doesn’t go right. Just in case you wanted to know. I can punch things really well.”

“Good,” Louis said. “It’s good that I’ve got you on my side.”

~*~

So, like, that didn’t go so badly.

~*~

“What about this maybe sort of boyfriend, then?” Liam asked in a low voice, as the two of them snuck into the art room during the afternoon break. They were in full costume and hair and make up, sharing a bag of Asda bacon bite crisps, and Louis felt like a bottle of pop that was all shaken up inside. His hands were shaking.

“It’s nothing. I mean. It’s not nothing. I just—I haven’t met him yet, all right? He’s from the internet. We’ve been talking for ages and ages. Well, since before, like, Grease auditions anyway, and he’s from Donny, and he likes all this music, and he makes me laugh, and he fancies me, all right? So we’re going to meet next weekend.”

“From the internet? Like, a dating site or something?”

“Liam. No. I mean—we just met, all right? We liked the same stuff. Or he liked the wrong stuff and I wanted to tell him how wrong he was. And now we, like, talk every day and stuff. He’s really nice.”

“This is who you were talking about before, isn’t it? When you said it was a girl?”

Louis shrugged. “Yeah. You thought he was a forty year old man from Texas.”

“To be fair, he still might.”

“Nah, he’s like us. He’s from Donny.”

“Are you sure? Do you need someone to come with you when you meet him?”

“It’s all right,” Louis said. “You’re more worried than my mum, and she’s making me ring her every half an hour, and she’s promised to call the police if I’m ten minutes late home, so it’s all fine. Don’t worry.”

“I am worried,” Liam said. “It was in the Daily Mail.”

“Breathing can give you cancer in the Daily Mail. And tomatoes.”

“Tomatoes don’t give you cancer.”

“They might. According to the Daily Mail. And stop worrying, it’ll be fine. He seems really nice.”

“And he’s gay like you?”

“Yeah,” Louis said. “He’s gay. Just like me.”

“Um—”

Louis swung round. In the corner of the art classroom, hidden behind the pottery display table, Daisy Lowe was eating an apple and determinedly flicking through a sketchpad.

“For the record,” Daisy said, without looking up, “I’m not going to and shout what I’ve just heard from the rooftops.”

“Right,” Louis said. “For the record, it might have been nice if you’d piped up a bit earlier rather than just listening in.”

“I was here first,” Daisy said. “Anyway, I don’t care if you’ve got a boyfriend or not. You can be as gay as you want to be, I don’t care.”

“What are you even doing here?” Liam asked. He’d stepped in front of Louis, like a wall, and Louis felt sort of protected, in the most unprotected way ever. What if he just threw up, right here and now? On 8E’s potato print art. He’d done potato prints in year 8; his potato had gone mouldy between one art lesson and the next, and Mr Macgregor had made him use it anyway. Teachers were the fucking worst. Coming out was the worst. This was the worst.

“Hiding, aren’t I?” she said, and her voice wavered. “I’m going to stay exactly here for the next week, and I’m not going to move, and nobody can make me.”

“But you’re really good as Rizzo,” Liam said.

“They can find another Rizzo,” Daisy said fiercely. “If I have to stand on that stage my legs will give out and I’ll projectile vomit all over the audience like in Pitch Perfect and it will be the worst thing that’s ever happened to anyone.”

“They won at the end in Pitch Perfect,” Louis said. “What? I’m just saying it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened. She still won.”

From the drama studio, the bell rung to let everyone know they were supposed to be back in there to go on stage again. Being gay and found out could wait.

“You’re Rizzo,” Louis said. “Stop dicking around and come show us how it’s done.”

“I don’t want to,” she said.

“Yeah, you do,” Liam said, and he held out his hand. “Come on.”

“Stop being nice to me,” Daisy said, but she slid off her stool anyway. She was taller than both of them. “And I really don’t care if you’re gay or not.”

“Thanks,” Louis said. He wasn’t that sure if he meant it or not.

~*~

Lying on his bed later, laptop in front of him, his Gmail remained steadily empty of new emails from his Tumblr boy. He clicked compose anyway.

Told my mate about me being gay today. And about you. he still thinks you’re a old dude from texas . lookin forward to proving him wrong !! hope your ok mate n that your mum n dad are ok with you likin blokes . theres nowt new on your tumblr so im getting worried about you. its having loads of sisters im secretly a mum about my mates so just tell me your ok or summat and I’ll talk to you soon xxx

He stared at his inbox for a while after that, but nothing arrived.

“Louis,” his mum called from downstairs. “Your dad’s here. Get your coat. He’s taking you all for a carvery.”

Determined not to run down the stairs and hug his dad, he took his time finding a hoodie and two shoes that matched before refreshing his email. Still nothing.

Louis.”

“Coming,” Louis said, and he shut the lid of his laptop and went downstairs. It was all right. He could do this.

Chapter Text

~*~

Monday morning dawned in a dank, misty sort of a way, with any sign of the sun determinedly hidden behind a thick layer of grey cloud. Louis glumly stared out of the kitchen window and didn’t eat his cornflakes.

“Is this a sign?” Fizzy asked, coming to stand beside him with her tea in a My Little Pony mug. She’d started to echo what he did recently, scrambling onto the chair next to him and resting her chin on her hands, just like he was. “Like not saying Macbeth?”

“How do you know about not saying Macbeth?” Louis asked.

Fizzy shrugged. “Megan’s mum lets her have actual Coco Pops. How come we have to have rubbish rice crackles?”

“Dunno,” Louis said, even though he knew the answer, and it had a lot to do with how Aldi rice krispies were a fraction of the price of Coco Pops. When he grew up he was having every kind of cereal in his house. He'd have the cereal aisle to pick from every morning. “Healthier, innit?”

“S'pose. Are you scared about tonight?”

“Nah,” Louis said, even though he was shitting himself. He was so nervous he couldn’t even eat his Weetabix. “You’ll be in the audience, won’t you? Won’t be scared if you’re there.”

“Me and Dad and Lottie,” she said, leaning into his side. “I’ve told everyone I’m going and that you’re going to be famous.”

“Thanks, Fizz,” Louis said, and if he felt like throwing up, then he kept it hidden away inside.

~*~

There wasn’t an email from his Tumblr boy in his inbox, and he was too late for school to stop and write him another hope you’re okay note.

It was Danny Zuko day, anyway. Love could wait.

~*~

“Threw up my breakfast, didn’t I?” Liam said, when they met up at break, ostensibly to pretend they weren’t scared shitless. Liam still looked a bit green.

“I almost did. Everyone’s coming to see us? What if I massively fuck it all up?”

“You won’t,” Liam said, and he sounded confident where Louis was concerned, even if he looked decidedly less sure of himself.

“God,” Louis said, dropping down onto the step by the maths classrooms. “Why did we ever say we wanted to do this?”

“No idea,” Liam said. “Cos we love singing?”

“That’ll be it,” Louis said, putting his face in his hands. “This is the most nervous I’ve ever been in my whole entire life.”

“Me too,” Liam said. “After all this is done, do you want to come bowling with me and Niall and Zayn again?”

“Yeah,” Louis said. “Let’s never do this again, right?”

“Right,” Liam said, and sat down on the step next to him. “Never, ever again.”

“You excited, though? As well as shit scared?”

Liam laughed at that. “Course,” he said.

Anticipation and fear and excitement and terror was swirling in Louis’s stomach like the weirdest Mr Whippy ever. “Me too,” he said. “Me fucking too.”

~*~

Louis had a free period before lunch, and rather than spend it in the common room, he slunk off to the shitty sixth form computer lab to check his emails instead. Maybe email his Tumblr boy.

He bumped into Nick Grimshaw coming the other direction up the corridor, looking decidedly shifty when they both stood in the doorway to the computer lab.

“Oh,” Louis said, a little awkwardly. “Are you going in here?”

“Was going to,” Nick said. He looked knackered, and sort of grey around the edges, like the weather outside except slightly less rainy. “You got a problem with that?”

“Free country, innit?” Louis said, shoving his way inside. There wasn’t anyone else in there, but then there were only five computers, and three of them looked like they were running operating systems from before he was born. They were the rejects from the actual IT classrooms, so they were all collapsing under the weight of a lot of grubby fingerprints and terrible attempts at getting past the obligatory porn blocker in the name of classroom entertainment. And all the screens faced into the centre of the room, so there was no chance of doing anything private on them.

Louis dumped his bag on the ground and dropped into one of the chairs, shoving the mouse out of the way in the hope that the login screen would show up at some point. The computer showed some sign of life, so whilst it was slowly coming to, he spun around in his chair instead. “What’s up with you, anyway? You’ve got a face on you like a wet weekend.”

“Nothing,” Nick said. He’d taken the seat directly opposite Louis. “You gonna sit and stare at me all period?”

“Might do,” Louis said. “It’ll take that long just to boot the stupid computer up. How can they be this crap, honestly?”

“Dunno. I’ve got your DVD, by the way, but it’s in my locker.”

“Cool,” Louis said. “Did you watch it?”

“Twice,” Nick said.

Louis cocked an eyebrow. “You watched it twice?”

Nick looked ever so slightly pink, but it was sort of difficult to tell, what with his greyish pallor. “Wanted to get all the important bits.”

“Right,” Louis said. There was a pause. “So, uh, did you like it?”

“Yeah. It’s my—it’s my friend’s favourite film, so, like, I wanted to give it a go and everything.”

“Right, Daisy, yeah. When are you coming to see her?”

“Uh—tomorrow. We’re all going.”

“At least you can sing along now.”

“You wouldn’t want that. You think I sound flat now, imagine if you heard me sing. I’m bloody terrible.”

“Like a really tuneless pigeon?”

Nick snorted. “Where’d you get that from?”

“Dunno. Not like they’re songbirds or owt, are they? They just make them weird cooing noises. Like, coo coo.”

“Right. Probably more in tune than me, then.”

Louis wrinkled his nose. “You really must be crap if a pigeon’s better than you.”

“I’m good at other stuff, though.”

“Like what? Cos it’s not waltzing or whatever you were doing with Gillian Orr on Friday.”

“I am A+ with a hula-hoop,” Nick said.

“You’re making that up,” Louis said, narrowing his eyes. “You’re never good with a hula-hoop.”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Hmmm,” Louis said. “Is there a hula-hoop championship?”

“It’s like the premiership, but with hula-hoops. I’m good at ribbon twirling too.”

“Can you do them at the same time, though, that’s the question.”

“I’m well coordinated.”

Louis didn’t believe that for a second. “You’re a giant liar, Grimshaw.”

“One day I’ll prove my hula hooping skills to you and then you’ll be sorry,” Nick said, with an obligatory sniff. He turned his chair around, and Louis poked at his mouse in a desultory fashion. It took another minute for his browser to start up, and another minute for his email to log in.

Nothing from his Tumblr boy. Concern sat on his Mr Whippy swirl of pre-show emotions like a little cherry perched on top of an ice cream.

He couldn’t think about that right now. He logged off his computer, and went to hide in the drama studio until it was time for him to shed his Louis-skin and become Danny Zuko.

~*~

That evening, he became king of the world.

“I’m king of the world,” he told Liam once the show was over, jumping on his back and pressing his mouth to Liam’s hair. All of Liam’s family had been in the audience tonight, and Fizzy and Lottie and his dad, and all the lower school girls had screamed his name, and if this was what it felt like to perform, to be famous, then he wanted to eat it all up with a spoon, forever. Forever. “I am king of the fucking world.”

“Language, Louis,” the drama teacher told him, rushing by.

“I am T-Bird and I’m still in character,” he called after her, refusing to let Liam put him down.

He felt fucking amazing.

King of the fucking world, honestly.

~*~

His Tumblr boy wasn’t online when he logged on when he got in. There was an email in his inbox, though. His Mr Whippy of pre-show tension might have melted, but the cherry was still there, wobbling a little. He opened his email:

Hi :))))))))

Sorry for the radio silence. Bit of a pants weekend. UNDERSTATEMENT. Not the gay thing weirdly. I AM SO SORRY FOR FRIDAY I was so drunk. I was so, so drunk. I threw up all over my bedroom. If you’ve ever had to clean up sick out of the carpet when youre so hungover you can’t see straight then you know what my Saturday was like. Mum was properly pissed off with me. And that was before I came out.

So like I did what you said and I had that stupid egg sandwich because I am an idiot who TRUSTED YOU and then I vommed it up in the kitchen sink because I am dead classy like that and I could see mum and dad about to go off on one and literally I just blurted out I’M GAY so they wouldn’t yell at me and everything just went REALLY SLOW and REALLY STILL and it was like when you press pause on the dvd except I was still moving except they weren’t and it was PROPERLY TERRIFYING. This is why im never bloody bungy jumping and not just cos I like my retinas attached to whatever retinas are attached to. And my dad made this stupid joke like “you always have been very happy, lad” and I didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about and then I realised he was talking about GAY and I had to be all HA HA because inside I was dying I was actually dying. Anyway then mum told me I didn’t need to get paralytically drunk to tell them I was gay cos they’ve known since I was six which is RUBBISH and when I finally tell my friend aims she’s going to be well mad because she’s been doing all this sociology homework recently about how shit it is to make assumpsions about how gay someone is from how they look or whatever and kids aren’t sexual beings or whatever so HOW DO THEY KNOW. Honestly it was bad enough when she was just telilnig me this and shed read it on tumblr or whatever and was reblogging it all the time (she doesn’t know my actual tumblr cos my fandom stuff is my secret identity like iron man or whatever except he was shit at keeping it secret which I think is going to be me after this, but the truth is Aims is more shit because I know all about her tumblr) but she’s going to be on about it all the timw when it’s REAL.

Anyway I should have left it because I wasn’t in trouble for being wasted and my dad didn’t know what to say but he and mum had clearly had these conversations about what to say when I finally came out or whatever and they weren’t very good at it but it wasn’t awful and I SHOULD HAVE LEFT IT AT THAT but I am an IDIOT and like the GIANT FUCKING IDIOT that I am I told them that I hadn’t accepted any of my uni places for next year and iw asn’t going to

And the shit hit the fan like big time because they might have thought it was obvious that I want to snog boys AND THIS ONE BOY IN PARTICULAR THAT’S YOU IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED but apparently neither of them had noticed that I am not going to be a super great business man because I have the attention span of a gnat and literally the only thing ive ever been interested in doing is talking about music. Like I made them dress up for the brits EVERY YEAR like we were there and like it was a huge big deal and my dad doesn’t know Eminem from like someone else but they did it anyway and the only thing they got from that whole thing is that clearly I want cock but what they didn’t get from it was that forcing me to apply for stupid business degrees was the worst idea in the WHOLE WORLD and I hate it but I applied anyway.

So my mum yelled at me and my dad yelled at me and I yelled back and then we stopped so I could throw up because the egg sandwich was A SHIT IDEA although probably the vodka was the worser idea and then they turned my room upside down trying to find my ucas log in and they were going to say yes for me, and then I started to cry and locked myself in the bathroom and my mum and dad stopped being totally fucking mental and going through my room and by the way having your parents find a stash of gay magazines under the bed is EXCELLENT even though it wasn’t porn because that’s all on my computer THANK FUCK and basically that was the last time we all spoke to each other because they still want me to go to uni and I don’t want to go and do stupid fucking business and they didn’t even care that ive applied for this job at the radio station and that theres all these things I can do to get into it that woud mean I was doing what I wanted to do and not just what they want me to do and like SURELY THEY KNOW I WOULD NEVER BE IN INSURANCE or whatever. I don’t want to buy a house I want to talk about music all day long

anyway THIS HAS BEEN THE LONGEST EMAIL EVER but the weekend hs been shit and I wish it iwas next weekend already because I think saying this in person to you would be better than me saying it in email and I hope I haven’t put you off or anything cos this is like the biggest load of wank ever and im SORRY but there isn’t anyone else I can tell about the gay stuff or about my weekend or anything because I cant tell one story without the other and I don’t want to come out this week cos ihave to I want to come out because I want to and it’s all a mess in my head and I keep thinking about it and maybe I was gay at six because ive never been intrested in girls ever and I think I always wanted to marry a boy somaybe my mum and dad were right I dunno.

But like theres this other thing too cos I was reading your emails from Friday and you said you thought I was gonna be a good kisser and in the interests of being like 100% honest and id like it if you didn’t react like my parents to uni but ive never kissed anyone so I might be shit but I don’t know. So that’s something else but I hope your weekend wasn’t as bad as mine and that you still want to meet me next Saturday cos I really want to meet you. xxxxxxxx multiplied by like a hundred

Louis didn’t have long before his mum was going to come in and confiscate the laptop. He needed his sleep apparently, which was parent-speak for they didn’t know what was important.

Babe xxxxxx your weekend sounds like the worst fucking thing ever and im really sorry that it all went knobs up. Course I still want to meet you n if you want to talk about all of this stuff then we totally can cos im actually a really good listener although you wouldnt always know it cos im the one the teachers always has to tell to shut up cos im never paying attention .

the uni stuff sounds mad and the only reason to go is to get drunk cheap and not get up early anymore but not if you hate the course that’s rubbish !! I don’t know if im going either cos im not all that good at school (except at failing I AM WELL GOOD AT THAT) but I hope your mum and dad come round soon .

do you want to talk about it or talk about something else instead?? If I don’t reply its cos mum thinks I need an early night and shes gonna come and steal the laptop away but its not cos I don’t want to reply. Anyway it doesn’t matter uve never kissed anyone cos ive only kissed three girls but they don’t count cos theres never been a boy . UNTIL YOU :)))))) oh and do you think we should like EXCHANGE PHOTOS or something and like names or something cos we haven’t done that yet?

Hope youre not still crying in the bathroom that’s rubbish <3 also I saw my dad last night and hes gonna get me a new phone because im in the school play and ive been working really hard for it so soon I will actually be back in 2015 and not stuck in 1992 or something.

“Louis.” His mum knocked at his bedroom door. “Come on. Put that laptop down.”

“Five more minutes,” Louis said. He signed off the email with five kisses and pressed send. “I’ll get ready for bed and then check if he’s replied, then I’ll turn it off, promise.”

“Turn it off now, love.” She came over and kissed the top of his head. “Lottie and Fizzy said you were wonderful. So did your dad.”

“I’m the king of the world,” Louis said, a little distractedly.

“You’ve got a really busy week this week. School and that show. You need your sleep.”

“He’s had a really rubbish weekend, though.”

“And you’ve done a twelve hour day, and you’ve rehearsed all weekend. Turn it off.”

“Fine,” he said, pressing refresh very quickly. Nothing.

His mum was already trying to take the laptop off him, so he signed out, and very reluctantly let his mum have it.

He was quite tired, now he came to think about it.

~*~

He woke up late in the morning, crawling out of bed to make tea and beg for the laptop for five minutes. His mum said no, then they bartered for a compromise of three minutes, and set a timer.

In his inbox was a message from his Tumblr boy with a subject line that just said HERE GOES <3.

Louis opened the email. It just said, my name’s Nick, what’s yours?

The attachment was a picture of Nick Grimshaw, laughing in the general direction of the camera, the sun in his eyes, a stupid t-shirt half obscured by an open checked shirt.

Louis stared at it for the remainder of his internet time, then he closed the laptop, and went upstairs to get ready for school.

Chapter Text

~*~

The problem with having a best friend who wasn't in sixth form and a phone that really only worked enough to send texts to his mum, and then only when he had twelve minutes to spare to repeatedly stab the buttons to try and get it to type OK, was that there really wasn't any way to get Liam to come to his aid immediately he got to school.

He'd tried putting a telepathic cry out in the vain hope that Liam was magic, but that hadn't worked, because Liam wasn't waiting outside the sixth form block, or outside the common room like Louis wanted him to be.

Potentially that might have been because Louis was seven minutes late for registration, and nobody was hanging around at all, but that was beside the point. Liam had let him down.

~*~

Nick Grimshaw. Nick Grimshaw.

Louis hid in the sixth form computer lab until he was quite sure everyone had gone to lessons, and afterwards, when he snuck in late to English, he couldn't figure out if that was because he'd wanted Nick to find him, or not.

~*~

"You're not a superhero," Louis said as soon as he saw Liam at break time. "Why aren't you telepathic?"

"I am so a superhero," Liam said. "Telepathy's rubbish. Why wouldn't you pick something cool like being invisible or whatever?"

"So not the point," Louis said, flopping down onto the grass beside Liam. "I can't wait until I get my new phone."

"What are you going to get?"

"Dunno. Like, a Samsung or something probably. My Dad's buying it. Something that works, though. At least until I drop it and smash the screen again." He tried not to think about why he'd been so excited about having a phone again; his lovely Tumblr boy with the silly Tumblr name and the even sillier habit of talking to Louis every single night. His lovely Tumblr boy who was also Nick Grimshaw.

"Cool," Liam said. "Are you nervous about tonight? Cos I am, even though it was so good last night. Like, nerves and excitement all at the same time. It feels a bit like I'm in a blender."

"I feel more like I'm in a blender," Louis said. He poked at the grass with one grubby finger. "He sent me a picture. That guy that I like."

"And? Is he a forty year old guy from Texas?"

"No," Louis said. "He's not."

"So... is he hot?"

In his picture, Nick had been laughing at the camera, his smile wide, his eyes bright. Louis had spent the whole of his first lesson just imagining what it would be like to kiss him. "Yeah," he said finally. "He's also Nick Grimshaw."

Liam blinked. "Our Nick Grimshaw? From year thirteen?"

"Yep. The same."

"What did he say when he knew it was you?"

"Nothing, cos I haven't told him yet. I had to come to school."

"Oh my god," Liam said. "You're going out with Nick Grimshaw."

"I am not, and shush. Someone will hear."

"That's amazing. I didn't know he was gay."

"Apparently he is." Louis didn't know what else to say. He put some grass in Liam's hair instead. "It doesn't change anything, that it's Nick. It's just a bit weird, but it doesn't change what I want. It might change what he wants when he knows it's me, but it doesn't change what I want."

Liam brushed the grass out of his hair. He missed a bit, a tiny green fountain right in the middle of his head. Louis added a bit more grass for good measure.

"He's had a well shit weekend," Louis confided. "He came out to his mum and dad and that bit went all right, but then he told them he didn't want to go to uni and they went off on one apparently. He was really upset. I kind of want to go and make sure he's okay."

"Well, if you told him who you are, maybe you could do that."

"Maybe."

"Are you not telling him cos you're scared?"

"No," Louis said quickly. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. What if he sees me and he's not bothered anymore cos it's me?"

"That's stupid," Liam told him. "You're brilliant, course he's going to want to go out with you."

"Do you think I should go and tell him now?"

"What, just walk right up to him?"

"No." Louis shook his head. "I mean go and email him. There's still five minutes left of break."

Liam rolled his eyes and poked Louis in the shoulder. "Go on. I'll see you at lunch, if you're not off snogging."

Louis went red. "Shut up," he said, but if he ran all the way back to the sixth form block then at least he couldn't hear Liam laughing after him.

Nick Grimshaw was leaning up against the railings outside the entrance, eating a Danish pastry.

Louis skidded to an awkward stop.

"Hi," Nick Grimshaw said. He looked tired.

"Hi," Louis said. "Nice… Danish."

Nick rolled his eyes. "You want a bit? It's got raisins in and I don't know what I feel about raisins, except that they're sort of squidgy."

"You can't give me your Danish pastry." All of Louis's words were trapped inside of him, falling over each other in their attempt at clambering out and embarrassing him in front of Nick. His Tumblr boy, his stupid, ridiculous, sort of online boyfriend, who knew all about Louis's dad leaving, and how Louis thought of himself as a failure, and who'd been the first person Louis had considered coming out to.

"I wasn't going to give you it all," Nick said, tearing it in half and holding the littler bit out. "It's still my Danish."

"Fine," Louis said, and he took it. "I like sultanas better than raisins."

"Course you do," Nick said. "Do you have any feelings about currants?"

"Not really," Louis said. He kept sneaking glances at Nick, trying to fit the two versions of him together in his head. His terrible waltzer, his secret hula-hooping king, his late night Tumblr secret keeper who'd never been kissed. Louis kept thinking about being his first.

"You're smiley. Is it all them raisins?"

"Nah," Louis said, dropping his gaze. "I'm happy, aren't I? Got some good news this morning."

"Are you going to share, or am I just going to have to guess?"

"Guess, I think," Louis said. His insides felt like a can of pop. He just couldn't quite bring himself to open the tab and have it all hang out. He didn't mean to keep looking at Nick's mouth but he couldn't quite help himself. At first he hadn't known whether he'd wanted Nick to be his Tumblr boy, but now he wanted it. An actual, in real life boy who genuinely liked Louis for who he was, and not because he was funny in lessons or a bit of a laugh when you were bored or because he liked to cause trouble. But because he was him. All of him, the secret bits too, the bits he never told anyone else. Nick knew it all and still liked him, and that was like being on top of a mountain and knowing you could sledge all the way down with the wind behind you and a clear slope down.

"So, last night went all right, then?"

"Huh? Oh. Right, yeah. Grease. It was well good."

"I'm coming tonight," Nick said. "Me and everyone else. Cheer Daisy on, you know."

"I'm offended," Louis said, taking a big bite of Danish pastry. "What am I?"

Nick rolled his eyes. "Fine," he said. "I'll cheer for you too."

"Good," Louis said, and then the bell started to ring for next lesson. There was so much inside of him he didn't how to keep it all in; he hopped from foot to foot for no good reason at all.

Nick smirked at him. "You got ants in your pants, or what?"

"Just having a well good day," Louis said, and maybe it didn't matter that there wasn't any time for him to go to the computer room now. He'd do it later.

"You got any of that to spare?"

"Might do," Louis said, as the second bell went. He pushed open the door to the sixth form block so he could go to his locker before lessons. "If you're nice to me."

"Cheeky," Nick said from behind him, and Louis laughed and ran to his lesson.

~*~

Louis was getting his cheese sandwich out of his locker at lunchtime when he was nudged out of the way by Daisy.

"Howdy," she said, tilting an imaginary hat. She got her lipstick out of her locker. "Are you feeling the same as me?"

"Depends," he said, rooting around in his locker for his Tracker bar for pudding. "I don't feel like what my life is lacking right this second is lipstick, if that's what you mean."

She laughed, leaning past him to pick up his Tracker bar. "I mean, like, I don't know. Like you're surfing a cloud or something."

"I could surf a cloud," Louis said. He grinned. "Yeah. Fucking ace."

"And we get to do it again tonight, and tomorrow night…" She laughed again. "Best feeling ever. Are you going to eat with us, or slink off?"

"I'm meeting Liam," he said, but Liam had his lunch in the cafeteria and not out on the field, so he would be another ten minutes anyway. "But not for a bit."

"Come on, then," she said, tucking her hand into the curve of his elbow. "Come and eat with me and Chloe and the others."

"Fine," he said, putting on his most long-suffering face. "If you're forcing me to."

Sitting with Chloe and the others meant squeezing round a table with Daisy, Chloe, Nick, Aimee, Ian, and Fiona. Nick was taking up most of the space, sprawled out along one of the benches with his head in Aimee's lap, his eyes closed.

"Is he asleep?" Louis asked, pointing in Nick's general direction. Part of him itched to reach over and stroke his hair away from his face. This was quite ridiculous. He was quite ridiculous. He had a sandwich he was supposed to be concentrating on.

"He's having a rest," Aimee said, which could have meant anything, but basically meant that Nick didn't move, even when everyone else had to squish together. "Think he's a bit stressed out, aren't you, pet?" She patted Nick's shoulder, and Nick made a soft sound of agreement, but didn't open his eyes.

Louis wondered if Liam would mind if he was even later to come and meet him, so he could go to the computer lab first. He rather suspected that Liam wouldn't mind, particularly when Louis told him how stressed Nick was.

He poked at his lunch again, and was half way through his cheese sandwich when Chloe kicked him under the table.

"What?" he said, without putting his sandwich down.

"Have you actually met your internet boyfriend yet?" Chloe asked. "Are you sure he's not imaginary?"

Daisy went bright red. "Chloe—"

Louis froze. Even what seemed like too big a word to manage. He couldn't quite manage to close his mouth.

Daisy scrambled to fill the gap. "I only told Chloe, I'm so sorry—" she said, which just meant that the entire table was now one hundred per cent certain that Louis did, in fact, have an internet boyfriend, and that there was a good chance he might be imaginary.

So this was what this felt like. He tried not to glance at Nick, but he couldn't help it. Nick, who two seconds ago had been asleep, but who now had his eyes open. He was looking at Daisy, not at Louis though.

Louis's heart stuttered, a tiny moment of fear spasming out across his skin and taking root in his fingertips. "He's not imaginary," he managed, which was not how he imagined coming out. He put his sandwich down. "He's real."

"But how do you know?" Chloe persisted, like she hadn't just outed Louis in front of what felt like half the sixth form.

"How do I know what?" He stuffed his hands under his thighs to stop them from shaking.

"That he's not pretending or fake or whatever."

Louis glanced at Nick, whose attention had switched from Daisy to Louis now, although he wouldn't meet Louis's eyes. His knuckles were white.

"Cos I've seen his picture," Louis said. "Cos I've spoken to him every day for forever." His voice stayed miraculously level, although inside he was screaming. Look at me, he willed, look at me. "Cos he's lovely and he's real and I just know it, all right? I just know it."

Nick met his gaze. Louis held it, seconds that stretched on and on, Louis trying to tell him I'm so glad it's you and say something and please, fucking please, tell me it's okay.

Nick looked away then, and something inside of Louis shattered like glass.

"But you could be talking to anyone," Chloe persisted, like she hadn't heard Louis's heart break. Nick was hiding his face behind clasped hands, gaze fixed on the other end of the common room, cheek pressed to his hands.

"Chloe," Daisy hissed. "Fuck, I'm sorry. Louis, I'm so sorry."

"No, it's fine," Louis said. "I was having a well good day, of course I was going to get outed by lunchtime." His hands shook, and he swept up the rest of his lunch, dumping it in the bin at the end of the bench.

"Oh god," Chloe said. She looked horrified. Louis genuinely didn't care. He was about thirty seconds from sobbing, except he didn't fucking cry in public.

"Louis—" Daisy said. "God, I'm sorry."

"No one cares," Chloe said a little desperately. "We're all fine that you're gay."

"Cool," Louis said, and he risked another glance at Nick, who wasn't fucking looking at him. Nick, who wanted him on the fucking internet but who didn't seem to want him in real life, Nick, who it turned out he'd liked so fucking much. "That's great, thanks for the approval."

Daisy tried to catch him up as he left, but Louis could put on a proper burst of speed when it was required of him, and right now, it was fucking required.

~*~

my name's Louis, he typed, as soon as he got home from school. And you know what I look like. x

He pressed send.

~*~

That night, all of Daisy's friends were there in the audience, taking up most of the third row.

There was an empty seat of the end of the row, a gap where Nick should have been, a space where he wasn't.

Backstage, Liam grabbed Louis's wrist and held on.

"It'll be fine," Liam said.

"There's a show to put on," Louis said, and to his credit, he didn't miss a fucking line all night.

Chapter Text

~*~

In the morning, Louis snuck under his mum's arm as she was waiting for the kettle to boil.

"Hi, love."

"Hi," he said. "Is there enough for me?"

"Has there ever been a morning where there wasn't?"

"Yes," Louis said. "When I had to do my geography GCSE and you forgot I needed brain food."

"Tea isn't brain food."

"We ran out of crunchy nut cornflakes."

She kissed his cheek. "Are you all right?"

He shrugged. "Dunno," he said. "Never been outed before."

"I could swing for that girl."

"Don't, you'll end up in prison and then who'll make the tea first thing in the morning?"

"Lou—"

"Can I have my computer?"

She looked at him. "Five minutes."

"Thanks, Mum."

~*~

His inbox was startlingly, desperately empty. When he went to Nick's Tumblr, though, he'd clearly been online the previous evening, because there were six Kardashian gif sets, a picture of a puppy being hugged, and a post that just said, accidentally drank from the old orange juice my mum was chucking out instead of new orange juice and sicked up a bit down my t-shirt :((((((( I am an actual catch.

The thing was, Louis clearly didn't have any sense of self-preservation, because he replied to Nick's post, typing I still think you are <3

Nothing immediately happened, no thunderbolt or email or Nick arriving to tell him everything was going to be all right. It was all just the same, and it was time to go to school.

~*~

News had spread across the sixth form, as these things had the habit of doing, and by the time it got to the end of registration, it was probably true that every single person in sixth form knew he was gay, and by the way Mr Akbar was giving him careful glances over the register, the teachers did too.

This was the kind of thing that could only result in disaster, because Louis was starting to feel like a snake needing to shed his skin, and that couldn't end well. Daisy kept trying to talk to him, to say sorry, and Louis just couldn't be fucked with it. "It's fine," he said. "You couldn't keep your big mouth shut and now everyone knows, and okay, no one's punched me yet, but there's still time before the end of the day."

"Like you've never told your best friend a secret," Daisy said. "Please, Louis, I'm so sorry."

Louis carefully didn't think about telling Liam about Nick's weekend, or about Nick being gay. That was different, though, because Liam was trustworthy, and Liam wouldn't tell anyone, and Liam didn't have anyone to tell. "You told Chloe, though, and she's got a mouth on her like the channel fucking tunnel."

"Louis, please. I'm so sorry."

Louis couldn't be bothered with this. "It's fine, all right? It's fine. I'm off to find Liam."

~*~

Liam had brought him a key ring with a frog on it.

"Um," Louis said, quite carefully. It was a little green velour frog wearing a bow tie and a top hat, attached to a little key ring.

"I wanted to get you something to cheer you up," Liam said, a little red faced, "but I only had £1.17, and I already had that and I thought it might, I don't know, make you laugh or something. I know it's stupid."

"It's absolutely terrible," Louis said. "It’s the worst thing in the world. It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen." If his hands shook then at least it was only Liam who could see them. "I love it. I'd hug you if it wasn't going to make everyone think you were gay too."

"I'm not gay," Liam said, wrapping Louis into a hug, "but I don't care if people think that. It's nothing to be ashamed of." He sounded a little bit like he'd practiced that, but it didn't matter to Louis. He clung to Liam for a long moment, before pulling away and sitting back on the grass, knees up, frog in hand. "You all right?"

"Dunno," Louis said. "I thought it was going to be coming out that was the worst but it isn't. The worst bit's Nick." It was weird, giving his Tumblr boy a name. "He's ignoring me and I know he's online but he's not talking to me. The worst thing is that even if we didn't end up kissing or whatever, I thought we'd still talk, and I've got no fucking idea what to do with my time if he's not going to be in it anymore. That's the scary bit, you know? Like, he's this big part of my life and if he doesn't want to be in it, I'm going to lose my dad and being Danny and him all at the same time." It was the closest he'd come to crying about it, and he knew he was right on the edge of tipping over, of letting it all come out. "What's left if all that goes?"

"Me," Liam said. "I'm left."

Louis wiped his nose on the back of his hand. "Don't be nice to me," he said. "Stop it right now. I'll cry if you're nice to me, and I've got a rep to protect."

"You smell really bad," Liam said. "And your hair's funny."

"My hair isn't funny."

"It might be. Look. I know you don't know what's happening this weekend yet but if your—if you don't have any plans after all you could come to mine. If you wanted."

Louis looked down at the ground. "Yeah," he said. "All right."

"Come on. The bell's about to go."

"Yeah," Louis said. "Okay."

~*~

Nick Grimshaw was waiting outside the entrance to the sixth form common room again, one knee up, foot resting on the wall. Louis slowed to a stop.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi," Nick said. He looked awkward and like he'd rather be anywhere but where he was. "I got you this." He held out a plastic Asda bag.

Louis took it and peered inside. There was another plastic bag inside, the kind from the bakery in the supermarket, and inside, his own raisin Danish pastry.

"Sorry it's not sultanas," Nick said. "I asked and they said it was just raisins."

"Right," Louis said. "I mean, it's not as good as sultanas, but it's all right." He didn't really know what to do with this feeling inside his chest, that thing inside of him that wanted to claw its way out, to grab hold of Nick and not let him go, to make him stay a part of Louis's life. "Do you want half?"

"I've got a lesson," Nick said. "I've got to go."

"Don't go," Louis said, and there was that failed sense of self-preservation out again, like he couldn't stop it. "Stay and talk to me."

"I can't," Nick said, glancing towards the entrance. "I really have got a lesson."

"So have I," Louis said. "Talk to me instead."

"I can't," Nick said again.

"Please stay. I've missed you."

Nick went red. "I'll email you, all right? Tonight?" He said it quietly, in case someone was going to overhear.

"You didn't come last night. I looked for you."

"I know. I'm sorry."

Louis couldn't make sense of Nick's expression. "I thought you were going to cheer me on."

"I have to go," Nick said. "I'll email you later."

Louis was left by himself outside the common room, Danish pastry in hand, even more confused than he had been before.

~*~

my dads still not really talking to me, Nick's first Tumblr ask said.

The second said i had no idea it was you. how did you react when you found out it was me?

The third one said I miss you and I don’t even know if that’s allowed.

Louis stumbled into his pyjamas and onto the bed. He was dead tired, three nights of being centre stage and one full day of thinking he'd lost Nick, and school all round the edges like a particularly oppressive cake of rubbish.

I was so looking forward to meeting you, he typed, careful not to make as many of his usual spelling mistakes. This was important. Like really really looking forward to it. And then I found out I knew you already. I dunno. I was freaked out I suppose ?? like it’s a properly freaky coincident . I just stared at my computer like an idiot when I saw the picture (and it’s a really great picture by the way you should keep that one for all your online acignasions (I don’t know how to spell that and its so wrong spellcheck wont give me any other options SORRY) but like I was most worried—

The character count hit zero and he pressed send, before refreshing the page so he could send another ask. --that you woudlnt' want to talk to me anymore because youre like one of the most important people in my life and its stupid when weve only known each other a few months and never met (I MEAN I KNOW WE'VE MET, but me and you have never met knowing we know this stuff about each other ) but I was telling liam today that im losing you and my dad and being danny all at the same time and I don't think there's anyone else who knows how much all those things mean to me .

He submitted the second ask and started on the third: and ok I was well shocked at first but then it all fitted together and I was really happy yesterday thinking it was you but then it all went wrong . I don't know what im trying to say. Thanks for the danish I suppose. it was really nice. And your really important to me and I still want to be your friend even if you don’t want to kiss me anymore (ALTHOUGH I have to tell you that I still want to kiss you even if you think I am physicly repulsive or WHATEVER which is wrong

He sent the third ask and started on his fourth. because I look super hot as danny which you would know IF YOU CAME TO SEE ME because I was extra specially good last night in your honour )) anyway I don’t know what im saying except that I basically had all these ideas about you and me basically skipping off into the sunset which is totally and utterly gay but weirdly you never had a head and now you have a head !! DON'T MAKE FUN OF ME THAT IS TOTALLY OK TO THINK

I just really wanted you to come and see me last night and I don’t know why out of everything thats the thing I keep thinking about but it is . I thought youd be shocked finding out and I wish you didn't find out like that cos I was going to take an a+++++ awesome hot picture of me probably dressed as danny and send it to you so you could be wowed but chloe n daisy sort of ruined that not that its daisys fault cos I cant

keep my mouth shut either n I told liam how worried I was about you after last weekend only liam doesn’t bring it up in public because hes got SENSE not like chloe ANYWAY I thought youd be shocked finding out but I sort of thought you'd be over it in time for grease, you know ?? but then you weren't there and I just thought… I don’t know what I thought. that we'd fucked it up.

I just wish you were there cos I got outed yesterday and it was ok but I think it would have been better if youd been on my side. And I miss you and I don't care if its allowed . and I want things to be ok with you too but I don’t think they are and we used to talk about this stuff. Ive sent you so many asks now so im going to stop but I still think youre great even though you are nick Grimshaw aka expert hula hooper extraordinary aka raisons are squidgy xxxx

He opened a new tab and set about scrolling through his dash. He reblogged some of Pete Wentz's best lyrics, some gifs from Thor, Idris Elba's bare arse, and a tiny child hugging a bulldog.

"Come on, Lou," his mum said, knocking on the door. "Two more minutes then lights out."

"I'm not a kid, Mum."

"I promise you, boys will still be complicated in the morning."

His Gmail buzzed with a new Tumblr ask. "Fine. Two minutes. I'll reply to this and then I'll go to sleep, all right?"

She came over and kissed the top of his head. "Night, love."

"Night."

He clicked on his message as soon as his bedroom door closed.

I like you so much, Nick's reply said. Emailing you is the best bit about my day and has been for ages. I hate areguing with my mum and dad and I don’t want to go to uni to do fucking business and I don’t want you to be outed and I don’t want me to be outed and I want to see you on Saturday and I want to fucking kiss you and I want to see you in grease and I want to hear your opinions on SULTANAS you madman and I want to go back to yesterday and not react like I did yesterday to finding out it was you. that’s what I want and im sorry it didn’t go like that. Im such an idiot I see all these dogs in the street and I want to tell you about them and isn’t that like PROPERLY MAD?? Like, properly mad. Everythings a mess but talking to you isn’t one of those things and I want to go out with you on Saturday if you still want to. x

Louis tipped his head back against the wall. I've got to go to sleep, he sent back. Meet me before school in the morning . 8 ?? This time I'll bring the food xxxxx

I'll try, Nick's reply said, and Louis didn't know if that was a yes or not, but he'd take it.

Chapter Text

~*~

The slight problem with Louis's plan was that Asda didn't open until eight, so he—for the first time ever—was waiting outside when the doors opened. He bombed it to the back of the store to where the bakery was, and then down the condiments aisle, and then to the self checkout. By the time he got to school, half-convinced Nick wouldn't be there, it was eight minutes past eight, and he was out of breath.

Nick was sitting on the steps by the sixth form block, fiddling with his phone. "I thought you'd changed your mind."

"I thought you wouldn't come," Louis said, dropping down onto the steps next to him, so he could catch his breath. "Soz. Didn't know Asda didn't open until eight."

"So you really did bring food, then?"

"Said I would, didn't I?" He tried to smile. Nick was in his stupid skinny jeans with the knees all hanging out, and had a t-shirt with a rabbit on under his red checked shirt. "Do you want to go up to the field?"

"All right," Nick said. It seemed a little awkward, not like it was online. Louis didn't know what to say, and it felt like Nick didn't either, the two of them quiet as they went down to the playground so they could go up to the field.

"Is your dad talking to you yet?" Louis asked finally, when they were going up the steps to the field.

"Mostly just to yell at me about the benefits of a good university degree or something," Nick said. "And to bug me about accepting my place on UCAS."

"Sounds rubbish," Louis said. "I'm not being funny but you don't really strike me as a businessman. Is that what he wants you to be?"

Nick shrugged. Louis was guiding them over to the slope in the corner of the field where he and Liam usually hung out. "He says being financially secure or something is the most important thing and if I'm choosing anything else then I'm being an idiot, and don't I know about the state of the economy or whatever, and the thing is, I don’t care. I don't care because I don’t want to do that, I want to be on the radio or talking about music, that's what I want to do. That's all I've ever wanted to do. I don't get why he's okay with me being gay but he's not okay with this, like, surely he's had enough time to get used to me being obsessed with music. That's been, like, my whole life. More than the whole gay thing even. Or maybe like the same amount." He went red. "Sorry for going on."

Louis elbowed him. "Shut it," he said. "You can talk about anything you want to." He plonked himself down on the grass, catching Nick's shirt to pull him down next to him. He busied himself opening his rucksack; in between the scrunched up notes and his English book and his battered Grease script was a carrier bag from home with two picnic plates, two purple plastic knifes, two matching purple plastic tumblers, and two napkins that may or may not have said Pret on them. The sugar sachets definitely did. His mum was a resourceful gatherer of stuff. A little Thermos followed, and Louis bundled the cups and the flask over towards Nick. "Pour the tea," he said, trying not to go red, and then he buried himself in his Asda bag so he didn't have to see Nick's face.

"You brought tea," Nick said.

"Yes," Louis said, getting a jar of Asda Smartprice strawberry jam, Smartprice chocolate hazelnut spread, and a pack of four croissants out of the bag. "I didn't know what you liked so I got jam and Nutella. You like one of those, right?"

"Yes," Nick said. He still hadn't poured the tea. "I like more than one of those."

Louis was certain he was bright red. "Good," he said, tearing open the packet of croissants. He put two on each plate, tucked a knife and a napkin on the side, and passed one of the plates to Nick. "Do you want jam or chocolate first?"

"Louis—" Nick's voice caught. Louis forced the plate onto him, because this didn't sound good. He focused on opening the jars instead.

"What?"

"You know you said you were losing your dad and Grease and me all at the same time?"

"Yes," Louis said, sticking his knife in the chocolate spread and then running his finger over the knife and taking the whole scoop into his mouth. It wasn't quite the same as actual Nutella but it still tasted nice. If Nick was breaking up with him after he'd made a picnic then he might have to go and find a toilet to have a bit of a cry in, which was frankly embarrassing.

"I'm quite difficult to lose, I think," Nick said. "I'm like that bad penny that keeps turning up, except I'll just be following you around. Online and in real life. I mean. Right."

Louis didn't know what to say to that, so he didn't say anything at all. He just nudged the chocolate spread over towards Nick. "Eat your breakfast," he said.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there on Tuesday. I was just all mixed up. I'm still all mixed up about everything, but not you. I'm not mixed up about you."

Louis looked at him then, at his Tumblr boy with his in real life stupid hair and stupid clothes and stupid music opinions. The endless messages they'd sent, the secrets they'd shared. "I can't wait to kiss you," he said, and perhaps that wasn't the kind of thing he was supposed to say, but they hadn't got where they were right now by not putting themselves out there. If Louis was doing this, he was fucking doing it, one hundred per cent and more.

Nick ducked his head then, flushed pink. He bit his lip. "Me neither," he said.

"Saturday," Louis said, because he didn't want to push, and because Nick was stressed out and mixed up and there was enough going on in his life without Louis adding to it. "Now eat your breakfast and drink your tea. I made that specially."

A minute later, when they were eating their croissants and trying to remember what their first album purchase was, Nick's little finger brushed up against Louis's on the grass, and all of Louis's insides skittered to an abrupt, desperate stop.

Louis had always thought that the first time he touched another boy romantically it would be breathless and rushed and there'd be dicks involved. He hadn't anticipated it being the two of them not even holding hands in dew-damp grass on the slope above the school field. He hadn't anticipated the way it was going to make him feel, like he was so excited and nervous and happy that he could fucking explode with wanting it so much.

Nick didn't move his hand away, and neither did Louis, and they stayed where they were until the croissants were gone and the first bell went, then they raced down the hill and across the playground to make it inside for registration.

~*~

In the hour Louis had at home between school and having to be back there for Grease, he had just enough time to unpack his new present from his dad, and to wrestle the computer away from Fizzy and the twins so he could log onto his email. He'd spent the day catching Nick's eye across the common room, the two of them smiling at each other and then ducking their gazes, and it was so ridiculous that at lunchtime Louis had had to go and kick a ball at Liam for the whole break just to try and work off some of the energy that burnt beneath his skin. He started to type.

GUESS WHO HAS A BRAND NEW PHONE ?? ?????? IF YOU GUESS RIGHT YOU WIN A DATE WITH ME ON SATURDAY but to be honest you get that anyway so whether it is a win or a loose is up to you :)))))))) ANYWAY I have a galaxy s3 mini and unlimited texts and 1gig of data which means that I might not be as cool as SOME PEOPLE with there iphones but I am back in 2015 and it means we can text <3 <3 <3 <3 ANYWAY ANYWAY I have to go and have my tea so I can go back to school and im gonna leave my phone here charging but IF YOU WANTED you could text me and I will reply when I get home after being AMAZING as danny zuko cos GREASE IS THE WORD but you should think about where we should go on Saturday cos we haven’t decided yet .

Also think of the selfies I can send you now HA HA you will never be rid of me

Ps I hope breakfast was ok I wanted you to have something stressfree this week xxxxx

Pppppps here is my number:

He typed in his number, and pressed send.

Downstairs, he taught the twins the dance from Greased Lightning whilst they waited for the carrots to finish cooking for tea. He felt like he was dancing on fucking air.

~*~

"Hey, look at this," Louis said, barrelling into Liam in the drama studio during the interval. He brandished his housekey in Liam's face, the little velour frog hanging off it. "I haven't lost it or anything. Forgot to show you earlier."

"That's the best looking frog I've seen," Daisy said, coming on over in her Pink Ladies jacket. "Look at his little snazzy hat."

Louis rolled his eyes. "Stop flirting with my keyring. It's all right."

"His hat is pretty snazzy though," Liam said. "Did you notice his bow tie?"

"First thing I saw," Daisy said. She patted the little frog on the head, fiddling with the cuffs of her jacket a bit. "Are you all right?"

"Yep," Louis said. "No thanks to you, by the way, but I am."

"I'm really sorry."

Louis knew that. "It's all right. Like, it was shit, but it's okay. You can stop feeling shit about it."

"What about Chloe?"

"She still gets to feel shit for a bit longer."

Daisy made a face. "All right. Are you going to come out with us after the show tomorrow? Thought we'd go into town."

"Me and Liam are already going for a drink," Louis said quickly. He didn't look at Liam. Liam better not have made other plans.

Daisy slipped an arm around Liam's shoulder. "As if we could celebrate without Kenickie and Rizzo being there together."

Something about Liam's face looked a bit desperate. Louis could read pleading when he saw it.

"Fine," Louis said. "We might pop by for a drink."

"Great," Daisy said, and she kissed Liam on the temple, and then pulled Louis in for a hug. Louis let her, just for a moment. "It'll be brilliant, and—and you can bring your boyfriend too, if you'd like."

"Nah," Louis said, as lightly as he could manage. "I'm not seeing him until Saturday."

"If you change your mind," Daisy said, "he'd be really welcome."

"Get off with you," he said. "Go on, me and Liam have to commune with a frog."

Liam waited until she'd gone before he leaned over and asked, "We don't really have to commune with the frog, do we?"

"No, Liam," Louis said.

Liam grinned, punching him in the arm. "And we can go tomorrow night, can't we?"

"Course we're going," Louis said, punching him back. "We fucking rule."

~*~

The show that night was amazing. Louis felt like a fucking star.

~*~

When he got home afterwards, he threw himself onto the bed and grabbed his phone off the bedside table. Six new messages. He had to clap his hand over his mouth just to keep from laughing.

The first was a picture message of the empty stage at school, the auditorium filling up, the picture taken from half way back on the left hand side. The next said grease is the word, and the third, got a returned ticket. Had to be there at five waiting to see if anyone brought one to the box office xxx. The fourth one was a picture of Louis himself, stranded at the drive-in, branded a fool, sitting on the stage by himself. The fifth one was a pixelated close up of Louis singing You're The One That I Want, and the sixth was sent fifteen minutes ago, and it just said, you're brilliant and super hot and I cant wait to go out with you xxxxxxxxxxxx

Louis put the pillow over his face just so he could yelp his feelings into his soft furnishings. Holy shit. He pressed reply and typed, what if we started going out now ??? and didn’t wait until Saturday?? ? I cant believe you came tonight I would have looked for you and sung at you or something xxxxxxxxx

The reply was almost instantaneous. Will you bring me tea every morning? xxx

Cheeky x nah that’s a one off wooing tecneek. Techneek? Idk.

Shame. Dunno if I can say yes now.

:( :( :( :( :(

course it’s a yes babe I think you're great and I'd love to be your boyfriend xxxxxxxx if you want to be mine xxxxxxxx

Louis buried his face in the pillow again, and after he'd done heavy breathing, he opened one eye and typed out yes please xxxxx before pressing send.

Boyfriends. Fuck. He had a boyfriend. An actual boyfriend. His Tumblr boy was his boyfriend.

He had to go online to reblog something appropriate immediately, but by the time he got to Tumblr, Nick had got there first. He'd reblogged some pictures of dogs dancing two minutes ago, and a cat wearing a unicorn horn made out of a ice cream cone. Louis Googled ugly animals in love then weird animal friends, and picked out a bear showing off its balls, two ugly fish, a warthog, a man holding up a save the slugs placard, and a tiger hugging a pig before finishing off with a baby badger making friends with an otter. Then he tagged it auberginemoonface, <3<3<3, and pressed post.

Then he shut his computer down, and got ready for bed.

Chapter Text

~*~

There was a text waiting for him when he woke up the following morning:

Don’t think I haven’t noticed the total lack of selfies you promised me <3 that was a hint by the way :)

Louis rolled his eyes, opened his camera app, made a face up at his phone, and took a picture. His hair was all sticking up and the duvet had Doncaster Rovers on it and he had pillow marks on his face, but whatever. He also had a boyfriend; an actual boyfriend.

Hows this for starters ??! !! proper sexy first thing in the mornig don’t you agree xxxxxxxxxx

He followed it up by asking, wheres mine?! We are boyfriends now n that means EQUAL so I deserve pictures of you looking all sleepy n hot or whatever xx

"Louis, get yourself down these stairs this instant," his mum yelled. "You'll be late for school if you don't get a wriggle on. Can you hear me?"

"All of Doncaster can hear you," Louis grumbled, but he stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom anyway, managing to get in a whole two seconds before Lottie.

"Louis," Lottie banged on the door. "Mum, he's being annoying."

"You're being annoying," Louis said, peering blearily into the mirror over the sink and wondering if he looked like actual boyfriend material. He still looked much the same as always on the outside, but it didn't mean that he didn't feel different on the inside. Maybe Grease and his dad going and doing his AS levels again all came together to mean he was finally growing up.

Maybe, anyway.

By the time he got out of the shower, there was a text waiting for him on his phone, with a picture attached of Nick with his hair all sticky up and a t-shirt with a stretched out neck half hanging off one shoulder. The message that came with it said this hot enough for you?!

Almost, Louis sent back. Better send me a million more today so I can compare and contrast like a proper scientist xxxx

This was going to be fun.

~*~

By the time Louis checked his phone on the way to school, he had another two pictures on his phone. One of Nick's cheek, with a message that just said, can you tell I fell asleep with my face in nme do I have wanky music opinions plastered to my cheek and another one of his school bag on the bench in the sixth form common room, followed by a message that said I know your never here early but I still looked for you :(

Louis picked up the pace, but by the time he got to the common room, everyone else was there, and Nick was stuck in the corner flipping through a magazine, surrounded by his mates. Louis pretended to root through his bag looking for his locker key, but really, he was just waiting until Nick saw him.

In the end, he got his phone out and texted r u still reading that wanky music mag ?! didnt you have enuff of that sleepin with it !!!

Nick glanced up then, eyes searching him out. Louis had to bite his lip to keep it all locked up inside, all the ridiculous excitement and anticipation he couldn't quite hide. Nick met his gaze for the briefest of moments, then looked down again.

Louis's excitement started to deflate like a punctured air bed, until his phone buzzed with a message.

Its heat you idiot xx you look nice today xx

There was a balloon inside of his chest, puffing him up like a proud pigeon. He typed out So do you x whilst trying not to look across at Nick, stuffing his schoolbooks into his locker and taking out his mug so he could make tea in time for his first lesson.

He couldn't resist one glance over, though, and Nick caught his eye then, his eyes bright.

Boyfriends, Louis thought. Yes.

~*~

"Hi," Nick said, outside the sixth form block at the end of break.

"We have to stop meeting like this," Louis said, a little breathless after bombing it down from the field. "How was Heat?"

"Same as always," Nick said. "You can have a lend of it if you want."

"Any fit lads in it?"

"Depends," Nick said. "I'm not in it."

Louis blushed. "I don't care, then."

Nick couldn't hide his grin. "Maybe I could just print loads of pictures of me out and stick them on each page."

"That's a plan," Louis agreed. "So, you saw Grease last night?"

"I did."

"And?"

"Stop fishing for compliments."

"Fine," Louis said. "I know I'm great."

"Hotter than John Travolta too."

"You only know that cos you watched it at the weekend. How did Daisy compare? She's dead good, isn't she?"

"Oh, you idiot," Nick said, as the bell started to go. "I didn't watch it for Daisy. I watched it for you."

Louis paused. "Tumblr me or in real life me?"

Nick laughed at that, handing Louis a roll of Fruit Pastilles. "These are for you," he said. He pushed open the door into the sixth form block as Louis stared down at the sweets in his hand. Belatedly, he followed Nick inside.

"Nick—" He reached for Nick's sleeve before stopping himself, dropping his hand to his side.

"Tumblr you," Nick said, softly. "Not that I'm saying that in real life isn't a one hundred per cent additional benefit, obvs."

"Obvs," Louis said, trying not to go an unflattering shade of fuchsia. The second bell was about to go.

"I watched it for you," Nick said, as they got to the door of the common room. "Cos you love it."

Louis swallowed. "It's better than loving fucking Grease 2."

"You're so wrong," Nick said. "You should come over and watch it sometime."

Louis's voice didn't wobble, which he counted as an absolute win. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," Nick said. "Whenever you want, actually."

"Right," Louis said, and approximately ninety-seven per cent of him wanted to lean in and close the gap between them and kiss Nick, but he didn't. He couldn't. "I'll see you later, okay?"

"Count on it," Nick said.

~*~

u decided where you want to go tomorrow? ? Louis texted, once morning lessons were over and he was on his way to meet Liam.

Dunno. Thought maybe Doncaster dome but itll be rammed tomorrow and I dunno if I want you to see me falling on my arse all day if we get on skates.

Louis rolled his eyes. Could go swimming at the dome

No heavy petting if we go swimming :( everyone knows that :(

Louis tried not to go bright red. Is that what were gonna be doin huh? X

Mebbe some light petting I thought xx

"Is that Nick?" Liam asked, rushing up brandishing a cheese sandwich and a carton of orange juice.

"Shush, I'm busy arranging my very important date tomorrow."

"Which you're going to text me updates from," Liam said, trying to peer over Louis's shoulder. "What are you going to wear tonight when we go out?"

"Dunno, stuff."

"Am I going to get in?"

Louis sometimes forgot Liam wasn't in the sixth form like him. "Course you will," he said. "It's not like half the sixth form aren't underage too."

"Good," Liam said. "I've never been out drinking before."

"We'll paint Donny red," Louis said, wrapping an arm around Liam's shoulders. "Find you a nice girl, too."

Liam blushed. "Suppose," he said, which meant yes please. Louis was learning to be extremely fluent in Liam-speak.

"Good," Louis said, as he pressed send on a message that said im up for that if you are xxx

God, he was ridiculous. This was ridiculous. He just liked Nick so much. Fuck, falling in love with someone from the internet was ridiculous. Ridiculous, and fun.

~*~

"Last night, guys and girls," Mrs Humphries said at 7.30pm precisely, when the school orchestra was starting to play the overture. "Do yourselves proud. You're all brilliant."

Louis felt like his insides were too big for his body, like there was too much inside of him to keep properly contained. He hopped from foot to foot, draping himself across Liam's back. "Last night," he said. "Last night."

Liam bit his lip. "Are we still going to hang out if we don't have lines to learn?"

"Course," Louis said, nuzzling his face into Liam's neck. He licked him. "You're my best mate."

"You're a dog playing at being a human," Liam said. "Geroff."

"You love it," Louis said, trying to remember where his mum and the twins were sitting—right in the middle, two rows back—in relation to Stan and Oli, who'd promised to come along and cheer him on.

"You're my best mate too," Liam said.

"Aww," Daisy said. "You two are adorable."

"Adorable best mates," Louis said, with some satisfaction. He licked Liam's neck again, and then it was their cue to go onstage, and he wasn't Louis anymore, but Danny Zuko, and he was singing in front of people, and it felt like a dream.

~*~

"You were amazing," his mum told him, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek. "Brilliant, Lou."

"Geroff," Louis said, but he hugged her back anyway, a little too long and too hard for it to be anything other than desperately needed. Then he hugged each of the twins, and his mum again, and dragged them over to meet Liam and his mum and dad. Liam's mum had cried at the end, and she was still wiping her eyes. She bonded with Louis's mum over the kind of pride that apparently no one but a parent could understand, and Liam and Louis rolled their eyes at each other whilst trying not to laugh.

Louis didn't spot Nick until a minute or so later. He was leaning up against the wall by the box office, leather jacket hanging open, skinny jeans ripped at the knee. He looked like a T-Bird, or he would if it wasn't for the ridiculously naff neon trainers he was wearing and the selection of ridiculous necklaces. There was a very good chance Louis was horribly in love.

"Hi," Louis said, across the lessening sea of people still filing out of the theatre, their kids in tow.

"Hi," Nick said. "You were good again tonight."

Louis tried not to show just how happy he was on his face. "I didn't know you had a ticket for tonight."

"Saw it from the sound booth. Fifi sneaked me in."

"Didn't know you were one for breaking the rules."

"Oh, you know. When there's the right incentive."

Louis laughed at that. "You coming out tonight?"

Nick nodded, ducking his head. "Just waiting for Daisy."

"Cool," Louis said, trying to avoid the interested glance of his mum, Stan, and Oli, who'd wandered back in from outside to see where he'd got to. "I'll see you there, then."

"Yeah," Nick said. "See ya."

~*~

"Louis," his mum said.

"Yes, Mum?" His mum and Liam's mum had already exchanged mobile numbers. Louis had promised to look after Liam tonight and get him home safe. Liam looked terribly embarrassed by the whole thing, but also a bit happy too, that his mum was making sure he could get home safe from a night out with his friends. Stan was high-fiving the twins, and Oli was being a bit too shrewd for Louis's liking.

"Who was that?"

"That was Nick," Louis said. "You know Nick."

"Nick you're seeing tomorrow, Nick?" his mum asked.

"That's the one," Louis said hurriedly. "Come on, we've got a bus to catch."

"Last bus home," his mum warned, trying to peer over Louis's shoulder to where Nick had gone off, presumably to meet Daisy. "You promised Karen."

"It doesn't matter," Liam said quickly. "I can get the bus by myself."

"Last bus, Louis."

"Fine," Louis said, kissing his mum's cheek, then leaning down to hug Daisy and Phoebe. "I'll see you later."

Oli waited until they were outside and on their way to the bus stop before saying anything. "What was that all about?"

"On the off chance you won't want to be mates anymore," Louis said very quickly, "I'm a giant fucking poofter."

Stan bumped into Louis's back. "You're what?"

"You shouldn't use words like that," Liam said.

"Fine," Louis said, rolling his eyes. He hoped he was doing a good job of hiding the volcano inside of him. "I'm really very, very gay."

"Since when?" Stan asked, and it wasn't hard to detect the outrage there.

"Don’t be a dick," Oli said.

"It's fine he's gay," Liam said. Louis couldn't decide between being pissed off at Liam for deciding to be Louis's protector, or clapping himself on the back for an excellent choice of best friend.

"My cousin's gay," Oli said. "He says poof all the time though. He's, like, well old though. He's thirty-three."

Louis wrinkled his nose. He wasn't ever going to be thirty-three if he could help it. He'd just skip over his thirties and start his twenties over again. "Stan?"

"Did you want to be in a musical before or after you decided you liked dick?"

Louis carefully shoved Stan into the road. "Don't be a giant knob. Liam's straight and he likes musicals."

"I was just asking," Stan said, hopping out of the way of a car coming out of the school car park. "I thought it might go together like old ladies always having old mints in their handbag."

"Why do old ladies always have old mints? Cos they all do." Oli asked.

"My nan always has these well old extra strong mints in her bag. Reckon they're older than I am," Louis said.

"My gran's the same," Liam said. "Except hers are Polos."

"I'd have a well old extra strong mint over a Polo any day of the week," Oli said.

"Wanker," Stan said. "I'd have mint imperials every time."

By the time they got on the bus, Louis wasn't sure if they'd forgotten he liked dick, or if arguing over what were the best kind of mints was just more important.

~*~

The bar was crap, really fucking squalid in the cold light of day, and only had Fosters on tap. It also let anyone in, employed half of the upper sixth at any one time, and had its own ridiculously cheesy dance floor in the corner.

Louis brought him and Liam a bottle of Becks and went to hang out by the edge of the dance floor, even though the music hadn't got properly loud enough for a dance yet. Stan and Oli had made a beeline for Chloe and her friends, and Louis wasn't about to stop them.

"You all right?" Liam asked, leaning on the wooden balustrade.

"Weird, innit," Louis said. "I don't know if I just came out really well or really badly. And I've got to do that for the rest of forever."

Liam made a face. "I think your mates are all right."

"In general, or with me being gay?"

"Dunno. Both. They were all right with you up until you said you liked them weird old lady sweets."

"Humbugs aren't weird old lady sweets." His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he got it out to have a look. He'd texted Nick on the bus on the way in to tell him that he'd come out to Stan and Oli and it seemed to have gone okay. Nick's reply just said, hope your ok babe ps your arse looks a++++++++ in those jeans xxx

Louis spun round to see Nick leaning up against the bar with Daisy. He had a bottle in his hand but Daisy was buying a round of shots. Nick had clearly been checking him out, and Louis made a face at him, grinning.

Nick made one right back, and when Daisy had distributed a couple of her six shots, she came over to Louis and Liam, four shots still on the tray.

"Here you go," Daisy said. "An apology for telling Chloe."

"Daisy—"

"Take the shot."

Louis took the shot, and handed one to Liam. Daisy took the third, and Nick the fourth. She dumped the empty tray on a nearby table.

"Here's to Grease," she said, shot held out. "To being friends, and being out, and being sorry."

"Yeah," Louis said. "To the best few weeks ever."

"To new best mates," Liam said, and Louis knew Liam hadn’t ever had a shot before, but he was hiding it pretty well.

"To the best few weeks ever," Nick echoed, and he met Louis's gaze, touching his glass to Daisy's, then Liam's, then Louis's. He didn't look away.

It was entirely possible that Louis's insides were on fire.

He took the shot—cinnamon aftershock—then he was definitely sure his insides were on fire. "Fuck."

"Oh," Liam said next to him, in a choked voice. "Wow."

"Bottoms up, Kenickie," Daisy told him, wrapping an arm around his waist. She kissed his cheek, and Liam went a nice shade of pink.

"So," Nick said. "Can I tell you how great you were tonight yet?"

Louis looked up. "What?"

"Seems like a good time," Nick said, gripping his shot glass a little tightly. "You know, post-shot. It's a good time."

"To tell me how great I was?" Louis asked.

"Amongst other things," Nick agreed. He seemed to be standing a little closer than he had been a moment ago.

"I didn't know you were coming tonight," Daisy said. "I thought you just met me after. You came last night."

"I know," Nick said. "Watched it from the sound booth. But you were great, Louis."

"What am I?" Daisy asked.

"Great too," Nick said, but he didn't look away from Louis. "Hi."

"Hi," Louis said, and he didn't mean to sound breathless.

"I think we should dance," Liam said firmly. "You and me, Rizzo. One last time."

"The music hasn't started yet, though."

The speakers crackled into life, taking the volume form nought to sixty in two seconds flat. The intro started, then the singing, oh don't you dare look back.

"It has now," Liam said. "Come on."

"Nick—" Louis said.

"I've wanted to be near you all day. How sad is that?"

"Dunno. No sadder than me wanting the same thing."

Nick managed a half-smile at that. "It's been a day and I'm already sick of hiding."

"So, um—"

"It was all right when you came out, wasn't it?"

Louis nodded, swallowing. His mouth was desperately dry. The music told him to shut up and dance. "You were going to tell me how great I was again."

"Was I?" Nick was definitely closer now, and Louis could only think of Dirty Dancing, and this is my dance space, and this is your dance space. "I want to come out," he said. "I want to come out so I can be with you."

"Like, now?"

"I don't know. I don't know. Not properly right now. Not tonight."

Louis could see Nick's hands shaking. "Hug me," he said. "Come out later. Just hug me now." He'd wanted it for so, so long. He didn't know how it had happened, but his hand was wrapped around Nick's wrist, and it was the most they'd ever touched, and he couldn't fucking breathe with how much he wanted it.

"God," Nick said, and Louis knew that Nick's friends were all here, celebrating Friday and Grease and Daisy and a whole lot more.

"Don't look at them," Louis said. "Keep your eyes on me."

Then Louis wrapped his arms around Nick's neck, and hugged him. Nick smelled just like he'd thought he would, like booze and cigarettes and cheap aftershave and Old Spice. Nick was trembling, and for the longest moment he didn't move at all, staying rigid in Louis's arms, but then as the chorus kicked in again, Nick hugged him back.

He tugged Louis even closer, burying his nose in Louis's greased back hair, the quiff starting to fall and soften after all that running about on stage. He kept on hugging him, arms wrapped around him, and Louis didn't let up his grip for a moment.

"I think Louis's internet boyfriend might have competition," Daisy said, somewhere behind his shoulder.

"Daisy—" Liam said.

There was a pause, before Daisy said oh, dragging out the sound until it took root in Louis's chest. He pulled away then, but Nick wouldn't let him go far. He shifted so that his hand was cupping Louis's neck. He leaned in, forehead touching Louis's.

"Tomorrow," Nick said softly, flushed and a little sweaty. "When we're by ourselves. I'll kiss you then."

Louis trembled with wanting it so much. "Yeah," he said. "Tomorrow."

~*~

"Dance with me," Liam said later, and they blew up the dance floor, the two of them together, arms in the air. Stan and Oli joined in, Chloe and the girls following, Daisy with her arms around Nick's waist and Nick with his arms around her, Aimee and Ian waltzing round the edge of the dance floor.

For the first time in a very long time, Louis felt like he might have somewhere to belong.

~*~

On the bus back, Louis wrapped his arms around Liam's shoulders and annoyed him all the way home. It was brilliant.

"You had a good time tonight, didn't you, Payne-o?"

"Course I did," Liam said, cheeks a little flushed from the booze. "The best."

"Brilliant," Louis said, delighted. He leaned in so he could whisper in Liam's ear. "I've got a date tomorrow. I'm going to get kissed. By a guy."

"By Nick, I know." Liam rolled his eyes.

"I want it so much," Louis said, and he was too drunk for secrets, he really was, but Liam was warm against his side, and his best mate, and anyway, it was only the truth. "I think I love him."

"Oh, you idiot," Liam said fondly, more than a little drunk. "You've been in love with him for weeks."

Louis buried his face in Liam's neck. "I have," he agreed. He rubbed his nose against Liam's neck. "I'm very glad I met you, Liam. Very glad indeed."

Liam really did go bright red at that. "Me too," he said. "Me too."

~*~

Louis flopped into bed with his phone in his hand, then promptly dropped it on his face when it buzzed with a message.

Tomorottowwwwwwwwwww, it said. Ic ant wait xxxxxxxxxxxxtxfxxx

You giant drunk wanker, he sent back, trying quite hard to get all of his letters in the right place. Just dropped my phoe on ymface. Cant wait for tooororw either xx

Chapter Text

~*~

Saturday dawned grey and miserable, like an omen of rain and middle age. Louis pressed his nose to the kitchen window whilst he waited for the kettle to boil. Grease was over and at school on Monday he'd be back to being that kid who'd already messed up AS levels once. This was the end.

"Nice weather for a date," his mum said, coming into the kitchen with a basket of school uniforms for the washing machine.

"I've got an umbrella," Louis said. "I should take another one for Nick in case he hasn't got one." He frowned. "Is that too weird?"

"A bit," she said. "Do us a cup of tea too, won't you?" She crouched down in front of the washing machine and started to shove the clothes in. It was always a sea of washing round at theirs, and it was even worse when the weather wasn't good enough for them to hang them out in the garden. "Have you decided what you're going to do yet?"

The kettle finished boiling and he poured water onto two teabags. "Dunno. Pictures, maybe? Or wandering round town. Maccy D's, perhaps. We did talk about going down the dome and going swimming but it'll be full of kids I'll want to punch."

"Don't punch anyone." She threw in a liqui-tab and poured some fabric conditioner into the drawer. "We have a strict no-punching rule in this house."

"Fine." He got the milk out of the fridge, hovering by the counter until the tea had had enough time to brew. "Does it mean we're going to break up if it's raining on our first date?"

"Shouldn't think so. Half of the UK would be damned if that was the case. We're a country born of rain and grey skies."

"And tea."

"And tea." She kissed his temple. "Go on, go and have a shower. You're going to have a great time."

He rolled his eyes. "Fine," he said, dumping his teabag in the bin. "If you insist."

~*~

His bus was late and he had to run to where he was meeting Nick, but at least it was hardly raining anymore.

"Sorry," he said breathlessly, jogging up the steps to where Nick was waiting out of the rain. "Stupid bus."

"S'okay," Nick said, sticking his hand out from under the shelter, palm up. "Nice drizzle for it."

"It's only spitting," Louis said dismissively. He hopped from foot to foot. Nick was in skinny jeans that looked new--there was no holes in them, and they weren't faded grey--and black ankle boots that had shiny toes like they'd just been polished. "Nice jacket."

"Got it for my birthday last year," Nick said. It was black leather, and creaked a little as he moved. It did look like he was a little too hot in it. His skin was all flushed. "Don't have anything else that's waterproof, do I? Mum said I could borrow her mac but that would have been well embarrassing and you wouldn't have wanted to stand next to me so I'm just going to sweat all day instead."

"It's hot, though," Louis said, then went bright red. "I mean--" He didn't put his face in his hands. "What do you want to do, anyway?"

"We could get chips?"

"Chips sound good," Louis said, and quite frankly at that moment he'd like to eat his own hand in awkward embarrassment, so he shoved his hands into his pockets and jumped down a couple of steps and into the rain. "What was your mum's mac like?"

"Dunno," Nick said, eyeing the rain a little dubiously. "Not sexy. I don't know whether you can turn up for a date in an anorak."

Louis shoved his hands even further into his pockets. "Just saying, I'd still like you if you wore an anorak."

It was Nick's turn to go red. "I'll remember that."

"Do you want to go to, like, McDonalds? Or get proper chips?"

"I don't care," Nick said. "I'll go wherever you want to go."

"Nick—"

"If we hold hands in Maccy D's, it's like practice for when we come out, right?"

Louis stilled. "I'm already out."

"We're not, though," Nick said, and he was so red that it was quite possible he was going to turn into an actual, in real life tomato. "Me and you. Do you want to, like—" He awkwardly held his hand out.

Louis's heart pounded. He jerked a little, reaching out, and his wrist bumped into Nick's, then he slid his hand into Nick's, and they were holding hands. He swallowed. "So."

"I think you're really great," Nick said, very quickly indeed. "I've fancied you for ages."

"Me too," Louis said, all in a rush. "I thought you were brilliant, that's why I wanted to talk to you all the time. I sent you all those asks."

Nick ducked his head. "Do you still have to ring your mum every ten minutes? That was the deal, right?"

"Not really. I'm supposed to text her a lot, but I reckon that's because she's nosy. You're not some stranger who might murder me anymore."

"I might be," Nick said, a little affronted. "How'd she know I'm safe?"

Louis rolled his eyes. "Shut up," he said. "Just because you're holding my hand doesn't mean I can't submit a million Pitbull gifs to your ask box when you're not looking."

Nick glanced down at their hands. "We are," he said. "Do you want to get chips, then?"

"Course," Louis said. "I'm dead classy."

Nick just laughed.

~*~

McDonalds was well full, and neither of them really fancied wandering around Frenchgate of a Saturday, so when Louis suggested Walkabout, they headed down that way instead. They hadn't banked on it being well full of golf fans, so they ended up in the Wetherspoons round the corner, Louis going to the bar whilst Nick baggsied them a table by the window.

It was weird, not knowing what to say to each other. Louis ordered two pints of Tuborg and a packet of chilli peanuts because he'd forgotten to ask what Nick wanted to drink, and then he had to hold the nuts in his teeth as he carried their drinks over to the table.

"I forgot to ask you what you wanted," he said, plonking himself down on the seat opposite Nick's. "So I got you a pint. And some chilli nuts, cos I like them."

"I forgot to give you any money," Nick said.

Under the table, Louis touched his fingers to Nick's knee. A moment later, Nick laced his fingers with Louis's, and Louis ducked his head again, blushing. This was so awkward. It was so awkward he almost wished he wasn't there. "Dunt matter," Louis said. "I like treating people. Especially people I'm going out with. Boyfriends, really."

"Boyfriends, huh?"

"Boyfriend, really. Just, like, one of you."

"There's just, like, one of you too." He cleared his throat. "I could get us pudding. Like, cake or summat. If you fancy that. If you don't want to run off home or whatever. If you're not sick of the sight of me."

Louis shook his head. "Couldn't be," he said. "What're you going to eat?"

"Dunno. Sausage and mash sounds nice, but I wanted chips."

"I'm having a burger. I fucking love burgers." He glanced at the menu. "Unless I get ham and egg and chips. Will you still go out with me if I get ham and egg?"

"Probably even if you ordered summat really weird, like, I don't know, the sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry."

Louis wrinkled his nose. "Why would you even say those words out loud? Why would anyone even—who'd curry spinach?"

"Dunno. People who like spinach, maybe."

"Nah," Louis said. "That's weird. But I'd still go out with you if you ordered the superfood salad."

"You should meet my mate Harry," Nick said. "He doesn't go to our school but he likes stuff like that. We went for burgers and milkshakes a few weeks ago and he ordered something made out of kale and wheatgrass. It smelled like actual death."

"Why would you want me to meet someone who purposefully ate a hedge for lunch?"

"You'd get on," Nick said, stealing some chilli nuts. "I just know it."

"Hmm," Louis said. "Do you want me to go to the bar and order?"

Nick got out a crumpled tenner from his wallet. It was Topman. Louis loved Topman. "Here you go," he said. "Order me the sausage and mash, will you?"

"Back in a minute," Louis said, and if he took his phone with him, it was only so he could text Nick from the queue at the bar, you’re the best and super hot in that jacket n I cant wait to kiss youxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

He got a reply back from Nick as he was waiting for the barman to tap his order into the till. Your arse is stupendus in those jeans and a++++++++ and I can't wait to kiss you either xxxx

When he got back to the table, Nick had moved the chairs so that Louis was sitting next to him instead of opposite. When he sat down, their knees bumped, and Louis hooked his ankle round Nick's under the table. He felt like a bottle of shaken up lemonade, fizzed up and excited and about ready to pop. He could barely keep still, his knee quivering against Nick's under the table, and in the end, Nick reached for his hand and laced their fingers together.

"All right?" Nick asked.

"Yep," Louis said, nodding twice in quick succession. "You?"

"Totally," Nick said, and he kept looking at Louis's mouth, and that meant Louis kept looking at Nick's, at his wide smile, lips chewed red. He jerked forward a little, abortive, his breath catching in his throat. Nick glanced up at him then, eyes searching, but then his attention dropped back to Louis's mouth instead. All Louis could think was it's happening it's happening it's happening, and he was moving a little closer, and Nick was leaning in too, and then Nick's mouth was touching his, nervous and jerky and not as soft as he was anticipating. Louis made a desperate sort of choked-off whine at the back of his throat, and Nick trembled, his lips dry against Louis's.

Louis tried to wet his lips a little, awkward even to the last, but then Nick was pulling back, then kissing him again, and his mouth wasn't closed this time. Louis reached for him, touching his hand to Nick's jaw, and it was Nick's turn to make a soft, cut-off strangled sound as Louis deepened the kiss. Nick tasted like peppermint and fresh chewing gum, even fresher than the Tuborg they'd just been drinking, and Nick's secret preparation whilst Louis was ordering just made Louis feel even more shaky inside, like keeping it all in was beyond him. They were still holding hands, Louis's hand clammy in Nick's, and Louis wanted this so much, wanted Nick, and not even the fact that they were kissing in a Wetherspoons on a Saturday lunchtime made it any the less perfect.

He pulled back, leaning his forehead against Nick's.

"All right?" Nick asked. Louis was fairly sure he was asking, was I all right?

Louis was suddenly very, very aware that that had been Nick's first kiss. "Yeah," he said, and he couldn't keep the smile off his face or the laughter inside of him. "Yeah. It was perfect."

"Good," Nick said, sitting back, and he was laughing too, his smile so bright and wide that Louis felt proud right down to his toes and back up again, happiness leeching out of him. He was legitimately convinced that if he tried to float right now, he'd manage it.

He squeezed Nick's hand. "I think I could send you Pitbull gifs forever," he said, and Nick burst out laughing.

Louis's heart expanded to about six times its normal size, and he had to check his feet were still firmly on the ground. They were, but it really did feel like he was flying.

Chapter Text

~*~

It was still raining when they finally left Wetherspoons, the fine kind of drizzle that messed with Louis's hair and his t-shirt and his socks and his Vans. His zip got stuck and Nick had to reach over and help him get it unjammed.

"There you go," Nick said, glancing up at Louis and then down at his jacket again. "All fixed."

"Yeah," Louis said. They were in public now, and he wanted to hold Nick's hand and kiss him again. His heart was doing an odd kind of skittery pitter-patter. "What do you want to do now?"

Nick shrugged awkwardly. He looked a bit pink. "Do you want to go round the shops? I need to go to HMV."

"Could do," Louis said. He reached a little nervously for Nick's hand, lacing his fingers with Nick's. "This is still all right, right?"

Nick bumped his elbow into Louis's. "Yeah," he said. "It is."

~*~

"My socks are all soggy," Louis complained, whilst Nick was dragging him into HMV. "Soggy socks are the worst. What are we here for, anyway?"

"Just something," Nick said. "I rung them up this morning and they put it behind the counter for me."

"A mystery," Louis said. "I love them. Music or DVD?"

"Both. Stay here and keep yourself busy for a minute, all right?"

"Hmmm," Louis said, and he made a face when he realised that that meant dropping Nick's hand. He pretended to flick through the two-for-ten-quid rack, but in reality he was watching Nick lean over the counter, glorious arse on show, and contemplating texting his mum or Liam.

nick has glorius arse wud rate a++++++++++++++, he sent Liam.

To his mum, he texted, nick bein well lovely n he has not murdered me yet so thats good suspect he is not axe murderer but just very nice boy with lovely bum

Liam sent him one back that just said !!!!!!!

His mum's text said DO NOT JOKE ABOUT THAT!!!!!!!! Don't do anything i wouldn't do and dont get arrested and have a very nice time with your nice boy. ps dont get murdered your sisters would be very upset and i am making your favourite for tea so make sure you are home for it. love mum xx

He texted back ARE YOU MAKIN TOAD IN THE HOLE if you are i promise not to get murdered LOVE YOU see you soon xxxxxxx !!!!! HIS BUM IS LOVELY !!!! !

"Is it, now?" Nick said, peering over Louis's shoulder.

"Stop reading my texts," Louis said, going a bit red and shoving his phone into his pocket. "Eavesdroppers never hear good things about themselves."

"I wasn't eavesdropping, and my bum is lovely."

Two burly, tattooed guys standing by the bestselling action films stand turned to give them both a look. Louis gave them a look right back, then smiled sweetly at them whilst reaching for Nick's hand.

"Stop trying to get us killed," Nick said, nudging Louis towards the doorway. "You won't get your present if you get killed first."

"Did you get me a present?" Louis stopped right in the middle of the aisle. A mum and her two young children tutted at him very loudly. Louis didn't tut back.

"Outside, Trouble," Nick said, poking him in the back with an HMV bag.

"What did you get me?" Louis asked, once they were outside of the shop and back in the shopping centre. "I didn't get you nothing. I feel bad now."

"Didn't ask for anything, did I?" Nick said, shoving the bag in Louis's direction. "There you go. I've taken the price off so you can't take it back now."

"Charmed," Louis said. He pulled a DVD out of the bag. Grease 2. "You monster," he said, in outrage. "What the fuck is this?"

"The better part of the franchise," Nick told him, and then he reached up and messed with Louis's hair. Normally Louis hated having his hair messed with, but something about Nick fucked with all of Louis's rules. Anyway, Nick was running his fingers through it, doing something to Louis's fringe. Probably giving him a quiff. "I thought you needed your own copy."

Louis rolled his eyes, and then went up on his toes to kiss Nick's cheek. "Thank you," he said. "Although you're thoroughly terrible and awful and I hate you."

Nick smiled at him. "You're the worst," he said. "Is it all right if I kiss you?"

Louis spent a moment considering the fact they were in the middle of a shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon, and that he was a boy and Nick was a boy as well. He shrugged, trying to disguise the pounding of his heart. "Yeah," he said, making an attempt to hide his smile, and stop himself from staring at Nick's mouth. "Suppose."

Nick tugged him a little out of the way of the general path of shoppers. "Suppose?"

Louis squeezed Nick's hand. "Suppose you can," he said again. "Though I should say no, cos of Grease 2 and you being terrible."

"Ah, right," Nick said. "Don't knock it until you've tried it."

"Suppose I should make, like, an effort and watch it, then. Considering my boyfriend bought it for me and everything." He flushed a little bit at boyfriend. Excitement bloomed in his chest. It felt like the beginning, like that moment at the theme park as the rollercoaster chugged up the track to the first great height, everything spread out in front of him as he hovered at the top, the world at his feet. He let go of Nick's hand so he could reach for Nick's arms instead, thumb pressed to his bicep.

"Suppose you should," Nick agreed. His hand hovered by Louis's hip, and Louis hoped that Nick was telepathic and could hear Louis's fiercely imagined touch me touch me touch me. "Do you want to, like—I don't know. I've never… You could come round mine tomorrow if you want. Watch it with me."

Louis nodded quickly. "Yeah, all right," he said. "I'll bring popcorn. And Coke. Do you want Coke? And, like, what kind?"

"Any kind," Nick said, and he leaned in, right in the middle of the shopping centre, and pressed his mouth to Louis's. It was a little off-centre and a little wet and a lot nervous, but Louis made a strange kind of whimpery noise that he absolutely hadn't meant to, and he kissed him back.

It was terribly easy to keep on kissing him. He went up on his toes sort of by accident, soggy socks forgotten about, his hands tightening on Nick's upper arms as Nick awkwardly slid his hands into the small of Louis's back. He trembled, kissing him back, and it didn't matter that Nick was a little uncertain and a lot inexperienced. It didn't matter that Louis probably tasted like beer and mediocre Wetherspoons food; it mattered that Louis was here, with his Tumblr boy, and that he was just as lovely and fanciable and hot and funny and kind as he had been online. It mattered that Louis was gay and happy and sort of in love and that he'd been Danny Zuko and bloody brilliant at it. It mattered that he'd met Liam and things weren't terrible and it mattered more than anything that his Tumblr boy was Nick Grimshaw.

He pulled back and rested his forehead against Nick's. "Going out with you's all right, innit?" he said, probably going cross-eyed as he tried to focus on the freckles on Nick's nose.

"I think so," Nick said, skin a little flushed. He glanced over Louis's shoulder, then back at him. "That was all right, wasn't it?"

"Deffo," Louis said, and being this disgustingly happy probably shouldn't be allowed. He wanted to skateboard down the escalator and kick a football round all the shops, just to get rid of a little excess energy. He allowed himself a little bounce up onto his toes again, then back down again, before he tucked his hand into Nick's. "Do you want to wander round the shops? I haven't got any money left but I don't have to go home for a bit."

"Course," Nick said. "Where'd you want to go first?"

"Don't care," Louis said. "It's either wandering round or just hanging out somewhere, and I reckon it's still fucking raining out there."

"Topman, then?"

"I knew I was going out with you for a reason," Louis said, tugging Nick in the direction of Topshop. "Come on."

~*~

I loved today xxxxxxxxxx

Louis wanted to hide his face in his hands at Nick's email and not come up for air until he'd relived every single time they'd kissed.

He managed about thirty seconds, and then surfaced again, typing back, me toooooooooo. Ftr you are super lovely and super hot and you kiss really well too so you get an a* for acing that exam first time round. Is it tomorrow yet ?!

"Flipping heck, Louis. Put that computer down."

"I'm talking to Nick," Louis whined. He pouted for good measure, but his mum just rolled her eyes at him.

"You've just spent all afternoon with him, surely you can put him down for five seconds."

"Can't," Louis said. His socks were still soggy. He'd thrown himself on the bed within two seconds of getting home, powering his laptop on, and talking to Nick was a million times more important than damp feet. He rolled onto his back instead. "It was ace, Mum. He's well nice."

"I should hope so."

"I'm going round to his tomorrow to watch Grease 2. He bought me a copy."

His mum narrowed her eyes, then gingerly made her way across his disaster-zone of a bedroom to press her hand to Louis's forehead.

"Geroff," Louis said, trying to push her away. "I haven't got a temperature. It's fine."

"Grease 2, though, Lou."

"He likes it better than Grease 1. Except, like, when he saw me as Danny. He likes that better than stupid Grease 2."

"And you're going to sit through it. Tomorrow."

"Have we got any popcorn? And if we haven't, can you lend me three quid for tomorrow so I can get some to take round, and some Coke, as well?"

"This is very confusing," his mum said. "And would it kill you to do a bit of tidying up in here? There's probably things living in here. I don't know what I'm standing on."

"Pants, probably," Louis said, unconcerned. It was his room, and his mess. He had the smallest room in the house anyway; it was mostly just bed and telly and old football trophies. He'd nicked a Grease poster from school to put on the wall too, if he ever found the blu-tack.

"Open a window," his mum said. "It doesn't smell very fresh in here."

Louis had no comment to make about that. Frantic masturbation wasn't exactly a parent-friendly conversation.

She sighed. "I'll give you two pounds fifty so you can get popcorn and Coke tomorrow—"

"Yes. Thanks, Mum. I love you."

"—if, and only if, you tidy this bedroom."

"Mum—"

"Final offer," she said. "I'll put the washing basket by your door, and bring up the bin liners."

"Fine." He made a big deal about huffing, even as he was rolling over to see if Nick had replied yet. He hadn't.

"How nice is his bum, anyway?" his mum asked. "This boyfriend of yours."

"Oh my god," Louis said. "It's so nice. It's like, the best bum ever. It's really nice."

There was a pause.

"Let's not have this conversation again, all right?"

"Deal," Louis said fervently.

"Tidy your room."

~*~

Louis rang the doorbell at precisely seventeen minutes after he said he would the following lunchtime, which was practically early under any other given circumstance, and hopped from foot to foot as he waited for someone to answer the door.

When the door did open, it wasn't Nick, but a lady with short brown hair in a coat and carrying one of them strong Tesco bags that looked like it was made out of an old sack.

Louis spent a nice few seconds hoping he'd got the right address and wishing he'd checked his texts one last time before going for the doorbell, but then she backed away from the door and shouted up the stairs.

"Nicholas, I think your young man's here." She turned her attention back to him. "Are you always this quiet?"

"Um," Louis said. "Sorry. I thought I had the wrong house."

"You are Louis, aren't you?" She pronounced it Lewis. Louis had pronounced it like that for ages, but he quite liked it back this way now.

"Oh my god, Mum, it's Louis, all right?" Nick thundered down the stairs, wearing skinny jeans and no socks and a very stupid t-shirt. "Hi, Louis. Sorry about my mum. Come in and upstairs."

"Is that room of yours tidy, Nicholas?"

Nick thundered back up the stairs and didn't look back. "It's totally spotless, Mum, it's fine."

Louis awkwardly smiled at Nick's mum and then followed Nick up the stairs, Asda bag in hand. "Hi, Mrs Grimshaw," he said. "Nice to meet you, Mrs Grimshaw."

"You too, Louis. Tell that boy of mine to keep the door open."

Up on the landing, Nick had already disappeared into one of the bedrooms, and only the giant print out of a Brit award pinned to one of the doors was any indication of which room was Nick's.

Louis pushed the door open, only to find Nick waiting behind it.

"Hi," Nick said, kicking the bedroom door shut and removing the Asda bag from Louis's hand. "I'm very glad you're here."

Louis was already going up on his toes to tug Nick down into a kiss. "I'm very glad I'm here too," he said, just before he pressed his mouth to Nick's. He closed his eyes and let Nick kiss him a rather enthusiastic hello.

Louis shivered right down to his toes. He could get used to this, particularly the anticipation that trembled across his skin at the thought of more kissing.

"Door, Nicholas," Nick's mum called.

Nick stopped kissing Louis hello and rolled his eyes. "God, Mum," he yelled back through the closed door. "He's only been here two seconds."

"Do you want me to send your dad up?" She sounded as if she was still at the bottom of the stairs.

Nick reached behind Louis and opened the door. "Don't mind my mum," Nick said in an undertone. "We all had this massive row this morning and no one's speaking to anyone."

"Nick—" Louis didn't want to go home, but he would if everything was weird cos he was here. Maybe he could take Nick with him, or something.

"It's fine," Nick said. "They're off out in a minute. They're going to my sister's for Sunday lunch." He opened the door wider. "Happy now?"

"Ask your young man if he wants a cup of tea. Your dad's just doing a flask and then we'll be off."

"She only lives half an hour away, Mum."

"Well, your dad likes a brew on hand. Louis, would you like a cup of tea?"

Louis glanced at Nick, who looked like he was pleading.

"Yes please," Louis called.

Nick let out a breath. "Sorry," he said, and he looked sad and tired. "It's all rubbish."

Louis wrapped his arms around Nick's shoulders and pulled him into a hug. "I'm sorry," he said, trying not to sniff Nick too much. He smelled all minty and fresh. "I wanted to do this for ages but all I could offer was internet hugs."

"Internet hugs are good," Nick said, burying his face in Louis's neck.

"They're not this, though."

"No," Nick said, and he held on really tight, like this had been as long a time coming for him as it had been for Louis. Even though Nick looked a bit out of sorts, Louis couldn't help the fact it felt good that they'd both been wanting this.

When he pulled away, he slipped his hand into Nick's. "Your room's nice." It was. It was bigger than Louis's—there were cupboards that were bigger than Louis's room—but his bed was smaller. It was only a single, whereas Louis's was a weird, almost-double that meant fitted sheets swamped it but duvets let him curl up like a bug in a rug when it came to winter. "Are you always this tidy?"

"Mostly," Nick said. He sat down on the end of his bed and Louis sat down next to him, bumping shoulders and letting his thigh brush up against Nick's.

"It's nice."

"Thanks," Nick said, but he didn't sound very happy about it.

"What was your fight about?"

"Same old," Nick said. "Uni and what a mess I'm making of my future. I dunno. Maybe I should just go. Make them happy."

Louis squeezed his hand. "Do you want to go to uni?"

"Dunno." He shrugged again. "Not to do business. But, like, maybe they're right and I'll like it when I get there."

"Maybe," Louis said. "Do you want to talk about it? I meant it when I said I was a good listener. I know I come across like I'm not, but I am. Promise."

Nick shook his head. "I mean, like, I do, but I also want to forget about it for a bit. Can we talk about it later?"

"Whenever," Louis said. "I mean it when I say I'm a well good listener."

Nick leaned over and kissed Louis's cheek. "Thanks," he said. His breath tickled. "Look. I wanted to talk to you about tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Louis said carefully. Tomorrow meant Monday meant school, and everything had changed since Friday. Louis had kissed a boy and he'd liked it. If he had his way, he'd keep on liking it—and this boy in particular—forever.

"How do we tell people?" Nick said. "I mean, like—you want to tell people, right?"

Louis let out a breath. "Course I do," he said. "I'd tell everyone."

Nick's smile looked a bit lopsided. "Was it really bad when you—when everyone found out about you?"

He shrugged. "It was all right. I was pissed off and I was upset about you but the coming out bit was all right. I just—I liked you so much. I found out it was you and that just made it better."

"I thought I might tell Aimee and Gillian tonight. Like, pre-warn them or something."

"Could do. You could tell Chloe, she'd tell everyone for you."

"Suppose." He swallowed. "Look, if I… if I wanted to kiss you at school, would that, like, be all right?"

"Course," Louis said. He knew he was going red. "Course it would. You're my boyfriend."

"I am, aren't I?" Nick said. "And anyway, if we get shit, I think you're a fighty one, right? You're scrappy. You could scrap for us."

"Liam's good at boxing, apparently. He told me he'd punch anyone I needed him to. I'll tell him to expand that to you, too."

"Aimee's probably got a good right hook on her. Daisy's fierce too."

"Right then," Louis said. "We've got an army. We can kiss whenever and wherever we want."

"Including here," Nick said, and he touched his hand to Louis's cheek before leaning in to kiss him again.

Louis could get used to this.

~*~

"So, let me get this straight," Louis said, clambering to his feet about an hour later, when they were eating a giant bowl of fake Asda Butterkist and drinking a bottle of Coke Zero in Nick's living room, "I'm supposed to believe that Stephanie Whatsherface doesn't want to go out with a T-Bird? And that everybody wants to have sex in the bowling alley?"

"Well, to be fair…" Nick started, but Louis cut him off.

"This film is a pile of shit," he said. "I'd go out with a T-Bird even if he was a knobhead if I got to wear his jacket."

"Well, she's about to tell us what kind of guy she does want," Nick said, turning the volume up. He sang along with Michelle Pffeifer: "If you really want to know what I want in a guy."

"Oh my god," Louis said. "We're breaking up."

"I'm looking for a dream on a mean machine," Nick said, in time with the music, "with hell in his eyes."

Louis sat down again with a bump. "What does that even look like? Like, actual Satan?"

"He's got to be wild as the wind," Nick told him. "Are you wild as the wind?"

"Is anyone?"

"She just wants a cool rider, Louis. A co-oo-oo-ool rider. A rider that's cool."

"That'll burn her through and through? That's got to hurt, right?" Louis wrinkled his nose.

"Probably. Hope you're listening. No ordinary boy is going to do, Louis."

"I'm not ordinary," Louis told him, shifting his position so he could swing his legs over Nick's lap.

Nick ran his thumb along Louis's calf. "I know," he said, and he wasn't watching the screen now, but Louis instead.

"I'm probably pretty good on a BMX," Louis said. "Does that count as a cool rider?"

"Does for me," Nick said. "Are you going to kiss me anytime soon? We've got the house to ourselves."

"Thought you'd never ask," Louis said, and tugged Nick closer. "Do you really want a devil in skin-tight leather?"

"Nah," Nick said. "I reckon it's a bugger to get out of, skin-tight leather."

Louis snorted and kissed him quiet.

~*~

Louis couldn't remember being this happy.

~*~

Later that evening, he made a Tumblr post that was just reaction gifs of people being stupendously excited about stuff, and tagged it my boyfriend is pretty amazing.

Nick liked it two minutes later, and emailed him two minutes after that. You make even the bad days better, he'd written. Thanks for today and yesterday and everything else. You're my cooooooooooooooool rider xxxxxx <3 <3 <3

Louis rolled his eyes. If you died jumping off dead mans leap or whatever that was called id dress up as a Christmas tree and sing to a ghost of you wrapped in tinfoil about how we should turn back the hands of time too jsyk now GO TO SLEEP you looked tired today and you need to be properly well rested so that we can out ourselves tomorrow and make everyone 127% more jealous of us than they wer before cos we are SUPER HOT together and at least 42% of that is you so go and get your 42% beauty sleep babe xxxxx ha ha not really you are at least 75 % of why we are super hot cos you are SUPREMELEY HOT and this weekends been really great xxxxxxxx

He fell asleep smiling.

~*~

"What did you do at the weekend?" Daisy asked, first thing Monday morning. Louis was early for school for once, sprawled out on one of the benches in the common room with one eye on the door.

"Watched Grease 2," Louis said. "Hung around in town. Had a Wetherspoons. You know."

"You watched what?"

"Grease 2," Louis said, and was that Nick in the corridor? He shifted position a little, one hand on the back of the bench.

"I thought you said you'd never watch that, even if the world was ending?"

It was Nick, wandering into the common room, bag on his shoulder, Aimee and Gillian tailing him. "Changed my mind," Louis said. "Thought it was pretty good, actually." Well, the few bits he'd seen, anyway. Look at me, he willed. Look at me.

"You never."

"I did," Louis said, and Nick looked over then, rucksack hanging off his arm, and when he saw Louis, his whole face curved into a smile, mouth wide and bright, and Louis couldn’t help but think, I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you. He was pretty sure he looked just the same as Nick did—stupidly, deliriously happy, and like the rest of the world had stopped, like someone had pressed the pause button and they were the only two left.

"Christ," Daisy said. "You properly fancy each other. Liam was right."

"Nah," Louis said, as Nick detoured over instead of heading for his locker, dropping down on the bench that backed onto Louis's. "What gave you that idea?"

"I dunno," Daisy said. "Maybe the fact I've got eyes?"

"Hiya, Daise," Nick said, without looking at her. "Hey, Lou."

"Hey," Louis said. His heart was beating like a drum. He was pretty sure he was sweating. "You all right?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I am."

Louis smiled at that. He felt like he couldn't stop, like he could just fucking float away on it all now, buoyed up with being this stupidly happy and excited and in love. Even his mum had started rolling her eyes at him now, when he was running ideas for places for him and Nick to go out together past her whilst they were making the packed lunches earlier. But Nick was smiling back, eyes equally bright and smile equally wide, and Louis didn't know who reached for who first, but when he looked down, they were holding hands.

"Well," Daisy said. "I should have put a bet on that."

"Yeah," Louis said, still grinning at Nick, "you should."

~*~

"Are they always like this?" Louis heard Daisy ask at lunchtime. He was too busy kissing Nick behind their jumper goalposts to pay much attention to anything else, especially when Nick's hands were in the small of his back and he had his arms around Nick's neck, but Daisy's voice was loud.

"To be fair," Liam said in a slightly quieter voice, "they have only been going out a few days."

"Christ," Daisy said, and Nick laughed into Louis's kiss. "Do you think they know they've got an audience?"

"Dunno," Liam said. "I'm going to punch anyone who says anything shit, though."

"Good. Me too," Daisy said. There was a pause. "They look all right together, don't they?"

It was Louis's turn to smile at that. They really did.

"Wish he'd told me he was going to spend all lunchtime snogging," Liam said miserably, a minute later. "I wouldn't have brought my ball in."

"Oh, I dunno," Daisy said. "I'm pretty good at one on one."

"Right," Liam said. "Fancy a kickabout?"

"Sure," Daisy said, as Louis pulled away for a moment to catch his breath. His lovely Tumblr boy. His boyfriend, his actual boyfriend. He was so happy he didn't know what to do with himself.

Nick winked at him, grinning. Louis grinned back, and leaned in to kiss him again.

[end]