Electing Strange Perfections

Chapter 8

Louis’ mother gives birth five days later and he’s not there, which makes him feel slightly better than if he’d been run over by a train before being thrown into the ocean with his feet in a concrete block. Only slightly.

They get the call in the middle of the night, Louis’ phone waking up the entire flat when it rings. He immediately sits up straight; his mother and sisters are on a whitelist, their calls come through even if his phone is on silent. His first thought, before he even remembers that his mother is pregnant, is: someone died.

Scrambling in the dark for his phone, he first knocks it to the ground before Harry clicks the light on, allowing Louis to pick it up and answer. He sits back against the wall and gives Harry an anxious, panicked glance. Harry, hair a mess and pillow printed on his cheek, scoots closer to rest his head on Louis’ shoulder comfortingly.

“Hello? Is everything all right?”

Hey, Lou, it’s Lottie, don’t panic, everyone’s fine, but we’re on our way to the hospital, Mum’s in labour. Fizzy stayed home with the girls, we’re all okay, don’t panic. I’ll keep you updated, yeah?

“Which hospital are you going to? I’ll come, just tell me where,” Louis says in a rush, already climbing out of bed.

“Hospital?” Harry asks.

Covering the mouthpiece with his hand, Louis turns to Harry. “Mum’s in labour. Lottie? Just tell me where you’re going.”

Louis can hear Charlotte ask someone where they’re going, then the sound of his mother crying out in pain. He nearly drops his phone. After that comes the rough, cold voice of his stepfather before Charlotte speaks again.

Dad says you can’t come—yes, Dad, I’m telling him the truth, all right? He’s my brother and Mum wants him there, you’re a minority in this car right now so just don’t, not right now—sorry, Lou? Sorry. Yeah. You heard that. I’m really sorry.

Louis hangs up on more promises from Charlotte to keep him updated and then sits heavily on the edge of the bed. He can’t say he’s surprised, but expecting it did not make it easier to hear. Harry wraps his arm around Louis’ middle, just pressing his chest against Louis’ back, and his warmth is comforting. Louis leans against him and sighs, sniffling and looking up at the ceiling to swallow back the tears that are threatening to fall.

It takes a lot of coaxing and gentle kisses peppered on Louis’ shoulder for Harry to convince him to go back to bed, carefully laying him down and pulling him against his chest, surrounding him in his warmth and smell until Louis could, if he decided to, forget about everything else and just enjoy Harry’s body next and around his. As it is, though, he instead chooses to cry himself to sleep.

Louis manages to get a few more hours of fitful sleep before he gives up and rolls out of bed a little after eight to go curl up on the couch under a blanket. Harry left him a note on his pillow saying he’d gone to work despite the big event and that he didn’t want to wake up Louis as he left, but Louis’ mood is so foul that he resents him for it rather than being thankful. He really wanted his morning kiss.

Niall comes and goes, threading carefully around Louis. Harry probably warned him. He offers to go downtown to take Louis’ mind off his shit day, but Louis declines it and snatches the remote from Niall’s hands to find something to watch, settling on a Glee marathon on E4. He checks his phone compulsively for news in between naps, but the only messages he gets from Charlotte are all the same: ‘still pushing’.

Zayn shows up in the late afternoon with a bottle of wine and a box of Louis’ favourite biscuits.

“Your sister told me you’d need company,” Zayn explains as he plops down on the couch next to Louis, all but sitting on his legs. Louis groans and pulls them out of the way, burrowing deeper in his nest of blankets and sweaters belonging to Harry. “You alone?”

“Niall picked up an earlier shift, he left an hour ago,” Louis says, managing a smirk. He is not that upset. “Disappointed?”

Zayn rolls his eyes and gets up to go find a corkscrew. “No, why would I? I don’t know what you’re imagining, but it’s definitely wrong. Hey,” he says, opening drawers at random. “Where’s the corkscrew?”

“Third drawer, I think.” Louis could get up and help, but he could also stay on the couch. “I’m not imagining anything, I’m just observing that Niall’s been ‘going out with the lads’ much more often than usual, lately. At least, according to Harry. He says it’s suspicious.”

“Why do I care what Niall does?” Zayn asks, rummaging loudly through the drawer before pulling out the corkscrew. He uncorks the bottle and joins Louis in the living room, handing it to him without a glass. He knows Louis too well.

Taking a swig, Louis shrugs. “Just thought you guys got along well, is all.”

“Did you?” Zayn asks, taking the bottle Louis offers him to drink from it.

“Yeah, totally. He was trailing you like a puppy at the party and I’ve never seen you warm up to someone that quickly.”

“You make me sound like I’m aloof or something,” Zayn says before drinking again.

Louis only laughs, extending his hand to get the bottle. He keeps it to himself for a moment, watching the show. The silent treatment will usually do it to get a story out of Zayn.

As he had planned, it takes Zayn three minutes to blurt out: “Okay, fine, I’ve seen him a couple of times, but I don’t think it’s anything serious.”

“You wouldn’t, you’ve never done serious in your life. Speaking from experience—“

“You’ve had one boyfriend and by some sort of miracle he turned out to be your soulmate, fuck off.”

Louis ignores him. “Speaking from experience, serious is fun. You should try serious.”

Zayn hums, pulling the bottle of wine out of Louis’ hands to having a sip. “Serious is scary, though.”

“Terrifying,” Louis agrees. “But Niall’s a good guy. You and I, we’re arseholes, but Niall has got, like, a pure soul.”

Zayn snorts. “Fucking lightweight.”

“Have you quite finished? I’m trying to watch telly.”

Pushing at his shoulder with a groan, Zayn settles into the couch and opens the box of biscuits, handing it to Louis. He takes three and piles them on the armrest before checking his phone.

Almost there! Mum has started swearing so much they had to shut the door so she didn’t offend the entire floor, Lottie wrote five minutes earlier.

Louis lets out a laugh and shows Zayn, who joins him, and somehow, to have Zayn there makes it a bit easier to be away from his mother on such a big day. It’s easier to feel left out of his own family when he’s got his best mate with him, swapping a bottle of wine between them while watching bad television and eating biscuits, just like they’re back in school and pretending they don’t have midterms and papers to prepare.

“Hey,” Zayn says after a while in a soft, apologetic voice, “so you probably don’t want to talk about this, but I’ve got to know if I need a new roommate in Oxford.”

With a sigh, Louis burrows deeper under his blankets. “I don’t know. The wanker offered terms, but, like… I don’t know. I’d have to go to law school. I don’t want to think about this now, okay? I’ll… I still need to think about it. Mum says I should do it so Haz and I aren’t poor forever.”

“She’s not wrong.”

Louis sighs again. “I know. Not today, okay? I’ll let you know, though, promised.”

Zayn nods, reaching across the couch to pet Louis through the blankets. “I’ll miss you if you don’t come back, but I understand if you don’t. Just do what makes you happy, yeah? You don’t owe him anything.”

With a smile, Louis nods. “Thanks. I think I needed to hear that.”

Zayn shrugs and smiles before snatching the wine from Louis’ hands and grabbing the remote to switch channels, ignoring Louis’ protest.

By the time Harry comes back from work, Louis is pacing the apartment and clutching his phone in his hands as Charlotte texts him what’s happening second by second. He is still upset that he’s not at the hospital, but his excitement is trumping every other feeling. He knows he’ll be crestfallen once this is all over, but he’s been forlorn all day and those are not the emotions he wants to focus on. Maybe tonight, when he’s cuddled in bed with Harry, he’ll cry, but for the moment, he honestly only wants to shout on rooftops that he’s about to have two new siblings.

“They can see the top of a head!” Louis yells when Harry opens the door. “The first baby’s coming out!”

Harry’s eyes widen and he drops his bag with a grin. “I’d hug you, but I’m gross. Just yell what’s happening while I’m in the shower!” he says, running towards the bathroom and, judging by the sound of it, tripping over his own feet on the way there.

Louis goes back to nibbling on the skin around his thumb, unable to sit or stand still as his heart beats fast enough to scare him. When his phone buzzes once more, he screams.

“It’s a girl! The first baby is a girl!” he yells and he hears a hoot from the shower.

Zayn is grinning, too, his eyes crinkling like they so rarely do. “Congrats on your hundredth sister, mate!” he says, squawking and ducking out of the way when Louis throws a cushion in his direction.

The wait turns excruciating from that moment on. His mother had decided to keep the sexes a surprise and Louis had been hoping with all his might for at least one boy. Just one baby brother to support him in the sorority his family turned out to be. One boy to roughhouse and play footie with. Just one. That’s all he’s asking for.

His phone buzzes. “The other one’s coming out!” he yells, starting once again to pace through the living room. Pacing turns out to not be satisfying enough, though, so he begins bouncing on his feet with his step, springing back and forth across the room. He’s so full of nervous energy he’s certain that he’s vibrating.

Harry comes back, hair dripping wet and shirt undone, and he sits on the couch next to Zayn, looking as anxious as Louis feels.

“What are we hoping f—”

“A boy,” Louis cuts Harry before he’s even done speaking. “A brother.”

Looking down at his phone when it vibrates, Louis opens the message with shaking fingers. As he reads it, he feels like his heart stops, like his veins turn to ice and for one second, he loses sensation in his extremities. Then, all of his blood comes rushing back in and he bursts into happy tears, putting a shaking hand to his face.

“It’s a boy,” he says, faintly at first, before he repeats it louder. “It’s a boy! I have a brother! Oh my god!” His voice has gone squeaky.

Harry and Zayn are on their feet immediately, the two of them hugging him at once and congratulating him like he’s the one who just gave birth, before Harry lifts him up into his arms. Louis wraps his legs around his waist and clings to his neck, crying hysterically.

“I have a brother! I can’t believe it!” he repeats over and over again through his tears, laughing and sobbing at once. “We’ve got to… put me down, Haz!”

Once he’s back on the floor, Louis takes a few seconds to collect himself and wipe his eyes before he unlocks his phone and opens the camera, placing it on front of his face. He looks awful, eyes red and swollen, but he presses the record button nevertheless.

“Hi Mum,” he says, unable to reign in his grin. “Congrats! I’m so, so, so happy for you! I can’t wait to meet my new brother and sister! Now you get some rest and you let the girls do everything for you, hm? I want them to complain to me that you’ve turned them into your personal slaves. Nothing else will be satisfying. Oh my god, I can’t believe I have a brother!” He finishes in a squeal before turning the camera to Zayn and Harry. “Say hi, lads!”

“Congrats, Jay!” they both yell in unexpected unison, making the three of them laugh.

“Bye, Mum. Love you.”

Louis turns off the video and sends it to his sister, figuring his mother must have left her phone at home. After that, he collapses on the couch, a smile still plastered on his face.

“You have a brother,” Harry says after a moment, his smile audible in his voice. “And a new sister, let’s not forget about her. Are you okay, love? It’s okay if you’re sad, too, you’re allowed. You should be with them, it’s unfair that you’re not.”

“I’m too happy to be upset, right now, Haz,” Louis lets out through a smile, running his hands down his face. “I know I should be upset that I missed it, but I’m just so happy.” He’s shaking from nerves or happiness, he isn’t sure; all he knows is that he can feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins, making him restless, the wine only enhancing his emotions. “We need to do something, I don’t care what, I just can’t…” He gets up again, almost jumping on the spot. “I’ve got too much energy, I need to do something or else I’ll crash and cry for a week.”

Louis can feel his sadness and heartbreak just under the surface, threatening to crack through his happiness and drain his mood until he’s back to where he was in the middle of the night, sobbing into a pillow while Harry strokes his back to try and soothe him. He doesn’t want to go there. Who needs a family when you’ve got good friends, right? Right.

He looks over at Harry who gives him a suggestive smirk and a nod towards their room, but before Louis can nod in reply, Zayn lets out a loud groan.

“I’m here, in case you forgot.”

“We could go out,” Harry offers. “Go clubbing or something.”

Zayn bursts out laughing. “Good job getting Louis into a night club. He never wants to.”

“Let’s do that,” Louis replies without missing a beat just to spite Zayn. He isn’t really into the idea, but he can be if it proves Zayn wrong. “I need to get wasted tonight.”

“Wicked,” Harry says, taking out his phone. “I’ll ask Niall if he wants to join us. I don’t know if he’ll be down for a gay club, though.”

“I hope he is,” Louis says, grinning to see Zayn shift uncomfortably.

Several hours and two beers’ worth of pre-gaming later, Louis is squeezed into his tightest red trousers and hanging onto Harry’s arm as they enter the night club, Zayn and Niall trailing behind them. The music is too loud for Louis’ liking and the flashing lights make him feel overwhelmed, but so long as he stays close to Harry, he thinks he might enjoy it. Maybe.

“C’mon, I got us a booth,” Niall says, leading them to the back of the club and sitting at a booth that says ‘Reserved’. “A bloke I used to work with is here, now, he saved us the best one. First round’s on him, too, for Lou’s big day.”

Grinning, Louis slips in after Harry and takes a moment to have a proper look around the place. It looks, well, it looks like a night club, with the usual high platform for the DJ and a crowded dance floor flanked on each side by a bar that sells overpriced drinks. Harry passes his arm around Louis’ shoulders and Louis leans into his side, smiling up at him. Harry nudges him and points at Zayn and Niall.

On the other side of the table, the two of them are already deep in conversation. Niall laughs at something Zayn says, throwing his head back and cackling loudly, and the way Zayn looks at Louis tells him everything he needs to know about Zayn’s feeling.

“I’ll bet you a week of dishes that Zayn’s coming home with us tonight,” Harry says in Louis’ ear, talking close enough for Louis to feel his lips brush his skin.

“That’s not fair! It’s already a given, you can’t bet on something that’s certain!”

Harry rolls his eyes and kisses Louis’ temple. “Fine, your loss.”

“Besides,” Louis continues, looking over to see Zayn touch Niall’s arm lightly as he talks to him, “I want them together.”

“They’d be cute, hm? I’ve been thinking the same.”

“You’d have someone to take the bus with when you’ll come visit me in Oxford,” Louis says before he remembers that his future is uncertain and depends on a life-changing decision. “Or, hum, well… You know, if I agree to the terms.”

“We’re not having this conversation right now.” Harry leans down and presses a quick kiss to Louis’ lips. “Tonight is about you having fun and relaxing a bit. You deserve a fun night out. And Zayn’s paying, isn’t he?” Harry finishes louder to get Zayn’s attention.

“What was that?” Zayn asks, frowning. “What did I do?”

“You’re paying for Louis’ drinks, right?”

Zayn frowns. “Am I?”

“Please,” Louis says, pouting in a way he hopes looks pitiful. “I’m poor, now.”

With a long-suffering sigh, Zayn rolls his eyes. “Fine, fine, but only Louis. Everyone else can piss off.”

Louis cheers and waves the waitress over.

Four drinks later, Louis is vaguely aware that he’s dancing in between two strangers and he’s, like, 80% sure that he’s grinding his bum against the crotch of one of them. He lost Harry and his shirt a while ago, although he can’t exactly tell when or how. He’d want to count in terms of songs, but the songs all blend into one and if he doesn’t keep his eyes on the chest of the man standing in front of him with his hands on Louis’ shoulders, he’ll probably get dizzy from the lights. Everything seems to be moving too fast, his own body feels too slow, like he’s underwater, and people keep touching him, pressing up against him, sweaty skins sticking together, and it’s too hot, too crowded, but he keeps on dancing, unaware of how he’s moving and just keeping his eyes closed and letting everything wash over him. He doesn’t stop to question it, doesn’t even pay attention to it, he just lets it all roll off of him like water under a bridge. Or is it off a duck’s back? Something about water and the futility of life.

There are lips on his skin and hands everywhere, and he throws his head back only to have it rest on someone’s shoulder, that someone bringing him closer with hands on his hips, and he willingly steps back and presses up against the man, but he’s too tall and too broad, it’s not Harry, it doesn’t feel right, and yet Louis stays because when he dances he can’t think and it’s a nice break, a well-deserved respite from his day, and he doesn’t care about much of anything except that. Oh, and he’s thirsty. He’s so thirsty, he needs to go to the bar and he might have said it out loud because the hands loosen and he’s free to go, weaving through the crowd and stumbling his way to the edge of the dance floor.

Then, he’s sitting on the bar and sipping on a drink he ordered for himself, still conscious enough to put it on Zayn’s tab, with a tall Spanish man whispering dirty things in his ear, and all Louis can do is giggle because he can’t remember how he got on that bar or who the man is, but he’s stroking Louis’ bare side and it tickles, and when he talks his accent is thick and all those s’s tickle his ear. Louis blinks and then Harry is there and the man is gone, and Harry looks upset, so Louis frowns and pouts.

“Harry!” he shouts, dragging and slurring the last syllable, his accent thicker than ever. “I lost you but now you’re here!”

“I went to get your drink and when I came back you were gone,” Harry says, crowding into Louis’ space by coming to stand in between his legs. He puts his hands on Louis’ waist and Louis grins, wrapping his legs around Harry’s hips.

“You disappeared! Poof! No Harry!” Louis giggles and takes a long sip of his drink through the straw. “This is really good!” He adds, pointing at his drink. “Want to taste?” He moves the glass closer to Harry, sloshing the contents dangerously close to the rim.

“No, I’m good. Who bought it for you?”

Harry is frowning and that’s no good, so Louis decides to pat his face to calm him. He miscalculates the distance and almost slaps Harry, stopping the movement at the last second and successfully stroking his cheek. He’d high-five himself if he could.

“Myself. Put it on Zayn. No roofies!” Louis finishes his drink, sucking on the straw until the last drop and giggling at the noise it makes. He places the glass on the bar loudly and grins at Harry. “Another!”

“I really don’t think you should.”

Louis clicks his tongue and shakes his head, taking Harry by the shoulders. “It’s very important to me that yes.” He frowns. “That you say yes. Forgot a few words, didn’t I?” He giggles again.

“And it’s very important to me that no. Why don’t you take a break and come sit with us, hm? Maybe put your shirt back on?”

Looking down at himself, Louis shrugs. “I’ve got glitter on,” he says, because he does. He doesn’t remember how he got it except through flashes of a boy about his age running his hands over Louis’ naked skin while talking about pixie dust. “Besides,” he continues, running his hand down the front of Harry’s chest, “your shirt is see-through.”

Harry strokes Louis’ forehead, playing with his sweaty fringe, and Louis leans into the touch, closing his eyes and smiling. “You’re so bloody drunk.”

“Ye—Oh, look!” Louis says loudly, taking Harry’s face between his hands to turn his head so he’ll see someone Louis remembers from earlier. “He said I was the sexiest twink he’s ever seen and that he’d love to pound my tight little arse!” Louis giggles, just like he had when the man had told him that before slapping his bum. “Nick was right!”

Instead of laughing, Harry clenches his jaw and moves closer to Louis. Louis leans into Harry’s heat, resting his forehead against his shoulder. “I’m sorry I left you alone around these sleazy men, baby.”

“S’okay. Buy me a drink and we’re good.” Louis looks up through his eyelashes, fluttering them slowly. It makes the room spin, so he stops.

“No, love, you’ve had enough. You don’t want to be sick, do you?”

Louis shakes his head, but stops abruptly when it makes him feel dizzy. “Then dance with me.”

Harry nods, smiling. “That, I can do.”

With a loud cheer, Louis pulls Harry closer with his legs and throws his arms around his neck as he leans in to kiss him, sloppy and wet. Harry laughs against his lips and returns the kiss the best he can, and when Louis licks into his mouth, he can taste the fruity drinks Harry’s been drinking. It’s reassuring to know Harry isn’t as sober as he appears to be. Harry steps forward, forcing Louis to dip back, Harry’s wide hand between his shoulder blades holding him up as he deepens the kiss, making Louis whine through his nose.

Just when the kiss is beginning to be interesting, Harry pulls out, pressing one last kiss to Louis’ nose before lifting him off the bar and putting him down on the sticky floor. He takes Louis by the hand and leads him out to the dance floor, placing himself in front of him and putting his hands on Louis’ hips as he starts swaying to the music.

Shaking his head, Louis bites his lip. This won’t do. His hands over Harry’s to secure them in place, Louis turns on himself so that his back is to Harry’s chest. Without being asked, Harry slips his hands from Louis’ hips to rest them low on his belly, the tip of his fingers grazing the waistband of Louis’ trousers. Satisfied, Louis closes his eyes and leans into Harry as he begins languidly moving against him, rolling his hips back so that his bum rubs against his crotch. He’s rewarded with a gasp and a nip of teeth on his earlobe, which only makes him grin and continue until he can feel his trousers become uncomfortably tight.

Resting his head on Harry’s shoulder, Louis presses a kiss to his jaw. “When we get home,” Louis begins, biting his lip to stifle a moan when he feels that Harry is hard, “I want you to fuck me,” he lets out in a breath.

It’s Harry’s turn to moan. He presses a bruising kiss to Louis’ lips before he speaks. “Do you mean that?”

Louis curves his spine to grind his bum along the length of Harry’s cock. “I do. I really, really do.”

“You’re drunk.”

“So are you.”

“Not the point. I’m not fucking you when you’re drunk.”

“But you want to? Because I want you to,” Louis says, speaking what’s been on his mind for a while, now.

He did not have the courage before, but now it seems almost ridiculous to have kept it quiet. He’s been wanting to theoretically since he first laid eyes on Harry, but ever since he moved in with Harry—no, even before that; ever since they started having sex, Louis has wanted Harry to make love to him. Wanting and asking is two different things, though, but with his veins currently filled with more alcohol than blood, he can’t remember why he was so afraid to ask.

Harry hums and bites Louis’ collarbone, pushing his hips forwards as he keeps Louis’ close with two firm hands on his lower stomach. It’s the only answer Louis needs and he grinds his arse over Harry’s cock slowly, covering Harry’s hands with his own. He keeps his movements slow, excruciatingly so, and before long he can hear Harry panting in his ear, his grip on Louis’ hips vice-like.

“What’re you doing?” Harry slurs, mouthing along Louis’ jaw, rubbing his nose behind his ear.

“M’trying to make you come,” Louis replies. He giggles when Harry tightens his hands even more. He’ll have bruises in the morning, that’s for sure, and that only turns the roll of his hips dirtier.

Harry’s answer is a muffled moan and a bite to the crook of Louis’ neck, making him throw his head back against Harry’s shoulder, his hand coming up to tangle in his curls. Harry moves his hands up and down Louis’ bare chest, skin slipping over sweat-slick skin, his fingers tweaking at Louis’ nipples until he lets out a high, choked noise. Arching his back to push out his bum even more, Louis attaches his lips to the tender skin under Harry’s jaw, licking and biting and kissing it until Harry flinches away with a hiss and presses up even more against Louis, his arms wrapping around his chest to keep him in place.

Harry’s breathing has turned frantic, scalding puffs of air exhaled against the skin of Louis’ neck, and he’s clinging to him, nails clawing for purchase, and Louis keeps going, he keeps rolling and pushing his bum against Harry’s hard cock, ignoring the tightness in his own jeans to focus on what he’s doing. He’s vaguely aware of people watching them and he gets a kick out of it, bites his lip, runs a hand up his chest for show.

“Louis, fuck…” Harry breathes out, pushing his hips against Louis’ bum and Louis grinds against him even harder, feeling his cock twitch before Harry lets out a deep groan and sinks his nails in Louis’ hips, holding him in place while he stutters against Louis.

Wrapping his arms around Louis’ waist, Harry presses wet, open-mouthed kisses to his shoulders and the back of his neck. Louis smiles and bows his head, hissing whenever Harry scrapes his teeth against his overheated skin.

“I can’t believe you just did that,” Harry says, pulling Louis’ head back with a hand on his forehead to kiss him. “You’re crazy.”

“Did you come, then?” Louis asks, smiling even as Harry kisses him again.

Harry chuckles. “I did. Happy?”


“Let’s go sit down, I need a moment.”

Giggling as Harry drags him along, Louis unsteadily makes his way to their table, crawling on all fours on the seat instead of scooting along its length, collapsing on it once he’s on, his feet dangling off the end. He is so, so tired all of a sudden.

“I sleep, now,” he mumbles against the leatherette of the seat, ignoring the way Harry is nudging his legs to try and sit.

“Not like that, come on,” Harry says and he keeps nudging Louis, which is annoying, so Louis sits up slowly, bracing himself against the table when the club starts spinning around him.

“Hey!” Louis slurs once he’s sat, “look! They’re snogging!” He points at Niall and Zayn, out on the dance floor and wrapped up in each other. Niall has his arms loosely hooked around Zayn’s shoulders and Zayn’s hands are on his hips, and they’re swaying in time to the music, not an inch of space between their bodies. Louis giggles as he watches them, the laughter bubbling out of him against his control.

“They are, yeah,” Harry says with a laugh. “Come here.”

He opens his arms and Louis snuggles up into them, resting his head against Harry’s chest and wrapping his arms around his waist. He closes his eyes and smiles, pressing his nose into Harry’s scent.


The next time he opens his eyes, it feels like his brain has expanded and is threatening to break out of his skull, pressing against it painfully. He lets out a groan, his throat painful, and closes his eyes again. He tries to move, but his entire body feels parched, like he’s been left in the sun for too long to dry. He feels like sundried tomatoes. That can’t be good.

Sunlight is filtering through the curtains and the greenness of the room is almost insulting to Louis’ headache, but rolling to hide his face in his pillow sounds like a chore he can’t achieve. His mouth is pasty and dry, feeling like a sandpit. He rubs his eyes and groans again, the movement sending sparks of pain in his head. He turns his head, trying to see if Harry is there, but his side of the bed is empty. Rolling on his side, Louis notices a glass of water. He reaches for it and takes a long sip. Seconds later, his heart lurches up his throat as a wave of nausea crashes over him.

Rolling out of bed quickly and ignoring the way it feels like his skull is about to split, Louis barely makes it in time in the bathroom before he retches in the toilet, clinging to the porcelain as his body shakes violently. Slumping on the floor once he’s done, Louis lies down on the cold tiles and whines, pressing his clammy cheek against the floor. He enjoys the cold until he starts shivering and he’s seriously considering rolling himself up in the bathmat when the door opens. With tremendous efforts, Louis opens his eyes to see a wrecked Zayn, his hair a mess, with dark circles under his eyes.

“Zayn?” he asks in a small voice, pushing himself up on his elbow the best he can. “You slept here?”

“What the fuck are you doing on the bathroom floor?” Zayn asks much, much too loudly.

“Not so loud,” Louis rasps, sitting up against the bathtub. “I think I’m dead.”

“You’re lucky to be alive with what you drank last night. You were passed out cold, we had to carry you to Harry’s bed. Fuck you for that, we’re on the fourth floor, for fuck’s sake.”

Louis whines. “Stop yelling.”

“I’m not yelling,” Zayn says in a softer voice. “Did you take anything? You need to try to drink water.”

“I threw it up,” Louis says in a whimper, curling up on himself. He’s shivering and he reeks, smelling sour from the previous night’s sweat, and there’s still glitter on his chest, pitifully clinging to his skin and looking ridiculous in the overly bright light of the bathroom.

“Okay, okay, let’s put you back to bed. Harry went out to get you stuff that’ll make you feel better, he’ll be back soon,” Zayn says comfortingly.

He helps Louis to his feet and holds most of his weight while he brings him back to bed, tucking him in once he’s curled up on his side. He leaves the room for a moment before coming back with an empty bin that he places near Louis’ head.

“The best is to sleep it off, if you can.”

Louis nods and closes his eyes, pulling the covers tighter around him. “Did you shag Niall?” Louis mumbles, his voice muffled by the pillow.

Zayn chuckles. “Yes, I didn’t sleep in this shithole for fun. Go to sleep, Lou,” he says.

Listening to his footsteps receding, Louis lets out a shaky sigh. This is, hands down, the worst hangover he’s ever had to live through and he’s only been awake for ten minutes.

The rest of the day isn’t better. He spends it in bed, moaning and whining because it feels like his body is trying to self-destruct. He’s always too hot or too cold, like he’s feverish, and it’s not before the middle of the afternoon that he can hold anything down. Harry patiently sits by him on the floor and spoon-feeds him chicken broth, the bouquet of flowers he brought home – “they’re a wish for health!” – next to him on the bed. By the time dinner comes, Louis feels good enough to join Niall and Harry in the living room after a well-needed shower and he has to bite his tongue so he doesn’t comment on the fact that Zayn is still there. Louis gives him encouraging thumbs up when no one else is looking and he isn’t sure, but he thinks he sees Zayn blushing.

The evening is spent watching movies curled up with Harry on the couch, a blanket wrapped around him against how cold he still feels. In between dozing off and trying to keep up with the plot of the movie, Louis notices that Zayn has his legs in Niall’s lap. The sight makes Louis smile and his heart swell up.

With the movie over, Harry offers that they go to bed early, to which Louis agrees immediately. He could probably sleep for a week, he’s so exhausted. Dragging his feet down the hallway, Louis glances over his shoulder and smiles to see that Zayn and Niall have moved closer together now that they’re being left alone. Louis nudges Harry, who grins and nods. They quickly get out of the way to give the pair some intimacy.

“How are you feeling?” Harry asks around his toothbrush after they’ve moved to the bathroom to get ready for bed.

Louis nods and holds up his thumb, smiling briefly and rolling his eyes when foam leaks down his chin. He wipes it away with the back of his hand.

“Good,” Harry continues, finishing up and moving to wrap his arms around Louis’ waist from behind, pressing a kiss to the nape of his neck. “I’m happy to hear it.”

Bending down to spit is awkward with Harry draped over his back, but Louis manages and rinses his mouth quickly before turning around in Harry’s arm and craning his neck to peck his lips. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to domesticity; his stomach still does backflips whenever they shower together or shave next to each other, fighting for the mirror.

It all happened so fast, after all. He went from single and a virgin to living with his boyfriend and almost completely not-a-virgin in the span of a summer, and it could be scary if it didn’t feel so right. Louis can’t quite explain exactly how it feels right, or what makes him say that, but being with Harry is easy, it just fits. It’s like they’ve known each other for much longer, like his entire life he was destined to meet Harry and fall in love with him; a cliché thought, but one he quite likes. He never thought he’d be the kind of person to fall hopelessly in love, the kind whose life would start revolving around their boyfriend; he always considered himself to be independent, but he might have spent years confusing independence and loneliness. He doesn’t feel like his life is centred around Harry, just that Harry fits in it effortlessly.

Louis smiles at Harry. “I’m not feeling completely fine, but I don’t feel like I’m dying, so there’s that.”

Harry smiles and kisses behind Louis’ ear. “Ready for bed, then? We both had a shit night, you kicked a lot.”

Untangling himself from Harry’s grip with a giggle, Louis leads the way to their room. “Did I?”

“I’d have left you to go sleep with Niall if he hadn’t been busy.”

Louis smirks as he crosses their dark room to turn on the bedside lamp. “Speaking of, did you see them earlier? They’re dating, aren’t they?”

“I wouldn’t dare ask, I don’t want to scare them.”

“Fair enough,” Louis says as he begins stripping out of the pyjamas he’s worn all day, slipping naked under the covers. He waits until Harry has done the same to speak. “You know, in all of this, there’s just one thing that bothers me,” he continues, staring at the ceiling.

He glances at Harry and smiles to see him closing the book he had just picked up. Louis never suspected before he moved in that Harry was such a bookworm and this side of him makes him even more endearing, if that’s even possible.

“What is it?”

“Well,” Louis begins, scratching his cheek, thinking idly that he needs to shave the next morning, “Niall’s had sex before me.”

“I hope so, you were 10 when Niall shagged for the first time,” Harry says with a chuckle that turns into a yelp when Louis kicks his shin. “We’re having sex.”

“You know what I mean,” Louis says, clearing his throat. “He’s done…” Louis trails off, blushing.


Louis kicks him again. “It sounds awful when you say it like that!” he whines.

“’Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself’,” Harry quotes, earning himself another kick that makes him laugh loudly, his nose scrunching up and his eyes crinkling.

“I’m talking about making love and you’re quoting Harry Potter! Stop!” Louis complains, giggling through it.

It takes Harry a moment to stop laughing, but when he does, he rolls on his side and props himself up on one elbow to look at Louis, eyebrows furrowed. “You want to make love?”

Avoiding Harry’s eyes by resolutely keeping his on the ceiling, Louis nods. “Yeah. I’ve thought about it and… yeah. I want it.” He glances at Harry and their eyes meet.

It’s like time stands still for a moment and Louis stops breathing, the possibility of maybe-perhaps doing that with Harry now hanging in the air between them. It’s over as quickly as it began when Harry shakes his head with a smile.

“Not tonight,” he says. “But soon, if you want to.”

“I do. I really, really do,” Louis replies, a bit breathless.

“Have you thought about how you want it? In terms of…” Harry winces, searching for the right words. “In terms of positions?”

“You in me.” Louis is kind of proud of how strong his voice came out; no waver or quiver. He’s turning into a real adult who can talk about sex with his boyfriend without blushing. That’s impressive.

Harry nods. “That’s what I imagined, too.” Rolling on his stomach, lying almost completely on top of Louis, he pushes back his fringe and kisses him softly. “I’ll make it perfect for you, baby, I promise.”

“I trust you,” Louis says, smiling. “I love you.”

“Love you, too.” Harry plants a kiss on his lips and settles comfortably over Louis for the night.

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