“This is a song from an indie band I’ve never heard of to put you to sleep. If you’re still awake after, I’m sure Grimmy will let you know what it was called,” Harry says into Nick’s microphone. Nick rolls his eyes and cues up the song.
“Was that good?” Harry asks.
“It was lovely, Harry, I’m so glad I let you introduce that track. You know, if you didn’t spend all your time getting drunk and listening to Nicki Minaj, I bet you’d have better taste.”
Harry laughs. “My taste is flawless, thank you.”
“You keep telling yourself that.”
“I will, thanks,” Harry says, then pauses for a moment before adding, “Can I tell you a secret?”
Nick looks up from where he’s quadruple checking the rest of night’s playlist. He thinks that Harry sounds more serious than Nick’s ever heard him, and they’ve been hanging out a lot since the party, mostly because Harry texts Nick incessantly asking him what he’s doing and then invites himself along everywhere. Including Nick’s work, apparently, but not his classes, which is a blessing, because if he was even half as much of a nuisance in class as he is while Nick’s on air, Nick would fail out of uni.
“Yes, of course you can,” Nick says.
“I’ve been listening to your show since you started it,” Harry says, fiddling with the sleeves of his jumper and looking sheepish. “My parents live in the area.”
That was not what Nick was expecting to hear, though he doesn’t have a clue what he was expecting. “Oh,” he says dumbly. “Every single show for three years?” He quirks an eyebrow at Harry.
“No, I’m sure I’ve missed some,” Harry says. “But yeah, I mean, it was my go to thing to fall asleep to.”
“I put you to sleep? Aw, thanks, Harry.”
“Not like that, you tosser. Your voice is very soothing, that’s all, and you’re very charming and funny and I like you a lot.”
Nick blinks and abruptly realizes that the record is nearly finished and he has to be back on the air. He fumbles for his headphones and tries to remember how to do speaking. “All right, uh, that was Azure Ray with Safe and Sound, introduced by first year Harry Styles, who’s going to be our guest next Thursday night for the monthly in studio live artist, isn’t that exciting?” He catches sight of Harry moving out of the corner of his eye and preemptively grabs onto the mic so that Harry can’t move it away from his face. “You might know him from open mic night, but if you don’t, you’re in for a treat. Next up we have some lively pop music, because if Azure Ray didn’t put you to sleep, you probably didn’t want it to.”
He sets it to play the live artist jingle he’d made up for November (while half drunk on his couch, with Harry poking at the sound effects and complaining that he sounded dumb) and then two pop songs in a row before pushing his headphones back off his ears and grinning over at Harry. Harry smiles lazily back, lips curling up in slow motion, and God damn, Nick wants to kiss his dimples.
“You like me, hm? A lot?”
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Harry says. “Your hair already makes it look big enough.”
“Don’t be hating the quiff,” Nick says, trying to sound serious, but he can’t stop smiling and Harry only smiles wider, so he’s pretty sure he fails.
The seats are digging into Louis’s ass, it’s weirdly hot and humid and he’s regretting wearing a coat, and every noise bounces off the walls and becomes three times louder, which makes for a very loud swim meet indeed, but it’s all worth it, in Louis’s opinion, because Liam is pretty much naked and also dripping wet. He’s gorgeous, and Louis is here to appreciate that gorgeousness. And also to get it to talk to him and fall in love with him and let him have its babies.
So no big expectations, really, it’s cool.
Liam kicks ass in all his events, of which there are a fair few, and Louis spends the entire length of his last one working up the resolve to go congratulate him when he inevitably wins like the bunch of girls that are sitting in front of him are planning to do. It takes him about two minutes after standing and following them to talk himself out of it again, and by the time he turns to head for the exit instead, he’s trapped in a sea of people either going to talk to all the swimmers or also trying to leave.
Louis is going to kill Harry. He knew this wasn’t a good idea. What if--
“Whoa, you okay there?”
--that happens. Louis’s just stumbled in the crowd a bit and been pushed up against someone, and he knows that if he looks up, he’s going to see Liam standing there, possibly looking at him with concern, or, more likely, confusion and possibly terror.
“M’fine,” Louis mutters, and tries desperately to push his way through the crowd.
A hand wraps around his forearm, holding him where he is. “Wait, Louis? What are you doing here?”
Louis gives up and turns to actually look at Liam. “I like swimming,” he says. “Interesting to watch, y’know.”
Liam does not look like he’s falling for a word of that, and Louis doesn’t blame him at all. “Oh, cool. You busy now?”
A multitude of reasons why Liam could be asking that flash through Louis’s head, from intending to shoot a scathing comment after Louis’s answer to wondering if he can get some quickie sex in the locker room, which, no, Louis is not that kind of boy, that won’t be happening. “I’m not, no,” he says carefully.
“Cool, me and the lads were going to go out for dinner and drinks in a bit. You want to come with?”
Liam officially makes no sense to Louis at all. If he’s interested in hanging out with Louis, why the fuck did he reject his number? Does he just like to be an asshole every so often for laughs?
Still, Louis is hardly going to say no.
Louis is sitting in the coffee shop he likes to come to when he needs a break from how obnoxiously loud the frat house can get, working on his homework and wishing there had been a table free that wasn’t near the window, because he’s freezing, when someone pokes at his shoulder.
He looks up to see Liam smiling at him. He’s got a knit scarf wrapped around his neck and tucked carefully up by his chin, the hood of his sweatshirt up, and he looks adorable. Louis blinks. “Uh, hi.”
“Hey,” Liam says. “I was just getting some coffee before class. Want a napkin?” He holds one out to Louis, and Louis takes it hesitantly.
“Yeah, sure.” He must have something on his face if Liam’s come over here just to give him a napkin, right? Fuck, that’s embarrassing.
“See you around, Louis,” Liam says, waving, and turns to leave.
Louis stares after him a moment, then wipes at his face with the napkin before looking at it. Louis stares. Liam’s written what is presumably his number on it in black permanent marker, complete with his name and a smiley face. He immediately looks back up at where Liam had been, but he’s already gone. Louis goes back to staring at his number.
If he thought he was confused about Liam inviting him out the other night, that was nothing compared to how confused he is now. All of a sudden Liam is cool with giving him his number? No explanations necessary, just swanning off into the distance? What the actual fuck.
Even so, Louis adds Liam into his phone book and tries to go back to doing his homework.
If he’s too distracted by thinking about what to text Liam first to concentrate, well, only he has to know.
“You’ve got a text,” Harry informs Louis from where he’s lying on the floor ignoring the work on his laptop. (He claims lying on the floor to write essays gets him in the right headspace, but Louis is pretty sure he just naps most of the time.) “From Liam.”
“Gimme my mobile,” Louis says, sticking out his hand. He’s sitting at his desk actually doing work, because he is older and infinitely more responsible. Harry puts Louis’s mobile in his hand and Louis unlocks it and reads the text.
Hey suppp? Wanna go for ice creamm? :)
“He’s asked you on an ice cream date,” Harry says. “When are you planning to pop the question?”
“We’re not dating,” Louis says, biting his lip and tapping out a response. “I’m pretty sure he still hates me and only hangs out with me because he pities the way I became his stalker.”
Yeah sure ! Same place as last time?
“Yes, you are. Haven’t you been out for ice cream with him before? He’s definitely not hanging out with you out of pity. Pity hanging out doesn’t need to happen this often. I’m starting to feel neglected, actually. Even when I study with Liam, all he does is talk about you.”
“No, he doesn’t, and no, you’re not. If I’m dating Liam, you’re definitely married to Nick. Does it physically hurt you to be away from him?”
“We’ve been prepping for my appearance on his show!” Harry protests.
“By getting drunk and making fun of crap telly?” Louis asks.
Harry pouts. “That was once.”
“No, it was like five times in the past week.” Louis’s phone lights up in his hand.
Yepppp see you in ten.
“I gotta go, Hazza,” Louis says, standing. “You going to actually do some work or are you going to call Nick and flirt with him because it’s been ten minutes since you last poked fun at him?”
“I’m offended, Lou. I just texted Nick a very scathing comment about his taste in fashion, and now I’m going to write a truly brilliant essay about the cultural significance of pop music.”
“Right,” Louis says. “Have fun.”
“Try snogging him this time!” Harry calls after him. “Since he’s your boyfriend and all.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Louis mutters to himself, and totally doesn’t wish he was lying.
Harry shifts from foot to foot, fiddling with a curl that keeps falling in front of his eyes and staring downward. There are a lot more people at the radio station than there have been when he’s been there before, Nick realises, and on top of that, it’s probably freaking him out that so many people could be listening to him sing on the radio.
“Hey, relax,” Nick says. “You need anything? Water, maybe?”
Harry shakes his head, then pauses and nods. “Yeah, water would be good.”
“I’ll be right back.” Nick runs out to the vending machine and waits impatiently while it takes forever to give him a bottle of water, briefly considering how his life has gone from ogling Harry in this hallway to actually getting water for Harry before he runs back.
“Thanks,” Harry says, taking the bottle from Nick and unscrewing the cap. He barely drinks any of it, though, just sipping on it instead.
“It’s just like that performance you put on in my living room the other night,” Nick tries. “Nothing to get worked up over.”
“It’s nothing like that,” Harry says. “I’m not totally plastered, for one thing.” He looks a bit less nervous, though, so Nick counts it as a win.
“You sounded lovely then, you’ll sound lovely now. Or in a few minutes,” he amends, checking the clock. “And stop playing with your hair.” He steps forward into Harry’s space and bats his hand away, taking the wayward curl and tucking it back underneath his headphones neatly.
“‘ey, Grimmy, you’re on in a moment, get ready,” Niall calls from the doorway, and Nick is suddenly extremely aware of how close to Harry’s face his own face is. He jerks back and flashes an a-okay signal to Niall, who disappears again, probably to go tell Annie that Nick’s ready.
Nick busies himself getting the right things all connected, running over to kick the door shut because Niall always leaves the doors open, and stands next to Harry to watch the on air light to come on, wishing the way he does every single month that this room had chairs, because it could really use them.
“...the live artist feature with Nick Grimshaw. Hi there, Nick, what gem have you found for us this month?”
“Hello, Annie. I’ve not found so much a gem as a jewel, to be honest. Wait, is a jewel better than a gem or are they the same?”
“I think they’re the same,” Annie says dryly.
“Well, whatever. I’m here with Harry Styles. Say hello, Harry.”
“Hello,” Harry says, biting his lip straight afterward.
Nick rolls his eyes and pokes Harry’s side. “Tell us about yourself, Harry Styles. What year are you in? What are you studying?”
“I’m a first year studying music.”
“Oh yeah, and how’s that?”
“I really like it,” Harry says. “I was, um, originally going to do a bunch of business things and that, but then I auditioned for The X Factor.”
“Oh, that’s very cool.”
“Yeah, and even though I didn’t get through to the live shows or anything, it really, uh, helped me realise that I wanted to pursue music however I could.”
“Good, very good,” Nick says. “And you’re going to sing for us tonight! Thank you for agreeing to do this, I know your schedule as an Alpha Sigma Phi pledge is really busy.”
Harry laughs. “Oh, yeah, I had to really try to rearrange some stuff to find the time. Not to mention the lads poking fun at me for being on ‘that crap indie show’.”
Nick bursts out laughing. “Wow, what a bunch of top notch lads. Real talk, thank you, Harry.”
Harry suddenly looks very serious. “They are top notch. I know we’ve got a reputation, but I’ve made some really great friends--or brothers, really, I guess. That’s really what we’re about. Pledging Alpha Sig was a really great decision, so, um, shout out to them. They’re probably listening because I’m on.”
“Have they sat through the whole show?” Nick asks in surprise. “Should I apologise for the crap indie music?”
Harry snorts. “They probably have, yeah, but you definitely don’t need to apologise. They can deal.”
“Good to hear,” Nick says solemnly. He feels a certain sort of respect for Harry’s frat brothers now, and it’s an extremely odd feeling. Harry snickers. “What are you going to sing for us, Harry?”
“Uh, some Elton John. Daniel, it’s called.”
“Oh, Elton,” Nick says. “Speaks to my soul, he does. Are you ready to do the same, Harry?”
“Yeah, I reckon so,” Harry says, shooting a smile in Nick’s direction.
“All right. This, lovely listeners, is our uni’s own Harry Styles, coming to you live from the studio.”
Nick shuts off his mic and steps back, cuing up Harry’s backing track.
Harry does speak to Nick’s soul, all closed eyes and snapping fingers at his side, swaying a bit, and his voice perfectly clear, wrapping around the lyrics and spinning them into dark chocolate sugar in that way he has. Nick actually has to turn away at one point because he thinks he might tear up. There’s way too much emotion in the room for Nick to handle, and then when he turns back, Harry’s got his eyes open again and is looking at Nick, and Nick feels as if he’s literally melting from the inside out. It’s surreal, because that usually only happens when he discovers that perfect record that speaks exactly to his heart and then listens to it on repeat lying on his bedroom floor for hours.
Nick almost forgets to turn his mic back on when Harry’s finished, but a panicked look from Harry reminds him. “Wow. That was... if you’re not extremely moved right now, I’m not sure I’d like to be friends with you. You can text us here at the station and tell us what you thought of Harry Styles. Thank you, Harry, for that.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry says, staring at Nick, and Nick gets so caught up in staring back that he doesn’t say anything for a moment before he realises that he’s just letting the airwaves be silent.
“Whoops, sorry, I think I’ve just had a bit of a moment with Harry. I’ll send you all back to Annie now. What did you think of that, Annie?”
“You’ll be glad to hear that I was moved, Grimmy, so we can still be friends.”
Nick laughs. “Oh, that’s good. Are we getting nice texts so far?”
“Yes, actually, quite a few of them! I’ll play a record and you two can get in here so we can read a few of them out, yeah?”
“That sounds wonderful, Annie, see you in a bit.”
The on air sign goes dark and Nick slips off his headphones, turning to Harry. “You can’t come on again,” he says mock seriously. “You make me a horrible DJ who goes silent and leaves everyone to fend for themselves.”
Harry has already taken his own headphones off and is smiling at Nick. Nick never wants him to stop doing that, really. He could live in Harry’s smile. “Was I good, then?”
“Please shut up and stop asking stupid questions.”
Harry laughs, and then Nick suddenly finds himself with an armful of Harry, arms thrown around him and face pressed into the side of his neck. Nick flails a bit and then hugs back. “Thanks,” Harry murmurs into Nick’s ear before pulling back, and Nick nods dumbly.
“You’re welcome. You want to go hear multitudes of compliments from adoring new fans now?”
“Lead the way,” Harry says, gesturing grandly toward the door, and Nick does.
Harry and Nick decide, after the show has signed off the air, that the only thing to do to celebrate Harry’s stunning performance is go out to a club and get trashed, which somehow turns to buying bottles of terrible cheap wine at a twenty-four hour corner shop and wandering around the city drinking them instead.
Harry trips over seemingly nothing on the pavement and catches himself on Nick’s arm, giggling. His cheeks are flushed pink and his hair is starting to do that thing Nick loves where it loses all semblance of control and flies everywhere. “I can’t believe he said I was terrible and should have sung Call Me Maybe,” Harry says into Nick’s shoulder, and then bursts into laughter. Nick laughs, too, because Harry is infectious and the text Louis had sent in is hilarious, besides.
“Why haven’t I met him yet?” Nick asks. “I think I’d like him.”
“You would,” Harry is quick to say. “You two were practically made for each other, you’re both so fucking bitchy.” He dissolves into laughter again. “But he’s so gone for Liam, so whatever.” His hand slips down from where it’s been wrapped around Nick’s bicep, fingertips trailing down the inside of Nick’s wrist and slipping in between Nick’s fingers. Nick’s heart skips a beat and he forgets how to walk, coming to a complete standstill on the pavement and bringing Harry up short.
Nick looks down at where their hands are entangled, then up to Harry’s face. He’s got one eyebrow raised and he looks so fucking cheeky. Nick looks around--they’re on a dark street corner in as close to the middle of nowhere as you can be while still in a city--and then tugs Harry toward him, slipping the thumb of his other hand into one of Harry’s belt loops. He’s lost his wine bottle somewhere (did he finish it? he can’t remember), but it doesn’t really seem to matter.
Harry rests his forehead against Nick’s. “Hi,” he says, voice low and thick, and Nick is momentarily distracted by the way his eyelashes spread across his cheek.
“Hey,” he replies, and then the next thing he knows he’s kissing Harry, bringing his hand up to tangle in his hair and stumbling together until Harry’s pressed against a streetlamp, body pliant underneath Nick’s. His lips are soft and inviting and it feels normal, like they’ve been doing this for years and will continue to do it for years.
It might actually be a year, for all Nick knows, before they break apart, out of breath. Harry’s flushed even pinker than he had been before, his lips shiny and well on their way to kiss swollen. He’s smiling a bit, his dimples clearly showing, and Nick wants to positively wreck him, pull him apart and stitch him back together just to see what he’d look after he’s been entirely claimed by Nick.
“That was nice,” Nick manages to say. Harry rolls his eyes and pulls Nick back in for more.
Louis shifts, entirely unsubtle, because he abandoned subtlety within the first week of hanging out with Liam, so that he’s pressed entirely up against Liam on the couch, and then, just for good measure, throws his leg over Liam’s lap.
Liam, predictably, doesn’t react. Louis sighs to himself.
“There, stop,” Liam says suddenly. Niall stops flipping through channels. “I love this film, we have to watch it.”
Louis squints at the screen. “Is that Toy Story?”
“Yep,” Niall confirms, putting down the clicker.
“I’m going to make popcorn,” Liam says, nudging Louis’s leg off him so that he can stand. “You guys want anything else?”
Louis shakes his head and Niall stipulates that Liam better be making a lot of popcorn, which makes Liam roll his eyes and tell him that he’s not stupid.
“Not stupid, he says,” Louis scoffs when Liam’s left. “I disagree.”
“Why’s that?” Niall asks.
Louis sighs dramatically. “Did you see the way I was throwing myself at him? I do that all the time and he never even bats an eyelash.”
Niall snorts. “He can be a bit thick, our Liam. You were definitely all over him.”
“You’re telling me.”
“Then again,” Niall muses, “you’re rather friendly with everyone. Maybe he thinks it’s just that?”
Louis makes a frustrated noise. “How much more obvious do I have to be?”
Niall shrugs. “Maybe you should just tell him straight up that you want exclusive on tap shagging to be a thing you do? With each other, mind, you’ll want to be nice and specific.”
“Yeah, or else he’ll think I mean with you or something,” Louis says, rolling his eyes.
Niall laughs. “Yeah, no, I’m taken, mate.”
Louis perks up, looking over at Niall in surprise. “Are you dating someone? Who?”
Niall turns red. “Uh, no one. I meant, uh, my bed and I have a very... intimate relationship.”
Louis frowns. “Right,” he says, drawing out the vowel. “Okay then.”
“Stop talking and watch the film,” Niall demands, and Louis throws up his hands in surrender and obeys.
Zayn pokes at a chip on his plate with another chip and tries to tune back into what Niall is saying between (and far too often during) mouthfuls of his burger. Something about Louis and Liam, Zayn is pretty sure, because Niall’s just come to meet Zayn for lunch after Zayn’s class and before Niall’s, and he’d been hanging out with them before this.
“So then Louis literally starts biting at Liam’s neck in the middle of the film, and I swear I thought that was going to be it, I mean, Liam can’t ignore that, right? But no, he just keeps eating popcorn and shooting fond grins at Louis. I don’t understand. Do you understand, Zayn, because I do not understand.”
“Makes no sense,” Zayn says absently, staring somewhere between Niall’s collarbone and his jawline. He has a nice jawline, Zayn thinks. He’d be interesting to draw, with all his changing angles and constantly laughing eyes. (Since when does Zayn think about Niall’s eyes? Whatever.)
“I know!” Niall continues. “I told Louis that he had to tell Liam seriously that he wants to date or whatever, because that seemed like the right kind of advice, yeah? But I didn’t realise it was that bad. Until the biting. Biting, Zayn. I felt like I was intruding on some sort of private thing, except how Liam was being totally chill and watching Toy Story.” Niall pauses to take a sip of his drink. “Are you even listening to me?”
“Yeah,” Zayn says. “Of course I am, Nialler.” He’s lying, of course, he’s actually way more preoccupied with making up a palette of colours that would fit a painting of Niall, but Niall doesn’t need to know that.
“Do you think we should do something?” Niall asks speculatively, sitting back in his seat. “I think this is the point in a film where the friends would lock the couple in a closet until they fucked it out.”
“Mmm, maybe not,” Zayn says. Is that Niall’s foot tapping against his? Is Niall suddenly flirting with him? Does he want Niall to flirt with him? He knows Niall is objectively attractive, that’s what the whole wanting to draw him thing is about, but maybe it’s actually subjective? And did Niall just say that Liam and Louis are fucking? Good for them, but not Zayn’s idea of good lunchtime conversation.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Oh. Yeah, I’m good.”
“Great,” Niall says, standing. “Walk me to class?”
So, the thing is, Nick isn’t a very confident person in general. Sure, he’s good at talking on the radio, at making guests feel comfortable, and at making friends wherever he goes, but it’s all a very carefully honed craft. He thinks that maybe sometime in the future all his faked confidence will grow to be real, but right now it’s a very thin shell holding together a nervous wreck of a person.
Which is why even though Harry said he liked Nick a lot and also made out with him a bit and then texted him to ask if he wanted to go out for dinner, Nick’s still not sure if Harry really wants to date and have sex and things or if he just wants to be mates who drunkenly make out sometimes.
Nick would like to think he’d be okay as mates who drunkenly make out sometimes, but he knows that he really wouldn’t, actually, because he really likes Harry, in the kind of way that makes him feel about fourteen years old.
“So, I had a lovely time tonight,” Harry says, leaning against the doorframe outside Nick’s flat.
“Um, yeah, me too,” Nick says, staring at Harry. “Can I ask you something?”
Harry gestures for Nick to continue.
“Right, uh. Was this a date? Or are we still just friends?”
Harry’s eyes widen. “Oh my God, you wanker. Is that why you’ve been acting weird all night?”
“Oh my God. Unlock that door and get inside, Nick Grimshaw, we need to have a talk.”
Nick listens, because Harry looks kind of terrifying, and as soon as he’s got the door to his flat closed behind them, Harry pushes him up against it and kisses him. “God, you’re stupid,” Harry says when he pulls away. “All humble and hiding behind your dumb sky high hair. Are you listening? I really like you, Grimmy. I asked you out to dinner like a proper date and now I am going to get you naked in your bed and have sex with you, and after that we can call each other boyfriends or whatever you want, okay? Got it?”
“Sex?” Nick says, because he got a bit stuck at that part.
Harry laughs and kisses him. “Yeah, sex.”
“Got it,” Nick mumbles, and kisses Harry again, pushing him in the direction of Nick’s bedroom. Harry goes willingly, yanking articles of clothing off himself and Nick as they go, leaving a trail of clothes as if they’re in a stupid romantic comedy.
Harry lets Nick press him down onto the bed and suck a mark into his neck before rolling them over so he can kiss his way down Nick’s chest, biting at the elastic of Nick’s boxers before pulling them off. Nick groans and covers his face.
“Hey, look at me,” Harry says, breathing warm air over Nick’s cock, and Nick moves the hand over his eyes in time to see Harry’s lips close over the head of his dick. Harry licks his way down, taking more and more of Nick into his mouth, and Nick whimpers as Harry starts to really suck, hollowing out his cheeks and working up a rhythm.
“Jesus Christ, Harry,” Nick chokes out, and Harry hums, making Nick moan and buck his hips up. Harry immediately grabs at his hips, pressing down and digging in his fingernails. “Sorry, sorry,” Nick says. “God, Harry, you look so good like that.” He’s vaguely aware that he keeps talking, blurting out things that no doubt sound stupid and are probably at least fifty percent metaphors comparing Harry to music, but he can’t stop. He feels like stars are crashing down on him, burning out just beneath his skin, and his orgasm catches him off guard, exploding in a flash of white supernova behind his eyelids.
When he comes back to himself, Harry is next to him, kissing lightly at the skin just beneath his ear, and Nick smiles, running his thumb along Harry’s cheekbone, and then pushes him to the side. “My turn,” he says, and when Harry smiles at him, Nick has no problem believing that he can control the stars.
Louis is lying on his bed, trying to do a reading for class but mostly just feeling sorry for himself, when there’s a knock at his door. He considers, for a moment, just ignoring it, but his textbook is boring enough that he can’t resist pushing it away and going to see who it is.
He really should have predicted this outcome. Liam is standing awkwardly in the hallway, hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans. “Hey,” he says. “Have you been ignoring my texts?”
“No,” Louis says automatically, though he actually has, because he’d been considering following Niall’s advice and just talking to Liam, but whenever he thought about it his heart would start to race and his palms got all sweaty, and it was suddenly not just good enough to hang out with Liam and ignore how much he wanted to fuck him, so he started avoiding Liam completely instead.
Liam takes Louis’s answer in stride. “Okay. Can I come in? What are you up to?”
“What are you doing here?” Louis blurts out. “And who let you in?”
Liam looks confused. “Uh, seeing if you’re ignoring me? Some bloke let me in, he knew who I was. Aren’t we mates? Can’t we hang out without a reason?”
Louis suddenly feels extremely, possibly irrationally, angry. “Well, Liam Payne, I might not be ignoring you, but if I were, I’d certainly have a good reason to be.”
“Uh, okay? Do--”
“No, shut up. I fucking hate you, what the fuck. We can’t just be mates after you act like an asshole to me. What’s wrong with me that you didn’t want my number, anyway? And if you didn’t want my number, why did you bother ever speaking to me again? You definitely didn’t need to, that was your choice. Fuck, Liam, you can’t just take a lad’s virginity and then pretend it’s all well and good, we’re best mates now!”
Liam is staring at him now, eyes wide. “Louis,” he says, voice all serious and apologetic sounding. Louis hates it.
“No. Fuck off, Liam,” Louis says, and slams his door in Liam’s face.
It feels good for about five glorious seconds before tears well up in Louis’s eyes.
“Hey, Zayn, do you know where Niall is?” Liam asks, leaning into the room.
Zayn looks up from where he’s been sketching sitting on his bed. “Yeah, radio station. He picked up an extra shift. Why, what’s up?”
Liam shrugs. “Just needed someone to talk to, I guess.”
“Well, you can talk to me, if you like,” Zayn offers. “I’m not Niall, but I could pretend.”
Liam snorts, but he does come in and sit down next to Zayn on his bed. When he doesn’t say anything, Zayn prompts him with “Is this anything to do with Louis?”
Liam sighs. “Yes. I got the feeling he was ignoring me, so I went to see him just now, and he yelled at me and slammed the door in my face.”
“Whoa,” Zayn says, putting down his sketchpad. “Literally slammed?”
“In my face, yeah,” Liam says.
“Whoa,” he repeats. “What did you do?”
“Was an asshole, I guess.”
Zayn raises an eyebrow. “You were an asshole?”
“Yeah,” Liam says, fidgeting with Zayn’s duvet. “We slept together at that party at the end of October, and then when he asked if I wanted to exchange numbers in the morning, I said no.”
“You said no? Why the fuck would you do that? Even if you didn’t want to call him, you could have just taken his number for the hell of it.”
Liam groans. “I panicked! He was really nice and we had really great sex--”
“--but I promised myself I wasn’t going to get into a relationship that would distract me this year, and I could see myself falling into one with him so easily. It scared me.”
Zayn frowns. “Wait, aren’t you guys dating? Or, well, weren’t you before he slammed a door in your face?”
Liam shakes his head. “No, where did you get that idea?”
“Uh, nowhere, I guess. So, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. I think I’m willing to forget my promise to myself for him, to be honest, but now I feel like even more of an asshole than I did before.”
Liam’s cheeks flush a bit pink. “I think he told me I was his first. He was yelling kind of loud and fast, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he said.”
Zayn blinks. “You’re screwed, Payne,” he says.
Liam sighs. “Yeah, see, this is why I wanted to talk to Niall. At least he tries to give advice.”
“I can only be so good of an actor,” Zayn says. “Would a hug help?”
“Couldn’t hurt,” Liam says, turning into Zayn’s spread arms and hugging him, face pressed into his shoulder. “Thanks for listening.”
“Not a problem,” Zayn says, patting Liam’s shoulder as he pulls away.
“I’ve got to go meet Harry to study now, I guess,” Liam says, standing to leave.
“He’s friends with Louis, right? Why don’t you ask him for advice? That’s my advice. Ask someone else.” Zayn grins wryly at Liam and picks up his sketchpad again.
“Yeah, maybe,” Liam says. “Don’t really want to make him feel awkward or anything.”
Nick is testing Niall’s knowledge of the control board and laughing internally at the way Niall’s face screws up when he’s thinking really hard when Harry strolls into the radio station like he belongs there, trailed by a nervous looking lad that Nick assumes is Liam.
“We need your help,” Harry declares.
“With what? I thought you were going to do a late night study?”
“Yeah, with Liam, but he was all distracted and I made him tell me what was bugging him. Turns out Louis and Liam have both been a bit stupid, though Liam more so, so Liam needs to apologise to Louis,” Harry explains.
Nick nods. “Uh huh, and what does that have to do with needing my help?”
Harry grins. “I have a plan.”
“This is late night radio at your university with Liam Payne. I’m going to be manning the airwaves for the first fifteen minutes of the show, and then I’ll turn you back over to Nick Grimshaw, who I’m sure you’ll miss by then, because he actually knows what he’s doing, and I do not. Let’s have a little Florence to start us off, yeah?”
Louis stares at his radio in confusion and pulls out his phone to text Harry.
Aren’t you studying with Liam?
The response is immediate and does nothing to clear up Louis’s confusion.
Change of plans. Don’t turn off the radio!!
He texts back ??????? but Harry doesn’t respond. Louis hadn’t really been expecting him to, really, but it would have been nice, because Louis really fucking wants to know what Liam’s doing on the radio.
Louis sits for a torturous ten minutes just staring off into the middle distance as if the answers are all written there, listening to Liam link records together without an explanation. And then, finally:
“Okay, so, my fifteen minutes are nearly up, and you’re probably wondering who I am and what I’m doing here. Or you don’t care, that’s cool, too. But, uh, Liam Payne, swim team, member of TKE, and colossal jerk at your service. You see, there’s this guy, and I’ve really messed things up with him. So, thanks to some wonderful mates, I’m here to apologise to him live on air. So, uh, Louis, this next’s track for you. I’m sorry.”
Louis stares. He’s really not sure if that was the sweetest thing someone’s ever done for him or if he hates it and thinks it’s stupid. Maybe both. Also, is this Take That?
Is this take that? he texts to Liam.
Yesss Im sorryyyy . Harry said it was a good idea ?
Louis barks out an involuntary laugh. Did you mean it?
You’re not forgiven :) more grovelling required !
:( can i come overrrrrr ? Harrys staying at nicks.
Louis bites his lip to keep from grinning. Sure yeah. Need to get started on the rest of your apology
See you in 10 !
Zayn pokes at Niall’s thigh. “Aren’t they sickening?” he asks, gesturing to where Harry and Nick are curled up on one end of the couch, Harry in Nick’s lap and Nick idly playing with his hair, and Liam and Louis are on the other end, pressed up against each other with Louis’s legs in Liam’s lap, sneaking glances at each other and smiling every couple minutes. Niall and Zayn are sitting on the floor, leaning against an armchair, and are probably the only ones actually watching the film they’d all argued over earlier.
“Makes me want to puke,” Niall agrees around a mouthful of crisps. “Promise me we’ll never succumb to such disgusting love.”
“Of course not,” Zayn scoffs. “Can I have some of those?”
Niall holds the bag out to Zayn.