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Part 1a | Part 1b | Part 2a | Part 2b

Part 2

“Out with it, popstar,” Nick said.

“Out with what?”

“Young Harold, my luscious-locked curly-haired friend, you know very well what.”

Harry knew the look that was probably on his face—a deer in the headlamps sort of thing. He knew eventually he’d have to talk about what had happened, but he still wasn’t sure he was ready to say it out loud.

Nick’s expression softened. “You’ve been hanging around the studio for days now, looking like your dog died or something—wait… your dog didn’t die did it?”

“Don’t have a dog.”

“Cat?”

“Cat’s fine. Home with Mum.”

“That’s a relief. Good to know.” He picked right back up at the point he was making before the conversation got derailed by the non-existent dog. “Make no mistake; it’s not that I don’t enjoy the company, because I do. Big international pop sensation like yourself. Who wouldn’t want to be me? Now I may be spectacularly self-involved, but even I can see something’s going on. C’mon. Talk to me.”

Harry looked away for a long moment. Coming to a decision, he took a deep breath and turned to face Nick. “Louis and I broke up.” He could feel his eyes already filling with tears.

Nick’s eyes widened in surprise. He let out a soft, “Oh.” He stared thoughtfully at Harry then gave a sharp nod of his head. “Right. Shall we go get drunk, then?”

Harry didn’t trust himself to speak, but he gave a shaky nod.

“Yes, let’s.” Nick said it for him.

They ended up at Nick’s flat. Wisely deciding Harry was in no shape to be out in public, Nick stopped to grab a bottle on the way to his home, telling Harry to wait in the car. Then Harry was sat down on the sofa, a strong drink placed in his hand. Nick hadn’t pushed, for which Harry was grateful, but several drinks in, he finally started talking. Once he got going, everything came tumbling out.

“I gave him an ultimatum. Wasn’t that the stupidest thing? You hear people say they’re never ever a good idea, but you never really know just how bad an idea one is until you’ve gone and done it yourself.”

He was vaguely aware of having already covered this same ground with Nick, possibly several times already, but he kept going anyway, poking at the wound again and again.

“I have heard that, actually.”

“Because of course,” Harry continued, “the person sometimes picks the choice you’d never ever ever think they would.” He looked at Nick and asked, voice pleading, “How could he pick France and Eleanor over me?” He could feel the hot sting of tears on his cheeks.

“Anyone who wouldn’t pick you isn’t right in the head.”

Harry sniffed and glared at Nick. “You’ve never liked Louis. What do you have against him anyway?”

Nick held up his hands in protest. “I’ve got absolutely nothing against your boy, I swear. Just trying to be a supportive friend.”

Harry was slightly mollified, but only for a second until what Nick said sunk in.

“He’s not ‘my boy’ any longer.” Harry wiped at his eyes with his sleeve. “You know the worst?”

Nick shook his head no.

“I took it back. After the ultimatum and the whole horrible awful, terrible discussion. I completely freaked out. Me and Louis… we were supposed to be forever, you know? I was sure of it.”

Nick wordlessly handed him another tissue.

“So we talked again. Not two days later I said I’d been too hasty. Asked him if he felt the same. That we’d made a terrible mistake. The worst possible. And you know what he said?”

“What did he say?”

“He said…” Harry couldn’t get the words out at first. He swallowed, took a deep breath then continued. “He said he thought it was a good idea. A good idea. Those were his exact words. A good idea.”

Nick clucked sympathetically.

“Said he thought we should take a little time apart. Try and figure things out, that we needed the break.”

Again, the words left him. He wanted to double over; the pain of remembering was so strong. The hole in his stomach felt as large as it had when he and Louis first spoke.

Nick leaned over and pulled Harry against his side, tucking his head under his chin. He wrapped his arm around Harry’s shoulder and patted him awkwardly. “There, there, my little popstar. There, there.”

Harry rested motionless save for a few deep ragged breaths, letting himself be comforted. A few moments passed and he gave a huffy laugh in spite of himself. “Did you really just say ‘there, there’?”

“I’m afraid I did.”

“You really are rubbish at this, aren’t you?”

“Hey, I supplied the alcohol.”

“Fair enough.”

-o-


“How’s your week been, popstar? Saved any kittens from drowning, or performed any other acts of heroism?”

They were sat outdoors having a pint. Aimee had joined them and they were expecting a few others from Nick’s crowd a little later. The evening was pleasant, not too cold, not too warm, the showers from earlier in the day having cleared hours ago.

Harry laughed and shook his head at the question. “Just a bit weird.” They had started back to work, finally, and it’d been harder than he anticipated seeing Louis every day. Not wanting to be a complete stick-in-the-mud, Harry searched for something he could contribute to the conversation. “Looked at a few places in your neighbourhood the other day.”

“Did you? Are we going to be neighbours?” Nick looked delighted.

“Dunno. Might be. Took Lou with me to get her opinion.”

“And what’d she think? Wait. Leasing or buying?”

“Buying, most likely. My dad thinks I should invest in some real estate.”

“Look at you. That’s so adult.”

“They grow up so fast,” Aimee chimed in, tilting her head and holding her fists under her chin.

“They do, don’t they? Seems like only yesterday he was on the telly telling the world he was just a little lad from Cheshire who worked in a bakery.”

“Such a precious cupcake.” Her lips formed into a moue and she reached over to pinch his cheek.

“Shut it you two,” Harry said, swatting her hand away and ducking his head to hide a smile.

“Come, come. Tell us about this parcel of real estate. Your potential investment. What’s it got? Fourteen bedrooms, sixteen baths? It’s got to have a pool, of course. Every popstar needs a pool. Does it have a pool? The people need to know.”

“Not quite. It does have four garages, though.”

“Wherever will you put the rest of your fleet?”

“Hey…”

“What? It’s just a question.”

“I don’t have that many cars.”

“The rest will be kept at his country estate,” Aimee suggested.

“Right. Jolly good show,” Nick said with an exaggerated posh accent.

They carried on with their good-natured teasing, taking the piss out of him, keeping him from sinking back into the wallowing mess he’d been for the majority of his free time lately. Trying to keep his mind off Louis.

Louis had looked fantastic after his time in France. Fit, tanned. Unlike Harry’s pale skin, Louis’ had always been able to soak up the rays, darkening to a beautiful golden colour. Harry had always loved touching it, especially when it was still warm from the sun, ghosting his fingers over the glowing flesh, watching it break out in goosebumps even when the heat was bearing down. Loved to press his lips against every inch, feel the smooth warmth under his mouth, taste the salt on his tongue. He loved the way Louis’ arm looked draped across his stomach whey they lay in bed, the contrast in their skin tones together, loved the way his body tucked right into his own, small and curvy and a perfect fit. Of course Louis’d been dressed in a cream sweater and then a white tee that day too. He’d looked amazing.

Harry tried not to think how good he looked meant Louis was doing fine without him. Because he hadn’t been fine at all. Quite the opposite, really.

They’d been at Henley-on-Thames, doing a photoshoot at Fawley Hill, an amazing location that was a curious combination of museum, railway and animal sanctuary. It was the kind of place Harry would have loved to come with Louis on a day off—not that they got many of those—watching Louis’ eyes light up while watching the meerkats play and the emus strut with their awkward gait. It housed an incredible collection of classic cars as well, which he himself greatly enjoyed. But on that day it was hard to maintain composure, pretending he was having a fantastic time riding in golf carts, piling onto a sofa in the middle of a field. He kept stealing glances at Louis, and knew Louis was doing the same to him. The discomfort he felt trying to act as if they hadn’t a care in the world was difficult enough, but the ache of holding back each time his body instinctively reached for Louis was almost impossible to bear. Would it always hurt this much?

“Where’d you go, young Harold? Furnishing your country estate inside that curly head? Hanging some damask curtains or setting out a nice plush Oriental rug?”

Nick’s voice brought him back to the present. He hadn’t even noticed some of the others had arrived.

“Sorry,” he mumbled before greeting Nick’s friends.

When they were settled with another round of drinks, Harry felt something nudging his foot and he looked over at Nick who cocked his head a bit. “You all right?” he mouthed, a concerned but fond expression on his face.

Harry nodded, mouthing a, “yeah,” back at him. Maybe one day it would be true.

Then a mischievous look crossed Nick’s face. He gave a jerk of his head over his shoulder, motioning for Harry to look behind him. Harry’s eyes followed in the direction indicated and he started laughing. The man sitting across from him had his arse crack showing from where his trousers had pulled down when he sat. Not just a centimetre or two; a large expanse of arse was visible.

“An Instagram moment if I ever saw one,” Nick challenged.

Harry huffed a laugh and shook his head, but he got out his phone anyway and snapped a pic, posting it to his account.

Bum crack is whack!

Nick and Aimee laughed at all the comments immediately pouring in and they took turns reading them aloud. Harry smiled along with them, and couldn’t help but note how different this was from spending time with Louis. He wondered just how long it’d been since they’d been able to go out in public somewhere, just the two of them. They’d certainly never be able to make jokes about bums on Instagram. Overwhelming sadness threatened to pull him under again and then he felt Nick’s foot against his ankle, giving him a gentle nudge.

He looked up and Nick was smiling at him, once again his expression incredibly fond. “Listen to this one, Harold,” he began.

Harry smiled and listened.

-o-


Harry stared at his mobile in shock; Louis’ number flashed on the screen. He hesitated briefly before answering, needing a moment to prepare himself to speak to Louis.

“Hello.”

“Hey, it’s me,” Louis said.

“What’s up?”

There was silence on the other end. Harry’s stomach did that funny twisting thing it had been doing lately around Louis, an almost automatic reaction to the awful discomfort that always seemed to be between them lately. “Lou?” he prompted.

Louis cleared his throat. “Sorry. It’s just that… I thought we could…” He stopped speaking again. Another heavy silence filled the air.

“You thought we could… what, exactly?” Harry waited.

“Well…” Louis sounded nervous. “We’re at Leeds today, yeah?”

Oh. The funny twisting turned to gut-wrenching pain and Harry felt as if the breath had been knocked from his body. Harry had avoided specifically thinking about the day. The Party in the Park wasn’t the same as the Festival, but he still knew it would bring up memories.

“Yeah, I know.” Somehow he got the words out.

Louis cleared his throat again. “Stan… A bunch of us are getting together later and Stan wants you to come.”

For some reason, that just made Harry feel worse.

“I don’t know,” he said. The last thing he wanted to do was to try and pretend in front of Stan. “Didn’t you tell him—”

“Yeah, ‘course I did. He knows. But he wants to see you, and I told him… I told him I’d ask.”

Harry was silent, thinking it through.

I want you to see you,” Louis corrected. Harry went rigid, thoughts scattering everywhere. “I mean, see you outside of work. It’s…” Louis hesitated again. “It’s at Leeds, you know? And I… I don’t want us to fight, or for the day to be weird. I just… want us to have a nice time, and go out with friends later and maybe see if we could… I don’t know… somehow manage to be like we used to be.”

Mind racing, Harry didn’t answer right away. As the moments dragged on, Louis spoke again.

“I don’t want the day to be spoiled, you know? If you don’t want to go out later, I understand. I’ll let Stan know. But…” His voice was tight and Harry had the feeling the conversation was as difficult for Louis as it was for him. “I just want the day to be nice, for us to get along. I promise I’ll try my best not to be a prick.”

Harry let out a little laugh. “Yeah, okay. That’d be good.”

“You’ll come out later then?”

“I… can we just play that part by ear? Tell Stan it’s a maybe for now? See how it goes? Don’t really know if I’ll be up for it later.”

“Yeah, yeah. Of course. Sure.” Harry could hear the relief in Louis’ voice; his own chest felt immediately lighter. After another lengthy silence, neither of them moving to end the conversation, Louis asked, “How’ve you been? You been all right?”

And that was enough for Harry for this particular conversation. He didn’t think he could handle discussing his feelings on top of a conversation about Leeds. “Sorry, Lou, but I’m going to have to go. I’ve got another call coming in.”

“Right. Yeah. Sorry.” Harry knew Louis would know he was lying, but he didn’t care. There was only so much he could take in one morning. “Sorry,” Louis said again. “See you later, then.”

“Yeah, okay, bye.”

Harry hung up the phone and stood silently, staring at it. He thought back to what Louis has said: him wanting them to see if they could be like they used to be. With a shake of his head, Harry thought no. He didn’t think so. The Louis and Harry they used to be ended when Louis decided their relationship wasn’t his priority. And it’s not that Harry was completely blind to Louis’ reasoning. Yes, the band, the music, the fans, the jobs, the security—all these factors were important. They had agreed… He had agreed to the subterfuge to capitalize on their success. But at the end of the day, when it was all over and they settled back into normal lives—well, as far as that would ever be possible—there had to be something left that had been worth fighting for, something worth all the sacrifices. Maybe he had made a mistake when he forced Louis to choose. But it didn’t change the fact that Louis should have chosen him.

At the end of the day, Louis should have chosen them.

It really almost seemed like old times that night, partying with Stan and a bunch of Louis’ friends from home. They’d both done their best to set aside their differences during the performance. Where Louis had been sharp-edged, distant and cutting lately, today he’d been warm and kind, going out of his way to make sure Harry was comfortable. They’d all had fun on stage and with their other work obligations for the day. It was a welcome relief. Because everything had gone so well, Harry gladly agreed to meet up with everyone that evening. The hurt from their break-up was bone-deep, but the day had been so fantastic, he didn’t want the time with Louis to end. They had been fighting for so long, he almost couldn’t remember the last time they’d had this much fun.

And now, Louis was drunk. Completely pissed. And as usual when he’d been drinking, he was soft and pliant and handsy, face lit with a radiant smile. Exuberant and hilarious. Larger than life. He’d been all over Harry, arm draped around his neck, guiding him through the room with a hand on his hip, grabbing at his elbow. He’d barely left his side.

As the night wore on and the edges began to blur, Louis became even more affectionate, words slurring as he spun his tales, turning his attention more and more solely on Harry until Harry realised they were alone in the corner of the room, just the two of them.

Louis seemed to realise it too. His voice trailed off from the story he was telling. After a pause, he said, “I’ve really missed you.” His voice had turned serious. “Really, really, really missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too.” The admission left his mouth before he could stop it.

“The flat seems too big without you there. And the bed. ‘S hard for me to sleep.”

Harry nodded, pulse beginning to quicken at the dangerous direction the conversation was taking. Louis was leaning in, intimate and close. Harry could feel his breath on his skin, the heat from his body. Without question, the physical attraction was as strong as ever.

Feeling the sudden urge to flee, Harry said, “I need to take a piss,” and he ducked out from under Louis’ arm, stumbling for a moment now that Louis wasn’t partially supporting him. He must be drunker than he thought. Making his way to the bathroom, he slipped through the door and flipped the lock, taking a moment to gather his wits. God, what was he doing? If he stayed there for another second, he would have leaned right over and kissed Louis on the lips in front of everyone in that room. He ran his fingers through his fringe, shaking his hair and pushing it back off his forehead. Then deciding that he might as well piss while he was there, he lifted the seat and relieved himself. Splashing some water on his face after washing his hands, he took another minute to compose himself before heading back out. He should probably go home.

When he opened the door and Louis was on the other side, he wasn’t really surprised. Nor was he surprised when Louis pushed him backward into the bathroom, following him inside and locking the door. And when Louis pulled his head down and leaned up to kiss him, he knew they’d been leading toward this moment all evening long. He practically melted when Louis’ tongue slid against his own, and he moaned, the feel of it was so amazing. He had almost forgotten how good Louis’ kisses were. It had been weeks.

After a few delicious moments, Louis pulled his mouth away and buried his face in Harry’s neck, sniffing him, rubbing his face back and forth across his skin. He was mumbling, a steady stream of words and Harry tried to clear the buzzing in his head to listen.

“Smell so good. Missed you so much, Haz. Been going crazy without you. Can’t sleep; can’t eat.” His hands were roaming everywhere as he spoke, slipping up under Harry’s shirt, sliding around and cupping his arse. Louis bit down against his collar bone, not hard enough to mark, but enough for Harry to feel that familiar pull in his gut. He growled and sunk his hand in the back of Louis’ hair, giving it a tug, pulling his face back so he could kiss him again.

Harry knew this was probably a bad idea, but he didn’t care just then. He’d missed it too much too, and Louis felt so good against him. They kissed and kissed, grinding against each other, both growing hard. When Harry felt Louis fumbling for the fastening on his jeans, he reached down to help, desperate to feel Louis’ hand on his cock. Louis obviously had other ideas in mind; he sunk to his knees after one more deep kiss, freeing Harry’s cock, tugging his jeans down his thighs. Gorgeous eyes looking up under a fringe of dark lashes, Louis began mouthing the underside, sucking and tonguing along the length.

When he reached the tip, licking at his slit, Harry fought the urge to close his eyes, not wanting to miss a single second of the sight of Louis kneeling in front of him. Instead, he leaned back against the sink and sunk a hand in Louis’ hair, gently resting it atop his head. Louis continued his movements, sliding his mouth back down the side of his cock, then back up, again and again. Growing impatient, Harry used his other hand to guide his prick between Louis’ lips, urging him to take it into his mouth. Eyes never leaving his, Louis complied, closing his lips around the head and swirling his tongue around the tip. Then he sunk slowly down Harry’s cock, taking him in as deep as he could go.

Harry watched, rapt as Louis sucked his cock, then even more entranced as Louis reached down to unfasten his own trousers, pulling his cock out and stroking it as he sucked on Harry. His hand began to move faster as his head bobbed up and down, and when Louis groaned around his cock, white pulses of come shooting from his dick as he ejaculated onto the bathroom floor, Harry’s hand squeezed into a fist, and he was coming down Louis’ throat, unable to hold back any longer.

Louis sucked him through it, humming and moaning against his cock, then he pulled off and rested his head against Harry’s thigh. Harry gave him a few minutes while he caught his breath and his heart rate slowed, then he pulled Louis to his feet, helping him tuck his cock back into his trousers, fastening them back up. He did his own next, avoiding Louis’ eyes.

This was a mistake. He knew it, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. He’d always found Louis pretty much irresistible, their chemistry unlike anything he’d ever known. But nothing had really changed. The Olympics were coming up soon and he knew there were already plans for Louis and Eleanor to be paraded in front of the crowds.

Louis’ hands were on his hips, thigh pressing between his own. Harry looked down at his beautiful, hopeful face, so open and loving, and stroked his knuckles softly against his cheek. Louis turned his head nuzzling against his hand and Harry thought his heart would break. He knew Louis believed in fate and for a while, he had too. But maybe sometimes you were meant to fall in love with someone, but you weren’t actually meant to be with them.

He savoured the moment, memorizing the feel of Louis’ body pressed against his own, then he hugged Louis close, resting his chin on the top of Louis’ head.

“This doesn’t really change anything,” he said.

He could feel Louis tense, then after a moment, he said, “Yeah, I know.”

When he pulled away, Louis’ expression was completely closed, a blank slate, devoid of any emotion. Harry felt as if something incredibly precious was lost to him forever.

-o-


What ru doing tonight?

Working. I’m a slave to the man.

Can I come down to the studio?

Open invitation popstar.


-o-


“You’re coming out with us, aren’t you?”

“If I’m invited.”

“If you’re invited? Harold, please. You’re one of us now. Half the station probably thinks you work here with all the time you spend lurking about.”

“Hey,” Harry whined. “I do not lurk.”

“Fine. With all the time you spend lounging about, oozing your popstar charm all over everything. Gives the place a certain cachet. I, for one, am not complaining. Proper A-lister you are these days. Maybe some of it will rub off on me. Honestly, I’m half waiting for you to drop me as a friend any day now. Trade up, so to speak.”

“Nope. ‘Fraid you’re stuck with me.”

“Lucky me.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“Come ‘round to mine at seven. We’ll have a cocktail or two then head to dinner. Mexican. Do you like Mexican?”

“I do.”

“Excellent. The party proper’s at The Groucho later, where I intend to get spectacularly drunk and mourn the loss of my youth. You, Harold, are not allowed to remind me that you’re still a teenager.”

“I’m over a hundred in dog years.”

“You’re such a strange child,” Nick said, shaking his head mournfully.

Nick and his group of friends had effectively adopted Harry into their ranks over the past few weeks. Still reeling in shock from the end of his relationship with Louis, Harry had been staying with Lou and Tom, but felt weird and intrusive disrupting their family life. Lux was enjoying the extra attention, and Harry soaked up her unconditional and very welcome love, but he still felt like an interloper into their happy home.

Harry had known Nick for quite some time. He admired him greatly, really got his sense of humour, and was envious of the easy way he navigated being gay in a very public occupation. They’d spent loads of time together in the past whenever he was in London, and Nick was often his go-to person when Louis had obligations with Eleanor and Ed wasn’t in town. The radio station had long since become used to him hanging ‘round.

The time he spent there, however, had ramped up considerably in the past few weeks. Louis was such an integral part of his life—he touched every aspect of it—that unravelling all their threads had left Harry adrift. He had always disliked being alone and now it was a hundred times worse; he felt lost, and achingly lonely.

Nick seemed to instinctively know how to help. As much as he joked about being only interested in himself, Nick had a keen insight into how people worked, what they needed at any given time. When he was unable to meet with Harry, he arranged for Aimee or Pixie or any other of his numerous friends to pick up the slack. They often ended up at Nick’s later anyway; Harry had spent many a night crashed on his couch.

They were both feeling no pain by the time they got to The Groucho Club and the hours passed in a blur of laughter and conversation. Nick was in his element, charming and sociable and basking as the centre of attention. Harry watched, amused, as Nick flitted about the room, holding court, opening presents with great fanfare, demanding birthday kisses from half the attendees there. Harry was content to keep mostly to himself, having quiet conversations with a few select friends. He was enjoying himself, but this was probably the most social he’d been since he and Louis split, and he wasn’t up for much more. He stuck it out, though, appreciative of the growing friendship between him and Nick.

When the hour was approaching 5:00 a.m., however, he knew he’d had enough. Searching the room for Nick, he spotted him seated with a group of friends. Harry walked over and gave his shoulder a squeeze. Nick looked up and a huge grin split across his face.

“Harold! Where have you been hiding?”

Harry smiled. “I think I’m going to head out.”

“Already?”

“It’s almost morning.”

“Is it?” Nick pulled out his phone and checked the time. “Oh. I suppose it is.”

“Happy birthday. Thanks for inviting me.”

“Wait,” Nick said, hauling himself to his feet. “I’ll walk you out.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I insist!” He turned to the others. “I’ll be right back. Don’t say anything interesting while I’m gone.”

They waved him away good-naturedly and he and Harry made their way to the door.

“You can’t leave without giving me my birthday kiss,” Nick demanded, puckering up his lips.

Harry laughed, not taking him seriously. “I think you’ve had plenty of those.”

“Ooooh. Jealous are we?”

Harry simply rolled his eyes in response.

Nick pouted. “Harold, what’s the use of inviting a gorgeous young popstar such as yourself if I can’t even get a kiss at the end of the evening.”

“It’s the morning.”

“And it’s my birthday,” Nick added, in a whiny voice, stomping his foot like a recalcitrant toddler. “Haroooold.”

Harry rolled his eyes again. “Fine.” He looked around at the guests still left at the party. Deciding discretion would be the prudent choice, he said, “Not here,” then tugged Nick down the corridor by his elbow.

“This is so exciting! It’s like our own little tawdry adventure, looking for a secret hiding place for a birthday snog.”

Harry stopped by the entrance to the men’s room and asked, “Here?”

“That’s rather cliché, don’t you think? Slipping into the gents for an illicit assignation?”

“God, you’re impossible. Now come inside,” he directed, opening the door and pushing Nick through, “and get your birthday kiss so I can go get some sleep.”

“You said ‘come inside’,” Nick said, with a hysterical giggle.

They were both laughing as the door closed behind them. But then the memory of him and Louis in the bathroom after Leeds came rushing into his mind and Harry’s demeanour abruptly changed.

When Nick noticed Harry had stopped laughing, he asked, “What wrong?”

Harry just shook his head.

“You look sad.”

Harry looked away. “I’m all right.”

“Are you?”

With a shrug of his shoulders, Harry said, “Probably not.”

“Come here,” Nick said, holding his arms open wide for a hug.

Once again, Harry rolled his eyes.

“Harold. None of that.” His hands opened and closed, motioning Harry towards him. “Come here and have a little cuddle. Pretty popstars like you should never look so sad.”

Reluctantly, Harry walked toward Nick and let himself be enveloped in a big hug. His arms slid loosely around Nick’s waist and they swayed gently back and forth.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” Nick said, into his hair, pressing soft kisses on the top of his head. “It’s just going to take a little time.”

Harry nodded in acknowledgement.

After a few more moments, Nick leaned back and reached under Harry’s chin with his thumb, tilting his face toward his own. “I’m going to kiss you now, okay?” he whispered.

“Okay,” Harry said, eyes wide.

Nick leaned down and pressed his lips gently against Harry’s, resting them lightly for just a moment, not moving, but breaths mingling. Then he took Harry’s top lip between his own, softly, with the slightest pressure. He did it again, holding it lightly between his lips, then did the same to his bottom lip, capturing it petal soft. Finally, his tongue slid out and lightly traced the seam of Harry’s lips. Harry’s mouth opened with a slight gasp and his own tongue tentatively peeked out to meet Nick’s. Nick pulled back after only a second, giving Harry’s lower lip one last soft kiss.

“Been wanting to do that for ages,” he said.

“Have you?” Harry asked, slightly stunned from the sensuous kiss.

“I have.”

“Oh.” He didn’t know what to say.

Nick smiled and ran a finger down Harry’s cheek. “Don’t fret, little popstar. Who wouldn’t want to kiss you?”

Louis. The name immediately came unbidden to his mind.

“Still fragile, I see,” Nick said, not unkindly, a soft smile on his face. “Go get some sleep, young Harold. You’ll be able to get home all right?”

“Yeah. I’ll grab a taxi.”

“Thank you for my birthday kiss. It was lovely.”

Harry nodded.

“I’ll call you tomorrow, all right?”

“Yeah, okay,” Harry said as he made his way to the door.

On the taxi ride home, he tried not to think about the fact that for the first time in years, the last person he had kissed was no longer Louis.

-o-


“Nick? Isn’t it a little early?” Harry blinked, trying to wake up, surprised that Nick was calling him on the phone when he would have expected him to be still laid out fast asleep, or at the very least, dreadfully hungover.

“It’s a gorgeous day, young Harold. Come join us in the park.”

“Are you serious? How are you even awake? I left before you did and I’m still in bed.” He sat up, leaning against the headboard, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“Oooh. Now that’s an attractive image. Maybe I should come join you instead.”

“You’re still drunk, aren’t you?”

Nick giggled. “Maybe just a little. But it’s birthday week. It’s expected. C’mon, popstar. What do you say? You know how rare it is for me to be out of doors during daylight hours. This is something that shouldn’t be missed. May not happen again in this lifetime.”

“I haven’t even showered.”

“Neither have any of us, though I have changed into more appropriate attire. I’ve got shorts on. My legs are completely exposed. Quite hairy they are too. We’re a rag tag crew, all of us. Smelly. You’ll fit right in.”

Honestly, Harry had planned to stay in bed all day, watching bad telly, eating crisps, feeling sorry for himself. Louis and Eleanor would be at the Olympics later and he knew there would be a barrage of pictures coming from their appearance. He was trying very hard not to let it spoil the excitement of being asked to perform at the Closing Ceremonies, but he’d be lying to say it hadn’t affected his enjoyment. When they first got put together as a group, he and Louis would talk far into the night about “what ifs,” dreaming of their future. They dreamed big—a hit record, a world tour, maybe even an MTV award one day—but neither of them had envisioned anything like this. Even so, in all the scenarios they thought up, all their possible futures, never once did they picture anything other than the two of them together, side by side.

When Harry, lost in thought, didn’t respond, Nick whined, “Harry, it’s my birthday.”

“Your birthday’s Tuesday.”

“You do get fixated on the most insignificant details, don’t you? I told you; it’s birthday week. Now get your gorgeous arse out of bed and come entertain me.”

“I’m really not in much of an entertaining mood, to be honest.”

“Just your usual charming dimpled self is entertainment enough, my dear child. You on a bad day is still preferable to over 99% of the world’s best day.”

“Laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?”

“False modesty doesn’t become you, young Harold. You know I speak only the truth.”

Harry heard voices arguing over the phone line.

“No, you can’t have it,” Nick was saying. “Get your own popstar!”

“Give me that,” another irritated voice cut in.

Then Aimee was on the phone. “Harry, you have to come join us. Grimmy’s been a right tit, complaining all morning that he barely got to see you yesterday because you left the party so early.”

“We met at his place. And we were all at dinner together. And it was 5:00 a.m. when I left!”

“You know how he gets. He’s like a big baby. Completely spoiled. Now are you joining us?”

Harry could hear Nick and Aimee arguing again and then Nick was back on the line. “Must I resort to bribery? I’ll let you buy me an ice cream.”

“I don’t think that’s how bribery’s supposed to work, exactly.”

“Oh, wait! I’ve got an even better idea. You have to come now so I can show you one of my pressies. You can even try it on and everything!”

“What is it? A shirt with some rude saying?”

“Even better.”

The “even better” turned out to be a muscle morphsuit, a stretchy one piece that looked like a human figure with the skin completely peeled away, showing the musculature underneath. It was hilarious and frightening and Harry drew stares when fully costumed.

“It's figure-hugging and guaranteed to grab the ladies’ attention.” Nick read the suit’s description out loud. “Harry…”

Harry turned his head.

“I can’t even tell if you’re looking at me.”

“I’m looking at you.”

“I think we should test the validity of their claim. See that group of girls over there? Now go see if you can grab their attention. It says right here on the package: guaranteed.”

“No, I don’t think I’ll do that.”

“Harold, must I remind you what today is?”

“Saturday?”

“My birthday.”

“’S not your birthday.”

“Now entertain me. You promised.”

“I did not promise.”

“Again with the details. Aren’t you a little young to be so anal about things? Please? Please, please, please? It will be funny.”

“Just so you know, I’m rolling my eyes at you. Fine.”

Harry stood up from where they were sat on the hill and starting walking to the group of picnickers set up nearby. The ones facing him spotted him coming their way and he put a finger up to his lips, motioning for them to keep quiet. Then when he got close enough, he reached over and tapped the shoulder of the woman with her back to him.

She turned around, took a quick look and started screaming. Picking up her purse, she jumped to her feet and began hitting him with it. Her companions were doubled over with laughter on their blanket and he could hear Nick and all their friends cackling with hilarity from behind as he tried to shield himself from her wild swings. Finally, he took off running back to his group and dove to the ground, hiding behind Nick.

“Are you happy now?” he asked.

“Yes! I am. That was brilliant. Best birthday ever!”

The rest of the afternoon passed enjoyably with more fun and laughter. They did get ice cream and took a nice walk through the park, taking advantage of the weather. Eventually, they made their way out to dinner, the group dispersing bit by bit until it was just Harry, Aimee and Nick. They found themselves back at Nick’s place where they collapsed on the couch, sipping a beer, flipping the telly on.

“Don’t think I really want to watch that,” Harry said when he saw the Olympics were playing. The day had been busy enough that he had almost forgotten about Louis being out with Eleanor.

He stood up. “Should probably just go home anyway. Didn’t get enough sleep last night for some reason.”

Aimee snorted.

“You should just crash here,” Nick suggested. “Bed’s big enough for us all. Had at least this many in it a time or two before. More, in fact.”

“You two take it,” Aimee said. “I’m not moving.” She had already stretched her legs out to take up the space Harry had vacated.

Harry hesitated.

“C’mon, popstar. Let’s get you in bed.”

“I bet you say that to all the popstars.”

“Only the attractive ones,” Nick said with a wag of his eyebrows. “Unfortunately, I’m completely knackered. Birthday week takes a lot out of a lad. Your virtue is safe with me. Doubt I’ll be awake for even five more minutes. Now come along.”

Harry let himself be led to the bedroom.

“You want something to sleep in?”

“Nah. Don’t usually wear anything to bed.”

Nick gave a dramatic gasp. “A naked popstar in my bed. Birthday wishes really do come true!”

“I’ll keep my pants on.”

“If you must. But, honestly, don’t feel you have to on my account.”

Harry just laughed. “You have an extra toothbrush?”

“Probably. In here,” Nick said, leading him to the attached bathroom.

Once Harry had texted Tom and Lou letting them know he wouldn’t be home and they were both settled under the covers, Nick asked, “Are you opposed to a little spooning? Not trying to get fresh with you or anything, I swear. I really will be asleep in less than five, but a little cuddle’s nice, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, no,” Harry said. “I mean, I’m not opposed and a little cuddle is nice, yeah.”

Nick’s arm draped over his waist and Harry turned on his side with his back toward Nick. Nick snuggled closer, knees bumping into the back of Harry’s, arm pulling him tighter.

“Your hair smells good,” Nick said, words already slurring from exhaustion.

“Thanks,” Harry said with a little laugh.

“’G’night, popstar,”Nick said.

“Good night. Happy birthday.”

“’S’not my birthday,” Harry thought he heard Nick say before his breathing turned deep and rhythmical; he was already asleep.

Harry lay quietly, thinking how nice it was to sleep with someone again. After being with Louis for so long, he’d had a difficult time falling asleep all alone in the bed. This was different, of course. Louis was small and curvy and like a little furnace. He’d be all over Harry in his sleep—sometimes the big spoon, sometimes the little. Often tucked right up against him face to face, others times draped over top of Harry like a starfish. Nick was even more angular than Harry, and taller too. But this was nice. Comfortable.

Harry shifted, moving just a little closer, and then in moments, he too was fast asleep.

-o-


The crowd was insane. Harry wondered if anything would ever top this moment. The Olympics. God, he was only eighteen and he had just performed at the Olympics. His eyes instinctively sought out Louis’ and they gave each other huge triumphant smiles. The moment was bittersweet. Even if they weren’t together, there was still no one else in the world he’d rather be sharing this experience with.

Before the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm him could take over, he was pulled in for a picture and more congratulatory hugs.

“Let’s go get drunk, yeah?” Ed said in his ear.

Harry nodded his agreement, giving Louis one last lingering look before turning away.

-o-


The next few weeks were a mixture of ups and downs, but eventually, Harry felt as if he were settling into life after Louis. He shook his head with chagrin, giving a little laugh at the thought. Life After Louis, he repeated to himself, mentally capitalizing the first letter of each word, as if it were the title of a movie, or maybe a song. He’d attempt to write lyrics, but he suspected they’d be too maudlin and sappy for even teenage girls.

Work, at least, had become less difficult. Louis had dialled down the sarcasm and biting humour, acting more like the friendly boy Harry remembered from their X-Factor days. They’d done photoshoots, had been busy recording and collaborating, even started filming the video for their next single. Throughout the shoot, tensions were low and the mood on the set was one of fun and exuberance. Harry’d be lying if he said he hadn’t had a passing thought or two about Louis insisting a little distance might do them some good. Not a single person on the shoot could fault them for a lack of professionalism; he was sure. Seeing the V Fest wristband still on Louis’ wrist from his highly publicized outing with Eleanor was a little jarring, but, he supposed, it was a good reminder of the reason things were the way they were.

When the work day was done—sometimes that would mean late into the evening—he’d hang with friends, not wanting to be alone and still trying to keep out of Tom and Lou’s hair. Occasionally, he’d meet up with Nick’s gang. Or he’d crash over at Ed’s. But for the majority of the time, he could be found at Radio 1, and then back at Nick’s flat. He just found it easier sleeping with someone, and Nick made him feel welcome and at home.

Being with Nick was easy. Fun. No pressure. The more distance he got from Louis, the more Nick seemed to fill in the empty spaces. Before he knew it, they were spending practically all their free time together. Every so often he’d catch Nick staring at him with a look he couldn’t quite decipher, but in a moment, it was gone. More than once Harry thought back to what Nick had said after they kissed at The Groucho: been wanting to do that for ages. But Harry had slept in Nick’s bed numerous times by now, and apart from a little joking about inevitable morning wood, everything had stayed completely platonic. The possibility for more between them was a constant presence, but to be honest, things were going so well, Harry wasn’t sure he wanted to examine it too closely.

In the back of his mind, however, he knew it was inevitable that things would change. And a part of him, growing larger every day, was starting to think he wanted them to.

“Hurry it up, Harold. We need to get on the road.”

“I’ve been ready for a half hour. You’re the one who’s been holding things up.”

“A quiff this eye-catching and attractive takes time.”

“You look very pretty. Now c’mon; let’s go.”

“Do we have tunes?”

“Got them.”

“Snacks?”

“All ready.”

“Right. I think we need to stop for some lunch first.”

“I thought you were in a hurry to get on the road.”

“Florence isn’t on until later. We’ve plenty of time.”

Harry rolled his eyes.

The Festival was a great time—good music, fantastic company. Nick seemed to know everybody and made certain Harry was included in the conversation wherever they went. They posed for countless pictures, with everyone from the security staff to any number of performers. Harry couldn’t remember when he’d had more fun. Afterwards they put in an appearance back in London at The Funky Buddha for Liam’s birthday. Then to round out their very full day, they popped over to G.A.Y. where Rita Ora was playing. It was early in the morning before they finally made it home.

“Ugh. I smell like smoke. And stale beer.”

“Why don’t you grab a shower? You can go first. I’ll take one after,” Nick suggested.

“Or you could join me. Save water and all that.” Harry was surprised at his own boldness. The alcohol had definitely loosened his inhibitions. Maybe he’d once again thought too many times that day about what Nick had said at his birthday party: been wanting to do that for ages. Maybe he’d caught Nick staring at him more blatantly than was usual, Nick’s own inhibitions lowered by their extended partying. Maybe he’d been wondering what it would be like if Nick were to kiss him again, but this time, for real.

Nick’s head whipped up and he gave Harry an assessing look, eyes narrowing. “Are you drunk, young Harold?” he asked after a long moment.

Harry gave a little laugh. “A little, yeah.”

“Hmmm. You go ahead. I’ve got a few things to take care of.”

Harry shrugged his shoulders, trying not to feel disappointed, ignoring the twinge of embarrassment, and headed to the bath.

When he heard the door to the bathroom open as he stood in the shower soaping his hair, his heart started beating frantically

“I hope you were serious,” Nick said, and Harry could see the outline of Nick stripping off his clothes through the opaque glass of the shower. “Because if you weren’t, this is going to become extremely awkward rather quickly. But I was standing in my kitchen thinking to myself that if you were serious, I’d have to be the biggest idiot on the planet to turn down the advances of Harry Styles, the world’s most desirable popstar.” Now he was just outside the shower, hand on the door.

“So which is it, young Harold?” he continued. “Am I about to make an even bigger fool of myself than usual?”

A barely remembered feeling began blooming in Harry’s chest, an odd combination of nervousness and excitement, a thrill of anticipation. It had been a long time since he had felt this way.

“Why don’t you come in and find out,” Harry said, his voice rough and low. Even he was shocked at how suggestive he sounded.

“Christ,” Nick said from the other side of the door and then he was opening it, stepping under the spray with Harry, backing him against the wall and kissing him.

Harry was already buzzing from the alcohol, the festival, the gyrating bodies on the dance floor of the club, but that was nothing compared to the way Nick’s kiss put his mind into a complete tailspin. A small part of him was busy cataloguing how different this was from kissing Louis—the taste of his mouth, the shape of his lips, the feel of his tongue—but a bigger part of his brain was being swept along by desire as Nick took charge, exploring Harry’s mouth, roaming his hands all over Harry’s body. The only semi-coherent thought that was floating through his head was that Nick really knew how to kiss.

After a few moments Nick pulled away. Harry stared up at him—that was something new, kissing someone taller than himself—at his swollen lips, dark pupils, long eyelashes clumping from the spray of the shower. A serious expression was on Nick’s face, and Harry was acutely aware of how very naked they both were.

“What did you have in mind here?” Nick asked. His fingers were digging into Harry’s hips. “A little snog?” He leaned in and kissed him again, dirty and quick. Pulling back, he asked, “Do you want me to suck you off?” This time when he tilted his head in, he sucked at Harry’s neck, sliding his tongue over his skin. Then he moved his mouth to Harry’s ear. “Should I use my hand?” He reached between them and wrapped his fingers around Harry’s cock, giving it a tug. Harry reacted with small strangled noise, body giving a shudder.

“Oh, you like that, do you? Is this what you want?” He stroked Harry’s cock again. “Or would you like me to fuck you?” Harry’s body shuddered again as Nick tilted his hips, rubbing his erection against Harry’s thigh, letting him feel how hard he was. “Anything you want, popstar. Just say the word.”

Harry wanted it all, wanted to feel Nick’s hands, his mouth, his cock deep in his arse. But for now, he said, “I want your mouth on my cock, and I want your fingers…” He hesitated. “I want your fingers inside me.”

Nick’s grip tightened and he kissed Harry again, sweeping his tongue through his mouth. It was hot and filthy and Harry was left imagining what it would feel like on his dick. His knees felt weak and he grabbed at Nick’s shoulders to steady himself.

“Fuck. That may be the hottest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Nick said between kisses. “But that can definitely be arranged.” His hand slid around Harry’s waist and down his backside, middle finger pressing into the crack of his arse, finding his hole and resting against it with just the slightest pressure.

Harry moaned and searched out Nick’s mouth for another kiss, the curl of desire in his belly twisting sharply. He could feel himself growing desperate for more and he leaned into Nick’s hand, urging him to press deeper.

Instead, Nick pulled his hand away and pushed Harry gently back. “I’d rather move this into the bedroom if that’s okay by you. Kneeling on a hard tile floor isn’t as sexy as it looks in the movies. And,” he added with another kiss, as if to take away the uncertain look Harry knew must be on his face, “I’d like to spread you out properly.”

Oh.

“Are you through with your shower?” Nick asked.

Harry nodded.

“Why don’t you get out and get yourself dried off and go wait for me on the bed. I’ll just be two minutes, hmmm?”

“Yeah, okay,” Harry said, voice gruff.

As he waited for Nick, the hot burn of arousal temporarily banked, nervousness started creeping in. He’d never done this with anyone but Louis. And god, he didn’t want to be thinking of Louis right now, didn’t want this day to slide into sadness. He especially didn’t want to feel guilty for having fun and wanting to take things a little further with Nick. He and Louis weren’t together anymore. There was nothing wrong with what they were doing. Nothing. They were both single, both young, and Nick seemed into it. No, he wasn’t going to think about Louis.

Determined to shake off these intrusive thoughts, Harry turned his attention back to Nick, thinking about the way he pressed right up against him, assured, experienced—definitely someone who knew what he was doing. He’d heard the stories; Nick had been around. Harry wondered if he was cooling off a bit while he was washing up, hoped he wasn’t going to change his mind.

Deciding he would do what he could to ensure things continued, Harry leaned over to rummage through the drawer of Nick’s nightstand. Finding the lube, he drizzled a little over his cock and gave it a few strokes. If Nick was having second thoughts, Harry wanted him to walk in the bedroom and find the sight of him too tempting to resist. Thinking back on Nick’s comment that what Harry had said in the shower—he wanted Nick’s fingers inside him—was one of the hottest things he’d ever heard, Harry squeezed out a little more lube onto his own fingers and reached between his legs.

That’s how Nick found him when he stepped out of the shower, Harry lying back with his eyes closed and lips parted, legs spread with his fingers in his arsehole.

“Holy fuck,” Nick said, momentarily speechless.

Harry opened his eyes and tilted his head up to watch his reaction.

Then Nick was dropping his towel, striding to the bed, kneeling to position himself between Harry’s legs.

“Couldn’t wait for me?” he asked with a husky voice.

“Was thinking about you, if that counts?”

“Christ, Harry.” He placed his palm against the back of Harry’s thigh, pushing his leg up toward his chest, watching Harry fingering himself.

“Want yours in me, though,” Harry said.

“All right,” Nick said, letting go of his leg to reach for the lube. “All right,” he said again, almost to himself. “Yeah, I can do that.”

He slicked up his fingers, then gently pulled Harry’s hand away. Harry was watching his face, Nick’s eyes riveted on what he was doing. Then Harry felt Nick’s fingertip against his hole, felt it slowly pressing in, deeper and deeper, past one knuckle, then two, all the way in. He let it remain inside, unmoving, letting Harry get used to it.

“You’ve got really long fingers,” Harry said, a little breathless.

Nick looked up then, cocked his eyebrow slightly and gave him a wicked grin, then his attention was back on Harry’s arse, watching intently as he slid his finger back out and slid two back in.

Harry laid his head back down, spreading his legs wider and giving a low moan. “Feels good.”

Nick didn’t answer, just continued his slow assault, sliding his fingers out, then back in, again and again, twisting them slightly, pressing against him from inside. He didn’t attempt to add a third one, just kept the movement slow and steady.

Harry’s neck was strained taut, low moans leaving his throat. His fingers grasped at the bed clothes while Nick fingered him relentlessly. His dick was hot and heavy against his stomach, the tip dripping with pre-come. He wondered if he could actually come from Nick’s fingers in his arse. With another deep moan as Nick moved his fingers just right, Harry thought the answer was probably yes.

When Nick asked, “You said something about my mouth too?” Harry answered with another moan, hips reacting to the question by bucking up from the bed. He tried to push his arse farther down on Nick’s fingers, but Nick held his thigh again, dipping his head down, licking at his rim next to his fingers. Then he moved up to mouth at Harry’s balls before licking a stripe up his cock. With the next press of his fingers, Harry was coming, his cock spurting stripes all over his stomach.

“Jesus,” Nick said before taking one of his balls in his mouth and moving his fingers while Harry writhed on the bed. Then he was pulling his fingers out, scrambling to kneel and jacking off above Harry. After only a minute or so, Nick was groaning, splashing his come all over Harry’s cock. When he was finished, he leaned over, panting, bracing himself with one hand on the bed. Then he leaned back on his heels, swiped one long finger through their combined release, slicking up his finger with their come, and pressing it back inside Harry.

Harry’s entire body shuddered, and he let out a strangled, “Nick,” completely overcome.

“You are the hottest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, Harry Styles,” Nick said. “Christ.”

-o-


“Are they all this sensitive?” Nick asked. Harry lay on his back while Nick explored every inch of his body, first with his hands, followed by his mouth. His thumb rubbed lightly across Harry’s nipple which had hardened immediately at his touch; Nick’s face was pressed against Harry’s abdomen, sucking gently at the skin on his belly.

“Why don’t you find out,” Harry said, sinking his fingers in Nick’s hair.

-o-


“Okay?” Nick asked, leaning above him.

Harry was overwhelmed. Nick was deep inside him, pinning him down on the bed, fingers digging into his bicep. He couldn’t help but think of Louis in a moment of panic, almost as if he was betraying him, how no one but Louis had ever been with him this way. And now here he was, being fucked by Nick Grimshaw.

Something of his internal conflict must have shown on his face because Nick said, “We can stop. We don’t have to do this, Harry. It’s all right.”

Opening his eyes to look up at Nick, Harry was steadied by the look of concern on his face. He took a minute to regroup. He should have realised that the first person he slept with after Louis would be painful, but somehow his emotions had taken him by surprise. He was glad it was Nick, though. Taking a moment to re-focus, pushing thoughts of Louis aside—he could process everything later—he concentrated instead on the feel of Nick’s cock filling him up, his gorgeous eyes staring down at him.

“No, I’m okay,” he said. “Keep going.”

“Oh, thank god,” Nick said, starting to move, and Harry laughed.

After they both came and Harry lay across Nick’s chest, he was grateful Nick didn’t say anything about how quiet he was. Surreptitiously, Harry reached up to his face with his fingertip, wiping away a tear that had squeezed out of the corner of his eye. Nick simply held him close, chatting about inconsequential things, occasionally carding his fingers through hair or leaning over to kiss him gently on the top of his head.

-o-


“I still owe you a proper blowjob,” Nick said.

“No time like the present. Not too proper, though.”

Nick laughed. “Not to worry, young Harold. I’ll make it as filthy as you like.”

-o-



Part 2 cont.
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