• 2.0 ~ We've got nothing to lose
Louis has seen stadiums. Like, a lot of stadiums. Ever since he moved from his quaint Doncaster to London to join Arsenal’s youth academy at 16 and eventually rose through the ranks – getting the call from the Gaffer himself, Arsène Wenger, to play for the first team at 19 – he’s traveled all over the country and continent playing football. Emirates Stadium. Old Trafford. Wembley with the Under-21 national team. Even the San Siro and Camp Nou in the Champions League. At 20, he’s very nearly seen them all. But he quickly forgets about all of those pitches and locker rooms and stands as soon as he enters the track at the Olympic Stadium. Actually, he nearly forgets how to walk entirely. All he can see of what he’s sure is an absolutely massive crowd are thousands of flashing camera lights. Everywhere his eyes turn he sees athletes from every nation in matching outfits of varying colors and styles. There is so much to take in, his ears hardly register the thumping music, can only feel the beat thrumming through his veins and propelling him forward.
He happens to be stumbling around in a sea of white, all the athletes from Team Great Britain wearing these ridiculous matching white outfits with big-ass metallic gold collars that are the definition of camp. But he’s got one arm slung over Zayn’s shoulders – partly so he won’t lose his best friend and teammate, partly for support in case he does actually faint from the excitement – as he waves around a little Union Jack with his free hand and tries to hold back tears. Louis is not usually a sappy emotional mess, all right? But when your lifelong dream of representing your country at a major world event playing the sport that gives your life purpose suddenly becomes your actually very real reality, you might get a little misty-eyed, too.
“This is it, mate! The Olympics! We’re here! We made it!” Zayn’s shouting straight in his ear to be heard, the excitement clearly getting to him, too, as his usual contemplative demeanor is nowhere to be seen.
“You think this opening ceremony is great, wait until we’re parading through the closing ceremony with gold medals around our necks!” Louis shouts back before another group of teammates crowds them from behind, expressing their same disbelief that they all are, indeed, Olympians. But being just an Olympian isn’t enough. Louis’ singular goal at these Games is to lead his Under-23 team to becoming Olympic champions on home soil, restoring all that long-lost pride to English (well, British, to be politically correct) football and that resolve only wavers just slightly when another stumbling body clad in white bumps hard into his side just after Louis manages to break away from the dog pile that has become his teammates.
“Oops!” A deep and slow voice fills Louis’ ears as an arm reaches around his waist, to keep Louis from rebounding into another white-outfitted body – this time a short young girl who could only be gymnast.
“Hi,” Louis replies as he turns to smile up at the person and thank him for preventing Louis’ life from dissolving into a real-life game of Pong, but the words dry up in his throat when he sees. The person is a boy, tall and lanky with curly brown hair pushed away from his face messily and held back by a gaudy Union Jack scarf, green eyes sparkling from all the camera flashes and impossibly pink lips curled in a wide smile that nearly encompasses his whole face and Louis recognizes him instantly and he thinks that maybe if walking into the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony wasn’t enough, having Harry Styles’ arm around him might be the killing blow.
Harry Styles is only 18 and a tennis phenom. He’s the country’s sweetheart at the moment, climbing the rankings steadily via his wicked serves to join veteran Andy Murray in the men’s singles tournament. But his bashful personality off the court captured the media’s attention, his life being closely documented since his rise to fame, from what clubs he’s partied at to which girls he’s been dating. That was, until grainy iPhone shots of Harry at a club grinding up against a determinedly not female form leaked to the press, and he appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross at the next opportunity to openly say he was bisexual. Easy as that. Right. Louis realizes probably several seconds too late that he has been staring at Harry’s lips – his bottom one now bitten in concern – for probably much longer than socially acceptable.
“What?” Louis says, blinking away his thoughts, since Harry’s expression is expectant. Harry releases his bottom lip and breaks into that wide smile the cameras can’t get enough of. But when he speaks again, Louis can only be entranced by how his mouth moves, since his words are eaten up by the vacuum of noise inside the stadium.
“Sorry!” Louis shouts because it is decidedly time to make as graceful of an exit as possibly before he spends any more time short-circuiting over Harry Styles’ lips. “Too loud! I’ll just be-” but before Louis can extricate himself from those ridiculously long (and muscular, Louis’ watched Wimbledon, please) arms and rush back to the safety of his mob of teammates, Harry’s arm tightens to pull Louis in closer as his head ducks down so his lips are pressed – pressed – to the shell of Louis’ right ear.
“I said,” How he can possibly sound like he is whispering in a quiet room when in reality he had to be screaming loud enough to burst Louis’ eardrum just to be heard, Louis didn’t want to read too much into. “Wouldn’t want England’s best chance in years at a footie trophy trampled before you win us a gold.” Harry loosens his grip on Louis and pulls away, and the bit of distance is enough for the swim team to come barreling through and break the two apart – thankfully, since Louis, for once in his life, was drawing a blank as far as a witty comeback. He quickly loses sight of the curly haired and scarfed head as he’s pushed along with the crowd. But a hand soon wraps around his wrist, causing him to nearly go into cardiac arrest right there on the track where Usain Bolt would probably be setting records in mere days.
“Were you just talking to who I think you were talking to?” Zayn shouts in Louis’ ear, not half as soothing as Harry had.
“Jesus Christ, Zaynie, how you can sneak up on me in literally the loudest gathering of people in English history, I will never understand,” Louis is good at casual avoidance.
“I thought you said you were swearing off all things sex until after the Olympics? But, I mean, if you’re going to make exceptions I guess Harry Styles is a good o-” Louis clamps a hand over his best friend’s mouth and shout-hisses into his ear.
“I have, and it was nothing! Never speak of this again.”
“I’m just saying,” Zayn bats Louis’ hand away. “Haven’t you fancied that pants off? I'm sure since you first saw him bumble his way through the French Open at 16?” Louis can really not handle thinking about a jailbait Harry Styles in that oh-so-white and tight little tennis outfit. This is the opening ceremony, for Christ’s sake. No time for his teenage sexual fantasies.
“Enough with the walk down memory lane and more focus on the walk through Olympic Stadium, all right?” Louis throws an arm back over Zayn’s shoulders and lets his eyes wander back to the immense and burning Olympic Torch at the very top of the stands. And if he only manages to think of Harry Styles several dozen more times before his head hits his pillow back at the athletes’ village that night, then Louis marks it a success.
Everyone’s feet are dragging a bit at practice the next morning. They all blame the insanity that was the opening ceremony, but the several pints afterward as nearly the entire team crowded into Louis’ and Zayn’s tiny little apartment at the athletes’ village probably contributed as well. Louis is currently bouncing from foot to foot, trying to get his soggy mind to catch up and get in the game as he waits his turn in the passing drill. He’s played at West Ham’s Boleyn Ground numerous times, but practicing there as if it was his home stadium is still a bit odd – considering his team is a city rival.
“Come on, lads, pick it up!” Stuart, their gaffer, shouts out to them from where he is glaring on the sidelines. “You may have beaten Senegal, but a 1-0 margin shouldn’t be a comfort.” That’s the funny thing about football at the Olympics. Great Britain had actually already played its first match the day before the opening ceremony, a tight win over Senegal in Group A up in Manchester. Louis shudders thinking about how the next match is already tomorrow against the United Arab Emirates. At least it’s at Wembley and they won’t have to trek up to godforsaken Hampden Park, but seriously, footie is not a game meant to be played with just two days between matches. The schedule made Louis curse the day he decided being a play making midfielder was a good idea. If he were a keeper like Zayn, he could just stand around all match looking pretty.
“You heard the man, mates. Get to it!” Louis shouts to his teammates after taking his turn in the drill and then taking a lap around the field. He may not be the actual team captain, that falling to one of the illustrious overage players Ryan Giggs, but he’s still looked to as a leader. Comes with the territory of running the midfield. Usually when Louis plays football, all thoughts leak out of his head, and he can just focus on the game – the feeling of grass crunching beneath his cleats, the air-tight popping sound the ball makes as it leaves someone’s foot, the swish of the goal netting, but today is apparently not the usual. Instead of blank bliss, his mind is absolutely swimming with Harry Styles.
It’s not that seeing the 16-year-old prodigy at the French Open(and Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open and the Australian Open …) had been some sort of sexual awakening for Louis. No, he had known well before 18 that he was gay. Harry had just been … stimulating. Everyone has a celebrity crush, now honestly. But when Harry came out and made it look so simple, that’s what sent Louis over the edge. He casually dropped the bisexual bomb, and the media just ate it up instead of crucifying him for it. Louis wishes he could do the same, but footie is not as forgiving as tennis. It’s a lads sport. Louis would be traded to freaking Siberia before he could even fully shut the closet door. Not that Louis hasn’t been able to have some, er, relationships. He managed a few semi-serious ones back in school (well, as serious as horny teenagers can be), and he gets a good lay in every now and then courtesy of London’s abundance of gay bars. But as his profile has risen and the media has taken interest in his stock, Louis has had to be more careful his one night stands won’t sell him out to the papers.
“Hey! Tomlinson!” Louis hears the warning about five seconds too late as a ball crashes into the back of his head. He’s still blinking stars out of his eyes and rubbing the blooming bruise when he sees Stuart sighing on the sidelines and Zayn cracking up in goal. That’s what daydreaming about Harry Styles will get him. The rest of practice doesn’t go much better. It’s as they’re all exiting the pitch, ready for cold showers and lunch, maybe a nap before the afternoon practice session, that all the boys start tittering away.
“Hey, is that Harry Styles? The tennis bloke?” Tom, a ManU midfielder, asks to the general group.
“What?!” Louis might snap his head up a little too suddenly to feign casual interest.
“Who’s he waving at?” Daniel, a Chelsea forward, continues. Louis spots the lanky figure standing in the first row of seats, a shorter boy standing beside him. He is, indeed, waving. Louis looks around his group of teammates on the pitch. Zayn smacks him on the back of his already sore head.
“He’s waving at you, idiot.”
“Why would he be waving at me?” Louis smacks Zayn back. Zayn just rolls his eyes and pushes Louis toward the stands.
“Just go say hi, you nutter.”
“Fine, but you’re coming with me, Zaynie,” Louis says as he grabs Zayn around the wrist and drags him along. Harry and the other boy climb down from the stands on to the pitch through a little gate, Harry only stumbling slightly. Harry waves again once Louis and Zayn are within striking distance.
“What are you doing here?” Louis replies. Smooth. He can practically hear Zayn’s eyes rolling around in his head.
“That’d be because of me,” Harry’s companion chimes in. He’s very blond and very smiley. And very recognizable. “Harry’s a mate of mine and wanted a bit of a tour of my stomping grounds.”
“Niall Horan, right?” Louis asks. “West Ham defender who’s knocked me to the ground more times than I can count?”
“The one and only!” Niall beams before clapping Zayn and Louis on the shoulders in greeting. “Can’t believe we’re letting effing Gunners practice on our pitch. Too bad Ireland is so shite at football, or I could reclaim some of my dignity from you British tarts.”
“Niall,” Harry looks a bit scandalized, but Louis is used to this kind of banter. Footballers have their own language sometimes.
“Hey mate, I actually have something you might be able to help me out with,” Zayn interjects, tossing a quick glance between Louis and Harry before settling back on Niall. “The left goal post is a bit wobbly? Is it always like that? Can you come take a look?”
“Sure, sure, we don’t have as nice equipment as Arsenal, but we do our best,” Niall replies, already following Zayn away and winking back at Harry before he fully turns to leave. So, they’re alone. Convenient. And awkward. Harry shuffles his feet through the grass, looking at his feet while Louis coughs, unsure.
“So, do you like this stadium?” Harry looks up at Louis through his lashes. Man, those green eyes. Almost makes this small talk bearable.
“I mean, I’ve seen better. Now that stadium last night, that was amazing. One of the best. Might top the list at this point-”
“You have a list?” Harry interrupts, a smirk quirking at the corner of his lips.
“Obviously, doesn’t every athlete? It’s my thing. Stadiums. I love playing in new ones. It’s just,” Louis is rambling, shut up, shut up, he doesn’t care about your kink for athletic facilities. “Cool."
“Then, actually, you should come with me tonight!” Harry is full on smiling. “Um, you, me and Niall. And Zayn, too, if he wants. And my friend Liam, obviously.”
“Um, go with you where?” Louis crinkles his eyebrows in confusion. Harry lets out a rather startling horse laugh before clamping a big hand over his mouth to contain it, looking a bit sheepish. Louis is dying, it was too adorable.
“Sorry, right. I have this friend Liam on the swim team. He said he can sneak us in after hours to the aquatics centre for a bit of a tour. I figured as long as I’m here, at the Olympics, I’d see as much behind the scenes stuff as I can,” Harry explains, doing that looking-at-Louis-through-his-eyelashes thing again.
Louis is regretting this whole “being in” thing. Regretting because it is nearly midnight, and he is hopping a fence because the door a certain freestyler Liam Payne was supposed to have left propped open was, indeed, not propped open. Zayn and Niall both easily hopped over. But here’s the thing. Louis is shorter, all right? Not short, just not tall, ok? And this is kind of a larger-than-normal fence, and all he can do is stare at it and contemplate how to launch himself over as gracefully as possible without ripping his tight black jeans in front of an incredibly attractive tennis star.
“Need a boost?” The familiar deep voice asks from behind him. Louis is about to assure he is fine when large hands grip his waist and hoist him up so his hands plant easily on the top of the fence, and he is scrabbling over as quickly as possible so as to hope said tennis star doesn’t see how red his cheeks are and, oh god, he grabbed his waist. No. Zayn and Niall are all smug smirks as they watch Louis flatten his shirt back into place as Harry easily hurdles over the fence and lands beside Louis, before tripping on his own feet, causing Louis to reach out and steady him by the waist.
“You two struggle buses ready, finally?” Niall rolls his eyes and starts toward the aquatics centre. They sneak through propped open doors and dark hallways like secret agents. Well, more like giggling schoolgirls because this whole thing is absolutely not subtle and completely ridiculous. When they make it to the practice pool, where they are to meet Liam, they see a body splashing through the pool. Harry slips over to the edge and, when the boy in the pool is about to make his turn, reaches into the water and grabs his ankle. Liam, presumably, thrashes about for a while before Harry releases him, and he bobs to the surface.
“We had to hop a fence Liam. You are a terrible aider and abettor,” Harry laughs as Liam pulls himself out of the pool by his forearms, body glistening in just a speedo. Well now. Louis may be into curly haired, tall, clumsy boys, but he can appreciate a cut six pack with the best of them. Liam greets Niall by whipping him with his damp towel before extending a hand to Louis and Zayn.
“Nice to meet you both. Heard lots about you,” Liam smiles all crinkly. Zayn can only blink in response. Interesting.
“Really, we are but lowly footie players,” Louis says to cover Zayn’s intense gazing at Liam’s aforementioned six pack.
“But the best hopes for medals out of the lot of us,” Harry says.
“Come on, Liam, let’s get on with this tour. Our lads here have matches tomorrow,” Niall is actually tapping his foot in impatience. This is true, though. Harry has his first round of 64 match against some barely-more-than-amateur- French player, and Louis and Zayn have UAE, obviously. Louis tries to silence the voice in his head that reprimands him for not being asleep in bed and resting up for the game tomorrow.
“Right then, through here,” Liam leads the way, pulling a robe on over his speedo so thankfully Zayn can focus back on the task at hand. Liam shows them all the vast practice pools, and they all have a laugh at the vibrating echoes from the arched ceiling. He shows them the team locker rooms, and Louis may or may not take a few selfies in front of Michael Phelps’ and Ryan Lochte’s lockers. So sue him, he can still be a super fan even if he is an Olympian himself and when they enter the atrium for the main competition pool, Louis admits, it’s pretty cool. Just everything. The aquatics centre. Being at the Olympics. Casually hanging out with Harry Styles. All of it is just really, really, unbelievably cool.
“Well, that’s about it lads,” Liam says, placing his hands on his hips. “You’ve now gotten the behind the scenes look at the Olympic aquatic centre. How does it feel?”
“Eh, I’m not sure it’s quite over,” Niall says as he pulls one of his chunky white Nikes off.
“What? Wait, what are you doing?” Liam watches Niall worriedly as he shucks his other shoe and then his shirt before running wildly toward the pool, shouting “GERONIMO!” before jumping into the air and cannon-balling into the formerly pristine water.
“Oh no! Nialler! This is the Olympic pool, you can’t just-” but Liam is cut off again as Harry follows suit, losing his shoes and shirt before diving into the pool behind Niall. Liam looks absolutely shell-shocked, but Louis puts a hand on his shoulder as he’s already toeing out of his shoes.
“Liam, mate, if you can’t beat them. Join them.” And that’s how all five of them ended up in the Olympic pool half naked and splashing about like kids at a pool party and if Louis’ fingers linger a bit in Harry’s wet hair as he dunks his head underwater, then so be it. And if his eyes nearly physically drag over his wet torso as they all scramble out of the pool when they hear security nearing on its rounds, so sue him.
This is the Olympics. What happens here, stays here.
En dat is één van de Olympische spelen, wat vinden jullie ervan?
Ik geef vast aan dat dit verhaaltje korter zal zijn dan de vorige.
Het zullen bij elkaar maar vier delen zijn, dus tot deel drie en dan is ie alweer alfgelopen.
Geniet ervan zou ik zeggen.