14.3 ~ The fine lines we knew
When Louis gets home from work the next day, still feeling like shit, Niall is home. He's in his bedroom and the door is closed, but he's home. Louis stands in the doorway, turning his keys over in his hands, contemplating what to do. Just like everything else they've gotten through, they're going to have to power through this, whatever this is. Louis heads straight to his door and knocks softly, getting no answer. He knocks again, still nothing. There are probably a million different things Louis could do, but he only really considers one option, which is very slowly pushing the door open, glad it's not locked. Come to think of it, he's not sure their doors even lock. He doesn't remember ever having to test it out.
Niall? He calls softly through the crack in the door. There's a long silence before he hears the gentle rustling of sheets, then another beat of silence.
Yeah, he finally says and Louis can tell he's been sleeping. That makes him feel a tiny bit better because he hadn't been ignoring Louis' knocking, but he does acknowledge that maybe he still would have even if he'd been awake.
Can I come in? Louis asks, trying to remember the last time he had to ask that question. Niall doesn't answer at first and Louis pushes the door open another inch, just so he can see inside. His friend is rubbing his face hard and Louis feels bad waking him up, but he hadn't expected Niall to be asleep at six in the evening. He doesn't let himself wonder what it was that kept him up last night, that's made him so tired.
Alright, he finally answers. Louis wastes no time pushing the door open and crossing around to the far side of Niall's bed, the side he always claims when he sleeps with Niall. He toes his shoes off quickly before peeling the blanket back and climbing under it. He feels awkwardness and anxiety crawling under his skin as he gets settled, but then Niall turns to him. It's hard to feel awkward with this boy, regardless of what situation they're in. Louis lets himself stare into the familiar face for a long moment because it relaxes him. He's still on edge enough that, if Niall wants to yell at him, he's ready to take it, but he can also just lie here and not want to tear his own hair out like he's wanted to all day.
I'm sorry, he starts because it seems as good a place as any. Really sorry. Niall doesn't look away. He searches Louis' face, something uncertain in his eyes, until his lips part just a bit.
For what? He finally asks. The question is a heavy one and also an impossible one to answer at this point. It's a question Louis has been asking himself since he freaked out the night before and he still hasn't fully answered it himself.
Fucking in shared spaces for one, he mumbles because that is a solid thing, the only real, reasonable thing he has to feel bad about. When he doesn't go on, Niall nods, looking away from Louis for the first time since their eyes locked. He drops his head further into the pillow and looks down at the space between them.
That it? Louis opens his mouth, but there are no words to be formed. He knows there should be, can feel that there's something, but it doesn't come together and he didn't really expect that it would.
I don't know, he finally answers honestly, hoping that Niall can hear the sincerity in his voice. It's quiet and Louis glances up to see Niall thinking, lips tightening and teeth working behind them the way they do when he's trying to figure something out. Louis could still write a book about Niall's facial expressions and what each one means. He can't read his thoughts, though, and while that fact should be obvious, it scares Louis a bit. Niall finally sighs and opens his arms, meeting Louis' gaze. Louis exhales heavily, letting some of his anxiety spill out as he shuffles into Niall's arms, wrapping himself around the body he knows so well. He tucks his head under Niall's chin and pushes his hand under Niall's shirt to rest it at the small of his back. Things feel right like this. Louis feels steady and whole and maybe that's the thing that should scare him more than the fact that he can't read Niall's thoughts, but it never does. It never has. A half hour passes in silence and Louis trails his fingers over the bumps of Niall's spine and he feels a thumb brushing over the back of his neck. Niall's breathing evens out the way it does when he starts slipping toward sleep, but it doesn't catch the way it does when he falls over the edge. Louis memorized the pattern when he was twelve.
Is there something going on with you and Josh? He asks quietly, hoping it doesn't destroy the calm they've sunk into.
What? No, Niall answers sleepily, tilting his head down to look at him. Why? Louis tries not to show how relieved he is, tries not to think about it.
Just wondering, he says, unconsciously squeezing Niall a bit tighter. Niall hesitates, the evenness of his breath gone now.
Did Zayn tell you? About that night? Louis knows what he's referring to, he just didn't know Zayn had mentioned it to him. Which is silly, he realizes. They do work together and Zayn was thoroughly amused that night.
He didn't have to. Saw it for myself. Louis feels the way Niall's body freezes in his arms and he presses his palm against his back again, like a reminder to relax.
Oh. It takes a minute, but his muscles do go pliant again, sinking back into the embrace. Sorry. I didn't know. Louis would love to ask for more information, ask why they'd been kissing because half a joint and a few beers has never made him run off and snog a boy before, but he thinks it's too much for tonight. They haven't said much, but it seems like they've covered a lot. Louis doesn't want to push too far, not when he's happily tucked into Niall's arms.
Love you, he says instead. Niall's reply is automatic, but Louis doesn't doubt its sincerity. He kisses Niall's shoulder through his shirt and sighs, going slack in the embrace. There are still things he's going to have to deal with at some point, things that have possibly been festering in him for five years or maybe longer, maybe even quite a bit longer. They can wait, though. They've waited this long after all.
It's a Saturday night a few weeks later and Louis is sitting in the pizza shop, waiting for Niall and Zayn to finish closing up. Their boss had left early, so no one had kicked Louis out this time when they locked the doors. They've got plans to go out and, what had started as Louis and Niall had quickly grown to include Zayn and Harry, then Liam, then god knows who else. It was supposed to be a nice casual night of drinking, maybe some dancing, and now it's turned into a thing. Which is fine, but Louis and Niall almost never go out just the two of them anymore. It's a bit frustrating. When they finally emerge, they've both changed into fresh club-appropriate clothing and Louis gives a little applause, a smirk playing at his lips as he looks them over approvingly. Zayn rolls his eyes and Niall shakes his head, tugging Louis up out of his chair. It's not cold, but there's a chilly breeze whipping around them as they walk down the street and Louis gravitates to Niall. Pushing his arm under the boy's open jacket, he fits himself into the crook of his armpit, snuggling up for warmth. They've maybe been even more cuddly than usual lately, like the touching is a replacement for the talking they've been doing so much less of, it seems. Louis doesn't know why they haven't been talking as much. It's never a terribly awkward silence between them, at least, and it's not like they're doing it on purpose.
How many times do I tell you to bring a jacket? Niall mumbles, wrapping as much of the fabric around Louis as possible and rubbing his hand over his arm where it can't reach. And how many times do you ignore me? Louis grins up at him because they both know the answer is countless, but he's not one to cave so easily.
It's going to be hot in the club, though. Then you'll be fucked. He rests his head on Niall's shoulder as they look ahead, following behind Zayn. Besides, I've always got you to keep me warm. Niall doesn't respond to that, just squeezes Louis closer as they round the corner.
Generally, after about one and a half drinks, Harry is a fucking filthy dancer. He crowds up in Louis' space and shamelessly grinds against him as his lips fall to Louis' ear. Louis can be quite filthy himself, but ever since Niall had seen them having sex, even if it was just for a second, he's been shy about public displays of affection when his best mate is nearby. So, tonight, as Harry slips behind him and grinds against his arse, Louis feels a mild panic rise in his chest. His eyes dart around for Niall and find him standing at the bar with Liam and- and Josh. And that's fine. Josh is lovely and Niall said they're just friends. It's perfectly fine.
Why so tense? Harry asks into his ear as his fingers dip under Louis' shirt to graze over his belly button.
Just need another drink, Louis says, turning in the embrace. Dance with Zayn for a minute while I get a refill? Harry gives him a momentary pout, but kisses Louis and smacks his bum before turning to where Zayn is standing against a wall a few feet away. Louis takes a deep breath and heads toward the bar. He really does need another drink. It's not a lie, not technically.
Louis! Liam greets happily, pulling him into a side hug. Louis smiles and ruffles his hair.
So, is this where the boring people hang out? He teases, looking around at them. You do know there's dancing, right? He orders his drink as Liam responds.
We don't all have people to dance with like you. Louis whips around, a fake shocked expression on his face.
You don't need someone to dance with! The world is your stage and all that! He catches the glint of Niall's eyes as he laughs at Louis' antics and it's enough to make Louis' facade break, a happy smile replacing it. Besides, you'll never pull unless you get out there, he says with a shrug, accepting his new drink from the bartender and taking a sip. Go find a cute bird and shimmy on over.
Not really looking to pull tonight, Josh says, shaking his head over a smile as he lifts his drink up to his lips. Just here to have fun with my mates. The fucker casually slips his arm around Niall's shoulder and squeezes and Louis only lets his face fall for a half a second before he's got the mask back on.
Well, you can start by having fun with me, he says cheerily, reaching out and pulling him away from the group. (Niall.) Looks like you found yourself a dancing partner. Josh, to his credit, just laughs and lets himself be pulled out onto the dance floor. Louis stops them near where Harry is still trying to get Zayn to dance, which mostly involves him dancing by himself in circles around his mate.
Promised Joshua here a dance, Louis shouts to Harry over the music, pointing a thumb back to where Josh is waiting. Harry pouts again and shouts back, `rude,´ before giving up on Zayn altogether and throwing a wink to Louis. He heads back to where the other lads are still standing and, as his vision sweeps across, Louis' eye catches Niall staring back at him. Louis smiles, blows a kiss, and turns to Josh.
Hi, he greets before pulling him closer.
Hello, Josh responds, seeming perfectly happy to have been pulled away for a dance. Louis is confused. Everything has been confusing for weeks and this is extra confusing. He throws one arm up over the lad's shoulder, holding his drink close to his chest with the other. Finding the beat, he lets his hips move along with it, rocking from side to side.
Never actually danced with a bloke before, he says, looking concerned as he awkwardly tries to find a good place for his hands, setting them lightly on Louis' hips. This okay? I'd rather not get punched by your boyfriend tonight. Louis narrows his eyes in thought, hoping it doesn't come across as mean instead.
You've never danced with a bloke? He asks, just barely audible over the music. Josh looks up from his hand placement, eyebrows raised.
I mean, I'm totally fine with it! It's nice, I just don't know how-
Why were you snogging Niall? Louis interrupts, knowing full well that this is not the time and that was not the way to ask, just blurting it out, but fuck if any of that is going to stop him. Josh freezes for a second, then casts his eyes down. Louis can just barely see the color rising to his cheeks. He waits as Josh takes a moment to think and, when he looks up, he still doesn't quite meet Louis' gaze.
That's not really my story to tell, he says, his lips twisting thoughtfully. But, as it relates to this conversation, I don't have a problem kissing blokes even if I don't make a habit of it. I've just never had romantic type feelings for any. Louis stares up at him, just now noticing how much taller he is. He makes sure to keep moving a little, to keep the dance going to take the pressure off of this conversation. Somehow it feels more casual if they're still dancing.
There's a story to tell? He asks, already knowing he shouldn't be asking it. He barely knows this person and it's so fucked up that he's asking him for information about his best mate since forever, the one person he knows better than himself. It's all so fucked up. Josh hesitates, like he doesn't know how to answer that question, which is really all the answer Louis needs. He waits, though, just in case the lad is going to break down and spill some deep, dark secrets about his best mate and how he likes kissing fucking boys, but the silence stretches on. It's only interrupted when Harry approaches and asks to cut in because apparently the song had switched over while Louis was waiting.
Of course, Josh says with a little bow, backing away from Louis. Their eyes meet for a moment and Louis thinks he sees an apology behind Josh's before he's turning away to head back to the bar.
Hey, Harry practically whines into Louis' ear. Stop making eyes at the pretty musician and make eyes at me. Louis turns his face toward Harry, feeling itchy under his skin. He can't bring himself to dance right now, but he needs something. Something to soothe the itchiness, to calm the curling of his stomach.
Need a wee, he says evenly, nodding toward the toilets. Come give me a hand? Harry's face breaks out into a huge grin because public sex is among his very favorite things and he will gladly squeeze into a toilet stall and get on his knees if it's what Louis wants. They slip through the crowd and Louis pulls Harry along by the hand until they get to the loo. Luckily, it's not crowded, just an unassuming bloke washing his hands, and they can hurry into a stall together without anyone noticing. If this were a gay club, Louis wouldn't give a shit, but he doesn't feel like getting his ass kicked tonight. Harry pushes him back against the wall, fingers already going for his zipper and Louis closes his eyes, waiting for the touch. He's hoping it's the cure he's looking for, hoping Harry can make his mind clear of all the shit swirling around in it.
You're so hot, Harry tells him as his hand pushes inside of Louis' pants, fingers nudging against his mostly soft cock. Louis kisses him roughly because he's decided that words are not the cure. He doesn't want talking right now, he wants touching. Harry wanks him in his pants as they kiss and, after a couple of minutes, Louis is fully hard. When Harry kisses down his neck and goes to drop to his knees, Louis stops him.
Wait, he breathes, pulling him up by the arms. Wait, do you have lube? Sometimes he does, just in case- well, just in case a situation exactly like this occurs, but they've never done anything quite like this. The occasional semi-public blowjob, sure, but actually fucking in an actual public loo, no.
I think- Harry says, reaching into his back pocket with some difficulty and yanking out his wallet. He unfolds it and produces two little packages, lube and a condom. Yeah. You sure, babe? Louis nods quickly, pushing his jeans and pants down, not bothering to pull them off completely. He just gets them around his knees and turns, pressing his hands into the cool tile and trying not to think about the last time it was cleaned.
Please, come on, he urges, looking back over his shoulder. Harry is just staring at his body and Louis is willing to bet he looks like quite the slut right now, but he doesn't care. He needs this. He needs to clear his head.
You're in some mood tonight, Harry says in awe, hand sliding down over Louis' naked arse. Bend down a bit more for me. Louis bends, spreading his legs as much as possible which is really not much at all with his jeans bunched up around them, but it's enough. Harry tears open the lube and, moments later, cool, slick fingers are rubbing between his arse cheeks. Louis stays mostly quiet as Harry loosens him up, keeping his gasps muted. He still feels itchy, still feels his thoughts pressing in on him and threatening to develop into actual words instead of the shapeless blobs they are now. He's not sure he'll be able to handle it when they clear up. He'd rather they just disappeared completely. At least for tonight.
Harry, he whines softly, pushing back on Harry's fingers. Now, please. It hasn't been as long as usual, but Louis knows he can take it. Harry kisses his neck, working his fingers in a few more times, his other hand gripping onto Louis' left hip. When he finally slides his fingers out, Louis nods to himself like he's psyching himself up for this to work. Before Harry can get in, though, Louis feels it crushing down on him. The shapeless blobs, the emotions that Louis still can't put a name to. It spreads over him like molasses, heavy as anything, until he feels tears pricking his eyes.
Ready? Harry asks, positioning himself, his cock nudging at Louis' hole. Louis nods, forehead pressed into the tile, hoping that's enough. It must be because Harry pushes in then and Louis both loves it and can't stand it right now. He tries to focus on the love, though, the pleasant burn and the incredible fullness. He focuses on that and not how he feels guilty for no reason.
God, Lou, Harry moans as he gets seated, pulling Louis' hips back against him. Louis waits until a toilet flushes to sniff, letting the tears leak from his eyes without wiping them away. He keeps his face hidden from Harry, pulling his hands up next to his eyes for extra cover. He doesn't want him to stop and he certainly can't explain it so it would all be easier if Harry just didn't know.
This what you wanted, babe? As a top, he's quite verbal. Usually Louis loves it. Right now, he just wants to be fucked into this dirty wall until he can't hold himself up. Couldn't wait, huh? Louis shakes his head as Harry works up a rhythm, giving Louis enough time to relax. Soon, though, he's going at a good pace and Louis lets the thrusts rattle his bones, shoving him into the tile. His fingernails scrape uselessly over the smooth surface and the friction isn't quite a cure, but it's something to focus on at least. When Harry dips down to kiss his neck softly, fingers digging bruises into the hollows of his hips, Louis remembers in a flash the night after graduation. He remembers the kisses and the way Niall looked down at him when he got inside. He remembers how comfortable it felt to be all wrapped up in his very favorite person, his best friend since forever. He forgets to hide it when his chest heaves with a small sob and he knows Harry has noticed now because he slows to a stop immediately.
Louis? He asks, concerned, arms sliding around his waist. He doesn't pull out yet, though, and Louis reaches back to hold him there, to make sure he doesn't.
Don't stop, he says, knowing he's given himself up and letting Harry hear the thickness in his voice.
Lou, Harry says again, softly, pressing his chest into Louis' back. What's wrong? Are you okay?
Fine, Louis insists, shaking his head. I'm fine, I just need this, okay? Harry stays still for a long moment, fingers brushing over his stomach gently. He kisses below Louis' ear as his hips shift a tiny bit, almost like a test.
Do you promise, love? I don't want-
I promise, Louis breathes out quickly as tears continue to run down his cheeks, curving over his cheeks and smudging into his skin. I swear, just fuck me. Harry finally concedes and starts moving again, but his arms stay around Louis' waist, holding him close as he does. Louis doesn't actually stop crying as Harry fucks him through his little crisis, telling him how good he's being, how amazing he feels. He thinks Louis is having some sort of sexual release or something. He thinks Louis is overwhelmed by the moment when really Louis is just trying desperately to stay in the moment, to forget the things that keep popping into his mind. It's not his fault that he doesn't know the difference. He means well, Louis knows he does. He just doesn't have the experience.
Louis has stopped crying by the time he's pulling his jeans up. He avoids Harry's concerned gaze as he zips up, but once he's clothed and straightened out, Harry moves in, cradling his face. Louis' skin is burning and he's sure it's red and blotchy and sticky with leftover tears, but Harry isn't looking at that.
Do you swear you're okay? He asks again. Louis thinks he spots guilt in the tensed corners of his mouth and the wrinkles by his eyes.
I swear, Louis lies again. Thank you, he adds, leaning up to give Harry a quick kiss to make sure he understands he did nothing wrong. Before Harry can ask yet again, Louis pulls him out of the stall and past the two blokes at the urinals to leave the room. He feels like he needs a shower from being pressed up against that wall, but there's something he might need more than that. He drops Harry's hand as they move into the crowd where they've spotted the other boys, all dancing. Zayn's girlfriend seems to have shown up as well, so he's actually moving more or less to the beat, his arms around her waist. Louis only met her once and can't recall her name, but he remembers it being something cute, something fitting of her quirky personality. Louis glances over the crowd, searching out the one person he really needs right now. When he finds Niall, laughing and dancing near Liam and Josh, he hesitates just for a second before heading straight for him. Niall looks up when Louis' still a few feet away and his face falls immediately. Louis has to swallow down the urge to cry again as Niall meets him halfway and gathers him up in a hug. It's exactly what he needed and he should feel weird about that. He still has Harry's spunk in his arse and he probably stinks like sex, but he needs to be in Niall's arms. It's a comfort thing. It's always been like that, no matter what part of Louis' life is being fucked up at any given moment.
Do I have to kill him? Niall asks in his ear as they hug. Louis shakes his head quickly because the tone of Niall's voice is deadly serious, almost growled out.
No, no, he didn't do anything. Niall doesn't relax and Louis can only hope he's not glaring at Harry behind him or something.
Want to go home? Louis is an asshole. Louis is a terrible boyfriend. Louis might have serious issues.
Yeah, he answers shakily, digging his fingers into Niall's shirt. Only I want to keep hugging you.
You can keep hugging me, Niall indulges, fingers squeezing Louis' sides where his arms have wrapped all the way around his back. They're staring, though, so let's go home and we'll do as much hugging as you need, alright? Louis digs his face into Niall's shoulders, not wanting to see them looking and especially not wanting to see the look on Harry's face. He has no idea what it will be, but it's probably not a goofy smile. Whatever it is will probably just add to the growing stack of guilt weighing on him. This time he'll know it's deserved, though. He finally pulls away from Niall regretfully and avoids eye contact with everyone else as he turns to Harry. What he finds is confusion with a touch of frustration, maybe. He's not exactly sure.
I have to go home, Louis says, pulling Harry into a hug that's warm on the surface but doesn't go all the way through him.
You said you were okay, Harry replies lowly, like a question. Louis nods against his shoulder.
I'm okay, he insists. Just a weird night, I think. Harry is quiet for a moment, holding Louis to his chest, before he speaks again.
And you don't want me to come, right? Just him? And there it is, the guilt. Louis swallows, thinking that he hasn't actually done anything wrong. Loving his best friend more than anyone isn't wrong, he's sure of it. Needing Niall isn't wrong. It can't be.
That's okay, right? He asks, tightening his grip on Harry's shoulders. He feels the sigh over his ear as much as he hears it.
Yeah, love, that's okay. Louis squeezes his eyes shut tightly for a second, then flutters them open, pulling away.
I love you, he says, tipping his face up to kiss Harry's lips lightly. And I'll call you tomorrow. Harry kisses him, then leans back and looks into Louis' eyes in a way that makes him feel like closing them just in case Harry finds something he doesn't like in there.
Love you, too, he eventually says, squeezing Louis' shoulder and letting him go. Louis gives him a half smile and it's not much, but he can't muster up any more than that. When he turns away, he sees Josh and Niall huddled together, whispering to each other. Louis doesn't have any energy left to let it bother him at the moment. He still feels a dull, unsettled feeling in the pit of his stomach at the thought that Niall is keeping secrets from him, but maybe Niall has learned and mastered what Louis is still struggling with, not letting his best mate be his everything.
At home, Niall tells Louis to get dressed for bed, then come to his room. Louis does, changing out of his club clothes and into pyjamas before running into the bathroom to wash everything he can with a flannel. He hopes he's got the grime off of him when he finishes up and walks into Niall's room. Niall is in bed already, smiling gently, like he doesn't want to scare Louis off. He must have looked worse coming out of that bathroom than he thought. He wishes Harry had noticed. Once he's crawled into his side of Niall's bed, he finds a familiar position under Niall's arm.
Thank you, he says as he gets himself pressed close to make sure he can feel Niall against him. Sorry you had to leave when you were having fun. Niall tells him to shut up and drops his hand over Louis' arm resting on his chest. His fingers move like it's an instinct, comforting little patterns over his skin. He's done it all his life, been the one to find Louis at his lowest, his weakest, and bring him back up. He's the only one Louis has ever cared to show that side to. He'd always thought he was the only one who did that for Niall, too.
Want to talk about what happened? Niall asks after a while. Louis finally feels calm, though, and he doesn't want to ruin it by thinking or talking.
No, he answers plainly, letting his heart beat to the rhythm of Niall's fingers moving back and forth over his skin. Niall kisses the top of his head and that's the last that's said before they fall silent and, eventually, asleep.
Awhh Louis heeft het zo moeilijk,