lilcrickee: (One Direction)
[personal profile] lilcrickee
Title: Shaky Knees
Author: [personal profile] lilcrickee
Fandom: X-Factor 2010
Characters/Pairings: Liam/Louis. Appearances from the rest of 1D and Cher.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 6,200
Warnings: None
Author's Note: So this was the fic I wrote for the 1D Fic Exchange. Yeah, I still haven't posted it.
Summary: Liam thinks that somewhere between their tenth and eleventh run down the mountain he decides that he never wants to go back to England because everything he’s ever wanted is right here on the ski hill with him. Well, everything if Louis felt the same way.

-

i.

The winter after Liam turns eighteen he gets a work visa and follows Zayn’s advice and gets a job at a ski resort in Canada. It’s a prime opportunity: teach kids how to snowboard on the weekends and spend the rest of the week tearing it up across the mountain’s one hundred plus runs and terrain park. If this wasn’t a sweet deal, Liam didn’t know what was.

He’s sick for the whole first week he’s there, throwing up every hour in the toilet of the bathroom in his and Zayn’s shared room at the resort.

“Were you this sick when you moved?” Liam asked between hacking coughs and retching.

“Not this sick,” Zayn says disgustedly. He’s lying flat on his back, trying not to be a witness to what Liam feels like will surely be his death. “I mean, I was homesick and everything, but you’re ridiculous, Liam. Always one for dramatics.”

Liam wants to tell Zayn to shut up, but he’s undertaken by another coughing fit and never gets the chance to.


ii.

When Liam is finally well enough to emerge from his room (it was starting to look a bit like a prison cell), the hill is finally open for business. He comes out on the Saturday after open and is almost bowled over by two teenagers zipping through the centre of the village on their snowboards.

It finally hits him that this is his life for the next four months, that he gets to wake up every morning to beautifully groomed hills and the occasional dusting of champagne powder and go out and do the thing he loves most: snowboarding.

“Oi, mate, put a jacket on. It’s chilly out here!”

Liam turns because he’s come to realize that he’s the only person outside only wearing a t-shirt. A guy in the hill’s Snow School uniform (red snow pants and a black and red ski jacket) and ski boots throws him a sweater which Liam surprises himself by catching. He slips his arms into the sleeves and zips it up just as the stranger approaches.

“Whatchu thinking, coming out here in just a t-shirt?” the guy asks. Liam can’t tell much about him due to the helmet and mirrored ski goggles that just let Liam stare back at himself. “Spring skiing isn’t until March.”

Liam opens his mouth and then shuts it, much like a fish. What is he supposed to say back to that without sounding incredibly stupid?

He’s saved, however, by Zayn, who comes dragging his feet out the front door of the building dressed in his white chef’s shirt and little black hat. Liam smirks, can’t help it really, and Zayn’s too tired to tell him to wipe it off his face. Instead, he says, “Kay, so I’m going to work now. There’s some leftover spaghetti in the fridge and we’re out of toilet paper so you might want to stop by the store and get some.” He jerks his head in the direction of the general store and Liam nods.

“Wait,” the stranger says, and Liam has a vague idea of eyes widening under the ski goggles. “Zayn, you’ve got yourself a …” He trails off, glancing sharply at Liam, who feels himself colouring immediately. He and Zayn are mates, that’s all. Liam may be interested in boys, but he’d known Zayn since they were kids and they weren’t, just, no. It didn’t work like that.

“God, no,” Zayn replies, his words coming out with sharp puffs of breath in the chilly morning air (how did Liam not notice how cold it was outside? Jesus, it’s freezing). “Just came over this year. In fact, you guys’ll probably be working together. Liam’s a boarding instructor this year.”

“Really?” the stranger asks. He snaps the goggles up onto his helmet and Liam can see all of his sharp features, defined cheekbones and steely grey eyes and just a touch of light brown hair poking out from under his helmet. Liam bobs his head in response to the guy’s question and says, “Erm, yeah. I’m Liam.”

“Louis,” the guy says, shaking Liam’s outstretched hand. “We’re going to have a lot of fun this season, I can tell. Anyone that’s got enough patience to put up actually living with Zayn is an alright guy in my books.”

Zayn rolls his eyes and tells them he’ll talk to them later and Louis shouts something about drinks and Liam thinks that maybe, this is all a bit of a dream. When Zayn disappears into one of the yellow gondolas that will take him down to Happy Valley, Louis turns his attention back to Liam.

“Well, come on then,” he says. “Don’t just stand there! Go get your stuff; we’re going skiing!”


iii.

Five minutes later (Liam doesn’t think he’s ever gotten ready so fast), there is snow flying underneath Liam’s snowboard as Louis leads him down the bunny hill towards the lifts. He can already tell that there’s something different about the snow in Canada, something that makes him feel alive and free and like he’s invincible.

Or maybe it’s just Louis.

As they sit on the only open lift that will take them to the top of the mountain, Liam can accurately say that he’s smitten with Louis. Completely, totally, utterly, whatever you want to say.

Louis tells Liam all about his life at the ski hill: he’s back for his third season and he’s been an instructor for two.

“I used to be a lift attendant,” he says, “but that got pretty boring pretty quick. Besides, Niall tells me I’m the best instructor he has, although I think he tends to say that to everyone.”

“How do you know Zayn?” Liam asks, because he can’t see how a kitchen boy and a ski instructor got to know each other well.

“Meh, just bought a lot of food from him, that’s all,” Louis admits. Their conversation is cut short by the end of the lift and the prospect of more terrain to explore and a chance to see some of Louis’ tricks. To say he’s a fair skier is a bit of an understatement.

Liam thinks that somewhere between their tenth and eleventh run down the mountain he decides that he never wants to go back to England because everything he’s ever wanted is right here on the ski hill with him.

Well, everything if Louis felt the same way.


iv.

The lifts close at four thirty and that’s when Liam and Louis part ways.

“Don’t forget to remind Zayn that we’re having drinks tonight,” Louis orders while they stand outside the front door of Liam’s building. “Snowshoe Sam’s at eight sound good?”

“Um, sure,” Liam replies, because he’s not really sure what a Snowshoe Sam is and he doesn’t really drink that much anyway, but if it means spending time with Louis (stupid, stupid crush. It’s only been six and a half hours, you pathetic excuse for a normal human being) then he’s game.

“Kay, cool,” Louis beams. “See you later. I’ve got to go get my schedule worked out with Niall anyway.” He skis off in the direction of the kid centre and Liam is left to lug his snowboard up the stairs (the elevator’s broken) back to the place he’s sharing with Zayn.

Zayn’s already there when Liam finally finds his keys in his jacket and lets himself in.

“Good day?” Zayn asks. He’s chewing on what suspiciously looks like a pancake.

“The best,” Liam confirms.

“And Louis?”

“Is awesome?”

Zayn stares at Liam for what feels like an uncomfortably long moment before dowsing his pancake in more syrup and saying, “You like him.”

Liam will never figure out how Zayn knows these things, but he knows. He knew when Liam’s cat died when he was ten and how his sister, Ruth, was planning on eloping with her then boyfriend (she never did, thank God), and he even knew about Liam’s coming out before Liam did. Zayn knew these kinds of things and it always freaked Liam out.

“You have to stop doing that freaky mind reading thing,” Liam says instead of answering the question, “or else we can’t be friends anymore.”

“One, I’m not reading your mind. Two, you say that everytime something like this happens and yet, here we are,” Zayn points out. “But seriously, Li, you like him, don’t you?”

There’s no point in really denying it, Liam figures. Zayn doesn’t even need to ask, he just wants the confirmation. “What if I do?” Liam says instead. “Why? Does he have a boyfriend? Is he straight?”

“No and no,” Zayn says. “Just … be careful, kay? I don’t want your angst bleeding all over the place if something doesn’t work out well.”

Liam’s not really sure what to say back to that so he just tells Zayn that they’re supposed to meet Louis at Snowshoe Sam’s at eight and then goes and runs himself a hot shower.


v.

Snowshoe Sam’s turns out to be the only actual bar on the mountain and when Liam and Zayn walk in, they see that Louis is not alone. There’s a blonde boy sitting on one side of him sipping at a beer while another boy with curly dark brown hair twirls the paper umbrella in his martini.

“Zayn,” the blonde calls, Irish accent ringing out over the music. He waves them over and Liam awkwardly follows Zayn to Louis and his friends. For whatever reason, it had never really occurred to Liam that in the year that Zayn had been at the mountain already, he had actually made friends. The thought makes Liam feel a little bit stupider than he already does, but then Louis slings an arm over his shoulders and says, “I think that some introductions are in order.”

Louis nods towards the blonde and says, “This is Niall. He’s our boss; coordinator of all the ski school programs.”

Liam’s impressed. He would have to say that Niall can’t be much older than him, if it at all. “How’d you manage that?” he asks.

“Just been working here for a while,” Niall replies. “I applied to be an instructor when I was fifteen and I was either so good that they promoted me, or so bad that people wanted me off the hills.” He laughs, this contagious giggly sound and sets the boy with curls going to.

“That’s Harry,” Louis adds, pointing. “Second year here. He’s a lifty.”

Liam nods, taking it all in. Zayn’s ordered them a couple of beers and hands one to Liam, who accepts it politely. The people in front of him appear to be a bit of a motley crew, but at the same time, he can see how they came together. For whatever reason, they just … work.

“And this is Liam, boys,” Louis announces, jabbing his own beer into Liam’s side. “First year. Joining us from …”

“Wolverhampton,” Liam offers.

“Wolverhampton,” Louis repeats. “Right. Nothing like a good ol’ crew of English lads to brighten up the hill.”

Harry scoffs into his drink and Niall says, “And Irish. English and Irish.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Whatever you say, Nialler,” he says, sinking down onto a bar stool. Liam takes a seat on the other side of Harry while Zayn disappears to go chat up some girl he saw across the bar. It leaves Liam feeling extremely awkward and a little lonely while the others strike up a conversation about some of the lifts that weren’t open yet and some of their adventures from last year when Harry turns to Liam and asks, “So, Liam. Ski or snowboard?”

“Snowboard,” Liam replies. “Started skiing when I was three, snowboarding when I was ten. Never looked back.”

A broad grin stretches across Harry’s face and he leans on the bar, his attention focused on Liam now. “Sounds just like me,” he says. “Tell me more.”

And so Liam does.


vi.

When Liam gets back to the flat he realizes he’s still wearing the sweater that Louis had given him at the beginning of the day and that makes him feel infinitely happier.


vii.

Liam gets his first job a week after the night at the bar. Niall sets him up as a private instructor for two girls from the United Kingdom looking to start snowboarding.

“This’ll be good for you because one, it gives you experience and two, it gives you more time to learn the hills and stuff before I decide if I want to set you up in a kids program,” Niall explains, handing Liam the name tag he’s supposed to pin to his jacket. It reads, Liam Payne, Wolverhampton, UK on it.

“Right, okay,” Liam says. Louis’ been telling him for days now that his first job won’t be too bad and Liam was starting to believe it until Niall had called him the night before and told him he’d have a couple of clients the next morning. He’d spent all night shaking under the covers.

“Just don’t forget your training,” Niall continues, scribbling on his clipboard. “And have fun.”

Liam nods once, turns and heads out the door of the activities centre to go stand at the designated meeting place. Two minutes of fidgeting with the bindings on his snowboard later, he sees two girls start across the village to meet him.

Oh God, Liam thinks, panicked. Be polite, ask for names, ask for skill level. Be polite, ask for names, ask for skill level.

“Hi,” one of the girls says. Liam notes that she’s holding her own snowboard, a Burton, and he mentally logged away the fact that she was probably wealthy. Zayn might enjoy that.

“Hi there,” Liam says, extending a glove covered hand. “I’m Liam.”

“Eleanor,” the girl replies. The second, holding a rental, Liam sees, says, “Danielle.”

“Awesome,” Liam says, because really, he’s not sure what else to say. Why did he even sign up for this? It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Liam really is an awkward guy, but the girls are talkative and soon enough, Liam is slipping into a comfortable conversation.

“So, you guys have never skied or snowboarded at all?” Liam asks as they trudge towards the gondola that will take them to the learning centre.

“No,” Danielle says. “We’ve been wanting to for a while but we never got around to it until after school. Then we decided to do a trip to America and then we ended up coming here because we heard the snow was good.”

“Damn right, the snow is good,” Liam says with a laugh. Since his first day out they’d gotten ten more inches of snow and he, Louis, Harry, Zayn, and Niall had spent an entire day on the newly opened west side of the mountain. “Best in Canada, I’d say.”

“Do you have much to go by?” Danielle teases.

Liam laughs. “Nah, I just know.”

Danielle giggles and Eleanor shoots Liam a look that Liam interprets as, get a room you two, which Liam finds odd because he didn’t think he was flirting. He doesn’t flirt with girls. He doesn’t like girls.

The rest of the morning passes without any more supposed flirting between Liam and Danielle, Liam makes sure of it. He’s quite pleased with the fact that both girls are turning by the end of their lesson and that he even had time to take them down the bunny hill once and tech them how to get off the chair lift.

“You’re a great teacher,” Danielle gushes as Liam leads the way back to where they first met.

“Nah, you guys were just great students,” Liam replies with a smile. He’s surprised to see Louis waiting for them, but he knocks shoulders with the older boy anyway.

“Liam,” Louis says, his grin the only visible feature besides the mirrored goggles reflecting the mid-day sunlight. “Who’re your lovely friends here?”

Liam rolls his eyes but introduces Louis to Eleanor and Danielle. Both girls smile shyly at Louis but seem charmed, and Liam understands. How could you not be charmed by Louis?

“You two are young Liam’s first clients,” Louis says, slinging an arm over Liam’s shoulders. “I hope you two weren’t too hard on him.”

It’s probably a good thing that Louis is wearing a helmet because Liam whacks him in the head with his snowboard. “You didn’t have to bring that up,” Liam hisses into the flap of Louis’ helmet that covers his ears, but Danielle and Eleanor are busy giggling anyway.

“No, Liam was a great teacher,” Eleanor states. “I never thought I’d be able to accomplish so much in a day.”

Louis looks her up and down. “You should switch to skiing, sweet heart. We’d have a lot more fun than any class you’d take with Liam,” he jokes.

Ouch. Liam ducks out from Louis’ arm as if he had been stung, colour flooding his face. He glares at Louis, who doesn’t seem to notice and he’s about to open his mouth to tell Louis to shut up when Danielle says, “Do you guys want to get some drinks with us later.”

“Of course!” Louis exclaims, because really, Louis never turns down a drink. “Are you buying?”

“Only if you want us to,” Eleanor says with a wink. Louis laughs and Liam cringes because he’s using the laugh that he only ever used around his friends, the one Liam used to think was private to just their apartments. Apparently not.

“I can’t,” he says, the words falling out of his mouth before he can stop them. “Something came up and … I’ve just got a lot to do. Sorry about that.”

Danielle looks unhappy by Liam’s statement, but Liam can’t really bring himself to care that much. He’s only got eyes for Louis, who doesn’t seem to care either way.

“Awe, I’ll have a drink for you, Li,” Louis says with mock hurt in his voice and that’s the last straw.

“It was great to meet you two today. Hope you have a great time on the mountain,” Liam says. He spots Harry zipping down the slope into the village and flags him down. “I’ve got to go,” he says before hurrying over to his friend, leaving Louis, Eleanor and Danielle to fix their drink date for the night.


viii.

“You told me he wasn’t straight!” Liam exclaims when he storms into the apartment later after a tiring afternoon of ripping through the terrain park with Harry.

Zayn looks up from his plate of pasta. “He isn’t,” he points out.

“Then what the hell is he doing on a date with two girls tonight?” Liam asks and he realizes he’s practically shouting by now.

Zayn sighs, runs a hand through his choppy black hair and says, “He’s bi, Liam. Louis’ bi.”

The sensible part of Liam’s brain kicks him because really, that was probably not a hard conclusion to come to. The raging and heartbroken part, however, spits out, “You could have told me that.”

“Hey,” Zayn says, frowning and getting to his feet. “You asked me if he had a boyfriend or if he was straight and I told you what you wanted to know. You never asked if he was bi. Don’t take this out on me, Liam. This is all you.”

Liam pauses for a moment to calm down before sinking down onto the sofa. “Oh my God,” he moans into his hands. “How could I have been so stupid?” He can practically hear Zayn rolling his eyes as he goes and sets the kettle on and finds some ice cream in the freezer.

“What did I tell you about bleeding angst all over the place?” Zayn asks, but it sounds more sympathetic than Liam probably deserves and he plunks a carton of Breyers chocolate ice cream on the coffee table with a spoon.

“Sorry,” Liam mumbles, but Zayn just ruffles his hair and goes back to finish making Liam’s tea.


vix.

Liam avoids Louis like the plague. He asks Niall to set him up with clients during the times that Louis has breaks and when Harry invites him out to the terrain park, he casually makes sure that Louis isn’t coming either.

“How long are you going to do this?” Nial asks the third time that Liam asks for a switch so that his and Louis’ breaks aren’t going to coincide.

Liam shrugs. “If I told you, you’d hold it against me,” he points out.

“I guess,” Niall replies, “but really, Li, this is ridiculous. Louis is starting to ask questions.”

“What have you been telling him?”

“That you’ve been really busy and you’re trying to get more hours and are exploring the mountain and sleeping the rest of the time,” Niall says.

“Thanks, Ni, you’re a life saver,” Liam says, clapping Niall on the shoulder.

It’s three days before Christmas when Liam realizes he hasn’t really bought anything for anyone yet and oh my God, how did he leave all his Christmas shopping this late?

“It’s alright,” Harry assures him as they catch a bus into town. “I always leave my shopping till the last minute. There’s always some good deals on.”

“Yeah, but you know what to get everyone,” Liam points out as he frantically drums his fingers on the arm rest between their seats. “The only person I know well enough to buy a gift for is Zayn, and I never know what to get him for Christmas.”

Harry laughs. “Don’t worry about it, Liam. We’ll get it all done. I promise.”

Harry holds true to his promise because after fighting off hordes of people at the mall, Liam’s finally got enough gifts for all his friends and a few tacky decorations for the apartment as well. The only problem is that Harry knows what he got him (heck, Harry picked out his own gift. “I’ll act surprised, I promise,” he says with a cheeky grin as he sets the sweater on the check out counter of American Eagle), but at this point, Liam couldn’t really care. He just wants to fall into bed and sleep for a million years but as soon as he sets foot in the door Zayn is informing him that they’re hosting the gift exchange and it’s eleven at night and Liam could really care less.

“We’re going to need food and why didn’t I get Niall to lend us some of the Ski School decorations?” Zayn whines as he runs around the kitchen frantically, so Liam dumps the bag of crap he bought at the mall on the counter for Zayn and goes to bed. It’s finally hit him that everyone’s coming over tomorrow and that the everyone includes Louis and Liam isn’t really sure how he wants to take that.

So he goes to bed and doesn’t.


x.

Liam’s not very surprised (but also not very pleased) when Zayn wakes him up at eight-thirty the next morning and demands a little help with the set up.

“Can you please go and snag one of the small fake trees from the kids centre?” Zayn pleads as Liam pulls on a pair of sweats.
“What, like the Grinch?” Liam asks. He digs his regular snow pants out from under a pile of books (there’s no real difference between them and his work ones. They’re the same colour and everything, just different brands). “Seriously, Zayn, you’re freaking out.”

Liam knows as soon as he says the words that Zayn wants to say, Not as badly as you’re going to freak when Louis gets here, but thankfully, the other boy bites it back.

“Just do it,” Zayn says. “And why are you putting on snow pants? The kids centre is two feet from our front door!”

“Going for an early morning run,” Liam says with a laugh and grabs his board before Zayn can protest.

The run definitely clears his head and no one else is on the mountain yet and Liam just wants to take it all in. It’s two days before Christmas and he’s just starting to realize that this will be his first Christmas away from home. He’ll have to ask Zayn how he dealt with it last year.

Snagging a tree from the kids centre is a lot easier than Liam thought it was going to be. He props his board in one of the stands outside, walks inside, and picks up the closest fake tree that’s there. Cher, who sometimes works the front desk for them, yells, “Liam, what are you doing with that tree?”

“Zayn wants one to put the presents under for our gift exchange,” Liam says with a shrug and Cher nods, like it’s the most natural thing in the world to be stealing other peoples’ fake Christmas trees.

“Just make sure you get it back before Niall checks in,” she advises.

“Meh, Niall’s coming over. He’ll see it anyway,” Liam says, and as he walks out the door with this fake tree in one hand and his snowboard in the other, he realizes that that was quite possibly the oddest conversation he’s ever had (and that’s saying something after all the late night, drunk chats he’s had with the boys over the last week or so).

Zayn is quite frankly still freaking out when Liam lugs everything back up to the apartment. He’s got the stove and oven running and the sink going and the microwave dinging and Liam’s surprised that the whole complex hadn’t burned down while he was gone.

“Oh, thank God,” Zayn mutters, turning away from what Liam noticed was a large pot of oil and pointing towards a corner by the window in the sitting room. “Just put it over there and put a blanket or something around the base and put the presents under it.

“Erm,” Liam says, setting the tree down as instructed. “I haven’t wrapped mine yet so if I can just-”

“Oh just go,” Zayn shouts, dumping a box of French fries into the oil. Liam thinks he can hear his friend muttering about early morning snowboard runs and being highly unorganized and just general panicking, and makes a quick escape to his bedroom.

He’s lucky because he remembered to buy wrapping paper that day at the mall with Harry, and Liam sets about wrapping boxes of clothes and books and DVD’s for his friends of two and a half weeks. He realizes a little too late that he never picked up anything for his family back home, but Liam figures he doesn’t have enough money to ship something home anyway.

“Liam!” Zayn shouts from the kitchen, and Liam wraps his presents quicker and hauls them all out of the sitting room.

“Zayn, where’s your stuff? I’ll go put it under the tree,” Liam says. Zayn’s frantically stirring a pot of gravy on the stove and Liam has the feeling that the only stuff Zayn could nick from the kitchens at the day lodge at the bottom of the hill was supplies to make poutine (“What’s poutine?” Liam had asked Liam on one of the days they had skied together and then gone for lunch. “The best thing you’ll ever eat,” Louis had replied. It hadn’t been the best thing Liam had ever eat, but you really couldn’t go wrong with French fries covered in gravy and cheese).

“It’s all under my bed,” Zayn replies. “Can you just clean up a bit after too? The place looks like a mess!”

It doesn’t, really, Liam notes, but after he dumps Zayn’s gifts under the tree he kicks all the shoes into the closet (he notes a pair of Louis’ Toms are here. What, did he go home bare foot one day or something?) and finds Harry’s sweater buried in the couch. Zayn is just dumping the French fries into a bowl when the buzzer rings and Liam ducks off to go answer it.

“Liam, mate,” Harry says over the intercom when he answers. “You want to let us in?”

“How did you know Zayn wasn’t going to answer?” Liam says instead.

“Because Zayn’s the only one out of the five of us that can cook,” Niall chimes in, and it’s a sensible enough answer for Liam to buzz them in.

A minute later, everyone is piling into the apartment and hugging and handing Liam their stuff to put under the tree and wow, Louis is just totally not avoiding him. Liam rolls his eyes at Harry as he passes and the younger boy only winks, dashing off to the kitchen to see if there’s any alcohol in the fridge.

“You guys can just shove all your gifts under the tree and we’ll do an exchange after, yeah?” Liam asks as he tosses Niall’s coat onto the coat rack (why on Earth do they have a coat rack? Liam will never get over Zayn’s odd taste in decor) and tries not to drop all of Harry’s gifts.

“Did you steal that out of the Kid’s Centre?” Niall asks as he drops his gifts in a heap in front of the tree.

“And if I did?” Liam asks, pushing the pile under the fake branches and adding Harry’s things.


“Cher told me you took it,” Niall points out. “I just wanted to clarify.”

Liam would roll his eyes but he can see Louis standing awkwardly by the door still. Their eyes meet and Louis looks away quickly.

“Just be the bigger man,” Niall advises. “Go talk to him or something. We won’t eat all the food. Promise.”

Liam thinks that’s a pretty rich statement coming from Niall, who seems to eat the most out of the five of them, but he nods anyway and crosses back over to Louis.

“Are you going to take your coat off and stay awhile or something?” Liam asks, crossing his arms. They’re almost on par for height and Liam knows that Louis’ got nowhere for his eyes to wander off to.

“Can’t very well take off my coat if you’re not going to take your gifts, now can I?” It’s a poor attempt at a joke, but Liam doesn’t care. He takes the crudely wrapped packages from Louis and sticks them under the tree with the rest of the things. Liam’s about to go see if maybe there’s enough room in their kitchen for him to help with lunch or something but Louis says, “Hey, Li, is there, um, a place we can talk for a minute?”

Liam desperately wants this conversation to never happen, for things to just return to the way they were before, but Liam is sensible enough to know that just because you wish for it, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. He nodds wordlessly towards his bedroom at the end of the hall, waves a tiny wave at Harry who’s watching them carefully, and then follows Louis.

“If I had known I’d be having private conversations, I would’ve cleaned up a bit,” Liam says, gesturing towards the mess of clothes and books and pieces of wrapping paper littered around the room. Louis waves it off -the way Liam knew he would anyway- and sinks down onto the bed. They don’t say anything for a long time and Liam’s thinking that maybe he would much rather just explode into a million tiny pieces than have to suffer from the awkwardness that is this supposed conversation.

“What’s going on?” Louis finally asks, the same time that Liam says, “I’m sorry.” They stare at each other for a moment and Liam gestures for Louis to continue. He figures his apology will sound a lot better if he has something to apologize for.

“What’s going on, Liam?” Louis repeats, shoving his hands under his thighs. Liam knows it’s to keep them from shaking because he does it himself. “I mean, you’re ignoring all my calls and texts and Niall told me you’ve been having your work schedule changed so we don’t have time to hang out. I just don’t get it. Was this about Eleanor and Danielle? Because I’m pretty sure that Danielle fancies you, mate.”

Liam’s not really sure what he wants to say, so he says, “Niall told you about the work thing?”

Louis looks annoyed now. “Yes,” he says. “The other day. He’s been covering for you for a while, hasn’t he? You shouldn’t drag him into your angst, Liam. Niall’s a sweet kid.”

“My angst?”

“Zayn told me.”

I need new friends, Liam thinks briefly, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Li.”

Liam opens his eyes to see that Louis’ standing right in front of him now. His eyes look nervous and his mouth is set in a thin line and Liam’s suddenly thinking about how very much he would like to kiss a smile onto his face.

“Li, do you like Eleanor? Because if that’s what it is, you can have her. We went out for drinks for one night. She’s not really my type.”

“I don’t like Eleanor,” Liam says. It comes out a little harsher than he had intended and he sees Louis wince. “Or Danielle. I don’t like either of them.”

“Then what’s going on?” Louis demands.

“I like you, Louis!”

The second the words are out of his mouth, Liam desperately wants to hide under his covers and never come out again because the look on Louis’ face is anything but pleased. He ducks his head, refusing to let Louis see the tears pooling in the corners of his eyes because he is not that pathetic and will not cry over something as stupid as this.

“Liam,” Louis says. He tilts Liam’s chin up and before Liam can say anything, Louis’ lips are on his, soft and tasting like hot chocolate and Liam fists his hands in Louis’ hair because if this is a dream, he wants to hold onto it for as long as he can.

“Yo, lovebirds,” Zayn calls from the other side of the door. Liam snaps back in surprise and Louis winces when Liam pulls at his hair. “Lunch is ready, so if you want something to eat before Niall inhales it all, you better get out here.” He retreats down the hallway, but Liam can practically hear him muttering about how rude it is to get it off with someone while they have guests over.

“So,” Louis says, leaning into Liam’s wall mirror and rearranging his hair so it doesn’t look like he just spent the past minute snogging his mate in the room down the hall. “In case you couldn’t tell, I fancy you too.”

“Okay,” Liam says, because he’s not really sure what else to say. He sits on the bed, his knees feeling a little like Jell-O, and looks at Louis. Things like this, getting the guy at the end of the day, those kinds of things don’t happen to Liam.

Louis turns around and glances curiously at Liam. “What, do you not believe me?” he asks with a laugh, pouncing on Liam. “Do I have make beautiful and passionate love to you right now to convince you?”

“Please don’t,” Niall calls from the other side of the door and Liam thinks he’s going to die of mortification. “Zayn sent me to get you before you guys did anything … drastic. I guess it’s a good thing I showed up when I did. Please come out now.”

For the first time all day, Liam lets out a shaky laugh that seems to lift all the weight off of his shoulders (besides Louis, who is pressing them painfully into the bed). “Coming,” he calls to Niall, pushing Louis off him with a huff.

“My gift seems a lot less impressive now that we’ve snogged,” Louis says as he pushes Liam’s door open and follows Liam down the hall. Liam doesn’t bother to point out that it was really just one kiss. Instead, he links his hand in Louis’ and says, “Sure, sure. As long as Niall left us some food, I don’t care what you got me.”

“Merry Christmas, freak,” Louis says affectionately, and yes, Liam thinks, maybe this Christmas will be alright after all.


BONUS:

(Louis ends up buying Liam a pair of ski poles for Christmas. “I don’t ski,” Liam points out on the phone later Christmas morning.

“Yeah, but see, we were still mad at each other when I bought those,” Louis says. “I figured you’d be angry and give them to Niall, but since Niall really likes K2 poles, I knew he’d give them to me because he bought Harry some ski poles for Christmas.”

“You mean you bought me a gift that you’d end up getting back anyway?”

“Well, yeah, kind of.”

“And you called me the freak,” Liam says.

He ends up giving the poles to Niall, despite the elaborate plan that Louis just explained to him. Two days later, Louis is skiing with a new set of poles.)
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