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“Awake, dear heart, awake. Thou hast slept well. Awake.”

The Tempest

“Louis, I get the feeling you’re not listening to me.”

Louis grits his teeth, letting the air out between the front two with a tiny hiss. “Whatever makes you say that, Nialler?”

He’s got the phone wedged between his shoulder and his chin in a phenomenally uncomfortable position, but his hands are full of bags. Serves him right for trying to get all his shopping out in one go. The fact that he managed to answer the phone at all was kind of a miracle.

Niall snorts on the other end of the line. “I’m just saying, I had an idea while I was worrying about the first read-through.”

Louis is not worried about the first read-through. Louis is not worried about anything other than not dislocating a shoulder or accidentally jostling a Japanese tourist into the Thames. He’s not sure why he decided to cross Tower Bridge during lunch time in June. He might not be from London originally but he’s spent enough time here in bits and pieces that he feels a connection with the place, a familiarity that sets him apart from the tourist hoards.

But then, he’d willingly walked into a part of the city that, with this nice weather, in this holiday season, is an absolute nightmare. Amateur mistake.

He ducks around a couple having a make-out session in the middle of the footpath while taking selfies, and narrowly avoids running into a group of Australian girls photographing a toy chameleon on the bridge railing. Weird.

With a jolt, Louis realises Niall is still talking, and Louis hasn’t been listening to a word. He sighs heavily into the receiver where it’s sandwiched under his chin.

“Niall,” he says loudly, cutting his friend off. “I’ll be there in ten minutes, and you can lambast me with your woes then.”

Without further ado, Louis lets his phone slip from being held in place on his shoulder and slide into one of the shopping bags. He hadn’t managed to hang up on the call, but his phone is a sensitive soul and presumably something whacked the ‘end call’ button on its long journey to the bottom of his haul. Either that, or Niall can continue his conversation with Louis’ new aviators.

Freed from the effort of not dropping his phone, Louis begins to weave more skilfully through the milling crowds, making it to the other side of the bridge in one piece. Freed from the worst of the throng, he meanders along the banks of the Thames happily, enjoying the brisk spring air and the smell of the waves, eyeing up the overpriced pubs and optimistic wares hawkers. He’d only got into London yesterday, but it is already sinking back into his bones like it owns him. It’s a dirty, big, overcrowded and overpriced monolith of a city, and Louis loves it to death.

He loves the expansive - if expensive - underground, the open banks of the Thames, the tawdry flash of places like Oxford Street and Leicester Square. He loves the rusty charm of his Stepney flat, and the bakeries in South Kensington, and the parks where the city noise just vanishes. He loves the idiots on Boris bicycles in the inner city, and the way the cabbies complain about the congestion, and that you can’t go more than five feet in any direction without hitting another statue to Albert or Victoria.

Doncaster is a nice enough city to be born and raised in, but London made off with Louis’ heart at an early age and never gave it back. And really, it’s because of one building.

Louis actually feels himself become lighter as he emerges from a foot tunnel, rounds a pub, and sees it. The Globe. His new place of work.


“Romeo and Julio.”

The afternoon is unusually sunny for June, and the warmth is pouring in through the single window of Niall’s generally rather dim office. It’s a pleasant change, and Louis has been so wrapped up in settling himself in the right position to try and catch the best of it that he almost missed the words that his friend had uttered.

“What?” he manages to get out, caught by surprise. “That’s what you wanted to discuss?”

Niall nods enthusiastically. The Irishman is leaning back in his chair, feet on the desk as he tips dangerously backward, and he looks like he’s just invented the light-bulb or some other ground-breaking achievement.

Louis stares for a second, letting the words hang in the air between them. Then he lets out a groan, running his hands over his face.

“For the last time,” he says slowly, his voice muffled by the palms of his hands, “I’m not changing the play.”

“Why not?” Niall looks at him expectantly.

“Because,” Louis replies painstakingly slowly, “Romeo and Julio sounds like an early nineties rap duo.” He sighs, letting his head fall back against the chair. “We’re doing The Tempest. That’s final.”

“But you’re not even changing Miranda’s name to a dude version,” Niall protests, and Louis shrugs.

“It would be weird, Niall. Miranda works fine for a man.”

Niall doesn’t look particularly heartbroken by Louis’ reticence. He just shrugs and goes back to poking at his lunch, fishing around for scraps of meat in his pasta. He’s the most easy-going person Louis has ever met, has been since they became friends back in their university days.

Niall works at the Globe as a music technician, and had put Louis’ name forward to the panel as a potential director for the summer run. Louis had a bit of a reputation in the theatre scene, but London was a hard place to break into, let alone the Globe itself, and without Niall Louis never would have gotten the invite to come and pitch his vision.

The second he was offered the job, he packed his bags. Making the semi-permanent move to London was easy; it had been on his mind for quite some time, but he’d


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