Fandom: One Direction
Word Count: 112,853
Summary: "American Uni AU. Harry Styles is a frat boy football star from the wealthy Styles Family athletic dynasty. A celebrity among football fans, he knows how to play, he knows how to party, and he knows how to fuck (all of which is well known among his legion of admirers). Louis Tomlinson is a student and an athlete, but his similarities to Harry end there. Intelligent, focused, independent, and completely uninterested in Harry’s charms, Louis is an anomaly in a world ruled by football. A bet about the pair, who might be more similar than they originally thought, brings them together. Shakespeare, ballet, Disney, football, library chats, running, accidental spooning, Daredevil and Domino’s Pizza all blend into one big friendship Frappucino, but who will win in the end?"
I feel like I have to confess that I haven't read a new One Direction fanfic in nearly a year and haven't consistently read for the fandom in about two, but this fic is one that will live on despite my near indifference to the fandom now.
Since it came out in 2016, I've read "Soft Hands, Fast Feet, Can't Lose" every football season because if I'm going to be subjected to football, I'm going to at least make it gay.
dolce_piccante has a habit of writing Larry AUs that are so AU that it's almost like you're not reading a fanfic at all, but are so much better than so many published books that they should be in their own category. Between "Soft Hands" and one of their earlier Larry fics "Escapade" (which will be getting its own review believe me), dolce was a household name in the fandom to the point that fans were frequently referencing aspects of their fics IRL with each other and to the band. Which is both cool and problematic, but moving on.
Based around the "pursuing you because of a bet" trope, this fic makes you forget that it's a trope in the first place. Despite the shittiness of why Harry initially pursues Louis, you end up rooting for him.
The character development of playboy Harry and uptight Louis as they spend more and more time together makes you wish you could go back in time before Harry accepted his teammate's bet and convince him to give just trying to date Louis a shot—and maybe slap him a bit. Especially once more is revealed about Louis' past and his shitty relationship history.
Very few other typical romance fics have scenes that have made me feel as bad for a character as when the bet nonsense comes to a head and everything falls apart for Louis and Harry.
One of my favorite things about this fanfic how much Harry doesn't let his southern football player persona affect his sexuality. Harry is pan and he doesn't care who knows it. It's refreshing to read a sports-related fic without internalized homophobia and with a main character who is unapologetic about who he is, despite the spotlight on him.
After the fic's climax hits and Harry and Louis have to figure out what their next steps are—with Louis wanting nothing more to do with Harry and Harry trying to figure out how to redeem himself—the resolution is both realistic and satisfying. Even though dolce employs some rom-com-level gestures on par with a running through the airport scene (but much less cliche), the ending is much more reasonable and fulfilling than your typical rom-com.
With this fic's staying power along with the brilliance of "Escapade," dolce will remain one of my favorite fanfic authors, no matter how far I stray from the 1D fandom.