Rain was falling outside. The sky was painted a dull grey, the trees bare-branched and the autumn colours of red, orange and gold washed out by the constant rain. Harry's hair was drenched, his skin damp and cold, and his lips slightly blue.
Louis rubbed a towel over his head, drying off the curls before he leaned in to warm Harry's lips with a kiss to get them back to their usual pink colour.
"You could have just given me a ring, idiot," Louis said, shaking his head. They were sitting on his bed, and Harry shifted closer to him, his hands slipping under Louis' shirt. Louis shivered from the cold touch but didn't shove Harry off. "Why would you wait outside in the rain like a dumb, little puppy?"
Harry shrugged. "Forgot my keys this morning," he explained. "And Niall's got rugby training. So I thought I'd see if you were back from school yet."
Louis wound a curl around his finger, smiling softly. "You're lucky that I got home early today."
Harry grinned, fingers brushing over Louis' skin. "Always feel lucky when I get to be alone with you."
"Come here," Louis murmured, pulling Harry in again to steal another kiss. Harry crawled into Louis' lap, snuggling closer. His kiss grew hungrier, Harry's hands more demanding, shoving Louis' shirt up to expose his chest.
"How long before your sisters come home?" Harry asked, starting to unbutton his own drenched shirt. His lips were back on Louis' within seconds.
"An hour, maybe?" Louis fell back onto the mattress, pulling Harry on top of him, Harry's legs comfortably between Louis'. "Gotta be quick."
Pulling back, Harry gave him a wicked grin before he covered Louis' mouth with his again. His lips were sinful -- Louis had no other word for them. Full and soft and just the right shape to fit against Louis' perfectly. He could have kissed Harry for hours, and Louis couldn't wait for the day to come when he wouldn't have to worry about being caught, about having people know. On that day he would spread Harry out on the sheets and kiss him for hours, probably make him come without touching his cock once. Louis wanted to try that.
There was never time for that, though.
He moaned when Harry ground his hips forwards, causing enough friction for Louis to grow harder in his black school uniform trousers. His bloody tight trousers. As if Harry could read his mind, he shifted slightly and brought one hand down to unzip them and slide them over Louis' hips. All the while, he was kissing Louis' chest, sucking bruises into the skin. Bruises that no one would ever see.
Louis' shirt landed on the floor. Now that he was completely naked, he felt the damp, wet drag of Harry's own trousers against his heated skin.
"Have to get you out of those clothes, babe," Louis reminded him. "You're gonna catch a cold."
Harry grinned as he sat up and opened the button, pulled the zip down. His hair was wildly curled from the rain, his eyes dark in the dim light of the room. Every trace of blue was gone from his lips, bitten red and shining wet from Louis' kisses.
Louis needed that mouth back on his.
"Want your mouth, Haz," he breathed, arching his back to grind into Harry. His wet trousers were rough against Louis' sensitive cock, and he bit back a groan. Harry leaned in, kissing him deeply, tongue dipping into Louis' mouth, chasing his taste. Louis sighed into it, a hand buried in Harry's curls.
"Gonna get my mouth," Harry murmured, pecking him again, before he shuffled down.
Louis frowned, not exactly getting what Harry meant, but when he trailed kisses down Louis' chest to his stomach, further down to his hips, his heart skipped a beat with realisation. He lifted his head, staring down at Harry, crouched between his legs. Harry glanced at him once, eyes so eager, cheeks flushed, then he ducked, taking the head of Louis' cock into his mouth.
Louis couldn't stop looking. They had done a lot -- they hadn't been shy to experiment. This, however, took it a step further, was something they hadn't done before. Ever. Louis had had his hand on Harry's dick too many times to count, and they had both licked come off the other before, had rubbed off against each other. Louis had watched Harry fall over the edge, had watched the white come spilling from his cock onto his stomach and Louis' fist.
This was different, though. Harry slid his mouth lower, took in more of Louis' cock. Spit gathered in the corners of his mouth, dribbling down his chin. He breathed heavily through his nose, but somehow managed to swipe his tongue in just the right way to have Louis see stars. Harry hollowed his cheeks and Louis thought he'd lose it. His hips jerked up, cock twitching in Harry's mouth, making him pull back and cough.
"Fuck, Haz, sorry, I'm--"
Harry wiped his mouth, shaking his head. His face was a mess, lips red and stained with spit and precome. Louis couldn't look at it -- he thought he might come from the sight only.
"Can I try again?" Harry licked his lips, so Louis closed his eyes.
"'M not telling you to stop," Louis answered. "I just never-- I mean, it's the first--"
"I know, Lou," Harry whispered, suddenly all focussed. He dropped a kiss to Louis' thigh. "Your first in everything, right?"
Swallowing thickly, Louis nodded, reaching out a hand to bury his fingers in Harry's hair. "Everything."
Harry ducked back down, taking Louis' cock into his mouth and covering the base with his hand. Neither of them had any experience with this, but the way heat built up behind Louis' navel, his heart beat out of control and his breath got caught in his throat, Louis didn't think that Harry was doing a bad job of it.
His tongue moved in circles around the head of Louis’ cock, traced the vein at the underside before Harry swallowed him again, making up with his fist what he couldn’t reach with his mouth. His fingers caressed Louis’ thigh, sliding lower to his balls.
"Harry," Louis warned sharply, tugging Harry's hair a little harder.
Harry pulled back, just enough to give Louis a pointed look from beneath his dark lashes, then he dove back in. Louis watched the length of his cock disappear into Harry's mouth, felt the hint of teeth, a clumsy swipe of Harry's tongue.
It was enough; enough to push Louis over the edge. Harry's name on the tip of his tongue, he arched off the mattress again, pushing deep into Harry's mouth. Harry groaned around his dick, deeply, and Louis felt it, way up to his chest. It echoed in his head, pulled him down, and he lost control.
Harry took it, moaning around his cock, fingers digging into Louis' thighs. It would leave dark marks, traces of Harry on his skin. Harry pulled back, Louis' cock slipping from his mouth, when Louis lifted his head, his body relaxing back into the sheets. His mouth was wet and streaks of Louis' come ran down his jaw, dropping onto his collarbones.
"Baby," Louis said softly, reaching for him. Harry took Louis' hand, tangling their fingers, so Louis could pull him down to his side. He brought a hand up to Harry's chin, catching some of the droplets with his thumb and brushing them back up to Harry's lips.
Harry watched Louis' face from dazed eyes, the green ten times darker than usual, his pupils blown while he licked Louis' thumb.
"You're gonna kill me," Louis whispered.
"I've been thinking about it for weeks," Harry admitted. "Just wanted to try it."
Louis smiled, brushing a stray curl from Harry's temple. "Have you been practicing on a cucumber?"
Leaning in closer, Harry rested a hand on Louis' stomach. "Bananas," he lazily corrected.
Closing his eyes, Louis tried to chase the mental image from his brain. It would only get him hard again, and they didn't have the time for that. Which-- he frowned slightly, shifting to tangle his legs with Harry's. He was still in his trousers and completely pliant in Louis' arms. Louis pressed his thigh closer, finding Harry's cock soft against his leg, a telling wet spot at his crotch.
"It was pretty hot, okay?" Harry mumbled before Louis could say a thing.
Louis grinned, leaning in to kiss Harry. His face was still a mess, and Louis shouldn't be as turned on by that, but he couldn't help himself. Harry was right -- it had been pretty hot. "I'll return the favour next time," he promised instead.
Harry sighed, nuzzling his face against Louis's neck. "If it weren't raining, we could go out and do it in the treehouse."
"We'd freeze our balls off," Louis pointed out.
Harry grinned, and he didn't need to say it for Louis to know what was on his mind. Instead, they kissed again, their tongues sliding together, fingers tangling and disentangling, just to slot back together in a different manner.
Louis felt Harry smile against his lips, humming appreciatively when Louis rolled them over, covering Harry's body with his own. One hand slid down Louis' spine until it came to rest on the curve of his bum.
"One day," Louis murmured, his forehead resting against Harry's, "when we're rich and famous and it doesn't matter what anybody thinks of us, I'll take you to Bora Bora."
"Bora Bora?" Harry grinned. "How did you get that idea?"
"I bet it never rains in Bora Bora," Louis mused, the fingers of his free hand combing through Harry's hair. Their faces were so close he was sure he was going cross-eyed. "I'll rent one of those huts in the sea, and when we wake up in the morning to the sound of the waves, I'll spread you out on our king-size bed for hours and blow you, kiss you all over and make you come again and again, because no one's gonna disturb us."
Harry licked his lips, his tongue swiping Louis's mouth in the process. "I'd like that."
"We'll have cocktails all day, and I wouldn't let you wear a single piece of clothing. Not once for the time we'll be staying in that little hut." Louis grinned, pecking Harry's lips.
"I'm very much on board with that idea," Harry agreed. The sheets rustled quietly when Harry parted his legs to accommodate Louis between them. Their fingers were still tangled, and Harry pulled them up to his mouth, kissing Louis' knuckles. He closed his eyes, holding Louis to his chest.
"Bora Bora it is, then," Louis whispered, sealing Harry's lips with another kiss. It was warm, slick as honey, filling Louis' head and heart, and making him feel light. Only Harry could make him feel that way.
"Bora Bora," Harry repeated against Louis' lips. "I'll hold you to that."
"Who is Niall?"
Louis' eyes flew open, his eyes hit by bright sunlight and a radiating, blue sky.
Miami, he thought, rolling from his back to his stomach. He closed his eyes again for a moment, drinking in the memory of Harry's face, his cute, round cheeks, the plump lips, covered in Louis' come. By now Louis knew how much of a clumsy blowjob that had been. To this day, it was still the hottest one he had ever received. Harry had been so innocent, so eager about it. No one else Louis had been with since had ever been like that.
Except for Harry. During the time they had been together, Harry had improved his technique significantly.
His skin prickled from the memory, but also from the warm sun hitting his back. They were floating on a big, white yacht on the wide Miami sea, the sun spilling from a blue sky.
This wasn't Bora Bora, Louis reminded himself. Bora Bora had always just been a dream.
"Hey, Lou, are you listening?" Liam asked, kicking his foot.
Yes, right, Liam had woken him from his light slumber in memory land. Louis sat up running a hand through his hair, trying to remember the question. "What?"
"Niall," Liam said, frowning at him. "Who is Niall?"
Louis' heart skipped a beat, a million thoughts rushing through his head. He couldn't come up with a single reasonable explanation why Liam would know about Niall. "Where did you get that from?" he asked.
Zayn stirred next to Louis, yawning when he rolled over, facing them with tired eyes.
"Couldn't find my mobile," Liam explained. "Guess I left it in the hotel. Yours was open at a Facebook page. Who is the kid?"
Louis groaned. "It's none of your business, Liam."
Liam lifted his hand, looking at the screen of Louis' mobile phone. "Niall Horan," he read out loud, "going to King's College in London, from Mullingar, Ireland. How did you meet him? Shagged him recently?"
Louis rolled his eyes, standing up from the sunbed. "Fuck off, Liam."
"Someone should tell the kid about privacy settings on Facebook. I can access all of his photos and personal information. Oh, look." Liam gasped. "His girlfriend is a stunner. Why would he fuck you if he has a girl like that at home?"
Something tasted bitter in Louis' mouth. It was probably the repeated implication that he had slept with with Niall. Also, Liam was right, someone had to teach the kid about privacy settings. Louis had scrolled through all of his photos to find an indicator that Niall and Harry were at the same place. He hadn't found one, though. Instead, he had found Harry among Niall's friends.
Harry had been a bit more clever about his privacy settings, though. His profile only showed was a picture of a banana with a face drawn on, a cover photo that displayed the logo of what Louis assumed was some random hipster band, and the basic information that he was from Cheshire, England.
Nothing new there for Louis.
Liam hummed under his breath, scrolling on Louis' phone. "Should I send him a friend request then?"
Something in Louis jolted, and he was in Liam's space before he could even process it. "I told you to fuck off," he hissed, grabbing his mobile. "Take Zayn's mobile if you need one. Mine's off limits for you."
Frowning, Liam glanced at Zayn who had sat up on his own sunbed. He pressed his lips together, raising his hands. "Sorry, Lou. I was just joking. I didn't know---"
"You don't need to know, okay?"
They were all quiet for a moment, Liam looking at Louis with his huge puppy eyes that made Louis want to take it all back and tell him that he hadn't done anything wrong. Liam hadn't, after all. He had just joked around as they always did.
They hadn't joked about anything that lay in the part of Louis' past that he didn't like to share. Niall was a huge part of that particular past.
"Is he your ex, or what?" Zayn asked, voice low and sleepy. "Because, Liam probably doesn't need to know, but I do."
Louis turned to Zayn, feeling anger rile up in his chest again. "You don't need to know anything."
"We don't?" Zayn got up from his sunbed, stepping closer. "We do, Louis, and you know that. Do you think we're stupid, mate? We don't just read the songs you write, we sing them, and no one writes shit like that without having fucked up big time."
Zayn had to stop. He had to stop right away, or Louis would lose it on him, on both of them. "The fuck?" he growled, poking a finger to Zayn's chest. "What do you want from me? I don't owe you a thing about my past."
Zayn didn't even raise a brow. "Yeah, you do. Lou," he added then, voice much softer. "We're friends, aren't we? What did you do to the kid?"
"Nothing," Louis spit out through his teeth. He backed away, and although there was nothing but the wide, blue sea around them, he felt the walls closing in, cornering him. "He means nothing."
"You wouldn't get like this, if he didn't," Liam noted.
Louis stared at them, from Zayn to Liam. "Where does this come from?" he asked, narrowing his eyes. "Definitely not from me leaving a Facebook profile open."
"You've been off for the past weeks," Zayn pointed out. He rubbed a hand over his bare chest, tattoos littering the tanned skin. "Something happened, and the way you’re acting right now? This guy here has something to do with it."
"Can't you just drop it?" Louis asked, his voice sounding tired to his own ears. He didn't want to think about Niall anymore, or --- or anything that he related to that name. He had done too much of that within the past two weeks. "Believe me when I say I'm fine?"
Liam sighed, approaching Louis again. He hadn't noticed how much space he had put between them. "But you're not. Come on, Lou."
Biting his lip, Louis lowered his head. He couldn't. There was no way that after three years of locking all those feelings away, he would dig them up again, lay them open to anyone. He hadn't told a single soul about this -- not even his mother. It was no one's business but his own.
"How about we go inside for a smoke?" Zayn offered. "Get you to relax a bit?"
"You just wanna make me talk," Louis said quietly, looking through Zayn's tactics.
"You won't get out of this, mate." Liam threw an arm around his shoulders. "We're your friends."
"You see, there's something wrong if you have to get me stoned to make me talk." Frowning, Louis let Liam lead him inside. He wouldn't ever turn down a smoke; he wasn't above arguing, though. "You may see the problem there."
They went into the lounge, the air cool and fresh in there, a nice change from the hot sun that had been burning on their skin outside. Louis sighed, collapsing onto the big sofa. He felt weirdly exhausted for having done nothing but napping all day.
"The problem is that you don't even trust your closest friends to talk about your issues with them when you're not drunk, high or almost dead," Zayn pointed out, opening a little box on the table. He got out three perfectly rolled joints, handing both Liam and Louis one each.
"Ha!" Louis sat up, pointing at Zayn with one finger. "I'm pretty sure you haven’t seen me when I've been almost dead."
"Have you ever been?" Liam asked, frowning.
Louis fell silent, remembering the night he had told Harry about London, about his choices. After Harry had left, and Louis had remained all alone in his treehouse, he had felt it. Almost dead, he thought, a dry laugh escaping him. He had not felt almost dead -- something had died inside of Louis, and it had left him cold, empty and numb.
"What's so funny?" Zayn wanted to know, leaning in to light Louis' joint.
Inhaling the smoke, Louis closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, Liam was still sitting beside him, his foot barely touching Louis' thigh. That was Liam, always close enough to jump in and help. Louis only had to say the word. Zayn was across from them, a calm look in his eyes. He always understood, always knew what was going on in Louis' mind.
They were his best friends, and the only people in the world who would at least understand a little of what Louis had gone through. They had gone through the same.
"Niall was my best friend at school," Louis said into the quiet. He frowned at that, wondered if it was true. Harry had always been so much more than just his best friend, though. Harry had been everything .
"From school?" Zayn frowned and looked at Liam. "Didn't you say he was from Ireland?"
"He is," Louis confirmed. "His parents were struggling, so they sent him to his uncle in England, so he could attend school there."
Liam hummed. "You never mentioned him before."
Louis shook his head. Smoke was clouding his vision. "No, I couldn't. It's-- we're not friends anymore."
"One of those?" Zayn asked, crossing his legs. "He's never been your best friend if he turned into one of the parasites after you became famous."
That stung. Louis took a shaky breath, thinking of Niall's carefree laugh, his positive attitude. It stung even more. "No," he croaked out, taking another drag. "Not Niall. He's kind, and honest, and genuine. He wouldn't do that. He's better than that."
"Come on, Lou. Don't make us drag every detail out of you." Liam shifted closer to him. "What's your story with that kid?"
"You know I was in a band before," Louis said, seeing their expressions change. "Yeah, right. Niall was in that band. It was all his idea, actually. Saw me performing in that school musical. He asked me if I'd sing in a band, and I told him I was writing songs. We became a band." He left out the part about Harry, sitting next to Niall with doe eyes, biting his lips raw in anticipation.
Zayn seemed to catch on, though. "That's a duo," he noted. "For a band, there should have been a few more."
"One," Louis forced himself to say. His voice felt raw in his throat. "There was one more."
"And do they resent you for making it big without them?" Liam asked quietly.
"I---" Louis shook his head, stubbing the joint out in an ashtray. "Maybe. Most likely," he corrected. "I wasn’t honest when I said I sent in a solo demo tape, okay?"
Liam blinked at him, confusion colouring his face. Louis glanced at Zayn, who simply nodded knowingly.
"We sent in demo tapes to labels and companies all around London. We were delusional enough to think we had a chance with Syco, but then, I actually heard back from them." Louis angled his knees, resting his forehead onto them. "They had looked at the video, but they only wanted one of us. Or, well, they wanted one of us to come down for a personal casting."
It was silent for a moment, its heavy impact weighing on Louis' shoulders.
"And you did it," Zayn murmured. "You took the chance."
Opening his eyes, Louis felt a cold shiver run through his body. "I did. In secret, though. If it had never worked out, they wouldn't ever have found out about it."
"It did work out, though," Liam said.
Louis swallowed thickly and raised his head, finding both of them looking at him with sympathetic expressions. He didn't want to go all the way, and talk about the moment he had to tell Harry and Niall. He had told Niall before Harry, and Niall had been-- Niall. He had looked surprised, a little disappointed at first, but then he had pulled Louis into a hug, and had told him to use that chance, and that he was proud of him, that he wished him all the best in the world.
No such luck with Harry, Louis then thought, an old wound in his chest bleeding out all the pain and sorrow he had locked away for almost three years. He felt like drowning in it, his lungs so stuffed and tight that it hurt to breathe.
"I saw him a few weeks ago," Louis said instead. "You know, that night Alberto had to come to the club and get me out? When we left, I saw him there, getting into a cab."
"And you’re wondering what happened to him," Zayn pointed out. "You’re wondering if he's doing alright."
Liam sighed, dropping his head back against the backrest of the sofa. "He's not doing music anymore, as it seems."
Louis shook his head. "Doesn't seem like it, no."
"And you think it's your fault."
Looking at Zayn, Louis wanted to deny it, tell him that he was ridiculous. He couldn't, though. It was a lie Louis wasn't capable of telling. Instead, he avoided looking Zayn in the eye, and shrugged.
"It's not, Lou," Liam told him, sitting up. "It's not your fault, just because you took a chance."
"I betrayed them," Louis murmured. "We were supposed to make it together, and instead I abandoned them first chance I got."
"Apparently you couldn't make it together, though," Zayn reminded him. "After all, you got rejected everywhere, right? Syco would have taken all of you if there had been potential. The only potential lay with you, Louis, and you're not to blame for it."
No, Louis thought, swallowing the lump in his throat. No, no, no . That wasn't true. They hadn't heard Niall play his guitar, and they hadn't heard Harry's voice when he was singing Louis' songs. They didn't know, hadn't seen what Louis had seen.
Liam pulled him into a hug. "Don't beat yourself up over it, Lou. They'll cut their own path, I'm sure."
Nodding, Louis melted into Liam's side, feeling the warmth of his comfort seeping through his skin. He closed his eyes, the smoke long gone, but still filling up his brain, making him pliant and too weak to argue.
The smoke clouds couldn’t blur the image of the hurt look from Harry’s stormy, green eyes, though.
"So she went there," Perrie said, handing Harry her hairbrush to hold. "And, believe it or not, she walked right into that guy. Snogging a girl from the interior design department."
Harry locked gazes with her in the mirror, shaking his head with a frown on his face.
"Watch it," Perrie shrieked, slapping Harry's shoulder. "Don't move, or this won't look any good."
"Sorry," Harry said, stilling his every motion, sitting straight like a watchdog.
Perrie smiled at him, winking, before she resumed braiding one half of his hair. "Anyway. So Jade walked in on them, and she told me she was so shocked, all she could do was turn and run."
"Poor her," Harry murmured. "She must have felt awful for falling for that guy's terrible speech the day before."
"Right?" Perrie dragged an elastic band over her wrist and tied it at the back of his neck. "She hasn't confronted him, though. I would have gone berserk on that arse. Had told him exactly where he can shove his 'I'll treat you like a princess' talk."
Harry shrugged. He turned his head to appraise Perrie's work on his hair. "Jade's probably not the kind of girl who can just do that."
"I wish I could do it for her," Perrie sighed. "I mean. I'd never let a guy get away with something like that."
"No, you would go right up to him and punch him in the face." Harry grinned, raising a hand to his hair, brushing his fingers through the curls on the left side that weren't braided. He decided he liked it. "And probably kick his balls."
Perrie snorted, raising a brow. "Probably? I would, love." She picked some hair pins from a pink bag to her right and furrowed her brows in concentration when she carefully put them into Harry's hair. "So, who am I dressing you up for?"
Harry blinked. "No one. I don't have any plans for tonight." He smirked. "That's why I let you do my hair. Wouldn't risk anyone seeing me if it turned out bad."
"Excuse me?" Perrie loosened the elastic band and pulled it out a bit harsher than needed. "When did I ever let you leave this flat not looking fabulous?"
"I went to work with pink nail polish on last week, Pez," Harry reminded her.
"You looked cute." Perrie shrugged and zipped up the bag. "We're done. Also, you'll leave like this when we go out!"
Harry turned, eyes wide. "What? We're going out?"
"Well, I am," Perrie answered. "And you're coming with me."
"Where are you going?" Harry got up from the floor where he had sat in front of Perrie's full-size mirror.
"Colin's going out with friends. He said I should come, and that I can bring a friend." She opened the door of her closet, inspecting a few shirts. "I assumed you were busy, but if you're not, you're tagging along."
"Oooh," Harry cooed, smirking. "Now that I have let you do my hair, I am worthy of meeting your boyfriend. Niall's gonna be so jealous."
"Shut up," Perrie groaned. "I'm not keeping him from you guys. He's just really busy."
Too busy to properly take care of his own girlfriend, Harry thought but didn't say out loud. Perrie would not appreciate it. She didn't see any wrong in how Colin treated her, as far as Harry could judge the situation.
"So, you want me to meet your boyfriend looking like this?" Harry asked, pointing at his hair.
"You look great," Perrie assured him and turned. "Speaking of. Can I borrow your shirt? The red, tartan one? It would look fabulous with my new denim skirt."
Harry shrugged and made himself comfortable on her bed. "Yeah, sure."
"Cool." She beamed and dashed out of the room. "I'll go and have a shower."
Curling up, Harry turned the volume of the TV louder, zapping through the channels. His gaze briefly drifted to the poster on the wall, to Louis' face, next to the two faces he didn't know. He didn't think a single day went by without him hearing about them since he had moved here. Either Perrie would tell him the latest gossip or she would listen to their new album in her room, the voices and melodies quietly carrying over to Harry's.
Harry hadn't imagined his life in London to be like this. He had known he'd come to Louis' city, but he had also thought that city would be big enough for both of them. Instead, not a single day had gone by that he hadn't been reminded of Louis.
By a song playing in a store, a promotional poster for the album on a bus passing the bakery Harry worked at, or a billboard displaying some product advertised by Escapade. In Perrie's room, staring at Harry from a lifeless poster on the wall. Louis was everywhere.
No place to hide, Harry recalled, thinking of the CD case in their kitchen where Perrie had put it.
Harry really had no place to hide from his past, from Louis.
"He should be out any minute now," Perrie said, her gaze glued to the front door of the building. She was wearing Harry's jacket because she had once again chosen to dress fashionably instead of warm. It wasn't April yet, so the air was rather chilly.
Harry hadn't commented on it, though. She had dressed up for a night out with her boyfriend -- of course she wanted to look good. Also, it wasn't really a problem for Harry to hand her his jacket; he wouldn't get cold anyway.
They sat in front of the huge building Colin worked at in Camden, and more and more people trickled out of it by the minute. It had been about twenty minutes since they had arrived, Perrie changing her mind the second they had stepped onto the tube.
"We could pick Colin up from work," she had suggested, sitting down. "It's just one stop more."
Harry had shrugged, taking the seat next to her. "Sure."
"I'd like you to meet him before he's around his friends."
Frowning, Harry had turned to her. "Why?"
Perrie had seemed uncertain how to respond. "He's a bit different when Ben and George are around."
"Different how?" Harry had wanted to know. He hadn't met the guy even once, but Harry had known from the first moment he had learnt about Colin that he wasn't worth Perrie's time. Harry had decided at that very moment that he really didn't look forward to meeting him.
"He's not as-- well, attentive," Perrie had deflected the question.
Which had basically meant that he tended to ignore Perrie when he was around his friends. At least that was what Harry had made of what Perrie had said.
Harry glanced at her beside him now, the way she had wound her arms around herself, and her knees bounced up and down. She looked cold, as well as nervous. He was about to ask her about it but Perrie perked up suddenly. The door finally swung open and she was on her feet in a second.
A girl walked out, wearing a tailored business suit, brunette hair tied together in a tail. She was laughing at something. Someone, Harry corrected himself, when he saw the guy who followed behind her.
"That's Colin," Perrie announced, taking a step forwards. Harry was right behind her.
Colin hadn't seen them yet, had stopped at the street, the pretty girl in black standing across from him. And then, everything went a little too fast for Harry to follow. The girl laughed again, taking a step closer to Colin, and he extended his hands, resting them on her hips. They leaned in at the same moment, lips locking.
Perrie froze in front of Harry. He stared ahead, watched Colin pull the girl closer, and her hands slide into his blond hair. They pulled away after a minute, a minute of Harry staring unbelievingly, frozen at what was happening in front of him. It was quiet, those two staring at each other, the girl smiling happily. Perrie still hadn’t moved, and she looked small, so very small with Harry's big jacket over her slim shoulders, reaching her thighs.
Anger welled up in Harry, sudden and hot, his feet moving on his own. He rushed past Perrie, fisting his hands. Before he could say or do anything, though, Colin spotted him and moved the girl behind him. Colin's look went past him and Harry could tell the moment he saw Perrie, realising what she had just witnessed.
"Are you fucking serious?" Harry asked.
Colin raised a brow; a perfectly arched brow in a perfectly shaped face framed by perfectly styled hair. Slick, Harry thought, he looked too smooth, too slick. "And you would be?"
"If that's your most urgent concern right now, you need to get your shit together, mate," Harry answered him, voice dropping to an icy level.
"Why are you here?" Colin asked, ignoring Harry, raising his voice so Perrie would hear him.
"Seriously?" Harry stepped closer. "Your girlfriend comes to pick you up and you're mad at her for catching you cheating?"
"I don't think this is any of your business," Colin pointed out. His expression stayed completely indifferent, annoyance the only emotion shining through. Harry found it disgusting.
The girl behind him had her lips pressed together, looking guilty. So she had known, Harry realised. He felt even more disgusted. Harry turned, desperation making his chest feel tight.
"Perrie," he shouted, but his breath was caught in his throat when he saw her.
Her shoulders were slouched, her knees shaking again, and the look in her eyes was utterly sad. Tears made them shine in the pale light of the evening sun and her mouth was slightly opened, as if words tried to escape but couldn't. Her bottom lip started to tremble.
"Perrie," Harry repeated, a lot softer. "Perrie, it’s your fight."
She sobbed, shaking her head. "I don't--" A shaky breath, and she lowered her head. "I don't want to see his face."
The despair, pure disappointment colouring her voice, mixed with shock and sadness, broke Harry’s heart. He turned back to Colin, meeting his cold, indifferent stare. Harry couldn't believe it, didn't understand. One thing was clear, though, very clear in his head.
"Don't you dare ever coming near her again, you worthless piece of shit," Harry growled deeply. "I'll rip you apart if you even try."
Without giving Colin another glance, he turned, finding Perrie still stood the same as before, head lowered and shaking all over. Harry approached her, reaching out, and she easily leaned into him, let him scoop her up in his arms. She sobbed again, her fingers burying into his shirt.
"Come on," Harry murmured, making her move. She held on to his shirt, body shivering, but other than that she was quiet. Harry put an arm around her shoulders, and as they reached the underground station, her walking had turned wobbly.
Perrie started to cry on the tube. Sobs turned into miserable whines, tears drenched Harry's shirt and her fingers painfully grabbed onto Harry’s arm. People glanced at them, frowning.
Harry had no idea what else to do than to hold her and let her cry her heart out.
When Perrie had still not left her bed even once the next day, Harry seriously started to worry. He had woken up to the sound of her crying in her room, the door closed. When he had come home from work, he had found her still in her bed, crying quietly into her pillow.
He thought about the night before when Perrie had braided his hair so carefully, and had told him about how she wouldn't let anyone do to her what that guy had done to Jade. She had looked so tough, so serious, and Harry hadn't had a single doubt that he would never see her end up like this.
He stood in her doorframe now, her room dark, only illuminated by the light coming from the kitchen. Her body was hidden beneath her duvet, only her hair peeking out from beneath, her sobs breaking the silence of the room.
He should have known, Harry thought, watching the duvet rise and fall in constant tremors. Being betrayed, feeling so helpless and stupid for letting it happen -- Harry knew the feeling all too well. Being betrayed and getting your heart broken made people become someone completely different, react in a way they had never reacted before.
Harry thought of a sunny summer day spent with laughter, sweet kisses shared in secret, and the starlit sky only visible in narrow stripes from an old, shabby treehouse where dreams had been shattered in one single sentence.
With a sigh, Harry walked into the room, leaving the door open and carefully sat down on the edge of Perrie's bed. She didn't react when he reached out to pat her hair. Her sobbing continued, shaking her whole body.
Harry knew how it felt; he knew so well.
Without a word, he lay down, lined his body up against Perrie's hidden under the duvet. He put an arm around her to pull her a little closer and felt her melt into the touch.
Harry remained like that, patting her head, holding her in his arms for the rest of the night.
"Mate, it's serious," Harry said quietly, burying his face in his hands.
Niall's voice was barely a whisper. "She hasn't talked?"
"Hasn't said a word," Harry confirmed. "She said she didn't want to see his face, and since then? Crying. She's been in her bed for two days now, Niall. I can't make her get up, or talk, or even eat."
"Fuck," Niall breathed out. "What a fucker. Who does that to a girl?"
They were sitting in the kitchen, both staring at Perrie's door. It was well after midnight and the sobs had stopped about an hour ago. They were the only indicator that Perrie was still alive, so Harry got a little worried that he couldn't hear them anymore.
"I should have beat him up," Harry mused. "You should have seen him, Niall. No remorse, not a hint of guilt in his ugly mug."
"Why was she with a guy like that in the first place?" Niall shook his head, taking a swipe from his beer. "He must have treated her like shit."
"He’s been a shitty boyfriend all along, hasn’t he?” Harry frowned, thinking back of all the times Perrie had talked about Colin. She had never really seemed unhappy. “She works night shifts, and thought it was alright that he never bothered once to pick her up. She didn't even know she was mistreated."
"He really is a shitty boyfriend," Niall agreed. "Can't really feel sorry for his new girl, though." He shuddered. "What are we gonna do about Pez?"
"We need to get her out of bed," Harry stated dryly. "That's the first step."
"So tomorrow, we'll take her out?"
"Maybe something like breakfast here? I don't think leaving the house is a level one task." Harry tilted his head. He remembered how hard it had been to pick himself up and accept that Louis was gone, that he wouldn’t be by Harry’s side anymore. It had been tough to leave the house and face reality, get back to a life in which Louis had been everything to Harry. Pick up the same life, and live it without Louis. "That's probably level three."
Niall frowned. He gave Harry an understanding look, his hand briefly brushing Harry’s arm. "What's level two?"
Harry smirked. "Eat and shower."
For a moment, Niall was quiet. "You think she loved him?"
"She didn't," Harry answered without a moment of hesitation. "She may have fooled herself into thinking that, but she certainly hasn't. That’s not love."
"What is it, then?" Niall suddenly turned to Harry, expression oddly curious. "You're in a relationship, and you depend on each other, and you're happy together. Is it foolish to believe it's love?"
Caught off-guard, Harry immediately thought of Louis, of how they had shared everything, had loved with all their hearts, had talked about every thought on their minds. Harry had deemed that love.
He had been as foolish as Perrie.
"I don't know," Harry answered honestly. He tilted his head, watching Niall's face closely. "What's wrong with you and Babs?"
"Is it that obvious?" Niall asked.
"Mate, it's been obvious ever since I moved here. Something is off between you guys." Harry set down his beer. "What happened to you?"
Niall inhaled deeply, looking at his bottle and rolling it between his palms. "I told her I loved her."
Harry froze. He stared at Niall, somehow expecting a punch line, a joke, but nothing came, just Niall staring at his bottle, his cheeks flushed.
"When?" Harry decided out of all of the questions swarming his brain.
"Christmas." Niall shrugged a shoulder. "We had dinner, and all. She came over to Ireland, you know, to spend Christmas with my family. It was nice."
Harry bit his lip. "She didn't say it back?"
Niall shook his head. "Nope. She freaked, just a little. I told her it was okay, that she didn't have to say it back. That we're okay either way."
"But you're not." It wasn't a question, and Harry saw in Niall's expression that he knew as well that it wasn't.
"She hasn't said a word about it since. But," he added and emptied his bottle in one go, "I can't really do that, Haz. Why doesn't she love me?"
"How do you know she doesn't?" Harry wanted to know. He had never seen Niall so down, every trace of his usual optimistic self gone.
"She would have said it if she did, wouldn't she?"
"Maybe she's just afraid to say it," Harry pointed out. "You guys are good together, aren't you? Maybe she just can't--" Looking for the right word, Harry gazed at Perrie's door. "Commit herself."
"I don't want to lose her," Niall confessed quietly. "I wouldn't be able to take that."
"Wait!" Harry sat up straight, pointing from the door to Niall and back. "You don't think Barbara's cheating on you, do you?"
Niall's eyes widened comically. "She wouldn't."
"No, she wouldn't," Harry agreed. He lowered his gaze to his hands. "Maybe you should talk to her again. Tell her that it upsets you."
"That would drive her even further away from me," Niall argued.
For a few seconds, Harry weighed his words carefully. "If it does, she's not the right one anyway, Niall. You being honest with her shouldn't make her want to distance herself from you. Not if she's honest with you, too."
Niall stared at him for a moment, then he nodded. "Yeah. Maybe that's true."
Harry nodded back. It was, he thought and turned back to look at Perrie's door.
"It is," he said out loud, meeting Niall's gaze. "Believe me, it is."
Tilting his head back, Louis barked out a laugh. His eyes crinkled, he slapped his thigh and held his stomach, losing his breath.
There was something on TV, but Harry didn't what it was, and he wouldn't ever find out because he couldn't take his eyes off Louis. Harry didn't think Louis understood how pretty he really looked when he was laughing like that.
"Haz," Louis said, breathless. "Have you seen him lose his trousers? Hilarious."
"Yeah," Harry just said, nodding quickly.
Louis frowned, tilting his head. "Are you tired? You’re not really watching the film, are you?"
They were the only ones still awake. Niall had meant to come over as well, but had cancelled last minute due to some family problems. Harry suspected his parents had called, and Niall felt homesick. It happened every now and then, and Niall tended to bury himself in his room at those times.
That left Harry to stay for a sleepover at Louis' house all alone, though. It was the first time that they would share an actual bed for the night. Louis' mother had set up a guest bed in Louis' room but Harry had no intentions of sleeping in it.
"I'm a bit tired, yes," he admitted, although he really wasn't. He didn't dare snuggle up to Louis in the living room, was the truth. Harry was afraid of someone suddenly showing up, finding them all tangled up, snogging.
"Okay, up with you." Louis pulled Harry's hand and dragged him off the sofa. He switched off the TV before he reached for the light, turning it off too.
Harry left his hand in Louis’ while they went upstairs. Their fingers were laced, Louis' slotting automatically between Harry's, the way they always did. They just fit.
"You can use the bathroom first," Louis said, his voice sounding way too casual for Harry’s nerves to take it.
Why was he so casual about this? They were about to spend the night in the same bed -- the thought only made Harry's heart stutter in anticipation. He managed to nod, though, collecting his pyjamas and toothbrush before he headed off to the bathroom.
He took his time, trying to calm himself down. Apparently, it wasn't a big deal for Louis, so Harry shouldn't make a big deal out of it, either. He should act all cool and relaxed about it, shouldn't expect it to be any different from any other night they had spent together.
When he came back, he was prepared to act collected. That plan went downhill the moment he spotted Louis on his bed, already in his pyjamas and a cup of tea in his hand. Another one stood on the bedside table.
"Tea?" Harry asked. "Now?"
"I can't go to bed without a cuppa," Louis answered, shrugging a shoulder.
It was so easy, such a random little thing about Louis, but it was also what pushed Harry over the edge. He loved every single, little detail about Louis, found all of it utterly endearing. And Harry knew, knew somewhere in the back of his mind, and maybe in a corner of his heart, too, that he had loved Louis from the very first moment.
"I love you," he said, watching Louis' hand freeze after he had raised it to take another sip.
Harry froze, too, Louis' gaze coming to rest on him. He had not just voiced that thought out loud, had he? Harry groaned inwardly, feeling all of his organs cramp until he felt sick to his stomach. He had said it out loud.
The way Louis looked at him, confused, stunned, uncertain -- yes, Harry had just said that out loud.
"Oops?" he added, in lieu of a better solution. It had never meant to be said. Not yet, anyway. He had meant to tell Louis someday, of course, but now was too soon. He would drive Louis away from him, scare him off, and eventually lose him. All that, just because Harry wanted too much too soon.
He blinked when suddenly, Louis was in his space, his hands coming up to frame Harry's face, fingers gentle. His eyes were clouded, blue turning grey, and Harry was about to say more, when Louis shut them. Next, Louis' lips were on Harry's, warm and tasting of bitter black tea. He gently opened up Harry's mouth with a soft, sweet kiss, his tongue sliding against Harry's, nudging it to make him respond to Louis.
When Louis pulled back and Harry opened his eyes again, his limbs felt heavy, his brain clouded and he couldn't see anything but Louis' face, the warm smile on his lips, the happy sparkle in his eyes.
"Hi," he said quietly, pulling Harry out of his daze.
Harry blinked, hands coming up to rest on Louis' hips.
"I love you, too," Louis murmured, one thumb gently brushing Harry's cheek.
Letting go of his breath, Harry realised that he had held it for all the while. He breathed out a shaky laugh, resting his forehead on Louis' shoulder. Louis nuzzled his cheek against Harry’s hair, humming quietly while they stayed like that, holding on to each other.
This was it, Harry thought later when he lay in Louis' bed, burying into Louis as he pulled Harry closer. This was all he had ever wanted, and all he would ever need in his life.
The darkness of the night engulfed them, not a single light shining through, and Harry could barely make out Louis' face, had to use his fingertips to find out Louis' expression. It didn’t matter, though, because Harry found everything he needed to know. He traced the smile on Louis' lips, wondered if it would show in Louis' eyes too. Opening his own, Harry stared into the dark, couldn't see a single thing.
Harry didn’t let it unsettle him. He closed his eyes, nuzzling into Louis’s embrace.
He only needed Louis to love him, everything else would work out somehow.