Harry leaned back in the slightly uncomfortable seat on the balcony of the arena. He was overlooking the stage and all seats from there, munching on a banana.
His soundcheck had ended a while ago, but going back to the hotel didn't make much sense as it was too far away from the arena. Going outside for the remaining time until the concert started wasn't an option for him, either. The weather was just fine, but he would need his inhaler after ten minutes. Hong Kong's air was thick in his lungs, and not even the masks helped.
Niall was back at the hotel, making calls and arranging for television and magazine appearances for when they'd be back in London. Touring with Escapade had gained Harry a lot of attention, the whole nation was curious about the boy Escapade had deemed worthy of opening for them on tour.
He watched them gather on stage now. A few technicians were wiring them up, Liam stared into the distance, his mind obviously in a different place. Zayn and Louis were talking to each other, giggling, and fooling around with the guy trying to set them up.
Harry jumped a little when the sound suddenly kicked in and he could hear their voices echo through the hall.
"Have you quite finished?" Louis asked, shoving Zayn's shoulder.
"We'll finish you," Liam threatened, strolling closer to them.
"Ha!" Louis set off into a run to the other side of the stage. "As if you lazy folk could even keep up with me."
Liam was on his heels in seconds and Louis managed to duck him and run back to the centre of the stage where Zayn was still standing, watching them with his arms crossed. Harry gasped a little when he realised that Louis didn't stop but instead tackled Zayn down, turning them around in the fall, so Zayn landed on top of him.
Louis had lost his microphone, but through Zayn's Harry could hear them giggle, both releasing a loud "ooph" when Liam threw himself on top of them. He started to tickle Louis and Zayn joined in after a moment, Louis' yelps and laughs filling the arena.
Harry found himself smiling at the scene in amusement, as much as in endearment.
He caught himself when someone else's voice scolded them loudly, and Harry saw a man standing in front of the stage. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest.
"Guys, get a grip," he said, sounding annoyed. "We don't have all day."
Liam and Zayn got up, both extending a hand to help Louis when he didn't move. Harry saw him stare at the ceiling with a bitter expression on his face. He wondered what was going on in Louis' head.
Harry didn't know any more. There had been a time when he would have known every thought on Louis' mind with just one look at him, one single glimpse. When he looked at Louis now, all he saw was a blank face, or guilt and regret.
There was more of the Louis he used to know when he was around Liam and Zayn. Harry couldn't help but feel hurt by how Louis reached out for them and obviously relied on them, trusted those two. He knew by now that they weren't a replacement for what Harry and Niall had been, but that didn't make it any easier.
They were so much more, their friendship on a completely different level.
It had become even more apparent after they had left the Philippines. Zayn and Liam seemed to understand Louis on a basis where they didn't even need words. They just understood. Harry had observed small touches, concerned glances and hushed conversations.
Something had changed between Harry and Louis, right in that moment when Louis had told him that he didn't want to lie anymore. He had been earnest about that, completely honest, and it had broken down a wall in Harry. He had seen a side of Louis that he hadn't known before, not three years ago, and certainly not now.
There was something vulnerable about him now, a side that made Harry want to reach out for Louis, take him in his arms to keep him safe. Louis had always been the stronger one of them -- Harry had never felt the urge to protect him.
He had no idea why he felt it now; he wasn't supposed to, after all. Nothing in him should long for Louis.
It had been the kiss. Harry was convinced it was all down to that kiss. It had released feelings, long forgotten feelings in Harry, the ones he had locked away in a corner of his heart. It was only natural that Harry reacted so intensely -- no one had yet compared to Louis, after all.
He groaned a little and tilted his head back, closing his eyes. It was a bloody complicated situation -- he felt angry at Louis and attracted to him at the same time, and suppressing either of them wasn't easy.
Harry just wanted to feel nothing at all towards Louis. He wanted to be indifferent and unaffected by Louis. Instead, Harry thought, and leaned forwards to catch sight of Louis kicking a small ball across the stage to Liam, he had started to care again.
"Zayn, you'll go to the back of the stage," the guy in front of the stage instructed.
Louis missed the ball passed to him. "To the back?" he asked, while Zayn wordlessly strolled to the huge wall. Harry knew that usually, Zayn was on the upper stage.
"We can't install the floating stage in this arena," the man answered. "So we'll have to work with the main stage. You'll be at the right front, and Liam's on the left."
They each took their positions, and Louis looked sceptical. "What about You, Seasons and In Time? I mean, if we don't have the floating stage…"
"We'll have stools for that part. It'll look all classy," the guy explained.
Louis didn't seem too convinced. Harry could clearly see the resentment on his face. "And for the rest it'll be like this?"
"Mostly, yes," the man answered, eyes fixed on a paper. "You can switch up positions sometimes. You know the drill."
"But like this, Zayn's not really visible for the crowd, is he?" Liam argued.
The man still didn't look up. "Let's be honest, he doesn't exactly have a stage presence, anyway. What does it matter, as long as his voice is heard?"
Liam gasped, Zayn looked heavily confused and Louis dropped his microphone, taking the ball. Harry frowned, confused by that reaction until Louis dropped it from his hands again and kicked it. The ball hit the man's hand, the papers landing on the floor.
"We're three people in this band," Louis said once he had the guy's attention. He didn't need the microphone to make himself heard. "And each one of us is going to be seen on this fucking stage."
The man didn't answer. Harry could only see his back, but by the way he stood completely frozen, hands still in the air, holding on to nothing, he was sure his expression had to be a baffled stare.
"If that means we have to work some overtime to work out a proper choreography, then that's what we have to do. We're all equally important in this band." Louis glanced back at Zayn and Harry noticed he looked actually wounded. Liam had gone over in the meanwhile, and was just standing next to Zayn.
"We can't really work on a new---"
"We can," Louis cut the guy off. "If you're not up to doing your fucking job, we're just going to improvise. If that ends in a mess, it'll be your fault."
Harry got up at that moment, feeling sick to his stomach from hearing those words. His seat snapped against the back, the noise echoing through the arena. Louis' eyes darted up to him, his gaze locking with Harry's for a moment.
It made Harry feel even sicker, and without another glance, he turned around, dashing off into the corridor outside. The nauseous feeling in his stomach made him dizzy, and felt cold all over, his eyes actually tearing up.
He closed them, leaning against a wall and tilting his head back to force himself to breathe evenly. After several seconds, he just gave up and slid down to the floor, crouching and burrowing his face between his knees.
Louis' words echoed in his ears, the image of his stern expression imprinted on Harry's eyelids. He bit back a sob, as he started shaking all over again, angry at Louis, at himself, at everything Louis was now and could have never been for Harry.
Louis would never betray Zayn and Liam.
Harry winced slightly, feeling less dizzy when he heard the door open. For a moment he was afraid that if he lifted his head, he would see Louis standing there in front of him. He had no idea how to face Louis right now, how to face him without breaking down and making a complete fool of himself.
Harry didn’t sense Louis, though, when the other person crouched down next to him. He turned his head, temple still resting against his knee. Zayn sat ight there, elbows resting on his own knees, eyes closed.
Feeling oddly overwhelmed by sympathy, Harry exhaled shakily. What had just happened in there had been quite harsh on Zayn, after all.
"Are you okay?" he asked quietly.
Zayn hummed. "Just wanted a moment to myself."
"Oh," Harry replied, glancing back to the door and biting his lip. "I'll just--"
"Stay," Zayn interrupted him, followed by a sigh. "Just needed to get away from Liam and Louis. They're like mother hens, really."
"Hm," Harry said in lieu of a better answer.
Zayn was quiet for another moment before he opened his eyes. Harry noticed he had extremely long lashes, and remembered Perrie rambling about that fact when she had been drunk.
"You don't like us, do you?" Zayn asked then.
Taken by surprise, Harry blinked dumbly. "What?"
"Me and Liam, you don't like us, do you?" Zayn laced his fingers, looking at Harry with unwavering eyes.
"I-- No," Harry stuttered, frowning. "I don't even know you."
Zayn fell silent again, still staring at Harry. "Louis's pretty overprotective," he said then, completely out of context.
Harry averted his gaze.
"He would never watch one of his friends getting hurt without taking action," Zayn went on, tone calm and quiet. "He's always considerate of the people around him."
"I guess," Harry answered, remembering Louis' expression from earlier.
"I know you think he's an arse," Zayn pointed out. "And he has been a dick to you. But he's not like that anymore."
"What are you trying to get at here?" Harry frowned, giving Zayn a sceptical look.
"He's good," Zayn murmured. "And I think Liam and I profit from how he changed after making a mistake with you. He's the most loyal friend I've got."
Harry snorted dryly. "You're welcome."
Zayn hummed, falling silent again. He tapped his fingers against his knees and Harry glanced at him, finding him watching Harry with a crease between his brows.
"You know," he added, pursing his lips, "I get that it hurts you. But I just can't watch you hurt him any more. He's cracking, and I think it's enough now. He's suffered enough for what he's done, hasn't he?"
Harry stared at Zayn, feeling his eyes go dry, but he couldn't blink.
"He's not that person anymore who did you wrong, Harry," Zayn added. "Why don't you give him a chance to prove that?"
"Because," Harry answered without thinking about it, "I don't want him back in my life."
Zayn nodded slowly, looking at his hands. "I see," he murmured. "Just. Why are you here?"
Harry felt his heart drop, his breath getting caught in his throat. He was not running after Louis. "What do you want?" he asked, quietly. He hated how his voice trembled. "I can't just forgive him."
"I'm not asking you to," Zayn pointed out. "I just want you to stop being so bitter towards him. You guys can't bury this and move on if you keep resenting him for what he's done."
"How could I ever stop?" Harry asked.
"You still care." Zayn shrugged, turning his head to look at Harry. "I've watched both of you for the past three weeks, and you care as much as he does."
"You don't even know me," Harry reminded him. He felt tired, exhausted from the conversation. Zayn’s constant stare made him feel uncomfortable, exposed. He felt as though Zayn saw more than Harry wanted him to see.
At the same time, Harry wondered how much Louis had really told him. About their past, about last week, about the kiss.
Harry’s lips tingled and he bit them to stop his body from remembering Louis’ touch.
"But I know Louis. Better than you do," Zayn added. It was a stab straight into Harry’s heart. "And he cares about you, more than he should."
Harry clenched his jaw, thinking of how Louis had rubbed his thumb over the tattoo on his arm. "I don't want him to care."
"You have to let him go, then." Zayn got back to his feet. "If you honestly want him to leave you alone, you have to tell him as much. I can't keep watching him chasing your forgiveness when there's no chance for him to receive it."
"You've changed him, Harry," Zayn cut him off. "He's become a better person, and I think you would see that too, if you stopped resenting him for something he regrets with all his heart. You just have to see him for who he is now."
Harry felt too small, too cornered, still crouching on the floor. He got up too, his knees feeling slightly shaky. "Why are you telling me all this?"
"Someone has to. And Louis won't." Zayn smiled slightly, expression a little bitter. "He's not so good at saying good things about himself."
For a moment, Harry just stared at him, wondering how he had ended up here. His heart hurt, his lips felt a little numb, and his fingers were cold. Zayn looked at him calmly, patiently, and Harry knew he had to say something about Louis.
There was nothing to say, though.
"I do like you and Liam," he said after a while. "Which I didn't want to admit at first."
Zayn nodded, expression unchanging. "He didn't replace you, Harry. We're different."
The door opened in that moment, and Louis stepped out. He froze when he spotted Harry, eyes darting from him to Zayn and back.
"We need you on stage, Zayn," he said quietly, holding the door open with one hand.
"Yeah, sorry." Zayn glanced at Harry again. "I forgot the time."
"It's okay," Louis assured him. "Mark came up with an idea that I think could work."
"Okay, let's look at it."
While Zayn approached Louis, Harry looked up from where he had been staring at the ground and found Louis' gaze fixed on him. This time around, Louis broke the eye contact and turned, a hand coming up to rest on Zayn's shoulder.
"Hey, mate, you really okay?" he asked in a hushed voice.
Harry gazed after them until the door fell shut.
The sick feeling in his stomach was replaced by a dull throbbing, images bouncing off the walls of his skull. All of them were of those little moments from within the past weeks when Harry had seen the differences, the changes, the new facets of who Louis had become.
They were spinning in his head while Louis' voice kept echoing in his ears.
I don't want to press buttons anymore .
South Korea had gone by in a rush. Louis couldn't even remember the details, only the hotel and the arena still present in his memory. Other than that, it had been a constant fight with himself to stay out of Harry's way.
They had gone back to ignoring each other after the concert in the Philippines. There was no anger behind it anymore, though. Louis felt like they ignored each other because neither of them knew how to act around the other.
Harry had been hurt, had looked so damn hurt at the rehearsals in Hong Kong. Even from a distance, Louis had seen the pain in his eyes, and he had known that it must have been hard for Harry to see Louis defending Zayn -- fighting for his band when he had never fought for theirs.
Zayn hadn't told him what he had talked to Harry about. They had been talking, Louis was sure about it, but Zayn hadn't given Louis anymore than a simple, "He was just seeing if I was okay."
Louis turned his head now, looking at Harry who was engrossed in a book. Louis noticed the Japanese signs at the front, a laughing comic face flashing him a peace sign. Harry always did that on the plane -- read travel guides for the country they were headed to.
It was late afternoon, the sun slowly disappearing outside the small plane window, and the cabin was completely quiet. Liam and Zayn were in the seats behind Louis, both fast asleep, leaning against each other. Louis spied at them through the crack between the seats, snickering at how Liam drooled in his sleep. Zayn would freak at it having dripped onto his t-shirt, and Louis would give both of them shit for that.
When Louis turned back, he noticed Harry looking at him, the book in his lap. Niall sat next to him, his head leaning against the window frame. He was fast asleep, too.
Louis cleared his throat, getting comfortable in his seat, pretending he didn't notice and fidgeting with the hem of his jumper.
"I--" Harry spoke up, stopping again, and Louis turned to him wide-eyed. Harry averted his gaze, licking his lips. "Have you been to Japan before?"
Louis swallowed thickly, trying to stay calm. His heart was up in his throat, beating wildly. "Um, yes," he said. "Once."
Harry nodded, apparently undecided about whether he should say more. "Well," he pointed out then. "Obviously, I haven't been to any of these countries before."
"We hadn't been to Malaysia and the Philippines," Louis contributed. He felt like he started to ramble. Who cared where they had been before? He had been around the world, Harry had probably figured as much. "The fans had wanted us to come for ages."
Harry glanced at Niall, leaning away from him and a little closer to the aisle. "I didn't even know there were such big arenas there."
Louis shrugged. "There are arenas everywhere in the world." He dared to look straight at Harry and found him already looking back. "You've been reading about Japan?" he asked, pointing at the book in Harry's lap.
"It's what I've been looking forward to most," Harry admitted. "I've always wanted to see Japan."
Louis felt himself smile. "You'll love it," he said softly. "It's a completely different world."
Harry's eyes were big and bright with interest. Louis' heart ached when he realised that he had never known he had missed that expression until now. "Really?" he asked.
"They have the funniest TV shows," Louis told him, feeling a lot calmer. "We've been on one where we've played hilarious games. Everything was colourful and bright and everyone is cheerful and over the top polite."
"You liked it," Harry noted, smiling slightly.
"Definitely," Louis agreed. "The audience is completely different, too. They get all quiet when we sing. I feel that they really appreciate the songs, you know?"
Harry nodded. "I'm looking forward to playing there." Tapping his book, he frowned slightly, tilting his head. "Is it hard to understand them?"
"Absolutely." Louis laughed. "Don't expect their English to be as good as that of the Korean people."
"It's because Japanese is a syllabic language," Harry explained. "They split up English into syllables, and if it doesn't fit, they add some."
Louis smirked. "You've learned quite a lot from that little book, haven't you?"
Shaking his head, Harry glanced at Niall again, careful not to startle him when he unbuckled his belt and slid over into the seat next to Louis. All of a sudden, he was close enough for Louis to feel his warmth, to smell the mixture of his cologne and aftershave.
Louis held his breath, feeling scared. From here, he could either fuck it all up or finally make a step towards Harry, getting closer. His eyes darted to Harry's lips for a second, mind thrown back to the kiss two weeks ago.
"They use quite a few loanwords from other languages," Harry said, skipping through the pages of the book. "Especially from English."
Louis dared to lean in a little to look at the page, his head coming close to Harry's.
"Terebi, for example," Harry said, pointing at one word. "It's from English."
Frowning, Louis glanced up at Harry's face. "That's not English."
"It is," Harry argued. "It's TV."
"Yeah, it's really not."
Harry giggled -- giggled ! Louis' heart skipped a beat.
"Or look at this," Harry held the book closer to Louis' face. "Aidoru. That's what you are."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Louis wanted to know.
"Idol," Harry clarified. "It says, a person of public interest, often a singer, actor or model. Often all at once . "
Louis frowned slightly. "I'll take the all at once ."
Harry glanced at him, the smile on his lips dying when he seemed to realise how close their faces were. He scooted back a bit, blinking at Louis. Pretending to read in the book, Louis tried to keep his breathing steady.
"You do have to act quite a bit for this, don't you?" Harry asked.
Louis leaned back in his seat, shrugging. "Sometimes."
"Isn't it hard?" Harry's voice sounded concerned.
"Not so much," Louis answered. He forced himself to look at Harry. "It doesn't matter what job you do, you always have to act to a certain extent, don't you? It's not like I have to portray someone completely different, more like..." he thought about that for a moment. "Leaving out details?"
Harry nodded, humming quietly.
"It's not only like that in this job. Everybody does it all the time, I think."
"Having everyone know all about you would make you vulnerable," Harry noticed softly.
"Yeah," Louis agreed, turning his face towards him again. "So it's not that difficult. There are a few things I'd rather not lie about, though."
He could feel Harry's stare on him, as if it was boring a hole into Louis' face. "Like what?"
Louis shrugged, biting his lip. "Some essentials, really. My home, my family," he said, then he added quietly, "my relationships."
"They don't want you to come out, do they?" Harry asked, sympathy in his voice.
"It's just as much my decision," Louis clarified, but he didn't dare look at Harry while he said it. "I didn't want it at first."
"But you want it now?"
"Maybe," Louis ducked the question vaguely. "How about you? Heard you're with Nick Grimshaw."
Harry's breath got caught for a moment and when Louis looked at him, he seemed a little uncertain before he lowered his gaze. "Um, yeah. It's been in the media, hasn't it?"
"And Niall?" Louis asked, not ready to hear more about Harry being with someone new. The thought made Louis feel slightly dizzy. "Does he have someone?"
"He's got a girlfriend in London," Harry told him. "Barbara. She's lovely, really. He said he loved her."
"For Niall, it's always been all or nothing, right?" Louis looked past Harry, seeing Niall curled up in his seat, fringe matted to his forehead and chest rising in slow, constant breaths.
"True," Harry agreed. "He really misses her. Yesterday he told me he doesn’t sleep well without her next to him.”
Louis thought of how he had fallen asleep next to Harry at those rare times, how he had never imagined a future where he would ever fall asleep without Harry next to him.
“He seems well into her,” he commented, instead of letting those images take over his mind.
“Perrie always says he's investing his heart in too many things. It'll burn him out one day."
"Perrie," Louis repeated. He remembered the girl looking like a fairy, with bright blond hair in a purple dress. "She's a friend?"
"My flatmate," Harry said, smiling. "She's a fan."
Louis lifted a brow, laughing dryly. "She didn't come across like that."
"She changed her mind a bit when she found out about us," Harry commented.
Head snapping around to Harry, Louis stared at him for a moment and Harry just stared back before they both looked away at the same moment.
"I'll have to get Zayn to sign something for her," Harry said then, sounding slightly out of breath. "He's still her favourite."
"I guess I could help with that," Louis offered, keeping his voice quiet. "If you, like, don't want to go through the embarrassment of having to ask Zayn."
Harry bit back a grin, Louis saw him sucking in his bottom lip, and it reminded him painfully of how Harry had tasted. He wanted to taste Harry again, nip on his lips, lick his skin, right there beneath his ear where he would smell of clean sweat and cologne.
"That'd be nice," Harry said, nodding slightly. "Thanks."
Louis kept his eyes trained on Harry, incapable of looking away. He swallowed thickly, digging his fingers into this thighs to keep himself from reaching out.
"My pleasure," he answered, and he meant it.
Harry sat next to Louis for the rest of the flight. They didn't talk much after that, but Harry stayed nonetheless.
When they left the plane, Niall and Harry went ahead, Niall obviously teasing Harry with how Harry blushed. Louis saw Harry quickly shake his head and Niall laughed loudly. Ignoring it, Louis put on a jacket and jumped slightly when Liam poked Louis' side with his elbow, winking.
Harry glanced back over his shoulder and Louis caught his look, attempting a reassuring smile. His chest tightened around nothing but hollow emptiness when Harry quickly turned away.
Zayn put a hand on Louis' shoulder, squeezing gently.
"Ruisu-san?" the woman said, looking confused.
"Louis," the other woman repeated, pointing at Louis. "Liam and Zayn."
Louis rolled his eyes. They were meant to give an interview before their soundcheck, but apparently the interviewer already failed at writing down their names.
Rie-san, their interpreter, smiled kindly and spelled the names out, saying something in Japanese.
"Ahhh," the interviewer cooed, looking at them as if she's had a epiphany. "Zayn," she said, pointing her pen at him. Then she turned to Liam. "Liam?" There was a bit of an u sound at the end, but other than that it didn't sound too different from how Zayn pronounced Liam's name.
When she turned to Louis, she smiled brightly, looking very eager. "Rui."
He heard Harry snort at the back of the stage and turned with an arched brow. Harry smirked at him, apparently more than amused by how the woman just couldn't get Louis' name right. He bit his lip, nodding his chin in the direction of the interviewer to signal Louis to turn back around.
Rie-san shook her head when Louis looked at them again. She said something else in Japanese, ending it on a singsong. "Rululu."
"Rululu," the interviewer lady repeated, looking delighted. She smiled at Louis apologetically. "Lou."
"That's it!" Louis exclaimed. "Lou is completely fine."
She bowed her head several times and wrote something down.
"We don't have the letter L in Japanese, so you guys will encounter this problem more often," Rie-san told them. "Most people will probably call you Rui and you," she added, looking at Liam, "Riyamu."
"I'm better off, mate," Louis told him, patting Liam's shoulder.
"Why isn't there a problem with Zayn's name?" Liam complained.
Rie-san smiled kindly, her face not giving away any of what she was thinking. "Zayn is uncommon, but not hard to pronounce for Japanese."
"Unfair," Louis mumbled.
"Should we start the interview?" Rie-san asked without further commenting on it.
The rest of the interview went smoothly, the interviewer asking in Japanese and Rie-san translating the questions and answers.
When Louis turned in between, he noticed Harry was still standing at the side, watching them with crossed arms. He looked interested, mumbling something to himself.
"Arigatou," Liam said once they were finished and Zayn mumbled his thanks as well, bowing slightly.
Louis shook the lady's hand, saying a polite "arigatou" himself.
When she was gone, technicians started to set up everything for Harry's soundcheck. Niall climbed onto the stage, grinning at Louis.
"What did they ask? I didn't understand a word," Niall said.
"The usual." Louis shrugged, watching Niall plaster a sheet of paper to the floor with the setlist for Harry. "How we like Japan. What the tour has been like so far. Which songs we like to perform most."
"Is there even anything you haven't been asked before?"
"I'm sure there is," Louis answered. He buried his hands in the pockets of the jogging bottoms he was wearing. "There's a long list with answers we're never asked."
"Guess I'll have to make a list like that for Harry too," Niall mused. "He's got a million press dates scheduled for when we're back next week."
"I'm glad to hear it," Louis commented.
Niall smiled at him. "He wasn't. He's been really pissed about this."
"About you and I going behind his back," Louis noted quietly.
"Yeah," Niall confirmed. "Didn't properly speak to me for days. But he came around, eventually."
Louis lowered his gaze, inspecting the tips of his worn Vans. "What else is planned for when you get back?"
"He needs a proper first single, obviously," Niall said. "Been recording before the tour and picked one."
"Process, I guess," Louis deduced. "It's good single material."
Niall nodded. "Yes. We'll have a video shoot, and loads of promo going on before he'll get to actually promote the single."
"Sounds like it all worked out nicely." Louis smiled, glancing around when the lights switched a few times.
"So far," Niall agreed. "Thanks for the opportunity, Lou."
"Don't say that," Louis argued. "It was Liam's idea."
"You know what I mean. He probably got mad, but Harry knows that he would have missed a great opportunity if he had refused. Thanks for making him take it." Niall reached out to squeeze Louis' arm. "I know it wasn't easy for you."
Louis shook his head. "No, it wasn't."
"Things get better, mate," Niall assured him. "He'll come around, I promise. He's always had a soft spot for you and that hasn't changed."
Something in Louis broke, he could hear it clatter, could feel the pieces rip into his flesh, tearing him up from inside. It was a sudden thought, dropping on him like a bomb, making his chest feel cold and tight.
What if he had never fallen out of love with Harry? What if Louis was still in love with him?
It was hard to breathe, all of a sudden, so he just nodded, forcing a smile for Niall. With a frown, Niall squeezed his arm again, then he turned and left the stage, clapping Harry on the back as he walked over to his microphone.
He passed Louis, slowing down a little, his shoulder brushing Louis' despite all the space on stage.
"Just say something for a test, Harry," someone instructed.
Louis turned, looking at Harry standing in front of his microphone, hair held back by a blue headscarf, legs in dark skinny jeans that looked like they were painted onto his skin, and a jumper looking soft and warm on him.
"Rululu," he sang softly and turned to Louis, grinning cheekily.
Forcing himself to come off as calm and casual, Louis strolled over to him. "Did you just call me Rululu?"
"It suits you," Harry commented with a shrug. "I don’t think it’s your turn on stage yet, Rululu."
"It's always my turn on stage, Curly."
Harry raised a brow. "Don't I know it?"
For a moment, Louis was afraid again, afraid he had gone too far, but the cheeky glint in Harry's eyes wasn't gone. He was still smirking, a challenge in his tone and his expression.
"I'm an idol, remember?" Louis asked.
"Aidoru," Harry answered with a bright smile.
"Yeah, that," Louis agreed, heart beating a little faster at the sight of the dimple appearing in Harry's cheek. He was beautiful like that.
"Harry," Niall said loudly, making both of them turn their heads. Niall lifted a brow, a knowing look on his face. "You finished?"
"Have you quite finished?" Louis asked loudly, and Harry laughed. He wanted to catch it like a firefly and put it in a glass to marvel over its beauty for hours.
Niall grinned. "Sit down and shut up, Lou," he instructed. "Harry, start with Song, yes?"
Harry nodded, waiting for Niall's sign.
Louis was silent while he sat to the side and watched Harry rehearse his songs. Harry joked with Niall, sometimes turning to glance at Louis, mouthing "Rululu" to tease him.
It was nice; it felt nice to fall back into easy interaction with each other, to leave the pain behind for a while and pretend that none of the pain, none of the tears and hatred had ever happened. It only felt nice on the surface, though, because Louis knew that it wasn’t this easy, that they were both trying, both pretending.
Yet, when Harry laughed, his cheeks dimpling, Louis’ breath got caught the same way it had years ago.
Louis' heart beat wildly in his chest, his pulse throbbing in his ears and fingertips, and he wondered if he still loved that boy in front of him.
Harry woke up when he heard someone knock on his door.
He slowly blinked his eyes open, feeling disoriented for a moment, the dark place unfamiliar, the sheets smelling of foreign washing powder and the bed much harder than his at home.
Japan, he thought when he fully woke up, remembered the gig from earlier. They'd be in Tokyo for another day before giving a last concert in Sapporo in a few days.
Harry had spent the past few days sleeping as little as possible. Instead, he had been out and about in Tokyo, trying to see as much of the city as he could.
Grunting, he rolled out of bed, switching on the bedside light and making his way to the door.
He felt a jolt go through his body when he saw Louis in front of him.
"Sorry, were you alseep already?"
Harry rubbed his eyes. "Been a few busy days."
Louis smiled. "True." He was silent for a moment, studying Harry's face.
"Did you want something?" Harry asked, scratching his stomach beneath his shirt. He noticed Louis' eyes dart down, following the motion.
"Yeah, we---" Louis looked up again, clearing his throat. "Marco said if we want to go out to celebrate the end of the tour, we should do it here. There aren’t a lot of good clubs in Sapporo, apparently."
"So you're going out?" Harry pursed his lips.
"Niall's on board too," Louis said, his voice sounding hopeful.
For another beat, Harry just looked at him, then he turned, leaving the door open. "I need to change."
Louis hesitated by the door, looking a little lost before he came in and closed it. "Take your time."
Harry didn't say any more before he went to the bathroom. He closed the door behind himself and stripped off his t-shirt, staring at the tattoo at the underside of his biceps.
He hadn't taken a change to the bathroom, and Louis was in his room, waiting for him.
Well done, Styles , he thought, groaning a little. He switched on the tap and washed his face, brushed his teeth again and then dried his face off with a soft, fluffy towel.
He gently opened the door a bit and poked his head out, seeing Louis sitting on the bed, legs crossed and staring ahead, obviously lost in his thoughts.
"Turn around," Harry said, pulling him out of his daze.
Louis turned to him, frowning. "What?"
"I'm only wearing underwear, so turn around," Harry instructed.
Louis lifted a brow. "Since when do you have a problem with nudity?"
Nothing Louis hadn't seen before, Harry thought and noticed in Louis' eyes that he thought the same. Neither of them were brave enough to point it out, though.
"You could just as well wait outside for me," Harry said, ignoring Louis' comment.
"You asked me inside."
"I don't remember saying 'Please come inside, Louis', actually." Harry rolled his eyes, his feet getting cold on the tiles. "Turn around."
Louis shook his head, mumbling something before he turned on the bed. "Would you feel better if I burrowed my face in the pillow?"
"It does have the benefit of making you shut up, too," Harry considered, waiting for Louis to bury his face in the pillow. His legs were still dangling off the bed, kicking gently. Harry waited another second before he walked back into the bedroom and took jeans and t-shirt out of his suitcase.
He kept his eyes trained on Louis' frame on the bed while he pulled them on. Louis looked lax and pliant, as if he was actually sleeping. Harry looked at him for another moment, took in the curve of his spine, how the t-shirt stretched over his shoulders and blades when he inhaled, tight jeans pronouncing his bum.
Harry exhaled shakily, thinking of how Louis' lips had felt against his, how he had been staring back into Harry's eyes, his body close, not close enough.
He kicked Louis' foot, probably a bit harder than intended. "I'm dressed."
Louis lifted his head, looking over his shoulder. "Good to go?"
Harry ran a hand through his curls. "As good as. Just my hair."
"God," Louis sighed, dropping his head back to the pillow. "You really did become a prissy, uptight princess."
Harry glanced at him from where he was tying a headscarf into his hair in front of the mirror. "As if you didn't spend hours styling yourself."
"Merely one," Louis corrected him.
"Must be a new record." Harry grinned, turning back around. "Oh, look. Finished, and in under fifteen minutes."
"Could have been ten," Louis said, getting up from the bed. "If you hadn't wasted so much time arguing."
"I wasn't the one arguing," Harry reminded him, spraying some cologne to his wrists. "I was making a demand, and you argued."
Louis' gaze was glued to Harry's left wrist for a moment, then he averted his eyes, shrugging. He went to the door and opened it. "Who's arguing now?"
Harry bit back the grin spreading over his face and grabbed his coat off the chair. "You always have the last word, don't you?"
Louis' smirk came quick and easily. "Let's go, princess. The car's already waiting."
Louis remembered he had been to New Lex Tokyo before when he found a picture of himself and Liam with a short Japanese guy on the wall downstairs to the club. The wall was plastered with pictures of celebrities who had been to the club.
Taka, the manager -- and the guy from the photo, Louis realised -- greeted them when they went inside. Loud music was playing, the small dance floor crowded with people, and they were led to the VIP area, black and red sofas arranged around small glass tables.
"What can I get you?" Taka asked.
"Vodka," Niall answered, making himself comfortable on the sofa.
"A bottle," Louis ordered. "And five shot glasses."
"Please," Harry added.
Louis shot him a bemused smile.
"What?" Harry asked, pouting his lips, looking ready to argue again.
It's cute , Louis almost caught himself saying. "Nothing," he answered instead. He saw Niall grinning at him, wiggling his eyebrows.
"We have a day full of promo tomorrow, so don't overdo it," Zayn warned Louis. "Marco's gonna have your head if you show up hungover."
"Has that ever happened?" Louis asked, raising a brow.
Zayn smiled slightly, glancing at Harry. "Not yet."
"See," Louis pointed out. "No need to worry. I know my limits."
Four hours later, Louis honestly wished he didn't. He wanted to grab the bottle of vodka -- the third they had ordered -- and pour it all down his throat until he went numb and blind.
Each time he came back from the dance floor, Harry was just that tiny bit more drunk. He was surrounded by pretty girls -- all models, that much Louis could tell -- flirting heavily. Niall sat on the other sofa, completely engrossed in talking with people who hadn't been there when Louis and Liam had left for the dance floor. Zayn sat on a smaller sofa in a corner, apparently talking about tattoos with Taka. Taka had his sleeve rolled up, showing off the ones on his arm.
Louis focussed back on Harry, saw him laugh at something, the line of his throat exposed when he tilted his head back, his laugh loud and bright. The blond girl next to him rested her hand on his thigh, and jealousy flared up in Louis' chest. He gritted his teeth, watching Harry scoot a little closer.
Fuck, he really didn't want to see any of it.
"Should I get another round?" Liam asked from behind Louis.
Checking his watch, Louis shook his head. "We should probably head back to the hotel soon. It's almost five."
"I'll get Zayn," Liam simply said, walking off.
Louis glanced from Niall to Harry and back. He decided to go for Harry first, approaching him with a small tap to his shoulder.
Harry turned his face, and Louis immediately took in the glassy eyes, the pink cheeks and his dopey grin. It faded once he realised who stood in front of him, and Louis' heart sank in his chest when Harry's face fell, a sad expression taking over.
"Hey," Louis said gently, keeping his hand on Harry's shoulder. "We're leaving now."
Harry frowned at him. "You're leaving?"
"All of us, Harry," Louis clarified.
"You just left," Harry said, eyes trained on Louis' face. His voice was a little slurred. "You just left like it was nothing."
Oh God, Louis couldn't do this. Especially not in a dark club in bloody Tokyo. "Love," he said, crouching down to get closer. "You're drunk. You need to go to bed."
Harry looked at him for a moment, eyes frantically checking Louis' face. Then he nodded. "Yeah, bed sounds good."
"Come on. " Louis rose to his feet, stepping back.
With a smile, Harry turned back to the girl. "I have to go. 'Twas nice talking to you."
"Harry," Louis said urgently, interrupting her.
Harry got up from the sofa, his balance obviously off. With gangly arms and legs, he caught himself, eyes half-lidded when he smiled at Louis. "Got it."
"I can see that," Louis just said, frowning. He turned around, taking a few steps to reach Niall. "We're leaving, Niall."
Niall looked up at him. "Already?"
"It's five in the morning," Louis pointed out. "And fuck, Niall, Harry's completely wasted. You ought to keep an eye on him."
"He's got plenty reason to get wasted, Lou," Niall reminded him. "Let the boy have some fun."
When Louis turned back around, Liam and Zayn stood by Harry’s side, and Liam had an arm around his waist to steady him.
"We should really go," Zayn said. "This one is about to pass out."
Niall went over, holding up Harry's other side by draping Harry's arm around his shoulder. "Hey, champ. You proper celebrated your first tour, didn't you?"
Harry grinned while Liam and Niall led him towards the door. Louis and Zayn stayed back for a moment to thank Taka before they followed them out.
"He's a lightweight," Zayn commented when they took the stairs, no one around but a bulky Japanese security man.
"Seems like it," Louis just said.
"You think it's cute, don't you?" Zayn teased him, grinning.
Louis rolled his eyes, trying to come across as casual. "I don't---"
"Admit it, Lou!" Zayn stopped on the stairs, poking Louis’ arm for a reaction.
"Yes," Louis bit out. He tried to hold it in, but eventually gave up and smirked. "He's endearing."
Zayn just grinned, holding the door for Louis when they reached the top of the stairs and went outside.
They reached the car that had been waiting for them, and Liam and Niall had just managed to get Harry to sit down in the very back of it.
"We should probably leave the back to him," Niall suggested. "In case he throws up."
Liam hummed in agreement.
"I'll join him," Louis offered. "Can't really leave him there all by himself now, can we?"
Without waiting for the other guys' reactions, Louis climbed into the back, sitting down next to Harry. He reached over Harry to help him fasten his seatbelt before he took care of his own.
Once Liam, Zayn and Niall had settled in the seats in front of them, the van started moving. Harry's head dropped to Louis' shoulder and he sighed heavily.
"You're good?" Louis asked quietly.
Harry shook his head, scooting closer and Louis' skin started to tingle.
"Are you feeling sick, Harry?" Louis asked, pressing two fingers under Harry's chin to lift it.
Immediately, Harry's eyes opened and Louis' gaze was met by vibrant green. "Yeah," he answered slowly. "Sick of it all."
"Okay," Louis said, a shudder running down his spine. He suppressed a shiver. "We'll be at the hotel in a minute."
"I tell you something," Harry breathed quietly, beckoning Louis closer with one finger.
Louis tilted his head, bringing his ear close to Harry's mouth. He could feel Harry's breath against his skin, warm and moist, his lips dry against the shell of Louis' ear.
"Rululu," Harry slurred, starting to giggle and burying his face against Louis' neck. His hand fell to Louis' thigh.
In an instant, Louis' blood was on fire. It ran thick and hot through his veins, leaving him feeling as though it was lava pumping through him. Harry's hand was warm, his fingers grazing his crotch just ever so slightly and Louis wanted to die on the spot.
Instead, he leaned into Harry a little more, Harry nibbled on the skin over Louis' racing pulse, lips lazily dragging up and down. Louis felt Harry's lashes swipe against his jaw, Harry’s warmth spilling into Louis and filling every space inside him.
The car came to a halt, just when Louis was about to sling an arm around Harry and pull him closer. Instead, they both pulled back. Louis cleared his throat and unbuckled both their belts before he climbed out.
He held out a hand to help Harry out of the car, and Harry kept holding on afterwards. Louis tried to ignore it.
"Mate," Niall started once they were in the lift, frowning at how Harry heavily leaned against Louis. "That's a bit--"
"He's drunk, Niall," Louis murmured, an arm around Harry's waist to keep him steady. "He doesn't know what he's doing. He just needs someone to take care of him."
Niall looked sceptical. "He seems pretty set on you, though."
Liam snickered when Harry mumbled something incoherent and twisted his fingers into Louis' coat, holding on. "He's pretty set, yeah."
"They say drunkards tell the truth," Zayn pointed out, watching Harry with calm eyes.
The lift stopped at that moment, the doors sliding open.
"I can take care of him from here," Niall said once Louis had managed to drag Harry to his room.
"It's okay, Niall. I'll just get him into bed."
Louis nodded. "No problem." He slid his fingers into the front pocket of Harry's jeans. Harry chuckled, squirming a little. "Harry, where is your bloody key card?"
Niall pulled it out of Harry's back pocket, sliding it through for Louis before he handed it over. "Good night, Lou."
"You too," Louis answered distractedly, pushing the door open with one foot. Harry was heavy, almost asleep in Louis’ arms.
"Come on," Louis murmured, dragging him to the bed. He pushed the duvet back first, then he helped Harry lay down.
"I'm so tired, Lou," Harry sighed, curling up instantly.
"I know. It's okay," Louis reassured him, taking his shoes off. "We need to get you out of these clothes first."
Harry blinked at him, lazily so. His lips were slightly parted. "Are we going to have sex?"
Everything in Louis jolted, his pulse racing, his stomach knotting up. Images were instantly flashing through his mind, of Harry arching into him, lips parted, delicious, little noises coming out of his mouth, his skin rosy, sweaty, marked up by Louis’ mouth and hands.
"No," he answered, his voice feeling shaky. "You're drunk, Haz."
"Hm," Harry answered, lifting his hips when Louis tugged on the waistline of his jeans. It was fucking torture, having Harry pliant and soft on the bed, letting Louis strip him out of his clothes.
"Arms up," Louis instructed, tone tight.
Harry started to raise his arms but he suddenly stopped, draping them over his chest. "I'll leave it on."
"You sleep in clothes now?" Louis asked, trying to distract himself from the images of Harry going down on him.
"Yeah, sometimes." Harry closed his eyes, sighing. "Can't take off the shirt."
Louis frowned, but Harry seemed to be drifting off to sleep. He rose from the edge of the bed, dropping a light kiss to Harry's temple to stop himself from pressing his lips to every other spot of Harry's body.
He was about to turn when Harry grabbed his wrist, fingers curling around his skin, warm and firm.
"Don't leave," Harry murmured quietly, eyes barely open, but fixed on Louis. "Don't just leave."
Louis stood frozen for a moment, staring at Harry. He could feel those pieces of whatever had shattered inside him rip through him and tear open his insides. Just breathing was painful, his skin burning where Harry touched him.
How was he supposed to say no? Even if Harry would hate him in the morning for giving in when he shouldn't have, Louis couldn't just turn away now.
He shrugged off his coat and stripped off his jeans, then he lifted the duvet and slid into bed next to Harry. It was broad, leaving enough space for another person. Louis stared at the ceiling, listening to Harry breathing next to him.
He glanced at the clock next to the bed. It was six in the morning, and he was still awake, thoughts occupied with the boy lying next to him, with everything he had done and said tonight. If Louis closed his eyes now, he’d feel Harry’s breath against his ear, hear him singsong “Rululu” before giggling. He’d feel Harry’s hand on his thigh, fingers squeezing gently, and he’d feel Harry’s lips drag over his neck, dry and soft.
Louis would feel Harry’s fingers curling around his wrist, would see him stare at Louis with tired eyes, sincere and genuine in his quiet plea.
Louis remembered Zayn's words, repeating them in his head over and over again.
Maybe all those words hadn't been for him , but for the Louis Harry had lost in the past.
Harry turned in his sleep, mumbling words that reminded Louis of blue skies and sunny days, of innocent kisses and warm skin beneath trembling fingertips.
"Lou," Harry sighed, sliding up against Louis' body, burrowing his face against Louis’ shoulder. Louis turned instinctively to fit against Harry, bodies lining up perfectly despite them being completely different now. Harry was bigger, everything about him feeling different, but their bodies still slotted together perfectly.
Louis’ hand came to rest on Harry's back, fingers pressed against the fabric of his t-shirt. He closed his eyes and inhaled Harry's scent, let himself soak in the feeling of Harry's skin against his own.
When Harry sighed in relief, Louis could hear it echo in himself.
It was fairly dark in the room when Harry blinked his eyes open.
There was a constant drumming behind his temples, his eyes hurting from the little light that came through the blinds, his mouth tasting horrible and his muscles feeling sore. He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes again and shifting closer to Louis to burrow in his warmth. He pressed his nose against Louis' chest, inhaling his scent, feeling it soothe him. Louis' hand was resting lightly on Harry's hips, his thumb pressing into Harry's skin just above his hip bone.
Harry relaxed into the contact for several seconds before his eyes flew open and he jolted back, almost falling off the bed. Louis stirred in his sleep, lips moving slightly and Harry stared at him in shock, in fear, heart beating out of control in his chest.
He lifted the duvet, taking in his pants and the t-shirt before he lifted it further to look at Louis, finding him similarly dressed to Harry.
Releasing his breath, Harry dropped the duvet, staring at Louis' sleeping form. He didn't feel like he had had sex last night -- but he couldn't be certain.
Why the hell was Louis in his bed?
"Fuck," Harry groaned, burying his face in his hands. He didn't remember a single thing, not even how he had got back to hotel. They had been in a club in Roppongi, they had ordered a lot of vodka, and he had avoided Louis most of the night.
Yet, Louis lay in Harry's bed, breathing steadily and sleeping peacefully. His arm had been slung around Harry, his body pressed close against Harry's and their legs tangled. Harry couldn't just accept it as that. He had to know why, needed an explanation.
Carefully, he shifted back closer to Louis to touch his shoulder. "Louis."
Louis sighed, a frown forming on his face.
"Louis, wake up," Harry said a little louder, shaking him.
"What?" Louis asked, voice gravelly and rough.
"What the fuck are you doing in my bed?"
Louis' eyes opened, his look cautious when he found Harry's, seeming very awake now. He slowly sat up, hair dishevelled and his skin looked warm and soft.
"I slept," he answered.
"Don't fuck with me," Harry growled, frowning deeply.
He caught the look in Louis' eyes, knew that he had to bite back the joke. This was not the time for fucking jokes, though.
"Louis," he added seriously, tone demanding.
"I just fell asleep," Louis answered, averting his gaze.
"And you managed to take off your jeans before you just fell asleep ?" Harry lifted a brow. The pounding behind his forehead was getting stronger.
Louis sighed, running a hand over his face. "I'll just head over to my room, okay? Have to be downstairs in an hour anyway."
"Leave?" Louis ended it for Harry, a bitter and rueful smile playing around his lips. He climbed out of bed, grabbing his jeans and coat from the floor. "Guess I have to, Harry."
Harry swallowed thickly, his heart weighing heavy in his chest. "Did we-- I mean. Last night..."
"Don't be silly," Louis said gently, not looking at Harry. "You were sloshed."
"Did you take me home?" Harry inquired, watching Louis climb into his jeans.
"We all went back to the hotel together. You just had a bit too much, so I made sure you got into bed without killing yourself trying." Louis shrugged, looking unbothered, but Harry could hear the strain in his voice. "Do you have painkillers? I can bring you some."
Harry shook his head, and the throbbing behind his temples became prominent again. "Got some."
"Take them and go back to sleep," Louis simply instructed, turning to the door.
"Louis," Harry said before he could even think about what he was about to say.
Louis stopped at the door, but didn't turn.
"Just," Harry murmured, looking at his back. "Thanks, I guess."
"Don't mention it," Louis answered, then he left without another word.
Sapporo was cold.
It was the last stop on their tour, and with the beginning of December, snow had started to fall in the northern regions of Japan.
Louis pulled his jacket closer around his chest, crossing his arms to keep the cold out.
"And you're sure you wanna go up on that mountain?" Zayn asked, giving Harry a sceptical look.
Apparently, Harry had planned that in Tokyo when he had been sightseeing in the city. He had looked up attractions in Sapporo and found that the hot springs on a mountain outside of the city were very popular.
They had just arrived and were sitting in a van that was taking them from the airport to their hotel. Liam and Niall sat in the front seats with Marco who was engrossed in reading something on his iPad. Louis was stuck in the back between Harry and Zayn.
"I'm not coming," Niall decided, turning to look at Harry. "It's bloody freezing."
Harry turned to him, looking shocked. "What? You said you'd come along."
"Harry." Niall's tone was dry and stark. "I'm not climbing a bloody mountain in this snow."
"But we'll take a car," Harry argued. "There's a guide who drives up and shows us around."
"Not happening, Haz." Niall shook his head. "I'll freeze my arse off up there."
Harry pouted, but didn't put up more of a fight.
"I wouldn't go up there for a million quid," Zayn commented. "They have a hot spring at the hotel we’re staying at, you know."
Harry shrugged. "I already booked the tour, and I really wanna see it. So."
"It'll be freezing," Liam pointed out. "Is it worth the frostbite?"
"I'm not really sensitive to the cold," Harry told him. "Well," he added then. "You guys can think about it. If you'd like to join, you're always welcome."
"No offence, but I'm not gonna get up at four in the morning to look at some snow," Zayn commented.
"You never said anything obout four in the morning!" Niall piped up, giving Harry an accusing stare.
Harry's grin was quick. "I may have forgotten to mention that."
"Cheeky monkey," Niall grunted, turning around in his seat. "No way I'm coming."
Louis glanced at Harry, seeing him shrug it off. His hair was tied together on top of his head but most of it had already fallen down again. He looked a little pale, and still very tired.
While Escapade had spent another day doing promo in Tokyo, Harry had spent the day recovering from his hangover, as far as Louis could tell. Niall had told Louis earlier that Harry had slept all day, only getting up shortly before they had left the hotel.
He smelled of fruity shampoo, no trace of cologne or aftershave, and the way his hair curled above his ears had Louis suspect that Harry had showered before checking out of the hotel, getting to the airport with wet hair.
Louis desperately wanted to run his fingers through it, loosen the knots and wind the curls around his fingers.
He could take Niall's place and accompany Harry on his little trip.
Turning his head stubbornly, Louis tried to focus on something else. He rested his head against Zayn's shoulder and closed his eyes. The idea was completely stupid. There was no reason for them to do anything together.
They had only shared a bed -- had slept next to each other, bodies entwined and skin on skin. It was nothing special. All Louis had to do was force the memory of Harry sleeping in his arms out of his mind.
That shouldn't be too difficult.
Harry rubbed his eyes, yawning and checking the hotel lobby for signs of another person. He was alone, the light dim and everything quiet. Someone sat behind reception, reading a book.
With a sigh, Harry sat down in a chair, adjusting his beanie over his hair and checking his watch again. There were still a few minutes left until four, so he leaned back, closing his eyes for a moment.
It wasn't the best idea, though, since he always drew up images of Louis when he closed his eyes. His skin tingled with the memory of Louis lying close, tingled more when Harry remembered the kiss. All of it had felt so familiar, and at the same time completely different.
It had been a while since Harry had woken up next to someone else.
Perrie was an exception, of course. Other than that, he hadn't shared a bed with anyone in years. He had become used to sleeping alone.
Waking up to a warm body holding him had been nice, though.
He opened his eyes, looking at the boy standing in front of him. He was tiny, really, his face pretty. Almond eyes and bleached hair, a bright smile that pronounced his cheek bones.
"Yes," Harry answered.
"I'm Yuya," he introduced himself. "Ready to go?"
Harry got up, nodding. "Of course. Thanks for picking me up."
"Is it only you?" Yuya asked, glancing around.
"My friend actually--"
"Sorry I'm late."
Harry closed his mouth, turning to face Louis approaching them at a jog. He wore boots and a thick coat, hair tucked beneath a dark red beanie.
"No problem," Yuya said, extending his hand. "I'm Yuya. Nice to meet you."
"Louis," he answered, shaking the hand. "Likewise."
"Okay, let's go," Yuya suggested. "We should get there before sunrise."
He went ahead, and Harry turned back to Louis, waiting a few beats until he was sure Yuya couldn't hear them.
Louis shrugged, eyes looking puffy and tired. "I decided I wanted to see the hot springs in the mountain."
"Louis," Harry started.
"I'm not gonna be in your way, if it worries you, Styles," Louis clarified. "I couldn't sleep anyway, so I figured I could just as well join your little trip."
"Don't make fun of it," Harry warned him.
Louis rolled his eyes. "Get going. We don't have all morning."
The car ride was quiet. Some Japanese music was playing on the radio and Harry listened to the foreign sounds, staring out of the window. He was sitting in the passenger seat, next to Yuya who was driving. Louis was in the back, and Harry didn't dare turn and check on him.
He was probably asleep.
"Have you been to Japan before?" Yuya asked after a while.
Harry shook his head. "No, it's my first time."
"I've been to Tokyo before," Louis answered from the back.
Not asleep, then, Harry thought. He turned to Yuya instead. "Your English is very good."
Yuya smiled, bowing his head. "Thank you. I lived in America for a few years. It's a very difficult language."
"You do speak Japanese, don't you?" Harry asked, laughing.
"It's not easy to understand?" Yuya noticed.
"Definitely not. I've learned a few words, though," Harry told him. "Ganbarimasu, and Otsukaresama deshita."
"Ii na!" Yuya answered, laughing. "Sorry, I mean, that was very good!"
"Ii na," Harry repeated, testing the words.
Yuya nodded at him, smile bright. "I could teach you---"
"So we're going to look at hot springs when we're there?" Louis asked from behind them, voice low.
Yuya looked at him through the rearview mirror. "Well, there are a few. We'll pass on our way. Harry wanted to see Diamondo Dust, though."
Biting his lip, Harry was glad Louis couldn't see his face.
"Diamond Dust?" Louis repeated, sounding curious.
Yuya nodded. "Yes," he answered. "It's a rare form of snow that only occurs on very cold days and when it's dry, powdered snow that's been falling. We could get lucky today. It's gonna be sunny."
"We're making this trip because there's a chance to see snow glittering in the sun?" Louis inquired.
"It's a rare occurrence, Louis," Harry pointed out, turning to look at him. "And something that only occurs here."
“Well, that makes it worth the hassle, I suppose,” Louis said dryly.
"We'll be there soon," Yuya threw in, apparently not sensing Louis' sarcasm. "It's only a twenty minute walk after we leave the car."
Harry smiled at him, trying to ignore Louis mumbling to himself in the backseat.
"I came here for glittery snow," Louis complained for the fifth time when they walked through the snow.
The path was lined by trees, covered in a thick layer of snow, the sun only just rising in the east, colouring the pale blue sky orange and pink.
"Can anyone else hear running water?" Louis asked, stopping.
Promptly, Harry ran into his back, almost knocking both of them down. He steadied his hands on Louis' waist, trying to catch his balance.
"That's a hot spring nearby," Yuya explained turning to them.
"You okay?" Louis turned his head to look at Harry, hands coming to rest over Harry's. His nose was red, his lips almost blue, and his cheeks pale from the cold.
"Don't just stop like that," Harry mumbled, feeling himself blush. He pulled his hands away and rounded Louis, walking ahead.
"We're almost there," Yuya announced.
A few minutes later, they reached a plateau from which they could overlook a range of huge, spindly trees in front of a stunning view of the sky above the valley.
"It's pretty," Louis breathed out right next to Harry.
"There's a small hotel up the path, just five minutes from here," Yuya said. "Meet me there when you want to go back."
"Thank you, Yuya," Harry said politely, waving a hand. He bowed for good measure, watching Yuya walk away.
When he turned back around, Louis was rubbing his hands, blowing them warm.
"Are you cold?" Harry asked, suddenly very aware of the fact that he was completely alone with Louis.
"It's bloody freezing," Louis commented.
Harry looked down on himself, the coat he wore open over his chest, a scarf loosely around his neck. "Do you want my scarf?"
Louis laughed gently. "No, thanks."
"You didn't have to come, you know," Harry pointed out quietly.
Louis was silent for a moment, the sun rising further, drawing long shadows of the trees on the white ground. "I wanted to," he said then, staring ahead.
"It may only be glittery snow," Harry said, shrugging. "But I really want to see it."
A breeze came up right in the second Louis turned to him. Snow sprinkled from the trees, floating in the air like tiny stars and Harry gasped, watching the snow sparkle in the early morning sun. The light blinded him, all the trees glittering while moving in the breeze, swaying.
Glittery snow sprinkled them like pixie dust, cold on Harry's skin and softly melting into it.
In a daze, Harry turned when Louis took his hand, tangling their fingers together. He looked bright, eyes so blue they were competing with the sparkling snow.
"No doubt," Louis said quietly, gaze holding Harry's. "I still love you."
Harry's breath caught, his mind shutting down and his hand going limp in Louis'.
"Shh," Louis hissed, stepping closer. "Don't panic," he added, his face suddenly very close. Snowflakes were sticking to his lashes.
"Louis," Harry said quietly, something spreading in his chest, taking over his heart.
"Getting up in the middle of the night to watch glittery snow in the sunrise," Louis murmured, bringing his other hand up to tuck a curl beneath Harry's beanie. "You're still a romantic."
"It's okay," Louis said, smiling reassuringly. "There's still so much of the boy I fell in love with. So many things that remind me of him, and what we were."
Harry blinked slowly, nodding.
"I'll always be in love with that boy, Harry," Louis went on, his fingers slowly untangling from Harry's. "That's what a first love is, right? Someone you'll love forever."
Trying to speak, Harry got cut off by another breeze, snow dancing around them, embracing them in a cloud of sparkling dust.
"I'm sorry for hurting you," Louis whispered, lips very close to Harry's, lashes fluttering and covering his eyes when he looked down. "I should have never done that to you. Not for anyhing."
Harry's throat was tight, his lips feeling too cold to move them. He couldn't name the feeling in his chest, but it spread, spread throughout his body, making him shiver.
"I like who you are now," Louis told him. His hand was barely still holding on to Harry’s, only their pinkies linked. "You've become strong and even more beautiful. You’re kind and witty, and always considerate. You've cut your own path and built a life for yourself, fought to get where you want to be."
Harry couldn’t breathe when Louis looked up at him again. "As much as I'll always love who you were, you're someone else now, and I needed a bit of time to come to terms with that. We won't ever be how we were back then. We can only be who we are now." Keeping his eyes fixed on Harry's, Louis bit his lip, shuddering out a breath. “You don’t need me.”
Staring into pale blue eyes, Harry nodded slightly, trying to believe that it was true. He had spent the past three years proving to himself that he didn’t need Louis.
“I guess I need you, though,” Louis confessed, voice hushed, almost too quiet for Harry to catch it. "I don't want to go back to pretending you don't exist, Harry."
Harry felt himself shake his head, slowly, as if it was happening in slow motion. Behind Louis, the air was sparkling, and he looked very young, his insecurities written all over his face, anxiety in his eyes.
"We've never been friends," Louis said, blinking and a few snowflakes fell onto his cheek. Harry brushed them away with a thumb. "Can't we try being friends?"
Harry didn't hesitate for a single moment. He brought his arms up and wrapped them around Louis' neck, pulling him into a tight embrace. Louis' arms came around his waist, fingers digging into Harry's back as Louis buried his face against Harry's shoulder.
"We can try," Harry murmured, swaying them slightly. Louis exhaled shakily, his warm breath moist against Harry's neck and Harry closed his eyes. He breathed in the scent of Louis' shampoo, mixed with his cologne, focussed on the warm hands pressing against Harry's back, Louis' small frame completely burrowing into him.
When Harry opened his eyes again and stepped back, Louis was smiling at him, his eyes looking soft, his lips pink and full and his cheeks rosy with a blush.
The dust had settled, just a few single flakes still floating down, only giving the illusion of glitter in front of an icy sky and a pale morning light. Harry pulled his jacket closer around his body, suppressing a shiver when he watched a single snowflake float to the ground, Louis standing next to him, warm and still.
Everything inside Harry trembled, and he was feeling cold, freezing cold.
(According to a Japanese legend, two people who see Diamond Dust together will fall in love.)