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Empty Skies

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He could talk to Liam and Zayn -- Louis knew that he could always talk to them about anything. They would listen, and Zayn would give Louis some good advice while Liam would hold him, stroking Louis' back reassuringly.

Yet, there was only one person who would understand all of it, who would know exactly why Louis couldn't handle this. There was only one person who knew both him and Harry well enough to tell Louis what he was supposed to do.

It was late, almost midnight, and Louis had just returned from Los Angeles. They had flown over the day after New Year, which had left Louis with no opportunity to see Harry again and talk to him.

Also, the fact that Harry had left so abruptly had said a lot too. Louis had taken that as Harry not wanting to talk about--- it. That. Them .

Louis wouldn't have known what to say, anyway. They had texted back and forth for a bit, with Louis making the first step. Just meaningless words, some polite exchanges of Have fun at home and Thanks again for the invitation , as well as Have a good time in L.A . No mentions of the kiss, no mentions of sleeping cuddled up on the sofa.

Throughout the week they had spent in Los Angeles, Louis hadn’t been able to think of anything else but Harry's body next to his, arms tight around Louis' waist, breathing steadily and warm against Louis' neck.

Louis had spent almost an hour lying awake on the sofa, just staring into the pale winter sun while Harry had still been asleep next to him. When Louis had turned in Harry's arms, carefully so as not to wake him, he had found Harry's expression peaceful, his lashes fanning against his cheekbones, lips slightly parted. Louis had run a finger over them, thinking of how they had felt on his own.

It had come as a bit of a shock when Harry had moved, and Louis had pulled his hand away, afraid of being caught. Harry hadn't woken up, though. Instead, he had nuzzled closer, one hand slipping beneath Louis' shirt, a knee slotting between Louis' thighs.

"Lou," he had murmured quietly, fingers brushing Louis' ribs.

That had driven Louis away. He had slowly peeled himself from Harry's side, slipping out from beneath the cover. His heart had beat wildly in his throat, pounding loudly in Louis' ears and completely out of control.

Harry had known exactly, even in his sleep, who it was he held in his arms. The realisation had been like an ice-cold shower, making everything inside Louis freeze.

What was he supposed to think, to expect -- to do ?

"Louis?"

He turned, seeing Barbara approach him. He put on a smile, greeting her with a friendly wave.

"Niall said you guys were in L.A.?" she pointed out, unlocking the door.

"Um, yeah. We only came back today," Louis answered. "Is he home?"

Barbara nodded, smiling. "'Course. Come in."

Louis followed her inside, waiting in the cramped, small corridor. A moment later, Niall came from one of the rooms, looking confused.

"Louis," he said, gesturing for him to come over. "What are you doing here?"

"Hey, Ni," he said, feeling tired all of a sudden. "Do you have a moment?"

Niall glanced behind him. "Babs, we'll be in the kitchen," he said before he closed the door and went ahead to lead Louis into another room.

The kitchen was small, only a tiny window above the sink, but it looked exactly how Louis would have imagined Niall's kitchen. There was a shelf with a collection of bottles, pictures on the fridge that showed Barbara and Niall in various places, always smiling brightly into the camera.

"Tea?" Niall asked.

"Please," Louis answered, sitting down at the table in the middle of the room.

Niall put the kettle on before he sat down across from Louis. "I assume this is about Harry."

"Yeah," Louis admitted, nodding. "I'm going crazy, Niall. I don't know what to do."

"Did you sleep with him at New Year?" Niall asked bluntly, crossing his arms.

Louis' heart stumbled just at the idea of it. "No," he answered. "Why would you think that?"

"Because Harry's no better off, mate. And he won't talk to me," Niall added. "What happened?"

"We kissed," Louis said quietly. "He kissed me at midnight."

Niall got up to fill the mugs with hot water. "Just out of the blue?"

Biting his lip, Louis swallowed thickly. "I may have kissed him in Malaysia?"

"In Malaysia?" Niall turned, arching a brow. "That early on? I had suspected Japan."

"I tried, Niall, I promise. I really tried to keep my distance. I didn't mean to kiss him, it just happened." Louis buried his face in his hands. "And then the tour ended, and I had to make him stay -- I couldn't let him go back to a life where I don't exist for him."

"You asked him to be friends," Niall noted, sitting down across from Louis again and setting a mug in front of him. "Harry told me that much."

"I fucked it all up," Louis groaned. "I thought being friends would be a good solution, but I just can't do it."

"Who the hell stays friends with their ex, anyway?" Niall asked. "That's not possible, is it?"

"I think it is for a few people," Louis argued.

"People who didn't split in a fight, yes." Niall tapped his fingers against the table top. "But people who broke each others' hearts and held grudges for years? Those people don't become friends, Louis."

"I don't want to lose him again." Saying it felt oddly liberating, like letting go of a heavy weight.

"I know, Lou," Niall reassured him softly. "But being friends is not the solution. You know that for you guys it can only be all or nothing."

Louis looked up, finding Niall's gaze. "I don't think he'd give me a second chance. It's like there is a wall around him that I can't break down."

Niall didn't answer, just gave Louis an intense stare.

"I want to fight for him, Ni, I really do. But how am I supposed to, when he's not even free?" Louis ran a hand through his hair, shrugging helplessly. "I feel awful, because I don’t encourage people to cheat. That's not who I am."

"To cheat?" Niall asked, sounding confused.

Louis laced his fingers, forcing the words out of himself. "He's with Nick, isn't he?"

"Is he still making you believe that?" Niall rolled his eyes. "That fucker. I told him to clear that up."

Louis looked up. "What?"

"He's not with Nick, never really has been, actually. Something was going on, but they've never been a couple."

Louis needed a moment to work through that, a bitter taste in his mouth. Harry had deliberately made Louis believe that he was with someone else, that he wasn't available and that Louis stood no real chance, other than being a fling, if anything, a sneaky affair behind his boyfriend's back.

"But he didn't deny it when we were over for Christmas dinner and I invited you guys," Louis protested. "And at my party--- He didn't say a word against it when Aiden called them a couple."

"I think part of him still wants to hurt you, Louis," Niall murmured, removing the tea bags. "That wall you mentioned? He still resents you. A part of him probably always will."

"There has to be a way to make him believe me," Louis argued.

"Well, Louis, you would have to go back in time and change the decision you made back then." Niall shrugged. "I think he's afraid you'd make a decision like that again."

"I wouldn't!" Louis protested vehemently, fisting his hands. "I was fucking eighteen years old, Niall. I was young and dumb, and had no clue. What would he have done? If he had ever been in that position? How can he be so sure that he wouldn't have made the same mistake?"

Silence stretched between them after that and Niall sipped his tea before he inhaled deeply.

"Okay, Louis, since this will always stand between you, I'll tell you now," Niall announced, sounding very serious. "Harry's too proud to tell you, but if you don't find out about it, you'll never break down his walls."

Louis frowned. "What are you on about?"

Niall set down his mug, holding Louis' gaze. "He got the offer first, Louis," he said then, quietly, and Louis registered the words, but didn't understand what they meant. "Syco contacted him first, asking him to come down to London for that casting. He declined without a second thought."

"That's a lie," Louis whispered, his voice feeling rough in his throat.

Niall shook his head. "I'm afraid it's not."

"Why didn't he fucking tell me?" Louis felt something hot boil up in his chest.

"Because you had the same choice, Louis," Niall told him, sympathy on his face. "And you didn't pick him."

Tears built up behind Louis' eyes, he could feel them burn, threatening to spill, so he stood up. Swallowing the burn down, Louis desperately tried to calm himself, to get a grip, but it just increased, spreading through his body.

"I need to go," he said, storming out of the kitchen.

"Lou!" Niall yelled after him. "You can't just---"

"I fucking can," Louis spat out and opened the door. He glanced back at Niall, seeing the helpless expression, the worry in his eyes.

He knew, he understood why Harry hadn't told him, had never rubbed it in Louis' face that he had been a second choice -- Harry just wasn't like that.

Yet, Harry had asked honesty of Louis, had wanted every bit of the truth. While Louis had given up himself, had made himself completely vulnerable to Harry, he had not even deemed it necessary to treat Louis with the same honesty.

Harry had played him, and Louis wouldn't let him get away with that.

+++

Sighing contently, Harry stepped out of the shower, towelling his hair. The hot water had loosened up his muscles a bit, helping him to relax for a few minutes under the soothing spray.

Completely naked, he walked out of the bathroom and switched on the kettle. He scratched his hip while he yawned and took a mug from one of the cupboards, adding a teabag. Humming to himself, he enjoyed the quiet around him.

Being alone in the flat for once was actually pretty nice. Perrie was out with friends, and she was going to stay at Jade's place since it was closer to the club they had gone to. That left Harry with a quiet night in. He had written songs with some interesting people all day, so all he had planned was to curl up on Perrie's bed, watch some telly and drink his tea.

A loud knock on the door jolted him out of his thoughts and he frowned slightly, looking down on his naked body.

Who would show up here after midnight? If it was Niall again, asking for milk because he was too lazy to walk to Tesco's, Harry would have to sit him down for a serious talk. It couldn't go on like that. Maybe Perrie had come home after all? She would have a key, though, Harry mused as he rushed into his room to pull on some pants.

The knocking was repeated, rapidly, loudly, sounding impatient and Harry hurried to the door. He opened it widely, hand freezing on the handle when he saw Louis in front of him, looking slightly out of breath, brows creased and hands fisted.

"You!" he growled and stepped in, close enough to Harry to stab a finger to his chest. "How dare you?"

Harry blinked in confusion, his skin burning up where Louis' fingertip rested. "Louis," was all he could say, voice trembling.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Louis spit out, shoving in closer, intently staring at Harry's eyes, holding his gaze. "You were probably having a right laugh at me all this time."

With a tentative touch, Harry gripped Louis' arm and pulled him inside to close the door. He took a step back, bringing some space between them. "What are you talking about?"

"How many things did you lie about?" Louis asked. "If you can't even think what this is about?"

"I didn't--"

"Lie?" Louis finished for him. "So what was it when you made me believe you were with Nick Grimshaw? Fucking Nick Grimshaw, of all people! Do you even know how much it hurt to have to watch him just touch you?"

Harry's heart dropped to his stomach. "I never said we were a couple."

"Fuck you, Harry," Louis growled, pointing at Harry accusingly. "You knew very well what you were doing."

He had known -- of course he had known. It had been a cowardly move, Harry was aware of that. He had used it to hurt Louis, which made him a pretty indecent human being.

"Lou," he said quietly, reaching out a hand.

"And did you really think---" Louis fell silent abruptly, eyes going wide, his breath catching. He stared at Harry's arm and his face fell completely.

Harry quickly pulled back his hand and pressed his arm to his chest. The damage was done, though. Louis had seen it. Like lightning, Louis' hand shot forwards and he gripped Harry's arm, fingers digging into the flesh. They were cold, and yet Harry felt his skin catch fire, burning where Louis touched him.

"Are you joking?" Louis hissed, thumb brushing over the Hi! on Harry's biceps. His eyes darted up to Harry's again, and they were blue fires, cold and hazardous. "Making me believe you're taken, not telling me about the fucking offer -- but this? How could you lie about this ?"

Harry felt like crying, his throat tight, his heart clenched in his chest, as if a fist tried to stop it from beating. He couldn't stand the look in Louis' eyes, couldn't stand the idea that it was his fault Louis looked so hurt.

"I didn't want you to know," he stuttered, unable to tear his gaze from Louis'.

"There are a few things you didn't want me to know about, aren't there?" Louis bit out, pulling his hand away and running it over his face. "I can't believe this. You were probably laughing at me all this time, satisfied with your payback."

Harry shook his head, slowly. "Louis. No."

Louis turned away, running his hands through his hair. "Niall said you got the offer first."

"I declined," Harry replied. He didn’t know what Louis wanted to hear.

"Why didn't you tell me back then?"

Shrugging, Harry stared at Louis' back, his slumped shoulders, his narrow waist. He looked so small.

"It wasn't important. I had rejected it, anyway. What did it matter?" Harry took a deep breath, fumbling with his hands. He didn't know where to put them.

"Maybe I would have encouraged you to take it," Louis murmured, still not turning. "Maybe you should have been the one to--"

"No," Harry cut in, shaking his head. "Not back then. I wasn't ready, and it wasn't what I wanted."

Louis was silent for another moment. "You just wanted me," he said then, and Harry almost didn't catch it.

It was true. Harry hadn't wanted anything else but Louis. "Yes," he answered. "I only wanted you."

"You should have told me," Louis choked out, and his voice was thick with emotion. When he turned, Harry saw the blue of his eyes swimming. He instinctively made a step towards Louis, reaching out. Louis slapped his hand away. "You should have told me back then. You should have told me this time around."

"It's not important--"

"It fucking is," Louis argued. "I was only a second choice, Harry, and you knew it all along. While you asked me to be bloody honest with you, you kept lying to me!"

Harry bit his lip, turning his face.

Louis sobbed -- he actually sobbed , and Harry didn't even dare look at him. "And on top of that you told me you got the fucking tattoo removed. Do you even know how much that hurt? Can you even imagine how it felt? To think that I cried about it-- Fuck you, Harry."

Every word cut, and Harry knew he deserved it, knew he had brought this upon himself. He had been well aware that Louis would be furious if he found out about that Harry had lied. He hadn't imagined it to hurt this much, though.

"Did you get off on watching me make a fool of myself?" Louis sounded bitter, so very bitter. "While I was too bloody in love to even see straight, you probably had a right laugh at me, planning out your next move."

Harry stared at the floor, his body going cold, his skin freezing. Goose pimples spread over his arms, and all he could hear was in love , replaying in his head, bouncing off the walls of his skull.

"I did what you asked of me, didn't I?" Louis inquired, on the verge of desperate now. "I was honest with you, and I'm sorry I can't make up for what I did, that I can't make it undone. But I fucking tried, Harry. I tried to make it up to you. I just wanted a second chance."

Looking up, Harry found Louis in front of him, anger, despair and something else, something soft and vulnerable mixed in his expression.

"Why couldn't you just tell me that you were never going to give me one?" Louis kept staring into Harry's eyes. "Did you kiss me to humiliate me, too?"

That was too much. Something inside Harry broke in that moment, shattering in his chest, setting free a rage inside him that spread through his body, making Harry feel hot all over.

"Stop it," he choked, the words rough in his throat. "You know that's not true."

Louis looked defeated. "You told me you got my tattoo removed , Harry."

"Because you fucking broke my heart," Harry reminded him.

"And you broke mine when you let me run after forgiveness that you obviously never intended to give," Louis shot back. "I thought I'd rather be your friend than going back to being nothing to you. But you never intended to actually work on that, did you?"

"I fucking tried, didn't I?"

"But you didn't want it," Louis countered, throwing his hands up. "You just kept playing me. Is that how you treat your friends ?"

Harry lost it, his hands coming up to push Louis' shoulders, pressing him against the wall. "We're not friends, Louis. We never were bloody friends ."

Before Harry knew what was happening, he had Louis' lips on his, their bodies pressed closely together, Louis' heart beating wildly against his own. Their tongues met and Harry tilted his head, curling his against Louis', sucking it into his mouth and swallowing Louis' quiet moan.

He shoved one knee between Louis' thighs and grabbed his hips, pulling him against Harry's crotch, his teeth catching Louis' bottom lip. Harry realised that it was all him, that Louis had his palms pressed flatly to the wall, a pained expression on his face as he stared back at Harry from dazed, half-lidded eyes.

With one slick move, Harry turned him around and pressed Louis' front to the wall, crowding against his back. He let his forehead sink to Louis' shoulder, gently biting his nape to keep himself from going down on Louis.

"I wanted that kiss," he heaved out, breathing heavily, his voice muffled against Louis' skin. "And I wanted the one in Malaysia. I wanted to kiss you when I was so angry I didn't even want to see you. I wanted to kiss you when you told me you didn't want to play anymore."

Louis shivered against Harry, but other than that he was completely still.

"I wanted to kiss you when you had sparkling snowflakes stuck to your lashes and asked me to be friends," Harry added, caging Louis in with his arms. He slightly shook his head, breathing in Louis' scent of herbal shampoo and faint cologne.

"Fuck, Lou," he added, lifting his head. "I couldn't ever be just friends with you."

Louis slowly turned, still not reaching out to touch Harry. He just turned around when Harry pulled back a little, and stared at Harry -- eyes wide, lips slightly parted. His breathing was heavy and when Harry stepped closer again and felt the soft wool of Louis' jumper drag over his skin, he realised for the first time that he was wearing next to nothing.

Louis' eyes darted to Harry's lips, and apparently he was very well aware. He brought up a hand, running a finger over Harry's abs and drew the tip over Harry's sternum, up to his chest. Their gazes locked when Louis's finger stopped beneath Harry's jaw.

"Please," Louis breathed.

That was all the permission Harry needed. He dove back in, claiming Louis' lips in a rough kiss. His teeth dragged over Louis' bottom lip, and Louis pressed his finger against Harry's neck, as if to find his pulse there. Then he moved his hand up and gripped Harry's curls, so Harry tilted his head to deepen the kiss.

He couldn't breathe, couldn't even think of it as Louis' tongue met his. Harry pushed Louis against the wall, his hands grabbing Louis' hips, drawing them close to his own. Louis gasped, moaned quietly, and Harry knew that he had to be able to feel Harry getting hard.

Of course he would -- Harry wasn't wearing anything but some tight briefs. There was nothing to conceal his current state. And Harry was in a right state.

He drew back a little, pulling Louis' lip with his teeth before letting go. They were both trying to catch their breath and Harry could feel Louis' chest expand against his. Louis' head was tilted back, his eyes closed and his lips were swollen and pink, glistening wet. Harry brought a hand up to run his thumb over them.

While Louis opened his mouth to swipe his tongue over the digit, Harry snaked his other hand between them and opened the button of Louis' jeans. Louis opened his eyes, watching Harry, going all tense the moment Harry slipped his hand in, running his fingers over the base of Louis' cock.

It was unfamiliar -- while Louis was the only person Harry had ever touched like that before, it still felt strange do this after almost four years. Every nerve in Harry's system was tense, vibrating with excitement and fear likewise.

Louis didn't seem to notice. He sucked harder on Harry's thumb, moaning louder. His nails were digging into Harry's flesh, just above his hips and Harry bowed his head, attaching his lips to Louis' neck.

"Fuck, yes," Louis mumbled, nuzzling against Harry's hair and pushing his hips forwards. "Harry."

It fired Harry on, urged him into going further, pushing Louis' jeans down together with his underwear. His hand was dry, too dry to properly stroke Louis' cock and Harry lost his patience. Louis' hand was groping his bum, fingers slipping beneath the waistband of Harry's briefs to caress naked skin. Harry wriggled slightly, impatiently, and Louis got the hint, shoving the fabric down until it pooled at Harry's feet.

Louis was still wearing his jumper, but Harry couldn't care less. He lifted Louis off the ground, hands firm on Louis' thighs and pressed him against the wall with his own weight. Louis crossed his legs at the small of Harry's back, holding on to his shoulders.

Harry closed his eyes when their cocks rubbed together between them, precome leaking from his own. Louis kept rocking slightly, keeping the friction up, and Harry huffed out several breaths, nails digging deep into the underside of Louis' thighs.

"Babe, come on," Louis demanded, a breathless whisper.

Harry lifted his head, finding Louis already staring at him. He looked beautiful, lips parted, and a moan escaped him every time they rocked together in just the right way. Louis framed Harry's face, leaning in to take another kiss.

Getting lost in it, Harry rocked harder against Louis, pushing him forcefully against the wall with every thrust of his hips. Louis gasped into his mouth, their kiss turning into them desperately breathing into each other.

Harry's knees got weak, threatening to buckle, when one of Louis hands trailed down Harry's chest and gripped his cock firmly. With his thumb, Louis spread precome from the slit down the length, tugging firmly, once, twice. Then he opened his hand and broke their kiss to look down between them.

His fingers curled around both their cocks, stroking them together and Harry could feel Louis' cock throb against his own. Louis was struggling to keep it up, his hand too small, fingers too short.

"Lou," Harry moaned, freeing one hand and pressing Louis' back harder against the wall to make sure he wouldn't lose hold. It had to hurt, had to be an uncomfortable burn, but Louis didn't even seem to notice. Harry brought his hand up, licking his palm before he wrapped it around their cocks beneath Louis'.

Louis' mouth fell open in a silent moan, and Harry watched him as he twisted his wrist slightly, taking over. Louis kept circling a finger around the head of Harry's cock, pressing his thumb just beneath it.

"Harry," Louis choked out then, tugging on his hair. Harry went easily, meeting Louis in another kiss. "Haz," he breathed into Harry's mouth, hips stuttering.

He came with a long moan, breaking their kiss to bury his face against Harry's neck, his body tensing up completely. His warm come spurted between them, dripping onto Harry's stomach and hand. Using it, Harry kept pumping their cocks, even afterwards when Louis started to go limp in his arms. Louis sighed and hissed, then he caught Harry's earlobe between his teeth, nibbling gently.

"You're still so pretty like this," he whispered, breath hot and wet against Harry's ear. With one finger he smeared his come over Harry's abs, rubbed it into the skin.

Harry felt it roll over him like a wave. It wasn't fast, didn't hit him. Instead, his orgasm slowly unfurled through his body, reaching every cell. His vision became blurry, his fingers numb and a white noise drowned out every other sound.

When Harry came down again, he felt Louis gently stroking his hair and mouthing over his neck. Louis' jumper was damp, and Harry's skin was sticky. Exhaustion washed over Harry, making his knees shake.

"Slow, baby," Louis murmured.

Harry curled his arm around Louis' waist and slowly sank to his knees. He sighed in relief, nuzzling into Louis and holding him close. Louis' legs had slightly shifted up, wrapped around Harry's waist now, so that his bum was resting on Harry's lap.

"That didn't solve a thing," Harry noted, still slightly out of breath.

"Not really," Louis agreed. "But at least we've got it out of the way?"

Harry smiled lightly, lifting his head to look at Louis. He rested his palm against Louis' cheek, searching his face. Louis' looked completely relaxed and for once, there wasn't anything beside that. No guilt, no regret, no pain.

Harry grabbed the hem of Louis' jumper and pulled it up and over his head. Louis lifted his arms without protest, let Harry strip him, so they were both completely naked.

"I want to do it again," Harry confessed, gaze fixed on Louis' face.

Louis smiled, tightening his legs around Harry. "That makes two of us."

Exhaling quietly, Harry shifted, trying to get more comfortable. "Maybe we can take the next round to my bed, though."

"Maybe we could take a nap first?" Louis suggested, looking hopeful.

"Yeah, that's alright." Harry brushed a stray strand from Louis' face, leaning in again to kiss him. Louis went easily, opening his mouth for Harry's tongue.

"I'm still mad at you," Louis said quietly, fingers tangling with Harry's. "Don't think you can make me forget about it by keeping me in a sex haze."

Harry rested his forehead against Louis', a grin tugging on the corners of his mouth. "I guess we have a lot to talk about, Lou."

"We do," Louis agreed. "And we should. I want to do it properly this time around."

"Yeah," Harry breathed, throat going tight. This time around -- they were really going there. Something warm ran through his veins, slow and thick like golden honey. It felt sweet.

"Did you use Perrie's shower gel, by the way?" Louis casually asked. He sniffed Harry's shoulder before pressing a kiss to the skin.

"She's got that strawberry stuff," Harry answered. "I kinda like it."

"Hm," Louis hummed, resting his cheek against Harry's shoulder. "Me, too."

"Hey, don't fall asleep here," Harry warned him, pinching Louis' waist. "I'm not gonna carry you to bed."

"I was hoping you would," Louis sighed.

Harry shook his head, but he didn't move. Instead, he kept rocking them lightly, feeling Louis' heartbeat steady against his own. Louis ran his fingers up and down Harry's side, tracing his ribs and brushing his skin. Eventually, Harry untangled his hand from Louis' and gripped him tightly beneath the thighs.

"Hold on," he instructed and Louis wound his arms around Harry's neck.

It felt new, the way Louis was clinging to him, let Harry take care of him. While standing up, Harry noticed that Louis tightened his grip, coming impossibly closer, as though he was trying to crawl into Harry. He had never known Louis to get like this, but it was nice.

Harry stumbled into his room and gently lowered Louis to the bed before he went over to his dresser to pull out some boxer shorts. When he turned back around, he hesitated.

"Or, um--" He shrugged a little. "Do you sleep naked now?"

There were so many things he didn't know. The man in front of him was someone he knew , and yet he was so different from the person Harry had used to know. Harry didn't know how to handle that.

Louis smiled, shaking his head and reaching for the boxer shorts. "Still don't like it."

Harry handed them over and lifted the duvet, crawling beneath it. He watched Louis pull on the shorts before he did the same. For a moment, they stayed like that, enough space between them to fit in another person. Then, Louis reached out and took Harry's hand, bringing his wrist to Louis' lips.

Harry shifted closer, winding an arm around Louis and closing his eyes. Louis sighed, gently pushing one leg between Harry's and nuzzling close, humming when Harry kissed his forehead.

Louis’ fingers were still curled around his wrist when Harry fell asleep.

+++

Louis had no idea where he was when he woke up.

Sunlight hit his eyes, making it hard to open them so he rolled over and sat up, inspecting the room. He needed his clothes, his mobile to call Alberto before---

A hint of sweet strawberry in the sheets brought him back to reality and Louis' muscles loosened up, every memory of last night washing over him. Harry's lips, Harry's taste, Harry's hands -- if he closed his eyes, Louis could still feel them. There had been a lot of words said, too, and those were probably more important.

He got the offer first , Niall's voice kept replaying in Louis' head.

In the next room, he heard some clattering, and a clear voice singing quietly. Lying back on the pillow, Louis listened for a while. He didn't know the song, so he assumed it was one of Harry's original ones; maybe one he had written recently for his album.

What if Harry had changed his mind? What if Louis wasn’t worth it and Harry wanted his career more than he wanted Louis? He had every right to, had every reason to want that career more than he wanted Louis. After all, Louis had never known to what extent Harry had really been hurting. So now that he knew the whole picture, he didn't know how Harry could ever forgive him.

Sleeping with Harry had been satisfying at that moment, but in the long run, it didn't change a thing. There had been lies, and bad intentions, hatred and pain -- none of it was overcome by what had happened last night.

Louis only noticed the singing had stopped a second before the door opened. He pulled the duvet up to his chin and saw Harry peeking his head inside. When his gaze locked with Louis', he smiled slightly.

"I was afraid you’d died," Harry commented, coming into the room.

"You could have woken me," Louis told him.

Harry shrugged and sat down on the edge of the bed. He was wearing a jumper with a reindeer on, as well as grey jogging bottoms. Louis wanted to cuddle him, just steal some of his warmth -- and maybe the jumper.

"It's okay," Harry assured him. "You had a long week. I just wasn't sure you had to be anywhere?"

Louis shook his head. "No, I'm off today."

"Good," Harry hummed, playing with the strings of his trackies. "I made some breakfast."

This was so awkward. Louis didn't want it to be awkward. He wanted to fall right back into the easy understanding of last night. Why was it suddenly that hard to be relaxed around Harry?

"Haz, listen," Louis started, not sure where he was going with this. "I can leave if you want me to," he offered quietly.

Harry blinked, a little frown forming on his face. "Would you rather leave?"

"No," Louis answered immediately, shaking his head.

"Good, because you promised me a talk. And sex," Harry added with a smirk. He got up, going over to a chair where Louis could see his clothes, folded up nicely. "It's a bit cold, so you probably want to get dressed."

Louis rolled out of bed, running a hand through his messy hair. "I'd rather have a shower, if that's okay."

Harry nodded. "'Course. I can--"

"After breakfast is fine," Louis said, taking his jumper and pulling it on. Then he reached out for Harry's hand before he could turn around. Carefully, Louis stepped closer, looking at Harry's face. "Thank you," he added quietly, squeezing Harry's hand.

Harry lowered his gaze and squeezed back before he tangled their fingers and gently tugged Louis along into the kitchen.

He had set the table with plates and mugs, and something smelled greasy; Louis suspected it was in the pan on the cooker. The radio was playing quietly, some cheerful pop music, and through the window, Louis could see kids playing on the pitch behind the house.

One of the boys shot the ball over their heads and it bounced off the huge billboard, leaving a muddy stain just above the hand of the girl pictured who was chasing a bird. Some things are meant to be free , it read and Louis tilted his head, staring at it for a little longer.

"Tea?" Harry asked from behind him.

Louis turned, watching Harry pour water into one of the mugs. Harry moved, holding the kettle over the second mug and shot Louis a questioning look.

"I love you, Harry," Louis blurted out, his blood running a little too fast in his veins, a bit like heady wine.

Harry slowly set down the kettle, but he still looked at Louis. With a few steps, he approached Louis and stopped in front of him. He sighed quietly. "So we're gonna talk the really serious business before breakfast, hm?"

Louis swallowed thickly. Although he had known that Harry wouldn't say it back, Louis still got nervous, still felt his heart drop.

"I just need you to know that," Louis told him, shrugging helplessly.

"You said it yesterday, too," Harry pointed out, and for once Louis couldn't tell his thoughts, or even his mood. "That you're in love with me."

"I am." Louis raised his gaze to meet Harry's, not afraid to let him see it, too. "It doesn't matter what happens after this, Harry. I'll accept it, because I mean it."

Harry was quiet for a moment, just watching Louis' face. "Why do you assume that I wouldn't want this?" he asked then, and now Louis could tell his emotions. He was upset.

"I-- I don't know," Louis said. "You've just started your career, and obviously it won't be easy, and we have a lot to work on, and maybe you don't want to put in the effort or have the time to--"

"Shut up," Harry cut in. He turned back and picked up the kettle again, pouring water into the second mug. "You still don't get it."

Louis bit his lip, feeling a little lost. He just wanted Harry to turn around and smile, like he had when he had come to wake Louis earlier. How had Louis managed to break that tiny bit of comfort within minutes? He should have just kept his mouth shut. Then again, maybe these things needed to be said.

"What is it I don't get?" he asked.

Harry sighed and turned back around to Louis, shaking his head. "You were wrong when you said I didn't need you. I do, Louis."

"I think you've got along without me just fine," Louis argued. "Look at you. You've come to London and you made it all by yourself. You managed to impress the right people. Your songs are amazing, Harry, and you'll be a star, I'm sure of it."

Harry laughed humorlessly, rubbing his eyes. "Fuck, Louis. Can you hear yourself?"

Louis winced, wondering what he had done wrong. "But don't you--"

"That is not what I need you for," Harry said slowly, pronouncing every word. "It never was. I don't need you for my songs, or my fucking career, or to give me a push and introduce me to the right people. I need you , Louis," he added, gesturing wildly. "I need you for myself. It's not like back then, not that I can’t be without you. I just want you by my side. Why don't you get that?"

Louis stared at him, the words slowly trickling through his brain, right into his heart. "For yourself?”

"Do I need to spell it out for you?" Harry asked, throwing his hands up. "Is it so hard to understand, Louis?"

Even if he'd wanted, Louis couldn't get a single word out.

Harry seemed to take it as a prompt to go on. "I just want to wake up next to you whenever I can. And I want to come back to London after my radio tour and go straight to your flat and let you take care of me. I want to fly out to God knows where, just to see you for a few days, and I want to tell you about my problems, and fears, and what makes me happy, and I want you to tell me everything that's on your mind in return. Because that's what couples do, bloody hell."

Harry exhaled loudly, as if in relief of finally having it all out there between them. His eyes bored into Louis', their intense green holding Louis under their spell.

Before Louis could say a word, he felt a hot rush in his blood, going to his head, making him choke. Tears gathered behind his eyes, burning hot, and his lip started to tremble. He quickly averted his gaze, because-- no. He would not cry in front of Harry.

"Lou," he heard Harry say then, and suddenly, he was in Louis' space, voice soft and hands gentle as they touched Louis' arms. "Fuck, Lou. Don't."

" Don't you , Harry," Louis bit back, not raising his head. Instead, he lurched forwards, winding his arms around Harry's waist and burying his face against Harry's chest.

Harry slowly slung his arms around Louis' neck, sighing into his hair. "I don’t need you like I used to, Louis.”

Louis froze, remembering how he had told Harry to his face how he had felt suffocated by Harry needing him. He had still not told Harry that he had been wrong about it -- that Louis had suffocated Harry just as much, even if Harry had probably not realised it back then.

“We needed too much, Louis. Both of us,” Harry said, caressing Louis’ tense muscles. “We can’t do that again.”

Shaking his head, Louis held his breath, fingers clenching Harry’s jumper. Both of us , it bounced off the walls of his brain.

“I could live without you by my side and still be happy, lead a fulfilled life." He paused, his fingertips grazing Louis’ shoulders. “But I don’t want to.”

"Yes," Louis breathed, nuzzling against Harry. "I don’t want to be without you again."

"Then don't make it so complicated," Harry demanded. "If we’re on the same page about that, we can work it out. That's a good start."

"I'm afraid to disappoint or hurt you again," Louis murmured, clenching his fingers around the fabric of Harry's jumper.

Harry gently pushed Louis back, raising a hand to brush it through Louis' hair. "If that's what’s worrying you, you won't do that so easily again," he said, a small smile on his lips when Louis glanced up at him. "If you do, though, I won't let you get away with it this time."

"You didn't exactly let me get away last time, did you?" Louis asked. He wanted to say more, wanted to make Harry understand everything he had on his mind. But it was too much; Louis had no idea where to start.

“No one should get away with something like that,” Harry murmured, shrugging a little.

“There’s so much you need to know.” Louis buried his face against Harry’s neck, trying to find the right words. “We can’t just pretend it never happened. I want this to work, Harry.”

"I won't forget about it, Lou. And I can't promise that I won't be wary sometimes. But I'll never hold against you what happened in the past. We’re over that, aren’t we?" Harry leaned in, putting his forehead to Louis'. "I trust you to get it right this time."

Louis looked up, biting his lip. Harry gently smiled down at him and Louis' heart fluttered slightly, his breath catching. He slowly moved his head, rubbing his nose against Harry's and a smile spread on his face when Harry chuckled quietly.

Just when he was about to close the gap between their lips, the front door opened and Louis jolted back. Perrie was standing in the doorframe, frozen and staring at them. When Louis tried to step back, Harry tightened his arms around him, holding him in place.

"What's going on here?" Perrie asked, closing the door.

Up until this moment, Louis hadn't even thought of her -- not even when Harry had kind of fucked him against the wall of this very room the night before.

Louis felt his cheeks flush.

"We were about to have breakfast," Harry answered lightly. "D'you wanna join us?"

"You were kissing." Perrie didn’t beat about the bush. She set down her handbag and opened her jacket. "And Louis is beet red."

Harry turned his face, smirking slightly when he looked at Louis. "We were about to kiss, before you so kindly interrupted us," he clarified.

"I assume you weren’t having a tea party last night," Perrie mused and went into her room.

"I don't think that's any of your business," Louis piped up, raising his voice so she would hear.

Harry giggled and pressed a kiss to Louis' temple. "Sit down. Breakfast's gone cold."

"Is she like that every time you let someone stay the night?" Louis inquired and sat down, taking his tea.

"Um," Harry said, suddenly seeming a little distracted. He took the pan from the cooker and shovelled eggs and bacon onto their plates. "No?"

"Makes me feel special, then," Louis commented.

"Harry!" Perrie yelled from her room before she came back into the kitchen. "Can I borrow your lilac jumper?"

Harry gestured at his room. "Sure, go ahead."

She crossed the kitchen and disappeared into Harry's room. Louis frowned slightly. This seemed a little bizarre, almost as if Perrie had expected this. Despite the initial moment when catching them, she hadn't appeared surprised at all.

"Definitely not a tea party," she commented when she came out of Harry's room again. She looked a little lost in Harry's jumper, but in a way, it was cute.

"Easy," Harry said, taking two slices of toast. "We had a bit of a rough morning."

Louis picked up his fork, gathering some of the scrambled eggs. He raised a brow at Harry. "A bit?"

" You dropped the bomb even before we had breakfast," Harry pointed out. He kicked out his foot under the table and hit Louis' shin.

"I was only saying what needed to be said," Louis corrected him. He hooked his foot around Harry's ankle and rubbed his toes over Harry's calf. "You acted all drama queen on me."

Harry raised a brow. "Drama queen? I recall you were the one who actually started to bawl like--"

"Drama queen," Louis attested, throwing Harry a warning glance before he looked at Perrie.

She still stood by Harry's door and had her arms crossed, a fond expression on her face. "I take it you sorted things out?"

"Kinda," Harry said, linking his other foot with Louis'. "We're working on it."

"Good," she said, coming over to kiss Harry's cheek. "I gotta leave for work."

"I'll have to leave for that studio session in an hour," Harry said, looking worried. "So I can't come pick you up."

Perrie dismissed it with a wave of her hand. "Don't worry about it." Then she turned to Louis, giving him a long stare.

"Am I in for a lecture?" Louis asked, pretty sure he knew what that look on her face meant.

"You pretty much know what I have to say to you," Perrie told him. "So you’d better not fuck it up."

Louis lowered his gaze to the table. "I'd be stupid to."

Before he knew what was happening, Perrie had kissed his cheek too. She was rubbing her thumb over his cheek, probably to wipe the lipstick stain.

Harry winked at Louis when he looked up.

"See you tomorrow," Perrie said, the cheerful quality back to her voice as she picked up her jacket and bag again. "Don't get too wild."

When she was gone, Louis turned back to Harry. He felt like a hurricane had just ripped through the kitchen.

"Don't mind her," Harry commented, calmly drinking his tea.

"Does she, like-- know?" Louis asked. "I mean. Everything?"

Harry nodded, concentrating on his food. "I told her most of it."

"I'm lucky she didn't bite my head off, I guess," Louis mumbled.

"Well." Harry drew the word out. " Most of it included me wanting you back, so she probably knows that hurting you isn't helping my case."

Louis' heart missed a beat, and he gave up on trying to eat. Breathing felt a lot easier than before. "Did she tell you Zayn kissed her at my party?"

Harry gaped. "She didn't!" He slammed a fist to the table. "I knew it!"

Louis laughed slightly. "He wants her number, but he's too shy to ask."

"Fortunately, I'm not above playing matchmaker," Harry said. "That's an easy one."

"You do know what she's in for, should this work out, don't you?" Louis asked tentatively. "It won't be easy."

Harry set down his mug and pulled the sleeves of his jumper over his hands. "I did think about that, yes."

Of course he had, Louis thought. Harry was in for the exact same thing, after all. Louis’ stomach turned at the thought, because Harry would only be in for it, if Louis made that one certain step.

"Lou," Harry said, reaching over the tabletop to grab Louis' hand. "Don't think about that right now. We'll figure it out."

Louis nodded, lacing their fingers.

"You should take that shower now," Harry reminded him. "We'll save the rest for later, yeah? I've got to get changed and leave in a bit."

"You're not going to join me?" Louis asked, pouting a little.

"Not now," Harry answered and got up, carrying the dishes to the sink. "We'll save that for later too."

Louis watched him for a little while, watched Harry's muscles move beneath his jumper, the curls at the back of his neck. Quietly, he got up and moved over, bringing his arms around Harry's waist from behind. Without a word, he pressed his lips to Harry's shoulder, holding him tight for a moment. Harry leaned against him, tilting his head slightly.

"If you want to, you can wait here for me," Harry told him, cleaning a plate.

"I think I'll head home," Louis rejected the offer. It was tempting, but being in Harry's flat without him was a scary thought. Louis didn't feel comfortable with that. "I'd still like to see you tonight."

"We could meet for dinner," Harry suggested. "Or I'll come to yours after."

Louis nodded, running his fingers over Harry's stomach. "I'd like that."

Harry turned in Louis' arms, drying his hands off on a towel. He leaned in and sealed Louis' mouth with a sweet kiss, lips soft and dry on Louis'.

They still had a lot to work through, but Louis felt like the most important issue was solved -- they both wanted this. Falling back into each other wasn't easy, wasn't going smoothly. Ultimately, though, they would get there. Louis would make every effort to make it work.

He drew back and slipped a hand under Harry's jumper, smirking when Harry chased his mouth. He gently rubbed his thumb over Harry's hip.

"You're still welcome to join me," he murmured.

Harry sighed and shook his head, crossing his arms behind his back. "Don't have the time," he said, looking genuinely sorry about it. "Later."

Louis nodded, getting to his toes to kiss Harry once more -- just a brief peck to his lips. Then he slipped his hand from beneath Harry’s jumper, turned and went to the bathroom.

It was reassuring to know that Harry gazed after him, and Louis hoped Harry did so with a smile on his face.

+++

It was raining when Harry got out of the taxi. Clumsily, he tried to shield his head with his jacket, pulling the collar up over his hair. He hadn't thought of bringing an umbrella when he had left the house earlier this morning.

Actually, he hadn't thought of anything other than Louis when he had left the house. His mind had been occupied with the way Louis had touched his hand, the way Louis had looked as though he had something to say, something on his mind that he didn't know how to voice.

Harry knew the feeling.

The only thing he was certain about was that he wanted to be with Louis -- but neither of them seemed to know how to make it work. They both had to fight through that, through the awkward clumsiness and the oppressive fear.

He rang the bell at the gate, waiting for it to slowly open before he ran up the slip road to the building. Reaching the entrance, he shook out his hair, pushing it back with one hand.

Louis was already waiting at the door to his flat, still in the jumper Harry had worn this morning. Louis had pulled it on after his shower, arguing that his own reeked of sweat and sex. He looked warm now, and much calmer than earlier.

"You're soaked," he greeted Harry, stepping aside to let him in. "I'll get you a towel."

Harry waited until Louis had closed the door, then he pulled Louis against his chest, pressing their lips together. Louis was indeed warm, a nice contrast to Harry's damp, cold skin. He sighed into their kiss and Louis pressed in closer.

"Now I'm just as wet," Louis commented when he pulled back, but he didn't look upset about it.

"Better get you out of these clothes then," Harry suggested and tugged at the hem of the jumper.

He saw the shift in Louis' expression, sudden discomfort flickering over his face.

"Can we--" Louis started, drawing a nervous breath. "Fuck, Harry, I want to," he blurted out then, coming even closer, one hand on Harry's chest, the other running up into Harry's hair. "I want to undress you and kiss you, and get my mouth on every bit of you. I want to suck you off and make you come, over and over again, make you beg for it and moan my name. I really want that."

Heat pooled in Harry's stomach and he felt his cock twitch in interest. He licked his lips, staring at Louis' mouth before he caught himself and looked back up into Louis' eyes, seeing the glimmer of despair. Louis seemed genuinely torn, which prompted Harry to stroke his back reassuringly.

"But?" Harry asked.

"I ordered some Italian," Louis said. "And opened a bottle of wine."

"That sounds good," Harry agreed. "Sex does sound better, though."

A smile unfurled on Louis' lips, the blue of his eyes getting warmer. "I want to get a few things out of the way first. Talk."

Harry nodded, placing his hand on the back of Louis' neck. "I think we should."

"I don't know where to start," Louis admitted, holding on tighter.

"How about we go to the kitchen and sit down first? Have a glass of wine," Harry suggested, rubbing his thumb over Louis' nape to calm him.

"I set the table on the terrace." Louis shrugged. "I thought having dinner in the garden would add some romance?"

Laughing, Harry leaned in to kiss Louis once more. Just one, Harry promised himself, then he would step back and concentrate on the important matters at hand. Louis fisted his hand over Harry's chest, lightly tugging on his jumper.

"Come on." Harry stepped back, tangling his fingers with Louis'. "Let's have dinner in the garden."

Louis pointed at a door down the corridor. "Fetch yourself a towel, yeah? I'll get the food from the kitchen."

Harry gazed after him for a moment when Louis rushed into the kitchen, taking a deep breath. This would work. He just had to remind himself that eventually, everything would be fine. This already felt a lot less awkward than it had felt this morning.

In the bathroom, Harry took a towel from a pile by the window and ran it over his damp hair. He stopped in front of the mirror and tried to sort his hair out, but gave up after a few minutes. The rain had made it all frizzy, so there was no way to tame it.

Louis was outside, lighting three candles on the table beneath the canopy when Harry came into the kitchen. It was still raining, a constant rhythm playing above their heads, and Louis had set up a patio heater, its warmth reaching Harry by the door.

"I hope you like red wine?" Louis asked. "I wasn't sure because, you know, we never drank wine when--" He stopped, frowning slightly. "Then."

Harry walked out and noticed that Louis hadn't put the plates in front of the chairs at opposite sides of the table, but in front of the bench for two. "Red is perfect," Harry told him before he gestured at the table and the patio heater. "Fancy."

"I know how to impress," Louis commented, filling the wine glasses.

The thought of Louis doing things like this to impress other people was strangely irritating. Harry tried not to think about it. "You've ordered food," he reminded Louis instead.

"And I put it on the plates all by myself." Louis threw him a quick grin, finally looking a lot less nervous. He sat down on the cushioned bench, patting the space next to himself.

"I feel proper wooed," Harry mocked him, making himself comfortable next to Louis. Truth was, he really did. With the rain falling outside their comfortable, warm bubble, the delicious smelling food and the candles, it did feel like a romantic date.

Louis shifted closer until his thigh touched Harry's. "Don't let the food get cold."

"What's yours?" Harry asked, pointing at Louis' plate after he had taken the first bite of his own -- pasta with various vegetables and chicken. Before Louis could answer, Harry had already poked his fork into Louis' food, though.

"It's a bit spicy," Louis told him, a little late because Harry had already swallowed it down.

Harry coughed, gripping his wine glass and taking a slice of bread from the plate Louis immediately shoved under his nose.

"I figured you wouldn't like it very much," Louis pointed out, rubbing Harry's back. "Never been a fan of spicy food, have you?"

"Spicy is fine," Harry argued. "That stuff, though? Is making me breathe fire."

Louis frowned a little, tilting his head. "Is it?" He seemed to consider that. "Maybe I got a bit less sensitive to spicy stuff since I met Zayn."

Harry didn't answer, just nodded and turned back to continue eating.

"They're pretty great, you know," Louis added then, his hand still placed on Harry's back. "Zayn and Liam."

"I like them," Harry answered, poking his fork through his food.

"I know it must have looked to you like I just replaced you and Niall with two other blokes," Louis went on, his voice quiet and low. "But they were never just that. I came to regret a lot of things throughout the past three years, Harry. But never them."

Harry bit his lip, nodding again. He had no idea why, because he had seen it for himself, had witnessed how close Louis had grown to the other two boys, had talked to Zayn about it in detail. Yet, hearing it from Louis somehow still hurt.

"It may sound like a cliché," Louis murmured, "but they are my brothers. They are family to me."

"I know that," Harry answered, dropping his fork, giving up on pretending this was some light dinner conversation. He turned his head to Louis. "I know how much they mean to you."

"But you don't ," Louis argued. "You compare them to what I had with you and Niall, but it's not the same."

Harry waited a moment, trying to force down the throbbing pain in his chest. "It's more," he choked out then. "They mean so much more than we ever did."

Louis' eyes widened and his hand came to rest on Harry's thigh. "No. Harry, no ."

"You wouldn't ever betray them," Harry argued. "You'd do anything to protect them and you never--"

"It's different," Louis cut in. " You're different."

Harry frowned, keeping his eyes trained on Louis' face.

"It's like you said, Harry," Louis explained. "We could never be just friends. You were always more than that. Always ."

"It didn't feel like that, though," Harry reminded him. The candles flickered in a sudden breeze, one of them going out. "Not when you just left."

Louis looked down, nodding. "I know. That's why you can't just say things like you said this morning."

Harry blinked in confusion.

"That you forgive me," Louis murmured, his fingers digging into Harry's thigh. "You can't just forgive me when I didn't even apologise properly. You deserve an explanation, don't you?"

"You told me already," Harry stated. "You told me that you felt like I held you back, that I was too dependent on you. That you couldn't do this with me by your side."

Louis bit his lip, exhaling shakily. "But that's only one part -- there's so much more to that. I had no idea, Harry."

"No idea of what?"

"I think I only realised it when I got my first flat in London," Louis murmured, and Harry frowned at the sudden change of topic, not sure where Louis was headed with that. "It was a huge flat, two bedrooms and a spacious kitchen, a living room and a balcony, and a bathroom with a huge bathtub."

Harry turned his face back to the table, watching one of the candles. That sounded a lot like--

"Just like we had always imagined it," Louis said before Harry could suppress the thought. "And I tried to ignore it, pretended I didn't notice."

Swallowing thickly, Harry kept staring into the flickering flame.

"Until one night, I came home from a night out with Liam and Aiden, so drunk off my head. Wanna guess what I did?" Louis asked, laughing dryly.

Harry shook his head.

"I ran a bath for us, and started talking to you." Another bitter laugh. "I went into the bedroom and kept calling you, looking for you, until I realised you weren't there, and that you never had been."

"Louis," Harry said quietly, moving his hand to place it over Louis' on his thigh.

"I think I had a proper breakdown," Louis admitted. "I realised that I had been wrong, Harry. I had felt so trapped because I thought you had depended on me too much, that you had held me back. But in reality I had depended on you just as much. If not more."

Harry blinked, staring at Louis wordlessly. He didn't know what to say -- or if he even could say anything about that.

"It's another cliché, Harry," Louis added, voice lower now. Warm light from the candles and the patio heater illuminated his face, his lashes throwing long shadows over his cheeks when he looked up. "But even though I had fulfilled my dream, had managed to make it come true, it didn't make me happy . Because you weren't there to share it with me."

"That's--"

"Yes," Louis confirmed before Harry could even voice it out. "It's what you said this morning, Harry. I need you for myself, too. And I want all that -- sharing everything with you."

A smile tugged at Harry's lips and he squeezed Louis' hand beneath his own.

"I'm sorry, Harry." Louis scooted closer again and Harry shifted a little to accommodate Louis against his side. "I realised it way too late, and I couldn't go back. I thought I loved you, but I only understood how much I really did, and what it really meant when I had fucked it all up."

Harry slung an arm around Louis' shoulders, running his fingers through Louis' hair. "What do you mean?"

Louis shrugged lightly before he put his head to Harry's shoulder. "I said I loved you, and I think I meant it, but I didn't really understand what love was back then? I just loved having you around, and I loved kissing you, and I loved all those experiences -- sex," he added. "I loved everything about it. I loved being in love . But I don't think I understood that I was really in love with you . Not until I had run away."

Kissing Louis' head, Harry nodded and watched another candle go out in its glass.

"I want you to forgive me, Harry. I want nothing more than that because I want another chance," Louis admitted, nuzzling closer. He shivered slightly and Harry noticed that the hand he was still holding was cold. "You're a romantic, and you're quirky, you're caring and honest -- that hasn't changed, and I didn't realise how much I loved that about you back then. I still love it now, and everything I've found out about who you are now. I'm still in love, or again -- I can't even tell. I can only tell that I want you . All of you."

Closing his eyes, Harry lowered his head, feeling completely weightless all of a sudden. He littered Louis' face with small kisses, lingering at the corner of Louis' mouth.

"You said something like that in Japan," he whispered against Louis' mouth.

"I don't think so, no," Louis protested and Harry saw his eyelids flutter. "I didn't tell you how deeply I fell for you this time around."

Harry's heart stuttered at that confession, and he pressed his forehead against Louis'. "You didn't say it as directly, but it was in there. I was too much of a coward to let myself see that, and admit it, act on it. I was afraid to let you too close again."

Louis pressed his lips together. Harry watched them form a thin line, turning white at the edges before Louis opened them again. "Because I don't deserve--"

"That's not what it was about," Harry cut in, gripping Louis' hair tighter. Because of the humidity in the air, the tips at the back of Louis' neck had curled, as well as the strands over his temples. "The one who left without a second thought doesn't deserve it, maybe. But, Louis, you said I changed," Harry reminded him, "and that you fell in love with who I am now. You changed, too. It wasn't easy to accept, but you're different from the boy I used to know."

Louis looked up, just a hint of the candlelight glimmering in his eyes.

Harry inhaled deeply, tangling Louis' fingers with his own. Louis' hand was warmer now, only the fingertips leaving cold marks on Harry's skin.

"I guess I have a few things to apologise for myself," Harry murmured.

Louis slightly shook his head. "No. I deserved that, I guess. You never got to pay me back for breaking your heart, after all."

"That's not how it works, though, is it?" Harry played with Louis' fingers and watched them fit between his own, tangling and untangling them. "I hurt you, and I hurt you on purpose. I lied to you, and you had every right to be angry."

"It's just--" Louis moved his right hand to Harry's arm, curling his fingers over his biceps. "I felt connected to you because of the tattoos. Losing that connection--" His voice broke and he shrugged helplessly.

"I know," Harry murmured. "I knew it would hurt you."

Louis swallowed thickly, nodding. Harry was aware that Louis had known it, but hearing it out loud probably ripped the wound open once again. Louis was strong, beautifully strong for staying where he was, for not pulling away.

"Nothing really justifies that, Lou," Harry went on, caressing the back of Louis' hand with his thumb. "Hurting people on purpose is not something I usually do. It's not who I want to be," he added. "But I couldn't even think straight when it came to you."

"Yeah," Louis breathed out, nodding softly. "Okay."

"It's not okay," Harry argued. "But it will be. We'll make it okay."

Louis shut his eyes and Harry saw the last bit of candlelight vanish from his face, the third candle going out. He closed the gap between them and kissed Harry, lips finding Harry's in a calm drag, a soft nip.

It felt different. The kiss was warmer, easier than the ones they had shared before. All urgency was gone, and Harry could feel sweetness, relief, as well as faith in that kiss. Louis sank against him, hand holding on to Harry's, and Harry drew in every detail of the moment, memorised every second.

Louis' fingers between his own, Louis' thumb pressing against the tattoo, Louis' dry lips opening up for Harry. He tasted of heady wine and rich tomatoes, something else beneath that was familiar, reminded Harry of long gone days. The way he kissed was different, though, maybe sweeter, maybe rougher -- it made Harry's blood boil all the same.

The patio heater was their only source of light and Louis' skin looked golden, a warm gleam covering his face. The rain had stopped at some point, and silence embraced them, comfortable and only disturbed by the occasional dripping from the roof.

After a moment, Louis pulled back, eyes brighter than before, cheeks pink and lips wet. He licked them as if to chase Harry's taste.

"Aren't you cold?" he asked, slightly tilting his head.

"No," Harry answered, repositioning himself to get closer to Louis again. How would he ever be cold with Louis in his arms? "I don't really get cold."

Louis rolled his eyes, shoving Harry's shoulder lightly. "Idiot. You're ruining my plan."

"What plan?" Harry frowned, watching Louis bend over the armrest of the bench and pulling up a blanket and--

Louis wound the red scarf around Harry's neck once, pulling him closer by the end that pooled in Harry's lap. Harry took the other end and draped it around Louis' neck, lifting an arm to let Louis sink back against his side.

"I had it in a box in my Mum's house in Doncaster until last year," Louis said, spreading the woollen blanket over their laps. "It magically reappeared when it snowed so heavily last January."

Harry smiled, thinking of the day he had come to London, how he had met Perrie on the train and had fallen asleep in that little booth on the footie pitch in front of the billboard with Louis' face on it.

"You're the actual romantic here," he commented and tugged at the scarf, bringing Louis' mouth closer to his own again.

"Maybe," Louis answered, grinning into their kiss.

Harry moved his lips up to Louis' temple, gently placing another kiss there and let Louis snuggle up to him again. He stared off beyond the canopy into a dark, empty sky. Louis drew patterns with his finger on Harry's chest, breathing steadily against Harry's neck.

It was an endless space to fill, Harry realised. They were going to have a lot of lights to fill their empty skies with, to light them up with every new memory they were going to make together.

"Hey, Haz," Louis murmured, his finger stopping its motion, his heart beating a little louder against Harry's chest. "We'll try again, won't we?"

Harry slightly shook his head, adjusting the scarf around Louis' neck. "No," he answered quietly and prompted Louis to look up at him.

"No, Lou," he repeated, a smile on his lips. "We're moving on."

---