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Empty Skies

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Louis trailed his finger down Harry's spine to kill time.

He had woken up almost an hour ago, lying on the right side of his bed. Harry had lain on the other side, stretched out on his stomach, face squished by the pillow and turned to Louis. The duvet had pooled around his waist, the pale skin of his back glowing in the soft morning sun streaming through the window above the bed. Messy curls had spread over the red sheets, Harry's hand on the mattress, as if he had been reaching out to Louis.

They had to relearn a few things, it seemed.

Louis had quietly scooted closer, shifted into Harry's space. A warm feeling had spread from his chest when Harry had instinctively curled an arm around Louis' waist.

They were getting there.

Waiting for Harry to wake up, Louis kept himself busy mapping out Harry's body with his fingers. His skin was soft and warm, his muscles lax beneath Louis' fingers. With one twirl, Louis curled a strand of Harry's hair around his finger before he buried his hand in the mess of curls. He gently scraped Harry's scalp, watching Harry's face scrunch up, a little satisfied noise escaping Harry's lips.

Leaning in, Louis pressed his lips against Harry's shoulder. He sat up, looming over Harry's back and attached his mouth to Harry's nape, gently kissing before sucking a bruise into the soft skin. Harry shifted beneath him, stirring and puffing a little sigh.

"Lou," he mumbled quietly, voice rough and sleepy.

Louis smiled, pressing another kiss over the red mark blooming on Harry's neck before he shuffled down and littered Harry's back with more kisses, trailing down the knobs of Harry's spine to the small of his back.

"Morning, babe," Louis murmured, shaping the words against Harry's skin and pressing his fingertips into Harry's love handles.

Louis had been afraid those were gone. When he had met Harry again, his body had looked so very different -- tall and lanky, long limbs and defined muscles. This body didn't belong to the boy with the chubby cheeks and love handles peeking out above the waistline of jeans riding low on his hips.

Yet, after getting to undress Harry and follow every line of his body with his fingers, Louis had found that not too much had changed. Harry still moved the same, and he was still as responsive, still sensitive in the same places.

"I'll be leaving for New York tonight," Louis said quietly. "Gotta leave you a few things to remember me by."

Harry hissed when Louis bit down on his hip. "Didn't you just come back from L.A.?"

Louis just hummed. Harry didn't need to know that he had been supposed to go straight to New York from Los Angeles. Coming here for a mere two days had been worth it -- more than worth it. After all, he had Harry in his bed right now and Louis was about to thoroughly fuck him.

That would leave him with something to remember Harry by for the week he was going to spend in New York.

"From tomorrow, I'll be on a radio tour for two weeks," Harry said, sounding distracted. He gasped slightly when Louis shifted to fit his hips against Harry's thigh. The way Harry moved back against him made Louis’ cock twitch and harden immediately.

"We'll figure something out," Louis answered, kissing Harry's ribs.

Harry sighed again and Louis saw him fist his hand in the sheets, face turned into the pillow.  Louis sucked bruises into his skin, leaving marks all over Harry's back. The way Harry squirmed and arched beneath him made Louis lose a piece of his mind, all of his blood rushing south. He still wore his briefs, his cock pressing painfully against the front and he eased the urge by rutting against Harry's thigh.

"Love," Louis murmured against Harry's shoulder blade, licking over the teeth marks he had just left there. "Open the top drawer for me, would you?"

Harry breathed heavily, freezing beneath Louis. Louis' hand wandered lower, thumb lightly pressing between the crack of Harry's butt cheeks to get his message across.

He wasn't prepared for Harry to move away, to wince and roll over onto his back. His erection was actually tenting the duvet, but Louis averted his gaze quickly, looking up to Harry's face. He shifted closer, aligning their bodies and rested his hand on Harry's heaving chest.

"What's wrong?" Louis asked.

Harry lifted his arm, sliding it over his eyes. "Sorry for ruining it," he answered instead of giving an explanation.

Louis frowned and reached out to pull Harry's arm from his face. "Nothing's ruined. I just thought you wanted--"

"I do," Harry cut in, shaking his head. "I want you."

A wave of heat rolled through Louis' body, reaching his toes and leaving behind a tingling in his stomach. "But?" he asked.

Biting his lip, Harry averted his gaze. "It's-- I kinda--" He shrugged, glancing at Louis. "It's been... a while."

Louis' muscles loosened, all tension easing off. He smiled, running a hand through Harry's hair. "Two days is not exactly a while, baby."

Harry laughed slightly, and he closed his eyes. "You know what I mean."

"A while since you've been fucked?" Louis asked, seeing Harry blush. He was so endearing, Louis couldn't help but kiss his cheek. "Why would I mind that?"

"I'm a bit out of practise," Harry stated, still not looking at Louis.

"Hey," Louis murmured, tangling his fingers with Harry's. "We don't have to go all the way right now. We could start with blowjobs, you know. Anything, really. I just want to touch you, make you feel good."

"I might not be able to, you know," Harry pointed out, gesturing at Louis' body, "please you."

Louis snorted, rolling his eyes. "Because you haven't had sex in, what? A few months?"

Harry turned to him, eyes open and clear now. He stared into Louis eyes, his fingers squeezing Louis' harder than necessary. Something clicked and Louis froze, hand going limp in Harry's.

"Fuck, Harry," he choked out, propping himself up on one elbow. "Are you saying you haven’t had sex since-- since us ?"

Averting his gaze, Harry's cheeks flushed again and he bit his lip, shrugging.

Louis just stared at him, not sure what to make of it. He was still plastered to Harry's side, but the heat was gone, their bodies slowly cooling down. Harry hadn't moved away, but he was slowly withdrawing from Louis, his gaze fixed on the wall opposite.

Without thinking about it twice, Louis lifted a leg and climbed on top of Harry, straddling his hips. Stopping now would be the single worst thing to do. Harry stared up at him, one hand automatically coming to rest on Louis' thigh, the other was still laced with Louis'.

"Nothing?" Louis dug deeper.

Harry just nodded, closing his eyes as if in pain.

Louis blinked. "How did you survive?"

"Fuck off, Louis," Harry shot back, glancing at him briefly. "It's not exactly vital."

"It actually is," Louis corrected him.

"I like it to mean something, okay?" Harry said, sounding a little tired. "I don't just have sex with someone because they’re attractive." He looked at Louis again, a stubborn tilt to his chin. "It's called making love for a reason, isn't it?"

Louis couldn't help but laugh. He leaned in and pressed his lips against Harry's. They both tasted bitter and of sleep, but Louis didn't care right now -- he just needed a physical reminder of their connection.

"It had nothing to do with you," Harry told him once they broke apart. "Don't let it go to your head."

"What? That I'm the only person you ever had sex with?" Louis smirked. "Too late."

"So what?" Harry asked, moving his hand up on Louis' thigh. "Did you sleep around excessively?"

Louis choked, jolting back. "Don't say it like that. It makes me feel cheap."

"I thought about it, you know?" Harry admitted, seemingly not too bothered by Louis not denying Harry's question. "Just abandon everything and sleep with random people. I just sort of figured it wouldn't work? It had to mean something to make me get over you -- the person would have had to mean more to make me forget you."

Louis stayed quiet, biting his lip. Harry was right -- sleeping with other people, nameless faces in toilet stalls and wrecked flats hadn't helped the slightest bit. It had been satisfying for a short moment, but in the end, Louis had always compared them to Harry and it had never been enough. His heart had still hurt -- they had never smelt like Harry, had never tasted sweet enough, had never moaned in just the right way or touched Louis with fingers that knew every inch of his body.

"And then, before I had realised it, I got over it without finding someone else." Harry shrugged. "It's not that I didn't want to have sex. I just never found the right person who was worth it."

Bringing their laced hands up to his mouth, Louis pressed a kiss to the back of Harry's hand. His heart felt a little too big for his chest, and he was afraid it would swell more and break his ribs, suffocate him.

"I love you," Louis said, staring straight into Harry's eyes.

Harry smiled slightly. "That's why I've slept with you."

"It doesn't matter, okay? I don’t care how much experience you have." Louis ignored Harry's attempt at lightening the mood. Harry had probably broken his own rule two nights ago when he had lost control over a bloody handjob. "That’s not what matters. There's no way you wouldn't please me, or that I'd be disappointed, or anything like that. Get that idea out of your head."

Harry exhaled shakily, nodding.

"I meant it when I said I just want to make you feel good," Louis added. "It's just between us. You and I, okay?"

Without an answer, Harry pulled Louis back in, burying his hand in Louis' hair and meeting his lips in a heated kiss. Harry's tongue curled around his before Louis could even catch his breath, so he moaned into Harry's mouth, sucking on his bottom lip.

Harry's hand slid up Louis' thigh until his fingers met the hem of Louis' pants. He brushed them over Louis' crotch before he hooked one finger under the waistline and tugged gently. Louis latched onto Harry's neck, sucking on his pulse point, then he drew back and lifted his hips so Harry could shove the pants down.

Rolling off Harry, Louis got rid of them and pushed the duvet off the bed at the same time. To his surprise, Harry aligned their bodies in an instant, shoving his leg between Louis', his thigh pressing against Louis' cock. He attached his lips to Louis' collarbone and started to leave a mark of his own. Louis trailed his fingers over Harry's back, pressing against the bruises he had left there.

For a moment, Harry looked at Louis' face, licking his own lips before he detached himself from Louis and scooted down on him, lips trailing their path to Louis' navel. Louis dropped his head back to the pillow, trying to get a hold of himself and calm down -- or else he would be the one to ruin this.

Harry carefully licked the head of Louis' cock, tentatively, fingers curling around the base. Louis groaned, gripping the sheets tightly. When Harry's mouth enveloped him, wet heat taking him in, Louis arched up, just a little, allowing himself to jerk his hips in rhythm with the bobbing of Harry's head.

It felt oddly familiar. Harry seemed a little insecure, but eager at the same time. He took in as much of Louis as he could, sucking gently and paying attention to the head -- apparently he hadn’t forgotten how Louis liked his blowjobs. His tongue pressed against Louis’ cock, just a hint of teeth scratching along the sensitive skin, making Louis lose control of himself.

Harry managed a few minutes before he pulled off, breathing heavily, spit and precome glistening on his lips and chin. He wiped it with one hand and looked at Louis from half-lidded eyes. Just when he wanted to duck back down, Louis stopped him with one hand and beckoned him to come closer.

"Come here, babe," Louis said softly, tugging on Harry's arm.

Harry obliged without protest, slid up on Louis' body and closed his eyes when he dived into another kiss. Louis tasted himself on Harry's tongue, and the thought was strangely intimate. He was still holding Harry's arm and used it to steady himself when he sat up and leaned against the headboard.

For a while, they stayed like that, Harry draped over Louis, their legs tangled and hands caressing each other's skin. The only sounds that filled the room were the wet noises of their kisses and occasional moans.

"Sit up," Louis instructed then, tugging on Harry's arm again. His gaze fell onto the tattoo and Louis briefly leaned in to brush a kiss over it, lingering for a second. He caught Harry's look and smiled softly, resting his other hand on Harry's hip. "Straddle my chest."

Harry did as he was told, eyes going dark when he realised what Louis had in mind. He positioned his knees on either side of Louis' chest and waited for Louis to make himself comfortable, one hand playing with Louis' hair.

Harry tilted his head back, hips rutting forwards when Louis pumped his cock a few times. With one slick move, Louis licked along it once, coaxing a drawn-out moan from Harry. He stilled with his lips at the tip of Harry's cock.

"At your pace, love," he murmured, kissing the tip, precome smearing over his lips. "Just use me."

Harry didn't have to be told twice. His hand twisted in Louis' hair, fingers gripping the strands firmly and he pulled Louis' head towards his hips, his cock sinking between Louis' lips. Louis closed his eyes, taking it, enjoying the sensation of Harry's cock swelling on his tongue, as well as Harry letting go, losing himself in thrusting into Louis' mouth.

To steady himself, Louis brought up his hands and gripped Harry's thighs, holding on tightly while he stretched his jaw and suppressed his gag reflexes as Harry's cock hit the back of his throat. He breathed through his nose, running his tongue along the underside of Harry's cock and was rewarded with a deep moan and nails scraping along the back of his neck.

"Louis," Harry sighed, head falling forwards so his chin met his chest and his curls fell over his eyes. He bit his lip and brought a hand down to cup Louis' jaw and thumb at the corner of his mouth. He looked in actual awe. "Gotta stop."

With a noise that sounded obscene in his own ears, Louis swallowed and tried to catch his breath. "You sure?"

Harry nodded, blinking slowly. "I don't want to have to wait a week or more," he said, still slightly out of breath.

Louis licked his lips, and sat up straight, so Harry straddled his hips, his erection poking into Louis' belly. Shifting and wiggling his hips, Louis adjusted until his own cock rubbed against Harry's arse, making both of them shiver.

"You could do me," Louis offered. "If you want to."

Harry nodded briefly before he leaned in and kissed Louis again. He circled his hips, trying to get some friction and reaching behind himself to grab Louis' cock.

"I want to," he agreed. "I definitely want to fuck you, Lou."

Louis wasn't sure how he held back, how he didn't just come from the sound of those words alone. He closed his eyes and licked Harry's bottom lip.

"Wanna feel you, though," Harry added after another kiss, hips moving in slow circles. "And when you're gone tomorrow, I want to wake up and still be able to feel you."

Louis groaned and rested his forehead against Harry's shoulder, trying not to explode. "Fuck, Haz, you can't just say things like that."

Harry only hummed, apparently too caught up in rutting against Louis. He kissed the top of Louis' head, though, acknowledging his comment in a way.

In one slick motion, Louis reversed their roles, pressing Harry into the mattress. Harry licked his lips, watching Louis patiently and arching against him immediately. Louis ground his hips down, getting some delicious friction from that and saw Harry's eyes glaze over and lips fall open in tiny gasps. With one hand he reached over to his bedside table and opened the top drawer, blindly rummaging through it for lube and condoms.

He coated his fingers in lube and scooted down between Harry's legs, instructing him to open them wide, angling them, before he placed one of the pillows beneath Harry's hips. Tentatively, he rubbed one finger over the rim, watching Harry's reaction. Harry bit his lip and pushed forwards.

Moaning, Harry lifted his hips, pressing against Louis' finger. "Lou, please-- just, please."

Louis nudged the tip of his finger inside, containing his urge to go too fast without a thought -- he wanted to feel Harry fuck himself on Louis' fingers. Closing his eyes, Louis turned his head, his lips pressing against Harry's knee.

"Are we a little desperate?" he asked, pushing his finger inside up to his knuckle. "Gagging for it?"

Harry heaved out a breath, squirming, and his hand reached out, grabbing nothing but thin air. Louis lifted his hand to lace his fingers with Harry's, to give him something to hold on to. Relaxing into the mattress, Harry moved his hips in rhythm with Louis' finger, his own fingers pressing against the back of Louis' hand.

Louis took his time, twisted his finger deep inside Harry. He attached his lips to Harry's thigh, sucking bruises into the pale, soft skin -- it was distracting enough for Harry that it only elicited a small gasp from him when Louis added a second finger.

Harry started to touch himself when Louis spread his fingers, stretching Harry open. He seemed to lose it, hips stuttering frantically, and a lovely blush covered his face and chest. Louis kept moving his fingers slowly, making sure he hit Harry's prostate, brushing it with each thrust of his fingers to get a drawn-out moan from Harry.

Louis caressed his thumb over Harry's balls, pulling out his fingers, only to push right back in with three. Harry went lax, completely limp, and Louis shifted back up to see his face. He kept his fingers buried deep inside of Harry while he kissed their laced hands, watching Harry's face.

"Come on, baby," he murmured. "Come."

Harry shook his head, his breathing shallow and laboured. He dropped his hand from his cock and precome dripped over his stomach. "Want your cock," he choked out, reaching up his smeared hand and ran it through Louis' hair, gripping the strands tightly.

Louis nodded before he leaned in and kissed Harry once more. He was leaking against Harry's hip, his cock painfully neglected, hard and throbbing. He eased some of the urgency by rutting against Harry, gasping into Harry's mouth.

"Condom," Louis murmured, reaching behind Harry to grab one from the bedside table.

Harry frowned up at him, looking slightly confused.

It hit Louis in that moment that, of course, they had never used condoms -- they had both been each other's firsts, so there really hadn't been a need for protection. It was still the same for Harry.

"I'll have to get a check-up," Louis said, trying to tear open the package.

Harry seemed to ponder that for a moment before he took the wrapping from Louis’ slick hands and opened it for him. Dropping the foil, Harry stared up into Louis' face, gripping his cock with firm fingers. Louis closed his eyes when Harry rolled the condom on -- just having Harry touch him felt like heaven.

It would feel even better in a moment when he pushed into Harry's warmth.

Louis reached out for the lube and squeezed some onto the tip of his cock. He let Harry spread it with his fingers, coating him completely.

"Want me now?" Louis asked, lazily rocking into Harry's fist.

Harry nodded, gaze fixed on Louis' cock. He swallowed thickly as he laid back down and arched up slightly, sticky fingers resting on Louis' thighs.

Slowly, Louis lined up with Harry's hole, nudged it with the head of his cock twice to give Harry some time to get used to it before he pushed in carefully. Harry's stomach muscles clenched and he whined quietly.

"Love, we can--"

"Don't go so fucking slow," Harry bit out, pushing against Louis.

Gasping, Louis pressed his fingers into Harry's skin, keeping his hips still. He licked his lips and waited for Harry to meet his gaze, then he slammed forwards, pushing deep into Harry. Harry arched off the bed and lifted his hands, running his fingers through his own hair while gasping out tiny, wrecked moans.

Louis lifted one of Harry's legs, draping it over his own shoulder to get a better angle and thrust into Harry as deeply as possible. He watched Harry's eyes roll, lashes fluttering. He clenched around Louis, but he wasn't as tight as Louis had expected.

"Lou," Harry whined, tensing. His eyes opened and he reached for his cock again. "Harder," he demanded. "Wanna feel you tomorrow."

Louis batted Harry’s hand away, curling his fingers around Harry's cock. He jerked Harry off in rhythm with his thrusts, fast and hard until Harry spilled all over his own chest. With a loud moan, verging on a scream, Harry shuddered through it, his hips losing their pace.

Louis kept thrusting into him, merciless even when Harry went lax and pliant beneath him. He kept pushing in deep, coaxing whines and hissings from Harry by stroking his oversensitive cock. It took a look at Harry's face, seeing his fucked-out expression to push Louis over the edge. He bit his lip hard to hold back a groan and buried himself deep inside of Harry, stilling completely when he came.

Louis needed a moment before he was able to take in anything at all. He opened his eyes and saw Harry beneath him, lips wet and pink, breathing still laboured. Carefully, Louis removed Harry's leg from his shoulder, but kept kneeling between his legs. He removed the condom, tied it up and mindlessly dropped it next to the bed before he leaned forwards and pressed a kiss just beneath Harry's stomach. The muscles beneath Louis' lips fluttered, but Harry didn't move a single inch.

Slowly, Louis moved up, kissing along Harry's abs. He glanced up to check if Harry was watching, and when Louis saw his eyes following Louis' every move, he licked up the come on Harry's sternum and chest, gathering the bitter taste on his tongue.

Harry's eyes were fixed on Louis' lips when Louis reached his face, and he went a little cross-eyed. Louis smiled and leaned in, sealing Harry's lips with a kiss. He grinned against Harry's mouth at Harry's surprised moan when he found Louis hadn't swallowed a single drop. Harry just kissed him even harder, tongue pushing eagerly into Louis' mouth.

"Disgusting," Harry commented after the kiss. His eyes were bright and looking greatly satisfied, though.

“As if.” Louis plopped down by his side, sighing in content. "You're into that stuff."

"Maybe," Harry answered cheekily, turning to Louis.

Coming down, Louis absently stroked his hand up and down Harry's back, letting Harry curl up against him and bury his face against Louis' neck. He closed his eyes and licked his lips, tasting a hint of blood.

"I've missed this most," Harry announced quietly, gently sucking on Louis' neck.

"I'm not gonna comment on how you make out that sex was the best part of what we had," Louis answered, smirking to himself. "But only because you didn't have sex for more than three years."

Harry pinched Louis' waist and made him wince. "Fuck off. I don't mean the sex."

"What do you mean then?" Louis asked, frowning.

"This," Harry answered, smoothing his thumb over the skin he had just pinched. "Cuddling you after sex."

"Could you maybe not say that after we've just spent--" He turned his head to look at the alarm clock on his bedside table. "--more than an hour having sex?"

Harry chuckled, sliding on top of Louis again. "If it means so much to you -- I missed that too."

Louis gave his bum a friendly clap. "What exactly?"

"Making love," Harry answered with a grin that softened around the edges when their eyes met.

"You're a hopeless sap," Louis answered, his voice thick, and he had to swallow around a lump in his throat. This was the closest Harry had come yet. "No one calls it that."

"Hm," Harry hummed and lowered his head to Louis' chest. "That's what it is with you, though."

Louis knew that Harry had to be able to hear his heart stumble, skip a beat and jump back into motion with rapid speed.

"How would you know?" Louis asked, trying to keep their light banter up. "You can't exactly compare, can you?"

Harry lifted his head, frowning at Louis. "I don't need to compare this to know that it feels special to me."

Louis lifted one hand to brush it through Harry's messy curls. "I just don't want you to say it when you're maybe not completely certain about it."

"I haven't said it yet, though," Harry replied, resting his chin on Louis' chest and keeping his eyes trained on Louis's face.

"It was kinda implied," Louis argued.

"When?" Harry wanted to know, smirking a little. "When we had sex? Or when I called it making love?"

"Both," Louis breathed, cupping Harry's cheek and brushing one thumb over his jaw.  

Harry was quiet for a moment, just looking at Louis. Then he suddenly asked, "When do you have to leave?"

Confused, Louis glanced at the alarm clock on his bedside table. It was almost two in the afternoon. Time was going by so quickly, and they had spent way too much of it sleeping. Louis could have used it to talk to Harry a little more, to get him to say what Louis wanted to hear, instead of having him just hint at it and leaving Louis on the edge.

So Harry wouldn't say it. It was okay -- Louis hadn't expected to hear it anytime soon. He would adjust to Harry's pace.

"The flight's at seven," he answered.

Humming, Harry rolled off Louis and stretched leisurely. Louis kept his gaze trained on Harry's bum, on the wetness between his thighs. He wondered what it would be like to slide right back in later -- if it would go smooth, if Harry would still be stretched and open for Louis.

And this was bad -- Louis wanted too much too fast.

"We should shower," Harry said, turning to Louis. "I definitely need a shower."

Louis hummed and sat up, scratching his stomach. He watched Harry turn around confusedly, looking from one door to the other. Louis had a bathroom right next to his bedroom and one downstairs, but obviously, Harry didn't know.

"Is that a bathroom behind that door?" he asked, looking at Louis over his shoulder. "Or am I gonna make a fool of myself walking into your dressing room or something?"

Louis grinned and stood up, touching Harry's waist. "It's a secret spy room, actually."

Rolling his eyes, Harry went ahead, approaching the door. "A room like that would obviously have a hidden door, too."

Grinning, Louis followed him, his eyes roaming over Harry's back and the bruises that were blooming there. He reached out to press a finger against one and felt Harry freeze, keening under Louis' touch.

"This flat is proper posh," Harry commented, standing in the centre of Louis' bathroom. "I think that bathtub alone is bigger than my bathroom."

"I think so, yeah," Louis agreed, winding his arms around Harry's waist and pressing a kiss to his shoulder. "We could have a bath if you want to."

Harry shook his head, hands gripping Louis'. "Not really up for a swim. Shower's fine."

Louis stepped forwards, turning a few knobs and steam instantly filled the room. "I could wash your hair."

"You're a bit too small for that," Harry pointed out, coming closer.

As if on cue, Louis felt a smirk spread over his face. "Not if you get on your knees."


Harry felt completely relaxed when Louis stopped the car in front of his flat.

They had heated up the Italian food earlier, eating on Louis' sofa and watching some telly. Louis had been curled up against Harry's side, his whole body tucked under Harry's arm. It had been quiet and peaceful after they had relieved most of the sexual tension that had kept them on the edge for so long.

Their late lunch had still ended in them ignoring the programme on telly and turning to each other, snogging lazily. Harry had pressed Louis down into the sofa cushions, covering him with his body, kissing him until both of them had felt raw and Louis had rutted up against Harry.

Time had been too short, though, so they had kept it at snogging.

Louis had insisted on dropping Harry off on his way to the airport instead of calling him a taxi. He had said he wanted to spend as much time as possible with Harry before they were apart for at least a week.

"Text me where you'll be next Monday, yeah?" Louis asked now after they had sat in silence for a minute.

"I told you," Harry reminded him. "I'll be in Glasgow."

"I'll forget," Louis said. "I can barely remember my own schedule. How would I remember yours on top of that?"

Harry rolled his eyes, holding back a grin. "Yeah, right. I'll text you."

"Okay." Louis kept drumming his fingers against the steering wheel. "Good."

"So," Harry said, drawing the word out a little. He watched Louis nervously glance at him. "I think I should get going. You’ve got a plane to catch."

"I'd much rather stay," Louis told him, shrugging a little.

Harry leaned in, bringing his lips close to Louis' ear. "It's just a week," he reminded Louis, waiting for Louis to turn his face to him. "But I'll miss you too."

Louis smiled bitterly before he closed the gap between their lips and kissed Harry sweetly.

"Text me about everything else too," Louis demanded, dropping his forehead to Harry's shoulder. "I wanna know every detail."

Harry nodded and then he drew back. He took Louis' hand and put his own watch onto the palm, smiling at Louis. "Think of me."

Louis closed his fingers around the soft leather and returned the smile. "Thanks, babe."

Harry leaned in for one more kiss, just a short peck, and when he opened the passenger door to get out of the car, he hesitated, because-- that was not all he had to say. He turned back to Louis, opening his mouth.

"Don't," Louis said calmly. He shook his head, lifting a hand. "Don't say it now."


"No," Louis protested. "I wanna spread you out and coax it out of you again and again, make you feel nothing else but me , when you say it for the first time."

Harry swallowed thickly.

"Say it then," Louis suggested. "Say it when we have a little more time."

"You know it anyway, don't you?" Harry asked quietly.

Louis nodded, smiling slightly. "It will still make a difference to hear it from you."

"I'll say it then," Harry promised. "I'll say it over and over again when we have a little more time."

Louis' gaze became slightly unfocussed and he licked his lips, nodding abruptly.

"Have a good trip, Lou," Harry said, stepping back.

Louis lifted his hand, fingers still fisted around the watch. "I'll think of you."

Harry closed the door and buried his hands in his pockets, watching Louis drive off. The car got smaller and smaller in the distance, and Harry took a deep breath.

He would miss Louis; of course he would. It was hard separating again when they had just been united after such a long time. Yet Harry would be busy, would travel different cities, see new places and faces every day.

Even if he did miss Louis, this was Harry's life, everything he had always worked for. He'd somehow manage to combine both. He was determined to work hard to keep up both aspects of his life. It wouldn’t be easy, with both of them so focussed on their careers. From now on, he would probably spend many days like this one -- taking in as much as possible from Louis, having him for a few days at most before at least one of them would have to leave indefinitely.

One thing was certain -- he had a long week ahead.


Louis didn’t switch on his mobile until he was sat in the back of the black car that had been waiting for him at the airport in New York. He knew he had to check at least twitter to see if anyone had caught up on where he had been for the past two days. Their fans always found out their flight connections, so they had definitely found out about Louis going to Heathrow instead of New York.

He had a message from Niall, though, that he decided to open and read first.

Will get in touch with your management tomorrow. Let me know how much the press is allowed to know -- speculations are wild.

Louis frowned and closed WhatsApp, opening Twitter and searching his own name. What came up were a range of tweets about him and Harry, and images that explained Niall's message. They showed Harry getting out of the taxi, rain making the picture a little blurry. Others were taken of Harry passing the security in front of the building Louis lived in without even being stopped. There was another bunch of them getting into Louis' car together from earlier that evening. Louis hadn't even noticed the paparazzo.

The tweets were about Harry arriving late at Louis' all by himself, and that he hadn't come back out of the building until they had left together in the morning.

With Harry being out, those definitely fueled speculation. Of course Louis could always deny it by saying they were just friends. That was a lie he didn't want to tell, though. Not with Harry, not again.

Won't comment on it for the time being. They'll stop speculating in a few days , he answered Niall. Thanks for the heads up, though. x

When he reached the hotel, he pocketed his mobile again and got out of the car. Alberto carried his bag, guiding Louis to reception to pick up his room key. Only when they were in the lift did he pull his phone back out, texting Liam and Zayn that he had arrived.

They showed up barely ten minutes later, both grinning madly.

"Look at you," Liam cooed, pressing a finger against Louis' cheek as he came into the room. "You look proper happy."

Louis frowned, glancing at Zayn who just answered him with a nod.

"I assume a certain Harry Styles is responsible for that look on your face," Zayn commented. He sat down on Louis' bed. "We've seen the pictures."

Taking a deep breath, Louis dropped his arms to his side, leaning against the big armchair next to him. He watched Zayn shifting onto the bed, crossing his legs and Liam standing next to it, looking at Louis expectantly.

"I got him back," Louis said quietly.

"We figured," Liam pointed out.

Louis smiled slightly. "It's still a little rocky. But we want to work on it."

“I’m glad,” Liam told him, sitting down next to Zayn and gripping the remote control for the TV. “Honestly, I couldn’t have taken another day of you moping about Harry.”

“I wasn’t moping,” Louis protested.

"Yes, you were," Zayn argued and flopped back onto the cushions layered in front of the headboard.

At that moment, Louis' phone buzzed with a new message and he gripped it, unlocking the screen to find it was from Harry.

Just got up. It's way too early... You got my jumper and my watch, but I didn't get anything from you to take with me. It's not very fair, is it? .xx

Louis smiled, instantly typing out a reply.

Don't say I did a bad job of fucking you

He added a naughty looking emoticon for good measure.

That doesn't count. I want something that smells of you too.

Another message from Harry came in right after, consisting of two emoticons, a hedgehog and sad face. Louis didn’t understand the connection.

It was good enough at the time... , Louis typed. He glanced at the watch around his wrist and added, only a week. I'll get you something to keep then .

Harry's reply didn't take a minute.

I'm gonna give you something to keep, too. xx

Maybe Louis would strangle Harry instead. There was only one thing Harry could mean -- the words he hadn’t been allowed to say yet. Handling Harry’s honest affection, that somewhat innocent attitude towards voicing his feelings wasn't exactly easy for Louis. He couldn't say those things as easily, couldn't jump out on Harry like that.

Harry was something else, a riddle and at the same time an open book, charming and flirty and at the same time shy and loyal -- who wouldn't long to spend just a minute in the presence of that lovely boy?

Louis swallowed thickly, dropping his mobile to the chair. The words Niall had said so quietly were loud in Louis' head and kept replaying over and over.

That was exactly what it was about -- who wouldn’t want Harry ?

"Harry got the offer first," Louis said out loud, staring at Liam and Zayn.

Zayn slowly turned his face back to Louis, looking at him with a frown. "Did he just text you that?"

Louis laughed a little, running a hand over his face.

He had been so preoccupied fixing things with Harry that he had pushed this issue to the back of his mind. Facing Liam and Zayn now dug it all up again, made him realise that this wasn't his rightful place. It had always been Harry's to begin with.

"No," he answered. "Niall told me, actually."

"Niall?" Liam asked, muting the telly. "When did you see him?"

Louis shrugged. "I went to him first, because... like-- I didn't know what to make of New Year, and I thought Harry was with bloody Nick Grimshaw anyway. I figured Niall would know what to do. He knows Harry best, after all."

"And instead of helping you out, he dropped a bomb like that?" Zayn sat up.

"Harry would never have," Louis murmured. "If Niall hadn't told me, I would have never found out about it."

"I take it Harry refused the offer," Liam stated quietly.

Louis nodded. Silence stretched between them for a long moment.

"Well, that's shit," Zayn pointed out. "Were they aware that you'd question your whole life after finding out about that?"

Looking up, Louis saw both Zayn and Liam sit close on the bed. Liam seemed worried and Zayn looked upset.

"I was only their second choice," was all Louis could say.

"All of us were probably their seventh and eighth choices, Lou," Liam pointed out. "It's not like they cast the first three guys who took the chance. You know how many people came down for the auditions."

Louis shrugged.

"So they asked Harry first," Zayn added. "What if he had done it? I don't think he would have fit with us. He's a solo artist, Louis -- and from what I've gathered, he has always been."

"He's so much better than---"

"He wouldn't have been good enough for us," Liam cut in harshly. He seemed to realise, quickly adding in a softer voice, "Don't get me wrong. He's lovely. You know I like him, and he's immensely talented. But this, Lou? This is something only the three of us could do."

Louis blinked at them, something inside him feeling heavy and dull, making it hard to move.

"Escapade wouldn't have worked with anyone else than the three of us, Louis." Zayn shifted on the bed, patting the sheets next to him. "You're right where you're meant to be."

Strolling over, Louis hesitated for a moment before he curled up on the bed next to Zayn. Liam switched the telly back on, but Louis didn't really take in what was showing.

"Thanks," Louis mumbled, resting his head against Zayn's shoulder.

Zayn just squeezed his thigh and Liam said, "Nothing to thank us for." Then Liam reached over and tapped a finger against Louis’ left wrist. “Nice watch, by the way.”

Grinning, Louis tucked his arm against his chest, shrugging at them. “It’s Harry’s.”

“Figured,” Zayn stated and let Liam snuggle against his other side. “You’ve always been a hopeless sap.”

Louis thought of what it had been like waking up next to Harry. He thought of Harry's lips on his own and Harry's eyes going bright and a soft smile gracing his lips. He thought of a red scarf and snow, of rain and moving on.

“Maybe,” he answered quietly.

Images of what Harry had looked like on stage, the red flush high on his cheeks and the blinding smile, his overwhelming stage presence flooded his mind. For a moment, Louis tried to imagine himself right up there with Harry, but just the thought felt wrong. Harry was meant to take the stage alone, was meant to do his own thing.

When Zayn's cheek rested heavy against the top of Louis' head and he exchanged a quick grin with Liam, he knew that Zayn was right. These two boys were meant to be by his side -- none of them would have come this far without one another.

All of them were exactly where they were meant to be.


"Harry, hurry up a bit," Niall said, rushing ahead to the big door at the end of the corridor. "A car is parked outside. Get in asap."

Harry adjusted his jacket, burying his hands in the pockets. "We're done here for today, aren't we? What's the rush?"

They were in a radio station in Edinburgh, and had just finished an interview on the evening programme. Nothing in particular was different from the other days Harry had spent promoting his first single on local radio stations.

In two hours, Harry would give a short gig in a small club in the city centre. He still had to do his sound check -- Niall had reminded him at least ten times by now.

"They said more than a hundred fans have already gathered outside," Niall informed him, looking over his shoulder. "No one's been actually prepared for anything like this. I didn't think so many fans would show up."

Harry stopped, blinking. "A hundred?"

"No idea where they came from," Niall commented. "But they are here, and we don't have any security."

"They didn't come to kill me, Niall," Harry reminded him.

"They've come to get a piece of you." Niall put a hand to the door handle and turned. "Okay. Don't stop for pictures. Just head straight to the car and get in. Got that?"

Harry nodded briefly and then went past Niall outside. Sudden noise -- deafening screams -- hit him and Harry noticed the crowds of girls on both sides. The radio station's security staff had put up barriers. Harry stopped in his tracks, Niall bumping into his back. He turned left and took the hand of a girl who was reaching for him.

"Harry," Niall said, voice keen.

Ignoring it, Harry tilted his head and smiled for the girl's camera. It quickly turned into him taking photos with the other ones, signing pictures of himself and giving hugs. He talked to some of the girls, too, and thanked them for showing up.

"Harry, we really have to leave now," Niall said from behind him, gripping his arm.

"Alright," Harry answered. He turned and waved at the girls, heading towards the car with Niall in tow.

"You're irresponsible," Niall complained once they sat in the back of the car. "I told you not to stop."

"They came and waited out there in the cold just for me, Niall," Harry argued. "The least I could do was stop and say thank you."

"I'm not saying it's wrong." Niall got out his mobile when it started ringing. "But we weren't prepared, and that could have been dangerous."

Niall answered his phone, talking to someone about the upcoming gig, apparently, so Harry turned and got out his own mobile.

He had a new message from Perrie, informing him that her latest fashion show had gone well. He typed out a quick reply before he opened his chat with Louis. Their last interaction had been almost two days ago -- sweet goodnight wishes from Louis.

Playing Edinburgh tonight, am a bit nervous. You know when you'll be in Glasgow tomorrow?

He pocketed his phone again, feeling light-headed from the thought of seeing Louis the next day, and turned back to Niall.

"Everything at the club is set," Niall informed him. "We'll do a soundcheck for an hour, maybe. You have another hour to--" he stopped, frowning a little. "To relax, I guess."

"Fine," Harry answered, shrugging. "Are we heading to Glasgow afterwards or in the morning?"

"Tomorrow morning," Niall said, leaning back and crossing his arms. "I booked a hotel for the night."

Harry hummed, nodding his head. They stayed silent for the rest of the ride, Niall temporarily leaning against Harry, his head resting on Harry's shoulder.

"Have you talked to Babs about Manchester?" Harry asked.

"Yeah, she's coming up that weekend," Niall said. "I haven't scheduled anything for your birthday. Thought we could visit our families that day."

"My mum will be thrilled." Harry patted Niall's thigh.

"You'll get a big birthday party when we're back in London." Niall's voice was quiet, the way it got before he fell asleep. "Louis has rented a club already."

Frowning, Harry sat up, looking at Niall. "What?"

Niall shrugged. "He said he wants to proper celebrate your birthday and asked when you're off. So we scheduled a date for a party."

"Why am I only finding out about this now?"

"I thought Louis would have told you," Niall defended himself, lifting his head looking caught. "Shit, maybe it was a surprise."

"He's not gonna throw me an expensive birthday party," Harry stated, pulling out his mobile again. He saw he already had an answer from Louis to his previous message.

Would a kiss make you feel less nervous? xx

Harry frowned at it, deciding not to answer right now. He could discuss the party with Louis when they met the next day.

The car pulled to a stop and Niall put a hand on Harry's arm, looking through the window first.

"Niall, honestly..." Harry rolled his eyes.

"Yes, okay. Someone has to worry about you, if you don't worry about yourself." Niall poked Harry's ribs. "I'll be the one who'll have to explain to Louis why you didn't make it back to him in one piece."

"And you wouldn't want Louis to be angry with you," Harry pointed out.

"I really wouldn't." Niall opened the door and waited for Harry to follow.

They were at the back entrance of the club, but Harry could hear loud chatter from around a corner. Inside, they were led to the stage and Harry was handed his guitar by a technician, ready to start soundcheck right away.

"You guys are a bit late, aren't you?"

Harry stopped, freezing before he turned and spotted Louis at one of the tables in the back, a cup of tea in front of him.

"Niall said you'd be here by five. It's almost half six." Louis shook his head, then he winked at Harry.

"I--" Harry blinked, giving the guitar back to the man next to him. "I thought you were coming tomorrow?"

Louis shrugged, standing up. "I took an earlier flight and came straight here instead. Not okay?"

"More than okay," Harry corrected him and crossed the room until he stopped right in front of Louis.

Louis looked up at him, hands behind his back, eyes bright and hopeful. There were shadows beneath them, but they didn't make him look any less beautiful. Harry glanced around, pressing his lips together. He wanted to kiss Louis, wanted to embrace him and hold him close, breathe Louis in.

They hadn't talked about any of this, though. Louis wasn't out, after all.

"Can I, like--" Harry glanced behind him again. "Kiss you here?"

Louis' grin was quick. "I'm actually offended that you haven't yet."

Harry breathed out, exhaling quickly to suck in another breath before slotting his lips against Louis'. His hands framed the sides of Louis' neck, tongues meeting in a slow, lazy kiss. Louis wound his arms around Harry's torso, getting to his toes and pressing in close.

"Alright, lads," Niall said from behind them, sounding amused. "Get a room."

Harry decided to ignore him and trailed his lips up Louis' cheek instead, let Louis burrow his face against Harry's neck. They stayed like that for a moment, just holding on to each other.

"I gotta hurry up with soundcheck," Harry mumbled into Louis' hair.

Louis nodded, stepping back. He winked. "I'll watch from the sidelines."

"Are you gonna stay for the gig?" Harry kept his hand on Louis' jaw.

"'Course. I'll stay with you lot until you leave for Manchester."

Beaming, Harry leaned in again, pecking Louis' lips once more. "That means three days."

"Exactly," Louis confirmed. He sat back down, gesturing at the stage. "Get going. The sooner you finish this up, the sooner I'll get you to myself."

Harry turned and hurried back, taking his guitar. When he was in front of his microphone and Niall gave him a thumbs-up to start, he looked back at Louis with a broad grin.

Louis rolled his eyes -- and Harry knew that he probably expected it, had seen through Harry already. Harry couldn't hold it in, though.

"Rululu," he sang into the microphone, watching Louis burst into giggles.


Careful not to be seen, Louis had stayed backstage, watching Harry from behind a black curtain when the gig had finally started. The club was crowded -- mostly girls, but Louis had been able to make out quite a number of blokes among them too.

Harry hadn't even been that nervous before the gig. Still, Louis had kissed him gently, cradling his cheek and holding Harry's gaze until he had breathed calmly and evenly. With a wink, Louis had sent Harry out on stage.

It had been good; Harry had seemed perfectly in his element on stage, singing with a clear voice, talking cheekily and thanking the crowd politely before he had gone off stage. Louis had awaited him, opening his arms immediately to catch Harry and hold him close.

They were sitting in a small backstage room now, Niall handing out food that had been delivered a while ago. Harry had draped himself over the sofa across from Louis, legs sprawled out over the cushions, his shirt unbuttoned to his navel and the skinny jeans leaving nothing to anyone' s imagination.

Louis felt torn between wanting to rip the clothes off Harry's body and wanting to wrap him up in a blanket, maybe, covering Harry's body completely.

"How are Zayn and Liam?" Niall asked, sitting down next to Louis.

"Great," Louis answered. "New York was wicked. We worked with a few amazing songwriters."

Niall hummed. "Babs said Perrie's working a late shift tonight, by the way. In case you want to proceed with--- you know. That plan."

From the corner of his eye, Louis saw Harry perk up. "What plan?"

"Nothing," Louis said quickly.

Harry frowned, putting down his plate. "What are two you up to?"

"Zayn wants to pick Perrie up from work," Niall answered, munching on a piece of bread. "It doesn't concern you, Harry."

"I hope it’s not because you--"

"No," Louis cut in, shaking his head. "I didn't ask him to, if that's what you think."

"So," Harry noted, blinking. "He really likes her?"

Louis shrugged. "He fancies her, yeah. Says she's really cute and, you know, just a lovely girl."

"He's nicer than Colin," Niall commented.

"Who's Colin?" Louis inquired.

"Perrie's ex," Harry explained, voice quiet. "He cheated on her. Broke her heart."

Louis held Harry's look for a moment. "Sounds bad."

"She deserves someone who's honest with her," Harry went on. "Someone who's nice and treats her right."

"You don't think Zayn's, like--" Louis pulled a face, gesturing with one hand. "Playing with her."

Harry shrugged. "I'm saying that if he is, I'll make him regret it."

Louis turned to Niall, frowning. "What exactly is it with those two?"

"Dunno, mate," Niall answered. "Harry's been head over heels for Perrie from day one."

"I'm just looking after her," Harry corrected him.

"You're not in love with her?" Louis wanted to know, eying Harry sceptically. He had seen that Perrie and Harry were especially close, and Harry had told Louis a few things. Harry shared a bed with Perrie sometimes, and she kissed him on the mouth and wore Harry's clothes, looking cute and as though she wore her boyfriend's clothes.

Louis wanted to wear Harry's clothes.

"I think we both know that you're the only one I'm in love with." Harry said it calmly, tone indifferent.

Niall turned to Louis, blinking, and Louis' mouth fell open in a gape.

Glancing up, Harry winked, obviously holding back a grin from spreading over his face.

"You little shit!" Louis hissed. "That's not how you confess love to someone, Harold."

"Did you want me to wait for it to snow?" Harry asked cheekily, fully smirking now.

"Rain and a candlelight dinner would have been sufficient," Louis informed him dryly.

"You guys are the worst," Niall pointed out and turned to Louis. "You did not do that, did you?"

A blush spread in Louis' cheeks, making them feel warm.

Harry glanced at Niall before his grin grew wider. "Maybe."

Louis got up and shoved Harry's legs off the sofa to sit next to him. "You're the worst."

"You love me," Harry shot back immediately.

"Maybe," Louis answered this time around.

"Maybe," Harry said back, leaning closer.

"Stop," Niall interfered loudly, throwing a piece of bread that hit Louis on the head. "Pull yourselves together, you animals! The car will be here in a few. Save it for the bedroom."

Harry giggled, lowering his head and squeezing Louis' thigh. Louis wanted to move in closer and straddle Harry, pin him to the sofa and kiss the living daylights out of him. Unfortunately, Niall was still watching them suspiciously, eyes narrowed.

It was probably for the best, anyway. Louis wanted to have time to properly drown in the feeling and make Harry repeat it countless of times.

It wasn't easy when Niall took his eyes off them and turned to one of the technicians who informed him that all equipment was stored away for the trip to Glasgow. Harry latched onto Louis' neck within a second, hand moving up on Louis' thigh.

He only let go when they were told a car had arrived to take them to the hotel.

Louis found himself in exactly the same position again just a few minutes later, as soon as they were in the back of the car. He could see Niall roll his eyes, mumbling something under his breath in the passenger seat. It was hard to care, though, when Harry was mouthing over Louis' neck, his finger circling Louis' crotch.

Everything that mattered was Harry quietly whispering "Love you" into Louis' ear.


Harry had set his alarm early.

They were going to leave for Glasgow at eight, and he still wanted some alone time with Louis -- some time to actually talk. Last night, they had let actions talk, and Harry liked how he could still feel it all over his body, could still distinctively taste Louis on his tongue. His skin was sticky and bruised, his hair a mess and all of his limbs loose.

Louis groaned when Harry's alarm went off again. "No," he whined.

Harry laughed gently and nuzzled in closer, rubbing his nose against Louis' shoulder. He grabbed his mobile and switched off the alarm. Then he typed a quick message to Niall, informing him that they wouldn't be down for breakfast.

"Louis," Harry murmured quietly, trailing his fingers over Louis' side. "Don't fall asleep again."

Louis growled and lifted the duvet, tugging it up over Harry's head.

Giggling, Harry wrapped himself around Louis, tangling their legs and pressing his face against Louis' neck. The skin was soft and warm, tasting salty sweat. Harry allowed himself a minute of drowning in Louis' warmth, in the silence of the room and Louis' quiet breathing.

"I can't believe you woke me before six," Louis mumbled sleepily.

"I'll have to share you for the rest of the day," Harry pointed out.

"Wrong direction," Louis warned him. "That sounds a bit possessive, love."

Harry pinched Louis' waist, feeling him tense up a bit. "That's not what I meant." He tugged at the duvet until he had it pushed to his shoulders and could breathe in some fresh air. "I just don't know how to act around you in public."

Louis rolled to his back, groaning again. "It's too early for this."

"Are people allowed to know you're here?" Harry asked, ignoring Louis' complaint.

"They'll find out anyway. Probably did already," Louis added and ran a hand through his hair.

Harry hummed quietly. "I'm not doing that again, Lou."

He felt Louis freeze, muscles going tight beneath his still sleep-warm skin.

"I'm not going to go back to hiding," Harry went on. "That didn't work well for us last time."

"I'm not saying I want to hide," Louis pointed out quietly.

"You act like it, though." Harry shifted closer. "We'll have to figure something out."

Louis turned over, pressing close against Harry's side, fingers tangling in Harry's hair. "I want to get it right," he whispered. "I don't want to fuck it up again."

Harry smiled gently. "I know."

"Give me a bit of time, yeah?" Louis asked, a pleading look in his eyes.

"'Course," Harry answered immediately, gripping Louis' wrist reassuringly.

"I'll talk to Zayn and Liam and see what we can do." Louis shrugged slightly.

"So, it's just friends for the public image until then." It wasn't a question -- there was no other option in there.

Louis averted his gaze, biting his lip.

Harry knew he should put up a fight. They had to be careful not to end up at a point where they had been before -- it could go downhill very fast from there. Louis looked so torn and earnest about it, though, and Harry knew that this issue wouldn't be resolved in one conversation on one early morning.

As long as they were on the same page about it, they would find a way to make it work.

"We'll figure it out," Harry murmured, kissing Louis' forehead.

For a while, they lay in silence, just holding each other, hands gently caressing naked skin. Harry closed his eyes again and sighed quietly, inhaling Louis' scent and absorbing his warmth.

"I thought we could probably order room service," Harry said then, aware that otherwise they'd fall asleep again.

"Breakfast in bed?" Louis asked.

"Maybe a shower before that."

Louis hummed. "Can we, like--" he stopped, nuzzling his face against Harry's chest. "Just stay like this for maybe another ten minutes? Just like this?"

Harry rested his hand at the back of Louis' neck. "Sure."

Louis didn't fall back asleep. Instead, his fingers kept trailing Harry's spine -- up and down, in a constant rhythm. He breathed evenly, lips shaping soundless words against Harry's skin, and Harry caught every single one of them.

Love you , and Happy and Forever .

"Maybe," Harry murmured into their comfortable silence.

Louis' lips stopped moving and he lifted his head slightly, eyes locking with Harry's when he slowly shook his head.

"Must be."