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"Baby Blue?"

Harry groaned, burying his face in the pillow. His room was still dark and Louis' voice sounded tinny over the phone.

For a moment, Harry had considered not picking up, but when he had forced one eye open and had seen Louis' ID flash over the screen, he had answered the call. It could have been something really important after all.

He couldn't help but regret it -- Louis had actually just called to chat, apparently.

"It's five in the morning, Lou."

"Morning, though," Louis pointed out, sounding way too awake for Harry's likings. "Not night."

"Too early," Harry protested.

"I got your email," Louis stated. "A few days ago, actually, but I could only open the file you sent today."

"I figured." Rolling onto his back, Harry forced his eyes open. "You didn't have to call straight away, you know. A text would have been sufficient."

"You wrote a song about me and called it Baby Blue , Harry." Louis pronounced the title as if it would get his message across any more clearly.

Harry had no idea what the message was.

"And?"

"Baby Blue?!" Louis repeated, tone incredulous.

"You've got blue eyes," Harry told him, sitting up and leaning against the headboard. " And you're my baby."

"Fuck off. I'm not. You're my baby," Louis huffed.

"I think my song states otherwise." Harry smirked to himself, stretching lazily.

Louis was quiet for a moment and Harry expected him to come up with another argument. Instead, Louis' voice sounded a little doubtful when he spoke again.

"I thought you didn't write songs about me?"

Harry took a deep breath. "I'm not writing about you being a dick," he answered, fidgeting the duvet with his free hand. "I'm writing about what makes me happy -- and you just so happen to do exactly that."

"You're too much," Louis groaned, and Harry could hear it in his voice that Louis was blushing. "I can't handle you."

Laughing, Harry tilted his head back, closing his eyes. "You don't have to handle me. You're my baby, remember?"

Louis snorted. "You're bonkers."

"You know what rhymes with Baby Blue?"

"No," Louis answered, sounding confused. Then he gasped before Harry could answer. " No , Harry!"

"Baby Blue. Rululu," Harry sang happily, repeating it over and over.

"Stop it!" Louis laughed, shrieking a little at the other end of the line. "You're not gonna record a song like that."

"I totally am," Harry informed him. "My producers love it. Great sing-along potential."

"I'm not allowing that," Louis protested. "It's embarrassing."

"So is 'the sun turns your tears into pure gold', Louis," Harry argued. "And you weren't too embarrassed to write that ."

"I did not--"

"I read it in your little notebook." Harry looked at the pocket-sized leather book on his bedside table. "You forgot it."

"I did not allow you to read the stuff in there!" Louis actually growled.

Harry hummed. "You didn't tell me not to look inside, either. They're all sad," he added then, lowering his voice. "They made me sad."

"I'm not-- I didn't mean--" Louis stopped, and Harry heard him inhale. "They're pretty old."

"Hm," Harry hummed. "I'm glad you decided not to record any of them."

"No one's ever seen those," Louis explained. "They were meant only for me."

Harry hesitated, pondering the implication behind Louis' words. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Louis answered, sounding unconcerned. "You're not everyone else."

Harry's heart fluttered at that, just a little. "Right. I'm your baby, I heard."

"Exactly." A smile lingered in Louis' tone, a soft lilt to it.

For a moment, comfortable silence stretched between them. Harry closed his eyes again, licking his lips. He imagined Louis next to him, his body warm and covered by one of Harry's t-shirts. Harry wouldn't take it off, would just shove his hand beneath the fabric to touch Louis' skin.

"Hey, Lou," he murmured. "What are you wearing?"

"Oh my God, Harry," Louis gasped. "It only starts like that in porn."

"You got the message, didn't you?" Harry inquired.

"I won't have phone sex with you."

Harry slid his hand beneath the duvet. "You already do."

Hissing, Louis seemed to move, a muffled noise in the background. "Stop touching yourself."

"You woke me from a really lovely dream," Harry argued, sighing a little at the relief of his own touch. "The least you can do is make up for it."

"What kind of dream?" Louis wanted to know.

"A tropical island, white sand and a turquoise sea, the sun shining hot from a blue sky," Harry described, closing his eyes. "I was naked and a very fit bloke was kissing me, laid me out on the hot sand, his skin tasting of salt and sun. And I was actually just blowing him at the shore, waves rolling over our bodies when I got dragged out of that pretty nice dream."

Louis didn't answer.

"You were there, too," Harry added for good measure, grinning a little.

When Louis still didn't say anything, Harry was about to take it back, apologise for making things awkward, and find a way to end the call without sounding like a complete fool. But Louis spoke up a second before Harry could.

"I guess there's no use in asking what you're wearing," Louis pointed out. "Since you're in bed."

"Always naked in bed," Harry answered promptly.

Louis hummed. "I appreciate that kind of efficiency."

"I'm not sleeping naked just to be at your service at any time, you know," Harry corrected him.

"Well, Harry," Louis said calmly, voice dropping low. "You were talking about a blowjob?"

Harry laughed a little, rolling his eyes. "Of course that's the only bit you remember."

"Care to describe it in a bit more detail?" Louis asked.

Harry closed his eyes again, fingers curling around his cock and mind wandering back to a place where Louis was right beside him.

He was happy to oblige.

+++

"I don't like this," Louis said, frowning at what was happening in front of him.

Liam turned from the bar, looking over his shoulder. "What?"

"This," Louis repeated, gesturing to the dance floor.

"Lou," Liam said calmly, handing him another beer. "It's his birthday."

"It was his birthday almost two months ago," Louis argued.

"You insisted on throwing him a party nevertheless."

"And he's supposed to be thanking me with kisses, and staying by my side for the whole night."

Liam laughed a little. "He's supposed to enjoy it and have fun."

Louis frowned, keeping his eyes trained on Harry dancing. There were three -- three -- guys surrounding him. They weren’t actually touching him, but Louis didn't like the way they looked at Harry. He liked it even less when one of them leaned in and talked into Harry's ear. The slightly taken aback expression on Harry's face, the way his cheeks flushed and the flustered look in his eyes were enough of an indication for Louis that Harry had just received a sexual offer.

"Look at that arse trying to chat him up," Louis snarled. "Does he really think he'd have a chance?"

"You know that it's your own fault you have to watch him being approached by other blokes?" Liam inquired.

"I can't just go over there and tell them to fuck off, now can I?" Louis rolled his eyes.

"You actually could," Liam corrected him. "He's out, Lou. It's all up to you."

Deciding not to answer, Louis took a swig of his beer. He wasn't drunk enough for this, definitely not drunk enough. Turning, he saw Zayn and Perrie dancing close in a corner, Zayn's hand firm on her hip. Louis averted his gaze when they sank into a kiss. He tried not to look at Harry again and searched the room for Niall. He was still where Louis had seen him last, sitting at a table and talking to Ed.

His attention was drawn to the door when a group of people came in. He spotted Aiden, and waved him over with one hand.

"Hey," Aiden greeted them, hugging Liam briefly. "Sorry we're so late."

"No problem, mate," Louis assured him and got to his toes to hug him, too. "I'm glad you could make it."

Aiden held him for a moment, fingers sprawled over Louis' back. "It's good to see you."

Before Louis could answer, he felt an arm come around his waist, gently tugging him back. He knew it was Harry before his back even slid against the body behind him.

"Aiden," Harry said, voice a little too cool. He tugged Louis to his side, standing close. Louis felt every single muscle inside his body tense up, eyes instantly scanning their surroundings for potential onlookers.

"Nice to see you," Harry added, hand sliding down Louis' waist.

Aiden looked bemused. "Is it?"

Harry kept his hand on Louis' hip, and Louis saw him blush in response to Aiden's words. With one slick move, Louis brought some distance between them, gently removing Harry's hand. He caught Liam's look and tried to ignore the accusation in it.

"I see you've made some progress since we last met," Aiden noted, gesturing for the bartender.

"Not too much, though," Liam commented.

Louis shot him a warning look before he turned to Harry. The hurt expression on his face made Louis' heart sink. "Haz?"

"Did you just push me away?" Harry asked, a crease forming between his eyebrows.

Feeling guilty, Louis bit his lip, reaching out to touch Harry's waist. Harry jolted away, then he turned without so much as a glare at Louis, and disappeared into the crowd.

Louis stared after him, trying to process what had just happened.

"Lou," Liam pressed, hand coming to rest on Louis' arm. "Get going."

"What?" Louis turned to him, seeing Liam's worried expression.

"You're such an idiot," Aiden commented.

Before Louis could say anything about that -- and he had a lot to say about it -- Liam spoke up again.

"It's Aiden , Louis," he pointed out. "Of course Harry wouldn't be exactly chill about it."

"I'm not a disease, you know," Aiden interrupted.

Liam glanced at him with an apologetic smile, then he turned back to Louis. "It's hard enough as it is, hiding your relationship," Liam went on. "But having to watch you with one of your exes? Can't exactly blame him for staking his claim."

"Aiden is not my ex," Louis protested.

"What does that matter to Harry?" Aiden inquired, taking his glass from the counter. "We had sex, Louis, and he knows we did. Pushing him away in front of me would definitely send the wrong signal."

"He knows--"

"Does he?" Liam cut in, lifting a brow. "Don't just stay here, Lou. Do something about it."

Louis ran a hand over his face before he downed the last bit of his drink in one go. "I can't do that in front of all these people here, Li," he protested.

"If you don't do anything , you'll lose him sooner rather than later," Aiden threw in.

Swallowing thickly, Louis raised his head and scanned the room for Harry. He spotted him on the other side of the room, standing with a group of friends, a shot glass between his thumb and forefinger. Nick Grimshaw of all people stood next to him, face close to Harry's and a bottle of vodka in his hand.

Louis was there in a matter of seconds. He only realised it when he brought his hand up to take the shot glass from Harry's fingers.

"I think you’ve had enough," he pointed out.

Harry frowned at him, taking the bottle from Nick and bringing it up to his lips. "It's my party."

Nick raised his brows, looking at Louis questioningly.

"Haz," Louis said, watching him take a swipe from the bottle. "Come on, let's talk."

"I think you've said everything."

Harry turned away, and before Louis could say anymore, a group of people joined them -- all of them people Louis had never seen before.

"Hey, Harry," one of the guys said, and Louis recognised him as the bloke who had hit on Harry earlier on the dance floor. "Wanna do some body shots?"

Louis' stomach twisted at the thought of it, and he saw Harry's eyes go wide for a moment. His gaze darted to Louis, and Louis knew Harry was about to do something stupid when he clenched his jaw and stubbornly tilted his chin.

"Why not?" Harry asked, setting down the bottle.

"Alright, popstar," Nick interfered, draping an arm around Harry's shoulders and pulling him away from the bloke. "Don't get ahead of yourself."

"Don't spoil the fun, Grimmy," the bloke complained. "Just because you already got a piece of him. It's my turn now."

Louis felt sick -- his stomach flipped, and something disgusting crawled up his throat. He saw the shock on Harry’s face, pure horror, and all Louis wanted was to punch that bloke and tell Harry that he was more, so much more than just a nice fuck for the night.

"That's enough," he spat out and grabbed Harry's wrist, pulling him out of their circle. "You're coming with me now."

It lit a small spark of reassurance in Louis' chest that Harry didn't put up a fight. He let Louis drag him across the dance floor and through a door that read "Staff Only". Louis walked down a cramped corridor and just as he had hoped, the door at the end led outside into a small yard.

"What the fuck, Harry?" he asked once they were alone and let go of Harry's wrist, turning to him.

"Are you asking?" Harry shot back.

"That guy talked about you as if you were a piece of meat," Louis reminded him. "That's fucking disgusting. And you shouldn't encourage his illusions of having a chance with you."

"Doesn't he?" Harry raised a brow, crossing his arms. "What am I gonna tell him, Louis? Sorry, I'm not exactly available? But no, I don't have a boyfriend?"

"That wasn't a problem for you in the past four years, was it?"

Harry's expression darkened. "Fuck you. Just because I didn't have sex, doesn't mean I didn't flirt with guys, or snogged them or--"

"I don't wanna know," Louis cut in, raising a hand. "I had my fair share having to watch it tonight."

"What?" Harry asked, stepping closer. "You get to be jealous, but I don't?"

"Aiden is a fucking friend, Harry!"

" Fucking friend, indeed," Harry immediately picked it up, twisting Louis' words. "You used to shag him."

"I'm not anymore," Louis pointed out.

Harry laughed dryly, shaking his head. "He didn't know that, though, did he? You hadn't even told him about us."

"Should I have sent him a text?" Louis kicked an empty can, burying his hands in his pockets. "By the way, Aiden, in case you were wondering if we'd end up in bed next time we meet up for songwriting. I have a boyfriend now, so it won't happen."

"Well, if that's the only way to make him understand that you're not available anymore," Harry pointed out, shrugging. "Instead, you made him believe you still were."

"I haven't even talked to him since my bloody birthday party!" Louis threw his hands up in annoyance. "What is it that you want from me, Harry?"

"I want to tell the guys hitting on me that I can't go home with them because I have a boyfriend," Harry answered, his voice suddenly sounding a lot thinner. "I want to dance with you, and not just watch you from afar. I want to kiss you after everyone's sang Happy Birthday around that huge cake, because I know you organised it."

Louis stared at Harry for a second, just stared into his eyes, knowing that all of it was what he wanted himself. Of course he wanted that. He just didn’t want the hassle before they could get there.

Louis was scared, bloody scared of what he had ahead of him.

"You fucking told me that we wouldn't do this again," Harry choked out, gesturing at Louis. "But you're not doing anything about it."

"Do you want me to go in there and announce to everyone that I'm gay, or what?" Louis inquired, shoving his hands back into his pockets.

"Actually, yes," Harry answered, voice barely a whisper. "That's what I want."

"Well, that won't fucking happen."

Louis saw Harry's face fall, knew that he sounded like a dick and shouldn't be so bloody impulsive. Harry stepped back, shoulders slumping and eyes looking hurt.

Fuck, this had come out wrong. Louis wanted to take it back, apologise for making it seem like he didn’t want to work on their relationship, and make Harry understand just what exactly it was that Louis couldn’t do.

He couldn’t just go in there and tell everyone -- Louis was bloody scared of that.

Before he could say anything to make up for it, Harry beat him to it.

"I’ve got a body shots offer to take up inside," he said coolly, but his eyes betrayed him.

"As if you'd do that," Louis stated, reaching out to touch Harry's wrist. He thought that his voice trembling gave him away. He didn’t even want to imagine Harry going back there and let that disgusting bloke from earlier touch him.

"Watch me," Harry threatened, pulling away. "And don't you dare manipulate me with your stupid thing for my wrist."

Because I adore it , was what Harry didn't say, Louis knew that much. He curled his fingers into a fist, refraining from reaching for Harry again.

"I really can't--"

"I guess you've made your point clear enough, Louis," Harry cut into Louis's words. He shook his head, averting his gaze from Louis' face. "I don't think I want to hear any more of it."

With that, he turned and went back inside, leaving Louis behind.

Louis felt too weak to follow .

+++

Harry woke up from his mobile ringing next to his head. His head felt heavy and swollen, his throat raw, and the melody playing was way too loud in his ears. Grabbing the device, he peeked one eye open, just to see Louis' name flash on the screen. Harry pressed Decline and dropped the mobile back to the pillow.

Turning around, he took the bottle of water he had positioned next to his bed before going to sleep. The flat had been empty when he had come home, his room tidy and his bed neatly made. Harry had expected to spend the night at Louis' after the party, to stay with him for a few days before Louis was off to Australia for the first leg of Escapade's world tour.

Sighing, Harry listened to his mobile buzz with new messages every few seconds. He opened his eyes again and grabbed the device, unlocking the screen.

Baby, come on pick up .

Please talk to me .

I'm sorry. Don't ignore me!

It rang again, and with a frown, Harry declined it once more. His heart beat wildly when it started ringing again just seconds later. A new message popped up after Harry had declined that one, too.

Harry don't do this

Without hesitating for a second, Harry switched his mobile off, releasing his breath once silence settled back in around him.

He looked up when the door to his room opened and Perrie came in, hair a little messy and eyes looking tired. She remained standing by the door, seeming a little confused.

"What are you doing here?" she wanted to know. "Thought you were staying with Louis?"

Harry put his mobile on the bedside table and shrugged. "What about you?" he asked instead of answering her question. "I was sure you'd end up at Zayn's?"

Perrie crossed her legs and lowered her gaze.

"Hey," Harry mumbled, scooting over and patting his mattress, gesturing for Perrie to join him. "What's wrong?"

She hesitated for only a moment before she sat down on the bed, tucking her feet beneath herself. "I don't wanna be a one-night stand, I guess," she answered.

Harry watched her, the traces of eyeliner around her eyes that hadn't completely come off, the messy hair, boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt hanging off her shoulders. He had grown so used to having her around, knew so much about her -- her mind, her habits, her heart.

"Is that what he wants?" Harry asked.

Perrie shrugged, winding her arms around her middle. "I don't know. I think the problem is that I'm a fan."

Harry frowned. "Is it?"

"How many groupies do you think he's slept with?" Her voice was very quiet. "I'm probably just another one in the line of fans throwing themselves at him."

"You're not exactly throwing yourself at him," Harry argued. "Louis said Zayn proper fancies you."

She shrugged, running a hand through her hair. "For how long will he, though? He has plenty girls to pick from."

"I don't think he's like that, Pez," Harry pointed out. "I had a feeling he was quite serious about you."

"Well, he's certainly not anymore," Perrie replied. "Not after I didn't go home with him last night."

Harry reached out to touch her knee. "If that's the case, he's really not worth it anyway."

Perrie nodded stiffly and leaned her shoulder against the headboard. She looked exhausted, as if she hadn't slept much, so Harry lifted his duvet to spread it over her legs. She smiled slightly in response.

"So why was your phone ringing so early this morning?" she wanted to know after a while spent in comfortable silence.

"Louis," Harry answered.

"I thought you guys left early?"

" I left early," Harry corrected her. "I wasn't really in the mood to party."

She frowned, fidgeting with the duvet. "Why? It was a good party, wasn't it?"

"I got into a fight with Louis." Saying it out loud suddenly made it feel very real. Harry had no idea where they stood after this. He had no idea where he stood after last night.

"What are you fighting about?"

Harry rolled onto his back, staring at the ceiling. "He said we wouldn't hide this time around. And yet, all he does is hide."

Perrie touched his hair, gently playing with the locks. "What do you mean?"  

"When his ex shows up and hugs him longer than necessary--" Harry choked on the memory, fingers still itching to pull Louis away from Aiden. "No one can exactly blame me for getting a bit jealous, right?"

"Seems only natural to me," Perrie agreed.

"He pushed me away, Pez," Harry murmured. "I just put my arm around him to make sure Aiden got the message, and Louis got all uncomfortable and twitchy."

"Well, you were in a room full of people, and he's not out, is he?" Perrie asked, soothing Harry's nerves by lightly scratching her nails over his scalp.

"That's the problem," Harry stated. "He said he won't come out."

Perrie's hand stopped. "What?"

"I said he'll have to come out if we want to make this work, and he said it won't happen." Repeating it felt just as painful as it had hearing the words from Louis in a dirty, dark back yard of a night club.

"He's not learned a thing, has he?"

Harry shook his head. "I don't know what he's so afraid of. He's not alone in this."

"Zayn and Liam seem supportive of it too," Perrie added. "And he knows how fucked up the tabloids are. It shouldn't matter anymore."

Sighing, Harry closed his eyes. "Look at us being teenage girls, crying over boys."

Perrie laughed gently and shifted to lie down next to him. "What are you gonna do about it?"

Harry thought about it for a moment, about the way Louis had looked at him last night, and how he had whispered sweet things into Harry's ear the night before that. He wouldn't just give up on them, not yet.

"I guess I just need a bit of time to make up my mind."

Perrie hummed and gripped his hand, tangling their fingers.

+++

Louis hung up after being redirected to the answering machine for the tenth time. Harry didn't pick up, didn't answer text messages and kept ignoring all of Louis' attempts to reach him.

He sighed before he lifted his hand and knocked on the door.

Perrie opened, dressed in tracksuit bottoms and a jumper, hair tied in a bun and some chocolate bar in her hand.

"Louis," she greeted him coldly.

"Can we skip that part?" Louis asked. "I just need to talk to him."

"Well," Perrie said, leaning against the doorframe and calmly chewing her candy. "Can I ask you one thing?"

Louis sighed. "Yeah, go ahead."

"Do you remember how I told you not to fuck it up again?" She crossed her arms, giving him a stern look. "And you told me you'd be stupid to?"

"Look, it's not what it seems like. I was drunk and angry," Louis explained. "A few things came out wrong."

"He told me not to let you in," Perrie informed him.

"Come on, Perrie." Louis decided that at this point, he wasn't above begging.

Perrie shook her head. "Sorry, Louis, but it's not my decision." She craned her neck around, looking behind herself. "Nope. He says no."

Louis frowned, burying his hands in the pockets of his jacket. Knowing that Harry was just there, yet out of Louis' reach wasn't helping at all. His fingers tingled with the urge to push Perrie out of the way and storm inside to get to Harry and make him listen to Louis.

Harry wouldn't appreciate such actions, wouldn't appreciate Louis losing his temper. He was the one settling Louis, was the reason Louis fought his temper down and kept a clear head. Harry was anchoring him, steadily holding him in place and keeping Louis grounded.

"I'll be waiting outside," Louis announced loudly, over Perrie's head.  "I'm not leaving, Haz."

Perrie gave him a long look, before she stepped back and closed the door. Louis kept staring at the wood, hoping for a sign, maybe for Harry to change his mind and open the door. Nothing happened, though, so Louis turned and took the stairs, leaving the building.

He went to the footie pitch behind the house and looked up at Harry's window, seeing that the curtains were closed. Apparently, Harry used every possible method to keep Louis out.

Louis picked up the discarded ball that some kids had most likely forgotten last time they had played here. He kicked it gently, running a few loops before he aimed at the goal and sent the ball flying into the net between the poles.

It bounced off the wall and back to Louis. He looked up at the billboard behind the goal, a colourful picture showing bits and pieces of photos and paintings, graphics and graffiti. Be strong. Be yourself , it read in bold letters, and something inside Louis ached.

He turned his head and kept playing, practicing his technique and skills, until the sun had long set behind the tall buildings, the sky dark and empty above him.

"Go home, Louis," he heard Harry say then and turned around.

Harry stood at his window, leaning against the frame with his arms crossed and a frown on his face.

"I'm sorry," Louis said, deciding that he'd better squeeze in whatever he could before Harry shut him out again. "I was a dick. And I didn't mean it."

"You did," Harry argued.

He was right. That didn't mean it was something bad, though. Louis only needed Harry to understand that too. "You got it wrong, though, Harry. I didn't mean to--"

"I just don't see this going anywhere," Harry interrupted him, voice almost too quiet to carry over to Louis. "I don't see us going anywhere like this, Louis."

Louis' heart dropped, he could hear the dull sound in his chest, the echo in his ears. His foot slid from the ball, he noticed it rolling away, and his knees felt a little weak.

"Go home, Lou," Harry repeated, and he turned, closing his window. Louis kept his eyes fixed on the glass, saw Harry behind it, slowly moving away.

He had fucked it up again -- was losing Harry again. How had that happened? How could it have happened when Louis had sworn to get it right this time?

Slowly, Louis made his feet move, dragging himself off the pitch. He glanced back to Harry's window, but couldn't see anything else but darkness behind the glass.

The answers didn't come.

+++

"I called Jade and Jesy, too," Perrie said, looking at a crumpled paper in her hands. "And Niall gave me Cara's number. Apparently, she's a friend from uni."

Harry hummed, looking over her shoulder. "Should I call her up?"

"If you would." Perrie handed him the paper and put on her jacket. She turned and checked the bar again, moved an ashtray slightly to the right before she nodded and made for the door.

"Niall's really gonna surprise her, hm?" Harry mused, following Perrie. "Babs has no idea, has she?"

"Not at all. She thinks they'll have a quiet one, or that he'll take her out for dinner."

"Getting a law degree doesn't happen every day," Harry pointed out. "He's so proud of her."

Perrie went outside, holding the door for Harry. "He couldn't shut up about it. It's really cute."

Harry hummed in agreement, going over the list of people they had to call to invite for the party Niall had planned for Barbara. Perrie locked the door, and when she turned around, she suddenly grabbed Harry's arm.

Looking up, Harry moved his gaze from Perrie to to the point she was staring at ahead.

Zayn was standing a few metres away. He had his hands buried in the pockets of his jacket and a cigarette between his lips. Harry imagined that his own surprised expression was mirroring the one displayed on Zayn’s face.

"I-- um," Zayn mumbled, removing the cigarette and dropping it. "I didn't know you were picking Perrie up today."

It hadn't been planned -- Harry had initially been supposed to be at Louis', after all. "I came for a pint," he said instead, trying to sound nonchalant.

"Well, it's probably good I'm meeting you here," Zayn stated after a moment. "I thought I'd talk to Perrie first, but I guess this works just as well."

"If you came to--"

"Louis's really not taking it well, Harry," Zayn just went on. "He's a right mess about you breaking up with him."

Harry froze, everything inside him coming to a halt. Perrie gripped his arm tighter.

"Break-up?" they repeated in unison.

Zayn shrugged. "He hasn’t really talked about it. Just said you broke up with him, and then he kinda--"

"What an idiot," Harry hissed, setting off.

"Haz, wait!" Perrie yelled. "Where are you going?"

Harry turned for a moment. "Guess you guys need some alone time, anyway," he pointed out, gesturing at them. "I'll try to get some sense into Louis' thick head."

Zayn looked confused, and Perrie started beaming, giving him a thumbs-up.

Harry turned and dashed down the street to the nearest tube station.

+++

Louis felt strangely thrown back to the day he had come out to his mother.

Just like that day two years ago, they were sitting in her kitchen, the light low and the tea tasting better than any tea in the world. Louis had tried a lot of teas, and he was sure his mother had some special ingredients for hers.

It had helped him coming out to her back then, and it helped him telling her about what he was about to do now. He couldn't take the steps he was about to take without his mother being in on the plan.

"So, Harry, hm?" she asked after Louis had told her that he planned to come out publicly.

Louis felt himself blush, his cheeks turning warm. "Why do you think--"

"I read the articles, Lou," Jay pointed out. "All of a sudden, he's back in your life, coming on tour with you, being seen with you every week." She shrugged. "He's always been very special to you, hasn't he?"

Looking up, Louis sought out his mother's gaze. He wanted to look her in the eye saying it. "He--" A deep breath. "We were a couple. He was my first boyfriend."

Jay smiled, moving her cup between her hands. "I figured you didn't read comic books in that tree house."

Another hot flush made Louis' cheeks burn. "Mum!"

Giggling, she reached out to touch his hand. "Why didn't you bring him ‘round? I'd like to see him again."

Louis shrugged, lowering his gaze. "We fought."

Jay kept quiet, and Louis decided to sip his tea again before he went on.

"I may have made it look like I don't want to come out." He murmured the words, feeling ashamed having to say them out loud. He had hurt Harry. "Even though I promised him that I wouldn't hide anymore."

"Hm," Jay hummed. Her hand was still reassuringly resting on top of Louis'. "And you think you owe Harry a coming out?"

Louis looked up abruptly, blinking. "No, not Harry."

"It does sound like that, baby," Jay commented. "If you're not doing it for yourself, you shouldn't be doing it at all."

"But Harry --"

"If he can't be patient with you, it's not worth it," Jay cut him short. "I trust you to take that step for yourself, Louis. Make your own decision. And if you're not ready for a big coming out, then don't do it. Not for anyone."

Breathing out shakily, Louis kept staring at her.

She was right. Of course, she was right -- his mother was always right.

"I don't want that," Louis answered, his voice sounding dull in his own ears.

Squeezing his hand, Jay nodded. "That's okay."

"No." Louis shook his head. "I want to hold Harry's hand, Mum. I want to be seen with him, and I want people to know that he's mine."

Jay frowned slightly. "Well, love, in that case you'll have to change something, I'm afraid."

"It doesn't have to be a big coming out, right? I just need to be honest with myself," Louis realised. "It's not for anyone else out there. It's for me." Standing up, Louis put down his mug before he rounded the table and pulled his mother into a tight hug. "I gotta talk to him. He has no idea what it is I want."

Jay held him closely, fingers caressing Louis' back. "I'm sure he'll understand once you've explained it to him."

"Thanks, Mum," Louis mumbled, kissing her cheek.

Jay pulled back, brushing the hair from his face. "Bring him with you next time, yes?"

Louis nodded. "Promise."

+++

Upon arriving at Louis' flat, Harry found all windows dark, no sign of Louis still being awake. For a moment, Harry pondered calling him, but then he rang the bell nonetheless. When Louis didn't answer the door, Harry tried again.

It was only midnight, surely Louis couldn't have been asleep for long -- if he was asleep at all. Harry pulled out his mobile, calling Louis on speed-dial. After several rings, he was redirected to the answering machine, and Harry frowned.

He got out his keychain from his pocket, looking at the key Louis had given him just a few days ago. It was cold in Harry's palm, feeling foreign on his skin.

Using it now wouldn't be okay. Louis had given it to Harry to use it while he was staying at Louis' place. But Harry wasn't staying with Louis right now. He had never used it before, and using it for the first time when they were fighting didn't sit right with Harry.

He rang the bell again instead, but still didn't receive an answer.

Maybe Louis wasn't home yet. It didn't seem like anyone was inside, after all.

With the chain in his hand, Harry sat down next to the door, playing with the keys.

He could wait.

+++

Louis felt dead on his feet when he got out of his car. His limbs felt stiff and his brain so groggy, he was surprised he hadn't caused an accident.

Grabbing his bag from the passenger seat, he yawned and then locked the car. The path up to the building was illuminated with tiny lamps, so Louis followed them blindly. He fumbled out his keys -- and froze when he saw Harry crouching on the floor.

His head was tilted back and his eyes closed. He was breathing evenly, arms wound around his middle and knees angled awkwardly. He wore a beanie and a light coat. His skin shone pale in the artificial light of the corridor, his dark lashes a stark contrast.

That was Harry in front of his door -- Louis couldn't quite believe his eyes.

His fingers went numb and the keys dropped to the floor, a dull noise echoing off the walls -- Harry's eyes opened and his head snapped around. For a moment, they were just staring at each other, gazes locked, and none of them dared to even breathe.

"Your neighbour probably thinks I'm a crazy fan," Harry said then, voice rough.

Louis picked up his keys and shuffled over, leaning against the wall right next to Harry. "I'm pretty sure they know who you are."

Harry looked up, eyes wide and glassy. He looked as tired as Louis felt. "Where have you been?"

Sighing, Louis slid down, his back to the wall, until he was crouched right next to Harry. "My mum's."

They sat in silence for a moment and Louis soaked in every bit of warmth. Even if they were used to being apart a lot, this had been different. When they were separated, they were never really apart -- this time, though, they had been apart in every possible way.

"You're such an idiot," Harry murmured after a while and lifted his arm to sling it around Louis' shoulders and pull him in. His lips came to press against Louis' temple, his body so warm and firm, and Louis had missed him so much. With a sigh, Louis nuzzled against Harry, hand resting on Harry's stomach, lips pressed to his neck. "I'd tell you if I were to break up with you, you know."

Louis shuddered out a breath, closing his eyes. "It sounded pretty definite."

"Well, Lou, we gotta work on it," Harry mumbled into Louis' hair. "It really can't go on like this."

"I wasn't saying that it has to," Louis argued, holding on tighter. The fabric of Harry's jumper was soft, feeling silky against Louis' fingers.

"Nothing's gonna change if you don't--"

“It’s easy for you, Harry.” Louis tried to make his voice sound louder -- he felt suffocated by his own feelings. “You never had to come out like this.”

Louis could hear the frown in Harry’s voice when he spoke. “I did, Lou. My family didn’t just magically know one morning.”

“That’s not what I mean.” Louis shook his head slightly, his cheek rubbing against Harry’s jumper. He thought of his mother, and of how she had said that she trusted him to make the right decision and that Harry would understand.

Louis had made this decision for himself.

“What do you mean?” Harry asked after a moment, and Louis realised that he had got lost in his head.

“Coming out to your family,” Louis murmured. “I’m out to my mum, and that was different. It’s still a private thing, Harry. Having to announce it to the whole wide world is different. I’m coming out on a stage, with the whole world watching and judging. And it’ll never just affect my life. It’s about you, as well, and Liam and Zayn -- I don’t want to do anything bad for the band.”

“But Liam and Zayn are okay with it, aren’t they?”

“That doesn’t mean they are really prepared for the impact.” Louis sighed, shrugging slightly. “I have a lot of decisions to make, and consider so many factors -- you, my family, the band, my friends, my contracts, the press…”

Voicing all of it out loud, stirred up a feeling of fear in Louis, a realisation of what lay ahead of him and how little prepared he really was.

“I know,” Harry agreed, winding one arm tighter around Louis’ waist. “But you’re not doing it by yourself.”

Louis was quiet for a beat. “I don’t doubt that you’ll be by my side through all of it.”

“But?” Harry asked.

“I need to do it for myself.” Louis breathed heavily. “I can’t do this for you .”

“I thought that you wanted it, Lou,” Harry protested. “You said you didn’t want to hide this time around.”

"I didn't mean that I don't want to come out, Harry," Louis cut in before it would escalate again.

"You did," Harry protested. "And, I mean, I don't wanna push you or anything, but--" he fell silent, breath warm against Louis' skin when he sighed.

"But you do," Louis murmured. "You do push me."

"Louis..." Harry nuzzled closer, fingers curling around Louis' shoulder.

"You expect a grand gesture, Harry, and I can't," Louis choked out, trying to make Harry understand it. "I can't do that. I don't want to do that."

Harry pulled back, and Louis held on tighter, afraid to lose him again. He glanced up and saw Harry frown. "What do you mean?"  

"I talked to Liam and Zayn, and to our management," Louis explained, keeping his gaze fixed on Harry's chest. "Like-- Liam makes jokes about articles in OK Magazine and my management setting up interviews with questions being asked that would lead to a big coming out."

Harry was quiet, his thumb steadily stroking along the back of Louis' neck.

"I don't want that," Louis finally managed to say. "It's not what I want to do, who I want to be."

"But, Lou," Harry murmured. "How is this going to work, if you don't come out?"

"You don't get it, Harry." Louis lifted his head, searching Harry's gaze. "I'm not saying I don't want to come out. I just don't want it to be a big deal. Can't we just be casual about it? Do our thing without having to explain it to anyone?”

Harry blinked at him in confusion.

“I don't wanna go on stage and announce that I'm in love with a boy and dedicate a sappy song to you in front of thousands of people,” Louis told him, desperate for Harry to see his point. “I don't wanna give a lengthy interview in a magazine about how I figured myself out, and I don't wanna sit through telly interviews that take the focus off our music and onto my sexuality."

Harry breathed out slowly, framing Louis' face. "That's not what I'm asking of you, Louis."

"Can't we just be ourselves and let them figure it out?" Louis asked, searching Harry's face. "They're speculating about my private life as it is. I don't care if they speculate some more."

"I guess they will figure it soon enough," Harry agreed.

"I'd rather have it that way than making a big deal out of it," Louis murmured, flexing his fingers over Harry's waist. "I don't want to have to lie about it, and I promise I won't. Up until now I’ve managed to duck all those questions about my love life. I don't see why that should change."

Harry smiled slightly. "It doesn't have to. We can just do it at our own pace."

"Yeah?" Louis breathed out.

Harry lowered his forehead to Louis', his arms slung around Louis' shoulders. "Of course."

Louis closed the gap between their lips, caught Harry's relieved sigh when he opened his mouth to deepen their kiss. The feeling pulled him under, spread through his whole body and into every cell, all of his senses focussing on Harry.

"Thanks," Louis murmured afterwards, lips still moving against Harry's.

Harry slightly shook his head, then he brushed a few stray strands from Louis' face. "I missed you, babe."

"Missed you, too," Louis said back and nuzzled into Harry's warmth. Harry pulled him close to his chest, moving one leg, so Louis could slot one of his between Harry's.

"We should go inside," Harry suggested, hand absently stroking Louis' back.

Louis closed his eyes. "In a minute."

+++

"Yes, Harry, I got it," Aiden groaned after Harry had kissed Louis for the third time.

They were at Barbara's surprise party, this time in a rented room. It was in the basement of a huge hotel, but other than that Niall had insisted on organising everything else by himself. He had asked a friend to play music, everyone had brought food and drinks, and Perrie and a bunch of her friends had helped him to decorate the room nicely.

The best thing about it, though, was that he and Louis had shown up as a couple. Hand in hand, and Louis had carried the salad Harry had made while Harry had held a big bouquet of sunny flowers. They had ended up separated after a while, but that had been okay -- Harry had always known where Louis was, and sometimes their gazes had locked and they had winked at each other from across the room.

When Aiden had shown up, Louis had hugged him still as tightly as last time, but afterwards, he had tucked himself against Harry's side. Aiden had looked amused, and Harry had kissed Louis, just for good measure.

"He's a bit silly," Louis commented now, sneakily squeezing Harry's butt.

"Is he?" Zayn asked, raising a brow. "You turn into a literal caveman when the name Nick Grimshaw is mentioned."

Niall laughed, pounding his fist onto the counter a few times. "He hates him so much."

"Nick is a good friend," Harry protested, frowning at Louis.

"He's your ex," Louis pointed out.

"Not really," Harry said, shrugging. "We just, kinda--"

"Had the same relationship Louis and I had," Aiden finished the sentence.

Harry glared at him.

"Alright, why don't we drop the topic?" Liam asked, turning back around to them with a tray full of shot glasses. "Let's drink to Babs instead."

"Great idea!" Niall reached out an arm to pull her from the group of people standing next to them and against his side. "Let's drink to my wonderful girlfriend."

She laughed and took the glass from him, pressing a kiss to his cheek.

"Where's Perrie?" Harry asked, holding two glasses.

"She wanted to get some more of the soup," Zayn told him, looking around for her.

Louis spotted her a second later, Ed by her side as they approached them. They were laughing about something, both a bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other.

"Hey!" Louis yelled. "Hurry up, you lazy folks!"

Ed flipped him off, and when they reached them, he hip checked Louis, making him bump into Harry who immediately spilled both shots he held. It poured over his front, the t-shirt he wore beneath the blue shirt he had left unbuttoned.

"Oops," Harry said, looking down his chest.

Louis reached out to touch his arm, and quietly, without anyone noticing, he got to his toes and brought his lips to Harry's ear. "Hi."

Harry chuckled, tilting his head a little to press his lips to Louis'.

"I'd apologise," Ed pointed out, putting down his empty bowl on the counter. "But I feel like it's you soppy lot owing me an apology."

Liam just sighed and filled the glasses again while Louis helped Harry dab paper tissues over his chest to dry his t-shirt off. "You say it, mate."

"Don't we know it?" Aiden asked, handing out a glass each to Ed and Zayn.

Harry decided to ignore them and instead took his refilled glass. Perrie already held one by now, grinning at him with a wink.

"To Babs!" Niall shouted over their heads.

All of them followed suit, raising their glasses in a toast before they downed the burning liquid. Harry shuddered, pressing his lips together.

When he looked up, he saw Perrie smile up at Zayn before he kissed her forehead. Liam watched them with a fond smile on his lips, Aiden and Ed were already refilling the glasses, and Barbara was saying something to Niall that made his eyes shine just that tiny bit brighter.

Louis squeezed Harry's waist, waiting for Harry to turn his head and look at him. "Good?"

Harry pulled Louis just that tiny bit closer, averting his look back to their friends. "Perfect."

+++

Louis woke up to the quiet sound of waves gently rocking beneath him. The sheets were cool under his skin, the air in the room sticky and humid. There was some other sound that Louis couldn't identify, something besides the quiet waves and Harry's constant breathing.

Keeping his eyes closed, Louis thought of the past few days, of how every single day had felt like a day spent in paradise.

It was October, and Escapade had just finished the American leg of their world tour. Harry had been on a small club tour in the UK, and his first album was set to be released in December. Before his tour had started, Harry had joined Escapade for a few weeks, bringing Perrie along. The tabloids had literally exploded.

Zayn and Perrie had been a good distraction, but the media had been circling the mystery around Harry and Louis since April. There had been articles about Harry saying he was in a relationship, but not stating with who. Then, the media had picked up on Harry spending every free minute with Louis, and a lot of rubbish had been published about Harry neglecting his boyfriend to spend time with Louis instead.

Harry had not taken that well, so the next time they had gone out for dinner, Louis had kept their fingers tangled after helping Harry out of the car.

The reaction had been immense.

A week later, Louis had given green light for the "Who is single" question being asked when they were on Ellen. Louis had not raised his hand.

With that, speculations had gone wild, and the whole internet had exploded with theories and evidence posted by their fans. Niall had called Louis one early morning, screaming at him through the line. When Louis had reminded him of how he had been very much on board with the plan in the first place, how he had been emotional over Louis taking that step, Niall had calmed down again.

"But, fuck," Niall had complained. "It's a shitload of work to fence off those media guys."

With Harry joining Escapade on tour, they had pretty much confirmed it without saying anything. Louis knew that soon, he would have to take the last step, and make an official, public announcement. As it was now, it wouldn't have quite the impact anymore, though, and with Harry by his side, he felt ready to do it.

Before that, though, all media outlets were going to be focussed on the mystery blonde who had arrived with Harry and had been seen boarding the plane with Zayn. That distraction had given Louis and Harry some time off the radar, so Louis had surprised Harry with tickets to Bora Bora when Harry had come back from his tour. They had left that very night -- three days ago.

Louis grinned slightly when Harry's body slid up against his, warm skin covering his. Harry kissed his shoulder, hand trailing down Louis' spine.

"It's raining," he murmured, voice muffled against Louis' skin.

Frowning, Louis opened his eyes and saw the raindrops hitting the wood of the small patio outside their hut. It was built on poles near the shore, in the sea, so they were completely isolated. They had a little boat to row from their hut to the beach, but they rarely used it.

"I thought it never rained in Bora Bora," Harry commented quietly, a cheeky tilt to his tone that threw Louis back in time for a moment -- to an afternoon in his childhood bedroom on a rainy autumn day and Harry’s lips tasting of Louis .

For a while, they stayed like that, listening to the waves and the rain in comfortable silence.

"Wanna go for a swim?" Louis asked after a while.

"It's raining," Harry repeated.

"Who cares?" Louis turned his head around, looking at Harry. "Does it really matter?"

Harry smiled, his curls a mess, eyes bright and intense green. He tangled his fingers with Louis', laced them firmly and Louis' gaze fell to the anchor inked into the skin of Harry's wrist. It lined up nicely with the rope he had tattooed around his own.

Louis raised their hands to press a kiss just beneath Harry’s palm and catch a heartbeat, then he dragged Harry out of bed. They were both stumbling, laughing and holding on to each other to keep from falling over in their rush.

When they dashed outside, Louis noticed that despite the downpour the sky was still blue, rain falling from an empty space, as if it came out of nowhere. The drops were cool on his skin, and when they jumped at the same time, Louis felt like he was floating in that sky, weightless and free.

He held on to Harry's hand tightly, felt Harry squeezing back before they submerged into the water, blue and green collapsing over their heads. For a moment, it felt like sea and sky were one, and Louis forgot which it was that enveloped him.

When they resurfaced, though, emerging with a gasp, the rain hitting their soaked heads, and their gazes immediately locking, Louis knew exactly where he was.

Harry's hand was still in his.

--- FIN ---



Listen to "Baby Blue" here. The awesome tommosloueh wrote it just for this fic :) ♥