like a timebomb ticking
I’m jumping into knee deep water,
But I’m sinking somehow,
Trouble on every corner,
But you’re all I need now
You, you give me something,
What it is I just don’t know,
But I feel like a timebomb ticking,
And without you I might blow
You give me the feeling,
You give me a hiding place,
Our love is bitter,
But I really like the taste,
Who said it was easy,
Taking it day by day,
But always remember,
That I’ll love you anyway
“The whole world can become the enemy when you lose what you love.”
― Kristina McMorris, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
It's 3.17 am when he gets the call.
He's in Australia, has been in Australia for what feels like a decade more or less. They have been playing shows for their On The Road Again tour for so long that it's started to feel slightly mechanical, the nights having started to blur together, crowds impossible to tell apart.
It's 3.17 am when his entire world flips around, when everything is turned upside down. When he learns that nothing will ever be the same.
Drunk driver, happened fast, felt no pain.
It's a string of syllables, letters, sounds, that put together ought to make sense, tell him something, but all he hears is static.
It's a question of a couple of vodka shots too many, the poor judgement to get into the car. Rain. Slippery roads, loss of control. It's a question of a lot of small details, decisions that together spell disaster. Tragedy.
It takes one person, a lot of bad judgement and bad luck, and Louis loses everything.
“How many times can a heart be shattered and still be pieced back together? How many times before the damage is irreparable?”
― Gwenn Wright, The BlueStocking Girl
MAJOR CAR ACCIDENT CLAIMS NINE LIVES
A serious car accident occured on the M1 between London and South Yorkshire earlier today. Police are currently notifying the next of kin and have therefore not yet released the names of the nine deceased.
The accident involved two cars, but no further statement has been given by the police, who are currently in the process of investigating.
This incident marks the biggest loss of life in a vehicle collision in the UK in the last five years.
LOUIS TOMLINSON'S FAMILY IS KILLED IN ACCIDENT, CAR HIT BY DRUNK DRIVER
LOUIS TOMLINSON of One Direction's family has been killed in a tragic car accident. The family of eight, consisting of Louis' mother, Johannah Deakin, his stepfather, Dan Deakin, and siblings Charlotte, Felicite, Daisy and Phoebe Tomlinson, and Doris and Ernest Deakin, were hit by a drunk driver as they were headed from London to Doncaster. Most of the people involved were killed instantaneously and pronounced dead at the scene, and few upon arrival at hospital.
Police are currently investigating what happened, but Karen Price, spokesperson for the London Metropolitan Police Department has made the following statement.
“The driver of the second car had a blood alcohol level of 0.19. The legal limit in England is 0.08, so he should never have been behind that wheel. The man was driving around 100mph, which is 30mph above the legal speed limit and that's when his car collided with the family car which overturned upon impact. When the paramedics arrived shortly after the incident, four members of the family as well as the driver of the other vehicle were sadly pronounced dead at the scene, and the remaining four died shortly after arriving to the hospital due to their injuries.”
Tomlinson, who was touring in Australia with his band at the time of the accident, has not been available for comments, but a spokesperson for One Direction has sent out the following statement:
'It is with regret that we have to inform that the remaining dates of One Direction's ‘On The Road Again Tour 2015’ have been cancelled with immediate effect. All tickets will be refunded and the boys hope to announce new touring dates at a later date.'
None of the other boys, who all attended the wedding of Louis' mother and stepfather in July last year, have issued a statement.
Tomlinson was last seen at the airport in Sydney with bandmates Harry Styles and Zayn Malik before the news of the tragedy was made public.
BOYS OF ONE DIRECTION ESCORT LOUIS TOMLINSON INTO CHURCH FOR FAMILY'S FUNERAL
It is a tragic day for the One Direction camp today as one of the members buries his family, after they passed away in a tragic car accident ten days ago. It is the first time any of the One Direction boys have been seen in public since the abrupt end to their latest tour, and they presented a united front as they arrived to the church in one car.
Walking into the church Tomlinson was flagged on both sides by Harry Styles and Niall Horan, while Liam Payne and Zayn Malik walked behind them. The five made their way into the church quickly, looking down and with sunglasses hiding their faces.
A large number of One Direction fans waited in front of the church to show their respect. They held up candles and brought flowers, but there was none of the screaming usually connected with the fans of the boyband, marking what a truly horrible and tragic day it is.
There is a significant number of times in Harry's life that he would deem 'life-changing'. Some in a good way, others less so, but all something that fundamentally changed the course of his life. Auditioning for the X Factor and getting put in One Direction is one thing, meeting Louis and falling in love with him is another. Breaking up with him shortly after the end of their Where We Are tour is a third. The deaths of eight people he had considered family for the past four years is, without a doubt, the worst.
There is nothing he can do to stop the constant flow of tears making their way down his cheeks as he sits front row at the funeral, squeezed in between Louis and Liam, the vicar talking about the cruelty of the world and the never ending love Jay had for all of her children. It's too much.
It's a constant ache in his chest, an emptiness that's difficult to explain. He feels void, like a clawed hand has dug out everything that's inside him, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of his chest, edges torn and jagged. There's a constant vice-like grip squeezing his heart, and the feeling of missing something so intense that it's choking him.
They were his family too. His family for four years, Jay like his mother and the girls like his sisters, even when they weren't aware of how much they really were family. The world is cruel, Harry thinks, but this might surpass all the cruelty he has witnessed so far.
He wants to take Louis' hand, wants to hold it between both of his, warming it, squeezing it tight. He wants to give him what little comfort his touch might offer, wants to help, will do anything to help. Wants to share their grief, lean against each other, rely on each other.
He wants to hold Louis' hand.
But that's not his right anymore.
He sneaks a glance at the older boy, and is met by a sight that takes his breath away despite the gravity of the situation. Louis is stunning, is always stunning, but he bears grief like it's a cape made of twinkling diamonds. His face is emotionless, his stature stoic. He sits with a straight back, staring right ahead, eyes focused on a point in the distance, cold. He looks almost regal. His cheeks are as dry as the Sahara desert, have been dry since the news were brought to him, as far as Harry knows.
It's the shock, he's pretty sure a psychologist would say, were they to take Louis to one. The shock of losing his entire family must surely have left Louis in some near catatonic state, unable to handle the hurt of it all. Barricading himself in the feeling of nothing to avoid having to deal with everything. It's gonna be worse, gonna be so, so bad, Harry knows, when everything catches up with him, when his walls come crashing down. It would be better, probably, if Louis were to give in to the grieving now, mourn them now, but Harry knows that there's no reaching Louis at the place he is now. Maybe before, when they were HarryandLouis he could have, but it's not his place anymore. It’s not.
It's absolutely incomprehensible what's happened, the kind of thing that’s too big and too terrible to really wrap one's mind around, the very epitome of awful, and Harry finds himself constantly hoping that all of this is a horrific nightmare and they're all going to wake up any minute.
It's not, though. It's not, and the feeling of loss, the pain, is beyond words. It's unbearable for Harry, he can't even begin to imagine how Louis must feel. At least he still has his mum, Gemma, his dad, and Robin. All Louis has left is an ex-stepfather and an absent biological father... and them. At least that last part is something.
He can't even imagine how Louis must feel, but, well... the thing is, he's a bit afraid that Louis isn't really feeling at all, and he can only imagine the kind of impact it will have when it finally hits him. He can only hope that maybe he will be there to weather the storm with him; wants to be there so badly, to share the grief.
He's without a doubt the one that knows Louis best, the one who understands Louis best, and he’s the only one who really knows what Louis needs, maybe even before he knows it himself.
They had said forever. They had said always. Harry never stopped meaning it.
The service passes by in a blur of tears and strangled breathing, and before he knows it, they're being signalled to rise, and he follows Louis to the coffin belonging to Jay, flowers in pale purples and pinks covering the surface. It's surreal, unimaginable, that inside there is the body of the woman he's considered a second mother for the last 4 and a half years, that they're surrounded by her children; of Lottie and Fizzie, and the two sets of twins. The youngest had only just turned one. Robbed of their lives much, much too soon. These girls who he's seen become young women, the youngest twins who never even had a chance to grow up and develop their own personalities. He tries not to think about it too much, because it hurts. It just hurts so much. These people were his family too.
He's been asked to help carry Jay's casket, and he takes hold of the handle, Louis on his other side, Jay's father and Harry's own mother behind him. He's vaguely aware of the people who move to carry the other caskets, but he can hardly see three feet in front of him, a thick sheen of tears obscuring his vision. It takes everything he's got to keep from breaking down right then and there in the middle of the church aisle with the handle of the casket clutched firmly in his sweaty hand.
He doesn't know how Louis does it. Hasn't got a clue. He's still standing as stoic and silent as ever, not even a sliver of emotion being allowed to cross his face and indicate how he feels. Nothing. He's always been strong, always been the strongest. The eldest child and the eldest in the band, always shouldering all the worry, all of the troubles. Always the one to take the blame, to take the hard jobs, to make sure that everyone else is alright. Always the rock,the one for everyone else to lean on.
But who is there for Louis to lean on?
Once upon a time, up until very recently, it had been Harry.
The cold air of early spring meets them as they exit the church, taking careful steps as they carry the heavy casket through the thin layer of snow covering the ground. It crunches as he walks, leaving behind footprints as he treads paths yet untouched, snow new and fresh, fallen only the night before. It's another reminder of what will never be again, of memories and people, of snowball fights and building snowmen, and even an attempt at a snow castle. He wonders if maybe Louis is remembering Daisy’s delighted laugh as she draped the ends of Harry's headscarf around a snowman's neck only a little more than a year ago. Then he sees Louis' passive face, void of emotions, eyes empty in the most alarming way, and he thinks, probably not. Maybe it's for the better, right now every memory feels as though it’s made of the most painful substance.
They're leading the trail of people with Jay's casket as the others follow, the remaining attendees filing out of the church at the back. There are so, so many people here. Paps too, Harry knows; not only because it's the funeral of Louis' family, but also because they're the casualties of one of the most horrid two-car accidents in recent history. Surely they're here, but Harry has honestly never spared less thought to them, has never cared less about what they caught him doing on camera .
Today's for them; more than anyone it's for Louis— or, not for him, but it's a day where anything goes in terms of making it more bearable for him, and there is nothing, no amount of paps, or management, or PR deals that will keep Harry from going above and beyond what it takes to make this day even a fraction better for Louis.
There's the feeling of time moving too slow and too fast simultaneously, dragging by sluggishly while everything also feels as though it happens so fast that he doesn't have time to comprehend anything. They're at the graveside now, the family being buried side by side, and soon they're lowering the caskets into the ground and taking a step back. His legs move of their own volition, before he's even made a conscious command for them to do so, and he goes to stand by Louis. He presses in close to him, like he's offering his physical proximity as some sort of support to him, whether he'll take it or not.
For just the smallest of moments, so brief that he actually wonders if maybe he imagined it, Louis leans all his weight against him, but before Harry has time to do anything, the added weight is gone and Louis is standing proud and straight beside him, not even a glance thrown in Harry's direction.
It's like a current that goes through the assembled mass when the Vicar starts to speak, a collective tremor, and Harry reaches down to take Louis’ hand in his, doesn't actually register the action until he's clutching it tightly in his own. Louis holds his back, the light sheen of sweat on his palm and the almost undetectable tremble of his hand the only signs giving away that everything else is a stone mask.
"We now commit their bodies to the ground," the Vicar is saying, standing amongst the open graves like a God of the Underworld. "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. Amen."
For several moments following the Vicar's words, there's silence. Then, barely making a sound, Louis drops Harry's hand and takes a step forward to look into the grave of his mother for just a few seconds. Harry’s heart clenches, must surely only be seconds from literally breaking. Louis takes a step back and directs his gaze to the many smaller holes in the ground now holding the white wooden caskets with the bodies of his siblings, taking in one after another without making a sound or moving a muscle.
Then he turns his back on all of it and walks away.
It takes Harry several moments to get that he should follow him, and by the time he gets his legs to move and catches up, Louis has opened the door of a sleek, black car and is about to get in.
"Louis!" he calls out hurriedly, slightly winded from his hasty walk to the other boy. "Lou," he reaches out to take a hold of his shoulder, to turn him away from the open car door. Louis is looking like he might actually be considering just jumping into the car and speeding away from Harry and all chances of a conversation.
"Hey, hey, where are you going?" He asks, looking at him apprehensively. Something about this doesn’t sit right with him.
Louis' answer comes curt and quickly, a strange, tired note to his voice, almost like he's a little stoned, though Harry knows he can't possibly be. "Away. I'm leaving."
Scrunching his brow in confusion, Harry looks to him, trying to make sense of it all. "What?" He questions, subconsciously tightening his grip on Louis' arm, as if that might prevent him from going anywhere. "There's the wake, we were all going to go there together, remember? It'll be good for you to be surrounded by people who love you."
The look that crosses Louis' face upon Harry's words is the first sign of emotion he's shown for days, and he instantly knows that he said something wrong.
"People who love me?" Louis questions, tone a mixture between disbelieving and vicious, face curled into an ugly snarl. "The people who love me are dead, Harry. I just buried the people who love me—"
"Lou," Harry gets out, heart thumping wildly and quickly. Out of all the emotions available for Louis to show, this mixture might've been the last Harry expected. He feels wholly inequipped to handle it.
"Don't you get it, Harry? That was my family there. Those caskets, they are my family, they’re everything I had left." The ‘and now I have nothing’ hangs unspoken between them.
"Lou—" he tries again, but it seems that now Louis has started there's no stopping him.
"I'm all alone, H. I'm just... all alone, and I'd honestly just like you to fuck off and leave me in peace. I don't want your pity, or your fucking friendship, I don't want you here just because I lost everyone close to me and you feel... I don't know, guilty or whatever. I just want you to leave me alone."
Harry's stunned silent for several moments, until it truly registers what Louis just said. "I—what? No, Louis, fuck. No. Louis, this isn't pity, or guilt, or— or, I—"
"Then what is it?" He asks coldly, quietly, eyes dead, completely lacking all spark and liveliness that can usually be found in them. "’Cause I don't get what the fuck you're standing here for right now."
"I'm here because I love you." He gets out quickly, desperately, and if he had to paint a picture of the desperation colouring his voice, it'd be perfectly represented by someone tearing out their own hair.
"Yeah?" Louis questions, a mocking tilt to his voice, and he can be cruel, can be so cruel, Harry knows, but never towards him before. "The same love you had for me six months ago when you broke off a four year relationship with me?"
"The same love that I've had for you every single day since I met you." Desperate, desperate. He's so, so desperate.
"That's fucking bullshit, Harry. We don't leave the people we love."
"You're leaving me right now," Harry can't help but point out desperately, seeking, looking for that one thing to break through to Louis, to stop him from climbing into the waiting car.
"I guess that means I don't love you then." He says it over his shoulder, his voice cold as he gets into the car. Harry can't even tell if he actually means it, or if it's just the grief talking.
All he knows is that it hurts.
But Louis just buried his family. Louis just buried his entire family, and if there was ever a day where he gets a free pass to say whatever he wants, it's today.
And he shouldn't be alone.
Harry hurries around to the other side of the car, opening the other backseat door just as Louis is closing his own, turning his attention to the newest addition to the car, eyes wide with unguarded shock.
"I don't want you here," he states plainly, almost pleadingly, and Harry absentmindedly files it away under things to analyse later. He's determined now though, his will steely, and no amount of hostility or hateful remarks from Louis is going to deter him.
He buckles his seatbelt. "Well, that's too bad."
The car takes them to a small, private airplane hangar complete with a runway and everything else needed for departure. It parks in front of a private plane and Louis gets out, Harry following. He doesn't dare ask where they're going out of fear of ending the tolerance Louis has shown thus far by not kicking him out of the moving vehicle. Louis could easily deny him access to the plane, and he's not about to take any chances.
It's an absolute stroke of luck that Harry grabbed the same black, woollen Burberry coat he'd worn upon arriving at Heathrow when returning from Australia, his passport tucked into the inner pocket, forgotten, now enabling him to accompany Louis on his trip to god knows where.
He follows him onto the small plane, shaking the pilot's hand in greeting and smiling apologetically when Louis just walks past him without a word. He doesn't seem deterred though, just offers Harry a small smile in reply and tells him that they'll take off in half an hour. Harry still doesn't know where they're going, but he refrains from asking the pilot in favour of hurrying after Louis fully into the plane.
When he woke up five hours ago he'd never thought this was where his day was headed, leaving London, leaving England with no luggage, no idea where he's going, or how long they'll be gone, not even a phone charger with him.
Speaking of his phone, he pulls it from his pocket to see that he only has ten percent power left, he knew he should've set it to charge when he went to bed last night. Well, it’s too late now. Hurriedly, he types out a quick text and sends it go the other boys as well as his mum and Gemma.
Hii! I'm with Lou, we're leaving England now, not sure where we're going. Phone's about to die, I'll get a hold of a charger and contact you when we get settled in. Don't worry. Love you! .xx
He sees Louis already sitting in one of the seats and debates for probably much too long if he should go and sit next to him or on the opposite side of the aisle. He ends up compromising and dropping into the seat across of him, a small table between them. He could so easily tangle their legs now, hook his foot around Louis’ ankle like he would've six months prior, but he's treading unfamiliar territory now. He imagines it's a bit like walking through a field of hidden mines, walking carefully, trying not to set them off with his steps. He's essentially trying to figure out where the new limits are and how to erase them again. He’s flying blind.
Louis doesn't even acknowledge his presence, just continues to stare out of the window onto the plain strip of asphalt below them, and Harry is suddenly struck by how difficult this is going to be. There's no easy fix to this, no shake and bake solution. He's determined though, they're going to get through this, both of them together, one way or another.
His phone vibrates in his hand, and he pulls it out to see that he's already got three new messages in his inbox.
The first one's from Zayn, simply saying, ‘alright mate let us know if we can do anything. you better take good care of him. Love you!’ He smiles slightly at Zayn's overprotectiveness, and goes to open the next one, this one from his mum, ‘Alright sweetie. Take good care of each other and call me as soon as you can. Love you both, make sure he knows that he's still got people who love him, that he's still got a family. Xx’
Harry's heart constricts slightly at the words, remembering a time not too long ago where Louis viewed Anne as a second mother, where he spent so much time with her in Holmes Chapel, off-days and Christmas, even sometimes without Harry there. He hasn't been since they ended things after the Where We Are tour, since Harry ended it. For a brief moment it's like a sharp twist in his heart and an all-consuming feeling of having robbed Louis of yet another aspect of family.
Everything is wrong. Everything has gone wrong, and Harry can't fix this, can't make Louis okay, can't bring back his family, but he can try to right the mistakes he's made himself and hope that by some twisted stroke of luck it might be enough in time.
He opens the last message, seeing it's from Gemma, a quick ‘take care of him, H. You better not cock it up like you did half a year ago. Love you both xxx’.
He turns off his phone without answering any of them, wanting to save what little is left of the battery. Stuffing it in his pocket, he stands up briefly, pulling off his coat and tossing it onto a nearby chair before settling into his seat again. He undoes a few of the buttons on his black shirt, running his fingers down the swirling, thin lined dark grey pattern adorning it. He takes off the hat he'd forgotten he was wearing and tosses it in the general direction of his coat.
Running a hand through his curls, he takes in Louis opposite him, registers how he still hasn't moved as much as an inch since sitting down, still staring blankly out the window, making no indication that he's even noticing Harry opposite him. He's still in his coat, which must surely be getting uncomfortably hot for him, but he doesn't look like he's about to even do as much as turn his head any time soon.
Wordlessly he gets up, moving around the table and into the seat next to Louis, twisting his own body to face him. He fists his hands in the coat briefly before relaxing his fingers. Louis doesn't react to his close proximity at all, but Harry isn't deterred, he just moves his hands up his shoulders and slides his coat off of him. Wordlessly, Louis pulls his arms from the sleeves and leans forward slightly, making it possible for Harry to extract his coat.
When he’s tossed it towards his own coat, he turns his attention back to Louis, but if he’d thought maybe getting more comfortable would have changed anything between them, he’s sorely mistaken. Louis is still looking out the window, steadily ignoring Harry like he’s nothing more than air.
Harry settles into the seat, can’t make himself move now that he’s actually seated next to him. For a moment, just a moment, he allows himself to be selfish, because being close like this might not be what Louis wants or needs, but it’s what Harry does.
He also wants to reach out and take Louis’ hand. For what seems like the ten thousandth time today, he wishes he could reach out and link their fingers together, but considering the fact that the last words Louis spoke to him were ‘I don’t want you here’, he figures he better not.
It's not long before the pilot's voice can be heard through the speakers, asking them to fasten their seatbelts and prepare for take off. They do so in silence, while Harry tries to decide if he should try to start a conversation, ask where they're going, anything really, but he knows how stubborn Louis is, and if he doesn't want to talk, no one will be able to make him. He wonders if maybe this is Louis' answer to him tagging along in spite of his wishes to be alone, if maybe he means to stay silent until Harry finally gives up and leaves. Well, if that's his plan he has another thing coming.
He manages to drift off somewhere above the North Atlantic Ocean, after Louis' breathing next to him has evened out, going slow and deep until Harry was certain he too was sleeping.
He wakes up an indefinable time later, a crick in his neck and his entire body angled towards Louis' in his sleep. He takes in his still sleeping face, sees how soft and unguarded it is. Anyone seeing this face wouldn't believe the trouble it's been through, the burden he’s shouldering right now. He wishes that maybe Louis could just get to sleep, just sleep until by some stroke of luck or miracle everything is alright again.
Nothing will ever really be alright again though, and that's perhaps the hardest truth to swallow.
He gets up to find them something to eat, knows that Louis must not have eaten for ages. All four of them had stayed with him when they'd arrived back from Australia, Liam and Niall arriving the day after Harry and Zayn had escorted Louis home. Most of the time he'd barricaded himself in the master bedroom that used to be Harry's as well, emerging only when it was time for him to make funeral arrangements with purple bags under his eyes, indicating that sleeping clearly wasn't what he was up to in his room. He didn’t let anyone in, had barely eaten anything, hadn't talked much either. They'd tried giving him his space since that seemed to be what he needed, and just stayed in the house Harry still owned half of, the house that held so many memories for the two of them, for the five of them. They’d stayed so that if he ever needed any of them, they'd only be a few words away.
He hadn't reached out though, not for any of them, and Harry should really have expected that, knows he doesn't like relying on others, burdening them. But he had been used to being the one Louis went to anyway for so long that he'd forgotten for a moment that wasn't his role anymore. The only time Louis approached him during those ten days it took to get the planning of the funeral done was only to ask him to help carry Jay's casket. It had taken all that Harry had not to break down right then and there. It had meant a lot, selfishly, it means a lot to Harry, that even through the grief of losing his entire family, he acknowledged what a loss it was for Harry too, and it really just goes to show that even now he's still looking out for everyone else.
He finds sandwiches and some fruit in the aeroplane's mini fridge, grabs a couple of mini packets of M&M’s as well as a bottle of water and a few cans of soda. He's making his way back down the small aisle of their tiny aeroplane when he sees the way Louis' body is trembling, how his face is scrunchhin up slightly and he's letting out small whimpers. He instantly knows he must be having a nightmare, and maybe that's the reason behind the dark circles under Louis' eyes.
He quickly deposits the food on the table in front of them and moves to grip Louis' upper arm gently.
"Lou," he says softly, trying to rouse him, "Lou, wake up."
He startles awake suddenly, his eyes opening wide and wild, his hand moving at light's speed to grasp Harry's forearm, like he's trying to anchor himself to the present, reassure himself it was just a dream. For a few seconds they're staring into each other's eyes, and then like he can actually see it happen, Louis closes off, his eyes turning guarded and his hand releaseing its grip on Harry. He shrinks further back into his seat, as if trying to create a bigger distance between the two of them.
Harry thinks he must visibly falter, but Louis shows no sign of noticing, he isn't sure he's even looking at him, and he just sinks down into his own seat, heart hurting with every thump.
"I got us something to eat," he says quietly, needlessly gesturing towards the assortment of food, sweets, and beverages lying on the table in front of them.
Several moments pass and he's sure Louis isn't even going to acknowledge him at all when he hears a quiet "Thank you." Then he reaches forward to grab one of the small bags of M&Ms.
The mother hen in Harry wants to tell Louis to eat a sandwich first, wants to make sure that he gets a proper meal, but he knows that nagging him will only make everything worse, so instead he busies himself with his own sandwich, picking the tuna salad and leaving the chicken and bacon one in the hope that Louis will eat it, since it's his favourite after all. He tugs into it, realising how famished he's become, and he finishes it quickly, moving on to munch on a bag of crunchy carrots. He takes a swig of the water before placing it back on the table and taking a bite of another carrot.
Louis moves suddenly, reaching forward and taking a hold of the bottle Harry'd just placed on the table. He takes a sip of it. It feels like a vice is squeezing tighter and tighter around Harry's heart. He ignores it.
He stays silent and grabs his own bag of M&Ms, pours them all into his hand, looking down at the spread of different coloured ones in his palm, several bearing nearly every colour of the rainbow. He eats them one after the other, and then like when he was a little lad, he licks off the coloured sugar stains left on his sticky palm and crumples up the bag they'd been in. He's looking around for a rubbish bin to deposit all the wrappers in when Louis leans forward slightly to grab the sandwich on the table, a small almost undetectable quirk of his lips as he sees the filling. It's the closest thing to a smile he's seen Louis wear since the accident, and that Harry's the one who inadvertently put it there is maybe his proudest achievement yet.
It's gone as quickly as it got there.
He allows Louis to eat in silence and suppresses the want to pester him about eating when he sees how he’s only nibbling at the sandwich, picking at the crust and letting the crumbs fall into the wrapper.
They're still flying over some unknown place, heading towards a destination also unknown to Harry, and between his lack of a working phone, the lack of a clock in the aeroplane, and the lack of communication between him and Louis, he has no idea how long they've been flying or how long they have yet to fly.
He rolls his shoulders, moves his neck from side to side in order to get the crick out. He's never been very fond of flying on his own, though he's had to do it more often than not. He's always preferred to fly with Louis, the two of them having worked out the perfect flight position early on that allows them both to sleep peacefully and pain free. Harry doesn't expect there'll be any cuddling on this trip.
He wonders, not for the first time, where they're really going, where Louis could have been thinking of going, and whether he'd planned on even telling them. He suspects that he left his phone at home, and what then? Did he just think they wouldn't care? That he could just up and leave without a word or any indication as to his location or even a reassurance that he was alright, and they would all just be fine and dandy with it?
Everything is wrong. Everything has been wrong for almost a year. It had started with their three months break, work, writing, and friends keeping him in LA more often than not, while Louis stayed in England for footie training and meeting upon meeting with lawyers and John Ryan about the ultimately failed attempt at buying the Doncaster Rovers. They hadn't seen each other much, even with a week in Jamaica together for Harry's birthday, and the few times Louis sneaked to LA to spend time with him. It had been hard, eager to spend every moment together and not getting to, suddenly going from spending every non-public moment together during tour, to weeks without seeing each other.
When they got back to work, everything had seemed good at first. It was great getting to be together again, getting to be on stage and singing the songs they'd written for each other in front of a crowd that seemed to scream all the louder whenever they did something even remotely connected to the other. Walking that catwalk with Louis during Little Black Dress, Harry had felt like he could probably fuel a takeover of the world with the cheers they received.
As great as it had been in South America, was about as bad as it was when the tour hit Europe. Suddenly management was reeling in what little leeway they'd been given in South America, and Louis and Zayn were hitting back by releasing the weed video, which only heightened the animosity between them and the powers that be. It had all culminated in the Rovers deal falling through for Louis, a shit ton of PR stunts with girls for him, and parades with Eleanor for Louis, and everything had just been shit. Utter shit. Jay's wedding had been a bright spot in an otherwise all round bad time.
And the thing was, they weren’t able to take their anger and frustration out on management, or HJPR, in more ways than the tiny subtle ones they were already using, so they turned to take it out on each other. For every rumour about Harry and Paige, or Harry and some other girl, or even Harry and other boys, Louis drew just a little bit further away or lashed out just a little bit more harshly. And loathe as he is to admit it, he found himself doing the same thing to Louis every time Eleanor joined them on tour, every outing they had and every Instagram picture or tweet.
It was killing them. By the end of the North American leg they were hardly more than desperate love and angry sex, cutting remarks and finger shaped bruises from where they clung too tightly to each other, both figuratively and literally.
It was killing them.
And he'd just known that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Louis, wanted marriage and kids and forever, but if things continued down the track they had been on, neither of those things would ever be a possibility.
It was killing them, and they needed a break.
Now he wonders if maybe it was the wrong choice, if maybe there had been other options, either too simple or too complicated to think of at the time, but which would have allowed them to get back to being them.
Maybe if they'd just talked, because, Harry realises now, they never really had. It seems so laughably simple, if they'd just sat down and talked it through, stood as a united front instead of allowing others to scatter them, divide them. They were stronger together, always had been, the dream team, and because they hadn’t worked together, Modest! had ultimately gotten exactly what they had always wanted.
Harry and Louis apart.
He had never meant for it to be forever, had always thought that they'd get over the On the Road Again tour, get to the end of their contract with Modest!, and then sit down and talk it through, find their way back to each other, get a new management company where priority number one would be a coming out for the two of them as a couple. It would be the start of their forever then, no more secrets, no more orchestrated lies, finally allowed to hold each other's hand in public, to kiss Louis in front of other people, to answer relationship questions with the truth instead of lies upon lies.
Now, it was probably never going to happen.
Never. Harry and life had cocked it up together, and it was just another terrible truth to pile upon the already humongous stack that had gathered during the last while. It’s like getting his heart ripped out once more, like throwing a black veil of despair over his future, but if he stopped being selfish for just two seconds he'd realise that it really isn't about him at all. It never really was. He might never get Louis like he wants him again, but he’s going to be there for him one hundred percent anyway, going to be there and be exactly what Louis needs, what he wants, whatever that may be.
From here on out what he wants for himself is no longer priority, is no longer significant in the slightest. From here on out it’s all about Louis. Only Louis.
When the pilot's voice is finally heard again, Harry's had another nap and there's still been nothing but silence between him and Louis.
"We will begin landing in a couple of minutes," the pilot is saying, voice gritty through the speakers, "Thank you for being fantastic passengers, and I hope you enjoy your time in Belize."
His last words make Harry's eyebrows shoot up, because, well, Belize? He looks at Louis to gauge his reaction, but the older boy is still just looking out the window, giving no indication that he even heard what the pilot said. Then again, it wouldn't exactly be a surprise to him; he is the one who decided on Belize after all. Harry just wishes he knew why.
He quickly reviews the admittedly very little he knows about Belize in his head: country by the Caribbean Sea, former part of the British Empire, might be a neighbour to Mexico but Harry's honestly a bit rusty on his Central American geography, good for vacationing. It's not exactly like it's a holiday they're about to embark on though, so Belize seems such an odd destination for Louis to choose. Well. He'll just have to bite back his curiosity and see where they’re going to end up. He’ll just have to trust that Louis has a plan that in the end, will be beneficial to him and his mourning. If it just so happens to be for Harry's as well, that's just an added bonus. He thinks that Louis getting better might be directly related to himself getting better, so he has to be here anyway, can't imagine being anywhere else, wouldn't want to be anywhere else even if he had the choice to turn back right now.
The landing is a bit bumpy, but it's really what's to be expected with such a small aeroplane, and nothing they aren't used to. He unbuckles his seatbelt and moves to grab both their coats, figuring that Belize must be much too hot for them to be needed. He puts on his hat and sunglasses, drapes both coats over one arm after having extracted his passport, and moves towards the exit of the plane. He's vaguely aware of Louis following behind him, and he finds that he's oddly relieved because somehow a part of him had kind of expected Louis to just remain seated. It's nice to be proven wrong.
Exiting the plane he's met with a wall of humid heat, a stark contrast to the controlled cool of the aeroplane's air conditioning. It's nice though, not unbearable just yet, though he has no doubt it could easily become so.
‘Placencia International Airport’ a large sign welcomes him to, which doesn't really mean anything to him, but he files it away as yet another clue to their whereabouts to be examined later. Since they've got no luggage and there are only very few people at the tiny airport, they make it through in record time. He follows Louis towards a sleek black car, a Hispanic man complete with a uniform and a cap leaning against the passenger door, clearly the driver. When he sees them, he takes a step forwards, but Louis only nods politely at him, and Harry follows his lead. They climb into the car, sitting on opposite ends of the backseat while Louis takes up his former pastime of staring out the window once again.
The physical divide between them is no bigger than Harry could easily reach out his hand and curl his fingers around Louis’. Their metaphorical divide is stretching for absolute miles. He's never felt more alone in his life.
He turns his head to the side and rests his forehead against the cool glass with closed eyes for the span of a few breaths. Then he just looks out the window.
It's either early morning or the beginning of the night, and Harry realises that he hasn't a clue what time it actually is, how long has passed since they left the funeral, since he contacted the boys and his family. He wonders briefly if it's been long enough for them to get worried that they haven't heard from him yet. Then he tries not to think at all.
Harry's internal clock isn't the best (his absolute lack of knowledge of how much time has passed since he first got into the car with Louis case in point), but it isn't a long time from when they’re pulling out of the airport parking lot until they come to a stop by a harbour. Ten minutes tops, he'd estimate.
Louis gets out of the car silently and, like he's been doing so far, Harry follows him blindly, trusting that Louis knows where they're going. This clearly isn't just a spur of the moment thing, Louis has been planning to go all along, he must have been. The private plane, the car waiting at the airport, and now this, a man waving at them from a speedboat. It's all been planned down to the very last detail, it seems.
Harry thanks the driver with a handshake and apologetic smile when he realises that he hasn't got any cash to tip him with, much less in the local currency, whatever it is. The driver waves him off with a big smile, and reassures him in flawless English, though with a foreign lilt to it, that 'Mr. Tomlinson' already took care of it. Harry decides not to question it, just throws the kind man another smile and hurries after Louis, not entirely sure he wouldn't let the boat set off without him.
He’s trying hard to get used to the silence that has quickly become the norm as the boat speeds away from the harbour, towards the open sea. Or what looks like the open sea anyway, he expects they'll arrive at their destination sooner or later, the speed boat hardly looks like it’s suitable for long travel, and Louis is many things but hardly eccentric enough to want to die stranded in the middle of the ocean.
So he's trying to get used to the silence. With someone like Louis who can chat like no other, who's usually the life of the party, it's easier said than done. He worries, not for the first time, that maybe he really has seen the last of that version of him.
Harry misses the old Louis. It's selfish, and he hasn't got the right to, but honest to God, he does. He misses him so, so much. Feels so lost without him. That man who'd yelled at him in front of the church, who'd told Harry he didn't love him anymore, that man wasn't the Louis Harry knew, and it hurts to consider the possibility that maybe that's the only Louis he'll ever get to encounter. A cheap, mean copy of who he used to be.
Project!Louis has proven a nice, albeit depressing distraction from his own soul crushing grief, and he knows that it's only a matter of time before he needs to deal with it as well, but he holds on to the hope, maybe (probably) irrationally, that they can come to share their grief, mourn together.
He fears, perhaps more than he's ever feared anything in his entire life, that there will come a time where he will have to face that he must mourn the loss of his Louis as well.
They haven't been sailing too long before he starts seeing land in the distance, and it doesn't take him long to realise that it's clusters of differently sized islands. It makes him nothing but confused, he can't imagine Louis wanting to go to a resort now, but there's no denying that one of the islands must be their final destination.
It's a longer trip than their car ride, but still not long enough to really be categorised as 'far', so Harry leans back in his seat, tilts his head upwards and lets the wind blow through his curls. He's clutching his hat in his hands, having luckily had the foresight to take it off before they sped off.
Eventually the boat starts slowing down as they move closer to a small island. The water's clear and a bright azure colour, and looking down, Harry can see several fish swimming in streams. The engine of the boat cuts off, letting out a few small coughs before stuttering to a stop, and the man jumps into the shallow water, somehow managing to drag the boat a bit further towards the beach.
"You're gonna have to get your feet wet, I'm afraid," he smiles good-naturedly, gesturing towards the last few metres of shallow water leading up to the sandy white beach.
He finds himself smiling back automatically, notes with a sort of strange happiness that it’s genuine, "It's no trouble at all, mate, thanks for the trip." He bends down to unzip his black leather Chelsea boots and pulls them off one by one, followed by his socks. By the time he jumps into the water, which only just covers his ankles, Louis is already on the beach, shoes in hand.
Harry runs through the water towards him, trying to catch up and splashing water everywhere, including all over his expensive black trousers as he does so. The sand is no easier to make his way through. It clings to his wet feet, slows him down as he sinks into it, and every once in a while he comes across a seashell that pricks his foot.
He doesn't catch up with Louis until they're both at the front door of a beautiful house, and he can't help the small gasp that leaves his lips.
"Oh," he breathes as he takes it all in, what he can actually see at least. It's stunning really, managing to perfectly capture the essence of the island and still be a somewhat modern home. It looks new, has that uninhabited feel, but none of the creepiness, and Harry gets the feeling that they're probably the first to stay here. He wonders how Louis came to know of this place, that he’s now mentally dubbed The Perfect Holiday Home.
Louis reaches into his pocket and withdraws a small key, moving to unlock the door without sparing even a tiny glance at Harry. He throws the key into a bowl standing on a chest of drawers left of the entrance like he just knew it would be there, though logically Harry knows that can't be the case. There's no way Louis has been here before, so how would he know about that bowl?
He deems it a mystery as he hurries after Louis into the house, deciding to also care about the fact that they're trekking sand all over the floors at a later time. He follows Louis, walks behind him through the hall and then the living room, not taking in any details really, follows him quite literally until a door slams shut in his face.
Louis' message couldn't have been more clear if he'd had it printed and hung above the door.
Harry's not welcome.
It hurts more than he should probably allow it to, but he lets himself plop down on the sofa, head in his hands and tears behind his lids as he lets himself feel for just a few moments. He feels wholly inadequate to handle this, doesn't feel at all like he can ever make it better for Louis, and he's scared. He’s so, so scared that all his presence will do is make it worse. Whatever Louis thought coming here might do, he did want to be alone, and the last thing Harry wants to do is make it harder for him than it already is.
He knows Louis though, probably better than he knows himself, honestly, and he knows that he wouldn't deal well with something like this alone, that he needs someone here with him. Harry just has to trust himself to make the best decisions for both of them.
He breathes in deep, blinks back the tears, and straightens his back, ignoring the soft popping sounds it makes. Looking around, he takes in his surroundings, the living room. It's cosy here, decorated similarly to the house he shared with Louis for three years. It makes him feel instantly at home. The outer wall is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, showing off the magnificent view of the beach right outside the house. He gets up from the sofa and moves towards the kitchen, taking in the bowl of fruit placed on the kitchen island. It's a state of the art kitchen really, enough to make Harry almost drool, and his mind runs amok with thoughts of coming here with Louis under different circumstances, cooking and baking in the kitchen, lazy evenings spent cuddled up on the sofa and days spent on the beach. It’s a train of thought he’d do well to steer clear of, current circumstances taken into consideration.
He explores the rest of the house, takes in the upper floor with its two bedrooms, a bathroom and a small hall with a door leading to an open terrace. Harry walks onto it, sits down on one of the two sun chairs there, takes in the view of the shore, the white sand leading out into clear blue water, the sun strong and burning, despite what Harry gathers must be the early hour. He has so many questions, so many and not a single answer. And he can’t ask Louis, doesn’t even think he would answer if Harry actually dared utter a word, and he feels superfluous. He feels expendable here, like his presence makes no difference, and that wasn’t how it was supposed to be, how it was supposed to go. He was supposed to make it better. He didn’t have any unrealistic expectations that his presence could make Louis forget, or miraculously better, but he was supposed to help. Just… he was supposed to help.
With a sigh, he gets up, and he’s about to turn around and walk back inside when—fuck. Fuck. How are they supposed to get back to the mainland? Shit. The guy who’d brought them here had taken the boat. Harry moves to the railing of the terrace quickly, scanning what he can see of the white sandy shore, and just like he suspected, no boat. They have no boat, there’s obviously no convenience store here, how exactly are they supposed to get food? Get all the things they need? They came here with no luggage, Louis had planned to come here with no luggage, surely he hadn’t been planning to live here with only his funeral suit? There’s a piece of the puzzle missing, Harry’s sure of it, he just doesn’t know what it is.
He makes his way back into the house, intent on stripping off his trousers (it’s bleeding hot, so sue him) and going to explore the Island for clues. He doesn’t notice at first, in fact he’s been walking around the house for quite a while when he is finally able to place why there’s something a bit strange about it. It’s not until he’s quite literally hitting the nail on the head that he gets it.
He brushes too closely to the wall on his way down the stairs, and grazes something sharp protruding from the wall; a nail. And then it comes to him like lightning from a clear sky; there are no pictures adorning the walls. For a house this beautifully furnished, each article of furniture meticulously chosen and placed, it’s so, so out of place to have walls bare like they are, not a single photo or painting up. And it doesn’t seem intentional either, if the nails he’s now noticing are sticking out from many of the walls are any indication. It seems like there once hung plenty of pictures on the now bare walls, but they have all since been removed. It’s another mystery to add to the conundrum that is this beautiful house on the small private island, and Harry wonders if any of them will ever be solved for him. So far odds don’t seem to be in his favour as far as being in the loop goes.
He doesn’t have time to ponder the lack of pictures, or the general weirdness of their current situation (which at least works as an excellent distraction from reality, he finds himself almost forgetting what brought them here in the first place) when he hears the front door open. Instantly alarmed, he moves closer cautiously. Did Louis expect someone else? Is that why he didn’t want Harry to tag along, because there actually would be someone else joining him here? That seems strange though, beyond the initial ‘I don’t want you here’ Louis has largely ignored him, certainly hasn’t made any real effort to prevent Harry from coming, so. So. Harry’s head hurts.
The door closes softly and he hears a scuttle as the person moves towards where he’s frozen next to the kitchen island. He feels like a deer caught in the headlights, isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do, feels almost like he’s the one trespassing, like he has no right to be here, which is fucked because Louis had the bloody key, it’s not like they’ve broken in or anything.
A short Hispanic woman comes into his line of sight, carrying a big brown paper bag in her arms, somewhat impairing her ability to see where she’s going. She doesn’t notice him at first, and Harry’s entirely silent, doesn’t quite know what to say, because this woman let herself into the house, is moving like she’s intimately familiar with the layout, no hesitation despite her lack of clear sight, and she’s carrying what Harry’d bet his spot in One Direction on is food. It’s not until she sets the bag down on the island that she startles slightly, must see Harry out of the corner of her eye. She clutches her heart faintly and turns to face him, a curious look on her face, but not exactly like she’s surprised to see him. Which is odd, but honestly, what isn’t odd about this day.
“Mr. Styles,” she says, making Harry raise an eyebrow, his confusion only growing, “I didn’t know it was you coming. I thought—Mr. Tomlinson said he’d be the one to come.”
Harry hesitates for a second, then, “Louis is here too.”
Appearing neither particularly surprised that they’ve arrived together, nor that he’s actually here, she merely smiles at him. “I’m Maria,” she says, holding out her small hand for him to shake. He takes it in his, the skin is calloused, speaking of hard work and manual labour. She’s middle-aged, has straight black hair tied back into a long, low ponytail, and barely reaches up to Harry’s chest. She’s got kind brown eyes, small wrinkles by her eyes and mouth, and silver earrings dangling from her earlobes. He likes her instantly; she gives off the kind of warmth and friendliness that would make most feel at ease in her presence. “Mr. Tomlinson’s hired me to take care of the Island when he’s not here, and to be his connection to the mainland when he is. I’ll be by around noon every day with the produce and other things you request unless you tell me otherwise, and I’m the one to contact if you’d like to arrange transportation to Placencia or somewhere else, or if you have any problems or questions.”
She trails off and looks at Harry expectantly while he fish mouths at her, attempts to take in all the information she just threw at him. She’s making it sound like… “Louis owns the island?” he questions, completely blown away by the newfound information.
Maria nods, an odd expression on her face, “Mr. Tomlinson purchased this island more than a year ago, and hired me after he’d had the house built here.”
Which. Whoa. What? That means. Shit. Fuck. Shit fucking fuck, no. That means Louis had purchased an actual island, had built a bleeding house from scratch back when they were in a serious, long-term, committed relationship, but never as much as said a pip to Harry about it. Never mentioned it, never an ‘oh, hey, babe, bought an island by the way’, or a ‘would you help pick out the colour for the bedroom walls of the house on the island I’ve bought but never mentioned’.
What the actual fuck.
“My phone number is on the fridge,” Maria continues unperturbed, like she doesn’t even notice Harry’s mental breakdown. Or she’s too kind to comment on it. Either way, Harry’s grateful. “Call me anytime if you need something, and you can just give me the list of things you need from the shops when I come by with your things. Would you like to request things for tomorrow now?”
It takes Harry a while to comprehend everything she’s saying, but he tries to recover quickly, pushes the hurt and the betrayal aside, and throws her a strained smile. “That’d be lovely, Maria,” he nods, looking around the kitchen for a notebook and a pen, or anything really that’d allow him to write down a note.
Proving how nifty she is, Maria pulls a small notebook from her back pocket along with a pen, and hands them to Harry with a small smile. “I’ll just put these things away while you finish the list, Mr. Styles.”
“Harry,” he corrects automatically, then looks up at her properly with a genuine smile this time. “Please, call me Harry.”
With a soft smile and a nod, Maria moves around him, the bag clutched in her arms. Harry turns to the notebook and contemplates what to write. He has no idea what they’ll even need, isn’t sure what Maria has brought already, but he figures he might as well put down the basics first, and if she comes by every day he can get fruit and meat on a day-to-day basis, which is nice. He puts down pasta and rice, and then he remembers the fact that he’s got a phone with no power and literally no clothes except for his funeral suit. He puts down iPhone 5 charger and then follows up with the most basic clothing necessities in each their sizes, some swim trunks and toiletries, and figures that’ll last them for a bit, until he can assess the situation better, and either get Maria to buy them more clothes, or go into town himself. Or go home, a small voice in the back of his head whispers, but Harry tries to ignore it, knows that’s probably not on the cards for him. Definitely not on the cards for them. And he’s not leaving Belize without Louis, he swears that now.
Eventually he finishes the list and Maria has put away all the shopping, and for a second, before she leaves, she gives him the most pitying look, like she just knows how utterly shit everything is, and had it come from literally anyone else he’d probably be really bloody offended, but coming from her he just kind of wants her to bundle him up in a blanket with a huge mug of tea and give him a good cuddle whilst whispering that it will all work out. It’s been a rough week and a half.
It doesn’t strike him until she’s actually left that she never inquired about Louis’ whereabouts, never questioned why Harry was there, though surely there must have been some sort of communication between Louis and her since she knew to show up with food today. And it’s not exactly strange that she must know what happened with Louis and his family, because everybody knows, it’s been all over every news site, gossip as well as serious news outlets, and Louis is her employer so of course she would have paid attention. It doesn’t, however, explain why she didn’t question Harry’s presence, because he is one thousand percent sure that Louis never mentioned that he might tag along, he doesn’t even think that Louis had as much as contemplated he might have company for this trip, had thought he could just slink away from them all with no words and no notice, no phone and no way of contacting them. Harry wonders if he thought they just wouldn’t care?
There is very little that makes sense right now, Louis and his decisions least of all. Then again, if there will ever be a time where Louis gets a one hundred percent free pass to make absolutely zero sense, it’s now. Nothing he does has to make sense as long as it helps him, as long as it makes him feel better. Fuck, Harry wishes he would just talk to him, wishes he wouldn’t just barricade himself in that room, wonders briefly if they’ll ever have a proper conversation again, or if the last thing he’ll hear from Louis is the words ‘I don’t want you here’, because he honestly doesn’t think he could handle it if that’s the case.
Sighing, he makes his way around the kitchen island to inspect the purchases Maria has made.
Harry spends his day alternating between napping, eating, and listening at Louis’ door. The last thing is perhaps a bit unethical, but the other lad isn’t answering any of Harry’s calls through the door, not when he informs him about lunch being ready, nor dinner, and he has to make sure somehow that Louis hasn’t strangled himself with the sheets. He tries not think about that option, lest it sends him into a fear induced panic that will lead him to breaking the door down and physically checking up on him. He’s trying to respect Louis’ boundaries, thinks that might be what’s best for his healing, and clearly, he didn’t want Harry with him in that room (clearly he didn’t want Harry near him at all, but, well, sometimes rules are made to be broken). If he stands perfectly still long enough he will eventually hear some sort of scuttle from the room, sometimes just the rustle of fabric, to indicate that Louis is still alive and breathing in there. One time it took so long to hear a sign of life that Harry literally had his hand on the door handle, only a split second from bursting through the door when he heard a small cough.
It’s fucking ridiculous.
It gives him a hell of a lot of time to think though, this being all alone in the house on a private remote island without a working phone, or even a book, and too scared it might disturb Louis to turn on the TV. He thinks about Jay, and the girls, and little Ernest, though it hurts so, so much, and he still can’t hold back the tears. He sits on the beach with his feet in the lukewarm sea, barely noticing when the waves wash onto shore and soak his black pants more and more. And he cries. He cries for everything that was and everything that will never be. He cries over how cruel the world is, how unfair it is, and how much he wishes with every fibre of his being that he could just do something. He feels so useless. He cries for the woman who was a second mother to him, kind and brave and fierce, for the girls who adapted to changes better than anyone he knew, who smiled through hardship and pain and always, always welcomed him with a hug and a smile, and for the tiny set of twins who hadn’t even gotten to live. He cries for the broken boy in the bedroom who has shut himself off from everyone, whose pain is too great to be put into words.
It’s like the most morbid sense of catharsis he’s ever experienced, and it doesn’t lessen the pain at all. The pain will probably never lessen, he doesn’t think, will probably never disappear, will only becme dull with time. It will become a part of him, something for him to carry with him every step he takes, a constant reminder of how fragile life is and how quickly it can shatter. It will eventually become a throbbing bruise instead of a deep stinging cut, and he feels lighter, somehow, like saying goodbye to them at the funeral was the first step towards figuring out how to live in this new reality, and helping Louis will be the next ten.
If he can focus on Louis getting better, it might automatically make him better too, and it makes no sense, makes no sense at all, but then again what does? The accident certainly doesn’t, grief doesn’t, being here on the beach among hundreds of both crushed and whole mussels, soft yellow sand, blue salty water, and burning orange rays of sun certainly doesn’t.
“I suppose that the human mind can only stand so much grief and anguish. After that the fuses blow.”
― Fynn, Mister God, This Is Anna
He doesn’t see Louis for seven days.
He knocks on his door every morning, noon, and evening to announce the meal’s he’s prepared, and then afterwards to say that the plate is in the fridge if Louis is hungry. He never is. His missing presence at meals would be worrisome if not for the fact that he seems to eat at night when Harry is sleeping. He’s taken to one of the two identical bedrooms upstairs, and every morning when he comes down, he looks around to make sure Louis has been by to have something to eat. It’s never much. Sometimes a couple of pieces of fruit from the fruit bowl, other times some of the cereal Harry had requested Maria buy especially for Louis, other times – and those were Harry’s favourite – he would eat the plate Harry had left in the fridge for him, or maybe even, on the rare occasion, two.
He doesn’t see Louis for seven days, and he tries to tell himself not to worry, tries to convince himself that everyone grieves in different ways, and if space and distance is what Louis needs, then it’s what he will get. He tries not to worry, and he fails miserably. He spends too much time wondering if maybe he’s making everything worse, if he should leave, if he should never have come, if he should burst through the door and demand that Louis just fucking talk to him already.
He’s scared, is so fucking scared of not being able to make it better, of only making it worse. He’s out of his depth, is in so deep he couldn’t reach the ground even if his life depended on it. He’s not equipped to handle something like this, isn’t equipped to handle this Louis who won’t even acknowledge his presence. Louis is a lot of things, he’s loud and abrasive, sassy, and he lives life with a distinct no-nonsense policy. He says things like they are, doesn’t take anyone’s bullshit. He’s not quiet and withdrawn, he doesn’t ignore his problems. He doesn’t ignore Harry. He’s the kind of person that confronts his problems head on, doesn’t beat around the bush. This… this version of him isn’t the Louis thatHarry knows, and that, perhaps, is the scariest of all. How’s he supposed to help when Louis can’t even recognise him, when everything Harry knows about him, all the knowledge accumulated over nearly five years of knowing each other is rendered useless.
What if the man Harry used to know, the one he loves more than anything in the world, is gone?
Everything breaks on the morning of their eighht day on the island, when Harry potters into the kitchen in the early hours of the day, limbs sleep heavy and eyes hooded, one track mind focused on the tea he’s already mentally brewing. He’s just poured in the hot water when he hears a crash coming from Louis’ room, followed by a dull thud. For a second his heart stops beating. Then he registers the sound properly, and he puts down his cup hastily, catching only the edge of the table, sending the cup hurling towards the floor, smashing against the tiles and spilling burning hot liquid all over the floor and Harry’s toes.
He doesn’t even notice. The pain doesn’t register.
He’s already running.
It’s a short way from the kitchen to the master bedroom, no more than a few long strides, and it takes Harry barely a moment to reach it. He flings open the door in a panicked rush, heart beating wildly, eyes wide as he takes in the scene before him with panting breaths and a heart lodged in his throat. It’s nothing like he would have imagined it.
The first thing that hits him is the smell, like a wall of unpleasantness it greets him the minute he opens the door. Stale sweat, and the smell of sour vomit, and the kind of thick, heavy air that only comes from not airing out the room often enough. The air is thick, almost makes it hard to breathe in there, and it smells like a distillery. It smells as though it might actually be possible to get drunk from breathing in the air, like the fumes permeating the air could give a lesser man alcohol poisoning.
Louis is sitting with his back against the wall, facing Harry, and the dull thud must have been him sliding to the floor. His eyes are hazy and unfocused, his appearance wild and unkempt. Harry’d be willing to bet anything that he hasn’t showered since they got here, hair messy and greasy, dressed in a pair of pants and one of the t-shirts Maria bought them, white but with several brownish coloured stains on the front. His facial hair is untrimmed and he’s got heavy purple bags under his eyes.
He’s thinner. A lot thinner than Harry’d thought it was possible to become over only a week.
Scattered around him are so many bottles Harry isn’t even sure where they must have come from. Vodka and whiskey, tequila and rum. Every kind of alcohol known to man, and right beside him are the broken remains of what used to be a bottle. Vodka, Harry thinks, if the small puddle amongst the shards of glass is any indication.
Louis is drunk, there’s really no doubt about it. He is drunk, and if the amount of empty bottles is any indication, he’s been drunk since they got to the island. Harry can’t believe what a fool he’s been, can’t believe that he hasn’t noticed what’s been going on with Louis before now. He should have forced his way in here a long time ago, should have done more, should definitely never have allowed Louis to hole himself up in here alone. He’s not sure what to do, not sure how to react, doesn’t know if he should enter or exit, scoop Louis into his arms or run out on the beach to cry. Indecisiveness and shock keeps him rooted to the spot as he tries to wrap his head around what he’s just learned.
He suddenly becomes aware that Louis is saying something, voice angry and words slurred, eyes narrowed through hooded lids and hand curling around the neck of a mostly empty bottle of dark rum. He focuses his attention properly on him, his earlier words lost on him, and his eyes widen at the look of pure hatred he sees in Louis’ eyes. Bloodshot and unfocused as they are, the look is chilling, chokes up Harry’s throat, makes it almost hard to breathe. More than the smell or the appearance of Louis, that’s what makes Harry want to throw up.
“I said,” Louis raises his voice, words hard and menacing, ice cold and without a trace of affection or familiarity. “Get out!”
His words hit Harry with the same force as a fist to the stomach, the tone like a knife digging into his flesh. He barely has time to comprehend what it actually is Louis is articulating before he sees his arm raise, bottle clutched tightly in his fist.
He just manages to close the door when he hears glass shatter against it.
He feels tears spring to his eyes, entire body shaking with adrenaline accumulated through the last five minutes. He takes a step back, legs uncertain beneath him, and his vision swims. He chokes back a sob, digs his fingernails into the soft skin of his palm beneath his thumbs, and tries to gather himself. It’s to no avail. Taking a few more uncertain steps away from the door leading to Louis, he turns his back on it and runs up the stairs.
He cries in the shower to make sure Louis doesn't hear.
He’s not exactly proud of it, but he spends the rest of his day in bed, using his phone to text Maria not to come back until a few days have passed. They’ve got enough food to sustain them, and Harry doesn’t really feel ready to face another human being quite yet.
He stays under the covers and alternates between thinking about what the hell he’s supposed to do, and trying not to think about anything at all. That man he’d seen on the floor of the bedroom wasn’t Louis, wasn’t anything like the Louis he knows so well. Louis has never been a mean drunk, he’s always been much more affectionate and silly. Never mean. He threw a bottle after Harry though, with no apparent care whether it hit him or not. It’s scary thinking back to the man on that floor, because he has no doubts that his Louis would never want to harm him in any way, but he can’t really speak for the version of him currently in that room.
He could leave, he supposes. He could pack up his meagre belongings, get Maria to book him a flight and arrange for a boat, and in less than 48 hours he could be at home in his London flat, or maybe in LA where he could hole up with a couple of friends and have them help him get his mind off matters, or maybe even in Cheshire with his mum. That last option sounds particularly good right about now.
That would mean leaving Louis alone, though, it would mean giving up and failing him. It would mean that anything that happened to Louis after Harry left would be his fault. If Louis ended up drinking himself to death, or drowning in a pool of his own vomit Harry’d have no one to blame but himself. But, honestly, even if that wasn’t a worry, even if Louis was perfectly alright, there’s absolutely no way Harry could ever leave.
They’re not actually married, but for the last part of their relationship they were unofficially engaged, and even if not, he’d always sort of considered ‘for better or for worse’ to apply to them anyway.
Eventually he seems to muster a certain amount of determination, and with renewed vigour he throws off the covers and makes his way downstairs with long, resolute strides, determined to get working before his courage falters. He makes a beeline for the kitchen, grabbing a big garbage bag and then turns towards the bedroom. He throws open the door without preamble, face set in determination as he strides into it, further into it that he went before, but he’s not taking in the décor, not looking at how the furniture is arranged or the colour scheme, or even for the boy he knows must be here. He’s got a one-track mind right now, striding towards the windows, pulling up the blinds, allowing for sun to stream into the room. He then opens both of them with stiff, precise movements, until fresh air is wafting steadily into the room, bringing the smell of sea breeze and summer with it.
He turns around and is met by the sight of Louis sitting up against the headboard, frozen silent in shock over Harry’s abrupt entrance and demeanour, so unlike his usual. Neither of them is acting like themselves these days.
He breaks their eye contact and moves around the bed to the door he assumed leads into the ensuite bathroom. Throwing it open, he makes for the shower, turning it on and taking a step back, breathing in deeply a couple of times, trying to slow his fast beating heart. Like his own bathroom upstairs, this one is fully stocked, having been filled with everything necessary and essential long before they arrived. He briefly figures that Louis must have provided Maria with a list of things that always should be in the house upon arrival because the bathroom upstairs is filled with the shampoos they’ve always had at home, and he tries not to think too much about why it has his favourite brand too, standing right next to Louis’.
He moves back into the bedroom, trying to regain what he lost of his former steely will and determination, knows that he will need every ounce of it to get Louis to comply.
“Get up,” he says, voice leaving no room for argument, and yet of course Louis doesn’t move as much as an inch, just stares back at him in defiance. He’s still drunk, Harry can see it by the way his eyes are glazed over, but it’s nowhere near the amount he was earlier. “Get up,” he repeats, and throws a hasty nod towards the bathroom where the running shower can be heard through the open door. “Get in the shower.” Louis still doesn’t move. “Now.”
Louis stares back at him insolently, sits still as ever and raises his eyebrow. It’s such a Louis move, so fucking provoking, and Harry feels himself grow steadily angrier at being ignored and taunted. He takes a step closer to the bed, lets the plastic bag he’s still holding in his hand fall carelessly to the ground where he can pick it up later, and he takes a hold of Louis’ upper arm.
“I said,” he repeats, “Get in the shower, now.”
For a second they stare each other down, and then Louis’ lips curl into a smug, cold smile. Harry can so clearly smell the alcohol on his breath. “No.”
It’s nothing dramatic, he doesn’t see red, it’s not that he loses his temper, the control over his actions. He just doesn’t see any other way. He grabs Louis around the waist, and with an impressive show of upper body strength, he hauls him from the bed and carries him towards the bathroom. It’s not far luckily, and the way Louis thrashes in his arms makes it no easy feat, but he manages somehow, Louis weakened by nearly a fortnight of too much alcohol, too little sleep, and much, much too little food.
Harry releases his hold on him when he’s under the stream, deposits him in the shower still wearing his soiled clothes, getting his own forearms wet in the process, but he hardly notices.
“Shower,” he orders, repeats, taking a step back, trying to ignore the way Louis is looking at him with betrayal colouring his eyes, winning out over the anger he surely wishes he was feeling. “Now.”
He turns to leave, knows that his continued presence will only be counterproductive to his overall goal, and it’s not until he’s closed the door to the bedroom that the implications of his actions hit him.
Fuck, shit, fuck. He basically just manhandled Louis into the shower, carried him there against his will, quite literally kicking and screaming. Less than twelve hours ago Louis threw a vodka bottle after his head.
What are they turning into?
It scares him, everything that has happened in the last twenty-four hours scares him. Fuck, everything that’s happened in the last month scares him. He doesn’t like what he’s turning into, doesn’t like what either of them are turning into. God, to think that there was a time they would have supported each other through this, and look at where they are now. Surely he must be causing more harm than good.
He should leave. He should really, really leave before either of them ends up doing something that neither of them can take back. It’s like they’re standing on the precipice of utter disaster, so close that even just the smallest wind would be enough to make them tumble into the abyss. He fears that it will never get better, never get better for either of them. He fears that this version of him is here to stay.
He forces himself to move, picks up the plastic bag from where he dropped it, and starts collecting the many bottles in the room. Louis doesn’t emerge from the bathroom, and he takes that to mean that he’s showering, hopes that it isn’t because he’s trying to drown himself or something.
Once he’s collected all the bottles he deposits the bag in the kitchen to deal with later, and goes back into the room to strip the bed of its disgusting sheets. He hauls the filthy fabrics into the small washing room and quickly loads a wash, using more soap than is probably advisable. When he enters the room again, Louis still hasn’t emerged. He can still hear the water running in there, and tries to remind himself that Louis is an adult and that he should treat him as such. He’s just so fucking worried he can’t help it.
He puts new sheets on the bed, crisp and freshly smelling of the laundry detergent Harry always used when they lived together. It’s yet another one of those odd little things he can’t help but notice, like the fact that the sofa is exactly the same as the one they had at home, and both of their shampoos in the bathrooms, and the terrace exactly like the one Harry’d gushed about spending long LA nights on with the Azoffs.
He decides not to ponder that which will surely only lead to a headache and no answers, and instead moves to get the hoover and a mop. By now Louis must surely be avoiding going back into the room, must be waiting for Harry to exit before making his entrance, either that or he really is so entranced by the first shower in eight days that he can’t make himself leave. Either way it doesn’t matter, because it allows Harry the time and space to hoover the floor and mop up the spilled alcohol, remove the shattered glass and wash away the stains from the wooden floor.
He takes a step back when he’s done, takes in the room as it is now, and sighs as he notes that the smell from earlier is just about gone, the bed looking big, white and fluffy – so, so inviting. Finally, he turns to where he saw the pile of clothes Maria had purchased in Louis’ size that Harry’d deposited outside his door a week ago. They’re lying crumpled in a pile in the corner next to the door, and Harry gathers it all in his arms and goes to refold it, putting it into the big wardrobe in the corner of the room. He chooses a new t-shirt for Louis to wear, along with a new pair of pants and some comfortable looking Adidas shorts. He lays it all on the bed, ready for Louis to slip into whenever he comes out of the bathroom.
Finally, he can’t come up with any reasons to dawdle any longer, so he slips out of the room and closes the door behind him.
He moves into the kitchen where he put the bottles, figures that if he just keeps busy he won’t have time to think of the many unpleasant thoughts he doesn’t even know what to do with. He feels like he’s been thrust into an alternate reality where everything’s gone to the rats and he lacks the abilities and knowledge needed to fix it. He breathes in deep and then heaves the bag onto the kitchen island and starts separating the bottles still containing liquid from those that are empty. He pours every drop into the sink, lets it run down the drain and collects the empty bottles in the bag once more, moving towards the front door to drop it off at the side of the house where the big bin that Maria empties every time she’s here stands.
It’s not until he’s making his way back into the house that he realises that Louis must be getting his alcohol from somewhere. Once the thought has registered it doesn’t take him long to find the big, well stocked cupboard that’s stands in the corner of the vast living room, previously having gone largely unnoticed by Harry. He collects everything there is left, and pours it all into the sink before throwing away the bottles and combing through every nook and cranny of the house to make sure there’s no more alcohol left.
Once he’s certain he moves back into the kitchen, which is now smelling like a particularly well stocked bar, but he ignores it in favour of pulling out the ingredients needed for pizza from the fridge. He figures the least he can do is feed Louis with something he knows he loves. He can’t help but kind of hope it might make Louis actually eat, too.
He throws together the dough quickly before setting it aside to let it double in size, and turns back to the fridge to pull out the necessary ingredients for the topping. He gets beef, onions, peppers, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and even manages to find some chorizo sausage he’d forgotten he’d written on one of the lists for Maria, but which he figures will be a fine substitute for pepperoni. Then he moves on to making the tomato sauce from scratch.
He finds cooking to be a nice distraction, the motions calming and almost therapeutic. Things have been shit since they got here, more shit than Harry’d ever feared they could become, but he’s not one for giving up, and isn’t there an old saying that things have to get worse before they can get better? What kind of friend, what kind of former lover would he be if he just left Louis now, if he just gave up and moved on?
But maybe it would be for the best. Clearly Harry’s presence here hasn’t done a single good thing for Louis, hasn’t helped at all, has maybe actually only made everything worse. Maybe he should swallow his pride, accept that he isn’t what Louis needs, and call Zayn, or maybe Niall, ask them to come here; maybe they’ll be better for Louis. He’s clearly underestimated the scars their breakup left on him, wonders if maybe he’s the only one who figured it was temporary, that maybe he never communicated his love and hopes for the future properly to Louis. It’s a scary thought.
He resolves to work it out later, and returns his attention to the sauce simmering in the small pot on the hob. He takes it off and leaves it to cool, before moving to turn on the oven. He checks on the dough and finds it twice as large as when he put it away about an hour ago, and tips it onto the kitchen island. In no time he has two big pizzas spread out on the countertop, and moves to grad the pot of sauce to spread it over them.
He hasn’t heard anything from Louis’ room yet, hasn’t heard him come out, though he’s not too surprised about that. At least he knows that he isn’t drinking himself into a stupor, that he might actually be sobering up right now, and that he won’t be getting drunk again anytime soon. He must have the meanest hangover ever on the horizon, Harry suspects, and he suddenly feels even more validated in his choice of pizza for dinner. Louis always did prefer pizza after heavy drinking.
When he finally has the food in the oven he turns to cleaning his utensils, opting for doing the dishes by himself instead of loading the dishwasher, up for almost anything that keeps him busy. He checks on the pizzas regularly until he deems them finished. He turns off the oven, and it fills the kitchen with the smell of melting cheese and oregano as he puts them down on the countertop, moving to grab plates from the cupboard. He has no hope of Louis joining him for dinner, but he figures that it would do well to get some hot food in his stomach. He piles the plate high with slices of pizza and grabs a coke and a bottle of water from the fridge before moving to Louis’ room, knocking gently on the door and receiving no reply. He hadn’t expected one anyway, so he merely pushes open the door with his shoulder and enters.
Louis is lying in bed facing the door and Harry, looking small and fragile amongst the fluffy white pillows and the light blue duvet. His skin is a sickly colour, making it obvious that he hasn’t been outside for days, and that he’s maybe also not feeling too well. The blinds have been drawn again, leaving the room in near darkness, and Harry decides to let him have it, have the small comfort the darkness lends him. He puts the pizza on the bedside table and turns on the small lamp, illuminating Louis’ face which is taking him in in return, sizing him up. The artificial light does no favours for Louis’ exhausted face, nor his sickly pallor, and it only highlights the shadows under his eyes and cheekbones, making him look even more drawn out.
He looks so, so tired, and Harry wonders how much sleep he’s really had since getting here, how much sleep he’s really had since the accident. He wonders if he’s plagued by nightmares when he closes his eyes, and maybe if it would have helped had he’d been there to hold him in his sleep.
He guesses now he’ll never know.
“I made you dinner,” he says, keeping his tone purposefully light, “Thought you might like some of my pizza? I know it was one of your favourites.” Louis doesn’t reply, doesn’t even acknowledge him, just stares blankly straight ahead. It terrifies him, but he tries not to let it get to him. “We didn’t have any bacon, but I hope it’s still alright?” he tries for a careful, sheepish smile, but still receives nothing in return. He feels his heart deflate, stomach sinking like it’s being weighted down by lead. “I, uh. Lou, I’m really sorry. I, well, I came here with you because I thought it might help, because I wanted to help you, but I’m not, am I? I’m really only making it worse. I’m sorry about before. I just… it hurts seeing you like this, and feeling so powerless, because I want nothing more than to take away your pain, to be there for you throughout this. If you just let me, I—“
“When,” Louis interrupts him, voice calm and cutting all at once, “Are you going to get that I don’t want you here?”
His words stun Harry into silence, and for several seconds they stare at each other, Louis’ eyes hard and cold as they bore into Harry’s, as he seeks any trace of a lie in them.
He finds none.
Eventually, he leaves the room.
The next morning he prepares a proper fry-up for both of them, exactly as he knows Louis likes it, and goes to bring it to him. He’s still in bed when Harry enters, but he’s awake, and Harry notices with a dull sort of satisfaction that the plate from yesterday is empty except for a single crust. Had this been other times, he would have felt inexplicably proud of having been able to get Louis to eat almost all of his crusts, but it hardly even registers now. He takes the empty plate and places the full one in its place.
Louis watches his movements, and then as soon as Harry straightens and turns his full attention to the man in the bed, he rolls onto his other side, putting his back to Harry, effectively dismissing him. His heart clenches, his stomach aches. He’s never felt less welcome in his life, never felt less wanted.
“Right,” he says, as he reaches the door, stops while clutching the door frame tight, his knuckles turning white. He looks back at where Louis is lying, his back to Harry and face hidden from view. “I’m going to leave now, then, so. Well. Goodbye, Lou.”
He gets his phone and wallet from where they’re lying on the dinner table, and goes to sit on the beach to await Maria’s arrival with the speedboat that’ll take him to the mainland.
“In days that follow, I discover that anger is easier to handle than grief.”
― Emily Giffin, Heart of the Matter
Maria arrives at nine o’clock sharp like they’d agreed on yesterday evening on the phone, with her ever present smile, and proving to be a proper badass, sitting behind the wheel of the motor boat.
Harry offers her a tired smile as he wades into the shallow water and climbs into the boat. He’s got his hair tied back in a strangely patterned headscarf Maria had purchased that he’s already grown quite fond of, and with the way the sun is covering the beach in a heavy blanket of heat, he thinks it’s a decision he’ll come to appreciate quite a lot.
“Morning, Harry,” she says as he’s positioned himself next to her. She digs into the bag by her feet and pulls out an envelope, handing it to him. “Your plane tickets,” she clarifies as Harry accepts the envelope. “There’s a car waiting at the dock to take you to the airport. The flight leaves in an hour.”
“Thank you,” Harry mumbles quietly, offering her a genuine smile. He’s not feeling up to talking, isn’t really feeling up to anything, but luckily Maria seems to understand without him having to say anything.
They spend the short boat ride to the mainland in silence, Harry looking back over his shoulders, watching as the island grows smaller and smaller behind him, until he can no longer see a trace of the land that holds Louis. He tries to remind himself that with the emotional and mental distance between the two of them, he might as well be in England and Louis in Belize. It makes no difference.
There is indeed a car waiting for him when he arrives, the same man who’d taken him and Louis to the harbour when they got here nearly two weeks ago. He greets Harry with a pleasant smile, and it feels a bit like coming full circle.
“If you need anything,” Maria says with a smile and a pat on his shoulder, “Don’t hesitate to call me. I’ll see you later, Harry.”
Distractedly, Harry nods at her with a smile, before squeezing her hand and climbing into the waiting car. The driver turns on the radio to fill their silence, some generic station with equal parts Spanish and English songs. He finds that he prefers the Spanish ones, prefers that he doesn’t actually understand what they’re saying. He isn’t up for emotional ballads or heartfelt love songs, isn’t up for any kind of lyrics he might relate to.
Getting through the airport is easy, there are hardly more people in the tiny building than last time he was here. He breezes through passport control and security check, and before he knows it, he’s seated on a tiny aeroplane next to an empty seat. The plane is hardly even half filled, but Harry finds he doesn’t mind at all. He was stopped just outside the gate by an excited young girl, and he didn’t have it in his heart to turn down her request of a photo, putting on his best fan smile and trying not to think about how he’s just revealed his location to the rest of the world. At least they’ll know he’s leaving, so maybe no paps will come snooping for them. He wonders if they’ve connected the dots that they were together for the past ten days. He’d be surprised if that isn’t at least the generally accepted ‘head canon’ amongst the so called ‘Larry shippers’.
He tries to lean his head back and sleep as the plane takes off, but he finds that it’s easier said than done. Despite the emotional fatigue he’s feeling, his body has other ideas, and sleep evades him, simply won’t allow him under. He’s left alone to his thoughts, and it’s neither pleasant nor advisable under his current circumstances. He wishes he had a book or something, and mentally adds it to the list of things he needs to purchase.
Luckily, it’s a short flight, barely more than half an hour before they’re touching ground, the pilot’s voice coming out of the speakers welcoming them to Belize City and wishing them a lovely stay.
Once again he’s got no luggage, so he makes it through the airport quickly and onto the streets of Belize’s biggest city. He flags a taxi and shows them the flap of paper with the destination he got from Maria, sitting back in his seat as the landscape passes by his window.
The taxi pulls up in front of a big run down building with the words ‘FLEA MARKET’ printed in bold letters on a sign. Handing over some cash to the driver, he gets out of the car and makes his way towards the building. When he’d asked Maria, he’d been informed that even the capital of Belize was suspiciously lacking in high end clothing brands, but then again, he figures he might as well support the local economy or whatever. He takes his time to peruse the shops selling everything from local crafts to knock off designer clothes. He finds a stall with strangely patterned shirts and buys several for himself, going out of his way to choose the loudest and most silly ones, the ones he knows would have made Louis roll his eyes and laugh at him before.
He stocks up on cotton t-shirts as well, denim shorts, and knock off Adidas and Nike ones, which he knows isn’t quite ethical, but he hasn’t got many options. When he comes across a stand selling different patterned silk scarfs, he buys several. He doesn’t haggle much with the price, knows that he’s technically being ripped off something dreadful, but he knows these people need the money a lot more than he needs to get this stuff for cheap, it’s not like the prices really make much of a dent in his pocket, even as inflated as they are.
By the time he’s leaving the market, he’s got more bags than he can safely carry, but he’s not quite finished yet. He stops at the curb and pulls out a big sports bag he purchased right before leaving and stuffs the many other bags into it, before slinging it over his shoulder.
Taking in his surroundings he looks around and finds a taxi a bit further down the road, making his way to it hurriedly to make sure no one else comes and snatches it from him. He’d originally been planning on buying a surfboard for Louis too, but Maria had informed him that the barrier reef prevents really big waves from forming, and that Belize wasn’t the greatest surf spot. He wonders why Louis would choose to purchase an island where he couldn’t even surf, but it’s a minor question on the long list that Harry already has. She’d told him that windsurfing was quite popular, but neither of them has ever tried their hands at that, and he suspects his gesture would be lost on Louis anyway.
The taxi drops him off at a tiny, hole-in-the-wall bookshop, the only one with a decent selection of English books as far as Maria knew. He spends a while perusing through their admittedly scarce selection, ending up with an acceptable amount of books varying from classics, to poetry, to fantasy, to young adult books. He might as well broaden his horizons a bit while he’s here.
When he’s paid he hears his stomach grumbling, is suddenly aware of how he never ate his own portion of breakfast, how it’s still standing on the kitchen counter of Louis’ beach house. He wonders if maybe the other boy has left his room by now, knowing Harry isn’t there anymore. He tries not to think about it.
He finds a small local restaurant not far from the bookshop, and sets down his heavy bag next to the chair, studying the menu in his hand. He’s quite grateful that Belize’s official language is still English, not really up for tackling a language barrier right now. It’s a selection of local dishes, all of which sound delicious. He ends up choosing a plate of tamales stuffed with chicken, and a plate of garnaches, which his server informs him is a very popular dish in Belize.
Instead of leaving his thoughts to their own devices he pulls out the first book he can get his hands on in the bag, coming up with an old, battered, and used copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. He’s briefly transported back to blackboards and his strict English teacher that had assigned the book to them many years ago. He hadn’t liked it then, had been quite frustrated with it in fact, and found it dreadfully boring, but he’s changed a lot since then, and he figures the least he can do is give it another shot.
He settles back into his chair, and gives himself over to a world inhabited by Scout, Jem, and Atticus. He loses himself in the book, finds that he remembers nothing of the plot except for the fact that they never actually encounter a bird, but he figures he’s going to mind that a lot less this time around.
He’s about fifteen pages into the book when his food arrives, having barely scratched the surface of the actual plot of the story, but he puts it aside dutifully and thanks the waiter with a smile. It smells delicious, spicy and rich, making his mouth water and his stomach grumble. He tackles the garnaches first, picks up the small fried tortillas, resisting the urge to moan in satisfaction when his mouth is filled with an explosion of fat cheese, refried beans, crunchy cabbage and carrots as well as the slightly sour, acidic taste of vinegar binding all of it together. He’s famished, so he finishes the plate quickly, taking sips of beer in between to wash it down with, the condensation on the bottle wetting his hand. The food is amazing, and he’s always had a thing for South and Mesoamerican food, but this is definitely something he’s going to attempt to recreate at home. Louis would love it.
He tackles the tamales next, unwraps one from the plantain leaf they’re individually wrapped in, and takes a bite. He’s tried making these at home once, though they didn’t turn out nearly as good as the ones on the plate before him. He savours the taste of chicken and corn dough, dipping it in sour cream and chili sauce, trying to figure out what to do for the next couple of hours. His flight isn’t until six, so he’s got about four hours to burn in Belize City, with very limited knowledge of what there is to do, and a bag that’s grown quite heavy already.
He googles ‘things to do in Belize City’ on his phone, and ends up on Lonely Planet’s website, scrolling through the short list of sights. He’s immediately intrigued by an art gallery called the Image Factory, promising that it’s Belize’s most innovative gallery, and he figures he might as well check it out.
He pays his bill and hails a cab, showing the driver the address on his phone. It’s not too long a drive and once he arrives, he finds that time moves quickly as he peruses the current exhibitions. They’re mostly by Belizean artists, he learns, and he even gets to speak with one of them who happens to be at the gallery. It’s right down his alley, and he enjoys the contemporary, slightly provocative installations. He even ends up giving the artist the email of his personal assistant to send over some pictures of the art she’s been telling him about, which Harry finds that he’s quite interested in purchasing.
He pulls a couple of notes from his wallet on his way out, leaving a donation to the otherwise free gallery, and heads into the store next door which Alana, the artist, told him about. Here he finds an impressive array of art, books, and CDs, and he picks out a few books on art and some carefully crafted wooden figurines he knows his mum will love. Once he’s paid he checks the time to find that his flight leaves in an hour and a half, so he heads to the street again, waving to Alana when he sees her in the window of the gallery, and jumps into the taxi that pulls up to the curb in front of him.
“To the airport, please,” he says to the fairly young driver. Getting comfortable in the backseat, his canvas bag next to him and the plastic bag of his most recent purchases between his legs, he doesn’t notice the way the guy is eyeing him in the rear-view mirror.
“You’re Harry Styles, right?” the driver questions, breaking the silence as he weaves them effortlessly into moving traffic in a harebrained move that would surely have killed Harry had he attempted it in London. “From that band, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” he says, eyeing the man cautiously. “That’s me.”
“Right, bro, yeah, my sister totally loves your music. She hasn’t mentioned you’re in Belize, she’d absolutely freak if she knew you were here.”
“Oh,” Harry smiles, feeling a bit more at ease now that he doesn’t think the man is going to drive him off to some deserted location and extort him for money. “Yeah, it’s all a bit low key, really.”
“’Course, yeah,” the driver hesitates, makes a sudden turn that has Harry clutching his seat in an attempt not to be tossed around in the back of the car. “Look, I couldn’t get you to sign something or summat, could I? It’s just that my sister’s birthday is next month, and it’d be like the best present I could get her, you know?”
“Yes, of course,” Harry smiles easily, leaning back in his seat, resting his head back against the headrest. “We can just work it out when we get to the airport.”
“Great, thanks, bro,” the driver nods, and turns up the volume of the radio slightly. It allows Harry a bit of privacy to just stare out of the window, watching the streets of Belize City as they pass him by.
Eventually they pull up in front of the terminal dealing with the domestic flights. He pays the driver, shoots a quick greeting to the girl on the driver’s phone, and signs a slip of paper with a short wish of a happy birthday. When he’s done he says goodbye and brushes off the driver’s ‘thank you’s, before hoisting the bag over his shoulder and walking into the airport.
He’s dead exhausted by the time he arrives at the island again, even though it’s only about eight or so in the evening. It’s still light outside, the sun visible over the water, and he starts the short trek through the sand to get to the front door of the house.
He tries not to ponder what he’ll find when he opens the door, tries not to think of anything really, doesn’t want to psych himself out over something that probably won’t even be the case. Pushing down the handle and pulling the door towards himself he gets it open and takes a cautious step into the house. He tries to make as little noise as possible lest he wakes up a sleeping Louis. He sets the bag down with a soft thud and toes off his shoes before tiptoeing towards the living room on bare feet.
The lights are turned off in the living room, the natural light filtering in through the windows, giving the room an almost twilight-y feel. It’s like when you’re so engrossed in something by the end of the day that when you finally look up the room has gone dark around you without you even taking notice.
Louis is lying on the couch, Harry quickly spots, eyes having had years of training to seek out and spot Louis instantly in a crowd. He’s staring straight ahead at the muted TV in front of him, eyes unseeing, focused on a point somewhere on the wall above it.
There’s nothing, he thinks, taking in Louis’ still form, quite as paralysing as grief.
He doesn’t appear to hear Harry’s entrance, so he takes a step further into the room, and it’s not until the floorboard beneath his feet creaks that Louis registers his arrival. He sits up quickly and whips around, eyes wild as he seeks out the source of the sound.
His eyes fall on Harry and for a moment they show his unguarded shock at his reappearance, before he visibly schools them into a mask of coldness and indifference.
“I thought you’d left,” he states, with the sort of practiced haughtiness that’s meant to make people feel inferior.
Harry shrugs helplessly, and sticks to honesty. “Never planned on it. It wouldn’t have felt right.”
Louis huffs and makes a show of rolling his eyes, before getting up and ignoring Harry as he moves back into the master bedroom. Harry can’t help but follow, is powerless to do anything but follow, sick of the status quo as it is, and ready for something, anything to change between them.
He can’t keep doing this.
“I don’t want you to be alone, Lou,” he says honestly, standing in the middle of the room, staring intently at Louis who’s got his back turned to him, shoulders hunched slightly.
And that… that seems to be the last straw for Louis because he just… explodes. Erupts like an active volcano, showering Harry with burning hot lava. He spins around to face him, rage apparent on his face, making Harry take an involuntary step back in fright, wondering briefly how long Louis has been building up to this outburst.
“But I am alone, Harry, so just stop treating me like a fucking charity case.” He raises his voice, breaks, words tumbling from his lips like he can no longer hold them in. The longer he speaks, the louder his voice gets, until he’s full on screaming at Harry. “I’m officially not your problem as of six months ago, you saw to that yourself, so just leave me the fuck alone. You can’t just suddenly come running back to me when I’m hurt and vulnerable. I’m not something for you to fix, so just pack away your sodding saviour complex and go back home!”
Harry is momentarily too stunned to say anything in reply. Louis is standing in front of him, chest heaving with his agitated, quickened breaths, eyes wild. “Is that what you think?” Harry asks, voice small and quiet, Louis’ words infiltrating the spaces of his being, painting everything black. And then like flipping a switch he goes from hurt to angry because how dare he, how dare Louis accuse him of being here because of some bloody complex, how dare he after everything they’ve been through together, when he knows how much Louis’ family meant to Harry too? Just. How fucking dare he. There’s a breaking point for everyone, and Harry’s reached his.
“Fuck you, Lou.” He spits out, voice grown cold and steely but still carrying just the smallest hint of desperation. “Fuck’s sake, I love you. I’m here because I love you, I—“
“Stop saying that!” Louis cries, throwing up his arms in desperation looking approximately two seconds from starting to tear at his own hair. “Stop saying that. Stop lying, you selfish bastard!” He’s obviously going for angry, but his voice betrays him when it breaks on the last syllable, right along with Harry’s heart. “Just go. GO! I don’t want you here, I don’t want you here, I—“ he’s growing more and more distressed clawing at his own arms and breathing heavily, tears lining his lashes and threatening to fall.
Harry takes a small step forwards and clutches Louis’ wrists in his hands, forces his nails to stop running over his forearms, leaving red tracks on the skin in his finger’s wake.
“Well, you don’t have a choice,” he responds, his own voice strained, fighting down the sob that threatens to erupt. “I’m here. I’m here, and I’m not leaving, I’m here—“
“Please just go,” Louis’ strangled voice comes, as he tries to free his wrists from Harry’s grasp, tries to wrap his arms around himself like it might just stop him from falling apart completely, like he might be able to physically hold together what’s still left standing of him. “Leave me alone, just leave me the fuck alone, Harry,” his movements continue to grow progressively frantic in his attempts to free himself from Harry’s grip, and Harry fears that his touch will leave bruises on Louis’ wrist, that he will actually cause him physical harm however little he intends to, if he doesn’t find a quick way to subdue the hysterical boy.
He presses him up against the wall, their two bodies aligned but in the least sexual way ever. He presses Louis’ wrist together against his chest, holds them against his heartbeat as the boy struggles against his hold.
They’re both crying now.
If he thought his move might calm Louis down, have any effect on him short of making him even more panicked, he’s dead wrong.
“I hate you,” Louis’ shrill voice comes, hurling at him words that makes Harry’s heart clench, makes bile rise in his throat and the need to curl into a ball and cry all the greater. “I hate you, you hear me? I hate you so much!” His words are getting choked up by his tears, and it’s the breaking point. This, more than anything else, is where everything breaks.
“Well you’re not exactly my favourite person right now either!” He bursts out, shocking even himself with the volume of his voice as it slams Louis straight in the face. It’s lies, is all lies, because even now, even when he’s screaming that he hates him, Louis will always be his favourite person.
It seems to shock Louis enough to stop struggling and shouting, though, whether it be Harry’s words or the volume of his voice. For several moments they just stare at each other, sniffles and small hiccups the only sounds to be heard. And then it’s like a dam that bursts, and if Harry’d thought Louis was crying before it’s nothing compared to now, ugly sobs reverberating through his body, shaking everything right down to his very core. He shakes as he cries, fat tears rolling down his cheeks, snot clogging up his nose, the kind of crying that leaves you feeling dry like a desert inside and with the meanest headache known to man.
Louis seems to lose all strength in his legs, as they give in and he slides down the wall. Harry follows, crouches down in front of him and wraps his arms around him, holding him tightly in his embrace. It’s the first time since hearing the tragic news that he gets to hold Louis, that they get to hold each other, and Harry wishes more than anything that they could have done it sooner. Wishes they weren’t doing it now under these circumstances.
Eventually Louis’ sobs subside, and Harry’s own body seems to run out of tears to shed. They’re both disgusting now, wet, snivelling beings with scratchy voices, red noses, and puffy, bloodshot eyes.
Louis turns his head slightly and presses his lips against Harry’s.
He’s shocked at first, the action the last he would ever have expected, but his body remembers the familiarity of Louis’ lips on his own, and as if it were muscle memory he kisses him back before he even registers what he’s doing. Their lips mould together for the first time in over six months, fitting as seamlessly as the very first time they kissed and every time since. Eventually though, his brain catches up with his body, he realises what they’re doing and what a terrible idea it is. The last thing they need is a shag that will only make things even more awkward between them. No. As much as his body, his mind, his very being yearns for Louis, he’s not about to take advantage of his vulnerability to do something Louis is surely only going to regret come morning.
Reluctantly, he draws back, their lips separating with a smack that seems much too loud for the otherwise silent house. He looks up to find Louis’ eyes staring back at him, wild and unfocused, red from the many tears.
“Please,” he whispers brokenly, hands fisting desperately in Harry’s t-shirt. He hesitates, feels the internal tug-of-war that’s going on inside him, though if he’s honest he already knows which side is going to win. He could never say no to Louis. “Please. I just-- please just make me forget. I just wanna feel something else, I just want to forget for just a moment, please, Hazza, I—“
Harry silences him with a kiss.
“I didn't want him to think I was giving up - I wasn't. I simply couldn't put myself together just yet.”
― Markelle Grabo, The Spell Master
It’s so blatantly clear that they want different things the second their naked bodies hit the sheets. Louis wants to forget. Harry wants to remember. Wants to remember how they used to spend hours mapping out each other with their tongues and lips, remember how his hand curls perfectly around the dip of Louis’ waist, how they’ve always seemed to be able to know what the other needed without any words uttered. He used to understand every single one of Louis’ moans, be able to differentiate between them like they were an actual language of their own.
Harry’s so painfully unfamiliar with this version of him.
He tries to pull back far enough to have a proper look at Louis’ body, because he’s missed it. Has missed him so much, has missed this. Wants nothing more than to take his time, spend hours just running his hands over Louis’ skin, relearning the way his body works, finding all the changes to his physique the last six months has brought, and, perhaps, especially, the last two weeks.
Louis doesn’t let him.
The second he moves to pull back, Louis’ hand fists in his curls and tugs him down towards him harshly. It sends sharp stings of something straddling the line between pain and pleasure through his body, and he can’t help but let out a pained moan, his already hard cock pulsing between his legs. His scalp is throbbing and Louis doesn’t release his tight grip on his hair until he seems absolutely certain that Harry won’t attempt pulling away again.
He can work with that.
He bends further down instead, pressing his lips against Louis’ thin ones, savouring the feel of the even pressure against his own for a moment, before slowly swiping his tongue over Louis’ lower lip.
Louis’ hand tightens in his hair again, not nearly as hard as last time, yet still hard enough to produce a sharp tinge in his sensitive scalp. Pleasure is pumping through his veins, burning everything in its wake. Louis sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and bites, sinks his teeth into it, hard. Harry’s always been a little bit more into the pain thing than is probably considered normal, but he’s never had Louis’ teeth sink quite so deep, his hands pull quite so hard. He can’t really figure out if he likes it. His head is a fussy mess of pain and pleasure, but his cock speaks for itself, hard as fucking ever.
He needs to get it inside Louis preferably five minutes ago if he’s going to have any hope of not coming prematurely all over the sheets of the big, pristine bed.
He pulls back from Louis, just enough to detach their lips and not an inch more, breathing heavy as he lets it fan out on Louis’ face. He has his eyes closed, and Harry waits for him to open them before he speaks. When he finally does so, it seems almost reluctant, like he’d rather keep them closed throughout it all, like it’ll allow him to picture some nameless stranger above him instead of Harry. It doesn’t sit right with him at all.
“Lube?” Harry questions when blue finally meets green, and then with a twinge in his heart, a heavy feeling in his gut, follows up with, “Condom?”
Now that he thinks about it, he can’t imagine they’ll have any here in the house. He hasn’t put it on any of Maria’s shopping lists, certainly neither of them brought it when they travelled here, and he doubts Louis has managed to magically produce it within the twelve hours Harry was gone.
Louis blinks up at him confusedly for a few seconds, like he can’t quite comprehend what it is Harry is asking, until he literally can see recognition blossom in his eyes.
“Top drawer,” he says, turning his head to the side to avoid his eyes. Harry’s brow furrows, a mixture of hurt and confusion, and he leans away slightly, towards the bedside table.
He gets the first drawer open and is instantly met with a strong scent of cinnamon, exactly the smell of the candles he brings on tour, the smell that reminds him of home, of the home he and Louis used to share. He sticks his hand into the drawer and rummages around for the bottle of lube, and sure enough his hand comes in contact with what’s unmistakably a candle. He pushes his confusion away, and continues to blindly search for the lube and condoms. He makes contact with a tube, and pulls it from the depths of the drawer, only to be met with the sight of a tube of the organic hand lotion he keeps beside his bed at home. Frustrated, and hard, and confused, he throws it back with more force than strictly necessary, and finally his fingers find the hard plastic of a small bottle of lube and the foil wrapper containing a condom, tucked neatly against the far corner of the drawer.
He moves back towards Louis, condom and lube now clutched in his hand, and makes a conscious effort not to think about how the contents of the bedside table drawer are almost identical to the contents of his drawer at home.
Looking down he finds that Louis has his hand on his own dick, absentmindedly stroking it while he’s got his eyes shut tight and his front teeth sunken into his bottom lip. Harry doesn’t know what to do about anything, how to feel. This might be the biggest mistake they’re about to make, might ruin positively everything, might take what little chance was still left of them rebuilding their relationship, or at least just their friendship, away.
Louis won’t even look at him.
He’s pulled from his thoughts when Louis grabs the base of his cock, grip tight, tighter than is really comfortable, but Harry doesn’t say anything because it still makes his dick twitch, and they’re taking this pain kink of his to proportions he hadn’t previously thought it could go. Alright, then.
“Come on,” Louis says, voice managing to sound both strangled, slightly breathless and kind of angry all at once. Turns out it works for Harry.
He sets in motion as he feels Louis’ loosening his grip on his dick, running his hand down it once, thumb moving over the slit and ripping a moan from Harry’s throat, before releasing it completely.
He coats his fingers in lube, breaking the plastic seal of the bottle before he can open the lid, and he feels an overwhelming sense of relief that’s neither fair nor rational. Holding up his weight with one hand placed on the bed next to Louis’ waist, on his knees between Louis’ spread and bent legs, he moves his wet hand down to fit in between Louis’ arse cheeks, running his finger gently over the rim of his hole. He continues to circle it a few times, until Louis’ hand moves to grasp the wrist of the arm Harry has resting on the bed, his nails digging into his flesh.
He gets the message.
The next time his finger circles Louis’ hole, it catches on the rim, and instead of pulling it away gently, Harry pushes in instead. He meets resistance first, Louis’ hole so impossibly tight Harry thinks he can’t possibly have been fucked since the last time they were together and Harry topped. It’s a thought best not dwelled on though, the possibility of Louis having sex with anyone but him, having anyone but him see him like this, touch him like this, is enough to make bile rise in his throat. He’s got absolutely no right to be, but damn he’s a possessive bastard even now.
He builds up to two, and then three fingers, all while he can feel Louis grow increasingly impatient. They don’t speak beyond the small grunts and groans they each utter, and Harry can feel the sweat pooling at his temples already, despite barely having started, and despite the air conditioning cooling down the room. His body feels hot and flushed, almost feverish, and his heart is beating like he’s just run a marathon, breaths already coming out in quick, shallow bursts. He’s so overwhelmed the word doesn’t even cover it.
He’s barely even been touched, for fuck’s sake. Shit. His cock is just hanging heavy and neglected between his legs, precome already dripping from the slit, and it’s all much, much too much.
When Louis gets hold of Harry’s cock it’s simultaneously the best and worst thing. It feels fucking incredible, is the thing, but it also feels like it could be enough to make him come right then and there, and now that he’s so close to being inside of Louis again, he doesn’t want that. He wants Louis, wants every part of Louis, wants to be inside of him, and have Louis inside of him, and just… everything. He wants everything.
Louis rolls a condom onto Harry’s cock, and coats it in lube, before shifting slightly to get his bum closer to it. From his angle he can hardly guide Harry inside himself, so Harry takes a hold of his own cock instead, positioning himself at Louis’ entrance and hovering over him, his face directly above his. As he presses his dick against him he leans down to seal their lips together, kissing him languidly, deeply as he pushes into him, pace slow, careful in order to make it hurt as little as possible for Louis.
He pulls back from the kiss, closes his eyes in pleasure, head hanging and mouth open at the sensation of Louis’ tight heat around the head of his cock. He tries to treasure the feeling lest this be the last time he’ll ever feel it, and a low, guttural moan escapes his lips. It transforms into a startled hiss of pain when Louis fists his hand in his hair once more, and pulls, dragging Harry’s eyes to his.
He trails his hands down to lie on Harry’s shoulders now that he has his attention, Harry feels it as he digs his nails into his skin, the sharp sting sending shivers down his spine.
“I need you to,” Louis pants, slightly out of breath, as Harry studies the drop of sweat that trails from his hairline down his cheek. “To make me forget.” Louis foot comes to rest against Harry’s bum, heel digging into the soft skin of his cheek as he applies pressure, forcefully pushing Harry further into him, effectively underlining his point.
It rips a moan from both of them, and suddenly Harry gets it. He gets what Louis is trying to ask for, what he needs. It’s such uncharted territory for them, Louis always having been the one in control in the bedroom, and Harry likes it that way, likes being taken care of and likes Louis being the one in charge. He technically still is, but he’s also asking Harry to take control, asking him to make him forget. He doesn’t want soft and sentimental like Harry does right now, he doesn’t want to make love, doesn’t want to reminiscence about what they used to be, what they could be again in time, maybe. He wants Harry to fuck him. Rough, dirty, quick. He wants Harry to hold him down and make him forget everything that’s happened.
They’re mending no bridges tonight.
And he’s always been powerless to deny Louis anything, even if Harry’s dick wasn’t hard as a rock, almost bottomed out inside of Louis, he still wouldn’t be able to say no.
He stops thinking from then on out.
He pushes in the last inch until he’s buried completely inside Louis, and then, without giving him any time to adjust, he pulls out again, nearly all the way, only he slams back in. He takes hold of Louis’ wrists and, pins them to the bed on either side of his head, and holds them there, grip tight. Makes it impossible for Louis to move.
He keeps up a brutal pace, snapping his hips harder, faster, harder, as Louis moans loudly, noises bordering on screams, and Harry feels his own sounds originating in the very bottom of his belly, nothing but rough, throaty grunts.
“Harder, harder, harder,” Louis chants, back arching off the bed and head turned sideways, as if trying to bury it in the sheets. Harry releases his wrists to take a hold of Louis’ thighs, hoisting them over his shoulders and changing the angle of his trusts. He slips out of Louis as he’s trying to get comfortable in their new position, and has to reach down to get hold of his dick, hissing at the contact, cock so hard and so sensitive already. He guides it back to Louis’ entrance and pushes in without any preamble, picking up his brutal pace from earlier instantly.
The new angle has him hitting Louis’ prostate head on, if the increased volume and growing franticness beneath him is any indication. His hands come to clutch Harry’s biceps, nails digging into skin, creating crescent shaped marks in the soft flesh, clawing at him in desperation, like he’s trying to find something to anchor himself to. He aims to hit that one spot with every thrust; going harder and faster than he’s probably ever gone, having lost all control of his body, thinking he might never be able to stop. His mind is nothing but a haze of need and want, urges primal, mind turned primal.
He leans forward, bending Louis’ body into a position that would have been impossible for anyone less flexible than him, and attaches his lips to the space where the sharpness of Louis’ jaw meets the softness of his throat. It’s more biting and sucking than it’s kissing as his mouth moves over Louis throat, lips and teeth unforgiving as they leave behind angry red marks, growing purple in places and covering his neck from jaw to shoulder.
He fumbles blindly for Louis’ hands, lips still attached to the skin of his collarbone, and when he gets a hold of them he forces them above Louis’ head, holding them there with one massive hand, while the other fists itself in Louis’ hair, pulling it sideways and exposing Louis’ throat and collarbones further.
He’s practically lying on top of him now, crushing him with his weight, and Louis’ legs have slipped from his shoulders, are lying limp and open around Harry, framing the masterpiece that is them in the most fitting metaphor Harry’s ever thought of. He’s snapping his hips into Louis repeatedly, all sense of rhythm and timing lost, lost to sensation and lust. It’s sloppy and uncoordinated, but so good, orgasm growing like pressure building in an enclosed space, threatening to burst any second. Harry feels like he’s going to explode.
He sinks his teeth into the thin skin of Louis’ collarbone, not quite hard enough to break skin, but definitely hard enough that it’ll mean a mark there come morning, and he fucks into him particularly hard, hitting his prostate dead on.
It seems to take them both by surprise, the moan ripped from Louis’ throat bordering on some disturbing hybrid of a scream and a sob. His cock pulses pearly white come between them, reaching far and wide, hitting both of their chins, Harry’s head tucked into the crook of Louis’ neck and he continues snapping his own hips in search of his own relief.
He moves inside Louis one, two, three thrusts, registers in some distant part of his brain that feels so, so far away that Louis is shaking beneath him, and this must surely be uncomfortable for him, but he makes no move to push Harry away, to tell him to stop. Quite the opposite, in fact, Louis’ got his arms wound around him, clutching him closer in an uncomfortably tight embrace.
With one last thrust he’s coming into the condom, continuing his shallow movement until he literally can’t anymore, collapsing on top of Louis then slipping out of him, wincing in the process and struggling to catch his breath.
His cheek rests against Louis’ from where his head is buried in Louis’ neck, and it’s not until he feels something wet against his skin that he registers that the shaking of Louis’ body might be something other than a post orgasm reaction.
He draws his head back to get a proper look at him, sees instantly the tear tracks on Louis’ cheeks, the water steadily leaking from his eyes. Harry moves to pull back in shock, nausea swirling in his stomach at the thought of what he’s just done, how he’s just treated Louis, how he’s reduced him to a crying mess. It’s so fucking scary seeing this version of Louis beneath him, worlds apart from the strong, stoic version Harry knows, and knowing that it’s his fault. He moves to pull back, but he doesn’t get far, Louis’ arms still around him, and he tightens his grip as soon as Harry tries to move, sobs growing loud now instead of quiet tears, shaking more violently, like he’s just lost all control of himself.
He’s hiccupping, trying to form words that Harry can’t make out, so he clutches him back, holds him close to his chest as he cries, and cries, and cries, until there couldn’t possibly be a single tear left to shed. Harry allows himself to hold onto the hope that maybe it isn’t him that’s done this to Louis, left him in this state, maybe it really is the fact that everything has finally caught up to Louis, finally overwhelmed him now that he can’t dull it with alcohol anymore.
He holds him close to his chest, cheek pressed against Louis’ soft hair, wetting it with his own silent tears. He holds him until Louis’ sobs die out, leaving behind a small boy gasping for breaths, fists balled against Harry’s back, pressing him close, close, closer like he’s afraid he might actually leave.
“Stay,” is the last thing he hears Louis whisper, before the boy in his arms finally drifts off to sleep, exhausted. “Please.”
“It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching, and finding.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Harry wakes up alone.
He’s disoriented at first, room bright and sunny, and bed soft against his heated body. He’s got the sheets pooled around his hips, his upper body bare. He’s naked. He’s naked and his body sticky, dried come and sweat coating it in a layer of unpleasantness. He sits up slightly and can’t help but wince at a stinging sensation coming from his arms. His entire body is sore, and twisting his head slightly he can see the red, angry marks Louis’ nails had left on his skin yesterday.
It’s a reminder of what they did, and he swallows nervously as the memories flood him, memories of pounding into Louis with no restraint, of holding down his arms and biting his neck, of Louis’ nails scratching at him, his hands yanking Harry’s hair hard, and, at last, the breakdown that followed their orgasms.
He feels sick to his stomach at the remembrance of how he’d treated Louis, of how the older boy had been shaking beneath him, probably already crying, as Harry pounded into him repeatedly, chasing his own release, oblivious to anything but obtaining his own pleasure.
He only just makes it to the bathroom in time to empty his stomach into the toilet bowl.
When he’s done, when he’s thrown up until there literally isn’t a single thing left in his stomach, after he’s dry heaved into the bowl a few times, he sits back against the wall opposite the toilet, body shaking and breathing ragged.
He doesn’t cry, though it’s a damn near thing. He doesn’t think he deserves to cry when it’s all his fault, when all he’s done since the funeral is fuck things up, is fuck Louis up, is make everything a million times worse. He’s forced himself on Louis in every way imaginable, it’s no fucking wonder that he’s left. Because Harry’s sure that he has – left, that is. Without even searching the rest of the house, he’s one hundred percent certain that Louis no longer is to find anywhere on the island. If he were Louis he wouldn’t want to be within ten feet of himself either.
He wants to apologise, wants to explain, wants to make sure he knows that he never meant to hurt him, never meant to cause him any harm. All he can do, though, is hope that he will come back.
He drags himself into the shower, and spends a long time cleaning his body completely of yesterday’s events. He washes his hair with his own preferred apple scented shampoo, picking it up from where it stands next to the one Louis’ prefers, and for a few moments he lets himself pretend that the past six months were just a bad dream, and that he’s really back in their shower at home, that any minute Louis will come in through the bathroom door, shed his clothes and join Harry with a fond smile before taking over the job of soaping up his curls. If only.
When he’s rinsed the shampoo from his hair, he turns off the water, towels his wet body and curls up in bed again. He avoids the part of the bed they’d shagged on last night, sticks to the cold, clean side, and this time it’s his turn to lie in bed all day. He tries to fall asleep, let oblivion take him in.
He only partly succeeds.
Wednesday turns to Thursday, and Thursday to Friday, and still no sign of Louis.
Eventually he gets to the point where he must accept that Louis isn’t coming back.
On the third day since Louis’ disappearance, he makes the decision that it’s time to go back home. He texts Maria to please book him flight tickets to London for as soon as possible, not really in the mood to speak to anyone else just yet, and he sets about packing. He figures he might as well get it over with so he’s ready to leave at any moment. It doesn’t take long, even with his trip to Belize City they hardly have any possessions here, so more than packing he sets about sorting the things he’d bought for Louis from the things he bought for himself. He folds up the t-shirts, shorts, and everything else he’d purchased with Louis in mind, and places them on the made up bed in the master bedroom, sheets washed and clean. He hopes that Louis will return here once he’s left, that he’ll come back here and get from this place what he came here to get, what Harry prevented him from getting.
He’s just… so, so sorry.
He debates the books for a while, looks upon them where they’re spread out on his bed in the guestroom upstairs, and tries to figure out which to bring home and which to leave here. He instantly decides to leave the fantasy books; the first Hunger Games book and one about a boy and a dragon he hasn’t heard of before, figuring those are probably the best bets of getting Louis to read. He takes a while to figure out what to do with the rest, eyes them curiously, and finally picks up only To Kill a Mockingbird, placing the worn copy in his sports bag carefully, and decides to leave the rest behind.
Collecting about half in his arms, he deposits them on the empty shelf in his guestroom, before gathering the other half and moving into the room identical to the one that’s been his since they got here, placing the rest on the shelf there.
He’s about to turn around and leave the room when he sees something out of the corner of his eye. It’s two big cardboard boxes, perhaps the only thing setting this room apart from his, and they’re standing so inconspicuously in the corner of the room, hidden partially by the bed, that he hadn’t even noticed them when he’d made his original tour of the house.
Curiosity gets the better of him, and he finds his limbs leading him away from the door and towards the boxes before his mind even consciously registers to move.
Cautiously, almost afraid of what he’ll find, which is ridiculous, he opens the first box. It takes him a few moments to register what it is he’s seeing, and it isn’t until he sees himself staring back at him, eyes crinkled and grin wide, happiness shining out of him, lighting up every feature of his face, that he registers what’s in the box.
It’s a picture.
Framed in a simple black frame inside a cardboard box stowed away in a guestroom is a picture of him.
With frantic movements and a heart beating much too fast to be normal he dives into the box, pulling out picture after picture of him, of him and Louis, a few of them with their families or the boys but mostly just the two of them. Picture after picture telling a story, telling the same story, telling the story of a happy couple, two people who loved each other so, so much.
It’s a reminder of everything he’s lost, but it also makes no sense. He remembers the empty nails, the bare walls, and wonders if maybe these used to hang there… but none of it makes even a smidgen of sense, because according to Maria, Louis has owned this house for more than a year, they were together for more than half of that time, and he’s never mentioned it to Harry. He feels like confusion has been his default state of mind since entering this house, and it only seems to add to it, it only gets worse, nothing is ever explained. It’s exhausting.
He remembers the second box, though he already knows it must be something along the lines of what’s in the first. He lifts the first box from the top of it, now weighing next to nothing after he’s emptied it of its content, the pictures laying strewn around him, picture after picture of two boys so infinitely more happy than the ones who’ve inhabited this house for the past two weeks. They’re all staring up at him, taunting him with everything he no longer has.
He opens the second box, and is met with a somewhat similar sight, pictures of the two of them taken over the last couple of years, some Harry hasn’t even seen before, but also posters and paintings. It’s mostly Hayden Kays pieces, ones which they’ve both agreed on liking, Louis appreciating the humour in them and Harry both the humour and the aesthetical aspect.
He doesn’t understand anything.
He sits on the floor amongst a sea of pictures, years of memories, clutching one tightly in his hands, knuckles turned white. He’s never seen this before, doesn’t understand where Louis has gotten it from. It’s the two of them, some random day Harry can’t even properly remember, heads bent close together and looking into each other’s eyes, oblivious to the rest of the world, and clearly also to the fact that this photo was taken. They’ve got laughter edged into every line of their face, into every wrinkle and every shadow.
They look so happy.
They look so in love.
So happy and in love, and it breaks his heart.
“I didn’t really want to come here and be reminded of yet another thing I’d lost,” comes Louis’ voice, startling Harry from his reverie, and he spins around as fast as he can from his position on the floor, heart startled into a gallop and feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, like an unruly child caught doing something he wasn’t allowed. He clutches the photo tighter in his grip, as if he’s afraid that Louis might come and take it from him.
It takes a few moments to register what Louis just said, that he’s here, but when he does, his face morphs into a frown, lips tilting down.
“You haven’t lost me, Lou,” he says, takes in Louis in the doorway, looking tired and worn, but not like he hates Harry with the passion of a thousand burning suns, which is really quite something, a proper miracle really, from where Harry’s standing.
Louis tilts his head sideways, a sad smile on his face as he shrugs helplessly. “Haven’t I, though?”
“No!” Harry gets out, feeling horrified at Louis’ words, the man standing before him with a tilt to his head that screams self-deprecation. The way he’s staring at a point above Harry’s right shoulder is nothing like the hostile, angry man that’s been with him for the past two weeks, or the confident, sassy man he usually is. He’s not even sure what Louis is referring to, but it doesn’t matter because it isn’t true, could never be true, no matter what context they’re talking in. “It was never meant to be permanent.”
Louis’ eyes finally flit to his, swimming with an emotion Harry can’t identify. He scrambles to his feet, standing amongst the many pictures. He takes a step towards Louis cautiously, careful not to step on any of the frames, and at the same time scared of startling Louis, approaching him like one would a wild animal.
“I didn’t—I don’t—Louis,” he struggles with what to say, can’t find the words, and he wants to reach out to touch him, hold him in his arms. He can’t. “It wasn’t supposed to be permanent. I don’t—I don’t understand how we ended up here, I don’t understand anything anymore.” He takes a deep breath, and then the words are tumbling out of his mouth in a confused, tangled mess and he’s finally saying what’s he’s been wanting to say for days. “I’m sorry about that night… how I… how I treated you, I—God. I’m so sorry, Lou, I never—I don’t know what got into me, but I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to make you leave, I—“
“Is that really what you think?” Louis asks, frown dominating his face. “You didn’t make me leave, Harry, I didn’t run away because I was, like… scared of you, or anything. You didn’t hurt me, not any more than I asked you to, wanted you to, at any rate. ” He hesitates slightly, shoulders slumping before walking two steps to the bed, sitting down on it and picking at a loose thread in the duvet. He keeps his head down, appearing wildly fascinated by his fingers working. “Maria said you were going to leave. Asking for tickets to London.”
Harry’s slightly shocked that Louis would know this, wonders if that’s why he’s here now. It seems odd, he can only imagine that Louis must be fucking thrilled that he’s leaving. Maybe he didn’t expect to find Harry still here. He’s had this ridiculous notion that he’s been the only one in contact with Maria, but of course she and Louis must be familiar, he hired her after all, and he must have called her up to inform her that he’d be coming, asking her to move all traces of Harry from the house.
‘I didn’t really want to come here and be reminded of yet another thing I’d lost.’
Harry is barely functioning anymore. God. He still doesn’t understand, doesn’t understand what the pictures were doing in the house in the first place, but just the fact that Louis really thinks he’s lost him is… utterly and completely heart breaking.
“Yeah,” he answers with visible delay, “I, uh, it’s not exactly helping, is it? Not really doing any good. Me being here, I mean. You said you didn’t want me here in the first place, and I forced myself on you anyway, and I’m sorry. Fuck, love, I’m so fucking sorry. I figured it was probably time I did as you asked. Seems like the least I can do.” The words hurts as they make their way up his throat and out of his mouth, feels like they’re adorned with sharp, burning spikes, tearing his insides to shreds as they move through him. He can hardly get them out.
“You know,” Louis starts, still looking down at his hands as they continue to fiddle with the duvet, seeming endlessly fascinated by his own actions. His voice is the kind of controlled calm that really speaks of an underlying nervousness more than anything else. He’s nervous, and Harry doesnt’ have a clue why. This Louis in front of him is miles from the one Harry had yelling at him three days ago, and he wishes he knew what changed, why it changed. “I bought this island over a year ago. Thought it was really nice, thought it’d be nice to have a private place to get away to, somewhere we could be a hundred percent sure we weren’t disturbed, no worries about a random fan spotting us.” He lets out a self-deprecating chuckle, like he’s an absolute moron for having those thoughts, when really Harry thinks it’s about the loveliest sound he’s heard in ages.
His heart is beating fast, his palms are sweating.
“I had the house built and I hired Maria. Had furniture shipped here, you know? Pictures.” He indicates his head towards the frames spread around Harry, a slight toss of his head, his unstyled hair moving softly with the motion. “Provided her with a list of things the house should be stocked with whenever we arrived.” He gives a small shrug. Harry feels his heart beating in his throat, doesn’t dare say anything lest it makes Louis stop talking.
His favourite shampoo in the shower, his hand lotion in the bedside drawer, the way the kitchen is an exact replica of Harry’s dream one, it’s all because Louis had asked for it to be like that. His words echo inside Harry’s head ‘whenever we arrived.’
“You never told me about it,” he dares say, but he doesn’t pose it as a question, just offers it up like a neutral statement. It doesn’t feel like he has any right to throw questions at Louis, even though he’s almost literally dying to know the answers.
Louis stays silent for several moments, nearly long enough that Harry thinks he might have crossed the limit, gone too far, should’ve just shut up and waited for Louis to talk at his own pace. He’s just opened his mouth to apologise when Louis speaks.
“It’s not actually my house,” is what he says, confusing Harry even further which would be brilliant if not for the fact that he’s so sick of being confused, doesn’t feel like he’s been anything but confused since arriving on this sodding island. Louis lets out a small chuckle though he hardly sounds amused. “It’s not really my island either. It’s… well, it’s yours, I guess.” He shrugs helplessly, looking so small where he’s sitting on the bed, and, really, scratch that from before, just scratch it because this, this right here is definitely the most confused Harry’s ever been in his entire fucking life. “I bought it for you. It was… it was supposed to be your birthday present. Like for when you turned twenty-one. Only… only you—we—“
“We broke up,” Harry supplies, hands shaking. He feels physically ill. He almost prefers confusion to this.
“Yeah,” Louis breathes out, voice barely audible. “You broke it off with me and it hardly seemed like an appropriate birthday present for my ex-boyfriend.”
“Lou,” he chokes out, only just managing to keep the tears back. Him crying is probably the very epitome of what Louis doesn’t need, but he feels shitty right to his very core. Feels like a fucking terrible person, feels like he’s made nothing but wrong decisions, has singlehandedly ruined the very best thing he’s ever had.
“You broke my fucking heart, Harry.” He states it so plainly, finally looking Harry in the eyes, expression open and honest, almost like he doesn’t know that his words have the power to shatter Harry’s heart into a million tiny pieces, the power to break him completely.
“Lou,” is all he can manage to get out, because he isn’t sure what to say, can’t think, can’t fucking think clearly at all.
“I don’t want you to leave,” Louis states, cutting Harry off before he can utter another word. It’s everything he’s wanted to hear since getting into the car after the funeral but it feels wrong, feels all wrong now, because Louis shouldn’t want him here at all. He’s clearly gotten a hell of a lot better over the three days he had to himself in God knows where, than he did in ten days on this island with Harry. Clearly, Harry brings him nothing but misery, surely Louis of all people can see that. He shouldn’t want Harry here at all.
“I was so scared when I told you I didn’t want you with me after the funeral,” he continues, seeming entirely oblivious to Harry’s internal struggles, to how much his words are affecting Harry. “So scared that you would really leave. Because… because I did want you there. I do want you here. Fuck, Haz, I wish that I didn’t, every day you’ve been here I wished more than anything that I didn’t, but I do. I wanted you right beside me from the second I heard the news, but I was too afraid to ask, because… because people always leave, Harry, one way or another, and I—I thought maybe it would hurt less when you did if it was me who made you go.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he gets out through the lump that seems lodged in his throat, stubbornly trying to prevent him from talking. “I don’t want to be anywhere else.” It’s all honest, so painfully honest and he thinks he owes Louis pure honesty more than anything else.
Louis sighs, runs his hand through his soft hair in what almost looks like defeat. “You already left once, Harry.” And somehow Harry just knows he isn’t talking about his brief stint to Belize City.
“I want to stay here with you. Please.” He’s not above begging. Is so, so not above begging.
“I don’t want you to come back just because my family di… just because they’re gone,” his voice breaks on the last words, and he looks resolutely away from Harry, though it doesn’t hide the sheen of tears in his eyes, shining from the light hitting it, the sunshine coming through the window and reflecting in the liquid.
Harry feels like he’s sinking. He feels like he’s lost at sea, land nowhere in sight, doomed to drift around aimlessly for the rest of his days.
“I’m so tired, Harry,” Louis sighs, all life sucked out of him, just a shell of what used to be a vibrant personality sitting on the bed before him. “Just... I’m just so tired all the time.”
Harry nods. “We should get some sleep then.”
Louis doesn’t comment on the plural, just lies down properly on the bed, his back to Harry. Harry hesitates only a second before taking the few steps to the bed and lying down next to him. When he winds his arm around Louis’ waist tentatively he feels him settle back against him gently, pressing his back against Harry’s front.
Harry tightens his hold.
It’s in the middle of the day, but despite everything he falls asleep easier than he has for weeks.
“They talked on into the early morning, the high, pale cast of light in the windows, and they did not think of leaving.”
― Raymond Carver, Cathedral
It doesn’t go back to normal after that. Harry doesn’t even know what would be considered normal anymore. He honestly doesn’t think he’d be able to recognise normal even if it was to dance naked in front of him holding up a sign exclaiming ‘this is NORMAL’ in a bright fuchsia colour possibly even with glitter involved.
It’s better though, better than before Louis left, it’s better than it’s been since they arrived on the island, and finally he feels like his presence is actually doing something good, is actually helping Louis.
He doesn’t know what changed those three days Louis was gone, can’t bring himself to ask, but something changed. It’s not the Louis he recognises from before everything happened that’s come back to the island, it’s not, but it’s not the angry, bitter version of him that was here before either. It’s this soft, silent, mellow version of him, so very far from whom he used to be, but who also seems to be handling everything a lot better. He’s taken to writing in a small notebook, and Harry thinks it might be lyrics, though he never asks. Whatever it might be it seems to be helping, and it seems to be a healthy way of coping. He’ll definitely take it over Louis drinking any time.
Louis cries a lot. They both cry a lot, really. Somehow Harry seems to have a sixth sense for when to approach Louis and wrap him in his arms, hold him close through his sobs, and when he needs to be alone.
There have been no fights since he came back. Granted they haven’t talked much about anything, but he figures that’s okay. There’s still so much left unsaid between them, so many things unspoken, but they have time. Hopefully they have all the time in the world. Although the accident has reminded Harry more than anything of how fragile life is, how quickly everything can be taken from you, he doesn’t think this is anything to rush. They’ll take it at Louis’ pace; however slow that might be.
Currently, they’re lying outside on the beach together, choosing to lie on top of a shared blanket in the sand instead of the sun loungers not far from them. They’re not speaking, but Harry counts it as a win even to have Louis go outside. It’s been a couple of days since he came back, and it’s almost like time has slowed down to allow them this tranquil state, to tell them not to worry about the events of the rest of the world, just focus on them, on Louis, on healing.
Harry hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing, but he figures lying here in the sand isn’t the worst way to go about it. Louis will talk when he’s ready to.
It takes a while, the sun is setting on the horizon, the waves the only sound to be heard along with the occasional chirp of a bird. When Louis finally talks, it sounds almost too loud for the quiet world they’ve created, even though he’s whispering, like speaking too loudly might make everything break into tiny, miniscule pieces.
“What if I’m never okay again?” he asks, keeping his eyes firmly to the sky, avoiding the eye contact Harry actively seeks when he rolls onto his side. “What if I’m like this for the rest of my life? What if I won’t ever be who I used to be again? I just… I just feel so empty. What if I’ll never feel anything ever again?”
It takes him a few moments to reply. As always, Harry isn’t quite sure what to say.
“I don’t know, Lou,” he finally settles on, which is not nearly enough, but it’s everything he’s got. “I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t promise you that it will go away, that you’ll get back to who you used to be, it’s just not something I can promise.” He reaches out with the hand not propping up his head, touching Louis’ hand gently. “I’m sorry.”
Louis closes his eyes, keeps them closed for several beats before opening them again slowly. “It’s not your fault.”
He turns his hand around so that their palms lie flat against each other, and Harry only hesitates for a second before he intertwines their fingers. “I’ll be here no matter what though, Lou, even if nothing ever changes.” He squeezes his hand gently, and continues, “That’s something I can promise.”
Louis doesn’t acknowledge his words beyond the ghost of pressure his hand applies to Harry’s, and they’re left in silence for several moments following. Harry’s come to appreciate silence in a different way than he has before. He’s found, he thinks, that sometimes silence heals more than words ever could. Sometimes just being together, breathing the same air is more than even the longest conversations, the most perfect sentences, could ever hope to be.
“I’m sorry I threw a bottle after you,” Louis says eventually, still not looking at him. “And shouted at you. And said that I hate you.” He pauses for a moment, like he’s trying to choose the words to follow. “I don’t.”
Harry wants to scoot closer to him, wants to rest his head on Louis’ chest, over his heart so he can hear it beating beneath his ribs. He doesn’t move. “I know.” He says instead, fighting the urge to squeeze Louis’ hand tighter. “It’s okay.”
Louis shakes his head, before saying, “It’s not really,” and turning his head to the side, finally meeting Harry’s eyes. “But thank you.”
“It is,” he insists, because there is nothing that could ever make him blame Louis for those moments, nothing that could ever make him feel like they weren’t justified by the pain and the grief Louis was going through. He’d gladly take the brunt of it, he’ll be there for the good times and the bad, for better and worse. “And I’m sorry too.” He adds, mentally tags on for what it’s worth. “So, so sorry.”
It’s Louis who chooses to move closer, fits himself against Harry’s side with his head on his shoulder, their clasped hands between them. He thinks it might be the best form of therapy, the most effective. Here under the pink sky, the soundtrack of the waves behind them, he thinks that maybe the island is finally serving its purpose. Maybe he finally is, too.
“You have nothing to be sorry for.” Louis maintains quietly, fisting his free hand in Harry’s t-shirt insistently.
Harry does though, and it’s not quite okay yet. It’s not okay at all, really, but maybe, in time, it will be. He’s going to work damn hard to make it up to him at any rate.
They’d had such a nice day yesterday. The weather was fantastic, and Harry’d convinced Louis to go have a swim with him. They’d spent most of the day in the cooling water, and he’d told him about the lack of proper surfing breaks here. Louis had listened to him indulgently like he didn’t already know. He’d also mentioned windsurfing, talked about maybe hiring a guy to come teach them for a few hours, and he counted it as a win when Louis looked like he might actually consider it. He counts every step towards the old Louis as a win.
They sleep in today, have taken to sharing a bed ever since Louis admitted that Harry’s presence more than anything, more than the alcohol or exhaustion ever had, kept the nightmares at bay. They both sleep better with each other. It’s just sleep, nothing more than sleep, but it’s more than enough.
Once they’ve gotten up, Harry sets about preparing bacon sandwiches while Louis showers, and before they know it, it’s noon and Maria arrives in her speedboat. This time she’s brought more than groceries though, taking along with her a young curly haired girl with bangs held back by sparkly hairclips.
Harry is worried for all of two seconds that seeing a kid so close to his sister’s age might trigger something in Louis, but he needn’t have worried at all. As Maria brings the bags to the kitchen and starts putting the produce away with Harry, explaining to him what few local delicacies she’s slipped in this time, Louis crouches in front of the little girl, talking quietly to her and getting her to let out breathless giggles.
It is like seeing a little slice of the future, of what could be, and for the first time since the accident he’s really and truly convinced that Louis will be okay. That it’ll all work out in the end.
The kind of thing they’d experienced changes people, changes the very foundation of who they are, but that doesn’t mean they become someone else. Coming out on the other side of this, Louis will still be Louis, and Harry will still love him. Wholly and unconditionally. Sometimes it really is that simple.
Maria and her daughter leave as soon as she’s given him a few instructions on the spice mix she uses to marinate chicken in, and they’re left to themselves again. It’s not long before Louis begs off for the bedroom, tells Harry that he’s tired, and though he knows that there sits a sort of never ending exhaustion in Louis’ bones these days, he also thinks that maybe the encounter with the little girl was more taxing than he’d let on, and he needs a bit of time to himself.
Harry busies himself with tidying up the house, and then he seats himself on a sun lounger on the terrace, and finishes the last of his book while the sun heats his already tanned skin. When it’s time, he moves downstairs again, washes his hands and gets started on dinner.
”This is—was Phoebe’s favourite dish, you know?” Louis says as he enters the kitchen some time later, nodding towards the chicken lasagne Harry’s in the middle of making. His heart instantly drops, hands moving away from the food like it’s burned him.
“Oh, shit, Louis, I—“ he starts, feeling so utterly stupid for not knowing, for putting Louis in this situation, like it isn’t on his mind every fucking second of every day, like he actually needs another reminder of his dead sisters.
“No, it’s—it’s alright,” he lets out a watery chuckle and moves closer to Harry, moves into his open arms, buries into his embrace. “I don’t want to forget them,” he whispers into Harry’s neck, words hot against his skin.
Harry can feel the tears against the column of his throat.
“It’s okay, Lou,” he whispers, soothes, runs his hand gently up and down his back while the other rests against the small of his back, applying just a ghost of pressure to keep him close. “You won’t. We’ll remember them.”
“I just want them back,” he whispers, voice getting choked up. “I just want them back, I don’t understand why this had to happen, I don’t—“ he takes a shuddering breath, body shaking slightly in Harry’s arms. “I just miss them so much. All the time. I just want them to come back to me. I miss my mum, Haz, I miss her so much. I just want my mum.” He chokes back a sob, and Harry holds him tighter, holds him impossibly tight, his own tears falling into Louis’ hair. Louis is full on sobbing now, a mess of tears and snot, soaking through Harry’s grey t-shirt, leaving behind big dark patches. “I just want my mum.”
Harry doesn’t know what to do, what to say. All he knows how to do is hold Louis close.
He can only hope that eventually it will be enough.
His mum calls the next day around noon, when Louis has taken a book and gone out on the beach to read. He’s not really going to be reading, Harry knows, but he humours him, allows him his alone time, and prays that Louis will come to him if he needs him. He’s just fixing them some sandwiches for lunch when he hears the familiar ringtone, putting down the knife he’d been using to spread mayo onto the bread with.
“Hi, mum,” he says when he picks up, leaning back against the counter and abandoning the sandwiches for the time being.
“Hi, love,” Anne says, voice slightly scratchy through the phone. They don’t get the best reception here on the island, but it also could be worse, so he’s not complaining. It’s not like he makes much use of his phone besides texting the boys and talking with his mum anyway. “It’s not too early, is it? I’m not calling in the middle of the night?”
Harry chuckles slightly, “It’s 12, mum, don’t worry. You’re really terrible at this time difference thing. You do know there’s an app for it, right?”
He hears her soft laugh on the other end, and it sounds like home. “You and your apps, dear.” He can almost hear her shake her head in fond exasperation through the phone. There’s a noticeable delay before she continues. “How’s everything with you? How is he?”
“It’s…” he starts before trailing off, slightly unsure what to say. “Some days I think it’s getting better, you know? And then something happens and it’s like we’re right back at square one. It’s like we keep taking one step forward and two steps back…”
“It takes time, love,” Anne reminds him gently, “It probably won’t ever be completely okay. It’s a trauma he’s been through, it leaves scars. No one’s expecting him to just be okay from one day to the next.”
“I know, I just… I wish there was something more I could do, you know? I keep, like… I lost them too, right? They were my family, too… but it’s not the same, of course it’s not the same, I’m not trying to compare it, I just… if it hurts this much for me, I can’t even begin to imagine how it must be for him, you know? The thought of losing you… mum, I don’t know how I’d deal with that, much less all of you combined, I don’t—“
“Oh, sweetheart,” Anne says gently, and Harry wishes that she was here with him, that she could wrap her arms around him and hold him close until the nightmares disappear, until the world rights itself again.
“Yesterday was bad,” he says quietly, chewing slightly on his thumbnail, “I was making chicken lasagne and apparently it was Phoebe’s favourite, and I didn’t even know…”
“It’s not your fault, Harry. You can’t go blaming yourself. You’re doing everything you can to help him through this.”
“I know,” he sighs, “And I’m not… I’m not blaming myself, I just… It’s breaking my heart seeing him like this, and I can’t give him what he needs. He kept saying he misses Jay, he kept saying he wants his mum, and I don’t know how to help him, I can’t do anything but hold him and hope it’s enough but it’s not, Mum, it’s not nearly enough, it’s never enough. I keep trying but it’s never enough. I can’t give him what he needs, I can’t give him back his family, I can’t bring Jay back to him.” He’s surprised to find that he’s got tears falling down his cheeks when he stops to take a breath. He feels all funny, disoriented almost, and he’s pretty certain he’s just spoken faster than ever before, words tumbling from his lips, almost lifting the heavy weight that rests on his shoulders.
“Do you think…” Anne hesitates for a moment, and Harry can hear her through the phone when she draws in a big breath. “Do you think he’d speak to me? I’d really like to talk with him.”
Harry pauses for a moment, something funny constricting in his chest. “I don’t know,” he says eventually, “He’s not wanted to speak to any of the boys since we’ve gotten here… took him ages to even get him to speak to me, but I think… maybe? It think it’d be good for him to speak to you.”
“Yeah, Harry,” Anne says gently. “I think so too.”
He exhales loudly and nods, even though she can’t see it. “He’s out on the beach, I can go and ask him now if you have time?”
“Got no plans at all, love.”
“Alright,” he nods, “Okay, no guarantees though, I don’t know if he’ll even agree.”
He can almost hear the smile in his mum’s reply when it comes. “Just go and ask, Harry.”
Harry nods, and then remembers that she can’t see him, so he mumbles a quick, “Just a moment,” into the phone and makes his way out of the house. The second his feet touch the sand he can see Louis sitting down by the water, just far enough away that the waves washing onto shore won’t touch him.
Sure enough Harry can see the book he’d brought with him lying untouched next to him, as he sits still, knees drawn up to his chest and looks out over the water.
He sits down next to him gently, splaying out his long limbs in front of him, body bare except for a pair of fake, green Nike shorts. It’s the ugliest green colour he’s ever seen in his life. He’d been instantly charmed when he saw them, knowing Louis would hate them. It prompted a tiny smile from the other boy when Harry pulled them on this morning. He counted it as a win.
He stays quiet for a moment until he remembers that his mum is on the line, calling from England, and though he’s insisted to pay for her overseas calls so they could talk without worrying about the cost, moving on with things might be in everyone’s best interests.
Louis shows no sign of noticing his arrival apart from the way he leans his body into Harry’s, and he takes a moment to just turn his head and press it into Louis’ hair, breathing in the scent. He’s taken to using Harry’s shampoo for some reason. Harry’s not about to question it.
“My mum’s on the phone,” he tells him quietly, phone still clutched in the hand further away from Louis. “She asked about you… if… if maybe you’d want to talk to her?”
He bites his lip as he waits for Louis’ reaction, isn’t sure what he’s expecting, doesn’t want Louis to feel like he’s rubbing the fact that he’s still got his mum when Jay isn’t here anymore in his face.
“Oh,” Louis says eventually, surprise evident in both his tone and his face. “Now?”
“Only if you want to,” Harry hurries to clarify. “But yeah, now. If you’d… if you’d like.”
Louis breaths out slowly, dragging out the time it takes the air to leave his lungs and mouth, until carbon dioxide has blended once more with oxygen and whatever else there is in the air, ready for photosynthesis, and wrecking the ozone layer, creating global warming and whatever else it does. He doesn’t even know, he hasn’t had science in years and he never was very good at it.
“Please,” Louis breaths finally. “Yes, yeah, I’d really, really like to talk to Anne.”
Harry feels warmth spread in his chest, a smile blooms on his face as he hands the phone to Louis. Their fingers brush for just a moment when Louis goes to take it in his hand.
Harry gets up to leave just as Louis puts the phone to his ear. He hears the soft, almost undetectable, “Hi, Anne,” Louis greets the phone with as Harry makes his way into the house again, letting them have the privacy they deserve.
He can’t help but think that maybe this could be the first step towards taking two steps forward and only one back instead of the other way around, and if there was ever someone he’d love nothing more than to share his mum with, it’s Louis.
He doesn’t see Louis for the next two hours, but when he comes back, it’s with a small smile, puffy, bloodshot eyes and tear tracks down his cheeks. It means something that he isn’t trying to hide it from Harry, it does. He carries himself like he just exorcised a demon, limbs appearing heavy and light all at once, and he walks straight into Harry’s arms when he sees him.
“I used all your battery,” he tells him in the sort of deadpan voice that’s just so trademark Louis Harry can’t help but laugh. He feels almost instantly guilty until he feels Louis’ smile widen against his chest and he knows this was exactly what he was aiming for. Maybe they’re finally at the stage where it’s okay to really laugh.
It feels like they’ve truly accomplished something today.
He’s probably never going to know what they talked about, probably never going to know what his mum said to Louis, but it doesn’t really matter, he finds.
All that matters right now is the here and the now, and with Louis in his arms he figures he could do a lot worse.
“I think I’d like to go to Holmes Chapel for a bit,” Louis says quietly a week later when they’re lying in bed late at night, having just gotten ready to sleep.
“Yeah?” Harry prompts softly, tracing his hand down Louis’ naked back until he reaches the waistband of his pants, and then up again.
“Yeah,” Louis confirms, pressing his face into Harry’s chest, hiding it in the process. “I’d like to go see our family.” His words are muffled by Harry’s skin, but he hears them as clearly as if he’d shouted them at him through a megaphone.
Warmth spreads through Harry, and he knows Louis isn’t talking about the graves in Doncaster. He’s talking about Harry’s mum, their mum. He’s talking about Anne, and Robin, and Gemma because she’ll surely head home from London for this.
He’s talking about their family.
“Okay,” he merely says, bending his head to kiss the top of Louis’ head. They’re quiet for a few moments before Harry speaks again. “I love you a lot, you know? More than anything.”
“More than bananas?” Louis questions, the smile evident in his voice. He doesn’t smile often these days, but when he does it’s like Christmas come early, and Harry thinks he’s been smiling a little more every day. It’s progress, little by little they’re making it, each day makes it easier to breathe, to live, to smile, to love.
“Much, much more than bananas,” Harry confirms, and breathes in Louis’ hair. It smells like green apples. It smells like love.
“I love you more than bananas, too,” Louis whispers, placing a kiss over Harry’s nipple. It’s the first time he’s said it since they broke up all those months ago, and Harry doesn’t think he’s ever heard anything better. It might have been implied sometimes, part of him might have known it deep down all along, but hearing the words actually come from Louis’ mouth is still the best sensation in the world. It feels like he’s floating, and flying, like he could visit the fucking moon if he was so inclined.
Louis raises his head to be able to look Harry in the eyes, places a hand on his chest to stabilise himself. “Take me home, please.”
He finds himself hesitating only for a second before he speaks again, needing to be sure. “Home?”
Louis leans forward to place his lips against Harry’s, only just a ghost of pressure, just the briefest contact. It’s the first kiss they’ve shared since that night, and it feels like a new beginning. It tastes like hope.
“Home.” Louis confirms, voice soft and fond, throwing Harry back to simpler times for just a moment.
The meaning behind his reassurance, that one word, is clear. Crystal clear.
“Grief is love turned into an eternal missing.”
― Rosamund Lupton, Sister
It never becomes completely alright. Of course it doesn’t. It’s something he must live with for the rest of his days on Earth. It never stops hurting, never fails to clench around his lungs, sending daggers into his heart. The pain never lessens, the missing never disappears, but slowly, with time, it becomes a part of him.
It becomes as natural a part of him as his beating heart and his moving limbs. With time he’s capable of thinking about them without feeling like his body is being ripped apart, can talk about them without tears springing to his eyes, can spend hours reminiscing with Harry over memories shared with them and stories from his childhood, and then spend the night in his arms feeling empty and hollow, missing them fiercely, but being so grateful for what he still has.
So grateful for the boy with his arms wrapped around him, for the family that is not his blood but whom he’s chosen, his brothers. For everything he has and everything he got to have, for every little moment he had previously taken for granted but which now means everything. And, eventually, for the small arms that come to circle his neck, for the chubby hands that fist in his jumper on cold winter nights, for the tiny hand that wraps around only one of his fingers with more strength than one would have believed possible, for sleepy giggles over bed time stories.
For the ring on his finger, and the man beside him, and the tiny humans who look at him with admiration because he loves them with every fibre of his being and they know, they never doubt it.
It never becomes alright, but it becomes a part of him and it becomes better.