Louis isn’t there when Harry wakes up. No one is, in fact, seeing as visiting hours are long since over, what with it being four in the morning and all. The nurses are alerted by the rapid change in the rhythm of Harry’s heart when he wakes up alone in a hospital room.
At least, that’s what they think the drastic change is due to at first. Ten minutes later they figure out that it’s actually because Harry woke up alone in a hospital room and didn’t remember who he was or how he got there.
Louis isn’t even the first one to arrive at the hospital - that’d be Harry’s mum and step dad, followed quickly by his sister and then Paul. In fact, Louis doesn’t even wake up until Zayn’s literally standing over him with an empty water bottle in hand, telling him to get up.
Louis doesn’t quite understand what’s going on until they’re pulling up outside of the hospital. Every time he closes his eyes he sees the car crash over and over again until he either throws up or passes out again. He’s been taking Valium to sleep, and it makes him disoriented.
The lift doors open with a ding, and then he’s running, skidding through the corridors and bursting into Harry’s room. Harry’s sitting up in the bed, bruised and bandaged but awake.
He’s awake. It’s been over a month and Harry’s finally awake.
Somehow Louis ends up in Harry’s lap. He’s not quite sure how he gets there, but they’re tangled together and Louis’ face is wet, his nose is snotty and Harry’s not hugging him back right but he’s awake.
He’s awake, and that’s all that matters, so Louis clings and cries and clings and cries.
Then Harry’s hands come up out of nowhere and settle on Louis’ face, adjusting him until they’re looking into each other’s eyes.
“Hi,” Harry murmurs, and Louis hiccups out a sob.
“Hi,” he manages, still clutching onto Harry’s shoulders. Harry’s fingers drift across Louis’ cheeks, and there’s something off about Harry’s expression, but Louis can’t figure out what it is.
“I’m okay,” Harry says, and Louis is going to say something to that, even if he doesn’t know what, except Harry’s kissing him.
Harry pulls back after a minute, expression confused.
Someone clears their throat behind them. “Well, that’s awkward,” Liam says, and it’s like he’s not even aware that he’s said it. Louis twists around so he can see him, and catches a glimpse of Anne with her hands over her mouth, of the way Paul has averted his eyes, of the boys’ pained expressions.
“What’s going on?” Louis asks.
“Harry has amnesia,” Niall says, and stops, like that explains everything.
Slowly, Louis turns back to Harry. Harry blinks at him, hands still warm on Louis’ sides, underneath his shirt.
“You don’t know who I am.” He doesn’t mean to say it, but somehow it slips out of his mouth anyway. Harry’s expression tightens.
“I know who you are,” he says.
“What?” somebody says loudly. Louis ignores it.
Harry winces. “Well, no, I don’t know who you are, but I know who you are,” he insists. Louis slides off of him gracelessly, landing beside the bed with a thump. The fogginess in his brain is clearing, but it’s slow, like it’s melting away.
“You know who I am,” Louis repeats. Harry’s fingers flex against the sheets.
“I know who you are to me,” Harry says, and if it hadn’t been for the kiss Louis would believe that. They’re talking the way they always do, in circles and vague and in a way that only makes sense to the five of them.
Louis takes a step away from the bed. “And who do you think I am to you?” he asks. He almost doesn’t want to hear the answer.
“You’re my - you’re my person,” Harry says.
Louis tucks his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants, ratty and old and in danger of sliding off of his hips because they’re too big because they’re Harry’s. “Be a little more specific.”
“Partner. You’re my partner. Or. Maybe boyfriend? Spouse? What are we calling it?” Harry looks at Louis like he’s honestly expecting an answer.
“We’re friends,” Louis says eventually, and he doesn’t think that anyone can blame him for the way his voice breaks.
Harry rolls his eyes. “You don’t have to lie to me.”
Louis swallows. “Best friends.” It’s the only thing that he can think of to add, but clearly it’s enough. Harry’s face completely shuts down.
“Harry?” Anne says. “Are you alright?” She steps towards the bed and visibly hesitates. So Harry probably doesn’t recognize her, either. Probably doesn’t recognize anyone in this room.
“Considering the circumstances, as good as can be expected,” Harry says. A doctor enters the room before he can say anything else, shooing them out so he can do an exam, and Louis’ chest has gone back to being numb as he’s ushered out of the room along with everyone else.
The boys mission him away as soon as they’re in the hallway, herd him to some deserted supply closet, and Louis sinks down onto his knees and cries onto Liam’s shoulder for a solid twenty minutes.
Nobody says anything when they finally make their way back to the waiting room, escorted by Paul, and Louis makes a mental note to thank him, once he gets a chance. If it wasn’t for Paul standing guard outside of the door someone probably would have walked in on that, and that’s the last thing any of them need, a photo going viral of the four of them sobbing into each other’s chests.
Harry stays in hospital for a few more days, and then he goes home with his mum. Louis doesn’t spend any time alone with him before he goes.
He also doesn’t sleep longer than an hour at a time, but he’s gotten used to that.
Of course, Louis can’t just not see Harry now that he’s awake, so he makes the trek to Anne’s house and visits the day after Harry leaves the hospital. There’s people shouting questions at him as he makes his way into the house, paparazzi and journalists and fans alike. Paul claps him on the back and helps force him through the crowd. Louis keeps his head low and doesn’t say anything, tries not to hear what they’re asking.
It’s impossible not to. The more he ignores them the louder they shout, until Louis’ ears are ringing with is Harry okay how did it feel to watch the accident are either of you seeking counseling how much did you sue the other driver for what is his mental status like.
Louis’ breathing is ragged by the time he makes it inside. Anne takes one look at him and bustles him into the kitchen, making him a cup of tea. By the time Louis has it in his hands he’s mostly settled, and Harry’s sitting in the chair across from him, just looking at him.
“Hey,” Louis croaks, wrapping his fingers around the mug. He can barely wait for the warmth to start seeping into his fingers.
“Hey,” Harry says. He shakes his head when his mum asks him if he wants any tea, attention still fixed on Louis. The silence is thick.
If this were any other day before the accident there wouldn’t be any ice that needs to be broken. There wasn’t even any ice that needed to be broken when they met for the first time, in a fucking toilet, and it feels like nothing is ever going to be okay again.
Because this Harry doesn’t know who he is, doesn’t remember any of the things that made him into the man that he should be. If Harry was just about anyone else it’d be interesting to see how much of Harry’s character traits are innate and how much are actually taught, but it’s Harry. He looks healed, mostly, all the cuts and bruises faded. He’ll have a wicked scar on his side once it finishes healing, probably, and the thought makes Louis a little nauseous.
He can’t think about it, about knowing exactly where that scar is going to be because he tried to slow the bleeding with his hands. He just can’t.
He watches numbly as Harry’s hand stretches across the table, fingers wiggling. Louis reaches out before he even really realizes what he’s doing and lets Harry take a hold of his hand, fingers slipping together, and this is the most contact they’ve had since Harry got hit by a car.
In the hospital Louis couldn’t bring himself to touch him, hooked up to ventilators and machines with steady beeping in the background, unsure of whether he would ever wake up or if that was it, if that would be the day.
Anne’s still bustling around, loading up the dishwasher and wiping down the counters. It’s a sufficient distraction from the way Harry’s trying to get a read on Louis’ face.
Harry lets go for a minute. Louis doesn’t look at him, can’t look at him anymore right now, so when he drops down into the chair beside Louis he startles, just a little.
“I’m sorry,” Harry’s saying, over and over again as he gathers Louis up into his arms, half on his lap. He doesn’t try to look Louis in the face, which is good, because Louis is crying again, as quietly as he can manage.
He’s gotten good at the quiet crying thing, over the past month.
“It’s okay,” Louis says. He can hear how hoarse his voice has gotten and he hates it. He hates how used to it he’s gotten. “It’s - it wasn’t your fault and you’re awake now, right, that’s what matters. You’re getting better.”
Harry doesn’t say anything. Louis has probably weirded him out with all the crying, so he evens his breathing and pulls back, offers Harry a watery smile. “Let’s go to your room and I’ll tell you all about which celebrities are doing what, yeah?”
Louis ends up staying the night and wakes up tangled with Harry’s octopus limbs. The clock on the nightstand reads 7:17, so Louis managed a solid three hours of sleep. It’s good enough to be practically amazing, especially without the help of any pills, so Louis actually feels pretty decent - less zombie, more human.
Harry’s already awake. That’s not surprising, considering that Harry’s always been an early riser. It is surprising that Harry’s awake and hasn’t even attempted to de-tangle himself.
“Hey,” Harry murmurs, slow and deep, and oh, look, there’s one thing that’s apparently an innate trait, Harry’s bedroom voice.
Louis has heard it plenty of times in passing. “Don’t,” Louis says sharply.
“I’m just saying good morning,” Harry protests, but he’s still using the voice. Louis rolls his eyes and sits up.
“You’re saying it in your hoping to get laid voice,” Louis says tartly. He briefly considers climbing over Harry’s body to get out of the bed, but he’s not sure that he wants to do that. Who knows what Harry would do given that opportunity.
Harry’s hair is sleep mussed, eyes soft, and Louis is sure that he thinks that he looks fuckable.
Louis doesn’t know how he’s thinking that he’s going to get laid in his childhood bedroom, surrounded by embarrassing posters and photos and stuffed animals. That’s not a thing that’s going to work for him.
“I can’t help it! I just woke up next to all of that,” Harry says, gesturing vaguely at Louis’ face. “And I’m pretty sure that I’ve been waking up to all of that for a while. Are you telling me that you wouldn’t be using your bedroom voice if you woke up next to something like that?”
Louis arches an eyebrow. “Are you seriously asking me if I’d use my bedroom voice on myself?”
Harry’s response takes a minute to come. “Okay, maybe I didn’t think that one through,” he admits. Louis cuts him off before he can add anything else.
“Also, we’re still not together. I told you this already, so using your bedroom voice on me is kind of inappropriate, don’t you think?” He heaves himself over Harry and out of the bed without giving Harry a chance to answer, gathering up his clothes and making a break for the door.
Once he’s inside the bathroom, showering the sleep away, he has to grit his teeth to refrain from smashing his head against the wall. Harry had better give up on this whole being with Louis thing in a hurry. As if it wasn’t enough that Harry has amnesia, he has to go and think that the two of them are together.
He spends the rest of the day hanging out with Harry and his mum, and it’s not nearly as weird as Louis was expecting it to be. Pretty much the only thing that they do is watch some telly and eat, but it could be a lot weirder. When Louis isn’t thinking about it, he can almost convince himself that this is his Harry, the one who knows that Louis hates being poked in the ribs but does it anyway to fuck with him.
Harry’s still tired from all the medication that he’s been given over the last month, so Louis takes that as his cue to leave, giving Harry a brief, stiff hug at the door, and tells himself that he’s not fleeing. He’s not.
He’s just so tired.
Louis wakes up to the sound of breathing. He cracks one eye open, expecting Zayn, or maybe even his mum, only to find Harry sitting in a chair pulled up beside the bed, elbows resting on his knees, head on his hands, just watching Louis sleep.
“What the fuck,” Louis croaks out. He flails around and drags the covers up over his shoulders.
“Where do I live?” Harry asks. Louis groans and drags the covers all the way over his head, rolling away from Harry until he’s on the far side of the bed. It seems like the safest place.
“Not here,” he says, shoving his entire face into the pillow. There’s creaking coming from behind him that Louis resolutely ignores.
Harry makes a considering sound. It seems like it’s coming from a lot closer than the chair, but Louis’ hearing is still a little fucked from all the screaming lately, so he’s not sure. “Are you sure?” Harry presses.
“Very fucking sure,” Louis groans into the pillow. There’s a draft hitting his bare back that seems inexplicable until Harry’s body connects with his.
“Really?” Harry says, right into Louis’ ear. Louis’ grip on the duvet tightens. “Because I have a key for this house on my keyring and this is the address listed on my bank statements.”
Harry’s stripped down to his boxers, feels like, and his chest is warm where it’s pressed up against Louis’ back.
“Where did you get your bank statements?” Louis demands. He thinks about twisting out of Harry’s grip, but that would end up with him on the floor, and he’ll be fucked if he ends up on the floor in his own bedroom.
“Online,” Harry says. His arm is a heavy weight across Louis’ belly, and this is way, way too intimate, tucked underneath the covers together like this.
Except. “How did you know your password if you don’t remember anything?”
He feels Harry’s shrug against his back. “It was like sense memory,” he says thoughtfully. “Also Liam told me what the password for my laptop was and it’s the same as that.”
“Very secure,” Louis says. “Also, please tell me that you’re wearing pants.”
Harry hums into the back of his neck. “Only because I thought it might be presumptuous of me not to.”
Louis ignores his heart thudding in his chest. “Extremely presumptuous, considering that I have a girlfriend,” he says evenly.
Harry lets him go like he’s on fire. “You have a girlfriend,” he repeats blankly. Louis smothers a sigh and rolls over. Harry’s sitting up, arms limp at his side.
“I told you that we weren’t together,” Louis says, as gently as he can manage. It still comes out sharp, definitely sharper than he intended.
“You did do that,” Harry agrees. He clambers off of the bed and points a finger over his shoulder. “I’m just gonna go, then.”
Louis watches him go, closing the door quietly behind himself.
Then he smothers himself with a pillow.
Getting up is a chore, but the lack of slamming leads Louis to believe that Harry hasn’t actually left the house, and it’s not like he’s going to be able to avoid him forever, so an hour later he wiggles out of the bed and lands on the floor, cursing to himself as he struggles into proper clothing. His head hurts and he wants a cup of tea, but the long, tiring walk down the hall towards the stairs feels like too much.
By the time he makes it to the kitchen, there’s a mug steaming in the middle of the table and Harry’s nowhere to be seen. Louis squints at it suspiciously, and then tells himself he’s being over-dramatic. Just because Harry has amnesia doesn’t mean that he’s gone and poisoned Louis’ tea. There would be no reason for that.
He plops himself down in his usual seat and reaches for the cup, curling his fingers around the handle and tugging it closer, until he can smell it. It doesn’t smell like it’s been poisoned, so he takes a tentative sip, eyes half closed, and.
And it’s made exactly the way he likes his tea.
“What the fuck,” Louis says out loud, staring at the mug in his hands.
Harry’s voice behind him makes him jump. “My mum said that’s the way you take it.”
Louis stares at the mug a little more. He’s still not entirely convinced. “Okay.”
“So,” Harry says brightly, clapping his hands together loudly. “Do you want to watch Captain America?”
Clearly they aren’t talking about how weird this is. Alright. Louis is okay with that. Talking’s overrated, anyway.
“You told me you have a girlfriend,” Harry says, flinging a wad of paper down onto the table in front of Louis. Louis glances down at it. He can’ t tell what it is, what with it being crumpled within an inch of his life, but he can guess.
“I do have a girlfriend,” Louis returns evenly. He meets Harry’s gaze without flinching.
“A real girlfriend,” Harry says. The expression on his face is furious.
“I’m not sure that she’d appreciate being called fake,” Louis says thoughtfully, “considering that she’s a real human being and all.”
Harry takes three big steps towards him. “She’s a PR girlfriend.”
Louis raises his eyebrows. “And yet still a person.”
“You let me believe that you loved her,” Harry says, all but towering over Louis where he’s stopped. Sometimes he doesn’t seem to realize how tall he is.
“I do love her,” Louis says. “She’s one of my best friends.”
“But you’re not in love with her,” Harry says. He’s not asking.
Louis exhales evenly. “What do you want me to say, Harry? She’s a PR girlfriend, but that doesn’t change the fact that you and I aren’t together.”
“Are you gay?” Harry demands abruptly. Louis inhales sharply, fights back a tiny little smidgen of panic. There’s no reason to be panicking. “Is she a PR girlfriend because you’re gay?”
“I think that maybe you should be concentrating on getting better instead of worrying about me so much,” Louis says. He doesn’t look at Harry’s expression as he heaves himself up off the couch.
He’s pretty sure that he knows what it would look like, anyway.
Avoiding Harry is getting to be a little time consuming - he keeps appearing when Louis least expects him to, determined that they’re going to spend time together. He doesn’t bring up El again, or Louis being gay, but Louis can’t stop himself from waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Harry’s still living with his mum, but only nominally - it’s been a week since he was released from hospital and for the past five days straight Louis has woken up to his doorbell going off at eight in the morning, and Harry doesn’t leave until well past midnight, despite Louis’ desperate hints. Louis isn’t sure what his angle is but he knows that he’s probably not going to like it.
Clearly it’s time to call in reinforcements.
He’s ready by the time Harry rings the doorbell at 8:02 the next morning, dressed in his comfiest trackies with a bag packed and a football in hand. He opens the door and blows right past Harry to where the car’s waiting, opening the door and slipping in without saying a word.
It takes a few seconds, but Harry eventually clues and and gets in after him, the world’s most bewildered expression on his face. “What’s going on?”
“What’s going on is that we’re going to get some exercise, Harold,” Louis says, maybe a little bit too sharp. In his defense, it is eight in the morning on a day that he normally wouldn’t have been up until noon on, so. Forgive him for being a little short.
“I thought you hated exercise,” Harry says, and Louis nearly gets whiplash from how fast he turns to look at him.
Harry shrugs a little defensively and mutters, “Been watching some videos.”
Disappointment courses through Louis’ veins. He manages a smile and pats Harry on the hand, even though he’s not sure whether watching videos is going to affect Harry’s ability to remember things, and changes the subject.
The rest of the drive actually goes pretty quickly - Harry makes an offhand comment about the weather, and Louis can’t resist mocking him, which turns into a good natured argument about whether snow is actually necessary or not, and it’s easy in a way that things haven’t been between them for a long time.
Harry’s confused expression melts away into one of understanding when they pull up to the field, and while he doesn’t exactly look as enthused as Louis would like him to be he doesn’t say no either.
The boys are already waiting for them, and they’re a welcome buffer between Louis and the weirdness that is Harry. The field’s far enough away from the house that no one’s tried following them, and while they had to endure the screaming of fans while they made it out of London there’s none of that here now.
They play until they’re all exhausted, and if Harry tackles him and sneaks a grope in a few too many times Louis just rolls his eyes and doesn’t say anything about it, because hey, at least he’s not trying to get Louis talk about how in love they supposedly are.
It’s a good day, made even better by the fact that when Louis is dropped back off at the house Harry only waves and lets the driver take him back to his mum’s. So. Win.
Louis isn’t surprised that Harry’s sitting on the bed next to him when he opens his eyes. “How do you keep getting in here?” he mumbles, more to himself than anything.
“I have a key,” Harry says, entirely too reasonably for this time in the morning.
“I want it back,” Louis says immediately. Harry smiles, big and bright, so happy to be in Louis’ bed first thing in the morning. Louis is immediately suspicious.
“You can’t have it back. It was a gift,” Harry says.
Louis frowns. “How do you know that it was a gift?” he demands, heart thumping in his chest. Maybe this is it, maybe Harry has finally remembered something, anything. Remembered Louis buying a flat and then feeling so guilty every time he looked at Harry’s face that he gave him a key and let him sign his name on the dotted line.
“My mum told me. It’s interesting to note that she couldn’t find a way to tell me that didn’t make it sound like we were in a relationship, though,” Harry says. Louis levels a look at him, his best glare, and it must be effective even if Harry doesn’t remember what happens if the glare doesn’t work, because he just holds his hands up and lets the subject drop.
“What are you doing here?” Louis asks, once he’s sure that the subject has actually been dropped and that Harry’s not going to blindside him five minutes into a completely unrelated conversation. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s done that.
“I want to go outside,” Harry says. He rolls over and smushes his face into a pillow, making the rest of what he’s saying completely unintelligible.
“There is a garden,” Louis points out. Harry turns his face towards Louis and frowns.
“No, Lewis, I want to go outside and do real people things.” There’s hurt in Louis’ chest at the tone Harry says it in, the same tone that he’s always said Louis’ name in whether it’s pronounced correctly or not, but it’s only a dull ache, easy enough to ignore.
“Ah. Well, the second you step outside to do real people things you’re going to be mobbed within an inch of your life,” Louis says. “I can’t even go outside to do real people things without being mobbed to an inch of my life.”
Harry reaches out and strokes a finger down Louis’ forearm. Louis lets him, prepared to yank out of his grip if he does something inappropriate. He doesn’t, just rubs lightly over the lines of Louis’ tattoos. “It must be worse for you,” he says quietly, watching Louis’ face.
Louis swallows and ducks his head, lets his hair fall over his eyes. Sometimes he agrees, thinks that he’d rather be the one with no memories so he wouldn’t have all of this pressure just building on him and then instantly feels guilty.
“I can manage,” he says. He pats Harry’s hand and offers him a quick smile, but it doesn’t seem like Harry’s buying it.
“I wish I could remember,” Harry says. Louis hears the unspoken for you and doesn’t tear up. He pats Harry’s hand again and shoves him out of the bed. Harry lands on the floor with a surprised noise, and Louis smiles, his first real one of the day.
Maybe he’ll be able to get through the rest of it.
Louis knows that Harry’s been hanging out with his other friends. Most of the doctors he’s been to see agree that it can’t hurt to have familiar people around, to try to get back into the swing of his life, and Harry’s been doing that, going out with people and getting to know them again.
He normally doesn’t bring the people he’s hanging out with to Louis’ flat, but he’s been taking all kinds of liberties since the accident. Louis is only vaguely startled when he walks into his living room to find Nicholas Grimshaw there, sipping from a glass of wine.
“Tomlinson,” Nick says, nodding in Louis’ direction.
“Grimshaw,” Louis returns. He sinks down onto the couch and steals the remote, flipping through channels until he finds something decent to watch. “Where’s Harry?”
“Kitchen. Throwing together some food,” Nick says. He doesn’t protest when Louis settles on a Fresh Prince re-run.
Louis nods. Nick holds out an arm without saying anything, so Louis slides across the couch and leans his head into Nick’s shoulder. “Doing alright, darling?” he asks. He doesn’t look at Louis, which Louis is kind of grateful for.
“Alright,” Louis agrees, even though he’s really not. Nick squeezes his arm. “You?”
“Alright,” Nick says, in a tone similar to the one Louis had used. Louis’ not surprised. Supposedly him and Nick have never gotten along, but they only fight the way brothers do, too alike to really hate each other. Nick’s the only one of Harry’s outside friends who would have even thought to ask Louis how he’s doing, and Louis doesn’t blame them, really, but there’s something about their relationship that Nick just understands.
“You do know that he keeps trying to convince me that you two are dating, right?” Nick asks conversationally.
Louis sighs. “I hope you’re not encouraging him.” Nick’s shoulder is bony, but Louis is too exhausted to move.
“I’m not discouraging him, if that’s what you mean,” Nick says. Louis elbows him in the ribs. Nick squawks. “What? If you were in his position you’d probably think the two of you were fucking, too.”
“Hopelessly in love,” Harry corrects. He enters the room and sets a tray of food down on the coffee table before sitting next to Louis, close enough that their thighs are touching. Louis would tell him off but he’s in no position to do that right now, what with being all up in Nick’s space. He can let it slide this once.
“I’ve been putting up with this since he left the hospital,” Louis tells Nick. Nick coos at him and pets his hair, so Louis elbows him again, just for show, and lets him keep doing it. It feels nice.
“The first thing you did when I woke up was climb into my lap and shake apart in my arms,” Harry says. Louis makes a face and pointedly doesn’t say anything. Nick pets his hair some more.
“Don’t forget all the times you climbed into his lap before that,” Nick adds helpfully. “If I didn’t know the two of you I could be convinced you’re together pretty easily.”
Louis groans and pushes Nick’s hand away. “For a minute there I forgot that I hate you,” he mutters. Nick wrestles him close with his stupid gigantic arms and presses a loud kiss into Louis’ hair.
“You don’t hate me, love,” he says cheerfully, and steals the remote back to flip the channel to America’s Next Top Model. Louis just groans.
Later, when Harry’s curled up on the couch asleep, Louis goes to walk Nick out and Nick just looks at him for a minute while he shrugs his jacket on.
“All joking aside, I know that this can’t be easy for you,” Nick says. “If you ever need someone to talk to I’ll pick up, yeah?”
Louis hugs him one-armed and mutters an agreement into his shoulder. He twists the locks behind Nick and heads back into the living room. Harry’s still asleep, half a blanket over his torso. Louis leaves him like that and goes into the kitchen. He’ll make some tea to wake Harry up before he kicks him out.
Louis walks into the living room with a beer dangling from his fingers and a croissant hanging from his mouth, stops two feet into the room and contemplates whether it’s too late to just back away slowly.
He hadn’t even known Harry was here.
“Louis,” Harry says before Louis gets the chance to slip away, looking right at him. There’s a mess of papers scattered around Harry on the floor, DVD cases open with their discs spilling out, photo albums piled precariously on top of each other.
Louis regrets getting out of bed already.
“Harry,” Louis says. “What are you doing.”
“We hold hands,” Harry says. He rummages through the papers frantically, flinging them everywhere, until he finds a few that he holds up like proof. “We hold hands when we think no one’s watching us. Why would we do that if we’re not together?”
Louis doesn’t look at the blurry pictures. “We’re not holding hands.”
Harry climbs ungracefully to his feet. “We are,” he insists, shaking the paper right in front of Louis’ face. Louis slaps the papers away.
“We’re not holding hands!” he shouts. “We’re not holding hands, we’re not trying to hide a relationship, we’re not in love with each other, alright? I don’t understand why you keep doing this to me.”
“You might not be,” Harry says quietly.
“I might not be what?” Louis demands, frustrated. Harry tilts his head up a little.
“You might not be in love with me, but I’m in love with you,” he says. He meets Louis’ gaze, challenging.
“You’re not in love with me, Harry,” Louis says. He closes his eyes presses his fingers into his eyelids until all he sees is red spots.
Harry’s silent for so long that Louis starts to think that he’s left. He opens his eyes but no, Harry’s still there, sitting in the same spot, staring at him.
“Do you know what I felt when they told me what my name was?” Harry asks eventually. He doesn’t wait for an answer. “Nothing. No recognition, no sense that it belonged to me, that it was mine. Do you know what I felt when I saw my mum? The same thing. I didn’t recognize her, or my sister, or any of the boys, and it felt like shit. It still feels like shit, looking at them and knowing that there’s twenty years of memories buried somewhere in my brain that I just can’t get to.”
Louis sucks in a deep breath. Harry stands up abruptly. “And then you come into the room, and you don’t even say anything but you’re in my lap and you’re the first person who’s treated me like I’m not going to break if they say the wrong thing.”
“I didn’t know that you didn’t know me,” Louis says numbly. Harry twists his hands through his hair and lets them fall to his side.
“You’re the only thing I know,” he says. “I don’t - I don’t remember anything. I don’t remember us meeting, I don’t remember trying out for the X-Factor, or getting put in a group, or moving in with you, but I saw you and I knew you. You’re the only thing that feels familiar to me, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say that I love you, that I’ve probably loved you since the day I first saw you.”
Louis presses a hand into his face and squeezes his eyes closed as tight as he can manage. “Harry,” he says helplessly.
“Just look me in the face and tell me that you don’t love me,” Harry says. Louis bites his lip and shakes his head, because it’s not that easy. “Look me in the face and tell me that you’re not in love with me and I’ll believe you.”
Louis is crying, now. He’s vaguely aware of it, but it doesn’t feel important. It feels like all he’s done since the accident is cry, anyway, so why should it be any different now?
“Louis,” Harry says, panicked like this wasn’t the reaction that he was expecting. He must cross the room or something, because all of a sudden his hands are curling around the back of Louis’ head, pulling him into Harry’s body. Louis lets himself be moved, tucks his face into Harry’s shoulder. The tears are coming quicker now, his nose is dripping with snot. Louis’ never been a graceful crier, so he can imagine what he looks like, red-faced and puffy eyed.
Harry doesn’t seem to care, though, murmurs nonsense half under his breath and rocks Louis back and forth slowly, sweeping his hand up and down Louis’ back, warm and safe and comforting.
That only makes it worse, though, because it highlights exactly how Harry doesn’t remember him, the hesitance to make it a full body hug, all the points where their bodies would normally be touching that they aren’t.
Highlights exactly how Harry’s not the same.
“I miss you,” Louis says.
Harry’s hand falters on his back. “I’m right here,” he says. Louis shakes his head and takes a step back, scrubbing a hand over his face angrily, trying to wipe away the wetness.
“No you’re not,” he says. It’s like verbal diarrhea now, all the thoughts he’s had over the last few weeks spilling out of him while he’s powerless to stop them. “You’re not here with me. All you’ve been doing is trying to get me to say that there’s something going on between us, and every time I look at you all I see is that stupid car plowing into you. All I hear is screaming, Harry, and I don’t know whether it’s mine or yours and I just - I can’t breathe, and you’re putting all this pressure on me to say something that I can’t even think about right now, I just.”
He has to stop to suck in a breath. It feels like his lungs are collapsing in on each other, like what he imagines the first few minutes of drowning feels like, struggling to take in enough air to survive for just one more minute, because if he gets enough air for just that one minute he might get enough air for just another minute, another few seconds.
“I literally don’t have the mental capacity to think about it. Fucking - I have to take pills to get three hours of sleep a night. If the boys didn’t force food into me I wouldn’t remember to eat for days. I sit in front of the telly and I stare at it for twenty hours and the only other thing I think about is calling you or seeing you to just so that I can see for myself that you’re still breathing. I listen to a fucking voicemail that you left me that’s nothing more than you telling me you’re going to be ten minutes late at least twenty times a day. It feels like I’m grieving you even though you’re right in front of me.”
Harry’s crying too, now, fists clenching and unclenching at his sides like he wants to wrap Louis back up in his arms, but Louis can’t let that happen because if he does Louis won’t be able to get that minute of air, won’t survive. He’s barely holding on as it is.
“Have you,” Harry says, and Louis knows what the end of that sentence is going to be, even if Harry’s not the same anymore.
“And there’s so much guilt,” Louis says. He’s crying, still. Probably will never not be crying again. “I was supposed to drive you, did you know that? I was supposed to drive you home and I bailed because I wanted to go and get fucking watermelon. I could have driven you but I bailed and you spent ten minutes trying to convince me that I didn’t need the watermelon and if we hadn’t stood there arguing about the fucking watermelon for ten fucking minutes you wouldn’t have gotten into the car at that exact moment and you wouldn’t have - ”
Louis’ voice breaks. He has to stop, has to, ends up on his knees on the floor somehow, shoves his hands into his face and tries to stop his eyes from burning.
Harry’s arms come back around him all of a sudden, squeezing, probably not even meaning to, a tic that he probably doesn’t even realize that he has. He doesn’t say anything, just holds Louis tightly, and they both cry for what feels like hours.
Louis wakes up in his own bed in the morning. He has absolutely no recollection of getting there, which means that Harry must have gotten him there after Louis passed out. He’s stripped down to his pants, another thing Harry must have done, which feels like it may be too familiar for what their relationship is right now, but Louis can’t muster up the energy to feel anything other than apathetic about it.
A glance towards the side of the bed reveals Harry slumped in the armchair, head tipped back, snoring softly. He’s still wearing his jeans, which must be uncomfortable, but that’s another thing that Louis has no feelings about.
Like he can sense that Louis’ awake, Harry’s snoring stops and his eyes blink open. They stare at each other for what feels like an eternity, silent and unmoving.
“I’m sorry,” Harry says. Louis’ eyes feel dry and gritty, swollen, like there’s no more moisture left in his entire body.
“Yeah,” Louis says. His voice is hoarse, paper thin like he’d been screaming for hours. Maybe he was.
Harry quiet, picking at a loose thread on the knee of his jeans. “I was talking to my mum the other day,” he starts. “And she was telling me about how I used to like to take off my clothes and run around naked up until I was six years old, no matter where I was, and she says, ‘oh, you used to be so proud of yourself and your ability to take off your clothes in less than five seconds, it seemed like every time I turned around you were naked.’”
Louis wants to smile. It’s a story he’s heard himself, a thousand times over, from everyone who’s even remotely related to Harry. Harry’s never shown even a single ounce of shame about it, and Louis loves that.
“And then I said, ‘yeah, but I had the cutest little tush in all the land, the only tush that mattered as far as the eye could see.’”
Louis nearly forgets to breathe for a second. “That’s,” he says thickly.
Harry smiles weakly. “How she always finishes the story, yeah. I just knew it, somehow. It doesn’t really feel like a memory, but. It’s something.”
“That’s great, Harry,” Louis says, and he means it, he really does.
“I’m not - ” Harry swallows, throat bobbing. He looks down and picks at his jeans some more. “I’m not saying that I think it’s all going to start flooding back, because they keep telling me that it might not ever happen, but it’s something to feel hopeful about, isn’t it?”
There are a few tears leaking down Louis’ face. Looks like he’s not completely dehydrated after all. “It’s amazing,” he says. “Harry, it’s so amazing, I’m so happy for you.”
“I don’t want you to feel pressured,” Harry mumbles. He’s still looking down. “But. I just want you to know that when I’m around you I feel like I have a personality, that I’m not lost. You make me feel like me even though I don’t really know who me is.”
Louis’ throat hurts. He wants a glass of water and to go back to sleep for another ten hours. Maybe an entire pitcher of water. He cracks his knuckles absently and wonders if what he’s about to say is going to end up fucking them up even more.
He can’t think of anything that would make this harder, though. “Do you want to stay here,” he mumbles. His tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth. He wants to look away from Harry badly enough that he has to twist his fingers together, but he doesn’t. Keeps his gaze focused.
Watches as Harry’s head snaps up. “Louis,” Harry says. Louis unsticks his tongue.
“I don’t sleep,” he says. “I pass out when I get tired enough, and there’s always this panic in my chest when I wake up. Maybe. Maybe if you’re here and I can hear you breathing it’ll be easier.”
Harry’s looking at him carefully. “I’m not sure that any of the therapists that I’ve talked to in the last month would say that’s a good idea,” he says. Louis can read between the lines, but he asks anyway.
“For me or for you?”
“For either of us,” Harry says gently.
Louis chews on the inside of his cheek. “I don’t know how it could get any worse. I don’t sleep because if I sleep I dream about it, you don’t sleep because you have this fucked up notion in your head that we’re together and you know that I’m really shit at dealing with this right now so you’re constantly worried about me and whether I’ve taken too many pills or drank too much. I don’t understand how staying together isn’t going to help with any of that.”
“Any of the boys would stay with you. Any of your family,” Harry says. Louis doesn’t know why he’s suddenly so keen on not being together when all he’s done for the last month is try to trick Louis into admitting that they kiss on the mouth.
“Yeah, well, it’s not them that I held in my arms, bleeding out on the side of the street while I waited for am ambulance, is it?” Louis snaps.
“Okay,” Harry says, just like that. Louis slumps back into the pillows, all the fight drained out of him now that he’s won, even if he’s not quite sure how he won.
“It can’t be any harder than not being together,” Louis says. He doesn’t know whether he’s trying to convince Harry or himself.
They watch one of the X-Men movies on telly in the afternoon. Louis’ eyes still feel heavy. It doesn’t feel weird to curl up on his side and put his head on Harry’s lap.
He sleeps. He must, anyway, because the next time he blinks his eyes open they’re crusty and fuzzy. Harry’s legs are still underneath his head, hand unmoving in his hair. Probably sleeping as well.
Louis feels like he could sleep some more, so he lets his eyes drift closed again.
When he wakes up for real it’s already six o’clock. He’d slept six hours, cramped on this uncomfortable couch. His neck is going to hate him for it, but who cares about that.
He slept for six hours. There must be something to this being able to hear Harry breathe thing.
The next few days pass relatively quickly. Louis starts sleeping longer, able to hear Harry’s breathing down the hall with both of their doors open. The boys are over almost every day, and it’s almost like it used to be, before the accident. The ache in Louis’ chest doesn’t really get any better, but he supposes that that might be too much to ask for.
Either way, it’s better. For a few days.
Louis doesn’t want to do this. He doesn’t want to do this, but he’s standing in front of the door to Harry’s bedroom anyway, digging his toes into the hardwood beneath his feet. Harry had wanted to get a carpet but Louis had refused, and he regrets that decision, now.
He drifts into the room without really meaning to and ends up beside the bed, on the empty side that Harry’s left, like he thinks that there’s going to be someone who’s joining him, even when he’s unconscious.
Harry wakes up when Louis lifts up the sheet and manages to get himself under it, tucking his fingers between his thighs to try to warm them. He should probably turn the heat on soon.
“Y’alright?” Harry asks, voice too loud for the quiet of the room. Louis means to answer, but all that comes out is an embarrassingly loud, choked sob. He can’t sleep. He’s been trying to sleep for the past three hours and he just can’t.
It doesn’t take him much to cry anymore.
“Oh, baby,” Harry murmurs, gathering him up in his stupidly long arms, and Louis wants to take offense to being called baby in that tone, but, well.
Harry’s always called him that.
It hurts worse, actually, hearing it come out of Harry’s mouth when he still has no idea who Louis is, like it’s a reflex to seeing Louis upset. It doesn’t stop the flood of tears, though, and Louis is so tired of crying but he can’t seem to stop. He can’t ever seem to stop.
Not like it would make difference, anyway. Harry’s been staying here for less than two weeks and Louis has already gotten snot over every single shirt Harry owns. The ship has already sailed on not letting Harry see exactly what state he’s in.
It’s worse this time, for whatever reason. Louis can’t stop thinking about the accident, about watching that truck plow into the passenger side of Harry’s car, about trying to pull him out of the vehicle and failing, about trying to stop the bleeding or at least slow it -
“What can I do?” Harry asks, slipping his hands up underneath the back of Louis’ shirt. “Baby, I’m right here. Tell me what I can do.”
Nothing. There’s nothing that Harry can do to make things better, but Louis finds himself gripping Harry’s biceps and pulling them down together, until they’re lying on the bed with Harry’s hips nestled in between Louis’ thighs, pinning him down with his weight.
Harry’s hand comes up to brush Louis’ hair out of his eyes. “Does it help, to have me on top of you?”
It sounds like a line out of a cheesy porno, but Louis can’t muster up the energy to laugh. He doesn’t say anything, blinking furiously to try to get the tears out of his eyes.
“You don’t have to feel like I’m not here,” Harry says quietly.
It’s not that easy. It hasn’t been that easy since Harry woke up, but Louis doesn’t know how to explain that. “Kiss me,” he says instead, watching Harry’s face go from sad and concerned to confused.
It doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t even know why he’s said it, just that he has to say something to fill the silence, something to make Harry stop asking about it.
“Is that going to make you feel better?” Harry asks.
Nothing’s going to make him feel better, not unless he can get the image of Harry bleeding out on the street out of his head and Louis can’t say that, not without hurting him. “Just kiss me. You’ve been three seconds away from holding me down and giving it to me for the last month, don’t chicken out now and make up some lame excuse - ”
He’s cut off by the hard press of Harry’s mouth against his, teeth knocking into Louis’ lower lip painfully. It’s a bad fucking kiss, probably even the worst kiss that Louis has ever had.
But he can breathe properly for the first time in a month.
It feels like moving through quicksand drawing his hands up to Harry’s face, to trace his fingers over Harry’s jawline softly as they figure it out, figure out how to move so that their mouths are lined up properly, so that it doesn’t hurt anymore.
They keep it simple at first, just their mouths pressed together while Louis touches Harry’s face, sweeping his fingers across his skin. He keeps his eyes closed, and he’s not sure whether it’s because it feels good or because he can’t quite bring himself to look in Harry’s eyes and know that he doesn’t remember their history, doesn’t understand why Louis is doing such a terrible job coping without him.
It doesn’t take long for the frantic beating of Louis’ heart to spread through his body, to make him jittery and scared, twisting restlessly underneath Harry’s body.
“Just breathe, baby,” Harry murmurs into Louis’ mouth, and Louis means to ask how exactly he’s supposed to do that with Harry’s weight pressing him into the bed and Harry’s face close enough to suffocate, Harry’s mouth stealing all of his air.
He means to do that, but Harry chooses that exact moment to lick inside of Louis’ mouth, tongue slipping across Louis’ and Louis just.
Completely loses any ability to do anything but whimper and let his legs part a little more, push his hips up into Harry’s stomach and he doesn’t know when he got hard but there’s no denying that he is, that he’s hard enough that he could get off like this, still in his pajama pants and trapped underneath the bulk of Harry’s body.
He doesn’t know how long Harry lets it go on for, only that by the time he pulls away Louis’ mouth feels hot and sore, flushed so deep he can feel it all the way in his chest, about three seconds away from getting off just on a bit of grinding.
The lost, needy little noise that he lets out is completely unintentional. He flushes a little deeper when Harry laughs softly, smoothing his thumb across Louis’ lower lip, still slick with their spit. “You taste like caramel,” he says, thumb lingering at the corner of Louis’ mouth.
Louis blinks at him heavily, drowsily. He feels like he could sleep for a month, heart sitting lighter in his chest than it has since Louis saw the truck coming out of the corner of his eye. “I have a stockpile of Caramilk bars from the last time we were in Canada,” Louis confesses, digging his knee into Harry’s side.
Harry digs his knuckles into Louis’ ribs. “And you didn’t share?”
Does Harry even remember what a Caramilk bar is? He’s acting like he does, but they saw them for the first time in a convenience store in Toronto, and he doesn’t remember that trip, or any of the other times they’ve been to Canada.
“’S my chocolate,” Louis mumbles. His eyes are getting too heavy to keep open.
“But now I want caramel,” Harry says insistently, like he’s actually expecting Louis to get out of the bed despite being trapped under him and go to get it.
It’s so much like how it used to be before the accident.
It’s not enough for Louis to forget. It’s enough that it’s a little easier, though, enough for Louis to be able to fall asleep with popping a pill.
So that’s what he does, leaving Harry to carry on the conversation by himself.
He wakes up abruptly, heart beating a little fast than normal in his chest, but he wakes up nightmare free, so he’ll take it. Harry’s gone, sheets cool to the touch on his side of the bed, and Louis isn’t sure whether he feels relieved about that or not.
He’s only lying there for about five minutes before Harry comes back in, pants dragging low on his hips like he only put them on because he knew Louis would yell at him if he didn’t.
“You’re not going to lie in bed all day,” Harry announces, crossing over to the closet and rummaging through it. He pulls out a shirt and tosses it at Louis’ head. “We’re going out.”
Louis bats the shirt off of his face and blinks at the ceiling a couple of times. He doesn’t know why it looks so unfamiliar. “We’re going to get mobbed if we go outside.”
A pair of jeans lands on Louis’ head the same way the shirt did. He’s pretty sure that they’re Harry’s and that they’d be too big for him, but he leaves them there. Hopefully they’ll suffocate him and he won’t ever have to know another moment of not being in bed. He’s had a lifetime of not being able to stay in bed.
“We’re not going to get mobbed, because I found a nice little restaurant that was more than willing to let me book the entire place for lunch in exchange for being able to post some pictures after we’ve left. After that we’re going to Zayn’s and we’re gonna use his garden to play some footie and you’re going to spend at least three hours outside in the sun. You’re not a vampire and it’s time for you to start acting like it.”
“I am a vampire,” Louis says firmly. There’s no way he’s moving from this bed for at least another two hours, and then it’ll only be because he has to piss too badly to hold it anymore.
Half an hour later, Harry shoves Louis into the car by sheer force and slams the door closed. Louis folds his arms across his chest and doesn’t spend the entire drive pouting.
“I’ll have the fettucini and a coke, please, love,” Louis says, smiling at the older woman who is probably actually the owner instead of a waitress, who smiles back and takes their menus before bustling away.
Then he drops the smile and tosses his napkin into Harry’s face. “I hate this place.”
Harry flicks the napkin onto the table easily. “You hate that I forced you to go outside,” he corrects.
“I go outside,” Louis mutters, crumpling up another napkin. He does go outside, and this place is really weird. It’s so weird sitting in a decent sized restaurant while it’s completely empty save for the two of them. He’s entirely conscious of the eight year old little girl who keeps peering at them from the inside of the kitchen, shy look on her face like she wants to talk to them but she’s too scared to.
“The last time I saw you go outside was three days ago, and that was just to get the paper,” Harry says. “Why do you even get the paper? It’s 2014, don’t you know that everyone gets their news on the internet these days?”
“Excuse me for trying to be cultured,” Louis sniffs, turning his nose up just a little.
“Oh, no, please tell me more about how you’re cultured,” Harry says, propping his chin up in his hand. It leaves his elbow on the table, which is a good enough place to start.
By the time their main courses arrive, they’re in the middle of a heated argument about whether Marvel or DC is better. Louis is pretty sure that Harry’s just fucking with him, because he’s got this tiny little smile on his face every time he makes a point, but it’s fun and so much like the old days that Louis is actually capable of getting lost in it, at least for a few minutes at a time.
The owner/waitress lady drops their food off with a soft smile on her face and doesn’t linger, but something about it makes Louis straighten up a little, and once he does he realizes exactly how close they were leaning.
It’s not any closer than they would have been at home. It’s not any closer than they would have been before the accident, but so much has changed since then.
Louis eyes Harry suspiciously. He doesn’t move his arm from where it’s resting on the back of Louis’ chair. “What?”
It’s clear what he’s trying to do. Louis has heard all about this whole wining and dining thing that he does on dates, and it makes his brain hurt a little when he thinks about how Harry even knew that was his move, but there’s no denying that it’s happening.
But. This is one of the first times that it’s felt normal between them since the accident, since Harry came home from the hospital, and the only thing that Louis wants is for everything to go back to normal.
“I know what you’re doing,” Louis says. He can’t have Harry thinking that he doesn’t know.
Harry’s smile turns a smidge bashful, like he wasn’t expecting to be called out on it. “I’m not doing anything,” he denies. Louis levels him with his best unimpressed look, but he lets it go, doesn’t make Harry move away.
It’s a good lunch.
They head to Zayn’s after, and true to his word, Harry forces Louis out into the garden right away, but he presses a cold bottle of beer into his hand as he goes.
The drinks keep coming, until Louis isn’t drunk per se, but he’s definitely more than a little tipsy. He can’t stop laughing, at everything from Harry completely missing the ball when he goes to take a kick to the way that Niall is sitting. He knows that the boys are all watching him, a little bemused, because Louis hasn’t been like this in a long time, but he’s happy.
He’s happy, and it’s only temporary, probably, because when he wakes up in the morning he’s going to be hit with all of the things that he’s not feeling right now, but this moment is good.
This moment is great.
“You want to go home or spend the night?” Harry asks, crouched beside Louis’ chair. Louis doesn’t know how long he’s been there for, but he’s scratching his nails through Louis’ hair and it feels fucking awesome so he doesn’t particularly care.
“Sleep better in my own bed,” Louis mumbles.
It shouldn’t be a shock when Harry’s hands slip underneath Louis’ body and pick him up as if it’s nothing. It shouldn’t be, because it’s one of those things that Harry did on such a regular basis that it started becoming ingrained, trying to pick people up, especially if those people were Louis.
Before the accident.
Everything is always before the accident.
He doesn’t have enough energy to demand that Harry put him down, anyway, so he just closes his eyes and settles in for the ride, not even bothering to open them when Harry struggles with the car door.
He’s fully asleep by the time Harry manages to get him into the seat.
Louis probably should have been suspicious right from the start. Harry’s been plying him with good food and good alcohol all night, and he’s not doing any of the things that he knows make Louis’ chest hurt, but he’s so obviously not doing them that Louis really should have seen it coming.
Harry’s head is in his lap, legs kicked up over the side of the couch, wine glasses empty on the table in front of them. He’s a little flushed, a lot happy, tracing over the lines of ink on Louis’ arm, and Louis is letting him, because he’s a little bit tipsy as well, and Harry’s hands have always felt good.
“Tell me about them,” Harry says, soft, and it’s obvious that he’s talking about the tattoos.
Louis strokes his hair a little. “This better not turn into you blindsiding me about how we must have been secretly dating,” he warns, but he starts with the one Harry’s been touching the most, the stickman. “Zayn doodled it on me one day, and I liked how it looked so I got it tattooed.”
“Is it supposed to be you?” Harry asks. He’s not faking the interest in his voice, genuine and wondering at he rubs his thumb over the ink like he can feel it.
Louis shrugs. “Zayn says it is, but it always reminds me of him. Sometimes Niall writes his own name underneath it and claims that it was supposed to have been him all along.”
“Was it your first one?” Harry asks, still stroking his fingers over it.
“No, my first one was the screw on me ankle,” Louis says, wiggling his foot a little. “You have them too, and so does Zayn. Liam got them the same time I did. It’s about all of us, how we hold each other together.”
“All of us, holding each other together,” Harry repeats. “That’s sweet. I like that.” He stretches his fingers to stroke over the oops tattoo. “What about this one?”
Louis sighs. “Seriously?”
Harry hides a smile in Louis’ leg. “Okay, okay, this one, then.”
He’s touching the compass, which isn’t really any better, but it’s always been his favourite, and that’s a fact that he proclaims loudly and proudly to anyone who asks. Louis will admit to having a certain soft spot for it as well.
“That’s our first friendship tattoo,” Louis says grudgingly, because Harry promised and if he breaks his promise at least Louis will have a reason to kick him out.
Harry’s quiet for a minute. “Seriously?”
“Shut up and just let me tell the story,” Louis orders. Harry huffs out a laugh but stays quiet. Louis tugs on a little bit of his hair anyway. “I never even wanted tattoos before I met you. I always thought that they were weird and they would hurt and that you would regret them when you got old, but then you peer pressured me into getting one, and you were all sad mopey face about it being something for all the boys instead of just for you so I gave in and got this one.”
“Shut up, that’s not how it happened,” Harry says, pinching Louis’ thigh. Louis yelps and tries to pull away. It doesn’t exactly work, seeing how tangled up they are. “Tell me the proper story.”
“Oh, the proper story,” Louis says mockingly, but he acquiesces anyway. “You brought up complementary tattoos one day, and I didn’t say no. It’s really that simple, Harry. You found a rough design and I liked it, and then we went out and got them.”
Harry tugs at a loose thread in Louis’ jeans. “But what about the rest of them? After people started thinking that the first two went together we must have stopped and thought that getting more would only add fuel to the rumours.”
He’s not wrong, but Louis shrugs again anyway. “The next one was just because we wanted more friendship tattoos.”
“This one, right?” Harry asks, reaching up to touch Louis’ chest through his shift.
Louis would be impressed by his research skills if it didn’t mean that Harry was spending hours surfing the internet looking for evidence that they’re in a romantic relationship that they’ve been hiding from the world. “That’s the one.”
“My favourite is still this one,” Harry says, bringing his hand back to stroke over the compass gently. Louis suppresses a smile.
“I know,” he says.
“What about the others, though?” Harry asks, pressing his thumb into the ink. He’s not doing it hard, just enough that Louis can feel it. He represses a shiver.
This is the part that Harry might not like. He had no problem with it when they were doing it, but that feels like forever ago, now. “They were kind of like a bet.”
“A bet,” Harry repeats slowly.
“We’re really bad for goading each other on,” Louis says. “I got the rope, and you got the anchor a couple months later because I said it would be funny, and things kind of just continued like that.”
“Oh my god,” Harry groans, rolling off of Louis’ lap and onto the floor. He pushes himself to his feet and starts stalking in the general direction of the doorway. “I’m going to have serious words with myself when I get my memory back. Complementary tattoos as a bet, honestly, what the fuck was I thinking.”
Louis watches him go, biting back his smile. That went better than expected.
“Have you seen the news?” Harry demands, flinging an entire wad of newspapers onto the bed beside Louis’ body. They go scattering all over the place, sliding off of the bed and onto the floor.
Louis doesn’t move. “Have you ever heard of knocking?”
“Knock-ing?” Harry asks, playing at being confused. “What’s that?”
Louis sighs and flicks one of the newspapers farther away from him. He can’t really say that he cares about what’s in it. “Knocking is this novel invention where you tap your knuckles against something solid and wait for permission before you enter someone’s personal space.”
“What’s personal space?” Harry asks, perching himself on the bed beside Louis. Louis groans and rolls to the other side, burying his head underneath his pillow. Harry only follows him, though, leaning over Louis with his elbow planted uncomfortably close to Louis’ ear.
“I’m going to kill you,” Louis mutters. Harry squeezes the back of his neck, and for a second - just for a tiny, brief little second, Louis’ entire body goes molten hot, liquidy.
Fuck this fucking kid.
“What’s kill?” Harry asks.
Louis’ groan is a little more amused this time, but he can’t help it. It’s a little uncanny, the way Harry’s jokes are always the same, no matter what he remembers. “What do you want.”
“Read the headline,” Harry orders, shoving a newspaper into Louis’ hand. Louis sighs, hoping that it truly gets his exasperation across and opens his eyes.
Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson Attached at the Hip?
Well that’s great. This is only going to feed into Harry’s weird obsession with the two of them being together.
“That’s nice,” Louis says, shoving the paper over the side of the bed, hoping that Harry will take a hint for once in his life and leave it alone.
It’s Harry, though. “They’re talking about how we’ve only been seen in public together,” Harry says happily.
At this rate Louis is going to spend the rest of his life being slowly smothered to death by this boy. “Good for them,” Louis says, trying to squirm out from underneath Harry’s arm. He ends up on the floor, but.
He totally meant to do that.
“Go make me breakfast,” Louis says to the floor.
Harry hums thoughtfully, the sound close to Louis’ head but far enough away that he must only be leaning over the side of the bed. “Oatmeal?”
“Fuck you and your fucking oatmeal,” Louis grumbles, pushing himself up to his feet. “I’ll just make my own breakfast, then. Get out of my house.”
He’s expecting the hug when it comes, lifting him off of his feet entirely, but he still can’t stop the smile from taking over his mouth. “I’ll make you pancakes and bacon,” Harry says decisively, and then he carries Louis all the way to the kitchen to do just that.
“I’ve been trying to give you space,” Harry says. Louis wants to open his mouth and say no. You haven’t given me any space since the day after you left the hospital at all but Harry’s crying, tears slipping down his cheeks silently.
Louis has seen him cry a grand total of one time since he was discharged from the hospital. They were tears of frustration, of not being able to remember his family or friends, of wanting to so badly, and the sight of tears now stops Louis in his tracks.
He doesn’t know what he would say if he could manage to open his mouth.
“You’ve been acting like I’m a completely different person,” Harry says, “and I get that it’s weird for you, I do, but I’m still me. I react the same to things, I speak the same, I even treat you the same. I lost my memories, not my personality.”
God. Now Louis is crying, too. “How can you be so sure of that?”
“I don’t know how amnesia affects other people,” Harry begins. His hand drifts up to cup Louis’ jaw like he can’t stop himself from touching. “But I’m more or less the same, aren’t I? Have I treated you any different than I would have?”
“You keep trying to convince me that you’re in love with me,” Louis says immediately, because it’s true and because it’s been the most glaringly obvious thing, the thing that he can’t forget no matter how much he tries. “And you touch me all the time.”
“But is it different from how I would have touched you before?” Harry counters.
Harry touches him all over - just above the swell of his arse, between his shoulder blades, knuckles pressing into his belly, fingers drifting across his face, squeezes to the inside of his thighs. There’s not a place on Louis’ body that Harry hasn’t touched, at some point or another.
“Or is it just more obvious, now?” Harry continues, thumbing over the dampness of Louis’ cheek. “Are you thinking about it because I brought it up? Would I really not have touched you like this before?”
“You wouldn’t have kissed me before,” Louis says, but it sounds weak even to his own ears.
Harry shrugs. “I think I probably would have wanted to.”
Hearing that, it’s like - it’s like a punch to the gut. Harry doesn’t know what he would have wanted before the accident, but he’s made no secret of the fact that he wants Louis now, in the present, and it’s.
“I can’t,” Louis says, shaking his head. Holding up his head is starting to become too much effort, though, so he lets it thud against Harry’s collarbone, twisting his fingers in the worn cotton of Harry’s shirt, one that Liam bought for himself and somehow ended up in Harry’s possession.
“You can’t what?” Harry asks carefully, carding his fingers through Louis’ hair. It feels too good not to arch up into it, nails scratching over his scalp lightly, sending tingles down his spine.
Louis breathes against Harry’s shirt and thinks very, very carefully about what he wants his answer to be. “I can’t do this right now.”
“You can’t do what right now, Louis?” Harry asks. The fatigue in his voice is so much more obvious like this, and Louis knows that it’s because of him.
His heart aches from how much he wants Harry to be himself - to know how to hold Louis properly, to laugh the same as he used to, to make the same stupid joke that he always made when Louis’ hair got mussed up, to know how to be with Louis like he used to.
For things to be easy, like they used to.
For that scar not to be there.
“I can’t do this with you right now,” Louis mumbles, breathing in the scent of cologne, different from what Harry used to wear. “Not - not until you remember.”
It’s not what Harry wants to hear, and Louis knows it, but the ache in his chest gets that much sharper when Harry pulls away. Completely away, going as far as to take three steps back, until there’s no chance of them touching, even accidentally.
“And if I don’t remember? If I never remember?”
“You’ll remember,” Louis says, pulling his sleeves down over his wrists. “You’re already remembering. You know things about me that I haven’t told you.”
Harry hasn’t look this frustrated since the time that Louis stole all of the clothing he brought on tour and refused to give back for three days out of spite, purely because Harry had begged off of movie night but then gone out to some club somewhere.
“But what if I don’t?” Harry demands, running one hand through his hair. “You’re always on about how I don’t know what we were like before, and how I won’t know what I want until I remember, but the only fucking thing that I’ve been sure of over the last two months is how I feel about you.”
“How can you be sure?” Louis asks again. He hates how small his voice is, but he can’t stop it, can’t change it. He can’t change anything, no matter how hard he tries. Can’t bring Harry back, can’t make him remember.
He nearly expects Harry to flip out - past experience has taught him that Harry can only be pushed so far before that calm, easy-going demeanor turns into something nearly out of a movie.
“I know when I look at you,” Harry says simply, “and I know you probably hate that answer, but it’s true.”
“I do hate that answer,” Louis says, closing his eyes.
Harry’s sigh is about as frustrated as Louis was expecting. “I feel it when I kiss you.”
“That’s bullshit,” Louis says immediately, opening his eyes. “That’s such shit, Harry, you can’t just say - ”
Turns out that Harry can just say, though, because a whole bunch of expressions cross his face all at the same time before he’s closing the distance between them and kissing Louis like he has every right to, putting everything he has into it, and.
Just like that, Louis gets it.
They’re both crying by the time they pull apart, and it’s for two entirely different reasons.
“I still don’t know,” Louis says. It feels safe and warm in Harry’s arms, like it always has, and he never wants to leave, never wants Harry to let him go.
Harry’s breathing is rough against his temple. “This isn’t a now or never thing, you know,” he says softly. “In two months I’m going to love you just as much as I do now. More, probably, and it’s okay if you don’t feel the same.”
What a dick. What a fucking dick.
“We’re gonna solve this right the fuck now,” Louis says unsteadily, biting Harry’s shoulder.
His grab for Harry’s cock is unsuccessful.
“What are you doing?” Harry demands, gripping his wrist so tightly Louis can’t move his entire arm.
“I’m gonna find out how much you love me,” Louis says, twisting his wrist, trying to get out of it the same way that he used to when he was eighteen and Harry would pin him down in his bunk because Louis was being too noisy at three in the morning.
Harry’s breathing has gotten even choppier and uneven. “Sex isn’t going to show you how much I love you.”
It sounds like the words pain him to say, almost as if turning down sex with Louis is one of the hardest things he’s ever done.
“Maybe with someone who isn’t you,” Louis says challengingly. “You’re always going on about how you’ve never had better sex than with someone you really care about.”
Louis’ back slams up against a wall before he even realizes that they’re moving. “You want me to show you how much I love you?” Harry asks, brushing their mouths together. “You think that having sex is going to prove that to you? You gonna let me split you open, make you come apart on my cock?”
Louis can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t decide whether that would be a good thing or not. He’s immobile, trapped in the spot he’s standing in, and he wants that, he does, but he’s terrified of what having it will mean.
“That’s what I thought,” Harry says, letting him go and taking a step back. He runs a hand through his hair and lets it drop to his side, exhaustion showing. “You can’t make a decision because you’re so stuck on this idea that I’m going to wake up one day and regret this, and I can’t convince you that’s not going to happen.”
“So what happens now?” Louis asks, because he can’t deny it. His mouth feels a little numb, tender, even though Harry had barely kissed him.
Harry takes another step backwards. “We clearly can’t have this right now,” he says, tucking his hands in his pockets. “And that’s breaking my heart, so.”
He’s not the only one. “So what? We just pretend like we never had this conversation?”
“No,” Harry says quietly, rocking back onto his heels. “I think maybe we have to take some time apart to sort ourselves out.”
Louis blinks back more tears. He’s so tired of crying. “And the fact that I can’t really sleep without you?”
“This isn’t healthy for either of us,” Harry says. He looks like he’s about to cry too. “I don’t - I want you more than I want to remember, do you get that? I would trade every shot at ever getting my memories back to be with you. Not being able to be with you is too hard right now, and that’s selfish of me, maybe, but I can’t keep waking up next to you knowing that it’s never going to go anywhere.”
“Harry,” Louis says weakly, curling his fingers into his palms. “I don’t - ” There’s nothing he can add to that, though, nothing that makes any of this any better.
Harry closes the distance in between them and takes Louis’ face in his hands gently. “I love you, and I know that’s hard for you right now, but it’s true and I wish that you could believe it,” he says softly, and kisses Louis right on the mouth, lingering a little, and then he just turns around and walks out the door.
Just like that.
Louis goes to his mum’s. It’s the only thing he can think of to do - his mum has always been the person he can turn to, his entire life. It’s only natural that’s where he goes, ignoring the constant shrill of his phone, lighting up with calls from Liam and Zayn and Niall and Stan because he can’t.
He just can’t.
The house is quiet and dark by the time he gets there, pulling up and shutting the car off. He sits there for a minute, resting his head on the steering wheel, before he can manage to convince himself to drag his body from the car to the front door.
Everything’s quiet as he lets himself in and makes sure to lock the door behind him, heading towards the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea on autopilot. The house is familiar around him, photos framed on the walls, furniture arranged in a way that makes sense to no one but his mum, shoes scattered by the door, toys and clothes strewn all over the floor because it’s not quite cleaning day yet.
Louis has been lonely since the second that Harry walked out, but it really hits him now, the ache in his chest. He doesn’t bother switching on the light, fumbling around with the kettle in the dark. The table bumps his shin as he takes a seat to wait, letting his head rest against the cool wood of its surface.
The light flicks on just before the water starts to boil, burning Louis’ eyes. He doesn’t bother lifting his head.
“Lou,” his mum sighs, coming over to card her fingers through Louis’ hair. “What happened?”
The table is a cool comfort underneath his cheek. “Harry left,” Louis says dully.
His mum’s quiet for a few seconds. “Left like he’s spending the night with a friend?” she asks carefully.
“Left like he’s gone and he doesn’t plan on coming back,” Louis says, because that’s the way that it feels, even if he doesn’t know that it’s true.
The wood will probably soak up the tears leaking down the sides of his face. There’s no need to worry about it. “Oh, Lou,” his mum says, and before he knows it his head is tucked into her shoulder and he’s crying so hard he’s half expecting the babies to start echoing him.
He goes to sleep three hours later, eyes sore and swollen, and he’s bound to wake up bone-tired and cried out, but there’s nothing to be done about it.
There’s nothing to be done about any of it.
It only takes twelve hours for Zayn to show up - for someone who’s so careful with his personal time he sure knows exactly what’s going on in Louis’ life all the time. Louis’ mum lets him in and then goes so far as to let him wake Louis up with a package of cigarettes underneath his nose.
Louis’ mum really needs to stop enabling them.
They smoke half a pack between them out in the garden in the weak sunlight, huddled together underneath the tree that Louis nearly broke his arm falling out of when he was six.
“You wanna talk about it?” Zayn asks eventually, blowing smoke out. He’s been trying to blow smoke rings for the past three years and he has yet to succeed.
It’s all in the tongue, or something.
“No,” Louis says, and takes a long, slow drag.
Zayn’s quiet for so long that Louis can’t even stand it. “He said that he would give up every shot at ever getting his memories back if it meant that he could be with me,” he says in a rush, almost unable to believe that the words are even coming out of his own mouth.
Harry fucking Styles. He’s been the bane of Louis’ existence since the day they first met.
Zayn still doesn’t say anything. More words spill out of Louis’ mouth like he’s unable to stop them. “He said that it hurts him too much, knowing that we’re not together. Who the fuck says that, even, Zayn? We’ve never been together.”
“It can’t actually surprise you that that’s what he thought,” Zayn says quietly. The smoke burns in Louis’ lungs, and it hurts from being held in too long, but he can feel it, can feel how much it hurts, and it distracts him from everything else, just for a second. “Thousands of other people have thought the exact same thing over the years. Been convinced of it, actually.”
“That’s not even what it’s about anymore,” Louis says, frustrated. He huddles into Zayn’s side for the warmth, not at all because he’s feeling vulnerable and lonely and like his heart is breaking into a million tiny little pieces.
“So what is it about?” Zayn asks, swinging his arm up over Louis’ shoulders.
It’s too complicated to explain. Zayn isn’t the type to just give up, though, so Louis tries. “I can’t - he’s asking me to jump into something when he doesn’t have any idea what things used to be like between us.”
Zayn hugs him a little tighter. “It doesn’t really sound like he’s asking you to jump into anything. This is still Harry, Lou. He wants what’s best for you, always.”
Louis stares out at the garden, at the shadows. He doesn’t answer. It’s quiet, the sounds of the night floating through the air and not much else.
“What do you want?” Zayn asks, breaking the quiet, peaceful silence.
“I want him to remember,” Louis says immediately. It’s the same thing he’s wanted since Harry woke up, and if people keep implying that it’s not Louis is going to scream, regardless if it’s Harry or his mum or Zayn.
People just need to understand that what Louis wants is for everything to go back to the way it was before the accident. Louis wants his life back.
“Supposing he does remember,” Zayn says. “Suppose he wakes up tomorrow with all of his memories intact and he still wants you the same way. What then?”
It gives Louis a pause, that question. He’s never thought about that. “I don’t know.”
Zayn kisses the side of Louis’ head quickly. “Maybe you need to think about that, then. He’s still Harry, no matter how different he is, and when have you ever known Harry to change his mind about something big?”
In the years that they’ve known each other, Harry’s changed his mind about a lot of things. Harry changes his mind about things on a daily basis, but it’s always been about things like what shirt he wants to wear or the music that he’s been listening to, or what he wants to eat for lunch. He’s never changed his mind about the big things, about the things that really matter, and he’s never, ever changed his mind about Louis.
Fucking Zayn and his fucking logic.
Harry’s flat feels cold and empty when Louis lets himself in. There’s barely any furniture in it, rooms mostly empty as Louis makes his way through them. He can count on one hand how many times he’s been here since Harry bought it - he could probably count on one hand how many times Harry’s been here since he bought it. He spends most of his time crashing with friends - with Louis, waking him up at ungodly hours of the morning singing old show tunes as he makes breakfast, rearranging all of the cupboards because Louis’ organization style is more ‘shove things in and see if they fit,’ washing their clothes together, annoying Louis into watching reality telly with him.
Harry’s an extrovert, and he has no problems making friends, but he clings to the ones he’s really close to and doesn’t ever want to let them go. Louis would know - they’ve been practically glued at the hip for so many years that Louis spent the night trying not to cry into his pillow the first time Harry went to L.A. by himself.
But at the same time it’s like - that first night Harry had been in L.A. he’d called Louis four times, and every night since he’s made sure that they talk at least once a day, no matter what the time zones are like or what he’s supposed to be doing, and he never, ever forgets. Even if the call doesn’t come until three in the morning he never forgets.
This might actually be the longest that they haven’t spoken in, excluding when Harry was unconscious.
He’s unconscious again now, but it’s a different kind of unconsciousness, one he can actually wake up from, so Louis pokes him in the cheek, standing over the side of the bed, until he wakes up, arms flailing out from underneath his sheets.
“What - Lou?” he mumbles, squinting up at Louis’ face.
“It’s not that easy,” Louis says, poking Harry’s cheek again. It’s too easy to climb onto the bed in the dark of the room, to straddle Harry’s hips and settle down there like he’s done it a million times before, so that’s what he does, poking Harry’s cheek a third time.
“What’s not that easy?” Harry asks, catching Louis’ hand and pulling it down to the mattress.
“You’re looking at it like it’s a straight line, like we can just progress from A to B and that’s all there is to it,” Louis says. Harry’s fingers around curled around his wrist, and it’s not the first time but maybe it’s the first time Louis has really felt it, how much bigger Harry is compared to him.
There’s been a lot of things over the years that Louis maybe hasn’t let himself think about.
“So what’s it like then?” Harry prompts, using his other hand to coax Louis into shuffling up just a little, gentle on his hip. He doesn’t seem bothered by Louis’ weight on him.
“It’s a circle,” Louis says. He hasn’t slept in nearly thirty hours and it’s hitting him, all of a sudden. “I look at you and I see everything, can you understand that? I see the first time we met, I see that time you got so mad at me for using all of your toothpaste to prank Liam that you nearly cried, I see the milestones we’ve hit together, the things we’ve done, and I see that fucking truck plowing into your car all at the same time, and I know you don’t see any of that.”
Harry staring up at him, hair tangled and strewn about on the pillow underneath his head. “You know what one of the first things I did when I got released from hospital was?” he asks, stroking his thumb over Louis’ hipbone. “I watched the footage from the crash, the stuff that the fans had taken.”
Louis’ blood goes cold. He doesn’t move from his spot perched on Harry’s lap but the urge to bolt is a little overwhelming. “I still don’t remember it,” Harry continues, still stroking maddeningly softly over Louis’ hip, edging up underneath his shirt. “And it was hard to watch, not because I felt attached to it or anything like that, but because you looked so terrified, like you were the one bleeding on the ground instead of me.”
Louis doesn’t like thinking about it. He doesn’t like thinking about it, and it still haunts him when he closes his eyes sometimes, but he was. He was terrified, and he was crying, and he was screaming, and he’d had Harry’s blood all over his hands.
He still washes them more than necessary, trying to get phantom traces of copper off of them.
“And I remember thinking, there’s no way that you don’t have feelings for me, not with the way you reacted,” Harry says, spreading his entire hand out over Louis’ ribs, over his bare skin. “And you know I don’t want to push you, but you also know that I wasn’t wrong.”
Louis gives in to gravity and slides off of Harry’s lap and onto the bed beside him, falling flat on his back and staring up at the dark ceiling. “They had to sedate me,” he says numbly, trying not to remember too clearly. It had been flashing lights and pain and terror and screaming and blood, so much blood, and Louis would give nearly anything to be able to stop remembering it.
It’s not going to stop, though. It’s gotten better, and Louis has stopped seeing it every time he closes his eyes, but it’s something that he’s going to have to live with for the rest of his life. It’s something that he’s going to have to manage.
“They thought it was me, at first,” Louis says, groping blindly for Harry’s hand and tangling their fingers together when he finds it. “The paramedics. They thought that I was the one who’d been in the crash because I was covered in your blood and I couldn’t stop screaming and crying, and you were sitting there propped up against the car with your hands on my face trying to get me to calm down and I couldn’t. They had to sedate me before they could even start working on you.”
Now that Louis’ started talking it almost seems like he can’t stop, the words bubbling out of him. “You - they strapped one of those breathing masks onto you, that’s the last thing I remember before I woke up in a hospital bed, and you kept telling me it’s gonna be okay, it’s gonna be okay over and over again while I was begging you not to die.”
Harry drags their laced hands up his mouth and presses a kiss against Louis’ knuckles. “Looks like I was right, though.”
There’s slow, salty tears making their way down Louis’ face again. It’s a sad product of his life that he barely even notices them anymore. “You almost left me,” he says, trying to rip his hand away, suddenly so angry that breathing hurts. “You almost left me alone, Harry, you don’t get to - ”
He’s crying too hard to finish the sentence, hiccuping out little noises that are supposed to be words, even as he tries to get his hand free so he can slap Harry or punch him or something -
Harry’s big enough, strong enough that he can haul Louis back into his lap with absolutely no problem, settling him there and practically crushing him into a hug. “I’m sorry,” he’s saying, over and over, trying to get Louis to stay still, trying to keep them together, and it’s the only thing Louis has wanted since the accident, to be able to stay together.
He crumples into the hug, getting snot and tears all over Harry’s shoulder, and Harry must be tired of it by, has to be tired of it by now, the way Louis’ been crying on him, but he only holds him tighter, murmuring nonsense in Louis’ ear, soft and soothing.
His chest feels empty and cold by the time he’s got himself back under control, and there’s a vague ache in his thighs from being spread around Harry’s waist. He’s not sure how long it’s been but it feels like it might have been a while, just the two of them here in Harry’s bedroom in the dark, clinging to each other.
“Zayn asked me what would happen if you woke up with all of your memories intact,” Louis says eventually, head still pressed against Harry’s shoulder.
Harry’s stroking Louis hair gently. It feels nice, comforting. “Yeah?”
“He wanted me to think about what I’d do if you got your memory back and you still wanted this, but all I could think about what that you’re still the person that I come to when I’m upset or when I need someone to talk to,” Louis says. It feels a little bit like a weight being lifted off of his chest, saying it out loud after the thought’s been niggling at the back of his head for so long.
His instinct is still to seek out Harry if something’s wrong, regardless of whether Harry remembers what he would normally do or not.
“I don’t know where you’re going with this, baby,” Harry says, fingers twitching against Louis’ back, and the thing is that Louis honestly can’t tell whether he realizes what he’s called him or not.
Louis sits back a little, just enough that he can see Harry’s face. The room is dark, but the curtains are open and the light of the moon is shining through the window, so it’s enough to see that his eyes are a little watery, a little red. “I tried talking to my mum about it,” Louis says, letting his hands rest on his own thighs. “I tried talking to Zayn about it, but I couldn’t stop thinking that if I was talking to you you’d get it so much better, easier.”
“Me before the accident or me now?” Harry asks, and it’s a valid question but Louis still flinches a little.
“It’s like I have two different versions of you in my head,” Louis says. He’s trying to explain but it’s so fucking hard, and he’s so tired, all the time. He wills Harry to understand, to get it, to get him. “You before the accident and you after, and trying to reconcile those two hasn’t been working.”
It’s a shite explanation, and Louis knows it, but Harry’s staring up at him like he understands anyway, and for the first time in months Louis feels like he might cry out of happiness.
It’s an exhausted happiness, to be sure, but for the first time it feels like they’re actually getting somewhere.
“We’re gonna come back to that,” Harry decides, dropping his hands down to Louis’ thighs and squeezing. “Go back to that thing you were talking about before.”
“About Zayn?” Louis asks a little stupidly.
“About me still being the person you want to go to when you’re upset,” Harry clarifies. “Because I’m starting to think that you might be going somewhere with this that you’re not even close to going.”
He sounds - he sounds so much like himself that Louis has to laugh, just a little, despite all the emotions he’s feeling. “Where do you think I’m going with it?”
Harry’s grip gets a little tighter. Louis can’t honestly say that he minds. “I know where I want you to be going with it.”
This conversation could go in circles all day if Louis let it. “I’m saying that maybe we give it a shot.”
There’s a pretty good chance that this expression has never been worn on Harry’s face before. “Yeah, I’m gonna need you to be a lot more clear about what you’re saying right now.”
“Maybe we try,” Louis says. He lays his hands on top of Harry’s and meets his gaze. “I want to try.”
“You want to try what?” Harry demands. “Because if you’re telling me that you want to try snogging me for a while and then you’re gonna decide that it’s too hard you’re gonna break my heart.”
There’s a huge chance that this is going to end with both of their hearts being broken, that Harry’s going to remember that the only thing they’ve ever been is friends, and that’s all he wants to be, and that Louis should never have done this, but maybe, maybe it’ll be worth it.
Just to have this for a few days. Just a few days. Louis has dealt with enough heartbreak lately. It’s time he got to have some happiness.
“I want to try the dating thing,” Louis says. “There’s bound to be a reason that you thought we were already dating, right?”
The joke falls a little flat. Harry’s still staring at him. He squirms a little, uncomfortable, and forces himself to stop before he’s really ready because he can feel Harry’s cock, abruptly, lying underneath his bum. It’s not even hard, but just being able to feel it is enough to get his pulse racing.
“You want to try the dating thing,” Harry repeats. “Yesterday you freaked out at the thought of us having sex and today you want to try dating me.”
Yesterday Louis freaked out because it hit him exactly how much he wanted that, and it almost felt like it came out of left field. Today he can’t stop thinking about it, about how it would feel to have Harry’s cock inside of him, to be pinned down underneath him, to let Harry take him apart, the only person he would ever trust like that.
“What’s my favourite colour?” Louis demands abruptly.
“Green,” Harry says, blinking. “Why?”
It’s exactly the answer Louis was expecting - the right answer - and that gives him the courage to keep going.
“I’m having a hard time accepting that the person you are now is still the person you were before the accident,” Louis says, “and that’s probably going to take me a while, but you still know me, and that’s not something that I can deny. Maybe you did want this before, I don’t know, but we’re here now and I don’t want to regret not trying in ten years.”
Harry pulls his hands out from underneath Louis’ so the only place they’re touching is their legs, and Louis isn’t going to give that up anytime soon, not until Harry complains that he’s too heavy and pushes him off. “So you want to try,” Harry says.
“I want to try,” Louis confirms.
“So you want to kiss me,” Harry says.
Louis frowns a little. “What, do you want me to prove it?”
Harry shrugs. “Well, I mean, I’m not opposed,” he says thoughtfully. “But I meant more along the lines of how far do you want this to go?”
Shit. Louis didn’t think that far ahead. “Let’s just take it slow and see what happens,” he suggests.
“Take it slow,” Harry echoes. “In that case you’re gonna have to get off my lap.”
Flushing a little, Louis does. Harry’s cock had definitely been getting happy to see him.
“We’ll take it slow,” Louis repeats, kneeling on the bed. His chest doesn’t hurt as much anymore. “We’ll take it slow.”
Four hours later, it becomes apparent that neither of them really know what taking it slow means. They eat a perfectly healthy breakfast of day old pizza and tea, and watch a little bit of telly, and somewhere between the walk from the loo back to the living room Louis finds himself pinned up against a wall with Harry’s mouth going at his like this is the only chance they’re ever going to get.
Louis pushes up into it the best he can, hands pinned to the wall by Harry’s, opening his mouth for the warm, insistent press of Harry’s tongue. He’s aware of the noises he’s making, but he can’t bring himself to care, not when Harry’s thigh is slipping between his legs and giving him something to move against, arching up onto his toes to get a better angle and moving mindlessly.
It’s quick and dirty and like neither of them can stop, rutting against each other fully clothed, and Louis doesn’t actually mean to come, but one minute he’s grinding his cock into Harry’s thigh and the next he’s shuddering apart still trapped in Harry’s hands.
“Shit, baby,” Harry mumbles, grinding into him so hard that he lifts Louis up onto his toes, still attacking Louis’ mouth like he’ll never get another chance. There’s come seeping through the fabric of Louis’ jeans, and it’s gross and cooling but Louis can barely feel it, happy and warm and malleable in Harry’s hands.
Harry’s making noise, mumbling underneath his breath as he grinds his hips against Louis’ stomach. Louis tilts his own hips, trying to give him easier access. “Shh, shh,” he murmurs, turning his wrist so he can lace their fingers together. “S’alright, gonna get off. Already made me come, so nice, yeah?”
It doesn’t really make sense, but it seems to be doing it for Harry, dropping his head onto his shoulder as he chases after his own orgasm, still holding Louis in place. Louis can feel the press of his cock, the weight of it against his body, and it’s hard not to think about how it would feel against his bare skin, inside of him, opening him up and moving inside of him exactly the way he likes.
“Bet you’d like to fuck me,” Louis murmurs, even though that’s something that’s beyond a safe bet - it’s more like a guarantee. “Bet you’d like to open me up and see me fall apart on your cock.”
“Yes,” Harry groans, hips moving faster, fingers going a little lax around Louis’ wrists. He seems like he’s about to come.
“I’d probably let you,” Louis whispers. It’s not a good secret but it has Harry coming anyway, making a mess of his own clothes, gripping Louis’ wrists tight again, enough that it might leave a mark.
The thought makes Louis flush, just a little. He isn’t opposed.
They stay there like that, Harry breathing against Louis’ skin and crowding him, sticky and messy and a little gross, for far longer than really necessary. It’s a little awkward when they pull apart, but mostly because cold come is one of the grossest things in the world.
Maybe this can work.
It’s a little startling, how much things don’t change. Louis still catches Harry looking at him like he’s trying to figure him out, sometimes, and for all the flirting that goes on they don’t really have sex.
Don’t get him wrong, there’s a couple of instances, but they’re all like the first time - mostly clothed and frantic, barely even getting their hands on each other.
It’s probably Louis’ fault. He can’t stop the thought niggling at the back of his head, that Harry wouldn’t want this if he could remember, and that stops him from letting it go any farther. The thought that Harry could wake up tomorrow and hate Louis for what’s happened between them is always there, always terrifying.
He almost lost Harry once, and he can’t bear the thought of losing him for real.
It shouldn’t be a surprise when things finally come to a head a few days later. A photo goes viral on the internet - a photo of them kissing. It’s grainy and hard to see what’s actually happening and easy enough to deny, but it’s almost like a sign.
This is tearing Louis apart. He tried - he really, really tried, but there’s nothing for it. He can’t keep doing this knowing that Harry doesn’t remember what they used to be like before his accident, especially when it’s Louis’ fault.
Everything is Louis’ fault.
He’s waiting at the kitchen table by the time Harry makes it home after being out with some friends, a cup of tea gone cold at his elbow, staring off into space. He’s been trying to work up the courage to do this for the past hour and a half, after he’d finished packing a bag.
Harry’s loud when he comes in, dropping things and slamming doors, and everyone always says that it’s Louis who likes to make an entrance but that’s always been wrong. It’s always been Harry.
It’s always been Harry.
The noise is a little more frantic than usual, and it doesn’t take more than a few seconds before Harry’s rushing into the kitchen, skidding along the tile in his socked feet.
“You’ve seen,” Harry says, stopping just short of where Louis is sitting.
Louis flicks his fingers at the empty chair on the other side of the table. It doesn’t match the one that Louis is sitting in, because Harry insisted that mismatched chairs went with the aesthetic of the kitchen, and for some reason that thought is the one that gets Louis’ eyes a little teary.
“I can’t do this,” Louis says, curling his fingers into his palms so hard his knuckles go white.
“It doesn’t matter,” Harry says desperately, dropping into the chair heavily. He keeps his hands in his lap, but it looks like it’s taking him a lot of effort not to reach across the table and take Louis’ in his own. “It doesn’t matter what the media thinks, Lou, that’s what you’ve always said.”
Louis rubs at his cheek. “It’s not just the media,” he says tiredly. “It’s everyone, Harry. It’s everything, and I can’t do it anymore.”
“We can say that it wasn’t us,” Harry insists, fidgeting in his chair. “The photo is grainy, it’s believable. We can say that it wasn’t us.”
“I can’t,” Louis says. The ache in his chest is going a little numb, and he can’t tell whether it’s a relief or not. He still wants to cry. “I tried, Haz, I really did, but I can’t do it like this, always scared that tomorrow you’re going to hate me for what I’ve done.”
“I could never hate you,” Harry says, voice thick with tears. “I love you, Lou, and I’m always going to love you.”
The ache in Louis’ chest is going cold as well as numb. Maybe that’s for the best, though - maybe everything will get better if he can’t feel as deeply. “It doesn’t matter,” Louis says, reaching across the table. Harry’s hands meet his halfway, tangling together, and if this is the last time they get to touch like this Louis is going to make it count.
“It’s the thing that matters the most,” Harry says, gripping Louis’ hands tightly. “Nothing matters more than the way I feel about you.”
“I’m gonna take a holiday,” Louis says. He can’t keep having this conversation, can’t keep going in circles like this. “And I know that sucks for you, but I can’t keep doing this. It’s tearing me apart.”
This isn’t the first time he’s made Harry cry, but it’s definitely the time that hurts the most.
“Where are you going to go?” Harry asks. Louis hadn’t expected him to give in so easily, and he’s not sure whether he should be relieved or not.
“I don’t know,” Louis says, dredging up a watery smile. “Might not be the best idea for you to know, anyway.”
The thought that Harry might show up to wherever Louis decides to go and make a grand declaration of love is a little amusing, but Louis doesn’t have it in him to laugh. “Make sure you call me,” Harry says, standing up and moving around the table before he pulls Louis up in front of him. “Don’t - don’t forget about me, okay?”
“I could never forget about you,” Louis says, brushing his thumb across Harry’s cheek, damp with tears, and he means to say something else, something reassuring, but Harry tips forward and kisses him before he can. It’s not a particularly gentle kiss, and it’s too desperate to really be considered sensual, but.
Louis gentles it, coaxes Harry into kissing him easier, softer, and he doesn’t know how much time passes before they finally pull apart, but it doesn’t matter. Everything hurts and nothing’s okay.
Harry presses something into Louis’ hand, kisses him again, and walks away.
Louis goes outside and gets into his car.
Talking on the phone proves to be too hard, but Louis keeps his word and sends Harry a text every day, holed up in bright, sunny Australia. He keeps them short and non-descriptive, just letting Harry know that he’s still alive, and doesn’t respond to any of Harry’s questions.
On the flight the words that’s what you’ve always said keep ringing through his brain, but he can’t think about that without an irrational flare of hope lighting up in his chest, so he tries not to.
It’s not as lonely as he thought that it would be. He has Alberto with him, and Alberto’s always good company, even if he does keep looking at Louis weirdly whenever he thinks Louis isn’t looking, and the boys all call a few times a day, but there’s surprisingly little mention of what’s going on between him and Harry.
It’s okay. It’s not the best vacation that Louis has ever had - how could it be, when all he can think about is Harry and what they’ve been through - but it’s okay. He hangs out by the pool and makes a couple of vacation friends, and has a few fruity cocktails that taste really good.
It’s okay. So when he gets a phone call from Liam three days in at eleven o’clock at night he scrambles to answer it, launching himself across the bed and picking up just before it goes to voicemail.
“’Lo?” he answers breathlessly, trying to get his hair out of his face and his shirt untangled at the same time.
“Lou,” Liam says hesitantly. Louis stops moving and stares off into space suspiciously. It’s never a good sign when Liam sounds like that. “Have you been on the internet lately?”
Louis launches himself off of the bed to scramble through his bag for his laptop even as he’s answering. “No, why?”
“Just - Harry did an interview with Grimmy,” Liam says.
Louis’ blood doesn’t know whether to turn cold or rush faster. He types with numb fingers and clicks around until he finds it, and it’s just a radio interview, so there’s no video. “Just skip the first two minutes,” Liam says. Louis frowns a little and does, anxiety building in his guts.
“So, Mr. Styles, your accident has been all over the news lately,” Nick’s saying, a weird, false jovial tone in his voice like he doesn’t want to be doing this, like maybe Harry convinced him to despite his gut feeling.
Louis can relate.
“Yeah, I’ve been hearing that it’s pretty big news,” Harry agrees. “But not to worry, everything’s all good now.”
Nick’s voice is a little bit skeptical as he asks, “Everything’s all good? So all this I’ve been hearing about you having a spot of amnesia is false?”
“No,” Harry says, and Louis can hear the uncertainty in his voice even though he’s trying to hide it. “When I woke up from the coma I had amnesia, that’s true.”
“But you don’t now?”
“There’s still some things that are hazy, but for the most part I’ve had a full recovery,” Harry says.
Louis’ heart stops.
“That’s amazing, Harry Styles, congratulations,” Nick says, and there’s genuine happiness in his voice. “I’m sure some people will be a little bit skeptical, though.”
Louis is going to do something truly awful to Grimshaw once his heart starts beating again. Some people like Louis won’t understand who that remark is directed at. Some people. Honestly.
“Probably,” Harry agrees, just the tiniest little hint of amusement in his voice. “Some people can be a little stubborn when they want to be.”
Never mind Grimshaw, Louis is going to burn all of Harry’s precious vinyl records. That’ll show him.
“So what was the first thing you remembered?” Nick asks, and now that Louis is thinking about it it’s easy to see that this entire conversation is scripted.
He hates both of them.
“I have this friend,” Harry begins, “and they’re pretty loud, right, and every time someone tells them to pipe down they always shout nonsense at the top of their lungs.”
“That’s a terrible story, Harry,” Nick says immediately. “Come on, give the listeners something else.”
It is a terrible story, and Louis doesn’t believe even for a second that it’s the first thing Harry remembered, but if he’s not talking about Louis then Louis will eat his words.
“Okay, okay,” Harry says, laughing, and the ache in Louis’ chest flares up again from how familiar it is.
“Lou?” Liam’s voice is tinny and far away. Louis fumbles with his phone and pulls it back up to his ear, still mostly concentrated on his laptop. There’s still five minutes left of this interview.
“I’m here,” Louis says.
“Has he gotten to the part where he says that he’s in love with you yet?” Liam asks.
Louis nearly drops the phone altogether. “Are you fucking with me?” he demands, resisting the urge to skip parts until he finds it. Harry’s voice becomes background noise, droning on about the things he’s remembered, and most of it is useless trivia about people that doesn’t really count as memories.
“Spoiler alert?” Liam says weakly.
“You’re fucking with me,” Louis says, staring blindly at the laptop screen. “Are you fucking with me? Please be fucking with me.”
The thing is that Louis isn’t actually sure whether he wants it to be a joke or not. “Just listen,” Liam says, so Louis does, for once in his life does what Liam tells him to.
“What’s the memory that really stands out to you, then?” Nick’s asking.
There’s a thoughtful silence. “That friend that I was talking about,” Harry says.
“The one who’s really loud and never shuts up, yeah,” Nick says. Louis scowls.
“Yeah, that one,” Harry agrees. “He’s - this whole thing might’ve been harder for him than it was for me, and there was nothing that I could do about it.”
“Back to the memory,” Nick prompts.
There’s no telling which way this is going to go. “We were touring the Take Me Home album,” Harry starts, “and we were backstage before the show, and everyone was doing their own thing, right? And out of nowhere he just comes running up and starts throwing glitter bombs at everyone, and I was just sitting there thinking that I loved him.”
Nick’s silent for a few seconds, long enough that Louis thinks that this part might not have been scripted, that Harry’s gone off the rails, and he’s not sure how to feel about that. “You do realize that there’s not a single person in the entire world who doesn’t know who you’re referring to, right?” Nick asks eventually.
Harry’s laugh is a little rusty. “He’s going to kick my arse.”
“Harold, you know that I don’t approve of swears on the radio, but he’s going to kick your arse.”
There’s another minute left of the clip, but Louis closes it down anyway, snapping his laptop shut harder than really necessary.
“What are the chances that he means that he loves me platonically?” Louis asks, breathing a little shakily. He feels numb again, but for the first time in months it’s for an entirely different reason.
Liam is just as much of a dick as Louis is, and they spend endless hours ribbing each other, but he always, always knows when Louis needs him to be serious. “Well, he did go on live radio and say that he loves you. If he meant it to be taken platonically he probably would have been a little bit more careful.”
Realization dawns. It’s a little bit like being hit by the sharp edge of a brick. “He just went and romance movie-d me live on the air.”
“He romance movie-d you live on the air,” Liam agrees apologetically. Louis tucks the phone between his ear and his shoulder and starts throwing all of his shit back into his bag.
It doesn’t take long. Liam natters on in his ear while he does it, but Louis’s not listening, zipping up his bag with shaky fingers. “What if he just thinks he remembers?” he asks, halfway to the door with his bag slung over his shoulder. All he has to do is find Alberto and get them to the airport, but he pauses anyway.
“It doesn’t sound like he just thinks he remembers,” Liam says. “But maybe this is something you should ask him yourself.”
Oh, Louis intends to.
He’s not sure what he’s expecting when the plane lands in London, but it’s certainly not this. It’s certainly not hundreds of fans swarming the airport, screaming in decibels that Louis really should be used to by now.
He follows Alberto along blindly, keeping a firm grip on his backpack, and bumps right into Alberto’s back as he stops abruptly. “What’s going on?” Louis asks, craning to see around Alberto’s shoulders.
“Think someone’s come to see you,” Alberto says, stepping out of the way, and Louis.
Louis should have picked up that package of itching powder when he’d thought of it. Now he’s going to have to go out of his way to make Harry’s life miserable.
The screaming surrounding them gets louder. The police are probably going to have a strong word with them after this, but Louis can’t think about that right now, not with Harry in front of him.
“Hey,” Harry says, stopping a couple feet shy of Louis and tucking his hands into his jacket pockets.
“Tell me that you’re not seriously doing this to me right now,” Louis says, letting his bag thud on the ground and taking a menacing step towards Harry.
Harry only smiles. “You know what the first words you ever said to me were?”
Louis remembers. “How about you fuck off now.”
Harry frowns, big and exaggerated. “That wasn’t it at all,” he protests, and continues before Louis can respond. “And it wasn’t hi, either, or oops. It was your hair is really curly, did you know that?”
He’s right. He’s right, and while there are ways that he could know that without having regained his memory none of them seem particularly likely. Louis’ fingertips feel cold.
“You were so worried that I wouldn’t feel the same about you once I got my memory back,” Harry says, and he probably means to continue, but.
“Scared,” Louis says, inching a little closer. He has so many emotions running through him right now and he’s not sure how to deal with any of them. There’s cameras flashing all around them, and there’s probably going to be thousands of videos posted in less than an hour, but it doesn’t matter. “I was scared.”
“I don’t know how you didn’t see it years ago,” Harry says, reaching out to touch Louis’ face, thumbs gentle on his skin. They’re standing toe to toe, now, and there isn’t a single part of Louis that wants to pull away. “It shows on my face every single time I so much as glance at you.”
Louis clears his throat. “What does?”
“How much I love you,” Harry says easily, with a big, dumb grin on his face, still holding Louis’ in between his hands. “How I’m so in love with you that sometimes I forget how to breathe when you walk into the room.”
This is the first time in a long time that Louis’ eyes have been watery with joy. “I can’t believe that you’re actually romance movie-ing me in a crowded airport with a million cameras trained on our every move.”
“I’m about to romance movie you even more,” Harry says, smirk tugging at the corners of his lips, and Louis doesn’t even have time to question it before Harry’s full on dipping him in the middle of the airport and kissing him - true mouth on mouth contact. It’s a deep, hot kiss, and there’s no way that they’re going to be able to deny it later, no way that they’re going to be able to take it back.
Louis would be mad at Harry for making the decision for both of them if he hadn’t had the opportunity to stop it at every turn, to say not here or not now or fuck off and die.
“Take me home,” Louis murmurs into Harry’s mouth, fingers gripping his hair. “Take me home.”
Harry takes him home.
It’s too crowded to get them out of the airport together, so they go separately, and it’s a while before they make it home, but Louis is still trembling a little by the time he lets himself inside, making sure to lock the door behind him. He can’t believe that this is happening.
He’s made it before Harry, but only nominally - Harry’s last text had said that he was less than ten minutes away. The one before that had said that he couldn’t wait to get his mouth on Louis’ body.
Louis drops his bag onto the floor in the middle of the hallway and kicks off his shoes before wandering in the direction of Harry’s bedroom, letting his fingers trail across the walls as he walks. It feels different, being home. Maybe it’s because Harry remembers.
Harry’s room is the same as it ever is, curtains pulled back and bed unmade, clothes draped over the chair in the corner. For all the shit Louis gets for being the messy one Harry’s not much better.
He rifles through Harry’s things while he waits, nudging the typical condoms and lube aside to dig a little deeper in the nightstand, past a book that Zayn lent him what feels like a hundred years ago, examining a couple of photos buried underneath everything else. They’re of Louis, all of him with his head tipped back, laughing, and Louis doesn’t even remember half of them being taken.
All of that only takes a few minutes, so he toes off his socks and climbs into Harry’s bed, pulling the sheets up over his shoulders and flicking the telly on, flipping through channels idly. The sheets smell like the cologne Harry likes, fresh enough that he must have been sleeping here while Louis was gone, and the thought warms Louis’ heart a little. He still doesn’t know how to feel about Harry’s sudden recovery - relieved, obviously he feels relieved, but the fear and guilt and anxiety that he’s been living with isn’t going to go away just like that.
“I remember the last time I caught you lying in my bed like this,” Harry says. His voice comes out of nowhere, but Louis doesn’t jump. He turns his head to the doorway lazily, scratching his knee underneath the sheets. “You always insist that you don’t sleep in my bed when I’m gone and I let you get away with it but we both know that it’s a lie.”
Louis shrugs, unrepentant, and curls his fingers underneath the pillow. “Should’ve gone with this mattress for meself. Mine sucks.”
Harry ducks his head to hide a smile and makes his way over to the bed, sitting on the edge. “You still want to do this? I’ll understand if you don’t, you know.”
What an idiot. Louis wiggles one hand out from under the sheets and puts it on Harry’s thigh, squeezing too tightly to be considered nice. “Wouldn’t have let you romance movie me if I was going to change my mind.”
Harry’s swallow is audible. “Okay. So maybe we can just try kissing for a while?”
What the hell is going on. Louis pushes himself up properly, onto his knees so he’s taller than Harry, and glares down at him. “What’s your problem? You’re acting like we’ve never had sex before.”
“We never even made it past taking our shirts off,” Harry points out, curling his fingers around Louis’ wrists and tugging. “Would you come down from there, you’re making my neck hurt.”
“Now you know how I feel all the time,” Louis mutters, but he settles into Harry’s lap anyway. Harry’s hands go to stroke over his back instantly, big and warm, and they’re both still fully clothed but it feels really fucking nice anyway.
“I’m just saying,” Harry says, settling his hands on the small of Louis’ back, just above the curve of his arse, “this is a lot. What I want with you is a lot, and there’s no pressure.”
“What do you want with me?” Louis demands. He’s feeling more like himself by the second, more in control of the situation. This is exactly the type of push and pull that he’s used to with Harry, and maybe Louis is an idiot for not realizing that they spent two months doing this exact same thing while Harry had amnesia.
There’s not even a question in Louis’ head what he wants with Harry. There had been, at first, but everything is so clear now that he can barely even remember what that had been like, struggling to accept how Harry felt about him.
“Everything,” Harry says. “Marriage, kissing, sex, the whole works.” He kisses Louis’ exasperated sigh right off of his face, nibbling at his bottom lip gently until Louis opens his mouth, lets Harry slick their tongues together, heat rushing through his entire body, settling at his groin.
“That still wasn’t about you,” Louis manages, pulling back a little too far. He goes toppling backwards, out of Harry’s lap ungracefully, but Harry’s on him before it can even start to matter, lying on top of Louis like he’s done it a thousand times before.
Louis supposes he has. Probably not under these circumstances, but he has.
“I think that a lot of things that you do are about me, whether you realize it or not,” Harry murmurs, and that’s his bedroom voice, making another appearance.
Plenty of people would kill to get to hear Harry Styles’ bedroom voice, but Louis is the only one who gets to, and that makes his insides a little squirmy. “My tattoos are about you.”
“Mine are about you too,” Harry says, and it’s still not any different, the tattoo thing, but they’ll always be linked, even if they were never meant to be romantically linked. Louis doesn’t wait to be kissed again, hauling Harry down far enough that he can mash their mouths back together, trying to get his hands up underneath Harry’s shirt so he can pinch at a nipple, just to fuck with him.
Maybe Harry will always know him this well, though, because he stops Louis just in time like he always does, grabbing his hand and lacing their fingers together while they kiss, and Louis still has a thousand emotions running through him but the strongest one is love.
Love. Talk about romance movies.
“We gonna fuck any time this century?” Louis asks, pulling away just enough that they can look each other in the face.
Harry twists his mouth, eyes wide. “Thought we were gonna make love,” he protests, pinching one of Louis’ nipples so sneakily that Louis jumps.
He has to bat Harry’s hand away, flicking at him a little, and makes himself go loose and languid, melting against the mattress. “You wanna make love to me, darling? Wanna open me up slow and gentle and fuck me like I’m the only thing in the world?”
“You are the only thing in the world,” Harry says, bedroom voice returning, “to me, at least, and I want to do unspeakable things to you.”
Louis’ cock is already hard, but if it wasn’t he’d have an insta-boner. “You wanna love me for the rest of your life?”
“Baby, I’m gonna love you for the rest of my life,” Harry says, pressing a quick, careful kiss to the corner of Louis’ mouth. “I just hope that you want to be loved by me for the rest of your life.”
This is really very sappy. Not that Louis doesn’t like it, but he wasn’t joking about wanting to have sex sometime this century. It’s been so long since he’s had sex, and he’s already pretty sure that no sex he could ever have will ever beat sex with Harry.
“I do,” Louis says quietly, liking the way the words sound in the air, and then shoves Harry back enough that he can start wiggling out of his clothes.
Harry laughs, shocked, and the mattress shifts underneath them as they finish stripping and come back together, completely naked this time.
“Oi, nice dick,” Louis says, wiggling underneath Harry’s weight, trying to get a good feel for it.
“Thanks, baby,” Harry trills, loud and annoying, but before Louis can complain about it they’re kissing again, just as a lube slick finger nudges up against Louis’ hole. There’s so many other ways this could have gone, but - maybe not really. Maybe this is what they’ve been heading for the past three years and the accident just kickstarted them.
Louis thinks that they deserve to be happy.
“You’re lucky that I put up with you,” Louis says anyway, because he believes in making people work for things.
Harry’s mouth is hot and wet and insistent as he sinks his finger fully in, the press of it thick and welcomed. Louis tries to convince his body to open up for it, to make it easier, and it’s not like it’s that hard. Louis wants it maybe more than he wants to breathe.
“You only want me for my cock,” Harry says, trailing sharp kisses down the side of Louis’ neck, settling on a spot that seems totally random to Louis and bites down, just on the right side of bearable.
There’ll be a mark there in the morning for sure. Louis’ cock throbs. “It is a nice cock.”
“It’s the best cock you’ve ever seen,” Harry presses. He’s smiling against Louis’ throat.
“I’m quite fond of - oh - ” Harry’s pressing a second finger inside next to the first, thick and unrelenting. “My own cock,” Louis manages to finish, gripping the backs of Harry’s shoulders.
“I’m quite fond of your cock as well,” Harry says, as his fingers close around Louis’ cock firmly. Louis arches up into it, and then back down onto Harry’s fingers, and then up again. He can’t decide what feels better.
Then Harry’s fingers brush over his prostate, and oh, that definitely feels better. Louis goes limp against the mattress, a little overwhelmed, and tries not to breathe too hard.
“Should be,” Louis says, slipping his fingers into Harry’s hair as he slides lower, mouthing wetly over Louis’ collarbones, shoulders, chest, stopping briefly at a nipple. He catches it between his teeth and tugs gently, and Louis is whimpering before he can stop himself.
“I am,” Harry murmurs, stroking Louis’ cock a couple of times. “S’very pretty. Just like the rest of you.”
He should have known that sex with Harry would be like this - slightly ridiculous and entirely too hot. “I’m the prettiest,” Louis agrees brokenly, pulling Harry’s head away from his nipple.
It doesn’t do much to deter him - he adds a third finger and spreads them out, wiggling against Louis’ prostate, and it’s enough that he could probably come, even without the hand stroking his cock gently. “I love the way you need to drink at least five cups of tea a day so you won’t be grumpy,” Harry says softly, inching farther down, mouthing across Louis’ skin as he goes.
It’s random and something that he could know from the last two months rather than the last three years, but Louis flushes a little anyway. “What else,” he says.
“I love the way you get mad at me when I don’t wake you up for breakfast but then get mad at me when I do wake you up for breakfast,” Harry says obediently, lips skimming Louis’ navel. “And that you’ll never ask for runny eggs but you’ll pout if I don’t make them that way.”
That’s exactly what Louis does, but he’s not going to admit it. “I don’t pout.”
“You pout all the time,” Harry says, licking Louis’ belly button, making him jump. His fingers are incessant, probing all the right spots, and Louis isn’t sure how much more of this he can take. “You pout when I don’t pay enough attention to you, you pout when I don’t bring you food, you pout when you don’t get your way. Face it, Lou, you’re a pouter.”
Louis nudges at Harry’s knee with his toes. “I’m gonna start pouting if you don’t hurry it up.”
“But I was gonna suck your cock a little,” Harry murmurs, gravelly and deep. It sends a shiver down Louis’ spine, partially from the words and partially from the tone. Never let it be said that Harry doesn’t know how to use his voice to the maximum effect.
“Got the rest of your life to suck my cock,” Louis says, pressing his knees against Harry’s sides, trapping him there for a minute. Harry looks up, eyes bright and cheeks flushed.
“Wanted to suck your cock right now, though,” Harry says, dropping his head back down to give Louis’ cock a tiny little kiss on the head, warm and dry.
Louis squeezes him a little tighter. “So you’d rather suck my cock than fuck me?”
Harry eases his fingers out, lets go of Louis’ cock, and crawls back up so they’re face to face. “Well, if fucking you is on the table I guess I’m gonna have to go with that.”
“Oh, I appreciate the sacrifice you’re making,” Louis says mockingly, letting his arms fall back against the mattress as Harry rummages through the table for a condom. He rolls it on with ease as Louis draws a knee up to give him easier access.
Harry pauses and takes a hold of one of Louis’ hands and draws it up to kiss his palm, fleeting and sweet. “I know that you struggled,” he says quietly, not meeting Louis’ eyes. “And I would take away all the suffering you went through if I could, but I did love you when I couldn’t remember. They told me my name, and I met my family, but nothing felt right until I saw you, and I knew right away how I felt about you.”
Louis spent two months trying not to believe that, and then trying to convince himself to believe it, and then trying to convince himself not to believe it again, and it was confusing and irritating and it hurt, all the time, no matter what he did.
He still hurts now, but it’s a dull, manageable pain, one that’s been fading steadily. He still has work to do, and he should probably go back to seeing that therapist, but he feels miles better than he did yesterday.
“Hey,” Louis says softly, cupping Harry’s jaw and turning his head so they’re looking at each other eye to eye. “I couldn’t believe you then, but I believe you now.”
“Okay,” Harry says, a little shakily, but Louis isn’t done.
“I love you,” he says, still meeting Harry’s eyes, “and it took me a while to get here, but I think that maybe I’ve always loved you. But you wanna know the other thing that I know for sure? Besides the fact that I love you?”
Harry’s eyes are wide and green. His eyebrows are furrowed a little, and Louis can feel his hand in between their bodies, holding onto his own cock. “What?”
“I’m always going to love you,” Louis says, tucking some of Harry’s hair behind his ear. “No matter what.”
Maybe one day there’ll be something that warms Louis’ entire body, right down to his core the way Harry’s smile does, but today is not that day. “God, I missed you,” Harry says, and kisses Louis again before he can answer, demanding and implacable, and Louis lets him.
Harry doesn’t ask before he starts pushing in, still too busy tasting Louis’ mouth like he’s never going to be able to get enough, cock big and unyielding in Louis’ arse, going in and in and in. Louis gasps out little noises into Harry’s mouth, scratching at his back, and tries to be open for it, wills himself not to come.
It doesn’t hurt, exactly, but it’s inescapable, and he can’t quite manage to catch his breath until Harry’s balls are flush against his arse, all the way in. “Jesus,” Louis wheezes, still clutching at Harry’s back. They’re going to be equally bruised in the morning, and Louis likes that.
“Too much?” Harry asks, mouth moving against Louis’ jaw. Louis shakes his head frantically, digging his nails into Harry’s skin a little harder.
“No, just,” he huffs out a breath, entirely sure of the way Harry’s going to take this, “big, s’all.”
Harry’s smile carves itself into Louis’ neck. “Too big?” he asks, playing at being innocent.
Even if Louis hadn’t have known him for over three years he wouldn’t believe that.
“I said you’re big, not that you’re King Kong,” Louis says tartly, clenching down to see if he’s used to it yet, used to the way Harry’s splitting him open.
He is, he decides. “You can move now.”
“Of all the things you could have said, you went with King Kong,” Harry mutters, moving just the tiniest bit, like he’s testing it out. Like he’s testing out Louis’ arse. Louis is a little bit offended. He has a great arse. No testing necessary.
Or maybe he’s just trying to give Louis time to get used to it, but that doesn’t seem as likely.
“It was on the telly the other day,” Louis admits. Harry moves a little bit farther, gaining momentum, speed. Depth.
“I love that when you go on holiday you sit in a hotel room for a while checking out what’s on the telly before going outside,” Harry says, slipping his fingers underneath Louis’ knees and raising an eyebrow. Louis makes a face back, shrugs, which Harry takes as a yes and hauls his legs up around his back. “The first time we went to Australia you found Grease on the telly and stayed in to watch it even though you’ve seen it at least a hundred times.”
Louis’ chest is so warm that he might be burning up on the inside. It probably has a little to do with the way Harry’s cock feels from this angle, moving inside of him just the way Louis likes, but it’s mostly to do with Harry and the fact that he remembers. He remembers. “You always have to sit down and watch Grease if it’s on, Harold, it’s the rule.”
“You and your arbitrary rules,” Harry mutters, and Louis is going to take offense to that, he is, but then Harry does this twisty thing with his hips that should probably be illegal, and the only thing Louis can do is grip his shoulders and whine into Harry’s mouth, just a little. Harry would only have to do that another couple of times and Louis wouldn’t be able to stop himself from coming.
“You like that?” he asks, and the stupidest thing is that he sounds like he’s actually asking. He doesn’t wait for an answer before doing it again, though, and Louis is scrambling to get his fingers closed around his cock before he realizes what’s happening, toes curling behind Harry’s back. Harry does it again, and again, and then one more time, cock big and thick and pressing up against all the right spots, and Louis’ hand on his own cock isn’t doing much more than holding it, but Louis comes anyway, gasping into Harry’s mouth.
“Yeah, you like that,” Harry murmurs, deep and satisfied, and he’s still fucking doing it, the twisty hip thing, and now Louis doesn’t know whether he loves it or he hates it.
At least, that’s what he tells himself. His cock would like to think that he loves it, but Louis can’t listen to his cock whenever it wants something. “You always take ten years to get something accomplished,” Louis says, running his fingers through Harry’s hair, mussing it up. He can’t manage to keep the fondness out of his voice, but Harry would have known anyway.
“Gotta do right by you,” Harry says, thrusts getting a little erratic, a little sloppy. He’s still hitting all the right places, though, and Louis is a little impressed.
Getting a little bit sensitive, but impressed.
“You always have,” Louis murmurs, letting Harry kiss him again, and it turns out it’s just that easy, making Harry come.
Louis stores that little bit of information away for future reference.
Harry doesn’t pull out right away, cock going soft in Louis’ arse while he catches his breath. He’s heavy and sweaty and crushing Louis a bit, but not enough that Louis is going to make him move anytime soon. It’s comfortable, this, still connected, hearts beating together, steady and true.
“You know that I’m never going to let you live this down, right?” Harry asks, rubbing his cheek against Louis’ chest like he’s a cat or something. Maybe just a big fucking weirdo. Louis makes a sleepy, inquiring noise, and Harry elaborates, “That you let me romance movie you in the middle of an airport. In a few months everyone else will have forgotten but I’m still going to remind you every day. I’m never going to let you forget it.”
Louis rolls his eyes and punches Harry in the ribs. He can’t believe that he forgot what a dick this kid is, even if it was only for a few minutes.
Things don’t really change that much, all considered. There’s a few months of insane press coverage before it moves onto the next big celebrity news - turns out that grand, romantic love declarations in the middle of an airport are only remembered in films. Louis works on his issues with a therapist, and while the nightmares don’t completely go away they’re much rarer after a while.
Harry doesn’t ever regain 100% of his memory - the accident itself is all a big blur, he says, and he’s pretty sure that what he does remember is just false memory from watching the video - but he’s himself and that’s all Louis has ever really cared about.
At the end of the day, it’s like this - they’re young, they’re in love, and they survived a traumatic event. They have the entire world at their disposal.
There’s nothing that’s going to stop them.