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Do You Realize

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It’s said that every snowflake is different; no two are the same.

What an incredible thought. Especially when you take into consideration just how many snowflakes there are. And how many have been produced throughout the centuries. It’s, like, the biggest phenomenon ever and Harry really can’t help but stare at his surroundings in wonder because all these great big mounds of snow are just tiny snowflakes dusted upon snowflakes. Everything that looks so big is actually constructed from things that are so tiny. That’s truly inspiring.

He smiles to himself, pulling the glove off of his hand as he settles it atop the snow, feels little tiny snowflakes melting beneath his touch. That’s cool, too. He’s destroying a lot of tiny things right now, just with his mere touch. It makes him feel invincible and it makes him feel cool but it also makes him a little sad… Because now they’ll never come back, will they?

Ho, hum. Oh well.

In the distance, Harry can hear Niall, Liam, and Zayn’s laughter echoing off the mountains, carrying through the ski slopes and bouncing off ice crystals. They’re all having a merry time of it—they’ve all got quite the knack for snow sports, it seems—and in the past two hours they’ve been outside, they haven’t stopped for breath once, too busy trying to impress each other. Harry, meanwhile, has taken to sitting in the snow, off to the side. Just watching as he absorbs his thoughts in melting snow, a snowboard strapped to his feet. He opted for the snowboard instead of the skis because the latter seems so predictable, you know? Life’s all about adventure so why wouldn’t he go and be the black sheep and try something a little different? The choice was obvious.

Unfortunately, sportly things aren’t really Harry’s forte. He likes them well enough, they’re fun, but… He’s more of an arts man. Not a sports man. More of a spectator than a participant. Besides, it calms and sedates him to just watch his lads slide about, exchanging stress-free smiles and sloppy high-fives. Lord knows they need the reprieve; their last term at uni was a stressful disaster, one that piled their nerves on top of each other. All four of them had shared a flat—this dingy, moth-eaten hovel with pizza stains on the grey carpets and a toilet seat that pinched your bum every time you sat on its cracked surface—and the combination of their various strong personalities and their own respective last-minute, pre-graduation stressors culminated to a lot of tension, anger, passive aggressive silences, and premature wrinkles. Niall and Liam were at each other’s throats every five minutes (they both studied business but have two very different perspectives on it) and Zayn was terrifyingly annoyed all the damn time. He’s studying history, wants to become a professor someday, but his end-of-term literary journals and research projects prompted a lot of unexpected rage and nicotine. Their curtains will never smell the same again.

So it was all very stressful which is probably why Niall and Liam concocted this holiday to begin with.

“We need a holiday! One last adventure before we scatter into our respective lives!” Niall grinned, arm slung over Liam’s puffed shoulders. Niall’s always very enthusiastic and well-spoken yet mildly crass. He’s such a passionate soul and Harry loves him down to his Irish follicles for it. “Just one last hurrah to get all out all our demons, Haz. Liam and I were thinking a skiing holiday. You in?”

“Skiing holiday?” Harry’d asked from the floor, amidst broken guitar strings and a half-eaten bowl of cereal, his guitar perched in his lap. “Why skiing? Beaches are nice.”

“Because we want to have fun and do stuff, not just, like, sit around,” Liam explained, looking a touch irate about Harry’s hesitance. He grinned his irritation away though and tried to adopt puppy eyes like he child that he is. “C’mon H. Please? Yeah? Please come?”

It was an easy choice.

“Yeah, sure,” Harry smiled peacefully, flashing a thumbs up before he went back to his diligent task of string-changing.

He heard Niall and Liam bump chests, exchange high-fives, and scuttle out of the room, ready to pounce Zayn next. They can be quite the duo when they want to be, all confident and attractive with their beers in hand, jeans hanging off their pale hips.

And so it all came it to be. And here they are. On their last holiday together as a unit, ready to embark on their respective lives.

There should probably be a touch of sadness in the air, the sun should probably hold a bit of sentimentality in its white-gold rays… But Harry’s actually just excited. Because he loves change, loves new beginnings.

Cuz, see, Harry Styles is a simple man. He just is. He’s got one basic outfit he always wears—white t-shirt, black jeans with duct-taped knees, a chipped pair of boots, and his black trenchoat. His hair’s always up in a bun, his smile is always quietly in place, his guitar is always strapped to his back, and his songs are always in his head. Just a simple, happy lad. Does he have a job already lined up like the other lads? No. Is he fussed about it? Absolutely not.

Because, see,  he did graduate. He did attend his courses [usually] and he did some homework [sometimes]. At first he even studied law before he finally woke up and jumped over to the arts and the abrupt change culminated to him just barely managing some degree of one kind or another—to be quite honest, he’s still not sure which one he’s landed. All he knows is that they’ve let him graduate and that’s good enough, probably. He’s just not really worried about it, is the thing.

He grew up with a very supportive family; mum and dad are very simplistic, good people. His father’s a reformed hippie who now teaches Eastern History at the local university and his mum is an herbalist. He’s got one sister, Gemma, and she’s off getting yet another degree in Political Science—she’s a bit of a radical though, impassioned by her unswayable ideals.  She’s always calling up Harry in the middle of the night to discuss world affairs with a conspiratorial edge since she constantly evades sleep by pairing her ritually smoked marijuana with endless cups of black coffee. Harry quite loves her. She’s very supportive of his abstract dreams of becoming a musician, encouraging him with grand ideas. 

He should talk to her more.

He should talk to everybody more.

Problem is though, is that Harry doesn’t really talk all that much. He’s sort of a bit of a loner. Like, he loves his family, loves his lads, he does. But there’s something about Harry that’s a little bit separate from everybody else. Because, while others thrill at the idea of engaging in the hubbub, Harry likes to just…watch. Sure, he enjoys a good conversation as much as the next guy, but he’s truly in his element whenever he can just sit back and observe, keeping to himself. He just likes to keep to himself. Usually it’s just him and his guitar, his rusty ol’ guitar that smells like burnt wood and copper. He always drags it everywhere he goes, keeps it in its shitty cloth case that he slings over his shoulders; he loves that thing with a passion. Just loves it. He’s always strumming it while his boys laugh about, making his own melodies, constructing his own songs in his head. Because if there’s one thing Harry is good at, it’s being creative.  He just enjoys living life and living it creatively.

He loves wandering down to a pub once in awhile, taking the stage to perform a haphazard, last-minute set of his homemade songs that he croons over the twangs of his acoustic. It’s passionate and heartfelt, ripped from his shaky bones, and he often makes up his lyrics as he goes but people like him and they buy him drinks afterwards and clap him on the back and try to pick his brain for his artistic drive, his poetic vision, and Harry just loves it. He gets by on a couple quid for a gig sometimes, sometimes not. Sometimes people just give him money because they think he’s brilliant. And Harry just shrugs and takes it. Because that’s how life goes—be good to it and it will be good to you.

Things are nice in Harry’s life. Great, even.

Still, though. Sometimes he does want…something. 

He’s still searching for something to set him ablaze, so to speak. It’s like an itch he doesn’t know how to scratch. Cuz, like, Harry’s never understood heartbreak, for instance. He’s had his fair share of fleeting romance, his fair share of sex and attraction. He understands that, enjoys it. He enjoys human beings well enough. But he’s never gone mad for it, never gone wonky or over the moon or six feet under and... It feels like he’s missing something sometimes. But he’s not sure what.

Because, as much as he enjoys people, he also enjoys letting them go. There’s a time and a place for the individuals in his life and he understands that cycle, understands the different paths life takes him. He likes travelling, likes to be on the go; he doesn’t like the established homestead. He likes change. He’s not made for commitment or rules… So, truth be told, he’s not even sure if he was made to fall in love, truly in love, because he can’t imagine keeping the feeling for any stretch of time. He just doesn’t feel intense emotions for the most part. It doesn’t bother him, he doesn’t mind it, but he sees it for what it is.

Harry just goes about his days in a sweet little fog. Just lives his life with a good outlook, his trusty guitar, hair that fits nicely into a bun, and the same old outfit every day. Feet in the same boots. It’s simple, it’s portable, and it’s nice.

Like right now is nice.

He’s just sitting amongst soft mounds of snowflakes, humming beneath the unyielding rays of sun as he watches his three mates continue to swirl around on hills that look to be made of ice cream. The snowboard’s weighing his feet down and it is a bit cold (despite him borrowing Liam’s parka because apparently his big black trenchcoat wasn’t practical—nor, as Niall, Zayn, and Liam pointed out, were his clothes) but it’s fine. If he gets cold or damp, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.

He’s just kinda happy.

He thinks he can hear birds chirping over the chaos of laughter and shouting that swirls around the countless bodies on the slopes. When he closes his eyes, the sun prickles on his skin. It’s cold but it’s also warm. Everything’s pleasant. Snow is cool. No two snowflakes are the same; it’s very comforting.

Harry might like to think of himself as a snowflake—a completely individualistic being. People shouldn’t be the same. Every single one should be different. That’s part of the reason why he doesn’t believe in staying in one place or keeping the same people in your life—there are so many different human beings in the world and no two are the same. You’ve got to change it up and meet new ones because it’s fascinating. Gotta make new songs and finds new homes and… Yeah. New, new, new.

Life can be really fun. And the world is basically at his feet because he’s done with uni now. Finally.

He smiles as he watches Liam attempt a jump on his skis.

“Oi! Harry!” Niall’s voice suddenly shouts, startling Harry out of his reverie.

He blinks, syrupy and slow, before turning his gaze to the blonde-and-black haired boy sporting enormous black sunglasses. His limbs look effortless as he flies around; skiing comes natural. “Get your arse out here and have some bloody fun! Stop staring all the time!”

“I’m comiiiing,” Harry drags out but he has no intentions of standing up, feeling quite content in his snow blankets. On his snow mattress.

“No, really,” Zayn suddenly says, whizzing up to him with a truly astounding confidence. Much like Harry, Zayn isn’t a big sportsman. He’s usually a little weary and a lot clumsy so the fact that he seems to have taken to skiing so effortlessly appears to delight him. It’s very adorable and Harry’s been snapping pictures of him on his phone. “You’ve got to join us, Haz. Don’t be afraid to fail, or whatever.”

“Well, it’s not failing, I’m not afraid of failing,” Harry insists, motioning with his hands. “Failing is experience, Zayn. It’s just that I’m not sure it would be more enjoyable than what I’m doing right now, is all.”

“But you’re doing nothing.”

“Exactly!” he smiles.

“Alright,” Zayn snorts and that seems to be enough for him. “Alright, you weirdo.” He pokes Harry’s shin with his ski stick before he takes off again, shaking his head.

So Harry hums happily and continues to sit beneath the very wide and bright sky.

**

It’s awhile later when he becomes a bit bored and his bum’s a bit frozen.

Niall and Liam are out of sight, probably skiing on the scariest trails, and Zayn’s still just keeping to himself, joyously going up and down hills with all the wonderment of a toddler. It’s very endearing, save for the fact that Harry’s sick of watching it on an endless loop.

He sighs, finally admitting internal defeat as he hauls himself into a standing position. Carefully, he tests the weight of the snowboard. It’s sorta heavy and clunky. And he’s really unsure of how to…go about all of this. He should’ve taken the lessons.

Oh, well.

With a mild air of caution, he begins to wiggle his hips, edging closer to the steeper part of the endless hill before him. He’s moving, he is, so that’s a start, right? Right.

Experimentally, he leans his body forward, tipping over the brink of the hill.

It all happens very quickly.

One minute, he’s sliding down the treacherous slope (it’s way, way steeper than it seems, he swears), and the next, he’s met with a wall of blue blurriness attached to a blurry body. He collides with it unforgivingly before he’s promptly knocked on his bum, the wind ripped from his airways because snowboarding likes to be as physically unappealing as possible, apparently.

With a wheezed out “Oof!” he slams back into the snow, body instantly frozen, ice trickling down the neck of the hideously colored Nike jacket he borrowed from Liam.

The sky is very bright and expansive. He has an excellent view of it from this position.

He’s just about to pull himself up and maybe take residence in this new snow pile he’s found—

When suddenly a loud, bright laugh fills the park instead.

“What a ceremonious way to reach the bottom of the hill!” a sparkling yet pebbly voice says, endlessly amused. “How completely brilliant.”

Harry’s head shoots up. There’s a figure beside him, tall and dark and silhouetted by the assault of blinding sun and snow. He can’t quite make out the man’s features, can’t quite place where his head is even at, but the figure is lithe and relaxed and loose with laughter, rays of light spouting from his outline. He looks like God from this angle and, briefly, Harry wonders if he’s dead.

“Are there guitars in heaven?” he asks, mumbled and disoriented.

The figure laughs again. “Well,” he chuckles as he squats down, still darkly lit against blinding white light because Harry’s eyes can’t adjust and his neck hurts. “If I told you, that’d be giving away the surprise.”

Squinting in confusion, Harry cups a hand over his eyes, shielding them from some of the assault as he narrows in on the man’s face in front of him.

Oh.

Harry drops his hand, immediately feeling his cold skin flush in a way that’s mostly unfamiliar to him. The man before him is…beautiful. Super beautiful. Awkwardly, startlingly beautiful and Harry’s never usually one to balk at attraction but right now he’s lying in a heap amongst scuffed-up snow, his legs all tangled up, and he’s just knocked into this God-of-a-man, with his regal sunbeams pouring from his skeleton, his very cutting eyes, and, just, like…

Harry’s blushing, is all.  

“Are you the wall that I’ve just run into?” he asks but he already knows the answer, the tips of his ears burnt red. He’s frozen to the spot (hah, quite literally—ba dump, ch!) and his hands are numb in his gloves, buried deep in icy clumps, and his mouth’s a little open from getting the wind knocked out of it. He can’t stop looking at the brightly inquisitive man-God before him.

Hercules. His name should be Hercules.

In response to Harry’s wonder, Hercules/Stranger smiles beatifically, still crouched beside him. But wow—he’s got lovely white teeth. They match the white of the snow that surrounds them. “’The wall’,” he muses, grin growing in delight. He’s got flecks of stubble around delicately cut lips and each follicle looks to be on fire when the sun hits them just right. “What an incredible descriptor. I am the wall, yes, Pink Floyd be damned. Now. Shall I help you up? The snow’s only comfortable for so long, even if you have just confirmed to me that snow angels do, in fact, exist.”

Without waiting for a reply, Hercules/Stranger’s got his hands on his hands, pulling up a beet-red Harry with effortless energy and oh again. Despite appearing mighty, Hercules/Stranger is rather small. Harry’s taller than him.

From the back of his blurry, hazy, stunned mind, Harry registers this with charm and immense pleasure, a prickling in his stomach that feels akin to the melted snow currently dribbling down his back.

“Oops?” Harry offers, halfway between a breathless apologetic chuckle, halfway between a labored gulp as he looks Hercules/Stranger in the clichéd, storybook blue eyes that Harry is happy to find truly do exist. It’s the only type of its blue he’s ever seen. Entirely unique. Singular. No two snowflakes are the same.  

This is all entirely overwhelming.

 “Hi,” Hercules/Stranger grins in response, still looking endlessly amused and nonchalant. And would you look at that—he’s clutching a snowboard under one arm. How cosmic. “Quite the entrance there, Snow Angel,” he says, quick and unblinking. His voice reminds Harry of melting icicles, all drippy and sharp but tinkling as they pings droplets onto the ground below. “I often don’t admire the mechanics of a poorly produced execution—it’s a blatant disregard for any semblance of technique, you know—but since you seem to have wonky stars in your eyes and little birdies floating around that head of yours, I suppose I can make an exception. Are you quite alright?”

A lot of words have just spilled from his mouth, very, very fast—he hasn’t even taken a breath. Rather, he speaks like Harry breathes oxygen and it’s…

Entirely attractive. And alluring. And just, like…overwhelming.

“I’m Harry,” Harry offers instead, extending his hand because he’s nothing if not polite.

Hercules/Stranger takes it without a second’s hesitation, shakes it in a surprisingly firm grip. “Louis Tomlinson,” he shoots back, all confidence and ease. He drops Harry’s hand and his grin catches in the light. “Snowboarding instructor here at Winter Park.”

Oh, alright. So not Hercules, then. That’s fine though, that’s more than fine.

Louis.

It’s a lovely name. And—snowboarding instructor, is that what he just said?

 “Oh, an instructor? Oh, shit. I’m sorry I ran into you with your own, uhm, instrument, or whatever,” Harry rumbles, still feeling an odd sense of shyness, his skin clinging to the remnants of a flush. Louis’ eyes are easy to look into though, all calm and oddly regal. There’s something about his countenance that’s sorta prestigious but it’s offset by his outdated windbreaker and unspectacular joggers, so it’s a little inexplicable and confusing. “I’ve no idea what I’m doing. My mates are skiing but I wanted to do something more adventurous…” He trails off, a little lost for words as Louis regards him, his head angled in curiosity.

Louis shifts to lean his weight on the snowboard, the bright blue of his jacket splashing harshly against all the snow that surrounds them (isn’t he cold? He doesn’t even have a hat on but he’s not reddened or chapped, just honey-skinned and soft), and he lets his lips quirk while his eyes flit across Harry, seeming to read him like he would a text. “Well, well, well,” he sing-songs in a manner that whooshes a tiny smile out of Harry. “It seems you’ve barreled into the right person then, isn’t it?” His lips quirk even more. “Sure you’re not just trying to get a free lesson?” It’s teasingly said and it sends a happy flush up through Harry’s toes.

The feeling’s a little bizarre. But it’s a warm feeling, a pressing feeling, so Harry unsticks his mouth and lets himself smile lazily, licking his chapped lips and squinting against the sun. “Uhm. I dunno. Is it working?”

Delight instantly colors Louis’ ice crinkled eyes. As it happens, Harry discovers that ‘delight’ mixes with the color blue beautifully. “What a charming Charlie!” he beams, like life is a game. “You said your name was Harry?”

“I did, yeah.”

“Excellent, Harry. Bloody excellent. You appear to be un-concussed so I take it you’re feeling alright? You never did answer me before.”

“I’m feeling…” Harry searches for words, searches for them in the very bright sky before he looks back down to Louis, all expectant with his lifted brow. “Peaceful.” He grins.

A surprised bump of laughter falls from Louis’ lips; Harry watches it fall. Again, he feels a jolt inside of his stomach, just at the mere sight of the man, the sound of his raucous, unapologetic laughter. There’s just…something about him. The way he holds himself up high yet moves with relaxed limbs. They way he currently looks caught between amused and uninvested. They way he pours sunbeams and stirs up the oxygen molecules with his breathless sentences so naturally, just standing there with caramel-dusted hair and a strong jaw as he surveys the most intense (almost intimidating) eyes all over Harry….

He’s got presence. And Harry can’t take his eyes off of him.

“Peaceful?” Louis questions, tilting his head again. Inquisitive, bright. “I’ve not known these hills to be peaceful on a weekend but, all the same…” He smiles, shifting his weight on the snowboard. “I enjoy your docile little perspective, Harry. Consider me pleasantly charmed.”

Pleasantly charmed.

Harry finds himself in a similar position. “Thank you,” he grins, as widely as he can.

Another gust of laughter. “You’re welcome,” Louis squints. He’s very nimble, his limbs very quick. His little smile’s still in place, looking just a hair mischievous. “Why did you ask if there were guitars in heaven? If you don’t mind me asking.”

Shrugging, Harry shifts his weight, wondering if he should unbuckle his boots from the snowboard so he can flex his toes a bit. “I play guitar and it’s my favorite thing to do,” he explains, trying not to stare too much as he glances down at his feet. “If I’m dead, I want to be happy.”

In response, Louis just grins; it’s a beautiful spread of lips, white teeth on display, and Harry watches the evolution of it with an interest that bubbles inside of his entire torso.

He’s not usually this…drawn to someone. It’s an odd feeling. Sorta exhausting and nervewracking. But Harry’s never really felt something quite like this before so it’s also kinda… Amazing. Fascinating, really.

“You’re only happy when you play guitar?” Louis asks, eyes still flitting all over Harry’s face. Smile still present even though his brows twitch a bit. “What a musical existence you must live. A proper little bard, you are. Where are your laurels? Your lute? Will you serenade me?”

It’s absolutely flirtatious yet it’s absolutely so naturally delivered that Harry feels every syllable of every word kickstart his heart, already swollen with interest and curiosity. He’s just standing there, covered in melting snow, his bun askew, his hands empty at his sides, and he’s dumbstruck, is what he is. He’s dumb and he’s struck.

“I—“ Harry begins—about to seriously consider inviting a stranger back to their room at the lodge so he can actually bloody serenade him—before he’s suddenly interrupted by a chaotic assault of three different voices.

 “Oi! There he is! Told you he was alive!”

“Haz! The fuck you been?”

“Did you fall?”

“Jesus,” Harry breathes, startled as he turns reluctantly away from Louis—whose eyes have begun to shine as he watches the oncoming trio. Still feeling mildly aflame, Harry glances his way, chewing his lip. Louis’ profile is stunning; it seems like it’s made of sparking, whizzing particles but Harry can’t even explain why. He’s magic, he’s magic. “Erm, sorry in advance, by the way.”

 “Sorry?” Louis repeats, surprise writ in his tone as he blinks at him, flicking hair out of his eyes. “Why sorry? Do these belong to you?” He sounds more thrilled than anything, motioning towards the lads with an errant hand.

“For the meantime, yes,” Harry murmurs back, lips twisted in a bashful smile.

“Oi, who’s this?” Niall asks first upon reaching them, skis in hand. He flicks his sunglasses up into his hair; there’s two little red marks on either side of the bridge of his nose. He’s a little out of breath, the adrenaline still faintly etched in his eyes and flushed cheeks. “Made a friend already, Haz? Told you you’d like the snow.”

“I’m Liam,” Liam introduces immediately, grabbing Louis’ hand without any warning whatsoever. He grins, all cool and sure. “We’re Harry’s friends. On holiday with him.”

“I see, I see,” Louis nods, firecrackers in his words. He lets Liam’s hand drop before he vigorously moves onto Niall, then Zayn. “I’m Louis Tomlinson. Snowboard instructor here. You may also refer to me as ‘collateral damage’, thanks to your pal here. He’s quite the yeti, isn’t he? At first I thought him to be an angel but now I’m wondering if perhaps he’s from the other side of the tracks.”

An angel? Harry bites down on his grin, closing his eyes in thanks as the sun smiles on his cheeks.

Meanwhile, Niall snorts at the same time that Zayn smiles, slow and shy.

“Zayn,” he introduces when Louis settles a warm grin on him, eyebrows expectant.

“Ah, Zayn, what a name,” Louis grins in a lilt. “‘S good. Though, you’d probably get away with being called something very wretched, eh? A rose by any other name…”

In response, Zayn flushes, pleased and delicate, while Harry feels a lovely streak of envy ripple across his sternum. 

 “I’m Niall,” Niall then introduces before Harry can pout, popping his sunglasses back on as he shuffles a bit closer. “Good to meet you, Louis. Sorry about Harry, here. He’s all limbs.”

“I’m a snowflake,” Harry replies calmly, by way of explanation; it procures a few eyerolls and furrowed brows.

But Louis merely looks joyous. “He calls himself a snowflake!” he sings, once more shifting the weight of his snowboard. His wrists are very small. “I love it. But no apologies necessary, lads. He’s providing quite the entertainment, actually, Already quite fond of him, myself.”

“Everyone always is…” Zayn murmurs but he’s smiling as he says it, even despite Liam’s snort.

“You’re giving him a big head, Zayn.”

“He’s already got one. Too late, isn’t it?”

“Hey,” Harry protests with a frown, feeling Louis’ eyes flicker between the lot of them. “Don’t paint me a villain.”

“Never a villain,” Louis supplies then, winking the moment he catches Harry’s eye. “Only a snowflake.”

Pleased, Harry smiles, quieting down.

Louis’ so nice.

“So. Lads,” Louis then continues, ripping his golden attention away from Harry with a force that is surprisingly weighty. “As it so happens, I’ve just finished me lessons for the day. I was just heading out to grab some lunch. Care to join? My treat, of course, on account of…” He glances over to Harry, a smirk laced in his words. “Nearly damaging your precious cargo.”

The words make Harry smile moreso, lingering long enough for Louis’ eyes to pause on him for a moment longer than necessary; it’s oddly thrilling, sending sparks through Harry’s synapses.

But then Niall’s confident, boasting voice splits the atmosphere and Louis’ bright gaze travels to him, all lidded yet intrigued. Always caught somewhere between interested and not. Contradictory. Incredible.

“We’d love to,” he affirms without a second’s hesitation, nodding once. “Just need to stop off at the room and drop our shit off. Don’t want to make a spectacle.”

“Yeah, I want to wear my own jacket,” Harry murmurs, looking down at himself.

The other lads mutter similar complaints, Liam pinching Zayn’s trousers and muttering out a “Are you sure you want to wear those?” because Liam’s too concerned about everybody else; but Louis turns to Harry again, hoisting up his board.

“Your own jacket?” he questions, swaying a bit impatiently.

“Yeah. I’m wearing Liam’s. I don’t like it, though. It’s too red.”

Again, Louis’ lips twitch, eyes picking the jacket apart at lightning speed, darting to and fro. “And what color do you prefer, then?”

Harry shrugs, enjoying the attention, watching the way Louis’ hair glows golden when it hits natural light. “Black, maybe. I just like my black jacket.”

“Ah, yes. Of course,” Louis smirks, voice low and mysterious. His eyebrow rises, his fingers thump against the snowboard. “The Bard shall be cloaked in black, of course.”

Harry can only smile, feeling a bit shy and preeny before Louis finally chuckles, turning towards the group at large. “Shall we go then, lads? I’ll join you to your rooms.”

“Alright,” they agree with shrugs and thumbs-ups. “Let’s go.”

They all amble back towards the lodge, Harry’s eyes on Louis’ back the entire way.

**

Naturally, lunch is superb. It appears that Louis has friends in high places (friends everywhere, really—every two minutes somebody’s calling his name or clapping his back, singing him well-wishes as they stare as adoringly as Harry does) because he’s treated the lads to a very lavishly delicious lunch in a secluded alcove of the lodge’s restaurant, at a spot that overlooks the snowy mountains and fluffy white trees, their branches weighed down in white. It’s beautiful and the sun’s still high but slowly beginning to settle, casting dimmer sparkles across the wide, limitless planes.

It’s delicious and fun and easy, feeling like it’s over before it even started, and the boys make a toast after the last bit of chocolate is licked from their dessert plates.

“Here’s to the best two weeks of our lives,” Niall grins, frosting clinging to the corner of his mouth, and everybody returns the sentiment with warm smiles.

Louis watches it all from the head of the table, poised like a celestial king. “So it shall be,” he grins, drinking last.

Harry feels his eyes on him and it sends something blooming and warm through his bloodstream.

So. Here’s to the best two weeks of his life?

One can only hope.

**

“Thanks for the lunch, Louis,” Liam smiles kindly as they all saunter out in the hall, trousers feeling one size too small.

Louis waves a nonchalant hand in the air. “No trouble at all,” he breezes. “I’m blessed with financially over-compensatory parents who insist on drowning me in their money. Being an only child, I’ve nothing else to do with it but sprinkle it on new friends. What a grand life for me.” He says it with eye-crinkles and a melodic tune.

Harry watches him quietly, guitar on his back—he’d grabbed it when they’d went back to their room; he feels less naked now. So Louis’ rich, then. A wealthy only child, probably an heir of some sort. It’s not really surprising somehow, despite the shabby clothes and lack of general frills or airs… There’s just something kingly about him. Regal.

“What are your plans for the rest of the day?” Louis then asks, leading the lot of them as they wander through the corridor. Stuffed heads of snow-native animals adorn the walls in between glass cases of artifacts, stone accents, and thick, woven tapestries of wolves. Everything’s golden beneath the warm lights and it all smells of cedar and cooked meats. Cozy. “Because if you’ve nothing else to do, you’re welcome to join me at my cabin. It’s on the park’s grounds so it’s not a far walk. No pressure, of course.”

“Sick,” Niall says simply, nodding. “Sure. Thanks, mate.”

“You’re sure it’s no trouble?” Liam asks, just to be sure as Zayn blinks beside him, hands in his pockets.

“No trouble at all,” Louis assures, pleased. “Now, come along. I think you’ll like it.”

**

It’s not really all that surprising when Louis’ cabin turns out to be…well. Something much more enormous than a mere cabin.

“You’re a king,” Liam states flatly as Niall and Zayn gape at their surroundings.

They’re all standing in the entryway, twirling on the spot as they absorb everything around them. To the left is a wall of books—literally an entire wall—and next to it is a keyboard, set up on a stand, tucked in the corner. Music books scatter the floor, notebooks are piled haphazardly around.

Across the room is the kitchen—fully furnished with a red toaster and a box of Cocoa Crispies sat on the counter—and everything’s warmly lit and oak-laden, the perfect portrait of a log cabin. The living area is paved with bearsking rugs (“Fake fur,” Louis is sure to address, a tilt to his mouth as he watches Harry toe at the material. “While I’m confident in my ability to wrestle a bear, I’m not so confident in my ability to kill a creature for the mere sport of it.”) and the TV, hung above the enormous stone fireplace, is almost comically wide. Errant shoes are strewn about, thick, woven blankets are twisted and twirled over brown leather couches and armchairs… A stray pair of antlers hangs from the ceiling fan, an iron bucket sits beside the door, housing firewood, stray bits of bark lying on the floorboards around it.

Everything’s dark and oaky and smoky. Snowboard gear is piled atop what appears to be a Spiderman statue (“Sick!” Zayn nearly squealed when he first saw it, ambling up to it with more force than was strictly necessary, but Harry smiled at his excitement, smiled even moreso when Louis shrugged and merely said, “Someone made it for me, I think.” “Why?” Liam questioned, brows furrowed. “Because I like Spiderman.”) and the staircase in the middle of the room leads to a series of guest rooms.

“So you’re welcome to stay the night,” Louis says offhandedly, gesturing lazily towards them as he ambles into his kitchen, shrugging off his windbreaker and tossing it with an air of grandiosity. It falls gently atop the counter. “Anybody care for a drink? I’m an excellent source of limitless cheap liquor.”

“I like scotch,” Harry mumbles with a smile, taking a step forward as the lads behind him snap selfies with Spiderman. “If you have it.”

“If you like shitty scotch, I’ve got scotch,” Louis grins, seemingly pleased as Harry bumbles into the kitchen. It’s a nice kitchen. It’s lowlit and open, with cork countertops and few appliances. Simple but efficient.

“I love cheap scotch. There’s no other way to have it,” he nods, shrugging his guitar off his shoulder.

Louis tracks the movement curiously as he procures bottles of endless liquor from a cabinet, setting mismatched glasses atop the counter. He nods with a whisper of a smile, steadily pouring amber liquid, but he remains silent, pleased eyes continually flicking up to Harry.

“I like all of your books,” Harry comments, folding his hands atop the counter as he watches. He darts his eyes up to Louis’. “You must read a lot in your spare time. That’s really cool. I need to read more.”

“Quiz me,” Louis then says, sudden and bright, punctuating the word with a bang as he sets down the bottle. He grins, mischievous and bold.

Harry blinks, startled “Quiz you?” he repeats, slow.

“Yeah—go and pick any book off the shelf,” Louis grins, tilting his head as he folds his hands patiently. “I’ll quote you any passage. Any page. Promise.”

Harry feels his smile form, a fond sense of intrigue flushing his skin. “You’re joking,” he accuses, feeling unsure, but he draws out the words in his lips.

“I’m not,” Louis beams. “Go on—quiz me. I like to prove my existence.”

But Harry can only stare, charmed off of his feet as Louis’ grin widens in response to Harry’s stunned silence, his eyes crinkled with the light that pours from the large windows. 

He’s so…

“Oi!” a voice suddenly shouts, interrupting Harry’s reverie. “Louis?”

Louis’ attention whips over to Niall, brow quirked. “Yes?”

“Don’t suppose you’ve got any game systems, do you?”

Harry blinks, watching as Niall struts forward, Liam and Zayn in tow. Zayn still looks a bit awestruck from the Spiderman thing.

“Of course I do,” Louis replies instantly, handing out drinks with lazy fluidity. “What’re you in the mood for? Your wish is my command.”

“May we look?” Zayn asks tentatively, a low hum of excitement clinging to his eyelashes; it’s sweet. Zayn’s not usually this keen.

“Of course,” Louis nods, briefly catching Harry’s eye; he can’t stop watching Louis. “Everything’s stashed by that chest over there”—he points, taking a swig directly from the bottle—“so you lot go and make yourselves comfortable. I’ll join in a moment.”

They scatter, humming excitedly; Niall slaps Harry on the bum, flashing him a wink as he passes. Harry flashes a peace sign.

“You care to join us, Bard?” Louis asks then, tilting his head as he takes another swig of scotch; his lips are shiny and Harry thinks they’d probably be slippery if he touched them. Like balloons.

“No, I think I’ll just…chill.” He pats his guitar, offering up a lopsided smile. “Just relax a bit. Watch you guys.”

Louis quiets a moment, taking in Harry with quizzical brows and a wet smile. “Alright,” he says after a moment, soft and amused. “You sing your songs, ol’ boy. Live inside that pretty head of yours. Let me know if you need anything, though? I’m an incredible host—I promise you I’ll fetch your every need.” It’s teasing, it’s light, and it’s just raspy enough to vibrate the strings of Harry’s guitar.

“Of course,” Harry smiles, soft as he shuffles his feet. “Thank you.”

There’s another beat, filled with their shared smiles as Harry takes a sip of his own glass, before Louis nods to himself, walking away with light particles clinging to his bones.

“Alright, lads!” he sings, loud enough to rattle the snow off evergreen branches. “Prepare your bodies and make yourselves comfortable—toss your dirty shoes atop my tables, unzip your trousers, and make a mess of it all, please. I thrive in chaos.”

It procures cackles and wise-cracks, Liam and Niall’s eyes alight with shit-eating mirth and Zayn beaming like a child in a candy shop, controller already settled in his lap.

Harry smiles to himself, unzipping his guitar and settling himself on the ground.

**

It’s hours and hours before the sun finally sets, shadowing the cabin in dusty ambers; at one point, Louis manages to impress everybody by winning Mario Kart while simultaneously building a fire in the fireplace. As a result, deafening cheers erupt throughout the room, hands thrown up in the air as Louis roars and bumps chests with Liam, everybody standing up in ceremony as they down their fifth glass of hard liquor.

People might be drunk. The sky might be orange. Harry might be lounging on the floor with numb fingertips that smell like copper. It’s all very hazy at this point.

“I’m fucking starving,” Liam groans as they settle back down, flouncing back into the cushions. He looks pink-cheeked and dilated, a happy flush covering his body. His snapback is on backwards, dangling precariously, and he looks to Louis with all the reverence of a devout worshipper. Harry can identify—there’s just something about Louis. “Can we pause for a food break? Get a shuttle into town and grab dinner or summat?”

“A shuttle?” Louis scoffs, eyebrows pulling together as he hops effortlessly up onto the coffee table, tossing his controller onto the nearest chair. The lads watch him closely, curiously. Why is he standing atop the table? Why does he make it look so natural? Harry pauses his fingers on the strings, straining to hear the man’s thoughts, breath, voice. “Why should we leave, Liam? Why should we leave when I can bring the town to us?” He grins then, places his hands behind his back as he surveys their faces, smug. “Anything you want, I’ll deliver. Anything at all. Name your price, friends.”

A brief silence follows, Niall staring into space with serious consideration lining his forehead.

Zayn chews on the inside of his lip, thoughtful. “How ‘bout pizza?” he offers with a shrug.

Instantly, Louis brightens, snapping his fingers. “Brilliant,” he chirps. “Excellent. Anybody protest?”

“Nah, pizza sounds good,” Liam nods, just as Niall kicks his feet up, stretching like a cat.

“I want me own pizza, though,” he grunts in between a yawn, shirt riding up to reveal his pale Irish stomach. “I’m not a sharer.”

“Naturally,” Louis replies easily.

And it seems to be decided from there, the details sorted out amongst their liquor-lazy voices.

Contented, Harry goes back to strumming. He’s been starting at the ceiling for hours now. Just staring at logs and exposed beams and gleaming, varnished wood. He loves log cabins, he thinks. He’s never really been in snow before, never really lived amongst the cabins and evergreens, but he thinks he loves it. He’ll miss it when he leaves it behind.

He’s so lost in his thoughts, swaying internally to the soft melody being pulled from his guitar, that he doesn’t even realize Louis’ presence at first.

“What about you?” his soft voice asks, a gentle toe nudging at Harry’s shin.

Blinking, Harry pauses, eyes catching the blue eyes staring down at him. They’re squinted in a quiet smile, curiosity in his mouth.

“You’re awfully quiet,” Louis admonishes, in response to Harry’s daze. “But all the same. Would you like something special for dinner? Anything at all, my silent little Bard?”

Shrugging, Harry mumbles a quiet “No, thanks,” a contented smile in place. The floor’s just very comfy.

“No?” Louis prods, smile lingering. “Nothing? Nothing at all?”

It makes Harry’s smile grow, too. “No, I’m good. I don’t want for much.”

Something softens infinitesimally in Louis’ expression. “Of course you don’t,” he says softly, toeing at Harry’s shin again. His eyes glint. “You’re just the mysterious type, aren’t you?”

“I’m an observer,” Harry corrects, and it makes Louis laugh.

“You’re a funny one.”

He doesn’t say anything else before he walks away though, casting a small smile over his shoulder before he returns to the lads.

**

The rest of the night is spent sat around boxes of half-eaten pizza and empty bottles of beer, scotch, and wine, with endless movies running on loop. Harry’s not even sure what they’re watching at this point, though—he’s too busy looking at Louis.

It’s just that…he’s so alluring? So fascinating. And, sure, Harry’s a bit drunk, but there’s still something about Louis that’s really sort of bizarre, something very singular, and he knows he’s not the only one to notice.

“You’re quite the character,” Niall comments at one point, after Louis’ just finished explaining the meaning of the countless scribbles of tattoos that speckle his arms. They’re from his experiences all over the world—he likes to get one done in every city, he says, tries to get one done from every friend; says he likes to etch his memories onto his body because his brain’s a bastard and he wouldn’t be surprised if it turned against him one day. “I think you might be bloody mad but I’m delighted all the same. Cheers.” And Niall clinks his bottle against Louis’ before taking a large sip with unaffected eyes, hair falling across his shiny forehead.

“Madness is in the maker,” Louis says cheerfully but doesn’t elaborate, instead opting to hop off the couch before ambling into the kitchen, hands quick as he drums them on his thighs. “Harry!” he calls, voice crackling. “Care to join me? I need a helper.”

Pleased, Harry immediately stands, a little wobbly from the drinks. He just wants to be close to Louis. He’s only just met him but he thinks he might be the sort of person that he could become very smitten with.

“As you wish,” Harry bumbles, smiling as he tucks a stray curl behind his ear; his hair’s begun to fall out of his bun. Too much rolling around on the floor, playing made-up songs.

Momentarily, Louis’ eyes soften, settling on him with a contemplative silence. “So quiet,” he mumbles, almost as if to himself. “Such a gentle creature.” He grins fuller, watches Harry grin as well. “But!” he continues, clapping his hands together and startling the haze. “I need you to help me make something, alright?”

“Alright,” Harry nods, leaning on the counter as he watches the shadows play across Louis’ jawbone. “Anything.”

“We’re going to bake some brownies.”

It makes Harry blink, eyebrows pulling together in confusion. “Brownies?” he repeats, quizzical.

“Yes,” Louis nods, definitive. “Brownies. I want them right now and I like to bake, you know. Am very good at doing things myself. But I don’t like to be alone, you see. I become very bored very easily and I like to have someone’s attention. So, Bard, do you think you can do that? Can you lavish me with your attention? Serenade me, oh Greek spirit?” He finishes the sentence with batted eyelashes and finely cut lips posed into a fetching smile.

As if Harry could refuse.

He wants to hear him talk forever, for hours, for eternity.

“Of course,” Harry beams, sliding atop a stool; his skin feels tingly. “I don’t need to play m’guitar, though.” He says it lazy and slow, syllables bumbling over consonants. “Would prefer talking to you. Seeing as we’re new friends.”

Tinkling laughter spills from Louis’ lips as he assembles boxes, ingredients, dishwear. “Oh, yeah? You like to learn everything about your friends?”

“I’m not sure,” Harry smiles, hands folded. He leans forward, watches Louis with an intensity that feels just as pleasantly warm as the alcohol that had slid down his throat just ten minutes ago. “I just know that I want to learn everything about you.”

Again, Louis grins, procuring a whisk with a flourish. In the background, the lads whoop loudly, watching some reality show or another. The fire crackles in between their shouts, the snow speckles the windows as it falls, lit up only by the warm glow of the cabin’s lights and the pale slivers of moonlight. “Forward,” he comments, pleased. “How brilliant. Now. Will you please melt this butter for me? Please and thank you.”

Harry smiles as he takes the offering, reveling in the brush of fingers against fingers.

Here’s to the best two weeks of their lives…

**

Eventually, everybody drifts to sleep.

 “Just stay here tonight,” Louis says softly as Niall snores and Zayn sniffles, Liam fighting to keep his eyes open. “It’s no trouble. I love having guests.”

“Don’t want to impose,” Liam manages between mighty yawns, eyes red and lidded. He looks miserable, struggling to maintain composure as he watches Niall dig himself deeper into the couch, swaddled in thick blankets; one of his socked feet pokes out lazily. “We’ve only just met, mate. Don’t want to be—“

“Manners are arbitrary,” Louis brushes aside, rolling his eyes. “Don’t say such things. Just stay, make yourselves at home. Though, I do suggest the guest rooms upstairs. They come with beds and privacy.”

“Only if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Louis says, firmly but gently, and it flutters wings against Harry’s ribs.

Smiling, Liam exhales, relief visible in his shoulders. “Alright. Honestly, thank you so much, mate. Really appreciate it.”

“No worries. It’s no trouble at all,” Louis smiles, shrugging, flicking off the flights with gentle fingers. His face is half-shrouded in light, his eyelashes casting spear-like shadows across his cheek. “Just let me know if you need anything, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Liam yawns, hauling himself up as he trudges towards the staircase. “Thanks again, Louis. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Louis calls, whimsical and soft, lost in the darkened room.

Briefly, his eyes flit over to Harry—who is wide awake and perched on the floor, staring at the fire because it’s hypnotic and soothing. He enjoys the crackles of it, loves the warmth it breathes on his face. He also can’t sleep—he’s not much of a sleeper. Often stays awake until odd hours, body restless and uninspired. He comes alive at night, if anything. Doesn’t get very sleepy.

Without another word, Louis then drifts away, shrouding the room in a sudden, startling silence, save for the firewood popping with sparks. Almost all of the lights are off now—save for the one above the stovetop, all dim and yellowy—and it feels like night, feels like it should be sleeping time…

But Harry’s wide awake.

Feeling a surprisingly weighty disappointment that Louis’ vanished, he sighs, pulling himself up off the floor with gangly limbs as he dusts off stray bark dust, picking up his guitar.

Maybe he’ll go outside. Look at the stars and write a song. The snow seems lovely at night…

He silently exits the cabin.

**

He’s sitting on the porch, bundled up in blankets and Zayn’s jacket, guitar perched on his lap. He’s sat on one of Louis’ chairs, the snow brushed off of it, and he’s looking up at the black, black sky, speckled with diamonds and pearls.

It’s really invigorating. In the cold, everything’s more crisp and sharp, brightening the pinpricks of stars with a sharp sort of intensity that almost cuts.

His breath plumes out of his numb lips, his hands fumble over strings because they’re frozen, but… But it’s beautiful and Harry feels alive, awake, alcohol still clinging in his bloodstream. It’s beautiful here. Life is beautiful.

And then suddenly the door creaks open before it’s promptly shut again, small footsteps crunching the snow-covered floor.

“Was wondering where you went,” a soft voice says, settling atop the tufts of snow.

Warmth spills inside Harry’s chest as he turns, catching Louis’ already smiling face with his own. “Wanted to see the way the snow looks against the stars,” he mumbles, pink-cheeked. “Was curious.”

“And?” Louis asks, smile widening as he settles in the chair beside Harry, hair falling in his eyes. “What’s our conclusion?”

Harry strums gentle strings, pausing as he smiles. “It’s very beautiful.”

Louis beams. “Good.”

“The stars are very bright out here.”

“Thank you,” Louis replies without a beat, hands relaxed as they splay on the armrests. “I made them that way.”

That’s…

Harry can’t help but grin fully at that, a little ripple in his heart.

The things Louis says.

“I like you,” he mumbles through a swell of endeared amusement, in between chord progressions. “There’s just something about you…”

“You, too,” Louis replies, all gentle and tilted, observing Harry so unabashedly that it sends warmth everywhere. “You’re very quiet.”

“I am,” Harry hums, nodding along as his breath pours like smoke. “But only because I just sorta like to take it all in, you know? I like to observe. But I dunno, I suppose I am a bit of a loner.”

“Hm. Well, I’m a lover,” Louis counters, grinning, stretching out in his chair. “I love being in the eye of the storm. I get bored easily, you see, Bard. I must constantly be in the fray.”

“Well, obviously,” Harry grins, catching his eye and holding it for as long as he can.

A few purrs of the guitar drift along in the air, seeming loud in the silence as snow gently falls.

“You’ve got quite the house,” Harry comments, watching Louis’ profile; it’s so stunning. Seems much more peaceful beneath the moon than it did beneath the sun. “Thank you for letting us stay here.”

“No problem,” Louis replies, syllables soft as he gazes ahead into the white abyss. “I’m happy to share it. Suspect it won’t be my home for much longer anyway, so. Might as well make some good memories in it while we can, eh?”

Harry turns more fully to him, eyebrows popping into the air. “Oh?” he questions, surprised. “Why? Where are you going?”

A sigh escapes Louis then as he shrugs, kicking a bit of snow up with his blue Adidas shoe. “Nowhere at the moment,” he says, words light. “But I never stay in the same spot for long, see.”

“Oooh,” Harry drags out, attention piqued as he watches the snow melt on Louis’ shoes. “Why’s that?”

“Because, Harry,” Louis smirks, glancing at him. “The world’s enormous and I’ve only visited a small portion of it. Why would I ever stay in one place?”

Harry can’t help the way he smiles then, all gooey on the edges and loose with his words. “I think that’s incredible, Louis. Absolutely incredible. I feel the same way.”

“Do you?” Louis asks, seemingly genuinely surprised as he sets clear eyes onto him. “And what is that you do you, then? How do you manage to achieve your nomadic dreams?”

“Well, I’m a musician, see,” Harry says, as if that holds all the answers in the world. “And I always get by. Live day to day, Louis, that’s all I do. And each day brings something better, I find. Just look at me now!” He motions to himself, a smile tugging on his cheeks. “Happy as a clam.”

It’s dark enough outside that Harry almost misses the way Louis’ eyes flit over him, a gentleness lining their muscles and smoothing out his lips.

“Of course you are,” Louis purrs softly, softer than Harry even understands. “Nothing could ever be unpleasant with you, I’m becoming convinced. You just hurtle through space, pleasant as can be. A proper space rock.” He grins, impish, stars reflected in his irises.

Harry grins back, twangs the strings of his guitar absently. “Well, you’re a comet, then,” he mumbles, low. “And we’re both hurtling and evolving, side by side. Living live and travelling. Just…constantly discovering new places, new things… All of that. I love that.”

“Hm, me too,” Louis mumbles, gaze once again far away. “Like Fitzgerald said—‘So we’ll just let things take their course and never be sorry’. That right there is how to live, Harry.” He punctuates the words with his pointer finger, jabbing at invisible punctuation and brackets. “‘S how I feel about people, too. You’ve got to love as many people as you can, you know? But nobody’s meant to be kept, is the thing. Nothing’s forever and that’s the beauty, innit? Like, right now—one day we’ll probably forget this moment, Harry. But we lived it and we’re happy and it’s just incredible. Everything is fleeting and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The words swim within Harry. He closes his eyes, trying to echo them as intensely as he can.

He loves Louis’ words.

“I feel the same,” he murmurs, head swaying with melody and heart and the snow that lazily falls. “Nothing is forever, that’s the way it’s gotta be.”

And then moment of silence falls, one that’s almost alarmingly peaceful. Almost cathartic.

It’s only broken by the gentle utterance of Louis’ voice.

“Well, then,” he smiles, and it prompts Harry’s eyes to reopen. “We’re quite the pair, aren’t we. On the same page and everything.” His eyes shine.

“We’re only here for two weeks,” Harry replies softly, a meaning even he can’t quite articulate laced beneath the words, but he holds Louis’ eye as he says it.

“Yes, only for two weeks,” Louis nods, gentle and breezy, disguised in the night. “So we best make it the most glorious two weeks we can.”

“Deal.”

They settle back in the chairs and watch the snow, smiles lingering on their lips.

**

“I  think I love the snow,” Harry drips, a handful of hours later, passing the bottle of wine to Louis.

They’ve drifted to the floor of the porch, lying side-by-side, sprawled out and drunk as they watch the moon sink lower and lower and lower. Neither of them can sleep, neither of them can stop talking… It just is what it is and it’s one of the happiest nights Harry’s had in awhile. He’s not even sure where his guitar is right now.

“I mean, I prefer grass and trees and things,” he continues, hiccupping just a tad. “But I like the snow. Even though I miss flowers. I love flowers, I miss flowers.”

“Roses or posies?” Louis questions, taking a swig before wiping his mouth. “Or do you prefer daffodils? Wild flowers? Daisies? Ivy? Lilies? Foxgloves?” He rolls onto his stomach, stares down at Harry with mussed hair and red lips. He smirks. “Are you made of Hydrangeas, Bard, o’ Bard? Or are you made of dead flowers?”

“Hm,” Harry hums, thoughtful as he feels Louis’ eyes leaving marks across his face. “I quite like a rose…”

“The last of the English roses?”

“I’d like to be called an English Rose,” Harry laughs, laughing as he presses his fingers into his lips, enjoying the way Louis’ hazy eyes fall to the movement. He wants Louis to watch his lips forever. “I’d like to be named after flowers. Fresh flowers.”

“So it shall be,” Louis grins, foolish and wild. “I will braid them in your hair. You will breathe them as you sleep.”

Then Harry giggles, bright and unabashed like a child, and Louis settles his chin on his arms, watching Harry unblinkingly.

**

“I would love to tattoo you,” Louis says, golden skin shiny.

The sky’s brighter now, the moon fallen almost onto the horizon. Their limbs are lazier, mouths slower, eyes heavier… The wine bottle’s empty and their voices are raspy but their eyes are glued to one another’s, skin numb with cold as they lie on the porch, piled amongst ice, gazing at each other. Art and dreams and things, Harry thinks.

He can feel his pulse in his neck and in his ears.

Quietly, he grabs Louis’ hand; it’s cold, small. Elegantly veined.

“Would you like to put one here?” he asks, pressing Louis’ hand to his collarbone. Silently, Louis watches, eyes caught between light and dark. “Or here?” he asks, even quieter, sliding Louis’ hand a bit lower, right over his heart. And Louis just watches, calm and relaxed and hooked, lips still quirked, fingers strong in Harry’s clutch. “Or here?” He guides Louis’ hand to his navel, skin tingling.

“Every part of you I can reach,” Louis grins immediately in response, grasping fingers into Harry’s flesh as they curl around to the small of his back. With a surprising force, he hoists Harry closer, his lips dyed with wine, his breath floral. He smells like the cold, smells like washing powder and campfire smoke. He feels solid, electric, alive.

Harry can’t look away.

“Tattoo me here,” Harry sings lazily, smile slipping off his lips as his cold hands find his mouth; he splays his fingers there, watching the mirth fade from Louis’ eyes, watching the lick of interest spark inside them instead.

“Tattoo you there?” he asks quietly, rasped in the gentlest way. He tugs Harry a breath closer, exchanging plumed words for plumed words, snow melted around them. His hands press against Harry’s bones.

He nods, breathless and disoriented, from drink, from cold, from this man he’s just met today, who knows everything and lives everywhere and smiles because he knows it will fade. “Yeah,” he breathes, shaky with adrenaline. Louis’ so close. He feels like a ticking time bomb. “Yeah, here.”

It’s one, two, three seconds before Louis kisses him. Frozen saliva mixing with frozen saliva, lips soft as the powdery dust that collects on the banister. Louis exhaling through his nose as he pushes forward, cold skin pressing into Harry’s cold skin, his chest vibrating with little careless sighs that are caught in the back of his throat.

He’s mighty, he’s powerful, he might be immortal, and he holds Harry in reverent hands as he sucks on his lips and presses tongue against his teeth and swallows Harry’s inhales because he can’t, for the life of him, regain his footing. He’s mesmerized and gone and Louis holds him through it all.

Nothing fills the night but the wet sounds of their mouths and a lone wolf howling at the moon.

**

The sun’s begun to poke out when they finally pull themselves inside, skin chapped and mouths stained red.

“’M tired,” Harry mumbles, rubbing his eyes.

Louis’ holding his hand, tugging him towards the couch. The cabin feels almost too warm against their skin.

“Come lay,” he rasps, gentle and coaxing. “The other lads went upstairs. Come lie down.”

Already, Harry’s nodding, heart lodging itself in his throat. “Yeah.”

Yawning, they pile atop the leather cushions, aligning their bodies and pressing against each other’s joints in ways that actually seem to work. Harry can already feel himself drifting off as Louis tugs blankets over them, pulling up fleece to their chins before he settles, breathing against Harry’s cheekbones.

“Sleep, yeah?”

“Sleep,” Harry assents, mumbled, eyes already closed.

“Goodnight, Bard.”

“Goodnight, Louis.”

**

When Harry awakens the next day, he’s alone, it’s true. But the air smells of breakfast—of bacon and toast and food—and the fire’s lit, the TV’s on, and the calm laughter of Zayn, Niall, and Liam flits from the kitchen.

Yawning, he pulls himself up, spine clicking into place. “Morning,” he grunts to nobody in particular, arms flexing.

“Morning,” the boys all call from their spot around the island in the kitchen, each of them clutching a mug.

“Sleep well?” Niall asks, but he’s smirking. No doubt, he must’ve seen Louis and him all wrapped up.

Good. It makes Harry feel a proud sense of excitement.

“Slept wonderfully,” Harry nods, unable to contain his own smirk.

Before anybody can say another word, however, the door flings open—and in comes Louis Tomlinson, bedecked in snow-gear—

And holding a bouquet of flowers.

“Morning boys,” he beams, loud as can be as he closes the door with his foot, already bouncing his way inside. Wordlessly, he plucks the mug out of Liam’s hands, taking one long sip before he returns it with a wink. “Thanks,” he smiles, patting Liam’s head (who blinks in shock, confused) before he glides across the room. “Just got done with my first lesson of the day. Went splendidly. I apologize for missing breakfast—of course, I’ll make it up to you all—but in the meantime, these are for you.” He ends the sentence with a flourish, walking up to Harry and presenting the flowers with a grin that will last for ages. Centuries.

“For me?” Harry asks, voice still laden with sleep. He blinks, already reaching for the red roses and baby’s breath. “Flowers? Me?”

“There are no flowers in the snow,” Louis sighs by way of explanation, forlorn and tragically wistful. He rests a palm over his heart, looking over to the boys. “Our poor Bard has suffered amongst ice and ruin. So I brought him a bit of sun.” He flashes a grin to Harry.

“Thank you, Louis,” Harry beams, a flush crawling up his skin, heart rabbiting in his ears because he’s smitten, is what he is.

Louis brought him roses.

Niall and Liam exchange amused glances.

“So that’s how it is,” Niall smirks, unable to hide his expression. “We turn our noses for one second and you two’ve started shagging.”

“Niall, that’s rude,” Zayn chides mildly, blowing the steam off his tea.

“Is he wrong, though?” Liam questions flatly.

A lot of questions for early morning.

“Uhm…” Harry begins awkwardly, skin prickling as he darts wide eyes over to Louis, unsure of how to respond.

But Louis answers deftly. “He’s wrong,” he concludes, simple as that. “No, we’re not shagging. But I have no qualms admitting that Harry is my new favorite boy and I absolutely demand to hoard his attention as often as I can.” He looks proud as he says it, unapologetic and boastful, and Harry bites the cushion of his cheek to keep a little bit of his composure intact.

“Oh, Jesus,” Niall mutters, rolling his eyes before he drifts back into conversation with a similarly exasperated Zayn and Liam.

Not a very supportive bunch.

“Don’t mind them,” Harry murmurs, sniffing the flowers with great pleasure. “I find it romantic.”

“Good,” Louis beams, settling himself atop Harry’s legs. He’s light as a feather. He swipes one gentle finger along Harry’s jaw. “That was my intention.”

Harry blushes, feeling the thrill of it; he’s not used to blushing, not because of a boy. He likes it.

“Good,” he smiles in return, wide as can be, the flush still radiating from within.

Yeah, he likes it, especially when Louis’ eyes drink it in like that.

He likes it a whole lot.

**

The rest of the day is…  Well, great, really. It’s truly great.

Because after the boys hit the slopes again (Louis gave Harry free snowboarding lessons; they didn’t help at all but Harry enjoyed finding excuses to link their hands and make him smile) they all retire to Louis’ once more, breathless and drippy and soaked in a chill they can’t shake.

“I fucking love skiing,” Niall pants, rubbing his hands together as he stands by the fire. Zayn and Liam huddle beside him, showing each other the pictures they’ve snapped on their phones. Proper modern boys.

“Cool, bro.” “Sick, mate.” “Nice selfie, yeah,” they say in monotones.

It makes Harry smile, shaking his head to himself.

It’s all just so cozy. And even though it’s only the second day here, only the second day of knowing Louis, even, it feels a little bit like a routine. So Harry settles himself on the ground, pulls his guitar onto his lap, and strums as Louis regales them all with countless tales from his countless adventures during the day, sliding them freshly popped beers, foam dripping over the bottlenecks, and laughing at everything Niall says.

“Glad you came to the lodge, lads,” he beams, slinging back his drink.

“Here, here,” Niall smiles in response, tipping his own back and flashing a thumbs-up.

Harry catches Louis’ eye and beams, strumming a chord that matches the timbre of his voice.

**

The evening ends up playing out similarly to the night before. Sorta.

“I want to design a statue,” Zayn says at one point, perched on the edge of the sofa as he stares longingly in the direction of the Spiderman. “Wouldn’t that be sick?”

“Aren’t you into design and drawing and shit?” Liam asks from the recliner, eyes lazy. “Didn’t you study that before history?”

“Yeah. I dabbled. Back in the day.” He shrugs, noncommittal, before he goes back to drooling wistfully.

“You know…” Louis begins, voice swimming in octaves as he chops garlic, the sleeves of his orange, threadbare jumper rolled up his warmly lit elbows; beside him, Harry’s stirring the pasta. Louis decided to make them spaghetti for dinner and, naturally, he requested only Harry’s help. (He was happy to oblige.) A half-smile clings to his lips when he glances up. “I don’t have any spare statues hanging about, m’lad, sorry. But if you’re into artsy shit, I do have a fuck ton of spray paint in a box upstairs somewhere.

“Oh, cool,” Zayn nods mildly, fingertips pressed together. “Is there anywhere we could go to use it?”

Louis’ smile grows. “Of course. In here.”

There’s a brief pause as all eyes turn to Louis.

“In here?” Zayn repeats, eyebrows pulling together. His hands fall. “Spray paint in here? Are you serious?”

“Only sometimes,” Louis replies breezily, hands flittering across the chopping block seamlessly. Liam watches in awe. “Now is one of those times.”

Another pause.

“So. You’re proposing that I spray paint your house,” Zayn repeats, articulating the words very carefully.

“Correct,” Louis nods, grinning almost manically now. Harry stops stirring the pasta.

To be honest though, he’s not all that surprised. Of course Louis is suggesting this. Harry grins, watching him closely, admiring his nonchalant smile and lithe frame, the way he absorbs the stares.

“You want me to…” Zayn attempts to repeat once more, even slower, even more unsure, but Louis laughs, rolling his eyes dramatically and successfully cutting him off.

“Yes, yes,” he brushes away, laughing. “Spray paint me bloody walls. What do I care? Have fun and live, my son. I don’t know what else to do with the lot so I’d rather stare at your artwork than a box of meaningless canisters. Don’t be scared. Never be scared—if you are fearless, you are powerful.”

It looks like Zayn’s woken up on Christmas.

“This is going to be sick,” Niall grins, watching Zayn’s expression with pure enjoyment, clutching his beer to his chest. “Someone record it!”

“I will!” Liam beams happily, already hopping up off his chair.

“It should be upstairs—the box, that is. In the closet at the end of the corridor,” Louis calls, but Zayn and Liam and Niall are already scampering up the stairs, racing and nearly tripping over each other.

Harry just laughs, brushing wisps of curls away with the back of his hand. “Why do you have so much spray paint just lying about?” he asks, intrigued.

Louis’ lips curve as he forms the words. “Someone commissioned me to paint a mural in the lodge once,” he responds simply, but he holds Harry’s eye, taking a small step closer because he’s a flirt.

“I didn’t know you painted,” Harry murmurs, looking down at him.  

“I don’t,” Louis assures instantly, bumping their hips. “But I figured it out.”

And Harry’s just about to respond, he is, looking down at Louis’ lips with a lost sort of wonderment—

When the lads suddenly return with a rather impressively large box of spray paint; Zayn’s eyes glow like streetlamps. “Can I quote Ginsberg across your walls?” he asks excitedly, and it immediately makes Louis cringe

“You will tarnish my walls with the hollowed spirits of beatnicks,” Louis laments with a sour expression, lifting the lid of the saucepot to peer inside. “You’ve let me down today, Zayn.” But he says it with the sort of hidden laughter that echoes throughout the house. “All the same—do your worst, my love.”

So, despite the party that ensues, as bodies scramble to snatch up cans and shake them, the windows being whipped open for ventilation, the laughter and the aerosol filling the room… Despite all of this, Harry still finds himself merely watching Louis, filled with an unquenched intrigue and thirst as he clutches his drink and stares with unblinking eyes.

**

The walls are quickly becoming graffitied.

“Beautiful,” Louis simply remarks as he puts the finishing touches on dinner, completely unfazed. He glances over to Harry, who’s silently watching Niall paint the Irish flag along the banister. “Don’t you want to draw something, Bard? Contribute towards this artistic revolution?”

“Hm. I suppose,” he replies after a moment, pinching his lips in thought.

Then he smiles, picking up a yellow can of spray paint. Wordlessly, he wanders over to the fridge, smile in place as he slowly draws a carefully positioned smiley face. Then he sets the can down, turns around and lifts his arms. “Ta-daaa!” he sings, proud.

And Louis just laughs, bright as can be.

**

They eat spaghetti in a spray-paint induced haze, the fumes inescapable.

“We’re probably all really high,” Liam says with wide eyes, rubbing at his temples.

“Or about to die,” Niall reasons without a care in the world, scraping his plate clean.

“Or both?” Zayn suggests, but he’s still smiling, pleased with tonight’s events.

Louis beams, slurping up a particularly long noodle. “Don’t be silly, lads. Death doesn’t exist. Now. Would someone like to split a case of wine with me? I’m in the mood to be drunk.”

And Harry hides his besotted laughter behind his hand, cheeks full to the brim with the best spaghetti he’s ever had.

**

The night carries on, the wine flows, the snow falls, and the walls become increasingly speckled with spray paint.

Louis drinks from his bottles of cheap liquor amidst it all, pressing wet kisses along Harry’s neck and cheeks, wrapping arms around him from behind. “I’m drunk,” he mumbles, lips sliding against Harry’s skin.

Harry’s pulse ricochets, his grin too full and his senses heady as he settles hands over Louis’ hands.

“But I’m not sure if it’s from the alcohol or you,” he continues, voice scraping against the hairs at the back of Harry’s neck.

Harry feels the sentence in his palms.

**

They’ve all drifted to the couch. Lord of the Rings is on and they’re watching it intently as they dig into leftover spaghetti, the kettle beginning to boil because they all unanimously decided that they want tea.

“What are you doing?” Harry whispers when he glances over, watching as Louis stares intently into his cupped hands.

The TV flickers across his shaded face and when he lifts his gaze, he appears serious and aloof. “Holding the universe,” he explains casually.

Everybody pauses, forks midair as they slide their gazes to him—

And then, promptly, everybody bursts into laughter, alcohol heavy on their breath.

**

“SING, SING! “ Louis roars thirty minutes later, for no reason in particular, as music floods the unseen speakers that decorate his house.

Julie Andrews croons, ‘The hiiiiills are aliiiiiive with the sound of musiiiiic,’ and everybody’s laughing hysterically because nobody quite understands why Louis’ got The Sound of Music soundtrack, but they sing along anyway, raucous and mighty as they slosh their drinks and fling arms around each other’s shoulders.

Louis is in his element. He just shouts, thrusting popcorn into the air as he stands atop the kitchen counter, laughter falling from his sunny, delighted face, mouth opened in joy, eyes crinkled, cornels embedded in his hair.

“SING!” he laughs, manic and bright, and Harry thinks it might be possible to fall in love in two days.

**

Again, Harry and Louis end the night alone, after the rest of the lads finally forfeit to their exhaustion, snoring up a storm in their respective rooms upstairs.

It leaves Harry and Louis to slip outside on quiet feet, padding out onto the snowy porch with bitten smiles and clingy hands. They sit outside, cuddled together as they exchanging lazy kisses, in between snippets of quiet laughter and disjointed conversation, hands sweeping beneath layers.

“Do you believe in magic?” Harry mumbles before their mouths reconnect, lips buzzing.

“Of course,” Louis replies, a little out of breath as he dives back in, pecks his bottom lip, pulls back momentarily. “I exist, don’t I?”

Harry can only smile into their next kiss, wrapping his arms tighter around Louis’ shoulders.

**

“Come to bed,” Louis eventually murmurs against his mouth, as the sun begins to rise again. It sets the snow on fire, engulfing it in fiery orange and gold.

It’s so late, so early? It’s so whatever and they’re just as they were the night before but it’s worse right now, more insistent and beautiful and Harry feels the attraction Louis ignites in him surging through his bloodstream. It’s invigorating and he never wants to sleep again.

So he nods, their knees bumping as Louis guides them through the dark.

Upstairs, Niall snores painfully loud; it procures silent laughter, interspersed with their labored breathing and throaty inquiries, mouths connecting and connecting. Hands, hands, hands. Everywhere. Lips wet, blood flushing.

If Harry’s not in love, he knows for sure that his body is, at least. Insane, immediate love.

“C’mon,” Harry urges quietly, lips formed against the column of Louis’ throat. He feels him swallow, feels him nod, just a touch more frantic than is custom for the calm and mighty creature  that he is. The Griffin of a man.

It’s dizzying.

Without another word spoken between them, Louis opens the door to his room, pulling Harry inside.

**

The sun’s up when Harry finally sneaks into the kitchen for a glass of water, sloping along with steps that creak the floorboards, his eyes squinting against freshly budded sunlight.

He smiles against the brim of the cup the moment he feels arms snake around his waist.

“Come baaack,” Louis mumbles against his spine, all sleepy and crumbled.

Harry grins, setting down the now-empty glass. Laces fingers with Louis’ warm fingers. “I’ve only been gone a moment. Just needed some water,” he whispers, scratchy.

“Yes, alright, but come baaack,” Louis repeats and Harry hears the smile in his words.

Cheeks twinging, Harry turns in his grip, secures arms tighter around Louis. “Sleep forever?”

“Mmhm,” Louis smiles, eyes half-opened. They squint against the faded morning light. “Or fuck forever. Whichever.”

It makes Harry squawk out a laugh, one that Louis hushes with the palm of his hand.

“Shhh!” he laughs, trying his best to remain silent as he hunches his shoulders, pulling Harry with him and retreating. “Shhh, you’ll wake up the village!”

They laugh silently, shoulders shaking, as they fumble back into Louis’ room.

**

“I have the day off today,” Louis sighs with closed eyes as Harry noses along his jaw. Just because he can. “No lessons.”

“Perfect,” Harry murmurs, words warm and tangled somewhere amongst the sheets. “Can we stay in here, then? Leave the others to fend for themselves?”

“Yes, obviously,” Louis grins, devilish as he quirks a brow. “I have too much to study.”

Pausing, Harry raises his head. “Study?”

“Yes,” Louis grins, slowly rising as he pushes on Harry’s shoulders gently, easing him backwards until he lies over him. An intent, teasing smile in place. “I want to memorize your veins.”

Harry’s heart picks up its pace, lost in the way Louis’ looking down at his body, sweeping hands along his arms. “Why’s that?” he croaks.

“Because. I want to quote you like I do words, I will study you and discover you,” Louis mumbles, eyes alight as his hands sneak all around Harry’s body, pulling atoms out of it and reforming his chemistry because he’s Louis, he’s life, he’s energy.

It’s beautiful and Harry trembles beneath him; whether it’s a physical response or an emotional one, he’s unsure.

“Memorize me, then,” he breathes, dizzy and swept away in the tidal waves Louis crashes upon him. “Rip me apart, Louis.”

But Louis shakes his head, smiling as he bestows gentle kisses across the pale expanse of Harry’s chest. “Never rip,” his lips mumble, brushed against skin. “Never disassemble you, darling. Just wanna delve into you, just wanna know you.” Kiss, kiss. “You fascinate me. You’re beautiful. I never know what you’re thinking. I want to look at the back of your hand and know what it feels like against my ribs, Harry. I want to know the words you use to fill in all the empty space. I want to hear your thoughts and write them on my wrists so I can read them whenever I look down. You’re infectious, I love it,” he murmurs, pleasure coloring his one. “I love what you do to me.”

It’s as if Harry were speaking, the words so closely mirrored to his own thoughts.

“Me, too,” he sighs, lost and gone as the sheets twist around his ankles, as the world around him fades, fades just into Louis. “Me, too, Louis. Me too, me too.”

Nothing more is said after that.

**

The rest of the days are spent much the same as the first ones.

The lads never really return to their room at the lodge, save for the odd trip to pick up something.

“I’ll pay for your stay, since it’s just wasted money,” Louis yawns one morning as he sizzles eggs over the skillet, fresh fruit piled on plates all around him. He’s wearing a ratty t-shirt and Adidas joggers with a stain on the left knee, his hair held back in a blue headband. Stubble grazes his jaw, just where Harry skimmed his teeth last night. It sends a buzz up his spine, a silent pleasure to his smile as he looks down at his plate of toast. “I did, after all, abduct you.”

“You will do no such thing,” Liam replies sternly, just as Niall raises a brow.

“You’re housing and feeding us for free. Don’t even fucking consider paying for our room, Lou.”

“It’s unnecessary,” Zayn agrees calmly, glasses slipping down his nose. He’s in a Ninja Turtles t-shirt and boxers, hands in his lap.

“Oh, please. Let me spoil you,” Louis sighs petulantly, but he’s received with hard glares and Harry can’t help but swallow a chuckle at the sight. “Fine,” he relents after a moment, scooping bacon onto a plate. “But I just want you to know that I think it’s all utter bullshit. You’re all pricks.”

“Love you, too,” Niall smirks, offering up a wink over his glass of juice, and Louis looks charmed enough.

So it’s all smooth, really.

In the day, they all have fun together, alternating between skiing, snowboarding, making snowmen, etc… To wandering the shops in the nearby town, grabbing over-priced pints in overly crowded pubs with one TV and piles of greasy chips, lathered in vinegar and salt. They purchase throwaway bullshit in novelty stores (Harry bought a thermos in the shape of a snowman for no apparent reason—he just really likes it, alright?) and they make endless jokes because everything is funny, everything is light, and they have all the time in the world.

Then they return to Louis’ cabin in the evening, weighed down with exhaustion and bags alike, before kicking off their shoes and just having a time of it. Mixing up cocoa and exchanging cigarettes and beers. Taking the piss out of each other, jumpers drenched in cedar smoke, shadows flickering on their grins. Frying up bacon during odd hours of the night, baking cupcakes just because Louis’ in the mood for it, ordering takeout from one of the two places nearby that actually delivers. They huddle around the fireplace in their socks, alternately playing video games or watching movies or some reality show that they can’t quite look away from. They drunkenly sing along to Harry’s songs as he fiddles on his guitar (always at Louis’ side, always, because he’s magnetic and Harry’s warmth isn’t quite as warm without Louis’ warmth now) (it’s science) and Louis plays quirky melodies on the keyboard and Zayn sings sometimes because he’s secretly got the voice of an angel—even though he’s usually busy spray-painting one thing or another now.

“You’re not gonna be able to sell this place ever,” Liam snorts as they watch Zayn paint a particularly detailed depiction of a cow giving birth (nobody knows why—they’re pretty sure he’s stoned out of his mind, though) as they all look on from the couch, eyebrows raised.

“Eh,” Louis shrugs, arm around Harry. “I’m not scared. It’s all just materials. Fixable. Everything’s always fixable.” He grins, looking down at Harry—who’s beaming up at him, head leaned back. “Isn’t that right, Bard?”

“It’s true, it’s true,” he hums, pleased.

And Louis grins wider, crinkles his eyes, and kisses him.

The other lads are polite enough to ignore it.

But so it goes. The two weeks drift by. And Harry’s sorta… Well.

Okay, so Harry’s not one for over-thinking, really. He’s not all that sentimental, either. And he loves change and he loves evolution and travel and all that stuff, he does.

But the two weeks are almost over and Louis… Well. When Harry, Niall, Liam, and Zayn leave, Louis will stay. And it’s a strange thought, considering the nature of their relationship, or whatever. Because it’s intense, yeah? It’s so intense and Harry’s just drawn to Louis, just bloody enamored, and it’s hard to explain because it’s only been such a short time and yet…

Yet Harry’s sort’ve lost his mind. For Louis Tomlinson. And it doesn’t feel right that they’ve only got a few days left of entwining their hands together and laughing at the unspoken jokes and drifting into meaningless conversation with their knees bumping together, their lips dragging across each other’s as they hum the chorus to Star Wars because it’s the one movie that they both like.

“I’m Han Solo,” Louis says proudly.

“I’m Chewbacca,” Harry says even more proudly, and Louis laughs so hard he almost pulls Harry off the bed with him.

It’s just so cozy and warm in their little world, with the antlers on the ceiling fan and the snow that falls outside, clinging to the windowpanes. It smells so good in the cabin, feels so invigorating outside and Louis exists and Louis is here, and he breathes the snow and exhales the sun and Harry’s gone for him, alright?

He’s never been gone for someone before. He’s never felt so…impassioned by someone. It’s entirely addicting and he feels it down to the soles of his feet.

Because at night it’s them, it’s just them. After the lads go to bed, all rumpled and burping as they scratch their stomachs, Harry and Louis’ eyes fall to each other from across the way, sparked against the dying embers in the fireplace. They smile as one before they slink into the shadows, fingers linked, creeping into Louis’ room with studied practice, breath already punched out of their lungs because everything’s so much. Clothes are shed so laughingly because their mouths are always bumping and there’s nothing else but skin and words and them, the world fuzzy all around, Harry’s fingers rough with coppery calluses.

Later, he strums his guitar as they lie in bed; Harry watching Louis watching him. The room is silent, flickering with the light of one green candle sat on the bedside table (Harry’d purchased it in town earlier that day—it smells of ‘Freshly Cut Herbs’) and Louis’ fingers brush absently along Harry’s flesh with a barely whispered intensity.

Nothing fills the room but their quiet breath, the crackles and pops from Louis’ bedroom fireplace (just a small little thing, made of compact grey stones, all chunky and quaint), and the sound of Harry’s fingers deftly moving over guitar strings, acoustics humming in the air. It’s all so gentle, matching up with the way they’re gazing at each other, bodies sedated as the moon spills watery glows of light through the un-curtained window. It falls across their bodies, falls across exposed skin and messy hair. Sleepy lips.

“We will always have fun, won’t we,” Louis then suddenly nods decisively, without preamble or meaning, as he hoists himself onto his elbow and leans in to kiss Harry, the lines of his face smoothed out.

Harry can only nod, lost in the man before him as his hands fall from the strings. He’s unsure what it means, unsure of Louis’ thoughts that constantly swirl behind his magnanimous eyes.  But he kisses him anyway because nothing else has every  really felt the same as Louis’ mouth unlocking his own.

“Let’s go outside,” Louis whispers, words jumbled against teeth and flicks of warm tongue and the little bits of spit that glaze the outlines of their mouths. His lips smile, his hands igniting into purpose as they begin to tug at Harry, gently, gently, gently… “C’mon. Let’s go. The sun will be up in a few hours and I want to look at the sky.”

“’S cold, though,” Harry mumbles, dizzy with everything, hair flopped all around him and obscuring his gaze. He just feel Louis, feel the way his hands sneak into his own hands, pulling on him gently. “Don’t want to put on pants.”

“So don’t. We don’t need clothes, Harry. Clothes come and go, but a sky is forever. C’mon, let’s go. Nobody will see.” It’s said wish such mischief, such a grand smile, and eyes that still manage to appear alight despite the darkness of the room, that Harry can only laugh, pleased as can be, as he nods and lets himself be hoisted up.

Their knees bump in the dark, their feet stepping over one another’s as they chuckle under their breath, sleep-deprived and sex-exhausted, hands never letting go of hands, even when Louis turns around to hold one finger to his lips, eyebrows arched high. “Shhh!” he hushes, teasingly loud, and Harry pinches him as he laughs silently, cheeks bunched up in the smile he’s worn for days.

Louis, Louis, Louis.

At last, they step outside, nude as can bloody be, and the sky seems alright with it, pleasantly surprised even, and Harry’s thankful; he wouldn’t want to offend the sky.

“It’s so fucking cold,” he chatters though, shivering as he presses close against Louis.

They should’ve worn shoes. They’re probably going to die.

But it feels strangely enriching, adrenaline beginning to drip in Harry’s blood, and everything’s so fucking beautiful out here that Harry almost doesn’t care that he can’t feel his body, ice encasing his lungs.

Louis looks up into the sky, barely shivering at all; his lips look violet in the dark, the shadows beneath his eyes pronounced. Eyes never blinking as they swallow the stars.

“This is bizarre,” Harry whispers through a shivery laugh, clenching tighter to Louis’ hand.

They continue to stare at the sky.

“The universe is endless, you know,” Louis comments quietly in a sort of wonder, words puffed out in swirls. His cheeks are red, his nose is shiny. He’s beautiful, he’s striking, and Harry’s no longer looking at the sky. “So, really, we’re each the center of our universe. And, right now, we’re in our own universe, Harry.” He twists his head, meets Harry’s eye with sparks as his lips grin wickedly; the world is his. “We could rule the world together, you know.”

Slowly, Harry’s smile spread, chasing away the shivers and the ice. “I think we already do, Louis.”

They hold each other’s gaze, smiles twitching, unshed laughter suspended between them because it always is with them, always is.

“Let’s make cocoa and set ourselves on fire,” Louis then mumbles, body suddenly wracked with shivers. He clenches Harry’s hand, grinning.

“Let’s use marshmallows,” Harry agrees decisively, and he tugs them along, feet long since numb, wet with melted snow.

“Alright.”

“Alright.”

**

So. Okay. It’s concerning.

 The entire situation is concerning. Harry is aware of the concern, aware of it as he sits on the staircase and watches the lads play Mortal Kombat, quiet as can be as he hums Jack White and doodles nonsensical lyrics in one of Louis’ stray notebooks (filled with all his brilliant ideas and half-formed thoughts because Louis doesn’t like to finish projects, purposefully likes to leave them unfinished to exercise free will). He’s very concerned, actually, chewing on his lip as he watches Louis shoot up into the air with victorious fists, laughing so loudly that he drowns out the groans coming from Liam, Zayn, and Niall.

“I’ll buy the losers presents!” he thunders happily, head thrown back as he reaches fingertips to the sky, reveling in his mastery. Harry bites his smile down, pen tapping against his thigh. “I’ll bring you sweets and craft you crowns. Because we’re all kings at the end of the day, aren’t we?”

“You’re a goddamn tyrant,” Liam scowls, pouting because he hasn’t won once today, swallowed up in his oversized hoodie.

“But at least he’s got a conscience,” Niall points out, unlit cigarette in mouth. “That’s how you create allies. Oi! Louis! Rub my feet.”

Zayn snickers, leaning back in his chair, eyes already sleepy as he watches the scene unfold, watches Louis nod without any hesitation and utter a velvety, “Of course, my love.”

And they all erupt into abrupt laughter when Louis darts over to Niall, removes his shoes, and promptly runs over to the door, tossing them out in the snow.

When he turns back around, he’s got a shit-eating grin, golden-kissed hair fluffed atop his head. Proud and unapologetic and Niall is laughing, making no attempt to amend the situation, feet still kicked up on the table.

“You total bastard,” he grins fondly, rubbing his eye as he pinches his cigarette between his two fingers.

“Born one, will stay one,” Louis merely supplies, gliding over in the blink of an eye and offering up his lighter. All eyes are on him and all smiles are on him and he matches them all, a warmth soaked into his face that belies the mischief, the sleeplessness, the almost manic energy.

He’s alluring and in just these past two weeks, Harry knows literally everything and nothing about him.

He grins, just as Louis’ eyes find him from across the room; they soften infinitesimally, lips tugged into something more peaceful. Harry’s stomach erupts into soft tidal waves, fingers tightening around the pen as his brain supplies nonsense words to describe Louis, superlatives overlapping hyperboles: grandest, emperor, immortal, ethereal, best, gold, life, body, voice, sunset, sunrise, gamma rays, the apocalypse. Angels, demons, molten lava. Best.

So. Alright.

It’s super, incredibly concerning.

**

It’s Zayn, of all people, that eventually approaches Harry about it.

It’s on the day that Niall, Louis, and Liam all hit the slopes, Zayn and Harry opting to stay back and sleep. They’re just watching some cartoons lazily, slurping at their respective bowls of cereal, when suddenly Zayn turns to him, eyes stills sleepy.

“What are you and Louis gonna do when we leave this weekend?” he asks, sounding half-asleep and casual. His face reveals no emotion.

And, bang, just like that, Harry’s no longer hungry, his stomach dropping as he swallows a lumpy spoonful of sugar, his eyes falling away from the flatscreen.

Cuz, like… It’s a strange thing.

Harry doesn’t normally mind goodbyes, really. Actually, in some odd way, he sorta embraces them, enjoys them. One door closes, another door opens, you know? It’s exciting.

But with Louis

He frowns, looking down into the murky milk of his bowl. “Uhm. How do you mean, Zayn?” he asks, voice already pitched unnatural, and he feels his lips tugging down, weighted in a conversation he really wishes he didn’t have to have. One he never expected to have during a skiing holiday, of all things.

“I mean, like, are you gonna keep in touch, or…?”

Keep in touch.

It’s such a seemingly bizarre question considering that only a few hours ago, Harry had Louis’ dick in his mouth. But…

But. It’s a real question. And Harry’s hair may smell like Louis’ sheets and his guitar might be leaned against his wall, his boots mixed up with Louis’ Adidas, but…

It’s been, like, eleven or twelve days. That’s it. So it’s a real bloody question.

“Uhm, I hope so,” Harry mumbles, a little unsure as he fiddles with the spoon, a frown etched deep in his face. He feels Zayn’s lidded gaze, the back of his neck prickling. “I mean—yeah, I think so. I’d like to keep in touch..at the very least. I like him, you know. A lot.”

“You’re a bit mad for him, I think,” Zayn replies peacefully, chomping away.

“Yeah,” Harry agrees, a little lightheaded. His voice sounds too high, sounds a little hopeless right now. “Yeah, I suppose I am.” He scratches at his loose bun; his hair feels greasy. “Never really been ‘mad’ about anyone before… It’s fun.” He shrugs, heart beating surprisingly harshly despite the lethargy of the atmosphere. “I like it.’

“Good,” Zayn hums, spoon tinkling against glass. “So, like—you gonna tell him?”

Harry inhales sharply, stomach muscles clenching involuntarily. “Tell him what, exactly?”

Zayn shrugs, bony shoulders dropping unevenly. “That you’re mad for him and want to keep in touch, or whatever. You like to talk about your feelings. Should be fun.”

“Oh,” Harry says, his head swimming a bit. He just wants to pretend reality doesn’t exist, just wants to live in the happy bubble he’s been drifting in for the past two weeks. “Well. Yeah, I guess. I mean, why wouldn’t I?”

“Alright, cool. I’m glad. Good luck,” Zayn nods, turning back to the TV.

But Harry’s staring at him now, blood a little warm. “Why? Why are you glad?”

Again, Zayn shrugs, setting down his empty cereal bowl. “Just think you work well together,” he mutters simply, glasses slipping down his nose. He pushes them up with one finger, blinking calmly. “And think you’re both a bit lost on your own.”

And then the conversation is ended there, with Zayn suddenly laughing at something obnoxious on the TV while Harry stares a little dumbly into his lap, his cereal growing soggy.

So, yeah.

Very, extremely concerning.

**

It’s late, the stars are bright. Not a cloud in sight.

Harry and Louis are standing outside, watching as Liam, Zayn, and Niall drunkenly pelt snowballs at each other beneath a full moon, cigarettes dangling from their lips, joggers soaked up to their knees.

“Fuckin’ gotcha!” Niall thunders as Liam gets whacked in the head, and it echoes across dark-peaked mountains.

Louis smiles at the sound and Harry loves that about him, loves how he responds to everything. He hears himself sigh, feels himself smile as he watches his profile, ignoring the chaos in front of him. Eyes only on Louis.

It prompts Louis to turn to him then, tilting his head as he pinches the chord of the earbuds swinging against Harry’s chest. “Are you listening to music right now?” he asks, a cross between amused and affronted.

“Only one,” Harry explains, motioning towards his empty ear. “I’ve got two ears, Louis—one for me, one for you.”

It makes Louis smile all the wider, delighted laughter spewing from him, and Harry feels drunker than he is.

**

The night dwindles down into the lads making s’mores over the fireplace, marshmallows gooping down their branches, the majority of them plopping into the embers. They’re all swaddled up in Louis’ clothes (their own are in the washer) as they quietly listen to Nirvana’s Unplugged through the invisible sound system, the lights dimmed. Marshmallows are everywhere—most of them have been casualties.

Still, though, the ones they manage to salvage are delicious.

“I don’t care if this kills me,” Liam says solemnly through a stuffed mouth. “I will eat these forever.”

“I hope they do kill me,” Niall snorts, plopping marshmallow after marshmallow into his mouth—they’re all blackened and charred, sticking to the corners of his mouth. “At least I’ll die happy.”

“Good point,” Harry mumbles, licking chocolate off of his fingers and evading Louis’ mouth—he keeps trying to assault him with sticky kisses and he’s already gotten marshmallow in Harry’s hair. It’s so troublesome but Harry can’t stop his delighted peals of laughter, so… So it’s alright. More than alright. He smiles up at Louis, who’s draped over the armrest of the sofa, hair twisted up from his tacky hands, chocolate smeared on his cheek. Looking like a king in a used football jersey, wearing expensive aftershave.

“Hey, Zayn? Cook me another, will you?” Louis asks, but it’s not really a question because nobody would every deny him.

Still though, Zayn nods from his spot by the fire. He’s perched on an ottoman, cleverly rotating his marshmallow with all the patient finesse of a trained professional. Unsurprisingly, his marshmallows are the best. “Sure thing, Louis.”

“Thanks, beautiful,” Louis grins, flashing a wink, and Harry can’t help but sigh, resting an imploring hand in Louis’ lap.

“You never call me beautiful,” he frowns, meeting Louis’ amused gaze, and ignores the irate protests that come from both Niall and Liam.

“Course I do,” Louis quips, sure as anything. “Every moment of every day. But maybe it’s not always spoken aloud—I’ll give you that.”

It’s enough to settle Harry though, shifting in his seat so as to better accommodate his smile.

**

Eventually, Niall, Liam, and Zayn retire, trudging up to bed with barely-suppressed yawns and socked feet. They exchange their goodnights, leaving Harry and Louis and the firelight.

“Bed?” Louis offers, the shadows of flames on his face. He extends a hand, fingers lax.

Harry takes it immediately, his own grip tight. “Bed,” he confirms, heart in his throat.

They only have two more nights left: tonight and tomorrow night. And then they go home, whisked away from the snow and the crackling fires and laughter that echoes across shined cedar. It’s a startling conclusion, one that bumps a fissure in Harry’s throat as he wordlessly follows Louis to his room, a sudden swell of overwhelming emotion engulfing him.

But he tries to hold it at bay, instead focusing on Louis’ hand in his.

**

The hours drip away as they always do, the earth rotating on its axis while Harry drowns in Louis’ room. In Louis’ bed, on Louis’ arms. The sun begins to rise, the faint chirping of birds speckles the silence…

But Harry refuses to sleep, even when his own eyes weigh him down. How can he? How could ever sleep when his seconds are counting down like a death toll, with the man before him slowly fading before his eyes?

Harry’s never been afraid of the future before. Never been afraid to move on.

But, suddenly, the idea of being alone has become very, very lonely—for the first time in his entire life.

“If I was on a deserted island with nothing but my heart, I would still give it to you,” he mumbles, mouth slackened against the pillowcase as he tries to hold Louis’ drooping gaze.

Their hands are tangled in knots between them, warm and reverberating with some unspoken melody carried on the rhythm of their pulse points.

He won’t fall asleep, he refuses to fall asleep…

Belatedly, Louis forms a half-grin, already mostly unconscious. Lavender light is soaked into his skin, casting powdery shadows. He breathes rhythmically, softly, quietly. “And I would simply give it back,” he mumbles, humor still clinging to his tone. “I’m no keeper of hearts.”

It’s supposed to be humorous.

But it makes something awful and dreadful grip at Harry’s stomach as he watches Louis drift to sleep right before his eyes.

**

They wake up slowly, hearing the lads puttering around in the kitchen; the TV’s blasting and the smell of burnt toast is in the air.

“Behead them,” Louis yawns, rubbing at his eyes as a particularly loud laugh fills the room. “And do away with the bodies.”

Harry smiles, a touch smaller than usual, as he watches him; there are tugs and twists still in his stomach from last night. Tomorrow they leave, tonight is their last night. And there’s so much he wants to say. There’s so much that could be lost, maybe forever. It’s a terrifying prospect and Harry wonders if he’s ever felt terror before. Maybe Louis brings everything new to him, introduces him to all sorts of wonderful and horrible things.

Sounds about right, actually…

“Do you teach lessons today?” he asks, scratchy and low as he worries on the inner cushion of his lip.

Smiling, Louis shakes his head, crawling that much closer to Harry. His eyelashes are clumped with sleep and his breath is rank but he’s crumpled in a soft way and Harry can’t help but melt beneath his touch, fixing the strands of his hair. “Nahhh. I’m off. Made sure to be off on account of your last day. Seeing as I quite like you.” He grins with the words, grins into the kiss he bestows Harry.

But it still resonates with something very final and Harry, wildly, wants to cry. Bizarre, Louis makes the world bizarre. He could probably write a song about it, could probably sing it drunkenly to a dark room filled with addicts and feel more lost than them, more hopelessly afflicted.

He’s gone mad, he’s just gone bloody mad and he loves it, he does; but he’s never considered the possibility of an unhappy ending. Because Harry’s never had an unhappy ending before. It’s always been good. Life’s always been good to him. It brought him Louis, after all.

But now… Now, it might be taking him away as well.

“Can we go for a walk, Louis?” he asks, a rupture of very quiet panic settling in his chest. Anxiety. Fear. He’s not usually like this. “Just us. Before breakfast.”

For a moment, Louis quiets, considering Harry with a tilted head, curiosity twinging his brows. But then he smiles, soft, and nods. “Absolutely,” he purrs, bringing lips to Harry’s cheek, just grazing. “Just us. We’ll go now.”

“Okay,” Harry breathes, feeling Louis’ exhales against his skin. He nods, skittish and lightheaded as his pulse bumps up a speed or two, Louis’ hands wandering. “Okay, good. Let’s go then, yeah? Before breakfast.”

“Mmmhm,” Louis nods, but he doesn’t stop. He never stops and Harry loves him for it, loves him for it. “Before breakfast.”

Harry grins as he bites his lip, allowing his eyes to close.

**

“What a splendid view,” Louis beams, gesturing towards a snowy outlook, displaying sparkling land as far as they eye can see.

They’ve been marching through snow-dusted trails, the sun high in the sky. Trees stand tall all around them and everything’s just sorta…breathtaking, really. It’s cold and invigorating but the sunbeams are warm against their exposed skin and the sky is so, so blue. Everything’s crystal clear and fresh.

Unfortunately, Harry’s heart is somewhere in his boots and every smile feels like it fades before it’s even formed, his thoughts too occupied with Louis and how he’s…how he’s going to even go about this.

He’s never been this unsure before, never this nervous or pessimistic. It’s just unlike him, alright? It’s weird.

But he can’t seem to stop.

“Uhm, Louis?” he finally calls unsurely, watching as Louis spins around, snow swirling around his feet. He’s grinning and he’s got snowflakes in his hair, his teeth so sharp and glistening. With a deep breath, Harry continues, taking an awkward step forward and hoping his countenance is at least sorta casual. “I was just wondering if we could talk? Really quick?”

Immediately, Louis’ grin slips, puzzled brows taking its place. “Talk?” he repeats, moving towards Harry with nimble feet. “Of course. About what, my little Bard?”

Unable to fully smile, Harry just ducks his head, worrying at his lip as his brain flashes through sentences, possibilities, any words at all. Just something, please. “Well. You know I’m leaving tomorrow, right?” he finally manages.

After a small stretch of silence ensues for a moment longer than is strictly necessary, Harry glances up, stomach squished tight.

But Louis’ face is still unchanged, curious and quiet as he listens. “Yes, of course,” he says offhandedly, as if it were stowaway knowledge. Unimportant.

Harry bites harder into his lip, feeling a crushing wave of negativity surge inside.

It doesn’t look good. Things are not looking good.

Still, though, he continues. “Alright. Well. Don’t you think you’ll maybe miss me?”

“Of course I’ll miss you,” Louis replies immediately, a funny look overtaking his face. “I’ll miss you very much. You know that. Why would you ask such a thing?”

“Well… Because,” Harry swallows, finally finding the courage to lift his head, meeting Louis’ eye unblinkingly. He swallows again. “Because you haven’t even tried to ask me to stay.”

And now, now Louis’ face looks struck almost, taken entirely by surprise as he walks that much closer, trying to search Harry. And, god, it’s just a shitty feeling, it makes Harry feel so exposed and silly, just laying himself out like this, it’s… It’s so awkward and the air feels thinner up here.

“Harry,” Louis begins, voice gentle and low with discomforted sympathy, and god—that’s—just—

Feeling a sickening twist to his stomach, Harry seals his eyes shut, shaking his head firmly to dislodge the image of Louis’ pitying eyes. No, this is not—“Stop,” Harry clips, regret flooding him from the inside out. He shouldn’t have said anything, he shouldn’t have gone through the trouble. “Just—just stop right there. Please,” he adds when Louis looks as if he’s about to protest, brows still furrowed.

“But you knew—you said you thought the same as me,” Louis tries, delicate and coddling, and it turns Harry’s blood sour. “Remember? People aren’t meant to stay with you, Harry. You’ve got to move on from a good thing; nothing’s meant to last.”

Nothing’s meant to last.

That didn’t necessarily mean that Harry constituted as ‘nothing’.

“Right,” he concludes tightly as can be as he retreats a step, then one more, then two more, his face feeling hardened beyond his control as he avoids Louis’ calm, calm eyes. Imploring eyes. Eyes that are so beautiful but so unaffected by the world that bows to his every whim. Harry fell too hard, too fast, and he fell for Life’s greatest trick. Hah. “I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m going to”—he gestures awkwardly behind him, in the direction of the cabin—“just go. I’m just gonna go. I’ll—I’ll catch up with you later, yeah? I think I’m gonna try to ski or something or—“ But he cuts himself off, too awkward to do much more than just stumble away, hot shame burning at his cheeks.

Louis doesn’t follow him.

**

The rest of the day is marvelously awkward.

Harry feels like a bloody fool, a real prize idiot, and everything warm and beautiful about the atmosphere here has suddenly turned rotten, warped in its depiction. It’s too cold, it’s too smoky, it’s too…loud. Everybody’s so goddamned loud all of the time and Harry just wants some peace, wants to hear his own thoughts instead of Niall’s boisterous laughter and well-articulated affections, instead of Liam’s insecure appraisals and Zayn’s hideous cackles.

His guitar isn’t loud enough to drown it all out.

It certainly isn’t loud enough to drown out Louis’ voice. Or his eyes which follow Harry so very ,very closely, grazing along his bare neck. His guitar can’t shut out the image of his thin-lipped mouth and guilty eyes, his pitying tilt of the head and the way he quiets whenever the other lads mention Harry.

It’s awkward, it’s all awkward, and Harry feels fucking miserable, bitter down to his bones.

This holiday wasn’t supposed to be about this. It was just supposed to be a bit of fun—Harry only came because of the lads, after all, didn’t even want to ski or snowboard or any of it—and it was supposed to herald him into the next chapter of his life. Supposed to set him off anew.

But rather, it’s made him a weakened shell of insecurity and self-doubt, his entire existence being questioned because he’s feeling an odd sort of heartbreak he’s never felt before. Falling for someone when he’s never really ‘fallen’ before.

He knew he’d once wondered what else there was in life. Before, he’d been curious about that ‘something’ that he’d never fully experienced.

Well. Now he’s found it. And it’s ruined him, made him soft and sentimental and temperamental. Made him anxious and scared, burning from the inside out.

Gritting his teeth, he hauls himself up off the floor, the strings of his guitar echoing with its twangs as he clenches it in his fist. He needs to just get out of this room. He can’t take it anymore.

“Oi! Where you off to, Haz?” Niall asks from the couch, looking a touch bewildered at the abrupt movement. Good.

“To bed,” Harry grunts, already ascending the steps two at a time. He’s going to the guest rooms; he’s not even sure of which ones to use. “Don’t feel good.”

“Oh. Well rest up, then,” Niall shrugs, looking a bit doubtful despite his casual words. “Want to be all better by the time we land tomorrow.”

“Exactly,” Harry replies, mustering up a smile as he casts a little wave towards his mates—his real mates. “Goodnight, lads. See you in the morning. Sorry I couldn’t stay up longer.” And he’s just about to turn around and mount the rest of the staircase—

When a quiet voice suddenly says, “But you’re leaving tomorrow.”

It’s Louis.

Louis’ just said that. And it’s soft and a little hurt, confusion rested within it, but—fuck, Harry told him, he—

This is all so weird, this is all so dramatic and weird and heavy and Harry just really wants to go to bed, alright? He just wants to go to bed.

So he doesn’t look at Louis, not once.

He just turns around, suddenly feeling like he could cry.

Great. Just bloody great.

**

He’s been lying in bed for hours, unable to sleep. The bed’s comfortable and large. It smells nice. Harry detests it.

It’s only when he’s been reduced to counting sheep that suddenly the door squeaks open, a sliver of light pouring forth over his outstretched, restless limbs.

Startled, he blinks, lifting his head as he takes in the figure that’s begun creeping inside, shutting the door gently behind them.

And, ah. Of course. It’s Louis.

Exhaling heavily, Harry falls back onto his pillow, turning his head away because he just doesn’t want to fight right now, doesn’t want to deal with everything that’s turned so bizarre so quickly.

But Louis doesn’t speak at first, instead opting to perch on the edge of the bed, the mattress squeaking and shifting to accommodate. Harry waits with baited breath, feeling his presence like a knife that’s begun to trace around the outline of his heart, too light to draw blood but too sharp to escape pain. Nothing is being said, though. Of all the things they have to discuss, nothing is being said, not a word, and—

“I don’t want you to go.”

Harry freezes.

The confession, quietly spoken and small, punches an intake of breath from him, his fists tightening into the sheets. He immediately turns to look at Louis, watching his bowed head and what appears to be a frown marring the simplicity of his mouth. It’s lit up from the glowing darkness of the night sky that falls through Harry’s window and it’s tragic and dusty and sad, almost intangibly so. He doesn’t look like Louis right now; his light’s all gone.

It makes Harry feel heavy-limbed and hollow, throat a little too tight. So he doesn’t respond, just watches.

The silence carries, interrupted only by the rustle of the bedsheets as Louis crawls a hesitant hand over them, fingers reaching for Harry’s hand and clasping it to his own, a question writ in his trembling fingers. “I’m sorry, Harry,” he whispers, voice completely wretched. He even sounds different. “I should’ve said before. But I really just don’t want you to go.”

Another gust of oxygen seizes Harry’s lungs, thoughts beginning to whir out of place as he tightens his grasp on Louis’ hand.

So. Okay. Alright…

So… Maybe Louis does want him? Maybe…maybe Louis isn’t fading away and maybe the world really has gifted him with this divine present, something Harry never knew he needed.

It’s funny how fast the relief floods him, his anger evaporating away in the silence as Louis sits, shoulders hunched, head hung, with Harry studying his profile. It’s funny how quiet everything is, how all of the lines are blurred in the dark. It’s funny how relieved Harry feels, despite having felt torn to bits just moments ago…

“You travel a lot, Louis,” Harry finally says, voice catching on the vowels because he hasn’t used it much today.

He watches as Louis turns his head, ever so slowly, towards him, the frown still running deep. It doesn’t fit him, neither do the dulled, tired eyes or the limp hands. Or the silence.

“Yeah,” Louis replies just as quietly, just as scratchy, but his expression doesn’t alter despite the clear confusion in his voice. “I do.”

“Well…” Harry trails off before squeezing Louis’ fingers, watching a flicker of hope bloom in his eyes as they dart towards the motion, then dart back. “I’m a musician. So I do, too.”

Another silence.

The implication is obvious, the air between them thickening with understanding as Louis draws a shaky breath, everything about him unsure.

“But is it that simple?” he asks, and the hesitance is back, paired up with the frowning mouth and lifeless gaze that melds with the unlit corners of the room. “It might not work, Harry. It might not… I’ve never…” He drifts off, mouth so infinitely sad. “It’s better to burn out than fade away,” he finishes quietly, dropping his gaze again.

But Harry won’t hear it, won’t even stress it, because if there’s one adventure in life he sure as hell wants to embark on, it’s Louis.

“No, Louis,” he implores, sitting up and letting the sheets fall to his waist, searching for Louis’ downcast eyes. “My love for you will not fade away.”

The earnestness must startle him because Louis does lift his gaze then, a small laugh bubbling from his lips as he looks at Harry, head tilting ever so slightly. There’s a fondness there, a true affection, and Harry grins with it, feeling a stronger flare of hope.

“What a poetic Bard,” he muses from beneath his fringe, but he’s smiling now, genuinely.

It’s relieving and it’s beautiful.

It could all be simple as this.

“Actually, I was only quoting a Buddy Holly song,” Harry shrugs simply, but he bursts into a proud grin at the sound of Louis’ delighted laughter—a small spark of life igniting back into his tired, tiny spirit. His hand tightens on Harry’s and it feels like progress, somehow. Feels more solid than anything has in the past twenty-four hours.

“You really are something, aren’t you,” Louis mumbles then, observing Harry with an unguarded expression, their fingers tangled up. “Perhaps… Perhaps you should stay, after all. Perhaps I’ve been a fool… Perhaps I speak of universes when I already have one here, right next to me.”

Harry just nods, scooting still closer as his other hand cups Louis’ jaw, gentle as can be. “Ask me to stay,” he mumbles in a whisper, imploring.

And Louis nods, all hesitance seeping away as he leans still closer, ghosting breath upon Harry’s face, eyes taking in the details of it with a newfound sort of awe that prompts Harry to wonder how he’d seen him before. “Harry?” he rasps out, hopeful and quiet, inching closer still, fingers suddenly crawling up into his curls. “Will you please stay? With me? Please?”

Harry responds by way of a breathless tumble, mouth falling on Louis’ mouth. “Yes,” he sighs before the question’s even settled in the air, words smudgy against conjoined lips. “Yes, I’ll stay.”

He feels Louis’ smile as they fall back onto the bed without another second of hesitation or sadness, zings of altered chemistry erupting between them, their smiles breathless with the revelation that they’ve just mutually changed the course of their lives. 

It’s only been two weeks, two weeks, and yet Harry feels alive, feels confident, feels bloody mad with understanding that this is how it’s supposed to be.

It was supposed to happen this way.

 He knows it. He feels it.

And every press of Louis’ electric lips assures him that he feels it, too.

**

“The world is mine, yes,” Louis mumbles hours later, as they finally begin to drift asleep pressed against each other, skin glazed and sticking together. He sweeps quick fingers through Harry’s hair, each one entwined with curls upon curls upon curls. It’s the best feeling in the world. The best, most wonderful. “But it could be ours, Harry,” he continues, words like flurried snowflakes. “Just you and me and everything that revolves around us. The world spinning ‘round.”

Yes. Yes, that’s perfect.

Harry hums it through his sleepy smile, only distantly aware of the chaos tomorrow will bring, of the announcement he’ll have to make to three smugly grinning faces when he says that he won’t be joining them on that flight after all. But it’s distant and Louis’ right here, so he tumbles the thoughts away, instead letting his blood sing with Louis’ words.

“Hey, Louis?” he asks, tired and slurred, words curled around his lips.

“Hm? Yeah?” He’s beginning to fall asleep.

“Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?”

It sends a crack of surprised laughter through Louis, quick as a whip, and it’s the only thing in the world that matters right now as they tighten arms around each other, eyes finally drifting shut, happiness clinging to their lips.

“Goodnight, Harry.”

“Goodnight, Louis.”

And so they drift away together, curled up as one, while the snowflakes fall outside.

 

~ The End.