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like dying young idols

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I tried sweet talk, tried dynamite. But I sleepwalk back to the battle site. Fight fire with fire but the fire won't fight. We just fly these circles like tired kites. And you flash some fang— I bat my lashes. And we're back again— no end to this game with matches. We've been lovers and strangers and friends who get angry. Made mistakes and amends and brief moments of magic. We forgive and forget and give in to attraction. This whole thing depends on amnesia and magnets.

Matches to Paper Dolls, Dessa

***

"So, what you're telling me is you've squandered our millions?" Harry asks, letting his sunglasses slide down his nose a bit so he can look Louis in the eyes without an orange tint. Louis shrugs and looks down at his hands which he's currently wringing.

"I wouldn't go that far. Maybe like... seventy percent. I haven’t paid them a bit of it, so there’s that."

"You gambled away seventy percent of our millions. You— you what? What the fuck were you thinking?" Harry whispers, trying not to cause a scene on this lovely beach.

Louis shrugs. “It’s not like I meant to,” he says, looking around to see if people are staring, and Harry knows he’s trying to sound confident and self assured but he can hear his voice shake and can tell by the way he’s not meeting his eyes that he knows he genuinely, seriously fucked up.

“We can’t stay here anymore.”

“What? Why not?” Louis whimpers, stamping his feet down into the sand and Harry wants to tackle him to the ground and hold his chin in his hands and tell him they are broke. They are broke and it’s because of Louis and they can’t afford one more night at this stupid fucking ritzy five star hotel that Louis had pouted and begged for when what they need to be doing is renting a car and getting the hell out of dodge before one of Louis’ bookies figure out where they are.

“We need to run, Louis,” Harry says, pushing his sunglasses back up and staring out at the water, perfectly blue and rushing toward the shore. “We need to come up with a plan.”

He’s panicking. Can feel his stomach clenching with worry and fear dragging a lazy hand up his neck. Goddamnit Louis. They’ve only been on vacation for about two weeks. It had been Louis’ idea. The band split up, went their separate ways, and Harry had been hoping for some down time in LA. Time to see his friends and maybe write a little and sleep in on his back deck next to the pool. He’d wanted to hideout for awhile. He’d wanted rest. But not even two days after he’d gotten home he’d opened his front door to find Louis asleep on the steps, arms wrapped around a duffel bag and a post it stuck to his forehead that read feed me and Harry had sighed and nudged him with his shoe until he’d woken up, dazed and unsure of his footing for a moment before grasping at Harry’s knees to pull himself up and wrap Harry in his arms as if it had been months since they’d seen each other instead of days. And, to top it all off he’d eaten all of Harry’s cereal and somehow talked him into going on a little vacation to Mexico together, and with his bottom lip sucked between his teeth and his eyes wide and lashes perfectly curled up toward Harry he hadn’t been able to say no.

“I have an idea,” Louis says slowly, picking at a string on the waistband of his swim trunks. Harry watches as his stomach moves up and down while he breathes fast, skin golden and shiny from the sunblock he’d forced Harry to rub all over his chest and back. “You’re probably not going to like it, but— if we do it right… it could work.”

Harry is wary to say the least. Louis’ plans have backfired more often than not, sometimes resulting in terrible things. They’ve been friends for seven years now. Seven years of Harry following Louis’ commands. Seven years of seeing the world with him and the boys, of performing to sold out stadiums, of lying to himself constantly. Louis knows Harry will do whatever he says. He knows he could ask Harry to rob a bank and Harry would ask just one? He knows Harry has and will always bend over backwards for him, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a truth. Since their first week of the X Factor Harry had been completely and utterly obsessed with Louis and willing to do whatever it took to please him, and Louis had caught on quick.

“Okay,” Harry says, reaching and gripping Louis’ bicep to pull him up and out of his beach chair. “You can tell me on the plane back to London.”

***

Harry falls asleep after takeoff, ignoring Louis’ chatter about new beginnings and his fingers tapping loudly at the keys on his laptop. They’re on a private jet, paid for before their trip. Louis somehow managed to get ahold of Liam who got ahold of the airline and sweet talked them into rearranging their trip home.

He awakes with a start five hours later as the plane drops down. Out the window are city lights surrounded by mountains. A lot of mountains. He presses his face into the glass. Surely there’s been some sort of mistake.

Lou,” he starts, turning to find Louis grinning at him. “Er, where are we?”

“Salt Lake City,” Louis says, still grinning. Harry runs a tired hand through his hair.

“Why are we in America?” he asks, trying to stay calm. Louis just puts a hand on his thigh and squeezes, and well, Harry feels the burn of it from his cock to the back of his neck and he has to bite his cheek to keep from making any sound. Louis’ eyes meet his like he’s searching for something he shouldn’t.

“We’re going to rob a bank,” he says matter of factly.

Harry doesn’t even miss a beat. Not with Louis’ fingers drawing small circles on his thigh and his eyes boring into Harry’s.

“Just one?” he asks, and Louis smirks, then takes his hand from his thigh and faces forward, fingertips dancing along his armrests instead of along Harry’s skin.

***

Harry buys an old Monte Carlo for two grand straight cash. Louis leans against the driver’s side door smoking a cigarette while Harry counts out the cash and thanks the guy selling it. He tries to focus on the bills sliding from his fingers to the stranger’s but all he can see is Louis’ body angled toward him and the smoke he sucks into his mouth and then breathes out through his nose.

His hands clench at his sides as he walks to the car. Louis dangles the keys out in front of him and he thinks the mountains look like sleeping giants in the dark around them.

***

They don’t talk about the times they’ve come close to kissing, drunken confessions of wanting men, of touching men. They don’t acknowledge the way every minute touch burns just a little.

They don’t talk about how they might get killed. How this is the worst idea they’ve ever had. How they always imagined so much more, and continually fell short.

***

They find a hotel in the city, and Harry thinks about the body of water they flew over, dead and rotting out in the desert. The air smells and he knows it’s the lake effect, so he only lets his hand linger under his nose for a moment. Louis throws their bags on the bed, god a fucking single full sized mattress with questionable sheets, and peels his shirt off while heading to the bathroom.

“Gonna shower,” he sings, stepping out of his jeans and pants in one quick movement. Harry’s eyes slide down his shoulders, stop at the dimples on his lower back, and continue, taking in his small, yet round ass. He lingers on the tiny outline of fox tattooed on his left cheek. He’s the only person in the world who knows about that tattoo, other than the artist. He knows because he went with Louis to get it, and has his own black outline– a small rabbit– on his own ass. The bathroom door slams shut and Harry falls back onto the bed, kicking his boots up and resting his palms on his chest.

He can’t believe he agreed to this. A wiser man would have said no. A stronger man would have been able to look away from Louis. To remove his hand from his thigh. To realize robbing a bank isn’t a good idea. But, Harry’s never really been wise or strong or good when it comes to Louis. He knows this. It’s an integral part of him. The part that has made it possible for him to live for the last seven years on only the idea of a someday. The idea of a future where Harry finally admits what he wants most in the world and Louis wants it too. It’s a beautiful future that Harry has been grasping at all of his adult life, and when the band finally broke up and Louis finally came out and Harry finally admitted to himself he’d been the one holding back he’d thought he’d have more time to figure things out, and then Louis had appeared at his doorstep, so small and so essential to Harry that of course he’d agreed to a vacation in Mexico and then to staying in the hotel room while Louis went and bet on horses or drank the nights away at the roulette table.

He’d been too wrapped up in the mornings when Louis would wander in half drunk and fuzzy to crawl into Harry’s bed behind him and press his chapped lips to the back of Harry’s neck and whisper I won for you.

***

In the morning Harry wakes up alone. The phone is ringing and he slaps at it, missing at first and then almost knocking it from the night stand. When he answers no one is there so he just lets it dangle off the hook and presses his hand to his eyes to try and cover the stream of light shining in through the curtains. He drifts for a moment in that soft space between wakefulness and sleep until the door slams open.

“Harry!” Louis yells, suddenly surrounded Harry on all sides, his knees locking in Harry’s thighs beneath the duvet. “I brought coffee for you and a weird bagel sandwich. Up, up! We need to get supplies and work out some sort of plan.”

Harry shoves at him hard, causing him to fall from the bed with a shriek and a few mumbled curse words.

“Lou, I think maybe we should rethink this. I’m sure one of the boys could help us out. Loan us some money. Like, we even still have about five grand left to live off of for awhile. I could sell my house probably. Start writing again, put out some music. We’ve still got royalties to fall back on, too.” He stretches, back cracking as he bends side to side.

“No can do, kid. I may have lied about what all I lost,” Louis replies, sticking his hands in his pockets and staring at his shoes. He’s not wearing any socks and for some reason that makes Harry more mad than the prospect of just exactly how much Louis really gambled away.

“Tell me now or I’m walking out of here and never looking back,” he says, taking a step toward Louis.

“All of it. Your house. My flat in London. Large chunks of money the boys loaned me when I called them desperate.” Harry sucks in a breath and takes another step, placing his hand flat on Louis’ chest and pushing him solidly against the desk near the wall. His knees hit the back of it and his arms fly out, reaching behind him to grasp at the table’s edge.

“How could you do this to me?” Harry whispers, and he feels like the room is falling away from him. Almost like the ground is opening up to swallow them whole. “How did you let it get that bad without saying something?”

Louis doesn’t answer right away so Harry pulls him tightly against him. There mouths are so close they’re breathing the same breath and Louis’ eyes are wide. He’s scared. Harry’s scaring him. That though causes his arm to fall from Louis’ chest and land flatly at his side. He turns, fists clenched, and reaches blindly for something, anything, to throw against the wall. The lamp works, so he does, and Louis flinches at the impact.

“Harry, I— I couldn’t stop. Every time I was up I was really up and it felt like.. It felt like the first time I heard you sing.. or the first time we ever sold out a show. It felt like when you come so hard you forget where you are. It felt like I was okay,” Louis whispers, and Harry’s heart races.

“We’re really doing this then?” he asks, willing Louis to say no. To say he’s lying, that this is all some big practical joke. Louis just nods.

“What if something goes wrong? What if we get caught? What if someone gets hurt?”

“We won’t, and no one will,” Louis says simply, a small smile pulling at his lips, and that’s all it takes for Harry to follow him blindly.

That’s all it’s ever taken.

***

They walk around a party store until Louis finds what he’s looking for— he holds each item up and laughs.

Harry feels a bit ill at the sight of the Nixon and Reagan masks.

***

It goes like this:

Louis pulls the mask over Harry’s head and pulls his hand up to kiss his knuckles as he places the gun in his hand. It’s light, too light. It holds no real weight in Harry’s palm and that makes him feel better. He’s dressed all in black— black skinny jeans, black sweater, and black boots. He feels like he’s burning up, maybe a fever, but when he mentions that to Louis he just sighs and presses the back of his palm to Harry’s forehead.

“I don’t feel anything,” he says distractedly, watching people enter and exit the bank they’re about to rob while nervously tapping his foot.

The plan is simple. Get everyone on the ground within the first minute, including the security guard. Louis’ watched enough heist movies while bored on Bus 1 during their tours to know how American banks work, and he tells Harry assuredly that there is without a doubt a panic button somewhere behind where the tellers are, and at no point should Harry let anyone’s hand slip under there to press it. He’s to single one teller out and work with them while Louis keeps everyone else on the ground. Once the money has exchanged hands Harry will go to the car while Louis keeps everyone inside, then he’ll join him and they’ll make their escape.

Harry is pretty sure something is going to go wrong but there’s something about Louis all in black shouting orders that makes his lower stomach catch on fire and his heart do that bouncing around thing in his chest.

“We won’t hurt anyone,” he says more to himself than Louis, but Louis takes his hand in his and squeezes.

“No. Never.”

After that things are a bit of a blur. Louis pushes him out of the passenger seat and pulls his own mask over his head. He’s wearing the same thing as Harry and Harry wonders if he’s burning up too. His whole body feels sticky as they enter the bank. Harry’s not sure his voice is even there but suddenly Louis’ gun is pressed against his back and pushing him forward and he’s shouting.

“Everyone down. Please, c’mon. Let’s go. Just.. get down and we won’t hurt you. Please!” he yells, and knows Louis is smirking behind him. A security guard comes around the corner but Louis gets to him first, aiming directly at his chest.

“Not a good idea, sir,” he says, pointing toward the guard’s hand reaching for his gun. “If you’d be so kind as to listen to my friend here and get on the fucking floor, I’d be forever grateful.”

Harry’s cock twitches at commanding tone and now is really not the time. He knows they have about ten minutes to get in and get out before the authorities are even notified. He scans the room and people like only mildly scared. One woman yawns and Harry shakes his head. He sees the manager finally crouching down to the side of the counter and waves his gun at her. She stands, knees shaking, and raises her hands up. He smiles, then realizes she can't see his face.

"Alright love. Just need you to fill this bag with as much money as you can. Let's go," he says firmly, following her around to the vault.

"Theres um. Security codes. I don't have the clearance," she whimpers, and Louis laughs loudly behind them.

"Oh come off it. We both know you have clearance for every locked room in this bank. Go on, darling. We haven't got all day." Harry looks at his watch. They've got five minutes before they absolutely have to leave. He's sweating. Really should've pulled his hair into a bun. He can feel his long curls sticking to the back of his neck.

The manager opens the vault. It's shiny and clean and she fills his bag with stacks of bills while crying. His heart clenches at the sound and he whispers so Louis won't hear him, "It's okay, love. I'm so sorry to have frightened you."

She nods but her lip trembles. Harry forces himself to be okay with it. He has to be.

As they leave he empties all the teller drawers, stuffing more money in his pockets and down his shirt. Louis shouts for everyone to remain on the floor and they back out the front door, guns pointing in through the glass.

Before they get in the car Louis pulls a can of yellow spray paint from his pocket.

"Hurry up," Harry hisses through clenched teeth. Louis giggles then sprays a smiley face on the front door with two X's for eyes.

***

They make it thirty miles out of the city before Harry lets out a shaky breath. Louis counts the bills out lazily as Harry drives, the city falling away behind them and the desert sprawling forward endlessly.

“How much?” he asks, voice trembling. He keeps his hands tight on the steering wheel. Louis keeps counting.

“Thirty thousand so far,” he says, fingers sliding over the money.

“That’s good, yeah?” Harry asks, wanting it desperately to be good. Harry’s always been bad with money. Never really checked on what he did or didn’t have. Since they were sixteen they’d been able to afford anything they’d wanted. Nothing had ever been too much. Hell, most of the time things were flat out just given to them because they were celebrities.

Louis shakes his head. “Harry, I gambled away forty million dollars plus all of our assets.” He says it so simply that Harry almost doesn’t believe it, even though Louis has told him multiple times now. It’s all gone. Everything they’d worked for. Overworked for even. His hands start shaking too much for him to keep the car moving in a straight line and the road stops making sense and he can’t breathe. He really just can’t breathe. He hits the brakes hard and pulls to the side, swinging the door open and stumbling out onto the road.

“What the fuck? We can’t stop!” Louis shouts, climbing out of the car after him. His hand comes out to grip Harry’s shoulder to pull him back into the car but Harry pulls from it, instead turning and swinging, the rings on his fingers connecting with Louis’ nose and dragging across his lips. He stumbles backwards, eyes wide with surprise, and brings his hand up to his mouth to press his fingertips to where blood is already blooming bright red against his pink lips.

“Holy shit, Harry,” he says, laughing and grinning and there’s blood everywhere now. When he smiles it trickles down his teeth. “You fucking hit me.”

Harry leans forward and places his hands on his knees. His breath is ragged and he just wants this all to be done. He just wants to go back to LA and take that nap he’d been hoping for. He just wants Louis to leave him alone, to stop pestering him if he isn’t going to hang around. He just wants a reprieve from the last seven years of wanting and never fucking getting. He wants Louis to stop looking at him like he’s beautiful if he’s never going to touch him like he’s beautiful too.

“Just shut up!” Harry yells. “Just be quiet for fucking once in your life!”

Louis visibly deflates and brings his arm up to wipe at his mouth, smearing blood all across it and his cheek.

Harry tries to calm down but nothing is working. No amount of yoga and meditation could have prepared him for this moment.

“What do you want from me, Louis? What the fuck do you want from me?” He asks, and his voice sounds wrong. “I’ve been trying to tell myself you made an honest mistake, but it’s not working anymore.” He takes a few steps forward and grabs a handful of Louis’ shirt to pull him close. “You’re ruining me,” he says finally, almost a whisper. Louis doesn’t smile or wink or laugh. He just stands there and lets Harry cling to him.

“I thought we were partners in crime,” he says finally, and Harry’s grip loosens. He lets go and turns, kicking his boots into the gravel and dirt. Cars are speeding past them and the sun is going down behind them. They must look deranged, dressed all in black and making each other bleed.

“Are you even sorry you did this to us?” he asks, staring out at the lonely desert sky. He doesn’t turn to see Louis answer.

“More than you’ll ever know.”

***

They pull of the main road and follow a dirt one out into the middle of nowhere. After Harry kills the engine Louis’ reclines his seat back and turns his whole body toward him. It’s so dark that they can see the stars through the moonroof and Harry likes that. It’s something he’s never known, not in LA and definitely not in London.

“Reminds me of the bungalow,” Louis whispers. “Being able to see the stars…”

Harry hums. It’s been awhile since he’s thought about the bungalow. That was such a confusing time in his life. Louis had shown up and turned everything he hadn’t realized was dull grays into technicolor. He’d been obsessed, completely wrapped up in everything Louis. Not much seems to have changed.

“Oh, Haz,” Louis says, noticing how quiet Harry is. “You’ve always done too much for me. I wonder if there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do?”

Harry turns his body away from him then. “Probably not,” he says, and it’s quiet after that, both of them knowing how true that is and neither of them able to say why. Harry knows Louis knows he’s in love with him. He also knows Louis loves the attention that comes along with that. The way Harry constantly stares at his lips and touches his hands and talks about him like he’s the second coming of Christ himself.

Louis falls asleep first, his soft breathing finally calming Harry’s nerves. He follows soon after, as he does with most things.

***

The hotel room is so small with barely enough room for a bed and television. Louis rushes in, dumping the contents of their bags on the bed. The money falls and scatters across the comforter.

“I was thinking…” he says, looking at Harry who’s leaning against the door, now shut and locked behind him.

“Oh yeah? Don’t hurt yourself,” Harry says, laughing. Louis just shakes his head and takes the few steps it takes to get to Harry.

“I was thinking it’s time you and I stop moving around each other like we both don’t know the score,” Louis says, slipping a finger through Harry’s belt loop. His breath catches in his throat and he stares down at his boots.

“You look like a proper cowboy,” Louis whispers, pulling Harry forward until their hips are pressed together. He grins up at him, tongue darting out of his mouth to lick his lips. “Think I’d like you to show me how to ride.”

Harry swallows. “Lou, what are you—” he starts, but stops when Louis’ palm presses against the front of his jeans. He squeezes Harry lightly, and he’s already aching at this point, cock hard in his jeans just from Louis talking. He’s so hot it’s unreal. His clothes are sticking to him and Louis keeps dragging his palm up and down, up and down.

“Hazza,” he says, but he sounds confused, and Harry’s fingertips are twitching at his sides.

“Hazza wake up.”

He’s pulled from the dream quickly and sits up fast, head almost hitting the roof of the car. The sun is beating down on him from the windshield and he’s covered in sweat. He’s also still unbelievably hard. When he turns Louis is still curled up in the passenger seat, facing him with his brows furrowed.

“You said my name,” he says lightly, as if he’s not sure he should. “You uh. You were panting and…” he trails off, eyes drifting down to the bulge in Harry’s jeans.

“Don’t,” Harry pleads. This is the last thing he wants. Stupid Harry Styles always coming in his pants over dreams that will never come true.

“Sounded nice is all,” Louis mutters, reaching around to open the car door, then stepping out and stretching, the muscles in his ass and thighs moving as he bends to touch his toes.

Harry’s mouth waters as he sits still, willing his cock to go soft and his heart to stop beating out of rhythm in his chest.

***

They rob a bank in Reno. Louis does the actual robbing while Harry keeps the customers under control.

A woman with a little girl looks up at him with terrified eyes and mouths please. Harry looks away.

When they get in the car Louis presses his gun against Harry’s cheek. “Put ‘em up, cowboy,” he says. Harry raises his hands. Louis pulls the trigger and a stream of water hits Harry’s cheek. As if Louis would have ever allowed them to use real guns.

***

“We should get rid of all our electronics. Let's toss them into the Grand Canyon,” Louis says one afternoon. They’re perched on the hood of the car in front of some rundown motel sharing a sandwich and a chocolate milkshake.

“What if I need to get ahold of you?” Harry asks, sipping the last of the shake through the straw Louis’ mouth had just been around. He tries not to dwell on that fact, ignoring the current image Louis’ mouth sucking three of his fingers in between his teeth that's flashing bright in his mind.

“We are literally always together,” Louis says, squinting at him.

“How far to the Grand Canyon?”

“Two hours or so.. if I read that map right,” Louis answers, turning to peer at the map spread out on the dash inside the car.

“Let’s do it then,” Harry says, sliding off the hood and hopping in.

They drive in comfortable silence. Louis fucks with the controls on the radio but it’s mostly static. Harry hums one of their old songs, then Louis joins in until they’re both just belting it out. It feels good. So good. Almost like their lives haven’t changed completely.

“We’re close,” Louis says, reaching over the middle console to grab Harry’s hand and slide their fingers together. It’s been years since Louis’ held his hand. Back in the beginning, however, it was an almost constant thing. They’d always felt the need to reassure eachother of the other’s presence. Little touches on the back of necks, pinches on sides, tweaks of nipples that were more arousing than annoying, and finally fingers intertwined— in the backs of cars and on planes and hidden away beneath tables. Harry sighs and squeezes Louis’ small hand in his own.

It’s getting dark by the time they get there, but even in minimal light the Grand Canyon is much more beautiful than Harry had even imagined. They park and walk a hundred or so yards to the edge. Harry goes right up to it, peering down over the tips of his boots. Louis comes up and leans against his shoulder.

“You ready?” he asks, reaching into his pocket to pull out his iPhone. Harry nods. “Okay on the count of three. 1… 2… 3!”

They both raise their arms into the air. "Ganbarimasu!" Harry yells, throwing his phone as hard as he can. His voice echoes throughout the canyon and Louis turns to stare up at him.

“I want to stop when we get a million dollars,” Harry says, not looking at Louis.

“Okay.”

“I want to stop and I want to go somewhere where no can find us or ever know what we did. We’ll get jobs and a find somewhere to live and it will be simple. I don’t care about my mansion or my cars or anything else,” he continues. “I just want to have enough to be okay and then we can go from there.”

“I said okay,” Louis replies, still looking up at him. And that’s… that’s okay.

***

They’ve never talked about how often they touch or what it means. Over the years and after all the rumors it just became such old news that neither of them had ever felt the need. Well, Harry had, but his heart was too invested so he’d never brought it up. Louis has, at times— drunken times— rambled to Harry about their relationship and how nothing and no one on earth would ever come between them or put a dent in their foundation. He’d said that to Harry even while some things and some people were actively doing just that. Louis had Eleanor for years, a soft girl with a sweet voice and a contractual obligation. Harry had strangers mostly. Men who looked like Louis and men who didn’t. Some women early on when he was still trying to figure out what got his blood flowing enough to keep his cock hard. Even the few he’d tried to actually date had become Louis in the dark, or whenever Harry closed his eyes. It’s not like it hurt, or he dwelled. Harry wanting Louis and not having Louis was just how things went. It just was.

So when Harry sees him and Louis on the television mounted to the corner of a run down diner while he’s swallowing a bite of chef’s salad and immediately goes into a panic attack— it doesn’t catch him off guard when Louis pulls him out into the parking lot and presses him against the side of the building while sliding his hands beneath Harry’s shirt to rub across his back and taking Harry’s hand and pressing it against his chest while saying feel my breathing Harry breathe with me c’mon babe just breathe please Harry breathe with me.

Harry breathes.

***

Louis buys a book on counting cards.

Harry stops asking questions.

***

They rob a bank in Lancaster, then Baskersfield, then Madera. Louis makes Harry stop driving in Monterey Bay so they can dip their feet into the ocean. It’s freezing even in the summer but Louis doesn’t care. He pulls Harry from their hotel bed in the middle of the night to drag him out to shore.

“Get naked,” he says, and Harry does. It’s almost automatic the way his body moves against his will, sliding his ratty shirt over his head and stepping out of his pajama pants just to please Louis. Louis just looks at him, eyes moving over his thighs and his cock and his chest and his mouth. Harry shivers under the scrutiny.

Louis turns to look at the water. “Go on,” he says, nodding toward the waves, and Harry hesitates for a moment.

“Aren’t you gonna join me?” he asks, wrapping his arms around his chest in an effort to keep warm.

Louis shakes his head no. “I want to watch you.”

Maybe it’s a test. Maybe it’s just another fucked up way for Louis to make sure Harry will still do whatever he says. Maybe he just wanted to watch him fumble and fail. Whatever it is, Harry doesn’t care. He starts running, the sand rough beneath his feet. He makes it to where the water is rushing at him and there’s no time to stop and think before he’s wading in and then diving under, the waves lifting and pushing his body around. It’s freezing and wild and exactly what Harry needed. He surges up for a breath of air and then goes back under, the saltwater stinging his eyes. Below the waves he screams until he can’t scream anymore. Then he starts to cry.

It feels like hours. Maybe days. And then Louis is gripping his shoulder and pulling him forward and Harry is still crying. They make it to shore and Louis places an arm beneath his armpit and helps him step into his pants. They walk back to the hotel room and Harry’s still bawling, angry tears sliding and mixing with the salt water dripping from his hair down his face.

Once inside Louis places his hand on Harry’s chest and pushes him gently until he’s sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Stay, just. Wait one second,” he says, turning and heading into the bathroom. Harry hears the water turn on and tries to relax his body. The sobs keep coming. Louis comes out of the bathroom and grabs his hand again to lead him to the shower. Harry slides out of his soaked pajamas and into the stream of hot water. He waits for Louis to leave but he doesn’t, just pulls his own clothes off and climbs in behind Harry.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, pressing himself to Harry’s back. “I’m so fucking sorry.”

Harry turns so they’re facing each other and the look on Louis’ face is enough for Harry to want to drop to his knees and beg him to never apologize again. Instead he leans down and presses their mouths together. Louis stills for a moment and Harry thinks maybe he’s fucked it all up, but then he parts his lips to let Harry’s tongue in to slide over his and it’s warm and wet and everything he’s wanted but never had. At least not with Louis.

They stay like that for a long time, kissing and feeling each other, cocks pressed hard together between their stomachs. Louis kisses exactly like Harry always imagined he would, with meaning and purpose, yet still letting Harry move his tongue with his own.

When they finally pull apart the water is going cold and Harry's finally stopped crying. Louis looks up at him and there's anxious lines around his eyes.

"Bed?" he asks, stepping out to grab a towel for them both.

"Please," Harry says, drying his hair quickly. Everything feels soft and slow so he doesn't bother putting clothes on before sliding under the hotel sheets. Louis stands at the edge of the bed, contemplating.

"How long, Harry?" he asks, biting his lip.

"Since the moment we met," Harry says, and it feels so good. Almost good enough to ease the pain of pretending to fuck popstars and housewives. Almost enough to forget the way Louis used to touch him in private and ignore him in public. Just nearly enough to cool the warmth at the pit of his stomach— that wanting, always fucking wanting.

Louis doesn't say anything, just climbs slowly over to Harry and drops down so they're face to face, legs wrapped around each other.

Harry reaches out tentatively and drags his fingertips across Louis's lower stomach, then down to feel the twisted hairs that crawl up from his cock. Louis' breath stutters and his eyes shut.

"This okay?" Harry asks.

"More than," Louis says, moving forward to press their lips together again. They breath into each other's mouths, and the push and pull of it has Harry searching for friction. Louis must feel it too because soon he's leaning back and pressing his palm up to Harry's mouth. Their eyes meet and Harry doesn't waste a second before licking up it. Louis grins and it's like he has a secret that Harry is currently dying to know and then he's wrapping his hand around Harry's cock and everything around them just disappears.

Louis touches him like he never wants to stop and Harry's okay with that. Louis' hand feels rough and slides over the tip as if he’s done this a million times and it’s all Harry can do to hold back from moaning this is just a new way for you to destroy me into his open mouth. Instead he breathes out, “Don’t stop, Lou. God… you do that so well.” He should be embarrassed by how his hips are thrusting up wildly and how he’s begging now, absolutely wrecked at how slowly Louis is touching him and how he wants more, so much more. And every time he opens his eyes Louis’ looking right back at him with uncertainty and something else he can’t quite figure out.

“Is this what you were dreaming about the other day?” Louis asks, twisting his wrist in a way that has Harry biting back a sob. “How often do you dream about touching me? How badly have you wanted a night to end like this?”

“Fuck— I,” Harry tries to form words but Louis’ hand speeds up finally, pushing him to the edge.

“Don’t come,” Louis whispers, bending down to press his face against Harry’s neck and bite down on his shoulder. The stars align. The bed shakes from the way his legs won’t stay still.

“I thought about it all of the time,” Harry finally says, licking his lips and rotating his hips slightly. Louis’ fingers tighten around him. “I’ve wanted you to fuck me for the last seven years I— God Lou, that’s so—” he can’t even finish what he wants to say. He wants to tell Louis about the men he’s let bend him over couches and bathroom sinks. About how when he closed his eyes he could see Louis in each and every one of them. How their cocks were never their own, but Louis’. How he would have to bite down on pillows and blankets and shirts shoved into his mouth in order to not yell out Louis’ name every time he came.

“Jesus Harry, I’ve wanted this, too. So fucking much,” Louis whispers into his neck. It’s like a benediction. It’s like being saved. He comes hard into Louis’ hand, continuing to thrust up and up and up until he can’t physically move his hips anymore.

“Want to,” he murmurs after catching his breath again, nuzzling Louis’ face up to pull him into a kiss. He sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and Louis’ moans. He wants to know what else will get him to do that. “Wanna suck you off,” he says, and Louis’ head falls back onto the pillow.

“Yeah?” he asks, bringing his arms up to rest them beneath his head. “Not gonna last long after watching you come like that.”

Harry doesn’t care. He slides down Louis’ body slowly, dragging his fingers down his ribs and noting the pleased sounds he makes when he rubs his nipples between his fingertips. He takes his time, savoring how Louis’ thrusting up against his stomach while he bends to lick at a nipple, feeling it harden beneath his tongue. Louis’ trembles as he does it again. He’ll have to remember that.

By the time he finally takes Louis into his mouth he’s writhing so much Harry has to place his palm flat on his stomach. He looks up at him hoping his eyes convey that he wants Louis to stay still. Louis nods and raises himself up so he’s resting on his elbows and watching as Harry swallows him down.

“Oh my god,” he says but it’s slurred and Harry just keeps going until his nose is pressed against Louis’ lower stomach. He does it a few more times, and Louis’ legs tighten where they are wrapped around Harry’s shoulders as he licks and sucks until finally coming down Harry’s throat with a sharp cry and a hand in his hair.

He tastes like the ocean.

***

Harry knows people are looking for them. Knows they're probably being broadcasted on every news station across America. He tries to feel something about it other than crippling anxiety but can't. So he ignores the fear that causes his stomach to tighten violently every time he hears sirens or sees a police officer sitting on the side of the road as they cross through the desert from motel to motel.

It becomes easier to forget they are wanted criminals when Louis lifts their masks enough to reveal their mouths and kisses Harry in front of the security cameras at a bank in Palo Alto. Easier when Harry has Louis bent over the bathroom sink in some bathroom, one in a line of many bathrooms they've shared during this whole thing, and is watching a red flush slide up Louis' chest and neck in the mirror as Harry fucks him and slides two fingers into his mouth. Easier when Louis drags his palm over the rabbit tattoo on Harry's ass before bending down to nip at the spot gently and then lick over it, too. It's easier when Louis kisses him and doesn't stop until both of their lips are swollen and cherry red, until Harry's pretty sure there's no oxygen left in the room, until neither of them know their names or how they ended up in a bed in the first place.

***

Louis dyes Harry’s long curls blonde one night because they’re both restless and Harry had mentioned the idea of changing their appearances just in case.

After Harry blowdries it and stands in front of the mirror, shirtless and stunned. It’s so blonde, almost white, and he doesn’t recognize himself. Louis comes up from behind him and rests his chin on his shoulder.

“Strange,” he says.

Harry just nods. He feels like he could be anyone now— could do anything.

So he turns and kisses Louis just because he can.

***

"So I want to have more Aces, Jacks, Kings, and Queens," Louis says from where he's laying with his head on Harry's lower stomach. They've spent the day locked in their room, Harry sleeping on and off while Louis reads out certain aspects of card counting to him as if Harry can pay attention when Louis is naked and warm against him.

"Basically I just need to assign a value to each card and then keep a running count of the values of each card dealt. Looks like most casinos are using multiple decks to try and fuck with card counters," he continues, sucking his cheek in to bite at it. "Gotta be a way to—" he mumbles, flipping through the pages. "Ah, here we go."

And so it goes. Everyday Louis reads out loud to Harry until eventually he knows exactly what Louis is talking about. They invest in a few decks of cards and Harry tries to beat Louis but never can and it becomes apparent they might actually have a shot at ending this whole thing sooner than later if they play their cards right, so to speak.

"So as long as I keep a running count and a true count I can change my bets as the true count rises and falls. You just need to stand next to me and look pretty," Louis says while pressing kisses up Harry's stomach.

"I love when you talk Blackjack to me," he says, sliding his hands into Louis' hair. He presses his head into his hands and continues crawling up Harry's body until his face is just a few inches away.

"Where do you want to go... when this is all over?" he asks, dropping down to bite at Harry's collarbone.

If Harry's being honest he wishes they could go back to London but he knows that's just not an option anymore. They've become so far removed from who they once were that when Harry thinks of selling out stadiums and private jets and his mansions scattered across the globe he feels a bit ill. That life was theirs and it was fine while it lasted but now he doesn't want anything but what he has here and now. He doesn't want a life where Louis doesn't touch him and beg him to touch him back. He doesn't want paps chasing him down the street or fake girlfriends or vacations to private islands where all he does is sleep because he's exhausted from non stop touring and promos and perfume line after perfume line after perfume line.

“I want to go back to Mexico." Back to the start, he thinks. "We could have a life there. We could have some sort of life together,” he answers finally, and Louis smiles.

“I’d love that,” he says, reaching to slide Harry’s damp curls off his forehead.

***

They pull into Vegas around midnight and the whole city is shining. Harry loves Las Vegas. There’s a certain anonymity to it. Of all the places they visited as a band he’d always found Vegas the easiest to disappear in.

He remembers their stop here in 2014. Harry hadn’t know Eleanor was coming and had slipped past her as soon as she’d opened the door to Louis’ hotel room, nodding curtly and searching the place for Louis. She’d just sighed and told him Louis had been gone all afternoon. As soon as their plane had touched down he’d raided the mini fridge and then stumbled out onto the busy strip. Harry had spent hours looking for him, worried and nervously calling his phone over and over again. Finally Alberto had led him into a crowded club and pointed toward a VIP lounge where Louis was bent over licking a shot out of some guy’s belly button. The memory is an ugly one, just like the jealousy and anger that had erupted in Harry back then. It hadn’t been fair. He’d always assumed if Louis wanted a man Harry would have been that man without a doubt. And there in that dimly lit club with strangers dancing against him had been the proof that maybe he’d been wrong all along.

“Hey, what’s the matter?” Louis asks, pulling him the memory. He’s thankful. He never wants to go back to that sinking feeling.

“If this goes wrong I want you to know—”

Louis reaches over to take his hand. “I know. I— It’s the same. Always has been.”

***

Harry slips into the Saint Laurent while Louis smirks and waits on a couch inside. No one recognizes them, and it’s strange for Harry. He’s used to being escorted through the back door and shown hand selected items for him to wear out in public. Now he slides shirts and slacks down the rack on their hangers and feels the fabric between his fingers. He needs something sleek— something that will give off a certain air. He finally finds a classic black suede single breasted suit jacket and a black button up and slacks to wear with it. The salesman eyes him curiously as he counts out bills and slides them onto the counter. Seven thousand dollars for one outfit. Louis better fucking win.

Louis pulls him into Balenciaga and picks out a similar suit except with a white button up. Harry sets three grand on the countertop and hurries to push Louis out the door.

***

They’re sitting in a private section for high rollers and Harry sips nervously at a cocktail he doesn’t remember ordering. Two hours in he starts sweating. After three it looks like security has taken notice of them. He shifts his weight from one leg to another and orders another drink. Then another. By the time Louis is up fifty grand he can barely sit still and his knees feel like they might give out so he bends to whisper in Louis’ ear, letting his hand fall softly on the back of his neck while he does so.

“If you win I’ll let you fuck me against every possible surface you can muster in our room.” Louis coughs innocently and shifts in his seat.

An hour later the elevator dings and they step out into their private penthouse suite. The far wall is lined with windows overlooking the city and Harry immediately walks toward them to look down. Louis tosses their bags on the king bed and heads straight for the huge balcony, pulling a cigarette from his pocket as he goes. Harry follows him out, toeing out of his shoes on the way and loosening collar.

“I want to be done,” Louis says, taking a drag and turning to face Harry, elbows resting back on the railing. “We have three hundred thousand dollars right now. It’s enough. It’s enough for us to stop.”

Harry has to remind himself to breathe. “Are you sure?”

“You did all of this for me, Haz,” Louis says carefully. “But, I know your heart’s not in it. I’m tired of pushing you just to see how far you’ll fall for me. I know the answer, and it scares me.”

It scares Harry, too.

***

Louis fucks him against the balcony railing while the city moves below them. It’s needy and fast and Harry comes biting down on Louis’ wrist while Louis’ hips still against him and he says so many things while kissing and mouthing at the back of Harry’s neck. A few almost sound like I love you. Almost all sound like mine.

Everything Louis says sounds like a prayer. Harry doesn’t bother deciphering anymore.

***

“I can’t believe we got away with it,” Louis whispers as they get through the border and cross down into Mexico.

Harry tries to find wood to knock on.

There’s none.

***

“Ah, fuck!” Harry hisses, dropping the spatula he was using on the floor and bringing his finger up to his mouth to suck the burning sensation away. The tacos in the pan sizzle and pop and he has to hurry and turn them so he pinches them quickly with his fingers before stepping back to avoid the oil that’s splashing.

The front door slams shut. “Babe!” Louis hollers from the living room and Harry knows what he’s doing— can picture his exact movements as he throws his keys onto the coffee table and kicks off his shoes.

“Aquí!” Harry answers around the finger pressed to his mouth.

“Smells good in here,” Louis says, walking into the kitchen and pressing a kiss to Harry’s temple. “What happened?” he asks, pulling Harry’s finger away from his mouth to inspect it.

“Got splashed with some oil,” Harry laughs, pulling his hand out of Louis’ grip. “I’m okay.”

“Ay yi yi,” Louis says, shaking his head. “Can’t even go to work without you hurting yourself.”

Louis works at a factory for a few hours everyday plucking feathers off dead chickens so that Harry can keep his job at the daycare down the road. He loves the children there and Louis loves Harry so they make it work. They have a little two bedroom cottage and a garden and two bikes because they never like to go far enough away that would require driving. Louis’ skin is golden brown from constantly sunbathing on their back porch and Harry’s hair is long and past his shoulders. Louis loves it and never gets tired of pulling it up and gripping all of his blonde curls at the top of his head while Harry sucks him off on the mornings they both wake up before their alarms go off, wrapped around each other like two horny teenagers.

“Mi vida,” Louis whispers, wrapping his arms around Harry’s shoulders. “Te amo, te amo, te amo.

Harry relaxes into Louis’ touch and words.

They eat dinner together on the front porch, sharing a few beers and watching the neighborhood kids chase each other around the block. It took a long time but they’re mostly accepted here. Old women invite them to church and Harry’s even gone a few times only to come home to Louis ready and willing to make him question whatever God he’d just prayed to with his hands and tongue and cock.

They skype with the boys sometimes, careful to not give away their location. Niall makes fun of Harry’s hair and Louis’ tan. Liam worries. Zayn understands the best out of them all, always wishing them luck and pressing his lips to the computer screen to kiss them when they have to go.

American news stations have long since stopped reporting on the two masked robbers who took the southwest by storm three years ago.

Sometimes Harry will hum their old songs under his breath and Louis will join in with a smile pulling at his lips.

Sometimes Harry lets go of regret and holds on to Louis too tight even on the summer nights when they’re too hot to even sleep with a single sheet on the bed, one of them always kicking it off at some point in the dark.

After they eat Louis washes the dishes and Harry dries. They watch the news together and then split a cigarette while leaning out their bedroom window. Louis locks all the doors and turns off the lights before crawling into bed next to Harry and humming Wouldn't It Be Nice into his shoulder.

It’s enough.