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Harry takes a stick across the cheek halfway into the third period of the Stanley Cup final, and has to get stitched up on the bench. It’s not so bad that he can’t go back on the ice – one or two sutures, at most – but Louis is a little territorial, and he knows this, and also if it were up to Louis, Grimshaw would be taking more than a two minute minor. More like a two minute minor to the face.

Of course, everyone in the league knows that he plays better D with Harry on the ice, and vice versa, so every D-pair in the playoffs has been trying to split them up. Liam gives him that look, the one that says, chill out, Tomlinson, this is the cup final, people are bound to bleed, but he promptly wins the next faceoff, in what Louis assumes is revenge, and they’re off again. Louis is mad enough to try to jostle Cardle a little in retaliation, makes a face though the visor of his helmet, but Cardle is just plain bigger than him, and he’s not stupid enough to drop his gloves anyway. Cardle’s not a goon, exactly, but he’s not to be trifled with.

They’re on the power play, at least, which means they might just be able to close the gap in the 2-4 score. They could still win this. Harry comes back on their next shift, and he nudges Louis a little in the ribs, barely felt through the pads, but it makes Louis feel a little better anyway.

Niall scores with an assist from Zayn, and then Richardson slams Liam into the boards hard enough to make the glass shake. There’s 8:55 left on the clock.

 

They tie with two minutes left in the third and then head to OT, where they lose, of course, almost immediately. It seemed too much to hope for, almost, taking home the Cup, but they got so bloody close. The mood in the locker room is devastated in way Louis hadn’t really been expecting, and when he sees the bruises on Liam’s back, he’s angry all over again.

 

They all end up piled into Zayn and Liam’s hotel room, watching the back end of The Notebook. They’ve all seen it before, but it’s better than talking about losing, again. Reporters are the worst. It isn’t always so bad, but they all just want to know how disappointed the team is, and it’s not as if Louis is allowed to say, “Uh, yeah, we’re pretty fucking disappointed, actually.”

So instead of talking, they’re watching The Notebook. Niall is on the far bed, strumming on his guitar and not making eye contact with any of them. Zayn and Liam are slumped together on the other bed, and Harry is leaning sullenly against the foot of the mattress. Louis is sitting next to him, making a sculpture out of duct tape. It’s officially the post-season, now; he can do whatever the fuck he wants.

Harry nudges him with one foot, and when Louis looks over, he can see the black sutures tracking across his cheekbone. Probably won’t even scar. He’s not smiling, which is fair, but Louis doesn’t like it very much. He leans over and bites into the meat of Harry’s shoulder through his t-shirt, just because he can. It tastes like cotton, and Harry huffs out a laugh. He scratches Louis’s scalp and doesn’t say anything, but it still feels nice. Louis presses the side of his face against Harry’s neck like a cat.

After a few minutes, Liam kicks Harry in the head, and Louis reaches up and hooks a hand around his ankle, dragging him off of the bed with a squawk.

“Louis,” Liam says, and then Louis headbutts him, not very hard, but enough to shut him up. Harry is laughing again, but louder this time.
Zayn’s head pops down over the edge of the mattress, and says, “Oi, I’m trying to mope, here,” but he’s biting his lip to keep from smiling, and when Louis looks up, Niall is grinning over at them, wide and bright.

“I wrote us a song,” Niall says, still playing the same four chords. “It’s the same tune as the Barney song and mostly the same words, except it’s about us playing hockey together.”

He makes it about halfway through before he’s laughing too hard to sing. Louis throws a sock at him, but from Louis’s prone position on the floor it doesn’t actually hit him very hard.

“There’s always next year, I suppose,” Liam says, eventually, sprawled out on his back. Louis is still half on top of him, and Harry crawls over to curl up next to them.

“Yeah,” Harry says, already sounding half-asleep. “We’ll show them.”

 

Their flight the next morning leaves at 9, so they have to check out of the hotel at 6:30. They pile into the van, and Louis pushes his head underneath Niall’s chin, feels Zayn curl up against his back, snatching a little more sleep while they can. Harry’s humming something catchy under his breath and he smiles when Louis looks over at him, his feet propped up in Liam’s lap. It’s the summer, and they have a couple of weeks off before training starts up again. There’s plenty of trouble for them to get into in the meantime, and, anyway, Louis believes in them. There’s always next year.